Sketches New and Old, Complete
Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
Part 4 out of 6
that Mrs. H.'s people had been afflicted as shown, else Hackett would
certainly have been hanged.
However, it is not possible to recount all the marvelous cases of
insanity that have come under the public notice in the last thirty or
forty years. There was the Durgin case in New Jersey three years ago.
The servant girl, Bridget Durgin, at dead of night, invaded her
mistress's bedroom and carved the lady literally to pieces with a knife.
Then she dragged the body to the middle of the floor, and beat and banged
it with chairs and such things. Next she opened the feather beds, and
strewed the contents around, saturated everything with kerosene, and set
fire to the general wreck. She now took up the young child of the
murdered woman in her blood smeared hands and walked off, through the
snow, with no shoes on, to a neighbor's house a quarter of a mile off,
and told a string of wild, incoherent stories about some men coming and
setting fire to the house; and then she cried piteously, and without
seeming to think there was anything suggestive about the blood upon her
hands, her clothing, and the baby, volunteered the remark that she was
afraid those men had murdered her mistress! Afterward, by her own
confession and other testimony, it was proved that the mistress had
always been kind to the girl, consequently there was no revenge in the
murder; and it was also shown that the girl took nothing away from the
burning house, not even her own shoes, and consequently robbery was not
Now, the reader says, "Here comes that same old plea of insanity again."
But the reader has deceived himself this time. No such plea was offered
in her defense. The judge sentenced her, nobody persecuted the governor
with petitions for her pardon, and she was promptly hanged.
There was that youth in Pennsylvania, whose curious confession was
published some years ago. It was simply a conglomeration of incoherent
drivel from beginning to end; and so was his lengthy speech on the
scaffold afterward. For a whole year he was haunted with a desire to
disfigure a certain young woman, so that no one would marry her. He did
not love her himself, and did not want to marry her, but he did not want
anybody else to do it. He would not go anywhere with her, and yet was
opposed to anybody else's escorting her. Upon one occasion he declined
to go to a wedding with her, and when she got other company, lay in wait
for the couple by the road, intending to make them go back or kill the
escort. After spending sleepless nights over his ruling desire for a
full year, he at last attempted its execution--that is, attempted to
disfigure the young woman. It was a success. It was permanent. In
trying to shoot her cheek (as she sat at the supper-table with her
parents and brothers and sisters) in such a manner as to mar its
comeliness, one of his bullets wandered a little out of the course, and
she dropped dead. To the very last moment of his life he bewailed the
ill luck that made her move her face just at the critical moment. And so
he died, apparently about half persuaded that somehow it was chiefly her
own fault that she got killed. This idiot was hanged. The plea, of
insanity was not offered.
Insanity certainly is on the increase in the world, and crime is dying
out. There are no longer any murders--none worth mentioning, at any
rate. Formerly, if you killed a man, it was possible that you were
insane--but now, if you, having friends and money, kill a mate, it is
evidence that you are a lunatic. In these days, too, if a person of good
family and high social standing steals anything, they call it
kleptomania, and send him to the lunatic asylum. If a person of high
standing squanders his fortune in dissipation, and closes his career with
strychnine or a bullet, "Temporary Aberration" is what was the trouble
Is not this insanity plea becoming rather common? Is it not so common
that the reader confidently expects to see it offered in every criminal
case that comes before the courts? And is it not so cheap, and so
common, and often so trivial, that the reader smiles in derision when the
newspaper mentions it?
And is it not curious to note how very often it wins acquittal for the
prisoner? Of late years it does not seem possible for a man to so
conduct himself, before killing another man, as not to be manifestly
insane. If he talks about the stars, he is insane. If he appears
nervous and uneasy an hour before the killing, he is insane. If he weeps
over a great grief, his friends shake their heads, and fear that he is
"not right." If, an hour after the murder, he seems ill at ease,
preoccupied, and excited, he is, unquestionably insane.
Really, what we want now, is not laws against crime, but a law against
insanity. There is where the true evil lies.
A CURIOUS DREAM
CONTAINING A MORAL
Night before last I had a singular dream. I seemed to be sitting on a
doorstep (in no particular city perhaps) ruminating, and the time of
night appeared to be about twelve or one o'clock. The weather was balmy
and delicious. There was no human sound in the air, not even a footstep.
There was no sound of any kind to emphasize the dead stillness, except
the occasional hollow barking of a dog in the distance and the fainter
answer of a further dog. Presently up the street I heard a bony
clack-clacking, and guessed it was the castanets of a serenading party.
In a minute more a tall skeleton, hooded, and half clad in a tattered and
moldy shroud, whose shreds were flapping about the ribby latticework of
its person, swung by me with a stately stride and disappeared in the gray
gloom of the starlight. It had a broken and worm-eaten coffin on its
shoulder and a bundle of something in its hand. I knew what the
clack-clacking was then; it was this party's joints working together,
and his elbows knocking against his sides as he walked. I may say I was
surprised. Before I could collect my thoughts and enter upon any
speculations as to what this apparition might portend, I heard another
one coming for I recognized his clack-clack. He had two-thirds of a
coffin on his shoulder, and some foot and head boards under his arm.
I mightily wanted, to peer under his hood and speak to him, but when he
turned and smiled upon me with his cavernous sockets and his projecting
grin as he went by, I thought I would not detain him. He was hardly gone
when I heard the clacking again, and another one issued from the shadowy
half-light. This one was bending under a heavy gravestone, and dragging
a shabby coffin after him by a string. When he got to me he gave me a
steady look for a moment or two, and then rounded to and backed up to me,
"Ease this down for a fellow, will you?"
I eased the gravestone down till it rested on the ground, and in doing so
noticed that it bore the name of "John Baxter Copmanhurst," with "May,
1839," as the date of his death. Deceased sat wearily down by me, and
wiped his os frontis with his major maxillary--chiefly from former habit
I judged, for I could not see that he brought away any perspiration.
"It is too bad, too bad," said he, drawing the remnant of the shroud
about him and leaning his jaw pensively on his hand. Then he put his
left foot up on his knee and fell to scratching his anklebone absently
with a rusty nail which he got out of his coffin.
"What is too bad, friend?"
"Oh, everything, everything. I almost wish I never had died."
"You surprise me. Why do you say this? Has anything gone wrong? What
is the matter?"
"Matter! Look at this shroud-rags. Look at this gravestone, all
battered up. Look at that disgraceful old coffin. All a man's property
going to ruin and destruction before his eyes, and ask him if anything is
wrong? Fire and brimstone!"
"Calm yourself, calm yourself," I said. "It is too bad--it is certainly
too bad, but then I had not supposed that you would much mind such
matters situated as you are."
"Well, my dear sir, I do mind them. My pride is hurt, and my comfort is
impaired--destroyed, I might say. I will state my case--I will put it to
you in such a way that you can comprehend it, if you will let me," said
the poor skeleton, tilting the hood of his shroud back, as if he were
clearing for action, and thus unconsciously giving himself a jaunty and
festive air very much at variance with the grave character of his
position in life--so to speak--and in prominent contrast with his
"Proceed," said I.
"I reside in the shameful old graveyard a block or two above you here,
in this street--there, now, I just expected that cartilage would let go!
--third rib from the bottom, friend, hitch the end of it to my spine with
a string, if you have got such a thing about you, though a bit of silver
wire is a deal pleasanter, and more durable and becoming, if one keeps it
polished--to think of shredding out and going to pieces in this way, just
on account of the indifference and neglect of one's posterity!"--and the
poor ghost grated his teeth in a way that gave me a wrench and a shiver
--for the effect is mightily increased by the absence of muffling flesh
and cuticle. "I reside in that old graveyard, and have for these thirty
years; and I tell you things are changed since I first laid this old
tired frame there, and turned over, and stretched out for a long sleep,
with a delicious sense upon me of being done with bother, and grief,
and anxiety, and doubt, and fear, forever and ever, and listening with
comfortable and increasing satisfaction to the sexton's work, from the
startling clatter of his first spadeful on my coffin till it dulled away
to the faint patting that shaped the roof of my new home-delicious! My!
I wish you could try it to-night!" and out of my reverie deceased fetched
me a rattling slap with a bony hand.
"Yes, sir, thirty years ago I laid me down there, and was happy. For it
was out in the country then--out in the breezy, flowery, grand old woods,
and the lazy winds gossiped with the leaves, and the squirrels capered
over us and around us, and the creeping things visited us, and the birds
filled the tranquil solitude with music. Ah, it was worth ten years of a
man's life to be dead then! Everything was pleasant. I was in a good
neighborhood, for all the dead people that lived near me belonged to the
best families in the city. Our posterity appeared to think the world of
us. They kept our graves in the very best condition; the fences were
always in faultless repair, head-boards were kept painted or whitewashed,
and were replaced with new ones as soon as they began to look rusty or
decayed; monuments were kept upright, railings intact and bright, the
rose-bushes and shrubbery trimmed, trained, and free from blemish, the
walks clean and smooth and graveled. But that day is gone by. Our
descendants have forgotten us. My grandson lives in a stately house
built with money made by these old hands of mine, and I sleep in a
neglected grave with invading vermin that gnaw my shroud to build them
nests withal! I and friends that lie with me founded and secured the
prosperity of this fine city, and the stately bantling of our loves
leaves us to rot in a dilapidated cemetery which neighbors curse and
strangers scoff at. See the difference between the old time and this
--for instance: Our graves are all caved in now; our head-boards have
rotted away and tumbled down; our railings reel this way and that, with
one foot in the air, after a fashion of unseemly levity; our monuments
lean wearily, and our gravestones bow their heads discouraged; there be
no adornments any more--no roses, nor shrubs, nor graveled walks, nor
anything that is a comfort to the eye; and even the paintless old board
fence that did make a show of holding us sacred from companionship with
beasts and the defilement of heedless feet, has tottered till it
overhangs the street, and only advertises the presence of our dismal
resting-place and invites yet more derision to it. And now we cannot
hide our poverty and tatters in the friendly woods, for the city has
stretched its withering arms abroad and taken us in, and all that remains
of the cheer of our old home is the cluster of lugubrious forest trees
that stand, bored and weary of a city life, with their feet in our
coffins, looking into the hazy distance and wishing they were there.
I tell you it is disgraceful!
"You begin to comprehend--you begin to see how it is. While our
descendants are living sumptuously on our money, right around us in the
city, we have to fight hard to keep skull and bones together. Bless you,
there isn't a grave in our cemetery that doesn't leak not one. Every
time it rains in the night we have to climb out and roost in the trees
and sometimes we are wakened suddenly by the chilly water trickling down
the back of our necks. Then I tell you there is a general heaving up of
old graves and kicking over of old monuments, and scampering of old
skeletons for the trees! Bless me, if you had gone along there some such
nights after twelve you might have seen as many as fifteen of us roosting
on one limb, with our joints rattling drearily and the wind wheezing
through our ribs! Many a time we have perched there for three or four
dreary hours, and then come down, stiff and chilled through and drowsy,
and borrowed each other's skulls to bail out our graves with--if you will
glance up in my mouth now as I tilt my head back, you can see that my
head-piece is half full of old dry sediment how top-heavy and stupid it
makes me sometimes! Yes, sir, many a time if you had happened to come
along just before the dawn you'd have caught us bailing out the graves
and hanging our shrouds on the fence to dry. Why, I had an elegant
shroud stolen from there one morning--think a party by the name of Smith
took it, that resides in a plebeian graveyard over yonder--I think so
because the first time I ever saw him he hadn't anything on but a check
shirt, and the last time I saw him, which was at a social gathering in
the new cemetery, he was the best-dressed corpse in the company--and it
is a significant fact that he left when he saw me; and presently an old
woman from here missed her coffin--she generally took it with her when
she went anywhere, because she was liable to take cold and bring on the
spasmodic rheumatism that originally killed her if she exposed herself to
the night air much. She was named Hotchkiss--Anna Matilda Hotchkiss--you
might know her? She has two upper front teeth, is tall, but a good deal
inclined to stoop, one rib on the left side gone, has one shred of rusty
hair hanging from the left side of her head, and one little tuft just
above and a little forward of her right ear, has her underjaw wired on
one side where it had worked loose, small bone of left forearm gone--lost
in a fight has a kind of swagger in her gait and a 'gallus' way of going
with: her arms akimbo and her nostrils in the air has been pretty free
and easy, and is all damaged and battered up till she looks like a
queensware crate in ruins--maybe you have met her?"
"God forbid!" I involuntarily ejaculated, for somehow I was not looking
for that form of question, and it caught me a little off my guard. But I
hastened to make amends for my rudeness, and say, "I simply meant I had
not had the honor--for I would not deliberately speak discourteously of a
friend of yours. You were saying that you were robbed--and it was a
shame, too--but it appears by what is left of the shroud you have on that
it was a costly one in its day. How did--"
A most ghastly expression began to develop among the decayed features and
shriveled integuments of my guest's face, and I was beginning to grow
uneasy and distressed, when he told me he was only working up a deep,
sly smile, with a wink in it, to suggest that about the time he acquired
his present garment a ghost in a neighboring cemetery missed one. This
reassured me, but I begged him to confine himself to speech thenceforth,
because his facial expression was uncertain. Even with the most
elaborate care it was liable to miss fire. Smiling should especially be
avoided. What he might honestly consider a shining success was likely to
strike me in a very different light. I said I liked to see a skeleton
cheerful, even decorously playful, but I did not think smiling was a
skeleton's best hold.
"Yes, friend," said the poor skeleton, "the facts are just as I have
given them to you. Two of these old graveyards--the one that I resided
in and one further along have been deliberately neglected by our
descendants of to-day until there is no occupying them any longer. Aside
from the osteological discomfort of it--and that is no light matter this
rainy weather--the present state of things is ruinous to property. We
have got to move or be content to see our effects wasted away and utterly
"Now, you will hardly believe it, but it is true, nevertheless, that there
isn't a single coffin in good repair among all my acquaintance--now that
is an absolute fact. I do not refer to low people who come in a pine box
mounted on an express-wagon, but I am talking about your high-toned,
silver-mounted burial-case, your monumental sort, that travel under black
plumes at the head of a procession and have choice of cemetery lots
--I mean folks like the Jarvises, and the Bledsoes and Burlings, and such.
They are all about ruined. The most substantial people in our set, they
were. And now look at them--utterly used up and poverty-stricken. One
of the Bledsoes actually traded his monument to a late barkeeper for some
fresh shavings to put under his head. I tell you it speaks volumes, for
there is nothing a corpse takes so much pride in as his monument. He
loves to read the inscription. He comes after a while to believe what it
says himself, and then you may see him sitting on the fence night after
night enjoying it. Epitaphs are cheap, and they do a poor chap a world
of good after he is dead, especially if he had hard luck while he was
alive. I wish they were used more. Now I don't complain, but
confidentially I do think it was a little shabby in my descendants to
give me nothing but this old slab of a gravestone--and all the more that
there isn't a compliment on it. It used to have:
'GONE TO HIS JUST REWARD'
on it, and I was proud when I first saw it, but by and by I noticed that
whenever an old friend of mine came along he would hook his chin on the
railing and pull a long face and read along down till he came to that,
and then he would chuckle to himself and walk off, looking satisfied and
comfortable. So I scratched it off to get rid of those fools. But a
dead man always takes a deal of pride in his monument. Yonder goes half
a dozen of the Jarvises now, with the family monument along. And
Smithers and some hired specters went by with his awhile ago. Hello,
Higgins, good-by, old friend! That's Meredith Higgins--died in '44
--belongs to our set in the cemetery--fine old family--great-grand mother
was an Injun--I am on the most familiar terms with him he didn't hear me
was the reason he didn't answer me. And I am sorry, too, because I would
have liked to introduce you. You would admire him. He is the most
disjointed, sway-backed, and generally distorted old skeleton you ever
saw, but he is full of fun. When he laughs it sounds like rasping two
stones together, and he always starts it off with a cheery screech like
raking a nail across a window-pane. Hey, Jones! That is old Columbus
Jones--shroud cost four hundred dollars entire trousseau, including
monument, twenty-seven hundred. This was in the spring of '26. It was
enormous style for those days. Dead people came all the way from the
Alleghanies to see his things--the party that occupied the grave next to
mine remembers it well. Now do you see that individual going along with
a piece of a head-board under his arm, one leg-bone below his knee gone,
and not a thing in the world on? That is Barstow Dalhousie, and next to
Columbus Jones he was the most sumptuously outfitted person that ever
entered our cemetery. We are all leaving. We cannot tolerate the
treatment we are receiving at the hands of our descendants. They open
new cemeteries, but they leave us to our ignominy. They mend the
streets, but they never mend anything that is about us or belongs to us.
Look at that coffin of mine--yet I tell you in its day it was a piece of
furniture that would have attracted attention in any drawing-room in this
city. You may have it if you want it--I can't afford to repair it.
Put a new bottom in her, and part of a new top, and a bit of fresh lining
along the left side, and you'll find her about as comfortable as any
receptacle of her species you ever tried. No thanks no, don't mention it
you have been civil to me, and I would give you all the property I have
got before I would seem ungrateful. Now this winding-sheet is a kind of
a sweet thing in its way, if you would like to--No? Well, just as you
say, but I wished to be fair and liberal there's nothing mean about me.
Good-by, friend, I must be going. I may have a good way to go to-night
--don't know. I only know one thing for certain, and that is that I am
on the emigrant trail now, and I'll never sleep in that crazy old
cemetery again. I will travel till I fiend respectable quarters, if I
have to hoof it to New Jersey. All the boys are going. It was decided
in public conclave, last night, to emigrate, and by the time the sun
rises there won't be a bone left in our old habitations. Such cemeteries
may suit my surviving friends, but they do not suit the remains that have
the honor to make these remarks. My opinion is the general opinion.
If you doubt it, go and see how the departing ghosts upset things before
they started. They were almost riotous in their demonstrations of
distaste. Hello, here are some of the Bledsoes, and if you will give me
a lift with this tombstone I guess I will join company and jog along with
them--mighty respectable old family, the Bledsoes, and used to always
come out in six-horse hearses and all that sort of thing fifty years ago
when I walked these streets in daylight. Good-by, friend."
And with his gravestone on his shoulder he joined the grisly procession,
dragging his damaged coffin after him, for notwithstanding he pressed it
upon me so earnestly, I utterly refused his hospitality. I suppose that
for as much as two hours these sad outcasts went clacking by, laden with
their dismal effects, and all that time I sat pitying them. One or two
of the youngest and least dilapidated among them inquired about midnight
trains on the railways, but the rest seemed unacquainted with that mode
of travel, and merely asked about common public roads to various towns
and cities, some of which are not on the map now, and vanished from it
and from the earth as much as thirty years ago, and some few of them
never had existed anywhere but on maps, and private ones in real-estate
agencies at that. And they asked about the condition of the cemeteries
in these towns and cities, and about the reputation the citizens bore as
to reverence for the dead.
This whole matter interested me deeply, and likewise compelled my
sympathy for these homeless ones. And it all seeming real, and I not
knowing it was a dream, I mentioned to one shrouded wanderer an idea that
had entered my head to publish an account of this curious and very
sorrowful exodus, but said also that I could not describe it truthfully,
and just as it occurred, without seeming to trifle with a grave subject
and exhibit an irreverence for the dead that would shock and distress
their surviving friends. But this bland and stately remnant of a former
citizen leaned him far over my gate and whispered in my ear, and said:
"Do not let that disturb you. The community that can stand such
graveyards as those we are emigrating from can stand anything a body can
say about the neglected and forsaken dead that lie in them."
At that very moment a cock crowed, and the weird procession vanished and
left not a shred or a bone behind. I awoke, and found myself lying with
my head out of the bed and "sagging" downward considerably--a position
favorable to dreaming dreams with morals in them, maybe, but not poetry.
NOTE.--The reader is assured that if the cemeteries in his town are kept
in good order, this Dream is not leveled at his town at all, but is
leveled particularly and venomously at the next town.
A TRUE STORY
REPEATED WORD FOR WORD AS I HEARD IT--[Written about 1876]
It was summer-time, and twilight. We were sitting on the porch of the
farmhouse, on the summit of the hill, and "Aunt Rachel" was sitting
respectfully below our level, on the steps-for she was our Servant, and
colored. She was of mighty frame and stature; she was sixty years old,
but her eye was undimmed and her strength unabated. She was a cheerful,
hearty soul, and it was no more trouble for her to laugh than it is for a
bird to sing. She was under fire now, as usual when the day was done.
That is to say, she was being chaffed without mercy, and was enjoying it.
She would let off peal after of laughter, and then sit with her face in
her hands and shake with throes of enjoyment which she could no longer
get breath enough to express. It such a moment as this a thought
occurred to me, and I said:
"Aunt Rachel, how is it that you've lived sixty years and never had any
She stopped quaking. She paused, and there was moment of silence. She
turned her face over her shoulder toward me, and said, without even a
smile her voice:
"Misto C-----, is you in 'arnest?"
It surprised me a good deal; and it sobered my manner and my speech, too.
"Why, I thought--that is, I meant--why, you can't have had any trouble.
I've never heard you sigh, and never seen your eye when there wasn't a
laugh in it."
She faced fairly around now, and was full earnestness.
"Has I had any trouble? Misto C-----, I's gwyne to tell you, den I leave
it to you. I was bawn down 'mongst de slaves; I knows all 'bout slavery,
'case I ben one of 'em my own se'f. Well sah, my ole man--dat's my
husban'--he was lov an' kind to me, jist as kind as you is to yo' own
wife. An' we had chil'en--seven chil'en--an' loved dem chil'en jist de
same as you loves yo' chil'en. Dey was black, but de Lord can't make
chil'en so black but what dey mother loves 'em an' wouldn't give 'em up,
no, not for anything dat's in dis whole world.
"Well, sah, I was raised in ole Fo'ginny, but mother she was raised in
Maryland; an' my souls she was turrible when she'd git started! My lan!
but she'd make de fur fly! When she'd git into dem tantrums, she always
had one word dat she said. She'd straighten herse'f up an' put her fists
in her hips an' say, 'I want you to understan' dat I wa'n't bawn in the
mash to be fool' by trash! I's one o' de ole Blue Hen's Chickens, I is!'
'Ca'se you see, dat's what folks dat's bawn in Maryland calls deyselves,
an' dey's proud of it. Well, dat was her word. I don't ever forgit it,
beca'se she said it so much, an' beca'se she said it one day when my
little Henry tore his wris' awful, and most busted 'is head, right up at
de top of his forehead, an' de niggers didn't fly aroun' fas' enough to
'tend to him. An' when dey talk' back at her, she up an' she says,
'Look-a-heah!' she says, 'I want you niggers to understan' dat I wa'n't
bawn in de mash be fool' by trash! I's one o' de ole Blue Hen's chickens,
I is!' an' den she clar' dat kitchen an' bandage' up de chile herse'f.
So I says dat word, too, when I's riled.
"Well, bymeby my ole mistis say she's broke, an she got to sell all de
niggers on de place. An' when I heah dat dey gwyne to sell us all off at
oction in Richmon', oh, de good gracious! I know what dat mean!"
Aunt Rachel had gradually risen, while she warmed to her subject, and now
she towered above us, black against the stars.
"Dey put chains on us an' put us on a stan' as high as dis po'ch--twenty
foot high--an' all de people stood aroun', crowds 'an' crowds. An' dey'd
come up dah an' look at us all roun', an' squeeze our arm, an' make us
git up an' walk, an' den say, Dis one too ole,' or 'Dis one lame,' or
'Dis one don't 'mount to much.' An' dey sole my ole man, an' took him
away, an' dey begin to sell my chil'en an' take dem away, an' I begin to
cry; an' de man say, 'Shet up yo' damn blubberin',' an' hit me on de mouf
wid his han'. An' when de las' one was gone but my little Henry, I grab'
him clost up to my breas' so, an' I ris up an' says, 'You sha'nt take him
away,' I says; 'I'll kill de man dat tetch him!' I says. But my little
Henry whisper an' say 'I gwyne to run away, an' den I work an' buy yo'
freedom' Oh, bless de chile, he always so good! But dey got him--dey got
him, de men did; but I took and tear de clo'es mos' off of 'em an' beat
'em over de head wid my chain; an' dey give it to me too, but I didn't
"Well, dah was my ole man gone, an' all my chil'en, all my seven chil'en
--an' six of 'em I hain't set eyes on ag'in to dis day, an' dat's
twenty-two year ago las' Easter. De man dat bought me b'long' in
Newbern, an' he took me dah. Well, bymeby de years roll on an' de waw
come. My marster he was a Confedrit colonel, an' I was his family's
cook. So when de Unions took dat town dey all run away an' lef' me all
by myse'f wid de other niggers in dat mons'us big house. So de big Union
officers move in dah, an' dey ask me would I cook for dem. 'Lord bless
you,' says I, 'dat what I's for.'
"Dey wa'n't no small-fry officers, mine you, de was de biggest dey is;
an' de way dey made dem sojers mosey roun'! De Gen'l he tole me to boss
dat kitchen; an' he say, 'If anybody come meddlin' wid you, you jist make
'em walk chalk; don't you be afeared,' he say; 'you's 'mong frens now.'
"Well, I thinks to myse'f, if my little Henry ever got a chance to run
away, he'd make to de Norf, o' course. So one day I comes in dah whar de
big officers was, in de parlor, an' I drops a kurtchy, so, an' I up an'
tole 'em 'bout my Henry, dey a-listenin' to my troubles jist de same as
if I was white folks; an' I says, 'What I come for is beca'se if he got
away and got up Norf whar you gemmen comes from, you might 'a' seen him,
maybe, an' could tell me so as I could fine him ag'in; he was very
little, an' he had a sk-yar on his lef' wris' an' at de top of his
forehead.' Den dey look mournful, an' de Gen'l says, 'How long sence you
los' him?' an' I say, 'Thirteen year. Den de Gen'l say, 'He wouldn't be
little no mo' now--he's a man!'
"I never thought o' dat befo'! He was only dat little feller to me yit.
I never thought 'bout him growin' up an' bein' big. But I see it den.
None o' de gemmen had run acrost him, so dey couldn't do nothin' for me.
But all dat time, do' I didn't know it, my Henry was run off to de Norf,
years an' years, an' he was a barber, too, an' worked for hisse'f. An'
bymeby, when de waw come he ups an' he says: 'I's done barberin',' he
says, 'I's gwyne to fine my ole mammy, less'n she's dead.' So he sole
out an' went to whar dey was recruitin', an' hired hisse'f out to de
colonel for his servant an' den he went all froo de battles everywhah,
huntin' for his ole mammy; yes, indeedy, he'd hire to fust one officer
an' den another, tell he'd ransacked de whole Souf; but you see I didn't
know nuffin 'bout dis. How was I gwyne to know it?
"Well, one night we had a big sojer ball; de sojers dah at Newbern was
always havin' balls an' carryin' on. Dey had 'em in my kitchen, heaps o'
times, 'ca'se it was so big. Mine you, I was down on sich doin's;
beca'se my place was wid de officers, an' it rasp me to have dem common
sojers cavortin' roun' in my kitchen like dat. But I alway' stood aroun'
an kep' things straight, I did; an' sometimes dey'd git my dander up, an'
den I'd make 'em clar dat kitchen mine I tell you!
"Well, one night--it was a Friday night--dey comes a whole platoon f'm a
nigger ridgment da was on guard at de house--de house was head quarters,
you know-an' den I was jist a-bilin' mad? I was jist a-boomin'! I
swelled aroun', an swelled aroun'; I jist was a-itchin' for 'em to do
somefin for to start me. An' dey was a-waltzin' an a dancin'! my but dey
was havin' a time! an I jist a-swellin' an' a-swellin' up! Pooty soon,
'long comes sich a spruce young nigger a-sailin' down de room wid a
yaller wench roun' de wais'; an' roun an' roun' an roun' dey went, enough
to make a body drunk to look at 'em; an' when dey got abreas' o' me, dey
went to kin' o' balancin' aroun' fust on one leg an' den on t'other, an'
smilin' at my big red turban, an' makin' fun, an' I ups an' says 'Git
along wid you!--rubbage!' De young man's face kin' o' changed, all of a
sudden, for 'bout a second but den he went to smilin' ag'in, same as he
was befo'. Well, 'bout dis time, in comes some niggers dat played music
and b'long' to de ban', an' dey never could git along widout puttin' on
airs. An de very fust air dey put on dat night, I lit into em! Dey
laughed, an' dat made me wuss. De res' o' de niggers got to laughin',
an' den my soul alive but I was hot! My eye was jist a-blazin'! I jist
straightened myself up so--jist as I is now, plum to de ceilin', mos'
--an' I digs my fists into my hips, an' I says, 'Look-a-heah!' I says, 'I
want you niggers to understan' dat I wa'n't bawn in de mash to be fool'
by trash! I's one o' de ole Blue hen's Chickens, I is!'--an' den I see
dat young man stan' a-starin' an' stiff, lookin' kin' o' up at de ceilin'
like he fo'got somefin, an' couldn't 'member it no mo'. Well, I jist
march' on dem niggers--so, lookin' like a gen'l--an' dey jist cave' away
befo' me an' out at de do'. An' as dis young man a-goin' out, I heah him
say to another nigger, 'Jim,' he says, 'you go 'long an' tell de cap'n I
be on han' 'bout eight o'clock in de mawnin'; dey's somefin on my mine,'
he says; 'I don't sleep no mo' dis night. You go 'long,' he says, 'an'
leave me by my own se'f.'
"Dis was 'bout one o'clock in de mawnin'. Well, 'bout seven, I was up
an' on han', gittin' de officers' breakfast. I was a-stoopin' down by de
stove jist so, same as if yo' foot was de stove--an' I'd opened de stove
do' wid my right han'--so, pushin' it back, jist as I pushes yo' foot
--an' I'd jist got de pan o' hot biscuits in my han' an' was 'bout to
raise up, when I see a black face come aroun' under mine, an' de eyes
a-lookin' up into mine, jist as I's a-lookin' up clost under yo' face
now; an' I jist stopped right dah, an' never budged! jist gazed an' gazed
so; an' de pan begin to tremble, an' all of a sudden I knowed! De pan
drop' on de flo' an' I grab his lef' han' an' shove back his sleeve--jist
so, as I's doin' to you--an' den I goes for his forehead an' push de hair
back so, an' 'Boy!' I says, 'if you an't my Henry, what is you doin' wid
dis welt on yo' wris' an' dat sk-yar on yo' forehead? De Lord God ob
heaven be praise', I got my own ag'in!'
"Oh no' Misto C-----, I hain't had no trouble. An' no joy!"
THE SIAMESE TWINS--[Written about 1868.]
I do not wish to write of the personal habits of these strange creatures
solely, but also of certain curious details of various kinds concerning
them, which, belonging only to their private life, have never crept into
print. Knowing the Twins intimately, I feel that I am peculiarly well
qualified for the task I have taken upon myself.
The Siamese Twins are naturally tender and affectionate indisposition,
and have clung to each other with singular fidelity throughout a long and
eventful life. Even as children they were inseparable companions; and it
was noticed that they always seemed to prefer each other's society to
that of any other persons. They nearly always played together; and, so
accustomed was their mother to this peculiarity, that, whenever both of
them chanced to be lost, she usually only hunted for one of them
--satisfied that when she found that one she would find his brother
somewhere in the immediate neighborhood. And yet these creatures were
ignorant and unlettered-barbarians themselves and the offspring of
barbarians, who knew not the light of philosophy and science. What a
withering rebuke is this to our boasted civilization, with its
quarrelings, its wranglings, and its separations of brothers!
As men, the Twins have not always lived in perfect accord; but still
there has always been a bond between them which made them unwilling to go
away from each other and dwell apart. They have even occupied the same
house, as a general thing, and it is believed that they have never failed
to even sleep together on any night since they were born. How surely do
the habits of a lifetime become second nature to us! The Twins always go
to bed at the same time; but Chang usually gets up about an hour before
his brother. By an understanding between themselves, Chang does all the
indoor work and Eng runs all the errands. This is because Eng likes to
go out; Chang's habits are sedentary. However, Chang always goes along.
Eng is a Baptist, but Chang is a Roman Catholic; still, to please his
brother, Chang consented to be baptized at the same time that Eng was, on
condition that it should not "count." During the war they were strong
partisans, and both fought gallantly all through the great struggle--Eng
on the Union side and Chang on the Confederate. They took each other
prisoners at Seven Oaks, but the proofs of capture were so evenly
balanced in favor of each, that a general army court had to be assembled
to determine which one was properly the captor and which the captive.
The jury was unable to agree for a long time; but the vexed question was
finally decided by agreeing to consider them both prisoners, and then
exchanging them. At one time Chang was convicted of disobedience of
orders, and sentenced to ten days in the guard-house, but Eng, in spite
of all arguments, felt obliged to share his imprisonment, notwithstanding
he himself was entirely innocent; and so, to save the blameless brother
from suffering, they had to discharge both from custody--the just reward
Upon one occasion the brothers fell out about something, and Chang
knocked Eng down, and then tripped and fell on him, whereupon both
clinched and began to beat and gouge each other without mercy. The
bystanders interfered, and tried to separate them, but they could not do
it, and so allowed them to fight it out. In the end both were disabled,
and were carried to the hospital on one and the same shutter.
Their ancient habit of going always together had its drawbacks when they
reached man's estate, and entered upon the luxury of courting. Both fell
in love with the same girl. Each tried to steal clandestine interviews
with her, but at the critical moment the other would always turn up.
By and by Eng saw, with distraction, that Chang had won the girl's
affections; and, from that day forth, he had to bear with the agony of
being a witness to all their dainty billing and cooing. But with a
magnanimity that did him infinite credit, he succumbed to his fate, and
gave countenance and encouragement to a state of things that bade fair to
sunder his generous heart-strings. He sat from seven every evening until
two in the morning, listening to the fond foolishness of the two lovers,
and to the concussion of hundreds of squandered kisses--for the privilege
of sharing only one of which he would have given his right hand. But he
sat patiently, and waited, and gaped, and yawned, and stretched, and
longed for two o'clock to come. And he took long walks with the lovers
on moonlight evenings--sometimes traversing ten miles, notwithstanding he
was usually suffering from rheumatism. He is an inveterate smoker; but
he could not smoke on these occasions, because the young lady was
painfully sensitive to the smell of tobacco. Eng cordially wanted them
married, and done with it; but although Chang often asked the momentous
question, the young lady could not gather sufficient courage to answer it
while Eng was by. However, on one occasion, after having walked some
sixteen miles, and sat up till nearly daylight, Eng dropped asleep, from
sheer exhaustion, and then the question was asked and answered. The
lovers were married. All acquainted with the circumstance applauded the
noble brother-in-law. His unwavering faithfulness was the theme of every
tongue. He had stayed by them all through their long and arduous
courtship; and when at last they were married, he lifted his hands above
their heads, and said with impressive unction, "Bless ye, my children, I
will never desert ye!" and he kept his word. Fidelity like this is all
too rare in this cold world.
By and by Eng fell in love with his sister-in-law's sister, and married
her, and since that day they have all lived together, night and day, in
an exceeding sociability which is touching and beautiful to behold, and
is a scathing rebuke to our boasted civilization.
The sympathy existing between these two brothers is so close and so
refined that the feelings, the impulses, the emotions of the one are
instantly experienced by the other. When one is sick, the other is sick;
when one feels pain, the other feels it; when one is angered, the other's
temper takes fire. We have already seen with what happy facility they
both fell in love with the same girl. Now Chang is bitterly opposed to
all forms of intemperance, on principle; but Eng is the reverse--for,
while these men's feelings and emotions are so closely wedded, their
reasoning faculties are unfettered; their thoughts are free. Chang
belongs to the Good Templars, and is a hard--working, enthusiastic
supporter of all temperance reforms. But, to his bitter distress, every
now and then Eng gets drunk, and, of course, that makes Chang drunk too.
This unfortunate thing has been a great sorrow to Chang, for it almost
destroys his usefulness in his favorite field of effort. As sure as he
is to head a great temperance procession Eng ranges up alongside of him,
prompt to the minute, and drunk as a lord; but yet no more dismally and
hopelessly drunk than his brother, who has not tasted a drop. And so the
two begin to hoot and yell, and throw mud and bricks at the Good
Templars; and, of course, they break up the procession. It would be
manifestly wrong to punish Chang for what Eng does, and, therefore, the
Good Templars accept the untoward situation, and suffer in silence and
sorrow. They have officially and deliberately examined into the matter,
and find Chang blameless. They have taken the two brothers and filled
Chang full of warm water and sugar and Eng full of whisky, and in
twenty-five minutes it was not possible to tell which was the drunkest.
Both were as drunk as loons--and on hot whisky punches, by the smell of
their breath. Yet all the while Chang's moral principles were unsullied,
his conscience clear; and so all just men were forced to confess that he
was not morally, but only physically, drunk. By every right and by every
moral evidence the man was strictly sober; and, therefore, it caused his
friends all the more anguish to see him shake hands with the pump and try
to wind his watch with his night-key.
There is a moral in these solemn warnings--or, at least, a warning in
these solemn morals; one or the other. No matter, it is somehow. Let us
heed it; let us profit by it.
I could say more of an instructive nature about these interesting beings,
but let what I have written suffice.
Having forgotten to mention it sooner, I will remark in conclusion that
the ages of the Siamese Twins are respectively fifty-one and fifty-three
SPEECH AT THE SCOTTISH BANQUET IN LONDON--[Written about 1872.]
On the anniversary festival of the Scottish Corporation of London on
Monday evening, in response to the toast of "The Ladies," MARK TWAIN
replied. The following is his speech as reported in the London Observer:
I am proud, indeed, of the distinction of being chosen to respond to this
especial toast, to 'The Ladies,' or to women if you please, for that is
the preferable term, perhaps; it is certainly the older, and therefore
the more entitled to reverence [Laughter.] I have noticed that the
Bible, with that plain, blunt honesty which is such a conspicuous
characteristic of the Scriptures, is always particular to never refer to
even the illustrious mother of all mankind herself as a 'lady,' but
speaks of her as a woman, [Laughter.] It is odd, but you will find it is
so. I am peculiarly proud of this honor, because I think that the toast
to women is one which, by right and by every rule of gallantry, should
take precedence of all others--of the army, of the navy, of even royalty
itself perhaps, though the latter is not necessary in this day and in
this land, for the reason that, tacitly, you do drink a broad general
health to all good women when you drink the health of the Queen of
England and the Princess of Wales. [Loud cheers.] I have in mind a poem
just now which is familiar to you all, familiar to everybody. And what
an inspiration that was (and how instantly the present toast recalls the
verses to all our minds) when the most noble, the most gracious, the
purest, and sweetest of all poets says:
"Woman! O woman!--er--
[Laughter.] However, you remember the lines; and you remember how
feelingly, how daintily, how almost imperceptibly the verses raise up
before you, feature by feature, the ideal of a true and perfect woman;
and how, as you contemplate the finished marvel, your homage grows into
worship of the intellect that could create so fair a thing out of mere
breath, mere words. And you call to mind now, as I speak, how the poet,
with stern fidelity to the history of all humanity, delivers this
beautiful child of his heart and his brain over to the trials and sorrows
that must come to all, sooner or later, that abide in the earth, and how
the pathetic story culminates in that apostrophe--so wild, so regretful,
so full of mournful retrospection. The lines run thus:
--and so on. [Laughter.] I do not remember the rest; but, taken
together, it seems to me that poem is the noblest tribute to woman that
human genius has ever brought forth--[laughter]--and I feel that if I
were to talk hours I could not do my great theme completer or more
graceful justice than I have now done in simply quoting that poet's
matchless words. [Renewed laughter.] The phases of the womanly nature
are infinite in their variety. Take any type of woman, and you shall
find in it something to respect, something to admire, something to love.
And you shall find the whole joining you heart and hand. Who was more
patriotic than Joan of Arc? Who was braver? Who has given us a grander
instance of self-sacrificing devotion? Ah! you remember, you remember
well, what a throb of pain, what a great tidal wave of grief swept over
us all when Joan of Arc fell at Waterloo. [Much laughter.] Who does not
sorrow for the loss of Sappho, the sweet singer of Israel? [Laughter.]
Who among us does not miss the gentle ministrations, the softening
influences, the humble piety of Lucretia Borgia? [Laughter.] Who can
join in the heartless libel that says woman is extravagant in dress when
he can look back and call to mind our simple and lowly mother Eve arrayed
in her modification of the Highland costume. [Roars of laughter.]
Sir, women have been soldiers, women have been painters, women have been
poets. As long as language lives the name of Cleopatra will live.
And, not because she conquered George III. [laughter]--but because she
wrote those divine lines:
"Let dogs delight to bark and bite,
For God hath made them so."
[More laughter.] The story of the world is adorned with the names of
illustrious ones of our own sex--some of them sons of St. Andrew, too
--Scott, Bruce, Burns, the warrior Wallace, Ben Nevis--[laughter]--the
gifted Ben Lomond, and the great new Scotchman, Ben Disraeli. [Great
laughter.] Out of the great plains of history tower whole mountain
ranges of sublime women--the Queen of Sheba, Josephine, Semiramis, Sairey
Gamp; the list is endless--[laughter]--but I will not call the mighty
roll, the names rise up in your own memories at the mere suggestion,
luminous with the glory of deeds that cannot die, hallowed by the loving
worship of the good and the true of all epochs and all climes. [Cheers.]
Suffice it for our pride and our honor that we in our day have added to
it such names as those of Grace Darling and Florence Nightingale.
[Cheers.] Woman is all that she should be-gentle, patient, long
suffering, trustful, unselfish, full of generous impulses. It is her
blessed mission to comfort the sorrowing, plead for the erring, encourage
the faint of purpose, succor the distressed, uplift the fallen, befriend
the friendless in a word, afford the healing of her sympathies and a home
in her heart for all the bruised and persecuted children of misfortune
that knock at its hospitable door. [Cheers.] And when I say, God bless
her, there is none among us who has known the ennobling affection of a
wife, or the steadfast devotion of a mother, but in his heart will say,
Amen! [Loud and prolonged cheering.]
--[Mr. Benjamin Disraeli, at that time Prime Minister of England, had
just been elected Lord Rector of Glasgow University, and had made a
speech which gave rise to a world of discussion.]
A GHOST STORY
I took a large room, far up Broadway, in a huge old building whose upper
stories had been wholly unoccupied for years until I came. The place had
long been given up to dust and cobwebs, to solitude and silence.
I seemed groping among the tombs and invading the privacy of the dead,
that first night I climbed up to my quarters. For the first time in my
life a superstitious dread came over me; and as I turned a dark angle of
the stairway and an invisible cobweb swung its slazy woof in my face and
clung there, I shuddered as one who had encountered a phantom.
I was glad enough when I reached my room and locked out the mold and the
darkness. A cheery fire was burning in the grate, and I sat down before
it with a comforting sense of relief. For two hours I sat there,
thinking of bygone times; recalling old scenes, and summoning
half-forgotten faces out of the mists of the past; listening, in fancy,
to voices that long ago grew silent for all time, and to once familiar
songs that nobody sings now. And as my reverie softened down to a sadder
and sadder pathos, the shrieking of the winds outside softened to a wail,
the angry beating of the rain against the panes diminished to a tranquil
patter, and one by one the noises in the street subsided, until the
hurrying footsteps of the last belated straggler died away in the
distance and left no sound behind.
The fire had burned low. A sense of loneliness crept over me. I arose
and undressed, moving on tiptoe about the room, doing stealthily what I
had to do, as if I were environed by sleeping enemies whose slumbers it
would be fatal to break. I covered up in bed, and lay listening to the
rain and wind and the faint creaking of distant shutters, till they
lulled me to sleep.
I slept profoundly, but how long I do not know. All at once I found
myself awake, and filled with a shuddering expectancy. All was still.
All but my own heart--I could hear it beat. Presently the bedclothes
began to slip away slowly toward the foot of the bed, as if some one were
pulling them! I could not stir; I could not speak. Still the blankets
slipped deliberately away, till my breast was uncovered. Then with a
great effort I seized them and drew them over my head. I waited,
listened, waited. Once more that steady pull began, and once more I lay
torpid a century of dragging seconds till my breast was naked again. At
last I roused my energies and snatched the covers back to their place and
held them with a strong grip. I waited. By and by I felt a faint tug,
and took a fresh grip. The tug strengthened to a steady strain--it grew
stronger and stronger. My hold parted, and for the third time the
blankets slid away. I groaned. An answering groan came from the foot of
the bed! Beaded drops of sweat stood upon my forehead. I was more dead
than alive. Presently I heard a heavy footstep in my room--the step of
an elephant, it seemed to me--it was not like anything human. But it was
moving from me--there was relief in that. I heard it approach the door
--pass out without moving bolt or lock--and wander away among the dismal
corridors, straining the floors and joists till they creaked again as it
passed--and then silence reigned once more.
When my excitement had calmed, I said to myself, "This is a dream--simply
a hideous dream." And so I lay thinking it over until I convinced myself
that it was a dream, and then a comforting laugh relaxed my lips and I
was happy again. I got up and struck a light; and when I found that the
locks and bolts were just as I had left them, another soothing laugh
welled in my heart and rippled from my lips. I took my pipe and lit it,
and was just sitting down before the fire, when-down went the pipe out of
my nerveless fingers, the blood forsook my cheeks, and my placid
breathing was cut short with a gasp! In the ashes on the hearth, side by
side with my own bare footprint, was another, so vast that in comparison
mine was but an infant's! Then I had had a visitor, and the elephant
tread was explained.
I put out the light and returned to bed, palsied with fear. I lay a long
time, peering into the darkness, and listening.--Then I heard a grating
noise overhead, like the dragging of a heavy body across the floor; then
the throwing down of the body, and the shaking of my windows in response
to the concussion. In distant parts of the building I heard the muffled
slamming of doors. I heard, at intervals, stealthy footsteps creeping in
and out among the corridors, and up and down the stairs. Sometimes these
noises approached my door, hesitated, and went away again. I heard the
clanking of chains faintly, in remote passages, and listened while the
clanking grew nearer--while it wearily climbed the stairways, marking
each move by the loose surplus of chain that fell with an accented rattle
upon each succeeding step as the goblin that bore it advanced. I heard
muttered sentences; half-uttered screams that seemed smothered violently;
and the swish of invisible garments, the rush of invisible wings. Then I
became conscious that my chamber was invaded--that I was not alone.
I heard sighs and breathings about my bed, and mysterious whisperings.
Three little spheres of soft phosphorescent light appeared on the ceiling
directly over my head, clung and glowed there a moment, and then dropped
--two of them upon my face and one upon the pillow. They, spattered,
liquidly, and felt warm. Intuition told me they had--turned to gouts of
blood as they fell--I needed no light to satisfy myself of that. Then I
saw pallid faces, dimly luminous, and white uplifted hands, floating
bodiless in the air--floating a moment and then disappearing.
The whispering ceased, and the voices and the sounds, anal a solemn
stillness followed. I waited and listened. I felt that I must have
light or die. I was weak with fear. I slowly raised myself toward a
sitting posture, and my face came in contact with a clammy hand!
All strength went from me apparently, and I fell back like a stricken
invalid. Then I heard the rustle of a garment it seemed to pass to the
door and go out.
When everything was still once more, I crept out of bed, sick and feeble,
and lit the gas with a hand that trembled as if it were aged with a
hundred years. The light brought some little cheer to my spirits. I sat
down and fell into a dreamy contemplation of that great footprint in the
ashes. By and by its outlines began to waver and grow dim. I glanced up
and the broad gas-flame was slowly wilting away. In the same moment I
heard that elephantine tread again. I noted its approach, nearer and
nearer, along the musty halls, and dimmer and dimmer the light waned.
The tread reached my very door and paused--the light had dwindled to a
sickly blue, and all things about me lay in a spectral twilight. The
door did not open, and yet I felt a faint gust of air fan my cheek, and
presently was conscious of a huge, cloudy presence before me. I watched
it with fascinated eyes. A pale glow stole over the Thing; gradually its
cloudy folds took shape--an arm appeared, then legs, then a body, and
last a great sad face looked out of the vapor. Stripped of its filmy
housings, naked, muscular and comely, the majestic Cardiff Giant loomed
All my misery vanished--for a child might know that no harm could come
with that benignant countenance. My cheerful spirits returned at once,
and in sympathy with them the gas flamed up brightly again. Never a
lonely outcast was so glad to welcome company as I was to greet the
friendly giant. I said:
"Why, is it nobody but you? Do you know, I have been scared to death for
the last two or three hours? I am most honestly glad to see you. I wish
I had a chair--Here, here, don't try to sit down in that thing--"
But it was too late. He was in it before I could stop him and down he
went--I never saw a chair shivered so in my life.
"Stop, stop, you'll ruin ev--"
Too late again. There was another crash, and another chair was resolved
into its original elements.
"Confound it, haven't you got any judgment at' all? Do you want to ruin
all the furniture on the place? Here, here, you petrified fool--"
But it was no use. Before I could arrest him he had sat down on the bed,
and it was a melancholy ruin.
"Now what sort of a way is that to do? First you come lumbering about
the place bringing a legion of vagabond goblins along with you to worry
me to death, and then when I overlook an indelicacy of costume which
would not be tolerated anywhere by cultivated people except in a
respectable theater, and not even there if the nudity were of your sex,
you repay me by wrecking all the furniture you can find to sit down on.
And why will you? You damage yourself as much as you do me. You have
broken off the end of your spinal column, and littered up the floor with
chips of your hams till the place looks like a marble yard. You ought to
be ashamed of yourself--you are big enough to know better."
"Well, I will not break any more furniture. But what am I to do? I have
not had a chance to sit down for a century." And the tears came into his
"Poor devil," I said, "I should not have been so harsh with you. And you
are an orphan, too, no doubt. But sit down on the floor here--nothing
else can stand your weight--and besides, we cannot be sociable with you
away up there above me; I want you down where I can perch on this high
counting-house stool and gossip with you face to face." So he sat down
on the floor, and lit a pipe which I gave him, threw one of my red
blankets over his shoulders, inverted my sitz-bath on his head, helmet
fashion, and made himself picturesque and comfortable. Then he crossed
his ankles, while I renewed the fire, and exposed the flat, honeycombed
bottoms of his prodigious feet to the grateful warmth.
"What is the matter with the bottom of your feet and the back of your
legs, that they are gouged up so?"
"Infernal chilblains--I caught them clear up to the back of my head,
roosting out there under Newell's farm. But I love the place; I love it
as one loves his old home. There is no peace for me like the peace I
feel when I am there."
We talked along for half an hour, and then I noticed that he looked
tired, and spoke of it.
"Tired?" he said. "Well, I should think so. And now I will tell you all
about it, since you have treated me so well. I am the spirit of the
Petrified Man that lies across the street there in the museum. I am the
ghost of the Cardiff Giant. I can have no rest, no peace, till they have
given that poor body burial again. Now what was the most natural thing
for me to do, to make men satisfy this wish? Terrify them into it!
haunt the place where the body lay! So I haunted the museum night after
night. I even got other spirits to help me. But it did no good, for
nobody ever came to the museum at midnight. Then it occurred to me to
come over the way and haunt this place a little. I felt that if I ever
got a hearing I must succeed, for I had the most efficient company that
perdition could furnish. Night after night we have shivered around
through these mildewed halls, dragging chains, groaning, whispering,
tramping up and down stairs, till, to tell you the truth, I am almost
worn out. But when I saw a light in your room to-night I roused my
energies again and went at it with a deal of the old freshness. But I am
tired out--entirely fagged out. Give me, I beseech you, give me some
hope!" I lit off my perch in a burst of excitement, and exclaimed:
"This transcends everything! everything that ever did occur! Why you
poor blundering old fossil, you have had all your trouble for nothing
--you have been haunting a plaster cast of yourself--the real Cardiff
Giant is in Albany!--[A fact. The original fraud was ingeniously and
fraudfully duplicated, and exhibited in New York as the "only genuine"
Cardiff Giant (to the unspeakable disgust of the owners of the real
colossus) at the very same time that the latter was drawing crowds at a
museum is Albany,]--Confound it, don't you know your own remains?"
I never saw such an eloquent look of shame, of pitiable humiliation,
overspread a countenance before.
The Petrified Man rose slowly to his feet, and said:
"Honestly, is that true?"
"As true as I am sitting here."
He took the pipe from his mouth and laid it on the mantel, then stood
irresolute a moment (unconsciously, from old habit, thrusting his hands
where his pantaloons pockets should have been, and meditatively dropping
his chin on his breast); and finally said:
"Well-I never felt so absurd before. The Petrified Man has sold
everybody else, and now the mean fraud has ended by selling its own
ghost! My son, if there is any charity left in your heart for a poor
friendless phantom like me, don't let this get out. Think how you would
feel if you had made such an ass of yourself."
I heard his stately tramp die away, step by step down the stairs and out
into the deserted street, and felt sorry that he was gone, poor fellow
--and sorrier still that he had carried off my red blanket and my
THE CAPITOLINE VENUS
[Scene-An Artist's Studio in Rome.]
"Oh, George, I do love you!"
"Bless your dear heart, Mary, I know that--why is your father so
"George, he means well, but art is folly to him--he only understands
groceries. He thinks you would starve me."
"Confound his wisdom--it savors of inspiration. Why am I not a
money-making bowelless grocer, instead of a divinely gifted sculptor
with nothing to eat?"
"Do not despond, Georgy, dear--all his prejudices will fade away as soon
as you shall have acquired fifty thousand dol--"
"Fifty thousand demons! Child, I am in arrears for my board!"
[Scene-A Dwelling in Rome.]
"My dear sir, it is useless to talk. I haven't anything against you, but
I can't let my daughter marry a hash of love, art, and starvation--I
believe you have nothing else to offer."
"Sir, I am poor, I grant you. But is fame nothing? The Hon. Bellamy
Foodle of Arkansas says that my new statue of America, is a clever piece
of sculpture, and he is satisfied that my name will one day be famous."
"Bosh! What does that Arkansas ass know about it? Fame's nothing--the
market price of your marble scarecrow is the thing to look at. It took
you six months to chisel it, and you can't sell it for a hundred dollars.
No, sir! Show me fifty thousand dollars and you can have my daughter
--otherwise she marries young Simper. You have just six months to raise
the money in. Good morning, sir."
"Alas! Woe is me!"
[ Scene-The Studio.]
"Oh, John, friend of my boyhood, I am the unhappiest of men."
"You're a simpleton!"
"I have nothing left to love but my poor statue of America--and see, even
she has no sympathy for me in her cold marble countenance--so beautiful
and so heartless!"
"You're a dummy!"
Oh, fudge! Didn't you say you had six months to raise the money in?"
"Don't deride my agony, John. If I had six centuries what good would it
do? How could it help a poor wretch without name, capital, or friends?"
"Idiot! Coward! Baby! Six months to raise the money in--and five will
"Are you insane?"
"Six months--an abundance. Leave it to me. I'll raise it."
"What do you mean, John? How on earth can you raise such a monstrous sum
"Will you let that be my business, and not meddle? Will you leave the
thing in my hands? Will you swear to submit to whatever I do? Will you
pledge me to find no fault with my actions?"
"I am dizzy--bewildered--but I swear."
John took up a hammer and deliberately smashed the nose of America! He
made another pass and two of her fingers fell to the floor--another, and
part of an ear came away--another, and a row of toes was mangled and
dismembered--another, and the left leg, from the knee down, lay a
John put on his hat and departed.
George gazed speechless upon the battered and grotesque nightmare before
him for the space of thirty seconds, and then wilted to the floor and
went into convulsions.
John returned presently with a carriage, got the broken-hearted artist
and the broken-legged statue aboard, and drove off, whistling low and
He left the artist at his lodgings, and drove off and disappeared down
the Via Quirinalis with the statue.
"The six months will be up at two o'clock to-day! Oh, agony! My life is
blighted. I would that I were dead. I had no supper yesterday. I have
had no breakfast to-day. I dare not enter an eating-house. And hungry?
--don't mention it! My bootmaker duns me to death--my tailor duns me
--my landlord haunts me. I am miserable. I haven't seen John since that
awful day. She smiles on me tenderly when we meet in the great
thoroughfares, but her old flint of a father makes her look in the other
direction in short order. Now who is knocking at that door? Who is come
to persecute me? That malignant villain the bootmaker, I'll warrant.
"Ah, happiness attend your highness--Heaven be propitious to your grace!
I have brought my lord's new boots--ah, say nothing about the pay, there
is no hurry, none in the world. Shall be proud if my noble lord will
continue to honor me with his custom--ah, adieu!"
"Brought the boots himself! Don't wait his pay! Takes his leave with a
bow and a scrape fit to honor majesty withal! Desires a continuance of
my custom! Is the world coming to an end? Of all the--come in!"
"Pardon, signore, but I have brought your new suit of clothes for--"
"A thousand pardons for this intrusion, your worship. But I have
prepared the beautiful suite of rooms below for you--this wretched den is
but ill suited to--"
"I have called to say that your credit at our bank, some time since
unfortunately interrupted, is entirely and most satisfactorily restored,
and we shall be most happy if you will draw upon us for any--"
"My noble boy, she is yours! She'll be here in a moment! Take her
--marry her--love her--be happy!--God bless you both! Hip, hip, hur--"
"Oh, George, my own darling, we are saved!"
"Oh, Mary, my own darling, we are saved--but I'll swear I don't know why
[Scene-A Roman Cafe.]
One of a group of American gentlemen reads and translates from the weekly
edition of 'Il Slangwhanger di Roma' as follows:
WONDERFUL DISCOVERY--Some six months ago Signor John Smitthe, an American
gentleman now some years a resident of Rome, purchased for a trifle a
small piece of ground in the Campagna, just beyond the tomb of the Scipio
family, from the owner, a bankrupt relative of the Princess Borghese.
Mr. Smitthe afterward went to the Minister of the Public Records and had
the piece of ground transferred to a poor American artist named George
Arnold, explaining that he did it as payment and satisfaction for
pecuniary damage accidentally done by him long since upon property
belonging to Signor Arnold, and further observed that he would make
additional satisfaction by improving the ground for Signor A., at his own
charge and cost. Four weeks ago, while making some necessary excavations
upon the property, Signor Smitthe unearthed the most remarkable ancient
statue that has ever bees added to the opulent art treasures of Rome.
It was an exquisite figure of a woman, and though sadly stained by the
soil and the mold of ages, no eye can look unmoved upon its ravishing
beauty. The nose, the left leg from the knee down, an ear, and also the
toes of the right foot and two fingers of one of the hands were gone,
but otherwise the noble figure was in a remarkable state of preservation.
The government at once took military possession of the statue, and
appointed a commission of art-critics, antiquaries, and cardinal princes
of the church to assess its value and determine the remuneration that
must go to the owner of the ground in which it was found. The whole
affair was kept a profound secret until last night. In the mean time the
commission sat with closed doors and deliberated. Last night they
decided unanimously that the statue is a Venus, and the work of some
unknown but sublimely gifted artist of the third century before Christ.
They consider it the most faultless work of art the world has any
At midnight they held a final conference and, decided that the Venus was
worth the enormous sum of ten million francs! In accordance with Roman
law and Roman usage, the government being half-owner in all works of art
found in the Campagna, the State has naught to do but pay five million
francs to Mr. Arnold and take permanent possession of the beautiful
statue. This morning the Venus will be removed to the Capitol, there to
remain, and at noon the commission will wait upon Signor Arnold with His
Holiness the Pope's order upon the Treasury for the princely sum of five
million francs is gold!
Chorus of Voices.--"Luck! It's no name for it!"
Another Voice.--"Gentlemen, I propose that we immediately form an
American joint-stock company for the purchase of lands and excavations of
statues here, with proper connections in Wall Street to bull and bear the
[Scene--The Roman Capitol Ten Years Later.]
"Dearest Mary, this is the most celebrated statue in the world. This is
the renowned 'Capitoline Venus' you've heard so much about. Here she is
with her little blemishes 'restored' (that is, patched) by the most noted
Roman artists--and the mere fact that they did the humble patching of so
noble a creation will make their names illustrious while the world
stands. How strange it seems this place! The day before I last stood
here, ten happy years ago, I wasn't a rich man bless your soul, I hadn't
a cent. And yet I had a good deal to do with making Rome mistress of
this grandest work of ancient art the world contains."
"The worshiped, the illustrious Capitoline Venus--and what a sum she is
valued at! Ten millions of francs!"
"Yes--now she is."
"And oh, Georgy, how divinely beautiful she is!"
"Ah, yes but nothing to what she was before that blessed John Smith broke
her leg and battered her nose. Ingenious Smith!--gifted Smith!--noble
Smith! Author of all our bliss! Hark! Do you know what that wheeze
means? Mary, that cub has got the whooping-cough. Will you never learn
to take care of the children!"
The Capitoline Venus is still in the Capitol at Rome, and is still the
most charming and most illustrious work of ancient art the world can
boast of. But if ever it shall be your fortune to stand before it and go
into the customary ecstasies over it, don't permit this true and secret
history of its origin to mar your bliss--and when you read about a
gigantic Petrified man being dug up near Syracuse, in the State of New
York, or near any other place, keep your own counsel--and if the Barnum
that buried him there offers to sell to you at an enormous sum, don't you
buy. Send him to the Pope!
[NOTE.--The above sketch was written at the time the famous swindle of
the "Petrified Giant" was the sensation of the day in the United States]
SPEECH ON ACCIDENT INSURANCE
DELIVERED IN HARTFORD, AT A DINNER TO CORNELIUS WALFORD, OF LONDON
GENTLEMEN: I am glad, indeed, to assist in welcoming the distinguished
guest of this occasion to a city whose fame as an insurance center has
extended to all lands, and given us the name of being a quadruple band of
brothers working sweetly hand in hand--the Colt's Arms Company making the
destruction of our race easy and convenient, our life insurance citizens
paying for the victims when they pass away, Mr. Batterson perpetuating
their memory with his stately monuments, and our fire-insurance comrades
taking care of their hereafter. I am glad to assist in welcoming our
guest first, because he is an Englishman, and I owe a heavy debt of
hospitality to certain of his fellow-countrymen; and secondly, because he
is in sympathy with insurance and has been the means of making may other
men cast their sympathies in the same direction.
Certainly there is no nobler field for human effort than the insurance
line of business--especially accident insurance. Ever since I have been
a director in an accident-insurance company I have felt that I am a
better man. Life has seemed more precious. Accidents have assumed a
kindlier aspect. Distressing special providences have lost half their
horror. I look upon a cripple now with affectionate interest--as an
advertisement. I do not seem to care for poetry any more. I do not care
for politics--even agriculture does not excite me. But to me now there
is a charm about a railway collision that is unspeakable.
There is nothing more beneficent than accident insurance. I have seen an
entire family lifted out of poverty and into affluence by the simple boon
of a broken leg. I have had people come to me on crutches, with tears in
their eyes, to bless this beneficent institution. In all my experience
of life, I have seen nothing so seraphic as the look that comes into a
freshly mutilated man's face when he feels in his vest pocket with his
remaining hand and finds his accident ticket all right. And I have seen
nothing so sad as the look that came into another splintered customer's
face when he found he couldn't collect on a wooden leg.
I will remark here, by way of advertisement, that that noble charity
which we have named the HARTFORD ACCIDENT INSURANCE COMPANY--[The
speaker is a director of the company named.]--is an institution which is
peculiarly to be depended upon. A man is bound to prosper who gives it
No man can take out a policy in it and not get crippled before the year
is out. Now there was one indigent man who had been disappointed so
often with other companies that he had grown disheartened, his appetite
left him, he ceased to smile--life was but a weariness. Three weeks ago
I got him to insure with us, and now he is the brightest, happiest spirit
in this land has a good steady income and a stylish suit of new bandages
every day, and travels around on a shutter.
I will say, in conclusion, that my share of the welcome to our guest is
none the less hearty because I talk so much nonsense, and I know that I
can say the same for the rest of the speakers.
JOHN CHINAMAN IN NEW YORK
As I passed along by one of those monster American tea stores in New
York, I found a Chinaman sitting before it acting in the capacity of a
sign. Everybody that passed by gave him a steady stare as long as their
heads would twist over their shoulders without dislocating their necks,
and a group had stopped to stare deliberately.
Is it not a shame that we, who prate so much about civilization and
humanity, are content to degrade a fellow-being to such an office as
this? Is it not time for reflection when we find ourselves willing to
see in such a being matter for frivolous curiosity instead of regret and
grave reflection? Here was a poor creature whom hard fortune had exiled
from his natural home beyond the seas, and whose troubles ought to have
touched these idle strangers that thronged about him; but did it?
Apparently not. Men calling themselves the superior race, the race of
culture and of gentle blood, scanned his quaint Chinese hat, with peaked
roof and ball on top, and his long queue dangling down his back; his
short silken blouse, curiously frogged and figured (and, like the rest of
his raiment, rusty, dilapidated, and awkwardly put on); his blue cotton,
tight-legged pants, tied close around the ankles; and his clumsy
blunt-toed shoes with thick cork soles; and having so scanned him from
head to foot, cracked some unseemly joke about his outlandish attire or
his melancholy face, and passed on. In my heart I pitied the friendless
Mongol. I wondered what was passing behind his sad face, and what
distant scene his vacant eye was dreaming of. Were his thoughts with his
heart, ten thousand miles away, beyond the billowy wastes of the Pacific?
among the ricefields and the plumy palms of China? under the shadows of
remembered mountain peaks, or in groves of bloomy shrubs and strange
forest trees unknown to climes like ours? And now and then, rippling
among his visions and his dreams, did he hear familiar laughter and
half-forgotten voices, and did he catch fitful glimpses of the friendly
faces of a bygone time? A cruel fate it is, I said, that is befallen
this bronzed wanderer. In order that the group of idlers might be
touched at least by the words of the poor fellow, since the appeal of his
pauper dress and his dreary exile was lost upon them, I touched him on
the shoulder and said:
"Cheer up--don't be downhearted. It is not America that treats you in
this way, it is merely one citizen, whose greed of gain has eaten the
humanity out of his heart. America has a broader hospitality for the
exiled and oppressed. America and Americans are always ready to help the
unfortunate. Money shall be raised--you shall go back to China you shall
see your friends again. What wages do they pay you here?"
"Divil a cint but four dollars a week and find meself; but it's aisy,
barrin' the troublesome furrin clothes that's so expinsive."
The exile remains at his post. The New York tea merchants who need
picturesque signs are not likely to run out of Chinamen.
HOW I EDITED AN AGRICULTURAL PAPER--[Written abort 1870.]
I did not take temporary editorship of an agricultural paper without
misgivings. Neither would a landsman take command of a ship without
misgivings. But I was in circumstances that made the salary an object.
The regular editor of the paper was going off for a holiday, and I
accepted the terms he offered, and took his place.
The sensation of being at work again was luxurious, and I wrought all the
week with unflagging pleasure. We went to press, and I waited a day with
some solicitude to see whether my effort was going to attract any notice.
As I left the office, toward sundown, a group of men and boys at the foot
of the stairs dispersed with one impulse, and gave me passageway, and I
heard one or two of them say: "That's him!" I was naturally pleased by
this incident. The next morning I found a similar group at the foot of
the stairs, and scattering couples and individuals standing here and
there in the street and over the way, watching me with interest. The
group separated and fell back as I approached, and I heard a man say,
"Look at his eye!" I pretended not to observe the notice I was
attracting, but secretly I was pleased with it, and was purposing to
write an account of it to my aunt. I went up the short flight of stairs,
and heard cheery voices and a ringing laugh as I drew near the door,
which I opened, and caught a glimpse of two young rural-looking men,
whose faces blanched and lengthened when they saw me, and then they both
plunged through the window with a great crash. I was surprised.
In about half an hour an old gentleman, with a flowing beard and a fine
but rather austere face, entered, and sat down at my invitation. He
seemed to have something on his mind. He took off his hat and set it on
the floor, and got out of it a red silk handkerchief and a copy of our
He put the paper on his lap, and while he polished his spectacles with
his handkerchief he said, "Are you the new editor?"
I said I was.
"Have you ever edited an agricultural paper before?"
"No," I said; "this is my first attempt."
"Very likely. Have you had any experience in agriculture practically?"
"No; I believe I have not."
"Some instinct told me so," said the old gentleman, putting on his
spectacles, and looking over them at me with asperity, while he folded
his paper into a convenient shape. "I wish to read you what must have
made me have that instinct. It was this editorial. Listen, and see if
it was you that wrote it:
"'Turnips should never be pulled, it injures them. It is much
better to send a boy up and let him shake the tree.'
"Now, what do you think of that? for I really suppose you wrote it?"
"Think of it? Why, I think it is good. I think it is sense. I have no
doubt that every year millions and millions of bushels of turnips are
spoiled in this township alone by being pulled in a half-ripe condition,
when, if they had sent a boy up to shake the tree--"
"Shake your grandmother! Turnips don't grow on trees!"
"Oh, they don't, don't they? Well, who said they did? The language was
intended to be figurative, wholly figurative. Anybody that knows
anything will know that I meant that the boy should shake the vine."
Then this old person got up and tore his paper all into small shreds, and
stamped on them, and broke several things with his cane, and said I did
not know as much as a cow; and then went--out and banged the door after
him, and, in short, acted in such a way that I fancied he was displeased
about something. But not knowing what the trouble was, I could not be
any help to him.
Pretty soon after this a long, cadaverous creature, with lanky locks
hanging down to his shoulders, and a week's stubble bristling from the
hills and valleys of his face, darted within the door, and halted,
motionless, with finger on lip, and head and body bent in listening
attitude. No sound was heard.
Still he listened. No sound. Then he turned the key in the door, and
came elaborately tiptoeing toward me till he was within long reaching
distance of me, when he stopped and, after scanning my face with intense
interest for a while, drew a folded copy of our paper from his bosom, and
"There, you wrote that. Read it to me--quick! Relieve me. I suffer."
I read as follows; and as the sentences fell from my lips I could see the
relief come, I could see the drawn muscles relax, and the anxiety go out
of the face, and rest and peace steal over the features like the merciful
moonlight over a desolate landscape:
The guano is a fine bird, but great care is necessary in rearing it.
It should not be imported earlier than June or later than September.
In the winter it should be kept in a warm place, where it can hatch
out its young.
It is evident that we are to have a backward season for grain.
Therefore it will be well for the farmer to begin setting out his
corn-stalks and planting his buckwheat cakes in July instead of
Concerning the pumpkin. This berry is a favorite with the natives
of the interior of New England, who prefer it to the gooseberry for
the making of fruit-cake, and who likewise give it the preference
over the raspberry for feeding cows, as being more filling and fully
as satisfying. The pumpkin is the only esculent of the orange
family that will thrive in the North, except the gourd and one or
two varieties of the squash. But the custom of planting it in the
front yard with the shrubbery is fast going out of vogue, for it is
now generally conceded that, the pumpkin as a shade tree is a
Now, as the warm weather approaches, and the ganders begin to
The excited listener sprang toward me to shake hands, and said:
"There, there--that will do. I know I am all right now, because you have
read it just as I did, word, for word. But, stranger, when I first read
it this morning, I said to myself, I never, never believed it before,
notwithstanding my friends kept me under watch so strict, but now I
believe I am crazy; and with that I fetched a howl that you might have
heard two miles, and started out to kill somebody--because, you know,
I knew it would come to that sooner or later, and so I might as well
begin. I read one of them paragraphs over again, so as to be certain,
and then I burned my house down and started. I have crippled several
people, and have got one fellow up a tree, where I can get him if I want
him. But I thought I would call in here as I passed along and make the
thing perfectly certain; and now it is certain, and I tell you it is
lucky for the chap that is in the tree. I should have killed him sure,
as I went back. Good-by, sir, good-by; you have taken a great load off
my mind. My reason has stood the strain of one of your agricultural
articles, and I know that nothing can ever unseat it now. Good-by, sir."
I felt a little uncomfortable about the cripplings and arsons this person
had been entertaining himself with, for I could not help feeling remotely
accessory to them. But these thoughts were quickly banished, for the
regular editor walked in! [I thought to myself, Now if you had gone to
Egypt as I recommended you to, I might have had a chance to get my hand
in; but you wouldn't do it, and here you are. I sort of expected you.]
The editor was looking sad and perplexed and dejected.
He surveyed the wreck which that old rioter and those two young farmers
had made, and then said "This is a sad business--a very sad business.
There is the mucilage-bottle broken, and six panes of glass, and a
spittoon, and two candlesticks. But that is not the worst. The
reputation of the paper is injured--and permanently, I fear. True, there
never was such a call for the paper before, and it never sold such a
large edition or soared to such celebrity; but does one want to be famous
for lunacy, and prosper upon the infirmities of his mind? My friend, as
I am an honest man, the street out here is full of people, and others are
roosting on the fences, waiting to get a glimpse of you, because they
think you are crazy. And well they might after reading your editorials.
They are a disgrace to journalism. Why, what put it into your head that
you could edit a paper of this nature? You do not seem to know the first
rudiments of agriculture. You speak of a furrow and a harrow as being
the same thing; you talk of the moulting season for cows; and you
recommend the domestication of the pole-cat on account of its playfulness
and its excellence as a ratter! Your remark that clams will lie quiet if
music be played to them was superfluous--entirely superfluous. Nothing
disturbs clams. Clams always lie quiet. Clams care nothing whatever
about music. Ah, heavens and earth, friend! if you had made the
acquiring of ignorance the study of your life, you could not have
graduated with higher honor than you could to-day. I never saw anything
like it. Your observation that the horse-chestnut as an article of
commerce is steadily gaining in favor is simply calculated to destroy
this journal. I want you to throw up your situation and go. I want no
more holiday--I could not enjoy it if I had it. Certainly not with you
in my chair. I would always stand in dread of what you might be going to
recommend next. It makes me lose all patience every time I think of your
discussing oyster-beds under the head of 'Landscape Gardening.' I want
you to go. Nothing on earth could persuade me to take another holiday.
Oh! why didn't you tell me you didn't know anything about agriculture?"
"Tell you, you corn-stalk, you cabbage, you son of a cauliflower? It's
the first time I ever heard such an unfeeling remark. I tell you I have
been in the editorial business going on fourteen years, and it is the
first time I ever heard of a man's having to know anything in order to
edit a newspaper. You turnip! Who write the dramatic critiques for the
second-rate papers? Why, a parcel of promoted shoemakers and apprentice
apothecaries, who know just as much about good acting as I do about good
farming and no more. Who review the books? People who never wrote one.
Who do up the heavy leaders on finance? Parties who have had the largest
opportunities for knowing nothing about it. Who criticize the Indian
campaigns? Gentlemen who do not know a war-whoop from a wigwam, and who
never have had to run a foot-race with a tomahawk, or pluck arrows out of
the several members of their families to build the evening camp-fire
with. Who write the temperance appeals, and clamor about the flowing
bowl? Folks who will never draw another sober breath till they do it in
the grave. Who edit the agricultural papers, you--yam? Men, as a
general thing, who fail in the poetry line, yellow-colored novel line,
sensation, drama line, city-editor line, and finally fall back on
agriculture as a temporary reprieve from the poorhouse. You try to tell
me anything about the newspaper business! Sir, I have been through it
from Alpha to Omaha, and I tell you that the less a man knows the bigger
the noise he makes and the higher the salary he commands. Heaven knows
if I had but been ignorant instead of cultivated, and impudent instead of
diffident, I could have made a name for myself in this cold, selfish
world. I take my leave, sir. Since I have been treated as you have
treated me, I am perfectly willing to go. But I have done my duty. I
have fulfilled my contract as far as I was permitted to do it. I said I
could make your paper of interest to all classes--and I have. I said I
could run your circulation up to twenty thousand copies, and if I had had
two more weeks I'd have done it. And I'd have given you the best class
of readers that ever an agricultural paper had--not a farmer in it, nor a
solitary individual who could tell a watermelon-tree from a peach-vine to
save his life. You are the loser by this rupture, not me, Pie-plant.
I then left.
THE PETRIFIED MAN
Now, to show how really hard it is to foist a moral or a truth upon an
unsuspecting public through a burlesque without entirely and absurdly
missing one's mark, I will here set down two experiences of my own in
this thing. In the fall of 1862, in Nevada and California, the people
got to running wild about extraordinary petrifactions and other natural
marvels. One could scarcely pick up a paper without finding in it one or
two glorified discoveries of this kind. The mania was becoming a little
ridiculous. I was a brand-new local editor in Virginia City, and I felt
called upon to destroy this growing evil; we all have our benignant,
fatherly moods at one time or another, I suppose. I chose to kill the
petrifaction mania with a delicate, a very delicate satire. But maybe it
was altogether too delicate, for nobody ever perceived the satire part of
it at all. I put my scheme in the shape of the discovery of a remarkably
I had had a temporary falling out with Mr.----, the new coroner and
justice of the peace of Humboldt, and thought I might as well touch him
up a little at the same time and make him ridiculous, and thus combine
pleasure with business. So I told, in patient, belief-compelling detail,
all about the finding of a petrified-man at Gravelly Ford (exactly a
hundred and twenty miles, over a breakneck mountain trail from where
---- lived); how all the savants of the immediate neighborhood had been to
examine it (it was notorious that there was not a living creature within
fifty miles of there, except a few starving Indians; some crippled
grasshoppers, and four or five buzzards out of meat and too feeble to get
away); how those savants all pronounced the petrified man to have been in
a state of complete petrifaction for over ten generations; and then, with
a seriousness that I ought to have been ashamed to assume, I stated that
as soon as Mr.----heard the news he summoned a jury, mounted his mule,
and posted off, with noble reverence for official duty, on that awful
five days' journey, through alkali, sage brush, peril of body, and
imminent starvation, to hold an inquest on this man that had been dead
and turned to everlasting stone for more than three hundred years!
And then, my hand being "in," so to speak, I went on, with the same
unflinching gravity, to state that the jury returned a verdict that
deceased came to his death from protracted exposure. This only moved me
to higher flights of imagination, and I said that the jury, with that
charity so characteristic of pioneers, then dug a grave, and were about
to give the petrified man Christian burial, when they found that for ages
a limestone sediment had been trickling down the face of the stone
against which he was sitting, and this stuff had run under him and
cemented him fast to the "bed-rock"; that the jury (they were all
silver-miners) canvassed the difficulty a moment, and then got out their
powder and fuse, and proceeded to drill a hole under him, in order to
blast him from his position, when Mr.----, "with that delicacy so
characteristic of him, forbade them, observing that it would be little
less than sacrilege to do such a thing."
From beginning to end the "Petrified Man" squib was a string of roaring
absurdities, albeit they were told with an unfair pretense of truth that
even imposed upon me to some extent, and I was in some danger of
believing in my own fraud. But I really had no desire to deceive
anybody, and no expectation of doing it. I depended on the way the
petrified man was sitting to explain to the public that he was a swindle.
Yet I purposely mixed that up with other things, hoping to make it
obscure--and I did. I would describe the position of one foot, and then
say his right thumb was against the side of his nose; then talk about his
other foot, and presently come back and say the fingers of his right hand
were spread apart; then talk about the back of his head a little, and
return and say the left thumb was hooked into the right little finger;
then ramble off about something else, and by and by drift back again and
remark that the fingers of the left hand were spread like those of the
right. But I was too ingenious. I mixed it up rather too much; and so
all that description of the attitude, as a key to the humbuggery of the
article, was entirely lost, for nobody but me ever discovered and
comprehended the peculiar and suggestive position of the petrified man's
As a satire on the petrifaction mania, or anything else, my petrified Man
was a disheartening failure; for everybody received him in innocent good
faith, and I was stunned to see the creature I had begotten to pull down
the wonder-business with, and bring derision upon it, calmly exalted to
the grand chief place in the list of the genuine marvels our Nevada had
produced. I was so disappointed at the curious miscarriage of my scheme,
that at first I was angry, and did not like to think about it; but by and
by, when the exchanges began to come in with the Petrified Man copied and
guilelessly glorified, I began to feel a soothing secret satisfaction;
and as my gentleman's field of travels broadened, and by the exchanges I
saw that he steadily and implacably penetrated territory after territory,
state after state, and land after land, till he swept the great globe and
culminated in sublime and unimpeached legitimacy in the august London
Lancet, my cup was full, and I said I was glad I had done it. I think
that for about eleven months, as nearly as I can remember, Mr.----'s
daily mail-bag continued to be swollen by the addition of half a bushel
of newspapers hailing from many climes with the Petrified Man in them,
marked around with a prominent belt of ink. I sent them to him. I did
it for spite, not for fun.
He used to shovel them into his back yard and curse. And every day
during all those months the miners, his constituents (for miners never
quit joking a person when they get started), would call on him and ask if
he could tell them where they could get hold of a paper with the
Petrified Man in it. He could have accommodated a continent with them.
I hated-----in those days, and these things pacified me and pleased me.
I could not have gotten more real comfort out of him without killing him.
MY BLOODY MASSACRE
The other burlesque I have referred to was my fine satire upon the
financial expedients of "cooking dividends," a thing which became
shamefully frequent on the Pacific coast for a while. Once more, in my
self-complacent simplicity I felt that the time had arrived for me to
rise up and be a reformer. I put this reformatory satire, in the shape
of a fearful "Massacre at Empire City." The San Francisco papers were
making a great outcry about the iniquity of the Daney Silver-Mining
Company, whose directors had declared a "cooked" or false dividend, for
the purpose of increasing the value of their stock, so that they could
sell out at a comfortable figure, and then scramble from under the
tumbling concern. And while abusing the Daney, those papers did not
forget to urge the public to get rid of all their silver stocks and
invest in, sound and safe San Francisco stocks, such as the Spring Valley
Water Company, etc. But right at this unfortunate juncture, behold the
Spring Valley cooked a dividend too! And so, under the insidious mask of
an invented "bloody massacre," I stole upon the public unawares with my
scathing satire upon the dividend cooking system. In about half a column
of imaginary human carnage I told how a citizen hard murdered his wife
and nine children, and then committed suicide. And I said slyly, at the
bottom, that the sudden madness of which this melancholy massacre was the
result had been brought about by his having allowed himself to be
persuaded by the California papers to sell his sound and lucrative Nevada
silver stocks, and buy into Spring Valley just in time to get cooked
along with that company's fancy dividend, and sink every cent he had in
Ah, it was a deep, deep satire, and most ingeniously contrived. But I
made the horrible details so carefully and conscientiously interesting
that the public devoured them greedily, and wholly overlooked the
following distinctly stated facts, to wit: The murderer was perfectly
well known to every creature in the land as a bachelor, and consequently
he could not murder his wife and nine children; he murdered them "in his
splendid dressed-stone mansion just in the edge of the great pine forest
between Empire City and Dutch Nick's," when even the very pickled oysters
that came on our tables knew that there was not a "dressed-stone mansion"
in all Nevada Territory; also that, so far from there being a "great pine
forest between Empire City and Dutch Nick's," there wasn't a solitary
tree within fifteen miles of either place; and, finally, it was patent
and notorious that Empire City and Dutch Nick's were one and the same
place, and contained only six houses anyhow, and consequently there could
be no forest between them; and on top of all these absurdities I stated
that this diabolical murderer, after inflicting a wound upon himself that
the reader ought to have seen would kill an elephant in the twinkling of
an eye, jumped on his horse and rode four miles, waving his wife's
reeking scalp in the air, and thus performing entered Carson City with
tremendous eclat, and dropped dead in front of the chief saloon, the envy
and admiration of all beholders.
Well, in all my life I never saw anything like the sensation that little
satire created. It was the talk of the town, it was the talk of the
territory. Most of the citizens dropped gently into it at breakfast, and
they never finished their meal. There was something about those minutely
faithful details that was a sufficing substitute for food. Few people
that were able to read took food that morning. Dan and I (Dan was my
reportorial associate) took our seats on either side of our customary
table in the "Eagle Restaurant," and, as I unfolded the shred they used
to call a napkin in that establishment, I saw at the next table two
stalwart innocents with that sort of vegetable dandruff sprinkled about
their clothing which was the sign and evidence that they were in from the
Truckee with a load of hay. The one facing me had the morning paper
folded to a long, narrow strip, and I knew, without any telling, that
that strip represented the column that contained my pleasant financial
satire. From the way he was excitedly mumbling, I saw that the heedless
son of a hay-mow was skipping with all his might, in order to get to the
bloody details as quickly as possible; and so he was missing the
guide-boards I had set up to warn him that the whole thing was a fraud.
Presently his eyes spread wide open, just as his jaws swung asunder to
take in a potato approaching it on a fork; the potato halted, the face
lit up redly, and the whole man was on fire with excitement. Then he
broke into a disjointed checking off of the particulars--his potato
cooling in mid-air meantime, and his mouth making a reach for it
occasionally; but always bringing up suddenly against a new and still
more direful performance of my hero. At last he looked his stunned and
rigid comrade impressively in the face, and said, with an expression of
"Jim, he b'iled his baby, and he took the old 'oman's skelp. Cuss'd if I
want any breakfast!"
And he laid his lingering potato reverently down, and he and his friend
departed from the restaurant empty but satisfied.
He never got down to where the satire part of it began. Nobody ever did.
They found the thrilling particulars sufficient. To drop in with a poor
little moral at the fag-end of such a gorgeous massacre was like
following the expiring sun with a candle and hope to attract the world's
attention to it.
The idea that anybody could ever take my massacre for a genuine
occurrence never once suggested itself to me, hedged about as it was by
all those telltale absurdities and impossibilities concerning the "great
pine forest," the "dressed-stone mansion," etc. But I found out then,
and never have forgotten since, that we never read the dull explanatory
surroundings of marvelously exciting things when we have no occasion to
suppose that some irresponsible scribbler is trying to defraud us; we
skip all that, and hasten to revel in the blood-curdling particulars and
THE UNDERTAKER'S CHAT
"Now that corpse," said the undertaker, patting the folded hands of
deceased approvingly, was a brick-every way you took him he was a brick.
He was so real accommodating, and so modest-like and simple in his last
moments. Friends wanted metallic burial-case--nothing else would do.
I couldn't get it. There warn't going to be time--anybody could see
"Corpse said never mind, shake him up some kind of a box he could stretch
out in comfortable, he warn't particular 'bout the general style of it.
Said he went more on room than style, anyway in a last final container.
"Friends wanted a silver door-plate on the coffin, signifying who he was
and wher' he was from. Now you know a fellow couldn't roust out such a
gaily thing as that in a little country-town like this. What did corpse
"Corpse said, whitewash his old canoe and dob his address and general
destination onto it with a blacking-brush and a stencil-plate, 'long with
a verse from some likely hymn or other, and pint him for the tomb, and
mark him C. O. D., and just let him flicker. He warn't distressed any
more than you be--on the contrary, just as ca,'m and collected as a
hearse-horse; said he judged that wher' he was going to a body would find
it considerable better to attract attention by a picturesque moral
character than a natty burial-case with a swell door-plate on it.
"Splendid man, he was. I'd druther do for a corpse like that 'n any I've
tackled in seven year. There's some satisfaction in buryin' a man like
that. You feel that what you're doing is appreciated. Lord bless you,
so's he got planted before he sp'iled, he was perfectly satisfied; said
his relations meant well, perfectly well, but all them preparations was
bound to delay the thing more or less, and he didn't wish to be kept
layin' around. You never see such a clear head as what he had--and so
ca,'m and so cool. Jist a hunk of brains--that is what he was.
Perfectly awful. It was a ripping distance from one end of that man's
head to t'other. Often and over again he's had brain-fever a-raging in
one place, and the rest of the pile didn't know anything about it--didn't
affect it any more than an Injun Insurrection in Arizona affects the
"Well, the relations they wanted a big funeral, but corpse said he was
down on flummery--didn,'t want any procession--fill the hearse full of
mourners, and get out a stern line and tow him behind. He was the most
down on style of any remains I ever struck. A beautiful, simpleminded
creature it was what he was, you can depend on that. He was just set on
having things the way he wanted them, and he took a solid comfort in
laying his little plans. He had me measure him and take a whole raft of
directions; then he had the minister stand up behind along box with a
table--cloth over it, to represent the coffin, and read his funeral
sermon, saying 'Angcore, angcore!' at the good places, and making him
scratch out every bit of brag about him, and all the hifalutin; and then
he made them trot out the choir, so's he could help them pick out the
tunes for the occasion, and he got them to sing 'Pop Goes the Weasel,'
because he'd always liked that tune when he was downhearted, and solemn
music made him sad; and when they sung that with tears in their eyes
(because they all loved him), and his relations grieving around, he just
laid there as happy as a bug, and trying to beat time and showing all
over how much he enjoyed it; and presently he got worked up and excited,
and tried to join in, for, mind you, he was pretty proud of his abilities
in the singing line; but the first time he opened his mouth and was just
going to spread himself his breath took a walk.
"I never see a man snuffed out so sudden. Ah, it was a great loss--a,
powerful loss to this poor little one-horse town. Well, well, well, I
hain't got time to be palavering along here--got to nail on the lid and
mosey along with him; and if you'll just give me a lift we'll skeet him
into the hearse and meander along. Relations bound to have it so--don't
pay no attention to dying injunctions, minute a corpse's gone; but, if I
had my way, if I didn't respect his last wishes and tow him behind the
hearse I'll be cuss'd. I consider that whatever a corpse wants done for
his comfort is little enough matter, and a man hain't got no right to
deceive him or take advantage of him; and whatever a corpse trusts me to
do I'm a-going to do, you know, even if it's to stuff him and paint him
yaller and keep him for a keepsake--you hear me!"
He cracked his whip and went lumbering away with his ancient ruin of a
hearse, and I continued my walk with a valuable lesson learned--that a
healthy and wholesome cheerfulness is not necessarily impossible to any
occupation. The lesson is likely to be lasting, for it will take many
months to obliterate the memory of the remarks and circumstances that
Against all chambermaids, of whatsoever age or nationality, I launch the
curse of bachelordom! Because:
They always put the pillows at the opposite end of the bed from the
gas-burner, so that while you read and smoke before sleeping (as is the
ancient and honored custom of bachelors), you have to hold your book
aloft, in an uncomfortable position, to keep the light from dazzling your
When they find the pillows removed to the other end of the bed in the
morning, they receive not the suggestion in a friendly spirit; but,
glorying in their absolute sovereignty, and unpitying your helplessness,
they make the bed just as it was originally, and gloat in secret over the
pang their tyranny will cause you.
Always after that, when they find you have transposed the pillows, they
undo your work, and thus defy and seek to embitter the life that God has
If they cannot get the light in an inconvenient position any other way,
they move the bed.
If you pull your trunk out six inches from the wall, so that the lid will
stay up when you open it, they always shove that trunk back again. They
do it on purpose.
If you want the spittoon in a certain spot, where it will be handy, they
don't, and so they move it.
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