The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson by Mark Twain
Part 3 out of 4
"It's perfectly true. Wilson detected it in his hand, by palmistry,
and charged him with it, and cornered him up so close that he had
to confess; but both twins begged us on their knees to keep the secret,
and swore they would lead straight lives here; and it was all
so pitiful that we gave our word of honor never to expose them
while they kept the promise. You would have done it yourself, uncle."
"You are right, my boy; I would. A man's secret is still his
own property, and sacred, when it has been surprised out of him
like that. You did well, and I am proud of you."
Then he added mournfully, "But I wish I could have been saved the
shame of meeting an assassin on the field on honor."
"It couldn't be helped, uncle. If I had known you were going
to challenge him, I should have felt obliged to sacrifice
my pledged word in order to stop it, but Wilson couldn't be
expected to do otherwise than keep silent."
"Oh, no, Wilson did right, and is in no way to blame. Tom, Tom,
you have lifted a heavy load from my heart; I was stung to the very
soul when I seemed to have discovered that I had a coward in my family."
"You may imagine what it cost ME to assume such a part, uncle."
"Oh, I know it, poor boy, I know it. And I can understand how much
it has cost you to remain under that unjust stigma to this time.
But it is all right now, and no harm is done. You have restored
my comfort of mind, and with it your own; and both of us
had suffered enough."
The old man sat awhile plunged in thought; then he looked up
with a satisfied light in his eye, and said: "That this assassin
should have put the affront upon me of letting me meet him on the
field of honor as if he were a gentleman is a matter which I will
presently settle--but not now. I will not shoot him until after election.
I see a way to ruin them both before; I will attend to that first.
Neither of them shall be elected, that I promise.
You are sure that the fact that he is an assassin has not got abroad?"
"Perfectly certain of it, sir."
"It will be a good card. I will fling a hint at it from the stump
on the polling day. It will sweep the ground from under both of them."
"There's not a doubt of it. It will finish them."
"That and outside work among the voters will, to a certainty.
I want you to come down here by and by and work privately among
the rag-tag and bobtail. You shall spend money among them;
I will furnish it."
Another point scored against the detested twins! Really it was
a great day for Tom. He was encouraged to chance a parting shot, now,
at the same target, and did it.
"You know that wonderful Indian knife that the twins have been making
such a to-do about? Well, there's no track or trace of it yet;
so the town is beginning to sneer and gossip and laugh.
Half the people believe they never had any such knife,
the other half believe they had it and have got it still.
I've heard twenty people talking like that today."
Yes, Tom's blemishless week had restored him to the favor of
his aunt and uncle.
His mother was satisfied with him, too. Privately, she believed she
was coming to love him, but she did not say so. She told him to
go along to St. Louis now, and she would get ready and follow.
Then she smashed her whisky bottle and said:
"Dah now! I's a-gwine to make you walk as straight as a string,
Chambers, en so I's bown, you ain't gwine to git no bad example
out o' yo' mammy. I tole you you couldn't go into no bad comp'ny.
Well, you's gwine into my comp'ny, en I's gwine to fill de bill.
Now, den, trot along, trot along!"
Tom went aboard one of the big transient boats that night with
his heavy satchel of miscellaneous plunder, and slept the sleep
of the unjust, which is serener and sounder than the other kind,
as we know by the hanging-eve history of a million rascals.
But when he got up in the morning, luck was against him again:
a brother thief had robbed him while he slept, and gone ashore at
some intermediate landing.
Sold Down the River
If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous,
he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a
dog and a man.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
We all know about the habits of the ant, we know all about
the habits of the bee, but we know nothing at all about the
habits of the oyster. It seems almost certain that we have been
choosing the wrong time for studying the oyster.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
When Roxana arrived, she found her son in such despair and
misery that her heart was touched and her motherhood rose up
strong in her. He was ruined past hope now; his destruction
would be immediate and sure, and he would be an outcast and friendless.
That was reason enough for a mother to love a child;
so she loved him, and told him so. It made him wince, secretly--
for she was a "nigger." That he was one himself was far from
reconciling him to that despised race.
Roxana poured out endearments upon him, to which he
responded uncomfortably, but as well as he could.
And she tried to comfort him, but that was not possible.
These intimacies quickly became horrible to him, and within the hour
began to try to get up courage enough to tell her so, and require
that they be discontinued or very considerably modified.
But he was afraid of her; and besides, there came a lull now,
for she had begun to think. She was trying to invent a saving plan.
Finally she started up, and said she had found a way out. Tom was almost
suffocated by the joy of this sudden good news. Roxana said:
"Here is de plan, en she'll win, sure. I's a nigger,
en nobody ain't gwine to doubt it dat hears me talk.
I's wuth six hund'd dollahs. Take en sell me,
en pay off dese gamblers."
Tom was dazed. He was not sure he had heard aright.
He was dumb for a moment; then he said:
"Do you mean that you would be sold into slavery to save me?"
"Ain't you my chile? En does you know anything dat a mother
won't do for her chile? Day ain't nothin' a white mother won't
do for her chile. Who made 'em so? De Lord done it.
En who made de niggers? De Lord made 'em. In de inside, mothers is all
de same. De good lord he made 'em so. I's gwine to be sole into
slavery, en in a year you's gwine to buy yo' ole mammy free ag'in.
I'll show you how. Dat's de plan."
Tom's hopes began to rise, and his spirits along with them. He said:
"It's lovely of you, Mammy--it's just--"
"Say it ag'in! En keep on sayin' it! It's all de pay a
body kin want in dis worl', en it's mo' den enough.
Laws bless you, honey, when I's slav' aroun', en dey 'buses me,
if I knows you's a-sayin' dat, 'way off yonder somers,
it'll heal up all de sore places, en I kin stan' 'em."
"I DO say it again, Mammy, and I'll keep on saying it, too.
But how am I going to sell you? You're free, you know."
"Much diff'rence dat make! White folks ain't partic'lar.
De law kin sell me now if dey tell me to leave de state in six
months en I don't go. You draw up a paper--bill o' sale--
en put it 'way off yonder, down in de middle o' Kaintuck somers,
en sign some names to it, en say you'll sell me cheap 'ca'se you's
hard up; you'll find you ain't gwine to have no trouble.
You take me up de country a piece, en sell me on a farm;
dem people ain't gwine to ask no questions if I's a bargain."
Tom forged a bill of sale and sold him mother to an Arkansas
cotton planter for a trifle over six hundred dollars.
He did not want to commit this treachery, but luck threw the man in his way,
and this saved him the necessity of going up-country to hunt up a purchaser,
with the added risk of having to answer a lot of questions,
whereas this planter was so pleased with Roxy that he
asked next to none at all. Besides, the planter insisted that
Roxy wouldn't know where she was, at first, and that by the time
she found out she would already have been contented.
So Tom argued with himself that it was an immense advantaged
for Roxy to have a master who was pleased with her, as this
planter manifestly was. In almost no time his flowing reasonings
carried him to the point of even half believing he was doing Roxy
a splendid surreptitious service in selling her "down the river."
And then he kept diligently saying to himself all the time:
"It's for only a year. In a year I buy her free again;
she'll keep that in mind, and it'll reconcile her." Yes; the little
deception could do no harm, and everything would come out right
and pleasant in the end, anyway. By agreement, the conversation
in Roxy's presence was all about the man's "up-country" farm,
and how pleasant a place it was, and how happy the slaves were there;
so poor Roxy was entirely deceived; and easily, for she was not
dreaming that her own son could be guilty of treason to a mother who,
in voluntarily going into slavery--slavery of any kind,
mild or severe, or of any duration, brief or long--was making a
sacrifice for him compared with which death would have been a
poor and commonplace one. She lavished tears and loving caresses
upon him privately, and then went away with her owner--
went away brokenhearted, and yet proud to do it.
Tom scored his accounts, and resolved to keep to the very
letter of his reform, and never to put that will in jeopardy
again. He had three hundred dollars left. According to his
mother's plan, he was to put that safely away, and add her half
of his pension to it monthly. In one year this fund would buy
her free again.
For a whole week he was not able to sleep well, so much the
villainy which he had played upon his trusting mother preyed upon
his rag of conscience; but after that he began to get comfortable again,
and was presently able to sleep like any other miscreant.
The boat bore Roxy away from St. Louis at four in the afternoon,
and she stood on the lower guard abaft the paddle box
and watched Tom through a blur of tears until he melted into the
throng of people and disappeared; then she looked no more,
but sat there on a coil of cable crying till far into the night.
When she went to her foul steerage bunk at last, between the
clashing engines, it was not to sleep, but only to wait for the
morning, and, waiting, grieve.
It had been imagined that she "would not know," and would
think she was traveling upstream. She! Why, she had been
steamboating for years. At dawn she got up and went listlessly
and sat down on the cable coil again. She passed many a snag
whose "break" could have told her a thing to break her heart,
for it showed a current moving in the same direction that the boat
was going; but her thoughts were elsewhere, and she did not notice.
But at last the roar of a bigger and nearer break than
usual brought her out of her torpor, and she looked up,
and her practiced eye fell upon that telltale rush of water.
For one moment her petrified gaze fixed itself there.
Then her head dropped upon her breast, and she said:
"Oh, de good Lord God have mercy on po' sinful me--
I'S SOLE DOWN DE RIVER!"
The Judge Utters Dire Prophesy
Even popularity can be overdone. In Rome, along at first,
you are full of regrets that Michelangelo died; but by and by,
you only regret that you didn't see him do it.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
JULY 4. Statistics show that we lose more fools on this day
than in all the other days of the year put together.
This proves, by the number left in stock, that one Fourth of
July per year is now inadequate, the country has grown so.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
The summer weeks dragged by, and then the political campaign opened--
opened in pretty warm fashion, and waxed hotter and hotter daily.
The twins threw themselves into it with their whole heart,
for their self-love was engaged. Their popularity,
so general at first, had suffered afterward; mainly because they
had been TOO popular, and so a natural reaction had followed.
Besides, it had been diligently whispered around that it was
curious--indeed, VERY curious--that that wonderful knife of
theirs did not turn up--IF it was so valuable, or IF it had ever existed.
And with the whisperings went chucklings and nudgings and winks,
and such things have an effect. The twins considered
that success in the election would reinstate them, and that
defeat would work them irreparable damage. Therefore they worked hard,
but not harder than Judge Driscoll and Tom worked against
them in the closing days of the canvass. Tom's conduct had
remained so letter-perfect during two whole months now, that his
uncle not only trusted him with money with which to persuade voters,
but trusted him to go and get it himself out of the safe
in the private sitting room.
The closing speech of the campaign was made by Judge Driscoll,
and he made it against both of the foreigners. It was
disastrously effective. He poured out rivers of ridicule upon them,
and forced the big mass meeting to laugh and applaud.
He scoffed at them as adventures, mountebanks, sideshow riffraff,
dime museum freaks; he assailed their showy titles with
measureless derision; he said they were back-alley barbers
disguised as nobilities, peanut peddlers masquerading as
gentlemen, organ-grinders bereft of their brother monkey.
At last he stopped and stood still. He waited until the place had
become absolutely silent and expectant, then he delivered his
deadliest shot; delivered it with ice-cold seriousness and
deliberation, with a significant emphasis upon the closing words:
he said he believed that the reward offered for the lost knife
was humbug and bunkum, and that its owner would know where to
find it whenever he should have occasion TO ASSASSINATE SOMEBODY.
Then he stepped from the stand, leaving a startled and
impressive hush behind him instead of the customary explosion of
cheers and party cries.
The strange remark flew far and wide over the town and made
an extraordinary sensation. Everybody was asking, "What could he
mean by that?" And everybody went on asking that question,
but in vain; for the judge only said he knew what he was talking about,
and stopped there; Tom said he hadn't any idea what his uncle meant,
and Wilson, whenever he was asked what he thought it meant,
parried the question by asking the questioner what HE thought it meant.
Wilson was elected, the twins were defeated--crushed,
in fact, and left forlorn and substantially friendless.
Tom went back to St. Louis happy.
Dawson's Landing had a week of repose now, and it needed it.
But it was in an expectant state, for the air was full of rumors
of a new duel. Judge Driscoll's election labors had prostrated him,
but it was said that as soon as he was well enough to
entertain a challenge he would get one from Count Luigi.
The brothers withdrew entirely from society, and nursed
their humiliation in privacy. They avoided the people, and wait
out for exercise only late at night, when the streets were deserted.
Gratitude and treachery are merely the two extremities of
the same procession. You have seen all of it that is worth
staying for when the band and the gaudy officials have gone by.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
THANKSGIVING DAY. Let us all give humble, hearty, and
sincere thanks now, but the turkeys. In the island of Fiji they
do not use turkeys; they use plumbers. It does not become you
and me to sneer at Fiji.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
The Friday after the election was a rainy one in St. Louis.
It rained all day long, and rained hard, apparently trying its
best to wash that soot-blackened town white, but of course not
succeeding. Toward midnight Tom Driscoll arrived at his lodgings
from the theater in the heavy downpour, and closed his umbrella
and let himself in; but when he would have shut the door,
he found that there was another person entering--doubtless another lodger;
this person closed the door and tramped upstairs behind Tom.
Tom found his door in the dark, and entered it, and turned
up the gas. When he faced about, lightly whistling, he saw the
back of a man. The man was closing and locking his door from him.
His whistle faded out and he felt uneasy. The man turned around,
a wreck of shabby old clothes, sodden with rain and all a-drip,
and showed a black face under an old slouch hat. Tom was frightened.
He tried to order the man out, but the words refused to come,
and the other man got the start. He said, in a low voice:
"Keep still--I's yo' mother!"
Tom sunk in a heap on a chair, and gasped out:
"It was mean of me, and base--I know it; but I meant it for
the best, I did indeed--I can swear it."
Roxana stood awhile looking mutely down on him while he
writhed in shame and went on incoherently babbling self-accusations
mixed with pitiful attempts at explanation and
palliation of his crime; then she seated herself and took off her hat,
and her unkept masses of long brown hair tumbled down about her shoulders.
"It warn't no fault o' yo'n dat dat ain't gray," she said sadly,
noticing the hair.
"I know it, I know it! I'm a scoundrel. But I swear I
meant it for the best. It was a mistake, of course,
but I thought it was for the best, I truly did."
Roxana began to cry softly, and presently words began to
find their way out between her sobs. They were uttered
lamentingly, rather than angrily.
"Sell a pusson down de river--DOWN DE RIVER!--for de bes'!
I wouldn't treat a dog so! I is all broke down and en wore out
now, en so I reckon it ain't in me to storm aroun' no mo',
like I used to when I 'uz trompled on en 'bused. I don't know--
but maybe it's so. Leastways, I's suffered so much dat mournin' seem
to come mo' handy to me now den stormin'."
These words should have touched Tom Driscoll, but if they did,
that effect was obliterated by a stronger one--one which
removed the heavy weight of fear which lay upon him, and gave his
crushed spirit a most grateful rebound, and filled all his small
soul with a deep sense of relief. But he kept prudently still,
and ventured no comment. There was a voiceless interval of some
duration now, in which no sounds were heard but the beating of
the rain upon the panes, the sighing and complaining of the
winds, and now and then a muffled sob from Roxana.
The sobs became more and more infrequent, and at least ceased.
Then the refugee began to talk again.
"Shet down dat light a little. More. More yit. A pusson
dat is hunted don't like de light. Dah--dat'll do. I kin see
whah you is, en dat's enough. I's gwine to tell you de tale,
en cut it jes as short as I kin, en den I'll tell you what you's got to do.
Dat man dat bought me ain't a bad man; he's good enough,
as planters goes; en if he could 'a' had his way I'd 'a' be'n a
house servant in his fambly en be'n comfortable: but his wife
she was a Yank, en not right down good lookin', en she riz up
agin me straight off; so den dey sent me out to de quarter
'mongst de common fiel' han's. Dat woman warn't satisfied even
wid dat, but she worked up de overseer ag'in' me, she 'uz dat
jealous en hateful; so de overseer he had me out befo' day in de
mawnin's en worked me de whole long day as long as dey'uz any
light to see by; en many's de lashin's I got 'ca'se I couldn't
come up to de work o' de stronges'. Dat overseer wuz a Yank too,
outen New Englan', en anybody down South kin tell you what dat mean.
DEY knows how to work a nigger to death, en dey knows how
to whale 'em too--whale 'em till dey backs is welted like a washboard.
'Long at fust my marster say de good word for me to
de overseer, but dat 'uz bad for me; for de mistis she fine it
out, en arter dat I jist ketched it at every turn--dey warn't no
mercy for me no mo'."
Tom's heart was fired--with fury against the planter's wife;
and he said to himself, "But for that meddlesome fool,
everything would have gone all right." He added a deep and bitter
curse against her.
The expression of this sentiment was fiercely written in his face,
and stood thus revealed to Roxana by a white glare of
lightning which turned the somber dusk of the room into dazzling
day at that moment. She was pleased--pleased and grateful;
for did not that expression show that her child was capable of
grieving for his mother's wrongs and a feeling resentment toward
her persecutors?--a thing which she had been doubting.
But her flash of happiness was only a flash, and went out again and
left her spirit dark; for she said to herself, "He sole me down de river--
he can't feel for a body long; dis'll pass en go."
Then she took up her tale again.
"'Bout ten days ago I 'uz sayin' to myself dat I couldn't
las' many mo' weeks I 'uz so wore out wid de awful work en de
lashin's, en so downhearted en misable. En I didn't care no mo',
nuther--life warn't wuth noth'n' to me, if I got to go on like
dat. Well, when a body is in a frame o' mine like dat, what do a
body care what a body do? Dey was a little sickly nigger wench
'bout ten year ole dat 'uz good to me, en hadn't no mammy,
po' thing, en I loved her en she loved me; en she come out whah I uz'
workin' en she had a roasted tater, en tried to slip it to me--
robbin' herself, you see, 'ca'se she knowed de overseer didn't
give me enough to eat--en he ketched her at it, en giver her a
lick acrost de back wid his stick, which 'uz as thick as a broom handle,
en she drop' screamin' on de groun', en squirmin' en
wallerin' aroun' in de dust like a spider dat's got crippled.
I couldn't stan' it. All de hellfire dat 'uz ever in my heart
flame' up, en I snatch de stick outen his han' en laid him flat.
He laid dah moanin' en cussin', en all out of his head, you know,
en de niggers 'uz plumb sk'yred to death. Dey gathered roun' him
to he'p him, en I jumped on his hoss en took out for de river as
tight as I could go. I knowed what dey would do wid me. Soon as
he got well he would start in en work me to death if marster let him;
en if dey didn't do dat, they'd sell me furder down de river,
en dat's de same thing. so I 'lowed to drown myself en
git out o' my troubles. It 'uz gitt'n' towards dark. I 'uz at
de river in two minutes. Den I see a canoe, en I says dey ain't
no use to drown myself tell I got to; so I ties de hoss in de
edge o' de timber en shove out down de river, keepin' in under de
shelter o' de bluff bank en prayin' for de dark to shet down quick.
I had a pow'ful good start, 'ca'se de big house 'uz three
mile back f'om de river en on'y de work mules to ride dah on, en
on'y niggers ride 'em, en DEY warn't gwine to hurry--dey'd gimme
all de chance dey could. Befo' a body could go to de house en
back it would be long pas' dark, en dey couldn't track de hoss en
fine out which way I went tell mawnin', en de niggers would tell
'em all de lies dey could 'bout it.
"Well, de dark come, en I went on a-spinnin' down de river.
I paddled mo'n two hours, den I warn't worried no mo', so I quit
paddlin' en floated down de current, considerin' what I 'uz gwine
to do if I didn't have to drown myself. I made up some plans,
en floated along, turnin' 'em over in my mine. Well, when it 'uz a
little pas' midnight, as I reckoned, en I had come fifteen or
twenty mile, I see de lights o' a steamboat layin' at de bank,
whah dey warn't no town en no woodyard, en putty soon I ketched
de shape o' de chimbly tops ag'in' de stars, en den good gracious me,
I 'most jumped out o' my skin for joy! It 'uz de GRAN' MOGUL--
I 'uz chambermaid on her for eight seasons in de Cincinnati en
Orleans trade. I slid 'long pas'--don't see nobody stirrin' nowhah--
hear 'em a-hammerin' away in de engine room, den I knowed
what de matter was--some o' de machinery's broke. I got asho'
below de boat and turn' de canoe loose, den I goes 'long up, en
dey 'uz jes one plank out, en I step' 'board de boat. It 'uz
pow'ful hot, deckhan's en roustabouts 'uz sprawled aroun' asleep
on de fo'cas'l', de second mate, Jim Bangs, he sot dah on de
bitts wid his head down, asleep--'ca'se dat's de way de second
mate stan' de cap'n's watch!--en de ole watchman, Billy Hatch,
he 'uz a-noddin' on de companionway;--en I knowed 'em all; en, lan',
but dey did look good! I says to myself, I wished old marster'd
come along NOW en try to take me--bless yo' heart, I's 'mong
frien's, I is. So I tromped right along 'mongst 'em, en went up
on de b'iler deck en 'way back aft to de ladies' cabin guard,
en sot down dah in de same cheer dat I'd sot in 'mos' a hund'd
million times, I reckon; en it 'uz jist home ag'in, I tell you!
"In 'bout an hour I heard de ready bell jingle, en den de
racket begin. Putty soon I hear de gong strike. 'Set her back
on de outside,' I says to myself. 'I reckon I knows dat music!'
I hear de gong ag'in. 'Come ahead on de inside,' I says.
Gong ag'in. 'Stop de outside.' gong ag'in. 'Come ahead on de outside--
now we's pinted for Sent Louis, en I's outer de woods en
ain't got to drown myself at all.' I knowed de MOGUL 'uz in de
Sent Louis trade now, you see. It 'uz jes fair daylight when we
passed our plantation, en I seed a gang o' niggers en white folks
huntin' up en down de sho', en troublin' deyselves a good deal 'bout me;
but I warn't troublin' myself none 'bout dem.
"'Bout dat time Sally Jackson, dat used to be my second
chambermaid en 'uz head chambermaid now, she come out on de guard,
en 'uz pow'ful glad to see me, en so 'uz all de officers;
en I tole 'em I'd got kidnapped en sole down de river,
en dey made me up twenty dollahs en give it to me, en Sally she rigged
me out wid good clo'es, en when I got here I went straight to
whah you used to wuz, en den I come to dis house, en dey say
you's away but 'spected back every day; so I didn't dast to go
down de river to Dawson's, 'ca'se I might miss you.
"Well, las' Monday I 'uz pass'n by one o' dem places in
fourth street whah deh sticks up runaway nigger bills, en he'ps
to ketch 'em, en I seed my marster! I 'mos' flopped down on de
groun', I felt so gone. He had his back to me, en 'uz talkin' to
de man en givin' him some bills--nigger bills, I reckon, en I's
de nigger. He's offerin' a reward--dat's it. Ain't I right,
don't you reckon?"
Tom had been gradually sinking into a state of ghastly terror,
and he said to himself, now: "I'm lost, no matter what
turn things take! This man has said to me that he thinks there
was something suspicious about that sale. he said he had a
letter from a passenger on the GRAND MOGUL saying that Roxy came
here on that boat and that everybody on board knew all about the case;
so he says that her coming here instead of flying to a free
state looks bad for me, and that if I don't find her for him,
and that pretty soon, he will make trouble for me. I never believed
that story; I couldn't believe she would be so dead to all
motherly instincts as to come here, knowing the risk she would
run of getting me into irremediable trouble. And after all,
here she is! And I stupidly swore I would help find her,
thinking it was a perfectly safe thing to promise. If I venture to
deliver her up, she--she--but how can I help myself? I've got to do
that or pay the money, and where's the money to come from? I--I--well,
I should think that if he would swear to treat her kindly hereafter--
and she says, herself, that he is a good man--and if he would
swear to never allow her to be overworked, or ill fed, or--"
A flash of lightning exposed Tom's pallid face, drawn and
rigid with these worrying thoughts. Roxana spoke up sharply now,
and there was apprehension in her voice.
"Turn up dat light! I want to see yo' face better. Dah now
--lemme look at you. Chambers, you's as white as yo' shirt!
Has you see dat man? Has he be'n to see you?"
"Monday noon! Was he on my track?"
"He--well, he thought he was. That is, he hoped he was.
This is the bill you saw." He took it out of his pocket.
"Read it to me!"
She was panting with excitement, and there was a dusky glow
in her eyes that Tom could not translate with certainty,
but there seemed to be something threatening about it.
The handbill had the usual rude woodcut of a turbaned Negro woman running,
with the customary bundle on a stick over her shoulder, and the
heading in bold type, "$100 REWARD." Tom read the bill aloud--
at least the part that described Roxana and named the master and his
St. Louis address and the address of the Fourth street agency;
but he left out the item that applicants for the reward might
also apply to Mr. Thomas Driscoll.
"Gimme de bill!"
Tom had folded it and was putting it in his pocket.
He felt a chilly streak creeping down his back,
but said as carelessly as he could:
"The bill? Why, it isn't any use to you, you can't read it.
What do you want with it?"
"Gimme de bill!" Tom gave it to her, but with a reluctance
which he could not entirely disguise. "Did you read it ALL to me?"
"Certainly I did."
"Hole up yo' han' en swah to it."
Tom did it. Roxana put the bill carefully away in her pocket,
with her eyes fixed upon Tom's face all the while; then she said:
"What would I want to lie about it for?"
"I don't know--but you is. Dat's my opinion, anyways.
But nemmine 'bout dat. When I seed dat man I 'uz dat sk'yerd dat I
could sca'cely wobble home. Den I give a nigger man a dollar for
dese clo'es, en I ain't be'in in a house sence, night ner day, till now.
I blacked my face en laid hid in de cellar of a ole
house dat's burnt down, daytimes, en robbed de sugar hogsheads en
grain sacks on de wharf, nights, to git somethin' to eat,
en never dast to try to buy noth'n', en I's 'mos' starved.
En I never dast to come near dis place till dis rainy night,
when dey ain't no people roun' sca'cely. But tonight I be'n a-stanin'
in de dark alley ever sence night come, waitin' for you to go by.
En here I is."
She fell to thinking. Presently she said:
"You seed dat man at noon, las' Monday?"
"I seed him de middle o' dat arternoon. He hunted you up, didn't he?"
"Did he give you de bill dat time?"
"No, he hadn't got it printed yet."
Roxana darted a suspicious glance at him.
"Did you he'p him fix up de bill?"
Tom cursed himself for making that stupid blunder, and tried
to rectify it by saying he remember now that it WAS at noon
Monday that the man gave him the bill. Roxana said:
"You's lyin' ag'in, sho." Then she straightened up and raised her finger:
"Now den! I's gwine to ask you a question, en I wants to
know how you's gwine to git aroun' it. You knowed he 'uz arter me;
en if you run off, 'stid o' stayin' here to he'p him,
he'd know dey 'uz somethin' wrong 'bout dis business, en den he would
inquire 'bout you, en dat would take him to yo' uncle, en yo'
uncle would read de bill en see dat you be'n sellin' a free
nigger down de river, en you know HIM, I reckon! He'd t'ar up de
will en kick you outen de house. Now, den, you answer me dis
question: hain't you tole dat man dat I would be sho' to come here,
en den you would fix it so he could set a trap en ketch me?"
Tom recognized that neither lies nor arguments could help
him any longer--he was in a vise, with the screw turned on,
and out of it there was no budging. His face began to take on an
ugly look, and presently he said, with a snarl:
"Well, what could I do? You see, yourself, that I was in
his grip and couldn't get out."
Roxy scorched him with a scornful gaze awhile, then she said:
"What could you do? You could be Judas to yo' own mother to
save yo' wuthless hide! Would anybody b'lieve it?
No--a dog couldn't! You is de lowdownest orneriest hound dat was ever
pup'd into dis worl'--en I's 'sponsible for it!"--and she spat on him.
He made no effort to resent this. Roxy reflected a moment,
then she said:
"Now I'll tell you what you's gwine to do. You's gwine to
give dat man de money dat you's got laid up, en make him wait
till you kin go to de judge en git de res' en buy me free agin."
"Thunder! What are you thinking of? Go and ask him for
three hundred dollars and odd? What would I tell him I want it
Roxy's answer was delivered in a serene and level voice.
"You'll tell him you's sole me to pay yo' gamblin' debts en
dat you lied to me en was a villain, en dat I 'quires you to git
dat money en buy me back ag'in."
"Why, you've gone stark mad! He would tear the will to
shreads in a minute--don't you know that?"
"Yes, I does."
"Then you don't believe I'm idiot enough to go to him, do you?"
"I don't b'lieve nothin' 'bout it--I KNOWS you's a-goin'.
I knows it 'ca'se you knows dat if you don't raise dat money I'll
go to him myself, en den he'll sell YOU down de river, en you kin
see how you like it!"
Tom rose, trembling and excited, and there was an evil light in his eye.
He strode to the door and said he must get out of
this suffocating place for a moment and clear his brain in the
fresh air so that he could determine what to do.
The door wouldn't open. Roxy smiled grimly, and said:
"I's got the key, honey--set down. You needn't cle'r up yo'
brain none to fine out what you gwine to do--_I_ knows what you's
gwine to do." Tom sat down and began to pass his hands through
his hair with a helpless and desperate air.
Roxy said, "Is dat man in dis house?"
Tom glanced up with a surprised expression, and asked:
"What gave you such an idea?"
"You done it. Gwine out to cle'r yo' brain! In de fust
place you ain't got none to cle'r, en in de second place yo'
ornery eye tole on you. You's de lowdownest hound dat ever--
but I done told you dat befo'. Now den, dis is Friday.
You kin fix it up wid dat man, en tell him you's gwine away to
git de res' o' de money, en dat you'll be back wid it nex' Tuesday,
or maybe Wednesday. You understan'?"
Tom answered sullenly: "Yes."
"En when you gits de new bill o' sale dat sells me to my own self,
take en send it in de mail to Mr. Pudd'nhead Wilson,
en write on de back dat he's to keep it tell I come. You understan'?"
"Dat's all den. Take yo' umbreller, en put on yo' hat."
"Beca'se you's gwine to see me home to de wharf. You see dis knife?
I's toted it aroun' sence de day I seed dat man en bought dese clo'es en it.
If he ketch me, I's gwine to kill myself wid it. Now start along,
en go sof', en lead de way; en if you gives a sign in dis house,
or if anybody comes up to you in de street, I's gwine to jam it
right into you. Chambers, does you b'lieve me when I says dat?"
"It's no use to bother me with that question. I know your word's good."
"Yes, it's diff'rent from yo'n! Shet de light out en move along--
here's de key."
They were not followed. Tom trembled every time a late
straggler brushed by them on the street, and half expected to
feel the cold steel in his back. Roxy was right at his heels and
always in reach. After tramping a mile they reached a wide
vacancy on the deserted wharves, and in this dark and rainy
desert they parted.
As Tom trudged home his mind was full of dreary thoughts and
wild plans; but at last he said to himself, wearily:
"There is but the one way out. I must follow her plan.
But with a variation--I will not ask for the money and ruin myself;
I will ROB the old skinflint."
The Prophesy Realized
Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
It were not best that we should all think alike; it is
difference of opinion that makes horse races.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
Dawson's Landing was comfortably finishing its season of
dull repose and waiting patiently for the duel.
Count Luigi was waiting, too; but not patiently, rumor said.
Sunday came, and Luigi insisted on having his challenge conveyed.
Wilson carried it. Judge Driscoll declined to fight with an assassin--
"that is," he added significantly, "in the field of honor."
Elsewhere, of course, he would be ready. Wilson tried to
convince him that if he had been present himself when Angelo told
him about the homicide committed by Luigi, he would not have
considered the act discreditable to Luigi; but the obstinate old
man was not to be moved.
Wilson went back to his principal and reported the failure
of his mission. Luigi was incensed, and asked how it could be
that the old gentleman, who was by no means dull-witted, held his
trifling nephew's evidence in inferences to be of more value than Wilson's.
But Wilson laughed, and said:
"That is quite simple; that is easily explicable.
I am not his doll--his baby--his infatuation: his nature is.
The judge and his late wife never had any children.
The judge and his wife were past middle age when this treasure
fell into their lap. One must make allowances for a parental instinct
that has been starving for twenty-five or thirty years.
It is famished, it is crazed wit hunger by that time, and will be
entirely satisfied with anything that comes handy; its taste is atrophied,
it can't tell mud cat from shad. A devil born to a young couple is
measurably recognizable by them as a devil before long,
but a devil adopted by an old couple is an angel to them,
and remains so, through thick and thin. Tom is this old man's angel;
he is infatuated with him. Tom can persuade him into things which
other people can't--not all things; I don't mean that,
but a good many--particularly one class of things: the things that
create or abolish personal partialities or prejudices in the old
man's mind. The old man liked both of you. Tom conceived a
hatred for you. That was enough; it turned the old man around at once.
The oldest and strongest friendship must go to the ground
when one of these late-adopted darlings throws a brick at it."
"It's a curious philosophy," said Luigi.
"It ain't philosophy at all--it's a fact. And there is
something pathetic and beautiful about it, too. I think there is
nothing more pathetic than to see one of these poor old childless
couples taking a menagerie of yelping little worthless dogs to
their hearts; and then adding some cursing and squawking parrots
and a jackass-voiced macaw; and next a couple of hundred
screeching songbirds, and presently some fetid guinea pigs and
rabbits, and a howling colony of cats. It is all a groping and
ignorant effort to construct out of base metal and brass filings,
so to speak, something to take the place of that golden treasure
denied them by Nature, a child. But this is a digression.
The unwritten law of this region requires you to kill Judge Driscoll
on sight, and he and the community will expect that attention at
your hands--though of course your own death by his bullet will
answer every purpose. Look out for him! Are you healed--that is, fixed?"
"Yes, he shall have his opportunity. If he attacks me, I will respond."
As Wilson was leaving, he said:
"The judge is still a little used up by his campaign work,
and will not get out for a day or so; but when he does get out,
you want to be on the alert."
About eleven at night the twins went out for exercise,
and started on a long stroll in the veiled moonlight.
Tom Driscoll had landed at Hackett's Store, two miles below Dawson's,
just about half an hour earlier, the only passenger for
that lonely spot, and had walked up the shore road and entered
Judge Driscoll's house without having encountered anyone either
on the road or under the roof.
He pulled down his window blinds and lighted his candle.
He laid off his coat and hat and began his preparations.
He unlocked his trunk and got his suit of girl's clothes out from
under the male attire in it, and laid it by. Then he blacked his
face with burnt cork and put the cork in his pocket.
His plan was to slip down to his uncle's private sitting room below,
pass into the bedroom, steal the safe key from the old gentleman's
clothes, and then go back and rob the safe. He took up his
candle to start. His courage and confidence were high,
up to this point, but both began to waver a little now.
Suppose he should make a noise, by some accident, and get caught--
say, in the act of opening the safe? Perhaps it would be well to go armed.
He took the Indian knife from its hiding place, and felt
a pleasant return of his wandering courage. He slipped
stealthily down the narrow stair, his hair rising and his pulses
halting at the slightest creak. When he was halfway down, he was
disturbed to perceive that the landing below was touched by a
faint glow of light. What could that mean? Was his uncle still up?
No, that was not likely; he must have left his night taper
there when he went to bed. Tom crept on down, pausing at every
step to listen. He found the door standing open, and glanced it.
What he saw pleased him beyond measure. His uncle was asleep on
the sofa; on a small table at the head of the sofa a lamp was
burning low, and by it stood the old man's small cashbox, closed.
Near the box was a pile of bank notes and a piece of paper
covered with figured in pencil. The safe door was not open.
Evidently the sleeper had wearied himself with work upon his
finances, and was taking a rest.
Tom set his candle on the stairs, and began to make his way
toward the pile of notes, stooping low as he went.
When he was passing his uncle, the old man stirred in his sleep,
and Tom stopped instantly--stopped, and softly drew the knife from its
sheath, with his heart thumping, and his eyes fastened upon his
benefactor's face. After a moment or two he ventured forward
again--one step--reached for his prize and seized it, dropping
the knife sheath. Then he felt the old man's strong grip upon him,
and a wild cry of "Help! help!" rang in his ear.
Without hesitation he drove the knife home--and was free.
Some of the notes escaped from his left hand and fell in the blood on
the floor. He dropped the knife and snatched them up and started to fly;
transferred them to his left hand, and seized the knife again,
in his fright and confusion, but remembered himself and flung it from him,
as being a dangerous witness to carry away with him.
He jumped for the stair-foot, and closed the door behind him;
and as he snatched his candle and fled upward,
the stillness of the night was broken by the sound of urgent footsteps
approaching the house. In another moment he was in his room,
and the twins were standing aghast over the body of the murdered man!
Tom put on his coat, buttoned his hat under it, threw on his
suit of girl's clothes, dropped the veil, blew out his light,
locked the room door by which he had just entered, taking the key,
passed through his other door into the black hall,
locked that door and kept the key, then worked his way along in the dark
and descended the black stairs. He was not expecting to meet anybody,
for all interest was centered in the other part of the
house now; his calculation proved correct. By the time he was
passing through the backyard, Mrs. Pratt, her servants,
and a dozen half-dressed neighbors had joined the twins and the dead,
and accessions were still arriving at the front door.
As Tom, quaking as with a palsy, passed out at the gate,
three women came flying from the house on the opposite side of the lane.
They rushed by him and in at the gate, asking him what
the trouble was there, but not waiting for an answer.
Tom said to himself, "Those old maids waited to dress--they did the same
thing the night Stevens's house burned down next door."
In a few minutes he was in the haunted house. He lighted a candle and
took off his girl-clothes. There was blood on him all down his
left side, and his right hand was red with the stains of the
blood-soaked notes which he has crushed in it; but otherwise he
was free from this sort of evidence. He cleansed his hand on the straw,
and cleaned most of the smut from his face. Then he burned the male and
female attire to ashes, scattered the ashes,
and put on a disguise proper for a tramp. He blew out his light,
went below, and was soon loafing down the river road with the
intent to borrow and use one of Roxy's devices. He found a canoe
and paddled down downstream, setting the canoe adrift as dawn
approached, and making his way by land to the next village,
where he kept out of sight till a transient steamer came along,
and then took deck passage for St. Louis. He was ill at ease
Dawson's Landing was behind him; then he said to himself,
"All the detectives on earth couldn't trace me now; there's not a
vestige of a clue left in the world; that homicide will take its
place with the permanent mysteries, and people won't get done
trying to guess out the secret of it for fifty years."
In St. Louis, next morning, he read this brief telegram in
the papers--dated at Dawson's Landing:
Judge Driscoll, an old and respected citizen,
was assassinated here about midnight by a profligate Italian nobleman
or a barber on account of a quarrel growing out of the recent election.
The assassin will probably be lynched.
"One of the twins!" soliloquized Tom. "How lucky!
It is the knife that has done him this grace. We never know when
fortune is trying to favor us. I actually cursed Pudd'nhead
Wilson in my heart for putting it out of my power to sell that knife.
I take it back now."
Tom was now rich and independent. He arranged with the
planter, and mailed to Wilson the new bill of sale which sold
Roxana to herself; then he telegraphed his Aunt Pratt:
Have seen the awful news in the papers and am almost
prostrated with grief. Shall start by packet today.
Try to bear up till I come.
When Wilson reached the house of mourning and had gathered
such details as Mrs. Pratt and the rest of the crowd could tell him,
he took command as mayor, and gave orders that nothing
should be touched, but everything left as it was until Justice
Robinson should arrive and take the proper measures as corner.
He cleared everybody out of the room but the twins and himself.
The sheriff soon arrived and took the twins away to jail.
Wilson told them to keep heart, and promised to do it best in their
defense when the case should come to trial. Justice Robinson
came presently, and with him Constable Blake. They examined the
room thoroughly. They found the knife and the sheath.
Wilson noticed that there were fingerprints on the knife's handle.
That pleased him, for the twins had required the earliest comers to
make a scrutiny of their hands and clothes, and neither these
people nor Wilson himself had found any bloodstains upon them.
Could there be a possibility that the twins had spoken the truth
when they had said they found the man dead when they ran into the
house in answer to the cry for help? He thought of that
mysterious girl at once. But this was not the sort of work for a
girl to be engaged in. No matter; Tom Driscoll's room must be examined.
After the coroner's jury had viewed the body and its surroundings,
Wilson suggested a search upstairs, and he went along.
The jury forced an entrance to Tom's room, but found nothing, of course.
The coroner's jury found that the homicide was committed by Luigi,
and that Angelo was accessory to it.
The town was bitter against he misfortunates, and for the
first few days after the murder they were in constant danger of
being lynched. The grand jury presently indicted Luigi for
murder in the first degree, and Angelo as accessory before the fact.
The twins were transferred from the city jail to the
county prison to await trial.
Wilson examined the finger marks on the knife handle and
said to himself, "Neither of the twins made those marks."
Then manifestly there was another person concerned, either in his
own interest or as hired assassin."
But who could it be? That, he must try to find out.
The safe was not opened, the cashbox was closed, and had three
thousand dollars in it. Then robbery was not the motive,
and revenge was. Where had the murdered man an enemy except Luigi?
There was but that one person in the world with a deep grudge against him.
The mysterious girl! The girl was a great trial to Wilson.
If the motive had been robbery, the girl might answer; but there
wasn't any girl that would want to take this old man's life for revenge.
He had no quarrels with girls; he was a gentleman.
Wilson had perfect tracings of the finger marks of the knife handle;
and among his glass records he had a great array of
fingerprints of women and girls, collected during the last
fifteen or eighteen years, but he scanned them in vain,
they successfully withstood every test; among them were no duplicates
of the prints on the knife.
The presence of the knife on the stage of the murder was a
worrying circumstance for Wilson. A week previously he had as
good as admitted to himself that he believed Luigi had possessed
such a knife, and that he still possessed it notwithstanding his
pretense that it had been stolen. And now here was the knife,
and with it the twins. Half the town had said the twins were
humbugging when the claimed they had lost their knife,
and now these people were joyful, and said, "I told you so!"
If their fingerprints had been on the handle--but useless to
bother any further about that; the fingerprints on the handle
were NOT theirs--that he knew perfectly.
Wilson refused to suspect Tom; for first, Tom couldn't
murder anybody--he hadn't character enough; secondly,
if he could murder a person he wouldn't select his doting benefactor
and nearest relative; thirdly, self-interest was in the way;
for while the uncle lived, Tom was sure of a free support and a
chance to get the destroyed will revived again, but with the
uncle gone, that chance was gone too. It was true the will had
really been revived, as was now discovered, but Tom could not
have been aware of it, or he would have spoken of it, in his
native talky, unsecretive way. Finally, Tom was in St. Louis
when the murder was done, and got the news out of the morning journals,
as was shown by his telegram to his aunt. These speculations were
umemphasized sensations rather than articulated thoughts,
for Wilson would have laughed at the idea of seriously
connecting Tom with the murder.
Wilson regarded the case of the twins as desperate--in fact,
about hopeless. For he argued that if a confederate was not found,
an enlightened Missouri jury would hang them; sure;
if a confederate was found, that would not improve the matter,
but simply furnish one more person for the sheriff to hang.
Nothing could save the twins but the discovery of a person who did the
murder on his sole personal account--an undertaking which had all
the aspect of the impossible. Still, the person who made the
fingerprints must be sought. The twins might have no case WITH them,
but they certainly would have none without him.
So Wilson mooned around, thinking, thinking, guessing, guessing,
day and night, and arriving nowhere. Whenever he ran
across a girl or a woman he was not acquainted with, he got her
fingerprints, on one pretext or another; and they always cost him
a sigh when he got home, for they never tallied with the finger
marks on the knife handle.
As to the mysterious girl, Tom swore he knew no such girl,
and did not remember ever seeing a girl wearing a dress like the
one described by Wilson. He admitted that he did not always lock
his room, and that sometimes the servants forgot to lock the
house doors; still, in his opinion the girl must have made but
few visits or she would have been discovered. When Wilson tried
to connect her with the stealing raid, and thought she might have
been the old woman' confederate, if not the very thief disguised
as an old woman, Tom seemed stuck, and also much interested,
and said he would keep a sharp eye out for this person or persons,
although he was afraid that she or they would be too smart to
venture again into a town where everybody would now be on the
watch for a good while to come.
Everybody was pitying Tom, he looked so quiet and sorrowful,
and seemed to feel his great loss so deeply. He was playing a part,
but it was not all a part. The picture of his alleged uncle,
as he had last seen him, was before him in the dark pretty
frequently, when he was away, and called again in his dreams,
when he was asleep. He wouldn't go into the room where the
tragedy had happened. This charmed the doting Mrs. Pratt, who
realized now, "as she had never done before," she said, what a
sensitive and delicate nature her darling had, and how he adored
his poor uncle.
The Murderer Chuckles
Even the clearest and most perfect circumstantial evidence
is likely to be at fault, after all, and therefore ought to be
received with great caution. Take the case of any pencil,
sharpened by any woman; if you have witnesses, you will find she
did it with a knife; but if you take simply the aspect of the
pencil, you will say she did it with her teeth.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
The weeks dragged along, no friend visiting the jailed twins
but their counsel and Aunt Patsy Cooper, and the day of trial
came at last--the heaviest day in Wilson's life; for with all his
tireless diligence he had discovered no sign or trace of the
missing confederate. "Confederate" was the term he had long ago
privately accepted for that person--not as being unquestionably
the right term, but as being the least possibly the right one,
though he was never able to understand why the twins did not
vanish and escape, as the confederate had done, instead of
remaining by the murdered man and getting caught there.
The courthouse was crowded, of course, and would remain so
to the finish, for not only in the town itself, but in the
country for miles around, the trial was the one topic of
conversation among the people. Mrs. Pratt, in deep mourning,
and Tom with a weed on his hat, had seats near Pembroke Howard,
the public prosecutor, and back of them sat a great array of friends
of the family. The twins had but one friend present to keep
their counsel in countenance, their poor old sorrowing landlady.
She sat near Wilson, and looked her friendliest. In the
"nigger corner" sat Chambers; also Roxy, with good clothes on,
and her bill of sale in her pocket. It was her most precious possession,
and she never parted with it, day or night. Tom had allowed her
thirty-five dollars a month ever since he came into his property,
and had said the he and she ought to be grateful to the twins for
making them rich; but had roused such a temper in her by this
speech that he did not repeat the argument afterward. She said
the old judge had treated her child a thousand times better than
he deserved, and had never done her an unkindness in his life;
so she hated these outlandish devils for killing him, and shouldn't
ever sleep satisfied till she saw them hanged for it.
She was here to watch the trial now, and was going to lift up just one
"hooraw" over it if the county judge put her in jail a year for it.
She gave her turbaned head a toss and said, "When dat verdic' comes,
I's gwine to lif' dat ROOF, now, I TELL you."
Pembroke Howard briefly sketched the state's case.
He said he would show by a chain of circumstantial evidence without
break or fault in it anywhere, that the principal prisoner at the bar
committed the murder; that the motive was partly revenge,
and partly a desire to take his own life out of jeopardy, and that
his brother, by his presence, was a consenting accessory to the crime;
a crime which was the basest known to the calendar of
human misdeeds--assassination; that it was conceived by the
blackest of hearts and consummated by the cowardliest of hands;
a crime which had broken a loving sister's heart, blighted the
happiness of a young nephew who was as dear as a son, brought
inconsolable grief to many friends, and sorrow and loss to the
whole community. The utmost penalty of the outraged law would be exacted,
and upon the accused, now present at the bar,
that penalty would unquestionably be executed. He would reserve
further remark until his closing speech.
He was strongly moved, and so also was the whole house;
Mrs. Pratt and several other women were weeping when he sat down,
and many an eye that was full of hate was riveted upon the unhappy prisoners.
Witness after witness was called by the state,
and questioned at length; but the cross questioning was brief.
Wilson knew they could furnish nothing valuable for his side.
People were sorry for Pudd'nhead Wilson; his budding career would
get hurt by this trial.
Several witnesses swore they heard Judge Driscoll say in his
public speech that the twins would be able to find their lost
knife again when they needed it to assassinate somebody with.
This was not news, but now it was seen to have been sorrowfully
prophetic, and a profound sensation quivered through the hushed
courtroom when those dismal words were repeated.
The public prosecutor rose and said that it was within his
knowledge, through a conversation held with Judge Driscoll on the
last day of his life, that counsel for the defense had brought
him a challenge from the person charged at the bar with murder;
that he had refused to fight with a confessed assassin--
"that is, on the field of honor," but had added significantly,
that would would be ready for him elsewhere. Presumably the person
here charged with murder was warned that he must kill or be killed the
first time he should meet Judge Driscoll. If counsel for the
defense chose to let the statement stand so, he would not call
him to the witness stand. Mr. Wilson said he would offer no denial.
[Murmurs in the house: "It is getting worse and worse for Wilson's case."]
Mrs. Pratt testified that she heard no outcry, and did not
know what woke her up, unless it was the sound of rapid footsteps
approaching the front door. She jumped up and ran out in the
hall just as she was, and heard the footsteps flying up the front
steps and then following behind her as she ran to the sitting room.
There she found the accused standing over her murdered brother.
[Here she broke down and sobbed. Sensation in the court.]
Resuming, she said the persons entered behind her were
Mr. Rogers and Mr. Buckstone.
Cross-examined by Wilson, she said the twins proclaimed
their innocence; declared that they had been taking a walk,
and had hurried to the house in response to a cry for help which was
so loud and strong that they had heard it at a considerable
distance; that they begged her and the gentlemen just mentioned
to examine their hands and clothes--which was done, and no blood
Confirmatory evidence followed from Rogers and Buckstone.
The finding of the knife was verified, the advertisement
minutely describing it and offering a reward for it was put in evidence,
and its exact correspondence with that description proved.
Then followed a few minor details, and the case for the state was closed.
Wilson said that he had three witnesses, the Misses Clarkson,
who would testify that they met a veiled young woman
leaving Judge Driscoll's premises by the back gate a few minutes
after the cries for help were heard, and that their evidence,
taken with certain circumstantial evidence which he would call to
the court's attention to, would in his opinion convince the court
that there was still one person concerned in this crime who had
not yet been found, and also that a stay of proceedings ought to
be granted, in justice to his clients, until that person should
be discovered. As it was late, he would ask leave to defer the
examination of his three witnesses until the next morning.
The crowd poured out of the place and went flocking away in
excited groups and couples, taking the events of the session over
with vivacity and consuming interest, and everybody seemed to
have had a satisfactory and enjoyable day except the accused,
their counsel, and their old lady friend. There was no cheer among these,
and no substantial hope.
In parting with the twins Aunt Patsy did attempt a good-night with
a gay pretense of hope and cheer in it, but broke down without finishing.
Absolutely secure as Tom considered himself to be,
the opening solemnities of the trial had nevertheless oppressed him
with a vague uneasiness, his being a nature sensitive to even the
smallest alarms; but from the moment that the poverty and
weakness of Wilson's case lay exposed to the court,
he was comfortable once more, even jubilant. He left the courtroom
sarcastically sorry for Wilson. "The Clarksons met an unknown
woman in the back lane," he said to himself, "THAT is his case!
I'll give him a century to find her in--a couple of them if he likes.
A woman who doesn't exist any longer, and the clothes
that gave her her sex burnt up and the ashes thrown away--
oh, certainly, he'll find HER easy enough!" This reflection set him
to admiring, for the hundredth time, the shrewd ingenuities by
which he had insured himself against detection--more, against even suspicion.
"Nearly always in cases like this there is some little
detail or other overlooked, some wee little track or trace left behind,
and detection follows; but here there's not even the
faintest suggestion of a trace left. No more than a bird leaves
when it flies through the air--yes, through the night, you may say.
The man that can track a bird through the air in the dark
and find that bird is the man to track me out and find the
judge's assassin--no other need apply. And that is the job that
has been laid out for poor Pudd'nhead Wilson, of all people in the world!
Lord, it will be pathetically funny to see him
grubbing and groping after that woman that don't exist, and the
right person sitting under his very nose all the time!"
The more he thought the situation over, the more the humor of it
struck him. Finally he said, "I'll never let him hear the last of
that woman. Every time I catch him in company, to his dying day,
I'll ask him in the guileless affectionate way that used to gravel
him so when I inquired how his unborn law business was coming along,
'Got on her track yet--hey, Pudd'nhead?'" He wanted to laugh,
but that would not have answered; there were people about, and he
was mourning for his uncle. He made up his mind that it would be
good entertainment to look in on Wilson that night and watch him
worry over his barren law case and goad him with an exasperating
word or two of sympathy and commiseration now and then.
Wilson wanted no supper, he had no appetite. He got out all
the fingerprints of girls and women in his collection of records
and pored gloomily over them an hour or more, trying to convince
himself that that troublesome girl's marks were there somewhere
and had been overlooked. But it was not so. He drew back his
chair, clasped his hands over his head, and gave himself up to
dull and arid musings.
Tom Driscoll dropped in, an hour after dark, and said with a
pleasant laugh as he took a seat:
"Hello, we've gone back to the amusements of our days of
neglect and obscurity for consolation, have we?" and he took up
one of the glass strips and held it against the light to inspect it.
"Come, cheer up, old man; there's no use in losing your grip
and going back to this child's play merely because this big
sunspot is drifting across your shiny new disk. It'll pass,
and you'll be all right again"--and he laid the glass down.
"Did you think you could win always?"
"Oh, no," said Wilson, with a sigh, "I didn't expect that,
but I can't believe Luigi killed your uncle, and I feel very
sorry for him. It makes me blue. And you would feel as I do, Tom,
if you were not prejudiced against those young fellows."
"I don't know about that," and Tom's countenance darkened,
for his memory reverted to his kicking. "I owe them no good will,
considering the brunet one's treatment of me that night.
Prejudice or no prejudice, Pudd'nhead, I don't like them,
and when they get their deserts you're not going to find me sitting
on the mourner's bench."
He took up another strip of glass, and exclaimed:
"Why, here's old Roxy's label! Are you going to ornament
the royal palaces with nigger paw marks, too? By the date here,
I was seven months old when this was done, and she was nursing me
and her little nigger cub. There's a line straight across her thumbprint.
How comes that?" and Tom held out the piece of glass to Wilson.
"That is common," said the bored man, wearily.
"Scar of a cut or a scratch, usually"--and he took the strip
of glass indifferently, and raised it toward the lamp.
All the blood sank suddenly out of his face; his hand quaked,
and he gazed at the polished surface before him with the
glassy stare of a corpse.
"Great heavens, what's the matter with you, Wilson?
Are you going to faint?"
Tom sprang for a glass of water and offered it, but Wilson
shrank shuddering from him and said:
"No, no!--take it away!" His breast was rising and falling,
and he moved his head about in a dull and wandering way, like a
person who had been stunned. Presently he said, "I shall feel
better when I get to bed; I have been overwrought today;
yes, and overworked for many days."
"Then I'll leave you and let you get to your rest.
Good night, old man." But as Tom went out he couldn't deny himself
a small parting gibe: "Don't take it so hard; a body can't win
every time; you'll hang somebody yet."
Wilson muttered to himself, "It is no lie to say I am sorry
I have to begin with you, miserable dog though you are!"
He braced himself up with a glass of cold whisky, and went
to work again. He did not compare the new finger marks
unintentionally left by Tom a few minutes before on Roxy's glass
with the tracings of the marks left on the knife handle, there
being no need for that (for his trained eye), but busied himself
with another matter, muttering from time to time, "Idiot that I was!--
Nothing but a GIRL would do me--a man in girl's clothes
never occurred to me." First, he hunted out the plate containing
the fingerprints made by Tom when he was twelve years old, and
laid it by itself; then he brought forth the marks made by Tom's
baby fingers when he was a suckling of seven months, and placed
these two plates with the one containing this subject's newly
(and unconsciously) made record
"Now the series is complete," he said with satisfaction,
and sat down to inspect these things and enjoy them.
But his enjoyment was brief. He stared a considerable time
at the three strips, and seemed stupefied with astonishment.
At last he put them down and said, "I can't make it out at all--
hang it, the baby's don't tally with the others!"
He walked the floor for half an hour puzzling over his enigma,
then he hunted out the other glass plates.
He sat down and puzzled over these things a good while,
but kept muttering, "It's no use; I can't understand it.
They don't tally right, and yet I'll swear the names and dates are right,
and so of course they OUGHT to tally. I never labeled one of
these thing carelessly in my life. There is a most extraordinary
He was tired out now, and his brains were beginning to clog.
He said he would sleep himself fresh, and then see what he could
do with this riddle. He slept through a troubled and unrestful hour,
then unconsciousness began to shred away, and presently he
rose drowsily to a sitting posture. "Now what was that dream?"
he said, trying to recall it. "What was that dream? It seemed
to unravel that puz--"
He landed in the middle of the floor at a bound, without
finishing the sentence, and ran and turned up his light and
seized his "records." He took a single swift glance at them and
"It's so! Heavens, what a revelation! And for twenty-three
years no man has ever suspected it!"
He is useless on top of the ground; he ought to be under it,
inspiring the cabbages.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
APRIL 1. This is the day upon which we are reminded of what
we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
Wilson put on enough clothes for business purposes and went
to work under a high pressure of steam. He was awake all over.
All sense of weariness had been swept away by the invigorating
refreshment of the great and hopeful discovery which he had made.
He made fine and accurate reproductions of a number of his
"records," and then enlarged them on a scale of ten to one with
his pantograph. He did these pantograph enlargements on sheets
of white cardboard, and made each individual line of the
bewildering maze of whorls or curves or loops which consisted of
the "pattern" of a "record" stand out bold and black by
reinforcing it with ink. To the untrained eye the collection of
delicate originals made by the human finger on the glass plates
looked about alike; but when enlarged ten times they resembled
the markings of a block of wood that has been sawed across the
grain, and the dullest eye could detect at a glance, and at a
distance of many feet, that no two of the patterns were alike.
When Wilson had at last finished his tedious and difficult work,
he arranged his results according to a plan in which a
progressive order and sequence was a principal feature; then he
added to the batch several pantograph enlargements which he had
made from time to time in bygone years.
The night was spent and the day well advanced now. By the
time he had snatched a trifle of breakfast, it was nine o'clock,
and the court was ready to begin its sitting. He was in his
place twelve minutes later with his "records."
Tom Driscoll caught a slight glimpse of the records,
and nudged his nearest friend and said, with a wink,
"Pudd'nhead's got a rare eye to business--thinks that as long as
he can't win his case it's at least a noble good chance to advertise
his window palace decorations without any expense." Wilson was
informed that his witnesses had been delayed, but would arrive
presently; but he rose and said he should probably not have
occasion to make use of their testimony. [An amused murmur ran
through the room: "It's a clean backdown! he gives up without
hitting a lick!"] Wilson continued: "I have other testimony--
and better. [This compelled interest, and evoked murmurs of
surprise that had a detectable ingredient of disappointment in them.]
If I seem to be springing this evidence upon the court,
I offer as my justification for this, that I did not discover its
existence until late last night, and have been engaged in
examining and classifying it ever since, until half an hour ago.
I shall offer it presently; but first I with to say a few
"May it please the court, the claim given the front place,
the claim most persistently urged, the claim most strenuously and
I may even say aggressively and defiantly insisted upon by the
prosecution is this--that the person whose hand left the
bloodstained fingerprints upon the handle of the Indian knife is
the person who committed the murder." Wilson paused, during
several moments, to give impressiveness to what he was about to say,
and then added tranquilly, "WE GRANT THAT CLAIM."
It was an electrical surprise. No one was prepared for such
an admission. A buzz of astonishment rose on all sides,
and people were heard to intimate that the overworked lawyer had
lost his mind. Even the veteran judge, accustomed as he was to legal
ambushes and masked batteries in criminal procedure, was not sure
that his ears were not deceiving him, and asked counsel what it
was he had said. Howard's impassive face betrayed no sign,
but his attitude and bearing lost something of their careless
confidence for a moment. Wilson resumed:
"We not only grant that claim, but we welcome it and
strongly endorse it. Leaving that matter for the present,
we will now proceed to consider other points in the case which we
propose to establish by evidence, and shall include that one in
the chain in its proper place."
He had made up his mind to try a few hardy guesses, in
mapping out his theory of the origin and motive of the murder--
guesses designed to fill up gaps in it--guesses which could help
if they hit, and would probably do no harm if they didn't.
"To my mind, certain circumstances of the case before the
court seem to suggest a motive for the homicide quite different
from the one insisted on by the state. It is my conviction that
the motive was not revenge, but robbery. It has been urged that
the presence of the accused brothers in that fatal room,
just after notification that one of them must take the life of
Judge Driscoll or lose his own the moment the parties should meet,
clearly signifies that the natural of self-preservation moved my
clients to go there secretly and save Count Luigi by destroying
"Then why did they stay there, after the deed was done?
Mrs. Pratt had time, although she did not hear the cry for help,
but woke up some moments later, to run to that room--and there
she found these men standing and making no effort to escape.
If they were guilty, they ought to have been running out of the
house at the same time that she was running to that room.
If they had had such a strong instinct toward self-preservation as
to move them to kill that unarmed man, what had become of it now,
when it should have been more alert than ever. Would any of us
have remained there? Let us not slander our intelligence to that degree.
"Much stress has been laid upon the fact that the accused
offered a very large reward for the knife with which this murder
was done; that no thief came forward to claim that extraordinary
reward; that the latter fact was good circumstantial evidence
that the claim that the knife had been stolen was a vanity and a
fraud; that these details taken in connection with the memorable
and apparently prophetic speech of the deceased concerning that
knife, and the finally discovery of that very knife in the fatal
room where no living person was found present with the
slaughtered man but the owner of the knife and his brother, form
an indestructible chain of evidence which fixed the crime upon
those unfortunate strangers.
"But I shall presently ask to be sworn, and shall testify
that there was a large reward offered for the THIEF, also;
and it was offered secretly and not advertised; that this fact was
indiscreetly mentioned--or at least tacitly admitted--in what was
supposed to be safe circumstances, but may NOT have been.
The thief may have been present himself. [Tom Driscoll had been
looking at the speaker, but dropped his eyes at this point.]
In that case he would retain the knife in his possession, not daring
to offer it for sale, or for pledge in a pawnshop. [There was a
nodding of heads among the audience by way of admission that this
was not a bad stroke.] I shall prove to the satisfaction of the
jury that there WAS a person in Judge Driscoll's room several
minutes before the accused entered it. [This produced a strong
sensation; the last drowsy head in the courtroom roused up now,
and made preparation to listen.] If it shall seem necessary,
I will prove by the Misses Clarkson that they met a veiled person--
ostensibly a woman--coming out of the back gate a few minutes
after the cry for help was heard. This person was not a woman,
but a man dressed in woman's clothes." Another sensation.
Wilson had his eye on Tom when he hazarded this guess, to see
what effect it would produce. He was satisfied with the result,
and said to himself, "It was a success--he's hit!"
The object of that person in that house was robbery, not
murder. It is true that the safe was not open, but there was an
ordinary cashbox on the table, with three thousand dollars in it.
It is easily supposable that the thief was concealed in the
house; that he knew of this box, and of its owner's habit of
counting its contents and arranging his accounts at night--if he
had that habit, which I do not assert, of course--that he tried
to take the box while its owner slept, but made a noise and was
seized, and had to use the knife to save himself from capture;
and that he fled without his booty because he heard help coming.
"I have now done with my theory, and will proceed to the
evidences by which I propose to try to prove its soundness."
Wilson took up several of his strips of glass. When the audience
recognized these familiar mementos of Pudd'nhead's old time
childish "puttering" and folly, the tense and funereal interest
vanished out of their faces, and the house burst into volleys of
relieving and refreshing laughter, and Tom chirked up and joined
in the fun himself; but Wilson was apparently not disturbed.
He arranged his records on the table before him, and said:
"I beg the indulgence of the court while I make a few
remarks in explanation of some evidence which I am about to
introduce, and which I shall presently ask to be allowed to
verify under oath on the witness stand. Every human being
carries with him from his cradle to his grave certain physical
marks which do not change their character, and by which he can
always be identified--and that without shade of doubt or question.
These marks are his signature, his physiological
autograph, so to speak, and this autograph can not be counterfeited,
nor can he disguise it or hide it away, nor can it
become illegible by the wear and mutations of time.
This signature is not his face--age can change that beyond
recognition; it is not his hair, for that can fall out; it is not
his height, for duplicates of that exist; it is not his form,
for duplicates of that exist also, whereas this signature is each
man's very own--there is no duplicate of it among the swarming
populations of the globe! [The audience were interested once more.]
"This autograph consists of the delicate lines or
corrugations with which Nature marks the insides of the hands and
the soles of the feet. If you will look at the balls of your fingers--
you that have very sharp eyesight--you will observe that
these dainty curving lines lie close together, like those that
indicate the borders of oceans in maps, and that they form
various clearly defined patterns, such as arches, circles,
long curves, whorls, etc., and that these patters differ on the
different fingers. [Every man in the room had his hand up to the
light now, and his head canted to one side, and was minutely
scrutinizing the balls of his fingers; there were whispered
ejaculations of "Why, it's so--I never noticed that before!"]
The patterns on the right hand are not the same as those on the left.
[Ejaculations of "Why, that's so, too!"] Taken finger for finger,
your patterns differ from your neighbor's. [Comparisons
were made all over the house--even the judge and jury were
absorbed in this curious work.] The patterns of a twin's right
hand are not the same as those on his left. One twin's patters
are never the same as his fellow twin's patters--the jury will
find that the patterns upon the finger balls of the twins' hands
follow this rule. [An examination of the twins' hands was begun at once.]
You have often heard of twins who were so exactly
alike that when dressed alike their own parents could not tell them apart.
Yet there was never a twin born in to this world
that did not carry from birth to death a sure identifier in this
mysterious and marvelous natal autograph. That once known to you,
his fellow twin could never personate him and deceive you."
Wilson stopped and stood silent. Inattention dies a quick
and sure death when a speaker does that. The stillness gives
warning that something is coming. All palms and finger balls
went down now, all slouching forms straightened, all heads came up,
all eyes were fastened upon Wilson's face. He waited yet one, two,
three moments, to let his pause complete and perfect
its spell upon the house; then, when through the profound hush he
could hear the ticking of the clock on the wall, he put out his
hand and took the Indian knife by the blade and held it aloft
where all could see the sinister spots upon its ivory handle;
then he said, in a level and passionless voice:
"Upon this haft stands the assassin's natal autograph,
written in the blood of that helpless and unoffending old man who
loved you and whom you all loved. There is but one man in the
whole earth whose hand can duplicate that crimson sign"--
he paused and raised his eyes to the pendulum swinging back and forth--
"and please God we will produce that man in this room
before the clock strikes noon!"
Stunned, distraught, unconscious of its own movement, the
house half rose, as if expecting to see the murderer appear at
the door, and a breeze of muttered ejaculations swept the place.
"Order in the court!--sit down!" This from the sheriff. He was obeyed,
and quiet reigned again. Wilson stole a glance at Tom,
and said to himself, "He is flying signals of distress now; even
people who despise him are pitying him; they think this is a hard
ordeal for a young fellow who has lost his benefactor by so cruel
a stroke--and they are right." He resumed his speech:
"For more than twenty years I have amused my compulsory
leisure with collecting these curious physical signatures in this town.
At my house I have hundreds upon hundreds of them.
Each and every one is labeled with name and date; not labeled the
next day or even the next hour, but in the very minute that the
impression was taken. When I go upon the witness stand I will
repeat under oath the things which I am now saying. I have the
fingerprints of the court, the sheriff, and every member of the jury.
There is hardly a person in this room, white or black,
whose natal signature I cannot produce, and not one of them can
so disguise himself that I cannot pick him out from a multitude
of his fellow creatures and unerringly identify him by his hands.
And if he and I should live to be a hundred I could still do it.
[The interest of the audience was steadily deepening now.]
"I have studied some of these signatures so much that I know
them as well as the bank cashier knows the autograph of his
oldest customer. While I turn my back now, I beg that several
persons will be so good as to pass their fingers through their hair,
and then press them upon one of the panes of the window
near the jury, and that among them the accused may set THEIR
finger marks. Also, I beg that these experimenters, or others,
will set their fingers upon another pane, and add again the marks
of the accused, but not placing them in the same order or
relation to the other signatures as before--for, by one chance in
a million, a person might happen upon the right marks by pure guesswork,
ONCE, therefore I wish to be tested twice."
He turned his back, and the two panes were quickly covered
with delicately lined oval spots, but visible only to such
persons as could get a dark background for them--the foliage of a tree,
outside, for instance. Then upon call, Wilson went to the
window, made his examination, and said:
"This is Count Luigi's right hand; this one, three
signatures below, is his left. Here is Count Angelo's right;
down here is his left. How for the other pane: here and here
are Count Luigi's, here and here are his brother's." He faced about.
"Am I right?"
A deafening explosion of applause was the answer.
The bench said:
"This certainly approaches the miraculous!"
Wilson turned to the window again and remarked,
pointing with his finger:
"This is the signature of Mr. Justice Robinson. [Applause.]
This, of Constable Blake. [Applause.] This of John Mason, juryman.
[Applause.] This, of the sheriff. [Applause.]
I cannot name the others, but I have them all at home, named and dated,
and could identify them all by my fingerprint records."
He moved to his place through a storm of applause--which the
sheriff stopped, and also made the people sit down, for they were
all standing and struggling to see, of course. Court, jury,
sheriff, and everybody had been too absorbed in observing
Wilson's performance to attend to the audience earlier.
"Now then," said Wilson, "I have here the natal autographs
of the two children--thrown up to ten times the natural size by
the pantograph, so that anyone who can see at all can tell the
markings apart at a glance. We will call the children A and B.
Here are A's finger marks, taken at the age of five months.
Here they are again taken at seven months. [Tom started.]
They are alike, you see. Here are B's at five months, and also at
seven months. They, too, exactly copy each other, but the patterns
are quite different from A's, you observe. I shall refer to these
again presently, but we will turn them face down now.
"Here, thrown up ten sizes, are the natal autographs of the
two persons who are here before you accused of murdering Judge Driscoll.
I made these pantograph copies last night, and will so
swear when I go upon the witness stand. I ask the jury to
compare them with the finger marks of the accused upon the
windowpanes, and tell the court if they are the same."
He passed a powerful magnifying glass to the foreman.
One juryman after another took the cardboard and the glass
and made the comparison. Then the foreman said to the judge:
"Your honor, we are all agreed that they are identical."
Wilson said to the foreman:
"Please turn that cardboard face down, and take this one,
and compare it searchingly, by the magnifier, with the fatal
signature upon the knife handle, and report your finding to the court."
Again the jury made minute examinations, and again reported:
"We find them to be exactly identical, your honor."
Wilson turned toward the counsel for the prosecution,
and there was a clearly recognizable note of warning in his voice
when he said:
"May it please the court, the state has claimed, strenuously
and persistently, that the bloodstained fingerprints upon that
knife handle were left there by the assassin of Judge Driscoll.
You have heard us grant that claim, and welcome it." He turned
to the jury: "Compare the fingerprints of the accused with the
fingerprints left by the assassin--and report."
The comparison began. As it proceeded, all movement and all
sound ceased, and the deep silence of an absorbed and waiting
suspense settled upon the house; and when at last the words came,
"THEY DO NOT EVEN RESEMBLE," a thundercrash of applause followed
and the house sprang to its feet, but was quickly repressed by
official force and brought to order again. Tom was altering his
position every few minutes now, but none of his changes brought
repose nor any small trifle of comfort. When the house's
attention was become fixed once more, Wilson said gravely,
indicating the twins with a gesture:
"These men are innocent--I have no further concern with them.
[Another outbreak of applause began, but was promptly checked.]
We will now proceed to find the guilty. [Tom's eyes
were starting from their sockets--yes, it was a cruel day for the
bereaved youth, everybody thought.] We will return to the infant
autographs of A and B. I will ask the jury to take these large
pantograph facsimilies of A's marked five months and seven months.
Do they tally?"
The foreman responded: "Perfectly."
"Now examine this pantograph, taken at eight months,
and also marked A. Does it tally with the other two?"
The surprised response was:
"NO--THEY DIFFER WIDELY!"
"You are quite right. Now take these two pantographs of B's
autograph, marked five months and seven months. Do they tally
with each other?"
"Take this third pantograph marked B, eight months.
Does it tally with B's other two?"
"BY NO MEANS!"
"Do you know how to account for those strange discrepancies?
I will tell you. For a purpose unknown to us, but probably a
selfish one, somebody changed those children in the cradle."
This produced a vast sensation, naturally; Roxana was
astonished at this admirable guess, but not disturbed by it.
To guess the exchange was one thing, to guess who did it quite another.
Pudd'nhead Wilson could do wonderful things, no doubt,
but he couldn't do impossible ones. Safe? She was perfectly safe.
She smiled privately.
"Between the ages of seven months and eight months those
children were changed in the cradle"--he made one of this effect-
collecting pauses, and added--"and the person who did it is in
Roxy's pulses stood still! The house was thrilled as with
an electric shock, and the people half rose as if to seek a
glimpse of the person who had made that exchange. Tom was
growing limp; the life seemed oozing out of him. Wilson resumed:
"A was put into B's cradle in the nursery; B was transferred
to the kitchen and became a Negro and a slave [Sensation--
confusion of angry ejaculations]--but within a quarter of an hour
he will stand before you white and free! [Burst of applause,
checked by the officers.] From seven months onward until now,
A has still been a usurper, and in my finger record he bears B's name.
Here is his pantograph at the age of twelve.
Compare it with the assassin's signature upon the knife handle.
Do they tally?"
The foreman answered:
"TO THE MINUTEST DETAIL!"
Wilson said, solemnly:
"The murderer of your friend and mine--York Driscoll of the
generous hand and the kindly spirit--sits in among you.
Valet de Chambre, Negro and slave--falsely called Thomas a Becket Driscoll
--make upon the window the fingerprints that will hang you!"
Tom turned his ashen face imploring toward the speaker, made
some impotent movements with his white lips, then slid limp and
lifeless to the floor.
Wilson broke the awed silence with the words:
"There is no need. He has confessed."
Roxy flung herself upon her knees, covered her face with her
hands, and out through her sobs the words struggled:
"De Lord have mercy on me, po' misasble sinner dat I is!"
The clock struck twelve.
The court rose; the new prisoner, handcuffed, was removed.
It is often the case that the man who can't tell a lie
thinks he is the best judge of one.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
OCTOBER 12, THE DISCOVERY. It was wonderful to find America,
but it would have been more wonderful to miss it.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
The town sat up all night to discuss the amazing events of
the day and swap guesses as to when Tom's trial would begin.
Troop after troop of citizens came to serenade Wilson,
and require a speech, and shout themselves hoarse over every
sentence that fell from his lips--for all his sentences were golden,
now, all were marvelous. His long fight against hard luck and
prejudice was ended; he was a made man for good.
And as each of these roaring gangs of enthusiasts marched away,
some remorseful member of it was quite sure to raise his
voice and say:
"And this is the man the likes of us have called a
pudd'nhead for more than twenty years. He has resigned from that
"Yes, but it isn't vacant--we're elected."
The twins were heroes of romance, now, and with
rehabilitated reputations. But they were weary of Western
adventure, and straightway retired to Europe.
Roxy's heart was broken. The young fellow upon whom she had
inflicted twenty-three years of slavery continued the false
heir's pension of thirty-five dollars a month to her, but her
hurts were too deep for money to heal; the spirit in her eye was
quenched, her martial bearing departed with it, and the voice of
her laughter ceased in the land. In her church and its affairs
she found her only solace.
The real heir suddenly found himself rich and free, but in a
most embarrassing situation. He could neither read nor write,
and his speech was the basest dialect of the Negro quarter.
His gait, his attitudes, his gestures, his bearing, his laugh--
all were vulgar and uncouth; his manners were the manners of a slave.
Money and fine clothes could not mend these defects or cover them up;
they only made them more glaring and the more pathetic.
The poor fellow could not endure the terrors of the white man's parlor,
and felt at home and at peace nowhere but in the kitchen.
The family pew was a misery to him, yet he could nevermore enter
into the solacing refuge of the "nigger gallery"--that was closed
to him for good and all. But we cannot follow his curious fate further--
that would be a long story.
The false heir made a full confession and was sentenced to
imprisonment for life. But now a complication came up.
The Percy Driscoll estate was in such a crippled shape when its
owner died that it could pay only sixty percent of its great
indebtedness, and was settled at that rate. But the creditors
came forward now, and complained that inasmuch as through an
error for which THEY were in no way to blame the false heir was
not inventoried at the time with the rest of the property, great
wrong and loss had thereby been inflicted upon them.
They rightly claimed that "Tom" was lawfully their property and had
been so for eight years; that they had already lost sufficiently
in being deprived of his services during that long period, and
ought not to be required to add anything to that loss; that if he
had been delivered up to them in the first place, they would have
sold him and he could not have murdered Judge Driscoll; therefore
it was not that he had really committed the murder, the guilt lay
with the erroneous inventory. Everybody saw that there was
reason in this. Everybody granted that if "Tom" were white and
free it would be unquestionably right to punish him--it would be
no loss to anybody; but to shut up a valuable slave for life--
that was quite another matter.
As soon as the Governor understood the case, he pardoned Tom at once,
and the creditors sold him down the river.
Author's Note to THOSE EXTRAORDINARY TWINS
A man who is not born with the novel-writing gift has a
troublesome time of it when he tries to build a novel.
I know this from experience. He has no clear idea of his story;
in fact he has no story. He merely has some people in his mind,
and an incident or two, also a locality, and he trusts he can plunge
those people into those incidents with interesting results.
So he goes to work. To write a novel? No--that is a thought which
comes later; in the beginning he is only proposing to tell a
little tale, a very little tale, a six-page tale. But as it is a
tale which he is not acquainted with, and can only find out what
it is by listening as it goes along telling itself, it is more
than apt to go on and on and on till it spreads itself into a book.
I know about this, because it has happened to me so many times.
And I have noticed another thing: that as the short tale
grows into the long tale, the original intention (or motif)
is apt to get abolished and find itself superseded by a quite
different one. It was so in the case of a magazine sketch which
I once started to write--a funny and fantastic sketch about a
prince an a pauper; it presently assumed a grave cast of its own accord,
and in that new shape spread itself out into a book.
Much the same thing happened with PUDD'NHEAD WILSON. I had a
sufficiently hard time with that tale, because it changed itself
from a farce to a tragedy while I was going along with it--a most
embarrassing circumstance. But what was a great deal worse was,
that it was not one story, but two stories tangled together; and
they obstructed and interrupted each other at every turn and
created no end of confusion and annoyance. I could not offer the
book for publication, for I was afraid it would unseat the
reader's reason, I did not know what was the matter with it,
for I had not noticed, as yet, that it was two stories in one.
It took me months to make that discovery. I carried the manuscript
back and forth across the Atlantic two or three times, and read
it and studied over it on shipboard; and at last I saw where the
difficulty lay. I had no further trouble. I pulled one of the
stories out by the roots, and left the other--a kind of literary
Would the reader care to know something about the story
which I pulled out? He has been told many a time how the born-
and-trained novelist works; won't he let me round and complete
his knowledge by telling him how the jackleg does it?
Originally the story was called THOSE EXTRAORDINARY TWINS.
I meant to make it very short. I had seen a picture of a
youthful Italian "freak"--or "freaks"--which was--or which were--
on exhibition in our cities--a combination consisting of two
heads and four arms joined to a single body and a single pair of legs--
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