The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson by Mark Twain
Part 4 out of 4
and I thought I would write an extravagantly fantastic
little story with this freak of nature for hero--or heroes--
a silly young miss for heroine, and two old ladies and two boys for
the minor parts. I lavishly elaborated these people and their
doings, of course. But the take kept spreading along and
spreading along, and other people got to intruding themselves and
taking up more and more room with their talk and their affairs.
Among them came a stranger named Pudd'nhead Wilson, and woman
named Roxana; and presently the doings of these two pushed up
into prominence a young fellow named Tom Driscoll, whose proper
place was away in the obscure background. Before the book was
half finished those three were taking things almost entirely into
their own hands and working the whole tale as a private venture
of their own--a tale which they had nothing at all to do with, by rights.
When the book was finished and I came to look around to see
what had become of the team I had originally started out with--
Aunt Patsy Cooper, Aunt Betsy Hale, and two boys, and Rowena the
lightweight heroine--they were nowhere to be seen; they had
disappeared from the story some time or other. I hunted about
and found them--found them stranded, idle, forgotten, and
permanently useless. It was very awkward. It was awkward all
around, but more particularly in the case of Rowena, because
there was a love match on, between her and one of the twins that
constituted the freak, and I had worked it up to a blistering
heat and thrown in a quite dramatic love quarrel, wherein Rowena
scathingly denounced her betrothed for getting drunk, and scoffed
at his explanation of how it had happened, and wouldn't listen to it,
and had driven him from her in the usual "forever" way;
and now here she sat crying and brokenhearted; for she had found that
he had spoken only the truth; that is was not he, but the other
of the freak that had drunk the liquor that made him drunk;
that her half was a prohibitionist and had never drunk a drop in his
life, and altogether tight as a brick three days in the week, was
wholly innocent of blame; and indeed, when sober, was constantly
doing all he could to reform his brother, the other half, who
never got any satisfaction out of drinking, anyway, because
liquor never affected him. Yes, here she was, stranded with that
deep injustice of hers torturing her poor torn heart.
I didn't know what to do with her. I was as sorry for her
as anybody could be, but the campaign was over, the book was finished,
she was sidetracked, and there was no possible way of
crowding her in, anywhere. I could not leave her there,
of course; it would not do. After spreading her out so, and making
such a to-do over her affairs, it would be absolutely necessary
to account to the reader for her. I thought and thought and
studied and studied; but I arrived at nothing. I finally saw
plainly that there was really no way but one--I must simply give
her the grand bounce. It grieved me to do it, for after
associating with her so much I had come to kind of like her after
a fashion, notwithstanding things and was so nauseatingly sentimental.
Still it had to be done. So at the top of Chapter
XVII I put a "Calendar" remark concerning July the Fourth,
and began the chapter with this statistic:
"Rowena went out in the backyard after supper to see the
fireworks and fell down the well and got drowned."
It seemed abrupt, but I thought maybe the reader wouldn't notice it,
because I changed the subject right away to something else.
Anyway it loosened up Rowena from where she was stuck and
got her out of the way, and that was the main thing. It seemed a
prompt good way of weeding out people that had got stalled, and a
plenty good enough way for those others; so I hunted up the two
boys and said, "They went out back one night to stone the cat and
fell down the well and got drowned." Next I searched around and
found old Aunt Patsy and Aunt Betsy Hale where they were around,
and said, "They went out back one night to visit the sick and
fell down the well and got drowned." I was going to drown some others,
but I gave up the idea, partly because I believed that if
I kept that up it would arose attention, and perhaps sympathy
with those people, and partly because it was not a large well and
would not hold any more anyway.
Still the story was unsatisfactory. Here was a set of new
characters who were become inordinately prominent and who
persisted in remaining so to the end; and back yonder was an
older set who made a large noise and a great to-do for a little
while and then suddenly played out utterly and fell down the well.
There was a radical defect somewhere, and I must search it
out and cure it.
The defect turned out to be the one already spoken of--
two stories in one, a farce and a tragedy. So I pulled out the farce
and left the tragedy. This left the original team in, but only
as mere names, not as characters. Their prominence was wholly gone;
they were not even worth drowning; so I removed that detail.
Also I took the twins apart and made two separate men of them.
They had no occasion to have foreign names now, but it was
too much trouble to remove them all through, so I left them
christened as they were and made no explanation.
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