Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

Alonzo Fitz and Other Stories by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

Part 2 out of 2

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.2 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

palace. He was very much depressed. He said:

"I freed you from a grinding tyranny; I lifted yon up out of your
degradation, and made you a nation among nations; I gave you a strong,
compact, centralized government; and, more than all, I gave you the
blessing of blessings--unification. I have done all this, and my reward
is hatred, insult, and these bonds. Take me; do with me as you will.
I here resign my crown and all my dignities, and gladly do I release
myself from their too heavy burden. For your sake I took them up; for
your sake I lay them down. The imperial jewel is no more; now bruise and
defile as ye will the useless setting."

By a unanimous voice the people condemned the ex-emperor and the social
democrat to perpetual banishment from church services, or to perpetual
labor as galley-slaves in the whale-boat--whichever they might prefer.
The next day the nation assembled again, and rehoisted the British flag,
reinstated the British tyranny, reduced the nobility to the condition of
commoners again, and then straightway turned their diligent attention to
the weeding of the ruined and neglected yam patches, and the
rehabilitation of the old useful industries and the old healing and
solacing pieties. The ex-emperor restored the lost trespass law, and
explained that he had stolen it not to injure any one, but to further his
political projects. Therefore the nation gave the late chief magistrate
his office again, and also his alienated Property.

Upon reflection, the ex-emperor and the social democrat chose perpetual
banishment from religious services in preference to perpetual labor as
galley slaves "with perpetual religious services," as they phrased it;
wherefore the people believed that the poor fellows' troubles had
unseated their reason, and so they judged it best to confine them for the
present. Which they did.

Such is the history of Pitcairn's "doubtful acquisition."

THE CANVASSER'S TALE

Poor, sad-eyed stranger! There was that about his humble mien, his tired
look, his decayed-gentility clothes, that almost reached the mustard,
seed of charity that still remained, remote and lonely, in the empty
vastness of my heart, notwithstanding I observed a portfolio under his
arm, and said to myself, Behold, Providence hath delivered his servant
into the hands of another canvasser.

Well, these people always get one interested. Before I well knew how it
came about, this one was telling me his history, and I was all attention
and sympathy. He told it something like this:

My parents died, alas, when I was a little, sinless child. My uncle
Ithuriel took me to his heart and reared me as his own. He was my only
relative in the wide world; but he was good and rich and generous. He
reared me in the lap of luxury. I knew no want that money could satisfy.

In the fullness of time I was graduated, and went with two of my
servants--my chamberlain and my valet--to travel in foreign countries.
During four years I flitted upon careless wing amid the beauteous gardens
of the distant strand, if you will permit this form of speech in one
whose tongue was ever attuned to poesy; and indeed I so speak with
confidence, as one unto his kind, for I perceive by your eyes that you
too, sir, are gifted with the divine inflation. In those far lands I
reveled in the ambrosial food that fructifies the soul, the mind, the
heart. But of all things, that which most appealed to my inborn esthetic
taste was the prevailing custom there, among the rich, of making
collections of elegant and costly rarities, dainty objets de vertu, and
in an evil hour I tried to uplift my uncle Ithuriel to a plane of
sympathy with this exquisite employment.

I wrote and told him of one gentleman's vast collection of shells;
another's noble collection of meerschaum pipes; another's elevating and
refining collection of undecipherable autographs; another's priceless
collection of old china; another's enchanting collection of postage-
stamps--and so forth and so on. Soon my letters yielded fruit. My uncle
began to look about for something to make a collection of. You may know,
perhaps, how fleetly a taste like this dilates. His soon became a raging
fever, though I knew it not. He began to neglect his great pork
business; presently he wholly retired and turned an elegant leisure into
a rabid search for curious things. His wealth was vast, and he spared it
not. First he tried cow-bells. He made a collection which filled five
large salons, and comprehended all the different sorts of cow-bells that
ever had been contrived, save one. That one--an antique, and the only
specimen extant--was possessed by another collector. My uncle offered
enormous sums for it, but the gentleman would not sell. Doubtless you
know what necessarily resulted. A true collector attaches no value to
a collection that is not complete. His great heart breaks, he sells his
hoard, he turns his mind to some field that seems unoccupied.

Thus did my uncle. He next tried brickbats. After piling up a vast and
intensely interesting collection, the former difficulty supervened; his
great heart broke again; he sold out his soul's idol to the retired
brewer who possessed the missing brick. Then he tried flint hatchets and
other implements of Primeval Man, but by and by discovered that the
factory where they were made was supplying other collectors as well as
himself. He tried Aztec inscriptions and stuffed whales--another
failure, after incredible labor and expense. When his collection seemed
at last perfect, a stuffed whale arrived from Greenland and an Aztec
inscription from the Cundurango regions of Central America that made all
former specimens insignificant. My uncle hastened to secure these noble
gems. He got the stuffed whale, but another collector got the
inscription. A real Cundurango, as possibly you know, is a possession of
such supreme value that, when once a collector gets it, he will rather
part with his family than with it. So my uncle sold out, and saw his
darlings go forth, never more to return; and his coal-black hair turned
white as snow in a single night.

Now he waited, and thought. He knew another disappointment might kill
him. He was resolved that he would choose things next time that no other
man was collecting. He carefully made up his mind, and once more entered
the field-this time to make a collection of echoes.

"Of what?" said I.

Echoes, sir. His first purchase was an echo in Georgia that repeated
four times; his next was a six-repeater in Maryland; his next was a
thirteen-repeater in Maine; his next was a nine-repeater in Kansas; his
next was a twelve-repeater in Tennessee, which he got cheap, so to speak,
because it was out of repair, a portion of the crag which reflected it
having tumbled down. He believed he could repair it at a cost of a few
thousand dollars, and, by increasing the elevation with masonry, treble
the repeating capacity; but the architect who undertook the job had never
built an echo before, and so he utterly spoiled this one. Before he
meddled with it, it used to talk back like a mother-in-law, but now it
was only fit for the deaf-and-dumb asylum. Well, next he bought a lot of
cheap little double-barreled echoes, scattered around over various states
and territories; he got them at twenty per cent. off by taking the lot.
Next he bought a perfect Gatling-gun of an echo in Oregon, and it cost a
fortune, I can tell you. You may know, sir, that in the echo market the
scale of prices is cumulative, like the carat-scale in diamonds; in fact,
the same phraseology is used. A single-carat echo is worth but ten
dollars over and above the value of the land it is on; a two-carat or
double-barreled echo is worth thirty dollars; a five-carat is worth nine
hundred and fifty; a ten-carat is worth thirteen thousand. My uncle's
Oregon-echo, which he called the Great Pitt Echo, was a twenty-two carat
gem, and cost two hundred and sixteen thousand dollars--they threw the
land in, for it was four hundred miles from a settlement.

Well, in the mean time my path was a path of roses. I was the accepted
suitor of the only and lovely daughter of an English earl, and was
beloved to distraction. In that dear presence I swam in seas of bliss.
The family were content, for it was known that I was sole heir to an
uncle held to be worth five millions of dollars. However, none of us
knew that my uncle had become a collector, at least in anything more than
a small way, for esthetic amusement.

Now gathered the clouds above my unconscious head. That divine echo,
since known throughout the world as the Great Koh-i-noor, or Mountain of
Repetitions, was discovered. It was a sixty-five carat gem. You could
utter a word and it would talk back at you for fifteen minutes, when the
day was otherwise quiet. But behold, another fact came to light at the
same time: another echo-collector was in the field. The two rushed to
make the peerless purchase. The property consisted of a couple of small
hills with a shallow swale between, out yonder among the back settlements
of New York State. Both men arrived on the ground at the same time, and
neither knew the other was there. The echo was not all owned by one man;
a person by the name of Williamson Bolivar Jarvis owned the east hill,
and a person by the name of Harbison J. Bledso owned the west hill; the
swale between was the dividing-line. So while my uncle was buying
Jarvis's hill for three million two hundred and eighty-five thousand
dollars, the other party was buying Bledso's hill for a shade over three
million.

Now, do you perceive the natural result? Why, the noblest collection of
echoes on earth was forever and ever incomplete, since it possessed but
the one-half of the king echo of the universe. Neither man was content
with this divided ownership, yet neither would sell to the other. There
were jawings, bickerings, heart-burnings. And at last that other
collector, with a malignity which only a collector can ever feel toward a
man and a brother, proceeded to cut down his hill!

You see, as long as he could not have the echo, he was resolved that
nobody should have it. He would remove his hill, and then there would be
nothing to reflect my uncle's echo. My uncle remonstrated with him, but
the man said, "I own one end of this echo; I choose to kill my end; you
must take care of your own end yourself."

Well, my uncle got an injunction put an him. The other man appealed and
fought it in a higher court. They carried it on up, clear to the Supreme
Court of the United States. It made no end of trouble there. Two of the
judges believed that an echo was personal property, because it was
impalpable to sight and touch, and yet was purchasable, salable, and
consequently taxable; two others believed that an echo was real estate,
because it was manifestly attached to the land, and was not removable
from place to place; other of the judges contended that an echo was not
property at all.

It was finally decided that the echo was property; that the hills were
property; that the two men were separate and independent owners of the
two hills, but tenants in common in the echo; therefore defendant was at
full liberty to cut down his hill, since it belonged solely to him, but
must give bonds in three million dollars as indemnity for damages which
might result to my uncle's half of the echo. This decision also debarred
my uncle from using defendant's hill to reflect his part of the echo,
without defendant's consent; he must use only his own hill; if his part
of the echo would not go, under these circumstances, it was sad, of
course, but the court could find no remedy. The court also debarred
defendant from using my uncle's hill to reflect his end of the echo,
without consent. You see the grand result! Neither man would give
consent, and so that astonishing and most noble echo had to cease from
its great powers; and since that day that magnificent property is tied up
and unsalable.

A week before my wedding-day, while I was still swimming in bliss and the
nobility were gathering from far and near to honor our espousals, came
news of my uncle's death, and also a copy of his will, making me his sole
heir. He was gone; alas, my dear benefactor was no more. The thought
surcharges my heart even at this remote day. I handed the will to the
earl; I could not read it for the blinding tears. The earl read it; then
he sternly said, "Sir, do you call this wealth?--but doubtless you do in
your inflated country. Sir, you are left sole heir to a vast collection
of echoes--if a thing can be called a collection that is scattered far
and wide over the huge length and breadth of the American continent; sir,
this is not all; you are head and ears in debt; there is not an echo in
the lot but has a mortgage on it; sir, I am not a hard man, but I must
look to my child's interest; if you had but one echo which you could
honestly call your own, if you had but one echo which was free from
incumbrance, so that you could retire to it with my child, and by humble,
painstaking industry cultivate and improve it, and thus wrest from it a
maintenance, I would not say you nay; but I cannot marry my child to a
beggar. Leave his side, my darling; go, sir, take your mortgage-ridden
echoes and quit my sight forever."

My noble Celestine clung to me in tears, with loving arms, and swore she
would willingly, nay gladly, marry me, though I had not an echo in the
world. But it could not be. We were torn asunder, she to pine and die
within the twelvemonth, I to toil life's long journey sad and alone,
praying daily, hourly, for that release which shall join us together
again in that dear realm where the wicked cease from troubling and the
weary are at rest. Now, sir, if you will be so kind as to look at these
maps and plans in my portfolio, I am sure I can sell you an echo for less
money than any man in the trade. Now this one, which cost my uncle ten
dollars, thirty years ago, and is one of the sweetest things in Texas, I
will let you have for--

"Let me interrupt you," I said. "My friend, I have not had a moment's
respite from canvassers this day. I have bought a sewing-machine which I
did not want; I have bought a map which is mistaken in all its details;
I have bought a clock which will not go; I have bought a moth poison
which the moths prefer to any other beverage; I have bought no end of
useless inventions, and now I have had enough of this foolishness.
I would not have one of your echoes if you were even to give it to me.
I would not let it stay on the place. I always hate a man that tries to
sell me echoes. You see this gun? Now take your collection and move on;
let us not have bloodshed."

But he only smiled a sad, sweet smile, and got out some more diagrams.
You know the result perfectly well, because you know that when you have
once opened the door to a canvasser, the trouble is done and you have got
to suffer defeat.

I compromised with this man at the end of an intolerable hour. I bought
two double-barreled echoes in good condition, and he threw in another,
which he said was not salable because it only spoke German. He said,
"She was a perfect polyglot once, but somehow her palate got down."

AN ENCOUNTER WITH AN INTERVIEWER

The nervous, dapper, "peart" young man took the chair I offered him, and
said he was connected with the Daily Thunderstorm, and added:

"Hoping it's no harm, I've come to interview you."

"Come to what?"

"Interview you."

"Ah! I see. Yes--yes. Um! Yes--yes."

I was not feeling bright that morning. Indeed, my powers seemed a bit
under a cloud. However, I went to the bookcase, and when I had been
looking six or seven minutes I found I was obliged to refer to the young
man. I said:

"How do you spell it?"

"Spell what?"

"Interview."

"Oh, my goodness! what do you want to spell it for?"

"I don't want to spell it; I want to see what it means."

"Well, this is astonishing, I must say. I can tell you what it means, if
you--if you--"

"Oh, all right! That will answer, and much obliged to you, too."

"In, in, ter, ter, inter--"

"Then you spell it with an h"

Why certainly!"

"Oh, that is what took me so long."

"Why, my dear sir, what did you propose to spell it with?"

"Well, I--I--hardly know. I had the Unabridged, and I was ciphering
around in the back end, hoping I might tree her among the pictures.
But it's a very old edition."

"Why, my friend, they wouldn't have a picture of it in even the latest
e--- My dear sir, I beg your pardon, I mean no harm in the world, but you
do not look as--as--intelligent as I had expected you would. No harm--
I mean no harm at all."

"Oh, don't mention it! It has often been said, and by people who would
not flatter and who could have no inducement to flatter, that I am quite
remarkable in that way. Yes--yes; they always speak of it with rapture."

"I can easily imagine it. But about this interview. You know it is the
custom, now, to interview any man who has become notorious."

"Indeed, I had not heard of it before. It must be very interesting.
What do you do it with?"

"Ah, well--well--well--this is disheartening. It ought to be done with a
club in some cases; but customarily it consists in the interviewer asking
questions and the interviewed answering them. It is all the rage now.
Will you let me ask you certain questions calculated to bring out the
salient points of your public and private history?"

"Oh, with pleasure--with pleasure. I have a very bad memory, but I hope
you will not mind that. That is to say, it is an irregular memory--
singularly irregular. Sometimes it goes in a gallop, and then again it
will be as much as a fortnight passing a given point. This is a great
grief to me."

"Oh, it is no matter, so you will try to do the best you can."

"I will. I will put my whole mind on it."

"Thanks. Are you ready to begin?"

"Ready."

Q. How old are you?

A. Nineteen, in June.

Q. Indeed. I would have taken you to be thirty-five or six. Where were
you born?

A. In Missouri.

Q. When did you begin to write?

A. In 1836.

Q. Why, how could that be, if you are only nineteen now?

A. I don't know. It does seem curious, somehow.

Q. It does, indeed. Whom do you consider the most remarkable man you
ever met?

A. Aaron Burr.

Q. But you never could have met Aaron Burr, if you are only nineteen
years!

A. Now, if you know more about me than I do, what do you ask me for?

Q. Well, it was only a suggestion; nothing more. How did you happen to
meet Burr?

A. Well, I happened to be at his funeral one day, and he asked me to
make less noise, and--

Q. But, good heavens! if you were at his funeral, he must have been
dead, and if he was dead how could he care whether you made a noise or
not?

A. I don't know. He was always a particular kind of a man that way.

Q. Still, I don't understand it at all, You say he spoke to you, and
that he was dead.

A. I didn't say he was dead.

Q. But wasn't he dead?

A. Well, some said he was, some said he wasn't.

Q. What did you think?

A. Oh, it was none of my business! It wasn't any of my funeral.

Q. Did you--However, we can never get this matter straight. Let me ask
about something else. What was the date of your birth?

A. Monday, October 31, 1693.

Q. What! Impossible! That would make you a hundred and eighty years
old. How do you account for that?

A. I don't account for it at all.

Q. But you said at first you were only nineteen, and now you make
yourself out to be one hundred and eighty. It is an awful discrepancy.

A. Why, have you noticed that? (Shaking hands.) Many a time it has
seemed to me like a discrepancy, but somehow I couldn't make up my mind.
How quick you notice a thing!

Q. Thank you for the compliment, as far as it goes. Had you, or have
you, any brothers or sisters?

A. Eh! I--I--I think so--yes--but I don't remember.

Q. Well, that is the most extraordinary statement I ever heard!

A. Why, what makes you think that?

Q. How could I think otherwise? Why, look here! Who is this a picture
of on the wall? Isn't that a brother of yours?

A. Oh, yes, yes, yes! Now you remind me of it; that was a brother of
mine. That's William--Bill we called him. Poor old Bill!

Q. Why? Is he dead, then?

A. Ah! well, I suppose so. We never could tell. There was a great
mystery about it.

Q. That is sad, very sad. He disappeared, then?

A. Well, yes, in a sort of general way. We buried him.

Q. Buried him! Buried him, without knowing whether he was dead or not?

A. Oh, no! Not that. He was dead enough.

Q. Well, I confess that I can't understand this. If you buried him, and
you knew he was dead

A. No! no! We only thought he was.

Q. Oh, I see! He came to life again?

A. I bet he didn't.

Q. Well, I never heard anything like this. Somebody was dead. Somebody
was buried. Now, where was the mystery?

A. Ah! that's just it! That's it exactly. You see, we were twins--
defunct--and I--and we got mixed in the bathtub when we were only two
weeks old, and one of us was drowned. But we didn't know which. Some
think it was Bill. Some think it was me.

Q. Well, that is remarkable. What do you think?

A. Goodness knows! I would give whole worlds to know. This solemn,
this awful mystery has cast a gloom over my whole life. But I will tell
you a secret now, which I never have revealed to any creature before.
One of us had a peculiar mark--a large mole on the back of his left hand;
that was me. That child was the one that was drowned!

Q. Very well, then, I don't see that there is any mystery about it,
after all.

A. You don't? Well, I do. Anyway, I don't see how they could ever have
been such a blundering lot as to go and bury the wrong child. But, 'sh!
--don't mention it where the family can hear of it. Heaven knows they
have heartbreaking troubles enough without adding this.

Q. Well, I believe I have got material enough for the present, and I am
very much obliged to you for the pains you have taken. But I was a good
deal interested in that account of Aaron Burr's funeral. Would you mind
telling me what particular circumstance it was that made you think Burr
was such a remarkable man?

A. Oh! it was a mere trifle! Not one man in fifty would have noticed
it at all. When the sermon was over, and the procession all ready to
start for the cemetery, and the body all arranged nice in the hearse, he
said he wanted to take a last look at the scenery, and so he got up and
rode with the driver.

Then the young man reverently withdrew. He was very pleasant company,
and I was sorry to see him go.

PARIS NOTES

--[Crowded out of "A Tramp Abroad" to make room for more vital
statistics.--M. T.]

The Parisian travels but little, he knows no language but his own, reads
no literature but his own, and consequently he is pretty narrow and
pretty self-sufficient. However, let us not be too sweeping; there are
Frenchmen who know languages not their own: these are the waiters. Among
the rest, they know English; that is, they know it on the European plan--
which is to say, they can speak it, but can't understand it. They easily
make themselves understood, but it is next to impossible to word an
English sentence in such away as to enable them to comprehend it. They
think they comprehend it; they pretend they do; but they don't. Here is
a conversation which I had with one of these beings; I wrote it down at
the time, in order to have it exactly correct.

I. These are fine oranges. Where are they grown?

He. More? Yes, I will bring them.

I. No, do not bring any more; I only want to know where they are from
where they are raised.

He. Yes? (with imperturbable mien and rising inflection.)

I. Yes. Can you tell me what country they are from?

He. Yes? (blandly, with rising inflection.)

I. (disheartened). They are very nice.

He. Good night. (Bows, and retires, quite satisfied with himself.)

That young man could have become a good English scholar by taking the
right sort of pains, but he was French, and wouldn't do that. How
different is the case with our people; they utilize every means that
offers. There are some alleged French Protestants in Paris, and they
built a nice little church on one of the great avenues that lead away
from the Arch of Triumph, and proposed to listen to the correct thing,
preached in the correct way, there, in their precious French tongue, and
be happy. But their little game does not succeed. Our people are always
there ahead of them Sundays, and take up all the room. When the minister
gets up to preach, he finds his house full of devout foreigners, each
ready and waiting, with his little book in his hand--a morocco-bound
Testament, apparently. But only apparently; it is Mr. Bellows's
admirable and exhaustive little French-English dictionary, which in look
and binding and size is just like a Testament and those people are there
to study French. The building has been nicknamed "The Church of the
Gratis French Lesson."

These students probably acquire more language than general information,
for I am told that a French sermon is like a French speech--it never
names a historical event, but only the date of it; if you are not up in
dates, you get left. A French speech is something like this:

Comrades, citizens, brothers, noble parts of the only sublime and
perfect nation, let us not forget that the 21st January cast off our
chains; that the 10th August relieved us of the shameful presence of
foreign spies; that the 5th September was its own justification
before heaven and humanity; that the 18th Brumaire contained the
seeds of its own punishment; that the 14th July was the mighty voice
of liberty proclaiming the resurrection, the new day, and inviting
the oppressed peoples of the earth to look upon the divine face of
France and live; and let us here record our everlasting curse
against the man of the 2d December, and declare in thunder tones,
the native tones of France, that but for him there had been no 17th
March in history, no 12th October, no 19th January, no 22d April,
no 16th November, no 30th September, no 2d July, no 14th February,
no 29th June, no 15th August, no 31st May--that but for him, France
the pure, the grand, the peerless, had had a serene and vacant
almanac today!

I have heard of one French sermon which closed in this odd yet eloquent
way:

My hearers, we have sad cause to remember the man of the 13th
January. The results of the vast crime of the 13th January have
been in just proportion to the magnitude of the set itself. But for
it there had been no 30 November--sorrowful spectacle! The grisly
deed of the 16th June had not been done but for it, nor had the man
of the 16th June known existence; to it alone the 3d September was
due, also the fatal 12th October. Shall we, then, be grateful for
the 13th January, with its freight of death for you and me and all
that breathe? Yes, my friends, for it gave us also that which had
never come but for it, and it atone--the blessed 25th December.

It may be well enough to explain, though in the case of many of my
readers this will hardly be necessary. The man of the 13th January is
Adam; the crime of that date was the eating of the apple; the sorrowful
spectacle of the 30th November was the expulsion from Eden; the grisly
deed of the 16th June was the murder of Abel; the act of the 3d September
was the beginning of the journey to the land of Nod; the 12th day of
October, the last mountain-tops disappeared under the flood. When you go
to church in France, you want to take your almanac with you--annotated.

LEGEND OF SAGENFELD, IN GERMANY

--[Left out of "A Tramp Abroad" because its authenticity seemed doubtful,
and could not at that time be proved.--M. T.]

More than a thousand years ago this small district was a kingdom
--a little bit of a kingdom, a sort of dainty little toy kingdom, as one
might say. It was far removed from the jealousies, strifes, and turmoils
of that old warlike day, and so its life was a simple life, its people a
gentle and guileless race; it lay always in a deep dream of peace, a soft
Sabbath tranquillity; there was no malice, there was no envy, there was
no ambition, consequently there were no heart-burnings, there was no
unhappiness in the land.

In the course of time the old king died and his little son Hubert came to
the throne. The people's love for him grew daily; he was so good and so
pure and so noble, that by and by his love became a passion, almost a
worship. Now at his birth the soothsayers had diligently studied the
stars and found something written in that shining book to this effect:

In Hubert's fourteenth year a pregnant event will happen; the animal
whose singing shall sound sweetest in Hubert's ear shall save
Hubert's life. So long as the king and the nation shall honor this
animal's race for this good deed, the ancient dynasty shall not fail
of an heir, nor the nation know war or pestilence or poverty. But
beware an erring choice!

All through the king's thirteenth year but one thing was talked of by the
soothsayers, the statesmen, the little parliament, and the general
people. That one thing was this: How is the last sentence of the
prophecy to be understood? What goes before seems to mean that the
saving animal will choose itself at the proper time; but the closing
sentence seems to mean that the king must choose beforehand, and say what
singer among the animals pleases him best, and that if he choose wisely
the chosen animal will save his life, his dynasty, his people, but that
if he should make "an erring choice"--beware!

By the end of the year there were as many opinions about this matter as
there had been in the beginning; but a majority of the wise and the
simple were agreed that the safest plan would be for the little king to
make choice beforehand, and the earlier the better. So an edict was sent
forth commanding all persons who owned singing creatures to bring them to
the great hall of the palace in the morning of the first day of the new
year. This command was obeyed. When everything was in readiness for the
trial, the king made his solemn entry with the great officers of the
crown, all clothed in their robes of state. The king mounted his golden
throne and prepared to give judgment. But he presently said:

"These creatures all sing at once; the noise is unendurable; no one can
choose in such a turmoil. Take them all away, and bring back one at a
time."

This was done. One sweet warbler after another charmed the young king's
ear and was removed to make way for another candidate. The precious
minutes slipped by; among so many bewitching songsters he found it hard
to choose, and all the harder because the promised penalty for an error
was so terrible that it unsettled his judgment and made him afraid to
trust his own ears. He grew nervous and his face showed distress. His
ministers saw this, for they never took their eyes from him a moment.
Now they began to say in their hearts:

"He has lost courage--the cool head is gone--he will err--he and his
dynasty and his people are doomed!"

At the end of an hour the king sat silent awhile, and then said:

"Bring back the linnet."

The linnet trilled forth her jubilant music. In the midst of it the king
was about to uplift his scepter in sign of choice, but checked himself
and said:

"But let us be sure. Bring back the thrush; let them sing together."

The thrush was brought, and the two birds poured out their marvels of
song together. The king wavered, then his inclination began to settle
and strengthen--one could see it in his countenance. Hope budded in the
hearts of the old ministers, their pulses began to beat quicker, the
scepter began to rise slowly, when: There was a hideous interruption!
It was a sound like this--just at the door:

"Waw . . . he! waw . . . he! waw-he!-waw
he!-waw-he!"

Everybody was sorely startled--and enraged at himself for showing it.

The next instant the dearest, sweetest, prettiest little peasant-maid of
nine years came tripping in, her brown eyes glowing with childish
eagerness; but when she saw that august company and those angry faces she
stopped and hung her head and put her poor coarse apron to her eyes.
Nobody gave her welcome, none pitied her. Presently she looked up
timidly through her tears, and said:

"My lord the king, I pray you pardon me, for I meant no wrong. I have no
father and no mother, but I have a goat and a donkey, and they are all in
all to me. My goat gives me the sweetest milk, and when my dear good
donkey brays it seems to me there is no music like to it. So when my
lord the king's jester said the sweetest singer among all the animals
should save the crown and nation, and moved me to bring him here--"

All the court burst into a rude laugh, and the child fled away crying,
without trying to finish her speech. The chief minister gave a private
order that she and her disastrous donkey be flogged beyond the precincts
of the palace and commanded to come within them no more.

Then the trial of the birds was resumed. The two birds sang their best,
but the scepter lay motionless in the king's hand. Hope died slowly out
in the breasts of all. An hour went by; two hours, still no decision.
The day waned to its close, and the waiting multitudes outside the palace
grew crazed with anxiety and apprehension. The twilight came on, the
shadows fell deeper and deeper. The king and his court could no longer
see each other's faces. No one spoke--none called for lights. The great
trial had been made; it had failed; each and all wished to hide their
faces from the light and cover up their deep trouble in their own hearts.

Finally-hark! A rich, full strain of the divinest melody streamed forth
from a remote part of the hall the nightingale's voice!

"Up!" shouted the king, "let all the bells make proclamation to the
people, for the choice is made and we have not erred. King, dynasty,
and nation are saved. From henceforth let the nightingale be honored
throughout the land forever. And publish it among all the people that
whosoever shall insult a nightingale, or injure it, shall suffer death.
The king hath spoken."

All that little world was drunk with joy. The castle and the city blazed
with bonfires all night long, the people danced and drank and sang; and
the triumphant clamor of the bells never ceased.

From that day the nightingale was a sacred bird. Its song was heard in
every house; the poets wrote its praises; the painters painted it; its
sculptured image adorned every arch and turret and fountain and public
building. It was even taken into the king's councils; and no grave
matter of state was decided until the soothsayers had laid the thing
before the state nightingale and translated to the ministry what it was
that the bird had sung about it.

II

The young king was very fond of the chase. When the summer was come he
rode forth with hawk and hound, one day, in a brilliant company of his
nobles. He got separated from them by and by, in a great forest, and
took what he imagined a neat cut, to find them again; but it was a
mistake. He rode on and on, hopefully at first, but with sinking courage
finally. Twilight came on, and still he was plunging through a lonely
and unknown land. Then came a catastrophe. In the dim light he forced
his horse through a tangled thicket overhanging a steep and rocky
declivity. When horse and rider reached the bottom, the former had a
broken neck and the latter a broken leg. The poor little king lay there
suffering agonies of pain, and each hour seemed a long month to him.
He kept his ear strained to heat any sound that might promise hope of
rescue; but he heard no voice, no sound of horn or bay of hound. So at
last he gave up all hope, and said, "Let death come, for come it must."

Just then the deep, sweet song of a nightingale swept across the still
wastes of the night.

"Saved!" the king said. "Saved! It is the sacred bird, and the prophecy
is come true. The gods themselves protected me from error in the
choice."

He could hardly contain his joy; he could not word his gratitude. Every
few moments, now he thought he caught the sound of approaching succor.
But each time it was a disappointment; no succor came. The dull hours
drifted on. Still no help came--but still the sacred bird sang on. He
began to have misgivings about his choice, but he stifled them. Toward
dawn the bird ceased. The morning came, and with it thirst and hunger;
but no succor. The day waxed and waned. At last the king cursed the
nightingale.

Immediately the song of the thrush came from out the wood. The king said
in his heart, "This was the true-bird--my choice was false--succor will
come now."

But it did not come. Then he lay many hours insensible. When he came to
himself, a linnet was singing. He listened with apathy. His faith was
gone. "These birds," he said, "can bring no help; I and my house and my
people are doomed." He turned him about to die; for he was grown very
feeble from hunger and thirst and suffering, and felt that his end was
near. In truth, he wanted to die, and be released from pain. For long
hours he lay without thought or feeling or motion. Then his senses
returned. The dawn of the third morning was breaking. Ah, the world
seemed very beautiful to those worn eyes. Suddenly a great longing to
live rose up in the lad's heart, and from his soul welled a deep and
fervent prayer that Heaven would have mercy upon him and let him see his
home and his friends once more. In that instant a soft, a faint, a far-
off sound, but oh, how inexpressibly sweet to his waiting ear, came
floating out of the distance:

"Waw . . . he! waw . . . he! waw-he!--waw-he!--waw-he!"

"That, oh, that song is sweeter, a thousand times sweeter than the voice
of the nightingale, thrush, or linnet, for it brings not mere hope, but
certainty of succor; and now, indeed, am I saved! The sacred singer has
chosen itself, as the oracle intended; the prophecy is fulfilled, and my
life, my house, and my people are redeemed. The ass shall be sacred from
this day!"

The divine music grew nearer and nearer, stronger and stronger and ever
sweeter and sweeter to the perishing sufferer's ear. Down the declivity
the docile little donkey wandered, cropping herbage and singing as he
went; and when at last he saw the dead horse and the wounded king, he
came and snuffed at them with simple and marveling curiosity. The king
petted him, and he knelt down as had been his wont when his little
mistress desired to mount. With great labor and pain the lad drew
himself upon the creature's back, and held himself there by aid of the
generous ears. The ass went singing forth from the place and carried the
king to the little peasant-maid's hut. She gave him her pallet for a
bed, refreshed him with goat's milk, and then flew to tell the great news
to the first scouting-party of searchers she might meet.

The king got well. His first act was to proclaim the sacredness and
inviolability of the ass; his second was to add this particular ass to
his cabinet and make him chief minister of the crown; his third was to
have all the statues and effigies of nightingales throughout his kingdom
destroyed, and replaced by statues and effigies of the sacred donkey;
and, his fourth was to announce that when the little peasant maid should
reach her fifteenth year he would make her his queen and he kept his
word.

Such is the legend. This explains why the moldering image of the ass
adorns all these old crumbling walls and arches; and it explains why,
during many centuries, an ass was always the chief minister in that royal
cabinet, just as is still the case in most cabinets to this day; and it
also explains why, in that little kingdom, during many centuries, all
great poems, all great speeches, all great books, all public solemnities,
and all royal proclamations, always began with these stirring words:

"Waw . . . he! waw . . . he!--waw he! Waw-he!"

SPEECH ON THE BABIES

AT THE BANQUET, IN CHICAGO, GIVEN BY THE ARMY OF THE TENNESSEE TO THEIR
FIRST COMMANDER, GENERAL U. S. GRANT, NOVEMBER, 1879

The fifteenth regular toast was "The Babies--as they comfort us in
our sorrows, let us not forget them in our festivities."

I like that. We have not all had the good fortune to be ladies. We
have not all been generals, or poets, or statesmen; but when the toast
works down to the babies, we stand on common ground. It is a shame that
for a thousand years the world's banquets have utterly ignored the baby,
as if he didn't amount to anything. If you will stop and think a minute
--if you will go back fifty or one hundred years to your early married
life and recontemplate your first baby--you will remember that he
amounted to a great deal, and even something over. You soldiers all know
that when the little fellow arrived at family headquarters you had to
hand in your resignation. He took entire command. You became his
lackey, his mere body servant, and you had to stand around, too. He was
not a commander who made allowances for time, distance, weather, or
anything else. You had to execute his order whether it was possible or
not. And there was only one form of marching in his manual of tactics,
and that was the double-quick. He treated you with every sort of
insolence and disrespect, and the bravest of you didn't dare to say a
word. You could face the death-storm at Donelson and Vicksburg, and give
back blow for blow; but when he clawed your whiskers, and pulled your
hair, and twisted your nose, you had to take it. When the thunders of
war were sounding in your ears you set your faces toward the batteries,
and advanced with steady tread; but when he turned on the terrors of his
war-whoop you advanced in the other direction, and mighty glad of the
chance, too. When he called for soothing-syrup, did you venture to throw
out any side remarks about certain services being unbecoming an officer
and a gentleman? No. You got up and got it. When he ordered his pap-
bottle and it was not warm, did you talk back? Not you. You went to
work and warmed it. You even descended so far in your menial office as
to take a suck at that warm, insipid stuff yourself, to see if it was
right--three parts water to one of milk, a touch of sugar to modify the
colic, and a drop of peppermint to kill those hiccoughs. I can taste
that stuff yet. And how many things you learned as you went along!
Sentimental young folks still take stock in that beautiful old saying
that when the baby smiles in his sleep, it is because the angels are
whispering to him. Very pretty, but too thin--simply wind on the
stomach, my friends. If the baby proposed to take a walk at his usual
hour, two o'clock in the morning, didn't you rise up promptly and remark,
with a mental addition which would not improve a Sunday-school book much,
that that was the very thing you were about to propose yourself? Oh!
you were under good discipline, and as you went fluttering up and down
the room in your undress uniform, you not only prattled undignified baby-
talk, but even tuned up your martial voices and tried to sing!--"Rock-a-
by baby in the treetop," for instance. What a spectacle for an Army of
the Tennessee! And what an affliction for the neighbors, too; for it is
not everybody within a mile around that likes military music at three in
the morning. And when you had been keeping this sort of thing up two or
three hours, and your little velvet-head intimated that nothing suited
him like exercise and noise, what did you do? ["Go on!"] You simply went
on until you dropped in the last ditch. The idea that a baby doesn't
amount to anything! Why, one baby is just a house and a front yard full
by itself. One baby can furnish more business than you and your whole
Interior Department can attend to. He is enterprising, irrepressible,
brimful of lawless activities. Do what you please, you can't make him
stay on the reservation. Sufficient unto the day is one baby. As long
as you are in your right mind don't you ever pray for twins. Twins
amount to a permanent riot. And there ain't any real difference between
triplets and an insurrection.

Yes, it was high time for a toast-master to recognize the importance of
the babies. Think what is in store for the present crop! Fifty years
from now we shall all be dead, I trust, and then this flag, if it still
survive (and let us hope it may), will be floating over a Republic
numbering 200,000,000 souls, according to the settled laws of our
increase. Our present schooner of State will have grown into a political
leviathan--a Great Eastern. The cradled babies of to-day will be on
deck. Let them be well trained, for we are going to leave a big contract
on their hands. Among the three or four million cradles now rocking in
the land are some which this nation would preserve for ages as sacred
things, if we could know which ones they are. In one of them cradles the
unconscious Farragut of the future is at this moment teething--think of
it!--and putting in a world of dead earnest, unarticulated, but perfectly
justifiable profanity over it, too. In another the future renowned
astronomer is blinking at the shining Milky Way with but a languid
interest--poor little chap!--and wondering what has become of that other
one they call the wet-nurse. In another the future great historian is
lying--and doubtless will continue to lie until his earthly mission is
ended. In another the future President is busying himself with no
profounder problem of state than what the mischief has become of his hair
so early; and in a mighty array of other cradles there are now some
60,000 future office-seekers, getting ready to furnish him occasion to
grapple with that same old problem a second time. And in still one more
cradle, somewhere under the flag, the future illustrious commander-in-
chief of the American armies is so little burdened with his approaching
grandeurs and responsibilities as to be giving his whole strategic mind
at this moment to trying to find out some way to get his big toe into his
mouth--an achievement which, meaning no disrespect, the illustrious guest
of this evening turned his entire attention to some fifty-six years ago;
and if the child is but a prophecy of the man, there are mighty few who
will doubt that he succeeded.

SPEECH ON THE WEATHER

AT THE NEW ENGLAND SOCIETY'S SEVENTY-FIRST ANNUAL DINNER, NEW YORK CITY

The next toast was: "The Oldest Inhabitant--The Weather of New
England."

Who can lose it and forget it?
Who can have it and regret it?

Be interposes 'twixt us Twain.
Merchant of Venice.

To this Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain) replied as follows:--

I reverently believe that the Maker who made us all makes everything in
New England but the weather. I don't know who makes that, but I think it
must be raw apprentices in the weather-clerk's factory who experiment and
learn how, in New England, for board and clothes, and then are promoted
to make weather for countries that require a good article, and will take
their custom elsewhere if they don't get it. There is a sumptuous
variety about the New England weather that compels the stranger's
admiration--and regret. The weather is always doing something there;
always attending strictly to business; always getting up new designs and
trying them on the people to see how they will go. But it gets through
more business in spring than in any other season. In the spring I have
counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of
four-and-twenty hours. It was I that made the fame and fortune of that
man that had that marvelous collection of weather on exhibition at the
Centennial, that so astounded the foreigners. He was going to travel all
over the world and get specimens from all the climes. I said, "Don't you
do it; you come to New England on a favorable spring day." I told him
what we could do in the way of style, variety, and quantity. Well, he
came and he made his collection in four days. As to variety, why, he
confessed that he got hundreds of kinds of weather that he had never
heard of before. And as to quantity--well, after he had picked out and
discarded all that was blemished in any way, he not only had weather
enough, but weather to spare; weather to hire out; weather to sell; to
deposit; weather to invest; weather to give to the poor. The people of
New England are by nature patient and forbearing, but there are some
things which they will not stand. Every year they kill a lot of poets
for writing about "Beautiful Spring." These are generally casual
visitors, who bring their notions of spring from somewhere else, and
cannot, of course, know how the natives feel about spring. And so the
first thing they know the opportunity to inquire how they feel has
permanently gone by. Old Probabilities has a mighty reputation for
accurate prophecy, and thoroughly well deserves it. You take up the
paper and observe how crisply and confidently he checks off what to-day's
weather is going to be on the Pacific, down South, in the Middle States,
in the Wisconsin region. See him sail along in the joy and pride of his
power till he gets to New England, and then see his tail drop. He
doesn't know what the weather is going to be in New England. Well, he
mulls over it, and by and by he gets out something about like this:
Probable northeast to southwest minds, varying to the southward and
westward and eastward, and points between, high and low barometer
swapping around from place to place; probable areas of rain, snow, hail,
and drought, succeeded or preceded by earthquakes, with thunder and
lightning. Then he jots down this postscript from his wandering mind, to
cover accidents: "But it is possible that the program may be wholly
changed in the mean time." Yes, one of the brightest gems in the New
England weather is the dazzling uncertainty of it. There is only one
thing certain about it: you are certain there is going to be plenty of
it--a perfect grand review; but you never can tell which end of the
procession is going to move first. You fix up for the drought; you leave
your umbrella in the house and sally out, and two to one you get drowned.
You make up your mind that the earthquake is due; you stand from under,
and take hold of something to steady yourself, and the first thing you
know you get struck by lightning. These are great disappointments; but
they can't be helped. The lightning there is peculiar; it is so
convincing, that when it strikes a thing it doesn't leave enough of that
thing behind for you to tell whether--Well, you'd think it was something
valuable, and a Congressman had been there. And the thunder. When the
thunder begins to merely tune up and scrape and saw, and key up the
instruments for the performance, strangers say, "Why, what awful thunder
you have here!" But when the baton is raised and the real concert
begins, you'll find that stranger down in the cellar with his head in the
ash-barrel. Now as to the size of the weather in New England lengthways,
I mean. It is utterly disproportioned to the size of that little
country. Half the time, when it is packed as full as it can stick, you
will see that New England weather sticking out beyond the edges and
projecting around hundreds and hundreds of miles over the neighboring
states. She can't hold a tenth part of her weather. You can see cracks
all about where she has strained herself trying to do it. I could speak
volumes about the inhuman perversity of the New England weather, but I
will give but a single specimen. I like to hear rain on a tin roof.
So I covered part of my roof with tin, with an eye to that luxury. Well,
sir, do you think it ever rains on that tin? No, sir; skips it every
time. Mind, in this speech I have been trying merely to do honor to the
New England weather--no language could do it justice. But, after all,
there is at least one or two things about that weather (or, if you
please, effects produced, by it) which we residents would not like to
part with. If we hadn't our bewitching autumn foliage, we should still
have to credit the weather with one feature which compensates for all its
bullying vagaries--the ice-storm: when a leafless tree is clothed with ice
from the bottom to the top--ice that is as bright and clear as crystal;
when every bough and twig is strung with ice-beads, frozen dewdrops, and
the whole tree sparkles cold and white, like the Shah of Persia's diamond
plume. Then the wind waves the branches and the sun comes out and turns
all those myriads of beads and drops to prisms that glow and burn and
flash with all manner of colored fires, which change and change again
with inconceivable rapidity from blue to red, from red to green, and
green to gold--the tree becomes a spraying fountain, a very explosion of
dazzling jewels; and it stands there the acme, the climax, the supremest
possibility in art or nature, of bewildering, intoxicating, intolerable
magnificence. One cannot make the words too strong.

CONCERNING THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE

--[Being part of a chapter which was crowded out of "A Tramp Abroad."--
M.T.]

There was as Englishman in our compartment, and he complimented me on--
on what? But you would never guess. He complimented me on my English.
He said Americans in general did not speak the English language as
correctly as I did. I said I was obliged to him for his compliment,
since I knew he meant it for one, but that I was not fairly entitled to
it, for I did not speak English at all--I only spoke American.

He laughed, and said it was a distinction without a difference. I said
no, the difference was not prodigious, but still it was considerable.
We fell into a friendly dispute over the matter. I put my case as well
as I could, and said:

"The languages were identical several generations ago, but our changed
conditions and the spread of our people far to the south and far to the
west have made many alterations in our pronunciation, and have introduced
new words among us and changed the meanings of many old ones. English
people talk through their noses; we do not. We say know, English people
say nao; we say cow, the Briton says kaow; we--"

"Oh, come! that is pure Yankee; everybody knows that."

"Yes, it is pure Yankee; that is true. One cannot hear it in America
outside of the little corner called New England, which is Yankee land.
The English themselves planted it there, two hundred and fifty years ago,
and there it remains; it has never spread. But England talks through her
nose yet; the Londoner and the backwoods New-Englander pronounce 'know'
and 'cow' alike, and then the Briton unconsciously satirizes himself by
making fun of the Yankee's pronunciation."

We argued this point at some length; nobody won; but no matter, the fact
remains Englishmen say nao and kaow for "know" and "cow," and that is
what the rustic inhabitant of a very small section of America does.

"You conferred your 'a' upon New England, too, and there it remains; it
has not traveled out of the narrow limits of those six little states in
all these two hundred and fifty years. All England uses it, New
England's small population--say four millions--use it, but we have forty-
five millions who do not use it. You say 'glahs of wawtah,' so does New
England; at least, New England says 'glahs.' America at large flattens
the 'a', and says 'glass of water.' These sounds are pleasanter than
yours; you may think they are not right--well, in English they are not
right, but 'American' they are. You say 'flahsk' and 'bahsket,' and
'jackahss'; we say 'flask,' 'basket,' 'jackass'--sounding the 'a' as it
is in 'tallow,' 'fallow,' and so on. Up to as late as 1847 Mr.
Webster's Dictionary had the impudence to still pronounce 'basket'
bahsket, when he knew that outside of his little New England all America
shortened the 'a' and paid no attention to his English broadening of it.
However, it called itself an English Dictionary, so it was proper enough
that it should stick to English forms, perhaps. It still calls itself an
English Dictionary today, but it has quietly ceased to pronounce 'basket'
as if it were spelt 'bahsket.' In the American language the 'h' is
respected; the 'h' is not dropped or added improperly."

"The same is the case in England--I mean among the educated classes, of
course."

"Yes, that is true; but a nation's language is a very large matter.
It is not simply a manner of speech obtaining among the educated handful;
the manner obtaining among the vast uneducated multitude must be
considered also. Your uneducated masses speak English, you will not deny
that; our uneducated masses speak American it won't be fair for you to
deny that, for you can see, yourself, that when your stable-boy says,
'It isn't the 'unting that 'urts the 'orse, but the 'ammer, 'ammer,
'ammer on the 'ard 'ighway,' and our stable-boy makes the same remark
without suffocating a single h, these two people are manifestly talking
two different languages. But if the signs are to be trusted, even your
educated classes used to drop the 'h.' They say humble, now, and heroic,
and historic etc., but I judge that they used to drop those h's because
your writers still keep up the fashion of patting an before those words
instead of a. This is what Mr. Darwin might call a 'rudimentary' sign
that as an was justifiable once, and useful when your educated classes
used to say 'umble, and 'eroic, and 'istorical. Correct writers of the
American language do not put an before three words."

The English gentleman had something to say upon this matter, but never
mind what he said--I'm not arguing his case. I have him at a
disadvantage, now. I proceeded:

"In England you encourage an orator by exclaiming, 'H'yaah! h'yaah!'
We pronounce it heer in some sections, 'h'yer' in others, and so on; but
our whites do not say 'h'yaah,' pronouncing the a's like the a in ah.
I have heard English ladies say 'don't you'--making two separate and
distinct words of it; your Mr. Burnand has satirized it. But we always
say 'dontchu.' This is much better. Your ladies say, 'Oh, it's oful
nice!' Ours say, 'Oh, it's awful nice!' We say, 'Four hundred,' you say
'For'--as in the word or. Your clergymen speak of 'the Lawd,' ours of
'the Lord'; yours speak of 'the gawds of the heathen,' ours of 'the gods
of the heathen.' When you are exhausted, you say you are 'knocked up.'
We don't. When you say you will do a thing 'directly,' you mean
'immediately'; in the American language--generally speaking--the word
signifies 'after a little.' When you say 'clever,' you mean 'capable';
with us the word used to mean 'accommodating,' but I don't know what it
means now. Your word 'stout' means 'fleshy'; our word 'stout' usually
means 'strong.' Your words 'gentleman' and 'lady' have a very restricted
meaning; with us they include the barmaid, butcher, burglar, harlot, and
horse-thief. You say, 'I haven't got any stockings on,' 'I haven't got
any memory,' 'I haven't got any money in my purse; we usually say, 'I
haven't any stockings on,' 'I haven't any memory!' 'I haven't any money
in my purse.' You say 'out of window'; we always put in a the. If one
asks 'How old is that man?' the Briton answers, 'He will be about forty';
in the American language we should say, 'He is about forty.' However,
I won't tire you, sir; but if I wanted to, I could pile up differences
here until I not only convinced you that English and American are
separate languages, but that when I speak my native tongue in its utmost
purity an Englishman can't understand me at all."

"I don't wish to flatter you, but it is about all I can do to understand
you now."

That was a very pretty compliment, and it put us on the pleasantest terms
directly--I use the word in the English sense.

[Later--1882. Esthetes in many of our schools are now beginning to teach
the pupils to broaden the 'a,' and to say "don't you," in the elegant
foreign way.]

ROGERS

This Man Rogers happened upon me and introduced himself at the town
of -----, in the South of England, where I stayed awhile. His stepfather
had married a distant relative of mine who was afterward hanged; and so
he seemed to think a blood relationship existed between us. He came in
every day and sat down and talked. Of all the bland, serene human
curiosities I ever saw, I think he was the chiefest. He desired to look
at my new chimney-pot hat. I was very willing, for I thought he would
notice the name of the great Oxford Street hatter in it, and respect me
accordingly. But he turned it about with a sort of grave compassion,
pointed out two or three blemishes, and said that I, being so recently
arrived, could not be expected to know where to supply myself. Said he
would send me the address of his hatter. Then he said, "Pardon me," and
proceeded to cut a neat circle of red tissue paper; daintily notched the
edges of it; took the mucilage and pasted it in my hat so as to cover the
manufacturer's name. He said, "No one will know now where you got it.
I will send you a hat-tip of my hatter, and you can paste it over this
tissue circle." It was the calmest, coolest thing--I never admired a man
so much in my life. Mind, he did this while his own hat sat offensively
near our noses, on the table--an ancient extinguisher of the "slouch"
pattern, limp and shapeless with age, discolored by vicissitudes of the
weather, and banded by an equator of bear's grease that had stewed
through.

Another time he examined my coat. I had no terrors, for over my tailor's
door was the legend, "By Special Appointment Tailor to H. R. H. the
Prince of Wales," etc. I did not know at the time that the most of the
tailor shops had the same sign out, and that whereas it takes nine
tailors to make an ordinary man, it takes a hundred and fifty to make a
prince. He was full of compassion for my coat. Wrote down the address
of his tailor for me. Did not tell me to mention my nom de plume and the
tailor would put his best work on my garment, as complimentary people
sometimes do, but said his tailor would hardly trouble himself for an
unknown person (unknown person, when I thought I was so celebrated in
England!--that was the cruelest cut), but cautioned me to mention his
name, and it would be all right. Thinking to be facetious, I said:

"But he might sit up all night and injure his health."

"Well, let him," said Rogers; "I've done enough for him, for him to show
some appreciation of it."

I might as well have tried to disconcert a mummy with my facetiousness.
Said Rogers: "I get all my coats there--they're the only coats fit to be
seen in."

I made one more attempt. I said, "I wish you had brought one with you--
I would like to look at it."

"Bless your heart, haven't I got one on?--this article is Morgan's make."

I examined it. The coat had been bought ready-made, of a Chatham Street
Jew, without any question--about 1848. It probably cost four dollars
when it was new. It was ripped, it was frayed, it was napless and
greasy. I could not resist showing him where it was ripped. It so
affected him that I was almost sorry I had done it. First he seemed
plunged into a bottomless abyss of grief. Then he roused himself, made a
feint with his hands as if waving off the pity of a nation, and said--
with what seemed to me a manufactured emotion--"No matter; no matter;
don't mind me; do not bother about it. I can get another."

When he was thoroughly restored, so that he could examine the rip and
command his feelings, he said, ah, now he understood it--his servant must
have done it while dressing him that morning.

His servant! There was something awe-inspiring in effrontery like this.

Nearly every day he interested himself in some article of my clothing.
One would hardly have expected this sort of infatuation in a man who
always wore the same suit, and it a suit that seemed coeval with the
Conquest.

It was an unworthy ambition, perhaps, but I did wish I could make this
man admire something about me or something I did--you would have felt the
same way. I saw my opportunity: I was about to return to London, and had
"listed" my soiled linen for the wash. It made quite an imposing
mountain in the corner of the room--fifty-four pieces. I hoped he would
fancy it was the accumulation of a single week. I took up the wash-list,
as if to see that it was all right, and then tossed it on the table, with
pretended forgetfulness. Sure enough, he took it up and ran his eye
along down to the grand total. Then he said, "You get off easy," and
laid it down again.

His gloves were the saddest ruin, but he told me where I could get some
like them. His shoes would hardly hold walnuts without leaking, but he
liked to put his feet up on the mantelpiece and contemplate them.
He wore a dim glass breastpin, which he called a "morphylitic diamond"--
whatever that may mean--and said only two of them had ever been found
--the Emperor of China had the other one.

Afterward, in London, it was a pleasure to me to see this fantastic
vagabond come marching into the lobby of the hotel in his grand-ducal
way, for he always had some new imaginary grandeur to develop--there was
nothing stale about him but his clothes. If he addressed me when
strangers were about, he always raised his voice a little and called me
"Sir Richard," or "General," or "Your Lordship"--and when people began to
stare and look deferential, he would fall to inquiring in a casual way
why I disappointed the Duke of Argyll the night before; and then remind
me of our engagement at the Duke of Westminster's for the following day.
I think that for the time being these things were realities to him. He
once came and invited me to go with him and spend the evening with the
Earl of Warwick at his town house. I said I had received no formal
invitation. He said that that was of no consequence, the Earl had no
formalities for him or his friends. I asked if I could go just as I was.
He said no, that would hardly do; evening dress was requisite at night in
any gentleman's house. He said he would wait while I dressed, and then
we would go to his apartments and I could take a bottle of champagne and
a cigar while he dressed. I was very willing to see how this enterprise
would turn out, so I dressed, and we started to his lodgings. He said if
I didn't mind we would walk. So we tramped some four miles through the
mud and fog, and finally found his "apartments"; they consisted of a
single room over a barber's shop in a back street. Two chairs, a small
table, an ancient valise, a wash-basin and pitcher (both on the floor in
a corner), an unmade bed, a fragment of a looking-glass, and a flower-
pot, with a perishing little rose geranium in it, which he called a
century plant, and said it had not bloomed now for upward of two
centuries--given to him by the late Lord Palmerston (been offered a
prodigious sum for it)--these were the contents of the room. Also a
brass candlestick and a part of a candle. Rogers lit the candle, and
told me to sit down and make myself at home. He said he hoped I was
thirsty, because he would surprise my palate with an article of champagne
that seldom got into a commoner's system; or would I prefer sherry, or
port? Said he had port in bottles that were swathed in stratified
cobwebs, every stratum representing a generation. And as for his cigars-
-well, I should judge of them myself. Then he put his head out at the
door and called:

"Sackville!" No answer.

"Hi-Sackville!" No answer.

"Now what the devil can have become of that butler? I never allow a
servant to--Oh, confound that idiot, he's got the keys. Can't get into
the other rooms without the keys."

(I was just wondering at his intrepidity in still keeping up the delusion
of the champagne, and trying to imagine how he was going to get out of
the difficulty.)

Now he stopped calling Sackville and began to call "Anglesy." But
Anglesy didn't come. He said, "This is the second time that that equerry
has been absent without leave. To-morrow I'll discharge him." Now he
began to whoop for "Thomas," but Thomas didn't answer. Then for
"Theodore," but no Theodore replied.

"Well, I give it up," said Rogers. "The servants never expect me at this
hour, and so they're all off on a lark. Might get along without the
equerry and the page, but can't have any wine or cigars without the
butler, and can't dress without my valet."

I offered to help him dress, but he would not hear of it; and besides, he
said he would not feel comfortable unless dressed by a practised hand.
However, he finally concluded that he was such old friends with the Earl
that it would not make any difference how he was dressed. So we took a
cab, he gave the driver some directions, and we started. By and by we
stopped before a large house and got out. I never had seen this man with
a collar on. He now stepped under a lamp and got a venerable paper
collar out of his coat pocket, along with a hoary cravat, and put them
on. He ascended the stoop, and entered. Presently he reappeared,
descended rapidly, and said:

"Come--quick!"

We hurried away, and turned the corner.

"Now we're safe," he said, and took off his collar and cravat and
returned them to his pocket.

"Made a mighty narrow escape," said he.

"How?" said I.

"B' George, the Countess was there!"

"Well, what of that?--don't she know you?"

"Know me? Absolutely worships me. I just did happen to catch a glimpse
of her before she saw me--and out I shot. Haven't seen her for two
months--to rush in on her without any warning might have been fatal.
She could not have stood it. I didn't know she was in town--thought she
was at the castle. Let me lean on you--just a moment--there; now I am
better--thank you; thank you ever so much. Lord bless me, what an
escape!"

So I never got to call on the Earl, after all. But I marked the house
for future reference. It proved to be an ordinary family hotel, with
about a thousand plebeians roosting in it.

In most things Rogers was by no means a fool. In some things it was
plain enough that he was a fool, but he certainly did not know it.
He was in the "deadest" earnest in these matters. He died at sea, last
summer, as the "Earl of Ramsgate."

Book of the day: