The American Claimant, by Mark Twain

A few delicious tidbits in here, to which we will add as the hours, days, weeks, months and years go by.

Re: The American Claimant, by Mark Twain

Postby admin » Fri Jun 29, 2018 1:24 am

CHAPTER VIII.

“GOD bless my soul, Hawkins!”

The morning paper dropped from the Colonel’s nerveless-grasp.

“What is it?”

“He’s gone!—the bright, the young, the gifted, the noblest of his illustrious race—gone! gone up in flames and unimaginable glory!”

“Who?”

“My precious, precious young kinsman—Kirkcudbright Llanover Marjoribanks Sellers Viscount Berkeley, son and heir of usurping Rossmore.”

“No!”

“It’s true—too true.”

“When?”

“Last night.”

“Where?”

“Right here in Washington; where he arrived from England last night, the papers say.”

“You don’t say!”

“Hotel burned down.”

“What hotel?”

“The New Gadsby!”

“Oh, my goodness! And have we lost both of them?”

“Both who?”

“One-Arm Pete.”

“Oh, great guns, I forgot all about him. Oh, I hope not.”

“Hope! Well, I should say! Oh, we can’t spare him! We can better afford to lose a million viscounts than our only support and stay.”

They searched the paper diligently, and were appalled to find that a one-armed man had been seen flying along one of the halls of the hotel in his underclothing and apparently out of his head with fright, and as he would listen to no one and persisted in making for a stairway which would carry him to certain death, his case was given over as a hopeless one.

“Poor fellow,” sighed Hawkins; “and he had friends so near. I wish we hadn’t come away from there—maybe we could have saved him.”

The earl looked up and said calmly:

“His being dead doesn’t matter. He was uncertain before. We’ve got him sure, this time.”

“Got him? How?”

“I will materialize him.”

“Rossmore, don’t—don’t trifle with me. Do you mean that? Can you do it?”

“I can do it, just as sure as you are sitting there. And I will.”

“Give me your hand, and let me have the comfort of shaking it. I was perishing, and you have put new life into me. Get at it, oh, get at it right away.”

“It will take a little time, Hawkins, but there’s no hurry, none in the world—in the circumstances. And of course certain duties have devolved upon me now, which necessarily claim my first attention. This poor young nobleman—”

“Why, yes, I am sorry for my heartlessness, and you smitten with this new family affliction. Of course you must materialize him first—I quite understand that.”

“I—I—well, I wasn’t meaning just that, but,—why, what am I thinking of! Of course I must materialize him. Oh, Hawkins, selfishness is the bottom trait in human nature; I was only thinking that now, with the usurper’s heir out of the way. But you’ll forgive that momentary weakness, and forget it. Don’t ever remember it against me that Mulberry Sellers was once mean enough to think the thought that I was thinking. I’ll materialise him—I will, on my honor—and I’d do it were he a thousand heirs jammed into one and stretching in a solid rank from here to the stolen estates of Rossmore, and barring the road forever to the rightful earl!

“There spoke the real Sellers—the other had a false ring, old friend.”

“Hawkins, my boy, it just occurs to me—a thing I keep forgetting to mention—a matter that we’ve got to be mighty careful about.”

“What is that?”

“We must keep absolutely still about these materializations. Mind, not a hint of them must escape—not a hint. To say nothing of how my wife and daughter—high-strung, sensitive organizations—might feel about them, the negroes wouldn’t stay on the place a minute.”

“That’s true, they wouldn’t. It’s well you spoke, for I’m not naturally discreet with my tongue when I’m not warned.”

Sellers reached out and touched a bell-button in the wall; set his eye upon the rear door and waited; touched it again and waited; and just as Hawkins was remarking admiringly that the Colonel was the most progressive and most alert man he had ever seen, in the matter of impressing into his service every modern convenience the moment it was invented, and always keeping breast to breast with the drum major in the great work of material civilization, he forsook the button (which hadn’t any wire attached to it,) rang a vast dinner bell which stood on the table, and remarked that he had tried that new-fangled dry battery, now, to his entire satisfaction, and had got enough of it; and added:

“Nothing would do Graham Bell but I must try it; said the mere fact of my trying it would secure public confidence, and get it a chance to show what it could do. I told him that in theory a dry battery was just a curled darling and no mistake, but when it come to practice, sho!—and here’s the result. Was I right? What should you say, Washington Hawkins? You’ve seen me try that button twice. Was I right?—that’s the idea. Did I know what I was talking about, or didn’t I?”

“Well, you know how I feel about you, Colonel Sellers, and always have felt. It seems to me that you always know everything about everything. If that man had known you as I know you he would have taken your judgment at the start, and dropped his dry battery where it was.”

“Did you ring, Marse Sellers?”

“No, Marse Sellers didn’t.”

“Den it was you, Marse Washington. I’s heah, suh.”

“No, it wasn’t Marse Washington, either.”

“De good lan’! who did ring her, den?”

“Lord Rossmore rang it!”

The old negro flung up his hands and exclaimed:

“Blame my skin if I hain’t gone en forgit dat name agin! Come heah, Jinny—run heah, honey.”

Jinny arrived.

“You take dish-yer order de lord gwine to give you I’s gwine down suller and study dat name tell I git it.”

“I take de order! Who’s yo’ nigger las’ year? De bell rung for you.”

“Dat don’t make no diffunce. When a bell ring for anybody, en old marster tell me to—”

“Clear out, and settle it in the kitchen!”

The noise of the quarreling presently sank to a murmur in the distance, and the earl added: “That’s a trouble with old house servants that were your slaves once and have been your personal friends always.”

“Yes, and members of the family.”

“Members of the family is just what they become—THE members of the family, in fact. And sometimes master and mistress of the household. These two are mighty good and loving and faithful and honest, but hang it, they do just about as they please, they chip into a conversation whenever they want to, and the plain fact is, they ought to be killed.”

It was a random remark, but it gave him an idea—however, nothing could happen without that result.

“What I wanted, Hawkins, was to send for the family and break the news to them.”

“O, never mind bothering with the servants, then. I will go and bring them down.”

While he was gone, the earl worked his idea.

“Yes,” he said to himself, “when I’ve got the materializing down to a certainty, I will get Hawkins to kill them, and after that they will be under better control. Without doubt a materialized negro could easily be hypnotized into a state resembling silence. And this could be made permanent—yes, and also modifiable, at will—sometimes very silent, sometimes turn on more talk, more action, more emotion, according to what you want. It’s a prime good idea. Make it adjustable—with a screw or something.”

The two ladies entered, now, with Hawkins, and the two negroes followed, uninvited, and fell to brushing and dusting around, for they perceived that there was matter of interest to the fore, and were willing to find out what it was.

Sellers broke the news with stateliness and ceremony, first warning the ladies, with gentle art, that a pang of peculiar sharpness was about to be inflicted upon their hearts—hearts still sore from a like hurt, still lamenting a like loss—then he took the paper, and with trembling lips and with tears in his voice he gave them that heroic death-picture.

The result was a very genuine outbreak of sorrow and sympathy from all the hearers. The elder lady cried, thinking how proud that great-hearted young hero’s mother would be, if she were living, and how unappeasable her grief; and the two old servants cried with her, and spoke out their applauses and their pitying lamentations with the eloquent sincerity and simplicity native to their race. Gwendolen was touched, and the romantic side of her nature was strongly wrought upon. She said that such a nature as that young man’s was rarely and truly noble, and nearly perfect; and that with nobility of birth added it was entirely perfect. For such a man she could endure all things, suffer all things, even to the sacrificing of her life. She wished she could have seen him; the slightest, the most momentary contact with such a spirit would have ennobled her whole character and made ignoble thoughts and ignoble acts thereafter impossible to her forever.

“Have they found the body, Rossmore?” asked the wife.

“Yes, that is, they’ve found several. It must be one of them, but none of them are recognizable.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I am going down there and identify one of them and send it home to the stricken father.”

“But papa, did you ever see the young man?”

“No, Gwendolen-why?”

“How will you identify it?”

“I—well, you know it says none of them are recognizable. I’ll send his father one of them—there’s probably no choice.”

Gwendolen knew it was not worth while to argue the matter further, since her father’s mind was made up and there was a chance for him to appear upon that sad scene down yonder in an authentic and official way. So she said no more—till he asked for a basket.

“A basket, papa? What for?”

“It might be ashes.”
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Re: The American Claimant, by Mark Twain

Postby admin » Fri Jun 29, 2018 1:25 am

CHAPTER IX.

The earl and Washington started on the sorrowful errand, talking as they walked.

“And as usual!”

“What, Colonel?”

“Seven of them in that hotel. Actresses. And all burnt out, of course.”

“Any of them burnt up?”

“Oh, no they escaped; they always do; but there’s never a one of them that knows enough to fetch out her jewelry with her.”

“That’s strange.”

“Strange—it’s the most unaccountable thing in the world. Experience teaches them nothing; they can’t seem to learn anything except out of a book. In some cases there’s manifestly a fatality about it. For instance, take What’s-her-name, that plays those sensational thunder and lightning parts. She’s got a perfectly immense reputation—draws like a dog-fight—and it all came from getting burnt out in hotels.”

“Why, how could that give her a reputation as an actress?”

“It didn’t—it only made her name familiar. People want to see her play because her name is familiar, but they don’t know what made it familiar, because they don’t remember. First, she was at the bottom of the ladder, and absolutely obscure—wages thirteen dollars a week and find her own pads.”

“Pads?”

“Yes—things to fat up her spindles with so as to be plump and attractive. Well, she got burnt out in a hotel and lost $30,000 worth of diamonds.”

“She? Where’d she get them?”

“Goodness knows—given to her, no doubt, by spoony young flats and sappy old bald-heads in the front row. All the papers were full of it. She struck for higher pay and got it. Well, she got burnt out again and lost all her diamonds, and it gave her such a lift that she went starring.”

“Well, if hotel fires are all she’s got to depend on to keep up her name, it’s a pretty precarious kind of a reputation I should think.”

“Not with her. No, anything but that. Because she’s so lucky; born lucky, I reckon. Every time there’s a hotel fire she’s in it. She’s always there—and if she can’t be there herself, her diamonds are. Now you can’t make anything out of that but just sheer luck.”

“I never heard of such a thing. She must have lost quarts of diamonds.”

“Quarts, she’s lost bushels of them. It’s got so that the hotels are superstitious about her. They won’t let her in. They think there will be a fire; and besides, if she’s there it cancels the insurance. She’s been waning a little lately, but this fire will set her up. She lost $60,000 worth last night.”

“I think she’s a fool. If I had $60,000 worth of diamonds I wouldn’t trust them in a hotel.”

“I wouldn’t either; but you can’t teach an actress that. This one’s been burnt out thirty-five times. And yet if there’s a hotel fire in San Francisco to-night she’s got to bleed again, you mark my words. Perfect ass; they say she’s got diamonds in every hotel in the country.”

When they arrived at the scene of the fire the poor old earl took one glimpse at the melancholy morgue and turned away his face overcome by the spectacle. He said:

“It is too true, Hawkins—recognition is impossible, not one of the five could be identified by its nearest friend. You make the selection, I can’t bear it.”

“Which one had I better—”

“Oh, take any of them. Pick out the best one.”

However, the officers assured the earl—for they knew him, everybody in Washington knew him—that the position in which these bodies were found made it impossible that any one of them could be that of his noble young kinsman. They pointed out the spot where, if the newspaper account was correct, he must have sunk down to destruction; and at a wide distance from this spot they showed him where the young man must have gone down in case he was suffocated in his room; and they showed still a third place, quite remote, where he might possibly have found his death if perchance he tried to escape by the side exit toward the rear. The old Colonel brushed away a tear and said to Hawkins:

“As it turns out there was something prophetic in my fears. Yes, it’s a matter of ashes. Will you kindly step to a grocery and fetch a couple more baskets?”

Reverently they got a basket of ashes from each of those now hallowed spots, and carried them home to consult as to the best manner of forwarding them to England, and also to give them an opportunity to “lie in state,”—a mark of respect which the colonel deemed obligatory, considering the high rank of the deceased.

They set the baskets on the table in what was formerly the library, drawing-room and workshop—now the Hall of Audience—and went up stairs to the lumber room to see if they could find a British flag to use as a part of the outfit proper to the lying in state. A moment later, Lady Rossmore came in from the street and caught sight of the baskets just as old Jinny crossed her field of vision. She quite lost her patience and said:

“Well, what will you do next? What in the world possessed you to clutter up the parlor table with these baskets of ashes?”

“Ashes?” And she came to look. She put up her hands in pathetic astonishment. “Well, I never see de like!”

“Didn’t you do it?”

“Who, me? Clah to goodness it’s de fust time I’ve sot eyes on ’em, Miss Polly. Dat’s Dan’l. Dat ole moke is losin’ his mine.”

Image

But it wasn’t Dan’l, for he was called, and denied it.

“Dey ain’t no way to ’splain dat. Wen hit’s one er dese-yer common ’currences, a body kin reckon maybe de cat—”

“Oh!” and a shudder shook Lady Rossmore to her foundations. “I see it all. Keep away from them—they’re his.”

“His, m’ lady?”

“Yes—your young Marse Sellers from England that’s burnt up.”

She was alone with the ashes—alone before she could take half a breath. Then she went after Mulberry Sellers, purposing to make short work of his program, whatever it might be; “for,” said she, “when his sentimentals are up, he’s a numskull, and there’s no knowing what extravagance he’ll contrive, if you let him alone.” She found him. He had found the flag and was bringing it. When she heard that his idea was to have the remains “lie in state, and invite the government and the public,” she broke it up. She said:

“Your intentions are all right—they always are—you want to do honour to the remains, and surely nobody can find any fault with that, for he was your kin; but you are going the wrong way about it, and you will see it yourself if you stop and think. You can’t file around a basket of ashes trying to look sorry for it and make a sight that is really solemn, because the solemner it is, the more it isn’t—anybody can see that. It would be so with one basket; it would be three times so with three. Well, it stands to reason that if it wouldn’t be solemn with one mourner, it wouldn’t be with a procession—and there would be five thousand people here. I don’t know but it would be pretty near ridiculous; I think it would. No, Mulberry, they can’t lie in state—it would be a mistake. Give that up and think of something else.”

So he gave it up; and not reluctantly, when he had thought it over and realized how right her instinct was. He concluded to merely sit up with the remains just himself and Hawkins. Even this seemed a doubtful attention, to his wife, but she offered no objection, for it was plain that he had a quite honest and simple-hearted desire to do the friendly and honourable thing by these forlorn poor relics which could command no hospitality in this far off land of strangers but his. He draped the flag about the baskets, put some crape on the door-knob, and said with satisfaction:

“There—he is as comfortable, now, as we can make him in the circumstances. Except—yes, we must strain a point there—one must do as one would wish to be done by—he must have it.”

“Have what, dear?”

“Hatchment.”

The wife felt that the house-front was standing about all it could well stand, in that way; the prospect of another stunning decoration of that nature distressed her, and she wished the thing had not occurred to him. She said, hesitatingly:

“But I thought such an honour as that wasn’t allowed to any but very very near relations, who—”

“Right, you are quite right, my lady, perfectly right; but there aren’t any nearer relatives than relatives by usurpation. We cannot avoid it; we are slaves of aristocratic custom and must submit.”

The hatchments were unnecessarily generous, each being as large as a blanket, and they were unnecessarily volcanic, too, as to variety and violence of color, but they pleased the earl’s barbaric eye, and they satisfied his taste for symmetry and completeness, too, for they left no waste room to speak of on the house-front.

Lady Rossmore and her daughter assisted at the sitting-up till near midnight, and helped the gentlemen to consider what ought to be done next with the remains. Rossmore thought they ought to be sent home with a committee and resolutions,—at once. But the wife was doubtful. She said:

“Would you send all of the baskets?”

“Oh, yes, all.”

“All at once?”

“To his father? Oh, no—by no means. Think of the shock. No—one at a time; break it to him by degrees.”

“Would that have that effect, father?”

“Yes, my daughter. Remember, you are young and elastic, but he is old. To send him the whole at once might well be more than he could bear. But mitigated—one basket at a time, with restful intervals between, he would be used to it by the time he got all of him. And sending him in three ships is safer anyway. On account of wrecks and storms.”

“I don’t like the idea, father. If I were his father it would be dreadful to have him coming in that—in that—”

“On the installment plan,” suggested Hawkins, gravely, and proud of being able to help.

“Yes—dreadful to have him coming in that incoherent way. There would be the strain of suspense upon me all the time. To have so depressing a thing as a funeral impending, delayed, waiting, unaccomplished—”

“Oh, no, my child,” said the earl reassuringly, “there would be nothing of that kind; so old a gentleman could not endure a long-drawn suspense like that. There will be three funerals.”

Lady Rossmore looked up surprised, and said:

“How is that going to make it easier for him? It’s a total mistake, to my mind. He ought to be buried all at once; I’m sure of it.”

“I should think so, too,” said Hawkins.

“And certainly I should,” said the daughter.

“You are all wrong,” said the earl. “You will see it yourselves, if you think. Only one of these baskets has got him in it.”

“Very well, then,” said Lady Rossmore, “the thing is perfectly simple—bury that one.”

“Certainly,” said Lady Gwendolen.

“But it is not simple,” said the earl, “because we do not know which basket he is in. We know he is in one of them, but that is all we do know. You see now, I reckon, that I was right; it takes three funerals, there is no other way.”

“And three graves and three monuments and three inscriptions?” asked the daughter.

“Well—yes—to do it right. That is what I should do.”

“It could not be done so, father. Each of the inscriptions would give the same name and the same facts and say he was under each and all of these monuments, and that would not answer at all.”

The earl nestled uncomfortably in his chair.

“No,” he said, “that is an objection. That is a serious objection. I see no way out.”

There was a general silence for a while. Then Hawkins said:

“It seems to me that if we mixed the three ramifications together—”

The earl grasped him by the hand and shook it gratefully.

“It solves the whole problem,” he said. “One ship, one funeral, one grave, one monument—it is admirably conceived. It does you honor, Major Hawkins, it has relieved me of a most painful embarrassment and distress, and it will save that poor stricken old father much suffering. Yes, he shall go over in one basket.”

“When?” asked the wife.

“To-morrow-immediately, of course.”

“I would wait, Mulberry.”

“Wait? Why?”

“You don’t want to break that childless old man’s heart.”

“God knows I don’t!”

“Then wait till he sends for his son’s remains. If you do that, you will never have to give him the last and sharpest pain a parent can know—I mean, the certainty that his son is dead. For he will never send.”

“Why won’t he?”

“Because to send—and find out the truth—would rob him of the one precious thing left him, the uncertainty, the dim hope that maybe, after all, his boy escaped, and he will see him again some day.”

“Why Polly, he’ll know by the papers that he was burnt up.”

“He won’t let himself believe the papers; he’ll argue against anything and everything that proves his son is dead; and he will keep that up and live on it, and on nothing else till he dies. But if the remains should actually come, and be put before that poor old dim-hoping soul—”

“Oh, my God, they never shall! Polly, you’ve saved me from a crime, and I’ll bless you for it always. Now we know what to do. We’ll place them reverently away, and he shall never know.”
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Re: The American Claimant, by Mark Twain

Postby admin » Fri Jun 29, 2018 1:34 am

CHAPTER X.



"Mark Twain" (meaning "Mark number two") was a Mississippi River term: the second mark on the line that measured depth signified two fathoms, or twelve feet—safe depth for the steamboat.

-- The Mississippi River, by UC Berkeley Library


The young Lord Berkeley, with the fresh air of freedom in his nostrils, was feeling invincibly strong for his new career; and yet—and yet—if the fight should prove a very hard one at first, very discouraging, very taxing on untoughened moral sinews, he might in some weak moment want to retreat. Not likely, of course, but possibly that might happen. And so on the whole it might be pardonable caution to burn his bridges behind him. Oh, without doubt. He must not stop with advertising for the owner of that money, but must put it where he could not borrow from it himself, meantime, under stress of circumstances. So he went down town, and put in his advertisement, then went to a bank and handed in $500 for deposit.

“What name?”

He hesitated and colored a little; he had forgotten to make a selection. He now brought out the first one that suggested itself:

“Howard Tracy.”

When he was gone the clerks, marveling, said:

“The cowboy blushed.”

The first step was accomplished. The money was still under his command and at his disposal, but the next step would dispose of that difficulty. He went to another bank and drew upon the first bank for the $500 by check. The money was collected and deposited a second time to the credit of Howard Tracy. He was asked to leave a few samples of his signature, which he did. Then he went away, once more proud and of perfect courage, saying:

“No help for me now, for henceforth I couldn’t draw that money without identification, and that is become legally impossible. No resources to fall back on. It is work or starve from now to the end. I am ready—and not afraid!”

Then he sent this cablegram to his father:

“Escaped unhurt from burning hotel. Have taken fictitious name. Goodbye.”

During the evening while he was wandering about in one of the outlying districts of the city, he came across a small brick church, with a bill posted there with these words printed on it: “MECHANICS’ CLUB DEBATE. ALL INVITED.” He saw people, apparently mainly of the working class, entering the place, and he followed and took his seat. It was a humble little church, quite bare as to ornamentation. It had painted pews without cushions, and no pulpit, properly speaking, but it had a platform. On the platform sat the chairman, and by his side sat a man who held a manuscript in his hand and had the waiting look of one who is going to perform the principal part. The church was soon filled with a quiet and orderly congregation of decently dressed and modest people. This is what the chairman said:

“The essayist for this evening is an old member of our club whom you all know, Mr. Parker, assistant editor of the Daily Democrat. The subject of his essay is the American Press, and he will use as his text a couple of paragraphs taken from Mr. Matthew Arnold’s new book. He asks me to read these texts for him. The first is as follows:

“‘Goethe says somewhere that “the thrill of awe,” that is to say, REVERENCE, is the best thing humanity has.”


“The shudder of awe is humanity’s highest faculty ...

― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


“Mr. Arnold’s other paragraph is as follows:

“‘I should say that if one were searching for the best means to efface and kill in a whole nation the discipline of respect, one could not do better than take the American newspapers.”


Image

Mr. Parker rose and bowed, and was received with warm applause. He then began to read in a good round resonant voice, with clear enunciation and careful attention to his pauses and emphases. His points were received with approval as he went on.

The essayist took the position that the most important function of a public journal in any country was the propagating of national feeling and pride in the national name—the keeping the people “in love with their country and its institutions, and shielded from the allurements of alien and inimical systems.” He sketched the manner in which the reverent Turkish or Russian journalist fulfilled this function—the one assisted by the prevalent “discipline of respect” for the bastinado, the other for Siberia. Continuing, he said:


The chief function of an English journal is that of all other journals the world over: it must keep the public eye fixed admiringly upon certain things, and keep it diligently diverted from certain others. For instance, it must keep the public eye fixed admiringly upon the glories of England, a processional splendor stretching its receding line down the hazy vistas of time, with the mellowed lights of a thousand years glinting from its banners; and it must keep it diligently diverted from the fact that all these glories were for the enrichment and aggrandizement of the petted and privileged few, at cost of the blood and sweat and poverty of the unconsidered masses who achieved them but might not enter in and partake of them. It must keep the public eye fixed in loving and awful reverence upon the throne as a sacred thing, and diligently divert it from the fact that no throne was ever set up by the unhampered vote of a majority of any nation; and that hence no throne exists that has a right to exist, and no symbol of it, flying from any flagstaff, is righteously entitled to wear any device but the skull and crossbones of that kindred industry which differs from royalty only business-wise—merely as retail differs from wholesale. It must keep the citizen’s eye fixed in reverent docility upon that curious invention of machine politics, an Established Church, and upon that bald contradiction of common justice, a hereditary nobility; and diligently divert it from the fact that the one damns him if he doesn’t wear its collar, and robs him under the gentle name of taxation whether he wears it or not, and the other gets all the honors while he does all the work.


The essayist thought that Mr. Arnold, with his trained eye and intelligent observation, ought to have perceived that the very quality which he so regretfully missed from our press—respectfulness, reverence —was exactly the thing which would make our press useless to us if it had it—rob it of the very thing which differentiates it from all other journalism in the world and makes it distinctively and preciously American, its frank and cheerful irreverence being by all odds the most valuable of all its qualities. “For its mission—overlooked by Mr. Arnold—is to stand guard over a nation’s liberties, not its humbugs and shams.” He thought that if during fifty years the institutions of the old world could be exposed to the fire of a flouting and scoffing press like ours, “monarchy and its attendant crimes would disappear from Christendom.” Monarchists might doubt this; then “why not persuade the Czar to give it a trial in Russia?” Concluding, he said:

Well, the charge is, that our press has but little of that old world quality, reverence. Let us be candidly grateful that it is so. With its limited reverence it at least reveres the things which this nation reveres, as a rule, and that is sufficient: what other people revere is fairly and properly matter of light importance to us. Our press does not reverence kings, it does not reverence so called nobilities, it does not reverence established ecclesiastical slaveries, it does not reverence laws which rob a younger son to fatten an elder one, it does not reverence any fraud or sham or infamy, howsoever old or rotten or holy, which sets one citizen above his neighbor by accident of birth: it does not reverence any law or custom, howsoever old or decayed or sacred, which shuts against the best man in the land the best place in the land and the divine right to prove property and go up and occupy it. In the sense of the poet Goethe—that meek idolater of provincial three carat royalty and nobility—our press is certainly bankrupt in the “thrill of awe”—otherwise reverence; reverence for nickel plate and brummagem. Let us sincerely hope that this fact will remain a fact forever: for to my mind a discriminating irreverence is the creator and protector of human liberty—even as the other thing is the creator, nurse, and steadfast protector of all forms of human slavery, bodily and mental.


Tracy said to himself, almost shouted to himself, “I’m glad I came to this country. I was right. I was right to seek out a land where such healthy principles and theories are in men’s hearts and minds. Think of the innumerable slaveries imposed by misplaced reverence! How well he brought that out, and how true it is. There’s manifestly prodigious force in reverence. If you can get a man to reverence your ideals, he’s your slave. Oh, yes, in all the ages the peoples of Europe have been diligently taught to avoid reasoning about the shams of monarchy and nobility, been taught to avoid examining them, been taught to reverence them; and now, as a natural result, to reverence them is second nature. In order to shock them it is sufficient to inject a thought of the opposite kind into their dull minds. For ages, any expression of so-called irreverence from their lips has been sin and crime. The sham and swindle of all this is apparent the moment one reflects that he is himself the only legitimately qualified judge of what is entitled to reverence and what is not. Come, I hadn’t thought of that before, but it is true, absolutely true. What right has Goethe, what right has Arnold, what right has any dictionary, to define the word Irreverence for me? What their ideals are is nothing to me. So long as I reverence my own ideals my whole duty is done, and I commit no profanation if I laugh at theirs. I may scoff at other people’s ideals as much as I want to. It is my right and my privilege. No man has any right to deny it.”

Tracy was expecting to hear the essay debated, but this did not happen. The chairman said, by way of explanation:

“I would say, for the information of the strangers present here, that in accordance with our custom the subject of this meeting will be debated at the next meeting of the club. This is in order to enable our members to prepare what they may wish to say upon the subject with pen and paper, for we are mainly mechanics and unaccustomed to speaking. We are obliged to write down what we desire to say.”

Many brief papers were now read, and several offhand speeches made in discussion of the essay read at the last meeting of the club, which had been a laudation, by some visiting professor, of college culture, and the grand results flowing from it to the nation. One of the papers was read by a man approaching middle age, who said he hadn’t had a college education, that he had got his education in a printing office, and had graduated from there into the patent office, where he had been a clerk now for a great many years. Then he continued to this effect:


The essayist contrasted the America of to-day with the America of bygone times, and certainly the result is the exhibition of a mighty progress. But I think he a little overrated the college-culture share in the production of that result. It can no doubt be easily shown that the colleges have contributed the intellectual part of this progress, and that that part is vast; but that the material progress has been immeasurably vaster, I think you will concede. Now I have been looking over a list of inventors—the creators of this amazing material development—and I find that they were not college-bred men. Of course there are exceptions—like Professor Henry of Princeton, the inventor of Mr. Morse’s system of telegraphy—but these exceptions are few. It is not overstatement to say that the imagination-stunning material development of this century, the only century worth living in since time itself was invented, is the creation of men not college-bred. We think we see what these inventors have done: no, we see only the visible vast frontage of their work; behind it is their far vaster work, and it is invisible to the careless glance. They have reconstructed this nation—made it over, that is—and metaphorically speaking, have multiplied its numbers almost beyond the power of figures to express. I will explain what I mean. What constitutes the population of a land? Merely the numberable packages of meat and bones in it called by courtesy men and women? Shall a million ounces of brass and a million ounces of gold be held to be of the same value? Take a truer standard: the measure of a man’s contributing capacity to his time and his people—the work he can do—and then number the population of this country to-day, as multiplied by what a man can now do, more than his grandfather could do. By this standard of measurement, this nation, two or three generations ago, consisted of mere cripples, paralytics, dead men, as compared with the men of to-day. In 1840 our population was 17,000,000. By way of rude but striking illustration, let us consider, for argument’s sake, that four of these millions consisted of aged people, little children, and other incapables, and that the remaining 13,000,000 were divided and employed as follows:

2,000,000 as ginners of cotton.
6,000,000 (women) as stocking-knitters.
2,000,000 (women) as thread-spinners.
500,000 as screw makers.
400,000 as reapers, binders, etc.
1,000,000 as corn-shellers.
40,000 as weavers.
1,000 as stitchers of shoe soles.


Now the deductions which I am going to append to these figures may sound extravagant, but they are not. I take them from Miscellaneous Documents No. 50, second session 45th Congress, and they are official and trustworthy. To-day, the work of those 2,000,000 cotton-ginners is done by 2,000 men; that of the 6,000,000 stocking-knitters is done by 3,000 boys; that of the 2,000,000 thread-spinners is done by 1,000 girls; that of the 500,000 screw makers is done by 500 girls; that of the 400,000 reapers, binders, etc., is done by 4,000 boys; that of the 1,000,000 corn-shellers is done by 7,500 men; that of the 40,000 weavers is done by 1,200 men; and that of the 1,000 stitchers of shoe soles is done by 6 men. To bunch the figures, 17,900 persons to-day do the above-work, whereas fifty years ago it would have taken thirteen millions of persons to do it. Now then, how many of that ignorant race—our fathers and grandfathers—with their ignorant methods, would it take to do our work to-day? It would take forty thousand millions—a hundred times the swarming population of China—twenty times the present population of the globe. You look around you and you see a nation of sixty millions—apparently; but secreted in their hands and brains, and invisible to your eyes, is the true population of this Republic, and it numbers forty billions! It is the stupendous creation of those humble unlettered, un-college-bred inventors—all honor to their name.


“How grand that is!” said Tracy, as he wended homeward. “What a civilization it is, and what prodigious results these are! and brought about almost wholly by common men; not by Oxford-trained aristocrats, but men who stand shoulder to shoulder in the humble ranks of life and earn the bread that they eat. Again, I’m glad I came. I have found a country at last where one may start fair, and breast to breast with his fellow man, rise by his own efforts, and be something in the world and be proud of that something; not be something created by an ancestor three hundred years ago.”
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Re: The American Claimant, by Mark Twain

Postby admin » Fri Jun 29, 2018 1:38 am

CHAPTER XI.

During the first few days he kept the fact diligently before his mind that he was in a land where there was “work and bread for all.” In fact, for convenience’ sake he fitted it to a little tune and hummed it to himself; but as time wore on the fact itself began to take on a doubtful look, and next the tune got fatigued and presently ran down and stopped. His first effort was to get an upper clerkship in one of the departments, where his Oxford education could come into play and do him service. But he stood no chance whatever. There, competency was no recommendation; political backing, without competency, was worth six of it. He was glaringly English, and that was necessarily against him in the political centre of a nation where both parties prayed for the Irish cause on the house-top and blasphemed it in the cellar. By his dress he was a cowboy; that won him respect—when his back was not turned—but it couldn’t get a clerkship for him. But he had said, in a rash moment, that he would wear those clothes till the owner or the owner’s friends caught sight of them and asked for that money, and his conscience would not let him retire from that engagement now.

At the end of a week things were beginning to wear rather a startling look. He had hunted everywhere for work, descending gradually the scale of quality, until apparently he had sued for all the various kinds of work a man without a special calling might hope to be able to do, except ditching and the other coarse manual sorts—and had got neither work nor the promise of it.

He was mechanically turning over the leaves of his diary, meanwhile, and now his eye fell upon the first record made after he was burnt out:

“I myself did not doubt my stamina before, nobody could doubt it now, if they could see how I am housed, and realise that I feel absolutely no disgust with these quarters, but am as serenely content with them as any dog would be in a similar kennel. Terms, twenty-five dollars a week. I said I would start at the bottom. I have kept my word.”


A shudder went quaking through him, and he exclaimed:

“What have I been thinking of! THIS the bottom! Mooning along a whole week, and these terrific expenses climbing and climbing all the time! I must end this folly straightway.”

He settled up at once and went forth to find less sumptuous lodgings. He had to wander far and seek with diligence, but he succeeded. They made him pay in advance—four dollars and a half; this secured both bed and food for a week. The good-natured, hardworked landlady took him up three flights of narrow, uncarpeted stairs and delivered him into his room. There were two double-bedsteads in it, and one single one. He would be allowed to sleep alone in one of the double beds until some new boarder should come, but he wouldn’t be charged extra.

So he would presently be required to sleep with some stranger! The thought of it made him sick. Mrs. Marsh, the landlady, was very friendly and hoped he would like her house—they all liked it, she said.

“And they’re a very nice set of boys. They carry on a good deal, but that’s their fun. You see, this room opens right into this back one, and sometimes they’re all in one and sometimes in the other; and hot nights they all sleep on the roof when it don’t rain. They get out there the minute it’s hot enough. The season’s so early that they’ve already had a night or two up there. If you’d like to go up and pick out a place, you can. You’ll find chalk in the side of the chimney where there’s a brick wanting. You just take the chalk and—but of course you’ve done it before.”

“Oh, no, I haven’t.”

“Why, of course you haven’t—what am I thinking of? Plenty of room on the Plains without chalking, I’ll be bound. Well, you just chalk out a place the size of a blanket anywhere on the tin that ain’t already marked off, you know, and that’s your property. You and your bed-mate take turnabout carrying up the blanket and pillows and fetching them down again; or one carries them up and the other fetches them down, you fix it the way you like, you know. You’ll like the boys, they’re everlasting sociable—except the printer. He’s the one that sleeps in that single bed—the strangest creature; why, I don’t believe you could get that man to sleep with another man, not if the house was afire. Mind you, I’m not just talking, I know. The boys tried him, to see. They took his bed out one night, and so when he got home about three in the morning—he was on a morning paper then, but he’s on an evening one now—there wasn’t any place for him but with the iron-moulder; and if you’ll believe me, he just set up the rest of the night—he did, honest. They say he’s cracked, but it ain’t so, he’s English—they’re awful particular. You won’t mind my saying that. You—you’re English?”

“Yes.”

“I thought so. I could tell it by the way you mispronounce the words that’s got a’s in them, you know; such as saying loff when you mean laff —but you’ll get over that. He’s a right down good fellow, and a little sociable with the photographer’s boy and the caulker and the blacksmith that work in the navy yard, but not so much with the others. The fact is, though it’s private, and the others don’t know it, he’s a kind of an aristocrat, his father being a doctor, and you know what style that is—in England, I mean, because in this country a doctor ain’t so very much, even if he’s that. But over there of course it’s different. So this chap had a falling out with his father, and was pretty high strung, and just cut for this country, and the first he knew he had to get to work or starve. Well, he’d been to college, you see, and so he judged he was all right—did you say anything?”

“No—I only sighed.”

“And there’s where he was mistaken. Why, he mighty near starved. And I reckon he would have starved sure enough, if some jour’ printer or other hadn’t took pity on him and got him a place as apprentice. So he learnt the trade, and then he was all right—but it was a close call. Once he thought he had got to haul in his pride and holler for his father and—why, you’re sighing again. Is anything the matter with you?—does my clatter—”

“Oh, dear—no. Pray go on—I like it.”

“Yes, you see, he’s been over here ten years; he’s twenty-eight, now, and he ain’t pretty well satisfied in his mind, because he can’t get reconciled to being a mechanic and associating with mechanics, he being, as he says to me, a gentleman, which is a pretty plain letting-on that the boys ain’t, but of course I know enough not to let that cat out of the bag.”

“Why—would there be any harm in it?”

“Harm in it? They’d lick him, wouldn’t they? Wouldn’t you? Of course you would. Don’t you ever let a man say you ain’t a gentleman in this country. But laws, what am I thinking about? I reckon a body would think twice before he said a cowboy wasn’t a gentleman.”

A trim, active, slender and very pretty girl of about eighteen walked into the room now, in the most satisfied and unembarrassed way. She was cheaply but smartly and gracefully dressed, and the mother’s quick glance at the stranger’s face as he rose, was of the kind which inquires what effect has been produced, and expects to find indications of surprise and admiration.

“This is my daughter Hattie—we call her Puss. It’s the new boarder, Puss.” This without rising.

The young Englishman made the awkward bow common to his nationality and time of life in circumstances of delicacy and difficulty, and these were of that sort; for, being taken by surprise, his natural, lifelong self sprang to the front, and that self of course would not know just how to act when introduced to a chambermaid, or to the heiress of a mechanics’ boarding house. His other self—the self which recognized the equality of all men—would have managed the thing better, if it hadn’t been caught off guard and robbed of its chance. The young girl paid no attention to the bow, but put out her hand frankly and gave the stranger a friendly shake and said:

“How do you do?”

Image

Then she marched to the one washstand in the room, tilted her head this way and that before the wreck of a cheap mirror that hung above it, dampened her fingers with her tongue, perfected the circle of a little lock of hair that was pasted against her forehead, then began to busy herself with the slops.

“Well, I must be going—it’s getting towards supper time. Make yourself at home, Mr. Tracy, you’ll hear the bell when it’s ready.”

The landlady took her tranquil departure, without commanding either of the young people to vacate the room. The young man wondered a little that a mother who seemed so honest and respectable should be so thoughtless, and was reaching for his hat, intending to disembarrass the girl of his presence; but she said:

“Where are you going?”

“Well—nowhere in particular, but as I am only in the way here—”

“Why, who said you were in the way? Sit down—I’ll move you when you are in the way.”

She was making the beds, now. He sat down and watched her deft and diligent performance.

“What gave you that notion? Do you reckon I need a whole room just to make up a bed or two in?”

“Well no, it wasn’t that, exactly. We are away up here in an empty house, and your mother being gone—”

The girl interrupted him with an amused laugh, and said:

“Nobody to protect me? Bless you, I don’t need it. I’m not afraid. I might be if I was alone, because I do hate ghosts, and I don’t deny it. Not that I believe in them, for I don’t. I’m only just afraid of them.”

“How can you be afraid of them if you don’t believe in them?”

“Oh, I don’t know the how of it—that’s too many for me; I only know it’s so. It’s the same with Maggie Lee.”

“Who is that?”

“One of the boarders; young lady that works in the fact’ry.”

“She works in a factory?”

“Yes. Shoe factory.”

“In a shoe factory; and you call her a young lady?”

“Why, she’s only twenty-two; what should you call her?”

“I wasn’t thinking of her age, I was thinking of the title. The fact is, I came away from England to get away from artificial forms—for artificial forms suit artificial people only—and here you’ve got them too. I’m sorry. I hoped you had only men and women; everybody equal; no differences in rank.”

The girl stopped with a pillow in her teeth and the case spread open below it, contemplating him from under her brows with a slightly puzzled expression. She released the pillow and said:

“Why, they are all equal. Where’s any difference in rank?”

“If you call a factory girl a young lady, what do you call the President’s wife?”

“Call her an old one.”

“Oh, you make age the only distinction?”

“There ain’t any other to make as far as I can see.”

“Then all women are ladies?”

“Certainly they are. All the respectable ones.”

“Well, that puts a better face on it. Certainly there is no harm in a title when it is given to everybody. It is only an offense and a wrong when it is restricted to a favored few. But Miss—er—”

“Hattie.”

“Miss Hattie, be frank; confess that that title isn’t accorded by everybody to everybody. The rich American doesn’t call her cook a lady—isn’t that so?”

“Yes, it’s so. What of it?”

He was surprised and a little disappointed, to see that his admirable shot had produced no perceptible effect.

“What of it?” he said. “Why this: equality is not conceded here, after all, and the Americans are no better off than the English. In fact there’s no difference.”

“Now what an idea. There’s nothing in a title except what is put into it—you’ve said that yourself. Suppose the title is ‘clean,’ instead of ‘lady.’ You get that?”

“I believe so. Instead of speaking of a woman as a lady, you substitute clean and say she’s a clean person.”

“That’s it. In England the swell folks don’t speak of the working people as gentlemen and ladies?”

“Oh, no.”

“And the working people don’t call themselves gentlemen and ladies?”

“Certainly not.”

“So if you used the other word there wouldn’t be any change. The swell people wouldn’t call anybody but themselves ‘clean,’ and those others would drop sort of meekly into their way of talking and they wouldn’t call themselves clean. We don’t do that way here. Everybody calls himself a lady or gentleman, and thinks he is, and don’t care what anybody else thinks him, so long as he don’t say it out loud. You think there’s no difference. You knuckle down and we don’t. Ain’t that a difference?”

“It is a difference I hadn’t thought of; I admit that. Still—calling one’s self a lady doesn’t—er—”

“I wouldn’t go on if I were you.”

Howard Tracy turned his head to see who it might be that had introduced this remark. It was a short man about forty years old, with sandy hair, no beard, and a pleasant face badly freckled but alive and intelligent, and he wore slop-shop clothing which was neat but showed wear. He had come from the front room beyond the hall, where he had left his hat, and he had a chipped and cracked white wash-bowl in his hand. The girl came and took the bowl.

“I’ll get it for you. You go right ahead and give it to him, Mr. Barrow. He’s the new boarder—Mr. Tracy—and I’d just got to where it was getting too deep for me.”

“Much obliged if you will, Hattie. I was coming to borrow of the boys.” He sat down at his ease on an old trunk, and said, “I’ve been listening and got interested; and as I was saying, I wouldn’t go on, if I were you. You see where you are coming to, don’t you? Calling yourself a lady doesn’t elect you; that is what you were going to say; and you saw that if you said it you were going to run right up against another difference that you hadn’t thought of: to-wit, Whose right is it to do the electing? Over there, twenty thousand people in a million elect themselves gentlemen and ladies, and the nine hundred and eighty thousand accept that decree and swallow the affront which it puts upon them. Why, if they didn’t accept it, it wouldn’t be an election, it would be a dead letter and have no force at all. Over here the twenty thousand would-be exclusives come up to the polls and vote themselves to be ladies and gentlemen. But the thing doesn’t stop there. The nine hundred and eighty thousand come and vote themselves to be ladies and gentlemen too, and that elects the whole nation. Since the whole million vote themselves ladies and gentlemen, there is no question about that election. It does make absolute equality, and there is no fiction about it; while over yonder the inequality, (by decree of the infinitely feeble, and consent of the infinitely strong,) is also absolute—as real and absolute as our equality.”

Tracy had shrunk promptly into his English shell when this speech began, notwithstanding he had now been in severe training several weeks for contact and intercourse with the common herd on the common herd’s terms; but he lost no time in pulling himself out again, and so by the time the speech was finished his valves were open once more, and he was forcing himself to accept without resentment the common herd’s frank fashion of dropping sociably into other people’s conversations unembarrassed and uninvited. The process was not very difficult this time, for the man’s smile and voice and manner were persuasive and winning. Tracy would even have liked him on the spot, but for the fact—fact which he was not really aware of—that the equality of men was not yet a reality to him, it was only a theory; the mind perceived, but the man failed to feel it. It was Hattie’s ghost over again, merely turned around. Theoretically Barrow was his equal, but it was distinctly distasteful to see him exhibit it. He presently said:

“I hope in all sincerity that what you have said is true, as regards the Americans, for doubts have crept into my mind several times. It seemed that the equality must be ungenuine where the sign-names of castes were still in vogue; but those sign-names have certainly lost their offence and are wholly neutralized, nullified and harmless if they are the undisputed property of every individual in the nation. I think I realize that caste does not exist and cannot exist except by common consent of the masses outside of its limits. I thought caste created itself and perpetuated itself; but it seems quite true that it only creates itself, and is perpetuated by the people whom it despises, and who can dissolve it at any time by assuming its mere sign-names themselves.”

“It’s what I think. There isn’t any power on earth that can prevent England’s thirty millions from electing themselves dukes and duchesses to-morrow and calling themselves so. And within six months all the former dukes and duchesses would have retired from the business. I wish they’d try that. Royalty itself couldn’t survive such a process. A handful of frowners against thirty million laughers in a state of irruption. Why, it’s Herculaneum against Vesuvius; it would take another eighteen centuries to find that Herculaneum after the cataclysm. What’s a Colonel in our South? He’s a nobody; because they’re all colonels down there. No, Tracy” (shudder from Tracy) “nobody in England would call you a gentleman and you wouldn’t call yourself one; and I tell you it’s a state of things that makes a man put himself into most unbecoming attitudes sometimes—the broad and general recognition and acceptance of caste as caste does, I mean. Makes him do it unconsciously—being bred in him, you see, and never thought over and reasoned out. You couldn’t conceive of the Matterhorn being flattered by the notice of one of your comely little English hills, could you?”

“Why, no.”

“Well, then, let a man in his right mind try to conceive of Darwin feeling flattered by the notice of a princess. It’s so grotesque that it—well, it paralyzes the imagination. Yet that Memnon was flattered by the notice of that statuette; he says so—says so himself. The system that can make a god disown his godship and profane it—oh, well, it’s all wrong, it’s all wrong and ought to be abolished, I should say.”

The mention of Darwin brought on a literary discussion, and this topic roused such enthusiasm in Barrow that he took off his coat and made himself the more free and comfortable for it, and detained him so long that he was still at it when the noisy proprietors of the room came shouting and skylarking in and began to romp, scuffle, wash, and otherwise entertain themselves. He lingered yet a little longer to offer the hospitalities of his room and his book shelf to Tracy and ask him a personal question or two:

“What is your trade?”

“They—well, they call me a cowboy, but that is a fancy. I’m not that. I haven’t any trade.”

“What do you work at for your living?”

“Oh, anything—I mean I would work at, anything I could get to do, but thus far I haven’t been able to find an occupation.”

“Maybe I can help you; I’d like to try.”

“I shall be very glad. I’ve tried, myself, to weariness.”

“Well, of course where a man hasn’t a regular trade he’s pretty bad off in this world. What you needed, I reckon, was less book learning and more bread-and-butter learning. I don’t know what your father could have been thinking of. You ought to have had a trade, you ought to have had a trade, by all means. But never mind about that; we’ll stir up something to do, I guess. And don’t you get homesick; that’s a bad business. We’ll talk the thing over and look around a little. You’ll come out all right. Wait for me—I’ll go down to supper with you.”

By this time Tracy had achieved a very friendly feeling for Barrow and would have called him a friend, maybe, if not taken too suddenly on a straight-out requirement to realize on his theories. He was glad of his society, anyway, and was feeling lighter hearted than before. Also he was pretty curious to know what vocation it might be which had furnished Barrow such a large acquaintanceship with books and allowed him so much time to read.
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Re: The American Claimant, by Mark Twain

Postby admin » Fri Jun 29, 2018 1:39 am

CHAPTER XII.

Presently the supper bell began to ring in the depths of the house, and the sound proceeded steadily upward, growing in intensity all the way up towards the upper floors. The higher it came the more maddening was the noise, until at last what it lacked of being absolutely deafening, was made up of the sudden crash and clatter of an avalanche of boarders down the uncarpeted stairway. The peerage did not go to meals in this fashion; Tracy’s training had not fitted him to enjoy this hilarious zoological clamor and enthusiasm. He had to confess that there was something about this extraordinary outpouring of animal spirits which he would have to get inured to before he could accept it. No doubt in time he would prefer it; but he wished the process might be modified and made just a little more gradual, and not quite so pronounced and violent. Barrow and Tracy followed the avalanche down through an ever increasing and ever more and more aggressive stench of bygone cabbage and kindred smells; smells which are to be found nowhere but in a cheap private boarding house; smells which once encountered can never be forgotten; smells which encountered generations later are instantly recognizable, but never recognizable with pleasure. To Tracy these odors were suffocating, horrible, almost unendurable; but he held his peace and said nothing. Arrived in the basement, they entered a large dining-room where thirty-five or forty people sat at a long table. They took their places. The feast had already begun and the conversation was going on in the liveliest way from one end of the table to the other. The table cloth was of very coarse material and was liberally spotted with coffee stains and grease. The knives and forks were iron, with bone handles, the spoons appeared to be iron or sheet iron or something of the sort. The tea and coffee cups were of the commonest and heaviest and most durable stone ware. All the furniture of the table was of the commonest and cheapest sort. There was a single large thick slice of bread by each boarder’s plate, and it was observable that he economized it as if he were not expecting it to be duplicated. Dishes of butter were distributed along the table within reach of people’s arms, if they had long ones, but there were no private butter plates. The butter was perhaps good enough, and was quiet and well behaved; but it had more bouquet than was necessary, though nobody commented upon that fact or seemed in any way disturbed by it. The main feature of the feast was a piping hot Irish stew made of the potatoes and meat left over from a procession of previous meals. Everybody was liberally supplied with this dish. On the table were a couple of great dishes of sliced ham, and there were some other eatables of minor importance—preserves and New Orleans molasses and such things. There was also plenty of tea and coffee of an infernal sort, with brown sugar and condensed milk, but the milk and sugar supply was not left at the discretion of the boarders, but was rationed out at headquarters—one spoonful of sugar and one of condensed milk to each cup and no more. The table was waited upon by two stalwart negro women who raced back and forth from the bases of supplies with splendid dash and clatter and energy. Their labors were supplemented after a fashion by the young girl Puss. She carried coffee and tea back and forth among the boarders, but she made pleasure excursions rather than business ones in this way, to speak strictly. She made jokes with various people. She chaffed the young men pleasantly and wittily, as she supposed, and as the rest also supposed, apparently, judging by the applause and laughter which she got by her efforts. Manifestly she was a favorite with most of the young fellows and sweetheart of the rest of them. Where she conferred notice she conferred happiness, as was seen by the face of the recipient; and at the same time she conferred unhappiness—one could see it fall and dim the faces of the other young fellows like a shadow. She never “Mistered” these friends of hers, but called them “Billy,” “Tom,” “John,” and they called her “Puss” or “Hattie.”

Mr. Marsh sat at the head of the table, his wife sat at the foot. Marsh was a man of sixty, and was an American; but if he had been born a month earlier he would have been a Spaniard. He was plenty good enough Spaniard as it was; his face was very dark, his hair very black, and his eyes were not only exceedingly black but were very intense, and there was something about them that indicated that they could burn with passion upon occasion. He was stoop-shouldered and lean-faced, and the general aspect of him was disagreeable; he was evidently not a very companionable person. If looks went for anything, he was the very opposite of his wife, who was all motherliness and charity, good will and good nature. All the young men and the women called her Aunt Rachael, which was another sign. Tracy’s wandering and interested eye presently fell upon one boarder who had been overlooked in the distribution of the stew. He was very pale and looked as if he had but lately come out of a sick bed, and also as if he ought to get back into it again as soon as possible. His face was very melancholy. The waves of laughter and conversation broke upon it without affecting it any more than if it had been a rock in the sea and the words and the laughter veritable waters. He held his head down and looked ashamed. Some of the women cast glances of pity toward him from time to time in a furtive and half afraid way, and some of the youngest of the men plainly had compassion on the young fellow—a compassion exhibited in their faces but not in any more active or compromising way. But the great majority of the people present showed entire indifference to the youth and his sorrows. Marsh sat with his head down, but one could catch the malicious gleam of his eyes through his shaggy brows. He was watching that young fellow with evident relish. He had not neglected him through carelessness, and apparently the table understood that fact. The spectacle was making Mrs. Marsh very uncomfortable. She had the look of one who hopes against hope that the impossible may happen. But as the impossible did not happen, she finally ventured to speak up and remind her husband that Nat Brady hadn’t been helped to the Irish stew.

Marsh lifted his head and gasped out with mock courtliness, “Oh, he hasn’t, hasn’t he? What a pity that is. I don’t know how I came to overlook him. Ah, he must pardon me. You must indeed Mr—er—Baxter—Barker, you must pardon me. I—er—my attention was directed to some other matter, I don’t know what. The thing that grieves me mainly is, that it happens every meal now. But you must try to overlook these little things, Mr. Bunker, these little neglects on my part. They’re always likely to happen with me in any case, and they are especially likely to happen where a person has—er—well, where a person is, say, about three weeks in arrears for his board. You get my meaning?—you get my idea? Here is your Irish stew, and—er—it gives me the greatest pleasure to send it to you, and I hope that you will enjoy the charity as much as I enjoy conferring it.”

A blush rose in Brady’s white cheeks and flowed slowly backward to his ears and upward toward his forehead, but he said nothing and began to eat his food under the embarrassment of a general silence and the sense that all eyes were fastened upon him. Barrow whispered to Tracy:

“The old man’s been waiting for that. He wouldn’t have missed that chance for anything.”

“It’s a brutal business,” said Tracy. Then he said to himself, purposing to set the thought down in his diary later:

“Well, here in this very house is a republic where all are free and equal, if men are free and equal anywhere in the earth, therefore I have arrived at the place I started to find, and I am a man among men, and on the strictest equality possible to men, no doubt. Yet here on the threshold I find an inequality. There are people at this table who are looked up to for some reason or another, and here is a poor devil of a boy who is looked down upon, treated with indifference, and shamed by humiliations, when he has committed no crime but that common one of being poor. Equality ought to make men noble-minded. In fact I had supposed it did do that.”

After supper, Barrow proposed a walk, and they started. Barrow had a purpose. He wanted Tracy to get rid of that cowboy hat. He didn’t see his way to finding mechanical or manual employment for a person rigged in that fashion. Barrow presently said:

“As I understand it, you’re not a cowboy.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Well, now if you will not think me too curious, how did you come to mount that hat? Where’d you get it?”

Tracy didn’t know quite how to reply to this, but presently said,

“Well, without going into particulars, I exchanged clothes with a stranger under stress of weather, and I would like to find him and re-exchange.”

“Well, why don’t you find him? Where is he?”

“I don’t know. I supposed the best way to find him would be to continue to wear his clothes, which are conspicuous enough to attract his attention if I should meet him on the street.”

“Oh, very well,” said Barrow, “the rest of the outfit, is well enough, and while it’s not too conspicuous, it isn’t quite like the clothes that anybody else wears. Suppress the hat. When you meet your man he’ll recognize the rest of his suit. That’s a mighty embarrassing hat, you know, in a centre of civilization like this. I don’t believe an angel could get employment in Washington in a halo like that.”

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Tracy agreed to replace the hat with something of a modester form, and they stepped aboard a crowded car and stood with others on the rear platform. Presently, as the car moved swiftly along the rails, two men crossing the street caught sight of the backs of Barrow and Tracy, and both exclaimed at once, “There he is!” It was Sellers and Hawkins. Both were so paralyzed with joy that before they could pull themselves together and make an effort to stop the car, it was gone too far, and they decided to wait for the next one. They waited a while; then it occurred to Washington that there could be no use in chasing one horse-car with another, and he wanted to hunt up a hack. But the Colonel said:

“When you come to think of it, there’s no occasion for that at all. Now that I’ve got him materialized, I can command his motions. I’ll have him at the house by the time we get there.”

Then they hurried off home in a state of great and joyful excitement.

The hat exchange accomplished, the two new friends started to walk back leisurely to the boarding house. Barrow’s mind was full of curiosity about this young fellow. He said,

“You’ve never been to the Rocky Mountains?”

“No.”

“You’ve never been out on the plains?”

“No.”

“How long have you been in this country?”

“Only a few days.”

“You’ve never been in America before?”

“No.”

Then Barrow communed with himself. “Now what odd shapes the notions of romantic people take. Here’s a young fellow who’s read in England about cowboys and adventures on the plains. He comes here and buys a cowboy’s suit. Thinks he can play himself on folks for a cowboy, all inexperienced as he is. Now the minute he’s caught in this poor little game, he’s ashamed of it and ready to retire from it. It is that exchange that he has put up as an explanation. It’s rather thin, too thin altogether. Well, he’s young, never been anywhere, knows nothing about the world, sentimental, no doubt. Perhaps it was the natural thing for him to do, but it was a most singular choice, curious freak, altogether.”

Both men were busy with their thoughts for a time, then Tracy heaved a sigh and said,

“Mr. Barrow, the case of that young fellow troubles me.”

“You mean Nat Brady?”

“Yes, Brady, or Baxter, or whatever it was. The old landlord called him by several different names.”

“Oh, yes, he has been very liberal with names for Brady, since Brady fell into arrears for his board. Well, that’s one of his sarcasms—the old man thinks he’s great on sarcasm.”

“Well, what is Brady’s difficulty? What is Brady—who is he?”

“Brady is a tinner. He’s a young journeyman tinner who was getting along all right till he fell sick and lost his job. He was very popular before he lost his job; everybody in the house liked Brady. The old man was rather especially fond of him, but you know that when a man loses his job and loses his ability to support himself and to pay his way as he goes, it makes a great difference in the way people look at him and feel about him.”

“Is that so! Is it so?”

Barrow looked at Tracy in a puzzled way. “Why of course it’s so. Wouldn’t you know that, naturally. Don’t you know that the wounded deer is always attacked and killed by its companions and friends?”

Tracy said to himself, while a chilly and boding discomfort spread itself through his system, “In a republic of deer and men where all are free and equal, misfortune is a crime, and the prosperous gore the unfortunate to death.” Then he said aloud, “Here in the boarding house, if one would have friends and be popular instead of having the cold shoulder turned upon him, he must be prosperous.”

“Yes,” Barrow said, “that is so. It’s their human nature. They do turn against Brady, now that he’s unfortunate, and they don’t like him as well as they did before; but it isn’t because of any lack in Brady—he’s just as he was before, has the same nature and the same impulses, but they—well, Brady is a thorn in their consciences, you see. They know they ought to help him and they’re too stingy to do it, and they’re ashamed of themselves for that, and they ought also to hate themselves on that account, but instead of that they hate Brady because he makes them ashamed of themselves. I say that’s human nature; that occurs everywhere; this boarding house is merely the world in little, it’s the case all over—they’re all alike. In prosperity we are popular; popularity comes easy in that case, but when the other thing comes our friends are pretty likely to turn against us.”

Tracy’s noble theories and high purposes were beginning to feel pretty damp and clammy. He wondered if by any possibility he had made a mistake in throwing his own prosperity to the winds and taking up the cross of other people’s unprosperity. But he wouldn’t listen to that sort of thing; he cast it out of his mind and resolved to go ahead resolutely along the course he had mapped out for himself.

Extracts from his diary:

Have now spent several days in this singular hive. I don’t know quite what to make out of these people. They have merits and virtues, but they have some other qualities, and some ways that are hard to get along with. I can’t enjoy them. The moment I appeared in a hat of the period, I noticed a change. The respect which had been paid me before, passed suddenly away, and the people became friendly—more than that—they became familiar, and I’m not used to familiarity, and can’t take to it right off; I find that out. These people’s familiarity amounts to impudence, sometimes. I suppose it’s all right; no doubt I can get used to it, but it’s not a satisfactory process at all. I have accomplished my dearest wish, I am a man among men, on an equal footing with Tom, Dick and Harry, and yet it isn’t just exactly what I thought it was going to be. I—I miss home. Am obliged to say I am homesick. Another thing—and this is a confession—a reluctant one, but I will make it: The thing I miss most and most severely, is the respect, the deference, with which I was treated all my life in England, and which seems to be somehow necessary to me. I get along very well without the luxury and the wealth and the sort of society I’ve been accustomed to, but I do miss the respect and can’t seem to get reconciled to the absence of it. There is respect, there is deference here, but it doesn’t fall to my share. It is lavished on two men. One of them is a portly man of middle age who is a retired plumber. Everybody is pleased to have that man’s notice. He’s full of pomp and circumstance and self complacency and bad grammar, and at table he is Sir Oracle and when he opens his mouth not any dog in the kennel barks. The other person is a policeman at the capitol-building. He represents the government. The deference paid to these two men is not so very far short of that paid to an earl in England, though the method of it differs. Not so much courtliness, but the deference is all there.

Yes, and there is obsequiousness, too.

It does rather look as if in a republic where all are free and equal, prosperity and position constitute rank.
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Re: The American Claimant, by Mark Twain

Postby admin » Fri Jun 29, 2018 1:40 am

CHAPTER XIII.

The days drifted by, and they grew ever more dreary. For Barrow’s efforts to find work for Tracy were unavailing. Always the first question asked was, “What Union do you belong to?”

Tracy was obliged to reply that he didn’t belong to any trade-union.

“Very well, then, it’s impossible to employ you. My men wouldn’t stay with me if I should employ a ‘scab,’ or ‘rat,’” or whatever the phrase was.

Finally, Tracy had a happy thought. He said, “Why the thing for me to do, of course, is to join a trade-union.”

“Yes,” Barrow said, “that is the thing for you to do—if you can.”

“If I can? Is it difficult?”

“Well, Yes,” Barrow said, “it’s sometimes difficult—in fact, very difficult. But you can try, and of course it will be best to try.”

Therefore Tracy tried; but he did not succeed. He was refused admission with a good deal of promptness, and was advised to go back home, where he belonged, not come here taking honest men’s bread out of their mouths. Tracy began to realize that the situation was desperate, and the thought made him cold to the marrow. He said to himself, “So there is an aristocracy of position here, and an aristocracy of prosperity, and apparently there is also an aristocracy of the ins as opposed to the outs, and I am with the outs. So the ranks grow daily, here. Plainly there are all kinds of castes here and only one that I belong to, the outcasts.” But he couldn’t even smile at his small joke, although he was obliged to confess that he had a rather good opinion of it. He was feeling so defeated and miserable by this time that he could no longer look with philosophical complacency on the horseplay of the young fellows in the upper rooms at night. At first it had been pleasant to see them unbend and have a good time after having so well earned it by the labors of the day, but now it all rasped upon his feelings and his dignity. He lost patience with the spectacle. When they were feeling good, they shouted, they scuffled, they sang songs, they romped about the place like cattle, and they generally wound up with a pillow fight, in which they banged each other over the head, and threw the pillows in all directions, and every now and then he got a buffet himself; and they were always inviting him to join in. They called him “Johnny Bull,” and invited him with excessive familiarity to take a hand. At first he had endured all this with good nature, but latterly he had shown by his manner that it was distinctly distasteful to him, and very soon he saw a change in the manner of these young people toward him. They were souring on him as they would have expressed it in their language. He had never been what might be called popular. That was hardly the phrase for it; he had merely been liked, but now dislike for him was growing. His case was not helped by the fact that he was out of luck, couldn’t get work, didn’t belong to a union, and couldn’t gain admission to one. He got a good many slights of that small ill-defined sort that you can’t quite put your finger on, and it was manifest that there was only one thing which protected him from open insult, and that was his muscle. These young people had seen him exercising, mornings, after his cold sponge bath, and they had perceived by his performance and the build of his body, that he was athletic, and also versed in boxing. He felt pretty naked now, recognizing that he was shorn of all respect except respect for his fists. One night when he entered his room he found about a dozen of the young fellows there carrying on a very lively conversation punctuated with horse-laughter. The talking ceased instantly, and the frank affront of a dead silence followed. He said,

“Good evening gentlemen,” and sat down.

There was no response. He flushed to the temples but forced himself to maintain silence. He sat there in this uncomfortable stillness some time, then got up and went out.

The moment he had disappeared he heard a prodigious shout of laughter break forth. He saw that their plain purpose had been to insult him. He ascended to the flat roof, hoping to be able to cool down his spirit there and get back his tranquility. He found the young tinner up there, alone and brooding, and entered into conversation with him. They were pretty fairly matched, now, in unpopularity and general ill-luck and misery, and they had no trouble in meeting upon this common ground with advantage and something of comfort to both. But Tracy’s movements had been watched, and in a few minutes the tormentors came straggling one after another to the roof, where they began to stroll up and down in an apparently purposeless way. But presently they fell to dropping remarks that were evidently aimed at Tracy, and some of them at the tinner. The ringleader of this little mob was a short-haired bully and amateur prize-fighter named Allen, who was accustomed to lording it over the upper floor, and had more than once shown a disposition to make trouble with Tracy. Now there was an occasional cat-call, and hootings, and whistlings, and finally the diversion of an exchange of connected remarks was introduced:

“How many does it take to make a pair?”

“Well, two generally makes a pair, but sometimes there ain’t stuff enough in them to make a whole pair.” General laugh.

“What were you saying about the English a while ago?”

“Oh, nothing, the English are all right, only—I—”

“What was it you said about them?”

“Oh, I only said they swallow well.”

“Swallow better than other people?”

“Oh, yes, the English swallow a good deal better than other people.”

“What is it they swallow best?”

“Oh, insults.” Another general laugh.

“Pretty hard to make ’em fight, ain’t it?”

“No, taint hard to make ’em fight.”

“Ain’t it, really?”

“No, taint hard. It’s impossible.” Another laugh.

“This one’s kind of spiritless, that’s certain.”

“Couldn’t be the other way—in his case.”

“Why?”

“Don’t you know the secret of his birth?”

“No! has he got a secret of his birth?”

“You bet he has.”

“What is it?”

“His father was a wax-figger.”

Allen came strolling by where the pair were sitting; stopped, and said to the tinner;

“How are you off for friends, these days?”

“Well enough off.”

“Got a good many?”

“Well, as many as I need.”

“A friend is valuable, sometimes—as a protector, you know. What do you reckon would happen if I was to snatch your cap off and slap you in the face with it?”

“Please don’t trouble me, Mr. Allen, I ain’t doing anything to you.”

“You answer me! What do you reckon would happen?”

“Well, I don’t know.”

Tracy spoke up with a good deal of deliberation and said:

“Don’t trouble the young fellow, I can tell you what would happen.”

“Oh, you can, can you? Boys, Johnny Bull can tell us what would happen if I was to snatch this chump’s cap off and slap him in the face with it. Now you’ll see.”

He snatched the cap and struck the youth in the face, and before he could inquire what was going to happen, it had already happened, and he was warming the tin with the broad of his back. Instantly there was a rush, and shouts of:

“A ring, a ring, make a ring! Fair play all round! Johnny’s grit; give him a chance.”

The ring was quickly chalked on the tin, and Tracy found himself as eager to begin as he could have been if his antagonist had been a prince instead of a mechanic. At bottom he was a little surprised at this, because although his theories had been all in that direction for some time, he was not prepared to find himself actually eager to measure strength with quite so common a man as this ruffian. In a moment all the windows in the neighborhood were filled with people, and the roofs also. The men squared off, and the fight began. But Allen stood no chance whatever, against the young Englishman. Neither in muscle nor in science was he his equal. He measured his length on the tin time and again; in fact, as fast as he could get up he went down again, and the applause was kept up in liberal fashion from all the neighborhood around. Finally, Allen had to be helped up. Then Tracy declined to punish him further and the fight was at an end. Allen was carried off by some of his friends in a very much humbled condition, his face black and blue and bleeding, and Tracy was at once surrounded by the young fellows, who congratulated him, and told him that he had done the whole house a service, and that from this out Mr. Allen would be a little more particular about how he handled slights and insults and maltreatment around amongst the boarders.

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Tracy was a hero now, and exceedingly popular. Perhaps nobody had ever been quite so popular on that upper floor before. But if being discountenanced by these young fellows had been hard to bear, their lavish commendations and approval and hero-worship were harder still to endure. He felt degraded, but he did not allow himself to analyze the reasons why, too closely. He was content to satisfy himself with the suggestion that he looked upon himself as degraded by the public spectacle which he had made of himself, fighting on a tin roof, for the delectation of everybody a block or two around. But he wasn’t entirely satisfied with that explanation of it. Once he went a little too far and wrote in his diary that his case was worse than that of the prodigal son. He said the prodigal son merely fed swine, he didn’t have to chum with them. But he struck that out, and said “All men are equal. I will not disown my principles. These men are as good as I am.”

Tracy was become popular on the lower floors also. Everybody was grateful for Allen’s reduction to the ranks, and for his transformation from a doer of outrages to a mere threatener of them. The young girls, of whom there were half a dozen, showed many attentions to Tracy, particularly that boarding house pet Hattie, the landlady’s daughter. She said to him, very sweetly,

“I think you’re ever so nice.”

And when he said, “I’m glad you think so, Miss Hattie,” she said, still more sweetly,

“Don’t call me Miss Hattie—call me Puss.”

Ah, here was promotion! He had struck the summit. There were no higher heights to climb in that boarding house. His popularity was complete.

In the presence of people, Tracy showed a tranquil outside, but his heart was being eaten out of him by distress and despair.

In a little while he should be out of money, and then what should he do? He wished, now, that he had borrowed a little more liberally from that stranger’s store. He found it impossible to sleep. A single torturing, terrifying thought went racking round and round in his head, wearing a groove in his brain: What should he do—What was to become of him? And along with it began to intrude a something presently which was very like a wish that he had not joined the great and noble ranks of martyrdom, but had stayed at home and been content to be merely an earl and nothing better, with nothing more to do in this world of a useful sort than an earl finds to do. But he smothered that part of his thought as well as he could; he made every effort to drive it away, and with fair success, but he couldn’t keep it from intruding a little now and then, and when it intruded it came suddenly and nipped him like a bite, a sting, a burn. He recognized that thought by the peculiar sharpness of its pang. The others were painful enough, but that one cut to the quick when it came. Night after night he lay tossing to the music of the hideous snoring of the honest bread-winners until two and three o’clock in the morning, then got up and took refuge on the roof, where he sometimes got a nap and sometimes failed entirely. His appetite was leaving him and the zest of life was going along with it. Finally, one day, being near the imminent verge of total discouragement, he said to himself—and took occasion to blush privately when he said it, “If my father knew what my American name is,—he—well, my duty to my father rather requires that I furnish him my name. I have no right to make his days and nights unhappy, I can do enough unhappiness for the family all by myself. Really he ought to know what my American name is.” He thought over it a while and framed a cablegram in his mind to this effect:

“My American name is Howard Tracy.”

That wouldn’t be suggesting anything. His father could understand that as he chose, and doubtless he would understand it as it was meant, as a dutiful and affectionate desire on the part of a son to make his old father happy for a moment. Continuing his train of thought, Tracy said to himself, “Ah, but if he should cable me to come home! I—I—couldn’t do that—I mustn’t do that. I’ve started out on a mission, and I mustn’t turn my back on it in cowardice. No, no, I couldn’t go home, at—at—least I shouldn’t want to go home.” After a reflective pause: “Well, maybe—perhaps—it would be my duty to go in the circumstances; he’s very old and he does need me by him to stay his footsteps down the long hill that inclines westward toward the sunset of his life. Well, I’ll think about that. Yes, of course it wouldn’t be right to stay here. If I—well, perhaps I could just drop him a line and put it off a little while and satisfy him in that way. It would be—well, it would mar everything to have him require me to come instantly.” Another reflective pause—then: “And yet if he should do that I don’t know but—oh, dear me—home! how good it sounds! and a body is excusable for wanting to see his home again, now and then, anyway.”

He went to one of the telegraph offices in the avenue and got the first end of what Barrow called the “usual Washington courtesy,” where “they treat you as a tramp until they find out you’re a congressman, and then they slobber all over you.” There was a boy of seventeen on duty there, tying his shoe. He had his foot on a chair and his back turned toward the wicket. He glanced over his shoulder, took Tracy’s measure, turned back, and went on tying his shoe. Tracy finished writing his telegram and waited, still waited, and still waited, for that performance to finish, but there didn’t seem to be any finish to it; so finally Tracy said:

“Can’t you take my telegram?”

The youth looked over his shoulder and said, by his manner, not his words:

“Don’t you think you could wait a minute, if you tried?”

However, he got the shoe tied at last, and came and took the telegram, glanced over it, then looked up surprised, at Tracy. There was something in his look that bordered upon respect, almost reverence, it seemed to Tracy, although he had been so long without anything of this kind he was not sure that he knew the signs of it.

The boy read the address aloud, with pleased expression in face and voice.

“The Earl of Rossmore! Cracky! Do you know him?”

“Yes.”

“Is that so! Does he know you?”

“Well—yes.”

“Well, I swear! Will he answer you?”

“I think he will.”

“Will he though? Where’ll you have it sent?”

“Oh, nowhere. I’ll call here and get it. When shall I call?”

“Oh, I don’t know—I’ll send it to you. Where shall I send it? Give me your address; I’ll send it to you soon’s it comes.”

But Tracy didn’t propose to do this. He had acquired the boy’s admiration and deferential respect, and he wasn’t willing to throw these precious things away, a result sure to follow if he should give the address of that boarding house. So he said again that he would call and get the telegram, and went his way.

He idled along, reflecting. He said to himself, “There is something pleasant about being respected. I have acquired the respect of Mr. Allen and some of those others, and almost the deference of some of them on pure merit, for having thrashed Allen. While their respect and their deference—if it is deference—is pleasant, a deference based upon a sham, a shadow, does really seem pleasanter still. It’s no real merit to be in correspondence with an earl, and yet after all, that boy makes me feel as if there was.”

The cablegram was actually gone home! the thought of it gave him an immense uplift. He walked with a lighter tread. His heart was full of happiness. He threw aside all hesitances and confessed to himself that he was glad through and through that he was going to give up this experiment and go back to his home again. His eagerness to get his father’s answer began to grow, now, and it grew with marvelous celerity, after it began. He waited an hour, walking about, putting in his time as well as he could, but interested in nothing that came under his eye, and at last he presented himself at the office again and asked if any answer had come yet. The boy said,

“No, no answer yet,” then glanced at the clock and added, “I don’t think it’s likely you’ll get one to-day.”

“Why not?”

“Well, you see it’s getting pretty late. You can’t always tell where ’bouts a man is when he’s on the other side, and you can’t always find him just the minute you want him, and you see it’s getting about six o’clock now, and over there it’s pretty late at night.”

“Why yes,” said Tracy, “I hadn’t thought of that.”

“Yes, pretty late, now, half past ten or eleven. Oh yes, you probably won’t get any answer to-night.”
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Re: The American Claimant, by Mark Twain

Postby admin » Fri Jun 29, 2018 1:41 am

CHAPTER XIV.

So Tracy went home to supper. The odors in that supper room seemed more strenuous and more horrible than ever before, and he was happy in the thought that he was so soon to be free from them again. When the supper was over he hardly knew whether he had eaten any of it or not, and he certainly hadn’t heard any of the conversation. His heart had been dancing all the time, his thoughts had been faraway from these things, and in the visions of his mind the sumptuous appointments of his father’s castle had risen before him without rebuke. Even the plushed flunkey, that walking symbol of a sham inequality, had not been unpleasant to his dreaming view. After the meal Barrow said,

“Come with me. I’ll give you a jolly evening.”

“Very good. Where are you going?”

“To my club.”

“What club is that?”

“Mechanics’ Debating Club.”

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Tracy shuddered, slightly. He didn’t say anything about having visited that place himself. Somehow he didn’t quite relish the memory of that time. The sentiments which had made his former visit there so enjoyable, and filled him with such enthusiasm, had undergone a gradual change, and they had rotted away to such a degree that he couldn’t contemplate another visit there with anything strongly resembling delight. In fact he was a little ashamed to go; he didn’t want to go there and find out by the rude impact of the thought of those people upon his reorganized condition of mind, how sharp the change had been. He would have preferred to stay away. He expected that now he should hear nothing except sentiments which would be a reproach to him in his changed mental attitude, and he rather wished he might be excused. And yet he didn’t quite want to say that, he didn’t want to show how he did feel, or show any disinclination to go, and so he forced himself to go along with Barrow, privately purposing to take an early opportunity to get away.

After the essayist of the evening had read his paper, the chairman announced that the debate would now be upon the subject of the previous meeting, “The American Press.” It saddened the backsliding disciple to hear this announcement. It brought up too many reminiscences. He wished he had happened upon some other subject. But the debate began, and he sat still and listened.

In the course of the discussion one of the speakers—a blacksmith named Tompkins arraigned all monarchs and all lords in the earth for their cold selfishness in retaining their unearned dignities. He said that no monarch and no son of a monarch, no lord and no son of a lord ought to be able to look his fellow man in the face without shame. Shame for consenting to keep his unearned titles, property, and privileges—at the expense of other people; shame for consenting to remain, on any terms, in dishonourable possession of these things, which represented bygone robberies and wrongs inflicted upon the general people of the nation. He said, “if there were a lord or the son of a lord here, I would like to reason with him, and try to show him how unfair and how selfish his position is. I would try to persuade him to relinquish it, take his place among men on equal terms, earn the bread he eats, and hold of slight value all deference paid him because of artificial position, all reverence not the just due of his own personal merits.”

Tracy seemed to be listening to utterances of his own made in talks with his radical friends in England. It was as if some eavesdropping phonograph had treasured up his words and brought them across the Atlantic to accuse him with them in the hour of his defection and retreat. Every word spoken by this stranger seemed to leave a blister on Tracy’s conscience, and by the time the speech was finished he felt that he was all conscience and one blister. This man’s deep compassion for the enslaved and oppressed millions in Europe who had to bear with the contempt of that small class above them, throned upon shining heights whose paths were shut against them, was the very thing he had often uttered himself. The pity in this man’s voice and words was the very twin of the pity that used to reside in his own heart and come from his own lips when he thought of these oppressed peoples.

The homeward tramp was accomplished in brooding silence. It was a silence most grateful to Tracy’s feelings. He wouldn’t have broken it for anything; for he was ashamed of himself all the way through to his spine. He kept saying to himself:

“How unanswerable it all is—how absolutely unanswerable! It is basely, degradingly selfish to keep those unearned honors, and—and—oh, hang it, nobody but a cur—”

“What an idiotic damned speech that Tompkins made!”

This outburst was from Barrow. It flooded Tracy’s demoralized soul with waters of refreshment. These were the darlingest words the poor vacillating young apostate had ever heard—for they whitewashed his shame for him, and that is a good service to have when you can’t get the best of all verdicts, self-acquittal.

“Come up to my room and smoke a pipe, Tracy.”

Tracy had been expecting this invitation, and had had his declination all ready: but he was glad enough to accept, now. Was it possible that a reasonable argument could be made against that man’s desolating speech? He was burning to hear Barrow try it. He knew how to start him, and keep him going: it was to seem to combat his positions—a process effective with most people.

“What is it you object to in Tompkins’s speech, Barrow?”

“Oh, the leaving out of the factor of human nature; requiring another man to do what you wouldn’t do yourself.”

“Do you mean—”

“Why here’s what I mean; it’s very simple. Tompkins is a blacksmith; has a family; works for wages; and hard, too—fooling around won’t furnish the bread. Suppose it should turn out that by the death of somebody in England he is suddenly an earl—income, half a million dollars a year. What would he do?”

“Well, I—I suppose he would have to decline to—”

“Man, he would grab it in a second!”

“Do you really think he would?”

“Think?—I don’t think anything about it, I know it.”

“Why?”

“Why? Because he’s not a fool.”

“So you think that if he were a fool, he—”

“No, I don’t. Fool or no fool, he would grab it. Anybody would. Anybody that’s alive. And I’ve seen dead people that would get up and go for it. I would myself.”

Image

This was balm, this was healing, this was rest and peace and comfort.

“But I thought you were opposed to nobilities.”

“Transmissible ones, yes. But that’s nothing. I’m opposed to millionaires, but it would be dangerous to offer me the position.”

“You’d take it?”

“I would leave the funeral of my dearest enemy to go and assume its burdens and responsibilities.”

Tracy thought a while, then said:

“I don’t know that I quite get the bearings of your position. You say you are opposed to hereditary nobilities, and yet if you had the chance you would—”

“Take one? In a minute I would. And there isn’t a mechanic in that entire club that wouldn’t. There isn’t a lawyer, doctor, editor, author, tinker, loafer, railroad president, saint—land, there isn’t a human being in the United States that wouldn’t jump at the chance!”

“Except me,” said Tracy softly.

“Except you!” Barrow could hardly get the words out, his scorn so choked him. And he couldn’t get any further than that form of words; it seemed to dam his flow, utterly. He got up and came and glared upon Tracy in a kind of outraged and unappeasable way, and said again, “Except you!” He walked around him—inspecting him from one point of view and then another, and relieving his soul now and then by exploding that formula at him; “Except you!” Finally he slumped down into his chair with the air of one who gives it up, and said:

“He’s straining his viscera and he’s breaking his heart trying to get some low-down job that a good dog wouldn’t have, and yet wants to let on that if he had a chance to scoop an earldom he wouldn’t do it. Tracy, don’t put this kind of a strain on me. Lately I’m not as strong as I was.”

“Well, I wasn’t meaning to put—a strain on you, Barrow, I was only meaning to intimate that if an earldom ever does fall in my way—”

“There—I wouldn’t give myself any worry about that, if I was you. And besides, I can settle what you would do. Are you any different from me?”

“Well—no.”

“Are you any better than me?”

“O,—er—why, certainly not.”

“Are you as good? Come!”

“Indeed, I—the fact is you take me so suddenly—”

“Suddenly? What is there sudden about it? It isn’t a difficult question is it? Or doubtful? Just measure us on the only fair lines—the lines of merit—and of course you’ll admit that a journeyman chairmaker that earns his twenty dollars a week, and has had the good and genuine culture of contact with men, and care, and hardship, and failure, and success, and downs and ups and ups and downs, is just a trifle the superior of a young fellow like you, who doesn’t know how to do anything that’s valuable, can’t earn his living in any secure and steady way, hasn’t had any experience of life and its seriousness, hasn’t any culture but the artificial culture of books, which adorns but doesn’t really educate—come! if I wouldn’t scorn an earldom, what the devil right have you to do it!”

Tracy dissembled his joy, though he wanted to thank the chair-maker for that last remark. Presently a thought struck him, and he spoke up briskly and said:

“But look here, I really can’t quite get the hang of your notions—your principles, if they are principles. You are inconsistent. You are opposed to aristocracies, yet you’d take an earldom if you could. Am I to understand that you don’t blame an earl for being and remaining an earl?”

“I certainly don’t.”

“And you wouldn’t blame Tompkins, or yourself, or me, or anybody, for accepting an earldom if it was offered?”

“Indeed I wouldn’t.”

“Well, then, whom would you blame?”

“The whole nation—any bulk and mass of population anywhere, in any country, that will put up with the infamy, the outrage, the insult of a hereditary aristocracy which they can’t enter—and on absolutely free and equal terms.”

“Come, aren’t you beclouding yourself with distinctions that are not differences?”

“Indeed I am not. I am entirely clear-headed about this thing. If I could extirpate an aristocratic system by declining its honors, then I should be a rascal to accept them. And if enough of the mass would join me to make the extirpation possible, then I should be a rascal to do otherwise than help in the attempt.”

“I believe I understand—yes, I think I get the idea. You have no blame for the lucky few who naturally decline to vacate the pleasant nest they were born into, you only despise the all-powerful and stupid mass of the nation for allowing the nest to exist.”

“That’s it, that’s it! You can get a simple thing through your head if you work at it long enough.”

“Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it. And I’ll give you some sound advice: when you go back; if you find your nation up and ready to abolish that hoary affront, lend a hand; but if that isn’t the state of things and you get a chance at an earldom, don’t you be a fool—you take it.”

Tracy responded with earnestness and enthusiasm:

“As I live, I’ll do it!”

Barrow laughed.

“I never saw such a fellow. I begin to think you’ve got a good deal of imagination. With you, the idlest fancy freezes into a reality at a breath. Why, you looked, then, as if it wouldn’t astonish you if you did tumble into an earldom.”

Tracy blushed. Barrow added: “Earldom! Oh, yes, take it, if it offers; but meantime we’ll go on looking around, in a modest way, and if you get a chance to superintend a sausage-stuffer at six or eight dollars a week, you just trade off the earldom for a last year’s almanac and stick to the sausage-stuffing.”
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Re: The American Claimant, by Mark Twain

Postby admin » Fri Jun 29, 2018 1:41 am

CHAPTER XV.

Tracy went to bed happy once more, at rest in his mind once more. He had started out on a high emprise—that was to his credit, he argued; he had fought the best fight he could, considering the odds against him—that was to his credit; he had been defeated—certainly there was nothing discreditable in that. Being defeated, he had a right to retire with the honors of war and go back without prejudice to the position in the world’s society to which he had been born. Why not? even the rabid republican chair-maker would do that. Yes, his conscience was comfortable once more.

He woke refreshed, happy, and eager for his cablegram. He had been born an aristocrat, he had been a democrat for a time, he was now an aristocrat again. He marveled to find that this final change was not merely intellectual, it had invaded his feeling; and he also marveled to note that this feeling seemed a good deal less artificial than any he had entertained in his system for a long time. He could also have noted, if he had thought of it, that his bearing had stiffened, over night, and that his chin had lifted itself a shade. Arrived in the basement, he was about to enter the breakfast room when he saw old Marsh in the dim light of a corner of the hall, beckoning him with his finger to approach. The blood welled slowly up in Tracy’s cheek, and he said with a grade of injured dignity almost ducal:

“Is that for me?”

“Yes.”

“What is the purpose of it?”

“I want to speak to you—in private.”

“This spot is private enough for me.”

Marsh was surprised; and not particularly pleased. He approached and said:

“Oh, in public, then, if you prefer. Though it hasn’t been my way.”

The boarders gathered to the spot, interested.

“Speak out,” said Tracy. “What is it you want?”

“Well, haven’t you—er—forgot something?”

“I? I’m not aware of it.”

“Oh, you’re not? Now you stop and think, a minute.”

“I refuse to stop and think. It doesn’t interest me. If it interests you, speak out.”

“Well, then,” said Marsh, raising his voice to a slightly angry pitch, “You forgot to pay your board yesterday—if you’re bound to have it public.”

Oh, yes, this heir to an annual million or so had been dreaming and soaring, and had forgotten that pitiful three or four dollars. For penalty he must have it coarsely flung in his face in the presence of these people—people in whose countenances was already beginning to dawn an uncharitable enjoyment of the situation.

“Is that all! Take your money and give your terrors a rest.”

Tracy’s hand went down into his pocket with angry decision. But—it didn’t come out. The color began to ebb out of his face. The countenances about him showed a growing interest; and some of them a heightened satisfaction. There was an uncomfortable pause—then he forced out, with difficulty, the words:

“I’ve—been robbed!”

Old Marsh’s eyes flamed up with Spanish fire, and he exclaimed:

“Robbed, is it? That’s your tune? It’s too old—been played in this house too often; everybody plays it that can’t get work when he wants it, and won’t work when he can get it. Trot out Mr. Allen, somebody, and let him take a toot at it. It’s his turn next, he forgot, too, last night. I’m laying for him.”

One of the negro women came scrambling down stairs as pale as a sorrel horse with consternation and excitement:

“Misto Marsh, Misto Allen’s skipped out!”

“What!”

“Yes-sah, and cleaned out his room clean; tuck bofe towels en de soap!”

“You lie, you hussy!”

“It’s jes’ so, jes’ as I tells you—en Misto Summer’s socks is gone, en Misto Naylor’s yuther shirt.”

Mr. Marsh was at boiling point by this time. He turned upon Tracy:

“Answer up now—when are you going to settle?”

“To-day—since you seem to be in a hurry.”

“To-day is it? Sunday—and you out of work? I like that. Come—where are you going to get the money?”

Tracy’s spirit was rising again. He proposed to impress these people:

“I am expecting a cablegram from home.”

Old Marsh was caught out, with the surprise of it. The idea was so immense, so extravagant, that he couldn’t get his breath at first. When he did get it, it came rancid with sarcasm.

“A cablegram—think of it, ladies and gents, he’s expecting a cablegram! He’s expecting a cablegram—this duffer, this scrub, this bilk! From his father—eh? Yes—without a doubt. A dollar or two a word—oh, that’s nothing—they don’t mind a little thing like that—this kind’s fathers don’t. Now his father is—er—well, I reckon his father—”

“My father is an English earl!”

The crowd fell back aghast-aghast at the sublimity of the young loafer’s “cheek.” Then they burst into a laugh that made the windows rattle. Tracy was too angry to realize that he had done a foolish thing. He said:

“Stand aside, please. I—”

“Wait a minute, your lordship,” said Marsh, bowing low, “where is your lordship going?”

“For the cablegram. Let me pass.”

“Excuse me, your lordship, you’ll stay right where you are.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“I mean that I didn’t begin to keep boarding-house yesterday. It means that I am not the kind that can be taken in by every hack-driver’s son that comes loafing over here because he can’t bum a living at home. It means that you can’t skip out on any such—”

Tracy made a step toward the old man, but Mrs. Marsh sprang between, and said:

“Don’t, Mr. Tracy, please.” She turned to her husband and said, “Do bridle your tongue. What has he done to be treated so? Can’t you see he has lost his mind, with trouble and distress? He’s not responsible.”

“Thank your kind heart, madam, but I’ve not lost my mind; and if I can have the mere privilege of stepping to the telegraph office—”

“Well, you can’t,” cried Marsh.

“—or sending—”

“Sending! That beats everything. If there’s anybody that’s fool enough to go on such a chuckle-headed errand—”

“Here comes Mr. Barrow—he will go for me. Barrow—”

A brisk fire of exclamations broke out—

“Say, Barrow, he’s expecting a cablegram!”

“Cablegram from his father, you know!”

“Yes—cablegram from the wax-figger!”

“And say, Barrow, this fellow’s an earl—take off your hat, pull down your vest!”

“Yes, he’s come off and forgot his crown, that he wears Sundays. He’s cabled over to his pappy to send it.”

“You step out and get that cablegram, Barrow; his majesty’s a little lame to-day.”

“Oh stop,” cried Barrow; “give the man a chance.” He turned, and said with some severity, “Tracy, what’s the matter with you? What kind of foolishness is this you’ve been talking. You ought to have more sense.”

“I’ve not been talking foolishness; and if you’ll go to the telegraph office—”

“Oh; don’t talk so. I’m your friend in trouble and out of it, before your face and behind your back, for anything in reason; but you’ve lost your head, you see, and this moonshine about a cablegram—”

“I’ll go there and ask for it!”

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Brady. Here, I’ll give you a Written order for it. Fly, now, and fetch it. We’ll soon see!”

Brady flew. Immediately the sort of quiet began to steal over the crowd which means dawning doubt, misgiving; and might be translated into the words, “Maybe he is expecting a cablegram—maybe he has got a father somewhere—maybe we’ve been just a little too fresh, just a shade too ‘previous’!”

Loud talk ceased; then the mutterings and low murmurings and whisperings died out. The crowd began to crumble apart. By ones and twos the fragments drifted to the breakfast table. Barrow tried to bring Tracy in; but he said:

“Not yet, Barrow—presently.”

Mrs. Marsh and Hattie tried, offering gentle and kindly persuasions; but he said;

“I would rather wait—till he comes.”

Even old Marsh began to have suspicions that maybe he had been a trifle too “brash,” as he called it in the privacy of his soul, and he pulled himself together and started toward Tracy with invitation in his eyes; but Tracy warned him off with a gesture which was quite positive and eloquent. Then followed the stillest quarter of an hour which had ever been known in that house at that time of day. It was so still, and so solemn withal, that when somebody’s cup slipped from his fingers and landed in his plate the shock made people start, and the sharp sound seemed as indecorous there and as out of place as if a coffin and mourners were imminent and being waited for. And at last when Brady’s feet came clattering down the stairs the sacrilege seemed unbearable. Everybody rose softly and turned toward the door, where stood Tracy; then with a common impulse, moved a step or two in that direction, and stopped. While they gazed, young Brady arrived, panting, and put into Tracy’s hand,—sure enough—an envelope. Tracy fastened a bland victorious eye upon the gazers, and kept it there till one by one they dropped their eyes, vanquished and embarrassed. Then he tore open the telegram and glanced at its message. The yellow paper fell from his fingers and fluttered to the floor, and his face turned white. There was nothing there but one word—

“Thanks.”

The humorist of the house, the tall, raw-boned Billy Nash, caulker from the navy yard, was standing in the rear of the crowd. In the midst of the pathetic silence that was now brooding over the place and moving some few hearts there toward compassion, he began to whimper, then he put his handkerchief to his eyes and buried his face in the neck of the bashfulest young fellow in the company, a navy-yard blacksmith, shrieked “Oh, pappy, how could you!” and began to bawl like a teething baby, if one may imagine a baby with the energy and the devastating voice of a jackass.

So perfect was that imitation of a child’s cry, and so vast the scale of it and so ridiculous the aspect of the performer, that all gravity was swept from the place as if by a hurricane, and almost everybody there joined in the crash of laughter provoked by the exhibition. Then the small mob began to take its revenge—revenge for the discomfort and apprehension it had brought upon itself by its own too rash freshness of a little while before. It guyed its poor victim, baited him, worried him, as dogs do with a cornered cat. The victim answered back with defiances and challenges which included everybody, and which only gave the sport new spirit and variety; but when he changed his tactics and began to single out individuals and invite them by name, the fun lost its funniness and the interest of the show died out, along with the noise.

Finally Marsh was about to take an innings, but Barrow said:

“Never mind, now—leave him alone. You’ve no account with him but a money account. I’ll take care of that myself.”

The distressed and worried landlady gave Barrow a fervently grateful look for his championship of the abused stranger; and the pet of the house, a very prism in her cheap but ravishing Sunday rig, blew him a kiss from the tips of her fingers and said, with the darlingest smile and a sweet little toss of her head:

“You’re the only man here, and I’m going to set my cap for you, you dear old thing!”

“For shame, Puss! How you talk! I never saw such a child!”

It took a good deal of argument and persuasion—that is to say, petting, under these disguises—to get Tracy to entertain the idea of breakfast. He at first said he would never eat again in that house; and added that he had enough firmness of character, he trusted, to enable him to starve like a man when the alternative was to eat insult with his bread.

When he had finished his breakfast, Barrow took him to his room, furnished him a pipe, and said cheerily:

“Now, old fellow, take in your battle-flag out of the wet, you’re not in the hostile camp any more. You’re a little upset by your troubles, and that’s natural enough, but don’t let your mind run on them anymore than you can help; drag your thoughts away from your troubles by the ears, by the heels, or any other way, so you manage it; it’s the healthiest thing a body can do; dwelling on troubles is deadly, just deadly—and that’s the softest name there is for it. You must keep your mind amused—you must, indeed.”

“Oh, miserable me!”

“Don’t! There’s just pure heart-break in that tone. It’s just as I say; you’ve got to get right down to it and amuse your mind, as if it was salvation.”

“They’re easy words to say, Barrow, but how am I going to amuse, entertain, divert a mind that finds itself suddenly assaulted and overwhelmed by disasters of a sort not dreamed of and not provided for? No—no, the bare idea of amusement is repulsive to my feelings: Let us talk of death and funerals.”

“No—not yet. That would be giving up the ship. We’ll not give up the ship yet. I’m going to amuse you; I sent Brady out for the wherewithal before you finished breakfast.”

“You did? What is it?”

“Come, this is a good sign—curiosity. Oh, there’s hope for you yet.”
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Re: The American Claimant, by Mark Twain

Postby admin » Fri Jun 29, 2018 1:42 am

CHAPTER XVI.

Brady arrived with a box, and departed, after saying, “They’re finishing one up, but they’ll be along as soon as it’s done.”

Barrow took a frameless oil portrait a foot square from the box, set it up in a good light, without comment, and reached for another, taking a furtive glance at Tracy, meantime. The stony solemnity in Tracy’s face remained as it was, and gave out no sign of interest. Barrow placed the second portrait beside the first, and stole another glance while reaching for a third. The stone image softened, a shade. No. 3 forced the ghost of a smile, No. 4 swept indifference wholly away, and No. 5 started a laugh which was still in good and hearty condition when No. 14 took its place in the row.

Image

“Oh, you’re all right, yet,” said Barrow. “You see you’re not past amusement.”

The pictures were fearful, as to color, and atrocious as to drawing and expression; but the feature which squelched animosity and made them funny was a feature which could not achieve its full force in a single picture, but required the wonder-working assistance of repetition. One loudly dressed mechanic in stately attitude, with his hand on a cannon, ashore, and a ship riding at anchor in the offing,—this is merely odd; but when one sees the same cannon and the same ship in fourteen pictures in a row, and a different mechanic standing watch in each, the thing gets to be funny.

“Explain—explain these aberrations,” said Tracy.

“Well, they are not the achievement of a single intellect, a single talent—it takes two to do these miracles. They are collaborations; the one artist does the figure, the other the accessories. The figure-artist is a German shoemaker with an untaught passion for art, the other is a simple hearted old Yankee sailor-man whose possibilities are strictly limited to his ship, his cannon and his patch of petrified sea. They work these things up from twenty-five-cent tintypes; they get six dollars apiece for them, and they can grind out a couple a day when they strike what they call a boost—that is, an inspiration.”

“People actually pay money for these calumnies?”

“They actually do—and quite willingly, too. And these abortionists could double their trade and work the women in, if Capt. Saltmarsh could whirl a horse in, or a piano, or a guitar, in place of his cannon. The fact is, he fatigues the market with that cannon. Even the male market, I mean. These fourteen in the procession are not all satisfied. One is an old ‘independent’ fireman, and he wants an engine in place of the cannon; another is a mate of a tug, and wants a tug in place of the ship —and so on, and so on. But the captain can’t make a tug that is deceptive, and a fire engine is many flights beyond his power.”

“This is a most extraordinary form of robbery, I never have heard of anything like it. It’s interesting.”

“Yes, and so are the artists. They are perfectly honest men, and sincere. And the old sailor-man is full of sound religion, and is as devoted a student of the Bible and misquoter of it as you can find anywhere. I don’t know a better man or kinder hearted old soul than Saltmarsh, although he does swear a little, sometimes.”

“He seems to be perfect. I want to know him, Barrow.”

“You’ll have the chance. I guess I hear them coming, now. We’ll draw them out on their art, if you like.”

The artists arrived and shook hands with great heartiness. The German was forty and a little fleshy, with a shiny bald head and a kindly face and deferential manner. Capt. Saltmarsh was sixty, tall, erect, powerfully built, with coal-black hair and whiskers, and he had a well tanned complexion, and a gait and countenance that were full of command, confidence and decision. His horny hands and wrists were covered with tattoo-marks, and when his lips parted, his teeth showed up white and blemishless. His voice was the effortless deep bass of a church organ, and would disturb the tranquility of a gas flame fifty yards away.

Image

“They’re wonderful pictures,” said Barrow. “We’ve been examining them.”

“It is very bleasant dot you like dem,” said Handel, the German, greatly pleased. “Und you, Herr Tracy, you haf peen bleased mit dem too, alretty?”

“I can honestly say I have never seen anything just like them before.”

“Schon!” cried the German, delighted. “You hear, Gaptain? Here is a chentleman, yes, vot abbreviate unser aart.”

The captain was charmed, and said:

“Well, sir, we’re thankful for a compliment yet, though they’re not as scarce now as they used to be before we made a reputation.”

“Getting the reputation is the up-hill time in most things, captain.”

“It’s so. It ain’t enough to know how to reef a gasket, you got to make the mate know you know it. That’s reputation. The good word, said at the right time, that’s the word that makes us; and evil be to him that evil thinks, as Isaiah says.”

“It’s very relevant, and hits the point exactly,” said Tracy.

“Where did you study art, Captain?”

“I haven’t studied; it’s a natural gift.”

“He is born mit dose cannon in him. He tondt haf to do noding, his chenius do all de vork. Of he is asleep, and take a pencil in his hand, out come a cannon. Py crashus, of he could do a clavier, of he could do a guitar, of he could do a vashtub, it is a fortune, heiliger Yohanniss it is yoost a fortune!”

“Well, it is an immense pity that the business is hindered and limited in this unfortunate way.”

The captain grew a trifle excited, himself, now:

“You’ve said it, Mr. Tracy!—Hindered? well, I should say so. Why, look here. This fellow here, No. 11, he’s a hackman,—a flourishing hackman, I may say. He wants his hack in this picture. Wants it where the cannon is. I got around that difficulty, by telling him the cannon’s our trademark, so to speak—proves that the picture’s our work, and I was afraid if we left it out people wouldn’t know for certain if it was a Saltmarsh—Handel—now you wouldn’t yourself—”

“What, Captain? You wrong yourself, indeed you do. Anyone who has once seen a genuine Saltmarsh-Handel is safe from imposture forever. Strip it, flay it, skin it out of every detail but the bare color and expression, and that man will still recognize it—still stop to worship—”

“Oh, how it makes me feel to hear dose oxpressions!—”

—“still say to himself again as he had, said a hundred times before, the art of the Saltmarsh-Handel is an art apart, there is nothing in the heavens above or in the earth beneath that resembles it,—”

“Py chiminy, nur horen Sie einmal! In my life day haf I never heard so brecious worts.”

“So I talked him out of the hack, Mr. Tracy, and he let up on that, and said put in a hearse, then—because he’s chief mate of a hearse but don’t own it—stands a watch for wages, you know. But I can’t do a hearse any more than I can a hack; so here we are—becalmed, you see. And it’s the same with women and such. They come and they want a little johnry picture—”

“It’s the accessories that make it a ‘genre?’”

“Yes—cannon, or cat, or any little thing like that, that you heave in to whoop up the effect. We could do a prodigious trade with the women if we could foreground the things they like, but they don’t give a damn for artillery. Mine’s the lack,” continued the captain with a sigh, “Andy’s end of the business is all right I tell you he’s an artist from way back!”

“Yoost hear dot old man! He always talk ’poud me like dot,” purred the pleased German.

“Look at his work yourself! Fourteen portraits in a row. And no two of them alike.”

“Now that you speak of it, it is true; I hadn’t noticed it before. It is very remarkable. Unique, I suppose.”

“I should say so. That’s the very thing about Andy—he discriminates. Discrimination’s the thief of time—forty-ninth Psalm; but that ain’t any matter, it’s the honest thing, and it pays in the end.”

“Yes, he certainly is great in that feature, one is obliged to admit it; but—now mind, I’m not really criticising—don’t you think he is just a trifle overstrong in technique?”

The captain’s face was knocked expressionless by this remark. It remained quite vacant while he muttered to himself— “Technique—technique—polytechnique—pyro-technique; that’s it, likely—fireworks too much color.” Then he spoke up with serenity and confidence, and said:

“Well, yes, he does pile it on pretty loud; but they all like it, you know—fact is, it’s the life of the business. Take that No. 9, there, Evans the butcher. He drops into the stoodio as sober-colored as anything you ever see: now look at him. You can’t tell him from scarlet fever. Well, it pleases that butcher to death. I’m making a study of a sausage-wreath to hang on the cannon, and I don’t really reckon I can do it right, but if I can, we can break the butcher.”

“Unquestionably your confederate—I mean your—your fellow-craftsman—is a great colorist—”

“Oh, danke schon!—”

—“in fact a quite extraordinary colorist; a colorist, I make bold to say, without imitator here or abroad—and with a most bold and effective touch, a touch like a battering ram; and a manner so peculiar and romantic, and extraneous, and ad libitum, and heart-searching, that—that—he—he is an impressionist, I presume?”

“No,” said the captain simply, “he is a Presbyterian.”

“It accounts for it all—all—there’s something divine about his art,—soulful, unsatisfactory, yearning, dim hearkening on the void horizon, vague—murmuring to the spirit out of ultra-marine distances and far-sounding cataclysms of uncreated space—oh, if he—if, he—has he ever tried distemper?”

The captain answered up with energy:

“Not if he knows himself! But his dog has, and—”

“Oh, no, it vas not my dog.”

“Why, you said it was your dog.”

“Oh, no, gaptain, I—”

“It was a white dog, wasn’t it, with his tail docked, and one ear gone, and—”

“Dot’s him, dot’s him!—der fery dog. Wy, py Chorge, dot dog he would eat baint yoost de same like—”

“Well, never mind that, now—‘vast heaving—I never saw such a man. You start him on that dog and he’ll dispute a year. Blamed if I haven’t seen him keep it up a level two hours and a half.”

“Why captain!” said Barrow. “I guess that must be hearsay.”

“No, sir, no hearsay about it—he disputed with me.”

“I don’t see how you stood it.”

“Oh, you’ve got to—if you run with Andy. But it’s the only fault he’s got.”

“Ain’t you afraid of acquiring it?”

“Oh, no,” said the captain, tranquilly, “no danger of that, I reckon.”

The artists presently took their leave. Then Barrow put his hands on Tracy’s shoulders and said:

“Look me in the eye, my boy. Steady, steady. There—it’s just as I thought—hoped, anyway; you’re all right, thank goodness. Nothing the matter with your mind. But don’t do that again—even for fun. It isn’t wise. They wouldn’t have believed you if you’d been an earl’s son. Why, they couldn’t—don’t you know that? What ever possessed you to take such a freak? But never mind about that; let’s not talk of it. It was a mistake; you see that yourself.”

“Yes—it was a mistake.”

“Well, just drop it out of your mind; it’s no harm; we all make them. Pull your courage together, and don’t brood, and don’t give up. I’m at your back, and we’ll pull through, don’t you be afraid.”

When he was gone, Barrow walked the floor a good while, uneasy in his mind. He said to himself, “I’m troubled about him. He never would have made a break like that if he hadn’t been a little off his balance. But I know what being out of work and no prospect ahead can do for a man. First it knocks the pluck out of him and drags his pride in the dirt; worry does the rest, and his mind gets shaky. I must talk to these people. No—if there’s any humanity in them—and there is, at bottom—they’ll be easier on him if they think his troubles have disturbed his reason. But I’ve got to find him some work; work’s the only medicine for his disease. Poor devil! away off here, and not a friend.”
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Re: The American Claimant, by Mark Twain

Postby admin » Fri Jun 29, 2018 1:44 am

CHAPTER XVII.

The moment Tracy was alone his spirits vanished away, and all the misery of his situation was manifest to him. To be moneyless and an object of the chairmaker’s charity—this was bad enough, but his folly in proclaiming himself an earl’s son to that scoffing and unbelieving crew, and, on top of that, the humiliating result—the recollection of these things was a sharper torture still. He made up his mind that he would never play earl’s son again before a doubtful audience.

His father’s answer was a blow he could not understand. At times he thought his father imagined he could get work to do in America without any trouble, and was minded to let him try it and cure himself of his radicalism by hard, cold, disenchanting experience. That seemed the most plausible theory, yet he could not content himself with it. A theory that pleased him better was, that this cablegram would be followed by another, of a gentler sort, requiring him to come home. Should he write and strike his flag, and ask for a ticket home? Oh, no, that he couldn’t ever do. At least, not yet. That cablegram would come, it certainly would. So he went from one telegraph office to another every day for nearly a week, and asked if there was a cablegram for Howard Tracy. No, there wasn’t any. So they answered him at first. Later, they said it before he had a chance to ask. Later still they merely shook their heads impatiently as soon as he came in sight. After that he was ashamed to go any more.

He was down in the lowest depths of despair, now; for the harder Barrow tried to find work for him the more hopeless the possibilities seemed to grow. At last he said to Barrow:

“Look here. I want to make a confession. I have got down, now, to where I am not only willing to acknowledge to myself that I am a shabby creature and full of false pride, but am willing to acknowledge it to you. Well, I’ve been allowing you to wear yourself out hunting for work for me when there’s been a chance open to me all the time. Forgive my pride—what was left of it. It is all gone, now, and I’ve come to confess that if those ghastly artists want another confederate, I’m their man—for at last I am dead to shame.”

“No? Really, can you paint?”

“Not as badly as they. No, I don’t claim that, for I am not a genius; in fact, I am a very indifferent amateur, a slouchy dabster, a mere artistic sarcasm; but drunk or asleep I can beat those buccaneers.”

“Shake! I want to shout! Oh, I tell you, I am immensely delighted and relieved. Oh, just to work—that is life! No matter what the work is—that’s of no consequence. Just work itself is bliss when a man’s been starving for it. I’ve been there! Come right along; we’ll hunt the old boys up. Don’t you feel good? I tell you I do.”

The freebooters were not at home. But their “works” were, displayed in profusion all about the little ratty studio. Cannon to the right of them, cannon to the left of them, cannon in front—it was Balaclava come again.

“Here’s the uncontented hackman, Tracy. Buckle to—deepen the sea-green to turf, turn the ship into a hearse. Let the boys have a taste of your quality.”

The artists arrived just as the last touch was put on. They stood transfixed with admiration.

“My souls but she’s a stunner, that hearse! The hackman will just go all to pieces when he sees that won’t he Andy?”

“Oh, it is sphlennid, sphlennid! Herr Tracy, why haf you not said you vas a so sublime aartist? Lob’ Gott, of you had lif’d in Paris you would be a Pree de Rome, dot’s votes de matter!”

The arrangements were soon made. Tracy was taken into full and equal partnership, and he went straight to work, with dash and energy, to reconstructing gems of art whose accessories had failed to satisfy. Under his hand, on that and succeeding days, artillery disappeared and the emblems of peace and commerce took its place—cats, hacks, sausages, tugs, fire engines, pianos, guitars, rocks, gardens, flower-pots, landscapes—whatever was wanted, he flung it in; and the more out of place and absurd the required object was, the more joy he got out of fabricating it. The pirates were delighted, the customers applauded, the sex began to flock in, great was the prosperity of the firm. Tracy was obliged to confess to himself that there was something about work,—even such grotesque and humble work as this—which most pleasantly satisfied a something in his nature which had never been satisfied before, and also gave him a strange new dignity in his own private view of himself.

.......................

The Unqualified Member from Cherokee Strip was in a state of deep dejection. For a good while, now, he had been leading a sort of life which was calculated to kill; for it had consisted in regularly alternating days of brilliant hope and black disappointment. The brilliant hopes were created by the magician Sellers, and they always promised that now he had got the trick, sure, and would effectively influence that materialized cowboy to call at the Towers before night. The black disappointments consisted in the persistent and monotonous failure of these prophecies.

At the date which this history has now reached, Sellers was appalled to find that the usual remedy was inoperative, and that Hawkins’s low spirits refused absolutely to lift. Something must be done, he reflected; it was heart-breaking, this woe, this smileless misery, this dull despair that looked out from his poor friend’s face. Yes, he must be cheered up. He mused a while, then he saw his way. He said in his most conspicuously casual vein:

“Er—uh—by the way, Hawkins, we are feeling disappointed about this thing—the way the materializee is acting, I mean—we are disappointed; you concede that?”

“Concede it? Why, yes, if you like the term.”

“Very well; so far, so good. Now for the basis of the feeling. It is not that your heart, your affections are concerned; that is to say, it is not that you want the materializee Itself. You concede that?”

“Yes, I concede that, too—cordially.”

“Very well, again; we are making progress. To sum up: The feeling, it is conceded, is not engendered by the mere conduct of the materializee; it is conceded that it does not arise from any pang which the personality of the materializee could assuage. Now then,” said the earl, with the light of triumph in his eye, “the inexorable logic of the situation narrows us down to this: our feeling has its source in the money-loss involved. Come—isn’t that so?”

“Goodness knows I concede that, with all my heart.”

“Very well. When you’ve found out the source of a disease, you’ve also found out what remedy is required—just as in this case. In this case money is required. And only money.”

The old, old seduction was in that airy, confident tone and those significant words—usually called pregnant words in books. The old answering signs of faith and hope showed up in Hawkins’s countenance, and he said:

“Only money? Do you mean that you know a way to—”

“Washington, have you the impression that I have no resources but those I allow the public and my intimate friends to know about?”

“Well, I—er—”

“Is it likely, do you think, that a man moved by nature and taught by experience to keep his affairs to himself and a cautious and reluctant tongue in his head, wouldn’t be thoughtful enough to keep a few resources in reserve for a rainy day, when he’s got as many as I have to select from?”

“Oh, you make me feel so much better already, Colonel!”

“Have you ever been in my laboratory?”

“Why, no.”

“That’s it. You see you didn’t even know that I had one. Come along. I’ve got a little trick there that I want to show you. I’ve kept it perfectly quiet, not fifty people know anything about it. But that’s my way, always been my way. Wait till you’re ready, that’s the idea; and when you’re ready, zzip!—let her go!”

“Well, Colonel, I’ve never seen a man that I’ve had such unbounded confidence in as you. When you say a thing right out, I always feel as if that ends it; as if that is evidence, and proof, and everything else.”

The old earl was profoundly pleased and touched.

“I’m glad you believe in me, Washington; not everybody is so just.”

“I always have believed in you; and I always shall as long as I live.”

“Thank you, my boy. You shan’t repent it. And you can’t.” Arrived in the “laboratory,” the earl continued, “Now, cast your eye around this room—what do you see? Apparently a junk-shop; apparently a hospital connected with a patent office—in reality, the mines of Golconda in disguise! Look at that thing there. Now what would you take that thing to be?”

“I don’t believe I could ever imagine.”

“Of course you couldn’t. It’s my grand adaptation of the phonograph to the marine service. You store up profanity in it for use at sea. You know that sailors don’t fly around worth a cent unless you swear at them—so the mate that can do the best job of swearing is the most valuable man. In great emergencies his talent saves the ship. But a ship is a large thing, and he can’t be everywhere at once; so there have been times when one mate has lost a ship which could have been saved if they had had a hundred. Prodigious storms, you know. Well, a ship can’t afford a hundred mates; but she can afford a hundred Cursing Phonographs, and distribute them all over the vessel—and there, you see, she’s armed at every point. Imagine a big storm, and a hundred of my machines all cursing away at once—splendid spectacle, splendid!—you couldn’t hear yourself think. Ship goes through that storm perfectly serene—she’s just as safe as she’d be on shore.”

“It’s a wonderful idea. How do you prepare the thing?”

“Load it—simply load it.”

“How?”

“Why you just stand over it and swear into it.”

“That loads it, does it?”

“Yes—because every word it collars, it keeps—keeps it forever. Never wears out. Any time you turn the crank, out it’ll come. In times of great peril, you can reverse it, and it’ll swear backwards. That makes a sailor hump himself!”

“O, I see. Who loads them?—the mate?”

“Yes, if he chooses. Or I’ll furnish them already loaded. I can hire an expert for $75 a month who will load a hundred and fifty phonographs in 150 hours, and do it easy. And an expert can furnish a stronger article, of course, than the mere average uncultivated mate could. Then you see, all the ships of the world will buy them ready loaded—for I shall have them loaded in any language a customer wants. Hawkins, it will work the grandest moral reform of the 19th century. Five years from now, all the swearing will be done by machinery—you won’t ever hear a profane word come from human lips on a ship. Millions of dollars have been spent by the churches, in the effort to abolish profanity in the commercial marine. Think of it—my name will live forever in the affections of good men as the man, who, solitary and alone, accomplished this noble and elevating reform.”

“O, it is grand and beneficent and beautiful. How did you ever come to think of it? You have a wonderful mind. How did you say you loaded the machine?”

“O, it’s no trouble—perfectly simple. If you want to load it up loud and strong, you stand right over it and shout. But if you leave it open and all set, it’ll eavesdrop, so to speak—that is to say, it will load itself up with any sounds that are made within six feet of it. Now I’ll show you how it works. I had an expert come and load this one up yesterday. Hello, it’s been left open—it’s too bad—still I reckon it hasn’t had much chance to collect irrelevant stuff. All you do is to press this button in the floor—so.”

The phonograph began to sing in a plaintive voice:

There is a boarding-house, far far away,
Where they have ham and eggs, 3 times a day.
“Hang it, that ain’t it. Somebody’s been singing around here.”

The plaintive song began again, mingled with a low, gradually rising wail of cats slowly warming up toward a fight;

O, how the boarders yell,
When they hear that dinner bell
They give that landlord—

(momentary outburst of terrific catfight which drowns out one word.)

Three times a day.

(Renewal of furious catfight for a moment. The plaintive voice on a high fierce key, “Scat, you devils”—and a racket as of flying missiles.)

“Well, never mind—let it go. I’ve got some sailor-profanity down in there somewhere, if I could get to it. But it isn’t any matter; you see how the machine works.”

Hawkins responded with enthusiasm:

“O, it works admirably! I know there’s a hundred fortunes in it.”

“And mind, the Hawkins family get their share, Washington.”

“O, thanks, thanks; you are just as generous as ever. Ah, it’s the grandest invention of the age!”

“Ah, well; we live in wonderful times. The elements are crowded full of beneficent forces—always have been—and ours is the first generation to turn them to account and make them work for us. Why Hawkins, everything is useful—nothing ought ever to be wasted. Now look at sewer gas, for instance. Sewer gas has always been wasted, heretofore; nobody tried to save up sewer-gas—you can’t name me a man. Ain’t that so? you know perfectly well it’s so.”

“Yes it is so—but I never—er—I don’t quite see why a body—”

“Should want to save it up? Well, I’ll tell you. Do you see this little invention here?—it’s a decomposer—I call it a decomposer. I give you my word of honor that if you show me a house that produces a given quantity of sewer-gas in a day, I’ll engage to set up my decomposer there and make that house produce a hundred times that quantity of sewer-gas in less than half an hour.”

“Dear me, but why should you want to?”

“Want to? Listen, and you’ll see. My boy, for illuminating purposes and economy combined, there’s nothing in the world that begins with sewer-gas. And really, it don’t cost a cent. You put in a good inferior article of plumbing,—such as you find everywhere—and add my decomposer, and there you are. Just use the ordinary gas pipes—and there your expense ends. Think of it. Why, Major, in five years from now you won’t see a house lighted with anything but sewer-gas. Every physician I talk to, recommends it; and every plumber.”

“But isn’t it dangerous?”

“O, yes, more or less, but everything is—coal gas, candles, electricity —there isn’t anything that ain’t.”

“It lights up well, does it?”

“O, magnificently.”

“Have you given it a good trial?”

“Well, no, not a first rate one. Polly’s prejudiced, and she won’t let me put it in here; but I’m playing my cards to get it adopted in the President’s house, and then it’ll go—don’t you doubt it. I shall not need this one for the present, Washington; you may take it down to some boarding-house and give it a trial if you like.”
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