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 1:45 am

CHAPTER XVIII.

Washington shuddered slightly at the suggestion, then his face took on a dreamy look and he dropped into a trance of thought. After a little, Sellers asked him what he was grinding in his mental mill.

“Well, this. Have you got some secret project in your head which requires a Bank of England back of it to make it succeed?”

Image

The Colonel showed lively astonishment, and said:

“Why, Hawkins, are you a mind-reader?”

“I? I never thought of such a thing.”

“Well, then how did you happen to drop onto that idea in this curious fashion? It’s just mind-reading, that’s what it is, though you may not know it. Because I have got a private project that requires a Bank of England at its back. How could you divine that? What was the process? This is interesting.”

“There wasn’t any process. A thought like this happened to slip through my head by accident: How much would make you or me comfortable? A hundred thousand. Yet you are expecting two or three of—these inventions of yours to turn out some billions of money—and you are wanting them to do that. If you wanted ten millions, I could understand that—it’s inside the human limits. But billions! That’s clear outside the limits. There must be a definite project back of that somewhere.”

The earl’s interest and surprise augmented with every word, and when Hawkins finished, he said with strong admiration:

“It’s wonderfully reasoned out, Washington, it certainly is. It shows what I think is quite extraordinary penetration. For you’ve hit it; you’ve driven the centre, you’ve plugged the bulls-eye of my dream. Now I’ll tell you the whole thing, and you’ll understand it. I don’t need to ask you to keep it to yourself, because you’ll see that the project will prosper all the better for being kept in the background till the right time. Have you noticed how many pamphlets and books I’ve got lying around relating to Russia?”

“Yes, I think most anybody would notice that—anybody who wasn’t dead.”

“Well, I’ve been posting myself a good while. That’s a great and, splendid nation, and deserves to be set free.” He paused, then added in a quite matter-of-fact way, “When I get this money I’m going to set it free.”

“Great guns!”

“Why, what makes you jump like that?”

“Dear me, when you are going to drop a remark under a man’s chair that is likely to blow him out through the roof, why don’t you put some expression, some force, some noise into it that will prepare him? You shouldn’t flip out such a gigantic thing as this in that colorless kind of a way. You do jolt a person up, so. Go on, now, I am all right again. Tell me all about it. I’m all interest—yes, and sympathy, too.”

“Well, I’ve looked the ground over, and concluded that the methods of the Russian patriots, while good enough considering the way the boys are hampered, are not the best; at least not the quickest. They are trying to revolutionize Russia from within; that’s pretty slow, you know, and liable to interruption all the time, and is full of perils for the workers. Do you know how Peter the Great started his army? He didn’t start it on the family premises under the noses of the Strelitzes; no, he started it away off yonder, privately,—only just one regiment, you know, and he built to that. The first thing the Strelitzes knew, the regiment was an army, their position was turned, and they had to take a walk. Just that little idea made the biggest and worst of all the despotisms the world has seen. The same idea can unmake it. I’m going to prove it. I’m going to get out to one side and work my scheme the way Peter did.”

“This is mighty interesting, Rossmore. What is it you are going to do?”

“I am going to buy Siberia and start a republic.”

“There,—bang you go again, without giving any notice! Going to buy it?”

“Yes, as soon as I get the money. I don’t care what the price is, I shall take it. I can afford it, and I will. Now then, consider this—and you’ve never thought of it, I’ll warrant. Where is the place where there is twenty-five times more manhood, pluck, true heroism, unselfishness, devotion to high and noble ideals, adoration of liberty, wide education, and brains, per thousand of population, than any other domain in the whole world can show?”

“Siberia!”

“Right.”

“It is true; it certainly is true, but I never thought of it before.”

“Nobody ever thinks of it. But it’s so, just the same. In those mines and prisons are gathered together the very finest and noblest and capablest multitude of human beings that God is able to create. Now if you had that kind of a population to sell, would you offer it to a despotism? No, the despotism has no use for it; you would lose money. A despotism has no use for anything but human cattle. But suppose you want to start a republic?”

“Yes, I see. It’s just the material for it.”

“Well, I should say so! There’s Siberia with just the very finest and choicest material on the globe for a republic, and more coming—more coming all the time, don’t you see! It is being daily, weekly, monthly recruited by the most perfectly devised system that has ever been invented, perhaps. By this system the whole of the hundred millions of Russia are being constantly and patiently sifted, sifted, sifted, by myriads of trained experts, spies appointed by the Emperor personally; and whenever they catch a man, woman or child that has got any brains or education or character, they ship that person straight to Siberia. It is admirable, it is wonderful. It is so searching and so effective that it keeps the general level of Russian intellect and education down to that of the Czar.”

“Come, that sounds like exaggeration.”

“Well, it’s what they say anyway. But I think, myself, it’s a lie. And it doesn’t seem right to slander a whole nation that way, anyhow. Now, then, you see what the material is, there in Siberia, for a republic.” He paused, and his breast began to heave and his eye to burn, under the impulse of strong emotion. Then his words began to stream forth, with constantly increasing energy and fire, and he rose to his feet as if to give himself larger freedom. “The minute I organize that republic, the light of liberty, intelligence, justice, humanity, bursting from it, flooding from it, flaming from it, will concentrate the gaze of the whole astonished world as upon the miracle of a new sun; Russia’s countless multitudes of slaves will rise up and march, march!—eastward, with that great light transfiguring their faces as they come, and far back of them you will see-what will you see?—a vacant throne in an empty land! It can be done, and by God I will do it!”

Image

He stood a moment bereft of earthly consciousness by his exaltation; then consciousness returned, bringing him a slight shock, and he said with grave earnestness:

“I must ask you to pardon me, Major Hawkins. I have never used that expression before, and I beg you will forgive it this time.”

Hawkins was quite willing.

“You see, Washington, it is an error which I am by nature not liable to. Only excitable people, impulsive people, are exposed to it. But the circumstances of the present case—I being a democrat by birth and preference, and an aristocrat by inheritance and relish—”

The earl stopped suddenly, his frame stiffened, and he began to stare speechless through the curtainless window. Then he pointed, and gasped out a single rapturous word:

“Look!”

“What is it, Colonel?”

“IT!”

“No!”

“Sure as you’re born. Keep perfectly still. I’ll apply the influence—I’ll turn on all my force. I’ve brought It thus far—I’ll fetch It right into the house. You’ll see.”

He was making all sorts of passes in the air with his hands.

“There! Look at that. I’ve made It smile! See?”

Quite true. Tracy, out for an afternoon stroll, had come unexpectantly upon his family arms displayed upon this shabby house-front. The hatchments made him smile; which was nothing, they had made the neighborhood cats do that.

“Look, Hawkins, look! I’m drawing It over!”

“You’re drawing it sure, Rossmore. If I ever had any doubts about materialization, they’re gone, now, and gone for good. Oh, this is a joyful day!”

Tracy was sauntering over to read the door-plate. Before he was half way over he was saying to himself, “Why, manifestly these are the American Claimant’s quarters.”

“It’s coming—coming right along. I’ll slide, down and pull It in. You follow after me.”

Sellers, pale and a good deal agitated, opened the door and confronted Tracy. The old man could not at once get his voice: then he pumped out a scattering and hardly coherent salutation, and followed it with—

“Walk in, walk right in, Mr.—er—”

“Tracy—Howard Tracy.”

“Tracy—thanks—walk right in, you’re expected.”

Tracy entered, considerably puzzled, and said:

“Expected? I think there must be some mistake.”

“Oh, I judge not,” said Sellers, who—noticing that Hawkins had arrived, gave him a sidewise glance intended to call his close attention to a dramatic effect which he was proposing to produce by his next remark. Then he said, slowly and impressively—“I am—YOU KNOW WHO.”

To the astonishment of both conspirators the remark produced no dramatic effect at all; for the new-comer responded with a quite innocent and unembarrassed air—

“No, pardon me. I don’t know who you are. I only suppose—but no doubt correctly—that you are the gentleman whose title is on the doorplate.”

“Right, quite right—sit down, pray sit down.” The earl was rattled, thrown off his bearings, his head was in a whirl. Then he noticed Hawkins standing apart and staring idiotically at what to him was the apparition of a defunct man, and a new idea was born to him. He said to Tracy briskly:

“But a thousand pardons, dear sir, I am forgetting courtesies due to a guest and stranger. Let me introduce my friend General Hawkins—General Hawkins, our new Senator—Senator from the latest and grandest addition to the radiant galaxy of sovereign States, Cherokee Strip”—(to himself, “that name will shrivel him up!”—but it didn’t, in the least, and the Colonel resumed the introduction piteously disheartened and amazed),—“Senator Hawkins, Mr. Howard Tracy, of—er—”

“England.”

“England!—Why that’s im—”

“England, yes, native of England.”

“Recently from there?”

“Yes, quite recently.”

Said the Colonel to himself, “This phantom lies like an expert. Purifying this kind by fire don’t work. I’ll sound him a little further, give him another chance or two to work his gift.” Then aloud—with deep irony—

“Visiting our great country for recreation and amusement, no doubt. I suppose you find that traveling in the majestic expanses of our Far West is—”

“I haven’t been West, and haven’t been devoting myself to amusement with any sort of exclusiveness, I assure you. In fact, to merely live, an artist has got to work, not play.”

“Artist!” said Hawkins to himself, thinking of the rifled bank; “that is a name for it!”

“Are you an artist?” asked the colonel; and added to himself, “now I’m going to catch him.”

“In a humble way, yes.”

“What line?” pursued the sly veteran.

“Oils.”

“I’ve got him!” said Sellers to himself. Then aloud, “This is fortunate. Could I engage you to restore some of my paintings that need that attention?”

“I shall be very glad. Pray let me see them.”

No shuffling, no evasion, no embarrassment, even under this crucial test. The Colonel was nonplussed. He led Tracy to a chromo which had suffered damage in a former owner’s hands through being used as a lamp mat, and said, with a flourish of his hand toward the picture—

“This del Sarto—”

“Is that a del Sarto?”

The colonel bent a look of reproach upon Tracy, allowed it to sink home, then resumed as if there had been no interruption—

“This del Sarto is perhaps the only original of that sublime master in our country. You see, yourself, that the work is of such exceeding delicacy that the risk—could—er—would you mind giving me a little example of what you can do before we—”

“Cheerfully, cheerfully. I will copy one of these marvels.”

Water-color materials—relics of Miss Sally’s college life—were brought. Tracy said he was better in oils, but would take a chance with these. So he was left alone. He began his work, but the attractions of the place were too strong for him, and he got up and went drifting about, fascinated; also amazed.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 30865
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The American Claimant, by Mark Twain

Postby admin » Fri Jun 29, 2018 1:46 am

CHAPTER XIX.

Meantime the earl and Hawkins were holding a troubled and anxious private consultation. The earl said:

“The mystery that bothers me, is, where did It get its other arm?”

“Yes—it worries me, too. And another thing troubles me—the apparition is English. How do you account for that, Colonel?”

“Honestly, I don’t know, Hawkins, I don’t really know. It is very confusing and awful.”

“Don’t you think maybe we’ve waked up the wrong one?”

“The wrong one? How do you account for the clothes?”

“The clothes are right, there’s no getting around it. What are we going to do? We can’t collect, as I see. The reward is for a one-armed American. This is a two-armed Englishman.”

“Well, it may be that that is not objectionable. You see it isn’t less than is called for, it is more, and so,—”

But he saw that this argument was weak, and dropped it. The friends sat brooding over their perplexities some time in silence. Finally the earl’s face began to glow with an inspiration, and he said, impressively:

“Hawkins, this materialization is a grander and nobler science than we have dreamed of. We have little imagined what a solemn and stupendous thing we have done. The whole secret is perfectly clear to me, now, clear as day. Every man is made up of heredities, long-descended atoms and particles of his ancestors. This present materialization is incomplete. We have only brought it down to perhaps the beginning of this century.”

“What do you mean, Colonel!” cried Hawkins, filled with vague alarms by the old man’s awe-compelling words and manner.

“This. We’ve materialized this burglar’s ancestor!”

“Oh, don’t—don’t say that. It’s hideous.”

“But it’s true, Hawkins, I know it. Look at the facts. This apparition is distinctly English—note that. It uses good grammar—note that. It is an Artist—note that. It has the manners and carriage of a gentleman—note that. Where’s your cow-boy? Answer me that.”

“Rossmore, this is dreadful—it’s too dreadful to think of!”

“Never resurrected a rag of that burglar but the clothes, not a solitary rag of him but the clothes.”

“Colonel, do you really mean—”

The Colonel brought his fist down with emphasis and said:

“I mean exactly this. This materialization was immature, the burglar has evaded us, this is nothing but a damned ancestor!”

He rose and walked the floor in great excitement.

Hawkins said plaintively:

“It’s a bitter disappointment—bitter.”

“I know it. I know it, Senator; I feel it as deeply as anybody could. But we’ve got to submit—on moral grounds. I need money, but God knows I am not poor enough or shabby enough to be an accessory to the punishing of a man’s ancestor for crimes committed by that ancestor’s posterity.”

“But Colonel!” implored Hawkins; “stop and think; don’t be rash; you know it’s the only chance we’ve got to get the money; and besides, the Bible itself says posterity to the fourth generation shall be punished for the sins and crimes committed by ancestors four generations back that hadn’t anything to do with them; and so it’s only fair to turn the rule around and make it work both ways.”

The Colonel was struck with the strong logic of this position. He strode up and down, and thought it painfully over. Finally he said:

“There’s reason in it; yes, there’s reason in it. And so, although it seems a piteous thing to sweat this poor ancient devil for a burglary he hadn’t the least hand in, still if duty commands I suppose we must give him up to the authorities.”

“I would,” said Hawkins, cheered and relieved, “I’d give him up if he was a thousand ancestors compacted into one.”

“Lord bless me, that’s just what he is,” said Sellers, with something like a groan, “it’s exactly what he is; there’s a contribution in him from every ancestor he ever had. In him there’s atoms of priests, soldiers, crusaders, poets, and sweet and gracious women—all kinds and conditions of folk who trod this earth in old, old centuries, and vanished out of it ages ago, and now by act of ours they are summoned from their holy peace to answer for gutting a one-horse bank away out on the borders of Cherokee Strip, and it’s just a howling outrage!”

“Oh, don’t talk like that, Colonel; it takes the heart all out of me, and makes me ashamed of the part I am proposing to—”

“Wait—I’ve got it!”

“A saving hope? Shout it out, I am perishing.”

“It’s perfectly simple; a child would have thought of it. He is all right, not a flaw in him, as far as I have carried the work. If I’ve been able to bring him as far as the beginning of this century, what’s to stop me now? I’ll go on and materialize him down to date.”

“Land, I never thought of that!” said Hawkins all ablaze with joy again. “It’s the very thing. What a brain you have got! And will he shed the superfluous arm?”

“He will.”

“And lose his English accent?”

“It will wholly disappear. He will speak Cherokee Strip—and other forms of profanity.”

“Colonel, maybe he’ll confess!”

“Confess? Merely that bank robbery?”

“Merely? Yes, but why ‘merely’?”

The Colonel said in his most impressive manner: “Hawkins, he will be wholly under my command. I will make him confess every crime he ever committed. There must be a thousand. Do you get the idea?”

“Well—not quite.”

“The rewards will come to us.”

“Prodigious conception! I never saw such a head for seeing with a lightning glance all the outlying ramifications and possibilities of a central idea.”

“It is nothing; it comes natural to me. When his time is out in one jail he goes to the next and the next, and we shall have nothing to do but collect the rewards as he goes along. It is a perfectly steady income as long as we live, Hawkins. And much better than other kinds of investments, because he is indestructible.”

“It looks—it really does look the way you say; it does indeed.”

“Look?—why it is. It will not be denied that I have had a pretty wide and comprehensive financial experience, and I do not hesitate to say that I consider this one of the most valuable properties I have ever controlled.”

“Do you really think so?”

“I do, indeed.”

“O, Colonel, the wasting grind and grief of poverty! If we could realize immediately. I don’t mean sell it all, but sell part—enough, you know, to—”

“See how you tremble with excitement. That comes of lack of experience. My boy, when you have been familiar with vast operations as long as I have, you’ll be different. Look at me; is my eye dilated? do you notice a quiver anywhere? Feel my pulse: plunk-plunk-plunk—same as if I were asleep. And yet, what is passing through my calm cold mind? A procession of figures which would make a financial novice drunk just the sight of them. Now it is by keeping cool, and looking at a thing all around, that a man sees what’s really in it, and saves himself from the novice’s unfailing mistake—the one you’ve just suggested—eagerness to realize. Listen to me. Your idea is to sell a part of him for ready cash. Now mine is—guess.”

“I haven’t an idea. What is it?”

“Stock him—of course.”

“Well, I should never have thought of that.”

“Because you are not a financier. Say he has committed a thousand crimes. Certainly that’s a low estimate. By the look of him, even in his unfinished condition, he has committed all of a million. But call it only a thousand to be perfectly safe; five thousand reward, multiplied by a thousand, gives us a dead sure cash basis of—what? Five million dollars!”

“Wait—let me get my breath.”

“And the property indestructible. Perpetually fruitful—perpetually; for a property with his disposition will go on committing crimes and winning rewards.”

“You daze me, you make my head whirl!”

“Let it whirl, it won’t do it any harm. Now that matter is all fixed—leave it alone. I’ll get up the company and issue the stock, all in good time. Just leave it in my hands. I judge you don’t doubt my ability to work it up for all it is worth.”

“Indeed I don’t. I can say that with truth.”

“All right, then. That’s disposed of. Everything in its turn. We old operators, go by order and system—no helter-skelter business with us. What’s the next thing on the docket? The carrying on of the materialization—the bringing it down to date. I will begin on that at once. I think—

“Look here, Rossmore. You didn’t lock It in. A hundred to one it has escaped!”

“Calm yourself, as to that; don’t give yourself any uneasiness.”

“But why shouldn’t it escape?”

“Let it, if it wants to. What of it?”

“Well, I should consider it a pretty serious calamity.”

“Why, my dear boy, once in my power, always in my power. It may go and come freely. I can produce it here whenever I want it, just by the exercise of my will.”

“Well, I am truly glad to hear that, I do assure you.”

“Yes, I shall give it all the painting it wants to do, and we and the family will make it as comfortable and contented as we can. No occasion to restrain its movements. I hope to persuade it to remain pretty quiet, though, because a materialization which is in a state of arrested development must of necessity be pretty soft and flabby and substanceless, and—er—by the way, I wonder where It comes from?”

“How? What do you mean?”

The earl pointed significantly—and interrogatively toward the sky. Hawkins started; then settled into deep reflection; finally shook his head sorrowfully and pointed downwards.

“What makes you think so, Washington?”

“Well, I hardly know, but really you can see, yourself, that he doesn’t seem to be pining for his last place.”

“It’s well thought! Soundly deduced. We’ve done that Thing a favor. But I believe I will pump it a little, in a quiet way, and find out if we are right.”

“How long is it going to take to finish him off and fetch him down to date, Colonel?”

“I wish I knew, but I don’t. I am clear knocked out by this new detail—this unforeseen necessity of working a subject down gradually from his condition of ancestor to his ultimate result as posterity. But I’ll make him hump himself, anyway.”

“Rossmore!”

“Yes, dear. We’re in the laboratory. Come—Hawkins is here. Mind, now Hawkins—he’s a sound, living, human being to all the family—don’t forget that. Here she comes.”

“Keep your seats, I’m not coming in. I just wanted to ask, who is it that’s painting down there?”

“That? Oh, that’s a young artist; young Englishman, named Tracy; very promising—favorite pupil of Hans Christian Andersen or one of the other old masters—Andersen I’m pretty sure it is; he’s going to half-sole some of our old Italian masterpieces. Been talking to him?”

“Well, only a word. I stumbled right in on him without expecting anybody was there. I tried to be polite to him; offered him a snack”—(Sellers delivered a large wink to Hawkins from behind his hand), “but he declined, and said he wasn’t hungry” (another sarcastic wink); “so I brought some apples” (doublewink), “and he ate a couple of—”

“What!” and the colonel sprang some yards toward the ceiling and came down quaking with astonishment.

Lady Rossmore was smitten dumb with amazement. She gazed at the sheepish relic of Cherokee Strip, then at her husband, and then at the guest again. Finally she said:

“What is the matter with you, Mulberry?”

He did not answer immediately. His back was turned; he was bending over his chair, feeling the seat of it. But he answered next moment, and said:

“Ah, there it is; it was a tack.”

The lady contemplated him doubtfully a moment, then said, pretty snappishly:

“All that for a tack! Praise goodness it wasn’t a shingle nail, it would have landed you in the Milky Way. I do hate to have my nerves shook up so.” And she turned on her heel and went her way.

As soon as she was safely out, the Colonel said, in a suppressed voice:

“Come—we must see for ourselves. It must be a mistake.”

They hurried softly down and peeped in. Sellers whispered, in a sort of despair—

It is eating! What a grisly spectacle! Hawkins it’s horrible! Take me away—I can’t stand it.

They tottered back to the laboratory.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 30865
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The American Claimant, by Mark Twain

Postby admin » Fri Jun 29, 2018 1:46 am

CHAPTER XX.

Tracy made slow progress with his work, for his mind wandered a good deal. Many things were puzzling him. Finally a light burst upon him all of a sudden—seemed to, at any rate—and he said to himself, “I’ve got the clew at last—this man’s mind is off its balance; I don’t know how much, but it’s off a point or two, sure; off enough to explain this mess of perplexities, anyway. These dreadful chromos which he takes for old masters; these villainous portraits—which to his frantic mind represent Rossmores; the hatchments; the pompous name of this ramshackle old crib—Rossmore Towers; and that odd assertion of his, that I was expected. How could I be expected? that is, Lord Berkeley. He knows by the papers that that person was burned up in the New Gadsby. Why, hang it, he really doesn’t know who he was expecting; for his talk showed that he was not expecting an Englishman, or yet an artist, yet I answer his requirements notwithstanding. He seems sufficiently satisfied with me. Yes, he is a little off; in fact I am afraid he is a good deal off, poor old gentleman. But he’s interesting—all people in about his condition are, I suppose. I hope he’ll like my work; I would like to come every day and study him. And when I write my father—ah, that hurts! I mustn’t get on that subject; it isn’t good for my spirits. Somebody coming—I must get to work. It’s the old gentleman again. He looks bothered. Maybe my clothes are suspicious; and they are—for an artist. If my conscience would allow me to make a change, but that is out of the question. I wonder what he’s making those passes in the air for, with his hands. I seem to be the object of them. Can he be trying to mesmerize me? I don’t quite like it. There’s something uncanny about it.”

The colonel muttered to himself, “It has an effect on him, I can see it myself. That’s enough for one time, I reckon. He’s not very solid, yet, I suppose, and I might disintegrate him. I’ll just put a sly question or two at him, now, and see if I can find out what his condition is, and where he’s from.”

He approached and said affably:

“Don’t let me disturb you, Mr. Tracy; I only want to take a little glimpse of your work. Ah, that’s fine—that’s very fine indeed. You are doing it elegantly. My daughter will be charmed with this. May I sit down by you?”

“Oh, do; I shall be glad.”

“It won’t disturb you? I mean, won’t dissipate your inspirations?”

Tracy laughed and said they were not ethereal enough to be very easily discommoded.

The colonel asked a number of cautious and well-considered questions—questions which seemed pretty odd and flighty to Tracy—but the answers conveyed the information desired, apparently, for the colonel said to himself, with mixed pride and gratification:

“It’s a good job as far as I’ve got with it. He’s solid. Solid and going to last, solid as the real thing.”

“It’s wonderful—wonderful. I believe I could—petrify him.” After a little he asked, warily “Do you prefer being here, or—or there?”

“There? Where?”

“Why—er—where you’ve been?”

Tracy’s thought flew to his boarding-house, and he answered with decision.

“Oh, here, much!”

The colonel was startled, and said to himself, “There’s no uncertain ring about that. It indicates where he’s been to, poor fellow. Well, I am satisfied, now. I’m glad I got him out.”

He sat thinking, and thinking, and watching the brush go. At length he said to himself, “Yes, it certainly seems to account for the failure of my endeavors in poor Berkeley’s case. He went in the other direction. Well, it’s all right. He’s better off.”

Sally Sellers entered from the street, now, looking her divinest, and the artist was introduced to her. It was a violent case of mutual love at first sight, though neither party was entirely aware of the fact, perhaps. The Englishman made this irrelevant remark to himself, “Perhaps he is not insane, after all.” Sally sat down, and showed an interest in Tracy’s work which greatly pleased him, and a benevolent forgiveness of it which convinced him that the girl’s nature was cast in a large mould. Sellers was anxious to report his discoveries to Hawkins; so he took his leave, saying that if the two “young devotees of the colored Muse” thought they could manage without him, he would go and look after his affairs. The artist said to himself, “I think he is a little eccentric, perhaps, but that is all.” He reproached himself for having injuriously judged a man without giving him any fair chance to show what he really was.

Image

Of course the stranger was very soon at his ease and chatting along comfortably. The average American girl possesses the valuable qualities of naturalness, honesty, and inoffensive straightforwardness; she is nearly barren of troublesome conventions and artificialities, consequently her presence and her ways are unembarrassing, and one is acquainted with her and on the pleasantest terms with her before he knows how it came about. This new acquaintanceship—friendship, indeed—progressed swiftly; and the unusual swiftness of it, and the thoroughness of it are sufficiently evidenced and established by one noteworthy fact—that within the first half hour both parties had ceased to be conscious of Tracy’s clothes. Later this consciousness was re-awakened; it was then apparent to Gwendolen that she was almost reconciled to them, and it was apparent to Tracy that he wasn’t. The re-awakening was brought about by Gwendolen’s inviting the artist to stay to dinner. He had to decline, because he wanted to live, now—that is, now that there was something to live for—and he could not survive in those clothes at a gentleman’s table. He thought he knew that. But he went away happy, for he saw that Gwendolen was disappointed.

And whither did he go? He went straight to a slopshop and bought as neat and reasonably well-fitting a suit of clothes as an Englishman could be persuaded to wear. He said—to himself, but at his conscience—“I know it’s wrong; but it would be wrong not to do it; and two wrongs do not make a right.”

This satisfied him, and made his heart light. Perhaps it will also satisfy the reader—if he can make out what it means.

The old people were troubled about Gwendolen at dinner, because she was so distraught and silent. If they had noticed, they would have found that she was sufficiently alert and interested whenever the talk stumbled upon the artist and his work; but they didn’t notice, and so the chat would swap around to some other subject, and then somebody would presently be privately worrying about Gwendolen again, and wondering if she were not well, or if something had gone wrong in the millinery line. Her mother offered her various reputable patent medicines, and tonics with iron and other hardware in them, and her father even proposed to send out for wine, relentless prohibitionist and head of the order in the District of Columbia as he was, but these kindnesses were all declined—thankfully, but with decision. At bedtime, when the family were breaking up for the night, she privately looted one of the brushes, saying to herself, “It’s the one he has used, the most.”

The next morning Tracy went forth wearing his new suit, and equipped with a pink in his button-hole—a daily attention from Puss. His whole soul was full of Gwendolen Sellers, and this condition was an inspiration, art-wise. All the morning his brush pawed nimbly away at the canvases, almost without his awarity—awarity, in this sense being the sense of being aware, though disputed by some authorities—turning out marvel upon marvel, in the way of decorative accessories to the portraits, with a felicity and celerity which amazed the veterans of the firm and fetched out of them continuous explosions of applause.

Meantime Gwendolen was losing her morning, and many dollars. She supposed Tracy was coming in the forenoon—a conclusion which she had jumped to without outside help. So she tripped down stairs every little while from her work-parlor to arrange the brushes and things over again, and see if he had arrived. And when she was in her work-parlor it was not profitable, but just the other way—as she found out to her sorrow.

She had put in her idle moments during the last little while back, in designing a particularly rare and capable gown for herself, and this morning she set about making it up; but she was absent minded, and made an irremediable botch of it. When she saw what she had done, she knew the reason of it and the meaning of it; and she put her work away from her and said she would accept the sign. And from that time forth she came no more away from the Audience Chamber, but remained there and waited. After luncheon she waited again. A whole hour. Then a great joy welled up in her heart, for she saw him coming. So she flew back up stairs thankful, and could hardly wait for him to miss the principal brush, which she had mislaid down there, but knew where she had mislaid it. However, all in good time the others were called in and couldn’t find the brush, and then she was sent for, and she couldn’t find it herself for some little time; but then she found it when the others had gone away to hunt in the kitchen and down cellar and in the woodshed, and all those other places where people look for things whose ways they are not familiar with. So she gave him the brush, and remarked that she ought to have seen that everything was ready for him, but it hadn’t seemed necessary, because it was so early that she wasn’t expecting—but she stopped there, surprised at herself for what she was saying; and he felt caught and ashamed, and said to himself, “I knew my impatience would drag me here before I was expected, and betray me, and that is just what it has done; she sees straight through me—and is laughing at me, inside, of course.”

Gwendolen was very much pleased, on one account, and a little the other way in another; pleased with the new clothes and the improvement which they had achieved; less pleased by the pink in the buttonhole. Yesterday’s pink had hardly interested her; this one was just like it, but somehow it had got her immediate attention, and kept it. She wished she could think of some way of getting at its history in a properly colorless and indifferent way. Presently she made a venture. She said:

“Whatever a man’s age may be, he can reduce it several years by putting a bright-colored flower in his button-hole. I have often noticed that. Is that your sex’s reason for wearing a boutonniere?”

“I fancy not, but certainly that reason would be a sufficient one. I’ve never heard of the idea before.”

“You seem to prefer pinks. Is it on account of the color, or the form?”

“Oh no,” he said, simply, “they are given to me. I don’t think I have any preference.”

“They are given to him,” she said to herself, and she felt a coldness toward that pink. “I wonder who it is, and what she is like.” The flower began to take up a good deal of room; it obtruded itself everywhere, it intercepted all views, and marred them; it was becoming exceedingly annoying and conspicuous for a little thing. “I wonder if he cares for her.” That thought gave her a quite definite pain.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 30865
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The American Claimant, by Mark Twain

Postby admin » Fri Jun 29, 2018 1:47 am

CHAPTER XXI.

She had made everything comfortable for the artist; there was no further pretext for staying. So she said she would go, now, and asked him to summon the servants in case he should need anything. She went away unhappy; and she left unhappiness behind her; for she carried away all the sunshine. The time dragged heavily for both, now. He couldn’t paint for thinking of her; she couldn’t design or millinerize with any heart, for thinking of him. Never before had painting seemed so empty to him, never before had millinerizing seemed so void of interest to her. She had gone without repeating that dinner-invitation—an almost unendurable disappointment to him. On her part-well, she was suffering, too; for she had found she couldn’t invite him. It was not hard yesterday, but it was impossible to-day. A thousand innocent privileges seemed to have been filched from her unawares in the past twenty-four hours. To-day she felt strangely hampered, restrained of her liberty. To-day she couldn’t propose to herself to do anything or say anything concerning this young man without being instantly paralyzed into non-action by the fear that he might “suspect.” Invite him to dinner to-day? It made her shiver to think of it.

And so her afternoon was one long fret. Broken at intervals. Three times she had to go down stairs on errands—that is, she thought she had to go down stairs on errands. Thus, going and coming, she had six glimpses of him, in the aggregate, without seeming to look in his direction; and she tried to endure these electric ecstasies without showing any sign, but they fluttered her up a good deal, and she felt that the naturalness she was putting on was overdone and quite too frantically sober and hysterically calm to deceive.

The painter had his share of the rapture; he had his six glimpses, and they smote him with waves of pleasure that assaulted him, beat upon him, washed over him deliciously, and drowned out all consciousness of what he was doing with his brush. So there were six places in his canvas which had to be done over again.

Image

At last Gwendolen got some peace of mind by sending word to the Thompsons, in the neighborhood, that she was coming there to dinner. She wouldn’t be reminded, at that table, that there was an absentee who ought to be a presentee—a word which she meant to look out in the dictionary at a calmer time.

About this time the old earl dropped in for a chat with the artist, and invited him to stay to dinner. Tracy cramped down his joy and gratitude by a sudden and powerful exercise of all his forces; and he felt that now that he was going to be close to Gwendolen, and hear her voice and watch her face during several precious hours, earth had nothing valuable to add to his life for the present.

The earl said to himself, “This spectre can eat apples, apparently. We shall find out, now, if that is a specialty. I think, myself, it’s a specialty. Apples, without doubt, constitute the spectral limit. It was the case with our first parents. No, I am wrong—at least only partly right. The line was drawn at apples, just as in the present case, but it was from the other direction.” The new clothes gave him a thrill of pleasure and pride. He said to himself, “I’ve got part of him down to date, anyway.”

Sellers said he was pleased with Tracy’s work; and he went on and engaged him to restore his old masters, and said he should also want him to paint his portrait and his wife’s and possibly his daughter’s. The tide of the artist’s happiness was at flood, now. The chat flowed pleasantly along while Tracy painted and Sellers carefully unpacked a picture which he had brought with him. It was a chromo; a new one, just out. It was the smirking, self-satisfied portrait of a man who was inundating the Union with advertisements inviting everybody to buy his specialty, which was a three-dollar shoe or a dress-suit or something of that kind. The old gentleman rested the chromo flat upon his lap and gazed down tenderly upon it, and became silent and meditative. Presently Tracy noticed that he was dripping tears on it. This touched the young fellow’s sympathetic nature, and at the same time gave him the painful sense of being an intruder upon a sacred privacy, an observer of emotions which a stranger ought not to witness. But his pity rose superior to other considerations, and compelled him to try to comfort the old mourner with kindly words and a show of friendly interest. He said:

“I am very sorry—is it a friend whom—”

“Ah, more than that, far more than that—a relative, the dearest I had on earth, although I was never permitted to see him. Yes, it is young Lord Berkeley, who perished so heroically in the awful conflagration. Why what is the matter?”

“Oh, nothing, nothing.”

“It was a little startling to be so suddenly brought face to face, so to speak, with a person one has heard so much talk about. Is it a good likeness?”

“Without doubt, yes. I never saw him, but you can easily see the resemblance to his father,” said Sellers, holding up the chromo and glancing from it to the chromo misrepresenting the Usurping Earl and back again with an approving eye.

“Well, no—I am not sure that I make out the likeness. It is plain that the Usurping Earl there has a great deal of character and a long face like a horse’s, whereas his heir here is smirky, moon-faced and characterless.”

“We are all that way in the beginning—all the line,” said Sellers, undisturbed. “We all start as moonfaced fools, then later we tadpole along into horse-faced marvels of intellect and character. It is by that sign and by that fact that I detect the resemblance here and know this portrait to be genuine and perfect. Yes, all our family are fools at first.”

“This young man seems to meet the hereditary requirement, certainly.”

“Yes, yes, he was a fool, without any doubt. Examine the face, the shape of the head, the expression. It’s all fool, fool, fool, straight through.”

“Thanks,—” said Tracy, involuntarily.

“Thanks?”

“I mean for explaining it to me. Go on, please.”

“As I was saying, fool is printed all over the face. A body can even read the details.”

“What do they say?”

“Well, added up, he is a wobbler.”

“A which?”

“Wobbler. A person that’s always taking a firm stand about something or other—kind of a Gibraltar stand, he thinks, for unshakable fidelity and everlastingness—and then, inside of a little while, he begins to wobble; no more Gibraltar there; no, sir, a mighty ordinary commonplace weakling wobbling around on stilts. That’s Lord Berkeley to a dot, you can see it—look at that sheep! But,—why are you blushing like sunset! Dear sir, have I unwittingly offended in some way?”

“Oh, no indeed, no indeed. Far from it. But it always makes me blush to hear a man revile his own blood.” He said to himself, “How strangely his vagrant and unguided fancies have hit upon the truth. By accident, he has described me. I am that contemptible thing. When I left England I thought I knew myself; I thought I was a very Frederick the Great for resolution and staying capacity; whereas in truth I am just a Wobbler, simply a Wobbler. Well—after all, it is at least creditable to have high ideals and give birth to lofty resolutions; I will allow myself that comfort.” Then he said, aloud, “Could this sheep, as you call him, breed a great and self-sacrificing idea in his head, do you think? Could he meditate such a thing, for instance, as the renunciation of the earldom and its wealth and its glories, and voluntary retirement to the ranks of the commonalty, there to rise by his own merit or remain forever poor and obscure?”

“Could he? Why, look at him—look at this simpering self-righteous mug! There is your answer. It’s the very thing he would think of. And he would start in to do it, too.”

“And then?”

“He’d wobble.”

“And back down?”

“Every time.”

“Is that to happen with all my—I mean would that happen to all his high resolutions?”

“Oh certainly—certainly. It’s the Rossmore of it.”

“Then this creature was fortunate to die! Suppose, for argument’s sake, that I was a Rossmore, and—”

“It can’t be done.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s not a supposable case. To be a Rossmore at your age, you’d have to be a fool, and you’re not a fool. And you’d have to be a Wobbler, whereas anybody that is an expert in reading character can see at a glance that when you set your foot down once, it’s there to stay; and earthquake can’t wobble it.” He added to himself, “That’s enough to say to him, but it isn’t half strong enough for the facts. The more I observe him, now, the more remarkable I find him. It is the strongest face I have ever examined. There is almost superhuman firmness here, immovable purpose, iron steadfastness of will. A most extraordinary young man.”

He presently said, aloud:

“Some time I want to ask your advice about a little matter, Mr. Tracy. You see, I’ve got that young lord’s remains—my goodness, how you jump!”

“Oh, it’s nothing, pray go on. You’ve got his remains?”

“Yes.”

“Are you sure they are his, and not somebody else’s?”

“Oh, perfectly sure. Samples, I mean. Not all of him.”

“Samples?”

“Yes—in baskets. Some time you will be going home; and if you wouldn’t mind taking them along—”

“Who? I?”

“Yes—certainly. I don’t mean now; but after a while; after—but look here, would you like to see them?”

“No! Most certainly not. I don’t want to see them.”

“O, very well. I only thought—hey, where are you going, dear?”

“Out to dinner, papa.”

Tracy was aghast. The colonel said, in a disappointed voice:

“Well, I’m sorry. Sho, I didn’t know she was going out, Mr. Tracy.”

Gwendolen’s face began to take on a sort of apprehensive ‘What-have-I-done expression.’

“Three old people to one young one—well, it isn’t a good team, that’s a fact.”

Gwendolen’s face betrayed a dawning hopefulness and she said—with a tone of reluctance which hadn’t the hall-mark on it:

“If you prefer, I will send word to the Thompsons that I—”

“Oh, is it the Thompsons? That simplifies it—sets everything right. We can fix it without spoiling your arrangements, my child. You’ve got your heart set on—”

“But papa, I’d just as soon go there some other—”

“No—I won’t have it. You are a good hard-working darling child, and your father is not the man to disappoint you when you—”

“But papa, I—”

“Go along, I won’t hear a word. We’ll get along, dear.”

Gwendolen was ready to cry with vexation. But there was nothing to do but start; which she was about to do when her father hit upon an idea which filled him with delight because it so deftly covered all the difficulties of the situation and made things smooth and satisfactory:

“I’ve got it, my love, so that you won’t be robbed of your holiday and at the same time we’ll be pretty satisfactorily fixed for a good time here. You send Belle Thompson here—perfectly beautiful creature, Tracy, perfectly beautiful; I want you to see that girl; why, you’ll just go mad; you’ll go mad inside of a minute; yes, you send her right along, Gwendolen, and tell her—why, she’s gone!” He turned—she was already passing out at the gate. He muttered, “I wonder what’s the matter; I don’t know what her mouth’s doing, but I think her shoulders are swearing. Well,” said Sellers blithely to Tracy, “I shall miss her—parents always miss the children as soon as they’re out of sight, it’s only a natural and wisely ordained partiality—but you’ll be all right, because Miss Belle will supply the youthful element for you and to your entire content; and we old people will do our best, too. We shall have a good enough time. And you’ll have a chance to get better acquainted with Admiral Hawkins. That’s a rare character, Mr. Tracy—one of the rarest and most engaging characters the world has produced. You’ll find him worth studying. I’ve studied him ever since he was a child and have always found him developing. I really consider that one of the main things that have enabled me to master the difficult science of character-reading was the vivid interest I always felt in that boy and the baffling inscrutabilities of his ways and inspirations.”

Tracy was not hearing a word. His spirits were gone, he was desolate.

“Yes, a most wonderful character. Concealment—that’s the basis of it. Always the first thing you want to do is to find the keystone a man’s character is built on—then you’ve got it. No misleading and apparently inconsistent peculiarities can fool you then. What do you read on the Senator’s surface? Simplicity; a kind of rank and protuberant simplicity; whereas, in fact, that’s one of the deepest minds in the world. A perfectly honest man—an absolutely honest and honorable man—and yet without doubt the profoundest master of dissimulation the world has ever seen.”

“O, it’s devilish!” This was wrung from the unlistening Tracy by the anguished thought of what might have been if only the dinner arrangements hadn’t got mixed.

“No, I shouldn’t call it that,” said Sellers, who was now placidly walking up and down the room with his hands under his coat-tails and listening to himself talk. “One could quite properly call it devilish in another man, but not in the Senator. Your term is right—perfectly right—I grant that—but the application is wrong. It makes a great difference. Yes, he is a marvelous character. I do not suppose that any other statesman ever had such a colossal sense of humor, combined with the ability to totally conceal it. I may except George Washington and Cromwell, and perhaps Robespierre, but I draw the line there. A person not an expert might be in Judge Hawkins’s company a lifetime and never find out he had any more sense of humor than a cemetery.”

A deep-drawn yard-long sigh from the distraught and dreaming artist, followed by a murmured, “Miserable, oh, miserable!”

“Well, no, I shouldn’t say that about it, quite. On the contrary, I admire his ability to conceal his humor even more if possible than I admire the gift itself, stupendous as it is. Another thing—General Hawkins is a thinker; a keen, logical, exhaustive, analytical thinker—perhaps the ablest of modern times. That is, of course, upon themes suited to his size, like the glacial period, and the correlation of forces, and the evolution of the Christian from the caterpillar—any of those things; give him a subject according to his size, and just stand back and watch him think! Why you can see the place rock! Ah, yes, you must know him; you must get on the inside of him. Perhaps the most extraordinary mind since Aristotle.”

Dinner was kept waiting for a while for Miss Thompson, but as Gwendolen had not delivered the invitation to her the waiting did no good, and the household presently went to the meal without her. Poor old Sellers tried everything his hospitable soul could devise to make the occasion an enjoyable one for the guest, and the guest tried his honest best to be cheery and chatty and happy for the old gentleman’s sake; in fact all hands worked hard in the interest of a mutual good time, but the thing was a failure from the start; Tracy’s heart was lead in his bosom, there seemed to be only one prominent feature in the landscape and that was a vacant chair, he couldn’t drag his mind away from Gwendolen and his hard luck; consequently his distractions allowed deadly pauses to slip in every now and then when it was his turn to say something, and of course this disease spread to the rest of the conversation—wherefore, instead of having a breezy sail in sunny waters, as anticipated, everybody was bailing out and praying for land. What could the matter be? Tracy alone could have told, the others couldn’t even invent a theory.

Meanwhile they were having a similarly dismal time at the Thompson house; in fact a twin experience. Gwendolen was ashamed of herself for allowing her disappointment to so depress her spirits and make her so strangely and profoundly miserable; but feeling ashamed of herself didn’t improve the matter any; it only seemed to aggravate the suffering. She explained that she was not feeling very well, and everybody could see that this was true; so she got sincere sympathy and commiseration; but that didn’t help the case. Nothing helps that kind of a case. It is best to just stand off and let it fester. The moment the dinner was over the girl excused herself, and she hurried home feeling unspeakably grateful to get away from that house and that intolerable captivity and suffering.

Will he be gone? The thought arose in her brain, but took effect in her heels. She slipped into the house, threw off her things and made straight for the dining room. She stopped and listened. Her father’s voice—with no life in it; presently her mother’s—no life in that; a considerable vacancy, then a sterile remark from Washington Hawkins. Another silence; then, not Tracy’s but her father’s voice again.

“He’s gone,” she said to herself despairingly, and listlessly opened the door and stepped within.

“Why, my child,” cried the mother, “how white you are! Are you—has anything—”

“White?” exclaimed Sellers. “It’s gone like a flash; ’twasn’t serious. Already she’s as red as the soul of a watermelon! Sit down, dear, sit down—goodness knows you’re welcome. Did you have a good time? We’ve had great times here—immense. Why didn’t Miss Belle come? Mr. Tracy is not feeling well, and she’d have made him forget it.”

She was content now; and out from her happy eyes there went a light that told a secret to another pair of eyes there and got a secret in return. In just that infinitely small fraction of a second those two great confessions were made, received, and perfectly understood. All anxiety, apprehension, uncertainty, vanished out of these young people’s hearts and left them filled with a great peace.

Sellers had had the most confident faith that with the new reinforcement victory would be at this last moment snatched from the jaws of defeat, but it was an error. The talk was as stubbornly disjointed as ever. He was proud of Gwendolen, and liked to show her off, even against Miss Belle Thompson, and here had been a great opportunity, and what had she made of it? He felt a good deal put out. It vexed him to think that this Englishman, with the traveling Briton’s everlasting disposition to generalize whole mountain ranges from single sample-grains of sand, would jump to the conclusion that American girls were as dumb as himself—generalizing the whole tribe from this single sample and she at her poorest, there being nothing at that table to inspire her, give her a start, keep her from going to sleep. He made up his mind that for the honor of the country he would bring these two together again over the social board before long. There would be a different result another time, he judged. He said to himself, with a deep sense of injury, “He’ll put in his diary—they all keep diaries—he’ll put in his diary that she was miraculously uninteresting—dear, dear, but wasn’t she! I never saw the like—and yet looking as beautiful as Satan, too—and couldn’t seem to do anything but paw bread crumbs, and pick flowers to pieces, and look fidgety. And it isn’t any better here in the Hall of Audience. I’ve had enough; I’ll haul down my flag—the others may fight it out if they want to.”

He shook hands all around and went off to do some work which he said was pressing. The idolaters were the width of the room apart; and apparently unconscious of each other’s presence. The distance got shortened a little, now. Very soon the mother withdrew. The distance narrowed again. Tracy stood before a chromo of some Ohio politician which had been retouched and chain-mailed for a crusading Rossmore, and Gwendolen was sitting on the sofa not far from his elbow artificially absorbed in examining a photograph album that hadn’t any photographs in it.

The “Senator” still lingered. He was sorry for the young people; it had been a dull evening for them. In the goodness of his heart he tried to make it pleasant for them now; tried to remove the ill impression necessarily left by the general defeat; tried to be chatty, even tried to be gay. But the responses were sickly, there was no starting any enthusiasm; he would give it up and quit—it was a day specially picked out and consecrated to failures.

But when Gwendolen rose up promptly and smiled a glad smile and said with thankfulness and blessing, “Must you go?” it seemed cruel to desert, and he sat down again.

He was about to begin a remark when—when he didn’t. We have all been there. He didn’t know how he knew his concluding to stay longer had been a mistake, he merely knew it; and knew it for dead certain, too. And so he bade goodnight, and went mooning out, wondering what he could have done that changed the atmosphere that way. As the door closed behind him those two were standing side by side, looking at that door—looking at it in a waiting, second-counting, but deeply grateful kind of way. And the instant it closed they flung their arms about each other’s necks, and there, heart to heart and lip to lip—

“Oh, my God, she’s kissing it!”

Nobody heard this remark, because Hawkins, who bred it, only thought it, he didn’t utter it. He had turned, the moment he had closed the door, and had pushed it open a little, intending to re-enter and ask what ill-advised thing he had done or said, and apologize for it. But he didn’t re-enter; he staggered off stunned, terrified, distressed.

Image
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 30865
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The American Claimant, by Mark Twain

Postby admin » Fri Jun 29, 2018 1:48 am

CHAPTER XXII.

Five minutes later he was sitting in his room, with his head bowed within the circle of his arms, on the table—final attitude of grief and despair. His tears were flowing fast, and now and then a sob broke upon the stillness. Presently he said:

“I knew her when she was a little child and used to climb about my knees; I love her as I love my own, and now—oh, poor thing, poor thing, I cannot bear it!—she’s gone and lost her heart to this mangy materializee! Why didn’t we see that that might happen? But how could we? Nobody could; nobody could ever have dreamed of such a thing. You couldn’t expect a person would fall in love with a wax-work. And this one doesn’t even amount to that.”

He went on grieving to himself, and now and then giving voice to his lamentations.

“It’s done, oh, it’s done, and there’s no help for it, no undoing the miserable business. If I had the nerve, I would kill it. But that wouldn’t do any good. She loves it; she thinks it’s genuine and authentic. If she lost it she would grieve for it just as she would for a real person. And who’s to break it to the family! Not I—I’ll die first. Sellers is the best human being I ever knew and I wouldn’t any more think of—oh, dear, why it’ll break his heart when he finds it out. And Polly’s too. This comes of meddling with such infernal matters! But for this, the creature would still be roasting in Sheol where it belongs. How is it that these people don’t smell the brimstone? Sometimes I can’t come into the same room with him without nearly suffocating.”

After a while he broke out again:

“Well, there’s one thing, sure. The materializing has got to stop right where it is. If she’s got to marry a spectre, let her marry a decent one out of the Middle Ages, like this one—not a cowboy and a thief such as this protoplasmic tadpole’s going to turn into if Sellers keeps on fussing at it. It costs five thousand dollars cash and shuts down on the incorporated company to stop the works at this point, but Sally Sellers’s happiness is worth more than that.”

He heard Sellers coming, and got himself to rights. Sellers took a seat, and said:

“Well, I’ve got to confess I’m a good deal puzzled. It did certainly eat, there’s no getting around it. Not eat, exactly, either, but it nibbled; nibbled in an appetiteless way, but still it nibbled; and that’s just a marvel. Now the question is, what does it do with those nibblings? That’s it—what does it do with them? My idea is that we don’t begin to know all there is to this stupendous discovery yet. But time will show—time and science—give us a chance, and don’t get impatient.”

But he couldn’t get Hawkins interested; couldn’t make him talk to amount to anything; couldn’t drag him out of his depression. But at last he took a turn that arrested Hawkins’s attention.

“I’m coming to like him, Hawkins. He is a person of stupendous character—absolutely gigantic. Under that placid exterior is concealed the most dare-devil spirit that was ever put into a man—he’s just a Clive over again. Yes, I’m all admiration for him, on account of his character, and liking naturally follows admiration, you know. I’m coming to like him immensely. Do you know, I haven’t the heart to degrade such a character as that down to the burglar estate for money or for anything else; and I’ve come to ask if you are willing to let the reward go, and leave this poor fellow—

“Where he is?”

“Yes—not bring him down to date.”

“Oh, there’s my hand; and my heart’s in it, too!”

“I’ll never forget you for this, Hawkins,” said the old gentleman in a voice which he found it hard to control. “You are making a great sacrifice for me, and one which you can ill afford, but I’ll never forget your generosity, and if I live you shall not suffer for it, be sure of that.”

Sally Sellers immediately and vividly realized that she was become a new being; a being of a far higher and worthier sort than she had been such a little while before; an earnest being, in place of a dreamer; and supplied with a reason for her presence in the world, where merely a wistful and troubled curiosity about it had existed before. So great and so comprehensive was the change which had been wrought, that she seemed to herself to be a real person who had lately been a shadow; a something which had lately been a nothing; a purpose, which had lately been a fancy; a finished temple, with the altar-fires lit and the voice of worship ascending, where before had been but an architect’s confusion of arid working plans, unintelligible to the passing eye and prophesying nothing.

“Lady” Gwendolen! The pleasantness of that sound was all gone; it was an offense to her ear now. She said:

“There—that sham belongs to the past; I will not be called by it any more.”

“I may call you simply Gwendolen? You will allow me to drop the formalities straightway and name you by your dear first name without additions?”

She was dethroning the pink and replacing it with a rosebud.

“There—that is better. I hate pinks—some pinks. Indeed yes, you are to call me by my first name without additions—that is,—well, I don’t mean without additions entirely, but—”

It was as far as she could get. There was a pause; his intellect was struggling to comprehend; presently it did manage to catch the idea in time to save embarrassment all around, and he said gratefully—

“Dear Gwendolen! I may say that?”

“Yes—part of it. But—don’t kiss me when I am talking, it makes me forget what I was going to say. You can call me by part of that form, but not the last part. Gwendolen is not my name.”

“Not your name?” This in a tone of wonder and surprise.

The girl’s soul was suddenly invaded by a creepy apprehension, a quite definite sense of suspicion and alarm. She put his arms away from her, looked him searchingly in the eye, and said:

“Answer me truly, on your honor. You are not seeking to marry me on account of my rank?”

The shot almost knocked him through the wall, he was so little prepared for it. There was something so finely grotesque about the question and its parent suspicion, that he stopped to wonder and admire, and thus was he saved from laughing. Then, without wasting precious time, he set about the task of convincing her that he had been lured by herself alone, and had fallen in love with her only, not her title and position; that he loved her with all his heart, and could not love her more if she were a duchess, or less if she were without home, name or family. She watched his face wistfully, eagerly, hopefully, translating his words by its expression; and when he had finished there was gladness in her heart—a tumultuous gladness, indeed, though outwardly she was calm, tranquil, even judicially austere. She prepared a surprise for him, now, calculated to put a heavy strain upon those disinterested protestations of his; and thus she delivered it, burning it away word by word as the fuse burns down to a bombshell, and watching to see how far the explosion would lift him:

“Listen—and do not doubt me, for I shall speak the exact truth. Howard Tracy, I am no more an earl’s child than you are!”

To her joy—and secret surprise, also—it never phased him. He was ready, this time, and saw his chance. He cried out with enthusiasm, “Thank heaven for that!” and gathered her to his arms.

To express her happiness was almost beyond her gift of speech.

“You make me the proudest girl in all the earth,” she said, with her head pillowed on his shoulder. “I thought it only natural that you should be dazzled by the title—maybe even unconsciously, you being English—and that you might be deceiving yourself in thinking you loved only me, and find you didn’t love me when the deception was swept away; so it makes me proud that the revelation stands for nothing and that you do love just me, only me—oh, prouder than any words can tell!”

“It is only you, sweetheart, I never gave one envying glance toward your father’s earldom. That is utterly true, dear Gwendolen.”

“There—you mustn’t call me that. I hate that false name. I told you it wasn’t mine. My name is Sally Sellers—or Sarah, if you like. From this time I banish dreams, visions, imaginings, and will no more of them. I am going to be myself—my genuine self, my honest self, my natural self, clear and clean of sham and folly and fraud, and worthy of you. There is no grain of social inequality between us; I, like you, am poor; I, like you, am without position or distinction; you are a struggling artist, I am that, too, in my humbler way. Our bread is honest bread, we work for our living. Hand in hand we will walk hence to the grave, helping each other in all ways, living for each other, being and remaining one in heart and purpose, one in hope and aspiration, inseparable to the end. And though our place is low, judged by the world’s eye, we will make it as high as the highest in the great essentials of honest work for what we eat and wear, and conduct above reproach. We live in a land, let us be thankful, where this is all-sufficient, and no man is better than his neighbor by the grace of God, but only by his own merit.”

Tracy tried to break in, but she stopped him and kept the floor herself.

“I am not through yet. I am going to purge myself of the last vestiges of artificiality and pretence, and then start fair on your own honest level and be worthy mate to you thenceforth. My father honestly thinks he is an earl. Well, leave him his dream, it pleases him and does no one any harm: It was the dream of his ancestors before him. It has made fools of the house of Sellers for generations, and it made something of a fool of me, but took no deep root. I am done with it now, and for good. Forty-eight hours ago I was privately proud of being the daughter of a pinchbeck earl, and thought the proper mate for me must be a man of like degree; but to-day—oh, how grateful I am for your love which has healed my sick brain and restored my sanity!—I could make oath that no earl’s son in all the world—”

“Oh,—well, but—but—”

“Why, you look like a person in a panic. What is it? What is the matter?”

“Matter? Oh, nothing—nothing. I was only going to say”—but in his flurry nothing occurred to him to say, for a moment; then by a lucky inspiration he thought of something entirely sufficient for the occasion, and brought it out with eloquent force: “Oh, how beautiful you are! You take my breath away when you look like that.”

It was well conceived, well timed, and cordially delivered—and it got its reward.

“Let me see. Where was I? Yes, my father’s earldom is pure moonshine. Look at those dreadful things on the wall. You have of course supposed them to be portraits of his ancestors, earls of Rossmore. Well, they are not. They are chromos of distinguished Americans—all moderns; but he has carried them back a thousand years by re-labeling them. Andrew Jackson there, is doing what he can to be the late American earl; and the newest treasure in the collection is supposed to be the young English heir—I mean the idiot with the crape; but in truth it’s a shoemaker, and not Lord Berkeley at all.”

“Are you sure?”

“Why of course I am. He wouldn’t look like that.”

“Why?”

“Because his conduct in his last moments, when the fire was sweeping around him shows that he was a man. It shows that he was a fine, high-souled young creature.”

Tracy was strongly moved by these compliments, and it seemed to him that the girl’s lovely lips took on a new loveliness when they were delivering them. He said, softly:

“It is a pity he could not know what a gracious impression his behavior was going to leave with the dearest and sweetest stranger in the land of—”

“Oh, I almost loved him! Why, I think of him every day. He is always floating about in my mind.”

Tracy felt that this was a little more than was necessary. He was conscious of the sting of jealousy. He said:

“It is quite right to think of him—at least now and then—that is, at intervals—in perhaps an admiring way—but it seems to me that—”

“Howard Tracy, are you jealous of that dead man?”

He was ashamed—and at the same time not ashamed. He was jealous—and at the same time he was not jealous. In a sense the dead man was himself; in that case compliments and affection lavished upon that corpse went into his own till and were clear profit. But in another sense the dead man was not himself; and in that case all compliments and affection lavished there were wasted, and a sufficient basis for jealousy. A tiff was the result of the dispute between the two. Then they made it up, and were more loving than ever. As an affectionate clincher of the reconciliation, Sally declared that she had now banished Lord Berkeley from her mind; and added, “And in order to make sure that he shall never make trouble between us again, I will teach myself to detest that name and all that have ever borne it or ever shall bear it.”

This inflicted another pang, and Tracy was minded to ask her to modify that a little just on general principles, and as practice in not overdoing a good thing—perhaps he might better leave things as they were and not risk bringing on another tiff. He got away from that particular, and sought less tender ground for conversation.

“I suppose you disapprove wholly of aristocracies and nobilities, now that you have renounced your title and your father’s earldom.”

“Real ones? Oh, dear no—but I’ve thrown aside our sham one for good.”

This answer fell just at the right time and just in the right place, to save the poor unstable young man from changing his political complexion once more. He had been on the point of beginning to totter again, but this prop shored him up and kept him from floundering back into democracy and re-renouncing aristocracy. So he went home glad that he had asked the fortunate question. The girl would accept a little thing like a genuine earldom, she was merely prejudiced against the brummagem article. Yes, he could have his girl and have his earldom, too: that question was a fortunate stroke.

Sally went to bed happy, too; and remained happy, deliriously happy, for nearly two hours; but at last, just as she was sinking into a contented and luxurious unconsciousness, the shady devil who lives and lurks and hides and watches inside of human beings and is always waiting for a chance to do the proprietor a malicious damage, whispered to her soul and said, “That question had a harmless look, but what was back of it?—what was the secret motive of it?—what suggested it?”

The shady devil had knifed her, and could retire, now, and take a rest; the wound would attend to business for him. And it did.

Image

Why should Howard Tracy ask that question? If he was not trying to marry her for the sake of her rank, what should suggest that question to him? Didn’t he plainly look gratified when she said her objections to aristocracy had their limitations? Ah, he is after that earldom, that gilded sham—it isn’t poor me he wants.

So she argued, in anguish and tears. Then she argued the opposite theory, but made a weak, poor business of it, and lost the case. She kept the arguing up, one side and then the other, the rest of the night, and at last fell asleep at dawn; fell in the fire at dawn, one may say; for that kind of sleep resembles fire, and one comes out of it with his brain baked and his physical forces fried out of him.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 30865
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The American Claimant, by Mark Twain

Postby admin » Fri Jun 29, 2018 1:49 am

CHAPTER XXIII.

Tracy wrote his father before he sought his bed. He wrote a letter which he believed would get better treatment than his cablegram received, for it contained what ought to be welcome news; namely, that he had tried equality and working for a living; had made a fight which he could find no reason to be ashamed of, and in the matter of earning a living had proved that he was able to do it; but that on the whole he had arrived at the conclusion that he could not reform the world single-handed, and was willing to retire from the conflict with the fair degree of honor which he had gained, and was also willing to return home and resume his position and be content with it and thankful for it for the future, leaving further experiment of a missionary sort to other young people needing the chastening and quelling persuasions of experience, the only logic sure to convince a diseased imagination and restore it to rugged health. Then he approached the subject of marriage with the daughter of the American Claimant with a good deal of caution and much painstaking art. He said praiseful and appreciative things about the girl, but didn’t dwell upon that detail or make it prominent. The thing which he made prominent was the opportunity now so happily afforded, to reconcile York and Lancaster, graft the warring roses upon one stem, and end forever a crying injustice which had already lasted far too long. One could infer that he had thought this thing all out and chosen this way of making all things fair and right because it was sufficiently fair and considerably wiser than the renunciation-scheme which he had brought with him from England. One could infer that, but he didn’t say it. In fact the more he read his letter over, the more he got to inferring it himself.

When the old earl received that letter, the first part of it filled him with a grim and snarly satisfaction; but the rest of it brought a snort or two out of him that could be translated differently. He wasted no ink in this emergency, either in cablegrams or letters; he promptly took ship for America to look into the matter himself. He had staunchly held his grip all this long time, and given no sign of the hunger at his heart to see his son; hoping for the cure of his insane dream, and resolute that the process should go through all the necessary stages without assuaging telegrams or other nonsense from home, and here was victory at last. Victory, but stupidly marred by this idiotic marriage project. Yes, he would step over and take a hand in this matter himself.

During the first ten days following the mailing of the letter Tracy’s spirits had no idle time; they were always climbing up into the clouds or sliding down into the earth as deep as the law of gravitation reached. He was intensely happy or intensely miserable by turns, according to Miss Sally’s moods. He never could tell when the mood was going to change, and when it changed he couldn’t tell what it was that had changed it. Sometimes she was so in love with him that her love was tropical, torrid, and she could find no language fervent enough for its expression; then suddenly, and without warning or any apparent reason, the weather would change, and the victim would find himself adrift among the icebergs and feeling as lonesome and friendless as the north pole. It sometimes seemed to him that a man might better be dead than exposed to these devastating varieties of climate.

The case was simple. Sally wanted to believe that Tracy’s preference was disinterested; so she was always applying little tests of one sort or another, hoping and expecting that they would bring out evidence which would confirm or fortify her belief. Poor Tracy did not know that these experiments were being made upon him, consequently he walked promptly into all the traps the girl set for him. These traps consisted in apparently casual references to social distinction, aristocratic title and privilege, and such things. Often Tracy responded to these references heedlessly and not much caring what he said provided it kept the talk going and prolonged the seance. He didn’t suspect that the girl was watching his face and listening for his words as one who watches the judge’s face and listens for the words which will restore him to home and friends and freedom or shut him away from the sun and human companionship forever. He didn’t suspect that his careless words were being weighed, and so he often delivered sentence of death when it would have been just as handy and all the same to him to pronounce acquittal. Daily he broke the girl’s heart, nightly he sent her to the rack for sleep. He couldn’t understand it.

Some people would have put this and that together and perceived that the weather never changed until one particular subject was introduced, and that then it always changed. And they would have looked further, and perceived that that subject was always introduced by the one party, never the other. They would have argued, then, that this was done for a purpose. If they could not find out what that purpose was in any simpler or easier way, they would ask.

But Tracy was not deep enough or suspicious enough to think of these things. He noticed only one particular; that the weather was always sunny when a visit began. No matter how much it might cloud up later, it always began with a clear sky. He couldn’t explain this curious fact to himself, he merely knew it to be a fact. The truth of the matter was, that by the time Tracy had been out of Sally’s sight six hours she was so famishing for a sight of him that her doubts and suspicions were all consumed away in the fire of that longing, and so always she came into his presence as surprisingly radiant and joyous as she wasn’t when she went out of it.

In circumstances like these a growing portrait runs a good many risks. The portrait of Sellers, by Tracy, was fighting along, day by day, through this mixed weather, and daily adding to itself ineradicable signs of the checkered life it was leading. It was the happiest portrait, in spots, that was ever seen; but in other spots a damned soul looked out from it; a soul that was suffering all the different kinds of distress there are, from stomach ache to rabies. But Sellers liked it. He said it was just himself all over—a portrait that sweated moods from every pore, and no two moods alike. He said he had as many different kinds of emotions in him as a jug.

It was a kind of a deadly work of art, maybe, but it was a starchy picture for show; for it was life size, full length, and represented the American earl in a peer’s scarlet robe, with the three ermine bars indicative of an earl’s rank, and on the gray head an earl’s coronet, tilted just a wee bit to one side in a most gallus and winsome way. When Sally’s weather was sunny the portrait made Tracy chuckle, but when her weather was overcast it disordered his mind and stopped the circulation of his blood.

Late one night when the sweethearts had been having a flawless visit together, Sally’s interior devil began to work his specialty, and soon the conversation was drifting toward the customary rock. Presently, in the midst of Tracy’s serene flow of talk, he felt a shudder which he knew was not his shudder, but exterior to his breast although immediately against it. After the shudder came sobs; Sally was crying.

“Oh, my darling, what have I done—what have I said? It has happened again! What have I done to wound you?”

She disengaged herself from his arms and gave him a look of deep reproach.

“What have you done? I will tell you what you have done. You have unwittingly revealed—oh, for the twentieth time, though I could not believe it, would not believe it!—that it is not me you love, but that foolish sham, my father’s imitation earldom; and you have broken my heart!”

“Oh, my child, what are you saying! I never dreamed of such a thing.”

“Oh, Howard, Howard, the things you have uttered when you were forgetting to guard your tongue, have betrayed you.”

“Things I have uttered when I was forgetting to guard my tongue? These are hard words. When have I remembered to guard it? Never in one instance. It has no office but to speak the truth. It needs no guarding for that.”

“Howard, I have noted your words and weighed them, when you were not thinking of their significance—and they have told me more than you meant they should.”

“Do you mean to say you have answered the trust I had in you by using it as an ambuscade from which you could set snares for my unsuspecting tongue and be safe from detection while you did it? You have not done this—surely you have not done this thing. Oh, one’s enemy could not do it.”

This was an aspect of the girl’s conduct which she had not clearly perceived before. Was it treachery? Had she abused a trust? The thought crimsoned her cheeks with shame and remorse.

“Oh, forgive me,” she said, “I did not know what I was doing. I have been so tortured—you will forgive me, you must; I have suffered so much, and I am so sorry and so humble; you do forgive me, don’t you?—don’t turn away, don’t refuse me; it is only my love that is at fault, and you know I love you, love you with all my heart; I couldn’t bear to—oh, dear, dear, I am so miserable, and I never meant any harm, and I didn’t see where this insanity was carrying me, and how it was wronging and abusing the dearest heart in all the world to me—and—and—oh, take me in your arms again, I have no other refuge, no other home and hope!”

There was reconciliation again—immediate, perfect, all-embracing—and with it utter happiness. This would have been a good time to adjourn. But no, now that the cloud-breeder was revealed at last; now that it was manifest that all the sour weather had come from this girl’s dread that Tracy was lured by her rank and not herself, he resolved to lay that ghost immediately and permanently by furnishing the best possible proof that he couldn’t have had back of him at any time the suspected motive. So he said:

“Let me whisper a little secret in your ear—a secret which I have kept shut up in my breast all this time. Your rank couldn’t ever have been an enticement. I am son and heir to an English earl!”

The girl stared at him—one, two, three moments, maybe a dozen—then her lips parted:

“You?” she said, and moved away from him, still gazing at him in a kind of blank amazement.

“Why—why, certainly I am. Why do you act like this? What have I done now?”

“What have you done? You have certainly made a most strange statement. You must see that yourself.”

“Well,” with a timid little laugh, “it may be a strange enough statement; but of what consequence is that, if it is true?”

“If it is true. You are already retiring from it.”

“Oh, not for a moment! You should not say that. I have not deserved it. I have spoken the truth; why do you doubt it?”

Her reply was prompt.

“Simply because you didn’t speak it earlier!”

“Oh!” It wasn’t a groan, exactly, but it was an intelligible enough expression of the fact that he saw the point and recognized that there was reason in it.

“You have seemed to conceal nothing from me that I ought to know concerning yourself, and you were not privileged to keep back such a thing as this from me a moment after—after—well, after you had determined to pay your court to me.”

“Its true, it’s true, I know it! But there were circumstances—in—in the way—circumstances which—”

She waved the circumstances aside.

“Well, you see,” he said, pleadingly, “you seemed so bent on our traveling the proud path of honest labor and honorable poverty, that I was terrified—that is, I was afraid—of—of—well, you know how you talked.”

“Yes, I know how I talked. And I also know that before the talk was finished you inquired how I stood as regards aristocracies, and my answer was calculated to relieve your fears.”

He was silent a while. Then he said, in a discouraged way:

“I don’t see any way out of it. It was a mistake. That is in truth all it was, just a mistake. No harm was meant, no harm in the world. I didn’t see how it might some time look. It is my way. I don’t seem to see far.”

The girl was almost disarmed, for a moment. Then she flared up again.

“An Earl’s son! Do earls’ sons go about working in lowly callings for their bread and butter?”

“God knows they don’t! I have wished they did.”

“Do earls’ sons sink their degree in a country like this, and come sober and decent to sue for the hand of a born child of poverty when they can go drunk, profane, and steeped in dishonorable debt and buy the pick and choice of the millionaires’ daughters of America? You an earl’s son! Show me the signs.”

Image

“I thank God I am not able—if those are the signs. But yet I am an earl’s son and heir. It is all I can say. I wish you would believe me, but you will not. I know no way to persuade you.”

She was about to soften again, but his closing remark made her bring her foot down with smart vexation, and she cried out:

“Oh, you drive all patience out of me! Would you have one believe that you haven’t your proofs at hand, and yet are what you say you are? You do not put your hand in your pocket now—for you have nothing there. You make a claim like this, and then venture to travel without credentials. These are simply incredibilities. Don’t you see that, yourself?”

He cast about in his mind for a defence of some kind or other—hesitated a little, and then said, with difficulty and diffidence:

“I will tell you just the truth, foolish as it will seem to you—to anybody, I suppose—but it is the truth. I had an ideal—call it a dream, a folly, if you will—but I wanted to renounce the privileges and unfair advantages enjoyed by the nobility and wrung from the nation by force and fraud, and purge myself of my share of those crimes against right and reason, by thenceforth comrading with the poor and humble on equal terms, earning with my own hands the bread I ate, and rising by my own merit if I rose at all.”

The young girl scanned his face narrowly while he spoke; and there was something about his simplicity of manner and statement which touched her —touched her almost to the danger point; but she set her grip on the yielding spirit and choked it to quiescence; it could not be wise to surrender to compassion or any kind of sentiment, yet; she must ask one or two more questions. Tracy was reading her face; and what he read there lifted his drooping hopes a little.

“An earl’s son to do that! Why, he were a man! A man to love!—oh, more, a man to worship!”

“Why, I—?”

“But he never lived! He is not born, he will not be born. The self-abnegation that could do that—even in utter folly, and hopeless of conveying benefit to any, beyond the mere example—could be mistaken for greatness; why, it would be greatness in this cold age of sordid ideals! A moment—wait—let me finish; I have one question more. Your father is earl of what?”

“Rossmore—and I am Viscount Berkeley!”

The fat was in the fire again. The girl felt so outraged that it was difficult for her to speak.

“How can you venture such a brazen thing! You know that he is dead, and you know that I know it. Oh, to rob the living of name and honors for a selfish and temporary advantage is crime enough, but to rob the defenceless dead—why it is more than crime, it degrades crime!”

“Oh, listen to me—just a word—don’t turn away like that. Don’t go—don’t leave me, so—stay one moment. On my honor—”

“Oh, on your honor!”

“On my honor I am what I say! And I will prove it, and you will believe, I know you will. I will bring you a message—a cablegram—”

“When?”

“To-morrow—next day—”

“Signed ‘Rossmore’?”

“Yes—signed Rossmore.”

“What will that prove?”

“What will it prove? What should it prove?”

“If you force me to say it—possibly the presence of a confederate somewhere.”

This was a hard blow, and staggered him. He said, dejectedly:

“It is true. I did not think of it. Oh, my God, I do not know any way to do; I do everything wrong. You are going?—and you won’t say even good-night—or good-bye? Ah, we have not parted like this before.”

“Oh, I want to run and—no, go, now.” A pause—then she said, “You may bring the message when it comes.”

“Oh, may I? God bless you.”

He was gone; and none too soon; her lips were already quivering, and now she broke down. Through her sobbings her words broke from time to time.

“Oh, he is gone. I have lost him, I shall never see him any more. And he didn’t kiss me good-bye; never even offered to force a kiss from me, and he knowing it was the very, very last, and I expecting he would, and never dreaming he would treat me so after all we have been to each other. Oh, oh, oh, oh, what shall I do, what shall I do! He is a dear, poor, miserable, good-hearted, transparent liar and humbug, but oh, I do love him so—!” After a little she broke into speech again. “How dear he is! and I shall miss him so, I shall miss him so! Why won’t he ever think to forge a message and fetch it?—but no, he never will, he never thinks of anything; he’s so honest and simple it wouldn’t ever occur to him. Oh, what did possess him to think he could succeed as a fraud—and he hasn’t the first requisite except duplicity that I can see. Oh, dear, I’ll go to bed and give it all up. Oh, I wish I had told him to come and tell me whenever he didn’t get any telegram—and now it’s all my own fault if I never see him again. How my eyes must look!”
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 30865
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The American Claimant, by Mark Twain

Postby admin » Fri Jun 29, 2018 1:50 am

CHAPTER XXIV.

Next day, sure enough, the cablegram didn’t come. This was an immense disaster; for Tracy couldn’t go into the presence without that ticket, although it wasn’t going to possess any value as evidence. But if the failure of the cablegram on that first day may be called an immense disaster, where is the dictionary that can turn out a phrase sizeable enough to describe the tenth day’s failure? Of course every day that the cablegram didn’t come made Tracy all of twenty-four hours’ more ashamed of himself than he was the day before, and made Sally fully twenty-four hours more certain than ever that he not only hadn’t any father anywhere, but hadn’t even a confederate—and so it followed that he was a double-dyed humbug and couldn’t be otherwise.

These were hard days for Barrow and the art firm. All these had their hands full, trying to comfort Tracy. Barrow’s task was particularly hard, because he was made a confidant in full, and therefore had to humor Tracy’s delusion that he had a father, and that the father was an earl, and that he was going to send a cablegram. Barrow early gave up the idea of trying to convince Tracy that he hadn’t any father, because this had such a bad effect on the patient, and worked up his temper to such an alarming degree. He had tried, as an experiment, letting Tracy think he had a father; the result was so good that he went further, with proper caution, and tried letting him think his father was an earl; this wrought so well, that he grew bold, and tried letting him think he had two fathers, if he wanted to, but he didn’t want to, so Barrow withdrew one of them and substituted letting him think he was going to get a cablegram—which Barrow judged he wouldn’t, and was right; but Barrow worked the cablegram daily for all it was worth, and it was the one thing that kept Tracy alive; that was Barrow’s opinion.

And these were bitter hard days for poor Sally, and mainly delivered up to private crying. She kept her furniture pretty damp, and so caught cold, and the dampness and the cold and the sorrow together undermined her appetite, and she was a pitiful enough object, poor thing. Her state was bad enough, as per statement of it above quoted; but all the forces of nature and circumstance seemed conspiring to make it worse—and succeeding. For instance, the morning after her dismissal of Tracy, Hawkins and Sellers read in the associated press dispatches that a toy puzzle called Pigs in the Clover, had come into sudden favor within the past few weeks, and that from the Atlantic to the Pacific all the populations of all the States had knocked off work to play with it, and that the business of the country had now come to a standstill by consequence; that judges, lawyers, burglars, parsons, thieves, merchants, mechanics, murderers, women, children, babies—everybody, indeed, could be seen from morning till midnight, absorbed in one deep project and purpose, and only one—to pen those pigs, work out that puzzle successfully; that all gayety, all cheerfulness had departed from the nation, and in its place care, preoccupation and anxiety sat upon every countenance, and all faces were drawn, distressed, and furrowed with the signs of age and trouble, and marked with the still sadder signs of mental decay and incipient madness; that factories were at work night and day in eight cities, and yet to supply the demand for the puzzle was thus far impossible. Hawkins was wild with joy, but Sellers was calm. Small matters could not disturb his serenity. He said—

“That’s just the way things go. A man invents a thing which could revolutionize the arts, produce mountains of money, and bless the earth, and who will bother with it or show any interest in it?—and so you are just as poor as you were before. But you invent some worthless thing to amuse yourself with, and would throw it away if let alone, and all of a sudden the whole world makes a snatch for it and out crops a fortune. Hunt up that Yankee and collect, Hawkins—half is yours, you know. Leave me to potter at my lecture.”

This was a temperance lecture. Sellers was head chief in the Temperance camp, and had lectured, now and then in that interest, but had been dissatisfied with his efforts; wherefore he was now about to try a new plan. After much thought he had concluded that a main reason why his lectures lacked fire or something, was that they were too transparently amateurish; that is to say, it was probably too plainly perceptible that the lecturer was trying to tell people about the horrid effects of liquor when he didn’t really know anything about those effects except from hearsay, since he had hardly ever tasted an intoxicant in his life. His scheme, now, was to prepare himself to speak from bitter experience. Hawkins was to stand by with the bottle, calculate the doses, watch the effects, make notes of results, and otherwise assist in the preparation. Time was short, for the ladies would be along about noon—that is to say, the temperance organization called the Daughters of Siloam—and Sellers must be ready to head the procession.

The time kept slipping along—Hawkins did not return—Sellers could not venture to wait longer; so he attacked the bottle himself, and proceeded to note the effects. Hawkins got back at last; took one comprehensive glance at the lecturer, and went down and headed off the procession. The ladies were grieved to hear that the champion had been taken suddenly ill and violently so, but glad to hear that it was hoped he would be out again in a few days.

As it turned out, the old gentleman didn’t turn over or show any signs of life worth speaking of for twenty-four hours. Then he asked after the procession, and learned what had happened about it. He was sorry; said he had been “fixed” for it. He remained abed several days, and his wife and daughter took turns in sitting with him and ministering to his wants. Often he patted Sally’s head and tried to comfort her.

“Don’t cry, my child, don’t cry so; you know your old father did it by mistake and didn’t mean a bit of harm; you know he wouldn’t intentionally do anything to make you ashamed for the world; you know he was trying to do good and only made the mistake through ignorance, not knowing the right doses and Washington not there to help. Don’t cry so, dear, it breaks my old heart to see you, and think I’ve brought this humiliation on you and you so dear to me and so good. I won’t ever do it again, indeed I won’t; now be comforted, honey, that’s a good child.”

But when she wasn’t on duty at the bedside the crying went on just the same; then the mother would try to comfort her, and say:

“Don’t cry, dear, he never meant any harm; it was all one of those happens that you can’t guard against when you are trying experiments, that way. You see I don’t cry. It’s because I know him so well. I could never look anybody in the face again if he had got into such an amazing condition as that a-purpose; but bless you his intention was pure and high, and that makes the act pure, though it was higher than was necessary. We’re not humiliated, dear, he did it under a noble impulse and we don’t need to be ashamed. There, don’t cry any more, honey.”

Thus, the old gentleman was useful to Sally, during several days, as an explanation of her tearfulness. She felt thankful to him for the shelter he was affording her, but often said to herself, “It’s a shame to let him see in my crying a reproach—as if he could ever do anything that could make me reproach him! But I can’t confess; I’ve got to go on using him for a pretext, he’s the only one I’ve got in the world, and I do need one so much.”

As soon as Sellers was out again, and found that stacks of money had been placed in bank for him and Hawkins by the Yankee, he said, “Now we’ll soon see who’s the Claimant and who’s the Authentic. I’ll just go over there and warm up that House of Lords.” During the next few days he and his wife were so busy with preparations for the voyage that Sally had all the privacy she needed, and all the chance to cry that was good for her. Then the old pair left for New York—and England.

Sally had also had a chance to do another thing. That was, to make up her mind that life was not worth living upon the present terms. If she must give up her impostor and die, doubtless she must submit; but might she not lay her whole case before some disinterested person, first, and see if there wasn’t perhaps some saving way out of the matter? She turned this idea over in her mind a good deal. In her first visit with Hawkins after her parents were gone, the talk fell upon Tracy, and she was impelled to set her case before the statesman and take his counsel. So she poured out her heart, and he listened with painful solicitude. She concluded, pleadingly, with—

“Don’t tell me he is an impostor. I suppose he is, but doesn’t it look to you as if he isn’t? You are cool, you know, and outside; and so, maybe it can look to you as if he isn’t one, when it can’t to me. Doesn’t it look to you as if he isn’t? Couldn’t you—can’t it look to you that way—for—for my sake?”

The poor man was troubled, but he felt obliged to keep in the neighborhood of the truth. He fought around the present detail a little while, then gave it up and said he couldn’t really see his way to clearing Tracy.

“No,” he said, “the truth is, he’s an impostor.”

“That is, you—you feel a little certain, but not entirely—oh, not entirely, Mr. Hawkins!”

“It’s a pity to have to say it—I do hate to say it, but I don’t think anything about it, I know he’s an impostor.”

“Oh, now, Mr. Hawkins, you can’t go that far. A body can’t really know it, you know. It isn’t proved that he’s not what he says he is.”

Should he come out and make a clean breast of the whole wretched business? Yes—at least the most of it—it ought to be done. So he set his teeth and went at the matter with determination, but purposing to spare the girl one pain—that of knowing that Tracy was a criminal.

“Now I am going to tell you a plain tale; one not pleasant for me to tell or for you to hear, but we’ve got to stand it. I know all about that fellow; and I know he is no earl’s son.”

The girl’s eyes flashed, and she said:

“I don’t care a snap for that—go on!”

This was so wholly unexpected that it at once obstructed the narrative; Hawkins was not even sure that he had heard aright. He said:

“I don’t know that I quite understand. Do you mean to say that if he was all right and proper otherwise you’d be indifferent about the earl part of the business?”

“Absolutely.”

“You’d be entirely satisfied with him and wouldn’t care for his not being an earl’s son,—that being an earl’s son wouldn’t add any value to him?”

“Not the least value that I would care for. Why, Mr. Hawkins, I’ve gotten over all that day-dreaming about earldoms and aristocracies and all such nonsense and am become just a plain ordinary nobody and content with it; and it is to him I owe my cure. And as to anything being able to add a value to him, nothing can do that. He is the whole world to me, just as he is; he comprehends all the values there are—then how can you add one?”

“She’s pretty far gone.” He said that to himself. He continued, still to himself, “I must change my plan again; I can’t seem to strike one that will stand the requirements of this most variegated emergency five minutes on a stretch. Without making this fellow a criminal, I believe I will invent a name and a character for him calculated to disenchant her. If it fails to do it, then I’ll know that the next rightest thing to do will be to help her to her fate, poor thing, not hinder her.” Then he said aloud:

“Well, Gwendolen—”

“I want to be called Sally.”

“I’m glad of it; I like it better, myself. Well, then, I’ll tell you about this man Snodgrass.”

“Snodgrass! Is that his name?”

“Yes—Snodgrass. The other’s his nom de plume.”

“It’s hideous!”

“I know it is, but we can’t help our names.”

“And that is truly his real name—and not Howard Tracy?”

Hawkins answered, regretfully:

“Yes, it seems a pity.”

The girl sampled the name musingly, once or twice—

“Snodgrass. Snodgrass. No, I could not endure that. I could not get used to it. No, I should call him by his first name. What is his first name?”

“His—er—his initials are S. M.”

“His initials? I don’t care anything about his initials. I can’t call him by his initials. What do they stand for?”

“Well, you see, his father was a physician, and he—he—well he was an idolater of his profession, and he—well, he was a very eccentric man, and—”

“What do they stand for! What are you shuffling about?”

“They—well they stand for Spinal Meningitis. His father being a phy—”

“I never heard such an infamous name! Nobody can ever call a person that—a person they love. I wouldn’t call an enemy by such a name. It sounds like an epithet.” After a moment, she added with a kind of consternation, “Why, it would be my name! Letters would come with it on.”

“Yes—Mrs. Spinal Meningitis Snodgrass.”

“Don’t repeat it—don’t; I can’t bear it. Was the father a lunatic?”

“No, that is not charged.”

“I am glad of that, because that is transmissible. What do you think was the matter with him, then?”

“Well, I don’t really know. The family used to run a good deal to idiots, and so, maybe—”

“Oh, there isn’t any maybe about it. This one was an idiot.”

“Well, yes—he could have been. He was suspected.”

“Suspected!” said Sally, with irritation. “Would one suspect there was going to be a dark time if he saw the constellations fall out of the sky? But that is enough about the idiot, I don’t take any interest in idiots; tell me about the son.”

“Very well, then, this one was the eldest, but not the favorite. His brother, Zylobalsamum—”

“Wait—give me a chance to realize that. It is perfectly stupefying. Zylo—what did you call it?”

“Zylobalsamum.”

“I never heard such a name: It sounds like a disease. Is it a disease?”

“No, I don’t think it’s a disease. It’s either Scriptural or—”

“Well, it’s not Scriptural.”

“Then it’s anatomical. I knew it was one or the other. Yes, I remember, now, it is anatomical. It’s a ganglion—a nerve centre—it is what is called the zylobalsamum process.”

“Well, go on; and if you come to any more of them, omit the names; they make one feel so uncomfortable.”

“Very well, then. As I said, this one was not a favorite in the family, and so he was neglected in every way, never sent to school, always allowed to associate with the worst and coarsest characters, and so of course he has grown up a rude, vulgar, ignorant, dissipated ruffian, and—”

“He? It’s no such thing! You ought to be more generous than to make such a statement as that about a poor young stranger who—who—why, he is the very opposite of that! He is considerate, courteous, obliging, modest, gentle, refined, cultivated-oh, for shame! how can you say such things about him?”

“I don’t blame you, Sally—indeed I haven’t a word of blame for you for being blinded by—your affection—blinded to these minor defects which are so manifest to others who—”

“Minor defects? Do you call these minor defects? What are murder and arson, pray?”

“It is a difficult question to answer straight off—and of course estimates of such things vary with environment. With us, out our way, they would not necessarily attract as much attention as with you, yet they are often regarded with disapproval—”

“Murder and arson are regarded with disapproval?”

“Oh, frequently.”

“With disapproval. Who are those Puritans you are talking about? But wait—how did you come to know so much about this family? Where did you get all this hearsay evidence?”

“Sally, it isn’t hearsay evidence. That is the serious part of it. I knew that family—personally.”

This was a surprise.

“You? You actually knew them?”

“Knew Zylo, as we used to call him, and knew his father, Dr. Snodgrass. I didn’t know your own Snodgrass, but have had glimpses of him from time to time, and I heard about him all the time. He was the common talk, you see, on account of his—”

“On account of his not being a house-burner or an assassin, I suppose. That would have made him commonplace. Where did you know these people?”

“In Cherokee Strip.”

“Oh, how preposterous! There are not enough people in Cherokee Strip to give anybody a reputation, good or bad. There isn’t a quorum. Why the whole population consists of a couple of wagon loads of horse thieves.”

Hawkins answered placidly—

“Our friend was one of those wagon loads.”

Sally’s eyes burned and her breath came quick and fast, but she kept a fairly good grip on her anger and did not let it get the advantage of her tongue. The statesman sat still and waited for developments. He was content with his work. It was as handsome a piece of diplomatic art as he had ever turned out, he thought; and now, let the girl make her own choice. He judged she would let her spectre go; he hadn’t a doubt of it in fact; but anyway, let the choice be made, and he was ready to ratify it and offer no further hindrance.

Meantime Sally had thought her case out and made up her mind. To the major’s disappointment the verdict was against him. Sally said:

“He has no friend but me, and I will not desert him now. I will not marry him if his moral character is bad; but if he can prove that it isn’t, I will—and he shall have the chance. To me he seems utterly good and dear; I’ve never seen anything about him that looked otherwise—except, of course, his calling himself an earl’s son. Maybe that is only vanity, and no real harm, when you get to the bottom of it. I do not believe he is any such person as you have painted him. I want to see him. I want you to find him and send him to me. I will implore him to be honest with me, and tell me the whole truth, and not be afraid.”

“Very well; if that is your decision I will do it. But Sally, you know, he’s poor, and—”

“Oh, I don’t care anything about that. That’s neither here nor there. Will you bring him to me?”

“I’ll do it. When?—”

“Oh, dear, it’s getting toward dark, now, and so you’ll have to put it off till morning. But you will find him in the morning, won’t you? Promise.”

“I’ll have him here by daylight.”

“Oh, now you’re your own old self again—and lovelier than ever!”

“I couldn’t ask fairer than that. Good-bye, dear.”

Sally mused a moment alone, then said earnestly, “I love him in spite of his name!” and went about her affairs with a light heart.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 30865
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The American Claimant, by Mark Twain

Postby admin » Fri Jun 29, 2018 1:51 am

CHAPTER XXV.

Hawkins went straight to the telegraph office and disburdened his conscience. He said to himself, “She’s not going to give this galvanized cadaver up, that’s plain. Wild horses can’t pull her away from him. I’ve done my share; it’s for Sellers to take an innings, now.” So he sent this message to New York:

“Come back. Hire special train. She’s going to marry the materializee.”

Meantime a note came to Rossmore Towers to say that the Earl of Rossmore had just arrived from England, and would do himself the pleasure of calling in the evening. Sally said to herself, “It is a pity he didn’t stop in New York; but it’s no matter; he can go up to-morrow and see my father. He has come over here to tomahawk papa, very likely—or buy out his claim. This thing would have excited me, a while back; but it has only one interest for me now, and only one value. I can say to—to—Spine, Spiny, Spinal—I don’t like any form of that name!—I can say to him to-morrow, ‘Don’t try to keep it up any more, or I shall have to tell you whom I have been talking with last night, and then you will be embarrassed.’”

Tracy couldn’t know he was to be invited for the morrow, or he might have waited. As it was, he was too miserable to wait any longer; for his last hope—a letter—had failed him. It was fully due to-day; it had not come. Had his father really flung him away? It looked so. It was not like his father, but it surely looked so. His father was a rather tough nut, in truth, but had never been so with his son—still, this implacable silence had a calamitous look. Anyway, Tracy would go to the Towers and —then what? He didn’t know; his head was tired out with thinking—he wouldn’t think about what he must do or say—let it all take care of itself. So that he saw Sally once more, he would be satisfied, happen what might; he wouldn’t care.

He hardly knew how he got to the Towers, or when. He knew and cared for only one thing—he was alone with Sally. She was kind, she was gentle, there was moisture in her eyes, and a yearning something in her face and manner which she could not wholly hide—but she kept her distance. They talked. Bye and bye she said—watching his downcast countenance out of the corner of her eye—

“It’s so lonesome—with papa and mamma gone. I try to read, but I can’t seem to get interested in any book. I try the newspapers, but they do put such rubbish in them. You take up a paper and start to read something you thinks interesting, and it goes on and on and on about how somebody—well, Dr. Snodgrass, for instance—”

Not a movement from Tracy, not the quiver of a muscle. Sally was amazed —what command of himself he must have! Being disconcerted, she paused so long that Tracy presently looked up wearily and said:

“Well?”

“Oh, I thought you were not listening. Yes, it goes on and on about this Doctor Snodgrass, till you are so tired, and then about his younger son—the favorite son—Zylobalsamum Snodgrass—”

Not a sign from Tracy, whose head was drooping again. What supernatural self-possession! Sally fixed her eye on him and began again, resolved to blast him out of his serenity this time if she knew how to apply the dynamite that is concealed in certain forms of words when those words are properly loaded with unexpected meanings.

“And next it goes on and on and on about the eldest son—not the favorite, this one—and how he is neglected in his poor barren boyhood, and allowed to grow up unschooled, ignorant, coarse, vulgar, the comrade of the community’s scum, and become in his completed manhood a rude, profane, dissipated ruffian—”

That head still drooped! Sally rose, moved softly and solemnly a step or two, and stood before Tracy—his head came slowly up, his meek eyes met her intense ones—then she finished with deep impressiveness—

“—named Spinal Meningitis Snodgrass!”

Tracy merely exhibited signs of increased fatigue. The girl was outraged by this iron indifference and callousness, and cried out—

“What are you made of?”

“I? Why?”

“Haven’t you any sensitiveness? Don’t these things touch any poor remnant of delicate feeling in you?”

“N—no,” he said wonderingly, “they don’t seem to. Why should they?”

“O, dear me, how can you look so innocent, and foolish, and good, and empty, and gentle, and all that, right in the hearing of such things as those! Look me in the eye—straight in the eye. There, now then, answer me without a flinch. Isn’t Doctor Snodgrass your father, and isn’t Zylobalsamum your brother,” [here Hawkins was about to enter the room, but changed his mind upon hearing these words, and elected for a walk down town, and so glided swiftly away], “and isn’t your name Spinal Meningitis, and isn’t your father a doctor and an idiot, like all the family for generations, and doesn’t he name all his children after poisons and pestilences and abnormal anatomical eccentricities of the human body? Answer me, some way or somehow—and quick. Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it and see me going mad before your face with suspense!”

“Oh, I wish I could do—do—I wish I could do something, anything that would give you peace again and make you happy; but I know of nothing—I know of no way. I have never heard of these awful people before.”

“What? Say it again!”

“I have never—never in my life till now.”

“Oh, you do look so honest when you say that! It must be true—surely you couldn’t look that way, you wouldn’t look that way if it were not true—would you?”

“I couldn’t and wouldn’t. It is true. Oh, let us end this suffering—take me back into your heart and confidence—”

“Wait—one more thing. Tell me you told that falsehood out of mere vanity and are sorry for it; that you’re not expecting to ever wear the coronet of an earl—”

“Truly I am cured—cured this very day—I am not expecting it!”

“O, now you are mine! I’ve got you back in the beauty and glory of your unsmirched poverty and your honorable obscurity, and nobody shall ever take you from me again but the grave! And if—”

“De earl of Rossmore, fum Englan’!”

“My father!” The young man released the girl and hung his head.

Image

The old gentleman stood surveying the couple—the one with a strongly complimentary right eye, the other with a mixed expression done with the left. This is difficult, and not often resorted to. Presently his face relaxed into a kind of constructive gentleness, and he said to his son:

“Don’t you think you could embrace me, too?”

The young man did it with alacrity. “Then you are the son of an earl, after all,” said Sally, reproachfully.

“Yes, I—”

“Then I won’t have you!”

“O, but you know—”

“No, I will not. You’ve told me another fib.”

“She’s right. Go away and leave us. I want to talk with her.”

Berkeley was obliged to go. But he did not go far. He remained on the premises. At midnight the conference between the old gentleman and the young girl was still going blithely on, but it presently drew to a close, and the former said:

“I came all the way over here to inspect you, my dear, with the general idea of breaking off this match if there were two fools of you, but as there’s only one, you can have him if you’ll take him.”

“Indeed I will, then! May I kiss you?”

“You may. Thank you. Now you shall have that privilege whenever you are good.”

Meantime Hawkins had long ago returned and slipped up into the laboratory. He was rather disconcerted to find his late invention, Snodgrass, there. The news was told him that the English Rossmore was come.

—“And I’m his son, Viscount Berkeley, not Howard Tracy any more.”

Hawkins was aghast. He said:

“Good gracious, then you’re dead!”

“Dead?”

“Yes you are—we’ve got your ashes.”

“Hang those ashes, I’m tired of them; I’ll give them to my father.”

Slowly and painfully the statesman worked the truth into his head that this was really a flesh and blood young man, and not the insubstantial resurrection he and Sellers had so long supposed him to be. Then he said with feeling—

“I’m so glad; so glad on Sally’s account, poor thing. We took you for a departed materialized bank thief from Tahlequah. This will be a heavy blow to Sellers.” Then he explained the whole matter to Berkeley, who said:

“Well, the Claimant must manage to stand the blow, severe as it is. But he’ll get over the disappointment.”

“Who—the colonel? He’ll get over it the minute he invents a new miracle to take its place. And he’s already at it by this time. But look here—what do you suppose became of the man you’ve been representing all this time?”

“I don’t know. I saved his clothes—it was all I could do. I am afraid he lost his life.”

“Well, you must have found twenty or thirty thousand dollars in those clothes, in money or certificates of deposit.”

“No, I found only five hundred and a trifle. I borrowed the trifle and banked the five hundred.”

“What’ll we do about it?”

“Return it to the owner.”

“It’s easy said, but not easy to manage. Let’s leave it alone till we get Sellers’s advice. And that reminds me. I’ve got to run and meet Sellers and explain who you are not and who you are, or he’ll come thundering in here to stop his daughter from marrying a phantom. But—suppose your father came over here to break off the match?”

“Well, isn’t he down stairs getting acquainted with Sally? That’s all safe.”

So Hawkins departed to meet and prepare the Sellerses.

Rossmore Towers saw great times and late hours during the succeeding week. The two earls were such opposites in nature that they fraternized at once. Sellers said privately that Rossmore was the most extraordinary character he had ever met—a man just made out of the condensed milk of human kindness, yet with the ability to totally hide the fact from any but the most practised character-reader; a man whose whole being was sweetness, patience and charity, yet with a cunning so profound, an ability so marvelous in the acting of a double part, that many a person of considerable intelligence might live with him for centuries and never suspect the presence in him of these characteristics.

Finally there was a quiet wedding at the Towers, instead of a big one at the British embassy, with the militia and the fire brigades and the temperance organizations on hand in torchlight procession, as at first proposed by one of the earls. The art-firm and Barrow were present at the wedding, and the tinner and Puss had been invited, but the tinner was ill and Puss was nursing him—for they were engaged.

Image

The Sellerses were to go to England with their new allies for a brief visit, but when it was time to take the train from Washington, the colonel was missing.

Hawkins was going as far as New York with the party, and said he would explain the matter on the road.

The explanation was in a letter left by the colonel in Hawkins’s hands. In it he promised to join Mrs. Sellers later, in England, and then went on to say:

The truth is, my dear Hawkins, a mighty idea has been born to me within the hour, and I must not even stop to say goodbye to my dear ones. A man’s highest duty takes precedence of all minor ones, and must be attended to with his best promptness and energy, at whatsoever cost to his affections or his convenience. And first of all a man’s duties is his duty to his own honor—he must keep that spotless. Mine is threatened. When I was feeling sure of my imminent future solidity, I forwarded to the Czar of Russia—perhaps prematurely—an offer for the purchase of Siberia, naming a vast sum. Since then an episode has warned me that the method by which I was expecting to acquire this money—materialization upon a scale of limitless magnitude—is marred by a taint of temporary uncertainty. His imperial majesty may accept my offer at any moment. If this should occur now, I should find myself painfully embarrassed, in fact financially inadequate. I could not take Siberia. This would become known, and my credit would suffer.

Recently my private hours have been dark indeed, but the sun shines again now; I see my way; I shall be able to meet my obligation, and without having to ask an extension of the stipulated time, I think. This grand new idea of mine—the sublimest I have ever conceived, will save me whole, I am sure. I am leaving for San Francisco this moment, to test it, by the help of the great Lick telescope. Like all of my more notable discoveries and inventions, it is based upon hard, practical scientific laws; all other bases are unsound and hence untrustworthy. In brief, then, I have conceived the stupendous idea of reorganizing the climates of the earth according to the desire of the populations interested. That is to say, I will furnish climates to order, for cash or negotiable paper, taking the old climates in part payment, of course, at a fair discount, where they are in condition to be repaired at small cost and let out for hire to poor and remote communities not able to afford a good climate and not caring for an expensive one for mere display. My studies have convinced me that the regulation of climates and the breeding of new varieties at will from the old stock is a feasible thing. Indeed I am convinced that it has been done before; done in prehistoric times by now forgotten and unrecorded civilizations. Everywhere I find hoary evidences of artificial manipulation of climates in bygone times. Take the glacial period. Was that produced by accident? Not at all; it was done for money. I have a thousand proofs of it, and will some day reveal them.

I will confide to you an outline of my idea. It is to utilize the spots on the sun—get control of them, you understand, and apply the stupendous energies which they wield to beneficent purposes in the reorganizing of our climates. At present they merely make trouble and do harm in the evoking of cyclones and other kinds of electric storms; but once under humane and intelligent control this will cease and they will become a boon to man.

I have my plan all mapped out, whereby I hope and expect to acquire complete and perfect control of the sun-spots, also details of the method whereby I shall employ the same commercially; but I will not venture to go into particulars before the patents shall have been issued. I shall hope and expect to sell shop-rights to the minor countries at a reasonable figure and supply a good business article of climate to the great empires at special rates, together with fancy brands for coronations, battles and other great and particular occasions. There are billions of money in this enterprise, no expensive plant is required, and I shall begin to realize in a few days—in a few weeks at furthest. I shall stand ready to pay cash for Siberia the moment it is delivered, and thus save my honor and my credit. I am confident of this.

I would like you to provide a proper outfit and start north as soon as I telegraph you, be it night or be it day. I wish you to take up all the country stretching away from the north pole on all sides for many degrees south, and buy Greenland and Iceland at the best figure you can get now while they are cheap. It is my intention to move one of the tropics up there and transfer the frigid zone to the equator. I will have the entire Arctic Circle in the market as a summer resort next year, and will use the surplusage of the old climate, over and above what can be utilized on the equator, to reduce the temperature of opposition resorts. But I have said enough to give you an idea of the prodigious nature of my scheme and the feasible and enormously profitable character of it. I shall join all you happy people in England as soon as I shall have sold out some of my principal climates and arranged with the Czar about Siberia.

Meantime, watch for a sign from me. Eight days from now, we shall be wide asunder; for I shall be on the border of the Pacific, and you far out on the Atlantic, approaching England. That day, if I am alive and my sublime discovery is proved and established, I will send you greeting, and my messenger shall deliver it where you are, in the solitudes of the sea; for I will waft a vast sun-spot across the disk like drifting smoke, and you will know it for my love-sign, and will say “Mulberry Sellers throws us a kiss across the universe.”
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 30865
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The American Claimant, by Mark Twain

Postby admin » Fri Jun 29, 2018 1:51 am

APPENDIX. WEATHER FOR USE IN THIS BOOK.

Selected from the Best Authorities.

A brief though violent thunderstorm which had raged over the city was passing away; but still, though the rain had ceased more than an hour before, wild piles of dark and coppery clouds, in which a fierce and rayless glow was laboring, gigantically overhung the grotesque and huddled vista of dwarf houses, while in the distance, sheeting high over the low, misty confusion of gables and chimneys, spread a pall of dead, leprous blue, suffused with blotches of dull, glistening yellow, and with black plague-spots of vapor floating and faint lightnings crinkling on its surface. Thunder, still muttering in the close and sultry air, kept the scared dwellers in the street within, behind their closed shutters; and all deserted, cowed, dejected, squalid, like poor, stupid, top-heavy things that had felt the wrath of the summer tempest, stood the drenched structures on either side of the narrow and crooked way, ghastly and picturesque, under the giant canopy. Rain dripped wretchedly in slow drops of melancholy sound from their projecting eaves upon the broken flagging, lay there in pools or trickled into the swollen drains, where the fallen torrent sullenly gurgled on its way to the river. “The Brazen Android.”—W. D. O’Connor.

The fiery mid-March sun a moment hung
Above the bleak Judean wilderness;
Then darkness swept upon us, and ’t was night.

“Easter-Eve at Kerak-Moab."

—Clinton Scollard.


The quick-coming winter twilight was already at hand. Snow was again falling, sifting delicately down, incidentally as it were. “Felicia.” —Fanny N. D. Murfree.

Merciful heavens! The whole west, from right to left, blazes up with a fierce light, and next instant the earth reels and quivers with the awful shock of ten thousand batteries of artillery. It is the signal for the Fury to spring—for a thousand demons to scream and shriek—for innumerable serpents of fire to writhe and light up the blackness.

Now the rain falls—now the wind is let loose with a terrible shriek—now the lightning is so constant that the eyes burn, and the thunder-claps merge into an awful roar, as did the 800 cannon at Gettysburg. Crash! Crash! Crash! It is the cottonwood trees falling to earth. Shriek! Shriek! Shriek! It is the Demon racing along the plain and uprooting even the blades of grass. Shock! Shock! Shock! It is the Fury flinging his fiery bolts into the bosom of the earth.—
“The Demon and the Fury.” —M. Quad.

Away up the gorge all diurnal fancies trooped into the wide liberties of endless luminous vistas of azure sunlit mountains beneath the shining azure heavens. The sky, looking down in deep blue placidities, only here and there smote the water to azure emulations of its tint.—
“In the People’s Country.”—Charles Egbert Craddock.

There was every indication of a dust-storm, though the sun still shone brilliantly. The hot wind had become wild and rampant. It was whipping up the sandy coating of the plain in every direction. High in the air were seen whirling spires and cones of sand—a curious effect against the deep-blue sky. Below, puffs of sand were breaking out of the plain in every direction, as though the plain were alive with invisible horsemen. These sandy cloudlets were instantly dissipated by the wind; it was the larger clouds that were lifted whole into the air, and the larger clouds of sand were becoming more and more the rule.

Alfred’s eye, quickly scanning the horizon, descried the roof of the boundary-rider’s hut still gleaming in the sunlight. He remembered the hut well. It could not be farther than four miles, if as much as that, from this point of the track. He also knew these dust-storms of old; Bindarra was notorious for them: Without thinking twice, Alfred put spurs to his horse and headed for the hut. Before he had ridden half the distance the detached clouds of sand banded together in one dense whirlwind, and it was only owing to his horse’s instinct that he did not ride wide of the hut altogether; for during the last half-mile he never saw the hut, until its outline loomed suddenly over his horse’s ears; and by then the sun was invisible.—“A Bride from the Bush.”

It rained forty days and forty nights.—Genesis.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 30865
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Previous

Return to Fiction

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests