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´╗┐Title: Sketches New and Old, Part 6.
Author: Twain, Mark, 1835-1910
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Sketches New and Old, Part 6." ***

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by Mark Twain

Part 6.


"Now that corpse," said the undertaker, patting the folded hands of
deceased approvingly, was a brick-every way you took him he was a brick.
He was so real accommodating, and so modest-like and simple in his last
moments.  Friends wanted metallic burial-case--nothing else would do.
I couldn't get it.  There warn't going to be time--anybody could see

"Corpse said never mind, shake him up some kind of a box he could stretch
out in comfortable, he warn't particular 'bout the general style of it.
Said he went more on room than style, anyway in a last final container.

"Friends wanted a silver door-plate on the coffin, signifying who he was
and wher' he was from.  Now you know a fellow couldn't roust out such a
gaily thing as that in a little country-town like this.  What did corpse

"Corpse said, whitewash his old canoe and dob his address and general
destination onto it with a blacking-brush and a stencil-plate, 'long with
a verse from some likely hymn or other, and pint him for the tomb, and
mark him C. O. D., and just let him flicker.  He warn't distressed any
more than you be--on the contrary, just as ca,'m and collected as a
hearse-horse; said he judged that wher' he was going to a body would find
it considerable better to attract attention by a picturesque moral
character than a natty burial-case with a swell door-plate on it.

"Splendid man, he was.  I'd druther do for a corpse like that 'n any I've
tackled in seven year.  There's some satisfaction in buryin' a man like
that.  You feel that what you're doing is appreciated.  Lord bless you,
so's he got planted before he sp'iled, he was perfectly satisfied; said
his relations meant well, perfectly well, but all them preparations was
bound to delay the thing more or less, and he didn't wish to be kept
layin' around.  You never see such a clear head as what he had--and so
ca,'m and so cool.  Jist a hunk of brains--that is what he was.
Perfectly awful.  It was a ripping distance from one end of that man's
head to t'other.  Often and over again he's had brain-fever a-raging in
one place, and the rest of the pile didn't know anything about it--didn't
affect it any more than an Injun Insurrection in Arizona affects the
Atlantic States.

"Well, the relations they wanted a big funeral, but corpse said he was
down on flummery--didn,'t want any procession--fill the hearse full of
mourners, and get out a stern line and tow him behind. He was the most
down on style of any remains I ever struck.  A beautiful, simpleminded
creature it was what he was, you can depend on that.  He was just set on
having things the way he wanted them, and he took a solid comfort in
laying his little plans.  He had me measure him and take a whole raft of
directions; then he had the minister stand up behind along box with a
table--cloth over it, to represent the coffin, and read his funeral
sermon, saying 'Angcore, angcore!' at the good places, and making him
scratch out every bit of brag about him, and all the hifalutin; and then
he made them trot out the choir, so's he could help them pick out the
tunes for the occasion, and he got them to sing 'Pop Goes the Weasel,'
because he'd always liked that tune when he was downhearted, and solemn
music made him sad; and when they sung that with tears in their eyes
(because they all loved him), and his relations grieving around, he just
laid there as happy as a bug, and trying to beat time and showing all
over how much he enjoyed it; and presently he got worked up and excited,
and tried to join in, for, mind you, he was pretty proud of his abilities
in the singing line; but the first time he opened his mouth and was just
going to spread himself his breath took a walk.

"I never see a man snuffed out so sudden.  Ah, it was a great loss--a,
powerful loss to this poor little one-horse town.  Well, well, well, I
hain't got time to be palavering along here--got to nail on the lid and
mosey along with him; and if you'll just give me a lift we'll skeet him
into the hearse and meander along.  Relations bound to have it so--don't
pay no attention to dying injunctions, minute a corpse's gone; but, if I
had my way, if I didn't respect his last wishes and tow him behind the
hearse I'll be cuss'd.  I consider that whatever a corpse wants done for
his comfort is little enough matter, and a man hain't got no right to
deceive him or take advantage of him; and whatever a corpse trusts me to
do I'm a-going to do, you know, even if it's to stuff him and paint him
yaller and keep him for a keepsake--you hear me!"

He cracked his whip and went lumbering away with his ancient ruin of a
hearse, and I continued my walk with a valuable lesson learned--that a
healthy and wholesome cheerfulness is not necessarily impossible to any
occupation.  The lesson is likely to be lasting, for it will take many
months to obliterate the memory of the remarks and circumstances that
impressed it.


Against all chambermaids, of whatsoever age or nationality, I launch the
curse of bachelordom!  Because:

They always put the pillows at the opposite end of the bed from the
gas-burner, so that while you read and smoke before sleeping (as is the
ancient and honored custom of bachelors), you have to hold your book
aloft, in an uncomfortable position, to keep the light from dazzling your

When they find the pillows removed to the other end of the bed in the
morning, they receive not the suggestion in a friendly spirit; but,
glorying in their absolute sovereignty, and unpitying your helplessness,
they make the bed just as it was originally, and gloat in secret over the
pang their tyranny will cause you.

Always after that, when they find you have transposed the pillows, they
undo your work, and thus defy and seek to embitter the life that God has
given you.

If they cannot get the light in an inconvenient position any other way,
they move the bed.

If you pull your trunk out six inches from the wall, so that the lid will
stay up when you open it, they always shove that trunk back again.  They
do it on purpose.

If you want the spittoon in a certain spot, where it will be handy, they
don't, and so they move it.

They always put your other boots into inaccessible places.  They chiefly
enjoy depositing them as far under the bed as the wall will permit.  It
is because this compels you to get down in an undignified attitude and
make wild sweeps for them in the dark with the bootjack, and swear.

They always put the matchbox in some other place.  They hunt up a new
place for it every day, and put up a bottle, or other perishable glass
thing, where the box stood before.  This is to cause you to break that
glass thing, groping in the dark, and get yourself into trouble.

They are for ever and ever moving the furniture.  When you come in in the
night you can calculate on finding the bureau where the wardrobe was in
the morning.  And when you go out in the morning, if you leave the
slop-bucket by the door and rocking-chair by the window, when you come in
at midnight or thereabout, you will fall over that rocking-chair, and you
will proceed toward the window and sit down in that slop-tub.  This will
disgust you.  They like that.

No matter where you put anything, they are not going to let it stay
there.  They will take it and move it the first chance they get.  It is
their nature.  And, besides, it gives them pleasure to be mean and
contrary this way.  They would die if they couldn't be villains.

They always save up all the old scraps of printed rubbish you throw on
the floor, and stack them up carefully on the table, and start the fire
with your valuable manuscripts.  If there is any one particular old scrap
that you are more down on than any other, and which you are gradually
wearing your life out trying to get rid of, you may take all the pains
you possibly can in that direction, but it won't be of any use, because
they will always fetch that old scrap back and put it in the same old
place again every time.  It does them good.

And they use up more hair-oil than any six men.  If charged with
purloining the same, they lie about it.  What do they care about a
hereafter?  Absolutely nothing.

If you leave the key in the door for convenience' sake, they will carry
it down to the office and give it to the clerk.  They do this under the
vile pretense of trying to protect your property from thieves; but
actually they do it because they want to make you tramp back down-stairs
after it when you come home tired, or put you to the trouble of sending a
waiter for it, which waiter will expect you to pay him something.  In
which case I suppose the degraded creatures divide.

They keep always trying to make your bed before you get up, thus
destroying your rest and inflicting agony upon you; but after you get up,
they don't come any more till next day.

They do all the mean things they can think of, and they do them just out
of pure cussedness, and nothing else.

Chambermaids are dead to every human instinct.

If I can get a bill through the legislature abolishing chambermaids, I
mean to do it.


The facts in the following case came to me by letter from a young lady
who lives in the beautiful city of San Jose; she is perfectly unknown to
me, and simply signs herself "Aurelia Maria," which may possibly be a
fictitious name.  But no matter, the poor girl is almost heartbroken by
the misfortunes she has undergone, and so confused by the conflicting
counsels of misguided friends and insidious enemies that she does not
know what course to pursue in order to extricate herself from the web of
difficulties in which she seems almost hopelessly involved.  In this
dilemma she turns to me for help, and supplicates for my guidance and
instruction with a moving eloquence that would touch the heart of a
statue.  Hear her sad story:

She says that when she was sixteen years old she met and loved, with all
the devotion of a passionate nature, a young man from New Jersey, named
Williamson Breckinridge Caruthers, who was some six years her senior.
They were engaged, with the free consent of their friends and relatives,
and for a time it seemed as if their career was destined to, be
characterized by an immunity from sorrow beyond the usual lot of
humanity.  But at last the tide of fortune turned; young Caruthers became
infect with smallpox of the most virulent type, and when he recovered
from his illness his face was pitted like a waffle-mold, and his
comeliness gone forever.  Aurelia thought to break off the engagement at
first, but pity for her unfortunate lover caused her to postpone the
marriage-day for a season, and give him another trial.

The very day before the wedding was to have taken place, Breckinridge,
while absorbed in watching the flight of a balloon, walked into a well
and fractured one of his legs, and it had to be taken off above the knee.
Again Aurelia was moved to break the engagement, but again love
triumphed, and she set the day forward and gave him another chance to

And again misfortune overtook the unhappy youth.  He lost one arm by the
premature discharge of a Fourth of July cannon, and within three months
he got the other pulled out by a carding-machine.  Aurelia's heart was
almost crushed by these latter calamities.  She could not but be deeply
grieved to see her lover passing from her by piecemeal, feeling, as she
did, that he could not last forever under this disastrous process of
reduction, yet knowing of no way to stop its dreadful career, and in her
tearful despair she almost regretted, like brokers who hold on and lose,
that she had not taken him at first, before he had suffered such an
alarming depreciation.  Still, her brave soul bore her up, and she
resolved to bear with her friend's unnatural disposition yet a little

Again the wedding-day approached, and again disappointment overshadowed
it; Caruthers fell ill with the erysipelas, and lost the use of one of
his eyes entirely.  The friends and relatives of the bride, considering
that she had already put up with more than could reasonably be expected
of her, now came forward and insisted that the match should be broken
off; but after wavering awhile, Aurelia, with a generous spirit which did
her credit, said she had reflected calmly upon the matter, and could not
discover that Breckinridge was to blame.

So she extended the time once more, and he broke his other leg.

It was a sad day for the poor girl when, she saw the surgeons reverently
bearing away the sack whose uses she had learned by previous experience,
and her heart told her the bitter truth that some more of her lover was
gone.  She felt that the field of her affections was growing more and
more circumscribed every day, but once more she frowned down her
relatives and renewed her betrothal.

Shortly before the time set for the nuptials another disaster occurred.
There was but one man scalped by the Owens River Indians last year.  That
man was Williamson Breckinridge Caruthers of New Jersey.  He was hurrying
home with happiness in his heart, when he lost his hair forever, and in
that hour of bitterness he almost cursed the mistaken mercy that had
spared his head.

At last Aurelia is in serious perplexity as to what she ought to do.  She
still loves her Breckinridge, she writes, with truly womanly feeling--she
still loves what is left of him but her parents are bitterly opposed to
the match, because he has no property and is disabled from working, and
she has not sufficient means to support both comfortably.  "Now, what
should she do?" she asked with painful and anxious solicitude.

It is a delicate question; it is one which involves the lifelong
happiness of a woman, and that of nearly two-thirds of a man, and I feel
that it would be assuming too great a responsibility to do more than make
a mere suggestion in the case.  How would it do to build to him?  If
Aurelia can afford the expense, let her furnish her mutilated lover with
wooden arms and wooden legs, and a glass eye and a wig, and give him
another show; give him ninety days, without grace, and if he does not
break his neck in the mean time, marry him and take the chances.  It does
not seem to me that there is much risk, anyway, Aurelia, because if he
sticks to his singular propensity for damaging himself every time he sees
a good opportunity, his next experiment is bound to finish him, and then
you are safe, married or single.  If married, the wooden legs and such
other valuables as he may possess revert to the widow, and you see you
sustain no actual loss save the cherished fragment of a noble but most
unfortunate husband, who honestly strove to do right, but whose
extraordinary instincts were against him.  Try it, Maria. I have thought
the matter over carefully and well, and it is the only chance I see for
you.  It would have been a happy conceit on the part of Caruthers if he
had started with his neck and broken that first; but since he has seen
fit to choose a different policy and string himself out as long as
possible, I do not think we ought to upbraid him for it if he has enjoyed
it.  We must do the best we can under the circumstances, and try not to
feel exasperated at him.


A grand affair of a ball--the Pioneers'--came off at the Occidental some
time ago.  The following notes of the costumes worn by the belles of the
occasion may not be uninteresting to the general reader, and Jerkins may
get an idea therefrom:

Mrs. W. M. was attired in an elegant 'pate de foie gras,' made expressly
for her, and was greatly admired.  Miss S. had her hair done up.  She was
the center of attraction for the envy of all the ladies.  Mrs. G. W. was
tastefully dressed in a 'tout ensemble,' and was greeted with deafening
applause wherever she went.  Mrs. C. N. was superbly arrayed in white kid
gloves.  Her modest and engaging manner accorded well with the
unpretending simplicity of her costume and caused her to be regarded with
absorbing interest by every one.

The charming Miss M. M. B. appeared in a thrilling waterfall, whose
exceeding grace and volume compelled the homage of pioneers and emigrants
alike.  How beautiful she was!

The queenly Mrs. L. R.  was attractively attired in her new and beautiful
false teeth, and the 'bon jour' effect they naturally produced was
heightened by her enchanting and well-sustained smile.

Miss R. P., with that repugnance to ostentation in dress which is so
peculiar to her, was attired in a simple white lace collar, fastened with
a neat pearl-button solitaire.  The fine contrast between the sparkling
vivacity of her natural optic, and the steadfast attentiveness of her
placid glass eye, was the subject of general and enthusiastic remark.

Miss C. L. B.  had her fine nose elegantly enameled, and the easy grace
with which she blew it from time to time marked her as a cultivated and
accomplished woman of the world; its exquisitely modulated tone excited
the admiration of all who had the happiness to hear it.


All things change except barbers, the ways of barbers, and the
surroundings of barbers.  These never change.  What one experiences in a
barber's shop the first time he enters one is what he always experiences
in barbers' shops afterward till the end of his days.  I got shaved this
morning as usual.  A man approached the door from Jones Street as I
approached it from Main--a thing that always happens.  I hurried up, but
it was of no use; he entered the door one little step ahead of me, and I
followed in on his heels and saw him take the only vacant chair, the one
presided over by the best barber.  It always happens so.  I sat down,
hoping that I might fall heir to the chair belonging to the better of the
remaining two barbers, for he had already begun combing his man's hair,
while his comrade was not yet quite done rubbing up and oiling his
customer's locks.  I watched the probabilities with strong interest.
When I saw that No. 2 was gaining on No. 1 my interest grew to
solicitude.  When No. 1 stopped a moment to make change on a bath ticket
for a new-comer, and lost ground in the race, my solicitude rose to
anxiety.  When No. 1 caught up again, and both he and his comrade were
pulling the towels away and brushing the powder from their customers'
cheeks, and it was about an even thing which one would say "Next!" first,
my very breath stood still with the suspense.  But when at the
culminating moment No. 1 stopped to pass a comb a couple of times through
his customer's eyebrows, I saw that he had lost the race by a single
instant, and I rose indignant and quitted the shop, to keep from falling
into the hands of No. 2; for I have none of that enviable firmness that
enables a man to look calmly into the eyes of a waiting barber and tell
him he will wait for his fellow-barber's chair.

I stayed out fifteen minutes, and then went back, hoping for better luck.
Of course all the chairs were occupied now, and four men sat waiting,
silent, unsociable, distraught, and looking bored, as men always do who
are waiting their turn in a barber's shop.  I sat down in one of the
iron-armed compartments of an old sofa, and put in the time far a while
reading the framed advertisements of all sorts of quack nostrums for
dyeing and coloring the hair.  Then I read the greasy names on the
private bayrum bottles; read the names and noted the numbers on the
private shaving-cups in the pigeonholes; studied the stained and damaged
cheap prints on the walls, of battles, early Presidents, and voluptuous
recumbent sultanas, and the tiresome and everlasting young girl putting
her grandfather's spectacles on; execrated in my heart the cheerful
canary and the distracting parrot that few barbers' shops are without.
Finally, I searched out the least dilapidated of last year's illustrated
papers that littered the foul center-table, and conned their
unjustifiable misrepresentations of old forgotten events.

At last my turn came.  A voice said "Next!" and I surrendered to--No.  2,
of course.  It always happens so.  I said meekly that I was in a hurry,
and it affected him as strongly as if he had never heard it.  He shoved
up my head, and put a napkin under it.  He plowed his fingers into my
collar and fixed a towel there.  He explored my hair with his claws and
suggested that it needed trimming.  I said I did not want it trimmed.  He
explored again and said it was pretty long for the present style--better
have a little taken off; it needed it behind especially.  I said I had
had it cut only a week before.  He yearned over it reflectively a moment,
and then asked with a disparaging manner, who cut it?  I came back at him
promptly with a "You did!" I had him there.  Then he fell to stirring up
his lather and regarding himself in the glass, stopping now and then to
get close and examine his chin critically or inspect a pimple.  Then he
lathered one side of my face thoroughly, and was about to lather the
other, when a dog-fight attracted his attention, and he ran to the window
and stayed and saw it out, losing two shillings on the result in bets
with the other barbers, a thing which gave me great satisfaction.  He
finished lathering, and then began to rub in the suds with his hand.

He now began to sharpen his razor on an old suspender, and was delayed a
good deal on account of a controversy about a cheap masquerade ball he
had figured at the night before, in red cambric and bogus ermine, as some
kind of a king.  He was so gratified with being chaffed about some damsel
whom he had smitten with his charms that he used every means to continue
the controversy by pretending to be annoyed at the chaffings of his
fellows.  This matter begot more surveyings of himself in the glass, and
he put down his razor and brushed his hair with elaborate care,
plastering an inverted arch of it down on his forehead, accomplishing an
accurate "Part" behind, and brushing the two wings forward over his ears
with nice exactness.  In the mean time the lather was drying on my face,
and apparently eating into my vitals.

Now he began to shave, digging his fingers into my countenance to stretch
the skin and bundling and tumbling my head this way and that as
convenience in shaving demanded.  As long as he was on the tough sides of
my face I did not suffer; but when he began to rake, and rip, and tug at
my chin, the tears came.  He now made a handle of my nose, to assist him
shaving the corners of my upper lip, and it was by this bit of
circumstantial evidence that I discovered that a part of his duties in
the shop was to clean the kerosene-lamps.  I had often wondered in an
indolent way whether the barbers did that, or whether it was the boss.

About this time I was amusing myself trying to guess where he would be
most likely to cut me this time, but he got ahead of me, and sliced me on
the end of the chin before I had got my mind made up.  He immediately
sharpened his razor--he might have done it before.  I do not like a close
shave, and would not let him go over me a second time.  I tried to get
him to put up his razor, dreading that he would make for the side of my
chin, my pet tender spot, a place which a razor cannot touch twice
without making trouble; but he said he only wanted to just smooth off one
little roughness, and in the same moment he slipped his razor along the
forbidden ground, and the dreaded pimple-signs of a close shave rose up
smarting and answered to the call.  Now he soaked his towel in bay rum,
and slapped it all over my face nastily; slapped it over as if a human
being ever yet washed his face in that way.  Then he dried it by slapping
with the dry part of the towel, as if a human being ever dried his face
in such a fashion; but a barber seldom rubs you like a Christian.  Next
he poked bay ruin into the cut place with his towel, then choked the
wound with powdered starch, then soaked it with bay rum again, and would
have gone on soaking and powdering it forevermore, no doubt, if I had not
rebelled and begged off.  He powdered my whole face now, straightened me
up, and began to plow my hair thoughtfully with his hands.  Then he
suggested a shampoo, and said my hair needed it badly, very badly.
I observed that I shampooed it myself very thoroughly in the bath
yesterday.  I "had him" again.  He next recommended some of "Smith's Hair
Glorifier," and offered to sell me a bottle.  I declined.  He praised the
new perfume, "Jones's Delight of the Toilet," and proposed to sell me
some of that.  I declined again.  He tendered me a tooth-wash atrocity of
his own invention, and when I declined offered to trade knives with me.

He returned to business after the miscarriage of this last enterprise,
sprinkled me all over, legs and all, greased my hair in defiance of my
protest against it, rubbed and scrubbed a good deal of it out by the
roots, and combed and brushed the rest, parting it behind, and plastering
the eternal inverted arch of hair down on my forehead, and then, while
combing my scant eyebrows and defiling them with pomade, strung out an
account of the achievements of a six-ounce black-and-tan terrier of his
till I heard the whistles blow for noon, and knew I was five minutes too
late for the train.  Then he snatched away the towel, brushed it lightly
about my face, passed his comb through my eyebrows once more, and gaily
sang out "Next!"

This barber fell down and died of apoplexy two hours later.  I am waiting
over a day for my revenge--I am going to attend his funeral.


Belfast is a peculiarly religious community.  This may be said of the
whole of the North of Ireland.  About one-half of the people are
Protestants and the other half Catholics.  Each party does all it can to
make its own doctrines popular and draw the affections of the irreligious
toward them.  One hears constantly of the most touching instances of this
zeal.  A week ago a vast concourse of Catholics assembled at Armagh to
dedicate a new Cathedral; and when they started home again the roadways
were lined with groups of meek and lowly Protestants who stoned them till
all the region round about was marked with blood.  I thought that only
Catholics argued in that way, but it seems to be a mistake.

Every man in the community is a missionary and carries a brick to
admonish the erring with.  The law has tried to break this up, but not
with perfect success.  It has decreed that irritating "party cries" shall
not be indulged in, and that persons uttering them shall be fined forty
shillings and costs.  And so, in the police court reports every day, one
sees these fines recorded.  Last week a girl of twelve years old was
fined the usual forty shillings and costs for proclaiming in the public
streets that she was "a Protestant."  The usual cry is, "To hell with the
Pope!" or "To hell with the Protestants!" according to the utterer's
system of salvation.

One of Belfast's local jokes was very good.  It referred to the uniform
and inevitable fine of forty shillings and costs for uttering a party
cry--and it is no economical fine for a poor man, either, by the way.
They say that a policeman found a drunken man lying on the ground, up a
dark alley, entertaining himself with shouting, "To hell with!"  "To hell
with!"  The officer smelt a fine--informers get half.

"What's that you say?"

"To hell with!"

"To hell with who?  To hell with what?"

"Ah, bedad, ye can finish it yourself--it's too expansive for me!"

I think the seditious disposition, restrained by the economical instinct,
is finely put in that.


WASHINGTON, December, 1867.

I have resigned.  The government appears to go on much the same, but
there is a spoke out of its wheel, nevertheless.  I was clerk of the
Senate Committee on Conchology, and I have thrown up the position.
I could see the plainest disposition on the part of the other members of
the government to debar me from having any voice in the counsels of the
nation, and so I could no longer hold office and retain my self-respect.
If I were to detail all the outrages that were heaped upon me during the
six days that I was connected with the government in an official
capacity, the narrative would fill a volume.  They appointed me clerk of
that Committee on Conchology and then allowed me no amanuensis to play
billiards with.  I would have borne that, lonesome as it was, if I had
met with that courtesy from the other members of the Cabinet which was my
due.  But I did not.  Whenever I observed that the head of a department
was pursuing a wrong course, I laid down everything and went and tried to
set him right, as it was my duty to do; and I never was thanked for it in
a single instance.  I went, with the best intentions in the world, to the
Secretary of the Navy, and said:

"Sir, I cannot see that Admiral Farragut is doing anything but
skirmishing around there in Europe, having a sort of picnic.  Now, that
may be all very well, but it does not exhibit itself to me in that light.
If there is no fighting for him to do, let him come home.  There is no
use in a man having a whole fleet for a pleasure excursion.  It is too
expensive.  Mind, I do not object to pleasure excursions for the naval
officers--pleasure excursions that are in reason--pleasure excursions
that are economical.  Now, they might go down the Mississippi
on a raft--"

You ought to have heard him storm!  One would have supposed I had
committed a crime of some kind.  But I didn't mind.  I said it was cheap,
and full of republican simplicity, and perfectly safe.  I said that, for
a tranquil pleasure excursion, there was nothing equal to a raft.

Then the Secretary of the Navy asked me who I was; and when I told him I
was connected with the government, he wanted to know in what capacity.  I
said that, without remarking upon the singularity of such a question,
coming, as it did, from a member of that same government, I would inform
him that I was clerk of the Senate Committee on Conchology.  Then there
was a fine storm!  He finished by ordering me to leave the premises, and
give my attention strictly to my own business in future.  My first
impulse was to get him removed.  However, that would harm others besides
himself, and do me no real good, and so I let him stay.

I went next to the Secretary of War, who was not inclined to see me at
all until he learned that I was connected with the government.  If I had
not been on important business, I suppose I could not have got in.
I asked him for alight (he was smoking at the time), and then I told him
I had no fault to find with his defending the parole stipulations of
General Lee and his comrades in arms, but that I could not approve of his
method of fighting the Indians on the Plains.  I said he fought too
scattering.  He ought to get the Indians more together--get them together
in some convenient place, where he could have provisions enough for both
parties, and then have a general massacre.  I said there was nothing so
convincing to an Indian as a general massacre.  If he could not approve
of the massacre, I said the next surest thing for an Indian was soap and
education.  Soap and education are not as sudden as a massacre, but they
are more deadly in the long run; because a half-massacred Indian may
recover, but if you educate him and wash him, it is bound to finish him
some time or other.  It undermines his constitution; it strikes at the
foundation of his being.  "Sir," I said, "the time has come when
blood-curdling cruelty has become necessary.  Inflict soap and a
spelling-book on every Indian that ravages the Plains, and let them die!"

The Secretary of War asked me if I was a member of the Cabinet, and I
said I was.  He inquired what position I held, and I said I was clerk of
the Senate Committee on Conchology.  I was then ordered under arrest for
contempt of court, and restrained of my liberty for the best part of the

I almost resolved to be silent thenceforward, and let the Government get
along the best way it could.  But duty called, and I obeyed.  I called on
the Secretary of the Treasury.  He said:

"What will you have?"

The question threw me off my guard.  I said, "Rum punch."

He said: "If you have got any business here, sir, state it--and in as few
words as possible."

I then said that I was sorry he had seen fit to change the subject so
abruptly, because such conduct was very offensive to me; but under the
circumstances I would overlook the matter and come to the point.  I now
went into an earnest expostulation with him upon the extravagant length
of his report.  I said it was expensive, unnecessary, and awkwardly
constructed; there were no descriptive passages in it, no poetry, no
sentiment no heroes, no plot, no pictures--not even wood-cuts.  Nobody
would read it, that was a clear case.  I urged him not to ruin his
reputation by getting out a thing like that.  If he ever hoped to succeed
in literature he must throw more variety into his writings.  He must
beware of dry detail.  I said that the main popularity of the almanac was
derived from its poetry and conundrums, and that a few conundrums
distributed around through his Treasury report would help the sale of it
more than all the internal revenue he could put into it.  I said these
things in the kindest spirit, and yet the Secretary of the Treasury fell
into a violent passion.  He even said I was an ass.  He abused me in the
most vindictive manner, and said that if I came there again meddling with
his business he would throw me out of the window.  I said I would take my
hat and go, if I could not be treated with the respect due to my office,
and I did go.  It was just like a new author.  They always think they
know more than anybody else when they are getting out their first book.
Nobody can tell them anything.

During the whole time that I was connected with the government it seemed
as if I could not do anything in an official capacity without getting
myself into trouble.  And yet I did nothing, attempted nothing, but what
I conceived to be for the good of my country.  The sting of my wrongs may
have driven me to unjust and harmful conclusions, but it surely seemed to
me that the Secretary of State, the Secretary of War, the Secretary of
the Treasury, and others of my confreres had conspired from the very
beginning to drive me from the Administration.  I never attended but one
Cabinet meeting while I was connected with the government.  That was
sufficient for me.  The servant at the White House door did not seem
disposed to make way for me until I asked if the other members of the
Cabinet had arrived.  He said they had, and I entered.  They were all
there; but nobody offered me a seat.  They stared at me as if I had been
an intruder.  The President said:

"Well, sir, who are you?"

I handed him my card, and he read: "The HON.  MARK TWAIN, Clerk of the
Senate Committee on Conchology."  Then he looked at me from head to foot,
as if he had never heard of me before.  The Secretary of the Treasury

"This is the meddlesome ass that came to recommend me to put poetry and
conundrums in my report, as if it were an almanac."

The Secretary of War said: "It is the same visionary that came to me
yesterday with a scheme to educate a portion of the Indians to death,
and massacre the balance."

The Secretary of the Navy said: "I recognize this youth as the person who
has been interfering with my business time and again during the week.  He
is distressed about Admiral Farragut's using a whole fleet for a pleasure
excursion, as he terms it.  His proposition about some insane pleasure
excursion on a raft is too absurd to repeat."

I said: "Gentlemen, I perceive here a disposition to throw discredit
upon every act of my official career; I perceive, also, a disposition to
debar me from all voice in the counsels of the nation.  No notice
whatever was sent to me to-day.  It was only by the merest chance that I
learned that there was going to be a Cabinet meeting.  But let these
things pass.  All I wish to know is, is this a Cabinet meeting or is it

The President said it was.

"Then," I said, "let us proceed to business at once, and not fritter away
valuable time in unbecoming fault-findings with each other's official

The Secretary of State now spoke up, in his benignant way, and said,
"Young man, you are laboring under a mistake.  The clerks of the
Congressional committees are not members of the Cabinet.  Neither are the
doorkeepers of the Capitol, strange as it may seem.  Therefore, much as
we could desire your more than human wisdom in our deliberations, we
cannot lawfully avail ourselves of it.  The counsels of the nation must
proceed without you; if disaster follows, as follow full well it may, be
it balm to your sorrowing spirit that by deed and voice you did what in
you lay to avert it.  You have my blessing.  Farewell."

These gentle words soothed my troubled breast, and I went away.  But the
servants of a nation can know no peace.  I had hardly reached my den in
the Capitol, and disposed my feet on the table like a representative,
when one of the Senators on the Conchological Committee came in in a
passion and said:

"Where have you been all day?"

I observed that, if that was anybody's affair but my own, I had been to a
Cabinet meeting.

"To a Cabinet meeting?  I would like to know what business you had at a
Cabinet meeting?"

I said I went there to consult--allowing for the sake of argument that he
was in any wise concerned in the matter.  He grew insolent then, and
ended by saying he had wanted me for three days past to copy a report on
bomb-shells, egg-shells, clamshells, and I don't know what all, connected
with conchology, and nobody had been able to find me.

This was too much.  This was the feather that broke the clerical camel's
back.  I said, "Sir, do you suppose that I am going to work for six
dollars a day?  If that is the idea, let me recommend the Senate
Committee on Conchology to hire somebody else.  I am the slave of no
faction!  Take back your degrading commission.  Give me liberty, or give
me death!"

From that hour I was no longer connected with the government.  Snubbed by
the department, snubbed by the Cabinet, snubbed at last by the chairman
of a committee I was endeavoring to adorn, I yielded to persecution, cast
far from me the perils and seductions of my great office, and forsook my
bleeding country in the hour of her peril.

But I had done the state some service, and I sent in my bill:

     The United States of America in account with
     the Hon. Clerk of the Senate Committee on Conchology,   Dr.
          To consultation with Secretary of War ............ $50
          To consultation with Secretary of Navy ........... $50
          To consultation with Secretary of the Treasury ... $50
          Cabinet consultation ...................No charge.
          To mileage to and from Jerusalem, via Egypt,
               Algiers, Gibraltar, and Cadiz,
               14,000 miles, at 20c. a mile ............. $2,800
          To salary as Clerk of Senate Committee
          on Conchology, six days, at $6 per day ........... $36

                         Total .......................... $2,986

--[Territorial delegates charge mileage both ways, although they never go
back when they get here once.  Why my mileage is denied me is more than I
can understand.]

Not an item of this bill has been paid, except that trifle of thirty-six
dollars for clerkship salary.  The Secretary of the Treasury, pursuing me
to the last, drew his pen through all the other items, and simply marked
in the margin "Not allowed."  So, the dread alternative is embraced at
last.  Repudiation has begun!  The nation is lost.

I am done with official life for the present.  Let those clerks who are
willing to be imposed on remain.  I know numbers of them in the
departments who are never informed when there is to be a Cabinet meeting,
whose advice is never asked about war, or finance, or commerce, by the
heads of the nation, any more than if they were not connected with the
government, and who actually stay in their offices day after day and
work!  They know their importance to the nation, and they unconsciously
show it in their bearing, and the way they order their sustenance at the
restaurant--but they work.  I know one who has to paste all sorts of
little scraps from the newspapers into a scrapbook--sometimes as many as
eight or ten scraps a day.  He doesn't do it well, but he does it as well
as he can.  It is very fatiguing.  It is exhausting to the intellect.
Yet he only gets eighteen hundred dollars a year.  With a brain like his,
that young man could amass thousands and thousands of dollars in some
other pursuit, if he chose to do it.  But no--his heart is with his
country, and he will serve her as long as she has got a scrapbook left.
And I know clerks that don't know how to write very well, but such
knowledge as they possess they nobly lay at the feet of their country,
and toil on and suffer for twenty-five hundred dollars a year.  What they
write has to be written over again by other clerks sometimes; but when a
man has done his best for his country, should his country complain?  Then
there are clerks that have no clerkships, and are waiting, and waiting,
and waiting for a vacancy--waiting patiently for a chance to help their
country out--and while they, are waiting, they only get barely two
thousand dollars a year for it.  It is sad it is very, very sad.  When a
member of Congress has a friend who is gifted, but has no employment
wherein his great powers may be brought to bear, he confers him upon his
country, and gives him a clerkship in a department.  And there that man
has to slave his life out, fighting documents for the benefit of a nation
that never thinks of him, never sympathizes with him--and all for two
thousand or three thousand dollars a year.  When I shall have completed
my list of all the clerks in the several departments, with my statement
of what they have to do, and what they get for it, you will see that
there are not half enough clerks, and that what there are do not get half
enough pay.


The following I find in a Sandwich Island paper which some friend has
sent me from that tranquil far-off retreat.  The coincidence between my
own experience and that here set down by the late Mr. Benton is so
remarkable that I cannot forbear publishing and commenting upon the
paragraph.  The Sandwich Island paper says:

How touching is this tribute of the late Hon. T. H. Benton to his
mother's influence:--'My mother asked me never to use tobacco; I have
never touched it from that time to the present day.  She asked me not to
gamble, and I have never gambled.  I cannot tell who is losing in games
that are being played.  She admonished me, too, against liquor-drinking,
and whatever capacity for endurance I have at present, and whatever
usefulness I may have attained through life, I attribute to having
complied with her pious and correct wishes.  When I was seven years of
age she asked me not to drink, and then I made a resolution of total
abstinence; and that I have adhered to it through all time I owe to my

I never saw anything so curious.  It is almost an exact epitome of my own
moral career--after simply substituting a grandmother for a mother.  How
well I remember my grandmother's asking me not to use tobacco, good old
soul!  She said, "You're at it again, are you, you whelp?  Now don't ever
let me catch you chewing tobacco before breakfast again, or I lay I'll
blacksnake you within an inch of your life!"  I have never touched it at
that hour of the morning from that time to the present day.

She asked me not to gamble.  She whispered and said, "Put up those wicked
cards this minute!--two pair and a jack, you numskull, and the other
fellow's got a flush!"

I never have gambled from that day to this--never once--without a "cold
deck" in my pocket.  I cannot even tell who is going to lose in games
that are being played unless I deal myself.

When I was two years of age she asked me not to drink, and then I made a
resolution of total abstinence.  That I have adhered to it and enjoyed
the beneficent effects of it through all time, I owe to my grandmother.
I have never drunk a drop from that day to this of any kind of water.


If you get into conversation with a stranger in Honolulu, and experience
that natural desire to know what sort of ground you are treading on by
finding out what manner of man your stranger is, strike out boldly and
address him as "Captain."  Watch him narrowly, and if you see by his
countenance that you are on the wrong track, ask him where he preaches.
It is a safe bet that he is either a missionary or captain of a whaler.
I became personally acquainted with seventy-two captains and ninety-six
missionaries.  The captains and ministers form one-half of the
population; the third fourth is composed of common Kanakas and mercantile
foreigners and their families; and the final fourth is made up of high
officers of the Hawaiian Government.  And there are just about cats
enough for three apiece all around.

A solemn stranger met me in the suburbs one day, and said:

"Good morning, your reverence.  Preach in the stone church yonder, no

"No, I don't.  I'm not a preacher."

"Really, I beg your pardon, captain.  I trust you had a good season.  How
much oil--"

"Oil!  Why, what do you take me for?  I'm not a whaler."

"Oh!  I beg a thousand pardons, your Excellency.  Major-General in the
household troops, no doubt?  Minister of the Interior, likely?  Secretary
of War?  First Gentleman of the Bedchamber?  Commissioner of the Royal--"

"Stuff, man!  I'm not connected in any way with the government."

"Bless my life!  Then who the mischief are you? what the mischief are
you? and how the mischief did you get here? and where in thunder did you
come from?"

"I'm only a private personage--an unassuming stranger--lately arrived
from America."

"No!  Not a missionary! not a whaler! not a member of his Majesty's
government! not even a Secretary of the Navy!  Ah!  Heaven! it is too
blissful to be true, alas! I do but dream.  And yet that noble, honest
countenance--those oblique, ingenuous eyes--that massive head, incapable
of--of anything; your hand; give me your hand, bright waif.  Excuse these
tears.  For sixteen weary years I have yearned for a moment like this,

Here his feelings were too much for him, and he swooned away.  I pitied
this poor creature from the bottom of my heart.  I was deeply moved.
I shed a few tears on him, and kissed him for his mother.  I then took
what small change he had, and "shoved."

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