Mark Twain: The Complete Novels and Essays - Mark twain - darmowy ebook
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This book contains now several HTML tables of contents that will make reading a real pleasure!Mark twain is most noted for his novels, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), and its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), the latter often called "the Great American Novel." Among dozens of titles, some of his works include The Innocents Abroad, A Tramp Abroad, Roughing It, Life on the Mississippi, The Prince and the Pauper, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, and many more.

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AT LENGTH

Mark Twain:AT LENGTH

Collected Novelettes and Essays

IN FOUR VOLUMES.

Mark Twain, undated photo.

About this Ebook

Mark Twain: AT LENGTH Collected Novelettes and Essays

by Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) (1835–1910)

Mark Twain is most noted for his novels, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), and its sequel, “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), the latter often called “the Great American Novel.” Some of his works include The Innocents Abroad, A Tramp Abroad, Roughing It, Life on the Mississippi, The Prince and the Pauper, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and many more.

The four volumes present 40 mid-length works and several groups of related short pieces; 58 titles in all. These are drawn from the original Twain collections, plus several magazine sources. Contents of each volume are arranged chronologically by first publication date.

This collection ranges from light-hearted travel memoirs, through satirically humorous fiction, to bitter indictments of mankind’s worst behaviors. Twain fans may make new acquaintances, as well as revisit old friends.

Table of Contents
AT LENGTH
—About This Ebook
Volume I: Fiction
The Recent Carnival of Crime in Connecticut
The Stolen White Elephant
The Loves of Alonzo Fitz Clarence and Rosannah Ethelton
A Curious Experience
Meisterschaft
The £1,000,000 Bank-Note
Tom Sawyer Abroad
Tom Sawyer, Detective
The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg
A Double-Barrelled Detective Story
Was It Heaven? Or Hell?
The $30,000 Bequest
A Horse’s Tale
Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven
The Mysterious Stranger
Volume II: Memoirs
Some Rambling Notes of an Idle Excursion
The Awful German Language
The Private History of a Campaign that Failed
Mental Telegraphy
Mental Telegraphy Again
About All Kinds of Ships
The Modern Steamer and the Obsolete Steamer
Noah’s Ark
Columbus’s Craft
A Vanished Sentiment
My Début as a Literary Person
The Turning-Point of My Life
Down the Rhône
The Lost Napoleon
Volume III: Literary Criticism
A Majestic Literary Fossil
A Cure for the Blues
The Curious Book Complete
In Defense of Harriet Shelley
Essays On Paul Bourget
What Paul Bourget Thinks of Us
Mark Twain and Paul Bourget
A Little Note to M. Paul Bourget
Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses
Fenimore Cooper’s Further Literary Offenses
Christian Science and the Book of Mrs. Eddy
Mrs. Eddy in Error
Is Shakespeare Dead?
Volume IV: Social Criticism
John Camden Hotten
Mark Twain Explains
Petition Concerning Copyright
On International Copyright
American Authors and British Pirates
Open Letter Concerning Copyright
Speech on Copyright
Mark Twain’s Last Suggestion on Copyright
The Treaty with China
Goldsmith’s Friend Abroad Again
Stirring Times in Austria
Concerning the Jews
To the Person Sitting in Darkness
To My Missionary Critics
An Unpublished Letter on the Czar
The Czar’s Soliloquy
King Leopold’s Soliloquy
What Is Man?
Letters from the Earth
Finis
—Index of Titles

Volume I: Fiction

Mark Twain:AT LENGTH

ca. 1868

Volume I Fiction

• 1 •The Facts Concerning the Recent Carnival of Crime in Connecticut

I WAS feeling blithe, almost jocund. I put a match to my cigar, and just then the morning’s mail was handed in. The first superscription I glanced at was in a handwriting that sent a thrill of pleasure through and through me. It was Aunt Mary’s; and she was the person I loved and honored most in all the world, outside of my own household. She had been my boyhood’s idol; maturity, which is fatal to so many enchantments, had not been able to dislodge her from her pedestal; no, it had only justified her right to be there, and placed her dethronement permanently among the impossibilities. To show how strong her influence over me was, I will observe that long after everybody else’s “do-stop-smoking” had ceased to affect me in the slightest degree, Aunt Mary could still stir my torpid conscience into faint signs of life when she touched upon the matter. But all things have their limit in this world. A happy day came at last, when even Aunt Mary’s words could no longer move me. I was not merely glad to see that day arrive; I was more than glad – I was grateful; for when its sun had set, the one alloy that was able to mar my enjoyment of my aunt’s society was gone. The remainder of her stay with us that winter was in every way a delight. Of course she pleaded with me just as earnestly as ever, after that blessed day, to quit my pernicious habit, but to no purpose whatever; the moment she opened the subject I at once became calmly, peacefully, contentedly indifferent – absolutely, adamantinely indifferent. Consequently the closing weeks of that memorable visit melted away as pleasantly as a dream, they were so freighted for me with tranquil satisfaction. I could not have enjoyed my pet vice more if my gentle tormentor had been a smoker herself, and an advocate of the practice. Well, the sight of her handwriting reminded me that I way getting very hungry to see her again. I easily guessed what I should find in her letter. I opened it. Good! just as I expected; she was coming! Coming this very day, too, and by the morning train; I might expect her any moment.

I said to myself, “I am thoroughly happy and content now. If my most pitiless enemy could appear before me at this moment, I would freely right any wrong I may have done him.”

Straightway the door opened, and a shriveled, shabby dwarf entered. He was not more than two feet high. He seemed to be about forty years old. Every feature and every inch of him was a trifle out of shape; and so, while one could not put his finger upon any particular part and say, “This is a conspicuous deformity,” the spectator perceived that this little person was a deformity as a whole – a vague, general, evenly blended, nicely adjusted deformity. There was a fox-like cunning in the face and the sharp little eyes, and also alertness and malice. And yet, this vile bit of human rubbish seemed to bear a sort of remote and ill-defined resemblance to me! It was dully perceptible in the mean form, the countenance, and even the clothes, gestures, manner, and attitudes of the creature. He was a far-fetched, dim suggestion of a burlesque upon me, a caricature of me in little. One thing about him struck me forcibly and most unpleasantly: he was covered all over with a fuzzy, greenish mold, such as one sometimes sees upon mildewed bread. The sight of it was nauseating.

He stepped along with a chipper air, and flung himself into a doll’s chair in a very free-and-easy way, without waiting to be asked. He tossed his hat into the waste-basket. He picked up my old chalk pipe from the floor, gave the stem a wipe or two on his knee, filled the bowl from the tobacco-box at his side, and said to me in a tone of pert command:

“Gimme a match!”

I blushed to the roots of my hair; partly with indignation, but mainly because it somehow seemed to me that this whole performance was very like an exaggeration of conduct which I myself had sometimes been guilty of in my intercourse with familiar friends – but never, never with strangers, I observed to myself. I wanted to kick the pygmy into the fire, but some incomprehensible sense of being legally and legitimately under his authority forced me to obey his order. He applied the match to the pipe, took a contemplative whiff or two, and remarked, in an irritatingly familiar way:

“Seems to me it’s devilish odd weather for this time of year.”

I flushed again, and in anger and humiliation as before; for the language was hardly an exaggeration of some that I have uttered in my day, and moreover was delivered in a tone of voice and with an exasperating drawl that had the seeming of a deliberate travesty of my style. Now there is nothing I am quite so sensitive about as a mocking imitation of my drawling infirmity of speech. I spoke up sharply and said:

“Look here, you miserable ash-cat! you will have to give a little more attention to your manners, or I will throw you out of the window!”

The manikin smiled a smile of malicious content and security, puffed a whiff of smoke contemptuously toward me, and said, with a still more elaborate drawl:

“Come – go gently now; don’t put on too many airs with your betters.”

This cool snub rasped me all over, but it seemed to subjugate me, too, for a moment. The pygmy contemplated me awhile with his weasel eyes, and then said, in a peculiarly sneering way:

“You turned a tramp away from your door this morning.”

I said crustily:

“Perhaps I did, perhaps I didn’t. How do you know?”

“Well, I know. It isn’t any matter how I know.”

“Very well. Suppose I did turn a tramp away from the door – what of it?”

“Oh, nothing; nothing in particular. Only you lied to him.”

“I didn’t! That is, I—”

“Yes, but you did; you lied to him.”

I felt a guilty pang – in truth, I had felt it forty times before that tramp had traveled a block from my door – but still I resolved to make a show of feeling slandered; so I said:

“This is a baseless impertinence. I said to the tramp—”

“There – wait. You were about to lie again. I know what you said to him. You said the cook was gone down-town and there was nothing left from breakfast. Two lies. You knew the cook was behind the door, and plenty of provisions behind her.”

This astonishing accuracy silenced me; and it filled me with wondering speculations, too, as to how this cub could have got his information. Of course he could have culled the conversation from the tramp, but by what sort of magic had he contrived to find out about the concealed cook? Now the dwarf spoke again:

“It was rather pitiful, rather small, in you to refuse to read that poor young woman’s manuscript the other day, and give her an opinion as to its literary value; and she had come so far, too, and so hopefully. Now wasn’t it?”

I felt like a cur! And I had felt so every time the thing had recurred to my mind, I may as well confess. I flushed hotly and said:

“Look here, have you nothing better to do than prowl around prying into other people’s business? Did that girl tell you that?”

“Never mind whether she did or not. The main thing is, you did that contemptible thing. And you felt ashamed of it afterward. Aha! you feel ashamed of it now!”

This was a sort of devilish glee. With fiery earnestness I responded:

“I told that girl, in the kindest, gentlest way, that I could not consent to deliver judgment upon anyone’s manuscript, because an individual’s verdict was worthless. It might underrate a work of high merit and lose it to the world, or it might overrate a trashy production and so open the way for its infliction upon the world: I said that the great public was the only tribunal competent to sit in judgment upon a literary effort, and therefore it must be best to lay it before that tribunal in the outset, since in the end it must stand or fall by that mighty court’s decision anyway.”

“Yes, you said all that. So you did, you juggling, small-souled shuffler! And yet when the happy hopefulness faded out of that poor girl’s face, when you saw her furtively slip beneath her shawl the scroll she had so patiently and honestly scribbled at – so ashamed of her darling now, so proud of it before – when you saw the gladness go out of her eyes and the tears come there, when she crept away so humbly who had come so—”

“Oh, peace! peace! peace! Blister your merciless tongue, haven’t all these thoughts tortured me enough without your coming here to fetch them back again!”

Remorse! remorse! It seemed to me that it would eat the very heart out of me! And yet that small fiend only sat there leering at me with joy and contempt, and placidly chuckling. Presently he began to speak again. Every sentence was an accusation, and every accusation a truth. Every clause was freighted with sarcasm and derision, every slow-dropping word burned like vitriol. The dwarf reminded me of times when I had flown at my children in anger and punished them for faults which a little inquiry would have taught me that others, and not they, had committed. He reminded me of how I had disloyally allowed old friends to be traduced in my hearing, and been too craven to utter a word in their defense. He reminded me of many dishonest things which I had done; of many which I had procured to be done by children and other irresponsible persons; of some which I had planned, thought upon, and longed to do, and been kept from the performance by fear of consequences only. With exquisite cruelty he recalled to my mind, item by item, wrongs and unkindnesses I had inflicted and humiliations I had put upon friends since dead, “who died thinking of those injuries, maybe, and grieving over them,” he added, by way of poison to the stab.

“For instance,” said he, “take the case of your younger brother, when you two were boys together, many a long year ago. He always lovingly trusted in you with a fidelity that your manifold treacheries were not able to shake. He followed you about like a dog, content to suffer wrong and abuse if he might only be with you; patient under these injuries so long as it was your hand that inflicted them. The latest picture you have of him in health and strength must be such a comfort to you! You pledged your honor that if he would let you blindfold him no harm should come to him; and then, giggling and choking over the rare fun of the joke, you led him to a brook thinly glazed with ice, and pushed him in; and how you did laugh! Man, you will never forget the gentle, reproachful look he gave you as he struggled shivering out, if you live a thousand years! Oh! you see it now, you see it now!”

“Beast, I have seen it a million times, and shall see it a million more! and may you rot away piecemeal, and suffer till doomsday what I suffer now, for bringing it back to me again!”

The dwarf chuckled contentedly, and went on with his accusing history of my career. I dropped into a moody, vengeful state, and suffered in silence under the merciless lash. At last this remark of his gave me a sudden rouse:

“Two months ago, on a Tuesday, you woke up, away in the night, and fell to thinking, with shame, about a peculiarly mean and pitiful act of yours toward a poor ignorant Indian in the wilds of the Rocky Mountains in the winter of eighteen hundred and—”

“Stop a moment, devil! Stop! Do you mean to tell me that even my very thoughts are not hidden from you?”

“It seems to look like that. Didn’t you think the thoughts I have just mentioned?”

“If I didn’t, I wish I may never breathe again! Look here, friend – look me in the eye. Who are you?”

“Well, who do you think?”

“I think you are Satan himself. I think you are the devil.”

“No.”

“No? Then who can you be?”

“Would you really like to know?”

“Indeed I would.”

“Well, I am your Conscience!”

In an instant I was in a blaze of joy and exultation. I sprang at the creature, roaring:

“Curse you, I have wished a hundred million times that you were tangible, and that I could get my hands on your throat once! Oh, but I will wreak a deadly vengeance on—”

Folly! Lightning does not move more quickly than my Conscience did! He darted aloft so suddenly that in the moment my fingers clutched the empty air he was already perched on the top of the high bookcase, with his thumb at his nose in token of derision. I flung the poker at him, and missed. I fired the bootjack. In a blind rage I flew from place to place, and snatched and hurled any missile that came handy; the storm of books, inkstands, and chunks of coal gloomed the air and beat about the manikin’s perch relentlessly, but all to no purpose; the nimble figure dodged every shot; and not only that, but burst into a cackle of sarcastic and triumphant laughter as I sat down exhausted. While I puffed and gasped with fatigue and excitement, my Conscience talked to this effect:

“My good slave, you are curiously witless – no, I mean characteristically so. In truth, you are always consistent, always yourself, always an ass. Otherwise it must have occurred to you that if you attempted this murder with a sad heart and a heavy conscience, I would droop under the burdening in influence instantly. Fool, I should have weighed a ton, and could not have budged from the floor; but instead, you are so cheerfully anxious to kill me that your conscience is as light as a feather; hence I am away up here out of your reach. I can almost respect a mere ordinary sort of fool; but you – pah!”

I would have given anything, then, to be heavy-hearted, so that I could get this person down from there and take his life, but I could no more be heavy-hearted over such a desire than I could have sorrowed over its accomplishment. So I could only look longingly up at my master, and rave at the ill luck that denied me a heavy conscience the one only time that I had ever wanted such a thing in my life. By and by I got to musing over the hour’s strange adventure, and of course my human curiosity began to work. I set myself to framing in my mind some questions for this fiend to answer. Just then one of my boys entered, leaving the door open behind him, and exclaimed:

“My! what has been going on here? The bookcase is all one riddle of—”

I sprang up in consternation, and shouted:

“Out of this! Hurry! jump! Fly! Shut the door! Quick, or my Conscience will get away!”

The door slammed to, and I locked it. I glanced up and was grateful, to the bottom of my heart, to see that my owner was still my prisoner. I said:

“Hang you, I might have lost you! Children are the heedlessest creatures. But look here, friend, the boy did not seem to notice you at all; how is that?”

“For a very good reason. I am invisible to all but you.”

I made a mental note of that piece of information with a good deal of satisfaction. I could kill this miscreant now, if I got a chance, and no one would know it. But this very reflection made me so lighthearted that my Conscience could hardly keep his seat, but was like to float aloft toward the ceiling like a toy balloon. I said, presently:

“Come, my Conscience, let us be friendly. Let us fly a flag of truce for a while. I am suffering to ask you some questions.”

“Very well. Begin.”

“Well, then, in the first place, why were you never visible to me before?”

“Because you never asked to see me before; that is, you never asked in the right spirit and the proper form before. You were just in the right spirit this time, and when you called for your most pitiless enemy I was that person by a very large majority, though you did not suspect it.”

“Well, did that remark of mine turn you into flesh and blood?”

“No. It only made me visible to you. I am unsubstantial, just as other spirits are.”

This remark prodded me with a sharp misgiving.

If he was unsubstantial, how was I going to kill him? But I dissembled, and said persuasively:

“Conscience, it isn’t sociable of you to keep at such a distance. Come down and take another smoke.”

This was answered with a look that was full of derision, and with this observation added:

“Come where you can get at me and kill me? The invitation is declined with thanks.”

“All right,” said I to myself; “so it seems a spirit can be killed, after all; there will be one spirit lacking in this world, presently, or I lose my guess.” Then I said aloud:

“Friend—”

“There; wait a bit. I am not your friend. I am your enemy; I am not your equal, I am your master. Call me ‘my lord,’ if you please. You are too familiar.”

“I don’t like such titles. I am willing to call you, sir. That is as far as—”

“We will have no argument about this. Just obey, that is all. Go on with your chatter.”

“Very well, my lord – since nothing but my lord will suit you – I was going to ask you how long you will be visible to me?”

“Always!”

I broke out with strong indignation: “This is simply an outrage. That is what I think of it! You have dogged, and dogged, and dogged me, all the days of my life, invisible. That was misery enough, now to have such a looking thing as you tagging after me like another shadow all the rest of my day is an intolerable prospect. You have my opinion my lord, make the most of it.”

“My lad, there was never so pleased a conscience in this world as I was when you made me visible. It gives me an inconceivable advantage. Now I can look you straight in the eye, and call you names, and leer at you, jeer at you, sneer at you; and you know what eloquence there is in visible gesture and expression, more especially when the effect is heightened by audible speech. I shall always address you henceforth in your o-w-n  s-n-i-v-e-l-i-n-g  d-r-a-w-l – baby!”

I let fly with the coal-hod. No result. My lord said:

“Come, come! Remember the flag of truce!”

“Ah, I forgot that. I will try to be civil; and you try it, too, for a novelty. The idea of a civil conscience! It is a good joke; an excellent joke. All the consciences I have ever heard of were nagging, badgering, fault-finding, execrable savages! Yes; and always in a sweat about some poor little insignificant trifle or other – destruction catch the lot of them, I say! I would trade mine for the smallpox and seven kinds of consumption, and be glad of the chance. Now tell me, why is it that a conscience can’t haul a man over the coals once, for an offense, and then let him alone? Why is it that it wants to keep on pegging at him, day and night and night and day, week in and week out, forever and ever, about the same old thing? There is no sense in that, and no reason in it. I think a conscience that will act like that is meaner than the very dirt itself.”

“Well, we like it; that suffices.”

“Do you do it with the honest intent to improve a man?”

That question produced a sarcastic smile, and this reply:

“No, sir. Excuse me. We do it simply because it is ‘business.’ It is our trade. The purpose of it is to improve the man, but we are merely disinterested agents. We are appointed by authority, and haven’t anything to say in the matter. We obey orders and leave the consequences where they belong. But I am willing to admit this much: we do crowd the orders a trifle when we get a chance, which is most of the time. We enjoy it. We are instructed to remind a man a few times of an error; and I don’t mind acknowledging that we try to give pretty good measure. And when we get hold of a man of a peculiarly sensitive nature, oh, but we do haze him! I have consciences to come all the way from China and Russia to see a person of that kind put through his paces, on a special occasion. Why, I knew a man of that sort who had accidentally crippled a mulatto baby; the news went abroad, and I wish you may never commit another sin if the consciences didn’t flock from all over the earth to enjoy the fun and help his master exorcise him. That man walked the floor in torture for forty-eight hours, without eating or sleeping, and then blew his brains out. The child was perfectly well again in three weeks.”

“Well, you are a precious crew, not to put it too strong. I think I begin to see now why you have always been a trifle inconsistent with me. In your anxiety to get all the juice you can out of a sin, you make a man repent of it in three or four different ways. For instance, you found fault with me for lying to that tramp, and I suffered over that. But it was only yesterday that I told a tramp the square truth, to wit, that, it being regarded as bad citizenship to encourage vagrancy, I would give him nothing. What did you do then? Why, you made me say to myself, ‘Ah, it would have been so much kinder and more blameless to ease him off with a little white lie, and send him away feeling that if he could not have bread, the gentle treatment was at least something to be grateful for!’ Well, I suffered all day about that. Three days before I had fed a tramp, and fed him freely, supposing it a virtuous act. Straight off you said, ‘Oh, false citizen, to have fed a tramp!’ and I suffered as usual. I gave a tramp work; you objected to it – after the contract was made, of course; you never speak up beforehand. Next, I refused a tramp work; you objected to that. Next, I proposed to kill a tramp; you kept me awake all night, oozing remorse at every pore. Sure I was going to be right this time, I sent the next tramp away with my benediction; and I wish you may live as long as I do, if you didn’t make me smart all night again because I didn’t kill him. Is there any way of satisfying that malignant invention which is called a conscience?”

“Ha, ha! this is luxury! Go on!”

“But come, now, answer me that question. Is there any way?”

“Well, none that I propose to tell you, my son. Ass! I don’t care what act you may turn your hand to, I can straightway whisper a word in your ear and make you think you have committed a dreadful meanness. It is my business – and my joy – to make you repent of everything you do. If I have fooled away any opportunities it was not intentional; I beg to assure you it was not intentional!”

“Don’t worry; you haven’t missed a trick that I know of. I never did a thing in all my life, virtuous or otherwise, that I didn’t repent of in twenty-four hours. In church last Sunday I listened to a charity sermon. My first impulse was to give three hundred and fifty dollars; I repented of that and reduced it a hundred; repented of that and reduced it another hundred; repented of that and reduced it another hundred; repented of that and reduced the remaining fifty to twenty-five; repented of that and came down to fifteen; repented of that and dropped to two dollars and a half; when the plate came around at last, I repented once more and contributed ten cents. Well, when I got home, I did wish to goodness I had that ten cents back again! You never did let me get through a charity sermon without having something to sweat about.”

“Oh, and I never shall, I never shall. You can always depend on me.”

“I think so. Many and many’s the restless night I’ve wanted to take you by the neck. If I could only get hold of you now!”

“Yes, no doubt. But I am not an ass; I am only the saddle of an ass. But go on, go on. You entertain me more than I like to confess.”

“I am glad of that. (You will not mind my lying a little, to keep in practice.) Look here; not to be too personal, I think you are about the shabbiest and most contemptible little shriveled-up reptile that can be imagined. I am grateful enough that you are invisible to other people, for I should die with shame to be seen with such a mildewed monkey of a conscience as you are. Now if you were five or six feet high, and—”

“Oh, come! who is to blame?”

“I don’t know.”

“Why, you are; nobody else.”

“Confound you, I wasn’t consulted about your personal appearance.”

“I don’t care, you had a good deal to do with it, nevertheless. When you were eight or nine years old, I was seven feet high, and as pretty as a picture.”

“I wish you had died young! So you have grown the wrong way, have you?”

“Some of us grow one way and some the other. You had a large conscience once; if you’ve a small conscience now I reckon there are reasons for it. However, both of us are to blame, you and I. You see, you used to be conscientious about a great many things; morbidly so, I may say. It was a great many years ago. You probably do not remember it now. Well, I took a great interest in my work, and I so enjoyed the anguish which certain pet sins of yours afflicted you with that I kept pelting at you until I rather overdid the matter. You began to rebel. Of course I began to lose ground, then, and shrivel a little – diminish in stature, get moldy, and grow deformed. The more I weakened, the more stubbornly you fastened on to those particular sins; till at last the places on my person that represent those vices became as callous as shark-skin. Take smoking, for instance. I played that card a little too long, and I lost. When people plead with you at this late day to quit that vice, that old callous place seems to enlarge and cover me all over like a shirt of mail. It exerts a mysterious, smothering effect; and presently I, your faithful hater, your devoted Conscience, go sound asleep! Sound? It is no name for it. I couldn’t hear it thunder at such a time. You have some few other vices – perhaps eighty, or maybe ninety – that affect me in much the same way.”

“This is flattering; you must be asleep a good part of your time.”

“Yes, of late years. I should be asleep all the time but for the help I get.”

“Who helps you?”

“Other consciences. Whenever a person whose conscience I am acquainted with tries to plead with you about the vices you are callous to, I get my friend to give his client a pang concerning some villainy of his own, and that shuts off his meddling and starts him off to hunt personal consolation. My field of usefulness is about trimmed down to tramps, budding authoresses, and that line of goods now; but don’t you worry – I’ll harry you on them while they last! Just you put your trust in me.”

“I think I can. But if you had only been good enough to mention these facts some thirty years ago, I should have turned my particular attention to sin, and I think that by this time I should not only have had you pretty permanently asleep on the entire list of human vices, but reduced to the size of a homeopathic pill, at that. That is about the style of conscience I am pining for. If I only had you shrunk down to a homeopathic pill, and could get my hands on you, would I put you in a glass case for a keepsake? No, sir. I would give you to a yellow dog! That is where you ought to be – you and all your tribe. You are not fit to be in society, in my opinion. Now another question. Do you know a good many consciences in this section?”

“Plenty of them.”

“I would give anything to see some of them! Could you bring them here? And would they be visible to me?”

“Certainly not.”

“I suppose I ought to have known that without asking. But no matter, you can describe them. Tell me about my neighbor Thompson’s conscience, please.”

“Very well. I know him intimately; have known him many years. I knew him when he was eleven feet high and of a faultless figure. But he is very pasty and tough and misshapen now, and hardly ever interests himself about anything. As to his present size – well, he sleeps in a cigar-box.”

“Likely enough. There are few smaller, meaner men in this region than Hugh Thompson. Do you know Robinson’s conscience?”

“Yes. He is a shade under four and a half feet high; used to be a blond; is a brunette now, but still shapely and comely.”

“Well, Robinson is a good fellow. Do you know Tom Smith’s conscience?”

“I have known him from childhood. He was thirteen inches high, and rather sluggish, when he was two years old – as nearly all of us are at that age. He is thirty-seven feet high now, and the stateliest figure in America. His legs are still racked with growing-pains, but he has a good time, nevertheless. Never sleeps. He is the most active and energetic member of the New England Conscience Club; is president of it. Night and day you can find him pegging away at Smith, panting with his labor, sleeves rolled up, countenance all alive with enjoyment. He has got his victim splendidly dragooned now. He can make poor Smith imagine that the most innocent little thing he does is an odious sin; and then he sets to work and almost tortures the soul out of him about it.”

“Smith is the noblest man in all this section, and the purest; and yet is always breaking his heart because he cannot be good! Only a conscience could find pleasure in heaping agony upon a spirit like that. Do you know my aunt Mary’s conscience?”

“I have seen her at a distance, but am not acquainted with her. She lives in the open air altogether, because no door is large enough to admit her.”

“I can believe that. Let me see. Do you know the conscience of that publisher who once stole some sketches of mine for a ‘series’ of his, and then left me to pay the law expenses I had to incur in order to choke him off?”

“Yes. He has a wide fame. He was exhibited, a month ago, with some other antiquities, for the benefit of a recent Member of the Cabinet’s conscience that was starving in exile. Tickets and fares were high, but I traveled for nothing by pretending to be the conscience of an editor, and got in for half-price by representing myself to be the conscience of a clergyman. However, the publisher’s conscience, which was to have been the main feature of the entertainment, was a failure – as an exhibition. He was there, but what of that? The management had provided a microscope with a magnifying power of only thirty thousand diameters, and so nobody got to see him, after all. There was great and general dissatisfaction, of course, but—”

Just here there was an eager footstep on the stair; I opened the door, and my aunt Mary burst into the room. It was a joyful meeting and a cheery bombardment of questions and answers concerning family matters ensued. By and by my aunt said:

“But I am going to abuse you a little now. You promised me, the day I saw you last, that you would look after the needs of the poor family around the corner as faithfully as I had done it myself. Well, I found out by accident that you failed of your promise. Was that right?”

In simple truth, I never had thought of that family a second time! And now such a splintering pang of guilt shot through me! I glanced up at my Conscience. Plainly, my heavy heart was affecting him. His body was drooping forward; he seemed about to fall from the bookcase. My aunt continued:

“And think how you have neglected my poor protégé at the almshouse, you dear, hard-hearted promise-breaker!” I blushed scarlet, and my tongue was tied. As the sense of my guilty negligence waxed sharper and stronger, my Conscience began to sway heavily back and forth; and when my aunt, after a little pause, said in a grieved tone, “Since you never once went to see her, maybe it will not distress you now to know that that poor child died, months ago, utterly friendless and forsaken!” My Conscience could no longer bear up under the weight of my sufferings, but tumbled headlong from his high perch and struck the floor with a dull, leaden thump. He lay there writhing with pain and quaking with apprehension, but straining every muscle in frantic efforts to get up. In a fever of expectancy I sprang to the door, locked it, placed my back against it, and bent a watchful gaze upon my struggling master. Already my fingers were itching to begin their murderous work.

“Oh, what can be the matter!” exclaimed my aunt, shrinking from me, and following with her frightened eyes the direction of mine. My breath was coming in short, quick gasps now, and my excitement was almost uncontrollable. My aunt cried out:

“Oh, do not look so! You appall me! Oh, what can the matter be? What is it you see? Why do you stare so? Why do you work your fingers like that?”

“Peace, woman!” I said, in a hoarse whisper. “Look elsewhere; pay no attention to me; it is nothing – nothing. I am often this way. It will pass in a moment. It comes from smoking too much.”

My injured lord was up, wild-eyed with terror, and trying to hobble toward the door. I could hardly breathe, I was so wrought up. My aunt wrung her hands, and said:

“Oh, I knew how it would be; I knew it would come to this at last! Oh, I implore you to crush out that fatal habit while it may yet be time! You must not, you shall not be deaf to my supplications longer!” My struggling Conscience showed sudden signs of weariness! “Oh, promise me you will throw off this hateful slavery of tobacco!” My Conscience began to reel drowsily, and grope with his hands – enchanting spectacle! “I beg you, I beseech you, I implore you! Your reason is deserting you! There is madness in your eye! It flames with frenzy! Oh, hear me, hear me, and be saved! See, I plead with you on my very knees!” As she sank before me my Conscience reeled again, and then drooped languidly to the floor, blinking toward me a last supplication for mercy, with heavy eyes. “Oh, promise, or you are lost! Promise, and be redeemed! Promise! Promise and live!” With a long-drawn sigh my conquered Conscience closed his eyes and fell fast asleep!

With an exultant shout I sprang past my aunt, and in an instant I had my lifelong foe by the throat. After so many years of waiting and longing, he was mine at last. I tore him to shreds and fragments. I rent the fragments to bits. I cast the bleeding rubbish into the fire, and drew into my nostrils the grateful incense of my burnt-offering. At last, and forever, my Conscience was dead!

I was a free man! I turned upon my poor aunt, who was almost petrified with terror, and shouted:

“Out of this with your paupers, your charities, your reforms, your pestilent morals! You behold before you a man whose life-conflict is done, whose soul is at peace; a man whose heart is dead to sorrow, dead to suffering, dead to remorse; a man WITHOUT A CONSCIENCE! In my joy I spare you, though I could throttle you and never feel a pang! Fly!”

She fled. Since that day my life is all bliss. Bliss, unalloyed bliss. Nothing in all the world could persuade me to have a conscience again. I settled all my old outstanding scores, and began the world anew. I killed thirty-eight persons during the first two weeks – all of them on account of ancient grudges. I burned a dwelling that interrupted my view. I swindled a widow and some orphans out of their last cow, which is a very good one, though not thoroughbred, I believe. I have also committed scores of crimes, of various kinds, and have enjoyed my work exceedingly, whereas it would formerly have broken my heart and turned my hair gray, I have no doubt.

In conclusion, I wish to state, by way of advertisement, that medical colleges desiring assorted tramps for scientific purposes, either by the gross, by cord measurement, or per ton, will do well to examine the lot in my cellar before purchasing elsewhere, as these were all selected and prepared by myself, and can be had at a low rate, because I wish to clear out my stock and get ready for the spring trade.

First publication: The Atlantic magazine, June 1876.

• 2 •The Stolen White Elephant

Left out of A Tramp Abroad, because it was feared that some of the particulars had been exaggerated, and that others were not true. Before these suspicions had been proven groundless, the book had gone to press. —M. T.

CHAPTER I

THE following curious history was related to me by a chance railway acquaintance. He was a gentleman more than seventy years of age, and his thoroughly good and gentle face and earnest and sincere manner imprinted the unmistakable stamp of truth upon every statement which fell from his lips. He said:

You know in what reverence the royal white elephant of Siam is held by the people of that country. You know it is sacred to kings, only kings may possess it, and that it is, indeed, in a measure even superior to kings, since it receives not merely honor but worship. Very well; five years ago, when the troubles concerning the frontier line arose between Great Britain and Siam, it was presently manifest that Siam had been in the wrong. Therefore every reparation was quickly made, and the British representative stated that he was satisfied and the past should be forgotten. This greatly relieved the King of Siam, and partly as a token of gratitude, partly also, perhaps, to wipe out any little remaining vestige of unpleasantness which England might feel toward him, he wished to send the Queen a present – the sole sure way of propitiating an enemy, according to Oriental ideas. This present ought not only to be a royal one, but transcendently royal. Wherefore, what offering could be so meet as that of a white elephant? My position in the Indian civil service was such that I was deemed peculiarly worthy of the honor of conveying the present to her Majesty. A ship was fitted out for me and my servants and the officers and attendants of the elephant, and in due time I arrived in New York harbor and placed my royal charge in admirable quarters in Jersey City. It was necessary to remain awhile in order to recruit the animal’s health before resuming the voyage.

All went well during a fortnight – then my calamities began. The white elephant was stolen! I was called up at dead of night and informed of this fearful misfortune. For some moments I was beside myself with terror and anxiety; I was helpless. Then I grew calmer and collected my faculties. I soon saw my course – for, indeed, there was but the one course for an intelligent man to pursue. Late as it was, I flew to New York and got a policeman to conduct me to the headquarters of the detective force. Fortunately I arrived in time, though the chief of the force, the celebrated Inspector Blunt was just on the point of leaving for his home. He was a man of middle size and compact frame, and when he was thinking deeply he had a way of knitting his brows and tapping his forehead reflectively with his finger, which impressed you at once with the conviction that you stood in the presence of a person of no common order. The very sight of him gave me confidence and made me hopeful. I stated my errand. It did not flurry him in the least; it had no more visible effect upon his iron self-possession than if I had told him somebody had stolen my dog. He motioned me to a seat, and said, calmly:

“Allow me to think a moment, please.”

So saying, he sat down at his office table and leaned his head upon his hand. Several clerks were at work at the other end of the room; the scratching of their pens was all the sound I heard during the next six or seven minutes. Meantime the inspector sat there, buried in thought. Finally he raised his head, and there was that in the firm lines of his face which showed me that his brain had done its work and his plan was made. Said he – and his voice was low and impressive:

“This is no ordinary case. Every step must be warily taken; each step must be made sure before the next is ventured. And secrecy must be observed – secrecy profound and absolute. Speak to no one about the matter, not even the reporters. I will take care of them; I will see that they get only what it may suit my ends to let them know.” He touched a bell; a youth appeared. “Alaric, tell the reporters to remain for the present.” The boy retired. “Now let us proceed to business – and systematically. Nothing can be accomplished in this trade of mine without strict and minute method.”

He took a pen and some paper. “Now – name of the elephant?”

“Hassan Ben Ali Ben Selim Abdallah Mohammed Moist Alhammal Jamsetjejeebhoy Dhuleep Sultan Ebu Bhudpoor.”

“Very well. Given name?”

“Jumbo.”

“Very well. Place of birth?”

“The capital city of Siam.”

“Parents living?”

“No – dead.”

“Had they any other issue besides this one?”

“None. He was an only child.”

“Very well. These matters are sufficient under that head. Now please describe the elephant, and leave out no particular, however insignificant – that is, insignificant from your point of view. To me in my profession there are no insignificant particulars; they do not exist.”

I described – he wrote. When I was done, he said:

“Now listen. If I have made any mistakes, correct me.”

He read as follows:

“Height, 19 feet; length from apex of forehead to insertion of tail, 26 feet; length of trunk, 16 feet; length of tail, 6 feet; total length, including trunk, and tail, 48 feet; length of tusks, 9 feet; ears keeping with these dimensions; footprint resembles the mark left when one up-ends a barrel in the snow; the color of the elephant, a dull white; has a hole the size of a plate in each ear for the insertion of jewelry and possesses the habit in a remarkable degree of squirting water upon spectators and of maltreating with his trunk not only such persons as he is acquainted with, but even entire strangers; limps slightly with his right hind leg, and has a small scar in his left armpit caused by a former boil; had on, when stolen, a castle containing seats for fifteen persons, and a gold-cloth saddle-blanket the size of an ordinary carpet.”

There were no mistakes. The inspector touched the bell, handed the description to Alaric, and said:

“Have fifty thousand copies of this printed at once and mailed to every detective office and pawnbroker’s shop on the continent.” Alaric retired. “There – so far, so good. Next, I must have a photograph of the property.”

I gave him one. He examined it critically, and said:

“It must do, since we can do no better; but he has his trunk curled up and tucked into his mouth. That is unfortunate, and is calculated to mislead, for of course he does not usually have it in that position.” He touched his bell.

“Alaric, have fifty thousand copies of this photograph made the first thing in the morning, and mail them with the descriptive circulars.”

Alaric retired to execute his orders. The inspector said:

“It will be necessary to offer a reward, of course. Now as to the amount?”

“What sum would you suggest?”

“To begin with, I should say – well, twenty-five thousand dollars. It is an intricate and difficult business; there are a thousand avenues of escape and opportunities of concealment. These thieves have friends and pals everywhere—”

“Bless me, do you know who they are?”

The wary face, practised in concealing the thoughts and feelings within, gave me no token, nor yet the replying words, so quietly uttered:

“Never mind about that. I may, and I may not. We generally gather a pretty shrewd inkling of who our man is by the manner of his work and the size of the game he goes after. We are not dealing with a pickpocket or a hall thief now, make up your mind to that. This property was not ‘lifted’ by a novice. But, as I was saying, considering the amount of travel which will have to be done, and the diligence with which the thieves will cover up their traces as they move along, twenty-five thousand may be too small a sum to offer, yet I think it worth while to start with that.”

So we determined upon that figure as a beginning. Then this man, whom nothing escaped which could by any possibility be made to serve as a clue, said:

“There are cases in detective history to show that criminals have been detected through peculiarities, in their appetites. Now, what does this elephant eat, and how much?”

“Well, as to what he eats – he will eat anything. He will eat a man, he will eat a Bible – he will eat anything between a man and a Bible.”

“Good very good, indeed, but too general. Details are necessary – details are the only valuable things in our trade. Very well – as to men. At one meal – or, if you prefer, during one day – how many men will he eat, if fresh?”

“He would not care whether they were fresh or not; at a single meal he would eat five ordinary men.

“Very good; five men; we will put that down. What nationalities would he prefer?”

“He is indifferent about nationalities. He prefers acquaintances, but is not prejudiced against strangers.”

“Very good. Now, as to Bibles. How many Bibles would he eat at a meal?”

“He would eat an entire edition.”

“It is hardly succinct enough. Do you mean the ordinary octavo, or the family illustrated?”

“I think he would be indifferent to illustrations that is, I think he would not value illustrations above simple letterpress.”

“No, you do not get my idea. I refer to bulk. The ordinary octavo Bible weighs about two pound; and a half, while the great quarto with the illustrations weighs ten or twelve. How many Doré Bibles would he eat at a meal?”

“If you knew this elephant, you could not ask. He would take what they had.”

“Well, put it in dollars and cents, then. We must get at it somehow. The Doré costs a hundred dollars a copy, Russia leather, beveled.”

“He would require about fifty thousand dollars worth – say an edition of five hundred copies.”

“Now that is more exact. I will put that down. Very well; he likes men and Bibles; so far, so good. What else will he eat? I want particulars.”

“He will leave Bibles to eat bricks, he will leave bricks to eat bottles, he will leave bottles to eat clothing, he will leave clothing to eat cats, he will leave cats to eat oysters, he will leave oysters to eat ham, he will leave ham to eat sugar, he will leave sugar to eat pie, he will leave pie to eat potatoes, he will leave potatoes to eat bran, he will leave bran to eat hay, he will leave hay to eat oats, he will leave oats to eat rice, for he was mainly raised on it. There is nothing whatever that he will not eat but European butter, and he would eat that if he could taste it.”

“Very good. General quantity at a meal – say about—”

“Well, anywhere from a quarter to half a ton.”

“And he drinks—”

“Everything that is fluid. Milk, water, whisky, molasses, castor oil, camphene, carbolic acid – it is no use to go into particulars; whatever fluid occurs to you set it down. He will drink anything that is fluid, except European coffee.”

“Very good. As to quantity?”

“Put it down five to fifteen barrels – his thirst varies; his other appetites do not.”

“These things are unusual. They ought to furnish quite good clues toward tracing him.”

He touched the bell.

“Alaric; summon Captain Burns.”

Burns appeared. Inspector Blunt unfolded the whole matter to him, detail by detail. Then he said in the clear, decisive tones of a man whose plans are clearly defined in his head and who is accustomed to command:

“Captain Burns, detail Detectives Jones, Davis, Halsey, Bates, and Hackett to shadow the elephant.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Detail Detectives Moses, Dakin, Murphy, Rogers, Tupper, Higgins, and Bartholomew to shadow the thieves.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Place a strong guard – a guard of thirty picked men, with a relief of thirty – over the place from whence the elephant was stolen, to keep strict watch there night and day, and allow none to approach – except reporters – without written authority from me.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Place detectives in plain clothes in the railway; steamship, and ferry depôts, and upon all roadways leading out of Jersey City, with orders to search all suspicious persons.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Furnish all these men with photograph and accompanying description of the elephant, and instruct them to search all trains and outgoing ferry-boats and other vessels.”

“Yes, sir.”

“If the elephant should be found, let him be seized, and the information forwarded to me by telegraph.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Let me be informed at once if any clues should be found – footprints of the animal, or anything of that kind.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Get an order commanding the harbor police to patrol the frontages vigilantly.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Despatch detectives in plain clothes over all the railways, north as far as Canada, west as far as Ohio, south as far as Washington.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Place experts in all the telegraph offices to listen in to all messages; and let them require that all cipher despatches be interpreted to them.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Let all these things be done with the utmost secrecy – mind, the most impenetrable secrecy.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Report to me promptly at the usual hour.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Go!”

“Yes, sir.”

He was gone.

Inspector Blunt was silent and thoughtful a moment, while the fire in his eye cooled down and faded out. Then he turned to me and said in a placid voice:

“I am not given to boasting, it is not my habit; but— we shall find the elephant.”

I shook him warmly by the hand and thanked him; and I felt my thanks, too. The more I had seen of the man the more I liked him and the more I admired him and marveled over the mysterious wonders of his profession. Then we parted for the night, and I went home with a far happier heart than I had carried with me to his office.

CHAPTER II

NEXT morning it was all in the newspapers, in the minutest detail. It even had additions – consisting of Detective This, Detective That, and Detective The Other’s “Theory” as to how the robbery was done, who the robbers were, and whither they had flown with their booty. There were eleven of these theories, and they covered all the possibilities; and this single fact shows what independent thinkers detectives are. No two theories were alike, or even much resembled each other, save in one striking particular, and in that one all the other eleven theories were absolutely agreed. That was, that although the rear of my building was torn out and the only door remained locked, the elephant had not been removed through the rent, but by some other (undiscovered) outlet. All agreed that the robbers had made that rent only to mislead the detectives. That never would have occurred to me or to any other layman, perhaps, but it had not deceived the detectives for a moment. Thus, what I had supposed was the only thing that had no mystery about it was in fact the very thing I had gone furthest astray in. The eleven theories all named the supposed robbers, but no two named the same robbers; the total number of suspected persons was thirty-seven. The various newspaper accounts all closed with the most important opinion of all – that of Chief Inspector Blunt. A portion of this statement read as follows:

The chief knows who the two principals are, namely, “Brick” Daffy and “Red” McFadden. Ten days before the robbery was achieved he was already aware that it was to be attempted, and had quietly proceeded to shadow these two noted villains; but unfortunately on the night in question their track was lost, and before it could be found again the bird was flown – that is, the elephant.

Daffy and McFadden are the boldest scoundrels in the profession; the chief has reasons for believing that they are the men who stole the stove out of the detective headquarters on a bitter night last winter – in consequence of which the chief and every detective present were in the hands of the physicians before morning, some with frozen feet, others with frozen fingers, ears, and other members.

When I read the first half of that I was more astonished than ever at the wonderful sagacity of this strange man. He not only saw everything in the present with a clear eye, but even the future could not be hidden from him. I was soon at his office, and said I could not help wishing he had had those men arrested, and so prevented the trouble and loss; but his reply was simple and unanswerable:

“It is not our province to prevent crime, but to punish it. We cannot punish it until it is committed.”

I remarked that the secrecy with which we had begun had been marred by the newspapers; not only all our facts but all our plans and purposes had been revealed; even all the suspected persons had been named; these would doubtless disguise themselves now, or go into hiding.

“Let them. They will find that when I am ready for them my hand will descend upon them, in their secret places, as unerringly as the hand of fate. As to the newspapers, we must