Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

Sketches New and Old, Part 6.

Mark Twain

  Produced by David Widger


  by Mark Twain

  Part 6.


  "Now that corpse," said the undertaker, patting the folded hands ofdeceased 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 lastmoments. Friends wanted metallic burial-case--nothing else would do.I couldn't get it. There warn't going to be time--anybody could seethat.

  "Corpse said never mind, shake him up some kind of a box he could stretchout 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 wasand wher' he was from. Now you know a fellow couldn't roust out such agaily thing as that in a little country-town like this. What did corpsesay?

  "Corpse said, whitewash his old canoe and dob his address and generaldestination onto it with a blacking-brush and a stencil-plate, 'long witha verse from some likely hymn or other, and pint him for the tomb, andmark him C. O. D., and just let him flicker. He warn't distressed anymore than you be--on the contrary, just as ca,'m and collected as ahearse-horse; said he judged that wher' he was going to a body would findit considerable better to attract attention by a picturesque moralcharacter 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'vetackled in seven year. There's some satisfaction in buryin' a man likethat. 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; saidhis relations meant well, perfectly well, but all them preparations wasbound to delay the thing more or less, and he didn't wish to be keptlayin' around. You never see such a clear head as what he had--and soca,'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'shead to t'other. Often and over again he's had brain-fever a-raging inone place, and the rest of the pile didn't know anything about it--didn'taffect it any more than an Injun Insurrection in Arizona affects theAtlantic States.

  "Well, the relations they wanted a big funeral, but corpse said he wasdown on flummery--didn,'t want any procession--fill the hearse full ofmourners, and get out a stern line and tow him behind. He was the mostdown on style of any remains I ever struck. A beautiful, simplemindedcreature it was what he was, you can depend on that. He was just set onhaving things the way he wanted them, and he took a solid comfort inlaying his little plans. He had me measure him and take a whole raft ofdirections; then he had the minister stand up behind along box with atable--cloth over it, to represent the coffin, and read his funeralsermon, saying 'Angcore, angcore!' at the good places, and making himscratch out every bit of brag about him, and all the hifalutin; and thenhe made them trot out the choir, so's he could help them pick out thetunes 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 solemnmusic made him sad; and when they sung that with tears in their eyes(because they all loved him), and his relations grieving around, he justlaid there as happy as a bug, and trying to beat time and showing allover 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 abilitiesin the singing line; but the first time he opened his mouth and was justgoing 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, Ihain't got time to be palavering along here--got to nail on the lid andmosey along with him; and if you'll just give me a lift we'll skeet himinto the hearse and meander along. Relations bound to have it so--don'tpay no attention to dying injunctions, minute a corpse's gone; but, if Ihad my way, if I didn't respect his last wishes and tow him behind thehearse I'll be cuss'd. I consider that whatever a corpse wants done forhis comfort is little enough matter, and a man hain't got no right todeceive him or take advantage of him; and whatever a corpse trusts me todo I'm a-going to do, you know, even if it's to stuff him and paint himyaller and keep him for a keepsake--you hear me!"

  He cracked his whip and went lumbering away with his ancient ruin of ahearse, and I continued my walk with a valuable lesson learned--that ahealthy and wholesome cheerfulness is not necessarily impossible to anyoccupation. The lesson is likely to be lasting, for it will take manymonths to obliterate the memory of the remarks and circumstances thatimpressed it.