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The Speculative Fiction of Mark Twain

Mark Twain


  Mark Twain







  Copyright © 2018 by Dover Publications, Inc.

  All rights reserved.

  Bibliographical Note

   This Dover edition, first published in 2018, is a new selection of eleven stories reprinted from standard texts. A new introductory note has been specially prepared for this volume. Readers should be forewarned that the text contains racial and cultural references of the era in which it was written and may be deemed offensive by today’s standards.

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Names: Twain, Mark, 1835–1910, author.

  Title: The speculative fiction of Mark Twain / Mark Twain.

  Description: Mineola, New York : Dover Publications, 2018. | Series: Dover thrift editions

  Identifiers: LCCN 2018019467| ISBN 9780486826653 | ISBN 0486826651

  Subjects: LCSH: Speculative fiction, American.

  Classification: LCC PS1303 2018 | DDC 813/.4—dc23

  LC record available at

  Manufactured in the United States by LSC Communications

  82665101 2018


  MARK TWAIN was born Samuel Langhorn Clemens in Florida, Missouri, in 1835. He was born two months prematurely and faced health complications for the first ten years of his life. Beginning at age eleven, he worked at a variety of jobs to support his family after his father died.

  In 1863, Clemens began using the pen name Mark Twain, a river term for water just barely safe for navigation. He largely focused on humor writing. In 1865, he wrote a letter to his brother saying that he was not “proud” of his “ ‘call’ to literature of a low order—i.e. humorous,” but it was his “strongest suit.” His greatest books include The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), The Prince and the Pauper (1881), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889).

  The stories in this collection span Clemens’s writing career, with the first predating his use of the pseudonym Mark Twain. The publication dates of the stories range a century, from 1862 to 1962, with two stories published posthumously. “Petrified Man” was originally published in the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise on October 4, 1862. “Earthquake Almanac” was originally published in the San Francisco Dramatic Chronicle on October 17, 1865. “From the ‘London Times’ of 1904” was originally published in The Century Magazine in November 1898. “The Loves of Alfonzo Fitz Clarence and Rosannah Ethelton” was originally published in the Atlantic Monthly in March 1878. “Mental Telegraphy” was originally published in Harper’s Magazine in December 1891. “Mental Telegraphy Again” was originally published in Harper’s Magazine in September 1895. “Extracts from Adam’s Diary” was originally published by Harper & Brothers, New York, in 1906. “Eve’s Diary” was originally published by Harper & Brothers, New York, in 1906. “The Great Dark” was originally published by Harper & Row, New York, in 1962. “Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven” was originally published in Harper’s Magazine in December 1907 and January 1908. “The Mysterious Stranger” was originally published by Harper & Brothers, New York, in 1916.

  Clemens knew setbacks and hardship in his life, including the death of his son, Langdon, in 1872, and his later years were particularly difficult. He declared bankruptcy in 1894. His daughter Susy died of spinal meningitis in 1897. His wife, Olivia, died in 1904. His daughter Jean, who had suffered from epilepsy, died in 1909. Despite having to contend with so much loss, Clemens was appreciated in his final decade. He received honorary degrees from Yale University, the University of Missouri, and Oxford University. He passed away in 1910, survived by only his daughter Clara.

  Mark Twain is remembered as one of the most important and funniest American writers. Owing to his clever sense of humor, his authentic representation of American characters, and his strong command of spoken language, Twain’s novels, short stories, and other writing continue to be beloved and revered.


  Petrified Man

  Earthquake Almanac

  From the “London Times” of 1904

  The Loves of Alfonzo Fitz Clarence and Rosannah Ethelton

  Mental Telegraphy

  Mental Telegraphy Again

  Extracts from Adam’s Diary

  Eve’s Diary

  The Great Dark

  Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven

  The Mysterious Stranger



  A PETRIFIED MAN was found some time ago in the mountains south of Gravelly Ford. Every limb and feature of the stony mummy was perfect, not even excepting the left leg, which has evidently been a wooden one during the lifetime of the owner—which lifetime, by the way, came to a close about a century ago, in the opinion of a savan who has examined the defunct. The body was in a sitting posture, and leaning against a huge mass of croppings; the attitude was pensive, the right thumb resting against the side of the nose; the left thumb partially supported the chin, the fore-finger pressing the inner corner of the left eye and drawing it partly open; the right eye was closed, and the fingers of the right hand spread apart. This strange freak of nature created a profound sensation in the vicinity, and our informant states that by request, Justice Sewell or Sowell, of Humboldt City, at once proceeded to the spot and held an inquest on the body. The verdict of the jury was that “deceased came to his death from protracted exposure,” etc. The people of the neighborhood volunteered to bury the poor unfortunate, and were even anxious to do so; but it was discovered, when they attempted to remove him, that the water which had dripped upon him for ages from the crag above, had coursed down his back and deposited a limestone sediment under him which had glued him to the bed rock upon which he sat, as with a cement of adamant, and Judge S. refused to allow the charitable citizens to blast him from his position. The opinion expressed by his Honor that such a course would be little less than sacrilege, was eminently just and proper. Everybody goes to see the stone man, as many as three hundred having visited the hardened creature during the past five or six weeks.


  EDS. CHRONICLE:—At the instance of several friends who feel a boding anxiety to know beforehand what sort of phenomena we may expect the elements to exhibit during the next month or two, and who have lost all confidence in the various patent medicine almanacs, because of the unaccountable reticence of those works concerning the extraordinary event of the 8th inst., I have compiled the following almanac expressly for this latitude:

  Oct. 17.—Weather hazy; atmosphere murky and dense. An expression of profound melancholy will be observable upon most countenances.

  Oct. 18.—Slight earthquake. Countenances grow more melancholy.

  Oct. 19.—Look out for rain. It would be absurd to look in for it. The general depression of spirits increased.

  Oct. 20.—More weather.

  Oct. 21.—Same.

  Oct. 22.—Light winds, perhaps. If they blow, it will be from the “east’ard, or the nor’ard, or the west’ard, or the suth’ard,” or from some general direction approximating more or less to these points of the compass or otherwise. Winds are uncertain—more especially when they blow from whence they cometh and whither they listeth. N. B.—Such is the nature of winds.

  Oct. 23.—Mild, balmy earthquakes.

/>   Oct. 24.—Shaky.

  Oct. 25.—Occasional shakes, followed by light showers of bricks and plastering. N. B.—Stand from under.

  Oct. 26.—Considerable phenomenal atmospheric foolishness. About this time expect more earthquakes, but do not look out for them, on account of the bricks.

  Oct. 27.—Universal despondency, indicative of approaching disaster. Abstain from smiling, or indulgence in humorous conversation, or exasperating jokes.

  Oct. 28.—Misery, dismal forebodings and despair. Beware of all light discourse—a joke uttered at this time would produce a popular outbreak.

  Oct. 29.—Beware!

  Oct. 30.—Keep dark!

  Oct. 31.—Go slow!

  Nov. 1.—Terrific earthquake. This is the great earthquake month. More stars fall and more worlds are slathered around carelessly and destroyed in November than in any other month of the twelve.

  Nov. 2.—Spasmodic but exhilarating earthquakes, accompanied by occasional showers of rain, and churches and things.

  Nov. 3.—Make your will.

  Nov. 4.—Sell out.

  Nov. 5.—Select your “last words.” Those of John Quincy Adams will do, with the addition of a syllable, thus: “This is the last of earth-quakes.”

  Nov. 6.—Prepare to shed this mortal coil.

  Nov. 7.—Shed!

  Nov. 8.—The sun will rise as usual, perhaps; but if he does he will doubtless be staggered some to find nothing but a large round hole eight thousand miles in diameter in the place where he saw this world serenely spinning the day before.



  Correspondence of the “London Times”

  CHICAGO, APRIL 1, 1904

  I resume by cable-telephone where I left off yesterday. For many hours, now, this vast city—along with the rest of the globe, of course—has talked of nothing but the extraordinary episode mentioned in my last report. In accordance with your instructions, I will now trace the romance from its beginnings down to the culmination of yesterday—or to-day; call it which you like. By an odd chance, I was a personal actor in a part of this drama myself. The opening scene plays in Vienna. Date, one o’clock in the morning, March 31, 1898. I had spent the evening at a social entertainment. About midnight I went away, in company with the military attachés of the British, Italian, and American embassies, to finish with a late smoke. This function had been appointed to take place in the house of Lieutenant Hillyer, the third attaché mentioned in the above list. When we arrived there we found several visitors in the room: young Szczepanik; Mr. K., his financial backer; Mr. W., the latter’s secretary; and Lieutenant Clayton of the United States army. War was at that time threatening between Spain and our country, and Lieutenant Clayton had been sent to Europe on military business. I was well acquainted with young Szczepanik and his two friends, and I knew Mr. Clayton slightly. I had met him at West Point years before, when he was a cadet. It was when General Merritt was superintendent. He had the reputation of being an able officer, and also of being quick-tempered and plain-spoken.

  This smoking-party had been gathered together partly for business. This business was to consider the availability of the telelectroscope for military service. It sounds oddly enough now, but it is nevertheless true that at that time the invention was not taken seriously by any one except its inventor. Even his financial supporter regarded it merely as a curious and interesting toy. Indeed, he was so convinced of this that he had actually postponed its use by the general world to the end of the dying century by granting a two years’ exclusive lease of it to a syndicate, whose intent was to exploit it at the Paris World’s Fair.

  When we entered the smoking-room we found Lieutenant Clayton and Szczepanik engaged in a warm talk over the telelectroscope in the German tongue. Clayton was saying:

  “Well, you know my opinion of it, anyway!” and he brought his fist down with emphasis upon the table.

  “And I do not value it,” retorted the young inventor, with provoking calmness of tone and manner.

  Clayton turned to Mr. K., and said:

  “I cannot see why you are wasting money on this toy. In my opinion, the day will never come when it will do a farthing’s worth of real service for any human being.”

  “That may be; yes, that may be; still, I have put the money in it, and am content. I think, myself, that it is only a toy; but Szczepanik claims more for it, and I know him well enough to believe that he can see farther than I can—either with his telelectroscope or without it.”

  The soft answer did not cool Clayton down; it seemed only to irritate him the more; and he repeated and emphasized his conviction that the invention would never do any man a farthing’s worth of real service. He even made it a “brass” farthing, this time. Then he laid an English farthing on the table, and added:

  “Take that, Mr. K., and put it away; and if ever the telelectroscope does any man an actual service,—mind, a real service,—please mail it to me as a reminder, and I will take back what I have been saying. Will you?”

  “I will”; and Mr. K. put the coin in his pocket.

  Mr. Clayton now turned toward Szczepanik, and began with a taunt—a taunt which did not reach a finish; Szczepanik interrupted it with a hardy retort, and followed this with a blow. There was a brisk fight for a moment or two; then the attachés separated the men.

  The scene now changes to Chicago. Time, the autumn of 1901. As soon as the Paris contract released the telelectroscope, it was delivered to public use, and was soon connected with the telephonic systems of the whole world. The improved “limitless-distance” telephone was presently introduced, and the daily doings of the globe made visible to everybody, and audibly discussable, too, by witnesses separated by any number of leagues.

  By and by Szczepanik arrived in Chicago. Clayton (now captain) was serving in that military department at the time. The two men resumed the Viennese quarrel of 1898. On three different occasions they quarreled, and were separated by witnesses. Then came an interval of two months, during which time Szczepanik was not seen by any of his friends, and it was at first supposed that he had gone off on a sight-seeing tour and would soon be heard from. But no; no word came from him. Then it was supposed that he had returned to Europe. Still, time drifted on, and he was not heard from. Nobody was troubled, for he was like most inventors and other kinds of poets, and went and came in a capricious way, and often without notice.

  Now comes the tragedy. On the 29th of December, in a dark and unused compartment of the cellar under Captain Clayton’s house, a corpse was discovered by one of Clayton’s maid-servants. It was easily identified as Szczepanik’s. The man had died by violence. Clayton was arrested, indicted, and brought to trial, charged with this murder. The evidence against him was perfect in every detail, and absolutely unassailable. Clayton admitted this himself. He said that a reasonable man could not examine this testimony with a dispassionate mind and not be convinced by it; yet the man would be in error, nevertheless. Clayton swore that he did not commit the murder, and that he had had nothing to do with it.

  As your readers will remember, he was condemned to death. He had numerous and powerful friends, and they worked hard to save him, for none of them doubted the truth of his assertion. I did what little I could to help, for I had long since become a close friend of his, and thought I knew that it was not in his character to inveigle an enemy into a corner and assassinate him. During 1902 and 1903 he was several times reprieved by the governor; he was reprieved once more in the beginning of the present year, and the execution-day postponed to March 31.

  The governor’s situation has been embarrassing, from the day of the condemnation, because of the fact that Clayton’s wife is the governor’s niece. The marriage took place in 1899, when Clayton was thirty-four and the girl twenty-three, and has been a happy one. There is one child, a little girl three years old. Pity for the poor mother and child kept the mouths of grumblers closed at first; but this could not last forever,—for in Am
erica politics has a hand in everything,—and by and by the governor’s political opponents began to call attention to his delay in allowing the law to take its course. These hints have grown more and more frequent of late, and more and more pronounced. As a natural result, his own party grew nervous. Its leaders began to visit Springfield and hold long private conferences with him. He was now between two fires. On the one hand, his niece was imploring him to pardon her husband; on the other were the leaders, insisting that he stand to his plain duty as chief magistrate of the State, and place no further bar to Clayton’s execution. Duty won in the struggle, and the governor gave his word that he would not again respite the condemned man. This was two weeks ago. Mrs. Clayton now said:

  “Now that you have given your word, my last hope is gone, for I know you will never go back from it. But you have done the best you could for John, and I have no reproaches for you. You love him, and you love me, and we both know that if you could honorably save him, you would do it. I will go to him now, and be what help I can to him, and get what comfort I may out of the few days that are left to us before the night comes which will have no end for me in life. You will be with me that day? You will not let me bear it alone?”

  “I will take you to him myself, poor child, and I will be near you to the last.”

  By the governor’s command, Clayton was now allowed every indulgence he might ask for which could interest his mind and soften the hardships of his imprisonment. His wife and child spent the days with him; I was his companion by night. He was removed from the narrow cell which he had occupied during such a dreary stretch of time, and given the chief warden’s roomy and comfortable quarters. His mind was always busy with the catastrophe of his life, and with the slaughtered inventor, and he now took the fancy that he would like to have the telelectroscope and divert his mind with it. He had his wish. The connection was made with the international telephone-station, and day by day, and night by night, he called up one corner of the globe after another, and looked upon its life, and studied its strange sights, and spoke with its people, and realized that by grace of this marvelous instrument he was almost as free as the birds of the air, although a prisoner under locks and bars. He seldom spoke, and I never interrupted him when he was absorbed in this amusement. I sat in his parlor and read and smoked, and the nights were very quiet and reposefully sociable, and I found them pleasant. Now and then I would hear him say, “Give me Yedo”; next, “Give me Hong-Kong”; next, “Give me Melbourne.” And I smoked on, and read in comfort, while he wandered about the remote under-world, where the sun was shining in the sky, and the people were at their daily work. Sometimes the talk that came from those far regions through the microphone attachment interested me, and I listened.