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The Facts Concerning the Recent Carnival of Crime in Connecticut

Mark Twain

  Produced by David Widger


  by Mark Twain

  I was feeling blithe, almost jocund. I put a match to my cigar, andjust then the morning's mail was handed in. The first superscription Iglanced at was in a handwriting that sent a thrill of pleasure throughand through me. It was Aunt Mary's; and she was the person I loved andhonored most in all the world, outside of my own household. She had beenmy boyhood's idol; maturity, which is fatal to so many enchantments,had not been able to dislodge her from her pedestal; no, it had onlyjustified her right to be there, and placed her dethronement permanentlyamong the impossibilities. To show how strong her influence over me was,I will observe that long after everybody else's "do-stop-smoking" hadceased to affect me in the slightest degree, Aunt Mary could still stirmy torpid conscience into faint signs of life when she touched upon thematter. But all things have their limit in this world. A happy day cameat last, when even Aunt Mary's words could no longer move me. I wasnot merely glad to see that day arrive; I was more than glad--I wasgrateful; for when its sun had set, the one alloy that was able to marmy enjoyment of my aunt's society was gone. The remainder of her staywith us that winter was in every way a delight. Of course she pleadedwith me just as earnestly as ever, after that blessed day, to quit mypernicious habit, but to no purpose whatever; the moment she openedthe subject I at once became calmly, peacefully, contentedlyindifferent--absolutely, adamantinely indifferent. Consequently theclosing weeks of that memorable visit melted away as pleasantly as adream, they were so freighted for me with tranquil satisfaction. I couldnot have enjoyed my pet vice more if my gentle tormentor had been asmoker herself, and an advocate of the practice. Well, the sight of herhandwriting 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 bythe morning train; I might expect her any moment.

  I said to myself, "I am thoroughly happy and content now. If my mostpitiless enemy could appear before me at this moment, I would freelyright any wrong I may have done him."

  Straightway the door opened, and a shriveled, shabby dwarf entered. Hewas 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 thislittle person was a deformity as a whole--a vague, general, evenlyblended, nicely adjusted deformity. There was a fox-like cunning in theface and the sharp little eyes, and also alertness and malice. Andyet, this vile bit of human rubbish seemed to bear a sort of remoteand ill-defined resemblance to me! It was dully perceptible in themean form, the countenance, and even the clothes, gestures, manner,and attitudes of the creature. He was a farfetched, dim suggestion ofa burlesque upon me, a caricature of me in little. One thing about himstruck me forcibly and most unpleasantly: he was covered all over witha 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'schair in a very free-and-easy way, without waiting to be asked. Hetossed his hat into the waste-basket. He picked up my old chalk pipefrom the floor, gave the stem a wipe or two on his knee, filled thebowl from the tobacco-box at his side, and said to me in a tone of pertcommand:

  "Gimme a match!"

  I blushed to the roots of my hair; partly with indignation, but mainlybecause it somehow seemed to me that this whole performance was verylike an exaggeration of conduct which I myself had sometimes beenguilty of in my intercourse with familiar friends--but never, never withstrangers, I observed to myself. I wanted to kick the pygmy into thefire, but some incomprehensible sense of being legally and legitimatelyunder his authority forced me to obey his order. He applied the matchto the pipe, took a contemplative whiff or two, and remarked, in anirritatingly 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 thelanguage was hardly an exaggeration of some that I have uttered inmy day, and moreover was delivered in a tone of voice and with anexasperating drawl that had the seeming of a deliberate travesty of mystyle. Now there is nothing I am quite so sensitive about as a mockingimitation of my drawling infirmity of speech. I spoke up sharply andsaid:

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

  The manikin smiled a smile of malicious content and security, puffeda whiff of smoke contemptuously toward me, and said, with a still moreelaborate 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, andthen 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 thattramp had traveled a block from my door--but still I resolved to make ashow 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 frombreakfast. Two lies. You knew the cook was behind the door, and plentyof provisions behind her."

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

  "It was rather pitiful, rather small, in you to refuse to read that pooryoung woman's manuscript the other day, and give her an opinion as toits literary value; and she had come so far, too, and so hopefully. Nowwasn't it?"

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

  "Look here, have you nothing better to do than prowl around prying intoother people's business? Did that girl tell you that?"

  "Never mind whether she did or not. The main thing is, you did thatcontemptible thing. And you felt ashamed of it afterward. Aha! you feelashamed 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 notconsent to deliver judgment upon any one's manuscript, because anindividual's verdict was worthless. It might underrate a work of highmerit and lose it to the world, or it might overrate a trashy productionand so open the way for its infliction upon the world: I said that thegreat public was the only tribunal competent to sit in judgment upona literary effort, and therefore it must be best to lay it before thattribunal in the outset, since in the end it must stand or fall by thatmighty court's decision anyway."

  "Yes, you said all that. So you did, you juggling, small-souledshuffler! And yet when the happy hopefulness
faded out of that poorgirl's face, when you saw her furtively slip beneath her shawl thescroll she had so patiently and honestly scribbled at--so ashamed of herdarling now, so proud of it before--when you saw the gladness go out ofher eyes and the tears come there, when she crept away so humbly who hadcome so--"

  "Oh, peace! peace! peace! Blister your merciless tongue, haven't allthese thoughts tortured me enough without your coming here to fetch themback again!"

  Remorse! remorse! It seemed to me that it would eat the very heart outof me! And yet that small fiend only sat there leering at me with joyand contempt, and placidly chuckling. Presently he began to speak again.Every sentence was an accusation, and every accusation a truth. Everyclause was freighted with sarcasm and derision, every slow-dropping wordburned like vitriol. The dwarf reminded me of times when I had flown