The Curious Republic Of Gondour And Other Whimsical Sketches
I started three or four times before I finally got my pluck to where it would stick. But at last I said I would go down and read it to him if he threw me over the church for it. I stood up to begin, and he told me to come closer. I edged up a little, but still left as much neutral ground between us as I thought he would stand. Then I began. It would be useless for me to try to tell what conflicting emotions expressed themselves upon his face, nor how they grew more and more intense, as I proceeded; nor how a fell darkness descended upon his countenance, and he began to gag and swallow, and his hands began to work and twitch, as I reeled off line after line, with the strength ebbing out of me, and my legs trembling under me:.
I kind of dodged, and the boot-jack broke the looking-glass. I could have waited to see what became of the other missiles if I had wanted to, but I took no interest in such things. I have long felt that while the magazine literature of the day had much to recommend it, it yet lacked stability, solidity, weight. It seemed plain to me that too much space was given to poetry and romance, and not enough to statistics and agriculture.
This defect it shall be my earnest endeavour to remedy. If I succeed, the simple consciousness that I have done a good deed will be a sufficient reward. In this department of mine the public may always rely upon finding exhaustive statistical tables concerning the finances of the country, the ratio of births and deaths; the percentage of increase of population, etc.
Also, in my department will always be found elaborate condensations of the Patent Office Reports, wherein a faithful endeavour will at all times be made to strip the nutritious facts bare of that effulgence of imagination and sublimity of diction which too often mar the excellence of those great works. In my department will always be found ample excerpts from those able dissertations upon Political Economy which I have for a long time been contributing to a great metropolitan journal, and which, for reasons utterly incomprehensible to me, another party has chosen to usurp the credit of composing.
And, finally, I call attention with pride to the fact that in my department of the magazine the farmer will always find full market reports, and also complete instructions about farming, even from the grafting of the seed to the harrowing of the matured crop. I shall throw a pathos into the subject of Agriculture that will surprise and delight the world. Such is my programme; and I am persuaded that by adhering to it with fidelity I shall succeed in materially changing the character of this magazine.
Therefore I am emboldened to ask the assistance and encouragement of all whose sympathies are with Progress and Reform. In the other departments of the magazine will be found poetry, tales, and other frothy trifles, and to these the reader can turn for relaxation from time to time, and thus guard against overstraining the powers of his mind. This remark seems necessary in a business point of view.
I would not conduct an exclusively and professedly humorous department for any one. I would always prefer to have the privilege of printing a serious and sensible remark, in case one occurred to me, without the reader's feeling obliged to consider himself outraged. We cannot keep the same mood day after day. I am liable, some day, to want to print my opinion on jurisprudence, or Homeric poetry, or international law, and I shall do it. It will be of small consequence to me whether the reader survive or not. I shall never go straining after jokes when in a cheerless mood, so long as the unhackneyed subject of international law is open to me.
I can print under it statistics, hotel arrivals, or anything that comes handy, without violating faith with the reader.
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Puns cannot be allowed a place in this department. Inoffensive ignorance, benignant stupidity, and unostentatious imbecility will always be welcomed and cheerfully accorded a corner, and even the feeblest humour will be admitted, when we can do no better; but no circumstances, however dismal, will ever be considered a sufficient excuse for the admission of that last—and saddest evidence of intellectual poverty, the Pun.
We have reason to believe that there will be labouring men in heaven; and also a number of negroes, and Esquimaux, and Terra del Fuegans, and Arabs, and a few Indians, and possibly even some Spaniards and Portuguese. All things are possible with God. We shall have all these sorts of people in heaven; but, alas! And what would eternal happiness be without the Doctor? Blissful, unquestionably—we know that well enough—but would it be 'distingue,' would it be 'recherche' without him? Matthew without stockings or sandals; St.
Jerome bare headed, and with a coarse brown blanket robe dragging the ground; St. To all outward seeming, the Rev. De Witt Talmage is of the same material as that used in the construction of his early predecessors in the ministry; and yet one feels that there must be a difference somewhere between him and the Saviour's first disciples.
It may be because here, in the nineteenth century, Dr. There was a lack of polish about them, and a looseness of etiquette, and a want of exclusiveness, which one cannot help noticing. They healed the very beggars, and held intercourse with people of a villainous odour every day. If the subject of these remarks had been chosen among the original Twelve Apostles, he would not have associated with the rest, because he could not have stood the fishy smell of some of his comrades who came from around the Sea of Galilee.
Is there a choir in Mr. And does it ever occur that they have no better manners than to sing that hymn which is so suggestive of labourers and mechanics:. Now, can it be possible that in a handful of centuries the Christian character has fallen away from an imposing heroism that scorned even the stake, the cross, and the axe, to a poor little effeminacy that withers and wilts under an unsavoury smell? We are not prepared to believe so, the reverend Doctor and his friend to the contrary notwithstanding.
When I published a squib recently in which I said I was going to edit an Agricultural Department in this magazine, I certainly did not desire to deceive anybody. I had not the remotest desire to play upon any one's confidence with a practical joke, for he is a pitiful creature indeed who will degrade the dignity of his humanity to the contriving of the witless inventions that go by that name. I purposely wrote the thing as absurdly and as extravagantly as it could be written, in order to be sure and not mislead hurried or heedless readers: for I spoke of launching a triumphal barge upon a desert, and planting a tree of prosperity in a mine—a tree whose fragrance should slake the thirst of the naked, and whose branches should spread abroad till they washed the chorea of, etc.
I thought that manifest lunacy like that would protect the reader. But to make assurance absolute, and show that I did not and could not seriously mean to attempt an Agricultural Department, I stated distinctly in my postscript that I did not know anything about Agriculture. But alas! Shall I tell the real reason why I have unintentionally succeeded in fooling so many people?
It is because some of them only read a little of the squib I wrote and jumped to the conclusion that it was serious, and the rest did not read it at all, but heard of my agricultural venture at second-hand. Those cases I could not guard against, of course. To write a burlesque so wild that its pretended facts will not be accepted in perfect good faith by somebody, is very nearly an impossible thing to do.
It is because, in some instances, the reader is a person who never tries to deceive anybody himself, and therefore is not expecting any one to wantonly practise a deception upon him; and in this case the only person dishonoured is the man who wrote the burlesque. One can deliver a satire with telling force through the insidious medium of a travesty, if he is careful not to overwhelm the satire with the extraneous interest of the travesty, and so bury it from the reader's sight and leave him a joked and defrauded victim, when the honest intent was to add to either his knowledge or his wisdom.
I have had a deal of experience in burlesques and their unfortunate aptness to deceive the public, and this is why I tried hard to make that agricultural one so broad and so perfectly palpable that even a one-eyed potato could see it; and yet, as I speak the solemn truth, it fooled one of the ablest agricultural editors in America!
One of the saddest things that ever came under my notice said the banker's clerk was there in Corning, during the war. Dan Murphy enlisted as a private, and fought very bravely. The boys all liked him, and when a wound by and by weakened him down till carrying a musket was too heavy work for him, they clubbed together and fixed him up as a sutler. He made money then, and sent it always to his wife to bank for him. She was a washer and ironer, and knew enough by hard experience to keep money when she got it.
She didn't waste a penny. On the contrary, she began to get miserly as her bank account grew. She grieved to part with a cent, poor creature, for twice in her hard-working life she had known what it was to be hungry, cold, friendless, sick, and without a dollar in the world, and she had a haunting dread of suffering so again. Well, at last Dan died; and the boys, in testimony of their esteem and respect for him, telegraphed to Mrs. Murphy to know if she would like to have him embalmed and sent home, when you know the usual custom was to dump a poor devil like him into a shallow hole, and then inform his friends what had become of him.
Did thim divils suppose I was goin' to stairt a Museim, that I'd be dalin' in such expinsive curiassities! Lately there appeared an item to this effect, and the same went the customary universal round of the press:.
It seems impossible, and yet it is true. It will be well to let it retire permanently to the rural districts of Virginia, where, it is said, the fine mailed and plumed, noble-natured, maiden-rescuing, wrong-redressing, adventure-seeking knight of romance is accepted and believed in by the peasantry with pleasing simplicity, while they reject with scorn the plain, unpolished verdict whereby history exposes him as a braggart, a ruffian, a fantastic vagabond; and an ignoramus.
All romance aside, what shape would our admiration of the heroes of Ashby de la Zouch be likely to take, in this practical age, if those worthies were to rise up and come here and perform again the chivalrous deeds of that famous passage of arms? Nothing but a New York jury and the insanity plea could save them from hanging, from the amiable Bois-Guilbert and the pleasant Front-de-Boeuf clear down to the nameless ruffians that entered the riot with unpictured shields and did their first murder and acquired their first claim to respect that day.
In a single instant of time, a long drawn panorama of sights and scenes in the Holy Land flashed through my memory—town and grove, desert, camp, and caravan clattering after each other and disappearing, leaving me with a little of the surprised and dizzy feeling which I have experienced at sundry times when a long express train has overtaken me at some quiet curve and gone whizzing, car by car, around the corner and out of sight.
In that prolific instant I saw again all the country from the Sea of Galilee and Nazareth clear to Jerusalem, and thence over the hills of Judea and through the Vale of Sharon to Joppa, down by the ocean. Leaving out unimportant stretches of country and details of incident, I saw and experienced the following described matters and things.
The curious republic of Gondour, and other whimsical sketches
Immediately three years fell away from my age, and a vanished time was restored to me—September, It was a flaming Oriental day—this one that had come up out of the past and brought along its actors, its stage-properties, and scenic effects—and our party had just ridden through the squalid hive of human vermin which still holds the ancient Biblical name of Endor; I was bringing up the rear on my grave four-dollar steed, who was about beginning to compose himself for his usual noon nap.
I was fervently thankful when we had gotten well up on the desolate hillside and outstripped them and left them jawing and gesticulating in the rear. What a tempest had seemingly gone roaring and crashing by me and left its dull thunders pulsing in my ears!
I was in the rear, as I was saying. Our pack-mules and Arabs were far ahead, and Dan, Jack, Moult, Davis, Denny, Church, and Birch these names will do as well as any to represent the boys were following close after them. As my horse nodded to rest, I heard a sort of panting behind me, and turned and saw that a tawny youth from the village had overtaken me—a true remnant and representative of his ancestress the Witch—a galvanised scurvy, wrought into the human shape and garnished with ophthalmia and leprous scars—an airy creature with an invisible shirt-front that reached below the pit of his stomach, and no other clothing to speak of except a tobacco-pouch, an ammunition-pocket, and a venerable gun, which was long enough to club any game with that came within shooting distance, but far from efficient as an article of dress.
I found he was only a friendly villain who wanted a trifle of bucksheesh, and after begging what he could get in that way, was perfectly willing to trade off everything he had for more. I believe he would have parted with his last shirt for bucksheesh if he had had one. And rank? I never smelt anything like it. It withered a cactus that stood lifting its prickly hands aloft beside the trail. It even woke up my horse. I said I would take that.
It cost me a franc, a Russian kopek, a brass button, and a slate pencil; and my spendthrift lavishness so won upon the son of the desert that he passed over his pouch of most unspeakably villainous tobacco to me as a free gift.
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What a pipe it was, to be sure! It had a rude brass-wire cover to it, and a little coarse iron chain suspended from the bowl, with an iron splinter attached to loosen up the tobacco and pick your teeth with. The stem looked like the half of a slender walking-stick with the bark on. I felt that this pipe had belonged to the original Witch of Endor as soon as I saw it; and as soon as I smelt it, I knew it.
Moreover, I asked the Arab cub in good English if it was not so, and he answered in good Arabic that it was. I woke up my horse and went my way, smoking. From that time forward, going to Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, and the Jordan, Bethany, Bethlehem, and everywhere, I loafed contentedly in the rear and enjoyed my infamous pipe and revelled in imaginary villany. But at the end of two weeks we turned our faces toward the sea and journeyed over the Judean hills, and through rocky defiles, and among the scenes that Samson knew in his youth, and by and by we touched level ground just at night, and trotted off cheerily over the plain of Sharon.
It was perfectly jolly for three hours, and we whites crowded along together, close after the chief Arab muleteer all the pack-animals and the other Arabs were miles in the rear , and we laughed, and chatted, and argued hotly about Samson, and whether suicide was a sin or not, since Paul speaks of Samson distinctly as being saved and in heaven.
But by and by the night air, and the duskiness, and the weariness of eight hours in the saddle, began to tell, and conversation flagged and finally died out utterly. The squeak-squeaking of the saddles grew very distinct; occasionally somebody sighed, or started to hum a tune and gave it up; now and then a horse sneezed. These things only emphasised the solemnity and the stillness. Everybody got so listless that for once I and my dreamer found ourselves in the lead.
It was a glad, new sensation, and I longed to keep the place forevermore. Every little stir in the dingy cavalcade behind made me nervous. Davis and I were riding side by side, right after the Arab. About 11 o'clock it had become really chilly, and the dozing boys roused up and began to inquire how far it was to Ramlah yet, and to demand that the Arab hurry along faster.
I gave it up then, and my heart sank within me, because of course they would come up to scold the Arab. I knew I had to take the rear again. In my sorrow I unconsciously took to my pipe, my only comfort. As I touched the match to it the whole company came lumbering up and crowding my horse's rump and flanks.
A whiff of smoke drifted back over my shoulder, and—. Right away there was a gap behind us. Whiff after whiff sailed airily back, and each one widened the breach. Within fifteen seconds the barking, and gasping, and sneezing, and coughing of the boys, and their angry abuse of the Arab guide, had dwindled to a murmur, and Davis and I were alone with the leader.
Davis did not know what the matter was, and don't to this day. Occasionally he caught a faint film of the smoke and fell to scolding at the Arab and wondering how long he had been decaying in that way. Our boys kept on dropping back further and further, till at last they were only in hearing, not in sight. And every time they started gingerly forward to reconnoitre—or shoot the Arab, as they proposed to do—I let them get within good fair range of my relic she would carry seventy yards with wonderful precision , and then wafted a whiff among them that sent them gasping and strangling to the rear again.
I kept my gun well charged and ready, and twice within the hour I decoyed the boys right up to my horse's tail, and then with one malarious blast emptied the saddles, almost.
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- The curious republic of Gondour, and other whimsical sketches?
I never heard an Arab abused so in my life. He really owed his preservation to me, because for one entire hour I stood between him and certain death.
The boys would have killed him if they could have got by me. By and by, when the company were far in the rear, I put away my pipe—I was getting fearfully dry and crisp about the gills and rather blown with good diligent work—and spurred my animated trance up alongside the Arab and stopped him and asked for water.
He unslung his little gourd-shaped earthenware jug, and I put it under my moustache and took a long, glorious, satisfying draught. I was going to scour the mouth of the jug a little, but I saw that I had brought the whole train together once more by my delay, and that they were all anxious to drink too—and would have been long ago if the Arab had not pretended that he was out of water. So I hastened to pass the vessel to Davis. He took a mouthful, and never said a word, but climbed off his horse and lay down calmly in the road.
I felt sorry for Davis. It was too late now, though, and Dan was drinking. Dan got down too, and hunted for a soft place. It is not well to go into further particulars. Let us draw the curtain upon this act. Well, now, to think that after three changing years I should hear from that curious old relic again, and see Dan advertising it for sale for the benefit of a benevolent object. Dan is not treating that present right. I gave that pipe to him for a keepsake.
However, he probably finds that it keeps away custom and interferes with business. It is the most convincing inanimate object in all this part of the world, perhaps. In about a quarter, or from that to three-quarters of a minute, he would be propping up the smoke-stack on the upper deck and cursing. I wonder how the faithful old relic is going to sell? He was so real accommodating, and so modest-like and simple in his last moments. Friends wanted metallic burial case—nothing else would do.
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I couldn't get it. There warn't going to be time—anybody could see that. 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, any way, in the 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 say? 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 p'int him for the tomb, and mark him C. He warn't distressed any more than you be—on the contrary just as carm 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 doorplate 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' round.
He then began a career as a humorous travel writer and lecturer, publishing The Innocents Abroad in , Roughing It in , and, Gilded Age in , which was co-authored with Charles Dudley Warner. He died of a heart attack on April 21, Account Options Sign in. My library Help Advanced Book Search.
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The Curious Republic of Gondour and Other Whimsical Sketches by Mark Twain
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