“We have not seen the cell for the confinement of ’violent and unmanageable’ Punsters,” we both exclaimed.
“This is the sell!” he exclaimed, pointing to the outside prospect.
My friend, the Director, looked me in the face so good-naturedly that I had to laugh.
“We like to humor the Inmates,” he said. “It has a bad effect, we find, on their health and spirits to disappoint them of their little pleasantries. Some of the jests to which we have listened are not new to me, though I dare say you may not have heard them often before. The same thing happens in general society, with this additional disadvantage, that there is no punishment provided for ’violent and unmanageable’ Punsters, as in our Institution.”
We made our bow to the Superintendent and walked to the place where our carriage was waiting for us. On our way, an exceedingly decrepit old man moved slowly toward us, with a perfectly blank look on his face, but still appearing as if he wished to speak.
“Look!” said the Director—“that is our Centenarian.”
The ancient man crawled toward us, cocked one eye, with which he seemed to see a little, up at us, and said:
“Sarvant, young Gentlemen. Why is a—a—a—like a—a—a—? Give it up? Because it’s a—a—a—a—.”
He smiled a pleasant smile, as if it were all plain enough.
“One hundred and seven last Christmas,” said the Director. “Of late years he puts his whole Conundrums in blank—but they please him just as well.”
We took our departure, much gratified and instructed by our visit, hoping to have some future opportunity of inspecting the Records of this excellent Charity and making extracts for the benefit of our Readers.
By Mark Twain (1835-1910)
[From The Saturday Press, Nov. 18, 1865. Republished in The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, and Other Sketches (1867), by Mark Twain, all of whose works are published by Harper & Brothers.]
In compliance with the request of a friend of mine, who wrote me from the East, I called on good-natured, garrulous old Simon Wheeler, and inquired after my friend’s friend, Leonidas W. Smiley, as requested to do, and I hereunto append the result. I have a lurking suspicion that Leonidas W. Smiley is a myth; and that my friend never knew such a personage; and that he only conjectured that if I asked old Wheeler about him, it would remind him of his infamous Jim Smiley, and he would go to work and bore me to death with some exasperating reminiscence of him as long and as tedious as it should be useless to me. If that was the design, it succeeded.