Mark Twain, a Biography — Volume III, Part 2: 1907-1910 eBook

Albert Bigelow Paine
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 276 pages of information about Mark Twain, a Biography Volume III, Part 2.
so in the matter of food that you are always feeble and hungry.  And you never dare to laugh in the daytime for fear some poor wretch, seeing you in a good-humor, will try to borrow a dollar of you; and in church you are always down on your knees, with your eyes buried in the cushion, when the contribution-box comes around; and you never give the revenue-officers a true statement of your income.  Now you all know all these things yourself, don’t you?  Very well, then, what is the use of your stringing out your miserable lives to a clean and withered old age?  What is the use of your saving money that is so utterly worthless to you?  In a word, why don’t you go off somewhere and die, and not be always trying to seduce people into becoming as “ornery” and unlovable as you are yourselves, by your ceaseless and villainous “moral statistics”?  Now, I don’t approve of dissipation, and I don’t indulge in it, either; but I haven’t a particle of confidence in a man who has no redeeming petty vices whatever, and so I don’t want to hear from you any more.  I think you are the very same man who read me a long lecture last week about the degrading vice of smoking cigars and then came back, in my absence, with your vile, reprehensible fire-proof gloves on, and carried off my beautiful parlor-stove.

III

From “A strange dream

(Example of Mark Twain’s Early Descriptive Writing)

. . .  In due time I stood, with my companion, on the wall of the vast caldron which the natives, ages ago, named ’Hale mau mau’—­the abyss wherein they were wont to throw the remains of their chiefs, to the end that vulgar feet might never tread above them.  We stood there, at dead of night, a mile above the level of the sea, and looked down a thousand feet upon a boiling, surging, roaring ocean of fire!—­shaded our eyes from the blinding glare, and gazed far away over the crimson waves with a vague notion that a supernatural fleet, manned by demons and freighted with the damned, might presently sail up out of the remote distance; started when tremendous thunder-bursts shook the earth, and followed with fascinated eyes the grand jets of molten lava that sprang high up toward the zenith and exploded in a world of fiery spray that lit up the somber heavens with an infernal splendor.

“What is your little bonfire of Vesuvius to this?”

My ejaculation roused my companion from his reverie, and we fell into a conversation appropriate to the occasion and the surroundings.  We came at last to speak of the ancient custom of casting the bodies of dead chieftains into this fearful caldron; and my comrade, who is of the blood royal, mentioned that the founder of his race, old King Kamehameha the First—­that invincible old pagan Alexander—­had found other sepulture than the burning depths of the ‘Hale mau mau’.  I grew interested at once; I knew that the mystery of what became of the corpse of the warrior king hail never been fathomed; I was aware that there was a legend connected with this matter; and I felt as if there could be no more fitting time to listen to it than the present.  The descendant of the Kamehamehas said: 

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Project Gutenberg
Mark Twain, a Biography — Volume III, Part 2: 1907-1910 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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