The Facts Concerning the Recent Carnival of Crime in Connecticut eBook: Page2

Mark Twain (2006)

atmy children in anger and punished them for faults which a little inquirywould have taught me that others, and not they, had committed. Hereminded me of how I had disloyally allowed old friends to be traducedin my hearing, and been too craven to utter a word in their defense. Hereminded me of many dishonest things which I had done; of many which Ihad procured to be done by children and other irresponsible persons; ofsome which I had planned, thought upon, and longed to do, and beenkept from the performance by fear of consequences only. With exquisitecruelty he recalled to my mind, item by item, wrongs and unkindnesses Ihad inflicted and humiliations I had put upon friends since dead, "whodied thinking of those injuries, maybe, and grieving over them," headded, by way of poison to the stab.

  "For instance," said he, "take the case of your younger brother, whenyou two were boys together, many a long year ago. He always lovinglytrusted in you with a fidelity that your manifold treacheries were notable to shake. He followed you about like a dog, content to suffer wrongand abuse if he might only be with you; patient under these injuriesso long as it was your hand that inflicted them. The latest picture youhave of him in health and strength must be such a comfort to you! Youpledged your honor that if he would let you blindfold him no harm shouldcome to him; and then, giggling and choking over the rare fun of thejoke, you led him to a brook thinly glazed with ice, and pushed himin; and how you did laugh! Man, you will never forget the gentle,reproachful look he gave you as he struggled shivering out, if you livea thousand years! Oh! you see it now, you see it now!"

  "Beast, I have seen it a million times, and shall see it a million more!and may you rot away piecemeal, and suffer till doomsday what I suffernow, for bringing it back to me again!"

  The dwarf chuckled contentedly, and went on with his accusing historyof my career. I dropped into a moody, vengeful state, and suffered insilence under the merciless lash. At last this remark of his gave me asudden rouse:

  "Two months ago, on a Tuesday, you woke up, away in the night, and fellto thinking, with shame, about a peculiarly mean and pitiful act ofyours toward a poor ignorant Indian in the wilds of the Rocky Mountainsin the winter of eighteen hundred and--"

  "Stop a moment, devil! Stop! Do you mean to tell me that even my verythoughts are not hidden from you?"

  "It seems to look like that. Didn't you think the thoughts I have justmentioned?"

  "If I didn't, I wish I may never breathe again! Look here, friend--lookme in the eye. Who are you?"

  "Well, who do you think?"

  "I think you are Satan himself. I think you are the devil."

  "No."

  "No? Then who can you be?"

  "Would you really like to know?"

  "Indeed I would."

  "Well, I am your Conscience!"

  In an instant I was in a blaze of joy and exultation. I sprang at thecreature, roaring:

  "Curse you, I have wished a hundred million times that you weretangible, and that I could get my hands on your throat once! Oh, but Iwill wreak a deadly vengeance on--"

  Folly! Lightning does not move more quickly than my Conscience did!He darted aloft so suddenly that in the moment my fingers clutched theempty air he was already perched on the top of the high bookcase, withhis thumb at his nose in token of derision. I flung the poker at him,and missed. I fired the bootjack. In a blind rage I flew from place toplace, and snatched and hurled any missile that came handy; the storm ofbooks, inkstands, and chunks of coal gloomed the air and beat about themanikin's perch relentlessly, but all to no purpose; the nimble figuredodged every shot; and not only that, but burst into a cackle ofsarcastic and triumphant laughter as I sat down exhausted. While Ipuffed and gasped with fatigue and excitement, my Conscience talked tothis effect:

  "My good slave, you are curiously witless--no, I mean characteristicallyso. In truth, you are always consistent, always yourself, always anass. Other wise it must have occurred to you that if you attempted thismurder with a sad heart and a heavy conscience, I would droop under theburdening in influence instantly. Fool, I should have weighed a ton, andcould not have budged from the floor; but instead, you are so cheerfullyanxious to kill me that your conscience is as light as a feather;hence I am away up here out of your reach. I can almost respect a mereordinary sort of fool; but you pah!"

  I would have given anything, then, to be heavyhearted, so that I couldget this person down from there and take his life, but I could no morebe heavy-hearted over such a desire than I could have sorrowed over itsaccomplishment. So I could only look longingly up at my master, and raveat the ill luck that denied me a heavy conscience the one only time thatI had ever wanted such a thing in my life. By and by I got to musingover the hour's strange adventure, and of course my human curiositybegan to work. I set myself to framing in my mind some questions forthis fiend to answer. Just then one of my boys entered, leaving the dooropen behind him, and exclaimed:

  "My! what has been going on here? The bookcase is all one riddle of--"

  I sprang up in consternation, and shouted:

  "Out of this! Hurry! jump! Fly! Shut the door! Quick, or my Consciencewill get away!"

  The door slammed to, and I locked it. I glanced up and was grateful, tothe bottom of my heart, to see that my owner was still my prisoner. Isaid:

  "Hang you, I might have lost you! Children are the heedlessestcreatures. But look here, friend, the boy did not seem to notice you atall; how is that?"

  "For a very good reason. I am invisible to all but you."

  I made a mental note of that piece of information with a good deal ofsatisfaction. I could kill this miscreant now, if I got a chance, and noone would know it. But this very reflection made me so lighthearted thatmy Conscience could hardly keep his seat, but was like to float alofttoward the ceiling like a toy balloon. I said, presently:

  "Come, my Conscience, let us be friendly. Let us fly a flag of truce fora while. I am suffering to ask you some questions."

  "Very well. Begin."

  "Well, then, in the first place, why were you never visible to mebefore?"

  "Because you never asked to see me before; that is, you never asked inthe right spirit and the proper form before. You were just in the rightspirit this time, and when you called for your most pitiless enemy I wasthat person by a very large majority, though you did not suspect it."

  "Well, did that remark of mine turn you into flesh and blood?"

  "No. It only made me visible to you. I am unsubstantial, just as otherspirits are."

  This remark prodded me with a sharp misgiving.

  If he was unsubstantial, how was I going to kill him? But I dissembled,and said persuasively:

  "Conscience, it isn't sociable of you to keep at such a distance. Comedown and take another smoke."

  This was answered with a look that was full of derision, and with thisobservation added:

  "Come where you can get at me and kill me? The invitation is declinedwith thanks."

  "All right," said I to myself; "so it seems a spirit can be killed,after all; there will be one spirit lacking in this world, presently, orI lose my guess." Then I said aloud:

  "Friend--"

  "There; wait a bit. I am not your friend. I am your enemy; I am not yourequal, I am your master, Call me 'my lord,' if you please. You are toofamiliar."

  "I don't like such titles. I am willing to call you, sir. That is as faras--"

  "We will have no argument about this. Just obey, that is all. Go on withyour chatter."

  "Very well, my lord--since nothing but my lord will suit you--I wasgoing to ask you how long you will be visible to me?"

  "Always!"

  I broke out with strong indignation: "This is simply an outrage. That iswhat I think of it! You have dogged, and dogged, and dogged me, all thedays of my life, invisible. That was misery enough, now to have such alooking thing as you tagging after me like another shadow all the restof my day is an intolerable prospect. You have my opinion my lord, makethe most of it."

  "My lad, there was never so pleased a conscience
in this world as I waswhen you made me visible. It gives me an inconceivable advantage. Now Ican look you straight in the eye, and call you names, and leer at you,jeer at you, sneer at you; and you know what eloquence there is invisible gesture and expression, more especially when the effect isheightened by audible speech. I shall always address you henceforth inyour o-w-n s-n-i-v-e-l-i-n-g d-r-a-w-l--baby!"

  I let fly with the coal-hod. No result. My lord said:

  "Come, come! Remember the flag of truce!"

  "Ah, I forgot that. I will try to be civil; and you try it, too, for anovelty. The idea of a civil conscience! It is a good joke; an excellentjoke. All the consciences I have ever heard of were nagging, badgering,fault-finding, execrable savages! Yes; and always in a sweat about