THE $30,000 BEQUEST and Other Stories by Mark Twain

will pay us an attention we will manage to remember it. Also, we

will mention it now and then, casually; sometimes to a friend,

or if a friend is not handy, we will make out with a stranger.

Well, then, what is rank, and what is conspicuousness? At once we

think of kings and aristocracies, and of world-wide celebrities

in soldierships, the arts, letters, etc., and we stop there.

But that is a mistake. Rank holds its court and receives its homage

on every round of the ladder, from the emperor down to the rat-catcher;

and distinction, also, exists on every round of the ladder,

and commands its due of deference and envy.

To worship rank and distinction is the dear and valued privilege

of all the human race, and it is freely and joyfully exercised

in democracies as well as in monarchies–and even, to some extent,

among those creatures whom we impertinently call the Lower Animals.

For even they have some poor little vanities and foibles, though in

this matter they are paupers as compared to us.

A Chinese Emperor has the worship of his four hundred millions

of subjects, but the rest of the world is indifferent to him.

A Christian Emperor has the worship of his subjects and of a large

part of the Christian world outside of his domains; but he is

a matter of indifference to all China. A king, class A, has an

extensive worship; a king, class B, has a less extensive worship;

class C, class D, class E get a steadily diminishing share of worship;

class L (Sultan of Zanzibar), class P (Sultan of Sulu), and class W

(half-king of Samoa), get no worship at all outside their own little

patch of sovereignty.

Take the distinguished people along down. Each has his group

of homage-payers. In the navy, there are many groups; they start

with the Secretary and the Admiral, and go down to the quartermaster–

and below; for there will be groups among the sailors, and each of

these groups will have a tar who is distinguished for his battles,

or his strength, or his daring, or his profanity, and is admired

and envied by his group. The same with the army; the same

with the literary and journalistic craft; the publishing craft;

the cod-fishery craft; Standard Oil; U. S. Steel; the class A hotel–

and the rest of the alphabet in that line; the class A prize-fighter–

and the rest of the alphabet in his line–clear down to the lowest

and obscurest six-boy gang of little gamins, with its one boy

that can thrash the rest, and to whom he is king of Samoa,

bottom of the royal race, but looked up to with a most ardent

admiration and envy.

There is something pathetic, and funny, and pretty, about this

human race’s fondness for contact with power and distinction,

and for the reflected glory it gets out of it. The king, class A,

is happy in the state banquet and the military show which the

emperor provides for him, and he goes home and gathers the queen

and the princelings around him in the privacy of the spare room,

and tells them all about it, and says:

“His Imperial Majesty put his hand upon my shoulder in the most

friendly way–just as friendly and familiar, oh, you can’t imagine it!–

and everybody SEEING him do it; charming, perfectly charming!”

The king, class G, is happy in the cold collation and the police

parade provided for him by the king, class B, and goes home

and tells the family all about it, and says:

“And His Majesty took me into his own private cabinet for a smoke

and a chat, and there we sat just as sociable, and talking away

and laughing and chatting, just the same as if we had been born

in the same bunk; and all the servants in the anteroom could see

us doing it! Oh, it was too lovely for anything!”

The king, class Q, is happy in the modest entertainment furnished him

by the king, class M, and goes home and tells the household about it,

and is as grateful and joyful over it as were his predecessors

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Categories: Twain, Mark