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

a fondness for titles pure and simple, regardless of whether they

are genuine or pinchbeck. We forget that whatever a Southerner

likes the rest of the human race likes, and that there is no law of

predilection lodged in one people that is absent from another people.

There is no variety in the human race. We are all children,

all children of the one Adam, and we love toys. We can soon acquire

that Southern disease if some one will give it a start. It already

has a start, in fact. I have been personally acquainted with over

eighty-four thousand persons who, at one time or another in their lives,

have served for a year or two on the staffs of our multitudinous

governors, and through that fatality have been generals temporarily,

and colonels temporarily, and judge-advocates temporarily; but I

have known only nine among them who could be hired to let the title

go when it ceased to be legitimate. I know thousands and thousands

of governors who ceased to be governors away back in the last century;

but I am acquainted with only three who would answer your letter

if you failed to call them “Governor” in it. I know acres and acres

of men who have done time in a legislature in prehistoric days,

but among them is not half an acre whose resentment you would not

raise if you addressed them as “Mr.” instead of “Hon.” The first thing

a legislature does is to convene in an impressive legislative attitude,

and get itself photographed. Each member frames his copy and takes

it to the woods and hangs it up in the most aggressively conspicuous

place in his house; and if you visit the house and fail to inquire

what that accumulation is, the conversation will be brought around

to it by that aforetime legislator, and he will show you a figure

in it which in the course of years he has almost obliterated

with the smut of his finger-marks, and say with a solemn joy, “It’s me!”

Have you ever seen a country Congressman enter the hotel breakfast-room

in Washington with his letters?–and sit at his table and let on

to read them?–and wrinkle his brows and frown statesman-like?–

keeping a furtive watch-out over his glasses all the while to see

if he is being observed and admired?–those same old letters

which he fetches in every morning? Have you seen it? Have you

seen him show off? It is THE sight of the national capital.

Except one; a pathetic one. That is the ex-Congressman: the poor

fellow whose life has been ruined by a two-year taste of glory

and of fictitious consequence; who has been superseded, and ought

to take his heartbreak home and hide it, but cannot tear himself

away from the scene of his lost little grandeur; and so he lingers,

and still lingers, year after year, unconsidered, sometimes snubbed,

ashamed of his fallen estate, and valiantly trying to look otherwise;

dreary and depressed, but counterfeiting breeziness and gaiety,

hailing with chummy familiarity, which is not always welcomed,

the more-fortunes who are still in place and were once his mates.

Have you seen him? He clings piteously to the one little shred that

is left of his departed distinction–the “privilege of the floor”;

and works it hard and gets what he can out of it. That is the saddest

figure I know of.

Yes, we do so love our little distinctions! And then we loftily

scoff at a Prince for enjoying his larger ones; forgetting that if we

only had his chance–ah! “Senator” is not a legitimate title.

A Senator has no more right to be addressed by it than have you

or I; but, in the several state capitals and in Washington,

there are five thousand Senators who take very kindly to

that fiction, and who purr gratefully when you call them by it–

which you may do quite unrebuked. Then those same Senators smile

at the self-constructed majors and generals and judges of the South!

Indeed, we do love our distinctions, get them how we may.

And we work them for all they are worth. In prayer we call

ourselves “worms of the dust,” but it is only on a sort of tacit

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Categories: Twain, Mark