Early in the fifteenth century we have Beau Twain, called “the Scholar.”
He wrote a beautiful, beautiful hand. And he could imitate anybody’s
hand so closely that it was enough to make a person laugh his head
off to see it. He had infinite sport with his talent. But by and
by he took a contract to break stone for a road, and the roughness
of the work spoiled his hand. Still, he enjoyed life all the time
he was in the stone business, which, with inconsiderable intervals,
was some forty-two years. In fact, he died in harness. During all
those long years he gave such satisfaction that he never was through
with one contract a week till the government gave him another. He was
a perfect pet. And he was always a favorite with his fellow-artists,
and was a conspicuous member of their benevolent secret society,
called the Chain Gang. He always wore his hair short, had a
preference for striped clothes, and died lamented by the government.
He was a sore loss to his country. For he was so regular.
Some years later we have the illustrious John Morgan Twain.
He came over to this country with Columbus in 1492 as a passenger.
He appears to have been of a crusty, uncomfortable disposition.
He complained of the food all the way over, and was always threatening
to go ashore unless there was a change. He wanted fresh shad.
Hardly a day passed over his head that he did not go idling about
the ship with his nose in the air, sneering about the commander,
and saying he did not believe Columbus knew where he was going
to or had ever been there before. The memorable cry of “Land ho!”
thrilled every heart in the ship but his. He gazed awhile through a
piece of smoked glass at the penciled line lying on the distant water,
and then said: “Land be hanged–it’s a raft!”
When this questionable passenger came on board the ship, be brought
nothing with him but an old newspaper containing a handkerchief
marked “B. G.,” one cotton sock marked “L. W. C.,” one woolen one
marked “D. F.,” and a night-shirt marked “O. M. R.” And yet during
the voyage he worried more about his “trunk,” and gave himself more
airs about it, than all the rest of the passengers put together.
If the ship was “down by the head,” and would not steer, he would
go and move his “trunk” further aft, and then watch the effect.
If the ship was “by the stern,” he would suggest to Columbus to detail
some men to “shift that baggage.” In storms he had to be gagged,
because his wailings about his “trunk” made it impossible for the
men to hear the orders. The man does not appear to have been
openly charged with any gravely unbecoming thing, but it is noted
in the ship’s log as a “curious circumstance” that albeit he brought
his baggage on board the ship in a newspaper, he took it ashore in
four trunks, a queensware crate, and a couple of champagne baskets.
But when he came back insinuating, in an insolent, swaggering way,
that some of this things were missing, and was going to search
the other passengers’ baggage, it was too much, and they threw
him overboard. They watched long and wonderingly for him to
come up, but not even a bubble rose on the quietly ebbing tide.
But while every one was most absorbed in gazing over the side,
and the interest was momentarily increasing, it was observed with
consternation that the vessel was adrift and the anchor-cable hanging
limp from the bow. Then in the ship’s dimmed and ancient log we
find this quaint note:
“In time it was discouvered yt ye troblesome passenger hadde gone
downe and got ye anchor, and toke ye same and solde it to ye dam
sauvages from ye interior, saying yt he hadde founde it, ye sonne
of a ghun!”
Yet this ancestor had good and noble instincts, and it is with
pride that we call to mind the fact that he was the first white
person who ever interested himself in the work of elevating
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