Mean People

Mark Twain

The Galaxy/January, 1870

My ancient comrade, “Doesticks,” in a letter from New York, quotes a printed paragraph concerning a story I used to tell to lecture audiences about a wonderfully mean man whom I used to know, and then Mr. D. throws himself into a passion and relates the following circumstance (writing on both sides of his paper, which is at least singular in a journalist, if not profane and indecent):

Now I don’t think much of that. I know a better thing about old Captain Asa T. Mann of this town. You see, old Mann used to own and command a pickaninny, bull-headed, mud-turtle-shaped craft of a schooner that hailed from Perth Amboy. Old Mann used to prance out of his little cove where he kept his three-cent craft, and steal along the coast of the dangerous Kill von Kull, on the larboard side of Staten Island, to smouch oysters from unguarded beds, or pick clams off sloops where the watch had gone to bed drunk. Well, once old Mann went on a long voyage—for him. He went down to Virginia, taking his wife and little boy with him. The old rapscallion put on all sorts of airs, and pretended to keep up as strict discipline as if his craft was a man-of-war. One day his darling baby tumbled overboard. A sailor named Jones jumped over after him and after cavorting around about an hour or so, succeeded in getting the miserable little scion of a worthless sire on board again. Then old Mann got right up on his dignity—he put on all the dig. he had handy—and in two minutes he had Jones into double irons, and there he kept him three weeks, in the forehold, for leaving the ship without orders.

I will not resurrect my own mean man, for possibly he might not show to good advantage in the presence of this gifted sailor; but I will enter a Toledo bridegroom against the son of the salt wave, and let the winner take the money. I give the Toledo story just as it comes to me. (It, too, is written on both sides of the paper; but as this correspondent is not a journalist, the act is only wicked, not obscene.)

In this village there lived, and continue to live, two chaps who in their bachelor days were chums. S., one of the chaps, tiring of single blessedness, took unto himself a wife and a wedding, with numerous pieces of silverware and things from congratulating friends. C., the other chap, sent in a handsome silver ladle, costing several dollars or more. Their friendship continued. A year later C., also entered into partnership for life with one of the fair Eyes; and he also had a wedding. S., being worth something less than $20,000, thought he ought to return the compliment of a wedding present, and a happy thought struck him. He took that ladle down to the jeweller from whom is was purchased by C. the year before, and traded it off for silver salt dishes to present to C. and his bride.

(Source: Project Gutenberg Australia, http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks09/0900821h.html)

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