Note: Regular posting will resume in January. Enjoy the holiday season!
The Remarkable Dream by Mark Twain
I dreamed last night that I was sitting in my room smoking my pipe and looking into the dying embers on the hearth, conjuring up old faces in their changing shapes, and listening to old voices in the moaning winds outside, when there was a knock at the door and a man entered – bowed – walked deliberately forward and sat down opposite me. He was dressed in a queer old garb of I don’t know how many centuries ago. He said, with a perceptible show of vanity:
“My name’s Ananias – may have heard of me, perhaps?”
I said, reflectively, “No -no – I think not, Mr. Anan
“Never heard of me! Bismillah! Och hone! gewhil – . But you couldn’t have read the Scriptures!”
I rose to my feet in great surprise: “Ah – is it possible? – I remember now – I remember your history. Yes, yes, yes, I remember you made a little statement that wouldn’t wash, so to speak, and they took your life for it. They – they bounced a thunderbolt on your head, or something of that sort, didn’t they?”
“Yes, but drop these matters and let’s to business. The thief sympathizes with the thief, the murderer with the murderer, the vagabond with the vagabond: I, too, feel for my kind – I want to do something for this Fitz Smythe – ‘
“Give me your hand! – this sentiment does you honor, sir, it does you honor! And this solicitude of the Prince of Liars for the humble disciple Fitz Smythe is well merited, it is indeed -for although, Sire, his efforts may not be brilliant, they make up for that defect in bulk and quantity; such steady persistence as his, such unwearying devotion to his art, are deserving of the highest encomium. ”
“You know the man – I see that – and he is worthy of your admiration. As you say, his lies are not brilliant, but they never slack up – they are always on time. Some of them are awkward – very stupid and awkward – but that is to be expected, of course, where a man is at it so constantly and exhaustively as Fitz Smythe -or as we call him in hell, ‘Brother Smythe’ – we all take the Alta . But they are strong! – they are awkward and stupid, but they are powerful free from truth! You take his mildest lie – take those he tells about Mark Twain, for instance (who is the only newspaper man I have ever come across who wouldn’t lie and couldn’t lie, shame to him,) – take those lies – take even the very mildest of them, and don’t you know they’d let a man out mighty quick in my time? Why there’d have been more thunder and lightning after him in two seconds! If Fitz Smythe had lived in my time and told that little lie he told about you last – just that little one, even – he’d have been knocked from Jericho to Jacksonville quick as winking! Lord bless you but they were mighty particular in those days! Notice how they hazed me!”
“So they did, sir, so they did – they snatched you very lively indeed, sir.”
“But we’ll come to business, now. No man’s productions are more admired in the regions of the damned than Fitz Smythe’s. We have watched his career with pride and satisfaction, and at a meeting held in Perdition last night a committee of the most distinguished liars the world has ever produced was appointed to visit the earth and confer upon our gifted disciple certain marks of distinction to which we consider him entitled – orders of merit, they are – honors which he has laboriously earned. We wish to confer these compliments upon him through you, his bosom friend. Now, therefore, I, Ananias Chief of Liars by Seniority, do hereby create our worthy disciple Armand Leonidas Fitz Smythe Amigo Stiggers, a Knight of the Grand Order of the Liars of St. Ananias, and confer upon him the freedom of hell. And the symbol of this order being a horse, I do hereby present him this noble animal, which manifests its preference for falsehood over truth by devouring daily newspapers in preference to any other food.”
I looked at the horse, as he stood there chewing up my last Bulletin, and recognized him as the beast Fitz Smythe rides every day. Ananias now bade me good evening, and said his wife, another member of the Committee, would now call upon me.
The door opened, and the ancient Sapphira, who was stricken with death for telling a lie, ages ago, stood before me. She said:
“I have heard my husband; he has spoken well; it is sufficient. I do hereby create Armand Leonidas Fitz Smythe Amigo Stiggers a Knight of the Order of the Liars of St. Sapphira, and clothe him with the regalia pertaining to the same – this pair of gray pantaloons – a sign and symbol of the matrimonial supremacy which I have enjoyed in my household from time immemorial.”
And she left the gray pantaloons and departed, saying the next member of the Committee who would appear would be the most noble the Baron de Munchausen. The door opened and the world famed liar entered:
“I come to do honor to my son, the inspired Armand Leonidas Fitz Smythe Amigo Stiggers. It ill beseemeth a father to boast at length of his own offspring, wherefore I shall say no more in that respect, but proceed to create him a Knight of the Noble Order of the Liars of St. Munchausen, and invest him with the regalia pertaining to the same – this gray frock coat – which hath been a symbol of depravity in all ages of the world.” And the great Baron shed a few tears of paternal pride and murmured, “Kiss him for his father,” and went away. As he disappeared he remarked that the next and last member of the committee would now wait upon me, in the person of Thomas Pepper. And in a moment the renowned Tom Pepper, who was such a preposterous liar that he couldn’t get to heaven and they wouldn’t have him in hell, was present! He said:
“I have watched the great Armand Leonidas Fitz Smythe Amigo Stiggers with extraordinary interest. So we all have – but how heedless we are! Those who were with you within this hour praised him without stint and mentioned his excellencies – yet not one of them has discovered his crowning grace – his highest gift. It is this – he always tells the truth with such windy, wordy, blundering awkwardness that nobody ever believes it, and so his truths usually pass for his most splendid falsehoods! [I could not help acknowledging to myself that this was so.] A man with such a talent as that is bound to achieve high distinction and do great service in our ranks; and for this talent of his more than for his wonderful abilities in distorting facts, I do hereby confer upon him the Sublime Order of the Knights of the Liars of St. Pepper, and present him with the symbol pertaining to the same – this grim, twisted, sharply-projecting, sunburned mustache, whose fashion and pattern are only permitted to be used by those noble knights whose nature it is to war against truth wherever they find it, and to go a long, long way out of their road to prospect for chances to lie. I am the only man the world ever produced who was so wonderful a romancer that he could neither get a show in heaven nor hell, and Fitz Smythe will be the second one. It will be jolly. It is lonesome now, but when Smythe comes we two will loaf around on the outside of damnation and swap lies and be p-e-r-fectly happy. Good day, old Petrified Facts, good day.” And Tom Pepper, the most splendid liar the world ever gave birth to, was gone!
That was my dream. And don’t you know that for as much as six hours afterwards I fully believed it was nothing but a dream? But just before three o’clock to-day I thought my hair would turn white with amazement when I saw Amigo Fitz Smythe issue from that alley near the Alta office riding the very horse Ananias gave him, and that horse eating a file of the Gold Hill News; and wearing the same gray pantaloons Mrs. Sapphira Ananias gave him; and the gray coat that Baron Munchausen gave him, and with his pensive nose overhanging those two skewers -that absurd sunburned mustache, I mean – which Tom Pepper gave him. So it was reality. It was no dream after all! This lets me out with Fitz Smythe, you know. I cannot associate with that kind of stock. I don’t want the worst characters in hell to be running after me with friendly messages and little testimonials of admiration for Smythe, and blowing about his talents, and bragging on him, and belching their villainous fire and brimstone all through the atmosphere and making my place smell worse than a menagerie. I have too much regard for my good name and my personal comfort, and so this lets me out with Fitz Smythe.