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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]


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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]




I STUMBLED upon one curious character in the Island of
Mani. He became a sore annoyance to me in the course
of time. My first glimpse of him was in a sort of public room
in the town of Lahaina. He occupied a chair at the opposite
side of the apartment, and sat eyeing our party with interest
for some minutes, and listening as critically to what we were
saying as if he fancied we were talking to him and expecting
him to reply. I thought it very sociable in a stranger. Presently,
in the course of conversation, I made a statement bearing
upon the subject under discussion—and I made it with due
modesty, for there was nothing extraordinary about it, and it
was only put forth in illustration of a point at issue. I had
barely finished when this person spoke out with rapid utterance
and feverish anxiety:

“Oh, that was certainly remarkable, after a fashion, but you
ought to have seen my chimney—you ought to have seen my
chimney, sir! Smoke! I wish I may hang if—Mr. Jones,
you remember that chimney—you must remember that chimney!
No, no—I recollect, now, you warn't living on this side
of the island then. But I am telling you nothing but the truth,
and I wish I may never draw another breath if that chimney
didn't smoke so that the smoke actually got caked in it and I
had to dig it out with a pickaxe! You may smile, gentlemen,
but the High Sheriff's got a hunk of it which I dug out before
his eyes, and so it's perfectly easy for you to go and examine
for yourselves.”

The interruption broke up the conversation, which had already


Page 552
begun to lag, and we presently hired some natives and
an out-rigger canoe or two, and went out to overlook a grand
surf-bathing contest.

Two weeks after this, while talking in a company, I looked
up and detected this same man boring through and through
me with his intense eye, and noted again his twitching muscles
and his feverish anxiety to speak. The moment I paused, he

Beg your pardon, sir, beg your pardon, but it can only be
considered remarkable when brought into strong outline by
isolation. Sir, contrasted with a circumstance which occurred
in my own experience, it instantly becomes commonplace. No,
not that—for I will not speak so discourteously of any experience
in the career of a stranger and a gentleman—but I am
obliged to say that you could not, and you would not ever again
refer to this tree as a large one, if you could behold, as I have,
the great Yakmatack tree, in the island of Ounaska, sea of
Kamtchatka—a tree, sir, not one inch less than four hundred
and fifteen feet in solid diameter!—and I wish I may die in a
minute if it isn't so! Oh, you needn't look so questioning,
gentlemen; here's old Cap Saltmarsh can say whether I know
what I'm talking about or not. I showed him the tree.”

Captain Saltmarsh.—“Come, now, cat your anchor, lad—
you're heaving too taut. You promised to show me that stunner,
and I walked more than eleven mile with you through the
cussedest jungle I ever see, a hunting for it; but the tree you
showed me finally warn't as big around as a beer cask, and you
know that your own self, Markiss.”

“Hear the man talk! Of course the tree was reduced that
way, but didn't I explain it? Answer me, didn't I? Didn't
I say I wished you could have seen it when I first saw it?
When you got up on your ear and called me names, and said
I had brought you eleven miles to look at a sapling, didn't I
explain to you that all the whale-ships in the North Seas had
been wooding off of it for more than twenty-seven years? And
did you s'pose the tree could last for-ever, con-found it? I


Page 553


[Description: 504EAF. Page 553. In-line image of two men standing together in the woods. One man is pointing off to the left.]
don't see why you want to keep back things that way, and try
to injure a person that's never done you any harm.”

Somehow this man's presence made me uncomfortable, and
I was glad when a native arrived at that moment to say that
Muckawow, the most companionable and luxurious among the
rude war-chiefs of the Islands, desired us to come over and help
him enjoy a missionary whom he had found trespassing on his

I think it was about ten days afterward that, as I finished a
statement I was making for the instruction of a group of friends
and acquaintances, and which made no pretence of being extraordinary,
a familiar voice chimed instantly in on the heels of
my last word, and said:

“But, my dear sir, there was nothing remarkable about that
horse, or the circumstance either—nothing in the world! I
mean no sort of offence when I say it, sir, but you really do
not know anything whatever about speed. Bless your heart,
if you could only have seen my mare Margaretta; there was a
beast!—there was lightning for you! Trot! Trot is no name


Page 554


[Description: 504EAF. Page 554. In-line image of man racing down a path in a horse drawn buggy.]
for it—she flew! How she could whirl a buggy along! I
started her out once, sir—Colonel Bilgewater, you recollect
that animal perfectly well—I started her out about thirty or
thirty-five yards ahead of the awfullest storm I ever saw in my
life, and it chased us upwards of eighteen miles! It did, by
the everlasting hills! And I'm telling you nothing but the
unvarnished truth when I say that not one single drop of rain
fell on me—not a single drop, sir! And I swear to it! But
my dog was a-swimming behind the wagon all the way!”

For a week or two I stayed mostly within doors, for I seemed
to meet this person everywhere, and he had become utterly
hateful to me. But one evening I dropped in on Captain Perkins
and his friends, and we had a sociable time. About ten
o'clock I chanced to be talking about a merchant friend of
mine, and without really intending it, the remark slipped out
that he was a little mean and parsimonious about paying his
workmen. Instantly, through the steam of a hot whiskey
punch on the opposite side of the room, a remembered voice
shot—and for a moment I trembled on the imminent verge of


Page 555



[Description: 504EAF. Page 555. In-line image of a man being thrown into the air by a puff of steam from the ground.]

“Oh, my dear sir, really you expose yourself when you parade
that as a surprising circumstance. Bless your heart and hide,
you are ignorant of the very A B C of meanness! ignorant as
the unborn babe! ignorant as unborn twins! You don't know
any thing about it! It is pitiable to see you, sir, a well-spoken
and prepossessing stranger, making such an enormous pow-wow
here about a subject concerning which your ignorance is perfectly
humiliating! Look me in the eye, if you please; look
me in the eye. John James Godfrey was the son of poor but
honest parents in the State of Mississippi—boyhood friend of
mine—bosom comrade in later years. Heaven rest his noble
spirit, he is gone from us now. John James Godfrey was hired
by the Hayblossom Mining Company in California to do some
blasting for them—the “Incorporated Company of Mean Men,”
the boys used to call it.
Well, one day he drilled a
hole about four feet deep
and put in an awful blast
of powder, and was standing
over it ramming it
down with an iron crowbar
about nine foot long, when
the cussed thing struck a
spark and fired the powder,
and scat! away John Godfrey
whizzed like a sky-rocket,
him and his crowbar!
Well, sir, he kept
on going up in the air
higher and higher, till he
didn't look any bigger than
a boy—and he kept going
on up higher and higher,
till he didn't look any bigger
than a doll—and he kept on going up higher and higher,
till he didn't look any bigger than a little small bee—and then


Page 556
he went out of sight! Presently he came in sight again, looking
like a little small bee—and he came along down further
and further, till he looked as big as a doll again—and down
further and further, till he was as big as a boy again—and further
and further, till he was a full-sized man once more; and
then him and his crowbar came a wh-izzing down and lit right
exactly in the same old tracks and went to r-ramming down,
and r-ramming down, and r-ramming down again, just the same
as if nothing had happened! Now do you know, that poor
cuss warn't gone only sixteen minutes, and yet that Incorporated

I said I had the headache, and so excused myself and went
home. And on my diary I entered “another night spoiled”
by this offensive loafer. And a fervent curse was set down
with it to keep the item company. And the very next day I
packed up, out of all patience, and left the Island.

Almost from the very beginning, I regarded that man as a

The line of points represents an interval of years. At the
end of which time the opinion hazarded in that last sentence
came to be gratifyingly and remarkably endorsed, and by
wholly disinterested persons. The man Markiss was found
one morning hanging to a beam of his own bedroom (the doors
and windows securely fastened on the inside), dead; and on
his breast was pinned a paper in his own handwriting begging
his friends to suspect no innocent person of having any thing
to do with his death, for that it was the work of his own hands
entirely. Yet the jury brought in the astounding verdict that
deceased came to his death “by the hands of some person or
persons unknown!” They explained that the perfectly undeviating
consistency of Markiss's character for thirty years towered
aloft as colossal and indestructible testimony, that whatever
statement he chose to make was entitled to instant and
unquestioning acceptance as a lie. And they furthermore
stated their belief that he was not dead, and instanced the


Page 557
[ILLUSTRATION] [Description: 504EAF. Page 557. Tail-piece image of a man being hung with a sign that says, 'liar' on his chest.] strong circumstantial evidence of his own word that he was
dead—and beseeched the coroner to delay the funeral as long
as possible, which was done. And so in the tropical climate
of Lahaina the coffin stood open for seven days, and then even
the loyal jury gave him up. But they sat on him again, and
changed their verdict to “suicide induced by mental aberration”—because,
said they, with penetration, “he said he was
dead, and he was dead; and would he have told the truth if
he had been in his right mind? No, sir.”