***
     The nervous, dapper,  "peart" young  man took the chair I  offered him,
and said he was connected with the Daily Thunderstorm, and added,--
     "Hoping it's no harm, I've come to interview you,"
     "Come to what?"
     "Interview you."
     "Ah! I see. Yes,-- yes. Um! Yes-- yes."
     I was  not feeling bright that morning. Indeed, my powers seemed  a bit
under a cloud. However, I went to the bookcase, and  when I had been looking
six or  seven minutes  I found I was obliged  to  refer to the  young man. I
said,--
     "How do you spell it?"
     "Spell what?" "Interview."
     "Oh, my goodness! what do you want to spell it for?"
     "I don't want to spell it; I want to see what it means."
     "Well, this is  astonishing, I must say. / can  tell you what it means,
if you-- if you-- "
     "Oh, all right! That will answer,  and much obliged to you,6
too."
     "In, in, ter, ter, rnter-- "
     "Then you spell it with an I ?"
     "Why, certainly!"
     "Oh, that is what took me so long."
     "Why my dear sir, what did you propose to spell it with?"
     "Well, I-- I-- I hardly know. I had the Unabridged, and I was ciphering
around   in   the   back   end,  hoping   I   might   tree   her  among  the
pictures.6 But it's a very old edition."
     "Why, my friend, they wouldn't have a picture of  it in even the latest
e-- My dear sir, I beg your pardon, I mean harm in the world, but you do not
look as-- as  intelligent as I had expected you  would. No harm,-- I mean no
harm at all at ll."
     "Oh, don't mention it! It  has often been said, and by people who would
not flatter  and who could have" no inducement to flatter,  that I am  quite
remarkable in that way. Yes,-- yes; they always speak of it with rapture."
     "I can easily imagine it.  But about this interview. You know it is the
custom, now, to interview any man who has become notorious."
     "Indeed!  I  had not heard of it before. It must  be very interesting.'
What do you do it with?"
     "Ah, well,-- well,-- well,-- this is disheartening. It ought to be done
with a  club in some cases; but customarily it  consists in the  interviewer
asking questions and the interviewed answering them. It is all the rage now.
Will you let  me ask  you certain questions  calculated  to  bring  out  the
salient points of your public and private history?"
     "Oh, with pleasure--  with pleasure. I  have a very bad memory,  but  I
hope  you will not mind that.  That is to say,  it is an irregular memory,--
singularly irregular. Sometimes it goes in a gallop, and then, again it will
be  as much as a fortnight passing a given point. This is  a great grief  to
me."
     "Oh, it is no matter, so you will try to do the best you can."
     "I will. I will put my whole mind on it."
     "Thanks. Are you ready to begin?"
     "Ready."
     Q. How old are you?
     A. Nineteen, in June,
     Q. Indeed! I would have taken you to be  thirty-five or six. Where were
you born?
     A. In Missouri.*
     Q. When did you begin to write?
     A. In 1836.
     Q. Why, how could that be, if you are only nineteen now?
     A. I don't know. It does seem curious, somehow.8
     Q. It does, indeed. Whom do  you consider the  most  remarkable man you
ever met?
     A. Aaron Burr.**
     Q.  But you  never could  have met Aaron Burr, if you are only nineteen
years--
     A. Now, if you know more about me than I do, what do you ask me for?
     Q. Well,  it was only a suggestion; nothing more. How did you happen to
meet Burr?
     A. Well, I happened  to be at his  funeral one day, and  he asked me to
make less noise, and--
     Q.  But, good heavens! if you were at his funeral,  he  must  have been
dead;7 and if he was dead, how could he care  whether  you made a
noise or not?
     A. I don't know. He was always a particular kind of a man that way.
     Q. Still, I don't understand it all. You say he spoke to you,  and that
he was dead.
     A. I didn't say he was dead.
     Q. But wasn't he dead?
     A. Well, some said he was, some said he wasn't.
     Q. What did you think?
     A. Oh, it was none of my business! It wasn't any of my funeral.
     Q. Did you-- However, we can never get this matter straight. Let me ask
about something else. What was the date of your birth?
     A. Monday, October, 31, 1693.
     Q. What! Impossible!  That would make you  a  hundred and  eighty years
old. How do you account for that?
     A. I don't account for it at all.
     Q.  But  you said  at first you  were  only nineteen, and now  you make
yourself out to be one hundred and eighty. It is an awful discrepancy.
     A.  Why, have you  noticed  that?  (Shaking  hands.)Many  a time it has
seemed to me like a discrepancy, but somehow I couldn't make up my mind. How
quick you notice a thing!
     Q. Thank you for the  compliment, as  far as it goes. Had  you, or have
you, any brothers or sisters?
     A. Eh! I-- I-- I think so,-- yes,-- but I. don't remember.
     Q. Well, that is the most extraordinary statement I ever heard!
     A. Why, what makes you think that?
     Q.  How could I think otherwise? Why, look here! Who is this a  picture
of on the wall? Isn't that a brother of yours?
     . Oh! yes, yes, yes! Now  you remind  me of it;  that was a brother of
mine. That's William,-- Bill we called him. Poor old Bill!
     Q. Why? Is he dead, then?
     A. Ah, well,  I  suppose  so. We never could  tell. There was  a  great
mystery about it.
     Q. That is sad, very sad. He disappeared, then?
     A. Well, yes, in a sort of general way. We buried him.
     Q. Buried him! Buried him without knowing whether he was dead or not?
     A. Oh, no! Not that. He was dead enough.
     Q. Well, I confess  that I can't understand this. If you buried him and
you knew he was dead--
     A. No! no! We only thought he was.
     Q. Oh, I see! He came to life again?
     A. I bet he didn't.
     Q.  Well, I never heard anything like this. Somebody was dead. Somebody
was buried. Now, where was the mystery?
     A. Ah,  that's just it! That's  it exactly.  You  see, we were twins,--
defunct  and I,-- and we  got mixed in  the bath-tub  when we were  only two
weeks old, and one of us  was  drowned. But we didn't know which. Some think
it was Bill. Some think it was me.
     Q. Well, that is remarkable. What do you think?
     A. Goodness knows! I  would give whole worlds to know.9 This
solemn, this awful mystery has cast a gloom over  my whole  life. But I will
tell you a secret now,  which  I never have revealed to any creature before.
One  of  us  had a peculiar  mark,-- a large mole  on the back  of  his left
hand,-- that was me. That child was the one that was drowned!
     Q.  Very  well, then, I  don't  see that there is any mystery about it,
after all.
     A. You  don't? Well,  I do. Anyway I don't see how they could ever have
been such a  blundering lot as to  go and bury  the wrong"child. But  'sh!--
don't  mention  it where the family  can hear of it.  Heaven knows they have
heart-breaking troubles enough without adding this.
     Q. Well, I believe I have got material enough for the present, and I am
very much obliged to you, for  the pains  you  have taken. But  I was a good
deal  interested  in that account of Aaron Burr's  funeral.  Would you  mind
telling me what particular "circumstance it was that made you think Burr was
such a remarkable man?
     A. Oh, it was a mere trifle! Not one man in fifty would have noticed it
at all. When the sermon was over,  and the procession all ready to start for
the  cemetery,  and the body all  arranged  nice  in  the hearse, he said he
wanted to  take a last look at the scenery, and so  he got up  and rode with
the driver.
     Then the young man reverently withdrew.  He was  very pleasant company,
and I was sorry to see him go.


     * *  Missouri is a  state in  the  central part of the  USA. Aaron Burr
(1756-- 1836)-- third Vice-President of the United States (1801-- 1805) [50]

     ** Aaron Burr (1756-- 1836)-- third Vice-President of the United States
(1801-- 1805)


Last-modified: Sat, 29 Nov 2003 07:14:38 GMT