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?"
"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
"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
"In, in, ter, ter, rnter-- "
"Then you spell it with an I ?"
"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 Áll."
"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
"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?"
Q. How old are you?
A. Nineteen, in June,
Q. Indeed! I would have taken you to be thirty-five or six. Where were
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
A. Aaron Burr.**
Q. But you never could have met Aaron Burr, if you are only nineteen
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
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?
ì. 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,
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
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) 
** Aaron Burr (1756-- 1836)-- third Vice-President of the United States
Last-modified: Sat, 29 Nov 2003 07:14:38 GMT