A Visit with Mark Twain

Towards the end of act two, George, who played Abe Lincoln the night before, appears on stage as Mark Twain. Earlier, we established that he was dealing with the grief of losing his wife and daughter in a fire while he was off fighting in Belgium in WWI. This speech is mostly Twain quotes I pieced together but was a real challenge because I needed to insert my own lines and have them sound as if Twain himself spoke them. Being a Missouri boy myself gives me a bit of an edge, but it’s still a tall order. It lingers on the subject of death reflecting George as he begins his healing after finally breaking his silence about his inner turmoil with Lincoln. It ends with a humorous song sung to the two boys, called “If Ever The Twain You Meet,” which will eventually get posted in the song section.

“Good evening

I have been asked by the management if I would be so kind as to address you tonight, and being a great fan of adoration, I did not hesitate. It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech, but I shall attempt it anyway.

Please pardon the cigar. It is the one vice I cling to and with good reason. A man without a single vice is like a sinking ship with nothing to throw overboard. I could give it up at any time; after all, quitting is easy; I’ve done it hundreds of times before.

I fully admit to being a fan of flattery. I have been complimented many times, and they always embarrass me as I feel that they have not said enough. I can live on a good compliment for two weeks with nothing else to eat.

This is the steep price of fame, after all, and though it is an onerous burden, I shall endeavor to suffer through preferential treatment with some modicum of humility.

It is good to be back in my home state. I was born about a hundred miles from here, and I believe there is something in my bones that just knows the dust from which it arose and which yet holds the dust of many of my own.

I was the sixth of seven children. My oldest brother Pleasant never got to be old. He didn’t get to be much of anything and died at three weeks, long before I was born. It does make me wonder if he would have truly lived up to his hopeful appellative. I would like to think so. My sister Margaret died at nine years, but I was only three, and she is a hazy ghost at best, whereas my brother Benjamin lived to the ripe old age of ten. I was six when he died and have a vivid picture of him still there behind my eye, with his big smile, trading jibes with his big brother Orion, ten years my senior. They are all the shades of my childhood that hold me so fastly to this Missouri soil, and if there is any shred of reverence within me, it is to their memories and my connection to them.  

You may be tempted to think all of those tragedies in my family were unjust, that the world treats us unfairly, but in fact, the world owes us nothing. It was, after all, here first, long before we came along, and death is as equally common as birth as necessity dictates.  There was a lot of death around families back then, and I do not mention this for its morbidity but for its lessons. Firstly, having lived through the experience so often, I am resolute to make the time I have meaningful and carry what memories I have of my departed with me in grand style in hopes that others kindly do the same for me. I have oft pondered that our memories of each other eclipse the reality of our lives. I think we never become really and genuinely our entire and honest selves until we are dead–and not then until we have been dead for years. People ought to start dead, and they would be honest so much earlier.
 The dead are not to be pitied. Pity is for the living; envy is for the dead. Death is the refuge, the solace, the best and kindliest and most prized friend and benefactor of the suffering, the erring, the forsaken, the old and weary and broken of heart.  Death is the only immortal who treats us all alike, whose peace and whose refuge are for all–the soiled and the pure, the rich and the poor, the loved and the unloved.

I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it. And having lived life as long as I have, I can honestly say that if you can face the things you fear about death, then the death of fear is certain. So let us all strive to live so that when we come to die, even the undertaker will be sorry.”

(Lincoln and Alex walk on stage right dressed as Tom and Huck)

You two look familiar. Let me guess. Mr. Dickons had absconded with my narrative and sent me the ghosts of my past? Mr. Sawyer and Mr. Finn, I presume?

LINCOLN (as Tom)

Thata’ be us, mister. Do we know you?

GEORGE

Not yet, but somewhere in the future, only too well, and with an intimacy of knowledge no one else can ever share. What wee little parts of our lives are our acts and words! Our real life is led in our heads and is known to none but ourselves.

ALEX (as Huck)

“The more you explain it, the more I don’t understand it.”

LINCOLN

You didn’t answer the question anyway. What’s your name?

GEORGE

I most certainly did. You asked if you knew me. Get your facts right first, and then you can distort them as much as you please. My real name is Samuel, but you can call me Mark Twain.

(He says this with a flourish and a bit of a bough. The boys lean back a bit looking concerned.)

LINCOLN

(Slowly) Okay.

GEORGE

Fine. Sit down, and I’ll tell you.

                                                            (They each take a box on either side of him.)

ALEX

We were kinda on our way to go fishin’

GEORGE

Fishing? Sounds like fun. Do you have worms?

ALEX

Yip, but the doc said I could go anyway!

(Huck breaks out laughing and falls backward off of his box.)

GEORGE

This is why you don’t let schooling interfere with your education. You will never get that in school.