The armies of Europe cost two billions a year now--I will replace them all for a billion. I will dig up the trained statesmen of all ages and all climes, and furnish this country with a Congress that knows enough to come in out of the rain-- a thing that's never happened yet, since the Declaration of Independence, and never will happen till these practically dead people are replaced with the genuine article. I will restock the thrones of Europe with the best brains and the best morals that all the royal sepulchres of all the centuries can furnish--which isn't promising very much--and I'll divide the wages and the civil list, fair and square, merely taking my half and--"

"Colonel, if the half of this is true, there's millions in it--millions."

"Billions in it--billions; that's what you mean. Why, look here; the thing is so close at hand, so imminent, so absolutely immediate, that if a man were to come to me now and say, Colonel, I am a little short, and if you could lend me a couple of billion dollars for--come in!"

This in answer to a knock. An energetic looking man bustled in with a big pocket-book in his hand, took a paper from it and presented it, with the curt remark:

"Seventeenth and last call--you want to out with that three dollars and forty cents this time without fail, Colonel Mulberry Sellers."

The Colonel began to slap this pocket and that one, and feel here and there and everywhere, muttering:

"What have I done with that wallet?--let me see--um--not here, not there --Oh, I must have left it in the kitchen; I'll just run and--"

"No you won't--you'll stay right where you are. And you're going to disgorge, too--this time."

Washington innocently offered to go and look. When he was gone the Colonel said:

"The fact is, I've got to throw myself on your indulgence just this once more, Suggs; you see the remittances I was expecting--"

"Hang the remittances--it's too stale--it won't answer. Come!"

The Colonel glanced about him in despair. Then his face lighted; he ran to the wall and began to dust off a peculiarly atrocious chromo with his handkerchief. Then he brought it reverently, offered it to the collector, averted his face and said:

"Take it, but don't let me see it go. It's the sole remaining Rembrandt that--"

"Rembrandt be damned, it's a chromo."

"Oh, don't speak of it so, I beg you. It's the only really great original, the only supreme example of that mighty school of art which--"

"Art! It's the sickest looking thing I--"

The colonel was already bringing another horror and tenderly dusting it.

"Take this one too--the gem of my collection--the only genuine Fra Angelico that--"

"Illuminated liver--pad, that's what it is. Give it here--good day-- people will think I've robbed a' nigger barber-shop."

As he slammed the door behind him the Colonel shouted with an anguished accent--

"Do please cover them up--don't let the damp get at them. The delicate tints in the Angelico--"

But the man was gone.

Washington re-appeared and said he had looked everywhere, and so had Mrs. Sellers and the servants, but in vain; and went on to say he wished he could get his eye on a certain man about this time--no need to hunt up that pocket-book then. The Colonel's interest was awake at once.

"What man?"

"One-armed Pete they call him out there--out in the Cherokee country I mean. Robbed the bank in Tahlequah."

"Do they have banks in Tahlequah?"

"Yes--a bank, anyway. He was suspected of robbing it. Whoever did it got away with more than twenty thousand dollars. They offered a reward of five thousand. I believe I saw that very man, on my way east."

"No--is that so?

"I certainly saw a man on the train, the first day I struck the railroad, that answered the description pretty exactly--at least as to clothes and a lacking arm."

"Why don't you get him arrested and claim the reward?"

"I couldn't. I had to get a requisition, of course. But I meant to stay by him till I got my chance."

"Well?"

"Well, he left the train during the night some time."

"Oh, hang it, that's too bad."

"Not so very bad, either."

"Why?"

"Because he came down to Baltimore in the very train I was in, though I didn't know it in time.

The American Claimant Page 12

Mark Twain

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