You see you didn't even know that I had one. Come along. I've got a little trick there that I want to show you. I've kept it perfectly quiet, not fifty people know anything about it. But that's my way, always been my way. Wait till you're ready, that's the idea; and when you're ready, zzip!--let her go!"

"Well, Colonel, I've never seen a man that I've had such unbounded confidence in as you. When you say a thing right out, I always feel as if that ends it; as if that is evidence, and proof, and everything else."

The old earl was profoundly pleased and touched.

"I'm glad you believe in me, Washington; not everybody is so just."

"I always have believed in you; and I always shall as long as I live."

"Thank you, my boy. You shan't repent it. And you can't." Arrived in the "laboratory," the earl continued, "Now, cast your eye around this room--what do you see? Apparently a junk-shop; apparently a hospital connected with a patent office--in reality, the mines of Golconda in disguise! Look at that thing there. Now what would you take that thing to be?"

"I don't believe I could ever imagine."

"Of course you couldn't. It's my grand adaptation of the phonograph to the marine service. You store up profanity in it for use at sea. You know that sailors don't fly around worth a cent unless you swear at them--so the mate that can do the best job of swearing is the most valuable man. In great emergencies his talent saves the ship. But a ship is a large thing, and he can't be everywhere at once; so there have been times when one mate has lost a ship which could have been saved if they had had a hundred. Prodigious storms, you know. Well, a ship can't afford a hundred mates; but she can afford a hundred Cursing Phonographs, and distribute them all over the vessel--and there, you see, she's armed at every point. Imagine a big storm, and a hundred of my machines all cursing away at once--splendid spectacle, splendid!--you couldn't hear yourself think. Ship goes through that storm perfectly serene--she's just as safe as she'd be on shore."

"It's a wonderful idea. How do you prepare the thing?"

"Load it-simply load it."

"How?"

"Why you just stand over it and swear into it."

"That loads it, does it?"

"Yes--because every word it collars, it keeps--keeps it forever. Never wears out. Any time you turn the crank, out it'll come. In times of great peril, you can reverse it, and it'll swear backwards. That makes a sailor hump himself!"

"O, I see. Who loads them?--the mate?"

"Yes, if he chooses. Or I'll furnish them already loaded. I can hire an expert for $75 a month who will load a hundred and fifty phonographs in 150 hours, and do it easy. And an expert can furnish a stronger article, of course, than the mere average uncultivated mate could. Then you see, all the ships of the world will buy them ready loaded--for I shall have them loaded in any language a customer wants. Hawkins, it will work the grandest moral reform of the 19th century. Five years from now, all the swearing will be done by machinery--you won't ever hear a profane word come from human lips on a ship. Millions of dollars have been spent by the churches, in the effort to abolish profanity in the commercial marine. Think of it--my name will live forever in the affections of good men as the man, who, solitary and alone, accomplished this noble and elevating reform."

"O, it is grand and beneficent and beautiful. How did you ever come to think of it? You have a wonderful mind. How did you say you loaded the machine?"

"O, it's no trouble-perfectly simple. If you want to load it up loud and strong, you stand right over it and shout. But if you leave it open and all set, it'll eavesdrop, so to speak--that is to say, it will load itself up with any sounds that are made within six feet of it. Now I'll show you how it works. I had an expert come and load this one up yesterday. Hello, it's been left open--it's too bad--still I reckon it hasn't had much cha

The American Claimant Page 55

Mark Twain

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