Finally the earl's face began to glow with an inspiration, and he said, impressively:

"Hawkins, this materialization is a grander and nobler science than we have dreamed of. We have little imagined what a solemn and stupendous thing we have done. The whole secret is perfectly clear to me, now, clear as day. Every man is made up of heredities, long-descended atoms and particles of his ancestors. This present materialization is incomplete. We have only brought it down to perhaps the beginning of this century."

"What do you mean, Colonel!" cried Hawkins, filled with vague alarms by the old man's awe-compelling words and manner.

"This. We've materialized this burglar's ancestor!"

"Oh, don't-don't say that. It's hideous."

"But it's true, Hawkins, I know it. Look at the facts. This apparition is distinctly English-note that. It uses good grammar--note that. It is an Artist--note that. It has the manners and carriage of a gentleman-- note that. Where's your cow-boy? Answer me that."

"Rossmore, this is dreadful-it's too dreadful to think of!"

"Never resurrected a rag of that burglar but the clothes, not a solitary rag of him but the clothes."

"Colonel, do you really mean--"

The Colonel brought his fist down with emphasis and said:

"I mean exactly this. The materialization was immature, the burglar has evaded us, this is nothing but a damned ancestor!"

He rose and walked the floor in great excitement.

Hawkins said plaintively:

"It's a bitter disappointment-bitter."

"I know it. I know it, Senator; I feel it as deeply as anybody could. But we've got to submit--on moral grounds. I need money, but God knows I am not poor enough or shabby enough to be an accessory to the punishing of a man's ancestor for crimes committed by that ancestor's posterity."

"But Colonel!" implored Hawkins; "stop and think; don't be rash; you know it's the only chance we've got to get the money; and besides, the Bible itself says posterity to the fourth generation shall be punished for the sins and crimes committed by ancestors four generations back that hadn't anything to do with them; and so it's only fair to turn the rule around and make it work both ways."

The Colonel was struck with the strong logic of this position. He strode up and down, and thought it painfully over. Finally he said:

"There's reason in it; yes, there's reason in it. And so, although it seems a piteous thing to sweat this poor ancient devil for a burglary he hadn't the least hand in, still if duty commands I suppose we must give him up to the authorities."

"I would," said Hawkins, cheered and relieved, "I'd give him up if he was a thousand ancestors compacted into one."

"Lord bless me, that's just what he is," said Sellers, with something like a groan, "it's exactly what he is; there's a contribution in him from every ancestor he ever had. In him there's atoms of priests, soldiers, crusaders, poets, and sweet and gracious women--all kinds and conditions of folk who trod this earth in old, old centuries, and vanished out of it ages ago, and now by act of ours they are summoned from their holy peace to answer for gutting a one-horse bank away out on the borders of Cherokee Strip, and it's just a howling outrage!"

"Oh, don't talk like that, Colonel; it takes the heart all out of me, and makes me ashamed of the part I am proposing to--"

"Wait-I've got it!"

"A saving hope? Shout it out, I am perishing."

"It's perfectly simple; a child would have thought of it. He is all right, not a flaw in him, as far as I have carried the work. If I've been able to bring him as far as the beginning of this century, what's to stop me now? I'll go on and materialize him down to date."

"Land, I never thought of that!" said Hawkins all ablaze with joy again. "It's the very thing. What a brain you have got! And will he shed the superfluous arm?"

"He will."

"And lose his English accent?"

"It will wholly disappear. He will speak Cherokee Strip--and other forms of profanity."

"Colonel, maybe he'll confess!"

"Confess? Merely that bank robbery?"

" Merely? Yes, but why 'merely'?"

The Colonel said in his most impressive manner: "Hawkins, he will be wholly under my command.

The American Claimant Page 60

Mark Twain

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