I will make him confess every crime he ever committed. There must be a thousand. Do you get the idea?"

"Well--not quite."

"The rewards will come to us."

"Prodigious conception! I never saw such ahead for seeing with a lightning glance all the outlying ramifications and possibilities of a central idea."

"It is nothing; it comes natural to me. When his time is out in one jail he goes to the next and the next, and we shall have nothing to do but collect the rewards as he goes along. It is a perfectly steady income as long as we live, Hawkins. And much better than other kinds of investments, because he is indestructible."

"It looks--it really does look the way you say; it does indeed."

"Look?--why it is. It will not be denied that I have had a pretty wide and comprehensive financial experience, and I do not hesitate to say that I consider this one of the most valuable properties I have ever controlled."

"Do you really think so?"

"I do, indeed."

"O, Colonel, the wasting grind and grief of poverty! If we could realize immediately. I don't mean sell it all, but sell part-enough, you know, to--"

"See how you tremble with excitement. That comes of lack of experience. My boy, when you have been familiar with vast operations as long as I have, you'll be different. Look at me; is my eye dilated? do you notice a quiver anywhere? Feel my pulse: plunk-plunk-plunk--same as if I were asleep. And yet, what is passing through my calm cold mind? A procession of figures which would make a financial novice drunk just the sight of them. Now it is by keeping cool, and looking at a thing all around, that a man sees what's really in it, and saves himself from the novice's unfailing mistake--the one you've just suggested--eagerness to realize. Listen to me. Your idea is to sell a part of him for ready cash. Now mine is--guess."

"I haven't an idea. What is it?"

"Stock him--of course."

"Well, I should never have thought of that."

"Because you are not a financier. Say he has committed a thousand crimes. Certainly that's a low estimate. By the look of him, even in his unfinished condition, he has committed all of a million. But call it only a thousand to be perfectly safe; five thousand reward, multiplied by a thousand, gives us a dead sure cash basis of--what? Five million dollars!"

"Wait--let me get my breath."

"And the property indestructible. Perpetually fruitful--perpetually; for a property with his disposition will go on committing crimes and winning rewards."

"You daze me, you make my head whirl!"

"Let it whirl, it won't do it any harm. Now that matter is all fixed-- leave it alone. I'll get up the company and issue the stock, all in good time. Just leave it in my hands. I judge you don't doubt my ability to work it up for all it is worth.".

"Indeed I don't. I can say that with truth."

"All right, then. That's disposed of. Everything in its turn. We old operators, go by order and system--no helter-skelter business with us. What's the next thing on the docket? The carrying on of the materialization--the bringing it down to date. I will begin on that at once. I think--

"Look here, Rossmore. You didn't lock It in. A hundred to one it has escaped!"

"Calm yourself, as to that; don't give yourself any uneasiness."

"But why shouldn't it escape?"

"Let it, if it wants to? What of it?"

"Well, I should consider it a pretty serious calamity."

"Why, my dear boy, once in my power, always in my power. It may go and come freely. I can produce it here whenever I want it, just by the exercise of my will."

"Well, I am truly glad to hear that, I do assure you."

"Yes, I shall give it all the painting it wants to do, and we and the family will make it as comfortable and contented as we can. No occasion to restrain its movements. I hope to persuade it to remain pretty quiet, though, because a materialization which is in a state of arrested development must of necessity be pretty soft and flabby and substanceless, and--er--by the way, I wonder where It comes from?"

"How? What do you mean?"

The earl pointed significantly--and interrogatively toward the sky. Hawkins started; then settled into deep reflection; finally shook his head sorrowfully and pointed downwards.

The American Claimant Page 61

Mark Twain

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