Y.M. And the same with duty for duty's sake?

O.M. Yes. No man performs a duty for mere duty's sake; the act must content his spirit FIRST. He must feel better for DOING the duty than he would for shirking it. Otherwise he will not do it.

Y.M. Take the case of the BERKELEY CASTLE.

O.M. It was a noble duty, greatly performed. Take it to pieces and examine it, if you like.

Y.M. A British troop-ship crowded with soldiers and their wives and children. She struck a rock and began to sink. There was room in the boats for the women and children only. The colonel lined up his regiment on the deck and said "it is our duty to die, that they may be saved." There was no murmur, no protest. The boats carried away the women and children. When the death-moment was come, the colonel and his officers took their several posts, the men stood at shoulder-arms, and so, as on dress-parade, with their flag flying and the drums beating, they went down, a sacrifice to duty for duty's sake. Can you view it as other than that?

O.M. It was something as fine as that, as exalted as that. Could you have remained in those ranks and gone down to your death in that unflinching way?

Y.M. Could I? No, I could not.

O.M. Think. Imagine yourself there, with that watery doom creeping higher and higher around you.

Y.M. I can imagine it. I feel all the horror of it. I could not have endured it, I could not have remained in my place. I know it.

O.M. Why?

Y.M. There is no why about it: I know myself, and I know I couldn't DO it.

O.M. But it would be your DUTY to do it.

Y.M. Yes, I know--but I couldn't.

O.M. It was more than thousand men, yet not one of them flinched. Some of them must have been born with your temperament; if they could do that great duty for duty's SAKE, why not you? Don't you know that you could go out and gather together a thousand clerks and mechanics and put them on that deck and ask them to die for duty's sake, and not two dozen of them would stay in the ranks to the end?

Y.M. Yes, I know that.

O.M. But your TRAIN them, and put them through a campaign or two; then they would be soldiers; soldiers, with a soldier's pride, a soldier's self-respect, a soldier's ideals. They would have to content a SOLDIER'S spirit then, not a clerk's, not a mechanic's. They could not content that spirit by shirking a soldier's duty, could they?

Y.M. I suppose not.

O.M. Then they would do the duty not for the DUTY'S sake, but for their OWN sake--primarily. The DUTY was JUST THE SAME, and just as imperative, when they were clerks, mechanics, raw recruits, but they wouldn't perform it for that. As clerks and mechanics they had other ideals, another spirit to satisfy, and they satisfied it. They HAD to; it is the law. TRAINING is potent. Training toward higher and higher, and ever higher ideals is worth any man's thought and labor and diligence.

Y.M. Consider the man who stands by his duty and goes to the stake rather than be recreant to it.

O.M. It is his make and his training. He has to content the spirit that is in him, though it cost him his life. Another man, just as sincerely religious, but of different temperament, will fail of that duty, though recognizing it as a duty, and grieving to be unequal to it: but he must content the spirit that is in him--he cannot help it. He could not perform that duty for duty's SAKE, for that would not content his spirit, and the contenting of his spirit must be looked to FIRST. It takes precedence of all other duties.

Y.M. Take the case of a clergyman of stainless private morals who votes for a thief for public office, on his own party's ticket, and against an honest man on the other ticket.

O.M. He has to content his spirit. He has no public morals; he has no private ones, where his party's prosperity is at stake. He will always be true to his make and training.

IV

Training

Young Man. You keep using that word--training. By it do you particularly mean--

Old Man.

What is Man? and Other Essays of Mark Twain Page 15

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