He said:

"I don't know that I quite understand. Do you mean to say that if he was all right and proper otherwise you'd be indifferent about the earl part of the business?"


"You'd be entirely satisfied with him and wouldn't care for his not being an earl's son,--that being an earl's son wouldn't add any value to him?"

"Not the least value that I would care for. Why, Mr. Hawkins, I've gotten over all that day-dreaming about earldoms and aristocracies and all such nonsense and am become just a plain ordinary nobody and content with it; and it is to him I owe my cure. And as to anything being able to add a value to him, nothing can do that. He is the whole world to me, just as he is; he comprehends all the values there are--then how can you add one?"

"She's pretty far gone." He said that to himself. He continued, still to himself, "I must change my plan again; I can't seem to strike one that will stand the requirements of this most variegated emergency five minutes on a stretch. Without making this fellow a criminal, I believe I will invent a name and a character for him calculated to disenchant her. If it fails to do it, then I'll know that the next rightest thing to do will be to help her to her fate, poor thing, not hinder her." Then he said aloud:

"Well, Gwendolen--"

"I want to be called Sally."

"I'm glad of it; I like it better, myself. Well, then, I'll tell you about this man Snodgrass."

"Snodgrass! Is that his name?"

"Yes--Snodgrass. The other's his nom de plume."

"It's hideous!"

"I know it is, but we can't help our names."

"And that is truly his real name--and not Howard Tracy?"

Hawkins answered, regretfully:

"Yes, it seems a pity."

The girl sampled the name musingly, once or twice--

"Snodgrass. Snodgrass. No, I could not endure that. I could not get used to it. No, I should call him by his first name. What is his first name?"

"His--er--his initials are S. M."

"His initials? I don't care anything about his initials. I can't call him by his initials. What do they stand for?"

"Well, you see, his father was a physician, and he--he--well he was an idolater of his profession, and he--well, he was a very eccentric man, and--"

"What do they stand for! What are you shuffling about?"

"They-well they stand for Spinal Meningitis. His father being a phy--"

"I never heard such an infamous name! Nobody can ever call a person that--a person they love. I wouldn't call an enemy by such a name. It sounds like an epithet." After a moment, she added with a kind of consternation, "Why, it would be my name! Letters would come with it on."

"Yes--Mrs. Spinal Meningitis Snodgrass."

"Don't repeat it--don't; I can't bear it. Was the father a lunatic?"

"No, that is not charged."

"I am glad of that, because that is transmissible. What do you think was the matter with him, then?"

"Well, I don't really know. The family used to run a good deal to idiots, and so, maybe--"

"Oh, there isn't any maybe about it. This one was an idiot."

"Well, yes--he could have been. He was suspected."

"Suspected!" said Sally, with irritation. "Would one suspect there was going to be a dark time if he saw the constellations fall out of the sky? But that is enough about the idiot, I don't take any interest in idiots; tell me about the son."

Very well, then, this one was the eldest, but not the favorite. His brother, Zylobalsamum--"

"Wait--give me a chance to realize that. It is perfectly stupefying. Zylo--what did you call it?"


"I never heard such a name: It sounds like a disease. Is it a disease?"

"No, I don't think it's a disease. It's either Scriptural or--"

"Well, it's not Scriptural."

"Then it's anatomical. I knew it was one or the other. Yes, I remember, now, it is anatomical. It's a ganglion--a nerve centre--it is what is called the zylobalsamum process."

"Well, go on; and if you come to any more of them, omit the names; they make one feel so uncomfortable."

"Very well, then.

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

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