The American Claimant by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
fiction, American, England, Yankee, Adventure, Colonel, Gadsby
It is a matchless morning in rural England. On a fair hill we see a majestic pile, the ivied walls and towers of Cholmondeley Castle, huge relic and witness of the baronial grandeurs of the Middle Ages. This is one of the seats of the Earl of Rossmore, K. G. G. C. B. K. C. M. G., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., who possesses twenty-two thousand acres of English land, owns a parish in London with two thousand houses on its lease-roll, and struggles comfortably along on an income of two hundred thousand pounds a year. The father and founder of this proud old line was William the Conqueror his very self; the mother of it was not inventoried in history by name, she being merely a random episode and inconsequential, like the tanner's daughter of Falaise.
In a breakfast room of the castle on this breezy fine morning there are two persons and the cooling remains of a deserted meal. One of these persons is the old lord, tall, erect, square-shouldered, white-haired, stern-browed, a man who shows character in every feature, attitude, and movement, and carries his seventy years as easily as most men carry fifty. The other person is his only son and heir, a dreamy-eyed young fellow, who looks about twenty-six but is nearer thirty. Candor, kindliness, honesty, sincerity, simplicity, modesty—it is easy to see that these are cardinal traits of his character; and so when you have clothed him in the formidable components of his name, you somehow seem to be contemplating a lamb in armor: his name and style being the Honourable Kirkcudbright Llanover Marjoribanks Sellers Viscount-Berkeley, of Cholmondeley Castle, Warwickshire. (Pronounced K'koobry Thlanover Marshbanks Sellers Vycount Barkly, of Chumly Castle, Warrikshr.) He is standing by a great window, in an attitude suggestive of respectful attention to what his father is saying and equally respectful dissent from the positions and arguments offered. The father walks the floor as he talks, and his talk shows that his temper is away up toward summer heat.
"Soft-spirited as you are, Berkeley, I am quite aware that when you have once made up your mind to do a thing which your ideas of honor and justice require you to do, argument and reason are (for the time being,) wasted upon you—yes, and ridicule; persuasion, supplication, and command as well. To my mind—"
The Earl of Rossmore vs. the American Claimant— Viscount Berkeley proposes to change places with the Claimant— The Claimant's letter— Lord Berkeley decides to visit America
Colonel Mulberry Sellers and his art gallery— He receives a visit from Washington Hawkins— Talking over old times — Washington informs the colonel that he is the congressional delegate from Cherokee Strip.
Mrs. Sellers pronounces the colonel "the same old scheming, generous, good-hearted, moonshiny, hopeful, no-account failure he always was"— He takes in Dan'l and Jinny— The colonel originates "Pigs in the Clover"— He offers one of his art treasures to propitiate Suggs— One-armed Pete; the bank thief
A Yankee makes an offer for "Pigs in the Clover"— By the death of a relative Sellers becomes the rightful Earl of Rossmore and consequently the American Clairnant— Gwendolen is sent for from school— The remains of the late Claimant and brother to be shipped to England— Hawkins and Sellers nail the hatchments on "Rossmore Towers"
Gwendolen's letter— Her arrival at home— Hawkins is introduced, to his great pleasure— Communication from the bank thief— Hawkins and Sellers have to wait ten days longer before getting the reward— Viscount Berkeley and the late Claimant's remains start simultaneously from England and America
Arrival of the remains of late Claimant and brother in England — The usurping earl officiates as chief mourner, and they are laid with their kindred in Cholmondeley church— Sally Sellers a gifted costume-designer— Another communication from the bank thief— Locating him in the New Gadsby— The colonel's glimpse of one— armed Pete in the elevator— Arrival of Viscount Berkeley at the same hotel
Viscount Berkeley jots down his "impressions" to date with a quill pen— The destruction of the New Gadsby by fire— Berkeley loses his bearings and escapes with his journaled "impressions" only— Discovery and hasty donning of one-armed Pete's abandoned wardrobe— Glowing and affecting account in the morning papers of the heroic death of the heir of Rossmore— He will take a new name and start out "incog"
The colonel's grief at the loss of both Berkeley and one-armed Pete— Materialization— Breaking the news to the family— The colonel starts to identify and secure a body (or ashes) to send to the bereaved father
The usual actress and her diamonds in the hotel fire— The colonel secures three baskets of ashes— Mrs. Sellers forbids their lying in state— Generous hatchments— The ashes to be sent only when the earl sends for them
Lord Berkeley deposits the $500 found in his appropriated clothes— Attends "Mechanics' Debating Club"— Berkeley (alias Tracy) is glad he came to this country
No work for Tracy— Cheaper lodgings secured— Sleeping on the roof— "My daughter Hattie"— Tracy receives further "impressions" from Hattie (otherwise "Puss")— Mr. Barrow appears— And offers to help Tracy find work
A boarding— house dinner— "No money, no dinner" for Mr. Brady— "How did you come to mount that hat?"— A glimpse of (the supposed) one-armed Pete— Extract from Tracy's diary
Tracy and trades-unions— Unpopularity with fellow-boarders — Which changes to popularity on his punishing Allen— The cablegram
"Mechanics' Debating Club" again— Tracy is comforted by Barrow's remarks— "Fool or no fool, he would grab it" — "Earldom! oh, yes, take it if it offers"
"You forgot to pay your board"— "I've been robbed "— Mr. Allen among the missing, likewise other things— The cablegram: "Thanks"— Despair of Tracy— "You've got to amuse your mind"
The collaborative art collection— The artists— "The cannon's our trademark"— Tracy's mind is amused
No further cablegram— "If those ghastly artists want a confederate, I'm their man"— Tracy taken into partnership— Disappointments of materialization — The phonograph adapted to marine service— Utilization of wasted sewer gas
The colonel's project to set Russia free— "I am going to buy Siberia"— The materializee turns up— Being an artist he is invited to restore the colonel's collection— Which he forthwith begins
The perplexities and nobilities of materialization— The materializee eats a couple of apples— Horror of Hawkins and Sellers— It must be a mistake"
Tracy's perplexities with regard to the Claimant's sanity— The Claimant interviews him— Sally Sellers meets Tracy — A violent case of love at first sight— Pinks
Empty painting; empty millinerizing— Tracy's work satisfactory— Sellers's new picture of Lord Berkeley— "He is a wobbler"— The unsuccessful dinner— parties— "They flung their arms about each other's necks"
"The materializing has got to stop where it is"— Sally Sellers repudiates "Lady Gwendolen"— The late Lord Berkeley Sally's hero— "The shady devil [Doubt] had knifed her"
Tracy writes to his father— The rival houses to be united by his marriage to Sally Sellers— The earl decides to "step over and take a hand"— "The course of true love," etc., as usual— "You an earl's son! show me the signs"
Time drags heavily for all concerned— Success of "Pigs in the Clover"— Sellers is "fixed" for his temperance lecture— Colonel and Mrs. Sellers start for Europe— Interview of Hawkins and Sally— Tracy an impostor
Telegram: "She's going to marry the materializee"— Interview between Tracy and Sally— Arrival of the usurping earl— "You can have him if you'll take him"— A quiet wedding at the Towers— Sellers does not join the party to England— Preparing to furnish climates to order