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I was deducing from the above that I have been slowing down steadily in these thirty-six years, but I perceive that my statistics have a defect: 3,000 words in the spring of 1868, when I was working seven or eight or nine hours at a sitting, has little or no advantage over the sitting of to-day, covering half the time and producing half the output. Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force:"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."

Chapter 19

Chapter 5

She had the heart-free laugh of a girl. It came seldom, but when it broke upon the ear it was as inspiring as music. I heard it for the last time when she had been occupying her sick bed for more than a year, and I made a written note of it at the time--a note not to be repeated.

She learned languages easily; she learned history easily, she learned music easily; she learned all things easily, quickly, and thoroughly--except spelling. She even learned that, after a while. But it would have grieved me but little if she had failed in it--for, although good spelling was my one accomplishment, I was never able to greatly respect it. When I was a schoolboy, sixty years ago, we had two prizes in our school. One was for good spelling, the other for amiability. These things were thin, smooth, silver disks, about the size of a dollar. Upon the one was engraved in flowing Italian script the words "Good Spelling," on the other was engraved the word "Amiability." The holders of these prizes hung them about the neck with a string--and those holders were the envy of the whole school. There wasn't a pupil that wouldn't have given a leg for the privilege of wearing one of them a week, but no pupil ever got a chance except John RoBards and me. John RoBards was eternally and indestructibly amiable. I may even say devilishly amiable; fiendishly amiable; exasperatingly amiable. That was the sort of feeling that we had about that quality of his. So he always wore the amiability medal. I always wore the other medal. That word "always" is a trifle too strong. We lost the medals several times. It was because they became so monotonous. We needed a change--therefore several times we traded medals. It was a satisfaction to John RoBards to seem to be a good speller--which he wasn't. And it was a satisfaction to me to seem to be amiable, for a change. But of course these changes could not long endure--for some schoolmate or other would presently notice what had been happening, and that schoolmate would not have been human if he had lost any time in reporting this treason. The teacher took the medals away from us at once, of course--and we always had them back again before Friday night. If we lost the medals Monday morning, John's amiability was at the top of the list Friday afternoon when the teacher came to square up the week's account. The Friday-afternoon session always closed with "spelling down." Being in disgrace, I necessarily started at the foot of my division of spellers, but I always slaughtered both divisions and stood alone with the medal around my neck when the campaign was finished. I did miss on a word once, just at the end of one of these conflicts, and so lost the medal. I left the first r out of February--but that was to accommodate a sweetheart. My passion was so strong just at that time that I would have left out the whole alphabet if the word had contained it.

Chapter 15

In "The Prince and the Pauper" days, and earlier and later--especially later, Susy and her nearest neighbor, Margaret Warner, often devised tragedies and played them in the school-room, with little Jean's help--with closed doors--no admission to anybody. The chief characters were always a couple of queens, with a quarrel in stock--historical when possible, but a quarrel anyway, even if it had to be a work of the imagination. Jean always had one function--only one. She sat at a little table about a foot high and drafted death warrants for these queens to sign. In the course of time they completely wore out Elizabeth and Mary, Queen of Scots--also all of Mrs. Clemens's gowns that they could get hold of--for nothing charmed these monarchs like having four or five feet of gown dragging on the floor behind. Mrs. Clemens and I spied upon them more than once, which was treacherous conduct--but I don't think we very seriously minded that. It was grand to see the queens stride back and forth and reproach each other in three- or four-syllable words dripping with blood; and it was pretty to see how tranquil Jean was through it all. Familiarity with daily death and carnage had hardened her to crime and suffering in all their forms, and they were no longer able to hasten her pulse by a beat. Sometimes when there was a long interval between death warrants she even leaned her head on her table and went to sleep. It was then a curious spectacle of innocent repose and crimson and volcanic tragedy.


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