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|The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg||Mark Twain|
|Page 3 of 13||
There was likely to be a scandalous state of things if this went on; everybody noticed with distress that the shorthand scribes were scribbling like mad; many people were crying "Chair, chair! Order! order!" Burgess rapped with his gavel, and said:
"Let us not forget the proprieties due. There has evidently been a mistake somewhere, but surely that is all. If Mr. Wilson gave me an envelope--and I remember now that he did--I still have it."
He took one out of his pocket, opened it, glanced at it, looked surprised and worried, and stood silent a few moments. Then he waved his hand in a wandering and mechanical way, and made an effort or two to say something, then gave it up, despondently. Several voices cried out:
"Read it! read it! What is it?"
So he began, in a dazed and sleep-walker fashion:
"'The remark which I made to the unhappy stranger was this: "You are far from being a bad man. [The house gazed at him marvelling.] Go, and reform."' [Murmurs: "Amazing! what can this mean?"] This one," said the Chair, "is signed Thurlow G. Wilson."
"There!" cried Wilson, "I reckon that settles it! I knew perfectly well my note was purloined."
"Purloined!" retorted Billson. "I'll let you know that neither you nor any man of your kidney must venture to--"
The Chair: "Order, gentlemen, order! Take your seats, both of you, please."
They obeyed, shaking their heads and grumbling angrily. The house was profoundly puzzled; it did not know what to do with this curious emergency. Presently Thompson got up. Thompson was the hatter. He would have liked to be a Nineteener; but such was not for him; his stock of hats was not considerable enough for the position. He said:
"Mr. Chairman, if I may be permitted to make a suggestion, can both of these gentlemen be right? I put it to you, sir, can both have happened to say the very same words to the stranger? It seems to me--"
The tanner got up and interrupted him. The tanner was a disgruntled man; he believed himself entitled to be a Nineteener, but he couldn't get recognition. It made him a little unpleasant in his ways and speech. Said he:
"Sho, THAT'S not the point! THAT could happen--twice in a hundred years--but not the other thing. NEITHER of them gave the twenty dollars!" [A ripple of applause.]
Billson. "I did!"
Wilson. "I did!"
Then each accused the other of pilfering.
The Chair. "Order! Sit down, if you please--both of you. Neither of the notes has been out of my possession at any moment."
A Voice. "Good--that settles THAT!"
The Tanner. "Mr. Chairman, one thing is now plain: one of these men has been eavesdropping under the other one's bed, and filching family secrets. If it is not unparliamentary to suggest it, I will remark that both are equal to it. [The Chair. "Order! order!"] I withdraw the remark, sir, and will confine myself to suggesting that IF one of them has overheard the other reveal the test-remark to his wife, we shall catch him now."
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|The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg
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