When I was a kid, my father took me to see a Mark Twain impersonator. He recited various excerpts from Mark Twain’s writings and it was a real good time. I still remember it to this day. There was one particular story he told from A Tramp Abroad that has stuck with me as the way he delivered it was just perfect. Anyhoo, I am reproducing it here, mainly for your entertainment, but also because I’m trying to test a new feature on the site.
…ok, it’s mostly because I need to test a new feature on the site, but do enjoy the story anyway!
I once robbed an aged and blind beggar-woman of four dollars—in a church. It happened this way. When I was out with the Innocents Abroad, the ship stopped in the Russian port of Odessa and I went ashore, with others, to view the town. I got separated from the rest, and wandered about alone, until late in the afternoon, when I entered a Greek church to see what it was like. When I was ready to leave, I observed two wrinkled old women standing stiffly upright against the inner wall, near the door, with their brown palms open to receive alms. I contributed to the nearer one, and passed out. I had gone fifty yards, perhaps, when it occurred to me that I must remain ashore all night, as I had heard that the ship’s business would carry her away at four o’clock and keep her away until morning. It was a little after four now. I had come ashore with only two pieces of money, both about the same size, but differing largely in value—one was a French gold piece worth four dollars, the other a Turkish coin worth two cents and a half. With a sudden and horrified misgiving, I put my hand in my pocket, now, and sure enough, I fetched out that Turkish penny!
Here was a situation. A hotel would require pay in advance —I must walk the street all night, and perhaps be arrested as a suspicious character. There was but one way out of the difficulty—I flew back to the church, and softly entered. There stood the old woman yet, and in the palm of the nearest one still lay my gold piece. I was grateful. I crept close, feeling unspeakably mean; I got my Turkish penny ready, and was extending a trembling hand to make the nefarious exchange, when I heard a cough behind me. I jumped back as if I had been accused, and stood quaking while a worshiper entered and passed up the aisle.
I was there a year trying to steal that money; that is, it seemed a year, though, of course, it must have been much less. The worshipers went and came; there were hardly ever three in the church at once, but there was always one or more. Every time I tried to commit my crime somebody came in or somebody started out, and I was prevented; but at last my opportunity came; for one moment there was nobody in the church but the two beggar-women and me. I whipped the gold piece out of the poor old pauper’s palm and dropped my Turkish penny in its place. Poor old thing, she murmured her thanks—they smote me to the heart. Then I sped away in a guilty hurry, and even when I was a mile from the church I was still glancing back, every moment, to see if I was being pursued.
That experience has been of priceless value and benefit to me; for I resolved then, that as long as I lived I would never again rob a blind beggar-woman in a church; and I have always kept my word. The most permanent lessons in morals are those which come, not of booky teaching, but of experience.