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MISTAKEN IDENTITYby@twain
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MISTAKEN IDENTITY

by Mark TwainOctober 14th, 2023
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LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,—I am perfectly astonished—a-s-t-o-n-i-s-h-e-d—ladies and gentlemen—astonished at the way history repeats itself. I find myself situated at this moment exactly and precisely as I was once before, years ago, to a jot, to a tittle—to a very hair. There isn’t a shade of difference. It is the most astonishing coincidence that ever—but wait. I will tell you the former instance, and then you will see it for yourself. Years ago I arrived one day at Salamanca, New York, eastward bound; must change cars there and take the sleeper train. There were crowds of people there, and they were swarming into the long sleeper train and packing it full, and it was a perfect purgatory of dust and confusion and gritting of teeth and soft, sweet, and low profanity. I asked the young man in the ticket-office if I could have a sleeping-section, and he answered “No,” with a snarl that shrivelled me up like burned leather. I went off, smarting under this insult to my dignity, and asked another local official, supplicatingly, if I couldn’t have some poor little corner somewhere in a sleeping-car; but he cut me short with a venomous “No, you can’t; every corner is full. Now, don’t bother me any more”; and he turned his back and walked off. My dignity was in a state now which cannot be described. I was so ruffled that—“well,” I said to my companion, “If these people knew who I am they—” But my companion cut me short there—“Don’t talk such folly,” he said; “if they did know who you are, do you suppose it would help your high-mightiness to a vacancy in a train which has no vacancies in it?”
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Mark Twain's Speeches by Mark Twain, is part of the HackerNoon Books Series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here. MISTAKEN IDENTITY

MISTAKEN IDENTITY

ADDRESS AT THE ANNUAL “LADIES’ DAY,” PAPYRUS CLUB, BOSTON

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,—I am perfectly astonished—a-s-t-o-n-i-s-h-e-d—ladies and gentlemen—astonished at the way history repeats itself. I find myself situated at this moment exactly and precisely as I was once before, years ago, to a jot, to a tittle—to a very hair. There isn’t a shade of difference. It is the most astonishing coincidence that ever—but wait. I will tell you the former instance, and then you will see it for yourself. Years ago I arrived one day at Salamanca, New York, eastward bound; must change cars there and take the sleeper train. There were crowds of people there, and they were swarming into the long sleeper train and packing it full, and it was a perfect purgatory of dust and confusion and gritting of teeth and soft, sweet, and low profanity. I asked the young man in the ticket-office if I could have a sleeping-section, and he answered “No,” with a snarl that shrivelled me up like burned leather. I went off, smarting under this insult to my dignity, and asked another local official, supplicatingly, if I couldn’t have some poor little corner somewhere in a sleeping-car; but he cut me short with a venomous “No, you can’t; every corner is full. Now, don’t bother me any more”; and he turned his back and walked off. My dignity was in a state now which cannot be described. I was so ruffled that—“well,” I said to my companion, “If these people knew who I am they—” But my companion cut me short there—“Don’t talk such folly,” he said; “if they did know who you are, do you suppose it would help your high-mightiness to a vacancy in a train which has no vacancies in it?”


This did not improve my condition any to speak of, but just then I observed that the colored porter of a sleeping-car had his eye on me. I saw his dark countenance light up. He whispered to the uniformed conductor, punctuating with nods and jerks toward me, and straightway this conductor came forward, oozing politeness from every pore.


“Can I be of any service to you?” he asked. “Will you have a place in the sleeper?”


“Yes,” I said, “and much oblige me, too. Give me anything—anything will answer.”


“We have nothing left but the big family state-room,” he continued, “with two berths and a couple of arm-chairs in it, but it is entirely at your disposal. Here, Tom, take these satchels aboard!”


Then he touched his hat and we and the colored Tom moved along. I was bursting to drop just one little remark to my companion, but I held in and waited. Tom made us comfortable in that sumptuous great apartment, and then said, with many bows and a perfect affluence of smiles:


“Now, is dey anything you want, sah? Case you kin have jes’ anything you wants. It don’t make no difference what it is.”


“Can I have some hot water and a tumbler at nine to-night-blazing hot?” I asked. “You know about the right temperature for a hot Scotch punch?”


“Yes, sah, dat you kin; you kin pen on it; I’ll get it myself.”


“Good! Now, that lamp is hung too high. Can I have a big coach candle fixed up just at the head of my bed, so that I can read comfortably?”


“Yes, sah, you kin; I’ll fix her up myself, an’ I’ll fix her so she’ll burn all night. Yes, sah; an’ you can jes’ call for anything you want, and dish yer whole railroad’ll be turned wrong end up an’ inside out for to get it for you. Dat’s so.” And he disappeared.


Well, I tilted my head back, hooked my thumbs in my armholes, smiled a smile on my companion, and said, gently:


“Well, what do you say now?”


My companion was not in the humor to respond, and didn’t. The next moment that smiling black face was thrust in at the crack of the door, and this speech followed:


“Laws bless you, sah, I knowed you in a minute. I told de conductah so. Laws! I knowed you de minute I sot eyes on you.”


“Is that so, my boy?” (Handing him a quadruple fee.) “Who am I?”


“Jenuel McClellan,” and he disappeared again.


My companion said, vinegarishly, “Well, well! what do you say now?” Right there comes in the marvellous coincidence I mentioned a while ago—viz., I was speechless, and that is my condition now. Perceive it?



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This book is part of the public domain. Mark Twain (2004). Mark Twain's Speeches. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved October 2022 https://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/3188/pg3188-images.html


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