TUESDAY.— All the morning I was at work improving the estate; and I purposely
kept away from him in the hope that he would get lonely and come. But he did
At noon I stopped for the day and took my recreation by flitting all about
with the bees and the butterflies and reveling in the flowers, those beautiful
creatures that catch the smile of God out of the sky and preserve it! I gathered
them, and made them into wreaths and garlands and clothed myself in them while I
ate my luncheon—apples, of course; then I sat in the shade and wished and
waited. But he did not come.
But no matter. Nothing
would have come of it, for he does not care for flowers. He called them rubbish,
and cannot tell one from another, and thinks it is superior to feel like that.
He does not care for me, he does not care for flowers, he does not care for the
painted sky at eventide—is there anything he does care for, except building
shacks to coop himself up in from the good clean rain, and thumping the melons,
and sampling the grapes, and fingering the fruit on the trees, to see how those
properties are coming along?
I laid a dry stick on the
ground and tried to bore a hole in it with another one, in order to carry out a
scheme that I had, and soon I got an awful fright. A thin, transparent bluish
film rose out of the hole, and I dropped everything and ran! I thought it was a
spirit, and I WAS so frightened! But I looked back, and it was not coming; so I
leaned against a rock and rested and panted, and let my limbs go on trembling
until they got steady again; then I crept warily back, alert, watching, and
ready to fly if there was occasion; and when I was come near, I parted the
branches of a rose-bush and peeped through—wishing the man was about, I was
looking so cunning and pretty—but the sprite was gone. I went there, and there
was a pinch of delicate pink dust in the hole. I put my finger in, to feel it,
and said OUCH! and took it out again. It was a cruel pain. I put my finger in my
mouth; and by standing first on one foot and then the other, and grunting, I
presently eased my misery; then I was full of interest, and began to examine.
I was curious to know what
the pink dust was. Suddenly the name of it occurred to me, though I had never
heard of it before. It was FIRE! I was as certain of it as a person could be of
anything in the world. So without hesitation I named it that—fire.
I had created something
that didn't exist before; I had added a new thing to the world's uncountable
properties; I realized this, and was proud of my achievement, and was going to
run and find him and tell him about it, thinking to raise myself in his
esteem—but I reflected, and did not do it. No—he would not care for it. He would
ask what it was good for, and what could I answer? for if it was not GOOD for
something, but only beautiful, merely beautiful—
So I sighed, and did not
go. For it wasn't good for anything; it could not build a shack, it could not
improve melons, it could not hurry a fruit crop; it was useless, it was a
foolishness and a vanity; he would despise it and say cutting words. But to me
it was not despicable; I said, "Oh, you fire, I love you, you dainty pink
creature, for you are BEAUTIFUL—and that is enough!" and was going to gather it
to my breast. But refrained. Then I made another maxim out of my head, though it
was so nearly like the first one that I was afraid it was only a plagiarism:
"THE BURNT EXPERIMENT SHUNS THE FIRE."
I wrought again; and when I had made a good deal of fire-dust I emptied it
into a handful of dry brown grass, intending to carry it home and keep it always
and play with it; but the wind struck it and it sprayed up and spat out at me
fiercely, and I dropped it and ran. When I looked back the blue spirit was
towering up and stretching and rolling away like a cloud, and instantly I
thought of the name of it—SMOKE!—though, upon my word, I had never heard of
Soon brilliant yellow and
red flares shot up through the smoke, and I named them in an instant—FLAMES—and
I was right, too, though these were the very first flames that had ever been in
the world. They climbed the trees, then flashed splendidly in and out of the
vast and increasing volume of tumbling smoke, and I had to clap my hands and
laugh and dance in my rapture, it was so new and strange and so wonderful and so
He came running, and
stopped and gazed, and said not a word for many minutes. Then he asked what it
was. Ah, it was too bad that he should ask such a direct question. I had to
answer it, of course, and I did. I said it was fire. If it annoyed him that I
should know and he must ask; that was not my fault; I had no desire to annoy
him. After a pause he asked:
"How did it come?"
Another direct question, and it also had to have a direct answer.
"I made it."
The fire was traveling farther and farther off. He went to the edge of the
burned place and stood looking down, and said:
"What are these?"
He picked up one to examine it, but changed his mind and put it down again.
Then he went away. NOTHING interests him.
But I was interested. There
were ashes, gray and soft and delicate and pretty—I knew what they were at once.
And the embers; I knew the embers, too. I found my apples, and raked them out,
and was glad; for I am very young and my appetite is active. But I was
disappointed; they were all burst open and spoiled. Spoiled apparently; but it
was not so; they were better than raw ones. Fire is beautiful; some day it will
be useful, I think.
by Mark Twain; Illustrated by Lester Ralph
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