"Political Economy." (Salesmen)

By Twain, Mark | The Saturday Evening Post, September-October 1994 | Go to article overview

"Political Economy." (Salesmen)


Twain, Mark, The Saturday Evening Post


Political economy is the basis of all good government. The wisest men of all ages have brought to bear upon this subject the -

[Here I was interrupted and informed that a stranger wished to see me down at the door. I went and confronted him, and asked to know his business, struggling all the time to keep a tight rein on my seething political-economy ideas, and not let them break away from me or get tangled in their harness. And privately I wished the stranger was in the bottom of the canal with a cargo of wheat on top of him. I was all in a fever, but he was cool. He said he was sorry to disturb me, but as he was passing he noticed that I needed some lightning rods. I said, "Yes, yes - go on - what about it?" He said there was nothing about it, in particular - nothing except that he would like to put them up for me. I am new to housekeeping; have been used to hotels and boardinghouses all my life. Like anybody else of similar experience, I try to appear (to strangers) to be an old housekeeper; consequently, I said in an offhand way that I had been intending for some time to have six or eight lightning rods put up, but - The stranger started, and looked inquiringly at me, but I was serene. I thought that if I chanced to make any mistakes, he would not catch me by my countenance. He said he would rather have my custom than any man's in town. I said. "All right." and started off to wrestle with my great subject again, when he called me back and said it would be necessary to know exactly how many "points" I wanted to put up, what parts of the house I wanted them on, and what quality of rod I preferred. It was close quarters for a man not used to the exigencies of housekeeping; but I went through creditably, and he probably never suspected that I was a novice. I told him to put up eight "points," and put them all on the roof, and use the best quality of rod. He said he could furnish the "plain" article at 20 cents a foot; "coppered," 25 cents; "zinc-plated spiral-twist," at 30 cents, that would stop a streak of lightning any time, no matter where it was bound, and "render its errand harmless and its further press apocryphal." I said apocryphal was no slouch of a word, emanating from the source it did, but, philology aside, I liked the spiral-twist and would take that brand. Then he said he could make 250 feet answer; but to do it right, and make the best job in town of it, and attract the admiration of the just and the unjust alike, and compel all parties to say they never saw a more symmetrical and hypothetical display of lightning rods since they were born, he supposed he really couldn't get along without 400, though he was not vindictive, and trusted he was willing to try. I said, go ahead and use 400, and make any kind of a job he pleased out of it, but let me get back to my work. So I got rid of him at last; and now, after half an hour spent in getting my train of political-economy thoughts coupled together again, I am ready to go on once more.]

richest treasures of their genius, their experience of life, and their learning. The great lights of commercial jurisprudence, international confraternity, and biological deviation, of all ages, all civilizations, and all nationalities, from Zoroaster down to Horace Greeley, have -

[Here I was interrupted again, and required to go down and confer further with that lightning-rod man. I hurried off, boiling and surging with prodigious thoughts wombed in words of such majesty that each one of them was in itself a straggling procession of syllables that might be 15 minutes passing a given point, and once more I confronted him - he so calm and sweet, I so hot and frenzied. He was standing in the contemplative attitude of the Colossus of Rhodes, with one foot on my infant tuberose and the other among my pansies, his hands on his hips, his hat brim tilted forward, one eye shut and the other gazing critically and admiringly in the direction of my principal chimney. …

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