Truth is the most valuable thing we have. Let us economize it.
– Following the Equator
Answering question 1) from the November 8, 2014 post, I believe when Mark Twain tells stories beyond the realm of sound reason, he accentuates the absurdity of what a lie is. The dictionary states, “lie (verb): to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive.” Sam Clemens despised dishonesty, deceit, corruption, and social injustice. He worked diligently, using humor and satire to cause humans to be more humane. Sam frequently encouraged the telling of lies, especially to children, but wanted the intent to deceive removed; he believed in truth, justice, and fairness.
I never could tell a lie that anybody would doubt, nor a truth that anybody would believe.
– Following the Equator
Markiss, King of Liars – Part 2 – from Roughing It, published in 1872.
Two weeks after this, while talking in a company, I looked up and detected this same man boring through and through me with his intense eye, and noted again his twitching muscles and his feverish anxiety to speak. The moment I paused, he said:
“Beg your pardon, sir, beg your pardon, but it can only be considered remarkable when brought into strong outline by isolation. Sir, contrasted with a circumstance which occurred in my own experience, it instantly becomes commonplace. No, not that—for I will not speak so discourteously of any experience in the career of a stranger and a gentleman—but I am obliged to say that you could not, and you would not ever again refer to this tree as a large one, if you could behold, as I have, the great Yakmatack tree, in the island of Ounaska, sea of Kamtchatka—a tree, sir, not one inch less than four hundred and fifteen feet in solid diameter!—and I wish I may die in a minute if it isn’t so! Oh, you needn’t look so questioning, gentlemen; here’s old Cap Saltmarsh can say whether I know what I’m talking about or not. I showed him the tree.”
Captain Saltmarsh—”Come, now, cat your anchor, lad—you’re heaving too taut. You promised to show me that stunner, and I walked more than eleven mile with you through the cussedest jungle I ever see, a hunting for it; but the tree you showed me finally warn’t as big around as a beer cask, and you know that your own self, Markiss.”
“Hear the man talk! Of course the tree was reduced that way, but didn’t I explain it? Answer me, didn’t I? Didn’t I say I wished you could have seen it when I first saw it? When you got up on your ear and called me names, and said I had brought you eleven miles to look at a sapling, didn’t I explain to you that all the whale-ships in the North Seas had been wooding off of it for more than twenty-seven years? And did you s’pose the tree could last for-ever, con-found it? I don’t see why you want to keep back things that way, and try to injure a person that’s never done you any harm.”
Somehow this man’s presence made me uncomfortable, and I was glad when a native arrived at that moment to say that Muckawow, the most companionable and luxurious among the rude war-chiefs of the Islands, desired us to come over and help him enjoy a missionary whom he had found trespassing on his grounds.