Samuel Clemens was thirty-five years old when he published this anecdotal gem. Occasionally, he’d hear someone share a story or he’d read about it in the paper; then he’d put it his journal for future refinement. Mark Twain said, “We’re not sure anyone said anything originally, except Adam…and we’re not too sure about that.”
This might have been original, but it doesn’t matter. It’s a classic.
THE GALAXY, JUNE 1870
BY MARK TWAIN.
[Untitled essay on “Higgins]
“Yes, I remember that anecdote,” the Sunday school superintendent said, with the old pathos in his voice and the old say look in his eyes. “It was about a simple creature named Higgins, that used to haul rock for old Maltby. When the lamented Judge Bagley tripped and fell down the court-house stairs and broke his neck, it was a great question how to break the news to poor Mrs. Bagley. But finally the body was put into Higgin’s wagon and he was instructed to take it to Mrs. B., but to be very guarded and discreet in his language, and not break the news to her at once, but do it gradually and gently. When Higgins got there with his sad freight, he shouted till Mrs. Bagley came to the door. Then he said:
“Does the widder Bagley live here?”
The widow Bagley? No, Sir!”
“I’ll bet she does. But have it your own way. Well, does Judge Bagley live here?”
“Yes, Judge Bagley lives here.”
“I’ll bet he don’t. But never mind — it ain’t for me to contradict. Is the Judge in?”
“No, not at present.”
“I jest expected as much. Because, you know — take hold o’ suthin, mum, for I’m a-a-going to make a little communication, and I reckon maybe it’ll jar you some. There’s been an accident, mum. I’ve got the old Judge curled up out here n the wagon — and when you see him you’ll acknowledge, yourself, that an inquest is about the only thing that could be a comfort to him!”
Original text can be found at www.twainquotes.com by Barb Schmidt.