MARK TWAIN IS AVENGED
One False "Cabby" Learns the Power of His Wrath
HIS LICENSE IS RECLAIMED
The Humorist Says the Citizen Is an Unclassified Policeman -
Due Praise for Marshal Roche.
The down-trodden victims of New York's nighthawk Jehus can exult today in a triumph gained yesterday by Mark Twain. A "cabby" was haled before Mayor's Marshal Roche and his license to overcharge and insult his customers was suspended.
The people who witnessed the trial were wondering all the time whether it was another of Mark Twain's rare jokes, and they expected to hear him tell a funny story about he wept over the tomb of Adam, "my original ancestor."
If there was a joke in the matter Mark Twain held it up his sleeve until after the hearing. In fact, he started a Quixotic quarrel with he people of New York who allow Jehus to overcharge them for rides, condemned them as "criminals", and appeared as an abused citizen.
There was plenty of humor in the hearing, however. Marshal Roche, dressed in a shiny cutaway coat, was overwhelmed with his judicial dignity before the hearing commenced. His small office was more crowded than the Costermongers' theater in the Whitechapel district, London on a holiday night.
Marshal Roche welcomed the reporters ten minutes before the hour set for the hearing. Twenty crowded into an office which would comfortably accommodate ten museum midgets. A throng in the doorway stretched their necks to see the humorist.
"The accommodations is meagre, gents," announced Marshal Roche with courtly grace.
"Say, the boss could make Chauncy M. Depew pull up lame in the stretch," said one of the clerks as he bent over his work.
"I beg of you let each and every gentleman of the press seat himself as he wished. I will ascertain if this man Twain has come or not. His name's Clemens, ain't it? the other is an alias. What?"
Marshal Roche, as he uttered the last word, hid four fingers between the buttons of his coat, took a deep breath, and pushed out his chest. At that moment a figure in a high hat was ushered through the throng.
"He doesn't look as funny as Martin Engel," said one Tammany officeholder.
The room became suddenly quiet as Mr. Clemens got within the zone of the dignity with which Marshal Roche had surrounded himself.
"This is indeed an honor," said Roche bending low. Beads of perspiration trickled down his face.
Mark Twain looked with a cold, steely eye from under his bushy brows at the official. Marshal Roche seemed to shiver as if a sudden arctic draught had been wafted into the room. It became apparent at once that Mr. Clemens would have no joking at his expense.
"Have a chair, Mr. Clemens," blurted out Marshal Roche.
Mr. Clemens found a vacant chair in an out-of-the-way corner, but every one in the room and those who crowded the doorway again stretched necks to have a good look.
"Is the driver of Cab No. 191 in attendance? Say, where is that feller, anyway? He's got a right to show up," and then Marshal Roche jumped up and made a rush for an anteroom. He reappeared and at his heels was a sheepish-looking cabman and a red-faced livery stable owner. The latter announced:
I'm Michael Byrnes, an' I'm the man hires this driver. I'm here for a square deal."
"An' he'll get it," said the Tammany clerk.
At this point a camera in the hands of a newspaper photographer was leveled at Mark Twain, who looked at that time innocent of all humor.
"Would Mr. Clemens here relate the circumstances in point," said Marshal Roche, with the air of a Chesterfield.
"Ain't he a burd?" said the man at the books.
At this time Mr. Twain, with his woman servant, Kate Leary, beside him, sat facing Employer Byrnes and the Jehu whose name proved to be William Beck. Mr. Clemens began with his customary drawl. The salient features are these:
"The maid servant came into my study on the evening of Nov. 20 and said that she had been driven by this cabman from the Grand Central Station to my house, at 14 West Tenth Street. The hackman demanded $1.50 for that service. I went down to see him, and he also asked $1.50 of me."
"That is thirty-two blocks. The legal fare is $1," said Marshal Roche.
"I have not finished yet," said Mr. Clemens. "When I asked for his number he gave me a false one."
"How did you learn the right one?" asked Marshal Roche.
"Through my other witness."
The other witness was a colored butler, who hustled after the fast disappearing cab and found that the number was 2,581.
Jehu Beck then told his story and acknowledged that he had made an overcharge.
"Well, this man refused to show his license, therefore we will have to suspend you, my dear man," said Marshal Roche.
Secretary Winston of the Public Hack Owners' Union said they were trying to reform the abuses in the cab system in New York.
Then Employer Byrnes said, in a sarcastic tone:
"I don't think the matter warrants this publicity and notoriety."
This remark seemed to grate on Mark Twain's ear. He said:
"This is not a matter of sentiment, my dear Sir. It is simply practical business. I am doing this, just as any citizen who is worthy of the name of a citizen should do. He has a distinct duty. He is a non-classified policeman. It is his duty to aid the police and magistracy.
"Here is a man who is a perfectly natural product of an infamous system. It is a charge on the lax patriotism in this City of New York that this thing can exist. You have encouraged him in every way you know how to overcharge. He is not the criminal here at all. The criminal is the citizen of New York and the absence of patriotism. I am not here to avenge myself on him. My quarrel is with the citizens of New York who have encouraged him. I should not be excused for failing to bring a charge against a man who assaults me with a club to rob me. If this man attempts to rob with without a club, then why should I refrain from making the charge?"
Then Marshal Roche said:
"I stand ready at all times to receive and adjudicate on complaints of such outrages. I first inflict a reprimand, and then I suspend the driver's license."
This short speech was delivered with great gravity. A twinkle came into Mr. Clemens's eyes as he said:
"It seems to me that if the people only knew how easy it would be to come here and receive consideration at this official's hands, if they only knew your stand, Mr. Marshal, they would feel more at liberty to present their grievances to you."
"I stand ready to serve the public at any and all times," said Marshal Roche.
"We stand for hours at a time without a fare, and you can't blame us if we make it up when we get one," said Mr. Byrnes.
"A pirate might advance that argument," said Mark Twain, with droll emphasis.
"Now, see here, gents," yelled Marshal Roche, "this hearing's off!"
Mr. Clemens tipped his hat, and said: "Good afternoon, Mr. Marshall."
Marshal Roche bowed low, after offering to help Mark Twain with his coat. Mr. Clemens walked out of the dark basement. Marshal Roche, in his office, mopped his brow, shook his head, and said:
"What a damn fool that cabman was!"
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