The True Account

The True Account by Howard Frank Mosher Read Free Book Online

Book: The True Account by Howard Frank Mosher Read Free Book Online
Authors: Howard Frank Mosher
composition. Characters are thinly drawn, nor do their actions flow from human nature, but rather from the diseased imagination and self-conscious extravagancies of the author, who fancies himself a kind of American Quixote and has no more sense than his Andalusian prototype. And we add only, for the amusement of our readers, that in a wonderful epilogue to this hilarious masterpiece its bumpkin hero reportedly had to be trundled back to his lodging in a potato barrow after a drinking bout following the production.’”
    The entire coffeehouse was now in a paroxysm of laughter. But I feared the very worst as my uncle clapped his hand to his wooden sword, leaped to his feet, and roared, “Where is this man Flynt? He and I have a pressing appointment.”
    â€œOh, uncle,” I cried. “Aren’t you delighted?”
    â€œDelighted? This is an outrage to me and to all other playwrights in the universe. But vindication is near, Ti. Retribution is at hand. Go out and cut me a stout cudgel about as thick as my wrist—”
    â€œWhy, sir,” I interrupted, pretending to be astonished. “What can you possibly mean? Don’t you see? ‘Greatest farce.’ ‘Wonderful epilogue.’ ‘Hilarious masterpiece.’ Critic Flynt is praising you to all New York not for your supposed tragedy but for your great
comedy
.”
    I quickly turned to the ship’s captain. “Isn’t that so, sir?”
    â€œWhy, I suppose it is, for I laughed all the way through it,” he said.
    My uncle stared at the captain. He stared at me. Snatching up the paper, he scanned the offending passage through his tin ear trumpet and then stared at the trumpet. He took off his red flannel night-stocking, folded it neatly in twain and in twain again, and very vigorously began to polish his copper crown until his headpiece shone like the sun.
    â€œEureka!” he cried at last. “Gentlemen and ladies, my nephew has set me right again. As Ti says, Critic Flynt, bless his good heart, has seen through to the heart of my play. He—ha ha—knows it better than I do. As of this moment I call it a
tragical
history no more but
The Most Comical History of Ethan Allen.”
    And declaring that since he had taken the great literary bastion of New York by storm, as it were, with his new
commedia,
we would rejoin the crew of the
Lord Baltimore,
bound that morning for the city of its name, and from there flare out to Washington and plead our cause directly to the President. So although I had prevented my uncle from killing Flynt or being killed himself, in the end I had succeeded only in sweeping us farther along on a mad journey from which, I feared, there would be no turning back. And what might lie ahead was as blank and unknowable as the vast white space on my uncle’s old “Chart of the Interior of North America.”

 
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MONTICELLO

10
    Y OU WOULD SUPPOSE we were waiting for an audience with an Oriental despot, Ti. I can’t say I like this. I can’t say that I quite approve of standing on all this formality, President or no. Particularly when the fate of America may well depend on our meeting.”
    Having found the President not in Washington but at his famous home in Virginia, after three hard days by coach and hired wagon we were at last standing in the great rotunda at Monticello. Finally, the inner door to the President’s study opened, and there stood Thomas Jefferson himself, wearing his house slippers and a dressing gown, though it was late afternoon. With no hesitation my uncle said to the President, “I tell you, sir, the fate of the United States, and whether those states are to be one strong unbroken nation from coast to coast or a parcel of squabbling little hegemonies like rotten old Europe, may well depend on the next hour. And in particular, on whether you appoint as leader of your expedition to the Pacific Private True Teague

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