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    Concerning Tobacco

    by Mark Twain
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    As concerns tobacco, there are many superstitions. And the
    chiefest is this--that there is a STANDARD governing the matter,
    whereas there is nothing of the kind. Each man's own preference
    is the only standard for him, the only one which he can accept,
    the only one which can command him. A congress of all the
    tobacco-lovers in the world could not elect a standard which
    would be binding upon you or me, or would even much influence us.

    The next superstition is that a man has a standard of his own.
    He hasn't. He thinks he has, but he hasn't. He thinks he can
    tell what he regards as a good cigar from what he regards as a
    bad one--but he can't. He goes by the brand, yet imagines he goes
    by the flavor. One may palm off the worst counterfeit upon him;
    if it bears his brand he will smoke it contentedly and never suspect.

    Children of twenty-five, who have seven years experience,
    try to tell me what is a good cigar and what isn't.
    Me, who never learned to smoke, but always smoked;
    me, who came into the world asking for a light.

    No one can tell me what is a good cigar--for me. I am the
    only judge. People who claim to know say that I smoke the worst
    cigars in the world. They bring their own cigars when they come
    to my house. They betray an unmanly terror when I offer them
    a cigar; they tell lies and hurry away to meet engagements
    which they have not made when they are threatened with the
    hospitalities of my box. Now then, observe what superstition,
    assisted by a man's reputation, can do. I was to have twelve
    personal friends to supper one night. One of them was as
    notorious for costly and elegant cigars as I was for cheap and
    devilish ones. I called at his house and when no one was looking
    borrowed a double handful of his very choicest; cigars which cost
    him forty cents apiece and bore red-and-gold labels in sign of
    their nobility. I removed the labels and put the cigars into a
    box with my favorite brand on it--a brand which those people all
    knew, and which cowed them as men are cowed by an epidemic. They
    took these cigars when offered at the end of the supper, and lit
    them and sternly struggled with them--in dreary silence, for
    hilarity died when the fell brand came into view and started
    around--but their fortitude held for a short time only; then they
    made excuses and filed out, treading on one another's heels with
    indecent eagerness; and in the morning when I went out to observe
    results the cigars lay all between the front door and the gate.
    All except one--that one lay in the plate of the man from whom I
    had cabbaged the lot. One or two whiffs was all he could stand.
    He told me afterward that some day I would get shot for giving
    people that kind of cigars to smoke.

    Am I certain of my own standard? Perfectly; yes, absolutely
    --unless somebody fools me by putting my brand on some other kind
    of cigar; for no doubt I am like the rest, and know my cigar by
    the brand instead of by the flavor. However, my standard is a
    pretty wide one and covers a good deal of territory. To me,
    almost any cigar is good that nobody else will smoke, and to me
    almost all cigars are bad that other people consider good.
    Nearly any cigar will do me, except a Havana. People think they
    hurt my feelings when then come to my house with their life
    preservers on--I mean, with their own cigars in their pockets.
    It is an error; I take care of myself in a similar way. When I
    go into danger--that is, into rich people's houses, where, in the
    nature of things, they will have high-tariff cigars, red-and-gilt
    girded and nested in a rosewood box along with a damp sponge,
    cigars which develop a dismal black ash and burn down the side
    and smell, and will grow hot to the fingers, and will go on
    growing hotter and hotter, and go on smelling more and more
    infamously and unendurably the deeper the fire tunnels down
    inside below the thimbleful of honest tobacco that is in the
    front end, the furnisher of it praising it all the time and
    telling you how much the deadly thing cost--yes, when I go into
    that sort of peril I carry my own defense along; I carry my own
    brand--twenty-seven cents a barrel--and I live to see my family
    again. I may seem to light his red-gartered cigar, but that is
    only for courtesy's sake; I smuggle it into my pocket for the
    poor, of whom I know many, and light one of my own; and while he
    praises it I join in, but when he says it cost forty-five cents I
    say nothing, for I know better.

    However, to say true, my tastes are so catholic that I have
    never seen any cigars that I really could not smoke, except those
    that cost a dollar apiece. I have examined those and know that
    they are made of dog-hair, and not good dog-hair at that.

    I have a thoroughly satisfactory time in Europe, for all
    over the Continent one finds cigars which not even the most
    hardened newsboys in New York would smoke. I brought cigars with
    me, the last time; I will not do that any more. In Italy, as in
    France, the Government is the only cigar-peddler. Italy has
    three or four domestic brands: the Minghetti, the Trabuco, the
    Virginia, and a very coarse one which is a modification of the
    Virginia. The Minghettis are large and comely, and cost three
    dollars and sixty cents a hundred; I can smoke a hundred in seven
    days and enjoy every one of them. The Trabucos suit me, too; I
    don't remember the price. But one has to learn to like the
    Virginia, nobody is born friendly to it. It looks like a rat-
    tail file, but smokes better, some think. It has a straw through
    it; you pull this out, and it leaves a flue, otherwise there
    would be no draught, not even as much as there is to a nail.
    Some prefer a nail at first. However, I like all the French,
    Swiss, German, and Italian domestic cigars, and have never cared
    to inquire what they are made of; and nobody would know, anyhow,
    perhaps. There is even a brand of European smoking-tobacco that
    I like. It is a brand used by the Italian peasants. It is loose
    and dry and black, and looks like tea-grounds. When the fire is
    applied it expands, and climbs up and towers above the pipe, and
    presently tumbles off inside of one's vest. The tobacco itself
    is cheap, but it raises the insurance. It is as I remarked in
    the beginning--the taste for tobacco is a matter of superstition.
    There are no standards--no real standards. Each man's preference
    is the only standard for him, the only one which he can accept,
    the only one which can command him.



    It was Maeterlinck who introduced me to the bee. I mean, in
    the psychical and in the poetical way. I had had a business
    introduction earlier. It was when I was a boy. It is strange
    that I should remember a formality like that so long; it must be
    nearly sixty years.

    Bee scientists always speak of the bee as she. It is
    because all the important bees are of that sex. In the hive
    there is one married bee, called the queen; she has fifty
    thousand children; of these, about one hundred are sons; the rest
    are daughters. Some of the daughters are young maids, some are
    old maids, and all are virgins and remain so.

    Every spring the queen comes out of the hive and flies away
    with one of her sons and marries him. The honeymoon lasts only
    an hour or two; then the queen divorces her husband and returns
    home competent to lay two million eggs. This will be enough to
    last the year, but not more than enough, because hundreds of bees
    are drowned every day, and other hundreds are eaten by birds, and
    it is the queen's business to keep the population up to standard
    --say, fifty thousand. She must always have that many children
    on hand and efficient during the busy season, which is summer, or
    winter would catch the community short of food. She lays from
    two thousand to three thousand eggs a day, according to the
    demand; and she must exercise judgment, and not lay more than are
    needed in a slim flower-harvest, nor fewer than are required in a
    prodigal one, or the board of directors will dethrone her and
    elect a queen that has more sense.

    There are always a few royal heirs in stock and ready to
    take her place--ready and more than anxious to do it, although
    she is their own mother. These girls are kept by themselves, and
    are regally fed and tended from birth. No other bees get such
    fine food as they get, or live such a high and luxurious life.
    By consequence they are larger and longer and sleeker than their
    working sisters. And they have a curved sting, shaped like a
    scimitar, while the others have a straight one.

    A common bee will sting any one or anybody, but a royalty
    stings royalties only. A common bee will sting and kill another
    common bee, for cause, but when it is necessary to kill the queen
    other ways are employed. When a queen has grown old and slack
    and does not lay eggs enough one of her royal daughters is
    allowed to come to attack her, the rest of the bees looking on at
    the duel and seeing fair play. It is a duel with the curved
    stings. If one of the fighters gets hard pressed and gives it up
    and runs, she is brought back and must try again--once, maybe
    twice; then, if she runs yet once more for her life, judicial
    death is her portion; her children pack themselves into a ball
    around her person and hold her in that compact grip two or three
    days, until she starves to death or is suffocated. Meantime the
    victor bee is receiving royal honors and performing the one royal
    function--laying eggs.

    As regards the ethics of the judicial assassination of the
    queen, that is a matter of politics, and will be discussed later,
    in its proper place.

    During substantially the whole of her short life of five or
    six years the queen lives in Egyptian darkness and stately
    seclusion of the royal apartments, with none about her but
    plebeian servants, who give her empty lip-affection in place of
    the love which her heart hungers for; who spy upon her in the
    interest of her waiting heirs, and report and exaggerate her
    defects and deficiencies to them; who fawn upon her and flatter
    her to her face and slander her behind her back; who grovel
    before her in the day of her power and forsake her in her age and
    weakness. There she sits, friendless, upon her throne through
    the long night of her life, cut off from the consoling sympathies
    and sweet companionship and loving endearments which she craves,
    by the gilded barriers of her awful rank; a forlorn exile in her
    own house and home, weary object of formal ceremonies and
    machine-made worship, winged child of the sun, native to the free
    air and the blue skies and the flowery fields, doomed by the
    splendid accident of her birth to trade this priceless heritage
    for a black captivity, a tinsel grandeur, and a loveless life,
    with shame and insult at the end and a cruel death--and condemned
    by the human instinct in her to hold the bargain valuable!

    Huber, Lubbock, Maeterlinck--in fact, all the great
    authorities--are agreed in denying that the bee is a member of
    the human family. I do not know why they have done this, but I
    think it is from dishonest motives. Why, the innumerable facts
    brought to light by their own painstaking and exhaustive
    experiments prove that if there is a master fool in the world, it
    is the bee. That seems to settle it.

    But that is the way of the scientist. He will spend thirty
    years in building up a mountain range of facts with the intent to
    prove a certain theory; then he is so happy in his achievement
    that as a rule he overlooks the main chief fact of all--that his
    accumulation proves an entirely different thing. When you point
    out this miscarriage to him he does not answer your letters; when
    you call to convince him, the servant prevaricates and you do not
    get in. Scientists have odious manners, except when you prop up
    their theory; then you can borrow money of them.

    To be strictly fair, I will concede that now and then one of
    them will answer your letter, but when they do they avoid the
    issue--you cannot pin them down. When I discovered that the bee
    was human I wrote about it to all those scientists whom I have
    just mentioned. For evasions, I have seen nothing to equal the
    answers I got.

    After the queen, the personage next in importance in the
    hive is the virgin. The virgins are fifty thousand or one
    hundred thousand in number, and they are the workers, the
    laborers. No work is done, in the hive or out of it, save by
    them. The males do not work, the queen does no work, unless
    laying eggs is work, but it does not seem so to me. There are
    only two million of them, anyway, and all of five months to
    finish the contract in. The distribution of work in a hive is as
    cleverly and elaborately specialized as it is in a vast American
    machine-shop or factory. A bee that has been trained to one of
    the many and various industries of the concern doesn't know how
    to exercise any other, and would be offended if asked to take a
    hand in anything outside of her profession. She is as human as a
    cook; and if you should ask the cook to wait on the table, you
    know what will happen. Cooks will play the piano if you like,
    but they draw the line there. In my time I have asked a cook to
    chop wood, and I know about these things. Even the hired girl
    has her frontiers; true, they are vague, they are ill-defined,
    even flexible, but they are there. This is not conjecture; it is
    founded on the absolute. And then the butler. You ask the
    butler to wash the dog. It is just as I say; there is much to be
    learned in these ways, without going to books. Books are very well,
    but books do not cover the whole domain of esthetic human culture.
    Pride of profession is one of the boniest bones in existence,
    if not the boniest. Without doubt it is so in the hive.
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