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THE GOLDEN ARM, from “How to tell a story,” by Mark Twain



Once 'pon a time dey wuz a monsus mean man, en he live 'way out in de

Once upon a time there was a monstrous mean man, and he lived way out in the

prairie all 'lone by hisself, 'cep'n he had a wife. En bimeby she died,

prarie, all alone by himself…except he had a wife.  And by and by she died.

en he tuck en toted her way out dah in de prairie en buried her. Well,

and he “tuck” and toted her way out there in the prarie and buried her. Well

she had a golden arm--all solid gold, fum de shoulder down. He wuz

she had a golden arm—all solid gold, from the shoulder down.  He was

pow'ful mean--pow'ful; en dat night he couldn't sleep, Gaze he want dat

powerful mean(very mean, bad?)—powerful;  and that night he couldn’t sleep, because he wanted that

golden arm so bad.

golden arm so bad.



When it come midnight he couldn't stan' it no mo'; so he git up, he did,

Well, it became midnight and he couldn’t stand it any more;  so he got up, he did

en tuck his lantern en shoved out thoo de storm en dug her up en got de

and took his lantern and “shoved”(went) out through the storm and dug her up and got the

golden arm; en he bent his head down 'gin de win', en plowed en plowed

golden arm;  and he bent his head down against the wind and plowed and plowed

en plowed thoo de snow. Den all on a sudden he stop

and plowed through the snow.  Then, all of a sudden he stopped

(make a considerable pause here, and look startled, and take a listening attitude)

en say:

and said,

"My LAN', what's dat!"

My Land, what’s that!



En he listen--en listen--en de win' say

And he listened—and listened—and the wind said,

(set your teeth together and imitate the wailing and wheezing singsong of the wind)



den, way back yonder whah de grave is, he hear a voice!

then, way back yonder where the grave was, he heard a voice!

he hear a voice all mix' up in de win' can't hardly tell 'em

he heard a voice that was all mixed up with the wind and he can’t hardly tell them

'part--"Bzzz-zzz--W-h-o--g-o-t--m-y--g-o-l-d-e-n arm?--zzz--zzz--W-h-o

apart—“Bzzz-zzz—Wh-ooo –  has got – my – g-o-l-d-e-n  -  arm?—zzz-Wh-ooo

g-o-t m-y g-o-l-d-e-n arm!"

has got my g-o-l-d-e-n – arm!

 (You must begin to shiver violently now.)



En he begin to shiver en shake, en say, "Oh, my! OH, my lan'!" en de

And he began to shiver and shake, and said, “Oh, my! Oh, my land.”  And the

win' blow de lantern out, en de snow en sleet blow in his face en mos'

wind blew the lantern out, and the snow and sleet blew in his face and almost

choke him, en he start a-plowin' knee-deep towards home mos' dead, he so

choked him and he started plowing knee-deep towards home, and he was feeling almost dead because he was so

sk'yerd--en pooty soon he hear de voice agin, en (pause) it 'us comin'

scared….And pretty soon he heard a voice again and (pause) it was coming

after him! "Bzzz--zzz--zzz--W-h-o--g-o-t m-y--g-o-l-d-e-n--arm?"

after him! “Bzzz-zzz-zzz—Wh-oo – got – my – g-o-l-d-e-n – arm?”



When he git to de pasture he hear it agin closter now, en

When he got to the pasture, he heard it again, closer now, and

a-comin'!--a-comin' back dah in de dark en de storm--(repeat the wind

coming!—coming from back there in the dark in the storm—(repeat the wind

and the voice). When he git to de house he rush up-stairs en jump in de

and the voice). When he got to the house, he rushed upstairs and jumped in the

bed en kiver up, head and years, en lay dah shiverin' en shakin'--en

bed and covered himself up, head and ears, and lay there shivering and shaking--and

den way out dah he hear it agin!--en a-comin'! En bimeby he hear

then—way out there, he heard it again!—and coming!  And by and by he heard

(pause--awed, listening attitude)--pat--pat--pat--hit's acomin'

(pause—awed, listening attitude)—pat—pat—pat—it’s coming!

up-stairs! Den he hear de latch, en he know it's in de room!

upstairs! Then he heard the latch, and he knew it’s in the room!




Den pooty soon he know it's a-stannin' by de bed! (Pause.) Den--he

Then pretty soon he knew that it was standing by the bed! (Pause.) Then, he

know it's a-bendin' down over him--en he cain't skasely git his breath!

knew that it was bending down over him, and he could scarcely get his breath!

Den--den--he seem to feel someth' n c-o-l-d, right down 'most agin his

Then he seemed to feel something cold, coming right down almost against his

head! (Pause.)

head! (Pause.)




Den de voice say, right at his year--"W-h-o g-o-t--m-y--g-o-l-d-e-n

Then the voice said, right in his ear—“Whooo has got my golden

arm?" (You must wail it out very plaintively and accusingly; then you


 (You must wail it out very plaintively and accusingly;  then you

stare steadily and impressively into the face of the farthest-gone

auditor--a girl, preferably--and let that awe-inspiring pause begin to


build itself in the deep hush. When it has reached exactly the right


length, jump suddenly at that girl and yell, "You've got it!")




If you've got the pause right, she'll fetch a dear little yelp and


spring right out of her shoes. But you must get the pause right; and you


will find it the most troublesome and aggravating and uncertain thing


you ever undertook.




Story told by Mark Twain in about 1865