Property of a Gentleman (sale, Christie's New York, 11 May 1987, lot 24)
Mark Twain visits a palm-reader. In this lengthy letter written the day of his consultation, Clemens relates nine revelations made by Cheiro a world-famous fortune-teller, and then tacks on some witty comments. "He examined my hand, took a print of it for his book and then told me some things about my character. ..." [Clemens's hand print appears in Cheiro's Language of the Hand (1895), p. 65]. "Here are some things he said: ... 1. You can make a quick decision—for instance, in a business question—and it will be good & sound, but if instead of acting upon it at once you stop to think it over, you are almost sure to bring up such multitudes of arguments pro & con that you get confused and doubtful ... & end up by presenting your case with poor confidence & thus damage or destroy it. ...2. A half-promise from a person with your thumb is worth more than a whole person with a thumb like mine. [Clemens draws his thumb and Cheiro's on the verso of page 2, describing the latter's as a "snake head. "] Experience has made you chary of committing yourself with promises, because when you make one you can't help keeping it (That also was true.) 3. A person with your thumb hasn't much diplomacy in him—I mean, hasn't much art in placating offeneded people or in making himself pleasnt & agreeable to people toward whom he feels dislike or indifference ... (I suppose I must grant that that is true. part of it is, anyway: to-wit. I have no tact.) 4. You are but little troubled about what the world & the newspapers may say of you ... but you strongly desire to stand well & high with you friends ... 5. Your affections are strong & deep, but they don't show much on the outside. .. 6. You began as a weakling in health, & with a poor chance for life, but your constitution has been singularly reinforced & strengthened. You will live to an old age (I lived on allopathetic medicine the first 7 years—Ma said she was afraid I wouldn't die.) 7. You will be enormously rich at 68. ... [The prediction came true nine days before his sixty-ninth birthday: Clemens had signed a contract with Harper and Brothers that guranteed him a rich annual income in exchange for the rights to his books.] 8. Your line of (fame, I think was the word), has changed its course twice, & both times with success; it is diverging again & will again succeed ... 9. you will die suddenly, but not by suicide. ... I will tell you what you die of, if you would like to know (I said yes, & he told me.) ..." But Clemens doesn't divulge any details to Susy about his inevitable demise.
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