In "Cub Pilot on the Mississippi," Mark Twain writes that he worked under many pilots when he was an apprentice. One of them, however, prompts particularly vivid recollections:
The figure that comes before me oftenest, out of the shadows of that vanished time, is that of Brown, of the steamer Pennsylvania. He was a middle-aged, long, slim, bony, smooth-shaven, horse-faced, ignorant, stingy, malicious, snarling, fault-hunting, mote-magnifying tyrant. I early got the habit of coming on watch with dread at my heart.
Brown bullied the author throughout his time on the steamer. He barked insulting questions at him and was never satisfied with the answers. He found fault with everything Twain did. He seems to have felt that Twain put on airs and to have been determined to cut him down to size. Twain says that he often used to imagine killing Brown.
It is against this background that his younger brother, Henry, "a thoroughly inoffensive boy," delivered a message to Brown from the Captain. Brown ignored him completely, and later, when the Captain asked him if he had received the message, said Henry had told him nothing.
The author's anger at this unfairness was exacerbated by his own mistreatment at Brown's hands. He first called Brown a liar (which Brown may not have been, for it is possible, the author admits, that he did not hear Henry) and then hit him with a heavy stool. This is the "crime of crimes," but the author escaped punishment when it turned out that the Captain disliked Brown as much as he did and was secretly amused by the incident.