He went over the ground again and again until he had collected all the parts of the sums and all the parts of the sentences--and all in disorder, of course, not in their proper rotation. This had occupied two hours.

The Brahmin now sat silent and thinking, a while, then began and repeated all the sentences, placing the words in their proper order, and untangled the disordered arithmetical problems and gave accurate answers to them all.

In the beginning he had asked the company to throw almonds at him during the two hours, he to remember how many each gentleman had thrown; but none were thrown, for the Viceroy said that the test would be a sufficiently severe strain without adding that burden to it.

General Grant had a fine memory for all kinds of things, including even names and faces, and I could have furnished an instance of it if I had thought of it. The first time I ever saw him was early in his first term as President. I had just arrived in Washington from the Pacific coast, a stranger and wholly unknown to the public, and was passing the White House one morning when I met a friend, a Senator from Nevada. He asked me if I would like to see the President. I said I should be very glad; so we entered. I supposed that the President would be in the midst of a crowd, and that I could look at him in peace and security from a distance, as another stray cat might look at another king. But it was in the morning, and the Senator was using a privilege of his office which I had not heard of--the privilege of intruding upon the Chief Magistrate's working hours. Before I knew it, the Senator and I were in the presence, and there was none there but we three. General Grant got slowly up from his table, put his pen down, and stood before me with the iron expression of a man who had not smiled for seven years, and was not intending to smile for another seven. He looked me steadily in the eyes--mine lost confidence and fell. I had never confronted a great man before, and was in a miserable state of funk and inefficiency. The Senator said:--

"Mr. President, may I have the privilege of introducing Mr. Clemens?"

The President gave my hand an unsympathetic wag and dropped it. He did not say a word but just stood. In my trouble I could not think of anything to say, I merely wanted to resign. There was an awkward pause, a dreary pause, a horrible pause. Then I thought of something, and looked up into that unyielding face, and said timidly:--

"Mr. President, I--I am embarrassed. Are you?"

His face broke--just a little--a wee glimmer, the momentary flicker of a summer-lightning smile, seven years ahead of time--and I was out and gone as soon as it was.

Ten years passed away before I saw him the second time. Meantime I was become better known; and was one of the people appointed to respond to toasts at the banquet given to General Grant in Chicago--by the Army of the Tennessee when he came back from his tour around the world. I arrived late at night and got up late in the morning. All the corridors of the hotel were crowded with people waiting to get a glimpse of General Grant when he should pass to the place whence he was to review the great procession. I worked my way by the suite of packed drawing-rooms, and at the corner of the house I found a window open where there was a roomy platform decorated with flags, and carpeted. I stepped out on it, and saw below me millions of people blocking all the streets, and other millions caked together in all the windows and on all the house-tops around. These masses took me for General Grant, and broke into volcanic explosions and cheers; but it was a good place to see the procession, and I stayed. Presently I heard the distant blare of military music, and far up the street I saw the procession come in sight, cleaving its way through the huzzaing multitudes, with Sheridan, the most martial figure of the War, riding at its head in the dress uniform of a Lieutenant- General.

And now General Grant, arm-in-arm with Major Carter Harrison, stepped out on the platform, followed two and two by the badged and uniformed reception committee.

Following the Equator Page 12

Mark Twain

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book