He smiled, but he said, quite seriously:

"That is a request that ought to be granted; but the time has gone by when I am permitted any such liberties. Tom Reed, when he was Speaker, inaugurated a strict precedent excluding all outsiders from the use of the floor of the House."

"I got in the other time," Clemens insisted.

"Yes," said Uncle Joe; "but that ain't now. Sunset Cox could let you in, but I can't. They'd hang me." He reflected a moment, and added: "I'll tell you what I'll do: I've got a private room down-stairs that I never use. It's all fitted up with table and desk, stationery, chinaware, and cutlery; you could keep house there, if you wanted to. I'll let you have it as long as you want to stay here, and I'll give you my private servant, Neal, who's been here all his life and knows every official, every Senator and Representative, and they all know him. He'll bring you whatever you want, and you can send in messages by him. You can have the members brought down singly or in bunches, and convert them as much as you please. I'd give you a key to the room, only I haven't got one myself. I never can get in when I want to, but Neal can get in, and he'll unlock it for you. You can have the room, and you can have Neal. Now, will that do you?"

Clemens said it would. It was, in fact, an offer without precedent. Probably never in the history of the country had a Speaker given up his private room to lobbyists. We went in to see the House open, and then went down with Neal and took possession of the room. The reporters had promptly seized upon the letter, and they now got hold of its author, led him to their own quarters, and, gathering around him, fired questions at him, and kept their note-books busy. He made a great figure, all in white there among them, and they didn't fail to realize the value of it as "copy." He talked about copyright, and about his white clothes, and about a silk hat which Howells wore.

Back in the Speaker's room, at last, he began laying out the campaign, which would begin next day. By and by he said:

"Look here! I believe I've got to speak over there in that committee- room to-day or to-morrow. I ought to know just when it is."

I had not heard of this before, and offered to go over and see about it, which I did at once. I hurried back faster than I had gone.

"Mr. Clemens, you are to speak in half an hour, and the room is crowded full; people waiting to hear you."

"The devil!" he said. "Well, all right; I'll just lie down here a few minutes and then we'll go over. Take paper and pencil and make a few headings."

There was a couch in the room. He lay down while I sat at the table with a pencil, making headings now and then, as he suggested, and presently he rose and, shoving the notes into his pocket, was ready. It was half past three when we entered the committee-room, which was packed with people and rather dimly lighted, for it was gloomy outside. Herbert Putnam, the librarian, led us to seats among the literary group, and Clemens, removing his overcoat, stood in that dim room clad as in white armor. There was a perceptible stir. Howells, startled for a moment, whispered:

"What in the world did he wear that white suit for?" though in his heart he admired it as much as the others.

I don't remember who was speaking when we came in, but he was saying nothing important. Whoever it was, he was followed by Dr. Edward Everett Hale, whose age always commanded respect, and whose words always invited interest. Then it was Mark Twain's turn. He did not stand by his chair, as the others had done, but walked over to the Speaker's table, and, turning, faced his audience. I have never seen a more impressive sight than that snow-white figure in that dim-lit, crowded room. He never touched his notes; he didn't even remember them. He began in that even, quiet, deliberate voice of his the most even, the most quiet, the most deliberate voice in the world--and, without a break or a hesitation for a word, he delivered a copyright argument, full of humor and serious reasoning, such a speech as no one in that room, I suppose, had ever heard.

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

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