Certainly it was a fine and dramatic bit of impromptu pleading. The weary committee, which had been tortured all day with dull, statistical arguments made by the mechanical device fiends, and dreary platitudes unloaded by men whose chief ambition was to shine as copyright champions, suddenly realized that they were being rewarded for the long waiting. They began to brighten and freshen, and uplift and smile, like flowers that have been wilted by a drought when comes the refreshing shower that means renewed life and vigor. Every listener was as if standing on tiptoe. When the last sentence was spoken the applause came like an explosion.--[Howells in his book My Mark Twain speaks of Clemens's white clothing as "an inspiration which few men would have had the courage to act upon." He adds: "The first time I saw him wear it was at the authors' hearing before the Congressional Committee on Copyright in Washington. Nothing could have been more dramatic than the gesture with which he flung off his long, loose overcoat and stood forth in white from his feet to the crown of his silvery head. It was a magnificent coup, and he dearly loved a coup; but the magnificent speech which he made, tearing to shreds the venerable farrago of nonsense about nonproperty in ideas which had formed the basis of all copyright legislation, made you forget even his spectacularity."]

There came a universal rush of men and women to get near enough for a word and to shake his hand. But he was anxious to get away. We drove to the Willard and talked and smoked, and got ready for dinner. He was elated, and said the occasion required full-dress. We started down at last, fronted and frocked like penguins.

I did not realize then the fullness of his love for theatrical effect. I supposed he would want to go down with as little ostentation as possible, so took him by the elevator which enters the dining-room without passing through the long corridor known as "Peacock Alley," because of its being a favorite place for handsomely dressed fashionables of the national capital. When we reached the entrance of the dining-room he said:

"Isn't there another entrance to this place?"

I said there was, but that it was very conspicuous. We should have to go down the long corridor.

"Oh, well," he said, "I don't mind that. Let's go back and try it over."

So we went back up the elevator, walked to the other end of the hotel, and came down to the F Street entrance. There is a fine, stately flight of steps--a really royal stair--leading from this entrance down into "Peacock Alley." To slowly descend that flight is an impressive thing to do. It is like descending the steps of a throne-room, or to some royal landing-place where Cleopatra's barge might lie. I confess that I was somewhat nervous at the awfulness of the occasion, but I reflected that I was powerfully protected; so side by side, both in full-dress, white ties, white-silk waistcoats, and all, we came down that regal flight.

Of course he was seized upon at once by a lot of feminine admirers, and the passage along the corridor was a perpetual gantlet. I realize now that this gave the dramatic finish to his day, and furnished him with proper appetite for his dinner. I did not again make the mistake of taking him around to the more secluded elevator. I aided and abetted him every evening in making that spectacular descent of the royal stairway, and in running that fair and frivolous gantlet the length of "Peacock Alley." The dinner was a continuous reception. No sooner was he seated than this Congressman and that Senator came over to shake hands with Mark Twain. Governor Francis of Missouri also came. Eventually Howells drifted in, and Clemens reviewed the day, its humors and successes. Back in the rooms at last he summed up the progress thus far--smoked, laughed over "Uncle Joe's" surrender to the "copyright bandits," and turned in for the night.

We were at the Capitol headquarters in Speaker Cannon's private room about eleven o'clock next morning.

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

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