"What does he call it?" he asked.

I did not know, though I had heard applied to it that great line of Shakespeare's--"the rest is silence."

"But that figure is not silent," he said.

And later, as we were driving home:

"It is in deep meditation on sorrowful things."

When we returned to New York he had the little print framed, and kept it always on his mantelpiece.



From the Washington trip dates a period of still closer association with Mark Twain. On the way to New York he suggested that I take up residence in his house--a privilege which I had no wish to refuse. There was room going to waste, he said, and it would be handier for the early and late billiard sessions. So, after that, most of the days and nights I was there.

Looking back on that time now, I see pretty vividly three quite distinct pictures. One of them, the rich, red interior of the billiard-room with the brilliant, green square in the center, on which the gay balls are rolling, and bending over it that luminous white figure in the instant of play. Then there is the long, lighted drawing-room with the same figure stretched on a couch in the corner, drowsily smoking, while the rich organ tones fill the place summoning for him scenes and faces which others do not see. This was the hour between dinner and billiards--the hour which he found most restful of the day. Sometimes he rose, walking the length of the parlors, his step timed to the music and his thought. Of medium height, he gave the impression of being tall-his head thrown up, and like a lion's, rather large for his body. But oftener he lay among the cushions, the light flooding his white hair and dress and heightening his brilliant coloring.

The third picture is that of the dinner-table--always beautifully laid, and always a shrine of wisdom when he was there. He did not always talk; but it was his habit to do so, and memory holds the clearer vision of him when, with eyes and face alive with interest, he presented some new angle of thought in fresh picturesqueness of speech. These are the pictures that have remained to me out of the days spent under his roof, and they will not fade while memory lasts.

Of Mark Twain's table philosophies it seems proper to make rather extended record. They were usually unpremeditated, and they presented the man as he was, and thought. I preserved as much of them as I could, and have verified phrase and idea, when possible, from his own notes and other unprinted writings.

This dinner-table talk naturally varied in character from that of the billiard-room. The latter was likely to be anecdotal and personal; the former was more often philosophical and commentative, ranging through a great variety of subjects scientific, political, sociological, and religious. His talk was often of infinity--the forces of creation--and it was likely to be satire of the orthodox conceptions, intermingled with heresies of his own devising.

Once, after a period of general silence, he said:

"No one who thinks can imagine the universe made by chance. It is too nicely assembled and regulated. There is, of course, a great Master Mind, but it cares nothing for our happiness or our unhappiness."

It was objected, by one of those present, that as the Infinite Mind suggested perfect harmony, sorrow and suffering were defects which that Mind must feel and eventually regulate.

"Yes," he said, "not a sparrow falls but He is noticing, if that is what you mean; but the human conception of it is that God is sitting up nights worrying over the individuals of this infinitesimal race."

Then he recalled a fancy which I have since found among his memoranda. In this note he had written:

The suns & planets that form the constellations of a billion billion solar systems & go pouring, a tossing flood of shining globes, through the viewless arteries of space are the blood-corpuscles in the veins of God; & the nations are the microbes that swarm and wiggle & brag in each, & think God can tell them apart at that distance & has nothing better to do than try.

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

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