I am not going to run this town all by myself. In that moment--in that memorable moment, I began to crumble. In fifteen minutes the disintegration was complete. In fifteen minutes I was become just a mere moral sand-pile, and I lifted up my hand, along with those seasoned and experienced deacons, and swore off every rag of personal property I've got in the world.
I had never heard him address a miscellaneous audience. It was marvelous to see how he convulsed it, and silenced it, and controlled it at will. He did not undertake any special pleading for the negro cause; he only prepared the way with cheerfulness.
Clemens and Choate joined forces again, a few weeks later, at a great public meeting assembled in aid of the adult blind. Helen Keller was to be present, but she had fallen ill through overwork. She sent to Clemens one of her beautiful letters, in which she said:
I should be happy if I could have spelled into my hand the words as they fall from your lips, and receive, even as it is uttered, the eloquence of our newest ambassador to the blind.
Clemens, dictating the following morning, told of his first meeting with Helen Keller at a little gathering in Lawrence Hutton's home, when she was about the age of fourteen. It was an incident that invited no elaboration, and probably received none.
Henry Rogers and I went together. The company had all assembled and had been waiting a while. The wonderful child arrived now with her about equally wonderful teacher, Miss Sullivan, and seemed quite well to recognize the character of her surroundings. She said, "Oh, the books, the books, so many, many books. How lovely!"
The guests were brought one after another. As she shook hands with each she took her hand away and laid her fingers lightly against Miss Sullivan's lips, who spoke against them the person's name.
Mr. Howells seated himself by Helen on the sofa, and she put her fingers against his lips and he told her a story of considerable length, and you could see each detail of it pass into her mind and strike fire there and throw the flash of it into her face.
After a couple of hours spent very pleasantly some one asked if Helen would remember the feel of the hands of the company after this considerable interval of time and be able to discriminate the hands and name the possessors of them. Miss Sullivan said, "Oh, she will have no difficulty about that." So the company filed past, shook hands in turn, and with each hand-shake Helen greeted the owner of the hand pleasantly and spoke the name that belonged to it without hesitation.
By and by the assemblage proceeded to the dining-room and sat down to the luncheon. I had to go away before it was over, and as I passed by Helen I patted her lightly on the head and passed on. Miss Sullivan called to me and said, "Stop, Mr. Clemens, Helen is distressed because she did not recognize your hand. Won't you come back and do that again?" I went back and patted her lightly on the head, and she said at once, "Oh, it's Mr. Clemens."
Perhaps some one can explain this miracle, but I have never been able to do it. Could she feel the wrinkles in my hand through her hair? Some one else must answer this.
It was three years following this dictation that the mystery received a very simple and rather amusing solution. Helen had come to pay a visit to Mark Twain's Connecticut home, Stormfield, then but just completed. He had met her, meantime, but it had not occurred to him before to ask her how she had recognized him that morning at Hutton's, in what had seemed such a marvelous way. She remembered, and with a smile said:
"I smelled you." Which, after all, did not make the incident seem much less marvelous.
On one of the mornings after Miss Hobby had gone Clemens said:
"A very curious thing has happened--a very large-sized-joke." He was shaving at the time, and this information came in brief and broken relays, suited to a performance of that sort.