The "tip" was sufficient. Telephone-bells began to jingle, and groups of newspaper men gathered simultaneously on Mr. Dickinson's and on Mark Twain's door-steps. At a 21 Fifth Avenue you could hardly get in or out, for stepping on them. The evening papers surmised details, and Huck and Tom had a perfectly fresh crop of advertising, not only in America, but in distant lands. Dickinson wrote Clemens that he would not give out the letter without his authority, and Clemens replied:
Be wise as a serpent and wary as a dove! The newspaper boys want that letter--don't you let them get hold of it. They say you refuse to allow them to see it without my consent. Keep on refusing, and I'll take care of this end of the line.
In a recent letter to the writer Mr. Dickinson states that Mark Twain's solicitude was for the librarian, whom he was unwilling to involve in difficulties with his official superiors, and he adds:
There may be some doubt as to whether Mark Twain was or was not a religious man, for there are many definitions of the word religion. He was certainly a hater of conventions, had no patience with sanctimony and bibliolatry, and was perhaps irreverent. But any one who reads carefully the description of the conflict in Huck's soul, in regard to the betrayal of Jim, will credit the creator of the scene with deep and true moral feeling.
The reporters thinned out in the course of a few days when no result was forthcoming; but they were all back again presently when the Maxim Gorky fiasco came along. The distinguished revolutionist, Tchaykoffsky, as a sort of advance agent for Gorky, had already called upon Clemens to enlist his sympathy in their mission, which was to secure funds in the cause of Russian emancipation. Clemens gave his sympathy, and now promised his aid, though he did not hesitate to discourage the mission. He said that American enthusiasm in such matters stopped well above their pockets, and that this revolutionary errand would fail. Howells, too, was of this opinion. In his account of the episode he says:
I told a valued friend of his and mine that I did not believe he could get twenty-five hundred dollars, and I think now I set the figure too high.
Clemens's interest, however, grew. He attended a dinner given to Gorky at the "A Club," No. 3 Fifth Avenue, and introduced Gorky to the diners. Also he wrote a letter to be read by Tchaykoffsky at a meeting held at the Grand Central Palace, where three thousand people gathered to hear this great revolutionist recite the story of Russia's wrongs. The letter ran:
DEAR MR. TCHAYKOFFSKY,--My sympathies are with the Russian revolution, of course. It goes without saying. I hope it will succeed, and now that I have talked with you I take heart to believe it will. Government by falsified promises, by lies, by treachery, and by the butcher-knife, for the aggrandizement of a single family of drones and its idle and vicious kin has been borne quite long enough in Russia, I should think. And it is to be hoped that the roused nation, now rising in its strength, will presently put an end to it and set up the republic in its place. Some of us, even the white-headed, may live to see the blessed day when tsars and grand dukes will be as scarce there as I trust they are in heaven. Most sincerely yours, MARK TWAIN.
Clemens and Howells called on Gorky and agreed to figure prominently in a literary dinner to be given in his honor. The movement was really assuming considerable proportions, when suddenly something happened which caused it to flatten permanently, and rather ridiculously.
Arriving at 21 Fifth Avenue, one afternoon, I met Howells coming out. I thought he had an unhappy, hunted look. I went up to the study, and on opening the door I found the atmosphere semi-opaque with cigar smoke, and Clemens among the drifting blue wreaths and layers, pacing up and down rather fiercely.