He would say:
"Now you've knocked everything out of my head."
Then, of course, I would apologize and say I was sorry, which would rectify matters, though half an hour later it might happen again. I became lightning-proof at last; also I learned better to select the psychological moment for the correction.
There was a humorous complexion to the dictations which perhaps I have not conveyed to the reader at all; humor was his natural breath and life, and was not wholly absent in his most somber intervals.
But poetry was there as well. His presence was full of it: the grandeur of his figure; the grace of his movement; the music of his measured speech. Sometimes there were long pauses when he was wandering in distant valleys of thought and did not speak at all. At such times he had a habit of folding and refolding the sleeve of his dressing-gown around his wrist, regarding it intently, as it seemed. His hands were so fair and shapely; the palms and finger-tips as pink as those of a child. Then when he spoke he was likely to fling back his great, white mane, his eyes half closed yet showing a gleam of fire between the lids, his clenched fist lifted, or his index-finger pointing, to give force and meaning to his words. I cannot recall the picture too often, or remind myself too frequently how precious it was to be there, and to see him and to hear him. I do not know why I have not said before that he smoked continually during these dictations--probably as an aid to thought-- though he smoked at most other times, for that matter. His cigars were of that delicious fragrance which characterizes domestic tobacco; but I had learned early to take refuge in another brand when he offered me one. They were black and strong and inexpensive, and it was only his early training in the printing-office and on the river that had seasoned him to tobacco of that temper. Rich, admiring friends used to send him quantities of expensive imported cigars; but he seldom touched them, and they crumbled away or were smoked by visitors. Once, to a minister who proposed to send him something very special, he wrote:
I should accept your hospitable offer at once but for the fact that I couldn't do it and remain honest. That is to say, if I allowed you to send me what you believed to be good cigars it would distinctly mean that I meant to smoke them, whereas I should do nothing of the kind. I know a good cigar better than you do, for I have had 60 years' experience.
No, that is not what I mean; I mean I know a bad cigar better than anybody else. I judge by the price only; if it costs above 5 cents I know it to be either foreign or half foreign & unsmokable--by me. I have many boxes of Havana cigars, of all prices from 20 cents apiece up to $1.66 apiece; I bought none of them, they were all presents; they are an accumulation of several years. I have never smoked one of them & never shall; I work them off on the visitor. You shall have a chance when you come.
He smoked a pipe a good deal, and he preferred it to be old and violent; and once, when he had bought a new, expensive English brier-root he regarded it doubtfully for a time, and then handed it over to me, saying:
"I'd like to have you smoke that a year or two, and when it gets so you can't stand it, maybe it will suit me."
I am happy to add that subsequently he presented me with the pipe altogether, for it apparently never seemed to get qualified for his taste, perhaps because the tobacco used was too mild.
One day, after the dictation, word was brought up that a newspaper man was down-stairs who wished to see him concerning a report that Chauncey Depew was to resign his Senatorial seat and Mark Twain was to be nominated in his place. The fancy of this appealed to him, and the reporter was allowed to come up. He was a young man, and seemed rather nervous, and did not wish to state where the report had originated. His chief anxiety was apparently to have Mark Twain's comment on the matter. Clemens said very little at the time.