He did not wish to be a Senator; he was too busy just now dictating biography, and added that he didn't think he would care for the job, anyway. When the reporter was gone, however, certain humorous possibilities developed. The Senatorship would be a stepping-stone to the Presidency, and with the combination of humorist, socialist, and peace-patriot in the Presidential chair the nation could expect an interesting time. Nothing further came of the matter. There was no such report. The young newspaper man had invented the whole idea to get a "story" out of Mark Twain. The item as printed next day invited a good deal of comment, and Collier's Weekly made it a text for an editorial on his mental vigor and general fitness for the place.
If it happened that he had no particular engagement for the afternoon, he liked to walk out, especially when the pleasant weather came. Sometimes we walked up Fifth Avenue, and I must admit that for a good while I could not get rid of a feeling of self-consciousness, for most people turned to look, though I was fully aware that I did not in the least come into their scope of vision. They saw only Mark Twain. The feeling was a more comfortably one at The Players, where we sometimes went for luncheon, for the acquaintance there and the democracy of that institution had a tendency to eliminate contrasts and incongruities. We sat at the Round Table among those good fellows who were always so glad to welcome him.
Once we went to the "Music Master," that tender play of Charles Klein's, given by that matchless interpreter, David Warfield. Clemens was fascinated, and said more than once:
"It is as permanent as 'Rip Van Winkle.' Warfield, like Jefferson, can go on playing it all his life."
We went behind when it was over, and I could see that Warfield glowed with Mark Twain's unstinted approval. Later, when I saw him at The Players, he declared that no former compliment had ever made him so happy.
There were some billiard games going on between the champions Hoppe and Sutton, at the Madison Square Garden, and Clemens, with his eager fondness for the sport, was anxious to attend them. He did not like to go anywhere alone, and one evening he invited me to accompany him. Just as he stepped into the auditorium there was a vigorous round of applause. The players stopped, somewhat puzzled, for no especially brilliant shot had been made. Then they caught the figure of Mark Twain and realized that the game, for the moment, was not the chief attraction. The audience applauded again, and waved their handkerchiefs. Such a tribute is not often paid to a private citizen.
Clemens had a great admiration for the young champion Hoppe, which the billiardist's extreme youth and brilliancy invited, and he watched his game with intense eagerness. When it was over the referee said a few words and invited Mark Twain to speak. He rose and told them a story- probably invented on the instant. He said:
"Once in Nevada I dropped into a billiard-room casually, and picked up a cue and began to knock the balls around. The proprietor, who was a red-haired man, with such hair as I have never seen anywhere except on a torch, asked me if I would like to play. I said, 'Yes.' He said, 'Knock the balls around a little and let me see how you can shoot.' So I knocked them around, and thought I was doing pretty well, when he said, 'That's all right; I'll play you left-handed.' It hurt my pride, but I played him. We banked for the shot and he won it. Then he commenced to play, and I commenced to chalk my cue to get ready to play, and he went on playing, and I went on chalking my cue; and he played and I chalked all through that game. When he had run his string out I said:
"That's wonderful! perfectly wonderful! If you can play that way left-handed what could you do right-handed?'
"'Couldn't do anything,' he said. 'I'm a left-handed man.'"
How it delighted them! I think it was the last speech of any sort he made that season.