Remember proprieties."

To which he answered:

"They all pattern after me," a reply to the last degree characteristic.

It was on the fourth day after his arrival, June 22d, that he attended the King's garden-party at Windsor Castle. There were eighty-five hundred guests at the King's party, and if we may judge from the London newspapers, Mark Twain was quite as much a figure in that great throng as any member of the royal family. His presentation to the King and the Queen is set down as an especially notable incident, and their conversation is quite fully given. Clemens himself reported:

His Majesty was very courteous. In the course of the conversation I reminded him of an episode of fifteen years ago, when I had the honor to walk a mile with him when he was taking the waters at Homburg, in Germany. I said that I had often told about that episode, and that whenever I was the historian I made good history of it and it was worth listening to, but that it had found its way into print once or twice in unauthentic ways and was badly damaged thereby. I said I should like to go on repeating this history, but that I should be quite fair and reasonably honest, and while I should probably never tell it twice in the same way I should at least never allow it to deteriorate in my hands. His Majesty intimated his willingness that I should continue to disseminate that piece of history; and he added a compliment, saying that he knew good and sound history would not suffer at my hands, and that if this good and sound history needed any improvement beyond the facts he would trust me to furnish that improvement.

I think it is not an exaggeration to say that the Queen looked as young and beautiful as she did thirty-five years ago when I saw her first. I did not say this to her, because I learned long ago never to say the obvious thing, but leave the obvious thing to commonplace and inexperienced people to say. That she still looked to me as young and beautiful as she did thirty-five years ago is good evidence that ten thousand people have already noticed this and have mentioned it to her. I could have said it and spoken the truth, but I was too wise for that. I kept the remark unuttered and saved her Majesty the vexation of hearing it the ten-thousand-and-oneth time.

All that report about my proposal to buy Windsor Castle and its grounds was a false rumor. I started it myself.

One newspaper said I patted his Majesty on the shoulder--an impertinence of which I was not guilty; I was reared in the most exclusive circles of Missouri and I know how to behave. The King rested his hand upon my arm a moment or two while we were chatting, but he did it of his own accord. The newspaper which said I talked with her Majesty with my hat on spoke the truth, but my reasons for doing it were good and sufficient--in fact unassailable. Rain was threatening, the temperature had cooled, and the Queen said, "Please put your hat on, Mr. Clemens." I begged her pardon and excused myself from doing it. After a moment or two she said, "Mr. Clemens, put your hat on"--with a slight emphasis on the word "on" "I can't allow you to catch cold here." When a beautiful queen commands it is a pleasure to obey, and this time I obeyed--but I had already disobeyed once, which is more than a subject would have felt justified in doing; and so it is true, as charged; I did talk with the Queen of England with my hat on, but it wasn't fair in the newspaper man to charge it upon me as an impoliteness, since there were reasons for it which he could not know of.

Nearly all the members of the British royal family were there, and there were foreign visitors which included the King of Siam and a party of India princes in their gorgeous court costumes, which Clemens admired openly and said he would like to wear himself.

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

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