The square was crowded with men and women and children, and when those fires were lighted, and the heretics began to shriek and writhe, those men and women and children laughed so they were fairly beside themselves with the enjoyment of the scene. The Greeks don't seem to have done these things. I suppose that indicates earlier advancement in compassion."

Colonel Harvey and Mr. Duneka came up to spend the night. Mr. Clemens had one of his seizures during the evening. They come oftener and last longer. One last night continued for an hour and a half. I slept there.

September 7. To-day news of the North Pole discovered by Peary. Five days ago the same discovery was reported by Cook. Clemens's comment: "It's the greatest joke of the ages." But a moment later he referred to the stupendous fact of Arcturus being fifty thousand times as big as the sun.

September 21. This morning he told me, with great glee, the dream he had had just before wakening. He said:

"I was in an automobile going slowly, with 'a little girl beside me, and some uniformed person walking along by us. I said, 'I'll get out and walk, too'; but the officer replied, 'This is only one of the smallest of our fleet.'

"Then I noticed that the automobile had no front, and there were two cannons mounted where the front should be. I noticed, too, that we were traveling very low, almost down on the ground. Presently we got to the bottom of a hill and started up another, and I found myself walking ahead of the 'mobile. I turned around to look for the little girl, and instead of her I found a kitten capering beside me, and when we reached the top of the hill we were looking out over a most barren and desolate waste of sand-heaps without a speck of vegetation anywhere, and the kitten said, 'This view beggars all admiration.' Then all at once we were in a great group of people and I undertook to repeat to them the kitten's remark, but when I tried to do it the words were so touching that I broke down and cried, and all the group cried, too, over the kitten's moving remark."

The joy with which he told this absurd sleep fancy made it supremely ridiculous and we laughed until tears really came.

One morning he said: "I was awake a good deal in the night, and I tried to think of interesting things. I got to working out geological periods, trying to think of some way to comprehend them, and then astronomical periods. Of course it's impossible, but I thought of a plan that seemed to mean something to me. I remembered that Neptune is two billion eight hundred million miles away. That, of course, is incomprehensible, but then there is the nearest fixed star with its twenty-five trillion miles- -twenty-five trillion--or nearly a thousand times as far, and then I took this book and counted the lines on a page and I found that there was an average of thirty-two lines to the page and two hundred and forty pages, and I figured out that, counting the distance to Neptune as one line, there were still not enough lines in the book by nearly two thousand to reach the nearest fixed star, and somehow that gave me a sort of dim idea of the vastness of the distance and kind of a journey into space."

Later I figured out another method of comprehending a little of that great distance by estimating the existence of the human race at thirty thousand years (Lord Kelvin's figures) and the average generation to have been thirty-three years with a world population of 1,500,000,000 souls. I assumed the nearest fixed star to be the first station in Paradise and the first soul to have started thirty thousand years ago. Traveling at the rate of about thirty miles a second, it would just now be arriving in Alpha Centauri with all the rest of that buried multitude stringing out behind at an average distance of twenty miles apart.

Few things gave him more pleasure than the contemplation of such figures as these. We made occasional business trips to New York, and during one of them visited the Museum of Natural History to look at the brontosaur and the meteorites and the astronomical model in the entrance hall.

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

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