(And do you know, the biggest part of the success of the speech lay in the fact that the audience saw that for once in his life he had been knocked out of his iron serenity.)
Bless your soul, 'twas immense. I never was so proud in my life. Lots and lots of people--hundreds I might say--told me my speech was the triumph of the evening--which was a lie. Ladies, Tom, Dick and Harry- even the policemen--captured me in the halls and shook hands, and scores of army officers said "We shall always be grateful to you for coming." General Pope came to bunt me up--I was afraid to speak to him on that theatre stage last night, thinking it might be presumptuous to tackle a man so high up in military history. Gen. Schofield, and other historic men, paid their compliments. Sheridan was ill and could not come, but I'm to go with a General of his staff and see him before I go to Col. Grant's. Gen. Augur--well, I've talked with them all, received invitations from them all--from people living everywhere--and as I said before, it's a memorable night. I wouldn't have missed it for anything in the world.
But my sakes, you should have heard Ingersoll's speech on that table! Half an hour ago he ran across me in the crowded halls and put his arms about me and said "Mark, if I live a hundred years, I'll always be grateful for your speech--Lord what a supreme thing it was." But I told him it wasn't any use to talk, he had walked off with the honors of that occasion by something of a majority. Bully boy is Ingersoll--traveled with him in the cars the other day, and you can make up your mind we had a good time.
Of course I forgot to go and pay for my hotel car and so secure it, but the army officers told me an hour ago to rest easy, they would go at once, at this unholy hour of the night and compel the railways to do their duty by me, and said "You don't need to request the Army of the Tennessee to do your desires--you can command its services."
Well, I bummed around that banquet hall from 8 in the evening till 2 in the morning, talking with people and listening to speeches, and I never ate a single bite or took a sup of anything but ice water, so if I seem excited now, it is the intoxication of supreme enthusiasm. By George, it was a grand night, a historical night.
And now it is a quarter past 6 A.M.--so good bye and God bless you and the Bays,--[Family word for babies]--my darlings
Show it to Joe if you want to--I saw some of his friends here.
Mark Twain's admiration for Robert Ingersoll was very great, and we may believe that he was deeply impressed by the Chicago speech, when we find him, a few days later, writing to Ingersoll for a perfect copy to read to a young girls' club in Hartford. Ingersoll sent the speech, also some of his books, and the next letter is Mark Twain's acknowledgment.
To Col. Robert G. Ingersoll:
HARTFORD, Dec. 14. MY DEAR INGERSOLL,--Thank you most heartily for the books--I am devouring them--they have found a hungry place, and they content it and satisfy it to a miracle. I wish I could hear you speak these splendid chapters before a great audience--to read them by myself and hear the boom of the applause only in the ear of my imagination, leaves a something wanting-- and there is also a still greater lack, your manner, and voice, and presence.
The Chicago speech arrived an hour too late, but I was all right anyway, for I found that my memory had been able to correct all the errors. I read it to the Saturday Club (of young girls) and told them to remember that it was doubtful if its superior existed in our language. Truly Yours, S. L. CLEMENS.
The reader may remember Mark Twain's Whittier dinner speech of 1877, and its disastrous effects. Now, in 1879, there was to be another Atlantic gathering: a breakfast to Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, to which Clemens was invited.