He had already corralled two tricks, and each of the others one. So now he kind of lifts a little in his chair and says:
"'I tire of globes and aces! Too long the game is played!'
--and down he fetched a right bower. Mr. Longfellow smiles as sweet as pie and says:
"'Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend, For the lesson thou hast taught,'
--and blamed if he didn't down with another right bower! Emerson claps his hand on his bowie, Longfellow claps his on his revolver, and I went under a bunk. There was going to be trouble; but that monstrous Holmes rose up, wobbling his double chins, and says he, 'Order, gentlemen; the first man that draws, I'll lay down on him and smother him!' All quiet on the Potomac, you bet!
"They were pretty how-come-you-so' by now, and they begun to blow. Emerson says, 'The nobbiest thing I ever wrote was "Barbara Frietchie."' Says Longfellow, 'It don't begin with my "Biglow Papers."' Says Holmes, 'My "Thanatopsis" lays over 'em both.' They mighty near ended in a fight. Then they wished they had some more company--and Mr. Emerson pointed to me and says:
"'Is yonder squalid peasant all That this proud nursery could breed?'
He was a-whetting his bowie on his boot--so I let it pass. Well, sir, next they took it into their heads that they would like some music; so they made me stand up and sing "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" till I dropped-at thirteen minutes past four this morning. That's what I've been through, my friend. When I woke at seven, they were leaving, thank goodness, and Mr. Longfellow had my only boots on, and his'n under his arm. Says I, 'Hold on, there, Evangeline, what are you going to do with them?' He says, 'Going to make tracks with 'em; because:
"'Lives of great men all remind us We can make our lives sublime; And, departing, leave behind us Footprints on the sands of time.'
"As I said, Mr. Twain, you are the fourth in twenty-four hours--and I'm going to move; I ain't suited to a littery atmosphere."
I said to the miner, "Why, my dear sir, these were not the gracious singers to whom we and the world pay loving reverence and homage; these were impostors."
The miner investigated me with a calm eye for a while; then said he, "Ah! impostors, were they? Are you?"
I did not pursue the subject, and since then I have not travelled on my 'nom de guerre' enough to hurt. Such was the reminiscence I was moved to contribute, Mr. Chairman. In my enthusiasm I may have exaggerated the details a little, but you will easily forgive me that fault, since I believe it is the first time I have ever deflected from perpendicular fact on an occasion like this.
From Mark Twain's Autobiography.
January 11, 1906.
Answer to a letter received this morning:
DEAR MRS. H.,--I am forever your debtor for reminding me of that curious passage in my life. During the first year or, two after it happened, I could not bear to think of it. My pain and shame were so intense, and my sense of having been an imbecile so settled, established and confirmed, that I drove the episode entirely from my mind--and so all these twenty-eight or twenty-nine years I have lived in the conviction that my performance of that time was coarse, vulgar, and destitute of humor. But your suggestion that you and your family found humor in it twenty-eight years ago moved me to look into the matter. So I commissioned a Boston typewriter to delve among the Boston papers of that bygone time and send me a copy of it.
It came this morning, and if there is any vulgarity about it I am not able to discover it. If it isn't innocently and ridiculously funny, I am no judge. I will see to it that you get a copy.
What I have said to Mrs. H. is true. I did suffer during a year or two from the deep humiliations of that episode.