He passed peacefully away from the scene of his honors and his great achievements, the most lamented hero and the best beloved that ever earth hath yielded unto Death. At such a time as this, you speak of water-lots! what a lot was his!

'What is fame! Fame is an accident. Sir Isaac Newton discovered an apple falling to the ground--a trivial discovery, truly, and one which a million men had made before him--but his parents were influential, and so they tortured that small circumstance into something wonderful, and, lo! the simple world took up the shout and, in almost the twinkling of an eye, that man was famous. Treasure these thoughts.

'Poesy, sweet poesy, who shall estimate what the world owes to thee!

"Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was white as snow-- And everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go."

"Jack and Gill went up the hill To draw a pail of water; Jack fell down and broke his crown, And Gill came tumbling after."

'For simplicity, elegance of diction, and freedom from immoral tendencies, I regard those two poems in the light of gems. They are suited to all grades of intelligence, to every sphere of life --to the field, to the nursery, to the guild. Especially should no Board of Aldermen be without them.

'Venerable fossils! write again. Nothing improves one so much as friendly correspondence. Write again--and if there is anything in this memorial of yours that refers to anything in particular, do not be backward about explaining it. We shall always be happy to hear you chirp. 'Very truly, etc., "'MARK TWAIN, 'For James W. N-----, U. S. Senator.'

"That is an atrocious, a ruinous epistle! Distraction!"

"Well, sir, I am really sorry if there is anything wrong about it--but --but it appears to me to dodge the water-lot question."

"Dodge the mischief! Oh!--but never mind. As long as destruction must come now, let it be complete. Let it be complete--let this last of your performances, which I am about to read, make a finality of it. I am a ruined man. I had my misgivings when I gave you the letter from Humboldt, asking that the post route from Indian Gulch to Shakespeare Gap and intermediate points be changed partly to the old Mormon trail. But I told you it was a delicate question, and warned you to deal with it deftly--to answer it dubiously, and leave them a little in the dark. And your fatal imbecility impelled you to make this disastrous reply. I should think you would stop your ears, if you are not dead to all shame:

"'WASHINGTON, Nov. 30.

"'Messes. Perkins, Wagner, et at.

"'GENTLEMEN: It is a delicate question about this Indian trail, but, handled with proper deftness and dubiousness, I doubt not we shall succeed in some measure or otherwise, because the place where the route leaves the Lassen Meadows, over beyond where those two Shawnee chiefs, Dilapidated Vengeance and Biter-of-the-Clouds, were scalped last winter, this being the favorite direction to some, but others preferring something else in consequence of things, the Mormon trail leaving Mosby's at three in the morning, and passing through Jaw bone Flat to Blucher, and then down by Jug-Handle, the road passing to the right of it, and naturally leaving it on the right, too, and Dawson's on the left of the trail where it passes to the left of said Dawson's and onward thence to Tomahawk, thus making the route cheaper, easier of access to all who can get at it, and compassing all the desirable objects so considered by others, and, therefore, conferring the most good upon the greatest number, and, consequently, I am encouraged to hope we shall.

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

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