At a luncheon which the Porters gave him the proprietor of the catering establishment garbed himself as a waiter in order to have the distinction of serving Mark Twain, and declared it to have been the greatest moment of his life. This gentleman—for he was no less than that—was a man well-read, and his tribute was not inspired by mere snobbery. Clemens, learning of the situation, later withdrew from the drawing-room for a talk with him.
“I found,” he said, “that he knew about ten or fifteen times as much about my books as I knew about them myself.”
Mark Twain viewed the Oxford pageant from a box with Rudyard Kipling and Lord Curzon, and as they sat there some one passed up a folded slip of paper, on the outside of which was written, “Not true.” Opening it, they read:
East is East and West is West,
And never the Twain shall meet,
—a quotation from Kipling.
They saw the panorama of history file by, a wonderful spectacle which made Oxford a veritable dream of the Middle Ages. The lanes and streets and meadows were thronged with such costumes as Oxford had seen in its long history. History was realized in a manner which no one could appreciate more fully than Mark Twain.
“I was particularly anxious to see this pageant,” he said, “so that I could get ideas for my funeral procession, which I am planning on a large scale.”
He was not disappointed; it was a realization to him of all the gorgeous spectacles that his soul had dreamed from youth up.
He easily recognized the great characters of history as they passed by, and he was recognized by them in turn; for they waved to him and bowed and sometimes called his name, and when he went down out of his box, by and by, Henry VIII. shook hands with him, a monarch he had always detested, though he was full of friendship for him now; and Charles I. took off his broad, velvet-plumed hat when they met, and Henry II. and Rosamond and Queen Elizabeth all saluted him—ghosts of the dead centuries.
LONDON SOCIAL HONORS
We may not detail all the story of that English visit; even the path of glory leads to monotony at last. We may only mention a few more of the great honors paid to our unofficial ambassador to the world: among them a dinner given to members of the Savage Club by the Lord Mayor of London at the Mansion House, also a dinner given by the American Society at the Hotel Cecil in honor of the Fourth of July. Clemens was the guest of honor, and responded to the toast given by Ambassador Reid, “The Day we Celebrate.” He made an amusing and not altogether unserious reference to the American habit of exploding enthusiasm in dangerous fireworks.
To English colonists he gave credit for having established American independence, and closed: