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The New York Times, February 25, 1881


BOSTON, Feb. 24. - The Papyrus Club, of this city, composed largely of literary men and journalists, had its annual "ladies' night" dinner at the Revere House tonight. There was a large and brilliant gathering, each member present being accompanied by a lady or ladies, besides the club's guests. The latter included Charles Dudley Warner, Col. George E. Waring, of Newport, and Mrs. Waring, William D. Howell, T. B. Aldrich, E. P. Whipple, and "Mark Twain." Mr. William A. Hovey, the editor of the Transcript, as President of the club, sat at the chief table, with the club's principal guests at either hand. The after dinner features included the reading of a new and dainty poem, sent from London for the occasion, by James Russell Lowell; a finely-drawn speech by E. P. Whipple, largely a eulogy of George Eliot; a speech by Mark Twain, and several short poems by members of the club - one by Robert Grant to the ladies, and another by John Boyle O'Reilly.

Mark Twain's speech was in his own inimitable style - a story in a speech. He said: "I am perfectly astounded at the way history repeats itself. I find myself situated at this moment exactly and precisely as I was once before, years ago, to a jot, to a tittle - to a very hair. There isn't a shade of difference. It is the most astonishing coincidence that ever - but wait. I will tell you the former instance, and then you will see it for yourself. Years ago I arrived one day at Salamanca, New York, eastward bound. Must change cars there and take the sleeper train. There were crowds of people there, and they were swarming into the long sleeper train and packing it full, and it was a perfect purgatory of rush and confusion and gritting of teeth and soft, sweet, and low profanity. I asked the young man in the ticket office if I could have a sleeping section and he answered 'No,' with a snarl that shriveled me up like burned leather. I went off, smarting under this insult to my dignity and asked another local official, supplicatingly, if I couldn't have some poor little corner somewhere in a sleeping car, and he cut me short with a venomous 'No, you can't; every corner's full. Now don't bother me any more.'; and he turned his back and w alked off. My dignity was in.a state now which cannot be described. I was so ruffled that - well, I said to my companion, 'If these people knew who I am they - ' but my companion cut me short there and said, 'Don't talk such folly. If they did know who you are, do you suppose it would help your high mightiness to a vacancy in a train which has no vacancies it it?' This did not improve my condition any to speak of, but just then I observed that the colored porter of a sleeping car had his eye on me. I saw his dark countenance light up. He whispered to the uniformed conductor, punctuating with nods and jerks toward me, and straight way this conductor came forward, oozing politeness from every pore, and said: 'Can I be of any service? Will you have a place in the sleeper?' 'Yes,' I said, 'and much obliged, too. Give me anything; anything will answer.' He said, 'We have nothing left but the big family stateroom, with two berths and a couple of armchairs in it, but it is entirely at your disposal. Here, Tom, take these satchels aboard.'

He touched his hat and we and the colored Tom moved along. I was bursting to drop just one little remark to my companion, but I held in and waited. Tom made us comfortable in that sumptuous great apartment, and then said, with many bows and a perfect affluence of smiles, 'Now, is dey anything you want, sah? 'case you kin have jes' anything you wants. It don't make no difference what it is.' I said, 'Can I have some hot water and a tumbler at 9 tonight - blazing hot, you know - about the right temperature for a hot Scotch punch?' 'Yes, sah, dat you kin; you kin 'pen on it. I'll get it myse'f.' 'Good! Now that lamp is hung too high. Can I have a big coach candle fixed up just at the head of my bed, so that I can read comfortably?' 'Yes, sah, you kin. I'll fix her up myse'f, an' I'll fix her so she'll burn all night. Yes, sah; an' you kin jes' call for anything you wants, an' dish yer whole railroad'll be turned wrong end up an' inside out for to git it for you. Dat's so.' And he disappeared. Well, I tilted my head back, hooked my thumbs in my armholes, smiled a smile on my companion, and said gently, 'Well, what do you say now?' My companion was not in a humor to respond - and didn't. The next moment that smiling black face was thrust in at the crack of the door and this speech followed: 'Laws bless you, sah I knowed in a minute. I told de conductah so. Laws I knowed you de minute I sot eyes on you.' 'Is that so, my boy?' [Handing him a quadruple fee]; well, who am I? 'Jennul McClellan,' and he disappeared again. My companion said vinegarishly, 'Well, well! What do you say now?' Right there comes in the marvelous coincidence I mentioned a while ago, viz., I was - speechless, and that is my condition now. Perceive it?"

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