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HARLEM FLAT FOR MR. TWAIN
Humorist Would Prefer to Live in It in Winter, When the Landlord
Has to Worry About the Coal Supply.
HEREAFTER HEAT IS O.K.
What Worries Him is Warmth in the Suburbs, Where the Cook is Growling and the Furniture May Help Boil the Potatoes.
"You surely don't mean to tell me you thought my letter to Secretary Shaw, of the Treasury Department, was a joke, do you?" asked Samuel Clemens when an Evening World reporter saw him in the study of his beautiful home at Riverdale and asked him what he thought about the coal situation to-day.
"I never made a more serious and urgent request in all my life," and the dark blue eyes of Mark Twain assumed a piteous and supplicating look.
"I think I underestimated the amount of fuel I will need this winter when I asked for only forty-five tons of bonds, twelve tons of greenbacks and eight barrels of stamps, but I shall be grateful if I can even get this modest order filled.
"I haven't received any answer to my communication and prayer, and I don't know what to do, for when I wrote that letter the cook had just informed me that there wasn't a lump of coal in the house. I would cut down the trees about the place, except that I fear I should miss them next summer.
No Worry for Fuel Hereafter.
"I don't see why you smile," he continued, as he brushed the ashes of his cigar from the sleeve of his coat. "I don't think it is in any sense a laughing matter. Some of us may find consolation in the thought that after we die we may be sufficiently warm, but I don't see much prospect of our being overheated in this world."
A new thought seemed to occur to him and, turning to the reporter, he asked:
"How do you solve the problem? Where do you live?"
On being told that his questioner was one of the many flat dwellers of Harlem, Mr. Clemens appeared disgusted and then pleased.
"I don't envy you in summer, but I certainly do in winter. You don't have to worry. It's the landlord's business to keep you warm, and he can afford it, but we of Riverdale and other suburban resorts have to gather together old leaves and dried grass or else chop up the furniture to obtain fuel. There is only one coal dealer here and I can't pay his prices. That bench you are sitting on would last a whole day, wouldn't it?" he asked reflectively.
His Talk Is Not Cheap.
"No, you can't get anything out of me about the coal situation. I write for my living, and I don't propose to give any of my views in an interview. If I should write out my ideas on that subject I would charge you ten times more than you would want to pay me, so we would never come to terms."
"What would you suggest as a remedy for coal strikes in future?" was asked.
"Just what has succeeded in ending this one -- that is, arbitration. There's no use in trying to doctor for sickness until you know what disease you have got.
"But here, now, I have wasted enough of my valuable time already. I have always said I would not be interviewed and I won't be," and Mr. Twain backed toward the entrance to his writing-room, opened the door, walked in, closed the door again and called out through the keyhole:
"Amuse yourself all you want to. Sit on that bench or eat
up the books in the library. I don't care."