Evarts replied: "No, Choate, I fear that cannot be. When I think what a care I am to all my people, lying so helpless here, and that I can do nothing any more to repay their kindness, or to help in the world, I feel like the boy who wrote from school to his mother a letter of twenty pages, and then added after the end: 'P. S. Dear mother, please excuse my longevity.'"
Where one has a reputation as a speaker and is also known to oblige friends and to be hardly able to resist importunities, the demands upon him are very great. They are also sometimes original and unique.
At one time, the day before Christmas, a representative of the New York World came to see me, and said: "We are going to give a dinner to-night to the tramps who gather between ten and eleven o'clock at the Vienna Restaurant, opposite the St. Denis Hotel, to receive the bread which the restaurant distributes at that hour." This line was there every night standing in the cold waiting their turn. I went down to the hotel, and a young man and young lady connected with the newspaper crossed the street and picked out from the line a hundred guests.
It was a remarkable assemblage. The dinner provided was a beautiful and an excellent one for Christmas. As I heard their stories, there was among them a representative of almost every department of American life. Some were temporarily and others permanently down and out. Every one of the learned professions was represented and many lines of business. The most of them were in this condition, because they had come to New York to make their way, and had struggled until their funds were exhausted, and then they were ashamed to return home and confess their failure.
I presided at this remarkable banquet and made not only one speech but several. By encouraging the guests we had several excellent addresses from preachers without pulpits, lawyers without clients, doctors without patients, engineers without jobs, teachers without schools, and travellers without funds. One man arose and said: "Chauncey Depew, the World has given us such an excellent dinner, and you have given us such a merry Christmas Eve, we would like to shake hands with you as we go out."
I had long learned the art of shaking hands with the public. Many a candidate has had his hands crushed and been permanently hurt by the vise-like grip of an ardent admirer or a vicious opponent. I remember General Grant complaining of this, of how he suffered, and I told him of my discovery of grasping the hand first and dropping it quickly.
The people about me were looking at these men as they came along, to see if there was any possible danger. Toward the end of the procession one man said to me: "Chauncey Depew, I don't belong to this crowd. I am well enough off and can take care of myself. I am an anarchist. My business is to stir up unrest and discontent, and that brings me every night to mingle with the crowd waiting for their dole of bread from Fleischmann's bakery. You do more than any one else in the whole country to create good feeling and dispel unrest, and you have done a lot of it to-night. I made up my mind to kill you right here, but you are such an infernal good fellow that I have not the heart to do it, so here's my hand."
On one occasion I received an invitation to address a sociological society which was to meet at the house of one of the most famous entertainers in New York. My host said that Edward Atkinson, the well-known New England writer, philosopher, and sociologist, would address the meeting. When I arrived at the house I found Atkinson in despair. The audience were young ladies in full evening dress and young men in white vests, white neckties, and swallow-tails. There was also a band present. We were informed that this society had endeavored to mingle instruction with pleasure, and it really was a dancing club, but they had conceived the idea of having something serious and instructive before the ball.