Part 24 out of 29
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:
We have, however, one Fourth of July which is absolutely our own,
and that is the memorable proclamation issued forty years ago by
that great American to whom Sir Mortimer Durand paid that just and
beautiful tribute--Abraham Lincoln: a proclamation which not only
set the black slave free, but set his white owner free also. The
owner was set free from that burden and offense, that sad condition
of things where he was in so many instances a master and owner of
slaves when he did not want to be. That proclamation set them all
free. But even in this matter England led the way, for she had set
her slaves free thirty years before, and we but followed her
example. We always follow her example, whether it is good or bad.
And it was an English judge, a century ago, that issued that other
great proclamation, and established that great principle, that when
a slave, let him belong to whom he may, and let him come whence he
may, sets his foot upon English soil his fetters, by that act, fall
away and he is a free man before the world!
It is true, then, that all our Fourths of July, and we have five of
them, England gave to us, except that one that I have mentioned--the
Emancipation Proclamation; and let us not forget that we owe this
debt to her. Let us be able to say to old England, this great-
hearted, venerable old mother of the race, you gave us our Fourths
of July, that we love and that we honor and revere; you gave us the
Declaration of Independence, which is the charter of our rights;
you, the venerable Mother of Liberties, the Champion and Protector
of Anglo-Saxon Freedom--you gave us these things, and we do most
honestly thank you for them.
It was at this dinner that he characteristically confessed, at last, to
having stolen the Ascot Cup.
He lunched one day with Bernard Shaw, and the two discussed the
philosophies in which they were mutually interested. Shaw regarded
Clemens as a sociologist before all else, and gave it out with great
frankness that America had produced just two great geniuses--Edgar Allan
Poe and Mark Twain. Later Shaw wrote him a note, in which he said:
I am persuaded that the future historian of America will find your works
as indispensable to him as a French historian finds the political tracts
of Voltaire. I tell you so because I am the author of a play in which a
priest says, "Telling the truth's the funniest joke in the world," a
piece of wisdom which you helped to teach me.
Clemens saw a great deal of Moberly Bell. The two lunched and dined
privately together when there was opportunity, and often met at the
The bare memorandum of the week following July Fourth will convey
something of Mark Twain's London activities:
Friday, July 5. Dined with Lord and Lady Portsmouth.
Saturday, July 6. Breakfasted at Lord Avebury's. Lord Kelvin, Sir
Charles Lyell, and Sir Archibald Geikie were there. Sat 22 times
for photos, 16 at Histed's. Savage Club dinner in the evening.
White suit. Ascot Cup.
Sunday, July 7. Called on Lady Langattock and others. Lunched with
Sir Norman Lockyer.
Monday, July 8. Lunched with Plasmon directors at Bath Club. Dined
privately at C. F. Moberly Bell's.
Tuesday, July 9. Lunched at the House with Sir Benjamin Stone.
Balfour and Komura were the other guests of honor. Punch dinner in
the evening. Joy Agnew and the cartoon.
Wednesday, July 10. Went to Liverpool with Tay Pay. Attended
banquet in the Town Hall in the evening.
Thursday, July 11. Returned to London with Tay Pay. Calls in the
The Savage Club would inevitably want to entertain him on its own
account, and their dinner of July 6th was a handsome, affair. He felt at
home with the Savages, and put on white for the only time publicly in
England. He made them one of his reminiscent speeches, recalling his
association with them on his first visit to London, thirty-seven years
before. Then he said:
That is a long time ago, and as I had come into a very strange land,
and was with friends, as I could see, that has always remained in my
mind as a peculiarly blessed evening, since it brought me into
contact with men of my own kind and my own feelings. I am glad to
be here, and to see you all, because it is very likely that I shall
not see you again. I have been received, as you know, in the most
delightfully generous way in England ever since I came here. It
keeps me choked up all the time. Everybody is so generous, and they
do seem to give you such a hearty welcome. Nobody in the world can
appreciate it higher than I do.
The club gave him a surprise in the course of the evening. A note was
sent to him accompanied by a parcel, which, when opened, proved to
contain a gilded plaster replica of the Ascot Gold Cup. The note said:
Dere Mark, i return the Cup. You couldn't keep your mouth shut
about it. 'Tis 2 pretty 2 melt, as you want me 2; nest time I work
a pinch ile have a pard who don't make after-dinner speeches.
There was a postcript which said: "I changed the acorn atop for another
nut with my knife." The acorn was, in fact, replaced by a well-modeled
head of Mark Twain.
So, after all, the Ascot Cup would be one of the trophies which he would
bear home with him across the Atlantic.
Probably the most valued of his London honors was the dinner given to him
by the staff of Punch. Punch had already saluted him with a front-page
cartoon by Bernard Partridge, a picture in which the presiding genius of
that paper, Mr. Punch himself, presents him with a glass of the
patronymic beverage with the words, "Sir, I honor myself by drinking your
health. Long life to you--and happiness--and perpetual youth!"
Mr. Agnew, chief editor; Linley Sambourne, Francis Burnand, Henry Lucy,
and others of the staff welcomed him at the Punch offices at 10 Bouverie
Street, in the historic Punch dining-room where Thackeray had sat, and
Douglas Jerrold, and so many of the great departed. Mark Twain was the
first foreign visitor to be so honored--in fifty years the first stranger
to sit at the sacred board--a mighty distinction. In the course of the
dinner they gave him a pretty surprise, when little joy Agnew presented
him with the original drawing of Partridge's cartoon.
Nothing could have appealed to him more, and the Punch dinner, with its
associations and that dainty presentation, remained apart in his memory
from all other feastings.
Clemens had intended to return early in July, but so much was happening
that he postponed his sailing until the 13th. Before leaving America, he
had declined a dinner offered by the Lord Mayor of Liverpool.
Repeatedly urged to let Liverpool share in his visit, he had reconsidered
now, and on the day following the Punch dinner, on July loth, they
carried him, with T. P. O'Connor (Tay Pay) in the Prince of Wales's
special coach to Liverpool, to be guest of honor at the reception and
banquet which Lord Mayor Japp tendered him at the Town Hall. Clemens was
too tired to be present while the courses were being served, but arrived
rested and fresh to respond to his toast. Perhaps because it was his
farewell speech in England, he made that night the most effective address
of his four weeks' visit--one of the most effective of his whole career:
He began by some light reference to the Ascot Cup and the Dublin Jewels
and the State Regalia, and other disappearances that had been laid to his
charge, to amuse his hearers, and spoke at greater length than usual, and
with even greater variety. Then laying all levity aside, he told them,
like the Queen of Sheba, all that was in his heart.
. . . Home is dear to us all, and now I am departing to my own
home beyond the ocean. Oxford has conferred upon me the highest
honor that has ever fallen to my share of this life's prizes. It is
the very one I would have chosen, as outranking all and any others,
the one more precious to me than any and all others within the gift
of man or state. During my four weeks' sojourn in England I have
had another lofty honor, a continuous honor, an honor which has
flowed serenely along, without halt or obstruction, through all
these twenty-six days, a most moving and pulse-stirring honor--the
heartfelt grip of the hand, and the welcome that does not descend
from the pale-gray matter of the brain, but rushes up with the red
blood from the heart. It makes me proud and sometimes it makes me
humble, too. Many and many a year ago I gathered an incident from
Dana's Two Years Before the Mast. It was like this: There was a
presumptuous little self-important skipper in a coasting sloop
engaged in the dried-apple and kitchen-furniture trade, and he was
always hailing every ship that came in sight. He did it just to
hear himself talk and to air his small grandeur. One day a majestic
Indiaman came plowing by with course on course of canvas towering
into the sky, her decks and yards swarming with sailors, her hull
burdened to the Plimsoll line with a rich freightage of precious
spices, lading the breezes with gracious and mysterious odors of the
Orient. It was a noble spectacle, a sublime spectacle! Of course
the little skipper popped into the shrouds and squeaked out a hail,
"Ship ahoy! What ship is that? And whence and whither?" In a deep
and thunderous bass the answer came back through the speaking-
trumpet, "The Begum, of Bengal--142 days out from Canton--homeward
bound! What ship is that?" Well, it just crushed that poor little
creature's vanity flat, and he squeaked back most humbly, "Only the
Mary Ann, fourteen hours out from Boston, bound for Kittery Point--
with nothing to speak of!" Oh, what an eloquent word that "only,"
to express the depths of his humbleness! That is just my case.
During just one hour in the twenty-four--not more--I pause and
reflect in the stillness of the night with the echoes of your
English welcome still lingering in my ears, and then I am humble.
Then I am properly meek, and for that little while I am only the
Mary Ann, fourteen hours out, cargoed with vegetables and tinware;
but during all the other twenty-three hours my vain self-complacency
rides high on the white crests of your approval, and then I am a
stately Indiaman, plowing the great seas under a cloud of canvas and
laden with the kindest words that have ever been vouchsafed to any
wandering alien in this world, I think; then my twenty-six fortunate
days on this old mother soil seem to be multiplied by six, and I am
the Begum, of Bengal, 142 days out from Canton--homeward bound!
He returned to London, and with one of his young acquaintances, an
American--he called her Francesca--paid many calls. It took the
dreariness out of that social function to perform it in that way. With a
list of the calls they were to make they drove forth each day to cancel
the social debt. They paid calls in every walk of life. His young
companion was privileged to see the inside of London homes of almost
every class, for he showed no partiality; he went to the homes of the
poor and the rich alike. One day they visited the home of an old
bookkeeper whom he had known in 1872 as a clerk in a large establishment,
earning a salary of perhaps a pound a week, who now had risen mightily,
for he had become head bookkeeper in that establishment on a salary of
six pounds a week, and thought it great prosperity and fortune for his
He sailed on July 13th for home, besought to the last moment by a crowd
of autograph-seekers and reporters and photographers, and a multitude who
only wished to see him and to shout and wave good-by. He was sailing
away from them for the last time. They hoped he would make a speech, but
that would not have been possible. To the reporters he gave a farewell
message: "It has been the most enjoyable holiday I have ever had, and I
am sorry the end of it has come. I have met a hundred, old friends, and
I have made a hundred new ones. It is a good kind of riches to have;
there is none better, I think." And the London Tribune declared that
"the ship that bore him away had difficulty in getting clear, so thickly
was the water strewn with the bay-leaves of his triumph. For Mark Twain
has triumphed, and in his all-too-brief stay of a month has done more for
the cause of the world's peace than will be accomplished by the Hague
Conference. He has made the world laugh again."
His ship was the Minnetonka, and there were some little folks aboard to
be adopted as grandchildren. On July 5th, in a fog, the Minnetonka
collided with the bark Sterling, and narrowly escaped sinking her. On
the whole, however, the homeward way was clear, and the vessel reached
New York nearly a day in advance of their schedule. Some ceremonies of
welcome had been prepared for him; but they were upset by the early
arrival, so that when he descended the gang-plank to his native soil only
a few who had received special information were there to greet him. But
perhaps he did not notice it. He seldom took account of the absence of
such things. By early afternoon, however, the papers rang with the
announcement that Mark Twain was home again.
It is a sorrow to me that I was not at the dock to welcome him. I had
been visiting in Elmira, and timed my return for the evening of the a 2d,
to be on hand the following morning, when the ship was due. When I saw
the announcement that he had already arrived I called a greeting over the
telephone, and was told to come down and play billiards. I confess I
went with a certain degree of awe, for one could not but be overwhelmed
with the echoes of the great splendor he had so recently achieved, and I
prepared to sit a good way off in silence, and hear something of the tale
of this returning conqueror; but when I arrived he was already in the
billiard-room knocking the balls about--his coat off, for it was a hot
night. As I entered he said:
"Get your cue. I have been inventing a new game." And I think there
were scarcely ten words exchanged before we were at it. The pageant was
over; the curtain was rung down. Business was resumed at the old stand.
MATTERS PSYCHIC AND OTHERWISE
He returned to Tuxedo and took up his dictations, and mingled freely with
the social life; but the contrast between his recent London experience
and his semi-retirement must have been very great. When I visited him
now and then, he seemed to me lonely--not especially for companionship,
but rather for the life that lay behind him--the great career which in a
sense now had been completed since he had touched its highest point.
There was no billiard-table at Tuxedo, and he spoke expectantly of
getting back to town and the games there, also of the new home which was
then building in Redding, and which would have a billiard-room where we
could assemble daily--my own habitation being not far away. Various
diversions were planned for Redding; among them was discussed a possible
school of philosophy, such as Hawthorne and Emerson and Alcott had
established at Concord.
He spoke quite freely of his English experiences, but usually of the more
amusing phases. He almost never referred to the honors that had been
paid to him, yet he must have thought of them sometimes, and cherished
them, for it had been the greatest national tribute ever paid to a
private citizen; he must have known that in his heart. He spoke
amusingly of his visit to Marie Corelli, in Stratford, and of the Holy
Grail incident, ending the latter by questioning--in words at least--all
psychic manifestations. I said to him:
"But remember your own dream, Mr. Clemens, which presaged the death of
He answered: "I ask nobody to believe that it ever happened. To me it is
true; but it has no logical right to be true, and I do not expect belief
in it." Which I thought a peculiar point of view, but on the whole
He was invited to be a special guest at the Jamestown Exposition on
Fulton Day, in September, and Mr. Rogers lent him his yacht in which to
make the trip. It was a break in the summer's monotonies, and the
Jamestown honors must have reminded him of those in London. When he
entered the auditorium where the services were to be held there was a
demonstration which lasted more than five minutes. Every person in the
hall rose and cheered, waving handkerchiefs and umbrellas. He made them
a brief, amusing talk on Fulton and other matters, then introduced
Admiral Harrington, who delivered a masterly address and was followed by
Martin W. Littleton, the real orator of the day. Littleton acquitted
himself so notably that Mark Twain conceived for him a deep admiration,
and the two men quickly became friends. They saw each other often during
the remainder of the Jamestown stay, and Clemens, learning that Littleton
lived just across Ninth Street from him in New York, invited him to come
over when he had an evening to spare and join the billiard games.
So it happened, somewhat later, when every one was back in town, Mr. and
Mrs. Littleton frequently came over for billiards, and the games became
three-handed with an audience--very pleasant games played in that way.
Clemens sometimes set himself up as umpire, and became critic and gave
advice, while Littleton and I played. He had a favorite shot that he
frequently used himself and was always wanting us to try, which was to
drive the ball to the cushion at the beginning of the shot.
He played it with a good deal of success, and achieved unexpected results
with it. He was even inspired to write a poem on the subject.
When all your days are dark with doubt,
And dying hope is at its worst;
When all life's balls are scattered wide,
With not a shot in sight, to left or right,
Don't give it up;
Advance your cue and shut your eyes,
And take the cushion first.
The Harry Thaw trial was in progress just then, and Littleton was Thaw's
chief attorney. It was most interesting to hear from him direct the
day's proceedings and his views of the situation and of Thaw.
Littleton and billiards recall a curious thing which happened one
afternoon. I had been absent the evening before, and Littleton had been
over. It was after luncheon now, and Clemens and I began preparing for
the customary games. We were playing then a game with four balls, two
white and two red. I began by placing the red balls on the table, and
then went around looking in the pockets for the two white cue-balls.
When I had made the round of the table I had found but one white ball. I
thought I must have overlooked the other, and made the round again. Then
"There is one white ball missing."
Clemens, to satisfy himself, also made the round of the pockets, and
"It was here last night." He felt in the pockets of the little white-
silk coat which he usually wore, thinking that he might unconsciously
have placed it there at the end of the last game, but his coat pockets
He said: "I'll bet Littleton carried that ball home with him."
Then I suggested that near the end of the game it might have jumped off
the table, and I looked carefully under the furniture and in the various
corners, but without success. There was another set of balls, and out of
it I selected a white one for our play, and the game began. It went
along in the usual way, the balls constantly falling into the pockets,
and as constantly being replaced on the table. This had continued for
perhaps half an hour, there being no pocket that had not been frequently
occupied and emptied during that time; but then it happened that Clemens
reached into the middle pocket, and taking out a white ball laid it in
place, whereupon we made the discovery that three white balls lay upon
the table. The one just taken from the pocket was the missing ball. We
looked at each other, both at first too astonished to say anything at
all. No one had been in the room since we began to play, and at no time
during the play had there been more than two white balls in evidence,
though the pockets had been emptied at the end of each shot. The pocket
from which the missing ball had been taken had been filled and emptied
again and again. Then Clemens said:
"We must be dreaming."
We stopped the game for a while to discuss it, but we could devise no
material explanation. I suggested the kobold--that mischievous invisible
which is supposed to play pranks by carrying off such things as pencils,
letters, and the like, and suddenly restoring them almost before one's
eyes. Clemens, who, in spite of his material logic, was always a mystic
at heart, said:
"But that, so far as I know, has never happened to more than one person
at a time, and has been explained by a sort of temporary mental
blindness. This thing has happened to two of us, and there can be no
question as to the positive absence of the object."
"How about dematerialization?"
"Yes, if one of us were a medium that might be considered an
He went on to recall that Sir Alfred Russel Wallace had written of such
things, and cited instances which Wallace had recorded. In the end he
"Well, it happened, that's all we can say, and nobody can ever convince
me that it didn't."
We went on playing, and the ball remained solid and substantial ever
after, so far as I know.
I am reminded of two more or less related incidents of this period.
Clemens was, one morning, dictating something about his Christian Union
article concerning Mrs. Clemens's government of children, published in
1885. I had discovered no copy of it among the materials, and he was
wishing very much that he could see one. Somewhat later, as he was
walking down Fifth Avenue, the thought of this article and his desire for
it suddenly entered his mind. Reaching the corner of Forty-second
Street, he stopped a moment to let a jam of vehicles pass. As he did so
a stranger crossed the street, noticed him, and came dodging his way
through the blockade and thrust some clippings into his hand.
"Mr. Clemens," he said, "you don't know me, but here is something you may
wish to have. I have been saving them for more than twenty years, and
this morning it occurred to me to send them to you. I was going to mail
them from my office, but now I will give them to you," and with a word or
two he disappeared. The clippings were from the Christian Union of 1885,
and were the much-desired article. Clemens regarded it as a remarkable
case of mental telegraphy.
"Or, if it wasn't that," he said, "it was a most remarkable coincidence."
The other circumstance has been thought amusing. I had gone to Redding
for a few days, and while there, one afternoon about five o'clock, fell
over a coal-scuttle and scarified myself a good deal between the ankle
and the knee. I mention the hour because it seems important. Next
morning I received a note, prompted by Mr. Clemens, in which he said:
Tell Paine I am sorry he fell and skinned his shin at five o'clock
I was naturally astonished, and immediately wrote:
I did fall and skin my shin at five o'clock yesterday afternoon, but how
did you find it out?
I followed the letter in person next day, and learned that at the same
hour on the same afternoon Clemens himself had fallen up the front steps
and, as he said, peeled off from his "starboard shin a ribbon of skin
three inches long." The disaster was still uppermost in his mind at the
time of writing, and the suggestion of my own mishap had flashed out for
no particular reason.
Clemens was always having his fortune told, in one way or another, being
superstitious, as he readily confessed, though at times professing little
faith in these prognostics. Once when a clairvoyant, of whom he had
never even heard, and whom he had reason to believe was ignorant of his
family history, told him more about it than he knew himself, besides
reading a list of names from a piece of paper which Clemens had concealed
in his vest pocket he came home deeply impressed. The clairvoyant added
that he would probably live to a great age and die in a, foreign land--a
prophecy which did not comfort him.
MINOR EVENTS AND DIVERSIONS
Mark Twain was deeply interested during the autumn of 1907 in the
Children's Theater of the Jewish Educational Alliance, on the lower East
Side--a most worthy institution which ought to have survived. A Miss
Alice M. Herts, who developed and directed it, gave her strength and
health to build up an institution through which the interest of the
children could be diverted from less fortunate amusements. She had
interested a great body of Jewish children in the plays of Shakespeare,
and of more modern dramatists, and these they had performed from time to
time with great success. The admission fee to the performance was ten
cents, and the theater was always crowded with other children--certainly
a better diversion for them than the amusements of the street, though of
course, as a business enterprise, the theater could not pay. It required
patrons. Miss Herts obtained permission to play "The Prince and the
Pauper," and Mark Twain agreed to become a sort of chief patron in using
his influence to bring together an audience who might be willing to
assist financially in this worthy work.
"The Prince and the Pauper" evening turned out a distinguished affair.
On the night of November 19, 1907, the hall of the Educational Alliance
was crowded with such an audience as perhaps never before assembled on
the East Side; the finance and the fashion of New York were there. It
was a gala night for the little East Side performers. Behind the curtain
they whispered to each other that they were to play before queens. The
performance they gave was an astonishing one. So fully did they enter
into the spirit of Tom Canty's rise to royalty that they seemed
absolutely to forget that they were lowly-born children of the Ghetto.
They had become little princesses and lords and maids-in-waiting, and
they moved through their pretty tinsel parts as if all their ornaments
were gems and their raiment cloth of gold. There was no hesitation, no
awkwardness of speech or gesture, and they rose really to sublime heights
in the barn scene where the little Prince is in the hands of the mob.
Never in the history of the stage has there been assembled a mob more
wonderful than that. These children knew mobs! A mob to them was a
daily sight, and their reproduction of it was a thing to startle you with
its realism. Never was it absurd; never was there a single note of
artificiality in it. It was Hogarthian in its bigness.
Both Mark Twain and Miss Herts made brief addresses, and the audience
shouted approval of their words. It seems a pity that such a project as
that must fail, and I do not know why it happened. Wealthy men and women
manifested an interest; but there was some hitch somewhere, and the
Children's Theater exists to-day only as history.--[In a letter to a Mrs.
Amelia Dunne Hookway, who had conducted some children's plays at the
Howland School, Chicago, Mark Twain once wrote: "If I were going to
begin life over again I would have a children's theater and watch it, and
work for it, and see it grow and blossom and bear its rich moral and
intellectual fruitage; and I should get more pleasure and a saner and
healthier profit out of my vocation than I should ever be able to get out
of any other, constituted as I am. Yes, you are easily the most
fortunate of women, I think."]
It was at a dinner at The Players--a small, private dinner given by Mr.
George C. Riggs-that I saw Edward L. Burlingame and Mark Twain for the
only time together. They had often met during the forty-two years that
had passed since their long-ago Sandwich Island friendship; but only
incidentally, for Mr. Burlingame cared not much for great public
occasions, and as editor of Scribner's Magazine he had been somewhat out
of the line of Mark Twain's literary doings.
Howells was there, and Gen. Stewart L. Woodford, and David Bispham, John
Finley, Evan Shipman, Nicholas Biddle, and David Munro. Clemens told
that night, for the first time, the story of General Miles and the three-
dollar dog, inventing it, I believe, as he went along, though for the
moment it certainly did sound like history. He told it often after that,
and it has been included in his book of speeches.
Later, in the cab, he said:
"That was a mighty good dinner. Riggs knows how to do that sort of
thing. I enjoyed it ever so much. Now we'll go home and play
We began about eleven o'clock, and played until after midnight. I
happened to be too strong for him, and he swore amazingly. He vowed that
it was not a gentleman's game at all, that Riggs's wine had demoralized
the play. But at the end, when we were putting up the cues, he said:
"Well, those were good games. There is nothing like billiards after
We did not play billiards on his birthday that year. He went to the
theater in the afternoon; and it happened that, with Jesse Lynch
Williams, I attended the same performance--the "Toy-Maker of Nuremberg"--
written by Austin Strong. It proved to be a charming play, and I could
see that Clemens was enjoying it. He sat in a box next to the stage, and
the actors clearly were doing their very prettiest for his benefit.
When later I mentioned having seen him at the play, he spoke freely of
his pleasure in it.
"It is a fine, delicate piece of work," he said. "I wish I could do such
things as that."
"I believe you are too literary for play-writing."
"Yes, no doubt. There was never any question with the managers about my
plays. They always said they wouldn't act. Howells has come pretty near
to something once or twice. I judge the trouble is that the literary man
is thinking of the style and quality of the thing, while the playwright
thinks only of how it will play. One is thinking of how it will sound,
the other of how it will look."
"I suppose," I said, "the literary man should have a collaborator with a
genius for stage mechanism. John Luther Long's exquisite plays would
hardly have been successful without David Belasco to stage them. Belasco
cannot write a play himself, but in the matter of acting construction his
genius is supreme."
"Yes, so it is; it was Belasco who made it possible to play "The Prince
and the Pauper"--a collection of literary garbage before he got hold of
Clemens attended few public functions now. He was beset with
invitations, but he declined most of them. He told the dog story one
night to the Pleiades Club, assembled at the Brevoort; but that was only
a step away, and we went in after the dining was ended and came away
before the exercises were concluded.
He also spoke at a banquet given to Andrew Carnegie--Saint Andrew, as he
called him--by the Engineers Club, and had his usual fun at the chief
I have been chief guest at a good many banquets myself, and I know
what brother Andrew is feeling like now. He has been receiving
compliments and nothing but compliments, but he knows that there is
another side to him that needs censure.
I am going to vary the complimentary monotony. While we have all
been listening to the complimentary talk Mr. Carnegie's face has
scintillated with fictitious innocence. You'd think he never
committed a crime in his life. But he has.
Look at his pestiferous simplified spelling. Imagine the calamity
on two sides of the ocean when he foisted his simplified spelling on
the whole human race. We've got it all now so that nobody could
spell . . . .
If Mr. Carnegie had left spelling alone we wouldn't have had any
spots on the sun, or any San Francisco quake, or any business
There, I trust he feels better now and that he has enjoyed my abuse
more than he did his compliments. And now that I think I have him
smoothed down and feeling comfortable I just want to say one thing
more--that his simplified spelling is all right enough, but, like
chastity, you can carry it too far.
As he was about to go, Carnegie called his attention to the beautiful
souvenir bronze and gold-plated goblets that stood at each guest's plate.
"The club had those especially made at Tiffany's for this occasion. They
cost ten dollars apiece."
Clemens sand: "Is that so? Well, I only meant to take my own; but if
that's the case I'll load my cab with them."
We made an attempt to reform on the matter of billiards. The continued
strain of late hours was doing neither of us any particular good. More
than once I journeyed into the country on one errand and another, mainly
for rest; but a card saying that he was lonely and upset, for lack of his
evening games, quickly brought me back again. It was my wish only to
serve him; it was a privilege and an honor to give him happiness.
Billiards, however, was not his only recreation just then. He walked out
a good deal, and especially of a pleasant Sunday morning he liked the
stroll up Fifth Avenue. Sometimes we went as high as Carnegie's, on
Ninety-second Street, and rode home on top of the electric stage--always
one of Mark Twain's favorite diversions.
From that high seat he liked to look down on the panorama of the streets,
and in that free, open air he could smoke without interference. Oftener,
however, we turned at Fifty-ninth Street, walking both ways.
When it was pleasant we sometimes sat on a bench in Central Park; and
once he must have left a handkerchief there, for a few days later one of
his handkerchiefs came to him accompanied by a note. Its finder, a Mr.
Lockwood, received a reward, for Mark Twain wrote him:
There is more rejoicing in this house over that one handkerchief
that was lost and is found again than over the ninety and nine that
never went to the wash at all. Heaven will reward you, I know it
On Sunday mornings the return walk would be timed for about the hour that
the churches would be dismissed. On the first Sunday morning we had
started a little early, and I thoughtlessly suggested, when we reached
Fifty-ninth Street, that if we returned at once we would avoid the
throng. He said, quietly:
"I like the throng."
So we rested in the Plaza Hotel until the appointed hour. Men and women
noticed him, and came over to shake his hand. The gigantic man in
uniform; in charge of the carriages at the door, came in for a word. He
had opened carriages for Mr. Clemens at the Twenty-third Street station,
and now wanted to claim that honor. I think he received the most cordial
welcome of any one who came. I am sure he did. It was Mark Twain's way
to warm to the man of the lower social rank. He was never too busy,
never too preoccupied, to grasp the hand of such a man; to listen to his
story, and to say just the words that would make that man happy
We left the Plaza Hotel and presently were amid the throng of outpouring
congregations. Of course he was the object on which every passing eye
turned; the presence to which every hat was lifted. I realized that this
open and eagerly paid homage of the multitude was still dear to him, not
in any small and petty way, but as the tribute of a nation, the
expression of that affection which in his London and Liverpool speeches
he had declared to be the last and final and most precious reward that
any man can win, whether by character or achievement. It was his final
harvest, and he had the courage to claim it--the aftermath of all his
years of honorable labor and noble living.
FROM MARK TWAIN's MAIL
If the reader has any curiosity as to some of the less usual letters
which a man of wide public note may inspire, perhaps he will find a
certain interest in a few selected from the thousands which yearly came
to Mark Twain.
For one thing, he was constantly receiving prescriptions and remedies
whenever the papers reported one of his bronchial or rheumatic attacks.
It is hardly necessary to quote examples of these, but only a form of his
occasional reply, which was likely to be in this wise:
DEAR SIR [or MADAM],--I try every remedy sent to me. I am now on
No. 87. Yours is 2,653. I am looking forward to its beneficial
Of course a large number of the nostrums and palliatives offered were
preparations made by the wildest and longest-haired medical cranks. One
of these sent an advertisement of a certain Elixir of Life, which was
guaranteed to cure everything--to "wash and cleanse the human molecules,
and so restore youth and preserve life everlasting."
Anonymous letters are not usually popular or to be encouraged, but Mark
Twain had an especial weakness for compliments that came in that way.
They were not mercenary compliments. The writer had nothing to gain.
Two such letters follow--both written in England just at the time of his
DEAR SIR,--Please accept a poor widow's good-by and kindest wishes.
I have had some of your books sent to me; have enjoyed them very
much--only wish I could afford to buy some.
I should very much like to have seen you. I have many photos of you
which I have cut from several papers which I read. I have one where
you are writing in bed, which I cut from the Daily News. Like
myself, you believe in lots of sleep and rest. I am 70 and I find I
need plenty. Please forgive the liberty I have taken in writing to
you. If I can't come to your funeral may we meet beyond the river.
May God guard you, is the wish of a lonely old widow.
The other letter also tells its own story:
DEAR, KIND MARK TWAIN,--For years I have wanted to write and thank
you for the comfort you were to me once, only I never quite knew
where you were, and besides I did not want to bother you; but to-day
I was told by some one who saw you going into the lift at the Savoy
that you looked sad and I thought it might cheer you a little tiny
bit to hear how you kept a poor lonely girl from ruining her eyes
with crying every night for long months.
Ten years ago I had to leave home and earn my living as a governess
and Fate sent me to spend a winter with a very dull old country
family in the depths of Staffordshire. According to the genial
English custom, after my five charges had gone to bed, I took my
evening meal alone in the school-room, where "Henry Tudor had supped
the night before Bosworth," and there I had to stay without a soul
to speak to till I went to bed. At first I used to cry every night,
but a friend sent me a copy of your Huckleberry Finn and I never
cried any more. I kept him handy under the copy-books and maps, and
when Henry Tudor commenced to stretch out his chilly hands toward me
I grabbed my dear Huck and he never once failed me; I opened him at
random and in two minutes I was in another world. That's why I am
so grateful to you and so fond of you, and I thought you might like
to know; for it is yourself that has the kind heart, as is easily
seen from the way you wrote about the poor old nigger. I am a
stenographer now and live at home, but I shall never forget how you
helped me. God bless you and spare you long to those you are dear
A letter which came to him soon after his return from England contained a
clipping which reported the good work done by Christian missionaries in
the Congo, especially among natives afflicted by the terrible sleeping
sickness. The letter itself consisted merely of a line, which said:
Won't you give your friends, the missionaries, a good mark for this?
The writer's name was signed, and Mark Twain answered:
In China the missionaries are not wanted, & so they ought to be
decent & go away. But I have not heard that in the Congo the
missionary servants of God are unwelcome to the native.
Evidently those missionaries axe pitying, compassionate, kind. How
it would improve God to take a lesson from them! He invented &
distributed the germ of that awful disease among those helpless,
poor savages, & now He sits with His elbows on the balusters & looks
down & enjoys this wanton crime. Confidently, & between you & me-
well, never mind, I might get struck by lightning if I said it.
Those are good and kindly men, those missionaries, but they are a
measureless satire upon their Master.
To which the writer answered:
O wicked Mr. Clemens! I have to ask Saint Joan of Arc to pray for
you; then one of these days, when we all stand before the Golden
Gates and we no longer "see through a glass darkly and know only in
part," there will be a struggle at the heavenly portals between Joan
of Arc and St. Peter, but your blessed Joan will conquer and she'll
lead Mr. Clemens through the gates of pearl and apologize and plead
Of the letters that irritated him, perhaps the following is as fair a
sample as any, and it has additional interest in its sequel.
DEAR SIR,--I have written a book--naturally--which fact, however,
since I am not your enemy, need give you no occasion to rejoice.
Nor need you grieve, though I am sending you a copy. If I knew of
any way of compelling you to read it I would do so, but unless the
first few pages have that effect I can do nothing. Try the first
few pages. I have done a great deal more than that with your books,
so perhaps you owe me some thing--say ten pages. If after that
attempt you put it aside I shall be sorry--for you.
I am afraid that the above looks flippant--but think of the
twitterings of the soul of him who brings in his hand an unbidden
book, written by himself. To such a one much is due in the way of
indulgence. Will you remember that? Have you forgotten early
twitterings of your own?
In a memorandum made on this letter Mark Twain wrote:
Another one of those peculiarly depressing letters--a letter cast in
artificially humorous form, whilst no art could make the subject
Commenting further, he said:
As I have remarked before about one thousand times the coat of arms
of the human race ought to consist of a man with an ax on his
shoulder proceeding toward a grindstone, or it ought to represent
the several members of the human race holding out the hat to one
another; for we are all beggars, each in his own way. One beggar is
too proud to beg for pennies, but will beg for an introduction into
society; another does not care for society, but he wants a
postmastership; another will inveigle a lawyer into conversation and
then sponge on him for free advice. The man who wouldn't do any of
these things will beg for the Presidency. Each admires his own
dignity and greatly guards it, but in his opinion the others haven't
Mendicancy is a matter of taste and temperament, no doubt, but no
human being is without some form of it. I know my own form, you
know yours. Let us conceal them from view and abuse the others.
There is no man so poor but what at intervals some man comes to him
with an ax to grind. By and by the ax's aspect becomes familiar to
the proprietor of the grindstone. He perceives that it is the same
old ax. If you are a governor you know that the stranger wants an
office. The first time he arrives you are deceived; he pours out
such noble praises of you and your political record that you are
moved to tears; there's a lump in your throat and you are thankful
that you have lived for this happiness. Then the stranger discloses
his ax, and you are ashamed of yourself and your race. Six
repetitions will cure you. After that you interrupt the compliments
and say, "Yes, yes, that's all right; never mind about that. What
is it you want?"
But you and I are in the business ourselves. Every now and then we
carry our ax to somebody and ask a whet. I don't carry mine to
strangers--I draw the line there; perhaps that is your way. This is
bound to set us up on a high and holy pinnacle and make us look down
in cold rebuke on persons who carry their axes to strangers.
I do not know how to answer that stranger's letter. I wish he had
spared me. Never mind about him--I am thinking about myself. I
wish he had spared me. The book has not arrived yet; but no matter,
I am prejudiced against it.
It was a few days later that he added:
I wrote to that man. I fell back upon the old Overworked, polite
lie, and thanked him for his book and said I was promising myself
the pleasure of reading it. Of course that set me free; I was not
obliged to read it now at all, and, being free, my prejudice was
gone, and as soon as the book came I opened it to see what it was
like. I was not able to put it down until I had finished. It was
an embarrassing thing to have to write to that man and confess that
fact, but I had to do it. That first letter was merely a lie. Do
you think I wrote the second one to give that man pleasure? Well, I
did, but it was second-hand pleasure. I wrote it first to give
myself comfort, to make myself forget the original lie.
Mark Twain's interest was once aroused by the following:
DEAR SIR,--I have had more or less of your works on my shelves for
years, and believe I have practically a complete set now. This is
nothing unusual, of course, but I presume it will seem to you
unusual for any one to keep books constantly in sight which the
owner regrets ever having read.
Every time my glance rests on the books I do regret having read
them, and do not hesitate to tell you so to your face, and care not
who may know my feelings. You, who must be kept busy attending to
your correspondence, will probably pay little or no attention to
this small fraction of it, yet my reasons, I believe, are sound and
are probably shared by more people than you are aware of.
Probably you will not read far enough through this to see who has
signed it, but if you do, and care to know why I wish I had left
your work unread, I will tell you as briefly as possible if you will
GEORGE B. LAUDER.
Clemens did not answer the letter, but put it in his pocket, perhaps
intending to do so, and a few days later, in Boston, when a reporter
called, he happened to remember it. The reporter asked permission to
print the queer document, and it appeared in his Mark Twain interview
next morning. A few days later the writer of it sent a second letter,
this time explaining:
MY DEAR SIR,--I saw in to-day's paper a copy of the letter which I
wrote you October 26th.
I have read and re-read your works until I can almost recall some of
them word for word. My familiarity with them is a constant source
of pleasure which I would not have missed, and therefore the regret
which I have expressed is more than offset by thankfulness.
Believe me, the regret which I feel for having read your works is
entirely due to the unalterable fact that I can never again have the
pleasure of reading them for the first time.
Your sincere admirer,
GEORGE B. LADDER.
Mark Twain promptly replied this time:
DEAR SIR, You fooled me completely; I didn't divine what the letter
was concealing, neither did the newspaper men, so you are a very
S. L. CLEMENS.
It was about the end of 1907 that the new St. Louis Harbor boat, was
completed. The editor of the St. Louis Republic reported that it has
been christened "Mark Twain," and asked for a word of comment. Clemens
sent this line:
May my namesake follow in my righteous footsteps, then neither of us
will need any fire insurance.
SOME LITERARY LUNCHEONS
Howells, in his book, refers to the Human Race Luncheon Club, which
Clemens once organized for the particular purpose of damning the species
in concert. It was to consist, beside Clemens himself, of Howells,
Colonel Harvey, and Peter Dunne; but it somehow never happened that even
this small membership could be assembled while the idea was still fresh,
and therefore potent.
Out of it, however, grew a number of those private social gatherings
which Clemens so dearly loved--small luncheons and dinners given at his
own table. The first of these came along toward the end of 1907, when
Howells was planning to spend the winter in Italy.
"Howells is going away," he said, "and I should like to give him a stag-
party. We'll enlarge the Human Race Club for the occasion."
So Howells, Colonel Harvey, Martin Littleton, Augustus Thomas, Robert
Porter, and Paderewski were invited. Paderewski was unable to come, and
seven in all assembled.
Howells was first to arrive.
"Here comes Howells," Clemens said. "Old Howells a thousand years old."
But Howells didn't look it. His face was full of good-nature and
apparent health, and he was by no means venerable, either in speech or
action. Thomas, Porter, Littleton, and Harvey drifted in. Cocktails
were served and luncheon was announced.
Claude, the butler, had prepared the table with fine artistry--its center
a mass of roses. There was to be no woman in the neighborhood--Clemens
announced this fact as a sort of warrant for general freedom of
Thomas's play, "The Witching Hour," was then at the height of its great
acceptance, and the talk naturally began there. Thomas told something of
the difficulty which he found in being able to convince a manager that it
would succeed, and declared it to be his own favorite work. I believe
there was no dissenting opinion as to its artistic value, or concerning
its purpose and psychology, though these had been the stumbling-blocks
from a managerial point of view.
When the subject was concluded, and there had come a lull, Colonel
Harvey, who was seated at Clemens's left, said:
"Uncle Mark"--he often called him that--"Major Leigh handed me a report
of the year's sales just as I was leaving. It shows your royalty returns
this year to be very close to fifty thousand dollars. I don't believe
there is another such return from old books on record."
This was said in an undertone, to Clemens only, but was overheard by one
or two of those who sat nearest. Clemens was not unwilling to repeat it
for the benefit of all, and did so. Howells said:
"A statement like that arouses my basest passions. The books are no
good; it's just the advertising they get."
Clemens said: "Yes, my contract compels the publisher to advertise. It
costs them two hundred dollars every time they leave the advertisement
out of the magazines."
"And three hundred every time we put it in," said Harvey. "We often
debate whether it is more profitable to put in the advertisement or to
leave it out."
The talk switched back to plays and acting. Thomas recalled an incident
of Beerbohm Tree's performance of "Hamlet." W. S. Gilbert, of light-
opera celebrity, was present at a performance, and when the play ended
Mrs. Tree hurried over to him and said:
"Oh, Mr. Gilbert, what did you think of Mr. Tree's rendition of Hamlet?"
"Remarkable," said Gilbert. "Funny without being vulgar."
It was with such idle tales and talk-play that the afternoon passed. Not
much of it all is left to me, but I remember Howells saying, "Did it ever
occur to you that the newspapers abolished hell? Well, they did--it was
never done by the church. There was a consensus of newspaper opinion
that the old hell with its lake of fire and brimstone was an antiquated
institution; in fact a dead letter." And again, "I was coming down
Broadway last night, and I stopped to look at one of the street-venders
selling those little toy fighting roosters. It was a bleak, desolate
evening; nobody was buying anything, and as he pulled the string and kept
those little roosters dancing and fighting his remarks grew more and more
cheerless and sardonic.
"'Japanese game chickens,' he said; 'pretty toys, amuse the children with
their antics. Child of three can operate it. Take them home for
Christmas. Chicken-fight at your own fireside.' I tried to catch his eye
to show him that I understood his desolation and sorrow, but it was no
use. He went on dancing his toy chickens, and saying, over and over,
'Chicken-fight at your own fireside.'"
The luncheon over, we wandered back into the drawing-room, and presently
all left but Colonel Harvey. Clemens and the Colonel went up to the
billiard-room and engaged in a game of cushion caroms, at twenty-five
cents a game. I was umpire and stakeholder, and it was a most
interesting occupation, for the series was close and a very cheerful one.
It ended the day much to Mark Twain's satisfaction, for he was oftenest
winner. That evening he said:
"We will repeat that luncheon; we ought to repeat it once a month.
Howells will be gone, but we must have the others. We cannot have a
thing like that too often."
There was, in fact, a second stag-luncheon very soon after, at which
George Riggs was present and that rare Irish musician, Denis O'Sullivan.
It was another choice afternoon, with a mystical quality which came of
the music made by O'Sullivan on some Hindu reeds-pipes of Pan. But we
shall have more of O'Sullivan presently--all too little, for his days
were few and fleeting.
Howells could not get away just yet. Colonel Harvey, who, like James
Osgood, would not fail to find excuse for entertainment, chartered two
drawing-room cars, and with Mrs. Harvey took a party of fifty-five or
sixty congenial men and women to Lakewood for a good-by luncheon to
Howells. It was a day borrowed from June, warm and beautiful.
The trip down was a sort of reception. Most of the guests were
acquainted, but many of them did not often meet. There was constant
visiting back and forth the full length of the two coaches. Denis
O'Sullivan was among the guests. He looked in the bloom of health, and
he had his pipes and played his mystic airs; then he brought out the tin-
whistle of Ireland, and blew such rollicking melodies as capering fairies
invented a long time ago. This was on the train going down.
There was a brief program following the light-hearted feasting--an
informal program fitting to that sunny day. It opened with some
recitations by Miss Kitty Cheatham; then Colonel Harvey introduced
Howells, with mention of his coming journey. As a rule, Howells does not
enjoy speaking. He is willing to read an address on occasion, but he has
owned that the prospect of talking without his notes terrifies him. This
time, however, there was no reluctance, though he had prepared no speech.
He was among friends. He looked even happy when he got on his feet, and
he spoke like a happy man. He talked about Mark Twain. It was all
delicate, delicious chaffing which showed Howells at his very best--all
too short for his listeners.
Clemens, replying, returned the chaff, and rambled amusingly among his
fancies, closing with a few beautiful words of "Godspeed and safe return"
to his old comrade and friend.
Then once more came Denis and his pipes. No one will ever forget his
part of the program. The little samples we had heard on the train were
expanded and multiplied and elaborated in a way that fairly swept his
listeners out of themselves into that land where perhaps Denis himself
wanders playing now; for a month later, strong and lusty and beautiful as
he seemed that day, he suddenly vanished from among us and his reeds were
silent. It never occurred to us then that Denis could die; and as he
finished each melody and song there was a shout for a repetition, and I
think we could have sat there and let the days and years slip away
unheeded, for time is banished by music like that, and one wonders if it
might not even divert death.
It was dark when we crossed the river homeward; the myriad lights from
heaven-climbing windows made an enchanted city in the sky. The evening,
like the day, was warm, and some of the party. left the ferry-cabin to
lean over and watch the magic spectacle, the like of which is not to be
found elsewhere on the earth.
"CAPTAIN STORMFIELD" IN PRINT
During the forty years or so that had elapsed since the publication of
the "Gates Ajar" and the perpetration of Mark Twain's intended burlesque,
built on Captain Ned Wakeman's dream, the Christian religion in its more
orthodox aspects had undergone some large modifications. It was no
longer regarded as dangerous to speak lightly of hell, or even to suggest
that the golden streets and jeweled architecture of the sky might be
regarded as symbols of hope rather than exhibits of actual bullion and
lapidary construction. Clemens re-read his extravaganza, Captain
Stoymfields Visit to Heaven, gave it a modernizing touch here and there,
and handed it to his publishers, who must have agreed that it was no
longer dangerous, for it was promptly accepted and appeared in the
December and January numbers (1907-8) of Harper's Magazine, and was also
issued as a small book. If there were any readers who still found it
blasphemous, or even irreverent, they did not say so; the letters that
came--and they were a good many--expressed enjoyment and approval, also
(some of them) a good deal of satisfaction that Mark Twain "had returned
to his earlier form."
The publication of this story recalled to Clemens's mind another heresy
somewhat similar which he had written during the winter of 1891 and 1892
in Berlin. This was a dream of his own, in which he had set out on a
train with the evangelist Sam Jones and the Archbishop of Canterbury for
the other world. He had noticed that his ticket was to a different
destination than the Archbishop's, and so, when the prelate nodded and
finally went to sleep, he changed the tickets in their hats with
disturbing results. Clemens thought a good deal of this fancy when he
wrote it, and when Mrs. Clemens had refused to allow it to be printed he
had laboriously translated it into German, with some idea of publishing
it surreptitiously; but his conscience had been too much for him. He had
confessed, and even the German version had been suppressed.
Clemens often allowed his fancy to play with the idea of the orthodox
heaven, its curiosities of architecture, and its employments of
continuous prayer, psalm-singing, and harpistry.
"What a childish notion it was," he said, "and how curious that only a
little while ago human beings were so willing to accept such fragile
evidences about a place of so much importance. If we should find
somewhere to-day an ancient book containing an account of a beautiful and
blooming tropical Paradise secreted in the center of eternal icebergs--an
account written by men who did not even claim to have seen it themselves
--no geographical society on earth would take any stock in that book, yet
that account would be quite as authentic as any we have of heaven. If
God has such a place prepared for us, and really wanted us to know it, He
could have found some better way than a book so liable to alterations and
misinterpretation. God has had no trouble to prove to man the laws of
the constellations and the construction of the world, and such things as
that, none of which agree with His so-called book. As to a hereafter, we
have not the slightest evidence that there is any--no evidence that
appeals to logic and reason. I have never seen what to me seemed an atom
of proof that there is a future life."
Then, after a long pause, he added:
"And yet--I am strongly inclined to expect one."
LOTOS CLUB HONORS
It was on January 11, 1908, that Mark Twain was given his last great
banquet by the Lotos Club. The club was about to move again, into
splendid new quarters, and it wished to entertain him once more in its
He wore white, and amid the throng of black-clad men was like a white
moth among a horde of beetles. The room fairly swarmed with them, and
they seemed likely to overwhelm him.
President Lawrence was toast-master of the evening, and he ended his
customary address by introducing Robert Porter, who had been Mark Twain's
host at Oxford. Porter told something of the great Oxford week, and
ended by introducing Mark Twain. It had been expected that Clemens would
tell of his London experiences. Instead of doing this, he said he had
started a new kind of collection, a collection of compliments. He had
picked up a number of valuable ones abroad and some at home. He read
selections from them, and kept the company going with cheers and
merriment until just before the close of his speech. Then he repeated,
in his most impressive manner, that stately conclusion of his Liverpool
speech, and the room became still and the eyes of his hearers grew dim.
It may have been even more moving than when originally given, for now the
closing words, "homeward bound," had only the deeper meaning.
Dr. John MacArthur followed with a speech that was as good a sermon as
any he ever delivered, and closed it by saying:
"I do not want men to prepare for heaven, but to prepare to remain on
earth, and it is such men as Mark Twain who make other men not fit to
die, but fit to live."
Andrew Carnegie also spoke, and Colonel Harvey, and as the speaking ended
Robert Porter stepped up behind Clemens and threw over his shoulders the
scarlet Oxford robe which had been surreptitiously brought, and placed
the mortar-board cap upon his head, while the diners vociferated their
approval. Clemens was quite calm.
"I like this," he said, when the noise had subsided. "I like its
splendid color. I would dress that way all the time, if I dared."
In the cab going home I mentioned the success of his speech, how well it
had been received.
"Yes," he said; "but then I have the advantage of knowing now that I am
likely to be favorably received, whatever I say. I know that my
audiences are warm and responseful. It is an immense advantage to feel
that. There are cold places in almost every speech, and if your audience
notices them and becomes cool, you get a chill yourself in those zones,
and it is hard to warm up again. Perhaps there haven't been so many
lately; but I have been acquainted with them more than once." And then I
could not help remembering that deadly Whittier birthday speech of more
than thirty years before--that bleak, arctic experience from beginning to
"We have just time for four games," he said, as we reached the billiard-
room; but there was no sign of stopping when the four games were over.
We were winning alternately, and neither noted the time. I was leaving
by an early train, and was willing to play all night. The milk-wagons
were rattling outside when he said:
"Well, perhaps we'd better quit now. It seems pretty early, though." I
looked at my watch. It was quarter to four, and we said good night.
A WINTER IN BERMUDA
Edmund Clarence Stedman died suddenly at his desk, January 18, 1908, and
Clemens, in response to telegrams, sent this message:
I do not wish to talk about it. He was a valued friend from days that
date back thirty-five years. His loss stuns me and unfits me to speak.
He recalled the New England dinners which he used to attend, and where he
had often met Stedman.
"Those were great affairs," he said. "They began early, and they ended
early. I used to go down from Hartford with the feeling that it wasn't
an all-night supper, and that it was going to be an enjoyable time.
Choate and Depew and Stedman were in their prime then--we were all young
men together. Their speeches were always worth listening to. Stedman
was a prominent figure there. There don't seem to be any such men now--
or any such occasions."
Stedman was one of the last of the old literary group. Aldrich had died
the year before. Howells and Clemens were the lingering "last leaves."
Clemens gave some further luncheon entertainments to his friends, and
added the feature of "doe" luncheons--pretty affairs where, with Clara
Clemens as hostess, were entertained a group of brilliant women, such as
Mrs. Kate Douglas Riggs, Geraldine Farrax, Mrs. Robert Collier, Mrs.
Frank Doubleday, and others. I cannot report those luncheons, for I was
not present, and the drift of the proceedings came to me later in too
fragmentary a form to be used as history; but I gathered from Clemens
himself that he had done all of the talking, and I think they must have
been very pleasant afternoons. Among the acknowledgments that followed
one of these affairs is this characteristic word-play from Mrs. Riggs:
N. B.--A lady who is invited to and attends a doe luncheon is, of
course, a doe. The question is, if she attends two doe luncheons in
succession is she a doe-doe? If so is she extinct and can never
attend a third?
Luncheons and billiards, however, failed to give sufficient brightness to
the dull winter days, or to insure him against an impending bronchial
attack, and toward the end of January he sailed away to Bermuda, where
skies were bluer and roadsides gay with bloom. His sojourn was brief
this time, but long enough to cure him, he said, and he came back full of
happiness. He had been driving about over the island with a newly
adopted granddaughter, little Margaret Blackmer, whom he had met one
morning in the hotel dining-room. A part of his dictated story will
convey here this pretty experience.
My first day in Bermuda paid a dividend--in fact a double dividend:
it broke the back of my cold and it added a jewel to my collection.
As I entered the breakfast-room the first object I saw in that
spacious and far-reaching place was a little girl seated solitary at
a table for two. I bent down over her and patted her cheek and
"I don't seem to remember your name; what is it?"
By the sparkle in her brown eyes it amused her. She said:
"Why, you've never known it, Mr. Clemens, because you've never seen
"Why, that is true, now that I come to think; it certainly is true,
and it must be one of the reasons why I have forgotten your name.
But I remember it now perfectly--it's Mary."
She was amused again; amused beyond smiling; amused to a chuckle,
and she said:
"Oh no, it isn't; it's Margaret."
I feigned to be ashamed of my mistake and said:
"Ah, well, I couldn't have made that mistake a few years ago; but I
am old, and one of age's earliest infirmities is a damaged memory;
but I am clearer now--clearer-headed--it all comes back to me just
as if it were yesterday. It's Margaret Holcomb."
She was surprised into a laugh this time, the rippling laugh that a
happy brook makes when it breaks out of the shade into the sunshine,
and she said:
"Oh, you are wrong again; you don't get anything right. It isn't
Holcomb, it's Blackmer."
I was ashamed again, and confessed it; then:
"How old are you, dear?"
"Twelve; New-Year's. Twelve and a month."
We were close comrades-inseparables, in fact-for eight days. Every
day we made pedestrian excursions--called them that anyway, and
honestly they were intended for that, and that is what they would
have been but for the persistent intrusion of a gray and grave and
rough-coated donkey by the name of Maud. Maud was four feet long;
she was mounted on four slender little stilts, and had ears that
doubled her altitude when she stood them up straight. Her tender
was a little bit of a cart with seat room for two in it, and you
could fall out of it without knowing it, it was so close to the
ground. This battery was in command of a nice, grave, dignified,
gentlefaced little black boy whose age was about twelve, and whose
name, for some reason or other, was Reginald. Reginald and Maud--I
shall not easily forget those names, nor the combination they stood
for. The trips going and coming were five or six miles, and it
generally took us three hours to make it. This was because Maud set
the pace. Whenever she detected an ascending grade she respected
it; she stopped and said with her ears:
"This is getting unsatisfactory. We will camp here."
The whole idea of these excursions was that Margaret and I should
employ them for the gathering of strength, by walking, yet we were
oftener in the cart than out of it. She drove and I superintended.
In the course of the first excursions I found a beautiful little
shell on the beach at Spanish Point; its hinge was old and dry, and
the two halves came apart in my hand. I gave one of them to
Margaret and said:
"Now dear, sometime or other in the future I shall run across you
somewhere, and it may turn out that it is not you at all, but will
be some girl that only resembles you. I shall be saying to myself
'I know that this is a Margaret by the look of her, but I don't know
for sure whether this is my Margaret or somebody else's'; but, no
matter, I can soon find out, for I shall take my half shell out of
my pocket and say, 'I think you are my Margaret, but I am not
certain; if you are my Margaret you can produce the other half of
Next morning when I entered the breakfast-room and saw the child I
approached and scanned her searchingly all over, then said, sadly:
"No, I am mistaken; it looks like my Margaret,--but it isn't, and I
am so sorry. I shall go away and cry now."
Her eyes danced triumphantly, and she cried out:
"No, you don't have to. There!" and she fetched out the identifying
I was beside myself with gratitude and joyful surprise, and revealed
it from every pore. The child could not have enjoyed this thrilling
little drama more if we had been playing it on the stage. Many
times afterward she played the chief part herself, pretending to be
in doubt as to my identity and challenging me to produce my half of
the shell. She was always hoping to catch me without it, but I
always defeated that game--wherefore she came to recognize at last
that I was not only old, but very smart.
Sometimes, when they were not walking or driving, they sat on the
veranda, and he prepared history-lessons for little Margaret by making
grotesque figures on cards with numerous legs and arms and other
fantastic symbols end features to fix the length of some king's reign.
For William the Conqueror, for instance, who reigned twenty-one years, he
drew a figure of eleven legs and ten arms. It was the proper method of
impressing facts upon the mind of a child. It carried him back to those
days at Elmira when he had arranged for his own little girls the game of
kings. A Miss Wallace, a friend of Margaret's, and usually one of the
pedestrian party, has written a dainty book of those Bermudian days.
--[Mark Twain and the Happy Islands, by Elizabeth Wallace.]
Miss Wallace says:
Margaret felt for him the deep affection that children have for an
older person who understands them and treats them with respect. Mr.
Clemens never talked down to her, but considered her opinions with a
There were some pretty sequels to the shell incident. After Mark Twain
had returned to New York, and Margaret was there, she called one day with
her mother, and sent up her card. He sent back word, saying:
"I seem to remember the name; but if this is really the person whom
I think it is she can identify herself by a certain shell I once
gave her, of which I have the other half. If the two halves fit, I
shall know that this is the same little Margaret that I remember."
The message went down, and the other half of the shell was promptly sent
up. Mark Twain had the two half-shells incised firmly in gold, and one
of these he wore on his watch-fob, and sent the other to Margaret.
He afterward corresponded with Margaret, and once wrote her:
I'm already making mistakes. When I was in New York, six weeks ago,
I was on a corner of Fifth Avenue and I saw a small girl--not a big
one--start across from the opposite corner, and I exclaimed to
myself joyfully, "That is certainly my Margaret!" so I rushed to
meet her. But as she came nearer I began to doubt, and said to
myself, "It's a Margaret--that is plain enough--but I'm afraid it is
somebody else's." So when I was passing her I held my shell so she
couldn't help but see it. Dear, she only glanced at it and passed
on! I wondered if she could have overlooked it. It seemed best to
find out; so I turned and followed and caught up with her, and said,
deferentially; "Dear Miss, I already know your first name by the
look of you, but would you mind telling me your other one?" She was
vexed and said pretty sharply, "It's Douglas, if you're so anxious
to know. I know your name by your looks, and I'd advise you to shut
yourself up with your pen and ink and write some more rubbish. I am
surprised that they allow you to run' at large. You are likely to
get run over by a baby-carriage any time. Run along now and don't
let the cows bite you."
What an idea! There aren't any cows in Fifth Avenue. But I didn't
smile; I didn't let on to perceive how uncultured she was. She was
from the country, of course, and didn't know what a comical blunder.
she was making.
Mr. Rogers's health was very poor that winter, and Clemens urged him to
try Bermuda, and offered to go back with him; so they sailed away to the
summer island, and though Margaret was gone, there was other entertaining
company--other granddaughters to be adopted, and new friends and old
friends, and diversions of many sorts. Mr. Rogers's son-in-law, William
Evarts Benjamin, came down and joined the little group. It was one of
Mark Twain's real holidays. Mr. Rogers's health improved rapidly, and
Mark Twain was in fine trim. To Mrs. Rogers, at the end of the first
week, he wrote:
DEAR MRS. ROGERS, He is getting along splendidly! This was the very
place for him. He enjoys himself & is as quarrelsome as a cat.
But he will get a backset if Benjamin goes home. Benjamin is the
brightest man in these regions, & the best company. Bright? He is
much more than that, he is brilliant. He keeps the crowd intensely
With love & all good wishes.
S. L. C.
Mark Twain and Henry Rogers were much together and much observed. They
were often referred to as "the King" and "the Rajah," and it was always a
question whether it was "the King" who took care of "the Rajah," or vice
versa. There was generally a group to gather around them, and Clemens
was sure of an attentive audience, whether he wanted to air his
philosophies, his views of the human race, or to read aloud from the
verses of Kipling.
"I am not fond of all poetry," he would say; "but there's something in
Kipling that appeals to me. I guess he's just about my level."
Miss Wallace recalls certain Kipling readings in his room, when his
friends gathered to listen.
On those Kipling evenings the 'mise-en-scene' was a striking one.
The bare hotel room, the pine woodwork and pine furniture, loose
windows which rattled in the sea-wind. Once in a while a gust of
asthmatic music from the spiritless orchestra downstairs came up the
hallway. Yellow, unprotected gas-lights burned uncertainly, and
Mark Twain in the midst of this lay on his bed (there was no couch)
still in his white serge suit, with the light from the jet shining
down on the crown of his silver hair, making it gleam and glisten
like frosted threads.
In one hand he held his book, in the other he had his pipe, which he used
principally to gesture with in the most dramatic passages.
Margaret's small successors became the earliest members of the Angel Fish
Club, which Clemens concluded to organize after a visit to the
spectacular Bermuda aquarium. The pretty angel-fish suggested youth and
feminine beauty to him, and his adopted granddaughters became angel-fish
to him from that time forward. He bought little enamel angel-fish pins,
and carried a number of them with him most of the time, so that he could
create membership on short notice. It was just another of the harmless
and happy diversions of his gentler side. He was always fond of youth
and freshness. He regarded the decrepitude of old age as an unnecessary
part of life. Often he said:
"If I had been helping the Almighty when, He created man, I would have
had Him begin at the other end, and start human beings with old age. How
much better it would have been to start old and have all the bitterness
and blindness of age in the beginning! One would not mind then if he
were looking forward to a joyful youth. Think of the joyous prospect of
growing young instead of old! Think of looking forward to eighteen
instead of eighty! Yes, the Almighty made a poor job of it. I wish He
had invited my assistance."
To one of the angel fish he wrote, just after his return:
I miss you, dear. I miss Bermuda, too, but not so much as I miss
you; for you were rare, and occasional and select, and Ltd.; whereas
Bermuda's charms and, graciousnesses were free and common and
unrestricted--like the rain, you know, which falls upon the just and
the unjust alike; a thing which would not happen if I were
superintending the rain's affairs. No, I would rain softly and
sweetly upon the just, but whenever I caught a sample of the unjust
outdoors I would drown him.
VIEWS AND ADDRESSES
[As I am beginning this chapter, April 16, 1912, the news comes of
the loss, on her first trip, of the great White Star Line steamer
Titanic, with the destruction of many passengers, among whom are
Frank D. Millet, William T. Stead, Isadore Straus, John Jacob Astor,
and other distinguished men. They died as heroes, remaining with
the ship in order that the women and children might be saved.
It was the kind of death Frank Millet would have wished to die.
He was always a soldier--a knight. He has appeared from time to
time in these pages, for he was a dear friend of the Clemens
household. One of America's foremost painters; at the time of his
death he was head of the American Academy of Arts in Rome.]
Mark Twain made a number of addresses during the spring of 1908.
He spoke at the Cartoonists' dinner, very soon after his return from
Bermuda; he spoke at the Booksellers' banquet, expressing his debt of
obligation to those who had published and sold his books; he delivered a
fine address at the dinner given by the British Schools and University
Club at Delmonico's, May 25th, in honor of Queen Victoria's birthday.
In that speech he paid high tribute to the Queen for her attitude toward
America, during the crisis of the Civil Wax, and to her royal consort,
What she did for us in America in our time of storm and stress we
shall not forget, and whenever we call it to mind we shall always
gratefully remember the wise and righteous mind that guided her in
it and sustained and supported her--Prince Albert's. We need not
talk any idle talk here to-night about either possible or impossible
war between two countries; there will be no war while we remain sane
and the son of Victoria and Albert sits upon the throne. In
conclusion, I believe I may justly claim to utter the voice of my
country in saying that we hold him in deep honor, and also in
cordially wishing him a long life and a happy reign.
But perhaps his most impressive appearance was at the dedication of the
great City College (May 14, 1908), where President John Finley, who had
been struggling along with insufficient room, was to have space at last
for his freer and fuller educational undertakings. A great number of
honored scholars, statesmen, and diplomats assembled on the college
campus, a spacious open court surrounded by stately college architecture
of medieval design. These distinguished guests were clad in their
academic robes, and the procession could not have been widely different
from that one at Oxford of a year before. But there was something rather
fearsome about it, too. A kind of scaffolding had been reared in the
center of the campus for the ceremonies; and when those grave men in
their robes of state stood grouped upon it the picture was strikingly
suggestive of one of George Cruikshank's drawings of an execution scene
at the Tower of London. Many of the robes were black--these would be the
priests--and the few scarlet ones would be the cardinals who might have
assembled for some royal martyrdom. There was a bright May sunlight over
it all, one of those still, cool brightnesses which served to heighten
the weird effect. I am sure that others felt it besides myself, for
everybody seemed wordless and awed, even at times when there was no
occasion for silence. There was something of another age about the whole
setting, to say the least.
We left the place in a motor-car, a crowd of boys following after. As
Clemens got in they gathered around the car and gave the college yell,
ending with "Twain! Twain! Twain!" and added three cheers for Tom
Sawyer, Huck Finn, and Pudd'nhead Wilson. They called for a speech, but
he only said a few words in apology for not granting their request. He
made a speech to them that night at the Waldorf--where he proposed for
the City College a chair of citizenship, an idea which met with hearty
In the same address he referred to the "God Trust" motto on the coins,
and spoke approvingly of the President's order for its removal.
We do not trust in God, in the important matters of life, and not
even a minister of the Gospel will take any coin for a cent more
than its accepted value because of that motto. If cholera should
ever reach these shores we should probably pray to be delivered from
the plague, but we would put our main trust in the Board of Health.
Next morning, commenting on the report of this speech, he said:
"If only the reporters would not try to improve on what I say. They seem
to miss the fact that the very art of saying a thing effectively is in
its delicacy, and as they can't reproduce the manner and intonation in
type they make it emphatic and clumsy in trying to convey it to the
I pleaded that the reporters were often young men, eager, and unmellowed
in their sense of literary art.
"Yes," he agreed, "they are so afraid their readers won't see my good
points that they set up red flags to mark them and beat a gong. They
mean well, but I wish they wouldn't do it."
He referred to the portion of his speech concerning the motto on the
coins. He had freely expressed similar sentiments on other public
occasions, and he had received a letter criticizing him for saying that
we do not really trust in God in any financial matter.
"I wanted to answer it," he said; "but I destroyed it. It didn't seem
I asked how the motto had originated.
"About 1853 some idiot in Congress wanted to announce to the world that
this was a religious nation, and proposed putting it there, and no other
Congressman had courage enough to oppose it, of course. It took courage
in those days to do a thing like that; but I think the same thing would
"Still the country has become broader. It took a brave man before the
Civil War to confess he had read the 'Age of Reason'."
"So it did, and yet that seems a mild book now. I read it first when I
was a cub pilot, read it with fear and hesitation, but marveling at its
fearlessness and wonderful power. I read it again a year or two ago, for
some reason, and was amazed to see how tame it had become. It seemed
that Paine was apologizing everywhere for hurting the feelings of the
He drifted, naturally, into a discussion of the Knickerbocker Trust
Company's suspension, which had tied up some fifty-five thousand dollars
of his capital, and wondered how many were trusting in God for the return
of these imperiled sums. Clemens himself, at this time, did not expect
to come out whole from that disaster. He had said very little when the
news came, though it meant that his immediate fortunes were locked up,
and it came near stopping the building activities at Redding. It was
only the smaller things of life that irritated him. He often met large
calamities with a serenity which almost resembled indifference. In the
Knickerbocker situation he even found humor as time passed, and wrote a
number of gay letters, some of which found their way into print.
It should be added that in the end there was no loss to any of the
The building of the new home at Redding had been going steadily forward
for something more than a year. John Mead Howells had made the plans;
W. W. Sunderland and his son Philip, of Danbury, Connecticut, were the
builders, and in the absence of Miss Clemens, then on a concert tour,
Mark Twain's secretary, Miss I. V. Lyon, had superintended the
"Innocence at Home," as the place was originally named, was to be ready
for its occupant in June, with every detail in place, as he desired. He
had never visited Redding; he had scarcely even glanced at the plans or
discussed any of the decorations of the new home. He had required only
that there should be one great living-room for the orchestrelle, and
another big room for the billiard-table, with plenty of accommodations
for guests. He had required that the billiard-room be red, for something
in his nature answered to the warm luxury of that color, particularly in
moments of diversion. Besides, his other billiard-rooms had been red,
and such association may not be lightly disregarded. His one other
requirement was that the place should be complete.
"I don't want to see it," he said, "until the cat is purring on the
"He had grown so weary of change, and so indifferent to it, that he was
But it was rather, I think, that he was afraid of losing interest by
becoming wearied with details which were likely to exasperate him; also,
he wanted the dramatic surprise of walking into a home that had been
conjured into existence as with a word.
It was expected that the move would be made early in the month; but there
were delays, and it was not until the 18th of June that he took
The plan, at this time, was only to use the Redding place as a summer
residence, and the Fifth Avenue house was not dismantled. A few days
before the 18th the servants, with one exception, were taken up to the
new house, Clemens and myself remaining in the loneliness of No. 21,
attending to the letters in the morning and playing billiards the rest of
the time, waiting for the appointed day and train. It was really a
pleasant three days. He invented a new game, and we were riotous and
laughed as loudly as we pleased. I think he talked very little of the
new home which he was so soon to see. It was referred to no oftener than
once or twice a day, and then I believe only in connection with certain
of the billiard-room arrangements. I have wondered since what picture of
it he could have had in his mind, for he had never seen a photograph.
He had a general idea that it was built upon a hill, and that its
architecture was of the Italian villa order. I confess I had moments of
anxiety, for I had selected the land for him, and had been more or less
accessory otherwise. I did not really worry, for I knew how beautiful
and peaceful it all was; also something of his taste and needs.
It had been a dry spring, and country roads were dusty, so that those who
were responsible had been praying for rain, to be followed by a pleasant
day for his arrival. Both petitions were granted; June 18th would fall
on Thursday, and Monday night there came a good, thorough, and refreshing
shower that washed the vegetation clean and laid the dust. The morning
of the 18th was bright and sunny and cool. Clemens was up and shaved by
six o'clock in order to be in time, though the train did not leave until
four in the afternoon--an express newly timed to stop at Redding--its
first trip scheduled for the day of Mark Twain's arrival.
We were still playing billiards when word was brought up that the cab was
waiting. My daughter, Louise, whose school on Long Island had closed
that day, was with us. Clemens wore his white flannels and a Panama hat,
and at the station a group quickly collected, reporters and others, to
interview him and speed him to his new home. He was cordial and
talkative, and quite evidently full of pleasant anticipation. A reporter
or two and a special photographer came along, to be present at his
The new, quick train, the green, flying landscape, with glimpses of the
Sound and white sails, the hillsides and clear streams becoming rapidly
steeper and dearer as we turned northward: all seemed to gratify him, and
when he spoke at all it was approvingly. The hour and a half required to
cover the sixty miles of distance seemed very short. As the train slowed
down for the Redding station, he said:
"We'll leave this box of candy"--he had bought a large box on the way--
"those colored porters sometimes like candy, and we can get some more."
He drew out a great handful of silver.
"Give them something--give everybody liberally that does any service."
There was a sort of open-air reception in waiting. Redding had
recognized the occasion as historic. A varied assemblage of vehicles
festooned with flowers had gathered to offer a gallant country welcome.
It was now a little before six o'clock of that long June day, still and
dreamlike; and to the people assembled there may have been something
which was not quite reality in the scene. There was a tendency to be
very still. They nodded, waved their hands to him, smiled, and looked
their fill; but a spell lay upon them, and they did not cheer. It would
have been a pity if they had done so. A noise, and the illusion would
have been shattered.
His carriage led away on the three-mile drive to the house on the
hilltop, and the floral turnout fell in behind. No first impression of a
fair land could have come at a sweeter time. Hillsides were green,
fields were white with daisies, dog-wood and laurel shone among the
trees. And over all was the blue sky, and everywhere the fragrance of
He was very quiet as we drove along. Once with gentle humor, looking
over a white daisy field, he said:
"That is buckwheat. I always recognize buckwheat when I see it. I wish
I knew as much about other things as I know about buckwheat. It seems to
be very plentiful here; it even grows by the roadside." And a little
later: "This is the kind of a road I like; a good country road through
The water was flowing over the mill-dam where the road crosses the
Saugatuck, and he expressed approval of that clear, picturesque little
river, one of those charming Connecticut streams. A little farther on a
brook cascaded down the hillside, and he compared it with some of the
tiny streams of Switzerland, I believe the Giessbach. The lane that led
to the new home opened just above, and as he entered the leafy way he
said, "This is just the kind of a lane I like," thus completing his
acceptance of everything but the house and the location.
The last of the procession had dropped away at the entrance of the lane,
and he was alone with those who had most anxiety for his verdict. They
had not long to wait. As the carriage ascended higher to the open view
he looked away, across the Saugatuck Valley to the nestling village and
church-spire and farm-houses, and to the distant hills, and declared the
land to be a good land and beautiful--a spot to satisfy one's soul. Then
came the house--simple and severe in its architecture--an Italian villa,
such as he had known in Florence, adapted now to American climate and
needs. The scars of building had not all healed yet, but close to the
house waved green grass and blooming flowers that might have been there
always. Neither did the house itself look new. The soft, gray stucco
had taken on a tone that melted into the sky and foliage of its
background. At the entrance his domestic staff waited to greet him, and
then he stepped across the threshold into the wide hall and stood in his
own home for the first time in seventeen years. It was an anxious
moment, and no one spoke immediately. But presently his eye had taken in
the satisfying harmony of the place and followed on through the wide
doors that led to the dining-room--on through the open French windows to
an enchanting vista of tree-tops and distant farmside and blue hills. He
said, very gently:
"How beautiful it all is? I did not think it could be as beautiful as
He was taken through the rooms; the great living-room at one end of the
hall--a room on the walls of which there was no picture, but only color-
harmony--and at the other end of the hall, the splendid, glowing
billiard-room, where hung all the pictures in which he took delight.
Then to the floor above, with its spacious apartments and a continuation
of color--welcome and concord, the windows open to the pleasant evening
hills. When he had seen it all--the natural Italian garden below the
terraces; the loggia, whose arches framed landscape vistas and formed a
rare picture-gallery; when he had completed the round and stood in the
billiard-room--his especial domain--once more he said, as a final
"It is a perfect house--perfect, so far as I can see, in every detail.
It might have been here always."
He was at home there from that moment--absolutely, marvelously at home,
for he fitted the setting perfectly, and there was not a hitch or flaw in
his adaptation. To see him over the billiard-table, five minutes later,
one could easily fancy that Mark Twain, as well as the house, had "been
there always." Only the presence of his daughters was needed now to
complete his satisfaction in everything.
There were guests that first evening--a small home dinner-party--and so
perfect were the appointments and service, that one not knowing would
scarcely have imagined it to be the first dinner served in that lovely
room. A little later; at the foot of the garden of bay and cedar,
neighbors, inspired by Dan Beard, who had recently located near by, set
off some fireworks. Clemens stepped out on the terrace and saw rockets
climbing through the summer sky to announce his arrival.
"I wonder why they all go to so much trouble for me," he said, softly.
"I never go to any trouble for anybody"--a statement which all who heard
it, and all his multitude of readers in every land, stood ready to deny.
That first evening closed with billiards--boisterous, triumphant
billiards--and when with midnight the day ended and the cues were set in
the rack, there was none to say that Mark Twain's first day in his new
home had not been a happy one.
FIRST DAYS AT STORMFIELD
I went up next afternoon, for I knew how he dreaded loneliness. We
played billiards for a time, then set out for a walk, following the long
drive to the leafy lane that led to my own property. Presently he said:
"In one way I am sorry I did not see this place sooner. I never want to
leave it again. If I had known it was so beautiful I should have vacated
the house in town and moved up here permanently."
I suggested that he could still do so, if he chose, and he entered
immediately into the idea. By and by we turned down a deserted road,
grassy and beautiful, that ran along his land. At one side was a slope
facing the west, and dotted with the slender, cypress-like cedars of New
England. He had asked if that were part of his land, and on being told
it was he said:
"I would like Howells to have a house there. We must try to give that to
At the foot of the hill we came to a brook and followed it into a meadow.
I told him that I had often caught fine trout there, and that soon I
would bring in some for breakfast. He answered:
"Yes, I should like that. I don't care to catch them any more myself. I
like them very hot."
We passed through some woods and came out near my own ancient little
house. He noticed it and said:
"The man who built that had some memory of Greece in his mind when he put
on that little porch with those columns."
My second daughter, Frances, was coming from a distant school on the
evening train, and the carriage was starting just then to bring her. I
suggested that perhaps he would find it pleasant to make the drive.
"Yes," he agreed, "I should enjoy that."
So I took the reins, and he picked up little Joy, who came running out
just then, and climbed into the back seat. It was another beautiful
evening, and he was in a talkative humor. Joy pointed out a small turtle
in the road, and he said:
"That is a wild turtle. Do you think you could teach it arithmetic?"
Joy was uncertain.
"Well," he went on, "you ought to get an arithmetic--a little ten-cent
arithmetic--and teach that turtle."
We passed some swampy woods, rather dim and junglelike.
"Those," he said, "are elephant woods."
But Joy answered:
"They are fairy woods. The fairies are there, but you can't see them
because they wear magic cloaks."
He said: "I wish I had one of those magic cloaks, sometimes. I had one
once, but it is worn out now."
Joy looked at him reverently, as one who had once been the owner of a
piece of fairyland.
It was a sweet drive to and from the village. There are none too many
such evenings in a lifetime. Colonel Harvey's little daughter, Dorothy,
came up a day or two later, and with my daughter Louise spent the first
week with him in the new home. They were created "Angel-Fishes"--the
first in the new aquarium; that is to say, the billiard-room, where he
followed out the idea by hanging a row of colored prints of Bermuda
fishes in a sort of frieze around the walls. Each visiting member was
required to select one as her particular patron fish and he wrote her
name upon it. It was his delight to gather his juvenile guests in this
room and teach them the science of billiard angles; but it was so
difficult to resist taking the cue and making plays himself that he was
required to stand on a little platform and give instruction just out of
reach. His snowy flannels and gleaming white hair, against those rich
red walls, with those small, summer-clad players, made a pretty picture.
The place did not retain its original name. He declared that it would
always be "Innocence at Home" to the angel-fish visitors, but that the
title didn't remain continuously appropriate. The money which he had
derived from Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven had been used to build
the loggia wing, and he considered the name of "Stormfield" as a
substitute. When, presently, the summer storms gathered on that rock-
bound, open hill, with its wide reaches of vine and shrub-wild, fierce
storms that bent the birch and cedar, and strained at the bay and
huckleberry, with lightning and turbulent wind and thunder, followed by
the charging rain--the name seemed to become peculiarly appropriate.
Standing with his head bared to the tumult, his white hair tossing in the
blast, and looking out upon the wide splendor of the spectacle, he
rechristened the place, and "Stormfield" it became and remained.
The last day of Mark Twain's first week in Redding, June 25th, was
saddened by the news of the death of Grover Cleveland at his home in
Princeton, New Jersey. Clemens had always been an ardent Cleveland
admirer, and to Mrs. Cleveland now he sent this word of condolence--
Your husband was a man I knew and loved and honored for twenty-five
years. I mourn with you.
And once during the evening he said:
"He was one of our two or three real Presidents. There is none to take
THE ALDRICH MEMORIAL
At the end of June came the dedication at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, of
the Thomas Bailey Aldrich Memorial Museum, which the poet's wife had
established there in the old Aldrich homestead. It was hot weather.
We were obliged to take a rather poor train from South Norwalk, and
Clemens was silent and gloomy most of the way to Boston. Once there,
however, lodged in a cool and comfortable hotel, matters improved.
He had brought along for reading the old copy of Sir Thomas Malory's
Arthur Tales, and after dinner he took off his clothes and climbed into
bed and sat up and read aloud from those stately legends, with comments
that I wish I could remember now, only stopping at last when overpowered
We went on a special train to Portsmouth next morning through the summer
heat, and assembled, with those who were to speak, in the back portion of
the opera-house, behind the scenes: Clemens was genial and good-natured
with all the discomfort of it; and he liked to fancy, with Howells, who
had come over from Kittery Point, how Aldrich must be amused at the whole
circumstance if he could see them punishing themselves to do honor to his
memory. Richard Watson Gilder was there, and Hamilton Mabie; also
Governor Floyd of New Hampshire; Colonel Higginson, Robert Bridges, and
other distinguished men. We got to the more open atmosphere of the stage
presently, and the exercises began. Clemens was last on the program.
The others had all said handsome, serious things, and Clemens himself had
mentally prepared something of the sort; but when his turn came, and he
rose to speak, a sudden reaction must have set in, for he delivered an