HotFreeBooks.com
The Boys' Life of Mark Twain
by Albert Bigelow Paine
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

All day long the friends would tramp and walk together, and when they did not walk they would hire a diligence or any vehicle that came handy, but, whatever their means of travel the joy of comradeship amid those superb surroundings was the same.

In Twichell's letters home we get pleasant pictures of the Mark Twain of that day:

"Mark, to-day, was immensely absorbed in flowers. He scrambled around and gathered a great variety, and manifested the intensest pleasure in them . . . . Mark is splendid to walk with amid such grand scenery, for he talks so well about it, has such a power of strong, picturesque expression. I wish you might have heard him today. His vigorous speech nearly did justice to the things we saw."

And in another place:

"He can't bear to see the whip used, or to see a horse pull hard. To-day when the driver clucked up his horse and quickened his pace a little, Mark said, 'The fellow's got the notion that we were in a hurry.'"

Another extract refers to an incident which Mark Twain also mentions in "A Tramp Abroad:" [8]

"Mark is a queer fellow. There is nothing so delights him as a swift, strong stream. You can hardly get him to leave one when once he is in the influence of its fascinations. To throw in stones and sticks seems to afford him rapture."

Twichell goes on to tell how he threw some driftwood into a racing torrent and how Mark went running down-stream after it, waving and shouting in a sort of mad ecstasy.

When a piece went over a fall and emerged to view in the foam below, he would jump up and down and yell. He acted just like a boy.

Boy he was, then and always. Like Peter Pan, he never really grew up —that is, if growing up means to grow solemn and uninterested in play.

Climbing the Gorner Grat with Twichell, they sat down to rest, and a lamb from a near-by flock ventured toward them. Clemens held out his hand and called softly. The lamb ventured nearer, curious but timid.

It was a scene for a painter: the great American humorist on one side of the game, and the silly little creature on the other, with the Matterhorn for a background. Mark was reminded that the time he was consuming was valuable, but to no purpose. The Gorner Grat could wait. He held on with undiscouraged perseverance till he carried his point; the lamb finally put its nose in Mark's hand, and he was happy all the rest of the day.

"In A Tramp Abroad" Mark Twain burlesques most of the walking-tour with Harris (Twichell), feeling, perhaps, that he must make humor at whatever cost. But to-day the other side of the picture seems more worth while. That it seemed so to him, also, even at the time, we may gather from a letter he sent after Twichell when it was all over and Twichell was on his way home:

"DEAR OLD JOE,—It is actually all over! I was so low-spirited at the station yesterday, and this morning, when I woke, I couldn't seem to accept the dismal truth that you were really gone and the pleasant tramping and talking at an end. Ah, my boy! It has been such a rich holiday for me, and I feel under such deep and honest obligations to you for coming. I am putting out of my mind all memory of the time when I misbehaved toward you and hurt you; I am resolved to consider it forgiven, and to store up and remember only the charming hours of the journey and the times when I was not unworthy to be with you and share a companionship which to me stands first after Livy's."

Clemens had joined his family at Lausanne, and presently they journeyed down into Italy, returning later to Germany—to Munich, where they lived quietly with Fraulein Dahlweiner at No. 1a Karlstrasse, while he worked on his new book of travel. When spring came they went to Paris, and later to London, where the usual round of entertainment briefly claimed them. It was the 3d of September, 1879, when they finally reached New York. The papers said that Mark Twain had changed in his year and a half of absence. He had, somehow, taken on a traveled look. One paper remarked that he looked older than when he went to Germany, and that his hair had turned quite gray.

[8] Chapter XXXIII.



XL.

"THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER"

They went directly to Quarry Farm, where Clemens again took up work on his book, which he hoped to have ready for early publication. But his writing did not go as well as he had hoped, and it was long after they had returned to Hartford that the book was finally in the printer's hands.

Meantime he had renewed work on a story begun two years before at Quarry Farm. Browsing among the books there one summer day, he happened to pick up "The Prince and the Page," by Charlotte M. Yonge. It was a story of a prince disguised as a blind beggar, and, as Mark Twain read, an idea came to him for an altogether different story, or play, of his own. He would have a prince and a pauper change places, and through a series of adventures learn each the trials and burdens of the other life. He presently gave up the play idea, and began it as a story. His first intention had been to make the story quite modern, using the late King Edward VII. (then Prince of Wales) as his prince, but it seemed to him that it would not do to lose a prince among the slums of modern London —he could not make it seem real; so he followed back through history until he came to the little son of Henry VIII., Edward Tudor, and decided that he would do.

It was the kind of a story that Mark Twain loved to read and to write. By the end of that first summer he had finished a good portion of the exciting adventures of "The Prince and the Pauper," and then, as was likely to happen, the inspiration waned and the manuscript was laid aside.

But with the completion of "A Tramp Abroad"—a task which had grown wearisome—he turned to the luxury of romance with a glad heart. To Howells he wrote that he was taking so much pleasure in the writing that he wanted to make it last.

"Did I ever tell you the plot of it? It begins at 9 A.M., January 27, 1547 . . . . My idea is to afford a realizing sense of the exceeding severity of the laws of that day by inflicting some of their penalties upon the king himself, and allowing him a chance to see the rest of them applied to others."

Susy and Clara Clemens were old enough now to understand the story, and as he finished the chapters he read them aloud to his small home audience—a most valuable audience, indeed, for he could judge from its eager interest, or lack of attention, just the measure of his success.

These little creatures knew all about the writing of books. Susy's earliest recollection was "Tom Sawyer" read aloud from the manuscript. Also they knew about plays. They could not remember a time when they did not take part in evening charades—a favorite amusement in the Clemens home.

Mark Twain, who always loved his home and played with his children, invented the charades and their parts for them, at first, but as they grew older they did not need much help. With the Twichell and Warner children they organized a little company for their productions, and entertained the assembled households. They did not make any preparation for their parts. A word was selected and the syllables of it whispered to the little actors. Then they withdrew to the hall, where all sorts of costumes had been laid out for the evening, dressed their parts, and each group marched into the library, performed its syllable, and retired, leaving the audience of parents to guess the answer. Now and then, even at this early day, they gave little plays, and of course Mark Twain could not resist joining them. In time the plays took the place of the charades and became quite elaborate, with a stage and scenery, but we shall hear of this later on.

"The Prince and the Pauper" came to an end in due season, in spite of the wish of both author and audience for it to go on forever. It was not published at once, for several reasons, the main one being that "A Tramp Abroad" had just been issued from the press, and a second book might interfere with its sale.

As it was, the "Tramp" proved a successful book—never as successful as the "Innocents," for neither its humor nor its description had quite the fresh quality of the earlier work. In the beginning, however, the sales were large, the advance orders amounting to twenty-five thousand copies, and the return to the author forty thousand dollars for the first year.



XLI.

GENERAL GRANT AT HARTFORD

A third little girl came to the Clemens household during the summer of 1880. They were then at Quarry Farm, and Clemens wrote to his friend Twichell:

"DEAR OLD JOE,—Concerning Jean Clemens, if anybody said he 'didn't see no p'ints about that frog that's any better than any other frog,' I should think he was convicting himself of being a pretty poor sort of an observer. . . It is curious to note the change in the stock-quotations of the Affection Board. Four weeks ago the children put Mama at the head of the list right along, where she has always been, but now:

Jean Mama Motley }cat Fraulein }cat Papa

"That is the way it stands now. Mama is become No. 2; I have dropped from 4 and become No. 5. Some time ago it used to be nip and tuck between me and the cats, but after the cats 'developed' I didn't stand any more show."

Those were happy days at Quarry Farm. The little new baby thrived on that summer hilltop.

Also, it may be said, the cats. Mark Twain's children had inherited his love for cats, and at the farm were always cats of all ages and varieties. Many of the bed-time stories were about these pets—stories invented by Mark Twain as he went along—stories that began anywhere and ended nowhere, and continued indefinitely from evening to evening, trailing off into dreamland.

The great humorist cared less for dogs, though he was never unkind to them, and once at the farm a gentle hound named Bones won his affection. When the end of the summer came and Clemens, as was his habit, started down the drive ahead of the carriage, Bones, half-way to the entrance, was waiting for him. Clemens stooped down, put his arms about him, and bade him an affectionate good-by.

Eighteen hundred and eighty was a Presidential year. Mark Twain was for General Garfield, and made a number of remarkable speeches in his favor. General Grant came to Hartford during the campaign, and Mark Twain was chosen to make the address of welcome. Perhaps no such address of welcome was ever made before. He began:

"I am among those deputed to welcome you to the sincere and cordial hospitalities of Hartford, the city of the historic and revered Charter Oak, of which most of the town is built."

He seemed to be at a loss what to say next, and, leaning over, pretended to whisper to Grant. Then, as if he had been prompted by the great soldier, he straightened up and poured out a fervid eulogy on Grant's victories, adding, in an aside, as he finished, "I nearly forgot that part of my speech," to the roaring delight of his hearers, while Grant himself grimly smiled.

He then spoke of the General being now out of public employment, and how grateful his country was to him, and how it stood ready to reward him in every conceivable—inexpensive—way.

Grant had smiled more than once during the speech, and when this sentence came out at the end his composure broke up altogether, while the throng shouted approval. Clemens made another speech that night at the opera-house—a speech long remembered in Hartford as one of the great efforts of his life.

A very warm friendship had grown up between Mark Twain and General Grant. A year earlier, on the famous soldier's return from his trip around the world, a great birthday banquet had been given him in Chicago, at which Mark Twain's speech had been the event of the evening. The colonel who long before had chased the young pilot-soldier through the Mississippi bottoms had become his conquering hero, and Grant's admiration for America's foremost humorist was most hearty. Now and again Clemens urged General Grant to write his memoirs for publication, but the hero of many battles was afraid to venture into the field of letters. He had no confidence in his ability to write. He did not realize that the man who had written "I will fight it out on this line if it takes all summer," and, later, "Let us have peace," was capable of English as terse and forceful as the Latin of Caesar's Commentaries.



XLII

MANY INVESTMENTS

The "Prince and the Pauper," delayed for one reason and another, did not make its public appearance until the end of 1881. It was issued by Osgood, of Boston, and was a different book in every way from any that Mark Twain had published before. Mrs. Clemens, who loved the story, had insisted that no expense should be spared in its making, and it was, indeed, a handsome volume. It was filled with beautiful pen-and-ink drawings, and the binding was rich. The dedication to its two earliest critics read:

"To those good-mannered and agreeable children, Susy and Clara Clemens."

The story itself was unlike anything in Mark Twain's former work. It was pure romance, a beautiful, idyllic tale, though not without his touch of humor and humanity on every page. And how breathlessly interesting it is! We may imagine that first little audience—the "two good-mannered and agreeable children," drawing up in their little chairs by the fireside, hanging on every paragraph of the adventures of the wandering prince and Tom Canty, the pauper king, eager always for more.

The story, at first, was not entirely understood by the reviewers. They did not believe it could be serious. They expected a joke in it somewhere. Some even thought they had found it. But it was not a joke, it was just a simple tale—a beautiful picture of a long-vanished time. One critic, wiser than the rest, said:

"The characters of those two boys, twin in spirit, will rank with the purest and loveliest creations of child-life in the realm of fiction."

Mark Twain was now approaching the fullness of his fame and prosperity. The income from his writing was large; Mrs. Clemens possessed a considerable fortune of her own; they had no debts. Their home was as perfectly appointed as a home could well be, their family life was ideal. They lived in the large, hospitable way which Mrs. Clemens had known in her youth, and which her husband, with his Southern temperament, loved. Their friends were of the world's chosen, and they were legion in number. There were always guests in the Clemens home—so many, indeed, were constantly coming and going that Mark Twain said he was going to set up a private 'bus to save carriage hire. Yet he loved it all dearly, and for the most part realized his happiness.

Unfortunately, there were moments when he forgot that his lot was satisfactory, and tried to improve it. His Colonel Sellers imagination, inherited from both sides of his family, led him into financial adventures which were generally unprofitable. There were no silver-mines in the East into which to empty money and effort, as in the old Nevada days, but there were plenty of other things—inventions, stock companies, and the like.

When a man came along with a patent steam-generator which would save ninety per cent. of the usual coal-supply, Mark Twain invested whatever bank surplus he had at the moment, and saw that money no more forever.

After the steam-generator came a steam-pulley, a small affair, but powerful enough to relieve him of thirty-two thousand dollars in a brief time.

A new method of marine telegraphy was offered him by the time his balance had grown again, a promising contrivance, but it failed to return the twenty-five thousand dollars invested in it by Mark Twain. The list of such adventures is too long to set down here. They differ somewhat, but there is one feature common to all—none of them paid. At last came a chance in which there was really a fortune. A certain Alexander Graham Bell, an inventor, one day appeared, offering stock in an invention for carrying the human voice on an electric wire. But Mark Twain had grown wise, he thought. Long after he wrote:

"I declined. I said I did not want any more to do with wildcat speculation .... I said I didn't want it at any price. He (Bell) became eager; and insisted I take five hundred dollars' worth. He said he would sell me as much as I wanted for five hundred dollars; offered to let me gather it up in my hands and measure it in a plug- hat; said I could have a whole hatful for five hundred dollars. But I was a burnt child, and resisted all these temptations—resisted them easily; went off with my money, and next day lent five thousand of it to a friend who was going to go bankrupt three days later."

It was the chance of fortune thus thrown away which, perhaps, led him to take up later with an engraving process—an adventure which lasted through several years and ate up a heavy sum. Altogether, these experiences in finance cost Mark Twain a fair-sized fortune, though, after all, they were as nothing compared with the great type-machine calamity which we shall hear of in a later chapter.



XLIII

BACK TO THE RIVER, WITH BIXBY

Fortunately, Mark Twain was not greatly upset by his losses. They exasperated him for the moment, perhaps, but his violence waned presently, and the whole matter was put aside forever. His work went on with slight interference. Looking over his Mississippi chapters one day, he was taken with a new interest in the river, and decided to make the steamboat trip between St. Louis and New Orleans, to report the changes that had taken place in his twenty-one years of absence. His Boston publisher, Osgood, agreed to accompany him, and a stenographer was engaged to take down conversations and comments.

At St. Louis they took passage on the steamer "Gold Dust"—Clemens under an assumed name, though he was promptly identified. In his book he tells how the pilot recognized him and how they became friends. Once, in later years, he said:

"I spent most of my time up there with him. When we got down below Cairo, where there was a big, full river—for it was high-water season and there was no danger of the boat hitting anything so long as she kept in the river—I had her most of the time on his watch. He would lie down and sleep and leave me there to dream that the years had not slipped away; that there had been no war, no mining days, no literary adventures; that I was still a pilot, happy and care-free as I had been twenty years before."

To heighten the illusion he had himself called regularly with the four-o'clock watch, in order not to miss the mornings. The points along the river were nearly all new to him, everything had changed, but during high-water this mattered little. He was a pilot again—a young fellow in his twenties, speculating on the problems of existence and reading his fortunes in the stars. The river had lost none of its charm for him. To Bixby he wrote:

"I'd rather be a pilot than anything else I've ever been in my life. How do you run Plum Point?"

He met Bixby at New Orleans. Bixby was a captain now, on the splendid new Anchor Line steamer "City of Baton Rouge," one of the last of the fine river boats. Clemens made the return trip to St. Louis with Bixby on the "Baton Rouge"—almost exactly twenty-five years from their first trip together. To Bixby it seemed wonderfully like those old days back in the fifties.

"Sam was making notes in his memorandum-book, just as he always did," said Bixby, long after, to the writer of this history.

Mark Twain decided to see the river above St. Louis. He went to Hannibal to spend a few days with old friends. "Delightful days," he wrote home, "loitering around all day long, and talking with grayheads who were boys and girls with me thirty or forty years ago." He took boat for St. Paul and saw the upper river, which he had never seen before. He thought the scenery beautiful, but he found a sadness everywhere because of the decay of the river trade. In a note-book entry he said: "The romance of boating is gone now. In Hannibal the steamboatman is no longer a god."

He worked at the Mississippi book that summer at the farm, but did not get on very well, and it was not until the following year (1883) that it came from the press. Osgood published it, and Charles L. Webster, who had married Mark Twain's niece, Annie (daughter of his sister Pamela), looked after the agency sales. Mark Twain, in fact, was preparing to become his own publisher, and this was the beginning. Webster was a man of ability, and the book sold well.

"Life on the Mississippi" is one of Mark Twain's best books—one of those which will live longest. The first twenty chapters are not excelled in quality anywhere in his writings. The remainder of the book has an interest of its own, but it lacks the charm of those memories of his youth—the mellow light of other days which enhances all of his better work.



XLIV.

A READING-TOUR WITH CABLE

Every little while Mark Twain had a fever of play-writing, and it was about this time that he collaborated with W. D. Howells on a second Colonel Sellers play. It was a lively combination.

Once to the writer Howells said: "Clemens took one scene and I another. We had loads of fun about it. We cracked our sides laughing over it as we went along. We thought it mighty good, and I think to this day it was mighty good."

But actors and managers did not agree with them. Raymond, who had played the original Sellers, declared that in this play the Colonel had not become merely a visionary, but a lunatic. The play was offered elsewhere, and finally Mark Twain produced it at his own expense. But perhaps the public agreed with Raymond, for the venture did not pay.

It was about a year after this (the winter of 1884-5) that Mark Twain went back to the lecture platform—or rather, he joined with George W. Cable in a reading-tour. Cable had been giving readings on his own account from his wonderful Creole stories, and had visited Mark Twain in Hartford. While there he had been taken down with the mumps, and it was during his convalescence that the plan for a combined reading-tour had been made. This was early in the year, and the tour was to begin in the autumn.

Cable, meantime, having quite recovered, conceived a plan to repay Mark Twain's hospitality. It was to be an April-fool—a great complimentary joke. A few days before the first of the month he had a "private and confidential" circular letter printed, and mailed it to one hundred and fifty of Mark Twain's friends and admirers in Boston, New York, and elsewhere, asking that they send the humorist a letter to arrive April 1, requesting his autograph. It would seem that each one receiving this letter must have responded to it, for on the morning of April 1st an immense pile of letters was unloaded on Mark Twain's table. He did not know what to make of it, and Mrs. Clemens, who was party to the joke, slyly watched results. They were the most absurd requests for autographs ever written. He was fooled and mystified at first, then realizing the nature and magnitude of the joke, he entered into it fully-delighted, of course, for it was really a fine compliment. Some of the letters asked for autographs by the yard, some by the pound. Some commanded him to sit down and copy a few chapters from "The Innocents Abroad." Others asked that his autograph be attached to a check. John Hay requested that he copy a hymn, a few hundred lines of Young's "Night Thoughts," etc., and added:

"I want my boy to form a taste for serious and elevated poetry, and it will add considerable commercial value to have it in your handwriting."

Altogether, the reading of the letters gave Mark Twain a delightful day.

The platform tour of Clemens and Cable that fall was a success. They had good houses, and the work of these two favorites read by the authors of it made a fascinating program.

They continued their tour westward as far as Chicago and gave readings in Hannibal and Keokuk. Orion Clemens and his wife once more lived in Keokuk, and with them Jane Clemens, brisk and active for her eighty-one years. She had visited Hartford more than once and enjoyed "Sam's fine house," but she chose the West for home. Orion Clemens, honest, earnest, and industrious, had somehow missed success in life. The more prosperous brother, however, made an allowance ample for all. Mark Twain's mother attended the Keokuk reading. Later, at home, when her children asked her if she could still dance (she had been a great dancer in her youth), she rose, and in spite of her fourscore, tripped as lightly as a girl. It was the last time that Mark Twain would see her in full health.

At Christmas-time Cable and Clemens took a fortnight's holiday, and Clemens went home to Hartford. There a grand surprise awaited him. Mrs. Clemens had made an adaptation of "The Prince and the Pauper" for the stage, and his children, with those of the neighborhood, had learned the parts. A good stage had been set up in George Warner's home, with a pretty drop-curtain and very good scenery indeed. Clemens arrived in the late afternoon, and felt an air of mystery in the house, but did not guess what it meant. By and by he was led across the grounds to George Warner's home, into a large room, and placed in a seat directly fronting the stage. Then presently the curtain went up, the play began, and he knew. As he watched the little performers playing so eagerly the parts of his story, he was deeply moved and gratified.

It was only the beginning of "The Prince and the Pauper" production. The play was soon repeated, Clemens himself taking the part of Miles Hendon. In a "biography" of her father which Susy began a little later, she wrote:

"Papa had only three days to learn the part in, but still we were all sure he could do it . . . . I was the prince, and Papa and I rehearsed two or three times a day for the three days before the appointed evening. Papa acted his part beautifully, and he added to the scene, making it a good deal longer. He was inexpressibly funny, with his great slouch hat and gait—oh, such a gait!"

Susy's sister, Clara, took the part of Lady Jane Gray, while little Jean, aged four, in the part of a court official, sat at a small table and constantly signed state papers and death-warrants.



XLV.

"THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN"

Meantime, Mark Twain had really become a publisher. His nephew by marriage, Charles L. Webster, who, with Osgood, had handled the "Mississippi" book, was now established under the firm name of Charles L. Webster & Co., Samuel L. Clemens being the company. Clemens had another book ready, and the new firm were to handle it throughout.

The new book was a story which Mark Twain had begun one day at Quarry Farm, nearly eight years before. It was to be a continuation of the adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, especially of the latter as told by himself. But the author had no great opinion of the tale and presently laid it aside. Then some seven years later, after his trip down the river, he felt again the inspiration of the old days, and the story of Huck's adventures had been continued and brought to a close. The author believed in it by this time, and the firm of Webster & Co. was really formed for the purpose of publishing it.

Mark Twain took an active interest in the process. From the pages of "Life" he selected an artist—a young man named E. W. Kemble, who would later become one of our foremost illustrators of Southern character. He also gave attention to the selection of the paper and the binding—even to the method of canvassing for the sales. In a note to Webster, he wrote:

"Get at your canvassing early and drive it with all your might . . . . If we haven't 40,000 subscriptions we simply postpone publication till we've got them."

Mark Twain was making himself believe that he was a business man, and in this instance, at least, he seems to have made no mistake. Some advanced chapters of "Huck" appeared serially in the "Century Magazine," and the public was eager for more. By the time the "Century" chapters were finished the forty thousand advance subscriptions for the book had been taken, and Huck Finn's own story, so long pushed aside and delayed, came grandly into its own. Many grown-up readers and most critics declared that it was greater than the "Tom Sawyer" book, though the younger readers generally like the first book the best, it being rather more in the juvenile vein. Huck's story, in fact, was soon causing quite grown-up discussions—discussions as to its psychology and moral phases, matters which do not interest small people, who are always on Huck's side in everything, and quite willing that he should take any risk of body or soul for the sake of Nigger Jim. Poor, vagrant Ben Blankenship, hiding his runaway negro in an Illinois swamp, could not dream that his humanity would one day supply the moral episode for an immortal book!

As literature, the story of "Huck Finn" holds a higher place than that of "Tom Sawyer." As stories, they stand side by side, neither complete without the other, and both certain to live as long as there are real boys and girls to read them.



XLVI.

PUBLISHER TO GENERAL GRANT

Mark Twain was now a successful publisher, but his success thus far was nothing to what lay just ahead. One evening he learned that General Grant, after heavy financial disaster, had begun writing the memoirs which he (Clemens) had urged him to undertake some years before. Next morning he called on the General to learn the particulars. Grant had contributed some articles to the "Century" war series, and felt in a mood to continue the work. He had discussed with the "Century" publishers the matter of a book. Clemens suggested that such a book should be sold only by subscription and prophesied its enormous success. General Grant was less sure. His need of money was very great and he was anxious to get as much return as possible, but his faith was not large. He was inclined to make no special efforts in the matter of publication. But Mark Twain prevailed. Like his own Colonel Sellers, he talked glowingly and eloquently of millions. He first offered to direct the general to his own former subscription publisher, at Hartford, then finally proposed to publish it himself, offering Grant seventy per cent. of the net returns, and to pay all office expenses out of his own share.

Of course there could be nothing for any publisher in such an arrangement unless the sales were enormous. General Grant realized this, and at first refused to consent. Here was a friend offering to bankrupt himself out of pure philanthropy, a thing he could not permit. But Mark Twain came again and again, and finally persuaded him that purely as business proposition the offer was warranted by the certainty of great sales.

So the firm of Charles L. Webster & Co. undertook the Grant book, and the old soldier, broken in health and fortune, was liberally provided with means that would enable him to finish his task with his mind at peace. He devoted himself steadily to the work—at first writing by hand, then dictating to a stenographer that Webster & Co. provided. His disease, cancer, made fierce ravages, but he "fought it out on that line," and wrote the last pages of his memoirs by hand when he could no longer speak aloud. Mark Twain was much with him, and cheered him with anecdotes and news of the advance sale of his book. In one of his memoranda of that time Clemens wrote:

"To-day (May 26) talked with General Grant about his and my first great Missouri campaign, in 1861. He surprised an empty camp near Florida, Missouri, on Salt River, which I had been occupying a day or two before. How near he came to playing the d— with his future publisher."

At Mount McGregor, a few weeks before the end, General Grant asked if any estimate could now be made of the sum which his family would obtain from his work, and was deeply comforted by Clemens's prompt reply that more than one hundred thousand sets had already been sold, the author's share of which would exceed one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Clemens added that the gross return would probably be twice as much more.

The last notes came from Grant's hands soon after that, and a few days later, July 23, 1885, his task completed, he died. To Henry Ward Beecher Clemens wrote:

"One day he put his pencil aside and said there was nothing more to do. If I had been there I could have foretold the shock that struck the world three days later."

In a memorandum estimate made by Mark Twain soon after the canvass for the Grant memoirs had begun, he had prophesied that three hundred thousand sets of the book would be sold, and that he would pay General Grant in royalties $420,000. This prophecy was more than fulfilled. The first check paid to Mrs. Grant—the largest single royalty check in history—was for $200,000. Later payments brought her royalty return up to nearly $450.000. For once, at least, Mark Twain's business vision had been clear. A fortune had been realized for the Grant family. Even his own share was considerable, for out of that great sale more than a hundred thousand dollars' profit was realized by Webster & Co.



XLVII

THE HIGH-TIDE OF FORTUNE

That summer at Quarry Farm was one of the happiest they had ever known. Mark Twain, nearing fifty, was in the fullness of his manhood and in the brightest hour of his fortune. Susy, in her childish "biography," begun at this time, gives us a picture of him. She begins:

"We are a happy family! We consist of Papa, Mama, Jean, Clara, and me. It is Papa I am writing about, and I shall have no trouble in not knowing what to say about him, as he is a very striking character. Papa's appearance has been described many times, but very incorrectly; he has beautiful, curly, gray hair, not any too thick or any too long, just right; a Roman nose, which greatly improves the beauty of his features, kind blue eyes, and a small mustache; he has a wonderfully shaped head and profile; he has a very good figure—in short, is an extraordinarily fine-looking man."

"He is a very good man, and a very funny one; he has got a temper, but we all have in this family. He is the loveliest man I ever saw, or ever hope to see, and oh, so absent-minded!"

We may believe this is a true picture of Mark Twain at fifty. He did not look young for his years, but he was still young in spirit and body. Susy tells how he blew bubbles for the children, filling them with tobacco smoke. Also, how he would play with the cats and come clear down from his study to see how a certain kitten was getting along.

Susy adds that "there are eleven cats at the farm now," and tells of the day's occupations, but the description is too long to quote. It reveals a beautiful, busy life.

Susy herself was a gentle, thoughtful, romantic child. One afternoon she discovered a wonderful tangle of vines and bushes, a still, shut-in corner not far from the study. She ran breathlessly to her aunt.

"Can I have it—can Clara and I have it all for our own?"

The petition was granted and the place was called Helen's Bower, for they were reading "Thaddeus of Warsaw", and the name appealed to Susy's poetic fancy. Something happened to the "bower"—an unromantic workman mowed it down—but by this time there was a little house there which Mrs. Clemens had built, just for the children. It was a complete little cottage, when furnished. There was a porch in front, with comfortable chairs. Inside were also chairs, a table, dishes, shelves, a broom, even a stove—small, but practical. They called the little house "Ellerslie," out of Grace Aguilar's "Days of Robert Bruce." There alone, or with their Langdon cousins, how many happy summers they played and dreamed away. Secluded by a hillside and happy trees, overlooking the hazy, distant town, it was a world apart—a corner of story-book land. When the end of the summer came its little owners went about bidding their treasures good-by, closing and kissing the gates of Ellerslie.

Looking back now, Mark Twain at fifty would seem to have been in his golden prime. His family was ideal—his surroundings idyllic. Favored by fortune, beloved by millions, honored now even in the highest places, what more had life to give? When November 30th brought his birthday, one of the great Brahmins, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, wrote him a beautiful poem. Andrew Lang, England's foremost critic, also sent verses, while letters poured in from all sides.

And Mark Twain realized his fortune and was disturbed by it. To a friend he said: "I am frightened at the proportions of my prosperity. It seems to me that whatever I touch turns to gold."



XLVIII.

BUSINESS DIFFICULTIES. PLEASANTER THINGS

For the time it would seem that Mark Twain had given up authorship for business. The success of the Grant book had filled his head with plans for others of a like nature. The memoirs of General McClellan and General Sheridan were arranged for. Almost any war-book was considered a good venture. And there was another plan afoot. Pope Leo XIII., in his old age, had given sanction to the preparation of his memoirs, and it was to be published, with his blessing, by Webster & Co., of Hartford. It was generally believed that such a book would have a tremendous sale, and Colonel Sellers himself could not have piled the figures higher than did his creator in counting his prospective returns. Every Catholic in the world must have a copy of the Pope's book, and in America alone there were millions. Webster went to Rome to consult with the Pope in person, and was received in private audience. Mark Twain's publishing firm seemed on the top wave of success.

The McClellan and Sheridan books were issued, and, in due time, the Life of Pope Leo XIII.—published simultaneously in six languages—issued from the press. A large advance sale had been guaranteed by the general canvassing agents—a fortunate thing, as it proved. For, strange as it may seem, the book did not prove a great success. It is hard to explain just why. Perhaps Catholics felt that there had been so many popes that the life of any particular one was no great matter. The book paid, but not largely. The McClellan and Sheridan books, likewise, were only partially successful. Perhaps the public was getting tired of war memoirs. Webster & Co. undertook books of a general sort—travel, fiction, poetry. Many of them did not pay. Their business from a march of triumph had become a battle. They undertook a "Library of American Literature," a work of many volumes, costly to make and even more so to sell. To float this venture they were obliged to borrow large sums.

It seems unfortunate that Mark Twain should have been disturbed by these distracting things during what should have been his literary high-tide. As it was, his business interests and cares absorbed the energy that might otherwise have gone into books. He was not entirely idle. He did an occasional magazine article or story, and he began a book which he worked at from time to time the story of a Connecticut Yankee who suddenly finds himself back in the days of King Arthur's reign. Webster was eager to publish another book by his great literary partner, but the work on it went slowly. Then Webster broke down from two years of overwork, and the business management fell into other hands. Though still recognized as a great publishing-house, those within the firm of Charles L. Webster & Co. knew that its prospects were not bright.

Furthermore, Mark Twain had finally invested in another patent, the type-setting machine mentioned in a former chapter, and the demands for cash to promote this venture were heavy. To his sister Pamela, about the end of 1887, he wrote: "The type-setter goes on forever at $3,000 a month.... We'll be through with it in three or four months, I reckon" —a false hope, for the three or four months would lengthen into as many years.

But if there were clouds gathering in the business sky, they were not often allowed to cast a shadow in Mark Twain's home. The beautiful house in Hartford was a place of welcome and merriment, of many guests and of happy children. Especially of happy children: during these years—the latter half of the 'eighties—when Mark Twain's fortunes were on the decline, his children were at the age to have a good time, and certainly they had it. The dramatic stage which had been first set up at George Warner's for the Christmas "Prince and Pauper" performance was brought over and set up in the Clemens schoolroom, and every Saturday there were plays or rehearsals, and every little while there would be a grand general performance in the great library downstairs, which would accommodate just eighty-four chairs, filled by parents of the performers and invited guests. In notes dictated many years later, Mark Twain said:

"We dined as we could, probably with a neighbor, and by quarter to eight in the evening the hickory fire in the hall was pouring a sheet of flame up the chimney, the house was in a drench of gas- light from the ground floor up, the guests were arriving, and there was a babble of hearty greetings, with not a voice in it that was not old and familiar and affectionate; and when the curtain went up, we looked out from the stage upon none but faces dear to us, none but faces that were lit up with welcome for us."

He was one of the children himself, you see, and therefore on the stage with the others. Katy Leary, for thirty years in the family service, once said to the author: "The children were crazy about acting, and we all enjoyed it as much as they did, especially Mr. Clemens, who was the best actor of all. I have never known a happier household than theirs was during those years."

The plays were not all given by the children. Mark Twain had kept up his German study, and a class met regularly in his home to struggle with the problems of der, die, and das. By and by he wrote a play for the class, "Meisterschaft," a picturesque mixture of German and English, which they gave twice, with great success. It was unlike anything attempted before or since. No one but Mark Twain could have written it. Later (January, 1888), in modified form, it was published in the "Century Magazine." It is his best work of this period.

Many pleasant and amusing things could be recalled from these days if one only had room. A visit with Robert Louis Stevenson was one of them. Stevenson was stopping at a small hotel near Washington Square, and he and Clemens sat on a bench in the sunshine and talked through at least one golden afternoon. What marvelous talk that must have been! "Huck Finn" was one of Stevenson's favorites, and once he told how he had insisted on reading the book aloud to an artist who was painting his portrait. The painter had protested at first, but presently had fallen a complete victim to Huck's story. Once, in a letter, Stevenson wrote:

"My father, an old man, has been prevailed upon to read 'Roughing It' (his usual amusement being found in theology), and after one evening spent with the book he declared: 'I am frightened. It cannot be safe for a man at my time of life to laugh so much.'"

Mark Twain had been a "mugwump" during the Blame-Cleveland campaign in 1880, which means that he had supported the independent Democratic candidate, Grover Cleveland. He was, therefore, in high favor at the White House during both Cleveland administrations, and called there informally whenever business took him to Washington. But on one occasion (it was his first visit after the President's marriage) there was to be a party, and Mrs. Clemens, who could not attend, slipped a little note into the pocket of his evening waistcoat, where he would be sure to find it when dressing, warning him as to his deportment. Being presented to young Mrs. Cleveland, he handed her a card on which he had written, "He didn't," and asked her to sign her name below those words. Mrs. Cleveland protested that she must know first what it was that he hadn't done, finally agreeing to sign if he would tell her immediately all about it, which he promised to do. She signed, and he handed her Mrs. Clemens's note. It was very brief. It said, "Don't wear your arctics in the White House."

Mrs. Cleveland summoned a messenger and had the card mailed immediately to Mrs. Clemens.

Absent-mindedness was characteristic of Mark Twain. He lived so much in the world within that to him the material outer world was often vague and shadowy. Once when he was knocking the balls about in the billiard-room, George, the colored butler, a favorite and privileged household character, brought up a card. So many canvassers came to sell him one thing and another that Clemens promptly assumed this to be one of them. George insisted mildly, but firmly, that, though a stranger, the caller was certainly a gentleman, and Clemens grumblingly descended the stairs. As he entered the parlor the caller arose and extended his hand. Clemens took it rather limply, for he had noticed some water-colors and engravings leaning against the furniture as if for exhibition, and he was instantly convinced that the caller was a picture-canvasser. Inquiries by the stranger as to Mrs. Clemens and the children did not change Mark Twain's conclusion. He was polite, but unresponsive, and gradually worked the visitor toward the front door. His inquiry as to the home of Charles Dudley Warner caused him to be shown eagerly in that direction.

Clemens, on his way back to the billiard-room, heard Mrs. Clemens call him—she was ill that day: "Youth!"

"Yes, Livy." He went in for a word.

"George brought me Mr. B.'s card. I hope you were nice to him; the B's were so nice to us, once, in Europe, while you were gone."

"The B's! Why, Livy!"

"Yes, of course; and I asked him to be sure to call when he came to Hartford."

"Well, he's been here."

"Oh Youth, have you done anything?"

"Yes, of course I have. He seemed to have some pictures to sell, so I sent him over to Warner's. I noticed he didn't take them with him. Land sakes! Livy, what can I do?"

"Go right after him—go quick! Tell him what you have done."

He went without further delay, bareheaded and in his slippers, as usual. Warner and B. were in cheerful conversation. They had met before. Clemens entered gaily.

"Oh, yes, I see! You found him all right. Charlie, we met Mr. B. and his wife in Europe, and they made things pleasant for us. I wanted to come over here with him, but I was a good deal occupied just then. Livy isn't very well, but she seems now a good deal better; so I just followed along to have a good talk, all together."

He stayed an hour, and whatever bad impression had formed in B.'s mind faded long before the hour ended. Returning home, Clemens noticed the pictures still on the parlor floor.

"George," he said, "what pictures are these that gentleman left?"

"Why, Mr. Clemens, those are our own pictures! Mrs. Clemens had me set them around to see how they would look in new places. The gentleman was only looking at them while he waited for you to come down."

It was in June, 1888, that Yale College conferred upon Mark Twain the degree of Master of Arts. He was proud of the honor, for it was recognition of a kind that had not come to him before—remarkable recognition, when we remember how as a child he had hated all schools and study, having ended his class-room days before he was twelve years old. He could not go to New Haven at the time, but later in the year made the students a delightful address. In his capacity of Master of Arts, he said, he had come down to New Haven to institute certain college reforms.

By advice, I turned my earliest attention to the Greek department. I told the Greek Professor I had concluded to drop the use of the Greek-written character, because it is so hard to spell with and so impossible to read after you get it spelt. Let us draw the curtain there. I saw by what followed that nothing but early neglect saved him from being a very profane man.

He said he had given advice to the mathematical department with about the same result. The astronomy department he had found in a bad way. He had decided to transfer the professor to the law department and to put a law-student in his place.

A boy will be more biddable, more tractable—also cheaper. It is true he cannot be entrusted with important work at first, but he can comb the skies for nebula till he gets his hand in.

It was hardly the sort of an address that the holder of a college degree is expected to make, but doctors and students alike welcomed it hilariously from Mark Twain.

Not many great things happened to Mark Twain during this long period of semi-literary inaction, but many interesting ones. When Bill Nye, the humorist, and James Whitcomb Riley joined themselves in an entertainment combination, Mark Twain introduced them to their first Boston audience—a great event to them, and to Boston. Clemens himself gave a reading now and then, but not for money. Once, when Col. Richard Malcolm Johnston and Thomas Nelson Page were to give a reading in Baltimore, Page's wife fell ill, and Colonel Johnston wired to Charles Dudley Warner, asking him to come in Page's stead. Warner, unable to go, handed the telegram to Clemens, who promptly answered that he would come. They read to a packed house, and when the audience had gone and the returns were counted, an equal amount was handed to each of the authors. Clemens pushed his share over to Johnston, saying:

"That's yours, Colonel. I'm not reading for money these days."

Colonel Johnston, to whom the sum was important, tried to thank him, but Clemens only said:

"Never mind, Colonel; it only gives me pleasure to do you that little favor. You can pass it along some day."

As a matter of fact, Mark Twain himself was beginning to be hard pressed for funds at this time, but was strong in the faith that he would presently be a multi-millionaire. The typesetting machine was still costing a vast sum, but each week its inventor promised that a few more weeks or months would see it finished, and then a tide of wealth would come rolling in. Mark Twain felt that a man with ship-loads of money almost in port could not properly entertain the public for pay. He read for institutions, schools, benefits, and the like, without charge.



XLIX.

KIPLING AT ELMIRA. ELSIE LESLIE. THE "YANKEE"

One day during the summer of 1889 a notable meeting took place in Elmira. On a blazing forenoon a rather small and very hot young man, in a slow, sizzling hack made his way up East Hill to Quarry Faun. He inquired for Mark Twain, only to be told that he was at the Langdon home, down in the town which the young man had just left. So he sat for a little time on the pleasant veranda, and Mrs. Crane and Susy Clemens, who were there, brought him some cool milk and listened to him talk in a way which seemed to them very entertaining and wonderful. When he went away he left his card with a name on it strange to them—strange to the world at that time. The name was Rudyard Kipling. Also on the card was the address Allahabad, and Sissy kept it, because, to her, India was fairyland.

Kipling went down into Elmira and found Mark Twain. In his book "American Notes" he has left an account of that visit. He claimed that he had traveled around the world to see Mark Twain, and his article begins:

"You are a contemptible lot over yonder. Some of you are commissioners, and some are lieutenant-governors, and some have the V. C., and a few are privileged to walk about the Mall arm in arm with the viceroy; but I have seen Mark Twain this golden morning, have shaken his hand, and smoked a cigar—no, two cigars—with him, and talked with him for more than two hours!"

But one should read the article entire—it is so worth while. Clemens also, long after, dictated an account of the meeting.

Kipling came down and spent a couple of hours with me, and at the end of that time I had surprised him as much as he had surprised me—and the honors were easy. I believed that he knew more than any person I had met before, and I knew that he knew that I knew less than any person he had met before. . . When he had gone, Mrs. Langdon wanted to know about my visitor. I said:

"He is a stranger to me, but he is a most remarkable man—and I am the other one. Between us we cover all knowledge. He knows all that can be known, and I know the rest."

He was a stranger to me and all the world, and remained so for twelve months, but then he became suddenly known and universally known. . . George Warner came into our library one morning, in Hartford, with a small book in his hand, and asked me if I had ever heard of Rudyard Kipling. I said "No."

He said I would hear of him very soon, and that the noise he made would be loud and continuous. . . A day or two later he brought a copy of the London "World" which had a sketch of Kipling in it and a mention of the fact that he had traveled in the United States. According to the sketch he had passed through Elmira. This remark, with the additional fact that he hailed from India, attracted my attention—also Susy's. She went to her room and brought his card from its place in the frame of her mirror, and the Quarry Farm visitor stood identified.

A theatrical production of "The Prince and the Pauper," dramatized by Mrs. A. S. Richardson, was one of the events of this period. It was a charming performance, even if not a great financial success, and little Elsie Leslie, who played the double part of the Prince and Tom Canty, became a great favorite in the Clemens home. She was also a favorite of the actor and playwright, William Gillette, [9] and once when Clemens and Gillette were together they decided to give the little girl a surprise—a pair of slippers, in fact, embroidered by themselves. In his presentation letter to her, Mark Twain wrote:

"Either of us could have thought of a single slipper, but it took both of us to think of two slippers. In fact, one of us did think of one slipper, and then, quick as a flash, the other thought of the other one."

He apologized for his delay:

"You see, it was my first attempt at art, and I couldn't rightly get the hang of it, along at first. And then I was so busy I couldn't get a chance to work at home, and they wouldn't let me embroider on the cars; they said it made the other passengers afraid. . . Take the slippers and wear them next your heart, Elsie dear, for every stitch in them is a testimony of the affection which two of your loyalest friends bear you. Every single stitch cost us blood. I've got twice as many pores in me now as I used to have . . . . Do not wear these slippers in public, dear; it would only excite envy; and, as like as not, somebody would try to shoot you."

For five years Mark Twain had not published a book. Since the appearance of "Huck Finn" at the end of 1884 he had given the public only an occasional magazine story or article. His business struggle and the type-setter had consumed not only his fortune, but his time and energy. Now, at last, however, a book was ready. "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" came from the press of Webster & Co. at the end of 1889, a handsome book, elaborately and strikingly illustrated by Dan Beard—a pretentious volume which Mark Twain really considered his last. "It's my swan-song, my retirement from literature permanently," he wrote Howells, though certainly he was young, fifty-four, to have reached this conclusion.

The story of the "Yankee"—a fanciful narrative of a skilled Yankee mechanic swept backward through the centuries to the dim day of Arthur and his Round Table—is often grotesque enough in its humor, but under it all is Mark Twain's great humanity in fierce and noble protest against unjust laws, the tyranny of an individual or of a ruling class —oppression of any sort. As in "The Prince and the Pauper," the wandering heir to the throne is brought in contact with cruel injustice and misery, so in the "Yankee" the king himself becomes one of a band of fettered slaves, and through degradation and horror of soul acquires mercy and humility.

The "Yankee in King Arthur's Court" is a splendidly imagined tale. Edmund Clarence Stedman and William Dean Howells have ranked it very high. Howells once wrote: "Of all the fanciful schemes in fiction, it pleases me most." The "Yankee" has not held its place in public favor with Mark Twain's earlier books, but it is a wonderful tale, and we cannot afford to leave it unread.

When the summer came again, Mark Twain and his family decided for once to forego Quarry Farm for a season in the Catskills, and presently found themselves located in a cottage at Onteora in the midst of a most delightful colony. Mrs. Mary Mapes Dodge, then editor of St. Nicholas, was there, and Mrs. Custer and Brander Matthews and Lawrence Hutton and a score of other congenial spirits. There was constant visiting from one cottage to another, with frequent gatherings at the Inn, which was general headquarters. Susy Clemens, now eighteen, was a central figure, brilliant, eager, intense, ambitious for achievement—lacking only in physical strength. She was so flower-like, it seemed always that her fragile body must be consumed by the flame of her spirit. It was a happy summer, but it closed sadly. Clemens was called to Keokuk in August, to his mother's bedside. A few weeks later came the end, and Jane Clemens had closed her long and useful life. She was in her eighty-eighth year. A little later, at Elmira, followed the death of Mrs. Clemens's mother, a sweet and gentle woman.

[9] Gillette was originally a Hartford boy. Mark Twain had recognized his ability, advanced him funds with which to complete his dramatic education, and Gillette's first engagement seems to have been with the Colonel Sellers company. Mark Twain often advanced money in the interest of education. A young sculptor he sent to Paris for two years' study. Among others, he paid the way of two colored students through college.



L.

THE MACHINE. GOOD-BY TO HARTFORD. "JOAN" IS BEGUN

It was hoped that the profits from the Yankee would provide for all needs until the great sums which were to come from the type-setter should come rolling in. The book did yield a large return, but, alas! the hope of the type-setter, deferred year after year and month after month, never reached fulfilment. Its inventor, James W. Paige, whom Mark Twain once called "a poet, a most great and genuine poet, whose sublime creations are written in steel," during ten years of persistent experiment had created one of the most marvelous machines ever constructed. It would set and distribute type, adjust the spaces, detect flaws—would perform, in fact, anything that a human being could do, with more exactness and far more swiftness. Mark Twain, himself a practical printer, seeing it in its earlier stages of development, and realizing what a fortune must come from a perfect type-setting machine, was willing to furnish his last dollar to complete the invention. But there the trouble lay. It could never be complete. It was too intricate, too much like a human being, too easy to get out of order, too hard to set right. Paige, fully confident, always believed he was just on the verge of perfecting some appliance that would overcome all difficulties, and the machine finally consisted of twenty thousand minutely exact parts, each of which required expert workmanship and had to be fitted by hand. Mark Twain once wrote:

"All other wonderful inventions of the human brain sink pretty nearly into commonplaces contrasted with this awful, mechanical miracle."

This was true, and it conveys the secret of its failure. It was too much of a miracle to be reliable. Sometimes it would run steadily for hours, but then some part of its delicate mechanism would fail, and days, even weeks, were required to repair it. It is all too long a story to be given here. It has been fully told elsewhere.[10] By the end of 1890 Mark Twain had put in all his available capital, and was heavily in debt. He had spent one hundred and ninety thousand dollars on the machine, no penny of which would ever be returned. Outside capital to carry on the enterprise was promised, but it failed him. Still believing that there were "millions in it," he realized that for the present, at least, he could do no more.

Two things were clear: he must fall back on authorship for revenue, and he must retrench. In the present low stage of his fortunes he could no longer afford to live in the Hartford house. He decided to take the family abroad, where living was cheaper, and where he might be able to work with fewer distractions.

He began writing at a great rate articles and stories for the magazines. He hunted out the old play he had written with Howells long before, and made a book of it, "The American Claimant." Then, in June, 1891, they closed the beautiful Hartford house, where for seventeen years they had found an ideal home; where the children had grown through their sweet, early life; where the world's wisest had come and gone, pausing a little to laugh with the world's greatest merrymaker. The furniture was shrouded, the curtains drawn, the light shut away.

While the carriage was waiting, Mrs. Clemens went back and took a last look into each of the rooms, as if bidding a kind of good-by to the past. Then she entered the carriage, and Patrick McAleer, who had been with Mark Twain and his wife since their wedding-day, drove them to the station for the last time.

Mark Twain had a contract for six newspaper letters at one thousand dollars each. He was troubled with rheumatism in his arm, and wrote his first letter from Aix-les-Bains, a watering-place—a "health-factory," as he called it—and another from Marienbad. They were in Germany in August, and one day came to Heidelberg, where they occupied their old apartment of thirteen years before, room forty, in the Schloss Hotel, with its far prospect of wood and hill, the winding Neckar, and the blue, distant valley of the Rhine. Then, presently, they came to Switzerland, to Ouchy-Lausanne, by lovely Lake Geneva, and here Clemens left the family and, with a guide and a boatman, went drifting down the Rhone in a curious, flat-bottomed craft, thinking to find material for one or more articles, possibly for a book. But drifting down that fair river through still September days, past ancient, drowsy villages, among sloping vineyards, where grapes were ripening in the tranquil sunlight, was too restful and soothing for work. In a letter home, he wrote:

"It's too delicious, floating with the swift current under the awning these superb, sunshiny days, in peace and quietness. Some of the curious old historical towns strangely persuade me, but it's so lovely afloat that I don't stop, but view them from the outside and sail on. . . I want to do all the rivers of Europe in an open boat in summer weather."

One afternoon, about fifteen miles below the city of Valence, he made a discovery. Dreamily observing the eastward horizon, he noticed that a distant blue mountain presented a striking profile outline of Napoleon Bonaparte. It seemed really a great natural wonder, and he stopped that night at the village just below, Beauchastel, a hoary huddle of houses with the roofs all run together, and took a room at the little hotel, with a window looking to the eastward, from which, next morning, he saw the profile of the great stone face, wonderfully outlined against the sunrise. He was excited over his discovery, and made a descriptive note of it and an outline sketch. Then, drifting farther down the river, he characteristically forgot all about it and did not remember it again for ten years, by which time he had forgotten the point on the river where the Napoleon could be seen, forgotten even that he had made a note and sketch giving full details. He wished the Napoleon to be found again, believing, as he declared, that it would become one of the natural wonders of the world. To travelers going to France he attempted to describe it, and some of these tried to find it; but, as he located it too far down the Rhone, no one reported success, and in time he spoke of his discovery as the "Lost Napoleon." It was not until after Mark Twain's death that it was rediscovered, and then by the writer of this memoir, who, having Mark Twain's note-book,[11] with its exact memoranda, on another September day, motoring up the Rhone, located the blue profile of the reclining Napoleon opposite the gray village of Beauchastel. It is a really remarkable effigy, and deserves to be visited.

Clemens finished his trip at Arles—a beautiful trip from beginning to end, but without literary result. When he undertook to write of it, he found that it lacked incident, and, what was worse, it lacked humor. To undertake to create both was too much. After a few chapters he put the manuscript aside, unfinished, and so it remains to this day.

The Clemens family spent the winter in Berlin, a gay winter, with Mark Twain as one of the distinguished figures of the German capital. He was received everywhere and made much of. Once a small, choice dinner was given him by Kaiser William II., and, later, a breakfast by the Empress. His books were great favorites in the German royal family. The Kaiser particularly enjoyed the "Mississippi" book, while the essay on "The Awful German Language," in the "Tramp Abroad," he pronounced one of the finest pieces of humor ever written. Mark Twain's books were favorites, in fact, throughout Germany. The door-man in his hotel had them all in his little room, and, discovering one day that their guest, Samuel L. Clemens, and Mark Twain were one, he nearly exploded with excitement. Dragging the author to his small room, he pointed to the shelf:

"There," he said, "you wrote them! I've found it out. Ach! I did not know it before, and I ask a million pardons."

Affairs were not going well in America, and in June Clemens made a trip over to see what could be done. Probably he did very little, and he was back presently at Nauheim, a watering-place, where he was able to work rather quietly. He began two stories—one of them, "The Extraordinary Twins," which was the first form of "Pudd'nhead Wilson;" the other, "Tom Sawyer Abroad," for "St. Nicholas." Twichell came to Nauheim during the summer, and one day he and Clemens ran over to Homburg, not far away. The Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII.) was there, and Clemens and Twichell, walking in the park, met the Prince with the British ambassador, and were presented. Twichell, in an account of the meeting, said:

"The meeting between the Prince and Mark was a most cordial one on both sides, and presently the Prince took Mark Twain's arm and the two marched up and down, talking earnestly together, the Prince solid, erect, and soldier-like; Clemens weaving along in his curious, swinging gait, in full tide of talk, and brandishing a sun umbrella of the most scandalous description."

At Villa Viviani, an old, old mansion outside of Florence, on the hill toward Settignano, Mark Twain finished "Tom Sawyer Abroad," also "Pudd'nhead Wilson", and wrote the first half of a book that really had its beginning on the day when, an apprentice-boy in Hannibal, he had found a stray leaf from the pathetic story of "Joan of Arc." All his life she had been his idol, and he had meant some day to write of her. Now, in this weather-stained old palace, looking down on Florence, medieval and hazy, and across to the villa-dotted hills, he began one of the most beautiful stories ever written, "The Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc." He wrote in the first person, assuming the character of Joan's secretary, Sieur Louis de Conte, who in his old age is telling the great tale of the Maid of Orleans. It was Mark Twain's purpose, this time, to publish anonymously. Walking the floor one day at Viviani, and smoking vigorously, he said to Mrs. Clemens and Susy:

"I shall never be accepted seriously over my own signature. People always want to laugh over what I write, and are disappointed if they don't find a joke in it. This is to be a serious book. It means more to me than anything else I have ever undertaken. I shall write it anonymously."

So it was that the gentle Sieur de Conte took up the pen, and the tale of Joan was begun in the ancient garden of Viviani, a setting appropriate to its lovely form.

He wrote rapidly when once his plan was perfected and his material arranged. The reading of his youth and manhood was now recalled, not merely as reading, but as remembered reality. It was as if he were truly the old Sieur de Conte, saturated with memories, pouring out the tender, tragic tale. In six weeks he had written one hundred thousand words —remarkable progress at any time, the more so when we consider that some of the authorities he consulted were in a foreign tongue. He had always more or less kept up his study of French, begun so long ago on the river, and it stood him now in good stead. Still, it was never easy for him, and the multitude of notes that still exist along the margin of his French authorities show the magnitude of his work. Others of the family went down into the city almost daily, but he stayed in the still garden with Joan. Florence and its suburbs were full of delightful people, some of them old friends. There were luncheons, dinners, teas, dances, and the like always in progress, but he resisted most of these things, preferring to remain the quaint old Sieur de Conte, following again the banner of the Maid of Orleans marshaling her twilight armies across his illumined page.

But the next spring, March, 1893, he was obliged to put aside the manuscript and hurry to America again, fruitlessly, of course, for a financial stress was on the land; the business of Webster & Co. was on the down-grade—nothing could save it. There was new hope in the old type-setting machine, but his faith in the resurrection was not strong. The strain of his affairs was telling on him. The business owed a great sum, with no prospect of relief. Back in Europe again, Mark Twain wrote F. D. Hall, his business manager in New York:

"I am terribly tired of business. I am by nature and disposition unfit for it, and I want to get out of it. I am standing on a volcano. Get me out of business."

Tantalizing letters continued to come, holding out hope in the business —the machine—in any straw that promised a little support through the financial storm. Again he wrote Hall:

"Great Scott, but it's a long year for you and me! I never knew the almanac to drag so. . . I watch for your letters hungrily—just as I used to watch for the telegram saying the machine was finished —but when "next week certainly" suddenly swelled into 'three weeks sure,' I recognized the old familiar tune I used to hear so much. W. don't know what sick-heartedness is, but he is in a fair way to find out."

They closed Viviani in June and returned to Germany. By the end of August Clemens could stand no longer the strain of his American affairs, and, leaving the family at some German baths, he once more sailed for New York.

[11] At Mark Twain's death his various literary effects passed into the hands of his biographer and literary executor, the present writer.



LI.

THE FAILURE OF WEBSTER & CO. AROUND THE WORLD. SORROW

In a room at the Players Club—"a cheap room," he wrote home, "at $1.50 per day"—Mark Twain spent the winter, hoping against hope to weather the financial storm. His fortunes were at a lower ebb than ever before; lower even than during those bleak mining days among the Esmeralda hills. Then there had been no one but himself, and he was young. Now, at fifty-eight, he had precious lives dependent upon him, and he was weighed down by debt. The liabilities of his firm were fully two hundred thousand dollars—sixty thousand of which were owing to Mrs. Clemens for money advanced—but the large remaining sum was due to banks, printers, binders, and the manufacturers of paper. A panic was on the land and there was no business. What he was to do Clemens did not know. He spent most of his days in his room, trying to write, and succeeded in finishing several magazine articles. Outwardly cheerful, he hid the bitterness of his situation.

A few, however, knew the true state of his affairs. One of these one night introduced him to Henry H. Rogers, the Standard Oil millionaire.

"Mr. Clemens," said Mr. Rogers, "I was one of your early admirers. I heard you lecture a long time ago, on the Sandwich Islands."

They sat down at a table, and Mark Twain told amusing stories. Rogers was in a perpetual gale of laughter. They became friends from that evening, and in due time the author had confessed to the financier all his business worries.

"You had better let me look into things a little," Rogers said, and he advised Clemens to "stop walking the floor."

It was characteristic of Mark Twain to be willing to unload his affairs upon any one that he thought able to bear the burden. He became a new man overnight. With Henry Rogers in charge, life was once more worth while. He accepted invitations from the Rogers family and from many others, and was presently so gay, so widely sought, and seen in so many places that one of his acquaintances, "Jamie" Dodge, dubbed him the "Belle of New York."

Henry Rogers, meanwhile, was "looking into things." He had reasonable faith in the type-machine, and advanced a large sum on the chance of its proving a success. This, of course, lifted Mark Twain quite into the clouds. Daily he wrote and cabled all sorts of glowing hopes to his family, then in Paris. Once he wrote:

"The ship is in sight now .... When the anchor is down, then I shall say: Farewell—a long farewell—to business! I will never touch it again! I will live in literature, I will wallow in it, revel in it; I will swim in ink!"

Once he cabled, "Expect good news in ten days"; and a little later, "Look out for good news"; and in a few days, "Nearing success."

Those Sellers-like messages could not but appeal, Mrs. Clemens's sense of humor, even in those dark days. To her sister she wrote, "They make me laugh, for they are so like my beloved Colonel."

The affairs of Webster & Co. Mr. Rogers found a bad way. When, at last, in April, 1894, the crisis came—a demand by the chief creditors for payment—he advised immediate assignment as the only course.

So the firm of Webster & Co. closed its doors. The business which less than ten years before had begun so prosperously had ended in failure. Mark Twain, nearing fifty-nine, was bankrupt. When all the firm's effects had been sold and applied on the counts, he was still more than seventy thousand dollars in debt. Friends stepped in and offered to lend him money, but he declined these offers. Through Mr. Rogers a basis of settlement at fifty cents on the dollar was arranged, and Mark Twain said, "Give me time, and I will pay the other fifty."

No one but his wife and Mr. Rogers, however, believed that at his age he would be able to make good the promise. Many advised him not to attempt it, but to settle once and for all on the legal basis as arranged. Sometimes, in moments of despondency, he almost surrendered. Once he said:

"I need not dream of paying it. I never could manage it."

But these were only the hard moments. For the most part he kept up good heart and confidence. It is true that he now believed again in the future of the type-setter, and that returns from it would pay him out of bankruptcy. But later in the year this final hope was taken away. Mr. Rogers wrote to him that in the final test the machine had failed to prove itself practical and that the whole project had been finally and permanently abandoned. The shock of disappointment was heavy for the moment, but then it was over—completely over—for that old mechanical demon, that vampire of invention that had sapped his fortune so long, was laid at last. The worst had happened; there was nothing more to dread. Within a week Mark Twain (he was now back in Paris with the family) had settled down to work once more on the "Recollections of Joan," and all mention and memory of the type-setter was forever put away. The machine stands to-day in the Sibley College of Engineering, where it is exhibited as the costliest piece of mechanism for its size ever constructed. Mark Twain once received a letter from an author who had written a book to assist inventors and patentees, asking for his indorsement. He replied:

"DEAR SIR,—I have, as you say, been interested in patents and patentees. If your book tells how to exterminate inventors, send me nine editions. Send them by express.

"Very truly yours,

"S. L. CLEMENS."

Those were economical days. There was no income except from the old books, and at the time this was not large. The Clemens family, however, was cheerful, and Mark Twain was once more in splendid working form. The story of Joan hurried to its tragic conclusion. Each night he read to the family what he had written that day, and Susy, who was easily moved, would say, "Wait—wait till I get my handkerchief," and one night when the last pages had been written and read, and the fearful scene at Rouen had been depicted, Susy wrote in her diary, "To-night Joan of Arc was burned at the stake!" Meaning that the book was finished.

Susy herself had fine literary taste, and might have written had not her greater purpose been to sing. There are fragments of her writing that show the true literary touch. Both Susy and her father cared more for Joan than for any of the former books. To Mr. Rogers Clemens wrote, "Possibly the book may not sell, but that is nothing—it was mitten for love." It was placed serially with "Harper's Magazine" and appeared anonymously, but the public soon identified the inimitable touch of Mark Twain.

It was now the spring of 1895, and Mark Twain had decided upon a new plan to restore his fortunes. Platform work had always paid him well, and though he disliked it now more than ever, he had resolved upon something unheard of in that line—nothing less, in fact, than a platform tour around the world. In May, with the family, he sailed for America, and after a month or two of rest at Quarry Farm he set out with Mrs. Clemens and Clara and with his American agent, J. B. Pond, for the Pacific coast. Susy and Jean remained behind with their aunt at the farm. The travelers left Elmira at night, and they always remembered the picture of Susy, standing under the electric light of the railway platform, waving them good-by.

Mark Twain's tour of the world was a success from the beginning. Everywhere he was received with splendid honors—in America, in Australia, in New Zealand, in India, in Ceylon, in South Africa—wherever he went his welcome was a grand ovation, his theaters and halls were never large enough to hold his audiences. With the possible exception of General Grant's long tour in 1878-9 there had hardly been a more gorgeous progress than Mark Twain's trip around the world. Everywhere they were overwhelmed with attention and gifts. We cannot begin to tell the story of that journey here. In "Following the Equator" the author himself tells it in his own delightful fashion.

From time to time along the way Mark Twain forwarded his accumulated profits to Mr. Rogers to apply against his debts, and by the time they sailed from South Africa the sum was large enough to encourage him to believe that, with the royalties to be derived from the book he would write of his travels, he might be able to pay in full and so face the world once more a free man. Their long trip—it had lasted a full year —was nearing its end. They would spend the winter in London—Susy and Jean were notified to join them there. They would all be reunited again. The outlook seemed bright once more.

They reached England the last of July. Susy and Jean, with Katy Leary, were to arrive on the 12th of August. But the 12th did not bring them —it brought, instead, a letter. Susy was not well, the letter said; the sailing had been postponed. The letter added that it was nothing serious, but her parents cabled at once for later news. Receiving no satisfactory answer, Mrs. Clemens, full of forebodings, prepared to sail with Clara for America. Clemens would remain in London to arrange for the winter residence. A cable came, saying Susy's recovery would be slow but certain. Mrs. Clemens and Clara sailed immediately. In some notes he once dictated, Mark Twain said:

"That was the 15th of August, 1896. Three days later, when my wife and Clara were about half-way across the ocean, I was standing in our dining-room, thinking of nothing in particular, when a cablegram was put into my hand. It said, 'Susy was peacefully released to-day.'"

Mark Twain's life had contained other tragedies, but no other that equaled this one. The dead girl had been his heart's pride; it was a year since they parted, and now he knew he would never see her again. The blow had found him alone and among strangers. In that day he could not even reach out to those upon the ocean, drawing daily nearer to the heartbreak.

Susy Clemens had died in the old Hartford home. She had been well far a time at the farm, but then her health had declined. She worked continuously at her singing lessons and over-tried her strength. Then she went on a visit to Mrs. Charles Dudley Warner, in Hartford; but she did not rest, working harder than ever at her singing. Finally she was told that she must consult a physician. The doctor came and prescribed soothing remedies, and advised that she have the rest and quiet of her own home. Mrs. Crane came from Elmira, also her uncle Charles Langdon. But Susy became worse, and a few days later her malady was pronounced meningitis. This was the 15th of August, the day that her mother and Clara sailed from England. She was delirious and burning with fever, but at last sank into unconsciousness. She died three days later, and on the night that Mrs. Clemens and Clara arrived was taken to Elmira for burial.

They laid her beside the little brother that had died so long before, and ordered a headstone with some lines which they had found in Australia, written by Robert Richardson:

Warm summer sun, shine kindly here; Warm southern wind, blow softly here; Green sod above, lie light, lie light! —Good night, dear heart, good night, good night.



LII.

EUROPEAN ECONOMIES

With Clara and Jean, Mrs. Clemens returned to England, and in a modest house on Tedworth Square, a secluded corner of London, the stricken family hid themselves away for the winter. Few, even of their closest friends, knew of their whereabouts. In time the report was circulated that Mask Twain, old, sick, and deserted by his family, was living in poverty, toiling to pay his debts. Through the London publishers a distant cousin, Dr. James Clemens, of St. Louis, located the house on Tedworth Square, and wrote, offering assistance. He was invited to call, and found a quiet place—the life there simple—but not poverty. By and by there was another report—this time that Mark Twain was dead. A reporter found his way to Tedworth Square, and, being received by Mark Twain himself, asked what he should say.

Clemens regarded him gravely, then, in his slow, nasal drawl, "Say—that the report of my death—has been grossly—exaggerated, "a remark that a day later was amusing both hemispheres. He could not help his humor; it was his natural form of utterance—the medium for conveying fact, fiction, satire, philosophy. Whatever his depth of despair, the quaint surprise of speech would come, and it would be so until his last day.

By November he was at work on his book of travel, which he first thought of calling "Around the World." He went out not at all that winter, and the work progressed steadily, and was complete by the following May (1897).

Meantime, during his trip around the world, Mark Twain's publishers had issued two volumes of his work—the "Joan of Arc" book, and another "Tom Sawyer" book, the latter volume combining two rather short stories, "Tom Sawyer Abroad," published serially in St. Nicholas, and "Tom Sawyer, Detective." The "Joan of Arc" book, the tenderest and most exquisite of all Mark Twain's work—a tale told with the deepest sympathy and the rarest delicacy—was dedicated by the author to his wife, as being the only piece of his writing which he considered worthy of this honor. He regarded it as his best book, and this was an opinion that did not change. Twelve years later—it was on his seventy-third birthday—he wrote as his final verdict, November 30, 1908:

"I like the Joan of Arc best of all my books; and it is the best; I know it perfectly well, and, besides, it furnished me seven times the pleasure afforded me by any of the others; twelve years of preparation and two years of writing. The others needed no preparation and got none. MARK TWAIN."

The public at first did not agree with the author's estimate, and the demand for the book was not large. But the public amended its opinion. The demand for "Joan" increased with each year until its sales ranked with the most popular of Mark Twain's books.

The new stories of Tom and Huck have never been as popular as the earlier adventures of this pair of heroes. The shorter stories are less important and perhaps less alive, but they are certainly very readable tales, and nobody but Mark Twain could have written them.

Clemens began some new stories when his travel book was out of the way, but presently with the family was on the way to Switzerland for the summer. They lived at Weggis, on Lake Lucerne, in the Villa Buhlegg—a very modest five-franc-a-day pension, for they were economizing and putting away money for the debts. Mark Twain was not in a mood for work, and, besides, proofs of the new book "Following the Equator," as it is now called—were coming steadily. But on the anniversary of Susy's death (August 18th) he wrote a poem, "In Memoriam," in which he touched a literary height never before attained. It was published in "Harper's Magazine," and now appears in his collected works.

Across from Villa Buhlegg on the lake-front there was a small shaded inclosure where he loved to sit and look out on the blue water and lofty mountains, one of which, Rigi, he and Twichell had climbed nineteen years before. The little retreat is still there, and to-day one of the trees bears a tablet (in German), "Mark Twain's Rest."

Autumn found the family in Vienna, located for the winter at the Hotel Metropole. Mrs. Clemens realized that her daughters must no longer be deprived of social and artistic advantages. For herself, she longed only for retirement.

Vienna is always a gay city, a center of art and culture and splendid social functions. From the moment of his arrival, Mark Twain and his family were in the midst of affairs. Their room at the Metropole became an assembling-place for distinguished members of the several circles that go to make up the dazzling Viennese life. Mrs. Clemens, to her sister in America, once wrote:

"Such funny combinations are here sometimes: one duke, several counts, several writers, several barons, two princes, newspaper women, etc."

Mark Twain found himself the literary lion of the Austrian capital. Every club entertained him and roared with delight at his German speeches. Wherever he appeared on the streets he was recognized.

"Let him pass! Don't you see it is Herr Mark Twain!" commanded an officer to a guard who, in the midst of a great assemblage, had presumed to bar the way.



LIII.

MARK TWAIN PAYS HIS DEBTS

Mark Twain wrote much and well during this period, in spite of his social life. His article "Concerning the Jews" was written that first winter in Vienna—a fine piece of special pleading; also the greatest of his short stories—one of the greatest of all short stories—"The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg."

But there were good reasons why he should write better now; his mind was free of a mighty load—he had paid his debts!

Soon after his arrival in Vienna he had written to Mr. Rogers:

"Let us begin on those debts. I cannot bear the weight any longer. It totally unfits me for work."

He had accumulated a large sum for the purpose, and the royalties from the new book were beginning to roll in. Payment of the debts was begun. At the end of December he wrote again:

"Land, we are glad to see those debts diminishing. For the first time in my life I am getting more pleasure from paying money out than from pulling it in."

A few days later he wrote to Howells that he had "turned the corner"; and again:

"We've lived close to the bone and saved every cent we could, and there's no undisputed claim now that we can't cash . . . . I hope you will never get the like of the load saddled on to you that was saddled on to me, three years ago. And yet there is such a solid pleasure in paying the things that I reckon it is worth while to get into that kind of a hobble, after all. Mrs. Clemens gets millions of delight out of it, and the children have never uttered one complaint about the scrimping from the beginning."

By the end of January, 1898, Clemens had accumulated enough money to make the final payments to his creditors. At the time of his failure he had given himself five years to achieve this result. But he had needed less than four. A report from Mr. Rogers showed that a balance of thirteen thousand dollars would remain to his credit after the last accounts were wiped away.

Clemens had tried to keep his money affairs out of the newspapers, but the payment of the final claims could not be concealed, and the press made the most of it. Head-lines shouted it. Editorials heralded Mark Twain as a second Walter Scott, because Scott, too, had labored to lift a great burden of debt. Never had Mark Twain been so beloved by his fellow-men.

One might suppose now that he had had enough of invention and commercial enterprises of every sort—that is, one who did not know Mark Twain might suppose this—but it would not be true. Within a month after his debts were paid he was negotiating with the Austrian inventor Szczepanik for the American rights in a wonderful carpet-pattern machine, and, Sellers-like, was planning to organize a company with a capital of fifteen hundred million dollars to control the carpet-weaving industries of the world. He wrote to Mr. Rogers about the great scheme, inviting the Standard Oil to "come in"; but the plan failed to bear the test of Mr. Rogers's investigation and was heard of no more.

Samuel Clemens's obligation to Henry Rogers was very great, but it was not quite the obligation that many supposed it to be. It was often asserted that the financier lent, even gave, the humorist large sums, and pointed out opportunities for speculation. No part of this statement is true. Mr. Rogers neither lent nor gave Mark Twain money, and never allowed him to speculate when he could prevent it. He sometimes invested Mark Twain's own funds for him, but he never bought for him a share of stock without money in hand to pay for it in full—money belonging to, and earned by, Clemens himself.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse