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lunes, 12 de junio de 2017

Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1 2/3 (English) (Mark Twain)

Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1 2/3 (Mark Twain)


Now comes the New York dictation,
beginning January 9, 1906.

Note for the Instruction of Future Editors
and Publishers of This Autobiography
I shall scatter through this Autobiography newspaper clippings without end. When I do not copy them into the text it means that I do not make them a part of the autobiography—at least not of the earlier editions. I put them in on the theory that if they are not interesting in the earlier editions, a time will come when it may be well enough to insert them for the reason that age is quite likely to make them interesting although in their youth they may lack that quality.
January 9, 1906
The more I think of this, the more nearly impossible the project seems. The difficulties of it grow upon me all the time. For instance, the idea of blocking out a consecutive series of events which have happened to me, or which I imagine have happened to me—I can see that that is impossible for me. The only thing possible for me is to talk about the thing that something suggests at the moment—something in the middle of my life, perhaps, or something that happened only a few months ago.
The only way is for me to write an autobiography—and then, in your case, if you are going to collect from that mass of incidents a brief biography, why you would have to read the thing through and select certain matter—arrange your notes and then write a biography. That biography would have to be measured by the mass of the autobiography. You would publish this during my life—that is your idea? (Meaning Mr. Paine’s book.)
Mr. Paine said: The time of publication could be determined later.
Mr. Clemens. Yes, that is so, and what is your idea as to length?
Mr. Paine. The autobiography ought not to exceed 100,000 words? If it grew, and was very interesting, then it could run out to 120,000?
Mr. Clemens. I should make it in a general way 80,000 words, with 20,000 privilege.
It is my purpose to extend these autobiographical notes to 600,000 words, and possibly more. But that is going to take a long time—a long time.
Mr. Paine. These notes that we are making here will be of the greatest assistance to you in writing the autobiography.
Mr. Clemens. My idea is this: that I write an autobiography. When that autobiography is finished—or before it is finished, but no doubt after it is finished—then you take the manuscript and we can agree on how much of a biography to make, 80 or 100,000 words, and in that way we can manage it. But this is no holiday excursion—it is a journey. So my idea is that I do the autobiography, that I own the manuscript, and that I pay for it, and that finally, at the proper time, why then you begin to gather from this manuscript your biography.
Mr. Paine. You have a good deal of this early material in readiness. Suppose while you are doing this autobiography you place portions of that, from time to time, in my hands, so that I can begin to prepare my notes and material for the other book.
Mr. Clemens. That can be arranged. Supposing that we should talk here for one or two hours five days in the week—or several days in the week, as it should happen—how many thousand years is it going to take to put together as much as 600,000 words? Let us proceed on this idea, then, and start it, and see, after a few days, if it is going to work.
Now then, let us arrive at the cost of this—say it is to be so many thousand words. You charge in that way, don’t you? (One dollar an hour for dictation, and five cents a hundred words for writing out notes.) We will try this—see whether it is dull or interesting, or whether it will bore us and we will want to commit suicide. I hate to get at it. I hate to begin, but I imagine that if you are here to make suggestions from time to time, we can make it go along, instead of having it drag.
January 9, 1906.
Now let me see, there was something I wanted to talk about—and I supposed it would stay in my head. I know what it is—about the big Bonanza in Nevada. I want to read from the commercial columns of the New York Times, of a day or two ago, what practically was the beginning of the great Bonanza in Nevada, and these details seem to me to be correct—that in Nevada, during 1871, John Mackay and Fair got control of the “Consolidated Virginia Mine” for $26,000; that in 1873, two years later, its 108,000 shares sold at $45 per share; and that it was at that time that Fair made the famous silver ore find of the great Bonanza. Also, according to these statistics, in November ’74 the stock went to 115, and in the following month suddenly jumped up to 610, and in the next month—January ’75—it reached 700. The shares of the companion mine, the “California,” rose in four months from 37 to 780—a total property which in 1869 was valued on the Mining Exchange at $40,000, was quoted six years later at $160,000,000. I think those dates are correct. That great Bonanza occupies a rather prominent place in my mind for the reason that I knew persons connected with it. For instance, I knew John Mackay very well—that would be in 1862, ’63 and ’64, I should say. I don’t remember what he was doing when I came to Virginia in 1862 from starving to death down in the so-called mines of Esmeralda, which consisted in that day merely of silver-bearing quartz—plenty of bearing, and didn’t have much load to carry in the way of silver—and it was a happy thing for me when I was summoned to come up to Virginia City to be local editor of the Virginia City Enterprise during three months, while Mr. William H. Wright should go East, to Iowa, and visit his family whom he hadn’t seen for some years. I took the position of local editor with joy, because there was a salary of forty dollars a week attached to it and I judged that that was all of thirty-nine dollars more than I was worth, and I had always wanted a position which paid in the opposite proportion of value to amount of work. I took that position with pleasure, not with confidence—but I had a difficult job. I was to furnish one column of leaded nonpareil every day, and as much more as I could get on paper before the paper should go to press at two o’clock in the morning. By and by, in the course of a few months I met John Mackay, with whom I had already been well acquainted for some time. He had established a broker’s office on C street, in a new frame house, and it was rather sumptuous for that day and place, for it had part of a carpet on the floor and two chairs instead of a candle-box. I was envious of Mackay, who had not been in such very smooth circumstances as this before, and I offered to trade places with him—take his business and let him have mine—and he asked me how much mine was worth. I said forty dollars a week. He said “I never swindled anybody in my life, and I don’t want to begin with you. This business of mine is not worth forty dollars a week. You stay where you are and I will try to get a living out of this.”
I left Nevada in 1864 to avoid a term in the penitentiary (in another chapter I shall have to explain that) so that it was all often years, apparently, before John Mackay developed suddenly into the first of the hundred-millionaires. Apparently his prosperity began in ’71—that discovery was made in ’71. I know how it was made. I remember those details, for they came across the country to me in Hartford. There was a tunnel 1,700 feet long which struck in from ’way down on the slope of the mountain and passed under some portion of Virginia City, at a great depth. It was striking for a lode which it did not find, and I think the search had been long abandoned. Now in groping around in that abandoned tunnel Mr. Fair (afterwards U.S. Senator and multimillionaire,) came across a body of rich ore—so the story ran—and he came and reported his find to John Mackay. They examined this treasure and found that there was a very great deposit of it. They prospected it in the usual way and proved its magnitude, and that it was extremely rich. They thought it was a “chimney”—belonging probably to the “California,” away up on the mountain-side, which had an abandoned shaft—or possibly the “Virginia” mine which was not worked then—nobody caring anything about the “Virginia,” an empty mine. These men determined that this body of ore properly belonged to the “California” mine and by some trick of nature had been shaken down the mountain-side. They got O’Brien—who was a silver expert in San Francisco—to come in as capitalist, and they bought up a controlling interest in the abandoned claims, and no doubt got it at that figure—$26,000,—six years later to be worth $160,000,000.
As I say, I was not there. I had been here in the East, six, seven, or eight years—but friends of mine were interested. John P. Jones, who has lately resigned as U.S. Senator after an uninterrupted term of perhaps thirty years, was living in San Francisco. He had a great affection for a couple of old friends of mine—Joseph T. Goodman and Denis McCarthy. They had been proprietors of that paper that I served—the Virginia City Enterprise—and they had enjoyed great prosperity in that position. They were young journeymen printers, type-setting in San Francisco in 1858, and they went over the Sierras when they heard of the discovery of silver in that unknown region of Nevada, to push their fortunes. When they arrived at that miserable little camp, Virginia City, they had no money to push their fortunes with. They had only youth, energy, hope. They found Williams there, (“Stud” Williams was his society name,) who had started a weekly newspaper, and he had one journeyman, who set up the paper, and printed it on a hand press with Williams’s help and the help of a Chinaman. They all slept in one room—cooked and slept and worked, and disseminated intelligence in this paper of theirs. Well, Williams was in debt fourteen dollars. He didn’t see any way to get out of it with his newspaper, and so he sold the paper to Denis McCarthy and Goodman for two hundred dollars, they to assume the debt of fourteen dollars and also pay the two hundred dollars, in this world or the next—there was no definite arrangement about that. But as Virginia City developed new mines were discovered, new people began to flock in, and there was talk of a faro bank and a church and all those things that go to make a frontier Christian city. There was vast prosperity, and Goodman and Denis reaped the advantage of it. Their own prosperity was so great that they built a three-story brick building, which was a wonderful thing for that town, and their business increased so mightily that they would often plant out eleven columns of new ads per day on a standing galley and leave them there to sleep and rest and breed income. When any man objected, after searching the paper in the hope of seeing his advertisement, they would say “We are doing the best we can.” Now and then the advertisements would appear, but the standing galley was doing its money-coining work all the time. But after a while Nevada Territory was turned into a State, in order to furnish office for some people who needed office, and by and by the paper, from paying those boys twenty to forty thousand dollars a year, ceased to pay anything. I suppose they were glad to get rid of it—and probably on the old terms—to some journeyman who was willing to take the old fourteen dollars’ indebtedness and pay it when he could.
These boys went down to San Francisco, setting type again. They were delightful fellows, always ready for a good time, and that meant that everybody got their money except themselves. And when the Bonanza was about to be discovered, Joe Goodman arrived here from somewhere that he’d been—I suppose trying to make business, or a livelihood, or something—and he came to see me to borrow three hundred dollars to take him out to San Francisco. And if I remember rightly he had no prospect in front of him at all, but thought he would be more likely to find it out there among the old friends, and he went to San Francisco. He arrived there just in time to meet Jones (afterwards U.S. Senator,) who was a delightful man. Jones met him and said privately “There has been a great discovery made in Nevada, and I am on the inside.” Denis was setting type in one of the offices there. He was married, and was building a wooden house, to cost $1,800, and he had paid a part and was building it on instalments out of his wages. And Jones said “I am going to put you and Denis in privately on the big Bonanza. I am on the inside, I will watch it and we will put this money up on a margin. Therefore when I say it is time to sell, it will be very necessary to sell.” So he put up 20 per cent margins for those two boys—and that is the time when this great spurt must have happened which sent that stock up to the stars in one flight—because, as the history was told to me by Joe Goodman, when that thing happened Jones said to Goodman and Denis “Now then, sell. You can come out $600,000 ahead, each of you, and that is enough. Sell.”
“No,” Joe objected, “It will go higher.”
Jones said, “I am on the inside, you are not. Sell.”
Joe’s wife implored him to sell, he wouldn’t do it. Denis’s family implored him to sell. Denis wouldn’t sell. And so it went on during two weeks. Each time the stock made a flight Jones tried to get the boys to sell. They wouldn’t do it. They said, “It is going higher.” When he said “Sell at $900,000,” they said “No, it will go to a million.”
Then the stock began to go down very rapidly. After a little, Joe sold, and he got out with $600,000 cash. Denis waited for the million, but he never got a cent. His holding was sold for the “mud”—so that he came out without anything and had to begin again setting type.
That is the story, as it was told to me many years ago—I imagine by Joe Goodman, I don’t remember now. Denis, by and by, died poor,—never got a start again.
Joe Goodman immediately went into the broker business. $600,000 was just good capital. He wasn’t in a position to retire yet. And he sent me the three hundred dollars, and said that now he had started in the broking business and that he was making an abundance of money. I didn’t hear any more then for a long time; then I learned that he had not been content with mere broking but had speculated on his own account and lost everything he had. And when that happened, John Mackay, who was always a good friend of the unfortunate, lent him $4,000 to buy a grape ranch with in Fresno County, and Joe went up there. He didn’t know anything about the grape culture, but he and his wife learned it in a very little while. He learned it a little better than anybody else, and got a good living out of it until 1886 or ’87; then he sold it for several times what he paid for it originally.
He was here a year ago and I saw him. He lives in the garden of California—in Alameda. Before this eastern visit he had been putting in twelve years of his time in the most unpromising and difficult and stubborn study that anybody has undertaken since Champollion’s time; for he undertook to find out what those sculptures mean that they find down there in the forests of Central America. And he did find out; and published a great book, the result of his twelve years of study. In this book he furnishes the meanings of those hieroglyphs—and his position as a successful expert in that complex study is recognized by the scientists in that line in London and Berlin, and elsewhere. But he is no better known than he was before—he is known only to those people. His book was published in about 1901.
This account in the New York Times says that in consequence of that strike in the great Bonanza a tempest of speculation ensued, and that the group of mines right around that centre reached a value in the stock market of close upon $400,000,000; and six months after that, that value had been reduced by three-quarters; and by 1880, five years later, the stock of the “Consolidated Virginia” was under $2 a share, and the stock in the “California” was only $1.75—for the Bonanza was now confessedly exhausted.
January 10, 1906
I have to make several speeches within the next two or three months, and I have been obliged to make a few speeches during the last two months—and all of a sudden it is borne in upon me that people who go out that way to make speeches at gatherings of one kind or another, and at social banquets particularly, put themselves to an unnecessary amount of trouble, often, in the way of preparation. As a rule, your speech at a social banquet is not an important part of your equipment for that occasion, for the reason that as a rule the banquet is merely given to celebrate some event of merely momentary interest, or to do honor to some guest of distinction,—and so there is nothing of large consequence—nothing, I mean, that one should feel bound to concentrate himself upon in talking upon such an occasion, whereas the really important matter, perhaps, is that the speaker make himself reasonably interesting while he is on his feet, and avoid wearying and exasperating the people who are not privileged to make speeches, and also not privileged to get out of the way when other people begin. So, common charity for those people should require that the speaker make some kind of preparation, instead of going to the place absolutely empty.
The person who makes frequent speeches can’t afford much time for their preparation, and he probably goes to that place empty, (just as I am in the habit of doing), purposing to gather texts from other unprepared people who are going to speak before he speaks. Now it is perfectly true that if you can get yourself located along about number 3, and from that lower down on the program, it can be depended on with certainty that one or another of those previous speakers will furnish all the texts needed. In fact you are likely to have more texts than you do need, and so they can become an embarrassment. You would like to talk to all of those texts, and of course that is a dangerous thing. You should choose one of them and talk to that one—and it is a hundred to one that before you have been on your feet two minutes you will wish you had taken the other one. You will get away from the one you have chosen, because you will perceive that there was another one that was better.
I am reminded of this old, old fact in my experience by what happened the other night at The Players, where twenty-two of my friends of ancient days in the Players Club gave me a dinner in testimony of their satisfaction in having me back again after an absence of three years, occasioned by the stupidity of the Board of Management of that Club—a Board which had been in office ever since the founding of the Club; and if it were not the same old Board that they had in the beginning it amounted to the same, because they must have been chosen, from time to time, from the same asylum that had furnished the original Board.
On this occasion Brander Matthews was chairman, and he opened the proceedings with an easy and comfortable and felicitous speech. Brander is always prepared and competent when he is going to make a speech. Then he called up Gilder, who came empty, and probably supposed he was going to be able to fill from Brander’s tank, whereas he struck a disappointment. He labored through and sat down not entirely defeated, but a good deal crippled. Frank Millet (painter) was next called up. He struggled along through his remarks, exhibiting two things—one, that he had prepared, and couldn’t remember the details of his preparation, and the other that his text was a poor text. In his talk the main sign of preparation was that he tried to recite two considerable batches of poetry—good poetry—but he lost confidence and turned it into bad poetry by bad recitation. Sculpture was to have been represented, and Saint-Gaudens had accepted and had promised a speech, but at the last moment he was not able to come, and a man who was thoroughly unprepared had to get up and make a speech in Saint-Gaudens’s place. He did not hit upon anything original or disturbing in his remarks, and, in fact, they were so tottering and hesitating and altogether commonplace that really he seemed to have hit upon something new and fresh when he finished by saying that he had not been expecting to be called upon to make a speech! I could have finished his speech for him, I had heard it so many times.
Those people were unfortunate because they were thinking—that is Millet and Gilder were—all the time that Matthews was speaking—they were trying to keep in mind the little preparations which they had made, and this prevented them from getting something new and fresh in the way of a text out of what Brander was saying. In the same way Millet was still thinking about his preparation while Gilder was talking, and so he overlooked possible texts furnished by Gilder. But as I had asked Matthews to put me last on the list of speakers, I had all the advantages possible to the occasion. For I came without a text, and these boys furnished plenty of texts for me, because my mind was not absorbed in trying to remember my preparations—they didn’t exist. I spoiled, in a degree, Brander’s speech, because his speech had been prepared with direct reference to introducing me, the guest of the occasion—and he had to turn that all around and get out of it, which he did very gracefully, explaining that his speech was a little lop-sided and wrong end first because I had asked to be placed last in the list of speakers. I had a plenty good enough time, because Gilder had furnished me a text; Brander had furnished me a text; Millet had furnished me a text. These texts were fresh, hot from the bat, and they produced the same eager disposition to take hold of them and talk that they would have produced in ordinary conversation around a table in a beer mill.
Now then, I know how banquet-speeches should be projected, because I have been thinking over this matter. This is my plan. Where it is merely a social banquet for a good time—such as the one which I am to attend in Washington on the 27th, where the company will consist of the membership of the Gridiron Club, (newspaper correspondents exclusively, I think) with as guests the President and Vice-President of the United States and two others—certainly that is an occasion where a person will be privileged to talk about any subject except politics and theology, and even if he is asked to talk to a toast he needn’t pay any attention to the toast, but talk about anything. Now then, the idea is this—to take the newspaper of that day, or the newspaper of that evening, and glance over the headings in the telegraphic page—a perfect bonanza of texts, you see! I think a person could pull that day’s newspaper out of his pocket and talk that company to death before he would run out of material. If it were to-day, you have the Morris incident. And that reminds me how unexciting the Morris incident will be two or three years from now—maybe six months from now—and yet what an irritating thing it is to-day, and has been for the past few days. It brings home to one this large fact: that the events of life are mainly small events—they only seem large when we are close to them. By and by they settle down and we see that one doesn’t show above another. They are all about one general low altitude, and inconsequential. If you should set down every day, by shorthand, as we are doing now, the happenings of the previous day, with the intention of making out of the massed result an autobiography, it would take from one to two hours—and from that to four hours—to set down the autobiographical matter of that one day, and the result would be a consumption of from five to forty thousand words. It would be a volume. Now one must not imagine that because it has taken all day Tuesday to write up the autobiographical matter of Monday, there will be nothing to write on Wednesday. No, there will be just as much to write on Wednesday as Monday had furnished for Tuesday. And that is because life does not consist mainly—or even largely—of facts and happenings. It consists mainly of the storm of thoughts that is forever blowing through one’s head. Could you set them down stenographically? No. Could you set down any considerable fraction of them stenographically? No. Fifteen stenographers hard at work couldn’t keep up. Therefore a full autobiography has never been written, and it never will be. It would consist of three hundred and sixty-five double-size volumes per year—and so if I had been doing my whole autobiographical duty ever since my youth all the library buildings on the earth could not contain the result.
I wonder what the Morris incident will look like in history fifty years from now. Consider these circumstances: that here at our own doors the mighty insurance upheaval has not settled down to a level yet. Even yesterday, and day before, the discredited millionaire insurance magnates had not all been flung out and buried from sight under the maledictions of the nation, but some of the McCurdies, McCalls, Depews, Hydes, and Alexanders were still lingering in positions of trust, such as directorships in banks. Also we have to-day the whole nation’s attention centred upon the Standard Oil Corporation, the most prodigious commercial force existing upon the planet. All the American world are standing breathless and wondering if the Standard Oil is going to come out of its Missourian battle crippled, and if crippled, how much crippled. Also we have Congress threatening to overhaul the Panama Canal Commission to see what it has done with the fifty-nine millions, and to find out what it proposes to do with the recently added eleven millions. Also there are three or four other matters of colossal public interest on the board to-day. And on the other side of the ocean we have Church and State separated in France; we have a threat of war between France and Germany upon the Morocco question; we have a crushed revolution in Russia, with the Czar and his family of thieves—the grand dukes—recovering from their long fright and beginning to butcher the remnants of the revolutionaries in the old confident way that was the Russian way in former days for three centuries; we have China furnishing a solemn and awful mystery. Nobody knows what it is, but we are sending three regiments in a hurry from the Philippines to China, under the generalship of Funston, the man who captured Aguinaldo by methods which would disgrace the lowest blatherskite that is doing time in any penitentiary. Nobody seems to know what the Chinese mystery is, but everybody seems to think that a giant convulsion is impending there.
That is the menu as it stands to-day. These are the things which offer themselves to the world’s attention to-day. Apparently they are large enough to leave no space for smaller matters, yet the Morris incident comes up and blots the whole thing out. The Morris incident is making a flurry in Congress, and for several days now it has been rioting through the imagination of the American nation and setting every tongue afire with excited talk. This autobiography will not see the light of print until after my death. I do not know when that is going to happen, and do not feel a large interest in the matter anyway. It may be some years yet, but if it does not occur within the next three months I am confident that by that time the nation, encountering the Morris incident in my autobiography, would be trying to remember what the incident was, and not succeeding. That incident, which is so large to-day, will be so small three or four months from now it will then have taken its place with the abortive Russian revolution and these other large matters, and nobody will be able to tell one from the other by difference of size.
This is the Morris incident. A Mrs. Morris, a lady of culture, refinement, and position, called at the White House and asked for a moment’s conversation with President Roosevelt. Mr. Barnes, one of the private secretaries, declined to send in her card, and said that she couldn’t see the President, that he was busy. She said she would wait. Barnes wanted to know what her errand was, and she said that some time ago her husband had been dismissed from the public service and she wanted to get the President to look into his case. Barnes, finding that it was a military case, suggested that she go to the Secretary of War. She said she had been to the War Office but could not get admission to the Secretary—she had tried every means she could think of, but had failed. Now she had been advised by the wife of a member of the Cabinet to ask for a moment’s interview with the President.
Well, without going into a multiplicity of details, the general result was that Barnes still persisted in saying that she could not see the President, and he also persisted in inviting her, in the circumstances, to go away. She was quiet, but she still insisted on remaining until she could see the President. Then the “Morris incident” happened. At a sign from Barnes a couple of policemen on guard there rushed forward and seized this lady, and began to drag her out of the place. She was frightened, and she screamed. Barnes says she screamed repeatedly, and in a way which “aroused the whole White House”—though nobody came to see what was happening. This might give the impression that this was something that was happening six or seven times a day, since it didn’t cause any excitement. But this was not so. Barnes has been a private secretary long enough to work his imagination, probably, and that accounts for most of the screaming—though the lady did some of it herself, as she concedes. The woman was dragged out of the White House. She says that in the course of dragging her along the roadway her clothes were soiled with mud and some of them stripped in rags from her back. A negro gathered up her ancles, and so relieved her from contact with the ground. He supporting her by the ancles, and the two policemen carrying her at the other end, they conveyed her to a place—apparently a police station of some kind, a couple of blocks away—and she was dripping portemonnaies and keys, and one thing or another, along the road, and honest people were picking them up and fetching them along. Barnes entered a charge against her of insanity. Apparently the police inspector regarded that as rather a serious charge, and as he probably had not had one like it before and did not quite know how it ought to be handled, he would not allow her to be delivered to her friends until she had deposited five dollars in his till. No doubt this was to keep her from disappearing from the United States—and he might want to take up this serious charge presently and thresh it out.
That lady still lies in her bed at the principal hotel in Washington, disabled by the shock, and naturally very indignant at the treatment which she has received—but her calm and mild, unexcited and well worded account of her adventure is convincing evidence that she was not insane, even to the moderate extent of five dollars’ worth.
There you have the facts. It is as I have said—for a number of days they have occupied almost the entire attention of the American nation; they have swept the Russian revolution out of sight, the China mystery, and all the rest of it. It is this sort of thing which makes the right material of an autobiography. You set the incident down which for the moment is to you the most interesting. If you leave it alone three or four weeks you wonder why you ever thought of setting such a thing down—it has no value, no importance. The champagne that made you drunk with delight or exasperation at the time has all passed away; it is stale. But that is what human life consists of—little incidents and big incidents, and they are all of the same size if we let them alone. An autobiography that leaves out the little things and enumerates only the big ones is no proper picture of the man’s life at all; his life consists of his feelings and his interests, with here and there an incident apparently big or little to hang the feelings on.
That Morris incident will presently have no importance whatever, and yet the biographer of President Roosevelt will find it immensely valuable if he will consider it—examine it—and be sagacious enough to perceive that it throws a great deal of light upon the President’s character. Certainly a biography’s chiefest feature is the exhibition of the character of the man whose biography is being set forth. Roosevelt’s biographer will light up the President’s career step by step, mile after mile, through his life’s course, with illuminating episodes and incidents. He should set one of the lamps by the Morris incident, for it indicates character. It is a thing which probably could not have happened in the White House under any other President who has ever occupied those premises. Washington wouldn’t call the police and throw a lady out over the fence! I don’t mean that Roosevelt would. I mean that Washington wouldn’t have any Barneses in his official family. It is the Roosevelts that have the Barneses around. That private secretary was perfectly right in refusing access to the President—the President can’t see everybody on everybody’s private affairs, and it is quite proper, then, that he should refuse to see anybody on a private affair—treat all the nation alike. That is a thing which has been done, of course, from the beginning until now—people have always been refused admission to the President on private matters, every day, from Washington’s time to ours. The secretaries have always carried their point; Mr. Barnes carried his. But, according to the president in office at the time, the methods have varied—one president’s secretary has managed it in one way, another president’s secretary has managed it in another way—but it never would have occurred to any previous secretary to manage it by throwing the lady over the fence.
Theodore Roosevelt is one of the most impulsive men in existence. That is the reason why he has impulsive secretaries. President Roosevelt probably never thinks of the right way to do anything. That is why he has private secretaries who are not able to think of the right way to do anything. We naturally gather about us people whose ways and dispositions agree with our own. Mr. Roosevelt is one of the most likable men that I am acquainted with. I have known him, and have occasionally met him, dined in his company, lunched in his company, for certainly twenty years. I always enjoy his society, he is so hearty, so straightforward, outspoken, and so absolutely sincere. These qualities endear him to me when he is acting in his capacity of private citizen—they endear him to all his friends. But when he is acting under their impulse as President, they make of him a sufficiently queer president. He flies from one thing to another with incredible dispatch—throws a somersault and is straightway back again where he was last week. He will then throw some more somersaults and nobody can foretell where he is finally going to land after the series. Each act of his, and each opinion expressed, is likely to abolish or controvert some previous act or expressed opinion. This is what is happening to him all the time as President. But every opinion that he expresses is certainly his sincere opinion at that moment, and it is as certainly not the opinion which he was carrying around in his system three or four weeks earlier, and which was just as sincere and honest as the latest one. No, he can’t be accused of insincerity—that is not the trouble. His trouble is that his newest interest is the one that absorbs him; absorbs the whole of him from his head to his feet, and for the time being it annihilates all previous opinions and feelings and convictions. He is the most popular human being that has ever existed in the United States, and that popularity springs from just these enthusiasms of his—these joyous ebullitions of excited sincerity. It makes him so much like the rest of the people. They see themselves reflected in him. They also see that his impulses are not often mean. They are almost always large, fine, generous. He can’t stick to one of them long enough to find out what kind of a chick it would hatch if it had a chance, but everybody recognizes the generosity of the intention and they admire it and love him for it.
January 11, 1906
I received the following letter some days ago, from Mrs. Laura K. Hudson:
287 Quincy St.
Jan 3d 06.
Mr. Samuel L. Clemens.
My Dear Sir.
Some twenty years ago we were in the first years of our married life; the first two small instalments of a growing family kept us severely domestic and my husband and I used to spend our happy evenings together he reading aloud from magazine or book and I meanwhile sewing and listening. One evening he read from one of the New York papers the report of some function—I have a hazy idea it was a Press Club dinner or other jamboree—during which “Mark Twain” read aloud a paper which to me seemed the best and funniest thing our great favorite had ever written. And now that the growing family has gotten its growth and has grown very fond of “Mark Twain” I have searched high and low in every collection of his works for this delightful bit of fun but always in vain. May I therefore apply to Mr. Clemens for some help?
It was about a miner in his mountain-hut; to whom come three men for food and a night’s shelter. They give their names as Longfellow, Holmes and Whittier and the way they are described—the last-mentioned with “double-chins way down to his stomach”—by the miner who tells the story and the highflown quotations from their own writings which they give in answer to the miner’s very gruff and to-the-point questions are fun of the funniest kind. The miner stands it until in answer to some self-satisfied remark of his in reference to his comfortable cabin the Pseudo-Holmes retorts:
“Build thee more stately mansions, oh my soul!” and so on through the entire stanza. Then he rises in his wrath and puts the three poets out.
Any light you can throw on the name and possible whereabouts of this delightful child of your muse will be most gratefully received by my husband, my three sons and their “Mark-Twain”-loving Mother; who begs leave to call herself
Yours Most Cordially
Laura K. Hudson.
This morning I dictated an answer to my secretary, Miss Lyon, as follows:
Dear Mrs. Hudson:
I am forever your debtor for reminding me of that curious passage in my life. During the first year or two after it happened, I could not bear to think of it. My pain and shame were so intense, and my sense of having been an imbecile so settled, established and confirmed, that I drove the episode entirely from my mind—and so all these twenty-eight or twenty-nine years I have lived in the conviction that my performance of that time was coarse, vulgar and destitute of humor. But your suggestion that you and your family found humor in it twenty-eight years ago moved me to look into the matter. So I commissioned a Boston typewriter to delve among the Boston papers of that bygone time, and send me a copy of it.
It came this morning, and if there is any vulgarity about it I am not able to discover it. If it isn’t innocently and ridiculously funny, I am no judge. I will see to it that you get a copy.
Address of Samuel L. Clemens (“Mark Twain”)
From a report of the dinner given by the Publishers of the Atlantic
Monthly in honor of the Seventieth Anniversary of the Birth of John
Greenleaf Whittier, at the Hotel Brunswick, Boston, December 17,
1877, as published in the

Mr. Chairman—This is an occasion peculiarly meet for the digging up of pleasant reminiscences concerning literary folk; therefore I will drop lightly into history myself. Standing here on the shore of the Atlantic and contemplating certain of its largest literary billows, I am reminded of a thing which happened to me thirteen years ago, when I had just succeeded in stirring up a little Nevadian literary puddle myself, whose spume-flakes were beginning to blow thinly Californiawards. I started an inspection tramp through the southern mines of California. I was callow and conceited, and I resolved to try the virtue of my nom de guerre. I very soon had an opportunity. I knocked at a miner’s lonely log cabin in the foot hills of the Sierras just at night-fall. It was snowing at the time. A jaded, melancholy man of fifty, barefooted, opened to me. When he heard my nom de guerre, he looked more dejected than before. He let me in—pretty reluctantly, I thought—and after the customary bacon and beans, black coffee and a hot whiskey, I took a pipe. This sorrowful man had not said three words up to this time. Now he spoke up and said in the voice of one who is secretly suffering, “You’re the fourth—I’m a-going to move.” “The fourth what?” said I. “The fourth littery man that’s been here in twenty-four hours—I’m a-going to move.” “You don’t tell me!” said I; “who were the others?” “Mr. Longfellow, Mr. Emerson, and Mr. Oliver Wendell Holmes—consound the lot!”
You can easily believe I was interested. I supplicated—three hot whiskeys did the rest—and finally the melancholy miner began. Said he—
“They came here just at dark yesterday evening, and I let them in of course. Said they were going to Yosemite. They were a rough lot, but that’s nothing; everybody looks rough that travels afoot. Mr. Emerson was a seedy little bit of a chap, red-headed. Mr. Holmes was as fat as a balloon; he weighed as much as three hundred, and had double chins all the way down to his stomach. Mr. Longfellow was built like a prize fighter. His head was cropped and bristly, like as if he had a wig made of hair-brushes. His nose lay straight down his face, like a finger with the end joint tilted up. They had been drinking; I could see that. And what queer talk they used! Mr. Holmes inspected this cabin, then he took me by the buttonhole, and says he—
“‘Through the deep caves of thought
I hear a voice that sings;
Build thee more stately mansions,
O my soul!’
“Says I, ‘I can’t afford it, Mr. Holmes, and moreover I don’t want to.’ Blamed if I liked it pretty well, either, coming from a stranger, that way. However, I started to get out my bacon and beans, when Mr. Emerson came and looked on a while, and then he takes me aside by the buttonhole and says—
“‘Give me agates for my meat;
Give me cantharids to eat;
From air and ocean bring me foods,
From all zones and altitudes.’
“Says I, ‘Mr. Emerson, if you’ll excuse me, this ain’t no hotel.’ You see it sort of riled me—I warn’t used to the ways of littery swells. But I went on a-sweating over my work, and next comes Mr. Longfellow and buttonholes me, and interrupts me. Says he,
“‘Honor be to Mudjekeewis!
You shall hear how Pau-Puk-Keewis—’
“But I broke in, and says I, ‘Begging your pardon, Mr. Longfellow, if you’ll be so kind as to hold your yawp for about five minutes and let me get this grub ready, you’ll do me proud.’ Well, sir, after they’d filled up I set out the jug. Mr. Holmes looks at it and then he fires up all of a sudden and yells—
“‘Flash out a stream of blood-red wine!
For I would drink to other days.’
“By George, I was getting kind of worked up. I don’t deny it, I was gettingkind of worked up. I turns to Mr. Holmes, and says I, ‘Looky here, my fat friend, I’m a-running this shanty, and if the court knows herself, you’ll take whiskey-straight or you’ll go dry.’ Them’s the very words I said to him. Now I didn’t want to sass such famous littery people, but you see they kind of forced me. There ain’t nothing onreasonable ’bout me; I don’t mind a passel of guests a-tread’n on my tail three or four times, but when it comes to standing on it it’s different, ‘and if the court knows herself,’ I says, ‘you’ll take whiskey-straight or you’ll go dry.’ Well, between drinks they’d swell around the cabin and strike attitudes and spout. Says Mr. Longfellow—
“‘This is the forest primeval.’
“Says Mr. Emerson—
“‘Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.’
“Says I, ‘O, blackguard the premises as much as you want to—it don’t cost a cent.’ Well, they went on drinking, and pretty soon they got out a greasy old deck and went to playing euchre at ten cents a corner—on trust. I begun to notice some pretty suspicious things. Mr. Emerson dealt, looked at his hand, shook his head, says—
“‘I am the doubter and the doubt—’
and ca’mly bunched the hands and went to shuffling for a new lay out. Says he—
“‘They reckon ill who leave me out;
They know not well the subtle ways
I keep. I pass, and deal again!’
“Hang’d if he didn’t go ahead and do it, too! O, he was a cool one! Well, in about a minute, things were running pretty tight, but all of a sudden I see by Mr. Emerson’s eye that he judged he had ’em. He had already corralled two tricks and each of the others one. So now he kind of lifts a little in his chair and says—
“ ‘I tire of globes and aces!—
Too long the game is played!’
—and down he fetched a right bower. Mr. Longfellow smiles as sweet as pie and says—
“‘Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend,
For the lesson thou hast taught’;
—and blamed if he didn’t down with another right bower! Well, sir, up jumps Holmes, a-war-whooping as usual, and says—
“‘God help them if the tempest swings
The pine against the palm!’
—and I wish I may go to grass if he didn’t swoop down with another right bower! Emerson claps his hand on his bowie, Longfellow claps his on his revolver, and I went under a bunk. There was going to be trouble; but that monstrous Holmes rose up, wobbling his double chins, and says he, ‘Order, gentlemen; the first man that draws, I’ll lay down on him and smother him!’ All quiet on the Potomac, you bet!
“They were pretty how-come-you-so, by now, and they begun to blow. Emerson says, ‘The nobbiest thing I ever wrote was Barbara Frietchie.’ Says Longfellow, ‘It don’t begin with my Biglow Papers.’ Says Holmes, ‘My Thanatopsis lays over ’em both.’ They mighty near ended in a fight. Then they wished they had some more company—and Mr. Emerson pointed at me and says—
“Is yonder squalid peasant all
That this proud nursery could breed?’
“He was a-whetting his bowie on his boot—so I let it pass. Well, sir, next they took it into their heads that they would like some music; so they made me stand up and sing ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home’ till I dropped—at thirteen minutes past four this morning. That’s what I’ve been through, my friend. When I woke at seven, they were leaving, thank goodness, and Mr. Longfellow had my only boots on, and his’n under his arm. Says I, ‘Hold on, there, Evangeline, what are you going to do with them?’ He says, ‘Going to make tracks with ’em; because—
“‘Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime;
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of Time.’
“As I said, Mr. Twain, you are the fourth in twenty-four hours—and I’m a-going to move; I ain’t suited to a littery atmosphere.”
I said to the miner, “Why, my dear sir, these were not the gracious singers to whom we and the world pay loving reverence and homage; these were impostors.”
The miner investigated me with a calm eye for a while; then said he, “Ah! impostors, were they? are you?”’
I did not pursue the subject, and since then I haven’t travelled on my nom de guerre enough to hurt. Such was the reminiscence I was moved to contribute, Mr. Chairman. In my enthusiasm I may have exaggerated the details a little, but you will easily forgive me that fault, since I believe it is the first time I have ever deflected from perpendicular fact on an occasion like this.
What I have said to Mrs. Hudson is true. I did suffer during a year or two from the deep humiliations of that episode. But at last, in 1878, in Venice, my wife and I came across Mr. and Mrs. A. P. Chamberlaine, of Concord, Massachusetts, and a friendship began then of the sort which nothing but death terminates. The Chamberlaines were very bright people and in every way charming and companionable. We were together a month or two in Venice and several months in Rome, afterwards, and one day that lamented break of mine was mentioned. And when I was on the point of lathering those people for bringing it to my mind when I had gotten the memory of it almost squelched, I perceived with joy that the Chamberlaines were indignant about the way that my performance had been received in Boston. They poured out their opinions most freely and frankly about the frosty attitude of the people who were present at that performance, and about the Boston newspapers for the position they had taken in regard to the matter. That position was that I had been irreverent beyond belief, beyond imagination. Very well, I had accepted that as a fact for a year or two, and had been thoroughly miserable about it whenever I thought of it—which was not frequently, if I could help it. Whenever I thought of it I wondered how I ever could have been inspired to do so unholy a thing. Well, the Chamberlaines comforted me, but they did not persuade me to continue to think about the unhappy episode. I resisted that. I tried to get it out of my mind, and let it die, and I succeeded. Until Mrs. Hudson’s letter came the other day, it had been a good twenty-five years since I had thought of that matter; and when she said that the thing was funny I wondered if possibly she might be right. At any rate, my curiosity was aroused, and I wrote to Boston and got the whole thing copied, as above set forth.
I vaguely remember some of the details of that gathering—dimly I can see a hundred people—no, perhaps fifty—shadowy figures sitting at tables feeding, ghosts now to me, and nameless forever more. I don’t know who they were, but I can very distinctly see seated at the grand table and facing the rest of us, Mr. Emerson, supernaturally grave, unsmiling; Mr. Whittier, grave, lovely, his beautiful spirit shining out of his face—a Quaker, but smiley and sweet; Mr. Longfellow, with his silken white hair and his benignant face; Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, flashing smiles and affection and all good-fellowship everywhere like a rose-diamond whose facets are being turned toward the light first one way and then another—a charming man, and always fascinating, whether he was talking or whether he was sitting still (what he would call still, but what would be more or less motion to other people). I can see those figures with entire distinctness across this abyss of time.
One other feature is clear—Willie Winter (for these past thousand years dramatic editor of the New York Tribune, and still occupying that high post in his old age) was there. He was much younger then than he is now, and he showed it. It was always a pleasure to me to see Willie Winter at a banquet. During a matter of twenty years I was seldom at a banquet where Willie Winter was not also present, and where he did not read a charming poem written for the occasion. He did it this time, and it was up to standard. There was never any vigor in his poetry, but it was always smooth, wavy, and dainty, happy, choicely phrased, and as good to listen to as music—and he did love to recite those occasional poems, with a love that is beyond understanding. There was no doubt of his joy in the performance. His delight in it was absolutely innocent; his unoffending admiration of his poems; his perfect manner of reading them—it was all beautiful to see. He recited from memory, sometimes, a very long speech, exquisitely phrased, faultlessly modeled, yet sounding exactly as if it was pouring unprepared out of heart and brain. He was a perfect reciter of both his poetry and his prose, and in both instances they were music. But if he was well down in the list of performers, then his performance was worth two or three times as much as it was when he was appointed to enter the field earlier, because if he was down a little way in the list it gave him a chance to drink a thimbleful of champagne, and that was all that was necessary for Willie Winter. I can see him so clearly: his small figure bent persuasively forward, his face glowing with inspiration—part of it from his poetry, the rest from his thimbleful of champagne. He would throw out a dainty line or two and then glance up this way, that way, the other way, collecting appreciation; and in the meantime he would be, not spitting—that is vulgar—but doing what any man properly charged with champagne does when he feels that he has got his mouth full of raw cotton and must rid himself of it. He did that all the way through, while he was reciting, and he was the happiest man in the world. And on this particular occasion that I am speaking of he was charming. It was a beautiful thing to see, and I wished he was drunker. He got such effects out of that thimbleful of champagne I wondered what would happen if he had had a tubfull.
Now at that point ends all that was pleasurable about that notable celebration of Mr. Whittier’s seventieth birthday—because I got up at that point and followed Winter, with what I have no doubt I supposed would be the gem of the evening—the gay oration above quoted from the Boston paper. I had written it all out the day before, and had perfectly memorized it, and I stood up there at my genial and happy and self-satisfied ease, and began to deliver it. Those majestic guests, that row of venerable and still active volcanoes, listened, as did everybody else in the house, with attentive interest. Well, I delivered myself of—we’ll say the first two hundred words of my speech. I was expecting no returns from that part of the speech, but this was not the case as regarded the rest of it. I arrived now at the dialogue: “The old miner said ‘You are the fourth, I’m going to move.’ ‘The fourth what?’ said I. He answered, ‘The fourth littery man that has been here in twenty-four hours. I am going to move.’ ‘Why, you don’t tell me,’ said I. ‘Who were the others?’ ‘Mr. Longfellow, Mr. Emerson, Mr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, consound the lot’”—
Now then the house’s attention continued, but the expression of interest in the faces turned to a sort of black frost. I wondered what the trouble was. I didn’t know. I went on, but with difficulty—I struggled along, and entered upon that miner’s fearful description of the bogus Emerson, the bogus Holmes, the bogus Longfellow, always hoping—but with a gradually perishing hope—that somebody would laugh, or that somebody would at least smile, but nobody did. I didn’t know enough to give it up and sit down, I was too new to public speaking, and so I went on with this awful performance, and carried it clear through to the end, in front of a body of people who seemed turned to stone with horror. It was the sort of expression their faces would have worn if I had been making these remarks about the Deity and the rest of the Trinity; there is no milder way in which to describe the petrified condition and the ghastly expression of those people.
When I sat down it was with a heart which had long ceased to beat. I shall never be as dead again as I was then. I shall never be as miserable again as I was then. I speak now as one who doesn’t know what the condition of things may be in the next world, but in this one I shall never be as wretched again as I was then. Howells, who was near me, tried to say a comforting word, but couldn’t get beyond a gasp. There was no use—he understood the whole size of the disaster. He had good intentions, but the words froze before they could get out. It was an atmosphere that would freeze anything. If Benvenuto Cellini’s salamander had been in that place he would not have survived to be put into Cellini’s autobiography. There was a frightful pause. There was an awful silence, a desolating silence. Then the next man on the list had to get up—there was no help for it. That was Bishop—Bishop, now forgotten, had just burst handsomely upon the world with a most acceptable novel, which had appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, a place which would make any novel respectable and any author noteworthy. In this case the novel itself was recognized as being, without extraneous help, respectable. Bishop was away up in the public favor, and he was an object of high interest, consequently there was a sort of national expectancy in the air; we may say our American millions were standing, from Maine to Texas and from Alaska to Florida, holding their breath, their lips parted, their hands ready to applaud when Bishop should get up on that occasion, and for the first time in his life speak in public. It was under these damaging conditions that he got up to “make good,” as the vulgar say. I had spoken several times before, and that is the reason why I was able to go on without dying in my tracks, as I ought to have done—but Bishop had had no experience. He was up facing those awful deities—facing those other people, those strangers—facing human beings for the first time in his life, with a speech to utter. No doubt it was well packed away in his memory, no doubt it was fresh and usable, until I had been heard from. I suppose that after that, and under the smothering pall of that dreary silence, it began to waste away and disappear out of his head like the rags breaking from the edge of a fog, and presently there wasn’t any fog left. He didn’t go on—he didn’t last long. It was not many sentences after his first, before he began to hesitate, and break, and lose his grip, and totter, and wobble, and at last he slumped down in a limp and mushy pile.
Well, the program for the occasion was probably not more than one-third finished, but it ended there. Nobody rose. The next man hadn’t strength enough to get up, and everybody looked so dazed, so stupefied, paralysed, it was impossible for anybody to do anything, or even try. Nothing could go on in that strange atmosphere. Howells mournfully, and without words, hitched himself to Bishop and me and supported us out of the room. It was very kind—he was most generous. He towed us tottering away into some room in that building, and we sat down there. I don’t know what my remark was now, but I know the nature of it. It was the kind of remark you make when you know that nothing in the world can help your case. But Howells was honest—he had to say the heart-breaking things he did say: that there was no help for this calamity, this shipwreck, this cataclysm; that this was the most disastrous thing that had ever happened in anybody’s history—and then he added, “That is, for you—and consider what you have done for Bishop. It is bad enough in your case, you deserve to suffer. You have committed this crime, and you deserve to have all you are going to get. But here is an innocent man. Bishop had never done you any harm, and see what you have done to him. He can never hold his head up again. The world can never look upon Bishop as being a live person. He is a corpse.”
That is the history of that episode of twenty-eight years ago, which pretty nearly killed me with shame during that first year or two whenever it forced its way into my mind.
Now then, I take that speech up and examine it. As I said, it arrived this morning, from Boston. I have read it twice, and unless I am an idiot, it hasn’t a single defect in it from the first word to the last. It is just as good as good can be. It is smart; it is saturated with humor. There isn’t a suggestion of coarseness or vulgarity in it anywhere. What could have been the matter with that house? It is amazing, it is incredible, that they didn’t shout with laughter, and those deities the loudest of them all. Could the fault have been with me? Did I lose courage when I saw those great men up there whom I was going to describe in such a strange fashion? If that happened, if I showed doubt, that can account for it, for you can’t be successfully funny if you show that you are afraid of it. Well, I can’t account for it, but if I had those beloved and revered old literary immortals back here now on the platform at Carnegie Hall I would take that same old speech, deliver it, word for word, and melt them till they’d run all over that stage. Oh, the fault must have been with me, it is not in the speech at all.
All Boston shuddered for several days. All gaieties ceased, all festivities; even the funerals were without animation. There has never been so awful a time in Boston. Even the Massacre did not produce a like effect, nor the Anthony Burns episode, nor any other solemnity in Boston’s history. But I am glad that that lady mentioned this speech, which I should never have thought of again I suppose, for now I am going to apply the test, and I am going to find out whether it was Boston or whether it was myself that was in fault at that sad time of Mr. Bishop’s obsequies; for next summer I will drop down from the New Hampshire hills with that typewritten ancient speech in my hand, and I will go before the massed intellect of Boston—the Twentieth Century Club—and without revealing what it is that I am asking permission to talk about, I will lay those ancient facts before that unprejudiced jury and read that speech to them and see what the result will be. If they do not laugh and admire I shall commit suicide there. I would just as soon do it there as anyplace; and one time is as good as another to me.
January 12, 1906
This talk about Mr. Whittier’s seventieth birthday reminds me that my own seventieth arrived recently—that is to say, it arrived on the 30th of November, but Colonel Harvey was not able to celebrate it on that date because that date had been preempted by the President to be used as Thanksgiving Day, a function which originated in New England two or three centuries ago when those people recognized that they really had something to be thankful for—annually, not oftener—if they had succeeded in exterminating their neighbors, the Indians, during the previous twelve months instead of getting exterminated by their neighbors the Indians. Thanksgiving Day became a habit, for the reason that in the course of time, as the years drifted on, it was perceived that the exterminating had ceased to be mutual and was all on the white man’s side, consequently on the Lord’s side, consequently it was proper to thank the Lord for it and extend the usual annual compliments. The original reason for a Thanksgiving Day has long ago ceased to exist—the Indians have long ago been comprehensively and satisfactorily exterminated and the account closed with Heaven, with the thanks due. But, from old habit, Thanksgiving Day has remained with us, and every year the President of the United States and the Governors of all the several States and the territories set themselves the task, every November, to advertise for something to be thankful for, and then they put those thanks into a few crisp and reverent phrases, in the form of a Proclamation, and this is read from all the pulpits in the land, the national conscience is wiped clean with one swipe, and sin is resumed at the old stand.
The President and the Governors had to have my birthday—the 30th—for Thanksgiving Day, and this was a great inconvenience to Colonel Harvey, who had made much preparation for a banquet to be given to me on that day in celebration of the fact that it marked my seventieth escape from the gallows, according to his idea—a fact which he regarded with favor and contemplated with pleasure, because he is my publisher and commercially interested. He went to Washington to try to get the President to select another day for the national Thanksgiving, and I furnished him with arguments to use which I thought persuasive and convincing, arguments which ought to persuade him even to put off Thanksgiving Day a whole year—on the ground that nothing had happened during the previous twelvemonth except several vicious and inexcusable wars, and King Leopold of Belgium’s usual annual slaughters and robberies in the Congo State, together with the Insurance revelations in New York, which seemed to establish the fact that if there was an honest man left in the United States, there was only one, and we wanted to celebrate his seventieth birthday. But the Colonel came back unsuccessful, and put my birthday celebration off to the 5th of December.
I had twice as good a time at this seventieth, as I had had at Mr. Whittier’s seventieth, twenty-eight years earlier. In the speech which I made were concealed many facts. I expected everybody to discount those facts 95 per cent and that is probably what happened. That does not trouble me, I am used to having my statements discounted. My mother had begun it before I was seven years old. Yet all through my life my facts have had a substratum of truth, and therefore they were not without preciousness. Any person who is familiar with me knows how to strike my average, and therefore knows how to get at the jewel of any fact of mine and dig it out of its blue-clay matrix. My mother knew that art. When I was seven or eight, or ten, or twelve years old—along there—a neighbor said to her, “Do you ever believe anything that that boy says?” My mother said “He is the wellspring of truth, but you can’t bring up the whole well with one bucket”—and she added, “I know his average, therefore he never deceives me. I discount him 30 per cent for embroidery, and what is left is perfect and priceless truth, without a flaw in it anywhere.”
Now to make a jump of forty years, without breaking the connection: that word “embroidery” was used again in my presence and concerning me, when I was fifty years old, one night at Reverend Frank Goodwin’s house in Hartford, at a meeting of the Monday Evening Club. The Monday Evening Club still exists. It was founded about forty-five years ago by that theological giant, Rev. Dr. Bushnell, and some comrades of his, men of large intellectual calibre and more or less distinction, local or national. I was admitted to membership in it in the fall of 1871 and was an active member thenceforth until I left Hartford in the summer of 1891. The membership was restricted, in those days, to eighteen—possibly twenty. The meetings began about the 1st of October and were held in the private houses of the members every fortnight thereafter throughout the cold months until the 1st of May. Usually there were a dozen members present—sometimes as many as fifteen. There was an essay and a discussion. The essayists followed each other in alphabetical order through the season. The essayist could choose his own subject and talk twenty minutes on it, from manuscript or orally, according to his preference. Then the discussion followed, and each member present was allowed ten minutes in which to express his views. The wives of these people were always present. It was their privilege. It was also their privilege to keep still; they were not allowed to throw any light upon the discussion. After the discussion there was a supper, and talk, and cigars. This supper began at ten o’clock promptly, and the company broke up and went away at midnight. At least they did except upon one occasion. In my recent Birthday speech I remarked upon the fact that I have always bought cheap cigars, and that is true. I have never bought costly ones, and whenever I go to a rich man’s house to dinner I conceal cheap cigars about my person, as a protection against his costly ones. There are enough costly Havana cigars in my house to start a considerable cigar shop with, but I did not buy one of them—I doubt if I have ever smoked one of them. They are Christmas presents from wealthy and ignorant friends, extending back for a long series of years. Among the lot, I found, the other day, a double-handful of J. Pierpont Morgan’s cigars, which were given to me three years ago by his particular friend, the late William E. Dodge, one night when I was at dinner in Mr. Dodge’s house. Mr. Dodge did not smoke, and so he supposed that those were super-excellent cigars, because they were made for Mr. Morgan in Havana out of special tobacco and cost $1.66 apiece. Now whenever I buy a cigar that costs six cents I am suspicious of it. When it costs four and a quarter or five cents I smoke it with confidence. I carried those sumptuous cigars home, after smoking one of them at Mr. Dodge’s house to show that I had no animosity, and here they lie ever since. They cannot beguile me. I am waiting for somebody to come along whose lack of education will enable him to smoke them and enjoy them.
Well, that night at the Club—as I was saying—George, our colored butler, came to me when the supper was nearly over, and I noticed that he was pale. Normally his complexion was a clear black, and very handsome, but now it had modified to old amber. He said,
“Mr. Clemens, what are we going to do? There is not a cigar in the house but those old Wheeling long nines. Can’t nobody smoke them but you. They kill at thirty yards. It is too late to telephone—we couldn’t get any cigars out from town—what can we do? Ain’t it best to say nothing, and let on that we didn’t think?”
“No” I said, “that would not be honest. Fetch out the long nines”—which he did.
I had just come across those “long nines” a few days or a week before. I hadn’t seen a long nine for years. When I was a cub pilot on the Mississippi in the late ’50s, I had had a great affection for them, because they were not only—to my mind—perfect, but you could get a basketful of them for a cent—or a dime, they didn’t use cents out there in those days. So when I saw them advertised in Hartford I sent for a thousand at once. They were sent out to me in badly battered and disreputable-looking old square pasteboard boxes, two hundred in a box. George brought the box, which was caved in on all sides, looking the worst it could, and began to pass them around. The conversation had been brilliantly animated up to that moment—but now a frost fell upon the company. That is to say, not all of a sudden, but the frost fell upon each man as he took up a cigar and held it poised in the air—and there, in the middle, his sentence broke off. That kind of thing went on all around the table, until when George had completed his crime the whole place was full of a thick solemnity and silence.
Those men began to light the cigars. Rev. Dr. Parker was the first man to light. He took three or four heroic whiffs—then gave it up. He got up with the remark that he had to go to the bedside of a dying parishioner, which I knew was a lie, because if that had been the truth he would have gone earlier. He started out. Rev. Dr. Burton was the next man. He took only one whiff, and followed Parker. He furnished a pretext, and you could see by the sound of his voice that he didn’t think much of the pretext, and was vexed with Parker for getting in ahead with a dying client. Rev. Mr. Twichell followed, with a good hearty pretext—nothing in it, and he didn’t expect anybody to find anything in it, but Twichell is always more or less honest, to this day, and it cost him nothing to say that he had to go now because he must take the midnight train for Boston. Boston was the first place that occurred to him—he would have said Jerusalem if he had thought of it.
It was only a quarter to eleven when they began to distribute pretexts. At ten minutes to eleven all those people were out of the house, and praying, no doubt, that the pretext might be overlooked, in consideration of the circumstances. When nobody was left but George and me I was cheerful—I had no compunctions of conscience, no griefs of any kind. But George was beyond speech, because he held the honor and credit of the family above his own, and he was ashamed that this smirch had been put upon it. I told him to go to bed and try to sleep it off. I went to bed myself. At breakfast in the morning when George was taking a cup of coffee from Mrs. Clemens’s hand, I saw it tremble in his hand. I knew by that sign that there was something on his mind. He brought the cup to me and asked impressively,
“Mr. Clemens, how far is it from the front door to the upper gate?”
I said “It is a hundred and twenty-five steps.”
He said “Mr. Clemens, you can start at the front door and you can go plumb to the upper gate and tread on one of them cigars every time.”
Now by this roundabout and gradual excursion I have arrived at that meeting of the Club at Reverend Frank Goodwin’s house which I spoke of a while back, and where that same word was used in my presence, and to me, which I mentioned as having been used by my mother as much as forty years before. The subject under discussion was Dreams. The talk passed from mouth to mouth in the usual serene way. The late Charles Dudley Warner delivered his views in the smooth and pleasantly flowing fashion which he had learned in his early manhood when he was an apprentice to the legal profession. He always spoke pleasingly, always smoothly, always choicely, never excitedly, never aggressively, always kindly, gently, and always with a lambent and playful and inconspicuous thread of humor appearing and disappearing along through his talk, like the tinted lights in an opal. To my thinking, there was never much body to what he said, never much juice in it; never anything very substantial to carry away and think about, yet it was always a pleasure to listen to him. Always his art was graceful and charming. Then came the late Colonel Greene, who had been a distinguished soldier in the Civil War, and who at the time that I speak of was high up in the Connecticut Mutual and on his way to become its President presently, and in time to die in that harness and leave behind him a blemishless reputation, at a time when the chiefs of the New York insurance companies were approaching the eternal doom of their reputations. Colonel Greene discussed the Dream question in his usual way—that is to say, he began a sentence and went on and on, dropping a comma in here and there at intervals of eighteen inches, never hesitating for a word, drifting straight along like a river at half bank with no reefs in it; the surface of his talk as smooth as a mirror; his construction perfect, and fit for print without correction, as he went along. And when the hammer fell, at the end of his ten minutes, he dumped in a period right where he was and stopped—and it was just as good there as it would have been anywhere else in that ten minutes’ sentence. You could look back over that speech and you’d find it dimly milestoned along with those commas which he had put in and which could have been left out just as well, because they merely staked out the march, and nothing more. They could not call attention to the scenery, because there wasn’t any. His speech was always like that—perfectly smooth, perfectly constructed; and when he had finished, no listener could go into court and tell what it was he had said. It was a curious style. It was impressive—you always thought, from one comma to another, that he was going to strike something presently, but he never did. But this time that I speak of, the burly and magnificent Rev. Dr. Burton sat with his eyes fixed upon Greene from the beginning of the sentence until the end of it. He looked as the lookout on a whaleship might look who was watching where a whale had gone down and was waiting and watching for it to reappear; and no doubt that was the figure that was in Burton’s mind, because when at last Greene finished, Burton threw up his hands and shouted “There she blows!”
The elder Hamersley took his appointed ten minutes, easily, comfortably, with good phrasing, and most entertainingly—and this was always to be expected of the elder Hamersley.
Then his son, Will Hamersley, a young lawyer, now this many years a Judge of the Connecticut Supreme Court, took his chance in the Dream question. And I can’t imagine anything more distressing than a talk from Will Hamersley—a talk from the Will Hamersley of those days. You always knew that before he got through he would certainly say something—something that you could carry away, something that you could consider, something that you couldn’t easily put out of your mind. But you also knew that you would suffer many a torture before he got that thing out. He would hesitate and hesitate, get to the middle of a sentence and search around and around and around for a word, get the wrong word, search again, get another wrong one, search again and again—and so he would go on in that way till everybody was in misery on his account, hoping that he would arrive in the course of time, and yet sinking deeper and deeper toward despair, with the conviction that this time he was not going to arrive. He would seem to get so far away from any possible goal that you would feel convinced that he could not cover the intervening space and get there before his ten minutes would come to an end and leave him suspended between heaven and earth. But, sure as a gun, before that ten minutes ended Will Hamersley would arrive at his point and fetch it out with such a round and complete and handsome and satisfying unostentatious crash that you would be lifted out of your chair with admiration and gratitude.
Joe Twichell sometimes took his turn. If he talked, it was easily perceptible that it was because he had something to say, and he was always able to say it well. But almost as a rule, he said nothing, and gave his ten minutes to the next man—and whenever he gave it to Charles E. Perkins he ran the risk of getting lynched on his way home by the rest of the membership. Charles E. Perkins was the dullest white man in Connecticut—and he probably remains that to this day; I have not heard of any real competitor. Perkins would moon along, and moon along, and moon along, using the most commonplace, the most dreary, the most degraded English, with never an idea in it by any chance. But he never gave his ten minutes to anybody. He always used it up to the last second. Then there was always a little gap—had to be for the crowd to recover before the next man could begin. Perkins, when he would get entirely lost in his talk and didn’t know where he was in his idiotic philosophizings, would grasp at narrative, as the drowning man grasps at a straw. If a drowning man ever does that—which I doubt. Then he would tell something in his experiences, thinking perhaps it had something to do with the question in hand. It generally hadn’t—and this time he told about a long and arduous and fatiguing chase which he had had in the Maine woods on a hot summer’s day, after some kind of a wild animal that he wanted to kill, and how at last, chasing eagerly after this creature across a wide stream, he slipped and fell on the ice, and injured his leg—whereupon a silence and confusion. Perkins noticed that something was wrong, and then it occurred to him that there was a kind of discrepancy in hunting animals on the ice in summertime, so he switched off to theology. He always did that. He was a rabid Christian, and member of Joe Twichell’s church. Joe Twichell could get together the most impossible Christians that ever assembled in anybody’s congregation; and as a usual thing he couldn’t run his church systematically on account of new deacons who didn’t understand the business—the recent deacons having joined their predecessors in the Penitentiary down there at Wethersfield. Perkins would wind up with some very pious remarks—and in fact they all did that. Take the whole crowd—the crowd that was almost always present—and this remark applies to them. There was J. Hammond Trumbull, the most learned man in the United States. He knew everything—everything in detail that had ever happened in this world, and a lot that was going to happen, and a lot that couldn’t ever possibly happen. He was thoroughly posted, and yet if there was a prize offered for the man that could put up the most uninteresting ten minutes’ talk, you wouldn’t know whether to bet on him or on Perkins—he would close with some piety. Henry C. Robinson—Governor Henry C. Robinson—a brilliant man, a most polished and effective and eloquent speaker, an easy speaker, a speaker who had no difficulties to encounter in delivering himself—always closed with some piety. A. C. Dunham, a man really great in his line—that is to say the commercial line—a great manufacturer, an enterprising man, a capitalist, a most competent and fascinating talker, a man who never opened his mouth without a stream of practical pearls flowing from it—he always closed with some piety—
January 13, 1906
The piety-ending was used also by Franklin and Johnson, and possibly by the rest of the Club—most likely by the rest of the Club. But I recall that that ending was a custom with Franklin and with Johnson. Franklin was a bluff old soldier. He was a West Pointer and, I think, had served in the Mexican war. He commanded one of McClellan’s armies in the Civil War at the time that McClellan was commander-in-chief. He was an ideal soldier, simple-hearted, good, kind, affectionate; set in his opinions, his partialities and his prejudices, believing everything which he had been taught to believe about politics, religion, and military matters; thoroughly well educated in the military science—in fact I have already said that, because I have said he was a West Pointer. He knew all that was worth knowing in that specialty, and was able to reason well upon his knowledge, but his reasoning faculty did not shine when he was discussing other things. Johnson was a member of Trinity, and was easily the most brilliant member of the Club. But his fine light shone not in public, but in the privacy of the Club, and his qualities were not known outside of Hartford.
I had long been suffering from these intolerable and inexcusable exudations of misplaced piety, and for years had wanted to enter a protest against them, but had struggled against the impulse and had always been able to conquer it, until now. But this time Perkins was too much for me. He was the feather that broke the camel’s back. The substance of his wandering twaddle—if by chance it had substance—was that there is nothing in dreams. Dreams merely proceed from indigestion—there is no quality of intelligence in them—they are thoroughly fantastic and without beginning, logical sequence, or definite end. Nobody, in our day, but the stupid or the ignorant attaches any significance to them. And then he went on blandly and pleasantly to say that dreams had once had a mighty importance, that they had had the illustrious honor of being used by the Almighty as a means of conveying desires, warnings, commands, to people whom He loved or hated—that these dreams are set down in Holy Writ; that no sane man challenges their authenticity, their significance, their verity.
I followed Perkins, and I remember with satisfaction that I said not one harsh thing, vexed as I was, but merely remarked, without warmth, that these tiresome damned prayer-meetings might better be adjourned to the garret of some church, where they belonged. It is centuries ago that I did that thing. It was away back, back, back, so many, many years ago—and yet I have always regretted it, because from that time forth, to the last meeting which I attended (which would be at the beginning of the spring of 1891) the piety-ending was never used again. No, perhaps I am going too far; maybe I am putting too much emphasis upon my regret. Possibly when I said that about regret, I was doing what people so often unconsciously do, trying to place myself in a favorable light after having made a confession that makes such a thing more or less difficult. No, I think it quite likely that I never regretted it at all.
Anybody could see that the piety-ending had no importance, for the reason that it was manifestly perfunctory. The Club was founded by a great clergyman; it always had more clergymen in it than good people. Clergymen are not able to sink the shop without falling under suspicion. It was quite natural that the original members should introduce that kind of ending to their speeches. It was also quite natural that the rest of the membership, being church members, should take up the custom, turn it into a habit, and continue it without ever happening to notice that it was merely a mouth function, had no heart in it, and therefore utterly valueless to themselves and to everybody else.
I do not now remember what form my views concerning dreams took at that time. I don’t remember now what my notion about dreams was then, but I do remember telling a dream by way of illustrating some detail of my speech, and I also remember that when I had finished it Rev. Dr. Burton made that doubting remark which contained that word I have already spoken of sixteen or seventeen times as having been uttered by my mother, in some such connection, forty or fifty years before. I was probably engaged in trying to make those people believe that now and then, by some accident, or otherwise, a dream which was prophetic turned up in the dreamer’s mind. The date of my memorable dream was about the beginning of May, 1858. It was a remarkable dream, and I had been telling it several times every year for more than fifteen years—and now I was telling it again, here in the Club.
In 18581 was a steersman on board the swift and popular New Orleans and St. Louis packet, Pennsylvania, Captain Klinefelter. I had been lent to Mr. Brown, one of the pilots of the Pennsylvania, by my owner, Mr. Horace E. Bixby, and I had been steering for Brown about eighteen months, I think. Then in the early days of May, 1858, came a tragic trip—the last trip of that fleet and famous steamboat. I have told all about it in one of my books called “Old Times on the Mississippi.” But it is not likely that I told the dream in that book. I will ask Miss Lyon to see—but I will go on and dictate the dream now, and it can go into the waste-basket if it shall turn out that I have already published it. It is impossible that I can ever have published it, I think, because I never wanted my mother to know about that dream, and she lived several years after I published that volume.
I had found aplace on the Pennsylvania for my brother Henry, who was two years my junior. It was not a place of profit, it was only a place of promise. He was “mud” clerk. Mud clerks received no salary, but they were in the line of promotion. They could become, presently, third clerk and second clerk, then chief clerk—that is to say, purser. The dream begins when Henry had been mud clerk about three months. We were lying in port at St. Louis. Pilots and steersmen had nothing to do during the three days that the boat lay in port in St. Louis and New Orleans, but the mud clerk had to begin his labors at dawn and continue them into the night, by the light of pine-knot torches. Henry and I, moneyless and unsalaried, had billeted ourselves upon our brother-in-law, Mr. Moffett, as night lodgers while in port. We took our meals on board the boat. No, I mean I lodged at the house, not Henry. He spent the evenings at the house, from nine until eleven, then went to the boat to be ready for his early duties. On the night of the dream he started away at eleven, shaking hands with the family, and said good-bye according to custom. I may mention that hand-shaking as a good-bye was not merely the custom of that family, but the custom of the region—the custom of Missouri, I may say. In all my life, up to that time, I had never seen one member of the Clemens family kiss another one—except once. When my father lay dying in our home in Hannibal—the 24th of March 1847—he put his arm around my sister’s neck and drew her down and kissed her, saying “Let me die.” I remember that, and I remember the death rattle which swiftly followed those words, which were his last. These good-byes of Henry’s were always executed in the family sitting-room on the second floor, and Henry went from that room and down stairs without further ceremony. But this time my mother went with him to the head of the stairs and said good-bye again. As I remember it she was moved to this by something in Henry’s manner, and she remained at the head of the stairs while he descended. When he reached the door he hesitated, and climbed the stairs and shook hands good-bye once more.
In the morning, when I awoke I had been dreaming, and the dream was so vivid, so like reality, that it deceived me, and I thought it was real. In the dream I had seen Henry a corpse. He lay in a metallic burial case. He was dressed in a suit of my clothing, and on his breast lay a great bouquet of flowers, mainly white roses, with a red rose in the centre. The casket stood upon a couple of chairs. I dressed, and moved toward that door, thinking I would go in there and look at it, but I changed my mind. I thought I could not yet bear to meet my mother. I thought I would wait a while and make some preparation for that ordeal. The house was in Locust street, a little above 13th, and I walked to 14th, and to the middle of the block beyond, before it suddenly flashed upon me that there was nothing real about this—it was only a dream. I can still feel something of the grateful upheaval of joy of that moment, and I can also still feel the remnant of doubt, the suspicion that maybe it was real, after all. I returned to the house almost on a run, flew up the stairs two or three steps at a jump, and rushed into that sitting-room—and was made glad again, for there was no casket there.
We made the usual eventless trip to New Orleans—no, it was not eventless, for it was on the way down that I had the fight with Mr. Brown* which resulted in his requiring that I be left ashore at New Orleans. In New Orleans I always had a job. It was my privilege to watch the freight-piles from seven in the evening until seven in the morning, and get three dollars for it. It was a three-night job and occurred every thirty-five days. Henry always joined my watch about nine in the evening, when his own duties were ended, and we often walked my rounds and chatted together until midnight. This time we were to part, and so the night before the boat sailed I gave Henry some advice. I said “In case of disaster to the boat, don’t lose your head—leave that unwisdom to the passengers—they are competent—they’ll attend to it. But you rush for the hurricane-deck, and astern to one of the life-boats lashed aft the wheel-house, and obey the mate’s orders—thus you will be useful. When the boat is launched, give such help as you can in getting the women and children into it, and be sure you don’t try to get into it yourself. It is summer weather, the river is only a mile wide, as a rule, and you can swim that without any trouble.” Two or three days afterward the boat’s boilers exploded at Ship Island, below Memphis, early one morning—and what happened afterward I have already told in “Old Times on the Mississippi.” As related there, I followed the Pennsylvania about a day later, on another boat, and we began to get news of the disaster at every port we touched at, and so by the time we reached Memphis we knew all about it.
I found Henry stretched upon a mattress on the floor of a great building, along with thirty or forty other scalded and wounded persons, and was promptly informed, by some indiscreet person, that he had inhaled steam; that his body was badly scalded, and that he would live but a little while; also, I was told that the physicians and nurses were giving their whole attention to persons who had a chance of being saved. They were short-handed in the matter of physicians and nurses; and Henry and such others as were considered to be fatally hurt were receiving only such attention as could be spared, from time to time, from the more urgent cases. But Dr. Peyton, a fine and large-hearted old physician of great reputation in the community, gave me his sympathy and took vigorous hold of the case, and in about a week he had brought Henry around. Dr. Peyton never committed himself withprognostications which might not materialize, but at eleven o’clock one night he told me that Henry was out of danger, and would get well. Then he said “At midnight these poor fellows lying here and there all over this place will begin to mourn and mutter and lament and make outcries, and if this commotion should disturb Henry it will be bad for him; therefore ask the physicians on watch to give him an eighth of a grain of morphine, but this is not to be done unless Henry shall show signs that he is being disturbed.”
Oh well, never mind the rest of it. The physicians on watch were young fellows hardly out of the medical college, and they made a mistake—they had no way of measuring the eighth of a grain of morphine, so they guessed at it and gave him a vast quantity heaped on the end of a knife-blade, and the fatal effects were soon apparent. I think he died about dawn, I don’t remember as to that. He was carried to the dead-room and I went away for a while to a citizen’s house and slept off some of my accumulated fatigue—and meantime something was happening. The coffins provided for the dead were of unpainted white pine, but in this instance some of the ladies of Memphis had made up a fund of sixty dollars and bought a metallic case, and when I came back and entered the dead-room Henry lay in that open case, and he was dressed in a suit of my clothing. He had borrowed it without my knowledge during our last sojourn in St. Louis; and I recognized instantly that my dream of several weeks before was here exactly reproduced, so far as these details went—and I think I missed one detail; but that one was immediately supplied, for just then an elderly lady entered the place with a large bouquet consisting mainly of white roses, and in the centre of it was a red rose, and she laid it on his breast.
I told the dream there in the Club that night just as I have told it here.
January 15, 1906
Rev. Dr. Burton swung his leonine head around, focussed me with his eye, and said:
“When was it that this happened?”
“In June, ’58.”
“It is a good many years ago. Have you told it several times since?”
“Yes, I have, a good many times.”
“How many?”
“Why, I don’t know how many.”
“Well, strike an average. How many times a year do you think you have told it?”
“Well I have told it as many as six times a year, possibly oftener.”
“Very well, then you’ve told it, we’ll say, seventy or eighty times since it happened?”
”Yes,” I said, “that’s a conservative estimate.”
“Now then, Mark, a very extraordinary thing happened to me a great many years ago, and I used to tell it a number of times—a good many times—every year, for it was so wonderful that it always astonished the hearer, and that astonishment gave me a distinct pleasure every time. I never suspected that that tale was acquiring any auxiliary advantages through repetition until one day after I had been telling it ten or fifteen years it struck me that either I was getting old, and slow in delivery, or that the tale was longer than it was when it was born. Mark, I diligently and prayerfully examined that tale with this result: that I found that its proportions were now, as nearly as I could make out, one part fact, straight fact, fact pure and undiluted, golden fact, and twenty-four parts embroidery. I never told that tale afterwards—I was never able to tell it again, for I had lost confidence in it, and so the pleasure of telling it was gone, and gone permanently. How much of this tale of yours is embroidery?”
“Well,” I said “I don’t know. I don’t think any of it is embroidery. I think it is all just as I have stated it, detail by detail.”
“Very well,” he said, “then it is all right, but I wouldn’t tell it any more; because if you keep on, it will begin to collect embroidery sure. The safest thing is to stop now.”
That was a great many years ago. And to-day is the first time that I have told that dream since Dr. Burton scared me into fatal doubts about it. No, I don’t believe I can say that. I don’t believe that I ever really had any doubts whatever concerning the salient points of the dream, for those points are of such a nature that they are pictures, and pictures can be remembered, when they are vivid, much better than one can remember remarks and unconcreted facts. Although it has been so many years since I have told that dream, I can see those pictures now just as clearly defined as if they were before me in this room. I have not told the entire dream. There was a good deal more of it. I mean I have not told all that happened in the dream’s fulfillment. After the incident in the death room I may mention one detail, and that is this. When I arrived in St. Louis with the casket it was about eight o’clock in the morning, and I ran to my brother-in-law’s place of business, hoping to find him there, but I missed him, for while I was on the way to his office he was on his way from the house to the boat. When I got back to the boat the casket was gone. He had conveyed it out to his house. I hastened thither, and when I arrived the men were just removing the casket from the vehicle to carry it up stairs. I stopped that procedure, for I did not want my mother to see the dead face, because one side of it was drawn and distorted by the effects of the opium. When I went up stairs, there stood the two chairs—placed to receive the coffin—just as I had seen them in my dream; and if I had arrived two or three minutes later, the casket would have been resting upon them, precisely as in my dream of several weeks before.
Now then, Twichell—but never mind about Twichell. There is a telephone message from his daughter, Mrs. Wood, to say he is in town and will come here to dinner and stay all night.
I think it was at that same dream meeting that a very curious thing happened. It didn’t happen then—it happened in the night, afterward. No, it didn’t happen there at all. It happened at the house of James Goodwin, father of Reverend Francis Goodwin, and also father of the great Connecticut Mutual Insurance Company. Mr. James Goodwin was an old man at the time that I speak of, but in his young days, when he used to drive stage between Hartford and Springfield, he conceived the idea of starting a Mutual Insurance Company, and he collected a little capital in the way of subscriptions—enough to start the business in a modest way—and he gave away the rest of the stock where he could find people willing to accept it—(though they were rather scarce) and now he had lived to see that stock worth two hundred and fifty and nobody willing to sell at that price, or any other. He had long ago forgotten how to drive stage—but it was no matter. He was worth seven millions, and didn’t need to work for a living any longer. Reverend Frank Goodwin, his son, an Episcopal clergyman, was a man of many accomplishments; and among others, he was an architect. He planned and built a huge granite mansion for his father, and I think it was in that mansion that that curious thing happened that night. However I don’t know about that. No, it didn’t happen there. It happened in Francis Goodwin’s own house in the neighborhood. I don’t mind excursioning around in an autobiography—there is plenty of room. I don’t mind it so long as I get the things right at last, when they are important. It happened in this way. Frank Goodwin had a burglar alarm in his house. The annunciator was right at his ear, on the port side of his bed. He would put the whole house on the alarm—every window and every door—at bedtime, then, at five o’clock in the morning the cook would descend from her bedroom and open the kitchen door and that would set the alarm to buzzing in Goodwin’s ear. Now as that happened every morning straight along, week in and week out, Goodwin soon became so habituated to it that it didn’t disturb him. It aroused him, partly, from his sleep sometimes—sometimes it probably did not affect his sleep at all, but from old habit he would automatically put out his left hand and shut off that alarm. By that act he shut off the alarm from the entire house, leaving not a window or a door on it from five o’clock in the morning thenceforth until he should set the alarm the next night at bedtime.
The night that I speak of was one of those dismal New England November nights, close upon the end of the month, when the pestiferous New England climate furnishes those regions a shake-down just in the way of experiment and to get its hand in for business when the proper time comes, which is December. Well, the wind howled, and the snow blew along in clouds when we left that house about midnight. It was a wild night. It was like a storm at sea, for boom and crash and roar and furious snow-drive. It was no kind of a night for burglars to be out in, and yet they were out. Goodwin was in bed, with his house on the alarm by half past twelve. Not very long afterward the burglars arrived. Evidently they knew all about the burglar alarm, because instead of breaking into the kitchen they sawed their way in—that is to say, they sawed a great panel out of the kitchen door and stepped in without alarming the alarm. They went all over the house at their leisure; they collected all sorts of trinkets and trumpery; and all of the silverware. They carried these things to the kitchen, put them in bags, and then they gathered together a sumptuous supper, with champagne and Burgundy, and so on, and ate that supper at their leisure. Then when they were ready to leave—say at three o’clock in the morning—the champagne and the Burgundy had had an influence, and they became careless for a moment, but one moment was enough. In that careless moment a burglar unlocked and opened the kitchen door, and of course the alarm went off. Rev. Mr. Goodwin put out his left hand and shut it off and went on sleeping peacefully, but the burglars bounded out of the place and left all their swag behind them. A burglar alarm is a valuable thing if you know how to utilize it.
When Rev. Mr. Goodwin was finishing his father’s mansion, I was passing by one day. I thought I would go in and see how the house was coming along, and in the first room I entered I found Mr. Goodwin and a paperhanger. Then Mr. Goodwin told me this curious story. He said,
“This room has been waiting a good while. This is Morris paper, and it didn’t hold out. You will see there is one space there, from the ceiling half way to the floor, which is blank. I sent to New York and ordered some more of the paper—it couldn’t be furnished. I applied in Philadelphia and in Boston, with the same result. There was not a bolt of that paper left in America, so far as any of these people knew. I wrote to London. The answer came back in those same monotonous terms—that paper was out of print—not a yard of it to be found. Then I told the paperhanger to strip the paper off and we would replace it with some other pattern, and I was very sorry, because I preferred that pattern to any other. Just then a farmer-looking man halted in front of the house, started to walk that single-plank approach, that you have just walked, and come in; but he saw that sign up there—‘No admittance’—a sign which did not obstruct your excursion into this place—but it halted him. I said ‘Come in, come in.’ He came in, and this being the first room on the route, he naturally glanced in. He saw the paper on the wall and remarked casually ‘I am acquainted with that pattern. I’ve got a bolt of it at home down on my farm in Glastonbury.’ It didn’t take long to strike up a trade with him for that bolt, which had been lying in his farm-house for he didn’t know how long, and he hadn’t any use for it—and now we are finishing up that lacking patch there.”
It was only a coincidence, but I think it was a very curious and interesting one.

Cabinet Officers Urge President
to Disavow Violence to Her.


Mr. Sheppard Criticises the President and
Republican Leaders Try to Stop Him.

Special to The New York Times.
WASHINGTON, Jan. 10.—Mrs. Minor Morris, who on Thursday was dragged from the White House, is to-night in a critical condition.
She seemed to be on the road to recovery on Saturday, and her physicians held out hopes that she would be able to be out by Monday. At the beginning of this week her condition took an unfavorable turn, and she has been growing steadily worse. She had a congestive chill to-day and has continued to grow worse. It is evident to-night that her nervous system has suffered something approaching a collapse.
The bruises inflicted upon her by the policemen have not disappeared, a striking evidence of their severity. Her arms, shoulders, and neck still bear testimony to the nature of her treatment. Mentally and physically she is suffering severely.
It was learned to-day that two Cabinet officers, one of whom is Secretary Taft, have been laboring with the President for two days to get him to issue a statement disavowing the action of Assistant Secretary Barnes, who ordered Mrs. Morris expelled, and expressing his regret for the way she was treated. They have also urged him to promise to take action which will make impossible the repetition of such an occurrence.
The President has held out stoutly against the advice of these two Cabinet officers. He authorized Mr. Barnes to make the statement that he gave out, in which the treatment of Mrs. Morris was justified, and it is not easy to take the other tack now. On high authority, however, it is learned that the two Cabinet officers have not ceased their labors. They both look on the matter not as “a mere incident,” but as a serious affair.
The Morris incident was brought up in the House to-day just before adjournment by Mr. Sheppard of Texas. He was recognized for fifteen minutes, in the ordinary course of the debate on the Philippine Tariff bill, and began at once to discuss the resolution he introduced Monday calling for an investigation of the expulsion. He excused himself for speaking on the resolution at this time, saying that as it was not privileged he could not obtain its consideration without the consent of the Committee on Rules.
He went on to describe the incident at the White House. He had proceeded only a minute or two when he was interrupted by Gen. Grosvenor, who rose to the point of order that the remarks were not germane to the Philippine Tariff bill.
“I will show the gentleman that it is germane,” cried Mr. Sheppard. “It is just as proper for this country to have a Chinese wall around the White House as it is to have such a wall around the United States.”
“Well, if he thinks it is proper to thus arraign the President and his household,” said Mr. Grosvenor, “let him go on.”
“If the President had heard the howl of a wolf or the growl of a bear from the adjacent offices,” retorted Mr. Sheppard, “the response would have been immediate, but the wail of an American woman fell upon unresponsive ears.”
There had been several cries of protest when Gen. Grosvenor interrupted Mr. Sheppard, many of whose Democratic friends gathered about him and urged him to proceed. They applauded his reply to Mr. Grosvenor, and the Ohioan did not press his point.
“These unwarrantable and unnecessary brutalities,” continued Mr. Sheppard, “demand an investigation. Unless Congress takes some action we shall soon witness in a free republic a condition where citizens cannot approach the President they have created without fear of bodily harm from arbitrary subordinates.”
Mr. Sheppard had nearly reached the close of his remarks when Mr. Payne, the titular floor leader of the Republicans, renewed the Grosvenor point of order. Mr. Olmstead of Pennsylvania, in the chair, however, ruled that with the House sitting in Committee of the Whole on the state of the Union, remarks need not be germane.
Mr. Payne interrupted again, to ask a question.
“If a gentleman has the facts upon which to found his attack,” he said, “does he not think the police court is the better place to air them?”
“The suggestion is a reflection upon the gentleman himself, although he is a friend of mine,” replied Sheppard.
When the speech was finished Grosvenor got the floor and said he had been aware of the rules when he did not press his point.
“But I made the point,” he continued, “merely to call the attention of the young gentleman from Texas in a mild and fatherly manner, to my protest against his remarks. I hoped he would refrain from further denunciation of the President. He has introduced a resolution which is now pending before the proper committee. That resolution asks for facts and I supposed that the gentleman would wait for the facts until that resolution is brought into the House.
“I know no difference in proper conduct between the President’s office and household and the humblest home in this Nation, but I don’t believe a condition has arisen such that the husband of this woman cannot take care of the situation.”
A high Government official to-night added to the accounts of the expulsion an incident, which he said was related to him by an eyewitness. While the policemen and their negro assistant were dragging Mrs. Morris through the grounds the scene was witnessed by the women servants, some of whom called out, “Shame!” One of the policemen pressed his hand down on Mrs. Morris’s mouth to stifle her cries for help, and at that sight a man servant, a negro, rushed forward and shouted:
“Take your hand off that white woman’s face! Don’t treat a white woman that way!”
The policeman paid no attention to the man, and continued his efforts to stifle Mrs. Morris’s cries.
The reason I want to insert that account of the Morris case, which is making such a lively stir all over the United States, and possibly the entire world, in these days, is this. Some day, no doubt these autobiographical notes will be published. It will be after my death. It may be five years from now, it may be ten, it may be fifty—but whenever the time shall come, even if it should be a century hence—I claim that the reader of that day will find the same strong interest in that narrative that the world has in it to-day, for the reason that the account speaks of the thing in the language we naturally use when we are talking about something that has just happened. That form of narrative is able to carry along with it for ages and ages the very same interest which we find in it to-day. Whereas if this had happened fifty years ago, or a hundred, and the historian had dug it up and was putting it in his language, and furnishing you a long-distance view of it, the reader’s interest in it would be pale. You see, it would not be news to him, it would be history; merely history; and history can carry on no successful competition with news, in the matter of sharp interest. When an eye-witness sets down in narrative form some extraordinary occurrence which he has witnessed, that is news—that is the news form, and its interest is absolutely indestructible; time can have no deteriorating effect upon that episode. I am placing that account there largely as an experiment. If any stray copy of this book shall, by any chance, escape the paper-mill for a century or so, and then be discovered and read, I am betting that that remote reader will find that it is still news, and that it is just as interesting as any news he will find in the newspapers of his day and morning—if newspapers shall still be in existence then—though let us hope they won’t.
These notions were born to me in the fall of 1867, in Washington. That is to say, thirty-nine years ago. I had come back from the Quaker City Excursion. I had gone to Washington to write “The Innocents Abroad,” but before beginning that book it was necessary to earn some money to live on meantime, or borrow it—which would be difficult, or take it where it reposed unwatched—which would be unlikely. So I started the first Newspaper Correspondence Syndicate that an unhappy world ever saw. I started it in conjunction with William Swinton, a brother of the Admirable John Swinton. William Swinton was a brilliant creature, highly educated, accomplished. He was such a contrast to me that I did not know which of us most to admire, because both ends of a contrast are equally delightful to me. A thoroughly beautiful woman and a thoroughly homely woman are creations which I love to gaze upon, and which I cannot tire of gazing upon, for each is perfect in her own line, and it is perfection, I think, in many things, and perhaps most things, which is the quality that fascinates us. A splendid literature charms us; but it doesn’t charm me any more than its opposite does—“hog-wash” literature. At another time I will explain that word, “hog-wash,” and offer an example of it which lies here on the bed—a book which was lately sent to me from England, or Ireland.
Swinton kept a jug. It was sometimes full, but seldom as full as himself—and it was when he was fullest that he was most competent with his pen. We wrote a letter apiece once a week and copied them and sent them to twelve newspapers, charging each of the newspapers a dollar apiece. And although we didn’t get rich, it kept the jug going and partly fed the two of us. We earned the rest of our living with magazine articles. My trade in that line was better than his, because I had written six letters for the New York Tribune while I was out on the Quaker City Excursion, and one pretty breezy one for the New York Herald after I got back, and so I had a good deal of a reputation to trade on. Every now and then I was able to get twenty-five dollars for a magazine article. Riley and I were supporting the cheap boarding-houses at that time. It took two of us to do it, and even then the boarding-houses perished. I have always believed, since, that cheap boarding-houses that do business on credit make a mistake—but let Riley go for the present. I will speak of him another time.
I had a chance to write a magazine article about an ancient and moss-grown claim which was disturbing Congress that session, a claim which had been disturbing Congress ever since the War of 1812, and was always getting paid, but never satisfied. The claim was for Indian corn and for provender consumed by the American troops in Maryland or somewhere around there, in the War of 1812. I wrote the article, and it is in one of my books, and is there called “Concerning the Great Beef Contract.” It was necessary to find out the price of Indian corn in 1812, and I found that detail a little difficult. Finally I went to A. R. Spofford, who was the Librarian of Congress then—Spofford the man with the prodigious memory,—and I put my case before him. He knew every volume in the Library and what it contained, and where it was located. He said promptly, “I know of only two sources which promise to afford this information: ‘Tooke on Prices’ ” (he brought me the book) “and the New York Evening Post. In those days newspapers did not publish market reports, but about 1809 the New York Evening Post began to print market reports on sheets of paper about note-paper size, and fold these in the journal.” He brought me a file of the Evening Post for 1812. I examined “Tooke” and then began to examine the Post—and I was in a great hurry. I had less than an hour at my disposal. But in the Post I found a personal narrative which chained my attention at once. It was a letter from a gentleman who had witnessed the arrival of the British and the burning of the Capitol. The matter was bristling with interest for him and he delivered his words hot from the bat. That letter must have been read with fiery and absorbing interest three days later in New York, but not with any more absorbing interest than the interest which was making my blood leap fifty-nine years later. When I finished that account I found I had used up all the time that was at my disposal, and more.
January 16, 1906
January 15th, continued.
That incident made a strong impression upon me. I believed I had made a discovery—the discovery already indicated—the discovery of the wide difference in interest between “news” and “history;” that news is history in its first and best form, its vivid and fascinating form; and that history is the pale and tranquil reflection of it.
This reminds me that in this daily dictation of autobiographical notes, I am mixing these two forms together all the time. I am hoping by this method of procedure to secure the values of both. I am sure I have found the right way to spin an autobiography at last, after my many experiments. Years ago I used to make skeleton notes to use as texts in writing autobiographical chapters, but really those notes were worth next to nothing. If I expanded them upon the page at once, while their interest was fresh in my mind, they were useful, but if I left them unused for several weeks, or several months, their power to suggest and excite had usually passed away. They were faded flowers, their fragrance was gone. But I believe in this present plan. When you arrive with your stenographic plant at eleven, every morning, you find me placid and comfortable in bed, smoking, untroubled by the fact that I must presently get to work and begin to dictate this history of mine. And if I were depending upon faded notes for inspiration, I should have trouble, and my work would soon become distasteful. But by my present system I do not need any notes. The thing uppermost in aperson’s mind is the thing to talk about or write about. The thing of new and immediate interest is the pleasantest text he can have—and you can’t come here at eleven o’clock, or any other hour, and catch me without a new interest—a perfectly fresh interest—because I have either been reading the infernal newspapers and got it there, or I have been talking with somebody; and in either case the new interest is present—the interest which I most wish to dictate about. So you see the result is that this narrative of mine is sure to begin every morning in diary form, because it is sure to begin with something which I have just read, or something which I have just been talking about. That text, when I am done with it—if I ever get done with it, and I don’t seem to get done with any text—but it doesn’t matter, I am not interested in getting done with anything. I am only interested in talking along and wandering around as much as I want to, regardless of results to the future reader. By consequence, here we have diary and history combined; because as soon as I wander from the present text—the thought of to-day—that digression takes me far and wide over an uncharted sea of recollection, and the result of that is history. Consequently my autobiography is diary and history combined. The privilege of beginning every day in the diary form is a valuable one. I may even use a larger word, and say it is a precious one, for it brings together widely separated things that are in a manner related to each other and consequently pleasant surprises and contrasts are pretty sure to result every now and then.
Did I dictate something about John Malone, three or four days ago? Very well, then, if I didn’t I must have been talking with somebody about John Malone. I remember now, it was with Mr. Volney Streamer. He is Librarian of the Players Club. He called here to bring me a book which he has published, and, in a general way, to make my acquaintance. I was a foundation member of the Players Club, but ceased to be a member three years ago, through an absurdity committed by the Management of that Club, a Management which has always been idiotic; a Management which from the beginning has been selected from, not the nearest asylum in the city, but the most competent one. (And some time I wish to talk about that.) Several times, during this lapse of three years, old friends of mine and comrades in the Club—David Munro, that charming Scot, editor of the North American Review; Robert Reid, the artist; Saint-Gaudens, the sculptor; John Malone, the ex-actor, and others, have been resenting the conduct of that Management—the conduct, I mean, which resulted in my segregation from the Club,—and they have always been trying to find a way of restoring me to the fold without damaging my pride. At last they found a way. They made me an honorary member. This handsome honor afforded me unlimited gratification, and I was glad to get back under such flattering conditions. (I don’t like that word, but let it go, I can’t think of the right one at the moment.) Then David Munro and the others put up the fatted calf for the lost sheep in the way of a dinner to me. Midway of the dinner I got a glimpse, through a half-open pantry door, of that pathetic figure, John Malone. There he was, left out, of course. Sixty-five years old; and his history may be summarized—his history for fifty years—in those two words, those eloquent words—“left out.” He has been left out, and left out, and left out, as the years drifted by for nearly two generations. He was always expecting to be counted in. He was always pathetically hoping to be counted in; and that hope never deserted him through all those years, and yet was never in any instance realized. During all those years that I used to drop in at The Players for a game of billiards and a chat with the boys, John Malone was always there until midnight, and after. He had a cheap lodging in the Square—somewhere on Gramercy Park, but the Club was his real home. He told me his history once. His version of it was this:
He was an apprentice in a weekly little newspaper office in Willamette, Oregon, and by and by Edwin Booth made a one-night stand there with his troupe, and John got stage-struck and joined the troupe, and traveled with it around about the Pacific coast in various useful histrionic capacities—capacities suited to a beginner; sometimes assisting by appearing on the stage to say “My lord, the carriage waits,” later appearing armored in shining tin, as a Roman soldier, and so on, gradually rising to higher and higher eminences, and by and by he stood shoulder to shoulder with John McCullough, and the two stood next in rank after Edwin Booth himself on the tragic stage. It was a question which of the two would succeed Booth when Booth should retire, or die. According to Malone, his celebrity quite equalled McCullough’s in those days, and the chances were evenly balanced. A time came when there was a great opportunity—a great part to be played in Philadelphia. Malone was chosen for the part. He missed his train. John McCullough was put into that great place and achieved a success which made him for life. Malone was sure that if he had not missed the train he would have achieved that success himself; he would have secured the enduring fame which fell to John McCullough’s lot; he would have moved on through life serene, comfortable, fortunate, courted, admired, applauded, as was John McCullough’s case from that day until the day of his death. Malone believed with all his heart that fame and fortune were right there within his reach at that time, and that he lost them merely through missing his train. He dated his decline from that day. He declined, and declined, and declined, little by little, and little by little, and year after year, until there came a time when he was no longer wanted on the stage; when even minor part after minor part slipped from his grasp, and at last engagements ceased altogether—engagements of any kind. Yet he was always believing, and always expecting, that a turn of fortune would come; that he would get a chance on the stage in some great part; and that one chance, he said, was all he wanted. He was convinced that the world would not question that he was the rightful successor of Edwin Booth, and from that day forth he would be a famous and happy and fortunate man. He never gave up that hope. Three or four years ago, I remember his jubilation over the fact that he had been chosen by some private theatrical people to play Othello in one of the big theatres of New York. And I remember his grief and deep depression when those private theatrical people gave up the enterprise, at the last moment, and canceled Malone’s engagement, snatching from him the greatness which had once more been just within his reach.
As I was saying, at mid-dinner that night I saw him through the half-open door. There he remained through the rest of the dinner, “left out,” always left out. But at the end of the speeches, when a number of us were standing up in groups and chatting, he crept meekly in and found his way to the vacant chair at my side, and sat down. I sat down at once, and began to talk with him. I was always fond of him—I think everybody was. And presently the President of the New York City College came and bent over John and asked me something about my last summer, and how I had liked it up in the New Hampshire hills, at Dublin. Then, in order to include John in the conversation, he asked him if he was acquainted with that region, and if he had ever been in Dublin. Malone said dreamily, and with the air of a man who was trying to think up long-gone things, “How does it lie as regards Manchester?” President Finley told him, and then John said “I have never been to Dublin, but I have a sort of recollection of Manchester. I am pretty sure I was there once—but it was only a one-night stand, you know.”
It filled my soul with a gentle delight, a gracious satisfaction, the way he said that—“Only a one-night stand.” It seemed to reveal that in his half-century of day-dreaming he had been an Edwin Booth, and unconscious that he was only John Malone—that he was an Edwin Booth, with a long and great and successful career behind him, in which “one-night stands” sank into insignificance and the memory unused to treasuring such little things could not keep tally of them. He said it with the splendid indifference and serenity of a Napoleon who was making an indolent effort to remember a skirmish in which a couple of soldiers had been killed, but was not finding it really worth while to dig deep after such a fact.
Yesterday I spoke to Volney Streamer about John Malone. I had a purpose in this, though I did not tell Streamer what it was. David Munro was not able to be at that dinner, and so, to get satisfaction, he is providing another, for the 6th of February. David told me the guests he was inviting, and said that if there was anybody that I would like to invite, think it over and send him the name. I did think it over, and I have written down here on this pad the name of the man I selected—John Malone—hoping that he would not have to be left out this time, and knowing he wouldn’t be left out unless David should desire it, and I didn’t think David would desire it. However, I took the opportunity to throw out a feeler or two in talking with Volney Streamer, merely asking him how John Malone stood with the membership of The Players now—and that question was quickly and easily answered—that everybody liked John Malone, and everybody pitied him.
Then he told me John Malone’s history. It differed in some points from the history which Malone had given me, but not in essentials, I should say. One fact came out which I had not known about—that John was not a bachelor, but had a married daughter living here somewhere in New York. Then as Streamer went on, came this surprise: that he was a member of Edwin Booth’s Company when John Malone joined it a thousand years ago, and that he had been a comrade of John’s in the Company all over the Pacific coast and the rest of the States for years and years. There, you see, an entire stranger drops in here in the most casual way, and the first thing I know he is an ancient and moss-grown and mildewed comrade of the man who is for the moment uppermost in my mind. That is the way things happen when you are doing a diary and a history combined, and you can’t catch these things in any other way but just that. If you try to remember them, with the intention of writing them down in the form of history a month or a year hence, why, when you get to them the juice is all out of them—you can’t bring to mind the details. And moreover, they have lost their quality of surprise and joy, anyway. That has all wasted and passed away.
Very well——Yesterday Reverend Joe Twichell arrived from Hartford to take dinner and stay all night and swap some lies, and he sat here by the bed the rest of the afternoon, and we talked, and I told him all about John Malone. Twichell came in after breakfast this morning (the 16th) to chat again, and he brought me this, which he had cut out of the morning paper:

John Malone Was Historian of The Players’ Club.
John Malone, the historian of the Players’ Club and one of the oldest actors in the country, was stricken with apoplexy yesterday afternoon in front of Bishop Greer’s residence, 7 Gramercy Park, a few doors from the club. Bishop Greer saw him fall, and, with the assistance of his servants carried Mr. Malone into his house. He was unconscious, and the Bishop telephoned to Police Headquarters.
An ambulance was sent from Bellevue Hospital, and Mr. Malone was taken to the institution by Dr. Hawkes. Later the Players had him removed to the Post-Graduate Hospital, where he died last night.
Mr. Malone was 65 years old, and had supported all the notable actors of a past generation. For a long time he was associated with Booth and Barrett. He had appeared on the stage but infrequently of late years, devoting the greater part of his time to magazine work. He lived with a married daughter in West 147th Street, but visited the Players’ Club nearly every day. He was on his way to the club when stricken.
So there is another surprise, you see. While Twichell and I were talking about John Malone he was passing from this life. His disappointments are ended. At last he is not “left out.” It was a long wait, but the best of all fortunes is his at last.
I started to say, awhile ago, that when I had seemingly made that discovery of the difference between “news” and “history” thirty-nine years ago, I conceived the idea of a magazine to be called The Back Number, and to contain nothing but ancient news; narratives culled from mouldy old newspapers and mouldy old books; narratives set down by eye-witnesses at the time that the episodes treated of happened.
Wednesday, January 17, 1906
January 16th, continued. About General Sickles.
With considerable frequency, since then, I have tried to get publishers to make the experiment of such a magazine, but I was never successful. I was never able to convince a publisher that The Back Number would interest the public. Not one of them was able to conceive of the idea of a sane human being finding interest in stale things. I made my latest effort three years ago. Again I failed to convince. But I, myself, am not convinced. I am quite sure that The Back Number would succeed and become a favorite. I am also sure of another thing—that The Back Number would have this advantage over any other magazine that was ever issued, to wit: that the man who read the first paragraph in it would go on and read the magazine entirely through, skipping nothing—whereas there is no magazine in existence which ever contains three articles which can be depended upon to interest the reader. It is necessary to put a dozen articles into a magazine of the day in order to hit six or eight tastes. One man buys the magazine for one of its articles, another is attracted by another, another by a third; but no man buys the magazine because of the whole of its contents. I contend that The Back Number would be bought for the whole of its contents, and that each reader would read the whole.
“Mr. Paine, you and I will start that magazine, and try the experiment, if you are willing to select the ancient news from old books and newspapers, and do the rest of the editorial work. Are you willing?”
Mr. Paine. “I should be very willing, when we get so that we can undertake it.”
“Very well, then we will, by and by, make that experiment.”
Twichell and I stepped across the street, that night, in the rain, and spent an hour with General Sickles. Sickles is eighty-one years old, now. I had met him only once or twice before, although there has been only the width of 9th street between us for a year. He is too old to make visits, and I am too lazy. I remember when he killed Philip Barton Key, son of the author of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and I remember the prodigious excitement it made in the country. I think it cannot be far from fifty years ago. My vague recollection of it is that it happened in Washington, and that I was there at the time.
I have felt well acquainted with General Sickles for thirty-eight or thirty-nine years, because I have known Twichell that long. Twichell was a chaplain in Sickles’s brigade in the Civil War, and he was always fond of talking about the General. Twichell was under Sickles all through the war. Whenever he comes down from Hartford he makes it his duty to go and pay his respects to the General. Sickles is a genial old fellow; a handsome and stately military figure; talks smoothly, in well-constructed English—I may say perfectly constructed English. His talk is full of interest and bristling with points, but as there are no emphases scattered through it anywhere, and as there is no animation in it, it soon becomes oppressive by its monotony, and it makes the listener drowsy. Twichell had to step on my foot once or twice. The late Bill Nye once said “I have been told that Wagner’s music is better than it sounds.” That felicitous description of a something which so many people have tried to describe, and couldn’t, does seem to fit the General’s manner of speech exactly. His talk is much better than it is. No, that is not the idea—there seems to be a lack there somewhere. Maybe it is another case of the sort just quoted. Maybe Nye would say that “it is better than it sounds.” I think that is it. His talk does not sound entertaining, but it is distinctly entertaining.
Sickles lost a leg at Gettysburg, and I remember Twichell’s account of that circumstance. He talked about it on one of our long walks, a great many years ago, and although the details have passed out of my memory, I still carry the picture in my mind as presented by Twichell. The leg was carried off by a cannon ball. Twichell, and others, carried the General out of the battle, and they placed him on a bed made of boughs, under a tree. There was no surgeon present, and Twichell and Rev. Father O’Hagan, a Catholic priest, made a make-shift tourniquet and stopped the gush of blood—checked it, perhaps is the right term. A newspaper correspondent appeared first. General Sickles considered himself a dying man, and (if Twichell is as truthful a person as the character of his cloth requires him to be) General Sickles put aside everything connected with a future world in order to go out of this one in becoming style. And so he dictated his “last words” to that newspaper correspondent. That was Twichell’s idea—I remember it well—that the General, no doubt influenced by the fact that several people’s last words have been so badly chosen—whether by accident or intention—that they have outlived all the rest of the man’s fame, was moved to do his last words in a form calculated to petrify and preserve them for the future generations. Twichell quoted that speech. I have forgotten what it was, now, but it was well chosen for its purpose.
Now when we sat there in the General’s presence listening to his monotonous talk—it was about himself, and is always about himself, and always seems modest and unexasperating, inoffensive,—it seemed to me that he was just the kind of man who would risk his salvation in order to do some “last words” in an attractive way. He murmured and warbled, and warbled, and it was all just as simple and pretty as it could be. And also I will say this: that he never made an ungenerous remark about anybody. He spoke severely of this and that and the other person—officers in the war—but he spoke with dignity and with courtesy. There was no malignity in what he said. He merely pronounced what he evidently regarded as just criticisms upon them.
I noticed then, what I had noticed once before, four or five months ago, that the General valued his lost leg away above the one that is left. I am perfectly sure that if he had to part with either of them he would part with the one that he has got. I have noticed this same thing in several other Generals who had lost a portion of themselves in the Civil War. There was General Fairchild, of Wisconsin. He lost an arm in one of the great battles. When he was Consul General in Paris and we Clemenses were sojourning there some time or other, and grew to be well acquainted with him and with his family, I know that whenever a proper occasion—an occasion which gave General Fairchild an opportunity to elevate the stump of the lost arm and wag it with effect—occurred, that is what he did. It was easy to forgive him for it, and I did it.
General Noyes was our Minister to France at the time. He had lost a leg in the war. He was a pretty vain man, I will say that for him, and anybody could see—certainly I saw—that whenever there was a proper gathering around, Noyes presently seemed to disappear. There wasn’t anything left of him but the leg which he didn’t have.
Well, General Sickles sat there on the sofa and talked. It was a curious place. Two rooms of considerable size—parlors opening together with folding-doors—and the floors, the walls, the ceilings, cluttered up and overlaid with lion skins, tiger skins, leopard skins, elephant skins; photographs of the General at various times of life—photographs en civil; photographs in uniform; gushing sprays of swords fastened in trophy form against the wall; flags of various kinds stuck here and there and yonder; more animals; more skins; here and there and everywhere more and more skins; skins of wild creatures, always, I believe;—beautiful skins. You couldn’t walk across that floor anywhere without stumbling over the hard heads of lions and things. You couldn’t put out a hand anywhere without laying it upon a velvety, exquisite tiger skin or leopard skin, and so on—oh, well, all the kinds of skins were there; it was as if a menagerie had undressed in the place. Then there was a most decided and rather unpleasant odor, which proceeded from disinfectants and preservatives and things such as you have to sprinkle on skins in order to discourage the moths—so it was not altogether a pleasant place, on that account. It was a kind of museum; and yet it was not the sort of museum which seemed dignified enough to be the museum of a great soldier—and so famous a soldier. It was the sort of museum which should delight and entertain little boys and girls. I suppose that that museum reveals a part of the General’s character and make. He is sweetly and winningly childlike.
Once, in Hartford, twenty or twenty-five years ago, just as Twichell was coming out of his gate Sunday morning to walk to his church and preach, a telegram was put into his hand. He read it immediately, and then, in a manner, collapsed. It said “General Sickles died last night at midnight.”
Well, you can see, now, that it wasn’t so. But no matter—it was so to Joe at the time. He walked along—walked to the church—but his mind was far away. All his affection and homage and worship of his General had come to the fore. His heart was full of these emotions. He hardly knew where he was. In his pulpit, he stood up and began the service, but with a voice over which he had almost no command. The congregation had never seen him thus moved, before, in his pulpit. They sat there and gazed at him and wondered what was the matter; because he was now reading, in this broken voice and with occasional tears trickling down his face, what to them seemed a quite unemotional chapter—that one about Moses begat Aaron, and Aaron begat Deuteronomy, and Deuteronomy begat St. Peter, and St. Peter begat Cain, and Cain begat Abel—and he was going along with this, and half crying—his voice continually breaking. The congregation left the church that morning without being able to account for this most extraordinary thing—as it seemed to them. That a man who had been a soldier for more than four years, and who had preached in that pulpit so many, many times on really moving subjects, without even the quiver of a lip, should break all down over the Begats, was a thing which they couldn’t understand. But there it is—any one can see how such a mystery as that would arouse the curiosity of those people to the boiling-point.
Twichell has had many adventures. He has more adventures in a year than anybody else has in five. One Saturday night he noticed a bottle on his wife’s dressing-bureau. He thought the label said “Hair Restorer,” and he took it in his room and gave his head a good drenching and sousing with it and carried it back and thought no more about it. Next morning when he got up his head was a bright green! He sent around everywhere and couldn’t get a substitute-preacher, so he had to go to his church himself and preach—and he did it. He hadn’t a sermon in his barrel—as it happened—of any lightsome character, so he had to preach a very grave one—a very serious one—and it made the matter worse. The gravity of the sermon did not harmonize with the gaiety of his head, and the people sat all through it with handkerchiefs stuffed in their mouths to try to keep down their joy. And Twichell told me that he was sure he never had seen his congregation—the whole body of his congregation—the entire body of his congregation—absorbed in interest in his sermon, from beginning to end, before. Always there had been an aspect of indifference, here and there, or wandering, somewhere; but this time there was nothing of the kind. Those people sat there as if they thought, “Good for this day and train only: we must have all there is of this show, not waste any of it.” And he said that when he came down out of the pulpit more people waited to shake him by the hand and tell him what a good sermon it was, than ever before. And it seemed a pity that these people should do these fictions in such a place—right in the church—when it was quite plain they were not interested in the sermon at all; they only wanted to get a near view of his head.
Well, Twichell said—no, Twichell didn’t say, I say, that as the days went on and Sunday followed Sunday, the interest in Twichell’s hair grew and grew; because it didn’t stay merely and monotonously green, it took on deeper and deeper shades of green; and then it would change and become reddish, and would go from that to some other color—purplish, yellowish, bluish, and so on—but it was never a solid color. It was always mottled. And each Sunday it was a little more interesting than it was the Sunday before—and Twichell’s head became famous, and people came from New York and Boston, and South Carolina, and Japan, and so on, to look. There wasn’t seating capacity for all the people that came while his head was undergoing these various and fascinating mottlings. And it was a good thing in several ways, because the business had been languishing a little, and now a lot of people joined the church so that they could have the show, and it was the beginning of a prosperity for that church which has never diminished in all these years. Nothing so fortunate ever happened to Joe as that.
Well, he was telling—oh no, it was years ago, that he was telling about the sutler. In the Sickles brigade was a sutler, a Yankee, who was a wonderful person in the way of competency. All other sutlers got out of things on the eve of battle, during battle, after battle; not so with this sutler. He never got out of anything, and so he was very greatly respected and admired. There were times when he would get drunk. These were periodical drunks. You couldn’t tell when he was going to have an experience of that kind, therefore you did not know how to provide for it. It was very necessary to provide for it, because when he was drunk he had no respect for anybody’s feelings or desires. If he wanted to do so and so he would do it; nothing could coax him to do some other way. If he didn’t want to do a thing nobody could persuade him to do it. On one of these occasions of sutlerian eclipse General Sickles had invited some other Generals to dine with him in his headquarters-tent; his cook or his orderly, or somebody—the proper person—came to him aghast, and said “The sutler is drunk. We can’t have any dinner. There isn’t anything to cook and the sutler won’t sell us anything.”
“Did you tell him it was General Sickles who wanted these things?”
“Yes, sir. It didn’t make any difference with the sutler.”
“Well, can’t you get him to—”
“No, sir, we can’t get him to do anything. We have got some beans, and that is all we have got. We have tried to get him to sell us just a pound of pork for the General, and he says he won’t.”
General Sickles said “Send for the chaplain. Let Chaplain Twichell go there. He is popular with that sutler; that sutler has great respect and reverence for Chaplain Twichell. Let him go there and see if he can’t prevail on the sutler to sell him a pound of salt pork for General Sickles.”
Twichell went on the errand—stated his errand.
The sutler propped himself unsteadily against some kind of a support, collected his thoughts, and the suitable words, and said,
“Sell you a pound of pork for General Sickles? Naw. Go back and tell him I wouldn’t sell you a pound of pork for God.”
That was Twichell’s story of the episode.
But I have wandered from that tree where General Sickles lay bleeding, and arranging his last words. It was three-quarters of an hour before a surgeon could be found, for that was a tremendous battle and surgeons were needed everywhere. When the surgeon arrived it was after nightfall. It was a still and windless July night, and there was a candle burning—I think somebody sat near the General’s head and held this candle in his hand. It threw just light enough to make the General’s face distinct, and there were several dim figures waiting around about. Into this group, out of the darkness, bursts an aide; springs lightly from his horse, approaches this white-faced expiring General, straightens himself up soldier-fashion, salutes, and reports in the most soldierly and matter-of-fact way that he has carried out an order given him by the General, and that the movement of the regiments to the supporting point designated has been accomplished.
The General thanked him courteously. I am sure Sickles must have been always polite. It takes training to enable a person to be properly courteous when he is dying. Many have tried it. I suppose very few have succeeded.
Thursday, January 18, 1906
Senator Tillman speaks of Morris case—Funeral of John Malone
contrasted with funeral of Empress of Austria—Leads up to dueling.
Senator Tillman, of South Carolina, has been making a speech—day before yesterday—of frank and intimate criticism of the President,—the President of the United States, as he calls him; whereas so far as my knowledge goes, there has been no such functionary as President of the United States for forty years, perhaps, if we except Cleveland. I do not call to mind any other President of the United States—there may have been one or two—perhaps one or two, who were not always and persistently presidents of the Republican party, but were now and then for a brief interval really Presidents of the United States. Tillman introduces into this speech the matter of the expulsion of Mrs. Morris from the White House, and I think his arraignment of the President was a good and capable piece of work. At any rate, his handling of it suited me very well, and tasted very good in my mouth. I was glad that there was somebody to take this matter up, whether from a generous motive or from an ungenerous one, and give it an airing. It was needed. The whole nation, and the entire press, have been sitting by in meek and slavish silence, everybody privately wishing—just as was my own case—that some person with some sense of the proprieties would rise up and denounce this outrage as it ought to be denounced. Tillman makes a point which charms me. I wanted to use it myself, days ago, but I was already arranging a scheme in another matter of public concern which may invite a brick or two in my direction, and one entertainment of this sort at a time is plenty for me. That point was this: that the President is always prodigal of letters and telegrams to Tom, Dick and Harry, about everything and nothing. He seems never to lack time from his real duties to attend to duties that do not exist. So, at the very time when he should have been throwing off one or two little lines to say to Mrs. Morris and her friends that, being a gentleman, he was hastening to say he was sorry that his idiot assistant secretary had been turning the nation’s official mansion into a sailor boarding-house, and that he would admonish Mr. Barnes, and the rest of the reception-room garrison to deal more gently with the erring in future, and to abstain from any conduct in the White House which would rank as disgraceful in any other respectable dwelling in the land,—
I don’t like Tillman. His second cousin killed an editor, three years ago, without giving that editor a chance to defend himself. I recognize that it is almost always wise, and is often in a manner necessary, to kill an editor, but I think that when a man is a United States Senator he ought to require his second cousin to refrain as long as he can, and then do it in a handsome way, running some personal risk himself. I have not known Tillman to do many things that were greatly to his credit during his political life, but I am glad of the position which he has taken this time. The President has persistently refused to listen to such friends of his as are not insane—men who have tried to persuade him to disavow Mr. Barnes’s conduct and express regret for that occurrence. And now Mr. Tillman uses that point which I spoke of a minute ago, and uses it with telling effect. He reminds the Senate that at the very time that the President’s dignity would not allow him to send to Mrs. Morris or her friends a kindly and regretful line, he had time enough to send a note of compliment and admiration to a prize-fighter in the Far West. If the President had been an unpopular person, that point would have been seized upon early, and much and disastrous notice taken of it. But, as I have suggested before, the nation and the newspapers have maintained a loyal and humiliated silence about it, and have waited prayerfully and hopefully for some reckless person to say the things which were in their hearts, and which they could not bear to utter. Mrs. Morris embarrasses the situation, and extends and keeps alive the discomfort of eighty millions of people, by lingering along near to death, yet neither rallying nor dying; to do either would relieve the tension. For the present, the discomfort must continue. Mr. Tillman certainly has not chloroformed it.
(That Birthday speech of mine was the text which I meant to use along here. I don’t want to get too far away from it at any one time and I ought to get back to that.)
We buried good old John Malone the actor, this morning. His old friends of the Players Club attended in a body. It was the second time in my life that I had been present at a Catholic funeral. And as I sat in the church, my mind went back, by natural process, to that other one, and the contrast strongly interested me. That first one was the funeral of the Empress of Austria, who was assassinated six or eight years ago. There was a great concourse of the ancient nobility of the Austrian Empire; and as that patchwork of old kingdoms and principalities consists of nineteen states and eleven nationalities, and as these nobles came clothed in the costumes which their ancestors were accustomed to wear on state occasions three or four or five centuries ago, the variety and magnificence of the costumes made a picture which cast far into the shade all the notions of splendor and magnificence which in the course of my life I had accumulated from the opera, the theatre, the picture-galleries, and from books. Gold, silver, jewels, silks, satins, velvets; they were all there in brilliant and beautiful confusion, and in that sort of perfect harmony which Nature herself observes and is master of, when she paints and groups her flowers and her forests and floods them with sunshine. The military and civic milliners of the Middle Ages knew their trade. Infinite as was the variety of the costumes displayed, there was not an ugly one, nor one that was a discordant note in the harmony, or an offence to the eye. When those massed costumes were still, they were softly, richly, sensuously beautiful; when the mass stirred, the slightest movement set the jewels and metals and bright colors afire, and swept it with flashing lights which sent a sort of ecstasy of delight through me.
But it was different this morning. This morning the clothes were all alike. They were simple, and devoid of color. The Players were clothed as they are always clothed, except that they wore the high silk hat of ceremony. Yet, in its way, John Malone’s funeral was as impressive as had been that of the Empress. There was no inequality between John Malone and the Empress except the artificial inequalities which have been invented and established by man’s childish vanity. The Empress and John were just equals in the essentials of goodness of heart and a blameless life. Both passed by the onlooker, in their coffins, respected, esteemed, honored; both traveled the same road from the church, bound for the same resting-place—according to Catholic doctrine, Purgatory—to be removed thence to a better land or to remain in Purgatory accordingly as the contributions of their friends, in cash or prayer, shall determine. The priest told us, in an admirably framed speech, about John’s destination, and the terms upon which he might continue his journey or must remain in Purgatory. John was poor; his friends are poor. The Empress was rich; her friends are rich. John Malone’s prospects are not good, and I lament it.
Perhaps I am in error in saying I have been present at only two Catholic funerals. I think I was present at one in Virginia City, Nevada, in the neighborhood of forty years ago—or perhaps it was down in Esmeralda, on the borders of California—but if it happened, the memory of it can hardly be said to exist, it is so indistinct. I did attend one or two funerals—maybe a dozen—out there; funerals of desperadoes who had tried to purify society by exterminating other desperadoes—and did accomplish the purification, though not according to the program which they had laid out for this office.
Also, I attended some funerals of persons who had fallen in duels—and maybe it was a duelist whom I helped to ship. But would a duelist be buried by the Church? In inviting his own death, wouldn’t he be committing suicide, substantially? Wouldn’t that rule him out? Well, I don’t remember how it was, now, but I think it was a duelist.
Friday, January 19, 1906
About Dueling.
In those early days dueling suddenly became a fashion in the new Territory of Nevada, and by 1864 everybody was anxious to have a chance in the new sport, mainly for the reason that he was not able to thoroughly respect himself so long as he had not killed or crippled somebody in a duel or been killed or crippled in one himself.
At that time I had been serving as city editor on Mr. Goodman’s Virginia City Enterprise for a matter of two years. I was twenty-nine years old. I was ambitious in several ways, but I had entirely escaped the seductions of that particular craze. I had had no desire to fight a duel; I had no intention of provoking one. I did not feel respectable, but I got a certain amount of satisfaction out of feeling safe. I was ashamed of myself; the rest of the staff were ashamed of me—but I got along well enough. I had always been accustomed to feeling ashamed of myself, for one thing or another, so there was no novelty for me in the situation. I bore it very well. Plunkett was on the staff; R. M. Daggett was on the staff. These had tried to get into duels, but for the present had failed, and were waiting. Goodman was the only one of us who had done anything to shed credit upon the paper. The rival paper was the Virginia Union. Its editor for a little while was Tom Fitch, called the “silver-tongued orator of Wisconsin”—that was where he came from. He tuned up his oratory in the editorial columns of the Union, and Mr. Goodman invited him out and modified him with a bullet. I remember the joy of the staff when Goodman’s challenge was accepted by Fitch. We ran late that night, and made much of Joe Goodman. He was only twenty-four years old; he lacked the wisdom which a person has at twenty-nine, and he was as glad of being it as I was that I wasn’t. He chose Major Graves for his second (that name is not right, but it’s close enough, I don’t remember the Major’s name). Graves came over to instruct Joe in the dueling art. He had been a major under Walker, the “gray-eyed man of destiny,” and had fought all through that remarkable man’s filibustering campaign in Central America. That fact gauges the Major. To say that a man was a major under Walker, and came out of that struggle ennobled by Walker’s praise, is to say that the Major was not merely a brave man but that he was brave to the very utmost limit of that word. All of Walker’s men were like that. I knew the Gillis family intimately. The father made the campaign under Walker, and with him one son. They were in the memorable Plaza fight, and stood it out to the last against overwhelming odds, as did also all of the Walker men. The son was killed at the father’s side. The father received a bullet through the eye. The old man—for he was an old man at the time—wore spectacles, and the bullet and one of the glasses went into his skull and remained there—but often, in after years, when I boarded in the old man’s home in San Francisco, whenever he became emotional I used to see him shed tears and glass, in a way that was infinitely moving. It is wonderful how glass breeds when it has a fair chance. This glass was all broken up and ruined, so it had no market value; but in the course of time he exuded enough to set up a spectacle shop with. There were some other sons: Steve, George, and Jim, very young chaps—the merest lads—who wanted to be in the Walker expedition, for they had their father’s dauntless spirit. But Walker wouldn’t have them; he said it was a serious expedition, and no place for children.
The Major was a majestic creature, with a most stately and dignified and impressive military bearing, and he was by nature and training courteous, polite, graceful, winning; and he had that quality which I think I have encountered in only one other man—Bob Howland—a mysterious quality which resides in the eye; and when that eye is turned upon an individual or a squad, in warning, that is enough. The man that has that eye doesn’t need to go armed; he can move upon an armed desperado and quell him and take him prisoner without saying a single word. I saw Bob Howland do that, once—a slender, good-natured, amiable, gentle, kindly little skeleton of a man, with a sweet blue eye that would win your heart when it smiled upon you, or turn cold and freeze it, according to the nature of the occasion.
The Major stood Joe up straight; stood Steve Gillis up fifteen paces away; made Joe turn his right side towards Steve, cock his navy six-shooter—that prodigious weapon—and hold it straight down against his leg; told him that that was the correct position for the gun—that the position ordinarily in use at Virginia City (that is to say, the gun straight up in the air, then brought slowly down to your man) was all wrong. At the word “One,” you must raise the gun slowly and steadily to the place on the other man’s body that you desire to convince. Then, after a pause, “two, three—fire—Stop!” At the word “stop,” you may fire—but not earlier. You may give yourself as much time as you please after that word. Then, when you fire, you may advance and go on firing at your leisure and pleasure, if you can get any pleasure out of it. And, in the meantime, the other man, if he has been properly instructed and is alive to his privileges, is advancing on you, and firing—and it is always likely that more or less trouble will result.
Naturally, when Joe’s revolver had risen to a level it was pointing at Steve’s breast, but the Major said “No, that is not wise. Take all the risks of getting murdered yourself, but don’t run any risk of murdering the other man. If you survive a duel you want to survive it in such a way that the memory of it will not linger along with you through the rest of your life and interfere with your sleep. Aim at your man’s leg; not at the knee, not above the knee; for those are dangerous spots. Aim below the knee; cripple him, but leave the rest of him to his mother.”
By grace of these truly wise and excellent instructions, Joe tumbled his man down with a bullet through his lower leg, which furnished him a permanent limp. And Joe lost nothing but a lock of hair, which he could spare better then than he could now. For when I saw him here in New York a year ago, his crop was gone; he had nothing much left but a fringe, with a dome rising above.
About a year later I got my chance. But I was not hunting for it. Goodman went off to San Francisco for a week’s holiday, and left me to be chief editor. I had supposed that that was an easy berth, there being nothing to do but write one editorial per day; but I was disappointed in that superstition. I couldn’t find anything to write an article about, the first day. Then it occurred to me that inasmuch as it was the 22d of April, 1864, the next morning would be the three-hundredth anniversary of Shakspeare’s birthday—and what better theme could I want than that? I got the Cyclopedia and examined it, and found out who Shakspeare was and what he had done, and I borrowed all that and laid it before a community that couldn’t have been better prepared for instruction about Shakspeare than if they had been prepared by art. There wasn’t enough of what Shakspeare had done to make an editorial of the necessary length, but I filled it out with what he hadn’t done—which in many respects was more important and striking and readable than the handsomest things he had really accomplished. But next day I was in trouble again. There were no more Shakspeares to work up. There was nothing in past history, or in the world’s future possibilities, to make an editorial out of, suitable to that community; so there was but one theme left. That theme was Mr. Laird, proprietor of the Virginia Union. His editor had gone off to San Francisco too, and Laird was trying his hand at editing. I woke up Mr. Laird with some courtesies of the kind that were fashionable among newspaper editors in that region, and he came back at me the next day in a most vitriolic way. He was hurt by something I had said about him—some little thing—I don’t remember what it was now—probably called him a horse-thief, or one of those little phrases customarily used to describe another editor. They were no doubt just, and accurate, but Laird was a very sensitive creature, and he didn’t like it. So we expected a challenge from Mr. Laird, because according to the rules—according to the etiquette of dueling as reconstructed and reorganized and improved by the duelists of that region—whenever you said a thing about another person that he didn’t like, it wasn’t sufficient for him to talk back in the same offensive spirit: etiquette required him to send a challenge; so we waited for a challenge—waited all day. It didn’t come. And as the day wore along, hour after hour, and no challenge came, the boys grew depressed. They lost heart. But I was cheerful; I felt better and better all the time. They couldn’t understand it, but I could understand it. It was my make that enabled me to be cheerful when other people were despondent. So then it became necessary for us to waive etiquette and challenge Mr. Laird. When we reached that decision, they began to cheer up, but I began to lose some of my animation. However, in enterprises of this kind you are in the hands of your friends; there is nothing for you to do but to abide by what they consider to be the best course. Daggett wrote a challenge for me, for Daggett had the language—the right language—the convincing language—and I lacked it. Daggett poured out a stream of unsavory epithets upon Mr. Laird, charged with a vigor and venom of a strength calculated to persuade him; and Steve Gillis, my second, carried the challenge and came back to wait for the return. It didn’t come. The boys were exasperated, but I kept my temper. Steve carried another challenge, hotter than the other, and we waited again. Nothing came of it. I began to feel quite comfortable. I began to take an interest in the challenges myself. I had not felt any before; but it seemed to me that I was accumulating a great and valuable reputation at no expense, and my delight in this grew and grew, as challenge after challenge was declined, until by midnight I was beginning to think that there was nothing in the world so much to be desired as a chance to fight a duel. So I hurried Daggett up; made him keep on sending challenge after challenge. Oh, well, I overdid it: Laird accepted. I might have known that that would happen—Laird was a man you couldn’t depend on.
The boys were jubilant beyond expression. They helped me make my will, which was another discomfort—and I already had enough. Then they took me home. I didn’t sleep any—didn’t want to sleep. I had plenty of things to think about, and less than four hours to do it in—because five o’clock was the hour appointed for the tragedy, and I should have to use up one hour—beginning at four—in practising with the revolver and finding out which end of it to level at the adversary. At four we went down into a little gorge, about a mile from town, and borrowed a barn door for a mark—borrowed it of a man who was over in California on a visit—and we set the barn door up and stood a fence-rail up against the middle of it, to represent Mr. Laird. But the rail was no proper representative of him, for he was longer than a rail and thinner. Nothing would ever fetch him but a line shot, and then as like as not he would split the bullet—the worst material for dueling purposes that could be imagined. I began on the rail. I couldn’t hit the rail; then I tried the barn door; but I couldn’t hit the barn door. There was nobody in danger except stragglers around on the flanks of that mark. I was thoroughly discouraged, and I didn’t cheer up any when we presently heard pistol-shots over in the next little ravine. I knew what that was—that was Laird’s gang out practising him. They would hear my shots, and of course they would come up over the ridge to see what kind of a record I was making—see what their chances were against me. Well, I hadn’t any record; and I knew that if Laird came over that ridge and saw my barn door without a scratch on it, he would be as anxious to fight as I was—or as I had been at midnight, before that disastrous acceptance came.
Now just at this moment, a little bird, no bigger than a sparrow, flew along by and lit on a sage-bush about thirty yards away. Steve whipped out his revolver and shot its head off. Oh, he was a marksman—much better than I was. We ran down there to pick up the bird, and just then, sure enough, Mr. Laird and his people came over the ridge, and they joined us. And when Laird’s second saw that bird, with its head shot off, he lost color, he faded, and you could see that he was interested. He said,
“Who did that?”
Before I could answer, Steve spoke up and said quite calmly, and in a matter-of-fact way,
“Clemens did it.”
The second said, “Why, that is wonderful. How far off was that bird?”
Steve said, “Oh, not far—about thirty yards.”
The second said, “Well, that is astonishing shooting. How often can he do that?”
Steve said languidly, “Oh, about four times out of five?”
I knew the little rascal was lying, but I didn’t say anything. The second said, “Why that is amazing shooting; I supposed he couldn’t hit a church.”
He was supposing very sagaciously, but I didn’t say anything. Well, they said good morning. The second took Mr. Laird home, a little tottery on his legs, and Laird sent back a note in his own hand declining to fight a duel with me on any terms whatever.
Well, my life was saved—saved by that accident. I don’t know what the bird thought about that interposition of Providence, but I felt very, very comfortable over it—satisfied and content. Now, we found out, later, that Laird had hit his mark four times out of six, right along. If the duel had come off, he would have so filled my skin with bullet-holes that it wouldn’t have held my principles.
By breakfast-time the news was all over town that I had sent a challenge and Steve Gillis had carried it. Now that would entitle us to two years apiece in the penitentiary, according to the brand-new law. Judge North sent us no message as coming from himself, but a message came from a close friend of his. He said it would be a good idea for us to leave the Territory by the first stage-coach. This would sail next morning, at four o’clock—and in the meantime we would be searched for, but not with avidity; and if we were in the Territory after that stagecoach left, we would be the first victims of the new law. Judge North was anxious to have some object-lessons for that law, and he would absolutely keep us in the prison the full two years. He wouldn’t pardon us out to please anybody.
Well, it seemed to me that our society was no longer desirable in Nevada; so we stayed in our quarters and observed proper caution all day—except that once Steve went over to the hotel to attend to another customer of mine. That was a Mr. Cutler. You see Laird was not the only person whom I had tried to reform during my occupancy of the editorial chair. I had looked around and selected several other people, and delivered a new zest of life into them through warm criticism and disapproval—so that when I laid down my editorial pen I had four horse-whippings and two duels owing to me. We didn’t care for the horse-whippings; there was no glory in them; they were not worth the trouble of collecting. But honor required that some notice should be taken of that other duel. Mr. Cutler had come up from Carson City, and had sent a man over with a challenge from the hotel. Steve went over to pacify him. Steve weighed only ninety-five pounds, but it was well known throughout the Territory that with his fists he could whip anybody that walked on two legs, let his weight and science be what they might. Steve was a Gillis, and when a Gillis confronted a man and had a proposition to make the proposition always contained business. When Cutler found that Steve was my second he cooled down; he became calm and rational, and was ready to listen. Steve gave him fifteen minutes to get out of the hotel, and half an hour to get out of town or there would be results. So that duel went off successfully, because Mr. Cutler immediately left for Carson a convinced and reformed man.
I have never had anything to do with duels since. I thoroughly disapprove of duels. I consider them unwise, and I know they are dangerous. Also, sinful. If a man should challenge me now, I would go to that man and take him kindly and forgivingly by the hand and lead him to a quiet retired spot, and kill him. Still, I have always taken a great interest in other people’s duels. One always feels an abiding interest in any heroic thing which has entered into his own experience.
In 1878, fourteen years after my unmaterialized duel, Messieurs Fourtou and Gambetta fought a duel which made heroes of both of them in France, but made them rather ridiculous throughout the rest of the world. I was living in Munich that fall and winter, and I was so interested in that funny tragedy that I wrote a long account of it, and it is in one of my books, somewhere—an account which had some inaccuracies in it, but as an exhibition of the spirit of that duel, I think it was correct and trustworthy. And when I was living in Vienna, thirty-four years after my ineffectual duel, my interest in that kind of incident was still strong; and I find here among my Autobiographical manuscripts of that day a chapter which I began concerning it, but did not finish. I wanted to finish it but held it open in the hope that the Italian Ambassador, M. Nigra, would find time to furnish me the full history of Signor Cavallotti’s adventures in that line. But he was a busy man; there was always an interruption before he could get well started; so my hope was never fulfilled. The following is the unfinished chapter.
As concerns dueling. This pastime is as common in Austria to-day as it is in France. But with this difference, that here in the Austrian States the duel is dangerous, while in France it is not. Here it is tragedy, in France it is comedy; here it is a solemnity, there it is monkey-shines; here the duelist risks his life, there he does not even risk his shirt. Here he fights with pistol or sabre, in France with a hair-pin—a blunt one. Here the desperately wounded man tries to walk to the hospital; there they paint the scratch so that they can find it again, lay the sufferer on a stretcher, and conduct him off the field with a band of music.
At the end of a French duel the pair hug and kiss and cry, and praise each other’s valor; then the surgeons make an examination and pick out the scratched one, and the other one helps him onto the litter and pays his fare; and in return the scratched one treats to champagne and oysters in the evening, and then “the incident is closed,” as the French say. It is all polite, and gracious, and pretty and impressive. At the end of an Austrian duel the antagonist that is alive gravely offers his hand to the other man, utters some phrases of courteous regret, then bids him good-bye and goes his way, and that incident also is closed. The French duelist is painstakingly protected from danger, by the rules of the game. His antagonist’s weapon cannot reach so far as his body; if he get a scratch it will not be above his elbow. But in Austria the rules of the game do not provide against danger, they carefully provide for it, usually. Commonly the combat must be kept up until one of the men is disabled; a non-disabling slash or stab does not retire him.
For a matter of three months I watched the Viennese journals, and whenever a duel was reported in their telegraphic columns I scrap-booked it. By this record I find that dueling in Austria is not confined to journalists and old maids, as in France, but is indulged in by military men, journalists, students, physicians, lawyers, members of the legislature, and even the Cabinet, the Bench and the police. Dueling is forbidden by law; and so it seems odd to see the makers and administrators of the laws dancing on their work in this way. Some months ago Count Badeni, at that time chief of the Government, fought a pistol-duel here in the capital city of the Empire with representative Wolf, and both of those distinguished Christians came near getting turned out of the Church—for the Church as well as the State forbids dueling.
In one case, lately, in Hungary, the police interfered and stopped a duel after the first innings. This was a sabre-duel between the chief of police and the city attorney. Unkind things were said about it by the newspapers. They said the police remembered their duty uncommonly well when their own officials were the parties concerned in duels. But I think the underlings showed good bread-and-butter judgment. If their superiors had carved each other well, the public would have asked Where were the police? and their places would have been endangered; but custom does not require them to be around where mere unofficial citizens are explaining a thing with sabres.
There was another duel—a double duel—going on in the immediate neighborhood at the time, and in this case the police obeyed custom and did not disturb it. Their bread and butter was not at stake there. In this duel a physician fought a couple of surgeons, and wounded both—one of them lightly, the other seriously. An undertaker wanted to keep people from interfering, but that was quite natural again.
Selecting at random from my record, I next find a duel at Tarnopol between military men. An officer of the Tenth Dragoons charged an officer of the Ninth Dragoons with an offence against the laws of the card-table. There was a defect or a doubt somewhere in the matter, and this had to be examined and passed upon by a Court of Honor. So the case was sent up to Lemberg for this purpose. One would like to know what the defect was, but the newspaper does not say. A man here who has fought many duels and has a graveyard, says that probably the matter in question was as to whether the accusation was true or not; that if the charge was a very grave one—cheating, for instance—proof of its truth would rule the guilty officer out of the field of honor; the Court would not allow a gentleman to fight with such a person. You see what a solemn thing it is; you see how particular they are; any little careless act can lose you your privilege of getting yourself shot, here. The Court seems to have gone into the matter in a searching and careful fashion, for several months elapsed before it reached a decision. It then sanctioned a duel and the accused killed his accuser.
Next I find a duel between a prince and a major; first with pistols—no result satisfactory to either party; then with sabres, and the major badly hurt.
Next, a sabre-duel between journalists—the one a strong man, the other feeble and in poor health. It was brief; the strong one drove his sword through the weak one, and death was immediate.
Next, a duel between a lieutenant and a student of medicine. According to the newspaper report these are the details. The student was in a restaurant one evening; passing along, he halted at a table to speak with some friends; near-by sat a dozen military men; the student conceived that one of these was “staring” at him; he asked the officer to step outside and explain. This officer and another one gathered up their caps and sabres and went out with the student. Outside—this is the student’s account—the student introduced himself to the offending officer and said “You seemed to stare at me;” for answer, the officer struck at the student with his fist; the student parried the blow; both officers drew their sabres and attacked the young fellow, and one of them gave him a wound on the left arm; then they withdrew. This was Saturday night. The duel followed on Monday, in the military riding-school—the customary dueling-ground all over Austria, apparently. The weapons were pistols. The dueling-terms were somewhat beyond custom in the matter of severity, if I may gather that from the statement that the combat was fought “unter sehr schweren Bedingungen”—to wit, “Distance, fifteen steps—with three steps advance.” There was but one exchange of shots. The student was hit. “He put his hand on his breast, his body began to bend slowly forward, then collapsed in death and sank to the ground.”
It is pathetic. There are other duels in my list, but I find in each and all of them one and the same ever-recurring defect—the principals are never present, but only their sham representatives. The real principals in any duel are not the duelists themselves, but their families. They do the mourning, the suffering, theirs is the loss and theirs the misery. They stake all that, the duelist stakes nothing but his life, and that is a trivial thing compared with what his death must cost those whom he leaves behind him. Challenges should not mention the duelist; he has nothing much at stake, and the real vengeance cannot reach him. The challenge should summon the offender’s old gray mother, and his young wife and his little children,—these, or any to whom he is a dear and worshiped possession—and should say, “You have done me no harm, but I am the meek slave of a custom which requires me to crush the happiness out of your hearts and condemn you to years of pain and grief, in order that I may wash clean with your tears a stain which has been put upon me by another person.”
The logic of it is admirable: a person has robbed me of a penny; I must beggar ten innocent persons to make good my loss. Surely nobody’s “honor” is worth all that.
Since the duelist’s family are the real principals in a duel, the State ought to compel them to be present at it. Custom, also, ought to be so amended as to require it; and without it no duel ought to be allowed to go on. If that student’s unoffending mother had been present and watching the officer through her tears as he raised his pistol, he—why, he would have fired in the air. We know that. For we know how we are all made. Laws ought to be based upon the ascertained facts of our nature. It would be a simple thing to make a dueling-law which would stop dueling.
As things are now, the mother is never invited. She submits to this; and without outward complaint, for she, too, is the vassal of custom, and custom requires her to conceal her pain when she learns the disastrous news that her son must go to the dueling field, and by the powerful force that is lodged in habit and custom she is enabled to obey this trying requirement—a requirement which exacts a miracle of her, and gets it. Last January a neighbor of ours who has a young son in the army was wakened by this youth at three o’clock one morning, and she sat up in bed and listened to his message:
“I have come to tell you something, mother, which will distress you, but you must be good and brave, and bear it. I have been affronted by a fellow-officer, and we fight at three this afternoon. Lie down and sleep, now, and think no more about it.”
She kissed him good night and lay down paralysed with grief and fear, but said nothing. But she did not sleep; she prayed and mourned till the first streak of dawn, then fled to the nearest church and implored the Virgin for help; and from that church she went to another and another and another; church after church, and still church after church, and so spent all the day until three o’clock on her knees in agony and tears; then dragged herself home and sat down, comfortless and desolate, to count the minutes, and wait, with an outward show of calm, for what had been ordained for her—happiness, or endless misery. Presently she heard the clank of a sabre—she had not known before what music was in that sound—and her son put his head in and said:
“X was in the wrong, and he apologized.”
So that incident was closed; and for the rest of her life the mother will always find something pleasant about the clank of a sabre, no doubt.
In one of my listed duels—however, let it go, there is nothing particularly striking about it except that the seconds interfered. And prematurely, too, for neither man was dead. This was certainly irregular. Neither of the men liked it. It was a duel with cavalry sabres, between an editor and a lieutenant. The editor walked to the hospital, the lieutenant was carried. In this country an editor who can write well is valuable, but he is not likely to remain so unless he can handle a sabre with charm.
The following very recent telegram shows that also in France duels are humanely stopped as soon as they approach the (French) danger-point:
PARIS, March 5.
The duel between Colonels Henry and Picquart took place this morning in the Riding School of the Ecole Militaire, the doors of which were strictly guarded in order to prevent intrusion. The combatants, who fought with swords, were in position at ten o’clock.
At the first re-engagement Lieut.-Colonel Henry was slightly scratched in the forearm, and just at the same moment his own blade appeared to touch his adversary’s neck. Senator Ranc, who was Colonel Picquart’s second, stopped the fight, but as it was found that his principal had not been touched, the combat continued. A very sharp encounter ensued, in which Colonel Henry was wounded in the elbow, and the duel then terminated.
After which, the stretcher and the band. In lurid contrast with this delicate flirtation, we have this fatal duel of day before yesterday in Italy, where the earnest Austrian duel is in vogue. I knew Cavallotti slightly, and this gives me a sort of personal interest in his duel. I first saw him in Rome several years ago. He was sitting on a block of stone in the Forum, and was writing something in his note-book—a poem or a challenge, or something like that—and the friend who pointed him out to me said, “That is Cavallotti—he has fought thirty duels; do not disturb him.” I did not disturb him.
May 13, 1907. It is a long time ago. Cavallotti—poet, orator, satirist, statesman, patriot—was a great man, and his death was deeply lamented by his countrymen—many monuments to his memory testify to this. In his duels he killed several of his antagonists and disabled the rest. By nature he was a little irascible. Once when the officials of the library of Bologna threw out his books the gentle poet went up there and challenged the whole fifteen! His parliamentary duties were exacting, but he proposed to keep coming up and fighting duels between trains until all those officials had been retired from the activities of life. Although he always chose the sword to fight with, he had never had a lesson with that weapon. When game was called he waited for nothing, but always plunged at his opponent and rained such a storm of wild and original thrusts and whacks upon him that the man was dead or crippled before he could bring his science to bear. But his latest antagonist discarded science, and won. He held his sword straight forward like a lance when Cavallotti made his plunge—with the result that he impaled himself upon it. It entered his mouth and passed out at the back of his neck. Death was instantaneous.
Tuesday, January 23, 1906
About the meeting at Carnegie Hall, in interest of Booker Washington’s Tuskegee Institute—Leads up to unpleasant political incident which happened to Mr. Twichell.
There was a great mass meeting at Carnegie Hall last night, in the interest of Booker Washington’s Tuskegee Educational Institute in the South, and the interest which New York people feel in that Institute was quite manifest, in the fact that although it was not pleasant weather there were three thousand people inside the hall and two thousand outside, who were trying to get in when the performances were ready to begin at eight o’clock. Mr. Choate presided, and was received with a grand welcome when he marched in upon the stage. He is fresh from his long stay in England, as our Ambassador, where he won the English people by the gifts of his heart, and won the royalties and the Government by his able diplomatic service, and captured the whole nation with his fine and finished oratory. For thirty-five years Choate has been the handsomest man in America. Last night he seemed to me to be just as handsome as he was thirty-five years ago, when I first knew him. And when I used to see him in England, five or six years ago, I thought him the handsomest man in that country.
It was at a Fourth of July reception in Mr. Choate’s house in London that I first met Booker Washington. I have met him a number of times since, and he always impresses me pleasantly. Last night he was a mulatto. I didn’t notice it until he turned, while he was speaking, and said something to me. It was a great surprise to me to see that he was a mulatto, and had blue eyes. How unobservant a dull person can be. Always, before, he was black, to me, and I had never noticed whether he had eyes at all, or not. He has accomplished a wonderful work in this quarter of a century. When he finished his education at the Hampton Colored School twenty-five years ago, he was unknown, and hadn’t a penny, nor a friend outside his immediate acquaintanceship. But by the persuasions of his carriage and address and the sincerity and honesty that look out of his eyes, he has been enabled to gather money by the hatful here in the North, and with it he has built up and firmly established his great school for the colored people of the two sexes in the South. In that school the students are not merely furnished a book education, but are taught thirty-seven useful trades. Booker Washington has scraped together many hundreds of thousands of dollars, in the twenty-five years, and with this money he has taught and sent forth into Southern fields among the colored people, six thousand trained colored men and women; and his student roll now numbers fifteen hundred names. The Institute’s property is worth a million and a half, and the establishment is in a flourishing condition. A most remarkable man is Booker Washington. And he is a fervent and effective speaker, on the platform.

Brilliant Audience Cheers Them and Booker Washington.


Says Everybody Swears, Especially Off—Friends of Negro Institution Trying to Raise $1,800,000

To give Booker T. Washington a good start toward collecting the $1,800,000 which he wants to carry back from the North to Tuskegee Institute, Mark Twain, Joseph H. Choate, Robert C. Ogden, and Dr. Washington himself spoke in Carnegie Hall last night. Incidentally, it was a “silver jubilee” celebration, since Tuskegee Institute was founded in 1881.
The big house was crowded to its utmost capacity, and there were as many more outside who would have gone in had there been room. The spectacle reminded one of the campaign days last November, when District Attorney Jerome and his attendant spellbinders were packing Carnegie Hall.
But last night it was by no means a gathering of the “populace” alone. Women in brilliant gowns, resplendent with jewels, and men in evening dress filled the boxes. Despite the avowed object of the meeting—to get money from the audience and others—there was an atmosphere of good humor and light-heartedness. Mark Twain’s “teachings” were met with such volleys of laughter that the man who never grows old could hardly find intervals in which to deliver his precepts. That part of Mr. Clemens’s address which referred to wealthy men who swear off tax assessments was applauded with especial fervor.
The occupants of the boxes included Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Mrs. Henry H. Rogers, Mrs. Clarence H. Mackay, Mrs. Morris K. Jesup, J. G. Phelps Stokes, Isaac N. Seligman, George Foster Peabody, John Crosby Brown, Carl Schurz, Mrs. W. H. Schieffelin, Mrs. William Jay Schieffelin, Mrs. Joseph H. Choate, Mrs. Henry Villard, Nicholas Murray Butler, Mrs. Robert C. Ogden, Mrs. Cleveland H. Dodge, Mrs. Alfred Shaw, Mrs. Felix M. Warburg, Mrs. R. Fulton Cutting, Mrs. Collis P. Huntington, Mrs. Robert B. Minturn, Mrs. Jacob H. Schiff, Mrs. Paul M. Warburg, and Mrs. Arthur Curtis James.
A negro octet sang between the speeches. Their songs were old-fashioned melodies and revival songs, and their deep, full voices filled the whole house.
William Jay Schieffelin opened the meeting by telling its object and urging that all the help possible be given to Dr. Washington. He announced that in April a special train would leave New York for Tuskegee and that the round-trip ticket would cost $50, covering all expenses. On this occasion the twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of Tuskegee will be celebrated at the school itself by speeches by Secretary of War Taft, President Eliot of Harvard, Bishop Galloway, and Andrew Carnegie.
Choate Praises Washington.
“We assemble to-night,” said Mr. Choate, when Mr. Schieffelin presented him, “to celebrate the ‘silver jubilee’ of Tuskegee Institute, twenty-five years old to-day, the success of which as a nucleus and centre of negro education in the South is the triumph and glory of Dr. Booker T. Washington. I believe he does not claim to be the originator of it. It began in 1881 in a shanty and with thirty pupils. Now what do we behold? A great educational establishment with 2,300 acres and more than eight buildings, peculiarly fitted for the tasks they are supposed to assist.
“It has sent forth more than 6,000 pupils as examples to and teachers of the negro race. It has now an enrollment of 1,500 pupils and an endowment fund of more than $1,000,000. Like all the other great educational institutions of to-day, the more it has and the more it wants the more it gets and the more it can use.
“I read that in a recent speech Dr. Washington declared that he was proud of his race. I am sure his race is proud of him. And I know I can say that the great mass of the American people, both North and South, are also proud of him. And there are few Americans on whom European nations look with such peculiar interest and sympathy as Dr. Washington. It was my pleasure to see him in my own hired house [laughter] in London, surrounded by English men and English women, who were delighted to make his acquaintance and listen to his words.
Negro Problem a Wide One.
“This tremendous negro problem, which was left when slavery was abolished and will last much longer than slavery lasted, no more rests on the white people of the South than on the negroes or on the white people of the North. It was forced upon the South by the irresistible force of the whole Nation. In the South they, white and negro, have done their part well. I read in a book, which I hope everybody has read, by Mr. Murphy, Secretary of the Southern Education Board, that the illiteracy of the negroes in the South has been wiped away more than one half since the war. How has it been accomplished? Out of the means of the Southern States. They have done nobly. By taxation $109,000,000 was raised between 1870 and 1900 for the education of negroes. How many people in the South—like some people we have had here in New York—stood between the appropriations and the recipients, I do not know, but it was a great achievement.
“None of the Tuskegee graduates is in an asylum. It is not the educated negroes who make themselves enemies to the South; it is uneducated negroes. The desire for these Tuskegee graduates is greater than Tuskegee can satisfy.
Integrity of the Races.
“The maintenance of the integrity of the races, which, with the approval of both races, has formed the basis of Southern civilization, has given opportunity to negro lawyers, negro doctors, and ministers in every profession and industry, and the negroes are making the most of it.” Then Mr. Choate turned toward Mark Twain:
“If I were to present the next speaker as Samuel L. Clemens,” he said, “some would ask, ‘Who is he?’ but when I present him as Mark Twain—”
He could get no further. The applause which broke out lasted a full three minutes.
“I heard him speak at the dinner on his seventieth birthday,” continued Mr. Choate, “and the gist of his speech was that he had never done any work in his life. He said he had never worked at anything he didn’t like, and so it wasn’t work at all. He said that when he had an interesting job before him he lay in bed all day. And to-day, I understand, he has been in bed all day.”
When Mark Twain could be heard he said:
“These habits, of which Mr. Choate has told you, are the very habits which have kept me young until I am 70 years old. I have lain in bed all day to-day, expect to lie in bed all day to-morrow, and will continue to lie in bed all day throughout the year. There is nothing so refreshing, nothing is so comfortable, and nothing fits one so well for the kind of work which he calls pleasure. Mr. Choate has been careful not to pay me any compliments. It wasn’t because he didn’t want to—he just couldn’t think of any.
“I came here in the responsible capacity of policeman—to watch Mr. Choate. This is an occasion of grave and serious importance, and it seemed necessary for me to be present so that if he tried to work off any statements that required correction, reduction, refutation or exposure there would be a tried friend of the public here to protect the house. But I can say in all frankness and gratitude that nothing of the kind has happened. He has not made one statement whose veracity fails to tally exactly with my own standard. I have never seen a person improve so.
“This does not make me jealous. It only makes me thankful. Thankful and proud; proud of a country that can produce such men—two such men. And all in the same century. We can’t be with you always; we are passing away—passing away; soon we shall be gone, and then—well, everything will have to stop, I reckon. It is a sad thought. But in spirit I shall still be with you. Choate, too—if he can.
Nothing to Refute.
“There being nothing to explain, nothing to refute, nothing to excuse, there is nothing left for me to do now but resume my natural trade—which is teaching. At Tuskegee they thoroughly ground the student in the Christian code of morals; they instill into him the indisputable truth that this is the highest and best of all systems of morals; that the Nation’s greatness, its strength, and its repute among the other nations is the product of that system; that it is the foundation upon which rests the American character; that whatever is commendable, whatever is valuable in the individual American’s character is the flower and fruit of that seed.
“They teach him that this is true in every case, whether the man be a professing Christian or an unbeliever; for we have none but the Christian code of morals, and every individual is under its character-building powerful influence and dominion from the cradle to the grave; he breathes it in with his breath, it is in his blood and bone, it is the web and woof and fibre of his mental and spiritual heredities and ineradicable. And so every born American among the eighty millions, let his creed or destitution of creed be what it may, is indisputably a Christian to this degree—that his moral constitution is Christian.
Two Codes of Morals.
“All this is true, and no student will leave Tuskegee ignorant of it. Then what will he lack under this head? What is there for me to teach him under this head that he may possibly not acquire there, or may acquire in a not sufficiently emphasized form? Why this large fact, this important fact—that there are two separate and distinct kinds of Christian morals, so separate, so distinct, so unrelated that they are no more kin to each other than are archangels and politicians. The one kind is Christian private morals, the other is Christian public morals.
“The loyal observance of Christian private morals has made this Nation what it is—a clean and upright people in its private domestic life, an honest and honorable people in its private commercial life; no alien nation can claim superiority over it in these regards, no critic, foreign or domestic, can challenge the validity of this truth. During 363 days in the year the American citizen is true to his Christian private morals, and keeps undefiled the Nation’s character at its best and highest; then in the other two days of the year he leaves his Christian private morals at home, and carries his Christian public morals to the tax office and the polls and does the best he can to damage and undo his whole year’s faithful and righteous worth.
Political Morality.
“Without a blush he will vote for an unclean boss if that boss is his party’s Moses, without compunction he will vote against the best man in the whole land if he is on the other ticket. Every year, in a number of cities and States, he helps to put corrupt men in office, every year he helps to extend the corruption wider and wider; year after year he goes on gradually rotting the country’s political life, whereas if he would but throw away his Christian public morals and carry his Christian private morals to the polls he could promptly purify the public service and make the possession of office a high and honorable distinction and one to be coveted by the very best men the country could furnish. But now—well, now he contemplates his unpatriotic work and sighs and grieves and blames every man but the right one—which is himself.
As to Tax Dodgers.
“Once a year he lays aside his Christian private morals and hires a ferryboat and piles up his bonds in a warehouse in New Jersey for three days, and gets out his Christian public morals and goes to the Tax Office and holds up his hand and swears he wishes he may never—never if he’s got a cent in the world, so help him! The next day the list appears in the papers—a column and a quarter of names in fine print, and every man in the list a billionaire and a member of a couple of churches.
“I know all those people. I have friendly, social, and criminal intercourse with the whole of them. They never miss a sermon when they are so as to be around, and they never miss swearing-off day, whether they are so as to be around or not. The innocent cannot remain innocent in the disintegrating atmosphere of this thing. I used to be an honest man. I am crumbling. No—I have crumbled. When they assessed me at $75,000 a fortnight ago I went out and tried to borrow the money, and couldn’t; then when I found they were letting a whole crop of millionaires live in New York at a third of the price they were charging me I was hurt. I was indignant, and said: ‘This is the last feather! I am not going to run this town all by myself.’ In that moment—in that memorable moment—I began to crumble.
Mark Twain Disintegrates.
“In fifteen minutes the disintegration was complete. In fifteen minutes I was become just a mere moral sandpile, and I lifted up my hand along with those seasoned and experienced deacons and swore off every rag of personal property I’ve got in the world, clear down to cork leg, glass eye, and what is left of my wig.
“Those tax officers were moved, they were profoundly moved; they had long been accustomed to seeing hardened old grafters act like that, and they could endure the spectacle; but they were expecting better things of me, a chartered professional moralist, and they were saddened. I fell visibly in their respect and esteem, and I should have fallen in my own, except that I had already struck bottom and there wasn’t any place to fall to.
Does a Gentleman Swear Off?
“At Tuskegee they will jump to misleading conclusions from insufficient evidence, along with Dr. Parkhurst, and they will deceive the student with the superstition that no gentleman ever swears. Look at those good millionaires; aren’t they gentlemen? Well, they swear. Only once a year, maybe, but there’s enough bulk to it to make up for the lost time. And do they lose anything by it? No, they don’t; they save enough in three minutes to support the family seven years. When they swear do we shudder? No—unless they say damn. Then we do. It shrivels us all up.
“Yet we ought not to feel so about it, because we all swear—everybody. Including the ladies. Including Dr. Parkhurst, that strong and brave and excellent citizen, but superficially educated. For it is not the word that is the sin, it is the spirit back of the word. When an irritated lady says ‘Oh!’ the spirit back of it is ‘damn,’ and that is the way it is going to be recorded against her. It always makes me so sorry when I hear a lady swear like that. But if she says ‘damn,’ and says it in an amiable, nice way, it isn’t going to be recorded at all.
“The idea that no gentleman ever swears is all wrong; he can swear and still be a gentleman if he does it in a nice and benevolent and affectionate way. The historian John Fiske, whom I knew well and loved, was a spotless and most noble and upright Christian gentleman, and yet he swore once. Not exactly that, maybe; still he—but I will tell you about it.
“One day when he was deeply immersed in his work his wife came in much moved and profoundly distressed, and said, ‘I am sorry to disturb you, John, but I must, for this is a serious matter, and needs to be attended to at once.’ Then, lamenting, she brought a grave accusation against their little son. She said: ‘He has been saying his Aunt Mary is a fool and his Aunt Martha is a damned fool.’ Mr. Fiske reflected upon the matter a minute, then said: ‘Oh, well, it’s about the distinction I should make between them myself.’
“Mr. Washington, I beg you to convey these teachings to your great and prosperous and most beneficent educational institution, and add them to the prodigal mental and moral riches wherewith you equip your fortunate proteges for the struggle of life.”
Robert C. Ogden, after his introduction by Mr. Choate, said that before he began his formal address, which was “Financial Rousement” of the occasion, he wanted to answer Mark Twain’s remarks on profanity.
“I want to say,” said Mr. Ogden, “that my friend’s allusions to the ethics of profanity are not at all original. I knew all about them years ago, and he would not have known as much as he does had he never lived in Hartford. I remember hearing a distinguished Puritan say once there, banging his fist on the desk in front of him during a debate, that he’d be damned if he would allow such a proposition to go through. In answer to this Henry Clay Trumbull said that it was fine to see a man who could say damn with such profound reverence.”
Mr. Ogden then went on to tell the needs of Tuskegee. He said that the best intelligence of the country, North and South, admitted the peculiar educational duty that was owing to the negroes that had become a part of the population of the Nation.
Applause for Washington.
Mr. Ogden said that there were three distinct appeals. An added income of $90,000 a year was needed, an added endowment of $1,800,000 was essential, and a heating plant, to cost $34,000, was necessary.
Just before Booker T. Washington entered the hall a messenger boy handed him a note from Thomas Dixon, Jr., in which the writer said he would contribute $10,000 to Tuskegee if Mr. Washington would state at the meeting that he did not desire social equality for the negro, and that Tuskegee was opposed to the amalgamation of the races. When asked what he had to say on the subject Mr. Washington said:
“I will make no answer whatever. I have nothing to say.”
Mr. Washington got a fine reception when he came forward to speak, and there was great applause when he said in the course of his address:
“One point we might consider as settled. We are through experimenting and speculating as to where the ten millions of black people are to live. We have reached the unalterable determination that we are going to remain here in America, and the greater part of us are going to remain for all time in the Southern States. In this connection I do not hesitate to say that from my point of view the great body of our people find a more encouraging opportunity in the South than elsewhere.
“Since we are to forever constitute a part of the citizenship of this country, there is but one question to be answered: Shall we be among the best citizens or among the worst?
“Every race of people should be judged by its best type, not by its lowest,” said Mr. Washington. “One has no right to pass judgment upon a people until he has taken the pains to see something of their progress, after they have had a reasonable chance.
“Wherever we have been able to reach the people through education they have improved morally at a rapid pace, and crime has decreased. After making diligent inquiry we cannot find a single man or woman who holds a diploma from the Hampton Institute in Virginia or the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama in the walls of a penitentiary.
“No two groups of people can live side by side where one is in ignorance and poverty without its condition affecting the other. The black man must be lifted or the white man will be injured in his moral and spiritual life. The degradation of the one will mean the degradation of the other.
“I do not overlook the seriousness of the problem that is before us, nor do I set any limits upon the growth of my race. In my opinion, it is the most important and far-reaching problem that the Nation has had before it; but you cannot make equally good citizens where in one part of the country a child has $1.50 expended for his education and in another part of the country another child has $20 spent for his enlightenment.
“The negro in many ways has proved his worth and loyalty to this country. What he now asks is that through such institutions as Hampton, Fisk, and Tuskegee he shall be given the chance to render high and intelligent service to our country in the future. I have faith that such an opportunity will be given him.”
When the affair was over, and the people began to climb up on the stage and pass along and shake hands, the usual thing happened. It always happens. I shake hands with people who used to know my mother intimately in Arkansas, in New Jersey, in California, in Jericho—and I have to seem so glad and so happy to meet these persons who knew in this intimate way one who was so near and dear to me. And this is the kind of thing that gradually turns a person into a polite liar and deceiver, for my mother was never in any of those places.
One pretty creature was glad to see me again, and remembered being at my house in Hartford—I don’t know when, a great many years ago, it was. Now she was mistaking me for somebody else. It couldn’t have happened to her. But I was very cordial, because she was very pretty. And I said “I have been longing to meet you these many, many years, for you have been celebrated throughout all the ages. You are the ‘unborn child.’ From the beginning of time, you have been used as a symbol. When people want to be emphatic—when they want to reach the utmost limit of lack of knowledge—they say ‘He is as innocent as the unborn child; he is as ignorant as the unborn child.’ You were not there, at the time you think of, except in spirit. You hadn’t arrived in the flesh.” She was very nice. We might have had a good long chat except for the others that I had to talk with and work up reminiscences that belonged in somebody else’s experiences, not my own.
There was one young fellow, brisk, but not bright, overpoweringly pleasant and cordial, in his way. He said his mother used to teach school in Elmira, New York, where he was born and bred and where the family continued to reside, and that she would be very glad to know that he had met me, and shaken hands, for he said “She is always talking about you. She holds you in high esteem, although, as she says, she has to confess that of all the boys that ever she had in her school, you were the most troublesome.”
“Well,” I said, “those were my last school days, and through long practice in being troublesome, I had reached the summit by that time, because I was more than thirty-three years old.”
It didn’t affect him in the least. I don’t think he even heard what I said he was so eager to tell me all about it, and I said to him once more, so as to spare him, and me, that I was never in a schoolhouse in Elmira, New York, even on a visit, and that his mother must be mistaking me for some of the Langdons, the family into which I married. No matter, he didn’t hear it—kept on his talk with animation and delight, and has gone to tell his mother, I don’t know what. He didn’t get anything out of me to tell her, for he never heard anything I said.
These episodes used to vex me, years and years ago. But they don’t vex me now. I am older. If a person thinks that he has known me at some time or other, all I require of him is that he shall consider it a distinction to have known me; and then, as a rule, I am perfectly willing to remember all about it and add some things that he has forgotten.
Twichell came down from Hartford to be present at that meeting, and we chatted and smoked after we got back home. And reference was made again to that disastrous Boston speech which I made at Whittier’s seventieth birthday dinner; and Joe asked me if I was still minded to submit that speech to that Club in Washington, day after to-morrow, where Colonel Harvey and I are to be a couple of the four guests. And I said “No,” I had given that up—which was true. Because I have examined that speech a couple of times since, and have changed my notion about it—changed it entirely. I find it gross, coarse,—well, I needn’t go on with particulars. I didn’t like any part of it, from the beginning to the end. I found it always offensive and detestable. How do I account for this change of view? I don’t know. I can’t account for it. I am the person concerned. If I could put myself outside of myself and examine it from the point of view of a person not personally concerned in it, then no doubt I could analyze it and explain to my satisfaction the change which has taken place. As it is, I am merely moved by instinct. My instinct said, formerly, that it was an innocent speech, and funny. The same instinct, sitting cold and judicial, as a court of last resort, has reversed that verdict. I expect this latest verdict to remain.* I don’t remove the speech from the autobiography, because I think that this change of mind about it is interesting, whether the speech is or not, and therefore let it stay.
Twichell had a letter with him which interested me, and, by request, he left it with me, to be returned to him after I shall have used it. This letter is from the Reverend Charles Stowe, a son of Harriet Beecher Stowe. The letter is now about two months old—but in that time Joe has pretty nearly worn it out, reading it to people. That is, reading a certain passage in it to people. He read that passage to me, to wit:
I was reading in the volume of Rev. Dr. Burton’s “Remains,” as the old folks used to say, your remarks at his funeral. I think for beauty of diction, richness of thought and delicacy and strength of psychological analysis, it is up to any of the masters of our tongue. The passage I admire most of all is the one beginning “Men marked the sunshine in him,” etc. I think the whole thing a gem, but this passage is a masterpiece of beautiful and dignified English. It is a shame that men like Dr. Parker and Dr. Burton are in the battle of life, in a way—no, that men like you and Dr. Burton are in a way like the 130-gun ships of the Spanish fleet at Trafalgar, outclassed by pigmies.
And Joe said “Mark, what do you think of that?”
I said “Well, Joe, I don’t want to commit myself. Send me the passage, and then I will furnish my opinion.”
Joe said “You know the charm of this whole thing lies in the fact that it wasn’t I that did that wonderful gem—it was Parker.”
But Twichell is getting a lot of satisfaction out of it. Some time ago, his daughters gathered together a large company of their young friends of the two sexes, and while they were in the midst of their banquet Joe came in and greeted them, and was welcomed. But, necessarily, with his gray head, he was in a considerable degree an embarrassment, and the hilarity without perhaps entirely breaking off, was diminished to the proper degree of reverence for Joe’s cloth and age. That being just the right atmosphere—just the right conditions, for an impressive reading of that passage in this letter, Joe read it with apparent pride, and almost juvenile vanity—while those young people dropped their eyes in pity for an old man who could display his vanities in such a way and take such a childish delight in them. Joe’s daughters turned crimson; glanced at each other, and were ready to cry over this humiliating exhibition. Then of course Twichell finished his performance by informing them that these praises were all deserved, but not by him—for Mr. Stowe had made a mistake. If he had gone and taken another look at that passage which he so highly praised, he would have noticed that it was the work of Rev. Dr. Parker, and not of himself.
At one of the Monday morning meetings of the clergy Twichell did the same thing. And with such excellent effect that in the midst of his reading Parker himself spoke out and said “Now Joe, this is too much. We know you can do fine things; we know you can do wonderful things; but you never did anything as wonderful as this that Charley Stowe is talking about. He is no competent critic, that is quite manifest. There isn’t anything in English Literature worthy of such an intemperate encomium as this that Charley Stowe is passing on your Burton speech.”
Then Joe explained that Parker was only damaging himself, because it was Parker’s speech he was reading about.
Parker is still in the harness. He has been shepherd of the same congregation—its children, and its grandchildren, and its great-grandchildren—for forty-six years. Joe says he is just as marvelous an artist in English phrasing, and just as fine and deep in thought as ever he was. To my knowledge, this is saying a great deal. For Parker was one of our remarkable men when I knew him in the old Hartford days, and we had eight or ten men in that town who were ’way above the average.
Twichell’s congregation—the only congregation he has ever had since he entered the ministry—celebrated the fortieth anniversary of his accession to that pulpit, a couple of weeks ago. Joe entered the army as chaplain in the very beginning of the Civil War. He was a young chap, and had just been graduated from Yale, and the Yale Theological Seminary. He made all the campaigns of the Army of the Potomac. When he was mustered out, that congregation I am speaking of called him, and he has served them ever since, and always to their satisfaction—except once.
I have found among my old manuscripts one which I perceive to be about twenty-two years old. It has a heading, and looks as if I had meant it to serve as a magazine article. I can clearly see, now, why I didn’t print it. It is full of indications that its inspiration was what happened to Twichell about that time, and which produced a situation for him which he will not forget until he is dead, if he even forgets it then. I think I can see, all through this artful article, that I was trying to hint at Twichell, and the episode of that preacher whom I met on the street, and hint at various things that were exasperating me. And now that I read that old article, I perceive that I probably saw that my art was not ingenious enough—that I hadn’t covered Twichell up, and hadn’t covered up the episode that I was hinting at—that anybody in Hartford could read everything between the lines that I was trying to conceal.
I will insert this venerable article in this place, and then take up that episode in Joe’s history and tell about it.
The Character of Man
Concerning Man—he is too large a subject to be treated as a whole; so I will merely discuss a detail or two of him at this time. I desire to contemplate him from this point of view—this premiss: that he was not made for any useful purpose, for the reason that he hasn’t served any; that he was most likely not even made intentionally; and that his working himself up out of the oyster bed to his present position was probably matter of surprise and regret to the Creator. * * * * For his history, in all climes, all ages and all circumstances, furnishes oceans and continents of proof that of all the creatures that were made he is the most detestable. Of the entire brood he is the only one—the solitary one—that possesses malice. That is the basest of all instincts, passions, vices—the most hateful. That one thing puts him below the rats, the grubs, the trichinæ. He is the only creature that inflicts pain for sport, knowing it to be pain. But if the cat knows she is inflicting pain when she plays with the frightened mouse, then we must make an exception here; we must grant that in one detail man is the moral peer of the cat. All creatures kill—there seems to be no exception; but of the whole list, man is the only one that kills for fun; he is the only one that kills in malice, the only one that kills for revenge. Also—in all the list he is the only creature that has a nasty mind.
Shall he be extolled for his noble qualities, for his gentleness, his sweetness, his amiability, his lovingness, his courage, his devotion, his patience, his fortitude, his prudence, the various charms and graces of his spirit? The other animals share all these with him, yet are free from the blacknesses and rottennesses of his character.
* * * * There are certain sweet-smelling sugar-coated lies current in the world which all politic men have apparently tacitly conspired together to support and perpetuate. One of these is, that there is such a thing in the world as independence: independence of thought, independence of opinion, independence of action. Another is, that the world loves to see independence—admires it, applauds it. Another is, that there is such a thing in the world as toleration—in religion, in politics, and such matters; and with it trains that already mentioned auxiliary lie that toleration is admired, and applauded. Out of these trunk-lies spring many branch ones: to wit, the lie that not all men are slaves; the lie that men are glad when other men succeed; glad when they prosper; glad to see them reach lofty heights; sorry to see them fall again. And yet other branch-lies: to wit, that there is heroism in man; that he is not mainly made up of malice and treachery; that he is sometimes not a coward; that there is something about him that ought to be perpetuated—in heaven, or hell, or somewhere. And these other branch-lies, to wit: that conscience, man’s moral medicine chest, is not only created by the Creator, but is put into man ready-charged with the right and only true and authentic correctives of conduct—and the duplicate chest, with the self-same correctives, unchanged, unmodified, distributed to all nations and all epochs. And yet one other branch-lie, to wit, that I am I, and you are you; that we are units, individuals, and have natures of our own, instead of being the tail-end of a tape-worm eternity of ancestors extending in linked procession back—and back—and back—to our source in the monkeys, with this so-called individuality of ours a decayed and rancid mush of inherited instincts and teachings derived, atom by atom, stench by stench, from the entire line of that sorry column, and not so much new and original matter in it as you could balance on a needle point and examine under a microscope. This makes well nigh fantastic the suggestion that there can be such a thing as a personal, original and responsible nature in a man, separable from that in him which is not original, and findable in such quantity as to enable the observer to say, This is a man, not a procession.
* * * * Consider that first mentioned lie: that there is such a thing in the world as independence; that it exists in individuals, that it exists in bodies of men. Surely if anything is proven, by whole oceans and continents of evidence, it is that the quality of independence was almost wholly left out of the human race. The scattering exceptions to the rule only emphasize it, light it up, make it glare. The whole population of New England meekly took their turns, for years, in standing up in the railway trains, without so much as a complaint above their breath, till at last these uncounted millions were able to produce exactly one single independent man, who stood to his rights and made the railroad give him a seat. Statistics and the law of probabilities warrant the assumption that it will take New England forty years to breed his fellow. There is a law, with a penalty attached, forbidding trains to occupy the Asylum street crossing more than five minutes at a time. For years people and carriages used to wait there nightly as much as twenty minutes on a stretch while New England trains monopolized that crossing. I used to hear men use vigorous language about that insolent wrong—but they waited, just the same.
We are discreet sheep; we wait to see how the drove is going, and then go with the drove. We have two opinions: one private, which we are afraid to express; and another one—the one we use—which we force ourselves to wear to please Mrs. Grundy, until habit makes us comfortable in it, and the custom of defending it presently makes us love it, adore it, and forget how pitifully we came by it. Look at it in politics. Look at the candidates whom we loathe, one year, and are afraid to vote against the next; whom we cover with unimaginable filth, one year, and fall down on the public platform and worship, the next—and keep on doing it until the habitual shutting of our eyes to last year’s evidences brings us presently to a sincere and stupid belief in this year’s.* Look at the tyranny of party—at what is called party allegiance, party loyalty—a snare invented by designing men for selfish purposes—and which turns voters into chattels, slaves, rabbits; and all the while, their masters, and they themselves are shouting rubbish about liberty, independence, freedom of opinion, freedom of speech, honestly unconscious of the fantastic contradiction; and forgetting or ignoring that their fathers and the churches shouted the same blasphemies a generation earlier when they were closing their doors against the hunted slave, beating his handful of humane defenders with Bible-texts and billies, and pocketing the insults and licking the shoes of his Southern master.
If we would learn what the human race really is, at bottom, we need only observe it in election times. A Hartford clergyman met me in the street, and spoke of a new nominee—denounced the nomination, in strong, earnest words—words that were refreshing for their independence, their manliness.† He said, “I ought to be proud, perhaps, for this nominee is a relative of mine; on the contrary I am humiliated and disgusted; for I know him intimately—familiarly—and I know that he is an unscrupulous scoundrel, and always has been.” You should have seen this clergyman preside at a political meeting forty days later; and urge, and plead, and gush—and you should have heard him paint the character of this same nominee. You would have supposed he was describing the Cid, and Great-heart, and Sir Galahad, and Bayard the Spotless all rolled into one. Was he sincere? Yes—by that time; and therein lies the pathos of it all, the hopelessness of it all. It shows at what trivial cost of effort a man can teach himself a lie, and learn to believe it, when he perceives, by the general drift, that that is the popular thing to do. Does he believe his lie yet? Oh, probably not; he has no further use for it. It was but a passing incident; he spared to it the moment that was its due, then hastened back to the serious business of his life.
And what a paltry poor lie is that one which teaches that independence of action and opinion is prized in men, admired, honored, rewarded. When a man leaves a political party, he is treated as if the party owned him—as if he were its bond slave, as most party men plainly are—and had stolen himself, gone off with what was not his own. And he is traduced, derided, despised, held up to public obloquy and loathing. His character is remorselessly assassinated; no means, however vile, are spared to injure his property and his business.
The preacher who casts a vote for conscience’ sake, runs the risk of starving. And is rightly served; for he has been teaching a falsity—that men respect and honor independence of thought and action.
Mr. Beecher may be charged with a crime, and his whole following will rise as one man, and stand by him to the bitter end; but who so poor to be his friend when he is charged with casting a vote for conscience’ sake? Take the editor so charged—take—take anybody.
All the talk about tolerance, in anything or anywhere, is plainly a gentle lie. It does not exist. It is in no man’s heart; but it unconsciously and by moss-grown inherited habit, drivels and slobbers from all men’s lips. Intolerance is everything for one’s self, and nothing for the other person. The main-spring of man’s nature is just that—selfishness.
Let us skip the other lies, for brevity’s sake. To consider them would prove nothing, except that man is what he is—loving, toward his own, lovable, to his own,—his family, his friends—and otherwise the buzzing, busy, trivial, enemy of his race—who tarries his little day, does his little dirt, commends himself to God, and then goes out into the darkness, to return no more, and send no messages back—selfish even in death.
Wednesday, January 24, 1906
Tells of the defeat of Mr. Blaine for the Presidency, and how Mr. Clemens’s, Mr. Twichell’s, and Mr. Goodwin’s votes were cast for Cleveland.
1865 or ’66
It is plain, I think, that this old article was written about twenty-two years ago, and that it followed by about three or four months the defeat of James G. Blaine for the Presidency and the election of Grover Cleveland, the Democratic candidate—a temporary relief from a Republican-party domination which had lasted a generation. I had been accustomed to vote for Republicans more frequently than for Democrats, but I was never a Republican and never a Democrat. In the community, I was regarded as a Republican, but I had never so regarded myself. As early as 1865 or ’66 I had had this curious experience: that whereas up to that time I had considered myself a Republican, I was converted to a no-party independence by the wisdom of a rabid Republican. This was a man who was afterward a United States Senator, and upon whose character rests no blemish that I know of, except that he was the father of the William R. Hearst of to-day, and therefore grandfather of Yellow Journalism—that calamity of calamities.
Hearst was a Missourian; I was a Missourian. He was a long, lean, practical, common-sense, uneducated man of fifty, or thereabouts. I was shorter and better informed—at least I thought so. One day, in the Lick House in San Francisco, he said:
“I am a Republican; I expect to remain a Republican always. It is my purpose, and I am not a changeable person. But look at the condition of things. The Republican party goes right along, from year to year, scoring triumph after triumph, until it has come to think that the political power of the United States is its property, and that it is a sort of insolence for any other party to aspire to any part of that power. Nothing can be worse for a country than this. To lodge all power in one party and keep it there, is to insure bad government, and the sure and gradual deterioration of the public morals. The parties ought to be so nearly equal in strength as to make it necessary for the leaders on both sides to choose the very best men they can find. Democratic fathers ought to divide up their sons between the two parties if they can, and do their best in this way to equalize the powers. I have only one son. He is a little boy, but I am already instructing him, persuading him, preparing him, to vote against me when he comes of age, let me be on whichever side I may. He is already a good Democrat, and I want him to remain a good Democrat—until I become a Democrat myself. Then I shall shift him to the other party, if I can.”
It seemed to me that this unlettered man was at least a wise one. And I have never voted a straight ticket from that day to this. I have never belonged to any party from that day to this. I have never belonged to any church from that day to this. I have remained absolutely free in those matters. And in this independence I have found a spiritual comfort and a peace of mind quite above price.
When Blaine came to be talked of by the Republican leaders as their probable candidate for the Presidency, the Republicans of Hartford were very sorry, and they thought they foresaw his defeat, in case he should be nominated. But they stood in no great fear of his nomination. The Convention met in Chicago, and the balloting began. In my house we were playing billiards. Sam Dunham was present; also F. G. Whitmore, Henry C. Robinson, Charles E. Perkins and Edward M. Bunce. We took turns in the game, and, meanwhile, discussed the political situation. George, the colored butler, was down in the kitchen on guard at the telephone. As fast as a ballot was received at the political headquarters down town, it was telephoned out to the house, and George reported it to us through the speaking-tube. Nobody present was seriously expecting the nomination of Mr. Blaine. All these men were Republicans, but they had no affection for Blaine. For two years, the Hartford Courant had been holding Blaine up to scorn and contumely. It had been denouncing him daily. It had been mercilessly criticising his political conduct and backing up the criticisms with the deadly facts. Up to that time the Courant had been a paper which could be depended on to speak its sincere mind about the prominent men of both parties, and its judgments could be depended upon as being well and candidly considered, and sound. It had been my custom to pin my faith to the Courant, and accept its verdicts at par.
The billiard game and the discussion went on and on, and by and by, about mid-afternoon, George furnished us a paralysing surprise through the speaking-tube. Mr. Blaine was the nominee! The butts of the billiard cues came down on the floor with a bump, and for a while the players were dumb. They could think of nothing to say. Then Henry Robinson broke the silence. He said, sorrowfully, that it was hard luck to have to vote for that man. I said:
“But we don’t have to vote for him.”
Robinson said “Do you mean to say that you are not going to vote for him?”
“Yes,” I said, “that is what I mean to say. I am not going to vote for him.”
The others began to find their voices. They sang the same note. They said that when a party’s representatives choose a man, that ends it. If they choose unwisely it is a misfortune, but no loyal member of the party has any right to withhold his vote. He has a plain duty before him and he can’t shirk it. He must vote for that nominee.
I said that no party held the privilege of dictating to me how I should vote. That if party loyalty was a form of patriotism, I was no patriot, and that I didn’t think I was much of a patriot anyway, for oftener than otherwise what the general body of Americans regarded as the patriotic course was not in accordance with my views; that if there was any valuable difference between being an American and a monarchist it lay in the theory that the American could decide for himself what is patriotic and what isn’t; whereas the king could dictate the monarchist’s patriotism for him—a decision which was final and must be accepted by the victim; that in my belief I was the only person in the sixty millions—with Congress and the Administration back of the sixty millions—who was privileged to construct my patriotism for me.
They said “Suppose the country is entering upon a war—where do you stand then? Do you arrogate to yourself the privilege of going your own way in the matter, in the face of the nation?”
“Yes,” I said, “that is my position. If I thought it an unrighteous war I would say so. If I were invited to shoulder a musket in that cause and march under that flag, I would decline. I would not voluntarily march under this country’s flag, nor any other, when it was my private judgment that the country was in the wrong. If the country obliged me to shoulder the musket I could not help myself, but I would never volunteer. To volunteer would be the act of a traitor to myself, and consequently traitor to my country. If I refused to volunteer, I should be called a traitor, I am well aware of that—but that would not make me a traitor. The unanimous vote of the sixty millions could not make me a traitor. I should still be a patriot, and, in my opinion, the only one in the whole country.”
There was a good deal of talk, but I made no converts. They were all candid enough to say that they did not want to vote for Mr. Blaine, but they all said they would do it nevertheless. Then Henry Robinson said:
“It is a good while yet before election. There is time for you to come around; and you will come around. The influences about you will be too strong for you. On election day you will vote for Blaine.”
I said I should not go to the polls at all.
The Courant had an uncomfortable time thence until midnight. General Hawley, the editor-in-chief (and he was also commander-in-chief of the paper), was at his post in Congress, and the telegraphing to and fro between the Courant and him went on diligently until midnight. For two years the Courant had been making a “tar baby” of Mr. Blaine, and adding tar every day—and now it was called upon to praise him, hurrah for him, and urge its well instructed clientele to elevate the “tar baby” to the chief magistracy of the nation. It was a difficult position, and it took the Courant people and General Hawley nine hours to swallow the bitter pill. But at last General Hawley reached a decision, and at midnight the pill was swallowed. Within a fortnight the Courant had acquired some facility in praising where it had so long censured; within another month the change in its character was become complete—and to this day it has never recovered its virtue entirely, though under Charles Hopkins Clark’s editorship it has gotten back 90 per cent of it, by my estimate.
Charles Dudley Warner was the active editor at the time. He could not stomach the new conditions. He found himself unable to turn his pen in the other direction and make it proceed backwards, therefore he decided to retire his pen altogether. He withdrew from the editorship, resigned his salary, lived thenceforth upon his income as a part proprietor of the paper, and upon the proceeds of magazine work and lecturing, and kept his vote in his pocket on election day.
The conversation with the learned American member of the Board of scholars which revised the New Testament did occur as I have outlined it in that old article. He was vehement in his denunciation of Blaine, his relative, and said he should never vote for him. But he was so used to revising New Testaments that it took him only a few days to revise this one. I had hardly finished with him when I came across James G. Batterson. Batterson was President of the great Travelers Insurance Company. He was a fine man; a strong man; and a valuable citizen. He was fully as vehement as that clergyman had been in his denunciations of Blaine—but inside of two weeks he was presiding at a great Republican ratification meeting; and to hear him talk about Blaine and his perfections, a stranger would have supposed that the Republican party had had the good fortune to secure an archangel as its nominee.
Time went on. Election day was close at hand. Late one frosty night, Twichell, the Reverend Francis Goodwin and I were tramping homeward through the deserted streets in the face of a wintry gale, after a séance of our Monday Evening Club, and after a supper-table debate over the political situation, in which the fact had come out—to the astonishment and indignation of everybody, the ladies included—that three traitors were present. That Goodwin, Twichell and I were going to keep our votes in our pockets instead of casting them for the archangel. Along in that homeward tramp, somewhere, Goodwin had a happy idea, and brought it out. He said,
“Why are we keeping back these three votes from Blaine? Plainly the answer is, to do what we can to defeat Blaine. Very well then, these are three votes against Blaine. The commonsense procedure would be to cast six votes against him by turning in our three votes for Cleveland.”
Even Twichell and I could see that there was sense in that, and we said,
“That is a very good thing to do and we’ll do it.”
On election day we went to the polls and consummated our hellish design. At that time the voting was public. Any spectator could see how a man was voting—and straightway this crime was known to the whole community. This double crime,—in the eyes of the community. To withhold a vote from Blaine was bad enough, but to add to that iniquity by actually voting for the Democratic candidate was criminal to a degree for which there was no adequate language discoverable in the dictionary.
From that day forth, for a good while to come, Twichell’s life was a good deal of a burden to him. To use a common expression, his congregation “soured” on him, and he found small pleasure in the exercise of his clerical office—unless perhaps he got some healing for his hurts, now and then, through the privilege of burying some of those people of his. It would have been a benevolence to bury the whole of them, I think, and a profit to the community. But if that was Twichell’s feeling about it, he was too charitable in his nature and too kindly to expose it. He never said it to me, and I think that if he would have said it to any one, I should have been the one.
Twichell had most seriously damaged himself with his congregation. He had a young family to support. It was a large family already, and it was growing. It was becoming a heavier and heavier burden every year—but his salary remained always the same. It became less and less competent to keep up with the domestic drain upon it, and if there had ever been any prospect of increasing this salary, that prospect was gone now. It was not much of a salary. It was four thousand dollars. He had not asked for more, and it had not occurred to the congregation to offer it. Therefore his vote for Cleveland was a distinct disaster to him. That exercise of his ostensible great American privilege of being free and independent in his political opinions and actions, proved a heavy calamity. But the Reverend Francis Goodwin continued to be respected as before—that is publicly; privately he was damned. But publicly he had suffered no harm. Perhaps it was because the public approval was not a necessity in his case. His father was worth seven millions, and was old. The Reverend Francis was in the line of promotion, and would soon inherit.
As far as I was myself concerned, I did not need to worry. I did not draw my living from Hartford. It was quite sufficient for my needs. Hartford’s opinion of me could not affect it; and besides it had long been known among my friends that I had never voted a straight ticket, and was therefore so accustomed to crime that it was unlikely that disapproval of my conduct could reform me—and maybe I wasn’t worth the trouble anyway.
By and by, about a couple of months later, New Year’s Eve arrived, and with it the annual meeting of Joe’s congregation and the annual sale of the pews.
Thursday, February 1, 1906
Subject of January 24th continued—Mr. Twichell’s unpopular vote.
Joe was not quite present. It was not etiquette for him to be within hearing of the business-talks concerning the church’s affairs. He remained in the seclusion of the church parlor, ready to be consulted if that should be necessary. The congregation was present in full force; every seat was occupied. The moment the house was called to order, a member sprang to his feet and moved that the connection between Twichell and the church be dissolved. The motion was promptly seconded. Here, and there, and yonder, all over the house, there were calls of “Question! Question!” But Mr. Hubbard, a middle-aged man, a wise and calm and collected man, business manager and part owner of the Courant, rose in his place and proposed to discuss the motion before rushing it to a vote. The substance of his remarks was this,—(which I must put in my own language, of course, as I was not there).
“Mr. Twichell was the first pastor you have ever had. You have never wanted another until two months ago. You have had no fault to find with his ministrations as your pastor, but he has suddenly become unfit to continue them because he is unorthodox in his politics, according to your views. Very well, he was fit; he has become unfit. He was valuable; his value has passed away, apparently—but only apparently. His highest value remains—if I know this congregation. When he assumed this pastorate this region was an outlying district, thinly inhabited, its real estate worth next to nothing. Mr. Twichell’s personality was a magnet which immediately began to draw population in this direction. It has continued to draw it from that day to this. As a result, your real estate, almost valueless in the beginning, ranges now at very high prices. Reflect, before you vote upon this resolution. The church in West Hartford is waiting upon this vote with deep solicitude. That congregation’s real estate stands at a low figure. What they are anxious to have now above everything else, under God, is a price-raiser. Dismiss Mr. Twichell to-night, and they will hire him to-morrow. Prices there will go up; prices here will go down. That is all. I move the vote.”
Twichell was not dismissed. That was twenty-two years ago. It was Twichell’s first pulpit after his consecration to his vocation. He occupies it yet, and has never had another. The fortieth anniversary of his accession to it was celebrated by that congregation and its descendants a couple of weeks ago, and there was great enthusiasm. Twichell has never made any political mistakes since. His persistency in voting right has been an exasperation to me these many years, and has been the cause and inspiration of more than one vicious letter from me to him. But the viciousness was all a pretense. I have never found any real fault with him for voting his infernal Republican ticket, for the reason that situated as he was, with a large family to support, his first duty was not to his political conscience but to his family conscience. A sacrifice had to be made; a duty had to be performed. His very first duty was to his family, not to his political conscience. He sacrificed his political independence, and saved his family by it. In the circumstances, this was the highest loyalty, and the best. If he had been a Henry Ward Beecher it would not have been his privilege to sacrifice his political conscience, because in case of dismissal a thousand pulpits would have been open to him, and his family’s bread secure. In Twichell’s case, there would have been some risk—in fact, a good deal of risk. That he, or any other expert, could have raised the prices of real estate in West Hartford is, to my mind, exceedingly doubtful. I think Mr. Hubbard worked his imagination to the straining point when he got up that scare that night. I believe it was safest for Twichell to remain where he was if he could. He saved his family, and that was his first duty, in my opinion.
In this country there are perhaps eighty thousand preachers. Not more than twenty of them are politically independent—the rest cannot be politically independent. They must vote the ticket of their congregations. They do it, and are justified. They themselves are mainly the reason why they have no political independence, for they do not preach political independence from their pulpits. They have their large share in the fact that the people of this nation have no political independence.
February 1, 1906.
To-morrow will be the thirty-sixth anniversary of our marriage. My wife passed from this life one year and eight months ago, in Florence, Italy, after an unbroken illness of twenty-two months’ duration.
I saw her first in the form of an ivory miniature in her brother Charley’s stateroom in the steamer Quaker City in the Bay of Smyrna, in the summer of 1867, when she was in her twenty-second year. I saw her in the flesh for the first time in New York in the following December. She was slender and beautiful and girlish—and she was both girl and woman. She remained both girl and woman to the last day of her life. Under a grave and gentle exterior burned inextinguishable fires of sympathy, energy, devotion, enthusiasm, and absolutely limitless affection. She was always frail in body, and she lived upon her spirit, whose hopefulness and courage were indestructible. Perfect truth, perfect honesty, perfect candor, were qualities of her character which were born with her. Her judgments of people and things were sure and accurate. Her intuitions almost never deceived her. In her judgments of the characters and acts of both friends and strangers, there was always room for charity, and this charity never failed. I have compared and contrasted her with hundreds of persons, and my conviction remains that hers was the most perfect character I have ever met. And I may add that she was the most winningly dignified person I have ever known. Her character and disposition were of the sort that not only invite worship but command it. No servant ever left her service who deserved to remain in it. And as she could choose with a glance of her eye, the servants she selected did in almost all cases deserve to remain, and they did remain. She was always cheerful; and she was always able to communicate her cheerfulness to others. During the nine years that we spent in poverty and debt, she was always able to reason me out of my despairs and find a bright side to the clouds and make me see it. In all that time I never knew her to utter a word of regret concerning our altered circumstances, nor did I ever know her children to do the like. For she had taught them, and they drew their fortitude from her. The love which she bestowed upon those whom she loved took the form of worship, and in that form it was returned—returned by relatives, friends, and the servants of her household. It was a strange combination which wrought into one individual, so to speak, by marriage—her disposition and character and mine. She poured out her prodigal affection in kisses and caresses, and in a vocabulary of endearments whose profusion was always an astonishment to me. I was born reserved as to endearments of speech, and caresses, and hers broke upon me as the summer waves break upon Gibraltar. I was reared in that atmosphere of reserve. As I have already said in an earlier chapter, I never knew a member of my father’s family to kiss another member of it except once, and that at a deathbed. And our village was not a kissing community. The kissing and caressing ended with courtship—along with the deadly piano-playing of that day.
She had the heart-free laugh of a girl. It came seldom, but when it broke upon the ear it was as inspiring as music. I heard it for the last time when she had been occupying her sick-bed for more than a year, and I made a written note of it at the time—a note not to be repeated.
To-morrow will be the thirty-sixth anniversary. We were married in her father’s house in Elmira, New York, and went next day, by special train, to Buffalo, along with the whole Langdon family, and with the Beechers and the Twichells, who had solemnized the marriage. We were to live in Buffalo, where I was to be one of the editors of the Buffalo Express, and a part owner of the paper. I knew nothing about Buffalo, but I had made my household arrangements there through a friend, by letter. I had instructed him to find a boarding-house of as respectable a character as my light salary as editor would command. We were received at about nine o’clock at the station in Buffalo and were put into several sleighs and driven all over America, as it seemed to me—for apparently we turned all the corners in the town and followed all the streets there were—I scolding freely and characterizing that friend of mine in very uncomplimentary words for securing a boarding-house that apparently had no definite locality. But there was a conspiracy—and my bride knew of it, but I was in ignorance. Her father, Jervis Langdon, had bought and furnished a new house for us in the fashionable street, Delaware Avenue, and had laid in a cook and housemaids, and a brisk and electric young coachman, an Irishman, Patrick McAleer—and we were being driven all over that city in order that one sleighful of those people could have time to go to the house and see that the gas was lighted all over it, and a hot supper prepared for the crowd. We arrived at last, and when I entered that fairy place my indignation reached high-water mark, and without any reserve I delivered my opinion to that friend of mine for being so stupid as to put us into a boarding-house whose terms would be far out of my reach. Then Mr. Langdon brought forward a very pretty box and opened it and took from it a deed of the house. So the comedy ended very pleasantly, and we sat down to supper.
The company departed about midnight, and left us alone in our new quarters. Then Ellen, the cook, came in to get orders for the morning’s marketing—and neither of us knew whether beefsteak was sold by the barrel or by the yard. We exposed our ignorance, and Ellen was full of Irish delight over it. Patrick McAleer, that brisk young Irishman, came in to get his orders for next day—and that was our first glimpse of him.
Thirty-six years have gone by. And this letter from Twichell comes this morning, from Hartford.
Jan 31.
Dear Mark:
I am sorry to say that the news about Patrick is very bad. I saw him Monday. He looked pretty well and was in cheerful spirits. He told me that he was fast recovering from an operation performed on him last week Wednesday, and would soon be out again. But a nurse who followed me from the room when I left told me that the poor fellow was deceived. The operation had simply disclosed the fact that nothing could be done for him.
Yesterday I asked the Surgeon (Johnson, living opposite us) if that were so. He said ‘Yes’; that the trouble was cancer of the liver and that there was no help for it in surgery; the case was quite hopeless; the end was not many weeks off. A pitiful case, indeed! Poor Patrick! His face brightened when he saw me. He told me, the first thing, that he had just heard from Jean. His wife and son were with him. Whether they suspect the truth I don’t know. I doubt if the wife does: but the son looked very sober. May be he only has been told.
Yrs aff.
Jean had kept watch of Patrick’s case by correspondence with Patrick’s daughter Nancy, and so we already knew that it was hopeless. In fact, the end seems to be nearer than Twichell suspects. Last night I sent Twichell word that I knew Patrick had only a day or two to live, and he must not forget to provide a memorial wreath and pin a card to it with my name and Clara’s and Jean’s, signed to it, worded “In loving remembrance of Patrick McAleer, faithful and valued friend of our family for thirty-six years.”
I wanted to say that he had served us thirty-six years, but some people would not have understood that. He served us constantly for twenty-six years. Then came that break when we spent nine or ten years in Europe. But if Patrick himself could see his funeral wreath—then I should certainly say, in so many words, that he served us thirty-six years. For last summer, when we were located in the New Hampshire hills, at Dublin, we had Patrick with us. Jean had gone to Hartford the 1st of May and secured his services for the summer. Necessarily, a part of our household was Katy Leary, who has been on our roster for twenty-six years; and one day Jean overheard Katy and Patrick disputing about this length of service. Katy said she had served the family longer than Patrick had. Patrick said it was nothing of the kind; that he had already served the family ten years when Katy came, and that he had now served it thirty-six years.
He was just as brisk there in the New Hampshire hills as he was thirty-six years ago. He was sixty-four years old, but was just as slender, and trim, and handsome, and just as alert and springy on his feet as he was in those long-vanished days of his youth. He was the most perfect man in his office that I have ever known, for this reason: that he never neglected any detail, howsoever slight, of his duties, and there was never any occasion to give him an order about anything. He conducted his affairs without anybody’s help. There was always plenty of feed for the horses; the horses were always shod when they needed to be shod; the carriages and sleighs were always attended to; he kept everything in perfect order. It was a great satisfaction to have such a man around. I was not capable of telling anybody what to do about anything. He was my particular servant, and I didn’t need to tell him anything at all. He was just the same in the New Hampshire hills. I never gave him an order while he was there, the whole five months; and there was never anything lacking that belonged in his jurisdiction.
When we had been married a year or two Patrick took a wife, and they lived in a house which we built and added to the stable. They reared eight children. They lost one, two or three years ago—a thriving young man, assistant editor of a Hartford daily paper, I think. The children were all educated in the public schools and in the High School. They are all men and women now, of course.
Our first child, Langdon Clemens, was born the 7th of November, 1870, and lived twenty-two months. Susy was born the 19th of March, 1872, and passed from life in the Hartford home, the 18th of August, 1896. With her, when the end came, were Jean, and Katy Leary, and John and Ellen (the gardener and his wife). Clara and her mother and I arrived in England from around the world on the 31st of July, and took a house in Guildford. A week later, when Susy, Katy and Jean should have been arriving from America, we got a letter instead.
Friday, February 2, 1906
Subject of February 1st continued—The death of Susy Clemens—
Ends with mention of Dr. John Brown.
It explained that Susy was slightly ill—nothing of consequence. But we were disquieted, and began to cable for later news. This was Friday. All day no answer—and the ship to leave Southampton next day, at noon. Clara and her mother began packing, to be ready in case the news should be bad. Finally came a cablegram saying “Wait for cablegram in the morning.” This was not satisfactory—not reassuring. I cabled again, asking that the answer be sent to Southampton, for the day was now closing. I waited in the postoffice that night till the doors were closed, toward midnight, in the hope that good news might still come, but there was no message. We sat silent at home till one in the morning, waiting—waiting for we knew not what. Then we took the earliest morning train, and when we reached Southampton the message was there. It said the recovery would be long, but certain. This was a great relief to me, but not to my wife. She was frightened. She and Clara went aboard the steamer at once and sailed for America, to nurse Susy. I remained behind to search for another and larger house in Guildford.
That was the 15th of August, 1896. Three days later, when my wife and Clara were about halfway 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.”
It is one of the mysteries of our nature that a man, all unprepared, can receive a thunderstroke like that and live. There is but one reasonable explanation of it. The intellect is stunned by the shock and but gropingly gathers the meaning of the words. The power to realize their full import is mercifully wanting. The mind has a dumb sense of vast loss—that is all. It will take mind and memory months, and possibly years, to gather together the details and thus learn and know the whole extent of the loss. A man’s house burns down. The smoking wreckage represents only a ruined home that was dear through years of use and pleasant associations. By and by, as the days and weeks go on, first he misses this, then that, then the other thing. And when he casts about for it he finds that it was in that house. Always it is an essential—there was but one of its kind. It cannot be replaced. It was in that house. It is irrevocably lost. He did not realize that it was an essential when he had it; he only discovers it now when he finds himself balked, hampered, by its absence. It will be years before the tale of lost essentials is complete, and not till then can he truly know the magnitude of his disaster.
The 18th of August brought me the awful tidings. The mother and the sister were out there in mid-Atlantic, ignorant of what was happening; flying to meet this incredible calamity. All that could be done to protect them from the full force of the shock was done by relatives and good friends. They went down the Bay and met the ship at night, but did not show themselves until morning, and then only to Clara. When she returned to the stateroom she did not speak, and did not need to. Her mother looked at her and said,
“Susy is dead.”
At half past ten o’clock that night, Clara and her mother completed their circuit of the globe, and drew up at Elmira by the same train and in the same car which had borne them and me westward from it one year, one month, and one week before. And again Susy was there—not waving her welcome in the glare of the lights as she had waved her farewell to us thirteen months before, but lying white and fair in her coffin, in the house where she was born.
The last thirteen days of Susy’s life were spent in our own house in Hartford, the home of her childhood and always the dearest place in the earth to her. About her she had faithful old friends—her pastor, Mr. Twichell, who had known her from the cradle, and who had come a long journey to be with her; her uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Crane; Patrick, the coachman; Katy, who had begun to serve us when Susy was a child of eight years; John and Ellen, who had been with us many years. Also Jean was there.
At the hour when my wife and Clara set sail for America, Susy was in no danger. Three hours later there came a sudden change for the worse. Meningitis set in, and it was immediately apparent that she was death-struck. That was Saturday, the 15th of August.
“That evening she took food for the last time.” (Jean’s letter to me.) The next morning the brain-fever was raging. She walked the floor a little in her pain and delirium, then succumbed to weakness and returned to her bed. Previously she had found hanging in a closet a gown which she had seen her mother wear. She thought it was her mother, dead, and she kissed it, and cried. About noon she became blind (an effect of the disease) and bewailed it to her uncle.
From Jean’s letter I take this sentence, which needs no comment:
“About one in the afternoon Susy spoke for the last time.”
It was only one word that she said when she spoke that last time, and it told of her longing. She groped with her hands and found Katy, and caressed her face and said “mamma.”
How gracious it was that in that forlorn hour of wreck and ruin, with the night of death closing around her, she should have been granted that beautiful illusion—that the latest vision which rested upon the clouded mirror of her mind should have been the vision of her mother, and the latest emotion she should know in life the joy and peace of that dear imagined presence.
About two o’clock she composed herself as if for sleep, and never moved again. She fell into unconsciousness and so remained two days and five hours, until Tuesday evening at seven minutes past seven, when the release came. She was twenty-four years and five months old.
On the 23d her mother and her sisters saw her laid to rest—she that had been our wonder and our worship.
In one of her own books I find some verses which I will copy here. Apparently she always put borrowed matter in quotation marks. These verses lack those marks, and therefore I take them to be her own.
Love came at dawn, when all the world was fair,
When crimson glories, bloom, and song were rife;
Love came at dawn when hope’s wings fanned the air,
And murmured “I am life.”
Love came at even, when the day was done,
When heart and brain were tired, and slumber pressed;
Love came at eve, shut out the sinking sun,
And whispered “I am rest.”
The summer seasons of Susy’s childhood were spent at Quarry Farm on the hills east of Elmira, New York, the other seasons of the year at the home in Hartford. Like other children, she was blithe and happy, fond of play; unlike the average of children she was at times much given to retiring within herself and trying to search out the hidden meanings of the deep things that make the puzzle and pathos of human existence, and in all the ages have baffled the inquirer and mocked him. As a little child aged seven, she was oppressed and perplexed by the maddening repetition of the stock incidents of our race’s fleeting sojourn here, just as the same thing has oppressed and perplexed maturer minds from the beginning of time. A myriad of men are born; they labor and sweat and struggle for bread; they squabble and scold and fight; they scramble for little mean advantages over each other; age creeps upon them; infirmities follow; shames and humiliations bring down their prides and their vanities; those they love are taken from them, and the joy of life is turned to aching grief. The burden of pain, care, misery, grows heavier year by year; at length ambition is dead; pride is dead; vanity is dead; longing for release is in their place. It comes at last—the only unpoisoned gift earth ever had for them—and they vanish from a world where they were of no consequence; where they achieved nothing; where they were a mistake and a failure and a foolishness; where they have left no sign that they have existed—a world which will lament them a day and forget them forever. Then another myriad takes their place, and copies all they did, and goes along the same profitless road, and vanishes as they vanished—to make room for another and another and a million other myriads to follow the same arid path through the same desert and accomplish what the first myriad, and all the myriads that came after it accomplished—nothing!
“Mamma, what is it all for?” asked Susy, preliminarily stating the above details in her own halting language, after long brooding over them alone in the privacy of the nursery.
A year later, she was groping her way alone through another sunless bog, but this time she reached a rest for her feet. For a week, her mother had not been able to go to the nursery, evenings, at the child’s prayer hour. She spoke of it—was sorry for it, and said she would come to-night, and hoped she could continue to come every night and hear Susy pray, as before. Noticing that the child wished to respond, but was evidently troubled as to how to word her answer, she asked what the difficulty was. Susy explained that Miss Foote (the governess) had been teaching her about the Indians and their religious beliefs, whereby it appeared that they had not only a God, but several. This had set Susy to thinking. As a result of this thinking, she had stopped praying. She qualified this statement—that is she modified it—saying she did not now pray “in the same way” as she had formerly done. Her mother said,
“Tell me about it, dear.”
“Well, mamma, the Indians believed they knew, but now we know they were wrong. By and by it can turn out that we are wrong. So now I only pray that there may be a God and a heaven—or something better.”
I wrote down this pathetic prayer in its precise wording, at the time, in a record which we kept of the children’s sayings, and my reverence for it has grown with the years that have passed over my head since then. Its untaught grace and simplicity are a child’s, but the wisdom and the pathos of it are of all the ages that have come and gone since the race of man has lived, and longed, and hoped, and feared, and doubted.
To go back a year—Susy aged seven. Several times her mother said to her,
“There, there, Susy, you mustn’t cry over little things.”
This furnished Susy a text for thought. She had been breaking her heart over what had seemed vast disasters—a broken toy; a picnic canceled by thunder and lightning and rain; the mouse that was growing tame and friendly in the nursery caught and killed by the cat—and now came this strange revelation. For some unaccountable reason, these were not vast calamities. Why? How is the size of calamities measured? What is the rule? There must be some way to tell the great ones from the small ones; what is the law of these proportions? She examined the problem earnestly and long. She gave it her best thought, from time to time, for two or three days—but it baffled her—defeated her. And at last she gave up and went to her mother for help.
“Mamma, what is ‘little things’?”
It seemed a simple question—at first. And yet before the answer could be put into words, unsuspected and unforeseen difficulties began to appear. They increased; they multiplied; they brought about another defeat. The effort to explain came to a standstill. Then Susy tried to help her mother out—with an instance, an example, an illustration. The mother was getting ready to go down town, and one of her errands was to buy a long-promised toy watch for Susy.
“If you forgot the watch, mamma, would that be a little thing?”
She was not concerned about the watch, for she knew it would not be forgotten. What she was hoping for was that the answer would unriddle the riddle and bring rest and peace to her perplexed little mind.
The hope was disappointed, of course—for the reason that the size of a misfortune is not determinable by an outsider’s measurement of it, but only by the measurements applied to it by the person specially affected by it. The king’s lost crown is a vast matter to the king, but of no consequence to the child. The lost toy is a great matter to the child, but in the king’s eyes it is not a thing to break the heart about. A verdict was reached, but it was based upon the above model, and Susy was granted leave to measure her disasters thereafter with her own tape-line.
I will throw in a note or two here touching the time when Susy was seventeen. She had written a play modeled upon Greek lines, and she and Clara and Margaret Warner, and other young comrades had played it to a charmed housefull of friends in our house in Hartford. Charles Dudley Warner and his brother, George, were present. They were near neighbors and warm friends of ours. They were full of praises of the workmanship of the play, and George Warner came over the next morning and had a long talk with Susy. The result of it was this verdict:
“She is the most interesting person I have ever known, of either sex.”
Remark of a lady—Mrs. Cheney, I think, author of the biography of her father, Rev. Dr. Bushnell:
“I made this note after one of my talks with Susy: ‘She knows all there is of life and its meanings. She could not know it better if she had lived it out to its limit. Her intuitions and ponderings and analyzings seem to have taught her all that my sixty years have taught me.’”
Remark of another lady; she is speaking of Susy’s last days:
“In those last days she walked as if on air, and her walk answered to the buoyancy of her spirits and the passion of intellectual energy and activity that possessed her.”
I return now to the point where I made this diversion. From her earliest days, as I have already indicated, Susy was given to examining things and thinking them out by herself. She was not trained to this; it was the make of her mind. In matters involving questions of fair or unfair dealing, she reviewed the details patiently, and surely arrived at a right and logical conclusion. In Munich, when she was six years old, she was harassed by a recurrent dream, in which a ferocious bear figured. She came out of the dream each time sorely frightened, and crying. She set herself the task of analyzing this dream. The reasons of it? The purpose of it? The origin of it? No—the moral aspect of it. Her verdict, arrived at after candid and searching investigation, exposed it to the charge of being one-sided and unfair in its construction: for (as she worded it), she was “never the one that ate, but always the one that was eaten.”
Susy backed her good judgment in matters of morals with conduct to match—even upon occasions when it caused her sacrifice to do it. When she was six and her sister Clara four, the pair were troublesomely quarrelsome. Punishments were tried as a means of breaking up this custom—these failed. Then rewards were tried. A day without a quarrel brought candy. The children were their own witnesses—each for or against her own self. Once Susy took the candy, hesitated, then returned it with a suggestion that she was not fairly entitled to it. Clara kept hers,—so, here was a conflict of evidence; one witness for a quarrel, and one against it. But the better witness of the two was on the affirmative side, and the quarrel stood proved, and no candy due to either side. There seemed to be no defence for Clara—yet there was, and Susy furnished it; and Clara went free. Susy said “I don’t know whether she felt wrong in her heart, but I didn’t feel right in my heart.”
It was a fair and honorable view of the case, and a specially acute analysis of it for a child of six to make. There was no way to convict Clara now, except to put her on the stand again and review her evidence. There was a doubt as to the fairness of this procedure, since her former evidence had been accepted, and not challenged at the time. The doubt was examined, and canvassed—then she was given the benefit of it and acquitted; which was just as well, for in the meantime she had eaten the candy, anyway.
Whenever I think of Susy I think of Marjorie Fleming. There was but one Marjorie Fleming. There can never be another. No doubt I think of Marjorie when I think of Susy mainly because Dr. John Brown, that noble and beautiful soul—rescuer of marvelous Marjorie from oblivion—was Susy’s great friend in her babyhood—her worshipper and willing slave.
In 1873, when Susy was fourteen months old, we arrived in Edinburgh from London, fleeing thither for rest and refuge, after experiencing what had been to us an entirely new kind of life—six weeks of daily lunches, teas, and dinners away from home. We carried no letters of introduction; we hid ourselves away in Veitch’s family hotel in George street, and prepared to have a comfortable season all to ourselves. But by good fortune this did not happen. Straightway Mrs. Clemens needed a physician, and I stepped around to 23 Rutland street to see if the author of “Rab and His Friends” was still a practising physician. He was. He came, and for six weeks thereafter we were together every day, either in his house or in our hotel.
Monday, February 5, 1906
Dr. John Brown, continued—Incidents connected with Susy Clemens’s
childhood—Bad spelling, etc.
His was a sweet and winning face—as beautiful a face as I have ever known. Reposeful, gentle, benignant—the face of a saint at peace with all the world and placidly beaming upon it the sunshine of love that filled his heart. Doctor John was beloved by everybody in Scotland; and I think that on its downward sweep southward it found no frontier. I think so because when, a few years later, infirmities compelled Doctor John to give up his practice, and Mr. Douglas, the publisher, and other friends, set themselves the task of raising a fund of a few thousand dollars whose income was to be devoted to the support of himself and his maiden sister (who was in age) the fund was not only promptly made up, but so very promptly that the books were closed before friends a hundred miles south of the line had had an opportunity to contribute. No public appeal was made. The matter was never mentioned in print. Mr. Douglas and the other friends applied for contributions by private letter only. Many complaints came from London, and everywhere between, from people who had not been allowed an opportunity to contribute. This sort of complaint is so new to the world—so strikingly unusual, that I think it worth while to mention it.
Doctor John was very fond of animals, and particularly of dogs. No one needs to be told this who has read that pathetic and beautiful masterpiece, “Rab and His Friends.” After his death, his son, Jock, published a little memorial of him which he distributed privately among the friends; and in it occurs a little episode which illustrates the relationship that existed between Doctor John and the other animals. It is furnished by an Edinburgh lady whom Doctor John used to pick up and carry to school or back in his carriage frequently at a time when she was twelve years old. She said that they were chatting together tranquilly one day, when he suddenly broke off in the midst of a sentence and thrust his head out of the carriage window eagerly—then resumed his place with a disappointed look on his face. The girl said “Who is it? Some one you know?” He said “No, a dog I don’t know.”
He had two names for Susy—“Wee wifie” and “Megalopis.” This formidable Greek title was conferred in honor of her big big brown eyes. Susy and the Doctor had a good deal of romping together. Daily he unbent his dignity and played “bear” with the child. I do not now remember which of them was the bear, but I think it was the child. There was a sofa across a corner of the parlor with a door behind it opening into Susy’s quarters, and she used to lie in wait for the Doctor behind the sofa—not lie in wait, but stand in wait; for you could only get just a glimpse of the top of her yellow head when she stood upright. According to the rules of the game, she was invisible, and this glimpse did not count. I think she must have been the bear, for I can remember two or three occasions when she sprang out from behind the sofa and surprised the Doctor into frenzies of fright, which were not in the least modified by the fact that he knew that the “bear” was there, and was coming.
It seems incredible that Doctor John should ever have wanted to tell a grotesque and rollicking anecdote. Such a thing seems so out of character with that gentle and tranquil nature that——but no matter. I tried to teach him the anecdote, and he tried his best for two or three days to perfect himself in it—and he never succeeded. It was the most impressive exhibition that ever was. There was no human being, nor dog, of his acquaintance in all Edinburgh that would not have been paralysed with astonishment to step in there and see Doctor John trying to do that anecdote. It was one which I have told some hundreds of times on the platform, and which I was always very fond of, because it worked the audience so hard. It was a stammering man’s account of how he got cured of his infirmity—which was accomplished by introducing a whistle into the midst of every word which he found himself unable to finish on account of the obstruction of the stammering. And so his whole account was an absurd mixture of stammering and whistling—which was irresistible to an audience properly keyed up for laughter. Doctor John learned to do the mechanical details of the anecdote, but he was never able to inform these details with expression. He was preternaturally grave and earnest all through, and so when he fetched up with the climaxing triumphant sentence at the end—but I must quote that sentence, or the reader will not understand. It was this:
“The doctor told me that whenever I wanted to sta- (whistle) sta- (whistle) sta- (whistle) ammer, I must whistle; and I did, and it k- (whistle) k- (whistle) k- (whistle) k—ured me entirely!”
The Doctor could not master that triumphant note. He always gravely stammered and whistled and whistled and stammered it through, and it came out at the end with the solemnity and the gravity of the Judge delivering sentence to a man with the black cap on.
He was the loveliest creature in the world—except his aged sister, who was just like him. We made the round of his professional visits with him in his carriage every day for six weeks. He always brought a basket of grapes, and we brought books. The scheme which we began with on the first round of visits was the one which was maintained until the end—and was based upon this remark, which he made when he was disembarking from the carriage at his first stopping place, to visit a patient: “Entertain yourselves while I go in here and reduce the population.”
As a child, Susy had a passionate temper; and it cost her much remorse and many tears before she learned to govern it, but after that it was a wholesome salt, and her character was the stronger and healthier for its presence. It enabled her to be good with dignity; it preserved her not only from being good for vanity’s sake, but from even the appearance of it. In looking back over the long-vanished years it seems but natural and excusable that I should dwell with longing affection and preference upon incidents of her young life which made it beautiful to us, and that I should let its few and small offences go unsummoned and unreproached.
In the summer of 1880, when Susy was just eight years of age, the family were at Quarry Farm, on top of a high hill three miles from Elmira, New York, where we always spent our summers, in those days. Hay-cutting time was approaching, and Susy and Clara were counting the hours, for the time was big with a great event for them; they had been promised that they might mount the wagon and ride home from the fields on the summit of the hay mountain. This perilous privilege, so dear to their age and species, had never been granted them before. Their excitement had no bounds. They could talk of nothing but this epoch-making adventure, now. But misfortune overtook Susy on the very morning of the important day. In a sudden outbreak of passion she corrected Clara—with a shovel, or a stick, or something of the sort. At any rate, the offence committed was of a gravity clearly beyond the limit allowed in the nursery. In accordance with the rule and custom of the house, Susy went to her mother to confess and to help decide upon the size and character of the punishment due. It was quite understood that as a punishment could have but one rational object and function—to act as a reminder and warn the transgressor against transgressing in the same way again—the children would know about as well as any how to choose a penalty which would be rememberable and effective. Susy and her mother discussed various punishments, but none of them seemed adequate. This fault was an unusually serious one, and required the setting up of a danger-signal in the memory that would not blow out nor burn out, but remain a fixture there and furnish its saving warning indefinitely. Among the punishments mentioned was deprivation of the hay-wagon ride. It was noticeable that this one hit Susy hard. Finally, in the summing up, the mother named over the list and asked,
“Which one do you think it ought to be, Susy?”
Susy studied, shrank from her duty, and asked,
“Which do you think, mamma?”
“Well, Susy, I would rather leave it to you. You make the choice, yourself.”
It cost Susy a struggle, and much and deep thinking and weighing—but she came out where any one who knew her could have foretold she would—
“Well, mamma, I’ll make it the hay-wagon, because you know the other things might not make me remember not to do it again, but if I don’t get to ride on the hay-wagon I can remember it easily.”
In this world the real penalty, the sharp one, the lasting one, never falls otherwise than on the wrong person. It was not I that corrected Clara, but the remembrance of poor Susy’s lost hay ride still brings me a pang—after twenty-six years.
Apparently Susy was born with humane feelings for the animals, and compassion for their troubles. This enabled her to see a new point in an old story, once, when she was only six years old—a point which had been overlooked by older, and perhaps duller, people for many ages. Her mother told her the moving story of the sale of Joseph by his brethren, the staining of his coat with the blood of the slaughtered kid, and the rest of it. She dwelt upon the inhumanity of the brothers; their cruelty toward their helpless young brother; and the unbrotherly treachery which they practised upon him; for she hoped to teach the child a lesson in gentle pity and mercifulness which she would remember. Apparently her desire was accomplished, for the tears came into Susy’s eyes and she was deeply moved. Then she said,
“Poor little kid.”
A child’s frank envy of the privileges and distinctions of its elders is often a delicately flattering attention and the reverse of unwelcome, but sometimes the envy is not placed where the beneficiary is expecting it to be placed. Once when Susy was seven, she sat breathlessly absorbed in watching a guest of ours adorn herself for a ball. The lady was charmed by this homage; this mute and gentle admiration; and was happy in it. And when her pretty labors were finished, and she stood at last perfect, unimprovable, clothed like Solomon in his glory, she paused, confident and expectant, to receive from Susy’s tongue the tribute that was burning in her eyes. Susy drew an envious little sigh and said,
“I wish I could have crooked teeth and spectacles!”
Once, when Susy was six months along in her eighth year, she did something one day, in the presence of company, which subjected her to criticism and reproof. Afterward, when she was alone with her mother, as was her custom she reflected a little while over the matter. Then she set up what I think—and what the shade of Burns would think—was a quite good philosophical defence:
“Well, mamma, you know I didn’t see myself, and so I couldn’t know how it looked.”
In homes where the near friends and visitors are mainly literary people—lawyers, judges, authors, professors and clergymen—the children’s ears become early familiarized with wide vocabularies. It is natural for them to pick up any words that fall in their way; it is natural for them to pick up big and little ones indiscriminately; it is natural for them to use without fear any word that comes to their net, no matter how formidable it may be as to size. As a result, their talk is a curious and funny musketry-clatter of little words, interrupted at intervals by the heavy-artillery crash of a word of such imposing sound and size that it seems to shake the ground and rattle the windows. Sometimes the child gets a wrong idea of a word which it has picked up by chance, and attaches to it a meaning which impairs its usefulness—but this does not happen as often as one might expect it would. Indeed it happens with an infrequency which may be regarded as remarkable. As a child, Susy had good fortune with her large words, and she employed many of them. She made no more than her fair share of mistakes. Once when she thought something very funny was going to happen (but it didn’t) she was racked and torn with laughter, by anticipation. But apparently she still felt sure of her position, for she said,
“If it had happened, I should have been transformed (transported) with glee.”
And earlier, when she was a little maid of five years, she informed a visitor that she had been in a church only once, and that was the time when Clara was “crucified” (Christened).
In Heidelberg, when she was six, she noticed that the Schloss gardens——
Dear me, how remote things do come together! I break off that sentence to remark that at a luncheon up town, yesterday, I reminded the hostess that she had not made me acquainted with all the guests. She said yes, she was aware of that—that by request of one of the ladies she had left me to guess that lady out for myself; that I had known that lady for a day, more than a quarter of a century ago, and that the lady was desirous of finding out how long it would take me to dig her up out of my memory. The rest of the company were in the game, and were anxious to see whether I would succeed or fail. It seemed to me, as the time drifted along, that I was never going to be able to locate that woman; but at last, when the luncheon was nearly finished, a discussion broke out as to where the most comfortable hotel in the world was to be found. Various hotels on the several sides of the ocean were mentioned, and at last somebody reminded her that she had not put forward a preference yet, and she was asked to name the hotel that she thought was, from her point of view, the most satisfactory and comfortable hotel on the planet, and she said promptly “The ‘Slosh,’ at Heidelberg.”
I said at once, “I am sincerely glad to meet you again, Mrs. Jones, after this long stretch of years—but you were Miss Smith in those days. Have I located you?”
“Yes,” she said, “you have.”
I knew I had. During that day at Heidelberg, so many ages ago, many charitable people tried furtively to get that young Miss Smith to adopt the prevailing pronunciation of Schloss, by saying Schloss softly and casually every time she said “Slosh,” but nobody succeeded in converting her. And I knew perfectly well that this was that same old Smith girl, because there could not be two persons on this planet at one and the same time who could preserve and stick to a mispronunciation like that for nearly a generation.
As I was saying, when I interrupted myself—in Heidelberg when Susy was six, she noticed that the Schloss gardens were populous with snails creeping all about everywhere. One day she found a new dish on her table and inquired concerning it, and learned that it was made of snails. She was awed and impressed, and said,
“Wild ones, mamma?”
She was thoughtful and considerate of others—an acquired quality, no doubt. No one seems to be born with it. One hot day, at home in Hartford, when she was a little child, her mother borrowed her fan several times (a Japanese one, value five cents), refreshed herself with it a moment or two, then handed it back with a word of thanks. Susy knew her mother would use the fan all the time if she could do it without putting a deprivation upon its owner. She also knew that her mother could not be persuaded to do that. A relief must be devised somehow; Susy devised it. She got five cents out of her money-box and carried it to Patrick and asked him to take it down town (a mile and a half) and buy a Japanese fan and bring it home. He did it—and thus thoughtfully and delicately was the exigency met and the mother’s comfort secured. It is to the child’s credit that she did not save herself expense by bringing down another and more costly kind of fan from up stairs, but was content to act upon the impression that her mother desired the Japanese kind—content to accomplish the desire and stop with that, without troubling about the wisdom or unwisdom of it.
Sometimes while she was still a child, her speech fell into quaint and strikingly expressive forms. Once—aged nine or ten—she came to her mother’s room when her sister Jean was a baby and said Jean was crying in the nursery, and asked if she might ring for the nurse. Her mother asked,
“Is she crying hard?”—meaning cross, ugly.
“Well, no, mamma. It is a weary, lonesome cry.”
It is a pleasure to me to recall various incidents which reveal the delicacies of feeling which were so considerable a part of her budding character. Such a revelation came once in a way which, while creditable to her heart, was defective in another direction. She was in her eleventh year, then. Her mother had been making the Christmas purchases, and she allowed Susy to see the presents which were for Patrick’s children. Among these was a handsome sled for Jimmy, on which a stag was painted; also, in gilt capitals the word “DEER.” Susy was excited and joyous over everything until she came to this sled. Then she became sober and silent—yet the sled was the choicest of all the gifts. Her mother was surprised, and also disappointed, and said,
“Why Susy, doesn’t it please you? Isn’t it fine?”
Susy hesitated, and it was plain that she did not want to say the thing that was in her mind. However, being urged, she brought it haltingly out:
“Well, mamma, it is fine, and of course it did cost a good deal—but—but—why should that be mentioned?”
Seeing that she was not understood, she reluctantly pointed to that word “DEER.” It was her orthography that was at fault, not her heart. She had inherited both from her mother.
The ability to spell is a natural gift. The person not born with it can never become perfect in it. I was always able to spell correctly. My wife, and her sister, Mrs. Crane, were always bad spellers. Once when Clara was a little chap, her mother was away from home for a few days, and Clara wrote her a small letter every day. When her mother returned, she praised Clara’s letters. Then she said, “But in one of them, Clara, you spelled a word wrong.”
Clara said, with quite unconscious brutality, “Why mamma, how did you know?”
More than a quarter of a century has elapsed, and Mrs. Crane is under our roof here in New York, for a few days. Her head is white now, but she is as pretty and winning and sweet as she was in those ancient times at her Quarry Farm, where she was an idol and the rest of us were the worshippers. Her gift of imperfect orthography remains unimpaired. She writes a great many letters. This was always a passion of hers. She was never able to live happily unless she could see that incomparable orthography flowing from her pen. Yesterday she asked me how to spell New Jersey, and I knew by her look, after she got the information, that she was regretting she hadn’t asked somebody years ago. The miracles which she and her sister, Mrs. Clemens, were able to perform without help of dictionary or spelling book, are incredible. During the year of my engagement—1869—while I was out on the lecture platform, the daily letter that came for me generally brought me news from the front—by which expression I refer to the internecine war that was always going on in a friendly way between these two orthographists about the spelling of words. One of these words was scissors. They never seemed to consult a dictionary; they always wanted something or somebody that was more reliable. Between them, they had spelled scissors in seven different ways, a feat which I am certain no person now living, educated or uneducated, can match. I have forgotten how I was required to say which of the seven ways was the right one. I couldn’t do it. If there had been fourteen ways, none of them would have been right. I remember only one of the instances offered—the other six have passed from my memory. That one was “sicisiors.” That way of spelling it looked so reasonable—so plausible, to the discoverer of it, that I was hardly believed when I decided against it. Mrs. Crane keeps by her, to this day, a little book of about thirty pages of note-paper, on which she has written, in a large hand, words which she needs to use in her letters every day—words which the cat could spell without prompting or tuition, and yet are words which Mrs. Crane never allows herself to risk upon paper without looking at that vocabulary of hers, each time, to make certain.
During my engagement year, thirty-seven years ago, a considerable company of young people amused themselves in the Langdon homestead one night with the game of “Verbarium,” which was brand-new at the time and very popular. A text-word was chosen and each person wrote that word in large letters across the top of a sheet of paper, then sat with pencil in hand and ready to begin as soon as game was called. The player could begin with the first letter of that text-word and build words out of the text-word during two minutes by the watch. But he must not use a letter that was not in the text-word and he must not use any letter in the text-word twice, unless the letter occurred twice in the text-word. I remember the first bout that we had at that game. The text-word was California. When game was called everybody began to set down words as fast as he could make his pencil move—“corn,” “car,” “cone,” and so on, digging out the shortest words first because they could be set down more quickly than the longer ones. When the two minutes were up, the scores were examined, and the prize went to the person who had achieved the largest number of words. The good scores ranged along between thirty and fifty or sixty words. But Mrs. Crane would not allow her score to be examined. She was plainly doubtful about getting that prize. But when persuasion failed to avail we chased her about the place, captured her and took her score away from her by force. She had achieved only one word, and that was calf—which she had spelled “caff.” And she never would have gotten even that one word honestly—she had to introduce a letter that didn’t belong in the text-word in order to get it.
Tuesday, February 6, 1906
Playing “The Prince and the Pauper”—Acting charades, etc.
When Susy was twelve and a half years old, I took to the platform again, after a long absence from it, and raked the country for four months in company with George W. Cable. Early in November we gave a reading one night in Chickering Hall, in New York, and when I was walking home in a dull gloom of fog and rain I heard one invisible man say to another invisible man, this, in substance: “General Grant has actually concluded to write his autobiography.” That remark gave me joy, at the time, but if I had been struck by lightning in place of it, it would have been better for me and mine. However, that is a long story, and this is not the place for it.
To Susy, as to all Americans, General Grant was the supremest of heroes, and she longed for a sight of him. I took her to see him one day——however let that go. It belongs elsewhere. I will return to it by and by.
In the midst of our reading-campaign, I returned to Hartford from the Far West, reaching home one evening just at dinner time. I was expecting to have a happy and restful season by a hickory fire in the library with the family, but was required to go at once to George Warner’s house, a hundred and fifty yards away, across the grounds. This was a heavy disappointment, and I tried to beg off but did not succeed. I couldn’t even find out why I must waste this precious evening in a visit to a friend’s house when our own house offered so many and superior advantages. There was a mystery somewhere, but I was not able to get to the bottom of it. So we tramped across in the snow, and I found the Warner drawing-room crowded with seated people. There was a vacancy in the front row, for me—in front of a curtain. At once the curtain was drawn, and before me, properly costumed, was the little maid, Margaret Warner, clothed in Tom Canty’s rags, and beyond an intercepting railing was Susy Clemens, arrayed in the silks and satins of the prince. Then followed with good action and spirit the rest of that first meeting between the prince and the pauper. It was a charming surprise, and to me a moving one. Other episodes of the tale followed, and I have seldom in my life enjoyed an evening so much as I enjoyed that one. This lovely surprise was my wife’s work. She had patched the scenes together from the book, and had trained the six or eight young actors in their parts, and had also designed and furnished the costumes.
Afterward, I added a part for myself (Miles Hendon), also a part for Katy and a part for George. I think I have not mentioned George before. He was a colored man—the children’s darling, and a remarkable person. He had been a member of the family a number of years at that time. He had been born a slave, in Maryland, and was set free by the Proclamation when he was just entering young-manhood. He was body-servant to General Devens all through the war, and then had come North and for eight or ten years had been earning his living by odd jobs. He came out to our house once, an entire stranger, to clean some windows—and remained eighteen years. Mrs. Clemens could always tell enough about a servant by the look of him—more, in fact, than she, or anybody else, could tell about him by his recommendations.
We played “The Prince and the Pauper” a number of times in our house to seated audiences of eighty-four persons, which was the limit of our space, and we got great entertainment out of it. As we played the piece it had several superiorities over the play as presented on the public stage in England and America, for we always had both the prince and the pauper on deck, whereas these parts were always doubled on the public stage—an economical but unwise departure from the book, because it necessitated the excision of the strongest and most telling of the episodes. We made a stirring and handsome thing out of the coronation scene. This could not be accomplished otherwise than by having both the prince and the pauper present at the same time. Clara was the little Lady Jane Grey, and she performed the part with electrifying spirit. Twichell’s littlest cub, now a grave and reverend clergyman, was a page. He was so small that people on the back seats could not see him without an opera-glass, but he held up Lady Jane’s train very well. Jean was only something past three years old, therefore was too young to have a part, but she produced the whole piece every day independently, and played all the parts herself. For a one-actor piece it was not bad. In fact, it was very good—very entertaining. For she was in very deep earnest, and besides she used an English which none but herself could handle with effect.
Our children and the neighbors’ children played well; easily, comfortably, naturally, and with high spirit. How was it that they were able to do this? It was because they had been in training all the time from their infancy. They grew up in our house, so to speak, playing charades. We never made any preparation. We selected a word, whispered the parts of it to the little actors; then we retired to the hall where all sorts of costumery had been laid out ready for the evening. We dressed the parts in three minutes and each detachment marched into the library and performed its syllable, then retired, leaving the fathers and mothers to guess that syllable if they could. Sometimes they could.
Will Gillette, now world famous actor and dramatist, learned a part of his trade by acting in our charades. Those little chaps, Susy and Clara, invented charades themselves in their earliest years, and played them for the entertainment of their mother and me. They had one high merit—none but a high grade intellect could guess them. Obscurity is a great thing in a charade. These babies invented one once which was a masterpiece in this regard. They came in and played the first syllable, which was a conversation in which the word red occurred with suggestive frequency. Then they retired—came again continuing an angry dispute which they had begun outside, and in which several words like just, fair, unfair, unjust, and so on, kept occurring; but we noticed that the word just was in the majority—so we set that down along with the word red, and discussed the probabilities while the children went out to re-costume themselves. We had thus “red,” “just.” They soon appeared and began to do a very fashionable morning call, in which the one made many inquiries of the other concerning some lady whose name was persistently suppressed, and who was always referred to as “her,” even when the grammar did not permit that form of the pronoun. The children retired. We took an account of stock and, so far as we could see, we had three syllables, “red,” “just,” “her.” But that was all. The combination did not seem to throw any real glare on the future completed word. The children arrived again, and stooped down and began to chat and quarrel and carry on, and fumble and fuss at the register!—(red-just-her). With the exception of myself, this family was never strong on spelling.
In “The Prince and the Pauper” days, and earlier and later—especially later, Susy and her nearest neighbor, Margaret Warner, often devised tragedies and played them in the schoolroom, with little Jean’s help—with closed doors—no admission to anybody. The chief characters were always a couple of queens, with a quarrel in stock—historical when possible, but a quarrel anyway, even if it had to be a work of the imagination. Jean always had one function—only one. She sat at a little table about a foot high and drafted death-warrants for these queens to sign. In the course of time, they completely wore out Elizabeth and Mary Queen of Scots—also all of Mrs. Clemens’s gowns that they could get hold of—for nothing charmed these monarchs like having four or five feet of gown dragging on the floor behind. Mrs. Clemens and I spied upon them more than once, which was treacherous conduct—but I don’t think we very seriously minded that. It was grand to see the queens stride back and forth and reproach each other in three- or four-syllable words dripping with blood; and it was pretty to see how tranquil Jean was through it all. Familiarity with daily death and carnage had hardened her to crime and suffering in all their forms, and they were no longer able to hasten her pulse by a beat. Sometimes when there was a long interval between death-warrants she even leaned her head on her table and went to sleep. It was then a curious spectacle of innocent repose and crimson and volcanic tragedy.
Two or three weeks ago, when I sat talking with the divine Sarah—Sarah the illustrious, the unapproachable—and I was trading English for her French, and neither of us making wages at it, she could have detected a strong, but far away, interest in my eyes if she had examined closely, for while I was seeing her I was also seeing another Sarah Bernhardt of long years ago—Susy Clemens. Susy had seen the Bernhardt play once. And always after that she was fond of doing impassioned imitations of her great heroine’s tragic parts. She did them strikingly well, too.
Wednesday, February 7, 1906
Susy Clemens’s Biography of her father—Mr. Clemens’s opinion of critics, etc.
When Susy was thirteen, and was a slender little maid with plaited tails of copper-tinged brown hair down her back, and was perhaps the busiest bee in the household hive, by reason of the manifold studies, health exercises and recreations she had to attend to, she secretly, and of her own motion, and out of love, added another task to her labors—the writing of a biography of me. She did this work in her bedroom at night, and kept her record hidden. After a little, the mother discovered it and filched it, and let me see it; then told Susy what she had done, and how pleased I was, and how proud. I remember that time with a deep pleasure. I had had compliments before, but none that touched me like this; none that could approach it for value in my eyes. It has kept that place always since. I have had no compliment, no praise, no tribute from any source, that was so precious to me as this one was and still is. As I read it now, after all these many years, it is still a king’s message to me, and brings me the same dear surprise it brought me then—with the pathos added, of the thought that the eager and hasty hand that sketched it and scrawled it will not touch mine again—and I feel as the humble and unexpectant must feel when their eyes fall upon the edict that raises them to the ranks of the noble.
Yesterday while I was rummaging in a pile of ancient note-books of mine which I had not seen for years, I came across a reference to that biography. It is quite evident that several times, at breakfast and dinner, in those long past days, I was posing for the biography. In fact, I clearly remember that I was doing that—and I also remember that Susy detected it. I remember saying a very smart thing, with a good deal of an air, at the breakfast table one morning, and that Susy observed to her mother privately, a little later, that papa was doing that for the biography.
I cannot bring myself to change any line or word in Susy’s sketch of me, but will introduce passages from it now and then just as they came in their quaint simplicity out of her honest heart, which was the beautiful heart of a child. What comes from that source has a charm and grace of its own which may transgress all the recognized laws of literature, if it choose, and yet be literature still, and worthy of hospitality. I shall print the whole of this little biography, before I am done with it—every word, every sentence.
The spelling is frequently desperate, but it was Susy’s, and it shall stand. I love it, and cannot profane it. To me, it is gold. To correct it would alloy it, not refine it. It would spoil it. It would take from it its freedom and flexibility and make it stiff and formal. Even when it is most extravagant I am not shocked. It is Susy’s spelling, and she was doing the best she could—and nothing could better it for me.
She learned languages easily; she learned history easily; she learned music easily; she learned all things easily, quickly, and thoroughly—except spelling. She even learned that, after a while. But it would have grieved me but little if she had failed in it—for although good spelling was my one accomplishment I was never able to greatly respect it. When I was a schoolboy, sixty years ago, we had two prizes in our school. One was for good spelling, the other for amiability. These things were thin, smooth, silver disks, about the size of a dollar. Upon the one was engraved in flowing Italian script the words “Good Spelling,” on the other was engraved the word “Amiability.” The holders of these prizes hung them about the neck with a string—and those holders were the envy of the whole school. There wasn’t a pupil that wouldn’t have given a leg for the privilege of wearing one of them a week, but no pupil ever got a chance except John Robards and me. John Robards was eternally and indestructibly amiable. I may even say devilishly amiable; fiendishly amiable; exasperatingly amiable. That was the sort of feeling that we had about that quality of his. So he always wore the amiability medal. I always wore the other medal. That word “always” is a trifle too strong. We lost the medals several times. It was because they became so monotonous. We needed a change—therefore several times we traded medals. It was a satisfaction to John Robards to seem to be a good speller—which he wasn’t. And it was a satisfaction to me to seem to be amiable, for a change. But of course these changes could not long endure—for some schoolmate or other would presently notice what had been happening, and that schoolmate would not have been human if he had lost any time in reporting this treason. The teacher took the medals away from us at once, of course—and we always had them back again before Friday night. If we lost the medals Monday morning, John’s amiability was at the top of the list Friday afternoon when the teacher came to square up the week’s account. The Friday afternoon session always closed with “spelling down.” Being in disgrace, I necessarily started at the foot of my division of spellers, but I always slaughtered both divisions and stood alone with the medal around my neck when the campaign was finished. I did miss on a word once, just at the end of one of these conflicts, and so lost the medal. I left the first r out of February—but that was to accommodate a sweetheart. My passion was so strong just at that time that I would have left out the whole alphabet if the word had contained it.
As I have said before, I never had any large respect for good spelling. That is my feeling yet. Before the spelling book came with its arbitrary forms, men unconsciously revealed shades of their characters, and also added enlightening shades of expression to what they wrote by their spelling, and so it is possible that the spelling book has been a doubtful benevolence to us.
Susy began the biography in 1885, when I was in the fiftieth year of my age. She begins in this way:
We are a very happy family. We consist of Papa, Mamma, 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.
But wait a minute—I will return to Susy presently.
In the matter of slavish imitation, man is the monkey’s superior all the time. The average man is destitute of independence of opinion. He is not interested in contriving an opinion of his own, by study and reflection, but is only anxious to find out what his neighbor’s opinion is and slavishly adopt it. A generation ago, I found out that the latest review of a book was pretty sure to be just a reflection of the earliest review of it; that whatever the first reviewer found to praise or censure in the book would be repeated in the latest reviewer’s report, with nothing fresh added. Therefore more than once I took the precaution of sending my book, in manuscript, to Mr. Howells, when he was editor of the Atlantic Monthly, so that he could prepare a review of it at leisure. I knew he would say the truth about the book—I also knew that he would find more merit than demerit in it, because I already knew that that was the condition of the book. I allowed no copy of it to go out to the press until after Mr. Howells’s notice of it had appeared. That book was always safe. There wasn’t a man behind a pen in all America that had the courage to find anything in the book which Mr. Howells had not found—there wasn’t a man behind a pen in America that had spirit enough to say a brave and original thing about the book on his own responsibility.
I believe that the trade of critic, in literature, music, and the drama, is the most degraded of all trades, and that it has no real value—certainly no large value. When Charles Dudley Warner and I were about to bring out “The Gilded Age,” the editor of the Daily Graphic persuaded me to let him have an advance copy, he giving me his word of honor that no notice of it would appear in his paper until after the Atlantic Monthly notice should have appeared. This reptile published a review of the book within three days afterward. I could not really complain, because he had only given me his word of honor as security; I ought to have required of him something substantial. I believe his notice did not deal mainly with the merit of the book, or the lack of it, but with my moral attitude toward the public. It was charged that I had used my reputation to play a swindle upon the public; that Mr. Warner had written as much as half of the book, and that I had used my name to float it and give it currency; a currency—so the critic averred—which it could not have acquired without my name, and that this conduct of mine was a grave fraud upon the people. The Graphic was not an authority upon any subject whatever. It had a sort of distinction, in that it was the first and only illustrated daily newspaper that the world had seen; but it was without character; it was poorly and cheaply edited; its opinion of a book or of any other work of art was of no consequence. Everybody knew this, yet all the critics in America, one after the other, copied the Graphic’s criticism, merely changing the phraseology, and left me under that charge of dishonest conduct. Even the great Chicago Tribune, the most important journal in the Middle West, was not able to invent anything fresh, but adopted the view of the humble Daily Graphic, dishonesty-charge and all.
However, let it go. It is the will of God that we must have critics, and missionaries, and Congressmen, and humorists, and we must bear the burden. Meantime, I seem to have been drifting into criticism myself. But that is nothing. At the worst, criticism is nothing more than a crime, and I am not unused to that.
What I have been traveling toward all this time is this: the first critic that ever had occasion to describe my personal appearance littered his description with foolish and inexcusable errors whose aggregate furnished the result that I was distinctly and distressingly unhandsome. That description floated around the country in the papers, and was in constant use and wear for a quarter of a century. It seems strange to me that apparently no critic in the country could be found who could look at me and have the courage to take up his pen and destroy that lie. That lie began its course on the Pacific coast, in 1864, and it likened me in personal appearance to Petroleum V. Nasby, who had been out there lecturing. For twenty-five years afterward, no critic could furnish a description of me without fetching in Nasby to help out my portrait. I knew Nasby well, and he was a good fellow, but in my life I have not felt malignant enough about any more than three persons to charge those persons with resembling Nasby. It hurts me to the heart, these things. To this day, it hurts me to the heart. I was always handsome. Anybody but a critic could have seen it. And it had long been a distress to my family—including Susy—that the critics should go on making this wearisome mistake, year after year, when there was no foundation for it. Even when a critic wanted to be particularly friendly and complimentary to me, he didn’t dare to go beyond my clothes. He never ventured beyond that old safe frontier. When he had finished with my clothes he had said all the kind things, the pleasant things, the complimentary things he could risk. Then he dropped back on Nasby.
Yesterday I found this clipping in the pocket of one of those ancient memorandum-books of mine. It is of the date of thirty-nine years ago, and both the paper and the ink are yellow with the bitterness that I felt in that old day when I clipped it out to preserve it and brood over it, and grieve about it. I will copy it here, to wit:
A correspondent of the Philadelphia Press, writing of one of Schuyler Colfax’s receptions, says of our Washington correspondent: “Mark Twain, the delicate humorist, was present; quite a lion, as he deserves to be. Mark is a bachelor, faultless in taste, whose snowy vest is suggestive of endless quarrels with Washington washerwomen; but the heroism of Mark is settled for all time, for such purity and smoothness were never seen before. His lavender gloves might have been stolen from some Turkish harem, so delicate were they in size; but more likely—anything else were more likely than that. In form and feature he bears some resemblance to the immortal Nasby; but whilst Petroleum is brunette to the core, Twain is golden, amber-hued, melting, blonde.”
Let us return to Susy’s Biography now, and get the opinion of one who is unbiassed.
From Susy’s Biography.
Papa’s appearance has been described many times, but very incorrectly. He has beautiful gray hair, not any too thick or any too long, but 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, he is an extrodinarily fine looking man. All his features are perfect, exept that he hasn’t extrodinary teeth. His complexion is very fair, and he doesn’t ware a beard. He is a very good man and a very funny one. He has got a temper, but we all of us have in this family. He is the loveliest man I ever saw or ever hope to see—and oh, so absent-minded. He does tell perfectly delightful stories. Clara and I used to sit on each arm of his chair and listen while he told us stories about the pictures on the wall.
I remember the story-telling days vividly. They were a difficult and exacting audience—those little creatures.
Thursday, February 8, 1906
Susy Clemens’s Biography, continued—Romancer to the childrenv—Incident
of the spoon-shaped drive—The burglar alarm does its whole duty.
Along one side of the library, in the Hartford home, the bookshelves joined the mantelpiece—in fact there were shelves on both sides of the mantelpiece. On these shelves, and on the mantelpiece, stood various ornaments. At one end of the procession was a framed oil painting of a cat’s head, at the other end was a head of a beautiful young girl, life-size—called Emmeline, because she looked just about like that—an impressionist water-color. Between the one picture and the other there were twelve or fifteen of the bric-à-brac things already mentioned, also an oil painting by Elihu Vedder, “The Young Medusa.” Every now and then the children required me to construct a romance—always impromptu—not a moment’s preparation permitted—and into that romance I had to get all that bric-à-brac and the three pictures. I had to start always with the cat and finish with Emmeline. I was never allowed the refreshment of a change, end-for-end. It was not permissible to introduce a bric-à-brac ornament into the story out of its place in the procession.
These bric-à-bracs were never allowed a peaceful day, a reposeful day, a restful Sabbath. In their lives there was no Sabbath, in their lives there was no peace; they knew no existence but a monotonous career of violence and bloodshed. In the course of time, the bric-à-brac and the pictures showed wear. It was because they had had so many and such tumultuous adventures in their romantic careers.
As romancer to the children I had a hard time, even from the beginning. If they brought me a picture, in a magazine, and required me to build a story to it, they would cover the rest of the page with their pudgy hands to keep me from stealing an idea from it. The stories had to come hot from the bat, always. They had to be absolutely original and fresh. Sometimes the children furnished me simply a character or two, or a dozen, and required me to start out at once on that slim basis and deliver those characters up to a vigorous and entertaining life of crime. If they heard of a new trade, or an unfamiliar animal, or anything like that, I was pretty sure to have to deal with those things in the next romance. Once Clara required me to build a sudden tale out of a plumber and a “bawgunstrictor,” and I had to do it. She didn’t know what a boa-constrictor was, until he developed in the tale—then she was better satisfied with it than ever.
From Susy’s Biography.
Papa’s favorite game is billiards, and when he is tired and wishes to rest himself he stays up all night and plays billiards, it seems to rest his head. He smokes a great deal almost incessantly. He has the mind of an author exactly, some of the simplest things he cant understand. Our burglar alarm is often out of order, and papa had been obliged to take the mahogany-room off from the alarm altogether for a time, because the burglar alarm had been in the habit of ringing even when the mahogany-room window was closed. At length he thought that perhaps the burglar alarm might be in order, and he decided to try and see; accordingly he put it on and then went down and opened the window; consequently the alarm bell rang, it would even if the alarm had been in order. Papa went despairingly upstairs and said to mamma, “Livy the mahogany-room won’t go on. I have just opened the window to see.”
“Why, Youth,” mamma replied “if you’ve opened the window, why of coarse the alarm will ring!”
“That’s what I’ve opened it for, why I just went down to see if it would ring!”
Mamma tried to explain to papa that when he wanted to go and see whether the alarm would ring while the window was closed he mustn’t go and open the window—but in vain, papa couldn’t understand, and got very impatient with mamma for trying to make him believe an impossible thing true.
This is a frank biographer, and an honest one; she uses no sandpaper on me. I have, to this day, the same dull head in the matter of conundrums and perplexities which Susy had discovered in those long-gone days. Complexities annoy me; they irritate me; then this progressive feeling presently warms into anger. I cannot get far in the reading of the commonest and simplest contract—with its “parties of the first part,” and “parties of the second part,” and “parties of the third part,”—before my temper is all gone. Ashcroft comes up here every day and pathetically tries to make me understand the points of the lawsuit which we are conducting against Henry Butters, Harold Wheeler, and the rest of those Plasmon thieves, but daily he has to give it up. It is pitiful to see, when he bends his earnest and appealing eyes upon me and says, after one of his efforts, “Now you do understand that, don’t you?”
I am always obliged to say “I don’t, Ashcroft. I wish I could understand it, but I don’t. Send for the cat.”
In the days which Susy is talking about, a perplexity fell to my lot one day. F. G. Whitmore was my business agent, and he brought me out from town in his buggy. We drove by the portecochère and toward the stable. Now this was a single road, and was like a spoon whose handle stretched from the gate to a great round flower-bed in the neighborhood of the stable. At the approach to the flower-bed the road divided and circumnavigated it, making a loop, which I have likened to the bowl of the spoon. As we neared the loop, I saw that Whitmore was laying his course to port, (I was sitting on the starboard side—the side the house was on), and was going to start around that spoon-bowl on that left-hand side. I said,
“Don’t do that, Whitmore; take the right-hand side. Then I shall be next to the house when we get to the door.”
He said, “That will not happen in any case, it doesn’t make any difference which way I go around this flower-bed.”
I explained to him that he was an ass, but he stuck to his proposition, and I said,
“Go on and try it, and see.”
He went on and tried it, and sure enough he fetched me up at the door on the very side that he had said I would be. I was not able to believe it then, and I don’t believe it yet.
I said, “Whitmore, that is merely an accident. You can’t do it again.”
He said he could—and he drove down into the street, fetched around, came back, and actually did it again. I was stupefied, paralysed, petrified, with these strange results, but they did not convince me. I didn’t believe he could do it another time, but he did. He said he could do it all day, and fetch up the same way every time. By that time my temper was gone, and I asked him to go home and apply to the asylum and I would pay the expenses; I didn’t want to see him any more for a week.
I went up stairs in a rage and started to tell Livy about it, expecting to get her sympathy for me and to breed aversion in her for Whitmore; but she merely burst into peal after peal of laughter, as the tale of my adventure went on, for her head was like Susy’s: riddles and complexities had no terrors for it. Her mind and Susy’s were analytical; I have tried to make it appear that mine was different. Many and many a time I have told that buggy experiment, hoping against hope that I would some time or other find somebody who would be on my side, but it has never happened. And I am never able to go glibly forward and state the circumstances of that buggy’s progress without having to halt and consider, and call up in my mind the spoon-handle, the bowl of the spoon, the buggy and the horse, and my position in the buggy: and the minute I have got that far and try to turn it to the left it goes to ruin; I can’t see how it is ever going to fetch me out right when we get to the door. Susy is right in her estimate. I can’t understand things.
That burglar alarm which Susy mentions led a gay and careless life, and had no principles. It was generally out of order at one point or another; and there was plenty of opportunity, because all the windows and doors in the house, from the cellar up to the top floor, were connected with it. However, in its seasons of being out of order it could trouble us for only a very little while: we quickly found out that it was fooling us, and that it was buzzing its blood-curdling alarm merely for its own amusement. Then we would shut it off, and send to New York for the electrician—there not being one in all Hartford in those days. When the repairs were finished we would set the alarm again and re-establish our confidence in it. It never did any real business except upon one single occasion. All the rest of its expensive career was frivolous and without purpose. Just that one time it performed its duty, and its whole duty—gravely, seriously, admirably. It let fly about two o’clock one black and dreary March morning, and I turned out promptly, because I knew that it was not fooling, this time. The bath-room door was on my side of the bed. I stepped in there, turned up the gas, looked at the annunciator, and turned off the alarm—so far as the door indicated was concerned—thus stopping the racket. Then I came back to bed. Mrs. Clemens opened the debate:
“What was it?”
“It was the cellar door.”
“Was it a burglar, do you think?”
“Yes,” I said, “of course it was. Did you suppose it was a Sunday-school superintendent?”
“No. What do you suppose he wants?”
“I suppose he wants jewelry, but he is not acquainted with the house and he thinks it is in the cellar. I don’t like to disappoint a burglar whom I am not acquainted with, and who has done me no harm, but if he had had common sagacity enough to inquire, I could have told him we kept nothing down there but coal and vegetables. Still it may be that he is acquainted with this place, and that what he really wants is coal and vegetables. On the whole, I think it is vegetables he is after.”
“Are you going down to see?”
“No; I could not be of any assistance. Let him select for himself; I don’t know where the things are.”
Then she said, “But suppose he comes up to the ground floor!”
“That’s all right. We shall know it the minute he opens a door on that floor. It will set off the alarm.”
Just then the terrific buzzing broke out again. I said,
“He has arrived. I told you he would. I know all about burglars and their ways. They are systematic people.”
I went into the bath-room to see if I was right, and I was. I shut off the dining room and stopped the buzzing, and came back to bed. My wife said,
“What do you suppose he is after now?”
I said, “I think he has got all the vegetables he wants and is coming up for napkin-rings and odds and ends for the wife and children. They all have families—burglars have—and they are always thoughtful of them, always take a few necessaries of life for themselves, and fill out with tokens of remembrance for the family. In taking them they do not forget us: those very things represent tokens of his remembrance of us, and also of our remembrance of him. We never get them again; the memory of the attention remains embalmed in our hearts.”
“Are you going down to see what it is he wants now?”
“No,” I said, “I am no more interested than I was before. They are experienced people,—burglars; they know what they want; I should be no help to him. I think he is after ceramics and bric-à-brac and such things. If he knows the house he knows that that is all that he can find on the dining room floor.”
She said, with a strong interest perceptible in her tone, “Suppose he comes up here!”
I said, “It is all right. He will give us notice.”
“What shall we do then?”
“Climb out of the window.”
She said, a little restively, “Well, what is the use of a burglar alarm for us?”
“You have seen, dear heart, that it has been useful up to the present moment, and I have explained to you how it will be continuously useful after he gets up here.”
That was the end of it. He didn’t ring any more alarms. Presently I said,
“He is disappointed, I think. He has gone off with the vegetables and the bric-à-brac, and I think he is dissatisfied.”
We went to sleep, and at a quarter before eight in the morning I was out, and hurrying, for I was to take the 8.29 train for New York. I found the gas burning brightly—full head—all over the first floor. My new overcoat was gone; my old umbrella was gone; my new patent-leather shoes, which I had never worn, were gone. The large window which opened into the ombra at the rear of the house was standing wide. I passed out through it and tracked the burglar down the hill through the trees; tracked him without difficulty, because he had blazed his progress with imitation silver napkin-rings, and my umbrella, and various other things which he had disapproved of; and I went back in triumph and proved to my wife that he was a disappointed burglar. I had suspected he would be, from the start, and from his not coming up to our floor to get human beings.
Things happened to me that day in New York. I will tell about them another time.
From Susy’s Biography.
Papa has a peculiar gait we like, it seems just to sute him, but most people do not; he always walks up and down the room while thinking and between each coarse at meals.
A lady distantly related to us came to visit us once in those days. She came to stay a week, but all our efforts to make her happy failed, we could not imagine why, and she got up her anchor and sailed the next morning. We did much guessing, but could not solve the mystery. Later we found out what the trouble was. It was my tramping up and down between the courses. She conceived the idea that I could not stand her society.
That word “Youth,” as the reader has perhaps already guessed, was my wife’s pet name for me. It was gently satirical, but also affectionate. I had certain mental and material peculiarities and customs proper to a much younger person than I was.
From Susy’s Biography.
Papa is very fond of animals particularly of cats, we had a dear little gray kitten once that he named “Lazy” (papa always wears gray to match his hair and eyes) and he would carry him around on his shoulder, it was a mighty pretty sight! the gray cat sound asleep against papa’s gray coat and hair. The names that he has given our different cats, are realy remarkably funny, they are namely Stray Kit, Abner, Motley, Fraeulein, Lazy, Bufalo Bill, Soapy Sall, Cleveland, Sour Mash, and Pestilence and Famine.
At one time when the children were small, we had a very black mother-cat named Satan, and Satan had a small black offspring named Sin. Pronouns were a difficulty for the children. Little Clara came in one day, her black eyes snapping with indignation, and said,
“Papa, Satan ought to be punished. She is out there at the greenhouse and there she stays and stays, and his kitten is down stairs crying.”
From Susy’s Biography.
Papa uses very strong language, but I have an idea not nearly so strong as when he first maried mamma. A lady acquaintance of his is rather apt to interupt what one is saying, and papa told mamma that he thought he should say to the lady’s husband “I am glad Susy Warner wasn’t present when the Deity said ‘Let there be light.’ ”
It is as I have said before. This is a frank historian. She doesn’t cover up one’s deficiencies, but gives them an equal showing with one’s handsomer qualities. Of course I made the remark which she has quoted—and even at this distant day I am still as much as half persuaded that if Susy Warner had been present when the Creator said “Let there be light” she would have interrupted Him and we shouldn’t ever have got it.
From Susy’s Biography.
Papa said the other day, “I am a mugwump and a mugwump is pure from the marrow out.” (Papa knows that I am writing this biography of him, and he said this for it.) He doesn’t like to go to church at all, why I never understood, until just now, he told us the other day that he couldn’t bear to hear any one talk but himself, but that he could listen to himself talk for hours without getting tired, of course he said this in joke, but I’ve no dought it was founded on truth.
Friday, February 9, 1906
The “strong language” episode in the bath-room—Susy’s reference to
“The Prince and the Pauper”—The mother and the children help edit
the books—Reference to ancestors.
Susy’s remark about my strong language troubles me, and I must go back to it. All through the first ten years of my married life I kept a constant and discreet watch upon my tongue while in the house, and went outside and to a distance when circumstances were too much for me and I was obliged to seek relief. I prized my wife’s respect and approval above all the rest of the human race’s respect and approval. I dreaded the day when she should discover that I was but a whited sepulcher partly freighted with suppressed language. I was so careful, during ten years, that I had not a doubt that my suppressions had been successful. Therefore I was quite as happy in my guilt as I could have been if I had been innocent.
But at last an accident exposed me. I went into the bath-room one morning to make my toilet, and carelessly left the door two or three inches ajar. It was the first time that I had ever failed to take the precaution of closing it tightly. I knew the necessity of being particular about this, because shaving was always a trying ordeal for me, and I could seldom carry it through to a finish without verbal helps. Now this time I was unprotected, but did not suspect it. I had no extraordinary trouble with my razor on this occasion, and was able to worry through with mere mutterings and growlings of an improper sort, but with nothing noisy or emphatic about them—no snapping and barking. Then I put on a shirt. My shirts are an invention of my own. They open in the back, and are buttoned there—when there are buttons. This time the button was missing. My temper jumped up several degrees in a moment, and my remarks rose accordingly, both in loudness and vigor of expression. But I was not troubled, for the bath-room door was a solid one and I supposed it was firmly closed. I flung up the window and threw the shirt out. It fell upon the shrubbery where the people on their way to church could admire it if they wanted to; there was merely fifty feet of grass between the shirt and the passer-by. Still rumbling and thundering distantly, I put on another shirt. Again the button was absent. I augmented my language to meet the emergency, and threw that shirt out of the window. I was too angry—too insane—to examine the third shirt, but put it furiously on. Again the button was absent, and that shirt followed its comrades out of the window. Then I straightened up, gathered my reserves, and let myself go like a cavalry charge. In the midst of that great assault, my eye fell upon that gaping door, and I was paralysed.
It took me a good while to finish my toilet. I extended the time unnecessarily in trying to make up my mind as to what I would best do in the circumstances. I tried to hope that Mrs. Clemens was asleep, but I knew better. I could not escape by the window. It was narrow, and suited only to shirts. At last I made up my mind to boldly loaf through the bedroom with the air of a person who had not been doing anything. I made half the journey successfully. I did not turn my eyes in her direction, because that would not be safe. It is very difficult to look as if you have not been doing anything when the facts are the other way, and my confidence in my performance oozed steadily out of me as I went along. I was aiming for the left-hand door because it was furthest from my wife. It had never been opened from the day that the house was built, but it seemed a blessed refuge for me now. The bed was this one, wherein I am lying now, and dictating these histories morning after morning with so much serenity. It was this same old elaborately carved black Venetian bedstead—the most comfortable bedstead that ever was, with space enough in it for a family, and carved angels enough surmounting its twisted columns and its headboard and footboard to bring peace to the sleepers, and pleasant dreams. I had to stop in the middle of the room. I hadn’t the strength to go on. I believed that I was under accusing eyes—that even the carved angels were inspecting me with an unfriendly gaze. You know how it is when you are convinced that somebody behind you is looking steadily at you. You have to turn your face—you can’t help it. I turned mine. The bed was placed as it is now, with the foot where the head ought to be. If it had been placed as it should have been, the high headboard would have sheltered me. But the footboard was no sufficient protection, for I could be seen over it. I was exposed. I was wholly without protection. I turned, because I couldn’t help it—and my memory of what I saw is still vivid, after all these years.
Against the white pillows I saw the black head—I saw that young and beautiful face; and I saw the gracious eyes with a something in them which I had never seen there before. They were snapping and flashing with indignation. I felt myself crumbling; I felt myself shrinking away to nothing under that accusing gaze. I stood silent under that desolating fire for as much as a minute, I should say—it seemed a very, very long time. Then my wife’s lips parted, and from them issued—my latest bath-room remark. The language perfect, but the expression velvety, unpractical, apprentice-like, ignorant, inexperienced, comically inadequate, absurdly weak and unsuited to the great language. In my lifetime I had never heard anything so out of tune, so inharmonious, so incongruous, so ill-suited to each other as were those mighty words set to that feeble music. I tried to keep from laughing, for I was a guilty person in deep need of charity and mercy. I tried to keep from bursting, and I succeeded—until she gravely said “There, now you know how it sounds.”
Then I exploded; the air was filled with my fragments, and you could hear them whiz. I said “Oh Livy, if it sounds like that God forgive me, I will never do it again!”
Then she had to laugh herself. Both of us broke into convulsions, and went on laughing until we were physically exhausted and spiritually reconciled.
The children were present at breakfast—Clara aged six and Susy eight—and the mother made a guarded remark about strong language; guarded because she did not wish the children to suspect anything—a guarded remark which censured strong language. Both children broke out in one voice with this comment, “Why mamma, papa uses it.”
I was astonished. I had supposed that that secret was safe in my own breast, and that its presence had never been suspected. I asked,
“How did you know, you little rascals?”
“Oh,” they said, “we often listen over the ballusters when you are in the hall explaining things to George.”
From Susy’s Biography.
One of papa’s latest books is “The Prince and the Pauper” and it is unquestionably the best book he has ever written, some people want him to keep to his old style, some gentleman wrote him, “I enjoyed Huckleberry Finn immensely and am glad to see that you have returned to your old style.” That enoyed me that enoyed me greatly, because it trobles me (Susy was troubled by that word, and uncertain; she wrote a u above it in the proper place, but reconsidered the matter and struck it out) to have so few people know papa, I mean realy know him, they think of Mark Twain as a humorist joking at everything; “And with a mop of reddish brown hair which sorely needs the barbars brush a roman nose, short stubby mustache, a sad care-worn face, with maney crow’s feet” etc. That is the way people picture papa, I have wanted papa to write a book that would reveal something of his kind sympathetic nature, and “The Prince and the Pauper” partly does it. The book is full of lovely charming ideas, and oh the language! It is perfect. I think that one of the most touching scenes in it, is where the pauper is riding on horseback with his nobles in the “recognition procession” and he sees his mother oh and then what followed! How she runs to his side, when she sees him throw up his hand palm outward, and is rudely pushed off by one of the King’s officers, and then how the little pauper’s consceince troubles him when he remembers the shameful words that were falling from his lips, when she was turned from his side “I know you not woman” and how his grandeurs were stricken valueless, and his pride consumed to ashes. It is a wonderfully beautiful and touching little scene, and papa has described it so wonderfully. I never saw a man with so much variety of feeling as papa has; now the “Prince and the Pauper” is full of touching places, but there is most always a streak of humor in them somewhere. Now in the coronation—in the stirring coronation, just after the little king has got his crown back again papa brings that in about the Seal, where the pauper says he used the Seal “to crack nuts with.” Oh it is so funny and nice! Papa very seldom writes a passage without some humor in it somewhere, and I don’t think he ever will.
The children always helped their mother to edit my books in manuscript. She would sit on the porch at the farm and read aloud, with her pencil in her hand, and the children would keep an alert and suspicious eye upon her right along, for the belief was well grounded in them that whenever she came across a particularly satisfactory passage she would strike it out. Their suspicions were well founded. The passages which were so satisfactory to them always had an element of strength in them which sorely needed modification or expurgation, and was always sure to get it at their mother’s hand. For my own entertainment, and to enjoy the protests of the children, I often abused my editor’s innocent confidence. I often interlarded remarks of a studied and felicitously atrocious character purposely to achieve the children’s brief delight, and then see the remorseless pencil do its fatal work. I often joined my supplications to the children’s, for mercy, and strung the argument out and pretended to be in earnest. They were deceived, and so was their mother. It was three against one, and most unfair. But it was very delightful, and I could not resist the temptation. Now and then we gained the victory and there was much rejoicing. Then I privately struck the passage out myself. It had served its purpose. It had furnished three of us with good entertainment, and in being removed from the book by me it was only suffering the fate originally intended for it.
From Susy’s Biography.
Papa was born in Missouri. His mother is Grandma Clemens (Jane Lampton Clemens) of Kentucky. Grandpa Clemens was of the F.F.V’s of Virginia.
Without doubt it was I that gave Susy that impression. I cannot imagine why, because I was never in my life much impressed by grandeurs which proceed from the accident of birth. I did not get this indifference from my mother. She was always strongly interested in the ancestry of the house. She traced her own line back to the Lambtons of Durham, England—a family which had been occupying broad lands there since Saxon times. I am not sure, but I think that those Lambtons got along without titles of nobility for eight or nine hundred years, then produced a great man, three-quarters of a century ago, and broke into the peerage. My mother knew all about the Clemenses of Virginia, and loved to aggrandize them to me, but she has long been dead. There has been no one to keep those details fresh in my memory, and they have grown dim.
There was a Jere. Clemens who was a United States Senator, and in his day enjoyed the usual senatorial fame—a fame which perishes whether it spring from four years’ service or forty. After Jere. Clemens’s fame as a Senator passed away, he was still remembered for many years on account of another service which he performed. He shot old John Brown’s Governor Wise in the hind leg in a duel. However, I am not very clear about this. It may be that Governor Wise shot him in the hind leg. However, I don’t think it is important. I think that the only thing that is really important is that one of them got shot in the hind leg. It would have been better and nobler and more historical and satisfactory if both of them had got shot in the hind leg—but it is of no use for me to try to recollect history, I never had a historical mind. Let it go. Whichever way it happened I am glad of it, and that is as much enthusiasm as I can get up for a person bearing my name. But I am forgetting the first Clemens—the one that stands furthest back toward the really original first Clemens, which was Adam.
Monday, February 12, 1906
Susy’s Biography continued—Some of the tricks played in “Tom Sawyer”—The broken sugar-bowl—Skating on the Mississippi with Tom Nash, etc.
From Susy’s Biography.
Clara and I are sure that papa played the trick on Grandma, about the whipping, that is related in “The Adventures of Tom Sayer:” “Hand me that switch.” The switch hovered in the air, the peril was desperate—“My, look behind you Aunt!” The old lady whirled around and snatched her skirts out of danger. The lad fled on the instant, scrambling up the high board fence and dissapeared over it.
Susy and Clara were quite right about that.
Then Susy says:
And we know papa played “Hookey” all the time. And how readily would papa pretend to be dying so as not to have to go to school!
These revelations and exposures are searching, but they are just. If I am as transparent to other people as I was to Susy, I have wasted much effort in this life.
Grandma couldn’t make papa go to school, so she let him go into a printing-office to learn the trade. He did so, and gradually picked up enough education to enable him to do about as well as those who were more studious in early life.
It is noticeable that Susy does not get overheated when she is complimenting me, but maintains a proper judicial and biographical calm. It is noticeable, also, and it is to her credit as a biographer, that she distributes compliment and criticism with a fair and even hand.
My mother had a good deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it. She had none at all with my brother Henry, who was two years younger than I, and I think that the unbroken monotony of his goodness and truthfulness and obedience would have been a burden to her but for the relief and variety which I furnished in the other direction. I was a tonic. I was valuable to her. I never thought of it before, but now I see it. I never knew Henry to do a vicious thing toward me, or toward any one else—but he frequently did righteous ones that cost me as heavily. It was his duty to report me, when I needed reporting and neglected to do it myself, and he was very faithful in discharging that duty. He is “Sid” in “Tom Sawyer.” But Sid was not Henry. Henry was a very much finer and better boy than ever Sid was.
It was Henry who called my mother’s attention to the fact that the thread with which she had sewed my collar together to keep me from going in swimming, had changed color. My mother would not have discovered it but for that, and she was manifestly piqued when she recognized that that prominent bit of circumstantial evidence had escaped her sharp eye. That detail probably added a detail to my punishment. It is human. We generally visit our shortcomings on somebody else when there is a possible excuse for it—but no matter, I took it out of Henry. There is always compensation for such as are unjustly used. I often took it out of him—sometimes as an advance payment for something which I hadn’t yet done. These were occasions when the opportunity was too strong a temptation, and I had to draw on the future. I did not need to copy this idea from my mother, and probably didn’t. It is most likely that I invented it for myself. Still she wrought upon that principle upon occasion.
If the incident of the broken sugar-bowl is in “Tom Sawyer”—I don’t remember whether it is or not—that is an example of it. Henry never stole sugar. He took it openly from the bowl. His mother knew he wouldn’t take sugar when she wasn’t looking, but she had her doubts about me. Not exactly doubts, either. She knew very well I would. One day when she was not present, Henry took sugar from her prized and precious old-English sugar-bowl, which was an heirloom in the family—and he managed to break the bowl. It was the first time I had ever had a chance to tell anything on him, and I was inexpressibly glad. I told him I was going to tell on him, but he was not disturbed. When my mother came in and saw the bowl lying on the floor in fragments, she was speechless for a minute. I allowed that silence to work; I judged it would increase the effect. I was waiting for her to ask “Who did that ?”—so that I could fetch out my news. But it was an error of calculation. When she got through with her silence she didn’t ask anything about it—she merely gave me a crack on the skull with her thimble that I felt all the way down to my heels. Then I broke out with my injured innocence, expecting to make her very sorry that she had punished the wrong one. I expected her to do something remorseful and pathetic. I told her that I was not the one—it was Henry. But there was no upheaval. She said, without emotion, “It’s all right. It isn’t any matter. You deserve it for something you’ve done that I didn’t know about; and if you haven’t done it, why then you deserve it for something that you are going to do, that I shan’t hear about.”
There was a stairway outside the house, which led up to the rear part of the second story. One day Henry was sent on an errand, and he took a tin bucket along. I knew he would have to ascend those stairs, so I went up and locked the door on the inside, and came down into the garden, which had been newly plowed and was rich in choice firm clods of black mould. I gathered a generous equipment of these, and ambushed him. I waited till he had climbed the stairs and was near the landing and couldn’t escape. Then I bombarded him with clods, which he warded off with his tin bucket the best he could, but without much success, for I was a good marksman. The clods smashing against the weatherboarding fetched my mother out to see what was the matter, and I tried to explain that I was amusing Henry. Both of them were after me in a minute, but I knew the way over that high board fence and escaped for that time. After an hour or two, when I ventured back, there was no one around and I thought the incident was closed. But it was not. Henry was ambushing me. With an unusually competent aim for him, he landed a stone on the side of my head which raised a bump there which felt like the Matterhorn. I carried it to my mother straightway for sympathy, but she was not strongly moved. It seemed to be her idea that incidents like this would eventually reform me if I harvested enough of them. So the matter was only educational. I had had a sterner view of it than that, before.
It was not right to give the cat the Pain-Killer; I realize it now. I would not repeat it in these days. But in those “Tom Sawyer” days it was a great and sincere satisfaction to me to see Peter perform under its influence—and if actions do speak as loud as words, he took as much interest in it as I did. It was a most detestable medicine, Perry Davis’s Pain-Killer. Mr. Pavey’s negro man, who was a person of good judgment and considerable curiosity, wanted to sample it, and I let him. It was his opinion that it was made of hellfire.
Those were the cholera days of ’49. The people along the Mississippi were paralysed with fright. Those who could run away, did it. And many died of fright in the flight. Fright killed three persons where the cholera killed one. Those who couldn’t flee kept themselves drenched with cholera preventives, and my mother chose Perry Davis’s Pain-Killer for me. She was not distressed about herself. She avoided that kind of preventive. But she made me promise to take a teaspoonful of Pain-Killer every day. Originally it was my intention to keep the promise, but at that time I didn’t know as much about Pain-Killer as I knew after my first experiment with it. She didn’t watch Henry’s bottle—she could trust Henry. But she marked my bottle with a pencil, on the label, every day, and examined it to see if the teaspoonful had been removed. The floor was not carpeted. It had cracks in it, and I fed the Pain-Killer to the cracks with very good results—no cholera occurred down below.
It was upon one of these occasions that that friendly cat came waving his tail and supplicating for Pain-Killer—which he got—and then went into those hysterics which ended with his colliding with all the furniture in the room and finally going out of the open window and carrying the flower-pots with him, just in time for my mother to arrive and look over her glasses in petrified astonishment and say “What in the world is the matter with Peter?”
I don’t remember what my explanation was, but if it is recorded in that book it may not be the right one.
Whenever my conduct was of such exaggerated impropriety that my mother’s extemporary punishments were inadequate, she saved the matter up for Sunday, and made me go to church Sunday night—which was a penalty sometimes bearable, perhaps, but as a rule it was not, and I avoided it for the sake of my constitution. She would never believe that I had been to church until she had applied her test: she made me tell her what the text was. That was a simple matter, and caused me no trouble. I didn’t have to go to church to get a text. I selected one for myself. This worked very well until one time when my text and the one furnished by a neighbor, who had been to church, didn’t tally. After that my mother took other methods. I don’t know what they were now.
In those days men and boys wore rather long cloaks in the winter-time. They were black, and were lined with very bright and showy Scotch plaids. One winter’s night when I was starting to church to square a crime of some kind committed during the week, I hid my cloak near the gate and went off and played with the other boys until church was over. Then I returned home. But in the dark I put the cloak on wrong-side out, entered the room, threw the cloak aside, and then stood the usual examination. I got along very well until the temperature of the church was mentioned. My mother said,
“It must have been impossible to keep warm there on such a night.”
I didn’t see the art of that remark, and was foolish enough to explain that I wore my cloak all the time that I was in church. She asked if I kept it on from church home, too. I didn’t see the bearing of that remark. I said that that was what I had done. She said,
“You wore it in church with that red Scotch plaid outside and glaring? Didn’t that attract any attention?”
Of course to continue such a dialogue would have been tedious and unprofitable, and I let it go, and took the consequences.
That was about 1849. Tom Nash was a boy of my own age—the postmaster’s son. The Mississippi was frozen across, and he and I went skating one night, probably without permission. I cannot see why we should go skating in the night unless without permission, for there could be no considerable amusement to be gotten out of skating at night if nobody was going to object to it. About midnight, when we were more than half a mile out toward the Illinois shore, we heard some ominous rumbling and grinding and crashing going on between us and the home side of the river, and we knew what it meant—the ice was breaking up. We started for home, pretty badly scared. We flew along at full speed whenever the moonlight sifting down between the clouds enabled us to tell which was ice and which was water. In the pauses we waited; started again whenever there was a good bridge of ice; paused again when we came to naked water and waited in distress until a floating vast cake should bridge that place. It took us an hour to make the trip—a trip which we made in a misery of apprehension all the time. But at last we arrived within a very brief distance of the shore. We waited again; there was another place that needed bridging. All about us the ice was plunging and grinding along and piling itself up in mountains on the shore, and the dangers were increasing, not diminishing. We grew very impatient to get to solid ground, so we started too early and went springing from cake to cake. Tom made a miscalculation, and fell short. He got a bitter bath, but he was so close to shore that he only had to swim a stroke or two—then his feet struck hard bottom and he crawled out. I arrived a little later, without accident. We had been in a drenching perspiration, and Tom’s bath was a disaster for him. He took to his bed sick, and had a procession of diseases. The closing one was scarlet fever, and he came out of it stone deaf. Within a year or two speech departed, of course. But some years later he was taught to talk, after a fashion—one couldn’t always make out what it was he was trying to say. Of course he could not modulate his voice, since he couldn’t hear himself talk. When he supposed he was talking low and confidentially, you could hear him in Illinois.
Four years ago (1902) I was invited by the University of Missouri to come out there and receive the honorary degree of LL.D. I took that opportunity to spend a week in Hannibal—a city now, a village in my day. It had been fifty-three years since Tom Nash and I had had that adventure. When I was at the railway station ready to leave Hannibal, there was a crowd of citizens there. I saw Tom Nash approaching me across a vacant space, and I walked toward him, for I recognized him at once. He was old and white-headed, but the boy of fifteen was still visible in him. He came up to me, made a trumpet of his hands at my ear, nodded his head toward the citizens and said confidentially—in a yell like a fog-horn—
“Same damned fools, Sam!”
From Susy’s Biography.
Papa was about twenty years old when he went on the Mississippi as a pilot. Just before he started on his tripp Grandma Clemens asked him to promise her on the Bible not to touch intoxicating liquors or swear, and he said “Yes, mother, I will,” and he kept that promise seven years when Grandma released him from it.
Under the inspiring influence of that remark, what a garden of forgotten reforms rises upon my sight!
Tuesday, February 13, 1906
Susy’s Biography continued—Cadet of Temperance—First meeting of Mr. Clemens and Miss Langdon—Miss Langdon an invalid—Dr. Newton.
I recall several of them without much difficulty. In Hannibal, when I was about fifteen, I was for a short time a Cadet of Temperance, an organization which probably covered the whole United States during as much as a year—possibly even longer. It consisted in a pledge to refrain, during membership, from the use of tobacco; I mean it consisted partly in that pledge and partly in a red merino sash, but the red merino sash was the main part. The boys joined in order to be privileged to wear it—the pledge part of the matter was of no consequence. It was so small in importance that contrasted with the sash it was, in effect, non-existent. The organization was weak and impermanent because there were not enough holidays to support it. We could turn out and march and show the red sashes on May-day with the Sunday-schools, and on the Fourth of July with the Sunday-schools, the independent Fire Company and the Militia Company. But you can’t keep a juvenile moral institution alive on two displays of its sash per year. As a private, I could not have held out beyond one procession, but I was Illustrious Grand Worthy Secretary and Royal Inside Sentinel, and had the privilege of inventing the passwords and of wearing a rosette on my sash. Under these conditions, I was enabled to remain steadfast until I had gathered the glory of two displays—May-day and the Fourth of July. Then I resigned straightway; and straightway left the Lodge.
I had not smoked for three full months, and no words can adequately describe the smoke-appetite that was consuming me. I had been a smoker from my ninth year—a private one during the first two years, but a public one after that—that is to say, after my father’s death. I was smoking, and utterly happy, before I was thirty steps from the Lodge door. I do not now know what the brand of the cigar was. It was probably not choice, or the previous smoker would not have thrown it away so soon. But I realized that it was the best cigar that was ever made. The previous smoker would have thought the same, if he had been without a smoke for three months. I smoked that stub without shame. I could not do it now without shame, because now I am more refined than I was then. But I would smoke it, just the same. I know myself, and I know the human race, well enough to know that.
In those days the native cigar was so cheap that a person who could afford anything, could afford cigars. Mr. Garth had a great tobacco factory, and there was a small shop in the village for the retail sale of his products. He had one brand of cigars which even poverty itself was able to buy. He had had these in stock a good many years, and although they looked well enough on the outside, their insides had decayed to dust and would fly out like a puff of vapor when they were broken in two. This brand was very popular on account of its extreme cheapness. Mr. Garth had other brands which were cheap, and some that were bad, but the supremacy over them enjoyed by this brand was indicated by its name. It was called “Garth’s damnedest.” We used to trade old newspapers (exchanges) for that brand.
There was another shop in the village where the conditions were friendly to penniless boys. It was kept by a lonely and melancholy little hunchback, and we could always get a supply of cigars by fetching a bucket of water for him from the village pump, whether he needed water or not. One day we found him asleep in his chair—a custom of his—and we waited patiently for him to wake up, which was a custom of ours. But he slept so long, this time, that at last our patience was exhausted, and we tried to wake him—but he was dead. I remember the shock of it yet.
In my early manhood, and in middle-life, I used to vex myself with reforms, every now and then. And I never had occasion to regret these divergencies, for whether the resulting deprivations were long or short, the rewarding pleasure which I got out of the vice when I returned to it, always paid me for all that it cost. However, I feel sure that I have written about these experiments in the book called “Following the Equator.” By and by I will look and see. Meantime, I will drop the subject and go back to Susy’s sketch of me:
From Susy’s Biography.
After papa had been a pilot on the Mississippi for a time, Uncle Orion Clemens, his brother, was appointed Secretary of the State of Nevada, and papa went with him out to Nevada to be his secretary. Afterwards he became interested in mining in California; then he reported for a newspaper and was on several newspapers. Then he was sent to the Sandwich Islands. After that he came back to America and his friends wanted him to lecture so he lectured. Then he went abroad on the Quaker City, and on board that ship he became equainted with Uncle Charlie (Mr. C. J. Langdon, of Elmira, New York). Papa and Uncle Charlie soon became friends, and when they returned from their journey Grandpa Langdon, Uncle Charlie’s father, told Uncle Charlie to invite Mr. Clemens to dine with them at the St. Nicholas Hotel, in New York. Papa accepted the invitation and went to dine at the St. Nicholas with Grandpa and there he met mamma (Olivia Louise Langdon) first. But they did not meet again until the next August, because papa went away to California, and there wrote “The Inocense Abroad.”
I will remark here that Susy is not quite correct as to that next meeting. That first meeting was on the 27th of December, 1867, and the next one was at the house of Mrs. Berry, five days later. Miss Langdon had gone there to help Mrs. Berry receive New Year guests. I went there at ten in the morning to pay a New Year call. I had thirty-four calls on my list, and this was the first one. I continued it during thirteen hours, and put the other thirty-three off till next year.
From Susy’s Biography.
Mamma was the daughter of Mr. Jervis Langdon, (I don’t know whether Grandpa had a middle name or not) and Mrs. Olivia Lewis Langdon, of Elmira, New York. She had one brother and one sister, Uncle Charlie (Charles J. Langdon) and Aunt Susie (Susan Langdon Crane). Mamma loved Grandpa more than any one else in the world. He was her idol and she his, I think mamma’s love for grandpa must have very much resembled my love for mamma. Grandpa was a great and good man and we all think of him with respect and love. Mamma was an invalid when she was young, and had to give up study a long time.
She became an invalid at sixteen, through a partial paralysis caused by falling on the ice, and she was never strong again while her life lasted. After that fall she was not able to leave her bed during two years, nor was she able to lie in any position except upon her back. All the great physicians were brought to Elmira, one after another, during that time, but there was no helpful result. In those days both worlds were well acquainted with the name of Dr. Newton, a man who was regarded in both worlds as a quack. He moved through the land in state; in magnificence, like a portent; like a circus. Notice of his coming was spread upon the dead walls in vast colored posters, along with his formidable portrait, several weeks beforehand.
One day Andrew Langdon, a relative of the Langdon family, came to the house and said: “You have tried everybody else, now try Dr. Newton, the quack. He is down town at the Rathbun House practising upon the well-to-do at war prices and upon the poor for nothing. I saw him wave his hands over Jake Brown’s head and take his crutches away from him and send him about his business as good as new. I saw him do the like with some other cripples. They may have been ‘temporaries’ instituted for advertising purposes, and not genuine. But Jake is genuine. Send for Newton.”
Newton came. He found the young girl upon her back. Over her was suspended a tackle from the ceiling. It had been there a long time, but unused. It was put there in the hope that by its steady motion she might be lifted to a sitting posture, at intervals, for rest. But it proved a failure. Any attempt to raise her brought nausea and exhaustion, and had to be relinquished. Newton made some passes about her head with his hands; then he put an arm behind her shoulders and said “Now we will sit up, my child.”
The family were alarmed, and tried to stop him, but he was not disturbed, and raised her up. She sat several minutes, without nausea or discomfort. Then Newton said that that would do for the present, he would come again next morning; which he did. He made some passes with his hands and said, “Now we will walk a few steps, my child.” He took her out of bed and supported her while she walked several steps; then he said “I have reached the limit of my art. She is not cured. It is not likely that she will ever be cured. She will never be able to walk far, but after a little daily practice she will be able to walk one or two hundred yards, and she can depend on being able to do that for the rest of her life.”
His charge was fifteen hundred dollars, and it was easily worth a hundred thousand. For from the day that she was eighteen, until she was fifty-six, she was always able to walk a couple of hundred yards without stopping to rest; and more than once I saw her walk a quarter of a mile without serious fatigue.
Newton was mobbed in Dublin, in London, and in other places. He was rather frequently mobbed in Europe and in America, but never by the grateful Langdons and Clemenses. I met Newton once, in after years, and asked him what his secret was. He said he didn’t know, but thought perhaps some subtle form of electricity proceeded from his body and wrought the cures.
Wednesday, February 14, 1906
About the accident which prolonged Mr. Clemens’s visit at the Langdons’.
From Susy’s Biography.
Soon papa came back East and papa and mamma were married.
It sounds easy and swift and unobstructed, but that was not the way of it. It did not happen in that smooth and comfortable way. There was a deal of courtship. There were three or four proposals of marriage and just as many declinations. I was roving far and wide on the lecture beat, but I managed to arrive in Elmira every now and then and renew the siege. Once I dug an invitation out of Charley Langdon to come and stay a week. It was a pleasant week, but it had to come to an end. I was not able to invent any way to get the invitation enlarged. No schemes that I could contrive seemed likely to deceive. They did not even deceive me, and when a person cannot deceive himself the chances are against his being able to deceive other people. But at last help and good fortune came, and from a most unexpected quarter. It was one of those cases so frequent in the past centuries, so infrequent in our day—a case where the hand of Providence is in it.
I was ready to leave for New York. A democrat wagon stood outside the main gate with my trunk in it, and Barney, the coachman, in the front seat with the reins in his hand. It was eight or nine in the evening, and dark. I bade good-bye to the grouped family on the front porch, and Charley and I went out and climbed into the wagon. We took our places back of the coachman on the remaining seat, which was aft toward the end of the wagon, and was only a temporary arrangement for our accommodation, and was not fastened in its place; a fact which—most fortunately for me, and for the unborn tribe of Clemenses—we were not aware of. Charley was smoking. Barney touched up the horse with the whip. He made a sudden spring forward. Charley and I went over the stern of the wagon backward. In the darkness the red bud of fire on the end of his cigar described a curve through the air which I can see yet. This was the only visible thing in all that gloomy scenery. I struck exactly on the top of my head and stood up that way for a moment, then crumbled down to the earth unconscious. It was a very good unconsciousness for a person who had not rehearsed the part. It was a cobblestone gutter, and they had been repairing it. My head struck in a dish formed by the conjunction of four cobblestones. That depression was half full of fresh new sand, and this made a competent cushion. My head did not touch any of those cobblestones. I got not a bruise. I was not even jolted. Nothing was the matter with me at all. Charley was considerably battered, but in his solicitude for me he was substantially unaware of it. The whole family swarmed out, Theodore Crane in the van with a flask of brandy. He poured enough of it between my lips to strangle me and make me bark, but it did not abate my unconsciousness. I was taking care of that myself. It was very pleasant to hear the pitying remarks drizzling around over me. That was one of the happiest half-dozen moments of my life. There was nothing to mar it—except that I had escaped damage. I was afraid that this would be discovered sooner or later, and would shorten my visit. I was such a dead weight that it required the combined strength of Barney and Mr. Langdon, Theodore and Charley, to lug me into the house, but it was accomplished. I was there. I recognized that this was victory. I was there. I was safe to be an incumbrance for an indefinite length of time—but for a length of time, at any rate, and a Providence was in it. They set me up in an arm-chair in the parlor and sent for the family physician. Poor old devil, it was wrong to rout him out, but it was business, and I was too unconscious to protest. Mrs. Crane—dear soul, she was in this house three days ago, gray and beautiful, and as sympathetic as ever—Mrs. Crane brought a bottle of some kind of liquid fire whose function was to reduce contusions. But I knew that mine would deride it and scoff at it. She poured this on my head and pawed it around with her hand, stroking and massaging, the fierce stuff dribbling down my back-bone and marking its way, inch by inch, with the sensation of a forest fire. But I was satisfied. When she was getting worn out, her husband, Theodore, suggested that she take a rest and let Livy carry on the assuaging for a while. That was very pleasant. I should have been obliged to recover presently if it hadn’t been for that. But under Livy’s manipulations—if they had continued—I should probably be unconscious to this day. It was very delightful, those manipulations. So delightful, so comforting, so enchanting, that they even soothed the fire out of that fiendish successor to Perry Davis’s Pain-Killer.
Then that old family doctor arrived and went at the matter in an educated and practical way—that is to say, he started a search expedition for contusions and humps and bumps, and announced that there were none. He said that if I would go to bed and forget my adventure I would be all right in the morning—which was not so. I was not all right in the morning. I didn’t intend to be all right, and I was far from being all right. But I said I only needed rest, and I didn’t need that doctor any more.
I got a good three days’ extension out of that adventure, and it helped a good deal. It pushed my suit forward several steps. A subsequent visit completed the matter, and we became engaged conditionally; the condition being that the parents should consent.
In a private talk, Mr. Langdon called my attention to something I had already noticed—which was that I was an almost entirely unknown person; that no one around about knew me except Charley, and he was too young to be a reliable judge of men; that I was from the other side of the continent; and that only those people out there would be able to furnish me a character, in case I had one—so he asked me for references. I furnished them, and he said we would now suspend our industries and I could go away and wait until he could write to those people and get answers.
In due course answers came. I was sent for and we had another private conference. I had referred him to six prominent men, among them two clergymen (these were all San Franciscans) and he himself had written to a bank cashier who had in earlier years been a Sunday-school superintendent in Elmira, and well known to Mr. Langdon. The results were not promising. All those men were frank to a fault. They not only spoke in disapproval of me, but they were quite unnecessarily and exaggeratedly enthusiastic about it. One clergyman, (Stebbins,) and that ex-Sunday-school superintendent, (I wish I could recall his name), added to their black testimony the conviction that I would fill a drunkard’s grave. It was just one of those usual long-distance prophecies. There being no time-limit, there is no telling how long you may have to wait. I have waited until now, and the fulfillment seems as far away as ever.
The reading of the letters being finished, there was a good deal of a pause, and it consisted largely of sadness and solemnity. I couldn’t think of anything to say. Mr. Langdon was apparently in the same condition. Finally he raised his handsome head, fixed his clear and candid eye upon me and said “What kind of people are these? Haven’t you a friend in the world?”
I said “Apparently not.”
Then he said “I’ll be your friend myself. Take the girl. I know you better than they do.”
Thus dramatically and happily was my fate settled. Afterward, hearing me talking lovingly, admiringly, and fervently of Joe Goodman, he asked me where Goodman lived.
I told him out on the Pacific coast.
He said “Why he seems to be a friend of yours. Is he?”
I said “Indeed he is; the best one I ever had.”
“Why then,” he said, “what could you have been thinking of? Why didn’t you refer me to him?”
I said “Because he would have lied just as straightforwardly on the other side. The others gave me all the vices, Goodman would have given me all the virtues. You wanted unprejudiced testimony, of course. I knew you wouldn’t get it from Goodman. I did believe you would get it from those others, and possibly you did. But it was certainly less complimentary than I was expecting.”
The date of our engagement was February 4th, 1869. The engagement ring was plain, and of heavy gold. That date was engraved inside of it. A year later I took it from her finger and prepared it to do service as a wedding ring by having the wedding-date added and engraved inside of it—February 2, 1870. It was never again removed from her finger for even a moment.
In Italy, a year and eight months ago, when death had restored her vanished youth to her sweet face and she lay fair and beautiful and looking as she had looked when she was girl and bride, they were going to take that ring from her finger to keep for the children. But I prevented that sacrilege. It is buried with her.
In the beginning of our engagement the proofs of my first book, “The Innocents Abroad,” began to arrive, and she read them with me. She also edited them. She was my faithful, judicious and painstaking editor from that day forth until within three or four months of her death—a stretch of more than a third of a century.
Thursday, February 15, 1906
Susy’s Biography continued—Death of Mr. Langdon—Birth of Langdon Clemens—Burlesque map of Paris.
From Susy’s Biography.
Papa wrote mamma a great many beautiful love letters when he was engaged to mamma, but mamma says I am too young to see them yet; I asked papa what I should do for I didn’t (know) how I could write a Biography of him without his love letters, papa said that I could write mamma’s opinion of them, and that would do just as well. So I’ll do as papa says, and mamma says she thinks they are the loveliest love letters that ever were written, she says that Hawthorne’s love letters to Mrs. Hawthorne are far inferior to these. Mamma (and papa) were going to board first in Bufalo and grandpa said he would find them a good boarding-house. But he afterwards told mamma that he had bought a pretty house for them, and had it all beautifully furnished, he had also hired a young coachman, Patrick McAleer, and had bought a horse for them, which all would be ready waiting for them, when they should arive in Bufalo; but he wanted to keep it a secret from “Youth,” as grandpa called papa. What a delightful surprise it was! Grandpa went down to Bufalo with mamma and papa. And when they drove up to the house, papa said he thought the landlord of such a boarding-house must charge a great deal to those who wanted to live there. And when the secret was told papa was delighted beyond all degree. Mamma has told me the story many times, and I asked her what papa said when grandpa told him that the delightful boarding-house was his home, mamma answered that he was rather embariesed and so delighted he didn’t know what to say. About six months after papa and mamma were married grandpa died; it was a terrible blow on mamma, and papa told Aunt Sue he thought Livy would never smile again, she was so broken hearted. Mamma couldn’t have had a greater sorrow than that of dear grandpa’s death, or any that could equal it exept the death of papa. Mamma helped take care of grandpa during his illness and she couldn’t give up hope till the end had realy come.*
Surely nothing is so astonishing, so unaccountable, as a woman’s endurance. Mrs. Clemens and I went down to Elmira about the 1st of June to help in the nursing of Mr. Langdon. Mrs. Clemens, her sister, (Susy Crane,) and I did all the nursing both day and night, during two months until the end. Two months of scorching, stifling heat. How much of the nursing did I do? My main watch was from midnight till four in the morning—nearly four hours. My other watch was a mid-day watch, and I think it was only three hours. The two sisters divided the remaining seventeen hours of the twenty-four between them, and each of them tried generously and persistently to swindle the other out of a part of her watch. The “on” watch could not be depended upon to call the “off” watch—excepting when I was the “on” watch.
I went to bed early every night, and tried to get sleep enough by midnight to fit me for my work, but it was always a failure. I went on watch sleepy and remained miserably sleepy and wretched straight along through the four hours. I can still see myself sitting by that bed in the melancholy stillness of the sweltering night, mechanically waving a palm-leaf fan over the drawn white face of the patient; I can still recall my noddings, my fleeting unconsciousnesses, when the fan would come to a standstill in my hand, and I would wake up with a start and a hideous shock. I can recall all the torture of my efforts to keep awake; I can recall the sense of the indolent march of time, and how the hands of the tall clock seemed not to move at all, but to stand still. Through the long vigil there was nothing to do but softly wave the fan—and the gentleness and monotony of the movement itself helped to make me sleepy. The malady was cancer of the stomach, and not curable. There were no medicines to give. It was a case of slow and steady perishing. At long intervals, the foam of champagne was administered to the patient, but no other nourishment, so far as I can remember.
A bird of a breed not of my acquaintance used to begin a sad and wearisome and monotonous piping in the shrubbery near the window a full hour before the dawn, every morning. He had no company; he conducted this torture all alone, and added it to my stock. He never stopped for a moment. I have experienced few things that were more maddening than that bird’s lamentings. During all that dreary siege I began to watch for the dawn long before it came; and I watched for it like the duplicate, I think, of the lonely castaway on an island in the sea, who watches the horizon for ships and rescue. When the first faint gray showed through the window-blinds I felt as no doubt that castaway feels when the dim threads of the looked-for ship appear against the sky.
I was well and strong, but I was a man and afflicted with a man’s infirmity—lack of endurance. But neither of those young women was well nor strong; still I never found either of them sleepy or unalert when I came on watch; yet, as I have said, they divided seventeen hours of watching between them in every twenty-four. It is a marvelous thing. It filled me with wonder and admiration; also with shame, for my dull incompetency. Of course the physicians begged those daughters to permit the employment of professional nurses, but they would not consent. The mere mention of such a thing grieved them so that the matter was soon dropped, and not again referred to.
All through her life Mrs. Clemens was physically feeble, but her spirit was never weak. She lived upon it all her life, and it was as effective as bodily strength could have been. When our children were little she nursed them through long nights of sickness, as she had nursed her father. I have seen her sit up and hold a sick child upon her knees and croon to it and sway it monotonously to and fro to comfort it, a whole night long, without complaint or respite. But I could not keep awake ten minutes at a time. My whole duty was to put wood on the fire. I did it ten or twelve times during the night, but always had to be called every time, and was always asleep again before I finished the operation, or immediately afterward.
No, there is nothing comparable to the endurance of a woman. In military life she would tire out any army of men, either in camp or on the march. I still remember with admiration that woman who got into the overland stage-coach somewhere on the plains, when my brother and I crossed the continent in the summer of 1861, and who sat bolt upright and cheerful, stage after stage, and showed no wear and tear. In those days, the one event of the day in Carson City was the arrival of the overland coach. All the town was usually on hand to enjoy the event. The men would climb down out of the coach doubled up with cramps, hardly able to walk; their bodies worn, their spirits worn, their nerves raw, their tempers at a devilish point; but the women stepped out smiling and apparently unfatigued.
From Susy’s Biography.
After grandpapa’s death mamma and papa went back to Bufalo; and three months afterward dear little Langdon was born. Mamma named him Langdon after grandpapa, he was a wonderfully beautiful little boy, but very, very delicate. He had wonderful blue eyes, but such a blue that mamma has never been able to describe them to me so that I could see them clearly in my mind’s eye. His delicate health was a constant anxiety to mamma, and he was so good and sweet that that must have troubled her too, as I know it did.
He was prematurely born. We had a visitor in the house and when she was leaving she wanted Mrs. Clemens to go to the station with her. I objected. But this was a visitor whose desire Mrs. Clemens regarded as law. The visitor wasted so much precious time in taking her leave that Patrick had to drive in a gallop to get to the station in time. In those days the streets of Buffalo were not the model streets which they afterward became. They were paved with large cobblestones, and had not been repaired since Columbus’s time. Therefore the journey to the station was like the Channel passage in a storm. The result to Mrs. Clemens was a premature confinement, followed by a dangerous illness. In my belief there was but one physician who could save her. That was the almost divine Mrs. Gleason, of Elmira, who died at a great age two years ago, after being the idol of that town for more than half a century. I sent for her and she came. Her ministrations were prosperous, but at the end of a week she said she was obliged to return to Elmira, because of imperative engagements. I felt sure that if she could stay with us three days more Livy would be out of all danger. But Mrs. Gleason’s engagements were of such a nature that she could not consent to stay. This is why I placed a private policeman at the door with instructions to let no one pass out without my privity and consent. In these circumstances, poor Mrs. Gleason had no choice—therefore she stayed. She bore me no malice for this, and most sweetly said so when I saw her silken white head and her benignant and beautiful face for the last time, which was three years ago.
Before Mrs. Clemens was quite over her devastating illness, Miss Emma Nye, a former schoolmate of hers, arrived from South Carolina to pay us a visit, and was immediately taken with typhoid fever. We got nurses—professional nurses of the type of that day, and of previous centuries—but we had to watch those nurses while they watched the patient, which they did in their sleep, as a rule. I watched them in the daytime, Mrs. Clemens at night. She slept between medicine-times, but she always woke up at the medicine-times and went in and woke up the nurse that was on watch and saw the medicines administered. This constant interruption of her sleep seriously delayed Mrs. Clemens’s recovery. Miss Nye’s illness proved fatal. During the last two or three days of it, Mrs. Clemens seldom took her clothes off, but stood a continuous watch. Those two or three days are among the blackest, the gloomiest, the most wretched of my long life.
The resulting periodical and sudden changes of mood in me, from deep melancholy to half insane tempests and cyclones of humor, are among the curiosities of my life. During one of these spasms of humorous possession I sent down to my newspaper office for a huge wooden capital M and turned it upside-down and carved a crude and absurd map of Paris upon it, and published it, along with a sufficiently absurd description of it, with guarded and imaginary compliments of it bearing the signatures of General Grant and other experts. The Franco-Prussian war was in everybody’s mouth at the time, and so the map would have been valuable—if it had been valuable. It wandered to Berlin, and the American students there got much satisfaction out of it. They would carry it to the big beer halls and sit over it at a beer table and discuss it with violent enthusiasm and apparent admiration, in English, until their purpose was accomplished, which was to attract the attention of any German soldiers that might be present. When that had been accomplished, they would leave the map there and go off, jawing, to a little distance and wait for results. The results were never long delayed. The soldiers would pounce upon the map and discuss it in German and lose their tempers over it and blackguard it and abuse it and revile the author of it, to the students’ entire content. The soldiers were always divided in opinion about the author of it, some of them believing he was ignorant, but well-intentioned; the others believing he was merely an idiot.
Friday, February 16, 1906
Susy’s Biography mentions little Langdon—The change of residence
from Buffalo to Hartford—Mr. Clemens tells of the sale of his Buffalo
paper to Mr. Kinney—Speaks of Jay Gould, McCall, and Rockefeller.
From Susy’s Biography.
While Langdon was a little baby he used to carry a pencil in his little hand, that was his great plaything; I believe he was very seldom seen without one in his hand. When he was in Aunt Susy’s arms and would want to go to mamma he would hold out his hands to her with the backs of his hands out toward her instead of with his palmes out. (About a year and five months) after Langdon was born I was born, and my chief occupation then was to cry, so I must have added greatly to mamma’s care. Soon after little Langdon was born (a year) papa and mamma moved to Hartford to live. Their house in Bufalo reminded them too much of dear grandpapa, so they moved to Hartford soon after he died.
Soon after little Langdon was born a friend of mamma’s came to visit her (Emma Nigh) and she was taken with the typhoid fever, while visiting mamma. At length she became so delirious, and so hard to take care of that mamma had to send to some of her friends in Elmira to come and help take care of her. Aunt Clara came, (Miss Clara L. Spaulding). She is no relation of ours but we call her Aunt Clara because she is such a great friend of mamma’s. She came and helped mamma take care of Emma Nigh, but in spite of all the good care that she received, she grew worse and died.
Susy is right. Our year and a half in Buffalo had so saturated us with horrors and distress that we became restless and wanted to change, either to a place with pleasanter associations or with none at all. In accordance with the hard terms of that fearful law—the year of mourning—which deprives the mourner of the society and comradeship of his race when he most needs it, we shut ourselves up in the house and became recluses, visiting no one and receiving visits from no one. There was one exception—a single exception. David Gray—poet, and editor of the principal newspaper,—was our intimate friend, through his intimacy and mine with John Hay. David had a young wife and a young baby. The Grays and the Clemenses visited back and forth frequently, and this was all the solace the Clemenses had in their captivity.
When we could endure imprisonment no longer, Mrs. Clemens sold the house and I sold my one-third interest in the newspaper, and we went to Hartford to live. I have some little business sense now, acquired through hard experience and at great expense; but I had none in those days. I had bought Mr. Kinney’s share of that newspaper (I think the name was Kinney) at his price—which was twenty-five thousand dollars. Later I found that all that I had bought of real value was the Associated Press privilege. I think we did not make a very large use of that privilege. It runs in my mind that about every night the Associated Press would offer us five thousand words at the usual rate, and that we compromised on five hundred. Still that privilege was worth fifteen thousand dollars, and was easily salable at that price. I sold my whole share in the paper—including that solitary asset—for fifteen thousand dollars. Kinney (if that was his name) was so delighted at his smartness in selling a property to me for twenty-five thousand that was not worth three-fourths of the money, that he was not able to keep his joy to himself, but talked it around pretty freely and made himself very happy over it. I could have explained to him that what he mistook for his smartness was a poor and driveling kind of thing. If there had been a triumph, if there had been a mental exhibition of a majestic sort, it was not his smartness; it was my stupidity; the credit was all due to me. He was a brisk and ambitious and self-appreciative young fellow, and he left straightway for New York and Wall Street, with his head full of sordid and splendid dreams—dreams of the “get rich quick” order; dreams to be realized through the dreamer’s smartness and the other party’s stupidity.
Jay Gould had just then reversed the commercial morals of the United States. He had put a blight upon them from which they have never recovered, and from which they will not recover for as much as a century to come. Jay Gould was the mightiest disaster which has ever befallen this country. The people had desired money before his day, but he taught them to fall down and worship it. They had respected men of means before his day, but along with this respect was joined the respect due to the character and industry which had accumulated it. But Jay Gould taught the entire nation to make a god of the money and the man, no matter how the money might have been acquired. In my youth there was nothing resembling a worship of money or of its possessor, in our region. And in our region no well-to-do man was ever charged with having acquired his money by shady methods.
The gospel left behind by Jay Gould is doing giant work in our days. Its message is “Get money. Get it quickly. Get it in abundance. Get it in prodigious abundance. Get it dishonestly if you can, honestly if you must.”
This gospel does seem to be almost universal. Its great apostles, to-day, are the McCurdys, McCalls, Hydes, Alexanders, and the rest of that robber gang who have lately been driven out of their violated positions of trust in the colossal insurance companies of New York. President McCall was reported to be dying day before yesterday. The others have been several times reported, in the past two or three months, as engaged in dying. It has been imagined that the cause of these death-strokes was sorrow and shame for the robberies committed upon the two or three million policy holders and their families, and the widow and the orphan—but every now and then one is astonished to find that it is not the outraged conscience of these men that is at work; they are merely sick and sore because they have been exposed.
Yesterday—as I see by the morning paper—John A. McCall quite forgot about his obsequies and sat up and became impressive, and worked his morals for the benefit of the nation. He knew quite well that anything which a prodigiously rich man may say—whether in health or moribund—will be spread by the newspapers from one end of this continent to the other and be eagerly read by every creature who is able to read. McCall sits up and preaches to his son—ostensibly to his son—really to the nation. The man seems to be sincere, and I think he is sincere. I believe his moral sense is atrophied. I believe he really regards himself as a high and holy man. And I believe he thinks he is so regarded by the people of the United States. He has been worshiped because of his wealth, and particularly because of his shady methods of acquiring it, for twenty years. And I think he has become so accustomed to this adulation, and so beguiled and deceived by it, that he does really think himself a fine and great and noble being, and a proper model for the emulation of the rising generation of young men.
John D. Rockefeller is quite evidently a sincere man. Satan, twaddling sentimental sillinesses to a Sunday-school, could be no burlesque upon John D. Rockefeller and his performances in his Cleveland Sunday-school. When John D. is employed in that way he strikes the utmost limit of grotesqueness. He can’t be burlesqued—he is himself a burlesque. I know Mr. Rockefeller pretty well, and I am convinced that he is a sincere man.
I also believe in young John D.’s sincerity. When he twaddles to his Bible Class every Sunday, he exposes himself just after his father’s fashion. He stands up and with admirable solemnity and confidence discusses the Bible with the inspiration and the confidence of an idiot—and does it in all honesty and good faith. I know him, and I am quite sure he is sincere.
McCall has the right and true Rockefeller whang. He snivels owlishly along and is evidently as happy and as well satisfied with himself as if there wasn’t a stain upon his name, nor a crime in his record. Listen—here is his little sermon:
FEBRUARY 16, 1906.


Tells of His Last Cigar in a Talk with His Son.
Special to The New York Times.
LAKEWOOD, Feb. 15.—John A. McCall felt so much better to-day that he had a long talk with his son, John C. McCall, and told many incidents of his career.
“John,” he said to his son, “I have done many things in my life for which I am sorry, but I’ve never done anything of which I feel ashamed.
“My counsel to young men who would succeed is that they should take the world as they find it, and then work—work!”
Mr. McCall thought the guiding force of mankind was will power, and in illustration he said:
“Some time ago, John, your mother and I were sitting together, chatting. I was smoking a cigar. I liked a cigar, and enjoyed a good, quiet smoke. She objected to it.
“ ‘John,’ said she, ‘why don’t you throw that cigar away?’
“I did so.
“ ‘John,’ she added, ‘I hope you’ll never smoke again.’
“The cigar I threw away was my last. I determined to quit then and there, and did so. That was exactly thirty-five years ago.”
Mr. McCall told his son many stories of his business life and seemed in a happier frame of mind than usual. This condition was attributed partly to the fact that he received hundreds of telegrams to-day congratulating him on his statement of yesterday reiterating his friendship for Andrew Hamilton.
“Father received a basketful of dispatches from friends in the North, South, East, and West commending him for his statement about his friend Judge Hamilton,” said young Mr. McCall to-night. “The telegrams came from persons who wished him good health and recovery. It has made him very happy.”
Mr. McCall had a sinking spell at 3 o’clock this morning, but it was slight, and he recovered before it was deemed necessary to send for a physician.
Milk and bouillons are now his sole form of nourishment. He eats no solids and is rapidly losing weight.
Drs. Vanderpoel and Charles L. Lindley held a conference at the McCall house at 5 o’clock this evening, and later told Mrs. McCall and Mrs. Darwin P. Kingsley, his daughter, that Mr. McCall’s condition was good, and that there was no immediate danger.
John C. McCall gave out this statement to-night: “Mr. McCall has had a very favorable day and is somewhat better.”
Following it comes the kind of bulletin which is given out, from day to day, when a king or other prodigious personage has had a favorable day, and is somewhat better—a fact which will interest and cheer and comfort the rest of the human race, nobody can explain why.
The sons and daughters of Jay Gould move, to-day, in what is regarded as the best society—the aristocratic society—of New York. One of his daughters married a titled Frenchman, ten or twelve years ago, a noisy and silly ruffian, gambler, and gentleman, and agreed to pay his debts, which amounted to a million or so. But she only agreed to pay the existing debts, not the future ones. The future ones have become present ones now, and are colossal. To-day she is suing for a separation from her shabby purchase, and the world’s sympathy and compassion are with her, where it belongs.
Kinney went to Wall Street to become a Jay Gould and slaughter the innocents. Then he sank out of sight. I never heard of him again, nor saw him during thirty-five years. Then I encountered a very seedy and shabby tramp on Broadway—it was some months ago—and the tramp borrowed twenty-five cents of me. To buy a couple of drinks with, I suppose. He had a pretty tired look and seemed to need them. It was Kinney. His dapperness was all gone; he showed age, neglect, care, and that something which indicates that a long fight is over and that defeat has been accepted.
Mr. Langdon was a man whose character and nature were made up pretty exclusively of excellencies. I think that he had greatness in him also—executive greatness—and that it would have exhibited itself if his lines had been cast in a large field instead of in a small and obscure one. He once came within five minutes of being one of the great railway magnates of America.
Tuesday, February 20, 1906
About Rear-Admiral Wilkes—And meeting Mr. Anson Burlingame in Honolulu.

Florence, Italy, Feb. 19.—Mrs. Mary Wilkes, widow of Rear-Admiral Wilkes, U.S.N., is dead, aged eighty-five.
It is death-notices like this that enable me to realize in some sort how long I have lived. They drive away the haze from my life’s road and give me glimpses of the beginning of it—glimpses of things which seem incredibly remote.
When I was a boy of ten, in that village on the Mississippi River which at that time was so incalculably far from any place and is now so near to all places, the name of Wilkes, the explorer, was in everybody’s mouth, just as Roosevelt’s is to-day. What a noise it made; and how wonderful the glory! How far away and how silent it is now. And the glory has faded to tradition. Wilkes had discovered a new world, and was another Columbus. That world afterward turned mainly to ice and snow. But it was not all ice and snow—and in our late day we are rediscovering it, and the world’s interest in it has revived. Wilkes was a marvel in another way, for he had gone wandering about the globe in his ships and had looked with his own eyes upon its furthest corners, its dreamlands—names and places which existed rather as shadows and rumors than as realities. But everybody visits those places now, in outings and summer excursions, and no fame is to be gotten out of it.
One of the last visits I made in Florence—this was two years ago—was to Mrs. Wilkes. She had sent and asked me to come, and it seemed a chapter out of the romantic and the impossible that I should be looking upon the gentle face of the sharer in that long-forgotten glory. We talked of the common things of the day, but my mind was not present. It was wandering among the snow-storms and the ice floes and the fogs and mysteries of the Antarctic with this patriarchal lady’s young husband. Nothing remarkable was said; nothing remarkable happened. Yet a visit has seldom impressed me so much as did this one.
Here is a pleasant and welcome letter, which plunges me back into the antiquities again.
Westfield, New Jersey.
February 17, 1906.
My dear Mr. Clemens:—
I should like to tell you how much I thank you for an article which you wrote once, long ago, (1870 or ’71) about my grandfather, Anson Burlingame.
In looking over the interesting family papers and letters, which have come into my possession this winter, nothing has impressed me more deeply than your tribute. I have read it again and again. I found it pasted into a scrap-book and apparently it was cut from a newspaper. It is signed with your name.
It seems to bring before one more clearly, than anything I have been told or read, my grandfather’s personality and achievements. . . . .
Family traditions grow less and less in the telling. Young children are so impatient of anecdotes, and when they grow old enough to understand their value, frequent repetitions, as well as newer interests and associations seem to have dulled, not the memory, but the spontaneity and joy of telling about the old days—so unless there is something written and preserved, how much is lost to children of the good deeds of their fathers.
Perhaps it will give you a little pleasure to know that after all these years, the words you wrote about “a good man, and a very, very great man” have fallen into the heart of one to whom his fame is very near and precious.
You say “Mr. Burlingame’s short history—for he was only forty-seven—reads like a fairy-tale. Its successes, its surprises, its happy situations occur all along, and each new episode is always an improvement upon the one which went before it.” That seems to have been very true and it is interesting to hear, although it has the sad ring of Destiny. But how shall I ever thank you for words like these? “He was a true man, a just man, a generous man, in all his ways and by all his instincts a noble man—a man of great brain, a broad, and deep and mighty thinker. He was a great man, a very, very great man. He was imperially endowed by nature, he was faithfully befriended by circumstances, and he wrought gallantly always in whatever station he found himself.” How indeed shall I thank you for these words or tell you how deeply they have touched me, and how truly I shall endeavor to teach them to my children.
That your fame may be as sacred as this, is my earnest, grateful wish, not wholly the inevitable, imperishable fame that is laid down for you, but the sweet and precious fame, to your family and friends forever, of the fair attributes you ascribe to my grandfather, which could never have been discerned by one who was not like him in spirit.
With the hope some time of knowing you,
Yours sincerely,
Jean Burlingame Beatty.
(Mrs. Robert Chetwood Beatty.)
This carries me back forty years, to my first meeting with that wise and just and humane and charming man and great citizen and diplomat, Anson Burlingame. It was in Honolulu. He had arrived in his ship, on his way out on his great mission to China, and I had the honor and profit of his society daily and constantly during many days. He was a handsome and stately and courtly and graceful creature, in the prime of his perfect manhood, and it was a contenting pleasure to look at him. His outlook upon the world and its affairs was as wide as the horizon, and his speech was of a dignity and eloquence proper to it. It dealt in no commonplaces, for he had no commonplace thoughts. He was a kindly man, and most lovable. He was not a petty politician, but a great and magnanimous statesman. He did not serve his country alone, but China as well. He held the balances even. He wrought for justice and humanity. All his ways were clean; all his motives were high and fine.
He had beautiful eyes; deep eyes; speaking eyes; eyes that were dreamy, in repose; eyes that could beam and persuade like a lover’s; eyes that could blast when his temper was up, I judge. Potter, (that is the name, I think,) the Congressional bully, found this out in his day, no doubt. Potter had bullied everybody, insulted everybody, challenged everybody, cowed everybody, and was cock of the walk in Washington. But when he challenged the new young Congressman from the West he found a prompt and ardent man at last. Burlingame chose bowie-knives at short range, and Potter apologized and retired from his bullyship with the laughter of the nation ringing in his ears.
When Mr. Burlingame arrived at Honolulu I had been confined to my room a couple of weeks—by night to my bed, by day to a deep-sunk splint-bottom chair like a basket. There was another chair but I preferred this one, because my malady was saddle-boils.
When the boat-load of skeletons arrived after forty-three days in an open boat on ten days’ provisions—survivors of the clipper Hornet which had perished by fire several thousand miles away—it was necessary for me to interview them for the Sacramento Union, a journal which I had been commissioned to represent in the Sandwich Islands for a matter of five or six months. Mr. Burlingame put me on a cot and had me carried to the hospital, and during several hours he questioned the skeletons and I set down the answers in my note-book. It took me all night to write out my narrative of the Hornet disaster, and——but I will go no further with the subject now. I have already told the rest in some book of mine.
Mr. Burlingame gave me some advice, one day, which I have never forgotten, and which I have lived by for forty years. He said, in substance:
“Avoid inferiors. Seek your comradeships among your superiors in intellect and character; always climb.”
Mr. Burlingame’s son—now editor of Scribner’s Monthly this many years, and soon to reach the foothills that lie near the frontiers of age—was with him there in Honolulu; a handsome boy of nineteen, and overflowing with animation, activity, energy, and the pure joy of being alive. He attended balls and fandangos and hula hulas every night—anybody’s, brown, half white, white—and he could dance all night and be as fresh as ever the next afternoon. One day he delighted me with a joke which I afterwards used in a lecture in San Francisco, and from there it traveled all around in the newspapers. He said “If a man compel thee to go with him a mile, go with him Twain.”
When it was new, it seemed exceedingly happy and bright, but it has been emptied upon me upwards of several million times since—never by a witty and engaging lad like Burlingame, but always by chuckle-heads of base degree, who did it with offensive eagerness and with the conviction that they were the first in the field. And so it has finally lost its sparkle and bravery, and is become to me a seedy and repulsive tramp whose proper place is in the hospital for the decayed, the friendless and the forlorn.
Wednesday, February 21, 1906
Mr. Langdon just escapes being a railway magnate—Mr. Clemens’s
dealings with Bliss, the publisher.
But I am wandering far from Susy’s Biography. I remember that I was about to explain a remark which I had been making about Susy’s grandfather Langdon having just barely escaped once the good luck—or the bad luck—of becoming a great railway magnate. The incident has interest for me for more than one reason. Its details came to my knowledge in a chance way in a conversation which I had with my father-in-law when I was arranging a contract with my publisher for “Roughing It,” my second book. I told him the publisher had arrived from Hartford, and would come to the house in the afternoon to discuss the contract and complete it with the signatures. I said I was going to require half the profits over the essential costs of manufacture. He asked if that arrangement would be perfectly fair to both parties, and said it was neither good business nor good morals to make contracts which gave to one side the advantage. I said that the terms which I was proposing were fair to both parties. Then Mr. Langdon after a musing silence said, with something like a reminiscent sorrow in his tone,
“When you and the publisher shall have gotten the contract framed to suit you both and no doubts about it are left in your minds, sign it—sign it to-day, don’t wait till to-morrow.”
It transpired that he had acquired this wisdom which he was giving me gratis, at considerable expense. He had acquired it twenty years earlier, or thereabouts, at the Astor House in New York, where he and a dozen other rising and able business men were gathered together to secure a certain railroad which promised to be a good property by and by, if properly developed and wisely managed. This was the Lehigh Valley railroad. There were a number of conflicting interests to be reconciled before the deal could be consummated. The men labored over these things the whole afternoon, in a private parlor of that hotel. They dined, then reassembled and continued their labors until after two in the morning. Then they shook hands all around in great joy and enthusiasm, for they had achieved success, and had drawn a contract in the rough which was ready for the signatures. The signing was about to begin; one of the men sat at the table with his pen poised over the fateful document, when somebody said “Oh, we are tired to death. There is no use in continuing this torture any longer. Everything’s satisfactory; let’s sign in the morning.” All assented, and that pen was laid aside.
Mr. Langdon said “We got five or ten minutes’ additional sleep that night, by that postponement, but it cost us several millions apiece, and it was a fancy price to pay. If we had paid out of our existing means, and the price had been a single million apiece, we should have had to sit up, for there wasn’t a man among us who could have met the obligation completely. The contract was never signed. We had traded a Bank of England for ten minutes’ extra sleep—a very small sleep, an apparently unimportant sleep, but it has kept us tired ever since. When you’ve got your contract right, this afternoon, sign it.”
I followed that advice. It was thirty-five years ago, but it has kept me tired ever since. I was dealing with the salaried manager of the American Publishing Company of Hartford, E. Bliss, junior, a Yankee of the Yankees. I will tell about this episode in a later chapter. He was a tall, lean, skinny, yellow, toothless, bald-headed, rat-eyed professional liar and scoundrel. I told him my terms. He suggested that they were a little high. I showed him letters which I had received from various reputable firms, offering me this rate. I also showed him a letter from perhaps the best firm in America offering me three-fourths of the profits above cost of manufacture. I showed him still another letter from a far better firm than his own, offering me the whole of the profits and saying it would be content with what they could get out of the book as an advertisement. I said I did not care to consider these offers, and that I should prefer to remain where my success had been accomplished for me, but that I must insist upon half profits.
Bliss then said that on the whole perhaps my requirement was fair—sufficiently fair, at any rate, although there was argument that as his house had found me penniless and unknown, and had created me, so to speak, this service ought to be considered and compensated in the contract. It did not occur to me to remind him of a conversation which we had had nine months after the publication of “The Innocents Abroad,” in which he had effusively thanked me for saving that publishing-house’s life—a talk in which he had said that when my book was issued the Company’s stock couldn’t be given away, but at the end of nine months the stock had paid three 20 per cent dividends; cleared the Company of debt; was quoted at two hundred, and was not purchasable even at that gilded rate. I forgot to mention—for I didn’t know it—that my 5 per cent royalty on that book represented only a fifth of the book’s profits, and that for each dollar paid me by the Company, the Company had made four.
Bliss said he would go to the hotel and draw up the contract in accordance with the agreed terms. When he brought the contract, it had nothing in it about half profits. It was a royalty again—7½ per cent this time. I said that that was not what we had agreed upon. He said that in so many words it wasn’t, but that in fact the terms were still better for me than half profits, because that up to a sale of one hundred thousand copies my profit on the book would be some trifle more than half, and that only on a sale of two hundred thousand copies would the Company get back that advantage.
I asked him if he was telling me the strict truth. He said he was. I asked him if he could hold up his hand and make oath that what he had said was absolutely true. He said he could. I asked him to put up his hand, which he did, and I swore him.
He published that book and the next one, at 7½ per cent royalty. He published the next two at 10 per cent. But when I came back from Europe bringing the manuscript of still another book—“A Tramp Abroad,” at the end of 1879—the doubts which had been lingering in my mind for all these years took the form of almost the conviction that this animal had been swindling me all the while, and I said that this time the words “half profits above cost of manufacture” must go into the contract or I would carry the book elsewhere—that I was tired of the royalty terms and believed it was a swindle upon me.
He accepted this proposition with effusion, and came back to my house the next day with that kind of contract. I saw that it did not mention the American Publishing Company, but only E. Bliss, junior. Apparently I was dealing solely with him. I inquired. He said “Yes,” that it was a mean crowd, an ungrateful crowd; that it would have lost me long ago if it had not been for him; yet that it was in no sufficient degree grateful for this service, although it knew quite well that I was the sole source of its prosperities and even of its bread and butter. He said the Company had been threatening to reduce his salary; that he wanted to leave and set up for himself; and that he wanted nothing further to do with those skinflints.
The idea pleased me, for I detested those people myself, and was quite willing to leave them. So we signed the contract.
That rascal told me afterward that he took that contract and shook it in the face of the Board of Directors and said,
“I’ll sell it to you for three-fourths of the profits above cost of manufacture. My salary must be continued at the present rate; my son’s salary must be continued at the present rate, also. Those are the terms. Take them or leave them.”
It could be that this was true. If it was true it was without doubt the only time during Bliss’s sixty years that he opened his mouth without a lie escaping through the gaps in his teeth. I never heard him tell the truth, so far as I can remember. He was a most repulsive creature. When he was after dollars he showed the intense earnestness and eagerness of a circular-saw. In a small, mean, peanut-stand fashion, he was sharp and shrewd. But above that level he was destitute of intelligence; his brain was a loblolly, and he had the gibbering laugh of an idiot. It is my belief that Bliss never did an honest thing in his life, when he had a chance to do a dishonest one. I have had contact with several conspicuously mean men, but they were noble compared to this bastard monkey.
Bliss escaped me, and got into his grave a month or two before the first statement of account was due on “A Tramp Abroad.” When the statement was presented of course it was a revelation. I saw that through those royalty deceptions, Bliss had been robbing me ever since the day that I had signed the 7½ per cent contract for “Roughing It.” I was present, as a partner in the contract, when that statement was laid before the Board of Directors in the house of Mr. Newton Case, in Hartford.
I denounced Bliss, and said that the Board must have known of these swindles, and was an accessory to them after the fact. But they denied it.
Now was my time to do a wise thing, for once in my life. But of course I did a foolish thing instead of it, old habits being hard to break. I ought to have continued with that Company and squeezed it. I ought to have made my terms five-sixths of the profits and continued the squeeze to this day. The Company would have been obliged to endure it, and I should have gotten my due. But I severed our relations, in a fine large leather-headed passion, and carried “The Prince and the Pauper” to J. R. Osgood, who was the loveliest man in the world, and the most incapable publisher. All I got out of that book was seventeen thousand dollars. But he thought he could do better next time. So I gave him “Old Times on the Mississippi,” but said I should prefer that he make the book at my expense and sell it at a royalty to be paid by me to him. When he had finished making the plates and printing and binding the first edition, these industries of his had cost me fifty-six thousand dollars, and I was becoming uncomfortable through the monotony of signing checks. Osgood botched it again, dear good soul. I think my profit on that book was only thirty thousand dollars. It may have been more, but it is long ago and I can give only my impression.
I made still one more experiment outside of my proper line. I brought to New York Charles L. Webster, a young relative of mine by marriage, and with him to act as clerk and manager I published “Huckleberry Finn” myself. It was a little book; nothing much was to be expected from it pecuniarily—but at the end of three months after its publication, Webster handed me the statement of results and a check for fifty-four thousand five hundred dollars. This persuaded me that as a publisher I was not altogether a failure.
Thursday, February 22, 1906
Susy’s remarks about her grandfather Langdon—Mr. Clemens tells about
Mr. Atwater—Mr. David Gray; and about meeting David Gray, junior,
at a dinner recently.
I have wandered far from Susy’s chat about her grandfather, but that is no matter. In this autobiography it is my purpose to wander whenever I please and come back when I get ready. I have now come back, and we will set down what Susy has to say about her grandfather.
From Susy’s Biography.
I mentioned that mamma and papa couldn’t stay in their house in Bufalo because it reminded so much of grandpapa. Mamma received a letter from Aunt Susy in which Aunt Susy says a good deal about grandpapa, and the letter showed so clearly how much every one that knew grandpapa loved and respected him, that mamma let me take it to copy what is in it about grandpapa, and mamma thought it would fit in nicely here.
“Quarry Farm.
April 16, ’85.
Livy dear, are you not reminded by to-day’s report of General Grant of father? You remember how as Judge Smith and others whom father had chosen as executors were going out of the room, he said ‘Gentlemen I shall live to bury you all’—smiled, and was cheerful. At that time he had far less strength than General Grant seems to have, but that same wonderful courage to battle with the foe. All along there has been much to remind me of father—of his quiet patience—in General Grant. There certainly is a marked likeness in the souls of the two men. Watching, day by day, the reports from the Nation’s sick room brings to mind so vividly the days of that summer of 1870. And yet they seem so far away. I seemed as a child, compared with now, both in years and experience. The best and the hardest of life have been since then to me, and I know this is so in your life. All before seems dreamy. I sepose this was because our lives had to be all readjusted to go on without that great power in them. Father was quietly such a power in so many lives beside ours, Livy dear—not in kind or degree the same to any one but oh, a power!
The evening of the last company, I was so struck with the fact that Mr. Atwater stood quietly before father’s portrait a long time and turning to me said, ‘We shall never see his like again,’ with a tremble and a choking in his voice—this after fifteen years, and from a business friend. And some stranger, a week ago, spoke of his habit of giving, as so remarkable, he having heard of father’s generosity. . . .”
I remember Mr. Atwater very well. There was nothing citified about him or his ways. He was in middle age, and had lived in the country all his life. He had the farmer look, the farmer gait; he wore the farmer clothes, and also the farmer goatee, a decoration which had been universal when I was a boy, but was now become extinct in some of the western towns and in all of the eastern towns and cities. He was transparently a good and sincere and honest man. He was a humble helper of Mr. Langdon, and had been in his employ many years. His rôle was general utility. If Mr. Langdon’s sawmills needed unscientific but plain common-sense inspection, Atwater was sent on that service. If Mr. Langdon’s timber rafts got into trouble on account of a falling river or a rising one, Atwater was sent to look after the matter. Atwater went on modest errands to Mr. Langdon’s coal mines; also to examine and report upon Mr. Langdon’s interests in the budding coal-oil fields of Pennsylvania. Mr. Atwater was always busy, always moving, always useful in humble ways, always religious, and always ungrammatical, except when he had just finished talking and had used up what he had in stock of that kind of grammar. He was effective—that is, he was effective if there was plenty of time. But he was constitutionally slow, and as he had to discuss all his matters with whomsoever came along, it sometimes happened that the occasion for his services had gone by before he got them in. Mr. Langdon never would discharge Atwater, though young Charley Langdon suggested that course now and then. Young Charley could not abide Atwater, because of his provoking dilatoriness and of his comfortable contentment in it. But I loved Atwater. Atwater was a treasure to me. When he would arrive from one of his inspection journeys and sit at the table, at noon, and tell the family all about the campaign in delicious detail, leaving out not a single inane, inconsequential and colorless incident of it, I heard it gratefully; I enjoyed Mr. Langdon’s placid patience with it; the family’s despondency and despair; and more than all these pleasures together, the vindictiveness in young Charley’s eyes and the volcanic disturbances going on inside of him which I could not see, but which I knew were there.
I am dwelling upon Atwater just for love. I have nothing important to say about Atwater—in fact only one thing to say about him at all. And even that one thing I could leave unmentioned if I wanted to—but I don’t want to. It has been a pleasant memory to me for a whole generation. It lets in a fleeting ray of light upon Livy’s gentle and calm and equable spirit. Although she could feel strongly and utter her feelings strongly, none but a person familiar with her and with all her moods would ever be able to tell by her language that that language was violent. Young Charley had many and many a time tried to lodge a seed of unkindness against Atwater in Livy’s heart, but she was as steadfast in her fidelity as was her father, and Charley’s efforts always failed. Many and many a time he brought to her a charge against Atwater which he believed would bring the longed-for bitter word, and at last he scored a success—for “all things come to him who waits.”
I was away at the time, but Charley could not wait for me to get back. He was too glad, too eager. He sat down at once and wrote to me while his triumph was fresh and his happiness hot and contenting. He told me how he had laid the whole exasperating matter before Livy and then had asked her “Now what do you say?” And she said “Damn Atwater.”
Charley knew that there was no need to explain this to me. He knew I would perfectly understand. He knew that I would know that he was not quoting, but was translating. He knew that I would know that his translation was exact, was perfect, that it conveyed the precise length, breadth, weight, meaning and force of the words which Livy had really used. He knew that I would know that the phrase which she really uttered was “I disapprove of Atwater.”
He was quite right. In her mouth that word “disapprove” was as blighting and withering and devastating as another person’s damn.
One or two days ago I was talking about our sorrowful and pathetic brief sojourn in Buffalo, where we became hermits, and could have no human comradeship except that of young David Gray and his young wife and their baby boy. It seems an age ago. Last night I was at a large dinner party at Norman Hapgood’s palace up-town, and a very long and very slender gentleman was introduced to me—a gentleman with a fine, alert and intellectual face, with a becoming gold pince-nez on his nose and clothed in an evening costume which was perfect from the broad spread of immaculate bosom to the rosetted slippers on his feet. His gait, his bows, and his intonations were those of an English gentleman, and I took him for an earl. I said I had not understood his name, and asked him what it was. He said “David Gray.” The effect was startling. His very father stood before me, as I had known him in Buffalo thirty-six years ago. This apparition called up pleasant times in the beer mills of Buffalo with David Gray and John Hay when this David Gray was in his cradle, a beloved and troublesome possession. And this contact kept me in Buffalo during the next hour, and made it difficult for me to keep up my end of the conversation at my extremity of the dinner-table. The text of my reveries was “What was he born for? What was his father born for? What was I born for? What is anybody born for?”
His father was a poet, but was doomed to grind out his living in a most uncongenial occupation—the editing of a daily political newspaper. He was a singing bird in a menagerie of monkeys, macaws, and hyenas. His life was wasted. He had come from Scotland when he was five years old; he had come saturated to the bones with Presbyterianism of the bluest, the most uncompromising and most unlovely shade. At thirty-three, when I was comrading with him, his Presbyterianism was all gone and he had become a frank rationalist and pronounced unbeliever. After a few years news came to me in Hartford that he had had a sunstroke. By and by the news came that his brain was affected, as a result. After another considerable interval I heard, through Ned House, who had been visiting him, that he was no longer able to competently write either politics or poetry, and was living quite privately and teaching a daily Bible Class of young people, and was interested in nothing else. His unbelief had passed away; his early Presbyterianism had taken its place.
This was true. Some time after this I telegraphed and asked him to meet me at the railway station. He came, and I had a few minutes’ talk with him—this for the last time. The same sweet spirit of the earlier days looked out of his deep eyes. He was the same David I had known before,—great, and fine, and blemishless in character, a creature to adore.
Not long afterward he was crushed and burned up in a railway disaster, at night—and I probably thought then, as I was thinking now, through the gay laughter-and-chatter fog of that dinner-table, “What was he born for? What was the use of it?” These tiresome and monotonous repetitions of the human life—where is their value? Susy asked that question when she was a little child. There was nobody then who could answer it; there is nobody yet.
When Mr. Langdon died, on the 6th of August, 1870, I found myself suddenly introduced into what was to me a quite new rôle—that of business man, temporarily.
Friday, February 23, 1906
Mr. Clemens tells how he became a business man—Mentions his brother Orion’s autobiography.
During the previous year or year and a half, Mr. Langdon had suffered some severe losses through a Mr. Talmage Brown, who was an annex of the family by marriage. Brown had paved Memphis, Tennessee, with the wooden pavement so popular in that day. He had done this as Mr. Langdon’s agent. Well managed, the contract would have yielded a sufficient profit, but through Brown’s mismanagement it had merely yielded a large loss. With Mr. Langdon alive, this loss was not a matter of consequence, and could not cripple the business. But with Mr. Langdon’s brain and hand and credit and high character removed, it was another matter. He was a dealer in anthracite coal. He sold this coal over a stretch of country extending as far as Chicago, and he had important branches of his business in a number of cities. His agents were usually considerably in debt to him, and he was correspondingly in debt to the owners of the mines. His death left three young men in charge of the business—young Charley Langdon, Theodore Crane, and Mr. Slee. He had recently made them partners in the business, by gift. But they were unknown. The business world knew J. Langdon, a name that was a power, but these three young men were ciphers without a unit. Slee turned out afterward to be a very able man, and a most capable and persuasive negotiator, but at the time that I speak of his qualities were quite unknown. Mr. Langdon had trained him, and he was well equipped for his headship of the little firm. Theodore Crane was competent in his line—that of head clerk and superintendent of the subordinate clerks. No better man could have been found for that place; but his capacities were limited to that position. He was good and upright and indestructibly honest and honorable, but he had neither desire nor ambition to be anything above chief clerk. He was much too timid for larger work or larger responsibilities. Young Charley was twenty-one, and not any older than his age—that is to say, he was a boy. His mother had indulged him from the cradle up, and had stood between him and such discomforts as duties, studies, work, responsibility, and so on. He had gone to school only when he wanted to, as a rule, and he didn’t want to often enough for his desire to be mistaken for a passion. He was not obliged to study at home when he had the headache, and he usually had the headache—the thing that was to be expected. He was allowed to play when his health and his predilections required it, and they required it with a good deal of frequency, because he was the judge in the matter. He was not required to read books, and he never read them. The results of this kind of bringing up can be imagined. But he was not to blame for them. His mother was his worst enemy, and she became this merely through her love for him, which was an intense and steadily burning passion. It was a most pathetic case. He had an unusually bright mind; a fertile mind; a mind that should have been fruitful. But because of his mother’s calamitous indulgence, it got no cultivation and was a desert. Outside of business, it is a desert yet.
Charley’s deadly training had made him conceited, arrogant, and overbearing. Slee and Theodore had a heavier burden to carry than had been the case with Mr. Langdon. Mr. Langdon had had nothing to do but manage the business, whereas Slee and Crane had to manage the business and Charley besides. Charley was the most difficult part of the enterprise. He was a good deal given to reorganizing and upsetting Mr. Slee’s most promising arrangements and negotiations. Then the work had to be all done over again.
However, I started to tell how I became, all of a sudden, a business person—a matter which was entirely out of my line. A careful statement of Mr. Langdon’s affairs showed that the assets were worth eight hundred thousand dollars, and that against them was merely the ordinary obligations of the business. Bills aggregating perhaps three hundred thousand dollars—possibly four hundred thousand—would have to be paid; half in about a month, the other half in about two months. The collections to meet these obligations would come in further along. With Mr. Langdon alive, these debts could be no embarrassment. He could go to the Bank in the town, or in New York, and borrow the money without any trouble, but these boys couldn’t do that. They could get one hundred and fifty thousand dollars cash, at once, but that was all. It was Mr. Langdon’s life insurance. It was paid promptly, but it could not go far—that is it could not go far enough. It did not fall short much—in fact only fifty thousand dollars, but where to get the fifty thousand dollars was a puzzle. They wrote to Mr. Henry W. Sage, of Ithaca, an old and warm friend and former business partner of Mr. Langdon, and begged him to come to Elmira and give them advice and help. He replied that he would come. Then, to my consternation, the young firm appointed me to do the negotiating with him. It was like asking me to calculate an eclipse. I had no idea of how to begin nor what to say. But they brought the big balance-sheet to the house and sat down with me in the library and explained, and explained, and explained, until at last I did get a fairly clear idea of what I must say to Mr. Sage.
When Mr. Sage came he and I went to the library to examine that balance-sheet, and the firm waited and trembled in some other part of the house. When I got through explaining the situation to Mr. Sage I got struck by lightning again—that is to say, he furnished me a fresh astonishment. He was a man with a straight mouth and a wonderfully firm jaw. He was the kind of man who puts his whole mind on a thing and keeps that kind of a mouth shut and locked all the way through, while the other man states the case. On this occasion I should have been grateful for some slight indication from him, during my long explanation, which might indicate that I was making at least some kind of an impression upon him, favorable or unfavorable. But he kept my heart on the strain all the way through, and I never could catch any hint of what was passing through his mind. But at the finish he spoke out with that robust decision which was a part of his character and said:
“Mr. Clemens, you’ve got as clear a business head on your shoulders as I have come in contact with for years. What are you an author for? You ought to be a business man.”
I knew better, but it was not diplomatic to say so, and I didn’t. Then he said,
“All you boys need is my note for fifty thousand dollars, at three months, handed in at the Bank, and with that support you will not need the money. If it shall be necessary to extend the note, tell Mr. Arnot it will be extended. The business is all right. Go ahead with it and have no fears. It is my opinion that this note will come back to me without your having extracted a dollar from it, at the end of the three months.”
It happened just as he had said. Old Mr. Arnot, the Scotch banker, a very rich and very careful man and life-long friend of Mr. Langdon, watched the young firm and advised it out of his rich store of commercial wisdom, and at the end of the three months the firm was an established and growing concern, and the note was sent back to Mr. Sage without our having needed to extract anything from it. It was a small piece of paper, insignificant in its dimensions, insignificant in the sum which it represented, but formidable was its influence, and formidable was its power, because of the man who stood behind it.
The Sages and the Twichells were very intimate. One or two years later, Mr. Sage came to Hartford on a visit to Joe, and as soon as he had gone away Twichell rushed over to our house eager to tell me something; something which had astonished him, and which he believed would astonish me. He said,
“Why Mark, you know, Mr. Sage, one of the best business men in America, says that you have quite extraordinary business talents.”
Again I didn’t deny it. I would not have had that superstition dissipated for anything. It supplied a long felt want. We are always more anxious to be distinguished for a talent which we do not possess than to be praised for the fifteen which we do possess.
All this was in 1870. Thirty-five years drifted by, and a year ago, in this house, Charley sat by this bed and casually remarked that if he were going to select what he considered the proudest moment of his life he should say that it was after he had explained the balance-sheet to Mr. Sage and had heard him say “Boy as you are, you carry on your shoulders one of the most remarkable business heads I have ever encountered.”
Again I didn’t say anything. What could be the use? That appropriation of my great achievement had without doubt been embedded in Charley’s mind for a good many years, and I never could have gotten it out by argument and persuasion. Nothing but dynamite could do it.
I wonder if we are not all constructed like that. I think it likely that we all get to admiring other people’s achievements and then go on telling about them and telling about them, until insensibly, and without our suspecting it, we shove the achiever out and take his place. I know of one instance of this. In the other room you will find a bulky manuscript, an autobiography of my brother Orion, who was ten years my senior in age. He wrote that autobiography at my suggestion, twenty years ago, and brought it to me in Hartford, from Keokuk, Iowa. I had urged him to put upon paper all the well remembered incidents of his life, and to not confine himself to those which he was proud of, but to put in also those which he was ashamed of. I said I did not suppose he could do it, because if anybody could do that thing it would have been done long ago. The fact that it has never been done is very good proof that it can’t be done. Benvenuto tells a number of things that any other human being would be ashamed of, but the fact that he tells them seems to be very good evidence that he was not ashamed of them; and the same, I think, must be the case with Rousseau and his “Confessions.”
I urged Orion to try to tell the truth, and tell the whole of it. I said he couldn’t tell the truth of course—that is, he could not lie successfully about a shameful experience of his, because the truth would sneak out between the lies and he couldn’t help it—that an autobiography is always two things: it is an absolute lie and it is an absolute truth. The author of it furnishes the lie, the reader of it furnishes the truth—that is, he gets at the truth by insight. In that autobiography my brother adopts and makes his own an incident which occurred in my life when I was two and a half years old. I suppose he had often heard me tell it. I suppose that by and by he got to telling it himself and told it a few times too often—told it so often that at last it became his own adventure and not mine. I think perhaps I have already mentioned this incident, but I will state it again briefly.
When our family moved by wagon from the hamlet of Florida, Missouri, thirty miles to Hannibal, on the Mississippi, they did not count the children, and I was left behind. I was two and a half years old. I was playing in the kitchen. I was all alone. I was playing with a little pyramid of meal which had sifted to the floor from the meal barrel through a hole contributed by a rat. By and by I noticed how still it was; how solemn it was; and my soul was filled with nameless terrors. I ran through the house; found it empty, still, silent—awfully silent, frightfully still and lifeless. Every living creature gone; I the one and sole living inhabitant of the globe, and the sun going down. Then an uncle of mine arrived on horseback to fetch me. The family had traveled peacefully along, I don’t know how many hours, before at last some one had discovered the calamity that had befallen it.
My brother tells that incident in his autobiography gravely, tells it as an experience of his own, whereas if he had stopped to think a minute, it could properly be a striking and picturesque adventure in the life of a toddling child of two and a half, but when he makes it an experience of his own, it does not make a hero of the person it happened to, because there could be nothing heroic or blood-curdling about the leaving behind of a young man twelve and a half years old. My brother did not notice that discrepancy. It seems incredible that he could write it down as his adventure and not cipher a little on the circumstances—but evidently he didn’t, and there it stands in his autobiography as the impressive adventure of a child of twelve and a half.
Monday, February 26, 1906
Susy comes to New York with her mother and father—Aunt Clara visits
them at the Everett House—Aunt Clara’s ill luck with horses—The omnibus
incident in Germany—Aunt Clara now ill at Hoffman House, result of
horseback accident thirty years ago—Mr. Clemens takes Susy to see
General Grant—Mr. Clemens’s account of his talk with General Grant—
Mr. Clemens gives his first reading in New York—Also tells about one in
Boston—Memorial to Mr. Longfellow—And one in Washington.
From Susy’s Biography.
Papa made arrangements to read at Vassar College the 1st of May, and I went with him. We went by way of New York City. Mamma went with us to New York and stayed two days to do some shopping. We started Tuesday, at ½ past two o’clock in the afternoon, and reached New York about ¼ past six. Papa went right up to General Grants from the station and mamma and I went to the Everett House. Aunt Clara came to supper with us up in our room.
This is the same Aunt Clara who has already been mentioned several times. She had been my wife’s playmate and schoolmate from the earliest times, and she was about my wife’s age, or two or three years younger—mentally, morally, spiritually, and in all ways, a superior and lovable personality.
Persons who think there is no such thing as luck—good or bad—are entitled to their opinion, although I think they ought to be shot for it. However this is merely an opinion itself; there is nothing binding about it. Clara Spaulding had the average human being’s luck in all things save one; she was subject to ill luck with horses. It pursued her like a disease. Every now and then a horse threw her. Every now and then carriage horses ran away with her. At intervals omnibus horses ran away with her. Usually there was but one person hurt, and she was selected for that function. In Germany once our little family started from the Inn (in Worms, I think it was) to go to the station. The vehicle of transportation was a great long omnibus drawn by a battery of four great horses. Every seat in the ’bus was occupied, and the aggregate of us amounted to a good two dozen persons, possibly one or two more. I said playfully to Clara Spaulding “I think you ought to walk to the station. It isn’t right for you to imperil the lives of such a crowd of inoffensive people as this.” When we had gone a quarter of a mile and were briskly approaching a stone bridge which had no protecting railings, the battery broke and began to run. Outside we saw the long reins dragging along the ground and a young peasant racing after them and occasionally making a grab for them. Presently he achieved success, and none too soon, for the ’bus had already entered upon the bridge when he stopped the team. The two dozen lives were saved. Nobody offered to take up a collection, but I suggested to our friend and excursion-comrade—American Consul at a German city—that we get out and tip that young peasant. The Consul said, with an enthusiasm native to his character,
“Stay right where you are. Leave me to attend to that. His fine deed shall not go unrewarded.”
He jumped out and arranged the matter, and we continued our journey. Afterward I asked him what he gave the peasant, so that I could pay my half. He told me, and I paid it. It is twenty-eight years ago, yet from that day to this, although I have passed through some stringent seasons, I have never seriously felt or regretted that outlay. It was twenty-three cents.
Clara Spaulding, now Mrs. John B. Stanchfield, has a son who is a senior in college, and a daughter who is in college in Germany. She is in New York at present, and I went to the Hoffman House yesterday to see her, but it was as I was expecting: she is too ill to see any but physicians and nurses. This illness has its source in a horseback accident which fell to her share thirty years ago, and which resulted in broken bones of the foot and ancle. The broken bones were badly set, and she always walked with a limp afterwards. Some months ago the foot and ancle began to pain her unendurably and it was decided that she must come to New York and have the bones rebroken and reset. I saw her in the private hospital about three weeks after that operation, and the verdict was that the operation was successful. This turned out to be a mistake. She came to New York a month or six weeks ago, and another rebreaking and resetting was accomplished. A week ago, when I called, she was able to hobble about the room by help of crutches, and she was very happy in the conviction that now she was going to have no more trouble. But it appears that this dreadful surgery-work must be done over once more. But she is not fitted for it. The pain is reducing her strength, and I was told that it has been for the past three days necessary to exclude her from contact with all but physicians and nurses.
From Susy’s Biography.
We and Aunt Clara were going to the theatre right after supper, and we expected papa to take us there and to come home as early as he could. But we got through dinner and he didn’t come, and didn’t come, and mamma got more perplexed and worried, but at last we thought we would have to go without him. So we put on our things and started down stairs but before we’d goten half down we met papa coming up with a great bunch of roses in his hand. He explained that the reason he was so late was that his watch stopped and he didn’t notice and kept thinking it an hour earlier than it really was. The roses he carried were some Col. Fred Grant sent to mamma. We went to the theatre and enjoyed “Adonis” (word illegible) acted very much. We reached home about ½ past eleven o’clock and went right to bed. Wednesday morning we got up rather late and had breakfast about ½ past nine o’clock. After breakfast mamma went out shopping and papa and I went to see papa’s agent about some business matters. After papa had gotten through talking to Cousin Charlie, (Webster) papa’s agent, we went to get a friend of papa’s, Major Pond, to go and see a Dog Show with us. Then we went to see the dogs with Major Pond and we had a delightful time seeing so many dogs together; when we got through seeing the dogs papa thought he would go and see General Grant and I went with him—this was April 29, 1885. Papa went up into General Grant’s room and he took me with him, I felt greatly honored and delighted when papa took me into General Grant’s room and let me see the General and Col. Grant, for General Grant is a man I shall be glad all my life that I have seen. Papa and General Grant had a long talk together and papa has written an account of his talk and visit with General Grant for me to put into this biography.
Susy has inserted in this place that account of mine—as follows:
April 29, 1885.
I called on General Grant and took Susy with me. The General was looking and feeling far better than he had looked or felt for some months. He had ventured to work again on his book that morning—the first time he had done any work for perhaps a month. This morning’s work was his first attempt at dictating, and it was a thorough success, to his great delight. He had always said that it would be impossible for him to dictate anything, but I had said that he was noted for clearness of statement, and as a narrative was simply a statement of consecutive facts, he was consequently peculiarly qualified and equipped for dictation. This turned out to be true. For he had dictated two hours that morning to a shorthand writer, had never hesitated for words, had not repeated himself, and the manuscript when finished needed no revision. The two hours’ work was an account of Appomattox—and this was such an extremely important feature that his book would necessarily have been severely lame without it. Therefore I had taken a shorthand writer there before, to see if I could not get him to write at least a few lines about Appomattox.* But he was at that time not well enough to undertake it. I was aware that of all the hundred versions of Appomattox, not one was really correct. Therefore I was extremely anxious that he should leave behind him the truth. His throat was not distressing him, and his voice was much better and stronger than usual. He was so delighted to have gotten Appomattox accomplished once more in his life—to have gotten the matter off his mind—that he was as talkative as his old self. He received Susy very pleasantly, and then fell to talking about certain matters which he hoped to be able to dictate next day; and he said in substance that, among other things, he wanted to settle once for all a question that had been bandied about from mouth to mouth and from newspaper to newspaper. That question was “With whom originated the idea of the march to the sea? Was it Grant’s, or was it Sherman’s idea?” Whether I, or some one else (being anxious to get the important fact settled) asked him with whom the idea originated, I don’t remember. But I remember his answer. I shall always remember his answer. General Grant said:
“Neither of us originated the idea of Sherman’s march to the sea. The enemy did it.”
He went on to say that the enemy, however, necessarily originated a great many of the plans that the general on the opposite side gets the credit for; at the same time that the enemy is doing that, he is laying open other moves which the opposing general sees and takes advantage of. In this case, Sherman had a plan all thought out, of course. He meant to destroy the two remaining railroads in that part of the country, and that would finish up that region. But General Hood did not play the military part that he was expected to play. On the contrary, General Hood made a dive at Chattanooga. This left the march to the sea open to Sherman, and so after sending part of his army to defend and hold what he had acquired in the Chattanooga region, he was perfectly free to proceed, with the rest of it, through Georgia. He saw the opportunity, and he would not have been fit for his place if he had not seized it.
“He wrote me” (the General is speaking) “what his plan was, and I sent him word to go ahead. My staff were opposed to the movement.” (I think the General said they tried to persuade him to stop Sherman. The chief of his staff, the General said, even went so far as to go to Washington without the General’s knowledge and get the ear of the authorities, and he succeeded in arousing their fears to such an extent that they telegraphed General Grant to stop Sherman.)
Then General Grant said “Out of deference to the Government, I telegraphed Sherman and stopped him twenty-four hours; and then considering that that was deference enough to the Government, I telegraphed him to go ahead again.”
I have not tried to give the General’s language, but only the general idea of what he said. The thing that mainly struck me was his terse remark that the enemy originated the idea of the march to the sea. It struck me because it was so suggestive of the General’s epigrammatic fashion—saying a great deal in a single crisp sentence. (This is my account, and signed “Mark Twain.”)
Susy Resumes.
After papa and General Grant had had their talk, we went back to the hotel where mamma was, and papa told mamma all about his interview with General Grant. Mamma and I had a nice quiet afternoon together.
That pair of devoted comrades were always shutting themselves up together when there was opportunity to have what Susy called “a cosy time.” From Susy’s nursery days to the end of her life, she and her mother were close friends; intimate friends, passionate adorers of each other. Susy’s was a beautiful mind, and it made her an interesting comrade. And with the fine mind she had a heart like her mother’s. Susy never had an interest or an occupation which she was not glad to put aside for that something which was in all cases more precious to her—a visit with her mother. Susy died at the right time, the fortunate time of life; the happy age—twenty-four years. At twenty-four, such a girl has seen the best of life—life as a happy dream. After that age the risks begin; responsibility comes, and with it the cares, the sorrows, and the inevitable tragedy. For her mother’s sake I would have brought her back from the grave if I could, but I would not have done it for my own.
From Susy’s Biography.
Then papa went to read in public; there were a great many authors that read, that Thursday afternoon, beside papa; I would have liked to have gone and heard papa read, but papa said he was going to read in Vassar just what he was planning to read in New York, so I stayed at home with mamma.
I think that that was the first exploitation of a new and devilish invention—the thing called an Authors’ Reading. This witch’s Sabbath took place in a theatre, and began at two in the afternoon. There were nine readers on the list, and I believe I was the only one who was qualified by experience to go at the matter in a sane way. I knew, by my old acquaintanceship with the multiplication table, that nine times ten are ninety, and that consequently the average of time allowed to each of these readers should be restricted to ten minutes. There would be an introducer, and he wouldn’t understand his business—this disastrous fact could be counted upon as a certainty. The introducer would be ignorant, windy, eloquent, and willing to hear himself talk. With nine introductions to make, added to his own opening speech—well, I could not go on with these harrowing calculations; I foresaw that there was trouble on hand. I had asked for the sixth place in the list. When the curtain went up and I saw that our half-circle of minstrels were all on hand, I made a change in my plan. I judged that in asking for sixth place I had done all that was necessary to establish a fictitious reputation for modesty, and that there could be nothing gained by pushing this reputation to the limit; it had done its work and it was time, now, to leave well enough alone, and do better. So I asked to be moved up to third place, and my prayer was granted.
The performance began at a quarter past two, and I, number three in a list of ten (if we include the introducer) was not called to the bat until a quarter after three. My reading was ten minutes long. When I had selected it originally, it was twelve minutes long, and it had taken me a good hour to find ways of reducing it by two minutes without damaging it. I was through in ten minutes. Then I retired to my seat to enjoy the agonies of the audience. I did enjoy them for an hour or two; then all the cruelty in my nature was exhausted, and my native humanity came to the front again. By half past five a third of the house was asleep; another third were dying; and the rest were dead. I got out the back way and went home.
During several years, after that, the Authors’ Readings continued. Every now and then we assembled in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, and scourged the people. It was found impossible to teach the persons who managed these orgies any sense. Also it was found impossible to teach the readers any sense. Once I went to Boston to help in one of these revels which had been instigated in the interest of a memorial to Mr. Longfellow. Howells was always a member of these traveling afflictions, and I was never able to teach him to rehearse his proposed reading by the help of a watch and cut it down to a proper length. He couldn’t seem to learn it. He was a bright man in all other ways, but whenever he came to select a reading for one of these carousals his intellect decayed and fell to ruin. I arrived at his house in Cambridge the night before the Longfellow Memorial occasion, and I probably asked him to show me his selection. At any rate, he showed it to me—and I wish I may never attempt the truth again if it wasn’t seven thousand words. I made him set his eye on his watch and keep game while I should read a paragraph of it. This experiment proved that it would take me an hour and ten minutes to read the whole of it, and I said “And mind you, this is not allowing anything for such interruptions as applause—for the reason that after the first twelve minutes there wouldn’t be any.”
He had a time of it to find something short enough, and he kept saying that he never would find a short enough selection that would be good enough—that is to say, he never would be able to find one that would stand exposure before an audience.
I said “It’s no matter. Better that than a long one—because the audience could stand a bad short one, but couldn’t stand a good long one.”
We got it arranged at last. We got him down to fifteen minutes, perhaps. But he and Dr. Holmes and Aldrich and I had the only short readings that day out of the most formidable accumulation of authors that had ever thus far been placed in position before the enemy—a battery of sixteen. I think that that was the occasion when we had sixteen. If it wasn’t then it was in Washington, in 1888. Yes, I think that that occasion was the time when we had that irresistible, that unconquerable force. It was in the afternoon, in the Globe Theatre, and the place was packed, and the air would have been very bad only there wasn’t any. I can see that mass of people yet, opening and closing their mouths like fishes gasping for breath. It was intolerable.
That graceful and competent speaker, Professor Norton, opened the game with a very handsome speech, but it was a good twenty minutes long. And a good ten minutes of it, I think, were devoted to the introduction of Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, who hadn’t any more need of an introduction than the Milky Way. Then Dr. Holmes recited—as only Dr. Holmes could recite it—“The Last Leaf,” and the house rose as one individual and went mad with worshiping delight. And the house stormed along, and stormed along, and got another poem out of the Doctor as an encore; it stormed again and got a third one—though the storm was not so violent this time as had been the previous outbreaks. By this time Dr. Holmes had himself lost a part of his mind, and he actually went on reciting poem after poem until silence had taken the place of encores, and he had to do the last encore by himself. He was the loveliest human being in Boston, and it was a pathetic thing that he should treat himself so.
I had learned, long ago, to stipulate for third place on the program. The performance began at two o’clock. My train for Hartford would leave at four o’clock. I would need fifteen minutes for transit to the station. I needed ten minutes for my reading. I did my reading in the ten minutes; I fled at once from the theatre, and I came very near not catching that train. I was told afterward that by the time reader number eight stepped forward and trained his gun on the house, the audience were drifting out of the place in groups, shoals, blocks, and avalanches, and that about that time the siege was raised and the conflict given up, with six or seven readers still to hear from.
At the reading in Washington, in the spring of ’88 there was a crowd of readers. They all came overloaded, as usual. Thomas Nelson Page read forty minutes by the watch, and he was no further down than the middle of the list. We were all due at the White House at half past nine. The President and Mrs. Cleveland were present, and at half past ten they had to go away—the President to attend to some official business which had been arranged to be considered after our White House reception, it being supposed by Mr. Cleveland, who was inexperienced in Authors’ Readings, that our reception at the White House would be over by half past eleven, whereas if he had known as much about Authors’ Readings as he knew about other kinds of statesmanship, he would have known that we were not likely to get through before time for early breakfast.
I think that it was upon the occasion of this visit to Washington that Livy, always thoughtful of me, prepared me for my visit to the Executive Mansion. No, it wasn’t—that was earlier. She was with me, this time, and could look after me herself.
Monday, March 5, 1906
Mrs. Clemens’s warning to Mr. Clemens when he attends the Cleveland reception at White House—Describes the Paris house in which they lived in 1893—Also room in Villa Viviani—Also dining room in house at Riverdale—Tells how Mr. Clemens was “dusted off” after the various dinners—and the card system of signals—Letter from Mr. Gilder regarding Mr. Cleveland’s sixty-ninth birthday—Mason.
I was always heedless. I was born heedless; and therefore I was constantly, and quite unconsciously, committing breaches of the minor proprieties, which brought upon me humiliations which ought to have humiliated me but didn’t, because I didn’t know anything had happened. But Livy knew; and so the humiliations fell to her share, poor child, who had not earned them and did not deserve them. She always said I was the most difficult child she had. She was very sensitive about me. It distressed her to see me do heedless things which could bring me under criticism, and so she was always watchful and alert to protect me from the kind of transgressions which I have been speaking of.
When I was leaving Hartford for Washington, upon the occasion referred to, she said “I have written a small warning and put it in a pocket of your dress vest. When you are dressing to go to the Authors’ Reception at the White House you will naturally put your fingers in your vest pockets, according to your custom, and you will find that little note there. Read it carefully, and do as it tells you. I cannot be with you, and so I delegate my sentry duties to this little note. If I should give you the warning by word of mouth, now, it would pass from your head and be forgotten in a few minutes.”
It was President Cleveland’s first term. I had never seen his wife—the young, the beautiful, the good-hearted, the sympathetic, the fascinating. Sure enough, just as I had finished dressing to go to the White House I found that little note, which I had long ago forgotten. It was a grave little note, a serious little note, like its writer, but it made me laugh. Livy’s gentle gravities often produced that effect upon me, where the expert humorist’s best joke would have failed, for I do not laugh easily.
When we reached the White House and I was shaking hands with the President, he started to say something but I interrupted him and said,
“If your Excellency will excuse me, I will come back in a moment; but now I have a very important matter to attend to, and it must be attended to at once.”
I turned to Mrs. Cleveland, the young, the beautiful, the fascinating, and gave her my card, on the back of which I had written “He didn’t”—and I asked her to sign her name below those words.
She said “He didn’t? He didn’t what?”
“Oh,” I said, “never mind. We cannot stop to discuss that now. This is urgent. Won’t you please sign your name?” (I handed her a fountain pen.)
“Why,” she said, “I cannot commit myself in that way. Who is it that didn’t?—and what is it that he didn’t?”
“Oh,” I said, “time is flying, flying, flying. Won’t you take me out of my distress and sign your name to it? It’s all right. I give you my word it’s all right.”
She looked nonplused; but hesitatingly and mechanically she took the pen and said,
“I will sign it. I will take the risk. But you must tell me all about it, right afterward, so that you can be arrested before you get out of the house in case there should be anything criminal about this.”
Then she signed; and I handed her Mrs. Clemens’s note, which was very brief, very simple, and to the point. It said “Don’t wear your arctics in the White House.” It made her shout; and at my request she summoned a messenger and we sent that card at once to the mail on its way to Mrs. Clemens in Hartford.
During 1893 and ’94 we were living in Paris, the first half of the time at the Hotel Brighton, in the rue de Rivoli, the other half in a charming mansion in the rue de l’Université, on the other side of the Seine, which, by good luck, we had gotten hold of through another man’s ill luck. This was Pomeroy, the artist. Illness in his family had made it necessary for him to go to the Riviera. He was paying thirty-six hundred dollars a year for the house, but allowed us to have it at twenty-six hundred. It was a lovely house; large, quaint, indefinite, charmingly furnished and decorated; built upon no particular plan; delightfully rambling, uncertain, and full of surprises. You were always getting lost in it, and finding nooks and corners and rooms which you didn’t know were there and whose presence you had not suspected before. It was built by a rich French artist; and he had also furnished it and decorated it with his own hand. The studio was cosiness itself. We used it as drawing-room, sitting-room, living-room, dancing-room—we used it for everything. We couldn’t get enough of it. It is odd that it should have been so cosy, for it was forty feet long, forty feet high, and thirty feet wide, with a vast fireplace on each side in the middle, and a musicians’ gallery at one end. But we had, before this, found out that under the proper conditions spaciousness and cosiness do go together most affectionately and congruously. We had found it out a year or two earlier, when we were living in the Villa Viviani three miles outside the walls of Florence. That house had a room in it which was forty feet square and forty feet high, and at first we couldn’t endure it. We called it the Mammoth Cave; we called it the skating-rink; we called it the Great Sahara; we called it all sorts of names intended to convey our disrespect. We had to pass through it to get from one end of the house to the other, but we passed straight through and did not loiter—and yet before long, and without our knowing how it came about, we found ourselves infesting that vast place day and night, and preferring it to any other part of the house.
Four or five years ago, when we took a house on the banks of the Hudson, at Riverdale, we drifted from room to room on our tour of inspection, always with a growing doubt as to whether we wanted that house or not. But at last when we arrived in a dining room that was sixty feet long, thirty feet wide, and had two great fireplaces in it, that settled it.
But I have wandered. What I was proposing to talk about was quite another matter—to wit: in that pleasant Paris house Mrs. Clemens gathered little dinner companies together once or twice a week, and it goes without saying that in these circumstances my defects had a large chance for display. Always, always without fail, as soon as the guests were out of the house, I saw that I had been miscarrying again. Mrs. Clemens explained to me the various things which I had been doing which should have been left undone, and she was always able to say,
“I have told you over and over again, yet you do these same things every time, just as if I never had warned you.”
The children always waited up to have the joy of overhearing this. Nothing charmed them, nothing delighted them, nothing satisfied their souls like seeing me under the torture. The moment we started up stairs we would hear skurrying garments, and we knew that those children had been at it again. They had a name for this performance. They called it “dusting-off papa.” They were obedient young rascals as a rule, by habit, by training, by long experience; but they drew the line there. They couldn’t be persuaded to obey the command to stay out of hearing when I was being dusted off.
At last I had an inspiration. It is astonishing that it had not occurred to me earlier. I said,
“Why Livy, you know that dusting me off after these dinners is not the wise way. You could dust me off after every dinner for a year and I should always be just as competent to do the forbidden thing at each succeeding dinner as if you had not said a word, because in the meantime I have forgotten all these instructions. I think the correct way is for you to dust me off immediately before the guests arrive, and then I can keep some of it in my head and things will go better.”
She recognized that that was wisdom, and that it was a very good idea. Then we set to work to arrange a system of signals to be delivered by her to me during dinner; signals which would indicate definitely which particular crime I was now engaged in, so that I could change to another. Apparently one of the children’s most precious joys had come to an end and passed out of their life. I supposed that that was so, but it wasn’t. The young unteachables got a screen arranged so that they could be behind it during the dinner and listen for the signals and entertain themselves with them. The system of signals was very simple, but it was very effective. If Mrs. Clemens happened to be so busy, at any time, talking with her elbow-neighbor, that she overlooked something that I was doing, she was sure to get a low-voiced hint from behind that screen in these words:
“Blue card, mamma;” or “red card, mamma”—“green card, mamma”—so that I was under double and triple guard. What the mother didn’t notice the children detected for her.
As I say, the signals were quite simple, but very effective. At a hint from behind the screen, Livy would look down the table and say, in a voice full of interest, if not of counterfeited apprehension, “What did you do with the blue card that was on the dressing-table—”
That was enough. I knew what was happening—that I was talking the lady on my right to death and never paying any attention to the one on my left. The blue card meant “Let the lady on your right have a reprieve; destroy the one on your left;” so I would at once go to talking vigorously to the lady on my left. It wouldn’t be long till there would be another hint, followed by a remark from Mrs. Clemens which had in it an apparently casual reference to a red card, which meant “Oh, are you going to sit there all the evening and never say anything? Do wake up and talk.” So I waked up and drowned the table with talk. We had a number of cards, of different colors, each meaning a definite thing, each calling attention to some crime or other in my common list; and that system was exceedingly useful. It was entirely successful. It was like Buck Fanshaw’s riot, it broke up the riot before it got a chance to begin. It headed off crime after crime all through the dinner, and I always came out at the end successful, triumphant, with large praises owing to me, and I got them on the spot.
It is a far call back over the accumulation of years to that night in the White House when Mrs. Cleveland signed the card. Many things have happened since then. The Cleveland family have been born since then. Ruth, the first-born, whom I never knew, but with whom I corresponded when she was a baby, lived to reach a blooming and lovely young maidenhood, then passed away.
To-day comes this letter, and it brings back the Clevelands, and the past, and my lost little correspondent.
Editorial Department
The Century Magazine.
March 3, 1906.
Union Square, New York.
My dear Mr. Clemens:
President Finley and I are collecting letters to Ex-President Cleveland from his friends, appropriate to his 69th birthday.
If the plan appeals to you, will you kindly send a sealed greeting under cover to me at the above address, and I will send it, and the other letters, South to him in time for him to get them, all together, on the 18th of the present month.
Yours sincerely,
R. W. Gilder.
Mr. Samuel L. Clemens.
When the little Ruth was about a year or a year and a half old, Mason, an old and valued friend of mine, was Consul General at Frankfort-on-the-Main. I had known him well in 1867, ’68 and ’69, in America, and I and mine had spent a good deal of time with him and his family in Frankfort in ’78. He was a thoroughly competent, diligent, and conscientious official. Indeed he possessed these qualities in so large a degree that among American Consuls he might fairly be said to be monumental, for at that time our consular service was largely—and I think I may say mainly—in the hands of ignorant, vulgar, and incapable men who had been political heelers in America, and had been taken care of by transference to consulates where they could be supported at the Government’s expense instead of being transferred to the poor house, which would have been cheaper and more patriotic. Mason, in ’78, had been Consul General in Frankfort several years—four, I think. He had come from Marseilles with a great record. He had been Consul there during thirteen years, and one part of his record was heroic. There had been a desolating cholera epidemic, and Mason was the only representative of any foreign country who stayed at his post and saw it through. And during that time he not only represented his own country, but he represented all the other countries in Christendom and did their work, and did it well and was praised for it by them in words of no uncertain sound. This great record of Mason’s had saved him from official decapitation straight along while Republican Presidents occupied the chair, but now it was occupied by a Democrat. Mr. Cleveland was not seated in it—he was not yet inaugurated—before he was deluged with applications from Democratic politicians desiring the appointment of a thousand or so politically useful Democrats to Mason’s place. Mason wrote me and asked me if I couldn’t do something to save him from destruction.
Tuesday, March 6, 1906
Mr. Clemens makes Baby Ruth intercede in behalf of Mr. Mason, and he is retained in his place—Mr. Clemens’s letter to Ex-President Cleveland—Mr. Cleveland as sheriff, in Buffalo—As Mayor he vetoes ordinance of railway corporation—Mr. Clemens and Mr. Cable visit Governor Cleveland at Capitol, Albany—Mr. Clemens sits on the bells and summons sixteen clerks—The Lyon of St. Mark.
I was very anxious to keep him in his place, but at first I could not think of any way to help him, for I was a mugwump. We, the mugwumps, a little company made up of the unenslaved of both parties, the very best men to be found in the two great parties—that was our idea of it—voted sixty thousand strong for Mr. Cleveland in New York and elected him. Our principles were high, and very definite. We were not a party; we had no candidates; we had no axes to grind. Our vote laid upon the man we cast it for no obligation of any kind. By our rule we could not ask for office; we could not accept office. When voting, it was our duty to vote for the best man, regardless of his party name. We had no other creed. Vote for the best man—that was creed enough.
Such being my situation, I was puzzled to know how to try to help Mason, and, at the same time, save my mugwump purity undefiled. It was a delicate place. But presently, out of the ruck of confusions in my mind, rose a sane thought, clear and bright—to wit: since it was a mugwump’s duty to do his best to put the best man in office, necessarily it must be a mugwump’s duty to try to keep the best man in when he was already there. My course was easy now. It might not be quite delicate for a mugwump to approach the President directly, but I could approach him indirectly, with all delicacy, since in that case not even courtesy would require him to take notice of an application which no one could prove had ever reached him.
Yes, it was easy and simple sailing now. I could lay the matter before Ruth, in her cradle, and wait for results. I wrote the little child, and said to her all that I have just been saying about mugwump principles and the limitations which they put upon me. I explained that it would not be proper for me to apply to her father in Mr. Mason’s behalf, but I detailed to her Mr. Mason’s high and honorable record and suggested that she take the matter in her own hands and do a patriotic work which I felt some delicacy about venturing upon myself. I asked her to forget that her father was only President of the United States, and her subject and servant; I asked her not to put her application in the form of a command, but to modify it, and give it the fictitious and pleasanter form of a mere request—that it would be no harm to let him gratify himself with the superstition that he was independent and could do as he pleased in the matter. I begged her to put stress, and plenty of it, upon the proposition that to keep Mason in his place would be a benefaction to the nation; to enlarge upon that, and keep still about all other considerations.
In due time I received a letter from the President, written with his own hand, signed by his own hand, acknowledging Ruth’s intervention and thanking me for enabling him to save to the country the services of so good and well-tried a servant as Mason, and thanking me, also, for the detailed fulness of Mason’s record, which could leave no doubt in any one’s mind that Mason was in his right place and ought to be kept there.
In the beginning of Mr. Cleveland’s second term a very strong effort to displace Mason was made, and Mason wrote me again. He was not hoping that we would succeed this time, because the assault upon his place was well organized, determined, and exceedingly powerful, but he hoped I would try again and see what I could do. I was not disturbed. It seemed to me that he did not know Mr. Cleveland or he would not be disturbed himself. I believed I knew Mr. Cleveland, and that he was not the man to budge an inch from his duty in any circumstances, and that he was a Gibraltar against whose solid bulk a whole Atlantic of assaulting politicians would dash itself in vain.
I wrote Ruth Cleveland once more. Mason remained in his place; and I think he would have remained in it without Ruth’s intercession. There have been other Presidents since, but Mason’s record has protected him, and the many and powerful efforts to dislodge him have all failed. Also, he has been complimented with promotions. He was promoted from Consul General in Frankfort to Consul General at Berlin, our highest consular post in Germany. A year ago he was promoted another step—to the consul-generalship in Paris, and he holds that place yet.
Ruth, the child, remained not long in the earth to help make it beautiful and to bless the home of her parents. But, little creature as she was, she did high service for her country, as I have shown, and it is right that this should be recorded and remembered.
In accordance with the suggestion made in Gilder’s letter (as copied in yesterday’s talk) I have written the following note to Ex-President Cleveland.
Honored Sir: Your patriotic virtues have won for you the homage of half the nation and the enmity of the other half. This places your character as a citizen upon a summit as high as Washington’s. The verdict is unanimous and unassailable. The votes of both sides are necessary in cases like these, and the votes of the one side are quite as valuable as are the votes of the other. Where the votes are all in a public man’s favor the verdict is against him. It is sand, and history will wash it away. But the verdict for you is rock, and will stand.
S.L. Clemens
As of date March 18/06.
When Mr. Cleveland was a member of a very strong and prosperous firm of lawyers, in Buffalo, just before the seventies, he was elected to the mayoralty. Presently a formidably rich and powerful railway corporation worked an ordinance through the city government whose purpose was to take possession of a certain section of the city inhabited altogether by the poor, the helpless, and the inconsequential, and drive those people out. Mr. Cleveland vetoed the ordinance. The other members of his law firm were indignant, and also terrified. To them the thing which he had done meant disaster to their business. They waited upon him and begged him to reconsider his action. He declined to do it. They insisted. He still declined. He said that his official position imposed upon him a duty which he could not honorably avoid; therefore he should be loyal to it; that the helpless situation of these inconsequential citizens made it his duty to stand by them and be their friend, since they had no other; that he was sorry if this conduct of his must bring disaster upon the firm, but that he had no choice; his duty was plain, and he would stick to the position which he had taken. They intimated that this would lose him his place in the firm. He said he did not wish to be a damage to the co-partnership, therefore they could remove his name from it, and without any hard feeling on his part.
During the time that we were living in Buffalo in ’70 and ’71, Mr. Cleveland was sheriff, but I never happened to make his acquaintance, or even see him. In fact, I suppose I was not even aware of his existence. Fourteen years later, he was become the greatest man in the State. I was not living in the State at the time. He was Governor, and was about to step into the post of President of the United States. At that time I was on the public highway in company with another bandit, George W. Cable. We were robbing the public with readings from our works during four months—and in the course of time we went to Albany to levy tribute, and I said “We ought to go and pay our respects to the Governor.”
So Cable and I went to that majestic Capitol building and stated our errand. We were shown into the Governor’s private office, and I saw Mr. Cleveland for the first time. We three stood chatting together. I was born lazy, and I comforted myself by turning the corner of a table into a sort of seat. Presently the Governor said,
“Mr. Clemens, I was a fellow citizen of yours in Buffalo a good many months, a good while ago, and during those months you burst suddenly into a mighty fame, out of a previous long continued and no doubt proper obscurity—but I was a nobody, and you wouldn’t notice me nor have anything to do with me. But now that I have become somebody, you have changed your style, and you come here to shake hands with me and be sociable. How do you explain this kind of conduct?”
“Oh,” I said, “it is very simple, your Excellency. In Buffalo you were nothing but a sheriff. I was in society. I couldn’t afford to associate with sheriffs. But you are a Governor, now, and you are on your way to the Presidency. It is a great difference, and it makes you worth while.”
There appeared to be about sixteen doors to that spacious room. From each door a young man now emerged, and the sixteen lined up and moved forward and stood in front of the Governor with an aspect of respectful expectancy in their attitude. No one spoke for a moment. Then the Governor said,
“You are dismissed, gentlemen. Your services are not required. Mr. Clemens is sitting on the bells.”
There was a cluster of sixteen bell-buttons on the corner of the table; my proportions at that end of me were just right to enable me to cover the whole of that nest, and that is how I came to hatch out those sixteen clerks.
While I think of it—last year when we were summering in that incomparable region, that perfection of inland grace and charm and loveliness which is not to be found elsewhere on the planet—the New Hampshire hills—our nearest neighbors were the Abbott Thayers, that family of gifted artists, old friends of mine. They lived down hill in a break in the forest, a quarter or a half-mile away; and for a few days they had as guests a couple of bright and lovely young fellows, to wit: Bynner, the young poet, a member of McClure’s magazine staff, and Guy Faulkner, of the staff of another of the magazines. I had never seen them, but as their trade and mine was the same, they wanted to come and see me. They discussed the proprieties of this invasion a day or two and tried to make up their minds. They knew Miss Lyon, my secretary, very well. At last one of them said “Oh come, it’ll be all right. Let’s go up and see the lions.” The other said “But how do we know that the old lion is there just now?” To this remark came the reply “Well, we can see the Lyon of St. Mark, anyway.”
Wednesday, March 7, 1906
Susy’s Biography—John Hay incident—Giving the young girl the French novel—Susy and her father escort Mrs. Clemens to train, then go over Brooklyn Bridge—On the way to Vassar they discuss German profanity—Mr. Clemens tells of the sweet and profane German nurse—The arrival at Vassar and the dreary reception—Told by Susy—The reading, etc.—Mr. Clemens’s opinion of girls—He is to talk to the Barnard girls this afternoon.
From Susy’s Biography.
The next day mamma planned to take the four o’clock car back to Hartford. We rose quite early that morning and went to the Vienna Bakery and took breakfast there. From there we went to a German bookstore and bought some German books for Clara’s birthday.
Dear me, the power of association to snatch mouldy dead memories out of their graves and make them walk! That remark about buying foreign books throws a sudden white glare upon the distant past; and I see the long stretch of a New York street with an unearthly vividness, and John Hay walking down it, grave and remorseful. I was walking down it too, that morning, and I overtook Hay and asked him what the trouble was. He turned a lusterless eye upon me and said:
“My case is beyond cure. In the most innocent way in the world I have committed a crime which will never be forgiven by the sufferers, for they will never believe—oh, well, no, I was going to say they would never believe that I did the thing innocently. The truth is they will know that I acted innocently, because they are rational people; but what of that? I never can look them in the face again—nor they me, perhaps.”
Hay was a young bachelor, and at that time was on the Tribune staff. He explained his trouble in these words, substantially:
“When I was passing along here yesterday morning on my way down town to the office, I stepped into a bookstore where I am acquainted, and asked if they had anything new from the other side. They handed me a French novel, in the usual yellow paper cover, and I carried it away. I didn’t even look at the title of it. It was for recreation-reading, and I was on my way to my work. I went mooning and dreaming along, and I think I hadn’t gone more than fifty yards when I heard my name called. I stopped, and a private carriage drew up at the sidewalk and I shook hands with the inmates—mother and young daughter, excellent people. They were on their way to the steamer to sail for Paris. The mother said,
“‘I saw that book in your hand and I judged by the look of it that it was a French novel. Is it?’
“I said it was.
“She said, ‘Do let me have it, so that my daughter can practise her French on it on the way over.’
“Of course I handed her the book, and we parted. Ten minutes ago I was passing that bookstore again, and some devil’s inspiration reminded me of yesterday and I stepped in and fetched away another copy of that book. Here it is. Read the first page of it. That is enough. You will know what the rest is like. I think it must be the foulest book in the French language—one of the foulest, anyway. I would be ashamed to offer it to a harlot—but, oh dear, I gave it to that sweet young girl without shame. Take my advice; don’t give away a book until you have examined it.”
From Susy’s Biography.
Then mamma and I went to do some shopping and papa went to see General Grant. After we had finnished doing our shopping we went home to the hotel together. When we entered our rooms in the hotel we saw on the table a vase full of exquisett red roses. Mamma who is very fond of flowers exclaimed “Oh I wonder who could have sent them.” We both looked at the card in the midst of the roses and saw that it was written on in papa’s handwriting, it was written in German. “Liebes Geshchenk on die Mamma.” (I am sure I didn’t say “on”—that is Susy’s spelling, not mine; also I am sure I didn’t spell Geschenk so liberally as all that. S.L.C.) Mamma was delighted. Papa came home and gave mamma her ticket; and after visiting a while with her went to see Major Pond and mamma and I sat down to our lunch. After lunch most of our time was taken up with packing, and at about three o’clock we went to escort mamma to the train. We got on board the train with her and stayed with her about five minutes and then we said good-bye to her and the train started for Hartford. It was the first time I had ever beene away from home without mamma in my life, although I was 13 yrs. old. Papa and I drove back to the hotel and got Major Pond and then went to see the Brooklyn Bridge we went across it to Brooklyn on the cars and then walked back across it from Brooklyn to New York. We enjoyed looking at the beautiful scenery and we could see the bridge moove under the intense heat of the sun. We had a perfectly delightful time, but weer pretty tired when we got back to the hotel.
The next morning we rose early, took our breakfast and took an early train to Pough-keepsie. We had a very pleasant journey to Poughkeepsie. The Hudson was magnificent—shrouded with beautiful mist. When we arived at Poughkeepsie it was raining quite hard; which fact greatly dissapointed me because I very much wanted to see the outside of the buildings of Vasser College and as it rained that would be impossible. It was quite a long drive from the station to Vasser College and papa and I had a nice long time to discuss and laugh over German profanity. One of the German phrases papa particularly enjoys is “O heilige maria Mutter Jesus!” Jean has a German nurse, and this was one of her phrases, there was a time when Jean exclaimed “Ach Gott!” to every trifle, but when mamma found it out she was shocked and instantly put a stop to it.
It brings that pretty little German girl vividly before me—a sweet and innocent and plump little creature with peachy cheeks; a clear-souled little maiden and without offence, notwithstanding her profanities, and she was loaded to the eyebrows with them. She was a mere child. She was not fifteen yet. She was just from Germany, and knew no English. She was always scattering her profanities around, and they were such a satisfaction to me that I never dreamed of such a thing as modifying her. For my own sake, I had no disposition to tell on her. Indeed I took pains to keep her from being found out. I told her to confine her religious exercises to the children’s quarters, and urged her to remember that Mrs. Clemens was prejudiced against pieties on week days. To the children, the little maid’s profanities sounded natural and proper and right, because they had been used to that kind of talk in Germany, and they attached no evil importance to it. It grieves me that I have forgotten those vigorous remarks. I long hoarded them in my memory as a treasure. But I remember one of them still, because I heard it so many times. The trial of that little creature’s life was the children’s hair. She would tug and strain with her comb, accompanying her work with her misplaced pieties. And when finally she was through with her triple job she always fired up and exploded her thanks toward the sky, where they belonged, in this form: “Gott sei Dank ich bin schon fertig mit’m Gott verdammtes Haar!” (I believe I am not quite brave enough to translate it.)
From Susy’s Biography.
We at length reached Vassar College and she looked very finely, her buildings and her grounds being very beautiful. We went to the front doore and rang the bell. The young girl who came to the doore wished to know who we wanted to see. Evidently we were not expected. Papa told her who we wanted to see and she showed us to the parlor. We waited, no one came; and waited, no one came, still no one came. It was beginning to seem pretty awkward, “Oh well this is a pretty piece of business,” papa exclaimed. At length we heard footsteps coming down the long corridor and Miss C, (the lady who had invited papa) came into the room. She greeted papa very pleasantly and they had a nice little chatt together. Soon the lady principal also entered and she was very pleasant and agreable. She showed us to our rooms and said she would send for us when dinner was ready. We went into our rooms, but we had nothing to do for half an hour exept to watch the rain drops as they fell upon the window panes. At last we were called to dinner, and I went down without papa as he never eats anything in the middle of the day. I sat at the table with the lady principal and enjoyed very much seing all the young girls trooping into the dining-room. After dinner I went around the College with the young ladies and papa stayed in his room and smoked. When it was supper time papa went down and ate supper with us and we had a very delightful supper. After supper the young ladies went to their rooms to dress for the evening. Papa went to his room and I went with the lady principal. At length the guests began to arive, but papa still remained in his room until called for. Papa read in the chapell. It was the first time I had ever heard him read in my life—that is in public. When he came out on to the stage I remember the people behind me exclaimed “Oh how queer he is! Isn’t he funny!” I thought papa was very funny, although I did not think him queer. He read “A Trying Situation” and “The Golden Arm,” a ghost story that he heard down South when he was a little boy. “The Golden Arm” papa had told me before, but he had startled me so that I did not much wish to hear it again. But I had resolved this time to be prepared and not to let myself be startled, but still papa did, and very very much; he startled the whole roomful of people and they jumped as one man. The other story was also very funny and interesting and I enjoyed the evening inexpressibly much. After papa had finished reading we all went down to the collation in the dining-room and after that there was dancing and singing. Then the guests went away and papa and I went to bed. The next morning we rose early, took an early train for Hartford and reached Hartford at ½ past 2 o’clock. We were very glad to get back.
How charitably she treats that ghastly experience! It is a dear and lovely disposition, and a most valuable one, that can brush away indignities and discourtesies and seek and find the pleasanter features of an experience. Susy had that disposition, and it was one of the jewels of her character that had come to her straight from her mother. It is a feature that was left out of me at birth. And, at seventy, I have not yet acquired it. I did not go to Vassar College professionally, but as a guest—as a guest, and gratis. Aunt Clara (now Mrs. John B. Stanchfield) was a graduate of Vassar and it was to please her that I inflicted that journey upon Susy and myself. The invitation had come to me from both the lady mentioned by Susy and the President of the College—a sour old saint who has probably been gathered to his fathers long ago; and I hope they enjoy him; I hope they value his society. I think I can get along without it, in either end of the next world.
We arrived at the College in that soaking rain, and Susy has described, with just a suggestion of dissatisfaction, the sort of reception we got. Susy had to sit in her damp clothes half an hour while we waited in the parlor; then she was taken to a fireless room and left to wait there again, as she has stated. I do not remember that President’s name, and I am sorry. He did not put in an appearance until it was time for me to step upon the platform in front of that great garden of young and lovely blossoms. He caught up with me and advanced upon the platform with me and was going to introduce me. I said in substance:
“You have allowed me to get along without your help thus far, and if you will retire from the platform I will try to do the rest without it.”
I did not see him any more, but I detest his memory. Of course my resentment did not extend to the students, and so I had an unforgetable good time talking to them. And I think they had a good time too, for they responded “as one man,” to use Susy’s unimprovable phrase.
Girls are charming creatures. I shall have to be twice seventy years old before I change my mind as to that. I am to talk to a crowd of them this afternoon, students of Barnard College, (the sex’s annex to Columbia University,) and I think I shall have just as pleasant a time with those lassies as I had with the Vassar girls twenty-one years ago.
Thursday, March 8, 1906
The Barnard lecture—Subject Morals—Letter from brother of Captain Toncray—Mr. Clemens replied that original of “Huckleberry Finn” was Tom Blankenship—Tom’s father Town Drunkard—Describes Tom’s character—Death of Injun Joe—Storm which came that night—Incident of the Episcopal sextons and their reforms—Mr. Dawson’s school in Hannibal—Arch Fuqua’s great gift.
It turned out just so. It was an affectionate and hilarious good time. Miss Taylor, and two other charming girls, conveyed me from this house—corner of 9th street and Fifth Avenue—to the College by way of Central Park and Riverside Drive, and properly petted me and flattered me all the way, in accordance with the conditions which I had already exacted of Miss Taylor and Mrs. (Professor) Lord—these conditions being that I must be caressed and complimented all the way. Miss Russell, President of Barnard, is young and beautiful. I found in the Dean, Miss Hill, an acquaintance of many years ago, when she was a junior in Smith College. We three went on the stage together. The floor and the gallery were compactly jammed with the youth and beauty and erudition of Barnard—a satisfying spectacle to look at.
I put my watch on the table and kept game myself, allowing myself an hour. I lectured upon Morals; and earnestly, imploringly, and even pathetically, inculcated them and urged them upon those masses of girls—along with illustrations—more illustrations than morals—and I never knew so grave a subject to create so much noise before.
A reception followed. I had the privilege of shaking hands with all of them, and was flattered to my content, and told them so. They all said that my lessons had gone home to them and that from now on they should lead a better life.
For thirty years, I have received an average of a dozen letters a year from strangers who remember me, or whose fathers remember me as boy and young man. But these letters are almost always disappointing. I have not known these strangers nor their fathers. I have not heard of the names they mention; the reminiscences to which they call my attention have had no part in my experience; all of which means that these strangers have been mistaking me for somebody else. But at last I have the refreshment, this morning, of a letter from a man who deals in names that were familiar to me in my boyhood. The writer encloses a newspaper clipping which has been wandering through the press for four or five weeks, and he wants to know if his brother, Captain Toncray, was really the original of “Huckleberry Finn.”

Original of Mark Twain’s Famous Character
Had Led Quiet Life in Idaho.
WALLACE (Idaho) Feb. 2.—[Exclusive Dispatch.] Capt. A. O. Toncray, commonly known as “Huckleberry Finn,” said to be the original of Mark Twain’s famous character, was found dead in his room at Murray this morning from heart failure.
Capt. Toncray, a native of Hannibal, Mo., was 65 years old. In early life, he ran on steamboats on the Mississippi and the Missouri rivers, in frequent contact with Samuel L. Clemens, and tradition has it “Mark Twain” later used Toncray as his model for “Huckleberry Finn.” He came to Murray in 1884 and had been living a quiet life since.
I have replied that “Huckleberry Finn” was Tom Blankenship. As this inquirer evidently knew the Hannibal of the forties, he will easily recall Tom Blankenship. Tom’s father was at one time Town Drunkard, an exceedingly well defined and unofficial office of those days. He succeeded “General” Gaines, and for a time he was sole and only incumbent of the office; but afterward Jimmy Finn proved competency and disputed the place with him, so we had two town-drunkards at one time—and it made as much trouble in that village as Christendom experienced in the fourteenth century when there were two Popes at the same time.
In “Huckleberry Finn” I have drawn Tom Blankenship exactly as he was. He was ignorant, unwashed, insufficiently fed; but he had as good a heart as ever any boy had. His liberties were totally unrestricted. He was the only really independent person—boy or man—in the community, and by consequence he was tranquilly and continuously happy, and was envied by all the rest of us. We liked him; we enjoyed his society. And as his society was forbidden us by our parents, the prohibition trebled and quadrupled its value, and therefore we sought and got more of his society than of any other boy’s. I heard, four years ago, that he was Justice of the Peace in a remote village in Montana, and was a good citizen and greatly respected.
During Jimmy Finn’s term he (Jimmy) was not exclusive; he was not finical; he was not hypercritical; he was largely and handsomely democratic—and slept in the deserted tan-yard with the hogs. My father tried to reform him once, but did not succeed. My father was not a professional reformer. In him the spirit of reform was spasmodic. It only broke out now and then, with considerable intervals between. Once he tried to reform Injun Joe. That also was a failure. It was a failure, and we boys were glad. For Injun Joe, drunk, was interesting and a benefaction to us, but Injun Joe, sober, was a dreary spectacle. We watched my father’s experiments upon him with a good deal of anxiety, but it came out all right and we were satisfied. Injun Joe got drunk oftener than before, and became intolerably interesting.
I think that in “Tom Sawyer” I starved Injun Joe to death in the cave. But that may have been to meet the exigencies of romantic literature. I can’t remember now whether he died in the cave or out of it, but I do remember that the news of his death reached me at a most unhappy time—that is to say, just at bedtime on a summer night when a prodigious storm of thunder and lightning accompanied by a deluging rain that turned the streets and lanes into rivers, caused me to repent and resolve to lead a better life. I can remember those awful thunder-bursts and the white glare of the lightning yet, and the wild lashing of the rain against the window-panes. By my teachings I perfectly well knew what all the wild riot was for—Satan had come to get Injun Joe. I had no shadow of doubt about it. It was the proper thing when a person like Injun Joe was required in the underworld, and I should have thought it strange and unaccountable if Satan had come for him in a less impressive way. With every glare of lightning I shriveled and shrunk together in mortal terror, and in the interval of black darkness that followed I poured out my lamentings over my lost condition, and my supplications for just one more chance, with an energy and feeling and sincerity quite foreign to my nature.
But in the morning I saw that it was a false alarm and concluded to resume business at the old stand and wait for another reminder.
The axiom says “History repeats itself.” A week or two ago my nephew, by marriage, Edward Loomis, dined with us, along with his wife, my niece (née Julie Langdon). He is Vice-President of the Delaware and Lackawanna Railway system. The duties of his office used to carry him frequently to Elmira, New York; the exigencies of his courtship carried him there still oftener, and so in the course of time he came to know a good many of the citizens of that place. At dinner he mentioned a circumstance which flashed me back over about sixty years and landed me in that little bedroom on that tempestuous night, and brought to my mind how creditable to me was my conduct through that whole night, and how barren it was of moral spot or fleck during that entire period: he said Mr. Buckly was sexton, or something, of the Episcopal church in Elmira, and had been for many years the competent superintendent of all the church’s worldly affairs, and was regarded by the whole congregation as a stay, a blessing, a priceless treasure. But he had a couple of defects—not large defects, but they seemed large when flung against the background of his profoundly religious character: he drank a good deal, and he could outswear a brakeman. A movement arose to persuade him to lay aside these vices, and after consulting with his pal, who occupied the same position as himself in the other Episcopal church, and whose defects were duplicates of his own and had inspired regret in the congregation he was serving, they concluded to try for reform—not wholesale, but half at a time. They took the liquor pledge and waited for results. During nine days the results were entirely satisfactory, and they were recipients of many compliments and much congratulation. Then on New Year’s Eve they had business a mile and a half out of town, just beyond the New York State line. Everything went well with them that evening in the bar-room of the inn—but at last the celebration of the occasion by those villagers came to be of a burdensome nature. It was a bitter cold night and the multitudinous hot toddies that were circulating began by and by to exert a powerful influence upon the new prohibitionists. At last Buckly’s friend remarked,
“Buckly, does it occur to you that we are outside the diocese?”
That ended reform No. 1. Then they took a chance in reform No. 2. For a while that one prospered, and they got much applause. I now reach the incident which sent me back a matter of sixty years, as I have remarked a while ago.
One morning this step-nephew of mine, Loomis, met Buckly on the street and said,
“You have made a gallant struggle against those defects of yours. I am aware that you failed on No. 1, but I am also aware that you are having better luck with No. 2.”
“Yes,” Buckly said, “No. 2 is all right and sound up to date, and we are full of hope.”
Loomis said, “Buckly, of course you have your troubles like other people, but they never show on the outside. I have never seen you when you were not cheerful. Are you always cheerful? Really always cheerful?”
“Well, no” he said, “no, I can’t say that I am always cheerful, but—well, you know that kind of a night that comes: say—you wake up ‘way in the night and the whole world is sunk in gloom and there are storms and earthquakes and all sorts of disasters in the air threatening, and you get cold and clammy; and when that happens to me I recognize how sinful I am and it all goes clear to my heart and wrings it and I have such terrors and terrors!—oh they are indescribable, those terrors that assail and thrill me, and I slip out of bed and get on my knees and pray and pray and pray and promise that I will be good, if I can only have another chance. And then, you know, in the morning the sun shines out so lovely, and the birds sing and the whole world is so beautiful, and—b’ God I rally!”
Now I will quote a brief paragraph from this letter which I have received from Mr. Toncray. He says:
You no doubt are at a loss to know who I am. I will tell you. In my younger days I was a resident of Hannibal, Mo., and you and I were schoolmates attending Mr. Dawson’s school along with Sam and Will Bowen and Andy Fuqua and others whose names I have forgotten. I was then about the smallest boy in school, for my age, and they called me little Aleck Toncray for short.
I don’t remember Aleck Toncray, but I knew those other people as well as I knew the town-drunkards. I remember Dawson’s schoolhouse perfectly. If I wanted to describe it I could save myself the trouble by conveying the description of it to these pages from “Tom Sawyer.” I can remember the drowsy and inviting summer sounds that used to float in through the open windows from that distant boy-paradise, Cardiff Hill, (Holliday’s Hill,) and mingle with the murmurs of the studying pupils and make them the more dreary by the contrast. I remember Andy Fuqua, the oldest pupil—a man of twenty-five. I remember the youngest pupil, Nannie Owsley, a child of seven. I remember George Robards, eighteen or twenty years old, the only pupil who studied Latin. I remember—in some cases vividly, in others vaguely—the rest of the twenty-five boys and girls. I remember Mr. Dawson very well. I remember his boy, Theodore, who was as good as he could be. In fact he was inordinately good, extravagantly good, offensively good, detestably good—and he had pop-eyes—and I would have drowned him if I had had a chance. In that school we were all about on an equality, and, so far as I remember, the passion of envy had no place in our hearts, except in the case of Arch Fuqua—the other one’s brother. Of course we all went barefoot in the summertime. Arch Fuqua was about my own age—ten or eleven. In the winter we could stand him, because he wore shoes then, and his great gift was hidden from our sight and we were enabled to forget it. But in the summertime he was a bitterness to us. He was our envy, for he could double back his big toe and let it fly and you could hear it snap thirty yards. There was not another boy in the school that could approach this feat. He had not a rival as regards a physical distinction—except in Theodore Eddy, who could work his ears like a horse. But he was no real rival, because you couldn’t hear him work his ears; so all the advantage lay with Arch Fuqua.
I am not done with Dawson’s school; I will return to it in a later chapter.
Friday, March 9, 1906
Mr. Clemens tells of several of his schoolmates in Mr. Dawson’s Hannibal school—George Robards and Mary Moss—John Robards, who traveled far—John Garth and Helen Kercheval—Mr. Kercheval’s slave woman and his apprentice save Mr. Clemens from drowning in Bear Creek—Meredith, who became a guerrilla chief in Civil War—Will and Sam Bowen, Mississippi pilots—Died of yellow fever.
I am talking of a time sixty years ago, and upwards. I remember the names of some of those schoolmates, and, by fitful glimpses, even their faces rise dimly before me for a moment—only just long enough to be recognized; then they vanish. I catch glimpses of George Robards, the Latin pupil—slender, pale, studious, bending over his book and absorbed in it, his long straight black hair hanging down below his jaws like a pair of curtains on the sides of his face. I can see him give his head a toss and flirt one of the curtains back around his head—to get it out of his way, apparently; really to show off. In that day it was a great thing among the boys to have hair of so flexible a sort that it could be flung back in that way, with a flirt of the head. George Robards was the envy of us all. For there was no hair among us that was so competent for this exhibition as his—except, perhaps, the yellow locks of Will Bowen and John Robards. My hair was a dense ruck of short curls, and so was my brother Henry’s. We tried all kinds of devices to get these crooks straightened out so that they would flirt, but we never succeeded. Sometimes, by soaking our heads and then combing and brushing our hair down tight and flat to our skulls, we could get it straight, temporarily, and this gave us a comforting moment of joy; but the first time we gave it a flirt it all shriveled into curls again and our happiness was gone.
George was a fine young fellow in all ways. He and Mary Moss were sweethearts and pledged to eternal constancy, from a time when they were merely children. But Mr. Lakenan arrived now and became a resident. He took an important position in the little town at once, and maintained it. He brought with him a distinguished reputation as a lawyer. He was educated, cultured; he was grave even to austerity; he was dignified in his conversation and deportment. He was a rather oldish bachelor—as bachelor oldishness was estimated in that day. He was a rising man. He was contemplated with considerable awe by the community, and as a catch he stood at the top of the market. That blooming and beautiful thing, Mary Moss, attracted his favor. He laid siege to her and won. Everybody said she accepted him to please her parents, not herself. They were married. And everybody again, testifying, said he continued her schooling all by himself, proposing to educate her up to standard and make her a meet companion for him. These things may be true. They may not be true. But they were interesting. That is the main requirement in a village like that. George went away, presently, to some far-off region and there he died—of a broken heart, everybody said. That could be true, for he had good cause. He would go far before he would find another Mary Moss.
How long ago that little tragedy happened! None but the white heads know about it now. Lakenan is dead these many years, but Mary still lives, and is still beautiful, although she has grandchildren. I saw her and one of her married daughters when I went out to Missouri four years ago to receive an honorary LL.D. from Missouri University.
John Robards was the little brother of George; he was a wee chap with silky golden curtains to his face which dangled to his shoulders and below, and could be flung back ravishingly. When he was twelve years old he crossed the plains with his father amidst the rush of the gold seekers of ’49; and I remember the departure of the cavalcade when it spurred westward. We were all there to see and to envy. And I can still see that proud little chap sailing by on a great horse, with his long locks streaming out behind. We were all on hand to gaze and envy when he returned, two years later, in unimaginable glory—for he had traveled! None of us had ever been forty miles from home. But he had crossed the continent. He had been in the gold-mines, that fairyland of our imagination. And he had done a still more wonderful thing. He had been in ships—in ships on the actual ocean; in ships on three actual oceans. For he had sailed down the Pacific and around the Horn among icebergs and through snow-storms and wild wintry gales, and had sailed on and turned the corner and flown northward in the trades and up through the blistering equatorial waters—and there in his brown face were the proofs of what he had been through. We would have sold our souls to Satan for the privilege of trading places with him.
I saw him when I was out on that Missouri trip four years ago. He was old then—though not quite so old as I—and the burden of life was upon him. He said his granddaughter, twelve years old, had read my books and would like to see me. It was a pathetic time, for she was a prisoner in her room and marked for death. And John knew that she was passing swiftly away. Twelve years old—just her grandfather’s age when he rode away on that great journey with his yellow hair flapping behind him. In her I seemed to see that boy again. It was as if he had come back out of that remote past and was present before me in his golden youth. Her malady was heart disease, and her brief life came to a close a few days later.
Another of those schoolboys was John Garth. And one of the prettiest of the schoolgirls was Helen Kercheval. They grew up and married. He became a prosperous banker and a prominent and valued citizen; and a few years ago he died, rich and honored. He died. It is what I have to say about so many of those boys and girls. The widow still lives, and there are grandchildren. In her pantalette days and my barefoot days she was a schoolmate of mine. I saw John’s tomb when I made that Missouri visit.
Her father, Mr. Kercheval, had an apprentice in the early days when I was nine years old, and he had also a slave woman who had many merits. But I can’t feel very kindly or forgivingly toward either that good apprentice boy or that good slave woman, for they saved my life. One day when I was playing on a loose log which I supposed was attached to a raft—but it wasn’t—it tilted me into Bear Creek. And when I had been under water twice and was coming up to make the third and fatal descent my fingers appeared above the water and that slave woman seized them and pulled me out. Within a week I was in again, and that apprentice had to come along just at the wrong time, and he plunged in and dived, pawed around on the bottom and found me, and dragged me out and emptied the water out of me, and I was saved again. I was drowned seven times after that before I learned to swim—once in Bear Creek and six times in the Mississippi. I do not now know who the people were who interfered with the intentions of a Providence wiser than themselves, but I hold a grudge against them yet. When I told the tale of these remarkable happenings to Rev. Dr. Burton of Hartford, he said he did not believe it. He slipped on the ice the very next year and sprained his ancle.
Another schoolmate was John Meredith, a boy of a quite uncommonly sweet and gentle disposition. He grew up, and when the Civil War broke out he became a sort of guerrilla chief on the Confederate side, and I was told that in his raids upon Union families in the country parts of Monroe County—in earlier times the friends and familiars of his father—he was remorseless in his devastations and sheddings of blood. It seems almost incredible that this could have been that gentle comrade of my school days; yet it can be true, for Robespierre when he was young was like that. John has been in his grave many and many a year.
Will Bowen was another schoolmate, and so was his brother, Sam, who was his junior by a couple of years. Before the Civil War broke out both became St. Louis and New Orleans pilots. While Sam was still very young he had a curious adventure. He fell in love with a girl of sixteen, only child of a very wealthy German brewer. He wanted to marry her, but he and she both thought that the papa would not only not consent, but would shut his door against Sam. The old man was not so disposed, but they were not aware of that. He had his eye upon them, and it was not a hostile eye. That indiscreet young couple got to living together surreptitiously. Before long the old man died. When the will was examined it was found that he had left the whole of his wealth to Mrs. Samuel A. Bowen. Then the poor things made another mistake. They rushed down to the German suburb, Carondelet, and got a German magistrate to marry them and date the marriage back a few months. The old brewer had some nieces and nephews and cousins, and different kinds of assets of that sort, and they traced out the fraud and proved it and got the property. This left Sam with a girl wife on his hands and the necessity of earning a living for her at the pilot wheel. After a few years Sam and another pilot were bringing a boat up from New Orleans when the yellow fever broke out among the few passengers and the crew. Both pilots were stricken with it and there was nobody to take their place at the wheel. The boat was landed at the head of Island 82 to wait for succor. Death came swiftly to both pilots—and there they lie buried, unless the river has cut the graves away and washed the bones into the stream, a thing which has probably happened long ago.
Monday, March 12, 1906
Mr. Clemens comments on the killing of six hundred Moros—Men, women and children—In a crater bowl near Jolo in the Philippines—Our troops commanded by General Wood—Contrasts this “battle” with various other details of our military history—The newspapers’ attitude toward the announcements—The President’s message of congratulation.
We will stop talking about my schoolmates of sixty years ago, for the present, and return to them later. They strongly interest me, and I am not going to leave them alone permanently. Strong as that interest is, it is for the moment pushed out of the way by an incident of to-day, which is still stronger. This incident burst upon the world last Friday in an official cablegram from the commander of our forces in the Philippines to our Government at Washington. The substance of it was as follows:
A tribe of Moros, dark skinned savages, had fortified themselves in the bowl of an extinct crater not many miles from Jolo; and as they were hostiles, and bitter against us because we have been trying for eight years to take their liberties away from them, their presence in that position was a menace. Our commander, General Leonard Wood, ordered a reconnaissance. It was found that the Moros numbered six hundred, counting women and children; that their crater bowl was in the summit of a peak or mountain twenty-two hundred feet above sea level, and very difficult of access for Christian troops and artillery. Then General Wood ordered a surprise, and went along himself to see the order carried out. Our troops climbed the heights by devious and difficult trails, and even took some artillery with them. The kind of artillery is not specified, but in one place it was hoisted up a sharp acclivity by tackle a distance of some three hundred feet. Arrived at the rim of the crater, the battle began. Our soldiers numbered five hundred and forty. They were assisted by auxiliaries consisting of a detachment of native constabulary in our pay—their numbers not given—and by a naval detachment, whose numbers are not stated. But apparently the contending parties were about equal as to number—six hundred men on our side, on the edge of the bowl; six hundred men, women and children in the bottom of the bowl. Depth of the bowl, fifty feet.
General Wood’s order was “Kill or capture the six hundred.”
The battle began—it is officially called by that name—our forces firing down into the crater with their artillery and their deadly small arms of precision; the savages furiously returning the fire, probably with brickbats—though this is merely a surmise of mine, as the weapons used by the savages are not nominated in the cablegram. Heretofore the Moros have used knives and clubs mainly; also ineffectual trade-muskets when they had any.
The official report stated that the battle was fought with prodigious energy on both sides during a day and a half, and that it ended with a complete victory for the American arms. The completeness of the victory is established by this fact: that of the six hundred Moros not one was left alive. The brilliancy of the victory is established by this other fact, to wit: that of our six hundred heroes only fifteen lost their lives.
General Wood was present and looking on. His order had been “Kill or capture those savages.” Apparently our little army considered that the “or” left them authorized to kill or capture according to taste, and that their taste had remained what it has been for eight years, in our army out there—the taste of Christian butchers.
The official report quite properly extolled and magnified the “heroism” and “gallantry” of our troops; lamented the loss of the fifteen who perished, and elaborated the wounds of thirty-two of our men who suffered injury, and even minutely and faithfully described the nature of the wounds, in the interest of future historians of the United States. It mentioned that a private had one of his elbows scraped by a missile, and the private’s name was mentioned. Another private had the end of his nose scraped by a missile. His name was also mentioned—by cable, at one dollar and fifty cents a word.
Next day’s news confirmed the previous day’s report and named our fifteen killed and thirty-two wounded again, and once more described the wounds and gilded them with the right adjectives.
Let us now consider two or three details of our military history. In one of the great battles of the Civil War 10 per cent of the forces engaged on the two sides were killed and wounded. At Waterloo, where four hundred thousand men were present on the two sides, fifty thousand fell, killed and wounded, in five hours, leaving three hundred and fifty thousand sound and all right for further adventures. Eight years ago, when the pathetic comedy called the Cuban war was played, we summoned two hundred and fifty thousand men. We fought a number of showy battles, and when the war was over we had lost two hundred and sixty-eight men out of our two hundred and fifty thousand, in killed and wounded in the field, and just fourteen times as many by the gallantry of the army doctors in the hospitals and camps. We did not exterminate the Spaniards—far from it. In each engagement we left an average of 2 per cent of the enemy killed or crippled on the field.
Contrast these things with the great statistics which have arrived from that Moro crater! There, with six hundred engaged on each side, we lost fifteen men killed outright, and we had thirty-two wounded—counting that nose and that elbow. The enemy numbered six hundred—including women and children—and we abolished them utterly, leaving not even a baby alive to cry for its dead mother. This is incomparably the greatest victory that was ever achieved by the Christian soldiers of the United States.
Now then, how has it been received? The splendid news appeared with splendid display-heads in every newspaper in this city of four million and thirteen thousand inhabitants, on Friday morning. But there was not a single reference to it in the editorial columns of any one of those newspapers. The news appeared again in all the evening papers of Friday, and again those papers were editorially silent upon our vast achievement. Next day’s additional statistics and particulars appeared in all the morning papers, and still without a line of editorial rejoicing or a mention of the matter in any way. These additions appeared in the evening papers of that same day (Saturday) and again without a word of comment. In the columns devoted to correspondence, in the morning and evening papers of Friday and Saturday, nobody said a word about the “battle.” Ordinarily those columns are teeming with the passions of the citizen; he lets no incident go by, whether it be large or small, without pouring out his praise or blame, his joy or his indignation about the matter in the correspondence column. But, as I have said, during those two days he was as silent as the editors themselves. So far as I can find out, there was only one person among our eighty millions who allowed himself the privilege of a public remark on this great occasion—that was the President of the United States. All day Friday he was as studiously silent as the rest. But on Saturday he recognized that his duty required him to say something, and he took his pen and performed that duty. If I know President Roosevelt—and I am sure I do—this utterance cost him more pain and shame than any other that ever issued from his pen or his mouth. I am far from blaming him. If I had been in his place my official duty would have compelled me to say what he said. It was a convention, an old tradition, and he had to be loyal to it. There was no help for it. This is what he said:
Washington, March 10.
Wood, Manila:—
I congratulate you and the officers and men of your command upon the brilliant feat of arms wherein you and they so well upheld the honor of the American flag.
(Signed) Theodore Roosevelt.
His whole utterance is merely a convention. Not a word of what he said came out of his heart. He knew perfectly well that to pen six hundred helpless and weaponless savages in a hole like rats in a trap and massacre them in detail during a stretch of a day and a half, from a safe position on the heights above, was no brilliant feat of arms—and would not have been a brilliant feat of arms even if Christian America, represented by its salaried soldiers, had shot them down with Bibles and the Golden Rule instead of bullets. He knew perfectly well that our uniformed assassins had not upheld the honor of the American flag, but had done as they have been doing continuously for eight years in the Philippines—that is to say, they had dishonored it.
The next day, Sunday,—which was yesterday—the cable brought us additional news—still more splendid news—still more honor for the flag. The first display-head shouts this information at us in stentorian capitals: “WOMEN SLAIN IN MORO SLAUGHTER.”
“Slaughter” is a good word. Certainly there is not a better one in the Unabridged Dictionary for this occasion.
The next display line says:
“With Children They Mixed in Mob in Crater, and All Died Together.”
They were mere naked savages, and yet there is a sort of pathos about it when that word children falls under your eye, for it always brings before us our perfectest symbol of innocence and helplessness; and by help of its deathless eloquence color, creed and nationality vanish away and we see only that they are children—merely children. And if they are frightened and crying and in trouble, our pity goes out to them by natural impulse. We see a picture. We see the small forms. We see the terrified faces. We see the tears. We see the small hands clinging in supplication to the mother; but we do not see those children that we are speaking about. We see in their places the little creatures whom we know and love.
The next heading blazes with American and Christian glory like to the sun in the zenith:
“Death List is Now 900.”
I was never so enthusiastically proud of the flag till now!
The next heading explains how safely our daring soldiers were located. It says:
“Impossible to Tell Sexes Apart in Fierce Battle on Top of Mount Dajo.”
The naked savages were so far away, down in the bottom of that trap, that our soldiers could not tell the breasts of a woman from the rudimentary paps of a man—so far away that they couldn’t tell a toddling little child from a black six-footer. This was by all odds the least dangerous battle that Christian soldiers of any nationality were ever engaged in.
The next heading says:
“Fighting for Four Days.”
So our men were at it four days instead of a day and a half. It was a long and happy picnic with nothing to do but sit in comfort and fire the Golden Rule into those people down there and imagine letters to write home to the admiring families, and pile glory upon glory. Those savages fighting for their liberties had the four days too, but it must have been a sorrowful time for them. Every day they saw two hundred and twenty-five of their number slain, and this provided them grief and mourning for the night—and doubtless without even the relief and consolation of knowing that in the meantime they had slain four of their enemies and wounded some more on the elbow and the nose.
The closing heading says:
“Lieutenant Johnson Blown from Parapet by Exploding Artillery Gallantly Leading Charge.”
Lieutenant Johnson has pervaded the cablegrams from the first. He and his wound have sparkled around through them like the serpentine thread of fire that goes excursioning through the black crisp fabric of a fragment of burnt paper. It reminds one of Gillette’s comedy farce of a few years ago, “Too Much Johnson.” Apparently Johnson was the only wounded man on our side whose wound was worth anything as an advertisement. It has made a great deal more noise in the world than has any similarly colossal event since “Humpty Dumpty” fell off the wall and got injured. The official dispatches do not know which to admire most, Johnson’s adorable wound or the nine hundred murders. The ecstasies flowing from Army Headquarters on the other side of the globe to the White House, at a dollar and a half a word, have set fire to similar ecstasies in the President’s breast. It appears that the immortally wounded was a Rough Rider under Lieutenant Colonel Roosevelt at San Juan Hill—that extinguisher of Waterloo—when the Colonel of the regiment, the present Major General Dr. Leonard Wood, went to the rear to bring up the pills and missed the fight. The President has a warm place in his heart for anybody who was present at that bloody collision of military solar systems, and so he lost no time in cabling to the wounded hero “How are you?” And got a cable answer, “Fine, thanks.” This is historical. This will go down to posterity.
Johnson was wounded in the shoulder with a slug. The slug was in a shell—for the account says the damage was caused by an exploding shell which blew Johnson off the rim. The people down in the hole had no artillery; therefore it was our artillery that blew Johnson off the rim. And so it is now a matter of historical record that the only officer of ours who acquired a wound of advertising dimensions got it at our hands, not the enemy’s. It seems more than probable that if we had placed our soldiers out of the way of our own weapons, we should have come out of the most extraordinary battle in all history without a scratch.
Wednesday, March 14, 1906
Moro slaughter continued—Luncheon for George Harvey—Opinions of the guests as to Moro fight—Cable from General Wood explaining and apologizing—What became of the wounded?—President Roosevelt’s joy over the splendid achievement—Manner in which he made Wood Major General—McKinley’s joy over capture of Aguinaldo.
The ominous paralysis continues. There has been a slight sprinkle—an exceedingly slight sprinkle—in the correspondence columns, of angry rebukes of the President for calling this cowardly massacre a “brilliant feat of arms,” and for praising our butchers for “holding up the honor of the flag” in that singular way; but there is hardly a ghost of a whisper about the feat of arms in the editorial columns of the papers.
I hope that this silence will continue. It is about as eloquent and as damaging and effective as the most indignant words could be, I think. When a man is sleeping in a noise, his sleep goes placidly on; but if the noise stops, the stillness wakes him. This silence has continued five days now. Surely it must be waking the drowsy nation. Surely the nation must be wondering what it means. A five-day silence following a world-astonishing event has not happened on this planet since the daily newspaper was invented.
At a luncheon party of men convened yesterday to God-speed George Harvey, who is leaving to-day for a vacation in Europe, all the talk was about the brilliant feat of arms; and no one had anything to say about it that either the President or Major General Dr. Wood, or the damaged Johnson, would regard as complimentary, or as proper comment to put into our histories. Harvey said he believed that the shock and shame of this episode would eat down deeper and deeper into the hearts of the nation and fester there and produce results. He believed it would destroy the Republican party and President Roosevelt. I cannot believe that the prediction will come true, for the reason that prophecies which promise valuable things, desirable things, good things, worthy things, never come true. Prophecies of this kind are like wars fought in a good cause—they are so rare that they don’t count.
Day before yesterday the cable-note from the happy General Dr. Wood was still all glorious. There was still proud mention and elaboration of what was called the “desperate hand-to-hand fight,” Dr. Wood not seeming to suspect that he was giving himself away, as the phrase goes—since if there was any very desperate hand-to-hand fighting it would necessarily happen that nine hundred hand-to-hand fighters, if really desperate, would surely be able to kill more than fifteen of our men before their last man and woman and child perished.
Very well, there was a new note in the dispatches yesterday afternoon—just a faint suggestion that Dr. Wood was getting ready to lower his tone and begin to apologize and explain. He announces that he assumes full responsibility for the fight. It indicates that he is aware that there is a lurking disposition here amidst all this silence to blame somebody. He says there was “no wanton destruction of women and children in the fight, though many of them were killed by force of necessity because the Moros used them as shields in the hand-to-hand fighting.”
This explanation is better than none; indeed it is considerably better than none. Yet if there was so much hand-to-hand fighting there must have arrived a time, toward the end of the four days’ butchery, when only one native was left alive. We had six hundred men present; we had lost only fifteen; why did the six hundred kill that remaining man—or woman, or child?
Dr. Wood will find that explaining things is not in his line. He will find that where a man has the proper spirit in him and the proper force at his command, it is easier to massacre nine hundred unarmed animals than it is to explain why he made it so remorselessly complete. Next he furnishes us this sudden burst of unconscious humor, which shows that he ought to edit his reports before he cables them:
“Many of the Moros feigned death and butchered the American hospital men who were relieving the wounded.”
We have the curious spectacle of hospital men going around trying to relieve the wounded savages—for what reason? The savages were all massacred. The plain intention was to massacre them all and leave none alive. Then where was the use in furnishing mere temporary relief to a person who was presently to be exterminated? The dispatches call this battue a “battle.” In what way was it a battle? It has no resemblance to a battle. In a battle there are always as many as five wounded men to one killed outright. When this so-called battle was over, there were certainly not fewer than two hundred wounded savages lying on the field. What became of them? Since not one savage was left alive!
The inference seems plain. We cleaned up our four days’ work and made it complete by butchering those helpless people.
The President’s joy over the splendid achievement of his fragrant pet, General Wood, brings to mind an earlier Presidential ecstasy. When the news came, in 1901, that Colonel Funston had penetrated to the refuge of the patriot, Aguinaldo, in the mountains, and had captured him by the use of these arts, to wit: by forgery, by lies, by disguising his military marauders in the uniform of the enemy, by pretending to be friends of Aguinaldo’s and by disarming suspicion by cordially shaking hands with Aguinaldo’s officers and in that moment shooting them down—when the cablegram announcing this “brilliant feat of arms” reached the White House, the newspapers said that that meekest and mildest and gentlest and least masculine of men, President McKinley, could not control his joy and gratitude, but was obliged to express it in motions resembling a dance. Also President McKinley expressed his admiration in another way. He instantly shot that militia Colonel aloft over the heads of a hundred clean and honorable veteran officers of the army and made him a Brigadier General in the regular service, and clothed him in the honorable uniform of that rank, thus disgracing the uniform, the flag, the nation, and himself.
Wood was an army surgeon, during several years, out West among the Indian hostiles. Roosevelt got acquainted with him and fell in love with him. When Roosevelt was offered the colonelcy of a regiment in the iniquitous Cuban-Spanish war, he took the place of Lieutenant Colonel and used his influence to get the higher place for Wood. After the war Wood became our Governor General in Cuba and proceeded to make a mephitic record for himself. Under President Roosevelt, this doctor has been pushed and crowded along higher and higher in the military service—always over the heads of a number of better men—and at last when Roosevelt wanted to make him a Major General in the regular army (with only five other Major Generals between him and the supreme command) and knew, or believed, that the Senate would not confirm Wood’s nomination to that great place, he accomplished Wood’s appointment by a very unworthy device. He could appoint Wood himself, and make the appointment good, between sessions of Congress. There was no such opportunity, but he invented one. A special session was closing at noon. When the gavel fell extinguishing the special session, a regular session began instantly. Roosevelt claimed that there was an interval there determinable as the twentieth of a second by a stop-watch, and that during that interval no Congress was in session. By this subterfuge he foisted this discredited doctor upon the army and the nation, and the Senate hadn’t spirit enough to repudiate it.
March 15, 1906
Monday, March 5, 1906. Mr. Clemens talks to the West Side Young Men’s Christian Association in the Majestic Theatre—Miss Lyon meets one of the Christian young men at the door—Patrick’s funeral—Luncheon next day at the Hartford Club—Mr. Clemens meets eleven of his old friends—They tell many stories: Rev. Dr. McKnight and the Jersey funeral—Mr. Twichell’s story on board the Kanawha, about Richard Croker’s father—The Mary Ann story—Decoration Day and the fiery Major and Mr. Twichell’s interrupted prayer.

Bungle at the Majestic Theatre Angers Y.M.C.A. Men.


Mr. Clemens Gives Some Advice About the Treatment of Corporations and Talks About Gentlemen.
Members of the West Side Branch of the Young Men’s Christian Association found that entering the Majestic Theatre yesterday afternoon to hear an address by Mark Twain had a close resemblance to a football match. No one was injured, but for a few minutes the police were hustling the crowd backward and forward by sheer force, a mounted man was sent to push his way through the thickest of the press and the jam was perilous.
The doors of the theatre should have been opened at 3 o’clock, and about three hundred persons were there at that time. It was an orderly crowd of young men with a sprinkling of elderly ones, but Capt. Daly of the West Forty-seventh Street Station would not allow them to be admitted until he had summoned the reserves. It took twenty minutes for these to arrive and every moment the crush grew greater. Still there was no disorder and the police as they formed into line had to face nothing more dangerous than a little good-humored chaff.
The crowd was ranged in a rough column facing the main doors of the lobby. The Young Men’s Christian Association authorities came out several times and asked the Captain to allow the doors to be opened.
“If you do it, I’ll take away my men and there’ll be a lot of people hurt or killed,” he replied. “I know how to handle crowds.”
Then he proceeded to handle the crowds. He tried to swing the long solid line up against the southwestern side of Columbus Circle and force them in by the side entrance of the lobby, instead of the one they faced. First he sent a mounted man right through the column. The patrolmen followed and in a moment the orderly gathering was hustled and thrust in all directions.
Capt. Daly’s next manoeuvre was to open the side door. The crowd surged up, but he had them pushed back, and closed the door again. The crowd was utterly bewildered. Then the Young Men’s Christian Association authorities opened one-half of the door on their own responsibility. Through this narrow passage the crowd squeezed. The plate glass in the half that was closed was shattered to atoms, and the men surged forward. A few coats were torn, but in spite of the way in which they had been handled everybody kept his temper. If there had been any disorderly element present nothing could have avoided serious accidents. In the end all but 500 gained admission.
Hold Police Responsible.
At the opening of the meeting, the Rev. Dr. Charles P. Fagnani, the Chairman, said: “The management desires to disclaim all responsibility for what has happened. [Cheers.] The matter was taken out of their hands by the police. [Hisses.] We wanted to open the doors earlier, but our lords and masters, the police, took the matter into their own hands and settled it in their own way. [Hisses.] You have been accustomed long enough to being brutally treated by the police, and I do not see why you should mind it. [A voice: “You’re right.”] Some day you will take matters into your own hands and will decide that the police shall be the servants of the citizens.”
At the end of the meeting, Charles F. Powlison, Secretary of the West Side Branch, stated he had been asked to submit a resolution condemning the action of the police, but it has been decided it was better not to do so.
Mark Twain was introduced as a man “well worth being clubbed to hear.” He was greeted with a storm of applause that lasted over a minute.
“I thank you for this signal recognition of merit,” he said. “I have been listening to what has been said about citizenship. You complain of the police. You created the police. You are responsible for the police. They must reflect you, their masters. Consider that before you blame them.
“Citizenship is of the first importance in a land where a body of citizens can change the whole atmosphere of politics, as has been done in Philadelphia. There is less graft there than there used to be. I was going to move to Philadelphia, but it is no place for enterprise now.
“Dr. Russell spoke of organization. I was an organization once myself for twelve hours, and accomplished things I could never have done otherwise. When they say ‘Step lively,’ remember it is not an insult from a conductor to you personally, but from the President of the road to you, an embodiment of American citizenship. When the insult is flung at your old mother and father, it shows the meanness of the omnipotent President, who could stop it if he would.
Mark Twain Got the Stateroom.
“I was an organization once. I was traveling from Chicago with my publisher and stenographer—I always travel with a bodyguard—and engaged a stateroom on a certain train. For above all its other conveniences the stateroom gives the privilege of smoking. When we arrived at the station the conductor told us he was sorry the car with our stateroom was left off. I said: ‘You are under contract to furnish a stateroom on this train. I am in no hurry. I can stay here a week at the road’s expense. It’ll have to pay my expenses and a little over.’
“Then the conductor called a grandee, and, after some argument, he went and bundled some meek people out of the stateroom, told them something not strictly true, and gave it me. About 11 o’clock the conductor looked in on me, and was very kind and winning. He told me he knew my father-in-law—it was much more respectable to know my father-in-law than me in those days. Then he developed his game. He was very sorry the car was only going to Harrisburg. They had telegraphed to Harrisburg, Pittsburg, San Francisco, and couldn’t get another car. He threw himself on my mercy. But to him I only replied:
“ ‘Then you had better buy the car.’
“I had forgotten all about this, when some time after Mr. Thomson of the Pennsylvania heard I was going to Chicago again, and wired:
“ ‘I am sending my private car. Clemens cannot ride on an ordinary car. He costs too much.’ ”
Yesterday, in the afternoon, I talked to the West Side Young Men’s Christian Association in the Majestic Theatre. The audience was to have been restricted to the membership, or at least to the membership’s sex, but I had asked for a couple of stage boxes and had invited friends of mine of both sexes to occupy them. There was trouble out at the doors, and I became afraid that these friends would not get in. Miss Lyon volunteered to go out and see if she could find them and rescue them from the crowd. She was a pretty small person for such a service, but maybe her lack of dimensions was in her favor, rather than against it. She plowed her way through the incoming masculine wave and arrived outside, where she captured the friends, and also had an adventure. Just as the police were closing the doors of the theatre and announcing to the crowd that the place was full and no more could be admitted, a flushed and excited man crowded his way to the door and got as much as his nose in, but there the officer closed the door and the man was outside. He and Miss Lyon were for the moment the centre of attention—she because of her solitariness in that sea of masculinity, and he because he had been defeated before folks, a thing which we all enjoy, even when we are West Side Young Christians and ought to let on that we don’t. The man looked down at Miss Lyon—anybody can do that without standing on a chair—and he began pathetically—I say began pathetically; the pathos of his manner and his words was confined to his beginning. He began on Miss Lyon, then shifted to the crowd for a finish. He said “I have been a member of this West Side Young Men’s Christian Association in good standing for seven years, and have always done the best I could, yet never once got any reward.” He paused half an instant, shot a bitter glance at the closed door, and added with deep feeling “It’s just my God damned luck.”
I think it damaged my speech for Miss Lyon. The speech was well enough—certainly better than the report of it in the papers—but in spite of her compliments, I knew there was nothing in it as good as what she had heard outside; and by the delight which she exhibited in that outsider’s eloquence I knew that she knew it.
I will insert here a passage from the newspaper report, because it refers to Patrick.
Definition of a Gentleman.
Mark Twain went on to speak of the man who left $10,000 to disseminate his definition of a gentleman. He denied that he had ever defined one, but said if he did he would include the mercifulness, fidelity, and justice the Scripture read at the meeting spoke of. He produced a letter from William Dean Howells, and said:
“He writes he is just 69, but I have known him longer than that. ‘I was born to be afraid of dying, not of getting old,’ he says. Well, I’m the other way. It’s terrible getting old. You gradually lose your faculties and fascinations and become troublesome. People try to make you think you are not. But I know I’m troublesome.
“Then he says no part of life is so enjoyable as the eighth decade. That’s true. I’ve just turned it, and I enjoy it very much. ‘If old men were not so ridiculous’—why didn’t he speak for himself? ‘But,’ he goes on, ‘they are ridiculous, and they are ugly.’ I never saw a letter with so many errors in it. Ugly! I was never ugly in my life! Forty years ago I was not so good-looking. A looking glass then lasted me three months. Now I can wear it out in two days.
“ ‘You’ve been up in Hartford burying poor old Patrick. I suppose he was old, too,’ says Mr. Howells. No, he was not old. Patrick came to us thirty-six years ago—a brisk, lithe young Irishman. He was as beautiful in his graces as he was in his spirit, and he was as honest a man as ever lived. For twenty-five years he was our coachman, and if I were going to describe a gentleman in detail I would describe Patrick.
“At my own request I was his pall-bearer with our old gardener. He drove me and my bride so long ago. As the little children came along he drove them, too. He was all the world to them, and for all in my house he had the same feelings of honor, honesty, and affection.
“He was 60 years old, ten years younger than I. Howells suggests he was old. He was not so old. He had the same gracious and winning ways to the end. Patrick was a gentleman, and to him I would apply the lines:
So may I be courteous to men, faithful to friends,
True to my God, a fragrance in the path I trod.”
At the funeral I saw Patrick’s family. I had seen no member of it for a good many years. The children were men and women. When I had seen them last they were little creatures. So far as I could remember I had not seen them since as little chaps they joined with ours, and with the children of the neighbors, in celebrating Christmas Eve around a Christmas tree in our house, on which occasion Patrick came down the chimney (apparently) disguised as St. Nicholas, and performed the part to the admiration of the little and the big alike.
John, our old gardener, was a fellow pall-bearer with me. The rest were Irish coachmen and laborers—old friends of Patrick. The Cathedral was half filled with people.
I spent the night at Twichell’s house, that night, and at noon next day at the Hartford Club I met, at a luncheon, eleven of my oldest friends—Charley Clark, editor of the Courant; Judge Hamersley, of the Supreme Court; Colonel Cheney, Sam Dunham, Twichell, Rev. Dr. Parker, Charles E. Perkins, Archie Welch. A deal of pretty jolly reminiscing was done, interspersed with mournings over beloved members of the old comradeship whose names have long ago been carved upon their gravestones.
The Rev. Dr. McKnight was one of these. He was a most delightful man. And in his day he was almost a rival of Twichell in the matter of having adventures. Once when he was serving professionally in New York, a new widower came and begged him to come over to a Jersey town and conduct the funeral of his wife. McKnight consented, but said he should be very uneasy if there should be any delay, because he must be back in New York at a certain hour to officiate at a funeral in his own church. He went over to that Jersey town and when the family and friends were all gathered together in the parlor he rose behind the coffin, put up his hands in the solemn silence and said,
“Let us pray.”
There was a twitch at his coat-tail and he bent down to get the message. The widower whispered and said,
“Not yet, not yet—wait a little.”
McKnight waited a while. Then remembering that time was passing and he must not miss his train and the other funeral, he rose again, put up his hands and said,
“Let us pray.”
There was another twitch at his coat-tail. He bent down and got the same message. “Not yet, not yet—wait a little.”
He waited; became uneasier than ever; got up the third time, put up his hands and got another twitch. This time when he bent down the man explained. He whispered:
“Wait a little. She’s not all here. Stomach’s at the apothecary’s.”
Several things were told on Twichell illustrative of his wide catholicity of feeling and conduct, and I was able to furnish something in this line myself. Three or four years ago, when Sir Thomas Lipton came over here to race for the America cup, I was invited to go with Mr. Rogers and half a dozen other worldlings in Mr. Rogers’s yacht, the Kanawha, to see the race. Mr. Rogers is fond of Twichell and wanted to invite him to go also, but was afraid to do it because he thought Twichell would be uncomfortable among those worldlings. I said I didn’t think that would be the case. I said Twichell was chaplain in a fighting brigade all through the Civil War, and was necessarily familiar with about all the different kinds of worldlings that could be started; so Mr. Rogers told me—though with many misgivings—to invite him, and that he would do his best to see that the worldlings should modify their worldliness and pay proper respect and deference to Twichell’s cloth.
When Twichell and I arrived at the pier at eight in the morning, the launch was waiting for us. All the others were on board. The yacht was anchored out there ready to sail. Twichell and I went aboard and ascended to the little drawing-room on the upper deck. The door stood open, and as we approached we heard hilarious laughter and talk proceeding from that place, and I recognized that the worldlings were having a worldly good time. But as Twichell appeared in the door all that hilarity ceased as suddenly as if it had been shut off with an electric button, and the gay faces of the worldlings at once put on a most proper and impressive solemnity. The last word we had heard from these people was the name of Richard Croker, the celebrated Tammany leader, all-round blatherskite and chief pillager of the municipal till. Twichell shook hands all around and broke out with,
“I heard you mention Richard Croker. I knew his father very well indeed. He was head teamster in our brigade in the Civil War—the Sickles brigade—a fine man; as fine a man as a person would want to know. He was always splashed over with mud, of course, but that didn’t matter. The man inside the muddy clothes was a whole man; and he was educated; he was highly educated. He was a man who had read a great deal. And he was a Greek scholar; not a mere surface scholar, but a real one; used to read aloud from his Greek Testament, and when he hadn’t it handy he could recite from it from memory, and he did it well, and with spirit. Presently I was delighted to see that every now and then he would come over of a Sunday morning and sit under the trees in our camp with our boys and listen to my ministrations. I couldn’t refrain from introducing myself to him—that is I couldn’t refrain from speaking to him about this, and I said,
“Mr. Croker, I want to tell you what a pleasure it is to see you come and sit with my boys and listen to me. For I know what it must cost you to do this, and I want to express my admiration for a man who can put aside his religious prejudices and manifest the breadth and tolerance that you have manifested.” He flushed, and said with eloquent emphasis—
“Mr. Twichell, do you take me for a God damned papist?”
Mr. Rogers said to me, aside, “This relieves me from my burden of uneasiness.”
Twichell, with his big heart, his wide sympathies, and his limitless benignities and charities and generosities, is the kind of person that people of all ages and both sexes fly to for consolation and help in time of trouble. He is always being levied upon by this kind of persons. Years ago—many years ago—a soft-headed young donkey who had been reared under Mr. Twichell’s spiritual ministrations sought a private interview—a very private interview—with him, and said,
“Mr. Twichell, I wish you would give me some advice. It is a very important matter with me. It lies near my heart, and I want to proceed wisely. Now it is like this: I have been down to the Bermudas on the first vacation I have ever had in my life, and there I met a most charming young lady, native of that place, and I fell in love with her, Mr. Twichell. I fell in love with her, oh so deeply! Well, I can’t describe it, Mr. Twichell. I can’t describe it. I have never had such feelings before, and they just consume me; they burn me up. When I got back here I found I couldn’t think of anybody but that girl. I wanted to write to her, but I was afraid. I was afraid. It seemed too bold. I ought to have taken advice, perhaps—but really I was not myself. I had to write—I couldn’t help it. So I wrote to her. I wrote to her as guardedly as my feelings would allow—but I had the sense all the time that I was too bold—I was too bold—she wouldn’t like it. I—well, sometimes I would almost think maybe she would answer; but then there would come a colder wave and I would say—‘No, I shall never hear from her—she will be offended.’ But at last, Mr. Twichell, a letter has come. I don’t know how to contain myself. I want to write again, but I may spoil it—I may spoil it—and I want your advice. Tell me if I had better venture. Now here she has written—here is her letter, Mr. Twichell. She says this: she says—she says—‘You say in your letter you wish it could be your privilege to see me half your time. How would you like it to see me all the time?’ What do you think of that, Mr. Twichell? How does that strike you? Do you think she is not offended? Do you think that that indicates a sort of a shadowy leaning toward me? Do you think it, Mr. Twichell? Could you say that?”
“Well,” Twichell said, “I would not like to be too sanguine. I would not like to commit myself too far. I would not like to put hopes into your mind which could fail of fruition, but, on the whole—on the whole—daring is a good thing in these cases. Sometimes daring—a bold front—will accomplish things that timidity would fail to accomplish. I think I would write her—guardedly of course—but write her.”
“Oh Mr. Twichell, oh you don’t know how happy you do make me. I’ll write her right away. But I’ll be guarded. I’ll be careful—careful.”
Twichell read the rest of the letter—saw that this girl was just simply throwing herself at this young fellow’s head and was going to capture him by fair means or foul, but capture him. But he sent the young fellow away to write the guarded letter.
In due time he came with the girl’s second letter and said,
“Mr. Twichell, will you read that? Now read that. How does that strike you? Is she kind of leaning my way? I wish you could say so, Mr. Twichell. You see there, what she says. She says—‘You offer to send me a present of a ring—’ I did it, Mr. Twichell! I declare it was a bold thing—but—but—I couldn’t help it—I did that intrepid thing—and that is what she says: ‘You offer to send me a ring. But my father is going to take a little vacation excursion in the New England States and he is going to let me go with him. If you should send the ring here it might get lost. We shall be in Hartford a day or two; won’t it be safer to wait till then and you put it on my finger yourself?’
“What do you think of that, Mr. Twichell? How does it strike you? Is she leaning? Is she leaning?”
“Well,” Twichell said, “I don’t know about that. I must not be intemperate. I must not say things too strongly, for I might be making a mistake. But I think—I think—on the whole I think she is leaning—I do—I think she is leaning—”
“Oh Mr. Twichell, it does my heart so much good to hear you say that! Mr. Twichell, if there was anything I could do to show my gratitude for those words—well, you see the condition I am in—and to have you say that—”
Twichell said “Now wait a minute—now let’s not make any mistake here. Don’t you know that this is a most serious position? It can have the most serious results upon two lives. You know there is such a thing as a mere passing fancy that sets a person’s soul on fire for the moment. That person thinks it is love, and that it is permanent love—that it is real love. Then he finds out, by and by, that it was but a momentary insane passion—and then perhaps he has committed himself for life, and he wishes he was out of that predicament. Now let us make sure of this thing. I believe that if you try, and conduct yourself wisely and cautiously—I don’t feel sure, but I believe that if you conduct yourself wisely and cautiously you can beguile that girl into marrying you.”
“Oh Mr. Twichell, I can’t express—”
“Well never mind expressing anything. What I am coming at is this: let us make sure of our position. If this is real love, go ahead! If it is nothing but a passing fancy, drop it right here, for both your sakes. Now tell me, is it real love? If it is real love how do you arrive at that conclusion? Have you some way of proving to your entire satisfaction that this is real, genuine, lasting, permanent love?”
“Mr. Twichell, I can tell you this. You can just judge for yourself. From the time that I was a baby in the cradle, up, Mr. Twichell, I have had to sleep close to my mother, with a door open between, because I have always been subject to the most horrible nightmares, and when they break out my mother has to come running from her bed and appease me and comfort me and pacify me. Now then, Mr. Twichell, from the cradle up, whenever I got hit with those nightmare convulsions I have always sung out Mamma, Mamma, Mamma. Now I sing out Mary Ann, Mary Ann, Mary Ann.”
So they were married. They moved to the West and we know nothing more about the romance.
Fifteen or twenty years ago, Decoration Day happened to be more like the Fourth of July for temperature than like the 30th of May. Twichell was orator of the day. He pelted his great crowd of old Civil War soldiers for an hour in the biggest church in Hartford, while they mourned and sweltered. Then they marched forth and joined the procession of other wilted old soldiers that were oozing from other churches, and tramped through clouds of dust to the cemetery and began to distribute the flags and the flowers—a tiny flag and a small basket of flowers to each military grave. This industry went on and on and on, everybody breathing dust—for there was nothing else to breathe; everybody streaming with perspiration; everybody tired and wishing it was over. At last there was but one basket of flowers left, only one grave still undecorated. A fiery little Major whose patience was all gone, was shouting,
“Corporal Henry Jones, Company C, Fourteenth Connecticut Infantry—”
No response. Nobody seemed to know where that corporal was buried.
The Major raised his note a degree or two higher.
“Corporal Henry Jones, Company C, Fourteenth Connecticut Infantry!—doesn’t anybody know where that man is buried?”
No response. Once, twice, three times, he shrieked again, with his temper ever rising higher and higher,—
“Corporal Henry JONES! Company C! Fourteenth Connecticut Infantry!—doesn’t ANYBODY know where that man is buried?”
No response. Then he slammed the basket of flowers on the ground and said to Twichell,
“Proceed with the finish.”
The crowd massed themselves together around Twichell with uncovered heads, the silence and solemnity interrupted only by subdued sneezings, for these people were buried in the dim cloud of dust. After a pause Twichell began an impressive prayer, making it brief to meet the exigencies of the occasion. In the middle of it he made a pause. The drummer thought he was through, and let fly a rub-a-dub-dub—and the little Major stormed out “Stop that drum!” Twichell tried again. He got almost to the last word safely, when somebody trod on a dog and the dog let out a howl of anguish that could be heard beyond the frontier. The Major said,
“God damn that dog!”—and Twichell said,
That is, he said it as a finish to his own prayer, but it fell so exactly at the right moment that it seemed to include the Major’s, too, and so he felt greatly honored, and thanked him.
Friday, March 16, 1906
Schoolmates of sixty years ago—Mary Miller, one of Mr. Clemens’s first sweethearts—Artimisia Briggs, another—Mary Lacy, another—Jimmy McDaniel, to whom Mr. Clemens told his first humorous story—Mr. Richmond, Sunday-school teacher, afterwards owner of Tom Sawyer’s cave, which is now being ground into cement—Hickman, the showy young captain—Reuel Gridley and the sack of flour incident—The Levin Jew boys called Twenty-two—George Butler, nephew of Ben Butler—The incident of getting into bed with Will Bowen to catch the measles, and the successful and nearly fatal case which resulted.
We will return to those school children of sixty years ago. I recall Mary Miller. She was not my first sweetheart, but I think she was the first one that furnished me a broken heart. I fell in love with her when she was eighteen and I was nine, but she scorned me, and I recognized that this was a cold world. I had not noticed that temperature before. I believe I was as miserable as even a grown man could be. But I think that this sorrow did not remain with me long. As I remember it, I soon transferred my worship to Artimisia Briggs, who was a year older than Mary Miller. When I revealed my passion to her she did not scoff at it. She did not make fun of it. She was very kind and gentle about it. But she was also firm, and said she did not want to be pestered by children.
And there was Mary Lacy. She was a schoolmate. But she also was out of my class because of her advanced age. She was pretty wild and determined and independent. She was ungovernable, and was considered incorrigible. But that was all a mistake. She married, and at once settled down and became in all ways a model matron and was as highly respected as any matron in the town. Four years ago she was still living, and had been married fifty years.
Jimmy McDaniel was another schoolmate. His age and mine about tallied. His father kept the candy shop and he was the most envied little chap in the town—after Tom Blankenship (“Huck Finn”)—for although we never saw him eating candy, we supposed that it was, nevertheless, his ordinary diet. He pretended that he never ate it, and didn’t care for it because there was nothing forbidden about it—there was plenty of it and he could have as much of it as he wanted. Still there was circumstantial evidence that suggested that he only scorned candy in public to show off, for he had the worst teeth in town. He was the first human being to whom I ever told a humorous story, so far as I can remember. This was about Jim Wolf and the cats; and I gave him that tale the morning after that memorable episode. I thought he would laugh his remaining teeth out. I had never been so proud and happy before, and I have seldom been so proud and happy since. I saw him four years ago when I was out there. He was working in a cigar-making shop. He wore an apron that came down to his knees and a beard that came nearly half as far, and yet it was not difficult for me to recognize him. He had been married fifty-four years. He had many children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and also even posterity, they all said—thousands—yet the boy to whom I had told the cat story when we were callow juveniles was still present in that cheerful little old man.
Artimisia Briggs got married not long after refusing me. She married Richmond, the stone mason, who was my Methodist Sunday-school teacher in the earliest days, and he had one distinction which I envied him: at some time or other he had hit his thumb with his hammer and the result was a thumb-nail which remained permanently twisted and distorted and curved and pointed, like a parrot’s beak. I should not consider it an ornament now, I suppose, but it had a fascination for me then, and a vast value, because it was the only one in the town. He was a very kindly and considerate Sunday-school teacher, and patient and compassionate, so he was the favorite teacher with us little chaps. In that school they had slender oblong pasteboard blue tickets, each with a verse from the Testament printed on it, and you could get a blue ticket by reciting two verses. By reciting five verses you could get three blue tickets, and you could trade these at the bookcase and borrow a book for a week. I was under Mr. Richmond’s spiritual care every now and then for two or three years, and he was never hard upon me. I always recited the same five verses every Sunday. He was always satisfied with the performance. He never seemed to notice that these were the same five foolish virgins that he had been hearing about every Sunday for months. I always got my tickets and exchanged them for a book. They were pretty dreary books, for there was not a bad boy in the entire bookcase. They were all good boys and good girls and drearily uninteresting, but they were better society than none, and I was glad to have their company and disapprove of it.
Twenty years ago Mr. Richmond had become possessed of Tom Sawyer’s cave in the hills three miles from town, and had made a tourist-resort of it. But that cave is a thing of the past now. In 1849 when the gold seekers were streaming through our little town of Hannibal, many of our grown men got the gold fever, and I think that all the boys had it. On the Saturday holidays in summertime we used to borrow skiffs whose owners were not present and go down the river three miles to the cave hollow, (Missourian for “valley”), and there we staked out claims and pretended to dig gold, panning out half a dollar a day at first; two or three times as much, later, and by and by whole fortunes, as our imaginations became inured to the work. Stupid and unprophetic lads! We were doing this in play and never suspecting. Why, that cave hollow and all the adjacent hills were made of gold! But we did not know it. We took it for dirt. We left its rich secret in its own peaceful possession and grew up in poverty and went wandering about the world struggling for bread—and this because we had not the gift of prophecy. That region was all dirt and rocks to us, yet all it needed was to be ground up and scientifically handled and it was gold. That is to say, the whole region was a cement mine—and they make the finest kind of Portland cement there now, five thousand barrels a day, with a plant that cost two million dollars.
Several months ago a telegram came to me from there saying that Tom Sawyer’s cave was now being ground into cement—would I like to say anything about it in public? But I had nothing to say. I was sorry we lost our cement mine but it was not worth while to talk about it at this late day, and, take it all around, it was a painful subject anyway. There are seven miles of Tom Sawyer’s cave—that is to say the lofty ridge which conceals that cave stretches down the bank of the Mississippi seven miles to the town of Saverton.
For a little while Reuel Gridley attended that school of ours. He was an elderly pupil; he was perhaps twenty-two or twenty-three years old. Then came the Mexican war and he volunteered. A company of infantry was raised in our town and Mr. Hickman, a tall, straight, handsome athlete of twenty-five, was made captain of it and had a sword by his side and a broad yellow stripe down the leg of his gray pants. And when that company marched back and forth through the streets in its smart uniform—which it did several times a day for drill—its evolutions were attended by all the boys whenever the school hours permitted. I can see that marching company yet, and I can almost feel again the consuming desire that I had to join it. But they had no use for boys of twelve and thirteen, and before I had a chance in another war the desire to kill people to whom I had not been introduced had passed away.
I saw the splendid Hickman in his old age. He seemed about the oldest man I had ever seen—an amazing and melancholy contrast with the showy young captain I had seen preparing his warriors for carnage so many, many years before. Hickman is dead—it is the old story. As Susy said, “What is it all for?”
Reuel Gridley went away to the wars and we heard of him no more for fifteen or sixteen years. Then one day in Carson City while I was having a difficulty with an editor on the sidewalk—an editor better built for war than I was—I heard a voice say “Give him the best you’ve got, Sam, I’m at your back.” It was Reuel Gridley. He said he had not recognized me by my face but by my drawling style of speech.
He went down to the Reese River mines about that time and presently he lost an election bet in his mining camp, and by the terms of it he was obliged to buy a fifty-pound sack of self-rising flour and carry it through the town, preceded by music, and deliver it to the winner of the bet. Of course the whole camp was present and full of fluid and enthusiasm. The winner of the bet put up the sack at auction for the benefit of the United States Sanitary Fund, and sold it. The purchaser put it up for the Fund and sold it. The excitement grew and grew. The sack was sold over and over again for the benefit of the Fund. The news of it came to Virginia City by telegraph. It produced great enthusiasm, and Reuel Gridley was begged by telegraph to bring the sack and have an auction in Virginia City. He brought it. An open barouche was provided, also a brass band. The sack was sold over and over again at Gold Hill, then was brought up to Virginia City toward night and sold—and sold again, and again, and still again, netting twenty or thirty thousand dollars for the Sanitary Fund. Gridley carried it across California and sold it at various towns. He sold it for large sums in Sacramento and in San Francisco. He brought it East, sold it in New York and in various other cities, then carried it out to a great Fair at St. Louis, and went on selling it; and finally made it up into small cakes and sold those at a dollar apiece. First and last, the sack of flour which had originally cost ten dollars, perhaps, netted more than two hundred thousand dollars for the Sanitary Fund. Reuel Gridley has been dead these many, many years—it is the old story.
In that school were the first Jews I had ever seen. It took me a good while to get over the awe of it. To my fancy they were clothed invisibly in the damp and cobwebby mould of antiquity. They carried me back to Egypt, and in imagination I moved among the Pharaohs and all the shadowy celebrities of that remote age. The name of the boys was Levin. We had a collective name for them which was the only really large and handsome witticism that was ever born in that Congressional district. We called them “Twenty-two”—and even when the joke was old and had been worn threadbare we always followed it with the explanation, to make sure that it would be understood, “Twice Levin—twenty-two.”
There were other boys whose names remain with me. Irving Ayres—but no matter, he is dead. Then there was George Butler, whom I remember as a child of seven wearing a blue leather belt with a brass buckle, and hated and envied by all the boys on account of it. He was a nephew of General Ben Butler and fought gallantly at Ball’s Bluff and in several other actions of the Civil War. He is dead, long and long ago.
Will Bowen (dead long ago), Ed Stevens (dead long ago), and John Briggs were special mates of mine. John is still living.
In 1845, when I was ten years old, there was an epidemic of measles in the town and it made a most alarming slaughter among the little people. There was a funeral almost daily, and the mothers of the town were nearly demented with fright. My mother was greatly troubled. She worried over Pamela and Henry and me, and took constant and extraordinary pains to keep us from coming into contact with the contagion. But upon reflection I believed that her judgment was at fault. It seemed to me that I could improve upon it if left to my own devices. I cannot remember now whether I was frightened about the measles or not, but I clearly remember that I grew very tired of the suspense I suffered on account of being continually under the threat of death. I remember that I got so weary of it and so anxious to have the matter settled one way or the other, and promptly, that this anxiety spoiled my days and my nights. I had no pleasure in them. I made up my mind to end this suspense and be done with it. Will Bowen was dangerously ill with the measles and I thought I would go down there and catch them. I entered the house by the front way and slipped along through rooms and halls, keeping sharp watch against discovery, and at last I reached Will’s bed-chamber in the rear of the house on the second floor and got into it uncaptured. But that was as far as my victory reached. His mother caught me there a moment later and snatched me out of the house and gave me a most competent scolding and drove me away. She was so scared that she could hardly get her words out, and her face was white. I saw that I must manage better next time, and I did. I hung about the lane at the rear of the house and watched through cracks in the fence until I was convinced that the conditions were favorable; then I slipped through the back yard and up the back way and got into the room and into the bed with Will Bowen without being observed. I don’t know how long I was in the bed. I only remember that Will Bowen, as society, had no value for me, for he was too sick to even notice that I was there. When I heard his mother coming I covered up my head, but that device was a failure. It was dead summertime—the cover was nothing more than a limp blanket or sheet, and anybody could see that there were two of us under it. It didn’t remain two very long. Mrs. Bowen snatched me out of the bed and conducted me home herself, with a grip on my collar which she never loosened until she delivered me into my mother’s hands along with her opinion of that kind of a boy.
It was a good case of measles that resulted. It brought me within a shade of death’s door. It brought me to where I no longer took any interest in anything, but, on the contrary, felt a total absence of interest—which was most placid and tranquil and sweet and delightful and enchanting. I have never enjoyed anything in my life any more than I enjoyed dying that time. I was, in effect, dying. The word had been passed and the family notified to assemble around the bed and see me off. I knew them all. There was no doubtfulness in my vision. They were all crying, but that did not affect me. I took but the vaguest interest in it, and that merely because I was the centre of all this emotional attention and was gratified by it and vain of it.
When Dr. Cunningham had made up his mind that nothing more could be done for me he put bags of hot ashes all over me. He put them on my breast, on my wrists, on my ancles; and so, very much to his astonishment—and doubtless to my regret—he dragged me back into this world and set me going again.
Tuesday, March 20, 1906
About young John D. Rockefeller’s Sunday-school talks—Mr. Clemens is asked, as honorary member, to talk to the Bible Class—His letter of refusal—He accepts invitation from General Fred Grant to speak at Carnegie Hall April 10th, for benefit of Robert Fulton Memorial Association—His letter of acceptance.
One of the standing delights of the American nation in these days is John D. Rockefeller, junior’s, Bible Class adventures in theology. Every Sunday young Rockefeller explains the Bible to his class. The next day the newspapers and the Associated Press distribute his explanations all over the continent and everybody laughs. The entire nation laughs, yet in its innocent dulness never suspects that it is laughing at itself. But that is what it is doing.
Young Rockefeller, who is perhaps thirty-five years old, is a plain, simple, earnest, sincere, honest, well-meaning, commonplace person, destitute of originality or any suggestion of it. And if he were traveling upon his mental merit instead of upon his father’s money, his explanations of the Bible would fall silent and not be heard of by the public. But his father ranks as the richest man in the world, and this makes his son’s theological gymnastics interesting and important. The world believes that the elder Rockefeller is worth a billion dollars. He pays taxes on two million and a half. He is an earnest uneducated Christian, and for years and years has been Admiral of a Sunday-school in Cleveland, Ohio. For years and years he has discoursed about himself to his Sunday-school and explained how he got his dollars; and during all these years his Sunday-school has listened in rapture and has divided its worship between him and his Creator—unequally. His Sunday-school talks are telegraphed about the country and are as eagerly read by the nation as are his son’s.
As I have said, the nation laughs at young Rockefeller’s analyzations of the Scriptures. Yet the nation must know that these analyzations are exactly like those which it hears every Sunday from its pulpits, and which its forebears have been listening to for centuries without a change of an idea—in case an idea has ever occurred in one of these discourses. Young John’s methods are the ordinary pulpit methods. His deductions of golden fancy from sordid fact are exactly the same which the pulpit has traded in for centuries. Every argument he uses was already worn threadbare by the theologians of all the ages before it came in its rags to him. All his reasonings are like all the reasonings of all the pulpit’s stale borrowings from the dull pulpits of the centuries. Young John has never studied a doctrine for himself; he has never examined a doctrine upon its real merits; he has never examined a doctrine for any purpose but to make it fit the notions which he got at second-hand from his teachers. His talks are quite as original and quite as valuable as any that proceed from any other theologian’s lips, from the Pope of Rome down to himself. The nation laughs at young John’s profound and clumsy examinations of Joseph’s character and conduct, yet the nation has always heard Joseph’s character and conduct examined in the same clumsy and stupid way by its pulpits, and the nation should reflect that when they laugh at young John they are laughing at themselves. They should reflect that young John is using no new whitewash upon Joseph. He is using the same old brush and the same old whitewash that have made Joseph grotesque in all the centuries.
I have known and liked young John for many years, and I have long felt that his right place was in the pulpit. I am sure that the foxfire of his mind would make a proper glow there—but I suppose he must do as destiny has decreed and succeed his father as master of the colossal Standard Oil Corporation. One of his most delightful theological deliverances was his exposition, three years ago, of the meaning—the real meaning, the bottom meaning—of Christ’s admonition to the young man who was overburdened with wealth yet wanted to save himself if a convenient way could be found: “Sell all thou hast and give to the poor.” Young John reasoned it out to this effect:
“Whatever thing stands between you and salvation, remove that obstruction at any cost. If it is money, give it away, to the poor; if it is property, sell the whole of it and give the proceeds to the poor; if it is military ambition, retire from the service; if it is an absorbing infatuation for any person or thing or pursuit, fling it far from you and proceed with a single mind to achieve your salvation.”
The inference was plain. Young John’s father’s millions and his own were a mere incident in their lives and not in any way an obstruction in their pursuit of salvation. Therefore Christ’s admonition could have no application to them. One of the newspapers sent interviewers to six or seven New York clergymen to get their views upon this matter, with this result: that all of them except one agreed with young Rockefeller. I do not know what we should do without the pulpit. We could better spare the sun—the moon, anyway.
Three years ago I went with young John to his Bible Class and talked to it—not theologically, that would not have been in good taste, and I prefer good taste to righteousness. Now whoever—on the outside—goes there and talks to that Bible Class is by that act entitled to honorary membership in it. Therefore I am an honorary member. Some days ago a Bible Class official sent me word that there would be a quinquennial meeting of these honoraries in their church day after to-morrow evening, and it was desired that I should come there and help do the talking. If I could not come, would I send a letter which could be read to those people?
I was already overburdened with engagements, so I sent my regrets and the following letter:
March 14, 1906.
Mr. Edward M. Foote, Chairman.
Dear Friend and Fellow-Member:
Indeed I should like to attend the reunion of the fellowship of honorary members of Mr. Rockefeller’s Bible Class, (of whom I am one, by grace of service rendered,) but I must be discreet and not venture. This is on account of Joseph. He might come up as an issue, and then I could get into trouble, for Mr. Rockefeller and I do not agree as to Joseph. Eight years ago I quite painstakingly and exhaustively explained Joseph, by the light of the 47th chapter of Genesis, in a North American Review article which has since been transferred to volume XXII of my Collected Works; then I turned my attention to other subjects, under the impression that I had settled Joseph for good and all and left nothing further for anybody to say about him. Judge, then, of my surprise and sorrow, when by the newspapers I lately saw that Mr. Rockefeller had taken hold of Joseph—quite manifestly unaware that I had already settled Joseph—and was trying to settle him again.
In every sentence uttered by Mr. Rockefeller there was evidence that he was not acquainted with Joseph. Therefore it was plain to me that he had never read my article. He has certainly not read it, because his published estimate of Joseph differs from mine. This could not be, if he had read the article. He thinks Joseph was Mary’s little lamb; this is an error. He was—he—but you look at the article, then you will see what he was.
For ages Joseph has been a most delicate and difficult problem. That is, for everybody but me. It is because I examine him on the facts as they stand recorded, the other theologians don’t. Overborne by a sense of duty, they paint the facts. They paint some of them clear out. Paint them out, and paint some better ones in, which they get out of their own imaginations. They make up a Joseph-statement on the plan of the statement which a shaky bank gets up for the beguilement of the bank-inspector. They spirit away light-throwing liabilities, and insert fanciful assets in their places. Am I saying the thing that isn’t true? Sunday before last the very learned and able Dr. Silverman was thus reported in the Times:
But the farmers, the agriculturists, and the shepherds, who depended for their living on the product of the land, suffered most during a famine. To prevent utter starvation Joseph had the people from the country removed to the cities, from one end of the borders of Egypt even to the other end thereof, (Genesis, xlvii, 21,) and there he supported them. As long as they had money he gave them food for money, but when this was exhausted he took their cattle, their horses, their herds and asses, and even their land, when necessary, as a pledge for food. The Government then fed the cattle, horses, &c., which otherwise would have died.
Later the land [the ownership?] was returned to the former owners; they were given seed to sow the land; they received as many of their cattle, horses, herds, &c., as they needed, and in payment were only required to give the Government one-fifth part of all their increase in animals or produce.
The whole plan of Joseph was statesmanlike, as well as humanitarian. It appealed at once to Pharaoh and his counselors, and it is no wonder that Joseph was appointed Viceroy of All Egypt. Joseph successfully combated all the human sharks and speculators who had for years despoiled the poor in the season of famine and reduced them to starvation and beggary. He held the land and animals of the needy as pledge, and then returned them their patrimony. [The ownership?] He charged them only a fair market price for the food they received. Without the wise institutions of public storehouses which Joseph had erected the people would have lost all their possessions, the whole country would have been reduced to misery, and thousands upon thousands would have died, as had been the case in previous seasons of famine.
That is Dr. Silverman’s bank-statement—all painted and gilded and ready for the inspector. This is the Bible’s statement. The italics are mine:
And there was no bread in all the land; for the famine was very sore, so that the land of Egypt and all the land of Canaan fainted by reason of the famine.
And Joseph gathered up all of the money that was found in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, for the corn which they bought; and Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh’s house.
And when money failed in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came unto Joseph, and said, Give us bread: for why should we die in thy presence? for the money faileth.
And Joseph said, Give your cattle; and I will give you for your cattle, if money fail.
And they brought their cattle unto Joseph: and Joseph gave them bread in exchange for horses, and for the flocks, and for the cattle of the herds, and for the asses: and he fed them with bread for all their cattle that year.
When that year was ended, they came unto him the second year, and said unto him, We will not hide it from my lord, how that our money is spent; my lord also hath our herds of cattle; there is not aught left in the sight of my lord, but our bodies, and our lands:
Wherefore shall we die before thine eyes, both we and our land? buy us and our land for bread, and we and our land will be servants unto Pharaoh: and give us seed that we may live, and not die, that the land be not desolate.
And Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh; for the Egyptians sold every man his field, because the famine prevailed over them: so the land became Pharaoh’s.
And as for the people, he removed them to cities from one end of the borders of Egypt even to the other end thereof.
Only the land of the priests bought he not; for the priests had a portion assigned them of Pharaoh, and did eat their portion which Pharaoh gave them: wherefore they sold not their lands.
Then Joseph said unto the people, Behold I have bought you this day and your land for Pharaoh: lo, here is seed for you, and ye shall sow the land.
And it shall come to pass in the increase, that ye shall give the fifth part unto Pharaoh, and four parts shall be your own, for seed of the field, and for your own food, and for them of your households, and for food for your little ones.
And they said, Thou hast saved our lives: let us find grace in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh’s servants.
And Joseph made it a law over the land of Egypt unto this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth part; except the land of the priests only, which became not Pharaoh’s.
I do not find anything there about a “pledge.” It looks to me like a brand-new asset—for Joseph. And a most handsome and ameliorating one, too—if a body could find some kind of authority for it. But I can’t find it; I do not find that Joseph made loans to those distressed peasants and secured the loans by mortgage on their lands and animals, I seem to find that he took the land itself—to the last acre, and the animals too, to the last hoof. And I do not get the impression that Joseph charged those starving unfortunates “only a fair market price for the food they received.” No, I get the impression that he skinned them of every last penny they had; of every last acre they had; of every last animal they had; then bought the whole nation’s bodies and liberties on a “fair market” valuation for bread and the chains of slavery. Is it conceivable that there can be a “fair market price,” or any price whatever, estimable in gold, or diamonds, or bank notes, or government bonds, for a man’s supremest possession—that one possession without which his life is totally worthless—his liberty?
Joseph acted handsome by the clergy; it is the most I can say for him. Politic, too. They haven’t forgotten it yet.
No, I thank you cordially and in all sincerity, but I am afraid to come, I must not venture to come, for I am sensitive, I am humane, I am tender in my feelings, and I could not bear it if young Mr. Rockefeller, whom I think a great deal of, should get up and go to whitewashing Joseph again. But you have my very best wishes.
Mark Twain,
Honorary Member of the Bible Class.
I sent that letter privately to young John himself, and asked him to make himself perfectly free with it, and please suppress it if it seemed to him improper matter to be read in a church. He suppressed it—which shows that he has a level Standard Oil head notwithstanding his theology. Then he asked me to go to the meeting of honoraries and talk and said I might choose my own subject and talk freely. He suggested a subject which he had been experimenting with himself before his Bible Class, a couple of months ago—lying. The subject suited me very well. I had read the newspaper reports of his discourse and had perceived that he was like all the other pulpits. He knew nothing valuable about lying; that, like all other pulpits, he imagines that there has been somebody upon this planet, at some time or other, who was not a liar; that he imagines like all other pulpits——however I have treated this matter in one of my books, and it is not necessary to treat it again in this place.
It was agreed that young John is to call at the house day after to-morrow evening and take me to his church, I to be free to talk about lying, if I like, or talk upon some freshly interesting subject instead, in case there should be a person there capable of starting a fresh subject in such an atmosphere.
But, after all, I can’t go. I am fighting off my annual bronchitis, and the doctor has forbidden it. I am sorry, for I am sure I know more about lying than anybody who has lived on this planet before me. I believe I am the only person alive who is sane upon this subject. I have been familiar with it for seventy years. The first utterance I ever made was a lie, for I pretended that a pin was sticking me, whereas it was not so. I have been interested in this great art ever since. I have practised it ever since; sometimes for pleasure, usually for profit. And to this day I do not always know when to believe myself, and when to take the matter under consideration.
I shall be unspeakably sorry if the bronchitis catches me, for that will mean six weeks in bed—my annual tribute to it for the last sixteen years. I shall be sorry because I want to be in condition to appear at Carnegie Hall on the night of April 10th and take my permanent leave of the platform. I never intend to lecture for pay again, and I think I shall never lecture again where the audience has paid to get in. I shall go on talking, but it will be for fun, not money. I can get lots of it to do.
My first appearance before an audience was forty years ago, in San Francisco. If I live to take my farewell in Carnegie Hall on the night of the 10th, I shall see, and see constantly, what no one else in that house will see. I shall see two vast audiences—the San Francisco audience of forty years ago and the one which will be before me at that time. I shall see that early audience with as absolute distinctness in every detail as I see it at this moment, and as I shall see it while looking at the Carnegie audience. I am promising myself a great, a consuming pleasure, on that Carnegie night, and I hope that the bronchitis will leave me alone and let me enjoy it.
I was vaguely meditating a farewell stunt when General Fred Grant sent a gentleman over here a week ago to offer me a thousand dollars to deliver a talk for the benefit of the Robert Fulton Memorial Association of which he is the President and I Vice-President. This was the very thing, and I accepted at once, and said I would without delay write some telegrams and letters from Fred Grant to myself and sign his name to them, and I would answer those telegrams and letters and sign my name to them, and in this way we could make a good advertisement and I could thus get the fact before the public that I was now delivering my last and final platform talk for money. I wrote the correspondence at once. General Grant approved it, and I here insert it.
Headquarters Department of the East,
Governors Island, New York.
Mark Twain, New York.
Would you consider a proposal to talk at Carnegie Hall for the benefit of the Robert Fulton Memorial Association, of which you are a Vice-President, for a fee of a thousand dollars?
F.D. Grant,
Fulton Memorial Association.
Telegraphic Answer.
Major General F.D. Grant,
Headquarters Department of the East,
Governors Island, New York.
I shall be glad to do it, but I must stipulate that you keep the thousand dollars and add it to the Memorial Fund as my contribution.
Dear Mr. Clemens: You have the thanks of the Association, and the terms shall be as you say. But why give all of it? Why not reserve a portion—why should you do this work wholly without compensation?
Truly Yours
Fred D. Grant.
Major General Grant,
Headquarters Department of the East.
Dear General: Because I stopped talking for pay a good many years ago, and I could not resume the habit now without a great deal of personal discomfort. I love to hear myself talk, because I get so much instruction and moral upheaval out of it, but I lose the bulk of this joy when I charge for it. Let the terms stand.
General, if I have your approval, I wish to use this good occasion to retire permanently from the platform.
Truly Yours
S.L. Clemens.
Dear Mr. Clemens:
Certainly. But as an old friend, permit me to say, Don’t do that. Why should you ?—you are not old yet.
Yours truly
Fred D. Grant.
Dear General:
I mean the pay-platform; I shan’t retire from the gratis-platform until after I am dead and courtesy requires me to keep still and not disturb the others.
What shall I talk about? My idea is this: to instruct the audience about Robert Fulton, and .... Tell me—was that his real name, or was it his nom de plume? However, never mind, it is not important—I can skip it, and the house will think I knew all about it, but forgot. Could you find out for me if he was one of the Signers of the Declaration, and which one? But if it is any trouble, let it alone, I can skip it. Was he out with Paul Jones? Will you ask Horace Porter? And ask him if he brought both of them home. These will be very interesting facts, if they can be established. But never mind, don’t trouble Porter, I can establish them anyway. The way I look at it, they are historical gems—gems of the very first water.
Well, that is my idea, as I have said: first, excite the audience with a spoonful of information about Fulton, then quiet them down with a barrel of illustration drawn by memory from my books—and if you don’t say anything the house will think they never heard of it before, because people don’t really read your books, they only say they do, to keep you from feeling bad. Next, excite the house with another spoonful of Fultonian fact. Then tranquillize them again with another barrel of illustration. And so on and so on, all through the evening; and if you are discreet and don’t tell them the illustrations don’t illustrate anything, they won’t notice it and I will send them home as well informed about Robert Fulton as I am myself. Don’t you be afraid; I know all about audiences, they believe everything you say, except when you are telling the truth.
Truly Yours
S. L. Clemens.
P. S. Mark all the advertisements “Private and Confidential,” otherwise the people will not read them. M. T.
Dear Mr. Clemens:
How long shall you talk? I ask in order that we may be able to say when carriages may be called.
Very Truly Yours
Hugh Gordon Miller.
Dear Mr. Miller:
I cannot say for sure. It is my custom to keep on talking till I get the audience cowed. Sometimes it takes an hour and fifteen minutes, sometimes I can do it in an hour.
Sincerely Yours
S. L. Clemens.
Mem. My charge is two boxes free. Not the choicest—sell the choicest, and give me any six-seat boxes you please.
I want Fred Grant (in uniform) on the stage; also the rest of the officials of the Association; also other distinguished people—all the attractions we can get. Also, a seat for Mr. Albert Bigelow Paine, who may be useful to me if he is near me and on the front.
Private and Confidential.

Wednesday, March 21, 1906
Mental telegraphy—Letter from Mr. Jock Brown—Search for Dr. John Brown’s
letters a failure—Mr. Twichell and his wife, Harmony, have an adventure
in Scotland—Mr. Twichell’s picture of a military execution—Letter relating
to foundation of the Players Club—The mismanagement which caused
Mr. Clemens to be expelled from the Club—He is now an honorary member.
Certainly mental telegraphy is an industry which is always silently at work—oftener than otherwise, perhaps, when we are not suspecting that it is affecting our thought. A few weeks ago when I was dictating something about Dr. John Brown of Edinburgh and our pleasant relations with him during six weeks there, and his pleasant relations with our little child, Susy, he had not been in my mind for a good while—a year, perhaps—but he has often been in my mind since, and his name has been frequently upon my lips and as frequently falling from the point of my pen. About a fortnight ago I began to plan an article about him and about Marjorie Fleming, whose first biographer he was, and yesterday I began the article. To-day comes a letter from his son Jock, from whom I had not previously heard for a good many years. He has been engaged in collecting his father’s letters for publication. This labor would naturally bring me into his mind with some frequency, and I judge that his mind telegraphed his thoughts to me across the Atlantic. I imagine that we get most of our thoughts out of somebody else’s head, by mental telegraphy—and not always out of heads of acquaintances but, in the majority of cases, out of the heads of strangers; strangers far removed—Chinamen, Hindoos, and all manner of remote foreigners whose language we should not be able to understand, but whose thoughts we can read without difficulty.
8th March, 1906.
Dear Mr Clemens,
I hope you remember me, Jock, son of Dr John Brown. At my father’s death I handed to Dr J. T. Brown all the letters I had to my father, as he intended to write his life, being his cousin and life long friend. He did write a memoir, published after his death in 1901, but he made no use of the letters and it was little more than a critique of his writings. If you care to see it I shall send it. Among the letters which I got back in 1902 were some from you and Mrs Clemens. I have now got a large number of letters written by my father between 1830 and 1882 and intend publishing a selection in order to give the public an idea of the man he was. This I think they will do. Miss E. T. MacLaren is to add the necessary notes. I now write to ask you if you have letters from him and if you will let me see them and use them. I enclose letters from yourself and Mrs Clemens which I should like to use, 15 sheets typewritten. Though I did not write as I should to you on the death of Mrs Clemens, I was very sorry to hear of it through the papers, and as I now read these letters, she rises before me, gentle and loveable as I knew her. I do hope you will let me use her letter, it is most beautiful. I also hope you will let me use yours....
I am
Yours very sincerely
John Brown
We have searched for Doctor John’s letters but without success. I do not understand this. There ought to be a good many, and none should be missing, for Mrs. Clemens held Doctor John in such love and reverence that his letters were sacred things in her eyes and she preserved them and took watchful care of them. During our ten years’ absence in Europe many letters and like memorials became scattered and lost, but I think it unlikely that Doctor John’s have suffered this fate. I think we shall find them yet.
These thoughts about Jock bring back to me the Edinburgh of thirty-three years ago, and the thought of Edinburgh brings to my mind one of Reverend Joe Twichell’s adventures. A quarter of a century ago, Twichell and Harmony, his wife, visited Europe for the first time, and made a stay of a day or two in Edinburgh. They were devotees of Scott, and they devoted that day or two to ransacking Edinburgh for things and places made sacred by contact with the Magician of the North. Toward midnight, on the second night, they were returning to their lodgings on foot; a dismal and steady rain was falling, and by consequence they had George street all to themselves. Presently the rainfall became so heavy that they took refuge from it in a deep doorway, and there in the black darkness they discussed with satisfaction all the achievements of the day. Then Joe said:
“It has been hard work, and a heavy strain on the strength, but we have our reward. There isn’t a thing connected with Scott in Edinburgh that we haven’t seen or touched—not one. I mean the things a stranger could have access to. There is one we haven’t seen, but it’s not accessible—a private collection of relics and memorials of Scott of great interest, but I do not know where it is. I can’t get on the track of it. I wish we could, but we can’t. We’ve got to give the idea up. It would be a grand thing to have a sight of that collection, Harmony.”
A voice out of the darkness said “Come up stairs and I will show it to you!”
And the voice was as good as its word. The voice belonged to the gentleman who owned the collection. He took Joe and Harmony up stairs, fed them and refreshed them; and while they examined the collection he chatted and explained. When they left at two in the morning they realized that they had had the star time of their trip.
Joe has always been on hand when anything was going to happen—except once. He got delayed in some unaccountable way, or he would have been blown up at Petersburg when the mined defences of that place were flung heavenward in the Civil War.
When I was in Hartford the other day he told me about another of his long string of providential opportunities. I think he thinks Providence is always looking out for him when interesting things are going to happen. This was the execution of some deserters during the Civil War. When we read about such things in history we always have one and the same picture—blindfolded men kneeling with their heads bowed; a file of stern and alert soldiers fronting them with their muskets ready; an austere officer in uniform standing apart who gives sharp terse orders, “Make ready. Take aim. Fire!” There is a belch of flame and smoke, the victims fall forward expiring, the file shoulders arms, wheels, marches erect and stiff-legged off the field, and the incident is closed.
Joe’s picture is different. And I suspect that it is the true one—the common one. In this picture the deserters requested that they might be allowed to stand, not kneel; that they might not be blindfolded, but permitted to look the firing file in the eye. Their request was granted. They stood erect and soldierly; they kept their color, they did not blench; their eyes were steady. But these things could not be said of any other person present. A General of Brigade sat upon his horse white-faced—white as a corpse. The officer commanding the squad was white-faced—white as a corpse. The firing file were white-faced, and their forms wobbled so that the wobble was transmitted to their muskets when they took aim. The officer of the squad could not command his voice, and his tone was weak and poor, not brisk and stern. When the file had done its deadly work it did not march away martially erect and stiff-legged. It wobbled.
This picture commends itself to me as being the truest one that any one has yet furnished of a military execution.
In searching for Dr. Brown’s letters—a failure—we have made a find which we were not expecting. Evidently it marks the foundation of the Players Club, and so it has value for me.
Daly’s Theatre
New York, Jan 2d 1888.
Mr Augustin Daly will be very much pleased to have Mr S. L. Clemens meet Mr Booth, Mr Barrett and Mr Palmer and a few friends at Lunch on Friday next January 6th (at one oclock in Delmonico’s) to discuss the formation of a new club which it is thought will claim your interest.
All the founders, I think, were present at that luncheon—among them Booth, Barrett, Palmer, General Sherman, Bispham, Aldrich, and the rest. I do not recall the other names. I think Laurence Hutton states in one of his books that the Club’s name—The Players—had been already selected and accepted before this luncheon took place, but I take that to be a mistake. I remember that several names were proposed, discussed, and abandoned at the luncheon; that finally Thomas Bailey Aldrich suggested that compact and simple name, The Players; and that even that happy title was not immediately accepted. However the discussion was very brief. The objections to it were easily routed and driven from the field, and the vote in its favor was unanimous.
I lost my interest in the Club three years ago—for cause—but it has lately returned to me, to my great satisfaction. Mr. Booth’s bequest was a great and generous one—but he left two. The other one was not much of a benefaction. It was Magonigle, a foolish old relative of his who needed a support. As Secretary he governed the Club and its Board of Managers like an autocrat from the beginning until three or four months ago, when he retired from his position superannuated. From the beginning, I left my dues and costs to be paid by my business agent in Hartford—Mr. Whitmore. He attended to all business of mine. I interested myself in none of it. When we went to Europe in ’91 I left a written order in the Secretary’s office continuing Whitmore in his function of paymaster of my club dues. Nothing happened until a year had gone by. Then a bill for dues reached me in Europe. I returned it to Magonigle and reminded him of my order, which had not been changed. Then for a couple of years the bills went to Whitmore, after which a bill came to me in Europe. I returned it with the previous remarks repeated. But about every two years the sending of bills to me would be resumed. I sent them back with the usual remarks. Twice the bills were accompanied by offensive letters from the Secretary. These I answered profanely. At last we came home, in 1901. No bills came to me for a year. Then we took a residence at Riverdale-on-the-Hudson, and straightway came a Players bill for dues. I was aweary, aweary, and I put it in the waste-basket. Ten days later the bill came again, and with it a shadowy threat. I waste-basketed it. After another ten days the bill came once more, and this time the threat was in a concreted condition. It said very peremptorily that if the bill were not paid within a week I would be expelled from the Club and posted as a delinquent. This went the way of its predecessors into the waste-basket. On the named day I was expelled and posted—and I was much gratified, for I was tired of being Magonigled every little while.
Robert Reid, David Munro, and other special friends in the Club were astonished and put themselves in communication with me to find out what this strange thing meant. I explained to them. They wanted me to state the case to the Management and require a reconsideration of the decree of expulsion, but I had to decline that proposition. And therefore things remained as they were until a few months ago when the Magonigle retired from the autocracy. The boys thought that my return to the Club would be plain and simple sailing now, but I thought differently. I was no longer a member. I could not become a member without consenting to be voted for like any other candidate, and I would not do that. The Management had expelled me upon the mere statement of a clerk that I was a delinquent. Neither they nor the clerk could know whether I ever received those bills and threats or not, since they had been transmitted by the mail. They had not asked me to testify in my defence. Their books would show that I had never failed to pay, and pay promptly. They might properly argue from that that I had not all of a sudden become a rascal, and that I might be able to explain the situation if asked. The Board’s whole proceeding had been like all the Board’s proceedings from the beginning—arbitrary, insolent, stupid. That Board’s proper place, from the beginning, was the idiot asylum. I could not allow myself to be voted for again, because from my view of the matter I had never lawfully and legitimately ceased to be a member. However, when Providence disposed of Magonigle, a way fair and honorable to all concerned was easily found to bridge the separating crack. I was made an honorary member, and I have been glad to resume business at the old stand.
Thursday, March 22, 1906
Susy’s Biography—Langdon’s illness and death—Susy tells of interesting
men whom her father met in England and Scotland—Dr. John Brown,
Mr. Charles Kingsley, Mr. Henry M. Stanley, Sir Thomas Hardy, Mr. Henry
Irving, Robert Browning, Sir Charles Dilke, Charles Reade, William
Black, Lord Houghton, Frank Buckland, Tom Hughes, Anthony Trollope,
Tom Hood, Dr. MacDonald, and Harrison Ainsworth—Mr. Clemens tells
of meeting Lewis Carroll—Of luncheon at Lord Houghton’s—Letters
from Mr. and Mrs. Clemens to Dr. Brown—Mr. Clemens’s regret that
he did not take Mrs. Clemens for last visit to Dr. Brown.
I stopped in the middle of mamma’s early history to tell about our tripp to Vassar because I was afraid I would forget about it, now I will go on where I left off. Some time after Miss Emma Nigh died papa took mamma and little Langdon to Elmira for the summer. When in Elmira Langdon began to fail but I think mamma did not know just what was the matter with him.
I was the cause of the child’s illness. His mother trusted him to my care and I took him a long drive in an open barouche for an airing. It was a raw, cold morning, but he was well wrapped about with furs and, in the hands of a careful person, no harm would have come to him. But I soon dropped into a reverie and forgot all about my charge. The furs fell away and exposed his bare legs. By and by the coachman noticed this, and I arranged the wraps again, but it was too late. The child was almost frozen. I hurried home with him. I was aghast at what I had done, and I feared the consequences. I have always felt shame for that treacherous morning’s work and have not allowed myself to think of it when I could help it. I doubt if I had the courage to make confession at that time. I think it most likely that I have never confessed until now.
From Susy’s Biography.
At last it was time for papa to return to Hartford, and Langdon was real sick at that time, but still mamma decided to go with him, thinking the journey might do him good. But after they reached Hartford he became very sick, and his trouble prooved to be diptheeria. He died about a week after mamma and papa reached Hartford. He was burried by the side of grandpa at Elmira, New York. (Susy rests there with them. S.L.C.) After that, mamma became very very ill, so ill that there seemed great danger of death, but with a great deal of good care she recovered. Some months afterward mamma and papa (and Susy, who was perhaps fourteen or fifteen months old at the time—S.L.C.) went to Europe and stayed for a time in Scotland and England. In Scotland mamma and papa became very well equanted with Dr. John Brown, the author of “Rab and His Friends,” and he met, but was not so well equanted with, Mr. Charles Kingsley, Mr. Henry M. Stanley, Sir Thomas Hardy grandson of the Captain Hardy to whom Nellson said “Kiss me Hardy,” when dying on shipboard, Mr. Henry Irving, Robert Browning, Sir Charles Dilke, Mr. Charles Reade, Mr. William Black, Lord Houghton, Frank Buckland, Mr. Tom Hughes, Anthony Trollope, Tom Hood, son of the poet—and mamma and papa were quite well equanted with Dr. Macdonald and family, and papa met Harison Ainsworth.
I remember all these men very well indeed, except the last one. I do not recall Ainsworth. By my count, Susy mentions fourteen men. They are all dead except Sir Charles Dilke and Mr. Tom Hughes.
We met a great many other interesting people, among them Lewis Carroll, author of the immortal “Alice”—but he was only interesting to look at, for he was the stillest and shyest full-grown man I have ever met except “Uncle Remus.” Dr. MacDonald and several other lively talkers were present, and the talk went briskly on for a couple of hours, but Carroll sat still all the while except that now and then he answered a question. His answers were brief. I do not remember that he elaborated any of them.
At a dinner at Smalley’s we met Herbert Spencer. At a large luncheon party at Lord Houghton’s we met Sir Arthur Helps, who was a celebrity of world-wide fame at the time, but is quite forgotten now. Lord Elcho, a large vigorous man, sat at some distance down the table. He was talking earnestly about Godalming. It was a deep and flowing and unarticulated rumble, but I got the Godalming pretty clearly every time it broke free of the rumble, and as all the strength was on the first end of the word it startled me every time, because it sounded so like swearing. In the middle of the luncheon Lady Houghton rose, remarked to the guests on her right and on her left in a matter-of-fact way, “Excuse me, I have an engagement,” and without further ceremony she went off to meet it. This would have been doubtful etiquette in America. Lord Houghton told a number of delightful stories. He told them in French, and I lost nothing of them but the nubs.
I will insert here one or two of the letters referred to by Jock Brown in the letter which I received from him a day or two ago, and which we copied into yesterday’s record.
June 22, 1876.
Dear Doctor Brown,
Indeed I was a happy woman to see the familiar handwriting. I do hope that we shall not have to go so long again without a word from you. I wish you could come over to us for a season; it seems as if it would do you good, you and yours would be so very welcome.
We are now where we were two years ago when Clara (our baby) was born, on the farm on the top of a high hill where my sister spends her summers. The children are grown fat and hearty, feeding chickens and ducks twice a day, and are keenly alive to all the farm interests. Mr. J. T. Fields was with us with his wife a short time ago, and you may be sure we talked most affectionately of you. We do so earnestly desire that you may continue to improve in health; do let us know of your welfare as often as possible. Love to your sister. Kind regards to your son please.
As ever affectionately your friend,
Livy L. Clemens.
Dear Doctor Brown,
We had grown so very anxious about you that it was a great pleasure to see the dear, familiar handwriting again, but the contents of the letter did make us inexpressibly sad. We have talked so much since about your coming to see us. Would not the change do you good? Could you not trust yourself with us? We would do everything to make you comfortable and happy that we could, and you have so many admirers in America that would be so happy and proud to welcome you. Is it not possible for you to come? Could not your son bring you? Perhaps the entire change would give you a new and healthier lease of life.
Our children are both well and happy; I wish that you could see them. Susy is very motherly to the little one. Mr. Clemens is hard at work on a new book now. He has a new book of sketches recently out, which he is going to send you in a few days; most of the sketches are old, but some few are new.
Oh Doctor Brown how can you speak of your life as a wasted one? What you have written has alone done an immense amount of good, and I know for I speak from experience that one must get good every time they meet and chat with you. I receive good every time I even think of you. Can a life that produces such an effect on others be a wasted life? I feel that while you live the world is sweeter and better. You ask if Clara is “queer and wistful and commanding,” like your Susy. We think she is more queer, (more quaint) perhaps more commanding, but not nearly so wistful in her ways as “your Susy.” The nurse that we had with us in Edinburgh had to leave me to take care of a sister ill with consumption. We have had ever since a quiet lady-like German girl. I must leave a place for Mr. C. Do think about coming to us. Give my love to your sister and your son.
Livy L. Clemens.
Dear Doctor, if you and your son Jock only would run over here! What a welcome we would give you! and besides, you would forget cares and the troubles that come of them. To forget pain is to be painless; to forget care is to be rid of it; to go abroad is to accomplish both. Do try the prescription!
Always with love,
Saml. L. Clemens.
P.S. Livy, you haven’t signed your letter. Don’t forget that. S.L.C.
P.P.S. I hope you will excuse Mr. Clemens’s P. S. to me; it is characteristic for him to put it right on the letter. Livy L.C.
Hartford, June 1, 1882.
My dear Mr. Brown,
I was three thousand miles from home, at breakfast in New Orleans, when the damp morning paper revealed the sorrowful news among the cable dispatches. There was no place in America, however remote, or however rich or poor or high or humble, where words of mourning for your honored father were not uttered that morning, for his works had made him known and loved all over the land. To Mrs. Clemens and me, the loss is a personal one, and our grief the grief which one feels for one who was peculiarly near and dear. Mrs. Clemens has never ceased to express regret that we came away from England the last time without going to see him, and often we have since projected a voyage across the Atlantic for the sole purpose of taking him by the hand and looking into his kind eyes once more before he should be called to his rest.
We both thank you greatly for the Edinburgh papers which you sent. My wife and I join in affectionate remembrances and greetings to yourself and your aunt, and in the sincere tender of our sympathies.
Faithfully yours,
S. L. Clemens.
P.S. Our Susy is still “Megalopis.” He gave her that name.
Can you spare us a photograph of your father? We have none but the one taken in group with ourselves.
It was my fault that she never saw Doctor John in life again. How many crimes I committed against that gentle and patient and forgiving spirit! I always told her that if she died first, the rest of my life would be made up of self-reproaches for the tears I had made her shed. And she always replied that if I should pass from life first, she would never have to reproach herself without having loved me the less devotedly or the less constantly because of those tears. We had this conversation again, and for the thousandth time, when the night of death was closing about her—though we did not suspect that.
In the letter last quoted above, I say “Mrs. Clemens has never ceased to express regret that we came away from England the last time without going to see him.” I think that that was intended to convey the impression that she was a party concerned in our leaving England without going to see him. It is not so. She urged me, she begged me, she implored me to take her to Edinburgh to see Doctor John—but I was in one of my devil moods, and I would not do it. I would not do it because I should have been obliged to continue the courier in service until we got back to Liverpool. It seemed to me that I had endured him as long as I could. I wanted to get aboard ship and be done with him. How childish it all seems now! And how brutal—that I could not be moved to confer upon my wife a precious and lasting joy because it would cause me a small inconvenience. I have known few meaner men than I am. By good fortune this feature of my nature does not often get to the surface, and so I doubt if any member of my family except my wife ever suspected how much of that feature there was in me. I suppose it never failed to arrive at the surface when there was opportunity, but it was as I have said—the opportunities have been so infrequent that this worst detail of my character has never been known to any but two persons—Mrs. Clemens, who suffered from it, and I, who suffer from the remembrance of the tears it caused her.
Friday, March 23, 1906
Some curious letter superscriptions which have come to Mr. Clemens—Our
inefficient postal system under Postmaster-General Key—Reminiscences of
Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe—Story of Reverend Charley Stowe’s little boy.
A good many years ago Mrs. Clemens used to keep as curiosities some of the odd and strange superscriptions that decorated letters that came to me from strangers in out-of-the-way corners of the earth. One of these superscriptions was the work of Dr. John Brown, and the letter must have been the first one he wrote me after we came home from Europe in August or September, ’74. Evidently the Doctor was guessing at our address from memory, for he made an amusing mess of it. The superscription was as follows:
Mr. S. L. Clemens.
   (Mark Twain),
            Hartford, N.Y.
            Near Boston, U.S.A.
Now then comes a fact which is almost incredible, to wit: the New York postoffice which did not contain a single salaried idiot who could not have stated promptly who the letter was for and to what town it should go, actually sent that letter to a wee little hamlet hidden away in the remotenesses of the vast State of New York—for what reason? Because that lost and never previously heard-of hamlet was named Hartford. The letter was returned to the New York postoffice from that hamlet. It was returned innocent of the suggestion “Try Hartford Connecticut,” although the hamlet’s postmaster knew quite well that that was the Hartford the writer of the letter was seeking. Then the New York postoffice opened the envelope, got Doctor John’s address out of it, then enclosed it in a fresh envelope and sent it back to Edinburgh. Doctor John then got my address from Menzies, the publisher, and sent the letter to me again. He also enclosed the former envelope—the one that had had the adventures—and his anger at our postal system was like the fury of an angel. He came the nearest to being bitter and offensive that ever he came in his life, I suppose. He said that in Great Britain it was the Postal Department’s boast that by no ingenuity could a man so disguise and conceal a Smith or a Jones or a Robinson in a letter address that the department couldn’t find that man, whereas—then he let fly at our system, which was apparently designed to defeat a letter’s attempts to get to its destination when humanly possible.
Doctor John was right about our department—at that time. But that time did not last long. I think Postmaster-General Key was in office then. He was a new broom, and he did some astonishing sweeping for a while. He made some cast-iron rules which worked great havoc with the nation’s correspondence. It did not occur to him—rational things seldom occurred to him—that there were several millions of people among us who seldom wrote letters; who were utterly ignorant of postal rules, and who were quite sure to make blunders in writing letter addresses whenever blunders were possible, and that it was the Government’s business to do the very best it could by the letters of these innocents and help them get to their destinations, instead of inventing ways to block the road. Key suddenly issued some boiler-iron rules—one of them was that a letter must go to the place named on the envelope, and the effort to find its man must stop there. He must not be searched for. If he wasn’t at the place indicated the letter must be returned to the sender. In the case of Doctor John’s letter the postoffice had a wide discretion—not so very wide either. It must go to a Hartford. That Hartford must be near Boston; it must also be in the State of New York. It went to the Hartford that was furthest from Boston, but it filled the requirement of being in the State of New York—and it got defeated.
Another rule instituted by Key was that letter superscriptions could not end with “Philadelphia”—or “Chicago,” or “San Francisco,” or “Boston,” or “New York,” but, in every case, must add the State, or go to the Dead Letter Office. Also, you could not say “New York, N.Y.,” you must add the word City to the first “New York” or the letter must go to the Dead Letter Office.
During the first thirty days of the dominion of this singular rule sixteen hundred thousand tons of letters went to the Dead Letter Office from the New York postoffice alone. The Dead Letter Office could not contain them and they had to be stacked up outside the building. There was not room outside the building inside the city, so they were formed into a rampart around the city; and if they had had it there during the Civil War we should not have had so much trouble and uneasiness about an invasion of Washington by the Confederate armies. They could neither have climbed over nor under that breastwork nor bored nor blasted through it. Mr. Key was soon brought to a more rational frame of mind.
Then a letter arrived for me enclosed in a fresh envelope. It was from a village priest in Bohemia or Galicia, and was boldly addressed:
Mark Twain,
It had traveled over several European countries; it had met with hospitality and with every possible assistance during its wide journey; it was ringed all over, on both sides, with a chain-mail mesh of postmarks—there were nineteen of them altogether. And one of them was a New York postmark. The postal hospitalities had ceased at New York—within three hours and a half of my home. There the letter had been opened, the priest’s address ascertained, and the letter had then been returned to him, as in the case of Dr. John Brown.
Among Mrs. Clemens’s collection of odd addresses was one on a letter from Australia, worded thus:
Mark Twain,
       God knows where.
That superscription was noted by newspapers, here and there and yonder while it was on its travels, and doubtless suggested another odd superscription invented by some stranger in a far-off land—and this was the wording of it:
Mark Twain.
           (Try Satan).
That stranger’s trust was not misplaced. Satan courteously sent it along.
This morning’s mail brings another of these novelties. It comes from France—from a young English girl—and is addressed:
Mark Twain

c/o President Roosevelt.
The White House

It was not delayed, but came straight along bearing the Washington postmark of yesterday.
In a diary which Mrs. Clemens kept for a little while, a great many years ago, I find various mentions of Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe, who was a near neighbor of ours in Hartford, with no fences between. And in those days she made as much use of our grounds as of her own, in pleasant weather. Her mind had decayed, and she was a pathetic figure. She wandered about all the day long in the care of a muscular Irish woman. Among the colonists of our neighborhood the doors always stood open in pleasant weather. Mrs. Stowe entered them at her own free will, and as she was always softly slippered and generally full of animal spirits, she was able to deal in surprises, and she liked to do it. She would slip up behind a person who was deep in dreams and musings and fetch a war whoop that would jump that person out of his clothes. And she had other moods. Sometimes we would hear gentle music in the drawing-room and would find her there at the piano singing ancient and melancholy songs with infinitely touching effect.
Her husband, old Professor Stowe, was a picturesque figure. He wore a broad slouch hat. He was a large man, and solemn. His beard was white and thick and hung far down on his breast. His nose was enlarged and broken up by a disease which made it look like a cauliflower. The first time our little Susy ever saw him she encountered him on the street near our house and came flying wide-eyed to her mother and said “Santa Claus has got loose!”
Which reminds me of Reverend Charley Stowe’s little boy—a little boy of seven years. I met Reverend Charley crossing his mother’s grounds one morning and he told me this little tale. He had been out to Chicago to attend a Convention of Congregational clergymen, and had taken his little boy with him. During the trip he reminded the little chap, every now and then, that he must be on his very best behavior there in Chicago. He said “We shall be the guests of a clergyman, there will be other guests—clergymen and their wives—and you must be careful to let those people see by your walk and conversation that you are of a godly household. Be very careful about this.” The admonition bore fruit. At the first breakfast which they ate in the Chicago clergyman’s house he heard his little son say in the meekest and most reverent way to the lady opposite him,
“Please, won’t you, for Christ’s sake, pass the butter?”
Monday, March 26, 1906
John D.’s Bible Class again—Mr. Clemens comments on several newspaper clippings—Tells Mr. Howells the scheme of this autobiography—Tells the
newspaper account of girl who tried to commit suicide—Newspapers in remote villages and in great cities contrasted—Remarks about Captain E. L.
Marsh and Dick Higham—Higbie’s letter, and Herald letter to Higbie.

Not to be Put Before God, but All Right as a Goal for the Ambitious.
John D. Rockefeller, Jr., apologized yesterday to the members of his Bible class for having monopolized all the time of the Sunday hour heretofore, and promised never to do so again, unless his subject should be such that discussion of it would not be practical.
“It is better,” he said, “that we have a general discussion, and as many of us as possible express our views.”
Then Mr. Rockefeller raised a question calculated to give the members opportunity for discussion. He took up the Ten Commandments, and after dividing them into the first five as relating to man’s obligations to God and the second five as relating to man’s obligation to his neighbor, he said:
“We are so in the habit of following and obeying most of the Commandments that it is useless to take them up. Let us take the First and Fourth Commandments. Let us now consider the First Commandment, and see if we worship only one God. Many of us give our first thought to our pleasures, and it is very frequently the case to-day that our first thought is for worldly possessions. A stranger coming here would say that the God of New York was the God of Wealth. When we think of pleasure or of wealth before we think of God, then we violate the First Commandment.
“I do not mean to say that we should not be moved by ambition or be given to innocent pleasure, but I mean to say that when we put God second to these aims, we are then not worshipping Him as we should.
“When the rich young man was told to go and give all his possessions to the poor, it was because Christ realized that the rich young man was thinking first of his wealth and then of God, and violating the First Commandment.
“In the consideration of the Fourth Commandment, let us try to discover what is the proper way to observe the Sabbath. How far are we justified in violating the restrictions put down in that commandment?”
Several discussed Sabbath observance. Then Mr. Rockefeller said:
“The subject is one that should give rise to general and helpful discussion. Is it right for me to play golf, to ride a bicycle, or go to the country on Sunday? That is what we want to know. We are here seeking truth. Let us think it over during the week and next Sunday be prepared with our views. Then we may reach a just conclusion.”
Young John D., you see, has been dripping theology again, yesterday. I missed his reunion of the honorary membership of his Bible Class last Thursday night, through illness, and I was very sincerely sorry. I had to telephone him not to come for me. However, perhaps it was of profit to me to be obliged to stay away, for I was going to say some things about lying which would have been too nakedly true for Bible Class consumption. That Bible Class is so uninured to anything resembling either truth or sense that I think a clean straight truth falling in its midst would make as much havoc as a bombshell.

Old Man Got It, 5-Year-Old Gave It, Mother Said, “Shut Up.”
A benevolent-looking old man clung to a strap in a crowded Broadway car bound uptown Saturday afternoon. In a corner seat in front of him huddled a weak-looking little woman who clasped a baby to her breast. Beside her sat another child, a girl perhaps 5 years old, who seemed to be attracted by the old man’s kindly face, for she gazed at him and the baby with her bright, intelligent eyes opened wide. He smiled at her interest and said to her:
“My! What a nice baby! Just such a one as I was looking for. I am going to take it.”
“You can’t,” declared the little girl, quickly. “She’s my sister.”
“What! Won’t you give her to me?”
“No, I won’t.”
“But,” he insisted, and there was real wistfulness in his tones, “I haven’t a baby in my home.”
“Then write to God. He’ll send you one,” said the child, confidently.
The old man laughed. So did the other passengers. But the mother evidently scented blasphemy.
“Tillie,” said she, “shut up and behave yourself!”
That is a scrap which I have cut from this morning’s Times. It is very prettily done, charmingly done; done with admirable ease and grace—with the ease and grace that are born of feeling and sympathy, as well as of practice with the pen. Every now and then a newspaper reporter astonishes me with felicities like this. I was a newspaper reporter myself forty-four years ago, and during three subsequent years—but as I remember it I and my comrades never had time to cast our things in a fine literary mould. That scrap will be just as touching and just as beautiful three hundred years hence as it is now.
I intend that this autobiography shall become a model for all future autobiographies when it is published, after my death, and I also intend that it shall be read and admired a good many centuries because of its form and method—a form and method whereby the past and the present are constantly brought face to face, resulting in contrasts which newly fire up the interest all along like contact of flint with steel. Moreover, this autobiography of mine does not select from my life its showy episodes, but deals merely in the common experiences which go to make up the life of the average human being, and the narrative must interest the average human being because these episodes are of a sort which he is familiar with in his own life, and in which he sees his own life reflected and set down in print. The usual, conventional autobiographer seems to particularly hunt out those occasions in his career when he came into contact with celebrated persons, whereas his contacts with the uncelebrated were just as interesting to him, and would be to his reader, and were vastly more numerous than his collisions with the famous.
Howells was here yesterday afternoon, and I told him the whole scheme of this autobiography and its apparently systemless system—only apparently systemless, for it is not that. It is a deliberate system, and the law of the system is that I shall talk about the matter which for the moment interests me, and cast it aside and talk about something else the moment its interest for me is exhausted. It is a system which follows no charted course and is not going to follow any such course. It is a system which is a complete and purposed jumble—a course which begins nowhere, follows no specified route, and can never reach an end while I am alive, for the reason that if I should talk to the stenographer two hours a day for a hundred years, I should still never be able to set down a tenth part of the things which have interested me in my lifetime. I told Howells that this autobiography of mine would live a couple of thousand years without any effort and would then take a fresh start and live the rest of the time.
He said he believed it would, and asked me if I meant to make a library of it.
I said that that was my design, but that if I should live long enough the set of volumes could not be contained merely in a city, it would require a State, and that there would not be any Rockefeller alive, perhaps, at any time during its existence who would be able to buy a full set, except on the instalment plan.
Howells applauded, and was full of praises and endorsement, which was wise in him and judicious. If he had manifested a different spirit I would have thrown him out of the window. I like criticism, but it must be my way.
Day before yesterday there was another of those happy literary efforts of the reporters, and I meant to cut it out and insert it to be read with a sad pleasure in future centuries, but I forgot and threw the paper away. It was a brief narrative, but well stated. A poor little starved girl of sixteen, clothed in a single garment, in mid-winter, (albeit properly speaking this is spring) was brought in her pendent rags before a magistrate by a policeman, and the charge against her was that she had been found trying to commit suicide. The Judge asked her why she was moved to that crime, and she told him, in a low voice broken by sobs, that her life had become a burden which she could no longer bear; that she worked sixteen hours a day in a sweat-shop; that the meagre wage she earned had to go toward the family support; that her parents were never able to give her any clothes or enough to eat; that she had worn this same ruined garment as long back as she could remember; that her poor companions were her envy because often they had a penny to spend for some pretty trifle for themselves; that she could not remember when she had had a penny for such a purpose. The court, the policemen, and the other spectators cried with her—a sufficient proof that she told her pitiful tale convincingly and well. And the fact that I also was moved by it, at second-hand, is proof that that reporter delivered it from his heart through his pen, and did his work well.
In the remote parts of the country the weekly village newspaper remains the same curious production it was when I was a boy, sixty years ago, on the banks of the Mississippi. The metropolitan daily of the great city tells us every day about the movements of Lieutenant General so and so and Rear-Admiral so and so, and what the Vanderbilts are doing, and what hedge beyond the frontiers of New York John D. Rockefeller is hiding behind to keep from being dragged into court and made to testify about alleged Standard Oil iniquities. These great dailies keep us informed of Mr. Carnegie’s movements and sayings; they tell us what President Roosevelt said yesterday and what he is going to do to-day. They tell us what the children of his family have been saying, just as the princelings of Europe are daily quoted—and we notice that the remarks of the Roosevelt children are distinctly princely in that the things they say are rather notably inane and not worth while. The great dailies kept us overwhelmed, for a matter of two months, with a daily and hourly and most minute and faithful account of everything Miss Alice and her fiancé were saying and doing and what they were going to say and what they were going to do, until at last, through God’s mercy they got married and went under cover and got quiet.
Now the court-circular of the remote village newspaper has always dealt, during these sixty years, with the comings and goings and sayings of its local princelings. They have told us during all those years, and they still tell us, what the principal grocery man is doing and how he has bought a new stock; they tell us that relatives are visiting the ice-cream man, that Miss Smith has arrived to spend a week with the Joneses, and so on, and so on. And all that record is just as intensely interesting to the villagers as is the record I have just been speaking of, of the doings and sayings of the colossally conspicuous personages of the United States. This shows that human nature is all alike; it shows that we like to know what the big people are doing, so that we can envy them. It shows that the big personage of a village bears the same proportion to the little people of the village that the President of the United States bears to the nation. It shows that conspicuousness is the only thing necessary in a person to command our interest and, in a larger or smaller sense, our worship. We recognize that there are no trivial occurrences in life if we get the right focus on them. In a village they are just as prodigious as they are when the subject is a personage of national importance.
The Swangos.
From The Hazel Green (Ky.) Herald.
Dr. Bill Swango is able to be in the saddle again.
Aunt Rhod Swango visited Joseph Catron and wife Sunday.
Mrs. Shiloh Swango attended the auction at Maytown Saturday.
W. W. Swango has a nice bunch of cattle ready for the Mount Sterling market.
James Murphy bought ten head of cattle from W. W. Swango last week.
Mrs. John Swango of Montgomery County visited Shiloh Swango and family last week.
Mrs. Sarah Ellen Swango, wife of Wash, the noted turkey trader of Valeria, was the guest of Mrs. Ben Murphy Saturday and Sunday.
Now that is a very genuine and sincere and honest account of what the Swangos have been doing lately in the interior of Kentucky. We see at a glance what a large place that Swango tribe hold in the admiration and worship of the villagers of Hazel Green, Kentucky. In this account, change Swango to Vanderbilt; then change it to Carnegie; next time change it to Rockefeller; next time change it to the President; next time to the Mayor of New York; next time to Alice’s new husband. Last change of all, change Mrs. Shiloh Swango to Mrs. Alice Roosevelt Longworth. Then it’s a court-circular, all complete and dignified.

Former Elmiran Who Died at Des Moines, Iowa, Recently.
Captain E. L. Marsh, aged sixty-four years, died at Des Moines, Iowa, a week ago Friday—February 23—after a long illness. The deceased was born in Enfield, Tompkins county, N. Y., in 1842, later came to Elmira to live with his parents and in 1857 left Elmira to locate in Iowa, where he has lived the greater part of the time since, the only exception being brief times of residence in the south and east. He enlisted in Company D, of the Second Iowa at Des Moines, and was elected a captain in that regiment. He served throughout the war with marked courage and efficiency. After the war Captain Marsh went to New Orleans, where he remained during most of the reconstruction period and then went to New York, where he engaged in paving business for several years. He went back to Des Moines in 1877 and resided there during the almost thirty years since. He engaged in the real estate business there with great success. He was married in 1873 and is survived by his wife and two children. Captain Marsh was a member of the Loyal legion, Commandery of Iowa, and was senior vice commander of the order for Iowa. He was a member of the G.A.R. also, and a member of the Congregational church. Captain Marsh was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Sheppard Marsh, and Mrs. Marsh was twin sister of the late Mrs. Jervis Langdon of this city. Captain Marsh was a very dear and close friend of his cousin, General Charles J. Langdon, of Elmira.
This clipping from a Des Moines, Iowa, newspaper, arrives this morning. Ed Marsh was a cousin of my wife, and I remember him very well. He was present at our wedding thirty-six years ago, and was a handsome young bachelor. Aside from my interest in him as a cousin of my young bride, he had another interest for me in the fact that in his Company of the Second Iowa Infantry was Dick Higham. Five years before the war Dick, a good-natured, simpleminded, winning lad of seventeen, was an apprentice in my brother’s small printing-office in Keokuk, Iowa. He had an old musket and he used to parade up and down with it in the office, and he said he would rather be a soldier than anything else. The rest of us laughed at him and said he was nothing but a disguised girl, and that if he were confronted by the enemy he would drop his gun and run.
But we were not good prophets. By and by when President Lincoln called for volunteers Dick joined the Second Iowa Infantry, about the time that I was thrown out of my employment as Mississippi River pilot and was preparing to become an imitation soldier on the Confederate side in Ralls County, Missouri. The Second Iowa was moved down to the neighborhood of St. Louis and went into camp there. In some way or other it disgraced itself—and if I remember rightly the punishment decreed was that it should never unfurl its flag again until it won the privilege by gallantry in battle. When General Grant, by and by—February ’62—was ordering the charge upon Fort Donelson the Second Iowa begged for the privilege of leading the assault, and got it. Ed Marsh’s Company, with Dick in it serving as a private soldier, moved up the hill and through and over the felled trees and other obstructions in the forefront of the charge, and Dick fell with a bullet through the centre of his forehead—thus manfully wiping from the slate the chaffing prophecy of five or six years before. Also, what was left of the Second Iowa finished that charge victorious, with its colors flying, and never more to be furled in disgrace.
Ed Marsh’s sister also was at our wedding. She and her brother bore for each other an almost idolatrous love, and this endured until about a year ago. About the time of our marriage, that sister married a blatherskite by the name of Talmage Brown. He was a smart man, but unscrupulous and intemperately religious. Through his smartness he acquired a large fortune, and in his will, made shortly before his death, he appointed Ed Marsh as one of the executors. The estate was worth a million dollars or more, but its affairs were in a very confused condition. Ed Marsh and the other one or two executors performed their duty faithfully, and without remuneration. It took them years to straighten out the estate’s affairs, but they accomplished it. During the succeeding years all went pleasantly. But at last, about a year ago, some relatives of the late Talmage Brown persuaded the widow to bring suit against Ed Marsh and his fellow executors for a large sum of money which it was pretended they had either stolen or had wasted by mismanagement. That severed the devoted relationship which had existed between the brother and sister throughout their lives. The mere bringing of the suit broke Ed Marsh’s heart, for he was a thoroughly honorable man and could not bear even the breath of suspicion. He took to his bed and the case went to court. He had no word of blame for his sister, and said that no one was to blame but the Browns. They had poisoned her mind. The case was heard in court. Then the Judge threw it out with many indignant comments. The Browns rose to leave the court room but he commanded them to wait and hear what else he had to say. Then in dignified language he skinned them alive, pronounced them frauds and swindlers and let them go. But the news of the rehabilitation reached Marsh too late to save him. He did not rally. He has been losing ground gradually for the past two months, and now at last the end has come.
This morning arrives a letter from my ancient silver-mining comrade, Calvin H. Higbie, a man whom I have not seen nor had communication with for forty-four years. Higbie figures in a chapter of mine in “Roughing It,” where the tale is told of how we discovered a rich blind lead in the “Wide West Mine” in Aurora—or, as we called that region then, Esmeralda—and how instead of making our ownership of that exceedingly rich property permanent by doing ten days’ work on it, as required by the mining laws, he went off on a wild goose chase to hunt for the mysterious cement mine; and how I went off nine miles to Walker River to nurse Captain John Nye through a violent case of spasmodic rheumatism or blind staggers, or some malady of the kind; and how Cal and I came wandering back into Esmeralda one night just in time to be too late to save our fortune from the jumpers.
I will insert here this letter, and as it will not see the light until Higbie and I are in our graves, I shall allow myself the privilege of copying his punctuation and his spelling, for to me they are a part of the man. He is as honest as the day is long. He is utterly simple-minded and straightforward, and his spelling and his punctuation are as simple and honest as he is himself. He makes no apology for them, and no apology is needed. They plainly state that he is not educated, and they as plainly state that he makes no pretense to being educated.
Greenville, Plumas co. California
March 15—1906
Saml. L. Clemens.
New York city, N.Y.
My Dear Sir—
Two or three parties have ben after me to write up my recolections of Our associations in Nevada, in the early 60s and have come to the conclusion to do so, and have ben jocting down incidents that came to mind, for several years. What I am in dout is, the date you came to Aurora, Nevada—allso, the first trip you made over thee Sieras to California, after coming to Nev. allso as near as passable date, you tended sick man, on, or near Walker River, when our mine was jumped, dont think for a moment that I intend to steal any of your Thunder, but onely to mention some istnstances that you failed to mention, in any of your articles, Books & c. that I ever saw. I intend to submit the articles to you so that you can see if anything is objectionabl, if so to erase, same, and add anything in its place you saw fit—
I was burned out a few years since, and all old data, went up in smoke, is the reason I ask for above dates. have ben sick more or less for 2 or 3 years, unable to earn anything to speak of, and the finances are getting pretty low, and I will admit that it is mainly for the purpose of Earning a little money, that my first attempt at writing will be made—and I should be so pleased to have your candid opinion, of its merits, and what in your wisdom in such matters, would be its value for publication. I enclose a coppy of Herald in answer to enquiry I made, if such an article was desired.
Hoping to hear from you as soon as convenient, I remain with great respect,
Yours & c
C. H. Higbie.
New York, Mar. 6—/06
C. H. Higbie,
Dr Sir
I should be glad indeed to receive your account of your experiences with Mark Twain, if they are as interesting as I should imagine they would be the Herald would be quite willing to pay you verry well for them, of course, it would be impassible for me to set a price on the matter until I had an opertunity of examining it. if you will kindly send it on, with the privilege of our authenticating it through Mr Clemens, I shall be more than pleased, to give you a Quick decision and make you an offer as it seems worth to us. however, if you have any particular sum in mind which you think should be the price I would suggest that you communicate with me to that effect.
Yours truly
New York Herald,
By Geo. R. Miner,
Sunday Editor
I have written Higbie and asked him to let me do his literary trading for him. He can shovel sand better than I can—as will appear in the next chapter—but I can beat him all to pieces in the art of fleecing a publisher.
Tuesday, March 27, 1906
Higbie’s spelling—Mr. Clemens’s scheme for getting Higbie a job at the Pioneer—In 1863 Mr. Clemens goes to Virginia City to be sole reporter on Territorial Enterprise—Mr. Clemens tries his scheme for finding employment for the unemployed on a young St. Louis reporter with great success—Also worked the scheme for his nephew, Mr. Samuel E. Moffett.
I have allowed Higbie to assist the Herald man’s spelling and make it harmonize with his own. He has done it well and liberally, and without prejudice. To my mind he has improved it, for I have had an aversion to good spelling for sixty years and more, merely for the reason that when I was a boy there was not a thing I could do creditably except spell according to the book. It was a poor and mean distinction, and I early learned to disenjoy it. I suppose that this is because the ability to spell correctly is a talent, not an acquirement. There is some dignity about an acquirement, because it is a product of your own labor. It is wages earned, whereas to be able to do a thing merely by the grace of God, and not by your own effort, transfers the distinction to our heavenly home—where possibly it is a matter of pride and satisfaction, but it leaves you naked and bankrupt.
Higbie was the first person to profit by my great and infallible scheme for finding work for the unemployed. I have tried that scheme, now and then, for forty-four years. So far as I am aware it has always succeeded, and it is one of my high prides that I invented it, and that in basing it upon what I conceived to be a fact of human nature I estimated that fact of human nature accurately.
Higbie and I were living in a cotton-domestic lean-to at the base of a mountain. It was very cramped quarters, with barely room for us and the stove—wretched quarters indeed, for every now and then, between eight in the morning and eight in the evening, the thermometer would make an excursion of fifty degrees. We had a silver-mining claim under the edge of a hill half a mile away, in partnership with Bob Howland and Horatio Phillips, and we used to go there every morning carrying with us our luncheon, and remain all day picking and blasting in our shaft, hoping, despairing, hoping again, and gradually but surely running out of funds. At last, when we were clear out and still had struck nothing, we saw that we must find some other way of earning a living. I secured a place in a near-by quartz mill to screen sand with a long-handled shovel. I hate a long-handled shovel. I never could learn to swing it properly. As often as any other way the sand didn’t reach the screen at all, but went over my head and down my back, inside of my clothes. It was the most detestable work I have ever engaged in, but it paid ten dollars a week and board—and the board was worth while, because it consisted not only of bacon, beans, coffee, bread and molasses, but we had stewed dried apples every day in the week just the same as if it were Sunday. But this palatial life, this gross and luxurious life, had to come to an end, and there were two sufficient reasons for it. On my side, I could not endure the heavy labor; and on the Company’s side, they did not feel justified in paying me to shovel sand down my back; so I was discharged just at the moment that I was going to resign.
If Higbie had taken that job all would have been well and everybody satisfied, for his great frame would have been competent. He was muscled like a giant. He could handle a long-handled shovel like an emperor, and he could work patiently and contentedly twelve hours on a stretch without ever hastening his pulse or his breath. Meantime, he had found nothing to do, and was somewhat discouraged. He said, with an outburst of pathetic longing, “If I could only get a job at the Pioneer!”
I said “What kind of a job do you want at the Pioneer?”
He said “Why, laborer. They get five dollars a day.”
I said “If that’s all you want I can arrange it for you.”
Higbie was astonished. He said “Do you mean to say that you know the foreman there and could get me a job and yet have never said anything about it?”
“No” I said, “I don’t know the foreman.”
“Well” he said, “who is it you know? How is it you can get me the job?”
“Why,” I said, “that’s perfectly simple. If you will do as I tell you to do, and don’t try to improve on my instructions, you shall have the job before night.”
He said eagerly “I’ll obey the instructions, I don’t care what they are.”
“Well,” I said, “go there and say that you want work as a laborer; that you are tired of being idle; that you are not used to being idle, and can’t stand it; that you just merely want the refreshment of work, and require nothing in return.”
He said “Nothing?”
I said, “That’s it—nothing.”
“No wages at all?”
“No, no wages at all.”
“Not even board?”
“No, not even board. You are to work for nothing. Make them understand that—that you are perfectly willing to work for nothing. When they look at that figure of yours that foreman will understand that he has drawn a prize. You’ll get the job.”
Higbie said indignantly, “Yes, a hell of a job.”
I said, “You said you were going to do it, and now you are already criticising. You have said you would obey my instructions. You are always as good as your word. Clear out, now, and get the job.”
He said he would.
I was pretty anxious to know what was going to happen—more anxious than I would have wanted him to find out. I preferred to seem entirely confident of the strength of my scheme, and I made good show of that confidence. But really I was very anxious. Yet I believed that I knew enough of human nature to know that a man like Higbie would not be flung out of that place without reflection when he was offering those muscles of his for nothing. The hours dragged along and he didn’t return. I began to feel better and better. I began to accumulate confidence. At sundown he did at last arrive and I had the joy of knowing that my invention had been a fine inspiration and was successful.
He said the foreman was so astonished at first that he didn’t know how to take hold of the proposition, but that he soon recovered and was evidently very glad that he was able to accommodate Higbie and furnish him the refreshment he was pining for.
Higbie said “How long is this to go on?”
I said “The terms are that you are to stay right there; do your work just as if you were getting the going wages for it. You are never to make any complaint; you are never to indicate that you would like to have wages or board. This will go on one, two, three, four, five, six days, according to the make of that foreman. Some foremen would break down under the strain in a couple of days. There are others who would last a week. It would be difficult to find one who could stand out a whole fortnight without getting ashamed of himself and offering you wages. Now let’s suppose that this is a fortnight-foreman. In that case you will not be there a fortnight. Because the men will spread it around that the very ablest laborer in this camp is so fond of work that he is willing and glad to do it without pay. You will be regarded as the latest curiosity. Men will come from the other mills to have a look at you. You could charge admission and get it, but you mustn’t do that. Stick to your colors. When the foremen of the other mills cast their eyes upon this bulk of yours and perceive that you are worth two ordinary men they’ll offer you half a man’s wages. You are not to accept until you report to your foreman. Give him an opportunity to offer you the same. If he doesn’t do it then you are free to take up with that other man’s offer. Higbie, you’ll be foreman of a mine or a mill inside of three weeks, and at the best wages going.”
It turned out just so—and after that I led an easy life, with nothing to do, for it did not occur to me to take my own medicine. I didn’t want a job as long as Higbie had one. One was enough for so small a family—and so during many succeeding weeks I was a gentleman of leisure, with books and newspapers to read and stewed dried apples every day for dinner the same as Sunday, and I wanted no better career than this in this life. Higbie supported me handsomely, never once complained of it, never once suggested that I go out and try for a job at no wages and keep myself.
That would be in 1862. I parted from Higbie about the end of’62—or possibly it could have been the beginning of ’63—and went to Virginia City, for I had been invited to come there and take William H. Wright’s place as sole reporter on the Territorial Enterprise and do Wright’s work for three months while he crossed the plains to Iowa to visit his family. However I have told all about this in “Roughing It.”
I have never seen Higbie since, in all these forty-four years.
Shortly after my marriage, in 1870, I received a letter from a young man in St. Louis who was possibly a distant relative of mine—I don’t remember now about that—but his letter said that he was anxious and ambitious to become a journalist—and would I send him a letter of introduction to some St. Louis newspaper and make an effort to get him a place as a reporter? It was the first time I had had an opportunity to make a new trial of my great scheme. I wrote him and said I would get him a place on any newspaper in St. Louis; he could choose the one he preferred, but he must promise me to faithfully follow out the instructions which I should give him. He replied that he would follow out those instructions to the letter and with enthusiasm. His letter was overflowing with gratitude—premature gratitude. He asked for the instructions. I sent them. I said he must not use a letter of introduction from me or from any one else. He must go to the newspaper of his choice and say that he was idle, and weary of being idle, and wanted work—that he was pining for work, longing for work—that he didn’t care for wages, didn’t want wages, but would support himself—he wanted work, nothing but work, and not work of a particular kind, but any kind of work they would give him to do. He would sweep out the editorial rooms; he would keep the ink-stands full, and the mucilage bottles, he would run errands, he would make himself useful in every way he could.
I suspected that my scheme would not work with everybody—that some people would scorn to labor for nothing, and would think it matter for self-contempt; also that many persons would think me a fool to suggest such a project; also that many persons would not have character enough to go into the scheme in a determined way and test it. I was interested to know what kind of a candidate this one was, but of course I had to wait some time to find out. I had told him he must never ask for wages; he must never be beguiled into making that mistake; that sooner or later an offer of wages would come from somewhere, and in that case he must go straight to his employer and give him the opportunity to offer him the like wages, in which case he must stay where he was—that as long as he was in anybody’s employ he must never ask for an advance of wages; that would always come from somewhere else if he proved his worthiness.
The scheme worked again. That young fellow chose his paper, and during the first few days he did the sweeping out and other humble work; and kept his mouth shut. After that the staff began to take notice of him. They saw that they could employ him in lots of ways that saved time and effort for them at no expense. They found that he was alert and willing. They began presently to widen his usefulness. Then he ventured to risk another detail of my instructions; I had told him not to be in a hurry about it, but to make his popularity secure first. He took up that detail now. When he was on his road between office and home, and when he was out on errands, he kept his eyes open and whenever he saw anything that could be useful in the local columns he wrote it out, then went over it and abolished adjectives, went over it again and extinguished other surplusages, and finally when he got it boiled down to the plain facts with the ruffles and other embroideries all gone, he laid it on the city editor’s desk. He scored several successes, and saw his stuff go into the paper unpruned. Presently the city editor when short of help sent him out on an assignment. He did his best with it, and with good results. This happened with more and more frequency. It brought him into contact with all the reporters of all the newspapers. He made friends with them and presently one of them told him of a berth that was vacant, and that he could get it and the wages too. He said he must see his own employers first about it. In strict accordance with my instructions he carried the offer to his own employers, and the thing happened which was to be expected. They said they could pay that wage as well as any other newspaper—stay where he was.
This young man wrote me two or three times a year and he always had something freshly encouraging to report about my scheme. Now and then he would be offered a raise by another newspaper. He carried the news to his own paper; his own paper stood the raise every time and he remained there. Finally he got an offer which his employers could not meet and then they parted. This offer was a salary of three thousand a year, to be managing editor on a daily in a Southern city of considerable importance, and it was a large wage for that day and region. He held that post three years. After that I never heard of him any more.
About 1886 my nephew, Samuel E. Moffett, a youth in the twenties, lost his inherited property and found himself obliged to hunt for something to do by way of making a living. He was an extraordinary young fellow in several ways. A nervous malady had early unfitted him for attending school in any regular way, and he had come up without a school education—but this was no great harm for him, for he had a prodigious memory and a powerful thirst for knowledge. At twelve years he had picked up, through reading and listening, a large and varied treasury of knowledge, and I remember one exhibition of it which was very offensive to me. He was visiting in our house and I was trying to build a game out of historical facts drawn from all the ages. I had put in a good deal of labor on this game, and it was hard labor, for the facts were not in my head. I had to dig them painfully out of the books. The boy looked over my work, found that my facts were not accurate and the game, as it stood, not usable. Then he sat down and built the whole game out of his memory. To me it was a wonderful performance, and I was deeply offended.
As I have said, he wrote me from San Francisco in his early twenties, and said he wanted to become a journalist, and would I send him some letters of introduction to the newspaper editors of that city? I wrote back and put him strictly under those same old instructions. I sent him no letter of introduction and forbade him to use one furnished by anybody else. He followed the instructions strictly. He went to work in the Examiner, a property of William R. Hearst. He cleaned out the editorial rooms and carried on the customary drudgeries required by my scheme. In a little while he was on the editorial staff at a good salary. After two or three years the salary was raised to a very good figure indeed. After another year or two he handed in his resignation—for in the meantime he had married and was living in Oakland, or one of those suburbs, and did not like the travel to and fro between the newspaper and his home in the late hours of the night and the morning. Then he was told to stay in Oakland, write his editorials there and send them over, and the large salary was continued. By and by he was brought to New York to serve on Mr. Hearst’s New York paper, and when he finally resigned from that employment he had been in Mr. Hearst’s employ sixteen years without a break. Then he became an editorial writer on the New York World with the privilege of living out of town and sending his matter in. His wage was eight thousand dollars a year. A couple of years ago Collier’s Weekly offered him an easy berth and one which was particularly desirable in his case, since it would deal mainly with historical matters, past and present—and that was an industry which he liked. The salary was to be ten thousand dollars. He came to me for advice, and I told him to accept, which he did. When Mr. Pulitzer found that he was gone from the World he was not pleased with his managing editor for letting him go, but his managing editor was not to blame. He didn’t know that Moffett was going until he received his resignation. Pulitzer offered Moffett a billet for twenty years, this term to be secured in such a way that it could not be endangered by Pulitzer’s death, and to this offer was added the extraordinary proposition that Moffett could name his own salary. But of course Moffett remains with Collier, his agreement with Collier’s having been already arrived at satisfactorily to both parties.
Wednesday, March 28, 1906
Orion Clemens’s personality—His adventure at the house of
Dr. Meredith—His three o’clock a.m. call on young lady—Death of
Mr. Clemens’s father, just after having been made County Judge—
Mr. Clemens’s small income after having become bankrupt through
maladministration of Charles L. Webster.
My brother’s experience was another conspicuous example of my scheme’s efficiency. I will talk about that by and by. But for the moment my interest suddenly centres itself upon his personality, moved thereto by this passing mention of him—and so I will drop other matters and sketch that personality. It is a very curious one. In all my seventy years I have not met the twin of it.
Orion Clemens was born in Jamestown, Fentress County, Tennessee, in 1825. He was the family’s first-born, and antedated me ten years. Between him and me came a sister, Margaret, who died, aged ten, in 1837 in that village of Florida, Missouri, where I was born; and Pamela, mother of Samuel E. Moffett, who was an invalid all her life and died in the neighborhood of New York a year ago, aged about seventy-five, after experimenting with every malady known to the human race and with every medicine and method of healing known to that race, and enjoying each malady in its turn and each medicine and each healing method, with an enthusiasm known only to persons with a passion for novelties. Her character was without blemish, and she was of a most kindly and gentle disposition. Also there was a brother, Benjamin, who died in aged ten or twelve.
Orion’s boyhood was spent in that wee little log hamlet of Jamestown up there among the “knobs”—so called—of east Tennessee, among a very sparse population of primitives who were as ignorant of the outside world and as unconscious of it as were the other wild animals that inhabited the forest around. The family migrated to Florida, Missouri, then moved to Hannibal, Missouri, when Orion was twelve and a half years old. When he was fifteen or sixteen he was sent to St. Louis and there he learned the printer’s trade. One of his characteristics was eagerness. He woke with an eagerness about some matter or other every morning; it consumed him all day; it perished in the night and he was on fire with a fresh new interest next morning before he could get his clothes on. He exploited in this way three hundred and sixty-five red hot new eagernesses every year of his life—until he died sitting at a table with a pen in his hand, in the early morning, jotting down the conflagration for that day and preparing to enjoy the fire and smoke of it until night should extinguish it. He was then seventy-two years old. But I am forgetting another characteristic, a very pronounced one. That was his deep glooms, his despondencies, his despairs; these had their place in each and every day along with the eagernesses. Thus his day was divided—no, not divided, mottled—from sunrise to midnight with alternating brilliant sunshine and black cloud. Every day he was the most joyous and hopeful man that ever was, I think, and also every day he was the most miserable man that ever was.
While he was in his apprenticeship in St. Louis, he got well acquainted with Edward Bates, who was afterwards in Mr. Lincoln’s first cabinet. Bates was a very fine man, an honorable and upright man, and a distinguished lawyer. He patiently allowed Orion to bring to him each new project; he discussed it with him and extinguished it by argument and irresistible logic—at first. But after a few weeks he found that this labor was not necessary; that he could leave the new project alone and it would extinguish itself the same night. Orion thought he would like to become a lawyer. Mr. Bates encouraged him, and he studied law nearly a week, then of course laid it aside to try something new. He wanted to become an orator. Mr. Bates gave him lessons. Mr. Bates walked the floor reading from an English book aloud and rapidly turning the English into French, and he recommended this exercise to Orion. But as Orion knew no French, he took up that study and wrought at it like a volcano for two or three days; then gave it up. During his apprenticeship in St. Louis he joined a number of churches, one after another, and taught in their Sunday-schools—changing his Sunday-school every time he changed his religion. He was correspondingly erratic in his politics—Whig to-day, Democrat next week, and anything fresh that he could find in the political market the week after. I may remark here that throughout his long life he was always trading religions and enjoying the change of scenery. I will also remark that his sincerity was never doubted; his truthfulness was never doubted; and in matters of business and money his honesty was never questioned. Notwithstanding his forever-recurring caprices and changes, his principles were high, always high, and absolutely unshakable. He was the strangest compound that ever got mixed in a human mould. Such a person as that is given to acting upon impulse and without reflection; that was Orion’s way. Everything he did he did with conviction and enthusiasm and with a vainglorious pride in the thing he was doing—and no matter what that thing was, whether good, bad, or indifferent, he repented of it every time in sackcloth and ashes before twenty-four hours had sped. Pessimists are born, not made. Optimists are born, not made. But I think he was the only person I have ever known in whom pessimism and optimism were lodged in exactly equal proportions. Except in the matter of grounded principle, he was as unstable as water. You could dash his spirits with a single word; you could raise them into the sky again with another one. You could break his heart with a word of disapproval; you could make him as happy as an angel with a word of approval. And there was no occasion to put any sense or any vestige of mentality of any kind into these miracles; anything you might say would answer.
He had another conspicuous characteristic, and it was the father of those which I have just spoken of. This was an intense lust for approval. He was so eager to be approved, so girlishly anxious to be approved by anybody and everybody, without discrimination, that he was commonly ready to forsake his notions, opinions and convictions at a moment’s notice in order to get the approval of any person who disagreed with them. I wish to be understood as reserving his fundamental principles all the time. He never forsook those to please anybody. Born and reared among slaves and slave-holders, he was yet an abolitionist from his boyhood to his death. He was always truthful; he was always sincere; he was always honest and honorable. But in light matters—matters of small consequence, like religion and politics and such things—he never acquired a conviction that could survive a disapproving remark from a cat.
He was always dreaming; he was a dreamer from birth, and this characteristic got him into trouble now and then. Once when he was twenty-three or twenty-four years old, and was become a journeyman, he conceived the romantic idea of coming to Hannibal without giving us notice, in order that he might furnish to the family a pleasant surprise. If he had given notice, he would have been informed that we had changed our residence and that that gruff old bass-voiced sailor-man, Dr. Meredith, our family physician, was living in the house which we had formerly occupied and that Orion’s former room in that house was now occupied by Dr. Meredith’s two ripe old-maid sisters. Orion arrived at Hannibal per steamboat in the middle of the night, and started with his customary eagerness on his excursion, his mind all on fire with his romantic project and building and enjoying his surprise in advance. He was always enjoying things in advance; it was the make of him. He never could wait for the event, but must build it out of dream-stuff and enjoy it beforehand—consequently sometimes when the event happened he saw that it was not as good as the one he had invented in his imagination, and so he had lost profit by not keeping the imaginary one and letting the reality go.
When he arrived at the house he went around to the back door and slipped off his boots and crept up stairs and arrived at the room of those old maids without having wakened any sleepers. He undressed in the dark and got into bed and snuggled up against somebody. He was a little surprised, but not much—for he thought it was our brother Ben. It was winter, and the bed was comfortable, and the supposed Ben added to the comfort—and so he was dropping off to sleep very well satisfied with his progress so far and full of happy dreams of what was going to happen in the morning. But something else was going to happen sooner than that, and it happened now. The old maid that was being crowded squirmed and struggled and presently came to a half waking condition and protested against the crowding. That voice paralysed Orion. He couldn’t move a limb; he couldn’t get his breath; and the crowded one began to paw around, found Orion’s new whiskers and screamed “Why it’s a man!” This removed the paralysis, and Orion was out of the bed and clawing around in the dark for his clothes in a fraction of a second. Both maids began to scream, then, so Orion did not wait to get his whole wardrobe. He started with such parts of it as he could grab. He flew to the head of the stairs and started down, and was paralysed again at that point, because he saw the faint yellow flame of a candle soaring up the stairs from below and he judged that Dr. Meredith was behind it, and he was. He had no clothes on to speak of, but no matter, he was well enough fixed for an occasion like this, because he had a butcher-knife in his hand. Orion shouted to him, and this saved his life, for the Doctor recognized his voice. Then in those deep-sea-going bass tones of his that I used to admire so much when I was a little boy, he explained to Orion the change that had been made, told him where to find the Clemens family, and closed with some quite unnecessary advice about posting himself before he undertook another adventure like that—advice which Orion probably never needed again as long as he lived.
One bitter December night, Orion sat up reading until three o’clock in the morning and then, without looking at a clock, sallied forth to call on a young lady. He hammered and hammered at the door; couldn’t get any response; didn’t understand it. Anybody else would have regarded that as an indication of some kind or other and would have drawn inferences and gone home. But Orion didn’t draw inferences, he merely hammered and hammered, and finally the father of the girl appeared at the door in a dressing-gown. He had a candle in his hand and the dressing-gown was all the clothing he had on—except an expression of unwelcome which was so thick and so large that it extended all down his front to his instep and nearly obliterated the dressing-gown. But Orion didn’t notice that this was an unpleasant expression. He merely walked in. The old gentleman took him into the parlor, set the candle on a table, and stood. Orion made the usual remarks about the weather, and sat down—sat down and talked and talked and went on talking—that old man looking at him vindictively and waiting for his chance—waiting treacherously and malignantly for his chance. Orion had not asked for the young lady. It was not customary. It was understood that a young fellow came to see the girl of the house, not the founder of it. At last Orion got up and made some remark to the effect that probably the young lady was busy and he would go now and call again. That was the old man’s chance, and he said with fervency “Why good God, aren’t you going to stop to breakfast?”
When my father died, in 1847, the disaster happened—as is the customary way with such things—just at the very moment when our fortunes had changed and we were about to be comfortable once more, after several years of grinding poverty and privation which had been inflicted upon us by the dishonest act of one Ira Stout, to whom my father had lent several thousand dollars—a fortune in those days and in that region. My father had just been elected County Judge. This modest prosperity was not only quite sufficient for us and for our ambitions, but he was so esteemed—held in such high regard and honor throughout the county—that his occupancy of that dignified office would, in the opinion of everybody, be his possession as long as he might live. He went to Palmyra, the county-seat, to be sworn in, about the end of February. In returning home, horseback, twelve miles, a storm of sleet and rain assailed him and he arrived at the house in a half frozen condition. Pleurisy followed and he died on the 24th of March.
Thus our splendid new fortune was snatched from us and we were in the depths of poverty again. It is the way such things are accustomed to happen.
When I became a bankrupt through the ignorance and maladministration of Charles L. Webster, after having been robbed of a hundred and seventy thousand dollars by James W. Paige* during the seven immediately preceding years, we went to Europe in order to be able to live on what was left of our income, and it was sufficiently slender. During the succeeding ten or twelve years it was often as low as twelve thousand a year, and at no time did it reach above twenty thousand a year, I think. I am sure it did not reach above twelve thousand until two years before we returned from Europe, in October 1900. Then it improved considerably, but it was too late to be of much service to Mrs. Clemens. She had endured the economies of that long stretch of years without a single murmur, and now when fortune turned in our favor it was too late. She was stricken down, and after twenty-two months of suffering she died. In Florence, Italy, June 5, 1904.
As I have said, the Clemens family was penniless. Orion came to the rescue.
Thursday, March 29, 1906
Mr. Clemens as apprentice to Mr. Ament—Wilhelm II’s dinner, and potato
incident—The printing of Reverend Alexander Campbell’s sermon—
Incident of dropping watermelon on Henry’s head—Orion buys Hannibal
Journal which is a failure—Then he goes to Muscatine, Iowa, and marries—
Mr. Clemens starts out alone to see the world—Visits St. Louis, New York,
Philadelphia, Washington—Then goes to Muscatine and works in Orion’s
office—Finds fifty-dollar bill—Thinks of going to explore the Amazon and
collect coca—Gets Horace Bixby to train him as pilot—Starts with Orion
for Nevada when Orion is made Secretary to Territory of Nevada.
But I am in error. Orion did not come to Hannibal until two or three years after my father’s death. He remained in St. Louis. Meantime he was a journeyman printer and earning wages. Out of his wage he supported my mother and my brother Henry, who was two years younger than I. My sister Pamela helped in this support by taking piano pupils. Thus we got along, but it was pretty hard sledding. I was not one of the burdens, because I was taken from school at once, upon my father’s death, and placed in the office of the Hannibal Courier, as printer’s apprentice, and Mr. Ament, the editor and proprietor of the paper, allowed me the usual emolument of the office of apprentice—that is to say board and clothes, but no money. The clothes consisted of two suits a year, but one of the suits always failed to materialize and the other suit was not purchased so long as Mr. Ament’s old clothes held out. I was only about half as big as Ament, consequently his shirts gave me the uncomfortable sense of living in a circus-tent, and I had to turn up his pants to my ears to make them short enough.
There were two other apprentices. One was Wales McCormick, seventeen or eighteen years old and a giant. When he was in Ament’s clothes they fitted him as the candle-mould fits the candle—thus he was generally in a suffocated condition, particularly in the summertime. He was a reckless, hilarious, admirable creature; he had no principles, and was delightful company. At first we three apprentices had to feed in the kitchen with the old slave cook and her very handsome and bright and well-behaved young mulatto daughter. For his own amusement—for he was not generally laboring for other people’s amusement—Wales was constantly and persistently and loudly and elaborately making love to that mulatto girl and distressing the life out of her and worrying the old mother to death. She would say “Now Marse Wales, Marse Wales, can’t you behave yourself?” With encouragement like that, Wales would naturally renew his attentions and emphasize them. It was killingly funny to Ralph and me. And, to speak truly, the old mother’s distress about it was merely a pretense. She quite well understood that by the customs of slave-holding communities it was Wales’s right to make love to that girl if he wanted to. But the girl’s distress was very real. She had a refined nature, and she took all Wales’s extravagant love-making in resentful earnest.
We got but little variety in the way of food at that kitchen table, and there wasn’t enough of it anyway. So we apprentices used to keep alive by arts of our own—that is to say, we crept into the cellar nearly every night, by a private entrance which we had discovered, and we robbed the cellar of potatoes and onions and such things, and carried them down town to the printing-office, where we slept on pallets on the floor, and cooked them at the stove and had very good times. Wales had a secret of cooking a potato which was noble and wonderful and all his own. Since his day I have seen a potato cooked in that way only once. It was when Wilhelm II, Emperor of Germany, commanded my presence at a private feed toward the end of the year 1901. And when that potato appeared on the table it surprised me out of my discretion and made me commit the unforgivable sin, before I could get a grip on my discretion again—that is to say, I made a joyful exclamation of welcome over the potato, addressing my remark to the Emperor at my side without waiting for him to take the first innings. I think he honestly tried to pretend that he was not shocked and outraged, but he plainly was; and so were the other half-dozen grandees who were present. They were all petrified, and nobody could have said a word if he had tried. The ghastly silence endured for as much as half a minute, and would have lasted until now, of course, if the Emperor hadn’t broken it himself, for no one else there would have ventured that. It was at half past six in the evening, and the frost did not get out of the atmosphere entirely until close upon midnight, when it did finally melt away—or wash away—under generous floods of beer.
As I have indicated, Mr. Ament’s economies were of a pretty close and rigid kind. By and by, when we apprentices were promoted from the basement to the ground floor and allowed to sit at the family table, along with the one journeyman, Pet McMurry, the economies continued. Mrs. Ament was a bride. She had attained to that distinction very recently, after waiting a good part of a lifetime for it, and she was the right woman in the right place, according to the Amentian idea, for she did not trust the sugar-bowl to us, but sweetened our coffee herself. That is she went through the motions. She didn’t really sweeten it. She seemed to put one heaping teaspoonful of brown sugar into each cup, but, according to Wales, that was a deceit. He said she dipped the spoon in the coffee first to make the sugar stick, and then scooped the sugar out of the bowl with the spoon upside-down, so that the effect to the eye was a heaped-up spoon, whereas the sugar on it was nothing but a layer. This all seems perfectly true to me, and yet that thing would be so difficult to perform that I suppose it really didn’t happen, but was one of Wales’s lies.
I have said that Wales was reckless, and he was. It was the recklessness of ever-bubbling and indestructible good spirits flowing from the joy of youth. I think there wasn’t anything that that vast boy wouldn’t have done to procure five minutes’ entertainment for himself. One never knew where he would break out next. Among his shining characteristics was the most limitless and adorable irreverence. There didn’t seem to be anything serious in life for him; there didn’t seem to be anything that he revered.
Once the celebrated founder of the at that time new and wide-spread sect called Campbellites, arrived in our village from Kentucky, and it made a prodigious excitement. The farmers and their families drove or tramped into the village from miles around to get a sight of the illustrious Alexander Campbell and to have a chance to hear him preach. When he preached in a church many had to be disappointed, for there was no church that would begin to hold all the applicants; so in order to accommodate all, he preached in the open air in the public square, and that was the first time in my life that I had realized what a mighty population this planet contains when you get them all together.
He preached a sermon on one of these occasions which he had written especially for that occasion. All the Campbellites wanted it printed, so that they could save it and read it over and over again, and get it by heart. So they drummed up sixteen dollars, which was a large sum then, and for this great sum Mr. Ament contracted to print five hundred copies of that sermon and put them in yellow paper covers. It was a sixteen-page duodecimo pamphlet, and it was a great event in our office. As we regarded it, it was a book, and it promoted us to the dignity of book printers. Moreover, no such mass of actual money as sixteen dollars, in one bunch, had ever entered that office on any previous occasion. People didn’t pay for their paper and for their advertising in money, they paid in dry-goods, sugar, coffee, hickory wood, oak wood, turnips, pumpkins, onions, watermelons—and it was very seldom indeed that a man paid in money, and when that happened we thought there was something the matter with him.
We set up the great book in pages—eight pages to a form—and by help of a printer’s manual we managed to get the pages in their apparently crazy but really sane places on the imposing-stone. We printed that form on a Thursday. Then we set up the remaining eight pages, locked them into a form and struck a proof. Wales read the proof, and presently was aghast, for he had struck a snag. And it was a bad time to strike a snag, because it was Saturday; it was approaching noon; Saturday afternoon was our holiday, and we wanted to get away and go fishing. At such a time as this, Wales struck that snag and showed us what had happened. He had left out a couple of words in a thin-spaced page of solid matter and there wasn’t another break-line for two or three pages ahead. What in the world was to be done? Overrun all those pages in order to get in the two missing words? Apparently there was no other way. It would take an hour to do it. Then a revise must be sent to the great minister; we must wait for him to read the revise; if he encountered any errors we must correct them. It looked as if we might lose half the afternoon before we could get away. Then Wales had one of his brilliant ideas. In the line in which the “out” had been made occurred the name Jesus Christ. Wales reduced that to J. C. It made room for the missing words, but it took 99 per cent of the solemnity out of a particularly solemn sentence. We sent off the revise and waited. We were not intending to wait long. In the circumstances we meant to get out and go fishing before that revise should get back, but we were not speedy enough. Presently that great Alexander Campbell appeared at the far end of that sixty-foot room, and his countenance cast a gloom over the whole place. He strode down to our end and what he said was brief but it was very stern, and it was to the point. He read Wales a lecture. He said “So long as you live, don’t you ever diminish the Savior’s name again. Put it all in.” He repeated this admonition a couple of times to emphasize it, then he went away.
In that day the common swearers of the region had a way of their own of emphasizing the Savior’s name when they were using it profanely, and this fact intruded itself into Wales’s incorrigible mind. It offered him an opportunity for a momentary entertainment which seemed to him to be more precious and more valuable than even fishing and swimming could afford. So he imposed upon himself the long and weary and dreary task of overrunning all those three pages in order to improve upon his former work and incidentally and thoughtfully improve upon the great preacher’s admonition. He enlarged the offending J. C. into Jesus H. Christ. Wales knew that that would make prodigious trouble, and it did. But it was not in him to resist it. He had to succumb to the law of his make. I don’t remember what his punishment was, but he was not the person to care for that. He had already collected his dividend.
It was during my first year’s apprenticeship in the Courier office that I did a thing which I have been trying to regret for fifty-five years. It was a summer afternoon and just the kind of weather that a boy prizes for river excursions and other frolics, but I was a prisoner. The others were all gone holidaying. I was alone and sad. I had committed a crime of some sort and this was the punishment. I must lose my holiday, and spend the afternoon in solitude besides. I had the printing-office all to myself, there in the third story. I had one comfort, and it was a generous one while it lasted. It was the half of a long and broad watermelon, fresh and red and ripe. I gouged it out with a knife, and I found accommodation for the whole of it in my person—though it did crowd me until the juice ran out of my ears. There remained then the shell, the hollow shell. It was big enough to do duty as a cradle. I didn’t want to waste it, and I couldn’t think of anything to do with it which could afford entertainment. I was sitting at the open window which looked out upon the sidewalk of the main street three stories below, when it occurred to me to drop it on somebody’s head. I doubted the judiciousness of this, and I had some compunctions about it too, because so much of the resulting entertainment would fall to my share and so little to the other person. But I thought I would chance it. I watched out of the window for the right person to come along—the safe person—but he didn’t come. Every time there was a candidate he or she turned out to be an unsafe one, and I had to restrain myself. But at last I saw the right one coming. It was my brother Henry. He was the best boy in the whole region. He never did harm to anybody, he never offended anybody. He was exasperatingly good. He had an overflowing abundance of goodness—but not enough to save him this time. I watched his approach with eager interest. He came strolling along, dreaming his pleasant summer dream and not doubting but that Providence had him in his care. If he had known where I was he would have had less confidence in that superstition. As he approached his form became more and more foreshortened. When he was almost under me he was so foreshortened that nothing of him was visible from my high place except the end of his nose and his alternately approaching feet. Then I poised the watermelon, calculated my distance and let it go, hollow side down. The accuracy of that gunnery was beyond admiration. He had about six steps to make when I let that canoe go, and it was lovely to see those two bodies gradually closing in on each other. If he had had seven steps to make, or five steps to make, my gunnery would have been a failure. But he had exactly the right number to make, and that shell smashed down right on the top of his head and drove him into the earth up to the chin. The chunks of that broken melon flew in every direction like a spray, and they broke third story windows all around. They had to get a jack such as they hoist buildings with to pull him out. I wanted to go down there and condole with him, but it would not have been safe. He would have suspected me at once. I expected him to suspect me anyway, but as he said nothing about this adventure for two or three days—I was watching him in the meantime in order to keep out of danger—I was deceived into believing that this time he didn’t suspect me. It was a mistake. He was only waiting for a sure opportunity. Then he landed a cobblestone on the side of my head which raised a bump there so large that I had to wear two hats for a time. I carried this crime to my mother, for I was always anxious to get Henry into trouble with her and could never succeed. I thought that I had a sure case this time when she should come to see that murderous bump. I showed it to her but she said it was no matter. She didn’t need to inquire into the circumstances. She knew I had deserved it, and the best way would be for me to accept it as a valuable lesson, and thereby get profit out of it.
About 1849 or 1850 Orion severed his connection with the printing-house in St. Louis and came up to Hannibal and bought a weekly paper called the Hannibal Journal, together with its plant and its good-will, for the sum of five hundred dollars cash. He borrowed the cash at 10 per cent interest, from an old farmer named Johnson who lived five miles out of town. Then he reduced the subscription price of the paper from two dollars to one dollar. He reduced the rates for advertising in about the same proportion, and thus he created one absolute and unassailable certainty—to wit: that the business would never pay him a single cent of profit. He took me out of the Courier office and engaged my services in his own at three dollars and a half a week, which was an extravagant wage, but Orion was always generous, always liberal with everybody except himself. It cost him nothing in my case, for he never was able to pay me a penny as long as I was with him. By the end of the first year he found he must make some economies. The office rent was cheap, but it was not cheap enough. He could not afford to pay rent of any kind, so he moved the whole plant into the house we lived in, and it cramped the dwelling-place cruelly. He kept that paper alive during four years, but I have at this time no idea how he accomplished it. Toward the end of each year he had to turn out and scrape and scratch for the fifty dollars of interest due Mr. Johnson, and that fifty dollars was about the only cash he ever received or paid out, I suppose, while he was proprietor of that newspaper, except for ink and printing-paper. The paper was a dead failure. It had to be that from the start. Finally he handed it over to Mr. Johnson, and went up to Muscatine, Iowa, and acquired a small interest in a weekly newspaper there. It was not a sort of property to marry on—but no matter. He came across a winning and pretty girl who lived in Quincy, Illinois, a few miles below Keokuk, and they became engaged. He was always falling in love with girls, but by some accident or other he had never gone so far as engagement before. And now he achieved nothing but misfortune by it, because he straightway fell in love with a Keokuk girl—at least he imagined that he was in love with her, whereas I think she did the imagining for him. The first thing he knew he was engaged to her, and he was in a great quandary. He didn’t know whether to marry the Keokuk one or the Quincy one, or whether to try to marry both of them and suit every one concerned. But the Keokuk girl soon settled that for him. She was a master spirit and she ordered him to write the Quincy girl and break off that match, which he did. Then he married the Keokuk girl and they began a struggle for life which turned out to be a difficult enterprise, and very unpromising.
To gain a living in Muscatine was plainly impossible, so Orion and his new wife went to Keokuk to live, for she wanted to be near her relatives. He bought a little bit of a job printing-plant—on credit, of course—and at once put prices down to where not even the apprentices could get a living out of it, and this sort of thing went on.
I had not joined the Muscatine migration. Just before that happened (which I think was in 1853) I disappeared one night and fled to St. Louis. There I worked in the composing-room of the Evening News for a time, and then started on my travels to see the world. The world was New York City, and there was a little World’s Fair there. It had just been opened where the great reservoir afterward was, and where the sumptuous public library is now being built—Fifth Avenue and 42d street. I arrived in New York with two or three dollars in pocket change and a ten-dollar bank-bill concealed in the lining of my coat. I got work at villainous wages in the establishment of John A. Gray and Green in Cliff street, and I found board in a sufficiently villainous mechanics’ boarding-house in Duane street. The firm paid my wages in wildcat money at its face value, and my week’s wage merely sufficed to pay board and lodging. By and by I went to Philadelphia and worked there some months as a “sub” on the Inquirer and the Public Ledger. Finally I made a flying trip to Washington to see the sights there, and in 1854 I went back to the Mississippi Valley, sitting upright in the smoking-car two or three days and nights. When I reached St. Louis I was exhausted. I went to bed on board a steamboat that was bound for Muscatine. I fell asleep at once, with my clothes on, and didn’t wake again for thirty-six hours.
I worked in that little job office in Keokuk as much as two years, I should say, without ever collecting a cent of wages, for Orion was never able to pay anything—but Dick Higham and I had good times. I don’t know what Dick got, but it was probably only uncashable promises.
1856 or 1857
One day in the mid-winter of 1856 or 1857—I think it was 1856—I was coming along the main street of Keokuk in the middle of the forenoon. It was bitter weather—so bitter that that street was deserted, almost. A light dry snow was blowing here and there on the ground and on the pavement, swirling this way and that way and making all sorts of beautiful figures, but very chilly to look at. The wind blew a piece of paper past me and it lodged against a wall of a house. Something about the look of it attracted my attention and I gathered it in. It was a fifty-dollar bill, the only one I had ever seen, and the largest assemblage of money I had ever encountered in one spot. I advertised it in the papers and suffered more than a thousand dollars’ worth of solicitude and fear and distress during the next few days lest the owner should see the advertisement and come and take my fortune away. As many as four days went by without an applicant; then I could endure this kind of misery no longer. I felt sure that another four could not go by in this safe and secure way. I felt that I must take that money out of danger. So I bought a ticket for Cincinnati and went to that city. I worked there several months in the printing-office of Wrightson and Company. I had been reading Lieutenant Herndon’s account of his explorations of the Amazon and had been mightily attracted by what he said of coca. I made up my mind that I would go to the head-waters of the Amazon and collect coca and trade in it and make a fortune. I left for New Orleans in the steamer Paul Jones with this great idea filling my mind. One of the pilots of that boat was Horace Bixby. Little by little I got acquainted with him, and pretty soon I was doing a lot of steering for him in his daylight watches. When I got to New Orleans I inquired about ships leaving for Pará and discovered that there weren’t any, and learned that there probably wouldn’t be any during that century. It had not occurred to me to inquire about these particulars before leaving Cincinnati, so there I was. I couldn’t get to the Amazon. I had no friends in New Orleans and no money to speak of. I went to Horace Bixby and asked him to make a pilot out of me. He said he would do it for a hundred dollars cash in advance. So I steered for him up to St. Louis, borrowed the money from my brother-in-law and closed the bargain. I had acquired this brother-in-law several years before. This was Mr. William A. Moffett, a merchant, a Virginian—a fine man in every way. He had married my sister Pamela, and the Samuel E. Moffett of whom I have been speaking was their son. Within eighteen months I became a competent pilot, and I served that office until the Mississippi River traffic was brought to a standstill by the breaking out of the Civil War.
Meantime Orion had been sweating along with his little job-printing office in Keokuk, and he and his wife were living with his wife’s family—ostensibly as boarders, but it is not likely that Orion was ever able to pay the board. On account of charging next to nothing for the work done in his job office, he had almost nothing to do there. He was never able to get it through his head that work done on a profitless basis deteriorates and is presently not worth anything, and that customers are then obliged to go where they can get better work, even if they must pay better prices for it. He had plenty of time, and he took up Blackstone again. He also put up a sign which offered his services to the public as a lawyer. He never got a case, in those days, nor even an applicant, although he was quite willing to transact law business for nothing and furnish the stationery himself. He was always liberal that way.
Presently he moved to a wee little hamlet called Alexandria, two or three miles down the river, and he put up that sign there. He got no bites. He was by this time very hard aground. But by this time I was beginning to earn a wage of two hundred and fifty dollars a month as pilot, and so I supported him thenceforth until 1861, when his ancient friend, Edward Bates, then a member of Mr. Lincoln’s first cabinet, got him the place of Secretary of the new Territory of Nevada, and Orion and I cleared for that country in the overland stage-coach, I paying the fares, which were pretty heavy, and carrying with me what money I had been able to save—this was eight hundred dollars, I should say—and it was all in silver coin and a good deal of a nuisance because of its weight. And we had another nuisance, which was an Unabridged Dictionary. It weighed about a thousand pounds, and was a ruinous expense, because the stage-coach Company charged for extra baggage by the ounce. We could have kept a family for a time on what that dictionary cost in the way of extra freight—and it wasn’t a good dictionary anyway—didn’t have any modern words in it—only had obsolete ones that they used to use when Noah Webster was a child.
Friday, March 30, 1906
Mr. Clemens’s interview with Tchaykoffsky, and Mr. Clemens’s views regarding the Russian revolution—Mr. Clemens presides at meeting of the Association formed in interest of the adult blind—His first meeting with Helen Keller—Helen Keller’s letter, which Mr. Clemens read at this meeting.
I will drop Orion for the present and return and pick him up by and by. For the moment I am more interested in the matters of to-day than I am in Orion’s adventures and mine of forty-five years ago.
Three days ago a neighbor brought the celebrated Russian revolutionist, Tchaykoffsky, to call upon me. He is grizzled, and shows age—as to exteriors—but he has a Vesuvius, inside, which is a strong and active volcano yet. He is so full of belief in the ultimate and almost immediate triumph of the revolution and the destruction of the fiendish autocracy, that he almost made me believe and hope with him. He has come over here expecting to arouse a conflagration of noble sympathy in our vast nation of eighty millions of happy and enthusiastic freemen. But honesty obliged me to pour some cold water down his crater. I told him what I believed to be true—that the McKinleys and the Roosevelts and the multimillionaire disciples of Jay Gould—that man who in his brief life rotted the commercial morals of this nation and left them stinking when he died—have quite completely transformed our people from a nation with pretty high and respectable ideals to just the opposite of that; that our people have no ideals now that are worthy of consideration; that our Christianity which we have always been so proud of—not to say so vain of—is now nothing but a shell, a sham, a hypocrisy; that we have lost our ancient sympathy with oppressed peoples struggling for life and liberty; that when we are not coldly indifferent to such things we sneer at them, and that the sneer is about the only expression the newspapers and the nation deal in with regard to such things; that his mass meetings would not be attended by people entitled to call themselves representative Americans, even if they may call themselves Americans at all; that his audiences will be composed of foreigners who have suffered so recently that they have not yet had time to become Americanized and their hearts turned to stone in their breasts; that these audiences will be drawn from the ranks of the poor, not those of the rich; that they will give, and give freely, but they will give from their poverty and the money result will not be large. I said that when our windy and flamboyant President conceived the idea, a year ago, of advertising himself to the world as the new Angel of Peace, and set himself the task of bringing about the peace between Russia and Japan and had the misfortune to accomplish his misbegotten purpose, no one in all this nation except Dr. Seaman and myself uttered a public protest against this folly of follies. That at that time I believed that that fatal peace had postponed the Russian nation’s imminent liberation from its age-long chains indefinitely—probably for centuries; that I believed at that time that Roosevelt had given the Russian revolution its death-blow, and that I am of that opinion yet.
I will mention here, in parenthesis, that I came across Dr. Seaman last night for the first time in my life, and found that his opinion also remains to-day as he expressed it at the time that that infamous peace was consummated.
Tchaykoffsky said that my talk depressed him profoundly, and that he hoped I was wrong.
I said I hoped the same.
He said “Why, from this very nation of yours came a mighty contribution only two or three months ago, and it made us all glad in Russia. You raised two millions of dollars in a breath—in a moment, as it were—and sent that contribution, that most noble and generous contribution, to suffering Russia. Does not that modify your opinion?”
“No,” I said, “it doesn’t. That money came not from Americans, it came from Jews; much of it from rich Jews, but the most of it from Russian and Polish Jews on the East Side—that is to say, it came from the very poor. The Jew has always been benevolent. Suffering can always move a Jew’s heart and tax his pocket to the limit. He will be at your mass meetings. But if you find any Americans there put them in a glass case and exhibit them. It will be worth fifty cents a head to go and look at that show and try to believe in it.”
He asked me to come to last night’s meeting and speak, but I had another engagement, and could not do it. Then he asked me to write a line or two which could be read at the meeting, and I did that cheerfully.
New York Times.


Revolutionist Speaks to Cheering Audience of 3,000.


Mark Twain Writes That He Hopes Czars and
Grand Dukes Will Soon Become Scarce.

When Nicholas Tchaykoffsky, hailed by his countrymen here as the father of the revolutionary movement in Russia, spoke this word last night in Grand Central Palace 3,000 men and women rose to their feet, waved their hats, and cheered madly for three minutes. The word means “Comrades!” It is the watchword of the revolutionists. The spirit of revolution possessed the mass meeting called to greet the Russian patriot now visiting New York.
Fight is what he wants, and arms to fight with. He told the audience so last night and, by their cheers, they promised to do their part in supplying the sinews of war.
Mark Twain could not attend because he had already accepted an invitation to another meeting, but he sent this letter:
Dear Mr. Tchaykoffsky: I thank you for the honor of the invitation, but I am not able to accept it because Thursday evening I shall be presiding at a meeting whose object is to find remunerative work for certain classes of our blind who would gladly support themselves if they had the opportunity.
My sympathies are with the Russian revolution, of course. It goes without saying. I hope it will succeed, and now that I have talked with you I take heart to believe it will. Government by falsified promises, by lies, by treachery, and by the butcher knife, for the aggrandizement of a single family of drones and its idle and vicious kin has been borne quite long enough in Russia, I should think. And it is to be hoped that the roused nation, now rising in its strength, will presently put an end to it and set up the republic in its place. Some of us, even the whiteheaded, may live to see the blessed day when Czars and Grand Dukes will be as scarce there as I trust they are in heaven. Most sincerely yours,
Mr. Tchaykoffsky made an impassioned appeal for help to inaugurate a real revolution and overturn the Czar and all his allies.
The prior engagement which I spoke of to Tchaykoffsky was an engagement to act as Chairman at the first meeting of the Association which was formed five months ago in the interest of the adult blind. Joseph H. Choate and I had a very good time there, and I came away with the conviction that that excellent enterprise is going to flourish, and will bear abundant fruit. It will do for the adult blind what Congress and the several legislatures do so faithfully and with such enthusiasm for our lawless railway corporations, our rotten beef trusts, our vast robber dens of insurance magnates; in a word, for each and all of our multimillionaires and their industries—protect them, take watchful care of them, preserve them from harm like a Providence, and secure their prosperity, and increase it. The State of New York contains six thousand listed blind persons and also a thousand or so who have not been searched out and listed. There are between three and four hundred blind children. The State confines its benevolence to these. It confers upon them a book education. It teaches them to read and write. It feeds them and shelters them. And of course it pauperizes them, because it furnishes them no way of earning a living for themselves. The State’s conduct toward the adult blind—and this conduct is imitated by the legislatures of most of the other States—is purely infamous. Outside of the Blind Asylums the adult blind person has a hard time. He lives merely by the charity of the compassionate, when he has no relatives able to support him—and now and then, as a benevolence, the State stretches out its charitable hand and lifts him over to Black-well’s Island and submerges him among that multitudinous population of thieves and prostitutes.
But in Massachusetts, in Pennsylvania, and in two or three other States, Associations like this new one we have formed have been at work for some years, supported entirely by private subscriptions, and the benefits conferred and the work accomplished are so fine and great that their official reports read like a fairy-tale. It seems almost proven that there are not so very many things accomplishable by persons gifted with sight which a blind person cannot learn to do and do as well as that other person.
Helen Keller was to have been present last night but she is ill in bed, and has been ill in bed during several weeks, through overwork in the interest of the blind, the deaf, and the dumb. I need not go into any particulars about Helen Keller. She is fellow to Caesar, Alexander, Napoleon, Homer, Shakspeare, and the rest of the immortals. She will be as famous a thousand years from now as she is to-day.
I remember the first time I ever had the privilege of seeing her. She was fourteen years old then. She was to be at Laurence Hutton’s house on a Sunday afternoon, and twelve or fifteen men and women had been invited to come and see her. Henry Rogers and I went together. The company had all assembled and had been waiting a while. The wonderful child arrived now, with her about equally wonderful teacher, Miss Sullivan. The girl began to deliver happy ejaculations, in her broken speech. Without touching anything, and without seeing anything, of course, and without hearing anything, she seemed to quite well recognize the character of her surroundings. She said “Oh the books, the books, so many, many books. How lovely!”
The guests were brought one after another and introduced to her. As she shook hands with each she took her hand away and laid her fingers lightly against Miss Sullivan’s lips, who spoke against them the person’s name. When a name was difficult, Miss Sullivan not only spoke it against Helen’s fingers but spelled it upon Helen’s hand with her own fingers—stenographically, apparently, for the swiftness of the operation was suggestive of that.
Mr. Howells seated himself by Helen on the sofa and she put her fingers against his lips and he told her a story of considerable length, and you could see each detail of it pass into her mind and strike fire there and throw the flash of it into her face. Then I told her a long story, which she interrupted all along and in the right places, with cackles, chuckles, and care-free bursts of laughter. Then Miss Sullivan put one of Helen’s hands against her lips and spoke against it the question “What is Mr. Clemens distinguished for?” Helen answered, in her crippled speech, “For his humor.” I spoke up modestly and said “And for his wisdom.” Helen said the same words instantly—“And for his wisdom.” I suppose it was a case of mental telegraphy, since there was no way for her to know what it was I had said.
After a couple of hours spent very pleasantly, some one asked if Helen would remember the feel of the hands of the company after this considerable interval of time, and be able to discriminate the hands and name the possessors of them. Miss Sullivan said “Oh she will have no difficulty about that.” So the company filed past, shook hands in turn, and with each handshake Helen greeted the owner of the hand pleasantly and spoke the name that belonged to it without hesitation, until she encountered Mr. Rogers, toward the end of the procession. She shook hands with him, then paused, and a reflecting expression came into her face. Then she said “I am glad to meet you now, I have not met you before.” Miss Sullivan told her she was mistaken, this gentleman was introduced to her when she first arrived in the room. But Helen was not affected by that. She said no, she never had met this gentleman before. Then Mr. Rogers said that perhaps the confusion might be explained by the fact that he had his glove on when he was introduced to Helen. Of course that explained the matter.
This was not in the afternoon, as I have mis-stated. It was in the forenoon, and by and by the assemblage proceeded to the dining room and sat down to the luncheon. I had to go away before it was over, and as I passed by Helen I patted her lightly on the head and passed on. Miss Sullivan called to me and said “Stop, Mr. Clemens, Helen is distressed because she did not recognize your hand. Won’t you come back and do that again?” I went back and patted her lightly on the head, and she said at once “Oh, it’s Mr. Clemens.”
Perhaps some one can explain this miracle, but I have never been able to do it. Could she feel the wrinkles in my hand through her hair? Some one else must answer this. I am not competent.
As I have said, Helen was not able to leave her sick-bed, but she wrote a letter, two or three days ago, to be read at the meeting, and Miss Holt, the secretary, sent it to me by a messenger at mid-afternoon yesterday. It was lucky for me that she didn’t reserve it and send it to me on the platform last night, for in that case I could not have gotten through with it. I read it to the house without a break in my voice, and also without even a tremor in it that could be noticed, I think. But it was because I had read it aloud to Miss Lyon at mid-afternoon, and I knew the dangerous places and how to be prepared for them. I told the house in the beginning that I had this letter and that I would read it at the end of the evening’s activities. By and by when the end had arrived and Mr. Choate had spoken, I introduced the letter with a few words. I said that if I knew anything about literature, here was a fine and great and noble sample of it; that this letter was simple, direct, unadorned, unaffected, unpretentious, and was moving and beautiful and eloquent; that no fellow to it had ever issued from any girl’s lips since Joan of Arc, that immortal child of seventeen, stood alone and friendless in her chains, five centuries ago, and confronted her judges—the concentrated learning and intellect of France—and fenced with them week by week and day by day, answering them out of her great heart and her untaught but marvelous mind, and always defeating them, always camping on the field and master of it as each day’s sun went down. I said I believed that this letter, written by a young woman who has been stone deaf, dumb, and blind ever since she was eighteen months old, and who is one of the most widely and thoroughly educated women in the world, would pass into our literature as a classic and remain so. I will insert the letter here.
Wrentham, Mass., March 27, 1906.
My dear Mr. Clemens:
It is a great disappointment to me not to be with you and the other friends who have joined their strength to uplift the blind. The meeting in New York will be the greatest occasion in the movement which has so long engaged my heart: and I regret keenly not to be present and feel the inspiration of living contact with such an assembly of wit, wisdom and philanthropy. I should be happy if I could have spelled into my hand the words as they fall from your lips, and receive, even as it is uttered, the eloquence of our newest Ambassador to the blind. We have not had such advocates before. My disappointment is softened by the thought that never at any meeting was the right word so sure to be spoken. But, superfluous as all other appeal must seem after you and Mr. Choate have spoken, nevertheless, as I am a woman, I cannot be silent, and I ask you to read this letter, knowing that it will be lifted to eloquence by your kindly voice.
To know what the blind man needs, you who can see must imagine what it would be not to see, and you can imagine it more vividly if you remember that before your journey’s end you may have to go the dark way yourself. Try to realize what blindness means to those whose joyous activity is stricken to inaction.
It is to live long, long days, and life is made up of days. It is to live immured, baffled, impotent, all God’s world shut out. It is to sit helpless, defrauded, while your spirit strains and tugs at its fetters, and your shoulders ache for the burden they are denied, the rightful burden of labor.
The seeing man goes about his business confident and self-dependent. He does his share of the work of the world in mine, in quarry, in factory, in counting-room, asking of others no boon, save the opportunity to do a man’s part and to receive the laborer’s guerdon. In an instant accident blinds him. The day is blotted out. Night envelopes all the visible world. The feet which once bore him to his task with firm and confident stride stumble and halt and fear the forward step. He is forced to a new habit of idleness, which like a canker consumes the mind and destroys its beautiful faculties. Memory confronts him with his lighted past. Amid the tangible ruins of his life as it promised to be he gropes his pitiful way. You have met him on your busy thoroughfares with faltering feet and outstretched hands, patiently “dredging” the universal dark, holding out for sale his petty wares, or his cap for your pennies; and this was a Man with ambitions and capabilities.
It is because we know that these ambitions and capabilities can be fulfilled, that we are working to improve the condition of the adult blind. You cannot bring back the light to the vacant eyes; but you can give a helping hand to the sightless along their dark pilgrimage. You can teach them new skill. For work they once did with the aid of their eyes you can substitute work that they can do with their hands. They ask only opportunity, and opportunity is a torch in darkness. They crave no charity, no pension, but the satisfaction that comes from lucrative toil, and this satisfaction is the right of every human being.
At your meeting New York will speak its word for the blind, and when New York speaks, the world listens. The true message of New York is not the commercial ticking of busy telegraphs, but the mightier utterances of such gatherings as yours. Of late our periodicals have been filled with depressing revelations of great social evils. Querulous critics have pointed to every flaw in our civic structure. We have listened long enough to the pessimists. You once told me you were a pessimist, Mr. Clemens; but great men are usually mistaken about themselves. You are an optimist. If you were not, you would not preside at the meeting. For it is an answer to pessimism. It proclaims that the heart and the wisdom of a great city are devoted to the good of mankind, that in this the busiest city in the world no cry of distress goes up, but receives a compassionate and generous answer. Rejoice that the cause of the blind has been heard in New York; for the day after, it shall be heard round the world.
Yours sincerely,
Helen Keller
* Correction (1906)—it was above 100,000 it appears.
* Raymond was playing “Colonel Sellers” in about 1876 and along there. About twenty years later Mayo dramatized “Pudd’nhead Wilson” and played the title rôle very delightfully.
* 100,000 acres.
*May 20, 1906. i recall it now—MacCrellish. M. T.
*With the pen, I mean. This Autobiography is dictated, not written.
*See “Old Times on the Mississippi.”
*May 25. It did remain—until day before yesterday; then I gave it a final and vigorous reading—aloud—and dropped straight back to my former admiration of it. M. T.
*Jan. 11, ’06. It is long ago, but it plainly means Blaine. M. T.
†Jan. 11, ’06. I can’t remember his name. It began with K, I think. He was one of the American revisers of the New Testament, and was nearly as great a scholar as Hammond Trumbull.
*Augusto, 1870—S.L.C.
*I was his publisher. I was putting his “Personal Memoirs” to press at the time. S.L.C.
*Inventor of a type-setting machine of a most ingenious and marvelous character. There is but one; it is in Cornell University: preserved as a curiosity. It is all of that.

These notes are intended to clarify and supplement the autobiographical writings and dictations in this volume by identifying people, places, and incidents, and by explaining topical references and literary allusions. In addition, they attempt to point out which of Clemens’s statements are contradicted by historical evidence, providing a way to understand more fully how his memories of long-past events and experiences were affected by his imagination and the passage of time. Although some of the notes contain cross-references to texts or notes elsewhere in the volume, the Index is an indispensable tool for finding information about a previously identified person or event.
All references in the notes are keyed to this volume by page and line: for example, 1.1 means page 1, line 1 of the text. All of Clemens’s text is included in the line count (except for the main titles of pieces); excluded are the editorial headnotes in the first section, “Preliminary Manuscripts and Dictations.” Most of the source works are cited by an author’s name and a date, a short title, or an abbreviation. Works by members of the Clemens family may be found under the writer’s initials: SLC, OLC (Olivia), OSC (Susy), and CC (Clara). All abbreviations, authors, and short titles used in citations are fully defined in References. Most citations include a page number (“L1, 263,” or “Angel 1881, 345”), but citations to works available in numerous editions may instead supply a chapter number or its equivalent, such as a book or act number. All quotations from holograph documents are transcribed verbatim from the originals (or photocopies thereof), even when a published form—a more readily available source—is also cited for the reader’s convenience. The location of every unique document or manuscript is identified by the standard Library of Congress abbreviation, or the last name of the owner, all of which are defined in References.

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