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Mark Twain, A Biography Vol I, Part 2: 1866 - 1875|
XCVII. The Walk to Boston
by Paine, Albert Bigelow
|The new home became more beautiful to them as things found their places,
as the year deepened; and the wonder of autumn foliage lit up their
landscape. Sitting on one of the little upper balconies Mrs. Clemens
The atmosphere is very hazy, and it makes the autumn tints even more
soft and beautiful than usual. Mr. Twichell came for Mr. Clemens to
go walking with him; they returned at dinner-time, heavily laden
with autumn leaves.
And as usual Clemens, finding the letter unfinished, took up the story.
Twichell came up here with me to luncheon after services, and I went
back home with him and took Susy along in her little carriage. We
have just got home again, middle of afternoon, and Livy has gone to
rest and left the west balcony to me. There is a shining and most
marvelous miracle of cloud-effects mirrored in the brook; a picture
which began with perfection, and has momently surpassed it ever
since, until at last it is almost unendurably beautiful....
There is a cloud-picture in the stream now whose hues are as
manifold as those in an opal and as delicate as the tintings of a
sea-shell. But now a muskrat is swimming through it and
obliterating it with the turmoil of wavelets he casts abroad from
The customary Sunday assemblage of strangers is gathered together in
the grounds discussing the house.
Twichell and Clemens took a good many walks these days; long walks, for
Twichell was an athlete and Clemens had not then outgrown the Nevada
habit of pedestrian wandering. Talcott's Tower, a wooden structure about
five miles from Hartford, was one of their favorite objective points; and
often they walked out and back, talking so continuously, and so absorbed
in the themes of their discussions, that time and distance slipped away
almost unnoticed. How many things they talked of in those long walks!
They discussed philosophies and religions and creeds, and all the range
of human possibility and shortcoming, and all the phases of literature
and history and politics. Unorthodox discussions they were,
illuminating, marvelously enchanting, and vanished now forever.
Sometimes they took the train as far as Bloomfield, a little station on
the way, and walked the rest of the distance, or they took the train from
Bloomfield home. It seems a strange association, perhaps, the fellowship
of that violent dissenter with that fervent soul dedicated to church and
creed, but the root of their friendship lay in the frankness with which
each man delivered his dogmas and respected those of his companion.
It was during one of their walks to the tower that they planned a far
more extraordinary undertaking--nothing less, in fact, than a walk from
Hartford to Boston. This was early in November. They did not delay the
matter, for the weather was getting too uncertain.
Clemens wrote Redpath:
DEAR REDPATH,--Rev. J. H. Twichell and I expect to start at 8 o'clock
Thursday morning to walk to Boston in twenty four hours--or more. We
shall telegraph Young's Hotel for rooms Saturday night, in order to allow
for a low average of pedestrianism.
It was half past eight on Thursday morning, November 12, 1874, that they
left Twichell's house in a carriage, drove to the East Hartford bridge,
and there took to the road, Twichell carrying a little bag and Clemens a
basket of lunch.
The papers had got hold of it by this time, and were watching the result.
They did well enough that first day, following the old Boston stage road,
arriving at Westford about seven o'clock in the evening, twenty-eight
miles from the starting-point. There was no real hotel at Westford, only
a sort of tavern, but it afforded the luxury of rest. "Also," says
Twichell, in a memoranda of the trip, "a sublimely profane hostler whom
you couldn't jostle with any sort of mild remark without bringing down
upon yourself a perfect avalanche of oaths."
This was a joy to Clemens, who sat behind the stove, rubbing his lame
knees and fairly reveling in Twichell's discomfiture in his efforts to
divert the hostler's blasphemy. There was also a mellow inebriate there
who recommended kerosene for Clemens's lameness, and offered as testimony
the fact that he himself had frequently used it for stiffness in his
joints after lying out all night in cold weather, drunk: altogether it
was a notable evening.
Westford was about as far as they continued the journey afoot. Clemens
was exceedingly lame next morning, and had had a rather bad night; but he
swore and limped along six miles farther, to North Ashford, then gave it
up. They drove from North Ashford to the railway, where Clemens
telegraphed Redpath and Howells of their approach. To Redpath:
We have made thirty-five miles in less than five days. This
demonstrates that the thing can be done. Shall now finish by rail.
Did you have any bets on us?
Arrive by rail at seven o'clock, the first of a series of grand
annual pedestrian tours from Hartford to Boston to be performed by
us. The next will take place next year.
Redpath read his despatch to a lecture audience, with effect. Howells
made immediate preparation for receiving two way-worn, hungry men. He
telegraphed to Young's Hotel: "You and Twichell come right up to 37
Concord Avenue, Cambridge, near observatory. Party waiting for you."
They got to Howells's about nine o'clock, and the refreshments were
waiting. Miss Longfellow was there, Rose Hawthorne, John Fiske, Larkin
G. Mead, the sculptor, and others of their kind. Howells tells in his
book how Clemens, with Twichell, "suddenly stormed in," and immediately
began to eat and drink:
I can see him now as he stood up in the midst of our friends, with
his head thrown back, and in his hand a dish of those escalloped
oysters without which no party in Cambridge was really a party,
exulting in the tale of his adventure, which had abounded in the
most original characters and amusing incidents at every mile of
Clemens gave a dinner, next night, to Howells, Aldrich, Osgood, and the
rest. The papers were full of jokes concerning the Boston expedition;
some even had illustrations, and it was all amusing enough at the time.
Next morning, sitting in the writing-room of Young's Hotel, he wrote a
curious letter to Mrs. Clemens, though intended as much for Howells and
Aldrich as for her. It was dated sixty-one years ahead, and was a sort
of Looking Backwards, though that notable book had not yet been written.
It presupposed a monarchy in which the name of Boston has been changed to
"Limerick," and Hartford to "Dublin." In it, Twichell has become the
"Archbishop of Dublin," Howells "Duke of Cambridge," Aldrich "Marquis of
Ponkapog," Clemens the "Earl of Hartford." It was too whimsical and
delightful a fancy to be forgotten.--[This remarkable and amusing
document will be found under Appendix M, at the end of last volume.]
A long time afterward, thirty-four year, he came across this letter. He
"It seems curious now that I should have been dreaming dreams of a future
monarchy and never suspect that the monarchy was already present and the
Republic a thing of the past."
What he meant, was the political succession that had fostered those
commercial trusts which, in turn, had established party dominion.
To Howells, on his return, Clemens wrote his acknowledgments, and added:
Mrs. Clemens gets upon the verge of swearing, and goes tearing
around in an unseemly fury when I enlarge upon the delightful time
we had in Boston, and she not there to have her share. I have tried
hard to reproduce Mrs. Howells to her, and have probably not made a
shining success of it.