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Mark Twain, A Biography Vol II, Part 1: 1875 - 1886|
CXXII. An Interlude
by Paine, Albert Bigelow
|The Gallia reached New York September 3, 1879. A report of his arrival,
in the New York Sun, stated that Mark Twain had changed in his absence;
that only his drawl seemed natural.
His hat, as he stood on the deck of the incoming Cunarder, Gallia,
was of the pattern that English officers wear in India, and his suit
of clothes was such as a merchant might wear in his store. He
looked older than when he went to Germany, and his hair has turned
It was a late hour when they were finally up to the dock, and Clemens,
anxious to get through the Custom House, urged the inspector to accept
his carefully prepared list of dutiable articles, without opening the
baggage. But the official was dubious. Clemens argued eloquently, and a
higher authority was consulted. Again Clemens stated his case and
presented his arguments. A still higher chief of inspection was
summoned, evidently from his bed. He listened sleepily to the preamble,
then suddenly said: "Oh, chalk his baggage, of course! Don't you know
it's Mark Twain and that he'll talk all night?"
They went directly to the farm, for whose high sunlit loveliness they had
been longing through all their days of absence. Mrs. Clemens, in her
letters, had never failed to dwell on her hunger for that fair hilltop.
From his accustomed study-table Clemens wrote to Twichell:
"You have run about a good deal, Joe, but you have never seen any place
that was so divine as the farm. Why don't you come here and take a
foretaste of Heaven?" Clemens declared he would roam no more forever,
and settled down to the happy farm routine. He took up his work, which
had not gone well in Paris, and found his interest in it renewed. In the
letter to Twichell he said:
I am revising my MS. I did not expect to like it, but I do. I have
been knocking out early chapters for more than a year now, not
because they had not merit, but merely because they hindered the
flow of the narrative; it was a dredging process. Day before
yesterday my shovel fetched up three more chapters and laid them,
reeking, on the festering shore-pile of their predecessors, and now
I think the yarn swims right along, without hitch or halt. I
believe it will be a readable book of travels. I cannot see that it
lacks anything but information.
Mrs. Clemens was no less weary of travel than her husband. Yet she had
enjoyed their roaming, and her gain from it had been greater than his.
Her knowledge of art and literature, and of the personal geography of
nations, had vastly increased; her philosophy of life had grown beyond
She had lost something, too; she had outstripped her traditions. One
day, when she and her sister had walked across the fields, and had
stopped to rest in a little grove by a pretty pond, she confessed,
timidly enough and not without sorrow, how she had drifted away from her
orthodox views. She had ceased to believe, she said, in the orthodox
Bible God, who exercised a personal supervision over every human soul.
The hordes of people she had seen in many lands, the philosophies she had
listened to from her husband and those wise ones about him, the life away
from the restricted round of home, all had contributed to this change.
Her God had become a larger God; the greater mind which exerts its care
of the individual through immutable laws of time and change and
environment--the Supreme Good which comprehends the individual flower,
dumb creature, or human being only as a unit in the larger scheme of life
and love. Her sister was not shocked or grieved; she too had grown with
the years, and though perhaps less positively directed, had by a path of
her own reached a wider prospect of conclusions. It was a sweet day
there in the little grove by the water, and would linger in the memory of
both so long as life lasted. Certainly it was the larger faith; though
the moment must always come when the narrower, nearer, more humanly
protecting arm of orthodoxy lends closer comfort. Long afterward, in the
years that followed the sorrow of heavy bereavement, Clemens once said to
his wife, "Livy, if it comforts you to lean on the Christian faith do
so," and she answered," I can't, Youth. I haven't any."
And the thought that he had destroyed her illusion, without affording a
compensating solace, was one that would come back to him, now and then,
all his days.