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Mark Twain, A Biography Vol I, Part 2: 1866 - 1875|
LXXIV. The Wedding-Day
by Paine, Albert Bigelow
|The wedding was planned, at first, either for Christmas or New-Year's
Day; but as the lecture engagements continued into January it was decided
to wait until these were filled. February 2d, a date near the
anniversary of the engagement, was agreed upon, also a quiet wedding with
no "tour." The young people would go immediately to Buffalo, and take up
a modest residence, in a boardinghouse as comfortable, even as luxurious,
as the husband's financial situation justified. At least that was Samuel
Clemens's understanding of the matter. He felt that he was heavily in
debt--that his first duty was to relieve himself of that obligation.
There were other plans in Elmira, but in the daily and happy letters he
received there was no inkling of any new purpose.
He wrote to J. D. F. Slee, of Buffalo, who was associated in business
with Mr. Langdon, and asked him to find a suitable boarding-place, one
that would be sufficiently refined for the woman who was to be his wife,
and sufficiently reasonable to insure prosperity. In due time Slee
replied that, while boarding was a "miserable business anyhow," he had
been particularly fortunate in securing a place on one of the most
pleasant streets--"the family a small one and choice spirits, with no
predilection for taking boarders, and consenting to the present
arrangement only because of the anticipated pleasure of your company."
The price, Slee added, would be reasonable. As a matter of fact a house
on Delaware Avenue--still the fine residence street of Buffalo--had been
bought and furnished throughout as a present to the bride and groom. It
stands to-day practically unchanged--brick and mansard without, Eastlake
within, a type then much in vogue--spacious and handsome for that period.
It was completely appointed. Diagrams of the rooms had been sent to
Elmira and Miss Langdon herself had selected the furnishings. Everything
was put in readiness, including linen, cutlery, and utensils. Even the
servants had been engaged and the pantry and cellar had been stocked.
It must have been hard for Olivia Langdon to keep this wonderful surprise
out of those daily letters. A surprise like that is always watching a
chance to slip out unawares, especially when one is eagerly impatient to
However, the traveler remained completely in the dark. He may have
wondered vaguely at the lack of enthusiasm in the boarding idea, and
could he have been certain that the sales of the book would continue, or
that his newspaper venture would yield an abundant harvest, he might have
planned his domestic beginning on a more elaborate scale. If only the
Tennessee land would yield the long-expected fortune now! But these were
all incalculable things. All that he could be sure of was the coming of
his great happiness, in whatever environment, and of the dragging weeks
At last the night of the final lecture came, and he was off for Elmira
with the smallest possible delay. Once there, the intervening days did
not matter. He could join in the busy preparations; he could write
exuberantly to his friends. To Laura Hawkins, long since Laura Frazer he
sent a playful line; to Jim Gillis, still digging and washing on the
slopes of the old Tuolumne hills, he wrote a letter which eminently
Elmira, N. Y., January 26, 1870.
DEAR Jim,--I remember that old night just as well! And somewhere
among my relics I have your remembrance stored away. It makes my
heart ache yet to call to mind some of those days. Still it
shouldn't, for right in the depths of their poverty and their
pocket-hunting vagabondage lay the germ of my coming good fortune.
You remember the one gleam of jollity that shot across our dismal
sojourn in the rain and mud of Angel's Camp--I mean that day we sat
around the tavern stove and heard that chap tell about the frog and
how they filled him with shot. And you remember how we quoted from
the yarn and laughed over it out there on the hillside while you and
dear old Stoker panned and washed. I jotted the story down in my
note-book that day, and would have been glad to get ten or fifteen
dollars for it--I was just that blind. But then we were so hard up.
I published that story, and it became widely known in America,
India, China, England, and the reputation it made for me has paid me
thousands and thousands of dollars since. Four or five months ago I
bought into the Express (I have ordered it sent to you as long as
you live, and if the bookkeeper sends you any bills you let me hear
of it). I went heavily in debt--never could have dared to do that,
Jim, if we hadn't heard the jumping Frog story that day.
And wouldn't I love to take old Stoker by the hand, and wouldn't I
love to see him in his great specialty, his wonderful rendition of
Rinalds in the "Burning Shame!" Where is Dick and what is he doing?
Give him my fervent love and warm old remembrances.
A week from to-day I shall be married-to a girl even better and
lovelier than the peerless "Chapparal Quails." You can't come so
far, Jim, but still I cordially invite you to come anyhow, and I
invite Dick too. And if you two boys were to land here on that
pleasant occasion we would make you right royally welcome.
Truly your friend,
SAML. L. CLEMENS.
P.S.---California plums are good. Jim, particularly when they are
It had been only five years before--that day in Angel's Camp--but how
long ago and how far away it seemed to him now! So much had happened
since then, so much of which that was the beginning--so little compared
with the marvel of the years ahead, whose threshold he was now about to
cross, and not alone.
A day or two before the wedding he was asked to lecture on the night of
February 2d. He replied that he was sorry to disappoint the applicant,
but that he could not lecture on the night of February 2d, for the reason
that he was going to marry a young lady on that evening, and that he
would rather marry that young lady than deliver all the lectures in the
And so came the wedding-day. It began pleasantly; the postman brought a
royalty check that morning of $4,000, the accumulation of three months'
sales, and the Rev. Joseph Twichell and Harmony, his wife, came from
Hartford--Twichell to join with the Rev. Thomas K. Beecher in
solemnizing the marriage. Pamela Moffett, a widow now, with her daughter
Annie, grown to a young lady, had come all the way from St. Louis, and
Mrs. Fairbanks from Cleveland.
Yet the guests were not numerous, not more than a hundred at most, so it
was a quiet wedding there in the Langdon parlors, those dim, stately
rooms that in the future would hold so much of his history--so much of
the story of life and death that made its beginning there.
The wedding-service was about seven o'clock, for Mr. Beecher had a
meeting at the church soon after that hour. Afterward followed the
wedding-supper and dancing, and the bride's father danced with the bride.
To the interested crowd awaiting him at the church Mr. Beecher reported
that the bride was very beautiful, and had on the longest white gloves he
had ever seen; he declared they reached to her shoulders.--[Perhaps for
a younger generation it should be said that Thomas K. Beecher was a
brother of Henry Ward Beecher. He lived and died in Elmira, the almost
worshiped pastor of the Park Congregational Church. He was a noble,
unorthodox teacher. Samuel Clemens at the time of his marriage already
strongly admired him, and had espoused his cause in an article signed
"S'cat!" in the Elmira Advertiser, when he (Beecher) had been assailed by
the more orthodox Elmira clergy. For the "S'cat" article see Appendix I,
at the end of last volume.]
It was the next afternoon when they set out for Buffalo, accompanied by
the bride's parents, the groom's relatives, the Beechers, and perhaps one
or two others of that happy company. It was nine o'clock at night when
they arrived, and found Mr. Slee waiting at the station with sleighs to
convey the party to the "boarding-house" he had selected. They drove and
drove, and the sleigh containing the bride and groom got behind and
apparently was bound nowhere in particular, which disturbed the groom a
good deal, for he thought it proper that they should arrive first, to
receive their guests. He commented on Slee's poor judgment in selecting
a house that was so hard to find, and when at length they turned into
fashionable Delaware Avenue, and stopped before one of the most
attractive places in the neighborhood, he was beset with fear concerning
the richness of the locality.
They were on the steps when the doors opened, and a perfect fairyland of
lights and decoration was revealed within. The friends who had gone
ahead came out with greetings, to lead in the bride and groom. Servants
hurried forward to take bags and wraps. They were ushered inside; they
were led through beautiful rooms, all newly appointed and garnished. The
bridegroom was dazed, unable to understand the meaning of things, the
apparent ownership and completeness of possession.
At last the young wife put her hand upon his arm:
"Don't you understand, Youth," she said; that was always her name for
him. "Don't you understand? It is ours, all ours--everything--a gift
But even then he could not grasp it; not at first, not until Mr. Langdon
brought a little box and, opening it, handed them the deeds.
Nobody quite remembers what was the first remark that Samuel Clemens made
then; but either then or a little later he said:
"Mr. Langdon, whenever you are in Buffalo, if it's twice a year, come
right here. Bring your bag and stay overnight if you want to. It
sha'n't cost you a cent!"
They went in to supper then, and by and by the guests were gone and the
young wedded pair were alone.
Patrick McAleer, the young coachman, who would grow old in their employ,
and Ellen, the cook, came in for their morning orders, and were full of
Irish delight at the inexperience and novelty of it all. Then they were
gone, and only the lovers in their new house and their new happiness
And so it was they entered the enchanted land.