I went up next afternoon, for I knew how he dreaded loneliness. We played billiards for a time, then set out for a walk, following the long drive to the leafy lane that led to my own property. Presently he said:
“In one way I am sorry I did not see this place sooner. I never want to leave it again. If I had known it was so beautiful I should have vacated the house in town and moved up here permanently.”
I suggested that he could still do so, if he chose, and he entered immediately into the idea. By and by we turned down a deserted road, grassy and beautiful, that ran along his land. At one side was a slope facing the west, and dotted with the slender, cypress-like cedars of New England. He had asked if that were part of his land, and on being told it was he said:
“I would like Howells to have a house there. We must try to give that to Howells.”
At the foot of the hill we came to a brook and followed it into a meadow. I told him that I had often caught fine trout there, and that soon I would bring in some for breakfast. He answered:
“Yes, I should like that. I don’t care to catch them any more myself. I like them very hot.”
We passed through some woods and came out near my own ancient little house. He noticed it and said:
“The man who built that had some memory of Greece in his mind when he put on that little porch with those columns.”
My second daughter, Frances, was coming from a distant school on the evening train, and the carriage was starting just then to bring her. I suggested that perhaps he would find it pleasant to make the drive.
“Yes,” he agreed, “I should enjoy that.”
So I took the reins, and he picked up little Joy, who came running out just then, and climbed into the back seat. It was another beautiful evening, and he was in a talkative humor. Joy pointed out a small turtle in the road, and he said:
“That is a wild turtle. Do you think you could teach it arithmetic?”
Joy was uncertain.
“Well,” he went on, “you ought to get an arithmetic — a little ten-cent arithmetic — and teach that turtle.”
We passed some swampy woods, rather dim and junglelike.
“Those,” he said, “are elephant woods.”
But Joy answered:
“They are fairy woods. The fairies are there, but you can’t see them because they wear magic cloaks.”
He said: “I wish I had one of those magic cloaks, sometimes. I had one once, but it is worn out now.”
Joy looked at him reverently, as one who had once been the owner of a piece of fairyland.
It was a sweet drive to and from the village. There are none too many such evenings in a lifetime. Colonel Harvey’s little daughter, Dorothy, came up a day or two later, and with my daughter Louise spent the first week with him in the new home. They were created “Angel-Fishes”— the first in the new aquarium; that is to say, the billiard-room, where he followed out the idea by hanging a row of colored prints of Bermuda fishes in a sort of frieze around the walls. Each visiting member was required to select one as her particular patron fish and he wrote her name upon it. It was his delight to gather his juvenile guests in this room and teach them the science of billiard angles; but it was so difficult to resist taking the cue and making plays himself that he was required to stand on a little platform and give instruction just out of reach. His snowy flannels and gleaming white hair, against those rich red walls, with those small, summer-clad players, made a pretty picture.
The place did not retain its original name. He declared that it would always be “Innocence at Home” to the angel-fish visitors, but that the title didn’t remain continuously appropriate. The money which he had derived from Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven had been used to build the loggia wing, and he considered the name of “Stormfield” as a substitute. When, presently, the summer storms gathered on that rock-bound, open hill, with its wide reaches of vine and shrub-wild, fierce storms that bent the birch and cedar, and strained at the bay and huckleberry, with lightning and turbulent wind and thunder, followed by the charging rain — the name seemed to become peculiarly appropriate. Standing with his head bared to the tumult, his white hair tossing in the blast, and looking out upon the wide splendor of the spectacle, he rechristened the place, and “Stormfield” it became and remained.
The last day of Mark Twain’s first week in Redding, June 25th, was saddened by the news of the death of Grover Cleveland at his home in Princeton, New Jersey. Clemens had always been an ardent Cleveland admirer, and to Mrs. Cleveland now he sent this word of condolence —
Your husband was a man I knew and loved and honored for twenty-five years. I mourn with you.
And once during the evening he said:
“He was one of our two or three real Presidents. There is none to take his place.”
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:55