Only a few weeks after that first visit we find him telegraphing to Howells, asking him to look after a Californian poet, then ill and friendless in Brooklyn. Clemens states that he does not know the poet, but will contribute fifty dollars if Howells will petition the steamboat company for a pass; and no doubt Howells complied, and spent a good deal more than fifty dollars' worth of time to get the poet relieved and started; it would be like him.
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 reveal it.
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 between.
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 belongs here:
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.