A touch somewhere, a pulling- about and a readjustment, might have saved "Ali Sin," but the pullings and haulings which they gave it did not. Perhaps it still lies in some managerial vault, and some day may be dragged to light and reconstructed and recast, and come into its reward. Who knows? Or it may have drifted to that harbor of forgotten plays, whence there is no returning.
As between Harte and Clemens, the whole matter was unfortunate. In the course of their association there arose a friction and the long-time friendship disappeared.
A BERMUDA HOLIDAY
On the 16th of May, 1877, Mark Twain set out on what, in his note-book, he declared to be "the first actual pleasure-trip" he had ever taken, meaning that on every previous trip he had started with a purpose other than that of mere enjoyment. He took with him his, friend and pastor, the Rev. Joseph H. Twichell, and they sailed for Bermuda, an island resort not so well known or so fashionable as to-day.
They did not go to a hotel. Under assumed names they took up quarters in a boarding-house, with a Mrs. Kirkham, and were unmolested and altogether happy in their wanderings through four golden days. Mark Twain could not resist keeping a note-book, setting down bits of scenery and character and incident, just as he had always done. He was impressed with the cheapness of property and living in the Bermuda of that period. He makes special mention of some cottages constructed of coral blocks: "All as beautiful and as neat as a pin, at the cost of four hundred and eighty dollars each." To Twichell he remarked:
"Joe, this place is like Heaven, and I'm going to make the most of it."
"Mark," said Twichell, "that's right; make the most of a place that is like Heaven while you have a chance."
In one of the entries--the final one--Clemens says:
"Bermuda is free (at present) from the triple curse of railways, telegraphs, and newspapers, but this will not last the year. I propose to spend next year here and no more."
When they were ready to leave, and started for the steamer, Twichell made an excuse to go back, his purpose being to tell their landlady and her daughter that, without knowing it, they had been entertaining Mark Twain.
"Did you ever hear of Mark Twain?" asked Twichell.
The daughter answered.
"Yes," she said, "until I'm tired of the name. I know a young man who never talks of anything else."
"Well," said Twichell, "that gentleman with me is Mark Twain."
The Kirkhams declined to believe it at first, and then were in deep sorrow that they had not known it earlier. Twichell promised that he and Clemens would come back the next year; and they meant to go back--we always mean to go back to places--but it was thirty years before they returned at last, and then their pleasant landlady was dead.
On the home trip they sighted a wandering vessel, manned by blacks, trying to get to New York. She had no cargo and was pretty helpless. Later, when she was reported again, Clemens wrote about it in a Hartford paper, telling the story as he knew it. The vessel had shipped the crew, on a basis of passage to New York, in exchange for labor. So it was a "pleasure-excursion!" Clemens dwelt on this fancy:
I have heard of a good many pleasure-excursions, but this heads the list. It is monumental, and if ever the tired old tramp is found I should like to be there and see him in his sorrowful rags and his venerable head of grass and seaweed, and hear the ancient mariners tell the story of their mysterious wanderings through the solemn solitudes of the ocean.
Long afterward this vagrant craft was reported again, still drifting with the relentless Gulf Stream. Perhaps she reached New York in time; one would like to know, but there seems no good way to find out.
That first Bermuda voyage was always a happy memory to Mark Twain. To Twichell he wrote that it was the "joyousest trip" he had ever made:
Not a heartache anywhere, not a twinge of conscience.