I often come to myself out of a reverie and detect an undertone of thought that had been thinking itself without volition of mind--viz., that if we had only had ten days of those walks and talks instead of four.
There was but one regret: Howells had not been with them. Clemens denounced him for his absence:
If you had gone with us and let me pay the fifty dollars, which the trip and the board and the various knick-knacks and mementos would cost, I would have picked up enough droppings from your conversation to pay me five hundred per cent. profit in the way of the several magazine articles which I could have written; whereas I can now write only one or two, and am therefore largely out of pocket by your proud ways.
Clemens would not fail to write about his trip. He could not help doing that, and he began "Some Rambling Notes of an Idle Excursion" as soon as he landed in Hartford. They were quite what the name would signify-- leisurely, pleasant commentaries on a loafing, peaceful vacation. They are not startling in their humor or description, but are gently amusing and summery, reflecting, bubble-like, evanescent fancies of Bermuda. Howells, shut up in a Boston editorial office, found them delightful enough, and very likely his Atlantic readers agreed with him. The story of "Isaac and the Prophets of Baal" was one that Capt. Ned Wakeman had told to Twichell during a voyage which the latter had made to Aspinwall with that vigorous old seafarer; so in the "Rambling Notes" Wakeman appears as Captain Hurricane Jones, probably a step in the evolution of the later name of Stormfield. The best feature of the series (there were four papers in all) is a story of a rescue in mid-ocean; but surely the brightest ripple of humor is the reference to Bermuda's mahogany-tree:
There was exactly one mahogany-tree on the island. I know this to be reliable because I saw a man who said he had counted it many a time and could not be mistaken. He was a man with a haze lip and a pure heart, and everybody said he was as true as steel. Such men are all too few.
Clemens cared less for these papers than did Howells. He had serious doubts about the first two and suggested their destruction, but with Howells's appreciation his own confidence in them returned and he let them all go in. They did not especially advance his reputation, but perhaps they did it no harm.
A NEW PLAY AND A NEW TALE
He wrote a short story that year which is notable mainly for the fact that in it the telephone becomes a literary property, probably for the first time. "The Loves of Alonzo Fitz-Clarence and Rosannah Ethelton" employed in the consummation what was then a prospect, rather than a reality--long-distance communication.
His work that summer consisted mainly of two extensive undertakings, one of which he completed without delay. He still had the dramatic ambition, and he believed that he was capable now of constructing a play entirely from his own resources.
To Howells, in June, he wrote:
To-day I am deep in a comedy which I began this morning--principal character an old detective. I skeletoned the first act and wrote the second to-day, and am dog-tired now. Fifty-four pages of MS. in seven hours.
Seven days later, the Fourth of July, he said:
I have piled up one hundred and fifty-one pages on my comedy. The first, second and fourth acts are done, and done to my satisfaction, too. To- morrow and next day will finish the third act, and the play. Never had so much fun over anything in my life never such consuming interest and delight. And just think! I had Sol Smith Russell in my mind's eye for the old detective's part, and bang it! he has gone off pottering with Oliver Optic, or else the papers lie.
He was working with enthusiasm, you see, believing in it with a faith which, alas, was no warrant for its quality. Even Howells caught his enthusiasm and became eager to see the play, and to have the story it contained told for the Atlantic.