To Clemens it became a sort of nightmare. Once in his note-book he says:
"Dreamed all bad foreigners went to German heaven; couldn't talk, and wished they had gone to the other place"; and a little farther along, "I wish I could hear myself talk German."
To Mrs. Crane, in Elmira, he reported their troubles:
Clara Spaulding is working herself to death with her German; never loses an instant while she is awake--or asleep, either, for that matter; dreams of enormous serpents, who poke their heads up under her arms and glare upon her with red-hot eyes, and inquire about the genitive case and the declensions of the definite article. Livy is bully-ragging herself about as hard; pesters over her grammar and her reader and her dictionary all day; then in the evening these two students stretch themselves out on sofas and sigh and say, "Oh, there's no use! We never can learn it in the world!" Then Livy takes a sentence to go to bed on: goes gaping and stretching to her pillow murmuring, "Ich bin Ihnen sehr verbunden--Ich bin Ihnen sehr verbunden--Ich bin Ihnen sehr verbunden--I wonder if I can get that packed away so it will stay till morning"--and about an hour after midnight she wakes me up and says, "I do so hate to disturb you, but is it 'Ich Ben Jonson sehr befinden'?"
And Mrs. Clemens wrote:
Oh, Sue dear, strive to enter in at the straight gate, for many shall seek to enter it and shall not be able. I am not striving these days. I am just interested in German.
Rosa, the maid, was required to speak to the children only in German, though Bay at first would have none of it. The nurse and governess tried to blandish her, in vain. She maintained a calm and persistent attitude of scorn. Little Susy tried, and really made progress; but one, day she said, pathetically:
"Mama, I wish Rosa was made in English."
Yet a little later Susy herself wrote her Aunt Sue:
I know a lot of German; everybody says I know a lot. I give you a million dollars to see you, and you would give two hundred dollars to see the lovely woods that we see.
Even Howells, in far-off America, caught the infection and began a letter in German, though he hastened to add, "Or do you prefer English by this time? Really I could imagine the German going hard with you, for you always seemed to me a man who liked to be understood with the least possible personal inconvenience."
Clemens declared more than once that he scorned the "outrageous and impossible German grammar," and abandoned it altogether. In his note- book he records how two Germans, strangers in Heidelberg, asked him a direction, and that when he gave it, in the most elaborate and correct German he could muster, one of them only lifted his eyes and murmured:
"Gott im Himmel!"
He was daily impressed with the lingual attainments of foreigners and his own lack of them. In the notes he comments:
Am addressed in German, and when I can't speak it immediately the person tackles me in French, and plainly shows astonishment when I stop him. They naturally despise such an ignoramus. Our doctor here speaks as pure English, as I.
On the Fourth of July he addressed the American students in Heidelberg in one of those mixtures of tongues for which he had a peculiar gift.
The room he had rented for a study was let by a typical German family, and he was a great delight to them. He practised his German on them, and interested himself in their daily affairs.
Howells wrote insistently for some assurance of contributions to the Atlantic.
"I must begin printing your private letters to satisfy the popular demand," he said. "People are constantly asking when you are going to begin."
Clemens replied that he would be only too glad to write for the Atlantic if his contributions could be copyrighted in Canada, where pirates were persistently enterprising.
I do not know that I have any printable