A piano in it is a lost object. We have tried to reduce the sense of desert space & emptiness with tables & things, but they have a defeated look, & do not do any good. Whatever stands or moves under that soaring painted vault is belittled.

He describes the interior of this vast room (they grew to love it), dwelling upon the plaster-relief portraits above its six doors, Florentine senators and judges, ancient dwellers there and former owners of the estate.

The date of one of them is 1305--middle-aged, then, & a judge--he could have known, as a youth, the very greatest Italian artists, & he could have walked & talked with Dante, & probably did. The date of another is 1343--he could have known Boccaccio & spent his afternoons wandering in Fiesole, gazing down on plague-reeking Florence & listening to that man's improper tales, & he probably did. The date of another is 1463--he could have met Columbus & he knew the magnificent Lorenzo, of course. These are all Cerretanis-- or Cerretani-Twains, as I may say, for I have adopted myself into their family on account of its antiquity--my origin having been heretofore too recent to suit me.

We are considering the details of Viviani at some length, for it was in this setting that he began and largely completed what was to be his most important work of this later time--in some respects his most important of any time--the 'Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc'. If the reader loves this book, and he must love it if he has read it, he will not begrudge the space here given to the scene of its inspiration. The outdoor picture of Viviani is of even more importance, for he wrote oftener out-of-doors than elsewhere. Clemens added it to his notes several months later, but it belongs here.

The situation of this villa is perfect. It is three miles from Florence, on the side of a hill. Beyond some hill-spurs is Fiesole perched upon its steep terraces; in the immediate foreground is the imposing mass of the Ross castle, its walls and turrets rich with the mellow weather-stains of forgotten centuries; in the distant plain lies Florence, pink & gray & brown, with the ruddy, huge dome of the cathedral dominating its center like a captive balloon, & flanked on the right by the smaller bulb of the Medici chapel & on the left by the airy tower of the Palazzo Vecchio; all around the horizon is a billowy rim of lofty blue hills, snowed white with innumerable villas. After nine months of familiarity with this panorama I still think, as I thought in the beginning, that this is the fairest picture on our planet, the most enchanting to look upon, the most satisfying to the eye & the spirit. To see the sun sink down, drowned in his pink & purple & golden floods, & overwhelm Florence with tides of color that make all the sharp lines dim & faint & turn the solid city into a city of dreams, is a sight to stir the coldest nature & make a sympathetic one drunk with ecstasy.

The Clemens household at Florence consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Clemens, Susy, and Jean. Clara had soon returned to Berlin to attend Mrs. Willard's school and for piano instruction. Mrs. Clemens improved in the balmy autumn air of Florence and in the peaceful life of their well- ordered villa. In a memorandum of October 27th Clemens wrote:

The first month is finished. We are wonted now. This carefree life at a Florentine villa is an ideal existence. The weather is divine, the outside aspects lovely, the days and nights tranquil and reposeful, the seclusion from the world and its worries as satisfactory as a dream. Late in the afternoons friends come out from the city & drink tea in the open air & tell what is happening in the world; & when the great sun sinks down upon Florence & the daily miracle begins they hold their breath & look. It is not a time for talk.

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

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