They removed their hats, and Clemens, his white hair blowing in the wind, said:

"My friends; we are here with reverence and respect to commemorate and enshrine in memory the house where was born a man who, by his life, made bright the lives of all who knew him, and by his literary efforts cheered the thoughts of thousands who never knew him. I take pleasure in unveiling the tablet of Eugene Field."

The flag fell and the bronze inscription was revealed. By this time the crowd, generally, had recognized who it was that was speaking. A working-man proposed three cheers for Mark Twain, and they were heartily given. Then the little party drove away, while the neighborhood collected to regard the old house with a new interest.

It was reported to Clemens later that there was some dispute as to the identity of the Field birthplace. He said:

"Never mind. It is of no real consequence whether it is his birthplace or not. A rose in any other garden will bloom as sweet."



They decided to spend the summer at York Harbor, Maine. They engaged a cottage, there, and about the end of June Mr. Rogers brought his yacht Kanawha to their water-front at Riverdale, and in perfect weather took them to Maine by sea. They landed at York Harbor and took possession of their cottage, The Pines, one of their many attractive summer lodges. Howells, at Kittery Point, was not far away, and everything promised a happy summer.

Mrs. Clemens wrote to Mrs. Crane:

We are in the midst of pines. They come up right about us, and the house is so high and the roots of the trees are so far below the veranda that we are right in the branches. We drove over to call on Mr. and Mrs. Howells. The drive was most beautiful, and never in my life have I seen such a variety of wild flowers in so short a space.

Howells tells us of the wide, low cottage in a pine grove overlooking York River, and how he used to sit with Clemens that summer at a corner of the veranda farthest away from Mrs. Clemens's window, where they could read their manuscripts to each other, and tell their stories and laugh their hearts out without disturbing her.

Clemens, as was his habit, had taken a work-room in a separate cottage "in the house of a friend and neighbor, a fisherman and a boatman":

There was a table where he could write, and a bed where he could lie down and read; and there, unless my memory has played me one of those constructive tricks that people's memories indulge in, he read me the first chapters of an admirable story. The scene was laid in a Missouri town, and the characters such as he had known in boyhood; but often as I tried to make him own it, he denied having written any such story; it is possible that I dreamed it, but I hope the MS. will yet be found.

Howells did not dream it; but in one way his memory misled him. The story was one which Clemens had heard in Hannibal, and he doubtless related it in his vivid way. Howells, writing at a later time, quite naturally included it among the several manuscripts which Clemens read aloud to him. Clemens may have intended to write the tale, may even have begun it, though this is unlikely. The incidents were too well known and too notorious in his old home for fiction.

Among the stories that Clemens did show, or read, to Howells that summer was "The Belated Passport," a strong, intensely interesting story with what Howells in a letter calls a "goat's tail ending," perhaps meaning that it stopped with a brief and sudden shake--with a joke, in fact, altogether unimportant, and on the whole disappointing to the reader. A far more notable literary work of that summer grew out of a true incident which Howells related to Clemens as they sat chatting together on the veranda overlooking the river one summer afternoon. It was a pathetic episode in the life of some former occupants of The Pines--the tale of a double illness in the household, where a righteous deception was carried on during several weeks for the benefit of a life that was about to slip away.

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book