My, I wish I could see you & Leigh Hunt!
S. L. CLEMENS.
But a few days later he experienced a revelation. It came when he perseveringly attacked still a third work of Scott--Quentin Durward. Hastily he wrote to Matthews again:
I'm still in bed, but the days have lost their dullness since I broke into Sir Walter & lost my temper. I finished Guy Mannering that curious, curious book, with its mob of squalid shadows gibbering around a single flesh-&-blood being--Dinmont; a book crazily put together out of the very refuse of the romance artist's stage properties--finished it & took up Quentin Durward & finished that.
It was like leaving the dead to mingle with the living; it was like withdrawing from the infant class in the college of journalism to sit under the lectures in English literature in Columbia University.
I wonder who wrote Quentin Durward?--[This letter, enveloped, addressed, and stamped, was evidently mislaid. It was found and mailed seven years later, June, 1910 message from the dead.]
Among other books which he read that winter and spring was Helen Keller's 'The Story of My Life', then recently published. That he finished it in a mood of sweet gentleness we gather from a long, lovely letter which he wrote her--a letter in which he said:
I am charmed with your book--enchanted. You are a wonderful creature, the most wonderful in the world--you and your other half together--Miss Sullivan, I mean--for it took the pair of you to make a complete & perfect whole. How she stands out in her letters! her brilliancy, penetration, originality, wisdom, character, & the fine literary competencies of her pen--they are all there.
When reading and writing failed as diversion, Mark Twain often turned to mathematics. With no special talent for accuracy in the matter of figures, he had a curious fondness for calculations, scientific and financial, and he used to cover pages, ciphering at one thing and another, arriving pretty inevitably at the wrong results. When the problem was financial, and had to do with his own fortunes, his figures were as likely as not to leave him in a state of panic. The expenditures were naturally heavy that spring; and one night, when he had nothing better to do, he figured the relative proportion to his income. The result showed that they were headed straight for financial ruin. He put in the rest of the night fearfully rolling and tossing, and reconstructing his figures that grew always worse, and next morning summoned Jean and Clara and petrified them with the announcement that the cost of living was one hundred and twenty-five per cent. more than the money-supply.
Writing to MacAlister three days later he said:
It was a mistake. When I came down in the morning, a gray and aged wreck, I found that in some unaccountable way (unaccountable to a business man, but not to me) I had multiplied the totals by two. By God, I dropped seventy-five years on the floor where I stood!
Do you know it affected me as one is affected when one wakes out of a hideous dream & finds it was only a dream. It was a great comfort & satisfaction to me to call the daughters to a private meeting of the board again. Certainly there is a blistering & awful reality about a well-arranged unreality. It is quite within the possibilities that two or three nights like that of mine would drive a man to suicide. He would refuse to examine the figures, they would revolt him so, & he would go to his death unaware that there was nothing serious about them. I cannot get that night out of my head, it was so vivid, so real, so ghastly: In any other year of these thirty-three the relief would have been simple: go where you can, cut your cloth to fit your income. You can't do that when your wife can't be moved, even from one room to the next.
The doctor & a specialist met in conspiracy five days ago, & in their belief she will by and by come out of this as good as new, substantially.