Louis, and at the village stations all down the line, are beyond all price and are a treasure for life in the memory, for they are a free gift out of the heart and they come without solicitation; but I am a Missourian, and so I shrink from distinctions which have to be arranged beforehand and with my privity, for I then become a party to my own exalting. I am humanly fond of honors that happen, but chary of those that come by canvass and intention.
Somewhat later he suggested a different feature for the fair; one that was not practical, perhaps, but which certainly would have aroused interest--that is to say, an old-fashioned six-day steamboat-race from New Orleans to St. Louis, with the old-fashioned accessories, such as torch-baskets, forecastle crowds of negro singers, with a negro on the safety-valve. In his letter to President Francis he said:
As to particulars, I think that the race should be a genuine reproduction of the old-time race, not just an imitation of it, and that it should cover the whole course. I think the boats should begin the trip at New Orleans, and side by side (not an interval between), and end it at North St. Louis, a mile or two above the Big Mound.
In a subsequent letter to Governor Francis he wrote:
It has been a dear wish of mine to exhibit myself at the great Fair & get a prize, but circumstances beyond my control have interfered . . . .
I suppose you will get a prize, because you have created the most prodigious Fair the planet has ever seen. Very well, you have indeed earned it, and with it the gratitude of the State and the nation.
Newspaper men used every inducement to get interviews from him. They invited him to name a price for any time he could give them, long or short. One reporter offered him five hundred dollars for a two-hour talk. Another proposed to pay him one hundred dollars a week for a quarter of a day each week, allowing him to discuss any subject he pleased. One wrote asking him two questions: the first, "Your favorite method of escaping from Indians"; the second, "Your favorite method of escaping capture by the Indians when they were in pursuit of you." They inquired as to his favorite copy-book maxim; as to what he considered most important to a young man's success; his definition of a gentleman. They wished to know his plan for the settlement of labor troubles. But they did not awaken his interest, or his cupidity. To one applicant he wrote:
No, there are temptations against which we are fire-proof. Your proposition is one which comes to me with considerable frequency, but it never tempts me. The price isn't the objection; you offer plenty. It is the nature of the work that is the objection--a kind of work which I could not do well enough to satisfy me. To multiply the price by twenty would not enable me to do the work to my satisfaction, & by consequence would make no impression upon me.
Once he allowed himself to be interviewed for the Herald, when from Mr. Rogers's yacht he had watched Sir Thomas Lipton's Shamrock go down to defeat; but this was a subject which appealed to him--a kind of hotweather subject--and he could be as light-minded about it as he chose.
THE LAST SUMMER AT ELMIRA
The Clemenses were preparing to take up residence in Florence, Italy. The Hartford house had been sold in May, ending forever the association with the city that had so long been a part of their lives. The Tarrytown place, which they had never occupied, they also agreed to sell, for it was the belief now that Mrs. Clemens's health would never greatly prosper there. Howells says, or at least implies, that they expected their removal to Florence to be final. He tells us, too, of one sunny afternoon when he and Clemens sat on the grass before the mansion at Riverdale, after Mrs. Clemens had somewhat improved, and how they "looked up toward a balcony where by and by that lovely presence made itself visible, as if it had stooped there from a cloud. A hand frailly waved a handkerchief; Clemens ran over the lawn toward it, calling tenderly." It was a greeting to Howells the last he would ever receive from her.