It was the same old scintillating, incomparable talk of which Howells once said:
"We shall never know its like again. When he dies it will die with him."
It was during the summer at Dublin that Clemens and Rogers together made up a philanthropic ruse on Twichell. Twichell, through his own prodigal charities, had fallen into debt, a fact which Rogers knew. Rogers was a man who concealed his philanthropies when he could, and he performed many of them of which the world will never know: In this case he said:
"Clemens, I want to help Twichell out of his financial difficulty. I will supply the money and you will do the giving. Twichell must think it comes from you."
Clemens agreed to this on the condition that he be permitted to leave a record of the matter for his children, so that he would not appear in a false light to them, and that Twichell should learn the truth of the gift, sooner or later. So the deed was done, and Twichell and his wife lavished their thanks upon Clemens, who, with his wife, had more than once been their benefactors, making the deception easy enough now. Clemens writhed under these letters of gratitude, and forwarded them to Clara in Norfolk, and later to Rogers himself. He pretended to take great pleasure in this part of the conspiracy, but it was not an unmixed delight. To Rogers he wrote:
I wanted her [Clara] to see what a generous father she's got. I didn't tell her it was you, but by and by I want to tell her, when I have your consent; then I shall want her to remember the letters. I want a record there, for my Life when I am dead, & must be able to furnish the facts about the Relief-of-Lucknow-Twichell in case I fall suddenly, before I get those facts with your consent, before the Twichells themselves.
I read those letters with immense pride! I recognized that I had scored one good deed for sure on my halo account. I haven't had anything that tasted so good since the stolen watermelon.
P. S.-I am hurrying them off to you because I dasn't read them again! I should blush to my heels to fill up with this unearned gratitude again, pouring out of the thankful hearts of those poor swindled people who do not suspect you, but honestly believe I gave that money.
Mr. Rogers hastily replied:
MY DEAR CLEMENS,--The letters are lovely. Don't breathe. They are so happy! It would be a crime to let them think that you have in any way deceived them. I can keep still. You must. I am sending you all traces of the crime, so that you may look innocent and tell the truth, as you usually do when you think you can escape detection. Don't get rattled.
Seriously. You have done a kindness. You are proud of it, I know. You have made your friends happy, and you ought to be so glad as to cheerfully accept reproof from your conscience. Joe Wadsworth and I once stole a goose and gave it to a poor widow as a Christmas present. No crime in that. I always put my counterfeit money on the plate. "The passer of the sasser" always smiles at me and I get credit for doing generous things. But seriously again, if you do feel a little uncomfortable wait until I see you before you tell anybody. Avoid cultivating misery. I am trying to loaf ten solid days. We do hope to see you soon.
The secret was kept, and the matter presently (and characteristically) passed out of Clemens's mind altogether. He never remembered to tell Twichell, and it is revealed here, according to his wish.
The Russian-Japanese war was in progress that summer, and its settlement occurred in August. The terms of it did not please Mark Twain. When a newspaper correspondent asked him for an expression of opinion on the subject he wrote:
Russia was on the highroad to emancipation from an insane and intolerable slavery. I was hoping there would be no peace until Russian liberty was safe.