It refers to the chronicle of Henry Huntington:

All through this book Henry exhibits his familiarity with the intentions of God and with the reasons for the intentions. Sometimes very often, in fact--the act follows the intention after such a wide interval of time that one wonders how Henry could fit one act out of a hundred to one intention, and get the thing right every time, when there was such abundant choice among acts and intentions. Sometimes a man offends the Deity with a crime, and is punished for it thirty years later; meantime he has committed a million other crimes: no matter, Henry can pick out the one that brought the worms. Worms were generally used in those days for the slaying of particularly wicked people. This has gone out now, but in the old times it was a favorite. It always indicated a case of "wrath." For instance:

"The just God avenging Robert Fitzhildebrand's perfidity, a worm grew in his vitals which, gradually gnawing its way through his intestines, fattened on the abandoned man till, tortured with excruciating sufferings and venting himself in bitter moans, he was by a fitting punishment brought to his end" (p. 400).

It was probably an alligator, but we cannot tell; we only know it was a particular breed, and only used to convey wrath. Some authorities think it was an ichthyosaurus, but there is much doubt.

The entire article is in this amusing, satirical strain, and might well enough be printed to-day. It is not altogether clear why it was withheld, even then.

He finished his Eve's Diary that summer, and wrote a story which was originally planned to oblige Mrs. Minnie Maddern Fiske, to aid her in a crusade against bullfighting in Spain. Mrs. Fiske wrote him that she had read his dog story, written against the cruelties of vivisection, and urged him to do something to save the horses that, after faithful service, were sacrificed in the bull-ring. Her letter closed:

I have lain awake nights very often wondering if I dare ask you to write a story of an old horse that is finally given over to the bull-ring. The story you would write would do more good than all the laws we are trying to have made and enforced for the prevention of cruelty to animals in Spain. We would translate and circulate the story in that country. I have wondered if you would ever write it.

With most devoted homage, Sincerely yours, MINNIE MADDERN FISKE.

Clemens promptly replied:

DEAR MRS. FISKE, I shall certainly write the story. But I may not get it to suit me, in which case it will go in the fire. Later I will try it again--& yet again--& again. I am used to this. It has taken me twelve years to write a short story--the shortest one I ever wrote, I think.-- [Probably "The Death Disk:"]--So do not be discouraged; I will stick to this one in the same way.

Sincerely yours, S. L. CLEMENS.

It was an inspiring subject, and he began work on it immediately. Within a month from the time he received Mrs. Fiske's letter he had written that pathetic, heartbreaking little story, "A Horse's Tale," and sent it to Harper's Magazine for illustration. In a letter written to Mr. Duneka at the time, he tells of his interest in the narrative, and adds:

This strong interest is natural, for the heroine is my small daughter Susy, whom we lost. It was not intentional--it was a good while before I found it out, so I am sending you her picture to use --& to reproduce with photographic exactness the unsurpassable expression & all. May you find an artist who has lost an idol.

He explains how he had put in a good deal of work, with his secretary, on the orchestrelle to get the bugle-calls.

We are to do these theatricals this evening with a couple of neighbors for audience, and then pass the hat.

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book