It is not one of Mark Twain's greatest stories, but its pathos brings the tears, and no one can read it without indignation toward the custom which it was intended to oppose. When it was published, a year later, Mrs. Fiske sent him her grateful acknowledgments, and asked permission to have it printed for pamphlet circulation m Spain.
A number of more or less notable things happened in this, Mark Twain's seventieth year. There was some kind of a reunion going on in California, and he was variously invited to attend. Robert Fulton, of Nevada, was appointed a committee of one to invite him to Reno for a great celebration which was to be held there. Clemens replied that he remembered, as if it were but yesterday, when he had disembarked from the Overland stage in front of the Ormsby Hotel, in Carson City, and told how he would like to accept the invitation.
If I were a few years younger I would accept it, and promptly, and I would go. I would let somebody else do the oration, but as for me I would talk--just talk. I would renew my youth; and talk--and talk--and talk--and have the time of my life! I would march the unforgotten and unforgetable antiques by, and name their names, and give them reverent hail and farewell as they passed--Goodman, McCarthy, Gillis, Curry, Baldwin, Winters, Howard, Nye, Stewart, Neely Johnson, Hal Clayton, North, Root--and my brother, upon whom be peace!--and then the desperadoes, who made life a joy, and the "slaughter-house," a precious possession: Sam Brown, Farmer Pete, Bill Mayfield, Six-fingered Jake, Jack Williams, and the rest of the crimson discipleship, and so on, and so on. Believe me, I would start a resurrection it would do you more good to look at than the next one will, if you go on the way you are going now.
Those were the days!--those old ones. They will come no more; youth will come no more. They were so full to the brim with the wine of life; there have been no others like them. It chokes me up to think of them. Would you like me to come out there and cry? It would not beseem my white head.
Good-by. I drink to you all. Have a good time-and take an old man's blessing.
In reply to another invitation from H. H. Bancroft, of San Francisco, he wrote that his wandering days were over, and that it was his purpose to sit by the fire for the rest of his "remnant of life."
A man who, like me, is going to strike 70 on the 30th of next November has no business to be flitting around the way Howells does --that shameless old fictitious butterfly. (But if he comes don't tell him I said it, for it would hurt him & I wouldn't brush a flake of powder from his wing for anything. I only say it in envy of his indestructible youth anyway. Howells will be 88 in October.)
And it was either then or on a similar occasion that he replied after this fashion:
I have done more for San Francisco than any other of its old residents. Since I left there it has increased in population fully 300,000. I could have done more--I could have gone earlier--it was suggested.
Which, by the way, is a perfect example of Mark Twain's humorous manner, the delicately timed pause, and the afterthought. Most humorists would have been contented to end with the statement, "I could have gone earlier." Only Mark Twain could have added that final exquisite touch-- "it was suggested."
AT PIER 70
Mark Twain was nearing seventy, the scriptural limitation of life, and the returns were coming in. Some one of the old group was dying all the time. The roll-call returned only a scattering answer. Of his oldest friends, Charles Henry Webb, John Hay, and Sir Henry Irving, all died that year. When Hay died Clemens gave this message to the press:
I am deeply grieved, & I mourn with the nation this loss which is irreparable. My friendship with Mr. Hay & my admiration of him endured 38 years without impairment.
It was only a little earlier that he had written Hay an anonymous letter, a copy of which he preserved.