He pushed the cigars toward me, and the talk of these matters ran along and blended into others more or less personal. By and by I told him what so many thousands had told him before: what he had meant to me, recalling the childhood impressions of that large, black-and-gilt- covered book with its wonderful pictures and adventures--the Mediterranean pilgrimage. Very likely it bored him--he had heard it so often--and he was willing enough, I dare say, to let me change the subject and thank him for the kindly word which David Munro had brought. I do not remember what he said then, but I suddenly found myself suggesting that out of his encouragement had grown a hope--though certainly it was something less--that I might some day undertake a book about himself. I expected the chapter to end at this point, and his silence which followed seemed long and ominous.
He said, at last, that at various times through his life he had been preparing some autobiographical matter, but that he had tired of the undertaking, and had put it aside. He added that he had hoped his daughters would one day collect his letters; but that a biography-- a detailed story of personality and performance, of success and failure-- was of course another matter, and that for such a work no arrangement had been made. He may have added one or two other general remarks; then, turning those piercing agate-blue eyes directly upon me, he said:
"When would you like to begin?"
There was a dresser with a large mirror behind him. I happened to catch my reflection in it, and I vividly recollect saying to it mentally: "This is not true; it is only one of many similar dreams." But even in a dream one must answer, and I said:
"Whenever you like. I can begin now."
He was always eager in any new undertaking.
"Very good," he said. "The sooner, then, the better. Let's begin while we are in the humor. The longer you postpone a thing of this kind the less likely you are ever to get at it."
This was on Saturday, as I have stated. I mentioned that my family was still in the country, and that it would require a day or two to get established in the city. I asked if Tuesday, January 9th, would be too soon to begin. He agreed that Tuesday would do, and inquired something about my plan of work. Of course I had formed nothing definite, but I said that in similar undertakings a part of the work had been done with a stenographer, who had made the notes while I prompted the subject to recall a procession of incidents and episodes, to be supplemented with every variety of material obtainable--letters and other documentary accumulations. Then he said:
"I think I should enjoy dictating to a stenographer, with some one to prompt me and to act as audience. The room adjoining this was fitted up for my study. My manuscripts and notes and private books and many of my letters are there, and there are a trunkful or two of such things in the attic. I seldom use the room myself. I do my writing and reading in bed. I will turn that room over to you for this work. Whatever you need will be brought to you. We can have the dictation here in the morning, and you can put in the rest of the day to suit yourself. You can have a key and come and go as you please."
That was always his way. He did nothing by halves; nothing without unquestioning confidence and prodigality. He got up and showed me the lovely luxury of the study, with its treasures of material. I did not believe it true yet. It had all the atmosphere of a dream, and I have no distinct recollection of how I came away. When I returned to The Players and found Charles Harvey Genung there, and told him about it, it is quite certain that he perjured himself when he professed to believe it true and pretended that he was not surprised.
WORKING WITH MARK TWAIN
On Tuesday, January 9, 1906, I was on hand with a capable stenographer-- Miss Josephine Hobby, who had successively, and successfully, held secretarial positions with Charles Dudley Warner and Mrs.