He gave it up at last, remarking, "We will not work to-morrow." So we went away.
He did not dictate on the 5th or the 6th, but on the 7th he resumed the story of Mrs. Clemens's last days at Florence. The weather had changed: the sunlight and warmth had all gone; a chill, penetrating mist was on the mountains; Monadnock was blotted out. We expected him to go to the fire, but evidently he could not bear being shut in with that subject in his mind. A black cape was brought out and thrown about his shoulders, which seemed to fit exactly into the somberness of the picture. For two hours or more we sat there in the gloom and chill, while he paced up and down, detailing as graphically as might be that final chapter in the life of the woman he had loved.
It is hardly necessary to say that beyond the dictation Clemens did very little literary work during these months. He had brought his "manuscript trunk" as usual, thinking, perhaps, to finish the "microbe" story and other of the uncompleted things; but the dictation gave him sufficient mental exercise, and he did no more than look over his "stock in trade," as he called it, and incorporate a few of the finished manuscripts into "autobiography." Among these were the notes of his trip down the Rhone, made in 1891, and the old Stormfield story, which he had been treasuring and suppressing so long. He wrote Howells in June:
The dictating goes lazily and pleasantly on. With intervals. I find that I've been at it, off & on, nearly two hours for 155 days since January 9. To be exact, I've dictated 75 hours in 80 days & loafed 75 days. I've added 60,000 words in the month that I've been here; which indicates that I've dictated during 20 days of that time--40 hours, at an average of 1,500 words an hour. It's a plenty, & I'm satisfied.
There's a good deal of "fat." I've dictated (from January 9) 210,000 words, & the "fat" adds about 50,000 more.
The "fat" is old pigeonholed things of the years gone by which I or editors didn't das't to print. For instance, I am dumping in the little old book which I read to you in Hartford about 30 years ago & which you said "publish & ask Dean Stanley to furnish an introduction; he'll do it" (Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven). It reads quite to suit me without altering a word now that it isn't to see print until I am dead.
To-morrow I mean to dictate a chapter which will get my heirs & assigns burned alive if they venture to print it this side of A.D. 2006--which I judge they won't. There'll be lots of such chapters if I live 3 or 4 years longer. The edition of A.D. 2006 will make a stir when it comes out. I shall be hovering around taking notice, along with other dead pals. You are invited.
The chapter which was to invite death at the stake for his successors was naturally one of religious heresies a violent attack on the orthodox, scriptural God, but really an expression of the highest reverence for the God which, as he said, had created the earth and sky and the music of the constellations. Mark Twain once expressed himself concerning reverence and the lack of it:
"I was never consciously and purposely irreverent in my life, yet one person or another is always charging me with a lack of reverence. Reverence for what--for whom? Who is to decide what ought to command my reverence--my neighbor or I? I think I ought to do the electing myself. The Mohammedan reveres Mohammed--it is his privilege; the Christian doesn't--apparently that is his privilege; the account is square enough. They haven't any right to complain of the other, yet they do complain of each other, and that is where the unfairness comes in. Each says that the other is irreverent, and both are mistaken, for manifestly you can't have reverence for a thing that doesn't command it. If you could do that you could digest what you haven't eaten, and do other miracles and get a reputation."
He was not reading many books at this time--he was inclined rather to be lazy, as he said, and to loaf during the afternoons; but I remember that he read aloud 'After the Wedding' and 'The Mother'--those two beautiful word-pictures by Howells--which he declared sounded the depths of humanity with a deep-sea lead.