I had reached the grandfather stage of life without grandchildren, so I began to adopt some."
He adopted several on that journey to England and on the return voyage, and he kept on adopting others during the rest of his life. These companionships became one of the happiest aspects of his final days, as we shall see by and by.
There were entertainments on the ship, one of them given for the benefit of the Seamen's Orphanage. One of his adopted granddaughters--"Charley" he called her--played a violin solo and Clemens made a speech. Later his autographs were sold at auction. Dr. Patton was auctioneer, and one autographed postal card brought twenty-five dollars, which is perhaps the record price for a single Mark Twain signature. He wore his white suit on this occasion, and in the course of his speech referred to it. He told first of the many defects in his behavior, and how members of his household had always tried to keep him straight. The children, he said, had fallen into the habit of calling it "dusting papa off." Then he went on:
When my daughter came to see me off last Saturday at the boat she slipped a note in my hand and said, "Read it when you get aboard the ship." I didn't think of it again until day before yesterday, and it was a "dusting off." And if I carry out all the instructions that I got there I shall be more celebrated in England for my behavior than for anything else. I got instructions how to act on every occasion. She underscored "Now, don't you wear white clothes on ship or on shore until you get back," and I intended to obey. I have been used to obeying my family all my life, but I wore the white clothes to-night because the trunk that has the dark clothes in it is in the cellar. I am not apologizing for the white clothes; I am only apologizing to my daughter for not obeying her.
He received a great welcome when the ship arrived at Tilbury. A throng of rapid-fire reporters and photographers immediately surrounded him, and when he left the ship the stevedores gave him a round of cheers. It was the beginning of that almost unheard-of demonstration of affection and honor which never for a moment ceased, but augmented from day to day during the four weeks of his English sojourn.
In a dictation following his return, Mark Twain said:
Who began it? The very people of all people in the world whom I would have chosen: a hundred men of my own class--grimy sons of labor, the real builders of empires and civilizations, the stevedores! They stood in a body on the dock and charged their masculine lungs, and gave me a welcome which went to the marrow of me.
J. Y. W. MacAlister was at the St. Pancras railway station to meet him, and among others on the platform was Bernard Shaw, who had come down to meet Professor Henderson. Clemens and Shaw were presented, and met eagerly, for each greatly admired the other. A throng gathered. Mark Twain was extricated at last, and hurried away to his apartments at Brown's Hotel, "a placid, subdued, homelike, old-fashioned English inn," he called it, "well known to me years ago, a blessed retreat of a sort now rare in England, and becoming rarer every year."
But Brown's was not placid and subdued during his stay. The London newspapers declared that Mark Twain's arrival had turned Brown's not only into a royal court, but a post-office--that the procession of visitors and the bundles of mail fully warranted this statement. It was, in fact, an experience which surpassed in general magnitude and magnificence anything he had hitherto known. His former London visits, beginning with that of 1872, had been distinguished by high attentions, but all of them combined could not equal this. When England decides to get up an ovation, her people are not to be outdone even by the lavish Americans. An assistant secretary had to be engaged immediately, and it sometimes required from sixteen to twenty hours a day for two skilled and busy men to receive callers and reduce the pile of correspondence.