It took the dreariness out of that social function to perform it in that way. With a list of the calls they were to make they drove forth each day to cancel the social debt. They paid calls in every walk of life. His young companion was privileged to see the inside of London homes of almost every class, for he showed no partiality; he went to the homes of the poor and the rich alike. One day they visited the home of an old bookkeeper whom he had known in 1872 as a clerk in a large establishment, earning a salary of perhaps a pound a week, who now had risen mightily, for he had become head bookkeeper in that establishment on a salary of six pounds a week, and thought it great prosperity and fortune for his old age.
He sailed on July 13th for home, besought to the last moment by a crowd of autograph-seekers and reporters and photographers, and a multitude who only wished to see him and to shout and wave good-by. He was sailing away from them for the last time. They hoped he would make a speech, but that would not have been possible. To the reporters he gave a farewell message: "It has been the most enjoyable holiday I have ever had, and I am sorry the end of it has come. I have met a hundred, old friends, and I have made a hundred new ones. It is a good kind of riches to have; there is none better, I think." And the London Tribune declared that "the ship that bore him away had difficulty in getting clear, so thickly was the water strewn with the bay-leaves of his triumph. For Mark Twain has triumphed, and in his all-too-brief stay of a month has done more for the cause of the world's peace than will be accomplished by the Hague Conference. He has made the world laugh again."
His ship was the Minnetonka, and there were some little folks aboard to be adopted as grandchildren. On July 5th, in a fog, the Minnetonka collided with the bark Sterling, and narrowly escaped sinking her. On the whole, however, the homeward way was clear, and the vessel reached New York nearly a day in advance of their schedule. Some ceremonies of welcome had been prepared for him; but they were upset by the early arrival, so that when he descended the gang-plank to his native soil only a few who had received special information were there to greet him. But perhaps he did not notice it. He seldom took account of the absence of such things. By early afternoon, however, the papers rang with the announcement that Mark Twain was home again.
It is a sorrow to me that I was not at the dock to welcome him. I had been visiting in Elmira, and timed my return for the evening of the a 2d, to be on hand the following morning, when the ship was due. When I saw the announcement that he had already arrived I called a greeting over the telephone, and was told to come down and play billiards. I confess I went with a certain degree of awe, for one could not but be overwhelmed with the echoes of the great splendor he had so recently achieved, and I prepared to sit a good way off in silence, and hear something of the tale of this returning conqueror; but when I arrived he was already in the billiard-room knocking the balls about--his coat off, for it was a hot night. As I entered he said:
"Get your cue. I have been inventing a new game." And I think there were scarcely ten words exchanged before we were at it. The pageant was over; the curtain was rung down. Business was resumed at the old stand.
MATTERS PSYCHIC AND OTHERWISE
He returned to Tuxedo and took up his dictations, and mingled freely with the social life; but the contrast between his recent London experience and his semi-retirement must have been very great. When I visited him now and then, he seemed to me lonely--not especially for companionship, but rather for the life that lay behind him--the great career which in a sense now had been completed since he had touched its highest point. There was no billiard-table at Tuxedo, and he spoke expectantly of getting back to town and the games there, also of the new home which was then building in Redding, and which would have a billiard-room where we could assemble daily--my own habitation being not far away.