Reginald and Maud--I shall not easily forget those names, nor the combination they stood for. The trips going and coming were five or six miles, and it generally took us three hours to make it. This was because Maud set the pace. Whenever she detected an ascending grade she respected it; she stopped and said with her ears:

"This is getting unsatisfactory. We will camp here."

The whole idea of these excursions was that Margaret and I should employ them for the gathering of strength, by walking, yet we were oftener in the cart than out of it. She drove and I superintended. In the course of the first excursions I found a beautiful little shell on the beach at Spanish Point; its hinge was old and dry, and the two halves came apart in my hand. I gave one of them to Margaret and said:

"Now dear, sometime or other in the future I shall run across you somewhere, and it may turn out that it is not you at all, but will be some girl that only resembles you. I shall be saying to myself 'I know that this is a Margaret by the look of her, but I don't know for sure whether this is my Margaret or somebody else's'; but, no matter, I can soon find out, for I shall take my half shell out of my pocket and say, 'I think you are my Margaret, but I am not certain; if you are my Margaret you can produce the other half of this shell.'"

Next morning when I entered the breakfast-room and saw the child I approached and scanned her searchingly all over, then said, sadly:

"No, I am mistaken; it looks like my Margaret,--but it isn't, and I am so sorry. I shall go away and cry now."

Her eyes danced triumphantly, and she cried out:

"No, you don't have to. There!" and she fetched out the identifying shell.

I was beside myself with gratitude and joyful surprise, and revealed it from every pore. The child could not have enjoyed this thrilling little drama more if we had been playing it on the stage. Many times afterward she played the chief part herself, pretending to be in doubt as to my identity and challenging me to produce my half of the shell. She was always hoping to catch me without it, but I always defeated that game--wherefore she came to recognize at last that I was not only old, but very smart.

Sometimes, when they were not walking or driving, they sat on the veranda, and he prepared history-lessons for little Margaret by making grotesque figures on cards with numerous legs and arms and other fantastic symbols end features to fix the length of some king's reign. For William the Conqueror, for instance, who reigned twenty-one years, he drew a figure of eleven legs and ten arms. It was the proper method of impressing facts upon the mind of a child. It carried him back to those days at Elmira when he had arranged for his own little girls the game of kings. A Miss Wallace, a friend of Margaret's, and usually one of the pedestrian party, has written a dainty book of those Bermudian days. --[Mark Twain and the Happy Islands, by Elizabeth Wallace.]

Miss Wallace says:

Margaret felt for him the deep affection that children have for an older person who understands them and treats them with respect. Mr. Clemens never talked down to her, but considered her opinions with a sweet dignity.

There were some pretty sequels to the shell incident. After Mark Twain had returned to New York, and Margaret was there, she called one day with her mother, and sent up her card. He sent back word, saying:

"I seem to remember the name; but if this is really the person whom I think it is she can identify herself by a certain shell I once gave her, of which I have the other half. If the two halves fit, I shall know that this is the same little Margaret that I remember."

The message went down, and the other half of the shell was promptly sent up. Mark Twain had the two half-shells incised firmly in gold, and one of these he wore on his watch-fob, and sent the other to Margaret.

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book