Clemens himself, at this time, did not expect to come out whole from that disaster. He had said very little when the news came, though it meant that his immediate fortunes were locked up, and it came near stopping the building activities at Redding. It was only the smaller things of life that irritated him. He often met large calamities with a serenity which almost resembled indifference. In the Knickerbocker situation he even found humor as time passed, and wrote a number of gay letters, some of which found their way into print.
It should be added that in the end there was no loss to any of the Knickerbocker depositors.
The building of the new home at Redding had been going steadily forward for something more than a year. John Mead Howells had made the plans; W. W. Sunderland and his son Philip, of Danbury, Connecticut, were the builders, and in the absence of Miss Clemens, then on a concert tour, Mark Twain's secretary, Miss I. V. Lyon, had superintended the furnishing.
"Innocence at Home," as the place was originally named, was to be ready for its occupant in June, with every detail in place, as he desired. He had never visited Redding; he had scarcely even glanced at the plans or discussed any of the decorations of the new home. He had required only that there should be one great living-room for the orchestrelle, and another big room for the billiard-table, with plenty of accommodations for guests. He had required that the billiard-room be red, for something in his nature answered to the warm luxury of that color, particularly in moments of diversion. Besides, his other billiard-rooms had been red, and such association may not be lightly disregarded. His one other requirement was that the place should be complete.
"I don't want to see it," he said, "until the cat is purring on the hearth."
"He had grown so weary of change, and so indifferent to it, that he was without interest."
But it was rather, I think, that he was afraid of losing interest by becoming wearied with details which were likely to exasperate him; also, he wanted the dramatic surprise of walking into a home that had been conjured into existence as with a word.
It was expected that the move would be made early in the month; but there were delays, and it was not until the 18th of June that he took possession.
The plan, at this time, was only to use the Redding place as a summer residence, and the Fifth Avenue house was not dismantled. A few days before the 18th the servants, with one exception, were taken up to the new house, Clemens and myself remaining in the loneliness of No. 21, attending to the letters in the morning and playing billiards the rest of the time, waiting for the appointed day and train. It was really a pleasant three days. He invented a new game, and we were riotous and laughed as loudly as we pleased. I think he talked very little of the new home which he was so soon to see. It was referred to no oftener than once or twice a day, and then I believe only in connection with certain of the billiard-room arrangements. I have wondered since what picture of it he could have had in his mind, for he had never seen a photograph. He had a general idea that it was built upon a hill, and that its architecture was of the Italian villa order. I confess I had moments of anxiety, for I had selected the land for him, and had been more or less accessory otherwise. I did not really worry, for I knew how beautiful and peaceful it all was; also something of his taste and needs.
It had been a dry spring, and country roads were dusty, so that those who were responsible had been praying for rain, to be followed by a pleasant day for his arrival. Both petitions were granted; June 18th would fall on Thursday, and Monday night there came a good, thorough, and refreshing shower that washed the vegetation clean and laid the dust. The morning of the 18th was bright and sunny and cool. Clemens was up and shaved by six o'clock in order to be in time, though the train did not leave until four in the afternoon--an express newly timed to stop at Redding--its first trip scheduled for the day of Mark Twain's arrival.