We were still playing billiards when word was brought up that the cab was waiting. My daughter, Louise, whose school on Long Island had closed that day, was with us. Clemens wore his white flannels and a Panama hat, and at the station a group quickly collected, reporters and others, to interview him and speed him to his new home. He was cordial and talkative, and quite evidently full of pleasant anticipation. A reporter or two and a special photographer came along, to be present at his arrival.
The new, quick train, the green, flying landscape, with glimpses of the Sound and white sails, the hillsides and clear streams becoming rapidly steeper and dearer as we turned northward: all seemed to gratify him, and when he spoke at all it was approvingly. The hour and a half required to cover the sixty miles of distance seemed very short. As the train slowed down for the Redding station, he said:
"We'll leave this box of candy"--he had bought a large box on the way-- "those colored porters sometimes like candy, and we can get some more."
He drew out a great handful of silver.
"Give them something--give everybody liberally that does any service."
There was a sort of open-air reception in waiting. Redding had recognized the occasion as historic. A varied assemblage of vehicles festooned with flowers had gathered to offer a gallant country welcome.
It was now a little before six o'clock of that long June day, still and dreamlike; and to the people assembled there may have been something which was not quite reality in the scene. There was a tendency to be very still. They nodded, waved their hands to him, smiled, and looked their fill; but a spell lay upon them, and they did not cheer. It would have been a pity if they had done so. A noise, and the illusion would have been shattered.
His carriage led away on the three-mile drive to the house on the hilltop, and the floral turnout fell in behind. No first impression of a fair land could have come at a sweeter time. Hillsides were green, fields were white with daisies, dog-wood and laurel shone among the trees. And over all was the blue sky, and everywhere the fragrance of June.
He was very quiet as we drove along. Once with gentle humor, looking over a white daisy field, he said:
"That is buckwheat. I always recognize buckwheat when I see it. I wish I knew as much about other things as I know about buckwheat. It seems to be very plentiful here; it even grows by the roadside." And a little later: "This is the kind of a road I like; a good country road through the woods."
The water was flowing over the mill-dam where the road crosses the Saugatuck, and he expressed approval of that clear, picturesque little river, one of those charming Connecticut streams. A little farther on a brook cascaded down the hillside, and he compared it with some of the tiny streams of Switzerland, I believe the Giessbach. The lane that led to the new home opened just above, and as he entered the leafy way he said, "This is just the kind of a lane I like," thus completing his acceptance of everything but the house and the location.
The last of the procession had dropped away at the entrance of the lane, and he was alone with those who had most anxiety for his verdict. They had not long to wait. As the carriage ascended higher to the open view he looked away, across the Saugatuck Valley to the nestling village and church-spire and farm-houses, and to the distant hills, and declared the land to be a good land and beautiful--a spot to satisfy one's soul. Then came the house--simple and severe in its architecture--an Italian villa, such as he had known in Florence, adapted now to American climate and needs. The scars of building had not all healed yet, but close to the house waved green grass and blooming flowers that might have been there always. Neither did the house itself look new. The soft, gray stucco had taken on a tone that melted into the sky and foliage of its background. At the entrance his domestic staff waited to greet him, and then he stepped across the threshold into the wide hall and stood in his own home for the first time in seventeen years.