This time the pain had apparently gone to stay, for it did not return while we were in Baltimore. It was the first positive manifestation of the angina which eventually would take him from us.
The weather was pleasant in Baltimore, and his visit to St. Timothy's School and his address there were the kind of diversions that meant most to him. The flock of girls, all in their pretty commencement dresses, assembled and rejoicing at his playfully given advice: not to smoke--to excess; not to drink--to excess; not to marry--to excess; he standing there in a garb as white as their own--it made a rare picture--a sweet memory--and it was the last time he ever gave advice from the platform to any one.
Edward S. Martin also spoke to the school, and then there was a great feasting in the big assembly-hall.
It was on the lawn that a reporter approached him with the news of the death of Edward Everett Hale--another of the old group. Clemens said thoughtfully, after a moment:
"I had the greatest respect and esteem for Edward Everett Hale, the greatest admiration for his work. I am as grieved to hear of his death as I can ever be to hear of the death of any friend, though my grief is always tempered with the satisfaction of knowing that for the one that goes, the hard, bitter struggle of life is ended."
We were leaving the Belvedere next morning, and when the subject of breakfast came up for discussion he said:
"That was the most delicious Baltimore fried chicken we had yesterday morning. I think we'll just repeat that order. It reminds me of John Quarles's farm."
We had been having our meals served in the rooms, but we had breakfast that morning down in the diningroom, and "Francesca" and her mother were there.
As he stood on the railway platform waiting for the train, he told me how once, fifty-five years before, as a boy of eighteen, he had changed cars there for Washington and had barely caught his train--the crowd yelling at him as he ran.
We remained overnight in New York, and that evening, at the Grosvenor, he read aloud a poem of his own which I had not seen before. He had brought it along with some intention of reading it at St. Timothy's, he said, but had not found the occasion suitable.
"I wrote it a long time ago in Paris. I'd been reading aloud to Mrs. Clemens and Susy--in'93, I think--about Lord Clive and Warren Hastings, from Macaulay--how great they were and how far they fell. Then I took an imaginary case--that of some old demented man mumbling of his former state. I described him, and repeated some of his mumblings. Susy and Mrs. Clemens said, 'Write it'--so I did, by and by, and this is it. I call it 'The Derelict.'"
He read in his effective manner that fine poem, the opening stanza of which follows:
You sneer, you ships that pass me by, Your snow-pure canvas towering proud! You traders base!--why, once such fry Paid reverence, when like a cloud Storm-swept I drove along, My Admiral at post, his pennon blue Faint in the wilderness of sky, my long Yards bristling with my gallant crew, My ports flung wide, my guns displayed, My tall spars hid in bellying sail! --You struck your topsails then, and made Obeisance--now your manners fail.
He had employed rhyme with more facility than was usual for him, and the figure and phrasing were full of vigor.
"It is strong and fine," I said, when he had finished.
"Yes," he assented. "It seems so as I read it now. It is so long since I have seen it that it is like reading another man's work. I should call it good, I believe."
He put the manuscript in his bag and walked up and down the floor talking.
"There is no figure for the human being like the ship," he said; "no such figure for the storm-beaten human drift as the derelict--such men as Clive and Hastings could only be imagined as derelicts adrift, helpless, tossed by every wind and tide."
We returned to Redding next day.