With kindest regards unto ye both. Yrs ever, S. L. CLEMENS.
The reference to New Orleans at the end of this letter grew naturally out of the enthusiasm aroused by the Mississippi papers. The more Clemens wrote about the river the more he wished to revisit it and take Howells with him. Howells was willing enough to go and they eventually arranged to take their wives on the excursion. This seemed all very well and possible, so long as the time was set for some date in the future still unfixed. But Howells was a busy editor, and it was much more easy for him to promise good-naturedly than to agree on a definite time of departure. He explained at length why he could not make the journey, and added: "Forgive me having led you on to fix a time; I never thought it would come to that; I supposed you would die, or something. I am really more sorry and ashamed than I can make it appear." So the beautiful plan was put aside, though it was not entirely abandoned for a long time.
We now come to the incident mentioned in Mark Twain's letter to Aldrich, of December the 18th. It had its beginning at the Atlantic dinner, where Aldrich had abused Clemens for never sending him any photographs of himself. It was suggested by one or the other that his name be put down as a "regular subscriber" for all Mark Twain photographs as they "came out." Clemens returned home and hunted up fifty-two different specimens, put each into an envelope, and began mailing them to him, one each morning. When a few of them had arrived Aldrich wrote, protesting.
"The police," he said, "have a way of swooping down on that kind of publication. The other day they gobbled up an entire edition of 'The Life in New York.'"
Whereupon Clemens bundled up the remaining collection--forty-five envelopes of photographs and prints-and mailed them together.
Aldrich wrote, now, violently declaring the perpetrator of the outrage to be known to the police; that a sprawling yellow figure against a green background had been recognized as an admirable likeness of Mark Twain, alias the jumping Frog, a well-known Californian desperado, formerly the chief of Henry Plummer's band of road agents in Montana. The letter was signed, "T. Bayleigh, Chief of Police." On the back of the envelope "T. Bayleigh" had also written that it was "no use for the person to send any more letters, as the post-office at that point was to be blown up. Forty-eight hogs-head of nitroglycerine had been syrupticiously introduced into the cellar of the building, and more was expected. R.W.E. H.W.L. O.W.H., and other conspirators in masks have been seen flitting about the town for some days past. The greatest excitement combined with the most intense quietness reigns at Ponkapog."
LETTERS FROM HARTFORD, 1875. MUCH CORRESPONDENCE WITH HOWELLS
Orion Clemens had kept his job with Bliss only a short time. His mental make-up was such that it was difficult for him to hold any position long. He meant to do well, but he was unfortunate in his efforts. His ideas were seldom practical, his nature was yielding and fickle. He had returned to Keokuk presently, and being convinced there was a fortune in chickens, had prevailed upon his brother to purchase for him a little farm not far from the town. But the chicken business was not lively and Orion kept the mail hot with manuscripts and propositions of every sort, which he wanted his brother to take under advisement.
Certainly, to Mark Twain Orion Clemens was a trial. The letters of the latter show that scarcely one of them but contains the outline of some rainbow-chasing scheme, full of wild optimism, and the certainty that somewhere just ahead lies the pot of gold. Only, now and then, there is a letter of abject humiliation and complete surrender, when some golden vision, some iridescent soap-bubble, had vanished at his touch.