Howells is feeling as I so often feel, viz: "Well, no doubt I am in the wrong, though I do not know how or where or why--but anyway it will be safest to look meek, and walk circumspectly for a while, and not discuss the thing." And you look exactly as Mrs. Clemens does after she has said, "Indeed I do not wonder that you can frame no reply: for you know only too well, that your conduct admits of no excuse, palliation or argument--none!"
I shall just delight in that group on account of the good old human domestic spirit that pervades it--bother these family groups that put on a state aspect to get their pictures taken in.
We want a heliotype made of our eldest daughter. How soft and rich and lovely the picture is. Mr. Howells must tell me how to proceed in the matter. Truly Yours SAM. L. CLEMENS.
In the next letter we have a picture of Susy--[This spelling of the name was adopted somewhat later and much preferred. It appears as "Susie" in most of the earlier letters.]--Clemens's third birthday, certainly a pretty picture, and as sweet and luminous and tender today as it was forty years ago-as it will be a hundred years hence, if these lines should survive that long. The letter is to her uncle Charles Langdon, the "Charlie" of the Quaker City. "Atwater" was associated with the Langdon coal interests in Elmira. "The play" is, of course, "The Gilded Age."
To Charles Langdon, in Elmira:
Mch. 19, 1875. DEAR CHARLIE,--Livy, after reading your letter, used her severest form of expression about Mr. Atwater--to wit: She did not "approve" of his conduct. This made me shudder; for it was equivalent to Allie Spaulding's saying "Mr. Atwater is a mean thing;" or Rev. Thomas Beecher's saying "Damn that Atwater," or my saying "I wish Atwater was three hundred million miles in----!"
However, Livy does not often get into one of these furies, God be thanked.
In Brooklyn, Baltimore, Washington, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Chicago, the play paid me an average of nine hundred dollars a week. In smaller towns the average is $400 to $500.
This is Susie's birth-day. Lizzie brought her in at 8.30 this morning (before we were up) hooded with a blanket, red curl-papers in her hair, a great red japonica, in one hand (for Livy) and a yellow rose-bud nestled in violets (for my buttonhole) in the other--and she looked wonderfully pretty. She delivered her memorials and received her birth-day kisses. Livy laid her japonica, down to get a better "holt" for kissing-which Susie presently perceived, and became thoughtful: then said sorrowfully, turning the great deeps of her eyes upon her mother: "Don't you care for you wow?"
Right after breakfast we got up a rousing wood fire in the main hall (it is a cold morning) illuminated the place with a rich glow from all the globes of the newell chandelier, spread a bright rug before the fire, set a circling row of chairs (pink ones and dove-colored) and in the midst a low invalid-table covered with a fanciful cloth and laden with the presents--a pink azalia in lavish bloom from Rosa; a gold inscribed Russia-leather bible from Patrick and Mary; a gold ring (inscribed) from "Maggy Cook;" a silver thimble (inscribed with motto and initials) from Lizzie; a rattling mob of Sunday clad dolls from Livy and Annie, and a Noah's Ark from me, containing 200 wooden animals such as only a human being could create and only God call by name without referring to the passenger list. Then the family and the seven servants assembled there, and Susie and the "Bay" arrived in state from above, the Bay's head being fearfully and wonderfully decorated with a profusion of blazing red flowers and overflowing cataracts of lycopodium. Wee congratulatory notes accompanied the presents of the servants. I tell you it was a great occasion and a striking and cheery group, taking all the surroundings into account and the wintry aspect outside.