For a months I had not shaved without crying. I'd spend 3/4 of an hour whetting away on my hand--no use, couldn't get an edge. Tried a razor strop-same result. So I sat down and put in an hour thinking out the mystery. Then it seemed plain--to wit: my hand can't give a razor an edge, it can only smooth and refine an edge that has already been given. I judge that a razor fresh from the hone is this shape V--the long point being the continuation of the edge--and that after much use the shape is this V--the attenuated edge all worn off and gone. By George I knew that was the explanation. And I knew that a freshly honed and freshly strapped razor won't cut, but after strapping on the hand as a final operation, it will cut.--So I sent out for an oil-stone; none to be had, but messenger brought back a little piece of rock the size of a Safety- match box--(it was bought in a shoemaker's shop) bad flaw in middle of it, too, but I put 4 drops of fine Olive oil on it, picked out the razor marked "Thursday" because it was never any account and would be no loss if I spoiled it--gave it a brisk and reckless honing for 10 minutes, then tried it on a hair--it wouldn't cut. Then I trotted it through a vigorous 20-minute course on a razor-strap and tried it on a hair-it wouldn't cut--tried it on my face--it made me cry--gave it a 5-minute stropping on my hand, and my land, what an edge she had! We thought we knew what sharp razors were when we were tramping in Switzerland, but it was a mistake--they were dull beside this old Thursday razor of mine-- which I mean to name Thursday October Christian, in gratitude. I took my whetstone, and in 20 minutes I put two more of my razors in splendid condition--but I leave them in the box--I never use any but Thursday O. C., and shan't till its edge is gone--and then I'll know how to restore it without any delay.
We all go to Paris next Thursday--address, Monroe & Co., Bankers. With love Ys Ever MARK.
In Paris they found pleasant quarters at the Hotel Normandy, but it was a chilly, rainy spring, and the travelers gained a rather poor impression of the French capital. Mark Twain's work did not go well, at first, because of the noises of the street. But then he found a quieter corner in the hotel and made better progress. In a brief note to Aldrich he said: "I sleep like a lamb and write like a lion--I mean the kind of a lion that writes--if any such." He expected to finish the book in six weeks; that is to say, before returning to America. He was looking after its illustrations himself, and a letter to Frank Bliss, of The American Publishing Company, refers to the frontpiece, which, from time to time, has caused question as to its origin. To Bliss he says: "It is a thing which I manufactured by pasting a popular comic picture into the middle of a celebrated Biblical one--shall attribute it to Titian. It needs to be engraved by a master."
The weather continued bad in France and they left there in July to find it little better in England. They had planned a journey to Scotland to visit Doctor Brown, whose health was not very good. In after years Mark Twain blamed himself harshly for not making the trip, which he declared would have meant so much to Mrs. Clemens. He had forgotten by that time the real reasons for not going--the continued storms and uncertainty of trains (which made it barely possible for them to reach Liverpool in time for their sailing- date), and with characteristic self-reproach vowed that only perversity and obstinacy on his part had prevented the journey to Scotland. From Liverpool, on the eve of sailing, he sent Doctor Brown a good-by word.
To Dr. John Brown, in Edinburgh:
WASHINGTON HOTEL, LIME STREET, LIVERPOOL. Aug.