Livy is down stairs celebrating.
But it's a cunning devil, is that machine!--and knows more than any man that ever lived. You shall see. We made the test in this way. We set up a lot of random letters in a stick--three-fourths of a line; then filled out the line with quads representing 14 spaces, each space to be 35/1000 of an inch thick. Then we threw aside the quads and put the letters into the machine and formed them into 15 two-letter words, leaving the words separated by two-inch vacancies. Then we started up the machine slowly, by hand, and fastened our eyes on the space-selecting pins. The first pin-block projected its third pin as the first word came traveling along the race-way; second block did the same; but the third block projected its second pin!
"Oh, hell! stop the machine--something wrong--it's going to set a 30/1000 space!"
General consternation. "A foreign substance has got into the spacing plates." This from the head mathematician.
"Yes, that is the trouble," assented the foreman.
Paige examined. "No--look in, and you can see that there's nothing of the kind." Further examination. "Now I know what it is--what it must be: one of those plates projects and binds. It's too bad--the first testis a failure." A pause. "Well, boys, no use to cry. Get to work-- take the machine down.--No--Hold on! don't touch a thing! Go right ahead! We are fools, the machine isn't. The machine knows what it's about. There is a speck of dirt on one of those types, and the machine is putting in a thinner space to allow for it!"
That was just it. The machine went right ahead, spaced the line, justified it to a hair, and shoved it into the galley complete and perfect! We took it out and examined it with a glass. You could not tell by your eye that the third space was thinner than the others, but the glass and the calipers showed the difference. Paige had always said that the machine would measure invisible particles of dirt and allow for them, but even he had forgotten that vast fact for the moment.
All the witnesses made written record of the immense historical birth-- the first justification of a line of movable type by machinery--and also set down the hour and the minute. Nobody had drank anything, and yet everybody seemed drunk. Well-dizzy, stupefied, stunned.
All the other wonderful inventions of the human brain sink pretty nearly into commonplace contrasted with this awful mechanical miracle. Telephones, telegraphs, locomotives, cotton gins, sewing machines, Babbage calculators, jacquard looms, perfecting presses, Arkwright's frames--all mere toys, simplicities! The Paige Compositor marches alone and far in the lead of human inventions.
In two or three weeks we shall work the stiffness out of her joints and have her performing as smoothly and softly as human muscles, and then we shall speak out the big secret and let the world come and gaze.
Return me this letter when you have read it.
Judge of the elation which such a letter would produce in Keokuk! Yet it was no greater than that which existed in Hartford--for a time.
Then further delays. Before the machine got "the stiffness out of her joints" that "cunning devil" manifested a tendency to break the types, and Paige, who was never happier than when he was pulling things to pieces and making improvements, had the type-setter apart again and the day of complete triumph was postponed.
There was sadness at the Elmira farm that spring. Theodore Crane, who had long been in poor health, seemed to grow daily worse. In February he had paid a visit to Hartford and saw the machine in operation, but by the end of May his condition was very serious. Remembering his keen sense of humor, Clemens reported to him cheering and amusing incidents.
To Mrs. Theodore Crane. in Elmira, N. Y.:
HARTFORD, May 28, '89. Susie dear, I want you to tell this to Theodore.