Mark Twain's personal notebook for March 1885, when he was in Washington, D.C. on a lecture tour, contains the following brief note:
Wadhams 1727 - 19 - N.W. (1)
Naval commander Albion V. Wadhams was married to the former Caroline Henderson, a first cousin of Louisa Mussina Baird. (Mark Twain's wife Olivia Clemens had provided financial assistance to Louisa Baird in purchasing ranchland in Archer County Texas several years earlier. Caroline Henderson was an old friend of George Washington Cable and during their 1884-85 lecture tour, both Twain and Cable dropped in to visit with the Wadham family in their Washington, D. C. home. A fourteen-year-old niece of Caroline Henderson Wadhams was staying with the family at the time and years later she wrote her memories of the visit.A typescript of her memoir is available in the Mark Twain Papers at the University of California at Berkeley. I am also indebted to family member and genealogy researcher Anna Marie Dahlquist for sharing her copy of the text of the memoir.
|My Aunt and Uncle were very hospitable and often entertained. As I look
back, I wonder how they ever thought of giving their two sons, 11 and 12,
and a niece hardly 14, the opportunity to be present on all such occasions,
but we were never absent. In those days George W. Cable and Mark Twain were
giving readings and came to Washington. Cable was an old family friend,
who always upheld the fiction that he had been in love with Aunt Carrie.
He claimed he had once given her a bunch of flowers but when he found them
faded and forgotten on the garden path he knew his suit was hopeless. One
Sunday, the family went to church, having arranged to bring the two famous
authors and a well known woman writer home for midday dinner. I was to stay
and see that Dinah, a new waitress, made no mistakes in preparation. We
put on the table cloth together and the inverted bowl which was to be covered
with moss and topped with a few flowers. Saying I would return soon to carry
out the plan, I ran upstairs to fix my braids and slip on the green cashmere
dress trimmed with bright plaid satin. When I returned, I found that Dinah
had not waited. The wet moss was in place and also a wide ring of damp table
cloth. Hastily we began to remove silver and glass. Fortunately there was
another clean table cloth of the right size and we were doing well, when
I heard my Uncle's key in the front door. Just a moment and he was bringing
the gentlemen into the dining room for cigars. Dinah escaped by the pantry,
while I fled to the bay window but there was no escape for me. My Uncle
found me and spoke to Mr. Cable, "This is Sister Mary's child,"
["Sister Mary" is identified as Mary Ann Henderson who was married
to L. Ferdinand Hertz] he said. I shook hands politely and then my Uncle
turned. "My niece, Mr. Clemens," he said. Mark Twain's face was
one big smile. He did not shake hands but pulled me around by my braids
which he solemnly inspected. "What a funny color of hair she has,"
he said and strange to say, all my embarrassment was gone. Mr. Cable took
my Aunt out to dinner and the lady author was escorted by my Uncle. Mark
Twain offered me his arm. Just as we were seated Uncle turned to Mr. Cable
and asked him to say grace which he did. Then the great humorist solemnly
remarked, "A-A-AMen." It was irresistably funny, as was everything
he did, but what should we do? We could not offend Mr. Cable by laughing
and how could we help laughing. But of course a Naval officer always has
a story and my Uncle at once relieved the situation by tolling us how he
had once invited a French priest to lunch on board ship. He warned the officers
in the wardroom to wait a bit before they began to eat, as it would be proper
to ask a priest to bless the food. The day arrived and the officers dutifully
waited as he struggled to find the French word for grace. Finally what he
meant dawned on his guest, he made the sign of the cross and they all fell
to. We laughed, all except Mark Twain who rose in his seat. "That explains
some- thing I never could account for," he said. "When I was on
the Mississippi River our Captain always seemed to have a fit just as we
sat down to meals. He went across the room and held on to the back of a
chair as if he were about to sit down, then he made a sort of growling noise
and dropped into the chair. I do believe," said Mark Twain, "that
he was saying grace.'' Mark Twain was in his element and he told stories
till we were lame with laughter. "Never," said Mr. Cable, "Was
he in better form." That was the day of autograph albums and our guests
wrote their names for us, of course.
"There ain't no pints about that frog that's any
different from any other frog."
It was only a few days before a Presidential inauguration and we were
all to sit
(1) Mark Twain's Notebooks & Journals, Volume III, (1883-1891), ed. Robert Pack Browning, Michale B. Frank, and Lin Salamo. University of California Press, 1979, p. 99.