banner logo






EVENINGS at a hotel, even a hotel on the Happy Island, are, at best, garish. There are verandas, where a swaying multitude rock back and forth in huge wicker rocking-chairs; parlors, where old ladies play bridge; and smoking-rooms, where the men, pleasantly wearied from golf, somnolently pull at their cigars; and a ball-room, where expectant young girls listen to the music of a discouraged band.

But our evenings were different, for we fled from all these allurements, and gathered in Mr. Clemens's room, where we spent most delectable hours.

Mr. Clemens had a wonderful gift for reading. The author of The Prince and the Pauper, Huckleberry Finn, and Tom Sawyer could not fail to be dramatic. And this dramatic sense he knew well how to express in his reading. He read slowly, with eloquent pauses, and he threw himself into the sentiment he was interpreting with intense abandonment, and yet with a reserve that was consummate art. One evening he read to us some articles by Helen Keller, that were then appearing in Harper's Magazine. Every now and then he would interrupt himself to comment on some phase of Miss Keller's personality, or recount some incident of his acquaintance with her. Mr. Rogers, too, knew her well, and they both agreed that Miss Keller bad proved it was quite unnecessary for us to have so many senses. Another evening he read to us from his own unpublished manuscript -- stories of his little girl friends, charming sketches of Dorothy and Margaret and Irene, of his first meetings with them, and of their quaint sayings.

But I think that the evenings we enjoyed most were those when be read Kipling. He said once: "I'm not fond of all poetry, but there is something in Kipling that appeals to me. I guess he's just about my level."

He loved the swing of Kipling's verse and the, brawn and muscle of his thought. On those Kipling evenings, the mise-en-scene was a striking one. There was the bare hotel room, with its pine woodwork and pine furniture and the loose windows, which rattled in the sea wind. Once in a while a gust of asthmatic music from the spiritless orchestra, downstairs, puffed up the hallway. Yellow, unprotected gas-lights burned uncertainly and Mr. Clemens, in the midst of this, lay on his bed, still dressed in his white serge suit, with the light from the jet shining down on his silver hair, making it gleam and glisten like frost.

In one hand be held his book; in the other he had his pipe, which he used principally to gesticulate with in the most dramatic passages.

Then we sat down near him, and Mr. Rogers lit his cigar, remarking kindly: "Now, Mr. Clemens, don't read too slowly. It seems to me that sometime you drawl a little." to which Mr. Clemens replied, looking genially up at the ceiling: "It's most unfortunate that Mr. Rogers speaks so indistinctly. I often lose what he says, entirely."

And then Mr. Clemens began. When he read the Mary Gloster we could see the violent old man lying on his death-bed, undaunted by the thought of the end, pouring bitter curses on his worthless son's head, and at the same time thrilling with his sublimely poetic purpose. The tender beauty of Mr. Clemens's voice when the old man spoke of his one clear love, made the feminine members of the audience weep openly, while Mr. Rogers sat up sternly, blinked hard, and pulled fiercely at his cigar. When Mr. Clemens read McAndrews' Hymn his voice rang out in triumph and his pipe waved rhythmically to the song of the steam. Soldier and Sailor Too swept us out to visions of the sea, and of men who died at their posts; while we laughed delightedly with the swing of The Bolivar, and felt the note of piercing homesickness in Mandalay and Me That Has Been What I've Been.

One evening the Lady Mother was able to be present, and Mr. Clemens chose Tomlinson for her delectation.

It was an impressive sight-those two types, each so beautiful in ways so utterly different:

Mr. Clemens, who had seen the world in all its phases, of sin and pleasure, of joy and sorrow, and who bad come out of it with a nature still sweet, a philosophy half-whimsical, half-profound, and a heart where youthful gaiety still had a place; and opposite him the Lady Mother, with her pose of a duchess, the young look in her eyes, and her finely chiseled face, flushed with a happy look of expectancy. Both had lived the same number of years, she so protected from, be so exposed to, their storms. And be chose Tomlinson. I shall not say that she enjoyed it. Some of the expressions had not that refinement that she loved, but if she did not wholly approve Kipling, she gave full meed of praise to the King. Him she never criticized.

Mr. Clemens gave to several of his friends who had at different times enjoyed Kipling with him a copy of the writer's collected verses, marking his favorite poems with heavy lines.

From one friend to whom be sent such a copy came back, in acknowledgment, the following verses:



When the King reads Kipling
We grow silent and are still,
And our hearts begin to thrill,
For we know we shall be carried to far lands across the seas.
We shall tramp through tropic forests, we shall rest 'neath banyan trees,
Where we hear the lazy rustling of palmettos in the breeze.
We shall feel like happy children, for we haven't any choice
When we hear the East a-calling with its yearning languorous voice,
When the King reads Kipling.


When the King reads Kipling,
We are spell-bound, by the ring
Of the ballads, as they sing
Of the ocean's awful power and its deep deceitful wiles -
Of the desert's naked grandeur, where the green oasis smiles:
Of the splendor of horizons glowing blood-red, miles on miles:
And our souls are stirred within us and we feel a glad unrest
For we are sailing outward, to the Islands of the Blest
When the King reads Kipling.


When the King reads Kipling,
There's a hush falls on the room
In the twilight's deepening gloom.
And our hearts are strangely lifted to some distant purple height,
Where we catch a glorious vision of the soul's heroic might;
Where we hear the cries of anguish, that come sobbing through the night.
And we feel the tragic shadow, that makes great joys complete,
For we are borne up to the mountains where two great poets meet,
When the King reads Kipling.

Mr. Clemens was deeply touched and wrote the following answer:

You have overwhelmed me, dear _____. That poem does not seem like words -- a march of words with interrupting spaces between -- it flows like organ music, in blended strains, deep and rich and eloquent. And so moving! I can't read it aloud, my voice breaks. It is noble, stately, beautiful! I can never thank you with words, but I can with my heart; and I do.

S. L. C.

But time passes on a Happy Island as it does everywhere else, and the inevitable day came when we bad to sail away, and wave a lingering good-bye to the kingly white figure on the shore, and sadly watch the green islands sink into the sea.

We wondered if we should ever see him again, but we were certain that, whether we ever did or not, his image could never fade from our hearts. We should always hear that dear, drawling, resonant voice. We should forever keep in our memory that marvelous personality.

Return to book index
Proceed to next chapter (Chapter 11)

banner logo