A KING, whether he be one by the accidental right of inheritance or by the noble right of inborn royalty, has the privilege of calling his vassals to him at his will. So when a summons came, the Thanksgiving following the winter on the Happy Island, for me to go to Mr. Clemens's home in the Connecticut hills, I never thought of hesitating. It was Thanksgiving afternoon when I reached the little station. It was a glorious sunny winter day, with a gray frost still on the hills, little icicles on the edge of the streams, and a tang in the air that gave to hearts and cheeks a cheerier glow. We drove rapidly over the country roads, and I noticed at each turning that there was a neat and very diminutive sign-board, pointing always in the direction we followed, and bearing the initials M. T.
Many minutes before we reached it we could see the peaceful white Italian villa, from whose many windows we knew we could look for miles over the country. The grounds were unspoiled by the hand of the landscape gardener, and bushes grew everywhere, while the graveled road, that led up to the entrance, was not yet hardened by excessive travel. We drove up to the door. It opened, and there stood Mr. Clemens. It might have been yesterday that I had seen him last, for he had not changed. His suit was as white and immaculate as ever, his hair as silvery. There was only one change. He had tied a bow of pink ribbon to the top locks of his head, in honor of the guest. He extended both hands in cordial greeting, and I knew then that the Happy Island had not been a dream. The bow of pink ribbon was gently referred to, with proper acknowledgment of its hospitable significance. Mr. Clemens received the thanks gravely, and then the ornament placed there whimsically was apparently forgotten, but remained coquettishly pert all the rest of the evening.
Even before I went to my room I must look over the house. So we went from living room to loggia and back again to the dining room, and then down to the pergola, back again to the house and into the billiard-room, then upstairs to catch a glimpse of the view from Mr. Clemens' room before the twilight should close in upon it. Then Clara Clemens's charming suite of rooms must be visited, then the other bed-rooms, and the guest rooms. We must have a peep also into the servants' quarters, but finally, we stopped, before reaching the attic, which was reserved to another time.
The house was designed by the son of his life-long friend, Mr. W. D. Howells, a fact which gave Mr. Clemens great satisfaction. It was singularly in keeping with the dark, straight cedars which nature had foreseeingly disposed in decorative lines and groups. In side there was spaciousness, light, perfect comfort, and simplicity: while outside there was all the beauty of a New England landscape at its best, with nothing abrupt or harsh in the undulating curves of its hills and valleys; with something maternal in its soft, full outlines -- where it would seem a sweet and restful thing to lay one's tired body down and let this mother Earth soothe and enfold you.
Mr. Clemens told me, almost with glee, that he had never seen either house or land until one day, the preceding June, when he came and took possession of a fully furnished and settled kingdom. All the instructions he had given were, that his room should be a quiet one, that the billiard-room should be big enough so that when he played he would not have to jab his cue into the wall, and that there should be a living-room at least forty by twenty feet. He was perfectly satisfied with the result, and wandered delightedly from room to room as he pointed out this and that particular charm.
As twilight fell, we gathered about the big fireplace in the living-room. Mr. Clemens asked me if I noticed anything very peculiar about the room. I vainly tried to perceive some eccentricity, but could not, for everything was in perfect harmony. "Haven't you noticed," said he, "that there isn't a picture on the walls?" I had to confess that I hadn't. We sat and talked of our friends of the Happy Island -- of the Rajah, and of Margaret and the other Angel-fish, until it was time to go and dress for dinner.
This was a function where conversation was as important as food. Mr. Clemens grew restless before many courses had been served, and rose, to walk up and down the dining-room, discoursing the while on some favorite topic. This he often did at meals. For he was not a hearty eater, except spasmodically, and so he would often suddenly rise, still talking, and continue his tirade while pacing the floor. Then, if another course tempted him, he would come back and partake of it.
There was a big organ at one end of the living-room, with a self-playing attachment, and after dinner we had some music. One of the guests played while we sat in the fire light, and Mr. Clemens in his big armchair smoked and was perfectly happy.
Mr. Clemens spent half of each morning in bed, and sometimes he did not appear until lunch-time; but the morning after Thanksgiving he was downstairs at ten, and proposed that we take a walk over the hills, his hills. It was a gloriously bright, crisp, cold day, and the atmosphere was so limpid that we could see far away. Mr. Clemens put on a fur-lined great-coat and his gray cap, saw that there was a goodly supply of cigars in his pockets, and we started off down the walk, through the pergola, and picked our way to a winding path that led us to all sorts of charming places.
Just as we were starting from the house, Mr. Clemens had stopped me and had said: "I want you to look at this view." I looked at the slope below, that dipped down into a pretty valley, and then at the gentle hills beyond, where winter had forced the trees to drop their sheltering screens, so that unexpected houses and isolated farms were here and there revealed. Mr. Clemens asked, "Do you see that white building over there?" pointing, at the same time, to what was unmistakably a country church. He went on: "We've just discovered that it is a church. It's the nearest one. Just at a safe distance. All summer we thought that it was a wind mill."
That morning walk in the white November sunlight will always remain a vivid memory. We scrambled down the hillside and came to the stream, which Mr. Clemens pointed out to me with the proud gesture of a discoverer. It was just what a New England stream should be, winding and clear, flowing at times turbulently over obstructing stones, and then pausing to form a still, golden-brown pool. We followed its windings with happy delight, finding new beauties to show to each other and to exclaim over. Mr. Clemens told me Indian stories and legends he had heard in his boyhood days.
We came to a tiny cave, at the side of the road, where there were some baby stalactites, and Mr. Clemens stopped there to discourse on the wonders of geology. He told me he had lately been investigating the subject of the formation of the earth, and he had found it so wonderful that he wanted to know more about it. He had found some old treatises on geology which amused him greatly, but he wanted to get some more modern and scientific information.
And so we wandered on, beguiled by the stream, which kept on murmuring seductively of charms farther on.
We talked of the Angel-fish and their many attractions. Mr. Clemens told me of Margaret's last visit to Stormfield and of what good times they had had together. "She is a dear womanly child," said Mr. Clemens, "and we had one conversation together which convinced me more than ever of her sweet consideration for others. She was telling me how she intended to bring up her children, and what were her plans for their education. There were to be two, a boy and a girl. The girl was to be named after her mother. I asked her what the boy's name would be, and she replied, with a reproachful look in her brown eyes: 'Why, Mr. Clemens, I can't name him until I know what his father's name is.' Now, wasn't that truly thoughtful?"
We finally had to leave the stream, for it was the lunch hour, so we made an abrupt turn and approached Stormfield by the opposite side from which we had left it. As we climbed the hill, Mr. Clemens paused a moment to say: "I never want to leave this place. It satisfies me perfectly."
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