STORMFIELD, HAPPILY CONTINUED
AT luncheon Mr. Clemens spoke of his lasting gratitude to Captain Stormfield. For it was to the success of his Heavenly Experiences that the building of the loggia was due. And that was the reason the peaceful house was thus christened.
Our meal was somewhat hurried by the announcement, made by the deeply-interested butler, that the people were beginning to come. We were to have that afternoon the first entertainment of a series for the benefit of the Library Fund of the village. Mr. Clemens had offered to tell stories, and the entrance fee was to be twenty-five cents. Chairs had been hired from the local under taker, and had been placed in close rows in the big living-room, in the loggia, and out in the hall.
The first who arrived had walked five miles. More came. They came in buggies and in other handy vehicles. They entered the house solemnly and took their places silently, re fusing to make themselves comfortable, and held on grimly to fur overcoats and fleece lined jackets. Soon the big living-room was filled to overflowing, and then Mr. Clemens stepped up to the improvised platform at one end of the long room and bade them welcome. As usual, he made a most picturesque appearance. On the wall behind him was a very large square, of carved, rich, old Italian oak which filled the space between the two windows and formed an effective background for the white-haired, white-clad figure of the speaker. Mr. Clemens told story after story in his happiest vein -- how he became an agriculturist, how he was lost in the dead of night in the black vastness of a German banqueting hall. He was brilliant, wonderful. He seemed determined to bring a ripple into the faces of that silent audience. Once in a while stern features would relax for a moment, but the effort seemed to hurt, and the muscles would become fixed again.
In the back of the room there sat some of the younger generation, who suffered from occasional apoplectic outbursts. And yet we knew that everyone there was enjoying it deeply, hugely, only, as Mr. Clemens said afterwards, "they weren't used to laughing on the outside." And they were proud, too, proud almost to sinning, of their illustrious fellow-townsman, and they would have shouted with laughter, if they only could.
When Mr. Clemens had finished, after an entertainment of an hour and a half, there was no lack of applause. This they could give. The audience dispersed slowly, many of the number stopping to look, with open mouthed but inarticulate admiration, at the beauties and luxuries of this home, so different from theirs.
That evening Mr. Clemens rested himself by playing billiards. Before beginning, he showed me his collection of fish. Charmingly colored pictures of Angel-fish and other varieties were framed and hung low around the billiard-room. He told me that each real Angel-fish who came to visit him could choose one of those and call it her coat-of-arms. There were other very remarkable sketches and caricatures hung on the walls, but Mr. Clemens seemed most interested in the piscatorial collection.
It was sometimes a wonderful and fearsome thing to watch Mr. Clemens play billiards. He loved the game, and he loved to win, but he occasionally made a very bad stroke, and then the varied, picturesque, and unorthodox vocabulary, acquired in his more youthful years, was the only thing that gave him comfort. Gently, slowly, with no profane inflexions of voice, but irresistibly as though they had the head-waters of the Mississippi for their source, came this stream of unholy adjectives and choice expletives. I don't mean to imply that he indulged himself thus before promiscuous audiences. It was only when some member of the inner circle of his friends was present that he showed him this mark of confidence, for he meant it in the nature of a compliment. His mind was as far from giving offense as the mind of a child, and we felt none. We only felt a kind of awe. At no other time did I ever hear Mr. Clemens use any word which could be called profanity. But if we would penetrate into the billiard-room and watch him play, we must accept certain inevitable privileges of royalty.
The next morning as I was going down stairs, Mr. Clemens called to me from his room, in a tone that made me hurry. He was standing by one of the many windows, and he said: "Come quickly and look at the deep blue haze on those barberry bushes! They have never looked quite like this before." Then he went on to say: "When they built this house they had the inspiration to put in these small panes. See how each one frames a wonderful picture, and I can have a different one every time I change my position. No man-made pictures shall ever hang on my walls so long as I have these."
And Mr. Clemens had no picture on his wall, except a portrait of his daughter Jean.
That afternoon we took a long drive over the hills. Mr. Clemens kept no coachman and no carriage at that time, but when he wished a "rig" he sent word to the friendly farmer near by, who would soon appear with a surrey and a team of horses.
I remember that much of the talk that afternoon turned on the strange manifestations of genius and the tragic lives of many of those who were thus fatally endowed.
When evening came that day we asked Mr. Clemens to read Kipling to us again, and thus revive some of the memories of the Happy Island. And so we sat around the big blazing fire, and again the King's voice swept us out to visions of mighty action. More favorites were added. The Three Decker was read with unction, and The Long Trail was read twice over before the audience was satisfied. We wished that Mr. Rogers were there, and, happily, we did not feel the chill prophecy that some of us were never to see him again. An hour before luncheon, on Sunday, we gathered together in the living-room. Some one proposed that Mr. Clemens read aloud to us from his book, What Is Man? Into this work Mr. Clemens had put some of his deepest convictions as to the meaning of life and the principles that guide the human soul. What ever may be their philosophical value to others, he, at least, believed in them utterly, and when he read aloud to us the clear, trenchant dialogue, we, too, were convinced, for a time, of their truth. He grew so earnest that he would often repeat a phrase, twice, in a deep, solemn voice, and he so utterly forgot his pipe that it went out completely.
Our afternoon's peace was somewhat invaded by calls from the outside world and demands that Mr. Clemens should allow himself to be photographed. I often wondered how many thousand times the camera must have turned its eye upon him.
That last evening we played Hearts, for it still continued to be Mr. Clemens' favorite game. Again we missed Mr. Rogers sorely, and wished for his bantering. For no one else of us dared to chaff Mr. Clemens in quite the way that he had done. Besides, we knew that it wouldn't have been in the least humorous. We lengthened the hours as long as we could, for it was to be the last evening together, as the early morning train was to take me away. Since we knew how averse Mr. Clemens was to saying good-by to anyone, we parted that evening with a simple good-night. I did not expect to see him again, but the next morning as I went down to my hurried breakfast I heard his voice calling me. I went to his room. He was lying in his big carved bed, propped up by pillows. On the little table beside him were crowded together pipes, cigars, matches, a bottle or two, and a number of books. He handed one of the books to me, and said, " You must have one of my souvenirs." It was a copy of Eve's Diary, with a kindly dedication in it on the fly-leaf. Then he said good-bye. The November sunshine had gone. The chill of winter had come into the air, and as I drove over the hills to the station I felt that I was going away from something very wonderful and very precious. For the love and friendship of those who have their faces turned towards the sunset is sometimes as rare and sweet and unworldly as that of little children. Perhaps they both are nearer the infinite, and so can understand.
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