The Boys’ Life of Mark Twain
by Paine

Presented by

Public Domain Books

XXXIX. Tramping Abroad

It was now going on ten years since the publication of “The Innocents Abroad,” and there was a demand for another Mark Twain book of travel. Clemens considered the matter, and decided that a walking-tour in Europe might furnish the material he wanted. He spoke to his good friend, the Rev. “Joe” Twichell, and invited him to become his guest on such an excursion, because, as he explained, he thought he could “dig material enough out of Joe to make it a sound investment.” As a matter of fact, he loved Twichell’s companionship, and was always inviting him to share his journeys–to Boston, to Bermuda, to Washington–wherever interest or fancy led him. His plan now was to take the family to Germany in the spring, and let Twichell join them later for a summer tramp down through the Black Forest and Switzerland. Meantime the Clemens household took up the study of German. The children had a German nurse–others a German teacher. The household atmosphere became Teutonic. Of course it all amused Mark Twain, as everything amused him, but he was a good student. In a brief time he had a fair knowledge of every-day German and a really surprising vocabulary. The little family sailed in April (1878), and a few weeks later were settled in the Schloss Hotel, on a hill above Heidelberg, overlooking the beautiful old castle, the ancient town, with the Neckar winding down the hazy valley–as fair a view as there is in all Germany.

Clemens found a room for his work in a small house not far from the hotel. On the day of his arrival he had pointed out this house and said he had decided to work there–that his room would be the middle one on the third floor. Mrs. Clemens laughed, and thought the occupants of the house might be surprised when he came over to take possession. They amused themselves by watching “his people” and trying to make out what they were like. One day he went over that way, and, sure enough, there was a sign, “Furnished Rooms,” and the one he had pointed out from the hotel was vacant. It became his study forthwith.

The travelers were delighted with their location. To Howells, Clemens wrote:

“Our bedroom has two great glass bird-cages (inclosed balconies), one looking toward the Rhine Valley and sunset, the other looking up the Neckar cul de sac, and, naturally, we spent nearly all our time in these. We have tables and chairs in them . . . . It must have been a noble genius who devised this hotel. Lord! how blessed is the repose, the tranquillity of this place! Only two sounds: the happy clamor of the birds in the groves and the muffled music of the Neckar tumbling over the opposing dikes. It is no hardship to lie awake awhile nights, for thin subdued roar has exactly the sound of a steady rain beating upon a roof. It is so healing to the spirit; and it bears up the thread of one’s imaginings as the accompaniment bears up a song.”

Twichell was summoned for August, and wrote back eagerly at the prospect:

“Oh, my! Do you realize, Mark, what a symposium it is to be? I do. To begin with, I am thoroughly tired, and the rest will be worth everything. To walk with you and talk with you for weeks together– why, it’s my dream of luxury!”

Meantime the struggle with the “awful German language” went on. Rosa, the maid, was required to speak to the children only in German, though little Clara at first would have none of it. Susy, two years older, tried, and really made progress, but one day she said, pathetically:

“Mama, I wish Rosa was made in English.”

But presently she was writing to “Aunt Sue” (Mrs. Crane) at Quarry Farm:

“I know a lot of German; everybody says I know a lot. I give you a million dollars to see you, and you would give two hundred dollars to see the lovely woods we see.”

Twichell arrived August 1st. Clemens met him at Baden-Baden, and they immediately set forth on a tramp through the Black Forest, excursioning as they pleased and having a blissful time. They did not always walk. They were likely to take a carnage or a donkey-cart, or even a train, when one conveniently happened along. They did not hurry, but idled and talked and gathered flowers, or gossiped with wayside natives– picturesque peasants in the Black Forest costume. In due time they crossed into Switzerland and prepared to conquer the Alps.

The name Mark Twain had become about as well known in Europe as it was in America. His face, however, was less familiar. He was not often recognized in these wanderings, and his pen-name was carefully concealed. It was a relief to him not to be an object of curiosity and lavish attention. Twichell’s conscience now and then prompted him to reveal the truth. In one of his letters home he wrote how a young man at a hotel had especially delighted in Mark’s table conversation, and how he (Twichell) had later taken the young man aside and divulged the speaker’s identity.

“I could not forbear telling him who Mark was, and the mingled surprise and pleasure his face exhibited made me glad I had done so.”

They did not climb many of the Alps on foot. They did scale the Rigi, after which Mark Twain was not in the best walking trim; though later they conquered Gemmi Pass–no small undertaking–that trail that winds up and up until the traveler has only the glaciers and white peaks and the little high-blooming flowers for company.

All day long the friends would tramp and walk together, and when they did not walk they would hire a diligence or any vehicle that came handy, but, whatever their means of travel the joy of comradeship amid those superb surroundings was the same.

In Twichell’s letters home we get pleasant pictures of the Mark Twain of that day:

“Mark, to-day, was immensely absorbed in flowers. He scrambled around and gathered a great variety, and manifested the intensest pleasure in them . . . . Mark is splendid to walk with amid such grand scenery, for he talks so well about it, has such a power of strong, picturesque expression. I wish you might have heard him today. His vigorous speech nearly did justice to the things we saw.”

And in another place:

“He can’t bear to see the whip used, or to see a horse pull hard. To-day when the driver clucked up his horse and quickened his pace a little, Mark said, ’The fellow’s got the notion that we were in a hurry.’”

Another extract refers to an incident which Mark Twain also mentions in “A Tramp Abroad:” [8]

“Mark is a queer fellow. There is nothing so delights him as a swift, strong stream. You can hardly get him to leave one when once he is in the influence of its fascinations. To throw in stones and sticks seems to afford him rapture.”

Twichell goes on to tell how he threw some driftwood into a racing torrent and how Mark went running down-stream after it, waving and shouting in a sort of mad ecstasy.

When a piece went over a fall and emerged to view in the foam below, he would jump up and down and yell. He acted just like a boy.

Boy he was, then and always. Like Peter Pan, he never really grew up– that is, if growing up means to grow solemn and uninterested in play.

Climbing the Gorner Grat with Twichell, they sat down to rest, and a lamb from a near-by flock ventured toward them. Clemens held out his hand and called softly. The lamb ventured nearer, curious but timid.

It was a scene for a painter: the great American humorist on one side of the game, and the silly little creature on the other, with the Matterhorn for a background. Mark was reminded that the time he was consuming was valuable, but to no purpose. The Gorner Grat could wait. He held on with undiscouraged perseverance till he carried his point; the lamb finally put its nose in Mark’s hand, and he was happy all the rest of the day.

“In A Tramp Abroad” Mark Twain burlesques most of the walking-tour with Harris (Twichell), feeling, perhaps, that he must make humor at whatever cost. But to-day the other side of the picture seems more worth while. That it seemed so to him, also, even at the time, we may gather from a letter he sent after Twichell when it was all over and Twichell was on his way home:

“DEAR OLD JOE,–It is actually all over! I was so low-spirited at the station yesterday, and this morning, when I woke, I couldn’t seem to accept the dismal truth that you were really gone and the pleasant tramping and talking at an end. Ah, my boy! It has been such a rich holiday for me, and I feel under such deep and honest obligations to you for coming. I am putting out of my mind all memory of the time when I misbehaved toward you and hurt you; I am resolved to consider it forgiven, and to store up and remember only the charming hours of the journey and the times when I was not unworthy to be with you and share a companionship which to me stands first after Livy’s.”

Clemens had joined his family at Lausanne, and presently they journeyed down into Italy, returning later to Germany–to Munich, where they lived quietly with Fraulein Dahlweiner at No. 1a Karlstrasse, while he worked on his new book of travel. When spring came they went to Paris, and later to London, where the usual round of entertainment briefly claimed them. It was the 3d of September, 1879, when they finally reached New York. The papers said that Mark Twain had changed in his year and a half of absence. He had, somehow, taken on a traveled look. One paper remarked that he looked older than when he went to Germany, and that his hair had turned quite gray.

[8] Chapter XXXIII.


Preface  •  I. The Family of John Clemens  •  II. The New Home, and Uncle John Quarles’s Farm  •  IV. Education Out of School  •  V. Tom Sawyer and His Band  •  VI. Closing School-Days  •  VII. The Apprentice  •  VIII. Orion’s Paper  •  IX. The Open Road  •  X. A Wind of Chance  •  XI. The Long Way to the Amazon  •  XII. Renewing an Old Ambition  •  XIII. Learning the River  •  XIV. River Days  •  XV. The Wreck of the “Pennsylvania”  •  XVI. The Pilot  •  XVII. The End of Piloting  •  XVIII. The Soldier  •  XIX. The Pioneer  •  XX. The Miner  •  XXI. The Territorial Enterprise  •  XXII. “Mark Twain”  •  XXIII. Artemus Ward and Literary San Francisco  •  XXIV. The Discovery of “The Jumping Frog”  •  XXV. Hawaii and Anson Burlingame  •  XXVI. Mark Twain, Lecturer  •  XXVII. An Innocent Abroad, and Home Again  •  XXVIII. Olivia Langdon. Work on the “Innocents”  •  XXIX. The Visit to Elmira and Its Consequences  •  XXX. The New Book and a Wedding  •  XXXI. Mark Twain in Buffalo  •  XXXII. At Work on “Roughing It”  •  XXXIII. In England  •  XXXIV. A New Book and New English Triumphs  •  XXXV. Beginning “Tom Sawyer”  •  XXXVI. The New Home  •  XXXVII. “Old Times,” “Sketches,” And “Tom Sawyer”  •  XXXVIII. Home Pictures  •  XXXIX. Tramping Abroad  •  XL. “The Prince and the Pauper”  •  XLI. General Grant at Hartford  •  XLII. Many Investments  •  XLIII. Back to the River, With Bixby  •  XLIV. A Reading-Tour With Cable  •  XLV. “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”  •  XLVI. Publisher to General Grant  •  XLVII. The High-Tide of Fortune  •  XLVIII. Business Difficulties. Pleasanter Things  •  XLIX. Kipling at Elmira. Elsie Leslie. The “Yankee”  •  L. The Machine. Good-By to Hartford. “Joan” Is Begun  •  LI. The Failure of Webster & Co. Around the World. Sorrow  •  LII. European Economies  •  LIII. Mark Twain Pays His Debts  •  LIV. Return After Exile  •  LV. A Prophet At Home  •  LVI. Honored by Missouri  •  LVII. The Close of a Beautiful Life  •  LVIII. Mark Twain at Seventy  •  LIX. Mark Twain Arranges for His Biography  •  LX. Working With Mark Twain  •  LXI. Dictations at Dublin, N. H.  •  LXII. A New Era of Billiards  •  LXIII. Living With Mark Twain  •  LXIV. A Degree From Oxford  •  LXV. The Removal to Redding  •  LXVI. Life at Stormfield  •  LXVII. The Death of Jean  •  LXVIII. Days in Bermuda  •  LXIX. The Return to Redding  •  LXX. The Close of a Great Life

[Buy at Amazon]
The boys' life of Mark Twain: The story of a man who made the world laugh and love him
By Albert Bigelow Paine
At Amazon