The Boys’ Life of Mark Twain
by Paine

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Public Domain Books

LXVI. Life at Stormfield

Mark Twain loved Stormfield. Almost immediately he gave up the idea of going back to New York for the winter, and I think he never entered the Fifth Avenue house again. The quiet and undisturbed comfort of Stormfield came to him at the right time of life. His day of being the “Belle of New York” was over. Now and then he attended some great dinner, but always under protest. Finally he refused to go at all. He had much company during that first summer–old friends, and now and again young people, of whom he was always fond. The billiard-room he called “the aquarium,” and a frieze of Bermuda fishes, in gay prints, ran around the walls. Each young lady visitor was allowed to select one of these as her patron fish and attach her name to it. Thus, as a member of the “aquarium club,” she was represented in absence. Of course there were several cats at Stormfield, and these really owned the premises. The kittens scampered about the billiard-table after the balls, even when the game was in progress, giving all sorts of new angles to the shots. This delighted him, and he would not for anything have discommoded or removed one of those furry hazards.

My own house was a little more than half a mile away, our lands joining, and daily I went up to visit him–to play billiards or to take a walk across the fields. There was a stenographer in the neighborhood, and he continued his dictations, but not regularly. He wrote, too, now and then, and finished the little book called “Is Shakespeare Dead?”

Winter came. The walks were fewer, and there was even more company; the house was gay and the billiard games protracted. In February I made a trip to Europe and the Mediterranean, to go over some of his ground there. Returning in April, I found him somewhat changed. It was not that he had grown older, or less full of life, but only less active, less eager for gay company, and he no longer dictated, or very rarely. His daughter Jean, who had been in a health resort, was coming home to act as his secretary, and this made him very happy. We resumed our games, our talks, and our long walks across the fields. There were few guests, and we were together most of the day and evening. How beautiful the memory of it all is now! To me, of course, nothing can ever be like it again in this world.

Mark Twain walked slowly these days. Early in the summer there appeared indications of the heart trouble that less than a year later would bring the end. His doctor advised diminished smoking, and forbade the old habit of lightly skipping up and down stairs. The trouble was with the heart muscles, and at times there came severe deadly pains in his breast, but for the most part he did not suffer. He was allowed the walk, however, and once I showed him a part of his estate he had not seen before–a remote cedar hillside. On the way I pointed out a little corner of land which earlier he had given me to straighten our division line. I told him I was going to build a study on it and call it “Markland.” I think the name pleased him. Later he said:

“If you had a place for that extra billiard-table of mine” (the Rogers table, which had been left in storage in New York), “I would turn it over to you.”

I replied that I could adapt the size of my proposed study to fit the table, and he said:

“Now that will be very good. Then when I want exercise I can walk down and play billiards with you, and when you want exercise you can walk up and play billiards with me. You must build that study.”

So it was planned, and the work was presently under way.

How many things we talked of! Life, death, the future–all the things of which we know so little and love so much to talk about. Astronomy, as I have said, was one of his favorite subjects. Neither of us had any real knowledge of the matter, which made its great facts all the more awesome. The thought that the nearest fixed star was twenty-five trillions of miles away–two hundred and fifty thousand times the distance to our own remote sun–gave him a sort of splendid thrill. He would figure out those appalling measurements of space, covering sheets of paper with his sums, but he was not a good mathematician, and the answers were generally wrong. Comets in particular interested him, and one day he said:

“I came in with Halley’s comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s comet.”

He looked so strong, and full of color and vitality. One could not believe that his words held a prophecy. Yet the pains recurred with increasing frequency and severity; his malady, angina pectoris, was making progress. And how bravely he bore it all! He never complained, never bewailed. I have seen the fierce attack crumple him when we were at billiards, but he would insist on playing in his turn, bowed, his face white, his hand digging at his breast.


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

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The boys' life of Mark Twain: The story of a man who made the world laugh and love him
By Albert Bigelow Paine
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