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Mark Twain, a Biography — Volume II, Part 1: 1886-1900 eBook

Albert Bigelow Paine
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 251 pages of information about Mark Twain, a Biography Volume II, Part 1.

CLVI

THE CLOSE OF A GREAT CAREER

The Clemens household did not go to Elmira that year until the 27th of June.  Meantime General Grant had been taken to Mount McGregor, near the Adirondacks.  The day after Clemens reached Elmira there came a summons saying that the General had asked to see him.  He went immediately, and remained several days.  The resolute old commander was very feeble by this time.  It was three months since he had been believed to be dying, yet he was still alive, still at work, though he could no longer speak.  He was adding, here and there, a finishing touch to his manuscript, writing with effort on small slips of paper containing but a few words each.  His conversation was carried on in the same way.  Mark Twain brought back a little package of those precious slips, and some of them are still preserved.  The writing is perfectly legible, and shows no indication of a trembling hand.

On one of these slips is written: 

There is much more that I could do if I was a well man.  I do not write quite as clearly as I could if well.  If I could read it over myself many little matters of anecdote and incident would suggest themselves to me.

On another: 

Have you seen any portion of the second volume?  It is up to the end, or nearly so.  As much more work as I have done to-day will finish it.  I have worked faster than if I had been well.  I have used my three boys and a stenographer.

And on still another: 

If I could have two weeks of strength I could improve it very much.  As I am, however, it will have to go about as it is, with verifications by the boys and by suggestions which will enable me to make a point clear here and there.

Certainly no campaign was ever conducted with a braver heart.  As long as his fingers could hold a pencil he continued at his task.  Once he asked if any estimate could now be made of what portion would accrue to his family from the publication.  Clemens’s prompt reply, that more than one hundred thousand sets had been sold, and that already the amount of his share, secured by safe bonds, exceeded one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, seemed to give him deep comfort.  Clemens told him that the country was as yet not one-third canvassed, and that without doubt there turns would be twice as much more by the end of the year.  Grant made no further inquiry, and probably never again mentioned the subject to any one.

When Clemens left, General Grant was sitting, fully dressed, with a shawl about his shoulders, pencil and paper beside him.  It was a picture that would never fade from the memory.  In a later memorandum he says: 

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