Clemens saw General Grant again that year, but not on political business. The Educational Mission, which China had established in Hartford—a thriving institution for eight years or more—was threatened now by certain Chinese authorities with abolishment. Yung Wing (a Yale graduate), the official by whom it had been projected and under whose management it had prospered, was deeply concerned, as was the Rev. Joseph Twichell, whose interest in the mission was a large and personal one. Yung Wing declared that if influence could be brought upon Li Hung Chang, then the most influential of Chinese counselors, the mission might be saved. Twichell, remembering the great honors which Li Hung Chang had paid to General Grant in China, also Grant’s admiration of Mark Twain, went to the latter without delay. Necessarily Clemens would be enthusiastic, and act promptly. He wrote to Grant, and Grant replied by telegraph, naming a day when he would see them in New York.
They met at the Fifth Avenue Hotel. Grant was in fine spirits, and by no means the “silent man” of his repute.
He launched at once into as free and flowing talk as I have ever heard [says Twichell], marked by broad and intelligent views on the subject of China, her wants, disadvantages, etc. Now and then he asked a question, but kept the lead of the conversation. At last he proposed, of his own accord, to write a letter to Li Hung Chang, advising the continuance of the Mission, asking only that I would prepare him some notes, giving him points to go by. Thus we succeeded easily beyond our expectations, thanks, very largely, to Clemens’s assistance.
Clemens wrote Howells of the interview, detailing at some length Twichell’s comical mixture of delight and chagrin at not being given time to air the fund of prepared statistics with which he had come loaded. It was as if he had come to borrow a dollar and had been offered a thousand before he could unfold his case.
A NEW PUBLISHER
It was near the end of the year that Clemens wrote to his mother:
I have two stories, and by the verbal agreement they are both going into the same book; but Livy says they’re not, and by George! she ought to know. She says they’re going into separate books, and that one of them is going to be elegantly gotten up, even if the elegance of it eats up the publisher’s profits and mine too.
I anticipate that publisher’s melancholy surprise when he calls here Tuesday. However, let him suffer; it is his own fault. People who fix up agreements with me without first finding out what Livy’s plans are take their fate into their own hands.
I said two stories, but one of them is only half done; two or three months’ work on it yet. I shall tackle it Wednesday or Thursday; that is, if Livy yields and allows both