Mark Twain, a Biography — Volume II, Part 2: 1886-1900 eBook

Albert Bigelow Paine
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 310 pages of information about Mark Twain, a Biography — Volume II, Part 2.

As was his habit, Clemens formed the acquaintance of a number of the native residents, and enjoyed talking to them about their business and daily affairs.  They were usually proud and glad of these attentions, quick to see the humor of his remarks.

But there was an old watchmaker-an ‘Uhrmacher’ who remained indifferent.  He would answer only in somber monosyllables, and he never smiled.  Clemens at last brought the cheapest kind of a watch for repairs.

“Be very careful of this watch,” he said.  “It is a fine one.”

The old man merely glared at him.

“It is not a valuable watch.  It is a worthless watch.”

“But I gave six francs for it in Paris.”

“Still, it is a cheap watch,” was the unsmiling answer.  Defeat waits somewhere for every conqueror.

Which recalls another instance, though of a different sort.  On one of his many voyages to America, he was sitting on deck in a steamer-chair when two little girls stopped before him.  One of them said, hesitatingly: 

“Are you Mr. Mark Twain?”

“Why, yes, dear, they call me that.”

“Won’t you please say something funny?”

And for the life of him he couldn’t make the required remark.

In one of his letters to Twichell of that summer, Clemens wrote of the arrival there of the colored jubilee singers, always favorites of his, and of his great delight in them.

We went down to the village hotel & bought our tickets & entered the beer-hall, where a crowd of German & Swiss men & women sat grouped around tables with their beer-mugs in front of them—­self-contained & unimpressionable-looking people—­an indifferent & unposted & disheartening audience—­& up at the far end of the room sat the jubilees in a row.  The singers got up & stood—­the talking & glass- jingling went on.  Then rose & swelled out above those common earthly sounds one of those rich chords, the secret of whose make only the jubilees possess, & a spell fell upon that house.  It was fine to see the faces light up with the pleased wonder & surprise of it.  No one was indifferent any more; & when the singers finished the camp was theirs.  It was a triumph.  It reminded me of Lancelot riding in Sir Kay’s armor, astonishing complacent knights who thought they had struck a soft thing.  The jubilees sang a lot of pieces.  Arduous & painstaking cultivation has not diminished or artificialized their music, but on the contrary—­to my surprise—­has mightily reinforced its eloquence and beauty.  Away back in the beginning—­to my mind—­their music made all other vocal music cheap; & that early notion is emphasized now.  It is entirely beautiful to me; & it moves me infinitely more than any other music can.  I think that in the jubilees & their songs America has produced the perfectest flower of the ages; & I wish it were a foreign product, so that she would worship it & lavish money on it & go properly crazy over
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Mark Twain, a Biography — Volume II, Part 2: 1886-1900 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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