Howells replied encouragingly. He had talked a letter into a phonograph and the phonograph man had talked his answer into it, after which the cylinder had been taken to a typewriter in the-next room and correctly written out. If a man had the “cheek” to dictate his story into a phonograph, Howells said, all the rest seemed perfectly easy.
Clemens ordered a phonograph and gave it a pretty fair trial. It was only a partial success. He said he couldn’t write literature with it because it hadn’t any ideas or gift for elaboration, but was just as matter-of-fact, compressive and unresponsive, grave and unsmiling as the devil—a poor audience.
I filled four dozen cylinders in two sittings, then I found I could have said it about as easy with the pen, and said it a deal better. Then I resigned.
He did not immediately give it up. To relieve his aching arm he alternated the phonograph with the pen, and the work progressed rapidly. Early in May he was arranging for its serial disposition, and it was eventually sold for twelve thousand dollars to the McClure Syndicate, who placed it with a number of papers in America and with the Idler Magazine in England. W. M. Laffan, of the Sun, an old and tried friend, combined with McClure in the arrangement. Laffan also proposed to join with McClure in paying Mark Twain a thousand dollars each for a series of six European letters. This was toward the end of May, 1891, when Clemens had already decided upon a long European sojourn.
There were several reasons why this was desirable. Neither Clemens nor his wife was in good health. Both of them were troubled with rheumatism, and a council of physicians had agreed that Mrs. Clemens had some disturbance of the heart. The death of Charles L. Webster in April—the fourth death among relatives in two years—had renewed her forebodings. Susy, who had been at Bryn Mawr, had returned far from well. The European baths and the change of travel it was believed would be beneficial to the family health. Furthermore, the maintenance of the Hartford home was far too costly for their present and prospective income. The house with its associations of seventeen incomparable years must be closed. A great period had ended.
They arranged to sail on the 6th of June by the French line.—[On the Gascogne.]—Mrs. Crane was to accompany them, and came over in April to help in breaking the news to the servants. John and Ellen O’Neill (the gardener and his wife) were to remain in charge; places were found for George and Patrick. Katie Leary was retained to accompany the family. It was a sad dissolution.
The day came for departure and the carriage was at the door. Mrs. Clemens did not come immediately. She was looking into the rooms, bidding a kind of silent good-by to the home she had made and to all its memories. Following the others she entered the carriage, and Patrick McAleer drove them together for the last time. They were going on a long journey. They did not guess how long, or that the place would never be home to them again.