“Convey to Mr. Clemens my kindest regards, ask him if he remembers that dinner at Von Versen’s, and ask him why he didn’t do any more talking at that dinner.”
It seemed a mysterious message. Clemens thought it might have been meant to convey some sort of an imperial apology; but again it might have meant that Mark Twain’s breach and the Emperor’s coolness on that occasion were purely imaginary, and that the Emperor had really expected him to talk far more than he did.
Returning to the Royal Hotel after the Von Versen dinner, Mark Twain received his second high compliment that day on the Mississippi book. The portier, a tow-headed young German, must have been comparatively new at the hotel; for apparently he had just that day learned that his favorite author, whose books he had long been collecting, was actually present in the flesh. Clemens, all ready to apologize for asking so late an admission, was greeted by the portier’s round face all sunshine and smiles. The young German then poured out a stream of welcome and compliments and dragged the author to a small bedroom near the front door, where he excitedly pointed out a row of books, German translations of Mark Twain.
“There,” he said; “you wrote them. I’ve found it out. Lieber Gott! I did not know it before, and I ask a million pardons. That one there, Old Times on the Mississippi, is the best you ever wrote.”
The note-book records only one social event following the Emperor’s dinner—a dinner with the secretary of the legation. The note says:
At the Emperor’s dinner black cravats were ordered. Tonight I went in a black cravat and everybody else wore white ones. Just my luck.
The Berlin activities came to an end then. He was still physically far from robust, and his doctors peremptorily ordered him to stay indoors or to go to a warmer climate. This was March 1st. Clemens and his wife took Joseph Very, and, leaving the others for the time in Berlin, set out for Mentone, in the south of France.
Mentone was warm and quiet, and Clemens worked when his arm permitted. He was alone there with Mrs. Clemens, and they wandered about a good deal, idling and picture-making, enjoying a sort of belated honeymoon. Clemens wrote to Susy:
Joseph is gone to Nice to educate himself in kodaking—and to get the pictures mounted which mama thinks she took here; but I noticed she didn’t take the plug out, as a rule. When she did she took nine pictures on top of each other—composites.
They remained a month in Mentone, then went over to Pisa, and sent Joseph to bring the rest of the party to Rome. In Rome they spent another month—a period of sight-seeing, enjoyable, but to Clemens pretty profitless.
“I do not expect to be able to write any literature this year,” he said in a letter to Hall near the end of April. “The moment I take up my pen my rheumatism returns.”