He wrote rapidly once he got his plan perfected and his material arranged. The reading of his youth and manhood, with the vivid impressions of that earlier time, became now something remembered, not merely as reading, but as fact.
Others of the family went down into the city almost daily, but he remained in that still garden with Joan as his companion—the old Sieur de Conte, saturated with memories, pouring out that marvelous and tragic tale. At the end of each day he would read to the others what he had written, to their enjoyment and wonder.
How rapidly he worked may be judged from a letter which he wrote to Hall in February, in which he said:
I am writing a companion piece to ‘The Prince and the Pauper’, which is half done & will make 200,000 words.
That is to say, he had written one hundred thousand words in a period of perhaps six weeks, marvelous work when one remembers that after all he was writing history, some of which he must dig laboriously from a foreign source. He had always, more or less, kept up his study of the French, begun so long ago on the river and it stood him in good stead now. Still, it was never easy for him, and the multitude of notes along the margin of his French authorities bears evidence of his faithfulness and the magnitude of his toil. No previous work had ever required so much of him, such thorough knowledge; none had ever so completely commanded his interest. He would have been willing to remain shut away from visitors, to have been released altogether from social obligations; and he did avoid most of them. Not all, for he could not always escape, and perhaps did not always really wish to. Florence and its suburbs were full of delightful people—some of them his old friends. There were luncheons, dinners, teas, dances, concerts, operas always in progress somewhere, and not all of these were to be resisted even by an absorbed author who was no longer himself, but sad old Sieur de Conte, following again the banner of the Maid of Orleans, marshaling her twilight armies across his illumined page.
NEW HOPE IN THE MACHINE
If all human events had not been ordered in the first act of the primal atom, and so become inevitable, it would seem a pity now that he must abandon his work half-way, and make another hard, distracting trip to America.
But it was necessary for him to go. Even Hall was no longer optimistic. His letters provided only the barest shreds of hope. Times were hard and there was every reason to believe they would be worse. The World’s Fair year promised to be what it speedily became—one of the hardest financial periods this country has ever seen. Chicago could hardly have selected a more profitless time for her great exposition. Clemens wrote urging Hall to sell out all, or a portion, of the business—to do anything, indeed, that would avoid the necessity of further liability and increased dread. Every payment that could be spared from the sales of his manuscript was left in Hall’s hands, and such moneys as still came to Mrs. Clemens from her Elmira interests were flung into the general fund. The latter were no longer large, for Langdon & Co. were suffering heavily in the general depression, barely hoping to weather the financial storm.