There was that primitive steam-engine-ages back, in Greek times: a Consensus made fun of it. There was the Marquis of Worcester’s steam-engine 250 years ago: a Consensus made fun of it. There was Fulton’s steamboat of a century ago: a French Consensus, including the great Napoleon, made fun of it. There was Priestley, with his oxygen: a Consensus scoffed at him, mobbed him, burned him out, banished him. While a Consensus was proving, by statistics and things, that a steamship could not cross the Atlantic, a steamship did it.
And so on through a dozen pages or more of lively satire, ending with an extract from Adam’s Diary.
Then there was a Consensus
about it. It was the very first one. It
sat six days and nights. It was then delivered of the verdict that
a world could not be made out of nothing; that such small things as
sun and moon and stars might, maybe, but it would take years and
years if there was considerable many of them. Then the Consensus
got up and looked out of the window, and there was the whole outfit,
spinning and sparkling in space! You never saw such a disappointed
He was writing much at this time, mainly for his own amusement, though now and then he offered one of his reflections for print. That beautiful fairy tale, “The Five Boons of Life,” of which the most precious is “Death,” was written at this period. Maeterlinck’s lovely story of the bee interested him; he wrote about that. Somebody proposed a Martyrs’ Day; he wrote a paper ridiculing the suggestion. In his note-book, too, there is a memorandum for a love-story of the Quarternary Epoch which would begin, “On a soft October afternoon 2,000,000 years ago.” John Fiske’s Discovery of America, Volume I, he said, was to furnish the animals and scenery, civilization and conversation to be the same as to-day; but apparently this idea was carried no further. He ranged through every subject from protoplasm to infinity, exalting, condemning, ridiculing, explaining; his brain was always busy—a dynamo that rested neither night nor day.
In April Clemens received notice of another yachting trip on the Kanawha, which this time would sail for the Bahama and West India islands. The guests were to be about the same.—[The invited ones of the party were Hon. T. B. Reed, A. G. Paine, Laurence Hutton, Dr. C. C. Rice, W. T. Foote, and S. L. Clemens. “Owners of the yacht,” Mr. Rogers called them, signing himself as “Their Guest.”]
He sent this telegram:
H. H. Rogers, Fairhaven, Mass.
Can’t get away this week. I have company
here from tonight till middle
of next week. Will Kanawha be sailing after that & can I go as
Sunday-school superintendent at half rate? Answer and prepay.