Once he allowed himself to be interviewed for the Herald, when from Mr. Rogers’s yacht he had watched Sir Thomas Lipton’s Shamrock go down to defeat; but this was a subject which appealed to him—a kind of hotweather subject—and he could be as light-minded about it as he chose.
THE LAST SUMMER AT ELMIRA
The Clemenses were preparing to take up residence in Florence, Italy. The Hartford house had been sold in May, ending forever the association with the city that had so long been a part of their lives. The Tarrytown place, which they had never occupied, they also agreed to sell, for it was the belief now that Mrs. Clemens’s health would never greatly prosper there. Howells says, or at least implies, that they expected their removal to Florence to be final. He tells us, too, of one sunny afternoon when he and Clemens sat on the grass before the mansion at Riverdale, after Mrs. Clemens had somewhat improved, and how they “looked up toward a balcony where by and by that lovely presence made itself visible, as if it had stooped there from a cloud. A hand frailly waved a handkerchief; Clemens ran over the lawn toward it, calling tenderly.” It was a greeting to Howells the last he would ever receive from her.
Mrs. Clemens was able to make a trip to Elmira by the end of June, and on the 1st of July Mr. Rogers brought Clemens and his wife down the river on his yacht to the Lackawanna pier, and they reached Quarry Farm that evening. She improved in the quietude and restfulness of that beloved place. Three weeks later Clemens wrote to Twichell:
Livy is coming along: eats well, sleeps some, is mostly very gay, not very often depressed; spends all day on the porch, sleeps there a part of the night; makes excursions in carriage & in wheel-chair; &, in the matter of superintending everything & everybody, has resumed business at the old stand.
During three peaceful months she spent most of her days reclining on the wide veranda, surrounded by those dearest to her, and looking out on the dreamlike landscape—the long, grassy slope, the drowsy city, and the distant hills—getting strength for the far journey by sea. Clemens did some writing, occupying the old octagonal study—shut in now and overgrown with vines—where during the thirty years since it was built so many of his stories had been written. ’A Dog’s Tale’—that pathetic anti-vivisection story—appears to have been the last manuscript ever completed in the spot consecrated by Huck and Tom, and by Tom Canty the Pauper and the little wandering Prince.
It was October 5th when they left Elmira. Two days earlier Clemens had written in his note-book:
Today I placed flowers on
Susy’s grave—for the last time probably
—& read words:
“Good-night, dear heart, good-night.”
They did not return to Riverdale, but went to the Hotel Grosvenor for the intervening weeks. They had engaged passage for Italy on the Princess Irene, which would sail on the 24th. It was during the period of their waiting that Clemens concluded his final Harper contract. On that day, in his note-book, he wrote: