He was back at 21 Fifth Avenue presently, arranging for his voyage. Meantime, cable invitations of every sort were pouring in, from this and that society and dignitary; invitations to dinners and ceremonials, and what not, and it was clear enough that his English sojourn was to be a busy one. He had hoped to avoid this, and began by declining all but two invitations—a dinner-party given by Ambassador Whitelaw Reid and a luncheon proposed by the “Pilgrims.” But it became clear that this would not do. England was not going to confer its greatest collegiate honor without being permitted to pay its wider and more popular tribute.
Clemens engaged a special secretary for the trip—Mr. Ralph W. Ashcroft, a young Englishman familiar with London life. They sailed on the 8th of June, by a curious coincidence exactly forty years from the day he had sailed on the Quaker City to win his great fame. I went with him to the ship. His first elation had passed by this time, and he seemed a little sad, remembering, I think, the wife who would have enjoyed this honor with him but could not share it now.
A TRUE ENGLISH WELCOME
Mark Twain’s trip across the Atlantic would seem to have been a pleasant one. The Minneapolis is a fine, big ship, and there was plenty of company. Prof. Archibald Henderson, Bernard Shaw’s biographer, was aboard;—[Professor .Henderson has since then published a volume on Mark Twain-an interesting commentary on his writings-mainly from the sociological point of view.]—also President Patton, of the Princeton Theological Seminary; a well-known cartoonist, Richards, and some very attractive young people—school-girls in particular, such as all through his life had appealed to Mark Twain. Indeed, in his later life they made a stronger appeal than ever. The years had robbed him of his own little flock, and always he was trying to replace them. Once he said:
“During those years after my wife’s death I was washing about on a forlorn sea of banquets and speech-making in high and holy causes, and these things furnished me intellectual cheer, and entertainment; but they got at my heart for an evening only, then left it dry and dusty. I had reached the grandfather stage of life without grandchildren, so I began to adopt some.”
He adopted several on that journey to England and on the return voyage, and he kept on adopting others during the rest of his life. These companionships became one of the happiest aspects of his final days, as we shall see by and by.
There were entertainments on the ship, one of them given for the benefit of the Seamen’s Orphanage. One of his adopted granddaughters—“Charley” he called her—played a violin solo and Clemens made a speech. Later his autographs were sold at auction. Dr. Patton was auctioneer, and one autographed postal card brought twenty-five dollars, which is perhaps the record price for a single Mark Twain signature. He wore his white suit on this occasion, and in the course of his speech referred to it. He told first of the many defects in his behavior, and how members of his household had always tried to keep him straight. The children, he said, had fallen into the habit of calling it “dusting papa off.” Then he went on: