There was a brief program following the light-hearted feasting—an informal program fitting to that sunny day. It opened with some recitations by Miss Kitty Cheatham; then Colonel Harvey introduced Howells, with mention of his coming journey. As a rule, Howells does not enjoy speaking. He is willing to read an address on occasion, but he has owned that the prospect of talking without his notes terrifies him. This time, however, there was no reluctance, though he had prepared no speech. He was among friends. He looked even happy when he got on his feet, and he spoke like a happy man. He talked about Mark Twain. It was all delicate, delicious chaffing which showed Howells at his very best—all too short for his listeners.
Clemens, replying, returned the chaff, and rambled amusingly among his fancies, closing with a few beautiful words of “Godspeed and safe return” to his old comrade and friend.
Then once more came Denis and his pipes. No one will ever forget his part of the program. The little samples we had heard on the train were expanded and multiplied and elaborated in a way that fairly swept his listeners out of themselves into that land where perhaps Denis himself wanders playing now; for a month later, strong and lusty and beautiful as he seemed that day, he suddenly vanished from among us and his reeds were silent. It never occurred to us then that Denis could die; and as he finished each melody and song there was a shout for a repetition, and I think we could have sat there and let the days and years slip away unheeded, for time is banished by music like that, and one wonders if it might not even divert death.
It was dark when we crossed the river homeward; the myriad lights from heaven-climbing windows made an enchanted city in the sky. The evening, like the day, was warm, and some of the party left the ferry-cabin to lean over and watch the magic spectacle, the like of which is not to be found elsewhere on the earth.
“Captain Stormfield” In print
During the forty years or so that had elapsed since the publication of the “Gates Ajar” and the perpetration of Mark Twain’s intended burlesque, built on Captain Ned Wakeman’s dream, the Christian religion in its more orthodox aspects had undergone some large modifications. It was no longer regarded as dangerous to speak lightly of hell, or even to suggest that the golden streets and jeweled architecture of the sky might be regarded as symbols of hope rather than exhibits of actual bullion and lapidary construction. Clemens re-read his extravaganza, Captain Stormfields Visit to Heaven, gave it a modernizing touch here and there, and handed it to his publishers, who must have agreed that it was no longer dangerous, for it was promptly accepted and appeared in the December and January numbers (1907-8) of Harper’s Magazine, and was also issued as a small book. If there were any readers who still found it blasphemous, or even irreverent, they did not say so; the letters that came—and they were a good many—expressed enjoyment and approval, also (some of them) a good deal of satisfaction that Mark Twain “had returned to his earlier form.”