“So it did, and yet that seems a mild book now. I read it first when I was a cub pilot, read it with fear and hesitation, but marveling at its fearlessness and wonderful power. I read it again a year or two ago, for some reason, and was amazed to see how tame it had become. It seemed that Paine was apologizing everywhere for hurting the feelings of the reader.”
He drifted, naturally, into a discussion of the Knickerbocker Trust Company’s suspension, which had tied up some fifty-five thousand dollars of his capital, and wondered how many were trusting in God for the return of these imperiled sums. Clemens himself, at this time, did not expect to come out whole from that disaster. He had said very little when the news came, though it meant that his immediate fortunes were locked up, and it came near stopping the building activities at Redding. It was only the smaller things of life that irritated him. He often met large calamities with a serenity which almost resembled indifference. In the Knickerbocker situation he even found humor as time passed, and wrote a number of gay letters, some of which found their way into print.
It should be added that in the end there was no loss to any of the Knickerbocker depositors.
The building of the new home at Redding had been going steadily forward for something more than a year. John Mead Howells had made the plans; W. W. Sunderland and his son Philip, of Danbury, Connecticut, were the builders, and in the absence of Miss Clemens, then on a concert tour, Mark Twain’s secretary, Miss I. V. Lyon, had superintended the furnishing.
“Innocence at Home,” as the place was originally named, was to be ready for its occupant in June, with every detail in place, as he desired. He had never visited Redding; he had scarcely even glanced at the plans or discussed any of the decorations of the new home. He had required only that there should be one great living-room for the orchestrelle, and another big room for the billiard-table, with plenty of accommodations for guests. He had required that the billiard-room be red, for something in his nature answered to the warm luxury of that color, particularly in moments of diversion. Besides, his other billiard-rooms had been red, and such association may not be lightly disregarded. His one other requirement was that the place should be complete.
“I don’t want to see it,” he said, “until the cat is purring on the hearth.”
“He had grown so weary of change, and so indifferent to it, that he was without interest.”
But it was rather, I think, that he was afraid of losing interest by becoming wearied with details which were likely to exasperate him; also, he wanted the dramatic surprise of walking into a home that had been conjured into existence as with a word.