It was a long mail-trip to the Coast and back in those days. It might be two months before replies would come from those ministers. The lecturer set out again on his travels, and was radiantly and happily busy. He went as far west as Illinois, had crowded houses in Chicago, visited friends and kindred in Hannibal, St. Louis, and Keokuk, carrying the great news, and lecturing in old familiar haunts.
Innocents at home—and “The innocents abroad”
He was in Jacksonville, Illinois, at the end of January (1869), and in a letter to Bliss states that he will be in Elmira two days later, and asks that proofs of the book be sent there. He arrived at the Langdon home, anxious to hear the reports that would make him, as the novels might say, “the happiest or the most miserable of men.” Jervis Langdon had a rather solemn look when they were alone together. Clemens asked:
“You’ve heard from those gentlemen out there?”
“Yes, and from another gentleman I wrote concerning you.”
“They don’t appear to have been very enthusiastic, from your manner.”
“Well, yes, some of them were.”
“I suppose I may ask what particular form their emotion took?”
“Oh yes, yes; they agree unanimously that you are a brilliant, able man, a man with a future, and that you would make about the worst husband on record.”
The applicant for favor had a forlorn look.
“There’s nothing very evasive about that,” he said:
There was a period of reflective silence. It was probably no more than a few seconds, but it seemed longer.
“Haven’t you any other friend that you could suggest?” Langdon said.
“Apparently none whose testimony would be valuable.”
Jervis Langdon held out his hand. “You have at least one,” he said. “I believe in you. I know you better than they do.”
And so came the crown of happiness. The engagement
of Samuel Langhorne
Clemens and Olivia Lewis Langdon was ratified next day, February 4, 1869.
But if the friends of Mark Twain viewed the idea of the marriage with scant favor, the friends of Miss Langdon regarded it with genuine alarm. Elmira was a conservative place—a place of pedigree and family tradition; that a stranger, a former printer, pilot, miner, wandering journalist and lecturer, was to carry off the daughter of one of the oldest and wealthiest families, was a thing not to be lightly permitted. The fact that he had achieved a national fame did not count against other considerations. The social protest amounted almost to insurrection, but it was not availing. The Langdon family had their doubts too, though of a different sort. Their doubts lay in the fear that one, reared as their daughter had been, might be unable to hold a place as the wife of this intellectual giant, whom they felt that the world was preparing to honor. That this delicate, sheltered girl could have the strength of mind and body for her position seemed hard to believe. Their faith overbore such questionings, and the future years proved how fully it was justified.