The sales of ‘Roughing It’ during the first three months aggregated nearly forty thousand copies, and the author was lavishly elate accordingly. To Orion (who had already closed his career with Bliss, by exercise of those hereditary eccentricities through which he so often came to grief) he gave $1,000 out of the first royalty check, in acknowledgment of the memorandum book and other data which Orion had supplied. Clemens believed the new book would sell one hundred thousand copies within the year; but the sale diminished presently, and at the end of the first year it was considerably behind the Innocents for the same period. As already stated, it required ten years for Roughing It to reach the one-hundred-thousand mark, which the Innocents reached in three.
A BIRTH, A DEATH, AND A VOYAGE
The year 1872 was an eventful one in Mark Twain’s life. At Elmira, on March 19th, his second child, a little girl, whom they named Susan Olivia, was born. On June 2d, in the new home in Hartford, to which they had recently moved, his first child, a little boy, Langdon, died. He had never been strong, his wavering life had often been uncertain, always more of the spirit than the body, and in Elmira he contracted a heavy cold, or perhaps it was diphtheria from the beginning. In later years, whenever Clemens spoke of the little fellow, he never failed to accuse himself of having been the cause of the child’s death. It was Mrs. Clemens’s custom to drive out each morning with Langdon, and once when she was unable to go Clemens himself went instead.
“I should not have been permitted to do it,” he said, remembering. “I was not qualified for any such responsibility as that. Some one should have gone who had at least the rudiments of a mind. Necessarily I would lose myself dreaming. After a while the coachman looked around and noticed that the carriage-robes had dropped away from the little fellow, and that he was exposed to the chilly air. He called my attention to it, but it was too late. Tonsilitis or something of the sort set in, and he did not get any better, so we took him to Hartford. There it was pronounced diphtheria, and of course he died.”
So, with or without reason, he added the blame of another tragedy to the heavy burden of remorse which he would go on piling up while he lived.
The blow was a terrible one to Mrs. Clemens; even the comfort of the little new baby on her arm could not ease the ache in her breast. It seemed to her that death was pursuing her. In one of her letters she says:
“I feel so often as if my path is to be lined with graves,” and she expresses the wish that she may drop out of life herself before her sister and her husband—a wish which the years would grant.
They did not return to Elmira, for it was thought that the air of the shore would be better for the little girl; so they spent the summer at Saybrook, Connecticut, at Fenwick Hall, leaving Orion and his wife in charge of the house at Hartford.