The house cheered the letter, and when it was put to vote decided unanimously that the play had been a success—a verdict more kindly than true.
J. I. Ford, of the theater management, wrote to Clemens, next morning after the first performance, urging him to come to Washington in person and “wet nurse” the play until “it could do for itself.”
Ford expressed satisfaction with the play and its prospects, and concludes:
I inclose notices. Come if you can. “Your presence will be worth ten thousand men. The king’s name is a tower of strength.” I have urged the President to come to-night.
The play made no money in Washington, but Augustin Daly decided to put it on in New York at the Fifth Avenue Theater, with a company which included, besides Parsloe, Edmund Collier, P. A. Anderson, Dora Goldthwaite, Henry Crisp, and Mrs. Wells, a very worthy group of players indeed. Clemens was present at the opening, dressed in white, which he affected only for warm-weather use in those days, and made a speech at the end of the third act.
“Ah Sin” did not excite much enthusiasm among New York dramatic critics. The houses were promising for a time, but for some reason the performance as a whole did not contain the elements of prosperity. It set out on its provincial travels with no particular prestige beyond the reputation of its authors; and it would seem that this was not enough, for it failed to pay, and all parties concerned presently abandoned it to its fate and it was heard of no more. Just why “Ah Sin” did not prosper it would not become us to decide at this far remove of time and taste. Poorer plays have succeeded and better plays have failed since then, and no one has ever been able to demonstrate the mystery. A touch somewhere, a pulling-about and a readjustment, might have saved “Ali Sin,” but the pullings and haulings which they gave it did not. Perhaps it still lies in some managerial vault, and some day may be dragged to light and reconstructed and recast, and come into its reward. Who knows? Or it may have drifted to that harbor of forgotten plays, whence there is no returning.
As between Harte and Clemens, the whole matter was unfortunate. In the course of their association there arose a friction and the long-time friendship disappeared.
A BERMUDA HOLIDAY
On the 16th of May, 1877, Mark Twain set out on what, in his note-book, he declared to be “the first actual pleasure-trip” he had ever taken, meaning that on every previous trip he had started with a purpose other than that of mere enjoyment. He took with him his, friend and pastor, the Rev. Joseph H. Twichell, and they sailed for Bermuda, an island resort not so well known or so fashionable as to-day.