To their elders the farm remained always the quiet haven. Once to Orion’s wife Clemens wrote:
This is a superb Sunday . . . .
The city in the valley is purple with shade, as seen from up here at the study. The Cranes are reading and loafing in the canvas- curtained summer-house, fifty yards away, on a higher (the highest) point; the cats are loafing over at Ellerslie, which is the children’s estate and dwelling house in their own private grounds (by deed from Susie Crane), a hundred yards from the study, among the clover and young oaks and willows. Livy is down at the house, but I shall now go and bring her up to the Cranes to help us occupy the lounges and hammocks, whence a great panorama of distant hills and valley and city is seeable. The children have gone on a lark through the neighboring hills and woods, Susie and Clara horseback and Jean, driving a buggy, with the coachman for comrade and assistant at need. It is a perfect day indeed.
The ending of each year’s summer brought only regret. Clemens would never take away all his things. He had an old superstition that to leave some article insured return. Mrs. Clemens also left something—her heart’s content. The children went around bidding various objects good-by and kissed the gates of Ellerslie too.
MARK TWAIN AT FIFTY
Mark Twain’s fiftieth birthday was one of the pleasantly observed events of that year. There was no special celebration, but friends sent kindly messages, and The Critic, then conducted by Jeannette and Joseph Gilder, made a feature of it. Miss Gilder wrote to Oliver Wendell Holmes and invited some verses, which with his never-failing kindliness he sent, though in his accompanying note he said:
“I had twenty-three letters spread out on my table for answering, all marked immediate, when your note came.”
Dr. Holmes’s stanzas are full of his gentle spirit:
To mark twain
(On his fiftieth birthday)
Ah, Clemens, when I saw thee last,
We both of us were younger;
How fondly mumbling o’er the past
Is Memory’s toothless hunger!
So fifty years have fled, they say,
Since first you took to drinking;
I mean in Nature’s milky way
Of course no ill I’m thinking.
But while on life’s uneven road
Your track you’ve been pursuing,
What fountains from your wit have flowed
What drinks you have been brewing!
I know whence all your magic came,
Your secret I’ve discovered,
The source that fed your inward flame,
The dreams that round you hovered.
Before you learned to bite or munch,
Still kicking in your cradle,
The Muses mixed a bowl of punch
And Hebe seized the ladle.