Among the kindly words which came to Mark Twain before leaving America was this one which Rudyard Kipling had written to his publisher, Frank Doubleday:
I love to think of the great and
godlike Clemens. He is the biggest
man you have on your side of the water by a damn sight, and don’t
you forget it. Cervantes was a relation of his.
It curiously happened that Clemens at the same moment was writing to Doubleday about Kipling:
I have been reading “The Bell Buoy” and “The Old Man” over and over again-my custom with Kipling’s work—and saving up the rest for other leisurely and luxurious meals. A bell-buoy is a deeply impressive fellow-being. In these many recent trips up and down the Sound in the Kanawha he has talked to me nightly sometimes in his pathetic and melancholy way, sometimes with his strenuous and urgent note, and I got his meaning—now I have his words! No one but Kipling could do this strong and vivid thing. Some day I hope to hear the poem chanted or sung-with the bell-buoy breaking in out of the distance.
P. S.—Your letter
has arrived. It makes me proud and glad—what
Kipling says. I hope Fate will fetch him to Florence while we are
there. I would rather see him than any other man.
THE RETURN TO FLORENCE
From the note-book:
Saturday, October 24, 1903. Sailed in the Princess Irene for Genoa at 11. Flowers & fruit from Mrs. Rogers & Mrs. Coe. We have with us Katie Leary (in our domestic service 23 years) & Miss Margaret Sherry (trained nurse).
Two days later he wrote:
Heavy storm all night.
Only 3 stewardesses. Ours served 60 meals
in rooms this morning.
On the 27th:
Livy is enduring the voyage
marvelously well. As well as Clara &
Jean, I think, & far better than the trained nurse.
She has been out on deck an hour.
November 2. Due at Gibraltar 10 days from New York. 3 days to Naples, then 2 day to Genoa. At supper the band played “Cavalleria Rusticana,” which is forever associated in my mind with Susy. I love it better than any other, but it breaks my heart.
It was the “Intermezzo” he referred to, which had been Susy’s favorite music, and whenever he heard it he remembered always one particular opera-night long ago, and Susy’s face rose before him.
They were in Naples on the 5th; thence to Genoa, and to Florence, where presently they were installed in the Villa Reale di Quarto, a fine old Italian palace built by Cosimo more than four centuries ago. In later times it has been occupied and altered by royal families of Wurtemberg and Russia. Now it was the property of the Countess Massiglia, from whom Clemens had leased it.