Mark Twain, a Biography. Complete eBook

Albert Bigelow Paine
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 1,890 pages of information about Mark Twain, a Biography. Complete.
would only remind you that you need not tiptoe, you can never disturb them more—­if you shrink at the thought of these things you need only reply, “Your invitation honors me and pleases me because you still keep me in your remembrance, but I am seventy; seventy, and would nestle in the chimney-corner, and smoke my pipe, and read my book, and take my rest, wishing you well in all affection, and that when you in your turn shall arrive at Pier 70 you may step aboard your waiting ship with a reconciled spirit, and lay your course toward the sinking sun with a contented heart.”

The tears that had been lying in wait were not restrained now.  If there were any present who did not let them flow without shame, who did not shout their applause from throats choked with sobs, the writer of these lines failed to see them or to hear of them.  There was not one who was ashamed to pay the great tribute of tears.

Many of his old friends, one after another, rose to tell their love for him—­Brander Matthews, Cable, Kate Douglas Riggs, Gilder, Carnegie, Bangs, Bacheller—­they kept it up far into the next morning.  No other arrival at Pier 70 ever awoke a grander welcome.



The announcement of the seventieth birthday dinner had precipitated a perfect avalanche of letters, which continued to flow in until the news accounts of it precipitated another avalanche.  The carriers’ bags were stuffed with greetings that came from every part of the world, from every class of humanity.  They were all full of love and tender wishes.  A card signed only with initials said:  “God bless your old sweet soul for having lived.”

Aldrich, who could not attend the dinner, declared that all through the evening he had been listening in his mind to a murmur of voices in the hall at Delmonico’s.  A group of English authors in London combined in a cable of congratulations.  Anstey, Alfred Austin, Balfour, Barrie, Bryce, Chesterton, Dobson, Doyle, Gosse, Hardy, Hope, Jacobs, Kipling, Lang, Parker, Tenniel, Watson, and Zangwill were among the signatures.

Helen Keller wrote: 

    And you are seventy years old?  Or is the report exaggerated, like
    that of your death?  I remember, when I saw you last, at the house
    of dear Mr. Hutton, in Princeton, you said: 

    “If a man is a pessimist before he is forty-eight he knows too much. 
    If he is an optimist after he is forty-eight he knows too little.”

    Now we know you are an optimist, and nobody would dare to accuse one
    on the “seven-terraced summit” of knowing little.  So probably you
    are not seventy after all, but only forty-seven!

Helen Keller was right.  Mark Twain was not a pessimist in his heart, but only by premeditation.  It was his observation and his logic that led him to write those things that, even in their bitterness, somehow conveyed that spirit of human sympathy which is so closely linked to hope.  To Miss Keller he wrote: 

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Mark Twain, a Biography. Complete from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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