“I suppose you still remember some of the river?”
“Not much. Hat
Island, Helena and here and there a place; but that
is about all.”
Like every person living, Mark Twain had some peculiar and petty economies. Such things in great men are noticeable. He lived extravagantly. His household expenses at the time amounted to more than fifty dollars a day. In the matter of food, the choicest, and most expensive the market could furnish was always served in lavish abundance. He had the best and highest-priced servants, ample as to number. His clothes he bought generously; he gave without stint to his children; his gratuities were always liberal. He never questioned pecuniary outgoes —seldom worried as to the state of his bank-account so long as there was plenty. He smoked cheap cigars because he preferred their flavor. Yet he had his economies. I have seen him, before leaving a room, go around and carefully lower the gas-jets, to provide against that waste. I have known him to examine into the cost of a cab, and object to an apparent overcharge of a few cents.
It seemed that his idea of economy might be expressed in these words: He abhorred extortion and visible waste.
Furthermore, he had exact ideas as to ownership. One evening, while we were playing billiards, I noticed a five-cent piece on the floor. I picked it up, saying:
“Here is five cents; I don’t know whose it is.”
He regarded the coin rather seriously, I thought, and said:
“I don’t know, either.”
I laid it on the top of the book-shelves which ran around the room. The play went on, and I forgot the circumstance. When the game ended that night I went into his room with him, as usual, for a good-night word. As he took his change and keys from the pocket of his trousers, he looked the assortment over and said:
“That five-cent piece you found was mine.”
I brought it to him at once, and he took it solemnly, laid it with the rest of his change, and neither of us referred to it again. It may have been one of his jokes, but I think it more likely that he remembered having had a five-cent piece, probably reserved for car fare, and that it was missing.
More than once, in Washington, he had said:
“Draw plenty of money for incidental expenses. Don’t bother to keep account of them.”
So it was not miserliness; it was just a peculiarity, a curious attention to a trifling detail.
He had a fondness for riding on the then newly completed Subway, which he called the Underground. Sometimes he would say:
“I’ll pay your fare on the Underground if you want to take a ride with me.” And he always insisted on paying the fare, and once when I rode far up-town with him to a place where he was going to luncheon, and had taken him to the door, he turned and said, gravely: