The platform tour of Clemens and Cable that fall was a success. They had good houses, and the work of these two favorites read by the authors of it made a fascinating program.
They continued their tour westward as far as Chicago and gave readings in Hannibal and Keokuk. Orion Clemens and his wife once more lived in Keokuk, and with them Jane Clemens, brisk and active for her eighty-one years. She had visited Hartford more than once and enjoyed “Sam’s fine house,” but she chose the West for home. Orion Clemens, honest, earnest, and industrious, had somehow missed success in life. The more prosperous brother, however, made an allowance ample for all. Mark Twain’s mother attended the Keokuk reading. Later, at home, when her children asked her if she could still dance (she had been a great dancer in her youth), she rose, and in spite of her fourscore, tripped as lightly as a girl. It was the last time that Mark Twain would see her in full health.
At Christmas-time Cable and Clemens took a fortnight’s holiday, and Clemens went home to Hartford. There a grand surprise awaited him. Mrs. Clemens had made an adaptation of “The Prince and the Pauper” for the stage, and his children, with those of the neighborhood, had learned the parts. A good stage had been set up in George Warner’s home, with a pretty drop-curtain and very good scenery indeed. Clemens arrived in the late afternoon, and felt an air of mystery in the house, but did not guess what it meant. By and by he was led across the grounds to George Warner’s home, into a large room, and placed in a seat directly fronting the stage. Then presently the curtain went up, the play began, and he knew. As he watched the little performers playing so eagerly the parts of his story, he was deeply moved and gratified.
It was only the beginning of “The Prince and the Pauper” production. The play was soon repeated, Clemens himself taking the part of Miles Hendon. In a “biography” of her father which Susy began a little later, she wrote:
“Papa had only three days to learn the part in, but still we were all sure he could do it . . . . I was the prince, and Papa and I rehearsed two or three times a day for the three days before the appointed evening. Papa acted his part beautifully, and he added to the scene, making it a good deal longer. He was inexpressibly funny, with his great slouch hat and gait—oh, such a gait!”
Susy’s sister, Clara, took the part of Lady Jane Gray, while little Jean, aged four, in the part of a court official, sat at a small table and constantly signed state papers and death-warrants.
“The adventures of Huckleberry Finn”
Meantime, Mark Twain had really become a publisher. His nephew by marriage, Charles L. Webster, who, with Osgood, had handled the “Mississippi” book, was now established under the firm name of Charles L. Webster & Co., Samuel L. Clemens being the company. Clemens had another book ready, and the new firm were to handle it throughout.