The last notes came from Grant’s hands soon after that, and a few days later, July 23, 1885, his task completed, he died. To Henry Ward Beecher Clemens wrote:
“One day he put his pencil
aside and said there was nothing more to
do. If I had been there I could have foretold the shock that struck
the world three days later.”
In a memorandum estimate made by Mark Twain soon after the canvass for the Grant memoirs had begun, he had prophesied that three hundred thousand sets of the book would be sold, and that he would pay General Grant in royalties $420,000. This prophecy was more than fulfilled. The first check paid to Mrs. Grant—the largest single royalty check in history—was for $200,000. Later payments brought her royalty return up to nearly $450.000. For once, at least, Mark Twain’s business vision had been clear. A fortune had been realized for the Grant family. Even his own share was considerable, for out of that great sale more than a hundred thousand dollars’ profit was realized by Webster & Co.
THE HIGH-TIDE OF FORTUNE
That summer at Quarry Farm was one of the happiest they had ever known. Mark Twain, nearing fifty, was in the fullness of his manhood and in the brightest hour of his fortune. Susy, in her childish “biography,” begun at this time, gives us a picture of him. She begins:
“We are a happy family! We consist of Papa, Mama, Jean, Clara, and me. It is Papa I am writing about, and I shall have no trouble in not knowing what to say about him, as he is a very striking character. Papa’s appearance has been described many times, but very incorrectly; he has beautiful, curly, gray hair, not any too thick or any too long, just right; a Roman nose, which greatly improves the beauty of his features, kind blue eyes, and a small mustache; he has a wonderfully shaped head and profile; he has a very good figure—in short, is an extraordinarily fine-looking man.”
“He is a very good man, and
a very funny one; he has got a temper,
but we all have in this family. He is the loveliest man I ever saw,
or ever hope to see, and oh, so absent-minded!”
We may believe this is a true picture of Mark Twain at fifty. He did not look young for his years, but he was still young in spirit and body. Susy tells how he blew bubbles for the children, filling them with tobacco smoke. Also, how he would play with the cats and come clear down from his study to see how a certain kitten was getting along.
Susy adds that “there are eleven cats at the farm now,” and tells of the day’s occupations, but the description is too long to quote. It reveals a beautiful, busy life.
Susy herself was a gentle, thoughtful, romantic child. One afternoon she discovered a wonderful tangle of vines and bushes, a still, shut-in corner not far from the study. She ran breathlessly to her aunt.