“Can I have it—can Clara and I have it all for our own?”
The petition was granted and the place was called Helen’s Bower, for they were reading “Thaddeus of Warsaw”, and the name appealed to Susy’s poetic fancy. Something happened to the “bower”—an unromantic workman mowed it down—but by this time there was a little house there which Mrs. Clemens had built, just for the children. It was a complete little cottage, when furnished. There was a porch in front, with comfortable chairs. Inside were also chairs, a table, dishes, shelves, a broom, even a stove—small, but practical. They called the little house “Ellerslie,” out of Grace Aguilar’s “Days of Robert Bruce.” There alone, or with their Langdon cousins, how many happy summers they played and dreamed away. Secluded by a hillside and happy trees, overlooking the hazy, distant town, it was a world apart—a corner of story-book land. When the end of the summer came its little owners went about bidding their treasures good-by, closing and kissing the gates of Ellerslie.
Looking back now, Mark Twain at fifty would seem to have been in his golden prime. His family was ideal—his surroundings idyllic. Favored by fortune, beloved by millions, honored now even in the highest places, what more had life to give? When November 30th brought his birthday, one of the great Brahmins, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, wrote him a beautiful poem. Andrew Lang, England’s foremost critic, also sent verses, while letters poured in from all sides.
And Mark Twain realized his fortune and was disturbed by it. To a friend he said: “I am frightened at the proportions of my prosperity. It seems to me that whatever I touch turns to gold.”
BUSINESS DIFFICULTIES. PLEASANTER THINGS
For the time it would seem that Mark Twain had given up authorship for business. The success of the Grant book had filled his head with plans for others of a like nature. The memoirs of General McClellan and General Sheridan were arranged for. Almost any war-book was considered a good venture. And there was another plan afoot. Pope Leo XIII., in his old age, had given sanction to the preparation of his memoirs, and it was to be published, with his blessing, by Webster & Co., of Hartford. It was generally believed that such a book would have a tremendous sale, and Colonel Sellers himself could not have piled the figures higher than did his creator in counting his prospective returns. Every Catholic in the world must have a copy of the Pope’s book, and in America alone there were millions. Webster went to Rome to consult with the Pope in person, and was received in private audience. Mark Twain’s publishing firm seemed on the top wave of success.