“There is never a month passes,” he said, “that I do not dream of being in reduced circumstances and obliged to go back to the river to earn a living. Usually in my dream I am just about to start into a black shadow without being able to tell whether it is Selma Bluff, or Hat Island, or only a black wall of night. Another dream I have is being compelled to go back to the lecture platform. In it I am always getting up before an audience, with nothing to say, trying to be funny, trying to make the audience laugh, realizing I am only making silly jokes. Then the audience realizes it, and pretty soon they commence to get up and leave. That dream always ends by my standing there in the semi-darkness talking to an empty house.”
He did not return to Dublin the next summer, but took a house at Tuxedo, nearer New York. I did not go there with him, for in the spring it was agreed that I should make a pilgrimage to the Mississippi and the Pacific coast to see those few still remaining who had known Mark Twain in his youth. John Briggs was alive, also Horace Bixby, “Joe” Goodman, Steve and Jim Gillis, and there were a few others.
It was a trip taken none too soon. John Briggs, a gentle-hearted old man who sat by his fire and through one afternoon told me of the happy days along the river-front from the cave to Holliday’s Hill, did not reach the end of the year. Horace Bixby, at eighty-one, was still young, and piloting a government snag-boat. Neither was Joseph Goodman old, by any means, but Jim Gillis was near his end, and Steve Gillis was an invalid, who said:
“Tell Sam I’m going to die pretty soon, but that I love him; that I’ve loved him all my life, and I’ll love him till I die.”
A DEGREE FROM OXFORD
On my return I found Mark Twain elated: he had been invited to England to receive the degree of Literary Doctor from the Oxford University. It is the highest scholastic honorary degree; and to come back, as I had, from following the early wanderings of the barefoot truant of Hannibal, only to find him about to be officially knighted by the world’s most venerable institution of learning, seemed rather the most surprising chapter even of his marvelous fairy-tale. If Tom Sawyer had owned the magic wand, he hardly could have produced anything as startling as that.
He sailed on the 8th of June, 1907, exactly forty years from the day he had sailed on the “Quaker City” to win his greater fame. I did not accompany him. He took with him a secretary to make notes, and my affairs held me in America. He was absent six weeks, and no attentions that England had ever paid him before could compare with her lavish welcome during this visit. His reception was really national. He was banqueted by the greatest clubs of London, he was received with special favor at the King’s garden party, he traveled by a royal train,