Perhaps the most distinguished social honor paid to Mark Twain at this time was the dinner given him by the staff of London “Punch,” in the historic “Punch” editorial rooms on Bouverie Street. No other foreigner had ever been invited to that sacred board, where Thackeray had sat, and Douglas Jerrold and others of the great departed. “Punch” had already saluted him with a front-page cartoon, and at this dinner the original drawing was presented to him by the editor’s little daughter, Joy Agnew.
The Oxford degree, and the splendid homage paid him by England at large, became, as it were, the crowning episode of Mark Twain’s career. I think he realized this, although he did not speak of it—indeed, he had very little to say of the whole matter. I telephoned a greeting when I knew that he had arrived in New York, and was summoned to “come down and play billiards.” I confess I went with a good deal of awe, prepared to sit in silence and listen to the tale of the returning hero. But when I arrived he was already in the billiard-room, knocking the balls about—his coat off, for it was a hot night. As I entered, he said:
“Get your cue—I’ve been inventing a new game.”
That was all. The pageant was over, the curtain was rung down. Business was resumed at the old stand.
THE REMOVAL TO REDDING
There followed another winter during which I was much with Mark Twain, though a part of it he spent with Mr. Rogers in Bermuda, that pretty island resort which both men loved. Then came spring again, and June, and with it Mark Twain’s removal to his newly built home, “Stormfield,” at Redding, Connecticut.
The house had been under construction for a year. He had never seen it —never even seen the land I had bought for him. He even preferred not to look at any plans or ideas for decoration.
“When the house is finished and furnished, and the cat is purring on the hearth, it will be time enough for me to see it,” he had said more than once.
He had only specified that the rooms should be large and that the billiard-room should be red. His billiard-rooms thus far had been of that color, and their memory was associated in his mind with enjoyment and comfort. He detested details of preparation, and then, too, he looked forward to the dramatic surprise of walking into a home that had been conjured into existence as with a word.