At the entrance his domestic staff waited to greet him, and presently he stepped across the threshold and stood in his own home for the first time in seventeen years. Nothing was lacking—it was as finished, as completely furnished, as if he had occupied it a lifetime. No one spoke immediately, but when his eyes had taken in the harmony of the place, with its restful, home-like comfort, and followed through the open French windows to the distant vista of treetops and farmsides and blue hills, he said, very gently:
“How beautiful it all is! I did not think it could be as beautiful as this.” And later, when he had seen all of the apartments: “It is a perfect house—perfect, so far as I can see, in every detail. It might have been here always.”
There were guests that first evening—a small home dinner-party—and a little later at the foot of the garden some fireworks were set off by neighbors inspired by Dan Beard, who had recently located in Redding. Mark Twain, watching the rockets that announced his arrival, said, gently:
“I wonder why they go to so
much trouble for me. I never go to any
trouble for anybody.”
The evening closed with billiards, hilarious games, and when at midnight the cues were set in the rack no one could say that Mark Twain’s first day in his new home had not been a happy one.
LIFE AT STORMFIELD
Mark Twain loved Stormfield. Almost immediately he gave up the idea of going back to New York for the winter, and I think he never entered the Fifth Avenue house again. The quiet and undisturbed comfort of Stormfield came to him at the right time of life. His day of being the “Belle of New York” was over. Now and then he attended some great dinner, but always under protest. Finally he refused to go at all. He had much company during that first summer—old friends, and now and again young people, of whom he was always fond. The billiard-room he called “the aquarium,” and a frieze of Bermuda fishes, in gay prints, ran around the walls. Each young lady visitor was allowed to select one of these as her patron fish and attach her name to it. Thus, as a member of the “aquarium club,” she was represented in absence. Of course there were several cats at Stormfield, and these really owned the premises. The kittens scampered about the billiard-table after the balls, even when the game was in progress, giving all sorts of new angles to the shots. This delighted him, and he would not for anything have discommoded or removed one of those furry hazards.
My own house was a little more than half a mile away, our lands joining, and daily I went up to visit him—to play billiards or to take a walk across the fields. There was a stenographer in the neighborhood, and he continued his dictations, but not regularly. He wrote, too, now and then, and finished the little book called “Is Shakespeare Dead?”