It was at the moment when life seemed at its best that shadows gathered. Jervis Langdon had never accepted his son-in-law’s playful invitation to “bring his bag and stay overnight,” and now the time for it was past. In the spring his health gave way. Mrs. Clemens, who adored him, went to Elmira to be at his bedside. Three months of lingering illness brought the end. His death was a great blow to Mrs. Clemens, and the strain of watching had been very hard. Her own health, never robust, became poor. A girlhood friend, who came to cheer her with a visit, was taken down with typhoid fever. Another long period of anxiety and nursing ended with the young woman’s death in the Clemens home.
To Mark Twain and his wife it seemed that their bright days were over. The arrival of little Langdon Clemens, in November, brought happiness, but his delicate hold on life was so uncertain that the burden of anxiety grew.
Amid so many distractions Clemens found his work hard. His “Memoranda” department in the “Galaxy” must be filled and be bright and readable. His work at the office could not be neglected. Then, too, he had made a contract with Bliss for another book “Roughing It”—and he was trying to get started on that.
He began to chafe under the relentless demands of the magazine and newspaper. Finally he could stand it no longer. He sold his interest in the “Express,” at a loss, and gave up the “Memoranda.” In the closing number (April, 1871) he said:
“For the last eight months, with hardly an interval, I have had for my fellows and comrades, night and day, doctors and watchers of the sick! During these eight months death has taken two members of my home circle and malignantly threatened two others. All this I have experienced, yet all the time have been under contract to furnish humorous matter, once a month, for this magazine .... To be a pirate on a low salary and with no share of the profits in the business used to be my idea of an uncomfortable occupation, but I have other views now. To be a monthly humorist in a cheerless time is drearier.”
At work on “Roughing it”
The Clemens family now went to Elmira, to Quarry Farm—a beautiful hilltop place, overlooking the river and the town—the home of Mrs. Clemens’s sister, Mrs. Theodore Crane. They did not expect to return to Buffalo, and the house there was offered for sale. For them the sunlight had gone out of it.
Matters went better at Quarry Farm. The invalids gained strength; work on the book progressed. The Clemenses that year fell in love with the place that was to mean so much to them in the many summers to come.