Chapter XXXIII.
“The prince and the pauper”
They went directly to Quarry Farm, where Clemens again took up work on his book, which he hoped to have ready for early publication. But his writing did not go as well as he had hoped, and it was long after they had returned to Hartford that the book was finally in the printer’s hands.
Meantime he had renewed work on a story begun two years before at Quarry Farm. Browsing among the books there one summer day, he happened to pick up “The Prince and the Page,” by Charlotte M. Yonge. It was a story of a prince disguised as a blind beggar, and, as Mark Twain read, an idea came to him for an altogether different story, or play, of his own. He would have a prince and a pauper change places, and through a series of adventures learn each the trials and burdens of the other life. He presently gave up the play idea, and began it as a story. His first intention had been to make the story quite modern, using the late King Edward VII. (then Prince of Wales) as his prince, but it seemed to him that it would not do to lose a prince among the slums of modern London —he could not make it seem real; so he followed back through history until he came to the little son of Henry VIII., Edward Tudor, and decided that he would do.
It was the kind of a story that Mark Twain loved to read and to write. By the end of that first summer he had finished a good portion of the exciting adventures of “The Prince and the Pauper,” and then, as was likely to happen, the inspiration waned and the manuscript was laid aside.
But with the completion of “A Tramp Abroad”—a task which had grown wearisome—he turned to the luxury of romance with a glad heart. To Howells he wrote that he was taking so much pleasure in the writing that he wanted to make it last.
“Did I ever tell you the plot of it? It begins at 9 A.M., January 27, 1547 . . . . My idea is to afford a realizing sense of the exceeding severity of the laws of that day by inflicting some of their penalties upon the king himself, and allowing him a chance to see the rest of them applied to others.”
Susy and Clara Clemens were old enough now to understand the story, and as he finished the chapters he read them aloud to his small home audience—a most valuable audience, indeed, for he could judge from its eager interest, or lack of attention, just the measure of his success.