Abroad with Mark Twain and Eugene Field/The Great Disappointment


This story was told by Clemens at the American Embassy, Vienna.[1]

"She was the littlest, the sweetest maiden of about ten I have ever seen, and she came dancing up to me with a smile and wink that was simply bewitching. I was going home to 27 Fifth Avenue after a tiresome dinner where I had to make a speech (had to—God bless the organizer of the dinner, for I won't), and I was as tired as two dogs and as grumpy as seven bears, when this vision suddenly burst upon me. I saw at once that the little one was as happy as a lark, and naturally I beamed on her, for I love children.

"As she was tripping along just as if I had been her grandpa—trusting me with little confidences and petting my arm, she prattled about the moon that would soon come up and the bogies and the bats and about the fright they gave her, and I said:

"'Little maid, hadn't you better go home? Your mother may be anxious about you.'

"'Oh, no,' she said; 'mamma knows I am out and she is at the window watching. She knows that I am walking with you, for I wanted to a lot of times.'

"Well, I felt as proud as Pierpont Morgan on discovering a Fifteenth Century missal and buying it for five dollars. And in my mind I patted myself on the back, and said: 'Mark, old boy, they do love you, all of them.' Really, I felt tickled all over, and I don't know how many thousands of words at fifty cents 'per' that kid wheedled out of me by way of answers to her questions and by way of compliments. She was a princess kid, I tell you. When we arrived at No. 27, I insisted upon taking her back to her home and there formally saying good-by to her. Indeed I would have liked to kiss that little lady, but as her mother was at the window I didn't dare. And that kid kept on talking. If her words had been buns, single handed she could have beaten Fleischman with all his hundreds of bakers. But what puzzled me was that she was forever talking about selling tickets and how nice it must be to take so much cash for tickets. I thought, of course, she was referring to tickets at church festivals and, to increase my credit with her, I said that I bought lots of them and that people took chances on my books and sometimes I took chances myself and got burdened with some to cart home."

"'Oh, you write books, too?' she said.

"'Oh, yes,' I said. 'I am a sort of bookworm, and here is your home and now you must go in, for it is getting late and the bats and the bogies are coming. Good-night, little lady, and sleep well, and when you are a big girl and have a husband and a house and a motor car, then you can tell your friends that once you walked with Mark Twain———"

"'Mark Train! I never heard of him.'

"As I looked at my adoring and adorable little friend her lip began to quiver. It quivered still more, her blue eyes filled—could not hold the tears—they dropped down on her face and on my flattered hand.

"'Oh, sir,' she sobbed, drawing away from me (I thought she was broken-hearted because she had to leave me)—'Oh,' she said, 'I thought you were Buffalo Bill.'"

  1. Miss Lucy Cleveland, the author, heard Mr. Clemens tell the same story at a dinner party in New York.