But he did not have time, or perhaps did not receive a pressing invitation until he had returned with his MS. from California. Then, through young Charles Langdon, his Quaker City shipmate, he was invited to Elmira. The invitation was given for a week, but through a subterfuge--unpremeditated, and certainly fair enough in a matter of love-he was enabled to considerably prolong his visit. By the end of his stay he had become really "like one of the family," though certainly not yet accepted as such. The fragmentary letter that follows reflects something of his pleasant situation. The Mrs. Fairbanks mentioned in this letter had been something more than a "shipmother" to Mark Twain. She was a woman of fine literary taste, and Quaker City correspondent for her husband's paper, the Cleveland Herald. She had given Mark Twain sound advice as to his letters, which he had usually read to her, and had in no small degree modified his early natural tendency to exaggeration and outlandish humor. He owed her much, and never failed to pay her tribute.
Part of a letter to Mrs. Jane Clemens and family, in St. Louis:
ELMIRA, N.Y. Aug. 26, 1868. DEAR FOLKS,-- You see I am progressing--though slowly. I shall be here a week yet maybe two--for Charlie Langdon cannot get away until his father's chief business man returns from a journey--and a visit to Mrs. Fairbanks, at Cleveland, would lose half its pleasure if Charlie were not along. Moulton of St. Louis ought to be there too. We three were Mrs. F's "cubs," in the Quaker City. She took good care that we were at church regularly on Sundays; at the 8-bells prayer meeting every night; and she kept our buttons sewed on and our clothing in order--and in a word was as busy and considerate, and as watchful over her family of uncouth and unruly cubs, and as patient and as long-suffering, withal, as a natural mother. So we expect.....
Aug. 25th. Didn't finish yesterday. Something called me away. I am most comfortably situated here. This is the pleasantest family I ever knew. I only have one trouble, and that is they give me too much thought and too much time and invention to the object of making my visit pass delightfully. It needs----
Just how and when he left the Langdon home the letters do not record. Early that fall he began a lecture engagement with James Redpath, proprietor of the Boston Lyceum Bureau, and his engagements were often within reach of Elmira. He had a standing invitation now to the Langdon home, and the end of the week often found him there. Yet when at last he proposed for the hand of Livy Langdon the acceptance was by no means prompt. He was a favorite in the Langdon household, but his suitability as a husband for the frail and gentle daughter was questioned.
However, he was carrying everything, just then, by storm. The largest houses everywhere were crowded to hear him. Papers spoke of him as the coming man of the age, people came to their doors to see him pass. There is but one letter of this period, but it gives us the picture.
To Mrs. Jane Clemens and family, in St. Louis:
CLEVELAND, Nov. 20, 1868. DEAR FOLKS,--I played against the Eastern favorite, Fanny Kemble, in Pittsburgh, last night. She had 200 in her house, and I had upwards of 1,500. All the seats were sold (in a driving rain storm, 3 days ago,) as reserved seats at 25 cents extra, even those in the second and third tiers--and when the last seat was gone the box office had not been open more than 2 hours. When I reached the theatre they were turning people away and the house was crammed, 150 or 200 stood up, all the evening.