Jessus! but I had a narrow escape. Suppose you had gone
into humor instead of oil -- where would I be?
Henry H. Rogers and
In April 1901, Henry H. Rogers, Mark Twain's close friend and financial savior, had acquired the fastest steam yacht in America, the Kanawha. In July 1901 Mark Twain joined him and a number of other friends and members of the Rogers family for a pleasure trip of several weeks. The trip included much jesting and card playing. On August 3, Twain noted in his personal log of the trip: "A valuable umbrella missing." On August 7 he noted, "it is thought by some that the reform of the Reformed Pirate is not complete."
The itinerary for the trip included the stop where Twain delivered the following
speech dedicating a church to Roger's mother. The text of the speech was published
in the Hartford Daily Courant.
From Hartford Daily Courant, August 8, 1901, p. 10
MARK TWAIN'S LATEST SPEECH.
From Fairhaven and New Bedford people gathered in the former place yesterday afternoon to witness and take part in the exercises attendant on the laying of the cornerstone of the new Unitarian church which Henry H. Rogers so many times the benefactor of the town, is building as a memorial to his mother, Mrs. Mary Rogers.
* * *
The opening number was Dudley Buck's Te Deum in B minor, sung by the choir, with Alton B. Paull as accompaniest. Rev. William Brunton offered the invocation. Mr. Savage read a number of selections from the Scriptures. The hymn, "I Love Thy Church, O God," was then sung by the congregation. After Mr. Rogers had laid the bed of mortar for the stone, and the copper box had been covered with the slab, Rev. William Brunton placed the Bible on the stone. Later the children of the Unitarian Sunday School marched from their front seats and as they passed the cornerstone, each deposited a bunch of flowers on it.
Mr. Rogers said, after he had seen the corner stone lowered in its place: "I have a friend who has always been willing to say a good word about me, and I ask him to-day to say a good word for me, or, rather, in my stead. Will you please listen to my friend, Samuel L. Clemens."
Mr. Clemens spoke as follows: --
On August 18, Twain again noted in his log, "A final search for the umbrella produced nothing, except regret." Clemens wrote Rogers the following note following the trip:
Dear Mr. Rogers,
Could you have this ad. put in the paper one time down in the corner in a cheap place, and charge. Rice or Harry has the umbrella and this will make them ashamed and they will give it up.
LOST: On Broadway or stolen, a comparatively new umbrella showing some wear, cost 97 cents at Sterne's fore part of January. Finder will be suitably rewarded by leaving the property at Dr. Rice's in Irving Place, where owner will call for same.
The story behind Mark Twain's lost umbrella was reported a few days later in the New York Sun:
From New York Sun, Tuesday, September 24, 1901, p. 5
LOST, ONE 97-CENT UMBRELLA
BELONGS TO MARK TWAIN, AND HE'LL NEVER GET IT BACK
It Lies in Forty Fathoms of Water Off the Nova Scotian Coast -- And Thereby Hangs a Tale of a Vain Attempt to Cure the Humorist of His One Bad Habit
According to the coast survey charts of a certain place off the coast of Nova Scotia there are forty fathoms of water there, and nothing at the bottom but coarse white sand with brownish specks. That isn't so. Mark Twain's umbrella with all the contents is at the bottom there. But Mark Twain didn't know it any more than the coast survey folks. That's why he has paid $2, the price of a two hours' cab ride, to advertise for the umbrella in this city. He feels sure that either Mr. H. H. Rogers or the Hon. Tom Reed stole it and hopes by offering a reward to get it back. No questions well be asked.
Mark first missed his umbrella last July when he was a guest of Mr. Rogers aboard the good yacht Kanawha on a cruise down East. What really happened to the umbrella may be shown best by the following entry in the log of the Kanawha which will be produced as documentary evidence for the defence if Mr. Clemens goes too far:
"Kanawha -- July 21, 44° 10' 13" N. 62° 45' 20" W. winds northerly, light to very fresh. All well on board, except the literary one and he's doing the best he can. He doesn't know yet what has become of the umbrella which, with its contents, was dropped overboard this day by the ship's company in 44' north, 62" 1' West, dead reckoning. At the time he was leaning over the lee rail, reckoning that he'd better be dead and wondering what's the use of a heavy ground swell.
"When the umbrella was seized from Mr. Clemens's stateroom it contained the articles which he usually carries in it when afloat and ashore, to wit: One individual tooth brush, cake of scented soap, one pair of button gaiters, one bottle of restorer, box of dominoes, schedule of legal cab hire rates, MSS., galluses and much miscellaneous loot. The spare socks were not in the umbrella at that time.
"As a matter of form the umbrella was shotted before it was dropped over the side. Mr. Reed spoke briefly, but his exact words would not be a proper part of this log. He intimated, however, that the action of himself and associates was justified, as it was intended to save Mr. Clemens from his only vice -- the thirty-seven cent fire sale carry-all umbrella habit. Remarks of the same character were also made by Mr. H. H. Rogers, Mr. H. H. Rogers, Jr., Mr. Augustus G. Paine and Dr. Clarence C. Rice. All the members of the crew were blindfolded and sent below during the ceremony."
Mr. Clemens didn't get away from the lee raid and the ground swell until long after his umbrella had gone overboard and then nobody dared tell him what had happened. But by and by he discovered that something had.
"There was a slight shower that afternoon at four bells," said Mr. Rogers, last night, "and then Clemens began to look for his umbrella. It was a pitiful scene. At first he thought he had simply mislaid it and he searched the ship from stem to stern. Dr. Rice and Speaker Reed had to use force to prevent him from going aloft to peek into the crow's nest. Finally he bribed one of the sailors to look there for him and on top of that he posted an offer of a reward in the forecastle.
"After a while he suddenly began to show a melancholy interest n the charts and compass and worked all of one day in figuring and drawing lines. That night, after all the rest of us had turned in, he sat for hours, with his arms clasped on the taffrail, gazing astern.
"'Young man,' he whispered to one of the watch on deck, 'am I looking in the exact direction of Manhattan Island?"
"'Aye, sir,' replied the sailor, after squinting at the north star and backward over Mark's head.
"'Should you say that I was looking to just about Fourteenth street?"
''Aye, sir,' said the sailor; 'you've got the bearing dead right.'
"Then Mark said, more to himself than to the sailor, something about a department store. The sailor told the bo's 'n all about it and the bos'n told me.
"'That's the way it was every night. In the daytime from eight bells to one bell and all the back again, Mark roared about the ship looking, looking for that umbrella. He lost all appetite. Finally, on the advice of Dr. Rice we decided to cut the cruise short, and we came back to New York at topspeed. Mr. Clemens was the first man ashore and we heard him telling a cabman to get to Sixth avenue before the store closed.
"He went down east again after that; but he took a train. We heard of him next week on the coast of Maine with Tom Reed roasting missionaries and broiling lobsters."
In his ignorance of what had really happened off the coast of Nova Scotia Mr. Clemens, still thinking over his loss, wrote this advertisement the other day:
He suspects Mr. Rogers or Mr. Reed and hoping to shame either of them into surrendering he sent the copy of the advertisement to Mr. Rogers' office with a request that it be published. The mail clerk opened it and, unsuspecting his employer's guilt, sent it to the newspaper in which it was printed. Ever since, umbrellas have been delivered to Dr. Rice's. Up to midnight last night 117 had been received. After to-day the umbrellas will not be taken at the front entrance on Irving place but at the basement door in East Nineteenth street.
"All of these umbrellas will be sent to Mr. Clemens as soon as he arrives in town," said Mr. Rogers last night.
"Where is Mr. Clemens now?" asked the reporter.
"Let me think," said Mr. Rogers, "seems to me he's in Elmira. Is there a reformatory in Elmira?"
"Well, that's the place. He's in Elmira."
The day after the above story appeared in the New York Sun, Clemens wrote Rogers the following note:
Dear Mr. Rogers,
The trouble with Tom Reed is, that he don't belong to no church and ain't got no sympathy with suffering.
How much would they allow us on an umbrella-display at the Pan-American? You can have half.
A few weeks later Clemens and his friend and pastor Joseph Twichell were guests aboard Rogers's Kanawha. Clemens was again the object of friendly joking which was once again reported in the New York Sun:
From New York Sun, Friday, October 4, 1901, p. 5
MARK TWAIN AT THE RACE.
BUT HE GOT NEVER A GLIMPSE OF THE BIG SLOOPS.
The Humorist and His Pastor Were the Guests of H. H. Rogers -- Mark Mistook Two Oyster Boats for the Racers and Refused to Be Set Right.
Mark Twain consented to risk himself again yesterday as a guest of H. H. Rogers aboard the steam yacht Kanawha on its trip down to the Cup race. But he had his umbrella put in a locker as soon as he went on board and he carried along with him his pastor, the Rev. Joseph Twichell of Hartford to protect him against a repetition of the jobs that were put up on him last July by Tom Reed and Mr. Rogers off the coast of Nova Scotia.
Mr. Clemens and Mr. Twichell looked just as nautical as anybody outside the Hook, except below the knees. Mark wore a brand new yachting cap with a modest band of gold and with anchors painted on the visor. He also wore blue clothes with brass buttons, but he was out of form as to his feet. He forgot himself again and wore the carpet slippers that he went calling in a week ago Tuesday. The slippers are embroidered with a sea-moss design, however.
The Rev. Mr. Twichell wore a yachting cap without any ornaments, a blue suit and on his watch chain a compass. He matched his ward's slippers with a pair of side elastic gaiters. Both Mark and his pastor wore belts instead of galluses and both hitched at their trousers, from time to time, fore and aft. Neither of them saw the great race.
On the way down to the starting line the Rev. Mr. Twichell neglected Mark for a little while and told stories in the cabin. In the meantime young Harry Rogers, Jr., got hold of Mr. Twain outside on the deck and pointed out two oyster sloops that had come down to the race and told him that they were the Shamrock and the Columbia. They were the slooops Shame-of-the-Sea and Collusion. Marked looked at them through a pair of opera glasses he had brought from home and saw enough of the first letters of their names to convince him that somebody aboard the Kanawha had told him the truth. Just then the get-ready gun was fired and the two sloops happened to head for the first mark together. Mark saw them and paid no attention to the big racers that were jockeying for position.
"Come Joseph," he said to Mr. Twichell; "the race is on. Sit by me."
Mr. Twichell sat down on a wicker setee beside his friend, and Mr. Rogers threw a rug over the slippers and the gaiters. Then the real race began in earnest. Neither Mr. Clemens nor Mr. Twichell could see the yachts, but they had a great vantage point for watching the sloops.
"Come farther aft, Mark, and see them off on the first leg," said Mr. Rogers.
"No you don't," replied Mark; "you can't gas me on this voyage. That boy of yours forgot himself and told me the truth. Brother Joseph and I have got the yachts right here. I think we've got them and we'll keep a line on them. If you and the other gentlemen will draw up your chair around Mr. Twichell and myself we'll discuss this great international contest on its merits. But there's to be no joking."
Then Mark pointed to the Shame-of-the-Sea and asked Mr. Rogers if she wasn't gaining a trifle on the Collusion. Mr. Rogers went aft and watched the race with the other guests until the yachts finished the first ten miles of the course and turned the first mark. Lunch was served immediately after that and Mr. Clemens and Mr. Twichell were urged to come into the cabin. Mark wouldn't budge until he was assured that apple dumplings, Mississippi, had been specially prepared for him. Then he squinted over the rail and marked the spots with which the oyster sloops seemed to be in range with pinheads. That, he explained to Mr. Twichell, so they would be able to tell after lunch if either yacht had gained.
The apple dumpllings were served with hard sauce and soft sauce. Mark Twain ate seven and had both kinds of sauce on each. It is only fair to report that he took nothing else save a trifle of soup, a stuffed crab, a brace of chops, a small bird and a round rosy apple. Later he sneaked into the gally and finished the batch of dumplings before the Shamrock had finished her second tack on the boat to windward. But that trip to the pantry wasn't until after Mark had decided that the race was all over.
After the lunch proper Mr. Clemens and Mr. Twichell returned to their settee, but the Kanawhahad changed her course and the oyster sloops were no longer on the side of the pin marks. Twain accused Sidney Chase of Boston of changing his bearings and swept the seas with his opera glasses to find Shame and Collusion again. He got them in range, just as they were huddled close together and being shooed out of the triangle by a patrol boat.
"Look, Joseph," he exclaimed to his pastor,
"see how close they are now. It is nip and tuck, or neck and neck.
You could throw a dumpling from the Shamrock to the Columbia."
"You mean a biscuit, Brother Samuel," corrected Mr. Twichell.
"No, Brother Joseph, I mean a dumpling. I want you to get out of the rut of thinking that nothing under heaven but a biscuit can be thrown from one vessel to another. I repeat that you could throw a dumpling, an apple dumpling, from the Columbia to the Shamrock. But 'twould be an unnecessary risk."
After the patrol boat had got through with them the men on the oyster sloops gave up sightseeing and headed for Jamaica Bay just abreast of each other. Mr. Clemens offered to bet 75 cents that the one he thought was the Shamrock would win. Mr. Twichell whispered something to him and there was, apparently, no bet. It couldn't have been decided anyway, for the sloops disappeared still abreast and Mark and the minister retired to the cabin to talk about Hartford. When all hands urged them to come out ten minutes later and see the finish of the real race Mr. Clemens again declared his determination to get home without being fooled by anybody.
On the way up to the North River anchorage he told his host that it had been the best day's sport he had ever had and Mr. Twichell admitted that he had had more excitement than at any time since the tub regatto of '79 when Wapping beat Bucklands on the Hockanum River and the Hartford crew fouled the eel grass. And all the way home when Mr. Rogers, Sr., was aft Harry Rogers, Jr. stayed forward and vice versa.
"Mark Twain and Henry Huttleston Rogers in Virginia"
Quotations | Newspaper Articles | Special Features | Links | Search