t was the largest house he had ever seen. Two huge pillars in front seemed to be holding up the roof. He was met at the door by a butler, who took his hat and coat and ushered him into the large dining room. A huge chandelier hung from the ceiling, lighting up the entire room. At the head of the table sat Mr. Jervis Langdon. On his right sat Mrs. Langdon, on his left sat Charles Langdon, and further down on the right, she sat, a real vision of beauty. She was even more beautiful than her picture. Upon his entrance, Charles arose and said, “Father, Mother, Olivia, this is my friend, Samuel Clemens, more commonly known as Mark Twain.” He motioned for Mark to have a seat.
Mark sat down across from her, smiled and said “I’m pleased to meet you all indeed.” But his eyes were mostly fixed upon her.
His heart was in his chest as she smiled and asked: “And you’re the famous Mark Twain---the fellow that wrote that delightful story about the jumping frog?”
He straightened “One and the same.”
“We are pleased to make your acquaintance, Sir” she said with an air of sophistication. Then, looking at her father, added, “Aren’t we Father?
The old man nodded. “Yeah glad t’ have y’, Son.”
Mrs. Langdon smiled and said “Likewise.”
The servant brought the food. It was a feast meant for a king. “Dig in and don’t be bashful,” the father was saying. “There’s plenty more where that came from.” There was duck and pheasant and ham and all manner of cheeses and sweet potatoes and greens. And then there were trays and trays of deserts of various kinds. He ate enough to last for two days. At midnight, the several clocks in the house started to chime all at once and they lifted their glasses in a toast to the New Year. Then, the father said “We have a tradition here in addition to toasting. We all hold hands and say a prayer of thanks for the old year and blessing for the new.” They stepped out from the table and started to hold hands. Hers felt so good in his. Mr. Langdon looked at Mark. “You’re our guest. Would you like to do the honors?”
Mark shrugged. “Well, I’m really not much on prayin’, Sir.”
Mr. Langdon frowned. “Not a religious man, eh?”
Mark sighed. “No, not really.”
Just then, Olivia sighted a paper sticking out of Mark’s shirt pocket. “What’s that?” she asked.
“That paper sticking out of your shirt pocket.”
Mark took out the paper, stared at it, and frowned. “Oh, this! It’s been here since my European trip. It’s just a poem by Longfellow. His son gave it to me in England.”
“Can I see it?” she asked.
“But Livi,” urged Mr. Langdon. “We haven’t prayed yet.”
“I’d like to see the poem a minute, if you don’t mind, Father.”
Mr. Langdon started to object, but his wife touched him on the arm and said “Let her look at it a minute, Jervis. It won’t hurt to pray a minute or so late.”
Mark handed the paper to Olivia. She skimmed it till she got to the 6th verse. Then she read aloud: “’God is not dead, nor doeth he sleep.’” Then she grabbed Mark’s hand again. “Okay. Why don’t we pray to the God who is not dead nor sleeping.”
At this, Mr. Langdon prayed. “Eternal God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we thank you that you are neither dead nor sleeping. We thank you for watching over us this past year and, as we look forward to 1868, we ask again for your divine protection and guidance. In Your Son’s name, Amen.”
They left the table and sat in the living room, as the servant cleared the table. Mr. Langdon offered Mark a cigar and the servant passed out coffee. Father Langdon looked Mark over and asked, “Is that frog story the only thing you’ve written?’
“Story-wise, it is, so far. My newspaper work and lectures keep me pretty busy.”
“Well, no doubt you’ll come up with another doozie soon.”
It was one thirty in the morning by the time they thought to say goodbye. As he stood looking at her at the doorstep, he bowed and asked: “Will I see you again, mam?”
She smiled. “I dearly hope so. Say, there’s a reading tomorrow afternoon by that English author, Charles Dickens. I was thinking of having brother Charles take me, but he’s not really into such things—thinks their rather stuffy.”
Mark’s eyes lit up. “I’d be glad to take you, Miss Olivia. What time is the reading?”
“I believe it’s at three in the afternoon.”
“Well, why don’t I pick you up at one? That way we could grab a bite to eat on the way.
“I think that’s a splendid idea.”
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