Abroad with Mark Twain and Eugene Field/The Sausage Room
THE SAUSAGE ROOM
James R. Osgood, the former Boston publisher, later a member of the new firm of Osgood, Mcllvain & Company in London, for whom I was doing the translation of Field Marshal Count Moltke's works, had given me a set of Memoirs of the Margravine of Bayreuth for Christmas, and when I went to see Mark Twain at the Royal in Berlin during his illness, I took the two small volumes along and offered to loan them to the sick man. He was as pleased as a three-year-old with a new toy.
"I always wanted to read these Memoirs," he said. "She was a corker, that sister of the Great Frederick. I most heartily admire her. You know Howells did this translation while U. S. Consul in Italy and they say it is the best ever." He dived into volume one and I left, to return next day. When he heard me talk in the vestibule to Mrs. Clemens, he hollered out:
"This way to the sausage room, where Her Royal Highness' slave keeps."
I went in.
"I am reading this book for the second time," he said, "and it actually makes me forget that I am sick. I forget even coughing my soul out."
Mrs. Clemens seemed to be annoyed about the "sausage," but Clemens said that Heine had had the same sort of chamber when ill so long, and as the poet was quite contented "with his French Soucisson," he must be with his "Frankfurter." As a matter of fact, for its length, the room was extremely narrow.
"If it had legs, I would call it a dachshund," suggested Mark, when Livy kept on grumbling.
I asked whether he had many visitors and he said:
"Yes, a few every day. As many as I can stand. But the women have all deserted me. There is a bunch of American girls in Berlin just now, but none find their way to the Royal. I am without a "Mouche" (French for fly)—I mean the human kind—the same as enlivened Heine's dying days. What a girl that Mouche was! I think she inspired some of his finest shorter poems. She was a real comfort to him, too. Maybe she was after advertising and liked to make Mathilda jealous. But, what of it? She made Heine laugh and Heine's songs will make the world happier as long as it stands."
While talking, he was groping in the air after flies and at last caught one[.] He held it in the hollow of his hand listening to its buzzing for a while, then asked me to take it in my own hand, never hurt it, open the window and let it fly out.
"I learned that from Tolstoy," he said. "Tolstoy, you know, used to catch lots of mice in his house, but never killed them or gave them to the cat. He carried them out to the forest and there set them free. Why should a human being kill little animals? Because a tiger may want to eat me—that's no reason why I should turn tiger, is it?"
He returned to the subject of the Margravine Wilhelmina.
"They thought I went to Bayreuth to hear Wagner," he said. "Nothing of the kind. I like his Wedding March hugely and very little else he has done. But, while Livy and the kids went to pieces over Tristan und Isolde and The Nibelungen, I visited the grave of the Margravine and looked at the temples and grottoes and houses she built, the statues and fountains she set up, the beauty she lavished on the landscape! Ah, Wilhelmina would have been the woman for me—for a week or two, I mean, even as I would like to have been the Great Frederick's dinner companion for a little while."