I found the Swiss note-book, some time ago. When it was first lost I was glad of it, for I was getting an idea that I had lost my faculty of writing sketches of travel; therefore the loss of that note-book would render the writing of this one simply impossible, and let me gracefully out; I was about to write to Bliss and propose some other book, when the confounded thing turned up, and down went my heart into my boots. But there was now no excuse, so I went solidly to work--tore up a great part of the MS written in Heidelberg,--wrote and tore up,--continued to write and tear up,--and at last, reward of patient and noble persistence, my pen got the old swing again!
Since then I'm glad Providence knew better what to do with the Swiss note-book than I did, for I like my work, now, exceedingly, and often turn out over 30 MS pages a day and then quit sorry that Heaven makes the days so short.
One of my discouragements had been the belief that my interest in this tour had been so slender that I couldn't gouge matter enough out of it to make a book. What a mistake. I've got 900 pages written (not a word in it about the sea voyage) yet I stepped my foot out of Heidelberg for the first time yesterday,--and then only to take our party of four on our first pedestrian tour--to Heilbronn. I've got them dressed elaborately in walking costume--knapsacks, canteens, field-glasses, leather leggings, patent walking shoes, muslin folds around their hats, with long tails hanging down behind, sun umbrellas, and Alpenstocks. They go all the way to Wimpfen by rail-thence to Heilbronn in a chance vegetable cart drawn by a donkey and a cow; I shall fetch them home on a raft; and if other people shall perceive that that was no pedestrian excursion, they themselves shall not be conscious of it.--This trip will take 100 pages or more,--oh, goodness knows how many! for the mood is everything, not the material, and I already seem to see 300 pages rising before me on that trip. Then, I propose to leave Heidelberg for good. Don't you see, the book (1800 MS pages,) may really be finished before I ever get to Switzerland?
But there's one thing; I want to tell Frank Bliss and his father to be charitable toward me in,--that is, let me tear up all the MS I want to, and give me time to write more. I shan't waste the time--I haven't the slightest desire to loaf, but a consuming desire to work, ever since I got back my swing. And you see this book is either going to be compared with the Innocents Abroad, or contrasted with it, to my disadvantage. I think I can make a book that will be no dead corpse of a thing and I mean to do my level best to accomplish that.
My crude plans are crystalizing. As the thing stands now, I went to Europe for three purposes. The first you know, and must keep secret, even from the Blisses; the second is to study Art; and the third to acquire a critical knowledge of the German language. My MS already shows that the two latter objects are accomplished. It shows that I am moving about as an Artist and a Philologist, and unaware that there is any immodesty in assuming these titles. Having three definite objects has had the effect of seeming to enlarge my domain and give me the freedom of a loose costume. It is three strings to my bow, too.
Well, your butcher is magnificent. He won't stay out of my mind.--I keep trying to think of some way of getting your account of him into my book without his being offended--and yet confound him there isn't anything you have said which he would see any offense in,--I'm only thinking of his friends--they are the parties who busy themselves with seeing things for people. But I'm bound to have him in. I'm putting in the yarn about the Limburger cheese and the box of guns, too--mighty glad Howells declined it. It seems to gather richness and flavor with age. I have very nearly killed several companies with that narrative,--the American Artists Club, here, for instance, and Smith and wife and Miss Griffith (they were here in this house a week or two.) I've got other chapters that pretty nearly destroyed the same parties, too.
O, Switzerland! the further it recedes into the enriching haze of time, the more intolerably delicious the charm of it and the cheer of it and the glory and majesty and solemnity and pathos of it grow. Those mountains had a soul; they thought; they spoke,--one couldn't hear it with the ears of the body, but what a voice it was!--and how real. Deep down in my memory it is sounding yet. Alp calleth unto Alp!--that stately old Scriptural wording is the right one for God's Alps and God's ocean. How puny we were in that awful presence--and how painless it was to be so; how fitting and right it seemed, and how stingless was the sense of our unspeakable insignificance. And Lord how pervading were the repose and peace and blessedness that poured out of the heart of the invisible Great Spirit of the Mountains.
Now what is it? There are mountains and mountains and mountains in this world--but only these take you by the heart-strings. I wonder what the secret of it is. Well, time and time again it has seemed to me that I must drop everything and flee to Switzerland once more. It is a longing --a deep, strong, tugging longing--that is the word. We must go again, Joe.--October days, let us get up at dawn and breakfast at the tower. I should like that first rate.