Once back from Chicago Richard divided his time between his desk at Franklin Square, his rooms on Twenty-eighth Street, and in quickly picking up the friendships and the social activities his trip to England had temporarily broken off. Much as he now loved London, he was still an enthusiastic New Yorker, and the amount of work and play he accomplished was quite extraordinary. Indeed it is difficult to understand where he found the time to do so much. In addition to his work on Harper's he wrote many short stories and special articles, not only because he loved the mere writing of them, but because he had come to so greatly enjoy the things he could buy with the money his labors now brought him. His pleasures had increased as steadily as the prices he could now command for his stories, and in looking back on those days it is rather remarkable when one considers his age, the temptations that surrounded him, and his extraordinary capacity for enjoyment, that he never seems to have forgotten the balance between work and play, and stuck to both with an unswerving and unceasing enthusiasm. However, after four months of New York, he decided it was high time for him to be off again, and he arranged with the Harpers to spend the late winter and the spring in collecting material for the two sets of articles which afterward appeared in book form under the titles of "The Rulers of the Mediterranean" and "About Paris." He set sail for Gibraltar the early part of February, 1893, and the following letters describe his leisurely progress about the Mediterranean ports.
NEW YORK, February 3, 1893. DEAREST MOTHER:
This is a little present for you and a goodby. Your packing-case is what I need and what I shall want, and I love it because you made it. But as YOU say, we understand and do not have to write love letters; you have given me all that is worth while in me, and I love you so that I look forward already over miles and miles and days and months, and just see us sitting together at Marion and telling each other how good it is to be together again and holding each other's hands. I don't believe you really know how HAPPY I am in loving you, dear, and in having you say nice things about me. God bless you, dearest, and may I never do anything to make you feel less proud of your wicked son.
Off Gibraltar, DEAR MOTHER: February 12, 1893.
Today is Sunday. We arrive at Gibraltar at five tomorrow morning and the boat lies there until nine o'clock. Unless war and pestilence have broken out in other places, I shall go over to Tangiers in a day or two, and from there continue on my journey as mapped out when I left. I have had a most delightful trip and the most enjoyable I have ever taken by sea. These small boats are as different from the big twin-screw steamers as a flat from a Broadway hotel.
Everyone gets to know everything about everyone else, and it has been more like a yacht than a passenger steamer. When I first came on board I thought I would not find in any new old country I was about to visit anything more foreign than the people, and I was right, but they are most amusing and I have learned a great deal. They are different from any people I know, and are the Americans we were talking about. The ones of whom I used to read in The Atlantic and Blackwood's, as traveling always and sinking out of sight whenever they reached home. They, with the exception of a Boston couple, know none of my friends or my haunts, and I have learned a great deal in meeting them. It has been most BROADENING and the change has been SUCH a rest. I had no idea of how tired I was of talking about the theater of Arts and Letters and Miss Whitney's debut and my Soul. These people are simple and unimaginative and bourgeois to a degree and as kind-hearted and apparent as animal alphabets. I do not think I have had such a complete change or rest in years, and I am sure I have not laughed so much for as long. Of course, the idea of a six months' holiday is enough to make anyone laugh at anything, but I find that besides that I was a good deal harassed and run down, and I am glad to cut off from everything and start fresh. I feel miserably selfish about it all the time.
These Germans run everything as though you were the owner of the line. The discipline is like that of the German Army or of a man-of-war, everything moves by the stroke of a bell, and they have had dances and speeches and concerts and religious services and lectures every other minute. Into all of these I have gone with much enthusiasm. We have at the captain's table Dr. Field, the editor of The Evangelist, John Russell, a Boston Democrat, who was in Congress and who has been in public life for over forty years. A Tammany sachem, who looks like and worships Tweed, and who says what I never heard an American off the stage say: "That's me. That's what I do," he says. "When I have insomnia, I don't believe in your sleeping draughts. I get up and go round to Jake Stewart's on Fourteenth Street and eat a fry or a porterhouse steak and then I sleep good---that's me." There is also a lively lady from Albany next to me and her husband, who tells anecdotes of the war just as though it had happened yesterday. Indeed, they are all so much older than I that all their talk is about things I never understood the truth about, and it is most interesting. I really do not know when I have enjoyed my meal time so much. The food is very good, although queer and German, and we generally take two hours to each sitting. Dr. Field is my especial prey and he makes me laugh until I cry. He is just like James Lewis in "A Night Off," and is always rubbing his hands and smacking his lips over his own daring exploits. I twist everything he says into meaning something dreadful, and he is instantly explaining he did not really see a bullfight, but that he walked around the outside of the building. I have promised to show him life with a capital L, and he is afraid as death of me. But he got back at me grandly last night when he presented a testimonial to the captain, and referred to the captain's wife and boy whom he is going to see after a two years' absence, at which the captain wept and everybody else wept. And Field, seeing he had made a point, waved his arms and cried, "I have never known a man who amounted to anything who had not a good wife to care for--except YOU--" he shouted, pointing at me, "and no woman will ever save YOU." At which the passengers, who fully appreciated how I had been worrying him, applauded loudly, and the Doctor in his delight at having scored on me forgot to give the captain his testimonial.
There are two nice girls on board from Chicago and a queer Southern girl who paints pictures and sings and writes poetry, and who is traveling with an odd married woman who is an invalid and who like everyone else on board has apparently spent all her life away from home. I have spent my odd time in writing the story I told Dad the night before I sailed and I think it in some ways the best, quite the best, I have written. I read it to the queer girl and her queer chaperon and they weep whenever they speak of it, which they do every half hour. All the passengers apparently laid in a stock of "Gallegher" and "The West" before starting, and young women in yachting caps are constantly holding me up for autographs and favorite quotations. Yesterday we passed the Azores near enough to see the windows in the houses, and we have seen other islands at different times, which is quite refreshing. Tomorrow I shall post this and the trip will be over. It has been a most happy start. I am not going to write letters often, but am going head over ears into this new life and let the old one wait awhile. You cannot handle Africa and keep up your fences in New York at the same time. I am now going out to talk to the Boston couple, or to propose a lion hunt to Dr. Field.