His interest in the Amazon had been awakened by a book. Lynch and Herndon had surveyed the upper river, and Lieutenant Herndon's book was widely read. Sam Clemens, propped up in bed, pored over it through long evenings, and nightly made fabulous fortunes collecting cocoa and other rare things—resolving, meantime, to start in person for the upper Amazon with no unnecessary delay. Boy and man, Samuel Clemens was the same. His vision of grand possibilities ahead blinded him to the ways and means of arrival. It was an inheritance from both sides of his parentage. Once, in old age, he wrote:
"I have been punished many and many a time, and bitterly, for doing things and reflecting afterward . . . . When I am reflecting on these occasions, even deaf persons can hear me think."
He believed, however, that he had reflected carefully concerning the Amazon, and that in a brief time he should be there at the head of an expedition, piling up untold wealth. He even stirred the imaginations of two other adventurers, a Dr. Martin and a young man named Ward. To Henry, then in St. Louis, he wrote, August 5, 1856:
"Ward and I held a long consultation Sunday morning, and the result was that we two have determined to start to Brazil, if possible, in six weeks from now, in order to look carefully into matters there and report to Dr. Martin in time for him to follow on the first of March."
The matter of finance troubled him. Orion could not be depended on for any specified sum, and the fare to the upper Amazon would probably be considerable. Sam planned different methods of raising it. One of them was to go to New York or Cincinnati and work at his trade until he saved the amount. He would then sail from New York direct, or take boat for New Orleans and sail from there. Of course there would always be vessels clearing for the upper Amazon. After Lieutenant Herndon's book the ocean would probably be full of them.
He did not make the start with Ward, as planned, and Ward and Martin seem to have given up the Amazon idea. Not so with Samuel Clemens. He went on reading Herndon, trying meantime to raise money enough to get him out of Keokuk. Was it fate or Providence that suddenly placed it in his hands? Whatever it was, the circumstance is so curious that it must be classed as one of those strange facts that have no place in fiction.
The reader will remember how, one day in Hannibal, the wind had brought to Sam Clemens, then printer's apprentice, a stray leaf from a book about "Joan of Arc," and how that incident marked a turning-point in his mental life. Now, seven years later, it was the wind again that directed his fortune. It was a day in early November—bleak, bitter, and gusty, with whirling snow; most persons were indoors. Samuel Clemens, going down Main Street, Keokuk, saw a flying bit of paper pass him and lodge against a building. Something about it attracted him and he captured it. It was a fifty-dollar bill! He had never seen one before, but he recognized it. He thought he must be having a pleasant dream.
He was tempted to pocket his good fortune and keep still. But he had always a troublesome conscience. He went to a newspaper office and advertised that he had found a sum of money, a large bill.
Once, long after, he said: "I didn't describe it very particularly, and I waited in daily fear that the owner would turn up and take away my fortune. By and by I couldn't stand it any longer. My conscience had gotten all that was coming to it. I felt that I must take that money out of danger."
Another time he said, "I advertised the find and left for the Amazon the same day." All of which we may take with his usual literary discount —the one assigned to him by his mother in childhood. As a matter of fact, he remained for an ample time, and nobody came for the money. What was its origin? Was it swept out of a bank, or caught up by the wind from some counting-room table? Perhaps it materialized out of the unseen. Who knows?
THE LONG WAY TO THE AMAZON
Sam decided on Cincinnati as his base. From there he could go either to New York or New Orleans to catch the Amazon boat. He paid a visit to St. Louis, where his mother made him renew his promise as to drink and cards. Then he was seized with a literary idea, and returned to Keokuk, where he proposed to a thriving weekly paper, the "Saturday Post," to send letters of travel, which might even be made into a book later on. George Reese, owner of the "Post," agreed to pay five dollars each for the letters, which speaks well for his faith in Samuel Clemens's talent, five dollars being good pay for that time and place—more than the letters were worth, judged by present standards. The first was dated Cincinnati, November 14, 1856, and was certainly not promising literature. It was written in the ridiculous dialect which was once thought to be the dress of humor; and while here and there is a comic flash, there is in it little promise of the future Mark Twain. One extract is enough:
"When we got to the depo', I went around to git a look at the iron hoss. Thunderation! It wasn't no more like a hoss than a meetin'- house. If I was goin' to describe the animule, I'd say it looked like—well, it looked like—blamed if I know what it looked like, snorting fire and brimstone out of his nostrils, and puffin' out black smoke all 'round, and pantin', and heavin', and swellin', and chawin' up red-hot coals like they was good. A feller stood in a little house like, feedin' him all the time; but the more he got, the more he wanted and the more he blowed and snorted. After a spell the feller ketched him by the tail, and great Jericho! he set up a yell that split the ground for more'n a mile and a half, and the next minit I felt my legs a-waggin', and found myself at t'other end of the string o' vehickles. I wasn't skeered, but I had three chills and a stroke of palsy in less than five minits, and my face had a cur'us brownish-yaller-greenbluish color in it, which was perfectly unaccountable. 'Well,' say I, 'comment is super-flu-ous.'"
How Samuel Clemens could have written that, and worse, at twenty-one, and a little more than ten years later have written "The Innocents Abroad," is one of the mysteries of literature. The letters were signed "Snodgrass," and there are but two of them. Snodgrass seems to have found them hard work, for it is said he raised on the price, which, fortunately, brought the series to a close. Their value to-day lies in the fact that they are the earliest of Mark Twain's newspaper contributions that have been preserved—the first for which he received a cash return.
Sam remained in Cincinnati until April of the following year, 1857, working for Wrightson & Co., general printers, lodging in a cheap boarding-house, saving every possible penny for his great adventure.
He had one associate at the boarding-house, a lank, unsmiling Scotchman named Macfarlane, twice young Clemens's age, and a good deal of a mystery. Sam never could find out what Macfarlane did. His hands were hardened by some sort of heavy labor; he left at six in the morning and returned in the evening at the same hour. He never mentioned his work, and young Clemens had the delicacy not to inquire.
For Macfarlane was no ordinary person. He was a man of deep knowledge, a reader of many books, a thinker; he was versed in history and philosophy, he knew the dictionary by heart. He made but two statements concerning himself: one, that he had acquired his knowledge from reading, and not at school; the other, that he knew every word in the English dictionary. He was willing to give proof of the last, and Sam Clemens tested him more than once, but found no word that Macfarlane could not define.
Macfarlane was not silent—he would discuss readily enough the deeper problems of life and had many startling theories of his own. Darwin had not yet published his "Descent of Man," yet Macfarlane was already advancing ideas similar to those in that book. He went further than Darwin. He had startling ideas of the moral evolution of man, and these he would pour into the ears of his young listener until ten o'clock, after which, like the English Sumner in Philadelphia, he would grill a herring, and the evening would end. Those were fermenting discourses that young Samuel Clemens listened to that winter in Macfarlane's room, and they did not fail to influence his later thought.
It was the high-tide of spring, late in April, when the prospective cocoa-hunter decided that it was time to set out for the upper Amazon. He had saved money enough to carry him at least as far as New Orleans, where he would take ship, it being farther south and therefore nearer his destination. Furthermore, he could begin with a lazy trip down the Mississippi, which, next to being a pilot, had been one of his most cherished dreams. The Ohio River steamers were less grand than those of the Mississippi, but they had a homelike atmosphere and did not hurry. Samuel Clemens had the spring fever and was willing to take his time.
In "Life on the Mississippi" we read that the author ran away, vowing never to return until he could come home a pilot, shedding glory. But this is the fiction touch. He had always loved the river, and his boyhood dream of piloting had time and again returned, but it was not uppermost when he bade good-by to Macfarlane and stepped aboard the "Paul Jones," bound for New Orleans, and thus conferred immortality on that ancient little craft.
Now he had really started on his voyage. But it was a voyage that would continue not for a week or a fortnight, but for four years—four marvelous, sunlit years, the glory of which would color all that followed them.
RENEWING AN OLD AMBITION
A reader of Mark Twain's Mississippi book gets the impression that the author was a boy of about seventeen when he started to learn the river, and that he was painfully ignorant of the great task ahead. But this also is the fiction side of the story. Samuel Clemens was more than twenty-one when he set out on the "Paul Jones," and in a way was familiar with the trade of piloting. Hannibal had turned out many pilots. An older brother of the Bowen boys was already on the river when Sam Clemens was rolling rocks down Holliday's Hill. Often he came home to air his grandeur and hold forth on the wonder of his work. That learning the river was no light task Sam Clemens would know as well as any one who had not tried it.
Nevertheless, as the drowsy little steamer went puffing down into softer, sunnier lands, the old dream, the "permanent ambition" of boyhood, returned, while the call of the far-off Amazon and cocoa drew faint.
Horace Bixby, pilot of the "Paul Jones," a man of thirty-two, was looking out over the bow at the head of Island No. 35 when he heard a slow, pleasant voice say, "Good morning."
Bixby was a small, clean-cut man. "Good morning, sir," he said, rather briskly, without looking around.
He did not much care for visitors in the pilothouse. This one entered and stood a little behind him.
"How would you like a young man to learn the river?" came to him in that serene, deliberate speech.
The pilot glanced over his shoulder and saw a rather slender, loose-limbed youth with a fair, girlish complexion and a great mass of curly auburn hair.
"I wouldn't like it. Cub pilots are more trouble than they're worth. A great deal more trouble than profit."
"I am a printer by trade," the easy voice went on. "It doesn't agree with me. I thought I'd go to South America."
Bixby kept his eye on the river, but there was interest in his voice when he spoke. "What makes you pull your words that way?" he asked—"pulling" being the river term for drawling.
The young man, now seated comfortably on the visitors' bench, said more slowly than ever: "You'll have to ask my mother—she pulls hers, too."
Pilot Bixby laughed. The manner of the reply amused him. His guest was encouraged.
"Do you know the Bowen boys?" he asked, "pilots in the St. Louis and New Orleans trade?"
"I know them well—all three of them. William Bowen did his first steering for me; a mighty good boy. I know Sam, too, and Bart."
"Old schoolmates of mine in Hannibal. Sam and Will, especially, were my chums."
Bixby's tone became friendly. "Come over and stand by me," he said. "What is your name?"
The applicant told him, and the two stood looking out on the sunlit water.
"Do you drink?"
"Do you gamble?"
"Do you swear?"
"N-not for amusement; only under pressure."
"Do you chew?"
"No, sir, never; but I must—smoke."
"Did you ever do any steering?"
"I have steered everything on the river but a steamboat, I guess."
"Very well. Take the wheel and see what you can do with a steamboat. Keep her as she is—toward that lower cottonwood snag."
Bixby had a sore foot and was glad of a little relief. He sat on the bench where he could keep a careful eye on the course. By and by he said "There is just one way I would take a young man to learn the river—that is, for money."
"Five hundred dollars, and I to be at no expense whatever."
In those days pilots were allowed to carry a learner, or "cub," board free. Mr. Bixby meant that he was to be at no expense in port or for incidentals. His terms seemed discouraging.
"I haven't got five hundred dollars in money," Sam said. "I've got a lot of Tennessee land worth two bits an acre. I'll give you two thousand acres of that."
Bixby shook his head. "No," he said, "I don't want any unimproved real estate. I have too much already."
Sam reflected. He thought he might be able to borrow one hundred dollars from William Moffett, Pamela's husband, without straining his credit.
"Well, then," he proposed, "I'll give you one hundred dollars cash, and the rest when I earn it."
Something about this young man had won Horace Bixby's heart. His slow, pleasant speech, his unhurried, quiet manner at the wheel, his evident simplicity and sincerity—the inner qualities of mind and heart which would make the world love Mark Twain. The terms proposed were accepted. The first payment was to be in cash; the others were to begin when the pupil had learned the river and was earning wages. During the rest of the trip to New Orleans the new pupil was often at the wheel, while Mr. Bixby nursed his sore foot and gave directions. Any literary ambitions that Samuel Clemens still nourished waned rapidly. By the time he had reached New Orleans he had almost forgotten he had ever been a printer. As for the Amazon and cocoa, why, there had been no ship sailing in that direction for years, and it was unlikely that any would ever sail again, a fact that rather amused the would-be adventurer now, since Providence had regulated his affairs in accordance with his oldest and longest cherished dream.
At New Orleans Bixby left the "Paul Jones" for a fine St. Louis boat, taking his cub with him. This was a sudden and happy change, and Sam was a good deal impressed with his own importance in belonging to so imposing a structure, especially when, after a few days' stay in New Orleans, he stood by Bixby's side in the big glass turret while they backed out of the line of wedged-in boats and headed up the great river.
This was glory, but there was sorrow ahead. He had not really begun learning the river as yet he had only steered under directions. He had known that to learn the river would be hard, but he had never realized quite how hard. Serenely he had undertaken the task of mastering twelve hundred miles of the great, changing, shifting river as exactly and as surely by daylight or darkness as one knows the way to his own features. Nobody could realize the full size of that task—not till afterward.
 Horace Bixby lived until 1912 and remained at the wheel until within a short time of his death, in his eighty-seventh year. The writer of this memoir visited him in 1910 and took down from his dictation the dialogue that follows.
LEARNING THE RIVER
In that early day, to be a pilot was to be "greater than a king." The Mississippi River pilot was a law unto himself—there was none above him. His direction of the boat was absolute; he could start or lay up when he chose; he could pass a landing regardless of business there, consulting nobody, not even the captain; he could take the boat into what seemed certain destruction, if he had that mind, and the captain was obliged to stand by, helpless and silent, for the law was with the pilot in everything.
Furthermore, the pilot was a gentleman. His work was clean and physically light. It ended the instant the boat was tied to the landing, and did not begin again until it was ready to back into the stream. Also, for those days his salary was princely—the Vice-President of the United States did not receive more. As for prestige, the Mississippi pilot, perched high in his glass inclosure, fashionably dressed, and commanding all below him, was the most conspicuous and showy, the most observed and envied creature in the world. No wonder Sam Clemens, with his love of the river and his boyish fondness for honors, should aspire to that stately rank. Even at twenty-one he was still just a boy—as, indeed, he was till his death—and we may imagine how elated he was, starting up the great river as a real apprentice pilot, who in a year or two would stand at the wheel, as his chief was now standing, a monarch with a splendid income and all the great river packed away in his head.
In that last item lay the trouble. In the Mississippi book he tells of it in a way that no one may hope to equal, and if the details are not exact, the truth is there—at least in substance.
For a distance above New Orleans Mr. Bixby had volunteered information about the river, naming the points and crossings, in what seemed a casual way, all through his watch of four hours. Their next watch began in the middle of the night, and Mark Twain tells how surprised and disgusted he was to learn that pilots must get up in the night to run their boats, and his amazement to find Mr. Bixby plunging into the blackness ahead as if it had been daylight. Very likely this is mainly fiction, but hardly the following:
Presently he turned to me and said: "What's the name of the first point above New Orleans?"
I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did. I said I didn't know.
His manner jolted me. I was down at the foot again, in a moment. But I had to say just what I had said before.
"Well, you're a smart one," said Mr. Bixby. "What's the name of the next point?"
Once more I didn't know.
"Well, this beats anything! Tell me the name of any point or place I told you."
I studied awhile and decided that I couldn't.
"Look here! What do you start from, above Twelve Mile Point, to cross over?"
"'You—you don't know,"' mimicking my drawling manner of speech. "What do you know?"
"I—I—Nothing, for certain."
Bixby was a small, nervous man, hot and quick-firing. He went off now, and said a number of severe things. Then:
"Look here, what do you suppose I told you the names of those points for?"
I tremblingly considered a moment—then the devil of temptation provoked me to say: "Well—to—to—be entertaining, I thought."
This was a red flag to the bull. He raged and stormed so (he was crossing the river at the time) that I judged it made him blind, because he ran over the steering-oar of a trading-scow. Of course the traders sent up a volley of red-hot profanity. Never was a man so grateful as Mr. Bixby was, because he was brimful, and here were subjects who would talk back. He threw open a window, thrust his head out, and such an irruption followed as I had never heard before . . . . When he closed the window he was empty. Presently he said to me, in the gentlest way:
"My boy, you must get a little memorandum-book, and every time I tell you a thing, put it down right away. There's only one way to be a pilot, and that is to get this entire river by heart. You have to know it just like A-B-C."
The little memorandum-book which Sam Clemens bought, probably at the next daylight landing, still exists—the same that he says "fairly bristled with the names of towns, points, bars, islands, bends, reaches, etc."; but it made his heart ache to think he had only half the river set down, for, as the watches were four hours off and four hours on, there were the long gaps where he had slept.
It is not easy to make out the penciled notes today. The small, neat writing is faded, and many of them are in an abbreviation made only for himself. It is hard even to find these examples to quote:
One-fourth less 3—run shape of upper bar and go into the low place in the willows about 200 (ft.) lower down than last year.
OUTSIDE OF MONTEZUMA
Six or eight feet more water. Shape bar till high timber on towhead gets nearly even with low willows. Then hold a little open on right of low willows—run 'em close if you want to, but come out 200 yards when you get nearly to head of towhead.
The average mind would not hold a single one of these notes ten seconds, yet by the time he reached St. Louis he had set down pages that to-day make one's head weary even to contemplate. And those long four-hour gaps where he had been asleep—they are still there; and now, after nearly sixty years, the old heartache is still in them. He must have bought a new book for the next trip and laid this one away.
To the new "cub" it seemed a long way to St. Louis that first trip, but in the end it was rather grand to come steaming up to the big, busy city, with its thronging waterfront flanked with a solid mile of steamboats, and to nose one's way to a place in that stately line.
At St. Louis, Sam borrowed from his brother-in-law the one hundred dollars he had agreed to pay, and so closed his contract with Bixby. A few days later his chief was engaged to go on a very grand boat indeed—a "sumptuous temple," he tells us, all brass and inlay, with a pilot-house so far above the water that he seemed perched on a mountain. This part of learning the river was worth while; and when he found that the regiment of natty servants respectfully "sir'd" him, his happiness was complete.
But he was in the depths again, presently, for when they started down the river and he began to take account of his knowledge, he found that he had none. Everything had changed—that is, he was seeing it all from the other direction. What with the four-hour gaps and this transformation, he was lost completely.
How could the easy-going, dreamy, unpractical man whom the world knew as Mark Twain ever have persisted against discouragement like that to acquire the vast, the absolute, limitless store of information necessary to Mississippi piloting? The answer is that he loved the river, the picturesqueness and poetry of a steamboat, the ease and glory of a pilot's life; and then, in spite of his own later claims to the contrary, Samuel Clemens, boy and man, in the work suited to his tastes and gifts, was the most industrious of persons. Work of the other sort he avoided, overlooked, refused to recognize, but never any labor for which he was qualified by his talents or training. Piloting suited him exactly, and he proved an apt pupil.
Horace Bixby said to the writer of this memoir: "Sam was always good-natured, and he had a natural taste for the river. He had a fine memory and never forgot what I told him."
Yet there must have been hard places all along, for to learn every crook and turn and stump and snag and bluff and bar and sounding of that twelve hundred miles of mighty, shifting water was a gigantic task. Mark Twain tells us how, when he was getting along pretty well, his chief one day turned on him suddenly with this "settler":
"What is the shape of Walnut Bend?"
He might as well have asked me my grandmother's opinion of protoplasm. I replied respectfully and said I didn't know it had any particular shape. My gun-powdery chief went off with a bang, of course, and then went on loading and firing until he was out of adjectives ....I waited. By and by he said:
"My boy, you've got to know the shape of the river perfectly. It is all that is left to steer by on a very dark night. Everything else is blotted out and gone. But mind you, it hasn't got the same shape in the night that it has in the daytime."
"How on earth am I going to learn it, then?"
"How do you follow a hall at home in the dark? Because you know the shape of it. You can't see it."
"Do you mean to say that I've got to know all the million trifling variations of shape in the banks of this interminable river as well as I know the shape of the front hall at home?"
"On my honor, you've got to know them better than any man ever did know the shapes of the halls in his own house."
"I wish I was dead!"
But the reader must turn to Chapter VIII of "Life on the Mississippi" and read, or reread, the pages which follow this extract—nothing can better convey the difficulties of piloting. That Samuel Clemens had the courage to continue is the best proof, not only of his great love of the river, but of that splendid gift of resolution that one rarely fails to find in men of the foremost rank.
 Depth of water. One-quarter less than three fathoms.
Piloting was only a part of Sam Clemens's education on the Mississippi. He learned as much of the reefs and shallows of human nature as of the river-bed. In one place he writes:
In that brief, sharp schooling I got personally and familiarly acquainted with all the different types of human nature that are to be found in fiction, biography, or history.
All the different types, but most of them in the rough. That Samuel Clemens kept the promise made to his mother as to drink and cards during those apprentice days is well worth remembering.
Horace Bixby, answering a call for pilots from the Missouri River, consigned his pupil, as was customary, tonne of the pilots of the "John J. Roe," a freight-boat, owned and conducted by some retired farmers, and in its hospitality reminding Sam of his Uncle John Quarles's farm. The "Roe" was a very deliberate boat. It was said that she could beat an island to St. Louis, but never quite overtake the current going down-stream. Sam loved the "Roe." She was not licensed to carry passengers, but she always had a family party of the owners' relations aboard, and there was a big deck for dancing and a piano in the cabin. The young pilot could play the chords, and sing, in his own fashion, about a grasshopper that; sat on a sweet-potato vine, and about—
An old, old horse whose name was Methusalem, Took him down and sold him in Jerusalem, A long time ago.
The "Roe" was a heavenly place, but Sam's stay there did not last. Bixby came down from the Missouri, and perhaps thought he was doing a fine thing for his pupil by transferring him to a pilot named Brown, then on a large passenger-steamer, the "Pennsylvania." The "Pennsylvania" was new and one of the finest boats on the river. Sam Clemens, by this time, was accounted a good steersman, so it seemed fortunate and a good arrangement for all parties.
But Brown was a tyrant. He was illiterate and coarse, and took a dislike to Sam from the start. His first greeting was a question, harmless enough in form but offensive in manner.
"Are you Horace Bigsby's cub?"—Bixby being usually pronounced "Bigsby" in river parlance.
Sam answered politely enough that he was, and Brown proceeded to comment on the "style" of his clothes and other personal matters.
He had made an effort to please Brown, but it was no use. Brown was never satisfied. At a moment when Sam was steering, Brown, sitting on the bench, would shout: "Here! Where are you going now? Pull her down! Pull her down! Do you hear me? Blamed mud-cat!"
The young pilot soon learned to detest his chief, and presently was putting in a good deal of his time inventing punishments for him.
I could imagine myself killing Brown; there was no law against that, and that was the thing I always used to do the moment I was abed. Instead of going over the river in my mind, as was my duty, I threw business aside for pleasure, and killed Brown.
He gave up trying to please Brown, and was even willing to stir him up upon occasion. One day when the cub was at the wheel his chief noticed that the course seemed peculiar.
"Here! Where you headin' for now?" he yelled. "What in the nation you steerin' at, anyway? Blamed numskull!"
"Why," said Sam in his calm, slow way, "I didn't see much else I could steer for, so I was heading for that white heifer on the bank."
"Get away from that wheel! And get outen this pilot-house!" yelled Brown. "You ain't fitten to become no pilot!" An order that Sam found welcome enough. The other pilot, George Ealer, was a lovable soul who played the flute and chess during his off watch, and read aloud to Sam from "Goldsmith" and "Shakespeare." To be with George Ealer was to forget the persecutions of Brown.
Young Clemens had been on the river nearly a year at this time, and, though he had learned a good deal and was really a fine steersman, he received no wages. He had no board to pay, but there were things he must buy, and his money supply had become limited. Each trip of the "Pennsylvania" she remained about two days and nights in New Orleans, during which time the young man was free. He found he could earn two and a half to three dollars a night watching freight on the levee, and, as this opportunity came around about once a month, the amount was useful. Nor was this the only return; many years afterward he said:
"It was a desolate experience, watching there in the dark, among those piles of freight; not a sound, not a living creature astir. But it was not a profitless one. I used to have inspirations as I sat there alone those nights. I used to imagine all sots of situations and possibilities. These things got into my books by and by, and furnished me with many a chapter. I can trace the effects of those nights through most of my books, in one way and another."
Piloting, even with Brown, had its pleasant side. In St. Louis, young Clemens stopped with his sister, and often friends were there from Hannibal. At both ends of the line he visited friendly boats, especially the "Roe," where a grand welcome was always waiting. Once among the guests of that boat a young girl named Laura so attracted him that he forgot time and space until one of the "Roe" pilots, Zeb Leavenworth, came flying aft, shouting:
"The 'Pennsylvania' is backing out!"
A hasty good-by, a wild flight across the decks of several boats, and a leap across several feet of open water closed the episode. He wrote to Laura, but there was no reply. He never saw her again, never heard from her for nearly fifty years, when both were widowed and old. She had not received his letter.
Occasionally there were stirring adventures aboard the "Pennsylvania." In a letter written in March, 1858, the young pilot tells of an exciting night search in the running ice for Hat Island soundings:
Brown, the pilot, stood in the bow with an oar, to keep her head out, and I took the tiller. We would start the men, and all would go well until the yawl would bring us on a heavy cake of ice, and then the men would drop like so many tenpins, while Brown assumed the horizontal in the bottom of the boat. After an hour's hard work we got back, with ice half an inch thick on the oars . . . . The next day was colder still. I was out in the yawl twice, and then we got through, but the infernal steamboat came near running over us . . . . The "Maria Denning" was aground at the head of the island; they hailed us; we ran alongside, and they hoisted us in and thawed us out. We had been out in the yawl from four in the morning until half-past nine without being near a fire. There was a thick coating of ice over men and yawl, ropes, and everything, and we looked like rock-candy statuary.
He was at the right age to enjoy such adventures, and to feel a pride in them. In the same letter he tells how he found on the "Pennsylvania" a small clerkship for his brother Henry, who was now nearly twenty, a handsome, gentle boy of whom Sam was lavishly fond and proud. The young pilot was eager to have Henry with him—to see him started in life. How little he dreamed what sorrow would come of his well-meant efforts in the lad's behalf! Yet he always believed, later, that he had a warning, for one night at the end of May, in St. Louis, he had a vivid dream, which time would presently fulfil.
An incident now occurred on the "Pennsylvania" that closed Samuel Clemens's career on that boat. It was the down trip, and the boat was in Eagle Bend when Henry Clemens appeared on the hurricane deck with an announcement from the captain of a landing a little lower down. Brown, who would never own that he was rather deaf, probably misunderstood the order. They were passing the landing when the captain appeared on the deck.
"Didn't Henry tell you to land here?" he called to Brown.
Captain Klinefelter turned to Sam. "Didn't you hear him?"
Brown said: "Shut your mouth! You never heard anything of the kind!"
Henry appeared, not suspecting any trouble.
Brown said, fiercely, "Here, why didn't you tell me we had got to land at that plantation?"
"I did tell you, Mr. Brown," Henry said, politely.
"It's a lie!"
Sam Clemens could stand Brown's abuse of himself, but not of Henry. He said: "You lie yourself. He did tell you!"
For a cub pilot to defy his chief was unheard of. Brown was dazed, then he shouted:
"I'll attend to your case in half a minute!" And to Henry, "Get out of here!"
Henry had started when Brown seized him by the collar and struck him in the face. An instant later Sam was upon Brown with a heavy stool and stretched him on the floor. Then all the repressed fury of months broke loose; and, leaping upon Brown and holding him down with his knees, Samuel Clemens pounded the tyrant with his fists till his strength gave out. He let Brown go then, and the latter, with pilot instinct, sprang to the wheel, for the boat was drifting. Seeing she was safe, he seized a spy-glass as a weapon and ordered his chastiser out of the pilot-house. But Sam lingered. He had become very calm, and he openly corrected Brown's English.
"Don't give me none of your airs!" yelled Brown. "I ain't goin' to stand nothin' more from you!"
"You should say, 'Don't give me any of your airs,'" Sam said, sweetly, "and the last half of your sentence almost defies correction."
A group of passengers and white-aproned servants, assembled on the deck forward, applauded the victor. Sam went down to find Captain Klinefelter. He expected to be put in irons, for it was thought to be mutiny to strike a pilot.
The captain took Sam into his private room and made some inquiries. Mark Twain, in the "Mississippi" boot remembers them as follows:
"Did you strike him first?" Captain Klinefelter asked.
"A stool, sir."
"Did it knock him down?"
"He—he fell, sir."
"Did you follow it up? Did you do anything further?"
"What did you do?"
"Pounded him, sir."
"Did you pound him much—that is, severely?"
"One might call it that, sir, maybe."
"I am mighty glad of it! Hark ye—never mention that I said that! You have been guilty of a great crime; and don't ever be guilty of it again on this boat, but—lay for him ashore! Give him a good, sound thrashing, do you hear? I'll pay the expenses."
In a letter which Samuel Clemens wrote to Orion's wife, immediately after this incident, he gives the details of the encounter with Brown and speaks of Captain Klinefelter's approval. Brown declared he would leave the boat at New Orleans if Sam Clemens remained on it, and the captain told him to go, offering to let Sam himself run the daylight watches back to St. Louis, thus showing his faith in the young steersman. The "cub," however, had less confidence, and advised that Brown be kept for the up trip, saying he would follow by the next boat. It was a decision that probably saved his life.
That night, watching on the levee, Henry joined him, when his own duties were finished, and the brothers made the round together. It may have been some memory of his dream that made Samuel Clemens say:
"Henry, in case of accident, whatever you do, don't lose your head—the passengers will do that. Rush for the hurricane-deck and to the life-boat, and obey the mate's orders. When the boat is launched, help the women and children into it. Don't get in yourself. The river is only a mile wide. You can swim ashore easily enough."
It was good, manly advice, but a long grief lay behind it.
 In the Mississippi book the author says that Brown was about to strike Henry with a lump of coal, but in the letter above mentioned the details are as here given.
THE WRECK OF THE "PENNSYLVANIA"
The "A. T. Lacy," that brought Samuel Clemens up the river, was two days behind the "Pennsylvania." At Greenville, Mississippi, a voice from the landing shouted "The 'Pennsylvania' is blown up just below Memphis, at Ship Island. One hundred and fifty lives lost!"
It proved a true report. At six o'clock that warm mid-June morning, while loading wood, sixty miles below Memphis, four out of eight of the Pennsylvania's boilers had suddenly exploded, with fearful results. Henry Clemens had been one of the victims. He had started to swim for the shore, only a few hundred yards away, but had turned back to assist in the rescue of others. What followed could not be clearly learned. He was terribly injured, and died on the fourth night after the catastrophe. His brother was with him by that time, and believed he recognized the exact fulfilment of his dream.
The young pilot's grief was very great. In a letter home he spoke of the dying boy as "My darling, my pride, my glory, my all." His heavy sorrow, and the fact that with unsparing self-blame he held himself in a measure responsible for his brother's tragic death, saddened his early life. His early gaiety came back, but his face had taken on the serious, pathetic look which from that time it always wore in repose. Less than twenty-three, he had suddenly the look of thirty, and while Samuel Clemens in spirit, temperament, and features never would become really old, neither would he ever look really young again.
He returned to the river as steersman for George Ealer, whom he loved, and in September of that year obtained a full license as Mississippi River pilot from St. Louis to New Orleans. In eighteen months he had packed away in his head all those wearisome details and acquired that confidence that made him one of the elect. He knew every snag and bank and dead tree and depth in all those endless miles of shifting current, every cut-off and crossing. He could read the surface of the water by day, he could smell danger in the dark. To the writer of these chapters, Horace Bixby said:
"In a year and a half from the time he came to the river, Sam was not only a pilot, but a good one. Sam was a fine pilot, and in a day when piloting on the Mississippi required a great deal more brains and skill and application than it does now. There were no signal-lights along the shore in those days, and no search-lights on the vessels; everything was blind; and on a dark, misty night, in a river full of snags and shifting sandbars and changing shores, a pilot's judgment had to be founded on absolute certainty."
Bixby had returned from the Missouri by the time his pupil's license was issued, and promptly took him as full partner on the "Crescent City," and later on a fine new boat, the "New Falls City." Still later, they appear to have been together on a very large boat, the "City of Memphis," and again on the "Alonzo Child."
For Samuel Clemens these were happy days—the happiest, in some respects, he would ever know. He had plenty of money now. He could help his mother with a liberal hand, and could put away fully a hundred dollars a month for himself. He had few cares, and he loved the ease and romance and independence of his work as he would never quite love anything again.
His popularity on the river was very great. His humorous stories and quaint speech made a crowd collect wherever he appeared. There were pilot-association rooms in St. Louis and New Orleans, and his appearance at one of these places was a signal for the members to gather.
A friend of those days writes: "He was much given to spinning yarns so funny that his hearers were convulsed, and yet all the time his own face was perfectly sober. Occasionally some of his droll yarns got into the papers. He may have written them himself."
Another old river-man remembers how, one day, at the association, they were talking of presence of mind in an accident, when Pilot Clemens said:
"Boys, I had great presence of mind once. It was at a fire. An old man leaned out of a four-story building, calling for help. Everybody in the crowd below looked up, but nobody did anything. The ladders weren't long enough. Nobody had any presence of mind—nobody but me. I came to the rescue. I yelled for a rope. When it came I threw the old man the end of it. He caught it, and I told him to tie it around his waist. He did so, and I pulled him down."
This was a story that found its way into print, probably his own contribution.
"Sam was always scribbling when not at the wheel," said Bixby, "but the best thing he ever did was the burlesque of old Isaiah Sellers. He didn't write it for print, but only for his own amusement and to show to a few of the boys. Bart Bowen, who was with him on the "Edward J. Gay" at the time, got hold of it, and gave it to one of the New Orleans papers."
The burlesque on Captain Sellers would be of little importance if it were not for its association with the origin, or, at least, with the originator, of what is probably the best known of literary names—the name Mark Twain.
This strong, happy title—a river term indicating a depth of two fathoms on the sounding-line—was first used by the old pilot, Isaiah Sellers, who was a sort of "oldest inhabitant" of the river, with a passion for airing his ancient knowledge before the younger men. Sellers used to send paragraphs to the papers, quaint and rather egotistical in tone, usually beginning, "My opinion for the citizens of New Orleans," etc., prophesying river conditions and recalling memories as far back as 1811. These he generally signed "Mark Twain."
Naturally, the younger pilots amused themselves by imitating Sellers, and when Sam Clemens wrote abroad burlesque of the old man's contributions, relating a perfectly impossible trip, supposed to have been made in 1763 with a Chinese captain and a Choctaw crew, it was regarded as a masterpiece of wit.
It appeared in the "True Delta" in May, 1859, and broke Captain Sellers's literary heart. He never wrote another paragraph. Clemens always regretted the whole matter deeply, and his own revival of the name afterward was a sort of tribute to the old man he had thoughtlessly and unintentionally wounded.
Old pilots of that day remembered Samuel Clemens as a slender, fine-looking man, well dressed, even dandified, generally wearing blue serge, with fancy shirts, white duck trousers, and patent-leather shoes. A pilot could do that, for his surroundings were speckless.
The pilots regarded him as a great reader—a student of history, travels, and the sciences. In the association rooms they often saw him poring over serious books. He began the study of French one day in New Orleans, when he had passed a school of languages where French, German, and Italian were taught, one in each of three rooms. The price was twenty-five dollars for one language, or three for fifty. The student was provided with a set of conversation cards for each, and was supposed to walk from one apartment to another, changing his nationality at each threshold. The young pilot, with his usual enthusiasm, invested in all three languages, but after a few round trips decided that French would do. He did not return to the school, but kept the cards and added text-books. He studied faithfully when off watch and in port, and his old river note-book, still preserved, contains a number of advanced exercises, neatly written out.
Still more interesting are the river notes themselves. They are not the timid, hesitating memoranda of the "little book" which, by Bixby's advice, he bought for his first trip. They are quick, vigorous records that show confidence and knowledge. Under the head of "Second high-water trip—Jan., 1861 'Alonzo Child,'" the notes tell the story of a rising river, with overflowing banks, blind passages, and cut-offs—a new river, in fact, that must be judged by a perfect knowledge of the old—guessed, but guessed right.
Good deal of water all over Cole's Creek Chute, 12 or 15 ft. bank—could have gone up above General Taylor's—too much drift . . . .
Night—didn't run either 77 or 76 towheads—8-ft. bank on main shore Ozark chute.
To the reader to-day it means little enough, but one may imagine, perhaps, a mile-wide sweep of boiling water, full of drift, shifting currents with newly forming bars, and a lone figure in the dark pilot-house, peering into the night for blind and disappearing landmarks.
But such nights were not all there was of piloting. There were glorious nights when the stars were blazing out, and the moon was on the water, and the young pilot could follow a clear channel and dream long dreams. He was very serious at such times—he reviewed the world's history he had read, he speculated on the future, he considered philosophies, he lost himself in a study of the stars. Mark Twain's love of astronomy, which never waned until his last day, began with those lonely river watches. Once a great comet blazed in the sky, a "wonderful sheaf of light," and glorified his long hours at the wheel.
Samuel Clemens was now twenty-five, full of health and strong in his courage. In the old notebook there remains a well-worn clipping, the words of some unknown writer, which he may have kept as a sort of creed:
HOW TO TAKE LIFE.—Take it just as though it was—as it is—an earnest, vital, and important affair. Take it as though you were born to the task of performing a merry part in it—as though the world had awaited for your coming. Take it as though it was a grand opportunity to do and achieve, to carry forward great and good schemes to help and cheer a suffering, weary, it may be heartbroken, brother. Now and then a man stands aside from the crowd, labors earnestly, steadfastly, confidently, and straightway becomes famous for wisdom, intellect, skill, greatness of some sort. The world wonders, admires, idolizes, and it only illustrates what others may do if they take hold of life with a purpose. The miracle, or the power that elevates the few, is to be found in their industry, application, and perseverance under the promptings of a brave, determined spirit.
Bixby and Clemens were together that winter on the "Child," and were the closest friends. Once the young pilot invited his mother to make the trip to New Orleans, and the river journey and a long drive about the beautiful Southern city filled Jane Clemens with wonder and delight. She no longer shad any doubts of Sam. He had long since become the head of the family. She felt called upon to lecture him, now and then, but down in her heart she believed that he could really do no wrong. They joked each other unmercifully, and her wit, never at a loss, was quite as keen as his.
THE END OF PILOTING
When one remembers how much Samuel Clemens loved the river, and how perfectly he seemed suited to the ease and romance of the pilot-life, one is almost tempted to regret that it should so soon have come to an end.
Those trips of early '61, which the old note-book records, were the last he would ever make. The golden days of Mississippi steam-boating were growing few.
Nobody, however, seemed to suspect it. Even a celebrated fortune-teller in New Orleans, whom the young pilot one day consulted as to his future, did not mention the great upheaval then close at hand. She told him quite remarkable things, and gave him some excellent advice, but though this was February, 1861, she failed to make any mention of the Civil War! Yet, a month later, Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated and trouble was in the air. Then in April Fort Sumter was fired upon and the war had come.
It was a feverish time among the pilots. Some were for the Union—others would go with the Confederacy. Horace Bixby stood for the North, and in time was chief of the Union river-service. A pilot named Montgomery (Clemens had once steered for him) went with the South and by and by commanded the Confederate Mississippi fleet. In the beginning a good many were not clear as to their opinions. Living both North and South, as they did, they divided their sympathies. Samuel Clemens was thoughtful, and far from bloodthirsty. A pilothouse, so fine and showy in times of peace, seemed a poor place to be in when fighting was going on. He would consider the matter.
"I am not anxious to get up into a glass perch and be shot at by either side," he said. "I'll go home and reflect."
He went up the river as a passenger on a steamer named the "Uncle Sam." Zeb Leavenworth, formerly of the "John J. Roe," was one of the pilots, and Clemens usually stood the watch with him. At Memphis they barely escaped the blockade. At Cairo they saw soldiers drilling—troops later commanded by Grant.
The "Uncle Sam" came steaming up to St. Louis, glad to have slipped through safely. They were not quite through, however. Abreast of Jefferson Barracks they heard the boom of a cannon, and a great ring of smoke drifted in their direction. They did not recognize it as a thunderous "Halt!" and kept on. Less than a minute later, a shell exploded directly in front of the pilot-house, breaking a lot of glass and damaging the decoration. Zeb Leavenworth tumbled into a corner.
"Gee-mighty, Sam!" he said. "What do they mean by that?"
Clemens stepped from the visitors' bench to the wheel and brought the boat around.
"I guess—they want us—to wait a minute—Zeb," he said.
They were examined and passed. It was the last steamboat to make the trip through from New Orleans to St. Louis. Mark Twain's pilot days were over. He would have grieved had he known this fact.
"I loved the profession far better than any I have followed since," he long afterward declared, "and I took a measureless pride in it."
At the time, like many others, he expected the war to be brief, and his life to be only temporarily interrupted. Within a year, certainly, he would be back in the pilot-house. Meantime the war must be settled; he would go up to Hannibal to see about it.
When he reached Hannibal, Samuel Clemens found a very mixed condition of affairs. The country was in an uproar of war preparation; in a border State there was a confusion of sympathies, with much ignorance as to what it was all about. Any number of young men were eager to enlist for a brief camping-out expedition, and small private companies were formed, composed about half-and-half of Union and Confederate men, as it turned out later.
Missouri, meantime, had allied herself with the South, and Samuel Clemens, on his arrival in Hannibal, decided that, like Lee, he would go with his State. Old friends, who were getting up a company "to help Governor 'Claib' Jackson repel the invader," offered him a lieutenancy if he would join. It was not a big company; it had only about a dozen members, most of whom had been schoolmates, some of them fellow-pilots, and Sam Clemens was needed to make it complete. It was just another Tom Sawyer band, and they met in a secret place above Bear Creek Hill and planned how they would sell their lives on the field of glory, just as years before fierce raids had been arranged on peach-orchards and melon-patches. Secrecy was necessary, for the Union militia had a habit of coming over from Illinois and arresting suspicious armies on sight. It would humiliate the finest army in the world to spend a night or two in the calaboose.
So they met secretly at night, and one mysterious evening they called on girls who either were their sweethearts or were pretending to be for the occasion, and when the time came for good-by the girls were invited to "walk through the pickets" with them, though the girls didn't notice any pickets, because the pickets were calling on their girls, too, and were a little late getting to their posts.
That night they marched, through brush and vines, because the highroad was thought to be dangerous, and next morning arrived at the home of Colonel Ralls, of Ralls County, who had the army form in dress parade and made it a speech and gave it a hot breakfast in good Southern style. Then he sent out to Col. Bill Splawn and Farmer Nuck Matson a requisition for supplies that would convert this body of infantry into cavalry —rough-riders of that early day. The community did not wish to keep an army on its hands, and were willing to send it along by such means as they could spare handily. When the outfitting was complete, Lieutenant Samuel Clemens, mounted on a small yellow mule whose tail had been trimmed in the paint-brush pattern then much worn by mules, and surrounded by variously attached articles—such as an extra pair of cowhide boots, a pair of gray blankets, a home-made quilt, a frying-pan, a carpet-sack, a small valise, an overcoat, an old-fashioned Kentucky rifle, twenty yards of rope, and an umbrella—was a fair sample of the brigade.
An army like that, to enjoy itself, ought to go into camp; so it went over to Salt River, near the town of Florida, and took up headquarters in a big log stable. Somebody suggested that an army ought to have its hair cut, so that in a hand-to-hand conflict the enemy could not get hold of it. There was a pair of sheep-shears in the stable, and Private Tom Lyons acted as barber. They were not sharp shears, and a group of little darkies gathered from the farm to enjoy the torture.
Regular elections were now held—all officers, down to sergeants and orderlies, being officially chosen. There were only three privates, and you couldn't tell them from officers. The discipline in that army was very bad.
It became worse soon. Pouring rain set in. Salt River rose and overflowed the bottoms. Men ordered on picket duty climbed up into the stable-loft and went to bed. Twice, on black, drenching nights, word came from the farmhouse that the enemy, commanded by a certain Col. Ulysses Grant, was in the neighborhood, and the Hannibal division went hastily slopping through mud and brush in the other direction, dragging wearily back when the alarm was over. Military ardor was bound to cool under such treatment. Then Lieutenant Clemens developed a very severe boil, and was obliged to lie most of the day on some hay in a horse-trough, where he spent his time denouncing the war and the mistaken souls who had invented it. When word that "General" Tom Harris, commander of the district—formerly telegraph-operator in Hannibal—was at a near-by farm-house, living on the fat of the land, the army broke camp without further ceremony. Halfway there they met General Harris, who ordered them back to quarters. They called him familiarly "Tom," and told him they were through with that camp forever. He begged them, but it was no use. A little farther on they stopped at a farm-house for supplies. A tall, bony woman came to the door.
"You're Secesh, ain't you?"
Lieutenant Clemens said: "We are, madam, defenders of the noble cause, and we should like to buy a few provisions."
The request seemed to inflame her.
"Provisions!" she screamed. "Provisions for Secesh, and my husband a colonel in the Union Army. You get out of here!"
She reached for a hickory hoop-pole  that stood by the door, and the army moved on. When they reached the home of Col. Bill Splawn it was night and the family had gone to bed. So the hungry army camped in the barn-yard and crept into the hay-loft to sleep. Presently somebody yelled "Fire!" One of the boys had been smoking and had ignited the hay.
Lieutenant Clemens, suddenly wakened, made a quick rotary movement away from the blaze, and rolled out of a big hay-window into the barn-yard below. The rest of the brigade seized the burning hay and pitched it out of the same window. The lieutenant had sprained his ankle when he struck, and his boil was still painful, but the burning hay cured him —for the moment. He made a spring from under it; then, noticing that the rest of the army, now that the fire was out, seemed to think his performance amusing, he rose up and expressed himself concerning the war, and military life, and the human race in general. They helped him in, then, for his ankle was swelling badly.
In the morning, Colonel Splawn gave the army a good breakfast, and it moved on. Lieutenant Clemens, however, did not get farther than Farmer Nuck Matson's. He was in a high fever by that time from his injured ankle, and Mrs. Matson put him to bed. So the army left him, and presently disbanded. Some enlisted in the regular service, North or South, according to preference. Properly officered and disciplined, that "Tom Sawyer" band would have made as good soldiers as any.
Lieutenant Clemens did not enlist again. When he was able to walk, he went to visit Orion in Keokuk. Orion was a Union Abolitionist, but there would be no unpleasantness on that account. Samuel Clemens was beginning to have leanings in that direction himself.
 In an earlier day, barrel hoops were made of small hickory trees, split and shaved. The hoop-pole was a very familiar article of commerce, and of household defense.
He arrived in Keokuk at what seemed a lucky moment. Through Edward Bates, a member of Lincoln's Cabinet, Orion Clemens had received an appointment as territorial secretary of Nevada, and only needed the money to carry him to the seat of his office at Carson City. Out of his pilot's salary his brother had saved more than enough for the journey, and was willing to pay both their fares and go along as private secretary to Orion, whose position promised something in the way of adventure and a possible opportunity for making a fortune.
The brothers went at once to St. Louis for final leave-taking, and there took boat for "St. Jo," Missouri, terminus of the great Overland Stage Route. They paid one hundred and fifty dollars each for their passage, and about the end of July, 1861, set out on that long, delightful trip, behind sixteen galloping horses, never stopping except for meals or to change teams, heading steadily into the sunset over the billowy plains and snow-clad Rockies, covering the seventeen hundred miles between St. Jo and Carson City in nineteen glorious days.
But one must read Mark Twain's "Roughing It" for the story of that long-ago trip—the joy and wonder of it, and the inspiration. "Even at this day," he writes, "it thrills me through and through to think of the life, the gladness, and the wild sense of freedom that used to make the blood dance in my face on those fine overland mornings."
It was a hot dusty, August day when they arrived, dusty, unshaven, and weather-beaten, and Samuel Clemens's life as a frontiersman began. Carson City, the capital of Nevada, was a wooden town with an assorted population of two thousand souls. The mining excitement was at its height and had brought together the drift of every race.
The Clemens brothers took up lodgings with a genial Irishwoman, the Mrs. O'Flannigan of "Roughing It," and Orion established himself in a modest office, for there was no capitol building as yet, no government headquarters. Orion could do all the work, and Samuel Clemens, finding neither duties nor salary attached to his position, gave himself up to the study of the life about him, and to the enjoyment of the freedom of the frontier. Presently he had a following of friends who loved his quaint manner of speech and his yarns. On cool nights they would collect about Orion's office-stove, and he would tell stories in the wonderful way that one day would delight the world. Within a brief time Sam Clemens (he was always "Sam" to the pioneers) was the most notable figure on the Carson streets. His great, bushy head of auburn hair, has piercing, twinkling eyes, his loose, lounging walk, his careless disorder of dress invited a second look, even from strangers. From a river dandy he had become the roughest-clad of pioneers—rusty slouch hat, flannel shirt, coarse trousers slopping half in and half out of heavy cowhide boots, this was his make-up. Energetic citizens did not prophesy success for him. Often they saw him leaning against an awning support, staring drowsily at the motley human procession, for as much as an hour at a time. Certainly that could not be profitable.
But they did like to hear him talk.
He did not catch the mining fever at once. He was interested first in the riches that he could see. Among these was the timber-land around Lake Bigler (now Tahoe)—splendid acres, to be had for the asking. The lake itself was beautifully situated.
With an Ohio boy, John Kinney, he made an excursion afoot to Tahoe, a trip described in one of the best chapters of "Roughing It." They staked out a timber claim and pretended to fence it and to build a house, but their chief employment was loafing in the quiet luxury of the great woods or drifting in a boat on the transparent water. They did not sleep in the house. In "Roughing It" he says:
"It never occurred to us, for one thing; and, besides, it was built to hold the ground, and that was enough. We did not wish to strain it."
They made their camp-fires on the borders of the lake, and one evening it got away from them, fired the forest, and destroyed their fences and habitation. In a letter home he describes this fire in a fine, vivid way. At one place he says:
"The level ranks of flame were relieved at intervals by the standard- bearers, as we called the tall dead trees, wrapped in fire, and waving their blazing banners a hundred feet in the air. Then we could turn from the scene to the lake, and see every branch and leaf and cataract of flame upon its banks perfectly reflected, as in a gleaming, fiery mirror."
He was acquiring the literary vision and touch. The description of this same fire in "Roughing It," written ten years later, is scarcely more vivid.
Most of his letters home at this time tell of glowing prospects—the certainty of fortune ahead. The fever of the frontier is in them. Once, to Pamela Moffett, he wrote:
"Orion and I have enough confidence in this country to think that, if the war lets us alone, we can make Mr. Moffett rich without its ever costing him a cent or a particle of trouble."
From the same letter we gather that the brothers are now somewhat interested in mining claims:
"We have about 1,650 feet of mining-ground, and, if it proves good, Mr. Moffett's name will go in; and if not, I can get 'feet' for him in the spring."
This was written about the end of October. Two months later, in midwinter, the mining fever came upon him with full force.
The wonder is that Samuel Clemens, always speculative and visionary, had not fallen an earlier victim. Everywhere one heard stories of sudden fortune—of men who had gone to bed paupers and awakened millionaires. New and fabulous finds were reported daily. Cart-loads of bricks—silver and gold bricks—drove through the Carson streets.
Then suddenly from the newly opened Humboldt region came the wildest reports. The mountains there were said to be stuffed with gold. A correspondent of the "Territorial Enterprise" was unable to find words to picture the riches of the Humboldt mines.
The air for Samuel Clemens began to shimmer. Fortune was waiting to be gathered in a basket. He joined the first expedition for Humboldt—in fact, helped to organize it. In "Roughing It" he says:
"Hurry was the word! We wasted no time. Our party consisted of four persons—a blacksmith sixty years of age, two young lawyers, and myself. We bought a wagon and two miserable old horses. We put eighteen hundred pounds of provisions and mining-tools in the wagon and drove out of Carson on a chilly December afternoon.."
The two young lawyers were W. H. Clagget, whom Clemens had known in Keokuk, and A. W. Oliver, called Oliphant in "Roughing It." The blacksmith was named Tillou (Ballou in "Roughing It"), a sturdy, honest man with a knowledge of mining and the repair of tools. There were also two dogs in the party—a curly-tailed mongrel and a young hound.
The horses were the weak feature of the expedition. It was two hundred miles to Humboldt, mostly across sand. The miners rode only a little way, then got out to lighten the load. Later they pushed. Then it began to snow, also to blow, and the air became filled with whirling clouds of snow and sand. On and on they pushed and groaned, sustained by the knowledge that they must arrive some time, when right away they would be millionaires and all their troubles would be over.
The nights were better. The wind went down and they made a camp-fire in the shelter of the wagon, cooked their bacon, crept under blankets with the dogs to warm them, and Sam Clemens spun yarns till they fell asleep.
There had been an Indian war, and occasionally they passed the charred ruin of a cabin and new graves. By and by they came to that deadly waste known as the Alkali Desert, strewn with the carcasses of dead beasts and with the heavy articles discarded by emigrants in their eagerness to reach water. All day and night they pushed through that choking, waterless plain to reach camp on the other side. When they arrived at three in the morning, they dropped down exhausted. Judge Oliver, the last survivor of the party, in a letter to the writer of these chapters, said:
"The sun was high in the heavens when we were aroused from our sleep by a yelling band of Piute warriors. We were upon our feet in an instant. The picture of burning cabins and the lonely graves we had passed was in our minds. Our scalps were still our own, and not dangling from the belts of our visitors. Sam pulled himself together, put his hand on his head, as if to make sure he had not been scalped, and, with his inimitable drawl, said 'Boys, they have left us our scalps. Let us give them all the flour and sugar they ask for.' And we did give them a good supply, for we were grateful."
The Indians left them unharmed, and the prospective millionaires moved on. Across that two hundred miles to the Humboldt country they pushed, arriving at the little camp of Unionville at the end of eleven weary days.
In "Roughing It" Mark Twain has told us of Unionville and the mining experience there. Their cabin was a three-sided affair with a cotton roof. Stones rolled down the mountainside on them; also, the author says, a mule and a cow.
The author could not gather fortune in a basket, as he had dreamed. Masses of gold and silver were not lying about. He gathered a back-load of yellow, glittering specimens, but they proved worthless. Gold in the rough did not glitter, and was not yellow. Tillou instructed the others in prospecting, and they went to work with pick and shovel—then with drill and blasting-powder. The prospect of immediately becoming millionaires vanished.
"One week of this satisfied me. I resigned," is Mark Twain's brief comment.
The Humboldt reports had been exaggerated. The Clemens-Clagget-Oliver- Tillou millionaire combination soon surrendered its claims. Clemens and Tillou set out for Carson City with a Prussian named Pfersdorff, who nearly got them drowned and got them completely lost in the snow before they arrived there. Oliver and Clagget remained in Unionville, began law practice, and were elected to office. It is not known what became of the wagon and horses and the two dogs.
It was the end of January when our miner returned to Carson. He was not discouraged—far from it. He believed he had learned something that would be useful to him in a camp where mines were a reality. Within a few weeks from his return we find him at Aurora, in the Esmeralda region, on the edge of California. It was here that the Clemens brothers owned the 1,650 feet formerly mentioned. He had came down to work it.
It was the dead of winter, but he was full of enthusiasm, confident of a fortune by early summer. To Pamela he wrote:
"I expect to return to St. Louis in July—per steamer. I don't say that I will return then, or that I shall be able to do it—but I expect to—you bet . . . . If nothing goes wrong, we'll strike the ledge in June."
He was trying to be conservative, and further along he cautions his sister not to get excited.
"Don't you know I have only talked as yet, but proved nothing? Don't you know I have never held in my hands a gold or silver bar that belonged to me? Don't you know that people who always feel jolly, no matter where they are or what happens to them—who have the organ of hope preposterously developed—who are endowed with an uncongealable, sanguine temperament—who never feel concerned about the price of corn—and who cannot, by any possibility, discover any but the bright side of a picture—are very apt to go to extremes and exaggerate with a 40-horse microscopic power?
In the bright lexicon of youth, There is no such word as fail, and I'll prove it."
Whereupon he soars again, adding page after page full of glowing expectations and plans such as belong only with speculation in treasures buried in the ground—a very difficult place, indeed, to find them.
His money was about exhausted by this time, and funds to work the mining claims must come out of Orion's rather modest salary. The brothers owned all claims in partnership, and it was now the part of "Brother Sam" to do the active work. He hated the hard picking and prying and blasting into the flinty ledges, but the fever drove him on. He camped with a young man named Phillips at first, and, later on, with an experienced miner, Calvin H. Higbie, to whom "Roughing It" would one day be dedicated. They lived in a tiny cabin with a cotton roof, and around their rusty stove they would paw over their specimens and figure the fortune that their mines would be worth in the spring.
Food ran low, money gave out almost entirely, but they did not give up. When it was stormy and they could not dig, and the ex-pilot was in a talkative vein, he would sit astride the bunk and distribute to his hearers riches more valuable than any they would dig from the Esmeralda hills. At other times he did not talk at all, but sat in a corner and wrote. They thought he was writing home; they did not know that he was "literary." Some of his home letters had found their way into a Keokuk paper and had come back to Orion, who had shown them to an assistant on the "Territorial Enterprise," of Virginia City. The "Enterprise" man had caused one of them to be reprinted, and this had encouraged its author to send something to the paper direct. He signed these contributions "Josh," and one told of:
"An old, old horse whose name was Methusalem, Took him down and sold him in Jerusalem, A long time ago."
He received no pay for these offerings and expected none. He considered them of no value. If any one had told him that he was knocking at the door of the house of fame, however feebly, he would have doubted that person's judgment or sincerity.
His letters to Orion, in Carson City, were hasty compositions, reporting progress and progress, or calling for remittances to keep the work going. On April 13, he wrote:
"Work not begun on the Horatio and Derby—haven't seen it yet. It is still in the snow. Shall begin on it within three or four weeks —strike the ledge in July."
Again, later in the month:
"I have been at work all day, blasting and digging in one of our new claims, 'Dashaway,' which I don't think a great deal of, but which I am willing to try. We are down now ten or twelve feet."
It must have been disheartening work, picking away at the flinty ledges. There is no further mention of the "Dashaway," but we hear of the "Flyaway," the "Annipolitan," the "Live Yankee," and of many another, each of which holds out a beacon of hope for a brief moment, then passes from notice forever. Still, he was not discouraged. Once he wrote:
"I am a citizen here and I am satisfied, though 'Ratio and I are 'strapped' and we haven't three days' rations in the house. I shall work the "Monitor" and the other claims with my own hands.
"The pick and shovel are the only claims I have confidence in now," he wrote, later; "my back is sore and my hands are blistered with handling them to-day."
His letters began to take on a weary tone. Once in midsummer he wrote that it was still snowing up there in the hills, and added, "It always snows here I expect. If we strike it rich, I've lost my guess, that's all." And the final heartsick line, "Don't you suppose they have pretty much quit writing at home?"
In time he went to work in a quartz-mill at ten dollars a week, though it was not entirely for the money, as in "Roughing It" he would have us believe. Samuel Clemens learned thoroughly what he undertook, and he proposed to master the science of mining. From Phillips and Higbie he had learned what there was to know about prospecting. He went to the mill to learn refining, so that, when his claims developed, he could establish a mill and personally superintend the work. His stay was brief. He contracted a severe cold and came near getting poisoned by the chemicals. Recovering, he went with Higbie for an outing to Mono Lake, a ghastly, lifeless alkali sea among the hills, vividly described in "Roughing It."
At another time he went with Higbie on a walking trip to the Yosemite, where they camped and fished undisturbed, for in those days few human beings came to that far isolation. Discouragement did not reach them there—amid that vast grandeur and quiet the quest for gold hardly seemed worth while. Now and again that summer he went alone into the wilderness to find his balance and to get entirely away from humankind.
In "Roughing It" Mark Twain tells the story of how he and Higbie finally located a "blind lead," which made them really millionaires, until they forfeited their claim through the sharp practice of some rival miners and their own neglect. It is true that the "Wide West" claim was forfeited in some such manner, but the size of the loss was magnified in "Roughing It," to make a good story. There was never a fortune in "Wide West," except the one sunk in it by its final owners. The story as told in "Roughing It" is a tale of what might have happened, and ends the author's days in the mines with a good story-book touch.
The mining career of Samuel Clemens really came to a close gradually, and with no showy climax. He fought hard and surrendered little by little, without owning, even to the end, that he was surrendering at all. It was the gift of resolution that all his life would make his defeats long and costly—his victories supreme.
By the end of July the money situation in the Aurora camp was getting desperate. Orion's depleted salary would no longer pay for food, tools, and blasting-powder, and the miner began to cast about far means to earn an additional sum, however small. The "Josh" letters to the "Enterprise" had awakened interest as to their author, and Orion had not failed to let "Josh's" identity be known. The result had been that here and there a coast paper had invited contributions and even suggested payment. A letter written by the Aurora miner at the end of July tells this part of the story:
"My debts are greater than I thought for . . . . The fact is, I must have something to do, and that shortly, too . . . . Now write to the "Sacramento Union" folks, or to Marsh, and tell them that I will write as many letters a week as they want, for $10 a week. My board must be paid.
"Tell them I have corresponded with the "New Orleans Crescent" and other papers—and the "Enterprise."
"If they want letters from here—who'll run from morning till night collecting material cheaper? I'll write a short letter twice a week, for the present, for the "Age," for $5 per week. Now it has been a long time since I couldn't make my own living, and it shall be a long time before I loaf another year."
This all led to nothing, but about the same time the "Enterprise" assistant already mentioned spoke to Joseph T. Goodman, owner and editor of the paper, about adding "Josh" to their regular staff. "Joe" Goodman, a man of keen humor and literary perception, agreed that the author of the "Josh" letters might be useful to them. One of the sketches particularly appealed to him—a burlesque report of a Fourth of July oration.
"That is the kind of thing we want," he said. "Write to him, Barstow, and ask him if he wants to come up here."
Barstow wrote, offering twenty-five dollars a week—a tempting sum. This was at the end of July, 1862.
Yet the hard-pressed miner made no haste to accept the offer. To leave Aurora meant the surrender of all hope in the mines, the confession of another failure. He wrote Barstow, asking when he thought he might be needed. And at the same time, in a letter to Orion, he said:
"I shall leave at midnight to-night, alone and on foot, for a walk of sixty or seventy miles through a totally uninhabited country. But do you write Barstow that I have left here for a week or so, and, in case he should want me, he must write me here, or let me know through you."
He had gone into the wilderness to fight out his battle alone, postponing the final moment of surrender—surrender that, had he known, only meant the beginning of victory. He was still undecided when he returned eight days later and wrote to his sister Pamela a letter in which there is no mention of newspaper prospects.
Just how and when the end came at last cannot be known; but one hot, dusty August afternoon, in Virginia City, a worn, travel-stained pilgrim dragged himself into the office of the "Territorial Enterprise," then in its new building on C Street, and, loosening a heavy roll of blankets from his shoulder, dropped wearily into a chair. He wore a rusty slouch hat, no coat, a faded blue-flannel shirt, a navy revolver; his trousers were tucked into his boot-tops; a tangle of reddish-brown hair fell on his shoulders; a mass of tawny beard, dingy with alkali dust, dropped half-way to his waist.
Aurora lay one hundred and thirty miles from Virginia City. He had walked that distance, carrying his heavy load. Editor Goodman was absent at the moment, but the other proprietor, Dennis E. McCarthy, asked the caller to state his errand. The wanderer regarded him with a far-away look and said, absently, and with deliberation:
"My starboard leg seems to be unshipped. I'd like about one hundred yards of line; I think I'm falling to pieces." Then he added: "I want to see Mr. Barstow or Mr. Goodman. My name is Clemens, and I've come to write for the paper."
It was the master of the world's widest estate come to claim his kingdom!
THE TERRITORIAL ENTERPRISE
In 1852 Virginia City, Nevada, was the most flourishing of mining towns. A half-crazy miner, named Comstock, had discovered there a vein of such richness that the "Comstock Lode" was presently glutting the mineral markets of the world. Comstock himself got very little out of it, but those who followed him made millions. Miners, speculators, adventurers swarmed in. Every one seemed to have money. The streets seethed with an eager, affluent, boisterous throng whose chief business seemed to be to spend the wealth that the earth was yielding in such a mighty stream.
Business of every kind boomed. Less than two years earlier, J. T. Goodman, a miner who was also a printer and a man of literary taste, had joined with another printer, Dennis McCarthy, and the two had managed to buy a struggling Virginia City paper, the "Territorial Enterprise." But then came the hightide of fortune. A year later the "Enterprise," from a starving sheet in a leaky shanty, had become a large, handsome paper in a new building, and of such brilliant editorial management that it was the most widely considered journal on the Pacific coast.
Goodman was a fine, forceful writer, and he surrounded himself with able men. He was a young man, full of health and vigor, overflowing with the fresh spirit and humor of the West. Comstockers would always laugh at a joke, and Goodman was always willing to give it to them. The "Enterprise" was a newspaper, but it was willing to furnish entertainment even at the cost of news. William Wright, editorially next to Goodman, was a humorist of ability. His articles, signed Dan de Quille, were widely copied. R. M. Daggett (afterward United States Minister to Hawaii) was also an "Enterprise" man, and there were others of their sort.
Samuel Clemens fitted precisely into this group. He brought with him a new turn of thought and expression; he saw things with open eyes, and wrote of them in a fresh, wild way that Comstockers loved. He was allowed full freedom. Goodman suppressed nothing; his men could write as they chose. They were all young together—if they pleased themselves, they were pretty sure to please their readers. Often they wrote of one another—squibs and burlesques, which gratified the Comstock far more than mere news. It was just the school to produce Mark Twain.
The new arrival found acquaintance easy. The whole "Enterprise" force was like one family; proprietors, editor, and printers were social equals. Samuel Clemens immediately became "Sam" to his associates, just as De Quille was "Dan," and Goodman "Joe." Clemens was supposed to report city items, and did, in fact, do such work, which he found easy, for his pilot-memory made notes unnecessary.
He could gather items all day, and at night put down the day's budget well enough, at least, to delight his readers. When he was tired of facts, he would write amusing paragraphs, as often as not something about Dan, or a reporter on a rival paper. Dan and the others would reply, and the Comstock would laugh. Those were good old days.
Sometimes he wrote hoaxes. Once he told with great circumstance and detail of a petrified prehistoric man that had been found embedded in a rock in the desert, and how the coroner from Humboldt had traveled more than a hundred miles to hold an inquest over a man dead for centuries, and had refused to allow miners to blast the discovery from its position.
The sketch was really intended as a joke on the Humboldt coroner, but it was so convincingly written that most of the Coast papers took it seriously and reprinted it as the story of a genuine discovery. In time they awoke, and began to inquire as to who was the smart writer on the "Enterprise."
Mark Twain did a number of such things, some of which are famous on the Coast to this day.
Clemens himself did not escape. Lamps were used in the "Enterprise" office, but he hated the care of a lamp, and worked evenings by the light of a candle. It was considered a great joke in the office to "hide Sam's candle" and hear him fume and rage, walking in a circle meantime—a habit acquired in the pilothouse—and scathingly denouncing the culprits. Eventually the office-boy, supposedly innocent, would bring another candle, and quiet would follow. Once the office force, including De Quille, McCarthy, and a printer named Stephen Gillis, of whom Clemens was very fond, bought a large imitation meerschaum pipe, had a German-silver plate set on it, properly engraved, and presented it to Samuel Clemens as genuine, in testimony of their great esteem. His reply to the presentation speech was so fine and full of feeling that the jokers felt ashamed of their trick. A few days later, when he discovered the deception, he was ready to destroy the lot of them. Then, in atonement, they gave him a real meerschaum. Such things kept the Comstock entertained.
There was a side to Samuel Clemens that, in those days, few of his associates saw. This was the poetic, the reflective side. Joseph Goodman, like Macfarlane in Cincinnati several years earlier, recognized this phase of his character and developed it. Often these two, dining or walking together, discussed the books and history they had read, quoted from poems that gave them pleasure. Clemens sometimes recited with great power the "Burial of Moses," whose noble phrasing and majestic imagery seemed to move him deeply. With eyes half closed and chin lifted, a lighted cigar between his fingers, he would lose himself in the music of the stately lines:
By Nebo's lonely mountain, On this side Jordan's wave, In a vale in the land of Moab There lies a lonely grave. And no man knows that sepulcher, And no man saw it e'er, For the angels of God upturned the sod, And laid the dead man there.
That his own writing would be influenced by the simple grandeur of this poem we can hardly doubt. Indeed, it may have been to him a sort of literary touchstone, that in time would lead him to produce, as has been said, some of the purest English written by any modern author.
It was once when Goodman and Clemens were dining together that the latter asked to be allowed to report the proceedings of the coming legislature at Carson City. He knew nothing of such work, and Goodman hesitated. Then, remembering that Clemens would, at least, make his reports readable, whether they were parliamentary or not, he consented.
So, at the beginning of the year (1863), Samuel Clemens undertook a new and interesting course in the study of human nature—the political human nature of the frontier. There could have been no better school for him. His wit, his satire, his phrasing had full swing—his letters, almost from the beginning, were copied as choice reading up and down the Coast. He made curious blunders, at first, as to the proceedings, but his open confession of ignorance in the early letters made these blunders their chief charm. A young man named Gillespie, clerk of the House, coached him, and in return was christened "Young Jefferson's Manual," a title which he bore for many years.
A reporter named Rice, on a rival Virginia City paper, the "Union," also earned for himself a title through those early letters.
Rice concluded to poke fun at the "Enterprise" reports, pointing out their mistakes. But this was not wise. Clemens, in his next contribution, admitted that Rice's reports might be parliamentary enough, but declared his glittering technicalities were only to cover misstatements of fact. He vowed they were wholly untrustworthy, dubbed the author of them "The Unreliable," and never thereafter referred to him by any other term. Carson and the Comstock papers delighted in this foolery, and Rice became "The Unreliable" for life. There was no real feeling between Rice and Clemens. They were always the best of friends.
But now we arrive at the story of still another name, one of vastly greater importance than either of those mentioned, for it is the name chosen by Samuel Clemens for himself. In those days it was the fashion for a writer to have a pen-name, especially for his journalistic and humorous work. Clemens felt that his "Enterprise" letters, copied up and down the Coast, needed a mark of identity.
He gave the matter a good deal of thought. He wanted something brief and strong—something that would stick in the mind. It was just at this time that news came of the death of Capt. Isaiah Sellers, the old pilot who had signed himself "Mark Twain." Mark Twain! That was the name he wanted. It was not trivial. It had all the desired qualities. Captain Sellers would never need it again. It would do no harm to keep it alive —to give it a new meaning in a new land. Clemens took a trip from Carson up to Virginia City.
"Joe," he said to Goodman, "I want to sign my articles. I want to be identified to a wider audience."
"All right, Sam. What name do you want to use Josh?"
"No, I want to sign them Mark Twain. It is an old river term, a leadsman's call, signifying two fathoms—twelve feet. It has a richness about it; it was always a pleasant sound for a pilot to hear on a dark night; it meant safe waters."
He did not mention that Captain Sellers had used and dropped the name. He was not proud of his part in that episode, and it was too recent for confession.
Goodman considered a moment. "Very well, Sam," he said, "that sounds like a good name."
A good name, indeed! Probably, if he had considered every combination of words in the language, he could not have found a better one. To-day we recognize it as the greatest nom de plume ever chosen, and, somehow, we cannot believe that the writer of "Tom Sawyer" and "Huck Finn" and "Roughing It" could have selected any other had he tried.
The name Mark Twain was first signed to a Carson letter, February 2, 1863, and after that to all of Samuel Clemens's work. The letters that had amused so many readers had taken on a new interest—the interest that goes with a name. It became immediately more than a pen-name. Clemens found he had attached a name to himself as well as to his letters. Everybody began to address him as Mark. Within a few weeks he was no longer "Sam" or "Clemens," but Mark—Mark Twain. The Coast papers liked the sound of it. It began to mean something to their readers. By the end of that legislative session Samuel Clemens, as Mark Twain, had acquired out there on that breezy Western slope something resembling fame.
Curiously, he fails to mention any of this success in his letters home of that period. Indeed, he seldom refers to his work, but more often speaks of mining shares which he has accumulated, and their possible values. His letters are airy, full of the joy of life and of the wild doings of the frontier. Closing one of them, he says: "I have just heard five pistolshots down the street. As such things are in my line, I will go and see about it."
And in a postscript, later, he adds:
"5 A.M.—The pistol-shots did their work well. One man, a Jackson County Missourian, shot two of my friends (police officers) through the heart—both died within three minutes. The murderer's name is John Campbell."
The Comstock was a great school for Mark Twain, and in "Roughing It" he has left us a faithful picture of its long-vanished glory.
More than one national character came out of the Comstock school. Senator James G. Fair was one of them, and John Mackay, both miners with pick and shovel at first, though Mackay presently became a superintendent. Mark Twain one day laughingly offered to trade jobs with Mackay.
"No," Mackay said, "I can't trade. My business is not worth as much as yours. I have never swindled anybody, and I don't intend to begin now."
For both these men the future held splendid gifts: for Mackay vast wealth, for Mark Twain the world's applause, and neither would have long to wait.
ARTEMUS WARD AND LITERARY SAN FRANCISCO
It was about the end of 1863 that a new literary impulse came into Mark Twain's life. The gentle and lovable humorist Artemus Ward (Charles F. Browne) was that year lecturing in the West, and came to Virginia City. Ward had intended to stay only a few days, but the whirl of the Comstock fascinated him. He made the "Enterprise" office his headquarters and remained three weeks. He and Mark Twain became boon companions. Their humor was not unlike; they were kindred spirits, together almost constantly. Ward was then at the summit of his fame, and gave the younger man the highest encouragement, prophesying great things for ha work. Clemens, on his side, was stirred, perhaps for the first time, with a real literary ambition, and the thought that he, too, might win a place of honor. He promised Ward that he would send work to the Eastern papers.
On Christmas Eve, Ward gave a dinner to the "Enterprise" staff, at Chaumond's, a fine French restaurant of that day. When refreshments came, Artemus lifted his glass, and said:
"I give you Upper Canada."
The company rose and drank the toast in serious silence. Then Mr. Goodman said:
"Of course, Artemus, it's all right, but why did you give us Upper Canada?"
"Because I don't want it myself," said Ward, gravely.
What would one not give to have listened to the talk of that evening! Mark Twain's power had awakened; Artemus Ward was in his prime. They were giants of a race that became extinct when Mark Twain died.
Goodman remained rather quiet during the evening. Ward had appointed him to order the dinner, and he had attended to this duty without mingling much in the conversation. When Ward asked him why he did not join the banter, he said:
"I am preparing a joke, Artemus, but I am keeping it for the present."
At a late hour Ward finally called for the bill. It was two hundred and thirty-seven dollars.
"What!" exclaimed Artemus.
"That's my joke," said Goodman.
"But I was only exclaiming because it was not twice as much," laughed Ward, laying the money on the table.
Ward remained through the holidays, and later wrote back an affectionate letter to Mark Twain.
"I shall always remember Virginia as a bright spot in my existence," he said, "as all others must, or rather, cannot be, as it were."
With Artemus Ward's encouragement, Mark Twain now began sending work eastward. The "New York Sunday Mercury" published one, possibly more, of his sketches, but they were not in his best vein, and made little impression. He may have been too busy for outside work, for the legislative session of 1864 was just beginning. Furthermore, he had been chosen governor of the "Third House," a mock legislature, organized for one session, to be held as a church benefit. The "governor" was to deliver a message, which meant that he was to burlesque from the platform all public officials and personages, from the real governor down.
With the exception of a short talk he had once given at a printer's dinner in Keokuk, it was Mark Twain's first appearance as a speaker, and the beginning of a lifelong series of triumphs on the platform. The building was packed—the aisles full. The audience was ready for fun, and he gave it to them. Nobody escaped ridicule; from beginning to end the house was a storm of laughter and applause.
Not a word of this first address of Mark Twain's has been preserved, but those who heard it always spoke of it as the greatest effort of his life, as to them it seemed, no doubt.
For his Third House address, Clemens was presented with a gold watch, inscribed "To Governor Mark Twain." Everywhere, now, he was pointed out as a distinguished figure, and his quaint remarks were quoted. Few of these sayings are remembered to-day, though occasionally one is still unforgotten. At a party one night, being urged to make a conundrum, he said: