Fear melted away, and as tide after tide of applause rose and billowed and came breaking at his feet, he knew something of the exaltation of Monte Cristo when he declared "The world is mine!"
It was a vast satisfaction to have succeeded. It was particularly gratifying at this time, for he dreaded going back into newspaper harness. Also; it softened later the disappointment resulting from another venture; for when the December Harper appeared, with his article, the printer and proof-reader had somehow converted Mark Twain into "Mark Swain," and his literary dream perished.
As to the literary value of his lecture, it was much higher than had, been any portion of his letters, if we may judge from its few remaining fragments. One of these--a part of the description of the great volcano Haleakala, on the island of Maui--is a fair example of his eloquence.
It is somewhat more florid than his later description of the same scene in Roughing It, which it otherwise resembles; and we may imagine that its poetry, with the added charm of its delivery, held breathless his hearers, many of whom believed that no purer eloquence had ever been uttered or written.
It is worth remembering, too, that in this lecture, delivered so long ago, he advocated the idea of American ownership of these islands, dwelling at considerable length on his reasons for this ideal.
--[For fragmentary extracts from this first lecture of Mark Twain and news comment, see Appendix D, end of last volume.]--
There was a gross return from his venture of more than $1,200, but with his usual business insight, which was never foresight, he had made an arrangement by which, after paying bills and dividing with his manager, he had only about one-third of, this sum left. Still, even this was prosperity and triumph. He had acquired a new and lucrative profession at a bound. The papers lauded him as the "most piquant and humorous writer and lecturer on the Coast since the days of the lamented John Phoenix." He felt that he was on the highroad at last.
Denis McCarthy, late of the Enterprise, was in San Francisco, and was willing to become his manager. Denis was capable and honest, and Clemens was fond of him. They planned a tour of the near-by towns, beginning with Sacramento, extending it later even to the mining camps, such as Red Dog and Grass Valley; also across into Nevada, with engagements at Carson City, Virginia, and Gold Hill. It was an exultant and hilarious excursion--that first lecture tour made by Denis McCarthy and Mark Twain. Success traveled with them everywhere, whether the lecturer looked across the footlights of some pretentious "opera-house" or between the two tallow candles of some camp "academy." Whatever the building, it was packed, and the returns were maximum.
Those who remember him as a lecturer in that long-ago time say that his delivery was more quaint, his drawl more exaggerated, even than in later life; that his appearance and movements on the stage were natural, rather than graceful; that his manuscript, which he carried under his arm, looked like a ruffled hen. It was, in fact, originally written on sheets of manila paper, in large characters, so that it could be read easily by dim light, and it was doubtless often disordered.
There was plenty of amusing experience on this tour. At one place, when the lecture was over, an old man came to him and said:
"Be them your natural tones of eloquence?"
At Grass Valley there was a rival show, consisting of a lady tight-rope walker and her husband. It was a small place, and the tight-rope attraction seemed likely to fail. The lady's husband had formerly been a compositor on the Enterprise, so that he felt there was a bond of brotherhood between him and Mark Twain.
"Look here," he said. "Let's combine our shows. I'll let my wife do the tight-rope act outside and draw a crowd, and you go inside and lecture."
The arrangement was not made.
Following custom, the lecturer at first thought it necessary to be introduced, and at each place McCarthy had to skirmish around and find the proper person.