She had seen Pharaoh drown, and the fright had caused the bald spot on her head. She could ward off witches and dissolve spells.

Uncle Dan'l was another favorite, a kind-hearted, gentle soul, who long after, as Nigger Jim in the Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn tales, would win world-wide love and sympathy.

Through that far-off, warm, golden summer-time Little Sam romped and dreamed and grew. He would return each summer to the farm during those early years. It would become a beautiful memory. His mother generally kept him there until the late fall, when the chilly evenings made them gather around the wide, blazing fireplace. Sixty years later he wrote:

"I can see the room yet with perfect clearness. I can see all its belongings, all its details; the family-room of the house, with the trundle-bed in one corner and the spinning-wheel in another--a wheel whose rising and falling wail, heard from a distance, was the mournfulest of all sounds to me and made me homesick and low- spirited and filled my atmosphere with the wandering spirits of the dead; the vast fireplace, piled high with flaming logs from whose ends a sugary sap bubbled out but did not go to waste, for we scraped it off and ate it; . . . the lazy cat spread out on the rough hearthstones, the drowsy dogs braced against the jambs, blinking; my aunt in one chimney-corner, and my uncle in the other, smoking his corn-cob pipe."

It is hard not to tell more of the farm, for the boy who was one day going to write of Tom and Huck and the rest learned there so many things that Tom and Huck would need to know.

But he must have "book-learning," too, Jane Clemens said. On his return to Hannibal that first summer, she decided that Little Sam was ready for school. He was five years old and regarded as a "stirring child."

"He drives me crazy with his didoes when he's in the house," his mother declared, "and when he's out of it I'm expecting every minute that some one will bring him home half dead."

Mark Twain used to say that he had had nine narrow escapes from drowning, and it was at this early age that he was brought home one afternoon in a limp state, having been pulled from a deep hole in Bear Creek by a slave girl.

When he was restored, his mother said: "I guess there wasn't much danger. People born to be hanged are safe in water."

Mark Twain's mother was the original of Aunt Polly in the story of Tom Sawyer, an outspoken, keen-witted, charitable woman, whom it was good to know. She had a heart full of pity, especially for dumb creatures. She refused to kill even flies, and punished the cat for catching mice. She would drown young kittens when necessary, but warmed the water for the purpose. She could be strict, however, with her children, if occasion required, and recognized their faults.

Little Sam was inclined to elaborate largely on fact. A neighbor once said to her: "You don't believe anything that child says, I hope."

"Oh yes, I know his average. I discount him ninety per cent. The rest is pure gold."

She declared she was willing to pay somebody to take him off her hands for a part of each day and try to teach him "manners." A certain Mrs. E. Horr was selected for the purpose.

Mrs. Horr's school on Main Street, Hannibal, was of the old-fashioned kind. There were pupils of all ages, and everything was taught up to the third reader and long division. Pupils who cared to go beyond those studies went to a Mr. Cross, on the hill, facing what is now the public square. Mrs. Horr received twenty-five cents a week for each pupil, and the rules of conduct were read daily. After the rules came the A-B-C class, whose recitation was a hand-to-hand struggle, requiring no study- time.

The rules of conduct that first day interested Little Sam. He wondered how nearly he could come to breaking them and escape. He experimented during the forenoon, and received a warning. Another experiment would mean correction. He did not expect to be caught again; but when he least expected it he was startled by a command to go out and bring a stick for his own punishment.

The Boys Life of Mark Twain Page 06

Mark Twain

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Mark Twain
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