This was rather dazing. It was sudden, and, then, he did not know much about choosing sticks for such a purpose. Jane Clemens had commonly used her hand. A second command was needed to start him in the right direction, and he was still dazed when he got outside. He had the forests of Missouri to select from, but choice was not easy. Everything looked too big and competent. Even the smallest switch had a wiry look. Across the way was a cooper's shop. There were shavings outside, and one had blown across just in front of him. He picked it up, and, gravely entering the room, handed it to Mrs. Horr. So far as known, it is the first example of that humor which would one day make Little Sam famous before all the world.
It was a failure in this instance. Mrs. Horr's comic side may have prompted forgiveness, but discipline must be maintained.
"Samuel Langhorne Clemens," she said (he had never heard it all strung together in that ominous way), "I am ashamed of you! Jimmy Dunlap, go and bring a switch for Sammy." And the switch that Jimmy Dunlap brought was of a kind to give Little Sam a permanent distaste for school. He told his mother at noon that he did not care for education; that he did not wish to be a great man; that his desire was to be an Indian and scalp such persons as Mrs. Horr. In her heart Jane Clemens was sorry for him, but she openly said she was glad there was somebody who could take him in hand.
Little Sam went back to school, but he never learned to like it. A school was ruled with a rod in those days, and of the smaller boys Little Sam's back was sore as often as the next. When the days of early summer came again, when from his desk he could see the sunshine lighting the soft green of Holliday's Hill, with the glint of the river and the purple distance beyond, it seemed to him that to be shut up with a Webster spelling-book and a cross teacher was more than human nature could bear. There still exists a yellow slip of paper upon which, in neat, old- fashioned penmanship is written:
MISS PAMELA CLEMENS
Has won the love of her teacher and schoolmates by her amiable deportment and faithful application to her various studies.
E. HORR, Teacher.
Thus we learn that Little Sam's sister, eight years older than himself, attended the same school, and that she was a good pupil. If any such reward of merit was ever conferred on Little Sam, it has failed to come to light. If he won the love of his teacher and playmates, it was probably for other reasons.
Yet he must have learned somehow, for he could read, presently, and was a good speller for his age.
EDUCATION OUT OF SCHOOL
On their arrival in Hannibal, the Clemens family had moved into a part of what was then the Pavey Hotel. They could not have remained there long, for they moved twice within the next few years, and again in 1844 into a new house which Judge Clemens, as he was generally called, had built on Hill Street--a house still standing, and known to-day as the Mark Twain home.
John Clemens had met varying fortunes in Hannibal. Neither commerce nor the practice of law had paid. The office of justice of the peace, to which he was elected, returned a fair income, but his business losses finally obliged him to sell Jennie, the slave girl. Somewhat later his business failure was complete. He surrendered everything to his creditors, even to his cow and household furniture, and relied upon his law practice and justice fees. However, he seems to have kept the Tennessee land, possibly because no one thought it worth taking. There had been offers for it earlier, but none that its owner would accept. It appears to have been not even considered by his creditors, though his own faith in it never died.
The struggle for a time was very bitter. Orion Clemens, now seventeen, had learned the printer's trade and assisted the family with his wages. Mrs. Clemens took a few boarders. In the midst of this time of hardship little Benjamin Clemens died.