But now, as he read, there awoke in him a deep feeling of pity and indignation, and with it a longing to know more of the tragic story. It was an interest that would last his life through, and in the course of time find expression in one of the rarest books ever written.
The first result was that Sam began to read. He hunted up everything he could find on the subject of Joan, and from that went into French history in general--indeed, into history of every kind. Samuel Clemens had suddenly become a reader--almost a student. He even began the study of languages, German and Latin, but was not able to go on for lack of time and teachers.
He became a hater of tyranny, a champion of the weak. Watching a game of marbles or tops, he would remark to some offender, in his slow drawling way, "You mustn't cheat that boy."
And the cheating stopped, or trouble followed.
A Hannibal paper, the "Journal," was for sale under a mortgage of five hundred dollars, and Orion Clemens, returning from St. Louis, borrowed the money and bought it. Sam's two years' apprenticeship with Ament had been completed, and Orion felt that together they could carry on the paper and win success. Henry Clemens, now eleven, was also taken out of school to learn type-setting.
Orion was a better printer than proprietor. Like so many of his family, he was a visionary, gentle and credulous, ready to follow any new idea. Much advice was offered him, and he tried to follow it all.
He began with great hopes and energy. He worked like a slave and did not spare the others. The paper was their hope of success. Sam, especially, was driven. There were no more free afternoons. In some chapters written by Orion Clemens in later life, he said:
"I was tyrannical and unjust to Sam. He was swift and clean as a good journeyman. I gave him 'takes,' and, if he got through well, I begrudged him the time and made him work more."
Orion did not mean to be unjust. The struggle against opposition and debt was bitter. He could not be considerate.
The paper for a time seemed on the road to success, but Orion worked too hard and tried too many schemes. His enthusiasm waned and most of his schemes turned out poorly. By the end of the year the "Journal" was on the down grade.
In time when the need of money became great, Orion made a trip to Tennessee to try to raise something on the land which they still held there. He left Sam in charge of the paper, and, though its proprietor returned empty-handed, his journey was worth while, for it was during his absence that Samuel Clemens began the career that would one day make him Mark Twain.
Sam had concluded to edit the paper in a way that would liven up the circulation. He had never written anything for print, but he believed he knew what the subscribers wanted. The editor of a rival paper had been crossed in love, and was said to have tried to drown himself. Sam wrote an article telling all the history of the affair, giving names and details. Then on the back of two big wooden letters, used for bill- printing, he engraved illustrations of the victim wading out into the river, testing the depth of the water with a stick.
The paper came out, and the demand for it kept the Washington hand-press busy. The injured editor sent word that he was coming over to thrash the whole Journal staff, but he left town, instead, for the laugh was too general.
Sam also wrote a poem which startled orthodox readers. Then Orion returned and reduced him to the ranks. In later years Orion saw his mistake.
"I could have distanced all competitors, even then," he wrote, "if I had recognized Sam's ability and let him go ahead, merely keeping him from offending worthy persons."
Sam was not discouraged. He liked the taste of print. He sent two anecdotes to the Philadelphia Saturday Evening Post. Both were accepted --without payment, of course, in those days--and when they appeared he walked on air.