This was in 1851. Nearly sixty years later he said:

"Seeing them in print was a joy which rather exceeded anything in that line I have ever experienced since."

However, he wrote nothing further for the "Post." Orion printed two of his sketches in the "Journal," which was the extent of his efforts at this time. None of this early work has been preserved. Files of the "Post" exist, but the sketches were unsigned and could hardly be identified.

The Hannibal paper dragged along from year to year. Orion could pay nothing on the mortgage--financial matters becoming always worse. He could barely supply the plainest food and clothing for the family. Sam and Henry got no wages, of course. Then real disaster came. A cow got into the office one night, upset a type-case, and ate up two composition rollers. Somewhat later a fire broke out and did considerable damage. There was partial insurance, with which Orion replaced a few necessary articles; then, to save rent, he moved the office into the front room of the home on Hill Street, where they were living again at this time.

Samuel Clemens, however, now in his eighteenth year, felt that he was no longer needed in Hannibal. He was a capable workman, with little to do and no reward. Orion, made irritable by his misfortunes, was not always kind. Pamela, who, meantime, had married well, was settled in St. Louis. Sam told his mother that he would visit Pamela and look about the city. There would be work in St. Louis at good wages.

He was going farther than St. Louis, but he dared not tell her. Jane Clemens, consenting, sighed as she put together his scanty belongings. Sam was going away. He had been a good boy of late years, but her faith in his resisting powers was not strong. Presently she held up a little Testament.

"I want you to take hold of the other end of this, Sam," she said, "and make me a promise."

The slim, wiry woman of forty-nine, gray-eyed, tender, and resolute, faced the fair-cheeked youth of seventeen, his eyes as piercing and unwavering as her own. How much alike they were!

"I want you," Jane Clemens said, "to repeat after me, Sam, these words: I do solemnly swear that I will not throw a card or drink a drop of liquor while I am gone."

He repeated the vow after her, and she kissed him.

"Remember that, Sam, and write to us," she said.

"And so," writes Orion, "he went wandering in search of that comfort and advancement, and those rewards of industry, which he had failed to find where I was--gloomy, taciturn, and selfish. I not only missed his labor; we all missed his abounding activity and merriment."

IX.

THE OPEN ROAD

Samuel Clemens went to visit his sister Pamela in St. Louis and was presently at work, setting type on the "Evening News." He had no intention, however, of staying there. His purpose was to earn money enough to take him to New York City. The railroad had by this time reached St. Louis, and he meant to have the grand experience of a long journey "on the cars." Also, there was a Crystal Palace in New York, where a world's exposition was going on.

Trains were slow in 1853, and it required several days and nights to go from St. Louis to New York City, but to Sam Clemens it was a wonderful journey. All day he sat looking out of the window, eating when he chose from the food he carried, curling up in his seat at night to sleep. He arrived at last with a few dollars in his pocket and a ten-dollar bill sewed into the lining of his coat.

New York was rather larger than he expected. All of the lower end of Manhattan Island was covered by it. The Crystal Palace--some distance out--stood at Forty-second Street and Sixth Avenue--the present site of Bryant Park. All the world's newest wonders were to be seen there--a dazzling exhibition. A fragment of the letter which Sam Clemens wrote to his sister Pamela--the earliest piece of Mark Twain's writing that has been preserved--expresses his appreciation of the big fair:

"From the gallery (second floor) you have a glorious sight--the flags of the different countries represented, the lofty dome, glittering jewelry, gaudy tapestry, etc., with the busy crowd passing to and fro--'tis a perfect fairy palace--beautiful beyond description.

The Boys Life of Mark Twain Page 19

Mark Twain

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book