In October he said, in a letter to Pamela, that he did not write to the family because he did not know their whereabouts, Orion having sold the paper and left Hannibal.
"I have been fooling myself with the idea that I was going to leave New York every day for the last two weeks," he adds, which sounds like the Mark Twain of fifty years later. Farther along, he tells of going to see Edwin Forrest, then playing at the Broadway Theater:
"The play was the 'Gladiator.' I did not like part of it much, but other portions were really splendid. In the latter part of the last act. . . the man's whole soul seems absorbed in the part he is playing; and it is real startling to see him. I am sorry I did not see him play "Damon and Pythias," the former character being the greatest. He appears in Philadelphia on Monday night."
A little farther along he says:
"If my letters do not come often, you need not bother yourself about me; for if you have a brother nearly eighteen years old who is not able to take care of himself a few miles from home, such a brother is not worth one's thoughts."
Sam Clemens may have followed Forrest to Philadelphia. At any rate, he was there presently, "subbing" in the composing-rooms of the "Inquirer," setting ten thousand ems a day, and receiving pay accordingly. When there was no vacancy for him to fill, he put in the time visiting the Philadelphia libraries, art galleries, and historic landmarks. After all, his chief business was sight-seeing. Work was only a means to this end. Chilly evenings, when he returned to his boarding-house, his room- mate, an Englishman named Sumner, grilled a herring over their small open fire, and this was a great feast. He tried writing--obituary poetry, for the "Philadelphia Ledger"--but it was not accepted.
"My efforts were not received with approval" was his comment long after.
In the "Inquirer" office there was a printer named Frog, and sometimes, when he went out, the office "devils" would hang over his case a line with a hook on it baited with a piece of red flannel. They never got tired of this joke, and Frog never failed to get fighting mad when he saw that dangling string with the bit of red flannel at the end. No doubt Sam Clemens had his share in this mischief.
Sam found that he liked Philadelphia. He could save a little money and send something to his mother--small amounts, but welcome. Once he inclosed a gold dollar, "to serve as a specimen of the kind of stuff we are paid with in Philadelphia." Better than doubtful "wild-cat," certainly. Of his work he writes:
"One man has engaged me to work for him every Sunday till the first of next April, when I shall return home to take Ma to Ky . . . . If I want to, I can get subbing every night of the week. I go to work at seven in the evening and work till three the next morning. . . . The type is mostly agate and minion, with some bourgeois, and when one gets a good agate "take," he is sure to make money. I made $2.50 last Sunday."
There is a long description of a trip on the Fairmount stage in this letter, well-written and interesting, but too long to have place here. In the same letter he speaks of the graves of Benjamin Franklin and his wife, which he had looked at through the iron railing of the locked inclosure. Probably it did not occur to him that there might be points of similarity between Franklin's career and his own. Yet in time these would be rather striking: each learned the printer's trade; each worked in his brother's office and wrote for the paper; each left quietly and went to New York, and from New York to Philadelphia, as a journeyman printer; each in due season became a world figure, many-sided, human, and of incredible popularity.
Orion Clemens, meantime, had bought a paper in Muscatine, Iowa, and located the family there. Evidently by this time he had realized the value of his brother as a contributor, for Sam, in a letter to Orion, says, "I will try to write for the paper occasionally, but I fear my letters will be very uninteresting, for this incessant night work dulls one's ideas amazingly."
Meantime, he had passed his eighteenth birthday, winter was coming on, he had been away from home half a year, and the first attack of homesickness was due.