Sam Clemens never liked unnecessary exertion. One night, when the pipe had gone out for the second time, he happened to hear the young book-clerk, Brownell, passing up to his room on the top floor. Sam called to him:
"Ed, come here!"
Brownell poked his head in the door. The two were great chums.
"What will you have, Sam?" he asked.
"Come in, Ed; Henry's asleep, and I'm in trouble. I want somebody to light my pipe."
"Why don't you light it yourself?" Brownell asked.
"I would, only I knew you'd be along in a few minutes and would do it for me."
Brownell scratched a match, stooped down, and applied it.
"What are you reading, Sam?"
"Oh, nothing much--a so-called funny book. One of these days I'll write a funnier book myself."
Brownell laughed. "No, you won't, Sam," he said. "You're too lazy ever to write a book."
Years later, in the course of a lecture which he delivered in Keokuk, Mark Twain said that he supposed the most untruthful man in the world lived right there in Keokuk, and that his name was Ed Brownell.
Orion Clemens did not have the gift of prosperity, and his printing- office did not flourish. When he could no longer pay Sam's wages he took him into partnership, which meant that Sam got no wages at all, though this was of less consequence, since his mother, now living with Pamela, was well provided for. The disorder of the office, however, distressed him. He wrote home that he could not work without system, and, a little later, that he was going to leave Keokuk, that, in fact, he was planning a great adventure--a trip to the upper Amazon!
His interest in the Amazon had been awakened by a book. Lynch and Herndon had surveyed the upper river, and Lieutenant Herndon's book was widely read. Sam Clemens, propped up in bed, pored over it through long evenings, and nightly made fabulous fortunes collecting cocoa and other rare things--resolving, meantime, to start in person for the upper Amazon with no unnecessary delay. Boy and man, Samuel Clemens was the same. His vision of grand possibilities ahead blinded him to the ways and means of arrival. It was an inheritance from both sides of his parentage. Once, in old age, he wrote:
"I have been punished many and many a time, and bitterly, for doing things and reflecting afterward . . . . When I am reflecting on these occasions, even deaf persons can hear me think."
He believed, however, that he had reflected carefully concerning the Amazon, and that in a brief time he should be there at the head of an expedition, piling up untold wealth. He even stirred the imaginations of two other adventurers, a Dr. Martin and a young man named Ward. To Henry, then in St. Louis, he wrote, August 5, 1856:
"Ward and I held a long consultation Sunday morning, and the result was that we two have determined to start to Brazil, if possible, in six weeks from now, in order to look carefully into matters there and report to Dr. Martin in time for him to follow on the first of March."
The matter of finance troubled him. Orion could not be depended on for any specified sum, and the fare to the upper Amazon would probably be considerable. Sam planned different methods of raising it. One of them was to go to New York or Cincinnati and work at his trade until he saved the amount. He would then sail from New York direct, or take boat for New Orleans and sail from there. Of course there would always be vessels clearing for the upper Amazon. After Lieutenant Herndon's book the ocean would probably be full of them.
He did not make the start with Ward, as planned, and Ward and Martin seem to have given up the Amazon idea. Not so with Samuel Clemens. He went on reading Herndon, trying meantime to raise money enough to get him out of Keokuk. Was it fate or Providence that suddenly placed it in his hands? Whatever it was, the circumstance is so curious that it must be classed as one of those strange facts that have no place in fiction.
The reader will remember how, one day in Hannibal, the wind had brought to Sam Clemens, then printer's apprentice, a stray leaf from a book about "Joan of Arc," and how that incident marked a turning-point in his mental life.