We would start the men, and all would go well until the yawl would bring us on a heavy cake of ice, and then the men would drop like so many tenpins, while Brown assumed the horizontal in the bottom of the boat. After an hour's hard work we got back, with ice half an inch thick on the oars . . . . The next day was colder still. I was out in the yawl twice, and then we got through, but the infernal steamboat came near running over us . . . . The "Maria Denning" was aground at the head of the island; they hailed us; we ran alongside, and they hoisted us in and thawed us out. We had been out in the yawl from four in the morning until half-past nine without being near a fire. There was a thick coating of ice over men and yawl, ropes, and everything, and we looked like rock-candy statuary.
He was at the right age to enjoy such adventures, and to feel a pride in them. In the same letter he tells how he found on the "Pennsylvania" a small clerkship for his brother Henry, who was now nearly twenty, a handsome, gentle boy of whom Sam was lavishly fond and proud. The young pilot was eager to have Henry with him--to see him started in life. How little he dreamed what sorrow would come of his well-meant efforts in the lad's behalf! Yet he always believed, later, that he had a warning, for one night at the end of May, in St. Louis, he had a vivid dream, which time would presently fulfil.
An incident now occurred on the "Pennsylvania" that closed Samuel Clemens's career on that boat. It was the down trip, and the boat was in Eagle Bend when Henry Clemens appeared on the hurricane deck with an announcement from the captain of a landing a little lower down. Brown, who would never own that he was rather deaf, probably misunderstood the order. They were passing the landing when the captain appeared on the deck.
"Didn't Henry tell you to land here?" he called to Brown.
Captain Klinefelter turned to Sam. "Didn't you hear him?"
Brown said: "Shut your mouth! You never heard anything of the kind!"
Henry appeared, not suspecting any trouble.
Brown said, fiercely, "Here, why didn't you tell me we had got to land at that plantation?"
"I did tell you, Mr. Brown," Henry said, politely.
"It's a lie!"
Sam Clemens could stand Brown's abuse of himself, but not of Henry. He said: "You lie yourself. He did tell you!"
For a cub pilot to defy his chief was unheard of. Brown was dazed, then he shouted:
"I'll attend to your case in half a minute!" And to Henry, "Get out of here!"
Henry had started when Brown seized him by the collar and struck him in the face. An instant later Sam was upon Brown with a heavy stool and stretched him on the floor. Then all the repressed fury of months broke loose; and, leaping upon Brown and holding him down with his knees, Samuel Clemens pounded the tyrant with his fists till his strength gave out. He let Brown go then, and the latter, with pilot instinct, sprang to the wheel, for the boat was drifting. Seeing she was safe, he seized a spy-glass as a weapon and ordered his chastiser out of the pilot-house. But Sam lingered. He had become very calm, and he openly corrected Brown's English.
"Don't give me none of your airs!" yelled Brown. "I ain't goin' to stand nothin' more from you!"
"You should say, `Don't give me any of your airs,'" Sam said, sweetly, "and the last half of your sentence almost defies correction."
A group of passengers and white-aproned servants, assembled on the deck forward, applauded the victor. Sam went down to find Captain Klinefelter. He expected to be put in irons, for it was thought to be mutiny to strike a pilot.
The captain took Sam into his private room and made some inquiries. Mark Twain, in the "Mississippi" boot remembers them as follows:
"Did you strike him first?" Captain Klinefelter asked.
"A stool, sir."
"Did it knock him down?"
"He--he fell, sir."
"Did you follow it up? Did you do anything further?"
"What did you do?"
"Pounded him, sir."
"Did you pound him much--that is, severely?"
"One might call it that, sir, maybe."
"I am mighty glad of it! Hark ye--never mention that I said that! You have been guilty of a great crime; and don't ever be guilty of it again on this boat, but--lay for him ashore! Give him a good, sound thrashing, do you hear? I'll pay the expenses."
In a letter which Samuel Clemens wrote to Orion's wife, immediately after this incident, he gives the details of the encounter with Brown and speaks of Captain Klinefelter's approval. Brown declared he would leave the boat at New Orleans if Sam Clemens remained on it, and the captain told him to go, offering to let Sam himself run the daylight watches back to St.