He promised Ward that he would send work to the Eastern papers.
On Christmas Eve, Ward gave a dinner to the "Enterprise" staff, at Chaumond's, a fine French restaurant of that day. When refreshments came, Artemus lifted his glass, and said:
"I give you Upper Canada."
The company rose and drank the toast in serious silence. Then Mr. Goodman said:
"Of course, Artemus, it's all right, but why did you give us Upper Canada?"
"Because I don't want it myself," said Ward, gravely.
What would one not give to have listened to the talk of that evening! Mark Twain's power had awakened; Artemus Ward was in his prime. They were giants of a race that became extinct when Mark Twain died.
Goodman remained rather quiet during the evening. Ward had appointed him to order the dinner, and he had attended to this duty without mingling much in the conversation. When Ward asked him why he did not join the banter, he said:
"I am preparing a joke, Artemus, but I am keeping it for the present."
At a late hour Ward finally called for the bill. It was two hundred and thirty-seven dollars.
"What!" exclaimed Artemus.
"That's my joke," said Goodman.
"But I was only exclaiming because it was not twice as much," laughed Ward, laying the money on the table.
Ward remained through the holidays, and later wrote back an affectionate letter to Mark Twain.
"I shall always remember Virginia as a bright spot in my existence," he said, "as all others must, or rather, cannot be, as it were."
With Artemus Ward's encouragement, Mark Twain now began sending work eastward. The "New York Sunday Mercury" published one, possibly more, of his sketches, but they were not in his best vein, and made little impression. He may have been too busy for outside work, for the legislative session of 1864 was just beginning. Furthermore, he had been chosen governor of the "Third House," a mock legislature, organized for one session, to be held as a church benefit. The "governor" was to deliver a message, which meant that he was to burlesque from the platform all public officials and personages, from the real governor down.
With the exception of a short talk he had once given at a printer's dinner in Keokuk, it was Mark Twain's first appearance as a speaker, and the beginning of a lifelong series of triumphs on the platform. The building was packed--the aisles full. The audience was ready for fun, and he gave it to them. Nobody escaped ridicule; from beginning to end the house was a storm of laughter and applause.
Not a word of this first address of Mark Twain's has been preserved, but those who heard it always spoke of it as the greatest effort of his life, as to them it seemed, no doubt.
For his Third House address, Clemens was presented with a gold watch, inscribed "To Governor Mark Twain." Everywhere, now, he was pointed out as a distinguished figure, and his quaint remarks were quoted. Few of these sayings are remembered to-day, though occasionally one is still unforgotten. At a party one night, being urged to make a conundrum, he said:
"Well, why am I like the Pacific Ocean?"
Several guesses were made, but he shook his head. Some one said:
"We give it up. Tell us, Mark, why are you like the Pacific Ocean?"
"I--don't--know," he drawled. "I was just--asking for information."
The governor of Nevada was generally absent, and Orion Clemens was executive head of the territory. His wife, who had joined him in Carson City, was social head of the little capital, and Brother Sam, with his new distinction and now once more something of a dandy in dress, was society's chief ornament--a great change, certainly, from the early months of his arrival less than three years before.
It was near the end of May, 1864, when Mark Twain left Nevada for San Francisco. The immediate cause of his going was a duel--a duel elaborately arranged between Mark Twain and the editor of a rival paper, but never fought. In fact, it was mainly a burlesque affair throughout, chiefly concocted by that inveterate joker, Steve Gillis, already mentioned in connection with the pipe incident.