Report had come of the arrival at Sanpahoe of an open boat containing fifteen starving men, who had been buffeting a stormy sea for forty-three days--sailors from the missing ship Hornet of New York, which, it appeared, had been burned at sea. Presently eleven of the rescued men were brought to Honolulu and placed in the hospital.

Mark Twain recognized the great importance as news of this event. It would be a splendid beat if he could interview the castaways and be the first to get their story in his paper. There was no cable, but a vessel was sailing for San Francisco next morning. It seemed the opportunity of a lifetime, but he was now bedridden and could scarcely move.

Then suddenly appeared in his room Anson Burlingame and his party, and, almost before Mark Twain realized what was happening, he was on a cot and, escorted by the heads of two legations, was on his way to the hospital to get the precious interview. Once there, Anson Burlingame, with his gentle manner and courtly presence, drew from those enfeebled castaways all the story of the burning of the vessel, followed by the long privation and struggle that had lasted through forty-three fearful days and across four thousand miles of stormy sea. All that Mark Twain had to do was to listen and make notes. That night he wrote against time, and next morning, just as the vessel was drifting from the dock, a strong hand flung his bulky manuscript aboard and his great beat was sure. The three-column story, published in the "Sacramento Union" of July 9, gave the public the first detailed history of the great disaster. The telegraph carried it everywhere, and it was featured as a sensation.

Mark Twain and the Burlingame party were much together during the rest of their stay in Hawaii, and Samuel Clemens never ceased to love and honor the memory of Anson Burlingame. It was proper that he should do so, for he owed him much--far more than has already been told.

Anson Burlingame one day said to him: "You have great ability; I believe you have genius. What you need now is the refinement of association. Seek companionship among men of superior intellect and character. Refine yourself and your work. Never affiliate with inferiors; always climb."

This, coming to him from a man of Burlingame's character and position, was like a gospel from some divine source. Clemens never forgot the advice. It gave him courage, new hope, new resolve, new ideals.

Burlingame came often to the hotel, and they discussed plans for Mark Twain's future. The diplomat invited the journalist to visit him in China:

"Come to Pekin," he said, "and make my house your home."

Young Burlingame also came, when the patient became convalescent, and suggested walks. Once, when Clemens hesitated, the young man said:

"But there is a scriptural command for you to go."

"If you can quote one, I'll obey," said Clemens.

"Very well; the Bible says: `If any man require thee to walk a mile, go with him Twain.'"

The walk was taken.

Mark Twain returned to California at the end of July, and went down to Sacramento. It was agreed that a special bill should be made for the "Hornet" report.

"How much do you think it ought to be, Mark?" asked one of the proprietors.

Clemens said: "Oh, I'm a modest man; I don't want the whole "Union" office; call it a hundred dollars a column."

There was a general laugh. The bill was made out at that figure, and he took it to the office for payment.

"The cashier didn't faint," he wrote many years later, "but he came rather near it. He sent for the proprietors, and they only laughed in their jolly fashion, and said it was robbery, but `no matter, pay it. It's all right.' The best men that ever owned a paper." [6]

[6] "My Debut as a Literary Person."

XXVI.

MARK TWAIN, LECTURER

In spite of the success of his Sandwich Island letters, Samuel Clemens felt, on his return to San Francisco, that his future was not bright. He was not a good, all-round newspaper man--he was special correspondent and sketch-writer, out of a job.

The Boys Life of Mark Twain Page 51

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