Almost the first man he met was the chief of the New York Alta bureau with a check for twelve hundred and fifty dollars (the amount of his ticket) and a telegram saying, "Ship Mark Twain in the Holy Land Excursion and pay his passage."
--[The following letter, which bears no date, was probably handed to him later in the New York Alta office as a sort of credential:
ALTA CALIFORNIA OFFICE, 42 JOHN STREET, NEW YORK.
Sam'l Clemens, Esq., New York.
DEAR SIR,--I have the honor to inform you that Fred'k. MacCrellish & Co., Proprietors of Alta California, San Francisco, Cal., desire to engage your services as Special Correspondent on the pleasure excursion now about to proceed from this City to the Holy Land. In obedience to their instructions I have secured a passage for you on the vessel about to convey the excursion party referred to, and made such arrangements as I hope will secure your comfort and convenience. Your only instructions are that you will continue to write at such times and from such places as you deem proper, and in the same style that heretofore secured you the favor of the readers of the Alta California. I have the honor to remain, with high respect and esteem,
Your ob'dt. Servant,
JOHN J. MURPHY.]
The Alta, it appears, had already applied for his berth; but, not having been vouched for by Mr. Beecher or some other eminent divine, Clemens was fearful he might not be accepted. Quite casually he was enlightened on this point. While waiting for attention in the shipping-office, with the Alta agent, he heard a newspaper man inquire what notables were going. A clerk, with evident pride, rattled off the names:
"Lieutenant-General Sherman, Henry Ward Beecher, and Mask Twain; also probably General Banks."
So he was billed as an attraction. It was his first surreptitious taste of fame on the Atlantic coast, and not without its delight. The story often told of his being introduced by Ned House, of the Tribune, as a minister, though often repeated by Mark Twain himself, was in the nature of a joke, and mainly apocryphal. Clemens was a good deal in House's company at the time, for he had made an arrangement to contribute occasional letters to the Tribune, and House no doubt introduced him jokingly as one of the Quaker City ministers.
A NEW BOOK AND A LECTURE
Webb, meantime, had pushed the Frog book along. The proofs had been read and the volume was about ready for issue. Clemens wrote to his mother April 15th:
My book will probably be in the bookseller's hands in about two weeks. After that I shall lecture. Since I have been gone, the boys have gotten up a "call" on me signed by two hundred Californians.
The lecture plan was the idea of Frank Fuller, who as acting Governor of Utah had known Mark Twain on the Comstock, and prophesied favorably of his future career. Clemens had hunted up Fuller on landing in New York in January, and Fuller had encouraged the lecture then; but Clemens was doubtful.
"I have no reputation with the general public here," he said. "We couldn't get a baker's dozen to hear me."
But Fuller was a sanguine person, with an energy and enthusiasm that were infectious. He insisted that the idea was sound. It would solidify Mark Twain's reputation on the Atlantic coast, he declared, insisting that the largest house in New York, Cooper Union, should be taken. Clemens had partially consented, and Fuller had arranged with all the Pacific slope people who had come East, headed by ex-Governor James W. Nye (by this time Senator at Washington), to sign a call for the "Inimitable Mark Twain" to appear before a New York audience. Fuller made Nye agree to be there and introduce the lecturer, and he was burningly busy and happy in the prospect.
But Mark Twain was not happy. He looked at that spacious hall and imagined the little crowd of faithful Californian stragglers that might gather in to hear him, and the ridicule of the papers next day.