"I have written seven long newspaper letters and a short magazine article in less than two days," he wrote home, and by the end of January he had also prepared several chapters of his book.
The San Francisco post-mastership was suggested to him again, but he put the temptation behind him. He refers to this more than once in his home letters, and it is clear that he wavered.
Judge Field said if I wanted the place he could pledge me the President's appointment, and Senator Corners said he would guarantee me the Senate's confirmation. It was a great temptation, but it would render it impossible to fill my book contract, and I had to drop the idea....
And besides I did not want the office.
He made this final decision when he heard that the chief editor of the Alta wanted the place, and he now threw his influence in that quarter. "I would not take ten thousand dollars out of a friend's pocket," he said.
But then suddenly came the news from Goodman that the Alta publishers had copyrighted his Quaker City letters and proposed getting them out in a book, to reimburse themselves still further on their investment. This was sharper than a serpent's tooth. Clemens got confirmation of the report by telegraph. By the same medium he protested, but to no purpose. Then he wrote a letter and sat down to wait. He reported his troubles to Orion:
I have made a superb contract for a book, and have prepared the first ten chapters of the sixty or eighty, but I will bet it never sees the light. Don't you let the folks at home hear that. That thieving Alta copyrighted the letters, and now shows no disposition to let me use them. I have done all I can by telegraph, and now await the final result by mail. I only charged them for 50 letters what (even in) greenbacks would amount to less than two thousand dollars, intending to write a good deal for high-priced Eastern papers, and now they want to publish my letters in book form themselves to get back that pitiful sum.
Orion was by this time back from Nevada, setting type in St. Louis. He was full of schemes, as usual, and his brother counsels him freely. Then he says:
We chase phantoms half the days of our lives. It is well if we learn wisdom even then, and save the other half.
I am in for it. I must go on chasing them, until I marry, then I am done with literature and all other bosh--that is, literature wherewith to please the general public.
I shall write to please myself then.
He closes by saying that he rather expects to go with Anson Burlingame on the Chinese embassy. Clearly he was pretty hopeless as to his book prospects.
His first meeting with General Grant occurred just at this time. In one of his home letters he mentions, rather airily, that he will drop in someday on the General for an interview; and at last, through Mrs. Grant, an appointment was made for a Sunday evening when the General would be at home. He was elated with the prospect of an interview; but when he looked into the imperturbable, square, smileless face of the soldier he found himself, for the first time in his life, without anything particular to say. Grant nodded slightly and waited. His caller wished something would happen. It did. His inspiration returned.
"General," he said, "I seem to be a little embarrassed. Are you?"
That broke the ice. There were no further difficulties.--[Mark Twain has variously related this incident. It is given here in accordance with the letters of the period.]
BACK TO SAN FRANCISCO
Reply came from the Alta, but it was not promising. It spoke rather vaguely of prior arrangements and future possibilities. Clemens gathered that under certain conditions he might share in the profits of the venture. There was but one thing to do; he knew those people--some of them--Colonel McComb and a Mr. McCrellish intimately. He must confer with them in person.
He was weary of Washington, anyway.