Clemens now concluded to cover his lecture circuit of two years before. He was assured that it would be throwing away a precious opportunity not to give his new lecture to his old friends. The result justified that opinion. At Virginia, at Carson, and elsewhere he was received like a returned conqueror. He might have been accorded a Roman triumph had there been time and paraphernalia. Even the robbers had reformed, and entire safety was guaranteed him on the Divide between Virginia and Gold Hill. At Carson he called on Mrs. Curry, as in the old days, and among other things told her how snow from the Lebanon Mountains is brought to Damascus on the backs of camels.
"Sam," she said, "that's just one of your yarns, and if you tell it in your lecture to-night I'll get right up and say so."
But he did tell it, for it was a fact; and though Mrs. Curry did not rise to deny it she shook her finger at him in a way he knew.
He returned to San Francisco and gave one more lecture, the last he would ever give in California. His preparatory advertising for that occasion was wholly unique, characteristic of him to the last degree. It assumed the form of a handbill of protest, supposed to have been issued by the foremost citizens of San Francisco, urging him to return to the States without inflicting himself further upon them. As signatures he made free with the names of prominent individuals, followed by those of organizations, institutions, "Various Benevolent Societies, Citizens on Foot and Horseback, and fifteen hundred in the Steerage."
Following this (on the same bill) was his reply, "To the fifteen hundred and others," in which he insisted on another hearing:
I will torment the people if I want to.... It only costs the people $1 apiece, and if they can't stand it what do they stay here for?... My last lecture was not as fine as I thought it was, but I have submitted this discourse to several able critics, and they have pronounced it good. Now, therefore, why should I withhold it?
He promised positively to sail on the 6th of July if they would let him talk just this once. Continuing, the handbill presented a second protest, signed by the various clubs and business firms; also others bearing variously the signatures of the newspapers, and the clergy, ending with the brief word:
You had better go. Yours, CHIEF OF POLICE.
All of which drollery concluded with his announcement of place and date of his lecture, with still further gaiety at the end. Nothing short of a seismic cataclysm--an earthquake, in fact--could deter a San Francisco audience after that. Mark Twain's farewell address, given at the Mercantile Library July 2 (1868), doubtless remains today the leading literary event in San Francisco's history.--[Copy of the lecture announcement, complete, will be found in Appendix H, at the end of last volume.]
He sailed July 6th by the Pacific mail steamer Montana to Acapulco, caught the Henry Chauncey at Aspinwall, reached New York on the 28th, and a day or two later had delivered his manuscript at Hartford.
But a further difficulty had arisen. Bliss was having troubles himself, this time, with his directors. Many reports of Mark Twain's new book had been traveling the rounds of the press, some of which declared it was to be irreverent, even blasphemous, in tone. The title selected, The New Pilgrim's Progress, was in itself a sacrilege. Hartford was a conservative place; the American Publishing Company directors were of orthodox persuasion. They urged Bliss to relieve the company of this impending disaster of heresy. When the author arrived one or more of them labored with him in person, without avail. As for Bliss, he was stanch; he believed in the book thoroughly, from every standpoint. He declared if the company refused to print it he would resign the management and publish the book himself. This was an alarming suggestion to the stockholders. Bliss had returned dividends--a boon altogether too rare in the company's former history.