There are not thirty men left alive who, being told there was a pocket hidden on the broad slope of a mountain, would know how to go and find it, or have even the faintest idea of how to set about it; but I am one of the possible 20 or 30 who possess the secret, and I could go and put my hand on that hidden treasure with a most deadly precision.

And I've been a prospector, and know pay rock from poor when I find it--just with a touch of the tongue. And I've been a silver miner and know how to dig and shovel and drill and put in a blast. And so I know the mines and the miners interiorly as well as Bret Harte knows them exteriorly.

And I was a newspaper reporter four years in cities, and so saw the inside of many things; and was reporter in a legislature two sessions and the same in Congress one session, and thus learned to know personally three sample bodies of the smallest minds and the selfishest souls and the cowardliest hearts that God makes.

And I was some years a Mississippi pilot, and familiarly knew all the different kinds of steamboatmen--a race apart, and not like other folk.

And I was for some years a traveling "jour" printer, and wandered from city to city--and so I know that sect familiarly.

And I was a lecturer on the public platform a number of seasons and was a responder to toasts at all the different kinds of banquets-- and so I know a great many secrets about audiences--secrets not to be got out of books, but only acquirable by experience.

And I watched over one dear project of mine for years, spent a fortune on it, and failed to make it go--and the history of that would make a large book in which a million men would see themselves as in a mirror; and they would testify and say, Verily, this is not imagination; this fellow has been there--and after would they cast dust upon their heads, cursing and blaspheming.

And I am a publisher, and did pay to one author's widow (General Grant's) the largest copyright checks this world has seen- aggregating more than L80,000 in the first year.

And I have been an author for 20 years and an ass for 55.

Now then: as the most valuable capital or culture or education usable in the building of novels is personal experience I ought to be well equipped for that trade.

I surely have the equipment, a wide culture, and all of it real, none of it artificial, for I don't know anything about books.

This generous bill of literary particulars was fully warranted. Mark Twain's equipment was equal to his occasions. It is true that he was no longer young, and that his health was not perfect, but his resolution and his energy had not waned.

His need was imminent and he lost no time. He dug out from his pigeonholes such materials as he had in stock, selecting a few completed manuscripts for immediate disposal--among them his old article entitled, "Mental Telegraphy," written in 1878, when he had hesitated to offer it, in the fear that it would not be accepted by the public otherwise than as a joke. He added to it now a supplement and sent it to Mr. Alden, of Harper's Magazine.

Psychic interest had progressed in twelve years; also Mark Twain had come to be rather more seriously regarded. The article was accepted promptly! --[The publication of this article created a good deal of a stir and resulted in the first general recognition of what later became known as Telepathy. A good many readers insisted on regarding the whole matter as one of Mark Twain's jokes, but its serious acceptance was much wider.]-- The old sketch, "Luck," also found its way to Harper's Magazine, and other manuscripts were looked over and furbished up with a view to their disposal. Even the history game was dragged from the dust of its retirement, and Hall was instructed to investigate its chance of profit.

Then Mark Twain went to work in earnest.

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

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