They did not know they were glimpsing the first outcroppings of a genius that would one day amaze and entertain the nations. Neighbors hearing of these things (also certain of his narrations) remonstrated with Mrs. Clemens.
"You don't believe anything that child says, I hope."
"Oh yes, I know his average. I discount him ninety per cent. The rest is pure gold." At another time she said: "Sammy is a well of truth, but you can't bring it all up in one bucket."
This, however, is digression; the incidents may have happened somewhat later.
A certain Miss E. Horr was selected to receive the payment for taking charge of Little Sam during several hours each day, directing him mentally and morally in the mean time. Her school was then in a log house on Main Street (later it was removed to Third Street), and was of the primitive old-fashioned kind, with pupils of all ages, ranging in advancement from the primer to the third reader, from the tables to long division, with a little geography and grammar and a good deal of spelling. Long division and the third reader completed the curriculum in that school. Pupils who decided to take a post-graduate course went to a Mr. Cross, who taught in a frame house on the hill facing what is now the Public Square.
Miss Horr received twenty-five cents a week for each pupil, and opened her school with prayer; after which came a chapter of the Bible, with explanations, and the rules of conduct. Then the A B C class was called, because their recital was a hand-to-hand struggle, requiring no preparation.
The rules of conduct that first day interested Little Sam. He calculated how much he would need to trim in, to sail close to the danger-line and still avoid disaster. He made a miscalculation during the forenoon and received warning; a second offense would mean punishment. He did not mean to be caught the second time, but he had not learned Miss Horr yet, and was presently startled by being commanded to go out and bring a stick for his own correction.
This was certainly disturbing. It was sudden, and then he did not know much about the selection of sticks. Jane Clemens had usually used her hand. It required a second command to get him headed in the right direction, and he was a trifle dazed when he got outside. He had the forests of Missouri to select from, but choice was difficult. Everything looked too big and competent. Even the smallest switch had a wiry, discouraging look. Across the way was a cooper-shop with a good many shavings outside.
One had blown across and lay just in front of him. It was an inspiration. He picked it up and, solemnly entering the school-room, meekly handed it to Miss Herr.
Perhaps Miss Horr's sense of humor prompted forgiveness, but discipline must be maintained.
"Samuel Langhorne Clemens," she said (he had never heard it all strung together in that ominous way), "I am ashamed of you! Jimmy Dunlap, go and bring a switch for Sammy." And Jimmy Dunlap went, and the switch was of a sort to give the little boy an immediate and permanent distaste for school. He informed his mother when he went home at noon that he did not care for school; that he had no desire to be a great man; that he preferred to be a pirate or an Indian and scalp or drown such people as Miss Horr. Down in her heart his mother was sorry for him, but what she said was that she was glad there was somebody at last who could take him in hand.
He returned to school, but he never learned to like it. Each morning he went with reluctance and remained with loathing--the loathing which he always had for anything resembling bondage and tyranny or even the smallest curtailment of liberty. A School was ruled with a rod in those days, a busy and efficient rod, as the Scripture recommended. Of the smaller boys Little Sam's back was sore as often as the next, and he dreamed mainly of a day when, grown big and fierce, he would descend with his band and capture Miss Horr and probably drag her by the hair, as he had seen Indians and pirates do in the pictures.