When the days of early summer came again; when from his desk he could see the sunshine lighting the soft green of Holliday's Hill, with the purple distance beyond, and the glint of the river, it seemed to him that to be shut up with a Webster's spelling-book and a cross old maid was more than human nature could bear. Among the records preserved from that far-off day there remains a yellow slip, whereon in neat old-fashioned penmanship is inscribed:
MISS PAMELA CLEMENS
Has won the love of her teacher and schoolmates by her amiable deportment and faithful application to her various studies. E. Horr, Teacher.
If any such testimonial was ever awarded to Little Sam, diligent search has failed to reveal it. If he won the love of his teacher and playmates it was probably for other reasons.
Yet he must have learned, somehow, for he could read presently and was soon regarded as a good speller for his years. His spelling came as a natural gift, as did most of his attainments, then and later.
It has already been mentioned that Miss Horr opened her school with prayer and Scriptural readings. Little Sam did not especially delight in these things, but he respected them. Not to do so was dangerous. Flames were being kept brisk for little boys who were heedless of sacred matters; his home teaching convinced him of that. He also respected Miss Horr as an example of orthodox faith, and when she read the text "Ask and ye shall receive" and assured them that whoever prayed for a thing earnestly, his prayer would be answered, he believed it. A small schoolmate, the balker's daughter, brought gingerbread to school every morning, and Little Sam was just "honing" for some of it. He wanted a piece of that baker's gingerbread more than anything else in the world, and he decided to pray for it.
The little girl sat in front of him, but always until that morning had kept the gingerbread out of sight. Now, however, when he finished his prayer and looked up, a small morsel of the precious food lay in front of him. Perhaps the little girl could no longer stand that hungry look in his eyes. Possibly she had heard his petition; at all events his prayer bore fruit and his faith at that moment would have moved Holliday's Hill. He decided to pray for everything he wanted, but when he tried the gingerbread supplication next morning it had no result. Grieved, but still unshaken, he tried next morning again; still no gingerbread; and when a third and fourth effort left him hungry he grew despairing and silent, and wore the haggard face of doubt. His mother said:
"What's the matter, Sammy; are you sick?"
"No," he said, "but I don't believe in saying prayers any more, and I'm never going to do it again."
"Why, Sammy, what in the world has happened?" she asked, anxiously. Then he broke down and cried on her lap and told her, for it was a serious thing in that day openly to repudiate faith. Jane Clemens gathered him to her heart and comforted him.
"I'll make you a whole pan of gingerbread, better than that," she said, "and school will soon be out, too, and you can go back to Uncle John's farm."
And so passed and ended Little Sam's first school-days.
EARLY VICISSITUDE AND SORROW
Prosperity came laggingly enough to the Clemens household. The year 1840 brought hard times: the business venture paid little or no return; law practice was not much more remunerative. Judge Clemens ran for the office of justice of the peace and was elected, but fees were neither large nor frequent. By the end of the year it became necessary to part with Jennie, the slave-girl--a grief to all of them, for they were fond of her in spite of her wilfulness, and she regarded them as "her family." She was tall, well formed, nearly black, and brought a good price. A Methodist minister in Hannibal sold a negro child at the same time to another minister who took it to his home farther South. As the steamboat moved away from the landing the child's mother stood at the water's edge, shrieking her anguish.