The teacher repeated the sentence, and again they were helpless when he asked if they recognized it.
Then in despair he showed them the book. It was an English primer, and the sentence was:
"The hen, it flies up in the air."
They explained to him gently that it was German they wished to learn, not English--not under the circumstances. Later, Sam made an attempt at Latin, and got a book for that purpose, but gave it up, saying:
"No, that language is not for me. I'll do well enough to learn English." A boy who took it up with him became a Latin scholar.
His prejudice against oppression he put into practice. Boys who were being imposed upon found in him a ready protector. Sometimes, watching a game of marbles or tops, he would remark in his slow, impressive way:
"You mustn't cheat that boy." And the cheating stopped. When it didn't, there was a combat, with consequences.
THE HANNIBAL "JOURNAL"
Orion returned from St. Louis. He felt that he was needed in Hannibal and, while wages there were lower, his expenses at home were slight; there was more real return for the family fund. His sister Pamela was teaching a class in Hannibal at this time. Orion was surprised when his mother and sister greeted him with kisses and tears. Any outward display of affection was new to him.
The family had moved back across the street by this time. With Sam supporting himself, the earnings of Orion and Pamela provided at least a semblance of comfort. But Orion was not satisfied. Then, as always, he had a variety of vague ambitions. Oratory appealed to him, and he delivered a temperance lecture with an accompaniment of music, supplied chiefly by Pamela. He aspired to the study of law, a recurring inclination throughout his career. He also thought of the ministry, an ambition which Sam shared with him for a time. Every mischievous boy has it, sooner or later, though not all for the same reasons.
"It was the most earnest ambition I ever had," Mark Twain once remarked, thoughtfully. "Not that I ever really wanted to be a preacher, but because it never occurred to me that a preacher could be damned. It looked like a safe job."
A periodical ambition of Orion's was to own and conduct a paper in Hannibal. He felt that in such a position he might become a power in Western journalism. Once his father had considered buying the Hannibal Journal to give Orion a chance, and possibly to further his own political ambitions. Now Orion considered it for himself. The paper was for sale under a mortgage, and he was enabled to borrow the $500 which would secure ownership. Sam's two years at Ament's were now complete, and Orion induced him to take employment on the Journal. Henry at eleven was taken out of school to learn typesetting.
Orion was a gentle, accommodating soul, but he lacked force and independence.
"I followed all the advice I received," he says in his record. "If two or more persons conflicted with each other, I adopted the views of the last."
He started full of enthusiasm. He worked like a slave to save help: wrote his own editorials, and made his literary selections at night. The others worked too. Orion gave them hard tasks and long hours. He had the feeling that the paper meant fortune or failure to them all; that all must labor without stint. In his usual self-accusing way he wrote afterward:
I was tyrannical and unjust to Sam. He was as swift and as clean as a good journeyman. I gave him tasks, and if he got through well I begrudged him the time and made him work more. He set a clean proof, and Henry a very dirty one. The correcting was left to be done in the form the day before publication. Once we were kept late, and Sam complained with tears of bitterness that he was held till midnight on Henry's dirty proofs.
Orion did not realize any injustice at the time. The game was too desperate to be played tenderly. His first editorials were so brilliant that it was not believed he could have written them.