This was in 1853.

His brother Samuel was no longer with him. Several months before, in June, Sam decided he would go out into the world. He was in his eighteenth year now, a good workman, faithful and industrious, but he had grown restless in unrewarded service. Beyond his mastery of the trade he had little to show for six years of hard labor. Once when he had asked Orion for a few dollars to buy a second-hand gun, Orion, exasperated by desperate circumstances, fell into a passion and rated him for thinking of such extravagance. Soon afterward Sam confided to his mother that he was going away; that he believed Orion hated him; that there was no longer a place for him at home. He said he would go to St. Louis, where Pamela was. There would be work for him in St. Louis, and he could send money home. His intention was to go farther than St. Louis, but he dared not tell her. His mother put together sadly enough the few belongings of what she regarded as her one wayward boy; then she held up a little Testament:

"I want you to take hold of the other end of this, Sam," she said, "and make me a promise."

If one might have a true picture of that scene: the shin, wiry woman of forty-nine, her figure as straight as her deportment, gray-eyed, tender, and resolute, facing the fair-cheeked, auburn-haired youth of seventeen, his eyes as piercing and unwavering as her own. Mother and son, they were of the same metal and the same mold.

"I want you to repeat after me, Sam, these words," Jane Clemens said. "I do solemnly swear that I will not throw a card or drink a drop of liquor while I am gone."

He repeated the oath after her, and she kissed him.

"Remember that, Sam, and write to us," she said.

"And so," Orion records, "he went wandering in search of that comfort and that advancement and those rewards of industry which he had failed to find where I was--gloomy, taciturn, and selfish. I not only missed his labor; we all missed his bounding activity and merriment."



He went to St. Louis by the night boat, visited his sister Pamela, and found a job in the composing-room of the Evening News. He remained on the paper only long enough to earn money with which to see the world. The "world" was New York City, where the Crystal Palace Fair was then going on. The railway had been completed by this time, but he had not traveled on it. It had not many comforts; several days and nights were required for the New York trip; yet it was a wonderful and beautiful experience. He felt that even Pet McMurry could hardly have done anything to surpass it. He arrived in New York with two or three dollars in his pocket and a ten-dollar bill concealed in the lining of his coat.

New York was a great and amazing city. It almost frightened him. It covered the entire lower end of Manhattan Island; visionary citizens boasted that one day it would cover it all. The World's Fair building, the Crystal Palace, stood a good way out. It was where Bryant Park is now, on Forty-second Street and Sixth Avenue. Young Clemens classed it as one of the wonders of the world and wrote lavishly of its marvels. A portion of a letter to his sister Pamela has been preserved and is given here not only for what it contains, but as the earliest existing specimen of his composition. The fragment concludes what was doubtless an exhaustive description.

From the gallery (second floor) you have a glorious sight--the flags of the different countries represented, the lofty dome, glittering jewelry, gaudy tapestry, etc., with the busy crowd passing to and fro 'tis a perfect fairy palace--beautiful beyond description.

The machinery department is on the main floor, but I cannot enumerate any of it on account of the lateness of the hour (past 1 o'clock). It would take more than a week to examine everything on exhibition; and I was only in a little over two hours to-night. I only glanced at about one-third of the articles; and, having a poor memory, I have enumerated scarcely any of even the principal objects.

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book