When he found it difficult to pay his brother's wages, he took him into partnership, which meant that Sam got no wages at all, barely a living, for the office could not keep its head above water.
The junior partner was not disturbed, however. He cared little for money in those days, beyond his actual needs, and these were modest enough. His mother, now with Pamela, was amply provided for. Orion himself tells how his business dwindled away. He printed a Keokuk directory, but it did not pay largely. He was always too eager for the work; too low in his bid for it. Samuel Clemens in this directory is set down as "an antiquarian" a joke, of course, though the point of it is now lost.
Only two of his Keokuk letters have been preserved. The first indicates the general disorder of the office and a growing dissatisfaction. It is addressed to his mother and sister and bears date of June 10, 1856.
I don't like to work at too many things at once. They take Henry and Dick away from me, too. Before we commenced the Directory,-- [Orion printed two editions of the directory. This was probably the second one.]--I could tell before breakfast just how much work could be done during the day, and manage accordingly--but now, they throw all my plans into disorder by taking my hands away from their work.... I am not getting along well with the job-work. I can't work blindly--without system. I gave Dick a job yesterday, which I calculated he could set in two hours and I could work off on the press in three, and therefore just finish it by supper-time, but he was transferred to the Directory, and the job, promised this morning, remains untouched. Through all the great pressure of job- work lately, I never before failed in a promise of the kind . . .
The other letter is dated two months later, August 5th. It was written to Henry, who was visiting in St. Louis or Hannibal at the time, and introduces the first mention of the South American fever, which now possessed the writer. Lynch and Herndon had completed their survey of the upper Amazon, and Lieutenant Herndon's account of the exploration was being widely read. Poring over the book nights, young Clemens had been seized with a desire to go to the headwaters of the South American river, there to collect coca and make a fortune. All his life he was subject to such impulses as that, and ways and means were not always considered. It did not occur to him that it would be difficult to get to the Amazon and still more difficult to ascend the river. It was his nature to see results with a dazzling largeness that blinded him to the detail of their achievement. In the "Turning-point" article already mentioned he refers to this. He says:
That was more than fifty years ago. In all that time my temperament has not changed by even a shade. I have been punished many and many a time, and bitterly, for doing things and reflecting afterward, but these tortures have been of no value to me; I still do the thing commanded by Circumstance and Temperament, and reflect afterward. Always violently. When I am reflecting on these occasions, even deaf persons can hear me think.
In the letter to Henry we see that his resolve was already made, his plans matured; also that Orion had not as yet been taken into full confidence.
Ma knows my determination, but even she counsels me to keep it from Orion. She says I can treat him as I did her when I started to St. Louis and went to New York--I can start for New York and go to South America.
He adds that Orion had promised him fifty or one hundred dollars, but that he does not depend upon it, and will make other arrangements. He fears obstacles may be put in his way, and he will bring various influences to bear.
I shall take care that Ma and Orion are plentifully supplied with South American books: They have Herndon's report now. Ward and the Dr.