At either end of the trip there was respite and recreation. In St. Louis, at Pamela's there was likely to be company: Hannibal friends mostly, schoolmates--girls, of course. At New Orleans he visited friendly boats, especially the John J. Roe, where he was generously welcomed. One such visit on the Roe he never forgot. A young girl was among the boat's guests that trip-- another Laura, fifteen, winning, delightful. They met, and were mutually attracted; in the life of each it was one of those bright spots which are likely to come in youth: one of those sudden, brief periods of romance, love--call it what you will the thing that leads to marriage, if pursued.

"I was not four inches from that girl's elbow during our waking hours for the next three days."

Then came a sudden interruption: Zeb Leavenworth came flying aft shouting:

"The Pennsylvania is backing out."

A flutter of emotion, a fleeting good-by, a flight across the decks, a flying leap from romance back to reality, and it was all over. He wrote her, but received no reply. He never saw her again, never heard from her for forty-eight years, when both were married, widowed, and old. She had not received his letter.

Even on the Pennsylvania life had its interests. A letter dated March 9, 1858, recounts a delightfully dangerous night-adventure in the steamer's yawl, hunting for soundings in the running ice.

Then the fun commenced. We made fast a line 20 fathoms long, to the bow of the yawl, and put the men (both crews) to it like horses on the shore. Brown, the pilot, stood in the bow, with an oar, to keep her head out, and I took the tiller. We would start the men, and all would go well till the yawl would bring up on a heavy cake of ice, and then the men would drop like so many tenpins, while Brown assumed the horizontal in the bottom of the boat. After an hour's hard work we got back, with ice half an inch thick on the oars. Sent back and warped up the other yawl, and then George (George Ealer, the other pilot) and myself took a double crew of fresh men and tried it again. This time we found the channel in less than half an hour, and landed on an island till the Pennsylvania came along and took us off. The next day was colder still. I was out in the yawl twice, and then we got through, but the infernal steamboat came near running over us.... We sounded Hat Island, warped up around a bar, and sounded again--but in order to understand our situation you will have to read Dr. Kane. It would have been impossible to get back to the boat. But the Maria Denning was aground at the head of the island--they hailed us--we ran alongside, and they hoisted us in and thawed us out. We had then been out in the yawl from four o'clock in the morning till half past nine without being near a fire. There was a thick coating of ice over men, and yawl, ropes and everything else, and we looked like rock- candy statuary.

This was the sort of thing he loved in those days. We feel the writer's evident joy and pride in it. In the same letter he says: "I can't correspond with the paper, because when one is learning the river he is not allowed to do or think about anything else." Then he mentions his brother Henry, and we get the beginning of that tragic episode for which, though blameless, Samuel Clemens always held himself responsible.

Henry was doing little or nothing here (St. Louis), and I sent him to our clerk to work his way for a trip, measuring wood-piles, counting coal-boxes, and doing other clerkly duties, which he performed satisfactorily. He may go down with us again.

Henry Clemens was about twenty at this time, a handsome, attractive boy of whom his brother was lavishly fond and proud. He did go on the next trip and continued to go regularly after that, as third clerk in line of promotion. It was a bright spot in those hard days with Brown to have Henry along.

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

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