In the next letter we find him in the midst of a sort of confusion of affairs, which, in one form or another, would follow him throughout the rest of his life. It was the price of his success and popularity, combined with his general gift for being concerned with a number of things, and a natural tendency for getting into hot water, which becomes more evident as the years and letters pass in review. Orion Clemens, in his attempt to save money for the government, had employed methods and agents which the officials at Washington did not understand, and refused to recognize. Instead of winning the credit and commendation he had expected, he now found himself pursued by claims of considerable proportions. The "land" referred to is the Tennessee tract, the heritage which John Clemens had provided for his children. Mark Twain had long since lost faith in it, and was not only willing, but eager to renounce his rights.
"Nasby" is, of course, David R. Locke, of the Toledo Blade, whose popularity at this time both as a lecturer and writer was very great. Clemens had met him here and there on their platform tour, and they had become good friends. Clemens, in fact, had once proposed to Nasby a joint trip to the Pacific coast.
The California idea had been given up, but both Mark Twain and Nasby found engagements enough, and sufficient profit east of the Mississippi. Boston was often their headquarters that winter ('69 and '70), and they were much together. "Josh Billings," another of Redpath's lecturers, was likewise often to be found in the Lyceum offices. There is a photograph of Mark Twain, Nasby, and Josh Billings together.
Clemens also, that winter, met William Dean Howells, then in the early days of his association with the Atlantic Monthly. The two men, so widely different, became firm friends at sight, and it was to Howells in the years to come that Mark Twain would write more letters, and more characteristic letters, than to any other living man. Howells had favorably reviewed 'The Innocents Abroad,' and after the first moment of their introduction had passed Clemens said: "When I read that review of yours I felt like the woman who said that she was so glad that her baby had come white." It was not the sort of thing that Howells would have said, but it was the sort of thing that he could understand and appreciate from Mark Twain.
In company with Nasby Clemens, that season, also met Oliver Wendell Holmes. Later he had sent Holmes a copy of his book and received a pleasantly appreciative reply. "I always like," wrote Holmes, "to hear what one of my fellow countrymen, who is not a Hebrew scholar, or a reader of hiero-glyphics, but a good-humored traveler with a pair of sharp, twinkling Yankee (in the broader sense) eyes in his head, has to say about the things that learned travelers often make unintelligible, and sentimental ones ridiculous or absurd .... I hope your booksellers will sell a hundred thousand copies of your travels." A wish that was realized in due time, though it is doubtful if Doctor Holmes or any one else at the moment believed that a book of that nature and price (it was $3.50 a copy) would ever reach such a sale.
To Mrs. Moffett, in St. Louis:
BOSTON, Nov. 9, 1869. MY DEAR SISTER,--Three or four letters just received from home. My first impulse was to send Orion a check on my publisher for the money he wants, but a sober second thought suggested that if he has not defrauded the government out of money, why pay, simply because the government chooses to consider him in its debt? No: Right is right. The idea don't suit me. Let him write the Treasury the state of the case, and tell them he has no money.