What with advertising, establishing agencies, &c., you have got an enormous lot of machinery under way and hard at work in a wonderfully short space of time. It is easy to see, when one travels around, that one must be endowed with a deal of genuine generalship in order to maneuvre a publication whose line of battle stretches from end to end of a great continent, and whose foragers and skirmishers invest every hamlet and besiege every village hidden away in all the vast space between.
I'll back you against any publisher in America, Bliss--or elsewhere. Yrs as ever CLEMENS.
There is another letter written just at this time which of all letters must not be omitted here. Only five years earlier Mark Twain, poor, and comparatively unknown, had been carrying water while Jim Gillis and Dick Stoker washed out the pans of dirt in search of the gold pocket which they did not find. Clemens must have received a letter from Gillis referring to some particular occasion, but it has disappeared; the reply, however, always remained one of James Gillis's treasured possessions.
To James Gillis, in his cabin on Jackass Hill, Tuolumne Co., California:
ELMIRA, N.Y. Jan. 26, '70. DEAR JIM,--I remember that old night just as well! And somewhere among my relics I have your remembrance stored away. It makes my heart ache yet to call to mind some of those days. Still, it shouldn't--for right in the depths of their poverty and their pocket-hunting vagabondage lay the germ of my coming good fortune. You remember the one gleam of jollity that shot across our dismal sojourn in the rain and mud of Angels' Camp I mean that day we sat around the tavern stove and heard that chap tell about the frog and how they filled him with shot. And you remember how we quoted from the yarn and laughed over it, out there on the hillside while you and dear old Stoker panned and washed. I jotted the story down in my note-book that day, and would have been glad to get ten or fifteen dollars for it--I was just that blind. But then we were so hard up! I published that story, and it became widely known in America, India, China, England--and the reputation it made for me has paid me thousands and thousands of dollars since. Four or five months ago I bought into the Express (I have ordered it sent to you as long as you live--and if the book keeper sends you any bills, you let me hear of it.) I went heavily in debt never could have dared to do that, Jim, if we hadn't heard the jumping Frog story that day.
And wouldn't I love to take old Stoker by the hand, and wouldn't I love to see him in his great specialty, his wonderful rendition of "Rinalds" in the" Burning Shame!" Where is Dick and what is he doing? Give him my fervent love and warm old remembrances.
A week from today I shall be married to a girl even better, and lovelier than the peerless "Chapparal Quails." You can't come so far, Jim, but still I cordially invite you to come, anyhow--and I invite Dick, too. And if you two boys were to land here on that pleasant occasion, we would make you right royally welcome. Truly your friend, SAML L. CLEMENS.
P. S. "California plums are good, Jim--particularly when they are stewed."
Steve Gillis, who sent a copy of his letter to the writer, added: "Dick Stoker--dear, gentle unselfish old Dick-died over three years ago, aged 78. I am sure it will be a melancholy pleasure to Mark to know that Dick lived in comfort all his later life, sincerely loved and respected by all who knew him. He never left Jackass Hill. He struck a pocket years ago containing enough not only to build himself a comfortable house near his old cabin, but to last him, without work, to his painless end.