They were long, fermenting discourses that young Samuel Clemens listened to that winter in Macfarlane’s room, and those who knew the real Mark Twain and his philosophies will recognize that those evenings left their impress upon him for life.
THE OLD CALL OF THE RIVER
When spring came, with budding life and quickening impulses; when the trees in the parks began to show a hint of green, the Amazonian idea developed afresh, and the would-be coca-hunter prepared for his expedition. He had saved a little money—enough to take him to New Orleans—and he decided to begin his long trip with a peaceful journey down the Mississippi, for once, at least, to give himself up to that indolent luxury of the majestic stream that had been so large a part of his early dreams.
The Ohio River steamers were not the most sumptuous craft afloat, but they were slow and hospitable. The winter had been bleak and hard. “Spring fever” and a large love of indolence had combined in that drowsy condition which makes one willing to take his time.
Mark Twain tells us in Life on the Mississippi that he “ran away,” vowing never to return until he could come home a pilot, shedding glory. This is a literary statement. The pilot ambition had never entirely died; but it was coca and the Amazon that were uppermost in his head when he engaged passage on the Paul Jones for New Orleans, and so conferred immortality on that ancient little craft. He bade good-by to Macfarlane, put his traps aboard, the bell rang, the whistle blew, the gang-plank was hauled in, and he had set out on a voyage that was to continue not for a week or a fortnight, but for four years—four marvelous, sunlit years, the glory of which would color all that followed them.
In the Mississippi book the author conveys the impression of being then a boy of perhaps seventeen. Writing from that standpoint he records incidents that were more or less inventions or that happened to others. He was, in reality, considerably more than twenty-one years old, for it was in April, 1857, that he went aboard the Paul Jones; and he was fairly familiar with steamboats and the general requirements of piloting. He had been brought up in a town that turned out pilots; he had heard the talk of their trade. One at least of the Bowen boys was already on the river while