Mark Twain, a Biography — Volume I, Part 1: 1835-1866 eBook

Albert Bigelow Paine
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 260 pages of information about Mark Twain, a Biography Volume I, Part 1.

    “Did it knock him down?”

    “He—­he fell, sir.”

    “Did you follow it up?  Did you do anything further?”

    “Yes, sir.”

    “What did you do?”

    “Pounded him, sir.”

    “Pounded him?”

    “Yes, sir.”

    “Did you pound him much—­that is, severely?”

    “One might call it that, sir, maybe.”

“I am deuced glad of it!  Hark ye, never mention that I said that.  You have been guilty of a great crime; and don’t ever be guilty of it again on this boat, but—­lay for him ashore!  Give him a good sound thrashing; do you hear?  I’ll pay the expenses.”—­["Life on the Mississippi.”]

Captain Klinefelter told him to clear out, then, and the culprit heard him enjoying himself as the door closed behind him.  Brown, of course, forbade him the pilothouse after that, and he spent the rest of the trip “an emancipated slave” listening to George Ealer’s flute and his readings from Goldsmith and Shakespeare; playing chess with him sometimes, and learning a trick which he would use himself in the long after-years—­that of taking back the last move and running out the game differently when he saw defeat.

Brown swore that he would leave the boat at New Orleans if Sam Clemens remained on it, and Captain Klinefelter told Brown to go.  Then when another pilot could not be obtained to fill his place, the captain offered to let Clemens himself run the daylight watches, thus showing his confidence in the knowledge of the young steersman, who had been only a little more than a year at the wheel.  But Clemens himself had less confidence and advised the captain to keep Brown back to St. Louis.  He would follow up the river by another boat and resume his place as steersman when Brown was gone.  Without knowing it, he may have saved his life by that decision.

It is doubtful if he remembered his recent disturbing dream, though some foreboding would seem to have hung over him the night before the Pennsylvania sailed.  Henry liked to join in the night-watches on the levee when he had finished his duties, and the brothers often walked the round chatting together.  On this particular night the elder spoke of disaster on the river.  Finally he said: 

“In case of accident, whatever you do, don’t lose your head—­the passengers will do that.  Rush for the hurricane deck and to the life-boat, and obey the mate’s orders.  When the boat is launched, help the women and children into it.  Don’t get in yourself.  The river is only a mile wide.  You can swim ashore easily enough.”

It was good manly advice, but it yielded a long harvest of sorrow.

XXVI

The tragedy of thePennsylvania

Captain Klinefelter obtained his steersman a pass on the A. T. Lacey, which left two days behind the Pennsylvania.  This was pleasant, for Bart Bowen had become captain of that fine boat.  The Lacey touched at Greenville, Mississippi, and a voice from the landing shouted: 

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Mark Twain, a Biography — Volume I, Part 1: 1835-1866 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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