“That’s my joke.” said Goodman.
“But I was only exclaiming because it was not twice as much,” returned Ward.
He paid it amid laughter, and they went out into the early morning air. It was fresh and fine outside, not yet light enough to see clearly. Artemus threw his face up to the sky and said:
“I feel glorious. I feel like walking on the roofs.”
Virginia was built on the steep hillside, and the eaves of some of the houses almost touched the ground behind them.
“There is your chance, Artemus,” Goodman said, pointing to a row of these houses all about of a height.
Artemus grabbed Mark Twain, and they stepped out upon the long string of roofs and walked their full length, arm in arm. Presently the others noticed a lonely policeman cocking his revolver and getting ready to aim in their direction. Goodman called to him:
“Wait a minute. What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to shoot those burglars,” he said.
“Don’t for your life. Those are not burglars. That’s Mark Twain and Artemus Ward.”
The roof-walkers returned, and the party went down the street to a corner across from the International Hotel. A saloon was there with a barrel lying in front, used, perhaps for a sort of sign. Artemus climbed astride the barrel, and somebody brought a beer-glass and put it in his hand. Virginia City looks out over the Eastward Desert. Morning was just breaking upon the distant range-the scene as beautiful as when the sunrise beams across the plain of Memnon. The city was not yet awake. The only living creatures in sight were the group of belated diners, with Artemus Ward, as King Gambrinus, pouring a libation to the sunrise.
That was the beginning of a week of glory. The farewell dinner became a series. At the close of one convivial session Artemus went to a concert-hall, the “Melodeon,” blacked his face, and delivered a speech. He got away from Virginia about the close of the year.
A day or two later he wrote from Austin, Nevada, to his new-found comrade as “My dearest Love,” recalling the happiness of his stay:
“I shall always remember Virginia as a bright spot in my existence, as all others must or rather cannot be, as it were.”
Then reflectively he adds:
“Some of the finest intellects in the world have been blunted by liquor.”
Rare Artemus Ward and rare Mark Twain! If there lies somewhere a place of meeting and remembrance, they have not failed to recall there those closing days of ’63.
Governor of the “Third house”
With Artemus Ward’s encouragement, Clemens began to think of extending his audience eastward. The New York Sunday Mercury published literary matter. Ward had urged him to try this market, and promised to write a special letter to the editors, introducing Mark Twain and his work. Clemens prepared a sketch of the Comstock variety, scarcely refined in character and full of personal allusion, a humor not suited to the present-day reader. Its general subject was children; it contained some absurd remedies, supposedly sent to his old pilot friend Zeb Leavenworth, and was written as much for a joke on that good-natured soul as for profit or reputation.