I took it over to show to Miss Menken the actress, Orpheus C. Ken’s wife. She is a literary cuss herself.
She has a beautiful white hand, but her handwriting is infamous; she writes fast and her chirography is of the door-plate order—her letters are immense. I gave her a conundrum, thus:
“My dear madam, why ought your hand to retain its present grace and beauty always? Because you fool away devilish little of it on your manuscript.”
But Menken was gone presently, and when he saw her again, somewhat later, in San Francisco, his “madness” would have seemed to have been allayed.
A COMSTOCK DUEL
The success—such as it was—of his occasional contributions to the New York Sunday Mercury stirred Mark Twain’s ambition for a wider field of labor. Circumstance, always ready to meet his wishes, offered assistance, though in an unexpected form.
Goodman, temporarily absent, had left Clemens in editorial charge. As in that earlier day, when Orion had visited Tennessee and returned to find his paper in a hot personal warfare with certain injured citizens, so the Enterprise, under the same management, had stirred up trouble. It was just at the time of the “Flour Sack Sanitary Fund,” the story of which is related at length in ‘Roughing It’. In the general hilarity of this occasion, certain Enterprise paragraphs of criticism or ridicule had incurred the displeasure of various individuals whose cause naturally enough had been espoused by a rival paper, the Chronicle. Very soon the original grievance, whatever it was, was lost sight of in the fireworks and vitriol-throwing of personal recrimination between Mark Twain and the Chronicle editor, then a Mr. Laird.
A point had been reached at length when only a call for bloodshed—a challenge—could satisfy either the staff or the readers of the two papers. Men were killed every week for milder things than the editors had spoken each of the other. Joe Goodman himself, not so long before, had fought a duel with a Union editor—Tom Fitch—and shot him in the leg, so making of him a friend, and a lame man, for life. In Joe’s absence the prestige of the paper must be maintained.
Mark Twain himself has told in burlesque the story of his duel, keeping somewhat nearer to the fact than was his custom in such writing, as may be seen by comparing it with the account of his abettor and second—of course, Steve Gillis. The account is from Mr. Gillis’s own hand:
When Joe went away, he left Sam in editorial charge of the paper. That was a dangerous thing to do. Nobody could ever tell what Sam was going to write. Something he said stirred up Mr. Laird, of the Chronicle, who wrote a reply of a very severe kind. He said some things that we told Mark could only be wiped out with blood. Those were the days when almost every man in Virginia