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Albert Bigelow Paine
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 1,512 pages of information about Mark Twain, a Biography. Complete.

LVII

OLD FRIENDS AND NEW PLANS

It had been more than thirteen years since his first arrival in New York.  Then he had been a youth, green, untraveled, eager to get away from home.  Now a veteran, he was as eager to return.

He stopped only long enough in New York to see Charles Henry Webb, late of California, who had put together a number of the Mark Twain sketches, including “The Jumping Frog,” for book publication.  Clemens himself decided to take the book to Carleton, thinking that, having missed the fame of the “Frog” once, he might welcome a chance to stand sponsor for it now.  But Carleton was wary; the “Frog” had won favor, and even fame, in its fugitive, vagrant way, but a book was another matter.  Books were undertaken very seriously and with plenty of consideration in those days.  Twenty-one years later, in Switzerland, Carleton said to Mark Twain: 

“My chief claim to immortality is the distinction of having declined your first book.”

Clemens was ready enough to give up the book when Carleton declined it, but Webb said he would publish it himself, and he set about it forthwith.  The author waited no longer now, but started for St. Louis, and was soon with his mother and sister, whom he had not seen since that eventful first year of the war.  They thought he looked old, which was true enough, but they found him unchanged in his manner:  buoyant, full of banter and gravely quaint remarks—­he was always the same.  Jane Clemens had grown older, too.  She was nearly sixty-four, but as keen and vigorous as ever-proud (even if somewhat critical) of this handsome, brilliant man of new name and fame who had been her mischievous, wayward boy.  She petted him, joked with him, scolded him, and inquired searchingly into his morals and habits.  In turn he petted, comforted, and teased her.  She decided that he was the same Sam, and always would be—­a true prophecy.

He went up to Hannibal to see old friends.  Many were married; some had moved away; some were dead—­the old story.  He delivered his lecture there, and was the center of interest and admiration—­his welcome might have satisfied even Tom Sawyer.  From Hannibal he journeyed to Keokuk, where he lectured again to a crowd of old friends and new, then returned to St. Louis for a more extended visit.

It was while he was in St. Louis that he first saw the announcement of the Quaker City Holy Land Excursion, and was promptly fascinated by what was then a brand-new idea in ocean travel—­a splendid picnic—­a choice and refined party that would sail away for a long summer’s journeying to the most romantic of all lands and seas, the shores of the Mediterranean.  No such argosy had ever set out before in pursuit of the golden fleece of happiness.

His projected trip around the world lost its charm in the light of this idyllic dream.  Henry Ward Beecher was advertised as one of the party; General Sherman as another; also ministers, high-class journalists—­the best minds of the nation.  Anson Burlingame had told him to associate with persons of refinement and intellect.  He lost no time in writing to the Alta, proposing that they send him in this select company.

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