I shall write to please myself then.
He closes by saying that he rather expects to go with Anson Burlingame on the Chinese embassy. Clearly he was pretty hopeless as to his book prospects.
His first meeting with General Grant occurred just at this time. In one of his home letters he mentions, rather airily, that he will drop in someday on the General for an interview; and at last, through Mrs. Grant, an appointment was made for a Sunday evening when the General would be at home. He was elated with the prospect of an interview; but when he looked into the imperturbable, square, smileless face of the soldier he found himself, for the first time in his life, without anything particular to say. Grant nodded slightly and waited. His caller wished something would happen. It did. His inspiration returned.
“General,” he said, “I seem to be a little embarrassed. Are you?”
That broke the ice. There were no further difficulties.—[Mark Twain has variously related this incident. It is given here in accordance with the letters of the period.]
BACK TO SAN FRANCISCO
Reply came from the Alta, but it was not promising. It spoke rather vaguely of prior arrangements and future possibilities. Clemens gathered that under certain conditions he might share in the profits of the venture. There was but one thing to do; he knew those people—some of them—Colonel McComb and a Mr. McCrellish intimately. He must confer with them in person.
He was weary of Washington, anyway. The whole pitiful machinery of politics disgusted him. In his notebook he wrote:
Whiskey is taken into the
committee rooms in demijohns and carried
out in demagogues.
And in a letter:
This is a place to get a poor opinion of everybody in. There are some pitiful intellects in this Congress! There isn’t one man in Washington in civil office who has the brains of Anson Burlingame, and I suppose if China had not seized and saved his great talents to the world this government would have discarded him when his time was up.—[Anson Burlingame had by this time become China’s special ambassador to the nations.]
Furthermore, he was down on the climate of Washington. He decided to go to San Francisco and see “those Alta thieves face to face.” Then, if a book resulted, he could prepare it there among friends. Also, he could lecture.
He had been anxious to visit his people before sailing, but matters were too urgent to permit delay. He obtained from Bliss an advance of royalty and took passage, by way of Aspinwall, on the sidewheel steamer Henry Chauncey, a fine vessel for those days. The name of Mark Twain was already known on the isthmus, and when it was learned he had arrived on the Chauncey a delegation welcomed him on the wharf, and provided him with refreshments and entertainment. Mr.