After the steam-generator came a steam-pulley, a small affair, but powerful enough to relieve him of thirty-two thousand dollars in a brief time.
A new method of marine telegraphy was offered him by the time his balance had grown again, a promising contrivance, but it failed to return the twenty-five thousand dollars invested in it by Mark Twain. The list of such adventures is too long to set down here. They differ somewhat, but there is one feature common to all—none of them paid. At last came a chance in which there was really a fortune. A certain Alexander Graham Bell, an inventor, one day appeared, offering stock in an invention for carrying the human voice on an electric wire. But Mark Twain had grown wise, he thought. Long after he wrote:
“I declined. I said I did not want any more to do with wildcat speculation .... I said I didn’t want it at any price. He (Bell) became eager; and insisted I take five hundred dollars’ worth. He said he would sell me as much as I wanted for five hundred dollars; offered to let me gather it up in my hands and measure it in a plug- hat; said I could have a whole hatful for five hundred dollars. But I was a burnt child, and resisted all these temptations—resisted them easily; went off with my money, and next day lent five thousand of it to a friend who was going to go bankrupt three days later.”
It was the chance of fortune thus thrown away which, perhaps, led him to take up later with an engraving process—an adventure which lasted through several years and ate up a heavy sum. Altogether, these experiences in finance cost Mark Twain a fair-sized fortune, though, after all, they were as nothing compared with the great type-machine calamity which we shall hear of in a later chapter.
BACK TO THE RIVER, WITH BIXBY
Fortunately, Mark Twain was not greatly upset by his losses. They exasperated him for the moment, perhaps, but his violence waned presently, and the whole matter was put aside forever. His work went on with slight interference. Looking over his Mississippi chapters one day, he was taken with a new interest in the river, and decided to make the steamboat trip between St. Louis and New Orleans, to report the changes that had taken place in his twenty-one years of absence. His Boston publisher, Osgood, agreed to accompany him, and a stenographer was engaged to take down conversations and comments.
At St. Louis they took passage on the steamer “Gold Dust”—Clemens under an assumed name, though he was promptly identified. In his book he tells how the pilot recognized him and how they became friends. Once, in later years, he said: