The Boys' Life of Mark Twain eBook

Albert Bigelow Paine
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 300 pages of information about The Boys' Life of Mark Twain.

Ministers and deacons did not prophesy well for Sam Clemens and his mad companions.  They spoke feelingly of state prison and the gallows.  But the boys were a disappointing lot.  Will Bowen became a fine river-pilot.  Will Pitts was in due time a leading merchant and bank president.  John Briggs grew into a well-to-do and highly respected farmer.  Huck Finn —­which is to say, Tom Blankenship—­died an honored citizen and justice of the peace in a Western town.  As for Sam Clemens, we shall see what he became as the chapters pass.

[1] John Briggs died in 1907; earlier in the same year the writer of this memoir spent an afternoon with him and obtained from him most of the material for this chapter.



Sam was at Mr. Cross’s school on the Square in due time, and among the pupils were companions that appealed to his gentler side.  There were the RoBards boys—­George, the best Latin scholar, and John, who always won the good-conduct medal, and would one day make all the other boys envious by riding away with his father to California, his curls of gold blowing in the wind.

There was Buck Brown, a rival speller, and John Garth, who would marry little Helen Kercheval, and Jimmy MacDaniel, whom it was well to know because his father kept a pastry-shop and he used to bring cakes and candy to school.

There were also a number of girls.  Bettie Ormsley, Artemisia Briggs, and Jennie Brady were among the girls he remembered in later years, and Mary Miller, who was nearly double his age and broke his heart by getting married one day, a thing he had not expected at all.

Yet through it all he appears, like Tom Sawyer, to have had one faithful sweetheart.  In the book it is Becky Thatcher—­in real life she was Laura Hawkins.  The Clemens and Hawkins families lived opposite, and the children were early acquainted.  The “Black Avenger of the Spanish Main” was very gentle when he was playing at house-building with little Laura, and once, when he dropped a brick on her finger, he cried the louder and longer of the two.

For he was a tender-hearted boy.  He would never abuse an animal, except when his tendency to mischief ran away with him, as in the “pain-killer” incident.  He had a real passion for cats.  Each summer he carried his cat to the farm in a basket, and it always had a place by him at the table.  He loved flowers—­not as a boy botanist or gardener, but as a companion who understood their thoughts.  He pitied dead leaves and dry weeds because their lives were ended and they would never know summer again or grow glad with another spring.  Even in that early time he had that deeper sympathy which one day would offer comfort to humanity and make every man his friend.

But we are drifting away from Sam Clemens’s school-days.  They will not trouble us much longer now.  More than anything in the world Sam detested school, and he made any excuse to get out of going.  It is hard to say just why, unless it was the restraint and the long hours of confinement.

Project Gutenberg
The Boys' Life of Mark Twain from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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