“Cling to the land; cling to the land and wait. Let nothing beguile it away from you.”
He was a man who had rarely displayed affection for his children. But presently he beckoned to Pamela, now a lovely girl of nineteen, and, putting his arm around her neck, kissed her for the first time in years.
“Let me die,” he said.
He did not speak again. A little more, and his worries had indeed ended. The hard struggle of an upright, impractical man had come to a close. This was in March, 1847. John Clemens had lived less than forty-nine years.
The children were dazed. They had loved their father and honored his nobility of purpose. The boy Sam was overcome with remorse. He recalled his wildness and disobedience—a thousand things trifling enough at the time, but heartbreaking now. Boy and man, Samuel Clemens was never spared by remorse. Leading him into the room where his father lay, his mother said some comforting words and asked him to make her a promise.
He flung himself into her arms, sobbing: “I will promise anything, if you won’t make me go to school! Anything!”
After a moment his mother said: “No, Sammy, you need not go to school any more. Only promise me to be a better boy. Promise not to break my heart!”
He gave his promise to be faithful and industrious and upright, like his father. Such a promise was a serious matter, and Sam Clemens, underneath all, was a serious lad. He would not be twelve until November, but his mother felt that he would keep his word.
Orion Clemens returned to St. Louis, where he was receiving a salary of ten dollars a week—high wage for those days—out of which he could send three dollars weekly to the family. Pamela, who played the guitar and piano very well, gave music lessons, and so helped the family fund. Pamela Clemens, the original of Cousin Mary, in “Tom Sawyer,” was a sweet and noble girl. Henry was too young to work, but Sam was apprenticed to a printer named Ament, who had recently moved to Hannibal and bought a weekly paper, “The Courier.” Sam agreed with his mother that the printing trade offered a chance for further education without attending school, and then, some day, there might be wages.
The terms of Samuel Clemens’s apprenticeship were the usual thing for that day: board and clothes—“more board than clothes, and not much of either,” Mark Twain used to say.
“I was supposed to get two suits of clothes a year, but I didn’t get them. I got one suit and took the rest out in Ament’s old garments, which didn’t fit me in any noticeable way. I was only about half as big as he was, and when I had on one of his shirts I felt as if I had on a circus-tent. I had to turn the trousers up to my ears to make them short enough.”