However, he wrote nothing further for the “Post.” Orion printed two of his sketches in the “Journal,” which was the extent of his efforts at this time. None of this early work has been preserved. Files of the “Post” exist, but the sketches were unsigned and could hardly be identified.
The Hannibal paper dragged along from year to year. Orion could pay nothing on the mortgage—financial matters becoming always worse. He could barely supply the plainest food and clothing for the family. Sam and Henry got no wages, of course. Then real disaster came. A cow got into the office one night, upset a type-case, and ate up two composition rollers. Somewhat later a fire broke out and did considerable damage. There was partial insurance, with which Orion replaced a few necessary articles; then, to save rent, he moved the office into the front room of the home on Hill Street, where they were living again at this time.
Samuel Clemens, however, now in his eighteenth year, felt that he was no longer needed in Hannibal. He was a capable workman, with little to do and no reward. Orion, made irritable by his misfortunes, was not always kind. Pamela, who, meantime, had married well, was settled in St. Louis. Sam told his mother that he would visit Pamela and look about the city. There would be work in St. Louis at good wages.
He was going farther than St. Louis, but he dared not tell her. Jane Clemens, consenting, sighed as she put together his scanty belongings. Sam was going away. He had been a good boy of late years, but her faith in his resisting powers was not strong. Presently she held up a little Testament.
“I want you to take hold of the other end of this, Sam,” she said, “and make me a promise.”
The slim, wiry woman of forty-nine, gray-eyed, tender, and resolute, faced the fair-cheeked youth of seventeen, his eyes as piercing and unwavering as her own. How much alike they were!
“I want you,” Jane Clemens said, “to repeat after me, Sam, these words: I do solemnly swear that I will not throw a card or drink a drop of liquor while I am gone.”
He repeated the vow after her, and she kissed him.
“Remember that, Sam, and write to us,” she said.
“And so,” writes Orion, “he went wandering in search of that comfort and advancement, and those rewards of industry, which he had failed to find where I was—gloomy, taciturn, and selfish. I not only missed his labor; we all missed his abounding activity and merriment.”
THE OPEN ROAD
Samuel Clemens went to visit his sister Pamela in St. Louis and was presently at work, setting type on the “Evening News.” He had no intention, however, of staying there. His purpose was to earn money enough to take him to New York City. The railroad had by this time reached St. Louis, and he meant to have the grand experience of a long journey “on the cars.” Also, there was a Crystal Palace in New York, where a world’s exposition was going on.