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.

The captain took Sam into his private room and made some inquiries.  Mark Twain, in the “Mississippi” boot remembers them as follows: 

“Did you strike him first?” Captain Klinefelter asked.

“Yes, sir.”

“What with?”

“A stool, sir.”


“Middling, sir.”

“Did it knock him down?”

“He—­he fell, sir.”

“Did you follow it up?  Did you do anything further?”

“Yes, sir.”

“What did you do?”

“Pounded him, sir.”

“Pounded him?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Did you pound him much—­that is, severely?”

“One might call it that, sir, maybe.”

“I am mighty glad of it!  Hark ye—­never mention that I said that!  You have been guilty of a great crime; and don’t ever be guilty of it again on this boat, but—­lay for him ashore!  Give him a good, sound thrashing, do you hear?  I’ll pay the expenses.”

In a letter which Samuel Clemens wrote to Orion’s wife, immediately after this incident, he gives the details of the encounter with Brown and speaks of Captain Klinefelter’s approval.[4] Brown declared he would leave the boat at New Orleans if Sam Clemens remained on it, and the captain told him to go, offering to let Sam himself run the daylight watches back to St. Louis, thus showing his faith in the young steersman.  The “cub,” however, had less confidence, and advised that Brown be kept for the up trip, saying he would follow by the next boat.  It was a decision that probably saved his life.

That night, watching on the levee, Henry joined him, when his own duties were finished, and the brothers made the round together.  It may have been some memory of his dream that made Samuel Clemens say: 

“Henry, in case of accident, whatever you do, don’t lose your head—­the passengers will do that.  Rush for the hurricane-deck and to the life-boat, and obey the mate’s orders.  When the boat is launched, help the women and children into it.  Don’t get in yourself.  The river is only a mile wide.  You can swim ashore easily enough.”

It was good, manly advice, but a long grief lay behind it.

[4] In the Mississippi book the author says that Brown was about to strike Henry with a lump of coal, but in the letter above mentioned the details are as here given.



The “A.  T. Lacy,” that brought Samuel Clemens up the river, was two days behind the “Pennsylvania.”  At Greenville, Mississippi, a voice from the landing shouted “The “Pennsylvania” is blown up just below Memphis, at Ship Island.  One hundred and fifty lives lost!”

It proved a true report.  At six o’clock that warm mid-June morning, while loading wood, sixty miles below Memphis, four out of eight of the Pennsylvania’s boilers had suddenly exploded, with fearful results.  Henry Clemens had been one of the victims.  He had started to swim for the shore, only a few hundred yards away, but had turned back to assist in the rescue of others.  What followed could not be clearly learned.  He was terribly injured, and died on the fourth night after the catastrophe.  His brother was with him by that time, and believed he recognized the exact fulfilment of his dream.

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