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.
in Hannibal—­was at a near-by farm-house, living on the fat of the land, the army broke camp without further ceremony.  Halfway there they met General Harris, who ordered them back to quarters.  They called him familiarly “Tom,” and told him they were through with that camp forever.  He begged them, but it was no use.  A little farther on they stopped at a farm-house for supplies.  A tall, bony woman came to the door.

“You’re Secesh, ain’t you?”

Lieutenant Clemens said:  “We are, madam, defenders of the noble cause, and we should like to buy a few provisions.”

The request seemed to inflame her.

“Provisions!” she screamed.  “Provisions for Secesh, and my husband a colonel in the Union Army.  You get out of here!”

She reached for a hickory hoop-pole [5] that stood by the door, and the army moved on.  When they reached the home of Col.  Bill Splawn it was night and the family had gone to bed.  So the hungry army camped in the barn-yard and crept into the hay-loft to sleep.  Presently somebody yelled “Fire!” One of the boys had been smoking and had ignited the hay.

Lieutenant Clemens, suddenly wakened, made a quick rotary movement away from the blaze, and rolled out of a big hay-window into the barn-yard below.  The rest of the brigade seized the burning hay and pitched it out of the same window.  The lieutenant had sprained his ankle when he struck, and his boil was still painful, but the burning hay cured him —­for the moment.  He made a spring from under it; then, noticing that the rest of the army, now that the fire was out, seemed to think his performance amusing, he rose up and expressed himself concerning the war, and military life, and the human race in general.  They helped him in, then, for his ankle was swelling badly.

In the morning, Colonel Splawn gave the army a good breakfast, and it moved on.  Lieutenant Clemens, however, did not get farther than Farmer Nuck Matson’s.  He was in a high fever by that time from his injured ankle, and Mrs. Matson put him to bed.  So the army left him, and presently disbanded.  Some enlisted in the regular service, North or South, according to preference.  Properly officered and disciplined, that “Tom Sawyer” band would have made as good soldiers as any.

Lieutenant Clemens did not enlist again.  When he was able to walk, he went to visit Orion in Keokuk.  Orion was a Union Abolitionist, but there would be no unpleasantness on that account.  Samuel Clemens was beginning to have leanings in that direction himself.

[5] In an earlier day, barrel hoops were made of small hickory trees, split and shaved.  The hoop-pole was a very familiar article of commerce, and of household defense.



He arrived in Keokuk at what seemed a lucky moment.  Through Edward Bates, a member of Lincoln’s Cabinet, Orion Clemens had received an appointment as territorial secretary of Nevada, and only needed the money to carry him to the seat of his office at Carson City.  Out of his pilot’s salary his brother had saved more than enough for the journey, and was willing to pay both their fares and go along as private secretary to Orion, whose position promised something in the way of adventure and a possible opportunity for making a fortune.

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