When the evening of the lecture approached and only a few tickets had been sold, the lecturer was desperate.
“Fuller,” he said, “there’ll be nobody in Cooper Union that night but you and me. I am on the verge of suicide. I would commit suicide if I had the pluck and the outfit. You must paper the house, Fuller. You must send out a flood of complimentaries!”
“Very well,” said Fuller. “What we want this time is reputation, anyway —money is secondary. I’ll put you before the choicest and most intelligent audience that was ever gathered in New York City.”
Fuller immediately sent out complimentary tickets to the school-teachers of New York and Brooklyn—–a general invitation to come and hear Mark Twain’s great lecture on the Sandwich Islands. There was nothing to do after that but wait results.
Mark Twain had lost faith—he did not believe anybody in New York would come to hear him even on a free ticket. When the night arrived, he drove with Fuller to the Cooper Union half an hour before the lecture was to begin. Forty years later he said:
“I couldn’t keep away. I wanted to see that vast Mammoth Cave, and die. But when we got near the building, I saw all the streets were blocked with people and that traffic had stopped. I couldn’t believe that these people were trying to get to the Cooper Institute—but they were; and when I got to the stage, at last, the house was jammed full—packed; there wasn’t room enough left for a child.
“I was happy and I was excited beyond expression. I poured the Sandwich Islands out on those people, and they laughed and shouted to my entire content. For an hour and fifteen minutes I was in paradise.”
So in its way this venture was a success. It brought Mark Twain a good deal of a reputation in New York, even if no financial profit, though, in spite of the flood of complimentaries, there was a cash return of something like three hundred dollars. This went a good way toward paying the expenses, while Fuller, in his royal way, insisted on making up the deficit, declaring he had been paid for everything in the fun and joy of the game.
“Mark,” he said, “it’s all right. The fortune didn’t come, but it will. The fame has arrived; with this lecture and your book just out, you are going to be the most-talked-of man in the country. Your letters to the “Alta” and the “Tribune” will get the widest reception of any letters of travel ever written.”
AN INNOCENT ABROAD, AND HOME AGAIN
It was early in May—the 6th—that Mark Twain had delivered his Cooper Union lecture, and a month later, June 8, 1867, he sailed on the “Quaker City,” with some sixty-six other “pilgrims,” on the great Holy Land excursion, the story of which has been so fully and faithfully told in “The Innocent Abroad.”