Susy, Mark Twain’s daughter began the biography of her father when she was fourteen years old. She begins in this way:
“We are a very happy family. We consists of papa, Mama, Jean, Clara and me
It’s a Papa I am wrihting about.
Papa has beautiful gray hair, not any too thick or any too long, but just right, kind blue eyes and a small moustache. In short he is an extraordinary fine-looking man. He is a very funny one. He does tell perfectly delightful stories. Clara and I used to sit on each arm of his chair and listen while he told us stories.”
And that, in 1885, was the family of Mark Twain, whose real name was Samual langhorn Clemens.
Sam was born in a very small town called Florida in Missouri. The village contained a hundred people and Sam “increased the population by 1 per cent.”
Most of the houses were of logs. Beyond and beyond, shining in the sun, the Mississippi roled to the distant sea.
The beside this river, Samual Clemens grew into his boyhood. He saw negrous chained like animals for transportation to richer slave markets to the South. Sam’s father owned slaves. For a girl of fifteen he paid twelwe dollars; for a woman of twenty-five – he paid twenty-five dollars; for a strong negro woman of forty – he paid forty dollars. All the negroes of his own age were good friends of Sam. The young boy has always remember these sad things. Better things he remembered also. He remembered below the village woods “a heavenly place” where he played with the boys.
When he was four Sam’s familly moved to Hannibal. Their in 1849 his father died. Before the funeral Sam promised to his mother to be a better boy, to go to work, and care for her.
His first job
Sam soon had to live school and take a part time job as delivery and errand boy for Hannibal’s newspaper; serving at times as grocer’s clerk, blacksmith’s helper and bookseller’s assistant.
Always hungry, poor Sam filched onions and potatoes from the cellar, cooking them over the printing-office stove.
Sam decided he had had enough of such an unhappy life and went to work, as a “skilled printer of fifteen”, for his brother Orion who managed a newspaper in Hannibal.
Here Sam began his career writing humorous scetches, published in a comic weekly.
One night Sam was reading the diary of an Amazon explorer. He read about painted Indians shoting their poisoned arrows at tigers, of coloured parrots and agile monkeys dancing in the high trees. Sam was enchanted. He made up his mind to go to the head-waters of the Amazon and collect coco from coco bushes and make a fortune.
Here is what Sam learned about the coco leaves: “The leaf of this plant is to the Indian of Peru what tobacco is to our laboring classes is to the South.”
From the night on the Amazon fever burnt in Sam. But poor Sam was penniless…
One winter day Sam was walking down the street. A strong wind was blowing. Suddenly a small paper whirling on the pavement caught his eye. He picked it up. It was a fifty dollar bancnote! “What a wonderful piece of luck,” he thoght.
Sam gave an advertisment about his find and waited. As nobody was looking for it, the boy left after some days for Amazon, with fifty dollars in his pocket.
He bought a ticket to new Orleans. The streamer Paul Jones took him to the country of coco leaves.
At New Orleans Sam asked about ships leaving to Para, the mouth of the Amazon, only to learn that no ships was expected to sail for that part.
He had but ten dollars left. The dream of macking s fortune was over!
Pilot on Mississippi
One of the pilot of the Paul Jones made a pilot out of Sam. It was in April 1857 that he started his four years of life on the Mississippi – his pilot days.
For seven month Sam trained a cub pilot. The training went on and on. All signs of the sky were very important to him; at night and in fog new dangers came: cool bargers, floating logs...
“Piloting on the Mississippi River was not work to me, it was play – delightful play, adventures play – and I loved it.”
Sam listened to the Mississippi leadman’s call:
“M-a-r-k three! M-a-r-k twain!”
On the twenty-third birthday he got a pilot’s license, and took the name of Mark Twain.
Sam was happy, and life was beautiful. He played the piano, sang songs of the river; he was gay and everybody liked him.
It was as pilot that Mark Twain learned to know human nature of the world round him.
When in 1861 the Сivil War broke out steamboating ceased and Mark Twain was left without work.
So he went back at his old trade as a writer for newspaper, writing a humorist scetches.
Now he was in Nevada with his brother Orion who was the new secretary of Nevada Territory. Sam, as eager as any for a fast fortune decided to go to the newly discovered Esmeralda mines to find his own mine.