The (Petoskey) Daily Resorter

1895: July 21

Mark Twain's Entertainment at the Grand Opera House Last Night.

An audience which packed the Grand opera house from the orchestra railing to the top row of the rear gallery greeted Mark Twain when the curtain rose last night. Every seat was sold and over a hundred chairs were brought in to try to accommodate those who wished to see America's great humorist, and even then many were turned away. It was the largest, the most cultured, and the best audience ever seen in Petoskey, the receipts being $524.

The lecturer was not at his best last night, having but recently left the bed to which he was confined for weeks with a carbuncle that at one time threatened his life. Indeed he was obliged to go to bed immediately upon his arrival in the afternoon. But notwithstanding his condition he kept the vast audience in a constant ripple of laughter from first to last, and when he suggested stopping he was greeted by cries of "go on, go on," accompanied by enthusiastic applause. He was however compelled to cut his time somewhat, only speaking about an hour and twenty minutes.

Mr. Clemens is a small, slight man, with spare face, a little the worse for wear, with shaggy eyebrows about his twinkling eyes and a drooping mustache falling over his mouth. But the distinguishing mark of the man -- a unconscious pun -- is the mass of bushy iron gray hair which encircles his head like a halo to speak poetically, or like the Wild Man of Borneo to be literal. He speaks with a peculiar drawl, and in a sort of confidentially conversational manner which makes everything wonderfully effective. If what he said were printed word for word it would not seem particularly humorous, but told in his inimitable style it is irresistably funny.

The program last night began with an account of the lecturer's first theft. He thought it was the first watermelon he ever stole, but was not entirely clear on that point. By what he is still compelled to consider an inexcusable mistake he took a green melon from the wagon of a farmer who was peddling them out. When he realized the true character of his act he immediately repented. He felt a moral uplifting which compelled him to restore the melon to the farmer. He delivered it, accompanied by a lecture on the sin of selling green melons which led the farmer to reform, so that Mark was rewarded by the consciousness of leading a fellow creature into the paths of rectitude, besides getting a ripe melon for the green one which the farmer supposed he had sold.

One of his most graphic descriptions was an account of a boyhood's experience, sneaking into his father's office at midnight to sleep on the couch, where unknown to him a murdered man had been stretched out awaiting an inquest. The people held their breath as a told how his hair rose when he discovered a nameless something on the floor, but the gruesome feeling changed to uproarious hilarity when he told how, when the moonlight finally gleamed upon the corpse, he "went away," taking the window sash with him, "not that I needed the sash, but it was more convenient to take it."

The crowd was also immensely "tickled" over the story of the jumping frog. An extract from Tom Sawyer, the plan for the crusade, afforded an excellent opportunity for the dialect work of which Twain is a master.

The Arlington orchestra furnished several choice selections while the audience was gathering, and at the close of the entertainment.