Toronto Globe

1884: December 9

THE GENIAL MARK. Samuel L. Clemens and George W. Cable in Toronto.
Greeted By a Splendid Audience.
Huckleberry Finn Once More Before the Public.

  The readings by Mark Twain and George W. Cable, the novelist, which had been looked forward to with such pleasure by Toronto people, were given in the Horticultural Gardens Pavilion last evening. Hardly a seat was left vacant. All the reserved seats were taken before the evening, and people were at the doors soon after seven anxious to be in time to get the best seats that were left. The entertainment was given under the auspices of the Ladies' Aid Society of the Metropolitan Church, which fact must have had something to do with making the audience so large. As might have been expected at such an entertainment, the people there were of the very highest class.

were chosen with good judgment, the efforts evidently being to take the latest pieces which could be read with good effect. If there was regret among some that Mark Twain did not give the fence white-washing scene in "Tom Sawyer," or the wonderful story of Jim Smiley's Jumping Frog, or the equally wonderful and almost equally funny story of Dick Barker's Cat, or any of a thousand other favourite pieces from other works, there was a measure of compensation in the presentation of two selections yet unpublished, and in the wonderful amount of fun which was shown to exist in two of the passages in "The Tramp Abroad." Mr. Cable read only from his latest work, "Dr. Sevier," except that for the third selection, instead of following the programme he sang some of the strange Creole songs, by which he is probably best known in Canada.

  The readers came on together, accompanied by ex-Aid Boustead, who was to introduce them. "Ladies and gentlemen," said Mr. Boustead, "allow me to introduce Mr. Cable" (applause greeting a small, slim man with a dark, short beard, tremendously long moustache, and dark schoolboy-looking hair) "and Mark Twain." (Loud and prolonged applause, acknowledged by frequent bows by the slim man of medium height, with a slight stoop, a fine face, adorned with a brown moustache, and surmounted with masses of dark, wavy hair, faintly tinged with gray.) Mark Twain retired and Mr. Cable opened the evening's entertainment by reading the scene between John and Mary Richling and the young creole, Narcisse. The scene shows at its best Mr. Cable's ability to write conversation so as to bring out character and at the same time to carry on the narrative. Mr. Cable has a good deal of dramatic talent, and with careful practice would read better than he does. His imitations of dialect are very good, his representation of the young Creole whose mother tongue, French, affects his pronunciation of English words, was very clever. Mr. Cable is most fortunate in having the power of interesting his audience in himself. His pleasant, unassuming manner on the stage made everybody in the audience his friend before he had spoken ten lines. Following Mr. Cable came

He was, of course, received with great applause, and for some moments could not proceed. When he did speak it was evident from the first word that the audience would enjoy his reading. After listening to him for five minutes one could be quite ready to accept as solemn truth the story he tells about his preparations for his first lecture, when he found a man who was led to laugh very heartily because of his (Mark's) "drawling infirmity of speech," as he calls it. It is not an infirmity but a peculiarity. His deep voice and his pronunciation of many words are of Missouri, where he was brought up, his nasal twang is of New England, where he has spent a good many years, and his drawl is of Mark Twain. Now and again he jerks a short sentence out with wonderful rapidity, but that over he relapses into his regular gait. He reads, however, with more care than is at first noticeable, and when he is imitating Huck Finn or the old negro telling a ghost story, his utterance changes enough to produce the impression he wishes to produce, but it is always Huck Finn or a negro who talks like Mark Twain. He is most at home when relating his personal adventures. When he is personating Mark Twain he does it to the life and is an immense success. Every word almost is a joke, every modulation of his voice shows new and unsuspected fun in writings that may have been read over a dozen times. During his readings the house was convulsed with laughter. There were times when all laughed together. There were times when one would see a joke before the others grasped it, and would guffaw aloud, then stop short, till half the crowd laughing at him and the other half at the joke would start off, and the pioneer laugher, reassured, would lead the laugh and keep it up for some seconds after the rest were quiet. When his audience laughed Mark Twain stopped with the air of a man who wished only to do his duty, and when they were quiet he resumed "with countenance grave as a horse's," as Will Carleton says. Mark Twain's first reading was prefaced with a few remarks. The remarks are given verbatim, and a portion of the selection is given also, as nearly as it could be heard and written. The reader said:--

  "Ladies and gentlemen,--You find me appointed to read something entitled 'King Solermunn,' if it may strictly be called reading where you don't use any book, but it is from a book, an unpublished story of mine called

It is a sort of continuation, or sequel, if you please, of a former story of mine, 'Tom Sawyer.' Huck Finn is an outcast, an uneducated, ragged boy, son of the town drunkard in a Mississippi River village, and he is running away from the brutalities of his father, and with him is a negro man, Jim, who is fleeing from slavery, and these two are in concealment in a wood on an island in the Mississippi River. They can't venture to travel in the day time, so they bide during the day and travel at night, and they entertain each other with conversations sometimes useful and sometimes otherwise. The story is written from the mouth of Huck Finn. Jim is telling Huck about all manner of occult things, all manner of signs which show that bad luck will come to them. After he has exhausted a good many of them, Huck says:--

  "Ain't they any good-luck signs?"

  "No; ain't no use in 'em. W'at you want to know when good luck coming? Want to try to keep it off? Only signs of any 'count is bad-luck signs. But dar's one good-luck sign. When a man's got hairy arms like a animal, dat's a sign he's goin' to be rich. Dat's a good sign."

  "Well, you got hairy arms. You ever been rich?"

  "Yes, sir; I been rich once, an' I'll be rich agin. I had fourteen dollars, once, all at one time. Yes, seh. Any 'o de boys 'll tell you so."

  "What did you do with it?"

  "Well, I speck'lated wid it and got busted up. Yes, sir. I tuck an' put dat money inter live stock. I put ten dollars inter a cow and she died on my hands. Live stock is pow'rful resky."

  "Well, you lost ten dollars."

  "No, I didn't lose it all, for I sole de hide and taller for a dollar and ten cents."

  "Well then what did you do? Did you speckilate again?"

  "Well you might call it so."

  (Here followed a reference to some person evidently a friend of Jim, whose name the reporter did not catch.) He tuck in and started a bank, an' he sed--anybody put in a dollar he pay him four more at de end o' de year. Well, all de niggers went in. But dey didn't hab much. I was de only one dat had much, an' so I stuck out for more'n four dollars, an' I sed if he didn't gib it I'd take an' start a bank myself. Well, de fac' is dey warn't enough bisness for two banks. He knew dat, an' he knew he could clean me out. He sed I could put five dollars in, an' at de end o' de year he'd pay me thirty-five dollars. An' so I done it. Den I think I doan want dat thirty dollars lyin' still de whole year; I better take an' invest it, keep it moving. Dar was a nigger catched a wood flat floating down de river, an' I bought it from him and sed he could go an' get de thirty dollars at de end o' de year. Well, dat night somebody stole de wood flat, an' next day de bank busted, so we didn't any o' us get no money."

  "What did you do with the ten cents?"

  "Well, first I thought I'd spend it, but den I had a dream, an' de dream said to take and give de ten cents to dat nigger ----- (here occurred a name which sounded like Baalam) let him invest it an' make a rise for me, for he's mighty lucky. I gave de ten cents to Baalam, an' he was in church, an' while he was in church he heard de preacher say whoever gave to de poo' lent to de Lord, an' was bound to get his money back a hundred times. Well, dat looked pretty good, an' Baalam thought it looked pretty safe, an' he gave de ten cents to de poo', an' he laid low ter see what was gwyne to cum of it."

  "What did come of it, Jim?"

  "Nothin' ever cum of it. Nothin' ever cum of it, Huck. I cou'd never collect it no way."

  "Didn't you get the ten cents?" (The words of the answer were not distinctly caught, but they were in effect a negative.)

  "How do you put faith in the sign, how do you know you're going to be rich?"

  "Well, you take a look at it--I'se rich now. I'se rich already. I run away. I ain't a slave no more, and I'se worth eight hundred dollars. In any market I'se worth eight hundred dollars. You knows dat, Huck said. I'se rich now, just de same as if I had eight hundred dollars exactly. Still, betwixt you an' me, I don't like it invested in dat way. My experience in live stock is resky; makes no difference if its in cows or niggers, its resky, an' I would feel much more easy if I had de eight hundred dollars an' somebody else had de nigger."

  The selection of which the above is a part, was received with loud applause.

however, was Mark Twain's description of his embarrassing position when a young lady whom he meets insists on talking about "old times," of which he remembers nothing. Mr. Cable's Creole songs were well given, and won well merited applause. In his closing piece, also describing the heroine's ride through the Confederate lines to her sick husband, he showed great dramatic power.

  After the performance, THE GLOBE reporter, through the courtesy of Mr. Pond, the manager of the party, had an opportunity of speaking with the entertainers of the evening. Samuel L. Clemens is a quiet, pleasant spoken man, but not "funny" in the ordinary sense of the word. He said it was quite true that he had been selected a member of the Montreal Snowshoe Club, and that he had been specially invited to attend the carnival, but feared that his lecture engagements would prevent his accepting the invitation.

  "How do you reconcile this tour with your vow of which you have written that you would never go on the lecture platform unless driven there by want of bread?" was asked.

  "Well, I'd kept that vow so long--fifteen years or so--that I thought it time to break it and make a better one."

  Mr. Cable is by birth and life residence a New Orleans man. He has grown up in the midst of the scenes he pictures. It is only three or four years and after hard and weary work that he has succeeded in making for himself such a place in literature that he can depend upon his pen alone for his fortune. In conversation he is quiet, unassuming, and courteous, as courtesy is understood in the South. This is his first visit to Canada. Both authors are gratified with their reception.