When I returned to San Francisco I projected a pleasure journey to Japan and thence westward around the world; but a desire to see home again changed my mind, and I took a berth in the steamship, bade good-bye to the friendliest land and livest, heartiest community on our continent, and came by the way of the Isthmus to New York—a trip that was not much of a pic-nic excursion, for the cholera broke out among us on the passage and we buried two or three bodies at sea every day. I found home a dreary place after my long absence; for half the children I had known were now wearing whiskers or waterfalls, and few of the grown people I had been acquainted with remained at their hearthstones prosperous and happy—some of them had wandered to other scenes, some were in jail, and the rest had been hanged. These changes touched me deeply, and I went away and joined the famous Quaker City European Excursion and carried my tears to foreign lands.
Thus, after seven years of vicissitudes, ended a “pleasure trip” to the silver mines of Nevada which had originally been intended to occupy only three months. However, I usually miss my calculations further than that.
If the reader thinks he is done, now, and that this book has no moral to it, he is in error. The moral of it is this: If you are of any account, stay at home and make your way by faithful diligence; but if you are “no account,” go away from home, and then you will have to work, whether you want to or not. Thus you become a blessing to your friends by ceasing to be a nuisance to them—if the people you go among suffer by the operation.
From Editorial narrative following 15 Dec 1866:
It was a memorable trip. The first night out from San Francisco a violent storm nearly swamped the America, terrifying the passengers in steerage and making virtually everyone seasick. “Happily I escaped,” Clemens observed, “had something worse.” This unnamed illness kept him confined, though not completely solitary, both before and during the voyage. On 28 December he reached San Juan del Sur and, after a two-day trek overland, arrived at Greytown, where he boarded the San Francisco, bound for New York. On 2 January, one day out of Greytown, cholera struck. By 5 January three were dead and a fourth mortally ill. Thinking of the most recent victims—“both so well when I saw them yesterday evening” Clemens wrote in his notebook, “I almost realize that I myself may be dead to-morrow” (N&J1, 245, 277).
Seven nerve-racking days later, on 12 January, the San Francisco steamed into New York harbor; by then seven had died (four from cholera), and there had probably been more deaths among the twenty-one passengers who fled the ship at Key West. Mark Twain described his arrival for the Alta:
We swore the ship through at quarantine, which was right—she hadn’t had any real cholera on board since we left Greytown—and at 8 o’clock this morning we stood in the biting air of the upper deck and sailed by the snow-covered, wintry looking residences on Staten Island—recognized Castle Garden [in the Battery]—beheld the vast city spread out beyond, encircled with its palisade of masts, and adorned with its hundred steeples—saw the steam-tug and ferryboats swarming through the floating ice, instinct with a frenzied energy, as we passed the [East] river—and in a little while we were ashore and safe housed at the Metropolitan. (SLC 1867 [MT00522])
Mark Twain Project