“The crows would gather on the railing and talk about me…” (Garrison Keillor, Clint Eastwood)
NARRATOR: The tranquility of the Clemens family, like many well to do families of the time, was to be shattered by the countrywide Panic of 1893 and further complicated by Sam’s poor investments. Facing potential bankruptcy, Sam, Livy, and Clara left the United States in 1895 for a thirteen-month lecture tour around the world, Susy and Jean staying behind with family. The girls were young adults now, and although it was painful, the separation seemed bearable under the circumstances. From Fiji to Australia to New Zealand to Ceylon, India, South Africa, the three of them pressed on with Sam lecturing and getting material for a book about his journey, Following the Equator. Sam Clemens recounted adventures and described characters from every culture, but he was especially enchanted with India and one certain “resident” in particular, the “Bird of Birds the Indian crow.”

TWAIN: “I suppose he is the hardest lot that wears feathers. Yes, and the cheerfulest, and the best satisfied with himself. He never arrived at what he is by any careless process, or any sudden one; he is a work of art, and “art is long”; he is the product of immemorial ages, and deep calculation; one can't make a bird like that in a day. He has been reincarnated more times than Shiva; and he has kept a sample of each incarnation, and fused it into his constitution. In the course of his evolutionary promotions, his sublime march toward ultimate perfection, he has been a gambler, a low comedian, a dissolute priest, a fussy woman, a blackguard, a scoffer, a liar, a thief, a spy, an informer, a trading politician, a swindler, a professional hypocrite, a patriot for cash, a reformer, a lecturer, a lawyer, a conspirator, a rebel, a royalist, a democrat, a practicer and propagator of irreverence, a meddler, an intruder, a busybody, an infidel, and a wallower in sin for the mere love of it. The strange result, the incredible result, of this patient accumulation of all damnable traits is, that he does not know what care is, he does not know what sorrow is, he does not know what remorse is, his life is one long thundering ecstasy of happiness, and he will go to his death untroubled, knowing that he will soon turn up again as an author or something…” (Following the Equator)