California Sketches, Second Series
O. P. Fitzgerald
Part 1 out of 4
Produced by David A. Schwan
By O. P. Fitzgerald
With an Introduction by Bishop George F. Pierce.
The bearded men in rude attire,
With nerves of steel and hearts of fire,
The women few but fair and sweet,
Like shadowy visions dim and fleet,
Again I see, again I hear,
As down the past I dimly peer,
And muse o'er buried joy and pain,
And tread the hills of youth again.
Encores are usually anticlimaxes. I never did like them. Yet here I am
again before the public with another book of "California Sketches." The
kind treatment given to the former volume, of which six editions have
been printed and sold; the expressed wishes of many friends who have
said, Give us another book; and my own impulse, have induced me to
venture upon a second appearance. If much of the song is in the minor
key, it had to be so: these Sketches are from real life, and "all lives
Nashville, September, 1881.
The first issue of the "California Sketches" was very popular,
deservedly so. The distinguished Author has prepared a Second Series. In
this fact the reading public will rejoice.
In these hooks we have the romance and prestige of fiction; the thrill
of incident and adventure; the wonderful phases of society in a new
country, and under the pressure of strong and peculiar excitements;
human character loose from the restraints of an old civilization--a
settled order of things; individuality unwarped by imitation--free,
varied, independent. The materials are rich, and they are embodied in a
glowing narrative. The writer himself lived amid the scenes and the
people he describes, and, as a citizen, a preacher, and an editor, was
an important factor among the forces destined to mold the elements which
were to be formulated in the politics of the State and the enterprises
of the Church. A close observer, gifted with a keen discrimination and
retentive memory, a decided relish for the ludicrous and the sportive,
and always ready to give a religions turn to thought and conversation,
he is admirably adapted to portray and recite what he saw, heard, and
These Sketches furnish good reading for anybody. For the young they are
charming, full of entertainment, and not wanting in moral instruction.
They will gratify the taste of those who love to read, and, what is more
important, beget the appetite for books among the dull and indifferent.
He who can stimulate children and young men and women to read renders a
signal service to society at large. Mental growth depends much upon
reading, and the fertilization of the original soil by the habit wisely
directed connects vitally with the outcome and harvest of the future.
Dr. Fitzgerald is doing good service in the work already done, and I
trust the patronage of the people will encourage him to give us another
and another of the same sort. At my house we all read the "California
Sketches"--old and young--and long for more.
G. F. Pierce.
Dick The Diggers The California Mad-House San Quentin "Corralled" The
Reblooming The Emperor Norton Camilla Cain Lone Mountain Newton The
California Politician Old Man Lowry Suicide In California Father Fisher
Jack White The Rabbi My Mining Speculation Mike Reese Uncle Nolan
Buffalo Jones Tod Robinson Ah Lee The Climate of California After The
Storm Bishop Kavanaugh In California Sanders A Day Winter-Blossomed A
Virginian In California At The End
Dick was a Californian. We made his acquaintance in Sonora about a month
before Christmas, Anno Domini 1855. This is the way it happened:
At the request of a number of families, the lady who presided in the
curious little parsonage near the church on the hill-side had started a
school for little girls. The public schools might do for the boys, but
were too mixed for their sisters--so they thought. Boys could rough it
--they were a rough set, anyway--but the girls must he raised according
to the traditions of the old times and the old homes. That was the view
taken of the matter then, and from that day to this the average
California girl has been superior to the average California boy. The boy
gets his bias from the street; the girl, from her mother at home. The
boy plunges into the life that surges around him; the girl only feels
the touch of its waves as they break upon the embankments of home. The
boy gets more of the father; the girl gets more of the mother. This may
explain their relative superiority. The school for girls was started on
condition that it should be free, the proposed teacher refusing all
compensation. That part of the arrangement was a failure, for at the end
of the first month every little girl brought a handful of money, and
laid it on the teacher's desk. It must have been a concerted matter.
That quiet, unselfish woman had suddenly become a money-maker in spite
of herself. (Use was found for the coin in the course of events.) The
school was opened with a Psalm, a prayer, and a little song in which the
sweet voices of the little Jewish, Spanish, German, Irish, and American
maidens united heartily. Dear children! they are scattered now. Some of
them have died, and some of them have met with what is worse than death.
There was one bright Spanish girl, slender, graceful as a willow, with
the fresh Castilian blood mantling her cheeks, her bright eyes beaming
with mischief and affection. She was a beautiful child, and her winning
ways made her a pet in the little school. But surrounded as the bright,
beautiful girl was, Satan had a mortgage on her from her birth, and her
fate was too dark and sad to be told in these pages. She inherited evil
condition, and perhaps evil blood, and her evil life seemed to be
inevitable. Poor child of sin, whose very beauty was thy curse, let the
curtain fall upon thy fate and name; we leave thee in the hands of the
pitying Christ, who hath said, "Where little is given little will be
required." Little was given thee in the way of opportunity, for it was a
mother's hand that bound thee with the chains of evil.
Among the children that came to that remarkable academy on the hill was
little Mary Kinneth, a thin, delicate child, with mild blue eyes, flaxen
hair, a peach complexion, and the blue veins on her temples that are so
often the sign of delicacy of organization and the presage of early
death. Mike Kinneth,--her father, was a drinking Irishman, a
good-hearted fellow when sober, but pugnacious and disposed to beat his
wife when drunk. The poor woman came over to see me one day. She had
been crying, and there was an ugly bruise on her cheek.
"Your riverence will excuse me," she said, curtseying, "but I wish you
would come over and spake a word to me husband. Mike's a kind, good
craythur except when he is dhrinking, but then he is the very Satan
"Did he give you that bruise on your face, Mrs. Kinneth?"
"Yis; he came home last night mad with the whisky, and was breaking
ivery thing in the house. I tried to stop him, and thin he bate me--O!
he never did that before! My heart is broke!"
Here the poor woman broke down and cried, hiding her face in her apron.
"Little Mary was asleep, and she waked up frightened and crying to see
her father in such a way. Seeing the child seemed to sober him a little,
and he stumbled on to the bed, and fell asleep. He was always kind to
the child, dhrunk or sober. And there is a good heart in him if he will
only stay away from the dhrink."
"Would he let me talk to him?"
"Yis; we belong to the old Church, but there is no priest here now, and
the kindness your lady has shown to little Mary has softened his heart
to ye both. And I think he feels a little sick and ashamed this mornin',
and he will listen to kind words now if iver."
I went to see Mike, and found him half-sick and in a penitent mood. He
called me "Father Fitzgerald," and treated me with the utmost politeness
and deference. I talked to him about little Mary, and his warm Irish
heart opened to me at once.
"She is a good child, your riverence, and shame on the father that would
hurt or disgrace her!"
The tears stood in Mike's eyes as he spoke the words.
"All the trouble comes from the whisky. Why not give it up?"
"By the help of God I will!" said Mike, grasping my hand with energy.
And he did. I confess that the result of my visit exceeded my hopes.
Mike kept away from the saloons, worked steadily, little Mary had no
lack of new shoes and neat frocks, and the Kinneth family were happy in
a humble way. Mike always seemed glad to see me, and greeted me warmly.
One morning about the last of November there was a knock at the door of
the little parsonage. Opening the door, there stood Mrs. Kinneth with a
turkey under her arm.
"Christmas will soon be coming, and I've brought ye a turkey for your
kindness to little Mary and your good talk to Mike. He has not touched a
dhrop since the blissed day ye spake to him. Will ye take the turkey,
and my thanks wid it?"
The turkey was politely and smilingly accepted, and Mrs. Kinneth went
away looking mightily pleased.
I extemporized a little coop for our turkey. Having but little
mechanical ingenuity, it was a difficult job, but it resulted more
satisfactorily than did my attempt to make a door for the miniature
kitchen attached to the parsonage. My object was to nail some
cross-pieces on some plain boards, hang it on hinges, and fasten it on
the inside by a leather strap attached to a nail. The model in my mind
was, as the reader sees, of the most simple and primitive pattern. I
spent all my leisure time for a week at work on that door. I spoiled the
lumber, I blistered my hands, I broke several dollars' worth of
carpenter's tools, which I had to pay, and--then I hired a man to make
that door! This was my last effort in that line of things, excepting the
turkey-coop, which was the very last. It lasted four days, at the end of
which time it just gave way all over, and caved in. Fortunately, it was
no longer needed. Our turkey would not leave us. The parsonage fare
suited him, and he staid, and throve, and made friends.
We named him Dick. He is the hero of this Sketch. Dick was intelligent,
sociable, and had a good appetite. He would eat any thing, from a crust
of bread to the pieces of candy that the schoolgirls would give him as
they passed. He became as gentle as a dog, and would answer to his name.
He had the freedom of the town, and went where he pleased, returning at
meal-times, and at night to roost on the western end of the
kitchen-roof. He would eat from our hands, looking at us with a sort of
human expression in his shiny eyes. If he were a hundred yards away, all
we had to do was to go to the door and call out, "Dick!"
"Dick!" once or twice, and here he would come, stretching his long legs,
and saying, "Oot," "oot," "oot" (is that the way to spell it?). He got
to like going about with me. He would go with me to the post-office, to
the market, and sometimes he would accompany me in a pastoral visit.
Dick was well known and popular. Even the bad boys of the town did not
throw stones at him. His ruling passion was the love of eating. He ate
between meals. He ate all that was offered to him. Dick was a pampered
turkey, and made the most of his good luck and popularity. He was never
in low spirits, and never disturbed except when a dog came about him. He
disliked dogs, and seemed to distrust them.
The days rolled by, and Dick was fat and happy. It was the day before
Christmas. We had asked two bachelors to take Christmas-dinner with us,
having room and chairs for just two more persons. (One of our four
chairs was called a stool--it had a bottom and three legs, one of which
was a little shaky, and no back.) There was a constraint upon us both
all day. I knew what was the matter, but said nothing. About four
o'clock in the afternoon Dick's mistress sat down by me, and, after a
"Do you know that tomorrow is Christmas-day?"
"Yes, I know it."
Another pause. I had nothing to say just then. "Well, if--if--if any
thing is to be done about that turkey, it is time it were done."
"Do you mean Dick?"
"Yes," with a little quiver in her voice.
"I understand you--you mean to kill him--poor Dick! the only pet we
She broke right down at this, and began to cry.
"What is the matter here?" said our kind, energetic neighbor, Mrs. T--,
who came in to pay us one of her informal visits. She was from
Philadelphia, and, though a gifted woman, with a wide range of reading
and observation of human life, was not a sentimentalist. She laughed at
the weeping mistress of the parsonage, and, going to the back-door, she
Dick, who was taking the air high up on the hillside, came at the call,
making long strides, and sounding his "Oot," "oot," "oot," which was the
formula by which he expressed all his emotions, varying only the tone.
Dick, as he stood with outstretched neck and a look of expectation in
his honest eyes, was scooped up by our neighbor, and carried off down
the hill in the most summary manner.
In about an hour Dick was brought back. He was dressed. He was also
The Digger Indian holds a low place in the scale of humanity. He is not
intelligent; he is not handsome; he is not very brave. He stands near
the foot of his class, and I fear he is not likely to go up any higher.
It is more likely that the places that know him now will soon know him
no more, for the reason that he seems readier to adopt the bad white
man's whisky and diseases than the good white man's morals and religion.
Ethnologically he has given rise to much conflicting speculation, with
which I will not trouble the gentle reader. He has been in California a
long time, and he does not know that he was ever anywhere else. His
pedigree does not trouble him; he is more concerned about getting
something to eat. It is not because he is an agriculturist that he is
called a Digger, but because he grabbles for wild roots, and has a
general fondness for dirt. I said he was not handsome, and when we
consider his rusty, dark-brown color, his heavy features, fishy black
eyes, coarse black hair, and clumsy gait, nobody will dispute the
statement. But one Digger is uglier than another, and an old squaw caps
The first Digger I ever saw was the best-looking. He had picked up a
little English, and loafed around the mining-camps picking up a meal
where he could get it. He called himself "Captain Charley," and, like a
true native American, was proud of his title. If it was self-assumed, he
was still following the precedent set by a vast host of captains,
majors, colonels, and generals, who never wore a uniform or hurt
anybody. He made his appearance at the little parsonage on the hill-side
in Sonora one day, and, thrusting his bare head into the door, he said:
"Me Cappin Charley," tapping his chest complacently as he spoke.
Returning his salutation, I waited for him to speak again.
"You got grub--coche carne?" he asked, mixing his Spanish and English.
Some food was given him, which he snatched rather eagerly, and began to
eat at once. It was, evident that Captain Charley had not breakfasted
that morning. He was a hungry Indian, and when he got through his meal
there was no reserve of rations in the unique repository of dishes and
food which has been mentioned heretofore in these Sketches. Peering
about the premises, Captain Charley made a discovery. The modest little
parsonage stood on a steep incline, the upper side resting on the red
gravelly earth, while the lower side was raised three or four feet from
the ground. The vacant space underneath had been used by our several
bachelor predecessors as a receptacle for cast-off clothing. Malone,
Lockley, and Evans, had thus disposed of their discarded apparel, and
Drury Bond and one or two other miners had also added to the treasures
that caught the eye of the inquisitive Digger. It was a museum of
sartorial curiosities--seedy and ripped broadcloth coats, vests, and
pants, flannel mining-shirts of gay colors and of different degrees of
wear and tear, linen shirts that looked like battle-flags that had been
through the war, and old shoes and boots of all sorts, from the high
rubber water-proofs used by miners to the ragged slippers that had
adorned the feet of the lonely single parsons whose names are written
"Me take um?" asked Captain Charley, pointing to the treasure he had
Leave was given, and Captain Charley lost no time in taking possession
of the coveted goods. He chuckled to himself as one article after
another was drawn forth from the pile which seemed to be almost
inexhaustible. When he had gotten all out and piled up together, it was
a rare-looking sight.
"Mucho bueno!" exclaimed Captain Charley, as he proceeded to array
himself in a pair of trousers. Then a shirt, then a vest, and then a
coat, were put on. And then another, and another, and yet another suit
was donned in the same order. He was fast becoming a "big Indian"
indeed. We looked on and smiled, sympathizing with the evident delight
of our visitor in his superabundant wardrobe. He was in full-dress, and
enjoyed it. But he made a failure at one point--his feet were too
large, or were not the right shape, for white men's boots or shoes. He
tried several pairs, but his huge flat foot would not enter them, and
finally he threw down the last one tried by him with a Spanish
exclamation not fit to be printed in these pages. That language is a
musical one, but its oaths are very harsh in sound. A battered
"stove-pipe" hat was found among the spoils turned over to Captain
Chancy. Placing it on his head jauntily, he turned to us, saying, Adios,
and went strutting down the street, the picture of gratified vanity. His
appearance on Washington Street, the main thoroughfare of the place,
thus gorgeously and abundantly arrayed, created a sensation. It was as
good as a "show" to the jolly miners, always ready to be amused. Captain
Charley was known to most of them, and they had a kindly feeling for the
good-natured "fool Injun," as one of them called him in my hearing.
The next Digger I noticed was of the gentler (but in this case not
lovelier) sex. She was an old squaw, who was in mourning. The sign of
her grief was the black adobe mud spread over her face. She sat all day
motionless and speechless, gazing up into the sky. Her grief was caused
by the death of a child, and her sorrowful look showed that she had a
mother's heart. Poor, degraded creature! What were her thoughts as she
sat there looking so pitifully up into the silent, far-off heavens? All
the livelong day she gazed thus fixedly into the sky, taking no notice
of the passersby, neither speaking, eating, nor drinking. It was a
custom of the tribe, but its peculiar significance is unknown to me.
It was a great night at an adjoining camp when the old chief died. It
was made the occasion of a fearful orgy. Dry wood and brush were
gathered into a huge pile, the body of the dead chief was placed upon
it, and the mass set on fire. As the flames blazed upward with a roar,
the Indians, several hundred in number, broke forth into wild wailings
and howlings, the shrill soprano of the women rising high above the din,
as they marched around the burning pyre. Fresh fuel was supplied from
time to time, and all night long the flames lighted up the surrounding
hills which echoed with the shouts and howls of the savages. It was a
touch of pandemonium. At dawn there was nothing left of the dead chief
but ashes. The mourners took up their line of march toward the
Stanislaus River, the squaws bearing their papooses on their backs, the
"bucks" leading the way.
The Digger believes in a future life, and in future rewards and
punishments. Good Indians and bad Indians are subjected to the same
ordeal at death. Each one is rewarded according to his deeds.
The disembodied soul comes to a wide, turbid river, whose angry waters
rush on to an unknown destination, roaring and foaming. From high banks
on either side of the stream is stretched a pole smooth and small, over
which he is required to walk. Upon the result of this post-mortem
Blondinizing his fate depends. If he was in life a very good Indian he
goes over safely, and finds on the other side a paradise, where the
skies are cloudless, the air balmy, the flowers brilliant in color and
sweet in perfume, the springs many and cool, and the deer plentiful and
fat. In this fair clime there are no bad Indians, no briers, no snakes,
no grizzly bears. Such is the paradise of good Diggers.
The Indian who was in life a mixed character, not all good or bad, but
made up of both, starts across the fateful river, gets on very well
until he reaches about half-way over, when his head becomes dizzy, and
he tumbles into the boiling flood below. He swims for his life. (Every
Indian on earth can swim, and he does not forget the art in the world of
spirits.) Buffeting the waters, he is carried swiftly down the rushing
current, and at last makes the shore, to find a country which, like his
former life, is a mixture of good and bad. Some days are fair, and
others are rainy and chilly; flowers and brambles grow together; there
are some springs of water, but they are few, and not all cool and sweet;
the deer are few, and shy, and lean, and grizzly bears roam the hills
and valleys. This is the limbo of the moderately-wicked Digger.
The very bad Indian, placing his feet upon the attenuated bridge of
doom, makes a few steps forward, stumbles, falls into the whirling
waters below, and is swept downward with fearful velocity. At last, with
desperate struggles he half swims, and is half washed ashore on the same
side from which he started, to find a dreary land where the sun never
shines, and the cold rains always pour down from the dark skies, where
the water is brackish and foul, where no flowers ever bloom, where
leagues may be traversed without seeing a deer, and grizzly bears
abound. This is the hell of very bad Indians--and a very had one it is.
The worst Indians of all, at death, are transformed into grizzly bears.
The Digger has a good appetite, and he is not particular about his
eating. He likes grasshoppers, clover, acorns, roots, and fish. The
flesh of a dead mule, horse, cow, or hog, does not come amiss to him--I
mean the flesh of such as die natural deaths. He eats what he can get,
and all he can get. In the grasshopper season he is fat and flourishing.
In the suburbs of Sonora I came one day upon a lot of squaws, who were
engaged in catching grasshoppers. Stretched along in line, armed with
thick branches of pine, they threshed the ground in front of them as
they advanced, driving the grasshoppers before them in constantly
increasing numbers, until the air was thick with the flying insects.
Their course was directed to a deep gully, or gulch, into which they
fell exhausted. It was astonishing to see with what dexterity the squaws
would gather them up and thrust them into a sort of covered basket; made
of willow-twigs or tule-grass, while the insects would be trying to
escape; but would fall back unable to rise above the sides of the gulch
in which they had been entrapped. The grasshoppers are dried, or cured,
for winter use. A white man who had tried them told me they were
pleasant eating, having a flavor very similar to that of a good shrimp.
(I was content to take his word for it.)
When Bishop Soule was in California, in 1853, he paid a visit to a
Digger campoody (or village) in the Calaveras hills. He was profoundly
interested, and expressed an ardent desire to be instrumental in the
conversion of one of these poor kin. It was yet early in the morning
when the Bishop and his party arrived, and the Diggers were not astir,
save here and there a squaw, in primitive array, who slouched lazily
toward a spring of water hard by. But soon the arrival of the visitors
was made known, and the bucks, squaws, and papooses, swarmed forth. They
cast curious looks upon the whole party, but were specially struck with
the majestic bearing of the Bishop, as were the passing crowds in
London, who stopped in the streets to gaze with admiration upon the
great American preacher. The Digger chief did not conceal his delight.
After looking upon the Bishop fixedly for some moments, he went up to
him, and tapping first his own chest and then the Bishop's, he said:
"Me big man--you big man!"
It was his opinion that two great men had met, and that the occasion was
a grand one. Moralizers to the contrary notwithstanding, greatness is
not always lacking in self-consciousness.
"I would like to go into one of their wigwams, or huts, and see how they
really live," said the Bishop.
"You had better drop that idea," said the guide, a white man who knew
more about Digger Indians than was good for his reputation and morals,
but who was a good-hearted fellow, always ready to do a friendly turn,
and with plenty of time on his hands to do it. The genius born to live
without work will make his way by his wits, whether it be in the lobby
at Washington City, or as a hanger-on at a Digger camp.
The Bishop insisted on going inside the chief's wigwam, which was a
conical structure of long tule-grass, air-tight and weather-proof, with
an aperture in front just large enough for a man's body in a crawling
attitude. Sacrificing his dignity, the Bishop went down on all-fours,
and then a degree lower, and, following the chief; crawled in. The air
was foul, the smells were strong, and the light was dim. The chief
proceeded to tender to his distinguished guest the hospitalities of the
establishment, by offering to share his breakfast with him. The bill of
fare was grasshoppers, with acorns as a side-dish. The Bishop maintained
his dignity as he squatted there in the dirt--his dignity was equal to
any test. He declined the grasshoppers tendered him by the chief,
pleading that he had already breakfasted, but watched with peculiar
sensations the movements of his host, as handful after handful of the
crisp and juicy gryllus vulgaris were crammed into his capacious mouth,
and swallowed. What he saw and smelt, and the absence of fresh air,
began to tell upon the Bishop--he became sick and pale, while a gentle
perspiration, like unto that felt in the beginning of seasickness,
beaded his noble forehead. With slow dignity, but marked emphasis, he
"Brother Bristow, I propose that we retire."
They retired, and there is no record that Bishop Soule ever expressed
the least desire to repeat his visit to the interior of a Digger
The whites had many difficulties with the Diggers in the early days. In
most cases I think the whites were chiefly to blame. It is very hard for
the strong to be just to the weak. The weakest creature, pressed hard,
will strike back. White women and children were massacred in retaliation
for outrages committed upon the ignorant Indians by white outlaws. Then
there would be a sweeping destruction of Indians by the excited whites,
who in those days made rather light of Indian shooting. The shooting of
a "buck" was about the same thing, whether it was a male Digger or a
"There is not much fight in a Digger unless he's got the dead-wood on
you, and then he'll make it rough for you. But these Injuns are of no
use, and I'd about as soon shoot one of them as a coyote" (ki-o-te).
The speaker was a very red-faced, sandy-haired man, with blood-shot blue
eyes, whom I met on his return to the Humboldt country after a visit to
"Did you ever shoot an Indian?" I asked.
"I first went up into the Eel River country in '46," he answered. "They
give us a lot of trouble in them days. They would steal cattle, and our
boys would shoot. But we've never had much difficulty with them since
the big fight we had with them in 1849. A good deal of devilment had
been goin' on all roun', and some had been killed on both sides. The
Injuns killed two women on a ranch in the valley, and then we set in
just to wipe 'em out. Their camp was in a bend of the river, near the
head of the valley, with a deep slough on the right flank. There was
about sixty of us, and Dave was our captain. He was a hard rider, a dead
shot, and not very tender-hearted. The boys sorter liked him, but kep' a
sharp eye on him, knowin' he was so quick and handy with a pistol. Our
plan was to git to their camp and fall on em at daybreak, but the sun
was risin' just as we come in sight of it. A dog barked, and Dave sung
"'Out with your pistols! pitch in, and give 'em the hot lead!'
"In we galloped at full speed, and as the Injuns come out to see what
was up, we let 'em have it. We shot forty bucks--about a dozen got away
by swimmin' the river."
"Were any of the women killed?"
"A few were knocked over. You can't be particular when you are in a
hurry; and a squaw, when her blood is up, will fight equal to a buck."
The fellow spoke with evident pride, feeling that he was detailing a
heroic affair, having no idea that he had done any thing wrong in merely
killing "bucks." I noticed that this sane man was very kind to an old
lady who took the stage for Bloomfield--helping her into the vehicle,
and looking after her baggage. When we parted, I did not care to take
the hand that had held a pistol that morning when the Digger camp was
The scattered remnants of the Digger tribes were gathered into a
reservation in Round Valley, Mendocino county, north of the Bay of San
Francisco, and were there taught a mild form of agricultural life, and
put under the care of Government agents, contractors, and soldiers, with
about the usual results. One agent, who was also a preacher, took
several hundred of them into the Christian Church. They seemed to have
mastered the leading facts of the gospel, and attained considerable
proficiency in the singing of hymns. Altogether, the result of this
effort at their conversion showed that they were human beings, and as
such could be made recipients of the truth and grace of God, who is the
Father of all the families of the earth. Their spiritual guide told me
he had to make one compromise with them--they would dance. Extremes
meet--the fashionable white Christians of our gay capitals and the
tawny Digger exhibit the same weakness for the fascinating exercise that
cost John the Baptist his head.
There is one thing a Digger cannot bear, and that is the comforts and
luxuries of civilized life. A number of my friends, who had taken Digger
children to raise, found that as they approached maturity they fell into
a decline and died, in most cases of some pulmonary affection. The only
way to save them was to let them rough it, avoiding warm bed-rooms and
too much clothing. A Digger girl belonged to my church at Santa Rosa,
and was a gentle, kind-hearted, grateful creature. She was a domestic in
the family of Colonel H--. In that pleasant Christian household she
developed into a pretty fair specimen of brunette young womanhood, but
to the last she had an aversion to wearing shoes.
The Digger seems to be doomed. Civilization kills him; and if he sticks
to his savagery, he will go down before the bullets, whisky, and vices
of his white fellow-sinners.
The California Mad-House.
On my first visit to the State Insane Asylum, at Stockton, I was struck
by the beauty of a boy of some seven or eight years, who was moving
about the grounds clad in a strait-jacket. In reply to my inquiries, the
resident physician told me his history:
"About a year ago he was on his way to California with the family to
which he belonged. He was a general pet among the passengers on the
steamer. Handsome, confiding, and overflowing with boyish spirits,
everybody had a smile and a kind word for the winning little fellow.
Even the rough sailors would pause a moment to pat his curly head as
they passed. One day a sailor, yielding to a playful impulse in passing,
caught up the boy in his arms, crying:
"'I am going to throw you into the sea!'
"The child gave one scream of terror, and went into convulsions. When
the paroxysm subsided, he opened his eyes and gazed around with a vacant
expression. His mother, who bent over him with a pale face, noticed the
look, and almost screamed:
"'Tommy, here is your mother--don't you know me?'
"The child gave no sign of recognition. He never knew his poor mother
again. He was literally frightened out of his senses. The mother's
anguish was terrible. The remorse of the sailor for his thoughtless
freak was so great that it in some degree disarmed the indignation of
the passengers and crew. The child had learned to read, and had made
rapid progress in the studies suited to his age, but all was swept away
by the cruel blow. He was unable to utter a word intelligently. Since he
has been here, there have been signs of returning mental consciousness,
and we have begun with him as with an infant. He knows and can call his
own name, and is now learning the alphabet."
"How is his health?"
"His health is pretty good, except that he has occasional convulsive
attacks that can only be controlled by the use of powerful opiates."
I was glad to learn, on a visit made two years later, that the
unfortunate boy had died.
This child was murdered by a fool. The fools are always murdering
children, though the work is not always done as effectually as in this
case. They cripple and half kill them by terror. There are many who will
read this Sketch who will carry to the grave, and into the world of
spirits, natures out of which half the sweetness, and brightness, and
beauty has been crushed by ignorance or brutality. In most cases it is
ignorance. The hand that should guide, smites; the voice that should
soothe, jars the sensitive chords that are untuned forever. He who
thoughtlessly excites terror in a child's heart is unconsciously doing
the devil's work; he that does it consciously is a devil.
"There is a lady here whom I wish you would talk to. She belongs to one
of the most respectable families in San Francisco, is cultivated,
refined, and has been the center of a large and loving circle. Her
monomania is spiritual despair. She thinks she has committed the
unpardonable sin. There she is now. I will introduce you to her. Talk
with her, and comfort her if you can."
She was a tall, well-formed woman in black, with all the marks of
refinement in her dress and bearing. She was walking the floor to and
fro with rapid steps, wringing her hands, and moaning piteously.
Indescribable anguish was in her face--it was a hopeless face. It
haunted my thoughts for many days, and it is vividly before me as I
write now. The kind physician introduced me, and left the apartment.
There is a sacredness about such an interview that inclines me to veil
"I am willing to talk with you, sir, and appreciate your motive, but I
understand my situation. I have committed the unpardonable sin, and I
know there is no hope for me."
With the earnestness excited by intense sympathy, I combated her
conclusion, and felt certain that I could make her see and feel that she
had given way to an illusion. She listened respectfully to all I had to
say, and then said again:
"I know my situation. I denied my Saviour after all his goodness to me,
and he has left me forever."
There was the frozen calmness of utter despair in look and tone. I left
her as I found her.
"I will introduce you to another woman, the opposite of the poor lady
you have just seen. She thinks she is a queen, and is perfectly
harmless. You must be careful to humor her illusion. There she is--let
me present you."
She was a woman of immense size, enormously fat, with broad red face,
and a self-satisfied smirk, dressed in some sort of flaming scarlet
stuff, profusely tinseled all over, making a gorgeously ridiculous
effect. She received me with a mixture of mock dignity and smiling
condescension, and surveying herself admiringly, she asked:
"How do you like my dress?"
It was not the first time that royalty had shown itself not above the
little weaknesses of human nature. On being told that her apparel was
indeed magnificent, she was much pleased, and drew herself up proudly,
and was a picture of ecstatic vanity. Are the real queens as happy? When
they lay aside their royal robes for their grave clothes, will not the
pageantry which was the glory of their lives seem as vain as that of
this tinseled queen of the mad-house? Where is happiness, after all? Is
it in the circumstances, the external conditions? or, is it in the mind?
Such were the thoughts passing through my mind, when a man approached
with a violin. Every eye brightened, and the queen seemed to thrill with
pleasure in every nerve.
"This is the only way we can get some of them to take any exercise. The
music rouses them, and they will dance as long as they are permitted to
The fiddler struck up a lively tune, and the queen, with marvelous
lightness of step and ogling glances, ambled up to a tall, raw-boned
Methodist preacher, who had come with me, and invited him to dance with
her. The poor parson seemed sadly embarrassed, as her manner was very
pressing, but he awkwardly and confusedly declined, amid the titters of
all present. It was a singular spectacle, that dance of the mad-women.
The most striking figure on the floor was the queen. Her great size, her
brilliant apparel, her astonishing agility, the perfect time she kept,
the bows, the smiles and blandishments, she bestowed on an imaginary
partner, were indescribably ludicrous. Now and then, in her evolutions,
she would cast a momentary reproachful glance at the ungallant clergyman
who had refused to dance with feminine royalty, and who stood looking on
with a sheepish expression of face. He was a Kentuckian, and lack of
gallantry is not a Kentucky trait.
During the session of the Annual Conference at Stockton, in 1859 or
1860, the resident physician invited me to preach to the inmates of the
Asylum on Sunday afternoon. The novelty of the service, which was
announced in the daily papers, attracted a large number of visitors,
among them the greater part of the preachers. The day was one of those
bright, clear, beautiful October days, peculiar to California, that make
you think of heaven. I stood on the steps, and the hundreds of men and
Women stood below me, with their upturned faces. Among them were old men
crushed by sorrow, and old men ruined by vice; aged women with faces
that seemed to plead for pity, women that made you shrink from their
unwomanly gaze; lion-like young men, made for heroes but caught in the
devil's trap and changed into beasts; and boys whose looks showed that
sin had already stamped them with its foul insignia, and burned into
their souls the shame which is to be one of the elements of its eternal
punishment. A less impressible man than I would have felt moved at the
sight of that throng of bruised and broken creatures. A hymn was read,
and when Burnet, Kelsay, Neal, and others of the preachers, struck up an
old tune, voice after voice joined in the melody until it swelled into a
mighty volume of sacred song. I noticed that the faces of many were wet
with tears, and there was an indescribable pathos in their voices. The
pitying God, amid the rapturous hallelujahs of the heavenly hosts, bent
to listen to the music of these broken harps. This text was announced,
My peace I give unto you; and, the sermon began.
Among those standing nearest to me was "Old Kelley," a noted patient
whose monomania was the notion that he was a millionaire, and who spent
most of his time in drawing checks on imaginary deposits for vast sums
of money. I held one of his checks for a round million, but it has never
yet been cashed. The old man pressed up close to me, seeming to feel
that the success of the service somehow depended on him. I had not more
than fairly begun my discourse, when he broke in:
"That's Daniel Webster!"
I don't mind a judicious "Amen," but this put me out a little. I resumed
my remarks, and was getting another good start, when he again broke in
The preachers standing around me smiled--I think I heard one or two of
them titter. I could not take my eyes from Kelley, who stood with open
mouth and beaming countenance, waiting for me to go on. He held me with
an evil fascination. I did go on in a louder voice, and in a sort of
desperation; but again my delighted hearer exclaimed:
"Old Kelley" spoiled that sermon, though he meant kindly. He died not
long afterward, gloating over his fancied millions to the last.
"If you have steady nerves, come with me and I will show you the worst
case we have--a woman half tigress, and half devil."
Ascending a stairway, I was led to an angle of the building assigned to
the patients whose violence required them to be kept in close
"Hark! don't you hear her? She is in one of her paroxysms now."
The sounds that issued from one of the cells were like nothing I had
ever heard before. They were a series of unearthly, fiendish shrieks,
intermingled with furious imprecations, as of a lost spirit in an
ecstasy of rage and fear.
The face that glared upon me through the iron grating was hideous,
horrible. It was that of a woman, or of what had been a woman, but was
now a wreck out of which evil passion had stamped all that was womanly
or human. I involuntarily shrunk back as I met the glare of those fiery
eyes, and caught the sound of words that made me shudder. I never
suspected myself of being a coward, but I felt glad that the iron bars
of the cell against which she dashed herself were strong. I had read of
Furies--one was now before me. The bloated, gin-inflamed face, the
fiery-red, wicked eyes, the swinish chin, the tangled coarse hair
falling around her like writhing snakes, the tiger-like clutch of her
dirty fingers, the horrible words--the picture was sickening, disgust
for the time almost, extinguishing pity.
"She was the keeper of a beer-saloon in San Francisco, and led a life of
drunkenness and licentiousness until she broke down, and she was brought
"Is there any hope of her restoration?"
"I fear not--nothing short of a miracle can, retune an instrument so
fearfully broken and jangled."
I thought of her out of whom were cast the seven devils, and of Him who
came to seek and to save the lost, and resisting the impulse that
prompted me to hurry away from the sight and hearing of this lost woman,
I tried to talk with her, but had to retire at last amid a volley of
such language as I hope never to hear from a woman's lips again.
"Listen! Did you ever hear a sweeter voice than that?"
I had heard the voice before, and thrilled under its power. It was a
female voice of wonderful richness and volume, with a touch of something
in it that moved you strangely--a sort of intensity that set your
pulses to beating faster, while it entranced you. The whole of the
spacious grounds were flooded with the melody, and the passing teamsters
on the public highway would pause and listen with wonder and delight.
The singer was a fair young girl, with dark auburn hair, large brown
eyes, that were at times dreamy and sad, and then again lit up with
excitement, as her moods changed from sad to gay.
"She will sit silent for hours gazing listlessly out of the window, and
then all at once break forth into a burst of song so sweet and thrilling
that the other patients gather near her and listen in rapt silence and
delight. Sometimes at a dead hour of the night her voice is heard, and
then it seems that she is under a special afflatus--she seems to be
inspired by the very soul of music, and her songs, wild and sad, wailing
and rollicking, by turns, but all exquisitely sweet, fill the long
night-hours with their melody."
The shock caused by the sudden death of her betrothed lover overthrew
her reason, and blighted her life. By the mercy of God, the love of
music and the gift of song survived the wreck of love and of reason.
This girl's voice, pealing forth upon the still summer evening air, is
mingled with my last recollection of Stockton and its refuge for the
doubly miserable who are doomed to death in life.
"I want you to go with me over to San Quentin next Thursday, and preach
a thanksgiving-sermon to the poor fellows in the State-prison."
On the appointed morning, I met our party at the Vallejo-street wharf,
and we were soon steaming on our way. Passing under the guns of Fort
Alcatraz, past Angel Island--why so called I know not, as in early days
it was inhabited not by angels but goats only--all of us felt the
exhilaration of the California sunshine, and the bracing November air,
as we stood upon the guards, watching the play of the lazy-looking
porpoises, that seemed to roll along, keeping up with the swift motion
of the boat in such a leisurely way. The porpoise is a deceiver. As he
rolls up to the surface of the water, in his lumbering way, he looks as
if he were a huge lump of unwieldy awkwardness, floating at random and
almost helpless; but when you come to know him better, you find that he
is a marvel of muscular power and swiftness. I have seen a "school" of
porpoises in the Pacific swimming for hours alongside one of our
fleetest ocean-steamers, darting a few yards ahead now and then, as if
by mere volition, cutting their way through the water with the
directness of an arrow. The porpoise is playful at times, and his
favorite game is a sort of leap-frog. A score or more of the creatures,
seemingly full of fun and excitement, will chase one another at full
speed, throwing themselves from the water and turning somersaults in the
air, the water boiling with the agitation, and their huge bodies
flashing in the light. You might almost imagine that they had found
something in the sea that had made them drunk, or that they had inhaled
some sort of piscatorial anaesthetic. But here we are at our
destination. The bell rings, we round to, and land.
At San Quentin nature is at her best, and man at his worst. Against the
rocky shore the waters of the bay break in gentle splashings when the
winds are quiet. When the gales from the southwest sweep through the
Golden Gate, and set the white caps to dancing to their wild music, the
waves rise high, and dash upon the dripping stones with a hoarse roar,
as of anger. Beginning a few hundreds of yards from the water's edge,
the hills slope up, and up, and up, until they touch the base of
Tamalpais, on whose dark and rugged summit, four thousand feet above the
sea that laves his feet on the west, the rays of the morning sun fall
with transfiguring, glory while yet the valley below lies in shadow. On
this lofty pinnacle linger the last rays of the setting sun, as it drops
into the bosom of the Pacific. In stormy weather, the mist and clouds
roll in from the ocean, and gather in dark masses around his awful head,
as if the sea-gods had risen from their homes in the deep, and were
holding a council of war amid the battle of the elements; at other
times, after calm, bright days, the thin, soft white clouds that hang
about his crest deepen into crimson and gold, and the mountaintop looks
as if the angels of God had come down to encamp, and pitched here their
pavilions of glory. This is nature at San Quentin, and this is Tamalpais
as I have looked upon it many a morning and many an evening from my
window above the sea at North Beach.
The gate is opened for us, and we enter the prison-walls. It is a
holiday, and the day is fair and balmy; but the chill and sadness cannot
be shaken off, as we look around us. The sunshine seems almost to be a
mockery in this place where fellow-men are caged and guarded like wild
beasts, and skulk about with shaved heads, clad in the striped uniform
of infamy. Merciful God! is this what thy creature man was made for? How
long, how long?
Seated upon the platform with the prison officials and visitors, I
watched my strange auditors as they came in. There were one thousand of
them. Their faces were a curious study. Most of them were bad faces.
Beast and devil were printed on them. Thick necks, heavy back-heads, and
low, square foreheads, were the prevalent types. The least repulsive
were those who looked as if they were all animal, creatures of instinct
and appetite, good-natured and stupid; the most repulsive were those
whose eyes had a gleam of mingled sensuality and ferocity. But some of
these faces that met my gaze were startling--they seemed so out of
place. One old man with gray hair, pale, sad face, and clear blue eyes,
might have passed, in other garb and in other company, for an honored
member of the Society of Friends. He had killed a man in a mountain
county. If he was indeed a murderer at heart, nature had given him the
wrong imprint. My attention was struck by a smooth-faced, handsome young
fellow, scarcely of age, who looked as little like a convict as anybody
on that platform. He was in for burglary, and had a very bad record.
Some came in half laughing, as if they thought the whole affair more a
joke than anything else. The Mexicans, of whom there was quite a number,
were sullen and scowling. There is gloom in the Spanish blood. The
irrepressible good nature of several ruddy-faced Irishmen broke out in
sly merriment. As the service began, the discipline of the prison showed
itself in the quiet that instantly prevailed; but only a few, who joined
in the singing, seemed to feel the slightest interest in it. Their eyes
were wandering, and their faces were vacant. They had the look of men
who had come to be talked at and patronized, and who were used to it.
The prayer that was offered was not calculated to banish such a feeling
--it was dry and cold. I stood up to begin the sermon. Never before had
I realized so folly that God's message was to lost men, and for lost
men. A mighty tide of pity rushed in upon my soul as I looked down into
the faces of my hearers. My eyes filled, and my heart melted within me.
I could not speak until after a pause, and only then by great effort.
There was a deep silence, and every face was lifted to mine as I
announced the text. God had touched my heart and theirs at the start. I
read the words slowly: God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain
salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ. Then I said:
"My fellow-men, I come to you today with a message from my Father, and
your Father in heaven. It is a message of hope. God help me to deliver
it as I ought! God help you to hear it as you ought! I will not insult
you by saying that because you have an extra dinner, a few hours respite
from your toil, and a little fresh air and sunshine, you ought to have a
joyful thanksgiving today. If I should talk thus, you would be ready to
ask me how I would like to change places with you. You would despise me,
and I would despise myself, for indulging in such cant. Your lot is a
hard one. The battle of life has gone against you--whether by your own
fault or by hard fortune, it matters not, so far as the fact is
concerned; this thanksgiving-day finds you locked in here, with broken
lives, and wearing the badge of crime. God alone knows the secrets of
each throbbing heart before me, and how it is that you have come to
this. Fellow-men, children of my Father in heaven, putting myself for
the moment in your place, the bitterness of your lot is real and
terrible to me. For some of you there is no happier prospect for this
life than to toil within these walls by day, and sleep in yonder cells
by night, through the weary, slow-dragging years, and then to die, with
only the hands of hired attendants to wipe the death-sweat from your
brows; and then to be put in a convict's coffin, and taken up on the
hill yonder, and laid in a lonely grave. My God! this is terrible!"
An unexpected dramatic effect followed these words. The heads of many of
the convicts fell forward on their breasts, as if struck with sudden
paralysis. They were the men who were in for life, and the horror of it
overcame them. The silence was broken by sobbings all over the room. The
officers and visitors on the platform were weeping. The angel of pity
hovered over, the place, and the glow of human sympathy had melted those
stony hearts. A thousand strong men were thrilled with the touch of
sympathy, and once more the sacred fountain of tears was unsealed. These
convicts were men, after all, and deep down under the rubbish of their
natures there was still burning the spark of a humanity not yet extinct.
It was wonderful to see the softened expression of their faces. Yes,
they were men, after all, responding to the voice of sympathy, which had
been but too strange to many of them all their evil lives. Many of them
had inherited hard conditions; they were literally conceived in sin and
born in iniquity; they grew up in the midst of vice. For them pure and
holy lives were a moral impossibility. Evil with them was hereditary,
organic, and the result of association; it poisoned their blood at the
start, and stamped itself on their features from their cradles. Human
law, in dealing with these victims of evil circumstance, can make little
discrimination. Society must protect itself, treating a criminal as a
criminal. But what will God do with them hereafter? Be sure he will do
right. Where little is given, little will be required. It shall be
better for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment than for Chorazin and
Bethsaida. There is no ruin without remedy, except that which a man
makes for himself by abusing mercy, and throwing away proffered
opportunity. Thoughts like these rushed through the preacher's mind, as
he stood there looking in the tear-bedewed faces of these men of crime.
A fresh tide of pity rose in his heart, that he felt came from the heart
of the all-pitying One.
"I do not try to disguise from you, or from myself the fact that for
this life your outlook is not bright. But I come to you this day with a
message of hope from God our Father. He hath not appointed you to wrath.
He loves all his children. He sent his Son to die for them. Jesus trod
the paths of pain, and drained the cup of sorrow. He died as a
malefactor, for malefactors. He died for me. He died for each one of
you. If I knew the most broken, the most desolate-hearted, despairing
man before me, who feels that he is scorned of men and forsaken of God,
I would go to where he sits and put my hand on his head, and tell him
that God hath not appointed him to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our
Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us. I would tell him that his Father in
heaven loves him still, loves him more than the mother that bore him. I
would tell him that all the wrongs and follies of his past life may from
this hour be turned into so much capital of a warning experience, and
that a million of years from today he may be a child of the Heavenly
Father, and an heir of glory, having the freedom of the heavens and the
blessedness of everlasting life. O brothers, God does love you! Nothing
can ruin you but your own despair. No man has any right to despair who
has eternity before him. Eternity? Long, long eternity! Blessed, blessed
eternity! That is yours--all of it. It may be a happy eternity for each
one of you. From this moment you may begin a better life. There is hope
for you, and mercy, and love, and heaven. This is the message I bring
you warm from a brother's heart, and warm from the heart of Jesus, whose
life-blood was poured out for you and me. His loving hand opened the
gate of mercy and hope to every man. The proof is that he died for us. O
Son of God, take us to thy pitying arms, and lift us up into the light
that never, never grows dim--into the love that fills heaven and
As the speaker sunk into his seat, there was a silence that was almost
painful for a few moments. Then the pent-up emotion of the men broke
forth in sobs that shook their strong frames. Dr. Lucky, the prisoner's
friend, made a brief, tearful prayer, and then the benediction was said,
and the service was at an end. The men sat still in their seats. As we
filed out, of the chapel, many hands were extended to grasp mine,
holding it with a clinging pressure. I passed out bearing with me the
impression of an hour I can never forget; and the images of those
thousand faces are still painted in memory.
"So you were corralled last night?"
This was the remark of a friend whom I met in the streets of Stockton
the morning after my adventure. I knew what the expression meant as
applied to cattle, but I had never heard it before in reference to a
human being. Yes, I had been corralled; and this is how it happened:
It was in the old days, before there were any railroads in California.
With a wiry, clean-limbed pinto horse, I undertook to drive from
Sacramento City to Stockton one day. It was in the winter season, and
the clouds were sweeping up from the south-west, the snow-crested
Sierras hidden from sight by dense masses of vapor boiling at their
bases and massed against their sides. The roads were heavy from the
effects of previous rains, and the plucky little pinto sweated as he
pulled through the long stretches of black adobe mud. A cold wind struck
me in the face, and the ride was a dreary one from the start. But I
pushed on confidently, having faith in the spotted mustang, despite the
evident fact that he had lost no little of the spirit with which he
dashed out of town at starting. When a genuine mustang flags, it is a
serious business. The hardiness and endurance of this breed of horses
almost exceed belief.
Toward night a cold rain began to fall, driving in my face with the
headwind. Still many a long mile lay between me and Stockton. Dark came
on, and it was dark indeed. The outline of the horse I was driving could
not be seen, and the flat country through which I was driving was a
great black sea of night. I trusted to the instinct of the horse, and
moved on. The bells of a wagon-team meeting me fell upon my ear. I
"What's the matter?" answered a heavy voice through the darkness.
"Am I in the road to Stockton, and can I get there tonight?"
"You are in the road, but you will never find your way such a night as
this. It is ten good miles from here; you have several bridges to cross
--you had better stop at the first house you come to, about half a mile
ahead. I am going to strike camp myself."
I thanked my adviser, and went on, hearing the sound of the tinkling
bells, but unable to see any thing. In a little while I saw a light
ahead, and was glad to see it. Driving up in front and halting, I
repeated the traveler's "halloo" several times, and at last got a
response in a hoarse, gruff voice.
"I am belated on my way to Stockton, and am cold, and tired, and hungry.
Can I get shelter with you for the night?"
"You may try it, if you want to," answered the unmusical voice abruptly.
In a few moments a man appeared to take the horse, and taking my satchel
in hand, I went into the house. The first thing that struck my attention
on entering the room was a big log-fire, which I was glad to see, for I
was wet and very cold. Taking a chair in the corner, I looked around.
The scene that presented itself was not reassuring. The main feature of
the room was a bar, with an ample supply of barrels, demijohns, bottles,
tumblers, and all the et ceteras. Behind the counter stood the
proprietor, a burly fellow with a buffalo-neck, fair skin and blue eyes,
with a frightful scar across his left under-jaw and neck; his
shirt-collar was open, exposing, a huge chest, and his sleeves were
rolled up above the elbows. I noticed also that one of his hands was
minus all the fingers but the half of one--the result probably of some
desperate reencounter. I did not like the appearance of my landlord, and
he eyed me in a way that led me to fear that he liked my looks as little
as I did his; but the claims of other guests soon diverted his attention
from me, and I was left to get warm and make further observations. At a
table in the middle of the room several hard-looking fellows were
betting at cards, amid terrible profanity and frequent drinks of whisky.
They cast inquiring and not very friendly glances at me from time to
time, once or twice exchanging whispers and giggling. As their play went
on, and tumbler after tumbler of whisky was drunk by them, they became
more boisterous. Threats were made of using pistols and knives, with
which they all seemed to be heavily armed; and one sottish-looking brute
actually drew forth a pistol, but was disarmed in no gentle way by the
big-limbed landlord. The profanity and other foul language were
horrible. Many of my readers have no conception of the brutishness of
men when whisky and Satan have full possession of them. In the midst of
a volley of oaths and terrible imprecations by one of the most violent
of the set, there was a faint gleam of lingering decency exhibited by
one of his companions:
"Blast it, Dick, don't cuss so loud--that fellow in the corner there is
There was some potency in "the cloth" even there. How he knew my calling
I do not know. The remark directed particular attention to me and I
became unpleasantly conspicuous. Scowling glances were bent upon me by
two or three of the ruffians, and one fellow made a profane remark not
at all complimentary to my vocation--where at there was some coarse
laughter. In the meantime I was conscious of being very hungry. My
hunger, like that of a boy, is a very positive, thing at, least it was
very much so in those days. Glancing toward the maimed and scarred giant
who stood behind the bar, I found he was gazing at me with a fixed
"Can I get something to eat? I am very hungry, sir," I said in my
"Yes, we've, plenty of 'cold' goose, and maybe Pete can pick up
something else for you if he, is sober and in a good humor. Come this
I followed him through a narrow passage-way, which led to a long,
low-ceiled room, along nearly the whole length of which was stretched a
table, around which were placed rough stools for the rough men about
Pete, the cook; came in and the head of the house turned me over to him,
and returned to his duties behind the bar. From the noise of the uproar
going on, his presence was doubtless needed. Pete set before me a large
roasted wild-goose, not badly cooked, with bread, milk, and the
inevitable cucumber pickles. The knives and forks were not very bright
--in fact, they had been subjected to influences promotive of oxidation;
and the dishes were not free from signs of former use. Nothing could be
said against the tablecloth--there was no tablecloth there. But the
goose was fat, brown, and tender; and a hungry man defers his criticisms
until he is done eating. That is what I did. Pete evidently regarded me
with curiosity. He was about fifty years of age, and had the look of a
man who had come down in the world. His face bore the marks of the
effects of strong drink, but it was not a bad face; it was more weak
"Are you a preacher?" he asked.
"I thought so," he added, after getting my answer to his question. "Of
what persuasion are you?"! he further inquired.
When I told him I was a Methodist, he said quickly and with some warmth:
"I was sure of it. This is a rough place for a man of your calling.
Would you like some eggs? we've plenty on hand. And may be you would
like a cup of coffee," he added, with, increasing hospitality.
I took the eggs, but declined the coffee, not liking the looks of the
cups and saucers, and not caring to wait.
"I used to be a Methodist myself," said Pete, with a sort of choking in
his throat, "but bad luck and bad company have brought me down to this.
I have a family in Iowa, a wife and four children. I guess they think
I'm dead, and sometimes I wish I was."
Pete stood by my chair, actually crying. The sight of a Methodist
preacher brought up old times. He told me his story. He had come to
California hoping to make a fortune in a hurry, but had only ill luck
from the start. His prospectings were always failures, his partners
cheated him, his health broke down, his courage gave way, and--he
faltered a little, and then spoke it out--he took to whisky, and then
the worst came.
"I have come down to this--cooking for a lot of roughs at five dollars
a week, and all the whisky I want. It would have been better for me if I
had died when I was in the hospital at San Andreas."
Poor Pete! he had indeed touched bottom. But he had a heart and a
conscience still, and my own heart warmed toward my poor backslidden
"You are not a lost man yet. You are worth a thousand dead men. You can
get out of this, and you must. You must act the part of a brave man, and
not be any longer a coward. Bad luck and lack of success are a disgrace
to no man. There is where you went wrong. It was cowardly to give up and
not write to your family, and then take to whisky."
"I know all that, Elder. There is no better little woman on earth than
my wife"--Pete choked up again.
"You write to her this very night, and go back to her and your children
just as soon as you can get the money to pay your way. Act the man, and
all will come right yet. I have writing materials here in my satchel
--pen, ink, paper, envelopes, stamps, every thing; I am an editor, and go
fixed up for writing."
The letter was written, I acting as Pete's amanuensis, he pleading that
he was a poor scribe at best and that his nerves were too unsteady for
such work. Taking my advice, he made a clean breast of the whole matter,
throwing himself on the forgiveness of the wife whom he had so
shamefully neglected, and promising by the help of God to make all the
amends possible in time to come. The letter was duly directed, sealed,
and stamped; and Pete looked as if a great weight had been lifted from
his soul, He had made me a fire in the little stove, saying it was
better than the barroom; in which opinion I was fully agreed.
"There is no place for you to sleep tonight without corralling you with
the fellows; there is but one bedroom, and there are fourteen bunks in
I shuddered at the prospect-fourteen bunks in one small room, and those
whisky-sodden, loud-cursing card-players to be my roommates for the
"I prefer sitting here by the stove all night," I said; "I can employ
most of the time writing, if I can have a light."
Pete thought a moment, looked grave, and then said:
"That won't do, Elder; those fellows would take offense, and make
trouble. Several of them are out now goose-hunting; they will be coming
in at all hours from now till daybreak, and it won't do for them to find
you sitting up here alone. The best, thing for you to do is to go in and
take one of those bunks; you, needn't takeoff any thing but your coat
and boots, and"--here he lowered his voice, looking about him as he
spoke--"if you have any money about, keep it next to your body."
The last words were spoken with peculiar emphasis.
Taking the advice given me, I took up my baggage and followed Pete to
the room where I was to spend the night. Ugh! it was dreadful. The
single window in the room was nailed down, and the air was close and
foul. The bunks were damp and dirty beyond belief, grimed with foulness,
and reeking with ill odors. This was being corralled.
I turned to Pete, saying:
"I can't stand this--I will go back to the kitchen."
"You had better follow my advice, Elder," said he very gravely. "I know
things about here better than you do. It's rough, but you had better
And I did; being corralled, I had to stand it. That fearful night! The
drunken fellows staggered in one by one, cursing and hiccoughing, until
every bunk was occupied. They muttered oaths in their sleep, and their
stertorous breathings made a concert fit for Tartarus. The sickening
odors of whisky, onions, and tobacco filled the room. I lay there and
longed for daylight, which seemed as if it never would come. I thought
of the descriptions I had heard and read of hell, and just then the most
vivid conception of its horror was to be shut up forever with the
aggregated impurity of the universe. By contrast I tried to think of
that city of God into which, it is said, "there shall in no wise enter
into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination,
or maketh a lie; but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life."
But thoughts of heaven did not suit the situation; it was more
suggestive of the other place. The horror of being shut up eternally in
hell as the companion of lost spirits was intensified by the experience
and reflections of that night when I was corralled.
Day came at last. I rose with the first streaks of the dawn, and not
having much toilet to make, I was soon out-of-doors. Never did I breathe
the pure, fresh air with such profound pleasure and gratitude. I drew
deep inspirations, and, opening my coat and vest, let the breeze that
swept up the valley blow upon me unrestricted. How bright, was the face
of nature, and how sweet her, breath after the sights, sounds, and
smells of the night!
I did not wait for breakfast, but had my pinto and buggy brought out,
and, bidding Pete good-by, hurried on to Stockton.
"So you were corralled last night?" was the remark of a friend, quoted
at the beginning of this true sketch. "What was the name of the
proprietor of the house?"
I gave him the name.
"Dave W--!" he exclaimed with fresh astonishment. "That is the roughest
place in the San Joaquin Valley. Several men have been killed and robbed
there during the last two or three years."
I hope Pete got back safe to his wife and children in Iowa; and I hope I
may never be corralled again.
It is now more than twenty years since the morning a slender youth of
handsome face and modest mien came into my office on the corner of
Montgomery and Clay streets, San Francisco. He was the son of a preacher
well known in Missouri and California, a man of rare good sense, caustic
wit, and many eccentricities. The young man became an attache of my
newspaper-office and an inmate of my home. He was as fair as a girl, and
refined in his taste and manners. A genial taciturnity, if the
expression may be allowed, marked his bearing in the social circle.
Everybody had a kind feeling and a good word for the quiet, brightfaced
youth. In the discharge of his duties in the office he was punctual and
trustworthy, showing not only industry but unusual aptitude for business
It was with special pleasure that I learned that he was turning his
thoughts to the subject of religion. During the services in the little
Pine-street church he would sit with thoughtful face, and not seldom
with moistened eyes. He read the Bible and prayed in secret. I was not
surprised when he came to me one day and opened his heart. The great
crisis in his life had come. God was speaking to his soul, and he was
listening to his voice. The uplifted cross drew him, and he yielded to
the gentle attraction. We prayed together, and henceforth there was a
new and sacred bond that bound us to each other. I felt that I was a
witness to the most solemn transaction that can take place on earth--the
wedding of a soul to a heavenly faith. Soon thereafter he went to
Virginia, to attend college. There he united with the Church. His
letters to me were full of gratitude and joy. It was the blossoming of
his spiritual life, and the air was full of its fragrance, and the earth
was flooded with glory. A pedestrian tour among the Virginia hills
brought him into communion with Nature at a time when it was rapture to
drink in its beauty and its grandeur. The light kindled within his soul
by the touch of the Holy Spirit transfigured the scenery upon which he
gazed, and the glory of God shone round about the young student in the
flush and blessedness of his first love. O blessed days! O days of
brightness, and sweetness, and rapture! The soul is then in its
blossoming-time, and all high enthusiasms, all bright dreams, all
thrilling joys, are realities which inwork themselves into the
consciousness, to be forgotten never; to remain with us as prophecies of
the eternal springtime that awaits the true-hearted on the hills of God
beyond the grave, or as accusing voices charging us with the murder of
our dead ideals! Amid the dust and din of the battle in after-years we
turn to this radiant spot in our journey with smiles or tears; according
as we have been true or false to the impulses, aspirations, and purposes
inspired within us by that first, and brightest, and nearest
manifestation of God. Such a season is a natural to every life as the
April buds and June roses are to forest and garden. The springtime of
some lives is deferred by unpropitious circumstance to the time when it
should be glowing with autumnal glory, and rich in the fruitage of the
closing year. The life that does not blossom into religion in youth may
have light at noon, and peace at sunset, but misses the morning glory on
the hills, and the dew that sparkles on grass and flower. The call of
God to the young to seek him early is the expression of a true
psychology no less than of a love infinite in its depth and tenderness.
His college-course finished, my young friend returned to California, and
in one of its beautiful valley-towns he entered a law-office, with a
view to prepare himself for the legal profession. Here he was thrown
into daily association with a little knot of skeptical lawyers. As is
often the case, their moral obliquities ran parallel with their errors
in opinion. They swore, gambled genteelly, and drank. It is not strange
that in this icy atmosphere the growth of any young friend in the
Christian life was stunted. Such influences are like the dreaded north
wind that at times sweeps over the valleys of California in the spring
and early summer, blighting and withering the vegetation it does not
kill. The brightness of his hope was dimmed, and his soul knew the
torture of doubt--a torture that is always keenest to him who allows
himself to sink in the region of fogs after he has once stood upon the
sunlit summit of faith. Just at this crisis, a thing little in itself
deepened the shadow that was falling upon his life. A personal
misunderstanding with the pastor kept him from attending church. Thus he
lost the most effectual defense against the assaults that were being
made upon his faith and hope, in being separated from the fellowship and
cut off from the activities of the Church of God. Have you not noted
these malign coincidences in life? There are times when it seems that
the tide of events sets against us when, like the princely sufferer of
the land of Uz, every messenger that crosses the threshold brings fresh
tidings of ill, and our whole destiny seems to be rushing to a predoomed
perdition. The worldly call it bad luck; the superstitious call it fate;
the believer in God calls it by another name. Always of a delicate
constitution, my friend now exhibited symptoms of serious pulmonary
disease. It was at that time the fashion in California to prescribe
whisky as a specific for that class of ailments. It is possible that
there is virtue in the prescription, but I am sure of one thing, namely,
that if consumption diminished, drunkenness increased; if fewer died of
phthisis, more died of delirium tremens. The physicians of California
have sent a host of victims raving and gibbering in drunken frenzy or
idiocy down to death and hell! I have reason to believe that my friend
inherited a constitutional weakness at this point. As flame to tinder,
was the medicinal whisky to him. It grew upon him rapidly, and soon this
cloud overshadowed all his life. He struggled hard to break the
serpent-folds that were tightening around him; but the fire that had
been kindled seemed to be quenchless. An uncontrolled evil passion is
hellfire. He writhed in its burnings in an agony that could be
understood only by such as knew how almost morbidly sensitive was his
nature, and how vital was his conscience. I became a pastor in the town
where he lived, and renewed my association with him as far as I could.
But there was a constraint unlike the old times. When under the
influence of liquor, he would pass me in the streets with his head down,
a deeper flush mantling his cheek as he hurried by with unsteady step.
Sometimes I met him staggering homeward through a back street, hiding
from the gaze of men. He was at first shy of me when sober, but
gradually the constraint wore off, and he seemed disposed to draw nearer
to me, as in the old days. His struggle went on, days of drunkenness
following weeks of soberness, his haggard face after each debauch
wearing a look of unspeakable weariness and wretchedness. One of the
lawyers who had led him into the mazes of doubt--a man of large and
versatile gifts, whose lips were touched with a noble and persuasive
eloquence--sunk deeper and deeper into the black depths of drunkenness,
until the tragedy ended in a horror that lessened the gains of the
saloons for at least a few days. He was found dead in his bed one
morning in a pool of blood, his throat cut by his own guilty hand.
My friend had married a lovely girl, and the cottage in which they lived
was one of the coziest, and the garden in front was a little paradise of
neatness and beauty. Ah! I must drop a veil over a part of this true
tale. All along I have written under half protest, the image of a sad,
wistful face rising at times between my eyes and the sheet on which
these words are traced. They loved each other tenderly and deeply, and
both were conscious of the presence of the devil that was turning their
heaven into hell.
"Save him, Doctor, save him! He is the noblest of men, and the
tenderest, truest husband. He loves you, and he will let you talk to
him. Save him, O save him! Help me to pray for him! My heart will
Poor child! her loving heart was indeed breaking; and her fresh young
life was crushed under a weight of grief and shame too heavy to be
What he said to me in the interviews held in his sober intervals I have
not the heart to repeat now. He still fought against his enemy; he still
buffeted the billows that were going over him, though with feebler
stroke. When their little child died, her tears fell freely, but he was
like one stunned. Stony and silent he stood and saw the little grave
filled up, and rode away tearless, the picture of hopelessness.
By a coincidence; after my return to San Francisco, he came thither, and
again became my neighbor at North Beach. I went up to see him one
evening. He was very feeble, and it was plain that the end was not far
off. At the first glance I saw that a great change had taken place in
He had found his lost self. The strong drink was shut out from him, and
he was shut in with his better thoughts and with God. His religious life
rebloomed in wondrous beauty and sweetness. The blossoms of his early
joy had fallen off, the storms had torn its branches and stripped it of
its foliage, but its root had never perished, because he had never
ceased to struggle for deliverance. Aspiration and hope live or die
together in the human soul. The link that bound my friend to God was
never wholly sundered. His better nature clung to the better way with a
grasp that never let go altogether.
"O Doctor, I am a wonder to myself! It does seem to me that God has
given back to me every good thing I possessed in the bright and blessed
past. It has all come back to me. I see the light and feel the joy as I
did when I first entered the new life. O it is wonderful! Doctor, God
never gave me up, and I never ceased to yearn for his mercy and love,
even in the darkest season of my unhappy life?"
His very face had recovered its old look, and his voice its old tone.
There could be no doubt of this soul had rebloomed in the life of God.
The last night came--they sent for me with the message,
"Come quickly! he is dying."
I found him with that look which I have seen on the faces of others who
were nearing death--a radiance and a rapture that awed the beholder. O
solemn, awful mystery of death! I have stood in its presence in every
form of terror and of sweetness, and in every case the thought has been
impressed upon me that it was a passage into the Great Realities.
"Doctor," he said, smiling, and holding my hand; "I had hoped to be with
you in your office again, as in the old days--not as a business
arrangement, but just to be with you, and revive old memories, and to
live the old life over again. But that cannot be, and I must wait till
we meet in the world of spirits, whither I go before you. It seems to be
growing dark. I cannot see your face hold my hand. I am going--going. I
am on the waves--on the waves--." The radiance was still upon his
face, but the hand I held no longer clasped mine-the wasted form was
still. It was the end. He was launched upon the Infinite Sea for the
The Emperor Norton.
That was his title. He wore it with an air that was a strange mixture of
the mock-heroic and the pathetic. He was mad on this one point, and
strangely shrewd and well-informed on almost every other. Arrayed in a
faded-blue uniform, with brass buttons and epaulettes, wearing a
cocked-hat with an eagle's feather, and at times with a rusty sword at
his side, he was a conspicuous figure in the streets of San Francisco,
and a regular habitue of all its public places. In person he was stout,
full-chested, though slightly stooped, with a large head heavily coated
with bushy black hair, an aquiline nose, and dark gray eyes, whose mild
expression added to the benignity of his face. On the end of his nose
grew a tuft of long hairs, which he seemed to prize as a natural mark of
royalty, or chieftainship. Indeed, there was a popular legend afloat
that he was of true royal blood--a stray Bourbon, or something of the
sort. His speech was singularly fluent and elegant. The Emperor was one
of the celebrities that no visitor failed to see. It is said that his
mind was unhinged by a sudden loss of fortune in the early days, by the
treachery of a partner in trade. The sudden blow was deadly, and the
quiet, thrifty, affable man of business became a wreck. By nothing is
the inmost quality of a man made more manifest than by the manner in
which he meets misfortune. One, when the sky darkens, having strong
impulse and weak will, rushes into suicide; another, with a large vein
of cowardice, seeks to drown the sense of disaster in strong drink; yet
another, tortured in every fiber of a sensitive organization, flees from
the scene of his troubles and the faces of those that know him,
preferring exile to shame. The truest man, when assailed by sudden
calamity, rallies all the reserved forces of a splendid manhood to meet
the shock, and, like a good ship, lifting itself from the trough of the
swelling sea, mounts the wave and rides on. It was a curious
idiosyncrasy that led this man, when fortune and reason were swept away
at a stroke, to fall back upon this imaginary imperialism. The nature
that could thus, when the real fabric of life was wrecked, construct
such another by the exercise of a disordered imagination, must have been
originally of a gentle and magnanimous type. The broken fragments of
mind, like those of a statue, reveal the quality of the original
creation. It may be that he was happier than many who have worn real
crowns. Napoleon at Chiselhurst, or his greater uncle at St. Helena,
might have been gainer by exchanging lots with this man, who had the
inward joy of conscious greatness without its burden and its perils. To
all public places he had free access, and no pageant was complete
without his presence. From time to time he issued proclamations, signed
"Norton I.," which the lively San Francisco dailies were always ready to
print conspicuously in their columns. The style of these proclamations
was stately, the royal first person plural being used by him with all
gravity and dignity. Ever and anon, as his uniform became dilapidated or
ragged, a reminder of the condition of the imperial wardrobe would be
given in one or more of the newspapers, and then in a few days he would
appear in a new suit. He had the entree of all the restaurants, and he
lodged--nobody knew where. It was said that he was cared for by members
of the Freemason Society to which he belonged at the time of his fall. I
saw him often in my congregation in the Pine-street church, along in
1858, and into the sixties. He was a respectful and attentive listener
to preaching. On the occasion of one of his first visits he spoke to me
after the service, saying, in a kind and patronizing tone:
"I think it my duty to encourage religion and morality by showing myself
at church, and to avoid jealousy I attend them all in turn."
He loved children, and would come into the Sunday-school, and sit
delighted with their singing. When, in distributing the presents on a
Christmas-tree, a necktie was handed him as the gift of the young
ladies, he received it with much satisfaction, making a kingly bow of
gracious acknowledgment. Meeting him one day, in the springtime, holding
my little girl by the hand, he paused, looked at the child's bright
face, and taking a rose-bud from his button-hole, he presented it to her
with a manner so graceful, and a smile so benignant, as to show that
under the dingy blue uniform there beat the heart of a gentleman. He
kept a keen eye on current events, and sometimes expressed his views
with great sagacity. One day he stopped me on the street, saying:
"I have just read the report of the political sermon of Dr.--(giving
the name of a noted sensational preacher, who was in the habit, at
times, of discussing politics from his pulpit). I disapprove
political-preaching. What do you think?"
I expressed my cordial concurrence.
"I will put a stop to it. The preachers must stop preaching politics, or
they must all come into one State Church. I will at once issue a decree
to that effect."
For some unknown reason, that decree never was promulgated.
After the war, he took a deep interest in the reconstruction of the
Southern States. I met him one day on Montgomery street, when he asked
me in a tone and with a look of earnest solicitude:
"Do you hear any complaint or dissatisfaction concerning me from the
I gravely answered in the negative.
"I was for keeping the country undivided, but I have the kindest feeling
for the Southern people, and will see that they are protected in all
their rights. Perhaps if I were to go among them in person, it might
have a good effect. What do you think?"
I looked at him keenly as I made some suitable reply, but could see
nothing in his expression but simple sincerity. He seemed to feel that
he was indeed the father of his people. George Washington himself could
not have adopted a more paternal tone.
Walking along the street behind the Emperor one day, my curiosity was a
little excited by seeing him thrust his hand into the hip-pocket of his
blue trousers with sudden energy. The hip-pocket, by the way, is a
modern American stupidity, associated in the popular mind with rowdyism,
pistol shooting, and murder. Hip-pockets should be abolished wherever
there are courts of law and civilized men and women. But what was the
Emperor after? Withdrawing his hand just as I overtook him, the mystery
was revealed--it grasped a thick Bologna sausage, which he began to eat
with unroyal relish. It gave me a shock, but he was not the first royal
personage who has exhibited low tastes and carnal hankerings.
He was seldom made sport of or treated rudely. I saw him on one occasion
when a couple of passing hoodlums jeered at him. He turned and gave them
a look so full of mingled dignity, pain, and surprise, that the low
fellows were abashed, and uttering a forced laugh, with averted faces
they hurried on. The presence that can bring shame to a San Francisco
hoodlum must indeed be kingly, or in some way impressive. In that genus
the beastliness and devilishness of American city-life reach their
lowest denomination when the brutality of the savage and the lowest
forms of civilized vice are combined, human nature touches bottom.
The Emperor never spoke of his early life. The veil of mystery on this
point increased the popular curiosity concerning him, and invested him
with something of a romantic interest. There was one thing that excited
his disgust and indignation. The Bohemians of the San Francisco press
got into the practice of attaching his name to their satires and hits at
current follies, knowing that the well-known "Norton I." at the end
would insure a reading. This abuse of the liberty of the press he
denounced with dignified severity, threatening extreme measures unless
it were stopped. But nowhere on earth did the press exhibit more
audacity, or take a wider range, and it would have required a sterner
heart and a stronger hand than that of Norton I. to put a hook into its
The end of all human grandeur, real or imaginary, comes at last. The
Emperor became thinner and more stooped as the years passed. The humor
of his hallucination retired more and more into the background, and its
pathetic side came out more strongly. His step was slow and feeble, and
there was that look in his eyes so often seen in the old and sometimes
in the young, just before the great change comes--a rapt, far-away
look, suggesting that the invisible is coming into view, the shadows
vanishing and the realities appearing. The familiar face and form were
missed on the streets, and it was known that he was dead. He had gone to
his lonely lodging, and quietly lain down and died. The newspapers spoke
of him with pity and respect, and all San Francisco took time, in the
midst of its roar-and-rush fever of perpetual excitement, to give a kind
thought to the dead man who had passed over to the life where all
delusions are laid aside, where the mystery of life shall be revealed,
and where we shall see that through all its tangled web ran the golden
thread of mercy. His life was an illusion, and the thousands who sleep
with him in Lone Mountain waiting the judgment-day were his brothers.
She was from Baltimore, and had the fair face and gentle voice peculiar
to most Baltimore women. Her organization was delicate but elastic--one
of the sort that bends easily, but is hard to break. In her eyes was
that look of wistful sadness so often seen in holy women of her type.
Timid as a fawn, in the class-meeting she spoke of her love to Jesus and
delight in his service in a voice low and a little hesitating, but with
strangely thrilling effect. The meetings were sometimes held in her own
little parlor in the cottage on Dupont street, and then we always felt
that we had met where the Master himself was a constant and welcome
guest. She was put into the crucible. For more than fifteen years she
suffered unceasing and intense bodily pain. Imprisoned in her sick
chamber, she fought her long, hard battle. The pain-distorted limbs lost
their use, the patient face waxed more wan, and the traces of agony were
on it always; the soft, loving eyes were often tear washed. The fires
were hot, and they burned on through the long, long years without
respite. The mystery of it all was too deep for me; it was too deep for
her. But somehow it does seem that the highest suffer most:
The sign of rank in Nature Is capacity for pain, And the anguish of the
singer Makes the sweetness of the strain.
The victory of her faith was complete. If the inevitable why? sometimes
was in her thought, no shadow of distrust ever fell upon her heart. Her
sick-room was the quietest, brightest spot in all the city. How often
did I go thither weary and faint with the roughness of the way, and
leave feeling that I had heard the voices and inhaled the odors of
paradise! A little talk, a psalm, and then a prayer, during which the
room seemed to be filled with angel-presences; after which the thin,
pale face was radiant with the light reflected from our Immanuel's face.
I often went to see her, not so much to convey as to get a blessing. Her
heart was kept fresh as a rose of Sharon in the dew of the morning. The
children loved to be near her; and the pathetic face of the dear
crippled boy, the pet of the family, was always brighter in her
presence. Thrice death came into the home-circle with its shock and
mighty wrenchings of the heart, but the victory was not his, but hers.
Neither death nor life could separate her from the love of her Lord. She
was one of the elect. The elect are those who know, having the witness
in themselves. She was conqueror of both--life with its pain and its
weariness, death with its terror and its tragedy. She did not endure
merely, she triumphed. Borne on the wings of a mighty faith, her soul
was at times lifted above all sin, and temptation, and pain, and the
sweet, abiding peace swelled into an ecstasy of sacred joy. Her swimming
eyes and rapt look told the unutterable secret. She has crossed over the
narrow stream on whose margin she lingered so long; and there was joy on
the other side when the gentle, patient, holy Camilla Cain joined the
O though oft depressed and lonely, All my fears are laid aside, If I but
remember only Such as these have lived and died!
The sea-wind sweeps over the spot at times in gusts like the frenzy of
hopeless grief, and at times in sighs as gentle as those heaved by aged
sorrow in sight of eternal rest. The voices of the great city come
faintly over the sand-hills, with subdued murmur like a lullaby to the
pale sleepers that are here lying low. When the winds are quiet, which
is not often, the moan of the mighty Pacific can be heard day or night,
as if it voiced in muffled tones the unceasing woe of a world under the
reign of death. Westward, on the summit of a higher hill, a huge cross
stretches its arms as if embracing the living and the dead-the first
object that catches the eye of the weary voyager as he nears the Golden
Gate, the last that meets his lingering gaze as he goes forth upon the
great waters. O sacred emblem of the faith with which we launch upon
life's stormy main--of the hope that assures that we shall reach the
port when the night and the tempest are past! When the winds are high,
the booming of the breakers on the cliff sounds as if nature were
impatient of the long, long delay, and had anticipated the last thunders
that wake the sleeping dead. On a clear day, the blue Pacific,
stretching away beyond the snowy surf-line, symbolizes the shoreless sea
that rolls through eternity. The Cliff House road that runs hard by is
the chief drive of the pleasure-seekers of San Francisco. Gayety, and
laughter, and heart-break, and tears, meet on the drive; the wail of
agony and the laugh of gladness mingle as the gay crowds dash by the
slow-moving procession on its way to the grave. How often have I made
that slow, sad journey to Lone Mountain--a Via Doloroso to many who
have never been the same after they had gone thither, and coming back
found the light quenched and the music bushed in their homes! Thither
the dead Senator was borne, followed by the tramping thousands, rank on
rank, amid the booming of minute-guns, the tolling of bells, the
measured tread of plumed soldiers, and the roll of drums. Thither was
carried, in his rude coffin, the "unknown man" found dead in the
streets, to be buried in potter's-field. Thither was borne the hard and
grasping idolater of riches, who clung to his coin, and clutched for
more, until he was dragged away by the one hand that was colder and
stronger than his own. Here was brought the little child, out of whose
narrow grave there blossomed the beginnings of a new life to the father
and mother, who in the better life to come will be found among the
blessed company of those whose only path to paradise lay through the
valley of tears. Here were brought the many wanderers, whose last
earthly wish was to go back home, on the other side of the mountains, to
die, but were denied by the stern messenger who never waits nor spares.
And here was brought the mortal part of the aged disciple of Jesus, in
whose dying-chamber the two worlds met, and whose death-throes were
demonstrably the birth of a child of God into the life of glory.
The first time I ever visited the place was to attend the funeral of a
suicide. The dead man I had known in Virginia, when I was a boy. He was
a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, and when I first knew him
he was the captain of a famous volunteer company. He was as handsome as
a picture--the admiration of the girls, and the envy of the young men
of his native town. He was among the first who rushed to California on
the discovery of gold, and of all the heroic men who gave early
California its best bias none was knightlier than this handsome
Virginian; none won stronger friends, or had brighter hopes. He was the
first State Senator from San Francisco. He had the magnetism that won
and the nobility that retained the love of men. Some men push themselves
forward by force of intellect or of will--this man was pushed upward by
his friends because he had their hearts. He married a beautiful woman,
whom he loved literally unto death. I shall not recite the whole story.
God only knows it fully, and he will judge righteously. There was
trouble, rage, and tears, passionate partings and penitent reunions--the
old story of love dying a lingering yet violent death. On the fatal
morning I met him on Washington street. I noticed his manner was hurried
and his look peculiar, as I gave him the usual salutation and a hearty
grasp of the hand. As be moved away, I looked after him with mingled
admiration and pity, until his faultless figure turned the corner and
Ten minutes afterward he lay on the floor of his room dead, with a
bullet through his brain, his hair dabbled in blood. At the
funeral-service, in the little church on Pine street, strong men bowed
their heads and sobbed. His wife sat on a front seat, pale as marble and
as motionless, her lips compressed as with inward pain; but I saw no
tears on the beautiful face. At the grave the body had been lowered to
its resting-place, and all being ready, the attendants standing with
uncovered heads, I was just about to begin the reading of the solemn
words of the burial service, when a tall, blue-eyed man with gray
side-whiskers pushed his way to the head of the grave, and in a voice
choked with passion, exclaimed:
"There lies as noble a gentleman as ever breathed, and he owes his death
to that fiend!" pointing his finger at the wife, who stood pale and
silent looking down into the grave.
She gave him a look that I shall never forget, and the large steely-blue
eyes flashed fire, but she spoke no word. I spoke:
"Whatever maybe your feelings, or whatever the occasion for them, you
degrade yourself by such an exhibition of them here."
"That is so, sir; excuse me, my feelings overcame me," he said, and
retiring a few steps, he leaned upon a branch of a scrub-oak and sobbed
like a child.
The farce and the tragedy of real life were here exhibited on another
occasion. Among my acquaintances in the city were a man and his wife who
were singularly mismatched. He was a plain, unlettered, devout man, who
in a prayer-meeting or class-meeting talked with a simple-hearted
earnestness that always produced a happy effect.
She was a cultured woman, ambitious and worldly, and so fine-looking
that in her youth she must have been a beauty and a belle. They lived in
different worlds, and grew wider apart as time passed by--he giving
himself to religion, she giving herself to the world. In the gay city
circles in which she moved she was a little ashamed of the quiet, humble
old man, and he did not feel at home among them. There was no formal
separation, but it was known to the friends of the family that for
months at a time they never lived together. The fashionable daughters
went with their mother. The good old man, after a short sickness, died
in great peace. I was sent for to officiate at the funeral-service.
There was a large gathering of people, and a brave parade of all the
externals of grief, but it was mostly dry-eyed grief, so far as I could
see. At the grave, just as the sun that was sinking in the ocean threw
his last rays upon the spot, and the first shovelful of earth fell upon
the coffin that had been gently lowered to its resting-place, there was
a piercing shriek from one of the carriages, followed by the
"What shall I do? How can I live? I have lost my all! O! O! O!"
It was the dead man's wife. Significant glances and smiles were
interchanged by the bystanders. Approaching the carriage in which the
woman was sitting, I laid my hand upon her arm, looked her in the face,
She understood me, and not another sound did she utter. Poor woman! She
was not perhaps as heartless as they thought she was. There was at least
a little remorse in those forced exclamations, when she thought of the
dead man in the coffin; but her eyes were dry, and she stopped very
Another incident recurs to me that points in a different direction. One
day the most noted gambler in San Francisco called on me with the
request that I should attend the funeral of one of his friends, who had
died the night before. A splendid-looking fellow was this knight of the
faro-table. More than six feet in height, with deep chest and perfectly
rounded limbs, jet black hair, brilliant black eyes, clear olive
complexion, and easy manners, he might have been taken for an Italian
nobleman or a Spanish Don. He had a tinge of Cherokee blood in his
veins. I have noticed that this cross of the white and Cherokee blood
often results in producing this magnificent physical development. I have
known a number of women of this lineage, who were very queens in their
beauty and carriage. But this noted gambler was illiterate. The only
book of which he knew or cared much was one that had fifty-two pages,
with twelve pictures. If he had been educated, he might have handled the
reins of government, instead of presiding over a nocturnal banking
"Parson, can you come to number--, on Kearney street, tomorrow at ten
o'clock, and give us a few words and a prayer over a friend of mine, who
died last night?"
I promised to be there, and he left.
His friend, like himself, had been a gambler. He was from New York. He
was well educated, gentle in his manners, and a general favorite with
the rough and desperate fellows with whom he associated, but with whom
he seemed out of place. The passion for gambling had put its terrible
spell on him, and be was helpless in its grasp. But though he mixed with
the crowds that thronged the gambling-hells, he was one of them only in
the absorbing passion for play. There was a certain respect shown him by
all that venturesome fraternity. He went to Frazer River during the gold
excitement. In consequence of exposure and privation in that wild chase
after gold, which proved fatal to so many eager adventurers, he
contracted pulmonary disease, and came back to San Francisco to die. He
had not a dollar. His gambler friend took charge of him, placed him in a
good boarding-place, hired a nurse for him, and for nearly a year
provided for all his wants.
The miners called him the "Wandering Jew." That was behind his back. To
his face they addressed him as Father Newton. He walked his circuits in
the northern mines. No pedestrian could keep up with him, as with his
long form bending forward, his immense yellow beard that reached to his
breast floating in the wind, he strode from camp to camp with the
message of salvation. It took a good trotting-horse to keep pace with
him. Many a stout prospector, meeting him on a highway, after panting
and straining to bear him company, had to fall behind, gazing after him
in wonder, as he swept out of sight at that marvelous gait. There was a
glitter in his eye, and an intensity of gaze that left you in doubt
whether it was genius or madness that it bespoke. It was, in truth, a
little of both. He had genius. Nobody ever talked with him, or heard him
preach, without finding it out. The rough fellow who offended him at a
camp-meeting, near "Yankee Jim's," no doubt thought him mad. He was
making some disturbance just as the long bearded old preacher was
passing with a bucket of water in his hand.
"What do you mean?" he thundered, stopping and fixing his keen eye upon
A rude and profane reply was made by the jeering sinner.
Quick as thought Newton rushed upon him with flashing eye and uplifted
bucket, a picture of fiery wrath that was too much for the thoughtless
scoffer, who fled in terror amid the laughter of the crowd. The
vanquished son of Belial had no sympathy from anybody, and the plucky
preacher was none the less esteemed because he was ready to defend his
Master's cause with carnal weapons. The early Californians left scarcely
any path of sin unexplored, and were a sad set of sinners, but for
virtuous women and religion they never lost their reverence. Both were
scarce in those days, when it seemed to be thought that gold-digging and
the Decalogue could not be made to harmonize. The pioneer preachers
found that one good woman made a better basis for evangelization than a
score of nomadic bachelors. The first accession of a woman to a church
in the mines was an epoch in its history. The church in the house of
Lydia was the normal type--it must be anchored to woman's faith, and
tenderness, and love, in the home.
He visited San Francisco during my pastorate in 1858. On Sunday morning
he preached a sermon of such extraordinary beauty and power that at the
night-service the house was crowded by a curious congregation, drawn
thither by the report of the forenoon effort. His subject was the faith
of the mother of Moses, and he handled it in his own way. The powerful
effect of one passage I shall never forget. It was a description of the
mother's struggle, and the victory of her faith in the crisis of her
trial. No longer able to protect her child, she resolves to commit him
to her God. He drew a picture of her as she sat weaving together the
grasses of the little ark of bulrushes, her hot tears falling upon her
work, and pausing from time to time with her hand pressed upon her
throbbing heart. At length, the little vessel is finished, and she goes
by night to the bank of the Nile, to take the last chance to save her
boy from the knife of the murderers. Approaching the river's edge, with
the ark in her hands, she stoops a moment, but her mother's heart fails
her. How can she give up her child? In frenzy of grief she sinks upon
her knees, and lifting her gaze to the heavens, passionately prays to
the God of Israel. That prayer! It was the wail of a breaking heart, a
cry out of the depths of a mighty agony. But as she prays the
inspiration of God enters her soul, her eyes kindle, and her face beams
with the holy light of faith. She rises, lifts the little ark, looks
upon the sleeping face of the fair boy, prints a long, long kiss upon
his brow, and then with a firm step she bends down, and placing the tiny
vessel upon the waters, lets it go. "And away it went," he, said,
"rocking upon the waves as it swept beyond the gaze of the mother's
straining eyes. The monsters of the deep were there, the serpent of the
Nile was there, behemoth was there, but the child slept as sweetly and
as safely upon the rocking waters as if it were nestled upon its
mother's breast--for God was there!" The effect was electric. The
concluding words, "for God was there!" were uttered with upturned face
and lifted hands, and in a tone of voice that thrilled the hearers like
a sudden clap of thunder from a cloud over whose bosom the lightnings
had rippled in gentle flashes. It was true eloquence.
In a revival meeting, on another occasion, he said, in a sermon of
terrific power: "O the hardness of the human heart! Yonder is a man in
hell. He is told that there is one condition on which he may be
delivered, and that is that lie must get the consent of every good being
in the universe. A ray of hope enters his soul, and he sets out to
comply with the condition. He visits heaven and earth, and finds
sympathy and consent from all. All the holy angels consent to his
pardon; all the pure and holy on earth consent; God himself repeats the
assurance of his willingness that he maybe saved. Even in hell, the
devils do not object, knowing that his misery only heightens theirs. All
are willing, all are ready--all but one man. He refuses; he will not
consent. A monster of cruelty and wickedness, he refuses his simple
consent to save a soul from an eternal hell! Surely a good God and all
good beings in the universe would turn in horror from such a monster.
Sinner, you are that man! The blessed God, the Holy Trinity, every angel
in heaven, every good man and woman on earth, are not only willing but
anxious that you shall be saved. But you will not consent. You refuse to
come to Jesus that you may have life. You are the murderer of your own
immortal soul. You drag yourself down to hell. You lock the door of your
own dungeon of eternal despair, and throw the key into the bottomless
pit, by rejecting the Lord that bought you with his blood! You will be
lost! you must be lost! you ought to be lost."
The words were something like these, but the energy, the passion, the
frenzy of the speaker must be imagined. Hard and stubborn hearts were
moved under that thrilling appeal. They were made to feel that the
preacher's picture of a self doomed soul described their own eases.
There was joy in heaven that night over repenting sinners.
This old man of the mountains was a walking encyclopedia of theological
and other learning. He owned books that could not be duplicated in
California; and he read them, digested their contents, and constantly
surprised his cultivated bearers by the affluence of his knowledge, and
the fertility of his literary and classic allusion. He wrote with
elegance and force. His weak point was orthography. He would trip
sometimes in the spelling of the most common words. His explanation of
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