Roughing It, Part 1.
Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

Produced by David Widger


by Mark Twain


Part 1.

Of California,
an Honest Man, a Genial Comrade, and a Steadfast Friend.
By the Author,
In Memory of the Curious Time
When We Two




This book is merely a personal narrative, and not a pretentious history
or a philosophical dissertation. It is a record of several years of
variegated vagabondizing, and its object is rather to help the resting
reader while away an idle hour than afflict him with metaphysics, or goad
him with science. Still, there is information in the volume; information
concerning an interesting episode in the history of the Far West, about
which no books have been written by persons who were on the ground in
person, and saw the happenings of the time with their own eyes. I allude
to the rise, growth and culmination of the silver-mining fever in Nevada
-a curious episode, in some respects; the only one, of its peculiar kind,
that has occurred in the land; and the only one, indeed, that is likely
to occur in it.

Yes, take it all around, there is quite a good deal of information in the
book. I regret this very much; but really it could not be helped:
information appears to stew out of me naturally, like the precious ottar
of roses out of the otter. Sometimes it has seemed to me that I would
give worlds if I could retain my facts; but it cannot be. The more I calk
up the sources, and the tighter I get, the more I leak wisdom. Therefore,
I can only claim indulgence at the hands of the reader, not



My Brother appointed Secretary of Nevada--I Envy His Prospective
Adventures--Am Appointed Private Secretary Under Him--My Contentment
Complete--Packed in One Hour--Dreams and Visions--On the Missouri River
--A Bully Boat

Arrive at St. Joseph--Only Twenty-five Pounds Baggage Allowed--Farewell
to Kid Gloves and Dress Coats--Armed to the Teeth--The "Allen"--A
Cheerful Weapon--Persuaded to Buy a Mule--Schedule of Luxuries--We Leave
the "States"--"Our Coach"--Mails for the Indians--Between a Wink and an
Earthquake--A Modern Sphynx and How She Entertained Us--A Sociable Heifer

"The Thoroughbrace is Broke"--Mails Delivered Properly--Sleeping Under
Difficulties--A Jackass Rabbit Meditating, and on Business--A Modern
Gulliver--Sage-brush--Overcoats as an Article of Diet--Sad Fate of a
Camel--Warning to Experimenters

Making Our Bed--Assaults by the Unabridged--At a Station--Our Driver a
Great and Shining Dignitary--Strange Place for a Frontyard
--Accommodations--Double Portraits--An Heirloom--Our Worthy Landlord
--"Fixings and Things"--An Exile--Slumgullion--A Well Furnished Table--The
Landlord Astonished--Table Etiquette--Wild Mexican Mules--Stage-coaching
and Railroading

New Acquaintances--The Cayote--A Dog's Experiences--A Disgusted Dog--The
Relatives of the Cayote--Meals Taken Away from Home

The Division Superintendent--The Conductor--The Driver--One Hundred and
Fifty Miles' Drive Without Sleep--Teaching a Subordinate--Our Old Friend
Jack and a Pilgrim--Ben Holliday Compared to Moses

Overland City--Crossing the Platte--Bemis's Buffalo Hunt--Assault by a
Buffalo--Bemis's Horse Goes Crazy--An Impromptu Circus--A New Departure
--Bemis Finds Refuge in a Tree--Escapes Finally by a Wonderful Method

The Pony Express--Fifty Miles Without Stopping--"Here he Comes"--Alkali
Water--Riding an Avalanche--Indian Massacre

Among the Indians--An Unfair Advantage--Laying on our Arms--A Midnight
Murder--Wrath of Outlaws--A Dangerous, yet Valuable Citizen

History of Slade--A Proposed Fist-fight--Encounter with Jules--Paradise
of Outlaws--Slade as Superintendent--As Executioner--A Doomed Whisky
Seller--A Prisoner--A Wife's Bravery--An Ancient Enemy Captured--Enjoying
a Luxury--Hob-nobbing with Slade--Too Polite--A Happy Escape

Slade in Montana--"On a Spree"--In Court--Attack on a Judge--Arrest by
the Vigilantes--Turn out of the Miners--Execution of Slade--Lamentations
of His Wife--Was Slade a Coward?

A Mormon Emigrant Train--The Heart of the Rocky Mountains--Pure
Saleratus--A Natural Ice-House--An Entire Inhabitant--In Sight of
"Eternal Snow"--The South Pass--The Parting Streams--An Unreliable Letter
Carrier--Meeting of Old Friends--A Spoiled Watermelon--Down the
Mountain--A Scene of Desolation--Lost in the Dark--Unnecessary Advice
--U.S. Troops and Indians--Sublime Spectacle--Another Delusion Dispelled
--Among the Angels

Mormons and Gentiles--Exhilarating Drink, and its Effect on Bemis--Salt
Lake City--A Great Contrast--A Mormon Vagrant--Talk with a Saint--A Visit
to the "King"--A Happy Simile

Mormon Contractors--How Mr. Street Astonished Them--The Case Before
Brigham Young, and How he Disposed of it--Polygamy Viewed from a New

A Gentile Den--Polygamy Discussed--Favorite Wife and D. 4--Hennery for
Retired Wives--Children Need Marking--Cost of a Gift to No. 6
--A Penny-whistle Gift and its Effects--Fathering the Foundlings
--It Resembled Him--The Family Bedstead

The Mormon Bible--Proofs of its Divinity--Plagiarism of its Authors
--Story of Nephi--Wonderful Battle--Kilkenny Cats Outdone

Three Sides to all Questions--Everything "A Quarter"--Shriveled Up
--Emigrants and White Shirts at a Discount--"Forty-Niners"--Above Par--Real

Alkali Desert--Romance of Crossing Dispelled--Alkali Dust--Effect on the
Mules--Universal Thanksgiving

The Digger Indians Compared with the Bushmen of Africa--Food, Life and
Characteristics--Cowardly Attack on a Stage Coach--A Brave Driver--The
Noble Red Man

The Great American Desert--Forty Miles on Bones--Lakes Without Outlets
--Greely's Remarkable Ride--Hank Monk, the Renowned Driver--Fatal Effects
of "Corking" a Story--Bald-Headed Anecdote

Alkali Dust--Desolation and Contemplation--Carson City--Our Journey
Ended--We are Introduced to Several Citizens--A Strange Rebuke--A Washoe
Zephyr at Play--Its Office Hours--Governor's Palace--Government Offices
--Our French Landlady Bridget O'Flannigan--Shadow Secrets--Cause for a
Disturbance at Once--The Irish Brigade--Mrs. O'Flannigan's Boarders--The
Surveying Expedition--Escape of the Tarantulas

The Son of a Nabob--Start for Lake Tahoe--Splendor of the Views--Trip on
the Lake--Camping Out--Reinvigorating Climate--Clearing a Tract of Land
--Securing a Title--Outhouse and Fences

A Happy Life--Lake Tahoe and its Moods--Transparency of the Waters--A
Catastrophe--Fire! Fire!--A Magnificent Spectacle--Homeless Again--We
take to the Lake--A Storm--Return to Carson

Resolve to Buy a Horse--Horsemanship in Carson--A Temptation--Advice
Given Me Freely--I Buy the Mexican Plug--My First Ride--A Good Bucker--I
Loan the Plug--Experience of Borrowers--Attempts to Sell--Expense of the
Experiment--A Stranger Taken In

The Mormons in Nevada--How to Persuade a Loan from Them--Early History of
the Territory--Silver Mines Discovered--The New Territorial Government--A
Foreign One and a Poor One--Its Funny Struggles for Existence--No Credit,
no Cash--Old Abe Currey Sustains it and its Officers--Instructions and
Vouchers--An Indian's Endorsement--Toll-Gates

The Silver Fever--State of the Market--Silver Bricks--Tales Told--Off for
the Humboldt Mines

Our manner of going--Incidents of the Trip--A Warm but Too Familiar a
Bedfellow--Mr. Ballou Objects--Sunshine amid Clouds--Safely Arrived

Arrive at the Mountains--Building Our Cabin--My First Prospecting Tour
--My First Gold Mine--Pockets Filled With Treasures--Filtering the News to
My Companions--The Bubble Pricked--All Not Gold That Glitters

Out Prospecting--A Silver Mine At Last--Making a Fortune With Sledge and
Drill--A Hard Road to Travel--We Own in Claims--A Rocky Country

Disinterested Friends--How "Feet" Were Sold--We Quit Tunnelling--A Trip
to Esmeralda--My Companions--An Indian Prophesy--A Flood--Our Quarters
During It

The Guests at "Honey Lake Smith's"--"Bully Old Arkansas"--"Our Landlord"
--Determined to Fight--The Landlord's Wife--The Bully Conquered by Her
--Another Start--Crossing the Carson--A Narrow Escape--Following Our Own
Track--A New Guide--Lost in the Snow

Desperate Situation--Attempts to Make a Fire--Our Horses leave us--We
Find Matches--One, Two, Three and the Last--No Fire--Death Seems
Inevitable--We Mourn Over Our Evil Lives--Discarded Vices--We Forgive
Each Other--An Affectionate Farewell--The Sleep of Oblivion

Return of Consciousness--Ridiculous Developments--A Station House--Bitter
Feelings--Fruits of Repentance--Resurrected Vices

About Carson--General Buncombe--Hyde vs. Morgan--How Hyde Lost His Ranch
--The Great Landslide Case--The Trial--General Buncombe in Court--A
Wonderful Decision--A Serious Afterthought

A New Travelling Companion--All Full and No Accommodations--How Captain
Nye found Room--and Caused Our Leaving to be Lamented--The Uses of
Tunnelling--A Notable Example--We Go into the "Claim" Business and Fail
--At the Bottom

A Quartz Mill--Amalgamation--"Screening Tailings"--First Quartz Mill in
Nevada--Fire Assay--A Smart Assayer--I stake for an advance

The Whiteman Cement Mine--Story of its Discovery--A Secret Expedition--A
Nocturnal Adventure--A Distressing Position--A Failure and a Week's

Mono Lake--Shampooing Made Easy--Thoughtless Act of Our Dog and the
Results--Lye Water--Curiosities of the Lake--Free Hotel--Some Funny
Incidents a Little Overdrawn

Visit to the Islands in Lake Mono--Ashes and Desolation--Life Amid Death
Our Boat Adrift--A Jump For Life--A Storm On the Lake--A Mass of Soap
Suds--Geological Curiosities--A Week On the Sierras--A Narrow Escape From
a Funny Explosion--"Stove Heap Gone"

The "Wide West" Mine--It is "Interviewed" by Higbie--A Blind Lead--Worth
a Million--We are Rich At Last--Plans for the Future

A Rheumatic Patient--Day Dreams--An Unfortunate Stumble--I Leave
Suddenly--Another Patient--Higbie in the Cabin--Our Balloon Bursted
--Worth Nothing--Regrets and Explanations--Our Third Partner

What to do Next?--Obstacles I Had Met With--"Jack of All Trades"--Mining
Again--Target Shooting--I Turn City Editor--I Succeed Finely

My Friend Boggs--The School Report--Boggs Pays Me An Old Debt--Virginia

Flush Times--Plenty of Stock--Editorial Puffing--Stocks Given Me--Salting
Mines--A Tragedian In a New Role

Flush Times Continue--Sanitary Commission Fund--Wild Enthusiasm of the
People--Would not wait to Contribute--The Sanitary Flour Sack--It is
Carried to Gold Hill and Dayton--Final Reception in Virginia--Results of
the Sale--A Grand Total

The Nabobs of Those Days--John Smith as a Traveler--Sudden Wealth--A
Sixty-Thousand-Dollar Horse--A Smart Telegraph Operator--A Nabob in New
York City--Charters an Omnibus--"Walk in, It's All Free"--"You Can't Pay
a Cent"--"Hold On, Driver, I Weaken"--Sociability of New Yorkers

Buck Fanshaw's Death--The Cause Thereof--Preparations for His Burial
--Scotty Briggs the Committee Man--He Visits the Minister--Scotty Can't
Play His Hand--The Minister Gets Mixed--Both Begin to See--"All Down
Again But Nine"--Buck Fanshaw as a Citizen--How To "Shook Your Mother"
--The Funeral--Scotty Briggs as a Sunday School Teacher

The First Twenty-Six Graves in Nevada--The Prominent Men of the County
--The Man Who Had Killed His Dozen--Trial by Jury--Specimen Jurors--A
Private Grave Yard--The Desperadoes--Who They Killed--Waking up the Weary
Passenger--Satisfaction Without Fighting

Fatal Shooting Affray--Robbery and Desperate Affray--A Specimen City
Official--A Marked Man--A Street Fight--Punishment of Crime

Captain Ned Blakely--Bill Nookes Receives Desired Information--Killing of
Blakely's Mate--A Walking Battery--Blakely Secures Nookes--Hang First and
Be Tried Afterwards--Captain Blakely as a Chaplain--The First Chapter of
Genesis Read at a Hanging--Nookes Hung--Blakely's Regrets

The Weekly Occidental--A Ready Editor--A Novel--A Concentration of
Talent--The Heroes and the Heroines--The Dissolute Author Engaged
--Extraordinary Havoc With the Novel--A Highly Romantic Chapter--The Lovers
Separated--Jonah Out-done--A Lost Poem--The Aged Pilot Man--Storm On the
Erie Canal--Dollinger the Pilot Man--Terrific Gale--Danger Increases--A
Crisis Arrived--Saved as if by a Miracle

Freights to California--Silver Bricks--Under Ground Mines--Timber
Supports--A Visit to the Mines--The Caved Mines--Total of Shipments in

Jim Blaine and his Grandfather's Ram--Filkin's Mistake--Old Miss Wagner
and her Glass Eye--Jacobs, the Coffin Dealer--Waiting for a Customer--His
Bargain With Old Robbins--Robbins Sues for Damage and Collects--A New Use
for Missionaries--The Effect--His Uncle Lem. and the Use Providence Made
of Him--Sad Fate of Wheeler--Devotion of His Wife--A Model Monument--What
About the Ram?

Chinese in Virginia City--Washing Bills--Habit of Imitation--Chinese
Immigration--A Visit to Chinatown--Messrs. Ah Sing, Hong Wo, See Yup, &c.

Tired of Virginia City--An Old Schoolmate--A Two Years' Loan--Acting as
an Editor--Almost Receive an Offer--An Accident--Three Drunken Anecdotes
--Last Look at Mt. Davidson--A Beautiful Incident

Off for San Francisco--Western and Eastern Landscapes--The Hottest place
on Earth--Summer and Winter

California--Novelty of Seeing a Woman--"Well if it ain't a Child!"--One
Hundred and Fifty Dollars for a Kiss--Waiting for a turn

Life in San Francisco--Worthless Stocks--My First Earthquake--Reportorial
Instincts--Effects of the Shocks--Incidents and Curiosities--Sabbath
Breakers--The Lodger and the Chambermaid--A Sensible Fashion to Follow
--Effects of the Earthquake on the Ministers

Poor Again--Slinking as a Business--A Model Collector--Misery loves
Company--Comparing Notes for Comfort--A Streak of Luck--Finding a Dime
--Wealthy by Comparison--Two Sumptuous Dinners

An Old Friend--An Educated Miner--Pocket Mining--Freaks of Fortune

Dick Baker and his Cat--Tom Quartz's Peculiarities--On an Excursion
--Appearance On His Return--A Prejudiced Cat--Empty Pockets and a Roving

Bound for the Sandwich Islands--The Three Captains--The Old Admiral--His
Daily Habits--His Well Fought Fields--An Unexpected Opponent--The Admiral
Overpowered--The Victor Declared a Hero

Arrival at the Islands--Honolulu--What I Saw There--Dress and Habits of
the Inhabitants--The Animal Kingdom--Fruits and Delightful Effects

An Excursion--Captain Phillips and his Turn-Out--A Horseback Ride--A
Vicious Animal--Nature and Art--Interesting Ruins--All Praise to the

Interesting Mementoes and Relics--An Old Legend of a Frightful Leap--An
Appreciative Horse--Horse Jockeys and Their Brothers--A New Trick--A Hay
Merchant--Good Country for Horse Lovers

A Saturday Afternoon--Sandwich Island Girls on a Frolic--The Poi
Merchant--Grand Gala Day--A Native Dance--Church Membership--Cats and
Officials--An Overwhelming Discovery

The Legislature of the Island--What Its President Has Seen--Praying for
an Enemy--Women's Rights--Romantic Fashions--Worship of the Shark--Desire
for Dress--Full Dress--Not Paris Style--Playing Empire--Officials and
Foreign Ambassadors--Overwhelming Magnificence

A Royal Funeral--Order of Procession--Pomp and Ceremony--A Striking
Contrast--A Sick Monarch--Human Sacrifices at His Death--Burial Orgies

"Once more upon the Waters."--A Noisy Passenger--Several Silent Ones--A
Moonlight Scene--Fruits and Plantations

A Droll Character--Mrs. Beazely and Her Son--Meditations on Turnips--A
Letter from Horace Greeley--An Indignant Rejoinder--The Letter Translated
but too Late

Kealakekua Bay--Death of Captain Cook--His Monument--Its Construction--On
Board the Schooner

Young Kanakas in New England--A Temple Built by Ghosts--Female Bathers--I
Stood Guard--Women and Whiskey--A Fight for Religion--Arrival of

Native Canoes--Surf Bathing--A Sanctuary--How Built--The Queen's Rock
--Curiosities--Petrified Lava

Visit to the Volcano--The Crater--Pillar of Fire--Magnificent Spectacle
--A Lake of Fire

The North Lake--Fountains of Fire--Streams of Burning Lava--Tidal Waves

A Reminiscence--Another Horse Story--My Ride with the Retired Milk Horse
--A Picnicing Excursion--Dead Volcano of Holeakala--Comparison with
Vesuvius--An Inside View

A Curious Character--A Series of Stories--Sad Fate of a Liar--Evidence of

Return to San Francisco--Ship Amusements--Preparing for Lecturing
--Valuable Assistance Secured--My First Attempt--The Audience Carried
--"All's Well that Ends Well."

Highwaymen--A Predicament--A Huge Joke--Farewell to California--At Home
Again--Great Changes. Moral.

A.--Brief Sketch of Mormon History
B.--The Mountain Meadows Massacre
C.--Concerning a Frightful Assassination that was never Consummated


My brother had just been appointed Secretary of Nevada Territory--an
office of such majesty that it concentrated in itself the duties and
dignities of Treasurer, Comptroller, Secretary of State, and Acting
Governor in the Governor's absence. A salary of eighteen hundred dollars
a year and the title of "Mr. Secretary," gave to the great position an
air of wild and imposing grandeur. I was young and ignorant, and I
envied my brother. I coveted his distinction and his financial splendor,
but particularly and especially the long, strange journey he was going to
make, and the curious new world he was going to explore. He was going to
travel! I never had been away from home, and that word "travel" had a
seductive charm for me. Pretty soon he would be hundreds and hundreds of
miles away on the great plains and deserts, and among the mountains of
the Far West, and would see buffaloes and Indians, and prairie dogs, and
antelopes, and have all kinds of adventures, and may be get hanged or
scalped, and have ever such a fine time, and write home and tell us all
about it, and be a hero. And he would see the gold mines and the silver
mines, and maybe go about of an afternoon when his work was done, and
pick up two or three pailfuls of shining slugs, and nuggets of gold and
silver on the hillside. And by and by he would become very rich, and
return home by sea, and be able to talk as calmly about San Francisco and
the ocean, and "the isthmus" as if it was nothing of any consequence to
have seen those marvels face to face. What I suffered in contemplating
his happiness, pen cannot describe. And so, when he offered me, in cold
blood, the sublime position of private secretary under him, it appeared
to me that the heavens and the earth passed away, and the firmament was
rolled together as a scroll! I had nothing more to desire. My
contentment was complete.

At the end of an hour or two I was ready for the journey. Not much
packing up was necessary, because we were going in the overland stage
from the Missouri frontier to Nevada, and passengers were only allowed a
small quantity of baggage apiece. There was no Pacific railroad in those
fine times of ten or twelve years ago--not a single rail of it.
I only proposed to stay in Nevada three months--I had no thought of
staying longer than that. I meant to see all I could that was new and
strange, and then hurry home to business. I little thought that I would
not see the end of that three-month pleasure excursion for six or seven
uncommonly long years!

I dreamed all night about Indians, deserts, and silver bars, and in due
time, next day, we took shipping at the St. Louis wharf on board a
steamboat bound up the Missouri River.

We were six days going from St. Louis to "St. Jo."--a trip that was so
dull, and sleepy, and eventless that it has left no more impression on my
memory than if its duration had been six minutes instead of that many
days. No record is left in my mind, now, concerning it, but a confused
jumble of savage-looking snags, which we deliberately walked over with
one wheel or the other; and of reefs which we butted and butted, and then
retired from and climbed over in some softer place; and of sand-bars
which we roosted on occasionally, and rested, and then got out our
crutches and sparred over.

In fact, the boat might almost as well have gone to St. Jo. by land, for
she was walking most of the time, anyhow--climbing over reefs and
clambering over snags patiently and laboriously all day long. The
captain said she was a "bully" boat, and all she wanted was more "shear"
and a bigger wheel. I thought she wanted a pair of stilts, but I had the
deep sagacity not to say so.


The first thing we did on that glad evening that landed us at St. Joseph
was to hunt up the stage-office, and pay a hundred and fifty dollars
apiece for tickets per overland coach to Carson City, Nevada.

The next morning, bright and early, we took a hasty breakfast, and
hurried to the starting-place. Then an inconvenience presented itself
which we had not properly appreciated before, namely, that one cannot
make a heavy traveling trunk stand for twenty-five pounds of baggage
--because it weighs a good deal more. But that was all we could take
--twenty-five pounds each. So we had to snatch our trunks open, and make a
selection in a good deal of a hurry. We put our lawful twenty-five
pounds apiece all in one valise, and shipped the trunks back to St. Louis
again. It was a sad parting, for now we had no swallow-tail coats and
white kid gloves to wear at Pawnee receptions in the Rocky Mountains, and
no stove-pipe hats nor patent-leather boots, nor anything else necessary
to make life calm and peaceful. We were reduced to a war-footing. Each
of us put on a rough, heavy suit of clothing, woolen army shirt and
"stogy" boots included; and into the valise we crowded a few white
shirts, some under-clothing and such things. My brother, the Secretary,
took along about four pounds of United States statutes and six pounds of
Unabridged Dictionary; for we did not know--poor innocents--that such
things could be bought in San Francisco on one day and received in Carson
City the next. I was armed to the teeth with a pitiful little Smith &
Wesson's seven-shooter, which carried a ball like a homoeopathic pill,
and it took the whole seven to make a dose for an adult. But I thought
it was grand. It appeared to me to be a dangerous weapon. It only had
one fault--you could not hit anything with it. One of our "conductors"
practiced awhile on a cow with it, and as long as she stood still and
behaved herself she was safe; but as soon as she went to moving about,
and he got to shooting at other things, she came to grief. The Secretary
had a small-sized Colt's revolver strapped around him for protection
against the Indians, and to guard against accidents he carried it
uncapped. Mr. George Bemis was dismally formidable. George Bemis was
our fellow-traveler.

We had never seen him before. He wore in his belt an old original
"Allen" revolver, such as irreverent people called a "pepper-box." Simply
drawing the trigger back, cocked and fired the pistol. As the trigger
came back, the hammer would begin to rise and the barrel to turn over,
and presently down would drop the hammer, and away would speed the ball.
To aim along the turning barrel and hit the thing aimed at was a feat
which was probably never done with an "Allen" in the world. But George's
was a reliable weapon, nevertheless, because, as one of the stage-drivers
afterward said, "If she didn't get what she went after, she would fetch
something else." And so she did. She went after a deuce of spades nailed
against a tree, once, and fetched a mule standing about thirty yards to
the left of it. Bemis did not want the mule; but the owner came out with
a double-barreled shotgun and persuaded him to buy it, anyhow. It was a
cheerful weapon--the "Allen." Sometimes all its six barrels would go off
at once, and then there was no safe place in all the region round about,
but behind it.

We took two or three blankets for protection against frosty weather in
the mountains. In the matter of luxuries we were modest--we took none
along but some pipes and five pounds of smoking tobacco. We had two
large canteens to carry water in, between stations on the Plains, and we
also took with us a little shot-bag of silver coin for daily expenses in
the way of breakfasts and dinners.

By eight o'clock everything was ready, and we were on the other side of
the river. We jumped into the stage, the driver cracked his whip, and we
bowled away and left "the States" behind us. It was a superb summer
morning, and all the landscape was brilliant with sunshine. There was a
freshness and breeziness, too, and an exhilarating sense of emancipation
from all sorts of cares and responsibilities, that almost made us feel
that the years we had spent in the close, hot city, toiling and slaving,
had been wasted and thrown away. We were spinning along through Kansas,
and in the course of an hour and a half we were fairly abroad on the
great Plains. Just here the land was rolling--a grand sweep of regular
elevations and depressions as far as the eye could reach--like the
stately heave and swell of the ocean's bosom after a storm. And
everywhere were cornfields, accenting with squares of deeper green, this
limitless expanse of grassy land. But presently this sea upon dry ground
was to lose its "rolling" character and stretch away for seven hundred
miles as level as a floor!

Our coach was a great swinging and swaying stage, of the most sumptuous
description--an imposing cradle on wheels. It was drawn by six handsome
horses, and by the side of the driver sat the "conductor," the legitimate
captain of the craft; for it was his business to take charge and care of
the mails, baggage, express matter, and passengers. We three were the
only passengers, this trip. We sat on the back seat, inside. About all
the rest of the coach was full of mail bags--for we had three days'
delayed mails with us. Almost touching our knees, a perpendicular wall
of mail matter rose up to the roof. There was a great pile of it
strapped on top of the stage, and both the fore and hind boots were full.
We had twenty-seven hundred pounds of it aboard, the driver said--"a
little for Brigham, and Carson, and 'Frisco, but the heft of it for the
Injuns, which is powerful troublesome 'thout they get plenty of truck to
read." But as he just then got up a fearful convulsion of his countenance
which was suggestive of a wink being swallowed by an earthquake, we
guessed that his remark was intended to be facetious, and to mean that we
would unload the most of our mail matter somewhere on the Plains and
leave it to the Indians, or whosoever wanted it.

We changed horses every ten miles, all day long, and fairly flew over the
hard, level road. We jumped out and stretched our legs every time the
coach stopped, and so the night found us still vivacious and unfatigued.

After supper a woman got in, who lived about fifty miles further on, and
we three had to take turns at sitting outside with the driver and
conductor. Apparently she was not a talkative woman. She would sit
there in the gathering twilight and fasten her steadfast eyes on a
mosquito rooting into her arm, and slowly she would raise her other hand
till she had got his range, and then she would launch a slap at him that
would have jolted a cow; and after that she would sit and contemplate the
corpse with tranquil satisfaction--for she never missed her mosquito; she
was a dead shot at short range. She never removed a carcase, but left
them there for bait. I sat by this grim Sphynx and watched her kill
thirty or forty mosquitoes--watched her, and waited for her to say
something, but she never did. So I finally opened the conversation
myself. I said:

"The mosquitoes are pretty bad, about here, madam."

"You bet!"

"What did I understand you to say, madam?"

"You BET!"

Then she cheered up, and faced around and said:

"Danged if I didn't begin to think you fellers was deef and dumb. I did,
b'gosh. Here I've sot, and sot, and sot, a-bust'n muskeeters and
wonderin' what was ailin' ye. Fust I thot you was deef and dumb, then I
thot you was sick or crazy, or suthin', and then by and by I begin to
reckon you was a passel of sickly fools that couldn't think of nothing to
say. Wher'd ye come from?"

The Sphynx was a Sphynx no more! The fountains of her great deep were
broken up, and she rained the nine parts of speech forty days and forty
nights, metaphorically speaking, and buried us under a desolating deluge
of trivial gossip that left not a crag or pinnacle of rejoinder
projecting above the tossing waste of dislocated grammar and decomposed

How we suffered, suffered, suffered! She went on, hour after hour, till
I was sorry I ever opened the mosquito question and gave her a start.
She never did stop again until she got to her journey's end toward
daylight; and then she stirred us up as she was leaving the stage (for we
were nodding, by that time), and said:

"Now you git out at Cottonwood, you fellers, and lay over a couple o'
days, and I'll be along some time to-night, and if I can do ye any good
by edgin' in a word now and then, I'm right thar. Folks'll tell you't
I've always ben kind o' offish and partic'lar for a gal that's raised in
the woods, and I am, with the rag-tag and bob-tail, and a gal has to be,
if she wants to be anything, but when people comes along which is my
equals, I reckon I'm a pretty sociable heifer after all."

We resolved not to "lay by at Cottonwood."


About an hour and a half before daylight we were bowling along smoothly
over the road--so smoothly that our cradle only rocked in a gentle,
lulling way, that was gradually soothing us to sleep, and dulling our
consciousness--when something gave away under us! We were dimly aware of
it, but indifferent to it. The coach stopped. We heard the driver and
conductor talking together outside, and rummaging for a lantern, and
swearing because they could not find it--but we had no interest in
whatever had happened, and it only added to our comfort to think of those
people out there at work in the murky night, and we snug in our nest with
the curtains drawn. But presently, by the sounds, there seemed to be an
examination going on, and then the driver's voice said:

"By George, the thoroughbrace is broke!"

This startled me broad awake--as an undefined sense of calamity is always
apt to do. I said to myself: "Now, a thoroughbrace is probably part of a
horse; and doubtless a vital part, too, from the dismay in the driver's
voice. Leg, maybe--and yet how could he break his leg waltzing along
such a road as this? No, it can't be his leg. That is impossible,
unless he was reaching for the driver. Now, what can be the
thoroughbrace of a horse, I wonder? Well, whatever comes, I shall not
air my ignorance in this crowd, anyway."

Just then the conductor's face appeared at a lifted curtain, and his
lantern glared in on us and our wall of mail matter. He said:
"Gents, you'll have to turn out a spell. Thoroughbrace is broke."

We climbed out into a chill drizzle, and felt ever so homeless and
dreary. When I found that the thing they called a "thoroughbrace" was
the massive combination of belts and springs which the coach rocks itself
in, I said to the driver:

"I never saw a thoroughbrace used up like that, before, that I can
remember. How did it happen?"

"Why, it happened by trying to make one coach carry three days' mail
--that's how it happened," said he. "And right here is the very direction
which is wrote on all the newspaper-bags which was to be put out for the
Injuns for to keep 'em quiet. It's most uncommon lucky, becuz it's so
nation dark I should 'a' gone by unbeknowns if that air thoroughbrace
hadn't broke."

I knew that he was in labor with another of those winks of his, though I
could not see his face, because he was bent down at work; and wishing him
a safe delivery, I turned to and helped the rest get out the mail-sacks.
It made a great pyramid by the roadside when it was all out. When they
had mended the thoroughbrace we filled the two boots again, but put no
mail on top, and only half as much inside as there was before. The
conductor bent all the seat-backs down, and then filled the coach just
half full of mail-bags from end to end. We objected loudly to this, for
it left us no seats. But the conductor was wiser than we, and said a bed
was better than seats, and moreover, this plan would protect his
thoroughbraces. We never wanted any seats after that. The lazy bed was
infinitely preferable. I had many an exciting day, subsequently, lying
on it reading the statutes and the dictionary, and wondering how the
characters would turn out.

The conductor said he would send back a guard from the next station to
take charge of the abandoned mail-bags, and we drove on.

It was now just dawn; and as we stretched our cramped legs full length on
the mail sacks, and gazed out through the windows across the wide wastes
of greensward clad in cool, powdery mist, to where there was an expectant
look in the eastern horizon, our perfect enjoyment took the form of a
tranquil and contented ecstasy. The stage whirled along at a spanking
gait, the breeze flapping curtains and suspended coats in a most
exhilarating way; the cradle swayed and swung luxuriously, the pattering
of the horses' hoofs, the cracking of the driver's whip, and his "Hi-yi!
g'lang!" were music; the spinning ground and the waltzing trees appeared
to give us a mute hurrah as we went by, and then slack up and look after
us with interest, or envy, or something; and as we lay and smoked the
pipe of peace and compared all this luxury with the years of tiresome
city life that had gone before it, we felt that there was only one
complete and satisfying happiness in the world, and we had found it.

After breakfast, at some station whose name I have forgotten, we three
climbed up on the seat behind the driver, and let the conductor have our
bed for a nap. And by and by, when the sun made me drowsy, I lay down on
my face on top of the coach, grasping the slender iron railing, and slept
for an hour or more. That will give one an appreciable idea of those
matchless roads. Instinct will make a sleeping man grip a fast hold of
the railing when the stage jolts, but when it only swings and sways, no
grip is necessary. Overland drivers and conductors used to sit in their
places and sleep thirty or forty minutes at a time, on good roads, while
spinning along at the rate of eight or ten miles an hour. I saw them do
it, often. There was no danger about it; a sleeping man will seize the
irons in time when the coach jolts. These men were hard worked, and it
was not possible for them to stay awake all the time.

By and by we passed through Marysville, and over the Big Blue and Little
Sandy; thence about a mile, and entered Nebraska. About a mile further
on, we came to the Big Sandy--one hundred and eighty miles from St.

As the sun was going down, we saw the first specimen of an animal known
familiarly over two thousand miles of mountain and desert--from Kansas
clear to the Pacific Ocean--as the "jackass rabbit." He is well named.
He is just like any other rabbit, except that he is from one third to
twice as large, has longer legs in proportion to his size, and has the
most preposterous ears that ever were mounted on any creature but a

When he is sitting quiet, thinking about his sins, or is absent-minded or
unapprehensive of danger, his majestic ears project above him
conspicuously; but the breaking of a twig will scare him nearly to death,
and then he tilts his ears back gently and starts for home. All you can
see, then, for the next minute, is his long gray form stretched out
straight and "streaking it" through the low sage-brush, head erect, eyes
right, and ears just canted a little to the rear, but showing you where
the animal is, all the time, the same as if he carried a jib. Now and
then he makes a marvelous spring with his long legs, high over the
stunted sage-brush, and scores a leap that would make a horse envious.
Presently he comes down to a long, graceful "lope," and shortly he
mysteriously disappears. He has crouched behind a sage-bush, and will
sit there and listen and tremble until you get within six feet of him,
when he will get under way again. But one must shoot at this creature
once, if he wishes to see him throw his heart into his heels, and do the
best he knows how. He is frightened clear through, now, and he lays his
long ears down on his back, straightens himself out like a yard-stick
every spring he makes, and scatters miles behind him with an easy
indifference that is enchanting.

Our party made this specimen "hump himself," as the conductor said. The
secretary started him with a shot from the Colt; I commenced spitting at
him with my weapon; and all in the same instant the old "Allen's" whole
broadside let go with a rattling crash, and it is not putting it too
strong to say that the rabbit was frantic! He dropped his ears, set up
his tail, and left for San Francisco at a speed which can only be
described as a flash and a vanish! Long after he was out of sight we
could hear him whiz.

I do not remember where we first came across "sage-brush," but as I have
been speaking of it I may as well describe it.

This is easily done, for if the reader can imagine a gnarled and
venerable live oak-tree reduced to a little shrub two feet-high, with its
rough bark, its foliage, its twisted boughs, all complete, he can picture
the "sage-brush" exactly. Often, on lazy afternoons in the mountains, I
have lain on the ground with my face under a sage-bush, and entertained
myself with fancying that the gnats among its foliage were liliputian
birds, and that the ants marching and countermarching about its base were
liliputian flocks and herds, and myself some vast loafer from Brobdignag
waiting to catch a little citizen and eat him.

It is an imposing monarch of the forest in exquisite miniature, is the
"sage-brush." Its foliage is a grayish green, and gives that tint to
desert and mountain. It smells like our domestic sage, and "sage-tea"
made from it taste like the sage-tea which all boys are so well
acquainted with. The sage-brush is a singularly hardy plant, and grows
right in the midst of deep sand, and among barren rocks, where nothing
else in the vegetable world would try to grow, except "bunch-grass."
--["Bunch-grass" grows on the bleak mountain-sides of Nevada and
neighboring territories, and offers excellent feed for stock, even in the
dead of winter, wherever the snow is blown aside and exposes it;
notwithstanding its unpromising home, bunch-grass is a better and more
nutritious diet for cattle and horses than almost any other hay or grass
that is known--so stock-men say.]--The sage-bushes grow from three to
six or seven feet apart, all over the mountains and deserts of the Far
West, clear to the borders of California. There is not a tree of any
kind in the deserts, for hundreds of miles--there is no vegetation at all
in a regular desert, except the sage-brush and its cousin the
"greasewood," which is so much like the sage-brush that the difference
amounts to little. Camp-fires and hot suppers in the deserts would be
impossible but for the friendly sage-brush. Its trunk is as large as a
boy's wrist (and from that up to a man's arm), and its crooked branches
are half as large as its trunk--all good, sound, hard wood, very like

When a party camps, the first thing to be done is to cut sage-brush; and
in a few minutes there is an opulent pile of it ready for use. A hole a
foot wide, two feet deep, and two feet long, is dug, and sage-brush
chopped up and burned in it till it is full to the brim with glowing
coals. Then the cooking begins, and there is no smoke, and consequently
no swearing. Such a fire will keep all night, with very little
replenishing; and it makes a very sociable camp-fire, and one around
which the most impossible reminiscences sound plausible, instructive, and
profoundly entertaining.

Sage-brush is very fair fuel, but as a vegetable it is a distinguished
failure. Nothing can abide the taste of it but the jackass and his
illegitimate child the mule. But their testimony to its nutritiousness
is worth nothing, for they will eat pine knots, or anthracite coal, or
brass filings, or lead pipe, or old bottles, or anything that comes
handy, and then go off looking as grateful as if they had had oysters for
dinner. Mules and donkeys and camels have appetites that anything will
relieve temporarily, but nothing satisfy.

In Syria, once, at the head-waters of the Jordan, a camel took charge of
my overcoat while the tents were being pitched, and examined it with a
critical eye, all over, with as much interest as if he had an idea of
getting one made like it; and then, after he was done figuring on it as
an article of apparel, he began to contemplate it as an article of diet.
He put his foot on it, and lifted one of the sleeves out with his teeth,
and chewed and chewed at it, gradually taking it in, and all the while
opening and closing his eyes in a kind of religious ecstasy, as if he had
never tasted anything as good as an overcoat before, in his life. Then
he smacked his lips once or twice, and reached after the other sleeve.
Next he tried the velvet collar, and smiled a smile of such contentment
that it was plain to see that he regarded that as the daintiest thing
about an overcoat. The tails went next, along with some percussion caps
and cough candy, and some fig-paste from Constantinople. And then my
newspaper correspondence dropped out, and he took a chance in that
--manuscript letters written for the home papers. But he was treading on
dangerous ground, now. He began to come across solid wisdom in those
documents that was rather weighty on his stomach; and occasionally he
would take a joke that would shake him up till it loosened his teeth; it
was getting to be perilous times with him, but he held his grip with good
courage and hopefully, till at last he began to stumble on statements
that not even a camel could swallow with impunity. He began to gag and
gasp, and his eyes to stand out, and his forelegs to spread, and in about
a quarter of a minute he fell over as stiff as a carpenter's work-bench,
and died a death of indescribable agony. I went and pulled the
manuscript out of his mouth, and found that the sensitive creature had
choked to death on one of the mildest and gentlest statements of fact
that I ever laid before a trusting public.

I was about to say, when diverted from my subject, that occasionally one
finds sage-bushes five or six feet high, and with a spread of branch and
foliage in proportion, but two or two and a half feet is the usual


As the sun went down and the evening chill came on, we made preparation
for bed. We stirred up the hard leather letter-sacks, and the knotty
canvas bags of printed matter (knotty and uneven because of projecting
ends and corners of magazines, boxes and books). We stirred them up and
redisposed them in such a way as to make our bed as level as possible.
And we did improve it, too, though after all our work it had an upheaved
and billowy look about it, like a little piece of a stormy sea. Next we
hunted up our boots from odd nooks among the mail-bags where they had
settled, and put them on. Then we got down our coats, vests, pantaloons
and heavy woolen shirts, from the arm-loops where they had been swinging
all day, and clothed ourselves in them--for, there being no ladies either
at the stations or in the coach, and the weather being hot, we had looked
to our comfort by stripping to our underclothing, at nine o'clock in the
morning. All things being now ready, we stowed the uneasy Dictionary
where it would lie as quiet as possible, and placed the water-canteens
and pistols where we could find them in the dark. Then we smoked a final
pipe, and swapped a final yarn; after which, we put the pipes, tobacco
and bag of coin in snug holes and caves among the mail-bags, and then
fastened down the coach curtains all around, and made the place as "dark
as the inside of a cow," as the conductor phrased it in his picturesque
way. It was certainly as dark as any place could be--nothing was even
dimly visible in it. And finally, we rolled ourselves up like
silk-worms, each person in his own blanket, and sank peacefully to sleep.

Whenever the stage stopped to change horses, we would wake up, and try to
recollect where we were--and succeed--and in a minute or two the stage
would be off again, and we likewise. We began to get into country, now,
threaded here and there with little streams. These had high, steep banks
on each side, and every time we flew down one bank and scrambled up the
other, our party inside got mixed somewhat. First we would all be down
in a pile at the forward end of the stage, nearly in a sitting posture,
and in a second we would shoot to the other end, and stand on our heads.
And we would sprawl and kick, too, and ward off ends and corners of
mail-bags that came lumbering over us and about us; and as the dust rose
from the tumult, we would all sneeze in chorus, and the majority of us
would grumble, and probably say some hasty thing, like: "Take your elbow
out of my ribs!--can't you quit crowding?"

Every time we avalanched from one end of the stage to the other, the
Unabridged Dictionary would come too; and every time it came it damaged
somebody. One trip it "barked" the Secretary's elbow; the next trip it
hurt me in the stomach, and the third it tilted Bemis's nose up till he
could look down his nostrils--he said. The pistols and coin soon settled
to the bottom, but the pipes, pipe-stems, tobacco and canteens clattered
and floundered after the Dictionary every time it made an assault on us,
and aided and abetted the book by spilling tobacco in our eyes, and water
down our backs.

Still, all things considered, it was a very comfortable night. It wore
gradually away, and when at last a cold gray light was visible through
the puckers and chinks in the curtains, we yawned and stretched with
satisfaction, shed our cocoons, and felt that we had slept as much as was
necessary. By and by, as the sun rose up and warmed the world, we pulled
off our clothes and got ready for breakfast. We were just pleasantly in
time, for five minutes afterward the driver sent the weird music of his
bugle winding over the grassy solitudes, and presently we detected a low
hut or two in the distance. Then the rattling of the coach, the clatter
of our six horses' hoofs, and the driver's crisp commands, awoke to a
louder and stronger emphasis, and we went sweeping down on the station at
our smartest speed. It was fascinating--that old overland stagecoaching.

We jumped out in undress uniform. The driver tossed his gathered reins
out on the ground, gaped and stretched complacently, drew off his heavy
buckskin gloves with great deliberation and insufferable dignity--taking
not the slightest notice of a dozen solicitous inquires after his health,
and humbly facetious and flattering accostings, and obsequious tenders of
service, from five or six hairy and half-civilized station-keepers and
hostlers who were nimbly unhitching our steeds and bringing the fresh
team out of the stables--for in the eyes of the stage-driver of that day,
station-keepers and hostlers were a sort of good enough low creatures,
useful in their place, and helping to make up a world, but not the kind
of beings which a person of distinction could afford to concern himself
with; while, on the contrary, in the eyes of the station-keeper and the
hostler, the stage-driver was a hero--a great and shining dignitary, the
world's favorite son, the envy of the people, the observed of the
nations. When they spoke to him they received his insolent silence
meekly, and as being the natural and proper conduct of so great a man;
when he opened his lips they all hung on his words with admiration (he
never honored a particular individual with a remark, but addressed it
with a broad generality to the horses, the stables, the surrounding
country and the human underlings); when he discharged a facetious
insulting personality at a hostler, that hostler was happy for the day;
when he uttered his one jest--old as the hills, coarse, profane, witless,
and inflicted on the same audience, in the same language, every time his
coach drove up there--the varlets roared, and slapped their thighs, and
swore it was the best thing they'd ever heard in all their lives. And
how they would fly around when he wanted a basin of water, a gourd of the
same, or a light for his pipe!--but they would instantly insult a
passenger if he so far forgot himself as to crave a favor at their hands.
They could do that sort of insolence as well as the driver they copied it
from--for, let it be borne in mind, the overland driver had but little
less contempt for his passengers than he had for his hostlers.

The hostlers and station-keepers treated the really powerful conductor of
the coach merely with the best of what was their idea of civility, but
the driver was the only being they bowed down to and worshipped. How
admiringly they would gaze up at him in his high seat as he gloved
himself with lingering deliberation, while some happy hostler held the
bunch of reins aloft, and waited patiently for him to take it! And how
they would bombard him with glorifying ejaculations as he cracked his
long whip and went careering away.

The station buildings were long, low huts, made of sundried, mud-colored
bricks, laid up without mortar (adobes, the Spaniards call these bricks,
and Americans shorten it to 'dobies). The roofs, which had no slant to
them worth speaking of, were thatched and then sodded or covered with a
thick layer of earth, and from this sprung a pretty rank growth of weeds
and grass. It was the first time we had ever seen a man's front yard on
top of his house. The building consisted of barns, stable-room for
twelve or fifteen horses, and a hut for an eating-room for passengers.
This latter had bunks in it for the station-keeper and a hostler or two.
You could rest your elbow on its eaves, and you had to bend in order to
get in at the door. In place of a window there was a square hole about
large enough for a man to crawl through, but this had no glass in it.
There was no flooring, but the ground was packed hard. There was no
stove, but the fire-place served all needful purposes. There were no
shelves, no cupboards, no closets. In a corner stood an open sack of
flour, and nestling against its base were a couple of black and venerable
tin coffee-pots, a tin teapot, a little bag of salt, and a side of bacon.

By the door of the station-keeper's den, outside, was a tin wash-basin,
on the ground. Near it was a pail of water and a piece of yellow bar
soap, and from the eaves hung a hoary blue woolen shirt, significantly
--but this latter was the station-keeper's private towel, and only two
persons in all the party might venture to use it--the stage-driver and
the conductor. The latter would not, from a sense of decency; the former
would not, because did not choose to encourage the advances of a
station-keeper. We had towels--in the valise; they might as well have
been in Sodom and Gomorrah. We (and the conductor) used our
handkerchiefs, and the driver his pantaloons and sleeves. By the door,
inside, was fastened a small old-fashioned looking-glass frame, with two
little fragments of the original mirror lodged down in one corner of it.
This arrangement afforded a pleasant double-barreled portrait of you when
you looked into it, with one half of your head set up a couple of inches
above the other half. From the glass frame hung the half of a comb by a
string--but if I had to describe that patriarch or die, I believe I would
order some sample coffins.

It had come down from Esau and Samson, and had been accumulating hair
ever since--along with certain impurities. In one corner of the room
stood three or four rifles and muskets, together with horns and pouches
of ammunition. The station-men wore pantaloons of coarse, country-woven
stuff, and into the seat and the inside of the legs were sewed ample
additions of buckskin, to do duty in place of leggings, when the man rode
horseback--so the pants were half dull blue and half yellow, and
unspeakably picturesque. The pants were stuffed into the tops of high
boots, the heels whereof were armed with great Spanish spurs, whose
little iron clogs and chains jingled with every step. The man wore a
huge beard and mustachios, an old slouch hat, a blue woolen shirt, no
suspenders, no vest, no coat--in a leathern sheath in his belt, a great
long "navy" revolver (slung on right side, hammer to the front), and
projecting from his boot a horn-handled bowie-knife. The furniture of
the hut was neither gorgeous nor much in the way. The rocking-chairs and
sofas were not present, and never had been, but they were represented by
two three-legged stools, a pine-board bench four feet long, and two empty
candle-boxes. The table was a greasy board on stilts, and the
table-cloth and napkins had not come--and they were not looking for them,
either. A battered tin platter, a knife and fork, and a tin pint cup,
were at each man's place, and the driver had a queens-ware saucer that
had seen better days. Of course this duke sat at the head of the table.
There was one isolated piece of table furniture that bore about it a
touching air of grandeur in misfortune. This was the caster. It was
German silver, and crippled and rusty, but it was so preposterously out
of place there that it was suggestive of a tattered exiled king among
barbarians, and the majesty of its native position compelled respect even
in its degradation.

There was only one cruet left, and that was a stopperless, fly-specked,
broken-necked thing, with two inches of vinegar in it, and a dozen
preserved flies with their heels up and looking sorry they had invested

The station-keeper upended a disk of last week's bread, of the shape and
size of an old-time cheese, and carved some slabs from it which were as
good as Nicholson pavement, and tenderer.

He sliced off a piece of bacon for each man, but only the experienced old
hands made out to eat it, for it was condemned army bacon which the
United States would not feed to its soldiers in the forts, and the stage
company had bought it cheap for the sustenance of their passengers and
employees. We may have found this condemned army bacon further out on
the plains than the section I am locating it in, but we found it--there
is no gainsaying that.

Then he poured for us a beverage which he called "Slum gullion," and it
is hard to think he was not inspired when he named it. It really
pretended to be tea, but there was too much dish-rag, and sand, and old
bacon-rind in it to deceive the intelligent traveler.

He had no sugar and no milk--not even a spoon to stir the ingredients

We could not eat the bread or the meat, nor drink the "slumgullion." And
when I looked at that melancholy vinegar-cruet, I thought of the anecdote
(a very, very old one, even at that day) of the traveler who sat down to
a table which had nothing on it but a mackerel and a pot of mustard. He
asked the landlord if this was all. The landlord said:

"All! Why, thunder and lightning, I should think there was mackerel
enough there for six."

"But I don't like mackerel."

"Oh--then help yourself to the mustard."

In other days I had considered it a good, a very good, anecdote, but
there was a dismal plausibility about it, here, that took all the humor
out of it.

Our breakfast was before us, but our teeth were idle.

I tasted and smelt, and said I would take coffee, I believed. The
station-boss stopped dead still, and glared at me speechless. At last,
when he came to, he turned away and said, as one who communes with
himself upon a matter too vast to grasp:

"Coffee! Well, if that don't go clean ahead of me, I'm d---d!"

We could not eat, and there was no conversation among the hostlers and
herdsmen--we all sat at the same board. At least there was no
conversation further than a single hurried request, now and then, from
one employee to another. It was always in the same form, and always
gruffly friendly. Its western freshness and novelty startled me, at
first, and interested me; but it presently grew monotonous, and lost its
charm. It was:

"Pass the bread, you son of a skunk!" No, I forget--skunk was not the
word; it seems to me it was still stronger than that; I know it was, in
fact, but it is gone from my memory, apparently. However, it is no
matter--probably it was too strong for print, anyway. It is the landmark
in my memory which tells me where I first encountered the vigorous new
vernacular of the occidental plains and mountains.

We gave up the breakfast, and paid our dollar apiece and went back to our
mail-bag bed in the coach, and found comfort in our pipes. Right here we
suffered the first diminution of our princely state. We left our six
fine horses and took six mules in their place. But they were wild
Mexican fellows, and a man had to stand at the head of each of them and
hold him fast while the driver gloved and got himself ready. And when at
last he grasped the reins and gave the word, the men sprung suddenly away
from the mules' heads and the coach shot from the station as if it had
issued from a cannon. How the frantic animals did scamper! It was a
fierce and furious gallop--and the gait never altered for a moment till
we reeled off ten or twelve miles and swept up to the next collection of
little station-huts and stables.

So we flew along all day. At 2 P.M. the belt of timber that fringes the
North Platte and marks its windings through the vast level floor of the
Plains came in sight. At 4 P.M. we crossed a branch of the river, and
at 5 P.M. we crossed the Platte itself, and landed at Fort Kearney,
fifty-six hours out from St. Joe--THREE HUNDRED MILES!

Now that was stage-coaching on the great overland, ten or twelve years
ago, when perhaps not more than ten men in America, all told, expected to
live to see a railroad follow that route to the Pacific. But the
railroad is there, now, and it pictures a thousand odd comparisons and
contrasts in my mind to read the following sketch, in the New York Times,
of a recent trip over almost the very ground I have been describing. I
can scarcely comprehend the new state of things:


"At 4.20 P.M., Sunday, we rolled out of the station at Omaha, and
started westward on our long jaunt. A couple of hours out, dinner
was announced--an "event" to those of us who had yet to experience
what it is to eat in one of Pullman's hotels on wheels; so, stepping
into the car next forward of our sleeping palace, we found ourselves
in the dining-car. It was a revelation to us, that first dinner on
Sunday. And though we continued to dine for four days, and had as
many breakfasts and suppers, our whole party never ceased to admire
the perfection of the arrangements, and the marvelous results
achieved. Upon tables covered with snowy linen, and garnished with
services of solid silver, Ethiop waiters, flitting about in spotless
white, placed as by magic a repast at which Delmonico himself could
have had no occasion to blush; and, indeed, in some respects it
would be hard for that distinguished chef to match our menu; for, in
addition to all that ordinarily makes up a first-chop dinner, had we
not our antelope steak (the gormand who has not experienced this
--bah! what does he know of the feast of fat things?) our delicious
mountain-brook trout, and choice fruits and berries, and (sauce
piquant and unpurchasable!) our sweet-scented, appetite-compelling
air of the prairies?

"You may depend upon it, we all did justice to the good things, and
as we washed them down with bumpers of sparkling Krug, whilst we
sped along at the rate of thirty miles an hour, agreed it was the
fastest living we had ever experienced. (We beat that, however, two
days afterward when we made twenty-seven miles in twenty-seven
minutes, while our Champagne glasses filled to the brim spilled not
a drop!) After dinner we repaired to our drawing-room car, and, as
it was Sabbath eve, intoned some of the grand old hymns--"Praise God
from whom," etc.; "Shining Shore," "Coronation," etc.--the voices of
the men singers and of the women singers blending sweetly in the
evening air, while our train, with its great, glaring Polyphemus
eye, lighting up long vistas of prairie, rushed into the night and
the Wild. Then to bed in luxurious couches, where we slept the
sleep of the just and only awoke the next morning (Monday) at eight
o'clock, to find ourselves at the crossing of the North Platte,
three hundred miles from Omaha--fifteen hours and forty minutes


Another night of alternate tranquillity and turmoil. But morning came,
by and by. It was another glad awakening to fresh breezes, vast expanses
of level greensward, bright sunlight, an impressive solitude utterly
without visible human beings or human habitations, and an atmosphere of
such amazing magnifying properties that trees that seemed close at hand
were more than three mile away. We resumed undress uniform, climbed
a-top of the flying coach, dangled our legs over the side, shouted
occasionally at our frantic mules, merely to see them lay their ears back
and scamper faster, tied our hats on to keep our hair from blowing away,
and leveled an outlook over the world-wide carpet about us for things new
and strange to gaze at. Even at this day it thrills me through and
through to think of the life, the gladness and the wild sense of freedom
that used to make the blood dance in my veins on those fine overland

Along about an hour after breakfast we saw the first prairie-dog
villages, the first antelope, and the first wolf. If I remember rightly,
this latter was the regular cayote (pronounced ky-o-te) of the farther
deserts. And if it was, he was not a pretty creature or respectable
either, for I got well acquainted with his race afterward, and can speak
with confidence. The cayote is a long, slim, sick and sorry-looking
skeleton, with a gray wolf-skin stretched over it, a tolerably bushy tail
that forever sags down with a despairing expression of forsakenness and
misery, a furtive and evil eye, and a long, sharp face, with slightly
lifted lip and exposed teeth. He has a general slinking expression all
over. The cayote is a living, breathing allegory of Want. He is always

He is always poor, out of luck and friendless. The meanest creatures
despise him, and even the fleas would desert him for a velocipede. He is
so spiritless and cowardly that even while his exposed teeth are
pretending a threat, the rest of his face is apologizing for it. And he
is so homely!--so scrawny, and ribby, and coarse-haired, and pitiful.
When he sees you he lifts his lip and lets a flash of his teeth out, and
then turns a little out of the course he was pursuing, depresses his head
a bit, and strikes a long, soft-footed trot through the sage-brush,
glancing over his shoulder at you, from time to time, till he is about
out of easy pistol range, and then he stops and takes a deliberate survey
of you; he will trot fifty yards and stop again--another fifty and stop
again; and finally the gray of his gliding body blends with the gray of
the sage-brush, and he disappears. All this is when you make no
demonstration against him; but if you do, he develops a livelier interest
in his journey, and instantly electrifies his heels and puts such a deal
of real estate between himself and your weapon, that by the time you have
raised the hammer you see that you need a minie rifle, and by the time
you have got him in line you need a rifled cannon, and by the time you
have "drawn a bead" on him you see well enough that nothing but an
unusually long-winded streak of lightning could reach him where he is
now. But if you start a swift-footed dog after him, you will enjoy it
ever so much--especially if it is a dog that has a good opinion of
himself, and has been brought up to think he knows something about speed.

The cayote will go swinging gently off on that deceitful trot of his, and
every little while he will smile a fraudful smile over his shoulder that
will fill that dog entirely full of encouragement and worldly ambition,
and make him lay his head still lower to the ground, and stretch his neck
further to the front, and pant more fiercely, and stick his tail out
straighter behind, and move his furious legs with a yet wilder frenzy,
and leave a broader and broader, and higher and denser cloud of desert
sand smoking behind, and marking his long wake across the level plain!
And all this time the dog is only a short twenty feet behind the cayote,
and to save the soul of him he cannot understand why it is that he cannot
get perceptibly closer; and he begins to get aggravated, and it makes him
madder and madder to see how gently the cayote glides along and never
pants or sweats or ceases to smile; and he grows still more and more
incensed to see how shamefully he has been taken in by an entire
stranger, and what an ignoble swindle that long, calm, soft-footed trot
is; and next he notices that he is getting fagged, and that the cayote
actually has to slacken speed a little to keep from running away from
him--and then that town-dog is mad in earnest, and he begins to strain
and weep and swear, and paw the sand higher than ever, and reach for the
cayote with concentrated and desperate energy. This "spurt" finds him
six feet behind the gliding enemy, and two miles from his friends. And
then, in the instant that a wild new hope is lighting up his face, the
cayote turns and smiles blandly upon him once more, and with a something
about it which seems to say: "Well, I shall have to tear myself away from
you, bub--business is business, and it will not do for me to be fooling
along this way all day"--and forthwith there is a rushing sound, and the
sudden splitting of a long crack through the atmosphere, and behold that
dog is solitary and alone in the midst of a vast solitude!

It makes his head swim. He stops, and looks all around; climbs the
nearest sand-mound, and gazes into the distance; shakes his head
reflectively, and then, without a word, he turns and jogs along back to
his train, and takes up a humble position under the hindmost wagon, and
feels unspeakably mean, and looks ashamed, and hangs his tail at
half-mast for a week. And for as much as a year after that, whenever
there is a great hue and cry after a cayote, that dog will merely glance
in that direction without emotion, and apparently observe to himself,
"I believe I do not wish any of the pie."

The cayote lives chiefly in the most desolate and forbidding desert,
along with the lizard, the jackass-rabbit and the raven, and gets an
uncertain and precarious living, and earns it. He seems to subsist
almost wholly on the carcases of oxen, mules and horses that have dropped
out of emigrant trains and died, and upon windfalls of carrion, and
occasional legacies of offal bequeathed to him by white men who have been
opulent enough to have something better to butcher than condemned army

He will eat anything in the world that his first cousins, the
desert-frequenting tribes of Indians will, and they will eat anything
they can bite. It is a curious fact that these latter are the only
creatures known to history who will eat nitro-glycerine and ask for more
if they survive.

The cayote of the deserts beyond the Rocky Mountains has a peculiarly
hard time of it, owing to the fact that his relations, the Indians, are
just as apt to be the first to detect a seductive scent on the desert
breeze, and follow the fragrance to the late ox it emanated from, as he
is himself; and when this occurs he has to content himself with sitting
off at a little distance watching those people strip off and dig out
everything edible, and walk off with it. Then he and the waiting ravens
explore the skeleton and polish the bones. It is considered that the
cayote, and the obscene bird, and the Indian of the desert, testify their
blood kinship with each other in that they live together in the waste
places of the earth on terms of perfect confidence and friendship, while
hating all other creature and yearning to assist at their funerals. He
does not mind going a hundred miles to breakfast, and a hundred and fifty
to dinner, because he is sure to have three or four days between meals,
and he can just as well be traveling and looking at the scenery as lying
around doing nothing and adding to the burdens of his parents.

We soon learned to recognize the sharp, vicious bark of the cayote as it
came across the murky plain at night to disturb our dreams among the
mail-sacks; and remembering his forlorn aspect and his hard fortune, made
shift to wish him the blessed novelty of a long day's good luck and a
limitless larder the morrow.


Our new conductor (just shipped) had been without sleep for twenty hours.
Such a thing was very frequent. From St. Joseph, Missouri, to
Sacramento, California, by stage-coach, was nearly nineteen hundred
miles, and the trip was often made in fifteen days (the cars do it in
four and a half, now), but the time specified in the mail contracts, and
required by the schedule, was eighteen or nineteen days, if I remember
rightly. This was to make fair allowance for winter storms and snows,
and other unavoidable causes of detention. The stage company had
everything under strict discipline and good system. Over each two
hundred and fifty miles of road they placed an agent or superintendent,
and invested him with great authority. His beat or jurisdiction of two
hundred and fifty miles was called a "division." He purchased horses,
mules harness, and food for men and beasts, and distributed these things
among his stage stations, from time to time, according to his judgment of
what each station needed. He erected station buildings and dug wells.
He attended to the paying of the station-keepers, hostlers, drivers and
blacksmiths, and discharged them whenever he chose. He was a very, very
great man in his "division"--a kind of Grand Mogul, a Sultan of the
Indies, in whose presence common men were modest of speech and manner,
and in the glare of whose greatness even the dazzling stage-driver
dwindled to a penny dip. There were about eight of these kings, all
told, on the overland route.

Next in rank and importance to the division-agent came the "conductor."
His beat was the same length as the agent's--two hundred and fifty miles.
He sat with the driver, and (when necessary) rode that fearful distance,
night and day, without other rest or sleep than what he could get perched
thus on top of the flying vehicle. Think of it! He had absolute charge
of the mails, express matter, passengers and stage, coach, until he
delivered them to the next conductor, and got his receipt for them.

Consequently he had to be a man of intelligence, decision and
considerable executive ability. He was usually a quiet, pleasant man,
who attended closely to his duties, and was a good deal of a gentleman.
It was not absolutely necessary that the division-agent should be a
gentleman, and occasionally he wasn't. But he was always a general in
administrative ability, and a bull-dog in courage and determination
--otherwise the chieftainship over the lawless underlings of the overland
service would never in any instance have been to him anything but an
equivalent for a month of insolence and distress and a bullet and a
coffin at the end of it. There were about sixteen or eighteen conductors
on the overland, for there was a daily stage each way, and a conductor on
every stage.

Next in real and official rank and importance, after the conductor, came
my delight, the driver--next in real but not in apparent importance--for
we have seen that in the eyes of the common herd the driver was to the
conductor as an admiral is to the captain of the flag-ship. The driver's
beat was pretty long, and his sleeping-time at the stations pretty short,
sometimes; and so, but for the grandeur of his position his would have
been a sorry life, as well as a hard and a wearing one. We took a new
driver every day or every night (for they drove backward and forward over
the same piece of road all the time), and therefore we never got as well
acquainted with them as we did with the conductors; and besides, they
would have been above being familiar with such rubbish as passengers,
anyhow, as a general thing. Still, we were always eager to get a sight
of each and every new driver as soon as the watch changed, for each and
every day we were either anxious to get rid of an unpleasant one, or
loath to part with a driver we had learned to like and had come to be
sociable and friendly with. And so the first question we asked the
conductor whenever we got to where we were to exchange drivers, was
always, "Which is him?" The grammar was faulty, maybe, but we could not
know, then, that it would go into a book some day. As long as everything
went smoothly, the overland driver was well enough situated, but if a
fellow driver got sick suddenly it made trouble, for the coach must go
on, and so the potentate who was about to climb down and take a luxurious
rest after his long night's siege in the midst of wind and rain and
darkness, had to stay where he was and do the sick man's work. Once, in
the Rocky Mountains, when I found a driver sound asleep on the box, and
the mules going at the usual break-neck pace, the conductor said never
mind him, there was no danger, and he was doing double duty--had driven
seventy-five miles on one coach, and was now going back over it on this
without rest or sleep. A hundred and fifty miles of holding back of six
vindictive mules and keeping them from climbing the trees! It sounds
incredible, but I remember the statement well enough.

The station-keepers, hostlers, etc., were low, rough characters, as
already described; and from western Nebraska to Nevada a considerable
sprinkling of them might be fairly set down as outlaws--fugitives from
justice, criminals whose best security was a section of country which was
without law and without even the pretence of it. When the
"division-agent" issued an order to one of these parties he did it with
the full understanding that he might have to enforce it with a navy
six-shooter, and so he always went "fixed" to make things go along

Now and then a division-agent was really obliged to shoot a hostler
through the head to teach him some simple matter that he could have
taught him with a club if his circumstances and surroundings had been
different. But they were snappy, able men, those division-agents, and
when they tried to teach a subordinate anything, that subordinate
generally "got it through his head."

A great portion of this vast machinery--these hundreds of men and
coaches, and thousands of mules and horses--was in the hands of Mr. Ben
Holliday. All the western half of the business was in his hands. This
reminds me of an incident of Palestine travel which is pertinent here, so
I will transfer it just in the language in which I find it set down in my
Holy Land note-book:

No doubt everybody has heard of Ben Holliday--a man of prodigious
energy, who used to send mails and passengers flying across the
continent in his overland stage-coaches like a very whirlwind--two
thousand long miles in fifteen days and a half, by the watch! But
this fragment of history is not about Ben Holliday, but about a
young New York boy by the name of Jack, who traveled with our small
party of pilgrims in the Holy Land (and who had traveled to
California in Mr. Holliday's overland coaches three years before,
and had by no means forgotten it or lost his gushing admiration of
Mr. H.) Aged nineteen. Jack was a good boy--a good-hearted and
always well-meaning boy, who had been reared in the city of New
York, and although he was bright and knew a great many useful
things, his Scriptural education had been a good deal neglected--to
such a degree, indeed, that all Holy Land history was fresh and new
to him, and all Bible names mysteries that had never disturbed his
virgin ear.

Also in our party was an elderly pilgrim who was the reverse of
Jack, in that he was learned in the Scriptures and an enthusiast
concerning them. He was our encyclopedia, and we were never tired
of listening to his speeches, nor he of making them. He never
passed a celebrated locality, from Bashan to Bethlehem, without
illuminating it with an oration. One day, when camped near the
ruins of Jericho, he burst forth with something like this:

"Jack, do you see that range of mountains over yonder that bounds
the Jordan valley? The mountains of Moab, Jack! Think of it, my
boy--the actual mountains of Moab--renowned in Scripture history!
We are actually standing face to face with those illustrious crags
and peaks--and for all we know" [dropping his voice impressively],
"our eyes may be resting at this very moment upon the spot WHERE

"Moses who?" (falling inflection).

"Moses who! Jack, you ought to be ashamed of yourself--you ought to
be ashamed of such criminal ignorance. Why, Moses, the great guide,
soldier, poet, lawgiver of ancient Israel! Jack, from this spot
where we stand, to Egypt, stretches a fearful desert three hundred
miles in extent--and across that desert that wonderful man brought
the children of Israel!--guiding them with unfailing sagacity for
forty years over the sandy desolation and among the obstructing
rocks and hills, and landed them at last, safe and sound, within
sight of this very spot; and where we now stand they entered the
Promised Land with anthems of rejoicing! It was a wonderful,
wonderful thing to do, Jack! Think of it!"

"Forty years? Only three hundred miles? Humph! Ben Holliday would
have fetched them through in thirty-six hours!"

The boy meant no harm. He did not know that he had said anything that
was wrong or irreverent. And so no one scolded him or felt offended with
him--and nobody could but some ungenerous spirit incapable of excusing
the heedless blunders of a boy.

At noon on the fifth day out, we arrived at the "Crossing of the South
Platte," alias "Julesburg," alias "Overland City," four hundred and
seventy miles from St. Joseph--the strangest, quaintest, funniest
frontier town that our untraveled eyes had ever stared at and been
astonished with.


It did seem strange enough to see a town again after what appeared to us
such a long acquaintance with deep, still, almost lifeless and houseless
solitude! We tumbled out into the busy street feeling like meteoric
people crumbled off the corner of some other world, and wakened up
suddenly in this. For an hour we took as much interest in Overland City
as if we had never seen a town before. The reason we had an hour to
spare was because we had to change our stage (for a less sumptuous
affair, called a "mud-wagon") and transfer our freight of mails.

Presently we got under way again. We came to the shallow, yellow, muddy
South Platte, with its low banks and its scattering flat sand-bars and
pigmy islands--a melancholy stream straggling through the centre of the
enormous flat plain, and only saved from being impossible to find with
the naked eye by its sentinel rank of scattering trees standing on either
bank. The Platte was "up," they said--which made me wish I could see it
when it was down, if it could look any sicker and sorrier. They said it
was a dangerous stream to cross, now, because its quicksands were liable
to swallow up horses, coach and passengers if an attempt was made to ford
it. But the mails had to go, and we made the attempt. Once or twice in
midstream the wheels sunk into the yielding sands so threateningly that
we half believed we had dreaded and avoided the sea all our lives to be
shipwrecked in a "mud-wagon" in the middle of a desert at last. But we
dragged through and sped away toward the setting sun.

Next morning, just before dawn, when about five hundred and fifty miles
from St. Joseph, our mud-wagon broke down. We were to be delayed five or
six hours, and therefore we took horses, by invitation, and joined a
party who were just starting on a buffalo hunt. It was noble sport
galloping over the plain in the dewy freshness of the morning, but our
part of the hunt ended in disaster and disgrace, for a wounded buffalo
bull chased the passenger Bemis nearly two miles, and then he forsook his
horse and took to a lone tree. He was very sullen about the matter for
some twenty-four hours, but at last he began to soften little by little,
and finally he said:

"Well, it was not funny, and there was no sense in those gawks making
themselves so facetious over it. I tell you I was angry in earnest for
awhile. I should have shot that long gangly lubber they called Hank, if
I could have done it without crippling six or seven other people--but of
course I couldn't, the old 'Allen's' so confounded comprehensive. I wish
those loafers had been up in the tree; they wouldn't have wanted to laugh
so. If I had had a horse worth a cent--but no, the minute he saw that
buffalo bull wheel on him and give a bellow, he raised straight up in the
air and stood on his heels. The saddle began to slip, and I took him
round the neck and laid close to him, and began to pray. Then he came
down and stood up on the other end awhile, and the bull actually stopped
pawing sand and bellowing to contemplate the inhuman spectacle.

"Then the bull made a pass at him and uttered a bellow that sounded
perfectly frightful, it was so close to me, and that seemed to literally
prostrate my horse's reason, and make a raving distracted maniac of him,
and I wish I may die if he didn't stand on his head for a quarter of a
minute and shed tears. He was absolutely out of his mind--he was, as
sure as truth itself, and he really didn't know what he was doing. Then
the bull came charging at us, and my horse dropped down on all fours and
took a fresh start--and then for the next ten minutes he would actually
throw one hand-spring after another so fast that the bull began to get
unsettled, too, and didn't know where to start in--and so he stood there
sneezing, and shovelling dust over his back, and bellowing every now and
then, and thinking he had got a fifteen-hundred dollar circus horse for
breakfast, certain. Well, I was first out on his neck--the horse's, not
the bull's--and then underneath, and next on his rump, and sometimes head
up, and sometimes heels--but I tell you it seemed solemn and awful to be
ripping and tearing and carrying on so in the presence of death, as you
might say. Pretty soon the bull made a snatch for us and brought away
some of my horse's tail (I suppose, but do not know, being pretty busy at
the time), but something made him hungry for solitude and suggested to
him to get up and hunt for it.

"And then you ought to have seen that spider legged old skeleton go! and
you ought to have seen the bull cut out after him, too--head down, tongue
out, tail up, bellowing like everything, and actually mowing down the
weeds, and tearing up the earth, and boosting up the sand like a
whirlwind! By George, it was a hot race! I and the saddle were back on
the rump, and I had the bridle in my teeth and holding on to the pommel
with both hands. First we left the dogs behind; then we passed a jackass
rabbit; then we overtook a cayote, and were gaining on an antelope when
the rotten girth let go and threw me about thirty yards off to the left,
and as the saddle went down over the horse's rump he gave it a lift with
his heels that sent it more than four hundred yards up in the air, I wish
I may die in a minute if he didn't. I fell at the foot of the only
solitary tree there was in nine counties adjacent (as any creature could
see with the naked eye), and the next second I had hold of the bark with
four sets of nails and my teeth, and the next second after that I was
astraddle of the main limb and blaspheming my luck in a way that made my
breath smell of brimstone. I had the bull, now, if he did not think of
one thing. But that one thing I dreaded. I dreaded it very seriously.
There was a possibility that the bull might not think of it, but there
were greater chances that he would. I made up my mind what I would do in
case he did. It was a little over forty feet to the ground from where I
sat. I cautiously unwound the lariat from the pommel of my saddle----"

"Your saddle? Did you take your saddle up in the tree with you?"

"Take it up in the tree with me? Why, how you talk. Of course I didn't.
No man could do that. It fell in the tree when it came down."


"Certainly. I unwound the lariat, and fastened one end of it to the
limb. It was the very best green raw-hide, and capable of sustaining
tons. I made a slip-noose in the other end, and then hung it down to see
the length. It reached down twenty-two feet--half way to the ground.
I then loaded every barrel of the Allen with a double charge. I felt
satisfied. I said to myself, if he never thinks of that one thing that I
dread, all right--but if he does, all right anyhow--I am fixed for him.
But don't you know that the very thing a man dreads is the thing that
always happens? Indeed it is so. I watched the bull, now, with anxiety
--anxiety which no one can conceive of who has not been in such a
situation and felt that at any moment death might come. Presently a
thought came into the bull's eye. I knew it! said I--if my nerve fails
now, I am lost. Sure enough, it was just as I had dreaded, he started in
to climb the tree----"

"What, the bull?"

"Of course--who else?"

"But a bull can't climb a tree."

"He can't, can't he? Since you know so much about it, did you ever see a
bull try?"

"No! I never dreamt of such a thing."

"Well, then, what is the use of your talking that way, then? Because you
never saw a thing done, is that any reason why it can't be done?"

"Well, all right--go on. What did you do?"

"The bull started up, and got along well for about ten feet, then slipped
and slid back. I breathed easier. He tried it again--got up a little
higher--slipped again. But he came at it once more, and this time he was
careful. He got gradually higher and higher, and my spirits went down
more and more. Up he came--an inch at a time--with his eyes hot, and his
tongue hanging out. Higher and higher--hitched his foot over the stump
of a limb, and looked up, as much as to say, 'You are my meat, friend.'
Up again--higher and higher, and getting more excited the closer he got.
He was within ten feet of me! I took a long breath,--and then said I,
'It is now or never.' I had the coil of the lariat all ready; I paid it
out slowly, till it hung right over his head; all of a sudden I let go of
the slack, and the slipnoose fell fairly round his neck! Quicker than
lightning I out with the Allen and let him have it in the face. It was
an awful roar, and must have scared the bull out of his senses. When the
smoke cleared away, there he was, dangling in the air, twenty foot from
the ground, and going out of one convulsion into another faster than you
could count! I didn't stop to count, anyhow--I shinned down the tree and
shot for home."

"Bemis, is all that true, just as you have stated it?"

"I wish I may rot in my tracks and die the death of a dog if it isn't."

"Well, we can't refuse to believe it, and we don't. But if there were
some proofs----"

"Proofs! Did I bring back my lariat?"


"Did I bring back my horse?"


"Did you ever see the bull again?"


"Well, then, what more do you want? I never saw anybody as particular as
you are about a little thing like that."

I made up my mind that if this man was not a liar he only missed it by
the skin of his teeth. This episode reminds me of an incident of my
brief sojourn in Siam, years afterward. The European citizens of a town
in the neighborhood of Bangkok had a prodigy among them by the name of
Eckert, an Englishman--a person famous for the number, ingenuity and
imposing magnitude of his lies. They were always repeating his most
celebrated falsehoods, and always trying to "draw him out" before
strangers; but they seldom succeeded. Twice he was invited to the house
where I was visiting, but nothing could seduce him into a specimen lie.
One day a planter named Bascom, an influential man, and a proud and
sometimes irascible one, invited me to ride over with him and call on
Eckert. As we jogged along, said he:

"Now, do you know where the fault lies? It lies in putting Eckert on his
guard. The minute the boys go to pumping at Eckert he knows perfectly
well what they are after, and of course he shuts up his shell. Anybody
might know he would. But when we get there, we must play him finer than
that. Let him shape the conversation to suit himself--let him drop it or
change it whenever he wants to. Let him see that nobody is trying to
draw him out. Just let him have his own way. He will soon forget
himself and begin to grind out lies like a mill. Don't get impatient
--just keep quiet, and let me play him. I will make him lie. It does seem
to me that the boys must be blind to overlook such an obvious and simple
trick as that."

Eckert received us heartily--a pleasant-spoken, gentle-mannered creature.
We sat in the veranda an hour, sipping English ale, and talking about the
king, and the sacred white elephant, the Sleeping Idol, and all manner of
things; and I noticed that my comrade never led the conversation himself
or shaped it, but simply followed Eckert's lead, and betrayed no
solicitude and no anxiety about anything. The effect was shortly
perceptible. Eckert began to grow communicative; he grew more and more
at his ease, and more and more talkative and sociable. Another hour
passed in the same way, and then all of a sudden Eckert said:

"Oh, by the way! I came near forgetting. I have got a thing here to
astonish you. Such a thing as neither you nor any other man ever heard
of--I've got a cat that will eat cocoanut! Common green cocoanut--and
not only eat the meat, but drink the milk. It is so--I'll swear to it."

A quick glance from Bascom--a glance that I understood--then:

"Why, bless my soul, I never heard of such a thing. Man, it is

"I knew you would say it. I'll fetch the cat."

He went in the house. Bascom said:

"There--what did I tell you? Now, that is the way to handle Eckert. You
see, I have petted him along patiently, and put his suspicions to sleep.
I am glad we came. You tell the boys about it when you go back. Cat eat
a cocoanut--oh, my! Now, that is just his way, exactly--he will tell the
absurdest lie, and trust to luck to get out of it again.

"Cat eat a cocoanut--the innocent fool!"

Eckert approached with his cat, sure enough.

Bascom smiled. Said he:

"I'll hold the cat--you bring a cocoanut."

Eckert split one open, and chopped up some pieces. Bascom smuggled a
wink to me, and proffered a slice of the fruit to puss. She snatched it,
swallowed it ravenously, and asked for more!

We rode our two miles in silence, and wide apart. At least I was silent,
though Bascom cuffed his horse and cursed him a good deal,
notwithstanding the horse was behaving well enough. When I branched off
homeward, Bascom said:

"Keep the horse till morning. And--you need not speak of this
--foolishness to the boys."


In a little while all interest was taken up in stretching our necks and
watching for the "pony-rider"--the fleet messenger who sped across the
continent from St. Joe to Sacramento, carrying letters nineteen hundred
miles in eight days! Think of that for perishable horse and human flesh
and blood to do! The pony-rider was usually a little bit of a man,
brimful of spirit and endurance. No matter what time of the day or night
his watch came on, and no matter whether it was winter or summer,
raining, snowing, hailing, or sleeting, or whether his "beat" was a level
straight road or a crazy trail over mountain crags and precipices, or
whether it led through peaceful regions or regions that swarmed with
hostile Indians, he must be always ready to leap into the saddle and be
off like the wind! There was no idling-time for a pony-rider on duty.
He rode fifty miles without stopping, by daylight, moonlight, starlight,
or through the blackness of darkness--just as it happened. He rode a
splendid horse that was born for a racer and fed and lodged like a
gentleman; kept him at his utmost speed for ten miles, and then, as he
came crashing up to the station where stood two men holding fast a fresh,
impatient steed, the transfer of rider and mail-bag was made in the
twinkling of an eye, and away flew the eager pair and were out of sight
before the spectator could get hardly the ghost of a look. Both rider
and horse went "flying light." The rider's dress was thin, and fitted
close; he wore a "round-about," and a skull-cap, and tucked his
pantaloons into his boot-tops like a race-rider. He carried no arms--he
carried nothing that was not absolutely necessary, for even the postage
on his literary freight was worth five dollars a letter.

He got but little frivolous correspondence to carry--his bag had business
letters in it, mostly. His horse was stripped of all unnecessary weight,
too. He wore a little wafer of a racing-saddle, and no visible blanket.
He wore light shoes, or none at all. The little flat mail-pockets
strapped under the rider's thighs would each hold about the bulk of a
child's primer. They held many and many an important business chapter
and newspaper letter, but these were written on paper as airy and thin as
gold-leaf, nearly, and thus bulk and weight were economized. The
stage-coach traveled about a hundred to a hundred and twenty-five miles
a day (twenty-four hours), the pony-rider about two hundred and fifty.
There were about eighty pony-riders in the saddle all the time, night and
day, stretching in a long, scattering procession from Missouri to
California, forty flying eastward, and forty toward the west, and among
them making four hundred gallant horses earn a stirring livelihood and
see a deal of scenery every single day in the year.

We had had a consuming desire, from the beginning, to see a pony-rider,
but somehow or other all that passed us and all that met us managed to
streak by in the night, and so we heard only a whiz and a hail, and the
swift phantom of the desert was gone before we could get our heads out of
the windows. But now we were expecting one along every moment, and would
see him in broad daylight. Presently the driver exclaims:


Every neck is stretched further, and every eye strained wider. Away
across the endless dead level of the prairie a black speck appears
against the sky, and it is plain that it moves. Well, I should think so!

In a second or two it becomes a horse and rider, rising and falling,
rising and falling--sweeping toward us nearer and nearer--growing more
and more distinct, more and more sharply defined--nearer and still
nearer, and the flutter of the hoofs comes faintly to the ear--another
instant a whoop and a hurrah from our upper deck, a wave of the rider's
hand, but no reply, and man and horse burst past our excited faces, and
go winging away like a belated fragment of a storm!

So sudden is it all, and so like a flash of unreal fancy, that but for
the flake of white foam left quivering and perishing on a mail-sack after
the vision had flashed by and disappeared, we might have doubted whether
we had seen any actual horse and man at all, maybe.

We rattled through Scott's Bluffs Pass, by and by. It was along here
somewhere that we first came across genuine and unmistakable alkali water
in the road, and we cordially hailed it as a first-class curiosity, and a
thing to be mentioned with eclat in letters to the ignorant at home.
This water gave the road a soapy appearance, and in many places the
ground looked as if it had been whitewashed. I think the strange alkali
water excited us as much as any wonder we had come upon yet, and I know
we felt very complacent and conceited, and better satisfied with life
after we had added it to our list of things which we had seen and some
other people had not. In a small way we were the same sort of simpletons
as those who climb unnecessarily the perilous peaks of Mont Blanc and the
Matterhorn, and derive no pleasure from it except the reflection that it
isn't a common experience. But once in a while one of those parties
trips and comes darting down the long mountain-crags in a sitting
posture, making the crusted snow smoke behind him, flitting from bench to
bench, and from terrace to terrace, jarring the earth where he strikes,
and still glancing and flitting on again, sticking an iceberg into
himself every now and then, and tearing his clothes, snatching at things
to save himself, taking hold of trees and fetching them along with him,
roots and all, starting little rocks now and then, then big boulders,
then acres of ice and snow and patches of forest, gathering and still
gathering as he goes, adding and still adding to his massed and sweeping
grandeur as he nears a three thousand-foot precipice, till at last he
waves his hat magnificently and rides into eternity on the back of a
raging and tossing avalanche!

This is all very fine, but let us not be carried away by excitement, but
ask calmly, how does this person feel about it in his cooler moments next
day, with six or seven thousand feet of snow and stuff on top of him?

We crossed the sand hills near the scene of the Indian mail robbery and
massacre of 1856, wherein the driver and conductor perished, and also all
the passengers but one, it was supposed; but this must have been a
mistake, for at different times afterward on the Pacific coast I was
personally acquainted with a hundred and thirty-three or four people who
were wounded during that massacre, and barely escaped with their lives.
There was no doubt of the truth of it--I had it from their own lips. One
of these parties told me that he kept coming across arrow-heads in his
system for nearly seven years after the massacre; and another of them
told me that he was struck so literally full of arrows that after the
Indians were gone and he could raise up and examine himself, he could not
restrain his tears, for his clothes were completely ruined.

The most trustworthy tradition avers, however, that only one man, a
person named Babbitt, survived the massacre, and he was desperately
wounded. He dragged himself on his hands and knee (for one leg was
broken) to a station several miles away. He did it during portions of
two nights, lying concealed one day and part of another, and for more
than forty hours suffering unimaginable anguish from hunger, thirst and
bodily pain. The Indians robbed the coach of everything it contained,
including quite an amount of treasure.


We passed Fort Laramie in the night, and on the seventh morning out we
found ourselves in the Black Hills, with Laramie Peak at our elbow
(apparently) looming vast and solitary--a deep, dark, rich indigo blue in
hue, so portentously did the old colossus frown under his beetling brows
of storm-cloud. He was thirty or forty miles away, in reality, but he
only seemed removed a little beyond the low ridge at our right. We
breakfasted at Horse-Shoe Station, six hundred and seventy-six miles out
from St. Joseph. We had now reached a hostile Indian country, and during
the afternoon we passed Laparelle Station, and enjoyed great discomfort
all the time we were in the neighborhood, being aware that many of the
trees we dashed by at arm's length concealed a lurking Indian or two.
During the preceding night an ambushed savage had sent a bullet through
the pony-rider's jacket, but he had ridden on, just the same, because
pony-riders were not allowed to stop and inquire into such things except
when killed. As long as they had life enough left in them they had to
stick to the horse and ride, even if the Indians had been waiting for
them a week, and were entirely out of patience. About two hours and a
half before we arrived at Laparelle Station, the keeper in charge of it
had fired four times at an Indian, but he said with an injured air that
the Indian had "skipped around so's to spile everything--and ammunition's
blamed skurse, too." The most natural inference conveyed by his manner of
speaking was, that in "skipping around," the Indian had taken an unfair

The coach we were in had a neat hole through its front--a reminiscence of
its last trip through this region. The bullet that made it wounded the
driver slightly, but he did not mind it much. He said the place to keep
a man "huffy" was down on the Southern Overland, among the Apaches,
before the company moved the stage line up on the northern route. He
said the Apaches used to annoy him all the time down there, and that he
came as near as anything to starving to death in the midst of abundance,
because they kept him so leaky with bullet holes that he "couldn't hold
his vittles."

This person's statement were not generally believed.

We shut the blinds down very tightly that first night in the hostile
Indian country, and lay on our arms. We slept on them some, but most of
the time we only lay on them. We did not talk much, but kept quiet and
listened. It was an inky-black night, and occasionally rainy. We were
among woods and rocks, hills and gorges--so shut in, in fact, that when
we peeped through a chink in a curtain, we could discern nothing. The
driver and conductor on top were still, too, or only spoke at long
intervals, in low tones, as is the way of men in the midst of invisible
dangers. We listened to rain-drops pattering on the roof; and the
grinding of the wheels through the muddy gravel; and the low wailing of
the wind; and all the time we had that absurd sense upon us, inseparable
from travel at night in a close-curtained vehicle, the sense of remaining
perfectly still in one place, notwithstanding the jolting and swaying of
the vehicle, the trampling of the horses, and the grinding of the wheels.
We listened a long time, with intent faculties and bated breath; every
time one of us would relax, and draw a long sigh of relief and start to
say something, a comrade would be sure to utter a sudden "Hark!" and
instantly the experimenter was rigid and listening again. So the
tiresome minutes and decades of minutes dragged away, until at last our
tense forms filmed over with a dulled consciousness, and we slept, if one
might call such a condition by so strong a name--for it was a sleep set
with a hair-trigger. It was a sleep seething and teeming with a weird
and distressful confusion of shreds and fag-ends of dreams--a sleep that
was a chaos. Presently, dreams and sleep and the sullen hush of the
night were startled by a ringing report, and cloven by such a long, wild,
agonizing shriek! Then we heard--ten steps from the stage--

"Help! help! help!" [It was our driver's voice.]

"Kill him! Kill him like a dog!"

"I'm being murdered! Will no man lend me a pistol?"

"Look out! head him off! head him off!"

[Two pistol shots; a confusion of voices and the trampling of many feet,
as if a crowd were closing and surging together around some object;
several heavy, dull blows, as with a club; a voice that said appealingly,
"Don't, gentlemen, please don't--I'm a dead man!" Then a fainter groan,
and another blow, and away sped the stage into the darkness, and left the
grisly mystery behind us.]

What a startle it was! Eight seconds would amply cover the time it
occupied--maybe even five would do it. We only had time to plunge at a
curtain and unbuckle and unbutton part of it in an awkward and hindering
flurry, when our whip cracked sharply overhead, and we went rumbling and
thundering away, down a mountain "grade."

We fed on that mystery the rest of the night--what was left of it, for it
was waning fast. It had to remain a present mystery, for all we could
get from the conductor in answer to our hails was something that sounded,
through the clatter of the wheels, like "Tell you in the morning!"

So we lit our pipes and opened the corner of a curtain for a chimney, and
lay there in the dark, listening to each other's story of how he first
felt and how many thousand Indians he first thought had hurled themselves
upon us, and what his remembrance of the subsequent sounds was, and the
order of their occurrence. And we theorized, too, but there was never a
theory that would account for our driver's voice being out there, nor yet
account for his Indian murderers talking such good English, if they were

So we chatted and smoked the rest of the night comfortably away, our
boding anxiety being somehow marvelously dissipated by the real presence
of something to be anxious about.

We never did get much satisfaction about that dark occurrence. All that
we could make out of the odds and ends of the information we gathered in
the morning, was that the disturbance occurred at a station; that we
changed drivers there, and that the driver that got off there had been
talking roughly about some of the outlaws that infested the region ("for
there wasn't a man around there but had a price on his head and didn't
dare show himself in the settlements," the conductor said); he had talked
roughly about these characters, and ought to have "drove up there with
his pistol cocked and ready on the seat alongside of him, and begun
business himself, because any softy would know they would be laying for

That was all we could gather, and we could see that neither the conductor
nor the new driver were much concerned about the matter. They plainly
had little respect for a man who would deliver offensive opinions of
people and then be so simple as to come into their presence unprepared to
"back his judgment," as they pleasantly phrased the killing of any
fellow-being who did not like said opinions. And likewise they plainly
had a contempt for the man's poor discretion in venturing to rouse the
wrath of such utterly reckless wild beasts as those outlaws--and the
conductor added:

"I tell you it's as much as Slade himself want to do!"

This remark created an entire revolution in my curiosity. I cared
nothing now about the Indians, and even lost interest in the murdered
driver. There was such magic in that name, SLADE! Day or night, now, I
stood always ready to drop any subject in hand, to listen to something
new about Slade and his ghastly exploits. Even before we got to Overland
City, we had begun to hear about Slade and his "division" (for he was a
"division-agent") on the Overland; and from the hour we had left Overland
City we had heard drivers and conductors talk about only three things
--"Californy," the Nevada silver mines, and this desperado Slade. And a
deal the most of the talk was about Slade. We had gradually come to have
a realizing sense of the fact that Slade was a man whose heart and hands
and soul were steeped in the blood of offenders against his dignity; a
man who awfully avenged all injuries, affront, insults or slights, of
whatever kind--on the spot if he could, years afterward if lack of
earlier opportunity compelled it; a man whose hate tortured him day and
night till vengeance appeased it--and not an ordinary vengeance either,
but his enemy's absolute death--nothing less; a man whose face would
light up with a terrible joy when he surprised a foe and had him at a
disadvantage. A high and efficient servant of the Overland, an outlaw
among outlaws and yet their relentless scourge, Slade was at once the
most bloody, the most dangerous and the most valuable citizen that
inhabited the savage fastnesses of the mountains.


Really and truly, two thirds of the talk of drivers and conductors had
been about this man Slade, ever since the day before we reached
Julesburg. In order that the eastern reader may have a clear conception
of what a Rocky Mountain desperado is, in his highest state of
development, I will reduce all this mass of overland gossip to one
straightforward narrative, and present it in the following shape:

Slade was born in Illinois, of good parentage. At about twenty-six years
of age he killed a man in a quarrel and fled the country. At St. Joseph,
Missouri, he joined one of the early California-bound emigrant trains,
and was given the post of train-master. One day on the plains he had an
angry dispute with one of his wagon-drivers, and both drew their
revolvers. But the driver was the quicker artist, and had his weapon
cocked first. So Slade said it was a pity to waste life on so small a
matter, and proposed that the pistols be thrown on the ground and the
quarrel settled by a fist-fight. The unsuspecting driver agreed, and
threw down his pistol--whereupon Slade laughed at his simplicity, and
shot him dead!

He made his escape, and lived a wild life for awhile, dividing his time
between fighting Indians and avoiding an Illinois sheriff, who had been
sent to arrest him for his first murder. It is said that in one Indian
battle he killed three savages with his own hand, and afterward cut their
ears off and sent them, with his compliments, to the chief of the tribe.

Slade soon gained a name for fearless resolution, and this was sufficient
merit to procure for him the important post of overland division-agent at
Julesburg, in place of Mr. Jules, removed. For some time previously, the
company's horses had been frequently stolen, and the coaches delayed, by
gangs of outlaws, who were wont to laugh at the idea of any man's having
the temerity to resent such outrages. Slade resented them promptly.

The outlaws soon found that the new agent was a man who did not fear
anything that breathed the breath of life. He made short work of all
offenders. The result was that delays ceased, the company's property was
let alone, and no matter what happened or who suffered, Slade's coaches
went through, every time! True, in order to bring about this wholesome
change, Slade had to kill several men--some say three, others say four,
and others six--but the world was the richer for their loss. The first
prominent difficulty he had was with the ex-agent Jules, who bore the
reputation of being a reckless and desperate man himself. Jules hated
Slade for supplanting him, and a good fair occasion for a fight was all
he was waiting for. By and by Slade dared to employ a man whom Jules had
once discharged. Next, Slade seized a team of stage-horses which he
accused Jules of having driven off and hidden somewhere for his own use.
War was declared, and for a day or two the two men walked warily about
the streets, seeking each other, Jules armed with a double-barreled shot
gun, and Slade with his history-creating revolver. Finally, as Slade
stepped into a store Jules poured the contents of his gun into him from
behind the door. Slade was plucky, and Jules got several bad pistol
wounds in return.

Then both men fell, and were carried to their respective lodgings, both
swearing that better aim should do deadlier work next time. Both were
bedridden a long time, but Jules got to his feet first, and gathering his
possessions together, packed them on a couple of mules, and fled to the
Rocky Mountains to gather strength in safety against the day of
reckoning. For many months he was not seen or heard of, and was
gradually dropped out of the remembrance of all save Slade himself. But
Slade was not the man to forget him. On the contrary, common report said
that Slade kept a reward standing for his capture, dead or alive!

After awhile, seeing that Slade's energetic administration had restored
peace and order to one of the worst divisions of the road, the overland
stage company transferred him to the Rocky Ridge division in the Rocky
Mountains, to see if he could perform a like miracle there. It was the
very paradise of outlaws and desperadoes. There was absolutely no
semblance of law there. Violence was the rule. Force was the only
recognized authority. The commonest misunderstandings were settled on
the spot with the revolver or the knife. Murders were done in open day,
and with sparkling frequency, and nobody thought of inquiring into them.
It was considered that the parties who did the killing had their private
reasons for it; for other people to meddle would have been looked upon as
indelicate. After a murder, all that Rocky Mountain etiquette required
of a spectator was, that he should help the gentleman bury his game
--otherwise his churlishness would surely be remembered against him the
first time he killed a man himself and needed a neighborly turn in
interring him.

Slade took up his residence sweetly and peacefully in the midst of this
hive of horse-thieves and assassins, and the very first time one of them
aired his insolent swaggerings in his presence he shot him dead! He
began a raid on the outlaws, and in a singularly short space of time he
had completely stopped their depredations on the stage stock, recovered a
large number of stolen horses, killed several of the worst desperadoes of
the district, and gained such a dread ascendancy over the rest that they
respected him, admired him, feared him, obeyed him! He wrought the same
marvelous change in the ways of the community that had marked his
administration at Overland City. He captured two men who had stolen
overland stock, and with his own hands he hanged them. He was supreme
judge in his district, and he was jury and executioner likewise--and not
only in the case of offences against his employers, but against passing
emigrants as well. On one occasion some emigrants had their stock lost
or stolen, and told Slade, who chanced to visit their camp. With a
single companion he rode to a ranch, the owners of which he suspected,
and opening the door, commenced firing, killing three, and wounding the

From a bloodthirstily interesting little Montana book.--["The Vigilantes
of Montana," by Prof. Thos. J. Dimsdale.]--I take this paragraph:

"While on the road, Slade held absolute sway. He would ride down to
a station, get into a quarrel, turn the house out of windows, and
maltreat the occupants most cruelly. The unfortunates had no means
of redress, and were compelled to recuperate as best they could."

On one of these occasions, it is said he killed the father of the fine
little half-breed boy Jemmy, whom he adopted, and who lived with his
widow after his execution. Stories of Slade's hanging men, and of
innumerable assaults, shootings, stabbings and beatings, in which he was
a principal actor, form part of the legends of the stage line. As for
minor quarrels and shootings, it is absolutely certain that a minute
history of Slade's life would be one long record of such practices.

Slade was a matchless marksman with a navy revolver. The legends say
that one morning at Rocky Ridge, when he was feeling comfortable, he saw
a man approaching who had offended him some days before--observe the fine
memory he had for matters like that--and, "Gentlemen," said Slade,
drawing, "it is a good twenty-yard shot--I'll clip the third button on
his coat!" Which he did. The bystanders all admired it. And they all
attended the funeral, too.

On one occasion a man who kept a little whisky-shelf at the station did
something which angered Slade--and went and made his will. A day or two
afterward Slade came in and called for some brandy. The man reached
under the counter (ostensibly to get a bottle--possibly to get something
else), but Slade smiled upon him that peculiarly bland and satisfied
smile of his which the neighbors had long ago learned to recognize as a
death-warrant in disguise, and told him to "none of that!--pass out the
high-priced article." So the poor bar-keeper had to turn his back and
get the high-priced brandy from the shelf; and when he faced around again
he was looking into the muzzle of Slade's pistol. "And the next
instant," added my informant, impressively, "he was one of the deadest
men that ever lived."

The stage-drivers and conductors told us that sometimes Slade would leave
a hated enemy wholly unmolested, unnoticed and unmentioned, for weeks
together--had done it once or twice at any rate. And some said they
believed he did it in order to lull the victims into unwatchfulness, so
that he could get the advantage of them, and others said they believed he
saved up an enemy that way, just as a schoolboy saves up a cake, and made
the pleasure go as far as it would by gloating over the anticipation.
One of these cases was that of a Frenchman who had offended Slade.
To the surprise of everybody Slade did not kill him on the spot, but let
him alone for a considerable time. Finally, however, he went to the
Frenchman's house very late one night, knocked, and when his enemy opened
the door, shot him dead--pushed the corpse inside the door with his foot,
set the house on fire and burned up the dead man, his widow and three
children! I heard this story from several different people, and they
evidently believed what they were saying. It may be true, and it may
not. "Give a dog a bad name," etc.

Slade was captured, once, by a party of men who intended to lynch him.
They disarmed him, and shut him up in a strong log-house, and placed a
guard over him. He prevailed on his captors to send for his wife, so
that he might have a last interview with her. She was a brave, loving,
spirited woman. She jumped on a horse and rode for life and death.
When she arrived they let her in without searching her, and before the
door could be closed she whipped out a couple of revolvers, and she and
her lord marched forth defying the party. And then, under a brisk fire,
they mounted double and galloped away unharmed!

In the fulness of time Slade's myrmidons captured his ancient enemy
Jules, whom they found in a well-chosen hiding-place in the remote
fastnesses of the mountains, gaining a precarious livelihood with his
rifle. They brought him to Rocky Ridge, bound hand and foot, and
deposited him in the middle of the cattle-yard with his back against a
post. It is said that the pleasure that lit Slade's face when he heard
of it was something fearful to contemplate. He examined his enemy to see
that he was securely tied, and then went to bed, content to wait till
morning before enjoying the luxury of killing him. Jules spent the night
in the cattle-yard, and it is a region where warm nights are never known.
In the morning Slade practised on him with his revolver, nipping the
flesh here and there, and occasionally clipping off a finger, while Jules
begged him to kill him outright and put him out of his misery. Finally
Slade reloaded, and walking up close to his victim, made some
characteristic remarks and then dispatched him. The body lay there half
a day, nobody venturing to touch it without orders, and then Slade
detailed a party and assisted at the burial himself. But he first cut
off the dead man's ears and put them in his vest pocket, where he carried
them for some time with great satisfaction. That is the story as I have
frequently heard it told and seen it in print in California newspapers.
It is doubtless correct in all essential particulars.

In due time we rattled up to a stage-station, and sat down to
breakfast with a half-savage, half-civilized company of armed and
bearded mountaineers, ranchmen and station employees. The most
gentlemanly-appearing, quiet and affable officer we had yet found along
the road in the Overland Company's service was the person who sat at the
head of the table, at my elbow. Never youth stared and shivered as I did
when I heard them call him SLADE!

Here was romance, and I sitting face to face with it!--looking upon it
--touching it--hobnobbing with it, as it were! Here, right by my side, was
the actual ogre who, in fights and brawls and various ways, had taken the
lives of twenty-six human beings, or all men lied about him! I suppose I
was the proudest stripling that ever traveled to see strange lands and
wonderful people.

He was so friendly and so gentle-spoken that I warmed to him in
spite of his awful history. It was hardly possible to realize that
this pleasant person was the pitiless scourge of the outlaws, the
raw-head-and-bloody-bones the nursing mothers of the mountains terrified
their children with. And to this day I can remember nothing remarkable
about Slade except that his face was rather broad across the cheek bones,
and that the cheek bones were low and the lips peculiarly thin and
straight. But that was enough to leave something of an effect upon me,
for since then I seldom see a face possessing those characteristics
without fancying that the owner of it is a dangerous man.

The coffee ran out. At least it was reduced to one tin-cupful, and Slade
was about to take it when he saw that my cup was empty.

He politely offered to fill it, but although I wanted it, I politely
declined. I was afraid he had not killed anybody that morning, and might
be needing diversion. But still with firm politeness he insisted on
filling my cup, and said I had traveled all night and better deserved it
than he--and while he talked he placidly poured the fluid, to the last
drop. I thanked him and drank it, but it gave me no comfort, for I could
not feel sure that he would not be sorry, presently, that he had given it
away, and proceed to kill me to distract his thoughts from the loss.
But nothing of the kind occurred. We left him with only twenty-six dead
people to account for, and I felt a tranquil satisfaction in the thought
that in so judiciously taking care of No. 1 at that breakfast-table I had
pleasantly escaped being No. 27. Slade came out to the coach and saw us
off, first ordering certain rearrangements of the mail-bags for our
comfort, and then we took leave of him, satisfied that we should hear of
him again, some day, and wondering in what connection.


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