Roughing It, Part 6.
Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
Produced by David Widger
by Mark Twain
Vice flourished luxuriantly during the hey-day of our "flush times." The
saloons were overburdened with custom; so were the police courts, the
gambling dens, the brothels and the jails--unfailing signs of high
prosperity in a mining region--in any region for that matter. Is it not
so? A crowded police court docket is the surest of all signs that trade
is brisk and money plenty. Still, there is one other sign; it comes
last, but when it does come it establishes beyond cavil that the "flush
times" are at the flood. This is the birth of the "literary" paper.
The Weekly Occidental, "devoted to literature," made its appearance in
Virginia. All the literary people were engaged to write for it. Mr. F.
was to edit it. He was a felicitous skirmisher with a pen, and a man who
could say happy things in a crisp, neat way. Once, while editor of the
Union, he had disposed of a labored, incoherent, two-column attack made
upon him by a contemporary, with a single line, which, at first glance,
seemed to contain a solemn and tremendous compliment--viz.: "THE LOGIC OF
OUR ADVERSARY RESEMBLES THE PEACE OF GOD,"--and left it to the reader's
memory and after-thought to invest the remark with another and "more
different" meaning by supplying for himself and at his own leisure the
rest of the Scripture--"in that it passeth understanding." He once said
of a little, half-starved, wayside community that had no subsistence
except what they could get by preying upon chance passengers who stopped
over with them a day when traveling by the overland stage, that in their
Church service they had altered the Lord's Prayer to read: "Give us this
day our daily stranger!"
We expected great things of the Occidental. Of course it could not get
along without an original novel, and so we made arrangements to hurl into
the work the full strength of the company. Mrs. F. was an able romancist
of the ineffable school--I know no other name to apply to a school whose
heroes are all dainty and all perfect. She wrote the opening chapter,
and introduced a lovely blonde simpleton who talked nothing but pearls
and poetry and who was virtuous to the verge of eccentricity. She also
introduced a young French Duke of aggravated refinement, in love with the
blonde. Mr. F. followed next week, with a brilliant lawyer who set about
getting the Duke's estates into trouble, and a sparkling young lady of
high society who fell to fascinating the Duke and impairing the appetite
of the blonde. Mr. D., a dark and bloody editor of one of the dailies,
followed Mr. F., the third week, introducing a mysterious Roscicrucian
who transmuted metals, held consultations with the devil in a cave at
dead of night, and cast the horoscope of the several heroes and heroines
in such a way as to provide plenty of trouble for their future careers
and breed a solemn and awful public interest in the novel. He also
introduced a cloaked and masked melodramatic miscreant, put him on a
salary and set him on the midnight track of the Duke with a poisoned
dagger. He also created an Irish coachman with a rich brogue and placed
him in the service of the society-young-lady with an ulterior mission to
carry billet-doux to the Duke.
About this time there arrived in Virginia a dissolute stranger with a
literary turn of mind--rather seedy he was, but very quiet and
unassuming; almost diffident, indeed. He was so gentle, and his manners
were so pleasing and kindly, whether he was sober or intoxicated, that he
made friends of all who came in contact with him. He applied for
literary work, offered conclusive evidence that he wielded an easy and
practiced pen, and so Mr. F. engaged him at once to help write the novel.
His chapter was to follow Mr. D.'s, and mine was to come next. Now what
does this fellow do but go off and get drunk and then proceed to his
quarters and set to work with his imagination in a state of chaos, and
that chaos in a condition of extravagant activity. The result may be
guessed. He scanned the chapters of his predecessors, found plenty of
heroes and heroines already created, and was satisfied with them; he
decided to introduce no more; with all the confidence that whisky
inspires and all the easy complacency it gives to its servant, he then
launched himself lovingly into his work: he married the coachman to the
society-young-lady for the sake of the scandal; married the Duke to the
blonde's stepmother, for the sake of the sensation; stopped the
desperado's salary; created a misunderstanding between the devil and the
Roscicrucian; threw the Duke's property into the wicked lawyer's hands;
made the lawyer's upbraiding conscience drive him to drink, thence to
delirium tremens, thence to suicide; broke the coachman's neck; let his
widow succumb to contumely, neglect, poverty and consumption; caused the
blonde to drown herself, leaving her clothes on the bank with the
customary note pinned to them forgiving the Duke and hoping he would be
happy; revealed to the Duke, by means of the usual strawberry mark on
left arm, that he had married his own long-lost mother and destroyed his
long-lost sister; instituted the proper and necessary suicide of the Duke
and the Duchess in order to compass poetical justice; opened the earth
and let the Roscicrucian through, accompanied with the accustomed smoke
and thunder and smell of brimstone, and finished with the promise that in
the next chapter, after holding a general inquest, he would take up the
surviving character of the novel and tell what became of the devil!
It read with singular smoothness, and with a "dead" earnestness that was
funny enough to suffocate a body. But there was war when it came in.
The other novelists were furious. The mild stranger, not yet more than
half sober, stood there, under a scathing fire of vituperation, meek and
bewildered, looking from one to another of his assailants, and wondering
what he could have done to invoke such a storm. When a lull came at
last, he said his say gently and appealingly--said he did not rightly
remember what he had written, but was sure he had tried to do the best he
could, and knew his object had been to make the novel not only pleasant
and plausible but instructive and----
The bombardment began again. The novelists assailed his ill-chosen
adjectives and demolished them with a storm of denunciation and ridicule.
And so the siege went on. Every time the stranger tried to appease the
enemy he only made matters worse. Finally he offered to rewrite the
chapter. This arrested hostilities. The indignation gradually quieted
down, peace reigned again and the sufferer retired in safety and got him
to his own citadel.
But on the way thither the evil angel tempted him and he got drunk again.
And again his imagination went mad. He led the heroes and heroines a
wilder dance than ever; and yet all through it ran that same convincing
air of honesty and earnestness that had marked his first work. He got
the characters into the most extraordinary situations, put them through
the most surprising performances, and made them talk the strangest talk!
But the chapter cannot be described. It was symmetrically crazy; it was
artistically absurd; and it had explanatory footnotes that were fully as
curious as the text. I remember one of the "situations," and will offer
it as an example of the whole. He altered the character of the brilliant
lawyer, and made him a great-hearted, splendid fellow; gave him fame and
riches, and set his age at thirty-three years. Then he made the blonde
discover, through the help of the Roscicrucian and the melodramatic
miscreant, that while the Duke loved her money ardently and wanted it, he
secretly felt a sort of leaning toward the society-young-lady. Stung to
the quick, she tore her affections from him and bestowed them with
tenfold power upon the lawyer, who responded with consuming zeal. But
the parents would none of it. What they wanted in the family was a Duke;
and a Duke they were determined to have; though they confessed that next
to the Duke the lawyer had their preference. Necessarily the blonde now
went into a decline. The parents were alarmed. They pleaded with her to
marry the Duke, but she steadfastly refused, and pined on. Then they
laid a plan. They told her to wait a year and a day, and if at the end
of that time she still felt that she could not marry the Duke, she might
marry the lawyer with their full consent. The result was as they had
foreseen: gladness came again, and the flush of returning health. Then
the parents took the next step in their scheme. They had the family
physician recommend a long sea voyage and much land travel for the
thorough restoration of the blonde's strength; and they invited the Duke
to be of the party. They judged that the Duke's constant presence and
the lawyer's protracted absence would do the rest--for they did not
invite the lawyer.
So they set sail in a steamer for America--and the third day out, when
their sea-sickness called truce and permitted them to take their first
meal at the public table, behold there sat the lawyer! The Duke and
party made the best of an awkward situation; the voyage progressed, and
the vessel neared America.
But, by and by, two hundred miles off New Bedford, the ship took fire;
she burned to the water's edge; of all her crew and passengers, only
thirty were saved. They floated about the sea half an afternoon and all
night long. Among them were our friends. The lawyer, by superhuman
exertions, had saved the blonde and her parents, swimming back and forth
two hundred yards and bringing one each time--(the girl first). The Duke
had saved himself. In the morning two whale ships arrived on the scene
and sent their boats. The weather was stormy and the embarkation was
attended with much confusion and excitement. The lawyer did his duty
like a man; helped his exhausted and insensible blonde, her parents and
some others into a boat (the Duke helped himself in); then a child fell
overboard at the other end of the raft and the lawyer rushed thither and
helped half a dozen people fish it out, under the stimulus of its
mother's screams. Then he ran back--a few seconds too late--the blonde's
boat was under way. So he had to take the other boat, and go to the
other ship. The storm increased and drove the vessels out of sight of
each other--drove them whither it would.
When it calmed, at the end of three days, the blonde's ship was seven
hundred miles north of Boston and the other about seven hundred south of
that port. The blonde's captain was bound on a whaling cruise in the
North Atlantic and could not go back such a distance or make a port
without orders; such being nautical law. The lawyer's captain was to
cruise in the North Pacific, and he could not go back or make a port
without orders. All the lawyer's money and baggage were in the blonde's
boat and went to the blonde's ship--so his captain made him work his
passage as a common sailor. When both ships had been cruising nearly a
year, the one was off the coast of Greenland and the other in Behring's
Strait. The blonde had long ago been well-nigh persuaded that her lawyer
had been washed overboard and lost just before the whale ships reached
the raft, and now, under the pleadings of her parents and the Duke she
was at last beginning to nerve herself for the doom of the covenant, and
prepare for the hated marriage.
But she would not yield a day before the date set. The weeks dragged on,
the time narrowed, orders were given to deck the ship for the wedding--a
wedding at sea among icebergs and walruses. Five days more and all would
be over. So the blonde reflected, with a sigh and a tear. Oh where was
her true love--and why, why did he not come and save her? At that moment
he was lifting his harpoon to strike a whale in Behring's Strait, five
thousand miles away, by the way of the Arctic Ocean, or twenty thousand
by the way of the Horn--that was the reason. He struck, but not with
perfect aim--his foot slipped and he fell in the whale's mouth and went
down his throat. He was insensible five days. Then he came to himself
and heard voices; daylight was streaming through a hole cut in the
whale's roof. He climbed out and astonished the sailors who were
hoisting blubber up a ship's side. He recognized the vessel, flew
aboard, surprised the wedding party at the altar and exclaimed:
"Stop the proceedings--I'm here! Come to my arms, my own!"
There were foot-notes to this extravagant piece of literature wherein the
author endeavored to show that the whole thing was within the
possibilities; he said he got the incident of the whale traveling from
Behring's Strait to the coast of Greenland, five thousand miles in five
days, through the Arctic Ocean, from Charles Reade's "Love Me Little Love
Me Long," and considered that that established the fact that the thing
could be done; and he instanced Jonah's adventure as proof that a man
could live in a whale's belly, and added that if a preacher could stand
it three days a lawyer could surely stand it five!
There was a fiercer storm than ever in the editorial sanctum now, and the
stranger was peremptorily discharged, and his manuscript flung at his
head. But he had already delayed things so much that there was not time
for some one else to rewrite the chapter, and so the paper came out
without any novel in it. It was but a feeble, struggling, stupid
journal, and the absence of the novel probably shook public confidence;
at any rate, before the first side of the next issue went to press, the
Weekly Occidental died as peacefully as an infant.
An effort was made to resurrect it, with the proposed advantage of a
telling new title, and Mr. F. said that The Phenix would be just the name
for it, because it would give the idea of a resurrection from its dead
ashes in a new and undreamed of condition of splendor; but some
low-priced smarty on one of the dailies suggested that we call it the
Lazarus; and inasmuch as the people were not profound in Scriptural
matters but thought the resurrected Lazarus and the dilapidated mendicant
that begged in the rich man's gateway were one and the same person, the
name became the laughing stock of the town, and killed the paper for good
I was sorry enough, for I was very proud of being connected with a
literary paper--prouder than I have ever been of anything since, perhaps.
I had written some rhymes for it--poetry I considered it--and it was a
great grief to me that the production was on the "first side" of the
issue that was not completed, and hence did not see the light. But time
brings its revenges--I can put it in here; it will answer in place of a
tear dropped to the memory of the lost Occidental. The idea (not the
chief idea, but the vehicle that bears it) was probably suggested by the
old song called "The Raging Canal," but I cannot remember now. I do
remember, though, that at that time I thought my doggerel was one of the
ablest poems of the age:
THE AGED PILOT MAN.
On the Erie Canal, it was,
All on a summer's day,
I sailed forth with my parents
Far away to Albany.
From out the clouds at noon that day
There came a dreadful storm,
That piled the billows high about,
And filled us with alarm.
A man came rushing from a house,
Saying, "Snub up your boat I pray,
[The customary canal technicality for "tie up."]
Snub up your boat, snub up, alas,
Snub up while yet you may."
Our captain cast one glance astern,
Then forward glanced he,
And said, "My wife and little ones
I never more shall see."
Said Dollinger the pilot man,
In noble words, but few,
--"Fear not, but lean on Dollinger,
And he will fetch you through."
The boat drove on, the frightened mules
Tore through the rain and wind,
And bravely still, in danger's post,
The whip-boy strode behind.
"Come 'board, come 'board," the captain cried,
"Nor tempt so wild a storm;"
But still the raging mules advanced,
And still the boy strode on.
Then said the captain to us all,
"Alas, 'tis plain to me,
The greater danger is not there,
But here upon the sea.
"So let us strive, while life remains,
To save all souls on board,
And then if die at last we must,
Let . . . . I cannot speak the word!"
Said Dollinger the pilot man,
Tow'ring above the crew,
"Fear not, but trust in Dollinger,
And he will fetch you through."
"Low bridge! low bridge!" all heads went down,
The laboring bark sped on;
A mill we passed, we passed church,
Hamlets, and fields of corn;
And all the world came out to see,
And chased along the shore
Crying, "Alas, alas, the sheeted rain,
The wind, the tempest's roar!
Alas, the gallant ship and crew,
Can nothing help them more?"
And from our deck sad eyes looked out
Across the stormy scene:
The tossing wake of billows aft,
The bending forests green,
The chickens sheltered under carts
In lee of barn the cows,
The skurrying swine with straw in mouth,
The wild spray from our bows!
Now let her go about!
If she misses stays and broaches to,
We're all"--then with a shout,
Take in more sail!
Lord, what a gale!
Ho, boy, haul taut on the hind mule's tail!"
"Ho! lighten ship! ho! man the pump!
Ho, hostler, heave the lead!"
"A quarter-three!--'tis shoaling fast!
Three feet large!--t-h-r-e-e feet!
--Three feet scant!" I cried in fright
"Oh, is there no retreat?"
Said Dollinger, the pilot man,
As on the vessel flew,
"Fear not, but trust in Dollinger,
And he will fetch you through."
A panic struck the bravest hearts,
The boldest cheek turned pale;
For plain to all, this shoaling said
A leak had burst the ditch's bed!
And, straight as bolt from crossbow sped,
Our ship swept on, with shoaling lead,
Before the fearful gale!
"Sever the tow-line! Cripple the mules!"
Too late! There comes a shock!
Another length, and the fated craft
Would have swum in the saving lock!
Then gathered together the shipwrecked crew
And took one last embrace,
While sorrowful tears from despairing eyes
Ran down each hopeless face;
And some did think of their little ones
Whom they never more might see,
And others of waiting wives at home,
And mothers that grieved would be.
But of all the children of misery there
On that poor sinking frame,
But one spake words of hope and faith,
And I worshipped as they came:
Said Dollinger the pilot man,
--(O brave heart, strong and true!)
--"Fear not, but trust in Dollinger,
For he will fetch you through."
Lo! scarce the words have passed his lips
The dauntless prophet say'th,
When every soul about him seeth
A wonder crown his faith!
"And count ye all, both great and small,
As numbered with the dead:
For mariner for forty year,
On Erie, boy and man,
I never yet saw such a storm,
Or one't with it began!"
So overboard a keg of nails
And anvils three we threw,
Likewise four bales of gunny-sacks,
Two hundred pounds of glue,
Two sacks of corn, four ditto wheat,
A box of books, a cow,
A violin, Lord Byron's works,
A rip-saw and a sow.
A curve! a curve! the dangers grow!
Haw the head mule!--the aft one gee!
Luff!--bring her to the wind!"
For straight a farmer brought a plank,
--And laying it unto the ship,
In silent awe retired.
Then every sufferer stood amazed
That pilot man before;
A moment stood. Then wondering turned,
And speechless walked ashore.
Since I desire, in this chapter, to say an instructive word or two about
the silver mines, the reader may take this fair warning and skip, if he
chooses. The year 1863 was perhaps the very top blossom and culmination
of the "flush times." Virginia swarmed with men and vehicles to that
degree that the place looked like a very hive--that is when one's vision
could pierce through the thick fog of alkali dust that was generally
blowing in summer. I will say, concerning this dust, that if you drove
ten miles through it, you and your horses would be coated with it a
sixteenth of an inch thick and present an outside appearance that was a
uniform pale yellow color, and your buggy would have three inches of dust
in it, thrown there by the wheels. The delicate scales used by the
assayers were inclosed in glass cases intended to be air-tight, and yet
some of this dust was so impalpable and so invisibly fine that it would
get in, somehow, and impair the accuracy of those scales.
Speculation ran riot, and yet there was a world of substantial business
going on, too. All freights were brought over the mountains from
California (150 miles) by pack-train partly, and partly in huge wagons
drawn by such long mule teams that each team amounted to a procession,
and it did seem, sometimes, that the grand combined procession of animals
stretched unbroken from Virginia to California. Its long route was
traceable clear across the deserts of the Territory by the writhing
serpent of dust it lifted up. By these wagons, freights over that
hundred and fifty miles were $200 a ton for small lots (same price for
all express matter brought by stage), and $100 a ton for full loads.
One Virginia firm received one hundred tons of freight a month, and paid
$10,000 a month freightage. In the winter the freights were much higher.
All the bullion was shipped in bars by stage to San Francisco (a bar was
usually about twice the size of a pig of lead and contained from $1,500
to $3,000 according to the amount of gold mixed with the silver), and the
freight on it (when the shipment was large) was one and a quarter per
cent. of its intrinsic value.
So, the freight on these bars probably averaged something more than $25
each. Small shippers paid two per cent. There were three stages a day,
each way, and I have seen the out-going stages carry away a third of a
ton of bullion each, and more than once I saw them divide a two-ton lot
and take it off. However, these were extraordinary events.
[Mr. Valentine, Wells Fargo's agent, has handled all the bullion shipped
through the Virginia office for many a month. To his memory--which is
excellent--we are indebted for the following exhibit of the company's
business in the Virginia office since the first of January, 1862: From
January 1st to April 1st, about $270,000 worth of bullion passed through
that office, during the next quarter, $570,000; next quarter, $800,000;
next quarter, $956,000; next quarter, $1,275,000; and for the quarter
ending on the 30th of last June, about $1,600,000. Thus in a year and a
half, the Virginia office only shipped $5,330,000 in bullion. During the
year 1862 they shipped $2,615,000, so we perceive the average shipments
have more than doubled in the last six months. This gives us room to
promise for the Virginia office $500,000 a month for the year 1863
(though perhaps, judging by the steady increase in the business, we are
under estimating, somewhat). This gives us $6,000,000 for the year.
Gold Hill and Silver City together can beat us--we will give them
$10,000,000. To Dayton, Empire City, Ophir and Carson City, we will
allow an aggregate of $8,000,000, which is not over the mark, perhaps,
and may possibly be a little under it. To Esmeralda we give $4,000,000.
To Reese River and Humboldt $2,000,000, which is liberal now, but may not
be before the year is out. So we prognosticate that the yield of bullion
this year will be about $30,000,000. Placing the number of mills in the
Territory at one hundred, this gives to each the labor of producing
$300,000 in bullion during the twelve months. Allowing them to run three
hundred days in the year (which none of them more than do), this makes
their work average $1,000 a day. Say the mills average twenty tons of
rock a day and this rock worth $50 as a general thing, and you have the
actual work of our one hundred mills figured down "to a spot"--$1,000 a
day each, and $30,000,000 a year in the aggregate.--Enterprise.
[A considerable over estimate--M. T.]]
Two tons of silver bullion would be in the neighborhood of forty bars,
and the freight on it over $1,000. Each coach always carried a deal of
ordinary express matter beside, and also from fifteen to twenty
passengers at from $25 to $30 a head. With six stages going all the
time, Wells, Fargo and Co.'s Virginia City business was important and
All along under the centre of Virginia and Gold Hill, for a couple of
miles, ran the great Comstock silver lode--a vein of ore from fifty to
eighty feet thick between its solid walls of rock--a vein as wide as some
of New York's streets. I will remind the reader that in Pennsylvania a
coal vein only eight feet wide is considered ample.
Virginia was a busy city of streets and houses above ground. Under it
was another busy city, down in the bowels of the earth, where a great
population of men thronged in and out among an intricate maze of tunnels
and drifts, flitting hither and thither under a winking sparkle of
lights, and over their heads towered a vast web of interlocking timbers
that held the walls of the gutted Comstock apart. These timbers were as
large as a man's body, and the framework stretched upward so far that no
eye could pierce to its top through the closing gloom. It was like
peering up through the clean-picked ribs and bones of some colossal
skeleton. Imagine such a framework two miles long, sixty feet wide, and
higher than any church spire in America. Imagine this stately
lattice-work stretching down Broadway, from the St. Nicholas to Wall
street, and a Fourth of July procession, reduced to pigmies, parading on
top of it and flaunting their flags, high above the pinnacle of Trinity
steeple. One can imagine that, but he cannot well imagine what that
forest of timbers cost, from the time they were felled in the pineries
beyond Washoe Lake, hauled up and around Mount Davidson at atrocious
rates of freightage, then squared, let down into the deep maw of the mine
and built up there. Twenty ample fortunes would not timber one of the
greatest of those silver mines. The Spanish proverb says it requires a
gold mine to "run" a silver one, and it is true. A beggar with a silver
mine is a pitiable pauper indeed if he cannot sell.
I spoke of the underground Virginia as a city. The Gould and Curry is
only one single mine under there, among a great many others; yet the
Gould and Curry's streets of dismal drifts and tunnels were five miles in
extent, altogether, and its population five hundred miners. Taken as a
whole, the underground city had some thirty miles of streets and a
population of five or six thousand. In this present day some of those
populations are at work from twelve to sixteen hundred feet under
Virginia and Gold Hill, and the signal-bells that tell them what the
superintendent above ground desires them to do are struck by telegraph as
we strike a fire alarm. Sometimes men fall down a shaft, there, a
thousand feet deep. In such cases, the usual plan is to hold an inquest.
If you wish to visit one of those mines, you may walk through a tunnel
about half a mile long if you prefer it, or you may take the quicker plan
of shooting like a dart down a shaft, on a small platform. It is like
tumbling down through an empty steeple, feet first. When you reach the
bottom, you take a candle and tramp through drifts and tunnels where
throngs of men are digging and blasting; you watch them send up tubs full
of great lumps of stone--silver ore; you select choice specimens from the
mass, as souvenirs; you admire the world of skeleton timbering; you
reflect frequently that you are buried under a mountain, a thousand feet
below daylight; being in the bottom of the mine you climb from "gallery"
to "gallery," up endless ladders that stand straight up and down; when
your legs fail you at last, you lie down in a small box-car in a cramped
"incline" like a half-up-ended sewer and are dragged up to daylight
feeling as if you are crawling through a coffin that has no end to it.
Arrived at the top, you find a busy crowd of men receiving the ascending
cars and tubs and dumping the ore from an elevation into long rows of
bins capable of holding half a dozen tons each; under the bins are rows
of wagons loading from chutes and trap-doors in the bins, and down the
long street is a procession of these wagons wending toward the silver
mills with their rich freight. It is all "done," now, and there you are.
You need never go down again, for you have seen it all. If you have
forgotten the process of reducing the ore in the mill and making the
silver bars, you can go back and find it again in my Esmeralda chapters
if so disposed.
Of course these mines cave in, in places, occasionally, and then it is
worth one's while to take the risk of descending into them and observing
the crushing power exerted by the pressing weight of a settling mountain.
I published such an experience in the Enterprise, once, and from it I
will take an extract:
AN HOUR IN THE CAVED MINES.--We journeyed down into the Ophir mine,
yesterday, to see the earthquake. We could not go down the deep
incline, because it still has a propensity to cave in places.
Therefore we traveled through the long tunnel which enters the hill
above the Ophir office, and then by means of a series of long
ladders, climbed away down from the first to the fourth gallery.
Traversing a drift, we came to the Spanish line, passed five sets of
timbers still uninjured, and found the earthquake. Here was as
complete a chaos as ever was seen--vast masses of earth and
splintered and broken timbers piled confusedly together, with
scarcely an aperture left large enough for a cat to creep through.
Rubbish was still falling at intervals from above, and one timber
which had braced others earlier in the day, was now crushed down out
of its former position, showing that the caving and settling of the
tremendous mass was still going on. We were in that portion of the
Ophir known as the "north mines." Returning to the surface, we
entered a tunnel leading into the Central, for the purpose of
getting into the main Ophir. Descending a long incline in this
tunnel, we traversed a drift or so, and then went down a deep shaft
from whence we proceeded into the fifth gallery of the Ophir. From
a side-drift we crawled through a small hole and got into the midst
of the earthquake again--earth and broken timbers mingled together
without regard to grace or symmetry. A large portion of the second,
third and fourth galleries had caved in and gone to destruction--the
two latter at seven o'clock on the previous evening.
At the turn-table, near the northern extremity of the fifth gallery,
two big piles of rubbish had forced their way through from the fifth
gallery, and from the looks of the timbers, more was about to come.
These beams are solid--eighteen inches square; first, a great beam
is laid on the floor, then upright ones, five feet high, stand on
it, supporting another horizontal beam, and so on, square above
square, like the framework of a window. The superincumbent weight
was sufficient to mash the ends of those great upright beams fairly
into the solid wood of the horizontal ones three inches, compressing
and bending the upright beam till it curved like a bow. Before the
Spanish caved in, some of their twelve-inch horizontal timbers were
compressed in this way until they were only five inches thick!
Imagine the power it must take to squeeze a solid log together in
that way. Here, also, was a range of timbers, for a distance of
twenty feet, tilted six inches out of the perpendicular by the
weight resting upon them from the caved galleries above. You could
hear things cracking and giving way, and it was not pleasant to know
that the world overhead was slowly and silently sinking down upon
you. The men down in the mine do not mind it, however.
Returning along the fifth gallery, we struck the safe part of the
Ophir incline, and went down it to the sixth; but we found ten
inches of water there, and had to come back. In repairing the
damage done to the incline, the pump had to be stopped for two
hours, and in the meantime the water gained about a foot. However,
the pump was at work again, and the flood-water was decreasing.
We climbed up to the fifth gallery again and sought a deep shaft,
whereby we might descend to another part of the sixth, out of reach
of the water, but suffered disappointment, as the men had gone to
dinner, and there was no one to man the windlass. So, having seen
the earthquake, we climbed out at the Union incline and tunnel, and
adjourned, all dripping with candle grease and perspiration, to
lunch at the Ophir office.
During the great flush year of 1863, Nevada [claims to have]
produced $25,000,000 in bullion--almost, if not quite, a round
million to each thousand inhabitants, which is very well,
considering that she was without agriculture and manufactures.
Silver mining was her sole productive industry. [Since the above was
in type, I learn from an official source that the above figure is
too high, and that the yield for 1863 did not exceed $20,000,000.]
However, the day for large figures is approaching; the Sutro Tunnel
is to plow through the Comstock lode from end to end, at a depth of
two thousand feet, and then mining will be easy and comparatively
inexpensive; and the momentous matters of drainage, and hoisting and
hauling of ore will cease to be burdensome. This vast work will
absorb many years, and millions of dollars, in its completion; but
it will early yield money, for that desirable epoch will begin as
soon as it strikes the first end of the vein. The tunnel will be
some eight miles long, and will develop astonishing riches. Cars
will carry the ore through the tunnel and dump it in the mills and
thus do away with the present costly system of double handling and
transportation by mule teams. The water from the tunnel will
furnish the motive power for the mills. Mr. Sutro, the originator
of this prodigious enterprise, is one of the few men in the world
who is gifted with the pluck and perseverance necessary to follow up
and hound such an undertaking to its completion. He has converted
several obstinate Congresses to a deserved friendliness toward his
important work, and has gone up and down and to and fro in Europe
until he has enlisted a great moneyed interest in it there.
Every now and then, in these days, the boys used to tell me I ought to
get one Jim Blaine to tell me the stirring story of his grandfather's old
ram--but they always added that I must not mention the matter unless Jim
was drunk at the time--just comfortably and sociably drunk. They kept
this up until my curiosity was on the rack to hear the story. I got to
haunting Blaine; but it was of no use, the boys always found fault with
his condition; he was often moderately but never satisfactorily drunk.
I never watched a man's condition with such absorbing interest, such
anxious solicitude; I never so pined to see a man uncompromisingly drunk
before. At last, one evening I hurried to his cabin, for I learned that
this time his situation was such that even the most fastidious could find
no fault with it--he was tranquilly, serenely, symmetrically drunk--not a
hiccup to mar his voice, not a cloud upon his brain thick enough to
obscure his memory. As I entered, he was sitting upon an empty
powder-keg, with a clay pipe in one hand and the other raised to command
silence. His face was round, red, and very serious; his throat was bare
and his hair tumbled; in general appearance and costume he was a stalwart
miner of the period. On the pine table stood a candle, and its dim light
revealed "the boys" sitting here and there on bunks, candle-boxes,
powder-kegs, etc. They said:
"Sh--! Don't speak--he's going to commence."
THE STORY OF THE OLD RAM.
I found a seat at once, and Blaine said:
'I don't reckon them times will ever come again. There never was a more
bullier old ram than what he was. Grandfather fetched him from Illinois
--got him of a man by the name of Yates--Bill Yates--maybe you might have
heard of him; his father was a deacon--Baptist--and he was a rustler,
too; a man had to get up ruther early to get the start of old Thankful
Yates; it was him that put the Greens up to jining teams with my
grandfather when he moved west.
'Seth Green was prob'ly the pick of the flock; he married a Wilkerson
--Sarah Wilkerson--good cretur, she was--one of the likeliest heifers that
was ever raised in old Stoddard, everybody said that knowed her. She
could heft a bar'l of flour as easy as I can flirt a flapjack. And spin?
Don't mention it! Independent? Humph! When Sile Hawkins come a
browsing around her, she let him know that for all his tin he couldn't
trot in harness alongside of her. You see, Sile Hawkins was--no, it
warn't Sile Hawkins, after all--it was a galoot by the name of Filkins
--I disremember his first name; but he was a stump--come into pra'r meeting
drunk, one night, hooraying for Nixon, becuz he thought it was a primary;
and old deacon Ferguson up and scooted him through the window and he lit
on old Miss Jefferson's head, poor old filly. She was a good soul--had a
glass eye and used to lend it to old Miss Wagner, that hadn't any, to
receive company in; it warn't big enough, and when Miss Wagner warn't
noticing, it would get twisted around in the socket, and look up, maybe,
or out to one side, and every which way, while t' other one was looking
as straight ahead as a spy-glass.
'Grown people didn't mind it, but it most always made the children cry, it
was so sort of scary. She tried packing it in raw cotton, but it
wouldn't work, somehow--the cotton would get loose and stick out and look
so kind of awful that the children couldn't stand it no way. She was
always dropping it out, and turning up her old dead-light on the company
empty, and making them oncomfortable, becuz she never could tell when it
hopped out, being blind on that side, you see. So somebody would have to
hunch her and say, "Your game eye has fetched loose. Miss Wagner dear"
--and then all of them would have to sit and wait till she jammed it in
again--wrong side before, as a general thing, and green as a bird's egg,
being a bashful cretur and easy sot back before company. But being wrong
side before warn't much difference, anyway; becuz her own eye was
sky-blue and the glass one was yaller on the front side, so whichever way
she turned it it didn't match nohow.
'Old Miss Wagner was considerable on the borrow, she was. When she had a
quilting, or Dorcas S'iety at her house she gen'ally borrowed Miss
Higgins's wooden leg to stump around on; it was considerable shorter than
her other pin, but much she minded that. She said she couldn't abide
crutches when she had company, becuz they were so slow; said when she had
company and things had to be done, she wanted to get up and hump herself.
She was as bald as a jug, and so she used to borrow Miss Jacops's wig
--Miss Jacops was the coffin-peddler's wife--a ratty old buzzard, he was,
that used to go roosting around where people was sick, waiting for 'em;
and there that old rip would sit all day, in the shade, on a coffin that
he judged would fit the can'idate; and if it was a slow customer and kind
of uncertain, he'd fetch his rations and a blanket along and sleep in the
coffin nights. He was anchored out that way, in frosty weather, for
about three weeks, once, before old Robbins's place, waiting for him; and
after that, for as much as two years, Jacops was not on speaking terms
with the old man, on account of his disapp'inting him. He got one of his
feet froze, and lost money, too, becuz old Robbins took a favorable turn
and got well. The next time Robbins got sick, Jacops tried to make up
with him, and varnished up the same old coffin and fetched it along; but
old Robbins was too many for him; he had him in, and 'peared to be
powerful weak; he bought the coffin for ten dollars and Jacops was to pay
it back and twenty-five more besides if Robbins didn't like the coffin
after he'd tried it. And then Robbins died, and at the funeral he
bursted off the lid and riz up in his shroud and told the parson to let
up on the performances, becuz he could not stand such a coffin as that.
You see he had been in a trance once before, when he was young, and he
took the chances on another, cal'lating that if he made the trip it was
money in his pocket, and if he missed fire he couldn't lose a cent. And
by George he sued Jacops for the rhino and got jedgment; and he set up
the coffin in his back parlor and said he 'lowed to take his time, now.
It was always an aggravation to Jacops, the way that miserable old thing
acted. He moved back to Indiany pretty soon--went to Wellsville
--Wellsville was the place the Hogadorns was from. Mighty fine family.
Old Maryland stock. Old Squire Hogadorn could carry around more mixed
licker, and cuss better than most any man I ever see. His second wife
was the widder Billings--she that was Becky Martin; her dam was deacon
Dunlap's first wife. Her oldest child, Maria, married a missionary and
died in grace--et up by the savages. They et him, too, poor feller
--biled him. It warn't the custom, so they say, but they explained to
friends of his'n that went down there to bring away his things, that
they'd tried missionaries every other way and never could get any good
out of 'em--and so it annoyed all his relations to find out that that
man's life was fooled away just out of a dern'd experiment, so to speak.
But mind you, there ain't anything ever reely lost; everything that
people can't understand and don't see the reason of does good if you only
hold on and give it a fair shake; Prov'dence don't fire no blank
ca'tridges, boys. That there missionary's substance, unbeknowns to
himself, actu'ly converted every last one of them heathens that took a
chance at the barbacue. Nothing ever fetched them but that. Don't tell
me it was an accident that he was biled. There ain't no such a thing as
'When my uncle Lem was leaning up agin a scaffolding once, sick, or drunk,
or suthin, an Irishman with a hod full of bricks fell on him out of the
third story and broke the old man's back in two places. People said it
was an accident. Much accident there was about that. He didn't know
what he was there for, but he was there for a good object. If he hadn't
been there the Irishman would have been killed. Nobody can ever make me
believe anything different from that. Uncle Lem's dog was there. Why
didn't the Irishman fall on the dog? Becuz the dog would a seen him a
coming and stood from under. That's the reason the dog warn't appinted.
A dog can't be depended on to carry out a special providence. Mark my
words it was a put-up thing. Accidents don't happen, boys. Uncle Lem's
dog--I wish you could a seen that dog. He was a reglar shepherd--or
ruther he was part bull and part shepherd--splendid animal; belonged to
parson Hagar before Uncle Lem got him. Parson Hagar belonged to the
Western Reserve Hagars; prime family; his mother was a Watson; one of his
sisters married a Wheeler; they settled in Morgan county, and he got
nipped by the machinery in a carpet factory and went through in less than
a quarter of a minute; his widder bought the piece of carpet that had his
remains wove in, and people come a hundred mile to 'tend the funeral.
There was fourteen yards in the piece.
'She wouldn't let them roll him up, but planted him just so--full length.
The church was middling small where they preached the funeral, and they
had to let one end of the coffin stick out of the window. They didn't
bury him--they planted one end, and let him stand up, same as a monument.
And they nailed a sign on it and put--put on--put on it--sacred to--the
m-e-m-o-r-y--of fourteen y-a-r-d-s--of three-ply--car---pet--containing
all that was--m-o-r-t-a-l--of--of--W-i-l-l-i-a-m--W-h-e--'
Jim Blaine had been growing gradually drowsy and drowsier--his head
nodded, once, twice, three times--dropped peacefully upon his breast, and
he fell tranquilly asleep. The tears were running down the boys' cheeks
--they were suffocating with suppressed laughter--and had been from the
start, though I had never noticed it. I perceived that I was "sold."
I learned then that Jim Blaine's peculiarity was that whenever he reached
a certain stage of intoxication, no human power could keep him from
setting out, with impressive unction, to tell about a wonderful adventure
which he had once had with his grandfather's old ram--and the mention of
the ram in the first sentence was as far as any man had ever heard him
get, concerning it. He always maundered off, interminably, from one
thing to another, till his whisky got the best of him and he fell asleep.
What the thing was that happened to him and his grandfather's old ram is
a dark mystery to this day, for nobody has ever yet found out.
Of course there was a large Chinese population in Virginia--it is the
case with every town and city on the Pacific coast. They are a harmless
race when white men either let them alone or treat them no worse than
dogs; in fact they are almost entirely harmless anyhow, for they seldom
think of resenting the vilest insults or the cruelest injuries. They are
quiet, peaceable, tractable, free from drunkenness, and they are as
industrious as the day is long. A disorderly Chinaman is rare, and a
lazy one does not exist. So long as a Chinaman has strength to use his
hands he needs no support from anybody; white men often complain of want
of work, but a Chinaman offers no such complaint; he always manages to
find something to do. He is a great convenience to everybody--even to
the worst class of white men, for he bears the most of their sins,
suffering fines for their petty thefts, imprisonment for their robberies,
and death for their murders. Any white man can swear a Chinaman's life
away in the courts, but no Chinaman can testify against a white man.
Ours is the "land of the free"--nobody denies that--nobody challenges it.
[Maybe it is because we won't let other people testify.] As I write, news
comes that in broad daylight in San Francisco, some boys have stoned an
inoffensive Chinaman to death, and that although a large crowd witnessed
the shameful deed, no one interfered.
There are seventy thousand (and possibly one hundred thousand) Chinamen
on the Pacific coast. There were about a thousand in Virginia. They
were penned into a "Chinese quarter"--a thing which they do not
particularly object to, as they are fond of herding together. Their
buildings were of wood; usually only one story high, and set thickly
together along streets scarcely wide enough for a wagon to pass through.
Their quarter was a little removed from the rest of the town. The chief
employment of Chinamen in towns is to wash clothing. They always send a
bill, like this below, pinned to the clothes. It is mere ceremony, for
it does not enlighten the customer much. Their price for washing was
$2.50 per dozen--rather cheaper than white people could afford to wash
for at that time. A very common sign on the Chinese houses was: "See
Yup, Washer and Ironer"; "Hong Wo, Washer"; "Sam Sing & Ah Hop, Washing."
The house servants, cooks, etc., in California and Nevada, were chiefly
Chinamen. There were few white servants and no Chinawomen so employed.
Chinamen make good house servants, being quick, obedient, patient, quick
to learn and tirelessly industrious. They do not need to be taught a
thing twice, as a general thing. They are imitative. If a Chinaman were
to see his master break up a centre table, in a passion, and kindle a
fire with it, that Chinaman would be likely to resort to the furniture
for fuel forever afterward.
All Chinamen can read, write and cipher with easy facility--pity but all
our petted voters could. In California they rent little patches of
ground and do a deal of gardening. They will raise surprising crops of
vegetables on a sand pile. They waste nothing. What is rubbish to a
Christian, a Chinaman carefully preserves and makes useful in one way or
another. He gathers up all the old oyster and sardine cans that white
people throw away, and procures marketable tin and solder from them by
melting. He gathers up old bones and turns them into manure.
In California he gets a living out of old mining claims that white men
have abandoned as exhausted and worthless--and then the officers come
down on him once a month with an exorbitant swindle to which the
legislature has given the broad, general name of "foreign" mining tax,
but it is usually inflicted on no foreigners but Chinamen. This swindle
has in some cases been repeated once or twice on the same victim in the
course of the same month--but the public treasury was no additionally
enriched by it, probably.
Chinamen hold their dead in great reverence--they worship their departed
ancestors, in fact. Hence, in China, a man's front yard, back yard, or
any other part of his premises, is made his family burying ground, in
order that he may visit the graves at any and all times. Therefore that
huge empire is one mighty cemetery; it is ridged and wringled from its
centre to its circumference with graves--and inasmuch as every foot of
ground must be made to do its utmost, in China, lest the swarming
population suffer for food, the very graves are cultivated and yield a
harvest, custom holding this to be no dishonor to the dead. Since the
departed are held in such worshipful reverence, a Chinaman cannot bear
that any indignity be offered the places where they sleep.
Mr. Burlingame said that herein lay China's bitter opposition to
railroads; a road could not be built anywhere in the empire without
disturbing the graves of their ancestors or friends.
A Chinaman hardly believes he could enjoy the hereafter except his body
lay in his beloved China; also, he desires to receive, himself, after
death, that worship with which he has honored his dead that preceded him.
Therefore, if he visits a foreign country, he makes arrangements to have
his bones returned to China in case he dies; if he hires to go to a
foreign country on a labor contract, there is always a stipulation that
his body shall be taken back to China if he dies; if the government sells
a gang of Coolies to a foreigner for the usual five-year term, it is
specified in the contract that their bodies shall be restored to China in
case of death. On the Pacific coast the Chinamen all belong to one or
another of several great companies or organizations, and these companies
keep track of their members, register their names, and ship their bodies
home when they die. The See Yup Company is held to be the largest of
these. The Ning Yeong Company is next, and numbers eighteen thousand
members on the coast. Its headquarters are at San Francisco, where it
has a costly temple, several great officers (one of whom keeps regal
state in seclusion and cannot be approached by common humanity), and a
numerous priesthood. In it I was shown a register of its members, with
the dead and the date of their shipment to China duly marked. Every ship
that sails from San Francisco carries away a heavy freight of Chinese
corpses--or did, at least, until the legislature, with an ingenious
refinement of Christian cruelty, forbade the shipments, as a neat
underhanded way of deterring Chinese immigration. The bill was offered,
whether it passed or not. It is my impression that it passed. There was
another bill--it became a law--compelling every incoming Chinaman to be
vaccinated on the wharf and pay a duly appointed quack (no decent doctor
would defile himself with such legalized robbery) ten dollars for it.
As few importers of Chinese would want to go to an expense like that, the
law-makers thought this would be another heavy blow to Chinese
What the Chinese quarter of Virginia was like--or, indeed, what the
Chinese quarter of any Pacific coast town was and is like--may be
gathered from this item which I printed in the Enterprise while reporting
for that paper:
CHINATOWN.--Accompanied by a fellow reporter, we made a trip through
our Chinese quarter the other night. The Chinese have built their
portion of the city to suit themselves; and as they keep neither
carriages nor wagons, their streets are not wide enough, as a
general thing, to admit of the passage of vehicles. At ten o'clock
at night the Chinaman may be seen in all his glory. In every little
cooped-up, dingy cavern of a hut, faint with the odor of burning
Josh-lights and with nothing to see the gloom by save the sickly,
guttering tallow candle, were two or three yellow, long-tailed
vagabonds, coiled up on a sort of short truckle-bed, smoking opium,
motionless and with their lustreless eyes turned inward from excess
of satisfaction--or rather the recent smoker looks thus, immediately
after having passed the pipe to his neighbor--for opium-smoking is a
comfortless operation, and requires constant attention. A lamp sits
on the bed, the length of the long pipe-stem from the smoker's
mouth; he puts a pellet of opium on the end of a wire, sets it on
fire, and plasters it into the pipe much as a Christian would fill a
hole with putty; then he applies the bowl to the lamp and proceeds
to smoke--and the stewing and frying of the drug and the gurgling of
the juices in the stem would well-nigh turn the stomach of a statue.
John likes it, though; it soothes him, he takes about two dozen
whiffs, and then rolls over to dream, Heaven only knows what, for we
could not imagine by looking at the soggy creature. Possibly in his
visions he travels far away from the gross world and his regular
washing, and feast on succulent rats and birds'-nests in Paradise.
Mr. Ah Sing keeps a general grocery and provision store at No. 13 Wang
street. He lavished his hospitality upon our party in the friendliest
way. He had various kinds of colored and colorless wines and brandies,
with unpronouncable names, imported from China in little crockery jugs,
and which he offered to us in dainty little miniature wash-basins of
porcelain. He offered us a mess of birds'-nests; also, small, neat
sausages, of which we could have swallowed several yards if we had chosen
to try, but we suspected that each link contained the corpse of a mouse,
and therefore refrained. Mr. Sing had in his store a thousand articles
of merchandise, curious to behold, impossible to imagine the uses of, and
beyond our ability to describe.
His ducks, however, and his eggs, we could understand; the former were
split open and flattened out like codfish, and came from China in that
shape, and the latter were plastered over with some kind of paste which
kept them fresh and palatable through the long voyage.
We found Mr. Hong Wo, No. 37 Chow-chow street, making up a lottery
scheme--in fact we found a dozen others occupied in the same way in
various parts of the quarter, for about every third Chinaman runs a
lottery, and the balance of the tribe "buck" at it. "Tom," who speaks
faultless English, and used to be chief and only cook to the Territorial
Enterprise, when the establishment kept bachelor's hall two years ago,
said that "Sometime Chinaman buy ticket one dollar hap, ketch um two tree
hundred, sometime no ketch um anything; lottery like one man fight um
seventy--may-be he whip, may-be he get whip heself, welly good."
However, the percentage being sixty-nine against him, the chances are,
as a general thing, that "he get whip heself." We could not see that
these lotteries differed in any respect from our own, save that the
figures being Chinese, no ignorant white man might ever hope to succeed
in telling "t'other from which;" the manner of drawing is similar to
Mr. See Yup keeps a fancy store on Live Fox street. He sold us fans of
white feathers, gorgeously ornamented; perfumery that smelled like
Limburger cheese, Chinese pens, and watch-charms made of a stone
unscratchable with steel instruments, yet polished and tinted like the
inner coat of a sea-shell. As tokens of his esteem, See Yup presented
the party with gaudy plumes made of gold tinsel and trimmed with
We ate chow-chow with chop-sticks in the celestial restaurants; our
comrade chided the moon-eyed damsels in front of the houses for their
want of feminine reserve; we received protecting Josh-lights from our
hosts and "dickered" for a pagan God or two. Finally, we were impressed
with the genius of a Chinese book-keeper; he figured up his accounts on a
machine like a gridiron with buttons strung on its bars; the different
rows represented units, tens, hundreds and thousands. He fingered them
with incredible rapidity--in fact, he pushed them from place to place as
fast as a musical professor's fingers travel over the keys of a piano.
They are a kindly disposed, well-meaning race, and are respected and well
treated by the upper classes, all over the Pacific coast. No Californian
gentleman or lady ever abuses or oppresses a Chinaman, under any
circumstances, an explanation that seems to be much needed in the East.
Only the scum of the population do it--they and their children; they,
and, naturally and consistently, the policemen and politicians, likewise,
for these are the dust-licking pimps and slaves of the scum, there as
well as elsewhere in America.
I began to get tired of staying in one place so long.
There was no longer satisfying variety in going down to Carson to report
the proceedings of the legislature once a year, and horse-races and
pumpkin-shows once in three months; (they had got to raising pumpkins and
potatoes in Washoe Valley, and of course one of the first achievements of
the legislature was to institute a ten-thousand-dollar Agricultural Fair
to show off forty dollars' worth of those pumpkins in--however, the
territorial legislature was usually spoken of as the "asylum"). I wanted
to see San Francisco. I wanted to go somewhere. I wanted--I did not
know what I wanted. I had the "spring fever" and wanted a change,
principally, no doubt. Besides, a convention had framed a State
Constitution; nine men out of every ten wanted an office; I believed that
these gentlemen would "treat" the moneyless and the irresponsible among
the population into adopting the constitution and thus well-nigh killing
the country (it could not well carry such a load as a State government,
since it had nothing to tax that could stand a tax, for undeveloped mines
could not, and there were not fifty developed ones in the land, there was
but little realty to tax, and it did seem as if nobody was ever going to
think of the simple salvation of inflicting a money penalty on murder).
I believed that a State government would destroy the "flush times," and I
wanted to get away. I believed that the mining stocks I had on hand
would soon be worth $100,000, and thought if they reached that before the
Constitution was adopted, I would sell out and make myself secure from
the crash the change of government was going to bring. I considered
$100,000 sufficient to go home with decently, though it was but a small
amount compared to what I had been expecting to return with. I felt
rather down-hearted about it, but I tried to comfort myself with the
reflection that with such a sum I could not fall into want. About this
time a schoolmate of mine whom I had not seen since boyhood, came
tramping in on foot from Reese River, a very allegory of Poverty.
The son of wealthy parents, here he was, in a strange land, hungry,
bootless, mantled in an ancient horse-blanket, roofed with a brimless
hat, and so generally and so extravagantly dilapidated that he could have
"taken the shine out of the Prodigal Son himself," as he pleasantly
He wanted to borrow forty-six dollars--twenty-six to take him to San
Francisco, and twenty for something else; to buy some soap with, maybe,
for he needed it. I found I had but little more than the amount wanted,
in my pocket; so I stepped in and borrowed forty-six dollars of a banker
(on twenty days' time, without the formality of a note), and gave it him,
rather than walk half a block to the office, where I had some specie laid
up. If anybody had told me that it would take me two years to pay back
that forty-six dollars to the banker (for I did not expect it of the
Prodigal, and was not disappointed), I would have felt injured. And so
would the banker.
I wanted a change. I wanted variety of some kind. It came. Mr. Goodman
went away for a week and left me the post of chief editor. It destroyed
me. The first day, I wrote my "leader" in the forenoon. The second day,
I had no subject and put it off till the afternoon. The third day I put
it off till evening, and then copied an elaborate editorial out of the
"American Cyclopedia," that steadfast friend of the editor, all over this
land. The fourth day I "fooled around" till midnight, and then fell back
on the Cyclopedia again. The fifth day I cudgeled my brain till
midnight, and then kept the press waiting while I penned some bitter
personalities on six different people. The sixth day I labored in
anguish till far into the night and brought forth--nothing. The paper
went to press without an editorial. The seventh day I resigned. On the
eighth, Mr. Goodman returned and found six duels on his hands--my
personalities had borne fruit.
Nobody, except he has tried it, knows what it is to be an editor. It is
easy to scribble local rubbish, with the facts all before you; it is easy
to clip selections from other papers; it is easy to string out a
correspondence from any locality; but it is unspeakable hardship to write
editorials. Subjects are the trouble--the dreary lack of them, I mean.
Every day, it is drag, drag, drag--think, and worry and suffer--all the
world is a dull blank, and yet the editorial columns must be filled.
Only give the editor a subject, and his work is done--it is no trouble to
write it up; but fancy how you would feel if you had to pump your brains
dry every day in the week, fifty-two weeks in the year. It makes one low
spirited simply to think of it. The matter that each editor of a daily
paper in America writes in the course of a year would fill from four to
eight bulky volumes like this book! Fancy what a library an editor's
work would make, after twenty or thirty years' service. Yet people often
marvel that Dickens, Scott, Bulwer, Dumas, etc., have been able to
produce so many books. If these authors had wrought as voluminously as
newspaper editors do, the result would be something to marvel at, indeed.
How editors can continue this tremendous labor, this exhausting
consumption of brain fibre (for their work is creative, and not a mere
mechanical laying-up of facts, like reporting), day after day and year
after year, is incomprehensible. Preachers take two months' holiday in
midsummer, for they find that to produce two sermons a week is wearing,
in the long run. In truth it must be so, and is so; and therefore, how
an editor can take from ten to twenty texts and build upon them from ten
to twenty painstaking editorials a week and keep it up all the year
round, is farther beyond comprehension than ever. Ever since I survived
my week as editor, I have found at least one pleasure in any newspaper
that comes to my hand; it is in admiring the long columns of editorial,
and wondering to myself how in the mischief he did it!
Mr. Goodman's return relieved me of employment, unless I chose to become
a reporter again. I could not do that; I could not serve in the ranks
after being General of the army. So I thought I would depart and go
abroad into the world somewhere. Just at this juncture, Dan, my
associate in the reportorial department, told me, casually, that two
citizens had been trying to persuade him to go with them to New York and
aid in selling a rich silver mine which they had discovered and secured
in a new mining district in our neighborhood. He said they offered to
pay his expenses and give him one third of the proceeds of the sale.
He had refused to go. It was the very opportunity I wanted. I abused
him for keeping so quiet about it, and not mentioning it sooner. He said
it had not occurred to him that I would like to go, and so he had
recommended them to apply to Marshall, the reporter of the other paper.
I asked Dan if it was a good, honest mine, and no swindle. He said the
men had shown him nine tons of the rock, which they had got out to take
to New York, and he could cheerfully say that he had seen but little rock
in Nevada that was richer; and moreover, he said that they had secured a
tract of valuable timber and a mill-site, near the mine. My first idea
was to kill Dan. But I changed my mind, notwithstanding I was so angry,
for I thought maybe the chance was not yet lost. Dan said it was by no
means lost; that the men were absent at the mine again, and would not be
in Virginia to leave for the East for some ten days; that they had
requested him to do the talking to Marshall, and he had promised that he
would either secure Marshall or somebody else for them by the time they
got back; he would now say nothing to anybody till they returned, and
then fulfil his promise by furnishing me to them.
It was splendid. I went to bed all on fire with excitement; for nobody
had yet gone East to sell a Nevada silver mine, and the field was white
for the sickle. I felt that such a mine as the one described by Dan
would bring a princely sum in New York, and sell without delay or
difficulty. I could not sleep, my fancy so rioted through its castles in
the air. It was the "blind lead" come again.
Next day I got away, on the coach, with the usual eclat attending
departures of old citizens,--for if you have only half a dozen friends
out there they will make noise for a hundred rather than let you seem to
go away neglected and unregretted--and Dan promised to keep strict watch
for the men that had the mine to sell.
The trip was signalized but by one little incident, and that occurred
just as we were about to start. A very seedy looking vagabond passenger
got out of the stage a moment to wait till the usual ballast of silver
bricks was thrown in. He was standing on the pavement, when an awkward
express employee, carrying a brick weighing a hundred pounds, stumbled
and let it fall on the bummer's foot. He instantly dropped on the ground
and began to howl in the most heart-breaking way. A sympathizing crowd
gathered around and were going to pull his boot off; but he screamed
louder than ever and they desisted; then he fell to gasping, and between
the gasps ejaculated "Brandy! for Heaven's sake, brandy!" They poured
half a pint down him, and it wonderfully restored and comforted him.
Then he begged the people to assist him to the stage, which was done.
The express people urged him to have a doctor at their expense, but he
declined, and said that if he only had a little brandy to take along with
him, to soothe his paroxyms of pain when they came on, he would be
grateful and content. He was quickly supplied with two bottles, and we
drove off. He was so smiling and happy after that, that I could not
refrain from asking him how he could possibly be so comfortable with a
"Well," said he, "I hadn't had a drink for twelve hours, and hadn't a
cent to my name. I was most perishing--and so, when that duffer dropped
that hundred-pounder on my foot, I see my chance. Got a cork leg, you
know!" and he pulled up his pantaloons and proved it.
He was as drunk as a lord all day long, and full of chucklings over his
One drunken man necessarily reminds one of another. I once heard a
gentleman tell about an incident which he witnessed in a Californian
bar-room. He entitled it "Ye Modest Man Taketh a Drink." It was nothing
but a bit of acting, but it seemed to me a perfect rendering, and worthy
of Toodles himself. The modest man, tolerably far gone with beer and
other matters, enters a saloon (twenty-five cents is the price for
anything and everything, and specie the only money used) and lays down a
half dollar; calls for whiskey and drinks it; the bar-keeper makes change
and lays the quarter in a wet place on the counter; the modest man
fumbles at it with nerveless fingers, but it slips and the water holds
it; he contemplates it, and tries again; same result; observes that
people are interested in what he is at, blushes; fumbles at the quarter
again--blushes--puts his forefinger carefully, slowly down, to make sure
of his aim--pushes the coin toward the bar-keeper, and says with a sigh:
"Gimme a cigar!"
Naturally, another gentleman present told about another drunken man. He
said he reeled toward home late at night; made a mistake and entered the
wrong gate; thought he saw a dog on the stoop; and it was--an iron one.
He stopped and considered; wondered if it was a dangerous dog; ventured
to say "Be (hic) begone!" No effect. Then he approached warily, and
adopted conciliation; pursed up his lips and tried to whistle, but
failed; still approached, saying, "Poor dog!--doggy, doggy, doggy!--poor
doggy-dog!" Got up on the stoop, still petting with fond names; till
master of the advantages; then exclaimed, "Leave, you thief!"--planted a
vindictive kick in his ribs, and went head-over-heels overboard, of
course. A pause; a sigh or two of pain, and then a remark in a
"Awful solid dog. What could he ben eating? ('ic!) Rocks, p'raps.
Such animals is dangerous.--' At's what I say--they're dangerous. If a
man--('ic!)--if a man wants to feed a dog on rocks, let him feed him on
rocks; 'at's all right; but let him keep him at home--not have him layin'
round promiscuous, where ('ic!) where people's liable to stumble over him
when they ain't noticin'!"
It was not without regret that I took a last look at the tiny flag (it
was thirty-five feet long and ten feet wide) fluttering like a lady's
handkerchief from the topmost peak of Mount Davidson, two thousand feet
above Virginia's roofs, and felt that doubtless I was bidding a permanent
farewell to a city which had afforded me the most vigorous enjoyment of
life I had ever experienced. And this reminds me of an incident which
the dullest memory Virginia could boast at the time it happened must
vividly recall, at times, till its possessor dies. Late one summer
afternoon we had a rain shower.
That was astonishing enough, in itself, to set the whole town buzzing,
for it only rains (during a week or two weeks) in the winter in Nevada,
and even then not enough at a time to make it worth while for any
merchant to keep umbrellas for sale. But the rain was not the chief
wonder. It only lasted five or ten minutes; while the people were still
talking about it all the heavens gathered to themselves a dense blackness
as of midnight. All the vast eastern front of Mount Davidson,
over-looking the city, put on such a funereal gloom that only the
nearness and solidity of the mountain made its outlines even faintly
distinguishable from the dead blackness of the heavens they rested
against. This unaccustomed sight turned all eyes toward the mountain;
and as they looked, a little tongue of rich golden flame was seen waving
and quivering in the heart of the midnight, away up on the extreme
summit! In a few minutes the streets were packed with people, gazing with
hardly an uttered word, at the one brilliant mote in the brooding world
of darkness. It flicked like a candle-flame, and looked no larger; but
with such a background it was wonderfully bright, small as it was. It
was the flag!--though no one suspected it at first, it seemed so like a
supernatural visitor of some kind--a mysterious messenger of good
tidings, some were fain to believe. It was the nation's emblem
transfigured by the departing rays of a sun that was entirely palled from
view; and on no other object did the glory fall, in all the broad
panorama of mountain ranges and deserts. Not even upon the staff of the
flag--for that, a needle in the distance at any time, was now untouched
by the light and undistinguishable in the gloom. For a whole hour the
weird visitor winked and burned in its lofty solitude, and still the
thousands of uplifted eyes watched it with fascinated interest. How the
people were wrought up! The superstition grew apace that this was a
mystic courier come with great news from the war--the poetry of the idea
excusing and commending it--and on it spread, from heart to heart, from
lip to lip and from street to street, till there was a general impulse to
have out the military and welcome the bright waif with a salvo of
And all that time one sorely tried man, the telegraph operator sworn to
official secrecy, had to lock his lips and chain his tongue with a
silence that was like to rend them; for he, and he only, of all the
speculating multitude, knew the great things this sinking sun had seen
that day in the east--Vicksburg fallen, and the Union arms victorious at
But for the journalistic monopoly that forbade the slightest revealment
of eastern news till a day after its publication in the California
papers, the glorified flag on Mount Davidson would have been saluted and
re-saluted, that memorable evening, as long as there was a charge of
powder to thunder with; the city would have been illuminated, and every
man that had any respect for himself would have got drunk,--as was the
custom of the country on all occasions of public moment. Even at this
distant day I cannot think of this needlessly marred supreme opportunity
without regret. What a time we might have had!
We rumbled over the plains and valleys, climbed the Sierras to the
clouds, and looked down upon summer-clad California. And I will remark
here, in passing, that all scenery in California requires distance to
give it its highest charm. The mountains are imposing in their sublimity
and their majesty of form and altitude, from any point of view--but one
must have distance to soften their ruggedness and enrich their tintings;
a Californian forest is best at a little distance, for there is a sad
poverty of variety in species, the trees being chiefly of one monotonous
family--redwood, pine, spruce, fir--and so, at a near view there is a
wearisome sameness of attitude in their rigid arms, stretched down ward
and outward in one continued and reiterated appeal to all men to "Sh!
--don't say a word!--you might disturb somebody!" Close at hand, too,
there is a reliefless and relentless smell of pitch and turpentine; there
is a ceaseless melancholy in their sighing and complaining foliage; one
walks over a soundless carpet of beaten yellow bark and dead spines of
the foliage till he feels like a wandering spirit bereft of a footfall;
he tires of the endless tufts of needles and yearns for substantial,
shapely leaves; he looks for moss and grass to loll upon, and finds none,
for where there is no bark there is naked clay and dirt, enemies to
pensive musing and clean apparel. Often a grassy plain in California, is
what it should be, but often, too, it is best contemplated at a distance,
because although its grass blades are tall, they stand up vindictively
straight and self-sufficient, and are unsociably wide apart, with
uncomely spots of barren sand between.
One of the queerest things I know of, is to hear tourists from "the
States" go into ecstasies over the loveliness of "ever-blooming
California." And they always do go into that sort of ecstasies. But
perhaps they would modify them if they knew how old Californians, with
the memory full upon them of the dust-covered and questionable summer
greens of Californian "verdure," stand astonished, and filled with
worshipping admiration, in the presence of the lavish richness, the
brilliant green, the infinite freshness, the spend-thrift variety of form
and species and foliage that make an Eastern landscape a vision of
Paradise itself. The idea of a man falling into raptures over grave and
sombre California, when that man has seen New England's meadow-expanses
and her maples, oaks and cathedral-windowed elms decked in summer attire,
or the opaline splendors of autumn descending upon her forests, comes
very near being funny--would be, in fact, but that it is so pathetic.
No land with an unvarying climate can be very beautiful. The tropics are
not, for all the sentiment that is wasted on them. They seem beautiful
at first, but sameness impairs the charm by and by. Change is the
handmaiden Nature requires to do her miracles with. The land that has
four well-defined seasons, cannot lack beauty, or pall with monotony.
Each season brings a world of enjoyment and interest in the watching of
its unfolding, its gradual, harmonious development, its culminating
graces--and just as one begins to tire of it, it passes away and a
radical change comes, with new witcheries and new glories in its train.
And I think that to one in sympathy with nature, each season, in its
turn, seems the loveliest.
San Francisco, a truly fascinating city to live in, is stately and
handsome at a fair distance, but close at hand one notes that the
architecture is mostly old-fashioned, many streets are made up of
decaying, smoke-grimed, wooden houses, and the barren sand-hills toward
the outskirts obtrude themselves too prominently. Even the kindly
climate is sometimes pleasanter when read about than personally
experienced, for a lovely, cloudless sky wears out its welcome by and by,
and then when the longed for rain does come it stays. Even the playful
earthquake is better contemplated at a dis----
However there are varying opinions about that.
The climate of San Francisco is mild and singularly equable. The
thermometer stands at about seventy degrees the year round. It hardly
changes at all. You sleep under one or two light blankets Summer and
Winter, and never use a mosquito bar. Nobody ever wears Summer clothing.
You wear black broadcloth--if you have it--in August and January, just
the same. It is no colder, and no warmer, in the one month than the
other. You do not use overcoats and you do not use fans. It is as
pleasant a climate as could well be contrived, take it all around, and is
doubtless the most unvarying in the whole world. The wind blows there a
good deal in the summer months, but then you can go over to Oakland, if
you choose--three or four miles away--it does not blow there. It has
only snowed twice in San Francisco in nineteen years, and then it only
remained on the ground long enough to astonish the children, and set them
to wondering what the feathery stuff was.
During eight months of the year, straight along, the skies are bright and
cloudless, and never a drop of rain falls. But when the other four
months come along, you will need to go and steal an umbrella. Because
you will require it. Not just one day, but one hundred and twenty days
in hardly varying succession. When you want to go visiting, or attend
church, or the theatre, you never look up at the clouds to see whether it
is likely to rain or not--you look at the almanac. If it is Winter, it
will rain--and if it is Summer, it won't rain, and you cannot help it.
You never need a lightning-rod, because it never thunders and it never
lightens. And after you have listened for six or eight weeks, every
night, to the dismal monotony of those quiet rains, you will wish in your
heart the thunder would leap and crash and roar along those drowsy skies
once, and make everything alive--you will wish the prisoned lightnings
would cleave the dull firmament asunder and light it with a blinding
glare for one little instant. You would give anything to hear the old
familiar thunder again and see the lightning strike somebody. And along
in the Summer, when you have suffered about four months of lustrous,
pitiless sunshine, you are ready to go down on your knees and plead for
rain--hail--snow--thunder and lightning--anything to break the monotony
--you will take an earthquake, if you cannot do any better. And the
chances are that you'll get it, too.
San Francisco is built on sand hills, but they are prolific sand hills.
They yield a generous vegetation. All the rare flowers which people in
"the States" rear with such patient care in parlor flower-pots and
green-houses, flourish luxuriantly in the open air there all the year
round. Calla lilies, all sorts of geraniums, passion flowers, moss
roses--I do not know the names of a tenth part of them. I only know that
while New Yorkers are burdened with banks and drifts of snow,
Californians are burdened with banks and drifts of flowers, if they only
keep their hands off and let them grow. And I have heard that they have
also that rarest and most curious of all the flowers, the beautiful
Espiritu Santo, as the Spaniards call it--or flower of the Holy Spirit
--though I thought it grew only in Central America--down on the Isthmus.
In its cup is the daintiest little facsimile of a dove, as pure as snow.
The Spaniards have a superstitious reverence for it. The blossom has
been conveyed to the States, submerged in ether; and the bulb has been
taken thither also, but every attempt to make it bloom after it arrived,
I have elsewhere spoken of the endless Winter of Mono, California, and
but this moment of the eternal Spring of San Francisco. Now if we travel
a hundred miles in a straight line, we come to the eternal Summer of
Sacramento. One never sees Summer-clothing or mosquitoes in San
Francisco--but they can be found in Sacramento. Not always and
unvaryingly, but about one hundred and forty-three months out of twelve
years, perhaps. Flowers bloom there, always, the reader can easily
believe--people suffer and sweat, and swear, morning, noon and night, and
wear out their stanchest energies fanning themselves. It gets hot there,
but if you go down to Fort Yuma you will find it hotter. Fort Yuma is
probably the hottest place on earth. The thermometer stays at one
hundred and twenty in the shade there all the time--except when it varies
and goes higher. It is a U.S. military post, and its occupants get so
used to the terrific heat that they suffer without it. There is a
tradition (attributed to John Phenix [It has been purloined by fifty
different scribblers who were too poor to invent a fancy but not ashamed
to steal one.--M. T.]) that a very, very wicked soldier died there,
once, and of course, went straight to the hottest corner of perdition,
--and the next day he telegraphed back for his blankets. There is no doubt
about the truth of this statement--there can be no doubt about it. I
have seen the place where that soldier used to board. In Sacramento it
is fiery Summer always, and you can gather roses, and eat strawberries
and ice-cream, and wear white linen clothes, and pant and perspire, at
eight or nine o'clock in the morning, and then take the cars, and at noon
put on your furs and your skates, and go skimming over frozen Donner
Lake, seven thousand feet above the valley, among snow banks fifteen feet
deep, and in the shadow of grand mountain peaks that lift their frosty
crags ten thousand feet above the level of the sea.
There is a transition for you! Where will you find another like it in
the Western hemisphere? And some of us have swept around snow-walled
curves of the Pacific Railroad in that vicinity, six thousand feet above
the sea, and looked down as the birds do, upon the deathless Summer of
the Sacramento Valley, with its fruitful fields, its feathery foliage,
its silver streams, all slumbering in the mellow haze of its enchanted
atmosphere, and all infinitely softened and spiritualized by distance--a
dreamy, exquisite glimpse of fairyland, made all the more charming and
striking that it was caught through a forbidden gateway of ice and snow,
and savage crags and precipices.
It was in this Sacramento Valley, just referred to, that a deal of the
most lucrative of the early gold mining was done, and you may still see,
in places, its grassy slopes and levels torn and guttered and disfigured
by the avaricious spoilers of fifteen and twenty years ago. You may see
such disfigurements far and wide over California--and in some such
places, where only meadows and forests are visible--not a living
creature, not a house, no stick or stone or remnant of a ruin, and not a
sound, not even a whisper to disturb the Sabbath stillness--you will find
it hard to believe that there stood at one time a fiercely-flourishing
little city, of two thousand or three thousand souls, with its newspaper,
fire company, brass band, volunteer militia, bank, hotels, noisy Fourth
of July processions and speeches, gambling hells crammed with tobacco
smoke, profanity, and rough-bearded men of all nations and colors, with
tables heaped with gold dust sufficient for the revenues of a German
principality--streets crowded and rife with business--town lots worth
four hundred dollars a front foot--labor, laughter, music, dancing,
swearing, fighting, shooting, stabbing--a bloody inquest and a man for
breakfast every morning--everything that delights and adorns existence
--all the appointments and appurtenances of a thriving and prosperous and
promising young city,--and now nothing is left of it all but a lifeless,
homeless solitude. The men are gone, the houses have vanished, even the
name of the place is forgotten. In no other land, in modern times, have
towns so absolutely died and disappeared, as in the old mining regions of
It was a driving, vigorous, restless population in those days. It was a
curious population. It was the only population of the kind that the
world has ever seen gathered together, and it is not likely that the
world will ever see its like again. For observe, it was an assemblage of
two hundred thousand young men--not simpering, dainty, kid-gloved
weaklings, but stalwart, muscular, dauntless young braves, brimful of
push and energy, and royally endowed with every attribute that goes to
make up a peerless and magnificent manhood--the very pick and choice of
the world's glorious ones. No women, no children, no gray and stooping
veterans,--none but erect, bright-eyed, quick-moving, strong-handed young
giants--the strangest population, the finest population, the most gallant
host that ever trooped down the startled solitudes of an unpeopled land.
And where are they now? Scattered to the ends of the earth--or
prematurely aged and decrepit--or shot or stabbed in street affrays--or
dead of disappointed hopes and broken hearts--all gone, or nearly all
--victims devoted upon the altar of the golden calf--the noblest holocaust
that ever wafted its sacrificial incense heavenward. It is pitiful to
It was a splendid population--for all the slow, sleepy, sluggish-brained
sloths staid at home--you never find that sort of people among pioneers
--you cannot build pioneers out of that sort of material. It was that
population that gave to California a name for getting up astounding
enterprises and rushing them through with a magnificent dash and daring
and a recklessness of cost or consequences, which she bears unto this
day--and when she projects a new surprise, the grave world smiles as
usual, and says "Well, that is California all over."
But they were rough in those times! They fairly reveled in gold, whisky,
fights, and fandangoes, and were unspeakably happy. The honest miner
raked from a hundred to a thousand dollars out of his claim a day, and
what with the gambling dens and the other entertainments, he hadn't a
cent the next morning, if he had any sort of luck. They cooked their own
bacon and beans, sewed on their own buttons, washed their own shirts
--blue woollen ones; and if a man wanted a fight on his hands without any
annoying delay, all he had to do was to appear in public in a white shirt
or a stove-pipe hat, and he would be accommodated. For those people
hated aristocrats. They had a particular and malignant animosity toward
what they called a "biled shirt."
It was a wild, free, disorderly, grotesque society! Men--only swarming
hosts of stalwart men--nothing juvenile, nothing feminine, visible
In those days miners would flock in crowds to catch a glimpse of that
rare and blessed spectacle, a woman! Old inhabitants tell how, in a
certain camp, the news went abroad early in the morning that a woman was
come! They had seen a calico dress hanging out of a wagon down at the
camping-ground--sign of emigrants from over the great plains. Everybody
went down there, and a shout went up when an actual, bona fide dress was
discovered fluttering in the wind! The male emigrant was visible. The
"Fetch her out!"
He said: "It is my wife, gentlemen--she is sick--we have been robbed of
money, provisions, everything, by the Indians--we want to rest."
"Fetch her out! We've got to see her!"
"But, gentlemen, the poor thing, she--"
"FETCH HER OUT!"
He "fetched her out," and they swung their hats and sent up three rousing
cheers and a tiger; and they crowded around and gazed at her, and touched
her dress, and listened to her voice with the look of men who listened to
a memory rather than a present reality--and then they collected
twenty-five hundred dollars in gold and gave it to the man, and swung
their hats again and gave three more cheers, and went home satisfied.
Once I dined in San Francisco with the family of a pioneer, and talked
with his daughter, a young lady whose first experience in San Francisco
was an adventure, though she herself did not remember it, as she was only
two or three years old at the time. Her father said that, after landing
from the ship, they were walking up the street, a servant leading the
party with the little girl in her arms. And presently a huge miner,
bearded, belted, spurred, and bristling with deadly weapons--just down
from a long campaign in the mountains, evidently-barred the way, stopped
the servant, and stood gazing, with a face all alive with gratification
and astonishment. Then he said, reverently:
"Well, if it ain't a child!" And then he snatched a little leather sack
out of his pocket and said to the servant:
"There's a hundred and fifty dollars in dust, there, and I'll give it to
you to let me kiss the child!"
That anecdote is true.
But see how things change. Sitting at that dinner-table, listening to
that anecdote, if I had offered double the money for the privilege of
kissing the same child, I would have been refused. Seventeen added years
have far more than doubled the price.
And while upon this subject I will remark that once in Star City, in the
Humboldt Mountains, I took my place in a sort of long, post-office single
file of miners, to patiently await my chance to peep through a crack in
the cabin and get a sight of the splendid new sensation--a genuine, live
Woman! And at the end of half of an hour my turn came, and I put my eye
to the crack, and there she was, with one arm akimbo, and tossing
flap-jacks in a frying-pan with the other.
And she was one hundred and sixty-five [Being in calmer mood, now, I
voluntarily knock off a hundred from that.--M.T.] years old, and hadn't a
tooth in her head.
For a few months I enjoyed what to me was an entirely new phase of
existence--a butterfly idleness; nothing to do, nobody to be responsible
to, and untroubled with financial uneasiness. I fell in love with the
most cordial and sociable city in the Union. After the sage-brush and
alkali deserts of Washoe, San Francisco was Paradise to me. I lived at
the best hotel, exhibited my clothes in the most conspicuous places,
infested the opera, and learned to seem enraptured with music which
oftener afflicted my ignorant ear than enchanted it, if I had had the
vulgar honesty to confess it. However, I suppose I was not greatly worse
than the most of my countrymen in that. I had longed to be a butterfly,
and I was one at last. I attended private parties in sumptuous evening
dress, simpered and aired my graces like a born beau, and polkad and
schottisched with a step peculiar to myself--and the kangaroo. In a
word, I kept the due state of a man worth a hundred thousand dollars
(prospectively,) and likely to reach absolute affluence when that
silver-mine sale should be ultimately achieved in the East. I spent
money with a free hand, and meantime watched the stock sales with an
interested eye and looked to see what might happen in Nevada.
Something very important happened. The property holders of Nevada voted
against the State Constitution; but the folks who had nothing to lose
were in the majority, and carried the measure over their heads. But
after all it did not immediately look like a disaster, though
unquestionably it was one I hesitated, calculated the chances, and then
concluded not to sell. Stocks went on rising; speculation went mad;
bankers, merchants, lawyers, doctors, mechanics, laborers, even the very
washerwomen and servant girls, were putting up their earnings on silver
stocks, and every sun that rose in the morning went down on paupers
enriched and rich men beggared. What a gambling carnival it was! Gould
and Curry soared to six thousand three hundred dollars a foot! And then
--all of a sudden, out went the bottom and everything and everybody went
to ruin and destruction! The wreck was complete.
The bubble scarcely left a microscopic moisture behind it. I was an
early beggar and a thorough one. My hoarded stocks were not worth the
paper they were printed on. I threw them all away. I, the cheerful
idiot that had been squandering money like water, and thought myself
beyond the reach of misfortune, had not now as much as fifty dollars when
I gathered together my various debts and paid them. I removed from the
hotel to a very private boarding house. I took a reporter's berth and
went to work. I was not entirely broken in spirit, for I was building
confidently on the sale of the silver mine in the east. But I could not
hear from Dan. My letters miscarried or were not answered.
One day I did not feel vigorous and remained away from the office. The
next day I went down toward noon as usual, and found a note on my desk
which had been there twenty-four hours. It was signed "Marshall"--the
Virginia reporter--and contained a request that I should call at the
hotel and see him and a friend or two that night, as they would sail for
the east in the morning. A postscript added that their errand was a big
mining speculation! I was hardly ever so sick in my life. I abused
myself for leaving Virginia and entrusting to another man a matter I
ought to have attended to myself; I abused myself for remaining away from
the office on the one day of all the year that I should have been there.
And thus berating myself I trotted a mile to the steamer wharf and
arrived just in time to be too late. The ship was in the stream and
I comforted myself with the thought that may be the speculation would
amount to nothing--poor comfort at best--and then went back to my
slavery, resolved to put up with my thirty-five dollars a week and forget
all about it.
A month afterward I enjoyed my first earthquake. It was one which was
long called the "great" earthquake, and is doubtless so distinguished
till this day. It was just after noon, on a bright October day. I was
coming down Third street. The only objects in motion anywhere in sight
in that thickly built and populous quarter, were a man in a buggy behind
me, and a street car wending slowly up the cross street. Otherwise, all
was solitude and a Sabbath stillness. As I turned the corner, around a
frame house, there was a great rattle and jar, and it occurred to me that
here was an item!--no doubt a fight in that house. Before I could turn
and seek the door, there came a really terrific shock; the ground seemed
to roll under me in waves, interrupted by a violent joggling up and down,
and there was a heavy grinding noise as of brick houses rubbing together.
I fell up against the frame house and hurt my elbow. I knew what it was,
now, and from mere reportorial instinct, nothing else, took out my watch
and noted the time of day; at that moment a third and still severer shock
came, and as I reeled about on the pavement trying to keep my footing,
I saw a sight! The entire front of a tall four-story brick building in
Third street sprung outward like a door and fell sprawling across the
street, raising a dust like a great volume of smoke! And here came the
buggy--overboard went the man, and in less time than I can tell it the
vehicle was distributed in small fragments along three hundred yards of
One could have fancied that somebody had fired a charge of chair-rounds
and rags down the thoroughfare. The street car had stopped, the horses
were rearing and plunging, the passengers were pouring out at both ends,
and one fat man had crashed half way through a glass window on one side
of the car, got wedged fast and was squirming and screaming like an
impaled madman. Every door, of every house, as far as the eye could
reach, was vomiting a stream of human beings; and almost before one could
execute a wink and begin another, there was a massed multitude of people
stretching in endless procession down every street my position commanded.
Never was solemn solitude turned into teeming life quicker.
Of the wonders wrought by "the great earthquake," these were all that
came under my eye; but the tricks it did, elsewhere, and far and wide
over the town, made toothsome gossip for nine days.
The destruction of property was trifling--the injury to it was
wide-spread and somewhat serious.
The "curiosities" of the earthquake were simply endless. Gentlemen and
ladies who were sick, or were taking a siesta, or had dissipated till a
late hour and were making up lost sleep, thronged into the public streets
in all sorts of queer apparel, and some without any at all. One woman
who had been washing a naked child, ran down the street holding it by the
ankles as if it were a dressed turkey. Prominent citizens who were
supposed to keep the Sabbath strictly, rushed out of saloons in their
shirt-sleeves, with billiard cues in their hands. Dozens of men with
necks swathed in napkins, rushed from barber-shops, lathered to the eyes
or with one cheek clean shaved and the other still bearing a hairy
stubble. Horses broke from stables, and a frightened dog rushed up a
short attic ladder and out on to a roof, and when his scare was over had
not the nerve to go down again the same way he had gone up.
A prominent editor flew down stairs, in the principal hotel, with nothing
on but one brief undergarment--met a chambermaid, and exclaimed:
"Oh, what shall I do! Where shall I go!"
She responded with naive serenity:
"If you have no choice, you might try a clothing-store!"
A certain foreign consul's lady was the acknowledged leader of fashion,
and every time she appeared in anything new or extraordinary, the ladies
in the vicinity made a raid on their husbands' purses and arrayed
themselves similarly. One man who had suffered considerably and growled
accordingly, was standing at the window when the shocks came, and the
next instant the consul's wife, just out of the bath, fled by with no
other apology for clothing than--a bath-towel! The sufferer rose
superior to the terrors of the earthquake, and said to his wife:
"Now that is something like! Get out your towel my dear!"
The plastering that fell from ceilings in San Francisco that day, would
have covered several acres of ground. For some days afterward, groups of
eyeing and pointing men stood about many a building, looking at long
zig-zag cracks that extended from the eaves to the ground. Four feet of
the tops of three chimneys on one house were broken square off and turned
around in such a way as to completely stop the draft.
A crack a hundred feet long gaped open six inches wide in the middle of
one street and then shut together again with such force, as to ridge up
the meeting earth like a slender grave. A lady sitting in her rocking
and quaking parlor, saw the wall part at the ceiling, open and shut
twice, like a mouth, and then-drop the end of a brick on the floor like a
tooth. She was a woman easily disgusted with foolishness, and she arose
and went out of there. One lady who was coming down stairs was
astonished to see a bronze Hercules lean forward on its pedestal as if to
strike her with its club. They both reached the bottom of the flight at
the same time,--the woman insensible from the fright. Her child, born
some little time afterward, was club-footed. However--on second
thought,--if the reader sees any coincidence in this, he must do it at
his own risk.
The first shock brought down two or three huge organ-pipes in one of the
churches. The minister, with uplifted hands, was just closing the
services. He glanced up, hesitated, and said:
"However, we will omit the benediction!"--and the next instant there was
a vacancy in the atmosphere where he had stood.
After the first shock, an Oakland minister said:
"Keep your seats! There is no better place to die than this"--
And added, after the third:
"But outside is good enough!" He then skipped out at the back door.
Such another destruction of mantel ornaments and toilet bottles as the
earthquake created, San Francisco never saw before. There was hardly a
girl or a matron in the city but suffered losses of this kind. Suspended
pictures were thrown down, but oftener still, by a curious freak of the
earthquake's humor, they were whirled completely around with their faces
to the wall! There was great difference of opinion, at first, as to the
course or direction the earthquake traveled, but water that splashed out
of various tanks and buckets settled that. Thousands of people were made
so sea-sick by the rolling and pitching of floors and streets that they
were weak and bed-ridden for hours, and some few for even days
afterward.--Hardly an individual escaped nausea entirely.
The queer earthquake--episodes that formed the staple of San Francisco
gossip for the next week would fill a much larger book than this, and so
I will diverge from the subject.
By and by, in the due course of things, I picked up a copy of the
Enterprise one day, and fell under this cruel blow:
NEVADA MINES IN NEW YORK.--G. M. Marshall, Sheba Hurs and Amos H.
Rose, who left San Francisco last July for New York City, with ores
from mines in Pine Wood District, Humboldt County, and on the Reese
River range, have disposed of a mine containing six thousand feet
and called the Pine Mountains Consolidated, for the sum of
$3,000,000. The stamps on the deed, which is now on its way to
Humboldt County, from New York, for record, amounted to $3,000,
which is said to be the largest amount of stamps ever placed on one
document. A working capital of $1,000,000 has been paid into the
treasury, and machinery has already been purchased for a large
quartz mill, which will be put up as soon as possible. The stock in
this company is all full paid and entirely unassessable. The ores
of the mines in this district somewhat resemble those of the Sheba
mine in Humboldt. Sheba Hurst, the discoverer of the mines, with
his friends corralled all the best leads and all the land and timber
they desired before making public their whereabouts. Ores from
there, assayed in this city, showed them to be exceedingly rich in
silver and gold--silver predominating. There is an abundance of
wood and water in the District. We are glad to know that New York
capital has been enlisted in the development of the mines of this
region. Having seen the ores and assays, we are satisfied that the
mines of the District are very valuable--anything but wild-cat.
Once more native imbecility had carried the day, and I had lost a
million! It was the "blind lead" over again.
Let us not dwell on this miserable matter. If I were inventing these
things, I could be wonderfully humorous over them; but they are too true
to be talked of with hearty levity, even at this distant day. [True, and
yet not exactly as given in the above figures, possibly. I saw Marshall,
months afterward, and although he had plenty of money he did not claim to
have captured an entire million. In fact I gathered that he had not then
received $50,000. Beyond that figure his fortune appeared to consist of
uncertain vast expectations rather than prodigious certainties. However,
when the above item appeared in print I put full faith in it, and
incontinently wilted and went to seed under it.] Suffice it that I so
lost heart, and so yielded myself up to repinings and sighings and
foolish regrets, that I neglected my duties and became about worthless,
as a reporter for a brisk newspaper. And at last one of the proprietors
took me aside, with a charity I still remember with considerable respect,
and gave me an opportunity to resign my berth and so save myself the
disgrace of a dismissal.
For a time I wrote literary screeds for the Golden Era. C. H. Webb had
established a very excellent literary weekly called the Californian, but
high merit was no guaranty of success; it languished, and he sold out to
three printers, and Bret Harte became editor at $20 a week, and I was
employed to contribute an article a week at $12. But the journal still
languished, and the printers sold out to Captain Ogden, a rich man and a
pleasant gentleman who chose to amuse himself with such an expensive
luxury without much caring about the cost of it. When he grew tired of
the novelty, he re-sold to the printers, the paper presently died a
peaceful death, and I was out of work again. I would not mention these
things but for the fact that they so aptly illustrate the ups and downs
that characterize life on the Pacific coast. A man could hardly stumble
into such a variety of queer vicissitudes in any other country.
For two months my sole occupation was avoiding acquaintances; for during
that time I did not earn a penny, or buy an article of any kind, or pay
my board. I became a very adept at "slinking." I slunk from back street
to back street, I slunk away from approaching faces that looked familiar,
I slunk to my meals, ate them humbly and with a mute apology for every
mouthful I robbed my generous landlady of, and at midnight, after
wanderings that were but slinkings away from cheerfulness and light, I
slunk to my bed. I felt meaner, and lowlier and more despicable than the
worms. During all this time I had but one piece of money--a silver ten
cent piece--and I held to it and would not spend it on any account, lest
the consciousness coming strong upon me that I was entirely penniless,
might suggest suicide. I had pawned every thing but the clothes I had
on; so I clung to my dime desperately, till it was smooth with handling.
However, I am forgetting. I did have one other occupation beside that of
"slinking." It was the entertaining of a collector (and being
entertained by him,) who had in his hands the Virginia banker's bill for
forty-six dollars which I had loaned my schoolmate, the "Prodigal." This
man used to call regularly once a week and dun me, and sometimes oftener.
He did it from sheer force of habit, for he knew he could get nothing.
He would get out his bill, calculate the interest for me, at five per
cent a month, and show me clearly that there was no attempt at fraud in
it and no mistakes; and then plead, and argue and dun with all his might
for any sum--any little trifle--even a dollar--even half a dollar, on
account. Then his duty was accomplished and his conscience free. He
immediately dropped the subject there always; got out a couple of cigars
and divided, put his feet in the window, and then we would have a long,
luxurious talk about everything and everybody, and he would furnish me a
world of curious dunning adventures out of the ample store in his memory.
By and by he would clap his hat on his head, shake hands and say briskly:
"Well, business is business--can't stay with you always!"--and was off in
The idea of pining for a dun! And yet I used to long for him to come,
and would get as uneasy as any mother if the day went by without his
visit, when I was expecting him. But he never collected that bill, at
last nor any part of it. I lived to pay it to the banker myself.
Misery loves company. Now and then at night, in out-of-the way, dimly
lighted places, I found myself happening on another child of misfortune.
He looked so seedy and forlorn, so homeless and friendless and forsaken,
that I yearned toward him as a brother. I wanted to claim kinship with
him and go about and enjoy our wretchedness together. The drawing toward
each other must have been mutual; at any rate we got to falling together
oftener, though still seemingly by accident; and although we did not
speak or evince any recognition, I think the dull anxiety passed out of
both of us when we saw each other, and then for several hours we would
idle along contentedly, wide apart, and glancing furtively in at home
lights and fireside gatherings, out of the night shadows, and very much
enjoying our dumb companionship.
Finally we spoke, and were inseparable after that. For our woes were
identical, almost. He had been a reporter too, and lost his berth, and
this was his experience, as nearly as I can recollect it. After losing
his berth he had gone down, down, down, with never a halt: from a
boarding house on Russian Hill to a boarding house in Kearney street;
from thence to Dupont; from thence to a low sailor den; and from thence
to lodgings in goods boxes and empty hogsheads near the wharves. Then;
for a while, he had gained a meagre living by sewing up bursted sacks of
grain on the piers; when that failed he had found food here and there as
chance threw it in his way. He had ceased to show his face in daylight,
now, for a reporter knows everybody, rich and poor, high and low, and
cannot well avoid familiar faces in the broad light of day.
This mendicant Blucher--I call him that for convenience--was a splendid
creature. He was full of hope, pluck and philosophy; he was well read
and a man of cultivated taste; he had a bright wit and was a master of
satire; his kindliness and his generous spirit made him royal in my eyes
and changed his curb-stone seat to a throne and his damaged hat to a
He had an adventure, once, which sticks fast in my memory as the most
pleasantly grotesque that ever touched my sympathies. He had been
without a penny for two months. He had shirked about obscure streets,
among friendly dim lights, till the thing had become second nature to
him. But at last he was driven abroad in daylight. The cause was
sufficient; he had not tasted food for forty-eight hours, and he could
not endure the misery of his hunger in idle hiding. He came along a back
street, glowering at the loaves in bake-shop windows, and feeling that he
could trade his life away for a morsel to eat. The sight of the bread
doubled his hunger; but it was good to look at it, any how, and imagine
what one might do if one only had it.
Presently, in the middle of the street he saw a shining spot--looked
again--did not, and could not, believe his eyes--turned away, to try
them, then looked again. It was a verity--no vain, hunger-inspired
delusion--it was a silver dime!
He snatched it--gloated over it; doubted it--bit it--found it genuine
--choked his heart down, and smothered a halleluiah. Then he looked
around--saw that nobody was looking at him--threw the dime down where it
was before--walked away a few steps, and approached again, pretending he
did not know it was there, so that he could re-enjoy the luxury of
finding it. He walked around it, viewing it from different points; then
sauntered about with his hands in his pockets, looking up at the signs
and now and then glancing at it and feeling the old thrill again.
Finally he took it up, and went away, fondling it in his pocket. He
idled through unfrequented streets, stopping in doorways and corners to
take it out and look at it. By and by he went home to his lodgings--an
empty queens-ware hogshead,--and employed himself till night trying to
make up his mind what to buy with it. But it was hard to do. To get the
most for it was the idea. He knew that at the Miner's Restaurant he
could get a plate of beans and a piece of bread for ten cents; or a
fish-ball and some few trifles, but they gave "no bread with one
fish-ball" there. At French Pete's he could get a veal cutlet, plain,
and some radishes and bread, for ten cents; or a cup of coffee--a pint at
least--and a slice of bread; but the slice was not thick enough by the
eighth of an inch, and sometimes they were still more criminal than that
in the cutting of it. At seven o'clock his hunger was wolfish; and still
his mind was not made up. He turned out and went up Merchant street,
still ciphering; and chewing a bit of stick, as is the way of starving
He passed before the lights of Martin's restaurant, the most aristocratic
in the city, and stopped. It was a place where he had often dined, in
better days, and Martin knew him well. Standing aside, just out of the
range of the light, he worshiped the quails and steaks in the show
window, and imagined that may be the fairy times were not gone yet and
some prince in disguise would come along presently and tell him to go in
there and take whatever he wanted. He chewed his stick with a hungry
interest as he warmed to his subject. Just at this juncture he was
conscious of some one at his side, sure enough; and then a finger touched
his arm. He looked up, over his shoulder, and saw an apparition--a very
allegory of Hunger! It was a man six feet high, gaunt, unshaven, hung
with rags; with a haggard face and sunken cheeks, and eyes that pleaded
piteously. This phantom said:
"Come with me--please."
He locked his arm in Blucher's and walked up the street to where the
passengers were few and the light not strong, and then facing about, put
out his hands in a beseeching way, and said:
"Friend--stranger--look at me! Life is easy to you--you go about, placid
and content, as I did once, in my day--you have been in there, and eaten
your sumptuous supper, and picked your teeth, and hummed your tune, and
thought your pleasant thoughts, and said to yourself it is a good world
--but you've never suffered! You don't know what trouble is--you don't
know what misery is--nor hunger! Look at me! Stranger have pity on a
poor friendless, homeless dog! As God is my judge, I have not tasted
food for eight and forty hours!--look in my eyes and see if I lie! Give
me the least trifle in the world to keep me from starving--anything
--twenty-five cents! Do it, stranger--do it, please. It will be nothing
to you, but life to me. Do it, and I will go down on my knees and lick
the dust before you! I will kiss your footprints--I will worship the
very ground you walk on! Only twenty-five cents! I am famishing
--perishing--starving by inches! For God's sake don't desert me!"
Blucher was bewildered--and touched, too--stirred to the depths. He
reflected. Thought again. Then an idea struck him, and he said:
"Come with me."
He took the outcast's arm, walked him down to Martin's restaurant, seated
him at a marble table, placed the bill of fare before him, and said:
"Order what you want, friend. Charge it to me, Mr. Martin."
"All right, Mr. Blucher," said Martin.
Then Blucher stepped back and leaned against the counter and watched the
man stow away cargo after cargo of buckwheat cakes at seventy-five cents
a plate; cup after cup of coffee, and porter house steaks worth two
dollars apiece; and when six dollars and a half's worth of destruction
had been accomplished, and the stranger's hunger appeased, Blucher went
down to French Pete's, bought a veal cutlet plain, a slice of bread, and
three radishes, with his dime, and set to and feasted like a king!
Take the episode all around, it was as odd as any that can be culled from
the myriad curiosities of Californian life, perhaps.
By and by, an old friend of mine, a miner, came down from one of the
decayed mining camps of Tuolumne, California, and I went back with him.
We lived in a small cabin on a verdant hillside, and there were not five
other cabins in view over the wide expanse of hill and forest. Yet a
flourishing city of two or three thousand population had occupied this
grassy dead solitude during the flush times of twelve or fifteen years
before, and where our cabin stood had once been the heart of the teeming
hive, the centre of the city. When the mines gave out the town fell into
decay, and in a few years wholly disappeared--streets, dwellings, shops,
everything--and left no sign. The grassy slopes were as green and smooth
and desolate of life as if they had never been disturbed. The mere
handful of miners still remaining, had seen the town spring up spread,
grow and flourish in its pride; and they had seen it sicken and die, and
pass away like a dream. With it their hopes had died, and their zest of
life. They had long ago resigned themselves to their exile, and ceased
to correspond with their distant friends or turn longing eyes toward
their early homes. They had accepted banishment, forgotten the world and
been forgotten of the world. They were far from telegraphs and
railroads, and they stood, as it were, in a living grave, dead to the
events that stirred the globe's great populations, dead to the common
interests of men, isolated and outcast from brotherhood with their kind.
It was the most singular, and almost the most touching and melancholy
exile that fancy can imagine.--One of my associates in this locality, for
two or three months, was a man who had had a university education; but
now for eighteen years he had decayed there by inches, a bearded,
rough-clad, clay-stained miner, and at times, among his sighings and
soliloquizings, he unconsciously interjected vaguely remembered Latin and
Greek sentences--dead and musty tongues, meet vehicles for the thoughts
of one whose dreams were all of the past, whose life was a failure; a
tired man, burdened with the present, and indifferent to the future; a
man without ties, hopes, interests, waiting for rest and the end.
In that one little corner of California is found a species of mining
which is seldom or never mentioned in print. It is called "pocket
mining" and I am not aware that any of it is done outside of that little
corner. The gold is not evenly distributed through the surface dirt, as
in ordinary placer mines, but is collected in little spots, and they are
very wide apart and exceedingly hard to find, but when you do find one
you reap a rich and sudden harvest. There are not now more than twenty
pocket miners in that entire little region. I think I know every one of
them personally. I have known one of them to hunt patiently about the
hill-sides every day for eight months without finding gold enough to make
a snuff-box--his grocery bill running up relentlessly all the time--and
then find a pocket and take out of it two thousand dollars in two dips of
his shovel. I have known him to take out three thousand dollars in two
hours, and go and pay up every cent of his indebtedness, then enter on a
dazzling spree that finished the last of his treasure before the night
was gone. And the next day he bought his groceries on credit as usual,
and shouldered his pan and shovel and went off to the hills hunting
pockets again happy and content. This is the most fascinating of all the
different kinds of mining, and furnishes a very handsome percentage of
victims to the lunatic asylum.
Pocket hunting is an ingenious process. You take a spadeful of earth
from the hill-side and put it in a large tin pan and dissolve and wash it
gradually away till nothing is left but a teaspoonful of fine sediment.
Whatever gold was in that earth has remained, because, being the
heaviest, it has sought the bottom. Among the sediment you will find
half a dozen yellow particles no larger than pin-heads. You are
delighted. You move off to one side and wash another pan. If you find
gold again, you move to one side further, and wash a third pan. If you
find no gold this time, you are delighted again, because you know you are
on the right scent.
You lay an imaginary plan, shaped like a fan, with its handle up the
hill--for just where the end of the handle is, you argue that the rich
deposit lies hidden, whose vagrant grains of gold have escaped and been
washed down the hill, spreading farther and farther apart as they
wandered. And so you proceed up the hill, washing the earth and
narrowing your lines every time the absence of gold in the pan shows that
you are outside the spread of the fan; and at last, twenty yards up the
hill your lines have converged to a point--a single foot from that point
you cannot find any gold. Your breath comes short and quick, you are
feverish with excitement; the dinner-bell may ring its clapper off, you
pay no attention; friends may die, weddings transpire, houses burn down,
they are nothing to you; you sweat and dig and delve with a frantic
interest--and all at once you strike it! Up comes a spadeful of earth
and quartz that is all lovely with soiled lumps and leaves and sprays of
gold. Sometimes that one spadeful is all--$500. Sometimes the nest
contains $10,000, and it takes you three or four days to get it all out.
The pocket-miners tell of one nest that yielded $60,000 and two men
exhausted it in two weeks, and then sold the ground for $10,000 to a
party who never got $300 out of it afterward.
The hogs are good pocket hunters. All the summer they root around the
bushes, and turn up a thousand little piles of dirt, and then the miners
long for the rains; for the rains beat upon these little piles and wash
them down and expose the gold, possibly right over a pocket. Two pockets
were found in this way by the same man in one day. One had $5,000 in it
and the other $8,000. That man could appreciate it, for he hadn't had a
cent for about a year.
In Tuolumne lived two miners who used to go to the neighboring village in
the afternoon and return every night with household supplies. Part of
the distance they traversed a trail, and nearly always sat down to rest
on a great boulder that lay beside the path. In the course of thirteen
years they had worn that boulder tolerably smooth, sitting on it. By and
by two vagrant Mexicans came along and occupied the seat. They began to
amuse themselves by chipping off flakes from the boulder with a
sledge-hammer. They examined one of these flakes and found it rich with
gold. That boulder paid them $800 afterward. But the aggravating
circumstance was that these "Greasers" knew that there must be more gold
where that boulder came from, and so they went panning up the hill and
found what was probably the richest pocket that region has yet produced.
It took three months to exhaust it, and it yielded $120,000. The two
American miners who used to sit on the boulder are poor yet, and they
take turn about in getting up early in the morning to curse those
Mexicans--and when it comes down to pure ornamental cursing, the native
American is gifted above the sons of men.
I have dwelt at some length upon this matter of pocket mining because it
is a subject that is seldom referred to in print, and therefore I judged
that it would have for the reader that interest which naturally attaches
Back to Full Books