Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

“An' then the young man hurried newspapers round on the tables, an' away to some other point in the room, several cases o' books standin' against an' left me sittin' beside a nice - lookin' the wall; an' one o' the leadin' memhonest country lass, who could only say bers kept a sort o' magazine - newspa'yees' and 'noo,' as soft as poached per-peanut-literary pop-shop down-stairs eggs; an' that always knocks my con- on the ground floor, an' he had some versational powers flatter 'n a water- barrels in his cellar - sacrament wine soaked newspaper. I tell you, boys, an' medical purposes, you know !-an' well-regulated society is terrible on a these Special Literary ducks could have man-terrible, terrible!”

somethin' good when they'd a mind to Here the gentleman drew his chair call for it. Well, I was introduced in toward the stove, as though the far-off among these chaps as the 'gentleman memory of “well - regulated society" from California,' an' I bowed round an' pervaded his system with the solemn pranced in among 'em, an' flourished my chilliness of an empty church.

white cambric pocket table-cloth, like a "Well, go ahead an' tell us how you sweet young Methodist preacher at a got along with that young woman,” said camp-meetin'. Then I was specially a red - haired man on the opposite side introduced to Honorable Judge Ephraof the stove.

im Shadwell, an'we all took seats. “Got along with that young woman! While I was splittin' my coat - tails I couldn't get along with her. There apart to sit down, I prospected the wasn't nothin' of her but bread an' but. Honorable Ephraim Shadwell, an' says ter, an' some home-made-up dry-goods. I to myself-inwardly, you know-- Old There was no intellect into her. She was Shad, if you aint a “Smoove Eph,” then a rare young female — raw, I might say. it's my treat.' An' this put me in mind But then she might ha' done better with of it. So I remarked, 'Gentlemen, can't a less distinguished man; I'm always we have somethin'—somethin' to take?' willin' to make allowance. I know that an' I went down into my breeches'-pockevery person hasn't crossed the conti- et after the collateral; but there is where nent, nor lived on beans straight-an' I missed it, an' forgot myself, an' thought such persons can't be expected to‘know I was back here again in a whisky-mill. beans.''

They like somethin' to take back there's “Well, then, you wound up business well's we do here, but they suck it more - twenty-five cents on the dollar -at on the sly--for the sake o' the risin' genthat social party, and got away from eration they call it. Now, you all-most there. Then what did you do?" que- all—know that I don't like liquors-" ried the volunteer foreman. “O Lord ! “O no!” shouted a chorus of voices. Jake, close that door."

“You aint got no talent for whisky-no “Yes, I'll close this door soon's I get place to put it! It's somebody else these nubs of iced snow out o' the way,” man with the light red nose, perhaps.” answered Jake, jamming and rattling “Unless they are very choice, pure, the door to force away the accumulation an’ well-handled." of soiled icy snow.

“Ah!” “What did I do? Why, I went to And when I strike a thing o' that that club. An' there I found a room kind in a gentlemanly company, I don't carpeted all off nice, an'a marble man- deny it, I am happy. I suppose it's all tel-piece, an' everything fine an' easy for wrong, pernicious, pauperizing, an' all a feller who can endure a good deal o' that sort o' thing, but I tumble to it rest an' settin'round. There were naturally; an' on this occasion I was

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

.

way up-everything was lovely, as Ophir lively little black eyes were laughed when she booms!”

back into his head by two circles o “Well, as I was the distinguished wrinkles, which yet waited round the stranger, of course the heft o' the talk front doors to get a chance to poke 'em soon came to me. They wanted to hear in the ribs if they ever came out again. about California, an' I gave 'em Califor. He had a circular alkali - flat on top of nia - now, you bet I did! I told 'em his head, with a little black bunch o' all that I thought everybody must grease-wood in the middle of it. Then, know, an' had known, about the coun- his face was shaved clean, and he was, try, an' it seemed news to them. Then I except his eyes, ás pretty a countetold 'em some things about California nanced gentleman as ever I saw.

One which I think nobody knows, an' never of those fatherly persons who never forwill know. You have to do these things, get that all good men are twice a boy, you know, in good society, to make your- an' forever a little youthful. He was self interesting. Then, this young fel- some fatter than there was any need of, ler who had been with me at the party, an'-he wasn't a blonde. When he said, and was at that moment leanin' his el. Be pleased to proceed !' I proceeded. bows on the back of Old Shad's high “Gentlemen,' says I, 'the Sage-brush chair, which was right a-front o' me- is the Wonder-land of grown-up children. he says, lookin' at me, “Tell us about Its history is to the active intellect of your trip in Nevada — that one you told North America what the reading of the at the party the other night!' 'Yes,' Nine Books by Herodotus was to the says Old Shad; 'that Nevada is a pulse of young Athens — the stimulus very strange country, by all accounts. to greater daring and deeper diggings. I should, for one—and I assume to What the poet and the painter have done speak for all present- be much grati- for the rude ages prior to gunpowder, fied to learn about that country from a which gave us the pictures of the batgentleman so well qualified by nature tle- axe, the claymore, the scimiter, the and experience to represent it. Be long.oared galley, and the castle-crownpleased to proceed, sir.'

ed cliff, the coming American, combining “When Old Shad made me that little in himself the artist and the artisan, must speech, and reached his hand to the ta- do for the long processions which followble for his glass o' liquor, there was a ed the sun by day and watched with the dignity, a grace, a full.fitness about him stars by night, among the great rocks and that made me think him a born judge." dim vistas of the weird mirage - haunted “Judge o' what?"

wilderness. The rough-forged long bar“Of everything. An inspector of the rel of the immortal sharp-shooter-that universe. A man, sir, capable, by turns, aspiring swamp-blackbird, from whose of microscopic atomization, on the one sweet throat Liberty first warbled and hand, and of being a cosmographer of Freedom learned to whistle - and the worlds on the other!"

wand coiled round with the detonating “H-1! don't he sling a dictionary taper of the ox-driver's whip, must be jaw-bone?" queried a sotto voce. inwoven with our heraldic designs, until

“Old Shad—you've seen fellers like after ages, sir, shall learn that the sacred Old Shad! but you haven't seen many, is the true and tried - the useful still He was the most innocent and attentive- the holiest." lookin' middle-aged person I ever saw. “You was puttin' it up pretty steep, His face seemed to fairly beam with at- wasn't you?” inquired the foreman. tention and respect toward me! His “I should say I was! Old Shad's

a

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

face was bewitchin' me with the rosy “But, alas! these modern heroes in dawn of unborn compliment. It wasn't the mountain-passes of the Desert-land often I got an audience like that. I was did not need to dress their hair in the talkin' then, not about California, but throat of death, because they were sure about Nevada, an' it seemed like I was of having it listed and dressed after called upon to speak a piece for the ‘Gal death, with all the honors of barbaric I left behind me,' an' I waltzed in with pomp, while their bones were left to be all the fine points I'd ever heard of — dragged to the galloping midnight muan' could remember at the time. But sic of the prairie - wolf, into the distant I held myself right down to the cold waste behind the veil of the night's dim truth-only flushing it occasionally, like circle. Not the “untutored” was their the top of a snowy sunset mountain only foe, for him they tutored after with the roseate alpenglow of our rari- awhile-but want and storm, and housefied atmosphere.

less, homeless loneliness, and unrequit“Gentlemen,' I continued, 'when our ed waiting; and sometimes Death came remotest pre-historic ancestors hacked softly down upon his black wings with their wild mysterious story in the rag- the glances of the sweet-faced moon, ged yet regular edges of the world-wide and made the lonely sleeper's dream scattered flinty arrow - heads, they little eternal in the sage. knew that unborn ages of a quickened «Gentlemen,' I continued, 'to give intellectuality would prospect among you an idea of the vicissitudes of clitheir ‘foat' for the after - thought of mate, and the houseless hardships of the soul's immortal longings. And the earlier days in Nevada, before the when the ancestral fathers of this peculiarities of the climate were underyoung republic, sitting upon the ragged stood, I will relate, now, the simple and edge of the new-born constitutional truthful tale which my young friend has conscience, dared to weigh down our asked for, in which request he has been infant treasury to purchase from “The kindly joined by your honor and the Man of Destiny" that mystery of em- entire company. pire known as Louisiana, little they " It was, if I remember right, in the dreamed that an after-time of quicker winter of 1866–7, or 1867-8, I'll not be intellect would prospect amid the drift- sure which — but no matter, it was one ing snows and whirling dusts of an arid time or the other— I found myself in waste, and find — find what? Ah, gen- B., which then was a new and active tlemen, the rock-ribbed coffers of a mining-camp, and is now, though no world—the treasury of nations now that longer new, still active. The mud in are, and of others yet to come! the town, owing to the late rains, the

“«Gentlemen,' says I, 'permit me. stirring people and newly broken earth, We 'll drink. Here's to the boys at the was disagreeably deep. I met Johnson. front—THE PROSPECTORS!

Johnse,' said I, what are you on, an' Now, gentlemen,' says I, after we where are you bound for?' drank and were seated, 'these men who “I'm on the prospect,' says he, 'an' have discovered these great mines and I'm bound for Reveille.' bonanzas have fought a battle no less

6. How?' says I. glorious than that fought by the classic “In a wagon,' says he. youth who dressed their hair in the

6. When?' says I. mountain-gorge, where still the 'hot- 66. To-morrow,' says he. springs bubble up, whispering to heroic “I'll go with you,' says I. hearts, “This is Thermopyla ! "

“It's a whack,' says he.

66

says I.

“«So next morning we harnessed up his wagon just rolling the dust into his two little mules to a light wagon and face.' started through the mud.'

“ Heavy dust?' from the judge. Heavy rolling in the mud, I sup- “Yes; the dust was piling on to him. pose?' asked the judge, very politely. Each side of his nose was all filled up

““Very much so, indeed,' I responded, level with his eyebrows—all smooth.'

“ about as politely.

" Singular country!' remarked the “Johnse's team was willing, but it was judge. small, and though that wagon had nothing “Most remarkable climate on earth,' in it but our blankets and two or three hundred pounds of grub, etc., we were “«One would think so,' said the feller all day and until midnight going sixteen who was takin' notes. miles; and when we camped the old “«Well, we staid all night at H., and snow was so deep and crusted that the next morning we started by the valley little mules wouldn't move another step trail for Reveille, intending to get there -so there we hung up, in the deep snow.' that night-but we didn't make it.'

“How far did you say that was from “Why so? more mud?' asked the where you started?' asked a member, judge. who seemed to be takin' notes in the “No, no more mud; but about noon fily-leaves of a book.

the sun came down so hot that the lit“ About sixteen miles.'

tle mules fairly melted on their feet, and “Mules are no better in the snow than there was no go in them—so we hung in the mud,' said the judge, with his lit- up for the night at the Springs.' tle black eyes twinklin' at me.

“How far were you from B., at the “About the same. Well, we staid Springs?' asked the feller who was there till morning-mules not a thing to takin' notes. eat but a lick or two of flour, and we a “Let me see,' says I; 'thirty-four bite of raw fat bacon. In the morning, an' twenty-four is fifty-eight-yes, fiftyhowever, the night-frost having left the eight miles.' snow crusted, we rolled out on solid “The next day you proceeded to footing. In about two hours we got Reveille ?' queried the judge. to some good grazing and water, and

“O, no. That night they brought camped, to let the animals feed and to an ox-driver into camp, with his feet frocook something for ourselves. Then zen.' we rolled along in first-rate style to an- “Frozen !' shouted a member who other camp at H. After we got out of had not spoken before. that snow we had no trouble with any- “Yes, sir; frozen, and badly frozen. thing that day but the dust.'

And they were still freezing by the fire, ••• Dust!' exclaimed the judge, draw. after he was brought in — because a in' his chair up closer to me, and glow- freeze continues till the thaw sets in, in' upon me with admiration.

and the thaw does not set in until the «« Yes. Johnse did not feel very well, heat has time to penetrate; and when so he lay down in the wagon-box-it you are lying before a fire out of doors, was a common light dead-axe wagon – in a cold bright starlit night, one side with his head toward the tail-board. I chills about as fast as the other thaws.' was driving, and after awhile I looked "Yes, that's true,' said the judge back over my shoulder, and there was 'when a man is lying out.' old Johnse fast asleep on the flat of his “I thought he put a curious little quaback, and the two hind- wheels of the ver on the last word but one o' that

a

a

from

remark, but it was so slight I passed it ors have taken the advice of the late

I by an’ went on with my story.

Mr. Greeley, and gone West.' “Yes, gentlemen, feet that have been “I thanked the judge for his spoken tramping in the wet snow all day freeze compliments, but Webster's Unabridgvery suddenly, in the change of tem- ed, soaked in Los Angeles honey, never perature which takes place as the sun could pan out a speech equal to thankis going down, in high altitudes. And ing him for the admiring radiation that when a boot and sock once become shone from his face." like solid ice the jig is up. There is “Didn't he hev no daughters ?” askno more motion for the foot, which ed a rough miner. “I'd ha' married into clumps lifelessly and helpless at the end that family, some way or other, ef I'd of the leg. A casing of cast metal is ha' been you !--married the old man, ef not more immovably fitted to that which I couldn't done no better.” it surrounds than is a frozen boot to a To this sneer our hero did not, by freezing foot. You might as well pull face or words, condescend to express at one of the bronze boots on the statue any rejoinder, but continued his narraof Jackson, as attempt to draw such a tion. boot. The poor fellow, in this case, “While we were drinkin' an' adjournhaving become conscious, as he clump- in', the member who took notes stood ed about the desert in the snow hunt- alongside o me, and asked me how far ing his cattle, that his feet were freezing, it was from the mud to the snow, tried to draw his boots, then to rip them the snow to the dust, from the dust to off; then, as the twilight settled into the hot place in the valley, an' from the the steely cold starlight, he set himself hot place to where the ox-driver froze down and tried to whittle them off, like his feet; an' when I told him it was the bark from a tree; and when found, all inside o one day's drive, with a he had whittled the skin, and the flesh, good span o' horses, he drew a long and the nerves, and the tendons, till the breath an' shook his head, sayin' slowchips of leather, with the white blood- ly, 'Wonderful climate ! wonderful cliless flesh adhering to their concave mate!' sides, lay about him on the snow, like “We all went home from that club, an' unskillfully shaven chips from some I flattered myself, for about two weeks, young white - wooded tree, and

that I was just the old he school-marm “My God! sir, stop!' roared the abroad, enlightenin' the people. judge, dropping his face upon his knees, “Finally, I was ready, packed up, to and into the palms of his hands. I return to this coast, an' just as I had stopped. Seeing the terrible emotion bid farewell to all my relations, an' of Judge Ephraim Shadwell, some mem- was gettin' on the cars, the hotel - clerk ber moved, “That we do now take a where I roosted handed me this docudrink, and adjourn.' Seconded. ment." “While the drinks were being served,

Here he drew from his breast coatthe judge recovered, and said to me: pocket a long envelope, and slowly 'My dear friend, permit me to thank passed it over to the foreman, the conyou for this evening's entertainment, tents of which, on being read aloud, and to assure you, sir, that I have proved to be as follows: never met your equal. I formerly flat

“SPECIAL LITERARY CLUB. tered myself that I could do something

" DEPARTMENT OF ARTISTIC LYING. in that line, but hereafter I shall feel

" This certificate bears witness to whom it may conthat, even in my special field, the hon- cern, to the full effect that in the above department,

« AnteriorContinua »