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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]


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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]




I NOW come to a curious episode—the most curious, I
think, that had yet accented my slothful, valueless, heedless
career. Out of a hillside toward the upper end of the
town, projected a wall of reddish looking quartz-croppings, the
exposed comb of a silver-bearing ledge that extended deep
down into the earth, of course. It was owned by a company
entitled the “Wide West.” There was a shaft sixty or seventy
feet deep on the under side of the croppings, and everybody
was acquainted with the rock that came from it—and tolerably
rich rock it was, too, but nothing extraordinary. I will remark
here, that although to the inexperienced stranger all the quartz
of a particular “district” looks about alike, an old resident of
the camp can take a glance at a mixed pile of rock, separate
the fragments and tell you which mine each came from, as
easily as a confectioner can separate and classify the various
kinds and qualities of candy in a mixed heap of the article.

All at once the town was thrown into a state of extraordinary
excitement. In mining parlance the Wide West had
“struck it rich!” Everybody went to see the new developments,
and for some days there was such a crowd of people about the
Wide West shaft that a stranger would have supposed there
was a mass meeting in session there. No other topic was
discussed but the rich strike, and nobody thought or dreamed
about anything else. Every man brought away a specimen,
ground it up in a hand mortar, washed it out in his horn
spoon, and glared speechless upon the marvelous result. It


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was not hard rock, but black, decomposed stuff which could
be crumbled in the hand like a baked potato, and when spread
out on a paper exhibited a thick sprinkling of gold and particles
of “native” silver. Higbie brought a handful to the
cabin, and when he had washed it out his amazement was
beyond description. Wide West stock soared skywards. It
was said that repeated offers had been made for it at a thousand
dollars a foot, and promptly refused. We have all had
the “blues”—the mere sky-blues—but mine were indigo, now
—because I did not own in the Wide West. The world
seemed hollow to me, and existence a grief. I lost my appetite,
and ceased to take an interest in anything. Still I had
to stay, and listen to other people's rejoicings, because I had
no money to get out of the camp with.

The Wide West company put a stop to the carrying away
of “specimens,” and well they might, for every handful of the
ore was worth a sum of some consequence. To show the
exceeding value of the ore, I will remark that a sixteen-hundred-pounds
parcel of it was sold, just as it lay, at the mouth
of the shaft, at one dollar a pound; and the man who bought
it “packed” it on mules a hundred and fifty or two hundred
miles, over the mountains, to San Francisco, satisfied that it
would yield at a rate that would richly compensate him for his
trouble. The Wide West people also commanded their foreman
to refuse any but their own operatives permission to enter the
mine at any time or for any purpose. I kept up my “blue”
meditations and Higbie kept up a deal of thinking, too, but
of a different sort. He puzzled over the “rock,” examined it
with a glass, inspected it in different lights and from different
points of view, and after each experiment delivered himself, in
soliloquy, of one and the same unvarying opinion in the same
unvarying formula:

“It is not Wide West rock!”

He said once or twice that he meant to have a look into the
Wide West shaft if he got shot for it. I was wretched, and
did not care whether he got a look into it or not. He failed
that day, and tried again at night; failed again; got up at


Page 279


[Description: 504EAF. Page 279. In-line image of a man being lowered into a hole on a rope by another man.]
dawn and tried, and failed again. Then he lay in ambush in
the sage brush hour after hour, waiting for the two or three
hands to adjourn to the shade of a boulder for dinner; made
a start once, but was premature—one of the men came back
for something; tried it again, but when almost at the mouth
of the shaft, another of the men rose up from behind the boulder
as if to reconnoitre, and he dropped on the ground and lay
quiet; presently he crawled on his hands and knees to the
mouth of the shaft, gave a quick glance around, then seized
the rope and slid down
the shaft. He disappeared
in the gloom of
a “side drift” just as a
head appeared in the
mouth of the shaft and
somebody shouted
“Hello!” — which he
did not answer. He was
not disturbed any more.
An hour later he entered
the cabin, hot, red,
and ready to burst with
smothered excitement,
and exclaimed in a stage whisper:

“I knew it! We are
rich! It's a blind lead!”

I thought the very earth
reeled under me. Doubt—
conviction—doubt again—exultation
— hope, amazement,
belief, unbelief—every emotion
imaginable swept in wild procession through my heart
and brain, and I could not speak a word. After a moment
or two of this mental fury, I shook myself to rights, and

“Say it again!”


Page 280

“It's a blind lead!”

“Cal., let's—let's burn the house—or kill somebody! Let's
get out where there's room to hurrah! But what is the use?
It is a hundred times too good to be true.”

“It's a blind lead, for a million!—hanging wall—foot wall
—clay casings—everything complete!” He swung his hat and
gave three cheers, and I cast doubt to the winds and chimed
in with a will. For I was worth a million dollars, and did
not care “whether school kept or not!”

But perhaps I ought to explain. A “blind lead” is a
lead or ledge that
does not “crop out”
above the surface. A
miner does not know
where to look for
such leads, but they
are often stumbled
upon by accident in
the course of driving
a tunnel or sinking a
shaft. Higbie knew
the Wide West rock
perfectly well, and
the more he had examined
the new developments
the more
he was satisfied that
the ore could not
have come from the
Wide West vein.
And so had it occurred to him alone, of all the camp, that
there was a blind lead down in the shaft, and that even the
Wide West people themselves did not suspect it. He was
right. When he went down the shaft, he found that the
blind lead held its independent way through the Wide West
vein, cutting it diagonally, and that it was enclosed in its own
well-defined casing-rocks and clay. Hence it was public property.


Page 281
Both leads being perfectly well defined, it was easy for
any miner to see which one belonged to the Wide West and
which did not.

We thought it well to have a strong friend, and therefore
we brought the foreman of the Wide West to our cabin that
night and revealed the great surprise to him. Higbie said:

“We are going to take possession of this blind lead, record
it and establish ownership, and then forbid the Wide West
company to take out any more of the rock. You cannot help
your company in this matter—nobody can help them. I will
go into the shaft with you and prove to your entire satisfaction
that it is a blind lead. Now we propose to take you in with
us, and claim the blind lead in our three names. What do
you say?”

What could a man say who had an opportunity to simply
stretch forth his hand and take possession of a fortune without
risk of any kind and without wronging any one or attaching
the least taint of dishonor to his name? He could only say,

The notice was put up that night, and duly spread upon
the recorder's books before ten o'clock. We claimed two hundred
feet each—six hundred feet in all—the smallest and compactest
organization in the district, and the easiest to manage.

No one can be so thoughtless as to suppose that we slept, that
night. Higbie and I went to bed at midnight, but it was only
to lie broad awake and think, dream, scheme. The floorless,
tumble-down cabin was a palace, the ragged gray blankets silk,
the furniture rosewood and mahogany. Each new splendor
that burst out of my visions of the future whirled me bodily
over in bed or jerked me to a sitting posture just as if an electric
battery had been applied to me. We shot fragments of
conversation back and forth at each other. Once Higbie said:

“When are you going home—to the States?”

“To-morrow!”—with an evolution or two, ending with a
sitting position. “Well—no—but next month, at furthest.”

“We'll go in the same steamer.”



Page 282



[Description: 504EAF. Page 282. In-line image of two men in bed who are talking at night inside of a log cabin.]

A pause.

“Steamer of the 10th?”

“Yes. No, the 1st.”

“All right.”

Another pause.

“Where are you going to live?” said Higbie.

“San Francisco.”

“That's me!”


“Too high—too much climbing”—from Higbie.

“What is?”

“I was thinking of Russian Hill—building a house up

“Too much climbing? Shan't you keep a carriage?”

“Of course. I forgot that.”


“Cal., what kind of a house are you going to build?”

“I was thinking about that. Three-story and an attic.”

“But what kind?

“Well, I don't hardly know. Brick, I suppose.”


Page 283


“Why? What is your idea?”

“Brown stone front—French plate glass—billiard-room off
the dining-room—statuary and paintings—shrubbery and two-acre
grass plat—greenhouse—iron dog on the front stoop—
gray horses—landau, and a coachman with a bug on his hat!”

“By George!”

A long pause.

“Cal., when are you going to Europe?”

“Well—I hadn't thought of that. When are you?”

“In the Spring.”

“Going to be gone all summer?”

“All summer! I shall remain there three years.”

“No—but are you in earnest?”

“Indeed I am.”

“I will go along too.”

“Why of course you will.”

“What part of Europe shall you go to?”

“All parts. France, England, Germany—Spain, Italy,
Switzerland, Syria, Greece, Palestine, Arabia, Persia, Egypt—
all over—everywhere.”

“I'm agreed.”

“All right.”

“Won't it be a swell trip!”

“We'll spend forty or fifty thousand dollars trying to make
it one, anyway.”

Another long pause.

“Higbie, we owe the butcher six dollars, and he has been
threatening to stop our—”

“Hang the butcher!”


And so it went on. By three o'clock we found it was no
use, and so we got up and played cribbage and smoked pipes
till sunrise. It was my week to cook. I always hated cooking—now,
I abhorred it.

The news was all over town. The former excitement was
great—this one was greater still. I walked the streets serene


Page 284
and happy. Higbie said the foreman had been offered two
hundred thousand dollars for his third of the mine. I said I
would like to see myself selling for any such price. My ideas
were lofty. My figure was a million. Still, I honestly believe
that if I had been offered it, it would have had no other effect
than to make me hold off for more.

I found abundant enjoyment in being rich. A man offered
me a three-hundred-dollar horse, and wanted to take my simple,
unendorsed note for it. That brought the most realizing
sense I had yet had that I was actually rich, beyond shadow
of doubt. It was followed by numerous other evidences of a
similar nature—among which I may mention the fact of the
butcher leaving us a double supply of meat and saying nothing
about money.

By the laws of the district, the “locators” or claimants of
a ledge were obliged to do a fair and reasonable amount of
work on their new property within ten days after the date of
the location, or the property was forfeited, and anybody could
go and seize it that chose. So we determined to go to work
the next day. About the middle of the afternoon, as I was
coming out of the post office, I met a Mr. Gardiner, who told
me that Capt. John Nye was lying dangerously ill at his place
(the “Nine-Mile Ranch”), and that he and his wife were not
able to give him nearly as much care and attention as his case
demanded. I said if he would wait for me a moment, I would
go down and help in the sick room. I ran to the cabin to tell
Higbie. He was not there, but I left a note on the table for
him, and a few minutes later I left town in Gardiner's wagon.