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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]


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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]




CAPTAIN NYE was very ill indeed, with spasmodic
rheumatism. But the old gentleman was himself—
which is to say, he was kind-hearted and agreeable when comfortable,
but a singularly violent wild-cat when things did not
go well. He would be smiling along pleasantly enough, when
a sudden spasm of his disease would take him and he would
go out of his smile into a perfect fury. He would groan and
wail and howl with the anguish, and fill up the odd chinks
with the most elaborate profanity that strong convictions and
a fine fancy could contrive. With fair opportunity he could
swear very well and handle his adjectives with considerable
judgment; but when the spasm was on him it was painful to
listen to him, he was so awkward. However, I had seen him
nurse a sick man himself and put up patiently with the inconveniences
of the situation, and consequently I was willing that
he should have full license now that his own turn had come.
He could not disturb me, with all his raving and ranting, for
my mind had work on hand, and it labored on diligently,
night and day, whether my hands were idle or employed. I
was altering and amending the plans for my house, and thinking
over the propriety of having the billiard-room in the attic,
instead of on the same floor with the dining-room; also, I was
trying to decide between green and blue for the upholstery of
the drawing-room, for, although my preference was blue I
feared it was a color that would be too easily damaged by dust
and sunlight; likewise while I was content to put the coachman


Page 286
in a modest livery, I was uncertain about a footman—I
needed one, and was even resolved to have one, but wished he
could properly appear and perform his functions out of livery,
for I somewhat dreaded so much show; and yet, inasmuch as
my late grandfather had had a coachman and such things, but
no liveries, I felt rather drawn to beat him;—or beat his ghost,
at any rate; I was also systematizing the European trip, and
managed to get it all laid out, as to route and length of time
to be devoted to it—everything, with one exception—namely,
whether to cross the desert from Cairo to Jerusalem per camel,
or go by sea to Beirut, and thence down through the country
per caravan. Meantime I was writing to the friends at home
every day, instructing them concerning all my plans and intentions,
and directing them to look up a handsome homestead
for my mother and agree upon a price for it against my coming,
and also directing them to sell my share of the Tennessee
land and tender the proceeds to the widows' and orphans'
fund of the typographical union of which I had long been a
member in good standing. [This Tennessee land had been in
the possession of the family many years, and promised to confer
high fortune upon us some day; it still promises it, but in
a less violent way.]

When I had been nursing the Captain nine days he was
somewhat better, but very feeble. During the afternoon we
lifted him into a chair and gave him an alcoholic vapor bath,
and then set about putting him on the bed again. We had
to be exceedingly careful, for the least jar produced pain.
Gardiner had his shoulders and I his legs; in an unfortunate
moment I stumbled and the patient fell heavily on the bed in
an agony of torture. I never heard a man swear so in my life.
He raved like a maniac, and tried to snatch a revolver from
the table—but I got it. He ordered me out of the house, and
swore a world of oaths that he would kill me wherever he
caught me when he got on his feet again. It was simply a
passing fury, and meant nothing. I knew he would forget it in
an hour, and maybe be sorry for it, too; but it angered me a
little, at the moment. So much so, indeed, that I determined


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[Description: 504EAF. Page 287. In-line image of three men around a table. One man is holding a gun.]
to go back to Esmeralda. I thought he was able to get along
alone, now, since he was on the war path. I took supper, and
as soon as the moon rose, began my nine-mile journey, on foot.
Even millionaires needed no horses, in those days, for a mere
nine-mile jaunt without baggage.

As I “raised the hill” overlooking the town, it lacked
fifteen minutes of twelve. I glanced at the hill over beyond
the canyon, and in the bright moonlight saw what appeared
to be about half the population of the village massed on and
around the Wide West croppings. My heart gave an exulting
bound, and I said to myself, “They have made a new strike
to-night—and struck it richer than ever, no doubt.” I started
over there, but gave it up. I said the “strike” would keep,
and I had climbed hills enough for one night. I went on
down through the town, and as I was passing a little German
bakery, a woman ran out and begged me to come in and help
her. She said her husband had a fit. I went in, and judged
she was right—he appeared to have a hundred of them, compressed
into one. Two Germans were there, trying to hold
him, and not making much of a success of it. I ran up the


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[Description: 504EAF. Page 288. In-line image of two men inside a cabin. One man is seated at desk while another man is standing next to him. ]
street half a block or so and routed out a sleeping doctor,
brought him down half dressed, and we four wrestled with
the maniac, and doctored, drenched and bled him, for more
than an hour, and the poor German woman did the crying.
He grew quiet, now, and the doctor and I withdrew and left
him to his friends.

It was a little after one o'clock. As I entered the cabin
door, tired but jolly, the dingy light of a tallow candle revealed
Higbie, sitting by the pine table gazing stupidly at my note,
which he held in his fingers, and looking pale, old, and haggard.
I halted, and
looked at him. He
looked at me, stolidly.
I said:

“Higbie, what—
what is it?”

“We're ruined—
we didn't do the
work — THE BLIND

It was enough. I
sat down sick,
indeed. A
minute before, I was
rich and brimful of
vanity; I was a pauper
now, and very
meek. We sat still
an hour, busy with
thought, busy with vain and useless self-upbraidings, busy with
“Why didn't I do this, and why didn't I do that,” but neither
spoke a word. Then we dropped into mutual explanations, and
the mystery was cleared away. It came out that Higbie had
depended on me, as I had on him, and as both of us had on
the foreman. The folly of it! It was the first time that ever
staid and steadfast Higbie had left an important matter to
chance or failed to be true to his full share of a responsibility.


Page 289

But he had never seen my note till this moment, and this
moment was the first time he had been in the cabin
since the day he had seen me last. He, also, had left a note
for me, on that same fatal afternoon—had ridden up on horseback,
and looked through the window, and being in a hurry
and not seeing me, had tossed the note into the cabin through
a broken pane. Here it was, on the floor, where it had remained
undisturbed for nine days:

“Don't fail to do the work before the ten days expire. We has passed
through and given me notice. I am to join him at Mono Lake, and we shall
go on from there to-night. He says he will find it this time, sure. Cal.

“W.” meant Whiteman, of course. That thrice accursed

That was the way of it. An old miner, like Higbie, could
no more withstand the fascination of a mysterious mining
excitement like this “cement” foolishness, than he could refrain
from eating when he was famishing. Higbie had been
dreaming about the marvelous cement for months; and now,
against his better judgment, he had gone off and “taken the
chances” on my keeping secure a mine worth a million undiscovered
cement veins. They had not been followed this time.
His riding out of town in broad daylight was such a commonplace
thing to do that it had not attracted any attention. He
said they prosecuted their search in the fastnesses of the
mountains during nine days, without success; they could not
find the cement. Then a ghastly fear came over him that
something might have happened to prevent the doing of the
necessary work to hold the blind lead (though indeed he
thought such a thing hardly possible), and forthwith he started
home with all speed. He would have reached Esmeralda in
time, but his horse broke down and he had to walk a great
part of the distance. And so it happened that as he came
into Esmeralda by one road, I entered it by another. His
was the superior energy, however, for he went straight to the
Wide West, instead of turning aside as I had done—and he
arrived there about five or ten minutes too late! The “notice”


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[Description: 504EAF. Page 290. In-line image of a group of men standing around a sign, fighting.]
was already up, the “relocation” of our mine completed beyond
recall, and the crowd rapidly dispersing. He learned
some facts before he left the ground. The foreman had not
been seen about the streets since the night we had located the
mine—a telegram had called him to California on a matter of
life and death, it was said. At any rate he had done no work
and the watchful eyes of the community were taking note of
the fact. At midnight of this woful tenth day, the ledge
would be “relocatable,” and by eleven o'clock the hill was
black with men prepared to do the relocating. That was the
crowd I had seen when I fancied a new “strike” had been
made—idiot that I was.
[We three had the same
right to relocate the lead
that other people had,
provided we were quick
enough.] As midnight
was announced, fourteen
men, duly armed and ready
to back their proceedings,
put up their “notice” and proclaimed their ownership of the
blind lead, under the new name of the “Johnson.” But A.
D. Allen our partner (the foreman) put in a sudden appearance
about that time, with a cocked revolver in his hand, and said
his name must be added to the list, or he would “thin out the
Johnson company some.” He was a manly, splendid, determined


Page 291
fellow, and known to be as good as his word, and
therefore a compromise was effected. They put in his name
for a hundred feet, reserving to themselves the customary two
hundred feet each. Such was the history of the night's
events, as Higbie gathered from a friend on the way home.

Higbie and I cleared out on a new mining excitement the
next morning, glad to get away from the scene of our sufferings,
and after a month or two of hardship and disappointment,
returned to Esmeralda once more. Then we learned
that the Wide West and the Johnson companies had consolidated;
that the stock, thus united, comprised five thousand
feet, or shares; that the foreman, apprehending tiresome litigation,
and considering such a huge concern unwieldy, had
sold his hundred feet for ninety thousand dollars in gold and
gone home to the States to enjoy it. If the stock was worth
such a gallant figure, with five thousand shares in the corporation,
it makes me dizzy to think what it would have been
worth with only our original six hundred in it. It was the
difference between six hundred men owning a house and five
thousand owning it. We would have been millionaires if we
had only worked with pick and spade one little day on our
property and so secured our ownership!

It reads like a wild fancy sketch, but the evidence of many
witnesses, and likewise that of the official records of Esmeralda
District, is easily obtainable in proof that it is a true history.
I can always have it to say that I was absolutely and unquestionably
worth a million dollars, once, for ten days.

A year ago my esteemed and in every way estimable old
millionaire partner, Higbie, wrote me from an obscure little
mining camp in California that after nine or ten years of buffetings
and hard striving, he was at last in a position where
he could command twenty-five hundred dollars, and said he
meant to go into the fruit business in a modest way. How
such a thought would have insulted him the night we lay in
our cabin planning European trips and brown stone houses on
Russian Hill!