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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]


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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]




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 cotemporary, 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!”


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[Description: 504EAF. Page 361. In-line image of caracatures of the main characters in the novel.]

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


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[Description: 504EAF. Page 362. In-line image of a thin angry man in a top hat holding a cane and pouting.]
miscreant, put him on a salary and set him on the midnight
tract 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


Page 363
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.


Page 364

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


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[Description: 504EAF. Page 365. In-line image of a group surrounding a table and talking with one another. One person is holding something in his hand, while the other look at it.]
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


Page 366
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


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[Description: 504EAF. Page 367. In-line image of two groups of men. One group is in the ship, while another is on an emergency vessel on the side.]
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


Page 368
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

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
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 and all.


Page 369

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:

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[1] your boat I pray,
Snub up your boat, snub up, alas,
Snub up while yet you may.”
Our captain cast one glance astern,
Then forward glancèd 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.”


Page 370
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,


Page 371



[Description: 504EAF. Page 371. In-line image of men holding onto the sides of the ship so as not to fall off in the storm.]

“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 a 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,


Page 372



[Description: 504EAF. Page 372. In-line image of a man being kicked in the face by horse for holding and pulling its tail.]

The chickens sheltered under carts
In lee of barn the cows,
The skurrying swine with straw in mouth,
The wild spray from our bows!
“She balances!
She wavers!
Now let her go about!
If she misses stays and broaches to,
We're all”—[then with a shout,]
“Huray! huray!
Avast! belay!
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!


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“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!


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[Description: 504EAF. Page 374. In line image of a pig being thrown off the side of a sinking ship in a rainstorm.]

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!
Hard-a-port, Dol!—hellum-a-lee!
Haw the head mule!—the aft one gee!
Luff!—bring her to the wind!”


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[Description: 504EAF. Page 375. In-line image of a ship sailing down a river next to a farm with a farmer and his equipment.]

For straight a farmer brought a plank,—
(Mysteriously inspired)—
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.

The customary canal technicality for “tie up.”