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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 wellnigh 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


Page 399
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
remarked. 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.


Page 400

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


Page 401
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


Page 402
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 employé,
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


Page 403


[Description: 504EAF. Page 403. In-line image of a man holding his shin next to two other men and a carriage.]
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 crushed foot.

“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

He was as drunk
as a lord all day long,
and full of chucklings
over his timely

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;


Page 404


[Description: 504EAF. Page 404. In-line image of high roller in a top hat asking for something form a bar-keeper.]
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:

“('ic!) 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-overheels
overboard, of course. A pause; a sigh or two of pain,
and then a remark in a reflective voice:

“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;


Page 405
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, overlooking
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


Page 406


[Description: 504EAF. Page 406. In-line image of a group of people looking at a house in the distance.]
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 artillery!

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


Page 407
things this sinking sun had seen that day in the east—Vicksburg
fallen, and the Union arms victorious at Gettysburg!

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!