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FOR a few months I enjoyed what to me was an entirely
new phase of existence—a butterfly idleness; nothing to
do, nobody to be responsible to, and untroubled with financial
uneasiness. I fell in love with the most cordial and sociable
city in the Union. After the sage-brush and alkali deserts of
Washoe, San Francisco was Paradise to me. I lived at the
best hotel, exhibited my clothes in the most conspicuous places,
infested the opera, and learned to seem enraptured with music
which oftener afflicted my ignorant ear than enchanted it, if I
had had the vulgar honesty to confess it. However, I suppose
I was not greatly worse than the most of my countrymen in that.
I had longed to be a butterfly, and I was one at last. I attended
private parties in sumptuous evening dress, simpered and aired
my graces like a born beau, and polked and schottisched with
a step peculiar to myself—and the kangaroo. In a word, I kept
the due state of a man worth a hundred thousand dollars (prospectively,)
and likely to reach absolute affluence when that silvermine
sale should be ultimately achieved in the East. I spent
money with a free hand, and meantime watched the stock sales
with an interested eye and looked to see what might happen in

Something very important happened. The property holders
of Nevada voted against the State Constitution; but the
folks who had nothing to lose were in the majority, and carried
the measure over their heads. But after all it did not immediately
look like a disaster, though unquestionably it was one.


Page 420
I hesitated, calculated the chances, and then concluded not to
sell. Stocks went on rising; speculation went mad; bankers,
merchants, lawyers, doctors, mechanics, laborers, even the
very washerwomen
and servant girls,
were putting up
their earnings on
silver stocks, and
every sun that rose
in the morning
went down on paupers
enriched and
rich men beggared.
What a gambling
carnival it was!
Gould and Curry
soared to six thousand
three hundred
dollars a foot! And
then—all of a sudden,
out went the
bottom and everything and everybody went to ruin and destruction!
The wreck was complete. The bubble scarcely left a
microscopic moisture behind it. I was an early beggar and a
thorough one. My hoarded stocks were not worth the paper
they were printed on. I threw them all away. I, the cheerful
idiot that had been squandering money like water, and
thought myself beyond the reach of misfortune, had not now
as much as fifty dollars when I gathered together my various
debts and paid them. I removed from the hotel to a very private
boarding house. I took a reporter's berth and went to
work. I was not entirely broken in spirit, for I was building
confidently on the sale of the silver mine in the east. But I
could not hear from Dan. My letters miscarried or were not

One day I did not feel vigorous and remained away from the
office. The next day I went down toward noon as usual, and


Page 421
found a note on my desk which had been there twenty-four
hours. It was signed “Marshall”—the Virginia reporter—
and contained a request that I should call at the hotel and see
him and a friend or two that night, as they would sail for the
east in the morning. A postscript added that their errand was
a big mining speculation! I was hardly ever so sick in my
life. I abused myself for leaving Virginia and entrusting to
another man a matter I ought to have attended to myself; I
abused myself for remaining away from the office on the one
day of all the year that I should have been there. And thus
berating myself I trotted a mile to the steamer wharf and
arrived just in time to be too late. The ship was in the stream
and under way.

I comforted myself with the thought that may be the speculation
would amount to nothing—
poor comfort at best—and then went
back to my slavery, resolved to put
up with my thirty-five dollars a week
and forget all about it.

A month afterward I enjoyed my
first earthquake. It was one which
was long called the “great” earthquake,
and is doubtless so distinguished
till this day. It was just after noon,
on a bright October day. I was coming
down Third street. The only
objects in motion anywhere in sight
in that thickly built and populous
quarter, were a man in a buggy behind
me, and a street car wending slowly
up the cross street. Otherwise, all
was solitude and a Sabbath stillness. As I turned the corner,
around a frame house, there was a great rattle and jar, and it
occurred to me that here was an item!—no doubt a fight in
that house. Before I could turn and seek the door, there came
a really terrific shock; the ground seemed to roll under me in
waves, interrupted by a violent joggling up and down, and


Page 422


[Description: 504EAF. Page 422. In-line image of a man riding on a horse that is out of control, while a building collapses on the street.]
there was a heavy grinding noise as of brick houses rubbing
together. I fell up against the frame house and hurt my elbow.
I knew what it was, now, and from mere reportorial instinct,
nothing else, took out my watch and noted the time of day;
at that moment a third and still severer shock came, and as I
reeled about on the pavement trying to keep my footing, I saw
a sight! The entire front of a tall four-story brick building
in Third street sprung outward like a door and fell sprawling
across the street, raising a dust like a great volume of smoke!
And here came the buggy—overboard went the man, and in
less time than I can tell it the vehicle was distributed in small
fragments along three hundred yards of street. One could
have fancied that somebody had fired a charge of chair-rounds
and rags down the thoroughfare. The street car had stopped,
the horses were rearing and plunging, the passengers were
pouring out at both ends, and one fat man had crashed half
way through a glass window on one side of the car, got wedged
fast and was squirming and screaming like an impaled madman.


Page 423


[Description: 504EAF. Page 423. In-line image of a woman running down the stairs with a baby in hand, while a man runs out of a door.]
Every door, of every house, as far as the eye could reach, was
vomiting a stream of human beings; and almost before one
could execute a wink and
begin another, there was
a massed multitude of
people stretching in endless
procession down every
street my position
commanded. Never was
solemn solitude turned
into teeming life quicker.

Of the wonders
wrought by “the great
earthquake,” these were
all that came under my
eye; but the tricks it did,
elsewhere, and far and
wide over the town, made
toothsome gossip for nine days. The destruction of property
was trifling—the injury
to it was wide-spread and
somewhat serious.

The “curiosities” of the
earthquake were simply endless.
Gentlemen and ladies
who were sick, or were taking
a siesta, or had dissipated
till a late hour and were
making up lost sleep, thronged
into the public streets in
all sorts of queer apparel, and
some without any at all. One
woman who had been washing
a naked child, ran down
the street holding it by the
ankles as if it were a dressed turkey. Prominent citizens who
were supposed to keep the Sabbath strictly, rushed out of saloons


Page 424


[Description: 504EAF. Page 424. In-line image of man in a nightshirt talking with a woman who is sweeping.]
in their shirt-sleeves, with billiard cues in their hands. Dozens
of men with necks swathed in napkins, rushed from
barber-shops, lathered to the eyes or with one cheek clean
shaved and the other still bearing a hairy stubble. Horses broke
from stables, and a frightened dog rushed up a short attic ladder
and out on to a roof, and when his scare was over had not the
nerve to go down again the same way he had gone up. A
prominent editor flew down stairs, in the principal hotel, with
nothing on but one brief undergarment—met a chambermaid,
and exclaimed:

“Oh, what shall I do! Where shall I go!”

She responded with naive serenity:

“If you have no choice, you might try a clothing-store!”

A certain foreign consul's lady was the acknowledged leader
of fashion, and every time she appeared in anything new or
extraordinary, the ladies in the vicinity made a raid on their
husbands' purses and arrayed themselves similarly. One man


Page 425


[Description: 504EAF. Page 425. In-line image of a man and a woman looking out of a window to see a woman running by.]
who had suffered considerably and growled accordingly, was
standing at the window when the shocks came, and the next
instant the consul's wife, just out of the bath, fled by with no
other apology for clothing than—a bath-towel! The sufferer
rose superior to the terrors of the earthquake, and said to his

“Now that is something like! Get out your towel my

The plastering that fell from ceilings in San Francisco that
day, would have covered
several acres of ground. For
some days afterward, groups
of eyeing and pointing men
stood about many a building,
looking at long zig-zag
cracks that extended from
the eaves to the ground.
Four feet of the tops of three
chimneys on one house were
broken square off and turned
around in such a way as to
completely stop the draft.
A crack a hundred feet long
gaped open six inches wide
in the middle of one street
and then shut together again
with such force, as to ridge up the meeting earth like a slender
grave. A lady sitting in her rocking and quaking parlor, saw
the wall part at the ceiling, open and shut twice, like a mouth,
and then-drop the end of a brick on the floor like a tooth. She
was a woman easily disgusted with foolishness, and she arose and
went out of there. One lady who was coming down stairs
was astonished to see a bronze Hercules lean forward on its
pedestal as if to strike her with its club. They both reached
the bottom of the flight at the same time,—the woman insensible
from the fright. Her child, born some little time afterward,
was club-footed. However—on second thought,—if the


Page 426
reader sees any coincidence in this, he must do it at his own

The first shock brought down two or three huge organ-pipes
in one of the churches. The minister, with uplifted hands,
was just closing the services. He glanced up, hesitated, and

“However, we will omit the benediction!”—and the next
instant there was a vacancy in the atmosphere where he had

After the first shock, an Oakland minister said:

“Keep your seats!
There is no better place
to die than this”—

And added, after the

“But outside is good
enough!” He then skipped
out at the back door.

Such another destruction
of mantel ornaments
and toilet bottles as the
earthquake created, San
Francisco never saw before.
There was hardly
a girl or a matron in the
city but suffered losses of
this kind. Suspended pictures were thrown down, but oftener
still, by a curious freak of the earthquake's humor, they were
whirled completely around with their faces to the wall! There
was great difference of opinion, at first, as to the course or
direction the earthquake traveled, but water that splashed out
of various tanks and buckets settled that. Thousands of people
were made so sea-sick by the rolling and pitching of floors and
streets that they were weak and bed-ridden for hours, and some
few for even days afterward.—Hardly an individual escaped
nausea entirely.

The queer earthquake—episodes that formed the staple of


Page 427
San Francisco gossip for the next week would fill a much
larger book than this, and so I will diverge from the subject.

By and by, in the due course of things, I picked up a copy
of the Enterprise one day, and fell under this cruel blow:

Nevada Mines in New York.—G. M. Marshall, Sheba Hurs and Amos H.
Rose, who left San Francisco last July for New York City, with ores from mines
in Pine Wood District, Humboldt County, and on the Reese River range, have
disposed of a mine containing six thousand feet and called the Pine Mountains
Consolidated, for the sum of $3,000,000. The stamps on the deed, which is now
on its way to Humboldt County, from New York, for record, amounted to $3,000,
which is said to be the largest amount of stamps ever placed on one document. A
working capital of $1,000,000 has been paid into the treasury, and machinery has
already been purchased for a large quartz mill, which will be put up as soon as
possible. The stock in this company is all full paid and entirely unassessable.
The ores of the mines in this district somewhat resemble those of the Sheba mine
in Humboldt. Sheba Hurst, the discoverer of the mines, with his friends corralled
all the best leads and all the land and timber they desired before making
public their whereabouts. Ores from there, assayed in this city, showed them to
be exceedingly rich in silver and gold—silver predominating. There is an abundance
of wood and water in the District. We are glad to know that New York
capital has been enlisted in the development of the mines of this region. Having
seen the ores and assays, we are satisfied that the mines of the District are very
valuable—anything but wild-cat.

Once more native imbecility had carried the day, and I had
lost a million! It was the “blind lead” over again.

Let us not dwell on this miserable matter. If I were inventing
these things, I could be wonderfully humorous over them;
but they are too true to be talked of with hearty levity, even
at this distant day.[1] Suffice it that I so lost heart, and so
yielded myself up to repinings and sighings and foolish regrets,
that I neglected my duties and became about worthless, as a
reporter for a brisk newspaper. And at last one of the proprietors
took me aside, with a charity I still remember with considerable
respect, and gave me an opportunity to resign my
berth and so save myself the disgrace of a dismissal.


True, and yet not exactly as given in the above figures, possibly. I saw Marshall,
months afterward, and although he had plenty of money he did not claim
to have captured an entire million. In fact I gathered that he had not then received
$50,000. Beyond that figure his fortune appeared to consist of uncertain
vast expectations rather than prodigious certainties. However, when the above
item appeared in print I put full faith in it, and incontinently wilted and went
to seed under it.