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I LAUNCHED out as a lecturer, now, with great boldness.
I had the field all to myself, for public lectures were almost
an unknown commodity in the Pacific market. They are not
so rare, now, I suppose. I took an old personal friend along
to play agent for me, and for two or three weeks we roamed
through Nevada and California and had a very cheerful time
of it. Two days before I lectured in Virginia City, two stage-coaches
were robbed within two miles of the town. The daring
act was committed just at dawn, by six masked men, who
sprang up alongside the coaches, presented revolvers at the
heads of the drivers and passengers, and commanded a general
dismount. Everybody climbed down, and the robbers took
their watches and every cent they had. Then they took gunpowder
and blew up the express specie boxes and got their
contents. The leader of the robbers was a small, quick-spoken
man, and the fame of his vigorous manner and his intrepidity
was in everybody's mouth when we arrived.

The night after instructing Virginia, I walked over the
desolate “divide” and down to Gold Hill, and lectured there.
The lecture done, I stopped to talk with a friend, and did not
start back till eleven. The “divide” was high, unoccupied
ground, between the towns, the scene of twenty midnight
murders and a hundred robberies. As we climbed up and
stepped out on this eminence, the Gold Hill lights dropped
out of sight at our backs, and the night closed down gloomy


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and dismal. A sharp wind swept the place, too, and chilled
our perspiring bodies through.

“I tell you I don't like this place at night,” said Mike the

“Well, don't speak so loud,” I said. “You needn't remind
anybody that we are here.”

Just then a dim figure approached me from the direction of
Virginia—a man, evidently. He came straight at me, and I
stepped aside to let him pass; he stepped in the way and confronted
me again. Then I saw that he had a mask on and
was holding something in my face—I heard a click-click and
recognized a revolver in dim outline. I pushed the barrel
aside with my hand and said:


He ejaculated sharply:

“Your watch! Your money!”

I said:

“You can have them with pleasure—but take the pistol
away from my face, please. It makes me shiver.”

“No remarks! Hand out your money!”


“Put up your hands! Don't you go for a weapon! Put
'em up! Higher!”

I held them above my head.

A pause. Then:

“Are you going to hand out your money or not?”

I dropped my hands to my pockets and said:

Certainly! I—”

“Put up your hands! Do you want your head blown off?

I put them above my head again.

Another pause.

Are you going to hand out your money or not? Ah-ah—
again? Put up your hands! By George, you want the head
shot off you awful bad!”

“Well, friend, I'm trying my best to please you. You tell


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me to give up my money, and when I reach for it you tell me
to put up my hands. If you would only—. Oh, now—don't!
All six of you at me! That other man will get away while.—
Now please take some of those revolvers out of my face—do,
if you please! Every time one of them clicks, my liver comes
up into my throat! If you have a mother—any of you—or if
any of you have ever had a mother—or a—grandmother—or

“Cheese it! Will you give up your money, or have we
got to—. There-there—none of that! Put up your hands!

“Gentlemen—I know you are gentlemen by your—”

“Silence! If you want to be facetious, young man, there
are times and places more fitting. This is a serious business.”

“You prick the marrow of my opinion. The funerals I
have attended in my time were comedies compared to it.
Now I think—”

“Curse your palaver! Your money!—your money!—
your money! Hold!—put up your hands!”

“Gentlemen, listen to reason. You see how I am situated
—now don't put those pistols so close—I smell the powder.
You see how I am situated. If I had four hands—so that I
could hold up two and—”

“Throttle him! Gag him! Kill him!”

“Gentlemen, don't! Nobody's watching the other fellow.
Why don't some of you—. Ouch! Take it away, please!
Gentlemen, you see that I've got to hold up my hands; and
so I can't take out my money—but if you'll be so kind as to
take it out for me, I will do as much for you some—”

“Search him Beauregard—and stop his jaw with a bullet,
quick, if he wags it again. Help Beauregard, Stonewall.”

Then three of them, with the small, spry leader, adjourned
to Mike and fell to searching him. I was so excited that my
lawless fancy tortured me to ask my two men all manner of
facetious questions about their rebel brother-generals of the
South, but, considering the order they had received, it was
but common prudence to keep still. When everything had


Page 567


[Description: 504EAF. Page 567. In-line image of two men being held up by three other men on the side of the road.]
been taken from me,—watch, money, and a multitude of trifles
of small value,—I supposed I was free, and forthwith put my
cold hands into my empty pockets and began an inoffensive
jig to warm my feet and stir up some latent courage—but instantly
all pistols were at my head, and the order came again:

“Be still! Put up your hands! And keep them up!”

They stood Mike up alongside of me, with strict orders to
keep his hands above his head, too, and then the chief highwayman

“Beauregard, hide behind that boulder; Phil Sheridan,
you hide behind that other one; Stonewall Jackson, put yourself
behind that sage-bush there. Keep your pistols bearing
on these fellows, and if they take down their hands within ten
minutes, or move a single peg, let them have it!”

Then three disappeared in the gloom toward the several
ambushes, and the other three disappeared down the road toward

It was depressingly still, and miserably cold. Now this
whole thing was a practical joke, and the robbers were personal
friends of ours in disguise, and twenty more lay hidden


Page 568
within ten feet of us during the whole operation, listening.
Mike knew all this, and was in the joke, but I suspected nothing
of it. To me it was most uncomfortably genuine.

When we had stood there in the middle of the road five
minutes, like a couple of idiots, with our hands aloft, freezing
to death by inches, Mike's interest in the joke began to wane.
He said:

“The time's up, now, aint it?”

“No, you keep still. Do you want to take any chances with
those bloody savages?”

Presently Mike said:

Now the time's up, anyway. I'm freezing.”

“Well freeze. Better freeze than carry your brains home
in a basket. Maybe the time is up, but how do we know?—
got no watch to tell by. I mean to give them good measure.
I calculate to stand here fifteen minutes or die. Don't you

So, without knowing it, I was making one joker very sick
of his contract. When we took our arms down at last, they
were aching with cold and fatigue, and when we went sneaking
off, the dread I was in that the time might not yet be up
and that we would feel bullets in a moment, was not sufficient
to draw all my attention from the misery that racked my
stiffened body.

The joke of these highwayman friends of ours was mainly a
joke upon themselves; for they had waited for me on the cold
hill-top two full hours before I came, and there was very little
fun in that; they were so chilled that it took them a couple of
weeks to get warm again. Moreover, I never had a thought
that they would kill me to get money which it was so perfectly
easy to get without any such folly, and so they did not
really frighten me bad enough to make their enjoyment worth
the trouble they had taken. I was only afraid that their weapons
would go off accidentally. Their very numbers inspired
me with confidence that no blood would be intentionally spilled.
They were not smart; they ought to have sent only one highwayman,


Page 569


[Description: 504EAF. Page 569. In-line image of a man with a cloth around his jaw and his feet in a tub of warm water.]
with a double-barrelled shot gun, if they desired to
see the author of this volume climb a tree.

However, I suppose that in the long run I got the largest
share of the joke at last; and in a shape not foreseen by the
highwaymen; for the chilly exposure on the “divide” while
I was in a perspiration gave me a cold which developed itself
into a troublesome disease and kept my hands idle some three
months, besides costing me quite a sum in doctor's bills. Since
then I play no practical jokes on people and generally lose my
temper when one is played upon me.

When I returned to San Francisco I projected a pleasure
journey to Japan and thence westward around the world; but a
desire to see home again changed my mind, and I took a berth
in the steamship, bade good-bye to the friendliest land and
livest, heartiest community on our continent, and came by
the way of the Isthmus to New York—a trip that was not
much of a pic-nic excursion, for the cholera broke out among
us on the passage and we buried two or three bodies at sea
every day. I found home a dreary place after my long absence;
for half the children I had known were now wearing


Page 570
[ILLUSTRATION] [Description: 504EAF. Page 570. Tail-piece image of a hat hanging on the wall, that says, 'The End'.] whiskers or waterfalls, and few of the grown people I had been
acquainted with remained at their hearthstones prosperous and
happy—some of them had wandered to other scenes, some were
in jail, and the rest had been hanged. These changes touched
me deeply, and I went away and joined the famous Quaker
City European Excursion and carried my tears to foreign

Thus, after seven years of vicissitudes, ended a “pleasure
trip” to the silver mines of Nevada which had originally been
intended to occupy only three months. However, I usually
miss my calculations further than that.


If the reader thinks he is done, now, and that this book
has no moral to it, he is in error. The moral of it is this: If
you are of any account, stay at home and make your way by
faithful diligence; but if you are “no account,” go away from
home, and then you will have to work, whether you want to
or not. Thus you become a blessing to your friends by ceasing
to be a nuisance to them—if the people you go among
suffer by the operation.