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    Chapter I

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    My brother had just been appointed Secretary of Nevada Territory--an
    office of such majesty that it concentrated in itself the duties and
    dignities of Treasurer, Comptroller, Secretary of State, and Acting
    Governor in the Governor's absence. A salary of eighteen hundred dollars
    a year and the title of "Mr. Secretary," gave to the great position an
    air of wild and imposing grandeur. I was young and ignorant, and I
    envied my brother. I coveted his distinction and his financial splendor,
    but particularly and especially the long, strange journey he was going to
    make, and the curious new world he was going to explore. He was going to
    travel! I never had been away from home, and that word "travel" had a
    seductive charm for me. Pretty soon he would be hundreds and hundreds of
    miles away on the great plains and deserts, and among the mountains of
    the Far West, and would see buffaloes and Indians, and prairie dogs, and
    antelopes, and have all kinds of adventures, and may be get hanged or
    scalped, and have ever such a fine time, and write home and tell us all
    about it, and be a hero. And he would see the gold mines and the silver
    mines, and maybe go about of an afternoon when his work was done, and
    pick up two or three pailfuls of shining slugs, and nuggets of gold and
    silver on the hillside. And by and by he would become very rich, and
    return home by sea, and be able to talk as calmly about San Francisco and
    the ocean, and "the isthmus" as if it was nothing of any consequence to
    have seen those marvels face to face. What I suffered in contemplating
    his happiness, pen cannot describe. And so, when he offered me, in cold
    blood, the sublime position of private secretary under him, it appeared
    to me that the heavens and the earth passed away, and the firmament was
    rolled together as a scroll! I had nothing more to desire. My
    contentment was complete.

    At the end of an hour or two I was ready for the journey. Not much
    packing up was necessary, because we were going in the overland stage
    from the Missouri frontier to Nevada, and passengers were only allowed a
    small quantity of baggage apiece. There was no Pacific railroad in those
    fine times of ten or twelve years ago--not a single rail of it.
    I only proposed to stay in Nevada three months--I had no thought of
    staying longer than that. I meant to see all I could that was new and
    strange, and then hurry home to business. I little thought that I would
    not see the end of that three-month pleasure excursion for six or seven
    uncommonly long years!

    I dreamed all night about Indians, deserts, and silver bars, and in due
    time, next day, we took shipping at the St. Louis wharf on board a
    steamboat bound up the Missouri River.

    We were six days going from St. Louis to "St. Jo."--a trip that was so
    dull, and sleepy, and eventless that it has left no more impression on my
    memory than if its duration had been six minutes instead of that many
    days. No record is left in my mind, now, concerning it, but a confused
    jumble of savage-looking snags, which we deliberately walked over with
    one wheel or the other; and of reefs which we butted and butted, and then
    retired from and climbed over in some softer place; and of sand-bars
    which we roosted on occasionally, and rested, and then got out our
    crutches and sparred over.

    In fact, the boat might almost as well have gone to St. Jo. by land, for
    she was walking most of the time, anyhow--climbing over reefs and
    clambering over snags patiently and laboriously all day long. The
    captain said she was a "bully" boat, and all she wanted was more "shear"
    and a bigger wheel. I thought she wanted a pair of stilts, but I had the
    deep sagacity not to say so.
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