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    Chapter II

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    The first thing we did on that glad evening that landed us at St. Joseph
    was to hunt up the stage-office, and pay a hundred and fifty dollars
    apiece for tickets per overland coach to Carson City, Nevada.

    The next morning, bright and early, we took a hasty breakfast, and
    hurried to the starting-place. Then an inconvenience presented itself
    which we had not properly appreciated before, namely, that one cannot
    make a heavy traveling trunk stand for twenty-five pounds of baggage--
    because it weighs a good deal more. But that was all we could take--
    twenty-five pounds each. So we had to snatch our trunks open, and make a
    selection in a good deal of a hurry. We put our lawful twenty-five
    pounds apiece all in one valise, and shipped the trunks back to St. Louis
    again. It was a sad parting, for now we had no swallow-tail coats and
    white kid gloves to wear at Pawnee receptions in the Rocky Mountains, and
    no stove-pipe hats nor patent-leather boots, nor anything else necessary
    to make life calm and peaceful. We were reduced to a war-footing. Each
    of us put on a rough, heavy suit of clothing, woolen army shirt and
    "stogy" boots included; and into the valise we crowded a few white
    shirts, some under-clothing and such things. My brother, the Secretary,
    took along about four pounds of United States statutes and six pounds of
    Unabridged Dictionary; for we did not know--poor innocents--that such
    things could be bought in San Francisco on one day and received in Carson
    City the next. I was armed to the teeth with a pitiful little Smith &
    Wesson's seven-shooter, which carried a ball like a homoeopathic pill,
    and it took the whole seven to make a dose for an adult. But I thought
    it was grand. It appeared to me to be a dangerous weapon. It only had
    one fault--you could not hit anything with it. One of our "conductors"
    practiced awhile on a cow with it, and as long as she stood still and
    behaved herself she was safe; but as soon as she went to moving about,
    and he got to shooting at other things, she came to grief. The Secretary
    had a small-sized Colt's revolver strapped around him for protection
    against the Indians, and to guard against accidents he carried it
    uncapped. Mr. George Bemis was dismally formidable. George Bemis was
    our fellow-traveler.

    We had never seen him before. He wore in his belt an old original
    "Allen" revolver, such as irreverent people called a "pepper-box." Simply
    drawing the trigger back, cocked and fired the pistol. As the trigger
    came back, the hammer would begin to rise and the barrel to turn over,
    and presently down would drop the hammer, and away would speed the ball.
    To aim along the turning barrel and hit the thing aimed at was a feat
    which was probably never done with an "Allen" in the world. But George's
    was a reliable weapon, nevertheless, because, as one of the stage-drivers
    afterward said, "If she didn't get what she went after, she would fetch
    something else." And so she did. She went after a deuce of spades nailed
    against a tree, once, and fetched a mule standing about thirty yards to
    the left of it. Bemis did not want the mule; but the owner came out with
    a double-barreled shotgun and persuaded him to buy it, anyhow. It was a
    cheerful weapon--the "Allen." Sometimes all its six barrels would go off
    at once, and then there was no safe place in all the region round about,
    but behind it.

    We took two or three blankets for protection against frosty weather in
    the mountains. In the matter of luxuries we were modest--we took none
    along but some pipes and five pounds of smoking tobacco. We had two
    large canteens to carry water in, between stations on the Plains, and we
    also took with us a little shot-bag of silver coin for daily expenses in
    the way of breakfasts and dinners.

    By eight o'clock everything was ready, and we were on the other side of
    the river. We jumped into the stage, the driver cracked his whip, and we
    bowled away and left "the States" behind us. It was a superb summer
    morning, and all the landscape was brilliant with sunshine. There was a
    freshness and breeziness, too, and an exhilarating sense of emancipation
    from all sorts of cares and responsibilities, that almost made us feel
    that the years we had spent in the close, hot city, toiling and slaving,
    had been wasted and thrown away. We were spinning along through Kansas,
    and in the course of an hour and a half we were fairly abroad on the
    great Plains. Just here the land was rolling--a grand sweep of regular
    elevations and depressions as far as the eye could reach--like the
    stately heave and swell of the ocean's bosom after a storm. And
    everywhere were cornfields, accenting with squares of deeper green, this
    limitless expanse of grassy land. But presently this sea upon dry ground
    was to lose its "rolling" character and stretch away for seven hundred
    miles as level as a floor!

    Our coach was a great swinging and swaying stage, of the most sumptuous
    description--an imposing cradle on wheels. It was drawn by six handsome
    horses, and by the side of the driver sat the "conductor," the legitimate
    captain of the craft; for it was his business to take charge and care of
    the mails, baggage, express matter, and passengers. We three were the
    only passengers, this trip. We sat on the back seat, inside. About all
    the rest of the coach was full of mail bags--for we had three days'
    delayed mails with us. Almost touching our knees, a perpendicular wall
    of mail matter rose up to the roof. There was a great pile of it
    strapped on top of the stage, and both the fore and hind boots were full.
    We had twenty-seven hundred pounds of it aboard, the driver said--"a
    little for Brigham, and Carson, and 'Frisco, but the heft of it for the
    Injuns, which is powerful troublesome 'thout they get plenty of truck to
    read." But as he just then got up a fearful convulsion of his countenance
    which was suggestive of a wink being swallowed by an earthquake, we
    guessed that his remark was intended to be facetious, and to mean that we
    would unload the most of our mail matter somewhere on the Plains and
    leave it to the Indians, or whosoever wanted it.

    We changed horses every ten miles, all day long, and fairly flew over the
    hard, level road. We jumped out and stretched our legs every time the
    coach stopped, and so the night found us still vivacious and unfatigued.

    After supper a woman got in, who lived about fifty miles further on, and
    we three had to take turns at sitting outside with the driver and
    conductor. Apparently she was not a talkative woman. She would sit
    there in the gathering twilight and fasten her steadfast eyes on a
    mosquito rooting into her arm, and slowly she would raise her other hand
    till she had got his range, and then she would launch a slap at him that
    would have jolted a cow; and after that she would sit and contemplate the
    corpse with tranquil satisfaction--for she never missed her mosquito; she
    was a dead shot at short range. She never removed a carcase, but left
    them there for bait. I sat by this grim Sphynx and watched her kill
    thirty or forty mosquitoes--watched her, and waited for her to say
    something, but she never did. So I finally opened the conversation
    myself. I said:

    "The mosquitoes are pretty bad, about here, madam."

    "You bet!"

    "What did I understand you to say, madam?"

    "You BET!"

    Then she cheered up, and faced around and said:

    "Danged if I didn't begin to think you fellers was deef and dumb. I did,
    b'gosh. Here I've sot, and sot, and sot, a-bust'n muskeeters and
    wonderin' what was ailin' ye. Fust I thot you was deef and dumb, then I
    thot you was sick or crazy, or suthin', and then by and by I begin to
    reckon you was a passel of sickly fools that couldn't think of nothing to
    say. Wher'd ye come from?"

    The Sphynx was a Sphynx no more! The fountains of her great deep were
    broken up, and she rained the nine parts of speech forty days and forty
    nights, metaphorically speaking, and buried us under a desolating deluge
    of trivial gossip that left not a crag or pinnacle of rejoinder
    projecting above the tossing waste of dislocated grammar and decomposed
    pronunciation!

    How we suffered, suffered, suffered! She went on, hour after hour, till
    I was sorry I ever opened the mosquito question and gave her a start.
    She never did stop again until she got to her journey's end toward
    daylight; and then she stirred us up as she was leaving the stage (for we
    were nodding, by that time), and said:

    "Now you git out at Cottonwood, you fellers, and lay over a couple o'
    days, and I'll be along some time to-night, and if I can do ye any good
    by edgin' in a word now and then, I'm right thar. Folks'll tell you't
    I've always ben kind o' offish and partic'lar for a gal that's raised in
    the woods, and I am, with the rag-tag and bob-tail, and a gal has to be,
    if she wants to be anything, but when people comes along which is my
    equals, I reckon I'm a pretty sociable heifer after all."

    We resolved not to "lay by at Cottonwood."
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