Meet us on:
Entire Site
    Try our fun game

    Dueling book covers…may the best design win!

    Random Quote
    "Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned."

    Subscribe to Our Newsletter

    Follow us on Twitter

    Never miss a good book again! Follow Read Print on Twitter

    Chapter LV

    • Rate it:
    • Average Rating: 5.0 out of 5 based on 5 ratings
    • 5 Favorites on Read Print
    Launch Reading Mode Next Chapter
    Chapter 59
    Previous Chapter
    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 well-nigh 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 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

    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.

    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 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 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 employee, 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 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 it.

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

    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; 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:

    "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-over-heels 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; 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, over-
    looking 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
    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

    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 things this sinking sun had seen
    that day in the east--Vicksburg fallen, and the Union arms victorious at

    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!
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 59
    Previous Chapter
    If you're writing a Mark Twain essay and need some advice, post your Mark Twain essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

    Top 5 Authors

    Top 5 Books

    Book Status
    Want to read

    Are you sure you want to leave this group?