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    Chapter LVII

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    Chapter 61
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    It was in this Sacramento Valley, just referred to, that a deal of the
    most lucrative of the early gold mining was done, and you may still see,
    in places, its grassy slopes and levels torn and guttered and disfigured
    by the avaricious spoilers of fifteen and twenty years ago. You may see
    such disfigurements far and wide over California--and in some such
    places, where only meadows and forests are visible--not a living
    creature, not a house, no stick or stone or remnant of a ruin, and not a
    sound, not even a whisper to disturb the Sabbath stillness--you will find
    it hard to believe that there stood at one time a fiercely-flourishing
    little city, of two thousand or three thousand souls, with its newspaper,
    fire company, brass band, volunteer militia, bank, hotels, noisy Fourth
    of July processions and speeches, gambling hells crammed with tobacco
    smoke, profanity, and rough-bearded men of all nations and colors, with
    tables heaped with gold dust sufficient for the revenues of a German
    principality--streets crowded and rife with business--town lots worth
    four hundred dollars a front foot--labor, laughter, music, dancing,
    swearing, fighting, shooting, stabbing--a bloody inquest and a man for
    breakfast every morning--everything that delights and adorns existence--
    all the appointments and appurtenances of a thriving and prosperous and
    promising young city,--and now nothing is left of it all but a lifeless,
    homeless solitude. The men are gone, the houses have vanished, even the
    name of the place is forgotten. In no other land, in modern times, have
    towns so absolutely died and disappeared, as in the old mining regions of
    California.

    It was a driving, vigorous, restless population in those days. It was a
    curious population. It was the only population of the kind that the
    world has ever seen gathered together, and it is not likely that the
    world will ever see its like again. For observe, it was an assemblage of
    two hundred thousand young men--not simpering, dainty, kid-gloved
    weaklings, but stalwart, muscular, dauntless young braves, brimful of
    push and energy, and royally endowed with every attribute that goes to
    make up a peerless and magnificent manhood--the very pick and choice of
    the world's glorious ones. No women, no children, no gray and stooping
    veterans,--none but erect, bright-eyed, quick-moving, strong-handed young
    giants--the strangest population, the finest population, the most gallant
    host that ever trooped down the startled solitudes of an unpeopled land.
    And where are they now? Scattered to the ends of the earth--or
    prematurely aged and decrepit--or shot or stabbed in street affrays--or
    dead of disappointed hopes and broken hearts--all gone, or nearly all--
    victims devoted upon the altar of the golden calf--the noblest holocaust
    that ever wafted its sacrificial incense heavenward. It is pitiful to
    think upon.

    It was a splendid population--for all the slow, sleepy, sluggish-brained
    sloths staid at home--you never find that sort of people among pioneers--
    you cannot build pioneers out of that sort of material. It was that
    population that gave to California a name for getting up astounding
    enterprises and rushing them through with a magnificent dash and daring
    and a recklessness of cost or consequences, which she bears unto this
    day--and when she projects a new surprise, the grave world smiles as
    usual, and says "Well, that is California all over."

    But they were rough in those times! They fairly reveled in gold, whisky,
    fights, and fandangoes, and were unspeakably happy. The honest miner
    raked from a hundred to a thousand dollars out of his claim a day, and
    what with the gambling dens and the other entertainments, he hadn't a
    cent the next morning, if he had any sort of luck. They cooked their own
    bacon and beans, sewed on their own buttons, washed their own shirts--
    blue woollen ones; and if a man wanted a fight on his hands without any
    annoying delay, all he had to do was to appear in public in a white shirt
    or a stove-pipe hat, and he would be accommodated. For those people
    hated aristocrats. They had a particular and malignant animosity toward
    what they called a "biled shirt."

    It was a wild, free, disorderly, grotesque society! Men--only swarming
    hosts of stalwart men--nothing juvenile, nothing feminine, visible
    anywhere!

    In those days miners would flock in crowds to catch a glimpse of that
    rare and blessed spectacle, a woman! Old inhabitants tell how, in a
    certain camp, the news went abroad early in the morning that a woman was
    come! They had seen a calico dress hanging out of a wagon down at the
    camping-ground--sign of emigrants from over the great plains. Everybody
    went down there, and a shout went up when an actual, bona fide dress was
    discovered fluttering in the wind! The male emigrant was visible. The
    miners said:

    "Fetch her out!"

    He said: "It is my wife, gentlemen--she is sick--we have been robbed of
    money, provisions, everything, by the Indians--we want to rest."

    "Fetch her out! We've got to see her!"

    "But, gentlemen, the poor thing, she--"

    "FETCH HER OUT!"

    He "fetched her out," and they swung their hats and sent up three rousing
    cheers and a tiger; and they crowded around and gazed at her, and touched
    her dress, and listened to her voice with the look of men who listened to
    a memory rather than a present reality--and then they collected twenty-
    five hundred dollars in gold and gave it to the man, and swung their hats
    again and gave three more cheers, and went home satisfied.

    Once I dined in San Francisco with the family of a pioneer, and talked
    with his daughter, a young lady whose first experience in San Francisco
    was an adventure, though she herself did not remember it, as she was only
    two or three years old at the time. Her father said that, after landing
    from the ship, they were walking up the street, a servant leading the
    party with the little girl in her arms. And presently a huge miner,
    bearded, belted, spurred, and bristling with deadly weapons--just down
    from a long campaign in the mountains, evidently-barred the way, stopped
    the servant, and stood gazing, with a face all alive with gratification
    and astonishment. Then he said, reverently:

    "Well, if it ain't a child!" And then he snatched a little leather sack
    out of his pocket and said to the servant:

    "There's a hundred and fifty dollars in dust, there, and I'll give it to
    you to let me kiss the child!"

    That anecdote is true.

    But see how things change. Sitting at that dinner-table, listening to
    that anecdote, if I had offered double the money for the privilege of
    kissing the same child, I would have been refused. Seventeen added years
    have far more than doubled the price.

    And while upon this subject I will remark that once in Star City, in the
    Humboldt Mountains, I took my place in a sort of long, post-office single
    file of miners, to patiently await my chance to peep through a crack in
    the cabin and get a sight of the splendid new sensation--a genuine, live
    Woman! And at the end of half of an hour my turn came, and I put my eye
    to the crack, and there she was, with one arm akimbo, and tossing flap-
    jacks in a frying-pan with the other.

    And she was one hundred and sixty-five [Being in calmer mood, now, I
    voluntarily knock off a hundred from that.--M.T.] years old, and hadn't a
    tooth in her head.
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