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    Chapter LVIII

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    Chapter 62
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    For a few months I enjoyed what to me was an entirely new phase of
    existence--a butterfly idleness; nothing to do, nobody to be responsible
    to, and untroubled with financial uneasiness. I fell in love with the
    most cordial and sociable city in the Union. After the sage-brush and
    alkali deserts of Washoe, San Francisco was Paradise to me. I lived at
    the best hotel, exhibited my clothes in the most conspicuous places,
    infested the opera, and learned to seem enraptured with music which
    oftener afflicted my ignorant ear than enchanted it, if I had had the
    vulgar honesty to confess it. However, I suppose I was not greatly worse
    than the most of my countrymen in that. I had longed to be a butterfly,
    and I was one at last. I attended private parties in sumptuous evening
    dress, simpered and aired my graces like a born beau, and polkad and
    schottisched with a step peculiar to myself--and the kangaroo. In a
    word, I kept the due state of a man worth a hundred thousand dollars
    (prospectively,) and likely to reach absolute affluence when that silver-
    mine sale should be ultimately achieved in the East. I spent money with
    a free hand, and meantime watched the stock sales with an interested eye
    and looked to see what might happen in Nevada.

    Something very important happened. The property holders of Nevada voted
    against the State Constitution; but the folks who had nothing to lose
    were in the majority, and carried the measure over their heads. But
    after all it did not immediately look like a disaster, though
    unquestionably it was one I hesitated, calculated the chances, and then
    concluded not to sell. Stocks went on rising; speculation went mad;
    bankers, merchants, lawyers, doctors, mechanics, laborers, even the very
    washerwomen and servant girls, were putting up their earnings on silver
    stocks, and every sun that rose in the morning went down on paupers
    enriched and rich men beggared. What a gambling carnival it was! Gould
    and Curry soared to six thousand three hundred dollars a foot! And then
    --all of a sudden, out went the bottom and everything and everybody went
    to ruin and destruction! The wreck was complete.

    The bubble scarcely left a microscopic moisture behind it. I was an
    early beggar and a thorough one. My hoarded stocks were not worth the
    paper they were printed on. I threw them all away. I, the cheerful
    idiot that had been squandering money like water, and thought myself
    beyond the reach of misfortune, had not now as much as fifty dollars when
    I gathered together my various debts and paid them. I removed from the
    hotel to a very private boarding house. I took a reporter's berth and
    went to work. I was not entirely broken in spirit, for I was building
    confidently on the sale of the silver mine in the east. But I could not
    hear from Dan. My letters miscarried or were not answered.

    One day I did not feel vigorous and remained away from the office. The
    next day I went down toward noon as usual, and found a note on my desk
    which had been there twenty-four hours. It was signed "Marshall"--the
    Virginia reporter--and contained a request that I should call at the
    hotel and see him and a friend or two that night, as they would sail for
    the east in the morning. A postscript added that their errand was a big
    mining speculation! I was hardly ever so sick in my life. I abused
    myself for leaving Virginia and entrusting to another man a matter I
    ought to have attended to myself; I abused myself for remaining away from
    the office on the one day of all the year that I should have been there.
    And thus berating myself I trotted a mile to the steamer wharf and
    arrived just in time to be too late. The ship was in the stream and
    under way.

    I comforted myself with the thought that may be the speculation would
    amount to nothing--poor comfort at best--and then went back to my
    slavery, resolved to put up with my thirty-five dollars a week and forget
    all about it.

    A month afterward I enjoyed my first earthquake. It was one which was
    long called the "great" earthquake, and is doubtless so distinguished
    till this day. It was just after noon, on a bright October day. I was
    coming down Third street. The only objects in motion anywhere in sight
    in that thickly built and populous quarter, were a man in a buggy behind
    me, and a street car wending slowly up the cross street. Otherwise, all
    was solitude and a Sabbath stillness. As I turned the corner, around a
    frame house, there was a great rattle and jar, and it occurred to me that
    here was an item!--no doubt a fight in that house. Before I could turn
    and seek the door, there came a really terrific shock; the ground seemed
    to roll under me in waves, interrupted by a violent joggling up and down,
    and there was a heavy grinding noise as of brick houses rubbing together.
    I fell up against the frame house and hurt my elbow. I knew what it was,
    now, and from mere reportorial instinct, nothing else, took out my watch
    and noted the time of day; at that moment a third and still severer shock
    came, and as I reeled about on the pavement trying to keep my footing,
    I saw a sight! The entire front of a tall four-story brick building in
    Third street sprung outward like a door and fell sprawling across the
    street, raising a dust like a great volume of smoke! And here came the
    buggy--overboard went the man, and in less time than I can tell it the
    vehicle was distributed in small fragments along three hundred yards of
    street.

    One could have fancied that somebody had fired a charge of chair-rounds
    and rags down the thoroughfare. The street car had stopped, the horses
    were rearing and plunging, the passengers were pouring out at both ends,
    and one fat man had crashed half way through a glass window on one side
    of the car, got wedged fast and was squirming and screaming like an
    impaled madman. Every door, of every house, as far as the eye could
    reach, was vomiting a stream of human beings; and almost before one could
    execute a wink and begin another, there was a massed multitude of people
    stretching in endless procession down every street my position commanded.
    Never was solemn solitude turned into teeming life quicker.

    Of the wonders wrought by "the great earthquake," these were all that
    came under my eye; but the tricks it did, elsewhere, and far and wide
    over the town, made toothsome gossip for nine days.

    The destruction of property was trifling--the injury to it was wide-
    spread and somewhat serious.

    The "curiosities" of the earthquake were simply endless. Gentlemen and
    ladies who were sick, or were taking a siesta, or had dissipated till a
    late hour and were making up lost sleep, thronged into the public streets
    in all sorts of queer apparel, and some without any at all. One woman
    who had been washing a naked child, ran down the street holding it by the
    ankles as if it were a dressed turkey. Prominent citizens who were
    supposed to keep the Sabbath strictly, rushed out of saloons in their
    shirt-sleeves, with billiard cues in their hands. Dozens of men with
    necks swathed in napkins, rushed from barber-shops, lathered to the eyes
    or with one cheek clean shaved and the other still bearing a hairy
    stubble. Horses broke from stables, and a frightened dog rushed up a
    short attic ladder and out on to a roof, and when his scare was over had
    not the nerve to go down again the same way he had gone up.

    A prominent editor flew down stairs, in the principal hotel, with nothing
    on but one brief undergarment--met a chambermaid, and exclaimed:

    "Oh, what shall I do! Where shall I go!"

    She responded with naive serenity:

    "If you have no choice, you might try a clothing-store!"

    A certain foreign consul's lady was the acknowledged leader of fashion,
    and every time she appeared in anything new or extraordinary, the ladies
    in the vicinity made a raid on their husbands' purses and arrayed
    themselves similarly. One man who had suffered considerably and growled
    accordingly, was standing at the window when the shocks came, and the
    next instant the consul's wife, just out of the bath, fled by with no
    other apology for clothing than--a bath-towel! The sufferer rose
    superior to the terrors of the earthquake, and said to his wife:

    "Now that is something like! Get out your towel my dear!"

    The plastering that fell from ceilings in San Francisco that day, would
    have covered several acres of ground. For some days afterward, groups of
    eyeing and pointing men stood about many a building, looking at long zig-
    zag cracks that extended from the eaves to the ground. Four feet of the
    tops of three chimneys on one house were broken square off and turned
    around in such a way as to completely stop the draft.

    A crack a hundred feet long gaped open six inches wide in the middle of
    one street and then shut together again with such force, as to ridge up
    the meeting earth like a slender grave. A lady sitting in her rocking
    and quaking parlor, saw the wall part at the ceiling, open and shut
    twice, like a mouth, and then-drop the end of a brick on the floor like a
    tooth. She was a woman easily disgusted with foolishness, and she arose
    and went out of there. One lady who was coming down stairs was
    astonished to see a bronze Hercules lean forward on its pedestal as if to
    strike her with its club. They both reached the bottom of the flight at
    the same time,--the woman insensible from the fright. Her child, born
    some little time afterward, was club-footed. However--on second
    thought,--if the reader sees any coincidence in this, he must do it at
    his own risk.

    The first shock brought down two or three huge organ-pipes in one of the
    churches. The minister, with uplifted hands, was just closing the
    services. He glanced up, hesitated, and said:

    "However, we will omit the benediction!"--and the next instant there was
    a vacancy in the atmosphere where he had stood.

    After the first shock, an Oakland minister said:

    "Keep your seats! There is no better place to die than this"--

    And added, after the third:

    "But outside is good enough!" He then skipped out at the back door.

    Such another destruction of mantel ornaments and toilet bottles as the
    earthquake created, San Francisco never saw before. There was hardly a
    girl or a matron in the city but suffered losses of this kind. Suspended
    pictures were thrown down, but oftener still, by a curious freak of the
    earthquake's humor, they were whirled completely around with their faces
    to the wall! There was great difference of opinion, at first, as to the
    course or direction the earthquake traveled, but water that splashed out
    of various tanks and buckets settled that. Thousands of people were made
    so sea-sick by the rolling and pitching of floors and streets that they
    were weak and bed-ridden for hours, and some few for even days
    afterward.--Hardly an individual escaped nausea entirely.

    The queer earthquake--episodes that formed the staple of San Francisco
    gossip for the next week would fill a much larger book than this, and so
    I will diverge from the subject.

    By and by, in the due course of things, I picked up a copy of the
    Enterprise one day, and fell under this cruel blow:

    NEVADA MINES IN NEW YORK.--G. M. Marshall, Sheba Hurs and Amos H.
    Rose, who left San Francisco last July for New York City, with ores
    from mines in Pine Wood District, Humboldt County, and on the Reese
    River range, have disposed of a mine containing six thousand feet
    and called the Pine Mountains Consolidated, for the sum of
    $3,000,000. The stamps on the deed, which is now on its way to
    Humboldt County, from New York, for record, amounted to $3,000,
    which is said to be the largest amount of stamps ever placed on one
    document. A working capital of $1,000,000 has been paid into the
    treasury, and machinery has already been purchased for a large
    quartz mill, which will be put up as soon as possible. The stock in
    this company is all full paid and entirely unassessable. The ores
    of the mines in this district somewhat resemble those of the Sheba
    mine in Humboldt. Sheba Hurst, the discoverer of the mines, with
    his friends corralled all the best leads and all the land and timber
    they desired before making public their whereabouts. Ores from
    there, assayed in this city, showed them to be exceedingly rich in
    silver and gold--silver predominating. There is an abundance of
    wood and water in the District. We are glad to know that New York
    capital has been enlisted in the development of the mines of this
    region. Having seen the ores and assays, we are satisfied that the
    mines of the District are very valuable--anything but wild-cat.

    Once more native imbecility had carried the day, and I had lost a
    million! It was the "blind lead" over again.

    Let us not dwell on this miserable matter. If I were inventing these
    things, I could be wonderfully humorous over them; but they are too true
    to be talked of with hearty levity, even at this distant day. [True, and
    yet not exactly as given in the above figures, possibly. I saw Marshall,
    months afterward, and although he had plenty of money he did not claim to
    have captured an entire million. In fact I gathered that he had not then
    received $50,000. Beyond that figure his fortune appeared to consist of
    uncertain vast expectations rather than prodigious certainties. However,
    when the above item appeared in print I put full faith in it, and
    incontinently wilted and went to seed under it.] Suffice it that I so
    lost heart, and so yielded myself up to repinings and sighings and
    foolish regrets, that I neglected my duties and became about worthless,
    as a reporter for a brisk newspaper. And at last one of the proprietors
    took me aside, with a charity I still remember with considerable respect,
    and gave me an opportunity to resign my berth and so save myself the
    disgrace of a dismissal.
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    Chapter 62
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