The Silverado Squatters

Stevenson, Robert Louis
Published: 1883
Categorie(s): Non-Fiction
Source: http://gutenberg.org
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About Stevenson:
Robert Louis (Balfour) Stevenson (November 13, 1850–December 3,
1894), was a Scottish novelist, poet, and travel writer, and a leading rep-
resentative of Neo-romanticism in English literature. He was the man
who "seemed to pick the right word up on the point of his pen, like a
man playing spillikins", as G. K. Chesterton put it. He was also greatly
admired by many authors, including Jorge Luis Borges, Ernest Heming-
way, Rudyard Kipling and Vladimir Nabokov. Most modernist writers
dismissed him, however, because he was popular and did not write
within their narrow definition of literature. It is only recently that critics
have begun to look beyond Stevenson's popularity and allow him a place
in the canon. Source: Wikipedia
Also available on Feedbooks for Stevenson:
• Treasure Island (1883)
• Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886)
• Kidnapped (1886)
• The Black Arrow (1884)
• The New Arabian Nights (1882)
• Essays in the Art of Writing (1905)
• A Christmas Sermon (1900)
• The Master of Ballantrae (1889)
Note: This book is brought to you by Feedbooks
http://www.feedbooks.com
Strictly for personal use, do not use this file for commercial purposes.
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The scene of this little book is on a high mountain. There are, indeed,
many higher; there are many of a nobler outline. It is no place of pilgrim-
age for the summary globe-trotter; but to one who lives upon its sides,
Mount Saint Helena soon becomes a centre of interest. It is the Mont
Blanc of one section of the Californian Coast Range, none of its near
neighbours rising to one-half its altitude. It looks down on much green,
intricate country. It feeds in the spring-time many splashing brooks.
From its summit you must have an excellent lesson of geography: seeing,
to the south, San Francisco Bay, with Tamalpais on the one hand and
Monte Diablo on the other; to the west and thirty miles away, the open
ocean; eastward, across the corn-lands and thick tule swamps of Sacra-
mento Valley, to where the Central Pacific railroad begins to climb the
sides of the Sierras; and northward, for what I know, the white head of
Shasta looking down on Oregon. Three counties, Napa County, Lake
County, and Sonoma County, march across its cliffy shoulders. Its naked
peak stands nearly four thousand five hundred feet above the sea; its
sides are fringed with forest; and the soil, where it is bare, glows warm
with cinnabar.
Life in its shadow goes rustically forward. Bucks, and bears, and rattle-
snakes, and former mining operations, are the staple of men’s talk. Agri-
culture has only begun to mount above the valley. And though in a few
years from now the whole district may be smiling with farms, passing
trains shaking the mountain to the heart, many-windowed hotels light-
ing up the night like factories, and a prosperous city occupying the site
of sleepy Calistoga; yet in the mean time, around the foot of that moun-
tain the silence of nature reigns in a great measure unbroken, and the
people of hill and valley go sauntering about their business as in the
days before the flood.
To reach Mount Saint Helena from San Francisco, the traveller has
twice to cross the bay: once by the busy Oakland Ferry, and again, after
an hour or so of the railway, from Vallejo junction to Vallejo. Thence he
takes rail once more to mount the long green strath of Napa Valley.
In all the contractions and expansions of that inland sea, the Bay of San
Francisco, there can be few drearier scenes than the Vallejo Ferry. Bald
shores and a low, bald islet inclose the sea; through the narrows the tide
bubbles, muddy like a river. When we made the passage (bound, al-
though yet we knew it not, for Silverado) the steamer jumped, and the
black buoys were dancing in the jabble; the ocean breeze blew killing
chill; and, although the upper sky was still unflecked with vapour, the
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sea fogs were pouring in from seaward, over the hilltops of Marin
county, in one great, shapeless, silver cloud.
South Vallejo is typical of many Californian towns. It was a blunder;
the site has proved untenable; and, although it is still such a young place
by the scale of Europe, it has already begun to be deserted for its neigh-
bour and namesake, North Vallejo. A long pier, a number of drinking sa-
loons, a hotel of a great size, marshy pools where the frogs keep up their
croaking, and even at high noon the entire absence of any human face or
voice - these are the marks of South Vallejo. Yet there was a tall building
beside the pier, labelled the Star Flour Mills; and sea-going, full-rigged
ships lay close along shore, waiting for their cargo. Soon these would be
plunging round the Horn, soon the flour from the Star Flour Mills would
be landed on the wharves of Liverpool. For that, too, is one of England’s
outposts; thither, to this gaunt mill, across the Atlantic and Pacific deeps
and round about the icy Horn, this crowd of great, three-masted, deep-
sea ships come, bringing nothing, and return with bread.
The Frisby House, for that was the name of the hotel, was a place of
fallen fortunes, like the town. It was now given up to labourers, and
partly ruinous. At dinner there was the ordinary display of what is
called in the west a two-bit house: the tablecloth checked red and white,
the plague of flies, the wire hencoops over the dishes, the great variety
and invariable vileness of the food and the rough coatless men devoting
it in silence. In our bedroom, the stove would not burn, though it would
smoke; and while one window would not open, the other would not
shut. There was a view on a bit of empty road, a few dark houses, a don-
key wandering with its shadow on a slope, and a blink of sea, with a tall
ship lying anchored in the moonlight. All about that dreary inn frogs
sang their ungainly chorus.
Early the next morning we mounted the hill along a wooden footway,
bridging one marish spot after another. Here and there, as we ascended,
we passed a house embowered in white roses. More of the bay became
apparent, and soon the blue peak of Tamalpais rose above the green
level of the island opposite. It told us we were still but a little way from
the city of the Golden Gates, already, at that hour, beginning to awake
among the sand-hills. It called to us over the waters as with the voice of a
bird. Its stately head, blue as a sapphire on the paler azure of the sky,
spoke to us of wider outlooks and the bright Pacific. For Tamalpais
stands sentry, like a lighthouse, over the Golden Gates, between the bay
and the open ocean, and looks down indifferently on both. Even as we
saw and hailed it from Vallejo, seamen, far out at sea, were scanning it
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with shaded eyes; and, as if to answer to the thought, one of the great
ships below began silently to clothe herself with white sails, homeward
bound for England.
For some way beyond Vallejo the railway led us through bald green
pastures. On the west the rough highlands of Marin shut off the ocean; in
the midst, in long, straggling, gleaming arms, the bay died out among
the grass; there were few trees and few enclosures; the sun shone wide
over open uplands, the displumed hills stood clear against the sky. But
by-and-by these hills began to draw nearer on either hand, and first
thicket and then wood began to clothe their sides; and soon we were
away from all signs of the sea’s neighbourhood, mounting an inland, ir-
rigated valley. A great variety of oaks stood, now severally, now in a be-
coming grove, among the fields and vineyards. The towns were compact,
in about equal proportions, of bright, new wooden houses and great and
growing forest trees; and the chapel bell on the engine sounded most
festally that sunny Sunday, as we drew up at one green town after an-
other, with the townsfolk trooping in their Sunday’s best to see the
strangers, with the sun sparkling on the clean houses, and great domes
of foliage humming overhead in the breeze.
This pleasant Napa Valley is, at its north end, blockaded by our moun-
tain. There, at Calistoga, the railroad ceases, and the traveller who in-
tends faring farther, to the Geysers or to the springs in Lake County,
must cross the spurs of the mountain by stage. Thus, Mount Saint Helena
is not only a summit, but a frontier; and, up to the time of writing, it has
stayed the progress of the iron horse.
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Part 1
IN THE VALLEY
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Chapter 1
CALISTOGA
It is difficult for a European to imagine Calistoga, the whole place is so
new, and of such an accidental pattern; the very name, I hear, was inven-
ted at a supper-party by the man who found the springs.
The railroad and the highway come up the valley about parallel to one
another. The street of Calistoga joins the perpendicular to both - a wide
street, with bright, clean, low houses, here and there a verandah over the
sidewalk, here and there a horse-post, here and there lounging towns-
folk. Other streets are marked out, and most likely named; for these
towns in the New World begin with a firm resolve to grow larger, Wash-
ington and Broadway, and then First and Second, and so forth, being
boldly plotted out as soon as the community indulges in a plan. But, in
the meanwhile, all the life and most of the houses of Calistoga are con-
centrated upon that street between the railway station and the road. I
never heard it called by any name, but I will hazard a guess that it is
either Washington or Broadway. Here are the blacksmith’s, the chem-
ist’s, the general merchant’s, and Kong Sam Kee, the Chinese laundry-
man’s; here, probably, is the office of the local paper (for the place has a
paper - they all have papers); and here certainly is one of the hotels,
Cheeseborough’s, whence the daring Foss, a man dear to legend, starts
his horses for the Geysers.
It must be remembered that we are here in a land of stage-drivers and
highwaymen: a land, in that sense, like England a hundred years ago.
The highway robber - road-agent, he is quaintly called - is still busy in
these parts. The fame of Vasquez is still young. Only a few years go, the
Lakeport stage was robbed a mile or two from Calistoga. In 1879, the
dentist of Mendocino City, fifty miles away upon the coast, suddenly
threw off the garments of his trade, like Grindoff, in The Miller and his
Men, and flamed forth in his second dress as a captain of banditti. A
great robbery was followed by a long chase, a chase of days if not of
weeks, among the intricate hill-country; and the chase was followed by
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much desultory fighting, in which several - and the dentist, I believe,
amongst the number - bit the dust. The grass was springing for the first
time, nourished upon their blood, when I arrived in Calistoga. I am re-
minded of another highwayman of that same year. “He had been un-
well,” so ran his humorous defence, “and the doctor told him to take
something, so he took the express-box.”
The cultus of the stage-coachman always flourishes highest where
there are thieves on the road, and where the guard travels armed, and
the stage is not only a link between country and city, and the vehicle of
news, but has a faint warfaring aroma, like a man who should be brother
to a soldier. California boasts her famous stage-drivers, and among the
famous Foss is not forgotten. Along the unfenced, abominable mountain
roads, he launches his team with small regard to human life or the doc-
trine of probabilities. Flinching travellers, who behold themselves coast-
ing eternity at every corner, look with natural admiration at their
driver’s huge, impassive, fleshy countenance. He has the very face for
the driver in Sam Weller’s anecdote, who upset the election party at the
required point. Wonderful tales are current of his readiness and skill.
One in particular, of how one of his horses fell at a ticklish passage of the
road, and how Foss let slip the reins, and, driving over the fallen animal,
arrived at the next stage with only three. This I relate as I heard it,
without guarantee.
I only saw Foss once, though, strange as it may sound, I have twice
talked with him. He lives out of Calistoga, at a ranche called Fossville.
One evening, after he was long gone home, I dropped into Cheesebor-
ough’s, and was asked if I should like to speak with Mr. Foss. Supposing
that the interview was impossible, and that I was merely called upon to
subscribe the general sentiment, I boldly answered “Yes.” Next moment,
I had one instrument at my ear, another at my mouth and found myself,
with nothing in the world to say, conversing with a man several miles off
among desolate hills. Foss rapidly and somewhat plaintively brought the
conversation to an end; and he returned to his night’s grog at Fossville,
while I strolled forth again on Calistoga high street. But it was an odd
thing that here, on what we are accustomed to consider the very skirts of
civilization, I should have used the telephone for the first time in my civ-
ilized career. So it goes in these young countries; telephones, and tele-
graphs, and newspapers, and advertisements running far ahead among
the Indians and the grizzly bears.
Alone, on the other side of the railway, stands the Springs Hotel, with
its attendant cottages. The floor of the valley is extremely level to the
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very roots of the hills; only here and there a hillock, crowned with pines,
rises like the barrow of some chieftain famed in war; and right against
one of these hillocks is the Springs Hotel - is or was; for since I was there
the place has been destroyed by fire, and has risen again from its ashes.
A lawn runs about the house, and the lawn is in its turn surrounded by a
system of little five-roomed cottages, each with a verandah and a weedy
palm before the door. Some of the cottages are let to residents, and these
are wreathed in flowers. The rest are occupied by ordinary visitors to the
Hotel; and a very pleasant way this is, by which you have a little country
cottage of your own, without domestic burthens, and by the day or
week.
The whole neighbourhood of Mount Saint Helena is full of sulphur
and of boiling springs. The Geysers are famous; they were the great
health resort of the Indians before the coming of the whites. Lake County
is dotted with spas; Hot Springs and White Sulphur Springs are the
names of two stations on the Napa Valley railroad; and Calistoga itself
seems to repose on a mere film above a boiling, subterranean lake. At
one end of the hotel enclosure are the springs from which it takes its
name, hot enough to scald a child seriously while I was there. At the oth-
er end, the tenant of a cottage sank a well, and there also the water came
up boiling. It keeps this end of the valley as warm as a toast. I have gone
across to the hotel a little after five in the morning, when a sea fog from
the Pacific was hanging thick and gray, and dark and dirty overhead,
and found the thermometer had been up before me, and had already
climbed among the nineties; and in the stress of the day it was some-
times too hot to move about.
But in spite of this heat from above and below, doing one on both
sides, Calistoga was a pleasant place to dwell in; beautifully green, for it
was then that favoured moment in the Californian year, when the rains
are over and the dusty summer has not yet set in; often visited by fresh
airs, now from the mountain, now across Sonoma from the sea; very
quiet, very idle, very silent but for the breezes and the cattle bells afield.
And there was something satisfactory in the sight of that great mountain
that enclosed us to the north: whether it stood, robed in sunshine, quak-
ing to its topmost pinnacle with the heat and brightness of the day; or
whether it set itself to weaving vapours, wisp after wisp growing, trem-
bling, fleeting, and fading in the blue.
The tangled, woody, and almost trackless foot-hills that enclose the
valley, shutting it off from Sonoma on the west, and from Yolo on the
east - rough as they were in outline, dug out by winter streams, crowned
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by cliffy bluffs and nodding pine trees - wore dwarfed into satellites by
the bulk and bearing of Mount Saint Helena. She over-towered them by
two-thirds of her own stature. She excelled them by the boldness of her
profile. Her great bald summit, clear of trees and pasture, a cairn of
quartz and cinnabar, rejected kinship with the dark and shaggy wilder-
ness of lesser hill-tops.
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Chapter 2
THE PETRIFIED FOREST
We drove off from the Springs Hotel about three in the afternoon. The
sun warmed me to the heart. A broad, cool wind streamed pauselessly
down the valley, laden with perfume. Up at the top stood Mount Saint
Helena, a bulk of mountain, bare atop, with tree-fringed spurs, and radi-
ating warmth. Once we saw it framed in a grove of tall and exquisitely
graceful white oaks, in line and colour a finished composition. We
passed a cow stretched by the roadside, her bell slowly beating time to
the movement of her ruminating jaws, her big red face crawled over by
half a dozen flies, a monument of content.
A little farther, and we struck to the left up a mountain road, and for
two hours threaded one valley after another, green, tangled, full of noble
timber, giving us every now and again a sight of Mount Saint Helena
and the blue hilly distance, and crossed by many streams, through which
we splashed to the carriage-step. To the right or the left, there was scarce
any trace of man but the road we followed; I think we passed but one
ranchero’s house in the whole distance, and that was closed and smoke-
less. But we had the society of these bright streams - dazzlingly clear, as
is their wont, splashing from the wheels in diamonds, and striking a
lively coolness through the sunshine. And what with the innumerable
variety of greens, the masses of foliage tossing in the breeze, the
glimpses of distance, the descents into seemingly impenetrable thickets,
the continual dodging of the road which made haste to plunge again into
the covert, we had a fine sense of woods, and spring-time, and the open
air.
Our driver gave me a lecture by the way on Californian trees - a thing I
was much in need of, having fallen among painters who know the name
of nothing, and Mexicans who know the name of nothing in English. He
taught me the madrona, the manzanita, the buck-eye, the maple; he
showed me the crested mountain quail; he showed me where some
young redwoods were already spiring heavenwards from the ruins of
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the old; for in this district all had already perished: redwoods and red-
skins, the two noblest indigenous living things, alike condemned.
At length, in a lonely dell, we came on a huge wooden gate with a sign
upon it like an inn. “The Petrified Forest. Proprietor: C. Evans,” ran the
legend. Within, on a knoll of sward, was the house of the proprietor, and
another smaller house hard by to serve as a museum, where photo-
graphs and petrifactions were retailed. It was a pure little isle of touristry
among these solitary hills.
The proprietor was a brave old white-faced Swede. He had wandered
this way, Heaven knows how, and taken up his acres - I forget how
many years ago - all alone, bent double with sciatica, and with six bits in
his pocket and an axe upon his shoulder. Long, useless years of seafaring
had thus discharged him at the end, penniless and sick. Without doubt
he had tried his luck at the diggings, and got no good from that; without
doubt he had loved the bottle, and lived the life of Jack ashore. But at the
end of these adventures, here he came; and, the place hitting his fancy,
down he sat to make a new life of it, far from crimps and the salt sea.
And the very sight of his ranche had done him good. It was “the hand-
somest spot in the Californy mountains.” “Isn’t it handsome, now?” he
said. Every penny he makes goes into that ranche to make it handsomer.
Then the climate, with the sea-breeze every afternoon in the hottest sum-
mer weather, had gradually cured the sciatica; and his sister and niece
were now domesticated with him for company - or, rather, the niece
came only once in the two days, teaching music the meanwhile in the
valley. And then, for a last piece of luck, “the handsomest spot in the
Californy mountains” had produced a petrified forest, which Mr. Evans
now shows at the modest figure of half a dollar a head, or two-thirds of
his capital when he first came there with an axe and a sciatica.
This tardy favourite of fortune - hobbling a little, I think, as if in
memory of the sciatica, but with not a trace that I can remember of the
sea - thoroughly ruralized from head to foot, proceeded to escort us up
the hill behind his house.
“Who first found the forest?” asked my wife.
“The first? I was that man,” said he. “I was cleaning up the pasture for
my beasts, when I found this” - kicking a great redwood seven feet in
diameter, that lay there on its side, hollow heart, clinging lumps of bark,
all changed into gray stone, with veins of quartz between what had been
the layers of the wood.
“Were you surprised?”
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“Surprised? No! What would I be surprised about? What did I know
about petrifactions - following the sea? Petrifaction! There was no such
word in my language! I knew about putrifaction, though! I thought it
was a stone; so would you, if you was cleaning up pasture.”
And now he had a theory of his own, which I did not quite grasp, ex-
cept that the trees had not “grewed” there. But he mentioned, with evid-
ent pride, that he differed from all the scientific people who had visited
the spot; and he flung about such words as “tufa” and “scilica” with
careless freedom.
When I mentioned I was from Scotland, “My old country,” he said;
“my old country” - with a smiling look and a tone of real affection in his
voice. I was mightily surprised, for he was obviously Scandinavian, and
begged him to explain. It seemed he had learned his English and done
nearly all his sailing in Scotch ships. “Out of Glasgow,” said he, “or
Greenock; but that’s all the same - they all hail from Glasgow.” And he
was so pleased with me for being a Scotsman, and his adopted compatri-
ot, that he made me a present of a very beautiful piece of petrifaction - I
believe the most beautiful and portable he had.
Here was a man, at least, who was a Swede, a Scot, and an American,
acknowledging some kind allegiance to three lands. Mr. Wallace’s Scoto-
Circassian will not fail to come before the reader. I have myself met and
spoken with a Fifeshire German, whose combination of abominable ac-
cents struck me dumb. But, indeed, I think we all belong to many coun-
tries. And perhaps this habit of much travel, and the engendering of
scattered friendships, may prepare the euthanasia of ancient nations.
And the forest itself? Well, on a tangled, briery hillside - for the pas-
ture would bear a little further cleaning up, to my eyes - there lie
scattered thickly various lengths of petrified trunk, such as the one
already mentioned. It is very curious, of course, and ancient enough, if
that were all. Doubtless, the heart of the geologist beats quicker at the
sight; but, for my part, I was mightily unmoved. Sight-seeing is the art of
disappointment.
“There’s nothing under heaven so blue,
That’s fairly worth the travelling to.”
But, fortunately, Heaven rewards us with many agreeable prospects
and adventures by the way; and sometimes, when we go out to see a pet-
rified forest, prepares a far more delightful curiosity, in the form of Mr.
Evans, whom may all prosperity attend throughout a long and green old
age.
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Chapter 3
NAPA WINE
I was interested in Californian wine. Indeed, I am interested in all wines,
and have been all my life, from the raisin wine that a schoolfellow kept
secreted in his play-box up to my last discovery, those notable Valtel-
lines, that once shone upon the board of Caesar.
Some of us, kind old Pagans, watch with dread the shadows falling on
the age: how the unconquerable worm invades the sunny terraces of
France, and Bordeaux is no more, and the Rhone a mere Arabia Petraea.
Château Neuf is dead, and I have never tasted it; Hermitage - a hermit-
age indeed from all life’s sorrows - lies expiring by the river. And in the
place of these imperial elixirs, beautiful to every sense, gem-hued,
flower-scented, dream-compellers:- behold upon the quays at Cette the
chemicals arrayed; behold the analyst at Marseilles, raising hands in ob-
secration, attesting god Lyoeus, and the vats staved in, and the dishonest
wines poured forth among the sea. It is not Pan only; Bacchus, too, is
dead.
If wine is to withdraw its most poetic countenance, the sun of the
white dinner-cloth, a deity to be invoked by two or three, all fervent,
hushing their talk, degusting tenderly, and storing reminiscences - for a
bottle of good wine, like a good act, shines ever in the retrospect - if wine
is to desert us, go thy ways, old Jack! Now we begin to have compunc-
tions, and look back at the brave bottles squandered upon dinner-parties,
where the guests drank grossly, discussing politics the while, and even
the schoolboy “took his whack,” like liquorice water. And at the same
time, we look timidly forward, with a spark of hope, to where the new
lands, already weary of producing gold, begin to green with vineyards.
A nice point in human history falls to be decided by Californian and
Australian wines.
Wine in California is still in the experimental stage; and when you
taste a vintage, grave economical questions are involved. The beginning
of vine-planting is like the beginning of mining for the precious metals:
14
the wine-grower also “Prospects.” One corner of land after another is
tried with one kind of grape after another. This is a failure; that is better;
a third best. So, bit by bit, they grope about for their Clos Vougeot and
Lafite. Those lodes and pockets of earth, more precious than the precious
ores, that yield inimitable fragrance and soft fire; those virtuous Bonan-
zas, where the soil has sublimated under sun and stars to something
finer, and the wine is bottled poetry: these still lie undiscovered; chapar-
ral conceals, thicket embowers them; the miner chips the rock and
wanders farther, and the grizzly muses undisturbed. But there they bide
their hour, awaiting their Columbus; and nature nurses and prepares
them. The smack of Californian earth shall linger on the palate of your
grandson.
Meanwhile the wine is merely a good wine; the best that I have tasted
better than a Beaujolais, and not unlike. But the trade is poor; it lives
from hand to mouth, putting its all into experiments, and forced to sell
its vintages. To find one properly matured, and bearing its own name, is
to be fortune’s favourite.
Bearing its own name, I say, and dwell upon the innuendo.
“You want to know why California wine is not drunk in the States?” a
San Francisco wine merchant said to me, after he had shown me through
his premises. “Well, here’s the reason.”
And opening a large cupboard, fitted with many little drawers, he pro-
ceeded to shower me all over with a great variety of gorgeously tinted la-
bels, blue, red, or yellow, stamped with crown or coronet, and hailing
from such a profusion of clos and chateaux, that a single department
could scarce have furnished forth the names. But it was strange that all
looked unfamiliar.
“Chateau X-?” said I. “I never heard of that.”
“I dare say not,” said he. “I had been reading one of X-‘s novels.”
They were all castles in Spain! But that sure enough is the reason why
California wine is not drunk in the States.
Napa valley has been long a seat of the wine-growing industry. It did
not here begin, as it does too often, in the low valley lands along the
river, but took at once to the rough foot-hills, where alone it can expect to
prosper. A basking inclination, and stones, to be a reservoir of the day’s
heat, seem necessary to the soil for wine; the grossness of the earth must
be evaporated, its marrow daily melted and refined for ages; until at
length these clods that break below our footing, and to the eye appear
but common earth, are truly and to the perceiving mind, a masterpiece of
nature. The dust of Richebourg, which the wind carries away, what an
15
apotheosis of the dust! Not man himself can seem a stranger child of that
brown, friable powder, than the blood and sun in that old flask behind
the faggots.
A Californian vineyard, one of man’s outposts in the wilderness, has
features of its own. There is nothing here to remind you of the Rhine or
Rhone, of the low côte d’or, or the infamous and scabby deserts of Cham-
pagne; but all is green, solitary, covert. We visited two of them, Mr.
Schram’s and Mr. M’Eckron’s, sharing the same glen.
Some way down the valley below Calistoga, we turned sharply to the
south and plunged into the thick of the wood. A rude trail rapidly
mounting; a little stream tinkling by on the one hand, big enough per-
haps after the rains, but already yielding up its life; overhead and on all
sides a bower of green and tangled thicket, still fragrant and still flower-
bespangled by the early season, where thimble-berry played the part of
our English hawthorn, and the buck-eyes were putting forth their twis-
ted horns of blossom: through all this, we struggled toughly upwards,
canted to and fro by the roughness of the trail, and continually switched
across the face by sprays of leaf or blossom. The last is no great incon-
venience at home; but here in California it is a matter of some moment.
For in all woods and by every wayside there prospers an abominable
shrub or weed, called poison-oak, whose very neighbourhood is venom-
ous to some, and whose actual touch is avoided by the most impervious.
The two houses, with their vineyards, stood each in a green niche of its
own in this steep and narrow forest dell. Though they were so near,
there was already a good difference in level; and Mr. M’Eckron’s head
must be a long way under the feet of Mr. Schram. No more had been
cleared than was necessary for cultivation; close around each oasis ran
the tangled wood; the glen enfolds them; there they lie basking in sun
and silence, concealed from all but the clouds and the mountain birds.
Mr. M’Eckron’s is a bachelor establishment; a little bit of a wooden
house, a small cellar hard by in the hillside, and a patch of vines planted
and tended single-handed by himself. He had but recently began; his
vines were young, his business young also; but I thought he had the look
of the man who succeeds. He hailed from Greenock: he remembered his
father putting him inside Mons Meg, and that touched me home; and we
exchanged a word or two of Scotch, which pleased me more than you
would fancy.
Mr. Schram’s, on the other hand, is the oldest vineyard in the valley,
eighteen years old, I think; yet he began a penniless barber, and even
after he had broken ground up here with his black malvoisies, continued
16
for long to tramp the valley with his razor. Now, his place is the picture
of prosperity: stuffed birds in the verandah, cellars far dug into the hill-
side, and resting on pillars like a bandit’s cave:- all trimness, varnish,
flowers, and sunshine, among the tangled wildwood. Stout, smiling Mrs.
Schram, who has been to Europe and apparently all about the States for
pleasure, entertained Fanny in the verandah, while I was tasting wines in
the cellar. To Mr. Schram this was a solemn office; his serious gusto
warmed my heart; prosperity had not yet wholly banished a certain
neophite and girlish trepidation, and he followed every sip and read my
face with proud anxiety. I tasted all. I tasted every variety and shade of
Schramberger, red and white Schramberger, Burgundy Schramberger,
Schramberger Hock, Schramberger Golden Chasselas, the latter with a
notable bouquet, and I fear to think how many more. Much of it goes to
London - most, I think; and Mr. Schram has a great notion of the English
taste.
In this wild spot, I did not feel the sacredness of ancient cultivation. It
was still raw, it was no Marathon, and no Johannisberg; yet the stirring
sunlight, and the growing vines, and the vats and bottles in the cavern,
made a pleasant music for the mind. Here, also, earth’s cream was being
skimmed and garnered; and the London customers can taste, such as it
is, the tang of the earth in this green valley. So local, so quintessential is a
wine, that it seems the very birds in the verandah might communicate a
flavour, and that romantic cellar influence the bottle next to be uncorked
in Pimlico, and the smile of jolly Mr. Schram might mantle in the glass.
But these are but experiments. All things in this new land are moving
farther on: the wine-vats and the miner’s blasting tools but picket for a
night, like Bedouin pavillions; and to-morrow, to fresh woods! This stir
of change and these perpetual echoes of the moving footfall, haunt the
land. Men move eternally, still chasing Fortune; and, fortune found, still
wander. As we drove back to Calistoga, the road lay empty of mere pas-
sengers, but its green side was dotted with the camps of travelling famil-
ies: one cumbered with a great waggonful of household stuff, settlers go-
ing to occupy a ranche they had taken up in Mendocino, or perhaps Te-
hama County; another, a party in dust coats, men and women, whom we
found camped in a grove on the roadside, all on pleasure bent, with a
Chinaman to cook for them, and who waved their hands to us as we
drove by.
17
Chapter 4
THE SCOT ABROAD
A few pages back, I wrote that a man belonged, in these days, to a vari-
ety of countries; but the old land is still the true love, the others are but
pleasant infidelities. Scotland is indefinable; it has no unity except upon
the map. Two languages, many dialects, innumerable forms of piety, and
countless local patriotisms and prejudices, part us among ourselves more
widely than the extreme east and west of that great continent of Amer-
ica. When I am at home, I feel a man from Glasgow to be something like
a rival, a man from Barra to be more than half a foreigner. Yet let us meet
in some far country, and, whether we hail from the braes of Manor or the
braes of Mar, some ready-made affection joins us on the instant. It is not
race. Look at us. One is Norse, one Celtic, and another Saxon. It is not
community of tongue. We have it not among ourselves; and we have it
almost to perfection, with English, or Irish, or American. It is no tie of
faith, for we detest each other’s errors. And yet somewhere, deep down
in the heart of each one of us, something yearns for the old land, and the
old kindly people.
Of all mysteries of the human heart, this is perhaps the most inscrut-
able. There is no special loveliness in that gray country, with its rainy,
sea-beat archipelago; its fields of dark mountains; its unsightly places,
black with coal; its treeless, sour, unfriendly looking corn-lands; its
quaint, gray, castled city, where the bells clash of a Sunday, and the
wind squalls, and the salt showers fly and beat. I do not even know if I
desire to live there; but let me hear, in some far land, a kindred voice
sing out, “Oh, why left I my hame?” and it seems at once as if no beauty
under the kind heavens, and no society of the wise and good, can repay
me for my absence from my country. And though I think I would rather
die elsewhere, yet in my heart of hearts I long to be buried among good
Scots clods. I will say it fairly, it grows on me with every year: there are
no stars so lovely as Edinburgh street-lamps. When I forget thee, auld
Reekie, may my right hand forget its cunning!
18
The happiest lot on earth is to be born a Scotchman. You must pay for
it in many ways, as for all other advantages on earth. You have to learn
the paraphrases and the shorter catechism; you generally take to drink;
your youth, as far as I can find out, is a time of louder war against soci-
ety, of more outcry and tears and turmoil, than if you had been born, for
instance, in England. But somehow life is warmer and closer; the hearth
burns more redly; the lights of home shine softer on the rainy street; the
very names, endeared in verse and music, cling nearer round our hearts.
An Englishman may meet an Englishman to-morrow, upon Chimborazo,
and neither of them care; but when the Scotch wine-grower told me of
Mons Meg, it was like magic.
“From the dim shieling on the misty island
Mountains divide us, and a world of seas;
Yet still our hearts are true, our hearts are Highland,
And we, in dreams, behold the Hebrides.”
And, Highland and Lowland, all our hearts are Scotch.
Only a few days after I had seen M’Eckron, a message reached me in
my cottage. It was a Scotchman who had come down a long way from
the hills to market. He had heard there was a countryman in Calistoga,
and came round to the hotel to see him. We said a few words to each
other; we had not much to say - should never have seen each other had
we stayed at home, separated alike in space and in society; and then we
shook hands, and he went his way again to his ranche among the hills,
and that was all.
Another Scotchman there was, a resident, who for the more love of the
common country, douce, serious, religious man, drove me all about the
valley, and took as much interest in me as if I had been his son: more,
perhaps; for the son has faults too keenly felt, while the abstract country-
man is perfect - like a whiff of peats.
And there was yet another. Upon him I came suddenly, as he was
calmly entering my cottage, his mind quite evidently bent on plunder: a
man of about fifty, filthy, ragged, roguish, with a chimney-pot hat and a
tail coat, and a pursing of his mouth that might have been envied by an
elder of the kirk. He had just such a face as I have seen a dozen times be-
hind the plate.
“Hullo, sir!” I cried. “Where are you going?”
He turned round without a quiver.
“You’re a Scotchman, sir?” he said gravely. “So am I; I come from
Aberdeen. This is my card,” presenting me with a piece of pasteboard
which he had raked out of some gutter in the period of the rains. “I was
19
just examining this palm,” he continued, indicating the misbegotten
plant before our door, “which is the largest spacimen I have yet observed
in Califoarnia.”
There were four or five larger within sight. But where was the use of
argument? He produced a tape-line, made me help him to measure the
tree at the level of the ground, and entered the figures in a large and
filthy pocket-book, all with the gravity of Solomon. He then thanked me
profusely, remarking that such little services were due between country-
men; shook hands with me, “for add lang syne,” as he said; and took
himself solemnly away, radiating dirt and humbug as he went.
A month or two after this encounter of mine, there came a Scot to Sac-
ramento - perhaps from Aberdeen. Anyway, there never was any one
more Scotch in this wide world. He could sing and dance, and drink, I
presume; and he played the pipes with vigour and success. All the
Scotch in Sacramento became infatuated with him, and spent their spare
time and money, driving him about in an open cab, between drinks,
while he blew himself scarlet at the pipes. This is a very sad story. After
he had borrowed money from every one, he and his pipes suddenly dis-
appeared from Sacramento, and when I last heard, the police were look-
ing for him.
I cannot say how this story amused me, when I felt myself so thor-
oughly ripe on both sides to be duped in the same way.
It is at least a curious thing, to conclude, that the races which wander
widest, Jews and Scotch, should be the most clannish in the world. But
perhaps these two are cause and effect: “For ye were strangers in the
land of Egypt.”
20
Part 2
WITH THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL
21
Chapter 1
TO INTRODUCE MR. KELMAR
One thing in this new country very particularly strikes a stranger, and
that is the number of antiquities. Already there have been many cycles of
population succeeding each other, and passing away and leaving behind
them relics. These, standing on into changed times, strike the imagina-
tion as forcibly as any pyramid or feudal tower. The towns, like the vine-
yards, are experimentally founded: they grow great and prosper by
passing occasions; and when the lode comes to an end, and the miners
move elsewhere, the town remains behind them, like Palmyra in the
desert. I suppose there are, in no country in the world, so many deserted
towns as here in California.
The whole neighbourhood of Mount Saint Helena, now so quiet and
sylvan, was once alive with mining camps and villages. Here there
would be two thousand souls under canvas; there one thousand or fif-
teen hundred ensconced, as if for ever, in a town of comfortable houses.
But the luck had failed, the mines petered out; and the army of miners
had departed, and left this quarter of the world to the rattlesnakes and
deer and grizzlies, and to the slower but steadier advance of husbandry.
It was with an eye on one of these deserted places, Pine Flat, on the
Geysers road, that we had come first to Calistoga. There is something
singularly enticing in the idea of going, rent-free, into a ready-made
house. And to the British merchant, sitting at home at ease, it may ap-
pear that, with such a roof over your head and a spring of clear water
hard by, the whole problem of the squatter’s existence would be solved.
Food, however, has yet to be considered, I will go as far as most people
on tinned meats; some of the brightest moments of my life were passed
over tinned mulli-gatawney in the cabin of a sixteen-ton schooner,
storm-stayed in Portree Bay; but after suitable experiments, I pronounce
authoritatively that man cannot live by tins alone. Fresh meat must be
had on an occasion. It is true that the great Foss, driving by along the
Geysers road, wooden-faced, but glorified with legend, might have been
22
induced to bring us meat, but the great Foss could hardly bring us milk.
To take a cow would have involved taking a field of grass and a milk-
maid; after which it would have been hardly worth while to pause, and
we might have added to our colony a flock of sheep and an experienced
butcher.
It is really very disheartening how we depend on other people in this
life. “Mihi est propositum,” as you may see by the motto, “id quod
regibus;” and behold it cannot be carried out, unless I find a neighbour
rolling in cattle.
Now, my principal adviser in this matter was one whom I will call
Kelmar. That was not what he called himself, but as soon as I set eyes on
him, I knew it was or ought to be his name; I am sure it will be his name
among the angels. Kelmar was the store-keeper, a Russian Jew, good-
natured, in a very thriving way of business, and, on equal terms, one of
the most serviceable of men. He also had something of the expression of
a Scotch country elder, who, by some peculiarity, should chance to be a
Hebrew. He had a projecting under lip, with which he continually
smiled, or rather smirked. Mrs. Kelmar was a singularly kind woman;
and the oldest son had quite a dark and romantic bearing, and might be
heard on summer evenings playing sentimental airs on the violin.
I had no idea, at the time I made his acquaintance, what an important
person Kelmar was. But the Jew store-keepers of California, profiting at
once by the needs and habits of the people, have made themselves in too
many cases the tyrants of the rural population. Credit is offered, is
pressed on the new customer, and when once he is beyond his depth, the
tune changes, and he is from thenceforth a white slave. I believe, even
from the little I saw, that Kelmar, if he choose to put on the screw, could
send half the settlers packing in a radius of seven or eight miles round
Calistoga. These are continually paying him, but are never suffered to
get out of debt. He palms dull goods upon them, for they dare not refuse
to buy; he goes and dines with them when he is on an outing, and no
man is loudlier welcomed; he is their family friend, the director of their
business, and, to a degree elsewhere unknown in modern days, their
king.
For some reason, Kelmar always shook his head at the mention of Pine
Flat, and for some days I thought he disapproved of the whole scheme
and was proportionately sad. One fine morning, however, he met me,
wreathed in smiles. He had found the very place for me - Silverado, an-
other old mining town, right up the mountain. Rufe Hanson, the hunter,
could take care of us - fine people the Hansons; we should be close to the
23
Toll House, where the Lakeport stage called daily; it was the best place
for my health, besides. Rufe had been consumptive, and was now quite a
strong man, ain’t it? In short, the place and all its accompaniments
seemed made for us on purpose.
He took me to his back door, whence, as from every point of Calistoga,
Mount Saint Helena could be seen towering in the air. There, in the nick,
just where the eastern foothills joined the mountain, and she herself
began to rise above the zone of forest - there was Silverado. The name
had already pleased me; the high station pleased me still more. I began
to inquire with some eagerness. It was but a little while ago that Sil-
verado was a great place. The mine - a silver mine, of course - had prom-
ised great things. There was quite a lively population, with several hotels
and boarding-houses; and Kelmar himself had opened a branch store,
and done extremely well - “Ain’t it?” he said, appealing to his wife. And
she said, “Yes; extremely well.” Now there was no one living in the town
but Rufe the hunter; and once more I heard Rufe’s praises by the yard,
and this time sung in chorus.
I could not help perceiving at the time that there was something un-
derneath; that no unmixed desire to have us comfortably settled had in-
spired the Kelmars with this flow of words. But I was impatient to be
gone, to be about my kingly project; and when we were offered seats in
Kelmar’s waggon, I accepted on the spot. The plan of their next Sunday’s
outing took them, by good fortune, over the border into Lake County.
They would carry us so far, drop us at the Toll House, present us to the
Hansons, and call for us again on Monday morning early.
24
Chapter 2
THE ACT OF SQUATTING
There were four of us squatters - myself and my wife, the King and
Queen of Silverado; Sam, the Crown Prince; and Chuchu, the Grand
Duke. Chuchu, a setter crossed with spaniel, was the most unsuited for a
rough life. He had been nurtured tenderly in the society of ladies; his
heart was large and soft; he regarded the sofa-cushion as a bed-rook ne-
cessary of existence. Though about the size of a sheep, he loved to sit in
ladies’ laps; he never said a bad word in all his blameless days; and if he
had seen a flute, I am sure he could have played upon it by nature. It
may seem hard to say it of a dog, but Chuchu was a tame cat.
The king and queen, the grand duke, and a basket of cold provender
for immediate use, set forth from Calistoga in a double buggy; the crown
prince, on horseback, led the way like an outrider. Bags and boxes and a
second-hand stove were to follow close upon our heels by Hanson’s
team.
It was a beautiful still day; the sky was one field of azure. Not a leaf
moved, not a speck appeared in heaven. Only from the summit of the
mountain one little snowy wisp of cloud after another kept detaching it-
self, like smoke from a volcano, and blowing southward in some high
stream of air: Mount Saint Helena still at her interminable task, making
the weather, like a Lapland witch.
By noon we had come in sight of the mill: a great brown building, half-
way up the hill, big as a factory, two stories high, and with tanks and
ladders along the roof; which, as a pendicle of Silverado mine, we held to
be an outlying province of our own. Thither, then, we went, crossing the
valley by a grassy trail; and there lunched out of the basket, sitting in a
kind of portico, and wondering, while we ate, at this great bulk of use-
less building. Through a chink we could look far down into the interior,
and see sunbeams floating in the dust and striking on tier after tier of si-
lent, rusty machinery. It cost six thousand dollars, twelve hundred Eng-
lish sovereigns; and now, here it stands deserted, like the temple of a
25
forgotten religion, the busy millers toiling somewhere else. All the time
we were there, mill and mill town showed no sign of life; that part of the
mountain-side, which is very open and green, was tenanted by no living
creature but ourselves and the insects; and nothing stirred but the cloud
manufactory upon the mountain summit. It was odd to compare this
with the former days, when the engine was in fall blast, the mill palpitat-
ing to its strokes, and the carts came rattling down from Silverado,
charged with ore.
By two we had been landed at the mine, the buggy was gone again,
and we were left to our own reflections and the basket of cold
provender, until Hanson should arrive. Hot as it was by the sun, there
was something chill in such a home-coming, in that world of wreck and
rust, splinter and rolling gravel, where for so many years no fire had
smoked.
Silverado platform filled the whole width of the canyon. Above, as I
have said, this was a wild, red, stony gully in the mountains; but below it
was a wooded dingle. And through this, I was told, there had gone a
path between the mine and the Toll House - our natural north-west pas-
sage to civilization. I found and followed it, clearing my way as I went
through fallen branches and dead trees. It went straight down that steep
canyon, till it brought you out abruptly over the roofs of the hotel. There
was nowhere any break in the descent. It almost seemed as if, were you
to drop a stone down the old iron chute at our platform, it would never
rest until it hopped upon the Toll House shingles. Signs were not want-
ing of the ancient greatness of Silverado. The footpath was well marked,
and had been well trodden in the old clays by thirsty miners. And far
down, buried in foliage, deep out of sight of Silverado, I came on a last
outpost of the mine - a mound of gravel, some wreck of wooden aque-
duct, and the mouth of a tunnel, like a treasure grotto in a fairy story. A
stream of water, fed by the invisible leakage from our shaft, and dyed
red with cinnabar or iron, ran trippingly forth out of the bowels of the
cave; and, looking far under the arch, I could see something like an iron
lantern fastened on the rocky wall. It was a promising spot for the ima-
gination. No boy could have left it unexplored.
The stream thenceforward stole along the bottom of the dingle, and
made, for that dry land, a pleasant warbling in the leaves. Once, I sup-
pose, it ran splashing down the whole length of the canyon, but now its
head waters had been tapped by the shaft at Silverado, and for a great
part of its course it wandered sunless among the joints of the mountain.
No wonder that it should better its pace when it sees, far before it,
26
daylight whitening in the arch, or that it should come trotting forth into
the sunlight with a song.
The two stages had gone by when I got down, and the Toll House
stood, dozing in sun and dust and silence, like a place enchanted. My
mission was after hay for bedding, and that I was readily promised. But
when I mentioned that we were waiting for Rufe, the people shook their
heads. Rufe was not a regular man any way, it seemed; and if he got
playing poker - Well, poker was too many for Rufe. I had not yet heard
them bracketted together; but it seemed a natural conjunction, and com-
mended itself swiftly to my fears; and as soon as I returned to Silverado
and had told my story, we practically gave Hanson up, and set ourselves
to do what we could find do-able in our desert-island state.
The lower room had been the assayer’s office. The floor was thick with
débris - part human, from the former occupants; part natural, sifted in by
mountain winds. In a sea of red dust there swam or floated sticks,
boards, hay, straw, stones, and paper; ancient newspapers, above all - for
the newspaper, especially when torn, soon becomes an antiquity - and
bills of the Silverado boarding-house, some dated Silverado, some Calis-
toga Mine. Here is one, verbatim; and if any one can calculate the scale of
charges, he has my envious admiration.
Calistoga Mine, May 3rd, 1875.
John Stanley
To S. Chapman, Cr.
To board from April 1st, to April 30 $25 75
“ “ “ May lst, to 3rd … 2 00
27 75
Where is John Stanley mining now? Where is S. Chapman, within
whose hospitable walls we were to lodge? The date was but five years
old, but in that time the world had changed for Silverado; like Palmyra
in the desert, it had outlived its people and its purpose; we camped, like
Layard, amid ruins, and these names spoke to us of prehistoric time. A
boot-jack, a pair of boots, a dog-hutch, and these bills of Mr. Chapman’s
were the only speaking relics that we disinterred from all that vast
Silverado rubbish-heap; but what would I not have given to unearth a
letter, a pocket-book, a diary, only a ledger, or a roll of names, to take me
back, in a more personal manner, to the past? It pleases me, besides, to
fancy that Stanley or Chapman, or one of their companions, may light
upon this chronicle, and be struck by the name, and read some news of
27
their anterior home, coming, as it were, out of a subsequent epoch of his-
tory in that quarter of the world.
As we were tumbling the mingled rubbish on the floor, kicking it with
our feet, and groping for these written evidences of the past, Sam, with a
somewhat whitened face, produced a paper bag. “What’s this?” said he.
It contained a granulated powder, something the colour of Gregory’s
Mixture, but rosier; and as there were several of the bags, and each more
or less broken, the powder was spread widely on the floor. Had any of
us ever seen giant powder? No, nobody had; and instantly there grew up
in my mind a shadowy belief, verging with every moment nearer to cer-
titude, that I had somewhere heard somebody describe it as just such a
powder as the one around us. I have learnt since that it is a substance not
unlike tallow, and is made up in rolls for all the world like tallow
candles.
Fanny, to add to our happiness, told us a story of a gentleman who
had camped one night, like ourselves, by a deserted mine. He was a
handy, thrifty fellow, and looked right and left for plunder, but all he
could lay his hands on was a can of oil. After dark he had to see to the
horses with a lantern; and not to miss an opportunity, filled up his lamp
from the oil can. Thus equipped, he set forth into the forest. A little while
after, his friends heard a loud explosion; the mountain echoes bellowed,
and then all was still. On examination, the can proved to contain oil,
with the trifling addition of nitro-glycerine; but no research disclosed a
trace of either man or lantern.
It was a pretty sight, after this anecdote, to see us sweeping out the gi-
ant powder. It seemed never to be far enough away. And, after all, it was
only some rock pounded for assay.
So much for the lower room. We scraped some of the rougher dirt off
the floor, and left it. That was our sitting-room and kitchen, though there
was nothing to sit upon but the table, and no provision for a fire except a
hole in the roof of the room above, which had once contained the chim-
ney of a stove.
To that upper room we now proceeded. There were the eighteen
bunks in a double tier, nine on either hand, where from eighteen to
thirty-six miners had once snored together all night long, John Stanley,
perhaps, snoring loudest. There was the roof, with a hole in it through
which the sun now shot an arrow. There was the floor, in much the same
state as the one below, though, perhaps, there was more hay, and cer-
tainly there was the added ingredient of broken glass, the man who stole
the window-frames having apparently made a miscarriage with this one.
28
Without a broom, without hay or bedding, we could but look about us
with a beginning of despair. The one bright arrow of day, in that gaunt
and shattered barrack, made the rest look dirtier and darker, and the
sight drove us at last into the open.
Here, also, the handiwork of man lay ruined: but the plants were all
alive and thriving; the view below was fresh with the colours of nature;
and we had exchanged a dim, human garret for a corner, even although
it were untidy, of the blue hall of heaven. Not a bird, not a beast, not a
reptile. There was no noise in that part of the world, save when we
passed beside the staging, and heard the water musically falling in the
shaft.
We wandered to and fro. We searched among that drift of lumber-
wood and iron, nails and rails, and sleepers and the wheels of tracks. We
gazed up the cleft into the bosom of the mountain. We sat by the margin
of the dump and saw, far below us, the green treetops standing still in
the clear air. Beautiful perfumes, breaths of bay, resin, and nutmeg, came
to us more often and grew sweeter and sharper as the afternoon de-
clined. But still there was no word of Hanson.
I set to with pick and shovel, and deepened the pool behind the shaft,
till we were sure of sufficient water for the morning; and by the time I
had finished, the sun had begun to go down behind the mountain
shoulder, the platform was plunged in quiet shadow, and a chill descen-
ded from the sky. Night began early in our cleft. Before us, over the mar-
gin of the dump, we could see the sun still striking aslant into the
wooded nick below, and on the battlemented, pine-bescattered ridges on
the farther side.
There was no stove, of course, and no hearth in our lodging, so we
betook ourselves to the blacksmith’s forge across the platform. If the
platform be taken as a stage, and the out-curving margin of the dump to
represent the line of the foot-lights, then our house would be the first
wing on the actor’s left, and this blacksmith’s forge, although no match
for it in size, the foremost on the right. It was a low, brown cottage,
planted close against the hill, and overhung by the foliage and peeling
boughs of a madrona thicket. Within it was full of dead leaves and
mountain dust, and rubbish from the mine. But we soon had a good fire
brightly blazing, and sat close about it on impromptu seats. Chuchu, the
slave of sofa-cushions, whimpered for a softer bed; but the rest of us
were greatly revived and comforted by that good creature-fire, which
gives us warmth and light and companionable sounds, and colours up
the emptiest building with better than frescoes. For a while it was even
29
pleasant in the forge, with the blaze in the midst, and a look over our
shoulders on the woods and mountains where the day was dying like a
dolphin.
It was between seven and eight before Hanson arrived, with a wag-
gonful of our effects and two of his wife’s relatives to lend him a hand.
The elder showed surprising strength. He would pick up a huge
packing-case, full of books of all things, swing it on his shoulder, and
away up the two crazy ladders and the breakneck spout of rolling miner-
al, familiarly termed a path, that led from the cart-track to our house.
Even for a man unburthened, the ascent was toilsome and precarious;
but Irvine sealed it with a light foot, carrying box after box, as the hero
whisks the stage child up the practicable footway beside the waterfall of
the fifth act. With so strong a helper, the business was speedily trans-
acted. Soon the assayer’s office was thronged with our belongings, piled
higgledy-piggledy, and upside down, about the floor. There were our
boxes, indeed, but my wife had left her keys in Calistoga. There was the
stove, but, alas! our carriers had forgot the chimney, and lost one of the
plates along the road. The Silverado problem was scarce solved.
Rufe himself was grave and good-natured over his share of blame; he
even, if I remember right, expressed regret. But his crew, to my astonish-
ment and anger, grinned from ear to ear, and laughed aloud at our dis-
tress. They thought it “real funny” about the stove-pipe they had forgot-
ten; “real funny” that they should have lost a plate. As for hay, the whole
party refused to bring us any till they should have supped. See how late
they were! Never had there been such a job as coming up that grade! Nor
often, I suspect, such a game of poker as that before they started. But
about nine, as a particular favour, we should have some hay.
So they took their departure, leaving me still staring, and we resigned
ourselves to wait for their return. The fire in the forge had been suffered
to go out, and we were one and all too weary to kindle another. We
dined, or, not to take that word in vain, we ate after a fashion, in the
nightmare disorder of the assayer’s office, perched among boxes. A
single candle lighted us. It could scarce be called a housewarming; for
there was, of course, no fire, and with the two open doors and the open
window gaping on the night, like breaches in a fortress, it began to grow
rapidly chill. Talk ceased; nobody moved but the unhappy Chuchu, still
in quest of sofa-cushions, who tumbled complainingly among the trunks.
It required a certain happiness of disposition to look forward hopefully,
from so dismal a beginning, across the brief hours of night, to the warm
shining of to-morrow’s sun.
30
But the hay arrived at last, and we turned, with our last spark of cour-
age, to the bedroom. We had improved the entrance, but it was still a
kind of rope-walking; and it would have been droll to see us mounting,
one after another, by candle-light, under the open stars.
The western door - that which looked up the canyon, and through
which we entered by our bridge of flying plank - was still entire, a hand-
some, panelled door, the most finished piece of carpentry in Silverado.
And the two lowest bunks next to this we roughly filled with hay for
that night’s use. Through the opposite, or eastern-looking gable, with its
open door and window, a faint, disused starshine came into the room
like mist; and when we were once in bed, we lay, awaiting sleep, in a
haunted, incomplete obscurity. At first the silence of the night was utter.
Then a high wind began in the distance among the tree-tops, and for
hours continued to grow higher. It seemed to me much such a wind as
we had found on our visit; yet here in our open chamber we were fanned
only by gentle and refreshing draughts, so deep was the canyon, so close
our house was planted under the overhanging rock.
31
Chapter 3
FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF SILVERADO
We were to leave by six precisely; that was solemnly pledged on both
sides; and a messenger came to us the last thing at night, to remind us of
the hour. But it was eight before we got clear of Calistoga: Kelmar, Mrs.
Kelmar, a friend of theirs whom we named Abramina, her little daugh-
ter, my wife, myself, and, stowed away behind us, a cluster of ship’s
coffee-kettles. These last were highly ornamental in the sheen of their
bright tin, but I could invent no reason for their presence. Our carriageful
reckoned up, as near as we could get at it, some three hundred years to
the six of us. Four of the six, besides, were Hebrews. But I never, in all
my life, was conscious of so strong an atmosphere of holiday. No word
was spoken but of pleasure; and even when we drove in silence, nods
and smiles went round the party like refreshments.
The sun shone out of a cloudless sky. Close at the zenith rode the be-
lated moon, still clearly visible, and, along one margin, even bright. The
wind blew a gale from the north; the trees roared; the corn and the deep
grass in the valley fled in whitening surges; the dust towered into the air
along the road and dispersed like the smoke of battle. It was clear in our
teeth from the first, and for all the windings of the road it managed to
keep clear in our teeth until the end.
For some two miles we rattled through the valley, skirting the eastern
foothills; then we struck off to the right, through haugh-land, and
presently, crossing a dry water-course, entered the Toll road, or, to be
more local, entered on “the grade.” The road mounts the near shoulder
of Mount Saint Helena, bound northward into Lake County. In one place
it skirts along the edge of a narrow and deep canyon, filled with trees,
and I was glad, indeed, not to be driven at this point by the dashing Foss.
Kelmar, with his unvarying smile, jogging to the motion of the trap,
drove for all the world like a good, plain, country clergyman at home;
and I profess I blessed him unawares for his timidity.
32
Vineyards and deep meadows, islanded and framed with thicket, gave
place more and more as we ascended to woods of oak and madrona, dot-
ted with enormous pines. It was these pines, as they shot above the
lower wood, that produced that pencilling of single trees I had so often
remarked from the valley. Thence, looking up and from however far,
each fir stands separate against the sky no bigger than an eyelash; and all
together lend a quaint, fringed aspect to the hills. The oak is no baby;
even the madrona, upon these spurs of Mount Saint Helena, comes to a
fine bulk and ranks with forest trees - but the pines look down upon the
rest for underwood. As Mount Saint Helena among her foothills, so these
dark giants out-top their fellow-vegetables. Alas! if they had left the red-
woods, the pines, in turn, would have been dwarfed. But the redwoods,
fallen from their high estate, are serving as family bedsteads, or yet more
humbly as field fences, along all Napa Valley.
A rough smack of resin was in the air, and a crystal mountain purity.
It came pouring over these green slopes by the oceanful. The woods sang
aloud, and gave largely of their healthful breath. Gladness seemed to in-
habit these upper zones, and we had left indifference behind us in the
valley. “I to the hills lift mine eyes!” There are days in a life when thus to
climb out of the lowlands, seems like scaling heaven.
As we continued to ascend, the wind fell upon us with increasing
strength. It was a wonder how the two stout horses managed to pull us
up that steep incline and still face the athletic opposition of the wind, or
how their great eyes were able to endure the dust. Ten minutes after we
went by, a tree fell, blocking the road; and even before us leaves were
thickly strewn, and boughs had fallen, large enough to make the passage
difficult. But now we were hard by the summit. The road crosses the
ridge, just in the nick that Kelmar showed me from below, and then,
without pause, plunges down a deep, thickly wooded glen on the farther
side. At the highest point a trail strikes up the main hill to the leftward;
and that leads to Silverado. A hundred yards beyond, and in a kind of el-
bow of the glen, stands the Toll House Hotel. We came up the one side,
were caught upon the summit by the whole weight of the wind as it
poured over into Napa Valley, and a minute after had drawn up in shel-
ter, but all buffetted and breathless, at the Toll House door.
A water-tank, and stables, and a gray house of two stories, with gable
ends and a verandah, are jammed hard against the hillside, just where a
stream has cut for itself a narrow canyon, filled with pines. The pines go
right up overhead; a little more and the stream might have played, like a
fire-hose, on the Toll House roof. In front the ground drops as sharply as
33
it rises behind. There is just room for the road and a sort of promontory
of croquet ground, and then you can lean over the edge and look deep
below you through the wood. I said croquet ground, not green; for the
surface was of brown, beaten earth. The toll-bar itself was the only other
note of originality: a long beam, turning on a post, and kept slightly hori-
zontal by a counterweight of stones. Regularly about sundown this rude
barrier was swung, like a derrick, across the road and made fast, I think,
to a tree upon the farther side.
On our arrival there followed a gay scene in the bar. I was presented to
Mr. Corwin, the landlord; to Mr. Jennings, the engineer, who lives there
for his health; to Mr. Hoddy, a most pleasant little gentleman, once a
member of the Ohio legislature, again the editor of a local paper, and
now, with undiminished dignity, keeping the Toll House bar. I had a
number of drinks and cigars bestowed on me, and enjoyed a famous op-
portunity of seeing Kelmar in his glory, friendly, radiant, smiling, stead-
ily edging one of the ship’s kettles on the reluctant Corwin.
Corwin, plainly aghast, resisted gallantly, and for that bout victory
crowned his arms.
At last we set forth for Silverado on foot. Kelmar and his jolly Jew girls
were full of the sentiment of Sunday outings, breathed geniality and
vagueness, and suffered a little vile boy from the hotel to lead them here
and there about the woods. For three people all so old, so bulky in body,
and belonging to a race so venerable, they could not but surprise us by
their extreme and almost imbecile youthfulness of spirit. They were only
going to stay ten minutes at the Toll House; had they not twenty long
miles of road before them on the other side? Stay to dinner? Not they!
Put up the horses? Never. Let us attach them to the verandah by a wisp
of straw rope, such as would not have held a person’s hat on that blus-
tering day. And with all these protestations of hurry, they proved irre-
sponsible like children. Kelmar himself, shrewd old Russian Jew, with a
smirk that seemed just to have concluded a bargain to its satisfaction, in-
trusted himself and us devoutly to that boy. Yet the boy was patently fal-
lacious; and for that matter a most unsympathetic urchin, raised appar-
ently on gingerbread. He was bent on his own pleasure, nothing else;
and Kelmar followed him to his ruin, with the same shrewd smirk. If the
boy said there was “a hole there in the hill” - a hole, pure and simple,
neither more nor less - Kelmar and his Jew girls would follow him a hun-
dred yards to look complacently down that hole. For two hours we
looked for houses; and for two hours they followed us, smelling trees,
picking flowers, foisting false botany on the unwary. Had we taken five,
34
with that vile lad to head them off on idle divagations, for five they
would have smiled and stumbled through the woods.
However, we came forth at length, and as by accident, upon a lawn,
sparse planted like an orchard, but with forest instead of fruit trees. That
was the site of Silverado mining town. A piece of ground was levelled
up, where Kelmar’s store had been; and facing that we saw Rufe Han-
son’s house, still bearing on its front the legend Silverado Hotel. Not an-
other sign of habitation. Silverado town had all been carted from the
scene; one of the houses was now the school-house far down the road;
one was gone here, one there, but all were gone away.
It was now a sylvan solitude, and the silence was unbroken but by the
great, vague voice of the wind. Some days before our visit, a grizzly bear
had been sporting round the Hansons’ chicken-house.
Mrs. Hanson was at home alone, we found. Rufe had been out after a
“bar,” had risen late, and was now gone, it did not clearly appear whith-
er. Perhaps he had had wind of Kelmar’s coming, and was now en-
sconced among the underwood, or watching us from the shoulder of the
mountain. We, hearing there were no houses to be had, were for immedi-
ately giving up all hopes of Silverado. But this, somehow, was not to Kel-
mar’s fancy. He first proposed that we should “camp someveres around,
ain’t it?” waving his hand cheerily as though to weave a spell; and when
that was firmly rejected, he decided that we must take up house with the
Hansons. Mrs. Hanson had been, from the first, flustered, subdued, and
a little pale; but from this proposition she recoiled with haggard indigna-
tion. So did we, who would have preferred, in a manner of speaking,
death. But Kelmar was not to be put by. He edged Mrs. Hanson into a
corner, where for a long time he threatened her with his forefinger, like a
character in Dickens; and the poor woman, driven to her entrenchments,
at last remembered with a shriek that there were still some houses at the
tunnel.
Thither we went; the Jews, who should already have been miles into
Lake County, still cheerily accompanying us. For about a furlong we fol-
lowed a good road alone, the hillside through the forest, until suddenly
that road widened out and came abruptly to an end. A canyon, woody
below, red, rocky, and naked overhead, was here walled across by a
dump of rolling stones, dangerously steep, and from twenty to thirty feet
in height. A rusty iron chute on wooden legs came flying, like a mon-
strous gargoyle, across the parapet. It was down this that they poured
the precious ore; and below here the carts stood to wait their lading, and
carry it mill-ward down the mountain.
35
The whole canyon was so entirely blocked, as if by some rude guerilla
fortification, that we could only mount by lengths of wooden ladder,
fixed in the hillside. These led us round the farther corner of the dump;
and when they were at an end, we still persevered over loose rubble and
wading deep in poison oak, till we struck a triangular platform, filling
up the whole glen, and shut in on either hand by bold projections of the
mountain. Only in front the place was open like the proscenium of a
theatre, and we looked forth into a great realm of air, and down upon
treetops and hilltops, and far and near on wild and varied country. The
place still stood as on the day it was deserted: a line of iron rails with a
bifurcation; a truck in working order; a world of lumber, old wood, old
iron; a blacksmith’s forge on one side, half buried in the leaves of dwarf
madronas; and on the other, an old brown wooden house.
Fanny and I dashed at the house. It consisted of three rooms, and was
so plastered against the hill, that one room was right atop of another,
that the upper floor was more than twice as large as the lower, and that
all three apartments must be entered from a different side and level. Not
a window-sash remained.
The door of the lower room was smashed, and one panel hung in
splinters. We entered that, and found a fair amount of rubbish: sand and
gravel that had been sifted in there by the mountain winds; straw, sticks,
and stones; a table, a barrel; a plate-rack on the wall; two home-made
bootjacks, signs of miners and their boots; and a pair of papers pinned on
the boarding, headed respectively “Funnel No. 1,” and “Funnel No. 2,”
but with the tails torn away. The window, sashless of course, was choked
with the green and sweetly smelling foliage of a bay; and through a
chink in the floor, a spray of poison oak had shot up and was hand-
somely prospering in the interior. It was my first care to cut away that
poison oak, Fanny standing by at a respectful distance. That was our first
improvement by which we took possession.
The room immediately above could only be entered by a plank
propped against the threshold, along which the intruder must foot it
gingerly, clutching for support to sprays of poison oak, the proper
product of the country. Herein was, on either hand, a triple tier of beds,
where miners had once lain; and the other gable was pierced by a sash-
less window and a doorless doorway opening on the air of heaven, five
feet above the ground. As for the third room, which entered squarely
from the ground level, but higher up the hill and farther up the canyon,
it contained only rubbish and the uprights for another triple tier of beds.
36
The whole building was overhung by a bold, lion-like, red rock. Pois-
on oak, sweet bay trees, calcanthus, brush, and chaparral, grew freely
but sparsely all about it. In front, in the strong sunshine, the platform lay
overstrewn with busy litter, as though the labours of the mine might be-
gin again to-morrow in the morning.
Following back into the canyon, among the mass of rotting plant and
through the flowering bushes, we came to a great crazy staging, with a
wry windless on the top; and clambering up, we could look into an open
shaft, leading edgeways down into the bowels of the mountain, trickling
with water, and lit by some stray sun-gleams, whence I know not. In that
quiet place the still, far-away tinkle of the water-drops was loudly aud-
ible. Close by, another shaft led edgeways up into the superincumbent
shoulder of the hill. It lay partly open; and sixty or a hundred feet above
our head, we could see the strata propped apart by solid wooden
wedges, and a pine, half undermined, precariously nodding on the
verge. Here also a rugged, horizontal tunnel ran straight into the un-
sunned bowels of the rock. This secure angle in the mountain’s flank
was, even on this wild day, as still as my lady’s chamber. But in the tun-
nel a cold, wet draught tempestuously blew. Nor have I ever known that
place otherwise than cold and windy.
Such was our fist prospect of Juan Silverado. I own I had looked for
something different: a clique of neighbourly houses on a village green,
we shall say, all empty to be sure, but swept and varnished; a trout
stream brawling by; great elms or chestnuts, humming with bees and
nested in by song-birds; and the mountains standing round about, as at
Jerusalem. Here, mountain and house and the old tools of industry were
all alike rusty and downfalling. The hill was here wedged up, and there
poured forth its bowels in a spout of broken mineral; man with his picks
and powder, and nature with her own great blasting tools of sun and
rain, labouring together at the ruin of that proud mountain. The view up
the canyon was a glimpse of devastation; dry red minerals sliding to-
gether, here and there a crag, here and there dwarf thicket clinging in the
general glissade, and over all a broken outline trenching on the blue of
heaven. Downwards indeed, from our rock eyrie, we behold the greener
side of nature; and the bearing of the pines and the sweet smell of bays
and nutmegs commanded themselves gratefully to our senses. One way
and another, now the die was cast. Silverado be it!
After we had got back to the Toll House, the Jews were not long of
striking forward. But I observed that one of the Hanson lads came down,
before their departure, and returned with a ship’s kettle. Happy
37
Hansons! Nor was it until after Kelmar was gone, if I remember rightly,
that Rufe put in an appearance to arrange the details of our installation.
The latter part of the day, Fanny and I sat in the verandah of the Toll
House, utterly stunned by the uproar of the wind among the trees on the
other side of the valley. Sometimes, we would have it it was like a sea,
but it was not various enough for that; and again, we thought it like the
roar of a cataract, but it was too changeful for the cataract; and then we
would decide, speaking in sleepy voices, that it could be compared with
nothing but itself. My mind was entirely preoccupied by the noise. I
hearkened to it by the hour, gapingly hearkened, and let my cigarette go
out. Sometimes the wind would make a sally nearer hand, and send a
shrill, whistling crash among the foliage on our side of the glen; and
sometimes a back-draught would strike into the elbow where we sat,
and cast the gravel and torn leaves into our faces. But for the most part,
this great, streaming gale passed unweariedly by us into Napa Valley,
not two hundred yards away, visible by the tossing boughs, stunningly
audible, and yet not moving a hair upon our heads. So it blew all night
long while I was writing up my journal, and after we were in bed, under
a cloudless, starset heaven; and so it was blowing still next morning
when we rose.
It was a laughable thought to us, what had become of our cheerful,
wandering Hebrews. We could not suppose they had reached a destina-
tion. The meanest boy could lead them miles out of their way to see a
gopher-hole. Boys, we felt to be their special danger; none others were of
that exact pitch of cheerful irrelevancy to exercise a kindred sway upon
their minds: but before the attractions of a boy their most settled resolu-
tions would be war. We thought we could follow in fancy these three
aged Hebrew truants wandering in and out on hilltop and in thicket, a
demon boy trotting far ahead, their will-o’-the-wisp conductor; and at
last about midnight, the wind still roaring in the darkness, we had a vis-
ion of all three on their knees upon a mountain-top around a glow-
worm.
38
Chapter 4
THE RETURN
Next morning we were up by half-past five, according to agreement, and
it was ten by the clock before our Jew boys returned to pick us up. Kel-
mar, Mrs. Kelmar, and Abramina, all smiling from ear to ear, and full of
tales of the hospitality they had found on the other side. It had not gone
unrewarded; for I observed with interest that the ship’s kettles, all but
one, had been “placed.” Three Lake County families, at least, endowed
for life with a ship’s kettle. Come, this was no misspent Sunday. The ab-
sence of the kettles told its own story: our Jews said nothing about them;
but, on the other hand, they said many kind and comely things about the
people they had met. The two women, in particular, had been charmed
out of themselves by the sight of a young girl surrounded by her ad-
mirers; all evening, it appeared, they had been triumphing together in
the girl’s innocent successes, and to this natural and unselfish joy they
gave expression in language that was beautiful by its simplicity and
truth.
Take them for all in all, few people have done my heart more good;
they seemed so thoroughly entitled to happiness, and to enjoy it in so
large a measure and so free from after-thought; almost they persuaded
me to be a Jew. There was, indeed, a chink of money in their talk. They
particularly commanded people who were well to do. “He don’t care -
ain’t it?” was their highest word of commendation to an individual fate;
and here I seem to grasp the root of their philosophy - it was to be free
from care, to be free to make these Sunday wanderings, that they so
eagerly pursued after wealth; and all this carefulness was to be careless.
The fine, good humour of all three seemed to declare they had attained
their end. Yet there was the other side to it; and the recipients of kettles
perhaps cared greatly.
No sooner had they returned, than the scene of yesterday began again.
The horses were not even tied with a straw rope this time - it was not
worth while; and Kelmar disappeared into the bar, leaving them under a
39
tree on the other side of the road. I had to devote myself. I stood under
the shadow of that tree for, I suppose, hard upon an hour, and had not
the heart to be angry. Once some one remembered me, and brought me
out half a tumblerful of the playful, innocuous American cocktail. I
drank it, and lo! veins of living fire ran down my leg; and then a focus of
conflagration remained seated in my stomach, not unpleasantly, for
quarter of an hour. I love these sweet, fiery pangs, but I will not court
them. The bulk of the time I spent in repeating as much French poetry as
I could remember to the horses, who seemed to enjoy it hugely. And
now it went -
“O ma vieille Font-georges
Où volent les rouges-gorges:”
and again, to a more trampling measure -
“Et tout tremble, Irun, Coïmbre,
Sautander, Almodovar,
Sitôt qu’on entend le timbre
Des cymbales do Bivar.”
The redbreasts and the brooks of Europe, in that dry and songless
land; brave old names and wars, strong cities, cymbals, and bright ar-
mour, in that nook of the mountain, sacred only to the Indian and the
bear! This is still the strangest thing in all man’s travelling, that he
should carry about with him incongruous memories. There is no foreign
land; it is the traveller only that is foreign, and now and again, by a flash
of recollection, lights up the contrasts of the earth.
But while I was thus wandering in my fancy, great feats had been
transacted in the bar. Corwin the bold had fallen, Kelmar was again
crowned with laurels, and the last of the ship’s kettles had changed
hands. If I had ever doubted the purity of Kelmar’s motives, if I had ever
suspected him of a single eye to business in his eternal dallyings, now at
least, when the last kettle was disposed of, my suspicions must have
been allayed. I dare not guess how much more time was wasted; nor
how often we drove off, merely to drive back again and renew interrup-
ted conversations about nothing, before the Toll House was fairly left be-
hind. Alas! and not a mile down the grade there stands a ranche in a
sunny vineyard, and here we must all dismount again and enter.
Only the old lady was at home, Mrs. Guele, a brown old Swiss dame,
the picture of honesty; and with her we drank a bottle of wine and had
an age-long conversation, which would have been highly delightful if
Fanny and I had not been faint with hunger. The ladies each narrated the
story of her marriage, our two Hebrews with the prettiest combination of
40
sentiment and financial bathos. Abramina, specially, endeared herself
with every word. She was as simple, natural, and engaging as a kid that
should have been brought up to the business of a money-changer. One
touch was so resplendently Hebraic that I cannot pass it over. When her
“old man” wrote home for her from America, her old man’s family
would not intrust her with the money for the passage, till she had bound
herself by an oath - on her knees, I think she said - not to employ it
otherwise.
This had tickled Abramina hugely, but I think it tickled me fully more.
Mrs. Guele told of her home-sickness up here in the long winters; of
her honest, country-woman troubles and alarms upon the journey; how
in the bank at Frankfort she had feared lest the banker, after having
taken her cheque, should deny all knowledge of it - a fear I have myself
every time I go to a bank; and how crossing the Luneburger Heath, an
old lady, witnessing her trouble and finding whither she was bound, had
given her “the blessing of a person eighty years old, which would be
sure to bring her safely to the States. And the first thing I did,” added
Mrs. Guele, “was to fall downstairs.”
At length we got out of the house, and some of us into the trap, when -
judgment of Heaven! - here came Mr. Guele from his vineyard. So anoth-
er quarter of an hour went by; till at length, at our earnest pleading, we
set forth again in earnest, Fanny and I white-faced and silent, but the
Jews still smiling. The heart fails me. There was yet another stoppage!
And we drove at last into Calistoga past two in the afternoon, Fanny and
I having breakfasted at six in the morning, eight mortal hours before. We
were a pallid couple; but still the Jews were smiling.
So ended our excursion with the village usurers; and, now that it was
done, we had no more idea of the nature of the business, nor of the part
we had been playing in it, than the child unborn. That all the people we
had met were the slaves of Kelmar, though in various degrees of ser-
vitude; that we ourselves had been sent up the mountain in the interests
of none but Kelmar; that the money we laid out, dollar by dollar, cent by
cent, and through the hands of various intermediaries, should all hop ul-
timately into Kelmar’s till; - these were facts that we only grew to recog-
nize in the course of time and by the accumulation of evidence. At length
all doubt was quieted, when one of the kettle-holders confessed. Stop-
ping his trap in the moonlight, a little way out of Calistoga, he told me,
in so many words, that he dare not show face therewith an empty pock-
et. “You see, I don’t mind if it was only five dollars, Mr. Stevens,” he
said, “but I must give Mr. Kelmar something.”
41
Even now, when the whole tyranny is plain to me, I cannot find it in
my heart to be as angry as perhaps I should be with the Hebrew tyrant.
The whole game of business is beggar my neighbour; and though per-
haps that game looks uglier when played at such close quarters and on
so small a scale, it is none the more intrinsically inhumane for that. The
village usurer is not so sad a feature of humanity and human progress as
the millionaire manufacturer, fattening on the toil and loss of thousands,
and yet declaiming from the platform against the greed and dishonesty
of landlords. If it were fair for Cobden to buy up land from owners
whom he thought unconscious of its proper value, it was fair enough for
my Russian Jew to give credit to his farmers. Kelmar, if he was uncon-
scious of the beam in his own eye, was at least silent in the matter of his
brother’s mote.
42
Chapter 5
THE HUNTER’S FAMILY
There is quite a large race or class of people in America, for whom we
scarcely seem to have a parallel in England. Of pure white blood, they
are unknown or unrecognizable in towns; inhabit the fringe of settle-
ments and the deep, quiet places of the country; rebellious to all labour,
and pettily thievish, like the English gipsies; rustically ignorant, but with
a touch of wood-lore and the dexterity of the savage. Whence they came
is a moot point. At the time of the war, they poured north in crowds to
escape the conscription; lived during summer on fruits, wild animals,
and petty theft; and at the approach of winter, when these supplies
failed, built great fires in the forest, and there died stoically by starva-
tion. They are widely scattered, however, and easily recognized. Loutish,
but not ill-looking, they will sit all day, swinging their legs on a field
fence, the mind seemingly as devoid of all reflection as a Suffolk peas-
ant’s, careless of politics, for the most part incapable of reading, but with
a rebellious vanity and a strong sense of independence. Hunting is their
most congenial business, or, if the occasion offers, a little amateur detec-
tion. In tracking a criminal, following a particular horse along a beaten
highway, and drawing inductions from a hair or a footprint, one of those
somnolent, grinning Hodges will suddenly display activity of body and
finesse of mind. By their names ye may know them, the women figuring
as Loveina, Larsenia, Serena, Leanna, Orreana; the men answering to
Alvin, Alva, or Orion, pronounced Orrion, with the accent on the first.
Whether they are indeed a race, or whether this is the form of degener-
acy common to all back-woodsmen, they are at least known by a generic
byword, as Poor Whites or Low-downers.
I will not say that the Hanson family was Poor White, because the
name savours of offence; but I may go as far as this - they were, in many
points, not unsimilar to the people usually so-cared. Rufe himself com-
bined two of the qualifications, for he was both a hunter and an amateur
detective. It was he who pursued Russel and Dollar, the robbers of the
43
Lake Port stage, and captured them the very morning after the exploit,
while they were still sleeping in a hayfield. Russel, a drunken Scotch car-
penter, was even an acquaintance of his own, and he expressed much
grave commiseration for his fate. In all that he said and did, Rufe was
grave. I never saw him hurried. When he spoke, he took out his pipe
with ceremonial deliberation, looked east and west, and then, in quiet
tones and few words, stated his business or told his story. His gait was to
match; it would never have surprised you if, at any step, he had turned
round and walked away again, so warily and slowly, and with so much
seeming hesitation did he go about. He lay long in bed in the morning -
rarely indeed, rose before noon; he loved all games, from poker to cleric-
al croquet; and in the Toll House croquet ground I have seen him toiling
at the latter with the devotion of a curate. He took an interest in educa-
tion, was an active member of the local school-board, and when I was
there, he had recently lost the schoolhouse key. His waggon was broken,
but it never seemed to occur to him to mend it. Like all truly idle people,
he had an artistic eye. He chose the print stuff for his wife’s dresses, and
counselled her in the making of a patchwork quilt, always, as she
thought, wrongly, but to the more educated eye, always with bizarre and
admirable taste - the taste of an Indian. With all this, he was a perfect,
unoffending gentleman in word and act. Take his clay pipe from him,
and he was fit for any society but that of fools. Quiet as he was, there
burned a deep, permanent excitement in his dark blue eyes; and when
this grave man smiled, it was like sunshine in a shady place.
Mrs. Hanson (née, if you please, Lovelands) was more commonplace
than her lord. She was a comely woman, too, plump, fair-coloured, with
wonderful white teeth; and in her print dresses (chosen by Rufe) and
with a large sun-bonnet shading her valued complexion, made, I assure
you, a very agreeable figure. But she was on the surface, what there was
of her, out-spoken and loud-spoken. Her noisy laughter had none of the
charm of one of Hanson’s rare, slow-spreading smiles; there was no reti-
cence, no mystery, no manner about the woman: she was a first-class
dairymaid, but her husband was an unknown quantity between the sav-
age and the nobleman. She was often in and out with us, merry, and
healthy, and fair; he came far seldomer - only, indeed, when there was
business, or now and again, to pay a visit of ceremony, brushed up for
the occasion, with his wife on his arm, and a clean clay pipe in his teeth.
These visits, in our forest state, had quite the air of an event, and turned
our red canyon into a salon.
44
Such was the pair who ruled in the old Silverado Hotel, among the
windy trees, on the mountain shoulder overlooking the whole length of
Napa Valley, as the man aloft looks down on the ship’s deck. There they
kept house, with sundry horses and fowls, and a family of sons, Daniel
Webster, and I think George Washington, among the number. Nor did
they want visitors. An old gentleman, of singular stolidity, and called
Breedlove - I think he had crossed the plains in the same caravan with
Rufe - housed with them for awhile during our stay; and they had be-
sides a permanent lodger, in the form of Mrs. Hanson’s brother, Irvine
Lovelands. I spell Irvine by guess; for I could get no information on the
subject, just as I could never find out, in spite of many inquiries, whether
or not Rufe was a contraction for Rufus. They were all cheerfully at sea
about their names in that generation. And this is surely the more notable
where the names are all so strange, and even the family names appear to
have been coined. At one time, at least, the ancestors of all these Alvins
and Alvas, Loveinas, Lovelands, and Breedloves, must have taken seri-
ous council and found a certain poetry in these denominations; that must
have been, then, their form of literature. But still times change; and their
next descendants, the George Washingtons and Daniel Websters, will at
least be clear upon the point. And anyway, and however his name
should be spelt, this Irvine Lovelands was the most unmitigated Caliban
I ever knew.
Our very first morning at Silverado, when we were full of business,
patching up doors and windows, making beds and seats, and getting our
rough lodging into shape, Irvine and his sister made their appearance to-
gether, she for neighbourliness and general curiosity; he, because he was
working for me, to my sorrow, cutting firewood at I forget how much a
day. The way that he set about cutting wood was characteristic. We were
at that moment patching up and unpacking in the kitchen. Down he sat
on one side, and down sat his sister on the other. Both were chewing
pine-tree gum, and he, to my annoyance, accompanied that simple pleas-
ure with profuse expectoration. She rattled away, talking up hill and
down dale, laughing, tossing her head, showing her brilliant teeth. He
looked on in silence, now spitting heavily on the floor, now putting his
head back and uttering a loud, discordant, joyless laugh. He had a tangle
of shock hair, the colour of wool; his mouth was a grin; although as
strong as a horse, he looked neither heavy nor yet adroit, only leggy,
coltish, and in the road. But it was plain he was in high spirits, thor-
oughly enjoying his visit; and he laughed frankly whenever we failed to
accomplish what we were about. This was scarcely helpful: it was even,
45
to amateur carpenters, embarrassing; but it lasted until we knocked off
work and began to get dinner. Then Mrs. Hanson remembered she
should have been gone an hour ago; and the pair retired, and the lady’s
laughter died away among the nutmegs down the path. That was
Irvine’s first day’s work in my employment - the devil take him!
The next morning he returned and, as he was this time alone, he be-
stowed his conversation upon us with great liberality. He prided himself
on his intelligence; asked us if we knew the school ma’am. He didn’t
think much of her, anyway. He had tried her, he had. He had put a ques-
tion to her. If a tree a hundred feet high were to fall a foot a day, how
long would it take to fall right down? She had not been able to solve the
problem. “She don’t know nothing,” he opined. He told us how a friend
of his kept a school with a revolver, and chuckled mightily over that; his
friend could teach school, he could. All the time he kept chewing gum
and spitting. He would stand a while looking down; and then he would
toss back his shock of hair, and laugh hoarsely, and spit, and bring for-
ward a new subject. A man, he told us, who bore a grudge against him,
had poisoned his dog. “That was a low thing for a man to do now,
wasn’t it? It wasn’t like a man, that, nohow. But I got even with him: I
pisoned his dog.” His clumsy utterance, his rude embarrassed manner,
set a fresh value on the stupidity of his remarks. I do not think I ever ap-
preciated the meaning of two words until I knew Irvine - the verb, loaf,
and the noun, oaf; between them, they complete his portrait. He could
lounge, and wriggle, and rub himself against the wall, and grin, and be
more in everybody’s way than any other two people that I ever set my
eyes on. Nothing that he did became him; and yet you were conscious
that he was one of your own race, that his mind was cumbrously at
work, revolving the problem of existence like a quid of gum, and in his
own cloudy manner enjoying life, and passing judgment on his fellows.
Above all things, he was delighted with himself. You would not have
thought it, from his uneasy manners and troubled, struggling utterance;
but he loved himself to the marrow, and was happy and proud like a
peacock on a rail.
His self-esteem was, indeed, the one joint in his harness. He could be
got to work, and even kept at work, by flattery. As long as my wife stood
over him, crying out how strong he was, so long exactly he would stick
to the matter in hand; and the moment she turned her back, or ceased to
praise him, he would stop. His physical strength was wonderful; and to
have a woman stand by and admire his achievements, warmed his heart
like sunshine. Yet he was as cowardly as he was powerful, and felt no
46
shame in owning to the weakness. Something was once wanted from the
crazy platform over the shaft, and he at once refused to venture there -
“did not like,” as he said, “foolen’ round them kind o’ places,” and let
my wife go instead of him, looking on with a grin. Vanity, where it rules,
is usually more heroic: but Irvine steadily approved himself, and expec-
ted others to approve him; rather looked down upon my wife, and de-
cidedly expected her to look up to him, on the strength of his superior
prudence.
Yet the strangest part of the whole matter was perhaps this, that Irvine
was as beautiful as a statue. His features were, in themselves, perfect; it
was only his cloudy, uncouth, and coarse expression that disfigured
them. So much strength residing in so spare a frame was proof sufficient
of the accuracy of his shape. He must have been built somewhat after the
pattern of Jack Sheppard; but the famous housebreaker, we may be cer-
tain, was no lout. It was by the extraordinary powers of his mind no less
than by the vigour of his body, that he broke his strong prison with such
imperfect implements, turning the very obstacles to service. Irvine, in the
same case, would have sat down and spat, and grumbled curses. He had
the soul of a fat sheep, but, regarded as an artist’s model, the exterior of a
Greek God. It was a cruel thought to persons less favoured in their birth,
that this creature, endowed - to use the language of theatres - with ex-
traordinary “means,” should so manage to misemploy them that he
looked ugly and almost deformed. It was only by an effort of abstraction,
and after many days, that you discovered what he was.
By playing on the oaf’s conceit, and standing closely over him, we got
a path made round the corner of the dump to our door, so that we could
come and go with decent ease; and he even enjoyed the work, for in that
there were boulders to be plucked up bodily, bushes to be uprooted, and
other occasions for athletic display: but cutting wood was a different
matter. Anybody could cut wood; and, besides, my wife was tired of su-
pervising him, and had other things to attend to. And, in short, days
went by, and Irvine came daily, and talked and lounged and spat; but
the firewood remained intact as sleepers on the platform or growing
trees upon the mountainside. Irvine, as a woodcutter, we could tolerate;
but Irvine as a friend of the family, at so much a day, was too bald an im-
position, and at length, on the afternoon of the fourth or fifth day of our
connection, I explained to him, as clearly as I could, the light in which I
had grown to regard his presence. I pointed out to him that I could not
continue to give him a salary for spitting on the floor; and this expres-
sion, which came after a good many others, at last penetrated his
47
obdurate wits. He rose at once, and said if that was the way he was go-
ing to be spoke to, he reckoned he would quit. And, no one interposing,
he departed.
So far, so good. But we had no firewood. The next afternoon, I strolled
down to Rufe’s and consulted him on the subject. It was a very droll in-
terview, in the large, bare north room of the Silverado Hotel, Mrs. Han-
son’s patchwork on a frame, and Rufe, and his wife, and I, and the oaf
himself, all more or less embarrassed. Rufe announced there was nobody
in the neighbourhood but Irvine who could do a day’s work for any-
body. Irvine, thereupon, refused to have any more to do with my service;
he “wouldn’t work no more for a man as had spoke to him’s I had
done.” I found myself on the point of the last humiliation - driven to be-
seech the creature whom I had just dismissed with insult: but I took the
high hand in despair, said there must be no talk of Irvine coming back
unless matters were to be differently managed; that I would rather chop
firewood for myself than be fooled; and, in short, the Hansons being
eager for the lad’s hire, I so imposed upon them with merely affected
resolution, that they ended by begging me to re-employ him again, on a
solemn promise that he should be more industrious. The promise, I am
bound to say, was kept. We soon had a fine pile of firewood at our door;
and if Caliban gave me the cold shoulder and spared me his conversa-
tion, I thought none the worse of him for that, nor did I find my days
much longer for the deprivation.
The leading spirit of the family was, I am inclined to fancy, Mrs. Han-
son. Her social brilliancy somewhat dazzled the others, and she had
more of the small change of sense. It was she who faced Kelmar, for in-
stance; and perhaps, if she had been alone, Kelmar would have had no
rule within her doors. Rufe, to be sure, had a fine, sober, open-air atti-
tude of mind, seeing the world without exaggeration - perhaps, we may
even say, without enough; for he lacked, along with the others, that com-
mercial idealism which puts so high a value on time and money. Sanity
itself is a kind of convention. Perhaps Rufe was wrong; but, looking on
life plainly, he was unable to perceive that croquet or poker were in any
way less important than, for instance, mending his waggon. Even his
own profession, hunting, was dear to him mainly as a sort of play; even
that he would have neglected, had it not appealed to his imagination.
His hunting-suit, for instance, had cost I should be afraid to say how
many bucks - the currency in which he paid his way: it was all befringed,
after the Indian fashion, and it was dear to his heart. The pictorial side of
his daily business was never forgotten. He was even anxious to stand for
48
his picture in those buckskin hunting clothes; and I remember how he
once warmed almost into enthusiasm, his dark blue eyes growing per-
ceptibly larger, as he planned the composition in which he should ap-
pear, “with the horns of some real big bucks, and dogs, and a camp on a
crick” (creek, stream).
There was no trace in Irvine of this woodland poetry. He did not care
for hunting, nor yet for buckskin suits. He had never observed scenery.
The world, as it appeared to him, was almost obliterated by his own
great grinning figure in the foreground: Caliban Malvolio. And it seems
to me as if, in the persons of these brothers-in-law, we had the two sides
of rusticity fairly well represented: the hunter living really in nature; the
clodhopper living merely out of society: the one bent up in every corpor-
al agent to capacity in one pursuit, doing at least one thing keenly and
thoughtfully, and thoroughly alive to all that touches it; the other in the
inert and bestial state, walking in a faint dream, and taking so dim an
impression of the myriad sides of life that he is truly conscious of noth-
ing but himself. It is only in the fastnesses of nature, forests, mountains,
and the back of man’s beyond, that a creature endowed with five senses
can grow up into the perfection of this crass and earthy vanity. In towns
or the busier country sides, he is roughly reminded of other men’s exist-
ence; and if he learns no more, he learns at least to fear contempt. But
Irvine had come scatheless through life, conscious only of himself, of his
great strength and intelligence; and in the silence of the universe, to
which he did not listen, dwelling with delight on the sound of his own
thoughts.
49
Chapter 6
THE SEA FOGS
A change in the colour of the light usually called me in the morning. By a
certain hour, the long, vertical chinks in our western gable, where the
boards had shrunk and separated, flashed suddenly into my eyes as
stripes of dazzling blue, at once so dark and splendid that I used to mar-
vel how the qualities could be combined. At an earlier hour, the heavens
in that quarter were still quietly coloured, but the shoulder of the moun-
tain which shuts in the canyon already glowed with sunlight in a won-
derful compound of gold and rose and green; and this too would kindle,
although more mildly and with rainbow tints, the fissures of our crazy
gable. If I were sleeping heavily, it was the bold blue that struck me
awake; if more lightly, then I would come to myself in that earlier and
fairier fight.
One Sunday morning, about five, the first brightness called me. I rose
and turned to the east, not for my devotions, but for air. The night had
been very still. The little private gale that blew every evening in our
canyon, for ten minutes or perhaps a quarter of an hour, had swiftly
blown itself out; in the hours that followed not a sigh of wind had
shaken the treetops; and our barrack, for all its breaches, was less fresh
that morning than of wont. But I had no sooner reached the window
than I forgot all else in the sight that met my eyes, and I made but two
bounds into my clothes, and down the crazy plank to the platform.
The sun was still concealed below the opposite hilltops, though it was
shining already, not twenty feet above my head, on our own mountain
slope. But the scene, beyond a few near features, was entirely changed.
Napa valley was gone; gone were all the lower slopes and woody foot-
hills of the range; and in their place, not a thousand feet below me, rolled
a great level ocean. It was as though I had gone to bed the night before,
safe in a nook of inland mountains, and had awakened in a bay upon the
coast. I had seen these inundations from below; at Calistoga I had risen
and gone abroad in the early morning, coughing and sneezing, under
50
fathoms on fathoms of gray sea vapour, like a cloudy sky - a dull sight
for the artist, and a painful experience for the invalid. But to sit aloft
one’s self in the pure air and under the unclouded dome of heaven, and
thus look down on the submergence of the valley, was strangely differ-
ent and even delightful to the eyes. Far away were hilltops like little is-
lands. Nearer, a smoky surf beat about the foot of precipices and poured
into all the coves of these rough mountains. The colour of that fog ocean
was a thing never to be forgotten. For an instant, among the Hebrides
and just about sundown, I have seen something like it on the sea itself.
But the white was not so opaline; nor was there, what surprisingly in-
creased the effect, that breathless, crystal stillness over all. Even in its
gentlest moods the salt sea travails, moaning among the weeds or lisping
on the sand; but that vast fog ocean lay in a trance of silence, nor did the
sweet air of the morning tremble with a sound.
As I continued to sit upon the dump, I began to observe that this sea
was not so level as at first sight it appeared to be. Away in the extreme
south, a little hill of fog arose against the sky above the general surface,
and as it had already caught the sun, it shone on the horizon like the top-
sails of some giant ship. There were huge waves, stationary, as it seemed,
like waves in a frozen sea; and yet, as I looked again, I was not sure but
they were moving after all, with a slow and august advance. And while I
was yet doubting, a promontory of the some four or five miles away,
conspicuous by a bouquet of tall pines, was in a single instant overtaken
and swallowed up. It reappeared in a little, with its pines, but this time
as an islet, and only to be swallowed up once more and then for good.
This set me looking nearer, and I saw that in every cove along the line of
mountains the fog was being piled in higher and higher, as though by
some wind that was inaudible to me. I could trace its progress, one pine
tree first growing hazy and then disappearing after another; although
sometimes there was none of this fore-running haze, but the whole
opaque white ocean gave a start and swallowed a piece of mountain at a
gulp. It was to flee these poisonous fogs that I had left the seaboard, and
climbed so high among the mountains. And now, behold, here came the
fog to besiege me in my chosen altitudes, and yet came so beautifully
that my first thought was of welcome.
The sun had now gotten much higher, and through all the gaps of the
hills it cast long bars of gold across that white ocean. An eagle, or some
other very great bird of the mountain, came wheeling over the nearer
pine-tops, and hung, poised and something sideways, as if to look
abroad on that unwonted desolation, spying, perhaps with terror, for the
51
eyries of her comrades. Then, with a long cry, she disappeared again to-
wards Lake County and the clearer air. At length it seemed to me as if
the flood were beginning to subside. The old landmarks, by whose dis-
appearance I had measured its advance, here a crag, there a brave pine
tree, now began, in the inverse order, to make their reappearance into
daylight. I judged all danger of the fog was over. This was not Noah’s
flood; it was but a morning spring, and would now drift out seaward
whence it came. So, mightily relieved, and a good deal exhilarated by the
sight, I went into the house to light the fire.
I suppose it was nearly seven when I once more mounted the platform
to look abroad. The fog ocean had swelled up enormously since last I
saw it; and a few hundred feet below me, in the deep gap where the Toll
House stands and the road runs through into Lake County, it had
already topped the slope, and was pouring over and down the other side
like driving smoke. The wind had climbed along with it; and though I
was still in calm air, I could see the trees tossing below me, and their
long, strident sighing mounted to me where I stood.
Half an hour later, the fog had surmounted all the ridge on the oppos-
ite side of the gap, though a shoulder of the mountain still warded it out
of our canyon. Napa valley and its bounding hills were now utterly blot-
ted out. The fog, sunny white in the sunshine, was pouring over into
Lake County in a huge, ragged cataract, tossing treetops appearing and
disappearing in the spray. The air struck with a little chill, and set me
coughing. It smelt strong of the fog, like the smell of a washing-house,
but with a shrewd tang of the sea salt.
Had it not been for two things - the sheltering spur which answered as
a dyke, and the great valley on the other side which rapidly engulfed
whatever mounted - our own little platform in the canyon must have
been already buried a hundred feet in salt and poisonous air. As it was,
the interest of the scene entirely occupied our minds. We were set just
out of the wind, and but just above the fog; we could listen to the voice
of the one as to music on the stage; we could plunge our eyes down into
the other, as into some flowing stream from over the parapet of a bridge;
thus we looked on upon a strange, impetuous, silent, shifting exhibition
of the powers of nature, and saw the familiar landscape changing from
moment to moment like figures in a dream.
The imagination loves to trifle with what is not. Had this been indeed
the deluge, I should have felt more strongly, but the emotion would have
been similar in kind. I played with the idea, as the child flees in delighted
terror from the creations of his fancy. The look of the thing helped me.
52
And when at last I began to flee up the mountain, it was indeed partly to
escape from the raw air that kept me coughing, but it was also part in
play.
As I ascended the mountain-side, I came once more to overlook the
upper surface of the fog; but it wore a different appearance from what I
had beheld at daybreak. For, first, the sun now fell on it from high over-
head, and its surface shone and undulated like a great nor’land moor
country, sheeted with untrodden morning snow. And next the new level
must have been a thousand or fifteen hundred feet higher than the old,
so that only five or six points of all the broken country below me, still
stood out. Napa valley was now one with Sonoma on the west. On the
hither side, only a thin scattered fringe of bluffs was unsubmerged; and
through all the gaps the fog was pouring over, like an ocean, into the
blue clear sunny country on the east. There it was soon lost; for it fell in-
stantly into the bottom of the valleys, following the water-shed; and the
hilltops in that quarter were still clear cut upon the eastern sky.
Through the Toll House gap and over the near ridges on the other
side, the deluge was immense. A spray of thin vapour was thrown high
above it, rising and falling, and blown into fantastic shapes. The speed of
its course was like a mountain torrent. Here and there a few treetops
were discovered and then whelmed again; and for one second, the
bough of a dead pine beckoned out of the spray like the arm of a drown-
ing man. But still the imagination was dissatisfied, still the ear waited for
something more. Had this indeed been water (as it seemed so, to the
eye), with what a plunge of reverberating thunder would it have rolled
upon its course, disembowelling mountains and deracinating pines! And
yet water it was, and sea-water at that - true Pacific billows, only some-
what rarefied, rolling in mid air among the hilltops.
I climbed still higher, among the red rattling gravel and dwarf under-
wood of Mount Saint Helena, until I could look right down upon Sil-
verado, and admire the favoured nook in which it lay. The sunny plain
of fog was several hundred feet higher; behind the protecting spur a gi-
gantic accumulation of cottony vapour threatened, with every second, to
blow over and submerge our homestead; but the vortex setting past the
Toll House was too strong; and there lay our little platform, in the arms
of the deluge, but still enjoying its unbroken sunshine. About eleven,
however, thin spray came flying over the friendly buttress, and I began
to think the fog had hunted out its Jonah after all. But it was the last ef-
fort. The wind veered while we were at dinner, and began to blow
squally from the mountain summit; and by half-past one, all that world
53
of sea-fogs was utterly routed and flying here and there into the south in
little rags of cloud. And instead of a lone sea-beach, we found ourselves
once more inhabiting a high mountainside, with the clear green country
far below us, and the light smoke of Calistoga blowing in the air.
This was the great Russian campaign for that season. Now and then, in
the early morning, a little white lakelet of fog would be seen far down in
Napa Valley; but the heights were not again assailed, nor was the sur-
rounding world again shut off from Silverado.
54
Chapter 7
THE TOLL HOUSE
The Toll House, standing alone by the wayside under nodding pines,
with its streamlet and water-tank; its backwoods, toll-bar, and well trod-
den croquet ground; the ostler standing by the stable door, chewing a
straw; a glimpse of the Chinese cook in the back parts; and Mr. Hoddy in
the bar, gravely alert and serviceable, and equally anxious to lend or bor-
row books; - dozed all day in the dusty sunshine, more than half asleep.
There were no neighbours, except the Hansons up the hill. The traffic on
the road was infinitesimal; only, at rare intervals, a couple in a waggon,
or a dusty farmer on a springboard, toiling over “the grade” to that met-
ropolitan hamlet, Calistoga; and, at the fixed hours, the passage of the
stages.
The nearest building was the school-house, down the road; and the
school-ma’am boarded at the Toll House, walking thence in the morning
to the little brown shanty, where she taught the young ones of the dis-
trict, and returning thither pretty weary in the afternoon. She had chosen
this outlying situation, I understood, for her health. Mr. Corwin was con-
sumptive; so was Rufe; so was Mr. Jennings, the engineer. In short, the
place was a kind of small Davos: consumptive folk consorting on a hill-
top in the most unbroken idleness. Jennings never did anything that I
could see, except now and then to fish, and generally to sit about in the
bar and the verandah, waiting for something to happen. Corwin and
Rufe did as little as possible; and if the school-ma’am, poor lady, had to
work pretty hard all morning, she subsided when it was over into much
the same dazed beatitude as all the rest.
Her special corner was the parlour - a very genteel room, with Bible
prints, a crayon portrait of Mrs. Corwin in the height of fashion, a few
years ago, another of her son (Mr. Corwin was not represented), a mir-
ror, and a selection of dried grasses. A large book was laid religiously on
the table - “From Palace to Hovel,” I believe, its name - full of the raciest
experiences in England. The author had mingled freely with all classes,
55
the nobility particularly meeting him with open arms; and I must say
that traveller had ill requited his reception. His book, in short, was a cap-
ital instance of the Penny Messalina school of literature; and there arose
from it, in that cool parlour, in that silent, wayside, mountain inn, a rank
atmosphere of gold and blood and “Jenkins,” and the “Mysteries of Lon-
don,” and sickening, inverted snobbery, fit to knock you down. The
mention of this book reminds me of another and far racier picture of our
island life. The latter parts of Rocambole are surely too sparingly consul-
ted in the country which they celebrate. No man’s education can be said
to be complete, nor can he pronounce the world yet emptied of enjoy-
ment, till he has made the acquaintance of “the Reverend Patterson, dir-
ector of the Evangelical Society.” To follow the evolutions of that rever-
end gentleman, who goes through scenes in which even Mr. Duffield
would hesitate to place a bishop, is to rise to new ideas. But, alas! there
was no Patterson about the Toll House. Only, alongside of “From Palace
to Hovel,” a sixpenny “Ouida” figured. So literature, you see, was not
unrepresented.
The school-ma’am had friends to stay with her, other school-ma’ams
enjoying their holidays, quite a bevy of damsels. They seemed never to
go out, or not beyond the verandah, but sat close in the little parlour,
quietly talking or listening to the wind among the trees. Sleep dwelt in
the Toll House, like a fixture: summer sleep, shallow, soft, and dream-
less. A cuckoo-clock, a great rarity in such a place, hooted at intervals
about the echoing house; and Mr. Jenning would open his eyes for a mo-
ment in the bar, and turn the leaf of a newspaper, and the resting school-
ma’ams in the parlour would be recalled to the consciousness of their in-
action. Busy Mrs. Corwin and her busy Chinaman might be heard in-
deed, in the penetralia, pounding dough or rattling dishes; or perhaps
Rufe had called up some of the sleepers for a game of croquet, and the
hollow strokes of the mallet sounded far away among the woods: but
with these exceptions, it was sleep and sunshine and dust, and the wind
in the pine trees, all day long.
A little before stage time, that castle of indolence awoke. The ostler
threw his straw away and set to his preparations. Mr. Jennings rubbed
his eyes; happy Mr. Jennings, the something he had been waiting for all
day about to happen at last! The boarders gathered in the verandah, si-
lently giving ear, and gazing down the road with shaded eyes. And as
yet there was no sign for the senses, not a sound, not a tremor of the
mountain road. The birds, to whom the secret of the hooting cuckoo is
unknown, must have set down to instinct this premonitory bustle.
56
And then the first of the two stages swooped upon the Toll House
with a roar and in a cloud of dust; and the shock had not yet time to sub-
side, before the second was abreast of it. Huge concerns they were, well-
horsed and loaded, the men in their shirt-sleeves, the women swathed in
veils, the long whip cracking like a pistol; and as they charged upon that
slumbering hostelry, each shepherding a dust storm, the dead place blos-
somed into life and talk and clatter. This the Toll House? - with its city
throng, its jostling shoulders, its infinity of instant business in the bar?
The mind would not receive it! The heartfelt bustle of that hour is hardly
credible; the thrill of the great shower of letters from the post-bag, the
childish hope and interest with which one gazed in all these strangers’
eyes. They paused there but to pass: the blue-clad China-boy, the San
Francisco magnate, the mystery in the dust coat, the secret memoirs in
tweed, the ogling, well-shod lady with her troop of girls; they did but
flash and go; they were hull-down for us behind life’s ocean, and we but
hailed their topsails on the line. Yet, out of our great solitude of four and
twenty mountain hours, we thrilled to their momentary presence gauged
and divined them, loved and hated; and stood light-headed in that storm
of human electricity. Yes, like Piccadilly circus, this is also one of life’s
crossing-places. Here I beheld one man, already famous or infamous, a
centre of pistol-shots: and another who, if not yet known to rumour, will
fill a column of the Sunday paper when he comes to hang - a burly,
thick-set, powerful Chinese desperado, six long bristles upon either lip;
redolent of whiskey, playing cards, and pistols; swaggering in the bar
with the lowest assumption of the lowest European manners; rapping
out blackguard English oaths in his canorous oriental voice; and combin-
ing in one person the depravities of two races and two civilizations. For
all his lust and vigour, he seemed to look cold upon me from the valley
of the shadow of the gallows. He imagined a vain thing; and while he
drained his cock-tail, Holbein’s death was at his elbow. Once, too, I fell
in talk with another of these flitting strangers - like the rest, in his shirt-
sleeves and all begrimed with dust - and the next minute we were dis-
cussing Paris and London, theatres and wines. To him, journeying from
one human place to another, this was a trifle; but to me! No, Mr. Lillie, I
have not forgotten it.
And presently the city-tide was at its flood and began to ebb. Life runs
in Piccadilly Circus, say, from nine to one, and then, there also, ebbs into
the small hours of the echoing policeman and the lamps and stars. But
the Toll House is far up stream, and near its rural springs; the bubble of
the tide but touches it. Before you had yet grasped your pleasure, the
57
horses were put to, the loud whips volleyed, and the tide was gone.
North and south had the two stages vanished, the towering dust sub-
sided in the woods; but there was still an interval before the flush had
fallen on your cheeks, before the ear became once more contented with
the silence, or the seven sleepers of the Toll House dozed back to their
accustomed corners. Yet a little, and the ostler would swing round the
great barrier across the road; and in the golden evening, that dreamy inn
begin to trim its lamps and spread the board for supper.
As I recall the place - the green dell below; the spires of pine; the sun-
warm, scented air; that gray, gabled inn, with its faint stirrings of life
amid the slumber of the mountains - I slowly awake to a sense of admir-
ation, gratitude, and almost love. A fine place, after all, for a wasted life
to doze away in - the cuckoo clock hooting of its far home country; the
croquet mallets, eloquent of English lawns; the stages daily bringing
news of - the turbulent world away below there; and perhaps once in the
summer, a salt fog pouring overhead with its tale of the Pacific.
58
Chapter 8
A STARRY DRIVE
In our rule at Silverado, there was a melancholy interregnum. The queen
and the crown prince with one accord fell sick; and, as I was sick to begin
with, our lone position on Mount Saint Helena was no longer tenable,
and we had to hurry back to Calistoga and a cottage on the green. By
that time we had begun to realize the difficulties of our position. We had
found what an amount of labour it cost to support life in our red canyon;
and it was the dearest desire of our hearts to get a China-boy to go along
with us when we returned. We could have given him a whole house to
himself, self-contained, as they say in the advertisements; and on the
money question we were prepared to go far. Kong Sam Kee, the Calis-
toga washerman, was entrusted with the affair; and from day to day it
languished on, with protestations on our part and mellifluous excuses on
the part of Kong Sam Kee.
At length, about half-past eight of our last evening, with the waggon
ready harnessed to convey us up the grade, the washerman, with a
somewhat sneering air, produced the boy. He was a handsome, gentle-
manly lad, attired in rich dark blue, and shod with snowy white; but,
alas! he had heard rumours of Silverado. He know it for a lone place on
the mountain-side, with no friendly wash-house near by, where he might
smoke a pipe of opium o’ nights with other China-boys, and lose his
little earnings at the game of tan; and he first backed out for more
money; and then, when that demand was satisfied, refused to come
point-blank. He was wedded to his wash-houses; he had no taste for the
rural life; and we must go to our mountain servantless. It must have
been near half an hour before we reached that conclusion, standing in
the midst of Calistoga high street under the stars, and the China-boy and
Kong Sam Kee singing their pigeon English in the sweetest voices and
with the most musical inflections.
We were not, however, to return alone; for we brought with us Joe
Strong, the painter, a most good-natured comrade and a capital hand at
59
an omelette. I do not know in which capacity he was most valued - as a
cook or a companion; and he did excellently well in both.
The Kong Sam Kee negotiation had delayed us unduly; it must have
been half-past nine before we left Calistoga, and night came fully ere we
struck the bottom of the grade. I have never seen such a night. It seemed
to throw calumny in the teeth of all the painters that ever dabbled in
starlight. The sky itself was of a ruddy, powerful, nameless, changing
colour, dark and glossy like a serpent’s back. The stars, by innumerable
millions, stuck boldly forth like lamps. The milky way was bright, like a
moonlit cloud; half heaven seemed milky way. The greater luminaries
shone each more clearly than a winter’s moon. Their light was dyed in
every sort of colour - red, like fire; blue, like steel; green, like the tracks of
sunset; and so sharply did each stand forth in its own lustre that there
was no appearance of that flat, star-spangled arch we know so well in
pictures, but all the hollow of heaven was one chaos of contesting lu-
minaries - a hurry-burly of stars. Against this the hills and rugged tree-
tops stood out redly dark.
As we continued to advance, the lesser lights and milky ways first
grew pale, and then vanished; the countless hosts of heaven dwindled in
number by successive millions; those that still shone had tempered their
exceeding brightness and fallen back into their customary wistful dis-
tance; and the sky declined from its first bewildering splendour into the
appearance of a common night. Slowly this change proceeded, and still
there was no sign of any cause. Then a whiteness like mist was thrown
over the spurs of the mountain. Yet a while, and, as we turned a corner, a
great leap of silver light and net of forest shadows fell across the road
and upon our wondering waggonful; and, swimming low among the
trees, we beheld a strange, misshapen, waning moon, half-tilted on her
back.
“Where are ye when the moon appears?” so the old poet sang, half-
taunting, to the stars, bent upon a courtly purpose.
“As the sunlight round the dim earth’s midnight tower of shadow
pours,
Streaming past the dim, wide portals,
Viewless to the eyes of mortals,
Till it floods the moon’s pale islet or the morning’s golden shores.”
So sings Mr. Trowbridge, with a noble inspiration. And so had the
sunlight flooded that pale islet of the moon, and her lit face put out, one
after another, that galaxy of stars. The wonder of the drive was over; but,
by some nice conjunction of clearness in the air and fit shadow in the
60
valley where we travelled, we had seen for a little while that brave dis-
play of the midnight heavens. It was gone, but it had been; nor shall I
ever again behold the stars with the same mind. He who has seen the sea
commoved with a great hurricane, thinks of it very differently from him
who has seen it only in a calm. And the difference between a calm and a
hurricane is not greatly more striking than that between the ordinary
face of night and the splendour that shone upon us in that drive. Two in
our waggon knew night as she shines upon the tropics, but even that
bore no comparison. The nameless colour of the sky, the hues of the star-
fire, and the incredible projection of the stars themselves, starting from
their orbits, so that the eye seemed to distinguish their positions in the
hollow of space - these were things that we had never seen before and
shall never see again.
Meanwhile, in this altered night, we proceeded on our way among the
scents and silence of the forest, reached the top of the grade, wound up
by Hanson’s, and came at last to a stand under the flying gargoyle of the
chute. Sam, who had been lying back, fast asleep, with the moon on his
face, got down, with the remark that it was pleasant “to be home.” The
waggon turned and drove away, the noise gently dying in the woods,
and we clambered up the rough path, Caliban’s great feat of engineering,
and came home to Silverado.
The moon shone in at the eastern doors and windows, and over the
lumber on the platform. The one tall pine beside. the ledge was steeped
in silver. Away up the canyon, a wild cat welcomed us with three dis-
cordant squalls. But once we had lit a candle, and began to review our
improvements, homely in either sense, and count our stores, it was won-
derful what a feeling of possession and permanence grow up in the
hearts of the lords of Silverado. A bed had still to be made up for Strong,
and the morning’s water to be fetched, with clinking pail; and as we set
about these household duties, and showed off our wealth and conveni-
ences before the stranger, and had a glass of wine, I think, in honour of
our return, and trooped at length one after another up the flying bridge
of plank, and lay down to sleep in our shattered, moon-pierced barrack,
we were among the happiest sovereigns in the world, and certainly ruled
over the most contented people. Yet, in our absence, the palace had been
sacked. Wild cats, so the Hansons said, had broken in and carried off a
side of bacon, a hatchet, and two knives.
61
Chapter 9
EPISODES IN THE STORY OF A MINE
No one could live at Silverado and not be curious about the story of the
mine. We were surrounded by so many evidences of expense and toil,
we lived so entirely in the wreck of that great enterprise, like mites in the
ruins of a cheese, that the idea of the old din and bustle haunted our re-
pose. Our own house, the forge, the dump, the chutes, the rails, the
windlass, the mass of broken plant; the two tunnels, one far below in the
green dell, the other on the platform where we kept our wine; the deep
shaft, with the sun-glints and the water-drops; above all, the ledge, that
great gaping slice out of the mountain shoulder, propped apart by
wooden wedges, on whose immediate margin, high above our heads, the
one tall pine precariously nodded - these stood for its greatness; while,
the dog-hutch, boot-jacks, old boots, old tavern bills, and the very beds
that we inherited from bygone miners, put in human touches and real-
ized for us the story of the past.
I have sat on an old sleeper, under the thick madronas near the forge,
with just a look over the dump on the green world below, and seen the
sun lying broad among the wreck, and heard the silence broken only by
the tinkling water in the shaft, or a stir of the royal family about the
battered palace, and my mind has gone back to the epoch of the Stanleys
and the Chapmans, with a grand tutti of pick and drill, hammer and an-
vil, echoing about the canyon; the assayer hard at it in our dining-room;
the carts below on the road, and their cargo of red mineral bounding and
thundering down the iron chute. And now all gone - all fallen away into
this sunny silence and desertion: a family of squatters dining in the as-
sayer’s office, making their beds in the big sleeping room erstwhile so
crowded, keeping their wine in the tunnel that once rang with picks.
But Silverado itself, although now fallen in its turn into decay, was
once but a mushroom, and had succeeded to other mines and other flit-
ting cities. Twenty years ago, away down the glen on the Lake County
side there was a place, Jonestown by name, with two thousand
62
inhabitants dwelling under canvas, and one roofed house for the sale of
whiskey. Round on the western side of Mount Saint Helena, there was at
the same date, a second large encampment, its name, if it ever had one,
lost for me. Both of these have perished, leaving not a stick and scarce a
memory behind them. Tide after tide of hopeful miners have thus flowed
and ebbed about the mountain, coming and going, now by lone pro-
spectors, now with a rush. Last, in order of time came Silverado, reared
the big mill, in the valley, founded the town which is now represented,
monumentally, by Hanson’s, pierced all these slaps and shafts and tun-
nels, and in turn declined and died away.
“Our noisy years seem moments in the wake
Of the eternal silence.”
As to the success of Silverado in its time of being, two reports were
current. According to the first, six hundred thousand dollars were taken
out of that great upright seam, that still hung open above us on crazy
wedges. Then the ledge pinched out, and there followed, in quest of the
remainder, a great drifting and tunnelling in all directions, and a great
consequent effusion of dollars, until, all parties being sick of the expense,
the mine was deserted, and the town decamped. According to the
second version, told me with much secrecy of manner, the whole affair,
mine, mill, and town, were parts of one majestic swindle. There had nev-
er come any silver out of any portion of the mine; there was no silver to
come. At midnight trains of packhorses might have been observed wind-
ing by devious tracks about the shoulder of the mountain. They came
from far away, from Amador or Placer, laden with silver in “old cigar
boxes.” They discharged their load at Silverado, in the hour of sleep; and
before the morning they were gone again with their mysterious drivers
to their unknown source. In this way, twenty thousand pounds’ worth of
silver was smuggled in under cover of night, in these old cigar boxes;
mixed with Silverado mineral; carted down to the mill; crushed, amal-
gated, and refined, and despatched to the city as the proper product of
the mine. Stock-jobbing, if it can cover such expenses, must be a profit-
able business in San Francisco.
I give these two versions as I got them. But I place little reliance on
either, my belief in history having been greatly shaken. For it chanced
that I had come to dwell in Silverado at a critical hour; great events in its
history were about to happen - did happen, as I am led to believe; nay,
and it will be seen that I played a part in that revolution myself. And yet
from first to last I never had a glimmer of an idea what was going on;
and even now, after full reflection, profess myself at sea. That there was
63
some obscure intrigue of the cigar-box order, and that I, in the character
of a wooden puppet, set pen to paper in the interest of somebody, so
much, and no more, is certain.
Silverado, then under my immediate sway, belonged to one whom I
will call a Mr. Ronalds. I only knew him through the extraordinarily dis-
torting medium of local gossip, now as a momentous jobber; now as a
dupe to point an adage; and again, and much more probably, as an or-
dinary Christian gentleman like you or me, who had opened a mine and
worked it for a while with better and worse fortune. So, through a
defective window-pane, you may see the passer-by shoot up into a
hunchbacked giant or dwindle into a potbellied dwarf.
To Ronalds, at least, the mine belonged; but the notice by which he
held it would ran out upon the 30th of June - or rather, as I suppose, it
had run out already, and the month of grace would expire upon that
day, after which any American citizen might post a notice of his own,
and make Silverado his. This, with a sort of quiet slyness, Rufe told me at
an early period of our acquaintance. There was no silver, of course; the
mine “wasn’t worth nothing, Mr. Stevens,” but there was a deal of old
iron and wood around, and to gain possession of this old wood and iron,
and get a right to the water, Rufe proposed, if I had no objections, to
“jump the claim.”
Of course, I had no objection. But I was filled with wonder. If all he
wanted was the wood and iron, what, in the name of fortune, was to pre-
vent him taking them? “His right there was none to dispute.” He might
lay hands on all to-morrow, as the wild cats had laid hands upon our
knives and hatchet. Besides, was this mass of heavy mining plant worth
transportation? If it was, why had not the rightful owners carted it
away? If it was, would they not preserve their title to these movables,
even after they had lost their title to the mine? And if it were not, what
the better was Rufe? Nothing would grow at Silverado; there was even
no wood to cut; beyond a sense of property, there was nothing to be
gained. Lastly, was it at all credible that Ronalds would forget what Rufe
remembered? The days of grace were not yet over: any fine morning he
might appear, paper in hand, and enter for another year on his inherit-
ance. However, it was none of my business; all seemed legal; Rufe or
Ronalds, all was one to me.
On the morning of the 27th, Mrs. Hanson appeared with the milk as
usual, in her sun-bonnet. The time would be out on Tuesday, she re-
minded us, and bade me be in readiness to play my part, though I had
no idea what it was to be. And suppose Ronalds came? we asked. She
64
received the idea with derision, laughing aloud with all her fine teeth.
He could not find the mine to save his life, it appeared, without Rufe to
guide him. Last year, when he came, they heard him “up and down the
road a hollerin’ and a raisin’ Cain.” And at last he had to come to the
Hansons in despair, and bid Rufe, “Jump into your pants and shoes, and
show me where this old mine is, anyway!” Seeing that Ronalds had laid
out so much money in the spot, and that a beaten road led right up to the
bottom of the clump, I thought this a remarkable example. The sense of
locality must be singularly in abeyance in the case of Ronalds.
That same evening, supper comfortably over, Joe Strong busy at work
on a drawing of the dump and the opposite hills, we were all out on the
platform together, sitting there, under the tented heavens, with the same
sense of privacy as if we had been cabined in a parlour, when the sound
of brisk footsteps came mounting up the path. We pricked our ears at
this, for the tread seemed lighter and firmer than was usual with our
country neighbours. And presently, sure enough, two town gentlemen,
with cigars and kid gloves, came debauching past the house. They
looked in that place like a blasphemy.
“Good evening,” they said. For none of us had stirred; we all sat stiff
with wonder.
“Good evening,” I returned; and then, to put them at their ease, “A
stiff climb,” I added.
“Yes,” replied the leader; “but we have to thank you for this path.”
I did not like the man’s tone. None of us liked it. He did not seem em-
barrassed by the meeting, but threw us his remarks like favours, and
strode magisterially by us towards the shaft and tunnel.
Presently we heard his voice raised to his companion. “We drifted
every sort of way, but couldn’t strike the ledge.” Then again: “It pinched
out here.” And once more: “Every minor that ever worked upon it says
there’s bound to be a ledge somewhere.”
These were the snatches of his talk that reached us, and they had a
damning significance. We, the lords of Silverado, had come face to face
with our superior. It is the worst of all quaint and of all cheap ways of
life that they bring us at last to the pinch of some humiliation. I liked
well enough to be a squatter when there was none but Hanson by; before
Ronalds, I will own, I somewhat quailed. I hastened to do him fealty,
said I gathered he was the Squattee, and apologized. He threatened me
with ejection, in a manner grimly pleasant - more pleasant to him, I
fancy, than to me; and then he passed off into praises of the former state
of Silverado. “It was the busiest little mining town you ever saw:” a
65
population of between a thousand and fifteen hundred souls, the engine
in full blast, the mill newly erected; nothing going but champagne, and
hope the order of the day. Ninety thousand dollars came out; a hundred
and forty thousand were put in, making a net loss of fifty thousand. The
last days, I gathered, the days of John Stanley, were not so bright; the
champagne had ceased to flow, the population was already moving else-
where, and Silverado had begun to wither in the branch before it was cut
at the root. The last shot that was fired knocked over the stove chimney,
and made that hole in the roof of our barrack, through which the sun
was wont to visit slug-a-beds towards afternoon. A noisy, last shot, to in-
augurate the days of silence.
Throughout this interview, my conscience was a good deal exercised;
and I was moved to throw myself on my knees and own the intended
treachery. But then I had Hanson to consider. I was in much the same
position as Old Rowley, that royal humourist, whom “the rogue had
taken into his confidence.” And again, here was Ronalds on the spot. He
must know the day of the month as well as Hanson and I. If a broad hint
were necessary, he had the broadest in the world. For a large board had
been nailed by the crown prince on the very front of our house, between
the door and window, painted in cinnabar - the pigment of the country -
with doggrel rhymes and contumelious pictures, and announcing, in
terms unnecessarily figurative, that the trick was already played, the
claim already jumped, and Master Sam the legitimate successor of Mr.
Ronalds. But no, nothing could save that man; quem deus vult perdere, pri-
us dementat. As he came so he went, and left his rights depending.
Late at night, by Silverado reckoning, and after we were all abed, Mrs.
Hanson returned to give us the newest of her news. It was like a scene in
a ship’s steerage: all of us abed in our different tiers, the single candle
struggling with the darkness, and this plump, handsome woman, seated
on an upturned valise beside the bunks, talking and showing her fine
teeth, and laughing till the rafters rang. Any ship, to be sure, with a hun-
dredth part as many holes in it as our barrack, must long ago have gone
to her last port. Up to that time I had always imagined Mrs. Hanson’s lo-
quacity to be mere incontinence, that she said what was uppermost for
the pleasure of speaking, and laughed and laughed again as a kind of
musical accompaniment. But I now found there was an art in it, I found
it less communicative than silence itself. I wished to know why Ronalds
had come; how he had found his way without Rufe; and why, being on
the spot, he had not refreshed his title. She talked interminably on, but
her replies were never answers. She fled under a cloud of words; and
66
when I had made sure that she was purposely eluding me, I dropped the
subject in my turn, and let her rattle where she would.
She had come to tell us that, instead of waiting for Tuesday, the claim
was to be jumped on the morrow. How? If the time were not out, it was
impossible. Why? If Ronalds had come and gone, and done nothing,
there was the less cause for hurry. But again I could reach no satisfaction.
The claim was to be jumped next morning, that was all that she would
condescend upon.
And yet it was not jumped the next morning, nor yet the next, and a
whole week had come and gone before we heard more of this exploit.
That day week, however, a day of great heat, Hanson, with a little roll of
paper in his hand, and the eternal pipe alight; Breedlove, his large, dull
friend, to act, I suppose, as witness; Mrs. Hanson, in her Sunday best;
and all the children, from the oldest to the youngest; - arrived in a pro-
cession, tailing one behind another up the path. Caliban was absent, but
he had been chary of his friendly visits since the row; and with that ex-
ception, the whole family was gathered together as for a marriage or a
christening. Strong was sitting at work, in the shade of the dwarf madro-
nas near the forge; and they planted themselves about him in a circle,
one on a stone, another on the waggon rails, a third on a piece of plank.
Gradually the children stole away up the canyon to where there was an-
other chute, somewhat smaller than the one across the dump; and down
this chute, for the rest of the afternoon, they poured one avalanche of
stones after another, waking the echoes of the glen. Meantime we elders
sat together on the platform, Hanson and his friend smoking in silence
like Indian sachems, Mrs. Hanson rattling on as usual with an adroit
volubility, saying nothing, but keeping the party at their ease like a
courtly hostess.
Not a word occurred about the business of the day. Once, twice, and
thrice I tried to slide the subject in, but was discouraged by the stoic
apathy of Rufe, and beaten down before the pouring verbiage of his wife.
There is nothing of the Indian brave about me, and I began to grill with
impatience. At last, like a highway robber, I cornered Hanson, and bade
him stand and deliver his business. Thereupon he gravely rose, as
though to hint that this was not a proper place, nor the subject one suit-
able for squaws, and I, following his example, led him up the plank into
our barrack. There he bestowed himself on a box, and unrolled his pa-
pers with fastidious deliberation. There were two sheets of note-paper,
and an old mining notice, dated May 30th, 1879, part print, part
manuscript, and the latter much obliterated by the rains. It was by this
67
identical piece of paper that the mine had been held last year. For thir-
teen months it had endured the weather and the change of seasons on a
cairn behind the shoulder of the canyon; and it was now my business,
spreading it before me on the table, and sitting on a valise, to copy its
terms, with some necessary changes, twice over on the two sheets of
note-paper. One was then to be placed on the same cairn - a “mound of
rocks” the notice put it; and the other to be lodged for registration.
Rufe watched me, silently smoking, till I came to the place for the loc-
ator’s name at the end of the first copy; and when I proposed that he
should sign, I thought I saw a scare in his eye. “I don’t think that’ll be ne-
cessary,” he said slowly; “just you write it down.” Perhaps this mighty
hunter, who was the most active member of the local school board, could
not write. There would be nothing strange in that. The constable of Calis-
toga is, and has been for years, a bed-ridden man, and, if I remember
rightly, blind. He had more need of the emoluments than another, it was
explained; and it was easy for him to “depytize,” with a strong accent on
the last. So friendly and so free are popular institutions.
When I had done my scrivening, Hanson strolled out, and addressed
Breedlove, “Will you step up here a bit?” and after they had disappeared
a little while into the chaparral and madrona thicket, they came back
again, minus a notice, and the deed was done. The claim was jumped; a
tract of mountain-side, fifteen hundred feet long by six hundred wide,
with all the earth’s precious bowels, had passed from Ronalds to Han-
son, and, in the passage, changed its name from the “Mammoth” to the
“Calistoga.” I had tried to get Rufe to call it after his wife, after himself,
and after Garfield, the Republican Presidential candidate of the hour -
since then elected, and, alas! dead - but all was in vain. The claim had
once been called the Calistoga before, and he seemed to feel safety in re-
turning to that.
And so the history of that mine became once more plunged in dark-
ness, lit only by some monster pyrotechnical displays of gossip. And per-
haps the most curious feature of the whole matter is this: that we should
have dwelt in this quiet corner of the mountains, with not a dozen neigh-
bours, and yet struggled all the while, like desperate swimmers, in this
sea of falsities and contradictions. Wherever a man is, there will be a lie.
68
Chapter 10
TOILS AND PLEASURES
I must try to convey some notion of our life, of how the days passed and
what pleasure we took in them, of what there was to do and how we set
about doing it, in our mountain hermitage. The house, after we had re-
paired the worst of the damages, and filled in some of the doors and
windows with white cotton cloth, became a healthy and a pleasant
dwelling-place, always airy and dry, and haunted by the outdoor per-
fumes of the glen. Within, it had the look of habitation, the human look.
You had only to go into the third room, which we did not use, and see its
stones, its sifting earth, its tumbled litter; and then return to our lodging,
with the beds made, the plates on the rack, the pail of bright water be-
hind the door, the stove crackling in a corner, and perhaps the table
roughly laid against a meal, - and man’s order, the little clean spots that
he creates to dwell in, were at once contrasted with the rich passivity of
nature. And yet our house was everywhere so wrecked and shattered,
the air came and went so freely, the sun found so many portholes, the
golden outdoor glow shone in so many open chinks, that we enjoyed, at
the same time, some of the comforts of a roof and much of the gaiety and
brightness of al fresco life. A single shower of rain, to be sure, and we
should have been drowned out like mice. But ours was a Californian
summer, and an earthquake was a far likelier accident than a shower of
rain.
Trustful in this fine weather, we kept the house for kitchen and bed-
room, and used the platform as our summer parlour. The sense of pri-
vacy, as I have said already, was complete. We could look over the
clump on miles of forest and rough hilltop; our eyes commanded some
of Napa Valley, where the train ran, and the little country townships sat
so close together along the line of the rail. But here there was no man to
intrude. None but the Hansons were our visitors. Even they came but at
long intervals, or twice daily, at a stated hour, with milk. So our days, as
they were never interrupted, drew out to the greater length; hour melted
69
insensibly into hour; the household duties, though they were many, and
some of them laborious, dwindled into mere islets of business in a sea of
sunny day-time; and it appears to me, looking back, as though the far
greater part of our life at Silverado had been passed, propped upon an
elbow, or seated on a plank, listening to the silence that there is among
the hills.
My work, it is true, was over early in the morning. I rose before any
one else, lit the stove, put on the water to boil, and strolled forth upon
the platform to wait till it was ready. Silverado would then be still in
shadow, the sun shining on the mountain higher up. A clean smell of
trees, a smell of the earth at morning, hung in the air. Regularly, every
day, there was a single bird, not singing, but awkwardly chirruping
among the green madronas, and the sound was cheerful, natural, and
stirring. It did not hold the attention, nor interrupt the thread of medita-
tion, like a blackbird or a nightingale; it was mere woodland prattle, of
which the mind was conscious like a perfume. The freshness of these
morning seasons remained with me far on into the day.
As soon as the kettle boiled, I made porridge and coffee; and that, bey-
ond the literal drawing of water, and the preparation of kindling, which
it would be hyperbolical to call the hewing of wood, ended my domestic
duties for the day. Thenceforth my wife laboured single-handed in the
palace, and I lay or wandered on the platform at my own sweet will. The
little corner near the forge, where we found a refuge under the madronas
from the unsparing early sun, is indeed connected in my mind with
some nightmare encounters over Euclid, and the Latin Grammar. These
were known as Sam’s lessons. He was supposed to be the victim and the
sufferer; but here there must have been some misconception, for whereas
I generally retired to bed after one of these engagements, he was no
sooner set free than he dashed up to the Chinaman’s house, where he
had installed a printing press, that great element of civilization, and the
sound of his labours would be faintly audible about the canyon half the
day.
To walk at all was a laborious business; the foot sank and slid, the
boots were cut to pieces, among sharp, uneven, rolling stones. When we
crossed the platform in any direction, it was usual to lay a course, follow-
ing as much as possible the line of waggon rails. Thus, if water were to
be drawn, the water-carrier left the house along some tilting planks that
we had laid down, and not laid down very well. These carried him to
that great highroad, the railway; and the railway served him as far as to
the head of the shaft. But from thence to the spring and back again he
70
made the best of his unaided way, staggering among the stones, and
wading in low growth of the calcanthus, where the rattlesnakes lay hiss-
ing at his passage. Yet I liked to draw water. It was pleasant to dip the
gray metal pail into the clean, colourless, cool water; pleasant to carry it
back, with the water ripping at the edge, and a broken sunbeam quiver-
ing in the midst.
But the extreme roughness of the walking confined us in common
practice to the platform, and indeed to those parts of it that were most
easily accessible along the line of rails. The rails came straight forward
from the shaft, here and there overgrown with little green bushes, but
still entire, and still carrying a truck, which it was Sam’s delight to
trundle to and fro by the hour with various ladings. About midway
down the platform, the railroad trended to the right, leaving our house
and coasting along the far side within a few yards of the madronas and
the forge, and not far of the latter, ended in a sort of platform on the edge
of the dump. There, in old days, the trucks were tipped, and their load
sent thundering down the chute. There, besides, was the only spot where
we could approach the margin of the dump. Anywhere else, you took
your life in your right hand when you came within a yard and a half to
peer over. For at any moment the dump might begin to slide and carry
you down and bury you below its ruins. Indeed, the neighbourhood of
an old mine is a place beset with dangers. For as still as Silverado was, at
any moment the report of rotten wood might tell us that the platform
had fallen into the shaft; the dump might begin to pour into the road be-
low; or a wedge slip in the great upright seam, and hundreds of tons of
mountain bury the scene of our encampment.
I have already compared the dump to a rampart, built certainly by
some rude people, and for prehistoric wars. It was likewise a frontier. All
below was green and woodland, the tall pines soaring one above anoth-
er, each with a firm outline and full spread of bough. All above was arid,
rocky, and bald. The great spout of broken mineral, that had dammed
the canyon up, was a creature of man’s handiwork, its material dug out
with a pick and powder, and spread by the service of the tracks. But
nature herself, in that upper district, seemed to have had an eye to noth-
ing besides mining; and even the natural hill-side was all sliding gravel
and precarious boulder. Close at the margin of the well leaves would de-
cay to skeletons and mummies, which at length some stronger gust
would carry clear of the canyon and scatter in the subjacent woods. Even
moisture and decaying vegetable matter could not, with all nature’s al-
chemy, concoct enough soil to nourish a few poor grasses. It is the same,
71
they say, in the neighbourhood of all silver mines; the nature of that pre-
cious rock being stubborn with quartz and poisonous with cinnabar.
Both were plenty in our Silverado. The stones sparkled white in the sun-
shine with quartz; they were all stained red with cinnabar. Here, doubt-
less, came the Indians of yore to paint their faces for the war-path; and
cinnabar, if I remember rightly, was one of the few articles of Indian
commerce. Now, Sam had it in his undisturbed possession, to pound
down and slake, and paint his rude designs with. But to me it had al-
ways a fine flavour of poetry, compounded out of Indian story and
Hawthornden’s allusion:
“Desire, alas! I desire a Zeuxis new,
From Indies borrowing gold, from Eastern skies
Most bright cinoper … ”
Yet this is but half the picture; our Silverado platform has another side
to it. Though there was no soil, and scarce a blade of grass, yet out of
these tumbled gravel-heaps and broken boulders, a flower garden
bloomed as at home in a conservatory. Calcanthus crept, like a hardy
weed, all over our rough parlour, choking the railway, and pushing forth
its rusty, aromatic cones from between two blocks of shattered mineral.
Azaleas made a big snow-bed just above the well. The shoulder of the
hill waved white with Mediterranean heath. In the crannies of the ledge
and about the spurs of the tall pine, a red flowering stone-plant hung in
clusters. Even the low, thorny chaparral was thick with pea-like blossom.
Close at the foot of our path nutmegs prospered, delightful to the sight
and smell. At sunrise, and again late at night, the scent of the sweet bay
trees filled the canyon, and the down-blowing night wind must have
borne it hundreds of feet into the outer air.
All this vegetation, to be sure, was stunted. The madrona was here no
bigger than the manzanita; the bay was but a stripling shrub; the very
pines, with four or five exceptions in all our upper canyon, were not so
tall as myself, or but a little taller, and the most of them came lower than
my waist. For a prosperous forest tree, we must look below, where the
glen was crowded with green spires. But for flowers and ravishing per-
fume, we had none to envy: our heap of road-metal was thick with
bloom, like a hawthorn in the front of June; our red, baking angle in the
mountain, a laboratory of poignant scents. It was an endless wonder to
my mind, as I dreamed about the platform, following the progress of the
shadows, where the madrona with its leaves, the azalea and calcanthus
with their blossoms, could find moisture to support such thick, wet,
waxy growths, or the bay tree collect the ingredients of its perfume. But
72
there they all grew together, healthy, happy, and happy-making, as
though rooted in a fathom of black soil.
Nor was it only vegetable life that prospered. We had, indeed, few
birds, and none that had much of a voice or anything worthy to be called
a song. My morning comrade had a thin chirp, unmusical and monoton-
ous, but friendly and pleasant to hear. He had but one rival: a fellow
with an ostentatious cry of near an octave descending, not one note of
which properly followed another. This is the only bird I ever knew with
a wrong ear; but there was something enthralling about his performance.
You listened and listened, thinking each time he must surely get it right;
but no, it was always wrong, and always wrong the same way. Yet he
seemed proud of his song, delivered it with execution and a manner of
his own, and was charming to his mate. A very incorrect, incessant hu-
man whistler had thus a chance of knowing how his own music pleased
the world. Two great birds - eagles, we thought - dwelt at the top of the
canyon, among the crags that were printed on the sky. Now and again,
but very rarely, they wheeled high over our heads in silence, or with a
distant, dying scream; and then, with a fresh impulse, winged fleetly for-
ward, dipped over a hilltop, and were gone. They seemed solemn and
ancient things, sailing the blue air: perhaps co-oeval with the mountain
where they haunted, perhaps emigrants from Rome, where the glad le-
gions may have shouted to behold them on the morn of battle.
But if birds were rare, the place abounded with rattlesnakes - the
rattlesnake’s nest, it might have been named. Wherever we brushed
among the bushes, our passage woke their angry buzz. One dwelt ha-
bitually in the wood-pile, and sometimes, when we came for firewood,
thrust up his small head between two logs, and hissed at the intrusion.
The rattle has a legendary credit; it is said to be awe-inspiring, and, once
heard, to stamp itself for ever in the memory. But the sound is not at all
alarming; the hum of many insects, and the buzz of the wasp convince
the ear of danger quite as readily. As a matter of fact, we lived for weeks
in Silverado, coming and going, with rattles sprung on every side, and it
never occurred to us to be afraid. I used to take sun-baths and do calis-
thenics in a certain pleasant nook among azalea and calcanthus, the
rattles whizzing on every side like spinning-wheels, and the combined
hiss or buzz rising louder and angrier at any sudden movement; but I
was never in the least impressed, nor ever attacked. It was only towards
the end of our stay, that a man down at Calistoga, who was expatiating
on the terrifying nature of the sound, gave me at last a very good imita-
tion; and it burst on me at once that we dwelt in the very metropolis of
73
deadly snakes, and that the rattle was simply the commonest noise in Sil-
verado. Immediately on our return, we attacked the Hansons on the sub-
ject. They had formerly assured us that our canyon was favoured, like
Ireland, with an entire immunity from poisonous reptiles; but, with the
perfect inconsequence of the natural man, they were no sooner found out
than they went off at score in the contrary direction, and we were told
that in no part of the world did rattlesnakes attain to such a monstrous
bigness as among the warm, flower-dotted rocks of Silverado. This is a
contribution rather to the natural history of the Hansons, than to that of
snakes.
One person, however, better served by his instinct, had known the
rattle from the first; and that was Chuchu, the dog. No rational creature
has ever led an existence more poisoned by terror than that dog’s at Sil-
verado. Every whiz of the rattle made him bound. His eyes rolled; he
trembled; he would be often wet with sweat. One of our great mysteries
was his terror of the mountain. A little away above our nook, the azaleas
and almost all the vegetation ceased. Dwarf pines not big enough to be
Christmas trees, grew thinly among loose stone and gravel scaurs. Here
and there a big boulder sat quiescent on a knoll, having paused there till
the next rain in his long slide down the mountain. There was here no
ambuscade for the snakes, you could see clearly where you trod; and yet
the higher I went, the more abject and appealing became Chuchu’s ter-
ror. He was an excellent master of that composite language in which
dogs communicate with men, and he would assure me, on his honour,
that there was some peril on the mountain; appeal to me, by all that I
held holy, to turn back; and at length, finding all was in vain, and that I
still persisted, ignorantly foolhardy, he would suddenly whip round and
make a bee-line down the slope for Silverado, the gravel showering after
him. What was he afraid of? There were admittedly brown bears and
California lions on the mountain; and a grizzly visited Rufe’s poultry
yard not long before, to the unspeakable alarm of Caliban, who dashed
out to chastise the intruder, and found himself, by moonlight, face to face
with such a tartar. Something at least there must have been: some hairy,
dangerous brute lodged permanently among the rocks a little to the
north-west of Silverado, spending his summer thereabout, with wife and
family.
And there was, or there had been, another animal. Once, under the
broad daylight, on that open stony hillside, where the baby pines were
growing, scarcely tall enough to be a badge for a MacGregor’s bonnet, I
came suddenly upon his innocent body, lying mummified by the dry air
74
and sun: a pigmy kangaroo. I am ingloriously ignorant of these subjects;
had never heard of such a beast; thought myself face to face with some
incomparable sport of nature; and began to cherish hopes of immortality
in science. Rarely have I been conscious of a stranger thrill than when I
raised that singular creature from the stones, dry as a board, his innocent
heart long quiet, and all warm with sunshine. His long hind legs were
stiff, his tiny forepaws clutched upon his breast, as if to leap; his poor life
cut short upon that mountain by some unknown accident. But the
kangaroo rat, it proved, was no such unknown animal; and my discov-
ery was nothing.
Crickets were not wanting. I thought I could make out exactly four of
them, each with a corner of his own, who used to make night musical at
Silverado. In the matter of voice, they far excelled the birds, and their
ringing whistle sounded from rock to rock, calling and replying the same
thing, as in a meaningless opera. Thus, children in full health and spirits
shout together, to the dismay of neighbours; and their idle, happy, deaf-
ening vociferations rise and fall, like the song of the crickets. I used to sit
at night on the platform, and wonder why these creatures were so
happy; and what was wrong with man that he also did not wind up his
days with an hour or two of shouting; but I suspect that all long-lived
animals are solemn. The dogs alone are hardly used by nature; and it
seems a manifest injustice for poor Chuchu to die in his teens, after a life
so shadowed and troubled, continually shaken with alarm, and the tear
of elegant sentiment permanently in his eye.
There was another neighbour of ours at Silverado, small but very act-
ive, a destructive fellow. This was a black, ugly fly - a bore, the Hansons
called him - who lived by hundreds in the boarding of our house. He
entered by a round hole, more neatly pierced than a man could do it
with a gimlet, and he seems to have spent his life in cutting out the in-
terior of the plank, but whether as a dwelling or a store-house, I could
never find. When I used to lie in bed in the morning for a rest - we had
no easy-chairs in Silverado - I would hear, hour after hour, the sharp cut-
ting sound of his labours, and from time to time a dainty shower of saw-
dust would fall upon the blankets. There lives no more industrious
creature than a bore.
And now that I have named to the reader all our animals and insects
without exception - only I find I have forgotten the flies - he will be able
to appreciate the singular privacy and silence of our days. It was not
only man who was excluded: animals, the song of birds, the lowing of
cattle, the bleating of sheep, clouds even, and the variations of the
75
weather, were here also wanting; and as, day after day, the sky was one
dome of blue, and the pines below us stood motionless in the still air, so
the hours themselves were marked out from each other only by the
series of our own affairs, and the sun’s great period as he ranged west-
ward through the heavens. The two birds cackled a while in the early
morning; all day the water tinkled in the shaft, the bores ground sawdust
in the planking of our crazy palace - infinitesimal sounds; and it was
only with the return of night that any change would fall on our sur-
roundings, or the four crickets begin to flute together in the dark.
Indeed, it would be hard to exaggerate the pleasure that we took in the
approach of evening. Our day was not very long, but it was very tiring.
To trip along unsteady planks or wade among shifting stones, to go to
and fro for water, to clamber down the glen to the Toll House after meat
and letters, to cook, to make fires and beds, were all exhausting to the
body. Life out of doors, besides, under the fierce eye of day, draws
largely on the animal spirits. There are certain hours in the afternoon
when a man, unless he is in strong health or enjoys a vacant mind,
would rather creep into a cool corner of a house and sit upon the chairs
of civilization. About that time, the sharp stones, the planks, the up-
turned boxes of Silverado, began to grow irksome to my body; I set out
on that hopeless, never-ending quest for a more comfortable posture; I
would be fevered and weary of the staring sun; and just then he would
begin courteously to withdraw his countenance, the shadows
lengthened, the aromatic airs awoke, and an indescribable but happy
change announced the coming of the night.
The hours of evening, when we were once curtained in the friendly
dark, sped lightly. Even as with the crickets, night brought to us a certain
spirit of rejoicing. It was good to taste the air; good to mark the dawning
of the stars, as they increased their glittering company; good, too, to
gather stones, and send them crashing down the chute, a wave of light. It
seemed, in some way, the reward and the fulfilment of the day. So it is
when men dwell in the open air; it is one of the simple pleasures that we
lose by living cribbed and covered in a house, that, though the coming of
the day is still the most inspiriting, yet day’s departure, also, and the re-
turn of night refresh, renew, and quiet us; and in the pastures of the dusk
we stand, like cattle, exulting in the absence of the load.
Our nights wore never cold, and they were always still, but for one re-
markable exception. Regularly, about nine o’clock, a warm wind sprang
up, and blew for ten minutes, or maybe a quarter of an hour, right down
the canyon, fanning it well out, airing it as a mother airs the night
76
nursery before the children sleep. As far as I could judge, in the clear
darkness of the night, this wind was purely local: perhaps dependant on
the configuration of the glen. At least, it was very welcome to the hot
and weary squatters; and if we were not abed already, the springing up
of this lilliputian valley-wind would often be our signal to retire.
I was the last to go to bed, as I was still the first to rise. Many a night I
have strolled about the platform, taking a bath of darkness before I slept.
The rest would be in bed, and even from the forge I could hear them
talking together from bunk to bunk. A single candle in the neck of a pint
bottle was their only illumination; and yet the old cracked house seemed
literally bursting with the light. It shone keen as a knife through all the
vertical chinks; it struck upward through the broken shingles; and
through the eastern door and window, it fell in a great splash upon the
thicket and the overhanging rock. You would have said a conflagration,
or at the least a roaring forge; and behold, it was but a candle. Or per-
haps it was yet more strange to see the procession moving bedwards
round the corner of the house, and up the plank that brought us to the
bedroom door; under the immense spread of the starry heavens, down in
a crevice of the giant mountain these few human shapes, with their un-
shielded taper, made so disproportionate a figure in the eye and mind.
But the more he is alone with nature, the greater man and his doings
bulk in the consideration of his fellow-men. Miles and miles away upon
the opposite hill-tops, if there were any hunter belated or any traveller
who had lost his way, he must have stood, and watched and wondered,
from the time the candle issued from the door of the assayer’s office till it
had mounted the plank and disappeared again into the miners’
dormitory.
77
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ure map that leads them to a pirate's fortune.
Lewis Carroll
Sylvie and Bruno
Rafael Sabatini
The Historical Nights' Entertainment
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In approaching "The Historical Nights' Entertainment" I set myself
the task of reconstructing, in the fullest possible detail and with all
the colour available from surviving records, a group of more or
less famous events. I would select for my purpose those which
were in themselves bizarre and resulting from the interplay of hu-
man passions, and whilst relating each of these events in the form
of a story, I would compel that story scrupulously to follow the ac-
tual, recorded facts without owing anything to fiction, and I
would draw upon my imagination, if at all, merely as one might
employ colour to fill in the outlines which history leaves grey, tak-
ing care that my colour should be as true to nature as possible. For
dialogue I would depend upon such scraps of actual speech as
were chronicled in each case, amplifying it by translating into
terms of speech the paraphrases of contemporary chroniclers.
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www.feedbooks.com
Food for the mind
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About Stevenson: Robert Louis (Balfour) Stevenson (November 13, 1850–December 3, 1894), was a Scottish novelist, poet, and travel writer, and a leading representative of Neo-romanticism in English literature. He was the man who "seemed to pick the right word up on the point of his pen, like a man playing spillikins", as G. K. Chesterton put it. He was also greatly admired by many authors, including Jorge Luis Borges, Ernest Hemingway, Rudyard Kipling and Vladimir Nabokov. Most modernist writers dismissed him, however, because he was popular and did not write within their narrow definition of literature. It is only recently that critics have begun to look beyond Stevenson's popularity and allow him a place in the canon. Source: Wikipedia Also available on Feedbooks for Stevenson: • Treasure Island (1883) • Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) • Kidnapped (1886) • The Black Arrow (1884) • The New Arabian Nights (1882) • Essays in the Art of Writing (1905) • A Christmas Sermon (1900) • The Master of Ballantrae (1889) Note: This book is brought to you by Feedbooks http://www.feedbooks.com Strictly for personal use, do not use this file for commercial purposes.

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The scene of this little book is on a high mountain. There are, indeed, many higher; there are many of a nobler outline. It is no place of pilgrimage for the summary globe-trotter; but to one who lives upon its sides, Mount Saint Helena soon becomes a centre of interest. It is the Mont Blanc of one section of the Californian Coast Range, none of its near neighbours rising to one-half its altitude. It looks down on much green, intricate country. It feeds in the spring-time many splashing brooks. From its summit you must have an excellent lesson of geography: seeing, to the south, San Francisco Bay, with Tamalpais on the one hand and Monte Diablo on the other; to the west and thirty miles away, the open ocean; eastward, across the corn-lands and thick tule swamps of Sacramento Valley, to where the Central Pacific railroad begins to climb the sides of the Sierras; and northward, for what I know, the white head of Shasta looking down on Oregon. Three counties, Napa County, Lake County, and Sonoma County, march across its cliffy shoulders. Its naked peak stands nearly four thousand five hundred feet above the sea; its sides are fringed with forest; and the soil, where it is bare, glows warm with cinnabar. Life in its shadow goes rustically forward. Bucks, and bears, and rattlesnakes, and former mining operations, are the staple of men’s talk. Agriculture has only begun to mount above the valley. And though in a few years from now the whole district may be smiling with farms, passing trains shaking the mountain to the heart, many-windowed hotels lighting up the night like factories, and a prosperous city occupying the site of sleepy Calistoga; yet in the mean time, around the foot of that mountain the silence of nature reigns in a great measure unbroken, and the people of hill and valley go sauntering about their business as in the days before the flood. To reach Mount Saint Helena from San Francisco, the traveller has twice to cross the bay: once by the busy Oakland Ferry, and again, after an hour or so of the railway, from Vallejo junction to Vallejo. Thence he takes rail once more to mount the long green strath of Napa Valley. In all the contractions and expansions of that inland sea, the Bay of San Francisco, there can be few drearier scenes than the Vallejo Ferry. Bald shores and a low, bald islet inclose the sea; through the narrows the tide bubbles, muddy like a river. When we made the passage (bound, although yet we knew it not, for Silverado) the steamer jumped, and the black buoys were dancing in the jabble; the ocean breeze blew killing chill; and, although the upper sky was still unflecked with vapour, the

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sea fogs were pouring in from seaward, over the hilltops of Marin county, in one great, shapeless, silver cloud. South Vallejo is typical of many Californian towns. It was a blunder; the site has proved untenable; and, although it is still such a young place by the scale of Europe, it has already begun to be deserted for its neighbour and namesake, North Vallejo. A long pier, a number of drinking saloons, a hotel of a great size, marshy pools where the frogs keep up their croaking, and even at high noon the entire absence of any human face or voice - these are the marks of South Vallejo. Yet there was a tall building beside the pier, labelled the Star Flour Mills; and sea-going, full-rigged ships lay close along shore, waiting for their cargo. Soon these would be plunging round the Horn, soon the flour from the Star Flour Mills would be landed on the wharves of Liverpool. For that, too, is one of England’s outposts; thither, to this gaunt mill, across the Atlantic and Pacific deeps and round about the icy Horn, this crowd of great, three-masted, deepsea ships come, bringing nothing, and return with bread. The Frisby House, for that was the name of the hotel, was a place of fallen fortunes, like the town. It was now given up to labourers, and partly ruinous. At dinner there was the ordinary display of what is called in the west a two-bit house: the tablecloth checked red and white, the plague of flies, the wire hencoops over the dishes, the great variety and invariable vileness of the food and the rough coatless men devoting it in silence. In our bedroom, the stove would not burn, though it would smoke; and while one window would not open, the other would not shut. There was a view on a bit of empty road, a few dark houses, a donkey wandering with its shadow on a slope, and a blink of sea, with a tall ship lying anchored in the moonlight. All about that dreary inn frogs sang their ungainly chorus. Early the next morning we mounted the hill along a wooden footway, bridging one marish spot after another. Here and there, as we ascended, we passed a house embowered in white roses. More of the bay became apparent, and soon the blue peak of Tamalpais rose above the green level of the island opposite. It told us we were still but a little way from the city of the Golden Gates, already, at that hour, beginning to awake among the sand-hills. It called to us over the waters as with the voice of a bird. Its stately head, blue as a sapphire on the paler azure of the sky, spoke to us of wider outlooks and the bright Pacific. For Tamalpais stands sentry, like a lighthouse, over the Golden Gates, between the bay and the open ocean, and looks down indifferently on both. Even as we saw and hailed it from Vallejo, seamen, far out at sea, were scanning it

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among the fields and vineyards. There. and first thicket and then wood began to clothe their sides. But by-and-by these hills began to draw nearer on either hand. with the sun sparkling on the clean houses. in about equal proportions. the railroad ceases. in long. and soon we were away from all signs of the sea’s neighbourhood.with shaded eyes. and. at Calistoga. mounting an inland. now severally. For some way beyond Vallejo the railway led us through bald green pastures. to the Geysers or to the springs in Lake County. new wooden houses and great and growing forest trees. Mount Saint Helena is not only a summit. there were few trees and few enclosures. it has stayed the progress of the iron horse. the sun shone wide over open uplands. now in a becoming grove. one of the great ships below began silently to clothe herself with white sails. as if to answer to the thought. the displumed hills stood clear against the sky. straggling. and the traveller who intends faring farther. and great domes of foliage humming overhead in the breeze. 5 . the bay died out among the grass. irrigated valley. and the chapel bell on the engine sounded most festally that sunny Sunday. of bright. gleaming arms. as we drew up at one green town after another. must cross the spurs of the mountain by stage. and. A great variety of oaks stood. at its north end. The towns were compact. blockaded by our mountain. but a frontier. with the townsfolk trooping in their Sunday’s best to see the strangers. in the midst. Thus. On the west the rough highlands of Marin shut off the ocean. This pleasant Napa Valley is. homeward bound for England. up to the time of writing.

Part 1 IN THE VALLEY 6 .

a wide street.road-agent. and of such an accidental pattern. here and there a verandah over the sidewalk. In 1879. suddenly threw off the garments of his trade. I never heard it called by any name. Cheeseborough’s. among the intricate hill-country. and then First and Second. clean. A great robbery was followed by a long chase.they all have papers). here. in that sense. the general merchant’s. and so forth. and most likely named. here and there lounging townsfolk. probably. The railroad and the highway come up the valley about parallel to one another. all the life and most of the houses of Calistoga are concentrated upon that street between the railway station and the road. here and there a horse-post. for these towns in the New World begin with a firm resolve to grow larger. The highway robber . like England a hundred years ago. the dentist of Mendocino City. in the meanwhile. and here certainly is one of the hotels. Here are the blacksmith’s.Chapter 1 CALISTOGA It is difficult for a European to imagine Calistoga. fifty miles away upon the coast. like Grindoff. he is quaintly called . The fame of Vasquez is still young.is still busy in these parts. Only a few years go. the whole place is so new. is the office of the local paper (for the place has a paper . the very name. It must be remembered that we are here in a land of stage-drivers and highwaymen: a land. The street of Calistoga joins the perpendicular to both . starts his horses for the Geysers. in The Miller and his Men. a chase of days if not of weeks. being boldly plotted out as soon as the community indulges in a plan. Washington and Broadway. but I will hazard a guess that it is either Washington or Broadway. the Chinese laundryman’s. and flamed forth in his second dress as a captain of banditti. and the chase was followed by 7 . I hear. the Lakeport stage was robbed a mile or two from Calistoga. with bright. Other streets are marked out. whence the daring Foss. low houses. But. was invented at a supper-party by the man who found the springs. a man dear to legend. the chemist’s. and Kong Sam Kee.

He has the very face for the driver in Sam Weller’s anecdote. Along the unfenced. while I strolled forth again on Calistoga high street. Foss. and was asked if I should like to speak with Mr. I am reminded of another highwayman of that same year. This I relate as I heard it. and the vehicle of news. and how Foss let slip the reins. driving over the fallen animal. amongst the number . and that I was merely called upon to subscribe the general sentiment. I had one instrument at my ear. another at my mouth and found myself. arrived at the next stage with only three. But it was an odd thing that here. in which several .much desultory fighting. but has a faint warfaring aroma.” so ran his humorous defence. I boldly answered “Yes. conversing with a man several miles off among desolate hills. without guarantee. after he was long gone home. stands the Springs Hotel. at a ranche called Fossville. strange as it may sound. One in particular. he launches his team with small regard to human life or the doctrine of probabilities. He lives out of Calistoga.bit the dust. on the other side of the railway. when I arrived in Calistoga. look with natural admiration at their driver’s huge. “and the doctor told him to take something. So it goes in these young countries. impassive. fleshy countenance.” The cultus of the stage-coachman always flourishes highest where there are thieves on the road. who upset the election party at the required point. I dropped into Cheeseborough’s. I only saw Foss once. I have twice talked with him. and. though. Supposing that the interview was impossible. and where the guard travels armed. Wonderful tales are current of his readiness and skill. “He had been unwell. and he returned to his night’s grog at Fossville. The floor of the valley is extremely level to the 8 . Foss rapidly and somewhat plaintively brought the conversation to an end. with its attendant cottages. I believe. on what we are accustomed to consider the very skirts of civilization. and among the famous Foss is not forgotten. and telegraphs. Alone. The grass was springing for the first time. One evening. nourished upon their blood. I should have used the telephone for the first time in my civilized career. and advertisements running far ahead among the Indians and the grizzly bears. who behold themselves coasting eternity at every corner.and the dentist. like a man who should be brother to a soldier. telephones. and the stage is not only a link between country and city. with nothing in the world to say. of how one of his horses fell at a ticklish passage of the road. abominable mountain roads. so he took the express-box.” Next moment. California boasts her famous stage-drivers. Flinching travellers. and newspapers.

The tangled. The rest are occupied by ordinary visitors to the Hotel. fleeting. At the other end. when the rains are over and the dusty summer has not yet set in. It keeps this end of the valley as warm as a toast. Calistoga was a pleasant place to dwell in. At one end of the hotel enclosure are the springs from which it takes its name. now across Sonoma from the sea. and has risen again from its ashes. or whether it set itself to weaving vapours. by which you have a little country cottage of your own. the tenant of a cottage sank a well. rises like the barrow of some chieftain famed in war. And there was something satisfactory in the sight of that great mountain that enclosed us to the north: whether it stood. and had already climbed among the nineties. and Calistoga itself seems to repose on a mere film above a boiling. The whole neighbourhood of Mount Saint Helena is full of sulphur and of boiling springs. and in the stress of the day it was sometimes too hot to move about. and by the day or week. dug out by winter streams.is or was. without domestic burthens. crowned 9 . very silent but for the breezes and the cattle bells afield. The Geysers are famous. now from the mountain.rough as they were in outline. A lawn runs about the house. when a sea fog from the Pacific was hanging thick and gray. very quiet. only here and there a hillock. and fading in the blue. for it was then that favoured moment in the Californian year. Hot Springs and White Sulphur Springs are the names of two stations on the Napa Valley railroad. trembling. and found the thermometer had been up before me. doing one on both sides. Some of the cottages are let to residents. wisp after wisp growing. But in spite of this heat from above and below. and the lawn is in its turn surrounded by a system of little five-roomed cottages. beautifully green. and dark and dirty overhead. shutting it off from Sonoma on the west. I have gone across to the hotel a little after five in the morning. and a very pleasant way this is. and right against one of these hillocks is the Springs Hotel . for since I was there the place has been destroyed by fire. crowned with pines. they were the great health resort of the Indians before the coming of the whites. and there also the water came up boiling. and almost trackless foot-hills that enclose the valley. each with a verandah and a weedy palm before the door.very roots of the hills. quaking to its topmost pinnacle with the heat and brightness of the day. and these are wreathed in flowers. Lake County is dotted with spas. hot enough to scald a child seriously while I was there. very idle. subterranean lake. and from Yolo on the east . often visited by fresh airs. woody. robed in sunshine.

wore dwarfed into satellites by the bulk and bearing of Mount Saint Helena. Her great bald summit. rejected kinship with the dark and shaggy wilderness of lesser hill-tops. clear of trees and pasture. She excelled them by the boldness of her profile.by cliffy bluffs and nodding pine trees . 10 . a cairn of quartz and cinnabar. She over-towered them by two-thirds of her own stature.

He taught me the madrona. he showed me where some young redwoods were already spiring heavenwards from the ruins of 11 . A broad. bare atop. the manzanita. and Mexicans who know the name of nothing in English. as is their wont.Chapter 2 THE PETRIFIED FOREST We drove off from the Springs Hotel about three in the afternoon. To the right or the left. her bell slowly beating time to the movement of her ruminating jaws. with tree-fringed spurs. the maple. giving us every now and again a sight of Mount Saint Helena and the blue hilly distance. and radiating warmth. the continual dodging of the road which made haste to plunge again into the covert. laden with perfume. And what with the innumerable variety of greens. We passed a cow stretched by the roadside. tangled. and we struck to the left up a mountain road. The sun warmed me to the heart. But we had the society of these bright streams . a bulk of mountain. and for two hours threaded one valley after another.dazzlingly clear. and that was closed and smokeless. the descents into seemingly impenetrable thickets. cool wind streamed pauselessly down the valley. Our driver gave me a lecture by the way on Californian trees . we had a fine sense of woods. there was scarce any trace of man but the road we followed. a monument of content. the buck-eye. I think we passed but one ranchero’s house in the whole distance. the masses of foliage tossing in the breeze. and spring-time. A little farther. her big red face crawled over by half a dozen flies. and the open air. and crossed by many streams. he showed me the crested mountain quail. and striking a lively coolness through the sunshine. Once we saw it framed in a grove of tall and exquisitely graceful white oaks. Up at the top stood Mount Saint Helena. the glimpses of distance. full of noble timber. through which we splashed to the carriage-step. having fallen among painters who know the name of nothing. green. splashing from the wheels in diamonds. in line and colour a finished composition.a thing I was much in need of.

all alone. down he sat to make a new life of it. which Mr. when I found this” . as if in memory of the sciatica. and with six bits in his pocket and an axe upon his shoulder. we came on a huge wooden gate with a sign upon it like an inn.I forget how many years ago . And the very sight of his ranche had done him good. Without doubt he had tried his luck at the diggings.thoroughly ruralized from head to foot. had gradually cured the sciatica. The proprietor was a brave old white-faced Swede. It was a pure little isle of touristry among these solitary hills. proceeded to escort us up the hill behind his house. bent double with sciatica.hobbling a little. all changed into gray stone. And then. This tardy favourite of fortune . far from crimps and the salt sea. on a knoll of sward.or. was the house of the proprietor. “I was cleaning up the pasture for my beasts. useless years of seafaring had thus discharged him at the end. teaching music the meanwhile in the valley. Within. the place hitting his fancy. But at the end of these adventures. without doubt he had loved the bottle. but with not a trace that I can remember of the sea .kicking a great redwood seven feet in diameter. At length. the two noblest indigenous living things. the niece came only once in the two days. for in this district all had already perished: redwoods and redskins. for a last piece of luck.” ran the legend. “the handsomest spot in the Californy mountains” had produced a petrified forest. alike condemned. and got no good from that. It was “the handsomest spot in the Californy mountains. now?” he said. in a lonely dell. and his sister and niece were now domesticated with him for company . and. hollow heart. I think. and taken up his acres . “Were you surprised?” 12 . “The first? I was that man. where photographs and petrifactions were retailed. Proprietor: C. rather. or two-thirds of his capital when he first came there with an axe and a sciatica. “Who first found the forest?” asked my wife. here he came. and another smaller house hard by to serve as a museum. and lived the life of Jack ashore. Evans now shows at the modest figure of half a dollar a head. with the sea-breeze every afternoon in the hottest summer weather.the old. Evans. Every penny he makes goes into that ranche to make it handsomer. that lay there on its side.” “Isn’t it handsome. clinging lumps of bark. Heaven knows how.” said he. He had wandered this way. Long. “The Petrified Forest. penniless and sick. with veins of quartz between what had been the layers of the wood. Then the climate.

Doubtless.I believe the most beautiful and portable he had. It seemed he had learned his English and done nearly all his sailing in Scotch ships. I was mightily surprised. except that the trees had not “grewed” there. prepares a far more delightful curiosity. if you was cleaning up pasture. which I did not quite grasp.” But. and an American. But he mentioned.“Surprised? No! What would I be surprised about? What did I know about petrifactions . but.with a smiling look and a tone of real affection in his voice. I was mightily unmoved.” he said. Mr.” said he. so would you.” And he was so pleased with me for being a Scotsman.” And now he had a theory of his own. the heart of the geologist beats quicker at the sight. on a tangled. indeed. Heaven rewards us with many agreeable prospects and adventures by the way. such as the one already mentioned. if that were all. I think we all belong to many countries. “Out of Glasgow. whose combination of abominable accents struck me dumb. though! I thought it was a stone. “my old country” . of course. Wallace’s ScotoCircassian will not fail to come before the reader. and sometimes.for the pasture would bear a little further cleaning up. “My old country. And perhaps this habit of much travel. whom may all prosperity attend throughout a long and green old age. may prepare the euthanasia of ancient nations. in the form of Mr. a Scot. fortunately. acknowledging some kind allegiance to three lands. to my eyes . Evans. but that’s all the same . that he made me a present of a very beautiful piece of petrifaction . for he was obviously Scandinavian. briery hillside . I have myself met and spoken with a Fifeshire German. and ancient enough.they all hail from Glasgow. and begged him to explain. That’s fairly worth the travelling to. with evident pride. that he differed from all the scientific people who had visited the spot. “or Greenock. and the engendering of scattered friendships. and he flung about such words as “tufa” and “scilica” with careless freedom. Sight-seeing is the art of disappointment. for my part.following the sea? Petrifaction! There was no such word in my language! I knew about putrifaction. who was a Swede. “There’s nothing under heaven so blue.there lie scattered thickly various lengths of petrified trunk. and his adopted compatriot. Here was a man. But. 13 . at least. And the forest itself? Well. When I mentioned I was from Scotland. when we go out to see a petrified forest. It is very curious.

and storing reminiscences . too.lies expiring by the river. all fervent. already weary of producing gold. Some of us. degusting tenderly.behold upon the quays at Cette the chemicals arrayed. A nice point in human history falls to be decided by Californian and Australian wines. and when you taste a vintage. is dead. gem-hued. and look back at the brave bottles squandered upon dinner-parties. and have been all my life.Chapter 3 NAPA WINE I was interested in Californian wine. Hermitage . kind old Pagans. dream-compellers:. go thy ways. with a spark of hope.” like liquorice water. Wine in California is still in the experimental stage. and even the schoolboy “took his whack. a deity to be invoked by two or three. hushing their talk. that once shone upon the board of Caesar. beautiful to every sense. like a good act. The beginning of vine-planting is like the beginning of mining for the precious metals: 14 . Bacchus. raising hands in obsecration. attesting god Lyoeus. where the guests drank grossly. behold the analyst at Marseilles. and the vats staved in. the sun of the white dinner-cloth. old Jack! Now we begin to have compunctions.a hermitage indeed from all life’s sorrows . If wine is to withdraw its most poetic countenance. watch with dread the shadows falling on the age: how the unconquerable worm invades the sunny terraces of France. shines ever in the retrospect .for a bottle of good wine. discussing politics the while. from the raisin wine that a schoolfellow kept secreted in his play-box up to my last discovery. flower-scented. I am interested in all wines. those notable Valtellines. It is not Pan only. begin to green with vineyards. And in the place of these imperial elixirs. And at the same time. and I have never tasted it. grave economical questions are involved. and the dishonest wines poured forth among the sea. and Bordeaux is no more. and the Rhone a mere Arabia Petraea.if wine is to desert us. we look timidly forward. to where the new lands. Château Neuf is dead. Indeed.

thicket embowers them. But the trade is poor. Bearing its own name.the wine-grower also “Prospects. blue. until at length these clods that break below our footing. the best that I have tasted better than a Beaujolais. the grossness of the earth must be evaporated. after he had shown me through his premises. are truly and to the perceiving mind. Meanwhile the wine is merely a good wine. and nature nurses and prepares them. or yellow. as it does too often. Napa valley has been long a seat of the wine-growing industry. But it was strange that all looked unfamiliar. is to be fortune’s favourite. what an 15 .” One corner of land after another is tried with one kind of grape after another.” said he. I say.” And opening a large cupboard. To find one properly matured. and the wine is bottled poetry: these still lie undiscovered. but took at once to the rough foot-hills. which the wind carries away. and bearing its own name. where alone it can expect to prosper. the miner chips the rock and wanders farther. that yield inimitable fragrance and soft fire. “Chateau X-?” said I. in the low valley lands along the river. it lives from hand to mouth. But there they bide their hour. “You want to know why California wine is not drunk in the States?” a San Francisco wine merchant said to me. red. So. he proceeded to shower me all over with a great variety of gorgeously tinted labels. those virtuous Bonanzas. and dwell upon the innuendo. putting its all into experiments. that a single department could scarce have furnished forth the names. seem necessary to the soil for wine. This is a failure. “I had been reading one of X-‘s novels. “Well. here’s the reason.” “I dare say not. A basking inclination. awaiting their Columbus. and hailing from such a profusion of clos and chateaux. its marrow daily melted and refined for ages. more precious than the precious ores. It did not here begin. to be a reservoir of the day’s heat. Those lodes and pockets of earth. chaparral conceals.” They were all castles in Spain! But that sure enough is the reason why California wine is not drunk in the States. stamped with crown or coronet. fitted with many little drawers. and to the eye appear but common earth. a third best. The dust of Richebourg. and the grizzly muses undisturbed. they grope about for their Clos Vougeot and Lafite. and stones. “I never heard of that. where the soil has sublimated under sun and stars to something finer. that is better. and forced to sell its vintages. The smack of Californian earth shall linger on the palate of your grandson. bit by bit. a masterpiece of nature. and not unlike.

The two houses. and continually switched across the face by sprays of leaf or blossom. and we exchanged a word or two of Scotch. there was already a good difference in level. his business young also. covert. and the buck-eyes were putting forth their twisted horns of blossom: through all this. is the oldest vineyard in the valley. M’Eckron’s. No more had been cleared than was necessary for cultivation. A rude trail rapidly mounting. big enough perhaps after the rains. the glen enfolds them. We visited two of them. A Californian vineyard. or the infamous and scabby deserts of Champagne. still fragrant and still flowerbespangled by the early season. his vines were young. and even after he had broken ground up here with his black malvoisies. Mr. where thimble-berry played the part of our English hawthorn. There is nothing here to remind you of the Rhine or Rhone. and a patch of vines planted and tended single-handed by himself. M’Eckron’s is a bachelor establishment. than the blood and sun in that old flask behind the faggots. but already yielding up its life. but I thought he had the look of the man who succeeds. M’Eckron’s head must be a long way under the feet of Mr. and Mr. Schram’s and Mr. Mr. of the low côte d’or. there they lie basking in sun and silence. continued 16 . overhead and on all sides a bower of green and tangled thicket. but all is green. friable powder. on the other hand. we struggled toughly upwards. a small cellar hard by in the hillside. The last is no great inconvenience at home. a little stream tinkling by on the one hand. canted to and fro by the roughness of the trail. one of man’s outposts in the wilderness. He hailed from Greenock: he remembered his father putting him inside Mons Meg. we turned sharply to the south and plunged into the thick of the wood. Some way down the valley below Calistoga. which pleased me more than you would fancy. close around each oasis ran the tangled wood. eighteen years old. and that touched me home. Though they were so near. sharing the same glen. For in all woods and by every wayside there prospers an abominable shrub or weed.apotheosis of the dust! Not man himself can seem a stranger child of that brown. Schram’s. Mr. concealed from all but the clouds and the mountain birds. whose very neighbourhood is venomous to some. but here in California it is a matter of some moment. Schram. stood each in a green niche of its own in this steep and narrow forest dell. has features of its own. He had but recently began. called poison-oak. with their vineyards. I think. and whose actual touch is avoided by the most impervious. a little bit of a wooden house. solitary. yet he began a penniless barber.

Schram. haunt the land. the tang of the earth in this green valley. Much of it goes to London . So local. It was still raw. it was no Marathon. Now. another. and he followed every sip and read my face with proud anxiety. Stout. But these are but experiments. still chasing Fortune. and the smile of jolly Mr. Schramberger Golden Chasselas. yet the stirring sunlight. or perhaps Tehama County. the latter with a notable bouquet. I did not feel the sacredness of ancient cultivation. Burgundy Schramberger. fortune found. As we drove back to Calistoga. a party in dust coats. made a pleasant music for the mind. and to-morrow. and no Johannisberg. prosperity had not yet wholly banished a certain neophite and girlish trepidation. his serious gusto warmed my heart. but its green side was dotted with the camps of travelling families: one cumbered with a great waggonful of household stuff. to fresh woods! This stir of change and these perpetual echoes of the moving footfall. flowers.most. still wander. who has been to Europe and apparently all about the States for pleasure. Men move eternally. and who waved their hands to us as we drove by. I tasted all. smiling Mrs. among the tangled wildwood. men and women. also. and resting on pillars like a bandit’s cave:. and sunshine. I tasted every variety and shade of Schramberger. whom we found camped in a grove on the roadside. To Mr. I think. Schram this was a solemn office. while I was tasting wines in the cellar. varnish. and I fear to think how many more. 17 . the road lay empty of mere passengers. cellars far dug into the hillside. Schram has a great notion of the English taste. such as it is. all on pleasure bent. and that romantic cellar influence the bottle next to be uncorked in Pimlico. and the London customers can taste. and. and the vats and bottles in the cavern. Schramberger Hock. like Bedouin pavillions.for long to tramp the valley with his razor. earth’s cream was being skimmed and garnered. entertained Fanny in the verandah. In this wild spot. so quintessential is a wine. his place is the picture of prosperity: stuffed birds in the verandah. settlers going to occupy a ranche they had taken up in Mendocino. and the growing vines. Here. All things in this new land are moving farther on: the wine-vats and the miner’s blasting tools but picket for a night. that it seems the very birds in the verandah might communicate a flavour. with a Chinaman to cook for them. Schram might mantle in the glass. red and white Schramberger.all trimness. and Mr.

I will say it fairly. the others are but pleasant infidelities. and the salt showers fly and beat. There is no special loveliness in that gray country. whether we hail from the braes of Manor or the braes of Mar. why left I my hame?” and it seems at once as if no beauty under the kind heavens. a man from Barra to be more than half a foreigner. but let me hear. and countless local patriotisms and prejudices. deep down in the heart of each one of us. castled city. a kindred voice sing out. its fields of dark mountains.Chapter 4 THE SCOT ABROAD A few pages back. something yearns for the old land. I feel a man from Glasgow to be something like a rival. its unsightly places. in some far land. Two languages. its treeless. to a variety of countries. And yet somewhere. and the old kindly people. It is not race. it grows on me with every year: there are no stars so lovely as Edinburgh street-lamps. I wrote that a man belonged. many dialects. some ready-made affection joins us on the instant. and another Saxon. And though I think I would rather die elsewhere. unfriendly looking corn-lands. it has no unity except upon the map. but the old land is still the true love. with English. One is Norse. When I forget thee. and the wind squalls. When I am at home. part us among ourselves more widely than the extreme east and west of that great continent of America. in these days. black with coal. Yet let us meet in some far country. and no society of the wise and good. with its rainy. It is not community of tongue. this is perhaps the most inscrutable. or American. “Oh. It is no tie of faith. one Celtic. its quaint. gray. We have it not among ourselves. innumerable forms of piety. I do not even know if I desire to live there. where the bells clash of a Sunday. yet in my heart of hearts I long to be buried among good Scots clods. auld Reekie. for we detest each other’s errors. can repay me for my absence from my country. or Irish. Look at us. Of all mysteries of the human heart. and. and we have it almost to perfection. sour. may my right hand forget its cunning! 18 . sea-beat archipelago. Scotland is indefinable.

and took as much interest in me as if I had been his son: more. perhaps. the very names. you generally take to drink. You have to learn the paraphrases and the shorter catechism. our hearts are Highland. An Englishman may meet an Englishman to-morrow. separated alike in space and in society. Another Scotchman there was. Yet still our hearts are true. sir?” he said gravely. with a chimney-pot hat and a tail coat. Only a few days after I had seen M’Eckron. a resident. He had heard there was a countryman in Calistoga. drove me all about the valley. sir!” I cried. it was like magic. “Where are you going?” He turned round without a quiver. we had not much to say .” presenting me with a piece of pasteboard which he had raked out of some gutter in the period of the rains. in dreams.like a whiff of peats. We said a few words to each other. I come from Aberdeen. in England. for the son has faults too keenly felt. roguish. You must pay for it in many ways. And there was yet another. your youth. and then we shook hands. religious man. behold the Hebrides. “I was 19 . his mind quite evidently bent on plunder: a man of about fifty.” And. serious. and came round to the hotel to see him. a message reached me in my cottage. and a pursing of his mouth that might have been envied by an elder of the kirk. “So am I. endeared in verse and music. ragged. and he went his way again to his ranche among the hills. as far as I can find out. than if you had been born. “You’re a Scotchman. all our hearts are Scotch. douce. while the abstract countryman is perfect . the hearth burns more redly. And we. of more outcry and tears and turmoil. “Hullo. and that was all. Highland and Lowland. who for the more love of the common country. It was a Scotchman who had come down a long way from the hills to market.should never have seen each other had we stayed at home. as for all other advantages on earth. Upon him I came suddenly. and a world of seas. This is my card. “From the dim shieling on the misty island Mountains divide us. He had just such a face as I have seen a dozen times behind the plate. upon Chimborazo. But somehow life is warmer and closer. but when the Scotch wine-grower told me of Mons Meg. as he was calmly entering my cottage. the lights of home shine softer on the rainy street. and neither of them care. for instance.The happiest lot on earth is to be born a Scotchman. cling nearer round our hearts. filthy. is a time of louder war against society.

” There were four or five larger within sight. to conclude. there came a Scot to Sacramento . remarking that such little services were due between countrymen. between drinks.perhaps from Aberdeen. But where was the use of argument? He produced a tape-line. and entered the figures in a large and filthy pocket-book. He then thanked me profusely.” as he said. the police were looking for him. “which is the largest spacimen I have yet observed in Califoarnia. But perhaps these two are cause and effect: “For ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. This is a very sad story. driving him about in an open cab. A month or two after this encounter of mine.just examining this palm.” 20 . After he had borrowed money from every one. all with the gravity of Solomon. I cannot say how this story amused me. It is at least a curious thing. and took himself solemnly away. when I felt myself so thoroughly ripe on both sides to be duped in the same way.” he continued. All the Scotch in Sacramento became infatuated with him. there never was any one more Scotch in this wide world. and drink. indicating the misbegotten plant before our door. radiating dirt and humbug as he went. and he played the pipes with vigour and success. shook hands with me. He could sing and dance. made me help him to measure the tree at the level of the ground. Jews and Scotch. should be the most clannish in the world. I presume. “for add lang syne. and when I last heard. Anyway. that the races which wander widest. while he blew himself scarlet at the pipes. he and his pipes suddenly disappeared from Sacramento. and spent their spare time and money.

Part 2 WITH THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL 21 .

might have been 22 . and to the slower but steadier advance of husbandry. Pine Flat. some of the brightest moments of my life were passed over tinned mulli-gatawney in the cabin of a sixteen-ton schooner. the whole problem of the squatter’s existence would be solved. Here there would be two thousand souls under canvas. driving by along the Geysers road. now so quiet and sylvan. I pronounce authoritatively that man cannot live by tins alone. however. the mines petered out. rent-free. strike the imagination as forcibly as any pyramid or feudal tower. are experimentally founded: they grow great and prosper by passing occasions. I suppose there are. as if for ever. Food. the town remains behind them. was once alive with mining camps and villages. But the luck had failed. in a town of comfortable houses. in no country in the world. but after suitable experiments. there one thousand or fifteen hundred ensconced. and passing away and leaving behind them relics. It was with an eye on one of these deserted places. so many deserted towns as here in California. has yet to be considered. like the vineyards. and the miners move elsewhere. I will go as far as most people on tinned meats. There is something singularly enticing in the idea of going. Already there have been many cycles of population succeeding each other. wooden-faced. that we had come first to Calistoga. it may appear that. with such a roof over your head and a spring of clear water hard by. And to the British merchant. sitting at home at ease. and left this quarter of the world to the rattlesnakes and deer and grizzlies. and that is the number of antiquities.Chapter 1 TO INTRODUCE MR. KELMAR One thing in this new country very particularly strikes a stranger. These. standing on into changed times. into a ready-made house. and the army of miners had departed. It is true that the great Foss. like Palmyra in the desert. but glorified with legend. storm-stayed in Portree Bay. The towns. The whole neighbourhood of Mount Saint Helena. Fresh meat must be had on an occasion. on the Geysers road. and when the lode comes to an end.

” and behold it cannot be carried out. Now. and might be heard on summer evenings playing sentimental airs on the violin. I knew it was or ought to be his name. and when once he is beyond his depth. I had no idea. Rufe Hanson. Kelmar was the store-keeper.” as you may see by the motto. he met me. and. “id quod regibus. and we might have added to our colony a flock of sheep and an experienced butcher. I am sure it will be his name among the angels. He had a projecting under lip. with which he continually smiled. in a very thriving way of business. but as soon as I set eyes on him. he is their family friend. could send half the settlers packing in a radius of seven or eight miles round Calistoga. could take care of us . is pressed on the new customer. He also had something of the expression of a Scotch country elder. on equal terms. the director of their business. who. goodnatured.fine people the Hansons. a Russian Jew. and no man is loudlier welcomed. one of the most serviceable of men. if he choose to put on the screw. by some peculiarity. and for some days I thought he disapproved of the whole scheme and was proportionately sad. and the oldest son had quite a dark and romantic bearing. for they dare not refuse to buy. But the Jew store-keepers of California. One fine morning. It is really very disheartening how we depend on other people in this life.Silverado. that Kelmar. and he is from thenceforth a white slave. or rather smirked. the hunter. we should be close to the 23 . should chance to be a Hebrew. even from the little I saw. my principal adviser in this matter was one whom I will call Kelmar. but the great Foss could hardly bring us milk. have made themselves in too many cases the tyrants of the rural population. unless I find a neighbour rolling in cattle. wreathed in smiles. profiting at once by the needs and habits of the people. and. but are never suffered to get out of debt. right up the mountain. He had found the very place for me . Kelmar was a singularly kind woman. I believe. to a degree elsewhere unknown in modern days. however. To take a cow would have involved taking a field of grass and a milkmaid. what an important person Kelmar was. These are continually paying him. he goes and dines with them when he is on an outing. the tune changes. For some reason. Mrs. their king. at the time I made his acquaintance. another old mining town.induced to bring us meat. He palms dull goods upon them. Credit is offered. That was not what he called himself. “Mihi est propositum. after which it would have been hardly worth while to pause. Kelmar always shook his head at the mention of Pine Flat.

I began to inquire with some eagerness. and done extremely well . of course . drop us at the Toll House. 24 . by good fortune. and she herself began to rise above the zone of forest . in the nick. The name had already pleased me. that no unmixed desire to have us comfortably settled had inspired the Kelmars with this flow of words.there was Silverado. They would carry us so far. The mine . whence. over the border into Lake County. There. and was now quite a strong man. “Yes. the place and all its accompaniments seemed made for us on purpose. with several hotels and boarding-houses. present us to the Hansons. and Kelmar himself had opened a branch store. I accepted on the spot. just where the eastern foothills joined the mountain. it was the best place for my health.a silver mine. and this time sung in chorus.” Now there was no one living in the town but Rufe the hunter. ain’t it? In short.had promised great things. where the Lakeport stage called daily. to be about my kingly project. There was quite a lively population. It was but a little while ago that Silverado was a great place. appealing to his wife. I could not help perceiving at the time that there was something underneath. and call for us again on Monday morning early. besides. as from every point of Calistoga. And she said. But I was impatient to be gone.Toll House. and when we were offered seats in Kelmar’s waggon. The plan of their next Sunday’s outing took them. extremely well. Rufe had been consumptive.“Ain’t it?” he said. Mount Saint Helena could be seen towering in the air. the high station pleased me still more. and once more I heard Rufe’s praises by the yard. He took me to his back door.

the sky was one field of azure. Thither. It may seem hard to say it of a dog. we went. I am sure he could have played upon it by nature. the crown prince. was the most unsuited for a rough life. Not a leaf moved. twelve hundred English sovereigns. then. Sam. and there lunched out of the basket. he regarded the sofa-cushion as a bed-rook necessary of existence. and see sunbeams floating in the dust and striking on tier after tier of silent. not a speck appeared in heaven. the King and Queen of Silverado.myself and my wife. like the temple of a 25 . he loved to sit in ladies’ laps. By noon we had come in sight of the mill: a great brown building. Chuchu. He had been nurtured tenderly in the society of ladies. and if he had seen a flute. It cost six thousand dollars. which. crossing the valley by a grassy trail. Though about the size of a sheep. big as a factory. but Chuchu was a tame cat. sitting in a kind of portico. the grand duke. two stories high. we held to be an outlying province of our own. and a basket of cold provender for immediate use. like smoke from a volcano. and blowing southward in some high stream of air: Mount Saint Helena still at her interminable task. his heart was large and soft. rusty machinery. a setter crossed with spaniel. and wondering. like a Lapland witch. the Crown Prince. and now. as a pendicle of Silverado mine. The king and queen.Chapter 2 THE ACT OF SQUATTING There were four of us squatters . Bags and boxes and a second-hand stove were to follow close upon our heels by Hanson’s team. and with tanks and ladders along the roof. while we ate. It was a beautiful still day. Only from the summit of the mountain one little snowy wisp of cloud after another kept detaching itself. and Chuchu. he never said a bad word in all his blameless days. at this great bulk of useless building. the Grand Duke. here it stands deserted. halfway up the hill. Through a chink we could look far down into the interior. set forth from Calistoga in a double buggy. making the weather. on horseback. led the way like an outrider.

when the engine was in fall blast. looking far under the arch. clearing my way as I went through fallen branches and dead trees. It was odd to compare this with the former days. No wonder that it should better its pace when it sees. All the time we were there. and we were left to our own reflections and the basket of cold provender. mill and mill town showed no sign of life. that part of the mountain-side. and nothing stirred but the cloud manufactory upon the mountain summit. It was a promising spot for the imagination. and dyed red with cinnabar or iron. and had been well trodden in the old clays by thirsty miners. It went straight down that steep canyon. until Hanson should arrive. fed by the invisible leakage from our shaft. I could see something like an iron lantern fastened on the rocky wall.our natural north-west passage to civilization. was tenanted by no living creature but ourselves and the insects. stony gully in the mountains. The footpath was well marked. It almost seemed as if. in that world of wreck and rust. splinter and rolling gravel. No boy could have left it unexplored. it would never rest until it hopped upon the Toll House shingles. till it brought you out abruptly over the roofs of the hotel. were you to drop a stone down the old iron chute at our platform. this was a wild. Silverado platform filled the whole width of the canyon. far before it. like a treasure grotto in a fairy story. the mill palpitating to its strokes. and. there was something chill in such a home-coming. some wreck of wooden aqueduct. the buggy was gone again. Once. There was nowhere any break in the descent. the busy millers toiling somewhere else. where for so many years no fire had smoked. but below it was a wooded dingle. which is very open and green. it ran splashing down the whole length of the canyon. I suppose. A stream of water. but now its head waters had been tapped by the shaft at Silverado. 26 . I was told. And far down. charged with ore.forgotten religion. for that dry land. as I have said. The stream thenceforward stole along the bottom of the dingle. there had gone a path between the mine and the Toll House . I found and followed it. Hot as it was by the sun. and the mouth of a tunnel. I came on a last outpost of the mine . ran trippingly forth out of the bowels of the cave. and made. red. Above. deep out of sight of Silverado. a pleasant warbling in the leaves. buried in foliage.a mound of gravel. By two we had been landed at the mine. and the carts came rattling down from Silverado. and for a great part of its course it wandered sunless among the joints of the mountain. Signs were not wanting of the ancient greatness of Silverado. And through this.

and bills of the Silverado boarding-house. Cr. a pocket-book. to the past? It pleases me. or that it should come trotting forth into the sunlight with a song. in a more personal manner. or one of their companions. and be struck by the name. and paper. Chapman’s were the only speaking relics that we disinterred from all that vast Silverado rubbish-heap. within whose hospitable walls we were to lodge? The date was but five years old. dozing in sun and dust and silence. The two stages had gone by when I got down. straw. or a roll of names. In a sea of red dust there swam or floated sticks. and the Toll House stood. 1875. some Calistoga Mine. like Palmyra in the desert. amid ruins. Here is one. we practically gave Hanson up. and set ourselves to do what we could find do-able in our desert-island state. and read some news of 27 . Calistoga Mine. some dated Silverado. it had outlived its people and its purpose. and commended itself swiftly to my fears.part human. and these names spoke to us of prehistoric time. he has my envious admiration. the people shook their heads. stones. Chapman. John Stanley To S. poker was too many for Rufe. but it seemed a natural conjunction. I had not yet heard them bracketted together. and if any one can calculate the scale of charges. besides. above all . and that I was readily promised. part natural. My mission was after hay for bedding. only a ledger. hay. but in that time the world had changed for Silverado. and if he got playing poker . soon becomes an antiquity . we camped. to 3rd … 2 00 27 75 Where is John Stanley mining now? Where is S. sifted in by mountain winds. like Layard. The floor was thick with débris .daylight whitening in the arch. Chapman. A boot-jack. To board from April 1st.for the newspaper. and these bills of Mr. verbatim. and as soon as I returned to Silverado and had told my story. boards. a pair of boots. to fancy that Stanley or Chapman. from the former occupants.Well. Rufe was not a regular man any way. a dog-hutch. The lower room had been the assayer’s office. it seemed. like a place enchanted. may light upon this chronicle. ancient newspapers. a diary. But when I mentioned that we were waiting for Rufe. especially when torn. but what would I not have given to unearth a letter. to take me back. to April 30 $25 75 “ “ “ May lst. May 3rd.

and each more or less broken. with a hole in it through which the sun now shot an arrow. that I had somewhere heard somebody describe it as just such a powder as the one around us. out of a subsequent epoch of history in that quarter of the world. but no research disclosed a trace of either man or lantern. kicking it with our feet. and is made up in rolls for all the world like tallow candles. something the colour of Gregory’s Mixture. It contained a granulated powder. I have learnt since that it is a substance not unlike tallow. and instantly there grew up in my mind a shadowy belief. he set forth into the forest. the can proved to contain oil. There were the eighteen bunks in a double tier. where from eighteen to thirty-six miners had once snored together all night long. and then all was still. On examination. like ourselves. after all. after this anecdote. Had any of us ever seen giant powder? No. That was our sitting-room and kitchen. Fanny. perhaps. It was a pretty sight. coming. the mountain echoes bellowed. there was more hay. snoring loudest. 28 . “What’s this?” said he. but rosier. though. the man who stole the window-frames having apparently made a miscarriage with this one. though there was nothing to sit upon but the table. to see us sweeping out the giant powder. which had once contained the chimney of a stove. told us a story of a gentleman who had camped one night. and as there were several of the bags. as it were. by a deserted mine. verging with every moment nearer to certitude.their anterior home. and looked right and left for plunder. nine on either hand. nobody had. and groping for these written evidences of the past. and no provision for a fire except a hole in the roof of the room above. and certainly there was the added ingredient of broken glass. We scraped some of the rougher dirt off the floor. with a somewhat whitened face. And. thrifty fellow. There was the roof. in much the same state as the one below. He was a handy. As we were tumbling the mingled rubbish on the floor. it was only some rock pounded for assay. the powder was spread widely on the floor. It seemed never to be far enough away. Thus equipped. and left it. produced a paper bag. After dark he had to see to the horses with a lantern. A little while after. filled up his lamp from the oil can. but all he could lay his hands on was a can of oil. with the trifling addition of nitro-glycerine. his friends heard a loud explosion. So much for the lower room. Sam. John Stanley. and not to miss an opportunity. There was the floor. to add to our happiness. To that upper room we now proceeded. perhaps.

we could but look about us with a beginning of despair. There was no stove. save when we passed beside the staging. the sun had begun to go down behind the mountain shoulder. although no match for it in size. and by the time I had finished. without hay or bedding. so we betook ourselves to the blacksmith’s forge across the platform. Before us. pine-bescattered ridges on the farther side. we could see the sun still striking aslant into the wooded nick below. also. But we soon had a good fire brightly blazing. which gives us warmth and light and companionable sounds. breaths of bay. We gazed up the cleft into the bosom of the mountain. then our house would be the first wing on the actor’s left. Chuchu. not a reptile. even although it were untidy. of the blue hall of heaven. and no hearth in our lodging. I set to with pick and shovel. For a while it was even 29 . and the sight drove us at last into the open. the foremost on the right. and rubbish from the mine. the view below was fresh with the colours of nature. Beautiful perfumes. came to us more often and grew sweeter and sharper as the afternoon declined. It was a low. but the rest of us were greatly revived and comforted by that good creature-fire. and colours up the emptiest building with better than frescoes. There was no noise in that part of the world. and a chill descended from the sky. till we were sure of sufficient water for the morning. Here. and heard the water musically falling in the shaft. the handiwork of man lay ruined: but the plants were all alive and thriving. and sleepers and the wheels of tracks. the slave of sofa-cushions. If the platform be taken as a stage. not a beast. in that gaunt and shattered barrack. and sat close about it on impromptu seats. of course. nails and rails. planted close against the hill. We searched among that drift of lumberwood and iron. We wandered to and fro. Night began early in our cleft. the green treetops standing still in the clear air. far below us. whimpered for a softer bed. But still there was no word of Hanson. and the out-curving margin of the dump to represent the line of the foot-lights.Without a broom. The one bright arrow of day. brown cottage. the platform was plunged in quiet shadow. resin. made the rest look dirtier and darker. Not a bird. and deepened the pool behind the shaft. and nutmeg. over the margin of the dump. Within it was full of dead leaves and mountain dust. human garret for a corner. and on the battlemented. and this blacksmith’s forge. and overhung by the foliage and peeling boughs of a madrona thicket. We sat by the margin of the dump and saw. and we had exchanged a dim.

and we resigned ourselves to wait for their return. He would pick up a huge packing-case. But his crew. See how late they were! Never had there been such a job as coming up that grade! Nor often. expressed regret. There was the stove. “real funny” that they should have lost a plate. alas! our carriers had forgot the chimney. indeed. full of books of all things. nobody moved but the unhappy Chuchu. familiarly termed a path. and lost one of the plates along the road. So they took their departure. like breaches in a fortress. It was between seven and eight before Hanson arrived. There were our boxes. Even for a man unburthened. not to take that word in vain. with the blaze in the midst. Rufe himself was grave and good-natured over his share of blame. As for hay. A single candle lighted us. and upside down. the whole party refused to bring us any till they should have supped. if I remember right. across the brief hours of night.pleasant in the forge. but Irvine sealed it with a light foot. in the nightmare disorder of the assayer’s office. to my astonishment and anger. and a look over our shoulders on the woods and mountains where the day was dying like a dolphin. piled higgledy-piggledy. leaving me still staring. grinned from ear to ear. no fire. With so strong a helper. or. as the hero whisks the stage child up the practicable footway beside the waterfall of the fifth act. Talk ceased. still in quest of sofa-cushions. he even. who tumbled complainingly among the trunks. but. and laughed aloud at our distress. about the floor. and away up the two crazy ladders and the breakneck spout of rolling mineral. 30 . I suspect. the business was speedily transacted. such a game of poker as that before they started. we should have some hay. Soon the assayer’s office was thronged with our belongings. The fire in the forge had been suffered to go out. perched among boxes. for there was. We dined. It could scarce be called a housewarming. it began to grow rapidly chill. but my wife had left her keys in Calistoga. from so dismal a beginning. The elder showed surprising strength. It required a certain happiness of disposition to look forward hopefully. But about nine. and we were one and all too weary to kindle another. that led from the cart-track to our house. carrying box after box. of course. and with the two open doors and the open window gaping on the night. to the warm shining of to-morrow’s sun. the ascent was toilsome and precarious. They thought it “real funny” about the stove-pipe they had forgotten. with a waggonful of our effects and two of his wife’s relatives to lend him a hand. as a particular favour. swing it on his shoulder. The Silverado problem was scarce solved. we ate after a fashion.

yet here in our open chamber we were fanned only by gentle and refreshing draughts. a faint. so deep was the canyon. and for hours continued to grow higher. or eastern-looking gable.that which looked up the canyon. under the open stars. and when we were once in bed. And the two lowest bunks next to this we roughly filled with hay for that night’s use. in a haunted. so close our house was planted under the overhanging rock. by candle-light. Then a high wind began in the distance among the tree-tops. It seemed to me much such a wind as we had found on our visit. Through the opposite. and it would have been droll to see us mounting. but it was still a kind of rope-walking. incomplete obscurity.was still entire. At first the silence of the night was utter. to the bedroom. the most finished piece of carpentry in Silverado.But the hay arrived at last. we lay. one after another. The western door . and we turned. with its open door and window. with our last spark of courage. We had improved the entrance. panelled door. disused starshine came into the room like mist. awaiting sleep. and through which we entered by our bridge of flying plank . a handsome. 31 .

and I was glad.Chapter 3 FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF SILVERADO We were to leave by six precisely. indeed. and. to remind us of the hour. plain. a cluster of ship’s coffee-kettles. Four of the six. Our carriageful reckoned up. and for all the windings of the road it managed to keep clear in our teeth until the end. and a messenger came to us the last thing at night. Mrs. skirting the eastern foothills. but I could invent no reason for their presence. But it was eight before we got clear of Calistoga: Kelmar. crossing a dry water-course. still clearly visible. For some two miles we rattled through the valley. myself. her little daughter. along one margin. 32 . and presently. not to be driven at this point by the dashing Foss. These last were highly ornamental in the sheen of their bright tin. were Hebrews.” The road mounts the near shoulder of Mount Saint Helena. In one place it skirts along the edge of a narrow and deep canyon. entered on “the grade. some three hundred years to the six of us. filled with trees. stowed away behind us. through haugh-land. Close at the zenith rode the belated moon. besides. bound northward into Lake County. No word was spoken but of pleasure. or. even bright. as near as we could get at it. in all my life. the trees roared. my wife. The wind blew a gale from the north. the corn and the deep grass in the valley fled in whitening surges. and I profess I blessed him unawares for his timidity. Kelmar. nods and smiles went round the party like refreshments. The sun shone out of a cloudless sky. Kelmar. to be more local. and even when we drove in silence. jogging to the motion of the trap. It was clear in our teeth from the first. was conscious of so strong an atmosphere of holiday. country clergyman at home. drove for all the world like a good. that was solemnly pledged on both sides. But I never. a friend of theirs whom we named Abramina. with his unvarying smile. then we struck off to the right. the dust towered into the air along the road and dispersed like the smoke of battle. and. entered the Toll road.

gave place more and more as we ascended to woods of oak and madrona. The road crosses the ridge. and a gray house of two stories. It was a wonder how the two stout horses managed to pull us up that steep incline and still face the athletic opposition of the wind. on the Toll House roof. would have been dwarfed. just where a stream has cut for itself a narrow canyon. But now we were hard by the summit. without pause. It was these pines. fallen from their high estate. and boughs had fallen. and then. with gable ends and a verandah. just in the nick that Kelmar showed me from below. Thence. like a fire-hose. In front the ground drops as sharply as 33 . At the highest point a trail strikes up the main hill to the leftward. Ten minutes after we went by. are serving as family bedsteads. But the redwoods. at the Toll House door. It came pouring over these green slopes by the oceanful. As Mount Saint Helena among her foothills. We came up the one side. The woods sang aloud. and even before us leaves were thickly strewn.Vineyards and deep meadows. islanded and framed with thicket. plunges down a deep. A hundred yards beyond. The oak is no baby. and a minute after had drawn up in shelter. stands the Toll House Hotel. are jammed hard against the hillside. and stables. and that leads to Silverado. and a crystal mountain purity. or yet more humbly as field fences. seems like scaling heaven. as they shot above the lower wood. the wind fell upon us with increasing strength. As we continued to ascend. Alas! if they had left the redwoods. “I to the hills lift mine eyes!” There are days in a life when thus to climb out of the lowlands. each fir stands separate against the sky no bigger than an eyelash. The pines go right up overhead. A water-tank. that produced that pencilling of single trees I had so often remarked from the valley. thickly wooded glen on the farther side. large enough to make the passage difficult.but the pines look down upon the rest for underwood. A rough smack of resin was in the air. filled with pines. and we had left indifference behind us in the valley. and all together lend a quaint. a little more and the stream might have played. the pines. and gave largely of their healthful breath. and in a kind of elbow of the glen. blocking the road. or how their great eyes were able to endure the dust. in turn. fringed aspect to the hills. upon these spurs of Mount Saint Helena. so these dark giants out-top their fellow-vegetables. looking up and from however far. Gladness seemed to inhabit these upper zones. along all Napa Valley. a tree fell. but all buffetted and breathless. comes to a fine bulk and ranks with forest trees . even the madrona. were caught upon the summit by the whole weight of the wind as it poured over into Napa Valley. dotted with enormous pines.

and for two hours they followed us. Let us attach them to the verandah by a wisp of straw rope. and enjoyed a famous opportunity of seeing Kelmar in his glory. turning on a post. picking flowers. to Mr. Yet the boy was patently fallacious. with the same shrewd smirk. Corwin. friendly. they proved irresponsible like children. and suffered a little vile boy from the hotel to lead them here and there about the woods. and Kelmar followed him to his ruin. and now. I had a number of drinks and cigars bestowed on me. I said croquet ground. and for that matter a most unsympathetic urchin. resisted gallantly. beaten earth. Regularly about sundown this rude barrier was swung. steadily edging one of the ship’s kettles on the reluctant Corwin. If the boy said there was “a hole there in the hill” . There is just room for the road and a sort of promontory of croquet ground. breathed geniality and vagueness. neither more nor less . and belonging to a race so venerable. with undiminished dignity. the landlord.it rises behind. At last we set forth for Silverado on foot. Kelmar and his jolly Jew girls were full of the sentiment of Sunday outings. to Mr. plainly aghast.Kelmar and his Jew girls would follow him a hundred yards to look complacently down that hole. who lives there for his health. The toll-bar itself was the only other note of originality: a long beam. such as would not have held a person’s hat on that blustering day. with a smirk that seemed just to have concluded a bargain to its satisfaction. had they not twenty long miles of road before them on the other side? Stay to dinner? Not they! Put up the horses? Never. foisting false botany on the unwary. He was bent on his own pleasure. For three people all so old. raised apparently on gingerbread. so bulky in body. again the editor of a local paper. For two hours we looked for houses. Hoddy. for the surface was of brown. I think. the engineer. Had we taken five. to a tree upon the farther side. and then you can lean over the edge and look deep below you through the wood. 34 . smelling trees. Corwin. once a member of the Ohio legislature. pure and simple. like a derrick. And with all these protestations of hurry. intrusted himself and us devoutly to that boy. a most pleasant little gentleman.a hole. radiant. across the road and made fast. not green. I was presented to Mr. They were only going to stay ten minutes at the Toll House. nothing else. and kept slightly horizontal by a counterweight of stones. they could not but surprise us by their extreme and almost imbecile youthfulness of spirit. shrewd old Russian Jew. Kelmar himself. On our arrival there followed a gay scene in the bar. keeping the Toll House bar. and for that bout victory crowned his arms. Jennings. smiling.

Mrs. we came forth at length. but from this proposition she recoiled with haggard indignation. where Kelmar’s store had been. 35 . That was the site of Silverado mining town. who would have preferred. like a monstrous gargoyle. for five they would have smiled and stumbled through the woods. one of the houses was now the school-house far down the road. and when that was firmly rejected. upon a lawn. and the silence was unbroken but by the great. one there. and was now gone. still cheerily accompanying us. He edged Mrs. or watching us from the shoulder of the mountain. flustered. were for immediately giving up all hopes of Silverado. at last remembered with a shriek that there were still some houses at the tunnel. hearing there were no houses to be had. So did we.” had risen late.with that vile lad to head them off on idle divagations. But this. but all were gone away. until suddenly that road widened out and came abruptly to an end. Silverado town had all been carted from the scene. and was now ensconced among the underwood. where for a long time he threatened her with his forefinger. it did not clearly appear whither. like a character in Dickens. one was gone here. death. but with forest instead of fruit trees. Thither we went. It was now a sylvan solitude. A piece of ground was levelled up. But Kelmar was not to be put by. vague voice of the wind. the hillside through the forest. who should already have been miles into Lake County. in a manner of speaking. was here walled across by a dump of rolling stones. and below here the carts stood to wait their lading. and as by accident. A rusty iron chute on wooden legs came flying. Mrs. the Jews. and facing that we saw Rufe Hanson’s house. dangerously steep. and naked overhead. ain’t it?” waving his hand cheerily as though to weave a spell. from the first. a grizzly bear had been sporting round the Hansons’ chicken-house. and a little pale. He first proposed that we should “camp someveres around. red. across the parapet. Rufe had been out after a “bar. Hanson was at home alone. For about a furlong we followed a good road alone. Perhaps he had had wind of Kelmar’s coming. We. still bearing on its front the legend Silverado Hotel. and the poor woman. However. woody below. somehow. Not another sign of habitation. and carry it mill-ward down the mountain. was not to Kelmar’s fancy. It was down this that they poured the precious ore. Hanson had been. driven to her entrenchments. Hanson into a corner. sparse planted like an orchard. and from twenty to thirty feet in height. subdued. Some days before our visit. we found. A canyon. rocky. he decided that we must take up house with the Hansons.

” but with the tails torn away. The room immediately above could only be entered by a plank propped against the threshold. it contained only rubbish and the uprights for another triple tier of beds. we still persevered over loose rubble and wading deep in poison oak. that the upper floor was more than twice as large as the lower. and was so plastered against the hill. and the other gable was pierced by a sashless window and a doorless doorway opening on the air of heaven. a barrel. Fanny and I dashed at the house. five feet above the ground.The whole canyon was so entirely blocked. It consisted of three rooms. on either hand. and that all three apartments must be entered from a different side and level. sashless of course. half buried in the leaves of dwarf madronas. along which the intruder must foot it gingerly. As for the third room. It was my first care to cut away that poison oak. a table. two home-made bootjacks. sticks. filling up the whole glen. which entered squarely from the ground level. straw. and through a chink in the floor. where miners had once lain. as if by some rude guerilla fortification. an old brown wooden house. headed respectively “Funnel No. a triple tier of beds. Only in front the place was open like the proscenium of a theatre. and when they were at an end. fixed in the hillside. a blacksmith’s forge on one side. the proper product of the country. and a pair of papers pinned on the boarding. and shut in on either hand by bold projections of the mountain. and found a fair amount of rubbish: sand and gravel that had been sifted in there by the mountain winds. Fanny standing by at a respectful distance. Herein was. The place still stood as on the day it was deserted: a line of iron rails with a bifurcation. old iron. Not a window-sash remained. a plate-rack on the wall. These led us round the farther corner of the dump. a world of lumber. and far and near on wild and varied country. That was our first improvement by which we took possession. but higher up the hill and farther up the canyon.” and “Funnel No. and we looked forth into a great realm of air. The door of the lower room was smashed. signs of miners and their boots. 1. was choked with the green and sweetly smelling foliage of a bay. a truck in working order. that we could only mount by lengths of wooden ladder. 36 . and one panel hung in splinters. till we struck a triangular platform. and down upon treetops and hilltops. a spray of poison oak had shot up and was handsomely prospering in the interior. and stones. that one room was right atop of another. old wood. and on the other. We entered that. The window. 2. clutching for support to sprays of poison oak.

sweet bay trees. and the mountains standing round about. from our rock eyrie. among the mass of rotting plant and through the flowering bushes. before their departure. trickling with water. here and there dwarf thicket clinging in the general glissade. far-away tinkle of the water-drops was loudly audible. and sixty or a hundred feet above our head. I own I had looked for something different: a clique of neighbourly houses on a village green. another shaft led edgeways up into the superincumbent shoulder of the hill. we could see the strata propped apart by solid wooden wedges. Here also a rugged. Following back into the canyon. labouring together at the ruin of that proud mountain. and there poured forth its bowels in a spout of broken mineral. whence I know not. horizontal tunnel ran straight into the unsunned bowels of the rock. Silverado be it! After we had got back to the Toll House. But I observed that one of the Hanson lads came down. and returned with a ship’s kettle. The view up the canyon was a glimpse of devastation. the Jews were not long of striking forward. and the bearing of the pines and the sweet smell of bays and nutmegs commanded themselves gratefully to our senses. Downwards indeed. mountain and house and the old tools of industry were all alike rusty and downfalling. we behold the greener side of nature. Poison oak. calcanthus. all empty to be sure. great elms or chestnuts. brush. with a wry windless on the top. leading edgeways down into the bowels of the mountain. lion-like. precariously nodding on the verge. red rock. as at Jerusalem. we shall say. a trout stream brawling by. In that quiet place the still. Such was our fist prospect of Juan Silverado. and a pine. half undermined. and clambering up. man with his picks and powder. as though the labours of the mine might begin again to-morrow in the morning. but swept and varnished. dry red minerals sliding together. grew freely but sparsely all about it. Close by. even on this wild day. wet draught tempestuously blew. Happy 37 . we could look into an open shaft. and chaparral. Here. The hill was here wedged up. and nature with her own great blasting tools of sun and rain. In front. and lit by some stray sun-gleams. humming with bees and nested in by song-birds. and over all a broken outline trenching on the blue of heaven. It lay partly open. But in the tunnel a cold. we came to a great crazy staging. as still as my lady’s chamber. One way and another. here and there a crag. in the strong sunshine. This secure angle in the mountain’s flank was. now the die was cast.The whole building was overhung by a bold. the platform lay overstrewn with busy litter. Nor have I ever known that place otherwise than cold and windy.

a demon boy trotting far ahead. and at last about midnight. the wind still roaring in the darkness. their will-o’-the-wisp conductor. and then we would decide. and yet not moving a hair upon our heads. streaming gale passed unweariedly by us into Napa Valley. We could not suppose they had reached a destination. but it was not various enough for that. Sometimes. Boys. that it could be compared with nothing but itself. We thought we could follow in fancy these three aged Hebrew truants wandering in and out on hilltop and in thicket. utterly stunned by the uproar of the wind among the trees on the other side of the valley. The latter part of the day. that Rufe put in an appearance to arrange the details of our installation. not two hundred yards away. It was a laughable thought to us. But for the most part. under a cloudless. My mind was entirely preoccupied by the noise. So it blew all night long while I was writing up my journal. stunningly audible. starset heaven. and again.Hansons! Nor was it until after Kelmar was gone. Fanny and I sat in the verandah of the Toll House. speaking in sleepy voices. we would have it it was like a sea. we felt to be their special danger. and cast the gravel and torn leaves into our faces. and so it was blowing still next morning when we rose. 38 . and sometimes a back-draught would strike into the elbow where we sat. The meanest boy could lead them miles out of their way to see a gopher-hole. wandering Hebrews. none others were of that exact pitch of cheerful irrelevancy to exercise a kindred sway upon their minds: but before the attractions of a boy their most settled resolutions would be war. whistling crash among the foliage on our side of the glen. this great. and send a shrill. gapingly hearkened. if I remember rightly. visible by the tossing boughs. Sometimes the wind would make a sally nearer hand. what had become of our cheerful. and let my cigarette go out. I hearkened to it by the hour. but it was too changeful for the cataract. we had a vision of all three on their knees upon a mountain-top around a glowworm. and after we were in bed. we thought it like the roar of a cataract.

The absence of the kettles told its own story: our Jews said nothing about them. good humour of all three seemed to declare they had attained their end. and the recipients of kettles perhaps cared greatly. “He don’t care ain’t it?” was their highest word of commendation to an individual fate. in particular. Mrs. They particularly commanded people who were well to do. and here I seem to grasp the root of their philosophy . leaving them under a 39 . and Abramina. The horses were not even tied with a straw rope this time . The two women. to be free to make these Sunday wanderings. they seemed so thoroughly entitled to happiness. almost they persuaded me to be a Jew. few people have done my heart more good.Chapter 4 THE RETURN Next morning we were up by half-past five. and to enjoy it in so large a measure and so free from after-thought. they said many kind and comely things about the people they had met. Take them for all in all. for I observed with interest that the ship’s kettles. on the other hand. all smiling from ear to ear. and it was ten by the clock before our Jew boys returned to pick us up. and all this carefulness was to be careless. Yet there was the other side to it. that they so eagerly pursued after wealth. endowed for life with a ship’s kettle. it appeared. It had not gone unrewarded. Kelmar.it was not worth while. and to this natural and unselfish joy they gave expression in language that was beautiful by its simplicity and truth. they had been triumphing together in the girl’s innocent successes. and full of tales of the hospitality they had found on the other side. had been “placed. at least. all evening. but.it was to be free from care. a chink of money in their talk. all but one.” Three Lake County families. had been charmed out of themselves by the sight of a young girl surrounded by her admirers. and Kelmar disappeared into the bar. No sooner had they returned. The fine. Kelmar. this was no misspent Sunday. according to agreement. Come. There was. indeed. than the scene of yesterday began again.

and had not the heart to be angry. merely to drive back again and renew interrupted conversations about nothing. The ladies each narrated the story of her marriage. And now it went “O ma vieille Font-georges Où volent les rouges-gorges:” and again. fiery pangs. great feats had been transacted in the bar. in that dry and songless land. Coïmbre. brave old names and wars. now at least. Only the old lady was at home. But while I was thus wandering in my fancy. and brought me out half a tumblerful of the playful. in that nook of the mountain. Kelmar was again crowned with laurels. if I had ever suspected him of a single eye to business in his eternal dallyings. and lo! veins of living fire ran down my leg. that he should carry about with him incongruous memories.tree on the other side of the road. Once some one remembered me. which would have been highly delightful if Fanny and I had not been faint with hunger. I stood under the shadow of that tree for. a brown old Swiss dame. and then a focus of conflagration remained seated in my stomach. for quarter of an hour. my suspicions must have been allayed. not unpleasantly. Sautander. the picture of honesty. before the Toll House was fairly left behind. innocuous American cocktail. and bright armour. I love these sweet. sacred only to the Indian and the bear! This is still the strangest thing in all man’s travelling. it is the traveller only that is foreign. cymbals. Alas! and not a mile down the grade there stands a ranche in a sunny vineyard. The bulk of the time I spent in repeating as much French poetry as I could remember to the horses. I suppose. I drank it. lights up the contrasts of the earth. but I will not court them. strong cities. and now and again. and the last of the ship’s kettles had changed hands. hard upon an hour. I had to devote myself.” The redbreasts and the brooks of Europe. and with her we drank a bottle of wine and had an age-long conversation. our two Hebrews with the prettiest combination of 40 . Irun. to a more trampling measure “Et tout tremble. If I had ever doubted the purity of Kelmar’s motives. There is no foreign land. Corwin the bold had fallen. by a flash of recollection. Guele. when the last kettle was disposed of. who seemed to enjoy it hugely. Sitôt qu’on entend le timbre Des cymbales do Bivar. Mrs. Almodovar. nor how often we drove off. and here we must all dismount again and enter. I dare not guess how much more time was wasted.

When her “old man” wrote home for her from America. that we ourselves had been sent up the mountain in the interests of none but Kelmar. witnessing her trouble and finding whither she was bound. at our earnest pleading. cent by cent. her old man’s family would not intrust her with the money for the passage. had given her “the blessing of a person eighty years old.” 41 . he told me. Fanny and I having breakfasted at six in the morning. but the Jews still smiling. Mr. This had tickled Abramina hugely.” At length we got out of the house. There was yet another stoppage! And we drove at last into Calistoga past two in the afternoon. Guele told of her home-sickness up here in the long winters. an old lady. when one of the kettle-holders confessed. Stevens. but I think it tickled me fully more. We were a pallid couple. should deny all knowledge of it . Abramina. And the first thing I did. we had no more idea of the nature of the business.here came Mr. nor of the part we had been playing in it. Kelmar something. a little way out of Calistoga.” added Mrs. in so many words.a fear I have myself every time I go to a bank. which would be sure to bring her safely to the States. and engaging as a kid that should have been brought up to the business of a money-changer. At length all doubt was quieted. specially. One touch was so resplendently Hebraic that I cannot pass it over. now that it was done. Fanny and I white-faced and silent.on her knees. Mrs. and through the hands of various intermediaries. “You see. but still the Jews were smiling. till at length. when judgment of Heaven! . and how crossing the Luneburger Heath. dollar by dollar.not to employ it otherwise. I think she said . Guele from his vineyard. “was to fall downstairs. That all the people we had met were the slaves of Kelmar.these were facts that we only grew to recognize in the course of time and by the accumulation of evidence. eight mortal hours before.sentiment and financial bathos. we set forth again in earnest. country-woman troubles and alarms upon the journey. I don’t mind if it was only five dollars. So ended our excursion with the village usurers. how in the bank at Frankfort she had feared lest the banker. So another quarter of an hour went by. The heart fails me. till she had bound herself by an oath . Guele. that he dare not show face therewith an empty pocket. and some of us into the trap. “but I must give Mr. and. endeared herself with every word.” he said. that the money we laid out. She was as simple. natural. after having taken her cheque. Stopping his trap in the moonlight. than the child unborn. should all hop ultimately into Kelmar’s till. of her honest. . though in various degrees of servitude.

Kelmar. it was fair enough for my Russian Jew to give credit to his farmers. it is none the more intrinsically inhumane for that. and yet declaiming from the platform against the greed and dishonesty of landlords. if he was unconscious of the beam in his own eye. I cannot find it in my heart to be as angry as perhaps I should be with the Hebrew tyrant.Even now. 42 . The whole game of business is beggar my neighbour. and though perhaps that game looks uglier when played at such close quarters and on so small a scale. If it were fair for Cobden to buy up land from owners whom he thought unconscious of its proper value. when the whole tyranny is plain to me. fattening on the toil and loss of thousands. The village usurer is not so sad a feature of humanity and human progress as the millionaire manufacturer. was at least silent in the matter of his brother’s mote.

or. because the name savours of offence. Whether they are indeed a race. rebellious to all labour. but not ill-looking. lived during summer on fruits. rustically ignorant. Alva. and petty theft. Whence they came is a moot point. They are widely scattered. the mind seemingly as devoid of all reflection as a Suffolk peasant’s. if the occasion offers.they were. Loutish. Orreana. I will not say that the Hanson family was Poor White. they are at least known by a generic byword. however. In tracking a criminal. wild animals. but with a touch of wood-lore and the dexterity of the savage. like the English gipsies. for whom we scarcely seem to have a parallel in England. with the accent on the first. By their names ye may know them. but with a rebellious vanity and a strong sense of independence. in many points. quiet places of the country. for he was both a hunter and an amateur detective. grinning Hodges will suddenly display activity of body and finesse of mind. built great fires in the forest. and there died stoically by starvation. and drawing inductions from a hair or a footprint. swinging their legs on a field fence. or Orion. Leanna. or whether this is the form of degeneracy common to all back-woodsmen. a little amateur detection. Larsenia.Chapter 5 THE HUNTER’S FAMILY There is quite a large race or class of people in America. Hunting is their most congenial business. the robbers of the 43 . when these supplies failed. one of those somnolent. Of pure white blood. the men answering to Alvin. but I may go as far as this . for the most part incapable of reading. they are unknown or unrecognizable in towns. and at the approach of winter. they will sit all day. following a particular horse along a beaten highway. It was he who pursued Russel and Dollar. the women figuring as Loveina. they poured north in crowds to escape the conscription. as Poor Whites or Low-downers. not unsimilar to the people usually so-cared. careless of politics. pronounced Orrion. and pettily thievish. inhabit the fringe of settlements and the deep. and easily recognized. At the time of the war. Rufe himself combined two of the qualifications. Serena.

he was a perfect. Take his clay pipe from him. Hanson (née. He chose the print stuff for his wife’s dresses.Lake Port stage. I assure you.the taste of an Indian. always with bizarre and admirable taste . She was a comely woman. He lay long in bed in the morning rarely indeed. and fair. merry. Rufe was grave. too. Quiet as he was. and turned our red canyon into a salon. and healthy.only. in quiet tones and few words. when there was business. a very agreeable figure. he had turned round and walked away again. wrongly. She was often in and out with us. with his wife on his arm. fair-coloured. and in her print dresses (chosen by Rufe) and with a large sun-bonnet shading her valued complexion. With all this. Her noisy laughter had none of the charm of one of Hanson’s rare. rose before noon. Russel. he loved all games. brushed up for the occasion. and with so much seeming hesitation did he go about. he took out his pipe with ceremonial deliberation. plump. no manner about the woman: she was a first-class dairymaid. Lovelands) was more commonplace than her lord. permanent excitement in his dark blue eyes. or now and again. there burned a deep. as she thought. and he was fit for any society but that of fools. and counselled her in the making of a patchwork quilt. it would never have surprised you if. it was like sunshine in a shady place. if you please. and a clean clay pipe in his teeth. he came far seldomer . looked east and west. Mrs. there was no reticence. and then. and when I was there. His waggon was broken. was even an acquaintance of his own. Like all truly idle people. he had recently lost the schoolhouse key. and captured them the very morning after the exploit. at any step. so warily and slowly. out-spoken and loud-spoken. no mystery. what there was of her. in our forest state. always. These visits. but it never seemed to occur to him to mend it. made. slow-spreading smiles. stated his business or told his story. and he expressed much grave commiseration for his fate. In all that he said and did. had quite the air of an event. I never saw him hurried. with wonderful white teeth. and when this grave man smiled. he had an artistic eye. unoffending gentleman in word and act. and in the Toll House croquet ground I have seen him toiling at the latter with the devotion of a curate. but her husband was an unknown quantity between the savage and the nobleman. while they were still sleeping in a hayfield. was an active member of the local school-board. indeed. 44 . a drunken Scotch carpenter. but to the more educated eye. When he spoke. from poker to clerical croquet. He took an interest in education. to pay a visit of ceremony. His gait was to match. But she was on the surface.

and a family of sons. and they had besides a permanent lodger. showing her brilliant teeth. and however his name should be spelt. and getting our rough lodging into shape. at least. talking up hill and down dale. accompanied that simple pleasure with profuse expectoration. and down sat his sister on the other. to my sorrow. And anyway. making beds and seats. She rattled away. Irvine Lovelands. he looked neither heavy nor yet adroit.Such was the pair who ruled in the old Silverado Hotel. Both were chewing pine-tree gum. when we were full of business. and he laughed frankly whenever we failed to accomplish what we were about. patching up doors and windows. tossing her head. among the windy trees. and Breedloves. for I could get no information on the subject. in the form of Mrs. Down he sat on one side. he. Loveinas. He looked on in silence. only leggy. Our very first morning at Silverado. their form of literature. as the man aloft looks down on the ship’s deck. and he. with sundry horses and fowls. she for neighbourliness and general curiosity. this Irvine Lovelands was the most unmitigated Caliban I ever knew.I think he had crossed the plains in the same caravan with Rufe . coltish. the ancestors of all these Alvins and Alvas. cutting firewood at I forget how much a day. although as strong as a horse. But still times change. now putting his head back and uttering a loud. And this is surely the more notable where the names are all so strange. now spitting heavily on the floor. discordant. Daniel Webster. But it was plain he was in high spirits. whether or not Rufe was a contraction for Rufus. 45 . that must have been. Nor did they want visitors. Lovelands. the colour of wool. the George Washingtons and Daniel Websters. on the mountain shoulder overlooking the whole length of Napa Valley. because he was working for me. and even the family names appear to have been coined.housed with them for awhile during our stay. He had a tangle of shock hair. will at least be clear upon the point. laughing. just as I could never find out. At one time. and called Breedlove . in spite of many inquiries. I spell Irvine by guess. his mouth was a grin. We were at that moment patching up and unpacking in the kitchen. Irvine and his sister made their appearance together. Hanson’s brother. must have taken serious council and found a certain poetry in these denominations. of singular stolidity. The way that he set about cutting wood was characteristic. An old gentleman. and their next descendants. This was scarcely helpful: it was even. They were all cheerfully at sea about their names in that generation. to my annoyance. then. There they kept house. thoroughly enjoying his visit. among the number. joyless laugh. and I think George Washington. and in the road.

between them. who bore a grudge against him.the devil take him! The next morning he returned and. He told us how a friend of his kept a school with a revolver. and grin. he bestowed his conversation upon us with great liberality. or ceased to praise him. and the pair retired.” His clumsy utterance. A man.to amateur carpenters. and to have a woman stand by and admire his achievements. and chuckled mightily over that. and in his own cloudy manner enjoying life. that his mind was cumbrously at work. He could lounge. but it lasted until we knocked off work and began to get dinner. he told us. indeed. and even kept at work. He could be got to work. but he loved himself to the marrow. his rude embarrassed manner. Yet he was as cowardly as he was powerful. nohow. Hanson remembered she should have been gone an hour ago. and the moment she turned her back. had poisoned his dog. and be more in everybody’s way than any other two people that I ever set my eyes on. so long exactly he would stick to the matter in hand. Then Mrs. he was delighted with himself. and the noun. revolving the problem of existence like a quid of gum. and felt no 46 .” he opined. anyway. how long would it take to fall right down? She had not been able to solve the problem. His physical strength was wonderful. crying out how strong he was. All the time he kept chewing gum and spitting. set a fresh value on the stupidity of his remarks. they complete his portrait. If a tree a hundred feet high were to fall a foot a day. from his uneasy manners and troubled. I do not think I ever appreciated the meaning of two words until I knew Irvine . he could. struggling utterance. Above all things. and was happy and proud like a peacock on a rail. by flattery. His self-esteem was. and yet you were conscious that he was one of your own race. embarrassing. the one joint in his harness. and bring forward a new subject. and rub himself against the wall. as he was this time alone. He had tried her. That was Irvine’s first day’s work in my employment . As long as my wife stood over him. He prided himself on his intelligence. and spit. he had. and laugh hoarsely. He didn’t think much of her. he would stop. You would not have thought it. and wriggle. and the lady’s laughter died away among the nutmegs down the path. “That was a low thing for a man to do now. that. warmed his heart like sunshine. loaf. and passing judgment on his fellows. wasn’t it? It wasn’t like a man. But I got even with him: I pisoned his dog. He had put a question to her. “She don’t know nothing.the verb. and then he would toss back his shock of hair. He would stand a while looking down. his friend could teach school. asked us if we knew the school ma’am. Nothing that he did became him. oaf.

to use the language of theatres . but the firewood remained intact as sleepers on the platform or growing trees upon the mountainside. By playing on the oaf’s conceit. and Irvine came daily. and. that Irvine was as beautiful as a statue. It was a cruel thought to persons less favoured in their birth. was too bald an imposition. it was only his cloudy. the light in which I had grown to regard his presence. And. we could tolerate. Something was once wanted from the crazy platform over the shaft. and decidedly expected her to look up to him. I pointed out to him that I could not continue to give him a salary for spitting on the floor. on the afternoon of the fourth or fifth day of our connection.with extraordinary “means. Irvine. rather looked down upon my wife. turning the very obstacles to service. is usually more heroic: but Irvine steadily approved himself. His features were. where it rules. and had other things to attend to.” and let my wife go instead of him. days went by. the exterior of a Greek God. Vanity. as clearly as I could. that you discovered what he was. which came after a good many others. bushes to be uprooted. that he broke his strong prison with such imperfect implements. we may be certain. looking on with a grin. So much strength residing in so spare a frame was proof sufficient of the accuracy of his shape. would have sat down and spat. He must have been built somewhat after the pattern of Jack Sheppard. my wife was tired of supervising him. was no lout. endowed . perfect. that this creature. and expected others to approve him. I explained to him. It was only by an effort of abstraction. regarded as an artist’s model. uncouth. for in that there were boulders to be plucked up bodily. It was by the extraordinary powers of his mind no less than by the vigour of his body. and this expression. Irvine. in the same case. and after many days.” should so manage to misemploy them that he looked ugly and almost deformed. “foolen’ round them kind o’ places. and grumbled curses. in short. Yet the strangest part of the whole matter was perhaps this. in themselves. but. on the strength of his superior prudence.” as he said. but Irvine as a friend of the family. at last penetrated his 47 . Anybody could cut wood.shame in owning to the weakness. but the famous housebreaker. so that we could come and go with decent ease. He had the soul of a fat sheep. and talked and lounged and spat. besides. and he at once refused to venture there “did not like. and other occasions for athletic display: but cutting wood was a different matter. and standing closely over him. and coarse expression that disfigured them. as a woodcutter. we got a path made round the corner of the dump to our door. and at length. and he even enjoyed the work. at so much a day.

after the Indian fashion.driven to beseech the creature whom I had just dismissed with insult: but I took the high hand in despair. and his wife. But we had no firewood. He rose at once. that they ended by begging me to re-employ him again. Perhaps Rufe was wrong. The pictorial side of his daily business was never forgotten. was dear to him mainly as a sort of play. and she had more of the small change of sense. along with the others. We soon had a fine pile of firewood at our door. and Rufe. for instance. sober. so good. to be sure. bare north room of the Silverado Hotel. said there must be no talk of Irvine coming back unless matters were to be differently managed. in the large. Mrs. thereupon. hunting. and it was dear to his heart. we may even say.the currency in which he paid his way: it was all befringed. and the oaf himself. and perhaps. Rufe. in short. mending his waggon. It was she who faced Kelmar. that I would rather chop firewood for myself than be fooled. and I. for he lacked.” I found myself on the point of the last humiliation . he departed. looking on life plainly. was kept. I am inclined to fancy. for instance. Mrs. The promise. Kelmar would have had no rule within her doors. His hunting-suit. So far. The next afternoon. I thought none the worse of him for that. the Hansons being eager for the lad’s hire. Her social brilliancy somewhat dazzled the others.obdurate wits. I strolled down to Rufe’s and consulted him on the subject. no one interposing. but. I so imposed upon them with merely affected resolution. refused to have any more to do with my service. Hanson’s patchwork on a frame. seeing the world without exaggeration . that commercial idealism which puts so high a value on time and money. open-air attitude of mind. nor did I find my days much longer for the deprivation. Sanity itself is a kind of convention. had a fine. without enough. he reckoned he would quit. had cost I should be afraid to say how many bucks . he was unable to perceive that croquet or poker were in any way less important than. The leading spirit of the family was. I am bound to say. he “wouldn’t work no more for a man as had spoke to him’s I had done. all more or less embarrassed. if she had been alone. Hanson. had it not appealed to his imagination.perhaps. even that he would have neglected. on a solemn promise that he should be more industrious. and said if that was the way he was going to be spoke to. and. And. It was a very droll interview. for instance. Even his own profession. and if Caliban gave me the cold shoulder and spared me his conversation. Rufe announced there was nobody in the neighbourhood but Irvine who could do a day’s work for anybody. He was even anxious to stand for 48 . Irvine.

In towns or the busier country sides. was almost obliterated by his own great grinning figure in the foreground: Caliban Malvolio.his picture in those buckskin hunting clothes. in the persons of these brothers-in-law. nor yet for buckskin suits. mountains. and taking so dim an impression of the myriad sides of life that he is truly conscious of nothing but himself. The world. of his great strength and intelligence. “with the horns of some real big bucks. And it seems to me as if. that a creature endowed with five senses can grow up into the perfection of this crass and earthy vanity. conscious only of himself. and I remember how he once warmed almost into enthusiasm. as it appeared to him. and dogs. and a camp on a crick” (creek. forests. It is only in the fastnesses of nature. he learns at least to fear contempt. to which he did not listen. the clodhopper living merely out of society: the one bent up in every corporal agent to capacity in one pursuit. There was no trace in Irvine of this woodland poetry. stream). He did not care for hunting. He had never observed scenery. walking in a faint dream. and if he learns no more. he is roughly reminded of other men’s existence. But Irvine had come scatheless through life. his dark blue eyes growing perceptibly larger. we had the two sides of rusticity fairly well represented: the hunter living really in nature. doing at least one thing keenly and thoughtfully. as he planned the composition in which he should appear. and in the silence of the universe. dwelling with delight on the sound of his own thoughts. and the back of man’s beyond. the other in the inert and bestial state. and thoroughly alive to all that touches it. 49 .

in the hours that followed not a sigh of wind had shaken the treetops. the first brightness called me. although more mildly and with rainbow tints. But I had no sooner reached the window than I forgot all else in the sight that met my eyes. coughing and sneezing. at Calistoga I had risen and gone abroad in the early morning. rolled a great level ocean. under 50 . but the shoulder of the mountain which shuts in the canyon already glowed with sunlight in a wonderful compound of gold and rose and green. By a certain hour. safe in a nook of inland mountains. then I would come to myself in that earlier and fairier fight. vertical chinks in our western gable. had swiftly blown itself out. for ten minutes or perhaps a quarter of an hour. beyond a few near features. on our own mountain slope. for all its breaches. Napa valley was gone. But the scene. I rose and turned to the east. at once so dark and splendid that I used to marvel how the qualities could be combined. about five. It was as though I had gone to bed the night before. not twenty feet above my head. not for my devotions. was entirely changed. gone were all the lower slopes and woody foothills of the range. it was the bold blue that struck me awake. but for air. and I made but two bounds into my clothes. The sun was still concealed below the opposite hilltops. where the boards had shrunk and separated. the fissures of our crazy gable. and our barrack. The little private gale that blew every evening in our canyon. The night had been very still. was less fresh that morning than of wont. flashed suddenly into my eyes as stripes of dazzling blue.Chapter 6 THE SEA FOGS A change in the colour of the light usually called me in the morning. and this too would kindle. not a thousand feet below me. the heavens in that quarter were still quietly coloured. and down the crazy plank to the platform. if more lightly. One Sunday morning. At an earlier hour. and had awakened in a bay upon the coast. and in their place. the long. If I were sleeping heavily. though it was shining already. I had seen these inundations from below.

among the Hebrides and just about sundown. I began to observe that this sea was not so level as at first sight it appeared to be. a smoky surf beat about the foot of precipices and poured into all the coves of these rough mountains. There were huge waves. nor did the sweet air of the morning tremble with a sound. and as it had already caught the sun. spying. it shone on the horizon like the topsails of some giant ship. was strangely different and even delightful to the eyes. and climbed so high among the mountains. but this time as an islet. I have seen something like it on the sea itself. And while I was yet doubting. a little hill of fog arose against the sky above the general surface. as if to look abroad on that unwonted desolation. and only to be swallowed up once more and then for good. For an instant. and yet came so beautifully that my first thought was of welcome. like waves in a frozen sea. although sometimes there was none of this fore-running haze. Far away were hilltops like little islands. or some other very great bird of the mountain. as I looked again. As I continued to sit upon the dump.fathoms on fathoms of gray sea vapour. and hung. But to sit aloft one’s self in the pure air and under the unclouded dome of heaven. that breathless. came wheeling over the nearer pine-tops. crystal stillness over all. here came the fog to besiege me in my chosen altitudes. with a slow and august advance. The sun had now gotten much higher. as though by some wind that was inaudible to me. It was to flee these poisonous fogs that I had left the seaboard. And now. was in a single instant overtaken and swallowed up. one pine tree first growing hazy and then disappearing after another. This set me looking nearer. Away in the extreme south. It reappeared in a little. An eagle. behold. as it seemed. what surprisingly increased the effect. a promontory of the some four or five miles away. but the whole opaque white ocean gave a start and swallowed a piece of mountain at a gulp. The colour of that fog ocean was a thing never to be forgotten. and I saw that in every cove along the line of mountains the fog was being piled in higher and higher. with its pines. poised and something sideways. I was not sure but they were moving after all. conspicuous by a bouquet of tall pines. nor was there. and a painful experience for the invalid. I could trace its progress. and yet. Even in its gentlest moods the salt sea travails. and thus look down on the submergence of the valley. perhaps with terror. for the 51 . stationary. moaning among the weeds or lisping on the sand. like a cloudy sky . and through all the gaps of the hills it cast long bars of gold across that white ocean. but that vast fog ocean lay in a trance of silence.a dull sight for the artist. But the white was not so opaline. Nearer.

The wind had climbed along with it. silent. as into some flowing stream from over the parapet of a bridge. the fog had surmounted all the ridge on the opposite side of the gap. So. and but just above the fog. we could listen to the voice of the one as to music on the stage. with a long cry. it was but a morning spring. and a good deal exhilarated by the sight. now began. The old landmarks. We were set just out of the wind. tossing treetops appearing and disappearing in the spray. The imagination loves to trifle with what is not. I suppose it was nearly seven when I once more mounted the platform to look abroad. Had it not been for two things . ragged cataract. The look of the thing helped me. and would now drift out seaward whence it came. Napa valley and its bounding hills were now utterly blotted out. and their long. we could plunge our eyes down into the other. there a brave pine tree. The fog.the sheltering spur which answered as a dyke. here a crag. It smelt strong of the fog. shifting exhibition of the powers of nature. Had this been indeed the deluge. mightily relieved. and was pouring over and down the other side like driving smoke.eyries of her comrades. At length it seemed to me as if the flood were beginning to subside. Half an hour later. I could see the trees tossing below me. I should have felt more strongly. The air struck with a little chill. As it was. Then. thus we looked on upon a strange. sunny white in the sunshine. impetuous. like the smell of a washing-house. and though I was still in calm air. was pouring over into Lake County in a huge. in the inverse order. I judged all danger of the fog was over. and the great valley on the other side which rapidly engulfed whatever mounted . though a shoulder of the mountain still warded it out of our canyon. and set me coughing. in the deep gap where the Toll House stands and the road runs through into Lake County. by whose disappearance I had measured its advance. and saw the familiar landscape changing from moment to moment like figures in a dream. strident sighing mounted to me where I stood. to make their reappearance into daylight. she disappeared again towards Lake County and the clearer air.our own little platform in the canyon must have been already buried a hundred feet in salt and poisonous air. 52 . it had already topped the slope. and a few hundred feet below me. but with a shrewd tang of the sea salt. but the emotion would have been similar in kind. The fog ocean had swelled up enormously since last I saw it. This was not Noah’s flood. I played with the idea. as the child flees in delighted terror from the creations of his fancy. the interest of the scene entirely occupied our minds. I went into the house to light the fire.

with every second. first. For. and the hilltops in that quarter were still clear cut upon the eastern sky. to the eye). for it fell instantly into the bottom of the valleys. like an ocean. and began to blow squally from the mountain summit. and by half-past one. until I could look right down upon Silverado. into the blue clear sunny country on the east. A spray of thin vapour was thrown high above it. all that world 53 . and for one second. The speed of its course was like a mountain torrent. the deluge was immense. I climbed still higher. and through all the gaps the fog was pouring over. rising and falling. the bough of a dead pine beckoned out of the spray like the arm of a drowning man. and its surface shone and undulated like a great nor’land moor country. still the ear waited for something more. so that only five or six points of all the broken country below me. rolling in mid air among the hilltops. The wind veered while we were at dinner. On the hither side. As I ascended the mountain-side. and blown into fantastic shapes. and admire the favoured nook in which it lay. and there lay our little platform. among the red rattling gravel and dwarf underwood of Mount Saint Helena. and sea-water at that . And next the new level must have been a thousand or fifteen hundred feet higher than the old. But it was the last effort. Napa valley was now one with Sonoma on the west. the sun now fell on it from high overhead.And when at last I began to flee up the mountain. About eleven. still stood out.true Pacific billows. it was indeed partly to escape from the raw air that kept me coughing. I came once more to overlook the upper surface of the fog. however. Through the Toll House gap and over the near ridges on the other side. sheeted with untrodden morning snow. but the vortex setting past the Toll House was too strong. but it was also part in play. The sunny plain of fog was several hundred feet higher. following the water-shed. to blow over and submerge our homestead. There it was soon lost. Here and there a few treetops were discovered and then whelmed again. with what a plunge of reverberating thunder would it have rolled upon its course. but still enjoying its unbroken sunshine. disembowelling mountains and deracinating pines! And yet water it was. in the arms of the deluge. only somewhat rarefied. but it wore a different appearance from what I had beheld at daybreak. behind the protecting spur a gigantic accumulation of cottony vapour threatened. But still the imagination was dissatisfied. only a thin scattered fringe of bluffs was unsubmerged. and I began to think the fog had hunted out its Jonah after all. thin spray came flying over the friendly buttress. Had this indeed been water (as it seemed so.

but the heights were not again assailed. with the clear green country far below us. a little white lakelet of fog would be seen far down in Napa Valley.of sea-fogs was utterly routed and flying here and there into the south in little rags of cloud. we found ourselves once more inhabiting a high mountainside. This was the great Russian campaign for that season. Now and then. And instead of a lone sea-beach. nor was the surrounding world again shut off from Silverado. and the light smoke of Calistoga blowing in the air. in the early morning. 54 .

and generally to sit about in the bar and the verandah. a glimpse of the Chinese cook in the back parts. except the Hansons up the hill. Hoddy in the bar. standing alone by the wayside under nodding pines. Jennings never did anything that I could see. the passage of the stages. Jennings.“From Palace to Hovel. gravely alert and serviceable. toll-bar. the place was a kind of small Davos: consumptive folk consorting on a hilltop in the most unbroken idleness. the engineer. and. and returning thither pretty weary in the afternoon. Mr. a mirror. 55 . and the school-ma’am boarded at the Toll House. for her health. She had chosen this outlying situation. and well trodden croquet ground.” I believe.full of the raciest experiences in England. the ostler standing by the stable door. Corwin was not represented). only. where she taught the young ones of the district. down the road. The author had mingled freely with all classes. and Mr. or a dusty farmer on a springboard. waiting for something to happen. so was Rufe. There were no neighbours. so was Mr.Chapter 7 THE TOLL HOUSE The Toll House. another of her son (Mr. Corwin and Rufe did as little as possible. and a selection of dried grasses. its name . and equally anxious to lend or borrow books.dozed all day in the dusty sunshine. at rare intervals. at the fixed hours. with its streamlet and water-tank. Corwin was consumptive. had to work pretty hard all morning. its backwoods. and if the school-ma’am. toiling over “the grade” to that metropolitan hamlet. a few years ago. chewing a straw.a very genteel room. more than half asleep. A large book was laid religiously on the table . Corwin in the height of fashion. The traffic on the road was infinitesimal. The nearest building was the school-house. poor lady. except now and then to fish. I understood. walking thence in the morning to the little brown shanty. In short. Calistoga. with Bible prints. a couple in a waggon. a crayon portrait of Mrs. Her special corner was the parlour . she subsided when it was over into much the same dazed beatitude as all the rest. .

who goes through scenes in which even Mr. but sat close in the little parlour. you see. Jennings rubbed his eyes. in the penetralia. not a tremor of the mountain road. to whom the secret of the hooting cuckoo is unknown. pounding dough or rattling dishes. The birds. Jennings. The latter parts of Rocambole are surely too sparingly consulted in the country which they celebrate. And as yet there was no sign for the senses. alas! there was no Patterson about the Toll House. and there arose from it. and I must say that traveller had ill requited his reception. and the hollow strokes of the mallet sounded far away among the woods: but with these exceptions. The ostler threw his straw away and set to his preparations.” To follow the evolutions of that reverend gentleman. Sleep dwelt in the Toll House. other school-ma’ams enjoying their holidays. happy Mr. Mr. Duffield would hesitate to place a bishop. fit to knock you down. not a sound. and the resting schoolma’ams in the parlour would be recalled to the consciousness of their inaction. was a capital instance of the Penny Messalina school of literature. No man’s education can be said to be complete. like a fixture: summer sleep. shallow. nor can he pronounce the world yet emptied of enjoyment. 56 . inverted snobbery. A cuckoo-clock. The school-ma’am had friends to stay with her. Corwin and her busy Chinaman might be heard indeed. in short. a great rarity in such a place. alongside of “From Palace to Hovel. is to rise to new ideas. quite a bevy of damsels.” a sixpenny “Ouida” figured. and turn the leaf of a newspaper. or not beyond the verandah. that castle of indolence awoke. director of the Evangelical Society. A little before stage time. So literature. was not unrepresented. in that cool parlour. it was sleep and sunshine and dust. His book. But. or perhaps Rufe had called up some of the sleepers for a game of croquet. quietly talking or listening to the wind among the trees. mountain inn. and gazing down the road with shaded eyes. hooted at intervals about the echoing house. and dreamless. and the wind in the pine trees. must have set down to instinct this premonitory bustle. Busy Mrs.the nobility particularly meeting him with open arms. Only. silently giving ear. soft. a rank atmosphere of gold and blood and “Jenkins.” and the “Mysteries of London. The mention of this book reminds me of another and far racier picture of our island life. the something he had been waiting for all day about to happen at last! The boarders gathered in the verandah.” and sickening. Jenning would open his eyes for a moment in the bar. They seemed never to go out. till he has made the acquaintance of “the Reverend Patterson. all day long. and Mr. wayside. in that silent.

I have not forgotten it. will fill a column of the Sunday paper when he comes to hang . they did but flash and go. but to me! No. Yet. a centre of pistol-shots: and another who. if not yet known to rumour. this was a trifle. he seemed to look cold upon me from the valley of the shadow of the gallows. there also. ebbs into the small hours of the echoing policeman and the lamps and stars. the San Francisco magnate. like Piccadilly circus. wellhorsed and loaded. redolent of whiskey. each shepherding a dust storm. Yes. For all his lust and vigour. They paused there but to pass: the blue-clad China-boy.And then the first of the two stages swooped upon the Toll House with a roar and in a cloud of dust. playing cards. But the Toll House is far up stream. the men in their shirt-sleeves. and we but hailed their topsails on the line. rapping out blackguard English oaths in his canorous oriental voice. To him. they were hull-down for us behind life’s ocean. the mystery in the dust coat. the long whip cracking like a pistol. in his shirtsleeves and all begrimed with dust . well-shod lady with her troop of girls. Before you had yet grasped your pleasure. This the Toll House? .with its city throng. And presently the city-tide was at its flood and began to ebb.like the rest. its jostling shoulders. the childish hope and interest with which one gazed in all these strangers’ eyes. and combining in one person the depravities of two races and two civilizations. out of our great solitude of four and twenty mountain hours. Life runs in Piccadilly Circus. and stood light-headed in that storm of human electricity. and the shock had not yet time to subside. too. the thrill of the great shower of letters from the post-bag. the 57 .a burly. and then. the ogling. and pistols. Huge concerns they were. its infinity of instant business in the bar? The mind would not receive it! The heartfelt bustle of that hour is hardly credible. powerful Chinese desperado. theatres and wines. the dead place blossomed into life and talk and clatter. before the second was abreast of it. thick-set. journeying from one human place to another. Mr. already famous or infamous. Here I beheld one man. and near its rural springs. Lillie. we thrilled to their momentary presence gauged and divined them. the secret memoirs in tweed. from nine to one. six long bristles upon either lip. say. I fell in talk with another of these flitting strangers . Holbein’s death was at his elbow.and the next minute we were discussing Paris and London. the women swathed in veils. He imagined a vain thing. Once. swaggering in the bar with the lowest assumption of the lowest European manners. and while he drained his cock-tail. and as they charged upon that slumbering hostelry. the bubble of the tide but touches it. loved and hated. this is also one of life’s crossing-places.

the cuckoo clock hooting of its far home country. the towering dust subsided in the woods. that gray. for a wasted life to doze away in . Yet a little.the green dell below. eloquent of English lawns. North and south had the two stages vanished. and almost love. gratitude. and the tide was gone. with its faint stirrings of life amid the slumber of the mountains . that dreamy inn begin to trim its lamps and spread the board for supper.horses were put to. and the ostler would swing round the great barrier across the road. but there was still an interval before the flush had fallen on your cheeks. As I recall the place . the sunwarm. and perhaps once in the summer. a salt fog pouring overhead with its tale of the Pacific. or the seven sleepers of the Toll House dozed back to their accustomed corners. scented air. the stages daily bringing news of . A fine place. after all. the spires of pine. the croquet mallets. 58 . before the ear became once more contented with the silence. the loud whips volleyed.the turbulent world away below there. gabled inn. and in the golden evening.I slowly awake to a sense of admiration.

about half-past eight of our last evening. self-contained. our lone position on Mount Saint Helena was no longer tenable. produced the boy. and from day to day it languished on. however. was entrusted with the affair. We could have given him a whole house to himself. standing in the midst of Calistoga high street under the stars. By that time we had begun to realize the difficulties of our position. He was wedded to his wash-houses. with the waggon ready harnessed to convey us up the grade. and lose his little earnings at the game of tan. and we had to hurry back to Calistoga and a cottage on the green. he had no taste for the rural life. when that demand was satisfied. to return alone. with no friendly wash-house near by. We had found what an amount of labour it cost to support life in our red canyon. the washerman. refused to come point-blank. as I was sick to begin with. and. with protestations on our part and mellifluous excuses on the part of Kong Sam Kee. for we brought with us Joe Strong. the painter. and shod with snowy white. It must have been near half an hour before we reached that conclusion. where he might smoke a pipe of opium o’ nights with other China-boys. attired in rich dark blue. as they say in the advertisements. there was a melancholy interregnum. The queen and the crown prince with one accord fell sick. He know it for a lone place on the mountain-side.Chapter 8 A STARRY DRIVE In our rule at Silverado. the Calistoga washerman. alas! he had heard rumours of Silverado. gentlemanly lad. He was a handsome. We were not. Kong Sam Kee. but. and he first backed out for more money. with a somewhat sneering air. At length. and the China-boy and Kong Sam Kee singing their pigeon English in the sweetest voices and with the most musical inflections. and on the money question we were prepared to go far. and then. a most good-natured comrade and a capital hand at 59 . and it was the dearest desire of our hearts to get a China-boy to go along with us when we returned. and we must go to our mountain servantless.

powerful. And so had the sunlight flooded that pale islet of the moon. stuck boldly forth like lamps. green. It seemed to throw calumny in the teeth of all the painters that ever dabbled in starlight. the lesser lights and milky ways first grew pale. but all the hollow of heaven was one chaos of contesting luminaries . we beheld a strange. and the sky declined from its first bewildering splendour into the appearance of a common night. The stars. “Where are ye when the moon appears?” so the old poet sang. changing colour. it must have been half-past nine before we left Calistoga. half heaven seemed milky way. and still there was no sign of any cause. star-spangled arch we know so well in pictures. As we continued to advance. and. by some nice conjunction of clearness in the air and fit shadow in the 60 . by innumerable millions. nameless. The milky way was bright. Trowbridge. Then a whiteness like mist was thrown over the spurs of the mountain. The sky itself was of a ruddy.an omelette. with a noble inspiration. and so sharply did each stand forth in its own lustre that there was no appearance of that flat. and then vanished. halftaunting. bent upon a courtly purpose. like a moonlit cloud. I do not know in which capacity he was most valued . those that still shone had tempered their exceeding brightness and fallen back into their customary wistful distance. “As the sunlight round the dim earth’s midnight tower of shadow pours. a great leap of silver light and net of forest shadows fell across the road and upon our wondering waggonful. misshapen. Against this the hills and rugged treetops stood out redly dark. as we turned a corner. Slowly this change proceeded. swimming low among the trees. The wonder of the drive was over.red. but. dark and glossy like a serpent’s back. Viewless to the eyes of mortals. wide portals. Till it floods the moon’s pale islet or the morning’s golden shores. The greater luminaries shone each more clearly than a winter’s moon. and her lit face put out. like steel. the countless hosts of heaven dwindled in number by successive millions. Streaming past the dim.” So sings Mr. waning moon. and he did excellently well in both. The Kong Sam Kee negotiation had delayed us unduly. and. and night came fully ere we struck the bottom of the grade. like fire.a hurry-burly of stars. one after another. Yet a while. to the stars. half-tilted on her back. Their light was dyed in every sort of colour .as a cook or a companion. blue. I have never seen such a night. like the tracks of sunset. that galaxy of stars.

nor shall I ever again behold the stars with the same mind. 61 . and we clambered up the rough path. and the incredible projection of the stars themselves. the ledge was steeped in silver. I think. the hues of the starfire. But once we had lit a candle. and over the lumber on the platform. and came home to Silverado. and showed off our wealth and conveniences before the stranger. fast asleep. The nameless colour of the sky.valley where we travelled. homely in either sense. had broken in and carried off a side of bacon. the noise gently dying in the woods.” The waggon turned and drove away. with the remark that it was pleasant “to be home.these were things that we had never seen before and shall never see again. we were among the happiest sovereigns in the world. Sam. The moon shone in at the eastern doors and windows. with the moon on his face. we proceeded on our way among the scents and silence of the forest. and began to review our improvements. and count our stores. And the difference between a calm and a hurricane is not greatly more striking than that between the ordinary face of night and the splendour that shone upon us in that drive. the palace had been sacked. and the morning’s water to be fetched. a hatchet. a wild cat welcomed us with three discordant squalls. but even that bore no comparison. and as we set about these household duties. got down. A bed had still to be made up for Strong. and two knives. it was wonderful what a feeling of possession and permanence grow up in the hearts of the lords of Silverado. in honour of our return. thinks of it very differently from him who has seen it only in a calm. but it had been. Two in our waggon knew night as she shines upon the tropics. in this altered night. so that the eye seemed to distinguish their positions in the hollow of space . and certainly ruled over the most contented people. Yet. and trooped at length one after another up the flying bridge of plank. moon-pierced barrack. we had seen for a little while that brave display of the midnight heavens. and came at last to a stand under the flying gargoyle of the chute. Wild cats. He who has seen the sea commoved with a great hurricane. Away up the canyon. The one tall pine beside. It was gone. with clinking pail. wound up by Hanson’s. in our absence. Meanwhile. and had a glass of wine. and lay down to sleep in our shattered. starting from their orbits. so the Hansons said. Caliban’s great feat of engineering. reached the top of the grade. who had been lying back.

and their cargo of red mineral bounding and thundering down the iron chute. We were surrounded by so many evidences of expense and toil. was once but a mushroom. Our own house. the forge. making their beds in the big sleeping room erstwhile so crowded. the carts below on the road. the windlass. with just a look over the dump on the green world below. Jonestown by name. But Silverado itself. the ledge. away down the glen on the Lake County side there was a place. and had succeeded to other mines and other flitting cities. the assayer hard at it in our dining-room. and heard the silence broken only by the tinkling water in the shaft. old tavern bills. that great gaping slice out of the mountain shoulder. hammer and anvil. echoing about the canyon. or a stir of the royal family about the battered palace. under the thick madronas near the forge. propped apart by wooden wedges. the one tall pine precariously nodded . the mass of broken plant. while. like mites in the ruins of a cheese. boot-jacks. old boots.all fallen away into this sunny silence and desertion: a family of squatters dining in the assayer’s office. and my mind has gone back to the epoch of the Stanleys and the Chapmans. one far below in the green dell. on whose immediate margin. I have sat on an old sleeper. above all. high above our heads. the deep shaft. the chutes. keeping their wine in the tunnel that once rang with picks. that the idea of the old din and bustle haunted our repose.these stood for its greatness.Chapter 9 EPISODES IN THE STORY OF A MINE No one could live at Silverado and not be curious about the story of the mine. the dump. with the sun-glints and the water-drops. the rails. the dog-hutch. and seen the sun lying broad among the wreck. put in human touches and realized for us the story of the past. with two thousand 62 . although now fallen in its turn into decay. And now all gone . and the very beds that we inherited from bygone miners. the two tunnels. the other on the platform where we kept our wine. we lived so entirely in the wreck of that great enterprise. with a grand tutti of pick and drill. Twenty years ago.

and a great consequent effusion of dollars. great events in its history were about to happen . lost for me.did happen. if it can cover such expenses. and refined. in these old cigar boxes. and town. In this way. coming and going. all parties being sick of the expense. mine. Tide after tide of hopeful miners have thus flowed and ebbed about the mountain. told me with much secrecy of manner. if it ever had one.” They discharged their load at Silverado. According to the first. profess myself at sea.” As to the success of Silverado in its time of being. At midnight trains of packhorses might have been observed winding by devious tracks about the shoulder of the mountain. reared the big mill.inhabitants dwelling under canvas. until. Then the ledge pinched out. now with a rush. and despatched to the city as the proper product of the mine. and it will be seen that I played a part in that revolution myself. there was at the same date. that still hung open above us on crazy wedges. And yet from first to last I never had a glimmer of an idea what was going on. and before the morning they were gone again with their mysterious drivers to their unknown source. six hundred thousand dollars were taken out of that great upright seam. in order of time came Silverado. the whole affair. But I place little reliance on either. They came from far away. and the town decamped. leaving not a stick and scarce a memory behind them. my belief in history having been greatly shaken. According to the second version. by Hanson’s. a second large encampment. as I am led to believe. and one roofed house for the sale of whiskey. pierced all these slaps and shafts and tunnels. in quest of the remainder. from Amador or Placer. and in turn declined and died away. and even now. Both of these have perished. now by lone prospectors. twenty thousand pounds’ worth of silver was smuggled in under cover of night. its name. I give these two versions as I got them. mixed with Silverado mineral. Round on the western side of Mount Saint Helena. and there followed. crushed. a great drifting and tunnelling in all directions. two reports were current. “Our noisy years seem moments in the wake Of the eternal silence. there was no silver to come. That there was 63 . in the valley. For it chanced that I had come to dwell in Silverado at a critical hour. Stock-jobbing. amalgated. must be a profitable business in San Francisco. were parts of one majestic swindle. the mine was deserted. nay. There had never come any silver out of any portion of the mine. Last. mill. after full reflection. monumentally. carted down to the mill. laden with silver in “old cigar boxes. in the hour of sleep. founded the town which is now represented.

There was no silver. there was nothing to be gained. with a sort of quiet slyness. in her sun-bonnet. why had not the rightful owners carted it away? If it was. Mr. beyond a sense of property. in the name of fortune. and again. And suppose Ronalds came? we asked. though I had no idea what it was to be.or rather. paper in hand. If all he wanted was the wood and iron. I only knew him through the extraordinarily distorting medium of local gossip. Besides. Lastly. it was none of my business. This. and get a right to the water. of course. but the notice by which he held it would ran out upon the 30th of June . what the better was Rufe? Nothing would grow at Silverado. I had no objection. what. So. On the morning of the 27th. and to gain possession of this old wood and iron. as I suppose. after which any American citizen might post a notice of his own. she reminded us. But I was filled with wonder. would they not preserve their title to these movables. then under my immediate sway.some obscure intrigue of the cigar-box order.” Of course. Silverado.” He might lay hands on all to-morrow. so much. through a defective window-pane. and that I. Rufe told me at an early period of our acquaintance. and the month of grace would expire upon that day. and make Silverado his. was this mass of heavy mining plant worth transportation? If it was. and bade me be in readiness to play my part. as an ordinary Christian gentleman like you or me. the mine belonged. belonged to one whom I will call a Mr. Mrs. Rufe or Ronalds. and much more probably. Hanson appeared with the milk as usual. was to prevent him taking them? “His right there was none to dispute. as the wild cats had laid hands upon our knives and hatchet.” but there was a deal of old iron and wood around. Stevens. it had run out already. you may see the passer-by shoot up into a hunchbacked giant or dwindle into a potbellied dwarf. now as a dupe to point an adage. in the character of a wooden puppet. is certain. was it at all credible that Ronalds would forget what Rufe remembered? The days of grace were not yet over: any fine morning he might appear. to “jump the claim. To Ronalds. even after they had lost their title to the mine? And if it were not. all seemed legal. the mine “wasn’t worth nothing. However. if I had no objections. who had opened a mine and worked it for a while with better and worse fortune. The time would be out on Tuesday. Rufe proposed. and enter for another year on his inheritance. at least. set pen to paper in the interest of somebody. now as a momentous jobber. and no more. She 64 . Ronalds. there was even no wood to cut. all was one to me.

That same evening.received the idea with derision. in a manner grimly pleasant . I thought this a remarkable example. to put them at their ease. He did not seem embarrassed by the meeting. “but we have to thank you for this path. “Jump into your pants and shoes. and they had a damning significance. but threw us his remarks like favours. and apologized. the lords of Silverado. and then. without Rufe to guide him. and then he passed off into praises of the former state of Silverado. “We drifted every sort of way.more pleasant to him. “Good evening.” they said. “A stiff climb. and that a beaten road led right up to the bottom of the clump. when he came. it appeared. For none of us had stirred. when the sound of brisk footsteps came mounting up the path. before Ronalds. It is the worst of all quaint and of all cheap ways of life that they bring us at last to the pinch of some humiliation.” These were the snatches of his talk that reached us. We pricked our ears at this. and show me where this old mine is. I somewhat quailed. under the tented heavens. None of us liked it. and bid Rufe.” And at last he had to come to the Hansons in despair. Joe Strong busy at work on a drawing of the dump and the opposite hills. with cigars and kid gloves. And presently. “Yes. Last year. but couldn’t strike the ledge. I liked well enough to be a squatter when there was none but Hanson by. than to me. for the tread seemed lighter and firmer than was usual with our country neighbours. and strode magisterially by us towards the shaft and tunnel. we all sat stiff with wonder. sitting there. anyway!” Seeing that Ronalds had laid out so much money in the spot.” Then again: “It pinched out here. laughing aloud with all her fine teeth.” replied the leader. They looked in that place like a blasphemy.” I returned. they heard him “up and down the road a hollerin’ and a raisin’ Cain. supper comfortably over. sure enough. The sense of locality must be singularly in abeyance in the case of Ronalds. “Good evening. had come face to face with our superior. said I gathered he was the Squattee. “It was the busiest little mining town you ever saw:” a 65 . two town gentlemen. Presently we heard his voice raised to his companion.” I did not like the man’s tone. I will own. with the same sense of privacy as if we had been cabined in a parlour. I fancy. We. we were all out on the platform together.” And once more: “Every minor that ever worked upon it says there’s bound to be a ledge somewhere.” I added. He threatened me with ejection. He could not find the mine to save his life. I hastened to do him fealty. came debauching past the house.

to be sure. Hanson returned to give us the newest of her news. nothing could save that man. and laughing till the rafters rang. the claim already jumped. The last days. with a hundredth part as many holes in it as our barrack. making a net loss of fifty thousand. For a large board had been nailed by the crown prince on the very front of our house. talking and showing her fine teeth. Ninety thousand dollars came out. A noisy. last shot. I wished to know why Ronalds had come. prius dementat. he had not refreshed his title. painted in cinnabar . the mill newly erected. Mrs. the single candle struggling with the darkness. and 66 . and hope the order of the day. that the trick was already played.the pigment of the country with doggrel rhymes and contumelious pictures. and after we were all abed. If a broad hint were necessary. and made that hole in the roof of our barrack. the population was already moving elsewhere. Hanson’s loquacity to be mere incontinence. I was in much the same position as Old Rowley. a hundred and forty thousand were put in. in terms unnecessarily figurative. I gathered. handsome woman. my conscience was a good deal exercised. seated on an upturned valise beside the bunks. that royal humourist. were not so bright. how he had found his way without Rufe. and this plump. here was Ronalds on the spot. to inaugurate the days of silence. But then I had Hanson to consider. As he came so he went. through which the sun was wont to visit slug-a-beds towards afternoon. Late at night. nothing going but champagne.population of between a thousand and fifteen hundred souls. must long ago have gone to her last port. She talked interminably on. the champagne had ceased to flow.” And again. Any ship. Up to that time I had always imagined Mrs. Throughout this interview. whom “the rogue had taken into his confidence. I found it less communicative than silence itself. by Silverado reckoning. quem deus vult perdere. But no. that she said what was uppermost for the pleasure of speaking. and Silverado had begun to wither in the branch before it was cut at the root. Ronalds. being on the spot. the engine in full blast. and announcing. and Master Sam the legitimate successor of Mr. She fled under a cloud of words. and I was moved to throw myself on my knees and own the intended treachery. but her replies were never answers. he had the broadest in the world. and laughed and laughed again as a kind of musical accompaniment. It was like a scene in a ship’s steerage: all of us abed in our different tiers. But I now found there was an art in it. between the door and window. the days of John Stanley. and why. and left his rights depending. The last shot that was fired knocked over the stove chimney. He must know the day of the month as well as Hanson and I.

there was the less cause for hurry. Gradually the children stole away up the canyon to where there was another chute. in her Sunday best. and I began to grill with impatience. dull friend.arrived in a procession. but he had been chary of his friendly visits since the row. instead of waiting for Tuesday. with a little roll of paper in his hand.when I had made sure that she was purposely eluding me. and unrolled his papers with fastidious deliberation. as witness. She had come to tell us that. somewhat smaller than the one across the dump. I cornered Hanson. 1879. Hanson rattling on as usual with an adroit volubility. and beaten down before the pouring verbiage of his wife. Thereupon he gravely rose. that was all that she would condescend upon. and they planted themselves about him in a circle. twice. however. nor yet the next. Breedlove. dated May 30th. but keeping the party at their ease like a courtly hostess. tailing one behind another up the path. nor the subject one suitable for squaws. That day week. The claim was to be jumped next morning. in the shade of the dwarf madronas near the forge. And yet it was not jumped the next morning. Hanson. Strong was sitting at work. they poured one avalanche of stones after another. At last. There he bestowed himself on a box. and the eternal pipe alight. and all the children. led him up the plank into our barrack. It was by this 67 . and an old mining notice. like a highway robber. another on the waggon rails. part print. Meantime we elders sat together on the platform. it was impossible. his large. and bade him stand and deliver his business. and done nothing. a third on a piece of plank. one on a stone. There is nothing of the Indian brave about me. to act. Mrs. Caliban was absent. I suppose. How? If the time were not out. and the latter much obliterated by the rains. saying nothing. and a whole week had come and gone before we heard more of this exploit. the claim was to be jumped on the morrow. Hanson. but was discouraged by the stoic apathy of Rufe. and I. Not a word occurred about the business of the day. and thrice I tried to slide the subject in. and with that exception. There were two sheets of note-paper. as though to hint that this was not a proper place. I dropped the subject in my turn. Once. part manuscript. from the oldest to the youngest. and let her rattle where she would. for the rest of the afternoon. . But again I could reach no satisfaction. following his example. Mrs. the whole family was gathered together as for a marriage or a christening. a day of great heat. Why? If Ronalds had come and gone. and down this chute. Hanson and his friend smoking in silence like Indian sachems. waking the echoes of the glen.

lit only by some monster pyrotechnical displays of gossip. and after Garfield. had passed from Ronalds to Hanson. The constable of Calistoga is.” I had tried to get Rufe to call it after his wife. silently smoking. He had more need of the emoluments than another. who was the most active member of the local school board. 68 . it was explained. and he seemed to feel safety in returning to that. Hanson strolled out.” Perhaps this mighty hunter. Wherever a man is.but all was in vain. the Republican Presidential candidate of the hour since then elected. there will be a lie. if I remember rightly. fifteen hundred feet long by six hundred wide. and when I proposed that he should sign. with all the earth’s precious bowels. blind. When I had done my scrivening. spreading it before me on the table. alas! dead . twice over on the two sheets of note-paper. a tract of mountain-side. “I don’t think that’ll be necessary. “Will you step up here a bit?” and after they had disappeared a little while into the chaparral and madrona thicket.identical piece of paper that the mine had been held last year. they came back again. For thirteen months it had endured the weather and the change of seasons on a cairn behind the shoulder of the canyon. So friendly and so free are popular institutions. could not write. and addressed Breedlove. I thought I saw a scare in his eye. One was then to be placed on the same cairn . in this sea of falsities and contradictions. in the passage. The claim was jumped. and the other to be lodged for registration. And so the history of that mine became once more plunged in darkness. and it was now my business. and it was easy for him to “depytize. and yet struggled all the while. and sitting on a valise. till I came to the place for the locator’s name at the end of the first copy. The claim had once been called the Calistoga before. with not a dozen neighbours. with some necessary changes. like desperate swimmers. “just you write it down. and. Rufe watched me.a “mound of rocks” the notice put it. And perhaps the most curious feature of the whole matter is this: that we should have dwelt in this quiet corner of the mountains. a bed-ridden man. changed its name from the “Mammoth” to the “Calistoga. and has been for years. and.” with a strong accent on the last.” he said slowly. minus a notice. and the deed was done. after himself. There would be nothing strange in that. to copy its terms. and.

Chapter 10 TOILS AND PLEASURES I must try to convey some notion of our life. were at once contrasted with the rich passivity of nature. and see its stones. the sun found so many portholes. of what there was to do and how we set about doing it. We could look over the clump on miles of forest and rough hilltop. to be sure. Trustful in this fine weather. and we should have been drowned out like mice. Within. and used the platform as our summer parlour. the stove crackling in a corner. And yet our house was everywhere so wrecked and shattered. we kept the house for kitchen and bedroom. the golden outdoor glow shone in so many open chinks. A single shower of rain. So our days. the air came and went so freely. The house. and the little country townships sat so close together along the line of the rail. its tumbled litter. at the same time. became a healthy and a pleasant dwelling-place. its sifting earth. and filled in some of the doors and windows with white cotton cloth. as I have said already. The sense of privacy. and an earthquake was a far likelier accident than a shower of rain. in our mountain hermitage. drew out to the greater length. where the train ran. hour melted 69 . as they were never interrupted. and then return to our lodging. it had the look of habitation. always airy and dry. or twice daily. Even they came but at long intervals. of how the days passed and what pleasure we took in them. You had only to go into the third room. None but the Hansons were our visitors. . the human look. and perhaps the table roughly laid against a meal. was complete. and haunted by the outdoor perfumes of the glen. the pail of bright water behind the door. our eyes commanded some of Napa Valley. with milk. the little clean spots that he creates to dwell in. some of the comforts of a roof and much of the gaiety and brightness of al fresco life. after we had repaired the worst of the damages. But ours was a Californian summer.and man’s order. the plates on the rack. at a stated hour. that we enjoyed. which we did not use. with the beds made. But here there was no man to intrude.

Silverado would then be still in shadow. natural. and the sound was cheerful. if water were to be drawn. like a blackbird or a nightingale. a smell of the earth at morning. and the railway served him as far as to the head of the shaft. but awkwardly chirruping among the green madronas. propped upon an elbow. listening to the silence that there is among the hills. among sharp. it was mere woodland prattle. which it would be hyperbolical to call the hewing of wood. and the sound of his labours would be faintly audible about the canyon half the day. where he had installed a printing press. though they were many. the railway. following as much as possible the line of waggon rails. the boots were cut to pieces. where we found a refuge under the madronas from the unsparing early sun. beyond the literal drawing of water. He was supposed to be the victim and the sufferer. looking back. and stirring. there was a single bird. put on the water to boil. rolling stones. These were known as Sam’s lessons. ended my domestic duties for the day. the sun shining on the mountain higher up. not singing. To walk at all was a laborious business. The little corner near the forge. and the Latin Grammar. he was no sooner set free than he dashed up to the Chinaman’s house. that great element of civilization. I made porridge and coffee. was over early in the morning. These carried him to that great highroad. it was usual to lay a course. uneven. and it appears to me. as though the far greater part of our life at Silverado had been passed. and strolled forth upon the platform to wait till it was ready. It did not hold the attention. lit the stove. My work. Thenceforth my wife laboured single-handed in the palace. and some of them laborious. But from thence to the spring and back again he 70 . The freshness of these morning seasons remained with me far on into the day. it is true. or seated on a plank.insensibly into hour. for whereas I generally retired to bed after one of these engagements. When we crossed the platform in any direction. every day. the water-carrier left the house along some tilting planks that we had laid down. of which the mind was conscious like a perfume. is indeed connected in my mind with some nightmare encounters over Euclid. A clean smell of trees. I rose before any one else. and I lay or wandered on the platform at my own sweet will. the household duties. and the preparation of kindling. but here there must have been some misconception. As soon as the kettle boiled. and that. hung in the air. and not laid down very well. dwindled into mere islets of business in a sea of sunny day-time. nor interrupt the thread of meditation. the foot sank and slid. Thus. Regularly.

each with a firm outline and full spread of bough. Indeed. Yet I liked to draw water. and wading in low growth of the calcanthus. rocky. The rails came straight forward from the shaft. and not far of the latter. or a wedge slip in the great upright seam. and even the natural hill-side was all sliding gravel and precarious boulder. 71 . its material dug out with a pick and powder. the dump might begin to pour into the road below. The great spout of broken mineral. with all nature’s alchemy. that had dammed the canyon up. built certainly by some rude people. and hundreds of tons of mountain bury the scene of our encampment. But the extreme roughness of the walking confined us in common practice to the platform. colourless. There. Even moisture and decaying vegetable matter could not. was the only spot where we could approach the margin of the dump. There. in that upper district. here and there overgrown with little green bushes. at any moment the report of rotten wood might tell us that the platform had fallen into the shaft. the railroad trended to the right. All above was arid. the trucks were tipped. It is the same. and for prehistoric wars. which at length some stronger gust would carry clear of the canyon and scatter in the subjacent woods. and spread by the service of the tracks. About midway down the platform. pleasant to carry it back. you took your life in your right hand when you came within a yard and a half to peer over. staggering among the stones. All below was green and woodland. It was pleasant to dip the gray metal pail into the clean. I have already compared the dump to a rampart. Anywhere else. seemed to have had an eye to nothing besides mining. ended in a sort of platform on the edge of the dump. Close at the margin of the well leaves would decay to skeletons and mummies. concoct enough soil to nourish a few poor grasses. was a creature of man’s handiwork. where the rattlesnakes lay hissing at his passage. For as still as Silverado was. and a broken sunbeam quivering in the midst. For at any moment the dump might begin to slide and carry you down and bury you below its ruins. besides. the neighbourhood of an old mine is a place beset with dangers. and still carrying a truck. cool water. and their load sent thundering down the chute. But nature herself. and bald. which it was Sam’s delight to trundle to and fro by the hour with various ladings. with the water ripping at the edge. and indeed to those parts of it that were most easily accessible along the line of rails. in old days. leaving our house and coasting along the far side within a few yards of the madronas and the forge. the tall pines soaring one above another. It was likewise a frontier. but still entire.made the best of his unaided way.

they say, in the neighbourhood of all silver mines; the nature of that precious rock being stubborn with quartz and poisonous with cinnabar. Both were plenty in our Silverado. The stones sparkled white in the sunshine with quartz; they were all stained red with cinnabar. Here, doubtless, came the Indians of yore to paint their faces for the war-path; and cinnabar, if I remember rightly, was one of the few articles of Indian commerce. Now, Sam had it in his undisturbed possession, to pound down and slake, and paint his rude designs with. But to me it had always a fine flavour of poetry, compounded out of Indian story and Hawthornden’s allusion: “Desire, alas! I desire a Zeuxis new, From Indies borrowing gold, from Eastern skies Most bright cinoper … ” Yet this is but half the picture; our Silverado platform has another side to it. Though there was no soil, and scarce a blade of grass, yet out of these tumbled gravel-heaps and broken boulders, a flower garden bloomed as at home in a conservatory. Calcanthus crept, like a hardy weed, all over our rough parlour, choking the railway, and pushing forth its rusty, aromatic cones from between two blocks of shattered mineral. Azaleas made a big snow-bed just above the well. The shoulder of the hill waved white with Mediterranean heath. In the crannies of the ledge and about the spurs of the tall pine, a red flowering stone-plant hung in clusters. Even the low, thorny chaparral was thick with pea-like blossom. Close at the foot of our path nutmegs prospered, delightful to the sight and smell. At sunrise, and again late at night, the scent of the sweet bay trees filled the canyon, and the down-blowing night wind must have borne it hundreds of feet into the outer air. All this vegetation, to be sure, was stunted. The madrona was here no bigger than the manzanita; the bay was but a stripling shrub; the very pines, with four or five exceptions in all our upper canyon, were not so tall as myself, or but a little taller, and the most of them came lower than my waist. For a prosperous forest tree, we must look below, where the glen was crowded with green spires. But for flowers and ravishing perfume, we had none to envy: our heap of road-metal was thick with bloom, like a hawthorn in the front of June; our red, baking angle in the mountain, a laboratory of poignant scents. It was an endless wonder to my mind, as I dreamed about the platform, following the progress of the shadows, where the madrona with its leaves, the azalea and calcanthus with their blossoms, could find moisture to support such thick, wet, waxy growths, or the bay tree collect the ingredients of its perfume. But

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there they all grew together, healthy, happy, and happy-making, as though rooted in a fathom of black soil. Nor was it only vegetable life that prospered. We had, indeed, few birds, and none that had much of a voice or anything worthy to be called a song. My morning comrade had a thin chirp, unmusical and monotonous, but friendly and pleasant to hear. He had but one rival: a fellow with an ostentatious cry of near an octave descending, not one note of which properly followed another. This is the only bird I ever knew with a wrong ear; but there was something enthralling about his performance. You listened and listened, thinking each time he must surely get it right; but no, it was always wrong, and always wrong the same way. Yet he seemed proud of his song, delivered it with execution and a manner of his own, and was charming to his mate. A very incorrect, incessant human whistler had thus a chance of knowing how his own music pleased the world. Two great birds - eagles, we thought - dwelt at the top of the canyon, among the crags that were printed on the sky. Now and again, but very rarely, they wheeled high over our heads in silence, or with a distant, dying scream; and then, with a fresh impulse, winged fleetly forward, dipped over a hilltop, and were gone. They seemed solemn and ancient things, sailing the blue air: perhaps co-oeval with the mountain where they haunted, perhaps emigrants from Rome, where the glad legions may have shouted to behold them on the morn of battle. But if birds were rare, the place abounded with rattlesnakes - the rattlesnake’s nest, it might have been named. Wherever we brushed among the bushes, our passage woke their angry buzz. One dwelt habitually in the wood-pile, and sometimes, when we came for firewood, thrust up his small head between two logs, and hissed at the intrusion. The rattle has a legendary credit; it is said to be awe-inspiring, and, once heard, to stamp itself for ever in the memory. But the sound is not at all alarming; the hum of many insects, and the buzz of the wasp convince the ear of danger quite as readily. As a matter of fact, we lived for weeks in Silverado, coming and going, with rattles sprung on every side, and it never occurred to us to be afraid. I used to take sun-baths and do calisthenics in a certain pleasant nook among azalea and calcanthus, the rattles whizzing on every side like spinning-wheels, and the combined hiss or buzz rising louder and angrier at any sudden movement; but I was never in the least impressed, nor ever attacked. It was only towards the end of our stay, that a man down at Calistoga, who was expatiating on the terrifying nature of the sound, gave me at last a very good imitation; and it burst on me at once that we dwelt in the very metropolis of

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deadly snakes, and that the rattle was simply the commonest noise in Silverado. Immediately on our return, we attacked the Hansons on the subject. They had formerly assured us that our canyon was favoured, like Ireland, with an entire immunity from poisonous reptiles; but, with the perfect inconsequence of the natural man, they were no sooner found out than they went off at score in the contrary direction, and we were told that in no part of the world did rattlesnakes attain to such a monstrous bigness as among the warm, flower-dotted rocks of Silverado. This is a contribution rather to the natural history of the Hansons, than to that of snakes. One person, however, better served by his instinct, had known the rattle from the first; and that was Chuchu, the dog. No rational creature has ever led an existence more poisoned by terror than that dog’s at Silverado. Every whiz of the rattle made him bound. His eyes rolled; he trembled; he would be often wet with sweat. One of our great mysteries was his terror of the mountain. A little away above our nook, the azaleas and almost all the vegetation ceased. Dwarf pines not big enough to be Christmas trees, grew thinly among loose stone and gravel scaurs. Here and there a big boulder sat quiescent on a knoll, having paused there till the next rain in his long slide down the mountain. There was here no ambuscade for the snakes, you could see clearly where you trod; and yet the higher I went, the more abject and appealing became Chuchu’s terror. He was an excellent master of that composite language in which dogs communicate with men, and he would assure me, on his honour, that there was some peril on the mountain; appeal to me, by all that I held holy, to turn back; and at length, finding all was in vain, and that I still persisted, ignorantly foolhardy, he would suddenly whip round and make a bee-line down the slope for Silverado, the gravel showering after him. What was he afraid of? There were admittedly brown bears and California lions on the mountain; and a grizzly visited Rufe’s poultry yard not long before, to the unspeakable alarm of Caliban, who dashed out to chastise the intruder, and found himself, by moonlight, face to face with such a tartar. Something at least there must have been: some hairy, dangerous brute lodged permanently among the rocks a little to the north-west of Silverado, spending his summer thereabout, with wife and family. And there was, or there had been, another animal. Once, under the broad daylight, on that open stony hillside, where the baby pines were growing, scarcely tall enough to be a badge for a MacGregor’s bonnet, I came suddenly upon his innocent body, lying mummified by the dry air

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and sun: a pigmy kangaroo. I am ingloriously ignorant of these subjects; had never heard of such a beast; thought myself face to face with some incomparable sport of nature; and began to cherish hopes of immortality in science. Rarely have I been conscious of a stranger thrill than when I raised that singular creature from the stones, dry as a board, his innocent heart long quiet, and all warm with sunshine. His long hind legs were stiff, his tiny forepaws clutched upon his breast, as if to leap; his poor life cut short upon that mountain by some unknown accident. But the kangaroo rat, it proved, was no such unknown animal; and my discovery was nothing. Crickets were not wanting. I thought I could make out exactly four of them, each with a corner of his own, who used to make night musical at Silverado. In the matter of voice, they far excelled the birds, and their ringing whistle sounded from rock to rock, calling and replying the same thing, as in a meaningless opera. Thus, children in full health and spirits shout together, to the dismay of neighbours; and their idle, happy, deafening vociferations rise and fall, like the song of the crickets. I used to sit at night on the platform, and wonder why these creatures were so happy; and what was wrong with man that he also did not wind up his days with an hour or two of shouting; but I suspect that all long-lived animals are solemn. The dogs alone are hardly used by nature; and it seems a manifest injustice for poor Chuchu to die in his teens, after a life so shadowed and troubled, continually shaken with alarm, and the tear of elegant sentiment permanently in his eye. There was another neighbour of ours at Silverado, small but very active, a destructive fellow. This was a black, ugly fly - a bore, the Hansons called him - who lived by hundreds in the boarding of our house. He entered by a round hole, more neatly pierced than a man could do it with a gimlet, and he seems to have spent his life in cutting out the interior of the plank, but whether as a dwelling or a store-house, I could never find. When I used to lie in bed in the morning for a rest - we had no easy-chairs in Silverado - I would hear, hour after hour, the sharp cutting sound of his labours, and from time to time a dainty shower of sawdust would fall upon the blankets. There lives no more industrious creature than a bore. And now that I have named to the reader all our animals and insects without exception - only I find I have forgotten the flies - he will be able to appreciate the singular privacy and silence of our days. It was not only man who was excluded: animals, the song of birds, the lowing of cattle, the bleating of sheep, clouds even, and the variations of the

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good. and an indescribable but happy change announced the coming of the night. Indeed. a wave of light. and they were always still. the shadows lengthened. began to grow irksome to my body. Regularly. besides. about nine o’clock. good to mark the dawning of the stars. to go to and fro for water. the sky was one dome of blue. right down the canyon. to make fires and beds. all day the water tinkled in the shaft. Even as with the crickets. but it was very tiring. would rather creep into a cool corner of a house and sit upon the chairs of civilization. and blew for ten minutes. unless he is in strong health or enjoys a vacant mind. and the pines below us stood motionless in the still air. under the fierce eye of day. The two birds cackled a while in the early morning. and it was only with the return of night that any change would fall on our surroundings. I set out on that hopeless. but for one remarkable exception. or the four crickets begin to flute together in the dark. never-ending quest for a more comfortable posture. a warm wind sprang up. so the hours themselves were marked out from each other only by the series of our own affairs. So it is when men dwell in the open air. also. and the return of night refresh. Our day was not very long. To trip along unsteady planks or wade among shifting stones. as they increased their glittering company. and the sun’s great period as he ranged westward through the heavens. the bores ground sawdust in the planking of our crazy palace . night brought to us a certain spirit of rejoicing. I would be fevered and weary of the staring sun. to gather stones. yet day’s departure. exulting in the absence of the load. or maybe a quarter of an hour. It was good to taste the air. and quiet us. like cattle. to clamber down the glen to the Toll House after meat and letters. sped lightly. when we were once curtained in the friendly dark. were all exhausting to the body. airing it as a mother airs the night 76 . and as. the aromatic airs awoke.infinitesimal sounds. it is one of the simple pleasures that we lose by living cribbed and covered in a house. About that time. were here also wanting. renew. There are certain hours in the afternoon when a man. and just then he would begin courteously to withdraw his countenance. The hours of evening. It seemed. it would be hard to exaggerate the pleasure that we took in the approach of evening. and in the pastures of the dusk we stand. the sharp stones. day after day. to cook. the upturned boxes of Silverado. fanning it well out. the reward and the fulfilment of the day. the planks. and send them crashing down the chute. that. draws largely on the animal spirits.weather. too. Life out of doors. in some way. though the coming of the day is still the most inspiriting. Our nights wore never cold.

and through the eastern door and window. and if we were not abed already. from the time the candle issued from the door of the assayer’s office till it had mounted the plank and disappeared again into the miners’ dormitory. 77 . It shone keen as a knife through all the vertical chinks. it fell in a great splash upon the thicket and the overhanging rock. You would have said a conflagration. made so disproportionate a figure in the eye and mind. and yet the old cracked house seemed literally bursting with the light. under the immense spread of the starry heavens. the greater man and his doings bulk in the consideration of his fellow-men. The rest would be in bed. it was very welcome to the hot and weary squatters. and up the plank that brought us to the bedroom door. it was but a candle. in the clear darkness of the night. down in a crevice of the giant mountain these few human shapes. Miles and miles away upon the opposite hill-tops.nursery before the children sleep. as I was still the first to rise. this wind was purely local: perhaps dependant on the configuration of the glen. and behold. taking a bath of darkness before I slept. or at the least a roaring forge. if there were any hunter belated or any traveller who had lost his way. with their unshielded taper. But the more he is alone with nature. A single candle in the neck of a pint bottle was their only illumination. Many a night I have strolled about the platform. he must have stood. and even from the forge I could hear them talking together from bunk to bunk. I was the last to go to bed. and watched and wondered. Or perhaps it was yet more strange to see the procession moving bedwards round the corner of the house. the springing up of this lilliputian valley-wind would often be our signal to retire. As far as I could judge. it struck upward through the broken shingles. At least.

first published in 1882. one family finds itself tragically divided. split in the sense that within the same person there is both an apparently good and an evil personality each being quite distinct from each other. and participating in the struggle between the Yorks and Lancasters in the War of the Roses. and the misanthropic Edward Hyde. seventeen-year-old Richard Shelton joins the fellowship of the Black Arrow in avenging the death. and a few of the stories are considered by some critics to be his best work. Robert Louis Stevenson Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a novella written by the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson and first published in 1886. when his father's murderer is revealed to be his guardian. The work is known for its vivid portrayal of a split personality. as well as pioneering works in the English short story tradition. rescuing the woman he loves.Loved this book ? Similar users also downloaded Robert Louis Stevenson The Master of Ballantrae Stevenson’s brooding historical romance demonstrates his most abiding theme—the elemental struggle between good and evil—as it unfolds against a hauntingly beautiful Scottish landscape. The collection contains Stevenson's first published fiction. This is different from multiple personality disorder where the different 78 . When two brothers attempt to split their loyalties between the warring factions of the 1745 Jacobite rising. is a collection of short stories previously published in magazines between 1877 and 1880. It is about a London lawyer who investigates strange occurrences between his old friend. in mainstream culture the very phrase "Jekyll and Hyde" has come to mean a person who is vastly different in moral character from one situation to the next. Robert Louis Stevenson The New Arabian Nights New Arabian Nights by Robert Louis Stevenson. Dr Henry Jekyll. Robert Louis Stevenson The Black Arrow In fifteenth-century England. amid the fierce loyalties and violent enmities that characterized Scottish history.

and death-bed sayings have not often hit the mark of the occasion. Lewis Carroll Sylvie and Bruno Rafael Sabatini The Historical Nights' Entertainment 79 . Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was an immediate success and one of Stevenson's best-selling works. his journey in the wild highlands. "Books which have influenced me". "A note on realism". falsely so called. his acquaintance with Alan Breck Stewart and other notorious highland Jacobites. "The genesis of ‘the master of Ballantrae’" & "Preface to ‘the master of Ballantrae’". a man whose life had been one long lesson in human incredulity. gentlemen. the mistress of the inn and her son find a treasure map that leads them to a pirate's fortune. I shall have been talking for twelve months. and it is thought I should take my leave in a formal and seasonable manner. a manoeuvring king—remembered and embodied all his wit and scepticism along with more than his usual good humour in the famous "I am afraid. Robert Louis Stevenson A Christmas Sermon By the time this paper appears. an easy-going comrade. Valedictory eloquence is rare. wit and sceptic. Robert Louis Stevenson Treasure Island While going through the possessions of a deceased guest who owed them money. with all that he suffered at the hands of his uncle. his sufferings in a desert isle. Stage adaptations began in Boston and London within a year of its publication and it has gone on to inspire scores of major film and stage performances." Robert Louis Stevenson Essays in the Art of Writing A collection of essays about writing: "On some technical elements of style in literature". "My first book: ‘Treasure Island’". Ebenezer Balfour of Shaws. "The morality of the profession of letters". Charles Second.personalities do not necessarily differ in any moral sense. Robert Louis Stevenson Kidnapped Being memoirs of the adventures of David Balfour in the year 1751: how he was kidnapped and cast away. I am an unconscionable time a-dying.

and I would draw upon my imagination.In approaching "The Historical Nights' Entertainment" I set myself the task of reconstructing. and whilst relating each of these events in the form of a story. amplifying it by translating into terms of speech the paraphrases of contemporary chroniclers. a group of more or less famous events. if at all. recorded facts without owing anything to fiction. For dialogue I would depend upon such scraps of actual speech as were chronicled in each case. 80 . in the fullest possible detail and with all the colour available from surviving records. I would select for my purpose those which were in themselves bizarre and resulting from the interplay of human passions. I would compel that story scrupulously to follow the actual. merely as one might employ colour to fill in the outlines which history leaves grey. taking care that my colour should be as true to nature as possible.

www.feedbooks.com Food for the mind 81 .

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