Charles Frederick Holder.

The Californian (Volume 4) online

. (page 25 of 120)
Online LibraryCharles Frederick HolderThe Californian (Volume 4) → online text (page 25 of 120)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

said to have been born of Adam's first
wife, mis.

Mrs. Fitch and her lady friends and
advisers doubtless had their plans for
"warming" Mark and all the rest of
us. However, with the death of the Oc-
cidental all passed away into the realms

of nothingness, u wie ein schatten ver-
gehen " — as a shadow goes.
'"'The story of the presentation to
Mark Twain of a bogus meerschaum
pipe has often been told, but in most
instances without touching upon that
which was the fine point of the whole
affair. Major Steve Gillis, C. A. V.
Putnam, D. E. McCarthy and several
other newspaper men " put up a job "
to present Mark an imitation meer-
schaum pipe. They selected one they
knew he would not like because of its
shape, had its German silver mount-
ing polished up, and on this the in-
scription, " To Mark Twain, from his
Friends" was neatly engraved. A
cherry stem about a yard long, with a
genuine amber mouth-piece was pro-
cured, and the present was ready.
The presentation was to take place
on a Saturday night, '' after the paper
was up," at Harris' saloon, in
Maguire's Opera House. Charley
Pope, now proprietor of a theater in
St. Louis, Mo., was then playing at
the Opera House, and he was engaged
to make the presentation speech. All
this being arranged, I said to Mark
one night after we had gone to bed :
11 Mark, I don't know that I ought to
tell you, 1m t the boys are going to
make you a present of a fine meer-
schaum pipe next Saturday night.
Charley Pope is to make the presenta-
tion speech, and as it will doubtless
be rather fine, I have thought it best
to post you, in order that you may
think up a suitable reply."

Mark thanked me most cordially
for "giving the business away " — not
once suspecting that the "boys" had
made it my part to thus thoroughly
post him, in order that we might all
have the fun of watching him in his
effort to convey the impression that the
presentation was a genuine surprise.

This was really the point, and the
" big sell " of the whole affair. Even
Charley Pope was aware that Mark
had been fully posted, therefore to us
all it was deliciously ridiculous to
observe Mark's pretended "uuaware-
ness. ' '



From the moment of our assem-
bling, until the ceremonies ended,
every eye was fixed upon him, watch-
ing every shade of expression on his

Even with the ' ' enticing ' ' of Mark
down to the Opera House saloon, the
fun began, as he assumed a certain
degree of coyness, pretending to hold
back, and couldn't "see why we
wanted him to go there." When our
victim and all the conspirators had
been assembled for some time round
the center-table in a private parlor of
the saloon, Charley Pope made his
appearance. Mark seemed surprised
at seeing him enter the room.

Mr. Pope carried under his arm,
wrapped in a newspaper, a bundle
about a yard in length. Advancing
to the table he proceeded to unroll
the bundle, producing a ridiculous
looking pipe, with a straight bowl
about five inches high, and about a
yard of blue ribbon floating from the

"That is a mighty fine pipe you
have there, Charley," said Mark in
an off-hand, unconcerned tone of voice.

Mr. Pope made no reply, but throw-
ing the newspapers upon the floor
held the pipe aloft by the middle of
the stem, as in the great paintings of
the presentation of the Pipe of Peace,
and began his speech with: "Mr.
Clemens, on behalf of your friends and
admirers, those you see here assembled
and many others, I present you this
magnificent meerschaum pipe as a
slight," etc., etc.

Mr. Pope spoke about twenty min-
utes, making a really admirable
speech. In parts it was very feeling,
and again it was witty and jolly. Of
course we applauded it from Alpha to

Then Mark Twain arose. In his
hand he held the mighty calumet.
He was sorry that he would be unable
fittingly to reply to a speech .so able
and excellent as that of Mr. Pope —
a speech that had touched his heart
and stirred in his bosom feelings he
could not find words to express. But

the truth was that he had been taken
by surprise. The presentation was a
thing wholly unexpected.

He then launched forth into what
we all knew was his prepared speech.
He began with the introduction of
tobacco into England by Sir Walter
Raleigh, and wound up with George
Washington. Just how he managed
to bring in the " Father of His Coun-
try " I have forgotten ; but he had
him there in the wind-up, and showed
him off to good advantage.

Often the thunders of applause
brought him to a halt. He was made
to feel that he was a success. Then
he called for "sparkling Moselle" —
no other wine would do him— and
before the session was over six bottles,
at five dollars a bottle, had vanished.

A day or two afterwards a printer
let the cat out of the bag — told Mark
his pipe was a "mere-sham." Mark
had suspected as much. Even on the
night of the presentation, before we
had consumed more than two of the
six bottles of Moselle, I had detected
him inspecting the bowl of the pipe
with a sort of reproachful look in his

I was alone in the "local room,"
one day, when Mark suddenly made
his appearance with the pipe in his
hand. He locked the door on the in-
side and put the key in his pocket. ' ' I
want to know from you, now," said
he, "whether this pipe is bogus ? "

"It is just as bogus as they make
'em," said I.

' ' Did you know that when you
capped me into preparing a speech ? ' '

' ' Certainly. That was where the
fun came in."

" 'Et tu' Brute!" said Mark in a
hollow voice ; then he began to pace
the room with his face on his breast.

I told Mark to take it easy and
say nothing, as a really fine pipe — one
that cost $45 — was back of the bogus
one and would be given him without
ceremony or cost. Mark then subsided,
but was by no means satisfied with the
business. However, years after he
told me that he thought more of the



bogus pipe than he did of the genuine
one. Like his Dutch Nick item, time
ripened it.

At the time Mark Twain was on the
Enterprise he wrote no long stories or
sketches for that paper. Occasionally,
however, he sent a sketch to the
Golden Era, of San Francisco. After
going to San Francisco he was for a
time regularly employed on one or two
papers, then wrote sketches and did
piece-work of various kinds. He did
not much like reporting in the ! ' City
by the Sea." For a long time after
going down to San Francisco he wrote
a weekly letter to the Enterprise in
which he gave such chat as would not
be sent by telegraph — chat made up in
good part of personals in regard to the
doings of Comstockers at the "Bay,"
the humors of the stock market and
the like.

In 1865, Mark Twain grew tired of
a life of literary drudgery in San
Francisco and went up into the mining
regions of Calaveras County to rus-
ticate and rejuvenate with .some old
friends — Steve, Billy and Jim Gillis.
The cabin of Jim Gillis is, and always
has been a friendly place of retreat in
the mountain wilds for writers desirous
of respite from the vanities and vexa-
tions of spirit incident to a life of
literary labor in San Francisco. At
his cabin the latch-string is always on
the outside. Many are the well-
known California writers who have at
various times been sojourners in the
hospitable mountain home of Jim
Gillis. His cabin is a sort of Bohemian
infirmary. There the sick are made
well, and the well are made bet-
ter — physically, mentally and mor-

Mark Twain found life pleasant in
this literary mountain retreat. He
found the Bohemian style of mining
practiced by the " Gillis boys " much
more attractive than those more regu-
lar kinds which call for a large outlay
of muscle. The business of the pocket
miner is much like that of the bee-
hunter. The trail of the latter leads
him to the tree stored with golden

sweets, and that of the former ends in
a pocket of sweetest gold.

Soon after Mark's arrival at the
" Gillis Bohemian Infirmary," he and
Jim Gillis took to the hills in search
of golden pockets. They soon found
and spent some days in working up
the undisturbed trail of an undiscov-
ered deposit. They were on the
"golden bee-line" and stuck to it
faithfully, though it was necessary to
carry each sample of dirt a consider-
able distance to a small stream in the
bed of a canon in order to wash it.
However, Mark hungered and thirsted
to find a big rich pocket, and he
pitched in after the manner of Joe
Bowers of old — just like a thousand
of brick.

Each step made sure by the finding
of golden grains, they at last came
upon the pocket whence these grains
had trailed out down the slope of the
mountain. It was a cold, dreary,
drizzling day when the "home de-
posit" was found. The first sample
of dirt carried to the stream and
washed out yielded only a few cents.
Although the right vein had been
discovered, they had as yet found
only the " tail end " of the pocket.

Returning to the vein, they dug a
sample of the decomposed ore from a
new place and were about to carry it
down to the ravine and test it, when
the rain increased to a lively down-
pour. With chattering teeth, Mark
declared he would remain no longer.
He said there was no sense in freezing
to death, as in a day or tw r o, when it
was bright and warm, they could
return and pursue their investigations
in comfort.

Yielding to Mark's entreaties,
backed as they were by his blue nose,
humped back and generally miserable
and dejected appearance, Jim Gillis
emptied the sacks of dirt just dug
upon the ground — first having hastily
written and posted a notice claiming a
certain number of feet on the vein,
which notice would hold good for
thirty days. This done they left the



Angel's Camp being at no great
distance from the spot, whereas their
cabin was some miles away, Mark and
Jim struck out for that place.

The only hotel in Angel's Camp
was kept by Coon Drayton, an old
Mississippi river pilot, and at his house
the half-drowned pocket miners found
shelter. Mark Twain having in his
youthful days been a " cub " pilot on
the Mississippi, he and Coon were
soon great friends and swapped yarns
by the dozen. It continued to rain for
three days, and until the weather
cleared up, Mark and Jim remained
at Coon's hotel.

Among the stories told Mark by
Coon during the three days' session
was that of the '* Jumping Frog,"
and it struck him as being so comical
that he concluded to write it up.
When he returned to the Gillis cabin
Mark set to work on the frog story.
He also wrote some sketches of life in
the mountains and the mines for some
of the San Francisco papers.

Even after he had given it the fin-
ishing touches, Mark did not think
much of the frog story. He gave the
preference to some other sketches, and
sent them to the papers for which he
was writing. The frog story lay
about the cabin for some time, when
Steve Gillis told him it was the best
thing he had written, and advised him
to save it for a book of sketches he
was talking of publishing.

A literary turn having thus been
given to the thoughts of the inmates
of the Gillis cabin, a month passed
without a return to the business of
pocket mining. While the days were
passed by Mark and his friends in
discussing the merits of the ''Jump-
ing Frog" and other literary matters,
other prospectors were not idle. A
trio of Austrian miners who were out
in search of gold-bearing quartz hap-
pened upon the spot where Mark and
Jim had dug into their ledge. It was
but a few days after Twain and Gillis
had retreated in a pouring rain. The
Austrians were astonished at seeing
the ground glittering with gold.

Where the dirt emptied from the
sacks had been dissolved away by the
rain, lay over three ounces of bright
quartz gold. The foreigners were not
long in gathering this harvest, but
.soon discovering the notice posted on
the claim they dared not venture to
delve in the deposit whence it came.
They could only wait and watch and
pray. Their hope was that the parties
who had posted up the notice would
not return while it held good.

The sun that rose on the day after
the Twain-Gillis notice expired saw
the Austrians in possession of the
ground, with a notice of their own
conspicuously and defiantly posted.
The new owners soon cleaned out the
pocket, obtaining from it in a few
days a little over $7,500.

Had Mark Twain's back-bone held
out a few minutes longer, the sacks of
dirt would have been panned out and
the richness of the pocket discovered.
He would not then have gone to
Angel's Camp, and would probably
never have heard or written the story
of the ' ' Jumping Frog, ' ' the story that
gave him his first "boost " in the lit-
erary world, as the " Heathen Chi-
nee ' ' gave Bret Harte his first lift up
the ladder of fame. Had Mark found
the gold that was captured by the
Austrians, he would have settled down
as a pocket miner, and probably to
this day would have been pounding
quartz in a little cabin in the Sierras
somewhere along about the snow line.

Returning to San Francisco from
the mountains, Mark for a time re-
sumed his literary hack-work. He
then arranged to make a trip to the
Hawaiian Islands, and wrote up the
beauties and wonders thereof for
the old Sacramento Union. While
engaged in this work he conceived
the idea of writing a lecture on the
Sandwich Islands, wisely judging
that he could in that way get more
money out of a certain amount of
writing than by toiling for the news-

He delivered his lecture very suc-
cessfully, both on the Pacific Coast

i 7 8


and in the Atlantic States. On the
Pacific Coast D. E. McCarthy, who
had then sold his interest in the En-
terprise, was with Mark as his agent.
When they reached Nevada the lec-
ture was first delivered in Virginia
City. Next they went to Gold Hill,
a mile south of Virginia City and just
over a low ridge known as the "Di-
vide, 1 ' a place noted in the annals of
the Comstock for a thousand robberies
by footpads.

A sham robbery was planned of
which Mark was to be the victim.
He was to be halted on the ' ' Divide ' '
as he was returning on foot from Gold
Hill and robbed of the proceeds of his
lecture. Mark's agent, McCarthy,
was in the plot, as also was his old
friend Major Steve Gillis and other
friends, with Captain Jack Perry,
George Birdsall and one or two other
members of the police force. Twain
and one or two friends (who were in
the secret) were held up on a trail
called the ''cut-off." The job was
done in the regular road-agent style.
The pretended robbers not only took
the grip-sack of coin — some $300 — but
also Mark's fine gold watch.

When he reached Virginia City,
Mark was raging mad, as the watch
taken from him was a present from a
friend. He did not in the least doubt
the genuineness of the robbery, and it
so "soured" him against the Coin-
stock that he determined to leave the
next morning.

The robbery had been planned by
Mark's old friends as a sort of adver-
tising dodge. It was intended to
create sympathy for him, and by hav-
ing him deliver a second lecture in
Virginia City afford the people an
opportunity of redeeming the good
name of the Comstock. He would
have had a rousing benefit, and after
all was over his agent would have re-
turned him his watch and money.
Of course it would not have done to
ask Mark to consent to be robbed for
this purpose. His friends meant well,
but like other schemes of mice and
men this particular one failed to work.

Mark was too ' ' hot ' ' to be handled,
and when at last it was explained to
him that the robbery was a sham
affair he became still hotter — he boiled
over with wrath.

His money and watch were returned
to him after he had taken his seat in
the stage, and his friends begged him
to remain, but he refused to disem
bark. Upon observing some of his
friends of the police force engaged in
violent demonstrations of mirth, he
turned his attention to them and fired
at them a tremendous broadside of
anathemas as the stage rolled away.
Had he kept cool he would have had
a benefit that would have put at least
a thousand dollars in his pocket, for
the papers had made a great sensa-
tion of the robbery.

A good deal has been said of Mark
Twain's drawling speech. This pe-
culiarity is not natural, but acquired.
When he was a small boy he spoke so
rapidly that his family constantly
remonstrated with him, with the result
tli at he went to the opposite extreme.
When angry or excited he can snap
his words off as short as any one.

The cabin in which Mark and Bob
Howland lived in Aurora, in 1862,
endured until a few years ago. It
was a sort of dugout, to the roof of
which the wandering billy-goat of in-
quiring mind had access from the hill-
side above. A picture of this cabin —
the old Nevada home — would form a
striking contrast to Mark's present
fine residence in Hartford. The Hart-
ford dwelling is a structure of many
gables and angles, and at the rear or
east end projects a veranda, intended
to represent the hurricane deck of a
Mississippi steamboat. In summer,
with the shade of the surrounding
chestnut trees cooling the air, this
open deck is a pleasant lounging-
place. Seated in it, dressed in white
linen, Mark imagines himself on board
one of the floating palaces of the
Father of Waters, while his thoughts
often revert to the still earlier days of
reportorial work in the mining regions
of the wild Washoe.




HK most romantic
period in the history
of California was that
Acadian age intervening
between the secularization
of the missions, and the com-
ing of the "Argonauts. "A
more fascinating picture of
rural felicity cannot be im-
agined. Guarded by the
broad Pacific on the one
side and the high Sierras
on the other, the Califor-
nians lived a life of singu-
lar contentment and pros-
perity, all untouched by
the great world outside,
save the occasional vessel
that came to carry away
hides and tallow. It was
a dolce-far-niente life, the
Indians performing nearly
all the real labor, and the
vast herds bringing in
Spanish bit. abundance of money.

Under the circumstances
it was not surprising that the cabal-
lero, with his nat-
ural love of
horsemanship and
display, spent his
time in his saddle
and his fortune on
his montadura*
.Why not? He
had no inclination
toward intellectu-
al pursuits, and no
means of gratify-
ing it if he had.
All nature invited
to an out-of-door
existence. Such a

thing as a carriage or other convey-
ance was unknown, and the Califor-

* In the Spanish language, a word comprehending
the entire equipment ol a riding-horse.

man never
walked. As
to the mon-
ey, what else
could he do
with it ? It
was as plen-
t y as'the
horses and


dotted the

surrounding hills, and as little valued.
As a result of these conditions, both
his riding and his montadura were
marvelous to behold, and excited much
wonder and admiration. It was a
common trick for him to pick his
sombrero from the ground while riding
at the utmost speed, and it is said
there were some who could dip a cup
of water from the stream as the horse
leaped across. His trappings were
weighted down with silver, and his
saddle was gorgeous with fine hand-
embroidery in gold and silk of the
gayest colors, and a peculiar kind of
stamping of great beauty.

The old time
Spanish grandeur
is but little more
than a memory,
yet all traces of it
have not been en-
tirely swept away
by the great tide
that set in in '49.
His flocks and
herds are gone,
and his wealth
has passed into
the hands of the
shrewd, money-loving Eastern-
er, against whom the hospit-
able, free-hearted Californian
was no match. But if you
were fortunate enough to par-
ticipate in the Flower Carnival






at Santa Barbara, you saw him per-
form many daring feats cf horseman-
ship, one of which was riding at full
speed and picking from the ground
ten dollar gold-pieces which were
given him for his prowess.

You may see him any day on the
streets of Santa Barbara with his
braided rawhide reata swinging from
his saddle, ready on the instant to
capture any runaway horse with a
dextrous throw, and bring him to a
standstill by wrapping the reata round
the pommel. Sometimes in the opera-
tion, a thumb is taken off, as more
than one thumbless old vaqucro can
testify. For the safety of the rider the
horse is usually given a desper-
ately tight cinch, and some of
the mustangs form the sly habit
of " swelling up" at the critical
moment, but it availeth him
nothing, for the Mexican will
plant his knee — if not his foot —
firmly against the side of the
designing beast, and with both
hands draw the long strap taut
each time as he passes it repeat-
edly through the rings, and at
last ties it exactly as a gentle-
man ties his four-in-hand.

He will not be decked in the
old time splendor ; on the con-
trary both his horse and equipage

may be very poor indeed ; but he will
ride with such ease, grace and dignity
that he has become the fashion. The
English horseman no longer leads the
style, but himself affects the Califor-
nian from the crown of his sombrero to
his enormous spurs which cause him
much difficulty in taking the few steps
necessary to mount. Perhaps his bri-
dle, with reins and lash complete, is
made of skillfully woven horse-hair,
or it may be of fine braided rawhide,
or of leather and silver.

The Californian bit is a massive
piece of metal, elaborately trimmed
with burnished silver, delicately
wrought, and attached to the bridle
with chains, perhaps also of silver.
The mouth-piece is fearfully and won-
derfully made, and when a horse is
bitted he must certainly experience all
the deep concentration of mind re-
quired by the most profound philoso-
pher. More could not well be gotten
in his mouth. With an easy rein the
machinery lies fiat on the tongue and
does not cause apparent inconvenience,
but the slightest tightening causes it to
risetowanl the perpendicular, andgives
the rider mastery over the most wicked
little broncho. Easterners often ex-
perience extreme annoyance with even
the best trained California horses, for
an effort to hold the continually tight
rein to which they may be accustomed
soon drives a horse frantic. Properly
used the bits insure perfect control




without being severe, yet they are the
means of great cruelty in the hands of
the ignorant or evil-disposed. Little
metal cylinders are loosely strung,
like beads, from the sides of the bit to
the end of the projection that goes
back in the mouth, and in the latter
is inserted a small, fluted wheel. If
you ask the object in this, "Oh, the
horse likes it," will be the reply ; and
you must be satisfied, though you
wonder what developed so peculiar a
taste in the animal, and how his
master found it
out. The horse
rolls them with
his tongue, when
he is not other-
w i s e employed,
apparently for
his own amuse-
ment, and you
are forced to the
conclusion that
perhaps he does
like it — perhaps
he enjoys the
sound, which is
like that of a
threshing m a -
chine in minia-
ture. When these
rolling things are
omitted, a horse
is said to be
"sourly bitted,"
and it is asserted
that his good
nature suffers
much in conse-
quence. Cal-

ifornians affirm that the whole outfit of
a saddle-horse as used by them, is
more merciful to beast and safer to the
rider than that of the Eastern States.
Another bit is sometimes seen,
cailed the Mexican ring-bit, or "jaw-
breaker." It does not project so far
back in the mouth, and an iron ring
passes over the tongue and encircles
the lower jaw like a chin strap, there-
by giving such a purchase and appli-
cation of power as only the initiated


can comprehend. The ci?icka, or girth,
may be eight inches broad, with a
tassel in the center. It is composed
of horse-hair twisted into a long cord
and woven back and forth between
the two large iron rings with which,
by means of leather straps, it is fast-
ened to other rings attached to the

Online LibraryCharles Frederick HolderThe Californian (Volume 4) → online text (page 25 of 120)