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ON THE CONTINENT.
THE COMPLETE WORK
"THE INNOCENTS ABROAD"
"NEW PILGRIM'S PROGRESS."
JOHN CAMDEN HOTTEN, 74 & 75, PICCADILLY
'I MIGHT come to grief?”
"Roll over a precipice perhaps, and break my neck?" "Well, that's so. Your temper might be tried in that way. The roads over the Sierra are pretty rough just now, and we are likely to have ugly weather."
"Then, I think the game is hardly worth the candle, my friend. No riding over the mountains alone for me, Besides, what would there be to see when I got to Nevada ?"
"You would see the big silver mines."
"I have seen the Mexican ones. They were large enough for me. Is there anything else to repay me for the journey?"
"Ah! I will go."
The foregoing is, as nearly as I can remember, an abstract of a conversation with a literary friend in San Francisco, towards the close of the year 1863. I knew that in a few months I should have to visit Nevada on business. Why not avail myself of a leisure week and ride over the Sierra to see the wonders of the new territory? A mountain summit 6000 feet high, snow, slippery paths, and very rough roads were the hindrances. But when my friend mentioned the name of Mark Twain the mountains grew less steep, the roads perfectly practicable, and the snow became white roses. I had read many of Mark
You would see Mark Twain,"
Twain's contributions to the press of the Great West. I had heard numerous reports of his talents, his jovial wit, his social singularities, and his extreme good fellowship. In one of the papers I had seen him styled—“That moral
I phenomenon, Mark Twain." Believing that a "moral phenomenon" would be something to see, and that the conversation of a man who could write so humorously would be worth listening to, I started for Nevada.
At the town of Placerville I came to a halt. My horso -a borrowed one—did not at all care about seeing Mark Twain. He preferred to see a veterinary doctor. The people of Placerville told me that I had better make the journey in the stage-coach. I did so; but not till nearly two months later, when the roads were in better condition. Then it was that I landed myself in Virginia City, a terraced town, built on the side of Mount Davidson; and there it was that I met Mark Twain.
66 You will find him at the office of the Territorial Enterprise," was the direction I received.
Virginia City was but a few months old. The Territorial Enterprise was a daily paper, well edited, copious in its information, fortunate in its advertisements, of large dimensions, and published every morning, where, a year or two previous, there had been the silence of the wilderness and the tents of the Indian savage.
The newspaper office was in C Street. Its foundations were of granite, its front of iron. In its basement was a saloon for drink, furnished with a piano, the use of which I was informed was “to tone down the troubled spirits of the visitors." Behind the drinking saloon were two of Hoo's cylinder steam-printing presses. On the first floor of the building were the offices of mining sharebrokers, and a wholesale brandy store. On the second story were some more brokers and some attorneys, and on the third floor were the editorial offices of the paper.
I asked for Mr. Mark Twain, and hearing his name mentioned, the gentleman of whom I was in quest called out to Mr. Wright, to whom I had addressed myself
“Dan, pass the gentleman into my den. The noble animal is here."
A young man, strongly built, ruddy in complexion, his hair of a sunny hue, his eyes light and twinkling, in manner hearty, and nothing of the student about him, but very much of the miner-one who looked as if he could take his own part in a quarrel, strike a smart blow as readily as he could say a telling thing, blufly jolly, brusquely cordial, off-handedly good-natured-such was the kind of man I found Mark Twain to be.
Let it be borne in mind that from the windows of the newspaper office the American desert was visible; that within a radius of ten miles Indians were encamping amongst the sage-brush ; that the whole city was populated with miners, adventurers, Jew traders, gamblers, and all the rough-and-tumble class which a mining town in a new territory collects together, and it will be readily understood that a reporter for a daily paper in such a place must neither go about his duties wearing light kid gloves, nor be fastidious about having gilt edges to his notebooks. In Mark Twain I found the very man I had expected to see a flower of the wilderness, tinged with the colour of the soil, the man of thought and the man of action rolled into one, humorist and hard-worker, Momus in a felt hat and jack-boots. In the reporter of the
a Territorial Enterprise I became introduced to a Californian celebrity, rich in eccentricities of thought, lively in fancy, quaint in remark, whose residence upora the fringe of civilization had allowed his humour to clevelop without restraint, and his speech to be racily idiomatic,