Infomotions, Inc.The Silverado Squatters / Stevenson, Robert Louis

Author: Stevenson, Robert Louis
Title: The Silverado Squatters
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): silverado; calistoga; kelmar; rufe; canyon; napa valley; toll house; saint helena; toll; platform; mountain; valley; english literature
Contributor(s): Eric Lease Morgan (Infomotions, Inc.)
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 32,918 words (really short) Grade range: 11-14 (high school) Readability score: 57 (average)
Identifier: stevenson-silverado-649
Delicious Bookmark this on Delicious

Discover what books you consider "great". Take the Great Books Survey.

*****The Project Gutenberg Etext of The Silverado Squatters*****
#23 in our series by Robert Louis Stevenson

Copyright laws are changing all over the world, be sure to check
the copyright laws for your country before posting these files!!

Please take a look at the important information in this header.
We encourage you to keep this file on your own disk, keeping an
electronic path open for the next readers.  Do not remove this.

**Welcome To The World of Free Plain Vanilla Electronic Texts**

**Etexts Readable By Both Humans and By Computers, Since 1971**

*These Etexts Prepared By Hundreds of Volunteers and Donations*

Information on contacting Project Gutenberg to get Etexts, and
further information is included below.  We need your donations.

The Silverado Squatters

by Robert Louis Stevenson

May, 1996  [Etext #516]

*****The Project Gutenberg Etext of The Silverado Squatters*****
*****This file should be named silvs10.txt or******

Corrected EDITIONS of our etexts get a new NUMBER, silvs11.txt.
VERSIONS based on separate sources get new LETTER, silvs10a.txt.

We are now trying to release all our books one month in advance
of the official release dates, for time for better editing.

Please note:  neither this list nor its contents are final till
midnight of the last day of the month of any such announcement.
The official release date of all Project Gutenberg Etexts is at
Midnight, Central Time, of the last day of the stated month.  A
preliminary version may often be posted for suggestion, comment
and editing by those who wish to do so.  To be sure you have an
up to date first edition [] please check file sizes
in the first week of the next month.  Since our ftp program has
a bug in it that scrambles the date [tried to fix and failed] a
look at the file size will have to do, but we will try to see a
new copy has at least one byte more or less.

Information about Project Gutenberg (one page)

We produce about two million dollars for each hour we work.  The
fifty hours is one conservative estimate for how long it we take
to get any etext selected, entered, proofread, edited, copyright
searched and analyzed, the copyright letters written, etc.  This
projected audience is one hundred million readers.  If our value
per text is nominally estimated at one dollar then we produce $2
million dollars per hour this year as we release thirty-two text
files per month:  or 400 more Etexts in 1996 for a total of 800.
If these reach just 10% of the computerized population, then the
total should reach 80 billion Etexts.

The Goal of Project Gutenberg is to Give Away One Trillion Etext
Files by the December 31, 2001.  [10,000 x 100,000,000=Trillion]
This is ten thousand titles each to one hundred million readers,
which is only 10% of the present number of computer users.  2001
should have at least twice as many computer users as that, so it
will require us reaching less than 5% of the users in 2001.

We need your donations more than ever!

All donations should be made to "Project Gutenberg/IBC", and are
tax deductible to the extent allowable by law ("IBC" is Illinois
Benedictine College).  (Subscriptions to our paper newsletter go
to IBC, too)

For these and other matters, please mail to:

Project Gutenberg
P. O. Box  2782
Champaign, IL 61825

When all other email fails try our Michael S. Hart, Executive
Director: (internet)   hart@uiucvmd   (bitnet)

We would prefer to send you this information by email
(Internet, Bitnet, Compuserve, ATTMAIL or MCImail).

If you have an FTP program (or emulator), please
FTP directly to the Project Gutenberg archives:
[Mac users, do NOT point and click. . .type]

login:  anonymous
password:  your@login
cd etext/etext90 through /etext96
or cd etext/articles [get suggest gut for more information]
dir [to see files]
get or mget [to get files. . .set bin for zip files]
for a list of books
GET NEW GUT for general information
MGET GUT* for newsletters.

**Information prepared by the Project Gutenberg legal advisor**
(Three Pages)

Why is this "Small Print!" statement here?  You know: lawyers.
They tell us you might sue us if there is something wrong with
your copy of this etext, even if you got it for free from
someone other than us, and even if what's wrong is not our
fault.  So, among other things, this "Small Print!" statement
disclaims most of our liability to you.  It also tells you how
you can distribute copies of this etext if you want to.

By using or reading any part of this PROJECT GUTENBERG-tm
etext, you indicate that you understand, agree to and accept
this "Small Print!" statement.  If you do not, you can receive
a refund of the money (if any) you paid for this etext by
sending a request within 30 days of receiving it to the person
you got it from.  If you received this etext on a physical
medium (such as a disk), you must return it with your request.

tm etexts, is a "public domain" work distributed by Professor
Michael S. Hart through the Project Gutenberg Association at
Illinois Benedictine College (the "Project").  Among other
things, this means that no one owns a United States copyright
on or for this work, so the Project (and you!) can copy and
distribute it in the United States without permission and
without paying copyright royalties.  Special rules, set forth
below, apply if you wish to copy and distribute this etext
under the Project's "PROJECT GUTENBERG" trademark.

To create these etexts, the Project expends considerable
efforts to identify, transcribe and proofread public domain
works.  Despite these efforts, the Project's etexts and any
medium they may be on may contain "Defects".  Among other
things, Defects may take the form of incomplete, inaccurate or
corrupt data, transcription errors, a copyright or other
intellectual property infringement, a defective or damaged
disk or other etext medium, a computer virus, or computer
codes that damage or cannot be read by your equipment.

But for the "Right of Replacement or Refund" described below,
[1] the Project (and any other party you may receive this
etext from as a PROJECT GUTENBERG-tm etext) disclaims all
liability to you for damages, costs and expenses, including

If you discover a Defect in this etext within 90 days of
receiving it, you can receive a refund of the money (if any)
you paid for it by sending an explanatory note within that
time to the person you received it from.  If you received it
on a physical medium, you must return it with your note, and
such person may choose to alternatively give you a replacement
copy.  If you received it electronically, such person may
choose to alternatively give you a second opportunity to
receive it electronically.


Some states do not allow disclaimers of implied warranties or
the exclusion or limitation of consequential damages, so the
above disclaimers and exclusions may not apply to you, and you
may have other legal rights.

You will indemnify and hold the Project, its directors,
officers, members and agents harmless from all liability, cost
and expense, including legal fees, that arise directly or
indirectly from any of the following that you do or cause:
[1] distribution of this etext, [2] alteration, modification,
or addition to the etext, or [3] any Defect.

You may distribute copies of this etext electronically, or by
disk, book or any other medium if you either delete this
"Small Print!" and all other references to Project Gutenberg,

[1]  Only give exact copies of it.  Among other things, this
     requires that you do not remove, alter or modify the
     etext or this "small print!" statement.  You may however,
     if you wish, distribute this etext in machine readable
     binary, compressed, mark-up, or proprietary form,
     including any form resulting from conversion by word pro-
     cessing or hypertext software, but only so long as

     [*]  The etext, when displayed, is clearly readable, and
          does *not* contain characters other than those
          intended by the author of the work, although tilde
          (~), asterisk (*) and underline (_) characters may
          be used to convey punctuation intended by the
          author, and additional characters may be used to
          indicate hypertext links; OR

     [*]  The etext may be readily converted by the reader at
          no expense into plain ASCII, EBCDIC or equivalent
          form by the program that displays the etext (as is
          the case, for instance, with most word processors);

     [*]  You provide, or agree to also provide on request at
          no additional cost, fee or expense, a copy of the
          etext in its original plain ASCII form (or in EBCDIC
          or other equivalent proprietary form).

[2]  Honor the etext refund and replacement provisions of this
     "Small Print!" statement.

[3]  Pay a trademark license fee to the Project of 20% of the
     net profits you derive calculated using the method you
     already use to calculate your applicable taxes.  If you
     don't derive profits, no royalty is due.  Royalties are
     payable to "Project Gutenberg Association / Illinois
     Benedictine College" within the 60 days following each
     date you prepare (or were legally required to prepare)
     your annual (or equivalent periodic) tax return.

The Project gratefully accepts contributions in money, time,
scanning machines, OCR software, public domain etexts, royalty
free copyright licenses, and every other sort of contribution
you can think of.  Money should be paid to "Project Gutenberg
Association / Illinois Benedictine College".


The Silverado Squatters
by Robert Louis Stevenson

Scanned and proofed by David Price,

The Silverado Squatters

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 rattle-snakes, 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 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, 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 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 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 

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, irrigated valley.  A great 
variety of oaks stood, now severally, now in a becoming 
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 another, 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 mountain.  There, at Calistoga, the railroad ceases, and 
the traveller who intends 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.



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 invented 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 townsfolk.  
Other streets are marked out, and most likely named; for 
these towns in the New World begin with a firm resolve to 
grow larger, Washington 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 concentrated 
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 chemist's, the general merchant's, and Kong 
Sam Kee, the Chinese laundryman'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 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 reminded of another 
highwayman of that same year.  "He had been unwell," 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 doctrine of probabilities.  
Flinching travellers, who behold themselves coasting 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 Cheeseborough'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 
civilized career.  So it goes in these young countries; 
telephones, and telegraphs, 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 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 other 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 sometimes too hot to move 

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, quaking to its 
topmost pinnacle with the heat and brightness of the day; or 
whether it set itself to weaving vapours, wisp after wisp 
growing, trembling, 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 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 wilderness of lesser hill-


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 radiating 
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 smokeless.  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 

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 the old; for in 
this district all had already perished:  redwoods and 
redskins, the two noblest indigenous living things, alike 

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 photographs 
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 handsomest 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 summer 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?"

"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, except that the trees had not "grewed" there.  But he 
mentioned, with evident 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 

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 compatriot, 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 accents struck me 
dumb.  But, indeed, I think we all belong to many countries.  
And perhaps this habit of much travel, and the engendering of 
scattered friendships, may prepare the euthanasia of ancient 

And the forest itself?  Well, on a tangled, briery hillside - 
for the pasture 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 petrified 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.


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 Valtellines, 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.  Chateau Neuf is dead, and I 
have never tasted it; Hermitage - a hermitage 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 obsecration, 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 
compunctions, 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:  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 
Bonanzas, where the soil has sublimated under sun and stars 
to something finer, and the wine is bottled poetry:  these 
still lie undiscovered; chaparral 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 

And opening a large cupboard, fitted with many little 
drawers, he proceeded to shower me all over with a great 
variety of gorgeously tinted labels, 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 

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 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 COTE D'OR, or 
the infamous and scabby deserts of Champagne; 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 perhaps 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 twisted 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 
inconvenience 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 venomous 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 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 hillside, 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 

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 passengers, but its 
green side was dotted with the camps of travelling families:  
one cumbered with a great waggonful of household stuff, 
settlers going to occupy a ranche they had taken up in 
Mendocino, or perhaps Tehama 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.


A FEW pages back, I wrote that a man belonged, in these days, 
to a variety 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 America.  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 
inscrutable.  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!

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 society, 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 countryman 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 behind 
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 just examining this palm," he 
continued, indicating the misbegotten plant before our door, 
"which is the largest spAcimen I have yet observed in 

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 
countrymen; 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 Sacramento - 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 disappeared from Sacramento, and when I last heard, 
the police were looking for him.

I cannot say how this story amused me, when I felt myself so 
thoroughly 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."



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 imagination 
as forcibly as any pyramid or feudal tower.  The towns, like 
the vineyards, 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 fifteen 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 

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 appear 
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 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 
milkmaid; 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, another 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 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 Silverado was a great place.  The mine - a silver 
mine, of course - had promised 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 underneath; that no unmixed desire to have us 
comfortably settled had inspired 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.


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 daughter, 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 

The sun shone out of a cloudless sky.  Close at the zenith 
rode the belated 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 

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.

Vineyards and deep meadows, islanded and framed with thicket, 
gave place more and more as we ascended to woods of oak and 
madrona, dotted 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 
redwoods, 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 inhabit 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 

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 elbow 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 shelter, 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 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 horizontal 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 opportunity of seeing Kelmar in his glory, friendly, 
radiant, smiling, steadily 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 blustering day.  And with all these protestations of 
hurry, they proved irresponsible like children.  Kelmar 
himself, shrewd old Russian Jew, with a smirk that seemed 
just to have concluded a bargain to its satisfaction, 
intrusted himself and us devoutly to that boy.  Yet the boy 
was patently fallacious; and for that matter a most 
unsympathetic urchin, raised apparently 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 hundred 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, 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 Hanson's house, still 
bearing on its front the legend SILVERADO HOTEL.  Not another 
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 whither.  Perhaps he had had wind of Kelmar's 
coming, and was now ensconced among the underwood, or 
watching us from the shoulder of the mountain.  We, hearing 
there were no houses to be had, were for immediately giving 
up all hopes of Silverado.  But this, somehow, was not to 
Kelmar'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 indignation.  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 followed 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 monstrous 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 

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 handsomely 
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 sashless 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.

The whole building was overhung by a bold, lion-like, red 
rock. Poison 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 begin 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 audible.  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 unsunned 
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 tunnel 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 
together, 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 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 destination.  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 resolutions 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 vision of 
all three on their knees upon a mountain-top around a glow-


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.  Kelmar, 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 absence 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 admirers; 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 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
Ou volent les rouges-gorges:"

and again, to a more trampling measure -

"Et tout tremble, Irun, Coimbre,
Sautander, Almodovar,
Sitot 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 armour, 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 interrupted conversations about nothing, 
before the Toll House was fairly left behind.  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 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 

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 

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 another 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 servitude; 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 ultimately into Kelmar's till; 
- these were facts that we only grew to recognize in the 
course of time and by the accumulation of evidence.  At 
length all doubt was quieted, when one of the kettle-holders 
confessed.  Stopping 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 pocket.  "You see, I don't 
mind if it was only five dollars, Mr. Stevens," he said, "but 
I must give Mr. Kelmar SOMETHING."

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 perhaps 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 
unconscious of the beam in his own eye, was at least silent 
in the matter of his brother's mote.


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 
necessary 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 itself, 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 useless 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 
silent, rusty machinery.  It cost six thousand dollars, 
twelve hundred English sovereigns; and now, here it stands 
deserted, like the temple of a 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 palpitating 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 passage 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 wanting 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 aqueduct, 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 imagination.  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 suppose, 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, 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 commended 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 DEBRIS - 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 Calistoga 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 their anterior home, coming, 
as it were, out of a subsequent epoch of history 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 certitude, 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 giant 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 chimney of a 

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 
certainly there was the added ingredient of broken glass, the 
man who stole the window-frames having apparently made a 
miscarriage with this one.  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 declined.  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 descended from the sky.  
Night began early in our cleft.  Before us, over the margin 
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 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 

It was between seven and eight before Hanson arrived, with a 
waggonful 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 mineral, 
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 
transacted.  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 

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 astonishment and anger, grinned from ear to 
ear, and laughed aloud at our distress.  They thought it 
"real funny" about the stove-pipe they had forgotten; "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.

But the hay arrived at last, and we turned, with our last 
spark of courage, 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 handsome, 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.


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 settlements 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 
starvation.  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 peasant'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 detection.  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 
degeneracy 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 combined 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 Lake Port stage, and captured them the very 
morning after the exploit, while they were still sleeping in 
a hayfield.  Russel, a drunken Scotch carpenter, 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 clerical 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 education, 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 (NEE, 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 reticence, no mystery, no manner about 
the woman:  she was a first-class dairymaid, but her husband 
was an unknown quantity between the savage 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.

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 besides 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 serious 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 together, 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 
pleasure 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, thoroughly enjoying his visit; 
and he laughed frankly whenever we failed to accomplish what 
we were about.  This was scarcely helpful:  it was even, 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 bestowed 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 question 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 forward 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 appreciated 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 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 expected others to approve 
him; rather looked down upon my wife, and decidedly expected 
her to look up to him, on the strength of his superior 

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 certain, 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 extraordinary "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 supervising 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 imposition, 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 expression, which came after a good many others, at last 
penetrated his obdurate wits.  He rose at once, and said if 
that was the way he was going 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 interview, in the large, bare 
north room of the Silverado Hotel, Mrs. Hanson'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 anybody.  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 beseech 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 conversation, 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. Hanson.  Her social brilliancy somewhat dazzled the 
others, and she had more of the small change of sense.  It 
was she who faced Kelmar, for instance; 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 
attitude of mind, seeing the world without exaggeration - 
perhaps, we may even say, without enough; for he lacked, 
along with the others, that commercial 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 his picture in 
those buckskin hunting clothes; and I remember how he once 
warmed almost into enthusiasm, his dark blue eyes growing 
perceptibly larger, as he planned the composition in which he 
should appear, "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 corporal 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 nothing 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 existence; 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.


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 marvel how the 
qualities could be combined.  At an earlier hour, the heavens 
in that quarter were still quietly coloured, 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; 
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 foothills 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 
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 different and even 
delightful to the eyes.  Far away were hilltops like little 
islands.  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 increased 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 
topsails 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 
eyries of her comrades.  Then, with a long cry, she 
disappeared again towards 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 disappearance 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 opposite 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 blotted 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 

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.  
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 overhead, 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 instantly 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 drowning 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 somewhat rarefied, rolling in mid air 
among the hilltops.

I climbed still higher, among the red rattling gravel and 
dwarf underwood of Mount Saint Helena, until I could look 
right down upon Silverado, and admire the favoured nook in 
which it lay.  The sunny plain of fog was several hundred 
feet higher; behind the protecting spur a gigantic 
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 effort.  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 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 surrounding world again shut 
off from Silverado.


THE Toll House, standing alone by the wayside under nodding 
pines, with its streamlet and water-tank; its backwoods, 
toll-bar, and well trodden 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 
borrow 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 metropolitan 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 district, and returning thither pretty 
weary in the afternoon.  She had chosen this outlying 
situation, I understood, for her health.  Mr. Corwin was 
consumptive; so was Rufe; so was Mr. Jennings, the engineer.  
In short, the place was a kind of small Davos:  consumptive 
folk consorting on a hilltop 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 

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 mirror, 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, 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 capital 
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 London," 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 consulted 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 enjoyment, till he has 
made the acquaintance of "the Reverend Patterson, director of 
the Evangelical Society."  To follow the evolutions of that 
reverend 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 

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 dreamless.  
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 moment 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 inaction.  Busy 
Mrs. Corwin and her busy Chinaman might be heard indeed, 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, silently 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.

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 subside, 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 blossomed 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 combining 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 discussing 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 horses were put to, the loud whips 
volleyed, and the tide was gone.  North and south had the two 
stages vanished, the towering dust subsided 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 admiration, 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.


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 
Calistoga 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, gentlemanly 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 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 luminaries - 
a hurry-burly of stars.  Against this the hills and rugged 
treetops 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 distance; 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 

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 
valley where we travelled, we had seen for a little while 
that brave display 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 discordant squalls.  But once we had 
lit a candle, and began to review our improvements, homely in 
either sense, and count our stores, it was wonderful 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 conveniences 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.


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 repose.  
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 realized 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 anvil, 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 assayer'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 flitting cities.  Twenty years ago, away down 
the glen on the Lake County side there was a place, Jonestown 
by name, with two thousand 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 prospectors, 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 tunnels, 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 
never 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 winding 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, 
amalgated, 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 profitable business in San 

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 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 distorting 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 ordinary 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 

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 prevent 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 inheritance.  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 reminded 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 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 

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 

I did not like the man's tone.  None of us liked it.  He did 
not seem embarrassed 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 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 elsewhere, 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 inaugurate 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 
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 hundredth 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 loquacity 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 when I had made sure that she was purposely eluding me, I 
dropped the subject in my turn, and let her rattle where she 

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 procession, 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 exception, the 
whole family was gathered together as for a marriage or a 
christening.  Strong was sitting at work, in the shade of the 
dwarf madronas 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 another 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 suitable 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 papers 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 identical piece of 
paper that the mine had been held last year.  For thirteen 
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 locator'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 necessary," 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 Calistoga 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 

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 Hanson, 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 returning to that.

And so the history of that mine became once more plunged in 
darkness, lit only by some monster pyrotechnical displays of 
gossip.  And perhaps 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 neighbours, 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.


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 repaired 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 
perfumes 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 
behind 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 bedroom, and used the platform as our summer parlour.  
The sense of privacy, 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 
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 

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 meditation, 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 

As soon as the kettle boiled, I made porridge and coffee; and 
that, beyond 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, following 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 made the best 
of his unaided way, staggering among the stones, and wading 
in low growth of the calcanthus, where the rattlesnakes lay 
hissing 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 quivering 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 below; 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 another, 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 nothing besides 
mining; and even the natural hill-side was all sliding gravel 
and precarious boulder.  Close at the margin of the well 
leaves would decay 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 alchemy, 
concoct enough soil to nourish a few poor grasses.  It is the 
same, 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 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 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 

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 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 

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 
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 westward 
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 surroundings, 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 upturned 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 return 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 remarkable 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 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 perhaps 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 unshielded 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.

End of the Project Gutenberg eText The Silverado Squatters


This file was acquired from Project Gutenberg, and it is in the public domain. It is re-distributed here as a part of the Alex Catalogue of Electronic Texts ( by Eric Lease Morgan (Infomotions, Inc.) for the purpose of freely sharing, distributing, and making available works of great literature. Its Infomotions unique identifier is stevenson-silverado-649, and it should be available from the following URL:

Infomotions, Inc.

Infomotions Man says, "Give back to the 'Net."