Produced by David Widger
by Mark Twain
At four o'clock in the afternoon we were winding down a mountain of
dreary and desolate lava to the sea, and closing our pleasant land
journey. This lava is the accumulation of ages; one torrent of fire
after another has rolled down here in old times, and built up the island
structure higher and higher. Underneath, it is honey-combed with caves;
it would be of no use to dig wells in such a place; they would not hold
water--you would not find any for them to hold, for that matter.
Consequently, the planters depend upon cisterns.
The last lava flow occurred here so long ago that there are none now
living who witnessed it. In one place it enclosed and burned down a
grove of cocoa-nut trees, and the holes in the lava where the trunks
stood are still visible; their sides retain the impression of the bark;
the trees fell upon the burning river, and becoming partly submerged,
left in it the perfect counterpart of every knot and branch and leaf,
and even nut, for curiosity seekers of a long distant day to gaze upon
and wonder at.
There were doubtless plenty of Kanaka sentinels on guard hereabouts at
that time, but they did not leave casts of their figures in the lava as
the Roman sentinels at Herculaneum and Pompeii did. It is a pity it is
so, because such things are so interesting; but so it is. They probably
went away. They went away early, perhaps. However, they had their
merits; the Romans exhibited the higher pluck, but the Kanakas showed the
Shortly we came in sight of that spot whose history is so familiar to
every school-boy in the wide world--Kealakekua Bay--the place where
Captain Cook, the great circumnavigator, was killed by the natives,
nearly a hundred years ago. The setting sun was flaming upon it, a
Summer shower was falling, and it was spanned by two magnificent
rainbows. Two men who were in advance of us rode through one of these
and for a moment their garments shone with a more than regal splendor.
Why did not Captain Cook have taste enough to call his great discovery
the Rainbow Islands? These charming spectacles are present to you at
every turn; they are common in all the islands; they are visible every
day, and frequently at night also--not the silvery bow we see once in an
age in the States, by moonlight, but barred with all bright and beautiful
colors, like the children of the sun and rain. I saw one of them a few
nights ago. What the sailors call "raindogs"--little patches of rainbow
--are often seen drifting about the heavens in these latitudes, like
stained cathedral windows.
Kealakekua Bay is a little curve like the last kink of a snail-shell,
winding deep into the land, seemingly not more than a mile wide from
shore to shore. It is bounded on one side--where the murder was done--by
a little flat plain, on which stands a cocoanut grove and some ruined
houses; a steep wall of lava, a thousand feet high at the upper end and
three or four hundred at the lower, comes down from the mountain and
bounds the inner extremity of it. From this wall the place takes its
name, Kealakekua, which in the native tongue signifies "The Pathway of
the Gods." They say, (and still believe, in spite of their liberal
education in Christianity), that the great god Lono, who used to live
upon the hillside, always traveled that causeway when urgent business
connected with heavenly affairs called him down to the seashore in a
As the red sun looked across the placid ocean through the tall, clean
stems of the cocoanut trees, like a blooming whiskey bloat through the
bars of a city prison, I went and stood in the edge of the water on the
flat rock pressed by Captain Cook's feet when the blow was dealt which
took away his life, and tried to picture in my mind the doomed man
struggling in the midst of the multitude of exasperated savages--the men
in the ship crowding to the vessel's side and gazing in anxious dismay
toward the shore--the--but I discovered that I could not do it.
It was growing dark, the rain began to fall, we could see that the
distant Boomerang was helplessly becalmed at sea, and so I adjourned to
the cheerless little box of a warehouse and sat down to smoke and think,
and wish the ship would make the land--for we had not eaten much for ten
hours and were viciously hungry.
Plain unvarnished history takes the romance out of Captain Cook's
assassination, and renders a deliberate verdict of justifiable homicide.
Wherever he went among the islands, he was cordially received and
welcomed by the inhabitants, and his ships lavishly supplied with all
manner of food. He returned these kindnesses with insult and
ill-treatment. Perceiving that the people took him for the long vanished
and lamented god Lono, he encouraged them in the delusion for the sake of
the limitless power it gave him; but during the famous disturbance at
this spot, and while he and his comrades were surrounded by fifteen
thousand maddened savages, he received a hurt and betrayed his earthly
origin with a groan. It was his death-warrant. Instantly a shout went
up: "He groans!--he is not a god!" So they closed in upon him and
His flesh was stripped from the bones and burned (except nine pounds of
it which were sent on board the ships). The heart was hung up in a
native hut, where it was found and eaten by three children, who mistook
it for the heart of a dog. One of these children grew to be a very old
man, and died in Honolulu a few years ago. Some of Cook's bones were
recovered and consigned to the deep by the officers of the ships.
Small blame should attach to the natives for the killing of Cook.
They treated him well. In return, he abused them. He and his men
inflicted bodily injury upon many of them at different times, and killed
at least three of them before they offered any proportionate retaliation.
Near the shore we found "Cook's Monument"--only a cocoanut stump, four
feet high and about a foot in diameter at the butt. It had lava boulders
piled around its base to hold it up and keep it in its place, and it was
entirely sheathed over, from top to bottom, with rough, discolored sheets
of copper, such as ships' bottoms are coppered with. Each sheet had a
rude inscription scratched upon it--with a nail, apparently--and in every
case the execution was wretched. Most of these merely recorded the
visits of British naval commanders to the spot, but one of them bore this
"Near this spot fell
CAPTAIN JAMES COOK,
The Distinguished Circumnavigator,
Who Discovered these Islands
A. D. 1778."
After Cook's murder, his second in command, on board the ship, opened
fire upon the swarms of natives on the beach, and one of his cannon balls
cut this cocoanut tree short off and left this monumental stump standing.
It looked sad and lonely enough to us, out there in the rainy twilight.
But there is no other monument to Captain Cook. True, up on the mountain
side we had passed by a large inclosure like an ample hog-pen, built of
lava blocks, which marks the spot where Cook's flesh was stripped from
his bones and burned; but this is not properly a monument since it was
erected by the natives themselves, and less to do honor to the
circumnavigator than for the sake of convenience in roasting him.
A thing like a guide-board was elevated above this pen on a tall pole,
and formerly there was an inscription upon it describing the memorable
occurrence that had there taken place; but the sun and the wind have long
ago so defaced it as to render it illegible.
Toward midnight a fine breeze sprang up and the schooner soon worked
herself into the bay and cast anchor. The boat came ashore for us, and
in a little while the clouds and the rain were all gone. The moon was
beaming tranquilly down on land and sea, and we two were stretched upon
the deck sleeping the refreshing sleep and dreaming the happy dreams that
are only vouchsafed to the weary and the innocent.
In the breezy morning we went ashore and visited the ruined temple of the
last god Lono. The high chief cook of this temple--the priest who
presided over it and roasted the human sacrifices--was uncle to Obookia,
and at one time that youth was an apprentice-priest under him. Obookia
was a young native of fine mind, who, together with three other native
boys, was taken to New England by the captain of a whaleship during the
reign of Kamehameha I, and they were the means of attracting the
attention of the religious world to their country. This resulted in the
sending of missionaries there. And this Obookia was the very same
sensitive savage who sat down on the church steps and wept because his
people did not have the Bible. That incident has been very elaborately
painted in many a charming Sunday School book--aye, and told so
plaintively and so tenderly that I have cried over it in Sunday School
myself, on general principles, although at a time when I did not know
much and could not understand why the people of the Sandwich Islands
needed to worry so much about it as long as they did not know there was a
Bible at all.
Obookia was converted and educated, and was to have returned to his
native land with the first missionaries, had he lived. The other native
youths made the voyage, and two of them did good service, but the third,
William Kanui, fell from grace afterward, for a time, and when the gold
excitement broke out in California he journeyed thither and went to
mining, although he was fifty years old. He succeeded pretty well, but
the failure of Page, Bacon & Co. relieved him of six thousand dollars,
and then, to all intents and purposes, he was a bankrupt in his old age
and he resumed service in the pulpit again. He died in Honolulu in 1864.
Quite a broad tract of land near the temple, extending from the sea to
the mountain top, was sacred to the god Lono in olden times--so sacred
that if a common native set his sacrilegious foot upon it it was
judicious for him to make his will, because his time had come. He might
go around it by water, but he could not cross it. It was well sprinkled
with pagan temples and stocked with awkward, homely idols carved out of
logs of wood. There was a temple devoted to prayers for rain--and with
fine sagacity it was placed at a point so well up on the mountain side
that if you prayed there twenty-four times a day for rain you would be
likely to get it every time. You would seldom get to your Amen before
you would have to hoist your umbrella.
And there was a large temple near at hand which was built in a single
night, in the midst of storm and thunder and rain, by the ghastly hands
of dead men! Tradition says that by the weird glare of the lightning a
noiseless multitude of phantoms were seen at their strange labor far up
the mountain side at dead of night--flitting hither and thither and
bearing great lava-blocks clasped in their nerveless fingers--appearing
and disappearing as the pallid lustre fell upon their forms and faded
away again. Even to this day, it is said, the natives hold this dread
structure in awe and reverence, and will not pass by it in the night.
At noon I observed a bevy of nude native young ladies bathing in the sea,
and went and sat down on their clothes to keep them from being stolen.
I begged them to come out, for the sea was rising and I was satisfied
that they were running some risk. But they were not afraid, and
presently went on with their sport. They were finished swimmers and
divers, and enjoyed themselves to the last degree.
They swam races, splashed and ducked and tumbled each other about, and
filled the air with their laughter. It is said that the first thing an
Islander learns is how to swim; learning to walk being a matter of
smaller consequence, comes afterward. One hears tales of native men and
women swimming ashore from vessels many miles at sea--more miles, indeed,
than I dare vouch for or even mention. And they tell of a native diver
who went down in thirty or forty-foot waters and brought up an anvil!
I think he swallowed the anvil afterward, if my memory serves me.
However I will not urge this point.
I have spoken, several times, of the god Lono--I may as well furnish two
or three sentences concerning him.
The idol the natives worshipped for him was a slender, unornamented staff
twelve feet long. Tradition says he was a favorite god on the Island of
Hawaii--a great king who had been deified for meritorious services--just
our own fashion of rewarding heroes, with the difference that we would
have made him a Postmaster instead of a god, no doubt. In an angry
moment he slew his wife, a goddess named Kaikilani Aiii. Remorse of
conscience drove him mad, and tradition presents us the singular
spectacle of a god traveling "on the shoulder;" for in his gnawing grief
he wandered about from place to place boxing and wrestling with all whom
he met. Of course this pastime soon lost its novelty, inasmuch as it
must necessarily have been the case that when so powerful a deity sent a
frail human opponent "to grass" he never came back any more. Therefore,
he instituted games called makahiki, and ordered that they should be held
in his honor, and then sailed for foreign lands on a three-cornered raft,
stating that he would return some day--and that was the last of Lono.
He was never seen any more; his raft got swamped, perhaps. But the
people always expected his return, and thus they were easily led to
accept Captain Cook as the restored god.
Some of the old natives believed Cook was Lono to the day of their death;
but many did not, for they could not understand how he could die if he
was a god.
Only a mile or so from Kealakekua Bay is a spot of historic interest--the
place where the last battle was fought for idolatry. Of course we
visited it, and came away as wise as most people do who go and gaze upon
such mementoes of the past when in an unreflective mood.
While the first missionaries were on their way around the Horn, the
idolatrous customs which had obtained in the island, as far back as
tradition reached were suddenly broken up. Old Kamehameha I., was dead,
and his son, Liholiho, the new King was a free liver, a roystering,
dissolute fellow, and hated the restraints of the ancient tabu. His
assistant in the Government, Kaahumanu, the Queen dowager, was proud and
high-spirited, and hated the tabu because it restricted the privileges of
her sex and degraded all women very nearly to the level of brutes.
So the case stood. Liholiho had half a mind to put his foot down,
Kaahumahu had a whole mind to badger him into doing it, and whiskey did
the rest. It was probably the rest. It was probably the first time
whiskey ever prominently figured as an aid to civilization. Liholiho
came up to Kailua as drunk as a piper, and attended a great feast; the
determined Queen spurred his drunken courage up to a reckless pitch, and
then, while all the multitude stared in blank dismay, he moved
deliberately forward and sat down with the women!
They saw him eat from the same vessel with them, and were appalled!
Terrible moments drifted slowly by, and still the King ate, still he
lived, still the lightnings of the insulted gods were withheld!
Then conviction came like a revelation--the superstitions of a hundred
generations passed from before the people like a cloud, and a shout went
up, "the tabu is broken! the tabu is broken!"
Thus did King Liholiho and his dreadful whiskey preach the first sermon
and prepare the way for the new gospel that was speeding southward over
the waves of the Atlantic.
The tabu broken and destruction failing to follow the awful sacrilege,
the people, with that childlike precipitancy which has always
characterized them, jumped to the conclusion that their gods were a weak
and wretched swindle, just as they formerly jumped to the conclusion that
Captain Cook was no god, merely because he groaned, and promptly killed
him without stopping to inquire whether a god might not groan as well as
a man if it suited his convenience to do it; and satisfied that the idols
were powerless to protect themselves they went to work at once and pulled
them down--hacked them to pieces--applied the torch--annihilated them!
The pagan priests were furious. And well they might be; they had held
the fattest offices in the land, and now they were beggared; they had
been great--they had stood above the chiefs--and now they were vagabonds.
They raised a revolt; they scared a number of people into joining their
standard, and Bekuokalani, an ambitious offshoot of royalty, was easily
persuaded to become their leader.
In the first skirmish the idolaters triumphed over the royal army sent
against them, and full of confidence they resolved to march upon Kailua.
The King sent an envoy to try and conciliate them, and came very near
being an envoy short by the operation; the savages not only refused to
listen to him, but wanted to kill him. So the King sent his men forth
under Major General Kalaimoku and the two host met a Kuamoo. The battle
was long and fierce--men and women fighting side by side, as was the
custom--and when the day was done the rebels were flying in every
direction in hopeless panic, and idolatry and the tabu were dead in the
The royalists marched gayly home to Kailua glorifying the new
dispensation. "There is no power in the gods," said they; "they are a
vanity and a lie. The army with idols was weak; the army without idols
was strong and victorious!"
The nation was without a religion.
The missionary ship arrived in safety shortly afterward, timed by
providential exactness to meet the emergency, and the Gospel was planted
as in a virgin soil.
At noon, we hired a Kanaka to take us down to the ancient ruins at
Honaunan in his canoe--price two dollars--reasonable enough, for a sea
voyage of eight miles, counting both ways.
The native canoe is an irresponsible looking contrivance. I cannot think
of anything to liken it to but a boy's sled runner hollowed out, and that
does not quite convey the correct idea. It is about fifteen feet long,
high and pointed at both ends, is a foot and a half or two feet deep, and
so narrow that if you wedged a fat man into it you might not get him out
again. It sits on top of the water like a duck, but it has an outrigger
and does not upset easily, if you keep still. This outrigger is formed
of two long bent sticks like plow handles, which project from one side,
and to their outer ends is bound a curved beam composed of an extremely
light wood, which skims along the surface of the water and thus saves you
from an upset on that side, while the outrigger's weight is not so easily
lifted as to make an upset on the other side a thing to be greatly
feared. Still, until one gets used to sitting perched upon this
knifeblade, he is apt to reason within himself that it would be more
comfortable if there were just an outrigger or so on the other side also.
I had the bow seat, and Billings sat amidships and faced the Kanaka, who
occupied the stern of the craft and did the paddling. With the first
stroke the trim shell of a thing shot out from the shore like an arrow.
There was not much to see. While we were on the shallow water of the
reef, it was pastime to look down into the limpid depths at the large
bunches of branching coral--the unique shrubbery of the sea. We lost
that, though, when we got out into the dead blue water of the deep.
But we had the picture of the surf, then, dashing angrily against the
crag-bound shore and sending a foaming spray high into the air.
There was interest in this beetling border, too, for it was honey-combed
with quaint caves and arches and tunnels, and had a rude semblance of the
dilapidated architecture of ruined keeps and castles rising out of the
restless sea. When this novelty ceased to be a novelty, we turned our
eyes shoreward and gazed at the long mountain with its rich green forests
stretching up into the curtaining clouds, and at the specks of houses in
the rearward distance and the diminished schooner riding sleepily at
anchor. And when these grew tiresome we dashed boldly into the midst of
a school of huge, beastly porpoises engaged at their eternal game of
arching over a wave and disappearing, and then doing it over again and
keeping it up--always circling over, in that way, like so many
well-submerged wheels. But the porpoises wheeled themselves away, and
then we were thrown upon our own resources. It did not take many minutes
to discover that the sun was blazing like a bonfire, and that the weather
was of a melting temperature. It had a drowsing effect, too. In one
place we came upon a large company of naked natives, of both sexes and
all ages, amusing themselves with the national pastime of surf-bathing.
Each heathen would paddle three or four hundred yards out to sea, (taking
a short board with him), then face the shore and wait for a particularly
prodigious billow to come along; at the right moment he would fling his
board upon its foamy crest and himself upon the board, and here he would
come whizzing by like a bombshell! It did not seem that a lightning
express train could shoot along at a more hair-lifting speed. I tried
surf-bathing once, subsequently, but made a failure of it. I got the
board placed right, and at the right moment, too; but missed the
connection myself.--The board struck the shore in three quarters of a
second, without any cargo, and I struck the bottom about the same time,
with a couple of barrels of water in me. None but natives ever master
the art of surf-bathing thoroughly.
At the end of an hour, we had made the four miles, and landed on a level
point of land, upon which was a wide extent of old ruins, with many a
tall cocoanut tree growing among them. Here was the ancient City of
Refuge--a vast inclosure, whose stone walls were twenty feet thick at the
base, and fifteen feet high; an oblong square, a thousand and forty feet
one way and a fraction under seven hundred the other. Within this
inclosure, in early times, has been three rude temples; each two hundred
and ten feet long by one hundred wide, and thirteen high.
In those days, if a man killed another anywhere on the island the
relatives were privileged to take the murderer's life; and then a chase
for life and liberty began--the outlawed criminal flying through pathless
forests and over mountain and plain, with his hopes fixed upon the
protecting walls of the City of Refuge, and the avenger of blood
following hotly after him!
Sometimes the race was kept up to the very gates of the temple, and the
panting pair sped through long files of excited natives, who watched the
contest with flashing eye and dilated nostril, encouraging the hunted
refugee with sharp, inspiriting ejaculations, and sending up a ringing
shout of exultation when the saving gates closed upon him and the cheated
pursuer sank exhausted at the threshold. But sometimes the flying
criminal fell under the hand of the avenger at the very door, when one
more brave stride, one more brief second of time would have brought his
feet upon the sacred ground and barred him against all harm. Where did
these isolated pagans get this idea of a City of Refuge--this ancient
This old sanctuary was sacred to all--even to rebels in arms and invading
armies. Once within its walls, and confession made to the priest and
absolution obtained, the wretch with a price upon his head could go forth
without fear and without danger--he was tabu, and to harm him was death.
The routed rebels in the lost battle for idolatry fled to this place to
claim sanctuary, and many were thus saved.
Close to the corner of the great inclosure is a round structure of stone,
some six or eight feet high, with a level top about ten or twelve in
diameter. This was the place of execution. A high palisade of cocoanut
piles shut out the cruel scenes from the vulgar multitude. Here
criminals were killed, the flesh stripped from the bones and burned, and
the bones secreted in holes in the body of the structure. If the man had
been guilty of a high crime, the entire corpse was burned.
The walls of the temple are a study. The same food for speculation that
is offered the visitor to the Pyramids of Egypt he will find here--the
mystery of how they were constructed by a people unacquainted with
science and mechanics. The natives have no invention of their own for
hoisting heavy weights, they had no beasts of burden, and they have never
even shown any knowledge of the properties of the lever. Yet some of the
lava blocks quarried out, brought over rough, broken ground, and built
into this wall, six or seven feet from the ground, are of prodigious size
and would weigh tons. How did they transport and how raise them?
Both the inner and outer surfaces of the walls present a smooth front and
are very creditable specimens of masonry. The blocks are of all manner
of shapes and sizes, but yet are fitted together with the neatest
exactness. The gradual narrowing of the wall from the base upward is
No cement was used, but the edifice is firm and compact and is capable of
resisting storm and decay for centuries. Who built this temple, and how
was it built, and when, are mysteries that may never be unraveled.
Outside of these ancient walls lies a sort of coffin-shaped stone eleven
feet four inches long and three feet square at the small end (it would
weigh a few thousand pounds), which the high chief who held sway over
this district many centuries ago brought thither on his shoulder one day
to use as a lounge! This circumstance is established by the most
reliable traditions. He used to lie down on it, in his indolent way, and
keep an eye on his subjects at work for him and see that there was no
"soldiering" done. And no doubt there was not any done to speak of,
because he was a man of that sort of build that incites to attention to
business on the part of an employee.
He was fourteen or fifteen feet high. When he stretched himself at full
length on his lounge, his legs hung down over the end, and when he snored
he woke the dead. These facts are all attested by irrefragable
On the other side of the temple is a monstrous seven-ton rock, eleven
feet long, seven feet wide and three feet thick. It is raised a foot or
a foot and a half above the ground, and rests upon half a dozen little
stony pedestals. The same old fourteen-footer brought it down from the
mountain, merely for fun (he had his own notions about fun), and propped
it up as we find it now and as others may find it a century hence, for it
would take a score of horses to budge it from its position. They say
that fifty or sixty years ago the proud Queen Kaahumanu used to fly to
this rock for safety, whenever she had been making trouble with her
fierce husband, and hide under it until his wrath was appeased. But
these Kanakas will lie, and this statement is one of their ablest
efforts--for Kaahumanu was six feet high--she was bulky--she was built
like an ox--and she could no more have squeezed herself under that rock
than she could have passed between the cylinders of a sugar mill. What
could she gain by it, even if she succeeded? To be chased and abused by
a savage husband could not be otherwise than humiliating to her high
spirit, yet it could never make her feel so flat as an hour's repose
under that rock would.
We walked a mile over a raised macadamized road of uniform width; a road
paved with flat stones and exhibiting in its every detail a considerable
degree of engineering skill. Some say that that wise old pagan,
Kamehameha I planned and built it, but others say it was built so long
before his time that the knowledge of who constructed it has passed out
of the traditions. In either case, however, as the handiwork of an
untaught and degraded race it is a thing of pleasing interest. The
stones are worn and smooth, and pushed apart in places, so that the road
has the exact appearance of those ancient paved highways leading out of
Rome which one sees in pictures.
The object of our tramp was to visit a great natural curiosity at the
base of the foothills--a congealed cascade of lava. Some old forgotten
volcanic eruption sent its broad river of fire down the mountain side
here, and it poured down in a great torrent from an overhanging bluff
some fifty feet high to the ground below. The flaming torrent cooled in
the winds from the sea, and remains there to-day, all seamed, and frothed
and rippled a petrified Niagara. It is very picturesque, and withal so
natural that one might almost imagine it still flowed. A smaller stream
trickled over the cliff and built up an isolated pyramid about thirty
feet high, which has the semblance of a mass of large gnarled and knotted
vines and roots and stems intricately twisted and woven together.
We passed in behind the cascade and the pyramid, and found the bluff
pierced by several cavernous tunnels, whose crooked courses we followed a
Two of these winding tunnels stand as proof of Nature's mining abilities.
Their floors are level, they are seven feet wide, and their roofs are
gently arched. Their height is not uniform, however. We passed through
one a hundred feet long, which leads through a spur of the hill and opens
out well up in the sheer wall of a precipice whose foot rests in the
waves of the sea. It is a commodious tunnel, except that there are
occasional places in it where one must stoop to pass under. The roof is
lava, of course, and is thickly studded with little lava-pointed icicles
an inch long, which hardened as they dripped. They project as closely
together as the iron teeth of a corn-sheller, and if one will stand up
straight and walk any distance there, he can get his hair combed free of
We got back to the schooner in good time, and then sailed down to Kau,
where we disembarked and took final leave of the vessel. Next day we
bought horses and bent our way over the summer-clad mountain-terraces,
toward the great volcano of Kilauea (Ke-low-way-ah). We made nearly a
two days' journey of it, but that was on account of laziness. Toward
sunset on the second day, we reached an elevation of some four thousand
feet above sea level, and as we picked our careful way through billowy
wastes of lava long generations ago stricken dead and cold in the climax
of its tossing fury, we began to come upon signs of the near presence of
the volcano--signs in the nature of ragged fissures that discharged jets
of sulphurous vapor into the air, hot from the molten ocean down in the
bowels of the mountain.
Shortly the crater came into view. I have seen Vesuvius since, but it
was a mere toy, a child's volcano, a soup-kettle, compared to this.
Mount Vesuvius is a shapely cone thirty-six hundred feet high; its crater
an inverted cone only three hundred feet deep, and not more than a
thousand feet in diameter, if as much as that; its fires meagre, modest,
and docile.--But here was a vast, perpendicular, walled cellar, nine
hundred feet deep in some places, thirteen hundred in others,
level-floored, and ten miles in circumference! Here was a yawning pit
upon whose floor the armies of Russia could camp, and have room to spare.
Perched upon the edge of the crater, at the opposite end from where we
stood, was a small look-out house--say three miles away. It assisted us,
by comparison, to comprehend and appreciate the great depth of the basin
--it looked like a tiny martin-box clinging at the eaves of a cathedral.
After some little time spent in resting and looking and ciphering, we
hurried on to the hotel.
By the path it is half a mile from the Volcano House to the
lookout-house. After a hearty supper we waited until it was thoroughly
dark and then started to the crater. The first glance in that direction
revealed a scene of wild beauty. There was a heavy fog over the crater
and it was splendidly illuminated by the glare from the fires below. The
illumination was two miles wide and a mile high, perhaps; and if you
ever, on a dark night and at a distance beheld the light from thirty or
forty blocks of distant buildings all on fire at once, reflected strongly
against over-hanging clouds, you can form a fair idea of what this looked
A colossal column of cloud towered to a great height in the air
immediately above the crater, and the outer swell of every one of its
vast folds was dyed with a rich crimson luster, which was subdued to a
pale rose tint in the depressions between. It glowed like a muffled
torch and stretched upward to a dizzy height toward the zenith. I
thought it just possible that its like had not been seen since the
children of Israel wandered on their long march through the desert so
many centuries ago over a path illuminated by the mysterious "pillar of
fire." And I was sure that I now had a vivid conception of what the
majestic "pillar of fire" was like, which almost amounted to a
Arrived at the little thatched lookout house, we rested our elbows on the
railing in front and looked abroad over the wide crater and down over the
sheer precipice at the seething fires beneath us. The view was a
startling improvement on my daylight experience. I turned to see the
effect on the balance of the company and found the reddest-faced set of
men I almost ever saw. In the strong light every countenance glowed like
red-hot iron, every shoulder was suffused with crimson and shaded
rearward into dingy, shapeless obscurity! The place below looked like
the infernal regions and these men like half-cooled devils just come up
on a furlough.
I turned my eyes upon the volcano again. The "cellar" was tolerably well
lighted up. For a mile and a half in front of us and half a mile on
either side, the floor of the abyss was magnificently illuminated; beyond
these limits the mists hung down their gauzy curtains and cast a
deceptive gloom over all that made the twinkling fires in the remote
corners of the crater seem countless leagues removed--made them seem like
the camp-fires of a great army far away. Here was room for the
imagination to work! You could imagine those lights the width of a
continent away--and that hidden under the intervening darkness were
hills, and winding rivers, and weary wastes of plain and desert--and even
then the tremendous vista stretched on, and on, and on!--to the fires and
far beyond! You could not compass it--it was the idea of eternity made
tangible--and the longest end of it made visible to the naked eye!
The greater part of the vast floor of the desert under us was as black as
ink, and apparently smooth and level; but over a mile square of it was
ringed and streaked and striped with a thousand branching streams of
liquid and gorgeously brilliant fire! It looked like a colossal railroad
map of the State of Massachusetts done in chain lightning on a midnight
sky. Imagine it--imagine a coal-black sky shivered into a tangled
net-work of angry fire!
Here and there were gleaming holes a hundred feet in diameter, broken in
the dark crust, and in them the melted lava--the color a dazzling white
just tinged with yellow--was boiling and surging furiously; and from
these holes branched numberless bright torrents in many directions, like
the spokes of a wheel, and kept a tolerably straight course for a while
and then swept round in huge rainbow curves, or made a long succession of
sharp worm-fence angles, which looked precisely like the fiercest jagged
lightning. These streams met other streams, and they mingled with and
crossed and recrossed each other in every conceivable direction, like
skate tracks on a popular skating ground. Sometimes streams twenty or
thirty feet wide flowed from the holes to some distance without dividing
--and through the opera-glasses we could see that they ran down small,
steep hills and were genuine cataracts of fire, white at their source,
but soon cooling and turning to the richest red, grained with alternate
lines of black and gold. Every now and then masses of the dark crust
broke away and floated slowly down these streams like rafts down a river.
Occasionally the molten lava flowing under the superincumbent crust broke
through--split a dazzling streak, from five hundred to a thousand feet
long, like a sudden flash of lightning, and then acre after acre of the
cold lava parted into fragments, turned up edgewise like cakes of ice
when a great river breaks up, plunged downward and were swallowed in the
crimson cauldron. Then the wide expanse of the "thaw" maintained a ruddy
glow for a while, but shortly cooled and became black and level again.
During a "thaw," every dismembered cake was marked by a glittering white
border which was superbly shaded inward by aurora borealis rays, which
were a flaming yellow where they joined the white border, and from thence
toward their points tapered into glowing crimson, then into a rich, pale
carmine, and finally into a faint blush that held its own a moment and
then dimmed and turned black. Some of the streams preferred to mingle
together in a tangle of fantastic circles, and then they looked something
like the confusion of ropes one sees on a ship's deck when she has just
taken in sail and dropped anchor--provided one can imagine those ropes on
Through the glasses, the little fountains scattered about looked very
beautiful. They boiled, and coughed, and spluttered, and discharged
sprays of stringy red fire--of about the consistency of mush, for
instance--from ten to fifteen feet into the air, along with a shower of
brilliant white sparks--a quaint and unnatural mingling of gouts of blood
We had circles and serpents and streaks of lightning all twined and
wreathed and tied together, without a break throughout an area more than
a mile square (that amount of ground was covered, though it was not
strictly "square"), and it was with a feeling of placid exultation that
we reflected that many years had elapsed since any visitor had seen such
a splendid display--since any visitor had seen anything more than the now
snubbed and insignificant "North" and "South" lakes in action. We had
been reading old files of Hawaiian newspapers and the "Record Book" at
the Volcano House, and were posted.
I could see the North Lake lying out on the black floor away off in the
outer edge of our panorama, and knitted to it by a web-work of lava
streams. In its individual capacity it looked very little more
respectable than a schoolhouse on fire. True, it was about nine hundred
feet long and two or three hundred wide, but then, under the present
circumstances, it necessarily appeared rather insignificant, and besides
it was so distant from us.
I forgot to say that the noise made by the bubbling lava is not great,
heard as we heard it from our lofty perch. It makes three distinct
sounds--a rushing, a hissing, and a coughing or puffing sound; and if you
stand on the brink and close your eyes it is no trick at all to imagine
that you are sweeping down a river on a large low-pressure steamer, and
that you hear the hissing of the steam about her boilers, the puffing
from her escape-pipes and the churning rush of the water abaft her
wheels. The smell of sulphur is strong, but not unpleasant to a sinner.
We left the lookout house at ten o'clock in a half cooked condition,
because of the heat from Pele's furnaces, and wrapping up in blankets,
for the night was cold, we returned to our Hotel.
The next night was appointed for a visit to the bottom of the crater, for
we desired to traverse its floor and see the "North Lake" (of fire) which
lay two miles away, toward the further wall. After dark half a dozen of
us set out, with lanterns and native guides, and climbed down a crazy,
thousand-foot pathway in a crevice fractured in the crater wall, and
reached the bottom in safety.
The irruption of the previous evening had spent its force and the floor
looked black and cold; but when we ran out upon it we found it hot yet,
to the feet, and it was likewise riven with crevices which revealed the
underlying fires gleaming vindictively. A neighboring cauldron was
threatening to overflow, and this added to the dubiousness of the
situation. So the native guides refused to continue the venture, and
then every body deserted except a stranger named Marlette. He said he
had been in the crater a dozen times in daylight and believed he could
find his way through it at night. He thought that a run of three hundred
yards would carry us over the hottest part of the floor and leave us our
shoe-soles. His pluck gave me back-bone. We took one lantern and
instructed the guides to hang the other to the roof of the look-out house
to serve as a beacon for us in case we got lost, and then the party
started back up the precipice and Marlette and I made our run.
We skipped over the hot floor and over the red crevices with brisk
dispatch and reached the cold lava safe but with pretty warm feet. Then
we took things leisurely and comfortably, jumping tolerably wide and
probably bottomless chasms, and threading our way through picturesque
lava upheavals with considerable confidence. When we got fairly away
from the cauldrons of boiling fire, we seemed to be in a gloomy desert,
and a suffocatingly dark one, surrounded by dim walls that seemed to
tower to the sky. The only cheerful objects were the glinting stars high
By and by Marlette shouted "Stop!" I never stopped quicker in my life.
I asked what the matter was. He said we were out of the path. He said
we must not try to go on till we found it again, for we were surrounded
with beds of rotten lava through which we could easily break and plunge
down a thousand feet. I thought eight hundred would answer for me, and
was about to say so when Marlette partly proved his statement by
accidentally crushing through and disappearing to his arm-pits.
He got out and we hunted for the path with the lantern. He said there
was only one path and that it was but vaguely defined. We could not find
it. The lava surface was all alike in the lantern light. But he was an
ingenious man. He said it was not the lantern that had informed him that
we were out of the path, but his feet. He had noticed a crisp grinding
of fine lava-needles under his feet, and some instinct reminded him that
in the path these were all worn away. So he put the lantern behind him,
and began to search with his boots instead of his eyes. It was good
sagacity. The first time his foot touched a surface that did not grind
under it he announced that the trail was found again; and after that we
kept up a sharp listening for the rasping sound and it always warned us
It was a long tramp, but an exciting one. We reached the North Lake
between ten and eleven o'clock, and sat down on a huge overhanging
lava-shelf, tired but satisfied. The spectacle presented was worth
coming double the distance to see. Under us, and stretching away before
us, was a heaving sea of molten fire of seemingly limitless extent. The
glare from it was so blinding that it was some time before we could bear
to look upon it steadily.
It was like gazing at the sun at noon-day, except that the glare was not
quite so white. At unequal distances all around the shores of the lake
were nearly white-hot chimneys or hollow drums of lava, four or five feet
high, and up through them were bursting gorgeous sprays of lava-gouts and
gem spangles, some white, some red and some golden--a ceaseless
bombardment, and one that fascinated the eye with its unapproachable
splendor. The mere distant jets, sparkling up through an intervening
gossamer veil of vapor, seemed miles away; and the further the curving
ranks of fiery fountains receded, the more fairy-like and beautiful they
Now and then the surging bosom of the lake under our noses would calm
down ominously and seem to be gathering strength for an enterprise; and
then all of a sudden a red dome of lava of the bulk of an ordinary
dwelling would heave itself aloft like an escaping balloon, then burst
asunder, and out of its heart would flit a pale-green film of vapor, and
float upward and vanish in the darkness--a released soul soaring homeward
from captivity with the damned, no doubt. The crashing plunge of the
ruined dome into the lake again would send a world of seething billows
lashing against the shores and shaking the foundations of our perch. By
and by, a loosened mass of the hanging shelf we sat on tumbled into the
lake, jarring the surroundings like an earthquake and delivering a
suggestion that may have been intended for a hint, and may not. We did
not wait to see.
We got lost again on our way back, and were more than an hour hunting for
the path. We were where we could see the beacon lantern at the look-out
house at the time, but thought it was a star and paid no attention to it.
We reached the hotel at two o'clock in the morning pretty well fagged
Kilauea never overflows its vast crater, but bursts a passage for its
lava through the mountain side when relief is necessary, and then the
destruction is fearful. About 1840 it rent its overburdened stomach and
sent a broad river of fire careering down to the sea, which swept away
forests, huts, plantations and every thing else that lay in its path.
The stream was five miles broad, in places, and two hundred feet deep,
and the distance it traveled was forty miles. It tore up and bore away
acre-patches of land on its bosom like rafts--rocks, trees and all
intact. At night the red glare was visible a hundred miles at sea; and
at a distance of forty miles fine print could be read at midnight. The
atmosphere was poisoned with sulphurous vapors and choked with falling
ashes, pumice stones and cinders; countless columns of smoke rose up and
blended together in a tumbled canopy that hid the heavens and glowed with
a ruddy flush reflected from the fires below; here and there jets of lava
sprung hundreds of feet into the air and burst into rocket-sprays that
returned to earth in a crimson rain; and all the while the laboring
mountain shook with Nature's great palsy and voiced its distress in
moanings and the muffled booming of subterranean thunders.
Fishes were killed for twenty miles along the shore, where the lava
entered the sea. The earthquakes caused some loss of human life, and a
prodigious tidal wave swept inland, carrying every thing before it and
drowning a number of natives. The devastation consummated along the
route traversed by the river of lava was complete and incalculable. Only
a Pompeii and a Herculaneum were needed at the foot of Kilauea to make
the story of the irruption immortal.
We rode horseback all around the island of Hawaii (the crooked road
making the distance two hundred miles), and enjoyed the journey very
much. We were more than a week making the trip, because our Kanaka
horses would not go by a house or a hut without stopping--whip and spur
could not alter their minds about it, and so we finally found that it
economized time to let them have their way. Upon inquiry the mystery was
explained: the natives are such thorough-going gossips that they never
pass a house without stopping to swap news, and consequently their horses
learn to regard that sort of thing as an essential part of the whole duty
of man, and his salvation not to be compassed without it. However, at a
former crisis of my life I had once taken an aristocratic young lady out
driving, behind a horse that had just retired from a long and honorable
career as the moving impulse of a milk wagon, and so this present
experience awoke a reminiscent sadness in me in place of the exasperation
more natural to the occasion. I remembered how helpless I was that day,
and how humiliated; how ashamed I was of having intimated to the girl
that I had always owned the horse and was accustomed to grandeur; how
hard I tried to appear easy, and even vivacious, under suffering that was
consuming my vitals; how placidly and maliciously the girl smiled, and
kept on smiling, while my hot blushes baked themselves into a permanent
blood-pudding in my face; how the horse ambled from one side of the
street to the other and waited complacently before every third house two
minutes and a quarter while I belabored his back and reviled him in my
heart; how I tried to keep him from turning corners and failed; how I
moved heaven and earth to get him out of town, and did not succeed; how
he traversed the entire settlement and delivered imaginary milk at a
hundred and sixty-two different domiciles, and how he finally brought up
at a dairy depot and refused to budge further, thus rounding and
completing the revealment of what the plebeian service of his life had
been; how, in eloquent silence, I walked the girl home, and how, when I
took leave of her, her parting remark scorched my soul and appeared to
blister me all over: she said that my horse was a fine, capable animal,
and I must have taken great comfort in him in my time--but that if I
would take along some milk-tickets next time, and appear to deliver them
at the various halting places, it might expedite his movements a little.
There was a coolness between us after that.
In one place in the island of Hawaii, we saw a laced and ruffled cataract
of limpid water leaping from a sheer precipice fifteen hundred feet high;
but that sort of scenery finds its stanchest ally in the arithmetic
rather than in spectacular effect. If one desires to be so stirred by a
poem of Nature wrought in the happily commingled graces of picturesque
rocks, glimpsed distances, foliage, color, shifting lights and shadows,
and failing water, that the tears almost come into his eyes so potent is
the charm exerted, he need not go away from America to enjoy such an
experience. The Rainbow Fall, in Watkins Glen (N.Y.), on the Erie
railway, is an example. It would recede into pitiable insignificance if
the callous tourist drew on arithmetic on it; but left to compete for the
honors simply on scenic grace and beauty--the grand, the august and the
sublime being barred the contest--it could challenge the old world and
the new to produce its peer.
In one locality, on our journey, we saw some horses that had been born
and reared on top of the mountains, above the range of running water, and
consequently they had never drank that fluid in their lives, but had been
always accustomed to quenching their thirst by eating dew-laden or
shower-wetted leaves. And now it was destructively funny to see them
sniff suspiciously at a pail of water, and then put in their noses and
try to take a bite out of the fluid, as if it were a solid. Finding it
liquid, they would snatch away their heads and fall to trembling,
snorting and showing other evidences of fright. When they became
convinced at last that the water was friendly and harmless, they thrust
in their noses up to their eyes, brought out a mouthful of water, and
proceeded to chew it complacently. We saw a man coax, kick and spur one
of them five or ten minutes before he could make it cross a running
stream. It spread its nostrils, distended its eyes and trembled all
over, just as horses customarily do in the presence of a serpent--and for
aught I know it thought the crawling stream was a serpent.
In due course of time our journey came to an end at Kawaehae (usually
pronounced To-a-hi--and before we find fault with this elaborate
orthographical method of arriving at such an unostentatious result, let
us lop off the ugh from our word "though"). I made this horseback trip
on a mule. I paid ten dollars for him at Kau (Kah-oo), added four to get
him shod, rode him two hundred miles, and then sold him for fifteen
dollars. I mark the circumstance with a white stone (in the absence of
chalk--for I never saw a white stone that a body could mark anything
with, though out of respect for the ancients I have tried it often
enough); for up to that day and date it was the first strictly commercial
transaction I had ever entered into, and come out winner. We returned to
Honolulu, and from thence sailed to the island of Maui, and spent several
weeks there very pleasantly. I still remember, with a sense of indolent
luxury, a picnicing excursion up a romantic gorge there, called the Iao
Valley. The trail lay along the edge of a brawling stream in the bottom
of the gorge--a shady route, for it was well roofed with the verdant
domes of forest trees. Through openings in the foliage we glimpsed
picturesque scenery that revealed ceaseless changes and new charms with
every step of our progress. Perpendicular walls from one to three
thousand feet high guarded the way, and were sumptuously plumed with
varied foliage, in places, and in places swathed in waving ferns.
Passing shreds of cloud trailed their shadows across these shining
fronts, mottling them with blots; billowy masses of white vapor hid the
turreted summits, and far above the vapor swelled a background of
gleaming green crags and cones that came and went, through the veiling
mists, like islands drifting in a fog; sometimes the cloudy curtain
descended till half the canon wall was hidden, then shredded gradually
away till only airy glimpses of the ferny front appeared through it--then
swept aloft and left it glorified in the sun again. Now and then, as our
position changed, rocky bastions swung out from the wall, a mimic ruin of
castellated ramparts and crumbling towers clothed with mosses and hung
with garlands of swaying vines, and as we moved on they swung back again
and hid themselves once more in the foliage. Presently a verdure-clad
needle of stone, a thousand feet high, stepped out from behind a corner,
and mounted guard over the mysteries of the valley. It seemed to me that
if Captain Cook needed a monument, here was one ready made--therefore,
why not put up his sign here, and sell out the venerable cocoanut stump?
But the chief pride of Maui is her dead volcano of Haleakala--which
means, translated, "the house of the sun." We climbed a thousand feet up
the side of this isolated colossus one afternoon; then camped, and next
day climbed the remaining nine thousand feet, and anchored on the summit,
where we built a fire and froze and roasted by turns, all night. With
the first pallor of dawn we got up and saw things that were new to us.
Mounted on a commanding pinnacle, we watched Nature work her silent
wonders. The sea was spread abroad on every hand, its tumbled surface
seeming only wrinkled and dimpled in the distance. A broad valley below
appeared like an ample checker-board, its velvety green sugar plantations
alternating with dun squares of barrenness and groves of trees diminished
to mossy tufts. Beyond the valley were mountains picturesquely grouped
together; but bear in mind, we fancied that we were looking up at these
things--not down. We seemed to sit in the bottom of a symmetrical bowl
ten thousand feet deep, with the valley and the skirting sea lifted away
into the sky above us! It was curious; and not only curious, but
aggravating; for it was having our trouble all for nothing, to climb ten
thousand feet toward heaven and then have to look up at our scenery.
However, we had to be content with it and make the best of it; for, all
we could do we could not coax our landscape down out of the clouds.
Formerly, when I had read an article in which Poe treated of this
singular fraud perpetrated upon the eye by isolated great altitudes,
I had looked upon the matter as an invention of his own fancy.
I have spoken of the outside view--but we had an inside one, too. That
was the yawning dead crater, into which we now and then tumbled rocks,
half as large as a barrel, from our perch, and saw them go careering down
the almost perpendicular sides, bounding three hundred feet at a jump;
kicking up cast-clouds wherever they struck; diminishing to our view as
they sped farther into distance; growing invisible, finally, and only
betraying their course by faint little puffs of dust; and coming to a
halt at last in the bottom of the abyss, two thousand five hundred feet
down from where they started! It was magnificent sport. We wore
ourselves out at it.
The crater of Vesuvius, as I have before remarked, is a modest pit about
a thousand feet deep and three thousand in circumference; that of Kilauea
is somewhat deeper, and ten miles in circumference. But what are either
of them compared to the vacant stomach of Haleakala? I will not offer
any figures of my own, but give official ones--those of Commander Wilkes,
U.S.N., who surveyed it and testifies that it is twenty-seven miles in
circumference! If it had a level bottom it would make a fine site for a
city like London. It must have afforded a spectacle worth contemplating
in the old days when its furnaces gave full rein to their anger.
Presently vagrant white clouds came drifting along, high over the sea and
the valley; then they came in couples and groups; then in imposing
squadrons; gradually joining their forces, they banked themselves solidly
together, a thousand feet under us, and totally shut out land and ocean
--not a vestige of anything was left in view but just a little of the rim
of the crater, circling away from the pinnacle whereon we sat (for a
ghostly procession of wanderers from the filmy hosts without had drifted
through a chasm in the crater wall and filed round and round, and
gathered and sunk and blended together till the abyss was stored to the
brim with a fleecy fog). Thus banked, motion ceased, and silence
reigned. Clear to the horizon, league on league, the snowy floor
stretched without a break--not level, but in rounded folds, with shallow
creases between, and with here and there stately piles of vapory
architecture lifting themselves aloft out of the common plain--some near
at hand, some in the middle distances, and others relieving the monotony
of the remote solitudes. There was little conversation, for the
impressive scene overawed speech. I felt like the Last Man, neglected of
the judgment, and left pinnacled in mid-heaven, a forgotten relic of a
While the hush yet brooded, the messengers of the coming resurrection
appeared in the East. A growing warmth suffused the horizon, and soon
the sun emerged and looked out over the cloud-waste, flinging bars of
ruddy light across it, staining its folds and billow-caps with blushes,
purpling the shaded troughs between, and glorifying the massy
vapor-palaces and cathedrals with a wasteful splendor of all blendings
and combinations of rich coloring.
It was the sublimest spectacle I ever witnessed, and I think the memory
of it will remain with me always.
I stumbled upon one curious character in the Island of Mani. He became a
sore annoyance to me in the course of time. My first glimpse of him was
in a sort of public room in the town of Lahaina. He occupied a chair at
the opposite side of the apartment, and sat eyeing our party with
interest for some minutes, and listening as critically to what we were
saying as if he fancied we were talking to him and expecting him to
reply. I thought it very sociable in a stranger. Presently, in the
course of conversation, I made a statement bearing upon the subject under
discussion--and I made it with due modesty, for there was nothing
extraordinary about it, and it was only put forth in illustration of a
point at issue. I had barely finished when this person spoke out with
rapid utterance and feverish anxiety:
"Oh, that was certainly remarkable, after a fashion, but you ought to
have seen my chimney--you ought to have seen my chimney, sir! Smoke!
I wish I may hang if--Mr. Jones, you remember that chimney--you must
remember that chimney! No, no--I recollect, now, you warn't living on
this side of the island then. But I am telling you nothing but the
truth, and I wish I may never draw another breath if that chimney didn't
smoke so that the smoke actually got caked in it and I had to dig it out
with a pickaxe! You may smile, gentlemen, but the High Sheriff's got a
hunk of it which I dug out before his eyes, and so it's perfectly easy
for you to go and examine for yourselves."
The interruption broke up the conversation, which had already begun to
lag, and we presently hired some natives and an out-rigger canoe or two,
and went out to overlook a grand surf-bathing contest.
Two weeks after this, while talking in a company, I looked up and
detected this same man boring through and through me with his intense
eye, and noted again his twitching muscles and his feverish anxiety to
speak. The moment I paused, he said:
"Beg your pardon, sir, beg your pardon, but it can only be considered
remarkable when brought into strong outline by isolation. Sir,
contrasted with a circumstance which occurred in my own experience, it
instantly becomes commonplace. No, not that--for I will not speak so
discourteously of any experience in the career of a stranger and a
gentleman--but I am obliged to say that you could not, and you would not
ever again refer to this tree as a large one, if you could behold, as I
have, the great Yakmatack tree, in the island of Ounaska, sea of
Kamtchatka--a tree, sir, not one inch less than four hundred and fifteen
feet in solid diameter!--and I wish I may die in a minute if it isn't so!
Oh, you needn't look so questioning, gentlemen; here's old Cap Saltmarsh
can say whether I know what I'm talking about or not. I showed him the
Captain Saltmarsh--"Come, now, cat your anchor, lad--you're heaving too
taut. You promised to show me that stunner, and I walked more than
eleven mile with you through the cussedest jungle I ever see, a hunting
for it; but the tree you showed me finally warn't as big around as a beer
cask, and you know that your own self, Markiss."
"Hear the man talk! Of course the tree was reduced that way, but didn't
I explain it? Answer me, didn't I? Didn't I say I wished you could have
seen it when I first saw it? When you got up on your ear and called me
names, and said I had brought you eleven miles to look at a sapling,
didn't I explain to you that all the whale-ships in the North Seas had
been wooding off of it for more than twenty-seven years? And did you
s'pose the tree could last for-ever, con-found it? I don't see why you
want to keep back things that way, and try to injure a person that's
never done you any harm."
Somehow this man's presence made me uncomfortable, and I was glad when a
native arrived at that moment to say that Muckawow, the most
companionable and luxurious among the rude war-chiefs of the Islands,
desired us to come over and help him enjoy a missionary whom he had found
trespassing on his grounds.
I think it was about ten days afterward that, as I finished a statement I
was making for the instruction of a group of friends and acquaintances,
and which made no pretence of being extraordinary, a familiar voice
chimed instantly in on the heels of my last word, and said:
"But, my dear sir, there was nothing remarkable about that horse, or the
circumstance either--nothing in the world! I mean no sort of offence
when I say it, sir, but you really do not know anything whatever about
speed. Bless your heart, if you could only have seen my mare Margaretta;
there was a beast!--there was lightning for you! Trot! Trot is no name
for it--she flew! How she could whirl a buggy along! I started her out
once, sir--Colonel Bilgewater, you recollect that animal perfectly well
--I started her out about thirty or thirty-five yards ahead of the
awfullest storm I ever saw in my life, and it chased us upwards of
eighteen miles! It did, by the everlasting hills! And I'm telling you
nothing but the unvarnished truth when I say that not one single drop of
rain fell on me--not a single drop, sir! And I swear to it! But my dog
was a-swimming behind the wagon all the way!"
For a week or two I stayed mostly within doors, for I seemed to meet this
person everywhere, and he had become utterly hateful to me. But one
evening I dropped in on Captain Perkins and his friends, and we had a
sociable time. About ten o'clock I chanced to be talking about a
merchant friend of mine, and without really intending it, the remark
slipped out that he was a little mean and parsimonious about paying his
workmen. Instantly, through the steam of a hot whiskey punch on the
opposite side of the room, a remembered voice shot--and for a moment I
trembled on the imminent verge of profanity:
"Oh, my dear sir, really you expose yourself when you parade that as a
surprising circumstance. Bless your heart and hide, you are ignorant of
the very A B C of meanness! ignorant as the unborn babe! ignorant as
unborn twins! You don't know anything about it! It is pitiable to see
you, sir, a well-spoken and prepossessing stranger, making such an
enormous pow-wow here about a subject concerning which your ignorance is
perfectly humiliating! Look me in the eye, if you please; look me in the
eye. John James Godfrey was the son of poor but honest parents in the
State of Mississippi--boyhood friend of mine--bosom comrade in later
years. Heaven rest his noble spirit, he is gone from us now. John James
Godfrey was hired by the Hayblossom Mining Company in California to do
some blasting for them--the "Incorporated Company of Mean Men," the boys
used to call it.
"Well, one day he drilled a hole about four feet deep and put in an awful
blast of powder, and was standing over it ramming it down with an iron
crowbar about nine foot long, when the cussed thing struck a spark and
fired the powder, and scat! away John Godfrey whizzed like a skyrocket,
him and his crowbar! Well, sir, he kept on going up in the air higher
and higher, till he didn't look any bigger than a boy--and he kept going
on up higher and higher, till he didn't look any bigger than a doll--and
he kept on going up higher and higher, till he didn't look any bigger
than a little small bee--and then he went out of sight! Presently he
came in sight again, looking like a little small bee--and he came along
down further and further, till he looked as big as a doll again--and down
further and further, till he was as big as a boy again--and further and
further, till he was a full-sized man once more; and then him and his
crowbar came a wh-izzing down and lit right exactly in the same old
tracks and went to r-ramming down, and r-ramming down, and r-ramming down
again, just the same as if nothing had happened! Now do you know, that
poor cuss warn't gone only sixteen minutes, and yet that Incorporated
Company of Mean Men DOCKED HIM FOR THE LOST TIME!"
I said I had the headache, and so excused myself and went home. And on
my diary I entered "another night spoiled" by this offensive loafer.
And a fervent curse was set down with it to keep the item company. And
the very next day I packed up, out of all patience, and left the Island.
Almost from the very beginning, I regarded that man as a liar.
The line of points represents an interval of years. At the end of which
time the opinion hazarded in that last sentence came to be gratifyingly
and remarkably endorsed, and by wholly disinterested persons. The man
Markiss was found one morning hanging to a beam of his own bedroom (the
doors and windows securely fastened on the inside), dead; and on his
breast was pinned a paper in his own handwriting begging his friends to
suspect no innocent person of having any thing to do with his death, for
that it was the work of his own hands entirely. Yet the jury brought in
the astounding verdict that deceased came to his death "by the hands of
some person or persons unknown!" They explained that the perfectly
undeviating consistency of Markiss's character for thirty years towered
aloft as colossal and indestructible testimony, that whatever statement
he chose to make was entitled to instant and unquestioning acceptance as
a lie. And they furthermore stated their belief that he was not dead,
and instanced the strong circumstantial evidence of his own word that he
was dead--and beseeched the coroner to delay the funeral as long as
possible, which was done. And so in the tropical climate of Lahaina the
coffin stood open for seven days, and then even the loyal jury gave him
up. But they sat on him again, and changed their verdict to "suicide
induced by mental aberration"--because, said they, with penetration, "he
said he was dead, and he was dead; and would he have told the truth if he
had been in his right mind? No, sir."
After half a year's luxurious vagrancy in the islands, I took shipping in
a sailing vessel, and regretfully returned to San Francisco--a voyage in
every way delightful, but without an incident: unless lying two long
weeks in a dead calm, eighteen hundred miles from the nearest land, may
rank as an incident. Schools of whales grew so tame that day after day
they played about the ship among the porpoises and the sharks without the
least apparent fear of us, and we pelted them with empty bottles for lack
of better sport. Twenty-four hours afterward these bottles would be
still lying on the glassy water under our noses, showing that the ship
had not moved out of her place in all that time. The calm was absolutely
breathless, and the surface of the sea absolutely without a wrinkle.
For a whole day and part of a night we lay so close to another ship that
had drifted to our vicinity, that we carried on conversations with her
passengers, introduced each other by name, and became pretty intimately
acquainted with people we had never heard of before, and have never heard
of since. This was the only vessel we saw during the whole lonely
voyage. We had fifteen passengers, and to show how hard pressed they
were at last for occupation and amusement, I will mention that the
gentlemen gave a good part of their time every day, during the calm, to
trying to sit on an empty champagne bottle (lying on its side), and
thread a needle without touching their heels to the deck, or falling
over; and the ladies sat in the shade of the mainsail, and watched the
enterprise with absorbing interest. We were at sea five Sundays; and
yet, but for the almanac, we never would have known but that all the
other days were Sundays too.
I was home again, in San Francisco, without means and without employment.
I tortured my brain for a saving scheme of some kind, and at last a
public lecture occurred to me! I sat down and wrote one, in a fever of
hopeful anticipation. I showed it to several friends, but they all shook
their heads. They said nobody would come to hear me, and I would make a
humiliating failure of it.
They said that as I had never spoken in public, I would break down in the
delivery, anyhow. I was disconsolate now. But at last an editor slapped
me on the back and told me to "go ahead." He said, "Take the largest
house in town, and charge a dollar a ticket." The audacity of the
proposition was charming; it seemed fraught with practical worldly
wisdom, however. The proprietor of the several theatres endorsed the
advice, and said I might have his handsome new opera-house at half price
--fifty dollars. In sheer desperation I took it--on credit, for
sufficient reasons. In three days I did a hundred and fifty dollars'
worth of printing and advertising, and was the most distressed and
frightened creature on the Pacific coast. I could not sleep--who could,
under such circumstances? For other people there was facetiousness in
the last line of my posters, but to me it was plaintive with a pang when
I wrote it:
"Doors open at 7 1/2. The trouble will begin at 8."
That line has done good service since. Showmen have borrowed it
frequently. I have even seen it appended to a newspaper advertisement
reminding school pupils in vacation what time next term would begin. As
those three days of suspense dragged by, I grew more and more unhappy.
I had sold two hundred tickets among my personal friends, but I feared
they might not come. My lecture, which had seemed "humorous" to me, at
first, grew steadily more and more dreary, till not a vestige of fun
seemed left, and I grieved that I could not bring a coffin on the stage
and turn the thing into a funeral. I was so panic-stricken, at last,
that I went to three old friends, giants in stature, cordial by nature,
and stormy-voiced, and said:
"This thing is going to be a failure; the jokes in it are so dim that
nobody will ever see them; I would like to have you sit in the parquette,
and help me through."
They said they would. Then I went to the wife of a popular citizen, and
said that if she was willing to do me a very great kindness, I would be
glad if she and her husband would sit prominently in the left-hand
stage-box, where the whole house could see them. I explained that I
should need help, and would turn toward her and smile, as a signal, when
I had been delivered of an obscure joke--"and then," I added, "don't wait
to investigate, but respond!"
She promised. Down the street I met a man I never had seen before. He
had been drinking, and was beaming with smiles and good nature. He said:
"My name's Sawyer. You don't know me, but that don't matter. I haven't
got a cent, but if you knew how bad I wanted to laugh, you'd give me a
ticket. Come, now, what do you say?"
"Is your laugh hung on a hair-trigger?--that is, is it critical, or can
you get it off easy?"
My drawling infirmity of speech so affected him that he laughed a
specimen or two that struck me as being about the article I wanted, and I
gave him a ticket, and appointed him to sit in the second circle, in the
centre, and be responsible for that division of the house. I gave him
minute instructions about how to detect indistinct jokes, and then went
away, and left him chuckling placidly over the novelty of the idea.
I ate nothing on the last of the three eventful days--I only suffered.
I had advertised that on this third day the box-office would be opened
for the sale of reserved seats. I crept down to the theater at four in
the afternoon to see if any sales had been made. The ticket seller was
gone, the box-office was locked up. I had to swallow suddenly, or my
heart would have got out. "No sales," I said to myself; "I might have
known it." I thought of suicide, pretended illness, flight. I thought
of these things in earnest, for I was very miserable and scared. But of
course I had to drive them away, and prepare to meet my fate. I could
not wait for half-past seven--I wanted to face the horror, and end it
--the feeling of many a man doomed to hang, no doubt. I went down back
streets at six o'clock, and entered the theatre by the back door.
I stumbled my way in the dark among the ranks of canvas scenery, and
stood on the stage. The house was gloomy and silent, and its emptiness
depressing. I went into the dark among the scenes again, and for an hour
and a half gave myself up to the horrors, wholly unconscious of
everything else. Then I heard a murmur; it rose higher and higher, and
ended in a crash, mingled with cheers. It made my hair raise, it was so
close to me, and so loud.
There was a pause, and then another; presently came a third, and before I
well knew what I was about, I was in the middle of the stage, staring at
a sea of faces, bewildered by the fierce glare of the lights, and quaking
in every limb with a terror that seemed like to take my life away. The
house was full, aisles and all!
The tumult in my heart and brain and legs continued a full minute before
I could gain any command over myself. Then I recognized the charity and
the friendliness in the faces before me, and little by little my fright
melted away, and I began to talk Within three or four minutes I was
comfortable, and even content. My three chief allies, with three
auxiliaries, were on hand, in the parquette, all sitting together, all
armed with bludgeons, and all ready to make an onslaught upon the
feeblest joke that might show its head. And whenever a joke did fall,
their bludgeons came down and their faces seemed to split from ear to
Sawyer, whose hearty countenance was seen looming redly in the centre of
the second circle, took it up, and the house was carried handsomely.
Inferior jokes never fared so royally before. Presently I delivered a
bit of serious matter with impressive unction (it was my pet), and the
audience listened with an absorbed hush that gratified me more than any
applause; and as I dropped the last word of the clause, I happened to
turn and catch Mrs.--'s intent and waiting eye; my conversation with her
flashed upon me, and in spite of all I could do I smiled. She took it
for the signal, and promptly delivered a mellow laugh that touched off
the whole audience; and the explosion that followed was the triumph of
the evening. I thought that that honest man Sawyer would choke himself;
and as for the bludgeons, they performed like pile-drivers. But my poor
little morsel of pathos was ruined. It was taken in good faith as an
intentional joke, and the prize one of the entertainment, and I wisely
let it go at that.
All the papers were kind in the morning; my appetite returned; I had a
abundance of money. All's well that ends well.
I launched out as a lecturer, now, with great boldness. I had the field
all to myself, for public lectures were almost an unknown commodity in
the Pacific market. They are not so rare, now, I suppose. I took an old
personal friend along to play agent for me, and for two or three weeks we
roamed through Nevada and California and had a very cheerful time of it.
Two days before I lectured in Virginia City, two stagecoaches were robbed
within two miles of the town. The daring act was committed just at dawn,
by six masked men, who sprang up alongside the coaches, presented
revolvers at the heads of the drivers and passengers, and commanded a
general dismount. Everybody climbed down, and the robbers took their
watches and every cent they had. Then they took gunpowder and blew up
the express specie boxes and got their contents. The leader of the
robbers was a small, quick-spoken man, and the fame of his vigorous
manner and his intrepidity was in everybody's mouth when we arrived.
The night after instructing Virginia, I walked over the desolate "divide"
and down to Gold Hill, and lectured there. The lecture done, I stopped
to talk with a friend, and did not start back till eleven. The "divide"
was high, unoccupied ground, between the towns, the scene of twenty
midnight murders and a hundred robberies. As we climbed up and stepped
out on this eminence, the Gold Hill lights dropped out of sight at our
backs, and the night closed down gloomy and dismal. A sharp wind swept
the place, too, and chilled our perspiring bodies through.
"I tell you I don't like this place at night," said Mike the agent.
"Well, don't speak so loud," I said. "You needn't remind anybody that we
Just then a dim figure approached me from the direction of Virginia--a
man, evidently. He came straight at me, and I stepped aside to let him
pass; he stepped in the way and confronted me again. Then I saw that he
had a mask on and was holding something in my face--I heard a click-click
and recognized a revolver in dim outline. I pushed the barrel aside with
my hand and said:
He ejaculated sharply:
"Your watch! Your money!"
"You can have them with pleasure--but take the pistol away from my face,
please. It makes me shiver."
"No remarks! Hand out your money!"
"Put up your hands! Don't you go for a weapon! Put 'em up! Higher!"
I held them above my head.
A pause. Then:
"Are you going to hand out your money or not?"
I dropped my hands to my pockets and said:
"Put up your hands! Do you want your head blown off? Higher!"
I put them above my head again.
Are you going to hand out your money or not? Ah-ah--again? Put up your
hands! By George, you want the head shot off you awful bad!"
"Well, friend, I'm trying my best to please you. You tell me to give up
my money, and when I reach for it you tell me to put up my hands. If you
would only--. Oh, now--don't! All six of you at me! That other man
will get away while.--Now please take some of those revolvers out of my
face--do, if you please! Every time one of them clicks, my liver comes
up into my throat! If you have a mother--any of you--or if any of you
have ever had a mother--or a--grandmother--or a--"
"Cheese it! Will you give up your money, or have we got to--. There
--there--none of that! Put up your hands!"
"Gentlemen--I know you are gentlemen by your--"
"Silence! If you want to be facetious, young man, there are times and
places more fitting. This is a serious business."
"You prick the marrow of my opinion. The funerals I have attended in my
time were comedies compared to it. Now I think--"
"Curse your palaver! Your money!--your money!--your money! Hold!--put
up your hands!"
"Gentlemen, listen to reason. You see how I am situated--now don't put
those pistols so close--I smell the powder.
"You see how I am situated. If I had four hands--so that I could hold up
"Throttle him! Gag him! Kill him!"
"Gentlemen, don't! Nobody's watching the other fellow. Why don't some
of you--. Ouch! Take it away, please!
"Gentlemen, you see that I've got to hold up my hands; and so I can't take
out my money--but if you'll be so kind as to take it out for me, I will
do as much for you some--"
"Search him Beauregard--and stop his jaw with a bullet, quick, if he wags
it again. Help Beauregard, Stonewall."
Then three of them, with the small, spry leader, adjourned to Mike and
fell to searching him. I was so excited that my lawless fancy tortured
me to ask my two men all manner of facetious questions about their rebel
brother-generals of the South, but, considering the order they had
received, it was but common prudence to keep still. When everything had
been taken from me,--watch, money, and a multitude of trifles of small
value,--I supposed I was free, and forthwith put my cold hands into my
empty pockets and began an inoffensive jig to warm my feet and stir up
some latent courage--but instantly all pistols were at my head, and the
order came again:
They stood Mike up alongside of me, with strict orders to keep his hands
above his head, too, and then the chief highwayman said:
"Beauregard, hide behind that boulder; Phil Sheridan, you hide behind
that other one; Stonewall Jackson, put yourself behind that sage-bush
there. Keep your pistols bearing on these fellows, and if they take down
their hands within ten minutes, or move a single peg, let them have it!"
Then three disappeared in the gloom toward the several ambushes, and the
other three disappeared down the road toward Virginia.
It was depressingly still, and miserably cold. Now this whole thing was
a practical joke, and the robbers were personal friends of ours in
disguise, and twenty more lay hidden within ten feet of us during the
whole operation, listening. Mike knew all this, and was in the joke, but
I suspected nothing of it. To me it was most uncomfortably genuine.
When we had stood there in the middle of the road five minutes, like a
couple of idiots, with our hands aloft, freezing to death by inches,
Mike's interest in the joke began to wane. He said:
"The time's up, now, aint it?"
"No, you keep still. Do you want to take any chances with these bloody
Presently Mike said:
"Now the time's up, anyway. I'm freezing."
"Well freeze. Better freeze than carry your brains home in a basket.
Maybe the time is up, but how do we know?--got no watch to tell by.
I mean to give them good measure. I calculate to stand here fifteen
minutes or die. Don't you move."
So, without knowing it, I was making one joker very sick of his contract.
When we took our arms down at last, they were aching with cold and
fatigue, and when we went sneaking off, the dread I was in that the time
might not yet be up and that we would feel bullets in a moment, was not
sufficient to draw all my attention from the misery that racked my
The joke of these highwayman friends of ours was mainly a joke upon
themselves; for they had waited for me on the cold hill-top two full
hours before I came, and there was very little fun in that; they were so
chilled that it took them a couple of weeks to get warm again. Moreover,
I never had a thought that they would kill me to get money which it was
so perfectly easy to get without any such folly, and so they did not
really frighten me bad enough to make their enjoyment worth the trouble
they had taken. I was only afraid that their weapons would go off
accidentally. Their very numbers inspired me with confidence that no
blood would be intentionally spilled. They were not smart; they ought to
have sent only one highwayman, with a double-barrelled shot gun, if they
desired to see the author of this volume climb a tree.
However, I suppose that in the long run I got the largest share of the
joke at last; and in a shape not foreseen by the highwaymen; for the
chilly exposure on the "divide" while I was in a perspiration gave me a
cold which developed itself into a troublesome disease and kept my hands
idle some three months, besides costing me quite a sum in doctor's bills.
Since then I play no practical jokes on people and generally lose my
temper when one is played upon me.
When I returned to San Francisco I projected a pleasure journey to Japan
and thence westward around the world; but a desire to see home again
changed my mind, and I took a berth in the steamship, bade good-bye to
the friendliest land and livest, heartiest community on our continent,
and came by the way of the Isthmus to New York--a trip that was not much
of a pic-nic excursion, for the cholera broke out among us on the passage
and we buried two or three bodies at sea every day. I found home a
dreary place after my long absence; for half the children I had known
were now wearing whiskers or waterfalls, and few of the grown people I
had been acquainted with remained at their hearthstones prosperous and
happy--some of them had wandered to other scenes, some were in jail, and
the rest had been hanged. These changes touched me deeply, and I went
away and joined the famous Quaker City European Excursion and carried my
tears to foreign lands.
Thus, after seven years of vicissitudes, ended a "pleasure trip" to the
silver mines of Nevada which had originally been intended to occupy only
three months. However, I usually miss my calculations further than that.
If the reader thinks he is done, now, and that this book has no moral to
it, he is in error. The moral of it is this: If you are of any account,
stay at home and make your way by faithful diligence; but if you are "no
account," go away from home, and then you will have to work, whether you
want to or not. Thus you become a blessing to your friends by ceasing to
be a nuisance to them--if the people you go among suffer by the
BRIEF SKETCH OF MORMON HISTORY.
Mormonism is only about forty years old, but its career has been full of
stir and adventure from the beginning, and is likely to remain so to the
end. Its adherents have been hunted and hounded from one end of the
country to the other, and the result is that for years they have hated
all "Gentiles" indiscriminately and with all their might. Joseph Smith,
the finder of the Book of Mormon and founder of the religion, was driven
from State to State with his mysterious copperplates and the miraculous
stones he read their inscriptions with. Finally he instituted his
"church" in Ohio and Brigham Young joined it. The neighbors began to
persecute, and apostasy commenced. Brigham held to the faith and worked
hard. He arrested desertion. He did more--he added converts in the
midst of the trouble. He rose in favor and importance with the brethren.
He was made one of the Twelve Apostles of the Church. He shortly fought
his way to a higher post and a more powerful--President of the Twelve.
The neighbors rose up and drove the Mormons out of Ohio, and they settled
in Missouri. Brigham went with them. The Missourians drove them out and
they retreated to Nauvoo, Illinois. They prospered there, and built a
temple which made some pretensions to architectural grace and achieved
some celebrity in a section of country where a brick court-house with a
tin dome and a cupola on it was contemplated with reverential awe.
But the Mormons were badgered and harried again by their neighbors.
All the proclamations Joseph Smith could issue denouncing polygamy and
repudiating it as utterly anti-Mormon were of no avail; the people of the
neighborhood, on both sides of the Mississippi, claimed that polygamy was
practised by the Mormons, and not only polygamy but a little of
everything that was bad. Brigham returned from a mission to England,
where he had established a Mormon newspaper, and he brought back with him
several hundred converts to his preaching. His influence among the
brethren augmented with every move he made. Finally Nauvoo was invaded
by the Missouri and Illinois Gentiles, and Joseph Smith killed. A Mormon
named Rigdon assumed the Presidency of the Mormon church and government,
in Smith's place, and even tried his hand at a prophecy or two. But a
greater than he was at hand. Brigham seized the advantage of the hour
and without other authority than superior brain and nerve and will,
hurled Rigdon from his high place and occupied it himself. He did more.
He launched an elaborate curse at Rigdon and his disciples; and he
pronounced Rigdon's "prophecies" emanations from the devil, and ended by
"handing the false prophet over to the buffetings of Satan for a thousand
years"--probably the longest term ever inflicted in Illinois. The people
recognized their master. They straightway elected Brigham Young
President, by a prodigious majority, and have never faltered in their
devotion to him from that day to this. Brigham had forecast--a quality
which no other prominent Mormon has probably ever possessed.
He recognized that it was better to move to the wilderness than be moved.
By his command the people gathered together their meagre effects, turned
their backs upon their homes, and their faces toward the wilderness, and
on a bitter night in February filed in sorrowful procession across the
frozen Mississippi, lighted on their way by the glare from their burning
temple, whose sacred furniture their own hands had fired! They camped,
several days afterward, on the western verge of Iowa, and poverty, want,
hunger, cold, sickness, grief and persecution did their work, and many
succumbed and died--martyrs, fair and true, whatever else they might have
been. Two years the remnant remained there, while Brigham and a small
party crossed the country and founded Great Salt Lake City, purposely
choosing a land which was outside the ownership and jurisdiction of the
hated American nation. Note that. This was in 1847. Brigham moved his
people there and got them settled just in time to see disaster fall
again. For the war closed and Mexico ceded Brigham's refuge to the
enemy--the United States! In 1849 the Mormons organized a "free and
independent" government and erected the "State of Deseret," with Brigham
Young as its head. But the very next year Congress deliberately snubbed
it and created the "Territory of Utah" out of the same accumulation of
mountains, sage-brush, alkali and general desolation,--but made Brigham
Governor of it. Then for years the enormous migration across the plains
to California poured through the land of the Mormons and yet the church
remained staunch and true to its lord and master. Neither hunger,
thirst, poverty, grief, hatred, contempt, nor persecution could drive the
Mormons from their faith or their allegiance; and even the thirst for
gold, which gleaned the flower of the youth and strength of many nations
was not able to entice them! That was the final test. An experiment
that could survive that was an experiment with some substance to it
Great Salt Lake City throve finely, and so did Utah. One of the last
things which Brigham Young had done before leaving Iowa, was to appear in
the pulpit dressed to personate the worshipped and lamented prophet
Smith, and confer the prophetic succession, with all its dignities,
emoluments and authorities, upon "President Brigham Young!" The people
accepted the pious fraud with the maddest enthusiasm, and Brigham's power
was sealed and secured for all time. Within five years afterward he
openly added polygamy to the tenets of the church by authority of a
"revelation" which he pretended had been received nine years before by
Joseph Smith, albeit Joseph is amply on record as denouncing polygamy to
the day of his death.
Now was Brigham become a second Andrew Johnson in the small beginning and
steady progress of his official grandeur. He had served successively as
a disciple in the ranks; home missionary; foreign missionary; editor and
publisher; Apostle; President of the Board of Apostles; President of all
Mormondom, civil and ecclesiastical; successor to the great Joseph by the
will of heaven; "prophet," "seer," "revelator." There was but one
dignity higher which he could aspire to, and he reached out modestly and
took that--he proclaimed himself a God!
He claims that he is to have a heaven of his own hereafter, and that he
will be its God, and his wives and children its goddesses, princes and
princesses. Into it all faithful Mormons will be admitted, with their
families, and will take rank and consequence according to the number of
their wives and children. If a disciple dies before he has had time to
accumulate enough wives and children to enable him to be respectable in
the next world any friend can marry a few wives and raise a few children
for him after he is dead, and they are duly credited to his account and
his heavenly status advanced accordingly.
Let it be borne in mind that the majority of the Mormons have always been
ignorant, simple, of an inferior order of intellect, unacquainted with
the world and its ways; and let it be borne in mind that the wives of
these Mormons are necessarily after the same pattern and their children
likely to be fit representatives of such a conjunction; and then let it
be remembered that for forty years these creatures have been driven,
driven, driven, relentlessly! and mobbed, beaten, and shot down; cursed,
despised, expatriated; banished to a remote desert, whither they
journeyed gaunt with famine and disease, disturbing the ancient solitudes
with their lamentations and marking the long way with graves of their
dead--and all because they were simply trying to live and worship God in
the way which they believed with all their hearts and souls to be the
true one. Let all these things be borne in mind, and then it will not be
hard to account for the deathless hatred which the Mormons bear our
people and our government.
That hatred has "fed fat its ancient grudge" ever since Mormon Utah
developed into a self-supporting realm and the church waxed rich and
strong. Brigham as Territorial Governor made it plain that Mormondom was
for the Mormons. The United States tried to rectify all that by
appointing territorial officers from New England and other anti-Mormon
localities, but Brigham prepared to make their entrance into his
dominions difficult. Three thousand United States troops had to go
across the plains and put these gentlemen in office. And after they were
in office they were as helpless as so many stone images. They made laws
which nobody minded and which could not be executed. The federal judges
opened court in a land filled with crime and violence and sat as holiday
spectacles for insolent crowds to gape at--for there was nothing to try,
nothing to do nothing on the dockets! And if a Gentile brought a suit,
the Mormon jury would do just as it pleased about bringing in a verdict,
and when the judgment of the court was rendered no Mormon cared for it
and no officer could execute it. Our Presidents shipped one cargo of
officials after another to Utah, but the result was always the same--they
sat in a blight for awhile they fairly feasted on scowls and insults day
by day, they saw every attempt to do their official duties find its
reward in darker and darker looks, and in secret threats and warnings of
a more and more dismal nature--and at last they either succumbed and
became despised tools and toys of the Mormons, or got scared and
discomforted beyond all endurance and left the Territory. If a brave
officer kept on courageously till his pluck was proven, some pliant
Buchanan or Pierce would remove him and appoint a stick in his place.
In 1857 General Harney came very near being appointed Governor of Utah.
And so it came very near being Harney governor and Cradlebaugh judge!
--two men who never had any idea of fear further than the sort of murky
comprehension of it which they were enabled to gather from the
dictionary. Simply (if for nothing else) for the variety they would have
made in a rather monotonous history of Federal servility and
helplessness, it is a pity they were not fated to hold office together in
Up to the date of our visit to Utah, such had been the Territorial
record. The Territorial government established there had been a hopeless
failure, and Brigham Young was the only real power in the land. He was
an absolute monarch--a monarch who defied our President--a monarch who
laughed at our armies when they camped about his capital--a monarch who
received without emotion the news that the august Congress of the United
States had enacted a solemn law against polygamy, and then went forth
calmly and married twenty-five or thirty more wives.
THE MOUNTAIN MEADOWS MASSACRE.
The persecutions which the Mormons suffered so long--and which they
consider they still suffer in not being allowed to govern themselves
--they have endeavored and are still endeavoring to repay. The now almost
forgotten "Mountain Meadows massacre" was their work. It was very famous
in its day. The whole United States rang with its horrors. A few items
will refresh the reader's memory. A great emigrant train from Missouri
and Arkansas passed through Salt Lake City and a few disaffected Mormons
joined it for the sake of the strong protection it afforded for their
escape. In that matter lay sufficient cause for hot retaliation by the
Mormon chiefs. Besides, these one hundred and forty-five or one hundred
and fifty unsuspecting emigrants being in part from Arkansas, where a
noted Mormon missionary had lately been killed, and in part from
Missouri, a State remembered with execrations as a bitter persecutor of
the saints when they were few and poor and friendless, here were
substantial additional grounds for lack of love for these wayfarers.
And finally, this train was rich, very rich in cattle, horses, mules and
other property--and how could the Mormons consistently keep up their
coveted resemblance to the Israelitish tribes and not seize the "spoil"
of an enemy when the Lord had so manifestly "delivered it into their
Wherefore, according to Mrs. C. V. Waite's entertaining book, "The Mormon
Prophet," it transpired that--
"A 'revelation' from Brigham Young, as Great Grand Archee or God, was
dispatched to President J. C. Haight, Bishop Higbee and J. D. Lee
(adopted son of Brigham), commanding them to raise all the forces they
could muster and trust, follow those cursed Gentiles (so read the
revelation), attack them disguised as Indians, and with the arrows of the
Almighty make a clean sweep of them, and leave none to tell the tale; and
if they needed any assistance they were commanded to hire the Indians as
their allies, promising them a share of the booty. They were to be
neither slothful nor negligent in their duty, and to be punctual in
sending the teams back to him before winter set in, for this was the
mandate of Almighty God."
The command of the "revelation" was faithfully obeyed. A large party of
Mormons, painted and tricked out as Indians, overtook the train of
emigrant wagons some three hundred miles south of Salt Lake City, and
made an attack. But the emigrants threw up earthworks, made fortresses
of their wagons and defended themselves gallantly and successfully for
five days! Your Missouri or Arkansas gentleman is not much afraid of the
sort of scurvy apologies for "Indians" which the southern part of Utah
affords. He would stand up and fight five hundred of them.
At the end of the five days the Mormons tried military strategy. They
retired to the upper end of the "Meadows," resumed civilized apparel,
washed off their paint, and then, heavily armed, drove down in wagons to
the beleaguered emigrants, bearing a flag of truce! When the emigrants
saw white men coming they threw down their guns and welcomed them with
cheer after cheer! And, all unconscious of the poetry of it, no doubt,
they lifted a little child aloft, dressed in white, in answer to the flag
The leaders of the timely white "deliverers" were President Haight and
Bishop John D. Lee, of the Mormon Church. Mr. Cradlebaugh, who served a
term as a Federal Judge in Utah and afterward was sent to Congress from
Nevada, tells in a speech delivered in Congress how these leaders next
"They professed to be on good terms with the Indians, and represented
them as being very mad. They also proposed to intercede and settle the
matter with the Indians. After several hours parley they, having
(apparently) visited the Indians, gave the ultimatum of the savages;
which was, that the emigrants should march out of their camp, leaving
everything behind them, even their guns. It was promised by the Mormon
bishops that they would bring a force and guard the emigrants back to the
settlements. The terms were agreed to, the emigrants being desirous of
saving the lives of their families. The Mormons retired, and
subsequently appeared with thirty or forty armed men. The emigrants were
marched out, the women and children in front and the men behind, the
Mormon guard being in the rear. When they had marched in this way about
a mile, at a given signal the slaughter commenced. The men were almost
all shot down at the first fire from the guard. Two only escaped, who
fled to the desert, and were followed one hundred and fifty miles before
they were overtaken and slaughtered. The women and children ran on, two
or three hundred yards further, when they were overtaken and with the aid
of the Indians they were slaughtered. Seventeen individuals only, of all
the emigrant party, were spared, and they were little children, the
eldest of them being only seven years old. Thus, on the 10th day of
September, 1857, was consummated one of the most cruel, cowardly and
bloody murders known in our history."
The number of persons butchered by the Mormons on this occasion was one
hundred and twenty.
With unheard-of temerity Judge Cradlebaugh opened his court and proceeded
to make Mormondom answer for the massacre. And what a spectacle it must
have been to see this grim veteran, solitary and alone in his pride and
his pluck, glowering down on his Mormon jury and Mormon auditory,
deriding them by turns, and by turns "breathing threatenings and
An editorial in the Territorial Enterprise of that day says of him and of
"He spoke and acted with the fearlessness and resolution of a Jackson;
but the jury failed to indict, or even report on the charges, while
threats of violence were heard in every quarter, and an attack on the
U.S. troops intimated, if he persisted in his course.
"Finding that nothing could be done with the juries, they were discharged
with a scathing rebuke from the judge. And then, sitting as a committing
magistrate, he commenced his task alone. He examined witnesses, made
arrests in every quarter, and created a consternation in the camps of the
saints greater than any they had ever witnessed before, since Mormondom
was born. At last accounts terrified elders and bishops were decamping
to save their necks; and developments of the most starling character were
being made, implicating the highest Church dignitaries in the many
murders and robberies committed upon the Gentiles during the past eight
Had Harney been Governor, Cradlebaugh would have been supported in his
work, and the absolute proofs adduced by him of Mormon guilt in this
massacre and in a number of previous murders, would have conferred
gratuitous coffins upon certain citizens, together with occasion to use
them. But Cumming was the Federal Governor, and he, under a curious
pretense of impartiality, sought to screen the Mormons from the demands
of justice. On one occasion he even went so far as to publish his
protest against the use of the U.S. troops in aid of Cradlebaugh's
Mrs. C. V. Waite closes her interesting detail of the great massacre with
the following remark and accompanying summary of the testimony--and the
summary is concise, accurate and reliable:
"For the benefit of those who may still be disposed to doubt the guilt of
Young and his Mormons in this transaction, the testimony is here collated
and circumstances given which go not merely to implicate but to fasten
conviction upon them by 'confirmations strong as proofs of Holy Writ:'
"1. The evidence of Mormons themselves, engaged in the affair, as shown
by the statements of Judge Cradlebaugh and Deputy U.S. Marshall Rodgers.
"2. The failure of Brigham Young to embody any account of it in his
Report as Superintendent of Indian Affairs. Also his failure to make any
allusion to it whatever from the pulpit, until several years after the
"3. The flight to the mountains of men high in authority in the Mormon
Church and State, when this affair was brought to the ordeal of a
"4. The failure of the Deseret News, the Church organ, and the only
paper then published in the Territory, to notice the massacre until
several months afterward, and then only to deny that Mormons were engaged
"5. The testimony of the children saved from the massacre.
"6. The children and the property of the emigrants found in possession
of the Mormons, and that possession traced back to the very day after the
"7. The statements of Indians in the neighborhood of the scene of the
massacre: these statements are shown, not only by Cradlebaugh and
Rodgers, but by a number of military officers, and by J. Forney, who was,
in 1859, Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Territory. To all
these were such statements freely and frequently made by the Indians.
"8. The testimony of R. P. Campbell, Capt. 2d Dragoons, who was sent in
the Spring of 1859 to Santa Clara, to protect travelers on the road to
California and to inquire into Indian depredations."
CONCERNING A FRIGHTFUL ASSASSINATION THAT WAS NEVER CONSUMMATED
If ever there was a harmless man, it is Conrad Wiegand, of Gold Hill,
Nevada. If ever there was a gentle spirit that thought itself unfired
gunpowder and latent ruin, it is Conrad Wiegand. If ever there was an
oyster that fancied itself a whale; or a jack-o'lantern, confined to a
swamp, that fancied itself a planet with a billion-mile orbit; or a
summer zephyr that deemed itself a hurricane, it is Conrad Wiegand.
Therefore, what wonder is it that when he says a thing, he thinks the
world listens; that when he does a thing the world stands still to look;
and that when he suffers, there is a convulsion of nature? When I met
Conrad, he was "Superintendent of the Gold Hill Assay Office"--and he was
not only its Superintendent, but its entire force. And he was a street
preacher, too, with a mongrel religion of his own invention, whereby he
expected to regenerate the universe. This was years ago. Here latterly
he has entered journalism; and his journalism is what it might be
expected to be: colossal to ear, but pigmy to the eye. It is extravagant
grandiloquence confined to a newspaper about the size of a double letter
sheet. He doubtless edits, sets the type, and prints his paper, all
alone; but he delights to speak of the concern as if it occupies a block
and employs a thousand men.
[Something less than two years ago, Conrad assailed several people
mercilessly in his little "People's Tribune," and got himself into
trouble. Straightway he airs the affair in the "Territorial Enterprise,"
in a communication over his own signature, and I propose to reproduce it
here, in all its native simplicity and more than human candor. Long as
it is, it is well worth reading, for it is the richest specimen of
journalistic literature the history of America can furnish, perhaps:]
From the Territorial Enterprise, Jan. 20, 1870.
SEEMING PLOT FOR ASSASSINATION MISCARRIED.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE ENTERPRISE: Months ago, when Mr. Sutro incidentally
exposed mining management on the Comstock, and among others roused me to
protest against its continuance, in great kindness you warned me that any
attempt by publications, by public meetings and by legislative action,
aimed at the correction of chronic mining evils in Storey County, must
entail upon me (a) business ruin, (b) the burden of all its costs, (c)
personal violence, and if my purpose were persisted in, then (d)
assassination, and after all nothing would be effected.
YOUR PROPHECY FULFILLING.
In large part at least your prophecies have been fulfilled, for (a)
assaying, which was well attended to in the Gold Hill Assay Office (of
which I am superintendent), in consequence of my publications, has been
taken elsewhere, so the President of one of the companies assures me.
With no reason assigned, other work has been taken away. With but one or
two important exceptions, our assay business now consists simply of the
gleanings of the vicinity. (b) Though my own personal donations to the
People's Tribune Association have already exceeded $1,500, outside of our
own numbers we have received (in money) less than $300 as contributions
and subscriptions for the journal. (c) On Thursday last, on the main
street in Gold Hill, near noon, with neither warning nor cause assigned,
by a powerful blow I was felled to the ground, and while down I was
kicked by a man who it would seem had been led to believe that I had
spoken derogatorily of him. By whom he was so induced to believe I am as
yet unable to say. On Saturday last I was again assailed and beaten by a
man who first informed me why he did so, and who persisted in making his
assault even after the erroneous impression under which he also was at
first laboring had been clearly and repeatedly pointed out. This same
man, after failing through intimidation to elicit from me the names of
our editorial contributors, against giving which he knew me to be
pledged, beat himself weary upon me with a raw hide, I not resisting, and
then pantingly threatened me with permanent disfiguring mayhem, if ever
again I should introduce his name into print, and who but a few minutes
before his attack upon me assured me that the only reason I was
"permitted" to reach home alive on Wednesday evening last (at which time
the PEOPLE'S TRIBUNE was issued) was, that he deems me only half-witted,
and be it remembered the very next morning I was knocked down and kicked
by a man who seemed to be prepared for flight.
[He sees doom impending:]
WHEN WILL THE CIRCLE JOIN?
How long before the whole of your prophecy will be fulfilled I cannot
say, but under the shadow of so much fulfillment in so short a time, and
with such threats from a man who is one of the most prominent exponents
of the San Francisco mining-ring staring me and this whole community
defiantly in the face and pointing to a completion of your augury, do you
blame me for feeling that this communication is the last I shall ever
write for the Press, especially when a sense alike of personal
self-respect, of duty to this money-oppressed and fear-ridden community,
and of American fealty to the spirit of true Liberty all command me, and
each more loudly than love of life itself, to declare the name of that
prominent man to be JOHN B. WINTERS, President of the Yellow Jacket
Company, a political aspirant and a military General? The name of his
partially duped accomplice and abettor in this last marvelous assault, is
no other than PHILIP LYNCH, Editor and Proprietor of the Gold Hill News.
Despite the insult and wrong heaped upon me by John B. Winters, on
Saturday afternoon, only a glimpse of which I shall be able to afford
your readers, so much do I deplore clinching (by publicity) a serious
mistake of any one, man or woman, committed under natural and not
self-wrought passion, in view of his great apparent excitement at the
time and in view of the almost perfect privacy of the assault, I am far
from sure that I should not have given him space for repentance before
exposing him, were it not that he himself has so far exposed the matter
as to make it the common talk of the town that he has horsewhipped me.
That fact having been made public, all the facts in connection need to be
also, or silence on my part would seem more than singular, and with many
would be proof either that I was conscious of some unworthy aim in
publishing the article, or else that my "non-combatant" principles are
but a convenient cloak alike of physical and moral cowardice. I
therefore shall try to present a graphic but truthful picture of this
whole affair, but shall forbear all comments, presuming that the editors
of our own journal, if others do not, will speak freely and fittingly
upon this subject in our next number, whether I shall then be dead or
living, for my death will not stop, though it may suspend, the
publication of the PEOPLE'S TRIBUNE. [The "non-combatant" sticks to
principle, but takes along a friend or two of a conveniently different
THE TRAP SET.
On Saturday morning John B. Winters sent verbal word to the Gold Hill
Assay Office that he desired to see me at the Yellow Jacket office.
Though such a request struck me as decidedly cool in view of his own
recent discourtesies to me there alike as a publisher and as a
stockholder in the Yellow Jacket mine, and though it seemed to me more
like a summons than the courteous request by one gentleman to another for
a favor, hoping that some conference with Sharon looking to the
betterment of mining matters in Nevada might arise from it, I felt
strongly inclined to overlook what possibly was simply an oversight in
courtesy. But as then it had only been two days since I had been bruised
and beaten under a hasty and false apprehension of facts, my caution was
somewhat aroused. Moreover I remembered sensitively his contemptuousness
of manner to me at my last interview in his office. I therefore felt it
needful, if I went at all, to go accompanied by a friend whom he would
not dare to treat with incivility, and whose presence with me might
secure exemption from insult. Accordingly I asked a neighbor to
THE TRAP ALMOST DETECTED.
Although I was not then aware of this fact, it would seem that previous
to my request this same neighbor had heard Dr. Zabriskie state publicly
in a saloon, that Mr. Winters had told him he had decided either to kill
or to horsewhip me, but had not finally decided on which. My neighbor,
therefore, felt unwilling to go down with me until he had first called on
Mr. Winters alone. He therefore paid him a visit. From that interview
he assured me that he gathered the impression that he did not believe I
would have any difficulty with Mr. Winters, and that he (Winters) would
call on me at four o'clock in my own office.
MY OWN PRECAUTIONS.
As Sheriff Cummings was in Gold Hill that afternoon, and as I desired to
converse with him about the previous assault, I invited him to my office,
and he came. Although a half hour had passed beyond four o'clock, Mr.
Winters had not called, and we both of us began preparing to go home.
Just then, Philip Lynch, Publisher of the Gold Hill News, came in and
said, blandly and cheerily, as if bringing good news:
"Hello, John B. Winters wants to see you."
I replied, "Indeed! Why he sent me word that he would call on me here
this afternoon at four o'clock!"
"O, well, it don't do to be too ceremonious just now, he's in my office,
and that will do as well--come on in, Winters wants to consult with you
alone. He's got something to say to you."
Though slightly uneasy at this change of programme, yet believing that in
an editor's house I ought to be safe, and anyhow that I would be within
hail of the street, I hurriedly, and but partially whispered my dim
apprehensions to Mr. Cummings, and asked him if he would not keep near
enough to hear my voice in case I should call. He consented to do so
while waiting for some other parties, and to come in if he heard my voice
or thought I had need of protection.
On reaching the editorial part of the News office, which viewed from the
street is dark, I did not see Mr. Winters, and again my misgivings arose.
Had I paused long enough to consider the case, I should have invited
Sheriff Cummings in, but as Lynch went down stairs, he said: "This way,
Wiegand--it's best to be private," or some such remark.
[I do not desire to strain the reader's fancy, hurtfully, and yet it
would be a favor to me if he would try to fancy this lamb in battle, or
the duelling ground or at the head of a vigilance committee--M. T.:]
I followed, and without Mr. Cummings, and without arms, which I never do
or will carry, unless as a soldier in war, or unless I should yet come to
feel I must fight a duel, or to join and aid in the ranks of a necessary
Vigilance Committee. But by following I made a fatal mistake. Following
was entering a trap, and whatever animal suffers itself to be caught
should expect the common fate of a caged rat, as I fear events to come
Traps commonly are not set for benevolence.
[His body-guard is shut out:]
THE TRAP INSIDE.
I followed Lynch down stairs. At their foot a door to the left opened
into a small room. From that room another door opened into yet another
room, and once entered I found myself inveigled into what many will ever
henceforth regard as a private subterranean Gold Hill den, admirably
adapted in proper hands to the purposes of murder, raw or disguised, for
from it, with both or even one door closed, when too late, I saw that I
could not be heard by Sheriff Cummings, and from it, BY VIOLENCE AND BY
FORCE, I was prevented from making a peaceable exit, when I thought I saw
the studious object of this "consultation" was no other than to compass
my killing, in the presence of Philip Lynch as a witness, as soon as by
insult a proverbially excitable man should be exasperated to the point of
assailing Mr. Winters, so that Mr. Lynch, by his conscience and by his
well known tenderness of heart toward the rich and potent would be
compelled to testify that he saw Gen. John B. Winters kill Conrad Wiegand
in "self-defence." But I am going too fast.
Mr. Lynch was present during the most of the time (say a little short of
an hour), but three times he left the room. His testimony, therefore,
would be available only as to the bulk of what transpired. On entering
this carpeted den I was invited to a seat near one corner of the room.
Mr. Lynch took a seat near the window. J. B. Winters sat (at first) near
the door, and began his remarks essentially as follows:
"I have come here to exact of you a retraction, in black and white, of
those damnably false charges which you have preferred against me in
that---infamous lying sheet of yours, and you must declare yourself their
author, that you published them knowing them to be false, and that your
motives were malicious."
"Hold, Mr. Winters. Your language is insulting and your demand an
enormity. I trust I was not invited here either to be insulted or
coerced. I supposed myself here by invitation of Mr. Lynch, at your
"Nor did I come here to insult you. I have already told you that I am
here for a very different purpose."
"Yet your language has been offensive, and even now shows strong
excitement. If insult is repeated I shall either leave the room or call
in Sheriff Cummings, whom I just left standing and waiting for me outside
"No, you won't, sir. You may just as well understand it at once as not.
Here you are my man, and I'll tell you why! Months ago you put your
property out of your hands, boasting that you did so to escape losing it
on prosecution for libel."
"It is true that I did convert all my immovable property into personal
property, such as I could trust safely to others, and chiefly to escape
ruin through possible libel suits."
"Very good, sir. Having placed yourself beyond the pale of the law, may
God help your soul if you DON'T make precisely such a retraction as I
have demanded. I've got you now, and by--before you can get out of this
room you've got to both write and sign precisely the retraction I have
demanded, and before you go, anyhow--you---low-lived--lying---, I'll
teach you what personal responsibility is outside of the law; and, by--,
Sheriff Cummings and all the friends you've got in the world besides,
can't save you, you---, etc.! No, sir. I'm alone now, and I'm prepared
to be shot down just here and now rather than be villified by you as I
have been, and suffer you to escape me after publishing those charges,
not only here where I am known and universally respected, but where I am
not personally known and may be injured."
I confess this speech, with its terrible and but too plainly implied
threat of killing me if I did not sign the paper he demanded, terrified
me, especially as I saw he was working himself up to the highest possible
pitch of passion, and instinct told me that any reply other than one of
seeming concession to his demands would only be fuel to a raging fire,
so I replied:
"Well, if I've got to sign--," and then I paused some time. Resuming,
I said, "But, Mr. Winters, you are greatly excited. Besides, I see you
are laboring under a total misapprehension. It is your duty not to
inflame but to calm yourself. I am prepared to show you, if you will
only point out the article that you allude to, that you regard as
'charges' what no calm and logical mind has any right to regard as such.
Show me the charges, and I will try, at all events; and if it becomes
plain that no charges have been preferred, then plainly there can be
nothing to retract, and no one could rightly urge you to demand a
retraction. You should beware of making so serious a mistake, for
however honest a man may be, every one is liable to misapprehend.
Besides you assume that I am the author of some certain article which you
have not pointed out. It is hasty to do so."
He then pointed to some numbered paragraphs in a TRIBUNE article, headed
"What's the Matter with Yellow Jacket?" saying "That's what I refer to."
To gain time for general reflection and resolution, I took up the paper
and looked it over for awhile, he remaining silent, and as I hoped,
cooling. I then resumed saying, "As I supposed. I do not admit having
written that article, nor have you any right to assume so important a
point, and then base important action upon your assumption. You might
deeply regret it afterwards. In my published Address to the People, I
notified the world that no information as to the authorship of any
article would be given without the consent of the writer. I therefore
cannot honorably tell you who wrote that article, nor can you exact it."
"If you are not the author, then I do demand to know who is?"
"I must decline to say."
"Then, by--, I brand you as its author, and shall treat you accordingly."
"Passing that point, the most important misapprehension which I notice
is, that you regard them as 'charges' at all, when their context, both at
their beginning and end, show they are not. These words introduce them:
'Such an investigation [just before indicated], we think MIGHT result in
showing some of the following points.' Then follow eleven specifications,
and the succeeding paragraph shows that the suggested investigation
'might EXONERATE those who are generally believed guilty.' You see,
therefore, the context proves they are not preferred as charges, and this
you seem to have overlooked."
While making those comments, Mr. Winters frequently interrupted me in
such a way as to convince me that he was resolved not to consider
candidly the thoughts contained in my words. He insisted upon it that
they were charges, and "By--," he would make me take them back as
charges, and he referred the question to Philip Lynch, to whom I then
appealed as a literary man, as a logician, and as an editor, calling his
attention especially to the introductory paragraph just before quoted.
He replied, "if they are not charges, they certainly are insinuations,"
whereupon Mr. Winters renewed his demands for retraction precisely such
as he had before named, except that he would allow me to state who did
write the article if I did not myself, and this time shaking his fist in
my face with more cursings and epithets.
When he threatened me with his clenched fist, instinctively I tried to
rise from my chair, but Winters then forcibly thrust me down, as he did
every other time (at least seven or eight), when under similar imminent
danger of bruising by his fist (or for aught I could know worse than that
after the first stunning blow), which he could easily and safely to
himself have dealt me so long as he kept me down and stood over me.
This fact it was, which more than anything else, convinced me that by
plan and plot I was purposely made powerless in Mr. Winters' hands, and
that he did not mean to allow me that advantage of being afoot, which he
possessed. Moreover, I then became convinced, that Philip Lynch (and for
what reason I wondered) would do absolutely nothing to protect me in his
own house. I realized then the situation thoroughly. I had found it
equally vain to protest or argue, and I would make no unmanly appeal for
pity, still less apologize. Yet my life had been by the plainest
possible implication threatened. I was a weak man. I was unarmed. I
was helplessly down, and Winters was afoot and probably armed. Lynch was
the only "witness." The statements demanded, if given and not explained,
would utterly sink me in my own self-respect, in my family's eyes, and in
the eyes of the community. On the other hand, should I give the author's
name how could I ever expect that confidence of the People which I should
no longer deserve, and how much dearer to me and to my family was my life
than the life of the real author to his friends. Yet life seemed dear
and each minute that remained seemed precious if not solemn. I sincerely
trust that neither you nor any of your readers, and especially none with
families, may ever be placed in such seeming direct proximity to death
while obliged to decide the one question I was compelled to, viz.: What
should I do--I, a man of family, and not as Mr. Winters is, "alone."
[The reader is requested not to skip the following.--M. T.:]
STRATEGY AND MESMERISM.
To gain time for further reflection, and hoping that by a seeming
acquiescence I might regain my personal liberty, at least till I could
give an alarm, or take advantage of some momentary inadvertence of
Winters, and then without a cowardly flight escape, I resolved to write a
certain kind of retraction, but previously had inwardly decided:
First.--That I would studiously avoid every action which might be
construed into the drawing of a weapon, even by a self-infuriated man, no
matter what amount of insult might be heaped upon me, for it seemed to me
that this great excess of compound profanity, foulness and epithet must
be more than a mere indulgence, and therefore must have some object.
"Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird." Therefore,
as before without thought, I thereafter by intent kept my hands away from
my pockets, and generally in sight and spread upon my knees.
Second.--I resolved to make no motion with my arms or hands which could
possibly be construed into aggression.
Third.--I resolved completely to govern my outward manner and suppress
indignation. To do this, I must govern my spirit. To do that, by force
of imagination I was obliged like actors on the boards to resolve myself
into an unnatural mental state and see all things through the eyes of an
Fourth.--I resolved to try on Winters, silently, and unconsciously to
himself a mesmeric power which I possess over certain kinds of people,
and which at times I have found to work even in the dark over the lower
Does any one smile at these last counts? God save you from ever being
obliged to beat in a game of chess, whose stake is your life, you having
but four poor pawns and pieces and your adversary with his full force
unshorn. But if you are, provided you have any strength with breadth of
will, do not despair. Though mesmeric power may not save you, it may
help you; try it at all events. In this instance I was conscious of
power coming into me, and by a law of nature, I know Winters was
correspondingly weakened. If I could have gained more time I am sure he
would not even have struck me.
It takes time both to form such resolutions and to recite them. That
time, however, I gained while thinking of my retraction, which I first
wrote in pencil, altering it from time to time till I got it to suit me,
my aim being to make it look like a concession to demands, while in fact
it should tersely speak the truth into Mr. Winters' mind. When it was
finished, I copied it in ink, and if correctly copied from my first draft
it should read as follows. In copying I do not think I made any material
To Philip Lynch, Editor of the Gold Hill News: I learn that Gen. John B.
Winters believes the following (pasted on) clipping from the PEOPLE'S
TRIBUNE of January to contain distinct charges of mine against him
personally, and that as such he desires me to retract them unqualifiedly.
In compliance with his request, permit me to say that, although Mr.
Winters and I see this matter differently, in view of his strong feelings
in the premises, I hereby declare that I do not know those "charges" (if
such they are) to be true, and I hope that a critical examination would
altogether disprove them.
Gold Hill, January 15, 1870.
I then read what I had written and handed it to Mr. Lynch, whereupon Mr.
"That's not satisfactory, and it won't do;" and then addressing himself
to Mr. Lynch, he further said: "How does it strike you?"
"Well, I confess I don't see that it retracts anything."
"Nor do I," said Winters; "in fact, I regard it as adding insult to
injury. Mr. Wiegand you've got to do better than that. You are not the
man who can pull wool over my eyes."
"That, sir, is the only retraction I can write."
"No it isn't, sir, and if you so much as say so again you do it at your
peril, for I'll thrash you to within an inch of your life, and, by--,
sir, I don't pledge myself to spare you even that inch either. I want
you to understand I have asked you for a very different paper, and that
paper you've got to sign."
"Mr. Winters, I assure you that I do not wish to irritate you, but, at
the same time, it is utterly impossible for me to write any other paper
than that which I have written. If you are resolved to compel me to sign
something, Philip Lynch's hand must write at your dictation, and if, when
written, I can sign it I will do so, but such a document as you say you
must have from me, I never can sign. I mean what I say."
"Well, sir, what's to be done must be done quickly, for I've been here
long enough already. I'll put the thing in another shape (and then
pointing to the paper); don't you know those charges to be false?"
"I do not."
"Do you know them to be true?"
"Of my own personal knowledge I do not."
"Why then did you print them?"
"Because rightly considered in their connection they are not charges, but
pertinent and useful suggestions in answer to the queries of a
correspondent who stated facts which are inexplicable."
"Don't you know that I know they are false?"
"If you do, the proper course is simply to deny them and court an
"And do YOU claim the right to make ME come out and deny anything you may
choose to write and print?"
To that question I think I made no reply, and he then further said:
"Come, now, we've talked about the matter long enough. I want your final
answer--did you write that article or not?"
"I cannot in honor tell you who wrote it."
"Did you not see it before it was printed?"
"Most certainly, sir."
"And did you deem it a fit thing to publish?"
"Most assuredly, sir, or I would never have consented to its appearance.
Of its authorship I can say nothing whatever, but for its publication I
assume full, sole and personal responsibility."
"And do you then retract it or not?"
"Mr. Winters, if my refusal to sign such a paper as you have demanded
must entail upon me all that your language in this room fairly implies,
then I ask a few minutes for prayer."
"Prayer!---you, this is not your hour for prayer--your time to pray was
when you were writing those--lying charges. Will you sign or not?"
"You already have my answer."
"What! do you still refuse?"
"I do, sir."
"Take that, then," and to my amazement and inexpressible relief he drew
only a rawhide instead of what I expected--a bludgeon or pistol. With
it, as he spoke, he struck at my left ear downwards, as if to tear it
off, and afterwards on the side of the head. As he moved away to get a
better chance for a more effective shot, for the first time I gained a
chance under peril to rise, and I did so pitying him from the very bottom
of my soul, to think that one so naturally capable of true dignity, power
and nobility could, by the temptations of this State, and by unfortunate
associations and aspirations, be so deeply debased as to find in such
brutality anything which he could call satisfaction--but the great hope
for us all is in progress and growth, and John B. Winters, I trust, will
yet be able to comprehend my feelings.
He continued to beat me with all his great force, until absolutely weary,
exhausted and panting for breath. I still adhered to my purpose of
non-aggressive defence, and made no other use of my arms than to defend
my head and face from further disfigurement. The mere pain arising from
the blows he inflicted upon my person was of course transient, and my
clothing to some extent deadened its severity, as it now hides all
When I supposed he was through, taking the butt end of his weapon and
shaking it in my face, he warned me, if I correctly understood him, of
more yet to come, and furthermore said, if ever I again dared introduce
his name to print, in either my own or any other public journal, he would
cut off my left ear (and I do not think he was jesting) and send me home
to my family a visibly mutilated man, to be a standing warning to all
low-lived puppies who seek to blackmail gentlemen and to injure their
good names. And when he did so operate, he informed me that his
implement would not be a whip but a knife.
When he had said this, unaccompanied by Mr. Lynch, as I remember it, he
left the room, for I sat down by Mr. Lynch, exclaiming: "The man is mad
--he is utterly mad--this step is his ruin--it is a mistake--it would be
ungenerous in me, despite of all the ill usage I have here received, to
expose him, at least until he has had an opportunity to reflect upon the
matter. I shall be in no haste."
"Winters is very mad just now," replied Mr. Lynch, "but when he is
himself he is one of the finest men I ever met. In fact, he told me the
reason he did not meet you upstairs was to spare you the humiliation of a
beating in the sight of others."
I submit that that unguarded remark of Philip Lynch convicts him of
having been privy in advance to Mr. Winters' intentions whatever they may
have been, or at least to his meaning to make an assault upon me, but I
leave to others to determine how much censure an editor deserves for
inveigling a weak, non-combatant man, also a publisher, to a pen of his
own to be horsewhipped, if no worse, for the simple printing of what is
verbally in the mouth of nine out of ten men, and women too, upon the
While writing this account two theories have occurred to me as possibly
true respecting this most remarkable assault:
First--The aim may have been simply to extort from me such admissions as
in the hands of money and influence would have sent me to the
Penitentiary for libel. This, however, seems unlikely, because any
statements elicited by fear or force could not be evidence in law or
could be so explained as to have no force. The statements wanted so
badly must have been desired for some other purpose.
Second--The other theory has so dark and wilfully murderous a look that I
shrink from writing it, yet as in all probability my death at the
earliest practicable moment has already been decreed, I feel I should do
all I can before my hour arrives, at least to show others how to break up
that aristocratic rule and combination which has robbed all Nevada of
true freedom, if not of manhood itself. Although I do not prefer this
hypothesis as a "charge," I feel that as an American citizen I still have
a right both to think and to speak my thoughts even in the land of Sharon
and Winters, and as much so respecting the theory of a brutal assault
(especially when I have been its subject) as respecting any other
apparent enormity. I give the matter simply as a suggestion which may
explain to the proper authorities and to the people whom they should
represent, a well ascertained but notwithstanding a darkly mysterious
fact. The scheme of the assault may have been:
First--To terrify me by making me conscious of my own helplessness after
making actual though not legal threats against my life.
Second--To imply that I could save my life only by writing or signing
certain specific statements which if not subsequently explained would
eternally have branded me as infamous and would have consigned my family
to shame and want, and to the dreadful compassion and patronage of the
Third--To blow my brains out the moment I had signed, thereby preventing
me from making any subsequent explanation such as could remove the
Fourth--Philip Lynch to be compelled to testify that I was killed by John
B. Winters in self-defence, for the conviction of Winters would bring
him in as an accomplice. If that was the programme in John B. Winters'
mind nothing saved my life but my persistent refusal to sign, when that
refusal seemed clearly to me to be the choice of death.
The remarkable assertion made to me by Mr. Winters, that pity only spared
my life on Wednesday evening last, almost compels me to believe that at
first he could not have intended me to leave that room alive; and why I
was allowed to, unless through mesmeric or some other invisible
influence, I cannot divine. The more I reflect upon this matter, the
more probable as true does this horrible interpretation become.
The narration of these things I might have spared both to Mr. Winters and
to the public had he himself observed silence, but as he has both
verbally spoken and suffered a thoroughly garbled statement of facts to
appear in the Gold Hill News I feel it due to myself no less than to this
community, and to the entire independent press of America and Great
Britain, to give a true account of what even the Gold Hill News has
pronounced a disgraceful affair, and which it deeply regrets because of
some alleged telegraphic mistake in the account of it. [Who received the
Though he may not deem it prudent to take my life just now, the
publication of this article I feel sure must compel Gen. Winters (with
his peculiar views about his right to exemption from criticism by me) to
resolve on my violent death, though it may take years to compass it.
Notwithstanding I bear him no ill will; and if W. C. Ralston and William
Sharon, and other members of the San Francisco mining and milling Ring
feel that he above all other men in this State and California is the most
fitting man to supervise and control Yellow Jacket matters, until I am
able to vote more than half their stock I presume he will be retained to
grace his present post.
Meantime, I cordially invite all who know of any sort of important
villainy which only can be cured by exposure (and who would expose it if
they felt sure they would not be betrayed under bullying threats), to
communicate with the PEOPLE'S TRIBUNE; for until I am murdered, so long
as I can raise the means to publish, I propose to continue my efforts at
least to revive the liberties of the State, to curb oppression, and to
benefit man's world and God's earth.
[It does seem a pity that the Sheriff was shut out, since the good sense
of a general of militia and of a prominent editor failed to teach them
that the merited castigation of this weak, half-witted child was a thing
that ought to have been done in the street, where the poor thing could
have a chance to run. When a journalist maligns a citizen, or attacks
his good name on hearsay evidence, he deserves to be thrashed for it,
even if he is a "non-combatant" weakling; but a generous adversary would
at least allow such a lamb the use of his legs at such a time.--M. T.]