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  • 1902
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When the _San Antonio_ returned to Mexico, it left at Monterey Padre Junipero Serra and five other priests, Lieutenant Pedro Fages and thirty soldiers. The settlement was at once made capital of Alta California, and Portola appointed the first governor. The Presidio (an enclosure about three hundred yards square, containing a chapel, store-houses, offices, residences, and a barracks) was the nucleus of the city; but the mission was soon removed to a beautiful valley about six miles distant, where there was more room, better shelter from the cold west winds, and an unrivalled prospect. The valley is now known as Carmelo.

A fort was built upon a little hill commanding the settlement, and life began in good earnest. What followed? Mexico threw off the Spanish yoke; California was hence forth subject to Mexico alone. The news spread; vessels gathered in the harbor, and enormous profits were realized on the sale and shipment of the hides of wild cattle lately roaming upon a thousand hills.

Then came gradual changes in the government; they culminated in 1846 when Captain Mervin, at the head of two hundred and fifty men, raised the Stars and Stripes over Monterey, and a proclamation was read declaring California a portion of the United States.

The Rev. Walter Colton, once chaplain of the United States frigate _Congress_, was appointed first alcalde; and the result was the erection of a stone courthouse, which was long the chief ornament of the town; and, somewhat later, the publication of Alcalde Colton’s highly interesting volume, entitled “Three Years in California.”


In 1829 Captain Robinson, the author of “Life in California” in the good old mission days, wrote thus of his first sight of Monterey: “The sun had just risen, and, glittering through the lofty pines that crowned the summit of the eastern hills, threw its light upon the lawn beneath. On our left was the Presidio, with its chapel dome and towering flag-staff in conspicuous elevation. On the right, upon a rising ground, was seen the _castillo_, or fort, surmounted by some ten or a dozen cannon. The intervening space between these two points was enlivened by the hundred scattered dwellings that form the town, and here and there groups of cattle grazing.

“After breakfast G. and myself went on shore, on a visit to the Commandant, Don Marian Estrada, whose residence stood in the central part of the town, in the usual route from the beach to the Presidio. In external appearance, notwithstanding it was built of adobe–brick made by the mixture of soft mud and straw, moulded and dried in the sun,–it was not displeasing; for the outer walls had been plastered and whitewashed, giving it a cheerful and inviting aspect. Like all dwellings in the warm countries of America, it was but one story in height, covered with tiles, and occupied, in its entire premises, an extensive square.

“Our Don was standing at his door; and as we approached, he sallied forth to meet us with true Castilian courtesy; embraced G., shook me cordially by the hand, then bowed us ceremoniously into the _sala_. Here we seated ourselves upon a sofa at his right. During conversation _cigarritos_ passed freely; and, although thus early in the day, a proffer was made of refreshments.”

In 1835 R.H. Dana, Jr., the author of “Two Years before the Mast,” found Monterey but little changed; some of the cannon were unmounted, but the Presidio was still the centre of life on the Pacific coast, and the town was apparently thriving. Day after day the small boats plied between ship and shore, and the population gave themselves up to the delights of shopping. Shopping was done on shipboard; each ship was a storehouse of attractive and desirable merchandise, and the little boats were kept busy all day long bearing customers to and fro.

In 1846 prices were ruinously high, as the alcalde was free to confess–he being a citizen of the United States and a clergyman into the bargain. Unbleached cottons, worth 6 cents per yard in New York, brought 50 cents, 60 cents, 75 cents in old Monterey. Cowhide shoes were $10 per pair; the most ordinary knives and forks, $10 per dozen; poor tea, $3 per pound; truck-wheels, $75 per pair. The revenue of these enormous imposts passed into the hands of private individuals, who had placed themselves by violence or fraud at the head of the Government.

In those days a “blooded” horse and a pack of cards were thought to be among the necessaries of life. One of the luxuries was a _rancho_ sixty miles in length, owned by Captain Sutter in the valley of the Sacramento. Native prisoners, arrested for robbery and confined in the adobe jail at Monterey, clamored for their guitars, and the nights were filled with music until the rascals swung at half-mast.

In August, 1846, _The Californian_, the first newspaper established on the coast, was issued by Colton & Semple. The type and press were once the property of the Franciscan friars, and used by them; and in the absence of the English _w_, the compositors on _The Californian_ doubled the Spanish _v_. The journal was printed half in English and half in Spanish, on cigarette paper about the size of a sheet of fools-cap. Terms, $3 per year in advance; single copies, 12-1/2 cents each. Semple was a man just suited to the newspaper office he occupied; he stood six feet eight inches in moccasins, was dressed in buckskin, and wore a foxskin cap.

The first jury of the alcaldean court was empanelled in September, 1846. Justice flourished for about three years. In 1849 Bayard Taylor wrote: “Monterey has the appearance of a deserted town: few people in the streets, business suspended,” etc. Rumors of gold had excited the cupidity of the inhabitants, and the capital was deserted; elsewhere was metal more attractive. The town never recovered from that shock. It gradually declined until few, save Bohemian artists and Italian and Chinese fishermen, took note of it. The settlement was obsolete in my day; the survivors seemed to have lost their memories and their interest in everything. Thrice in my early pilgrimages I asked where the Presidio had stood; on these occasions did the oldest inhabitant and his immediate juniors vaguely point me to three several quarters of the town. I believe in my heart that the pasture in front of the old church–then sacred to three cows and a calf–was the cradle of civilization in the far West.

[Illustration: San Carlos de Carmelo]

The original custom-house–there was no mistaking it, for it was founded on a rock–overhung the sea, while the waves broke gently at its base, and rows of sea-gulls sat solemnly on the skeletons of stranded whales scattered along the beach. A Captain Lambert dwelt on the first floor of the building; a goat fed in the large hall–it bore the complexion of a stable–where once the fashionable element tripped the light fantastic toe. In those days the first theatre in the State was opened with brilliant success, and the now long-forgotten Binghams appeared in that long-forgotten drama, “Putnam, or the Lion Son of ’76.” The never-to-be-discourteously-mentioned years of our pioneers, ’49 and ’50, “were memorable eras in the Thespian records of Monterey,” says the guide-book. They were indeed; for Lieutenant Derby, known to the literary world as “John Phoenix” and “Squibob,” was one of the leading spirits of the stage. But the Thespian records came to an untimely end, and it must be confessed that Monterey no longer tempts the widely strolling player.

I saw her in decay, the once flourishing capital. The old convent was windowless, and its halls half filled with hay; the barracks and the calaboose, inglorious ruins; the Block House and the Fort, mere shadows of their former selves. As for Colton Hall–the town-hall, named in honor of its builder, the first alcalde,–it is a modern-looking structure, that scarcely harmonizes with the picturesque adobes that surround it. Colton said of it: “It has been erected out of the slender proceeds of town lots, the labor of the convicts, taxes on liquor shops, and fines on gamblers. The scheme was regarded with incredulity by many; but the building is finished, and the citizens have assembled in it, and christened it after my name, which will go down to posterity with the odor of gamblers, convicts and tipplers.” Bless his heart! he need not have worried himself. No one seems to know or care how the building was constructed; and as for the name it bears, it is as savory as any.

The church was built in 1794, and dedicated as the parish church in 1834, when the missions were secularized and Carmelo abandoned. It is the most interesting structure in the town. Much of the furniture of the old mission is preserved here: the holy vessels beaten out of solid silver; rude but not unattractive paintings by nameless artists–perhaps by the friars themselves,–landmarks of a crusade that was gloriously successful, but the records of which are fading from the face of the earth.

Doubtless the natives who had flourished under the nourishing care of the mission in its palmy days, wagged their heads wittingly when the brig _Natalia_ met her fate. Tradition says Napoleon I. made his escape from Elba on that brig. It was by the _Natalia_ that Hijar, Director of Colonization, arrived for the purpose of secularizing the missions; and his scheme was soon accomplished. But the winds blew, and the waves rose and beat upon the little brig, and laid her bones in the sands of Monterey. It is whispered that when the sea is still and the water clear, and the tide very, very low, one may catch faint glimpses of the skeleton of the _Natalia_ swathed in its shroud of weeds.

There are two attractions in the vicinity, without which I fear Monterey would have ultimately passed from the memory of man. These are the mission at Carmelo, and the Druid grove at Cypress Point. In the edge of the town there is a cross which marks the spot where Padre Junipero Serra sang his first Mass at Monterey. It was a desolate picture when I last saw it. It stood but a few yards from the sea, in a lonely hollow. It was a favorite subject with the artists who found their way thither, and who were wont to paint it upon the sea-shells that lay almost within reach. Now a marble statue of Junipero Serra, erected by Mrs. Leland Stanford, marks the spot.

Six miles away, beyond the hills, above the shallow river, in sight of the sparkling sea, is the ruin of Carmelo. From the cross by the shore to the church beyond the hills, one reads the sacred history of the coast from _alpha_ to _omega_. This, the most famous, if not the most beautiful, of all the Franciscan missions, has suffered the common fate. In my day the roof was wanting; the stone arches were crumbling one after another; the walls were tufted with sun-dried grass; everywhere the hand of Vandalism had scrawled his initials or his name. The nave of the church was crowded with neglected graves. Fifteen governors of the territory mingle their dust with that consecrated earth, but there was never so much as a pebble to mark the spot where they lie. Even the saintly Padre Junipero, who founded the mission, and whose death was grimly heroic, lay until recent years in an unknown tomb. Thanks to the pious efforts of the late Father Cassanova, the precious remains of Junipero Serra, together with those of three other friars of the mission, were discovered, identified, and honorably reentombed.

From 1770 to 1784 Padre Junipero Serra entered upon the parish record all baptisms, marriages, and deaths. These ancient volumes are carefully preserved, and are substantially bound in leather; the writing is bold and legible, and each entry is signed “Fray Junipero Serra,” with an odd little flourish of the pen beneath. The last entry is dated July 30, 1784; then Fray Francesco Palou, an old schoolmate of Junipero Serra, and a brother friar, records the death of his famous predecessor, and with it a brief recital of his life work, and the circumstances at the close of it.

Junipero Serra took the habit of the order of St. Francis at the age of seventeen; filled distinguished positions in Spain and Mexico before going to California; refused many tempting and flattering honors; was made president of the fifteen missions of Lower California–long since abandoned; lived to see his last mission thrive mightily, and died at the age of seventy–long before the fall of the crowning work of his life.

Feeling the approach of death, Junipero Serra confessed himself to Fray Palou; went through the Church offices for the dying; joined in the hymn _Tantum Ergo_ “with elevated and sonorous tones,” saith the chronicle,–the congregation, hearing him intone his death chaunt, were awed into silence, so that the dying man’s voice alone finished the hymn; then he repaired to his cell, where he passed the night in prayer. The following morning he received the captain and chaplain of a Spanish vessel lying in the harbor, and said, cheerfully, he thanked God that these visitors, who had traversed so much of sea and land, had come to throw a little earth upon his body. Anon he asked for a cup of broth, which he drank at the table in the refectory; was then assisted to his bed, where he had scarcely touched the pillow when, without a murmur, he expired.

In anticipation of his death, he had ordered his own coffin to be made by the mission carpenter; and his remains were at once deposited in it. So precious was the memory of this man in his own day that it was with the utmost difficulty his coffin was preserved from destruction; for the populace, venerating even the wooden case that held the remains of their spiritual Father, clamored for the smallest fragment; and, though a strong body-guard watched over it until the interment, a portion of his vestment was abstracted during the night. One thinks of this and of the overwhelming sorrow that swept through the land when this saintly pioneer fell at the head of his legion.

The California mission reached the height of its prosperity forty years later, when it owned 87,600 head of cattle, 60,000 sheep, 2,300 calves, 1,800 horses, 365 yoke of oxen, much merchandise, and $40,000 in specie. Tradition hints that this money was buried when a certain piratical-looking craft was seen hovering about the coast.

This wealth is all gone now–scattered among the people who have allowed the dear old mission to fall into sad decay. What a beautiful church it must have been, with its quaint carvings, its star-window that seems to have been blown out of shape in some wintry wind, and all its lines hardened again in the sunshine of the long, long summer; with its Saracenic door!–what memories the _Padres_ must have brought with them of Spain and the Moorish seal that is set upon it! Here we have evidence of it painfully wrought out by the hands of rude Indian artisans. The ancient bells have been carried away into unknown parts; the owl hoots in the belfry; the hills are shown of their conventual tenements; while the wind and the rain and a whole heartless company of iconoclasts have it all their own way.

Once in the year, on San Carlos’ Day, Mass is sung in the only habitable corner of the ruin; the Indians and the natives gather from all quarters, and light candles among the graves, and mourn and mourn and make a strange picture of the place; then they go their way, and the owl returns, and the weeds grow ranker, and every hour there is a straining among the weakened joists, and a creaking and a crumbling in many a nook and corner; and so the finest historical relic in the land is suffered to fall into decay. Or, perhaps I should say, that was the sorry state of Carmelo in my day. I am assured that every effort is now being made to restore and preserve beautiful Carmelo.


She was a dear old stupid town in my day. She boasted but half a dozen thinly populated streets. One might pass through these streets almost any day, at almost any hour of the day, footing it all the way from the dismantled fort on the seaside to the ancient cemetery, grown to seed, at the other extremity of the settlement, and not meet half a score of people.

Geese fed in the gutters, and hissed as I passed by; cows grazing by the wayside eyed me in grave surprise; overhead, the snow-white sea-gulls wheeled and cried peevishly; and on the heights that shelter the ex-capital the pine-trees moaned and moaned, and often caught and held the sea-fog among their branches, when the little town was basking in the sunshine and dreaming its endless dream.

How did a man kill time in those days? There was a studio on Alvarado Street; it stood close to the post-office, in what may be generously denominated as the busiest part of the town. The studio was the focus of life and hope and love; some work was also supposed to be done there. It was the headquarters of the idle and the hungry, and the seeker after consolation in all its varied forms. Choice family groceries were retailed three times a day in the rear of the establishment; and there we often gathered about the Bohemian board, to celebrate whatever our fancy painted. Now it was an imaginary birthday–a movable feast that came to be very popular in our select artistic circle; again it was the possible–dare I say probable?–sale of a picture at a quite inconceivable price. There were always occasions enough. Would it had been the case with the dinners!

The studio was the thing,–the studio, decked with Indian trophies and the bleached bones of sea birds and land beasts, and lined with studies in all colors under heaven. Here was the oft-lighted peace-pipe; and Orient rugs and wolf-skins for a _siesta_ when the beach yonder was a blaze of white and blinding light, that made it blessed to close one’s eyes and shut out the glare–and to keep one’s ears open to the lulling song of the sea.

Here we concocted a plan. It was to be kept a profound mystery; even the butcher was unaware, and the baker in total darkness; as for the wine-merchant, he was as blind as a bat. We were to give the banquet and ball of the season. We went to the hall of our sisters,–scarcely kin were they, but kinder never lived, and their house was at our disposal. We threw out the furniture; we made a green bower of the adobe chamber. One window, that bore upon the forlorn vacuum of the main street, was speedily stained the deepest and most splendid dyes; from without, it had a pleasing, not to say refining, medieval effect; from within, it was likened unto the illuminated page of an antique antiphonary–in flames; yes, positively in flames!

A great board was laid the length of the room, a kind of Round Table–with some few unavoidable innovations, such as a weak leg or two, square corners, and an unexpected depression in the centre of it, where the folding leaves sought in vain to join. From the wall depended the elaborate _menu_, life-size and larger; and at every course a cartoon in color more appetizing than the town market. The emblematic owl blinked upon us from above the door. Invitations were hastily penned and sent forth to a select few. Forgive us, Dona Jovita, if thy guest card was redolent of tea or of brown soap; for it was penned in the privacy of the pantry, and either upon the Scylla of the tea-caddy or the soapy Charybdis it was sure to be dashed at last.

It was rare fun, if I did say it from the foot of the flower-strewn table, clad in an improvised toga, while a gentleman in Joss-like vestments carved and complimented in a single breath at the top of the Bohemian board. From the adjoining room came the music of hired minstrels: the guitar, the violin, and blending voices–a piping tenor and a soft Spanish _falsetto_. They chanted rhythmically to the clatter of tongues, the ripple of laughter, and the clash of miscellaneous cutlery.

An unbidden multitude, gathered from the highways, and the byways, loitered about the vicinity, patiently–O how patiently!–awaiting our adjournment. The fandango naturally followed; and it enlivened the vast, bare chambers of an adjoining adobe, whose walls had not echoed such revelry since the time when Monterey was the chief port of the Northern Pacific, and basked in the sunshine of a prosperous monopoly. A good portion of the town was there that evening. Shadowy forms hovered in the arbors of the rose garden; the city band appeared and rendered much pleasing music,–though it was rendered somewhat too vigorously. That band was composed of the bone and sinew of the town. Oft in the daytime had I not heard the flageolet lifting its bird-like voice over the counter of the juvenile jeweller, who wrought cunningly in the shimmering abalone shells during the rests in his music? Did not the trombone bray from beyond the meadow, where the cooper could not barrel his aspiring soul? It was the French-horn at the butcher’s, the fife at the grocer’s, the cornet in the chief saloon on the main street; while at the edge of the town, from the soot and grime of the smithy, I heard at intervals the boom of the explosive drum. It was thus they responded to one another on that melodious shore, and with an ambitious diligence worthy of the Royal Conservatory.

There was nothing to disturb one in the land, after the musical mania, save the clang of the combers on the long, lonely beach; the cry of the sea-bird wheeling overhead, or the occasional bang of a rifle. Even the narrow-gauge railway, that stopped discreetly just before reaching the village, broke the monotony of local life but twice in the twenty-four hours. The whistle of the arriving and departing train, the signal of the occasional steamer–ah! but for these, what a sweet, sad, silent spot were that! I used to believe that possibly some day the unbroken stillness of the wilderness might again envelop it. The policy of the people invited it. Anything like energy or progress was discouraged in that latitude. When it was discovered that the daily mail per Narrow Gauge was arriving regularly and usually on time, it began to look like indecent haste on the part of the governmental agents. The beauty and the chivalry that congregated at the post-office seemed to find too speedy satisfaction at the general delivery window; and presently the mail-bag for Monterey was dropped at another village, and later carted twenty miles into town. The happy uncertainty of the mail’s arrival caused the post-office to become a kind of forum, where all the grievances of the populace were turned loose and generally discussed.

Then it seemed possible that the Narrow Gauge might be frowned down altogether, and the locomotive warned to cease trespassing upon the green pastures of the ex-capital. It even seemed possible that in course of time all aliens might require a passport and a recommendation from their last place before being permitted to enter in and enjoy the society of the authorities brooding over that slumberous village.

I have seen as many as six men and a boy standing upon one of the half-dozen street corners of the town, watching, with a surprise that bordered upon impertinence, a white pilgrim from San Francisco in an ulster, innocently taking his way through the otherwise deserted streets. The ulster was perhaps the chief object of interest. I have seen three or four citizens sitting in a row, on a fence, like so many rooks,–and sitting there for hours, as if waiting for something. For what, pray? For the demented squaw, who revolved about the place, and slept out of doors in all weathers, and muttered to herself incessantly while she went to and fro, day after day, seeking the rest she could not hope for this side the grave? Or for Murillo, the Indian, impudent though harmless, full of fancies and fire-water? Or for the return of the whale-boats, with their beautiful lateen-sails? Or for the gathering of the Neapolitan fishermen down under the old Custom House, where they sat at evening looking off upon the Bay, and perchance dreaming of Italy and all that enchanted coast? Or for the rains that poured their sudden and swift rivulets down the wooded slopes and filled the gorges that gutted some of the streets? Was it the love of nature, or a belief in fatalism, or sheer laziness, I wonder, that preserved to Monterey those washouts, from two to five feet in depth, that were sometimes in the very middle of the streets, and impassable save by an improvised bridge–a single plank?

Ah me! It is an ungracious task to prick the bubble reputation, had I not been dazzled with dreams of Monterey from my youth up! Was I piqued when I, then a citizen of San Francisco–one of the three hundred thousand,–when I read in “The Handbook of Monterey” these lines: “San Francisco is not too firmly fixed to fear the competition of Monterey”?

Well, I may as well confess myself a false prophet. The town fell into the hands of Croesus, and straightway lost its identity. It is now a fashionable resort, and likely to remain one for some years to come. Where now can one look for the privacy of old? Then, if one wished to forget the world, he drove through a wilderness to Cypress Point. Now ’tis a perpetual picnic ground, and its fastnesses are threaded by a drive which is one of the features of Del Monte Hotel life. It was solemn enough of yore. The gaunt trees were hung with funereal mosses; they had huge elbows and shoulders, and long, thin arms, with skeleton fingers at the ends of them, that bore knots that looked like heads and faces such as Dore portrayed in his fantastic illustrations. They were like giants transformed,–they are still, no doubt; for the tide of fashion is not likely to prevail against them.

They stand upon the verge of the sea, where they have stood for ages, defying the elements. The shadows that gather under their locked branches are like caverns and dungeons and lairs. The fox steals stealthily away as you grope among the roots, that writhe out of the earth and strike into it again, like pythons in a rage. The coyote sits in the edge of the dusk, and cries with a half-human cry–at least he did in my dead day. And here are corpse-like trees, that have been naked for ages; every angle of their lean, gray boughs seems to imply something. Who will interpret these hieroglyphics? Blood-red sunsets flood this haunted wood; there is a sound as of a deep-drawn sigh passing through it at intervals. The moonlight fills it with mystery; and along its rocky front, where the sea-flowers blossom and the sea-grass waves its glossy locks, the soul of the poet and of the artist meet and mingle between shadowless sea and cloudless sky, in the unsearchable mystery of that cypress solitude.

So have I seen it; so would I see it again. When I think on that beach at Monterey–the silent streets, the walled, unweeded gardens–a wistful Saturday-afternoon feeling comes over me. I hear again the incessant roar of the surf; I see the wheeling gulls, the gray sand; the brown, bleak meadows; the empty streets; the shops, tenantless sometimes–for the tenant is at dinner or at dominos; the other shops that are locked forever and the keys rusted away;–whenever I think of her I am reminded of that episode in Coulton’s diary, where he, as alcalde, was awakened from a deep sleep at the dead of night by a guard, a novice, and a slave to duty. With no little consternation, the alcalde hastened to unbar the door. The guard, with a respectful salute, said: “The town, sir, is perfectly quiet.”


It was reception night at the Palace Hotel. As usual the floating population of San Francisco had drifted into the huge court of that luxurious caravansary, and was ebbing and eddying among the multitudes of white and shining columns that support the six galleries under the crystal roof. The band reveled in the last popular waltz, the hum of the spectators was hushed, but among the galleries might be seen pairs of adolescent youths and maidens swaying to the rhythmical melody. We were taking wine and cigarettes with the Colonel. He was always at home to us on Monday nights, and even our boisterous chat was suspended while the blustering trumpeters in the court below blew out their delirious music. It was at this moment that Bartholomew beckoned me to follow him from the apartment. We quietly repaired to the gallery among the huge vases of palms and creepers, and there, bluntly and without a moment’s warning, the dear fellow blurted out this startling revelation: “I have made an engagement for you; be ready on Thursday next at 4 p.m.; meet me here; all arrangements are effected; say not a word, but come; and I promise you one of the jolliest experiences of the season.” All this was delivered in a high voice, to the accompaniment of drums and cymbals; he concluded with the last flourish of the bandmaster’s baton, and the applause of the public followed. Certainly dramatic effect could go no further. I was more than half persuaded, and yet, when the applause had ceased, the dancers unwound themselves, and the low rumble of a thousand restless feet rang on the marble pavement below, I found voice sufficient to ask the all-important question, “But what is the nature of this engagement?” To which he answered, “Oh, we’re going down the coast for a few days, you and I, and Alf and Croesus. A charming bungalow by the sea; capital bathing, shooting, fishing; nice quiet time generally; back Monday morning in season for biz!” This was certainly satisfactory as far as it went, but I added, by way of parenthesis, “and who else will be present?” knowing well enough that one uncongenial spirit might be the undoing of us all. To this Bartholomew responded, “No one but ourselves, old fellow; now don’t be queer.” He knew well enough my aversion to certain elements unavoidable even in the best society, and how I kept very much to myself, except on Monday nights when we all smoked and laughed with the Colonel–whose uncommonly charming wife was abroad for the summer; and on Tuesday and Saturday nights, when I was at the club, and on Wednesdays, when I did the theatricals of the town, and on Thursdays and Fridays–but never mind! girls were out of the question in my case, and he knew that the bachelor hall where I preside was as difficult of access as a cloister. I might not have given my word without further deliberation, had not the impetuous Colonel seized us bodily and borne us back into his smoking-room, where he was about to shatter the wax on a flagon of wine, a brand of fabulous age and excellence. Bartholomew nodded to Alf, Alf passed the good news to Croesus, for we were all at the Colonel’s by common consent, and so it happened that the compact was made for Thursday.

That Thursday, at 4 p.m. we were on our way to the station at 4:30; the town-houses were growing few and far between, as the wheels of the coaches spun over the iron road. At five o’clock the green fields of the departed spring, already grown bare and brown, rolled up between us and the horizon. California is a naked land and no mistake, but how beautiful in her nakedness! An hour later we descended at School-house station; such is the matter-of-fact pet-name given to a cluster of dull houses, once known by some melodious but forgotten Spanish appellation. The ranch wagon awaited us; a huge springless affair, or if it had springs they were of that aggravating stiffness that adds insult to injury. Excellent beasts dragged us along a winding, dusty road, over hill, down dale, into a land that grew more and more lonely; not exactly “a land where it was always afternoon,” but apparently always a little later in the day, say 7 p.m. or thereabouts. We were rapidly wending our way towards the coast, and on the breezy hill-top a white fold of sea-fog swept over and swathed us in its impalpable snow. Oh! the chill, the rapturous agony of that chill. Do you know what sea-fog is? It is the bodily, spiritual and temporal life of California; it is the immaculate mantle of the unclad coast; it feeds the hungry soil, gives drink unto the thirsting corn, and clothes the nakedness of nature. It is the ghost of unshed showers–atomized dew, precipitated in life-bestowing avalanches upon a dewless and parched shore; it is the good angel that stands between a careless people and contagion; it is heaven-sent nourishment. It makes strong the weak; makes wise the foolish–you don’t go out a second time in midsummer without your wraps–and it is altogether the freshest, purest, sweetest, most picturesque, and most precious element in the physical geography of the Pacific Slope. It is worth more to California than all her gold, and silver, and copper, than all her corn and wine–in short, it is simply indispensable.

This is the fog that dashed under our hubs like noiseless surf, filled up the valleys in our lee, shut the sea-view out entirely, and finally left us on a mountaintop–our last ascension, thank Heaven!–with nothing but clouds below us and about us, and we sky-high and drenched to the very bone.

The fog broke suddenly and rolled away, wrapped in pale and splendid mystery; it broke for us as we were upon the edge of a bluff. For some moments we had been listening to the ever-recurring sob of the sea. There at our feet curled the huge breakers, shouldering the cliff as if they would hurl it from its foundation. A little further on in the gloaming was the last hill of all; from its smooth, short summit we could look into the Delectable Land by candle light, and mark how invitingly stands a bungalow by the sea’s margin at the close of a dusty day.

On the summit we paused; certain unregistered packages under the wagon, which had preyed at intervals upon the minds of Alf, Croesus, and Bartholomew, were now drawn forth. Life is a series of surprises; surprise No. 1, a brace of long, tapering javelins having villainous-looking heads, i.e., two marine rockets, with which to rend the heavens, and notify the vassals at the bungalow of our approach. One of these rockets we planted with such care that having touched it off, it could not free itself, but stood stock still and with vicious fury blew off in a cloud of dazzling sparks. The dry grass flamed in a circle about us; never before had we fought fire with wildly-waving ulsters, but they prove excellent weapons in engagements of this character, I assure you. Profiting by fatiguing experience, we poised the second rocket so deftly that it could not fail to rise. On it we hung our hopes, light enough burdens if they were all as faint as mine. With the spurt of a match we touched it, a stream of flaky gold rushed forth and then, as if waiting to gather strength, _biff_! and away she went. Never before soared rocket so beautifully; it raked the very stars; its awful voice died out in the dim distance; with infinite grace it waved its trail of fire, and then spat forth such constellations of variegated stars–you would have thought a rainbow had burst into a million fragments–that shamed the very planets, and made us think mighty well of ourselves and our achievement. There was still a long dark mile between us and the bungalow; on this mile were strung a fordable stream, a ragged village of Italian gardeners, some monstrous looking hay-stacks, and troops of dogs that mouthed horribly as we ploughed through the velvety dust.

The bungalow at last! at the top of an avenue of trees–and such a bungalow! A peaked roof that sheltered everything, even the deepest verandas imaginable; the rooms few, but large and airy; everything wide open and one glorious blaze of light. A table spread with the luxuries of the season, which in California means four seasons massed in one. Flowers on all sides; among these flowers Japanese lanterns of inconceivable forms and colors. These hung two or three deep–without, within, above, below; nothing but light and fragrance, and mirth and song. We were howling a chorus as we drove up, and were received with a musical welcome, bubbling over with laughter from the lips of three pretty girls, dressed in white and pink–probably the whitest and pinkest girls in all California; and this was surprise No. 2.

Perfect strangers to me were these young ladies; but, like most confirmed bachelors, I rather like being with the adorable sex, when I find myself translated as if by magic.

We were formed of the dust of the earth–there was no denying the fact, and we speedily withdrew; but before our dinner toilets were completed, such a collection of appetizers was sent in to us as must distinguish forever the charming hostess who concocted them. I need not recall the dinner. Have you ever observed that there is no real pleasure in reviving the memory of something good to eat? Suffice it to state that the dinner was such a one as was most likely to be laid for us under the special supervision of three blooming maidens, who had come hither four and twenty hours in advance of us for this special purpose. That night we played for moderate stakes until the hours were too small to be mentioned. I forget who won; but it was probably the girls, who were as clever at cards as they were at everything else. We ultimately retired, for the angel of sleep visits even a Californian bungalow, though his hours are a trifle irregular. Our rooms, two large chambers, with folding doors thrown back, making the two as one, contained four double beds; in one of the rooms was a small altar, upon which stood a statue of the Madonna, veiled in ample folds of lace and crowned with a coronet of natural flowers; vases of flowers were at her feet, and lighted tapers flickered on either hand. The apartment occupied by the young ladies was at the other corner of the bungalow; the servants, a good old couple, retainers in Alf’s family, slept in a cottage adjoining. We retired manfully; we had smoked our last smoke, and were not a little fatigued; hence this readiness on our part to lay down the burdens and cares of the day. When the lights were extinguished the moon, streaming in at the seaward windows, flooded the long rooms. It was a glorious night; no sound disturbed its exquisite serenity save the subdued murmur of the waves, softened by an intervening hillock on which the cypress trees stood like black and solemn sentinels of the night.

[Illustration: “The Huge Court of that Luxurious Caravansary.”]

I think I must have dozed, for it first seemed like a dream–the crouching figures that stole in Indian file along the carpet from bed to bed; but soon enough I wakened to a reality, for the Phillistines were upon us, and the pillows fell like aerolites out of space. The air was dense with flying bed-clothes; the assailants, Bartholomew and Alf, his right-hand man, fell upon us with school-boy fury; they made mad leaps, and landed upon our stomachs. We grappled in deadly combat; not an article of furniture was left unturned; not one mattress remained upon another. We made night hideous for some moments. We roused the ladies from their virgin sleep, but paid little heed to their piteous pleadings. The treaty of peace, which followed none too soon–the pillow-cases were like fringes and the sheets were linen shreds–culminated in a round of night-caps which for potency and flavor have, perhaps, never been equalled in the history of the vine.

Then we _did_ sleep–the sleep of the just, who have earned their right to it; the sleep of the horny-handed son of the soil, whose muscles relax with a jerk that awakens the sleeper to a realizing sense that he has been sleeping and is going to sleep again at his earliest convenience: the sweet, intense, and gracious sleep of innocence–out of which we were awakened just before breakfast time by the most considerate of hostesses and her ladies of honor, who sent into us the reviving cup, without which, I fear, we could not have begun the new day in a spirit appropriate to the occasion.

The first day at the bungalow was Friday and, of course, a fast day; we observed the rule with a willingness which, I trust, the recording angel made a note of. There was a bath at the beach toward mid-day, followed by a cold collation in the shelter of a rude chalet, which served the ladies in the absence of the customary bathing-machine. Lying upon rugs spread over the sand we chatted until a drowsy mood persuaded us to return to the bungalow and indulge in a _siesta_. It being summer, and a California summer by the sea, a huge log fire blazed upon the evening hearth; cards and the jingle of golden counters again kept us at the table till the night was far spent. Need I add that the ladies presented a petition with the customary night-cap, praying that the gentlemen in the double-chamber would omit the midnight gymnastics upon retiring, and go to sleep like “good boys.” It had been our intention to do so; we were not wholly restored, for the festivities of the night previous had been prolonged and fatiguing.

We began our preparations by wheeling the four bedsteads into one room. It seemed to us cosier to be sleeping thus together; indeed, it was quite a distance from the extremity of one room to the extremity of the other. Resigning ourselves to the pillows, each desired his neighbor to extinguish the lights; no one moved to perform this necessary duty. We slept, or pretended to sleep, and for some moments the bungalow was quiet as the grave. In the midst of this refreshing silence a panic seized us; with one accord we sprang to arms; the pillows, stripped of their cases on the night previous, again darkened the air. We leaped gaily from bed to bed, and in turn, took every corner of the room by storm; the shout of victory mingled with the cry for mercy. There was one solitary voice for peace; it was the voice of the vexed hostess, and it was followed by the suspension of hostilities and the instant quenching of the four tapers, each blown by an individual mouth, after which we groped back to our several couches in a state of charming uncertainty as to which was which.

Saturday followed, and, of all Saturdays in the year, it chanced to be the vigil of a feast, and therefore a day of abstinence. The ladies held the key of the larder, and held it, permit me to add, with a clenched hand. It may be that all boys are not like our boys; that there are those who, having ceased to elongate and increase in the extremities out of all proportion, are willing to fast from day to day; who no longer lust after the flesh-pots, and whose appetites are governable–but ours were not. The accustomed fish of a Friday was welcome, but Saturday was out of the question. “Something too much of this,” said Croesus the Sybarite. “Amen!” cried the affable Alf. There was an unwonted fire in the eye of Bartholomew when he asked for a dispensation at the hands of the hostess, and was refused.

All day the maidens sought to lighten our burden of gloom; the sports in the bath were more brilliant than usual. We adjourned to the hay-loft and told stories till our very tongues were tired. It is true that egg-nogg at intervals consoled us; but when we had awakened from a refreshing sleep among the hay, and fought a battle that ended in victory for the Amazons and our ignominious flight, we bore the scars of burr and hay-seed for hours afterwards. Cold turkey and cranberry sauce at midnight had been promised to us, yet how very distant that seemed. Hunger cried loudly for beef and bouillon, and a strategic movement was planned upon the spot.

The gaming, which followed a slim supper, was not so interesting as usual. At intervals we consulted the clock; how the hours lagged! Croesus poured his gold upon the table in utter distraction. The maidens, who sat in sack-cloth and ashes, sorrowing for our sins, left the room at intervals to assure themselves that the larder was intact. We, also, quietly withdrew from time to time. Once, all three of the girls fled in consternation–the footsteps of Bartholomew had been heard in the vicinity of the cupboard; but it was a false alarm, and the game was at once resumed. Now, indeed, the hours seemed to fly. To our surprise, upon referring to the clock, the hands stood at ten minutes to twelve. So swiftly speed the moments when the light hearts of youth beat joyously in the knowledge that it is almost time to eat!

Twelve o’clock! Cold turkey, cranberry sauce, champagne, etc., and no more fasting till the sixth day. Having devastated the board, we must needs betray our folly by comparing the several timepieces. Alf stood at five minutes to eleven; Bartholomew some minutes behind him; Croesus, with his infallible repeater, was but 10:45; as for me, I had discreetly run down. The secret was out. The clock had been tampered with, and the trusting maids betrayed. At first they laughed with us; then they sneered, and then they grew wroth, and went apart in deep dismay. The dining-hall resounded with our hollow mirth; like the scriptural fool, we were laughing at our own folly. The ladies solemnly re-entered; our hostess, the spokeswoman, said, with the voice of an oracle, “You will regret this before morning.” Still feigning to be merry, we went speedily to bed, but there was no night-cap sent to soothe us; and the lights went out noiselessly and simultaneously.

After the heavy and regular breathing had set in–I think all slept save myself–light footsteps were heard without. Why should one turn a key in a bungalow whose hospitality is only limited by the boundary line of the county surveyor? Our keys were not turned, in fact,–too late–we discovered there were no keys to turn. In the dim darkness–the moon lent us little aid at the moment–our door was softly thrown open, and the splash of fountains could be heard; it was the sound of many waters. As I listened to it in a half dream, it fell upon my ear most musically, and then it fell upon my nose, and eyes, and mouth; it seemed as if the windows of heaven were opened, as if the dreadful deluge had come again. I soon discovered what it was. I threw the damp bed clothes over my head and awaited further developments. I began to think they never would come–I mean the developments. Meanwhile the garden hose, in the hands of the irate maidens, played briskly upon the four quarters of the room–not a bed escaped the furious stream. Nothing was left that was not saturated and soaked, sponge-full. The floor ran torrents; our boots floated away upon the mimic tide. We lay like inundated mummies, but spake never a word. Possibly the girls thought we were drowned; at all events, they withdrew in consternation, leaving the hose so that it still belched its unwelcome waters into the very centre of our drenched apartment.

Rising at last from our clammy shrouds, we gave chase; but the water-nymphs had fled. Then we barricaded the bungalow, and held a council of war. Sitting in moist conclave, we were again assailed and driven back to our rooms, which might now be likened to a swimming bath at low-tide. We shrieked for stimulants, but were stoutly denied, and then we took to the woods in a fit of indignation, bordering closely upon a state of nature.

I thought to bury myself in the trackless wild; to end my days in the depths of the primeval forest. But I remembered how a tiger-cat had been lately seen emerging from these otherwise alluring haunts, and returned at once to the open, where I glistened in the moonlight, now radiant, and shivered at the thought of the possible snakes coiling about my feet. My disgust of life was full; yet in the midst of it I saw the reviving flames dancing upon the hearth-stone, and the click of glasses recalled me to my senses.

We returned in a body, a defeated brotherhood, accepting as a peace-offering such life-giving draughts as compelled us, almost against our will, to drink to the very dregs in token of full surrender. Then rheumatism and I lay down together, and a little child might have played with any two of us. I assured my miserable companions that “I was not accustomed to such treatment.” Alf added that “it was more than he had bargained for.” Bartholomew had neither speech nor language wherewith to vent his spleen. As for the bland and blooming Croesus–he who had been lapped in luxury and cradled in delight–it was his private opinion, publicly expressed, that “the like of it was unknown in the annals of social history.”

[Illustration: “The Gallery Among the Huge Vases of Palms and Creepers.”]

Yet on the Sunday–our final day at the bungalow–you would have thought that the gods had assembled together to hold sweet converse; and, when we lounged in the shadow of the invisible Ida, never looked the earth more fair to us. The whole land was in blossom from the summit to the sea; the gardeners, as they walked among their vines, prated of Sicily and sang songs of their Sun-land. There was no chapel at hand, and no mass for the repose of souls that had been sorely troubled; but the charm of those young women–they were salving our wounds as women know how to do–and the voluptuous feast that was laid for us, when we emptied the fatal larder; the music, and the thousand arts employed to restore beauty and order out of the last night’s chaos, made us better than new men, and it taught us a lesson we never shall forget–though from that hour to this, neither one nor the other of us, in any way, shape, or fashion whatever, has referred in the remotest degree to that eventful night in a Californian bungalow.


“Primeval California” was inscribed on the knapsack of the Artist, on the portmanteau of Foster, the Artist’s chum, and on the fly-leaf of the note-book of the Scribe. The luggage of the boisterous trio was checked through to the heart of the Red Woods, where a vacation camp was pitched. The expected “last man” leaped the chasm that was rapidly widening between the city front of San Francisco and the steamer bound for San Rafael, and approached us–the trio above referred to–with a slip of paper in his hand. It was not a subpoena; it was not a dun; it was a round-robin of farewells from a select circle of admirers, wishing us joy, Godspeed, success in art and literature, and a safe return at last.

The wind blew fair; we were at liberty for an indefinite period. In forty minutes we struck another shore and another clime. San Francisco is original in its affectation of ugliness–it narrowly escaped being a beautiful city–and its humble acceptation of a climate which is as invigorating as it is unscrupulous, having a peculiar charm which is seldom discovered until one is beyond its spell. Sailing into the adjacent summer,–summer is intermittent in the green city of the West,–we passed into the shadow of Mount Tamalpais, the great landmark of the coast. The admirable outline of the mountain, however, was partially obscured by the fog, already massing along its slopes.

The narrow-gauge of the N.P.C.R.R. crawls like a snake from the ferry on the bay to the roundhouse over and beyond the hills, but seven miles from the sea-mouth of the Russian River. It turns very sharp corners, and turns them every few minutes; it doubles in its own trail, runs over fragile trestle-work, darts into holes and re-appears on the other side of the mountains, roars through strips of redwoods like a rushing wind, skirts the shore of bleak Tomales Bay, cuts across the potato district and strikes the redwoods again, away up among the saw-mills at the logging-camps, where it ends abruptly on a flat under a hill. And what a flat it is!–enlivened with a first-class hotel, some questionable hostelries, a country store, a post-office and livery-stable, and a great mill buzzing in an artificial desert of worn brown sawdust.

Here, after a five hours’ ride, we alighted at Duncan’s Mills, hard by the river, and with a girdle of hills all about us–high, round hills, as yellow as brass when they are not drenched with fog. In the twilight we watched the fog roll in, trailing its lace-like skirts among the highland forests. How still the river was! Not a ripple disturbed it; there was no perceptible current, for after the winter floods subside, the sea throws up a wall of sand that chokes the stream, and the waters slowly gather until there is volume enough to clear it. Then come the rains and the floods, in which rafts of drift-wood and even great logs are carried twenty feet up the shore, and permanently lodged in inextricable confusion.

I remember the day when we had made a pilgrimage to the coast, when from the rocky jaws of the river we looked up the still waters, and saw them slowly gathering strength and volume. The sea was breaking upon the bar without; Indian canoes swung on the tideless stream, filled with industrious occupants taking the fish that await their first plunge into salt water. Every morning we bathed in the unpolluted waters of the river. How fresh and sweet they are–the filtered moisture of the hills, mingled with the distillations from cedar-boughs drenched with fogs and dew!

Lounging upon the hotel veranda, turning our backs upon the last vestiges of civilization in the shape of a few guests who dressed for dinner as if it were imperative, we were greeted with mellow heartiness by a hale old backwoodsman, a genuine representative of the primeval. It was Ingram, of Ingram House, Austin Creek, Red Woods, Sonoma County, Primeval California. It was he, with ranch-wagon and stalwart steeds. The Artist, who was captain-general of the forces, at once held a consultation with Ingram, whom we will henceforth call the Doctor, for he is a doctor–minus the degrees–of divinity, medicine, and laws, and master of all work; a deer-stalker, rancher, and general utility man; the father of a clever family, and the head of a primeval house.

In half an hour we were jolting, bag and baggage, body and soul, over roads wherein the ruts were filled with dust as fine as flour, fording trout-streams, and winding through wood and brake. We passed the old logging-camp, with the hills about it blackened and disfigured for life; and the new logging-camp, with its stumps still smoldering, its steep slides smoking with the friction of swift-descending logs, the ring of the ax and the vicious buzz of the saw mingled with the shouts of the woodsmen. How industry is devastating that home of the primeval!

Soon the road led us into the very heart of the redwoods, where superb columns stood in groups, towering a hundred and even two hundred feet above our heads! A dense undergrowth of light green foliage caught and held the sunlight like so much spray; the air was charged with the fragrance of wild honeysuckle and resiniferous trees; the jay-bird darted through the boughs like a phosphorous flame, screaming his joy to the skies; squirrels fled before us; quails beat a muffled tattoo in the brush-snakes slid out of the road in season to escape destruction.

We soon dropped into the bed of the stream Austin Creek, and rattled over the broad, strong highway of the winter rains. We bent our heads under low-hanging boughs, drove into patches of twilight, and out on the other side into the waning afternoon; we came upon a deserted cottage with a great javelin driven through the roof to the cellar; it had been torn from one of the gigantic redwoods and hurled by a last winter’s gale into that solitary home. Fortunately no one had been injured, but the inmates had fled in terror, lashed by the driving storm.

We came to Ingram House in the dusk, out of the solitude of the forest into a pine-and-oak opening, the monotony of which was enlivened with a fair display of the primitive necessities of life–a vegetable garden on the right, a rustic barn on the left, a house of “shakes” in the distance, and nine deer-hounds braying a deep-mouthed welcome at our approach.

In the rises of the house on the hill-slope is a three-roomed bachelors’ hall; here, on the next day, we were cozily domiciled. There were a few guests in the homestead. The boys slept in the granary. The deer-hounds held high carnival under our cottage, charging at intervals during the night upon imaginary intruders. We woke to the blustering music of the beasts, and thought on the possible approach of bear, panther, California lion, wild cat, ‘coon, and polecat; but thought on it with composure, for the hounds were famous hunters, and there was a whole arsenal within reach.

We were waked at 6:30, and come down to the front “stoop” of the homestead. The structure was home-made, with rafters on the outside or inside according to the fancy of the builder; sunshine and storm had stained it grayish brown, and no tint could better harmonize with the background and surroundings. In one corner of the stoop a tin wash-basin stood under a waterspout in the sink; there swung the family towels; the public comb, hanging by its teeth to a nail, had seen much service; a piece of brown soap lay in an _abalone_ shell tacked to the wall; a small mirror reflected kaleidoscopical sections of the face, and made up for its want of compass by multiplying one or another feature. We never before ate at the hour of seven as we ate then; then a pipe on the front steps and a frolic with the boys or the dogs would follow, and digestion was well under way before the day’s work began. Then the Artist shouldered his knapsack and departed; the lads trudged through the road to school; the women went about the house with untiring energy; the male hands were already making the anvil musical in the rustic smithy, or dragging stock to the slaughter, or busy with the thousand and one affairs that comprise the sum and substance of life in a self-sustaining community. We were assured that were war to be declared between the outer world and Ingram House, lying in ambush in the heart of our black forest, we might withstand the siege indefinitely. All that was needful lay at our hands, and yet, a stone’s-throw away from our shake-built citadel, one loses himself in a trackless wood, whose glades are still untrodden by men, though one sometimes hears the light step of the _bronco_ when Charlie rides forth in search of a strong bull. All work was like play there, because of a picturesque element which predominated over the practical. Wood-cutting under the window of the best room, trying out fat in a caldron or an earth-oven against our cottage, dragging sunburnt straw in a rude sledge down the hill-side road, shoeing a neighbor’s horse in a circle of homely gossips, hunting to supply the domestic board at the distant market–is this all that Adam and the children of Adam suffer in his fall?

At noon a clarion voice resounded from the kitchen door and sent the echoes up and down the creek. It was the hostess, who, having prepared the dinner, was bidding the guests to the feast. The Artist came in with his sketch, the Chum with his novel, the Scribe with his note-book, followed by the horny-handed sons of toil, whose shoulders were a little rounded and whose minds were seldom, if ever, occupied with any life beyond the hills that walled us in. We sat down at a camp board and ate with relish. The land was flowing with milk and honey; no sooner was the pitcher drained or the plate emptied than each was replenished by the willing hands of our hostess or her boys.

Another smoke under the stoop followed, and then, perhaps, a doze at the cottage, or in one of the dozen rocking-chairs about the house, or on the rustic throne hewn from a stump in the grove between the house and the barn. The sun flooded the canon with hot and dazzling light; the air was spiced with the pungent odor of shrubs; it was time to rest a little before beginning the laborious sports of the afternoon. Later, we all wandered on the banks of the creek and were sure to meet at the swimming-pool about four o’clock. Meanwhile the Artist has laid in another study. Foster has finished his tale, and is rocking in a hammock of green boughs; the Scribe has booked a half-dozen fragmentary sentences that will by and by grow into an article, and the boys have come home from school.

By and by we wanted change; the monotony of town life is always more or less interesting; the monotony of country life palls after a season. Change comes over us in a most unexpected guise. Our canon was decked with the flaming scarlet of the poison-oak; these brilliant bits of foliage are the high-lights in almost every California landscape, and must satisfy our love of color, in the absence of the Eastern autumnal leaf. The gorgeous shrubs stand out like burning bushes by the roadside, on the hill-slope, in the forest recesses, and almost everywhere. The Artist’s chum gave evidence of a special susceptibility to the poison by a severe attack that prostrated him utterly for a while. Yet he stood by us until his vacation came to an end, and, to the last, there was no complaint heard from this martyr to circumstances.

One day he left us–on mule-back, with nine dogs fawning upon his stirrup, and amid a hundred good-byes wafted to him from the house, the smithy, the barn, and the swimming-pool. He had orders to send in the Kid, or his successor, immediately upon his arrival at the Bay. We must needs have some one to indulge, some one whose interests were not involved in the primeval farther than the pleasure it afforded for the hour. The Kid was the very thing–a youngster with happiness in heart, luster in his eye, and nothing more serious than peach-down on his lip; yet there was gravity enough in his composition to carry him beneath the mere surface of men and things. The Kid drove in one night with rifle tall as himself, fishing-tackle, and entomological truck, wild with enthusiasm and hungry as a carp.

What days followed! Our little entomologist chased scarlet-winged dragon-flies and descanted on the myriad forms of insect-life with premature accomplishment. “Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings” we heard revelations not unmixed with the ludicrous superstitions of the nursery.

There is a school-house a mile distant, on the forks of the creek; we visited it one Friday, and saw six angular youths, the sum total of the young ideas within range of the instructress, spelled down in broadsides; and heard time-honored recitations delivered in the same old sing-song that could only have been original with the sons of our first parents. The school-mistress, with a sun-bonnet that buried her face from the world, passed Ingram’s ten times a week, footing it silently along the dusty road, lunch-pail in hand. She lives in a lonely cabin on the trail to the wilderness over the hill.

The Kid sketched a little; indeed, the artistic fever spread to the granary, where the boys spent some hours of each day restoring, not to say improving, the tarnished color of certain face-cards of an imperfect euchre deck, the refuse of the palette being carefully secreted to this end; we never knew at what moment we might sit upon the improvised color-box of some juvenile member of the family.

But hunting was our delectable recreation; the Doctor would lead off on a half-broken _bronco_, followed by a select few from the house or the friendly camps, Fred bringing up the rear with a pack-mule. This was the chief joy of the hounds; the old couple grew young at the scent of the trail, and deserted their whining progeny with Indian stoicism. Two nights and a day were enough for a single hunt,–one may in that time scour the rocky fortresses of the Last Chance, or scale the formidable slopes of the Devil’s Ribs.

The return from the hunt was a scene of picturesque interest: the approach of the hunters at dusk, as they emerged one after another from the dark wood; the pack-mule prancing proudly under a stark buck weighing one hundred and thirty-three pounds, without its vitals; the baby fawn slain by chance (for no one would acknowledge the criminal slaughter); the final arrival of the fagged, sore-footed dogs, who were wildly greeted by the puppies, and kissed on the mouth and banged about by many a playful paw; the grouping under the trees in front of Bachelors’ Hall, where the buck was slung, head downward among green leaves, and with stakes crossed between the gaping ribs; the light of the flickering lantern; the dogs supping blood from the ground where it had dripped; the satisfaction of the hunters; the admiration of the women; the wild excitement of the boys, who all talked at once, at the top of their voices, with gestures quicker than thought;–this was the Carnival of the Primeval.

One night, the Kid set out for the stubble-field and lay in wait for wild rabbits; when he came in with his hands full of ears, the glow of moonlight was in his eye, the flush of sunset on his cheek, the riotous blood’s best scarlet in his lips, and his laugh was triumphant; with a discarded hat recalled for camp-duty, a blue shirt open at the throat, hair very much tumbled, and no thoughts of self to detract from the absolute grace of his pose.

But all hunting-parties were not so successful. One of seven came home empty-handed and disgusted. It became necessary, while the unlucky huntsmen were under our roof, to give them festive welcome. Fred drew out his fiddle; the Doctor gathered his strength and shook as lively a shoe on the sanded floor of the best room as one will hear the clang of in many a day. Clumsy joints grew supple; heavy boots made the splinters fly; a fellow-townsman, like ourselves on a vacation tour, jigged with the inimitable grace of a trained dancer. How few of our muscles are aware of the joy of full development! From the wall of the best room the “Family of Horace Greeley,” in mezzotint, looked down through clouded glass and a veneered frame. The county map hung _vis-a-vis_. A family record, wherein a pale infant was cradled in saffron, and schooled in pink, passing through a rainbow-tinted life that reached the climax of color at the scarlet and gold bridal, and ended in a sea-green grave; this record, with a tablet for appropriate inscriptions under each epoch in the family history, was still further enriched with lids of stained isinglass carefully placed over the domestic calendar, as much as to say, “What is written here is not for the public eye.” On the triangular shelf in the corner, stood the condensed researches of all Arctic explorers, in one obese volume; its twin contained the revelations of African discoveries boiled down and embellished with numberless cuts; a Family Physician, one volume of legislative documents, and three stray magazines, with a Greek almanac, completed the library. So, even in the primeval state, we were not without food for our minds as well as exercise for our muscles. After a time, even the dance ceased to attract us. The Artist had lined the walls of his chamber with brilliant sketches; the kid clamored for home.

I suppose we might have tarried a whole summer and still found some turn in the brook, some vista in the wood, some cluster of isolated trees, to hold us entranced; for the peculiar glory of the hour transfigured them, and the same effect was never twice repeated. Moreover, we at last grew intolerant of one great annoyance. You all have known it as we knew it, and doubtless endured it with as little grace. Is there anything more galling than the surpassing impudence of country flies? We resolved to return to town, and returned close upon the heels of our resolution. Again we threaded the dark windings of the wood, and bade farewell to every object that had become endeared to us. We wondered how soon change would lay its hand upon this primeval beauty. We approached the logging-camp. Presto! in the brief interval since our first glimpse of the forests above it, the hills had been shorn of their antique harvest, and the valley was a place of desolation and of death.

It seemed incredible that the dense growth of gigantic trees could be so soon dragged to market. There was a famous tree–we saw the stump still bleeding and oozing up–which, three feet from the ground, measured eleven and a half feet one way by fourteen feet the other. When its doom was sealed, a path was cut for it and a soft bed made for it to lie on. The land was graded, and covered with a cushion of soft boughs. Had the tree fallen on uneven ground, it would have been shattered; if it had swerved to right or left, nothing but fire could have cleared the wrecks.

The making of the death-bed of this monster cost Mrs. Duncan forty dollars. Then the work began. An ax in the hands of a skillful wood-cutter threw the tree headlong to the earth. Then it was sawed across, yielding eighteen logs, each sixteen feet in length, with a diameter of four feet at the smallest end. The logs were put upon wheels, and run over a light trestle-work to the mill, drawn thither by a ridiculous dummy, which looked not unlike an old-fashioned tavern store on its beam-ends, with an elbow in the air. At the mill, it was sawed into eighty thousand feet of marketable lumber.

Reaching the forest, on our way to the Mills, we found the river had risen so that ten miles from the mouth we were obliged to climb upon the wagon-seats, and hold our luggage above high-water mark.

At Duncan’s, on the home stretch, we made our final pilgrimage, to a wild glen over the Russian River, where, a few weeks before, the Bohemian Club had held high jinks. The forest had been a scene of enchantment on that midsummer night; but now the tents were struck, the Japanese lanterns were extinguished, and nothing was left to tell the tale but the long tables of rough deal, where we had feasted. They were covered with leaves and dust; spiders had draped them with filmy robes. The quail piped, the jay-bird screamed, the dove sobbed, and a slim snake, startled at the flight of a bounding hare, glided away among the rustling leaves. So soon does this new land recover the primeval beauty of eternal youth.


When your bosom friend seizes you by the arm, and says to you in that seductive sotto voce which implies a great deal more than is confessed, “Come, let us go down to the sea in ships, and do business in the great waters,” you generally go, if you are not previously engaged. At least, I do.

Much has been said in disfavor of yachting in San Francisco Bay. It is inland yachting to begin with. The shelving shores prevent the introduction of keel boats; flat and shallow hulls, with a great breadth of beam, something able to battle with “lumpy” seas and carry plenty of sail in rough weather, is the more practical and popular type. Atlantic yachts, when they arrive in California waters, have their rigging cut down one-third. Schooners and sloops with Bermudian mutton-leg sails flourish. A modification of the English yawl is in vogue; but large sloops are not handled conveniently in the strong currents, the chop seas, the blustering winds, the summer fogs that make the harbor one of the most treacherous of haunts for yachtsmen.

Think of a race when the wind is blowing from twenty-five to thirty-five miles an hour! The surface current at the Golden Gate runs six miles per hour and the tide-rip is often troublesome; but there is ample room for sport, and very wild sport at times. The total area of the bay is four hundred and eighty square miles, and there are hundreds of miles of navigable sloughs, rivers, and creeks. One may start from Alviso, and sail in a general direction, almost without turning, one hundred and fifty-five miles to Sacramento city. During the voyage he is pretty sure to encounter all sorts of weather and nearly every sort of climate, from the dense and chilly fogs of the lower bay to the semi-tropics of the upper shores, where fogs are unknown, and where the winds die away on the surface of beautiful waters as blue as the Bay of Naples.

There are amateur yachtsmen, a noble army of them, who charter a craft for a day or two, and have more fun in a minute than they can recover from in a month. I have sailed with these, at the urgent request of one who has led me into temptation more than once, but who never deserted me in an evil hour, even though he had to drag me out of it by the heels. I am at this moment reminded of an episode which still tickles my memory, and, much as a worthy yachtsman may scorn it, I confess that this moment is more to me than that of any dash into deep water which I can at present recall.

It was a summer Saturday, the half-holiday that is the reward of a week’s hard labor. With the wise precaution which is a prominent characteristic of my bosom friend, a small body of comrades was gathered together on the end of Meigg’s Wharf, simultaneously scanning, with vigilant eyes, the fleets of sailing crafts as they swept into view on the strong currents of the bay. It was a little company of youths, sick of the world and its cares, and willing, nay eager, to embark for other climes. They came not unfurnished. I beheld with joy numerous demijohns with labels fluttering like ragged cravats from their long necks; likewise stacks of vegetables, juicy joints, fruits, and more demijohns, together with a small portable iceberg; blankets were there, also guns, pistols, and fishing tackle. If one chooses to quit this world and its follies, one must go suitably provided for the next. Experience teaches these things.

The breeze freshened; the crowd grew impatient; more fellows arrived; another demijohn was seen in the distance swiftly bearing down upon us from the upper end of the wharf, and at this moment a dainty yacht skimmed gracefully around the point of Telegraph Hill, picking her way among the thousand-masted fleet that whitened the blue surface of the bay, and we at once knew her to be none other than the “Lotus,” a crack yacht, as swift as the wind itself. In fifteen minutes there was a locker full of good things, and a deck of jolly fellows, and when we cast off our bow-line, and ran up our canvas, we were probably the neatest thing on the tide. I know that I felt very much like a lay figure in somebody’s marine picture, and it was quite wonderful to behold how suddenly we all became sea-worthy and how hard we tried to prove it.

A heavy bank of cloud was piled up in the west, through which stole long bars of sunshine, gilding the leaden waves. The “Lotus” bent lovingly to the gale. Some of us went into the cabin, and tried to brace ourselves in comfortable and secure corners–item–there are no comfortable or secure seats at sea, and there will be none until there is a revolution in ship-building. Our yachting afforded us an infinite variety of experience in a very short time; we had a taste of the British Channel as soon as we were clear of the end of the wharf. It was like rounding Gibraltar to weather Alcatraz, and, as we skimmed over the smooth flood in Raccoon Straits, I could think of nothing but the little end of the Golden Horn. Why not? The very name of our yacht was suggestive of the Orient. The sun was setting; the sky deeply flushed; the distance highly idealized; homeward hastened a couple of Italian fishing boats, with their lateen sails looking like triangular slices cut out of the full moon; this sort of thing was very soothing. We all lighted our cigarettes, and lapsed into dreamy silence, broken only by the plash of ripples under our bow and the frequent sputter of matches quite necessary to the complete consumption of our tobacco.

[Illustration: Meigg’s Wharf in 1856]

About dusk our rakish cutter drifted into the shelter of the hills along the north shore of the bay, and with a chorus of enthusiastic cheers we dropped anchor in two fathoms of soft mud. We felt called upon to sing such songs as marines are wont to sing upon the conclusion of a voyage, and I believe our deck presented a tableau not less picturesque than that in the last act of “Black-eyed Susan.” Susan alone was wanting to perfect our nautical happiness.

How charming to pass one’s life at sea, particularly when it is a calm twilight, and the anchor is fast to the bottom: the sheltering shores seem to brood over you; pathetic voices float out of the remote and deepening shadows; and stars twinkle so naturally in both sea and sky that a fellow scarcely knows which end he stands on.

I have preserved a few leaves from a log written by my bosom friend. I present them as he wrote them, although he apparently had “Happy Thoughts” on the brain, and much Burnand had well nigh made him mad.


9 p.m.–Dinner just over; part of our crew desirous of fishing during the night; hooks lost, lines tangled, no bait; a row by moonlight proposed.

10 p.m.–The Irrepressibles still eager to fish; lines untangled, hooks discovered; two fellows despatched with yawl in search of bait; a row by moonlight again proposed; we take observation–no moon!

11 p.m.–Two fellows returning from shore with hen; hen very tough and noisy; tough hens not good for bait; fishing postponed till daybreak; moonlight sail proposed as being a pleasant change; still no moon; half the crew turn in for a night’s rest; cabin very full of half-the-crew.

Midnight.–Irrepressibles dance sailor’s hornpipe on deck; half-the-crew below awake from slumbers, and advise Irrepressibles to renew search for bait.

12:30 a.m.–Irrepressibles return to shore for bait. Loud breathing in cabin; water swashing on rocks along the beach; very picturesque, but no moon yet; voice in the distance says “Halloa!” Echo in the other distance replies, “Halloa yourself, and see how you like it!”

1 a.m.–Irrepressibles still absent on shore; a dog barks loudly in the dark; a noise is heard in a far away hen-coop–Irrepressibles looking diligently for bait.

1:30 a.m.–Dog sitting on the shore howling; very heavy breathing in the cabin; noise of oars in the rowlocks; music on the water, chorus of youthful male voices, singing “A smuggler’s life is a merry, merry, life.” Subdued noise of hens; dog still howling; no moon yet; more noise of hens, bait rapidly approaching.

2 a.m.–Irrepressibles try to row yawl through sternlights of “Lotus”; grand collision of yawl at full speed and a rakish cutter at anchor. Profane language in the cabin; sleepy crew, half awake, rush up the hatchway, and denounce Irrepressibles. Irrepressibles sing “Smuggler’s Life,” etc.; terrific noise of hens; half-the-crew invite the Irrepressibles to “be as decent as they can.” No moon yet; everybody packed in the cabin.

2:30 a.m.–Sudden squall. “Lotus,” as usual, bends lovingly to the gale; dramatic youth in his bunk says, in deep voice, “No sleep till morn!” More dramatic youths say, “I heard a voice cry, ‘Sleep no more’.” Very deep voice says, “Macbeth hath mur-r-r-r-dered sleep!” General confusion in the cabin. Old commodore of the “Lotus” says, “Gentlemen, a little less noise, if you please.” Noise subsides.

3 a.m.–Irrepressibles propose sleeping in binnacle; unfortunate discovery–no binnacle on board. Half-the-crew turn over, and suggest that the Irrepressibles take night-caps, and retire anywhere. Moved and seconded, That the Irrepressibles take two night-caps, and retire in a body–item: two heads better than one, two night-caps ditto, ditto.

3:30 a.m.–Commotion in cabin. Irrepressibles find no place to lay their weary heads. Moonlight sail proposed; observations on deck–no moon; squall in the distance; air very chilly. Irrepressibles retire in a body, and take night-caps. Song by Irrepressibles, “A Smuggler’s Life.” Half-the-crew sit up and throw boots. Irrepressibles assault half-the-crew, and take bunks by storm; great confusion; old commodore of the “Lotus” says, “Gentlemen had better sleep a little, so as to be in trim for fishing at daybreak,” night-caps all round; order restored; chorus of subdued voices, “A Smuggler’s Life.”

4 a.m.–Signs of daybreak; thin blue mist over the water; white sea-bird overhead, with bright light on its breast; flocks bleating on shore; sloop becalmed under the lee of the land; fishermen casting nets; more fishermen right under them, casting nets upside down. Everything very fresh and shining; feel happy; think we must look like marine picture by somebody.

4:30 a.m.–Commodore of the “Lotus” comes on deck, and takes an observation; all favorable; commodore draws bucket of water out of the sea and makes toilet, white beard of the commodore waves gently in the breeze; fine-looking old sea-dog that commodore of the “Lotus.”

Sunday Morning.–All quiet; air very clear and bracing. Shore resembles new world. Feel like Christopher Columbus discovering America. Peaceful and happy emotions animate bosom; think I hear Sabbath bells–evidently don’t: no Sabbath bells anywhere around. Penitentiary of San Quentin in the distance; look at San Quentin, and feel emotion of sadness steal over me; moral reflection to try and avoid San Quentin as long as possible.

5 a.m.–Noise in cabins; boots flying in the air; cries for mercy; reconciliation and eye-openers all round. Everybody on deck; next minute everybody overboard bathing; water very cold; teeth chattering; something warming necessary for all hands. Yawl goes out fishing; two small boats at the disposal of Irrepressibles; a row by sunlight; no moon last night; funny boy says, “Bring moon along next time!” Everybody sees San Quentin at the same moment; half-the-crew advise Irrepressibles to “go home at once.” Cries of “hi yi.” Irrepressibles say “they will inform on half-the-crew when they get there”; disturbance on deck in consequence; Commodore suggests a new search for bait; order restored; new search for bait instituted. Three fellows sing “Father, come home,” and look toward San Quentin. Bad jokes on the prison every ten minutes throughout the day. Small fleet of stern-wheel ducks come alongside for breakfast; ducks in great danger of the galley; flock of pelicans, with tremendous bowsprits, fly overhead; pistol-shot carries away tail feathers of pelican; order restored.

8 a.m.–Irrepressibles propose naval engagement; three small boats armed and equipped for the fray. Irrepressibles routed; some taken prisoners; great excitement; quantities of water dashed in all directions; boats rapidly filling; two fellows overboard; cries for help, “fellows can’t swim a stroke”; intense excitement; boat sinks in five feet of water and two feet of mud; the fellows brought on board to be wrung out. Irrepressibles hang everything in the rigging to dry. Imagination takes her accustomed flight; good study of nude Irrepressibles in great number; think we must resemble the barge of Cleopatra on the Nile! unlucky thought; no Cleopatra on board. Subject reconsidered; lucky fancy–the Greek gods on a yachting cruise. Sun very hot; another bath all round; a drop of something, for fear of catching cold; the Greek gods on deck indulge in negro dances; two men on shore look on, and wonder what’s up. Sun intensely hot; Greek gods turn in for a square sleep!

It becomes necessary to suppress the bosom friend, who, it is superfluous to state, was one of the leaders of the Irrepressibles on the memorable occasion–and the balance of his log is consigned to the locker of oblivion.

The cruise of the “Lotus” had its redeeming features, though they were probably unrecorded at the time. There was fishing and boating; rambles on shore over the grassy hills; a search for clams and a good old-fashioned clam bake; to which the sharpest appetites did ample justice; and there were quiet fellows, who stole apart from the rioters and had hours of solid satisfaction. You may have rocked in a small skiff yourself, casting your line in deep water, waiting and watching for the cod to bite. It is pleasant sculling up to a distant point, and sounding by the way so as to get off the sand and over the pebbly bottom as soon as possible. It is pleasant to cast anchor and float a few rods from shore, where the rocks are eaten away by the tides of numberless centuries, where the swallows build and the goats climb, and the scrub oaks look over into the sea, with half their hairy roots trailing in the air. It is less pleasant to thread your hook with a piece of writhing worm that is full of agonizing expression, though head and tail are both missing and writhing on their own hooks, which are also attached to your line. I wonder if one bit of worm on a hook recognizes a joint of itself on the next hook, and says to it, in its own peculiar fashion, “Well, are you alive yet?”

The baiting accomplished, with a great flourish you throw your sinker, and see it bury itself in the muddy water; then you listen intently, for the least suggestion of a disturbance down there at the other end of the line; the sinker thumps upon this rock and the next one, drops into a hole and gets caught for a moment, but is loosened again, and then a sort of galvanic shock thrills through your body; on guard! if you would save your bait; another twinge, fainter than the first, and at last a regular tug, and you haul in your line, which is jerking incessantly by this time. The next moment the hooks come to the surface, and on one of them you find a Lilliputian fish that is not yet old enough to feed himself, and was probably caught by accident.

Perhaps you haul in your line as fast as you can, bait it and throw it in again as rapidly as convenient–for this is the sport that fishermen love to boast of; perhaps you rock in your boat all day, and draw but a half-dozen of these shiners out before their time, and waste your precious worms to no purpose.

It’s hungry work, isn’t it? and the summons to dinner that is by-and-by sounded from the yacht is a pleasing excuse for deserting so profitless a task. The right thing to do, however, is to put on an appearance of immense success whenever a rival skiff comes within hail. You hold up your largest fish several times in succession, so as to delude the anxious inquirers in the other boat, who will of course think you have a dozen of those big cod with a striking family resemblance. It is a very successful ruse; all fishermen indulge in it, and you have as good a right to play the pantomime as they.

By-and-by we are glad to think of a return to town. Why is it that pleasure excursions seem to ravel out? They never stop short after a brilliant achievement nor conclude with an imposing tableau; they die out gradually. Someone gets out here, some-one else falls off there, and there is a general running down of the machinery that has propelled the festival up to the last moment. They flatten unmistakably, and it is almost a pity that some sort of climax cannot be engaged for each occasion, in the midst of which everyone should disappear, in red fire and a blaze of rockets.

Our yachting cruise was very jolly. We hauled in our lines and our anchors, and spread our canvas, while the wind was brisk and the evening was coming on; white-caps danced and tumbled all over the bay. It looked stormy far out in the open sea as we crossed the channel; thin tongues of fog were lapping among the western hills, as though the town were about to be devoured by some ghostly monster, and presently it was of course. The spray leaped half-way up our jib, and our fore-sail was dripping wet as we neared the town; there was a rolling up of blankets, and a general clearing out of the debris that always accumulates in small quarters. Everybody was a little tired, and a little hungry, and a little sleepy, and quite glad to get home again, and when the “Lotus” landed us on the old wharf at the north end of the town, we crept home through the side streets for decency’s sake.

The young “Corinthian” would scorn to recognize a yachting exploit such as I have depicted. The young “Corinthian” owns his yacht, and lives in it a great part of the summer. He is the first to make his appearance after the rainy season has begun to subside, and the last to be driven into winter quarters at Oakland or Antioch, where the fleet is moored during four or five months of the year. The “Corinthian” paints his boat himself, and is an adept at every art necessary to the completeness of yachting life. He can cook, sail his boat, repair damages of almost every description; he sketches a little, writes a little, and is, in fact, an amphibious Bohemian, the life of the regatta, whose enthusiasm goes far towards sustaining the healthful and amiable rivalry of the two yachting clubs.

These clubs have charming club-houses at Saucelito, where many a “hop” is given during the summer, and where, on one occasion, “H.M.S. Pinafore” was sung with great effect on the deck of the “Vira,” anchored a few rods from the dock; the dock was, for the time being, transformed into a dress-circle. Sir Joseph Porter, K.C.B., made his entree in a steam launch, and all the effects were highly realistic. The only hitch in the otherwise immensely successful representation was the impossibility of securing a moon for the second act.

The annual excursion of the two clubs is one of the social events of the year. The favorite resort is Napa, a pretty little town in the lap of a lovely valley, approached by a narrow stream that winds through meadow lands and scattered groves of oak. The yachts are nearly all of them there, from twenty-six to thirty, a flock of white wings that skim the waters of San Pablo Bay, upward bound. At Vallejo and Mare Island they exchange salutes, abreast of the naval station, and enter the mouth of Napa Creek; it is broad and marshy for a time, but soon grows narrow, and very crooked. More than once as we sailed we missed stays, and drifted broadside upon a hayfield, and were obliged to pole one another around the sharp turns in the creek; it is then that cheers and jeers come over the meadows to us, from the lesser craft that are sailing breast deep among the waving corn. All this time Napa, our destination, is close at hand, but not likely to be reached for twenty or thirty minutes to come. We turn and turn again, and are lost to sight among the trees, or behind a barn, and are continually greeted by the citizens, who have come overland to give us welcome.

Riotous days follow: a ball that night, excursions on the morrow, and on the second night a concert, perhaps two or three of them, on board the larger vessels of the fleet. We are lying in a row, against a long curve of the shore; chains of lanterns are hung from mast to mast, the rigging is gay with evergreens and bunting.

The revelry continues throughout the night; serenaders drift up and down the stream at intervals until daybreak, when a procession is formed, a steamer takes us in tow, and we are dragged silently down the tide, in the grey light of the morning. At Vallejo, after a toilet and a breakfast, which is immensely relished, we get into position. Every eye is on the Commodore’s signal; by-and-by it falls, bang goes a gun, and in a moment all is commotion. The sails are trimmed, the light canvas set, and away flies the fleet on the home stretch, to dance for an hour or two in the sparkling sunshine of San Pablo Bay, then plunge into the tumbling sea in the lower harbor, and at last end a three days’ cruise with unanimous and hearty congratulations.

A week ago I could have added here that in the annals of the yacht clubs of San Francisco there has never been a fatal accident, never a drowning, nor a capsizing, nor a wreck, and this covers a period of thirteen years; alas! in a single day, on a cruise such as I have been writing of, there was a shocking death. One yacht nearly foundered, but fortunately escaped into smooth water, another was dashed upon the rocks, and is probably a total wreck; while a third lost her centre-board over a mud bank, where it buried itself, and held the little craft a helpless prisoner; the crew and guests of the latter took to the small boats, pulled three miles in a squall, and were rescued by a passing steamer when they were all drenched to the skin, and well-nigh exhausted.

You see that inland yachting is not child’s play, nor are these inland yachts without their romantic records. The flag of the San Francisco yacht club has floated among the South Sea Islands; one of its boats has beaten the German and English types in their own waters; one has been as far as the Australian seas; one is a pearl fisher in the Gulf of California, and another is coquetting with the doldrums along the Mexican coast. They are staunch little beauties all, and it would be neither courteous nor healthful to think otherwise in the presence of inland yachtsmen.

[Illustration: Telegraph Hill, 1855]


“Yosemite, Sept.–: Come at once–the year wanes; would you see the wondrous transformation, the embalming of the dead Summer in windings of purple and gold and bronze–come quickly, before the white pall covers it–delay no longer. The waters are low and fordable, the snows threaten, but the hours are yet propitious; and such a welcome waits you as Solomon in all his glory could not have lavished on Sheba’s approaching queen. * * *”

There was much more of the same sort of high-toned epistolary rhetoric, written and sent by a dear hand, whose fanciful pen seemed touched by the ambrosial tints of Autumn. So the year was going out in a gorgeous carnival, before the Lent-like solemnity of Winter was assumed.

I had only two things to consider now: First, was it already too late to hasten thither, and enjoy the splendid spectacle so freely offered and so alluring; secondly, could I, if yet in time, venture so boldly upon the edge of Winter, and risk the possibility–nay, probability–of being snow-bound for four or six months, 30 miles from any human habitation?

I did not long consider. I felt every moment that the soul of Summer was passing. I scented the ascending incense of smoking and crackling boughs. What a requiem was being chanted by all the tremulous and broken voices of Nature! Would I, could I, longer forbear to join the passionate and tumultuous _miserere_? It seemed that I could not, for gathering about me the voluminous furs of Siberia, I bade adieu to friends, not without some forebodings awakened by the admonitions of my elders, then, dropping all the folly of the world, like a monk I went silently and alone into the monastery of a Sierran solitude, resigned, trusting, prayerful.

What an entering it was! With slow, devotional steps I approached the valley. There was a thin veil of snow over the upper trail. It was smooth and unbroken as I came upon it, following the blazed trees in my way. Footprints of bear and fox, squirrel and coyote, were traceable. The owl hooted at me, and the jay shot past me like a blue flash of light, uttering her prolonged, shrill cry. As for the owl, I could not see him, but I heard him at startling intervals give the challenge, “Who are you?” so I advanced and gave the countersign. I don’t believe it was for his grave face alone that the owl was chosen symbol of Wisdom.

Not too soon came the steep and perilous descent into the abysmal depths of the mountain fastness. It is a shame that pilgrims who come up thither do not time their steps so as to reach this _Ultima Thule_ of old times and ways at sunset. Then the magnificence of the spectacle culminates. That new world below there is illuminated with the soft tints of Eden. What unutterable fullness of beauty pervades all. The forests–those moss-like fields are forests, and mighty ones, too–are all aflame with the burnished gold of sunset, brightening the gold of autumn; for gold twice refined, as it were, gilds the splendid landscape. Only think of that picture, shining through the mellow haze of Indian Summer, and flashing with the lambent glimmer of a myriad glassy leaves. You can not see them moving, yet they twinkle incessantly, and the warm air trembles about them while you hang bewildered from a toppling parapet, four thousand feet above them; birds swing under you in mid-air, streams leap from the sharp cliff, and reel in that sickening way through the air that your brain whirls after them. One is tired, anyhow, by the time he has reached this far, and a night camp in the cool rim of this world-to-come is just the panacea for any sort of weariness.

Take my advice: Sleep on it, and drop down on the wings of the morning, while the sun is filling up this marvelous ravine with such lights and shadows as are felt, yet scarcely understood. Refreshed, amazed, bewildered, go down into that solemn place, and see if you are not more saint-like than you dared to think yourself. When the times are out of joint, as they frequently are, come up here, forget men and things; don’t imagine we are as bad as we seem, for it is quite certain we might be a great deal worse if we tried. While you bemoan our earthliness, you may not be the one saint among us. Coming down with the evening, I was scarcely at the gates of the inner valley when night was on me. Of this gate, it is formed of a ponderous monument on the right, called Cathedral Rock, and on the left is the one bald spot in the Sierras, the great El Capitan. The arch over this primeval threshold is the astral dome of heaven, and the gates stand ever open. There is no toll taken in any mansion of my Father’s House, and this is one of them. Passing to the door of my host, I lifted the latch noiselessly. Before me dawned fresh experiences. At my back Night gathered deeper than ever, and all around I seemed to read the rubric of Life’s new lesson.

We are a comfort to ourselves–six of us, all told. Summer invites our little company into a breezy hotel, over in the shadow across the valley. Winter suggests a log cabin, an expansive fireplace, plenty of hickory, and as much sunshine as finds its way into our secluded hermitage. So we are done up compactly, in between thick walls, our hard finish being in the shape of mud cakes in the chinks of the logs, and a very hard finish it is; but we take wondrous comfort withal.

How do I pass the hours? Leaving my friends, I wander forth, after breakfast, in any direction that pleases me. Take today this sheep path; it leads me to a pebbly beach at a swift turn of the Merced. That clump of trees produces the best harvest of frost-pointed leaves; there are new varieties offered every day at an alarming sacrifice, and I invest largely in these fragile wares. Tomorrow, I shall go yonder across three tumultuous streams, upon three convenient logs, broad and mossy. Some book or other goes with me, and is opened now and then. Such books as Plant Life, The Sexuality of Nature, Studies in Animal Life, suggest themselves. Open these anywhere, and each is annotated and illustrated by the scene before me. Every page is a running text to the hour I glorify.

Perhaps a leaf falls into my lap as I sit over the brook, on a log–a single leaf, gilded about its border, in the centre a crimson flush, fast swallowing up the original greenness; the whole will presently be bronzed and sombre. O, Leaf! how art thou mummified! We do not think of these little things of Nature. Look at this leaf. What is its record? How many generations, think you, are numbered in its ancestry? A perpetual intermarriage has not weakened its fibres. The anatomy of this leaf is perfect, and the sap of this oak flows from oak to acorn, from acorn to oak, in an interminable and uninterrupted succession since the first day. What are your titles and estates beside this representative? What is your heraldry, with its two centuries of mold; your absurd and confused genealogies, your escutcheons, blotted no doubt with crimes and errors, when this scion, which I am permitted to entertain for a moment, comes of a race whose record is spotless and without stain through ten thousand eventful years. Why, Eve would recognize the original of this stock from the mere family resemblance.

Do you think these days tiresome? It is embarrassing for some people to be left alone with themselves. They can no longer play a part, for there are none like themselves to play to. The sun and stars know you well enough–most likely, better than you yourselves do. I like this. I would out and say to myself: “Here is a confidant. Day hides nothing from me, or you; it expresses all, exposes all–even that which we might not ask to see. It is best that we should see it; there are no errors in Nature.”

Walking, the squirrel nods to me. I nod back; and why shouldn’t I? Nature has familiarly introduced us. Squirrel munches under his tail canopy till I am out of sight, jabbering all the while. What sage little fellows go on four feet! I believe an animal has all the instincts of Adam. He should never be tamed, however, lest he lose his identity. Civilization rubs down the points in our character. As the surf rounds the pebble, the masses round us. We are polished and insufferably proper, but have no angles left! It is the angles that give the diamond its lustre.

Are you hungry? When the index of shadow points out from the base of old Sentinel Rock and touches that column of descending spray they call Yosemite, I go to dinner. “The Fall of the Yosemite”–what a dream it is. A dream of the lotus-eaters, and an aspiration of the Ideal in Nature. You can not realize it; and yet, you will never forget it. Don’t take it too early in the Spring, when it is less ethereal–nay, somewhat heavy; rather see it in summer after the rains, or in autumn, better than all, when it is like a tissue of diamond dust shaken upon the air. It really seems a labor for it to reach its foaming basin, it is so filmy, spiritual, delicate. The very air wooes it from its perpetual leap; sudden currents of wind catch it up and whirl it away in their arms, a trembling captive, or dash it against the solemn and sad-looking rock, where it clings for a moment, then trickles down the scarred and rugged face of it, fading in its descent; sometimes it is waved back by the elements, and almost seems to return into its cloudy nest up yonder close under the sky. It only comes to us at last by impulses, and all along its shining and vapory path rockets of spray shoot out like pendants, dissolving singly and alone.

But “to return to our muttons.” My dial says 12 M. There is no winding up and down of weights here; 12 M. it undoubtedly is, and mutton waits. These muttons were begotten here of muttons begotten here to the third or fourth generation. Their wool is clipped, larded, and spun here by one who lives here and loves this valley. These mittens, that keep the frost from my fingers, are among the comforting results of this domestic economy. In the cabin, by the fireplace, stands the old-fashioned spinning wheel; and the old-fashioned body who manipulates the wool so skillfully is the light of our little household. The shadow has struck twelve from old Sentinel; and I take the sun once a day, and no oftener. A cool, bracing air, a sharp run over the meadows, for I see the hostess waving a signal at me for my tardiness, and I am hungry on my own account–such cliffs and vistas as one sees here make one hollow with looking at them, and are calculated to keep a supply of appetite on hand. Do you like good long strips of baked squash? How do you fancy bowls of warm milk–milk that declares a creamy dividend before morning? Here is a fine fowl of our own raising–one that has seen Yosemite in its glory and in its gloom; it ought to be good eating, and I can affirm that it is. That’s a dinner for you, and one where you can begin on pie the first thing, if your soul craves it, which it frequently does.

A storm brewing, and rain in the lower valley. Never mind, there is no hurry here; one blushes to be caught worrying in the august presence of these mountains.

What can I do this stormy afternoon? Stop within doors and sit at the window; a small grossbeak overhead, and we two looking out upon the rain and fog. It is a mile nearly to that wall opposite, but look up high as I can from my window I see no strip of sky. Here is a precipice of homely, almost hideous-looking rock, and above it a hanging garden; those pines in that garden are a hundred feet and more in height: measure the second cliff by their proportions–how far is it, think you, to the garden above? A thousand feet, perhaps; and three, four–no, six of these terraces before you touch blue sky. Oh, what a valley! and where else under heaven are we sunk forty fathoms deep in shadow? But the sun is up yet, and there floats an eagle in its golden ray. I like to watch the last beams burn out in that upper gallery among the pines. There is a moment given us at sunset when we may partly realize the inexpressible sweetness of the eternal day that is promised us–a dim, religious light. There is no screen or tint soft enough to render the effect perfectly. Only these few seconds at sunset seem to hint something of its surpassing tenderness.

What cloud effects! Look up!–a break in the heavens, and beyond it the shoulder of a peak weighing some billions of tons, but afloat now, as soft in outline as the mists that envelop it. What masses of clouds tumble in upon us! The sky is obscured, night is declared at once, and the fowls go to roost at three P.M. How is the Fall in this weather? A silver braid dropped from one cloud to another. Its strands parted and joined again, lost and found in its own element. Leaping from its dizzy eyrie in the clouds, itself most cloud-like, it is lost in a whirlwind of foam. Now it is as a voice heard faintly above the wind, borne hither and thither. Long, stinging nights, plenty of woolen blankets, and delicious sleep. Then the evenings, so cosy around the fire. H—- reads Scott; we listen and comment. Baby is abed long ago–little Baby, four years old, born here also; knowing nothing of the beautiful world save what is gathered in this gallery of beauties. Such a queer little child, left to herself, no doubt thinking she is the only little one in existence, contented to teeter for hours on a plank by the woodpile, making long explorations by herself and returning, when we are all well frightened, with a pocketful of lizards and a wasp in her fingers; always talking of horned toads and heifers; not afraid of snakes, not even the rattlers; mocking the birds when she is happy, and growling bear-fashion to express her disapproval of any thing.

When the snows come, there will be avalanches by day and night, rushing into all parts of the valley. The Hermit hears a rumbling in the clouds, as he hoes his potatoes. He looks; a granite pilaster, hewn out by the hurricanes centuries ago, at last grown weary of clinging to that precipitous bluff, lets go its hold, and is dashed from crag to crag in a prolonged and horrible suicide. A pioneer once laid him out a garden, and marked the plan of his cellar; he was to begin digging the next day: that night, there leaped a boulder from under the brow of this cliff right into the heart of the plantation. It dug his cellar for him, but he never used it. It behooved him and others to get farther out from the mountain that found this settler too familiar, and sent a random shot as a sufficient hint to the intruder.

In the trying times when the world was baking, what agony these mountains must have endured. You see it in their faces, they are so haggard and old-looking: time is swallowed up in victory, but it was a desperate duel. There is a dome here that the ambitious foot of man has never attempted. Tissayac allows no such liberty. Look up at that rose-colored summit! The sun endows it with glory long after twilight has shut us in. We are cheated of much daylight here–it comes later and goes earlier with us; but we get hints of brighter hours, both morning and evening, from those sparkling minarets now decked with snowy arabesques. I have seen our canopy, the clouds, so crimsoned at this hour that the valley seemed a grand oriental pavilion, whose silken roof was illuminated with a million painted lamps. The golden woods of Autumn detract nothing from the bizarre effect of the spectacle. To be sure, these walls are rather sombre for a festival, but the sun does what it can to enliven them, whilst the flame-colored oaks and blood-spotted azaleas projecting on all sides from the shelving rocks resemble to a startling degree galleries of blazing candelabra. Night dispels this illusion, it is so very deep and mysterious here. The solemn procession of the stars silently passes over us. I see Taurus pressing forward, and anon Orion climbs on hand and knee over the mountain in hot pursuit.

Does it tire you to look so long at a gigantic monument? I do not wonder. The secret of self-esteem seems to lie in regarding our inferiors; therefor let us talk of this frog. I have heard his chorus a thousand times in the dark. His is one of the songs of the night. Just watch him in the meadow pool. See the contentment in his double chin; he flings out three links of hind leg and carries his elbows akimbo; his attitudes are unconstrained; he is entirely without affectation; life never bores him; he keeps his professional engagements to the letter, and sings nightly through the season, whether hoarse or not.

It is a good plan to portion off the glorious vistas of Yosemite, allotting so many surprises to each day. Take, for instance, the ten miles of valley, and passing slowly through the heart of it, allow a tableau for every three hundred yards. You are sure of this variety, for the trail winds among a galaxy of snowy peaks. Turn as you choose, it is either a water-fall at a new angle, a cliff in profile, a reflection in river or lake–the sudden appearance of the supreme peak of all, or ravine, canon, cavern, pine opening, grove or prairie. There is a point from which you may count over a hundred rocky fangs, tearing the clouds to tatters. I can not tell you the exact location of this terrific climax of savage beauty; try to find it, and perhaps discover half a dozen as singular scenic combinations for yourself. See all that you are told must be seen, then go out alone and discover as much more for yourself, and something no doubt dearer to your memory than any of the more noted haunts. “See Mirror Lake on a still morning,” they said to me. I saw it, but went again in the evening, and saw a vision that the reader may not expect to have reflected here. It was the picture of the morning–so softened and refined a veil of enchantment seemed thrown over it. Hamadryad or water nymph could not have startled me at that moment: they belonged there, and were looked for. I shall hardly again renew those impressions; it was all so unexpected, and one is not twice surprised in the same manner. That wondrous amphitheatre was for once made cheerful with the broad, horizontal bars of fire that shifted about it, yet all its lights were mellowed in the purpling mists of evening, and the whole was pictured in little on the surface of the lake. There was nothing earthly visible, I thought then, for every thing seemed transfigured, floating in a lucent atmosphere. It was the hour when the birds are silent for the space of one intense moment, stopping with one accord–perhaps holding their breath till the spell is broken. As I stood entranced, a large golden leaf, ready and willing to die, let go its hold on the top bough of a tree overhanging the water. From twig to twig it swung. I heard every sound in its fall till it was out of the congregation of its fellows, turning over and over in mid-air, sailing toward the centre of the lake. There it hung on the rim of that stainless crystal, while a thin ring of silver light noiselessly expanded toward the shore. The sun was down. All the birds of heaven said so with their bubbling throats. Bewildered with the delicious conclusion of this illustration of still life, I turned homeward, dispelling the mirage. Then such a ride home in the keen air, while a pillar of smoke rose over the little cabin, telling me which of the hundred bowers of autumn sheltered my nest.

But, again and again, I have seen all. Pohono has breathed upon me with its fatal breath, yet I survive. It is said that three Indian girls were long ago bewitched by its waters, and now their perturbed spirits haunt the place. Those perfectly round rainbows may form the nimbus for each of the martyrs; they, at any rate, look supernatural enough for such an office. The wildly wooded pass to the Vernal and Nevada Falls has echoed to my tread. I have been sprayed upon till my spirit is never dry of the life-giving waters that flow so freely. But I am just a little tired of all this. I begin to breathe short, irregular breaths. The soul of this mighty solitude oppresses me; I want more air of the common sort, and less wisdom in daily talks and walks. I remember the pleasant nonsense of life over the mountains, and sigh for those flesh-pots of Egypt once in a while. These rocks are full of texts and teachings–these cliffs are tables of stone, graven with laws and commandments. I read everywhere mysterious cyphers and hieroglyphics; every changing season offers to me a new palimpsest. I do not quite like to play here; I dare not be simple; I’m altogether too good to last long. How many thousand ascensions have been made in these worshipful days, I wonder; not merely getting the body on to the tops of these wonderful peaks, but going thither in spirit, as when the soul goes up into the mountains to pray? This eye-climbing is as fatiguing and perilous as any. I feel the want of some pure blue sky.

A few farewell rambles associate themselves with packing up and plans of desertion. Not sad farewells in this case, for if I never again meet these individual mountains, I carry with me their memory, eternal and incomparably glorious. Let us peep into this nook: I got plentiful blackberries there in the spring, together with stains and thorny scratches. I haul myself over the ferry and back, for old acquaintance’ sake; the current is so lazy, it seems incredible that the same waters are almost impassable at some seasons. I succeed in wrecking a whole armada of floating leaves with stems like a bowsprit. A few beetles take passage in these gilded barges–no doubt, for the antipodes.

Did you ever drive up the cattle at milking time? I have; but not without endless trial and tribulation, for they spill off the path on either side in a very remarkable way, and when I rush after one with a flank movement, the column breaks and falls back utterly demoralized. A little strategy on the part of their commander (which is myself) triumphs in the end, for I privately reconstruct and march them all up in detachments of one. I look after the little trees, the unbent twigs; they are more interesting to me than your monsters. This nursery of saplings sprang up in a night after a freshet: here are quivering aspens trembling forever in penance for that one sin. They once were gravely pointed out by the guide of a party of tourists as “shuddering asps.” He is doubtless the same who, being asked “what that was,” (pointing to the North Dome, six thousand feet in the air) said “he’d be hanged if he knew; some knob or other.” I recall ten thousand pleasant times as I turn my face seaward; not only the great and omnipotent shadows under the south wall of the valley, nor the continuous canticles of the waters, but innumerable little things that fill up and make life perfect.

The talks, the walks with my friends here, the parrot “Sultan,” fed daily from the table, soliloquizing upon men and things in Arabic and Hindostanee, for he scorns English and talks in his sleep. There is _Bobby_, the grossbeak, brought to the door in pin feathers and skin like oiled silk by an Indian. His history is tragic: this Indian brained the whole family and an assortment of relatives; Bobby alone remaining to brood over the massacre, was sold into bondage for two bits and a tin dipper without the bottom. The sun seems to lift his gloom, for he sings a little, sharpens his bill with great gusto and tomahawks a bit of fruit, as though dealing vengeance upon the destroyer of his race.

[Illustration: Sentinel Hotel, Yosemite, in 1869]

When shall I see another such cabin as this–its great fireplaces, and the loft heaping full of pumpkins? O, Yosemite! O, halcyon days, and bed-time at eight P.M., tucking in for ten good hours and up again at six; good eatings and drinkings day by day, mugs of milk and baked squash forever, plenty of butter to our daily bread; letters at wide intervals, and long, uninterrupted “thinks” about home and friends (as the poet of the “Hermitage” writes in one of his letters). Shall I ever again sit for two mortal hours hearing a housefly buzz in the window and thinking it a pleasant voice! But alas! those restless days, when the air was full of driving leaves and I could find nothing on earth to comfort me.

I leave this morning. Opportunity takes me by the hand and leads me away. The heart leaps with emotion: everything is momentous in a quiet life. This is the portal we entered one deepening dusk. Its threshold will soon be cushioned with snow; let us hasten on. If I were asked when is the time to visit Yosemite, I should reply: Go in the spring; see the freshets and the waterfalls in their glory, and the valley in its fresh and vivid greenness. Go again, by all means, in the autumn, when the woods are powdered with gold dust and a dreamy haze sleeps in the long ravines; when the stars sparkle like crystals and the mornings are frosty; when the clouds visit us in person, and the trees look like crayon sketches on a vapory background, and the cliffs like leaning towers traced in sepia on a soft ground glass. Go in spring and autumn, if possible. I should choose autumn of the two; but go at any hazard, and do not rest till you have been. You can enter and go out at this portal. Passing seaward, to the left, out of the gray and groping mists a form, arises, monstrous and awful in its proportions; spurning the very earth that crumbles at its very base as it towers to heaven. The vapors of the air cleave to its massive front. The passing cloud is caught and torn in the grand carvings of its capitals. Gaze upon it in the solemnity of its sunlit surface. Impressive, impassive, magnetic; having a pulse and the organs of life almost; terrible as the forehead of a god. The full splendor of the noonday can not belittle it, night can not compass it. The moon is paler in its presence and wastes her lamp, the stars are hidden and lost over and beyond it. Across the face of it is borne forever the shadowy semblance of a swift and flying figure. Despair and desperation are in the nervous energy depicted in this marvelous medallion. Surely, the Indian may look with a degree of reverence upon that picture, painted by the morning light, fading in the meridian day, and gone altogether by evening. A grand etching of colossal proportions, representing the great chief Tutochanula in his mysterious flight. The Wandering Jew might look upon it and behold his traditional beard and flowing robes blown here by the winds in the rapidity of his desperate haste. It is the last one sees of the valley, as it is the last any have seen of Tutochanula. He fled into the west, cycles ago, and I follow him now into the west, nest-building, and getting into the shadow and resting after the door of the mountain is passed, and my soul no longer beats impetuously against those stormy walls.

With uncovered head, having nothing between me and Saturn, wiser, I trust, for my intercourse with these masters, purer in heart and holier for my prolonged vigil, with careful and reverential steps I pass out of Yosemite shadows.




She was a smallish moon, looking very chaste and chilly and she peered