It is not known what became of the wagon and horses and the two dogs.
It was the end of January when our miner returned to Carson. He was not discouraged--far from it. He believed he had learned something that would be useful to him in a camp where mines were a reality. Within a few weeks from his return we find him at Aurora, in the Esmeralda region, on the edge of California. It was here that the Clemens brothers owned the 1,650 feet formerly mentioned. He had came down to work it.
It was the dead of winter, but he was full of enthusiasm, confident of a fortune by early summer. To Pamela he wrote:
"I expect to return to St. Louis in July--per steamer. I don't say that I will return then, or that I shall be able to do it--but I expect to--you bet . . . . If nothing goes wrong, we'll strike the ledge in June."
He was trying to be conservative, and further along he cautions his sister not to get excited.
"Don't you know I have only talked as yet, but proved nothing? Don't you know I have never held in my hands a gold or silver bar that belonged to me? Don't you know that people who always feel jolly, no matter where they are or what happens to them--who have the organ of hope preposterously developed--who are endowed with an uncongealable, sanguine temperament--who never feel concerned about the price of corn--and who cannot, by any possibility, discover any but the bright side of a picture--are very apt to go to extremes and exaggerate with a 40-horse microscopic power?
"But-but-- In the bright lexicon of youth, There is no such word as fail, and I'll prove it."
Whereupon he soars again, adding page after page full of glowing expectations and plans such as belong only with speculation in treasures buried in the ground--a very difficult place, indeed, to find them.
His money was about exhausted by this time, and funds to work the mining claims must come out of Orion's rather modest salary. The brothers owned all claims in partnership, and it was now the part of "Brother Sam" to do the active work. He hated the hard picking and prying and blasting into the flinty ledges, but the fever drove him on. He camped with a young man named Phillips at first, and, later on, with an experienced miner, Calvin H. Higbie, to whom "Roughing It" would one day be dedicated. They lived in a tiny cabin with a cotton roof, and around their rusty stove they would paw over their specimens and figure the fortune that their mines would be worth in the spring.
Food ran low, money gave out almost entirely, but they did not give up. When it was stormy and they could not dig, and the ex-pilot was in a talkative vein, he would sit astride the bunk and distribute to his hearers riches more valuable than any they would dig from the Esmeralda hills. At other times he did not talk at all, but sat in a corner and wrote. They thought he was writing home; they did not know that he was "literary." Some of his home letters had found their way into a Keokuk paper and had come back to Orion, who had shown them to an assistant on the "Territorial Enterprise," of Virginia City. The "Enterprise" man had caused one of them to be reprinted, and this had encouraged its author to send something to the paper direct. He signed these contributions "Josh," and one told of:
"An old, old horse whose name was Methusalem, Took him down and sold him in Jerusalem, A long time ago."
He received no pay for these offerings and expected none. He considered them of no value. If any one had told him that he was knocking at the door of the house of fame, however feebly, he would have doubted that person's judgment or sincerity.
His letters to Orion, in Carson City, were hasty compositions, reporting progress and progress, or calling for remittances to keep the work going. On April 13, he wrote:
"Work not begun on the Horatio and Derby--haven't seen it yet. It is still in the snow.