"I felt terribly guilty when he said:

"'Joe, those d--n thieves took my keys, and I can't get into my trunk. Do you suppose you could get me a key that would fit my trunk?'

"I said I thought I could during the day, and after Sam had gone I took his own key, put it in the fire and burnt it to make it look black. Then I took a file and scratched it here and there, to make it look as if I had been fitting it to the lock, feeling guilty all the time, like a man who is trying to hide a murder. Sam did not ask for his key that day, and that evening he was invited to judge Baldwin's to dinner. I thought he looked pretty silent and solemn when he came home; but he only said:

"'Joe, let's play cards; I don't feel sleepy.'

"Steve here, and two or three of the other boys who had been active in the robbery, were present, and they did not like Sam's manner, so they excused themselves and left him alone with me. We played a good while; then he said:

"'Joe, these cards are greasy. I have got some new ones in my trunk. Did you get that key to-day?'

"I fished out that burnt, scratched-up key with fear and trembling. But he didn't seem to notice it at all, and presently returned with the cards. Then we played, and played, and played--till one o'clock--two o'clock--Sam hardly saying a word, and I wondering what was going to happen. By and by he laid down his cards and looked at me, and said:

"'Joe, Sandy Baldwin told me all about that robbery to-night. Now, Joe, I have found out that the law doesn't recognize a joke, and I am going to send every one of those fellows to the penitentiary.'

"He said it with such solemn gravity, and such vindictiveness, that I believed he was in dead earnest.

"I know that I put in two hours of the hardest work I ever did, trying to talk him out of that resolution. I used all the arguments about the boys being his oldest friends; how they all loved him, and how the joke had been entirely for his own good; I pleaded with him, begged him to reconsider; I went and got his money and his watch and laid them on the table; but for a time it seemed hopeless. And I could imagine those fellows going behind the bars, and the sensation it would make in California; and just as I was about to give it up he said:

"'Well, Joe, I'll let it pass--this time; I'll forgive them again; I've had to do it so many times; but if I should see Denis McCarthy and Steve Gillis mounting the scaffold to-morrow, and I could save them by turning over my hand, I wouldn't do it!'

"He canceled the lecture engagement, however, next morning, and the day after left on the Pioneer Stage, by the way of Donner Lake, for California. The boys came rather sheepishly to see him off; but he would make no show of relenting. When they introduced themselves as Beauregard, Stonewall Jackson, etc., he merely said:

"'Yes, and you'll all be behind the bars some day. There's been a good deal of robbery around here lately, and it's pretty clear now who did it.' They handed him a package containing the masks which the robbers had worn. He received it in gloomy silence; but as the stage drove away he put his head out of the window, and after some pretty vigorous admonition resumed his old smile, and called out: 'Good-by, friends; good-by, thieves; I bear you no malice.' So the heaviest joke was on his tormentors after all."

This is the story of the famous Mark Twain robbery direct from headquarters. It has been garbled in so many ways that it seems worth setting down in full. Denis McCarthy, who joined him presently in San Francisco, received a little more punishment there.

"What kind of a trip did you boys have?" a friend asked of them.

Clemens, just recovering from a cold which the exposure on the Divide had given him, smiled grimly:

"Oh, pretty good, only Denis here mistook it for a spree."

He lectured again in San Francisco, this time telling the story of his Overland trip in 1861, and he did the daring thing of repeating three times the worn-out story of Horace Greeley's ride with Hank Monk, as given later in 'Roughing It'.

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

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