You showed the public what you could do in that line when you raised me, Madam. But then you ought to have raised me first, so that Orion could have had the benefit of my example. Do you know that he stole all the stamps out of an 8 stamp quartz mill one night, and brought them home under his over-coat and hid them in the back room? Yrs. etc., SAM
A little later he had headed for the Esmeralda Hills. Some time in February he was established there in a camp with a young man by the name of Horatio Phillips (Raish). Later he camped with Bob Howland, who, as City Marshal of Aurora, became known as the most fearless man in the Territory, and, still later, with Calvin H. Higbie (Cal), to whom 'Roughing It' would one day be dedicated. His own funds were exhausted by this time, and Orion, with his rather slender salary, became the financial partner of the firm.
It was a comfortless life there in the Esmeralda camp. Snow covered everything. There was nothing to do, and apparently nothing to report; for there are no letters until April. Then the first one is dated Carson City, where he seems to be making a brief sojourn. It is a rather heavy attempt to be light-hearted; its playfulness suggests that of a dancing bear.
To Mrs. Jane Clemens, in St. Louis:
CARSON CITY, April 2, 1862. MY DEAR MOTHER,--Yours of March 2nd has just been received. I see I am in for it again--with Annie. But she ought to know that I was always stupid. She used to try to teach me lessons from the Bible, but I never could understand them. Doesn't she remember telling me the story of Moses, one Sunday, last Spring, and how hard she tried to explain it and simplify it so that I could understand it--but I couldn't? And how she said it was strange that while her ma and her grandma and her uncle Orion could understand anything in the world, I was so dull that I couldn't understand the "ea-siest thing?" And doesn't she remember that finally a light broke in upon me and I said it was all right--that I knew old Moses himself--and that he kept a clothing store in Market Street? And then she went to her ma and said she didn't know what would become of her uncle Sam he was too dull to learn anything--ever! And I'm just as dull yet. Now I have no doubt her letter was spelled right, and was correct in all particulars--but then I had to read it according to my lights; and they being inferior, she ought to overlook the mistakes I make specially, as it is not my fault that I wasn't born with good sense. I am sure she will detect an encouraging ray of intelligence in that last argument.....
I am waiting here, trying to rent a better office for Orion. I have got the refusal after next week of a room on first floor of a fire-proof brick-rent, eighteen hundred dollars a year. Don't know yet whether we can get it or not. If it is not rented before the week is up, we can.
I was sorry to hear that Dick was killed. I gave him his first lesson in the musket drill. We had half a dozen muskets in our office when it was over Isbell's Music Rooms.
I hope I am wearing the last white shirt that will embellish my person for many a day--for I do hope that I shall be out of Carson long before this reaches you. Love to all. Very Respectfully SAM.
The "Annie" in this letter was his sister Pamela's little daughter; long years after, she would be the wife of Charles L. Webster, Mark Twain's publishing partner. "Dick" the reader may remember as Dick Hingham, of the Keokuk printing-office; he was killed in charging the works at Fort Donelson.
Clemens was back in Esmeralda when the next letter was written, and we begin now to get pictures of that cheerless mining-camp, and to know something of the alternate hopes and discouragements of the hunt for gold--the miner one day soaring on wings of hope, on the next becoming excited, irritable, profane.