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spent in his society the British officer gave the riddle up. "The more I see of him the more I am puzzled. He appears acquainted with everybody and everything, but unknown to every one himself. . . . In his dark and searching eye there is an almost supernatural penetration and lustre, which, were I inclined to superstition, might induce me to set down its possessor as a second Melmoth." And so he was a second Melmoth, as he was also Don Quixote and the Wandering Jew.
Thus romance clung about him as it clung about his books, yet it was not in the unrevealed mystery of his character that he took his keenest delight. He was still more proud of his physical prowess. "He has been a great rider, walker, and swimmer," -so he wrote in a brief autobiography, with an evident and just pleasure. Twice he saved the lives of drowning men, and once "he walked from London to Norwich, a distance of one hundred and twelve miles, in sevenand-twenty hours. His entire expenses in this expedition amounted to five -pence halfpenny, the only refreshments which he took on the road consisting of a pint of ale, a roll of bread, half a pint of milk, and two apples." That is an exploit of which any man of letters might be proud, and it is small wonder that Borrow
sets it down as the crowning achievement of his life.
He was always irascible and intolerant-a good hater, as we have said, and sublimely careless concerning the grounds of his hatreds. For instance, he disliked sherry, and looked upon sherry - drinkers with a positive contempt. Though a staunch Tory, he denounced Jacobitism and Popery—" complines and Claverse -as the hobbies of Oxford pedantry. Moreover, he execrated the memory of Wullie Wallace, and suspected all London zanies of gentility. To those who in his view had thwarted his career he was implacably hostile, and he embraced in a common hatred all who bore a hated name. His vanity persuaded him to believe that he was capable of teaching every lesson, and surely a second Mr Barlow was lost in this tramp and horsebreaker. But his faults were the faults of a hero, and they were based upon the solid rock of egoism. To reopen his books is to breathe a purer and a larger air, to feel the wind upon the immortal heath. And truly he deserved a better fate than an American biographer. Yet we may spare a modest gratitude for Dr Knapp, since he has shot down a vast heap of facts, whereon some pearls may be discovered, and better still, he has sent us back for a while to 'Lavengro' and 'The Romany Rye.'
ROMANCE OF THE MINES.
THE NEVADA SILVER BOOM.
WASHOE, which was destined to have a world-wide renown, is believed to have taken its name from a wandering tribe of Indians. It is a bleak range of hills, with an average height of 5000 feet, running parallel to the Nevada on one side and to the Rockies on the other. The range is cut up in all directions by deep cañons and gullies. The cities that afterwards sprang up immediately beneath the crests enjoy perhaps the vilest climate in the States. The summers are scorching, and there is no shade. In winter, and indeed at all seasons, the gales from the north, pleasantly known as the Virginian zephyrs, and confined between two mighty mountain-ranges, burst on the treeless plateau with incredible fury, when the warmest clothes are no sort of protection. But the earlier prospectors kept to the shelter of the gullies, for it must be remembered they were still searching for gold, and had no thought of the silver-reef. In one or two of these lateral arroyos they struck it rich, and Gold Cañon was the magnet which drew multitudes to the camps. At first the yield was highly satisfactory. But as the washers worked up the ravines, the gold-dust visibly deteriorated. San Francisco brokers, who had been buying for twenty dollars an ounce, would now give little more than half the money. The workers them
selves were forced to own that the siftings were decidedly lighter in colour. Moreover, the loose auriferous gravel had been changing to sticky clay, and, with many a curse, they tossed wide "the blue stuff," which accumulated in unregarded refuse-heaps. The ignorance was profound, and it seems almost incredible now that the evidences did not penetrate their dull intelligences. For the grey shimmer of the depreciated dust was due to the rich combination of the white metal: the execrated blue stuff was so richly impregnated with the overflow of inexhaustible silver stores, that it would have yielded them twice the profit of their gold. The hills, on the sides of which they were painfully scraping, were pregnant with their lodes of silver: everywhere interspersed through the reefs of quartz and porphyry were bonanzas of almost virgin ore.
How the existence of those wonderful silver-reefs was first realised is by no means clear, though much has been written on the subject. Comstock and others who have left records of their investigations were notorious liars, and all that is certain is that they are never to be trusted. The story of all the miners who were first concerned with the find is one of almost unchecked misfortune and bitter disappointments. All sold out for a comparative
trifle and came to subsequent the rich contents of a gophergrief; but the fate of the men hole. It seems more likely that who are most plausibly credited he was 'cute enough to take with having struck the silver is advantage of the find of another the most tragical of all. They party. Water was indispenswere two brothers of the name able to working. He claimed a of Grosh, sons of a New England convenient spring to which he minister, and fairly educated. had questionable pretensions, They devoted their scanty leis- and forced himself as a partner ure to the survey of Mount on a little fraternity who apDavidson, while toiling from parently had really struck rich hand to mouth as working silver. In those primitive times miners. They are supposed to a man's asseveration, even if he have transferred notes of their were a notorious liar, seems to surveys to paper, with sketches have passed current as a state of the ground. But they saw deed or a formal mining-lease. that capital was indispensable Be that as it may, it did not to work the quartz, and capital much matter in the end. The they could not command. silver - mining and the silver brother died of an accident. boom were fairly launched; but The other started to cross the not a man of that group made Sierra to San Francisco in the anything solid by their transdepth of winter, with a single actions. Had they suspected companion, in the intention, as it, they were on the verge of it is supposed, of seeking the being enriched by potentialities necessary financial assistance. beyond the wildest dream of He succumbed to the severity avarice. Four out of the six sold of the weather after untold out for a few thousand dollars, sufferings. The donkey which and squandered them. A fifth they had loaded with their held on a little longer, realised "outfit," and which carried the a good round sum, speculated papers, was abandoned. Prob- in stocks, and died a lunatic. ably the secret of the mines Comstock waited just long perished with the donkey: yet enough to miss his chance. He there is a doubt whether some sold in his turn, and went prosstray memoranda left behind pecting. He came back pennimay not have fallen into the less to his Comstock, to work on hands of Comstock. For when his own ledges for an ordinary Allen Grosh left the camp, he wage. After a time he threw handed over his stone hut with up his pick in disgust, and his implements to Comstock's ended by committing suicide. keeping. Comstock, who claimed to be the original discoverer, and gave his name to the great treasure-lodes, was ignorant as any of his comrades; but he must have been an uncommonly sharp fellow. He has put on record that he was led to his discovery by his panning out
In 1860 the rush to Mount Davidson had fairly set in: in 1863 the excitement may be said to have culminated. Before that a characteristic incident had occurred which seriously disturbed the municipal economy. A man digging in the soil of his sage
bush tenement chanced to come on a silver-vein. By miner's law he had the right to peg out a claim for a length of 400 feet, and concede stretches of 200 feet to any chum. Consequently all his neighbours in the adjacent streets had to quit, or trade, or shoot, as the case might be. For at that time every citizen was on the shoot, and the pistol was the ultimate court of appeal. There was a strange mingling of desperadoes with the hardworking miners, who would gladly have been peaceable had that been possible. The swaggerers, who terrorised the town, carried not only revolvers, but, as a rule, shotguns. The miner went girded with a Colt in self-defence, and the bowie-knife was his inseparable companion. The climate, as we have said, was unhealthy enough, yet threefourths of the corpses borne to the quiet graveyard had come to a violent end. The innumerable drinking-bars were the only places of recreation when a man tired of the theatre or the travelling circus. But when he dropped in for the evening gossip or drink, he knew that he took his life in his hand. A breeze blew up in a corner, and forthwith the six-shooters were out. The bar-tender's was a popular and lucrative post, but the privileges inferred corresponding liabilities. He kept his private armoury in a drawer beneath the counter. The bar was intrenched and fortified with sand - bags till it was shot-proof. At the first symptom of trouble, he dropped.
The customers who were not over - excited by curiosity scuttled promptly behind full casks, left around for their accommodation, or cleared out into the street. The bars charged dear, and made good profits. But one of the heaviest drawbacks was the outlay on mirrors. The miners insisted on a grand show of plate-glass, and a pistol-shot might send a week's profits to smithereens. And naturally the stray bullets would often find billets in the bodies of disinterested and involuntary spectators.
There is much that is grimly humorous in the matter-ofcourse way in which the local news - sheets reported these nightly brawls. A year or two later, after an atrociously coldblooded shooting-scene, an old resident, in his fond reminiscences, plaintively remarked that it brought back the lively times of 1860. For those Washoe camps were the most lawless of all, and only surpassed subsequently by the wilder licence in Montana. Notable bullies turned up from the Californian placers to terrorise the community: the crimes for which they had been outlawed were so many feathers in their caps, and the biggest ruffian of all arrived with the brilliant record of a baker's dozen of unjustifiable homicides. Then there were the more gentlemanly, but scarcely less bloodthirsty, professionals, who made a livelihood by gambling. Bret Harte has relieved their darker shades, for purposes of romance, by crediting them with qualities they seldom pos
sessed; and a certain Cherokee Bob, who hailed from Idaho, is said to have been the prototype of Mr Oakhurst and Mr Hamblin. They had the one redeeming virtue of being the most abstemious members of the society, for they could not afford to lose their heads. Burglary, too, was good business, though the risks were proportionate to the gains. The sage - bushes of the first hovels had been replaced with boarding, as roads improved and lumber was cheapened: but the loose planking was a frail protection to buried deposits of gold, and locks and bars were of the most primitive description. As robberies grew more frequent, the prudent miners felt it was simple wisdom to squander their money. At least they had the satisfaction of spending it themselves. The advent of ladies was a tempting opening for extravagance. At first the apparition of a woman was rare as that of an accredited ghost. The rude celibates hungered for the sight of a feminine face. Mark Twain has a story, at any rate ben trovato, of how a stage with a lady passenger inside was stopped by a gang at some outlying diggings. With levelled pistols they compelled her companion to hand her out. They gathered round her; they gazed her out of countenance; they actually wept over her; and then they presented her with a purse of twenty-five hundred dollars subscribed on the spot. That gives an idea of the warmth of the reception of the frail San Francisco beauties
who speculated in a trip to the ironically named Virginia City. They were intoxicated with adoration and champagne, and loaded with costly gifts. Attended by trains of admirers, bedizened with jewels of price, they trailed their satins and silks through the dust and foul refuse of a city where it seldom rained. A girl of talent, who could dance, or sing, or play the piano, was engaged at twice a senator's income, to figure at some theatre booth, or bait a gambling - saloon.
The development of the subterraneous industry had been prodigious and unprecedented. In 1859 ground was broken; in 1860 the boom was well on, and sixty stamp-mills were running; in 1863 it was in fullest swing. Enormous capital had been invested in the companies. The Ophir, the Gould & Curry, and many other mines almost as widely advertised, had been marked out with fixed boundaries. Yet the border rock was often fiercely disputed, and after those sanguinary encounters below ground, the derricks would be busily at work hoisting up the dead and wounded. For each miner was personally loyal to his salt, and fought for his paymasters with feudal devotion. Right through the mountain and under Virginia City ran the Comstock lode: from the main branch diverged innumerable lateral veins, like the fibres on a leaf or the side-creeks from a seachannel. The main vein was from sixty to eighty feet thick, traversing walls of barren rock. Expectation was always kept