from intrusting himself to the mercies of a phenomenal stammerer.
But in time there happened an aggravated murder - so bad, indeed,
that by common consent the citizens decided, as a prelude to
lynching, to give the real law a chance. They could, in fact,
gambol round that murder. They met - the court in its
shirt-sleeves - and against the raw square of the Court House
window a temptingly suggestive branch of a tree fretted the sky.
No one appeared for the prisoner, and, partly in jest, the court
advised young Samuelson to take up the case.
"The prisoner is undefended, Sam," said the court. "The square
thing to do would be for you to take him aside and do the best
you can for him."
Court, jury, and witness then adjourned to the veranda, while
Samuelson led his client aside to the Court House cells. An hour
passed ere the lawyer returned alone. Mutely the audience
"May it p-p-please the c-court," said Samuel-son, "my client's
case is a b-b-b-bad one - a d-d-amn bad one. You told me to do
the b-b-best I c-could for him, judge, so I've jest given him
y-your b-b-bay gelding, an' told him to light out for healthier
c-climes, my p-p-professional opinion being he'd be hanged
quicker'n h-h-hades if he dallied here. B-by this time my
client's 'bout fifteen mile out yonder somewheres. That was the
b-b-best I could do for him, may it p-p-please the court."
The young man, escaping punishment in lieu of the prisoner, made
his fortune ere five years.
Other voices followed, with equally wondrous tales of
riata-throwing in Mexico and Arizona, of gambling at army posts
in Texas, of newspaper wars waged in godless Chicago (I could not
help being interested, but they were not pretty tricks), of
deaths sudden and violent in Montana and Dakota, of the loves of
half-breed maidens in the South, and fantastic huntings for gold
in mysterious Alaska. Above all, they told the story of the
building of old San Francisco, when the "finest collection of
humanity on God's earth, sir, started this town, and the water
came up to the foot of Market Street." Very terrible were some
of the tales, grimly humorous the others, and the men in
broadcloth and fine linen who told them had played their parts in
"And now and again when things got too bad they would toll the
city bell, and the Vigilance Committee turned out and hanged the
suspicious characters. A man didn't begin to be suspected in
those days till he had committed at least one unprovoked murder,"
said a calm-eyed, portly old gentleman.
I looked at the pictures around me, the noiseless, neat-uniformed
waiter behind me, the oak-ribbed ceiling above, the velvet carpet
beneath. It was hard to realize that even twenty years ago you
could see a man hanged with great pomp. Later on I found reason
to change my opinion. The tales gave me a headache and set me
thinking. How in the world was it possible to take in even one
thousandth of this huge, roaring, many-sided continent? In the
tobacco-scented silence of the sumptuous library lay Professor
Bryce's book on the American Republic.
"It is an omen," said I. "He has done all things in all
seriousness, and he may be purchased for half a guinea. Those
who desire information of the most undoubted, must refer to his
pages. For me is the daily round of vagabondage, the recording of
the incidents of the hour and inter-course with the
travelling-companion of the day. I will not 'do' this country at
And I forgot all about India for ten days while I went out to
dinners and watched the social customs of the people, which are
entirely different from our customs, and was introduced to men of
many millions. These persons are harmless in their earlier
stages - that is to say, a man worth three or four million dollars
may be a good talker, clever, amusing, and of the world; a man
with twice that amount is to be avoided, and a twenty million man
is - just twenty millions. Take an instance. I was speaking to a
newspaper man about seeing the proprietor of his journal, as in
my innocence I supposed newspaper men occasionally did. My
friend snorted indignantly: - "See him! Great Scott! No. If he
happens to appear in the office, I have to associate with him;
but, thank Heaven! outside of that I move in circles where he
And yet the first thing I have been taught to believe is that
money was everything in America!
I HAVE been watching machinery in repose after reading about
machinery in action.
An excellent gentleman, who bears a name honored in the magazine,
writes, much as Disraeli orated, of "the sublime instincts of an
ancient people," the certainty with which they can be trusted to
manage their own affairs in their own way, and the speed with
which they are making for all sorts of desirable goals. This he
called a statement or purview of American politics.
I went almost directly afterward to a saloon where gentlemen
interested in ward politics nightly congregate. They were not
pretty persons. Some of them were bloated, and they all swore
cheerfully till the heavy gold watch-chains on their fat stomachs
rose and fell again; but they talked over their liquor as men who
had power and unquestioned access to places of trust and profit.
The magazine writer discussed theories of government; these men