[portion of San Francisco letter]
THE CHAPMAN FAMILY
Whenever he commenced helping anybody, Captain Ed Montgomery never relaxed his good offices as long as help was needed.
As soon as he found that no steamboat ever stopped to wood with old Mother Utterback in the bend below Grand Gulf, Mississippi, and that she was poor and needed assistance, he began to stop there every trip and take her little pile of wood and smile grimly, when the engineers protested that it wouldn't burn any more than so many icicles--and stop there again the very next trip. He used to go ashore and talk to the old woman, and it flattered her to the last degree to be on such sociable terms with the high chief officer of a splendid passenger steamer. She would welcome him to her shabby little floorless log cabin with a royal flourish, and make her six gawky "gals" fly around and make him comfortable. He used to bring his lady passengers ashore to be entertained with Mother Utterback's quaint conversation.
I do not know that this incident is worth recording, but still, as it may let in the light of instruction to some darkened mind, I will just set down the circumstances of one of Captain Montgomery's visits to Mother Utterback and her daughters. He brought some fine ladies with him to enjoy the old woman's talk.
"Good morning, Captain Montgomery!" said she with many a bustling bow and flourish; "Good morning, Captain Montgomery; good morning, ladies all; how de do, Captain Montgomery--how de do--how de do? Sakes alive, it 'pears to me it's ben years sense I seed you. Fly around gals, fly around! You Bets, you slut, highst yoself off'n that candle-box and give it to the lady. How have you ben, Captain Moutgornery?--make yoself at home, ladies all--you 'Liza Jane, stan' out of the way--move yoself! Thar's the jug, help yoself, Captain Montgomery; take that cob out and make yoself free, Captain Montgomery--and ladies all. You Sal, you hussy, git up f'm thar this minit, and take some exercise! for the land's sake, ain't you got no sense at all?--settin' thar on that cold rock and you jes' ben married last night, and your pores all open!"
The ladies wanted to go aboard the boat, they bade the kind, hospitable old woman good by, and went away. But Captain Montgomery staid behind, because he knew how badly the old lady wanted to talk, and he was a good soul and loved to please her.
Ah, that was a good man was Captain Ed Montgomery, and the moment I saw that
paragraph about him the other day I remembered how kind it was of him to always
stop and buy that old Arkansas woman's green wood and pay her the highest market
price for it when he could no more burn it than he could burn an iceberg. It
was so soggy, too, and wet, and heavy. I remember how, whenever he blew the
whistle to land there, the mate used to sing out hoarsely and in bitterness
of spirit, "Larboard watch--turn out! Stand by, men, to take in some ballast!"
But you can rest assured I am not sorry old Captain Ed Montgomery is alive and
[reprinted in The Washoe Giant in San Francisco, edited by Franklin Walker, (George Fields, 1938), pp. 104-05. Also as "Mark Twain's Reminiscence," Austin, Nevada Reese River Reveille, January 18, 1866 and as "Captain Montgomery" in Golden Era, Jan. 28, 1866.]
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