[This column has been partially reconstructed from the sketches that were later reprinted in the first edition of The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other Sketches.]
FROM OUR RESIDENT CORRESPONDENT
SAN FRANCISCO, February 23.
VOYAGE OF THE AJAX
The steamer Ajax returned from her pioneer trip to Honolulu yesterday about noon, bringing forty or fifty passengers and a large quantity of freight. She was fourteen days and four hours going down, and between eleven and twelve days coming back. Her crowd of invited guests had a delightful time at Honolulu visiting citizens and planters, dining out, driving here and there, attending parties and prospecting all localities of interest. The people neglected no opportunity of making the visit an agreeable one to their guests, and even his Majesty the King gave them a royal feast.
I was talking to one of the voyageurs a while ago, and he said that in most respects - in nearly all respects, in fact - the trip was a remarkably pleasant one, "but," said he, (and here he slowly shook his head and sighed as one who recalls a sorrowful reminiscence,) "I copper the down trip!" From what I can learn of the experiences of that stormy passage, I am satisfied that they all "copper" that portion of the excursion. The ship left San Francisco in the rain, and for twelve days the excursionists heaved and tossed in the midst of a terrific tempest. The first news that came back here said that the passengers on the Ajax had spent most of the down trip on their knees in prayer. Today their friends greeted them with a hearty handshake and then felt their knees to see if they were "calloused." I refer only to the gentlemen travelers, of course.
[The storm] tore her light spars and rigging all to shreds and splinters, upset all furniture that could be upset, and spilled passengers around and knocked them hither and thither with a perfect looseness. For forth-eight hours no table could be set, and every body had to eat as best they might under the circumstances. Most of the party went hungry, though, and attended to their praying. But there was one set of "seven-up" players who nailed a card table to the floor and stuck to their game through thick and thin. Captain Fretz, of the Bank of California, a man of great coolness and presence of mind, was of this party. One night the storm suddenly culminated in a climax of unparalleled fury; the vessel went down on her beam ends, and every thing let go with a crash - passengers, tables, cards, bottles - every thing came clattering to the floor in a chaos of disorder and confusion. In a moment fifty sore distressed and pleading voices ejaculated, "O God! help us in our extremity!" and one voice rang out clear and sharp above the plaintive chorus and said, "Remember, boys, I played the tray for low!" It was one of the gentlemen I have mentioned who spoke. And the remark showed good presence of mind and an eye to business.
Lewis Leland, of the Occidental, was a passenger. There were some savage grizzly bears chained in cages on deck. One night, in the midst of a hurricane, which was accompanied by rain and thunder and lightning, Mr. Leland came up, on his way to bed. Just as he stepped into the pitchy darkness of the deck and reeled to the still more pitchy motion of the vessel, (bad,) the captain sang out hoarsely through his speaking-trumpet, "Bear a hand aft, there!" The words were sadly marred and jumbled by the roaring wind. Mr. Leland thought the captain said, "The bears are after your there!" and he "let go all holts" and went down into his boots. He murmured, "I knew how it was going to be - I just knew it from the start - I said all along that those bears would get loose some time; and now I'll be the first man that they'll snatch. Captain! captain! - can't hear me - storm roars so! O God! what a fate! I have avoided wild beasts all my life, and now to be eaten by a grizzly bear in the middle of the ocean, a thousand miles from land! Captain! O captain! - bless my soul, there's one of them - I've got to cut and run!" And he did cut and run, and smashed through the first stateroom he came to. A gentleman and his wife were in it. The gentleman exclaimed, "Who's that?" The refugee gasped out, "O great Scotland! those bears are loose, and just raising merry hell all over the ship! and sank down exhausted. The gentleman sprang out of bed and locked the door, and prepared for a siege. After a while, no assault being made, a reconnoissance was made from the window and a vivid flash of lightning revealed a clear deck. Mr. Leland then made a dart for his own stateroom, gained it, locked himself in, and felt that his body's salvation was accomplished, and by little less than a miracle. The next day the subject of this memoir, though still very feeble and nervous, had the hardihood to make a joke upon his adventure. He said that when he found himself in so tight a place (as he thought) he didn't bear it with much fortitude, and when he found himself safe at last in his state-room, he regarded it as the bearest escape he had ever had in his life. He then went to bed, and did not get up again for nine days. This unquestionably bad joke cast a gloom over the whole ship's company, and no effort was sufficient to restore their wonted cheerfulness until the vessel reached her port, and other scenes erased it from their memories.
The Ajax is advertised to sail for Honolulu again on the 1st of March.
The splendid band of the old U. S. Second Artillery, so long under the late General DeRussey when he was at the head of the Engineer Corps of the United States and stationed at Fortress Monroe, kindly cherishing the memory of their beloved old commander, went out to South Park, last night, after the ceremonies and festivities of Washington's birthday were over, and serenaded Mrs. DeRussey and her family. It was a graceful and touching tribute, and showed how well the lads esteemed the old soldier who was always so proud of them. No music could have been imbued with more tender expression than they breathed into their first piece:
"Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?"
There is moving pathos in speech and eloquence sways the feelings with a mighty power, but music goes straight to the heart after all.
The first thing the Second Artillery did when they landed here from the East a month or two before the old General died, was to come out here with their band and serenade him. He was in tolerable health, then, and sat up in his parlor in uniform and listened to their martial music, the proudest man in San Francisco. Such marks of regard from "his boys" always touched him and gratified him.
OFF FOR THE SNOW BELT
Colonel Conway and his junior officers and assistants leave to-day in the steamer Active to resume operations in British Columbia on his division of the Russian Telegraph expedition. He will take a vast amount of wire and telegraphic traps of various kinds [remainder of this passage is missing].
AFTER THEM - text not available
THEATRICAL - text not available
A NEW BIOGRAPHY OF WASHINGTON
This day, many years ago precisely, George Washington was born. How full of significance the thought! Especially to those among us who have had a similar experience, though subsequently; and still more especially to the young, who should take him for a model and faithfully try to be like him, undeterred by the frequency with which the same thing has been attempted by American youths before them and not satisfactorily accomplished. George Washington was the youngest of nine children, eight of whom were the offspring of his uncle and his aunt. As a boy he gave no promise of the greatness he was one day to achieve. He was ignorant of the commonest accomplishments of youth. He could not even lie. But then he never had any of those precious advantages which are within the reach of the humblest of the boys of the present day. Any boy can lie, now. I could lie before I could stand - yet this sort of sprightliness was so common in our family that little notice was taken of it. Young George appears to have had no sagacity whatever. It is related of him that he once chopped down his father's favorite cherry tree, and then didn't know enough to keep dark about it. He came near going to sea, once, as a midshipman; but when his mother represented to him that he must necessarily be absent when he was away from home, and that this must continue to be the case until he got back, the sad truth struck him so forcibly that he ordered his trunk ashore, and quietly but firmly refused to serve in the navy and fight the battles of his king so long as the effect of it would be to discommode his mother. The great rule of his life was, that procrastination was the thief of time, and that we should always do unto others. This is the golden rule. Therefore, he would never discommode his mother.
Young George Washington was actuated in all things, by the highest and purest principles of morality, justice and right. He was a model in every way worthy of the emulation of youth. Young George was always prompt and faithful in the discharge of every duty. It has been said of him, by the historian, that he was always on hand, like a thousand of brick. And well deserved was this noble compliment. The aggregate of the building material specified might have been largely increased - might have been doubled - even without doing full justice to these high qualities in the subject of this sketch. Indeed, it would hardly be possible to express in bricks the exceeding promptness and fidelity of young George Washington. His was a soul whose manifold excellencies were beyond the ken and computation of mathematics, and bricks are, at the least, but an inadequate vehicle for the conveyance of a comprehension of the moral sublimity of a nature so pure as his.
Young George W. was a surveyor in early life - a surveyor of an inland port - a sort of county surveyor; and under a commission from Gov. Dinwiddie, he set out to survey his way four hundred miles through a trackless forest, infested with Indians, to procure the liberation of some English prisoners. The historian says the Indians were the most depraved of their species, and did nothing but lay for white men, whom they killed for the sake of robbing them. Considering that white men only traveled through their country at the rate of one a year, they were probably unable to do what might be termed a land-office business in their line. They did not rob young G. W.; one savage made the attempt, but failed; he fired at the subject of this sketch from behind a tree, but the subject of this sketch immediately snaked him out from behind the tree and took him prisoner.
The long journey failed of success; the French would not give up the prisoners, and Wash went sadly back home again. A regiment was raised to go and make a rescue, and he took command of it. He caught the French out in the rain and tackled them with great intrepidity. He defeated them in ten minutes, and their commander handed in his checks. This was the battle of Great Meadows.
After this, a good while, George Washington became Commander-in-Chief of the American armies, and had an exceedingly dusty time of it all through the Revolution. But every now and then he turned a jack from the bottom and surprised the enemy. He kept up his lick for seven long years, and hazed the British from Harrisburg to Halifax - and America was free! He served two terms as President, and would have been President yet if he had lived - even so did the people honor the Father of his Country. Let the youth of America take his incomparable character for a model and try it one jolt, anyhow. Success is possible - let them remember that - success is possible, though there are chances against it.
I could continue this biography, with profit to the rising generation, but I shall have to drop the subject at present, because of other matters which must be attended to.
this clipping which is missing some portions is reprinted in The Works of
Mark Twain; Early Tales & Sketches, Vol. 1 1851-1864, (Univ. of California
Press, 1979), p. 525.]
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