March 15th, 1867.
EDITORS ALTA: We took passage in the cars of the New Jersey Central at 8 P.M. of the 3d of March, and left port in the midst of a cheerful snow-storm. I call it cheerful because there is something exquisitely satisfactory in whistling along through a shrouded land, following blindly wherever the demon in the lead may take you, yet sensible that he knows the way, and will steer his unerring course as faithfully as if it were noonday; sensible also that you are as safe there as anywhere, sitting with back against the bulkhead, and feet crossed on the next seat, and hat drawn down to shade the eyes from the lamp overhead - sitting thus by the comfortable fire, smoking placidly and dreaming of other times and other scenes, taking small heed of the storm without, yet scarcely conscious that it is snowing and is blowing drearily across the bleak moor as well, and that some people are out there suffering in it, and distressed, but that you ain't; that, on the contrary, you are perfectly happy, and tranquil, and satisfied, sitting thus, and smoking, and dreaming, and being timed and soothed by the clatter of the wheels - well, you know there is something unspeakably comfortable about it.
That was the way I felt from eight till a little after twelve; (the sleeping-cars were full and I had to sit up all night.) I had been talking latterly to a young soldier who had been all through the wars, from Bull Run to Lee's surrender - a beardless veteran full of battle experiences and tales of camp and prison life and was now within a hundred miles of his home, almost, for the first time in six years - handsome, modest, honest, good-hearted boy of twenty-three, and more ready to tell about his school-boy days than his six charges at Antietam - but gone the warrior was, and I was alone. Then I began to feel crampy a little, and then chilly - and presently I noticed that the fire was very low, and remembered that I had seen no one doctor it for over three hours. I got up and tried to open the stove door, but could not do it. A drowsy neighbor said it was locked, to keep the passengers from burning too much coal! I looked again, and found the keyhole - so it was true. The man said this was done "on all them d-----d Jersey monopoler roads." I grew chilly fast, then, and gradually grew peevish and fretful, also. I observed that the furniture was mean and old, and that the train moved slowly, and stopped to land a passenger every three hundred yards. After that, every time we stopped I cursed the railroad till we started again, and that afforded me some little satisfaction. I observed, also, that the usual mean man was aboard, who kept his window a little open to distress his fellows. And after that I noticed how fearfully dismal and unhappy the passengers looked, doubled up in uncomfortable attitudes on short seats in the dim, funereal light - like so many corpses, they looked, of people who had died of care and weariness. And then I said I would rather walk than travel that route again, and I wished the Company would burst up 60 completely that there wouldn't be money enough left to give the Directors Christian burial, but I hoped they might need it shortly.
I shall never be able to express how glad I was when the gray dawn stole over the plain, and the sun followed and cheered the scene, and the train stopped and I gave my limbs a grateful stretch, and steeped my sorrowful soul in inspiring coffee.
INSIGNIFICANCE IN OFFICE
The conductor was pompous and discourteous, as natural wood-sawyers in office are apt to be. Your dog with a brass collar with his master's name on it, is ever prone to snub the undecorated dog. Brown plied the fellow with questions at every opportunity, and scorned all rebuffs. He asked him with fine irony, if that train ever ran by a town before they could stop it; and when he was fiercely answered "No," he said he thought such a thing might be possible, but he had not gone so far as to consider it probable. And he wanted to know if this was the country where the "Jersey lightning" of history came from, and if they had any of it aboard that train. When we finally ran over a cow, he felt better satisfied about the speed of the train, because, as he said, he knew we must be going along tolerably lively else we could not have overtaken the cow.
Brown said to the brakeman, "Your brother, the conductor, gets forty or fifty thousand dollars a year, maybe, I reckon?"
"No-he gets ten or fifteen hundred, if it's anything to you."
"Possible? Why I wouldn't have thought that a man could afford to put on forty-five thousand dollars' worth of frills for fifteen hundred without losing money and getting discouraged."
PHOTOGRAPH OF PITTSBURG, ETC.
We got to Pittsburg at 2 P.M., 431 miles, 18 hours out, 25 miles an hour. Pittsburg, as we saw it, is a vast, impenetrable bank of black smoke, and two or three long bridges stretching across a river. It is very picturesque. All through Pennsylvania the houses looked old and shabby - that is, all through the country .
We supped at Alliance, Ohio, and took sleeping cars for Indianapolis. And what a luxury the berth was, both in anticipation and reality! Knowing I had a bed sure, I had no occasion to hurry. So I smoked till three in the morning and then undressed and turned in. It was a sort of palace. The berth was wide enough for three, and I had the whole stateroom to myself. I compelled Brown to sit up all night, so that he could come and tell me in case the train ran off the track.
It was worth the forty hours I had gone without sleep to feel the luxury of lying down between clean sheets and stretching out at full length - and drawing up and stretching out again - and turning over and fetching another celestial stretch. The music of the wheels was so tranquilizing, too. I dropped off to sleep, lulled by the ceaseless racket, and woke up at Indianapolis at 9 A.M.
I will mention here that one does not need a map to tell him when he crosses the boundary of one State and enters an other. He can discover it in a moment by the appearance of the passengers that come on board. If they had Ohio or Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Indiana or Illinois written on their foreheads, one could not detect their abiding places much easier.
From Indianapolis to St. Louis we did as we had from the first - stopped at some shanty or other every fifteen minutes to discharge or take in forty cents worth of passengers, and if there is anything more aggravating than that, I do not know what it is. We reached St. Louis, eleven hundred miles from New York, fifty-two hours out, and if we had come straight through we might have done it in half the time. I went straight home and sat up till breakfast time, talking and telling other lies.
I find S. R. Weed, an ancient California newspaper man, of the days when Kendall and Frank Soule, and some of the rest of you were in your frolicsome youth. He is in the insurance business now, but still corresponds with the ALTA and the New York Tribune, and sends telegrams to the Chicago Tribune, Cincinnati Commercial and New Orleans Times. He was on the Democrat here for a long time, and they say that he was war correspondent of the Herald and Tribune both for four years, and worked up his battles so differently for each, by making them rebel victories for one and Union victories for the other, that he was not suspected by his employers. He is doing quite a lively insurance trade now, and is gradually cutting loose from newspaperdom.
Mose Flannigan, formerly of San Francisco, owns considerably in the Olympic Theatre here, and built it.
This reminds me that Felix McClusky, another San Franciscan, and an innocent, matter-of-fact man, is in Washington, and holds, or did hold, an office there which did not require that its occupant should know more than thirty-five or forty men ought to know-he had charge of the heating apparatus of the Capitol. They say that he had a steam engine in his department which he was very proud of, and was always showing it and expatiating upon it to visitors. One day one of these asked him what its capacity was - how many horse-power? "Horse-power, h--l!" he says, "it goes by steam!"
And that reminds me about an anecdote concerning Gen. Sherman, who is now a resident of St. Louis. On his march down toward Atlanta, he constantly astonished the rebels with the facility with which he restored the railroad bridges they destroyed at his approach. They would annihilate a bridge just before he arrived, and the next morning there it was again, just as it had been before they touched it. At last a light dawned upon them. The original plans for the bridges had all been furnished from Cleveland, Ohio, and before Sherman started he took those plans, had each bridge duplicated in all its timbers and iron work, took the pieces in a "shook" state on his trains, and so, when he found a bridge gone, he had nothing to do but get its mate out of the freight cars, bolt it together, and put it up. This thing worried the rebels a good deal when they found it out. One day they proposed to destroy the Dalton tunnel, to hinder Sherman's march, but an exasperated Confederate said: "What in the nation's the use? That d----d old Sherman's prob'ly fetched another one along with him from Cleveland!"
Sociables appear to be the rage here. They are pretty well named. From fifty to a hundred lady members of a church meet at a private house, or in the lecture-room of a church, and all day long they sew - all day long they make pink cravats and ruffled shirts for the poor heathen in distant lands, and discuss their neighbors' characters, likely, and at night they serve up an elegant ungodly supper of cold turkey and salads and hot coffee and pies, and about that time a crowd of gentlemen arrive and each lady is privileged to choose any gentleman she pleases and escort him down to the table and wait on him. And after that they talk and get more and more sociable until an hour of unchristian lateness, and then they go home satisfied that they have been helping the poor heathen along powerfully. They go home feeling as the girl felt when the Minister asked her how she felt when he was wading out with her after baptizing her and washing her pure of the sins that had so long stained her girlish innocence. She said she felt bully. The sociables are usually held on Thursday evenings, and each congregation gives one every week or two. They are considered to be altogether the pleasantest things yet invented for the comfort of people who are debarred from the charms of the dance and the intoxicating bottle.
In San Francisco, as soon as you arrive, some friend hails: "How d'y - do? - When'd-you get down? - How's things in the mountains? - When you going back? - Howd-you like Sanfcisco? - Take a drink? - So-long; see you again."
In New York they say: "Ah, when'd you arrive?- How long you going to stay? - How do you like New York? - Good morning."
Here they say: "Hello! glad to see you, by George! - When'd you get here? - Why, you look as natural as a cow! - How do you like St. Louis since you got back? - Come, go to my room; want to have a smoke with you."
But, don't you observe, they all ask that same old question: "How do you like San Francisco? - How do you like New York? - How do you like St. Louis?" It is almighty aggravating. Cannot people think of something else besides that? It wouldn't make any difference if only one or two people asked the question; but to be bored with it twenty times a day is insufferable. It has set me to speculating about the other world. A man who has lived a long life, and been around a good deal, will probably meet as many as twenty or thirty thousand people there he was acquainted with on earth; they say we shall preserve our natural instincts - now, think of being bored all through Paradise or perdition with that same wretched old question of "how you like it." Why, it wouldn't make any difference which locality you landed in - you would get so harried and badgered that you would wish you had gone to the other place. And yet, that would not mend the matter, because communication is open between the two. You remember that Dives easily recognized Lazarus, and hailed him. I wish I knew if Lazarus asked - however, it is no matter. The subject distresses me beyond measure. I do wish they would invent a new formula to inflict on strangers, because even if it were no more interesting than the old one, it would at least bear the evanescent charm of novelty. I hate that question as I do the hackneyed topic of the weather. However, when one is tired hating anything he can always go to bed. I will.
THE "EUCHRE HORNS"
P.S. - But I must not go to bed till I have spoken of the "Euchre Horns." This is what they would call a "stag" sociable in the mountains. Twelve to sixteen or twenty gentlemen, composing the Euchre Horns' Club, meet once a week at each other's residences and play euchre for a little of gilded and ribboned deer horns. The partners first scoring seventeen games are declared champions. Two gentlemen may then challenge them for the next meeting. Of course, all the other parties are playing in the meantime, but only for amusement. A party challenging for the horns and failing to win them, cannot challenge again for several meetings. This gives all a chance in turn. This Club has existed over two years, and its records have been strictly kept in a small minute book. One brace of gentlemen held the horns for six successive meetings.
These are the very pleasantest entertainments I have at tended in a long time. There are no ladies present, and so you haven't got to be kept under the tiresome restraints of proper conduct all the time. The ladies of the house stay in the dining room, where wines and a cold collation are set out, and wait on the gentlemen, who drop in in small squads every now and then to refresh between games. You are not obliged to go in every time you finish a game, but then it is just as convenient to do it, and it makes things more uniform, you know. I never have won the horns yet, but I always beat the free lunch.
The items of each contest are published in the morning papers next day.
Suppose you try the Euchre Horns in San Francisco? You might make it the Poker Horns if Euchre is too mild.
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