The mining-camp of Tough Case, though small, had its excitements, as well as did many camps of half a dozen saloon-power; and on the first day of November, 1850, it was convulsed by the crisis of by far the greatest excitement it had ever enjoyed.
It was not a lucky “find,” for some of the largest nuggets in the State had been taken out at Tough Case. It was not a grand spree, for all sprees at Tough Case were grand, and they took place every Sunday. It was not a fight, for when the average of fully-developed fights fell below one a fortnight, some patriotic citizen would improvise one, that the honor of his village should not suffer.
No; all these promoters of delicious and refreshing Tumult were as nothing to the agitation which, commencing three months before, had increased and taken firmer hold of all hearts at Tough Case, until to-day it had reached its culmination.
Blizzer’s wife had come out, and was to reach camp by that day’s boat.
Since Blizzer had first announced his expectation, every man in camp had been secretly preparing for the event; but to-day all secrecy was at an end, and white shirts, standing collars, new pants, black hats, polished boots, combs, brushes and razors, and even hair-oil and white handkerchiefs, so transformed the tremulous miners, that a smart detective would have been puzzled in looking for any particular citizen of Tough Case.
Even old Hatchetjaw, whose nickname correctly indicated the moral import of his countenance, sheepishly gave Moosoo, the old Frenchman, an ounce of gold-dust for an hour’s labor bestowed on Hatchetjaw’s self-asserting red hair.
Bets as to what she looked like were numerous; and, as no one had the slightest knowledge on the subject, experienced bettists made handsome fortunes in betting against every description which was backed by money. For each man had so long pondered over the subject, that his ideal portrait seemed to him absolutely correct; and an amateur phrenologist, who had carefully studied Blizzer’s cranium and the usually accepted laws of affinity, consistently bet his last ounce, his pistol, hut, frying-pan, blankets, and even a pack of cards in a tolerable state of preservation.
Sailors, collegemen, Pikes, farmers, clerks, loafers, and sentimentalists, stood in front of Sim Ripson’s store, and stared their eyes into watery redness in vain attempts to hurry the boat.
A bet of drinks for the crowd, lost by the non-arrival of the boat on time, was just being paid, when Sim Ripson, whose bar-window commanded the river, exclaimed:
Many were the heeltaps left in glasses as the crowd hurried to the door; numerous were the stealthy glances bestowed on shirt-cuffs and finger-nails and boot-legs. Crosstree, a dandyish young sailor, hung back to regard himself in a small fragment of looking-glass he carried in his pocket, but was rebuked for his vanity by stumbling over the door-sill—an operation which finally resulted in his nose being laid up in ordinary.