Orion and I have confidence
enough in this country to think that if
the war lets us alone we can make Mr. Moffett rich without its ever
costing him a cent or a particle of trouble.
This letter bears date of October 25th, and from it we gather that a certain interest in mining claims had by this time developed.
We have got about 1,650 feet
of mining ground, and, if it proves
good, Mr. Moffett’s name will go in, and if not I can get “feet” for
him in the spring.
You see, Pamela, the trouble
does not consist in getting mining
ground—for there is plenty enough—but the money to work it with
after you get it.
He refers to Pamela’s two little children, his niece Annie and Baby Sam, —[Samuel E. Moffett, in later life a well-known journalist and editor.] —and promises to enter claims for them—timber claims probably—for he was by no means sanguine as yet concerning the mines. That was a long time ago. Tahoe land is sold by the lot, now, to summer residents. Those claims would have been riches to-day, but they were all abandoned presently, forgotten in the delirium which goes only with the pursuit of precious ores.
It was not until early winter that Samuel Clemens got the real mining infection. Everybody had it by that time; the miracle is that he had not fallen an earlier victim. The wildest stories of sudden fortune were in the air, some of them undoubtedly true. Men had gone to bed paupers, on the verge of starvation, and awakened to find themselves millionaires. Others had sold for a song claims that had been suddenly found to be fairly stuffed with precious ores. Cart-loads of bricks—silver and gold—daily drove through the streets.
In the midst of these things reports came from the newly opened Humboldt region—flamed up with a radiance that was fairly blinding. The papers declared that Humboldt County “was the richest mineral region on God’s footstool.” The mountains were said to be literally bursting with gold and silver. A correspondent of the daily Territorial Enterprise fairly wallowed in rhetoric, yet found words inadequate to paint the measureless wealth of the Humboldt mines. No wonder those not already mad speedily became so. No wonder Samuel Clemens, with his natural tendency to speculative optimism, yielded to the epidemic and became as “frenzied as the craziest.” The air to him suddenly began to shimmer; all his thoughts were of “leads” and “ledges” and “veins”; all his clouds had silver linings; all his dreams were of gold. He joined an expedition at once; he reproached himself bitterly for not having started earlier.