So he had gone into the wilderness to fight out his battle alone. But eight days later, when he had returned, there was still no decision. In a letter to Pamela of this date he refers playfully to the discomforts of his cabin and mentions a hope that he will spend the winter in San Francisco; but there is no reference in it to any newspaper prospects —nor to the mines, for that matter. Phillips, Howland, and Higbie would seem to have given up by this time, and he was camping with Dan Twing and a dog, a combination amusingly described. It is a pleasant enough letter, but the note of discouragement creeps in:
I did think for a while of going home this fall—but when I found that that was, and had been, the cherished intention and the darling aspiration every year of these old care-worn Californians for twelve weary years, I felt a little uncomfortable, so I stole a march on Disappointment and said I would not go home this fall. This country suits me, and it shall suit me whether or no.
He was dying hard, desperately hard; how could he know, to paraphrase the old form of Christian comfort, that his end as a miner would mean, in another sphere, “a brighter resurrection” than even his rainbow imagination could paint?
THE NEW ESTATE
It was the afternoon of a hot, dusty August day when a worn, travel-stained pilgrim drifted laggingly into the office of the Virginia City Enterprise, then in its new building on C Street, and, loosening a heavy roll of blankets from his shoulders, dropped wearily into a chair. He wore a rusty slouch hat, no coat, a faded blue flannel shirt, a Navy revolver; his trousers were hanging on his boot tops. A tangle of reddish-brown hair fell on his shoulders, and a mass of tawny beard, dingy with alkali dust, dropped half-way to his waist.
Aurora lay one hundred and thirty miles from Virginia. He had walked that distance, carrying his heavy load. Editor Goodman was absent at the moment, but the other proprietor, Denis E. McCarthy, signified that the caller might state his errand. The wanderer regarded him with a far-away look and said, absently and with deliberation:
“My starboard leg seems to be unshipped. I’d like about one hundred yards of line; I think I am falling to pieces.” Then he added: “I want to see Mr. Barstow, or Mr. Goodman. My name is Clemens, and I’ve come to write for the paper.”
It was the master of the world’s widest estate come to claim his kingdom:
William Wright, who had won a wide celebrity on the Coast as Dan de Quille, was in the editorial chair and took charge of the new arrival. He was going on a trip to the States soon; it was mainly on this account that the new man had been engaged. The “Josh” letters were very good, in Dan’s opinion; he gave their author a cordial welcome, and took him around to his boarding-place. It was the beginning of an association that continued during Samuel Clemens’s stay in Virginia City and of a friendship that lasted many years.