“Jim, I won’t carry any more water. This work is too disagreeable.”
Gillis had just taken out a panful of dirt.
“Bring one more pail, Sam,” he pleaded.
“Oh, hell, Jim, I won’t do it; I’m freezing!”
“Just one more pail, Sam,” he pleaded.
“No, sir, not a drop, not if I knew there were a million dollars in that pan.”
Gillis tore a page out of his note-book, and hastily posted a thirty-day claim notice by the pan of dirt, and they set out for Angel’s Camp. It kept on raining and storming, and they did not go back. A few days later a letter from Steve Gillis made Clemens decide to return to San Francisco. With Jim Gillis and Dick Stoker he left Angel’s and walked across the mountains to Jackass Hill in the snow-storm—“the first I ever saw in California,” he says in his notes.
In the mean time the rain had washed away the top of the pan of earth they had left standing on the hillside, and exposed a handful of nuggets-pure gold. Two strangers, Austrians, had come along and, observing it, had sat down to wait until the thirty-day claim notice posted by Jim Gillis should expire. They did not mind the rain—not with all that gold in sight—and the minute the thirty days were up they followed the lead a few pans farther and took out—some say ten, some say twenty, thousand dollars. In either case it was a good pocket. Mark Twain missed it by one pail of water. Still, it is just as well, perhaps, when one remembers that vaster nugget of Angel’s Camp—the Jumping Frog. Jim Gillis always declared, “If Sam had got that pocket he would have remained a pocket-miner to the end of his days, like me.”
In Mark Twain’s old note-book occurs a memorandum of the frog story—a mere casual entry of its main features:
Coleman with his jumping frog—bet
stranger $50—stranger had no
frog, and C. got him one:—in the mean time stranger filled C.’s
frog full of shot and he couldn’t jump. The stranger’s frog won.
It seemed unimportant enough, no doubt, at the time; but it was the nucleus around which was built a surpassing fame. The hills along the Stanislaus have turned out some wonderful nuggets in their time, but no other of such size as that.
BACK TO THE TUMULT
From the note-book:
February 25. Arrived in Stockton 5 P.m. Home again home again at the Occidental Hotel, San Francisco—find letters from Artemus Ward asking me to write a sketch for his new book of Nevada Territory Travels which is soon to come out. Too late—ought to have got the letters three months ago. They are dated early in November.
He was sorry not to oblige Ward, sorry also not to have representation in his book. He wrote explaining the circumstance, and telling the story of his absence. Steve Gillis, meantime, had returned to San Francisco, and settled his difficulties there. The friends again took up residence together.