“National” there was selling at $50 per foot and assayed $2,496 per ton at the mint in San Francisco. And the “Alda Nueva,” “Peru,” “Delirio,” “Congress,” “Independent,” and others were immensely rich leads. And moreover, having winning ways with us, we could get “feet” enough to make us all rich one of these days.
“I confess with shame,” says the author of ‘Roughing It’, “that I expected to find masses of silver lying all about the ground.” And he adds that he slipped away from the cabin to find a claim on his own account, and tells how he came staggering back under a load of golden specimens; also how his specimens proved to be only worthless mica; and how he learned that in mining nothing that glitters is gold. His account in ‘Roughing It’ of the Humboldt mining experience is sufficiently good history to make detail here unnecessary. Tillou instructed them in prospecting, and in time they located a fairly promising claim. They went to work on it with pick and shovel, then with drill and blasting-powder. Then they gave it up.
“One week of this satisfied me. I resigned.”
They tried to tunnel, but soon resigned again. It was pleasanter to prospect and locate and trade claims and acquire feet in every new ledge than it was to dig-and about as profitable. The golden reports of Humboldt had been based on assays of selected rich specimens, and were mainly delirium and insanity. The Clemens-Clagget-Oliver-Tillou combination never touched their claims again with pick and shovel, though their faith, or at least their hope, in them did not immediately die. Billy Clagget put out his shingle as notary public, and Gus Oliver put out his as probate judge. Sam Clemens and Tillou, with a fat-witted, arrogant Prussian named Pfersdoff (Ollendorf) set out for Carson City. It is not certain what became of the wagon and team, or of the two dogs.
The Carson travelers were water-bound at a tavern on the Carson River (the scene of the “Arkansas” sketch), with a fighting, drinking lot. Pfersdoff got them nearly drowned getting away, and finally succeeded in getting them absolutely lost in the snow. The author of ‘Roughing It’ tells us how they gave themselves up to die, and how each swore off whatever he had in the way of an evil habit, how they cast their tempters-tobacco, cards, and whisky-into the snow. He further tells us how next morning, when they woke to find themselves alive, within a few rods of a hostelry, they surreptitiously dug up those things again and, deep in shame and luxury, resumed their fallen ways: It was the 29th of January when they reached Carson City. They had been gone not quite two months, one of which had been spent in travel. It was a brief period, but it contained an episode, and it seemed like years.