STICK a pin here. Be sure you remember that these settlers of the Sierras were as distinct a people from the settlers by the sea as you can conceive. The one was of the West, the other of the East. The one ate codfish and had a nasal accent and sang hymns. The other had never seen the ocean, he detested codfish, ate bacon and swore like a pirate.
Years went by and people, strangers, came and went, but our First Fam'lies of the Sierras remained.
This is history. The Phoenicians landed and left their impress on Ireland long before England heard of the first Caesar. Their impetuous blood signalizes the Fenian of today.
The Pilgrim Fathers refused to return. A world of immigration flowed to and fro. But these few gave to the bleak and barren East the sharp nose, the nationality, good or bad, of the north of North America; while the few first settlers of the South gave spring to a current that will flow on for a thousand years.
I am all the time wondering when I think of the people of the Sierras, what women, or men and women, the traveler of a century hence will find there.
I think he will not find a coward or a miser. I think he will find a brave, generous, open handed and unsuspicious people. A people full of freedom, of lofty aspiration, of purity, partaking of the awful sublimity that environs them.
And somewhere in these Sierras will they name the new Parnassus. The nine sisters, in the far New Day, will have their habitation here when the gold hunter has gone away, and the last pick lies rusting in the mine.
The sea of seas shall rave and knock at the Golden Gate, but this shall be the vineland, the place of rest, that the old Greeks sought forever to find. This will be the land of eternal afternoon.
A land born of storm and rounded into shape by the blows of hardy and enduring men, it shall have its reaction, its rest.
The great singer of the future, born of the gleaming snows and the gloomy forests of the Sierras, shall some day swing his harp in the wind and move down these watered and wooded slopes to conquer the world with a song for Peace.
Now you would have me say that we never once sinned in this Eden of ours in the Sierras.
There is an old and a beautiful story. You knew it long before you learned to read. It was in that other Eden. There the living God spake face to face with man. He visited him every day in his own form. And yet he fell. We do not claim to be much better than they were in Eden, even in the Sierras.
The Forks, like every other place in the world, had its little center of Aristocracy. There was here, as in any other little community, one leading woman of fashion; the one tyrant who admitted this or that one to the Social Center. This woman, an ancient "School marm," had firmly set her face against the Widow from the first. From this there was no appeal. The Widow was in disgrace. Still she refused to banish the boy poet from her presence.
The old suspicion hung in the minds of the miners at the Forks. One day there were two old men, made mellow from the juice of grapes they had planted and grown on the hill sides about their cabins, who grimly wagged their heads and looked wise at the mention of "the Widow," as she was still called, and sympathized with Sandy.
" Yes, pra'ps it was and pra'ps it wasn't," one would say as he thought of little "Half-a-pint," now a noisy little tomboy filling the fir woods with laughter, "but then her having that 'ere poet about her all the time, that's what sticks in my crop."
" That's what sticks in my crop," echoes his fellow, as he pushes the bushy beard from his mouth and lifts his gourd of wine.
" The reputation of this ere camp," says another, as he sets down his empty gourd and lays his forefinger in his palm, and settles his head wisely to one side, "the reputation of this ere camp depends on a havin' of this ere thing cleared up about the Widder."
"It looks pesky black," put in the other garrulous old woman in duck breeches, "'Cause why? She still sees him."
Three old heads, helpless, good natured old women, who had spent their manhood and their strength long before their grape vines were growing on the hill side, huddled close together in half maudlin conversation.
" He's a chuckle headed old idiart."
" He's a gitten old and he can't help hisself."
" He's a gitten old."
" The chuckle headed old idiart."
" Lookee here!"
An old fortyniner rose half way up, felt that his spine was not very reliable, and so spread out his two great hands on the two shoulders of his boon companion, and peered down in his face till their two beards, white as foam, almost flowed together.
"Let's run 'im out!"
At these words an old crippled man suddenly started up from his place back in the corner, and tottered forward to where the three old heads were huddled together.
"Run out Billie! Little Billie Piper, that never gits any older, never has a beard! That come here, that come when did little Billie Piper come? Gintlemen, you listen to me. When you run out little Billie Piper, by God, you run him out over my bones!" And here the Gopher thundered his two fists down on to the pine board table, and turning on his heel tottered out and up the hill side to his cabin.Start reading Chapter27 of The First Famlies of the Sierras