Letter from Carson

Mark Twain

Virginia City Territorial Enterprise/February 5, 1863

Carson, Tuesday Night

EDS. ENTERPRISE: I received the following atrocious document the morning I arrived here. It is from that abandoned profligate, the Unreliable, and I think it speaks for itself:

Carson City, Thursday Morning

TO THE UNRELIABLE—SIR: Observing the driver of the Virginia stage hunting after you this morning, in order to collect his fare, I infer you are in town.

In the paper which you represent, I noticed an article which I took to be an effusion of your muddled brain, stating that I had “cabbaged” a number of valuable articles from you the night I took you out of the streets in Washoe City and permitted you to occupy my bed.

I take this opportunity to inform you that I will compensate you at the rate of $20 per head for every one of those valuables that I received from you, providing you will relieve me of their presence. This offer can either be accepted or rejected on your part: but, providing you don’t see proper to accept it, you had better procure enough lumber to make a box 4 x 8, and have it made as early as possible. Judge Dixson will arrange the preliminaries, if you don’t accede. An early reply is expected by


Not satisfied with wounding my feelings by making the most extraordinary references and allusions in the above note, he even sent me a challenge to fight, in the same envelope with it, hoping to work upon my fears and drive me from the country by intimidation.

But I was not to be frightened; I shall remain in the Territory. I guessed his object at once, and determined to accept his challenge, choose weapons and things, and scare him, instead of being scared myself. I wrote a stern reply to him, and offered him mortal combat with bootjacks at a hundred yards.

The effect was more agreeable than I could have hoped for. His hair turned black in a single night, from excess of fear; then he went into a fit of melancholy, and while it lasted he did nothing but sigh, and sob, and snuffle, and slobber, and blow his nose on his coat-tail, and say “he wished he was in the quiet tomb”; finally, he said he would commit suicide—he would say farewell to the cold, cold world, with its cares and troubles, and go and sleep with his fathers, in perdition.

Then rose up this young man, and threw his demijohn out of the window, and took a glass of pure water, and drained it to the very, very dregs. And then he fell on the floor in spasms. Dr. Tjader was called in, and as soon as he found that the cuss was poisoned, he rushed down to the Magnolia Saloon and got the antidote, and poured it down him. As he was drawing his last breath, he scented the brandy and lingered yet a while upon the earth, to take a drink with the boys. But for this, he would have been no more and possibly a good deal less—in another moment.

So he survived; but he has been in a mighty precarious condition ever since. I have been up to see how he was getting along two or three times a day. He is very low; he lies there in silence, and hour after hour he appears to be absorbed in tracing out the figures in the wall paper. He is not changed in the least, though; his face looks just as natural as anything could be there is no more expression in it than a turnip.

But he is a very sick man; I was up there a while ago, and I could see that his friends had begun to entertain hopes that he would not get over it. As soon as I saw that, all my enmity vanished; I even felt like doing the poor Unreliable a kindness, and showing him, too, how my feelings towards him had changed.

So I went and bought him a beautiful coffin, and carried it up and set it down on his bed, and told him to climb in when his time was up. Well, sir, you never saw a man so affected by a little act of kindness as he was by that. He let off a sort of war-whoop, and went to kicking things around like a crazy man, and he foamed at the mouth, and went out of one fit and into another faster than I could take them down in my note-book. I have got thirteen down, though, and I know he must have had two or three before I could find my pencil. I actually believe he would have had a thousand, if that old fool who nurses him hadn’t thrown the coffin out of the window, and threatened to serve me in the same way if I didn’t leave.

I left, of course, under the circumstances, and I learn that although the patient was getting better a moment before this circumstance, he got a good deal worse immediately afterward. They say he lies in a sort of a stupor now, and if they cannot rally him, he is gone in, as it were. They may take their own course now, though, and use their own judgment. I shall not go near them again, although I think I could rally him with another coffin.

I did not return to Virginia yesterday, on account of the wedding. The parties were Hon. James H. Sturtevant, one of the first Pi-Utes of Nevada, and Miss Emma Curry, daughter of Hon. A. Curry, who also claims that his is a Pi-Ute family of high antiquity. Curry conducted the wedding arrangements himself, and invited none but Pi-Utes. This interfered with me a good deal. However, as I had heard it reported that a marriage was threatened, I felt it my duty to go down there and find out the facts in the case. They said I might stay, as it was me; the permission was unnecessary, though—I calculated to do that anyhow. I promised not to say anything about the wedding, and I regard that promise as sacred—my word is as good as my bond.

At three o’clock in the afternoon, all the Pi-Utes went up stairs to the old Hall of Representatives in Curry’s house, preceded by the bride and groom, and the bridesmaids and groomsmen (Miss Jo. Perkins and Miss Nettie Curry, and Hon. John H. Mills and Wm. M. Gillespie) and followed by myself and the fiddlers.

The fiddles were tuned up, three quadrille sets were formed on the floor. Father Bennett advanced and touched off the high contracting parties with the hymeneal torch (married them, you know), and at the word of command from Curry, the fiddle-bows were set in motion, and the plain quadrilles turned loose.

Thereupon, some of the most responsible dancing ensued that you ever saw in your life. The dance that Tam O’Shanter witnessed was slow in comparison to it. They kept it up for six hours, and then they carried out the exhausted musicians on a shutter, and went down to supper. I know they had a fine supper, and plenty of it, but I do not know much else. They drank so much champagne around me that I got confused, and lost the hang of things, as it were.

Mills, and Musser, and Sturtevant, and Curry, got to making speeches, and I got to looking at the bride and bridesmaids—they looked uncommonly handsome—and finally I fell into a sort of trance. When I recovered from it the brave musicians were all right again, and the dance was ready to commence. They went to slinging plain quadrilles around as lively as ever, and never rested again until nearly midnight, when the dancers all broke down and the party broke up. It was all mighty pleasant, and jolly, and sociable, and I wish to thunder I was married myself.

I took a large slab of the bridal cake home with me to dream on, and dreamt that I was still a single man, and likely to remain so, if I live and nothing happens—which has given me a greater confidence in dreams than I ever felt before. I cordially wish the newly married couple all kinds of happiness and posterity, though.

Richardson’s case was continued to the next term of the District Court last Thursday, and the prisoner admitted to bail in the sum of $10,000—$7,000 on the charge of murder (the killing of Con Mason), and $3,000 on the charge of highway robbery.

Three new mining companies filed their certificates of incorporation in the County Clerk’s and Territorial Secretary’s offices last Saturday. Their ledges are located in the new Brown & Murphy District, in Lyon County. The names, etc., of the new companies are as follows: Jennie V. Thompson G. & S. M. Company, capital stock $220,000, in 2,200 shares of $100 each; Byron G. & S. M. Company, same number of shares, etc.; Lion G. & S. Company, capital stock $230,000, in 2,300 shares of $100 each. The following gentlemen are Trustees of all three companies: C. L. Newton, J. D. Thompson, J. Ball, G. C. Haswell and Wm. Millikin. The principal offices of the companies are in Carson City.


The works of Mark Twain and other American journalists are now freely available at The Archive of American Journalism. Visit our bookstore for single-volume collections–-ideal for research, reference use or casual reading.