Letter From Carson

Mark Twain

Virginia City Territorial Enterprise/February 8, 1863

Carson, Thursday Morning

EDS. ENTERPRISE: The community were taken by surprise last night, by the marriage of Dr. J. H. Wayman and Mrs. M. A. Ormsby. Strategy did it. John K. Trumbo lured the people to a party at his house, and corraled them, and in the meantime Acting Governor Clemens proceeded to the bride’s dwelling and consolidated the happy couple under the name and style of Mr. and Mrs. Wayman, with a life charter, perpetual succession, unlimited marital privileges, principal place of business at ho—blast those gold and silver mining incorporations!

I have compiled a long list of them from the Territorial Secretary’s books this morning, and their infernal technicalities keep slipping from my pen when I ought to be writing graceful poetical things. After the marriage, the high contracting parties and the witnesses there assembled, adjourned to Mr. Trumbo’s house.

The ways of the Unreliable are past finding out. His instincts always prompt him to go where he is not wanted, particularly if anything of an unusual nature is on foot. Therefore, he was present and saw those wedding ceremonies through the parlor windows. He climbed up behind Dr. Wayman’s coach and rode up to Trumbo’s—this shows that his faculties were not affected by his recent illness. When the bride and groom entered the parlor he went in with them, bowing and scraping and smiling in his imbecile way, and attempting to pass himself off for the principal groomsman.

I never saw such an awkward, ungainly lout in my life. He had on a pair of Jack Wilde’s pantaloons, and a swallow-tail coat belonging to Lytle (“Schermerhorn’s Boy”), and they fitted him as neatly as an elephant’s hide would fit a poodle dog. I would be ashamed to appear in any parlor in such a costume. It never enters his head to be ashamed of anything, though. It would have killed me with mortification to parade around there as he did, and have people stepping on my coat tail every moment.

As soon as the guests found out who he was they kept out of his way as well as they could, but there were so many gentlemen and ladies present that he was never at a loss for somebody to pester with his disgusting familiarity. He worried them from the parlor to the sitting-room, and from thence to the dancing-hall, and then proceeded upstairs to see if he could find any more people to stampede. He found Fred. Turner, and stayed with him until he was informed that he could have nothing more to eat or drink in that part of the house. He went back to the dancing-hall then, but he carried away a codfish under one arm, and Mr. Curry’s plug hat full of sour-krout under the other. He posted himself right where he could be most in the way, and fell to eating as comfortably as if he were boarding with Trumbo by the week. They bothered him some, though, because every time the order came to “all promenade,” the dancers would sweep past him and knock his cod fish out of his hands and spill his sour-krout. He was the most loathsome sight I ever saw; he turned everybody’s stomach but his own. It makes no difference to him, either, what he eats when hungry. I believe he would have eaten a corpse last night, if he had one. Finally, Curry came and took his hat away from him and tore one of his coat tails off and threatened to thresh him with it, and that checked his appetite for a moment. Instead of sneaking out of the house, then, as anybody would have done who had any self respect, he shoved his codfish into the pocket of his solitary coat tail (leaving at least eight inches of it sticking out), and crowded himself into a double quadrille.

He had it all to himself pretty soon; because the order “gentlemen to the right” came, and he passed from one lady to another around the room, and wilted each and every one of them with the horrible fragrance of his breath. Even Trumbo, himself, fainted. Then the Unreliable, with a placid expression of satisfaction upon his countenance, marched forth and swept the parlors like a pestilence. When the guests had been persecuted as long as they could stand it, though, they got him to drink some kerosene oil, which neutralized the sour-krout and cod fish, and restored his breath to about its usual state, or even improved it, perhaps, for it generally smells like a hospital.

The Unreliable interfered with Col. Musser when he was singing the pea-nut song; he bothered William Patterson, Esq., when that baritone was singing, “Ever of thee I’m fondly dreaming”; he interrupted Epstein when he was playing on the piano; he followed the bride and bridegroom from place to place, like an evil spirit, and he managed to keep himself and his coat-tail eternally in the way.

I did hope that he would stay away from the supper-table, but I hoped against an impossibility. He was the first one there, and had choice of seats also, because he told Mr. Trumbo he was a groomsman; and not only that, but he made him believe, also, that Dr. Wayman was his uncle. Then he sailed into the ice cream and champagne, and cakes and things, at his usual starvation gait, and he would infallibly have created a famine, if Trumbo had not been particularly well fortified with provisions.

There is one circumstance connected with the Unreliable’s career last night which it pains me to mention, but I feel that it is my duty to do it. I shall cut the melancholy fact as short as possible, however: seventeen silver spoons, a New Testament and a gridiron were missed after supper. They were found upon the Unreliable’s person when he was in the act of going out at the back door.

Singing and dancing commenced at seven o’clock in the evening, and were kept up with unabated fury until half-past one in the morning, when the jolly company put on each other’s hats and bonnets and wandered home, mighty well satisfied with Trumbo’s “corn shucking,” as he called it.

Well, you were particularly bitter about the “extra session” yesterday morning, and with very small cause, too, it seems to me. You rush in desperately and call out all the fire engines in the universe, and lo! there is nothing but a chunk of harmless fox-fire to squirt at after all. You slash away right and left at the lawyers, just as if they were not human like other people, subject to the same accidents of fortune and circumstances, moved by the same springs of action, and honest or dishonest according to the nature which God Almighty endowed them with. Stuff!

You talk like a wooden man. A man’s profession has but little to do with his moral character. If we had as many preachers as lawyers, you would find it mixed as to which occupation could muster the most rascals. Then you pitch into the legislators, and say that, “with two or three exceptions, they are men who failed to complete their programmes of rascality,” etc. Humbug! They never commenced any such programme. I reported their proceedings—I was behind the scenes, and I know. I talk sweepingly, perhaps—so do you, in that wild sentence. There might have been two or three first-class rascals in the Legislature—I have that number in my eye at the present moment—but the balance were fully as honest as you, and considerably more so than me.

I could prove this by simply reminding you of their names. Run over the list, and see if there are not some very respectable names on it. I have acknowledged that there were several scoundrels in the Legislature, but such a number, in as large a body as the last Assembly, could carry no measure, you know, and the men I am thinking of couldn’t even influence one. The Lord originally intended them to do transportation duty in a jackass train, I think.

And then, how you talk about the pecuniary wants of our legislators: “Their hungry wallets yearn for a second assault on the greenbacks and franchises of the Territory.” That is humbug, also. Take the House, for instance. I can name you fifteen members of that body whose pecuniary condition is very comfortable—who stand in no more pressing need of Territorial greenbacks than you do of another leg. And I can name you half a dozen others who are not suffering for food and raiment, and whom Providence will be able to take care of, I think, without bringing an extra session of the Nevada Legislature to pass.

You talk like a wooden man, I tell you. Why there are not enough “Territorial Greenbacks” in the Secretary’s office and the Territorial Treasury put together to start a wholesale pea-nut stand with; and why should thirty-nine legislators want to neglect their business to go to Carson and gobble up and divide such a pittance? Bosh.

Somebody made a blunder; somebody did a piece of rascality. It was not the legislators, yet only they can set the matter right—and if they want to go back to the capital and do it, it is rather a credit to them than a dishonor. I cannot see anything very criminal in this conduct of theirs.

You are too brash, you know—that is what is the matter with you. You say you heard a report that the Acting Governor had decided to call an extra session. Well, what if you did? Don’t you suppose that, being here, at the seat of government, I would naturally know a good deal more about it than anybody’s reports? Reports lie—I do not. Why didn’t you ask me for information? I always have an abundance of the article on hand.

I will give you some now: the Acting Governor has not decided to call an extra session; he is not seriously thinking of such a thing at present; he is not expecting to think of it next week; he is not in favor of the measure, and does not wish to move in the matter unless a majority of the counties expressly desire it. Now, you have said a great many things in your article which you ought not to have said; you have done injustice to all the parties whom you have mentioned; you have hollered “Wolf!” when there was nothing present but the mildest sort of a lamb; and the properest course for you to pursue will be to screw down your throttle-valve and dry up.

I have a strong inclination to continue this subject a while longer, but I promised to go down in town and get drunk with Curry and Trumbo, and Tom Bedford and Gillespie, before I leave for Virginia. My promises are sacred. I have also to receive a petition from citizens of Carson, with several thousand names on it, requesting me to extend my visit here a few years longer. It affords me great pleasure to state that several hundred sheets of this petition are covered with the autographs of intelligent and beautiful ladies.

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