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Mark Twain > Roughing It > Chapter XXXIII

Roughing It

Chapter XXXIII


I do not know how long I was in a state of forgetfulness, but it seemed
an age. A vague consciousness grew upon me by degrees, and then came a
gathering anguish of pain in my limbs and through all my body. I
shuddered. The thought flitted through my brain, "this is death--this is
the hereafter."

Then came a white upheaval at my side, and a voice said, with bitterness:

"Will some gentleman be so good as to kick me behind?"

It was Ballou--at least it was a towzled snow image in a sitting posture,
with Ballou's voice.

I rose up, and there in the gray dawn, not fifteen steps from us, were
the frame buildings of a stage station, and under a shed stood our still
saddled and bridled horses!

An arched snow-drift broke up, now, and Ollendorff emerged from it, and
the three of us sat and stared at the houses without speaking a word.
We really had nothing to say. We were like the profane man who could not
"do the subject justice," the whole situation was so painfully ridiculous
and humiliating that words were tame and we did not know where to
commence anyhow.

The joy in our hearts at our deliverance was poisoned; well-nigh
dissipated, indeed. We presently began to grow pettish by degrees, and
sullen; and then, angry at each other, angry at ourselves, angry at
everything in general, we moodily dusted the snow from our clothing and
in unsociable single file plowed our way to the horses, unsaddled them,
and sought shelter in the station.

I have scarcely exaggerated a detail of this curious and absurd
adventure. It occurred almost exactly as I have stated it. We actually
went into camp in a snow-drift in a desert, at midnight in a storm,
forlorn and hopeless, within fifteen steps of a comfortable inn.

For two hours we sat apart in the station and ruminated in disgust.
The mystery was gone, now, and it was plain enough why the horses had
deserted us. Without a doubt they were under that shed a quarter of a
minute after they had left us, and they must have overheard and enjoyed
all our confessions and lamentations.

After breakfast we felt better, and the zest of life soon came back.
The world looked bright again, and existence was as dear to us as ever.
Presently an uneasiness came over me--grew upon me--assailed me without
ceasing. Alas, my regeneration was not complete--I wanted to smoke!
I resisted with all my strength, but the flesh was weak. I wandered away
alone and wrestled with myself an hour. I recalled my promises of reform
and preached to myself persuasively, upbraidingly, exhaustively. But it
was all vain, I shortly found myself sneaking among the snow-drifts
hunting for my pipe. I discovered it after a considerable search, and
crept away to hide myself and enjoy it. I remained behind the barn a
good while, asking myself how I would feel if my braver, stronger, truer
comrades should catch me in my degradation. At last I lit the pipe, and
no human being can feel meaner and baser than I did then. I was ashamed
of being in my own pitiful company. Still dreading discovery, I felt
that perhaps the further side of the barn would be somewhat safer, and so
I turned the corner. As I turned the one corner, smoking, Ollendorff
turned the other with his bottle to his lips, and between us sat
unconscious Ballou deep in a game of "solitaire" with the old greasy
cards!

Absurdity could go no farther. We shook hands and agreed to say no more
about "reform" and "examples to the rising generation."

The station we were at was at the verge of the Twenty-six-Mile Desert.
If we had approached it half an hour earlier the night before, we must
have heard men shouting there and firing pistols; for they were expecting
some sheep drovers and their flocks and knew that they would infallibly
get lost and wander out of reach of help unless guided by sounds.

While we remained at the station, three of the drovers arrived, nearly
exhausted with their wanderings, but two others of their party were never
heard of afterward.

We reached Carson in due time, and took a rest. This rest, together with
preparations for the journey to Esmeralda, kept us there a week, and the
delay gave us the opportunity to be present at the trial of the great
land-slide case of Hyde vs. Morgan--an episode which is famous in Nevada
to this day. After a word or two of necessary explanation, I will set
down the history of this singular affair just as it transpired.

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Index Index

Prefactory
Contents
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII
Chapter XIV
Chapter XV
Chapter XVI
Chapter XVII
Chapter XVIII
Chapter XIX
Chapter XX
Chapter XXI
Chapter XXII
Chapter XXIII
Chapter XXIV
Chapter XXV
Chapter XXVI
Chapter XXVII
Chapter XXVIII
Chapter XXIX
Chapter XXX
Chapter XXXI
Chapter XXXII
Chapter XXXIII
Chapter XXXIV
Chapter XXXV
Chapter XXXVI
Chapter XXXVII
Chapter XXXVIII
Chapter XXXIX
Chapter XL
Chapter XLI
Chapter XLII
Chapter XLIII
Chapter XLIV
Chapter XLV
Chapter XLVI
Chapter XLVII
Chapter XLVIII
Chapter XLIX
Chapter L
Chapter LI
Chapter LII
Chapter LIII
Chapter LIV
Chapter LV
Chapter LVI
Chapter LVII
Chapter LVIII
Chapter LIX
Chapter LX
Chapter LXI
Chapter LXII
Chapter LXIII
Chapter LXIV
Chapter LXV
Chapter LXVI
Chapter LXVII
Chapter LXVIII
Chapter LXIX
Chapter LXX
Chapter LXXI
Chapter LXXII
Chapter LXXIII
Chapter LXXIV
Chapter LXXV
Chapter LXXVI
Chapter LXXVII
Chapter LXXVIII
Chapter LXXIX
Appendix

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