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Mark Twain > Roughing It > Chapter XLVII

Roughing It

Chapter XLVII


Somebody has said that in order to know a community, one must observe the
style of its funerals and know what manner of men they bury with most
ceremony. I cannot say which class we buried with most eclat in our
"flush times," the distinguished public benefactor or the distinguished
rough--possibly the two chief grades or grand divisions of society
honored their illustrious dead about equally; and hence, no doubt the
philosopher I have quoted from would have needed to see two
representative funerals in Virginia before forming his estimate of the
people.

There was a grand time over Buck Fanshaw when he died. He was a
representative citizen. He had "killed his man"--not in his own quarrel,
it is true, but in defence of a stranger unfairly beset by numbers.
He had kept a sumptuous saloon. He had been the proprietor of a dashing
helpmeet whom he could have discarded without the formality of a divorce.
He had held a high position in the fire department and been a very
Warwick in politics. When he died there was great lamentation throughout
the town, but especially in the vast bottom-stratum of society.

On the inquest it was shown that Buck Fanshaw, in the delirium of a
wasting typhoid fever, had taken arsenic, shot himself through the body,
cut his throat, and jumped out of a four-story window and broken his
neck--and after due deliberation, the jury, sad and tearful, but with
intelligence unblinded by its sorrow, brought in a verdict of death "by
the visitation of God." What could the world do without juries?

Prodigious preparations were made for the funeral. All the vehicles in
town were hired, all the saloons put in mourning, all the municipal and
fire-company flags hung at half-mast, and all the firemen ordered to
muster in uniform and bring their machines duly draped in black. Now--
let us remark in parenthesis--as all the peoples of the earth had
representative adventurers in the Silverland, and as each adventurer had
brought the slang of his nation or his locality with him, the combination
made the slang of Nevada the richest and the most infinitely varied and
copious that had ever existed anywhere in the world, perhaps, except in
the mines of California in the "early days." Slang was the language of
Nevada. It was hard to preach a sermon without it, and be understood.
Such phrases as "You bet!" "Oh, no, I reckon not!" "No Irish need
apply," and a hundred others, became so common as to fall from the lips
of a speaker unconsciously--and very often when they did not touch the
subject under discussion and consequently failed to mean anything.

After Buck Fanshaw's inquest, a meeting of the short-haired brotherhood
was held, for nothing can be done on the Pacific coast without a public
meeting and an expression of sentiment. Regretful resolutions were
passed and various committees appointed; among others, a committee of one
was deputed to call on the minister, a fragile, gentle, spiritual new
fledgling from an Eastern theological seminary, and as yet unacquainted
with the ways of the mines. The committeeman, "Scotty" Briggs, made his
visit; and in after days it was worth something to hear the minister tell
about it. Scotty was a stalwart rough, whose customary suit, when on
weighty official business, like committee work, was a fire helmet,
flaming red flannel shirt, patent leather belt with spanner and revolver
attached, coat hung over arm, and pants stuffed into boot tops.
He formed something of a contrast to the pale theological student. It is
fair to say of Scotty, however, in passing, that he had a warm heart, and
a strong love for his friends, and never entered into a quarrel when he
could reasonably keep out of it. Indeed, it was commonly said that
whenever one of Scotty's fights was investigated, it always turned out
that it had originally been no affair of his, but that out of native
good-heartedness he had dropped in of his own accord to help the man who
was getting the worst of it. He and Buck Fanshaw were bosom friends, for
years, and had often taken adventurous "pot-luck" together. On one
occasion, they had thrown off their coats and taken the weaker side in a
fight among strangers, and after gaining a hard-earned victory, turned
and found that the men they were helping had deserted early, and not only
that, but had stolen their coats and made off with them! But to return
to Scotty's visit to the minister. He was on a sorrowful mission, now,
and his face was the picture of woe. Being admitted to the presence he
sat down before the clergyman, placed his fire-hat on an unfinished
manuscript sermon under the minister's nose, took from it a red silk
handkerchief, wiped his brow and heaved a sigh of dismal impressiveness,
explanatory of his business.

He choked, and even shed tears; but with an effort he mastered his voice
and said in lugubrious tones:

"Are you the duck that runs the gospel-mill next door?"

"Am I the--pardon me, I believe I do not understand?"

With another sigh and a half-sob, Scotty rejoined:

"Why you see we are in a bit of trouble, and the boys thought maybe you
would give us a lift, if we'd tackle you--that is, if I've got the rights
of it and you are the head clerk of the doxology-works next door."

"I am the shepherd in charge of the flock whose fold is next door."

"The which?"

"The spiritual adviser of the little company of believers whose sanctuary
adjoins these premises."

Scotty scratched his head, reflected a moment, and then said:

"You ruther hold over me, pard. I reckon I can't call that hand. Ante
and pass the buck."

"How? I beg pardon. What did I understand you to say?"

"Well, you've ruther got the bulge on me. Or maybe we've both got the
bulge, somehow. You don't smoke me and I don't smoke you. You see, one
of the boys has passed in his checks and we want to give him a good send-
off, and so the thing I'm on now is to roust out somebody to jerk a
little chin-music for us and waltz him through handsome."

"My friend, I seem to grow more and more bewildered. Your observations
are wholly incomprehensible to me. Cannot you simplify them in some way?
At first I thought perhaps I understood you, but I grope now. Would it
not expedite matters if you restricted yourself to categorical statements
of fact unencumbered with obstructing accumulations of metaphor and
allegory?"

Another pause, and more reflection. Then, said Scotty:

"I'll have to pass, I judge."

"How?"

"You've raised me out, pard."

"I still fail to catch your meaning."

"Why, that last lead of yourn is too many for me--that's the idea. I
can't neither-trump nor follow suit."

The clergyman sank back in his chair perplexed. Scotty leaned his head
on his hand and gave himself up to thought.

Presently his face came up, sorrowful but confident.

"I've got it now, so's you can savvy," he said. "What we want is a
gospel-sharp. See?"

"A what?"

"Gospel-sharp. Parson."

"Oh! Why did you not say so before? I am a clergyman--a parson."

"Now you talk! You see my blind and straddle it like a man. Put it
there!"--extending a brawny paw, which closed over the minister's small
hand and gave it a shake indicative of fraternal sympathy and fervent
gratification.

"Now we're all right, pard. Let's start fresh. Don't you mind my
snuffling a little--becuz we're in a power of trouble. You see, one of
the boys has gone up the flume--"

"Gone where?"

"Up the flume--throwed up the sponge, you understand."

"Thrown up the sponge?"

"Yes--kicked the bucket--"

"Ah--has departed to that mysterious country from whose bourne no
traveler returns."

"Return! I reckon not. Why pard, he's dead!"

"Yes, I understand."

"Oh, you do? Well I thought maybe you might be getting tangled some
more. Yes, you see he's dead again--"

"Again? Why, has he ever been dead before?"

"Dead before? No! Do you reckon a man has got as many lives as a cat?
But you bet you he's awful dead now, poor old boy, and I wish I'd never
seen this day. I don't want no better friend than Buck Fanshaw.
I knowed him by the back; and when I know a man and like him, I freeze to
him--you hear me. Take him all round, pard, there never was a bullier
man in the mines. No man ever knowed Buck Fanshaw to go back on a
friend. But it's all up, you know, it's all up. It ain't no use.
They've scooped him."

"Scooped him?"

"Yes--death has. Well, well, well, we've got to give him up. Yes
indeed. It's a kind of a hard world, after all, ain't it? But pard, he
was a rustler! You ought to seen him get started once. He was a bully
boy with a glass eye! Just spit in his face and give him room according
to his strength, and it was just beautiful to see him peel and go in.
He was the worst son of a thief that ever drawed breath. Pard, he was on
it! He was on it bigger than an Injun!"

"On it? On what?"

"On the shoot. On the shoulder. On the fight, you understand.
He didn't give a continental for any body. Beg your pardon, friend, for
coming so near saying a cuss-word--but you see I'm on an awful strain, in
this palaver, on account of having to cramp down and draw everything so
mild. But we've got to give him up. There ain't any getting around
that, I don't reckon. Now if we can get you to help plant him--"

"Preach the funeral discourse? Assist at the obsequies?"

"Obs'quies is good. Yes. That's it--that's our little game. We are
going to get the thing up regardless, you know. He was always nifty
himself, and so you bet you his funeral ain't going to be no slouch--
solid silver door-plate on his coffin, six plumes on the hearse, and a
nigger on the box in a biled shirt and a plug hat--how's that for high?
And we'll take care of you, pard. We'll fix you all right. There'll be
a kerridge for you; and whatever you want, you just 'scape out and we'll
'tend to it. We've got a shebang fixed up for you to stand behind, in
No. 1's house, and don't you be afraid. Just go in and toot your horn,
if you don't sell a clam. Put Buck through as bully as you can, pard,
for anybody that knowed him will tell you that he was one of the whitest
men that was ever in the mines. You can't draw it too strong. He never
could stand it to see things going wrong. He's done more to make this
town quiet and peaceable than any man in it. I've seen him lick four
Greasers in eleven minutes, myself. If a thing wanted regulating, he
warn't a man to go browsing around after somebody to do it, but he would
prance in and regulate it himself. He warn't a Catholic. Scasely. He
was down on 'em. His word was, 'No Irish need apply!' But it didn't
make no difference about that when it came down to what a man's rights
was--and so, when some roughs jumped the Catholic bone-yard and started
in to stake out town-lots in it he went for 'em! And he cleaned 'em,
too! I was there, pard, and I seen it myself."

"That was very well indeed--at least the impulse was--whether the act was
strictly defensible or not. Had deceased any religious convictions?
That is to say, did he feel a dependence upon, or acknowledge allegiance
to a higher power?"

More reflection.

"I reckon you've stumped me again, pard. Could you say it over once
more, and say it slow?"

"Well, to simplify it somewhat, was he, or rather had he ever been
connected with any organization sequestered from secular concerns and
devoted to self-sacrifice in the interests of morality?"

"All down but nine--set 'em up on the other alley, pard."

"What did I understand you to say?"

"Why, you're most too many for me, you know. When you get in with your
left I hunt grass every time. Every time you draw, you fill; but I don't
seem to have any luck. Lets have a new deal."

"How? Begin again?"

"That's it."

"Very well. Was he a good man, and--"

"There--I see that; don't put up another chip till I look at my hand.
A good man, says you? Pard, it ain't no name for it. He was the best
man that ever--pard, you would have doted on that man. He could lam any
galoot of his inches in America. It was him that put down the riot last
election before it got a start; and everybody said he was the only man
that could have done it. He waltzed in with a spanner in one hand and a
trumpet in the other, and sent fourteen men home on a shutter in less
than three minutes. He had that riot all broke up and prevented nice
before anybody ever got a chance to strike a blow. He was always for
peace, and he would have peace--he could not stand disturbances. Pard,
he was a great loss to this town. It would please the boys if you could
chip in something like that and do him justice. Here once when the Micks
got to throwing stones through the Methodis' Sunday school windows, Buck
Fanshaw, all of his own notion, shut up his saloon and took a couple of
six-shooters and mounted guard over the Sunday school. Says he, 'No
Irish need apply!' And they didn't. He was the bulliest man in the
mountains, pard! He could run faster, jump higher, hit harder, and hold
more tangle-foot whisky without spilling it than any man in seventeen
counties. Put that in, pard--it'll please the boys more than anything
you could say. And you can say, pard, that he never shook his mother."

"Never shook his mother?"

"That's it--any of the boys will tell you so."

"Well, but why should he shake her?"

"That's what I say--but some people does."

"Not people of any repute?"

"Well, some that averages pretty so-so."

"In my opinion the man that would offer personal violence to his own
mother, ought to--"

"Cheese it, pard; you've banked your ball clean outside the string.
What I was a drivin' at, was, that he never throwed off on his mother--
don't you see? No indeedy. He give her a house to live in, and town
lots, and plenty of money; and he looked after her and took care of her
all the time; and when she was down with the small-pox I'm d---d if he
didn't set up nights and nuss her himself! Beg your pardon for saying
it, but it hopped out too quick for yours truly.

"You've treated me like a gentleman, pard, and I ain't the man to hurt
your feelings intentional. I think you're white. I think you're a
square man, pard. I like you, and I'll lick any man that don't. I'll
lick him till he can't tell himself from a last year's corpse! Put it
there!" [Another fraternal hand-shake--and exit.]

The obsequies were all that "the boys" could desire. Such a marvel of
funeral pomp had never been seen in Virginia. The plumed hearse, the
dirge-breathing brass bands, the closed marts of business, the flags
drooping at half mast, the long, plodding procession of uniformed secret
societies, military battalions and fire companies, draped engines,
carriages of officials, and citizens in vehicles and on foot, attracted
multitudes of spectators to the sidewalks, roofs and windows; and for
years afterward, the degree of grandeur attained by any civic display in
Virginia was determined by comparison with Buck Fanshaw's funeral.

Scotty Briggs, as a pall-bearer and a mourner, occupied a prominent place
at the funeral, and when the sermon was finished and the last sentence of
the prayer for the dead man's soul ascended, he responded, in a low
voice, but with feelings:

"AMEN. No Irish need apply."

As the bulk of the response was without apparent relevancy, it was
probably nothing more than a humble tribute to the memory of the friend
that was gone; for, as Scotty had once said, it was "his word."

Scotty Briggs, in after days, achieved the distinction of becoming the
only convert to religion that was ever gathered from the Virginia roughs;
and it transpired that the man who had it in him to espouse the quarrel
of the weak out of inborn nobility of spirit was no mean timber whereof
to construct a Christian. The making him one did not warp his generosity
or diminish his courage; on the contrary it gave intelligent direction to
the one and a broader field to the other.

If his Sunday-school class progressed faster than the other classes, was
it matter for wonder? I think not. He talked to his pioneer small-fry
in a language they understood! It was my large privilege, a month before
he died, to hear him tell the beautiful story of Joseph and his brethren
to his class "without looking at the book." I leave it to the reader to
fancy what it was like, as it fell, riddled with slang, from the lips of
that grave, earnest teacher, and was listened to by his little learners
with a consuming interest that showed that they were as unconscious as he
was that any violence was being done to the sacred proprieties!

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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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