Your Majesty--My Lord Duke--Your Grace. Lord! What graceful and majestic expressions! How our republican and plebeian souls throb at such glorious sounds! Aristocracy, how noble! Mudsills, how low! Even shoddy greatness, without brains, how much greater than the greatness of intellect, of education, of mind! The aristocracy of wealth, of cunning, of good luck, of diamond pins and empty heads, is ennobling in itself, and commands a premium in the fashionable market, and then, O, if one has come into contact with the royalty of crowned heads, how happy! If they have rubbed against the coat-sleeve of a King, or brushed against the mantle of a Queen, it is a passport to high society. The great Duke Gwin has basked beneath royal smiles and reveled in royal halls.
Hunter and Mason have tasted the perfumed air of royal Courts, and how great they seem to be to our shoddyites who have grown suddenly rich--no matter how--by cunning, by stealing, or by good luck! The trouble with us is that the masses will not be convinced of the beauties of aristocracy.
They somehow seem to think that diamond pins and rich
quartz ledges do not always entitle men to govern or to establish rules
in society, and that intellect and merit have some claims to consideration,
and that, although a man may be sharp, or lucky in money-making, he may
lack brains for political economy, or the control of public affairs in
which the happiness of the millions are interested. Unless taught
by foreign education, our mudsills forget to pull off the hat and bend
the knee to our self-constituted aristocrats. In their innocence
they are weak enough to consider that the men who a few days ago were working
in the same gulch with themselves, clothed in the same mud-stained habiliments,
with hands as hard and faces as sunburnt, are no better qualified to establish
rules and grades of society because they have struck a lead, and now wear
ruffled shirts instead of woolen wrappers, than they are, and that the
fact of their having made a lucky strike gives them no more intellect,
no more right to control public opinion, than when they were delving in
the shaft or behind the counter; and, dear reader, I think they are right,
by heavens! Yet too many of this class arrogate to themselves extraordinary
powers and unusual talents. They act upon the homely adage that 'Money
makes the mare go,' only by a slight alliteration they render it 'Money
makes the people go.' Who doubts that California has its aristocracy--a
peacock order of nobility--small brains and showy tails, an itch to be
great, to show off, to be exclusive, to lead in the affairs of State, for
which they are as well qualified as a pig is to dance a hornpipe, or a
parson to run a steamboat. These second editions of the Gwins, the
Masons, the Maximilians, forgot that 'rank is but the guinea's stamp, and
man's the gowd for a' that.'
Their creed is--
Dimes and dollars, dollars and dimes
An empty pocket's the worst of crimes!
If a man is down, give him a thrust;
Trample the beggar into the dust;
Presumptuous poverty is quite appalling;
Knock him over! Kick him for falling.
If a man is up, oh lift him higher;
Your soul's for sale, and he's the buyer.
Dimes and dollars, dollars and dimes!
An empty pocket's the worst of crimes.
In that part of California which, since the occupation of the country by the inevitable Yankee, has been marked by the lines of the surveyor as Nevada county, there once existed a numerous people, who, adopting the conventionalities of modern aristocracy, were ruled by a great man who was clothed with almost despotic power, but clothed generally with nothing else, unless it might be a hare-skin robe in very cold weather. Notwithstanding this potentate held the lives of his subjects under his control, and could shoot, hang, slay, or disenfranchise, without fear of being called to account, or having his right questioned, he seldom had any trouble with his people, for it was his august will (which usually lasted from January to December) to let them pretty much do as they pleased--a kind of patriarchal government, not much improved upon in latter days by the Patriotic mode of doing things in opposition to constitutional authorities.
The territory of his Imperial Highness, Homody Weimer, was bounded on the north by the South Fork of the U.B. Dam river; on the east by the lofty summit of the Snowy Mountains; on the south by Grizzly Stream, now known as Bear river, and English's Bridge; on the west by Johnson's Crossing and that Irish hotel where hot griddle cakes were served up cold in pork gravy, and whisky sold in latter days at a bit a drink.
Although this kingdom might not contain as many geographical miles as the principality of Duke Gwin or his Magnificence Maximexico, he was nevertheless 'every inch a King,' with more absolute powers than either of those great and distinguished rulers. In one respect he was far more independent than any of his brother monarchs of Europe or America. He had no national debt to pay, no issue of greenbacks or Confederate bonds, no foreign loans to sap the energies of his people, no hordes of State Treasurers or financiers to absorb the stealings, no diplomatic blood-suckers to devise ways and means of appropriating profits to themselves. Yet this great King had more gold in his banks than any European monarch or rebel President could boast. With untold wealth, Weimer adhered to his primitive habits and economical customs, regardless of cost. He wasted no money on useless display in fashionable society; he built no wooden castles with Ophir or Gould & Curry stock. His Summer robe, even when seated upon his throne, was simply his own well oiled skin, for he disdained even a Georgia costume, and his palace was only a hole in the ground, covered with sticks and earth, with an aperture at the top to let out the smoke of his fire.
His recreation after the fatigue of the council was over was to bask in the sun and slap the mosquitos and sandflies that disturbed his repose. Well could he exclaim with that mighty monarch, Charles V., 'Naked came I into the world, and naked I remain in it.' And so he did, till his sceptre was wrested from him, when he condescended to wear a shirt in token of his vassalage.
Sometimes he gave social parties upon great occasions, which I have often attended, an invited and honored guest. His courtiers, like some of the fairer portions of our highly civilized and refined people, had an idea of improving the beauty which nature gave them, and painted, not only their faces, but their whole bodies, in brilliant, fanciful and variegated stripes, appearing like angels or devils, according to different ideas of what constitutes beauty in relative society, and which may, in course of time, be adopted by our own refined and appreciative fashionable aristocracy.
In his kingdom there were no grumbling husbands for expensive wives; no loves of bonnets to tempt an extravagant wife; no Lodges to draw devoted husbands from their homes and families seven evenings in a week, to wind up with champagne suppers and oyster stews; no books in the store to require them to examine till one o'clock in the morning, with Squarza's punch and brilliant black eyes and dimpled cheeks to quicken perception; no ladies' saloons, to tempt an affectionate wife for recreation and ice cream with a friendly neighboring wife's husband; no splendid livery stables for young men to patronize on Sundays with charming sweethearts, at their employers' expense; in short, the word Sheriff or Justice of the Peace was unknown in Weimer's dominions. I wonder if the advocates of California aristocracy would establish such a system of government!
It was a happy kingdom, and, like the Valley of Rasselas, the wants of its people did not extend beyond their own territories. They settled all quarrels by fighting among themselves, kindly consenting to let other nations manage their own affairs, and so long as the acorn crop was good and grasshoppers plenty, they employed no French cooks or cosmopolitan waiters.
I had the happiness to enjoy the friendship of the King, the great Weimer, and was upon intimate terms with him. Had there been an order of knighthood in his gift, I have no doubt but I should have gained the honor of being created 'Sir Chip of the Old Block,' but as it was I was content with his appellation of 'Hugh! muchee bueno Capitan'--equal, perhaps, to Hugh Capet or Hugh de Chatillon, or hugh de do de diddle de dum. However, men are but men, and Napoleon is but human. So is his wife.
It was in the Summer of 1853 that S.P. Storms, an old Indian trader, and myself, planned a visit to the summit of the Sierras. In that early day, there were no settlements above Illinoistown, and as various tribes existed along the summit trails who might not be aware of the dignity of travelers, and their intimate association with their beloved King, we thought it a good policy to take his Majesty with us as a sort of body guard, provided we could induce him to go with us. At this time he was holding a grand levee at Illinoistown, on the hill, a little back of Egbert's trading post; so we rode over to confer with his Majesty. We found him surrounded by about six hundred of his Indians, engaged in scooping acorn mush from a willow basket with his hand, and licking his fingers as the unctuous mess dripped down. He cordially received us with an affectionate 'Hugh! Storms. Hugh! Capitan, hah! Have some?' pointing to the dish and inviting us to dip in. 'No, your Majesty,' we replied, 'We've dined.' 'Good!' he exclaimed, and again dipped his hand into the rich mess. 'What for you want, Storms?' with a s-l-u-s-h! Now, Storms spoke the language like a native, and soon explained the object of our visit. His Majesty smiled benignly, and as he had never visited that part of his dominions he assented with pleasure at once. But a new and unforeseen difficulty presented itself. His people, fearing some harm might come to his Highness, refused to let him go. Here was a dilemma to be overcome. 'Weimer,' said I, familiarly slapping him upon the back (a great liberty to take with a potentate), 'fix it up somehow; tell your people some good and satisfactory yarn; fix it up with them.' I might have added, d--d quick, but politeness forbade. 'I was too proud to beg, too polite to swear.' 'Be in a hurry, your Majesty, for we want to be off,' said Storms. Every country, you know, has its court standard of good breeding, and etiquette, and we but followed that of Weimer's court. Calling his chiefs around him, he told them that the acorn crop was doubtful, and he wanted to go to Moss Valley to see if there was enough for their Winter supply. This was a national question, one worthy the attention of any monarch of the world. To provide against scarcity, to be prepared for any public calamity, whether of war or of famine, is the ne plus ultra of good government, and it struck the sages of the nation as one of great importance. A failure of the acorn crop, a dearth of grasshoppers, would indeed be a national calamity. A council was held at once, and after discussing the important question with the gravity it deserved, they finally consented that the King might risk his life in such a cause and in such a company, but they exacted a promise from Storms and myself that we would take good care of his Majesty, and return him safe and sound into their hands.
This we did, of course, when the King saddled his own little pony, and with a wave of his hand, departed, amid the shouts of the commoners, on a hunt for acorns. It was a master stroke of policy thus to mislead public opinion and put it on the wrong track. It was the quintessence of diplomacy, and Weimer the King chuckled over it with glee, illustrating in himself the words of the poet, with a slight alliteration:
E'en monarchs hae been kenn'd,
In pious rapture,
At times a rousing whid to vend,
An' nail't in Scripture.
The excuse, public weal. We had with us a Cherokee Indian named Charlie, an intelligent, smart, brave fellow, and the best shot with a rifle or pistol I ever saw. There were four of us--a King, a trader, a Cherokee and a Block--head.
As I am only illustrating some traits of royalty, I
do not propose to give a circumstantial account of our trip, our escape
from wild animals, which swarmed the mountain thickets then, nor from a
Piute ambuscade, and shall only relate incidents of the trip to illustrate
royal habits, or prove that I have rubbed against a King.
In our passage to Dutch Flat, at that time consisting of only two log cabins, Charlie shot a squirrel. His Majesty put the four-legged bird into his pocket (for he condescended to wear an old cast-off suit of clothes), saying it would be 'mucha good fish for supper.'
When we halted for night, by a pretty brook, the King, who was fond of good living, and by the way something of an epicure, brought out his squirrel and commenced preparing it for our evening meal. He first split the end of a stick and placed the squirrel in it. Then he held it over the blazing fire, and singed the hair off, then scraping away the hot ashes and scooping a little hole in the ground, put the vegetable in, covering it first with green leaves, then with a layer of hot ashes, after which, with live coals, left it to bake.
'But, your Majesty,' said I respectfully, 'you forgot to take the entrails out.'
'You d--d old red skin,' said Storms, forgetting the presence of royalty in his disgust, 'do you mean to eat--and all?' and the workings of his face betrayed the sympathy of his stomach. But Kings and aristocrats are supposed to know what they are about. 'They can do no wrong.'
'Storms,' said his Majesty gravely, 'you like 'em beef liber?'
'You like 'em heart bake 'em?'
'Well, you like 'em tripe cook?'
'Yes, you old fool, they are all the best part; everybody knows they are good.'
'Topee, topee Storms. You like 'em pig, hog, string--what-you-call-em-stuff?'
'Oh! sausages! of course I do, you dirty wretch.'
'Yes--sackagy. Well, squirrel hab liber, hab tripe, hab sackagy, all stuff. Me like 'em too. You no like 'em now, when me cook 'em all togedder?'
'Storms, he's got you on a swinging limb!' I shouted with a laugh; 'Your Majesty is a logician.'
He smiled, faintly.
'It's a fact,' replied Storms, goodnaturedly. 'The old fellow is no fool. I wonder if Kings and Queens generally cook their game whole--or do they take out the stuffing?'
'All in use, Storms,' said I. 'If the queenly and beautiful lady who shines in an assembly will eat the refuse of a dead ox or porker, what better is it than for the King of all the Weimers to eat those of a squirrel?'
'Humph!' he echoed. 'Between the two it makes me think of Jack Spratt and his wife. Still, as to the squirrel, I'll be satisfied with a hind leg, and you and Weimer may have the stuffing.'
In due time the squirrel was done, and done to a turn. Storms and I contented ourselves with the hind-quarters, while the King and Charlie swallowed the rest with gusto.
A few days afterward Charlie shot a monstrous horned owl. After duly admiring this friend of the Bird of Jove, Storms threw it away, when his Majesty the King quietly picked it up again.
'What the d--l are you going to do with that owl?' inquired Storms.
'Roast 'em,' said the King. 'Mucha bueno chicken.'
'Chicken!' echoed Storms, in disgust. 'Why owls eat mice, moles and lizards--faugh!'
'Chicken hab liber, heart, gizzy, head and tail, and mucha neck; chicken eat worms, grubs and grasshoppers. Mucha bueno chicken! Mucha bueno owl! Americano mahala eat 'em chicken salad, smackee lips for chicken liber, lickee finger for chicken egg, and chicken eat worms and flies. Owl hab berry good egg.'
'Got you again, Storms,' I shouted. 'Now, there are worse things than owls--turkey buzzards, for instance. I tried owls when crossing the Plains. They were Northern owls, and though I could barely stomach them in extremity, I can't say I was fond of them--they were rather strong. This being a Southern owl, it may be more palatable. I think I will taste it.'
In due time the King had singed off the feathers, and, at Charlie's suggestion, laid it on the coals to broil. Soon the flagrant fumes of the roasting bird ascended to our olfactories, when an exclamation and an oath came from Storms, and he suddenly darted among some bushes, where he held a private communion with himself. We could hear occasional interjections of 'Ooh! augh! ooh augh! ahoola waugh! waugh ooh! d--n d--n the owl!' Not wishing to disturb him in his devotions, I remained quiet until the bird was broiled, when I cut off a generous portion of the breast and swallowed a mouthful. It had a peculiar flavor. I can't say that I admired it. I tried it again. I swallowed it. My appetite was suddenly appeased. I felt that I had eaten too much. No matter if you overload your stomach with jellies or sweetmeats, the effect is the same. With a sort of magnetic propulsion I found myself rushing from our meal in search of Storms, when I intuitively took upon myself a portion of his devotional exercises, and with solemn and somewhat lugubrious faces we looked at each other, while I sang tenor to his bass, 'Eeh! aah! ooh! waugheh!' Dear reader, Southern owl was worse to swallow than the Northern, but give me chicken, worms, grasshoppers and all, before either a Northern or Southern owl. Do you believe it, the King and the Cherokee sat unconcernedly and finished the owl between them, every mouthful, and licked their fingers at the end?
Kings have strong stomachs for delicacies, while mudsills
grow sick on high feeding. I wonder if owls will ever be introduced
upon the tables of our wealthy gourmands--why not owls as well as frogs
We were riding along quietly one day, when his Majesty's charger became dull and drowsy, and his Majesty himself had relapsed into a meditative mood. We had ascended a high mountain, and began to descend an inclined plane, when it occurred to me that I could impart a little mettle to his Majesty's charger, and quicken his pace without awaking the King from his pleasant dream. I observed that there was no crupper on his Imperial Highness' saddle, so I quietly slipped the halter off my horse's neck, made a slipping noose, and quietly riding up beside his Majesty, I slipped the knot over his steed's stub tail, and holding my end of the line, I spurred rapidly forward. My intention was to propel the horse forward; a sort of primitive locomotion, acting upon lever power, instead of steam. Had the thing been successful, I intended to have taken out a patent for the invention. It might have been applied to various uses. It would have been invaluable to fast young gentlemen who hire livery stable hacks, and can't drive fast enough, or who desire to show off as people are coming out of church on Sundays. It would have been the making for any fair equestrian who was riding a race for a prize, it would be in common use in runaway matches; and for baulky horses in going to a ball or shoddy party it would have been a sine qua non. I should have sold the right cheap, for I wished to benefit man and woman kind gratuitously, more than I desire to fill my pocket by useful inventions. But, alas! for human foresight. The Atlantic cable was a failure--it parted; in spite of all the care and science in its manufacture, it brought up with a jerk and parted in the middle. As I drew the halter taut his Majesty's Pegasus, at first swayed around as a ship might do at the turn of her rudder in a gale, then stopped suddenly as when a vessel comes to an anchor, then an awful lull for a moment, to be followed by a series of gymnastic performances which would have put Hernandez to the blush.
His head flew up, and his ears lop'd down,
His rider fell off, and crack'd his crown.
And he began a series of rearing, kicking and pitching which excelled any similar performance I ever witnessed in a circus. 'Whoa! whoa!' shouted the king; 'd--n whoa! (he spoke some English words remarkably plain); you d--n kick horse; whoa! I make you my dinner--roast--whoa!' By the way, gentle reader, mule-steak is good, I know, and I infer that horse meat is not bad. Somehow, the King's horse and my own got considerably mixed up, and the line still held taut when his girth gave way and his Sacred Majesty was precipitated over his steed's head with the saddle and landed on all fours in the plebeian dirt of the trail. The pony, finding his load suddenly lightened, turned to run; but I held to the rope and the rope held to the tail. It did not part like the Atlantic cable, although the strain was heavy, yet it compelled me to back water pretty fast. 'Hold 'im! hold 'im! el Capitan,' shouted Weimer, jumping up; 'd--n--dinner--him--roast beef. Mucha malo mula-horse--' By this time Charlie had dismounted and seized the refractory brute by the head; I slacked the line and in a little time order was restored. I attempted no explanation. I felt that I could give royalty none which would be satisfactory, and I wisely held my peace. I looked at Storms; he lay upon the ground rolling in laughter--a pleasant bed to roll in!--and actually was delighted at the failure of my invention. 'How did it happen, Weimer?' he asked as soon as he could command himself. The wretch had seen the whole maneuver.
'Waugh!' replied the King; 'too much long spur--too much prick him hard--saddle broke--he pitch me off--he run away; el Capitan lasso his tail and hold him for Charlie catch him horse.'
I couldn't have explained the origin of the disaster better myself, and Weimer always seemed grateful for my agency in stopping his Rosinante by lassoing his tail. We shared our blankets at night. I usually found him a quiet bedfellow, but there was one single exception when his kingly dignity tried my patience.
We had had a hard ride to reach the summit, and after doing so, we had to return to the valley at its base--a distance of about three miles--to encamp. As we were all pretty tired, Storms opened a flask of brandy which he carried for contingencies--and we were unanimous in the opinion that a contingency had arrived, so the cork was drawn. A moderate dram sufficed for the occasion, and in due time we spread our blankets and turned in. The King seemed restless, for he kept rolling about, grating his boot against my shins--for the night was cold at that altitude, and we slept in our clothes and boots.
'What ails your Majesty?' I enquired, half asleep, after his giving me an unconscionable rake with his boot; 'are you cold? Pull the blanket over you.'
'No, el Capitan--no cold--mucha sick.'
I roused up, when he began to groan, and placing his hands on his bowels, intimated that he had the colic. I knew enough of medicine to know what was a sure remedy for common people, but great folks, especially Kings and Queens, I had never made a post mortem examination of, and could not tell whether they had bowels like plain people or not. I had heard it said of great and rich men sometimes that they had no bowels of compassion, from which I infer that compassion, when it exists at all, has its locale in the bowels, and could be moved by proper remedies, and the patient saved.
However, there are so few of our rich people troubled
with this bowel complaint, that the disease seems dying out, and if compassion
ever appears, it will be in some other part of the system. But we
left Weimer groaning, and we must attend to him. 'Storms,' I asked,
'do you suppose the King has got any bowels?'
Storms turned over heavily, with a 'Go to'--he did not say where, but soon began to snore. The case was desperate. I must try it. I always carry medicine when in the mountain wilderness, so I went to my bag and got a big dose of pills.
The Monarch looked at them a moment, then at me, and then asked me to eat one. This was giving medicine with a vengeance. 'No good--kill me--you eat 'em one.' Seeing there was no other way, I put one into my mouth and swallowed it. 'Other one,' said his Majesty--'No kill you, him no kill me.' He looked at me with distrust. I had to take another. 'Now one more eat him.' 'Weimer,' I exclaimed with warmth, while the nauseating stuff nearly made me vomit, 'I'll see your kingly form in Purgatory first. If you are sick I'll give you medicine to make you well, but I won't prescribe for you and take the medicine into the bargain;' and I made a face which the camp-fire so reflected that it elicited a remark from my Royal patient: 'No good, doctor--kill Weimer--no eat him stuff.' Feeling sick at stomach, I took the flask from under Storm's blanket and swallowed a dram, which soon relieved the nausea. Weimer eyed me closely, then reached his hand for the flask. Vexed with him, I drew it away and sternly said 'No!' 'Mucha sick, mucha sick,' he said, and began to manipulate his stomach and bowels. I still held to the flask. 'Gib me med'cine, quick,' and he made a motion to swallow a pill. It was my turn now. I gave him one: he swallowed it and reached for the flask. 'No, your Majesty; you can't come it; one more pill.' With a wry face he took it down, and then tried to get the flask. 'Excuse me, your Magnificence; one more pill first,' and I showed him it was the last.
He hesitated. 'No pill, no brandy,' I told him, and arose to put the flask away. 'El Capitan!' he thundered, and swallowed the last pill with vengeance in his eye, and desperately reached out his hand for the flask, which, this time, I gave him. Before I could interfere he had drained it to the bottom, when, smacking his lips, and drawing a long breath, he exclaimed: 'Mucha bueno, medicine, bueno Capitan--Weimer die good now.'
'Yes, your Majesty, like many of your compeers, you'll be dead--drunk before morning.' We laid down and tried to compose ourselves to sleep. I began to doze, when the King began to laugh. The brandy or the pills began to operate by exciting his brain. Soon he began to sing in his wild, uncouth Indian manner. Storms waked up and wanted to know what the d--l was to pay. 'Nothing,' I told him--'the bill was settled.' 'But what's the matter--what's gotten into Weimer?' 'O, a dose of pills and half a pint of brandy;' and I explained the state of my patient's case. Sleep was out of the question. His Royal Bigness got up and began to dance. Jenny Worrell's clog dance is not a circumstance. Staggering, rolling, tumbling, for an hour he was a practical illustration for a temperance lecturer. At last he settled down, lethargy followed, and at about two o'clock in the morning our camp was quiet, and we could resume our nap. I had spread our horse blankets over the King to keep him warm, and rolling myself in my own, slept alone.
It was late the following morning before we awakened.
The King was still sleeping in his robes; but the pills had operated finely
and--the patient was saved. I have never practiced medicine from
that day. I threw it up in disgust. In fact, I have thrown
up emetics in disgust before; but now I renounced the whole pharmacopæal,
allopathical, diabolical, pillological practice; for where the custom of
the country requires the physician, instead of the patient, to swallow
his own prescriptions, it is going a little further than Galen or Boer
have ever indicated. If you get sick, gentle reader, don't come to
me. I won't come.
I might go on ad infinitum (that means without end, I believe, in school books) to prove that I have been on social terms with royalty, but I think I have given enough to establish my claim to good society. Should the community be still incredulous, I will furnish further proofs, for I have been in more Courts than that of his Majesty the King of all Weimers. Courting sometimes is very agreeable, but sometimes it costs more than it comes to; and besides, receptions are not always as pleasant as one might anticipate. Kings are ticklish things to deal with--whether Queens are or not, I don't know; I never tickled one. But this I do know: if tickling a King is evidence of familiarity, and presents a claim for admission into good society, I have established that claim, for Weimer was always tickled when I adverted to his remarkable cure. He laid it down to the pills and my medical skill. Does anybody want a dose?
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