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Jane—that she can never hear it often enough; so I knew it could not be far off, and here it is, only just under my huswife-and since you are so kind as to wish to hear what she says—but, first of all, I really must, in justice to Jane, apologize for her writing so short a letter-only two pages, you see, hardly two, and in general she fills the whole paper and crosses half. My mother often wonders that I can make it out so well. She often says, when the letter is first opened, 'Well, Hetty, now I think you will be put to it to make out all that checker-work'-don't you, ma'am ? And then I tell her, I am sure she would contrive to make it out herself, if she had nobody to do it for her, every word of it-I am sure she would pore over it till she had made out every word. And, indeed, though my mother's eyes are not so good as they were, she can see amazingly well still, thank God! with the help of spectacles. It is such a blessing! My mother's are really very good indeed. Jane often says, when she is here, 'I am sure, grandma, you must have had very strong eyes to see as you do, and so much fine work as you have done too! I only wish my eyes may last me as well.'»
“Now there is one thing I want to ask you about before I forget it. You have been here in Silverlandhere in Nevada-two or three years, and, of course,
* Reprinted by special permission of the estate of Samuel L. Clemens, The Mark Twain Co. and Messrs. Harper & Brothers, Publishers.
your position on the daily press has made it necessary for you to go down into the mines and examine them carefully in detail, and therefore you know all about the silver mining business. Now what I want to get at is—is, well, the way the deposits of ore are made, you know. For instance. Now, as I understand it, the vein which contains the silver is sandwiched in between casings of granite, and runs along the ground, and sticks up like a curbstone. Well, take a vein forty feet thick, for example, or eighty, for that matter, or even a hundred-say you go down on it with a shaft, straight down, you know, or with what you call 'incline,' maybe you go down five hundred feet, or maybe you don't go down but two hundredanyway you go down, and all the time this vein grows narrower, when the casings come nearer or approach each other, you may say—that is, when they do approach, which, of course, they do not always do, particularly in cases where the nature of the formation is such that they stand apart wider than they otherwise would, and which geology has failed to account for, although everything in that science goes to prove that, all things being equal, it would if it did not, or would not certainly if it did, and then, of course, they are. Do not you think it is ?”
I said to myself :
“Now I just knew how it would be that whiskey cocktail has done the business for me; I don't understand any more than a clam."
And then I said aloud :
“I-I-that is if you don't mind, would youwould you say that over again! I ought-"
“Oh, certainly, certainly! You see I am very unfamiliar with the subject, and perhaps I don't present my case clearly, but I-"
“No, no—no, no—you state it plain enough, but that cocktail has muddled me a little. But I willno, I do understand for that matter; but I would get the hang of it all the better if you went over it again-and I'll pay better attention this time."
He said, "Why, what I was after was this."
Here he became even more fearfully impressive than ever, and emphasized each particular point by checking it off on his finger ends.
“This vein, or lode, or ledge, or whatever you call it, runs along between two layers of granite, just the same as if it were a sandwich. Very well. Now suppose you go down on that, say a thousand feet, or maybe twelve hundred (it don't really matter) before you drift, and then you start your drifts, some of them across the ledge, and others along the length of it, where the sulphurets—I believe they call them sulphurets, though why they should, considering that, so far as I can see, the main dependence of a miner does not so lie, as some suppose, but in which it cannot be successfully maintained, wherein the same should not continue, while part and parcel of the same are not committed to either in the sense referred to, whereas, under difficult circumstances, the most inexperienced among us could not detect it if it were, or might over
look it if it did, or scorn the very idea of such a thing, even though it were palpably demonstrated as such. Am I not right?”
I said sorrowfully: “I feel ashamed of myself, Mr. Ward. I know I ought to understand you perfectly well, but you see that treacherous whiskey cocktail has got into my head, and now I cannot understand even the simplest proposition. I told you how it would be."
“Oh, don't mind it, don't mind it; the fault was my own, no doubt—though I did think it clear enough for-"
“Don't say a word. Clear! Why, you stated it as clear as the sun to anybody but an abject idiot; but it's that confounded cocktail that has played the mischief."
“No; now don't say that. I'll begin it all over again, and
“Don't now—for goodness' sake, don't do anything of the kind, because I tell you my head is in such a condition that I don't believe I could understand the most trifling question a man could ask me."
“Now don't you be afraid. I'll put it so plain this time that you can't help but get the hang of it. We will begin at the very beginning." (Leaning far across the table with determined impressiveness wrought upon his every feature, and fingers prepared to keep tally of each point enumerated; and I, leaning forward with painful interest, resolved to comprehend or perish.) “You know the vein, the ledge, the thing
that contains the metal, whereby it constitutes the medium between all other forces, whether of present or remote agencies, so brought to bear in favor of the former against the latter, or the latter against the former, or all, or both, or comprising the relative differences existing within the radius whence culminate the several degrees or similarity to which"
I said: “Oh, hang my wooden head, it ain't any use !-it ain't any use to try-I can't understand anything. The plainer you get it the more I can't get the hang of it.”
I heard a suspicious noise behind me, and turned in time to see Hingston dodging behind a newspaper, and quaking with a gentle ecstasy of laughter. I looked at Ward again, and he had thrown off his dread solemnity and was laughing also. Then I saw that I had been sold—that I had been made a victim of a swindle in the way of a string of plausibly worded sentences that didn't mean anything under
(1) Why are the two specimens not clear!
way, aiming to make it as short and clear as
3. THE PERPETUATION OF OUR POLITICAL
INSTITUTIONS* At what point, then, is the approach of danger * From Lincoln's Address to the Young Men's Lyceum, Springfield, Illinois, January 27, 1837.