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our magnificent, though purely ornamental fire made the gigantic white trunks and grotesque gnarled branches of the cotton-woods overhanging the stream dance and flicker like ghosts in a dream. I think this was one of the noblest chiaro-oscuro effects of fire-light that I ever saw in my life. Below us murmured the river, repeating the sky’s purple twilight on its smooth depths, and glinting with diamond sparks from our flame on its fretful shallows. The air was the perfection of breathableness, +softer, purer, clearer than anything east of the plains around Mount Shasta. The next morning we rejoined our companions just in time to cook our breakfast on the remains of their kitchen. I began to feel terribly sick of meat, and, in my rage for vegetables, broke my bowie-knife digging wild onions. After this exploit, costing me a splendid weapon irreplaceable short of Denver, we made a ragout of onions and salt pork, which I cannot recommend to anybody living near Delmonico's, washed our dishes in the Republican, and turned north again toward the ranch. We reached Comstock's about two in the afternoon, with less buffalo-meat than we should have liked, but an experience of one of the loveliest and most interesting regions on the Continent; a region which the Pacific Railroad will make the most valuable farmingland between St. Louis and California.
FROM THE BUFFALO COUNTRY TO THE GOLD MINES.
ON the 29th of May, our party were obliged to divide. We had waited several nights without finding a westward stage which would contain us all. Accordingly two of us stayed behind, while our two friends squeezed themselves into an overcrowded coach, where one at least of the passengers took it as a personal insult, using language unparliamentary and profane. Munger had promised to send us on an empty coach from Atchison, during the next few days; for this our friends were to telegraph when they reached Kearney.
I was not sorry to stay with the Comstocks a little longer. We were both of us charmed with their original and kindly characters, and they never tired of hearing us talk about the great East. Apropos of that, John Gilbert told me that next year he was going east on a visit. I gave him a cordial invitation to come and see me, when he replied naively, “I don't think I shall get beyond Chicago.” What a revelation How far west must we be, when going to Chicago was going east ! And yet we were only two hundred miles on a road numbering more than as many thousands.
From the Comstocks we learned more of the social condition of Kansas and Nebraska than all editorials and speeches had ever taught us at the East. To a
remarkable extent this family had kept the good of frontier life, and shed aside the evil. I regarded them as in all respects trustworthy and unbiased historians of the events of the last few years; yet they revealed to me a condition of affairs which was appalling. Nobody could suspect them of a bias toward the accursed system which had originally caused all the border troubles; so I was obliged to believe them when they said that bushwhacking, robbery, murder, jayhawking in general, had been committed under the sacred name of Liberty and the detested name of Slavery alike. Border Ruffianism had spread far beyond its original clique. In every small settlement or settled region, the party in power for the time had called to its aid all the means of violence which coerced the first Free State men. If a settler did not lend himself to the tyranny in vogue, he was marked for plunder or destruction. Armed parties surrounded his house in the night, brought him out and shot or hanged him, confiscated his goods, drove off his cattle, and sent his family into the bush. This was done in the name of the cause most popular at the time, and for much of it no cause was responsible. It was mere organized pillage under a convenient party name, and got so lucrative that jayhawking absorbed into its profession all the bold, unscrupulous spirits who spurned the slow rewards of industry; and it became as dangerous for a hard-working bond side settler to become a “suspect,” as honest people found it in the French Reign of Terror. The Comstocks had seen men in whose loyalty to the Union and freedom they had as much confidence as in their own, utterly broken up and ruined by jayhawkers, pretending to represent those holy