A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 43
the result of a test for ore values, made by the assayer in an office retort, before a shipment of ore is sent to the smelter. These original little mementos, made from high- grade ore from the Montana- Tonopah, were not all that made the dinner memorable. Seated at Mr. Knox’s right, I heard from the other end of the table bursts of unguarded laughter, with Hugh’s voice in animated and continuous narrative. I had known Hugh as a man of quiet dignity, but now under the beneficent influence of the champagne, in which he had not often indulged, my husband blossomed out as a raconteur. Another trip underground was arranged for me by Mr. Knox to see what is known as “ ruby silver.” There was not a great deal of this type of quartz in Tonopah, but in the Montana it showed up in pockets. This first time I saw it, the twenty- foot stope looked as if the walls had been spattered with blood. When I held a piece of it up to the light, it glowed like a jewel - very exotic stuff. However, the color faded quickly when exposed to the air. Every time a face of ruby silver appeared in a mine, people clamored to see it. I went underground many times in the years I spent in Tonopah, often hanging on to the skip, which is no more than a cross- piece hung to a single rope. Sometimes I rode the rim of the bucket, or was safely deposited inside the bucket, which, after all, was a little more comfortable for a tenderfoot. An entertainment of uncommon interest that first year was a dramatic reading of Julius Caesar by Herman W. Knickerbocker. This gentleman had come to Hugh’s office some days before to ask him if he had any of Shakespeare’s plays. When he saw my husband’s full set of Shakespeare, he asked if he could borrow Julius Caesar, without telling Hugh anything of his plans. My husband knew Mr. Knickerbocker by reputation, and like many men who are too self- contained to be flashy, Hugh had a secret admiration for any man who was definitely spectacular. He relished telling me the tales that were floating through camp about this gentleman. One whispered story told of Mr. Knickerbocker’s having been ruined by an illicit love; another maintained he had assumed a debt incurred by some absconding relative. He had been a minister, that was sure; that he was from the South was evident in his speech. But whether he had actually been the pastor of a fashionable New Orleans church and tried for heresy and unfrocked was something else again. Anyway, no man so handsome could escape curious comment. This reading was held in the Opera House, a large barn of a place with a stage at one end and a shallow balcony at the other. The admission was a dollar a seat, and I think the “ star” made enough to insure a grubstake for many days.
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