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A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 68

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“ No,” she replied, in her soft southern voice. “ I’ll just stand here.” After a pause, she continued, “ I know I don’t suit you, but I thought maybe if I knowed what I done wrong, maybe I could do better. I want to please you.” “ But, Carrie,” I said, “ I do tell you over and over again, and you forget. It’s just so many things. I don’t know where to begin.” She looked down for a moment and smoothed out her white apron with her two big hands and said gently: “ Well, then I’ll go. I just does the best I knows how.” Needless to say, she didn’t leave me in my need. Carrie stayed until my baby girl was well launched, and then she drifted out of our lives. In the many years since this humble, faithful soul crossed my path, when life has pressed me hard, I’ve remembered the look on her gentle, homely face. Her words have been a call to me to “ go and do likewise”-“ I just does the best I knows how.” And then came Mrs. Margaret Donald -“ Donnie,” a darling middle- class Scottish widow. Lonely in San Francisco because her only daughter was living in Canada, she wanted a position in a house where she could be one of the family. She sat with us at table, and our friends were hers. She was a “ housekeeper,” but she was a guardian angel and a beloved member of our family for many years. At last Donnie was enticed away from us by the county commissioners, who insisted they needed her warmth and efficiency as matron at the County Hospital. In this position, she had many interesting contacts, like the one with Jack Longstreet, the man who tangled with Tasker Oddie over a claim-jumping accusation in the early days. Incidentally, he was reported to be a near relative of General James Longstreet of Civil War fame. He was a big, muscular man with grey hair, which he wore over- long. He was supposed to have lost one ear, cut off for horse- stealing when he was a youth. Nobody knew for certain whether that ear was off and it would have been as much as anyone’s life was worth to try to find out. But while Donnie was at the County Hospital, she told me this story: “ The old man came in pretty sick. We got him into bed, I brought a basin of water and soap. You know how it is, it’s just routine with us. Everybody gets washed when they are brought in dirty from the hills. I washed off his face, and then I pushed away his hair to get at his ears. Well! he slapped my hand down, sick as he was. His arm flashed out quick as a gun. I pretty near fainted!” Donnie paused and I asked breathlessly, “ Was the ear off ?" “ It was off!” she said impressively. “ And he swore at me a blue streak. ‘ All right,’ I says, ‘ all right. You can stay dirty for all I care.’ But he yelled at me,

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A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 68
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