The First Piano In Camp

In 1858—it might have been five years earlier or later; this is not the history for the public schools—there was a little camp about ten miles from Pioche, occupied by upward of three hundred miners, every one of whom might have packed his prospecting implements and left for more inviting fields any time before sunset.

When the day was over, these men did not rest from their labours, like honest New England agriculturists, but sang, danced, gambled, and shot each other, as the mood seized them.

One evening the report spread along the main street (which was the only street) that three men had been killed at Silver Reef and that the bodies were coming in. Presently a lumbering old conveyance laboured up the hill, drawn by a couple of horses, well worn out with their pull. The cart contained a good-sized box, and no sooner did its outlines become visible, through the glimmer of a stray light, than it began to affect the idlers.

Death always enforces respect, and even though no one had caught sight of the remains, the crowd gradually became subdued, and when the horses came to a standstill the cart was immediately surrounded. The driver, however, was not in the least impressed with the solemnity of his commission.

“All there?” asked one.

“Haven’t examined. Guess so.”

The driver filled his pipe, and lit it as he continued:

“Wish the bones and load had gone over the grade!”

A man who had been looking on stepped up to the man at once.

“I don’t know who you have in that box, but if they happen to be any friends of mine I’ll lay you alongside.”

“We can mighty soon see,” said the teamster coolly. “Just burst the lid off, and if they happen to be the men you want, I’m here.”

The two looked at each other for a moment, and then the crowd gathered a little closer, anticipating trouble.

“I believe that dead men are entitled to good treatment, and when you talk about hoping to see corpses go over a bank, and I have to say is, that it will be better for you if the late lamented ain’t my friends.”

“We’ll open the box. I don’t take back what I’ve said, and if my language don’t suit your ways of thinking, I guess I can stand it.”

With these words the teamster began to pry up the lid. He got a board off, and then pulled out some rags. A strip of something dark, like rosewood, presented itself.

“Eastern coffins, by thunder!” said several, and the crowd looked quite astonished.

Some more boards flew up, and the man who was ready to defend his friend’s memory shifted his weapon a little. The cool manner of the teamster had so irritated him that he had made up his mind to pull his weapon at the first sight of the dead, even if the deceased was his worst and oldest enemy, Presently the whole of the boxcover was off, and the teamster, clearing away the packing revealed to the astonished group the top of something which puzzled all alike.

“Boys,” said he, “this is a pianner.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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