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Tales of the Argonauts

How Old Man Plunkett Went Home
I think we all loved him. Even after he mismanaged the affairs of the Amity Ditch
Company, we commiserated him, although most of us were stockholders, and
lost heavily. I remember that the blacksmith went so far as to say that "them
chaps as put that responsibility on the old man oughter be lynched." But the
blacksmith was not a stockholder; and the expression was looked upon as the
excusable extravagance of a large, sympathizing nature, that, when combined
with a powerful frame, was unworthy of notice. At least, that was the way they put
it. Yet I think there was a general feeling of regret that this misfortune would
interfere with the old man's long-cherished plan of "going home."
Indeed, for the last ten years he had been "going home." He was going home
after a six-months' sojourn at Monte Flat; he was going home after the first rains;
he was going home when the rains were over; he was going home when he had
cut the timber on Buckeye Hill, when there was pasture on Dow's Flat, when he
struck pay-dirt on Eureka Hill, when the Amity Company paid its first dividend,
when the election was over, when he had received an answer from his wife. And
so the years rolled by, the spring rains came and went, the woods of Buckeye Hill
were level with the ground, the pasture on Dow's Flat grew sear and dry, Eureka
Hill yielded its pay-dirt and swamped its owner, the first dividends of the Amity
Company were made from the assessments of stockholders, there were new
county officers at Monte Flat, his wife's answer had changed into a persistent
question, and still old man Plunkett remained.
It is only fair to say that he had made several distinct essays toward going. Five
years before, he had bidden good-by to Monte Hill with much effusion and hand-
shaking. But he never got any farther than the next town. Here he was induced to
trade the sorrel colt he was riding for a bay mare,--a transaction that at once
opened to his lively fancy a vista of vast and successful future speculation. A few
days after, Abner Dean of Angel's received a letter from him, stating that he was
going to Visalia to buy horses. "I am satisfied," wrote Plunkett, with that elevated
rhetoric for which his correspondence was remarkable,--"I am satisfied that we
are at last developing the real resources of California. The world will yet look to
Dow's Flat as the great stock-raising centre. In view of the interests involved, I
have deferred my departure for a month." It was two before he again returned to
us--penniless. Six months later, he was again enabled to start for the Eastern
States; and this time he got as far as San Francisco. I have before me a letter
which I received a few days after his arrival, from which I venture to give an
extract: "You know, my dear boy, that I have always believed that gambling, as it
is absurdly called, is still in its infancy in California. I have always maintained that
a perfect system might be invented, by which the game of poker may be made to
yield a certain percentage to the intelligent player. I am not at liberty at present to
disclose the system; but before leaving this city I intend to perfect it." He seems