The Luck of Roaring Camp and Other Stories
I do not think that we ever knew his real name. Our ignorance of it certainly never gave
us any social inconvenience, for at Sandy Bar in 1854 most men were christened anew.
Sometimes these appellatives were derived from some distinctiveness of dress, as in the
case of "Dungaree Jack"; or from some peculiarity of habit, as shown in "Saleratus Bill,"
so called from an undue proportion of that chemical in his daily bread; or for some
unlucky slip, as exhibited in "The Iron Pirate," a mild, inoffensive man, who earned that
baleful title by his unfortunate mispronunciation of the term "iron pyrites." Perhaps this
may have been the beginning of a rude heraldry; but I am constrained to think that it was
because a man's real name in that day rested solely upon his own unsupported statement.
"Call yourself Clifford, do you?" said Boston, addressing a timid newcomer with infinite
scorn; "hell is full of such Cliffords!" He then introduced the unfortunate man, whose
name happened to be really Clifford, as "Jay-bird Charley"--an unhallowed inspiration of
the moment that clung to him ever after.
But to return to Tennessee's Partner, whom we never knew by any other than this relative
title; that he had ever existed as a separate and distinct individuality we only learned later.
It seems that in 1853 he left Poker Flat to go to San Francisco, ostensibly to procure a
wife. He never got any farther than Stockton. At that place he was attracted by a young
person who waited upon the table at the hotel where he took his meals. One morning he
said something to her which caused her to smile not unkindly, to somewhat coquettishly
break a plate of toast over his upturned, serious, simple face, and to retreat to the kitchen.
He followed her, and emerged a few moments later, covered with more toast and victory.
That day week they were married by a justice of the peace, and returned to Poker Flat. I
am aware that something more might be made of this episode, but I prefer to tell it as it
was current at Sandy Bar--in the gulches and barrooms--where all sentiment was
modified by a strong sense of humor.
Of their married felicity but little is known, perhaps for the reason that Tennessee, then
living with his Partner, one day took occasion to say something to the bride on his own
account, at which, it is said, she smiled not unkindly and chastely retreated-- this time as
far as Marysville, where Tennessee followed her, and where they went to housekeeping
without the aid of a justice of the peace. Tennessee's Partner took the loss of his wife
simply and seriously, as was his fashion. But to everybody's surprise, when Tennessee
one day returned from Marysville, without his Partner's wife--she having smiled and
retreated with somebody else-- Tennessee's Partner was the first man to shake his hand
and greet him with affection. The boys who had gathered in the canyon to see the
shooting were naturally indignant. Their indignation might have found vent in sarcasm
but for a certain look in Tennessee's Partner's eye that indicated a lack of humorous
appreciation. In fact, he was a grave man, with a steady application to practical detail
which was unpleasant in a difficulty.
Meanwhile a popular feeling against Tennessee had grown up on the Bar. He was known
to be a gambler; he was suspected to be a thief. In these suspicions Tennessee's Partner