The Luck of Roaring Camp and Other Stories HTML version

The Luck Of Roaring Camp
There was commotion in Roaring Camp. It could not have been a fight, for in 1850 that
was not novel enough to have called together the entire settlement. The ditches and
claims were not only deserted, but "Tuttle's grocery" had contributed its gamblers, who, it
will be remembered, calmly continued their game the day that French Pete and Kanaka
Joe shot each other to death over the bar in the front room. The whole camp was collected
before a rude cabin on the outer edge of the clearing. Conversation was carried on in a
low tone, but the name of a woman was frequently repeated. It was a name familiar
enough in the camp,--"Cherokee Sal."
Perhaps the less said of her the better. She was a coarse and, it is to be feared, a very
sinful woman. But at that time she was the only woman in Roaring Camp, and was just
then lying in sore extremity, when she most needed the ministration of her own sex.
Dissolute, abandoned, and irreclaimable, she was yet suffering a martyrdom hard enough
to bear even when veiled by sympathizing womanhood, but now terrible in her
loneliness. The primal curse had come to her in that original isolation which must have
made the punishment of the first transgression so dreadful. It was, perhaps, part of the
expiation of her sin that, at a moment when she most lacked her sex's intuitive tenderness
and care, she met only the half-contemptuous faces of her masculine associates. Yet a
few of the spectators were, I think, touched by her sufferings. Sandy Tipton thought it
was "rough on Sal," and, in the contemplation of her condition, for a moment rose
superior to the fact that he had an ace and two bowers in his sleeve.
It will be seen also that the situation was novel. Deaths were by no means uncommon in
Roaring Camp, but a birth was a new thing. People had been dismissed the camp
effectively, finally, and with no possibility of return; but this was the first time that
anybody had been introduced AB INITIO. Hence the excitement.
"You go in there, Stumpy," said a prominent citizen known as "Kentuck," addressing one
of the loungers. "Go in there, and see what you kin do. You've had experience in them
Perhaps there was a fitness in the selection. Stumpy, in other climes, had been the
putative head of two families; in fact, it was owing to some legal informality in these
proceedings that Roaring Camp--a city of refuge--was indebted to his company. The
crowd approved the choice, and Stumpy was wise enough to bow to the majority. The
door closed on the extempore surgeon and midwife, and Roaring Camp sat down outside,
smoked its pipe, and awaited the issue.
The assemblage numbered about a hundred men. One or two of these were actual
fugitives from justice, some were criminal, and all were reckless. Physically they
exhibited no indication of their past lives and character. The greatest scamp had a
Raphael face, with a profusion of blonde hair; Oakhurst, a gambler, had the melancholy
air and intellectual abstraction of a Hamlet; the coolest and most courageous man was