Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The Comstock Club Ends After Mining Deaths

Silver Terrace Cemetery with Virginia City in the background. © Glenn Franco Simmons.

The gentlemanly camaraderie formed at The Comstock Club was a grand notion but one that would fall apart in the end.

In this post, we find that Mr. Wright has suffered seriously injuries that ultimately led to his death. At his wake, Mr. Goodwin describes it with compassion and wisdom:

The undertaker came, the body was dressed for the grave and placed in a casket, and the Club took up their watch around it. Now and then a subdued word was spoken, but they were very few. The hearts of the watchers were all full, and conversation seemed out of place. Wright was one of the most manly of men, and the hearts of the friends were very sore.

The evening wore on until ten o'clock came, when there fell a gentle knock on the outer door. The door was opened and by the moonlight four men could be seen outside. … They were the famous quartette of Cornish miners and were at once invited in. They filed softly into the room — the Club rising as they entered — and circled around the casket. After a long look upon the face of the sleeper they stood up and sang a Cornish lament. Their voices were simply glorious. The words, simple but most pathetic, were set to a plaintive air, the refrain of each stanza ending in some minor notes, which gave the impression that tears of pity, as they were falling, had been caught and converted into music. The effect was profound.

The stoicism of the Club was completely broken down by it. When the lament ceased all were weeping, while warm-hearted and impetuous Corrigan was sobbing like a grieved child. The quartette waited a moment and then sang a Cornish farewell, the music of which, though mostly very sad, had, here and there, a bar or two such as might be sung around the cradle of Hope, leaving a thought that there might be a victory even over death, and which made the hymn ring half like the Miserere and half like a benediction.

When this was finished and the quartette had waited a moment more, with their magnificent voices at full volume, they sang again — a requiem, which was almost a triumph song, beginning:

Whatever burdens may be sent
For mortals here to bear,

It matters not while faith survives
And God still answers prayer.

I will not falter, though my path
Leads down unto the grave;

The brave man will accept his fate,
And God accepts the brave.

Then with a gentle "Good noight, lads," they were gone. It was still in the room again until Corrigan said: "I hope Wright heard that singin'; the last song in particular."

Virginia City's Silver Terrace Cemetery. © Glenn Franco Simmons.

"Who knows?" said Ashley. "It was all silence here; those men came and filled the place with music. Who knows that it will not, in swelling waves, roll on until it breaks upon the upper shore?"

"Who knows," said Harding, "that he did not hear it sung first and have it sent this way to comfort us? I thought of that when the music was around us, and I fancied that some of the tones were like those that fell from Wright's lips, when, in extenuation of Miller's fault, he was reminding us that it was the intent that measured the wrong, and that Miller never intended any wrong. Music is born above and comes down; its native place is not here."

"He does not care for music," said the Colonel. "See how softly he sleeps. All the weariness that so oppressed him has passed away. The hush of eternity is upon him, and after his hard life that is sweeter than all else could be."

"Oh, cease, Colonel," said Brewster. "Out of this darkened chamber how can we speak as by authority of what is beyond. As well might the mole in his hole attempt to tell of the eagle's flight. "We only know that God rules. We watched while the great transition came to our friend. One moment in the old voice he was conversing with us; the next that voice was gone, but we do not believe that it is lost. As we were saying of the telephone, when we speak those only a few feet away hear nothing. The words die upon the air, and we explain to ourselves that they are no more. But thirty miles away, up on the side of the Sierras, an ear is listening, and every tone and syllable is distinct to that ear. Who knows what connections can be made with those other heights where Peace rules with Love?

"Our friend whose dust lies here was not called from nothing simply to buffet through some years of toil and then to return to nothing through the pitiless gates of Death. To believe such a thing would be to impeach the love, the mercy and the wisdom of God. Wright is safe somewhere and happier than he was with us. I should not wonder if Harding's theory were true, and that it was to comfort us that he impelled those singers to come here."

"Brewster," said Alex, "your balance is disturbed to-night. You say 'from out our darkened chamber we cannot see the light,' and then go on to assert that Wright is happier than when here. You do not know; you hope so, that is all. So do I, and by the calm that has pressed its signet on his lips, I am willing to believe that all that was of him is as much at rest as is his throbless heart, and that the mystery which so perplexes us — this something which one moment greets us with smiles and loving words, but which a moment later is frozen into everlasting silence — is all clear to him now. I hope so, else the worlds were made in vain, and the sun in heaven, and all the stars whose white fires fill the night, are worthy of as little reverence as a sage brush flame; and it was but a cruel plan which permitted men to have life, to kindle in their brains glorious longings and in their hearts to awaken affections more dear than life itself."

Then Harding, as if to himself repeated: "It matters not while Faith survives, and God still answers prayer."

"This is as it seems to us, straining our dull eyes out upon the profound beyond our petty horizon (, the Colonel said. “} But who knows? We can trace the thread of this life as it was until it passed beyond the range of our visions, but who of us knows whether it was all unwound or whether in the 'beyond' it became a golden chain so strong that even Death can not break it, and thrilled with harmonies which could never vibrate on this frail thread that broke to-day?"

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