Tom Clark and his Wife, Part Three

Passport application for Randolph’s 1855 transatlantic voyage



“In the Kingdom of Dream strange things are seen, And the Fate of ‘the Nations are there, I ween.”

From “The Rosie Cross,” an unpublished Poem by P.B. RANDOLPH

THE regal being was scarcely gone from the chamber ere Hesperina and the Shadow—which had once more become visible, approached the sleeping pair—drew nigh unto the woman and the man; and the Fay gently breathed upon their heads, as if to establish a magnetic rapport between herself and them. She then calmly took her stand, near the bedside, and folded her beautiful arms across her still more beautiful bosom and awaited—the action of the tempter. She had not long to wait, for straightway the Black Presence advanced, and hovered, over the bed— hovered scowlingly over then, glaring down into their souls, as doth the vampire upon the man she would destroy—the spirit of Wrong peering; wistfully at all beautiful, things, and true! Such was the posture of affairs.; and thus they remained: until the Thing had also established some sort of connection with the sleepers. It soon became evident, from their nervous, uneasy movements and postures, that the twain were rapidly crossing the mystic boundaries that divide our own from Dreamland— that they were just entering the misty mid-region—the Shadow, the Thing, the monstrous IT, ruling the hour, and guiding them through the strange realm—

“‘That lieth sublime, out of Space and out of Time’” [Edgar Allan Poe, Dream Land, 1844]

The man who says that dreams are figments is a fool. Half of our nightly experiences are, in their subsequent effects upon us, far more real and positive than our daily life of wakefulness. Dreams are, as a general thing, save in rare instances, sneered at by the wise ones of this sapient age. Events, we of Rosicrucia hold, are pre-acted in other spheres of being. Prophetic dreaming is no new thing. Circumstances are constantly occurring in the outer life that have been previewed in Dream-land. Recently, while in Constantinople, I became acquainted with a famous Dongolese negro, near the Grand Mosque of St. Sophia, in one of the narrow streets on the left, as you enter the square from toward the first bridge, and this man had reduced the interpretation of dreams to a science almost; and many a long hour have I rapidly driven the pen, in the work of recording what was translated. to me from Dongolese and Arabic into Turkish and English, from his lips, obtaining in this way not merely the principles upon which his art was founded, but also explicit interpretations of about twenty-nine hundred different dreams. [Dongola was the ancient capital of Nubia in what is now Sudan.]


“Tom Clark was dreaming; and, lo! great changes had taken place in the fortunes of the sleeping man. No longer a toiler at the anvil or the plow, he had become a rich and, as times go, therefore an honored man—honored by the crowd which, as a general thing, sees the most virtue in the heaviest sack of dollars.

“The wealth of Mr. Thomas W. had come to him in a very singular and mysterious manner, all since he had become a widower; for Mrs. Thomas was dead, poor woman, having some time previously met her fate through a very melancholy accident. An extract from the ‘Daily Truth- Teller,’ of Santa Blarneeo, a copy of which paper Tom Clark carried in his pocket all the time, and which pocket I shall take the liberty of picking of the journal aforesaid, and of quoting, will tell the story—sad story—but not the whole of it, quite :

“‘FEARFUL AND FATAL CATASTROPHE!—We learn with deep, sincere, and very profound regret, that another of those fearful calamities, which no human prudence can guard against, no foresight prevent, has just occurred, and by means of which a most estimable woman, an exemplary and loving wife, an excellent Christian, firm friend, and esteemed person, has been suddenly cut off in her prime, and sent prematurely to her final account. It appears that the late heavy rains have rendered all the roads leading from Santa Blarneeo nearly impassable, by reason of the rifts, rocks, boulders, and slides of clay—very dangerous and slippery clay— which they have occasioned.

“‘Especially is this the case along the cliff road, and more particularly where it skirts the side of the Bayliss Gulch. [Bayliss, California is an unincorporated community north of Sacramento.] Of late it has been exceedingly unsafe to pass that way in broad daylight, and much more so after dark.

“At about ten o’clock yesterday morning; as Mr. Ellet, the Ranchero, was passing that road, along the, brink, of what is known as the Scott ravine, his horse shied at some objects in the path; which, proved to be a man’s hat and woman’s shawl; on the very edge of the precipice—— a clear fall of something like four hundred feet. It immediately occurred to Farmer Ellet that if anybody had tumbled over the cliff, that there was a great probability that whoever it was must have been considerably hurt, if nothing more, by the time they reached the bottom, as he well remembered had been the case with a yoke of steers of his that had run off at the same spot some years before, and both of which were killed, very dead, indeed, by the accident. So, at least, he informed our reporter, who took down the statement phonographically. [i.e. phonetically, notes taken in shortland.] Mr. Ellet discovered the remains of a horse and buggy at the bottom of the ravine, and’ at a little to the left, about ten feet down the bank, where he had, by a miracle, been thrown when the horse went, over, Mr. Ellet. Found the insensible body of a man, desperately hurt,’ but still’ breathing. His fall had been broken by some stout trees and bushes, amidst the roots of which he now lay. Mr. E. soon rescued the. sufferer, who proved to be Mr. Thomas W. Clark, a well- known, honest, sober man, and a neighbor as well. Mr. Clark’s injuries are altogether internal, from the shock of falling, otherwise he is almost unscathed. His pains inwardly are very great, besides which he is nearly distracted and insane from the loss of his wife and horse, but mainly for the former. It seems that they had been riding out on a visit to a sick friend, and the horse had slipped on the wet clay, had taken fright, and leaped the bank, just as Clark was hurled from the buggy, and landed where Ellet found him. The horse, carriage, and the precious freight, instantly plunged headlong down through four hundred feet of empty air.

“We learn that the couple were most devotedly attached to each other, as is notorious from the fact, among others, that whenever they met, after a day’s absence, and no matter where, nor in what company, they invariably embraced and kissed each other, in the rich, deep fullness of their impassioned and exhaustless conjugal love. Poor Clark’s loss is irreparable. His wife had been twice married, but her affection for her first husband was but as a shallow brook compared to the deep, broad ocean of love for him who now mourns, most bitterly mourns, her untimely fate!’

“There! What d’ye think o’ that, my lady?—what d’ye think o’ that, my man? That’s a newspaper report, the same that Tom Clark carried in his pocket, and read so often in his dream. Singular, isn’t it, that the ruling passion triumphs, especially Reporters’—even in Death or Dream-land.

“At the end of two days Mr. Clark recovered sufficiently to go to the foot of the cliff, and when there his first work was to carefully bury what was left of his wife—and her first husband’s portrait at the same time—for he had placed that canvas across the backs of two chairs, and amused himself by jumping through it—like a sensible man.

“There is—do you know it?—an almost uncontrollable fascination in Danger. Have you never been seized with the desire to throw yourself down some yawning chasm, into some abyss, over into the ready jaws of a shark, to handle a tiger, play with a rattlesnake, jump into a foundery furnace, write a book, edit a paper, or some other such equally wise and sensible thing? Well, I know many who have thus been tempted—and to their ruin. Human nature always has a morbid streak, and that is one of them, as is also the horrible attraction to an execution—to visit the scene of a homicide or a conflagration—especially if a few people have been burnt up—and the more the stronger the curiosity; or to look at the spot where a score or two of Pat—landers have been mummified by the weakness of walls—and contractors’ consciences. With what strange interest we read how the monarch of some distant lovely isle dined with his cabinet, off Potage aux tete de missionaire—how they banqueted on delicate slices of boiled evangelist, all of which viandes were unwillingly supplied by the Rev. Jonadab Convert—’em—all, who had a call that way to supply the bread of life, not slices of cold missionary—and did both! So with Tom Clark. One would have thought that the last scene he would willingly have looked upon, would have been the bottom of the ravine. Not a bit of it. An uncontrollable desire seized him, and for his life he could not keep away from the foot of the cliff. He went there, and day by day searched for every vestige of the poor woman, whose heart, and head likewise, he at last had succeeded in breaking into very small fragments. These relics he buried as he found them, yet still could not forsake his daily haunt. Of course, for a time the people observed his action, attributed it to grief and love, forbore to watch or disturb, and finally cared nothing about the matter whatever. Such things are nothing in California. Well was it for Clark that it was so— that they regarded him as mildly insane, and let his vagaries have full swing, for it gave him ample time and opportunity to fully improve one of the most astounding pieces of good luck that ever befell a human being since the year One.” It fell out upon a certain day, that, after attending to other duties, Tom Clark, as usual, wound his way, by a zigzag and circuitous path, to the foot of the hill, and took his accustomed seat near by the rock where it was evident Mrs. C. had landed—the precise spot where her flight had been so rudely checked. There he sat for a while, like Volney, in deep speculative reverie and meditation—not upon the ruins of Empires, but upon those of his horse, his buggy, and his wife. Suddenly he started to his feet, for a very strange fancy had struck upon his brain. I cannot tell the precise spot of its impingement, but it hit him hard. He acted on the idea instantly, and forthwith resolved to dig up all the soil thereabouts, that had perchance drank a single drop of her blood. It was not conscience that was at work, it was destiny. This soil, that had been imbrued with the blood of the horse and buggy—no, the woman, I mean —he resolved to bury out of sight of man and brute, and sun and moon, and little peeping stars; for an instinct told him that the gore—stained soil could not be an acceptable spectacle to, anything on earth, upon the velvet air, or in the blue heaven above it ; and so he scratched up the mould and buried it out of sight, in a rift hard by, between two mighty rocks, that the earthquake had split asunder a million years before.

“And so he threw it in, and then tried to screen it from the sun with leaves and grass, great stones and logs of wood, after which he again sat down upon the rock to rest.

“Presently he arose to go, when, as he did so, a gleam of sunshine flashed back upon his eyes from a minute spicule of, he knew not what. He stooped; picked up the object, and found, to his utter astonishment, that he held in his hand a lump of gold, solid gold—an abraded, glittering lump of actual, shining gold.

“Tom Clark nearly fainted! The lump weighed not less than a pound. Its sides had been scratched by him as he dug away the earth at the foot of the cliff where his wife had landed, after a brief flight through—four hundred feet of empty air—a profitable journey for him—but not for her, nor the horse, nor buggy!

For a minute Clark stood still, utterly bewildered, and wiping the great round beads of sweat from off his brow. He wept at every pore. But it was for a minute only: in the next he was madly, wildly digging with the trowel he always carried with him, for Tom was Herb-Doctor in general for the region roundabout, and was great at the root and herb business, therefore went prepared to dig them wherever chance disclosed them.

“Five long hours did he labor like a Hercules, in the soft mould, in the crevices of the rocks— everywhere—and with mad energy, with frantic zeal. Five long hours did he ply that trowel with all the force that the hope of sudden wealth inspired, and then, exhausted, spent, he sank prostrate on the ground, his head resting on a mass of yellow gold—gold not in dust, or flecks, or scales, but in great and massy lumps and wedges, each one large enough for—a poor man’s making.

“That morning Thomas Clark’s worldly wealth, all told, could have been bought thrice over for any five of the pieces then beneath his head, and there were scores of them. His brain reeled with the tremendous excitement. He had struck the richest ‘Lead’ ever struck by mortal man on the surface of the planet, for he had already collected more than he could lift, and he was a very strong and powerful man. There was enough to fill a two—peck measure, packed and piled as close and high as it could be; and yet he had just begun. Ah, Heaven, it was too much!

“Alas, poor Tom! poor, doubly poor, with. all thy sudden, boundless wealth! Thou art even poorer than Valmondi, [Valmondi is an 1824 play by J. Thomas Rodwell] who, the legends say, gave his soul to the service of the foul fiend— for he, like thee, had riches inexhaustible; but, unlike Valmondi, and the higher Brethren of the Rosie Cross, thou hast not the priceless secret of Perpetual youth Thou wilt grow old, Tom Clark—grow old, and sick, and grey hairs and wrinkles will overtake thee. And see! yonder is an open grave, and it yearns for thee, Tom Clark, it yearns for thee! And there’s Blood upon thy hands, Tom Clark, red gouts of Blood—and gold cannot wash it off.

“Valmondi repented, and died a beggar, but thy heart is cased in golden armor, and the shafts of Mercy may not reach its case, and wake thee up to better deeds, and high and lofty daring for the world and for thy fellow—men. Gold! Ah, Tom, Tom, thou hadst better have been— a humble Rosicrucian—better than I, for weakness has been mine. It is better to labor hard with brain and tongue and hands, for mere food and raiment, than be loaded down with riches, that bear many a man earthward, and fill untimely graves! It is better to live on bread, and earn it, than to be a millionaire. Better to have heaped up wealth of Goodness, than many bars of Gold. Poor Tom! Rich you are in what self—seeking men call wealth; but poor, ah, how poor! in the better having, which whetteth the appetite for knowledge, and its fruitage, Wisdom, and which sendeth man, at night, to Happy Dream land, upon the viewless pinions of sweet and balmy Sleep! Every dollar above labor brings ten thousand evils in its train.

“Well, night was close at hand, and Tom buried his God, and went home. Home, did I say? Not so. He went to his bed, to sleep, and in that sleep he dreamed that it was raining double eagles, while he held his hat beneath the spout. But he was not home, for home is where the heart is, and we have seen the locality of Clark’s. “For days, weeks, months, he still worked at his ‘Lead,’ studiously keeping his own counsel, and managing the affair, from first to last, with the most consummate tact; so that no one even suspected that the richest man in California, and on the entire continent, was Mr. Thomas W. By degrees he conveyed to, and had vast sums coined at the mint, as agent for some mining companies. A few hogsheads he buried here and there, and springled some dozens of barrels elsewhere about the ground. This he continued to do until at last even his appetite for gold was doubly, triply glutted; and then he sprung the secret, sold his claim for three millions, cash in hand, and forthwith moved, and set up an establishment close under Telegraph Hill, in the best locality in all Santa Blarneeo.

“And now everybody and his wife bowed to Mr. Thomas W., and did homage to—his money. Curious, isn’t it, how long some gods will live? About three thousand years ago a man of Israel fashioned one out of borrowed jewelry, fashioned it in the form of a veal, after which he proclaimed it, and all the human calves fell down straightway, and a good many are still bent on worshipping at the self-same shrine. That calf has retained to this day ‘eleven—tenths‘ of earth’s most jealous adoration! So now did men reverence Clark’s money. Women smiled upon him, ambitious spinsters ogled, and hopeful maidens set their caps to enthrall him. He could carry any election, gave tone to the Money Market, reigned supreme and undisputed king on “Change,’ and people took him for a happy man; and so he was, as long as daylight lasted, and he was steadily employed ; but, somehow or other, his nights were devilishly unpleasant! He could not rest well, for in the silence of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon man, an unsheeted ghost passed before his face, bearing a most damnably correct similitude to a former female acquaintance of his, now, alas I deceased ; and not unfrequently, as he hurried along the streets, did he encounter persons who bore surprising and unmistakable resemblances to the ‘dear departed.’

“‘Black clouds come up, like sinful visions to distract the souls of solitary men.

“Was Tom Clark mistaken? Was it Fancy? Was it Fear? . . . One night he went to a theatre, but left it in a hurry, when the actor, who was playing Macbeth, looked straight into his private box and said:

“‘The times have been that, when the brains were out The man would die—and there an end;

But now they rise again, with twenty mortal murders On their crowns, to push us from our seats! [Act 3, Scene 4, Macbeth]

And the words pushed Clark out, of the house, deadly sick—fearfully pale; for the avenging furies, roused at last, were at that very moment lashing his guilty soul to madness and Shakspeare’s lines, like double—edged daggers, went plunging, cutting, leaping, flying through every vault and cavern of his spirit. He rushed from the place, reached his house, and now: ‘The, bowl, the bowl! Wine, give me wine, ruby wine.’ They gave it, and it failed! Stronger drink, much stronger, now became his refuge, and in stupefying his brain he stultified his conscience.

His torture was not to last forever, for by dint of debauchery his sensitive soul went to sleep, and the brute man took the ascendant. Conscience slept profoundly. His heart grew case- hardened, cold and callous as an ice-berg. He married a Voice, and a Figure, as heartless as himself; became a politician—which completely finished him; but still, several handsome donations to a fashionable church—just think of it!—had, the effect of procuring him the reputation of sanctity, which lie he, by dint of repetition, at last prevailed upon himself to believe. Thus we leave him for awhile, and return to the chamber in which was the little window whose upper sash was down.