Following the Equator: A Journey around the World - Vol. 1

By Mark Twain | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER XXXIII

Let us be grateful to Adam our benefactor. He cut us out of the "blessing" of idleness and won for us the "curse" of labor.

-- Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.

W E soon reached the town of Nelson, and spent the most of the day there, visiting acquaintances and driving with them about the garden--the whole region is a garden, excepting the scene of the "Maungatapu Murders," of thirty years ago. That is a wild place--wild and lonely; an ideal place for a murder. It is at the base of a vast, rugged, densely timbered mountain. In the deep twilight of that forest solitude four desperate rascals--Burgess, Sullivan, Levy, and Kelley--ambushed themselves beside the mountain trail to murder and rob four travelers--Kempthorne, Mathieu, Dudley, and De Pontius, the latter a New-Yorker. A harmless old laboring-man came wandering along, and, as his presence was an embarrassment, they choked him, hid him, and then resumed their watch for the four. They had to wait awhile, but eventually everything turned out as they desired.

That dark episode is the one large event in the history of Nelson. The fame of it traveled far. Burgess made a confession. It is a remarkable paper. For brevity, succinctness, and concentration, it is perhaps without its peer in the literature of

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