A Drift from Redwood Camp by Bret Harte Page 1 of 25

They had all known him as a shiftless, worthless creature. From the time he first entered Redwood Camp, carrying his entire effects in a red handkerchief on the end of a long-handled shovel, until he lazily drifted out of it on a plank in the terrible inundation of '56, they never expected anything better of him.

In a community of strong men with sullen virtues and charmingly fascinating vices, he was tolerated as possessing neither-not even rising by any dominant human weakness or ludicrous quality to the importance of a butt.

In the dramatis personae of Redwood Camp he was a simple "super"-who had only passive, speechless roles in those fierce dramas that were sometimes unrolled beneath its green-curtained pines.

Nameless and penniless, he was overlooked by the census and ignored by the tax collector, while in a hotly-contested election for sheriff, when even the head-boards of the scant cemetery were consulted to fill the poll-lists, it was discovered that neither candidate had thought fit to avail himself of his actual vote.


He was debarred the rude heraldry of a nickname of achievement, and in a camp made up of "Euchre Bills," "Poker Dicks," "Profane Pete," and "Snap-shot Harry," was known vaguely as "him," "Skeesicks," or "that coot."

It was remembered long after, with a feeling of superstition, that he had never even met with the dignity of an accident, nor received the fleeting honor of a chance shot meant for somebody else in any of the liberal and broadly comprehensive encounters which distinguished the camp.

And the inundation that finally carried him out of it was partly anticipated by his passive incompetency, for while the others escaped-or were drowned in escaping-he calmly floated off on his plank without an opposing effort.

For all that, Elijah Martin-which was his real name-was far from being unamiable or repellent. That he was cowardly, untruthful, selfish, and lazy, was undoubtedly the fact; perhaps it was his peculiar misfortune that, just then, courage, frankness, generosity, and activity were the dominant factors in the life of Redwood Camp.



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