James Richmond's
California Story

The Mystery of the Eggy Boots

March 10, 1860 Poor Abe! he is so seasick and nearly starved. He would be quite were it not for what I take him from Kateís tray. But I cannot get it with too much regularity for fear of discovery, and that supply once cut off I feared the poor fellow would die. Last night I was walking for exercise and to pass away the time. I wonder if the old verse I once learned proves true in this case "Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do." Yet I really feel as though it was that renowned gentleman that prompted me to do, what I did. I was walking along by the cooks domicile. The door stood wide open and cook lay stretched his full length on the floor. Perhaps I should say width also for he was about as wide as long and sound asleep. I can see him now, mouth wide open and the snores were very melodious. But just a short distance from the open door stood a table loaded with newly baked bread and the smell of it was very good to inhale. I thought if Abe were only here, the smell of the bread would do him more good than a whole shipload of the wormy, moldy stuff he has to eat. I stood a moment looking in. I have, I trust, sufficient reverence for the command "Thou shalt not steal," but I never once thought it would be stealing, or stopped to considered the right or the wrong of the act. I simply felt we had paid for and was entitled to it and would have it if we could get it. I thought I would take a loaf of bread to Abe, so I very deliberately yet softly stepped through the door to reach for it. When lo! my big foot went smack into a pan of eggs. I saw cook begin to wiggle and the musical snore stopped short. I did not stop to see or hear more but made tracks for my own quarters, bread in hand. I would not give it up unless obliged to. I got the start on cook while he was picking himself up and after he once got started I could take twice as long steps as his short legs could compass so I had quite an advantage of him. What troubled me was it was dark and I could not tell when I reached our bunk. When I thought I was near I said "Abe" under my breath and he replied. I knew I was right then. I gave Abe the loaf of bread , told him to tuck it under the blankets if need be sit on it or take it for a pillow but not let it be found. I knew my boots would betray me and fortunately I possessed another pair. So off they came .

We had a double bunk and the eggy ones were tucked in between us, the clean ones was set in a conspicuous place as I slipped into bed. I had heard "cookie" coming tearing along not far behind me until the darkness caused him to lose his track. Then I suppose he bethought him of a better trick so back he went after a light and a companion. That was just what I expected and had ample time to prepare for it. I was by that time all settled and presume I emitted one or two gentle snores, while he examined my boots. No sign of egg anywhere so they wended their way back, baffled. I heard his companion growling because he was led on such a foolís chase. I heard him say "You probably had a nightmare, kicked around and broke the eggs yourself." "Well," said the cook "where is the loaf of bread?" "You swallowed that and thatís why you had the nightmare" replied the man. "Well,I donít believe it," said the cook as he went pat, pat, pat, down the passageway. Disappointment was in even his footfalls. His companion accused him of all sorts of foolishness. I knew how they both felt but could not sympathize with them for I fairly shook the bunk with suppressed laughter. Abe joined me when I told him of my adventure. He treasured that loaf of bread and had it in reserve when I could not get him lunch from Kateís tray. He often said he believed it saved his life.

The next day it was quite enjoyable to see cook waddle around among the men peering at every manís boots but not an egg mark was to be seen even in daylight. I heard him say with a long wheezy breath as he went back to his quarters. "Ho! Hum! I wish I knew." Abe and I had another good laugh over him troubles. I donít think he cared so much for the loaf of bread as he did for the mystery and a desire to make somebody suffer for what they had done. However he failed. All his efforts were in vain and he never found out where his loaf of bread went.