1881 Shadows of Shasta (Miller, Joaquin, 1837-1913)

On a high mountain side overlooking the valley, hung a little camp like
a bird's nest. It was hidden there in the densest wood, yet it looked [1]
out over the whole land. No bird, indeed [2] no mother of her young, ever
chose a deeper or wilder retreat, [3] or a place more utterly apart [4] from the
paths and approaches of mankind.

Certainly the little party had stood in imminent peril of capture, and
had prized freedom dearly [5] indeed, to climb these crags and confront the
very snow-peaks
[6] in their effort to make certain their safety.

And a little party, too, it must have been; for you could [7] have passed
within ten feet of the camp and not discovered it by day. And by night?
Well, certainly by night no man would peril his life [8] by an uncertain
footing on the high cliffs here, only partly concealed by the thick
growth of chaparral, topt [9a] by tall fir and pine and cedar and tamarack [9b].
And so a little fire was allowed to burn at night, for it was near the
snow and always cold. And it was this fire, perhaps, that first betrayed [10]
the presence of the fugitives to the man-hunters. [11]

Very poor and wretched [12] were they, too. If they had had [13] more blankets
they might not have so needed [14] the fire. So poor were they, [15] in fact, that
you might have stood in the very heart of the little camp and not
discovered any property at all without looking twice. A little heap of
ashes in the center sending up a half-smothered smoke, two or three
loose California lion-skins, thrown here and there over the rocks, a
pair of moccasins or two, a tomahawk--and that was almost all. No
cooking utensils had they
[16] -- for what had they to cook? No eating
utensils--for what had they to eat?

Great gnarled and knotty trees clung to the mountain side beyond, and a
little to the left a long, thin cataract, which, from the valley far
below, looked like a snowy plume, came pitching down through the tree
tops. It had just been let loose from the hand of God--this sheen of
shining water. Back and beyond all this, a peak of snow, a great pyramid
and shining shaft of snow, with a crown of clouds, pierced heaven.

Stealthily, and on tip-toe, [17]  two armed men, both deeply disguised in
great black beards, and in good clothes, stepped into this empty little
camp. Bending low, looking right, looking left, guns in hand and hand
on trigger, they stopped in the centre [18] of the little camp, and looked
cautiously up, down, and all around. Seeing no one, [19] hearing nothing,
they looked in each others' eyes, straightened up, and, standing their
guns against a tree, breathed more freely in the gray twilight. Wicked,
beastly-looking men were they, as they stood there loosening their
collars, taking in their breath as if they had just had a hard climb,
and looking about cautiously; hard, cruel and cunning, they seemed as if
they partook [20] something of the ferocity of the wild beasts that prowled
there at night.
lexical (N, V, Adj, Adv)
  • [5] dearly
  • [10] betrayed
  • [12] wretched
  • [20] partake


  • [3] ADJer or ADJer
  • [13] if ... had had > if would have had or if ... had
  • [14] placement of ADV with [have] [vvn*]
  • [15] clefting (so ADJ [be] [p*])

function words (or lexical + syntax)

  • [1] yet as a CONJ
  • [2] indeed as a CONJ (and more generally too)
  • [4] is it utterly, or more ADV-ly ADJ ??
  • [6] the very NN (cf. Jesus, the very thought of Thee)
  • [7] for as a CONJ


  • [8] peril as a verb



  • [17] tip-toe > tiptoe
  • [18] centre > center

"false hits"

  • [9a] topt: only one token (here)
  • [9b] tamarack: too specific to this subject matter
  • [11] man-hunter*: too few to know
  • [16] search string gives a lot more than clefting
  • [19] seems like this should be decreasing, but isn't