Part Six

And where to next, Dear Reader? Wherever shall we go?

[The fiddler plays "Loop #5, Sisyphus."]

In 1847, when the Donner Party—or, rather half of it—stumbled frostbitten out of the Sierra Nevadas, San Francisco was a town of just 500; today it is a small city of 150,000.

Twenty years after that winter, Dear Reader, I finally ceased my own wanderings in the desert, both literal and proverbial. How, you may ask? Why, I became an author once more.

Earlier I warned you—you emigrants, you readers, you pie-oh-neeeers—that God's country would not be kind, and it would deal with fools and amateurs most harshly. I described God's country: the abyss of sage.jumping off into oblivion.the swollen rivers that meandered and plaited into taunting strands.the Plains that open before the traveler flat and wide and hollow as the space between the dirt and infinity.the buffalo that blacken the range and those landmarks every pioneer knows: Chimney Rock, Independence Rock, Fort Laramie, Soda Springs, and the wild rivers and the canyons they lash through solid rock beyond—

And it struck me: all this Westward motion.Perhaps the West had lost its connotation. Perhaps, the moment a proper noun begins to connote most anything it's dead as the thing it's meant to signify. Perhaps, Dear Reader, another migration was afoot.

[Suddenly, almost ghoulishly, buoyant:]

Just three years ago, in 1867, I published another slim, yet illustrious, volume entitled The Emigrant's Guide to Brazil.

I had a good idea.

Ah, the birth of the Good Idea! Hell also started out as a Good Idea and the wise among us might contend that Hell is a Good Idea.but I came forth to point the way to Brazil!