Everything was static, in suspension, withheld. She lived a sleepwalker's life, except for the Sundays when Oliver could leave his map and his reports for a few hours and take her on picnics back into the mountain, or the afternoons when he brought home letters that bloomed for her like firelight on loved faces. Time hung unchanging, or with no more visible change than a slow reddening of poison oak leaves, an imperceptible darkening of the golden hills. It dripped like a slow percolation through limestone, so slow that she forgot it between drops. Nevertheless every drop, indistinguishable from every other, left a little deposit of sensation, experience, feeling. In thirty or forty years the accumulated deposits would turn my cultivated, ladylike, lively, talkative, talented, innocently snobbish grandmother into a Western woman in spite of herself. Willingly or unwillingly, she collected experience and wrote it back East in letters. Perhaps she wrote so fully because she wanted to divert Augusta's depression. Perhaps she was only indulging her own starved desire for talk.pp. 103–104
There are several dubious assumptions about the early West. One is that it was the home of intractable self-reliance amounting to anarchy, whereas in fact large parts of it were owned by Eastern and foreign capital and run by iron-fisted bosses. Another is that it was rough, ready, and unkempt, and ribald about anything not as unkempt as itself, whereas in fact there was never a time or place where gentility, especially female gentility, was more respected. Not if it was the real thing, and no one in New Almaden doubted that Susan's was. The camps all but doffed their caps to Susan Ward, as if she had been a lady from a castle instead of from a cottage.pp. 134–135
There is a certain endearing innocence about Rodman—he makes the world's worst conspirator or gumshoe. It has apparently never occurred to him that he has the loudest voice in the entire world, and that when he wants to be confidential he ought to retreat two miles. He reminds me of Bob Sproul, who was president of the University of California when I taught there, back in simpler times than these. There was a story they always told, that once a visitor came into his office for an appointment and heard Bob's voice booming away in the inner office. Sit down, the secretary said, he'll be just a few minutes, he's talking to New York. It seems so, says the visitor, but why doesn't he use the telephone?p. 207