At noon we halted and dined. During the afternoon, we observed a sort of small jackall, of the kind called Koyott, hovering about the line of march. It only occasionally showed itself amongst the long rank grass and bushes. Bradley, however, got his rifle ready; but, although he fired several shots, the animal was too nimble or restless for even the practised eye and hand of a Yankee rifleman to be certain of his aim. In a shot at a young antelope which bounded past, however, Bradley was more successful; and we were rejoiced at the prospect of a supper on tender venison. In a few minutes he had slung the animal over his horse's haunches, and we proceeded on our route.
The country became more broken and mountainous as we advanced; and in approaching the location of the saw-mills, the hills appeared to rise nearly one thousand feet above the level of the Sacramento. They were diversified by groves of gigantic pine and oak trees. We were looking anxiously about for the saw-mills, when we heard the crack of a rifle; and presently a man in white linen trousers, with his legs defended by buckskin mocassins, wearing a broad Mexican sombrero, and carrying his rifle in his hand, approached us. This person turned out to be Mr. Marshall. He received us kindly, and asked the news from the lower washings, and also how matters were looking at Sutter's when we passed through. Mr. Marshall had a gang of fifty Indians employed, and Captain Sutter had another party of nearly double that number, on the same bank of the river.
We encamped in a woody bottom, by the side of a small stream, which joined the main torrent here, and where there was good pasture for the horses. Mr. Marshall's house was about a mile and a half further up the river. After a good supper of venison steaks—thanks to Bradley's rifle—we turned in for the night.
Nest day, Lacosse and McPhail, attended by Horry, and driving two extra horses, rode down to the Mormon diggings, for the purpose of getting up the provisions which we had left behind. Meantime, I walked out to reconnoitre our new quarters. I soon arrived at the mills, and saw the spot where the discovery of the gold had first been made, by the torrent laying bare the sides of the mill-race. Here I met Mr. Marshall again. Of course the operations of the saw-mill had been stopped, for the workmen were employed in the vicinity, either above or below the works, digging and washing on their own account. Mr. Marshall paid the Indians he had at work chiefly in merchandize. I saw a portion of the gang, the men dressed for the most part in cotton drawers and mocassins, leaving the upper part of the body naked. They worked with the same implements as those used in the lower washings. Not far from the place where most of them were employed, I saw a number of the women and children pounding acorns in a hollow block of wood with an oblong stone. Of the acorn flour thus produced they made a sort of dry, hard, unpalatable bread, which assuredly none but an Indian stomach could digest.
Upon instituting a more particular search into the nature of the country and our prospects, we found that the places where the gold was found in the greatest abundance, and in the largest masses, were the beds of the mountain torrents, now dry, which occasionally descend into both the forks of the stream. We clambered up some of those precipitous ravines, and observed, upon several occasions, as we scrambled among the shingle, shining spangles of gold. The soil was evidently richly charged; but the great disadvantage was the comparative distance from water, in the evening our friends arrived from the lower diggings, with the provisions all safe and sound, and the next day we determined to set to work.
July 3rd.—Selecting a likely place in the heart of a steep mountain gorge, we transported thither the larger Indian baskets which we had purchased at Sutter's Fort, and, shovelling the earth into them, passed poles, cut from the nearest pine tree, through the rope-handles we had affixed to these baskets. Resting the poles on our shoulders, we carried the loaded baskets to the brink of the stream, and then set to work after the old fashion, with our hands in the baskets. Our success was great, and the day's return shows a decided improvement upon the Mormon diggings. The soil here is more richly impregnated with gold than below; but the labour of carrying the earth to the water is excessive, and I am so tired this evening that I very reluctantly opened my journal to make this short entry.
July 4th.—As we were starting off to the river with our first basket loads of gravel this morning, Lacosse suddenly remarked that he did not see why the horses should be living like gentlemen when the gentlemen were working like horses; and he proposed to use the shoulders of our nags, instead of our own, for the conveyance of the earth. We all fell in with this proposal, wondering it had never struck us before, and the horses were soon fetched from their comfortable quarters among the tall rank grass, and set to work, with the baskets slung over their backs, like panniers.
Several new-comers from the Mormon diggings passed us to-day, bound further up the Fork. In the morning Mr. Marshall paid us a visit, to know how we were getting on. He had heard from Captain Sutter, who stated that he thought of starting for the upper or lower washings himself, as soon as he had gathered in his wheat harvest, which he hoped to accomplish during the present week. A number of wild ducks haunt the, river, and especially abound in the grassy and weedy pools which skirt its edges. This morning we shot some of these, and found them an agreeable addition to our dinner bill of fare.
The afternoon has been passed among the greater part of the miners here as a celebration of the anniversary of American Independence. Something like an out-door feast was got up, and toasts were drunk and songs sang; "Yankee Doodle," and the "Star-spangled Banner," being the chief favourites. Bradley made a smart speech: and, contrary to his usual practice, complimented us Englishmen with a round of pleasant allusions to the mother country.
The party again shift their quarters The river forded Horry in the water Mr. Sinclair's party of Indians Deserted Indian Villages Weber's Creek A halt made Cradles hollowed out A commotion in the camp Colonel Mason arrives on a tour of inspection His opinions as to what Congress should do Military deserters, and what ought to be done with them Return of Colonel Manson's party to Sutter's Fort Bradley accompanies it with a stock of gold How the gold was packed, and what precautions were taken for its security.
Weber's Creek.—July 9th.—A few more days' experience at the saw-mills convinced us that much time and labour was lost in consequence of the distance between the digging we worked at and the water, and we therefore determined to seek a more desirable location. Ever since we had been at the saw-mills we had heard it constantly said, that at Weber's Creek the gold was to be found in far greater abundance; and to Weber's Creek we determined to go. The stream thus called is a small tributary to the northern fork of the Americans'.
We struck our tents yesterday morning, loaded our horses, and took our departure. The river, at the fording-place, was broad and rapid, but shallow; the principal difficulties in the ford arose from the number of smooth round stones, covered with green rince slime, which formed the bed of the river, and over which our horses stumbled, with a violence which threatened to disturb the fastening of their burdens. No disaster, however, actually occurred, except to poor Horry, whose horse stumbled over a large boulder, and pitched its luckless rider over its head into the water, to the undissembled delight of the entire party, who hailed the poor sailor's discomfiture with loud bursts of laughter. Horry made the best of his way to the farther bank, without paying any more attention to his horse, which, however, emerged from the water, and was on dry land as soon as Horry himself.
We now proceeded along the right bank of the North Fork, and on the opposite side we caught a glimpse of a party of Indians at work, which we afterwards learned were that of Mr. Sinclair. In one week this party had gathered sixteen pounds troy of fine washed gold dust. They worked hard, were well fed, and had liberal rations of "strong water" daily. We rested a couple of hours at noon, in a pleasant bottom, heavily timbered, and afterwards, striking away from the river at an acute angle, moved leisurely on through a broken country, intersected by many water-courses, and overgrown with dense clusters of trees.
During our afternoon march we passed several deserted Indian villages—the round-shaped skeletons of the huts alone remaining to mark the former settlements. Not a member of the tribe, however, was to be seen; the beaver may build and the deer pasture hereabouts in peace. Towards evening we entered the valley drained by the stream called Weber's Creek. Its appearance was very beautiful, and the stream descended along a steep rocky bed, foaming round large boulder stones, and tumbling down low ledges of granite. The grassy slopes of the valley are cut up in all directions with rivulets, the courses of which are marked by luxuriant underwood, rank grass, and groves of stunted oaks. Two or three arbours were to be seen with one or two rude-looking tents, all with blazing fires before them. We encamped forthwith, hoping the next day to reach a station which we could make available for our purpose.
We were early on the move this morning, and soon saw several parties of threes and fours washing in the bed of the river, or exploring the mountain gorges with their shovels and mattocks. The weather was getting oppressively hot; indeed, the further we got from the Sacramento the hotter did it become. The sea-breeze never penetrates here to refresh us, and, except when an occasional squall comes sweeping down from the hills, the air is very oppressive.
We travelled but slowly, still in an hour or so we reached a station, about fifteen miles as the crow flies, or about twenty by the windings of the stream, from the point of its junction with the Americanos, where we determined to try our luck. There was quite a camp here—not to the same extent as the Mormon diggings, but still the washers were numerous, and the larger part of them were Indians. Some few worked in the bed of the river, but the great majority were engaged in the ravines leading up the mountains. The greatest quantity of gold dust was found in the former, while the latter yielded the best specimens of lump and scale gold. We were told that, though the side gullies were very rich, yet they were more uncertain than the main stream. Lumps of gold, weighing several ounces, were continually met with, but a morning was often wasted and nothing found; whereas, if a man stuck to the main stream, and washed all day long, he was sure of his ounce or couple of ounces of gold. For these reasons we determined to stand by the river. Our first business was to see if we could manage to construct a couple of cradles. At a large store here we met with some pine planks, but the figure was most exorbitant. Taking a hint from what we had noticed among the Indians at the saw-mills, we determined to fell a couple of stout trees, and hollow them out so as to serve our purpose. We obtained the assistance of a man here, a ship's carpenter, and a most civil obliging sort of fellow, who gave us a day's help for thirty dollars. He superintended the felling of the trees, and then put us in the way of proceeding with the work. We found the toil sufficiently severe, and began to feel the heat, as I thought, to a far greater extent than was the case in the lower part of the country.
July 8th.—Yesterday we were employed, from early in the morning till beyond noon, in trimming and hollowing out our cradles. While we were seated together outside the tent enjoying a few whiffs of our pipes and cigars, after a famous dinner of smoking-hot steaks and frijoles, we saw the camp below was all in commotion. People were running out of their tents, and shouting to their neighbours, and gradually a little crowd was formed round a group of horsemen, who were just then brought to a halt. That same feeling of curiosity which gets together a London crowd to see the lion on the top of Northumberland House wag his tail, caused us to make our way, with the rest of the gapers, down to Bennett's shanty, against which all this bustle appeared to be going on. As soon as Bradley and myself could force our way a little through the crowd, we recognised in a moment the features of Colonel Mason. The Colonel, who wore an undress military uniform, had just dismounted from his horse, with the intention, it appeared, of walking through the diggings. In a couple of minutes' time my friend Lieutenant Sherman came up, and we were soon engaged in an animated conversation in reference to the gold district. The fact was, the Governor was on a tour of inspection for the purpose of making a report to the Cabinet at Washington. I took care to thank Lieutenant Sherman for his letter of introduction to Captain Sutter, and to explain to him the friendly manner in which Captain Sutter received me. I then joined in the conversation being carried on with Colonel Mason, who was giving his opinion as to what the Government would do with respect to the gold placer. The Colonel was very guarded in his statements. He, however, hinted that he thought it would be politic for Congress to send over proper officers and workmen, and at once to establish a mint at some convenient point on the coast. He fully admitted the difficulties of keeping men to their engagements under circumstances like the present; but said some steps must be taken to check the system of desertions on the part of the troops quartered at Monterey and San Francisco. The pay of the soldiers, he considered, ought to be increased; but, without reference to this, he told the gentlemen round him that, as good citizens, they were bound to lend their utmost endeavours to secure in safe custody all known deserters—men who had abandoned their flag and exposed the country to danger, that they might live in a state of drunkenness at the mines.
Colonel Mason next proceeded to visit Captain Weber's store, whither Bradley accompanied him. On his return, Bradley informed us that the Colonel and his escort intended to set off on their way back lo Sutter's Fort that very afternoon, and they reckoned upon encamping some few miles below the saw-mills that night. Bradley then took me aside and asked me whether this would not be a good opportunity to send our stock of gold dust down to Captain Sutter, who would, for a reasonable commission, consign it to a merchant at Monterey on our account. The weight of it was becoming cumbersome, and we were besides in constant apprehension of some unfortunate accident happening to it. Now was the time, Bradley urged, to place all we had as yet realised in security. He knew Colonel Mason—in fact, had served under him, and undertook, if the remainder of the party were agreeable, to carry the gold, under the protection of Colonel Mason's escort, to Sutter's Fort.
There was something reasonable in this proposal, and Colonel Mason, on being appealed to, said he would gladly give Mr. Bradley such protection as his escort would afford him, and would be, moreover, happy of his company. Our party was, therefore, summoned together, and the whole, or nearly so, of the gold dust being produced, it was weighed in our presence, and found to amount to twenty-seven pounds eight ounces troy—valued at over four thousand six hundred dollars. Bradley gave a regular receipt for this to the company, and engaged to obtain a similar one from Captain Sutter. The gold dust was then packed in a small portmanteau well secured by numerous cords, and firmly bound on the pack-saddle of an extra horse, which Bradley was to ride alongside of, the bridle of the animal being secured to his arm, and its trail-rope made fast to the saddle of the horse which Bradley himself rode. He was well armed with pistols and a rifle, and started with Colonel Mason's party a couple of hours before sundown—so that they might ford the river ere it was dusk. After accomplishing this, they intended to ride part of the way by the light of the moon.
Smoking and sleeping Fever, and how caused Bradley returns A doctor wanted A doctor's fee at the mines Medicine scarce A hot air bath and a cold water bath Indians engaged to work Indian thimble-rigging An Indian gamester, and the stake he plays for More sickness Mormons move off A drunken dance by Indians An Indian song about the yellow earth and the fleet rifle An immodest dance by Indian women.
July 12th, Wednesday.—We finished our cradles late upon Saturday night, but delayed working until Monday. A few of the miners pursued their avocation on the Sunday, but the majority devoted the day to rest—smoking and sleeping in the shade alternately. I walked through the washings, and heard that many of the miners had been taken ill with intermittent fever, a circumstance which did not astonish me. Bad diet, daily exposure to the sun while it is at its greatest height, followed by an exposure to the cold damp air at night time—these conjoined were quite sufficient to bring on the most severe illness. On my return to the tent I looked over our little stock of medicine, which I foresaw I should soon be required to use.
On Monday we commenced operations in the old style—digging, fetching water, and rocking the cradle. The sun came blazing down with great power, causing headaches to most of the party, particularly Malcolm, who complained much. The day's taking was very good; we having realised nine ounces with one machine, and seven and a half with the other. At night, as Malcolm still continued to complain of his head, and as there was evidently a good deal of low fever about him, I gave him a dose of calomel and a febrifuge mixture, which by the morning produced a good deal of relief.
Bradley made his appearance during the forenoon, after a fatiguing ride from Sutter's Fort. He had seen the Captain, had delivered the gold, and settled the transaction. We were hard at work the whole of to-day. In the evening a man came crawling into the tent to know if we had any medicines we would sell. I told him I was a doctor, and asked him what was the matter. He had been suffering from remittent fever of a low typhoid type. I gave him bark, and told him he must lay up and take care of himself. He said he would; but next day, during the intervals of fever, I saw him working away with his pan. The news of there being a doctor in the camp soon spread, and I am now being continually called on to prescribe for a large number of patients. An ounce of gold is the fee generally given me. This sort of work is as much more profitable as it is less laborious than working at the cradle. But the great drawback is that one has to do something else beyond advising. People require physicking, and as I cannot submit to be deprived of the little stock of medicine I had brought with me in case of my own friends having occasion for it, I am obliged to give over practising in those cases where medicine is absolutely necessary.
The native Californians, both Indians and whites, have an universal remedy for febrile affections, and indeed for sickness of almost any kind; this is the temascal, a sort of hot air bath, shaped not unlike a sentry-box, and built of wicker-work, and afterwards plastered with mud until it becomes air-tight. There is one of these machines at the Weber Creek washings, which has been run up by the Indians during the last few days. One of them used it for the first time this afternoon, and to my surprise is still alive. After a great fire had been made up close to the door—a narrow aperture just large enough for a little man to squeeze through—it was afterwards gradually allowed to burn itself out, having in the meantime heated to a very high degree the air in the interior of the bath. Into this the Indian screwed himself, and there remained until a profuse perspiration was produced, which he checked forthwith by a plunge into the chilly water of the river. Here he floundered about for a few minutes, and then crawled out and lay down exhausted on the ground.
The atmosphere continues exceedingly sultry, and the miners who work by the river, out of the shade, have in several instances sunk exhausted under the toil. Dysentery, produced probably by unwholesome food, has also begun to show itself, and altogether the aspect of things is anything but cheerful.
July 15th, Saturday.—We have engaged a large party of Indians to work for us in the ravines. They belong to the Snake tribe, and appear to be a poor set of half-starved wretches. We pay them in provisions, and occasionally drams of pisco—a spirit made from Californian grapes.
On visiting the encampment of our Indians, last night after work was over, I found about a dozen of them eagerly engaged gambling away—the stake, in some instances, being the supper which had just been served out to them—with an ardour equal to that of the most civilized gamesters. So far as I could make out, the game had some analogy to our "thimble-rigging;" but appeared to be fairly played. A small ball was passed by three of the Indians from hand to hand, with such rapid dexterity, that no eye could keep pace with their movements; three others watched it with peculiar eagerness. Every now and then the latter made a correct guess, and one was scored in their favour—if wrong, a mark was scored against them. The Indians are in general strongly addicted to games of chance, and they sometimes gamble away all the clothing on their backs. I heard of an instance which occurred near the saw-mills, of an Indian who, after having lost every article of clothing he had, one after the other, to his more fortunate antagonist, staked his labour for a week against the cotton shirt which he had lost only a few minutes before. He had a run of bad luck, and, when he left off, had to work for six weeks, at gold-washing, for his antagonist, who fed him on nothing better than acorn bread. Mr. Neligh, who told me of this circumstance, had seen the man at work duly fulfilling his engagement.
The sickness amongst the miners continues to increase, and in our own party Lacosse has been laid up for two days with fever; however, I think he is now doing well. The climate does not appear to be unhealthy. It is the exposure to the work which does the mischief. There is some talk afloat among our party of removing further up the country, nearer to the mountains, where gold is said to be in greater abundance. Yesterday, a large party—many of them Mormons—started for the Bear River, a small stream which runs into the Sacramento, and is said to be about fifty miles distant, due north from where we are encamped.
The Indians at work here have caused the price of pisco and whisky to rise to a most exorbitantly high rate. They content themselves with feasting on the bitter acorn bread, and spend all their earnings on "strong water" and a little finery. Sometimes a party of them, when intoxicated, will get up one of their wild dances, when the stamping and yelling are of a far more fearful character than is generally the case at these singular exhibitions. The dance begins generally with a rude song, the words being of the usual harsh guttural character, but the ideas are generally striking and peculiar. One has been explained to me which recites the praises of the "yellow earth," because it will procure the Shoshonee the fleet rifle with which he can slay his Pawnee foe. It says nothing, however, about the "strong water," which renders the arm of the war-chief weaker than that of a child; for, with all their vices, there is still that pride about the Indian character which makes them ashamed of those weaknesses they are unable to resist.
Frequently, while the Indian warriors repose from their exertions, after the termination of one of these wild dances, the women of the tribe will occupy their place; but in general their postures and movements are indelicate in the extreme. But modesty is hardly to be looked for in the amusements of savage life.
The party determine to start for Bear River Sickness at the mines What happened to a drunken Indian An old trapper and his stories Captain Sutter's first settlement Indians partial to horse-flesh A score of horses stolen An expedition to revenge the theft A rancheria demolished A chorus of yells Indians routed and then brought to labour Tin Bear River The trapper engaged as guide Preparations for the journey An addition to the party The journey commenced Rocky country Cross the North Fork An accident to a mule Flour cakes and bacon scraps Resume the journey Precipitous ravines End of the journey.
Monday, July 24th.—We have determined to start for the Bear River. We worked hard last week, but suffered greatly from the heat; almost every man of us complains of feverish symptoms, with pains in the limbs, back, and loins, yet we are better than the majority of the miners. These washings have now become nearly as crowded as the Mormon diggings were when we left them, and immense sums have been made by some of the luckier adventurers amongst the ravines. The whole valley is dotted over with tents and green bush arbours, and there is hardly a watercourse but which is sprinkled with miners, digging, sifting, and washing. About half of the people work together in companies—the other half shift each for himself. There are hundreds of Indians, many of them fantastically dressed, for they can purchase fine clothing now, even at the extravagant rates at which all articles are charged at Weber's store. They labour one day, and get drunk on pisco or the "strong water" on another. One of them rolled down a rocky ravine lately, in an intoxicated state, and was killed.
As we were lying down in the shade of the tent yesterday, we were visited by an old trapper called Joe White. He had recognized Bradley and Don Luis, whom he had met on the coast, and we invited him to take coffee with us. Joe White had come into this part of the country with Captain Sutter, whom he spoke very highly of, and of whose early efforts to form a settlement he gave us an account. Their party was the very first of the white settlers in the wilderness. They live some time in a camp formed of the tented wagons they had brought with them, until they could run up a few rough shanties, and some protecting outworks. During the time they were constructing these, and indeed for some months afterwards, they were dreadfully harassed by the Indians, who made onslaughts on their cattle, carried away, killed, and eat both horses and oxen. The Indians are by no means particular. One night, after the party had been lulled into a sense of security by the apparent friendly disposition of the Indians, who occasionally came into their camp, and no watch was being kept, upwards of a score of horses and mules were driven off; the loss of which Sutter's people knew nothing of until they woke up in the morning, and found the ropes all cut. They started off at once on the trail, and soon found that it led to an Indian rancheria, about eight miles up the Sacramento. This rancheria was, they believed, the refuge of the "Ingin varmints," as Joe While styled them, from whose depredations they were constantly suffering. Captain Sutter determined to take signal revenge. They returned to the Fort that day, but next morning started off in a strong party, each man armed with his never-failing rifle and big bowie-knife, and taking with them a howitzer which the Captain had brought with him over the Rocky Mountains. The Indians must, however, have had information by their scouts of the expedition; for, when the party reached the rancheria, they found it deserted—not even a solitary squaw left among the huddled-up collection of huts. Determined not to be foiled, the party set to work to demolish the village. The construction of the Indian houses rendered this an easy task, but, to complete it, fire was requisite. No sooner had the smoke risen from the kindling wood, than their ears were saluted with a dismal yell from a little densely-wooded island a couple of hundred yards up the stream. Starting out in all directions from the high grass and underwood, appeared a crowd of squaws with their children, who gave whoop after whoop, and, brandishing boughs of trees, imprecated curses upon the destroyers of their rancheria.
Captain Sutter and his party of trappers were somewhat startled at this proceeding, and the question immediately occurred to them as to where the men could be. The party pushed their way homewards as fast, as possible; leaving the rancheria burning and the squaws and children still yelling and whooping on the island. It was as they expected. On coming within two miles of the Fort, they heard the crack upon crack of distant rifles. Putting their horses to the gallop, they arrived just in time to see the Indians totally routed, and scampering away as fast as their horses would carry them into the woods.
After this double defeat, the tribes seem to have given up all idea of prosecuting a war against their new neighbours, and, gradually relinquishing their thievish habits, settled in the neighbourhood of the Fort—sometimes hunting and trapping for the pale faces, and at others labouring away at ditching and brick-making, being paid chiefly in articles of clothing and small allowances of pisco. The trapper told us that Captain Sutter has now a tin coin in circulation, stamped with his name, and good for a certain amount of merchandize at the Fort.
After listening to a few more wonderful adventures of this sort, Bradley turned the conversation upon the country about Bear River. The trapper said he knew it well, and had heard that there was plenty of gold there. He asked him if he would undertake to guide us thither, and, after some bargaining, he consented. The sum he was to have was sixty-five dollars and his food. Considering the high rates of all things here, this was a low figure enough, but the old trapper candidly told us that he was sick and tired of paddling about in the water washing for gold, and that he would prefer a few days' jaunt in the wilderness. The climate was much cooler further to the north, he informed us, and comparatively few miners had penetrated to the Bear Valley. We had a long debate upon the matter, and ultimately it was determined to start the day after to-morrow (Wednesday).
July 25th, Tuesday.—This day has been devoted to preparations for our journey. Our stock of provisions, with the exception of breadstuffs, is quite exhausted. We have had, therefore, to lay in a stock, but we found everything, of course, inordinately dear; so we have contented ourselves with buying some bacon, and dried beef, and coffee, resolving to trust to our rifles for further support, there being plenty of game in the neighbourhood of the Bear Valley. By the advice of Joe White, we intend not only to load the pack-horses with a portion of our stock of provisions, but each man is to take a fortnight's rations for himself. The pack-horses will carry about another fortnight's supply. We should have preferred, if we could have managed it, to despatch the gold we have amassed since Bradley's mission to Captain Sutter, down to the Fort; but, after some deliberation, we have resolved not to risk its transit without an escort, and, accordingly, have agreed to load one horse, the most sure-footed of the lot, with the valuable burden, and to attach its trail ropes to the horses ridden by ourselves in turn.
This evening three men, hearing of our intended expedition, offered to join the party. These were Edward Story, an American lawyer, who had been one of the inferior alcaldes during the Spanish regime at Monterey; John Dowling, first male, and Samuel Bradshaw, the carpenter, of an American whaling ship which they had left at San Francisco. The lawyer was an intelligent person, conversant with the language of several of the tribes—the mate seemed to have his wits about him, and the carpenter would obviously be a great acquisition, particularly as we were now about to plunge even beyond the furthest outposts of civilization, where, in all probability, we may have to secure ourselves against attacks from the Indians without the possibility of any help beyond that which we could render to each other. We were rather pleased with their offer, and received them as an addition to our party. All three had horses, although, as usual with seamen, the mate and carpenter were terribly awkward equestrians.
Wednesday, July 26th.—This day we struck our camp before sunrise, and had the horses securely packed and all in motion in the early cool of the morning. The march was a fatiguing one; the country appearing to be a succession of woody bottoms, or valleys and steep rocky ridges, which tried the metal of our loaded horses severely. From the summit of one of the hills more elevated than the rest we obtained a distant view of the valley of the Sacramento. Our general course was north north-west. The trapper, who proved an able guide, varied the direction from time to time so as to lead us through the easiest paths, taking care to steer clear of the deep canones that split up the hills in every direction. We dined at noon as usual, and that very well, on some hare soup made from a couple of hares which we had shot during the morning, and some dried beef. The signs of deer were very frequent. After mounting and descending a very precipitous and rocky ridge, we encamped near some waterfalls in a wide open valley. The night was somewhat cold, and we enjoyed a blazing fire of pine sticks, which we cut from the dried trees in the vicinity.
Friday, July 28th.—Yesterday morning dawned clear and rather coolish. In the forenoon we crossed the north fork of the Americanos, which was here but a trifling stream. The general character of the country was becoming more and more mountainous and difficult to traverse, and we found the labour of the journey sufficiently severe. A great number of water-courses crossed our path, but the channels were quite dry, the stones and shingle white and bleaching in the sun. An unfortunate accident occurred during the afternoon's march to one of the pack-horses, which stumbled over a heap of rough stones in clambering up from the bed of a torrent, and broke its leg. We had to shoot the poor animal to put it out of pain. Its burden was equally distributed between its more fortunate fellows. We encamped amongst rocks, and had a poor supper of flour cakes and bacon scraps. During the night Don Luis was attacked with aguish symptoms. I prescribed bark, which appeared to relieve him.
To-day our horses were quickly saddled and packed, and we started off in the faint grey of the morning. It was chilly, but the sky was beautifully clear. When the sun had fairly risen, however, we had no more cold to complain of. The way was exceedingly difficult. We toiled along precipitous ravines and gullies, and climbed up steep and rocky ridges, which cut and wounded the feet of the horses, and rendered our progress very slow. The timber we passed was principally pine trees, with sharp pointed leaves and large cones, and occasionally we came upon a grove of evergreen oaks, more stunted in shape than was the case in the lower regions. About mid-day we passed the source of the Rio de las Plumas, or Feather River, and after a most severe and in some respects forced march climbed the last rocky ridge which separated us from the Bear Valley. The sun was near its setting as we pushed down the mountain slopes towards the river. We found it a small stream flowing swiftly over a shingly bed to the westward, and encamped within hearing of its murmur, well pleased to have performed our toilsome journey.
A rest A solitude No gold to be found An exploring party Good fortune Food and security More cradles A fortified shanty in preparation A dessert after dinner Dejection Thoughts about home No other gold-finders to be seen Mormon trail Salt Plain and the Great Salt Lake A weary day's journey without water Saline exhalations The inland sea and its desolate shores A terrible whirlpool The shanty finished The trapper's services retained The camp visited by an Indian tribe A friendly sign The pipe of peace A "trade" with the Indians declined Some depart and some remain Provisions run short Hunting expeditions Something about a bear.
Sunday, July 30th.—We rested somewhat late upon Saturday morning to make up for the fatigues of the journey from Weber's Creek. On surveying the country we found ourselves in a perfect solitude. Not an Indian, far less a white man, was to be seen. The fertile valley of the Bear River—with its luxuriant grass, in which nestled coveys of the Californian quail—seemed almost untrodden by human foot, and sloped in great beauty between the ridges of rocky hills and peaks of granite, with dark ravines and canones between, which hemmed it in. Our first care was of course to try the capabilities of the country in the way of gold. We therefore separated ourselves, and sought different points of the channel of the stream, and different chasms, which in the winter time conducted the mountain torrents into it.
To our great astonishment and disappointment, one by one we returned into the camp with the news of our non-success. By the old trapper's advice, an exploring party was despatched to follow up the stream towards its head. They travelled the distance of some ten or twelve miles, crossing some of the more important tributaries of the main river, and had the good fortune to strike upon a spot where a slight examination was sufficient to prove that the gold existed in great abundance in the sand and shingles, and imbedded in flakes amid the rocks. To-day we have moved the camp to this spot; and, as we are now beyond the reach of aid from white men, and have begun to feel that we must be, for some time at least, a self-supporting party, our first thoughts are turned towards making arrangements for obtaining a supply of food, and for ensuring our security. Bradley, Joe White, and Jose, are to be our hunters; Malcolm, Lacosse, and McPhail, are to set to work to-morrow to make a couple of cradles, the carpenter giving them an occasional helping hand, but occupying himself principally in superintending the construction of a large shanty, sufficient to accommodate the whole party, with a rough fortification around, com posed of pine logs and palisades, pointed at the top, sufficient to enclose a space of ground into which the horses could be driven at night, out of the way of any outlying Indian who might be thievishly inclined. We calculate that the construction of the shanty, with its appurtenances, will occupy at least a week—in all probability, much longer. Malcolm, McPhail, and Lacosse, are to join us in our labours as soon as they have finished the cradles. The hunters had good luck to-day, and came in with a couple of fat bucks. The trapper had also snared a number of quails, so that our table was nobly furnished. Our dinner, also, included a dessert of a fruit similar to apples in taste, but not larger than well-grown gooseberries. These had been gathered and brought in by the trapper in the morning.
Sunday, August 6th.—I have felt very low-spirited these last few days. One's thoughts have turned towards home, and an indescribable sensation of melancholy has been weighing me down, which at last my companions have begun to take notice of. This evening, just as the remainder of the party contemplated turning in for the night, I pulled out my note-book, and began writing beside the camp-fire.
"?No puede Vm. dormir?" said Don Luis to me, as he moved away towards the tent.
"No, Senor," replied I. "Pienso a la veja Ingleterra; a mi Hermano y a mis amigos."
"Por ventura a una amiguita," observed Don Luis.
I laughed, and answering, "Es possible, Senor," went on writing.
We are now regularly settled on the Bear River, and have, as yet, seen no signs of human life round about us. The reports, therefore, which we heard at Weber's Creek, of the gold-finders having penetrated into this valley, would appear to have been without foundation. We have observed a fresh-made trail, which the old trapper seems to consider passes in the direction of the Truckee Lake; and we have noticed the remains of several camp-fires at different parts of the valley. In all probability this trail has been made by the Mormon emigrants, who are reported to have gone on a gold-hunting expedition across the salt desert to the shores of the Great Salt Lake, a distance of seven or eight hundred miles. The old trapper had some wonderful stories to tell about the dangers of the journey across the Salt Plain. How that a man has to travel, from the first faint break of grey light in the morning, as hard as his horse will carry him, over a desert of white salt—which crunches and crumbles beneath his horse's tread at every step he takes—until the sun has gone down behind the tall peaks of the distant Sierra Nevada. No water but of the most brackish kind can be procured to refresh either horse or rider through the whole of this weary route, while their lips are parched with thirst, and their eyes and nostrils become choked from the effects of the saline exhalations rising up on all sides from the desert over which they are passing. And as for the Great Salt Lake, the desolate shores of this inland sea have been, for the most part, carefully avoided by both Indians and trappers, and no living being has yet been found daring enough to venture far on the bosom of its dark turbid waters; for a belief exists that a terrible whirlpool agitates their surface, ready to swallow up everything that may venture within the bounds of its dangerous influence.
Our cradles were finished on Monday, and the shanty on Saturday afternoon. It includes a sort of outhouse for cooking, and the rude palisades around are quite sufficient protection for the horses against any attempts the Indians are likely to make to drive them off. As soon as our building labours were over yesterday, we set to work digging and washing, and were very successful. The country about here is of course much more rugged than in the lower diggings. Grass is plentiful in the valley, but the rocky heights are covered with a stinted vegetation, offering no food to our horses. The soil, mineralogically considered, does not seem to vary materially from that in the neighbourhood of Weber's Creek. If anything, it is more impregnated with gold. On Friday, Don Luis discovered a large rough lump in a canone about a mile from the shanty; and the next evening a similar lump, though rather smaller, was picked up by Bradley in one of his hunting excursions.
August 8th.—We have engaged the services of our friend the trapper at the rate of fifteen dollars a-week, with an allowance of whisky twice a-day. He will hunt for us, but will have nothing to do with gold digging and washing. He has a tolerable contempt for dollars, or else he would have demanded higher wages. A man who has spent nearly all his life in the wilderness, who has known no wants but such as his rifle could quickly supply, may, however, well look with contempt on the "root of all evil." If he were hungry, a shot at some panting elk or bellowing buffalo would stock him with food for weeks to come. If he were athirst, the clear water of some sparkling rivulet would yield him all that he would require. The hide of the bear or of the buffalo would serve to clothe him and to shelter him from the sharp night frosts; while a score of beaver skins would purchase him ammunition more than sufficient to last him all the year round. What, then, should he want with gold?
Yesterday, while we were at dinner, we were surprised by seeing a party of Indians approaching the camp from the direction of Truckee Lake. They appeared not to have any hostile intentions, so we quietly awaited their approach. The foremost chief held before him a long stick, with a bunch of white feathers dangling at the end. Story explained to us that this was a friendly sign, and said we had nothing to fear from the party. As they approached nearer towards us, they commenced dancing and singing, and we could soon perceive that very few among them were armed, and that altogether their appearance was anything but warlike and imposing.
Story went out to meet them, and shook hands with the few foremost chiefs. When they reached the shanty, before the door of which we were seated, the chiefs gathered on the right-hand side of us, and squatted themselves down upon the ground, when the pipe of peace was immediately produced by a veteran chief, and hemded round. I took a few whiffs with the rest, and then we learnt from our visiters that they were anxious to engage in a trade. All that they had, however, were some few esculent roots and several bags of pine-nuts. These last they roast and eat, but the taste is far from pleasant. In exchange for them, they wanted some charges of powder and ball. Three of them, I noticed, possessed old Spanish muskets, of which they seemed particularly proud; they held them in the usual cautious Indian style, with the butt-end clutched in the right hand, and the barrel resting on the left arm. A few of the others had bows and arrows slung across their backs. We pleaded shortness of ammunition as our excuse for declining the trade. Our provisions being run low made it impossible for us to offer them anything to eat, so we gave them a few blankets, which we could well spare, by way of keeping ourselves in their good graces; as, according to Story, they would have considered it a great affront if we had neglected to make them any presents.
The Indians remained and encamped outside our fort; last night and this morning the greater part took their departure. The guard last night had orders to keep a sharp look-out, as we thought that our friends, even though they had no hostile intentions towards us, might still take a strong liking to some of our horses; but nothing of a suspicious character occurred. Five young men of the tribe also have stopt behind, who wish to continue with us and work for us, but the low state of our commissarial renders it desirable not to accept their offer, unless our hunters return to-day with a good stock of provisions.
August 13th. Our hunters have been very successful these last few days. We have a large stock of elk meat, which we intend drying after the Indian fashion. On Friday, while Don Luis and the trapper were out together, they were surprised by the sight of a huge bear right before them, slowly walking up towards them. As soon as he arrived within about a hundred paces he squatted down upon his haunches for a few moments; but, as they got nearer to him, and just as they were preparing to give him a greeting in the shape of a couple of balls through his head, he rose up and scampered off. They fired, but without success, and the brute plunged into a dense thicket; after which they saw nothing more of him.
Our Indians, after stopping with us a couple of days, during which period we compelled them to encamp at night-time outside the fort, took their departure early on Friday morning, or else during the night of Thursday, unperceived by our sentinels. They, however, took nothing with them belonging to our party, except a couple of blankets we had lent to the two principal men.
A rich mine of gold discovered A guard both night and day A good morning's work An Indian scout How he served Dowling, and how Dowling served him A look-out Indians seen advancing A moment of fear A yell Arrows and rifles A wounded chief carried off The field of battle The return to the camp Horses driven off by Indians Where Jose was found The wounded attended to An after-dinner discussion How the watch went to sleep, and how they were woke up McPhail missing Wolves, deer, and a puma A party set out in search of McPhail.
August 20th, Sunday.—The past week has been in many respects an eventful one. On Friday, while several of us were rambling about the neighbourhood of the camp, exploring the numerous mountain canones which lie between us and the Sierra Nevada, we found, among the loose particles of rock which had crumbled away from the sides of the ravine and fallen to the bottom, several lumps of gold of a much larger size than any we had before met with. This induced us to examine the upper part of the ravine, where promising traces of gold were readily detected; further examination convinced us that the precious metal existed here in far greater quantises than in the locality where we had been at work for several weeks previous; and we were, moreover, satisfied that it was to be obtained with much less difficulty, as, being found in solid lumps, the unpleasant labour of washing was dispensed with. We therefore determined, on the following morning, to remove all our implements to this spot, the only disadvantage of which was its being situated rather far off from our place of encampment.
Since our friends, the Indians, had quitted us, we had always left some one or other on guard at the shanty, to keep watch over our horses and baggage, both during the day time and at night; for we knew that some of them were continually prowling about, our horses having frequently shown signs of uneasiness in the night time. During the day there was generally one member of the party who remained at the shanty, having either Jose or the lad Horry in company.
The ravine we proposed moving to was nearly half-a-mile distant. After breakfast, Bradley, Lacosse, and McPhail, accompanied by the old trapper, set off on a hunting expedition, for our stock of provisions was now getting very low, leaving Jose and our legal friend at the camp. The remainder of the party, including myself, proceeded to the ravine with our implements, and after working a few hours we succeeded in procuring more gold than we had obtained in any two days during the past week. We were just on the point of returning to the camp to dinner when Dowling, who was standing near some sage bushes at the upper part of the ravine, heard a rustling among them, and on moving in the direction of the noise saw an Indian stealthily creeping along, who, as soon as he perceived he was discovered, discharged an arrow, which just missed its mark, but lacerated, and that rather severely, Dowling's ear. The savage immediately set up a most terrific whoop, and ran off, but stumbled before he could draw another arrow from his quiver, while Dowling, rushing forward, buried his mattock in the head of his fallen foe, killing him instantaneously.
At this moment we hoard the crack of a rifle in the direction of the camp, which, with the Indian's whoop at the same moment, completely bewildered us. Every man, however, seized his rifle, and Dowling, hastening towards us, told us what had just occurred. All was still for the next few moments, and I mounted a little hill to reconnoitre. Suddenly I saw a troop of Indians, the foremost of them on horseback, approaching at full speed. I hastily returned to my companions, and we sought shelter in a little dell, determined to await there, and resist the attack, for it was evident that the savages' intentions were anything but pacific.
It was a moment of breathless excitement. We heard the tramp, tramp of the horses coming on towards us, but as yet they and their riders were concealed from our view. I confess I trembled violently, not exactly with fear, although I expected that a few moments would see us all scalped by our savage assailants. It was the suddenness of the danger which startled me, and made my heart throb violently; but at that moment, just as I was reproaching myself with the want of courage, a terrific yell rung through the air at a short distance from us, and forty or fifty warlike Indians appeared in sight. My whole frame was nerved in an instant, and when a shower of arrows flew amongst us, I was the first man to answer it with a rifle-shot, which brought one of the foremost Indians off his horse to the ground. I instantly reloaded, but in the meanwhile the rifles of my companions had been doing good service. We had taken up our position behind a row of willow trees which skirted the banks of a narrow stream, and here we were protected in a great measure from the arrows of our assailants, which were in most cases turned aside by the branches. A second volley of rifle-shots soon followed the first; and while we were reloading, and the smoke had slightly cleared away, I could see that we had spread consternation in the ranks of the Indian warriors, and that they were gathering up their wounded preparatory to retreating. I had my eye on one old man, who had just leapt from his horse. My finger was on the trigger, when I saw him coolly advance, and, taking one of his wounded companions, who had been shot though the leg, in his arms, place him on a horse, then mounting his own, and catching hold of the other animal's bridle, gallop off at full speed. Although I knew full well that if the fortune of the day had gone against us, these savages would not have spared a single man of our party, still I could not find it in my heart to fire on the old chief, and he therefore carried off his wounded comrade in safety.
In a few minutes the hill-sides were clear, and when we emerged from our shelter, all that was visible of the troop of warriors was three of them weltering in their blood, a bow or two, and some empty quivers, and a few scattered feathers and tomahawks, lying on the ground. One by one, we gradually stole up to the top of the mound from whence I first beheld the approach of the enemy, when, finding that they were retreating at full speed in an opposite direction to the camp, we determined to proceed thither at once, fully prepared to find both Story and Jose murdered. On our arrival, however, the former coolly advanced to meet us, and, in answer to our questions, stated that while he was superintending the proper browning of our venison, and Jose was filling the cans with water, he saw several of our horses scampering off, being in fact driven by three or four Indians on horseback. "So quickly," said he, "was the movement effected, that before I could lay hold of my rifle they were nearly beyond range. I fired, but without effect; and while I was looking about, I suppose in rather a bewildered manner, a party of something like forty Indians ran rapidly past. I don't know whether they saw me or not, but I was by no means anxious to engage their attention, and was glad enough when the last passed out of sight. I then went in search of Jose, whom I found in the river up to his neck in water—a position which he thought afforded the safest means of concealment, as he knew his wild brethren would have sacrificed him, and perhaps eaten him forthwith, if they had chanced to discover him."
I at once set to work to dress Dowling's ear, and a wound which Don Luis had received in his hand. The latter was merely a scratch, and the only danger likely to arise from it was in the event of the arrow by which it was inflicted having been poisoned. But Don Luis felt so confident that this was not the practice among the tribes about here, that he would not allow me to take the usual precautions against such a contingency.
Our anxiety was now turned towards the party who were out hunting, and we anxiously looked for their appearance. We had been so upset by the events of the morning, that we all felt disinclined to resume our labours after our meal was concluded, and we occupied ourselves in and about the camp, and in discussing the reason of the Indians' attack, and the probability of its being followed up by another. The day wore on without any signs of our companions' return. Towards evening, a rifle was fired off occasionally, to let them know of the danger which in all probability awaited them from an attack on the part of the Indians, and also to let the latter gentry know that we were on the look-out. It was arranged that we should all keep watch until the arrival of our friends, to be the better prepared for any danger which menaced us and them; for we thought it not unlikely that the Indians were hovering about the camp, and might attempt a surprise. Exhausted, however, by excitement and fatigue, one by one we dropped off to sleep. I was wakened up by the report, as I thought, of a rifle, which was immediately followed by a horrible moaning, and the whole of us were soon on our legs, rifles in hand, in the expectation of being butchered in the course of a few minutes. Bradley's well-known whistle, however, somewhat restored our confidence.
In a few minutes Lacosse, Bradley, and the old trapper were by the camp-fire. "Is McPhail here?" asked all of them in a breath, anxiously looking round the circle. The reply to the question was a sad one: he had not yet returned. In answer to our inquiries as to where they had parted from him, and as to whether they had heard the rifle-shot which had disturbed us from our sleep, Lacosse replied that they had first missed him about three-quarters of an hour ago, but they did not feel any particular uneasiness at the circumstance, as they imagined he had ridden on first. The night was rather dark, but Lacosse said the trail could easily be distinguished. With regard to the shot we had heard fired, and the moans which followed it, Bradley said that shortly after missing McPhail, they found some wolves were on their track, in ail likelihood scenting the deer which they were carrying slung across their horses. Fearing their noise might attract a more dangerous customer, in the shape of a puma, towards them, he fired a couple of pistols, which had the effect of wounding two of the pack, who rolled over with terrific howls. It must have been Bradley's last shot that woke us, for none of us heard more than one shot fired.
Our three huntsmen set about preparing their supper immediately, in the full expectation that McPhail would make his appearance before the venison was ready. The supper was, however, cooked and eaten, but still no McPhail arrived. Another hour was suffered to elapse, and then we began to consider that it was nearly three hours ago since he was last seen, while at that time he was not more than one hour's distance from the camp. It was evident, therefore, that he had either missed the trail or followed it in the opposite direction (which last was the old trapper's opinion), or else some more serious misfortune had happened to him. We at once resolved to set out in search of him, leaving a guard behind at the camp. The mate and Don Luis, being both, as it were, invalided, were of course among those who were to remain. Bradley pleaded fatigue, and wished to stay in camp, and Biggs was left on guard with him.
Where McPhail was last seen The trapper's keen eyes A nap in the open air The Author woke up Camp-fires A surprise attempted Horses left in charge The tactics of the advance and the retreat A shot from a rifle, and a man wounded A salute The rifle shot explained Horses driven off A volley fired Poor Horry scalped The trapper promises vengeance The wounded man Grief at the loss of a friend A mystery explained Horry's grave His funeral and monument.
It must have been about one o'clock when we started, and, after half-an-hour's hard riding, we came upon the spot where McPhail had last been seen. We shouted for some time as loudly as our lungs would let us, but heard nothing, save the howl of some hungry wolf, in reply. We then followed the trail at a brisk pace for eight or nine miles, but could discover nothing of our missing friend. There seemed no possibility of ascertaining whether he had proceeded in the direction in question or not, as the marks made by the horses of the party in the morning, on their way out, somewhat confused the old trapper. His keen eye, however, soon detected marks of a horse's hoof in a contrary direction, over the marks which the horses of the hunting party had made on their return. These signs were not apparent beyond the spot we had reached. In which direction they were continued, the night was too dark to discover.
Feeling that further search before daybreak would be useless, we resolved to get a few hours' sleep in the meantime; and, dismounting from our horses, secured them as well as we could, and placing our saddles on the ground, to serve as pillows, we wrapped our saddle-cloths round us, and were soon fast asleep. Story and the lad Horry did first duty as sentinels. While they were on guard I was wakened by a sharp tug at my leg, and while I was seizing hold of my rifle, I recognised Story's voice calling me by name. He told me that, after keeping a sharp look-out for about half-an-hour, he observed several fires on the hill-sides, apparently about half-a-mile off; he had been watching them for some time, and at last determined to wake one of the party.
I went with him outside the little willow copse where we had fixed ourselves, and true enough there were the fires, belonging, as we thought, to a camp of Indians—very likely the same who had stolen our horses and attacked us in the morning. We returned and woke the whole party; and, a consultation being held, it was decided, as we were well armed, and as the Indians had shown so much anxiety this morning to get beyond reach of our weapons, after tasting a few shots, to effect a surprise, and recover, if possible, our stolen horses. We saddled and mounted as quickly as possible, and, after riding about a mile in the direction of the fires, found that we were getting tolerably close to our enemies. On we went, taking every bush which crackled beneath our horses' tread for a token of the movements of some Indian scout who had scented our approach. When within a short distance of the camp-fires we dismounted, and tied our horses to some trees, leaving them in charge of the lad Horry, with directions for him to keep his ears well open, and, in the event of his hearing us retreat from the Indians, to give a few lusty shouts, so as to let us know where the means of flight wore to be found.
We advanced cautiously, Malcolm and Bradshaw preceding the main body, about twenty paces apart. The arrangement was for the five (namely, Lacosse, Story, the Trapper, Jose, and myself) who composed the main body, to form a semicircle, of which the two scouts would compose the extreme points, and so to approach the Indians' camp, on nearing which we were to fire a volley on them from our rifles, and, wheeling round, drive our horses off and retreat. We were within two hundred paces of the camp-fires when we were startled by the report of a rifle. A shrill whistle followed; but we still advanced, and in a few moments came up with Malcolm and Bradshaw, the sailor being supported in the arms of his companion, who called out that the man was shot, and begged me to look to him. The remainder of the party, hearing this, moved a few paces forward, levelled their rifles, and were on the eve of firing, when we were suddenly saluted, in true British vernacular, with an exclamation of "D—— your eyes, who goes there?" This so startled our party that it saved the lives, very probably, of the whole camp. They halted for a moment, and consulted together as to the course to be adopted. A shot had been fired from the camp, and one of our men injured. They, therefore, concluded that we had stumbled on the camp of one of those gangs of ruffians which were known to infest the hills at the foot of the Sierra Nevada.
At this juncture I ran up to the group with the intelligence that Bradshaw had been injured by a shot from his own rifle, which had accidentally gone off, and which circumstance Malcolm had not, in the first instance, explained. I told my companions that the man was seriously wounded in the leg; that I had merely bandaged it up with a handkerchief, and, leaving him in Malcolm's charge, had hastened forward to let them know the fact, that no more blood might be shed. No sooner was this explanation given than we heard a loud shout from the lad Horry, followed, as I thought, by some faint groans; but none of the others heard them, and I thought I might have been mistaken. It was concluded that he was merely shouting in accordance with our instructions, and no further notice was taken of the affair. At that instant several horses came galloping by at full speed, passing within a few yards of us, and, following them, we could discern half-a-dozen mounted Indians. We guessed the truth at once. They had cut the bridles of our horses, and were driving them away to rejoin their fellows, which had been stolen from us in the morning. We levelled our rifles and fired—reloaded, and fired again; and then, in the midst of a chorus of hallooing and screaming from the camp just before us, and the loud bellowing of the retreating Indians, started off in pursuit, and soon succeeded in turning our animals round, the Indians vanishing as rapidly as they had appeared.
Securing our steeds, we walked them back in the direction of the spot where we had left Horry, and, after some trouble, succeeded in finding the exact place, when, to our horror, we found the poor fellow quite dead, his body covered with blood, and his head and face dreadfully disfigured. A closer examination showed us that the poor lad, after being murdered, had been scalped by the savages. "Yes, yes," said the old trapper, "sure enough his scalp is dangling in the belt of one of them devils. G——d! I'll send an ounce of lead through the first red-skin I meet outside them clearings. We'll have vengeance—we will."
As soon as I was a little recovered from the horror which this scene naturally caused, I returned with the old trapper to the spot where I had left Malcolm and Bradshaw, hardly expecting, after what I had just witnessed, to find either of them alive. I was, however, happy in my fears not being realized. They were both as I had left them. We carried the wounded man as well as we could between us back to the place where the remainder of the party were waiting for us. Here we stayed till daybreak, silent and dejected. For my own part I could have wept. That rough sailor lad, though under other circumstances I might have looked down on him with contempt, and not have cared one straw whether he was dead or alive, had been one of a little society, every member of which had grown upon me in the rude life we had lived together in this wilderness, and I felt that I had lost a friend.
The day broke at last, and, after repairing our bridles as well as we could, we prepared to depart. We wrapped the body of the dead lad in a blanket, and laid it over the back of his horse to convey it to our camp, where we might bury it according to the rites of the English church. I examined the carpenter's leg, and found his hurt was, fortunately, only a flesh wound. It gave him, nevertheless, great pain to travel on horseback, but there was no other means of conveying him to the camp. As we rode slowly along, in the grey light of the morning, we caught sight of the valley, the scene of our last night's misfortunes, and saw on the hill-sides two white-tented emigrant wagons, with the horses quietly grazing down in the bottom. Several of us rode towards the spot, but found not a soul there. One of last night's mysteries was explained. The camp we had at first taken to be an Indian one, and then one of mountain robbers, was merely that of a few emigrants, who, having crossed the pass in the Sierra Nevada, were, doubtless, on their way to the Sacramento Valley. In all probability, alarmed by the extraordinary affair of last night, they had abandoned their wagons, and sought concealment from the dangers which they imagined surrounded them. We shouted out the words "Friends," "Americans," and other expressions, to give them confidence, if they were within hearing, but we obtained no reply. We, therefore, hastened to rejoin the remainder of our party, and in about three hours tune we reached the camp, cheering ourselves with the thought, as we moved along, that we should find McPhail had returned. But we were doomed to disappointment; there were no tidings of him, and sorrowfully did we set to work to dig poor Horry's grave. After Malcolm had read the service from the English Prayer-book over him, we sawed off a pine-log, which was inserted a couple of feet deep in the ground, and on the upper part, which had been smoothed for that purpose, we carved, in rude letters, his name, and the date of his death.
The party strengthen their defences No tidings of McPhail The trapper goes in search of him Returns, having met with no success McPhail makes his appearance accompanied by guides His adventures while away Finds he is lost Loses his rifle No supper Loses his horse No food for three days Sinks into a stupor Is discovered by two Indians Their humane treatment of him They conduct him by slow marches to the camp.
August 27th.—We have passed a heavy but not very profitable week. Three days of our time have been spent in strengthening our defences, and we have had some severe labour in felling pine trees and dragging them to the stockade. We have driven sharpened stakes into the earth, and, after laying the logs longitudinally within them, have twisted the lighter boughs and brushwood of the trees in the interstices. Before we began this task, however, the trapper, Malcolm, and Lacosse started in search of McPhail, but returned the same night (Sunday) unsuccessful. In the meantime, my two patients got on favourably, the pure air and temperate living doing more for the wounds than medical skill could effect.
On Monday, a council was held as to the propriety of sending another party in search of our missing friend; and, after some discussion, the trapper started off alone, taking rations with him to last him two or three days. On Wednesday we set to work again, digging and washing, confining ourselves, however, to that portion of the stream and to those canones which were in the vicinity of the camp. Upon the whole, we made good progress during the week, frequently averaging four ounces of gold dust and flakes a-day per man. Early on Wednesday the trapper made his appearance, but he had returned without any tidings of our missing friend.
It was upon Thursday evening, as we were returning to the camp after a hard day's work, that we were delighted at perceiving our comrade McPhail, whom we had given up for lost, making his way towards us, accompanied by a couple of Indians, fantastically dressed in the Spanish fashion, the costumes having been probably purchased by the sale of gold dust lower down the country. Our friend was, of course, joyfully received, and a special can of pisco punch brewed in honour of his return.
His adventures since his separation from the party were soon related. He had turned aside to water his horse at a small rivulet, and, on his return, waited at the trail for his comrades, whom he conceived to be still in the rear. After waiting for nearly half-an-hour, he thought that they must have passed him, and galloped after them in what he conceived to be the proper trail. After half-an-hour's ride, however, he found himself utterly at sea—no sign of the camp, or of his comrades. He mounted several high ridges, which he hoped might command a view of the Bear Valley; but all he could see was a wilderness of hills and deep ravines, here and there chequered with fertile bottoms clumped with pines and oaks. In fact, he grew quite confused, and, to add to his perplexity, in fording a rapid torrent his horse stumbled, and was carried off his legs by the strength of the stream, and had to swim for it. At length they gained the further bank; but our friend found that in his agitation he had dropped his rifle, which was irrecoverably gone.
Finding that he had no knowledge of the country about him, he determined to encamp for the night, and accordingly laid his head on his saddle, wrapped himself up in his cloak, and went supperless to sleep. When he awoke in the morning, he found that his horse, which he had tethered to a neighbouring stunted tree, had strayed away, and although he followed his trail for some time, he was eventually obliged to give up the search. The remainder of this and the following day he wandered about at random, amidst a wild and sterile country, furrowed with tremendous chasms several hundred feet in depth, and the edge of which it was necessary to skirt for miles ere a crossing-place could be found. During this time poor McPhail fared very hardly. He saw numerous herds of elk, but they bounded past unharmed: he had no rifle. He tried in vain to find some edible roots, and was at length reduced to the necessity of chewing grass and the pith of alder trees.
Throughout this period his sufferings were excessive; but as the time passed and brought no relief, he experienced a sickness and nausea of the most gnawing and horrible description. He became so weak that he could hardly stand. At length at sunset, on the third day of his wanderings, he laid himself down upon a spot of grass, and fell into a kind of stupor, in the full belief that he would only wake in the agonies of death. It was then that he was discovered by the two Indians who brought him to the camp. They behaved with great humanity towards him, allowing him, however, to eat, first of all, only a few morsels of the dried meat which they had with them, that he might not harm himself by over-eating, after such a lengthened fast. As his stomach by degrees recovered its tone, they permitted him to take further nutriment; and after encamping with them on that and the following night, he felt sufficiently recovered to proceed on his journey to this camp. His kind benefactors understood a few words of Spanish, and he was enabled to explain to them the part of the country he wished to reach. They undertook to guide him thither—told him they would arrive there after having slept once, and by slow marches made their way to Bear Valley, which they reached on the evening of the second day. McPhail expressed his surprise on finding that he had wandered no greater distance off. He showed his gratitude to his guides by presenting them with the two large holster pistols which he brought with him from Oregon; and on the following morning they took their departure from the camp.
The Author inclined to return to the coast Sickness in the camp Provisions run low What is to be done with the gold? Proposal to convey it to the coast Short rations Indians visit the camp The invalids of the party The conveyance of the gold again discussed Suspicions began to arise Captain Sutter's receipt missing Bradley's explanation Further discussion about the gold The matter at last arranged No chance of rain.
August 29th.—We have led a lazy life of it these last few days. The excitement we have lately undergone has unfitted us for regular labour; and, besides, one has had altogether a tolerably long spell of toil. Although, ever since we have been fairly settled here—now about a month—we have not worked more than from four to five hours daily, and have taken it by turns to go out on hunting expeditions, still I think most of us have had enough of it; and were it not that the rainy season will soon set in, when we shall be compelled to give over work, I should, for my own part, feel inclined to return to the coast forthwith. Sickness has begun to show itself in our camp, and we have three men now laid up: Bradshaw, whose wound, though healing, will still confine him for many days; Biggs, who has had a severe attack of fever, but is now recovering fast; and Bowling, who lies inside the shanty in an almost helpless state. My stock of drugs, too, is nearly exhausted. Thank God, my own health has altogether been most excellent. Although the vegetation dying off in the valleys at this time of the year gives rise to a sort of malaria, still, from the herbage not being of so rank a character about here as it is in the lower settlements, the effects are by no means so injurious; besides, the cool air from the mountains acts as a wholesome check.
Our provisions have run very low; nearly the whole of our flour is exhausted, and we are forced to live on the produce of our hunting expeditions. The little flour we have is set apart for the invalids of the party. Yesterday our hunters came in, after being absent all day, with only a black-tailed deer and a couple of hares; quails, however, are tolerably plentiful. Lacosse and the trapper have volunteered to set off to Sutter's, and bring us up a supply of breadstuffs sufficient to last us until the sickly season sets in. I believe it is arranged for them to start off tomorrow.
September 1st.—There have been several discussions as to the prudence of keeping the large quantity of gold we have already procured in camp, when we are liable to be surprised by the Indians, who for the sake of it would tomahawk and scalp us all round. It seems to have spread from tribe to tribe that the yellow earth which the pale faces are in search of will buy not only beads and buttons and red paint, but rifles, and charges of powder and ball, scarlet blankets, and the "strong water," which the Indian "loves, alas! not wisely but too well." Some are of the opinion that we ought to keep it by us, always leaving a proper guard on the look-out, until we finally abandon the digging, when we could return with it to the settlements in a body. Bradley and Don Luis are rather opposed to this plan, and volunteer to take the gold themselves to San Francisco or Monterey immediately, and deliver it into the custody of some merchant there on our joint account. I don't like this suggestion, for the amount is sufficiently large to tempt any one to make off with it; besides, it would be dangerous to send it without a strong guard. To-day we have put ourselves on short rations, as our stock of provisions is getting very low.
September 2nd.—The camp generally seem to be in favour of Bradley's proposition. Some of the more timid ones consider that we shall be in constant danger for the next two months before the rainy season commences, when we must give over work. It is a great pity that the gold was not sent down at the time Lacosse and the trapper left.
Three Indians came into the camp last night, belonging, we believe, to some tribe no great distance off. We gave them a good supper; and after it was over we took care to make as much display as possible of our firearms and bullet-pouches, and to see that our horses and mules were well tethered before we turned in for the night. Story and McPhail were the first guard. The three Indians wrapped themselves up in their blankets, and slept just outside the tent; and after a good breakfast in the morning took their departure, shaking hands with our party all round, and expressing by other signs their satisfaction at the treatment they had met with. Biggs is nearly recovered from his attack, and will commence work again in a couple of days; meanwhile, he is doing guard duty. Dowling and Bradshaw are still both very ill.
September 3rd, Sunday.—Bradley repeated his proposition to-day, that himself and Don Luis, accompanied by Jose, who was to take charge of a couple of horses, with packs containing the bulk of the gold, should start off the following morning. Story was of opinion that they ought to be attended by a guard as far as the Sacramento Valley; but, to our surprise, Bradley and Don Luis opposed this suggestion, on the score that such a precaution was unnecessary.
Yesterday evening I took an opportunity of speaking privately to Malcolm and McPhail in reference to Bradley's proposition, and also in reference to his and Don Luis's peremptory dismissal of Story's suggestion, without even allowing it to be discussed. We then brought a circumstance to our recollection which had never struck us before, namely, that neither of us had ever seen Captain Sutter's receipt for the gold Bradley had deposited in the Captain's charge, and we determined to bring the matter up the first opportunity. To-day, therefore, while we were at breakfast, Malcolm asked Bradley if Captain Sutter had given a receipt for the gold, when he answered "Yes, certainly;" but, to our surprise, stated that he had had the misfortune to burn it. He went on to say, that while on his return to Weber's Creek, during a halt he made, he had struck a light for his cigar, and had incautiously used the receipt for that purpose. He had mentioned the matter to Don Luis, he said, the same day he returned. Malcolm, McPhail, and myself, looked at each other, but we felt bound to believe Bradley's statement. We arranged, however, during a stroll we made from the camp, after breakfast was finished, not to agree to Bradley's proposition in reference to the conveyance of our present stock of gold, unless one of us three formed one of the party accompanying it.
After dinner, I brought the subject forward by observing, that if it was intended Bradley's plan should be carried out, Malcolm would desire to form one of the party; and as an excuse for his going, I stated that I wished him to get me a supply of drugs at San Francisco, as the little stock I had brought with me was quite exhausted;—foolish-like, not thinking at the time that Bradley and Don Luis could have procured them quite as readily as Malcolm, and that I was therefore giving no reason at all for his accompanying them. Malcolm, however, came to my relief, by stating he had business at San Francisco, as he wished to see the captains of some of the vessels in the harbour there that might be bound for the Columbia River. Bradley gave Don Luis a side-look, and said that no ships bound for the Columbia would be found at San Francisco at this time of the year. Biggs, however, who knew more about the shipping at that port than any of us, observed there would be; and rather a warm discussion ensued, which was interrupted by Story and McPhail both saying to Bradley, that as Malcolm really wanted to go to San Francisco, they had better go in company. As there could be no possible objection to this course, it has been finally arranged for them to start off on the 5th (Tuesday). Jose was to be left behind.
The takings of the past week have been very good, considering that we have two of our party absent, and three laid up with illness. The sky has been a good deal overcast to-day; but still, from what I learn, there is no chance of rain for another month.
The party start for the coast How the carrying of the gold was arranged The escort Character of the country they passed through Halt at noon An alarm A discovery The escort return, keeping a sharp look-out A merry evening The narrative resumed A loud whistle "The best part of the gold is lost" The party are sullen and angry Malcolm is missing Don Luis's explanation A lasso whirls through the air A horse shot Malcolm falls to the ground Bradley fires, and with effect Retire to cover A discharge of rifles The enemy wheel off Malcolm's horse is missing Malcolm found to be insensible More horsemen Tomas Maria Carillo Robberies at the mines Brutal conduct A litter procured Malcolm conveyed to a shanty A kind Californian woman A volley of inquiries about the gold "It is the doctor you have to thank for that" The Author's reflections.
September 5th.—This morning, the party bound for the coast started off as agreed on. We rose before daybreak, breakfasted, and got the horses in readiness just as the sun showed over the mountain. At my suggestion, Malcolm had the strongest horse we possessed allotted to him, as it had been arranged that he should carry the bulk of the gold, and that Don Luis and Bradley, who were to take as much as they could carry in their saddle-bags, were to form the guard. This plan was adopted in preference to having a led horse, which it was thought would greatly impede their progress, and prevent the party from reaching the settlements on the Sacramento that night. Bradley and Don Luis each took with them eighteen pounds weight of gold; Malcolm, who was unencumbered by anything, and merely carried a brace of pistols in his belt, took very nearly seventy pounds. To relieve Malcolm's horse as much as possible, three of us, who were to act as an escort to within a few miles of the Sacramento Valley, were each to carry fifteen pounds weight of the gold so far as we went. This escort was composed of Story, Jose, and myself.
We started off soon after sun rise, amidst the faint cheers of our invalided companions, and, as it was necessary for the escorting party to return to the camp that night, it was agreed that we were to retrace our steps at noon or thereabouts. The commencement of our ride was through an open country, broken up by boulders of granite and clumps of dark grey sage trees, when, after ascending some low rocky hills, their summits crowned with a dense forest of gigantic pines, we entered a grassy valley, lined with groups of noble cedars, whose spreading branches offered a most inviting shade. Every now and then, we had to make our way down the sides of huge chasms which intercepted our progress, and then to toil slowly up the difficult ascent.
At noon we halted and took shelter from the sun in a little dell with a gushing spring bubbling up in the midst, and a patch of willows fringing the banks of the running stream. We scampered our horses down it, dismounted, and, turning them loose to graze, seated ourselves at the base of a huge rock of granite. Our wallet of provisions was opened, and we soon made a hearty meal. Just as we had finished, some loose earth and a few small stones came tumbling down from above, knocking every now and then against the projecting ledges of rock in their descent. We immediately started up, thinking it might be some grizzly old bear anxious to make a meal of us, and Bradley and Malcolm scrambled up above to get a shot at him. But he had been too quick for them, for just as they reached the top, they heard the branches of the trees crackling in a tuft of underwood opposite, which lay between us and a deep water-course we had just crossed. As a fatiguing journey was before them, they did not think it worth while to give chase to the brute, and were on the point of descending again into the little hollow where they had left us, when the print of a man's foot caught Bradley's eye in the soft sandy earth. Several others were noticed close by, none of which, Bradley protested, had been made by our party, and certainly not by a bear, but by some sculking Indians, who had been very likely hovering about us. They hastened to communicate this intelligence to us, and it was decided that as the party bound for the coast were now within some few hours' ride of the upper settlements on the Sacramento, no Indians would be daring enough to attack them, and it would hardly be worth while for us to accompany them further. We, however, insisted upon riding a few miles more on the road, which having done, we took leave of them with many wishes for their safe and speedy return, and turned our horses' heads round in the direction of the camp.
Feeling rather fidgetty at the incident of the morning, we passed the spot where it had taken place, keeping an anxious look-out in every direction, and after a hard ride of several hours, reached the camp shortly after sundown, glad that we had escaped any disaster. We had a merry evening of it; a double allowance of whisky was served out, and we drank our friends' safe arrival and return.
* * * * *
I now sit down for the first time, after a lapse of several weeks, to resume the continuation of my narrative. Late in the evening of the 5th, while my companions were chatting over the fire, and I was engaged in writing, we were interrupted on a sudden by a loud whistle, the note of which I thought I could not be mistaken in. "Sure that's Bradley," exclaimed I; the others thought not, and, catching up their rifles, examined the flints. The whistle, when again repeated, convinced every one, however, that my first surmise had been correct. In another minute Bradley galloped up to us, and Don Luis soon followed after; but, to our astonishment, Malcolm was not of the party. "My friends," exclaimed Bradley, "a sad disaster; the best part of the gold is gone—lost beyond a doubt." "Lost!" said I, expecting some treachery on the part of Bradley and Don Luis; "How? I don't believe it; I never will believe it." Bradley gave me an angry look, but said nothing.
"Where's Malcolm?" exclaimed I. "Dead by this time, I am afraid," replied Bradley. "Good God!" I exclaimed aloud, and involuntarily muttered to myself, "Then you have murdered him." I noticed Bradley examined the countenances of the whole party by turns, and, as my eye followed his, I saw that every one looked sullen and angry. He, too, evidently saw this, and said nothing more the whole evening. Don Luis, however, volunteered the following explanation of the mystery.
He informed us that, after we had parted from them, they put their horses into a quick trot, to escape as soon as possible into a more agreeable-looking sort of country. They suspected some vagabond Indians were hovering about, and as the ground they were travelling over afforded too many opportunities of concealment to gentry of their character, they were anxious to reach a more open district. Their road lay, for several miles, over a succession of small hills, intersected by valleys covered with stunted oak trees, and with here and there a solitary pine. Just at a point, when they were winding round a ridge of hills, which they imagined separated them from the Sacramento Valley, having a small skirting of timber on their left hand, he, Don Luis, being slightly in advance of Bradley and Malcolm, happened to turn his head round, when he saw a horseman stealthily emerging from the thicket, at a point a short distance in their rear. In a very few moments another horseman joined the first, and before Don Luis could give an alarm, the second rider, who, it seems, was an Indian, had risen in his saddle and had flung out his lasso, which, whizzing through the air true to its aim, descended over Malcolm's head and shoulders. Don Luis, who saw all this, immediately jumped from his horse, and, placing his finger on the trigger of his rifle, fired just as the Indian was galloping away. The ball entered his horse's head, when the beast was brought to a stand, and, in a second of time, rolled over with its rider beneath it, just as the noose had tightened, and Malcolm was being drawn off his horse to the ground. Bradley, who only knew of the danger they were in by hearing the lasso whirl through the air, immediately dismounted, and, like Don Luis, sheltered himself behind his horse, while he took aim and fired. His never-failing rifle brought down one of their enemies, a swarthy-looking man in the usual Mexican sombrero, off his horse to the ground. In the twinkling of an eye they led their horses behind some boulders of granite which afforded them cover, and from behind which they saw four men come charging down upon them. But Bradley and Don Luis, skilled in this kind of warfare, had already stooped down and reloaded. Don Luis was the first to let fly at the advancing party, but without success. His shot was answered by a discharge of rifles from the enemy, which whistled over his and Bradley's heads. Crack went Bradley's rifle again—"And you would have thought," said Don Luis to us, "that the ball had split into four pieces, and had given each man a tender touch, for they wheeled round their horses in an instant, and galloped off, driving Malcolm's horse before them, which we never saw again."