Don Luis then went on to say, that as soon as they saw the coast was clear, they left their cover and sought out Malcolm, who was lying on the ground with the lasso lightly pinioning his arms, and to all appearance dead. On a closer examination, however, they found that he still breathed, and also that he had been severely trampled on by some of the horses of the robbers in their retreat. Bradley pulled out his bowie-knife and cut the lasso in a few moments, when they tried to raise him up, but found that the injuries he had sustained prevented him from standing. He was, in fact, quite insensible. At that moment they were alarmed by the sound of voices, and looking round they saw a party of horsemen riding up at full speed from the direction of the Sacramento. They gave themselves up for lost, but, to their delight, the new-comers proved to be a party of miners, who hearing so many rifle-reports in such rapid succession, had immediately hastened to the spot. Don Luis supposed that the robbers had seen their approach, and that this, and not the bullet from Bradley's rifle, had been the cause of the scoundrels' precipitate retreat. They found the Indian's horse, to the saddle of which the lasso was attached, quite dead. The Indian himself had managed to crawl off, though doubtless much hurt, as Don Luis saw the horse roll right over him. The body of the robber shot by Bradley was found; life was quite extinct, the ball having passed through his chest in a transverse direction, evidently penetrating the heart. He was recognised by some of the miners—natives of the country—as one of the disbanded soldiers of the late Californian army, by name Tomas Maria Carillo; a man of the very worst character, who had connected himself with a small band of depredators, whose occupation was to lie in wait at convenient spots along the roads in the neighbourhood of the sea' coast, and from thence to pounce upon and plunder any unfortunate merchant or ranchero that might be passing unprotected that way. The gang had now evidently abandoned the coast to try their fortune in the neighbourhood of the mines, and, judging from the accounts which one of the miners gave of the number of robberies that had recently taken place about there, their mission had been eminently successful.
"Our first care," continued Don Luis, "was to see to poor Malcolm, and our next object was to go in pursuit of the ruffians. On intimating as much to our new friends, to our surprise they declined to render us any assistance. Their curiosity, which it seems was the only motive that brought them towards us, had been satisfied, and I felt disgusted at the brutality of their conduct when they coolly turned their horses' heads round, and left us alone with our dying friend, not deigning further to notice our appeals to them for assistance. No, they must set to work again, digging and washing, and we might thank ourselves that their coming up had saved our lives; this was the burthen of their reply. In their eager pursuit of gold, they had not a moment to spare for the commonest offices of Christian charity. At length," said Don Luis, "in answer to my passionate expostulations, backed by the offer of any reward they might demand—which offer alone gave force to my words—two of them consented to return in about an hour with a litter to convey Malcolm to their camp.
"The litter they brought was formed of branches of trees tied together, and covered thickly over with blankets. On this Malcolm was slowly borne down the hill-side, until a rude shanty was reached. He was carried inside, and we were fortunate enough to meet with a kind Californian woman, who promised to attend on him while we returned here for your assistance."
In reply to my inquiries, Don Luis said that he thought there were no bones broken, but poor Malcolm was dreadfully bruised, and his flesh in parts much lacerated. He feared, however, that he had experienced some severe internal injuries. As it was utterly impossible for me to have found my way to him that night, I determined to take a short nap and hurry to him the following morning.
During Don Luis's recital I did not for one moment think of the gold which we had lost; all my sympathies were with my poor friend. But, at the conclusion of Don Luis's narrative, I saw that but few of my associates participated in my grief. Don Luis was immediately assailed with inquiries rudely addressed to him in reference to the missing gold. In reply, he stated that we all knew that Malcolm carried in his saddle-bags the great bulk of the gold they were conveying to San Francisco; and that, of course, when the robbers drove off the horse, the gold went with it. "It is the doctor you have to thank for that," growled out Bradley; and though I could not see the matter in this light, still I could not help thinking of my own distrustful disposition, which, in reality, had been the cause of making Malcolm a party to the conveyance of the treasure; this, in fact, had in all probability sacrificed my friend's life. I thought of his poor wife and children in Oregon, who would bewailing in vain for his return, which he, poor follow, had delayed so long, in the hope of going back to them laden with wealth. Throughout the whole of the night most of the party remained gathered around the camp-fire-now in sullen silence, and now expressing their bitter dissatisfaction at the arrangements which had led to the day's misfortune. And when the first faint light of daybreak showed over the tall peaks of the snowy mountains, it discovered us looking haggard and dejected, alike wearied and disgusted with everything around.
The stock of gold remaining weighed and shared Squabbling over it The party separate The Author and others start off They meet with Lacosse and the trapper Lacosse's explanation Arrive at Sutter's Purchase flour at eighty-five dollars a barrel Camps of miners A gold-washing colony Encamped for the night Horses and flour missing in the morning Visit a big bony American A hole threatened in their skulls How quarrels are settled Lacosse promises to join the party at Sutter's The march resumes Arrive at Malcolm's shanty The doctor prescribes for his patient Malcolm's first idea of the lasso The party leave for Sutter's.
We made a hasty meal from our scanty stock of provisions on the morning of the 6th, and directly it was over—just as I was about saddling my horse, to start off to visit poor Malcolm—Don Luis informed me that our companions seemed all to be of opinion that it would be best to share the stock of gold still remaining at once, when those that preferred it could make their way to the settlements, and the others could continue working, if they pleased, on their own account. I had no objection to offer to this proposition, and the gold was all collected together and weighed. Bradley undertook the charge of Lacosse's share, and I was requested to convey Malcolm's to him. Altogether we scraped up nearly forty-two pounds weight; for, besides the gold which Don Luis and Bradley had in their saddle-bags, there were a few pounds more belonging to the general stock. This had to be divided equally, for the gold we had brought from Weber's Creek had been confided to Malcolm's charge in a separate bag. It gave exactly four pounds two ounces a man—value seven hundred dollars. This, with six hundred and fifty dollars, my share of the gold deposited with Captain Sutter, and the dust, scales, and lumps, arising from my share of the sale of the cradles, and the produce at the Mormon diggings, before Lacosse and Biggs joined us, would amount, in the whole, to over fifteen hundred dollars.
The greater part of the morning was taken up with squabbles respecting the weighing of the gold. I took no part in it, and was content to receive just what was allotted to me. I called McPhail aside, and asked him what it was he intended doing. He replied, that if any of the others would join him, he would start in pursuit of the men who had plundered us. He was sorry the old trapper was not here, as, with his assistance, he felt certain the scoundrels might be ferreted out. Feeling that the journey to poor Malcolm was too dangerous a one to be attempted alone, I was compelled to wait until I could prevail on some of the party to join me. Don Luis, Jose, Bradley, McPhail, and myself, at length arranged to start off. Biggs, who was now quite well, preferred waiting behind a few days longer. Neither Bradshaw nor Bowling were sufficiently recovered to travel. Story determined to wait until they were well enough to accompany him. I hardly liked the notion of leaving these four men behind—only two, or at most three, of them able to protect themselves in the event of their being attacked; still they did not seem to fear the danger: though, even if they had, most of us had grown so selfish and unaccommodating, that I don't think they would have met with much sympathy.
It was an hour beyond noon when we were in readiness to start. We took two of the baggage-horses with us, to carry the tent-poles and covering, and a few utensils. Our personal baggage was packed on the horses we rode. Bradley and Don Luis rode in advance, Jose followed with the baggage-horses, and McPhail and myself brought up the rear. We had not proceeded more than four miles on the trail when we saw a couple of horsemen some distance ahead; advancing towards us. As soon as we were within a couple of hundred yards of each other, we at once recognised them to be Lacosse and the old trapper. Urging our horses into a smart trot, we soon arrived alongside of them; and, on inquiring what it was that had caused them to remain so long at Sutter's, and also how it was that they had neither the baggage-horses nor, apparently, any provisions with them, Lacosse gave us this explanation.
He stated that after leaving the camp, they struck the Sacramento River that night, and succeeded in reaching the upper settlements towards evening on the following day. The next morning they pursued their journey and arrived at Sutter's Fort about sundown; they encamped near here for the night. Flour was as much as eighty-five dollars a-barrel, and everything in the way of provisions was in the same proportion. They purchased a stock of flour, and, packing their horses, moved off the same day. In the evening they encamped some fifteen miles up the Sacramento, near the mouth of the Feather River, and within a hundred yards of the spot where the Indian village existed which Captain Sutter had destroyed; the whole circumstances connected with which we had already heard from the old trapper. They resumed the journey early on the following morning, and by the evening had made about twenty-five miles, when they rested for the night near one of the little camps of miners, which they found scattered about the valley every few miles along the route. The next day they pushed forward, and found those encampments much less numerous—only one or two were passed throughout the entire day. Just after sundown, however, they saw by the fires up the hills quite a little colony of gold-washers, which they moved towards; and, after purchasing some provisions at a store recently opened there, for which they paid a most exorbitant price, they securely tethered their horses to stakes they had driven in the ground, and encamped for the night. They did not think it necessary to keep watch, but when they awoke in the morning they found the baggage-horses had been driven off, and their packs stolen. The horses they had been riding on were just as they had left them over night. The trail-marks around the camp were too numerous to make anything out of them.
On making inquiries at several of the tents, they were treated in a very cavalier sort of manner. No one, of course, knew anything about their horses and packs, and one big bony American even threatened to put a rifle-ball into them unless they left his shanty. This was rather too much for them to swallow quietly, so they rated the fellow in round terms; but he very coolly reached his rifle down from a shelf above him, and told them that he would give them time to consider whether they would move off or not while he examined his flint, and if they were not gone by that time, he would make a hole in each of their skulls, one after the other. Finding that he was coolly preparing to carry out his threat, they made their exit, and found some ten or twelve people gathered together outside. From one of them Lacosse learnt that this man had shot two people since he had fixed himself at this spot, and that he was a terror to most of the miners in the camp. It appears to have been no uncommon thing among them for a man to settle a quarrel by severely disabling his adversary. There were several people at work down by the river, with their arms in slings, who had received serious injuries in quarrels with some of their fellows.
They thought it best to escape from such a state of things with as little delay as possible, and immediately mounted their horses and pursued their journey. That night they took good care to encamp far enough off from any of the gold-finding fraternity.
It was now our turn to explain to Lacosse the reason of our return to the settlements, and the unfortunate circumstances that had led to it. Ho was disappointed enough at the intelligence. He said that he should go on to the fort and collect his baggage together, and would, if possible, join Don Luis, Bradley, and McPhail at Sutter's, and see whether any plan could be arranged on for recovering our stolen treasure. The trapper was to accompany him, and it was agreed that either Bradley or McPhail should await their arrival at Sutter's Fort.
We resumed our journey, and at sundown fixed our tent at the bottom of a steep hollow, and supped off the moderate rations we had brought with us from the camp. The night was quite frosty, and when I awoke in the morning, my limbs were numbed with cold. We prepared our coffee, and partook of our slight breakfast, then, saddling the horses, resumed our march. It was late in the evening when we reached the rude shanty to which poor Malcolm had been conveyed a couple of days since. It was an anxious moment to me; but I was gratified to find that he had so far recovered from the injuries he had sustained as to be able to sit up and to take some little nourishment. He told me that beyond the severe bruises with which his body was covered, and a wound in the fleshy part of his leg, he did not think he was otherwise injured. Throughout the whole of yesterday he had experienced the most violent pains in his head; but a comfortable sleep into which he had fallen last night had, to all appearances, entirely deprived him of them. He was troubled though, he told me, with a sickening sensation, which made him loathe anything in the shape of food. I at once prescribed such remedies as I thought necessary to be applied immediately, and left him in charge of his kind nurse until the morning.
I was at his bedside shortly after the sun rose, and watched by him until he awoke Another good night's rest had greatly benefited him. During the day, recurring to his misfortune, he told me that when the lasso first fell over his shoulders, he fancied for the moment that he was in the gripe of some wild beast, but immediately he felt himself drawn from his horse, the truth became apparent to him. He was stunned by the fall, and lay insensible on the ground, quite unconscious that the horse of one of the robbers had trampled upon him, as had evidently been the case.
Don Luis, Bradley, McPhail and Jose left us about noon on their way to Sutter's Fort. I promised to rejoin them in a few days, if Malcolm so far recovered as no longer to be in need of my services. I was in great hopes of such a result, as he showed evident signs of improvement since I saw him the previous day.
The gold district Sickness and selfishness The dead become the prey of the wolf Malcomb's gradual recovery The kindness of his nurse A malaria Life and property alike insecure The wealthy gold-finder laid in wait for Bodies in the river Gold for a pillow Robberies Rags Brandy at a dollar a-dram The big bony American again Sutter's Fort Intelligence of Lacosse Intelligence of the robbers Sweeting's Hotel again A meeting "El Capitan" Desertions from the ships Andreas' offer to a captain The first Alcalde gone to the mines The second Alcalde follows his superior Start for Monterey in pursuit of Andreas Board the vessels in port A deserter arrested Leave Monterey Cross the coast range Meet with civilized Indians Intelligence of the robbers Indian horse-stealers Continue the pursuit Abandon it and return to Monterey.
I stayed with Malcolm throughout the next few days, and spent a good part of my time out of doors among the gold-washers, but still I felt no inclination to take part in their labours. Fever was very prevalent, and I found that more than two-thirds of the people at this settlement were unable to move out of their tents. The other third were too selfish to render them any assistance. The rainy season was close at hand, when they would have to give over work, but meanwhile they sought after the gold as though all their hopes of salvation rested on their success. I was told that deaths were continually taking place, and that the living comrades of those whose eyes were closed in that last sleep when "the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest," denied the poor corpses of their former friends a few feet of earth for a grave, and left the bodies exposed for the wolf to prey upon.
In a couple of days Malcolm was sufficiently recovered no longer to require my assistance. At his instigation, I took my departure towards Sutter's Fort, where McPhail or Lacosse might perhaps still be waiting for me. I felt that he was in good hands, and that his kind Californian nurse and her husband would do all that they could for him. Their kind treatment of my poor friend offered a striking contrast to the callous selfishness around.
I journeyed by slow marches along the banks of the Sacramento, passing several colonies of gold-finders on my way. At noon I halted at one of these, and loitered some little time round about the camp. The rapidly-decaying vegetation—here unusually rank—was producing a malaria, and sickness was doing its ravages; but still the poor infatuated people, or rather such of them as were not prevented by positive inability, worked on until they sunk under the toil. Every one seemed determined to labour as hard as possible for the few weeks left before the rainy season set in, and the result was, that many of them met their deaths. There were others, though, who sought to enrich themselves with the shining gold by a quicker and, perhaps, less dangerous process than all this weary toil.
According to the accounts I heard, life and property were alike insecure. The report ran, that as soon as it became known that a man had amassed a large amount of gold, he was watched and followed about till an opportunity presented itself of quietly putting him out of the way. There had been but few known deaths, but the number of persons who had been missed, and whose own friends even had not thought it worth while to go in search of them, was very large. In every case the man's stock of gold was not to be found in his tent; still there was nothing surprising in this, as every one made a point of carrying his gold about him, no matter how heavy it might happen to be. One or two dead bodies had been found floating in the river, which circumstance was looked upon as indicative of foul play having taken place, as it was considered that the poorest of the gold-finders carried fully a sufficient weight of gold about them to cause their bodies to sink to the bottom of the stream. Open attempts at robbery were rare; it was in the stealthy night time that thieves prowled about, and, entering the little tents, occupied by not more than perhaps a couple of miners, neither of whom, in all probability, felt inclined to keep a weary watch over their golden treasure, carried off as much of it as they could lay their hands on. By way of precaution, however, almost every one slept with their bag of gold underneath their pillow, having a rifle or revolver within their reach.
That same night I reached the camp of gold-washers, where Lacosse and the trapper had had their horses and packs of provisions stolen from them. The robbery, I believe, was committed by men almost on the verge of want, who thought it a more convenient way of possessing themselves of a stock of provisions than performing a journey to the lower settlements for that purpose would have been, and a cheaper way than purchasing them here, where they run scarce, and where the price of them is exorbitantly high. Other things are in proportion. Clothing of any description is hardly to be had at any price, and the majority of the miners go about in rags. Collected round a rude shanty, where brandy was being dispensed at a dollar a-dram! I saw a group of ragged gold-diggers, the greater part of them suffering from fever, paying this exorbitant price for glass after glass of the fiery spirit, every drop of which they consumed was only aggravating their illness, and, in all probability, bringing them one step nearer to their grave.
The big bony American, who treated Lacosse and the trapper in such a peremptory manner, and who seemed to be the terror of these diggings, was pointed out to me. I learnt, however, that he had accumulated a very large amount of gold, over sixteen thousand dollars' worth, it was said; and his suspicions that parties were lying in wait to plunder him of it was the cause of his acting as he had done. He thought they only came to his shanty with an excuse, for the purpose of observing its weak points, and that no doubt they had a scheme in their heads for robbing him, either at night time, or while he was absent digging and washing during the day. The men he had shot, it seems, were common thieves—one, a deserter from the garrison at Monterey, and the other belonging to a similar band of robbers to that by which our party had been attacked, and our gold carried off.
I reached Sutter's Fort the next day, and found it like the most crowded localities of some of our great cities, with the exception that the bulk of the people we met with belonged to a totally different race. I saw Captain Sutter for a few moments, when he informed me that Mr. Bradley and his party had left a couple of days ago; and that a gentleman, accompanied by a man named Joe White, who, as the Captain said, used to trap for him before the gold fever came up, had been making inquiries at the Fort respecting Mr. Bradley that very day. I at once saw that this could be no other than Lacosse, and set off to see if I could meet with him. After some search, I was fortunate enough to discover him at the newly opened hotel here, where he had intended stopping for the night. I remained with him and shared his room—a little box not more than ten feet by twelve, or thereabouts; but we considered ourselves fortunate in having obtained even that, the place being tremendously crowded.
I heard from Lacosse that Captain Sutter had informed him that the leader of the band of desperadoes who had plundered us had been seen down at the Fort with some of his companions not more than ten days ago. He was quite sure he was right in the man; for Tomas Maria, who had been shot, belonged to his gang, and was, in fact, his chief lieutenant. The name of El Capitan was Andreas Armjo; and Captain Sutter said he recommended Bradley to make his way to San Francisco, where, in all probability, he would meet with him, as when he left the Fort he had taken the road towards the coast.
The next day we started off towards San Francisco, and, from inquiries made on the road, found that we were on the correct track—Bradley, Don Luis, McPhail, and Jose, having passed through a day or two previous. We arrived at the end of our journey without meeting with any adventures worth noting, and at once made our way to Sweeting's hotel, glad to find it one of the few houses in this town that were not shut up. Here we met with our friends, who had been there now nearly two days, and were then on the point of starting off in pursuit of Andreas and his comrades. We learned from them, that directly they heard the important information which Captain Sutter had communicated to them, they started off in pursuit, but not with any expectation of coming up with the gentlemen they were in search of before arriving at San Francisco. They had constant tidings of them all along the route, as El Capitan was too well known to many a poor ranchero whom he had plundered of the dollars produced by the sale of his hides, while on his journey home from the sea-coast.
When they arrived at San Francisco, they made inquiries whether any ships had recently left the harbour, and were glad to find that there was not a merchant vessel in port with enough hands on board to weigh the anchor. Every ship had been more or less deserted by its crews, who had hastened off for a few weeks' labour at the gold-diggings. They found, however, that Andreas Armjo and his men had been making inquiries on board of several of the vessels to ascertain when any of them left port. On finding none were sufficiently manned to do so, they offered the captain of one schooner a thousand dollars to land them at any port in Mexico he pleased, and said they would themselves help to work the ship. The captain, however, declined the offer.
After receiving this intelligence, they went to the house of the first alcalde, to consult with him on what steps should be taken to arrest the robbers, who were then doubtless at some place near the coast. They found, however, that he had gone to the mines with the rest of the people, and they made their way to the residence of the second alcalde, in the hope of being more fortunate; but he too had gone to the mines with his superior. Further inquiries satisfied them that there was not an officer of justice left in the town of San Francisco, and they had therefore determined to make their way forthwith to Monterey, as, in all probability, the gang would proceed there in the hope of meeting with a ship.
Lacosse and myself determined to accompany them, and the old trapper volunteered his services, which were accepted. We obtained fresh horses from Sweeting, and set off in gallant style, determined to shorten the distance by hard riding. It was early on Wednesday morning when we arrived at Monterey; and McPhail and Bradley proceeded to board all the ships in the bay, while Don Luis, Lacosse, and myself made inquiries about the town. We soon learnt that Andreas Armjo and his party had been paying it a visit; and, moreover, one of the gang, who thought he had disguised himself so as not to be recognised, had been seized as a deserter from the garrison here. The others were not interfered with, as there was no specific charge out against them. Our robbery had, of course, not been heard of here. Don Luis and myself, after having dispatched Lacosse to communicate this intelligence to Bradley and McPhail, sought an interview with Colonel Mason, and, on informing him of the robbery and the circumstances attending it, received from him an order to see the soldier who was then under arrest. By promises of not proceeding against him, for any share he might have had in the robbery, we induced him to confess the whole circumstances connected with it, and also to inform us of the route intended to be taken by El Capitan and the two others of the gang. This, it seems, was along the great Spanish Trail to Santa Fe.
On rejoining our companions, we decided to continue here the remainder of the day, and to start off the next morning in pursuit. We informed Colonel Mason of the circumstance, and he stated that he would have furnished us with a guard to accompany us, if he did not feel certain that the men would desert to the mines directly they got outside the town.
At four o'clock the next morning we commenced the journey, each of us taking a stock of provisions sufficient to last for a fortnight; although we hoped, and fully expected, that we should be back to Monterey several days before that time had expired. It was purely a question of hard riding. Andreas and his party had started, as far as we could learn, three days in advance of us, and no doubt knew the track better than the old trapper who had undertaken to accompany us as guide. He had never penetrated further than the foot of the Sierra, so that if we were compelled to cross the mountains we should have to seek for some Indians to guide us on our course. By pressing our horses hard we succeeded in crossing the hills of the coast range that night, and encamped some slight way down the descent, in as sheltered a spot as we could manage to select. The night was quite frosty, but we made up a blazing fire, and, well wrapped up in our serapes, slept till morning, without feeling much inconvenience from the cold. Next day we struck the river of the lakes, and found it thickly hemmed in with timber along its whole course. We soon found a fording place, and encamped at night a few miles from the east bank. The following morning we fell in with some civilized Indians, who informed us, in answer to our inquiries, that a party of three whites passed along the trail the evening before last, and that they would have encamped not far from this spot.
These Indians, Don Luis informed me, had all of them been attached to the Californian Missions; but, since the downfall of these establishments, they had moved across the coast range, and had located themselves in the neighbourhood of the Tule Lakes, subsisting chiefly on horseflesh. To gratify their appetites, however, instead of giving chase to the number of wild horses—here called mustangs—that are scattered over the extensive prairies in the neighbourhood of the lakes, they adopt a much lazier method of supplying their larder. This is, to make predatory excursions across the mountains, and to drive off a large herd of tame horses, belonging to some poor ranchero, at a time; these they slaughter, and subsist on as long as the flesh lasts, when they set out again on a similar expedition. Sometimes they are pursued, and, if overtaken, butchered forthwith; but, in general, they manage to escape some little distance into the interior, where they are safe not to be followed.
We put spurs into our horses, and soon cleared the marshy ground intervening between us and the Fork, which we forded, and rode for several miles through a country thickly covered over with oak trees and intersected by numerous small rivulets. Large herds of elk were frequently started, and during the whole day their shrill whistle was continually being heard.
We encamped to-night without having heard anything more of Andreas Armjo and his companions. Several parties of Indians we met a few hours before sundown stated that they had not seen any white men along the trail. I felt disposed, as far as I was myself concerned, to give over the pursuit, as my horse was already worn out by the journey; but my companions would not listen to it, and determined, at any rate, to see what would result from following it up briskly during the next day. We had all noticed that there were no new signs of horses that had been shod passing along the trail, but Bradley was of opinion that the party would be mounted on unshod beasts, as very few of the native Californians had their horses shod, unless they were going a journey across a rough broken country.
Next day we fell in with several more parties of Indians, from whom we learnt that the men we were in pursuit of were full two days journey before us. One party, who had seen them encamped the preceding evening more than forty miles ahead, told us that they had inquired of them where the trail turned off to Los Angelos. As this town was at least five or six days' journey distant, and as the Sierra had to be crossed to reach it, we concluded among ourselves that it would be best for us to return to Monterey forthwith. This decision was readily come to, as there was now no hope of overtaking the party, and every step we proceeded we were getting into a more hostile country. In all probability, if we had pursued them to Los Angelos, we should have discovered that they had struck off on to the great Spanish Trail, as was their original intention, or else have found that they had been to Los Angelos and had taken their departure for some other place.
We therefore turned our horses' heads, and retraced our steps towards the coast in no merry mood. We rode along, in fact, in sullen silence, only broken to mutter out our expressions of disappointment at the escape of those who had robbed us of the fruits of so many months of toil, exposure, and hardship. We encountered nothing very remarkable during our three days' journey to Monterey. There were the same prairies to cross, the same thickets to penetrate, and the same streams to ford. Herds of elk and mustangs were continually seen upon the heights, and every now and then we met with some small parties of Indians, many of the chiefs dressed in the Spanish fashion. We were too well armed, and too many in number, for any of them to venture to attack us, had they been so inclined; but generally their intentions seemed to be perfectly pacific.
The Author and his friends part company Their regrets at the separation Friendship in the wilderness Friendship at a supper The Author finds himself alone Monterey deserted High wages Officers' servants not to be obtained A few arrivals from the mines Stores shut, houses blocked up, and ships left defenceless.
We had previously determined, on arriving at the sea-coast, to part company. There was now no object for keeping together in a party, and our future plans were, of course, very undecided. It was, therefore, clearly advisable that we should, at least for the present, separate. This resolution was not come to without something like a pang—a pang which I sincerely felt, and which I believe was more or less experienced by us all. We had lived for four months in constant companionship—we had undergone hardships and dangers together, and a friendship, more vivid than can well be imagined in civilized lands to have been the growth of so short a period, had sprung up betwixt us. There had been a few petty bickerings between us, and some unjust suspicions on my part in respect to Bradley; but these were all forgotten. Common sense, however, dictated the dissolution of our party. When we reached Monterey, we went to an inferior sort of hotel, but the best open; and the following day we arranged the division of the proceeds arising from the sale of the gold that Bradley had left with Captain Sutter for consignment here. The same night we had a supper, at which a melancholy species of joviality was in the ascendant, and the next day shook hands and parted. Don Luis went back to his own pleasant home, and Bradley started for San Francisco. As for the others, I hardly know what were their destinations. All I know is, that on waking the next morning, I found that I was alone.
After breakfast I walked about the town. Like San Francisco, Monterey has been nearly deserted. Everybody has gone to the diggings, leaving business, ships, and stores, to take care of themselves. The persons who remain are either persons carrying on profitable branches of commerce, the very existence of which requires the presence of principals upon the spot, and their clerks and servants, who have been tempted by high wages to stay. To give an idea of the rate of remuneration paid, I may mention that salesmen and shopmen have been receiving at the rate of from two thousand three hundred to two thousand seven hundred dollars, with their board, per annum. Mere boys get extravagant salaries in the absence of their seniors; and the lowest and most menial offices are paid for at a rate which only such a wonderful influx of gold would render credible.
But, even with the inducement of this high pay, it was found exceedingly difficult to retain the services of persons engaged in commercial and domestic capacities. I learned from Colonel Mason that the officers in garrison at Monterey had not been able for two months to command the assistance of a servant. Indeed, they had been actually obliged either to cook their own dinners, or to go without. Every one had taken his turn in the culinary department, and even Colonel Mason had not been exempted.
The prevalence of sickness at the mines has sent a few people back here; but, with the commencement of the rainy season, I anticipate that there will be plenty of labour in the market, and that its value will become correspondingly depreciated. In the meantime, the general aspect of the town is forlorn and deserted; stores are shut, houses blocked up, and in the harbour ships ride solitary and defenceless.
Letter from the Author to his Brother in England.
MONTEREY, October 11th, 1848.
DEAR GEORGE,—I take advantage of the departure of a courier sent by Colonel Mason, the United States Governor of California, to Washington, with dispatches, to let you know what I have been about during the five months which have elapsed since I last wrote you. Long before you receive this you will have heard in England of the extraordinary occurrences which have taken plate out here. My last letter, which I hope you received, told you of the failure of the emigration scheme to Oregon, and of my intention of leaving that barren desert-like place, the first possible opportunity. A friend of mine, of whom I have before spoken to you, namely, Mr. Malcolm, a Scotchman, and a thorough practical agriculturist, was anxious to shift his quarters to California, the soil of which country was represented by every one who had visited it as of extraordinary fertility. We had heard of the war that was going on between the United States and Mexico having extended itself to that country, and Mr. Malcolm prevailed on me to accompany him to San Francisco, where he thought I might manage to obtain an appointment in the United States army. We made the voyage together, and the accompanying diary—of which more by-and-by—commences with an account of our first setting out.
But to return to California. I assure you it is hardly possible for any accounts of the gold mines, and of what I may call gold gravel and sand, to be exaggerated. The El Dorado of the early voyagers to America has really been discovered; and what its consequences may be, not only upon this continent, but upon the world, wiser heads—heads more versed than mine is in monetary science—must tell. There is much speculation here as to the effects which the late wonderful discovery will produce in the States and the old country. Of course we expect to be inundated with emigrants, coming, I suppose, from every part of the world, and truly, for all I can tell, there will be gold enough for all.
And now, the first question you will ask me is, whether I have made my fortune? I reply, my old bad luck has not forsaken me. I always seem to come in for monkey's allowance—more kicks than halfpence. Three months ago I thought my fortune was made, and that I might come home a South American nabob. Nothing of the kind. Here I was, almost on the spot, when the first news of the gold was received. I have worked hard, and undergone some hardships, and, thanks to the now almost lawless state of this country, I have been deprived of the great mass of my savings, and must, when the dry season comes round again, set to work almost anew. I have but fourteen hundred dollars' worth of the precious metal remaining, and, with the rate of prices which now universally prevails here, that will not keep me much over a couple of months. My own case, though, is that of many others. As the number of diggers and miners augmented, robberies and violence became frequent. At first, when we arrived at the Mormon diggings, for example, everything was tranquil. Every man worked for himself, without disturbing his neighbour. Now the scene is widely changed indeed. When I was last there, as you will see by my diary, things were bad enough; but now, according to the reports we hear, no man, known to be in possession of much gold, dare say, as he lays down his head at night, that he will ever rise from his pillow. The fact is, that there is no executive government of any strength here to put an end to this state of things. The country is almost a wilderness, whereof Indians are the principal inhabitants. The small force Colonel Mason has here has been thinned very materially by desertions, and the fidelity of those that remain is, according to the opinion of their commanding officer, not to be over much depended on.
Of course, as you may expect, I am naturally much cast down at the turn which matters have taken—I mean as regards my own misfortune. It is heart-breaking to be robbed by a set of villains of what you have worked so hard for, and have undergone so much to obtain. I am in hopes, however, that my next gold campaign may be a more, successful one. I dare say there have been plenty of accounts of the doings in California in the newspapers. As, however, not only you, but Anna and Charley, and my kind friends Mr. and Mrs. —— and Miss ——, and many others, will, I am sure, be glad to know something about my own personal adventures, I send you a rough diary of what I have seen and done. I hardly know whether you will be able to make the whole of it out, for I have interlined it in many parts, and my writing never was of the most legible character. You know I have always been in the habit, ever since I first went abroad, of jotting down some record of my movements, scanty enough, but still forming a memorial which it is pleasant to look back upon. As, however, the gold affair is not only a great feature in a man's life, but in the history of our times, I made pretty full jottings of my adventures every few days; and since I returned here, I have spent several days in expanding them, and adding to them a few extra particulars which I thought would be of interest. I don't know whether you will care to wade through such a bundle of information. The MS. when I got it all together quite frightened me, and I hardly liked to ask Colonel Mason to transmit such a bulky parcel for me; but you know our couriers over here travel with quite a cavalcade of horses, and a few pounds more would not be thought much of. However, as it may prove interesting to yourself—S—— I know will read it through with pleasure and delight in it—I dispatch it for you to do as you like with. It will be forwarded to a young friend of mine in New York, Mr. Thorne, to whom I have written, requesting him to transmit the package to England by one of the monthly steamers. This will save you a heavy charge for postage, which, I dare say, you would not thank me for.
You can't conceive, my dear brother, how often I have wished you were out here with me. Your engineering talents would have been invaluable in inventing some method of procuring the gold dust, or rather of separating it from the soil, which would have been much more effectual than the rude way in which we went to work. At the same time, I am now thankful you are at home. It is easy to get gold here, but it is very difficult to keep it. In fact, after all, the affair is a hazardous lottery; and those who may succeed in getting off with their pounds of gold dust and flakes to Europe, or to the States, will be the few who will win the great prizes.
In my diary, you will find a very detailed account of our various operations and successes. The first place we made for was on the south bank of the Americans' River, and when the Lower or Mormon diggings, as they are called, got over-crowded, we marched off further up the river, which soon divides itself into two branches, forming the North and South Forks. We reached the saw-mill, where the discovery was first made, and worked there some time; but finding inconveniences in the way, and hearing of another station, we started again. This new place is called Weber's Creek, and sometimes Rock Creek, and is a small stream running into the North Fork of the river. We being upon the southern bank of the South Fork, and Weber's Creek running into the North Fork at the north bank, we had to ford both branches of the stream to get to our new station, which we found very productive; the gold being more plentiful than in the lower diggings, and discovered in short veins, and in lumps amongst the rocks of the neighbouring ravines. We should probably not have gone any further than Weber's Creek—I sincerely wish we had not—but a good deal of fever and ague got about. The sun was terribly hot in those deep valleys all day, and the nights chill and damp. After some weeks here, then, we got restless, and set off once more, directing our course three days' journey to the north, to a place upon the Bear River, where we were led to expect not only plenty of gold, but a better temperature and a healthier climate. It was after we reached Bear Valley that our reverses began. It is utterly a savage country, where a strong arm and the rifle form the only code of laws. Up to our appearance on Bear River, we had got on with very few adventures, and considerable profit; but now came misfortunes. I shall not trouble you with them here: they are written at full length in the batch of MS. I send.
I hardly know what to do with myself here until the dry season comes round. The rains have not begun yet, but they may be expected from day to day, and then I suppose we shall have a vast influx from the interior, as it is quite impossible to camp out in the rainy season. Of course the price of any article of food and clothing will be excessive, and I almost think that the best thing for me to do, when the seamen come down, and the ships are manned again, will be to try and get a passage to the Sandwich Islands, which are not very far off, and in which it is probable that living is reasonable. I could easily get back to the mainland in time for the next dry season. What changes may take place by that time, however, I know not. The States may claim the land, and the gold within it, and send an army to enforce their rights. If so, a terrible scene of tumult and disorder may be expected. All the lawless adventurers who are scattered about this part of the continent are flocking down to the gold regions, so are the Indians; and I feel pretty sure that Jonathan will have a tough battle to fight if he wants to keep all the bullion to himself.
I suppose that in England the people will be pricking up their ears when they learn what we are doing here, and that we shall have plenty of emigrants from home. I hardly like to advise upon the subject here; there certainly is a wonderful amount of gold. What the chances of obtaining it and getting it taken home may be next season, I know not. At all events, the pursuit will be difficult in the extreme, and tolerably dangerous also.
J. TYRWHITT BROOKS.