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´╗┐Title: Digging for Gold - Adventures in California
Author: Ballantyne, R. M. (Robert Michael), 1825-1894
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Digging for Gold - Adventures in California" ***

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DIGGING FOR GOLD, BY R.M. BALLANTYNE.



CHAPTER ONE.

ADVENTURES IN CALIFORNIA.

BEGINS WITH DIFFERENCES OF OPINION.

If ever there was a man in this world who was passionately fond of
painting and cut out for a painter, that man was Frank Allfrey; but
fate, in the form of an old uncle, had decided that Frank should not
follow the bent of his inclinations.

We introduce our hero to the reader at the interesting age of eighteen,
but, long before that period of life, he had shown the powerful leaning
of his spirit.  All his school-books were covered with heads of dogs,
horses, and portraits of his companions.  Most of his story-books were
illustrated with coloured engravings, the colouring of which had been
the work of his busy hand, and the walls of his nursery were decorated
with cartoons, done in charcoal, which partial friends of the family
sometimes declared were worthy of Raphael.

At the age of thirteen, his uncle--for the poor fellow was an orphan--
asked him one day what he would like to be.  This was an extraordinary
condescension on the part of Mr Allfrey, senior, who was a grim,
hard-featured man, with little or no soul to speak of, and with an
enormously large ill-favoured body.  The boy, although taken by
surprise--for his uncle seldom addressed him on any subject,--answered
promptly, "I'd like to be an artist, sir."

"A what?"

"An artist."

"Get along, you goose!"

This was all that was said at the time, and as it is the only
conversation which is certainly known to have taken place between the
uncle and nephew during the early youth of the latter, we have ventured,
at the risk of being tedious, to give the whole of it.

Frank was one of those unfortunates who are styled "neglected boys."  He
was naturally sharp-witted, active in mind and body, good-tempered, and
well disposed, but disinclined to study, and fond of physical exertion.
He might have been a great man had he been looked after in youth, but no
one looked after him.  He was an infant when his father and mother died
and left him to the care of his uncle, who cared not for him, but left
him to care for himself, having, as he conceived, done his duty towards
him when he had supplied him with food, clothing, and lodging, and paid
his school fees.  No blame, therefore, to poor Frank that he grew up a
half-educated youth, without fixed habits of study or thought, and with
little capacity for close or prolonged mental exertion.

Mr Allfrey entertained the ridiculous idea that there were only three
grand objects of ambition in life, namely, to work, to eat and drink,
and to sleep.  At least, if he did not say in definite terms that such
was his belief, he undoubtedly acted as though it were.  His mind
appeared to revolve in a sort of small circle.  He worked in order that
he might eat and drink; he ate and drank that he might be strengthened
for work, and he slept in order to recruit his energies that he might be
enabled to work for the purposes of eating and drinking.  He was a
species of self-blinded human-horse that walked the everlasting round of
a business-mill of his own creating.  It is almost unnecessary to add
that he was selfish to the back-bone, and that the only individual who
did not see the fact was himself.

When Frank reached the age of eighteen, Mr Allfrey called him into his
private "study,"--so called because he was in the habit of retiring
regularly at fixed periods every day to study _nothing_ there,--and,
having bidden him sit down, accosted him thus:--

"Well, boy, have you thought over what I said to you yesterday about
fixing upon some profession?  You are aware that you cannot expect to
lead a life of idleness in this world.  I know that you are fit for
nothing, but fit or not fit, you must take to something without delay."

Frank felt a sensation of indignation at being spoken to thus rudely,
and in his heart he believed that if he was indeed fit for nothing, his
sad condition was due much more to his uncle's neglect than to his own
perversity.  He did not, however, give utterance to the thought, because
he was of a respectful nature; he merely flushed and said,--"Really,
uncle, you do me injustice.  I may not be fit for much, and every day I
live I feel bitterly the evil of a neglected education, but--"

"It's well, at all events," interrupted Mr Allfrey, "that you admit the
fact of your having neglected it.  That gives you some chance of
amendment."

Frank flushed again and drew his breath shortly; after a moment's
silence he went on:--

"But if I am not fit for much, I am certainly fit for something.  I have
only a smattering of Latin and Greek, it is true, and a very slight
knowledge of French, but, if I am to believe my teacher's reports, I am
not a bad arithmetician, and I know a good deal of mathematics, besides
being a pretty fair penman."

"Humph! well, but you know you have said that you don't want to enter a
mercantile or engineer's office, and a smattering of Latin and Greek
will not do for the learned professions.  What, therefore, do you
propose to yourself, the army, eh? it is the only opening left, because
you are now too old for the navy."

"I wish to be an artist," said Frank with some firmness.

"I thought so; the old story.  No, sir, you shall never be an artist--at
least not with my consent.  Why, do you suppose that because you can
scribble caricatures on the fly-leaves of your books you have
necessarily the genius of Rubens or Titian?"

"Not quite," replied Frank, smiling in spite of himself at the
irascibility of the old gentleman, "and yet I presume that Rubens and
Titian began to paint before either themselves or others were aware of
the fact that they possessed any genius at all."

"Tut, tut," cried Mr Allfrey impatiently, "but what have you ever done,
boy, to show your ability to paint?"

"I have studied much, uncle," said Frank eagerly, "although I have said
little to you about the matter, knowing your objection to it; but if you
would condescend to look at a few of my drawings from nature, I think--"

"Drawing from nature," cried Mr Allfrey with a look of supreme
contempt, "what do _I_ care for nature?  What have _you_ to do with
nature in this nineteenth century?  Nature, sir, is only fit for
savages.  There is nothing natural now-a-days.  Why, what do you suppose
would become of my ledger and cash-book, my office and business, if I
and my clerks raved about nature as you do?  A fig for nature!--the less
you study it the better.  _I_ never do."

"Excuse me, sir," said Frank respectfully, "if I refuse to believe you,
because I have heard you frequently express to friends your admiration
of the view from your own drawing-room window--"

"Of course you have, you goose, and you ought to have known that that
was a mere bit of conventional humbug, because, since one is constrained
unavoidably to live in a world full of monstrous contradictions, it is
necessary to fall in with its habits.  You ought to know that it is
customary to express admiration for a fine view."

"You spoke as if you felt what you said," replied Frank, "and I am
certain that there are thousands of men in the position of yourself and
your clerks who delight in nature in all her varied aspects; who,
because they unfortunately see so little of her in town, make it their
ambition to have cottages in the country when they can afford it, and
many of whom decorate their walls with representations of nature."

"Frank," said Mr Allfrey, somewhat solemnly, as he turned his gaze full
on the animated face of his nephew, "_if_ I could get you put into a
lunatic asylum without a doctor's certificate I would do so without
delay, but, that being impossible just now--although I think it will be
not only possible but necessary ere long--I have to make you a final
proposal.  It is this:--that, as you express such a powerful objection
to enter an office in this country, you should go abroad and see whether
a three-legged stool is more attractive in foreign parts than it is in
England.  Now, I happen to have a friend in California.  If your
geography has not been neglected as much as your Latin, you will
remember that this country lies on the western seaboard of North
America, not far from those gold-fields which have been recently turning
the world upside-down.  Will you go?"

"I shall be delighted to go," said Frank with enthusiasm.

"Eh!" exclaimed Mr Allfrey, with a look of surprise, as if he could not
understand the readiness with which his nephew agreed to the proposal,
"why, how's this?  I had fully expected you to refuse.  Remember, boy,
it is not to be a romantic gold-digger, which is another name for a born
idiot, that I would send you out to California.  It is to be a clerk, a
quill-driver.  D'you understand?"

"I understand, uncle, perfectly," replied Frank with a smile.  "The fact
is that I had made up my mind, lately, not to oppose your wishes any
longer, but to agree to go into an office at home.  Of course it is more
agreeable to me to think of going into one abroad."

"I'm glad you take such a sensible view of the matter, Frank," said Mr
Allfrey, much mollified.

"Besides," continued Frank, "I have read a good deal about that country
of late, and the descriptions of the magnificence of the scenery have
made me long to have an opportunity of painting it and--"

He paused abruptly and started up, for his uncle had seized a book,
which usually lay open on his desk, and was in fact a sort of dummy
intended to indicate the "study" that was supposed to go on there.  Next
moment Frank sprang laughing into the passage, and the book flew with a
crash against the panels of the door as he shut it behind him, leaving
Mr Allfrey to solace himself with a large meerschaum, almost the only
unfailing friend that he possessed.

Thus it came to pass that Frank Allfrey went out to the gold regions of
California.



CHAPTER TWO.

FRANK DISCUSSES HIS PROSPECTS WITH A FRIEND.

We pass over our hero's long voyage round "the Horn," and introduce him
in a totally new scene and under widely different circumstances--seated
near a magnificent tree of which he is making a study, and clad in a
white linen coat and pantaloons and a broad-brimmed straw hat.

Just the day before, the "House" to which he had been sent had failed.
Two years had he spent in grinding at its account books, perched on a
three-legged stool, and now he found himself suddenly cast loose on the
world.  Of course when the stool was knocked from under him his salary
was stopped, and he was told by his employers that it would be necessary
for him to go elsewhere to earn a subsistence.

This was rather a startling piece of advice, and for a time Frank felt
much depressed, but on returning to his lodgings, the day he received
his dismissal, his eye fell on his palette and brushes, which he at once
seized, and, hastening out to his favourite tree, was soon so thoroughly
absorbed in the study of "nature" that his sorrows vanished like morning
mist.

After three hours' steady work he arose refreshed in soul and comforted.

Thereafter he returned to his lodgings and sat down to think over his
prospects.  His cogitations were temporarily interrupted, and afterwards
materially assisted, by a short thick-set man of about thirty years of
age who entered with a deferential air, and pulled his forelock.

"Come in, Joe.  I was just thinking over my future plans, and I daresay
you can assist me, being, I suppose, in the same fix with myself."

Joe Graddy had been a porter in the "House" which had failed, and was
indeed in the "same fix," as Frank said, with himself.

"I've comed, sir," said Joe, "to ax yer advice, an' to offer ye my
sarvice, it it's of any use," said the porter, who was a shrewd
straightforward man, and had originally been a sailor.

"If you had come to offer me advice and ask my services," said Frank, "I
would have been better pleased to see you.  However, sit down and let me
hear what you have to say."

"Well, sir," said Joe; "this is wot I've got for to say, that we are in
what the Yankees call a pretty considerable fix."

"I know it, Joe; but how do you think we are to get out of the fix?"

"That's just wot I comed for to ax," said the man; "and when you've told
me how, I'll lend a hand to weigh anchor an' set sail.  The fact is, I'm
in want of a place, and I'm willing to engage with _you_, sir."

Frank Allfrey experienced a strange mingling of feelings when he heard
this.  Of course he felt much gratified by the fact that a man so grave
and sensible as Joe Graddy should come and deferentially offer to become
his servant at a time when he possessed nothing but the remnant of a
month's salary; and when he considered his own youth, he felt amazed
that one so old and manly should volunteer to place himself under his
orders.  The fact is that Frank was not aware that his straightforward
earnest manner had commended him very strongly to those, with whom he
had lately come in contact.  He was one of those attractive men whose
countenances express exactly what they feel, who usually walk with a
quick earnest step, if we may say so, and with a somewhat downcast
contemplative look.  Frank knew well enough that he was strong and tall,
unusually so for his age, and therefore did not continually _assert_ the
fact by walking as if he was afraid to fall forward, which is a common
practice among men who wish to look bigger than they are.  Besides,
being an ardent student of nature, Frank was himself natural, as well as
amiable, and these qualities had endeared him to many people without his
being aware of it.

"Why, Joe!" he exclaimed, "what do you mean?"

"I mean wot I says, sir."

"Are you aware," said Frank, smiling, "that I do not possess a shilling
beyond the few dollars that I saved off my last month's salary?"

"I s'posed as much, sir."

"Then if you engage with me, as you express it, how do you expect to be
paid?"

"I don't expect to be paid, sir."

"Come, Joe, explain your meaning, for I don't pretend to be a diviner of
men's thoughts."

"Well, sir, this is how it is.  W'en we got the sack the other day, says
I to myself, says I, now you're afloat on the world without rudder,
compass, or charts, but you've got a tight craft of your own,--somewhat
scrubbed, no doubt, with rough usage, but sound,--so it's time for you
to look out for rudder, compass, and charts, and it seems to me that
thems to be found with young Mister Allfrey, so you'd better go an' git
him to become skipper o' your ship without delay.  You see, sir, havin'
said that to myself, I've took my own advice, so if you'll take command
of me, sir, you may steer me where you please, for I'm ready to be your
sarvant for love, seein' that you han't got no money."

"Most obliging of you," said Frank, laughing, "and by this offer I
understand that you wish to become my companion."

"Of coorse, in a country o' this kind," replied Graddy, "it's
difficult,--I might a'most say unpossible,--to be a man's sarvant
without bein' his companion likewise."

"But here is a great difficulty at the outset, Joe.  I have not yet made
up my mind what course to pursue."

"Just so, sir," said the ex-seaman, with a look of satisfaction, "I
know'd you wouldn't be doin' that in a hurry, so I've comed to have a
talk with 'e about it."

"Very good, sit down," said Frank, "and let us consider it.  In the
first place, I regret to say that I have not been taught any trade, so
that I cannot become a blacksmith or a carpenter or anything of that
sort.  A clerk's duties I can undertake, but it seems to me that clerks
are not much wanted here just now.  Porterage is heavy work and rather
slow.  I may be reduced to that if nothing better turns up, but it has
occurred to me that I might try painting with success.  What would you
say to that, Joe?"

The man looked at Frank in surprise.  "Well," said he, "people don't
look as if they wanted to paint their houses here, an' most of 'em's got
no houses."

"Why, man, I don't mean house-painting.  It is portrait and landscape
painting that I refer to," said Frank, laughing.

Joe shook his head gravely.  "Never do, Mr Frank--"

"Stop! if you and I are to be companions in trouble, you must not call
me _Mister_ Frank, you must drop the mister."

"Then I won't go with 'e, sir, that's all about it," said Joe firmly.

"Very well, please yourself," said Frank, with a laugh; "but if painting
is so hopeless, what would you advise?"

"The diggin's," answered Joe.

"I thought so," said Frank, shaking his head.

"Most men out of work rush to the diggings.  Indeed, many men are fools
enough to leave their work to go there, but I confess that I don't like
the notion.  It has always appeared to me such a pitiful thing to see
men, who are fit for better things, go grubbing in the mud for gold."

"But what are men to do, Mr Frank, w'en they can't git no other work?"

"Of course it is better to dig than to idle or starve, or be a burden on
one's friends; nevertheless, I don't like the notion of it.  I suppose,
however, that I must try it just now, for it is quite certain that we
cannot exist here without gold.  By the way, Joe, have you got any
more?"

"Not a rap, sir."

"H'm, then I doubt whether I have enough to buy tools, not to speak of
provisions."

"I've bin' thinkin' about that, sir," said Joe, "and it seems to me that
our only chance lie in settin' up a grog and provision store!"

"A grog and provision store!"

"Yes, sir, the fact is that I had laid in a stock of pipes and baccy,
tea and brandy, for winter's use this year.  Now as things have turned
out, I shan't want these just at this minute, so we can sell 'em off to
the diggers at a large profit.  We might make a good thing of it, sir,
for you've no notion wot prices they'll give for things on the road to
the diggin's--"

Frank here interrupted his friend with a hearty laugh, and at the same
time declared that he would have nothing to do with the grog and
provision store; that he would rather take to porterage than engage in
any such enterprise.

"Well, then, sir, we won't say no more about that, but wot coorse would
ye advise the ship's head to be laid?"

Frank was silent for a few minutes as he sat with downcast eyes,
absorbed in meditation.  Then he looked up suddenly, and said, "Joe,
I'll give you a definite answer to that question to-morrow morning.
To-night I will think over it and make arrangements.  Meanwhile, let it
suffice that I have made up my mind to go to the diggings, and if you
remain in the same mind to-morrow, come here all ready for a start."

The ruddy countenance of the sturdy ex-porter beamed with gratification
as he rose and took his leave of Frank, who heard him, as he walked
away, making sundry allusions in nautical phraseology to having his
anchor tripped at last, and the sails shook out, all ready for a start
with the first o' the flood-tide in the morning!



CHAPTER THREE.

A VISIT TO THE DIGGINGS RESOLVED ON.  TERRIBLE COMMENCEMENT OF THE
JOURNEY.

When next morning arrived, Joe Graddy, true to his word, appeared with
the first--if not of the "flood-tide," at least of the morning sun, and
Frank told him that, on the previous evening, he had made arrangements
to go to the diggings in company with a party that was to start the
following day; that he had already made purchases of the few things
which they would require on the journey, and that the only thing
remaining to be done was to pack up.

"Now, Joe, you must go at once to the principal guide and make
arrangements with him as to that brandy and tea on which you expect to
found your future fortunes.  I told him to expect a visit from you early
in the day."

"Wotiver you do, do it at once," said Joe, putting on his straw hat with
an energetic slap.  "That's one of my mottos.  I'll go an' carry it into
practice."

The following day saw Frank and his man set forth with a party of about
thirty men, all of whom were clad in blue or red flannel shirts, straw
hats, big boots, and other rough garments; with rifles on their
shoulders, and bowie-knives and pistols in their belts.  These were men
of various nations; Californians, Chinamen, Malays, Americans, Scotch,
and English, and many of them looked not only rough but savage.  In
truth, they were as diverse in their characters as in their appearance,
some of them being men who had evidently moved in good society, while
others were as evidently of the lowest--probably the convict--class.
They had all, however, been thrown together by the force of a common
interest.  All were bound for the gold-mines, and it was necessary that
they should travel in company for mutual protection and assistance.

There were two guides, who had charge of ten pack-mules loaded with
provisions for the storekeepers at some remote diggings.  These guides
were stern, powerful, bronzed fellows, who had to make their way among
rough men in difficult circumstances, and they seemed to be quite
prepared to do so, being fearless, resolute, and armed to the teeth.

Joe Graddy had obtained permission, on promise of payment, to place his
little fortune on the backs of the mules, so that he and Frank had
nothing to carry save their weapons and blankets, besides a tin cup each
at their girdles, and a water-bag.

"Come, I like this sort of thing," said one of the party, an Englishman,
when the order was given to start.  "If it is all like this it will be
uncommonly jolly."

"I guess it ain't all like this, stranger," said one of the Americans
with a good-humoured grin.

One of the guides laughed, and the other ejaculated "humph!" as they set
forward.

There was indeed some ground for the remark of the Englishman, for the
country through which they passed was most beautiful, and the weather
delicious.  Their track lay over an undulating region of park-like land
covered with short grass; clumps of bushes were scattered here and there
about the plain, and high above these towered some magnificent specimens
of the oak, sycamore, and Californian cypress, while in the extreme
distance rose the ranges of the "golden" mountains--the Sierra Nevada--
in the midst of which lay the treasures of which they were in search.

All the members of the party were on foot, and, being fresh, full of
hope, and eager to reach their destination.  They chatted gaily as they
marched over the prairie.

On the way the good-humoured American seemed to take a fancy to Frank,
with whom he had a great deal of animated conversation.  After asking
our hero every possible question in regard to himself and intentions, he
told him that he was Yankee,--a piece of superfluous information, by the
way;--that his name was Jeffson, that he was a store-keeper at one of
the farthest off diggings, that the chief part of the loading of one of
the mules belonged to him, and that he was driving a considerable
business in gold-dust without the trouble of digging for it.

Towards evening they came to a very small hole in the plain, which was
dignified with the name of a well.  Here they stopped to replenish their
water-casks.

"Take as much as you can carry, men," said the principal guide, "we've a
long march to the next well, over sandy ground, and sometimes there
ain't much water in it."

They all followed this advice with the exception of one man, a coarse
savage-looking fellow, with a huge black beard and matted locks, who
called himself Bradling, though there was ground for doubting whether
that was the name by which he had been at first known in the world.
This man pulled out an enormous brandy-flask, and with a scoffing laugh
said:--

"This is the water for me, mister guide, pure and unmixed, there's
nothin' like it."

He nodded as he spoke, and put the flask to his lips, while the guide,
who made no rejoinder, eyed him with a grave, stern expression of
countenance.

That night they all encamped under the shade of a small clump of trees,
kindled several large fires, and, heartily glad to be relieved of their
back-burdens, sat down to enjoy supper.  After it was over pipes were
smoked and stories told, until it was time to retire to rest.  Then each
man lay down under his blanket, the sky being his canopy, and the
howling of the wolves his lullaby.

It seemed to each sleeper, when awakened next morning, that he had only
just closed his eyes, so sound had been his repose, and there was a
great deal of violent yawning, stretching, grumbling, and winking before
the whole party was finally aroused and ready to set forth.  However,
they got under way at last, and early in the forenoon came to the edge
of a sandy plain, which appeared to be interminable, with scarcely a
blade of grass on it.  Here they halted for a few minutes.

"How wide is the plain, guide?" inquired Frank.

"Forty miles," replied the man, "and there's not a drop of water to be
had till the end of the first twenty.  We'll get there about sundown,
and replenish our kegs, if it's not all gone dry.  Let me warn you,
however, to use the water you have sparingly."

"Do we encamp at the end o' the first twenty?" asked Jeffson.

"Yes, you'll find it a long enough day's march."

No one made any reply, but by their looks they appeared to think nothing
of a twenty-mile walk.  They found, however, that such a distance,
traversed over loose sand ankle-deep, and under a burning sun, was not
what any of them had been accustomed to.

On entering the plain they observed that the heat had opened cracks and
fissures in the earth, which omitted a fiery heat.  At intervals
pyramids of sand arose, which were borne with great velocity through the
air, sometimes appearing in the shape of columns sixty feet high, which
moved majestically over the plain.  Ere long some of these clouds of
sand enveloped them, and they were accompanied by hot winds, which
seemed to shrivel up, not only the skin, but the very vitals of the
travellers.  The pores of their skin closed, producing feverish heat in
the blood and terrible thirst, while their eyes became inflamed by the
dazzling glare of the sun on the white sand.

Of course most of the party applied pretty frequently to their
water-kegs and bottles.  Even Bradling gave up his brandy, and was
content to refresh himself with the little of the pure element which
chanced to remain in his formerly despised, but now cherished,
water-bottle.  The guides carried skins of water for themselves and the
mules, but these they opened very seldom, knowing full well the torments
that would ensue if they should run short before getting across the
scorching desert.

Thus they went on hour after hour, becoming more and more oppressed at
every step.  The improvident among them drank up the precious water too
fast, and towards evening began to sigh for relief, and to regard with
longing eyes the supplies of their more self-denying companions.  They
consoled themselves, however, to some extent, with thoughts of the deep
draughts they hoped to obtain at night.

Our hero and Joe were among those who reserved their supplies.

As night approached the thirst of the travellers increased to a terrible
extent, insomuch that they appeared to forget their fatigue, and hurried
forward at a smart pace, in the eager hope of coming to the promised
water-hole.  Great, therefore, was their dismay when the guides told
them that it was impossible to reach the place that night, that the
mules were too much knocked up, but that they would get to it early on
the following day.

They said little, however, seeming to be too much depressed to express
their disappointment in words, but their haggard looks were fearfully
eloquent.  Some of those who had wasted their supplies earnestly
implored their more prudent comrades to give them a little, a "very
little," of the precious element, and two or three were generous enough
to give away a few drops of the little that still remained to them.

The place where they had halted was without a scrap of vegetation, and
as there was no wood wherewith to kindle a fire, they were compelled to
encamp without one.  To most of the travellers, however, this was a
matter of little importance, because they were too much exhausted to
eat.  Those who had water drank a mouthful sparingly, and then lay down
to sleep.  Those who had none also lay down in gloomy silence.  They did
not even indulge in the usual solace of a pipe, for fear of adding to
the burning thirst with which they were consumed.

At day-break they were aroused by the guides, and rose with alacrity,
feeling a little refreshed, and being anxious to push on to the
water-hole, but when the sun rose and sent its dazzling rays over the
dreary waste, giving promise of another dreadful day, their spirits sank
again.  Seeing this the principal guide encouraged them by saying that
the water-hole was not more than three miles distant.

Onward they pushed with renewed energy and hope.  At last they reached
the place, and found that the hole was dry!

With consternation depicted on their haggard countenances the men looked
at the guide.

"Dig, men, dig," he said, with a troubled look on his bronzed face,
"there may be a little below the surface."

They did dig with shovels, spades, knives, sticks, hands, anything, and
they dug as never men did for gold.  All the gold in California would
they have given at that time for a cupful of cold water, but all the
gold in the world could not have purchased one drop from the parched
sand.  Never was despair more awfully pictured on men's faces as they
gazed at one another after finding that their efforts were unavailing.
Their case was truly pitiable, and they turned to the guide as if they
expected commiseration; but the case had become too desperate for him to
think of others.  In a stern, hard voice he cried--

"Onwards, men! onwards!  The nearest stream is forty miles off.  None of
those who have water can spare a drop, and death lies in delay.  Every
man for himself now.  Onward, men, for your lives!"

Saying this he applied the whip to the poor mules, which, with glazed
eyes and hanging ears, snorted with agony, and dropped down frequently
as they went along, but a sharp thrust of the goad forced them to rise
again and stumble forward.

"God help the poor wretches," murmured Joe Graddy to Frank as they
staggered along side by side.  "Is our supply nearly out--could we not
give them a drop?"

Frank stopped suddenly, and, with desperate energy, seized the keg which
hung over his shoulder, and shook it close to the ear of his companion.

"Listen," he said, "can we afford to spare any with forty miles of the
desert before us?  It is our life! we must guard it."

Graddy shook his head, and, admitting that the thing was out of the
question, went silently forward.  It was all that Frank himself could do
to refrain from drinking the little that remained, for his very vitals
seemed on fire.  Indeed, in this respect, he suffered more than some of
his companions, for while those of them who had not charge of the
water-kegs and bottles experienced the pain of suffering and hopeless
longing, he himself had the additional misery of having to resist
temptation, for at any moment he could have obtained temporary relief by
gratifying his desires at the expense of his companions.

Overpowered with heat, and burnt up with thirst, those without water to
moisten their parched lips and throats could scarcely keep pace with the
guide.  By degrees they threw away their possessions--their blankets,
their clothes,--until the plain behind was strewn with them.

"Don't go so fast," groaned one.

"Won't ye halt a while?" said another uttering a curse--then, suddenly
changing his tone, he implored them to halt.

"We cannot halt.  It is death to halt," said the guide, in a tone so
resolute and callous that those who were enfeebled lost heart
altogether, and began to lag behind.

At that time the man Bradling, who had become nearly mad with drinking
brandy, ran in succession to each of those who had water, and offered
all that he possessed of the former for one mouthful of the latter.  His
flushed face, glassy eyes, and haggard air, told how terrible was his
extremity; but although some might have felt a touch of commiseration
not one was moved to relieve him.  The law of self-preservation had
turned the hearts of all to stone.  Yet not quite to stone, for there
were one or two among them who, although nothing would induce them to
give a single drop to a comrade, were content to do with _less_ in order
that they might relieve a friend!

One man in his desperation attempted to lick the bodies of the mules,
hoping to obtain relief from the exudations of their skins, but the dust
on them rendered this unavailing.

Suddenly Bradling darted at the water-skin hanging by the side of the
guide's mule, and swore he would have it or die.

"You'll die, then," observed the guide quietly, cocking a pistol and
presenting it at his head.

Bradling hesitated and looked at the man.  There was a cold stony stare,
without the least excitement, in his look, which convinced him that his
attempt, if continued, would end in certain death.  He fell back at once
with a deep groan.

Onward they pressed, hour after hour, until, in many of them, exhausted
nature began to give way.  They became slightly delirious, and, finding
that they could not keep up with the party, a few determined, if left
behind, to keep together.  Among the number was Bradling, and terrible
were the imprecations which he hurled after the more fortunate as they
parted.  It seemed cruel; but to remain with them would have done no
good, while it would have sacrificed more lives.  Bradling seemed to
regard Frank as his chief enemy, for he shouted his name as he was
moving off, praying God to send down the bitterest curses on his head.

A sudden impulse moved the heart of Frank.  He turned back, poured about
half a wine-glassful of water into a tin can and gave it to the
unfortunate man, who seized and drained it greedily, licking the rim of
the can and gazing into it, to see that not a drop had escaped him, with
an eagerness of manner that was very painful to behold.

"God bless you," he said to Frank with a deep sigh.

"Do you think," said Frank earnestly, "that God will curse and bless at
your bidding?"

"I don't know, and don't care," replied the man, "but I say God bless
you.  Go away and be content with that."

Frank had already lost too much time.  He turned and hastened after the
others as fast as possible.

"They won't last long," said the guide harshly, as he came up.  "The
wolves or the redskins will soon finish them.  You were a fool to waste
your water on them."

"You are a fool to give your opinion to one who neither asks nor cares
for it," retorted Frank.

The man took no notice of the reply, and Frank afterwards felt somewhat
ashamed of being so hasty, for at night, when they encamped, the guide
advised him, in a friendly way, to keep a sharp look-out on the water,
as those who had finished theirs during the day would be not unlikely to
make an attack on those who had any left.  Frank thanked him; but being
too much fatigued to mount guard, he and Graddy, with his Yankee friend
Jeffson, slept together, rolled in their blankets, with pistols in their
hands and the water-bottles attached to them.  Nothing disturbed them,
however, during the night, save the howling of wolves, and the imploring
cries, irritated exclamations, and angry discontent of the suffering
men, which latter sounds were far more terrible than the cries of wild
beasts.

A little before day-break some who could not rest sprang up and
continued their journey, walking at their utmost speed until they
sighted the woodland.  Then, indeed, did a new sensation of delight fill
their souls as they gazed upon the green verdure.  Even the mules,
though their eyes were bandaged, seemed to know that water was near.
They snuffed the breeze, pricked up their ears, and neighed loudly.  On
reaching the woods, and sighting the river, a momentary halt was called
to cast off the burdens of the mules.  This was speedily done, and then
they all rushed--men and mules together--deep into the stream and
luxuriated in the cool water!

When they had slaked their thirst to the uttermost, Graddy proposed that
a party should be sent back to the relief of those left behind, and
offered to join it.  Frank seconded this proposal, and the Yankee,
Jeffson, volunteered to join it.  A German named Meyer, who had borne
his sufferings with great fortitude, also volunteered, as did a
Scotchman named Douglas.

"You may propose what you please," said the guide, when he heard them
talking, "but _I_ will not wait for you."

"Why not?" inquired Frank somewhat angrily.  "Because I was not hired
for such work.  It is my business to push on to the mines, and push on I
will, follow who pleases."

"Bot fat if ve compel you for to stay?" asked the German with an
indignant air.

"Then you will guide yourselves as you best may, I will refuse to go a
step further.  Is it fair that I should be hired for a special job and
then be asked to turn aside and risk my life for the sake of men who
have chosen to throw their own lives away, and who are no doubt dead by
this time?"

A number of the travellers applauded this sentiment, and it was evident
that the philanthropists were very much in the minority, but here Frank
stepped in and turned the scale, at least to some extent.

"Men," said he, raising his clenched fist, "I know not what your notions
of humanity may be, or your ideas of justice, but this I know, that the
man who has the power to help a fellow-mortal in deadly distress and
holds back his hand, is worse than a beast, for he has reason to guide
him, and a beast has not.  I and my comrade Joe Graddy, at least, will
remain behind, even though we should be left alone, but I am convinced
that we shall _not_ be left alone.  Meanwhile," he added, addressing the
guide, "I shall pay you my share of what is due, after which you may go,
and I shall wish you no worse luck than that your conscience may go with
you and be a lively companion."

"There is more to be said than that," observed the Yankee at this point.
"You are so very fond of fulfilling your duty, mister guide, that I
have concluded to relieve you of some of it.  One of these mules is
loaded entirely with my goods.  Now, I guess, I'll remain behind with
Mister Allfrey, and keep the mule at a reasonable valuation."

"I'll not part with him at any price," said the guide with a sneer.
"I'll carry your goods to the diggings or I'll unstrap them, stranger,
and let you carry them the best way you can, but I'm not bound to sell
my mules to you."

"Now, men," cried the Yankee, springing forward and addressing his
comrades, "I appeal to you all in the name of fair-play!  Here am I,
willin' to pay this man a fair price for his mule.  There's not a pick
or shovel belongin' to any one else on its back, so I'm doin' damage to
nobody by the proposal.  This critter is bent on refusin' me out of
spite; now, I propose to settle the question here with the rifle or
pistol or bowie-knife.  He is welcome to choose his weapon--it matters
nothin' to me, and whichever falls loses the day."

There was a burst of laughter at this, and the majority insisted that
the guide should give in, while a few, who were fond of excitement,
suggested that the two should be allowed to fight it out, but this the
guide refused to do; and when his comrade, the second guide, stepped
forward and said he would join those who wanted to remain, he
grumblingly agreed to part with the mule for its full value.

The bargain was soon made.  The one party continued their journey; the
other, with an abundant supply of water, returned to those who had been
left behind, and reached them in time to save their lives.

That night, as Frank and Graddy lay together under the same blanket, the
latter observed that, "he had travelled a goodish bit over the univarse,
but that he had niver before comed across nothin' like the experiences
of the last two days; and that, if the end of their diggin' for goold
woe to be as bad as the begginin', the sooner they set about diggin'
their graves the better!"

With which sentiment Frank Allfrey heartily agreed, and thereafter fell
asleep.



CHAPTER FOUR.

DESCRIBES AN INCIDENT OF DEVOURING INTEREST, AN UNEXPECTED VISIT, AND A
VIOLENT ASSAULT.

Next day our gold-hunters and the rescued men reached the forest, and
after resting a short time to recruit, continued their journey to the
diggings.

The particular part towards which their steps were directed was Bigbear
Gully, a small and comparatively unknown, because recently discovered,
gorge, opening out of the great Sacramento valley.  On the way they
passed through a country the very reverse of that which had so nearly
cost them their lives.  It was well wooded and watered, and abounded
with game of various kinds, particularly hares, deer, quails, and other
creatures; shooting these afforded pleasant pastime to the sporting
characters of the party, and consuming them was enjoyed by all without
exception!

Rance, the guide, now that he was separated from his comrade, turned out
to be a capital fellow, and, during the remainder of the journey, did
much to make the travellers harmonise.  The party now consisted of our
hero and Joe Graddy, Jeffson the Yankee, Douglas the Scot, Meyer the
German, and Bradling; all of whom, excepting the last, were good and
true men.  As for Bradling, no one could make out what he was, for at
times he was amiable and polite, while at other times he was savage and
morose.

One night the travellers reached a part of the mountains which was
densely covered with wood.  As there was no moon, and it was almost
impossible to see a step before them, Rance called a halt.

"We must sleep here," he said to Jeffson.  "I had half expected to make
out Bigbear Gully to-night, but the road is not safe; too many
precipices and steep parts, which require to be passed in daylight."

"Very good, Rance; then we had better set about encamping."

"'Tis a dreary-looking place," said Frank Allfrey, glancing round him.

"'Twill look more cheery when the fire is kindled," said Jeffson.

"Dismal enough to give a man the blues just now, anyhow," observed Joe
Graddy.

This was undoubtedly true.  There is, perhaps, nothing more desolate,
more cheerless, more oppressive to the spirits, than the influence of
the woods at night.  They are so dark, so black-looking and dismal, that
one is led irresistibly to contrast them with home and its bright
fireside and well-remembered faces--just as the starving man is led by
his condition to dream of rich feasts.  In both cases the result is the
same.  The dream of food makes the starving man's case more terrible,
and the thought of home makes the dreariness of the dark wilderness more
dismal.

But what magic there is in a spark of light!  The first burst of flame
drives all the sad lonesome feelings away, and the blaze of the
increasing fire creates positively a home-feeling in the breast.  The
reason of this is plain enough.  Before the fire is kindled the eye
wanders restlessly through the dim light that may chance to straggle
among the trees.  The mind follows the eye, and gets lost among
indistinct objects which it cannot understand.  The feelings and the
faculties are scattered--fixed upon nothing, except perhaps on this,
that the wanderer is far, very far, from home.  But when the bright
glare of the fire springs up, everything beyond the circle of light
becomes pure black.  The thoughts and feelings are confined within that
chamber with the ebony walls, and are forcibly attracted and made to
rest upon the tree-stems, the leaves, the flowers, and other objects
that glow in the ruddy blaze.  Thus the thoughts are collected, and the
wanderer feels, once more, something of the _home-feeling_.

It was not long before our travellers realised this agreeable change.
The depression of their spirits vanished with the darkness and rose with
the leaping flames, until some of the members of the party became quite
facetious.  This was especially the case when supper had been disposed
of and the pipes were lighted.  It was then that Rance became chatty and
anecdotal in his tendencies, and Jeffson told marvellous stories of
Yankee-land, and Douglas, who devoted himself chiefly to his pipe,
became an attentive listener and an awkward tripper up of the heels of
those who appeared to be "drawing the long-bow," and Meyer looked, if
possible, more solid and amiable than at other times, and Frank enjoyed
himself in a general way, and made himself generally agreeable, while
Joe Graddy became profoundly sententious.  Even Bradling's nature
appeared to be softened, for he looked less forbidding and grumpy than
at other times, and once condescended to remark that a life in the woods
was not such a bad one after all!

"Not such a bad one!" cried Joe Graddy; "why, messmate, is that all
you've got to say about it?  Now I'll give 'e my opinion on that head.
This is where it lies--see here."  (Joe removed his pipe from his mouth
and held up his fore-finger by way of being very impressive.) "I've
travelled pretty well now in every quarter of the globe; gone right
round it in fact, and found that it _is_ round after all,--'cause why?
I went in, so to speak, at one end from the west'ard an' comed out at
the same end from the east'ard, though I must confess it all appeared to
me as flat's a pancake, always exceptin' the mountainous parts of it,
w'ich must be admitted to be lumpy.  Hows'ever, as I wos sayin', I've
bin a'most all over the world--I've smoked wi' the Turks, an' hobnobbled
with John Chinaman, an' scrambled through the jungles of the Indies, an'
gone aloft the Himalayas--"

"What, have you seen the Himalayas?" asked Jeffson, with a doubtful
look.

"How could I be among 'em without seein' of 'em?" replied Joe.

"Ah, das is goot--vair goot," said Meyer, opening his huge mouth very
wide to let out a cloud of smoke and a quiet laugh.

"Well, but you know," said Jeffson, apologetically, "a poor fellow
livin' out here in the wilderness ain't just always quite up in the
gee-graphical changes that take place on the airth.  When was it that
they cut a ship canal up to the Himalayas, and in what sort o' craft did
ye sail there?"

"I didn't go for to say I sailed there at all," retorted Joe; "I walked
it partly, and went part o' the way on elephants an' horses, and went
aloft o' them there mountains pretty nigh as far up as the main-topmast
cross-trees of 'em; I've also slep' in the snow-huts of the Eskimos, an'
bin tossed about in a'most every sort o' craft that swims, but wot I've
got to say is this, that of all the things I ever did see, travellin' in
Californy beats 'em all to sticks and stivers."

"You've got a somewhat indefinite way of stating things," observed
Douglas.  "D'ee mean to say that it beats them in a good or a bad way?"

"I means wot I says," replied Joe, with a stern expression of
countenance, as he relighted his pipe with the burnt end of a piece of
stick.  "I means that it beats 'em _both_ ways;--if ye haven't got
schoolin' enough to understand plain English, you'd better go home again
an' get your edicashun completed."

"I'd do that at once, Joe, if I could only make sure o' finding the
schoolmaster alive that reared _you_."

"Ha! goot," observed the German.  "Him must be von notable krakter."

Further conversation on this point was cut short by the sudden
appearance within the circle of light of an Indian, who advanced in a
half-crouching attitude, as if he feared a bad reception, yet could not
resist the attraction of the fire.

At that time some of the tribes in the neighbourhood of Bigbear Gully
had committed numerous depredations at the diggings, and had murdered
several white men, so that the latter had begun to regard the Red Men as
their natural enemies.  Indeed some of the more violent among them had
vowed that they would treat them as vermin, and shoot down every native
they chanced to meet, whether he belonged to the guilty tribe or not.
The Indian who now approached the camp-fire of the white men knew that
he had good ground to fear the nature of his reception, and there is no
doubt that it would have been an unpleasant one had it not been for the
fact that his appearance was pitiable in the extreme.

He was squalid, dirty, and small, and so attenuated that it was evident
he had for some time been suffering from starvation.  He wore no
clothing, carried no arms of any kind, and was so utterly abject, and so
evidently incapable of doing harm to any one, that none of the party
thought it worth while to rise, or lay hands on a weapon.  When he
appeared, Joe Graddy merely pointed to him with the stem of his pipe and
said--

"There's a beauty, ain't it? another of the cooriosities of Californy!"

"Starvin'," observed Rance.

"Poor wretch!" exclaimed Frank, as the man advanced slowly with timid
steps, while his large sunken eyes absolutely glared at the broken meat
which lay scattered about.

"Give him von morsel," suggested Meyer.

"Give him a bullet in his dirty carcase," growled Bradling.

The Indian stopped when within ten paces of the fire and grinned
horribly.

"Here, stop up your ghastly mouth wi' that," cried Jeffson, tossing a
lump of salt-pork towards him.

He caught it with the dexterity of a monkey, and, squatting down on the
trunk of a fallen tree, devoured it with the ravenous ferocity of a
famishing hyena.  The piece of pork would have been a sufficient meal
for any ordinary man, but it quickly vanished down the throat of the
savage, who licked his fingers, and, with eyes which required no tongue
to interpret their meaning, asked for more!

"Look out!" cried Joe Graddy, tossing him a sea biscuit as one throws a
quoit.

The Indian caught it deftly; crash went his powerful teeth into the hard
mass, and in an incredibly short time it was--with the pork!

The whole party were so highly amused by this, that they "went in," as
Jeffson said, "for an evening's entertainment."  One tossed the poor man
a cut of ham, another a slice of pork, a third a mass of bread, and so
they continued to ply him with victuals, determined to test his powers
to the uttermost.

"Try another bit of pork," said Douglas, laughing, as he threw him a cut
as large as the first; "you've finished all the cooked meat now."

The Indian caught it eagerly, and began to devour it as though he had
eaten nothing.

"He's tightening up like a drum," observed Jeffson, handing him a greasy
wedge off a raw flitch of bacon.

"Him vill boost," said Meyer, staring at the Indian and smoking slowly,
owing to the strength of his amazement.

"Jack the Giant Killer was a joke to him," muttered Graddy.

"A bottomless pit," observed Rance, referring to his stomach.

The Indian, however, proved that Rance was wrong by suddenly coming to a
dead halt and dropping the last morsel he was in the act of raising to
his mouth.  He then heaved a deep sigh and looked round on the whole
party with a radiant smile, which was literally sparkling by reason of
the firelight which glittered on his greasy countenance.

"What! stuffed full at last?" exclaimed Jeffson, as they all burst into
a fit of laughter.

"Ay, chock full to the beams," said Joe Graddy; "moreover, hatches
battened down, topsails shook out, anchor up, and away!"

This was indeed the case.  Having eaten as much as he could hold, the
poor Indian attempted to rise and walk off, but he suddenly fell down,
and rolled about groaning and rubbing himself as if in great agony.  The
alarmed travellers began to fear that the poor little man had
absolutely, as Joe said, eaten himself to death.  He recovered, however,
in a few minutes, rose again with some difficulty, and went off in the
midst of a splendid burst of moonlight which appeared to have come out
expressly to light him on his way!  His gait was awkward, and he was
obliged to sit down every twenty or thirty yards like a man resting
under a heavy load.  When last seen on his diminutive legs he looked
like a huge bloated spider waddling into the obscurity of the forest.

"How disgusting!" perhaps exclaims the reader.  True, yet not _much_
more disgusting than the gormandising which goes on among too many
civilised men, who, besides possessing better knowledge, have got
dyspepsia to inform them that they daily act the part of the Californian
savage, while many learned doctors, we believe, tell them that it is not
so much quality as quantity that kills.

That eventful night did not terminate, however, with the departure of
the Indian.  Another scene was enacted, but, unlike the popular mode of
theatrical procedure, the farce was followed by a tragedy.

Before lying down to rest, the fire was drawn together, fresh logs were
heaped upon it, and a great blaze was made to scare away the wolves.
Frank, Jeffson, and Douglas, then rolled themselves in their blankets,
and lay down with their feet towards the fire and their rifles beside
them.  The others lighted their pipes for a finishing whiff--a nightcap
as Joe styled it.

They had not sat long thus, making occasional quiet remarks, as fatigued
and sleepy men are wont to do before going to rest, when they were
startled by the sound of heavy footsteps in the woods.  Rance, whose
duty it was to keep watch the first part of the night, instantly leaped
up and cocked his rifle, while the sleepers awoke, raised themselves on
their elbows, and looked about somewhat bewildered.

Before any one had time to act or speak, a man, clad in the flannel
shirt, heavy boots, etcetera, of a miner, strode into the circle of
light, with the air of one whose intentions are peaceful.

"Evening, strangers," he said, looking round and setting the butt of a
long rifle on the ground; "I've got lost.  You'll not object to let me
rest a bit by your fire, I daresay--hallo!"

The latter exclamation was uttered when the stranger's eyes fell on
Bradling, who was gazing at him with the expression of a man who had
seen a ghost.  At the same time the stranger threw forward his rifle,
and his countenance became unusually pale.

For two seconds each looked at the other in profound silence, which was
only broken by the sharp click of the lock as the stranger cocked his
piece.

Like a flash of lightning Bradling plucked a revolver from his belt,
pointed full at the man's breast and fired.  He fell without uttering a
cry, and his rifle exploded as he went down, but the ball passed
harmlessly over the heads of the party.

For a few seconds the travellers stood as if paralysed, and Bradling
himself remained motionless, gazing sullenly on his victim.  Then Frank
Allfrey leaped upon him, and grasping him by the throat wrenched the
pistol out of his hand.

"Murderer!" he exclaimed, tightening his hold, as Bradling struggled to
release himself.

"I'm no murderer," gasped Bradling; "you saw as well as I did that the
fellow threatened to shoot me.  Besides, he is not dead."

"That's true," said Joe Graddy, turning towards the fallen man, whom
Rance and some of the others were examining, and who had showed some
symptoms of returning consciousness; "but his wound is a bad one, and if
you ain't a murderer yet, pr'aps it won't be long afore ye are one."

Hearing this Frank flung Bradling violently off, and turned to examine
the wounded man.  As he did so the other pointed his pistol deliberately
at Frank's back, fired, and then sprang into the woods.  Before he had
quite disappeared, however, each man who could seize his gun or pistol
in time fired a shot after him, but apparently without effect, for
although they examined the bushes carefully afterwards no marks of blood
could be found.

Fortunately the miscreant missed Frank, yet so narrowly that the ball
had touched his hair as it whistled past his ear.

The wounded man was as carefully tended as was possible in the
circumstances, but neither on that night nor the following day did he
recover sufficiently to be able to give any account of himself.  He was
left at the first "ranch" they came to next day, with directions from
Frank that he should be cared for and sent back to Sacramento city as
soon as possible.  Our hero was unable of course to pay his expenses,
but he and all the party contributed a small sum, which, with the gold
found on the stranger's person, was sufficient to satisfy the ranchero,
who appeared to be a more amiable man than the rest of his class.  To
secure as far as possible the faithful performance of his duty, Frank
earnestly assured him that if he was attentive to the man he would give
him something additional on his return from the diggings.

"That's very good of you, sir," said the ranchero with a peculiar smile,
"but I wouldn't promise too much if I were you.  Mayhap you won't be
able to fulfil it.  All gold-diggers don't make fortunes."

"Perhaps not," said Frank; "but few of them, I believe, fail to make
enough to pay off their debts."

"H'm, except those who die," said the ranchero.

"Well, but _I_ am not going to die," said Frank with a smile.

"I hope not.  All the young and strong ones seem to think as you do when
they go up; but I have lived here, off an' on, since the first rush and
all I can say is that I have seen a lot more men go up to the diggin's
than ever I saw come down from 'em; and, of those who did return, more
were poor than rich, while very few of 'em looked either as stout or as
cheerful as they did when passing up."

"Come, shut up your potato-trap, old man, and don't try to take the
heart out of us all in that fashion," said Jeffson; "but let's have a
feed of the best you have in the house, for we're all alive and kicking
as yet, anyhow, and not too poor to pay our way; and, I say, let's have
some home-brewed beer if you can, because we've got a German with us,
and a haggis also for our Scotchman."

"You have forgotten roast-beef for the Englishman," said Frank,
laughing.

"I daresay you won't want sauce," observed the host with an air of
simplicity; "my meat never seems to want it when there's a Yankee in the
room."

Saying this the worthy ranchero went to work, and speedily supplied the
travellers with a meal consisting of hard biscuit and rancid pork, with
a glass of bitter brandy to wash it down; for which he charged them the
sum of eight shillings a head.



CHAPTER FIVE.

THE TRAVELLERS MEET WITH INDIANS, AND ARE LED TO WISH THAT THEY HAD NOT
GONE SEEKING FOR GOLD.

It was the evening of a hot sultry day, when our travellers, fatigued
and foot-sore, arrived at the entrance of a small valley not far distant
from the intended scene of their future operations.  Here they
determined to encamp for the night on the margin of a small stream,
where there was grass for the mule and shelter under the trees for the
men.  On making their way, however, to the place, they observed an
Indian village down on a plain below, and, being uncertain as to the
numbers or the temper of the natives, they were about to cross the
stream and continue their journey a little further, when a party of six
Indians suddenly made their appearance in front, and advanced
fearlessly, making signs of friendship.

It was found that they understood and could talk a little Spanish, which
Rance spoke fluently.  After a short conversation, the guide thought
that it would be quite safe to stay beside them.  The encampment
therefore was made, and supper prepared.

While this was in progress Frank and Joe went to the top of a
neighbouring mound to survey the village.  It was a curious residence
for human beings.  Joe's remark that it resembled "a colony of big
moles" was not inappropriate, for the huts, of which there were about
forty, were not unlike huge mole-hills.

These huts, it was found, they formed by excavating circular holes in
the earth, about twelve feet in diameter and four feet deep, then
bending over these a number of stout saplings, which they bound together
with tendrils of the vine, they formed a dome-shaped roof, which was
plastered with a thick coat of clay.  An opening in one side of each
formed a door, through which entrance could be made by creeping.  On the
roofs of these curious dwellings many of the natives were seated,
evidently awaiting the result of the deputation's conference with the
white men.

The main object that the Indians appeared to have in view was the
obtaining of fire-arms, and it was observed that they cast longing eyes
upon the rifles which leaned on the trees beside the fire.  Rance
therefore advised every man to look carefully after his weapons, while
he talked with the chief, and told him that he had no guns or ammunition
to spare.  In order to please him, however, he gave him an old rusty
carbine, which was bent in the barrel, and nearly useless, in exchange
for a few fresh fish.

"My white brother is liberal," said the delighted savage in bad Spanish,
as he surveyed the weapon with admiration, "but it is necessary to have
black powder and balls."

"I have none to spare," replied Rance, "but the settlements of the white
men are not far off.  Besides, the Indian chief is wise.  He does not
require to be told that white men come here continually, searching for
gold, and that they bring much powder and ball with them.  Let gold be
offered, and both may be obtained."

The chief took this remark for a hint, and at once offered some
gold-dust in exchange for powder and shot, but Rance shook his head,
knowing that, if obtained, the ammunition would in all probability be
used against himself.  The chief was therefore obliged to rest content
in the mean time with the harmless weapon.

Meanwhile, another party of seven or eight Indians had gone towards
Frank and Joe, and by signs made them to understand that there was
something worth shooting on the other side of a cliff not fifty yards
off.  Our hero and his nautical friend were both of unsuspicious
natures, and being much amused by the ludicrous gesticulations of the
savages in their efforts to enlighten them, as well as curious to
ascertain what it could be that was on the other side of the cliff, they
accompanied them in that direction.

The moment they had passed out of sight of the camp a powerful savage
leaped on Frank from behind, and, grasping him round the throat with
both arms, endeavoured to throw him, while another Indian wrenched the
rifle out of his hand.  At the same moment Joe Graddy was similarly
seized.  The savages had, however, underrated the strength of their
antagonists.  Frank stooped violently forward, almost to the ground, and
hurled the Indian completely over his head.  At the same time he drew a
revolver from his belt, fired at and wounded the other Indian, who
dropped the rifle, and doubled like a hare into the bushes.  The others
fled right and left, as Frank sprang forward and recovered his weapon--
all save the one whose unhappy lot it had been to assault Joe Graddy,
and who was undergoing rapid strangulation, when Frank ran to his
rescue.

"Have mercy on him, Joe!" he cried.

"Marcy! why should I have marcy on such a dirty--lie still, then," said
Joe sternly, as he pressed his knee deeper into the pit of the Indian's
stomach, and compressed his throat with both hands until his tongue
protruded, and both eyes seemed about to start from their sockets.

"Come, come, Joe; you volunteered to be my servant, so you are bound to
obey me."

Saying this, Frank seized the angry tar by the collar, and dragged him
forcibly off his victim, who, after a gasp or two, rose and limped away.

"He has got quite enough," continued Frank, "to keep you vividly in his
remembrance for the rest of his life, so we must hasten to the camp, for
I fear that the Indians won't remain friendly after this unfortunate
affair."

Grunting out his dissatisfaction pretty freely, Joe accompanied his
friend to the camp-fire, where their comrades were found in a state of
great alarm about their safety.  They had heard the shots and shouts,
and were on the point of hastening to the rescue.  The chief and his
companions, meanwhile, were making earnest protestations that no evil
was intended.

When Frank and Joe appeared, Rance turned angrily on the chief, and
ordered him and his men to quit the camp instantly.  This they hesitated
to do for a little, and the chief made fresh efforts to calm the
irritated guide, but Rance knew that he had to deal with treacherous
men, and repeated his order to be off at the same time throwing forward
his rifle in a threatening manner.  Whereupon the chief flew into a
violent rage, and, after using a good deal of abusive language, returned
to his village, where he immediately summoned a council of war, and, by
his violent gesticulations and frequent looking and pointing towards the
camp, left no doubt on the minds of the travellers as to his intentions.

Rance therefore made the best preparations possible in the circumstances
to repel an attack.

Their position was very critical, for the Indians numbered about a
hundred men, while their own party consisted only of six.  But they had
the one great advantage over their enemies--the possession of fire-arms,
and felt much confidence in consequence.

"Get out all your weapons, big and little," said Rance, as he loaded his
rifle, "and fire 'em off to begin with.  It will show them that we are
well prepared."

Accordingly they commenced letting off their pieces, and what with
rifles, double shot-guns, double and single barrelled pistols, and
revolvers, they made up the formidable number of fifty-three discharges,
which had a very warlike effect when fired in quick and regular
succession.

Carrying these in their hands, and disposed round their persons,
intermixed with short swords and long bowie-knives, the whole party
mounted guard, bristling like human hedge-hogs, and, placed at equal
intervals on each side of the camp, marched about for an hour or two,
without seeing or hearing anything more of their enemies.

At last their mule became a little restive, putting them on the alert,
and shortly afterwards an arrow whizzed past Joe's ear.  He instantly
presented his carbine in the direction whence it came, and fired.  The
shot was answered by a perfect shower of arrows, which pierced the
clothes of some of the white men, and slightly wounded Douglas in the
left arm, but fortunately did no further damage.  The discharge was
followed by a quick movement in the bushes, rendered audible by the
crushing of dried leaves and breaking of branches.  This guided the
whites in their aim, and a volley was poured into the bush, followed by
several random shots from revolvers.

Soon after all noise was hushed, and a brief examination of the
surrounding bushes was made, but it could not be ascertained that any
damage had been done to the Indians, who always make it a point, when
possible, to carry off their dead to prevent their being scalped--a
dishonour they fear almost as much as death.

"Now, one half of us may sleep," said Rance, when the party was again
collected round the fire.

"Sleep!" exclaimed Frank.

"Ay, there's nothing more to fear from the rascals to-night, if we keep
a good look-out--and that may be done as effectively by three of us as
by six.  If we each get a wink of an hour or two, we shall be quite fit
to travel or to fight in the morning.  So let me advise you to lose no
time about it.--Not badly hurt, sir, I hope?" he added, addressing
Douglas.

"Nothing to speak of," answered the Scot, "only a graze of the skin."

"Well, get away to rest.  You can take the second watch, and it is not
likely they will disturb you before morning.  If they do, you won't
require to be called, so keep your weapons handy."

As Rance prophesied, so it turned out.  The Indians had got an
unexpectedly severe repulse, and did not attempt to interfere with the
travellers during the night, but in the morning they were found to have
posted themselves on the opposite banks of the stream, evidently with
the intention of disputing the further progress of the party.

Nothing now but prompt determination could save them from being cut off
by overwhelming numbers, for if they were to hesitate, or waver in the
least, the Indians would be encouraged to make an attack.  They
therefore calmly and deliberately blew up the fire, boiled their kettle
and had breakfast, after which the mule was loaded, and the party
prepared to cross the stream.

Before doing so, however, Rance and Jeffson, being the best marksmen,
advanced to the edge of the bank with two of the largest rifles and took
aim at the Indians, hoping by that means to frighten them away without
being obliged to shed more blood.  In this they failed, for, the
distance being fully five hundred yards, the natives evidently believed
that it was impossible for a ball to tell at such a distance.  On seeing
Rance point his rifle at them they set up a yell of derision.  There was
nothing for it, therefore, but to fire.  This Rance did, and one of the
Indians fell.  Jeffson also fired and hit the chief, who reeled, but did
not fall.  The savages immediately began a hurried retreat, and the
travellers refrained from firing, in order to convince them that all
they desired was to be allowed to go on their way unmolested.

The crossing of the stream was then effected.  On mounting the opposite
bank it was found that the Indians had taken up their position, fully
armed, on the top of their huts, with an air of quiet resolution that
showed they apprehended an attack, and were prepared to defend their
homes to the death.

This, however, they were not called upon to do, for the travellers
turned off to the right, and pursued their way as if nothing had
happened.  But two of the Indians had been badly hit, perhaps killed,
and the thought of this dwelt much on the minds of Frank and his friend
Joe all that day.  Another thing that distressed them much was the
well-known custom of the natives to take their revenge at the first
favourable opportunity.  It was a rule among them to take two lives of
white men for every redskin killed, and they were known not to be
particular as to who the whites might be,--sufficient for them that they
were of the offending and hated race.  The fact that the innocent might
thus suffer for the guilty was to them a matter of perfect indifference.

The route over which the whites travelled that day chanced to be
unusually picturesque and beautiful.  The path, or "trail,"--for there
was scarcely anything worthy the name of path,--wound through a sycamore
and white-oak grove that fringed the river, the sloping banks of which
were covered with an infinite variety of shrubs and evergreens, bearing
flowers and blossoms of most delicate beauty and exquisite fragrance,
amidst which tangled festoons of the indigenous vine drooped with
pendant bunches of purple grapes.  Arbutus shrubs of immense size were
seen, and the landscape was in some places interspersed thickly with
manzanita rushes, the crimson berries of which are much in favour with
the Indians, also with the grizzly bear!  Some of the plains they
crossed were studded with magnificent oaks, devoid of underwood, such as
one is accustomed to see in noblemen's parks in England.

But all this beauty and luxuriance made comparatively little impression
on Frank and Joe, for they could not forget that human life had probably
been sacrificed that day--a thought which filled them with sincere
regret that it had ever entered into their hearts to go digging for
gold.



CHAPTER SIX.

ARRIVAL AT THE GOLD-FIELDS, AND LESSONS IN GOLD-WASHING RECEIVED.

At last Bigbear Gully was reached, and our travellers--especially those
of them who, being new to the work, were all enthusiasm--pressed eagerly
forward, anxious to begin without delay.

Bigbear Gully--so named because of a huge grizzly bear that had been
shot there at the commencement of digging operations--was a wild and
somewhat gloomy but picturesque mountain gorge, the first sight of
which, with its lights and shadows, stupendous cliffs and clumps of wood
clinging to the hill-sides, called forth a burst of delight and
admiration from Frank Allfrey, whose mind at once leaped with loving
desire to the brush and the colour-box; but as these implements were at
that time packed among the baggage on the mule's back, and as the love
of art was not sufficiently strong in the guide to induce him to permit
of a moment's delay in the journey, our hero was fain to content himself
with visions of future indulgence in his favourite study.

The "diggings," which they first got sight of in the afternoon of a fine
and sunny but cool day, were at the mouth of a deep gorge at the lower
end of the gully, having an abrupt mountain acclivity about eight
hundred feet high on one side, and on the other a plain bounded by
mountains.  Here numbers of tents of all sizes and various shapes were
pitched on the slopes and near the banks of the river that brawled down
the centre of the little valley.

No sooner had the travellers entered the camp than the diggers left
their work and flocked round them to ask the news, and, more
particularly, to ascertain what provisions had been brought to the
valley,--for the necessaries of life at that time were getting scarce,
and the party from which Frank and his companions had separated, strange
to say, had not arrived.

Great anxiety was manifested by the diggers on hearing of this
separation, because on the safe and speedy arrival of that party they
depended almost for their existence, and deep as well as loud were the
expressions of disappointment and discontent when they were told that,
if all had gone well, they should have been at the gully some days
before.

Soon, however, the diggers had exhausted their queries and returned to
their work, leaving the new arrivals to look after their own affairs.
This they proceeded to do promptly.

"Now, friends," said Jeffson, "our journeying together has come to an
end, and it remains for you to settle whether you shall keep together
and work in company, or separate.  As for me, my business compels me to
leave you.  Yonder white tent, which you see about half a mile up
the river, belongs to me and my partner.  It is the great
economico-universal store of Jeffson and Company, which supplies diggers
liberally on the most moderate terms, giving credit as long as it seems
advisable to do so.  When Jeffson is absent, Company takes charge of the
concern, and it is my opinion that Company will be kind o' glad to-night
to see the head of the firm come back safe and sound with fresh
supplies.  You see, gentlemen, I feel it sort of incumbent on me to make
you a farewell speech as a fellow-traveller, because I mean to become a
host for to-night, and ask you to come up to the store and partake of
our hospitality.  I am quite sure that you will acquit me of the
unworthy motive of wishing to attract you as customers, when I tell you
that I am already certain of your custom, seeing that there is no other
store in the gully, and I guess you won't be inclined to go down to
Sacramento for supplies for some time to come."

There was a general laugh at this, followed by a hearty expression of
thanks from all the party, who forthwith adjourned to the store, where
they found "Company" (who was an Irishman named Quin) barely able to
keep his legs, in consequence of a violent attack of dysentery which had
reduced him to a mere shadow.  The poor man could scarcely refrain from
shedding tears of joy at the sight of his partner, who, to do him
justice, was almost as much affected by sorrow at the miserable
appearance presented by his friend.

"Sure it's dead I am intirely--all but," said Quin, as he wrung
Jeffson's hand again and again; "if ye'd bin a day later it's my belaif
I'd have gone under the sod."

"Well, you do look like it, Quin," said Jeffson, stepping back to take a
more critical view of him.  "What on airth pulled all the flesh off yer
bones in this fashion?"

"Sickness, no less.  Faix, there's more than me is in the same fix.  Jim
Dander, down at the cross creek, has got so thin that it's of no manner
o' use looking at him sideways, he's not quite visible till he turns his
flat front to ye.  And Foxey is all but gone; and there's many a man
besides as is on the road to the grave, if not there already.  Sure, the
doctor's the only man that makes money now, though he kills more than he
cures.  The baste called to try his hand on mysilf, but I flung my big
boots at his head, an' saw no more of him."

"That's a bad account of things," said Jeffson; "however, here I am back
again with fresh supplies, so cheer up, man, and we'll weather the storm
yet.  I've brought some fellow-travellers, you see, and hope you will
receive them hospitably."

"That must not be," said Frank Allfrey, advancing, "it would be unfair
to put your friend to unnecessary trouble, considering the state of
weakness to which--"

"Waikness, is it?" exclaimed Quin, seizing Frank's hand and shaking it;
"well, now, it's little I thought I'd iver live to be called waik!
Howsever, it's too thrue, but me moral strength is wonderful, so you're
heartily welcome, if ye can slaip on a plank floor an' ait salt-pork an'
paise.  There, now, don't be botherin' a sick man wid yer assurances.
Just make yerselves at home, gintlemen, an' the head o' the firm will
git yer supper ready."

Saying this, the poor man, who was quite worn out with excitement and
the exertion of welcoming his partner, flung himself on his couch with a
deep sigh.  As Jeffson also pressed his friends to remain, they made no
further objection.

While supper was being prepared, Frank and Joe went out to look at the
diggers.

"Now," said the former as they sauntered along the bank of the river,
"the question that you and I must settle at once is, are we two to work
by ourselves, or are we to join with our late friends, and work in
company?"

"Jine 'em, say I," replied Joe.  "I'm fond of Meyer, and I like the
Scotchman too, though he is rather fond of argification; besides, it
strikes me that from what we have heard of diggers' ways, we shall be
the better of being a strong party."

"Four men don't form a very strong party, Joe; however, I agree with
you.  It would be well that we four should stick together.  So, that's
settled, and now we shall go and ask yonder fellow in the red shirt and
big boots something about our prospects."

The scene in the midst of which they now found themselves was curious,
interesting, and suggestive.  For two miles along its course the banks
of the river were studded with tents, and on each side of it were
diggers, working at short distances apart, or congregated together,
according to the richness of the deposits.  About twenty feet was the
space generally allowed at that time to a washing machine.  Most of the
diggers worked close to the banks of the stream, others partially
diverted its course to get at its bed, which was considered the richest
soil.  At one place a company of eighty men had banded together for the
purpose of cutting a fresh channel for the river--a proceeding which
afterwards resulted in a fierce and fatal affray with the men who worked
below them.  Elsewhere on the sides of the mountains and in "gulches"
formed by torrents, men toiled singly and in twos or threes, with picks,
shovels, washing-pans, and cradles.  All were very busy, but all were
not equally hopeful, for, while some had been successful in finding the
precious metal, others had failed, and were very desponding.

"Have you had good fortune to-day?" asked Frank, stopping at the edge of
the hole in which the miner with the red shirt toiled.

"Not very good," replied the man, whose voice betokened him an
Englishman.

He was an immensely powerful, good-looking fellow, and paused in his
work to reply to Frank's question with a hearty air.

"Have you to dig very deep?" inquired Frank.

"Not very," he replied; "the depth varies in different parts of the
diggings.  Here it is seldom necessary to go deeper than four feet.
Indeed, a white rock usually lays about the depth of two feet under the
soil.  It is difficult to cut through, and does not pay for the
trouble."

"Do you find gold on the surface?" continued Frank.

"Almost none.  Being weighty, it sinks downwards through the loose
earth, and settles on the rock.  I see, gentlemen, that you are
strangers, and, if I mistake not, Englishmen.  I am a countryman,
hailing from Cornwall, and, if you have no objection, will accompany you
in your inspection of the diggings.  My experience may be of service to
you, perhaps, and I can at all events guard you from the scoundrels who
make a livelihood by deceiving and cheating newcomers."

Frank thanked the Cornish miner for his kind offer, and accompanied by
this new and intelligent friend, he and Joe continued their ramble.

One of the first men whom they addressed happened to be one of the
sharpers referred to.  He was a Yankee, and although the Yankees were by
no means the _only_ scoundrels there, for there was no lack of such--
English, Scotch, Irish, German, and Chinese--they were unquestionably
the "'cutest!"

This man was very busy when they approached, and appeared to be quite
indifferent to them.  Observing, however, that they were about to pass
by, he looked up, and, wiping his brow, said, "Good-evening."

"Good-evening," said Frank, "What luck?"

"Luck enough," replied the man, "I'm tired of luck; the fact is, I have
made my pile, and want to make tracks for home, but this is such a
splendid claim that I can't tear myself away from it.  See here."

He struck his shovel into the ground as he spoke, and lifted a quantity
of earth, or "dirt," into a basin, washed it out, and displayed to the
astonished gaze of the "greenhorns," as newcomers were called, a large
quantity of gold-dust, with several small nuggets interspersed.

"Splendid!" exclaimed Frank.

"You'll make your fortin," said Joe Graddy.

"It's made already, I reckon," said the Yankee, with the air of a man
who was overburdened with success.  "The truth is, I want to get away
before the rainy season comes on, and will part with this here claim for
an old song.  I'm half inclined to make you a present of it, but I don't
quite see my way to that.  However, I've no objection to hand it over
for, say a hundred dollars."

"H'm!" ejaculated the Cornish man, "will you take a shovelful from the
_other_ end of the claim and wash it out?"

The Yankee smiled, put his finger on the side of his nose, and, wishing
them success in whatever line of life they chose to undertake, went on
with his work.

The Cornish miner laughed, and, as he walked away, explained to his
astonished companions that this was a common dodge.

"The rascals," he said, "hide a little gold in a claim that is
valueless, and, digging it up as you have seen, wash it out in the
presence of newcomers, in the hope of taking them in.  But here we come
to a party who will show you a little of legitimate gold-washing."

They approached, as he spoke, a bend of the river where several men were
busy at work--some with pick and shovel, some with the cradle, and
others with tin washing-pans.  Here they stood for some time watching
the process of gold-washing.

At the time of which we write, only the two simple processes of washing,
with the pan and with the cradle, were practised at Bigbear Gully, the
more elaborate methods of crushing quartz, etcetera, not having been
introduced.

The most simple of these was the _pan_ process, which was much in
favour, because the soil, or "dirt" was so rich in gold-dust that it
"paid" well, and it only required that the miner should possess a pick,
a shovel, and a tin pan.  With this very limited stock in trade he could
begin without delay, and earn at least a subsistence; perhaps even make
"his pile," or, in other words, his fortune.

One of the men connected with the party above referred to was engaged in
pan-washing.  He stood in a hole four feet deep, and had just filled a
flat tin dish with dirt, as Frank and his companions stopped to observe
him.  Pouring water on the dirt, the miner set the pan down, dipped both
hands into it and stirred the contents about until they became liquid
mud--removing the stones in the process, and operating in such a manner
that he caused some of the contents to escape, or spill, off the top at
each revolution.  More water was added from time to time, and the
process continued until all the earthy matter was washed away, and
nothing but a kind of black sand, which contained the gold, left at the
bottom.  The separation of the metal from the black sand was an after
process, and a more difficult one.  It was accomplished in some cases by
means of a magnet which attracted the sand.  In other cases this was
blown carefully off from a sheet of paper, but a few of the miners, who
managed matters in a more extensive and thorough manner, effected the
separation by means of quicksilver.  They mixed it with the sand, added
a little water, and stirred it about until the gold amalgamated with the
quicksilver, converting it into a little massive, tangible, and soft
heap.  It was then put into a buckskin cloth, through the pores of which
the quicksilver was squeezed, leaving the pure gold behind.  Any
trifling quantity of the former that might still remain was afterwards
evaporated on a heated shovel or pan.

An expert worker in average ground could gather and wash a panful of
dirt every ten minutes.  There were few places in Bigbear Gully that
would not yield two shillings' worth of gold to the panful, so that in
those early days, while the surface soil was still fresh, a man could,
by steady work alone--without incidental nuggets--work out gold-dust to
the value of between five and six pounds sterling a day, while,
occasionally, he came upon a lump, or nugget, equal, perhaps, to what he
could procure by the labour of a week or more.

Many, however, of the more energetic miners worked in companies and used
cradles, by means of which they washed out a much larger quantity of
gold in shorter time; and in places which did not yield a sufficient
return by the pan process to render it worth while working, the cradle
owners obtained ample remuneration for their toil.

The cradle, which Frank and his comrades saw working not far from the
pan-washer, was by no means a complex affair.  It was a semi-circular
trough hollowed out of a log six feet long by sixteen inches diameter.
At one end of this was a perforated copper or iron plate, with a rim of
iron or wood round it, on which the dirt was thrown, and water poured
thereon, by one man, while the cradle was rocked by another.  The gold,
earth, and small gravel were thus separated from the larger stones, and
washed down the trough, in which, at intervals, two tranverse bars were
placed; the first of these arrested the gold, which from its great
weight sunk to the bottom, while the gravel, and lighter substances,
were swept away by the current.  The lower bar caught any particles
that, by awkward management, might have passed the upper one.

Having satisfied their curiosity, and learned from an obliging miner the
method of washing the gold, our adventurers returned to Jeffson's store,
and there spent the night in discussing their plan of procedure.  It was
decided, first of all, that they should stick together and work in
company.

"You see, mates," observed Joe Graddy, after the others had given their
opinions, "this is how it stands.  I must stick by Mister Allfrey,
'cause why, we've bin pullin' in the same boat together for some time
past, an' it's nat'ral for to wish to continue so to do.  Then Douglas
and Meyer ought to stick to us, 'cause we have for so long stuck to
them, an' they ought to stick to one another 'cause they're mootooally
fond o' misty-physical jabberin' on religious subjects, which is greatly
to our edification, seein' that we don't onderstand it, and finds it
highly amoosin' while we smoke our pipes after a hard day's work, d'ye
see?  So, on them grounds, I votes that we j'ine company an' go to work
at seven o'clock to-morrow mornin'."

"Das ist goot advise," said the German, slapping Joe on the shoulder,
"an' I vould add mine vott, vich is, to make you commandair of de
forces."

"Very good, then I command you to shut your mouth, and go to bed."

"Unpossabil," replied Meyer, "for I do snor, an' always do him troo de
mout'."

"I prefers to do it through the nose," remarked Joe, rolling his blanket
round him and lying down on the hard boards with his head on a sack.

Expressing a hope that they would restrain their snoring propensities as
much as possible, the remaining members of the new co-partnery lay down
beside them, and were speedily in the land of dreams.  Need we add that
their dreams that night were of gold?  Surely not, and perhaps it were
equally unnecessary to observe that their slumbers were profound.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

GIVES THE RESULT OF THE FIRST DAY'S DIGGING, AND SHOWS THE POWERFUL
EFFECT OF LYNCH-LAW.

Next morning Frank and his friends went out to choose their claim.  As
we have said, the Bigbear Gully was not at that time generally known.  A
comparatively small number of diggers had set to work in it, and they
were careful to avoid giving much information to "prospecting," or
searching parties, because they knew that if the richness of the soil
were known, there would be a general rush to it from all quarters.
There was therefore no lack of unoccupied ground.

A suitable spot was chosen in a pleasant grove on the banks of the
stream where it swept round the base of a magnificent precipice, not far
from Jeffson's store.  Here Douglas, Meyer, and Joe set to work to build
a kind of hut of logs, branches, and mud, while Frank returned to the
store to purchase the necessary tools.  Having little money left, he was
compelled to take credit, which Jeffson readily granted to him, knowing
full well that there was little fear of the account remaining long
unpaid.

In order that the reader may have an idea of the charges made at the
diggings in those days, we subjoin the list of purchases made at the
commencement of operations by the firm of "Allfrey, Douglas and
Company."

+===================================================================+=====================+
|A rocker or cradle                                                 |6 pounds 5 shillings |
+-------------------------------------------------------------------+---------------------+
|A spade, shovel, pick-axe, and two tin washing-pans                |3 pounds 15 shillings|
+-------------------------------------------------------------------+---------------------+
|12 pounds weight of biscuit, 12 pounds weight of salt-pork and beef|                     |
+-------------------------------------------------------------------+---------------------+
|4 pounds weight of lard, and 6 pounds weight of flour              |10 pounds 8 shillings|
+-------------------------------------------------------------------+---------------------+
|A frying-pan, sauce-pan, and four tin mugs                         |2 pounds 12 shillings|
+-------------------------------------------------------------------+---------------------+
|Sum-Total                                                          |23 pounds 0 shillings|
+===================================================================+=====================+

When Joe Graddy heard the sum-total he looked very blank indeed, but,
quickly recovering himself, insisted that they should leave off
house-building, which, in the fine weather, he said, wos o' no manner o'
use, and it was a matter o' prime importance to go to dig at once, an'
pay off their debt without delay.

Joe was overruled, however, and when it was explained to him that the
fine weather might not last long, that it was essential to health that
they should have a roof of some sort to keep off the dews, and that
digging might be commenced in right earnest on the morrow, he consented
to continue his labours at the hut.

That night they slept sounder than usual, and, on the following morning,
began to dig for gold.

They commenced within a few feet of the water's edge.  Joe handled the
pick and spade; Meyer carried the "dirt" on his broad shoulders to
Douglas, who rocked the cradle, while Frank washed out the auriferous
matter in one of the tin pans, until nothing but pure gold and black
sand remained.  It was reserved for evening to separate the sand from
the gold, and ascertain the result of their day's labour.

At noon, in accordance with the universal custom at the mines, they
threw down their tools and went up to the hut for an hour's rest and
refreshment.  Of course they discussed while they dined, and hoped
largely! but their jaws were more active than their tongues, and the
moment the hour was completed they returned vigorously to work.

When the shades of evening began to descend, they returned to the hut,
and, kindling a fire, commenced to fry blacksand and gold, being anxious
to ascertain the result of the first day's work before supper!  As each
panful was dried and blown, the gold was weighed and put into a small
white bowl, the bottom of which was soon heaped up with shining
particles, varying in size from the smallest visible specks to little
lumps like grains of corn.

A neighbouring miner, who had offered to weigh the result for them,
pronounced this first day's work as an unusually successful one, being,
he said, a little over thirty-six pounds sterling.

"How much?" exclaimed Joe Graddy in amazement.

"Thirty-six pounds sterling," repeated the miner.

"You _don't_ mean that?"

"Indeed I do," replied the miner, smiling.

"Then our fortins is made a'ready--all but--"

"Not quite; you forget the price of our outfit," said Frank.

"No doubt, I did," answered the seaman, a little subdued.

"And the price o' grub," added Douglas; "not to mention clothing, which
we shall want very soon, I fear, for the tear and wear of this kind of
work is considerable.  Why, I found to-day, when I took a stroll at
noon, that they charge five pounds sterling for a flannel shirt, and
four pounds for a pair of boots, and everything else is in proportion;
so, you see, our thirty-six pounds won't do much for us at that rate.
However, I admit that we have reason to be satisfied with the day's
work."

"You certainly have," said their friend the miner; "for it is very
seldom that beginners do so much.  And now I would give you one piece of
advice before I go, which is, that you appoint one of your number to
cook for the rest.  More men are killed, I believe, by eating
half-cooked victuals, than by hard work.  They come in fagged and wet at
night, cook their grub hastily, bolt it, and then lie down to sleep in
damp clothes.  Of course they soon break down.  Our party have kept very
fair health in the midst of great sickness; and I believe it is chiefly
owing to the fact that, on first setting to work, we appointed one of
our number, who had a talent that way, to attend to the cooking
department.  We relieved him of a great deal of the hard labour, but
gave him his equal share of the profits.  The consequence has been that
we are all in first-rate health, and dig more energetically than our
neighbours."

"Has there then been much sickness here of late?" asked Frank.

"A great deal, and I fear there will be much more when the rains set in;
but let me urge you again to take my advice about appointing a cook."

"That," said Joe Graddy, "is just wot we means to do, Mister
wot's-yer-name?"

"Stewart," said the miner.

"Well, Mister Stewart, I'll ap'int myself cook to our party, havin', if
I may say so, a nat'ral talent that way, w'ich wos deweloped on my first
voyage round the world, w'en our cook died of a broken heart--so it's
said--'cause the doctor knocked off his grog, and put him on an
allowance o' lime juice."

Saying this, Joe heaved a deep sigh, seized the frying-pan, and
commenced his self-imposed duties.  Our hero took up the bowl of
gold-dust, and was about to leave the hut, when Douglas arrested him
with--

"Hallo, Frank, where away?  I shall have to shout `stop thief' if you go
off like that with the gold."

"I'm going to pay our debt to Jeffson," said Frank, with a laugh.  "I
have great belief, Douglas, in the plan of paying as one goes.  Debt is
a heavy weight, which I never mean to carry if I can help it.  A good
old aunt of mine used often to din into everybody's ears the text `owe
no man anything,' and I really believe she has caused it to take a
strong hold of me, for I can't rest till I square off Jeffson's
account!"

Frank hastened away, and soon after returned with the balance, thirteen
pounds, which, as Douglas observed when they began supper, was the
nucleus of their future fortune; while Joe remarked that "he didn't know
wot nooklius wos, but if it meant the _beginnin'_ of their fortin, it
wasn't a big un, as things went at the diggin's."

The proceeds of the next day's work were nearly equal to those of the
first, and the spirits of the diggers were proportionally high; but on
the third day they did not wash out much more than half the quantity of
gold.  They were therefore somewhat depressed; and this condition of
mind was increased by one of those events which were at times of
frequent occurrence there.  This was the murder of one miner by another,
and the summary application of Lynch-law to the criminal.

It occurred about noon, when the miners were at dinner.  A man named
Higson, who was noted for swearing and brutality, was standing near
Jeffson's store, when a young miner named Elms came up, greatly excited,
in consequence of having just found a large nugget, which he wished to
have weighed.  To the surprise of all, and the indignation of Elms,
Higson suddenly snatched the nugget out of his hand, and swore that it
had been got in a claim to which Elms had no title, and that, being
alongside of his own, and included in the line he had marked off, the
nugget was his by rights!

The young man sprang upon Higson, and a struggle ensued, in the midst of
which the latter drew his bowie-knife and stabbed Elms to the heart.
When he fell, Higson attempted to run, but a stout German tripped up his
heels, and a cry of wild anger arose from those who had witnessed the
deed.

"Lynch him!" they shouted furiously.

Frank Allfrey and his friends heard the shout, and ran to the spot; but
the administration of justice was so prompt that, before they reached
it, the murderer was swinging by the neck to the branch of a tree.

"Surely you have been too hasty," exclaimed Frank, advancing without any
settled intention, but under an indefinable sense that wrong was being
done.

At this several miners leaped forward, and drawing their revolvers,
swore with a terrible oath that they would shoot any man who should
attempt to cut the murderer down.

As one of the miners here explained hastily why it was that justice had
been meted out with such promptitude, our hero drew back and left the
spot, feeling, however, that Judge Lynch was a very dangerous character,
seeing that he might be just as prompt with the innocent as with the
guilty, although he would find it rather difficult to recall life if he
should find out afterwards that he had been mistaken in his views.

This event was followed two days after by another incident, which caused
considerable excitement in Bigbear Gully.  With the increase of miners
there had been a considerable increase of crime, as might naturally have
been expected in a country where, while there were undoubtedly many
honest men, there were also thousands of scoundrels of all nations who
had been attracted thither by the dazzling accounts given of the new El
Dorado in the West.  Rows, more or less severe, in reference to claims
and boundaries, had become frequent.  Cold-blooded murders were on the
increase; and thefts became so common that a general sense of insecurity
began to be felt.

This state of things at last wrought its own cure.  One day a youth went
into the hut of a neighbouring digger, a Yankee, and stole a coffee-tin.
He was taken in the act, and as this was the second time that he had
been caught purloining his neighbours' goods, those in the vicinity rose
up _en masse_ in a furore of indignation.  A hurried meeting of all the
miners was called, and it was unanimously resolved--at least so
unanimously that those who dissented thought it advisable to be silent--
that Lynch-law should be rigorously put in force.

Accordingly, several of the most energetic and violent of the miners
constituted themselves judges on the spot, and, on hearing a brief
statement of the case, decreed that the culprit was to be subjected to
whatever punishment should be determined on by the man whom he had
injured.  The Yankee at once decided that the rims of his ears should be
cut off, and that he should be seared deeply in the cheek with a red-hot
iron; which sentence was carried into execution on the spot!

It happened that while this was going on, another of the thieving
fraternity, who did not know of the storm that was gathering and about
to burst over the heads of such as he, took advantage of the excitement
to enter a tent, and abstract therefrom a bag of gold worth several
hundred pounds.  It chanced that the owner of it happened to be ailing
slightly that day, and, instead of following his companions, had lain
still in his tent, rolled up in blankets.  He was awakened by the thief,
sprang up and collared him, and, observing what he was about, dragged
him before the tribunal which was still sitting in deliberation on the
affairs of the community.  The man was instantly condemned to be shot,
and this was done at once--several of the exasperated judges assisting
the firing party to carry the sentence into execution.

"Now men," cried a tall raw-boned Yankee from the Western States,
mounting on a stump after the body had been removed, and speaking with
tremendous vehemence, "I guess things have come to such a deadlock here
that it's time for honest men to carry things with a high hand, so I
opine we had better set about it and make a few laws,--an' if you have
no objections, I'll lay down a lot o' them slick off--bran' new laws,
warranted to work well, and stand wear and tear, and ready greased for
action."

"Hear! hear!" cried several voices in the crowd that surrounded this
western Solon, while others laughed at his impudence.  All, however,
were eager to see the prevailing state of things put right, and glad to
back any one who appeared able and willing to act with vigour.

"Wall then, here goes," cried the Yankee.  "Let it be decreed that
whatever critter shall be nabbed in the act of makin' tracks, with what
isn't his'n, shall have his ears cut off, if it's a mild case, and be
hanged or shot if it's a bad un."

A hearty and stern assent was at once given to this law, and the
law-giver went on to lay down others.  He said that of course murder
would be punished also with death, and for several other offences men
should be flogged or branded on the cheeks with red-hot irons.  Having
in little more than ten minutes laid down these points, he enacted that
thenceforth each man should be entitled to a claim of ten feet square,
which, being multiplied by the number of his mess, would give the limits
of the allotments in particular locations; but that, he said, would not
prevent any man from moving from one site and fixing on another.

To this proposition, however, some of the miners demurred, and the
law-giver found that, although in criminal law he had been allowed to
have it all his own way, in civil matters he must listen to the opinion
of others.  However, after much wrangling this law was agreed to; and it
was also arranged, among other things, that as long as any one left his
tools in his claim, his rights were to be respected.

This meeting had the most beneficial influence on the miners.  Rough and
ready, as well as harsh, though their proceedings were, they
accomplished the end in view most effectually, for after several
terrible examples had been made, which proved to evil-doers that men
were thoroughly in earnest, stealing, quarrelling about boundaries, and
murdering were seldom heard of in that district--insomuch that men could
leave bags of gold in their tents unwatched for days together, and their
tools quite open in their claims without the slightest fear of their
being touched!

The reader must not suppose here that we are either upholding or
defending the proceedings of the celebrated Judge Lynch.  We are merely
recording facts, which prove how efficacious his severe code was in
bringing order out of confusion in Bigbear Gully at that time.

It is not necessary that we should follow the varied fortunes of our
hero and his friends, day by day, while they were engaged in digging for
gold.  Suffice it to say that sometimes they were fortunate, sometimes
the reverse, but that on the whole, they were successful beyond the
average of diggers, and became sanguine of making their fortunes in a
short time.

Nevertheless Frank Allfrey did not like the life.  Whatever else might
arouse his ambition, he was evidently not one of those whose soul was
set upon the acquisition of wealth.  Although successful as a digger,
and with more gold in his possession than he knew what to do with, he
detested the dirty, laborious work of digging and dabbling in mud from
morning till night.  He began to see that, as far as the nature of his
daily toil was concerned, he worked harder, and was worse off than the
poorest navvy who did the dirtiest work in old England!  He sighed for
more congenial employment, meditated much over the subject, and finally
resolved to give up gold-digging.

Before, however, he could carry this resolve into effect, he was smitten
with a dire disease, and in a few days lay on the damp floor of his poor
hut, as weak and helpless as a little child.



CHAPTER EIGHT.

FRANK AND JOE TAKE TO WANDERING; SEE SOME WONDERFUL THINGS, AND HAVE A
NARROW ESCAPE.

Before our hero became convalescent, his comrade Douglas was "laid down"
with dysentery.  In these circumstances, the digging went on slowly, for
much of the time of Meyer and Graddy was necessarily occupied in
nursing--and truly kind and devoted, though rough, nurses they proved to
be in that hour of need.

Gradually, but surely, Douglas sank.  There was no doctor to prescribe
for him, no medicine to be had for love or money.  In that wretched hut
he lay beside his sick friend, and conversed, as strength permitted, in
faint low tones, on the folly of having thrown his life away for "mere
gold," and on the importance of the things that concern the soul.  As he
drew near his end, the name of the Saviour was often on his lips, and
often did he reproach himself for having neglected the "great
salvation," until it was _almost_ too late.  Sometimes he spoke of
home--in Scotland,--and gave many messages to Frank, which he begged him
to deliver to his mother, if he should ever get well and live to return
home.

There was something in that "if" which went with a thrill to Frank's
heart, as he lay there, and realised vividly that his comrade was
actually dying, and that he too might die.

One evening Joe entered the hut with more alacrity than he had done for
many a day.  He had a large nugget, just dug up, in his hand, and had
hastened to his companions to cheer them, if possible, with a sight of
it.  Douglas was just passing away.  He heard his comrade's hearty
remarks, and looked upon the mass of precious metal.

"Joe," he whispered faintly, "Wisdom is more to be desired than gold;
`The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.'"

He never spoke again, and died within an hour after that.

At last Frank began to mend, and soon found himself strong enough to
travel, he therefore made arrangements to leave Bigbear Gully with his
inseparable friend Joe.  Meyer, being a very strong man, and in robust
health, determined to remain and work out their claim, which still
yielded abundance of gold.

"Meyer," said Frank, the evening before his departure, "I'm very sorry
that we are obliged to leave you."

"Ya, das ist mos' miserable," said the poor German, looking
disconsolate.

"But you see," continued Frank, "that my remaining, in my present state
of health, is out of the question.  Now, Joe and I have been talking
over our affairs.  We intend to purchase three mules and set off under
the guidance of a half-caste Californian, to visit different parts of
this country.  We will continue our journey as long as our gold lasts,
and then return to San Francisco and take passage for England,--for we
have both come to the unalterable determination that we won't try to
make our fortunes by gold-digging.  We have sufficient dust to give us a
long trip and pay our passage to England, without making use of that big
nugget found by Joe, which is worth at least 200 pounds; so we have
determined to leave it in possession of Jeffson, to be used by you if
luck should ever take a wrong turn--as it will sometimes do--and you
should chance to get into difficulties.  Of course if you continue
prosperous, we will reclaim our share of it on our return hither."

"Ah, you is too goot," cried the warm-hearted German, seizing Frank's
hand and wringing it, "bot I vill nevair use de nuggut--nevair!  You
sall find him here sartainly ven you do com bak."

"Well, I hope so, for your own sake," said Frank, "because that will
show you have been successful.  But if you get into low water, and do
not use it, believe me I shall feel very much aggrieved."

Next day about noon, our hero and Joe, with Junk, their vaquero, mounted
their mules and rode away.

"A new style o' cruisin' this," said Joe Graddy, one fine day, as they
pulled up under the shade of a large tree, at a spot where the scenery
was so magnificent that Frank resolved to rest and sketch it.

"New, indeed, and splendid too," he exclaimed enthusiastically, leaping
off his mule.  "You can go shoot squirrels or bears if you like, Joe,
but here I remain for the next three or four hours."

As Frank had been in the habit of treating his friend thus almost every
day since starting on their tour, he was quite prepared for it; smiled
knowingly, ordered the vaquero to tether the mules and accompany him
into the forest, and then, taking his bearings with a small
pocket-compass, and critically inspecting the sun, and a huge pinchbeck
watch which was the faithful companion of his wanderings, he shouldered
his gun and went off, leaving the enthusiastic painter to revel in the
glories of the landscape.

And truly magnificent the scenery was.  They had wandered by that time
far from the diggings, and were involved in all the grandeur of the
primeval wilderness.  Stupendous mountains, capped with snow, surrounded
the beautiful valley through which they were travelling, and herbage of
the richest description clothed the ground, while some of the trees were
so large that many of the giant oaks of old England would have appeared
small beside them.  Some of the precipices of the valley were fully
three thousand feet high, without a break from top to bottom, and the
mountain-ranges in the background must have been at least as high again.
Large tracts of the low grounds were covered with wild oats and rich
grasses; affording excellent pasturage to the deer, which could be seen
roving about in herds.  Lakes of various sizes were alive with
waterfowl, whose shrill and plaintive cries filled the air with wild
melody.  A noble river coursed throughout the entire length of the
valley, and its banks were clothed with oaks, cypresses, and chestnuts,
while, up on the mountain sides, firs of truly gigantic size reared
their straight stems above the surrounding trees with an air of towering
magnificence, which gave them indisputable right to be considered the
aristocracy of those grand solitudes.

Of these firs Frank observed one so magnificent that, although anxious
to begin work without delay, he could not resist the desire to examine
it closely.  Laying down his book and pencil he ran towards it, and
stood for some time in silent amazement, feeling that he was indeed in
the presence of the Queen of the Forest.  It was a pine which towered to
a height of certainly not less than three hundred and sixty feet, and,
after careful measurement, was found to be ninety-three feet in
circumference.  In regarding this tree as the Queen, Frank was doubly
correct, for the natives styled it the "Mother of the Forest."  The bark
of it, to the height of a hundred and sixteen feet, was, in after years,
carried to England, and built up in its original form in the Crystal
Palace of Sydenham.  It was unfortunately destroyed in the great fire
which a few years ago consumed a large part of that magnificent
building.

But this was not the only wonderful sight that was seen that day.  After
Frank had finished his drawing, and added it to a portfolio which was
already well filled, he fired a shot to recall his nautical comrade and
the vaquero.  They soon rejoined him, and, continuing their journey,
came to a waterfall which, in some respects, excelled that of the
far-famed Niagara itself.

It had sounded like murmuring thunder in their ears the greater part of
that day, and as they approached it the voice of its roar became so
deafening that they were prepared for something unusually grand, but not
for the stupendous sight and sound that burst upon them when, on turning
round the base of a towering precipice, they came suddenly in full view
of one of the most wonderful of the Creator's works in that land.

A succession of wall-like mountains rose in two tiers before them into
the clouds.  Some of the lower clouds floated far below the highest
peaks.  From the summit of the highest range, a river, equal to the
Thames at Richmond, dropt sheer down a precipice of more than two
thousand feet.  Here it met the summit of the lower mountain-range, on
which it burst with a deep-toned sullen roar, comparable only to eternal
thunder.  A white cloud of spray received the falling river in its soft
embrace, and sent it forth again, turbulent and foam-bespeckled, towards
its second leap,--another thousand feet,--into the plain below.  The
entire height of this fall was above three thousand feet!

Our hero was of course anxious to make a careful drawing of it, but
having already exhausted the greater part of the day, he was fain to
content himself with a sketch, after making which they pushed rapidly
forward, and encamped for the night, still within sight and sound of the
mighty fall.

"D'you know, Joe," said Frank, leaning back against a tree stem, as he
gazed meditatively into into the fire after supper was concluded, "it
has often struck me that men are very foolish for not taking full
possession of the splendid world, in which they have been placed."

Frank paused a few moments, but the observation not being sufficiently
definite for Joe, who was deep in the enjoyment of his first pipe, no
reply was made beyond an interjectional "h'm."

"Just look around you," pursued Frank, waving his hand towards the
landscape, "at this magnificent country; what timber, what soil, what an
amount of game, what lakes, what rivers, what facilities for farming,
manufacturing, fishing,--everything, in fact, that is calculated to
gladden the heart of man."

"Includin' gold," suggested Joe.

"Including gold," assented Frank; and there it all lies--has lain since
creation--hundreds of thousands of acres of splendid land _unoccupied_.

"Ha! there's a screw loose somewhere," said Joe, taking the pipe from
his lips and looking at it earnestly, as if the remark were addressed to
it, "somethin' out o' j'int--a plank started, so to speak--cer'nly."

"No doubt of it," said Frank; "and the broad acres which we now look
upon, as well as those over which we have lately travelled, are as
nothing compared with the other waste but fertile lands in America, on
which hundreds of thousands of the human race might live happily.  Yet,
strange to say, men seem to prefer congregating together in little
worlds of brick, stone, and mortar, living tier upon tier above each
other's heads, breathing noxious gases instead of the scent of flowers,
treading upon mud, stone, and dust, instead of green grass, and dwelling
under a sky of smoke instead of bright blue ether--and this, too, in the
face of the Bible command to `go forth and replenish the earth.'"

"Yes, there's great room," said Joe, "for the settin' up of a gin'ral
enlightenment an' universal emigration society, but I raither think it
wouldn't pay."

"I know it wouldn't, but why not?" demanded Frank.

"Ah, why not?" repeated Joe.

As neither of them appeared to be able to answer the question, they both
remained for some time in a profound reverie, Frank gazing as he was
wont to do into the fire, and Joe staring through smoke of his own
creation at the vaquero, who reclined on the opposite side of the fire
enjoying the tobacco to the full by letting it puff slowly out at his
nose as well as his mouth.

"Joe," said Frank.

"Ay, ay, sir," answered Joe with nautical promptitude.

"I have been thinking a good deal about our affairs of late, and have
come to the conclusion that the sooner we go home the better."

"My notions pre-cisely."

"Moreover," continued Frank, "I think that we have come far enough in
this direction, and that it would be a good plan to return to Bigbear
Gully by a different route from that by which we came here, and thus
have an opportunity of seeing some of the other parts of the diggings.
What say you to that?"

"I'm agreeable," answered Joe.

"Well then, shall we decide to commence our return journey to-morrow?"

"By all means.  Down wi' the helm, 'bout ship an' lay our course on
another tack by daylight," said Joe, shaking the ashes out of his pipe
with the slow unwilling air of a man who knows that he has had enough
but is loath to give up; "I always like to set sail by daylight.  It
makes one feel up to the mark so to speak, as if one had lost none of
the day, and I suppose," he added with a sigh which resolved itself into
a yawn, "that if we means to start so bright an' early the sooner we
tumble in the better."

"True," said Frank, whose mouth irresistibly followed the example of
Joe's, "I think it will be as well to turn in."

There was a quiet, easy-going lowness in the speech and motions of the
two friends, which showed that they were just in a state of readiness to
fall into the arms of the drowsy god.  They rolled themselves in their
blankets, placed their rifles by their sides, their heads on their
saddles, and their feet to the fire.

Joe Graddy's breathing proclaimed that he had succumbed at once, but
Frank lay for a considerable time winking owlishly at the stars, which
returned him the compliment with interest by twinkling at him through
the branches of the overhanging trees.

Early next morning they arose, remounted their mules and turned back,
diverging, according to arrangement, from their former track, and making
for a particular part of the diggings where Frank had been given to
understand there were many subjects of interest for his pencil.  We
would fain linger by the way, to describe much of what they saw, but the
limits of our space require that we should hasten onward, and transport
the reader at once to a place named the Great Canon, which, being a very
singular locality, and peculiarly rich in gold, merits description.

It was a gloomy gap or gorge--a sort of gigantic split in the earth--
lying between two parallel ranges of hills at a depth of several hundred
feet, shaped like a wedge, and so narrow below that there was barely
standing room.  The gold all lay at the bottom, the slopes being too
steep to afford it a resting-place.

The first diggers who went there were said to have gathered vast
quantities of gold; and when Frank and Joe arrived there was quite
enough to repay hard work liberally.  The miners did not work in
companies there.  Indeed, the form of the chasm did not admit of
operations on a large scale being carried on at any one place.  Most of
the men worked singly with the pan, and used large bowie-knives with
which they picked gold from the crevices of the rocks in the bed of the
stream, or scratched the gravelly soil from the roots of the overhanging
trees, which were usually rich in deposits.  The gorge, about four miles
in extent, presented one continuous string of men in single file, all
eagerly picking up gold, and admitting that in this work they were
unusually successful.

But these poor fellows paid a heavy price for the precious metal in the
loss of health, the air being very bad, as no refreshing breezes could
reach them at the bottom of the gloomy defile.

The gold at that place was found both in very large and very small
grains, and was mixed with quantities of fine black sand, which the
miners blew off from it somewhat carelessly--most of them being "green
hands," and anxious to get at the gold as quickly as possible.  This
carelessness on their part was somewhat cleverly taken advantage of by a
keen old fellow who chanced to enter the hut of a miner when Frank and
Joe were there.  He had a bag on his back and a humorous twinkle in his
eye.

"Well, old foxey, what do _you_ want?" asked the owner of the hut, who
happened to be blowing off the sand from a heap of his gold at the time.

"Sure it's only a little sand I want," said the man, in a brogue which
betrayed his origin.

"Sand, Paddy, what for?"

"For emery, sure," said the man, with a very rueful look; "troth it's
myself as is gittin' too owld entirely for the diggin's.  I was a broth
of a boy wance, but what wid dysentery and rheumatiz there's little or
nothin' o' me left, so I'm obleeged to contint myself wid gatherin' the
black sand, and sellin' it as a substitute for emery."

"Well, that is a queer dodge," said the miner, with a laugh.

"True for ye, it _is_ quare, but it's what I'm redooced to, so av you'll
be so kind as plaze to blow the sand on to this here tray, it'll be
doin' a poor man a good turn, an' costin' ye nothin'."

He held up a tin tray as he spoke, and the miner cheerfully blew the
sand off his gold-dust on to it.

Thanking him with all the fervour peculiar to his race, the Irishman
emptied the sand into his bag, and heaving a heavy sigh, left the hut to
request a similar favour of other miners.

"You may depend on it," said Frank, as the old man went out, "that
fellow is humbugging you.  It is gold, not sand, that he wants."

"That's a fact," said Joe Graddy, with an emphatic nod and wink.

"Nonsense," said the miner, "I don't believe we lose more than a few
specks in blowing off the sand--certainly nothing worth speaking of."

The man was wrong in this, however, for it was afterwards discovered
that the sly old fellow carried his black sand to his hut, and there,
every night, by the agency of quicksilver, he extracted from the sand
double the average of gold obtained by the hardest working miner in the
Canon!

At each end of this place there was a hut made of calico stretched on a
frame of wood, in which were sold brandy and other strong liquors of the
most abominable kind, at a charge of about two shillings for a small
glass!  Cards were also to be found there by those who wished to gamble
away their hard-earned gains or double them.  Places of iniquity these,
which abounded everywhere throughout the diggings, and were the nightly
resort of hundreds of diggers, and the scene of their wildest orgies on
the Sabbath-day.

Leaving the Great Canon, our travellers--we might almost term them
inspectors--came to a creek one raw, wet morning, where a large number
of miners where at work.  Here they resolved to spend the day, and test
the nature of the ground.  Accordingly, the vaquero was directed to look
after the mules while Frank and Joe went to work with pick, shovel, and
pan.

They took the "dirt" from a steep incline considerably above the winter
level of the stream, in a stratum of hard bluish clay, almost as hard as
rock, with a slight surface-covering of earth.  It yielded prodigiously.
At night they found that they had washed out gold to the value of forty
pounds sterling!  The particles of gold were all large, many being the
size of a grain of corn, with occasional nuggets intermixed, besides
quartz amalgamations.

"If this had been my first experience o' them there diggin's," said Joe
Graddy, as he smoked his pipe that night in the chief gambling and
drinking store of the place, "I would have said our fortin wos made, all
but.  Hows'ever, I don't forget that the last pair o' boots I got cost
me four pound, an' the last glass o' brandy two shillin's--not to speak
o' death cuttin' an' carvin' all round, an' the rainy season a-comin'
on, so it's my advice that we 'bout ship for home as soon as may be."

"I agree with you, Joe," said Frank, "and I really don't think I would
exchange the pleasure I have derived from journeying through this land,
and sketching the scenery, for all the gold it contains.  Nevertheless I
would not like to be tempted with the offer of such an exchange!--Now,
I'll turn in."

Next morning the rain continued to pour incessantly, and Frank Allfrey
had given the order to get ready for a start, when a loud shouting near
the hut in which they had slept induced them to run out.  A band of men
were hurrying toward the tavern with great haste and much gesticulation,
dragging a man in the midst of them, who struggled and protested
violently.

Frank saw at a glance that the prisoner was his former companion
Bradling, and that one of the men who held him was the stranger who had
been so badly wounded by him at the camp-fire, as formerly related.

On reaching the tavern, in front of which grew a large oak-tree--one of
the limbs of which was much chafed as if by the sawing of a rope against
it--the stranger, whose comrades called him Dick, stood up on a stump,
and said--

"I tell you what it is, mates, I'm as sure that he did it as I am of my
own existence.  The man met his death at the hands of this murderer
Bradling; ha! he knows his own name, you see!  He is an escaped
convict."

"And what are you?" said Bradling, turning on him bitterly.

"That is no man's business, so long as I hurt nobody," cried Dick
passionately.  "I tell you," he continued, addressing the crowd, which
had quickly assembled, "I found this fellow skulking in the bush close
to where the body was found, and I know he did it, because he all but
murdered me not many months ago, and there," he continued, with a look
of surprise, pointing straight at our hero, "is a man who can swear to
the truth of what I say!"

All eyes were at once turned on Frank, who stepped forward, and said--

"I can certainly testify to the fact that this man Bradling did attempt
to shoot the man whom you call Dick, but I know nothing about the murder
which seems to have been perpetrated here, and--"

"It's a young feller as was a quiet harmless sort o' critter," said one
of the bystanders, "who was found dead under a bush this morning with
his skull smashed in; and it's my opinion, gentlemen, that, since this
stranger has sworn to the fact that Bradling tried to murder Dick, he
should swing for it."

"I protest, gentlemen," said Frank energetically, "that I did not
_swear_ at all!  I did not even _say_ that Bradling tried to murder
anybody: on the contrary, I think the way in which the man Dick handled
his gun at the time when Bradling fired was very susp--"

A shout from the crowd drowned the remainder of this speech.

"String him up without more ado," cried several voices.

Three men at once seized Bradling, and a rope was quickly flung over the
bough of the oak.

"Mercy! mercy!" cried the unhappy man, "I swear that I did not murder
the man.  I have made my pile down at Bigbear Gully, and I'll give it
all--every cent--if you will wait to have the matter examined.  Stay,"
he added, seeing that they paid no heed to him, "let me speak one word,
before I die, with Mr Allfrey.  I want to tell him where my gold lies
hid."

"It's a dodge," cried one of the executioners with a sneer, "but have
your say out.  It's the last you'll have a chance to say here, so look
sharp about it."

Frank went forward to the man, who was trembling, and very pale, and
begged those who held him to move off a few paces.

"Oh!  Mr Allfrey," said Bradling, "I am innocent of this; I _am_ an
escaped convict, it is true, and I _did_ try to kill that man Dick, who
has given me provocation enough, God knows, but, as He shall be my judge
at last, I swear I did not commit _this_ murder.  If you will cut the
cords that bind my hands, you will prevent a cold-blooded murder being
committed now.  You saved my life once before.  Oh! save it again."

The man said all this in a hurried whisper, but there was something so
intensely earnest and truthful in his bearing that Frank, under a sudden
and irresistible impulse, which he could not afterwards account for,
drew his knife and cut the cords that bound him.

Instantly Bradling bounded away like a hunted deer, overturning several
men in his flight, and being followed by a perfect storm of bullets from
rifles and revolvers, until he had disappeared in the neighbouring wood.
Then the miners turned with fury on Frank, but paused abruptly on
seeing that he and Joe Graddy stood back to back, with a revolver in
each hand.

Of course revolvers and rifles were instantly pointed at them, but
fortunately the miners in their exasperation had discharged all their
fire-arms at Bradling--not a piece remained loaded!

Several therefore commenced hurriedly to re-load, but Frank shouted, in
a voice that there was no misunderstanding--

"The first who attempts to load is a dead man!"

This caused them to hesitate, for in those times men, when desperate,
were wont to be more prompt to act than to threaten.  Still, there were
some present who would have run the risk, and it is certain that our
hero and his friend would have then and there terminated their career,
had not a backwoods hunter stepped forward and said:

"Well now, ye air makin' a pretty noise 'bout nothin'!  See here, I know
that feller Bradling well.  _He_ didn't kill the man.  It was a Redskin
as did it; I came up in time to see him do it, and killed the Redskin
afore he could get away.  In proof whereof here is his gun, an' you'll
find his carcase under the bank where the murder was committed, if ye've
a mind to look for it.  But Bradling _is_ a murderer.  I knows him of
old, an' so, although he's innocent of this partikler murder, I didn't
see no occasion to try to prevent him gittin' his desarts.  It's another
matter, hows'ever, when you're goin' to scrag the men as let him off.
If ye'll take the advice of an old hunter as knows a thing or two,
you'll go to work on yer claims slick off, for the rains are comin' on,
and they will pull ye up sharp, I guess.  You'll make hay while the sun
shines if you're wise."

The opportune interference of this hunter saved Frank and Joe, who,
after thanking their deliverer, were not slow to mount their mules and
hasten back to Bigbear Gully, resolved more firmly than ever to wind up
their affairs, and bid a final adieu to the diggings.



CHAPTER NINE.

CONCLUSION.

When they arrived at Bigbear Gully they found the condition of the
people most deplorable, owing to scarcity of provisions, prevailing
sickness, and the total absence of physic or medical attendance.  To
make matters worse, there were indications that the rainy season was
about to set in; an event that would certainly increase the violence of
the disease which had already swept away so many of the miners, not a
few of whom fell down in the holes where they were digging for gold, and
thus, in digging their own graves, ended their golden dreams, with
gold-dust for their winding-sheets.

In California there may be said to be only two seasons--a wet one and a
dry.  The wet season is from November to March, during which period
foggy weather and cold south-west winds prevail.  During the remaining
months of the year, arid scorching north-east winds blow so frequently
and so long that everything green becomes parched and shrivelled up.  Of
course this state of things is modified in different localities by the
proximity or absence of mountains, rivers, and sandy plains, and there
are various periods throughout the year during which the climate is
delightful; but on the whole it is considered bad--especially during the
rains, when water comes down in such continuous deluges that
gold-digging and all other work is much interfered with--sometimes
stopped altogether.  At midday in this season there is frequently July
heat, while in the morning and evening there is January cold.

Anxious to escape before the weather became worse, Frank went at once to
Jeffson's store to obtain supplies, settle up accounts, and inquire for
his friend Meyer.  He found Jeffson looking very ill--he having recently
had a severe attack of the prevailing complaint, but "Company" had
recovered completely, and was very busy with the duties of his store,
which ("Company" being a warm-hearted man) included gratuitous
attendance on, and sympathy with, the sick.

"It'll ruin us intirely," he was wont to say, "for we can't stand by and
see them die o' sickness an' intarvation mixed, an' the poor critters
has nothin' wotever to pay.  Hows'ever, vartue is its own reward, an' we
makes the tough miners pay handsome for their supplies, which makes up
for the sick wans, an' kapes us goin' on hearty enough."

"And what of Meyer?" asked Frank, somewhat anxiously.

Instead of answering, Jeffson put on his hat, and bidding him follow,
went out of the store.  He led him and Joe towards a large pine-tree, at
the root of which there was a low mound, carefully covered with green
turf.  Pointing to it, the Yankee store-keeper said with some emotion--

"There he lies, poor fellow; and a better, more kind-hearted, or
honester man, never drove pick and shovel into the airth."

In compliance with the request of Frank, who was deeply moved, Jeffson
told how that, after the departure of his friends, the poor German's
spirits sank; and while he was in this state, he was prevented from
rallying by a severe attack of dysentery which ended in his death.

"I trust that he was not pressed by poverty at the last," said Frank.

"He would have been," replied the Yankee, "if he had been allowed to
have 'is own way; for, being unable to work, of course he ran out o'
gold-dust, and nothing would persuade him to touch the nugget you left
in my charge.  I hit upon a plan, however, which answered very well.  I
supplied him all through his illness with everything that he required to
make him as comfortable as could be, poor fellow, tellin' him it was
paid for in full by a friend of his, whose name I couldn't and wouldn't
mention.  `Jeffson,' says he, startin' up like a livin' skeleton, and
lookin' at me so serious with his hollow eyes; `Jeffson, if it bees
_you_ dat give me de tings, I vill not have dem.  I vill die first.  You
is poor, an' ve cannot expect you keep all de dyin' miners vor noting.'

"`Well,' says I, `I won't go for to say I'm over rich, for times _air_
raither hard just now; but it ain't _me_ as is the friend.  I assure you
I'm paid for it in full, so you make your mind easy.'

"With that he lay down an' gave a long sigh.  He was exhausted, and
seemed to have dismissed the subject from his mind, for he never spoke
of it again."

"I rather suspect," said Frank, "that you did not tell him the exact
truth."

"I guess I did," replied the Yankee.

"Who, then, was the friend?"

"Yourself," said Jeffson, with a peculiar smile.  "I intend to keep
payment of it all off your nugget, for you see it _is_ a fact that we
ain't in very flourishing circumstances at present; and I knew you would
thank me for not deserting your friend in his distress."

"You did quite right," said Frank earnestly; "and I thank you with all
my heart for your kindness to poor Meyer, as well as your correct
estimate of me."

Frank did not forget that his own resources were at a low ebb just then,
and that he had been counting on the nugget for the payment of his
expenses to the coast, and his passage to England, but he made no
mention of the fact.  His comrade, Joe Graddy, however, could not so
easily swallow his disappointment in silence.

"Well," said he, turning his quid from one cheek to the other--for Joe
was guilty of the bad habit of chewing tobacco,--"well, it's not for the
likes o' me to put my opinion contrairy to yourn, an' in coorse it's all
very right that our poor messmate should have been looked arter, an I'm
very glad he wos.  Notwithstandin', I'm bound for to say it _is_ raither
okard as it stands, for we're pretty nigh cleaned out, an' have got to
make for the coast in the rainy season, w'ich, it appears to me, is very
like settin' sail in a heavy gale without ballast."

"Come, Joe," interposed Frank, "we're not quite so hard up as that comes
to.  There is a little ballast left,--sufficient, if we only turn to,
and wash out a little more gold, to take us home."

"Sorry to hear you're in such a fix," said Jeffson, still regarding his
friends with a peculiar smile on his cadaverous countenance; "but I
think I can get ye out of it.  See here," he added, leading them to
another grave not far distant from that of Meyer; "can you guess who
lies under the sod there?  He was a friend of yours; though perhaps you
would scarcely have acknowledged him had he been alive.  You remember
Bradling--"

"What! our old travelling companion!" exclaimed Frank.

"The same."

"Why, I saved his life only a few days ago."

"I know it," said Jeffson, "He came here late one night, all covered
with blood; and, flinging himself down on a bench in my store, said that
he was done for.  And so he was, I guess,--all riddled with bullets,
none of which, however, had given him a mortal wound; but he had lost so
much blood by the way that he had no chance of recovering.  I did my
best for him, poor fellow, but he sank rapidly.  Before he died he told
me how you had saved him from being scragged, and said that he wanted to
make you his heir."

"Poor fellow," said Frank with a sad smile, "it was a kind expression of
gratitude that I did not expect of him, considering his reputation."

"I s'pose," said Joe Graddy, with a sarcastic laugh, "that you'll be
goin' to set up your carriage an' four, an' make me your coachman,
mayhap?"

"I think I may promise that with safety," replied Frank.

"Indeed you may," said Jeffson, "for Bradling has been one of the most
successful diggers in Bigbear Gully since you left it, and has made his
fortune twice over.  The value of gold-dust and nuggets left by him in
my charge for you is about ninety-six thousand dollars, which, I
believe, is nigh twenty thousands pounds sterling of your money."

"Gammon!" exclaimed Joe.

"You are jesting," said Frank.

"That I am not, as you shall see, if you will come with me to the store.
When he felt sure that he was dying, Bradling asked me to call together
a few of the honest and trustworthy men in the diggings.  I did so, and
he told us the amount of his gatherings, and, after explaining how you
had helped him in his hour of need, said that he took us all solemnly to
witness that he left you his heir.  He got one of the miners to write
out a will for him and signed it, after which he directed us to a tree,
under which, he said, his gold was hid.  We thought at first that he was
raving, but after he was dead we went to the tree, and there, sure
enough, we found the gold, just as he had described it, and, on weighing
it, found that it amounted to the sum I have named--so, Mr Allfrey, I
guess that I may congratulate you on your good fortune.  But come, I
will show you the will and the witnesses."

Saying this he led them into the store, where he showed the will to
Frank and Joe, who were at first sceptical, and afterwards began to
doubt the evidence of their senses.  But when the witnesses were called,
and had confirmed Jeffson's statements, and, above all, when the bags of
gold-dust and nuggets were handed over to him, Frank could no longer
question the amazing fact that he had suddenly come into possession of a
comfortable fortune!

Need we say, reader, that he insisted on sharing it with Joe Graddy,
without whose prompt and vigorous aid the rescue of Bradling could not
have been effected? and need we add that the two friends found their way
to the sea-coast as quickly as possible, and set sail for England
without delay?  We think not.  But it may be as well to state that, on
his arrival in England, Frank found his old uncle in a very sour
condition of mind indeed, having become more bilious and irascible than
ever over his cash-books and ledgers,--his own special diggings--without
having added materially to his gold.

When Frank made his appearance, the old gentleman was very angry,
supposing that he had returned to be a burden and a bore to him, but, on
learning the true state of the case, his feelings towards his
_successful_ nephew were wonderfully modified and mollified!

It was very difficult at first to convince him of the truth of Frank's
good fortune, and he required the most incontestable proofs thereof
before he would believe.  At length, however, he was convinced, and
condescended to offer his nephew his hearty congratulations.

"Now, uncle," said Frank, "I shall build a house somewhere hereabouts,
and live beside you."

"You could not do better," said the old gentleman, who became suddenly
and wonderfully amiable!

"And I don't intend to bother myself with business, uncle."

"Quite right, my boy; you have no occasion to do so."

"But I intend to devote much of my time to painting."

"A most interesting occupation," said the tractable old gentleman.

"And a good deal of it, also," continued Frank, "to the consideration of
the cases of persons in sickness and poverty."

"H'm! a most laudable purpose, though it has always appeared to me that
this is a duty which devolves upon the guardians of the poor.
Nevertheless the intention is creditable to you; but I am surprised to
hear you, who are so young, and can have seen so little of poverty or
sickness, talk of giving much of your time to such work."

"You are wrong, uncle, in supposing that I have seen little.  During my
wanderings in foreign lands I have seen much, very much, of poverty and
sickness, and have felt something of both, as my friend Joe Graddy can
testify."

Joe, who was sitting by, and had been listening to the conversation with
much interest, bore testimony forthwith, by stoutly asserting that "that
was a fact," and slapping his thigh with great vehemence, by way of
giving emphasis to the assertion.

"The fact is, sir," continued Joe, kindling with enthusiasm, "that your
nephy has gone through a deal o' rough work since he left home, an' I'm
free for to say has learned, with myself, a lot o' walooable lessons.
He has made his fortin at the gold-mines, kooriously enough, without
diggin' for it, an' has come for to know that it's sometimes possible to
pay too high a price for that same metal, as is proved by many an' many
a lonely grave in the wilds of Californy.  Your nephy an' me, sir, has
comed to the conclusion that distributin' gold is better than diggin'
for it, so we intends to set up in that line, an' hopes that your honour
will go into pardnership along with us."

Mr Allfrey, senior, received Joe's invitation with a benignant and
patronising smile, but he did not accept it, neither did he give him any
encouragement to suppose that he sympathised with his views on that
subject.  There is reason to believe, however, that his opinions on this
head were somewhat modified in after years.  If report speaks truly, he
came to admit the force of that text in Scripture which says, that as it
is certain man brings nothing into the world, so he takes nothing out of
it, and that therefore it was the wisest policy to do as much good with
his gold as he could while he possessed it.

Acting on these convictions, it is said, he joined the firm of Allfrey
and Graddy, and, making over his cash-books and ledgers to the "rising
generation," fairly and finally, like his new partners, renounced his
ancient habit of digging for gold.

THE END.





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