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Title: Crusoe's Island: A Ramble in the Footsteps of Alexander Selkirk - With Sketches of Adventure in California and Washoe
Author: Browne, J. Ross (John Ross), 1821-1875
Language: English
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     CRUSOE'S ISLAND:

      A
      Ramble in the Footsteps of Alexander Selkirk.

      WITH
      SKETCHES OF ADVENTURE
      IN
      CALIFORNIA AND WASHOE.

      BY J. ROSS BROWNE,

      AUTHOR OF
      "ETCHINGS OF A WHALING CRUISE," "YUSEF," &c.

      NEW YORK:
      HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS,
      FRANKLIN SQUARE.

      1864.



      Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year one thousand
      eight hundred and sixty-four, by

      HARPER & BROTHERS,

      In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the Southern
      District of New York.



CONTENTS.


      CRUSOE'S ISLAND.

      CHAPTER                                                     PAGE

      I. THE BOAT ADVENTURE                                          9

      II. FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF THE ISLAND                           22

      III. GOING ASHORE                                             25

      IV. CONDITION OF THE ISLAND IN 1849                           28

      V. ROBINSON CRUSOE'S CAVE                                     37

      VI. THE VALLEY ON FIRE                                        48

      VII. THE CAVE OF THE BUCCANEERS                               54

      VIII. LODGINGS UNDER GROUND                                   55

      IX. COOKING FISH                                              62

      X. RAMBLE INTO THE INTERIOR                                   71

      XI. THE VALLEY OF ENCHANTMENT                                 75

      XII. A STRANGE DISCOVERY                                      77

      XIII. THE STORM AND ESCAPE                                    86

      XIV. THE AMERICAN CRUSOE                                      91

      XV. CASTLE OF THE AMERICAN CRUSOE                             96

      XVI. DIFFICULTY BETWEEN ABRAHAM AND THE DOUBTER               99

      XVII. THE MURDER                                             106

      XVIII. THE SKULL                                             112

      XIX. THE GOVERNOR'S VISION                                   117

      XX. THE DOUBTER'S DYSPEPTIC STORY                            120

      XXI. BAD DREAM CONCERNING THE DOUBTER                        123

      XXII. THE UNPLEASANT AFFAIR OF HONOR                         127

      XXIII. DR. STILLMAN'S JOURNAL                                142

      XXIV. CONFIDENTIAL CHAT WITH THE READER                      147

      XXV. EARLY VOYAGES TO JUAN FERNANDEZ                         151

      XXVI. ALEXANDER SELKIRK AND ROBINSON CRUSOE                  161


      A DANGEROUS JOURNEY.

      I. THE CANNIBAL                                              167

      II. THE MIRAGE                                               172

      III. A DEATH STRUGGLE                                        180

      IV. THE OUTLAW'S CAMP                                        189

      V. THE ESCAPE                                                201

      VI. A LONELY RIDE                                            209

      VII. THE ATTACK                                              214

      VIII. SAN MIGUEL                                             222

      IX. A DANGEROUS ADVENTURE                                    228

      X. A TRAGEDY                                                 235


      OBSERVATIONS IN OFFICE.

      I. MY OFFICIAL EXPERIENCES                                   249

      II. THE GREAT PORT TOWNSEND CONTROVERSY, SHOWING HOW
      WHISKY BUILT A CITY                                          270

      III. THE INDIANS OF CALIFORNIA                               284


      A PEEP AT WASHOE.

      I. INTRODUCTORY                                              309

      II. START FOR WASHOE                                         322

      III. ACROSS THE MOUNTAINS                                    350

      IV. AN INFERNAL CITY                                         365

      V. SOCIETY OF VIRGINIA CITY                                  385

      VI. ESCAPE FROM VIRGINIA CITY                                394

      VII. MY WASHOE AGENCY                                        404

      VIII. START FOR HOME                                         416

      IX. ARRIVAL IN SAN FRANCISCO                                 430



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.


      CRUSOE'S ISLAND.

      Map of Juan Fernandez                                     Page 9

      Leaving the Ship                                              13

      Boat in a Storm                                               16

      Struck by a Flaw                                              18

      Shipwrecked Sailor                                            19

      Juan Fernandez                                                23

      Crusoe's Castle                                               26

      Crusoe at Home                                                27

      Plan of the Convict Cells                                     28

      Convict Cells                                                 30

      Chilian Huts                                                  31

      Walrus, or Sea Lion                                           36

      Crusoe's Cave                                                 39

      A Relic of Crusoe                                             40

      Crusoe's Devotions                                            41

      The Valley with the Cave and Cliff                            42

      Dream-land Crusoe                                             44

      Fairy Cove                                                    45

      Rescue of Friday                                              46

      Crusoe Asleep                                                 48

      The Californians in Juan Fernandez                            51

      Fishing                                                       53

      Crusoe and his Comrades                                       57

      Cooking in Juan Fernandez                                     62

      The Cliff                                                     64

      Abraham on the Peak                                           69

      The Trogon                                                    74

      The Valley                                                    76

      The Skull                                                     85

      The American Crusoe                                           92

      Tragic Fate of the Scotchman                                 107

      The Lovers                                                   109

      Grave of the murdered Man                                    111

      The Doubter                                                  121

      The Footprint in the Sand                                    124

      The Savage Orgies                                            125

      The Doubter back again                                       133

      Swallowing an Island                                         140

      Dreams and Realities                                         145

      Peak of Yonka                                                146

      Scenery of Juan Fernandez                                    148

      Killing Savages                                              149

      The Author à la Robinson Crusoe                              150

      Chilian and Chilienne                                        157


      A DANGEROUS JOURNEY

      Mirage in the Salinas Valley                                 168

      Pass of San Juan                                             173

      Antelopes in the Mirage                                      175

      Vulture in the Mirage                                        176

      Soledad                                                      178

      A Duel à la Mort                                             186

      The Camp                                                     192

      Jack                                                         193

      A lonely Ride                                                210

      The Attack                                                   217

      San Miguel                                                   224

      A Spanish Caballero                                          226

      Valley of Santa Marguerita                                   230

      Lassoing a Grizzly                                           233

      The Belle of the Fandango                                    239


      OBSERVATIONS IN OFFICE

      The Duke of York, Queen Victoria, and Jenny Lind             274

      The Diggers at Home                                          285

      Out in the Mountains                                         301

      Protecting the Settlers                                      305


      A PEEP AT WASHOE

      The Bummer                                                   311

      Going to Kern River                                          312

      Returning from Kern River                                    313

      Ho! for Frazer River                                         315

      Returned from Frazer River                                   318

      Hurrah for Washoe                                            321

      The Agency                                                   323

      "I say, Cap!"                                                326

      Dollars with Spider legs (a Dream)                           327

      "Go it, Washoe!"                                             329

      The Pocket Pistol                                            331

      California Stage-driver                                      333

      Whisky below                                                 334

      "Carambo! Caraja--Sacramento!--Santa Maria!--Diavolo!"       335

      Board and Lodging                                            337

      Grindstones                                                  339

      A Speculator                                                 341

      Dinner at Strawberry                                         345

      The Lay-out                                                  348

      The Stocking-thief                                           349

      The Trail from Strawberry                                    351

      "We are waiting for you"                                     354

      A short Cut                                                  355

      Diogenes                                                     358

      Carson City                                                  362

      The Stage                                                    369

      The Devil's Gate                                             371

      Virginia City                                                373

      A Question of Title                                          375

      "My Claim, Sir!"                                             377

      Gold Hill                                                    379

      San Francisco Speculators                                    380

      Assay Office                                                 381

      A Fall                                                       384

      The Comstock Lead                                            386

      The Claims                                                   389

      "Silver, certain, Sir"                                       391

      "Indications, sure!"                                         393

      An old Friend                                                399

      Carson Valley                                                403

      Holding on to it                                             405

      Mount Ophir                                                  407

      Croppings                                                    408

      The Flowery Diggings                                         409

      Honest Miner                                                 410

      "A gloomy Prospect"                                          411

      Return from Washoe                                           417

      Outgoing and Incoming                                        419

      The Jew's Boots                                              421

      Snow Slide                                                   424

      The Grade                                                    427

      Return to San Francisco                                      433

      Reading extra Bulletin                                       436



CRUSOE'S ISLAND.



CHAPTER I.

THE BOAT ADVENTURE.

  [Illustration: MAP OF JUAN FERNANDEZ.]


My narrative dates as far back as the early part of the year 1849. Then
the ship Anteus was a noted vessel. Many were the strange stories told
of strife and discord between the captain and the passengers; pamphlets
were published giving different versions of the facts, and some very
curious questions of law were involved in the charges made by both
parties. It appeared from the statement of the passengers, who were for
the most part intelligent and respectable Americans, that, on the voyage
of the Anteus to California, their treatment by the captain was cruel
and oppressive in the extreme; that, before they were three weeks from
port, he had reduced them almost to a state of absolute starvation; and,
in consequence of the violence of his conduct, which, as they alleged,
was without cause or provocation on their part, they considered their
lives endangered, and resolved upon making an appeal for his removal at
the port of Rio. On the arrival of the vessel at Rio the captain was
arraigned before the American consul, and pronounced to be insane by the
evidence of six physicians and by the testimony of a large majority of
the passengers. It was charged, on the other hand, that the passengers
were disorderly, mutinous, and ungovernable; that they had entered into
a conspiracy against the captain, and in testifying to his insanity were
guilty of perjury. The examination of the case occupied several weeks
before the American consul; voluminous testimony was taken on both
sides; the question was submitted to the American minister, to the
British consul, and to the principal merchants of Rio, all of whom
concurred in the opinion that, under the circumstances, there was but
one proper course to pursue, which was, to remove the captain from the
command of the vessel. He was accordingly deposed by the American
consul, and a new captain placed in the command. This was regarded by
the principal merchants of New York as an arbitrary exercise of
authority, unwarranted by law or precedent, and a memorial was addressed
by them to the President of the United States for the removal of the
consul. A new administration had just come into power; and the consul
was removed, ostensibly on the ground of the complaints made against
him; but, inasmuch as some few other officers of the government were
removed at the same time without such ground, it may be inferred that a
difference in political opinion had some weight with the administration.

It is not my intention now to go into any argument in regard to the
merits of this case; the time may come when justice will be done to the
injured, and it remains for higher authority than myself to mete it out.
I have simply to acknowledge, with a share of the odium resting upon me,
that I was one of the rebellious passengers in the Anteus. My companions
in trouble so far honored me with their confidence as to give me charge
of the case. I was unlearned in law, yet possessed some experience in
sea-life; and believing that the lives of all on board depended upon
getting rid of a desperate and insane captain, aided to the best of my
ability in having a new officer placed in the command. To the change
thus made, unforeseen in its results, I owe my eventful visit to the
island of Juan Fernandez.

It was the intention of our first captain to touch at Valparaiso for a
supply of fresh provisions. In the ship's papers this was the only port
designated on the Pacific side except San Francisco. Our new commander,
Captain Brooks, assumed the responsibility of leaving the choice between
Valparaiso and another port to the passengers. It was put to the vote,
and decided that we should proceed to Callao, so that we might pass in
sight of Juan Fernandez, and have an opportunity of visiting Lima, "the
City of the Kings."

Early on the morning of the 19th of May, 1849, we made the highest peak
of Massa Tierra, bearing N.N.W., distant seventy miles. The weather was
mild and clear. As the sun rose, it fell calm, and the ship lay nearly
motionless. A light blue spot, scarce bigger than a hand-spike, was all
that appeared in the horizon. It might have passed for a cloud but for
the distinctness of its outline. Weary of the gales we had encountered
off Cape Horn, it was a pleasant thing to see a spot of earth once more,
and there was not a soul on board but felt a desire to go ashore. For
some days past, myself and a few others had talked secretly among
ourselves about making the attempt in case we went close enough; but now
there seemed to be every prospect of a long calm, and we took it for
granted the captain would clap on all sail if we took the trades. There
was no other chance but to lower one of the boats and row seventy miles.
A party of us agreed to do this, provided we could get a boat. The
ship's boats we knew it would be impossible to get without permission of
the captain, and that we were not willing to ask. Mr. Brigham, a
fellow-passenger, was owner of one of the quarter-boats. We broached
the matter to him, and he gladly joined in the adventure, together with
his partner and some friends, so that we made in all a very pleasant
party of eleven. The proper number of men for the boat was six, but in
consideration of the great distance and the necessity of a change at the
oars, five more were crowded in. We had been in the habit of rowing
about the vessel whenever it was calm, and this we thought would be a
good excuse for lowering the boat. Being in great haste, lest the
captain should object to letting us go, we only thought of a few
necessary articles in case we should be cast away or driven off from the
island. Two small demijohns of water, a few biscuits, a piece of dried
beef, and some cheese and crackers comprised our entire stock of
provisions; and for nautical instruments we had only a lantern and a
small pocket compass. Not knowing but there might be outlaws or savages
ashore who might undertake to murder us, we armed ourselves with a
double-barreled gun, a fusee, and an old harpoon, which was all we could
smuggle into the boat in the excitement of starting. Captain Brooks
happening to come on deck, perceived that there was something unusual
going on, and, suspecting our design, took occasion to warn us of the
folly of such an expedition. At the same time, thinking there was more
bravado than reality about it, he laughed good-humoredly when we
acknowledged that we were going ashore. "Be sure," said he, as we went
over the side, "not to forget the peaches. You will find plenty of them
up in the valleys. Only don't lose sight of the vessel. You may exercise
yourselves as much as you please, but keep the royals above water,
whatever you do. Bear in mind that you are more than seventy miles from
that peak!" We promised him that we would take care of ourselves, and
come back safe in case we were not foundered.

At 9 A.M. we bade our friends good-by, and with three cheers pushed off
from the ship. The boat was only twenty-two feet long and an eighth of
an inch thick: it was made of sheet-iron, and was very narrow and
crank. Most of us, except myself and a whaleman named Paxton, were
unused to rowing, so that the prospect of reaching land depended a good
deal upon the day remaining calm, and upon keeping the boat trimmed, the
gunwales being only ten inches out of the water.

  [Illustration: LEAVING THE SHIP.]

There was no excuse for this risk of life, save that insatiable thirst
for novelty which all experience to some extent after the monotony of a
long voyage. I will only say, in regard to myself, that I was too full
of joy at the idea of a ramble in the footsteps of Robinson Crusoe to
think of risk at all. If there was danger, it merely served to give zest
to the adventure.

By a calculation of the distance and our rate of going, we expected to
reach the land by sundown or soon after; and then our plan was to make a
tent of the boat-sail, and sleep under it till morning, when by rising
early we thought we could take a run over the island, and perhaps get
some fruit and vegetables. By that time, should a light breeze spring
up during the night, we thought it likely the ship would be well up by
the land, and we could pull out and get on board without difficulty.
Before long we found that distances are very deceptive in these
latitudes where the atmosphere is so clear; for notwithstanding the
statement of the captain that by the reckoning we were seventy miles
from land, we believed that he only told us so to deter us from going,
and that we were not much more than half that distance. In rowing we
made a division of our number, taking turns or watches of an hour each
at the oars, so as to share the labor. Once fairly under way, with a
smooth sea and a pleasant day before us, we became exceedingly merry at
the expense of our fellow-passengers whom we had left in the ship to
drift about in the calm, and it afforded us much diversion to think how
they would be disappointed upon finding that we were in earnest about
going ashore. Before long we had cause to wish ourselves back again in
the ship, which goes to prove that apparently the most unfortunate are
often less so than those who seem to be favored by circumstances.

At noon we took a lunch, and refreshed ourselves with a drink of water
all round. We had also a good supply of cigars, which we smoked with
great relish after our pull; and I think there never was a happier set
than we were for the time. Still there was but a single peak on the
horizon. It was blue and dim in the distance, and apparently not much
higher than when we saw it from the mast-head, from which we inferred
that there must be a current setting against us. The Anteus was hull
down, yet we seemed as far from the land as when we started.

A ripple beginning to show upon the water, we hoisted our sail to catch
the breeze, and found that it helped us one or two knots an hour. With
songs and anecdotes we passed the time pleasantly till 3 P.M., when we
entirely lost sight of the vessel. Paxton, the whaleman, now stood up in
the boat to take an observation of the land. There were a few more
peaks in sight; the middle peak, which was the first we made, began to
loom up very plainly, showing a flat top. It was the mountain called
Yonka, which is said to be three thousand feet high. We were apparently
forty miles yet from the nearest point; and the sun setting here in May
at a little after five, we began to feel uneasy concerning the weather,
which showed signs of a change. All of us, having gone so far, were in
favor of keeping on, though in secret we thought there was a good deal
of danger. At sunset we took another observation. The land had risen
quite over the water from end to end, and we hoped to reach it in about
three hours. It is true none of us knew any thing about the shores,
whether they abounded in bays or not, and if so where any safe place of
landing could be found, which made us doubtful how to steer. Clouds were
gathering all over the horizon; a few stars shone out dimly overhead,
and the shades of night began to cover the island as with a shroud.
Swiftly, yet with resistless power, the clouds swept over the whole sky,
and the horizon, in all the grandeur of its vast circle, was lost in the
shades of night. No sail was near; no light shone upon us now but the
dim rays of a few solitary stars through the rugged masses of clouds; no
sound broke upon the listening ear save the weary stroke of our oars: a
gloom had settled upon the mighty wilderness of waters, and we were awed
and silent, for we knew that the spirit of God was there, and darkness
was his secret place; that "his pavilion round about him were dark
waters and thick clouds of the skies."

One large black mass of clouds rose up on the weather quarter; a low
moaning came over the sea, and the air became suddenly chill, and the
waters rippled around us, and were tossed about by the unseen Power, and
we trembled, for we beheld the coming of the storm that was soon to
burst upon us in all the majesty of its wrath. For a while there was the
stillness of death; then "the Lord thundered in the heavens, and the
Highest gave his voice," and out of the darkness came the storm. In
fierce and sudden gusts it came, terrible in its resistless might;
lashing the sea into a white foam, tossing and whirling overhead, with
its thousand arms outstretched; grasping up the waters as it raged over
the deep, and scourging them madly through the air, while it moaned and
shrieked like the dread spirit of desolation.

  [Illustration: BOAT IN A STORM.]

Every one of us cowered down in the boat to keep her balanced. The spray
washed over us fearfully, and the sail shook so in the wind, having let
go all, that we thought it would tear the mast out. At this time we were
about three leagues from the S.E. end of the island, which was the
nearest point then in sight. As the cloud spread by the attraction of
the land, the whole island became wrapped in a dark shroud of mist, and
in half an hour we could discern nothing but the gloom of the storm
around us, as we bore down toward the darkest part on the lea. Our lamp
was now quenched by a heavy sea, and being unable to distinguish the
points of the compass, we were fearful we should miss the island and be
carried off so far that we could never reach it again. Whenever there
was a lull we tried to haul in our sheet, but a sudden flaw striking us
once, the boat lay over till she buried her gunwales, and the sea broke
heavily over her lee side, and the crew at the same time springing in a
body to the weather side, to balance her, brought her over suddenly, so
that it was a miracle we were not capsized, which, had it happened so
far out at sea in the darkness, would have made an end of us. Indeed, it
was as much as we could do, by baling continually, to keep her afloat,
and every moment we expected to be buried in a watery grave. For the
reason that we feared the tide or current which set against us might
carry us off beyond reach of the land, we kept up our sail as long as we
could, thinking that while we made headway toward the lee of the island
we increased our chance of safety. Moreover, we knew it was four hundred
miles to the coast of Chili, and we had neither water nor provisions
left. At best our position was perilous. Ignorant of the bearings of the
harbor, we were at a loss what to do even if we should be able to reach
the lee of the island, for we had seen that it was chiefly rock-bound
and inaccessible to boats.

About 2 A.M., as well as we could judge, we found ourselves close in
under the lee of a high cliff, upon the base of which the surf broke
with a tremendous roar. Some three or four of the party, reckless of the
consequences, were in favor of running straight in, and attempting to
gain the shore at all hazards. The more prudent of us protested against
the folly of this course, well knowing that we would be capsized in the
surf and dashed to pieces on the rocks. Here we found the evils of
having too many masters in an adventure of this kind, where every man
who had a will of his own seemed disposed to use it. However, by mild
persuasion, we adjusted the difficulty, and agreed to continue on under
the lee, where we were sheltered in some degree from the gale, till we
should hit upon some safe harbor, if such there was upon the island. The
boat was our only resource in case of being left ashore, and all
admitted the necessity of preserving it as long as possible. If we found
no harbor, we could lie off a short distance and wait till daylight.
This plan was so reasonable that none could object to it. As soon as we
were well in by the shore, where the gale was cut off by the mountains,
we had a light eddy of air in our favor, which induced us to keep up
our sail. We soon found the danger of this. A strong flaw from a gap in
the land struck us suddenly, and would have capsized us had we not let
go every thing, and clung to the weather gunwale till it was over, when
we quickly pulled down the sail and took to the oars.

  [Illustration: STRUCK BY A FLAW.]

We could see nothing on our starboard but the wild seas as they rolled
off into the darkness; on our larboard, a black perpendicular wall of
rocks loomed up hundreds of feet high, reaching apparently into the
clouds. Sometimes a part of the outline came out clear, with its rugged
pinnacles against the sky, and now and then a fearful gorge opened up as
we coasted along, through which the wind moaned dismally. It was a very
wild and awful place in the dead of night, being so covered with
darkness that we scarce knew where we steered, or how soon we might be
dashed to pieces in the surf. Once in a while we stopped to listen,
thinking we heard voices on the shore, but it was only the moaning of
the tempest upon the cliffs, and the frightful beating of the surf
below. We seemed almost to be able to touch the black and rugged wall of
rocks that stood up out of the sea, and the shock of the returning waves
so jarred the boat at times that we clung to the thwarts, and believed
we were surely within the jaws of death. As the voices died away which
we thought came out from the cliffs there was a lull in the storm, and
nothing but the wail of the surf could be heard, sounding very sad and
lonesome in gloom of night. It was a dreary and perpetual dirge for the
ill-fated mariners who were buried upon that inhospitable shore; a
death-moan that forever rises out of the deep for the souls that are
lost, and the hearts that can never be united with those that love them
upon earth again. I thought how well it was writ by the poet--

      "Oh, Solitude! where are the charms
        That sages have seen in thy face?
      Better dwell in the midst of alarms.
        Than reign in this horrible place."

  [Illustration: SHIPWRECKED SAILOR.]

Having pulled about twelve miles along the shore from Goat Island, where
we first got under the lee, and seeing no sign of a cove or harbor, we
began to despair of getting ashore before daylight. In this extremity,
Abraham, a ship-neighbor of mine, succeeded in lighting the lantern
again, which he held out in his hand from the bow, hoping thereby to
cast a light upon the rocks, that we might grope out our way and reach
some place of safety; but it only seemed to make the darkness thicker
than it was before. We therefore concluded it was best to pull on till
we rounded a point some few miles ahead, where we thought there might be
a cove. So we put out the light and got Paxton to go in the bow as a
look-out, he being the most keen-sighted, from the habit of looking
from the mast-head for whales. On turning the point we were startled by
a loud cry of "Light, ho!" Every body turned to see where it appeared.
It was close down by the water, about three miles distant, within a
spacious cove that opened upon us as we turned the point. Paxton's quick
eye had descried it the moment we hove round the rock. Greatly rejoiced
by this discovery, we pulled ahead with a good will and rapidly bore
down toward the light.

Chilled through with the sharp gusts from the mountains, wet with spray,
and very hungry, we congratulated ourselves that there were still
inhabitants on the island, and we could not but think they would give us
something to eat, and furnish us with some place of shelter. Captain
Brooks had told us that he had been here several times in a whaler; that
sometimes people lived upon the island from the coast of Chili, and
sometimes it was entirely deserted. The Chilians who frequented this
lonely island we knew to be a very bad set of people, chiefly convicts
and outcasts, who would not hesitate to rob and murder any stranger whom
misfortune or the love of adventure might cast in their power. Pirates,
also, had frequented its bays from the time of the buccaneers; and it
was a question with us whether the light was made by these outlaws, or
by some unfortunate shipwrecked sailors or deserters from some English
or American whale-ship. The better to provide against danger, we loaded
our two guns, and placed them in the bow, as also the harpoon; upon
which we steered for the light. All of a sudden it disappeared, as if
quenched by water. This was a new source of trouble. What could it mean?
There was no doubt we had all seen it. The early voyagers had often seen
strange lights at night on the tops of the mountains, which they
attributed to supernatural causes; but this was close down by the water,
and was too well defined and too distinctly visible to us all either to
be a supernatural visitation or the result of some volcanic eruption.
While we lay upon our oars wondering what it meant, it again appeared,
brighter than before. Now, if the inhabitants were not pirates or
freebooters, why did they pursue this mysterious conduct? We suspected
that they heard our oars, and had lit a fire on the beach to guide us
ashore; but if they wanted us to land in the right place, why did they
put out the light and start it up again so strangely? For half an hour
it continued thus to disappear and reappear at short intervals in the
same mysterious way, for which none of us could account.

It being now about four o'clock in the morning, we felt so cast down by
fatigue and dread of death, that we decided to run in at all hazards,
and, if necessary, make our way through the breakers. All hands fell to
upon the oars, and soon the light bore up again close on by the head.
Paxton, who was in the bow, quickly started up, and began peering
sharply through the gloom. "What's that?" said he: "look there, my lads.
I see something black; don't you see it--there, on the larboard--it
looks to me like the hull of a ship! Pull, my lads, pull!" and so all
gave way with a will, and in a few minutes the tall masts of a vessel
loomed up against the sky within a hundred yards! I shall never forget
the joy of the whole party at that sight. The light which we had seen
came from a lamp that swung in the lower rigging, and though the ship
might be a Chilian convict vessel, or some other craft as little likely
to give us a pleasant reception, yet we were too glad to think of that,
and straightway pulled up under her stern and hailed her. For a moment
there was a pause as our voices broke upon the stillness; then there was
a stir on deck, and a voice answered us in clear sailor-like English,
"Boat ahoy! where are you from?" "The ship Anteus," said we, "bound for
California; what ship is this?" "The Brooklyn, of New York, bound for
California. Come on board!"

No longer able to suppress our joy, we gave vent to three hearty
cheers--cheers so loud and genuine that they swept over the waters of
Juan Fernandez, and went rolling up the valleys in a thousand echoes.
In less than five minutes we were all on deck, thankful for our
providential deliverance from the horrors of that eventful night.



CHAPTER II.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF THE ISLAND.


The decks of the Brooklyn presented a strange and half-savage scene.
Most of the passengers, aroused from their sleep by the shouts of the
officers and crew, had rushed upon deck nearly naked, and quite at a
loss to know what had happened. While we were answering some of their
questions, Captain Richardson, the master, pushed his way through the
crowd and asked what all the noise was about. We speedily explained how
we had left the Anteus seventy miles out at sea, and how, through the
aid of Providence, we had made our way into the harbor and descried the
ship's lamp; declaring at the same time our belief that, had we missed
the ship, in all probability we would have been dashed to pieces upon
the rocks. We then made ourselves known personally to the captain, who
was well acquainted with some of the party. He cordially welcomed us on
board, and invited us into his cabin, where we gave him a more detailed
account of our adventure. Meantime the cook was ordered to get us some
breakfast as soon as possible, and Captain Richardson offered us dry
clothes, and administered to our wants in the kindest manner. Nor was it
long till we felt exceedingly comfortable considering the previous
circumstances. We soon had breakfast, which, after our toils and
troubles, was truly a Godsend. Some of the finest fish I ever ate was on
the table; excellent ham and potatoes also, fresh bread, and coffee
boiling hot. It was devoured with a most uncommon relish, as you may
suppose; and it was none the less agreeable for being seasoned with
pleasant conversation.

  [Illustration: JUAN FERNANDEZ.]

The captain admitted that in all his seafaring career he had never known
of any thing more absurd than our adventure, and that it was a miracle
we were not every one lost. All the passengers crowded around us as if
we had risen from the depths of the sea, and I fancied they examined us
as if they had an idea that we were some kind of sea-monsters.

The Brooklyn lay at anchor about half a mile from the boat-landing. At
the dawn of day I was on the deck, looking eagerly toward the island. I
may as well confess at once that no child could have felt more delighted
than I did in the anticipation of something illusive and enchanting. My
heart throbbed with impatience to see what it was that cast so strange a
fascination about that lonely spot. All was wrapped in mist; but the air
was filled with fresh odors of land, and wafts of sweetness more
delicious than the scent of new-mown hay. The storm had ceased, and the
soft-echoed bleating of goats, and the distant baying of wild dogs were
all the sounds of life that broke upon the stillness. It seemed as if
the sun, loth to disturb the ocean in its rest, or reveal the scene of
beauty that lay slumbering upon its bosom, would never rise again, so
gently the light stole upon the eastern sky, so softly it absorbed the
shadows of night. I watched the golden glow as it spread over the
heavens, and beheld at last the sun in all his majesty scatter away the
thick vapors that lay around his resting-place, and each vale was opened
out in the glowing light of the morning, and the mountains that towered
out of the sea were bathed in the glory of his rays.

Never shall I forget the strange delight with which I gazed upon that
isle of romance; the unfeigned rapture I felt in the anticipation of
exploring that miniature world in the desert of waters, so fraught with
the happiest associations of youth; so remote from all the ordinary
realities of life; the actual embodiment of the most absorbing, most
fascinating of all the dreams of fancy. Many foreign lands I had seen;
many islands scattered over the broad ocean, rich and wondrous in their
romantic beauty; many glens of Utopian loveliness; mountain heights
weird and impressive in their sublimity; but nothing to equal this in
variety of outline and undefinable richness of coloring; nothing so
dreamlike, so wrapped in illusion, so strange and absorbing in its
novelty. Great peaks of reddish rock seemed to pierce the sky wherever I
looked; a thousand rugged ridges swept upward toward the centre in a
perfect maze of enchantment. It was all wild, fascinating, and unreal.
The sides of the mountains were covered with patches of rich grass,
natural fields of oats, and groves of myrtle and pimento. Abrupt walls
of rock rose from the water to the height of a thousand feet. The surf
broke in a white line of foam along the shores of the bay, and its
measured swell floated upon the air like the voice of a distant
cataract. Fields of verdure covered the ravines; ruined and moss-covered
walls were scattered over each eminence; and the straw huts of the
inhabitants were almost imbosomed in trees, in the midst of the valley,
and jets of smoke arose out of the groves and floated off gently in the
calm air of the morning. In all the shore, but one spot, a single
opening among the rocks, seemed accessible to man. The rest of the coast
within view consisted of fearful cliffs overhanging the water, the
ridges from which sloped upward as they receded inland, forming a
variety of smaller valleys above, which were strangely diversified with
woods and grass, and golden fields of wild oats. Close to the water's
edge was the dark moss-covered rock, forever moist with the bright spray
of the ocean, and above it, cleft in countless fissures by earthquakes
in times past, the red burnt earth; and there were gorges through which
silvery springs coursed, and cascades fringed with banks of shrubbery;
and still higher the slopes were of a bright yellow, which, lying
outspread in the glow of the early sunlight, almost dazzled the eye; and
round about through the valleys and on the hill-sides, the groves of
myrtle, pimento, and corkwood were draped in green, glittering with
rain-drops after the storm, and the whole air was tinged with ambrosial
tints, and filled with sweet odors; nothing in all the island and its
shores, as the sun rose and cast off the mist, but seemed to

                    "suffer a sea-change
      Into something rich and strange."



CHAPTER III.

GOING ASHORE.

  [Illustration: CRUSOE'S CASTLE.]


No longer able to control our enthusiasm, we sprang into the boat and
pushed off for the landing. Captain Richardson, who was well acquainted
with the ruins of the Chilian settlement, joined us in our intended
excursion, and we were accompanied also by a few sporting passengers
from the Brooklyn in another boat. The waters of the bay are of crystal
clearness; we saw the bottom as we dashed over the swell, at a depth of
several fathoms. It was alive with fish and various kinds of marine
animals, of which there are great quantities about these shores. Can you
conceive, ye landsmen who dwell in cities, and have never buffeted for
weary months the gales of old ocean, the joy of once more touching the
genial earth when it has become almost a dreamy fancy in the memories of
the past! Then think, without a smile of disdain, what a thrill of
delight ran through my blood as I pressed my feet for the first time
upon the fresh sod of Juan Fernandez! Think of it, too, as the
realization of hopes which I had never ceased to cherish from early
boyhood; for this was the abiding place, which I now at last beheld, of
a wondrous adventurer whose history had filled my soul years ago with
indefinite longings for sea-life, shipwreck, and solitude! Yes, here was
verily the land of Robinson Crusoe; here, in one of these secluded
glens, stood his rustic castle; here he fed his goats and held converse
with his faithful pets; here he found consolation in the devotion of a
new friend, his true and honest man Friday; beneath the shade of these
trees he unfolded the mysteries of Divine Providence to the simple
savage, and proved to the world that there is no position in life which
may not be endured by a patient spirit and an abiding confidence in the
goodness and mercy of God.

Pardon the fondness with which I linger upon these recollections,
reader, for I was one who had fought for poor Robinson in my boyish days
as the greatest hero that ever breathed the breath of life; who had
always, even to man's estate, secretly cherished in my heart the belief
that Alexander the Great, Julius Cæsar, and all the warriors of
antiquity were commonplace persons compared with him; that Napoleon
Bonaparte, the Duke of Wellington, Colonel Johnson, Tecumseh, and all
the noted statesmen and warriors of modern times, were not to be
mentioned in the same day with so extraordinary a man; I, who had always
regarded him as the most truthful and the very sublimest of adventurers,
was now the entranced beholder of his abiding place--walking, breathing,
thinking, and seeing on the very spot! There was no fancy about it--not
the least; it was a palpable reality! Talk of gold! Why, I tell you, my
dear friends, all the gold of California was not worth the ecstatic
bliss of that moment!

  [Illustration: CRUSOE AT HOME.]



CHAPTER IV.

CONDITION OF THE ISLAND IN 1849.


We first went up to a bluff, about half a mile from the boat-landing,
where we spent an hour in exploring the ruins of the fortifications
built by the Chilians in 1767. There was nothing left but the foundation
and a portion of the ramparts of the principal fort, partly imbedded in
banks of clay, and neatly covered with moss and weeds. It was originally
strongly built of large stones, which were cast down in every direction
by the terrible earthquake of 1835; and now all that remained perfect
was the front wall of the main rampart and the groundwork of the fort.
Not far from these ruins we found the convict cells, which we explored
to some extent.

  [Illustration: PLAN OF THE CONVICT CELLS.]

These cells are dug into the brow of a hill, facing the harbor, and
extend underground to the distance of several hundred feet, in the form
of passages and vaults, resembling somewhat the Catacombs of Rome.
During the penal settlement established here by the Chilian government,
the convicts, numbering sometimes many hundreds, were confined in these
gloomy dungeons, where they were subjected to the most barbarous
treatment. The gates or doors by which the entrances were secured had
all been torn down and destroyed, and the excavations were now occupied
by wild goats, bats, toads, and different sorts of vermin. Rank fern
hung upon the sides; overhead was dripping with a cold and deathlike
sweat, and slimy drops coursed down the weeds, and the air was damp and
chilly; thick darkness was within in the depths beyond--darkness that no
wandering gleam from the light of day ever reached, for heaven never
smiled upon those dreary abodes of sin and sorrow. A few of the inner
dungeons, for the worst criminals, were dug still deeper underground,
and rough stairways of earth led down into them, which were shut out
from the upper vaults by strong doors. The size of these lower dungeons
was not more than five or six feet in length by four or five in height,
from which some idea may be formed of the sufferings endured by the poor
wretches confined in them, shut out from the light of heaven, loaded
with heavy irons, crushed down by dank and impenetrable walls of earth,
starved and beaten by their cruel guards, with no living soul to pity
them in their woe, no hope of release save in death. We saw, by the aid
of a torch, deep holes scratched in one of the walls, bearing the
impression of human fingers. It might have been that some unhappy
murderer, goaded to madness by such cruel tortures of body and terrible
anguish of mind as drive men to tear even their own flesh when buried
before the vital spark is extinct, had grasped out the earth in his
desperation, and left the marks in his death agonies upon the clay that
entombed him, to tell what no human heart but his had suffered there, no
human ear had heard, no human eye had witnessed. The deep, startling
echo breaking upon the heavy air, as we sounded the walls, seemed yet to
mingle with his curses, and its last sepulchral throb was like the
dying moan of the maniac.

  [Illustration: CONVICT CELLS.]

Some time before the great earthquake, which destroyed the
fortifications and broke up the penal colony, a gang of convicts,
amounting to three hundred, succeeded in liberating themselves from
their cells. Unable to endure the cruelties inflicted upon them, they
broke loose from their chains, and, rushing upon the guards, murdered
the greater part of them, and finally seized the garrison. For several
days they held complete possession of the island. A whale-ship,
belonging to Nantucket, happening to come in at the time for wood and
water, they seized the captain, and compelled him to take on board as
many of them as the vessel could contain. About two hundred were put on
board. They then threatened the captain and officers with instant death
in case of any failure to land them on the coast of Peru, whither they
determined to go in order to escape the vengeance of the Chilian
government. Desirous of getting rid of them as soon as possible, the
captain of the whaler ran over for the first land on the coast of Chili,
where he put them ashore, leaving them ignorant of their position until
they were unable to regain the vessel. They soon discovered that they
were only thirty miles from Valparaiso; but, short as the distance was
from the Chilian authorities, they evaded all attempts to capture them,
and eventually joined the Peruvian army, which was then advancing upon
Santiago. The remainder of the prisoners left upon the island escaped in
different vessels, and were scattered over various parts of the world.
Only a few of the entire number engaged in the massacre were ever
captured; sentence of death was passed upon them, and they were shot in
the public plaza of Santiago.

  [Illustration: CHILIAN HUTS.]

Turning our steps toward the settlement of the present residents, we
passed a few hours very agreeably in rambling about among their rustic
abodes. The total number of inhabitants at this period (1849) is
sixteen, consisting of William Pearce, an American, and four or five
Chilian men, with their wives and children. No others have lived
permanently upon the island for several years. There are in all some six
or seven huts, pleasantly surrounded by shrubbery, and well supplied
with water from a spring. These habitations are built of the straw of
wild oats, interwoven through wattles or long sticks, and thatched with
the same, and, whether from design or accident, are extremely
picturesque. The roofs project so as to form an agreeable shade all
round; the doorways are covered in by a sort of projecting porch, in the
style of the French cottages along the valley of the Seine; small
out-houses, erected upon posts, are scattered about each inclosure; and
an air of repose and freedom from worldly care pervades the whole place,
though the construction of the houses and mode of living are evidently
of the most primitive kind. Seen through the green shrubberies that
abound in every direction, the bright yellow of the cottages, and the
smoke curling up in the still air, have a very cheerful effect; and the
prattling voices of the children, mingled with the lively bleating of
the kids, and the various pleasant sounds of domestic life, might well
lead one to think that the seclusion of these islanders from the busy
world is not without its charms. Small patches of ground, fenced with
rude stone walls and brushwood, are attached to each of these primitive
abodes; and rustic gateways, overrun with wild and luxuriant vines, open
in front. Very little attention, however, appears to be bestowed upon
the cultivation of the soil; but it looks rich and productive, and might
be made to yield abundant crops by a trifling expenditure of labor. The
Chilians have never been distinguished for industry; nor is there any
evidence here that they depart from their usual philosophy in taking the
world easy. Even the American seemed to have caught the prevailing
lethargy, and to be content with as little as possible. Vegetables of
various kinds grow abundantly wherever the seeds are thrown, among which
I noticed excellent radishes, turnips, beets, cabbages, and onions.
Potatoes of a very good quality, though not large, are grown in small
quantities; and, regarding the natural productiveness of the earth,
there seemed to be no reason why they should not be cultivated in
sufficient quantities to supply the demands of vessels touching for
supplies, and thereby made a profitable source of revenue to the
settlers. The grass and wild oats grow in wonderful luxuriance in all
the open spaces, and require little attention; and such is the genial
character of the climate, that the cattle, of which there seems to be no
lack, find ample food to keep them in good condition both in winter and
summer. Fig-trees, bearing excellent figs, and vines of various sorts,
flourish luxuriantly on the hill-sides. Of fruits there is quite an
abundance in the early part of autumn. The peaches were just out of
season when we arrived, but we obtained a few which had been peeled and
dried in the sun, and we found them large and of excellent flavor. Many
of the valleys abound in natural orchards, which have sprung from the
seeds planted there by the early voyagers, especially by Lord Anson, who
appeared to have taken more interest in the cultivation and settlement
of the island than any previous navigator. The disasters experienced by
the vessels of this distinguished adventurer in doubling Cape Horn
caused him to make Juan Fernandez a rendezvous for the recruiting of his
disabled seamen, and for many months he devoted his attention to the
production of such vegetables and fruits as he found useful in promoting
their recovery; and having likewise in view the misfortunes and
necessities of those who might come after him, he caused to be scattered
over the island large quantities of seeds, so that, by their increase,
abundance and variety of refreshments might be had by all future
voyagers. He also left ashore many different sorts of domestic animals,
in order that they might propagate and become general throughout the
island, for the benefit of shipwrecked mariners, vessels in distress for
provisions, and colonists who might hereafter form a settlement there.
The philanthropy and moral greatness of these benevolent acts, from
which the author could expect to derive little or no advantage during
life, can not be too highly commended. If posthumous gratitude can be
regarded as a reward, Lord Anson has a just claim to it. How many lives
have been saved; how many weather-worn mariners, bowed down with
disease, have been renewed in health and strength; how many unhappy
castaways have found food abundantly where all they could expect was a
lingering death, and have been sustained in their exile, and restored at
last to their friends and kindred, through the unselfish benevolence of
this brave and kind-hearted navigator, no written record exists to tell;
but there are records graven upon the hearts of men that are read by an
omniscient eye--a history of good deeds and their reward, more eloquent
than human hand hath written.

Besides peaches, quinces, and other fruits common in temperate climates,
there is a species of palm called _Chuta_, which produces a fruit of a
very rich flavor. Among the different varieties of trees are corkwood,
sandal, myrtle, and pimento. The soil in some of the valleys on the
north side is wonderfully rich, owing to deposits of burnt earth and
decayed vegetable matter washed down from the mountains. There is but
little level ground on the island; and although the area of tillable
soil is small, yet by the culture of vineyards on the hill-sides, the
grazing of sheep and goats on the mountain steeps, and the proper
cultivation of the arable valleys, a population of several thousand
might subsist comfortably. Pearce, the American, who had thoroughly
explored every part of the island, told me he had no doubt three or four
thousand people could subsist here without any supply of provisions from
other countries. A ready traffic could be established with vessels
passing that way, by means of which potatoes, fruits, and other
refreshments could be bartered for groceries and clothing. Herds of wild
cattle now roam over these beautiful valleys; fine horses may be seen
prancing about in gangs, with all the freedom of the mustang; goats in
numerous flocks abound among the cliffs; pigeons and other game are
abundant; and wild dogs are continually prowling around the settlement.

The few inhabitants at present on the island subsist chiefly upon fish,
vegetables, and goat-flesh, of which they have an ample supply.
Boat-loads of the finest cod, rockfish, cullet, lobsters, and lamprey
eels can be caught in a few hours all around the shores of Cumberland
Bay, and doubtless as plentifully in the other bays. Nothing more is
necessary than merely the trouble of hauling them out of the water. We
fished only for a short time, and nearly filled our boat with the
fattest fish I ever saw. Had I not tested myself a fact told me by some
of the passengers of the Brooklyn regarding the abundance of the smaller
sorts of fish, I could never have believed it--that they will nibble at
one's hand if it be put in the water alongside the boat, and a slight
ripple made to attract their attention. This is a remarkable truth,
which can be attested by any person who has visited these shores and
made the experiment. There is no place among the cliffs where goats may
not be seen at all times during the day. They live and propagate in the
caves, and find sufficient browsing throughout the year in the clefts of
the rocks. Lord Anson mentions that some of his hunting parties killed
goats which had their ears slit, and they thought it more than probable
that these were the very same goats marked by Alexander Selkirk thirty
years before; so that it is not unlikely there still exist some of the
direct descendants of the herds domesticated by the original Crusoe. The
residents of Cumberland Bay have about their huts a considerable number
of these animals, tamed, for their milk. When they wish for a supply of
goat-flesh or skins (for they often kill them merely for their skins),
they go in a body to Goat Island, where they surround the goats and
drive them over a cliff into the sea. As soon as they have driven over a
sufficient number they take to their boat again, and catch them in the
water. Some of them they bring home alive, and keep them till they
require fresh meat. Nor are these people destitute of the rarer luxuries
of life. By furnishing whale-ships that touch for supplies of water and
vegetables with such productions as they can gather up, they obtain in
exchange coffee, ship-bread, flour, and clothing; and lately they have
been doing a good business in rowing the passengers ashore from the
California vessels, and selling them goatskins and various sorts of
curiosities. They also charge a small duty for keeping the spring of
water clear and the boat-landing free from obstructions, and sometimes
obtain a trifle in the way of port charges, in virtue of some pretended
authority from the government of Chili.

The shores of Juan Fernandez abound in many different kinds of marine
animals, among which the chief are seals and walruses. Formerly sealing
vessels made it an object to touch for the purpose of capturing them,
but of late years they have become rather scarce, and at present few, if
any, vessels visit the island for that purpose.

  [Illustration: WALRUS, OR SEA LION.]

Situated in the latitude of 33° 40´ S., and longitude 79° W., the
climate is temperate and salubrious--never subject to extremes either of
heat or cold. In the valleys fronting north, the temperature seldom
falls below 50° Fahr. in the coldest season. Open at all times to the
pleasant breezes from the ocean, without malaria or any thing to produce
disease, beautifully diversified in scenery, and susceptible of being
made a convenient stopping-place for vessels bound to the great
northwestern continent, it would be difficult to find a more desirable
place for a colony of intelligent and industrious people, who would
cultivate the land, build good houses, and turn to advantage all the
gifts of Providence which have been bestowed upon the island.

The only material drawback is the want of a large and commodious harbor,
in which vessels could be hauled up for repairs. This island could
never answer any other purpose than that of a casual stopping-place for
vessels in want of refreshments, and for this it seems peculiarly
adapted. The principal harbors are Port English, on the south side,
visited by Lord Anson in 1741; Port Juan, on the west; and Cumberland
Bay, on the north side. The latter is the best, and is most generally
visited, in consequence of being on the fertile side of the island,
where water also is most easily obtained. None of them afford a very
secure anchorage, the bottom being deep and rocky; and vessels close to
the shore are exposed to sudden and violent flaws from the mountains,
and the danger of being driven on the rocks by gales from the ocean. In
Cumberland Bay, however, there are places where vessels can ride in
safety, by choosing a position suitable to the prevailing winds of the
season. The chart and soundings made by Lord Anson will be found useful
to navigators who design stopping at Juan Fernandez.



CHAPTER V.

ROBINSON CRUSOE'S CAVE.


Our next expedition was to Robinson Crusoe's Cave. How it obtained that
name I am unable to say. The people ashore spoke of it confidently as
the place where a seafaring man had lived for many years alone; and I
believe most mariners who have visited the island have fixed upon that
spot as the actual abode of Alexander Selkirk. There are two ways of
getting to the cave from the regular boat-landing; one over a high chain
of cliffs, intervening between Crusoe's Valley, or the valley of the
cave, and the Chilian huts near the landing; the other by water. The
route by land is somewhat difficult; it requires half a day to perform
it, and there is danger of being dashed to pieces by the loose earth
giving way. In many parts of the island the surface of the cliffs is
composed entirely of masses of burnt clay, which upon the slightest
touch are apt to roll down, carrying every thing with them. Numerous
cases are related by the early voyagers of accidents to seamen and
others, in climbing over these treacherous heights. The distance by
water is only two miles, and by passing along under the brow of the
cliffs a very vivid idea may be had of their strange and romantic
formation. We had our guns with us, which we did not fail to use
whenever there was an opportunity; but the game, consisting principally
of wild goats, kept so far out of reach on the dizzy heights, that they
passed through the ordeal in perfect safety. Some of us wanted to go by
land and shoot them from above, thinking the bullets would carry farther
when fired downward than they seemed to carry when fired from below. The
rest of the party had so little confidence in our skill that they
dissuaded us from the attempt, on the pretense that the ship might heave
in sight while we were absent.

A pleasant row of half an hour brought us to the little cove in Crusoe's
Valley. The only landing-place is upon an abrupt bank of rocks, and the
surf breaking in at this part of the shore rather heavily, we had to run
the boat up in regular beach-comber style. Riding in on the back of a
heavy sea, we sprang out as soon as the boat struck, and held our
ground, when, by watching our chance for another good sea, we ran her
clear out of the water, and made her fast to a big rock for fear she
might be carried away. About two hundred yards from where we landed we
found the cave.

  [Illustration: CRUSOE'S CAVE.]

It lies in a volcanic mass of rock, forming the bluff or termination of
a rugged ridge, and looks as if it might be the doorway into the ruins
of some grand old castle. The height of the entrance is about fifteen
feet, and the distance back into the extremity twenty-five or thirty. It
varies in width from ten or twelve to eighteen feet. Within the mouth
the surface is of reddish rock, with holes or pockets dug into the
sides, which it is probable were used for cupboards by the original
occupant. There were likewise large spike-nails driven into the rock,
upon which we thought it likely clothing, guns, and household utensils
might have been hung even at as remote a date as the time of Selkirk,
for they were very rusty, and bore evidence of having been driven into
the rock a long time ago. A sort of stone oven, with a sunken place for
fire underneath, was partly visible in the back part of the cave, so
that by digging away the earth we uncovered it, and made out the purpose
for which it was built. There was a darkish line, about a foot wide,
reaching up to the roof of the cave, which, by removing the surface a
little, we discovered to be produced originally by smoke, cemented in
some sort by a drip that still moistened the wall, and this we found
came through a hole in the top, which we concluded was the original
chimney, now covered over with deposits of earth and leaves from the
mountain above. In rooting about the fireplace, so as to get away the
loose rubbish that lay over it, one of our party brought to light an
earthen vessel, broken a little on one side, but otherwise perfect. It
was about eight inches in diameter at the rim, and an inch or two
smaller at the bottom, and had some rough marks upon the outside, which
we were unable to decipher, on account of the clay which covered it.
Afterward we took it out and washed it in a spring near by, when we
contrived to decipher one letter and a part of another, with a portion
of the date. The rest unfortunately was on the piece which had been
broken off, and which we were unable to find, although we searched a
long time; for, as may be supposed, we felt curious to know if it was
the handiwork of Alexander Selkirk. For my own part, I had but little
doubt that this was really one of the earthen pots made by his own
hands, and the reason I thought so was that the parts of the letters and
date which we deciphered corresponded with his name and the date of his
residence, and likewise because it was evident that it must have been
imbedded in the ground out of which we dug it long beyond the memory of
any living man. I was so convinced of this, and so interested in the
discovery, that I made a rough drawing of it on the spot, of which I
have since been very glad, inasmuch as it was accidentally dropped out
of the boat afterward and lost in the sea.

  [Illustration: A RELIC OF CRUSOE.]

We searched in vain for other relics of the kind, but all we could find
were a few rusty pieces of iron and some old nails. The sides of the
cave, as also the top, had marks scattered over them of different kinds,
doubtless made there in some idle moment by human hands; but we were
unable to make out that any of them had a meaning beyond the unconscious
expression of those vague and wandering thoughts which must have passed
occasionally through the mind of the solitary mariner who dwelt in this
lonely place. They may have been symbolical of the troubled and
fluctuating character of his religious feelings before he became a
confirmed believer in the wisdom and mercy of Divine Providence, which
unhappy state of mind he often refers to in the course of his narrative.

  [Illustration: CRUSOE'S DEVOTIONS.]

This cave is now occupied only by wild goats and bats, and had not been
visited, perhaps, by any human being, until recently, more than once or
twice in half a century, and then probably only by some deserter from a
whale-ship, who preferred solitude and the risk of starvation to the
cruelty of a brutish captain.

In front of the cave, sloping down to the sea-side, is a plain covered
with long rank grass, wild oats, radishes, weeds of various kinds, and a
few small peach-trees. The latter we supposed were of the stock planted
in the island by Lord Anson. From the interior of the cave we looked
out over the tangled mass of shrubs, wild flowers, and waving grass in
front, and saw that the sea was covered with foam, and the surf beat
against the point beyond the cove, and flew up in the air to a
prodigious height in white clouds of spray. Large birds wheeled about
over the rocky heights, sometimes diving suddenly into the water, from
which they rose again flecked with foam, and, soaring upward in the
sunlight, their wings seemed to sparkle with jewels out of the ocean.
Following the curve of the horizon, the view is suddenly cut off by a
huge cliff of lava that rises directly out of the water to the height of
twelve or fifteen hundred feet. It forms an abrupt precipice in front,
and joins a range of rugged cliffs behind, which all abound in wonderful
ledges overlooking the depths below, dark and lonesome caverns, and
sharp pinnacles piercing the clouds in every direction. Goat-paths wind
around them in places apparently inaccessible, and we saw herds of goats
running swiftly along the dizzy heights overhanging the sea, where we
almost fancied the birds of the air would fear to fly; they bounded over
the frightful fissures in the rocks, and clung to the walls of cliffs
with wonderful agility and tenacity of foot, and sometimes they were so
high up that they looked hardly bigger than rabbits, and we thought it
impossible that they could be goats.

  [Illustration: THE VALLEY WITH THE CAVE AND CLIFF.]

Looking back into the valley, we beheld mountains stretching up to a
hundred different peaks, the sides covered with woods and fields of
golden-colored oats, and the ravines fringed with green banks of grass
and wild flowers of every hue. A stream of pure spring water rippled
down over the rocks, and wound through the centre of the valley,
breaking out at intervals into bright cascades, which glimmered freshly
in the warm rays of the sun; its margins were fringed with rich grass
and fragrant flowers, and groves of myrtle overhung the little lakelets
that were made in its course, and seemed to linger there like mirrored
beauties spell-bound. Ridges of amber-colored earth, mingled with rugged
and moss-covered lava, sloped down from the mountains on every side and
converged into the valley, as if attracted by its romantic beauties.
Immense masses of rock, cast off from the towering cliffs by some dread
convulsion of the elements, had fallen from the heights, and now lay
nestling in the very bosom of the valley, enamored with its charms. Even
the birds of the air seemed spell-bound within this enchanted circle;
their songs were low and soft, and I fancied they hung in the air with a
kind of rapture when they rose out of their sylvan homes, and looked
down at all the wondrous beauties that lay outspread beneath them.

  [Illustration: DREAM-LAND CRUSOE.]

Some of us scattered off into the woods of myrtle, or lay down by the
spring in the pleasant shade of the trees, and bathed our faces and
drank of the cool water; others went up the hill-sides in search of
peaches, or gathered seeds and specimens of wild flowers to carry home.
Too happy in the change, after our gloomy passage round Cape Horn, I
rambled up the valley alone, and dreamed glowing day-dreams of Robinson
Crusoe. Of all the islands of the sea, this had ever been the paradise
of my boyish fancy. Even later in life, when some hard experience before
the mast had worn off a good deal of the romance of sea-life, I could
never think of Juan Fernandez without a strong desire to be shipwrecked
there, and spend the remainder of my days dressed in goatskins, rambling
about the cliffs, and hunting wild goats. It was a very imprudent
desire, to be sure, not at all sensible; but I am now making a
confession of facts rather out of the common order, and for which it
would be useless to offer any excuse. Pleasant scenes of my early life
rose up before me now with all their original freshness. How well I
remembered the first time I read the surprising adventures of Robinson
Crusoe! It was in the country, where I had never learned the worldly
wisdom of the rising generation in cities. Indeed, I had never seen a
city, and only knew by hearsay that such wonderful places existed. My
father, after an absence of some weeks, returned with an illustrated
volume of Crusoe, bound in cream-colored muslin (how plainly I could see
that book now!), which he gave me, with a smiling admonition not to
commence reading it for two or three years, by which time he hoped I
would be old enough to understand it. That very night I was in a new
world--a world all strange and fascinating, yet to me as real as the
world around me. How I devoured each enchanting page, and sighed to
think of ever getting through such a delightful history. It was the
first book beyond mere fairy tales (which I had almost begun to doubt),
the first narrative descriptive of real life that I had ever read. Such
a thing as a doubt as to its entire truthfulness never entered my head.
I lingered over it with the most intense and credulous interest, and
long after parental authority had compelled me to give it up for the
night, my whole soul was filled with a confusion of novel and delightful
sensations. Before daylight I was up again; I could not read in the
dark, but I could open the magic book and smell the leaves fresh from
the press; and before the type was visible I could trace out the figures
in the prints, and gaze in breathless wonder upon the wild man in the
goatskins.

  [Illustration: FAIRY COVE.]

The big tears stood in my eyes when I was through; but I found
consolation in reading it again and again; in picturing out a thousand
things that perhaps De Foe never dreamt of; and each night when I went
to bed I earnestly prayed to God that I might some day or other be cast
upon a desolate island, and live to become as wonderful a man as
Robinson Crusoe. Yet, not content with that, I devoted all my leisure
hours to making knife-cases, caps, and shot-pouches out of rabbit-skins,
in the faint hope that it would hasten the blissful disaster. Years
passed away; I lived on the banks of the Ohio; I had been upon the
ocean. Still a boy in years, and more so perhaps in feeling, the dream
was not ended. I gathered up drift-wood, and built a hut among the
rocks; whole days I lay there thinking of that island in the far-off
seas. A piece of tarred plank from some steam-boat had a sweeter scent
to me than the most odorous flower; for, as I lay smelling it by the
hour, it brought up such exquisite visions of shipwreck as never before,
perhaps, so charmed the fancy of a dreaming youth. Well I remembered,
too, the favored few that I let into the secret; how we went every
afternoon to a sand-bar, and called it Crusoe's Island; how I was
Robinson Crusoe, and the friend of my heart Friday, whom I caused to be
painted from head to foot with black mud, as also the rest of my
friends; and then the battles we had; the devouring of the dead men; the
horrible dances, and chasing into the water; and, above all, the rescue
of my beloved Friday--how vividly I saw those scenes again!

  [Illustration: RESCUE OF FRIDAY.]

Years passed on; I was a sailor before the mast. Alas! what a sad
reality! I saw men flogged like beasts; I saw cruelty, hardship,
disease, death in their worst forms; so much I saw that I was glad to
take the place of a wandering outcast upon the shores of a sickly island
ten thousand miles from home, to escape the horrors of that life. Yet
the dream was not ended. Bright and beautiful as ever seemed to me that
little world upon the seas, where dwelt in solitude the shipwrecked
mariner. In the vicissitudes of fortune, I was again a wanderer;
impelled by that vision of island-life which for seventeen years had
never ceased to haunt me, I cast all upon the hazard of a die--escaped
in an open boat through the perils of a storm, and now--where was I?
What pleasant sadness was it that weighed upon my heart? Was all this a
dream of youth; was it here to end, never more to give one gleam of joy;
was the happy credulity, the freshness, the enthusiasm of boyhood gone
forever? Could it be that this was not Crusoe's Valley at last--this
spot, which I had often seen in fancy from the banks of the Ohio, dim in
the mist of seas that lay between? Did I really wander through it, or
was it still a dream?

And where was the king of the island; the hero of my boyish fancy; he
who had delighted me with the narrative of his romantic career, as man
had never done before, as all the pleasures of life have never done
since; where was the genial, the earnest, the adventurous Robinson
Crusoe? Could it be that there was no "mortal mixture of earth's mould
in him;" that he was barely the simple mariner Alexander Selkirk? No!
no! Robinson Crusoe himself had wandered through these very groves of
myrtle; he had quenched his thirst in the spring that bubbled through
the moss at my feet; had slept during the glare of noon in the shade of
those overhanging grottoes; had dreamed his day-dreams in these
secluded glens.

  [Illustration: CRUSOE ASLEEP.]

Here, too, Friday had followed his master; the simple, childlike Friday,
the most devoted of servants, the gentlest of savages, the faithfullest
of men! Blessing on thee, Robinson, how I have admired thy prolific
genius; how I have loved thee for thine honest truthfulness! And
blessings on thee, Friday, how my young heart hath warmed toward thee!
how I have laughed at thy scalded fingers, and wept lest the savages
should take thee away from me! * * *



CHAPTER VI.

THE VALLEY ON FIRE.


There was a sudden rustling in the bushes.

"Hallo, there!" shouted a voice. I looked round and beheld a
fellow-passenger, a strange, eccentric man, who was seldom known to
laugh, and whose chief pleasure consisted in reducing every thing to the
practical standard of common sense. He was deeper than would appear at
first sight, and not a bad sort of person at heart, but a little wayward
and desponding in his views of life.

"You'll catch cold," said he; "nothing gives a cold so quick as sitting
on the damp ground."

"True," said I, smiling; "but recollect the romance of the thing."

"Romance," rejoined the sad man, "won't cure a cold. I never knew it to
cure one in my life."

"Well, I suppose you're right. Every body is right who believes in
nothing but reality. The hewer of wood and the drawer of water gets more
credit in the world for good sense than the unhappy genius who affords
pleasure to thousands."

"So he ought--he's a much more useful man."

"Granted; we won't dispute so well-established a truism. Now let us cut
a few walking-sticks to carry home. It will please our friends to find
that we thought of them in this outlandish part of the world."

"To be sure; if you like. But you'll never carry them home. No, sir, you
can't do it. You'll lose them before you get half way to America."

"No matter--they cost nothing. Lend me your knife, and we'll try the
experiment, at all events."

I then cut a number of walking-sticks and tied them up in a bundle. And
here, while the warning of the doubter is fresh in my mind, let me
mention the fate of these much-valued relics. I cut four beautiful
sticks of myrtle, every one of which I lost before I reached California,
though I was very careful where I kept them--so careful, indeed, that I
hid them away on board the ship and never could find them again.

On our way back to the cave, as we emerged from the grove, I was
astonished to see the entire valley in a blaze of fire. It raged and
crackled up the sides of the mountains, blazing wildly and filling the
whole sky with smoke. The beautiful valley upon which I had gazed with
such delight a few hours before, seemed destined to be laid waste by
some fierce and unconquerable destroyer, that devoured trees, shrubs,
and flowers in its desolating career. The roar of the mad rushing
flames, the seething tongues of fire shooting out from the bowers of
shrubbery, the whirling smoke sweeping upward around the pinnacles of
rock, the angry sea dimly seen through the chaos, and the sharp
screaming of the sea-birds and dismal howling of the wild dogs,
impressed me with a terrible picture of desolation. It seemed as if some
dreadful convulsion of nature had burst forth soon to cover the island
with seething lava or ingulf it in the ocean.

"What can it be?" said I. "Isn't it a grand sight? Perhaps a volcano has
broken out. Surely it must be some awful visitation of Providence. It
wouldn't be comfortable, however, to be broiled in lava, so I think the
sooner we get down to the boats the better."

"There's no hurry," said my friend; "it's nothing but the Californians
down at the cave. I told them before I left that they'd set fire to the
grass if they kept piling the brush up in that way. Now you see they've
done it."

"Yes, I see they have; and a tolerably big fire they've made of it too."

I almost forgave them the wanton act of Vandalism, so sublime was the
scene. It was worth a voyage round Cape Horn to see it.

"Plenty of it," muttered the sad man, "to cook all the food that can be
raised in these diggings. I wouldn't give an acre of ground in Illinois
for the whole island. I only wish they'd burn it up while they're at
it--if it be an island at all, which I ain't quite sure of yet."


THE CALIFORNIANS IN JUAN FERNANDEZ.

We reached the cave by rushing through the flames. When we arrived near
the mouth, I was amused to find about twenty long-bearded Californians,
dressed in red shirts, with leather belts round their bodies, garnished
with knives and pistols, and picks in their hands, with which they were
digging into the walls of Selkirk's castle in search of curiosities.
Their guns were stacked up outside, and several of the party were
engaged in cooking fish and boiling coffee. They had battered away at
the sides, top, and bottom of the cave in their eager search for
relics, till they had left scarcely a dozen square feet of the original
surface. Every man had literally his pocket full of rocks. It was a
curious sight, here in this solitary island, scarcely known to mariners
save as the resort of pirates, deserters, and buccaneers, and chiefly to
the reading world at home as the land of Robinson Crusoe, to see these
adventurous Americans in their red shirts, lounging about the veritable
castle of the "wild man in the goatskins," digging out the walls,
smoking cigars, whittling sticks, and talking in plain English about
California and the election of General Taylor. Some of them even went so
far as to propose a "prospecting" expedition through Crusoe's Valley in
search of gold, while others got up a warm debate on the subject of
annexation--the annexation of Juan Fernandez. One long, lank, slab-sided
fellow, with a leathern sort of face, and two copious streams of
tobacco-juice running down from the corners of his mouth, was leaning on
his pick outside the cave, spreading forth his sentiments for the
benefit of the group of gentlemen who were cooking the fish.

  [Illustration: THE CALIFORNIANS IN JUAN FERNANDEZ.]

"I tell you, feller-citizens," said he, aroused into something like
prophetic enthusiasm as the subject warmed upon his mind, "I tell you
it's manifest destiny. Joo-an Fernandays is bound by all the rights of
con-san-guity to be a part of the great Ree-public of Free States.
Gentlemen, I'm a destiny-man myself; I go the whole figure, sir; yes,
sir, I'm none of your old Hunkers. I go for Joo-an Fernandays and
California, and any other small patches of airth that may be laying
around the vicinity. We want 'em all, gentlemen; we want 'em for our
whale-ships and the yeomanry of our country! (cheers.) We'll buy 'em
from the Spaniards, sir, with our gold; if we can't buy 'em sir, by
hokey! we'll TAKE 'EM, sir! (Renewed cheers.) I ask you, gentlemen--I
appeal to your feelins as feller-citizens of _thee_ greatest
concatenation of states on _thee_ face of God's airth, are you the men
that'll refuse to fight for your country? (Cheers, and cries of No, no,
we ain't the men; hurra for Joo-an Fernandays!) Then, by Jupiter, sir,
we'll have it! We'll have it as sure as the Star of Empire shines like
the bright Loo-min-ary of Destiny in the broad Panoply of Heaven (and
more especially in the western section of it). We'll have it, sir, as
sure as that redolent and inspiring Loominary beckons us on, sir, like a
dazzling joo-el on the pre-moni-tary finger of Hope; and the glorious
Stars and Stripes, feller-citizens, shall wave proudly in the zephyrs of
futurity over the exalted peaks of Joo-an Fernandays!" (Tremendous
sensation, during which the orator takes a fresh chew of tobacco, and
sits down.)

As soon as the party of annexationists perceived us, they called out to
us to heave to, and make ourselves at home. "Come on, gentlemen, come
on! No ceremony. We're all Americans! this is a free country. Here's
fish! here's bread! here's coffee! Help yourselves, gentlemen! This is a
great country, gentlemen--a great country!" Of course we fell to work
upon the fish, which was a splendid cod, and the bread and the coffee
too, and very palatable we found them all, and exceedingly jolly and
entertaining the "gentlemen from the Brooklyn." These lively individuals
had made the most of their time in the way of enjoying themselves
ashore. About a week before our arrival they gave a grand party in
honor of the American nation in general. It was in rather a novel sort
of place, to be sure, but none the worse for that--one of the large
caves near the boat-landing. On this eventful occasion they "scared up,"
as they alleged, sundry delicacies from home, such as preserved meats,
pound-cake, Champagne, and wines of various sorts, and out of their
number they produced a full band of music. They also, by clearing the
earth and beating it down, made a very good place for dancing, and they
had waltzes, polkas, and cotillons, in perfect ballroom style. It was
rather a novel entertainment, take it altogether, in the solitudes of
Juan Fernandez. I have forgotten whether the four Chilian ladies of the
island attended; if they did not, it was certainly not for want of an
invitation. The American Crusoe was there, no longer monarch of all he
surveyed. Poor fellow, his reign was over. The Californians were the
sovereigns now.

  [Illustration: FISHING.]

After our snack with the Brooklynites, we joined our comrades down on
the beach. They had shot at a great many wild goats, without hitting
any, of course. The rest of the afternoon we spent in catching fish for
supper.



CHAPTER VII.

THE CAVE OF THE BUCCANEERS.


It now began to grow late, and we thought it best to look about us for
some place where we could sleep. Captain Richardson very kindly offered
us the use of his cabin, but he was crowded with passengers, and we
preferred staying ashore. There was something novel in sleeping ashore,
but neither novelty nor comfort in a vessel with a hundred and eighty
Californians on board. Brigham and a few others took our boat, and went
over near the old fort to search out a camping-ground, while the rest of
the party and myself started off with the captain to explore a grotto.
We had a couple of sailors to row us, which helped to make the trip
rather pleasant.

Turning a point of rocks, we steered directly into the mouth of the
grotto, and ran in some forty or fifty feet, till nearly lost in
darkness. It was a very wild and rugged place--a fit abode for the
buccaneers.

The cliff into which the cave runs is composed of great rocks, covered
on top with a soil of red, burned earth. The swell of the sea broke upon
the base with a loud roar, and the surf, rolling inward into the depths
of the grotto, made a deep reverberation, like the dashing of water
under a bridge. There was some difficulty in effecting a landing among
these subterranean rocks, which were round and slippery. The water was
very deep, and abounded in seaweed. On gaining a dry place, we found the
interior quite lofty and spacious, and tending upward into the very
bowels of the mountain. Some said there was a way out clear up in the
middle of the island. Overhead it was hung with stalactites, some of
which were of great size and wonderful formation. Abraham and myself
climbed up in the dark about a hundred feet, where we entirely lost
sight of the mouth, and could hardly see an inch before us. As we turned
back and began to descend, our friends down below looked like gigantic
monsters standing in the rays of light near the entrance. I broke off
some pieces of rock and put them in my pocket, as tokens of my visit to
this strange place.

On reaching the boat again, we found a group of our comrades seated
around a natural basin in the rocks, regaling themselves on bread and
water. The water, I think, was the clearest and best I ever tasted. It
trickled down from the top of the cave, and fell into the basin with a
most refreshing sound. I drank a pint gobletful, and found it uncommonly
cool and pure. Nothing more remaining to be seen, we started off for the
boat-landing, near the huts, where we parted with our friend the
captain, and then, it being somewhat late, we went in search of our
party.



CHAPTER VIII.

LODGINGS UNDER GROUND.


When we arrived on the ground selected by Brigham and the others, we
found that they had made but little progress in cutting wood for the
posts, and much remained to be done before we could get up the tent.

Heavy clouds hung over the tops of the mountains; the surf moaned
dismally upon the rocks; big drops of rain began to strike us through
the gusts of wind that swept down over the cliffs, and there was every
prospect of a wet and stormy night. It was now quite dark. After some
talk, we thought it best to abandon our plan of sleeping under the sail.
Finally, we agreed to go in search of a cave under the brow of a
neighboring cliff. We had seen it during the day, and although a very
unpromising place, we thought it would serve to protect us against the
rain. We therefore took our oars and sail upon our shoulders, together
with what few weapons of defense we had, and stumbled about in the dark
for some time, till we had the good fortune to find the mouth of the
cave. In the course of a few minutes we struck a light by a lucky
chance, and then looked in. There seemed to be no bottom to it, and, so
far as we could perceive, neither sides nor top. Certainly there was not
a living soul about the premises to deny us admission; so we crept down,
as we thought, into the bowels of the earth, and, seeing nobody there,
took possession of our lodgings, such as they were.

It was a damp and gloomy place enough, reeking with mould, and smelling
very strong of strange animals. The rocks hung gaping over our heads, as
if ready to fall down upon us at the mere sound of our voices; the
ground was covered with dirty straw, left there probably by some
deserters from a whale-ship, and all around the sides were full of
holes, which we supposed from the smell must be inhabited by foxes,
rats, and perhaps snakes, though we were afterward told there were no
reptiles on the island. We soon found that there were plenty of spiders
and fleas in the straw. The ground being damp, we spread our sail over
it, in order to make a sort of bed; and, being in a measure protected by
a clump of bushes placed in the entrance by the previous occupants to
keep out the wind and rain, we did not altogether despair of passing a
tolerably comfortable night.

For a while there was not much said by any body; we were all busy
looking about us. Some were looking at the rocks overhead; some into the
holes, where they thought there might be wild animals; and myself and a
few others were trying to light a fire in the back part of the cave. It
smoked so that we had to give it up at last, for it well-nigh stifled
the whole party.

By this time, being all tired, we lay down, and had some talk about
Robinson Crusoe.

"If he lived in such holes as this," said one, "I don't think he had
much sleep."

"No," muttered another, "that sort of thing reads a good deal better
than it feels; but there's no telling how a man may get used to it. Eels
get used to being skinned, and I've heard of a horse that lived on five
straws a day."

"For my part," adds a third, "I like it: there's romance about it--and
convenience too, in some respects. For the matter of clothing, a man
could wear goatskins. Tailors never dunned Robinson Crusoe. It goes a
great way toward making a man happy to be independent of fashion. Being
dunned makes a man miserable."

"Yes, it makes him travel a long way sometimes," sighs another,
thoughtfully. "I'd be willing to live here a few years to get rid of
society. What a glorious thing it must be to have nothing to do but hunt
wild goats! Robinson had a jolly time of it; no accounts to make out, no
office-hours to keep, nobody to call him to account every morning for
being ten minutes too late, in consequence of a frolic. Talking about
frolics, he wasn't tempted with liquor, or bad company either; he chose
his own company: he had his parrot, his goats, his man Friday--all
steady sort of fellows, with no nonsense about them. I'll venture to say
they never drank any thing stronger than water."

  [Illustration: CRUSOE AND HIS COMRADES.]

"No," adds another, gloomily, "it isn't likely they applied 'hot and
rebellious liquors to their blood.' But a man who lives alone has no
occasion to drink. He has no love affairs on hand to drive him to it."

"Nor a scolding wife. I've known men to go all the way to California to
get rid of a woman's tongue."

There was a pause here, as most of the talkers began to drop off to
sleep.

"Gentlemen," said somebody in the party, who had been listening
attentively to the conversation, "I don't believe a single word of it. I
don't believe there ever was such a man as Robinson Crusoe in the world.
I don't believe there ever was such a man as Friday. In my opinion, the
whole thing is a lie, from beginning to end. I consider Robinson Crusoe
a humbug!"

"Who says it's all a lie?" cried several voices, fiercely; "who calls
Robinson Crusoe a humbug?"

"That is to say," replied the culprit, modifying the remark, "I don't
think the history is altogether true. Such a person might have lived
here, but he added something on when he told his story. He knew very
well his man Friday, or his dogs and parrots were not going to expose
his falsehoods."

"Pooh! you don't believe in any thing; you never did believe in any
thing since you were born. Perhaps you don't believe in that. Are you
quite sure you are here yourself?"

"Well, to be candid, when I look about me and see what a queer sort of a
place it is, I don't feel quite sure; there's room for doubt."

"Doubt, sir! doubt? Do you doubt Friday? Do you think there's room for
doubt in him?"

"Possibly there may have been such a man. I say there _may_ have been; I
wouldn't swear to it."

"Fudge, sir! fudge! The fact is, you make yourself ridiculous. You are
troubled with dyspepsia."

"I am rayther dyspeptic, gentlemen, rayther so. I hope you'll excuse me,
but I can't exactly say I believe in Crusoe. It ain't my fault--the
belief ain't naturally in me."

Upon which, having made this acknowledgment, we let him alone, and he
turned over and went to sleep. We now pricked up our lamp, and prepared
to follow his example, when a question arose as to the propriety of
standing watches during the night--a precaution thought necessary by
some in consequence of the treacherous character of the Spaniards. There
were eleven of us, which would allow one hour to each person. For my
part, I thought there was not much danger, and proposed letting every
man who felt uneasy stand watches for himself. We had labored without
rest for thirty-six hours, and I was willing to trust to Providence for
safety, and make the most of our time for sleeping. A majority being of
the same opinion, the plan of standing watches was abandoned; and having
loaded our two guns, we placed them in a convenient position commanding
the mouth of the cave. I got the harpoon and stood it up near me, for I
had made up my mind to fasten on to the first Spaniard that came within
reach.


ATTACK OF THE ROBBERS.

Scarcely had we closed our eyes and fallen into a restless doze, when a
nervous gentleman in the party rose up on his hands and knees, and
cautiously uttered these words:

"Friends, don't you think we'd better put out the light. The Spaniards
may be armed, and if they come here, the lamp will show them where we
are, and they'll be sure to take aim at our heads."

"Sure enough," whispered two or three at once, "we didn't think of that;
they can't see us in the dark, however, unless they have eyes like cats.
Let us put out the light, by all means."

So with that we were about to put out the light, when the man who had
doubts in regard to Robinson Crusoe rose up on his hands and knees
likewise, and said,

"Hold on! I think you'd better not do that. It ain't policy. I don't
believe in it myself."

"Confound it, sir," cried half a dozen voices, angrily, "you don't
believe in any thing. What's the reason you don't believe in it, eh?
What's the reason, sir?"

"Well, I'll tell you why. Because, if you put out the light, we can't
see where to shoot. Likely as not we'd shoot one another. If I feel
certain of any thing, it is, that I'd be the first man shot; it's my
luck. I know I'd be a dead man before morning."

There was something in this suggestion not to be laughed at. The most
indignant of us felt the full force of it. To shoot our enemies in
self-defense seemed reasonable enough, but to shoot any of our own
party, even the man who doubted Robinson Crusoe, would be a very serious
calamity. At last, after a good deal of talk, we compromised the matter
by putting the lamp under an old hat with a hole in the top. This done,
we tried to go to sleep.

Brigham went to the mouth of the cave about midnight to take an
observation. He was armed with one of the guns.

"What's that?" said he, sharply; "I hear something! Gentlemen, I hear
something! Hallo! who goes there?"

There was no answer. Nothing could be heard but the moaning of the surf
down on the beach.

"A Spaniard! by heavens, a Spaniard! I'll shoot him--I'll shoot him
through the head!"

"Don't fire, Brigham," said I, for I wanted a chance to fasten on with
the harpoon; "wait till he comes up, and ask him what he wants."

"Ahoy there! What do you want? Answer quick, or I'll shoot you! Speak,
or you're a dead man!"

All hands were now in commotion. We rushed to the mouth of the cave in a
body, determined to defend ourselves to the last extremity.

"Gentlemen," cried Brigham, a little confused, "it's a goat! I see him
now, in the rays of the moon; a live goat, coming down the cliff. Shall
I kill him for breakfast?"

"Wait," said I, "till he comes a little closer; I'll bend on to him with
the harpoon."

"You'd better let him alone," said the Doubter, in a sepulchral voice.
"Likely as not it's a tame goat or a chicken belonging to the American
down there."

"A tame devil, sir! How do you suppose they could keep tame goats in
such a place as this. Your remark concerning the chicken is beneath
contempt!"

"Well, I don't know why. Tain't my nature to take an entire goat without
proof. I thought it might be a chicken."

"Then you'd better go and satisfy yourself, if you're not afraid."

The Doubter did so. He walked a few steps toward the object, so as to
get sight of its outline, and then returned, saying,

"That thing there isn't a goat at all--neyther is it a chicken."

"What is it, then?"

"Nothing but a bush."

"What makes it move?"

"The wind, I suppose. I don't know what else could make it move, for it
ain't got the first principle of animal life in it. Bushes don't walk
about of nights any more than they do in the daytime. I never did
believe in it from the beginning, and I told you so, but you wouldn't
listen to me."

We said nothing in reply to this, but returned into the cave and lay
down again upon the sail.



CHAPTER IX.

COOKING FISH.


Most of the party were snoring in about ten minutes. For myself, I found
it impossible to sleep soundly. The gloomy walls of rock, the strange
and romantic situation into which chance had thrown me, the remembrance
of what I had read of this island in early youth, the dismal moaning of
the surf down on the beach, all contributed to confuse my mind. An hour
or two before daylight, I was completely chilled through by the dampness
of the ground, and entirely beyond sleep.

  [Illustration: COOKING IN JUAN FERNANDEZ.]

I heard some voices outside, and got up to see who was talking. Lest it
might be the Spaniards, I took the harpoon with me. At the mouth of one
of the convict-cells near by I found four of my comrades, who, unable to
pass the time any other way, had lit a fire and were baking some fish.
They had dug a hole in the ground, which they lined with flat stones, so
as to form a kind of oven; this they heated with coals. Then they
wrapped up a large fish in some leaves, and put it in; and by covering
the top over with fire, the fish was very nicely baked. I think I never
tasted any thing more delicate or better flavored. We had an abundant
meal, which we relished exceedingly. The smoke troubled us a good deal;
but, by telling stories of shipwreck, and wondering what our friends at
home would think if they could see us here cooking fish, we contrived to
pass an hour or so very pleasantly. I then went back into the cave, and
turned in once more upon the sail.

Of course, after eating fish at so unusual an hour, I had a confusion of
bad dreams. Perhaps they were visions. In this age of spiritual
visitations, it is not altogether unlikely the spirits of the island got
possession of me. At all events, I saw Robinson Crusoe dressed in
goatskins, and felt him breathe, as plainly as I see this paper and feel
this pen. How could I help it? for I actually thought it was myself that
had been shipwrecked; that I was the very original Crusoe, and no other
but the original; and I fancied that Abraham had turned black, and was
running about with a rag tied round his waist, and I called him my man
Friday, and fully believed him to be Friday. Sometimes I opened my eyes
and looked round the dismal cavern, and clenched my fists, and hummed an
old air of former times to try if Robinson had become totally savage in
his nature; but it was all the same, there was no getting rid of the
illusion.

The dawn of day came. No ship was in sight. The sea was white with foam,
and gulls were soaring about over the rock-bound shores. I walked down
to a spring and bathed my head, which was hot and feverish for want of
rest.

Bright and early we started off on a goat-hunt among the mountains.
Several passengers from the Brooklyn, well provided with guns, joined
the party, and the enthusiasm was general. It had been my greatest
desire, from the first sight of the island, to ascend a high peak
between the harbor and Crusoe's Valley, and by following the ridge from
that point, to explore as far as practicable the interior. For this
purpose, I selected as a companion my friend Abraham, in whose
enthusiastic spirit and powers of endurance I had great confidence. He
was heartily pleased to join me; so, buckling up our belts, we branched
off from the party, who by this time were peppering away at the wild
goats. We were soon well up on the mountain. Another adventurer joined
us before we reached the first elevation; but he was so exhausted by the
effort, and so unfavorably impressed by the frightful appearance of the
precipices all round, that he was forced to abandon the expedition and
return into the valley. We speedily lost sight of him, as he crept down
among the declivities.

  [Illustration: THE CLIFF.]

The side of the mountain which we were ascending was steep and smooth,
and was covered with a growth of long grass and wild oats, which made
it very hard to keep the goat-paths; and all about us, except where
these snake-like traces lay, was as smooth and sloping as the roof of a
house. There was one part of the mountain that sloped down in an almost
perpendicular line to the verge of the cliff overhanging the sea, where
the abrupt fall was more than a thousand feet, lined with sharp crags.
This fearful precipice rose like a wall of solid rock out of the sea,
and there was a continual roar of surf at its base. There was no way of
getting up any higher without scaling the slope above, which, as I said
before, was covered with long grass and oats, that lay upon it like the
thatch of a house; and the rain which had fallen during the previous
night now made it very smooth. I looked at it, I must confess, with
something like dismay, thinking how we were to climb over such a steep
place without slipping down over the cliff; when I beheld Abraham, of
whom I had lost sight for a time, toiling upward upon it like a huge
bear. His outline against the sky reminded me especially of a bear of
the grizzly species. I saw that he clung to the roots of the grass with
his hands, and dug his toes into the soft earth to keep from sliding
back, in case his hold should give way. Committing myself to Providence,
I started after him by a shorter cut, grasping hold of the grass by the
roots as I went. Every few perches, I stopped to search for a strong
bunch of grass, for there was nothing else to hold on by. Some of it was
so loose that it gave way as soon as I laid hold of it, and I came near
going for want of something to balance me. Six inches of a slide would
have sent me twirling over the cliff into the raging surf a thousand
feet below. Once, impressed with the terrible idea that I was slipping,
I stopped short, and my heart beat till it shook me all over. It was
only by lying flat down and seizing the roots of the grass with both
hands, while I dug my toes into the sod, that I retained my presence of
mind. Indeed, at this place, having turned to look back, I was so struck
with horror at the frail tenure upon which my life depended, that I
turned partly blind, and a rushing noise whirled through my brain at the
thought that I should be no longer able to retain my grasp. If for one
moment I lost my consciousness and let go my hold of the grass, I would
surely be lost; there was no hope; I must be dashed over the precipice,
and go spinning through a thousand feet of space till I struck the rocks
below, or was buried in the surf. I lay panting for breath, while every
muscle quivered as if it would shake loose my grasp. In the space of
five minutes I thought more of death than I had ever thought before. Was
this to be my end after all? What would they say on board the ship when
I was dead? What would be the distress of my friends and kindred at home
when they heard how my mangled body was picked up in the surf, and
buried upon this lonely rock-bound island? A thousand thoughts flashed
through my brain in succession. Even the happy days of my youth rose up
before me now, but the vision was sadly mingled with errors and follies
that could never be retrieved. Believing my time had come, I looked
upward in my agony, and beheld Abraham, scarcely twenty yards in
advance, lying down in the same position, with hands stretched out and
dug into the roots of the grass.

"Abraham," said I, "this is terrible!"

"Yes," said he, "a foretaste of death, if nothing worse."

"But how in the world are we to get out of it?"

"I don't know--there seems to be no hope; we can't go back again, that's
an absolute certainty. In my opinion, we'll have to stay here till
somebody comes for us, which doesn't seem a likely chance just now."

A good rest, however, having inspired us with fresh courage, we resolved
upon pushing on. There was a narrow ledge about a hundred yards above
us; if we could reach that, we would be safe for the present. By great
exertion we got a little above the place where we had lain down; and,
the sod beginning to give way as before, we threw ourselves on our faces
again, and rested a while. In this way, hanging, as it were, between
life and death, we at last reached the ledge. Here we flung ourselves on
the solid rock, quite exhausted. Abraham was a brave man, but he now lay
gasping for breath, as pale as a ghost. I suppose I looked about the
same, for, to tell the honest truth, I was well-nigh scared out of my
senses. Certainly all the gold of Ophir could not have induced me to go
through the same ordeal again.

There was still above us, about five hundred feet higher, a point or
pyramid of volcanic rock, that stood out over the sea in a slanting
direction. It was the highest peak in the neighborhood of the coast, and
was called the Nipple. We had done nothing yet compared with the ascent
of that peak. Both of us looked toward it, and smiled.

"Shall we try it?" said Abraham.

"No," said I, "we never could get up there; it would be perfect folly to
try."

"I think not, Luff; it isn't so smooth as the place we have just climbed
over. Don't you see there are rocks to hold on to?"

"Yes, but they look as if they'd give way. However, if you say so, we'll
make the attempt."

With this, we each drew a long breath, and commenced climbing up the
rocks. Sometimes we dug our fingers into the crevices and lifted
ourselves up, and sometimes we wound around ledges less than a foot
wide, overhanging deep chasms, and were forced to cling to the rough
points that jutted out in order to keep our balance. Flocks of pigeons
flew startled from their nests, and whirled past us, as if affrighted at
the intrusion of man. Herds of wild goats dashed by us also, and ran
bleating down into the rugged defiles, where they looked like so many
insects. The wind whistled mournfully against the sharp crags, and swept
against us in such fierce and sudden gusts that we were sometimes
obliged to stop and cling to the rocks with all our might to keep from
being blown off. At last we reached the base of the Nipple. This was the
wildest place of all. Above us stood the dizzy peak, like the turret of
a ruined castle, overlooking the surf at a height of nearly two thousand
feet. We now lay down again, breathing hard, and a good deal exhausted.
When partly recovered, I looked over the edge toward Crusoe's Valley. It
was the grandest sight I ever beheld; rugged cliffs and winding ridges
hundreds of feet below; a green valley embowered in shrubbery nestling
beneath the heights, all calm and smiling in the warm sunshine; slopes
of woodland stretching up in the ravines; a line of white spray from the
surf all along the shores, and the boundless ocean outspread in one vast
sweep beyond.

"I'll tell you what it is, Luff," said Abraham, "this may be all very
fine, but I don't want to try it again."

"Nor I either, Abraham. Isn't it awful climbing?"

"Yes, awful enough; but we must get on the top of that old castle
there."

"To be sure," said I, rather doubtfully. "Of course, Abraham; we ought
to climb that as a sort of climax. It will make an excellent climax
either to ourselves or the adventure."

Saying this, I walked a few steps from the place where we were lying
down, to see if there was any way of scaling the Nipple. It appeared to
be a huge pile of loose rocks ready to fall to pieces upon being
touched. It was about a hundred feet high, and nearly perpendicular all
round. There was no part that seemed to me at all accessible. Even the
first part or foundation could not be reached without passing over a
sharp ridge, steep at both sides, and entirely destitute of vegetation.
I was not quite mad enough to undertake such a thing as this without the
least hope of success.

"No, Abraham," said I, "we can't do it. I see no way of getting up
there."

"Let me take a look," said Abraham, who was always fertile in
discoveries. "I think I see a place that we can climb over, so as to get
on that horseback sort of a ridge, and the rest of the way may be easier
than we suppose."

  [Illustration: ABRAHAM ON THE PEAK.]

He then walked a few steps round a ledge of crumbling rock, and I soon
saw him climbing up where it seemed as if there was no possible way of
holding on. I actually began to think there was something supernatural
in his hands and feet; yet I felt an indescribable dread that he would
fall at last. For a while I was in perfect agony; each moment I expected
to see him roll headlong over the cliff. Presently I lost sight of him
altogether. I thought he had lost his balance, and was dashed to atoms
below! Seized with horror, I sat down and groaned aloud. Again I rose
and ran to the edge of the cliff, shouting wildly in the faint hope that
he was not yet lost. There was no answer but the wail of the winds and
the moaning of the surf. While I looked from the depths to the fearful
height above, I saw his head rise slowly and cautiously over the top of
the Nipple; then his body, and then, with a wild shout of triumph, he
stood waving his hat on the summit!

There he stood, a man of stalwart frame, now no bigger than a dwarf
against the sky!

I saw him point toward the horizon, and, looking in the direction of his
finger, perceived the Anteus about twenty miles off under short sail.

He remained but a few minutes in this perilous position, as I supposed
on account of the wind, which was now very strong.

On his return, being unable to get down on the same side, he was forced
to creep backward over the ridge, and lower himself by fixing his hands
in the crevices to the ledge over the sea, from which he made his way
round to the starting-point. When he reached the spot where I stood, he
sat down, breathing hard, and looking very pale.

"Luff," said he, "don't go up there. It shook under me like a tree.
Every flaw of wind made it sway as if it would topple over."

"Why," said I, "after scaring me out of my wits, it isn't exactly fair
to deprive me of some satisfaction."

"Don't do it, Luff; I warn you as a friend! It ought to be satisfaction
enough to find me here safe and sound, after such a climb as that."

"No, Abraham, I must do it; because when we return to the ship, don't
you see what an advantage you'll have over me?"

"Only in being the greater fool."

"Then there must be two fools, to make us even. It would hardly be
friendly to let you be the only one; so here goes, Abraham. In case I
tumble over, give my love to all at home, and tell them I died like a
Trojan."

All this was folly, to be sure; but how could I help it? how could I
bear the thought of hearing Abraham talk about having scaled the Nipple,
while I was ingloriouly groaning for him down below? It would mortify me
to the very soul.

Following now the same path that Abraham had taken, I was soon on top of
the first elevation; for, being lighter and more active, though not so
strong, I had rather the advantage in climbing. Here I wound round by a
different way, so as to reach the ridge that led over the chasm. It was
about the width of a horse's back, sloping down abruptly on each side.
The distance was not over twenty feet, which I gained by straddling the
ridge and working along by my hands. The descent on each side was, as
before stated, nearly two thousand feet. I need not say it was the most
terrible ride I ever had. Indeed, when I think of it now, it brings up
strange and thrilling sensations. How I got over the final peak, I can
hardly tell; it seems as if I must have been drunk with excitement, and
reached the summit by one of those mysterious chances of fortune which
not unfrequently favor men whose minds are in a morbid state.

When I looked down on the waters of the bay, I saw the Brooklyn still at
anchor. She looked like some big insect floating on its back, with its
legs in the air and little insects running about all over it. I staid up
on the top of the Nipple only a few minutes. The view on every side was
sublime beyond all the powers of language; but a gust of wind coming,
the frail pinnacle of lava upon which I stood swayed, as Abraham had
told me; and, fearing it would tumble over, I hurried down the best way
I could.



CHAPTER X.

RAMBLE INTO THE INTERIOR.


Finding by the sun that it was yet early in the day, we resolved, after
resting awhile, to push on as far as we could go into the interior. The
prospect was perfectly enchanting. Winding ridges and deep gorges lay
before us as we looked back from the ocean; and cool glens, shaded with
myrtle, and open fields of grass in the soft haze below, and springs
bubbling over the rocks with a pleasant music; all varied, all rich and
tempting. Away we darted over the rocks, shouting with glee, so
irresistible was the feeling of freedom after our dreary ship-life, and
so inspiring the freshness of the air and the wondrous beauty of the
scenery. The ridge upon which our path lay was barely wide enough for a
foothold. It was composed of loose stones and crumbling pieces of clay.
The precipice on the right was nearly perpendicular; on the left craggy
peaks reared their grizzled heads from masses of dark green shrubbery,
like the turrets of ancient castles shaken to ruin by the tempests of
ages. Sometimes we had to get down on our hands and knees, and creep
over the narrow goat-paths for twenty or thirty feet, holding on by the
roots and shrubs that grew in the crevices of the rocks, and at
intervals force ourselves through jungles of bushes so closely
interwoven that for half an hour we could scarcely gain a hundred yards.
About three miles back from the sea-coast, having labored hard to reach
a high point overlooking one of the interior valleys, we were stopped by
an abrupt rampart of rocks. Here we had to look about us, and consider a
long time how we were to get over it.

We now began to suffer all the tortures of thirst after our perilous
adventure on the Nipple, and our subsequent struggle through the bushes
and along the ridge. There was no sign of a spring any where near; the
cliffs were bleached with the wind, and not so much as a drop of water
could be found in any of the hollows that had been washed in the rocks
by the rain. In this extremity we sat down on a bank of moss, ready to
die of thirst, and began to think we would have to return without
getting a sight of the valley on the other side of the cliff, when I
observed a curious plant close by, nearly covered with great bowl-shaped
leaves.

"Abraham," said I, "may be there's water there!"

"May be there is," said Abraham; "let us look."

We jumped up and ran over to where the strange plant was, and there we
beheld the leaves half full of fine clear water!

"There! what do you think of that, Abraham? Isn't it refreshing? You see
it requires a person like me to find fresh water on the top of a
mountain where there are no springs."

"Yes, yes," quoth Abraham, slowly, "but may be it's poison."

"Sure enough--may be it is! I didn't think of that," said I, very much
startled at the idea of drinking poison. "Suppose you drink some and
try. If it doesn't do you any harm, I'll drink some myself in about half
an hour."

"Well, I would like a good drink," said Abraham, thoughtfully; "there's
no denying that. But it always goes better when I have a friend to join
me. I'll tell you what I'll do, Luff. You take one bowl and I'll take
another, and we'll sit down here and call it whisky punch, and both
drink at the same time."

"Very good," said I, "that's a fair bargain. Come on, Abraham."

So we cut the stems of two large leaves, containing each about a pint of
water, and sat down on a rock.

"Your health," said I, raising my bowl; "long life and happiness to you,
Abraham!"

"Thank you," said Abraham; "the same to you!"

"Why don't you drink?" I asked, seeing that my friend kept looking at me
without touching the contents of the bowl.

"I'm going to drink presently."

"Drink away, then!"

"Here goes!"

But it was not "here goes," for he still kept looking at me without
drinking.

"Well," said I, impatiently, "what are you afraid of?"

"I'm not afraid," cried Abraham, "but I don't see you drinking."

"Nonsense, man! I'm waiting for you!"

"Go ahead, then."

"Go ahead."

Here there was a long pause, and we watched each other with great
attention. At last, entirely out of patience, I lowered my bowl and
said,

"Abraham, do you want me to poison myself?"

"No, I don't," said Abraham; "I'd be very sorry for it."

"Then why did you propose that we should drink this poison together? for
I verily believe it must be poison, or it wouldn't look so tempting."

"Because you wanted me to drink it first."

"Did I? Give me your hand, Abraham; I forgot that." Whereupon we shook
hands, and agreed to consider it not whisky punch, but poison, and drink
none at all.

  [Illustration: THE TROGON.]

Our thirst increasing to a painful degree, we were about to retrace our
steps, when I observed a little bird perch himself upon the edge of a
leaf not far off, and commence drinking from the hollow. I told Abraham
to look.

"Sure enough," said he, "birds don't drink whisky punch."

"No," said I, "God Almighty never made a bird or a four-legged beast yet
that would naturally drink punch or any other kind of poison. It must be
water, and good water too, for birds have more sense than men about what
they drink. So here goes, whether you join or not."

"And here goes too!" cried Abraham; and we both, without hesitating any
longer, emptied our bowls to the bottom; and so pure and delicious was
the water that we emptied half a dozen leavesful more, and never felt a
bit afraid that it would hurt us; for we knew then that God had made
these cups of living green, and filled them with water fresh from the
heavens for the good of His creatures.



CHAPTER XI.

THE VALLEY OF ENCHANTMENT.


Thus refreshed, we set to work boldly, and, by dint of hard climbing,
reached the top of the cliff. It was the highest point on the island
next to the Peak of Yonka. We looked over the edge and down into a
lovely valley covered with grass. Wooded ravines sloped into it on every
side, and streams wound through it hedged with bushes, and all around us
the air was filled with a sweet scent of wild flowers. In that secluded
valley, so seldom trodden by the foot of man, we saw how much of beauty
lay yet unrevealed upon earth; and our souls were filled with an abiding
happiness: for time might dim the mortal eye; the freshness of youth
might pass away; all the bright promises of life might leave us in the
future; but there was a resting-place there for the memory; an
impression, made by the Divine hand within, that could never fade; a
glimpse in our earthly pilgrimage of that promised land where there is
harmony without end--beauty without blemish--joy beyond all that man
hath conceived.

  [Illustration: THE VALLEY.]

Nothing was here of that stern and inhospitable character that marked
the rock-bound shores of the island. A soft haze hung over the valley;
a happy quiet reigned in the perfumed air; the breath of heaven touched
gently the flowers that bloomed upon the sod; all was fresh and fair,
and full of romantic beauty. Yet there was life in the repose; abundance
within the maze of heights that encircled the dreamy solitude. Fields of
wild oats waved with changing colors on the hill-sides; green meadows
swept around the bases of the mountains; rich and fragrant shrubs
bloomed wherever we looked; fair flowers and running vines hung over the
brows of the rocks, crowning them as with a garland; and springs burst
out from the cool earth and fell in white mist down into the groves of
myrtle below, and were lost in the shade. Nowhere was there a trace of
man's intrusion. Wild horses, snuffing the air, dashed out into the
valley in all the joyousness of their freedom, flinging back their manes
and tossing their heads proudly; and when they beheld us, they started
suddenly, and fled up the mountains beyond. Herds of goats ran along the
rugged declivities below us, looking scarcely bigger than rabbits; and
birds of bright and beautiful plumage flew close around our heads, and
lit upon the trees. It was a fair scene, untouched by profaning hands;
fair and solitary, and lovely in its solitude as the happy valley of
Rasselas.



CHAPTER XII.

A STRANGE DISCOVERY.


While I was trying to make a sketch of this Valley of Enchantment, as we
called it, Abraham was peering over the cliff, and looking about in
every direction in search of some ruin or relic of habitation. He was
not naturally of a romantic turn, but he had a keen eye for every thing
strange and out of the way, and an insatiable thirst for the discovery
of natural curiosities. Already his pockets were full of roots and
pieces of rock; and it was only by the utmost persuasion that I could
prevent him from carrying a lump of lava that must have weighed twenty
pounds. Without any cause, so far as I could see, he began stamping upon
the ground, and then, picking up a big stone, he rolled it over the edge
of the cliff, and eagerly peeped after it, holding both hands to his
ears as if to listen.

"What's that, Abraham?" said I; "you are certainly losing your wits."

"I knew it! I knew it!" he cried, greatly excited; "it's perfectly
hollow. There's a natural castle in it!"

"Where? in your head?"

"No, in the cliff here; it's all hollow--a regular old castle! Come on!
come on, Luff! We're bound to explore it. May be we'll rake up something
worth seeing yet!" Saying which, he bounded down a narrow ledge on the
left, and I, as a matter of course, followed. Our path was not the most
secure, winding as it did over an abyss some hundreds of feet in a
direct fall; but our previous experience enabled us to spring over the
rocks with wonderful agility, and work our way down the more difficult
passes in a manner that would have done credit to animals with four
legs. Portions of the earth formed a kind of narrow stairway, so
distinct and regular that we almost thought it must be of artificial
construction. In about ten minutes we reached a broad ledge underneath
the brow of the cliff. Turning our backs to the precipice, we saw a
spacious cavity in the rocks, shaped a good deal like an immense Gothic
doorway, all overhung with vines and wild fern.

"I knew it!" cried Abraham, enthusiastically. "A regular old castle, by
all that's wonderful! Crusoe's cave is nothing to it! Just see what a
splendid entrance; what ancient turrets; what glorious old walls of
solid rock!"

"Verily, it does look like a castle," said I. "We must call it the
Castle of Abraham, in honor of the discoverer."

"Yes, but it strikes me there may be another discoverer already. Look at
these marks on the rock!"

"True enough; goats never make marks like these!" Near the mouth or
entrance of the grotto, traced in black lines, evidently with a burnt
stick, we saw a number of curious designs, so defaced by the dripping of
water from above that we were unable for some time to make out that they
had any meaning. At length, by carefully following the darkest parts, we
got some clew to the principal objects intended to be represented, which
were very clumsily drawn, as if by an unskillful hand. There was a
figure of a man, lying upon a horizontal line, with his face turned
upward; the limbs were twisted and broken, and the expression of the
features was that of extreme agony; the eyes were closed, the back of
the head crushed in, the mouth partly open, and the tongue hanging out.
One hand grasped a jagged rock, the other a knife with a part of the
blade broken off. Close by, with its head upon his feet, was the
skeleton of a strange animal, so rudely sketched that we could hardly
tell whether it was intended for a goat or not. It had the horns of a
goat, but the eyes, turning upward in their sockets, looked like those
of a child that had died some horrible death. Waving lines were drawn
some distance off, as representing the sea in a storm; a large ship
under sail was standing off in the foam from a pile of rocks that rose
out of the sea like a desolate island. The body of a man could be seen
under the waves, struggling toward the ship; a shark was tearing the
flesh from his legs, and the hands were thrown up wildly over the water.
Underneath the whole were several rude sketches of human hearts, pierced
through with knives. A hand pointed upward at the figure first
described. It had a ring on the forefinger; the tendons of the wrist
hung down, as if wrenched from the arm by some instrument of torture.
Around these strange designs were numerous others, representing the
heads of eagles; a famished wolf, gnawing its own flesh; and the
corpses of two children, strangled with a rope; besides other rude
sketches of which we could make nothing; and, indeed, some of these
already mentioned were so indistinct, that we were forced to depend a
good deal on conjecture in order to come to any conclusion in regard to
what they were intended to represent; so that I have given but a vague
idea, at best, of the whole thing.

"There's something strange about this," said Abraham, trembling all
over; "something more than we may like to see. Let us go into the cave,
and try if we can solve the mystery."

"I don't think there's much mystery about it," said I; "evidently some
sailor who ran away from a ship has occupied this as a hiding-place;
these strange designs he has doubtless made in some idle hour, to
represent scenes in his own life. The fellow had a bad conscience--he
has left the mark of it here."

"He may have left more than that," said Abraham, seriously; "he may have
fallen from one of these rocks, and lain here for days, helpless and
dying: in the agonies of thirst, driven delirious by fever, he tried,
perhaps, to tell by these signs how he died. If I'm not mistaken, we'll
find some farther clew to this affair within there. Let us see, at all
events."

We then went into the cave, and looked around us as far as the light
reached. It was very lofty and spacious, and made a short turn at the
back part, so that all beyond was quite wrapt in darkness. Weeds hung in
crevices of the dank walls of rock; a few footprints of animals were
marked in the ground, some slimy tracks were made over the rocks by
snails, and these, together with a dull sound of the flapping of wings
made by a number of bats that hung overhead, had a very gloomy effect.
However, seeing nothing else in the front part of the cave, we groped
our way back into the dark passage at the end, and followed it up till
we reached a sort of natural stairway leading into an upper chamber. For
some time we hesitated about going up here, thinking there might be a
hole or break in the rocks through which by mischance we might fall, and
be cast down into some vault or fissure underneath. After a while our
eyes got a little used to the darkness, and we thought we could discern
the chamber a few steps above into which this stairway led; so we crept
up cautiously, feeling our way as we went, and as soon as we found that
the ground was level we stood upon our feet, and perceived, from the
height above us, and the vacancy all around, that we were in a spacious
apartment of the cavern. There still being some danger of falling
through, as we discerned by the hollow sound made by our feet, we only
went a short distance beyond the entrance, when we stopped still on
account of the darkness, which was now quite impenetrable.

"A queer place!" said Abraham; "very like one of the piratical retreats
you read about in novels."

"Very, indeed, and quite as unlike reality," said I; "it doesn't seem to
be inhabited by pirates now, though, or any thing else except bats. I
wish we had a torch, Abraham, for I vow I can't see an inch before me."

"That's not a bad idea," said Abraham; "I think I have a match in my
pocket, but it won't do to run the risk of missing fire here. Wait a
bit, Luff; I'll go back to the mouth of the cave, and rake up some
brush-wood. We'll have some light on the subject presently--if the match
don't miss fire."

Abraham then crept back the way we came, as I supposed, for I could see
nothing in any direction, and only heard a dull echo around the walls of
rock, growing fainter and fainter, till all I was sensible of was the
flitting of some bats by my head, and the breath passing through my
nostrils. To tell the honest truth, I felt some very queer sensations
steal over me upon finding myself all alone in this dark hole, unable to
see so much as my hand within an inch of my eyes, and not knowing but
the first thing I felt might be a snake or tarentula creeping up my
legs, or the bite of some monstrous bat. I waited with great
impatience, without daring to move, lest I should miss the way back and
fall through the earth; for in the confusion of my thoughts I had lost
all knowledge of the direction of the entrance, and this very thing,
perhaps, caused me to magnify the time as it elapsed. It seemed to me
that Abraham would never return, he staid away so long, and this brought
up some strange and startling thoughts. Suppose, in his search for the
brush-wood, he had slipped off the ledge in front of the cave? Suppose
he had lost his footing in the dark passage on the way out, and fallen
into some unfathomable depth below? Suppose a gang of wild dogs, driven
to desperation by hunger, had seized him, and were now, with all their
wolfish instincts, tearing him to pieces? The more I thought, the more
vague and terrible became my conjectures; till, no longer able to endure
the torture of suspense, I shouted his name with all my might. There was
no answer but the startling echoes of my own voice, which seemed to mock
me in a thousand different directions. I shouted again, and again there
was the same fearful reverberation of voices, growing fainter and
fainter till they seemed to die upon the air, like the passing away of
hope. I now began to peer through the darkness in all directions, with
the intention of retracing my steps should I discover any indication of
the entrance by which to direct my course. At first it appeared as if
the darkness was of the same density all round, but gradually, as I
strained my eyes, I thought I perceived a faint glimmer of light, and
thither I cautiously made my way, groping about with my hands as I
advanced.

In a few moments I felt, by a rush of air, that I was near an opening,
and the light growing stronger at the same time, I soon perceived that
it led downward in a slanting direction, in the same way as the passage
through which we had come up. I was now satisfied that there would be no
farther difficulty in getting out, and having no cause to imagine that
the place had changed, began to descend as rapidly as possible. All of
a sudden my feet slipped from under me, and I went flying down a sort of
_chute_, without any power to stop myself, and so terrible was the
sensation that I was perfectly speechless, though conscious all the
time. It was not long, however, this suspense, for I struck bottom
almost at the next moment, and went rolling over headlong into an open
space. As soon as I looked around me, I perceived a cleft in the rocks,
some fifteen feet above, through which there was a dim ray of light, and
this, as I took it, was what had misled me. My sight being rather
confused, I now began to grope around me, in order to ascertain if there
were any more holes near by, when I discovered that there was straw
scattered about over the ground. Instinctively I thought about the
strange marks on the rocks near the mouth of the cave. Now if there
should be a dead body here, or a skeleton! What a companion in this
lonely dungeon! A cold tremor ran through me, and I actually thought
that, should I accidentally touch the clammy flesh of a corpse in such a
place, it would drive me mad. For a while I scarcely dared to look
around, but the absolute necessity of finding some place of exit at last
overcame my apprehensions. The light from above was quite faint, as
before stated, but yet sufficient, upon getting used to it, to enable me
to perceive that I was in a sort of chamber about fifteen feet in
diameter, closed on every side except where I had so unexpectedly
entered; and I was greatly relieved to find that there was nothing on
the ground but a thin layer of straw scattered about here and there, and
a few pieces of wood partly burned. I lost no time in making my way into
the chute again, which I found but little difficulty in ascending, for
it was not so steep as I had supposed. Upon regaining the large
apartment from which I had wandered, I heard the muffled echoes of a
voice coming, as I thought, from the depths below. They soon grew
louder, and I noticed a reddish light faintly shining upon the dark
masses of rock. Could it be Abraham? Surely it must be, for I now heard
my name distinctly called.

"Halloo there, Luff! Where are you. Luff? Why don't you come on?"

"I'm coming," said I, making a rapid rush toward the light, "as fast as
I can."

"All right!" said Abraham; "come on quick!"

It was not long, as may be supposed, before I was scrambling down the
rough stairway of rocks by which we had originally entered the
mysterious chamber; and the next moment I was standing before Abraham in
the passage, which was now no longer dark, for it was lit up with a
tremendous torch of brush-wood, which he held in both hands.

"Why, where in the name of sense have you been?" cried he, rather
excited, as I thought; "what have you been doing all this time?"

"Doing?" said I; "only exploring the cave, Abraham--hunting up
curiosities for pastime."

"Nonsense! I've been calling at you for ten minutes. I didn't want to
leave the torch, or I'd have gone up after you; for I couldn't hold it
and use my hands at the same time, and I thought if it went out we
couldn't light it up again. Besides, I've found a treasure--a treasure,
Luff, beyond all price."

"What is it, Abraham--a lump of gold?"

"Pooh! gold couldn't buy it! A skull, sir--a human skull! That's what
I've found!"

"Only a skull? I came near finding the whole body," said I,
involuntarily shuddering as I thought of the gloomy chamber with the
straw in it; "I'm quite certain I'd have found the entire corpse if it
had been there."

"But this is a real skull, Luff. It's no subject for trifling. Some poor
fellow has left his bones here, as I suspected."

We then went out to the front of the cave. Not far from the entrance was
a hole somewhat larger than a man's body, which I had not noticed
before, and into which Abraham now crept with the torch, telling me to
follow. It was not long before we entered a cell or chamber large enough
to stand up in, the floor of which was littered with straw.

"I found it here, Luff; here in this straw--the upper part of a man's
skull. Look at it."

Here Abraham removed some of the straw, and there, indeed, lay the
frontal part of a skull.

[Illustration: THE SKULL.]

"I found it just as it lies. I put it back exactly in the same position.
I wanted you to see how the man died--poor fellow! a sad death he had of
it all alone here."

Upon this I took up the skull and examined it. The forehead was small
and low, and the whole formation of the upper part of the face somewhat
singular. There was not sufficient of the lower part left to tell
precisely whether it was the skull of a white man or of a negro. I
thought it must be that of a negro, from the size of the animal organs.
Abraham, however, considered it the skull of a white man, on account of
the whiteness of the bone.

The torch being now burned out, we bethought ourselves of starting
toward the valley of the huts, for we had no time to indulge in
melancholy reflection on what remained of the poor sailor, or follow up
the train of thought suggested by his unhappy fate. Abraham carefully
wrapped the skull in his handkerchief, and put it in a large pocket that
he had in his coat, declaring, as we set out on our return to the top of
the cliff, that a thousand dollars would not induce him to part with so
rare and valuable a curiosity.



CHAPTER XIII.

THE STORM AND ESCAPE.


When we reached the summit of the cliff, and looked over once more into
the enchanted valley, we could hardly believe that such a change as we
beheld could have taken place during our absence. That scene of beauty
upon which we had lingered with so much pleasure now seemed to be a
moving ocean of clouds, ingulfing every visible point in its billows of
mist, raging and foaming as it swelled up over the heights; the wild
roar of the tempest vibrating fiercely through the air--the very rocks
upon which we stood trembling in the dread coming of its wrath. While we
gazed in silence upon the wilderness of surging billows, the whole
island became hidden in mist; and that happy valley, so lovely in its
solitude but a brief hour before, so calm in its slumbering beauty, so
softly steeped in sunshine, was now buried in the fierce conflict of the
elements. Nothing was to be seen but an ocean of misty surf below, and a
wilderness of dark clouds flying madly overhead. It seemed as if we had
been suddenly cut off from the world, and left floating on a huge mass
of burned rock, in a chaos of convulsed elements. On every side the
impenetrable mists covered the depths, and it needed but a single step
to open to us the mysteries of eternity.

The storm set in upon us in fierce and sudden gusts, driving us down for
safety upon the lee of the rock. No longer able to stand upright, we
cowered beneath the shelter which we found there, and so bided our time.
From all we could judge, there was no appearance of a change for the
better. As soon as there was a lull, we hurried on along the ridge, in
the hope of reaching the valley of the huts before dark, for we had
eaten nothing since morning, and were not prepared to spend the night in
these wild mountains. After infinite climbing and toil, we came to a
part of the path where there were neither trees nor bushes. It was about
half a mile in length, and was exposed to the full fury of the gale.
About midway we were attacked by a terrific gust of wind and deluge of
rain, and it was with great difficulty we could retain our foothold. The
rain swashed against us with resistless power, driving us down upon our
hands and knees in its fury, while it surged and foamed over us like a
white sea in a typhoon. Blinded and dizzy, we rose again and rushed on,
staggering in the fierce bursts of the tempest, and gasping for breath
in the deluge of spray. How we lived through it I know not; how it was
that we were not cast over into the abyss that threatened to devour us,
there is but One who knows, for no eye but His was upon us. Breathless,
and blinded with the scourging waters, we staggered against a large
rock. Here we fell upon our knees, no longer able to contend against the
tempest, and clung to the bushes that grew in its clefts, while we
silently appealed to Him who holds the winds in the hollow of His hands
to take pity upon us, and cast us not away in His wrath.

The worst part of the path being yet before us, where we had previously
found it difficult to get over in good weather, we determined upon
trying the steep descent on the right, leading directly into the valley
of the huts. It was almost a perfect precipice, and was bare and smooth
for three hundred yards, where it ran out into a kind of ledge, covered
with a stunted growth of trees. If we could reach the grove we would be
safe; but between us lay a steep and precipitous field of loose earth,
smoothed into a bank of mud by the rains. As we had no alternative, we
began the descent as cautiously as possible, thrusting our toes and
fingers into the clay, and letting ourselves down by degrees for fifty
or a hundred feet at a time, when we stopped a while to look below us.
Such was the roar of the storm that I hardly knew whether Abraham was by
me or not, when, hearing a loud shout, I looked round and beheld him
flying down the precipice with the velocity of lightning. "Oh! he'll be
killed!" I exclaimed; "he'll be killed! Oh! what a dreadful death!" At
the same moment I felt my hold give way, and I dashed after him in spite
of myself, grasping madly at the loose earth, and shouting wildly for
somebody to stop me. It was a fearful chase--a chase of life or death!
On we sped, upheaving the loose masses of sod, and whizzing through the
tempest as we flew; grasping desperately at every rock, tearing up the
shrubs that grew in the clefts, and dashing blindly over gaping fissures
that lay hidden with the grass. Great masses of burned rock went smoking
down into the chaos of mist below, crashing and thundering as they fell.
On, and still on, in our wild career we sped, with the vision of death
flitting grimly before us! Atoms we were in the strife of elements,
whirled powerless into the dark abyss. There was a confused crash of
bushes; a stunning sensation--a sudden check--a jarring of the
brain--and all was still! I looked, and saw that I was safe. The grove
was around me. Consciousness returned as I clung panting to the trees;
life was given yet; the vision of death fled in the mists of the
tempest.[A]

For a moment, dizzy and confused, I clung to a tree, and offered up my
inward thanks to that Providence which had spared me through the fearful
ordeal. Then, hearing the voice of Abraham near by to where I stood, I
looked, and saw him seated upon the ground, wailing aloud as if in
extreme bodily pain. Selfish wretch that I was, had I, in my
thankfulness for my own safety, forgotten the friend of my heart!
Letting go my grasp of the tree, I ran to his side, and asked in choking
accents,

"Abraham! oh, Abraham, are you hurt? Tell me quick--tell me, are you
hurt?"

"My skull! my skull!" groaned Abraham, in rending tones; "oh! Luff, my
skull is broken!"

"Good heavens!" I exclaimed, "what are we to do? This is terrible!
Wretch that I am, I thought only of myself!"

Abraham groaned again. His face was livid, and a small streak of blood
that coursed down his right cheek told how truly he had spoken.

"Abraham, my friend Abraham!" I exclaimed, in a perfect agony of
distress, "perhaps it's not so bad. It may not be broken."

"Yes it is," said Abraham; "I heard it crack when I fell. My feet flew
up, and I fell on my back. It must have struck a rock."

"Oh, Abraham, what are we to do? I wouldn't have had this to happen for
the whole island. Here, I'll tear my shirt off and tie it up."

"No, no, Luff, it can't be mended; it's broken all to smash. I wouldn't
have had it happen for a thousand dollars. It can never, never be
mended!"

"Let me see," said I, carefully laying back his hair; "something must be
done, Abraham."

"No, no--nothing can be done; the trouble's not there, Luff; it's
_here_--HERE, in my pocket!" At the same time, while I started back in a
perfect maze of confusion, Abraham thrust his hand into his coat pocket,
and brought forth a whole handful of thin flat bones, broken into small
pieces, which he held out with a rueful face, groaning again as he
looked at them.

"No, no, it can't be mended, Luff."

"The devil!" said I, angrily, "you may thank your stars it isn't any
worse than that!"

"Worse! worse!" cried Abraham, highly excited; "what do you mean? In the
name of common sense, isn't that bad enough? How could it be any worse?"

"Pshaw! Abraham; I thought, when I heard your lamentations, and saw that
scratch of a bush on your face, that your own natural cranium was
fractured."

"Well, what if you did?" cried Abraham, still irritated. "Would you call
that worse? A live skull will grow together, but a dead one won't. And
this--_this,_ with such a history to it--to lose this, after all my
trouble in finding it--oh, Luff, Luff, it's too bad!"

However, having no farther time to spare over his ruined skull, he put
back the bones in his pocket, and, with a heavy sigh, joined me as I
sprang down through the grove.

The rest of our descent was comparatively easy. When we got down to the
head of the valley, a muddy stream broke wildly over the rocks, carrying
down with it the branches and leaves of trees, and roaring fearfully as
it rushed on toward the ocean. We followed this in its rapid descent,
and were soon with our friends at the boat-landing.

FOOTNOTE:

[A] It has already been mentioned that in many parts of the island the
soil was loose, and undermined by holes, and the rock weathered almost
to rottenness. Pursuing a goat once in one of these dangerous places,
the bushy brink of a precipice to which he had followed it crumbled
beneath him, and he and the goat fell together from a great height. He
lay stunned and senseless at the foot of the rock for a great while--not
less than twenty hours, he thought, from the change of position in the
sun, but the precise length of time he had no means of ascertaining.
When he recovered his senses he found the goat lying dead beside him.
With great pain and difficulty he made his way to his hut, which was
nearly a mile distant from the spot; and for three days he lay on his
bed enduring much suffering. No permanent injury, however, had been done
him, and he was soon able to go abroad again.--[LIFE OF ALEXANDER
SELKIRK.]



CHAPTER XIV.

THE AMERICAN CRUSOE.


The third night closed, leaving us still upon the island. Who could tell
if the vessel would be in sight by morning? Should the gale continue, it
was not improbable that she would be driven far to the leeward, and
perhaps compelled to give up the search for us entirely. Ships had not
unfrequently been in sight of the island for weeks, as we afterward
learned, and yet unable to make an anchorage, in consequence of baffling
winds and heavy gales. It might turn out to be no joke, after all, this
wild exhibition. To be Crusoes by inclination was one thing, by
compulsion another.

We were determined not to spend another night in the cave; that was out
of the question. There was not one of us who wanted to enjoy the romance
of that place again. No better alternative remained for us than to make
a bargain with Pearce, the American, for quarters in his straw cabin.
This we were the more content to do upon seeing him emerge from the
bushes with a dead kid hanging over his shoulders, which we naturally
supposed he intended for supper.

  [Illustration: THE AMERICAN CRUSOE.]

At first he spoke rather gruffly for a fellow-countryman; but this we
attributed to his wild manner of life, separated from all society; nor
were we at all disposed to quarrel with him on account of his uncouth
address, when we came to consider that a man might understand but little
of politeness, and yet be a very good sort of fellow, and understand
very well how to cook a kid. We had no money, which we honestly told him
in the beginning; but we promised him, in lieu thereof, a large supply
of ham and bread from the ship. This did not seem to improve the matter
at all; indeed, we began to think he was loth to credit us, which,
however, was not the case. He said the Californians who had been there
had eaten up nearly all his stores, and had paid him little or nothing.
They had promised him a good deal, but promises were the principal
amount of what he got. If this was all, he wouldn't mind it; they were
welcome to what he had; but he didn't like folks to come and take
possession of his house as a matter of right, and get drunk in it, and
raise Old Scratch with his furniture, and then swear at him next morning
for not keepin' a better tavern. He didn't pretend to keep a tavern; it
was his own private house, and he wanted it to be private--that's what
he came here for. He had society enough at home, and a darn'd sight too
much of it. He liked to choose his own company. He was an independent
character himself, and meant to be independent in spite of all the
Californians on this side of creation. All he wished was that old Nick
had a hold of California and all the gold in it--if there was any in it,
which he didn't much believe himself. He hoped it would be sunk
tolerably deep under the sea before some of 'em got there. It was a
tolerable hard case, that a man couldn't live alone without a parcel of
fellers, that hadn't any thing to do at home, comin' all the way to Juan
Fernandez to play Scratch with his house and furniture, and turn every
thing upside down, as if it belonged to 'em, and cuss the hair off'n his
head for not makin' a bigger house, and keepin' a bar full of good
liquor, and a billiard saloon, and bowlin'-alley for the accommodation
of travelers--a tolerable hard case. He'd be squarmed ef he was a goin'
to stand it any longer.

We agreed with Crusoe that this was indeed rather a hard case, but
promised him that he would find us altogether different sort of persons.
We were first-class passengers--none of your rowdy third-class; he
understood all that; they were all first-class passengers ashore; he
wouldn't believe one of 'em on oath. Again we endeavored to compromise
the matter, so far as regarded the ham at least, of which he was
entirely incredulous, by telling him that he might come on board with
us, and then when we'd be sure not to run away without paying him.

"But what if you should carry ME away?" said he, evidently startled by
this proposition.

"Nothing--only we'd take you to California. That would be a lucky chance
for you."

"No, it wouldn't. I don't want to go there. I'm very well here."

"But there's plenty of gold in California," said we; "no doubt about it
at all. You may live here all your life, and be no better off."

"I'm well enough off," retorted Crusoe; "I only want people to let me
alone. Ever since this California business they've been troublin' me."

"You surely can't be happy here without a soul near you! Why, it's
enough to drive a man mad. It must be dreadfully dull. You can't be
happy!"

"Yes I am!" said Crusoe, peevishly; "I'm always happy when I ain't
troubled. When I'm troubled I'm mis'rable. Nothin' makes me so mis'rable
as bein' troubled."

"It makes a good many people miserable," was our reply. "We must
trouble you for a night's lodging, at all events, for we have no place
else to stay."

"I don't want you to stay nowhere else!" cried Crusoe; "that wasn't what
I meant: you mustn't get drunk--that's what I meant."

"No, we won't get drunk; we haven't any thing to get drunk on, unless
you insist upon giving us something."

"Very well, then; you can sleep in my cabin, ef you don't tear it down.
Some fellers have tried to tear it down."

We promised him that we would use every exertion to overcome any
propensity we might have in regard to tearing his house down; and,
although he still shook his head mournfully, as if he had no farther
confidence in man, he led the way toward his hut, hinting in a sort of
undergrowl that it would be greatly to our advantage not to get drunk,
or attempt to destroy his house and furniture, inasmuch as he had a
number of goatskins, which he wouldn't mind letting sober people have to
sleep on, but he'd be squarmed ef he'd lend 'em to people that cuss'd
him for not keepin' feather beds. We declared upon our words, as
gentlemen, that we had no idea whatever of sleeping on feather beds in
such a remote part of the world as this, and would be most happy to
prove to him that we were worthy of sleeping on goatskins; that we would
regard goatskins in the light of a favor, whereas if he put us upon
feather beds, we should feel disposed to look upon it rather as a
reflection upon our character as disciples of the immortal Crusoe.

Abraham and myself were wet to the skin after our adventure in the
mountains, and, having been five or six hours in that condition, we were
hungry enough to eat any thing. We therefore left the party down on the
beach, where they were trying to set fire to an old pitch-barrel as a
signal for the ship, and, under the guidance of Pearce, hurried up to
the cabin. Upon entering the low doorway, we found that there was some
promise of good cheer. There was a basket of fish in one corner, and
sundry pieces of dried meat hanging upon the walls. Our friend set to
work to skin the kid; and we, finding a sort of stone fireplace in the
middle of the floor, with a few live embers in it, sat down, and began
putting on some wood out of a neighboring pile, by which means we soon
had a comfortable fire. As soon as the steam was pretty well out of our
clothes, and the warmth struck through to our skins, we felt an
uncommonly pleasant glow all over us; and the blaze was exceedingly
cheerful. In fact, we were quite happy, in spite of the gloomy
forebodings of Pearce, who kept saying to himself all the time he was
skinning the kid, "I expect nothin' else but what they'll burn my house
down. Ef they'd only let a feller alone, and not come troublin' him, I'd
like it a good deal better than bread or ham either--'specially when
it's aboard a ship that ain't here, and never will be, I reckon. Fun's
fun; but I'll be squarmed ef I want to see my house burned down over my
head. Tain't nothin' to larf at. When I want somethin' to larf at, I kin
raise it myself without troublin' other folks. Ef a man can't live to
himself here, I'd like to know where in creation he _kin_ live. I expect
they'll be explorin' the bottom of the sea by'm-by in search of gold;
I'd go there to be to myself, ef I thought I could be to myself; but I
know they'd be arter me in less than a month. Ef I was a bettin'
character, I'd be willin' to bet five dollars they'll set fire to the
house, and burn it down afore they stop!"

Meantime Brigham and the rest of the party succeeded at length in making
a large fire on the beach as a signal for the ship, and they remained
down there some time in hopes she would send a boat ashore. But the gale
increasing, accompanied by heavy rain, they had to leave the fire, and
make a hasty retreat to the hut.



CHAPTER XV.

CASTLE OF THE AMERICAN CRUSOE.


Pearce's gloomy views of society began to brighten a good deal when he
found that we were not disposed to tear down his house or burn it, or
wantonly ruin his furniture. He was not a bad-hearted man by any means,
though rather crusty from having lived too long alone, and somewhat
prejudiced against the Californians on account of the rough treatment he
had received from them. A little flattery regarding his skill in
architecture, and a word of praise on the subject of his furniture,
seemed to mollify him a good deal; and he smiled grimly once or twice at
our folly in coming ashore, when we could have done so much better, as
he alleged, by staying aboard the ship, and going ahead about our
business.

Regarding the house, which afforded him so much anxiety, there did not
appear to us to be any thing quite so original and Crusoe-like in any
other part of the world. It was a little straw hut, just big enough to
creep into and turn round in; with a steep peaked roof, projecting all
round, very rustic and rugged-looking, and, withal, very well adapted to
the climate. The straw was woven through upright stakes, and made a
tolerably secure wall; outside, growing up around the house in every
direction, were running vines and wild flowers; and at a little distance
were various smaller sheds and out-houses, in which our worthy host kept
his domestic animals, and what wood he required during the bad weather.
The furniture of his main abode, which was such a source of honest pride
to him, consisted chiefly of a few three-legged stools, made of the
rough wood with the bark still on; a kind of bench for a lounge; a rough
bedstead in one corner, partly shut off by a straw partition; a broken
looking-glass, and an iron kettle and frying-pan, besides sundry strange
articles of domestic economy of which we could form no correct idea,
inasmuch as they were made upon novel principles of his own, and were
entirely beyond our comprehension. Over head, the rafters were covered
with goatskins; a sailor's pea-jacket, a sou'wester, and some colored
shirts hung at the head of the bed. In one corner there was a rude
wooden cupboard, containing a few broken cups and plates, and a Chinese
tea-box; in another a sea-chest, which, when pulled out, served for a
table. The floor was of mud, and not very dry after the rain; for the
roof had sprung a leak, and, moreover, what water was cast off from
above eventually found its way in under the walls below. Doubtless, like
the man with the fiddle, our host thought it useless to mend it when the
weather was fine, and too wet to work at it when the weather was rainy.
It was a very queer and original place altogether; and with a good fire,
and a little precaution in keeping from under the leaks in the roof, not
at all uncomfortable. Our Crusoe friend, overhearing us say that it was
a glorious place to live in, a regular castle, where a man might spend
his days like a king, smiled again a crusty smile, and growled,

"There's tea in that 'ere box. Ef you want some you kin have it. I got
it out'n a ship that came from China. There ain't better tea nowhere."

We thanked him heartily for his kindness, and declared at the same time
that we regarded good tea as the very rarest luxury of life. Again his
face cracked into something like a smile, and he said,

"Better tea never was drunk in China. Ef you like, I'll put sugar in
it."

We declared that sugar was the very thing of all the luxuries in the
world that we were most attached to, but we could not drink it with any
sort of relish if we thought it would be robbing him of his stores. If
he had these things to spare we would cheerfully use them, and pay him
three or four times their value in provisions from the ship.

"Darn the ship!" cried Crusoe; "I don't care a cuss about the ship, so
long as you don't get drunk and tear my house down!"

Upon this we protested that we would sooner tear the hair out of our
heads by the roots than tear down so unique and extraordinary a
structure as his house; and as to his furniture, it was worth its weight
in gold; every stick of it would bring five hundred dollars in the city
of New York.

Whereupon Pearce stirred about in the obscure corners with wonderful
alacrity, rooting up all sorts of queer things out of dark places, and
muttering to himself meantime,

"I'm as fond of company as any body, ef they're the right sort; and I'll
be squarmed ef I ain't an independent character too. I don't owe nobody
for a buildin' of my house, or a makin' of my furniture. I did it all
myself, long before California was skeer'd up."

He then put down the old kettle on the fire, and, as soon as the water
was boiled, emptied a large cupful of tea into it, and set it near the
fire to draw. While the tea was drawing, he fried a panful of kid, and
broiled some fish on the coals; and when it was all done, he gave us
each a tin plate, and told us to eat as much as we wanted, and be darn'd
to the ship, so long as we behaved like Christians. Then he furnished us
with cups for the tea, and some sea-biscuit, which he dug out of the
cupboard; and I must declare, in all sincerity, that we made a most
excellent supper.



CHAPTER XVI.

DIFFICULTY BETWEEN ABRAHAM AND THE DOUBTER.


Every one of us, except the man that had no faith in Robinson Crusoe,
admitted that the tea was the best ever produced in China or any where
else; that the fried kid was perfectly delicious; that the fish were the
fattest and tenderest ever fished out of the sea; that the biscuit
tasted a thousand times better than the biscuit we had on board ship;
that the whole house and all about it were wonderfully well arranged for
comfort; and that Pearce, after all, was the jolliest old brick of a
Crusoe ever found upon a desolate island.

In fine, we came to the conclusion that it was a glorious life,
calculated to enlarge a man's soul; an independent life; a perfect
Utopia in its way. "Let us," said we, "spend the remainder of our days
here! Who cares about the gold of Ophir, when he can live like a king on
this island, and be richer and happier than Solomon in his temple!"

"You'd soon be tired of it," muttered a voice from a dark corner: it was
the voice of the Doubter. "You wouldn't be here a month till you'd give
the eyes out of your heads to get away."

"Where's that man?" cried several of us, fiercely.

"I'm here--here in the corner, gentlemen, rayther troubled with fleas."

"You'd better turn in and go to sleep."

"I can't sleep. Nobody can sleep here. I've tried it long enough. I
reckon the fleas will eat us all up by morning, and leave nothing but
the hair of our heads. I doubt if they'll leave that."

"Was there ever such a man? Why, you do nothing but throw cold water on
every body."

"No I don't; it comes through the roof. It's as much as I can do to keep
clear of it myself, without throwin' it on other people." With this we
let him alone.

The fire now blazed cheerfully, sending its ruddy glow through the
cabin. A rude earthen lamp, that hung from one of the rafters, also shed
its cheerful light upon us as we sat in a circle round the crackling
fagots; and altogether our rustic quarters looked very lively and
pleasant. Every face beamed with good-humor. Even the face of the
Doubter belied his croaking remarks, and glowed with unwonted
enthusiasm. Little Jim Paxton, the whaler, under the inspiration of the
tea, which was uncommonly strong, volunteered a song; and the cries of
bravo being general, he gave us, in true sailor style,

      "I'm monarch of all I survey,
        My right there is none to dispute;
      From the centre all round to the sea,
        I'm lord of the fowl and the brute!
      Oh Solitude where are the charms," &c.

This was so enthusiastically applauded, that my friend Abraham, whose
passion for all sorts of curiosities had led him to explore musty old
books as well as musty old caves for odds and ends, now rose on his
goatskin, and said that, with permission of the company, he would
attempt something which he considered peculiarly appropriate to the
occasion. He was not much of a singer, but he hoped the interest
attached to the words would be a sufficient compensation for all the
deficiencies of voice and style.

"Go ahead, Abraham!" cried every body, greatly interested by these
remarks. "Let us have the song! Out with it!"

"First," said Abraham, clearing his voice, "I beg leave to state, for
the benefit of all who may not be familiar with the fact, that this is
no vulgar or commonplace song, as many people suppose who sing it. On
the contrary, it may be regarded as a classical production. Among the
many effusions to which the popularity of Robinson Crusoe gave rise,
none was a greater favorite in its day than the song which I am about to
attempt. It has been customary to introduce it in the character of Jerry
Sneak, in Foote's celebrated farce, the Mayor of Garratt. As the words
are now nearly forgotten, I hope you'll not consider it tiresome if I go
through to the end. Join in the chorus, gentlemen!"

           POOR ROBINSON CRUSOE.

      "When I was a lad, my fortune was bad,
        My grandfather I did lose O;
      I'll bet you a can, you've heard of the man,
        His name it was Robinson Crusoe.
          Oh! poor Robinson Crusoe,
          Tinky ting tang, tinky ting tang,
          Oh! poor Robinson Crusoe.

      "You've read in a book of a voyage he took,
        While the raging whirlwinds blew, so
      That the ship with a shock fell plump on a rock,
        Near drowning poor Robinson Crusoe.
          Oh! poor, &c.

      "Poor soul! none but he escaped on the sea.
        Ah, Fate! Fate! how could you do so?
      'Till at length he was thrown on an island unknown,
        Which received poor Robinson Crusoe."

"Here, gentlemen, I beg you to take notice that we are now, in all
probability, on the very spot. I have the strongest reasons for
supposing that the castle of our excellent host, in which we are at this
moment enjoying the flow of soul and the feast of reason, is built upon
the identical site occupied in former times by the castle of the
remarkable adventurer in whose honor this song was composed. But to
proceed--

          "Tinky ting tang, tinky ting tang,
          Oh! poor Robinson Crusoe.

      "But he saved from on board a gun and a sword,
        And another old matter or two, so
      That by dint of his thrift, he managed to shift
        Pretty well, for poor Robinson Crusoe.
          Oh! poor, &c.

      "He wanted something to eat, and couldn't get meat,
        The cattle away from him flew, so
      That but for his gun he'd been sorely undone,
        And starved would poor Robinson Crusoe.
          Oh! poor, &c.

      "And he happened to save from the merciless wave
        A poor parrot, I assure you 'tis true, so
      That when he came home, from a wearisome roam,
        Used to cry out, Poor Robinson Crusoe.
          Oh! poor, &c.

      "Then he got all the wood that ever he could,
        And stuck it together with glue, so
      That he made him a hut, in which he might put
        The carcass of Robinson Crusoe."

"Hold on there! hold on!" cried a voice, in a high state of excitement.
Every body turned to see who it was that dared to interrupt so inspiring
a song. Immediately the indignant gaze was fixed upon the face of the
Doubter, who, with outstretched neck, was peering at Abraham from his
dark corner. "Excuse me, gentlemen," said he, "but I want some
information on that point. Did you mean to say, sir, that he, Robinson
Crusoe, stuck the wood together with _glue_ when he built his house?
with GLUE, did you say?"

"So the song goes," said Abraham, a little confused, not to say
irritated. "Doubtless the words are used in a metaphorical sense. There
is every reason to believe that this is a mere poetical license; but it
doesn't alter the general accuracy of the history. For my own part, I am
disposed to think that the house was built very much upon the same
principles as that of our friend Pearce; in fact, that it was precisely
such an establishment as we at present occupy."

"Go on, sir--go on; I'm perfectly satisfied," muttered the Doubter; "the
whole thing hangs together by means of glue; every part of it is
connected with the same material!"

Abraham reddened to the eyebrows at this uncalled-for remark; his fine
features, usually so placid and full of good nature, were distorted
with indignation; he turned fiercely toward the Doubter; he
instinctively doubled up both fists; he breathed hard between his
clenched teeth; then, hearing a low murmur of dissuasion from the whole
party, he turned away with a smile of contempt, breaking abruptly into
the burden of his song,

          "Tinky ting tang, tinky ting tang,
          Oh! poor Robinson Crusoe!

      "While his man Friday kept the house snug and tidy,
        For be sure 'twas his business to do so,
      They lived friendly together, less like servant than neighbor,
        Lived Friday and Robinson Crusoe.
          Oh! poor, &c.

      "Then he wore a large cap, and a coat without nap,
        And a beard as long as a Jew, so
      That, by all that's civil, he looked like a devil
        More than poor Robinson Crusoe."

"Which shows," continued Abraham, with his accustomed smile of good
humor, "the extraordinary shifts to which a man may be reduced by
necessity, and the uncouth appearance he must present in a perfectly
unshaved state, when even the poet admits that he looked like a devil.
These articles of clothing, which contributed to give him such a wild
aspect, were made of goatskins, as he himself informs us in his
wonderful narrative; and I beg you to remember, gentlemen, that the very
skins upon which we are this moment sitting are related, by direct
descent, to those which were worn by Robinson Crusoe."

Here the Doubter groaned.

"Well, sir, is there any thing improbable in that?" said Abraham,
fiercely. "Have you any objection to that remark, sir?"

"No; I have nothing to say against it in particular, except that I'd
believe it sooner if there were goats in the skins. I never heard of
modern goatskins descending from ancient goatskins before."

"Of course, sir," said Abraham, coloring, "the goats were in the skins
before they were taken out."

"Likely they were," growled the Doubter; "I won't dispute that. But I'd
like to know, as a matter of information, if he, Robinson Crusoe, made
his clothes in the same way as he made his house?"

"To be sure, sir; to be sure: he made both with his own hands."

"I thought so," said the Doubter, sinking back into his dark corner; "he
sew'd 'em with glue. All glue--glue from beginning to end."

"I'll see you to-morrow, sir!" said Abraham, swelling with indignation;
"we'll settle this matter to-morrow, sir. At present I shall pay no
further attention to your remarks!" Here he drew several rapid breaths,
as if swallowing down his passion; and, looking round with a darkened
brow upon the mute and astonished company, resumed, in a loud and steady
voice,

          "Tinky ting tang, tinky ting tang,
          Oh! poor Robinson Crusoe!

      "At length, within hail, he saw a stout sail,
        And he took to his little canoe; so,
      When he reach'd the ship, they gave him a trip,
        Back to England brought Robinson Crusoe.
          Oh! poor Robinson Crusoe!"

We all joined in the chorus--all, except the incredulous man; and,
notwithstanding the unfortunate difference between Abraham and that
individual, which tended so much to mar the harmony of the occasion, we
thought, from the way our voices sounded, that it must have been the
very first time this inspiring song was sung in the solitudes of Juan
Fernandez. I even fancied I detected the crusty voice of Pearce in the
chorus: but I wouldn't like to make a positive assertion to that effect,
on account of the danger of giving him offense, should he ever cast his
eyes upon this narrative. As there was still evidently a cloud upon
Abraham's brow, which might burst to-morrow upon the Doubter, and
thereby bring the whole adventure to a tragic termination, several of us
now, by a concerted movement, endeavored to effect a reconciliation. We
seized upon the Doubter, who by this time was dozing away in the corner,
and brought him forth to the light, where he looked about him in mute
astonishment, muttering, as if awakened out of a dream, "No, sir, it
can't be done, sir; a house never was built with glue yet; goatskins
never were sewed together with glue--never, sir, never!"

"You shall swallow those words, sir!" cried Abraham, quivering with
passion; "I'll make you swallow them, sir, to-morrow morning!"

"I'll swallow 'em now if you like," drawled the Doubter, with provoking
coolness, "but I can't swallow a house built of glue. Possibly I might
swallow the goatskins, but the house won't go down--it ain't the kind of
thing to go down!"

Here it required our full force to restrain Abraham; he fairly chafed
with indignation; his face was flushed; his nostrils distended; his
stalwart limbs writhing convulsively; in truth, our well-meant plan of
reconciliation only seemed to hasten the tragedy which we were striving
to prevent. Pearce himself now interposed.

"I know'd it," said he; "I know'd they'd tear my house down yet, and
ruin my furniture! Next thing, all hands'll be breakin' my chairs to
pieces on one another's heads; I know'd it; I wouldn't believe 'em on
oath!"

This rebuke touched Abraham in a tender point. Quick to take offense, he
was also ready in forgiving an injury, especially when a due regard for
the feelings of others required it.

"Gentlemen," said he, "it shall never be said that I have violated the
rites of hospitality. There shall be no further difficulty about this
matter; I forgive all. Your hand, sir!"

The Doubter awkwardly held out his hand and suffered it to be shaken,
upon which he crept back into his dark corner, still, however, muttering
incoherently from time to time; but as nothing could be distinguished
but the word "glue," it was not deemed of sufficient importance for the
renewal of hostilities, or the interruption of the general harmony. Good
humor being restored, it was all the more hearty after these unpleasant
little episodes; and so genial an effect had it upon Pearce, that he
quite forgot his resentment, and unbended himself again. Gradually he
began to tell us wild stories of his Crusoe life; how he had lived all
alone for nearly a year on the island of Massafuero without seeing the
face of man; how, during that time, he sustained himself upon roots and
herbs, and likewise by catching wild goats in traps; how he never was so
happy in his life, and never had any trouble till he left that island in
a whaler, and came here to Juan Fernandez; how for two years he had
lived on this island, sometimes alone, and sometimes surrounded by
outlawed Chilians; how on one occasion, while up in the mountains
hunting goats, he fell down a precipice, and broke his arm and two of
his ribs, and was near dying all alone, without a soul to care for him.
A great many strange stories and legends he told us, too, in his rude
way, about Juan Fernandez; and so strong was his homely language, and so
fresh and novel his reminiscences, that we often looked round in the
waning light of the lamp for fear some ghost or murderer would steal in
upon us.

As well as I can remember, one of his strange narratives was
substantially as follows. There was all the force of reality to give it
interest; for it was evidently, as he told us, a simple recital of
facts.



CHAPTER XVII.

THE MURDER.


About five years ago (I think he said it was in 1844), a murder was
committed on the island by the father of one of the present Chilian
residents. Pearce was then in Valparaiso, and had a statement of the
circumstances from some of the parties concerned in it.

  [Illustration: TRAGIC FATE OF THE SCOTCHMAN.]

A Scotch sailor, it appeared, deserted from a vessel that touched at the
island for wood and water. For a time he concealed himself in a cave
among the cliffs near the bay. When the vessel sailed, he came down into
the valley and built himself a hut out of straw, in which he resided
several months alone. By fishing, and catching wild goats in traps, he
supported himself comfortably, and was becoming reconciled to his
isolated life, when a family of Chilians, consisting of five or six men
and women, under the control of an old Spaniard, father-in-law of one of
the younger men, came over about this period in a small trading vessel
from Massafuero. They had been living there for some time, but thought
they could do better in Juan Fernandez. There were no huts standing
there then except that belonging to the sailor. The Chilians prevailed
upon him to let them occupy a part of his house, promising to build
themselves one as soon as they could cut straw and wood enough. Every
day they went out on the hill-sides to cut the straw, and they seemed to
be making good progress with their hut. One night the sailor, as he lay
in bed, overheard one of the Chilians say to the others, "We are
working hard every day, but it will be a long time before we can get a
house built. Neither will it be big enough for us all when we finish it.
This man is nothing but a heretic, therefore it would be no sin to take
his life. Let us kill him, and then we can have his house, which has
other buildings to it, without the trouble of doing any more work." The
others agreed to this, all except one woman, who said God would never
suffer them to prosper if they committed such a deed. However, they
silenced her by threats, and then talked further upon the best means of
murdering the Scotchman. Having been a beach-comber for many years in
Spanish countries, he understood the language, and it so happened that
he overheard nearly every word. Being a powerful man, of great courage
and fierce temper, he sprang from his bed, and swore they must leave the
house at that very instant, or he would cut their throats. The woman he
would have spared this treatment, but he knew she would only fare the
worse for his protection. Finding him resolute, they took their things
and left the house; but after they were out in the dark, it being a
stormy night, they begged so hard for shelter that he told them they
might go into a shed, which he had built some distance off to keep goats
in. Here they remained, without daring to molest him, until their own
house was completed. In the mean time, the suspicions of the sailor were
lulled by their friendly behavior, and he often spent a part of his time
in social talk with them, which was the more agreeable inasmuch as the
old man's daughter, who had taken his part at first, fell in love with
him, and, although jealously watched by her husband, found frequent
chances of meeting him alone. He became much attached to her, as well on
account of her attempt to save his life as the charms of her person,
which were well calculated to excite admiration and kindle the amorous
flame. She was a very beautiful woman, a Chilian by birth, and was
married against her inclination; and coming from a country where the
marriage tie is not considered so sacred as it is in more northern
climes, she had but little scruple in yielding to her guilty love. His
manly person and bold bearing had attracted her in the first place, and
these stolen interviews only served to strengthen the passion that grew
up between them. At this period they were joined by an English sailor,
another deserter, who took up his quarters with the Chilians in their
new abode, and became a member of their gang. The Scotchman had refused,
from some dislike that he formed to this man on first sight, to take him
into his cabin. This led to a mutual hatred, which was soon increased by
other causes. The Englishman, struck by the beauty of the young woman,
whose affections the other had won, now made love to her on all
occasions, but she gave him no encouragement. He attributed his failure
to the Scotchman, whom he secretly watched. Fired with jealousy and
deadly hatred toward his rival, he resolved upon putting him to death by
stratagem, for he was too cowardly to undertake it openly. Having
learned the difficulty that had previously occurred, he took occasion to
tell the Chilians that the Scotchman was their mortal enemy, and only
awaited an opportunity to murder them all, so as to get entire
possession of the young woman, with whom he had already formed a guilty
connection. At this period three Americans deserted from a whale-ship
and joined the Scotchman. Through some accident, or most likely by foul
means, his hut took fire soon after, and was burnt to the ground. He and
his companions were obliged to move to a cave near by, where they
designed living till they could build another. Knowing nothing of the
schemes of the English sailor, who took care that it should not be found
out through the woman, they were ignorant of the hostile intention of
the Chilians, till one day, as they were scattered over the valley,
cutting wild oats for their cabin, the Englishman told the old man, who
was the leader of the Chilians, that he had overheard the other party
say they were going to murder them all that night; and prevailed upon
him to muster his men together secretly, and settle the matter at once.
They all went first to the cave, and took possession of the arms left
there by the Americans and their leader. The old man, followed at a
distance by his comrades, thereupon proceeded to the valley with a
loaded gun; and seeing the Scotchman at a distance from the others, he
stole upon him and shot him through the body with slugs. Badly wounded,
but not mortally, the Scotchman shouted to his friends that he was shot;
that they must follow him and fight for their lives, upon which he ran,
covered with blood, toward the cave, followed by the Americans. On
arriving there they found all their fire-arms gone: they fought for some
time with their knives, but were finally overpowered by the Chilian
party and bound hand and foot.

  [Illustration: THE LOVERS.]

Next day it so happened that a whale-ship came into the harbor for wood
and water. The Americans were carried back some distance and hid among
the cliffs, with an armed guard over them, so that they might be out of
the way when the people from the ship came ashore; and the wounded man
was concealed in a cave. The Englishman then went on board with the old
Chilian, and told the captain that a deserter from a whale-ship, who had
been on the island some time, had undertaken to murder them, and they
had shot him in self-defense. Their story was plausibly told, and was
believed. They said the man was not dead, and they asked the captain to
take him away, as they wanted to get rid of him. The captain refused to
do this, saying he would have nothing to do with a deserter; if the man
got into trouble by his misconduct, he might get out of it the best way
he could. When the vessel sailed, which was the next day, the Chilians,
in compliance with the advice of the Englishman, took their wounded
prisoner out into an open space, and shot him through the heart. He fell
dead upon the spot. They then dug a hole in the ground and buried him;
and, in order to keep his spirit from rising upon them at night, they
erected a cross over the grave. The woman, upon hearing that her lover
was murdered, fell into a state of melancholy, and refused to taste any
food for many days. Such was her distress, that she wandered about the
cliffs like one bereft of her senses, and was often found at night
weeping upon his grave. Indeed, she never fully recovered, but was
always from that time weakly and unsettled in her mind.

  [Illustration: GRAVE OF THE MURDERED MAN.]

Another vessel came into port in the course of a few months, and the
affair became known through the three Americans, who made their escape
and got on board. News of the murder was carried to Talcahuana by this
vessel; and as soon as it reached Valparaiso, a small Chilian cutter,
then lying in the harbor, was dispatched to the island of Juan Fernandez
to capture and bring home the murderers. On their arrival in Valparaiso
they were taken in irons to Santiago, the seat of government, where they
were tried and sentenced to be shot in the public plaza. Some of the
circumstances, considered palliating, became known before the execution
was carried into effect, and their punishment was commuted to five
years' banishment on the island of St. Felix.

The Chilian government still holds a penal settlement on that island.
All criminals of a desperate character are sent there and subjected to
hard labor. The term for which these murderers had been banished had
just expired (in 1849), and it was supposed by the present Chilian
residents that they would return by the first opportunity to Juan
Fernandez.



CHAPTER XVIII.

THE SKULL.


During the recital of this tragical narrative, Abraham, who had listened
to every word with intense interest, became strangely agitated. Several
times it was apparently with the utmost difficulty he could refrain from
relieving himself of something that produced an unusual effect upon his
mind. Especially when it came to the death of the unfortunate Scotchman,
I thought I noticed that he was intensely excited. At first, knowing the
tenderness of his feelings, I attributed this extraordinary
manifestation of interest to grief and pity for the unhappy fate of the
beautiful Chilian; but I soon found that it proceeded from another and
very different cause. No sooner had Pearce concluded than he exclaimed,

"I'll wager a thousand dollars, gentlemen, that the Scotchman never was
buried!"

"He was buried, certain," said Pearce; "I can show you the place."

"Then there is some strange mystery about it," said Abraham, somewhat
disappointed. "This very day I found a man's skull, which I am now quite
certain has some connection with this tragedy."

The intense excitement produced by this disclosure is quite
indescribable. Every body in the party leaned forward, with starting
eyes, and gazed with breathless interest at Abraham. He had purposely
withheld making any reference to the affair of the skull till a fitting
opportunity should occur to disclose all the particulars, when the mind
of every individual present was in a proper tone of solemnity to receive
so important a communication. That opportunity had how occurred, under
the most favorable and unlooked-for circumstances. I never saw Abraham
so excited in my life before--not even on the occasion of his late
unpleasant difficulty.

"Gentlemen," said he, "I had a presentiment before we left the ship that
this expedition would result in some extraordinary discovery. You may
judge from the facts which I am about to disclose to you how far this
presentiment has been verified."

He then, in a voice of becoming solemnity, went into a detailed
narrative of our adventures in the mountains. He commenced at the very
starting-point, where we separated from the hunting party; he dwelt
vividly on our perilous adventure on the cliff, stating all the
particulars of our escape; how we climbed up a perpendicular wall of
rocks four thousand feet high; how we stood upon the very highest
pinnacle, which was only ten inches in diameter; how, when we came down
again to the base, we lay perfectly insensible for an entire hour; and
the wonderful adventures we had in the interior--the walk of six miles
directly back from the ocean; our preservation from a horrible and
lingering death by thirst, through the agency of a little bird; the
Enchanted Valley that we explored, and the two wild horses we caught
entangled in the bushes, and afterward rode; our discovery of an old
castle built in the sixteenth century by Juan Fernando; the mysterious
marks upon the outer wall; our strange and startling explorations of the
interior vaults and marble halls; and finally the discovery of the
skull--the skull of some unfortunate man who had crept into one of those
dreary vaults, where he died on a miserable bed of straw, all alone,
without a soul near him! Afterward how he (Abraham) and myself were
overtaken by a frightful tornado, and cast down over the rocks a
distance of three miles in a direct line; how, during this terrible
fall, he had the misfortune to strike a rock, and ruin the invaluable
relic of mortality which he had put in his pocket, by breaking it all to
pieces; but--

"Did you save the pieces?" asked a voice from the corner. Of course it
was the voice of the Doubter. A look from Abraham silenced him, and the
narrative was resumed:

But it fortunately happened that a portion of the socket of one eye and
a piece of the forehead remained entire, which, together with all the
smaller fragments, he would be most happy to exhibit to the company;
premising, however, that there was but little question in his mind, from
all the particulars of Pearce's tragical narrative, that this skull was
in some way or other connected with it. Possibly it might be that the
unhappy young woman, who it appears was the victim of an inordinate
passion for the murdered man, bereft of her senses by his tragical
death, went to his grave at night and dug up his body, and being unable
to carry it away at once, perhaps she cut it to pieces, and carried it
by degrees up to her secret place of wailing in the mountains, where
she could mourn over his remains without fear of discovery. It was not
an unreasonable conjecture, he thought, considering the woman was
insane. In some hour of despondency she had probably made those
mysterious designs which had led to the discovery--the sketch of the
dead body of her lover; the ship that left the island without saving
him; some pet goat that doubtless accompanied her in her wanderings; the
children that were strangled, and all those vague marks, which indicated
the character of her thoughts.

During the narration of these adventures, which I must confess
astonished me not a little, well as I knew the enthusiastic character of
my friend (and he never was more in earnest in his life), I observed
that Pearce had doubled himself up almost into a knot, covering his face
with his hands, and heaving convulsively, as if moved by some internal
earthquake. There was no sound escaped him, but it was quite evident
that he was strangely affected by Abraham's narrative. The rest of the
party were so deeply interested in the whole disclosure that they took
no notice of him. Could it be that Pearce himself was implicated in the
murder? That it was all a fiction his being in Valparaiso at the time?
That he was in any way attached to this unfortunate female, whose sad
fate had aroused all our sympathies?

"I'd like to see that skull," said the Doubter.

"Here it is--or what remains of it," said Abraham, drawing forth the
pieces from his pocket; "you can all see it if you wish."

The pieces were handed round and examined with intense interest and
curiosity.

"You call this a man's skull?" said the Doubter, looking incredulously
at a piece which he held in his hand.

"I do, sir," said Abraham, sharply; "have you any objection to my
calling it a man's skull, sir?"

"No, none at all; you may call it a dog's skull if you like. _I'd_ call
it Robinson Crusoe's skull if I owned it. For all I know to the
contrary, it _is_ his; but I'd like to have a certificate from himself
to that effect before I'd place much confidence in my own opinion, if I
thought so."

The biting satire of these remarks touched Abraham to the quick. Nothing
in the world would have prevented him from springing upon the Doubter at
that moment, and taking summary vengeance upon his person, but the
sudden exit of Pearce, who, rising from his goatskin, hurriedly left the
cabin. This produced a general murmur of disapprobation. It was the
unanimous opinion that a course of conduct, resulting as this
did--compelling a man, as it were, to leave his own castle for personal
security, was very unbecoming; and that Abraham, being the chief,
although perhaps unintentional cause of it, was in honor bound to go
after him and bring him back.

I take pride in saying that my friend was not the kind of man to resist
such an appeal as this. He immediately left the hut and went in search
of Pearce. Meanwhile we took occasion to administer a well-merited
rebuke to the Doubter; and to declare that if he again interrupted the
harmony of the evening, we would leave him ashore when we started for
the ship. His only reply to this was, that he hoped, if he should
unfortunately die in a cave in consequence of our cruelty, that his head
would make a better-looking skull than the one Abraham had found.

In about ten minutes Abraham and Pearce returned, both having a very
strange expression upon their features. Pearce looked unnaturally
serious about the mouth, but I fancied more knowing than usual about the
eyes. In sitting down he dropped a dollar, which he hastily picked up
and put in his pocket. As to my friend, I thought there was something
confused and dejected in his look; but he immediately said with assumed
spirits when he came in, "All right, gentlemen; all right. The whole
thing is settled; let there be nothing more about it."

Some few questions, however, were asked concerning the skull, but all
the satisfaction Abraham could give was, "You have the particulars,
gentlemen; you must judge for yourselves." Pearce professed to know
nothing about it.

Harmony and good-humor being again restored, there were numerous calls
for some farther reminiscences of the island.

Pearce said he didn't know whether any of us had ever heard of the
governor's vision; if we hadn't, maybe we'd like to hear something about
it. He couldn't promise that it was all true, but the Chilians here
believed every word of it; "and, likely enough," he added, looking
quietly at Abraham, "there may be some of you that can account for it."

"Let us have it!" exclaimed every body in a breath; "the governor's
vision, by all means."

Pearce then fixed himself comfortably on his goatskin, and, putting some
fagots on the fire, gave us in substance the following history of

THE GOVERNOR'S VISION.



CHAPTER XIX.

THE GOVERNOR'S VISION.


The highest peak on the island of Juan Fernandez is called the Peak of
Yonka. It forms an abrupt precipice all round, of several hundred feet.
Various attempts have been made from time to time, by sailors and
others, to ascend to the summit, but this feat has never been
accomplished except in a single instance. A cross still stands upon it,
which was erected by two Chilians many years ago, under very strange
circumstances. It appears that the Chilian governor at the time of the
penal settlement in Cumberland Bay went out riding one day near this
mountain. On his return he related to his people a strange vision which
he had seen in the course of his ramble. He said that, while looking at
the peak, he saw down in the valley that lay between a tall man dressed
in black, with a black hat on, mounted on a horse of the purest white.
The strange rider turned toward him, showing a face of ghastly paleness.
He looked at him steadfastly, with "eyes of fire," as the governor
declared, the glare of which made the air hot all around. The governor,
trembling with awe, made the sign of the cross, upon which the strange
horseman put spurs to his horse, and rode straight up the precipice to
the summit of the peak, where he stopped a moment to look back. He then,
upon seeing the sign of the cross made again, waved his hands wildly, as
if in despair, and plunged out of sight on the other side. Being a
devout man, and withal a believer in spirits, the governor considered
this to be an omen of some impending calamity, which could only be
averted by planting a cross on the peak. For this purpose he selected
two criminals, under sentence of death for the murder of a soldier, and
offered them their liberty if they would make the ascent and erect the
cross. In the one case there was the certainty of death, in the other a
chance of life. The criminals therefore resolved to make the attempt.
Ropes, ladders, and tools were furnished them by the governor, and they
were allowed such provisions as they required, with injunctions that at
the expiration of ten days, in case of failure, they would be executed.
For eight days they toiled incessantly. They drove spikes into the walls
of rock, and day by day went up a little higher, letting themselves down
again at night by ropes to the base of the precipice. On the eighth day
they reached the summit, ready to die of fright, and worn to skeletons
at the terrible ordeal through which they had passed. It took them all
the next day to recover sufficiently to be able to resume their labors.
The table on the top was of solid rock, not more than fifty feet in
diameter. In the centre was a spring of clear water bubbling up and
running over the rocks. One of them bathed in this water, and was so
refreshed that he thought it must have some magical properties. He went
over to the edge on the western side, and looked down to see where it
fell. Directly beneath him, he saw a line stretched from two points of
rock over the precipice, nearly covered with linen shirts, as white as
the driven snow, and apparently of the finest texture. He called to his
comrade to come and witness this wonderful sight. While the two men were
looking over, there came a tremendous hurricane, that compelled them to
throw themselves flat on their backs to avoid being blown over into the
abyss. After the hurricane had passed they again looked over, but the
line and shirts had disappeared, and they saw nothing but the bare
rocks. They then fell upon their knees and prayed, and the vision of an
angel appeared to them, telling them to put up the cross near the
spring. As soon as they had planted the cross, they let themselves down
by the ropes, and hastened to tell the governor of the strange
adventures that had befallen them. So impressed was he by their
wonderful narrative, that he immediately gave them their freedom, as he
had promised, and sent them home laden with presents; and he had crosses
erected on various parts of the island, and masses performed by the
soldiers for a long time after.

"I wouldn't swear to it all," added Pearce, looking again toward
Abraham. "But likely some of you gentlemen, who have more schoolin' than
I have, may be able to account for it."

Abraham reddened a little and looked confused, but said nothing. A voice
from the corner broke in,

"I know exactly how it happened; nothing is easier than to account for
it. In the first place, it didn't happen at all. The governor was
dyspeptic. I'm rayther dyspeptic myself, gentlemen, and I know what
sights a man sees when he gets the horrors from dyspepsia. I've seen
stranger sights than that when it was bad on me--once, in particular, I
was troubled a good deal worse than the governor."

"Impossible," said Abraham, scornfully, "utterly impossible, sir, that
you could ever have seen any thing half so strange as the governor's
vision."

"I didn't see a house made of glue," retorted the Doubter. "I didn't
ride on wild horses; neither did I find a castle with a skull in it. I
didn't carry the skull six miles, and then find out that it came off the
head of a four-legged man; and that the four-legged man was cut to
pieces by his lady-love; but I'll tell you what I did see."

"Hold, sir, hold!" cried Abraham, now perfectly furious. "By heavens,
gentlemen, I can't stand such insults as these! You must suffer me to
chastise this wretch. Miserable poltroon! do you dare to taunt me in
that manner? I'll see you, sir--I'll see you to-morrow morning!"

"Likely you will," said the Doubter, coolly, at the same time shrinking
back a little. "Likely you will, if you look in the right direction.
Keep your dander down till then, and you'll see a good deal better. In
the mean time, gentlemen, if you like to listen, I'll tell you what
happened when the dyspepsia was bad on me."

Of course, any proposition calculated to restore harmony was heartily
approved, and thereupon we were forced to listen to--



CHAPTER XX.

THE DOUBTER'S DYSPEPTIC STORY.


  [Illustration: THE DOUBTER.]

Once, when the dyspepsia was bad on me, I went to bed rayther
low-spirited, and began to think I was going to die. I thought I
couldn't live till morning. My stomach was as hard as a brick-bat, and I
was cold all over. The more cover I piled on, the colder I got. The
minute I shut my eyes, I was scared to death at the darkness. I felt as
if something dreadful was going to happen, and didn't know exactly what
it was. Sometimes I thought robbers were under the bed, and sometimes I
heard strange noises about the house. My heart stopped beating
altogether; I felt for my pulse, but couldn't find it in my wrists or
any where else. Every bit of blood seemed to have oozed out of me in
some mysterious way, and to all intents and purposes my body was dead.
There was no dream about it. I could move my limbs the same as ever, and
was as wide awake as I am this minute; but there was no sign of life
about me except that my mind had power to move the dead flesh; for it
was cold and clammy as that of a corpse. Any body else would have given
up, and concluded he was a genuine corpse; but you see I was not the
sort of man to believe such a thing as that without farther proof. I
therefore lay still a while, in hopes I'd get warm by-and-by, and feel
better; but I kept growing colder and colder, and at last was so cold
that I felt like ice all over. I had the most dreadful and gloomy
reflections. Every thing I thought about seemed blue, and dreary, and
hopeless; every body unhappy; and the whole future a desert waste,
without one ray of light. Despair was upon me; I cared for nothing; it
was all the same to me whether I lived or died. I wanted neither help,
nor pity, nor love, nor life--all, all was wrapped in despair. The gloom
of this state brought on a kind of lethargy; a total unconsciousness of
every thing external. My mind only existed and operated, as it were, in
perfect darkness. The body was nothing but a type of intense darkness
and coldness wrapped around the spirit. In this state I at length heard
whisperings in the air, outside of me as I thought. They drew nearer;
the voices were strange and unnatural; I was conscious of a singular
sensation, for a time, as if whirled rapidly through space; then I heard
the voices say, in low tones, "How cold he is! how miserably cold he is!
but we'll soon warm him!" I now became sensible of strong gases in the
air, but they produced no farther impression than the mere consciousness
of their existence. Wild shrieks and moans, and dreadful hissing sounds
arose around me. "Here we are," said the voices; "glad of it, for he's
terribly cold." "Put him there in that big furnace; it'll soon warm
him," said another voice, in a tone of authority. I was then tossed, as
I thought, some distance, and became suddenly still; but the same cold
and impenetrable darkness was around my spirit. "There, that fire's
out!" said the voice, angrily; "put him in another, and keep him well
stirred up." Again there was a movement, and again I was still, but not
so still as before, for I was conscious of a jarring sensation. "Out
again!" roared the same voice, fiercely. "Out again! you don't keep him
well stirred up!" "He's as cold as ice," said the other voices; "we
can't do any thing with him." "Try him in the middle furnace!" said the
chief voice, sternly; "that'll melt the ice out of him!" Again I was
whirled through the gases and deposited in some imperceptible place; but
all this time I was growing colder and colder. There was a pause, and
then the voices said, "He won't burn, sir; don't you see he's putting
the fire out." "Out again, by all the demons!" roared the chief voice,
furiously. "Take him away! Carry him back to where you got him. The
man's dyspeptic. We can't have such a miserable wretch here! By Pluto!
he'd put out every fire we've got in a week. Bear a hand, you rascals!
for may I be blessed _if I ain't freezing myself_!" Here the Doubter
paused.

"Well, sir, well," said Abraham, ironically, "have you any thing further
to say on the same subject? any thing equally reliable? Perhaps you can
inform us how you got warm again?"

"Well, that doesn't properly belong to the story," said the Doubter,
looking around meaningly upon the company. "I meant that it should end
there; but, if you insist upon it, I'll answer your question."

"Of course, sir; the matter requires explanation. It comes to rather an
abrupt conclusion."

"The way I got warm, then, was this: I picked up a skull when I was
leaving the premises. It was full of hot glue. The fellows that were
carrying me got their hands frostbitten and had to let go at last. I
fell on an island. The first thing I struck was the top of a mountain. I
slid down for three miles without stopping. On the way I broke the
skull, and spilled the glue all over me, which made me slip so fast that
I was quite warm by the time I got to the bottom."

To this Abraham made no reply. Turning away from the Doubter with
ferocity and indignation depicted in every feature, he looked silently
around upon the company; his breast heaved convulsively; his hands
grasped nervously at the hair upon his goatskin; he deliberately tore it
out by the roots; he suppressed a rising smile upon the face of every
individual in the party by one more look at the Doubter--one terrible,
scathing, foreboding look of vengeance on the morrow; and then said, in
a suppressed voice, "Gentlemen, suppose we turn in; it must be twelve
o'clock."



CHAPTER XXI.

BAD DREAM CONCERNING THE DOUBTER.


As well as we could judge, Abraham was right in regard to the time; and
being all tired, after the story of the dyspeptic man we set about
arranging our quarters for the night. I must admit, however, take it all
in all, not omitting even the drawbacks to our enjoyment occasioned by
the unfortunate state of things between my friend and the Doubter, and
the probability of a hostile meeting in the morning, that from the time
of leaving home, four months before, I had not spent so pleasant an
evening. It was something to look back to with gratification and
enjoyment all the rest of the voyage, should we indeed ever be able to
resume our voyage.

  [Illustration: THE FOOTPRINT IN THE SAND.]

Pearce now pulled down an additional lot of goatskins from the rafters,
which we spread on the ground so as to make a general bed; and having
piled some wood on the fire and bolted the door, we stretched ourselves
in a circle, with our feet toward the blaze, and made a fair beginning
for the night. It was only a beginning, however, so far as I was
concerned, for not long after I had closed my eyes and begun to doze,
some restless gentleman got up to see if there was any Spaniards trying
to unbolt the door; and in stepping over me he contrived to put one foot
upon my head, just as I was trying to get from under a big rock that I
saw rolling down from the top of a cliff. I was a good deal astonished,
upon nervously grasping at it, to find that it was made of leather, and
had a human foot in it, and likewise that it had a voice, and asked me,
as if very much frightened, "What the deuce was the matter?" This again,
upon falling into another doze, brought to mind the footprint in the
sand, which occasioned me the greatest distress and anxiety. I tried to
get away from it, but wherever I went I saw that fatal mark; in the
mountains, in the valleys, in the caves, on the rocks, on the trees, in
the air, in the surf, in the darkness of the storm, I saw that dreadful
footprint; I saw it, through the dim vista of the past, upon the banks
of the Ohio, where I had played in boyhood; I saw it again in my first
bright glowing dream of the island world, when, with the simplicity of
childhood, I prayed that I might be cast upon a desolate island; I saw
it in the cream-colored volume--every where--back in childhood, in
youth, now again in manhood--from the first to the last, at home,
abroad--wherever thought could wander, I saw that strange and wondrous
footprint.

  [Illustration: THE SAVAGE ORGIES.]

In trying to get up the cliff where I could look out for the savages, I
fancied the tuft of grass that I had hold of gave way, and I rolled over
the precipice into the sea; and this was not altogether an unfounded
idea, for I actually had worked myself off the goatskin, and was at that
moment paddling about in a sea of mud. Again I fell asleep, and a great
many confused visions were impressed upon my mind. I saw the savages
down on the beach, going through all their infernal orgies. They had
seized upon my comrades, and were roasting them in flaming fires, and
eating the fattest of them with great relish. The flesh of the Doubter,
I thought, was so lean and tough that they were unable to eat it; but
they stripped it off in long flakes, and hung it round their necks, and
danced with it swinging about their bodies, as if they regarded it as
the finest ornament in the world. His head was cut off and scalped, and
his skull lay upon the ground. I thought Abraham had changed again into
Friday, and I called upon him to look at this dreadful scene, and help
me to kill these wretched cannibals; but no sooner did he catch sight of
the Doubter's skull, than he ran from me toward the spot, and picked it
up with a horrible shout of triumph, and sticking his gun into it he
held it in the air, and danced all round in a circle laughing like a
devil. The Doubter, perceiving this in some strange way (for he was
without a head), jumped to his feet, with his fleshless bones, and ran
after Abraham, making signs for his skull; but Abraham only laughed the
louder and danced the more, thrusting the skull at him as he jumped
about, and asking him, in a sneering voice, what he thought of it now?
was it a dog's skull yet? would he like to have it fastened on again
with glue? how had he contrived to keep out of the fire? were the
savages afraid he would put it out? did his present exercise warm him?
each of which taunting questions he ended with a wild laugh of derision,
and a snatch of his favorite song--

      "Tinky ting tang, tinky ting tang,
      Oh, poor Robinson Crusoe!"

This, I thought, so incensed the Doubter that he turned away in disgust,
and walked off shaking his neck as if it had the head still on; and when
he was some distance from Abraham he sat down on the ground and slowly
raised his right hand, placing the thumb where his nose would have been
had the head still remained in its place, and then his left hand in the
same way, fixing the thumb upon the little finger of the other, and thus
he waved them to and fro, as if he had no confidence even in his own
skull or in any of the circumstances connected with it. While this was
going on, the savages continued their infernal dance on the beach. I now
raised my gun and began shooting at them, killing them by scores. I
could see their dark bodies roll over into the surf, and hear their
yells of terror at the report of the gun; and when I rushed down to save
my shipmates, all I could see was Abraham sitting upon a rock, pounding
the skull into small fragments with a big stone which he held in both
hands, and the fleshless body of the Doubter sitting opposite to him,
slowly waving the little finger of his left hand at him in the same
incredulous and taunting manner as before. And thus ended the dream.



CHAPTER XXII.

THE UNPLEASANT AFFAIR OF HONOR.


When I awoke it was daylight. My mind was still harassed with the bad
dream concerning the Doubter. I had the most gloomy forebodings of some
impending misfortune either to him or my friend Abraham. Every effort to
shake off this unpleasant feeling proved entirely vain; it still clung
to me heavily; and, although I was now wide awake, yet it seemed to me
there was something prophetic in the dream. Unable to get rid of the
impression, I got up, and looked around upon my comrades, who were all
sleeping soundly after their rambles of the previous day. Instinctively,
as it were, for I was unconscious of any fixed motive, I counted them.
There were only nine! A sudden pang shot through me, as if my worst
fears were now realized. But how? I thought. Where was the tenth man?
What had become of him? Was it Abraham? Was it the Doubter? Who was it?
for the light was not strong enough to enable me to distinguish all the
faces, partly hidden, as they were, in the goatskins. I looked toward
the door; it was unbolted, and slightly ajar. I opened it wide and
looked out; there was nothing to be seen in the gray light of the
morning but the bushes near the hut, and the dark mountains in the
distance. It was time, at all events, to be on the look-out for the
ship, so I roused up my comrades, and eagerly noticed each one as he
waked. The Doubter was missing! Could it be possible that Abraham's
threats had driven him to run away during the night, when all were
asleep, and hide himself in the mountains? There seemed to be no other
way of accounting for his absence. "Where is he? what's become of him?
maybe he's drowned himself!" were the general remarks upon discovering
his absence. "Come on! we must look for him! it won't do to leave him
ashore!" We hurried down to the boat-landing as fast as we could,
thinking he might be there; and on our way saw that the ship was still
in the offing. The boat was just as we had left it, but not a soul any
where near. We then roused up every body in the Chilian quarter,
shouting the name of the missing man in all directions. He was not
there! All this time Abraham was in the greatest distress, running about
every where, without saying a word, looking under the bushes, peeping
into every crevice in the rocks, darting in and out of the Chilian huts,
greatly to the astonishment of the occupants, and quite breathless and
dispirited when he discovered no trace of our comrade. At last, when we
were forced to give up the search and turn toward Pearce's hut, where we
had left our host in the act of lighting the fire to cook breakfast, he
took me aside, and said, "Look here, Luff, I'm very sorry I had any
difficulty with that poor fellow. The fact is, he provoked me to it.
However, I have nothing against him now; and I just wanted to tell you
that I sha'n't go aboard the ship till I find him. If you like, you can
help me to hunt him up, while the others are seeing about breakfast."

"To be sure, Abraham," said I, "we must find him, dead or alive. I'll go
with you, of course. But tell me, as we walk along, what it was Pearce
said to you last night. How did you get him back when he went out?"

"Oh, never mind that now," replied Abraham, looking, as I thought,
rather confused.

"You gave him a dollar, didn't you?" said I; "what was that for?"

"Why, the fact is, Luff, he made those marks himself in some idle hour
as he lay basking in the sun up there. He told me that he often spends
whole days among the cliffs or sleeping in the caves, while his sheep
are grazing in the valleys. You may have noticed that he was rather
inclined to burst when he left the hut. The fellow had sense enough not
to say any thing before the company. I thought it was worth a dollar to
keep the thing quiet."

"It was well worth a dollar, Abraham; but the skull--what about the
skull?"

"Oh, the skull? _He_ said he picked it up one day outside the cave, and
hove it up there, thinking it would do for a lamp some time or other.
What excited me so when our shipmate spoke about it was that he should
call it a dog's skull."

"And wasn't it?"

"Why, yes; to tell the truth, Luff, it _was_ the skull of a wild dog;
but you know one doesn't like to be told of such a thing. However, we
must look about for the poor fellow, and not leave him ashore."

By this time we had reached an elevation some distance back of the huts.
We stopped a while to listen, and then began shouting his name. At first
we could hear nothing; but at length there was a sound reached our ears
like a distant echo, only rather muffled.

"Halloo!" cried Abraham, as loud as he could.

"Halloo!" was faintly echoed back, after a pause.

"Nothing but an echo," said I.

"It doesn't sound like _my_ voice," observed Abraham. "Halloo! where are
you?" he shouted again, at the highest pitch of his voice. There was
another pause.

"I'm here!" was the smothered reply.

"That's a queer echo," said Abraham; "I'll bet a dollar he's underground
somewhere. Halloo! halloo! Where are you?" This time Abraham put his ear
to the ground to listen.

"Here, I tell you!" answered the voice, in the same smothered tones.
"Down here."

"He's not far off," said Abraham. "Come, let us look about."

We immediately set out in the direction of the voice. The path made a
turn round a point of rocks some few hundred yards distant, on the right
of which was a steep precipice. On reaching this, we walked on some
distance, till we came to a narrow pass, with a high bluff on one side,
and a large rock on the edge of the precipice. The path apparently came
to an end here; but upon going a little farther, we saw that it formed a
kind of step about three feet down, just at the beginning of the narrow
pass, between the rock and the bluff, so that in making any farther
progress it would be necessary to jump from the top of the step, or, in
coming the other way, to jump up. It was necessary for us, at least, to
jump some way before long, for upon arriving at the edge we discovered a
pit about four feet wide at the mouth, and how deep it was impossible
for us to tell at the moment. We thought it must be rather deep,
however, from the sepulchral sounds that came out of it. "Here I am,"
said the voice, "down in the hole, here, if I ain't mistaken, but I
wouldn't swear to it; I may be somewhere else: it feels like a
hole--that's all I can say about it, except that it's tolerably deep,
and smells of goats."

"A goat-trap!" exclaimed Abraham, in undisguised astonishment. "By
heavens, Luff, he's caught in a goat-trap!"

"It may be a goat-trap, or it may not. I want you to observe that I
neither deny nor affirm the proposition. There's not much room in it,
however, except for doubt."

"How in the world are we to get him out?" cried Abraham, whose
sympathies were now thoroughly aroused by the misfortune of his
opponent. "We must contrive some plan to pull him out. Hold on here,
Luff; I'll go and cut a pole."

While Abraham was hunting about among the bushes for a pole of suitable
length, I sprang over to the other side of the pit, and, getting down on
my hands and knees, looked into it, and perceived that it spread out
toward the bottom, so that it was impossible to climb up without
assistance.

"This is rather a bad business," said I; "what induced you to go down
there?"

"I didn't come down here altogether of my own will," replied the
Doubter; "credulity brought me here--too much credulity; taking things
without sufficient proof; assuming a ground where no ground existed."

"How was that? I don't quite understand."

"Why, you see, I happened to come along this way about an hour ago, to
see if the sun rose in the north, and not dreaming of goat-traps, I took
it for granted that I could jump down a step in the path apparently not
more than three feet deep. There's where the mistake was. A man has no
business placing any dependence upon his eyes without strong collateral
evidence from all the rest of his senses. I assumed the ground that
there was ground at the bottom of the step. Accordingly, I jumped. There
was no ground for the assumption. To be sure I descended three feet,
according to my original design; but I descended at least twelve feet
more, of which I had no intention whatever. The fact is, there was some
rotten brushwood, covered with straw and clay, over the mouth of the
pit, which I went through without the least difficulty."

"Are you hurt?" said I, anxiously.

"Well, I was considerably stunned. Likely enough some of my ribs are
broken, and several blood-vessels ruptured; but I won't believe any
thing more for some time. I've made up my mind to that. I may or may
not be hurt, according to future proof."

By this time Abraham came running toward the pit as fast as he could,
with a long pole in his hand, which he had cut among the bushes.

"This is the best I could get," said he, nearly breathless with haste,
and very much excited; "there were some others, but I didn't think they
were strong enough." Without farther delay, he sprang across the pit to
the lower side, and thrust the pole down as far as he could reach. It
must have struck something, for he immediately drew it back a little,
and the voice of the Doubter was heard to exclaim, in a high state of
irritation,

"Halloo, there! What are you about? Confound it, sir, I'm not a wild
beast, to be stirred up in that way."

"Never mind," said Abraham, "I didn't intend to hurt you. Take hold of
the pole. I'll pull you out. Take hold of it quick, and hang on as hard
as you can."

"No, sir; it can't be done, sir. I'll not take hold of any thing upon an
uncertainty."

"But there's no uncertainty about this," cried Abraham, in a high state
of excitement; "it's perfectly safe. Take hold, I tell you."

"Can't be done, sir, can't be done," said the Doubter; "there's not
sufficient proof that you'll pull me out if I do take hold. No, sir;
I've been deceived once, and I don't mean to be deceived again."

"Now, by heavens, Luff, this is too bad. He doubts my honor. What are we
to do?" And Abraham wrung his hands in despair. "Halloo, there, I
say--halloo!"

"Well, what do you want?" answered the voice of the Doubter.

"I want to pull you out. Surely you don't think I'll be guilty of any
thing so dishonorable as to take advantage of your misfortune?"

"I don't think at all," said the Doubter, gloomily; "I've given up
thinking. You may or may not be an honorable man. At present I have
nobody's word for it but your own."

Here I thought it proper to protest that I knew Abraham well; that there
was not a more honorable man living. "Besides," I added, "there's no
other way for you to get out of the pit."

"Very well, then," said the Doubter; "I'll take hold, but you must take
hold too, and see that he doesn't let go. Pull away, gentlemen!"

  [Illustration: THE DOUBTER BACK AGAIN.]

Abraham and myself accordingly pulled away as hard as we could, and in a
few moments the head of our comrade appeared in the light, a short
distance below the rim of the pit. I had barely time to notice that his
hair was filled with straw and clay, when Abraham, in his eagerness to
get him entirely clear of danger, made a sudden pull, which would
certainly have accomplished the object had the Doubter come with the
upper part of the pole. But such was not the case. On the contrary, both
my friend and myself fell flat upon our backs; and upon jumping up, we
discovered that the Doubter had fallen into the pit again, carrying with
him the lower end of the pole, which had unfortunately broken off at
that critical moment. There he lay in the bottom of the pit, writhing
and groaning in the most frightful manner.

"He's killed! he's killed!" cried Abraham, in perfect agony of mind.
"Oh, Luff, to think that I killed him at last! It was all my fault.
Here, quick! Lower me down! I must help him!"

Before I had time to say a word, Abraham seized hold of my right hand,
and, directing me to hold on with all my might, he began to let himself
down into the pit. It required the utmost tension of every muscle to
bear his weight, but the excitement nerved me. "Let go, now!" said he,
as soon as he got as far down as I could lower him without lowering
myself, which I narrowly escaped; "let go, Luff!" I did so, and heard a
dull, heavy fall, and a groan louder than before.

"What's the matter, Abraham--did you hurt yourself?"

"Not myself," said Abraham, "but I'm afraid I hurt him. I fell on him."

"You did," groaned a voice, faintly, "you fell on me. I'm tolerably
certain of that. It was a shabby trick, sir; it wasn't bad enough to
throw me down here, without jumping on top of me when I couldn't defend
myself!"

"I hope you're not much hurt," said Abraham; "it was all accident--I
swear it, on my sacred honor!"

"Honor!" groaned the Doubter, contemptuously; "is it honorable to drop a
man into a pit, and knock all the breath out of his body, and then jump
on top of him! Honor, indeed! But it was my own fault: I was too ready
to take things without proof."

"Now, by all that's human!" cried Abraham, stung to the quick at these
unmerited reproaches, "I'll prove to you that I didn't mean it. Get up
on my shoulders--here, I'll help you--and climb out. Would any but an
honorable man do that?"

"It depends upon his motives," replied the Doubter; "I won't take
motives on credit any more. I'm not going to get up on your shoulders,
and have you jump from under me about the time I get hold of something
above, and leave me to fall down and break my back, or hang there. No,
sir, I want no farther assistance. I've made up my mind to spend the
remainder of my days here."

"You _sha'n't_ stay here!" cried Abraham, exasperated to the last degree
by these taunts. "By heavens, sir, you _shall_ be assisted!"

Here there was a struggle in the bottom of the pit; the Doubter writhing
like an eel all over the ground in his attempts to elude the grasp of
Abraham; but soon he was in the powerful arms of my friend, who, holding
him up, shouted lustily, "Catch hold of him, Luff! Catch him by the hair
or the coat-collar! Hold on to him, while I shove him up!"

The writhing form of the Doubter at the same moment loomed up in the
light, and I called upon him to give me his hands; but he resolutely
held them down, protesting that he would trust no man for the future;
that he'd die before any body should deceive him again. In this
extremity, driven almost frantic in my zeal for his safety, I grasped at
the collar of his coat, and succeeded, after some difficulty, in getting
a firm hold of it. "All right!" I shouted; "push away now, Abraham!" In
spite of every exertion on Abraham's part, however, our unfortunate
comrade rose no higher, which I can only account for by the depth of the
pit. "A little higher, Abraham--just two inches--that's it--all right!"
It certainly was all right so far; I had drawn him partly over the edge,
and would eventually have drawn him entirely over, had it not caved in,
by reason of the united weight of both on it at the same time, and thus
the matter was prevented from being all right to any greater extent. The
consequence of this disaster was, that we both fell heavily upon
Abraham, who, unable to bear our united weight, fell himself under the
Doubter, while I, being uppermost, formed a kind of apex to the
pyramid. Our fall was thus broken in some measure; and, although
Abraham groaned heavily under our weight, yet, as fortune would have it,
nobody was hurt. The Doubter was the first who spoke.

"I told you so!" said he, faintly; "but you _would_ try. You would try,
in spite of all I could say, and now you see the consequence. It appears
to me that there are three men caught in a goat-trap now instead of one;
but I'll not insist upon it; there may be only one. My eyes have
deceived me already, and likely as not they deceive me now."

"No, they don't," said Abraham, in smothered tones; "I'm quite certain
there are two of you on top of me. Get off, if you can, for I can't
breathe much longer in this position. You may depend upon it, there are
three of us here."

"I shall depend upon nothing for the future," replied the Doubter,
gloomily; "I depended upon a pole just now, and was dropped; I put faith
in that pole, and both the faith and the pole were broken at the same
time, and my back too nearly, if not quite broken."

"But I'm not a pole," groaned Abraham, "you may depend upon that. Get
off now, do, for heaven's sake."

"You don't feel like a pole," said the Doubter, "but you may be one, for
all I know; there's no telling what you are. However, I'll get off, lest
you should break likewise."

I had already relieved Abraham of my weight; and being now entirely
free, he got up, and we began to consider how we were to get out of the
pit.

As good luck would have it, we heard some voices approaching, which we
soon discovered to be a couple of Chilians, to whom the trap belonged,
coming thus early in the morning to see if it had caught any goats. When
they looked over and saw the earth broken in, they were greatly
rejoiced; but no sooner did they perceive that the game consisted of
three full-grown men, than they ran away as fast as they could, shouting
"_Diabolo_! _Diabolo!_" Abraham, who had been studying Spanish during
the voyage, understood sufficient of the language to call out
"_Americanos! Americanos! no Diabolo! Per amore Deos, viene' qui!
Amigos! amigos! no Diabolo!_" This caused them to halt; and upon its
being repeated a great many times, they ventured to the edge of the pit,
where Abraham gave them every assurance that we were three unfortunate
Americans, who had fallen into the trap by accident, and that we were in
no way related to the devil. Upon this, they took a coil of rope, which
they had for pulling up goats, and making a noose on one end, they let
it down. The first man that was fastened on was the Doubter. It required
the united efforts of Abraham and myself to get him into the noose; but
we eventually had the pleasure of seeing him go up through the hole
without farther accident. I then yielded reluctantly to Abraham, who
insisted, as a point of honor, that he should be the last man. Being
light, I was whirled out in a twinkling; and, finally, through this
providential turn of affairs, we were all safely landed outside of the
pit. The two Chilians, unable to divine the causes which had led to this
singular state of things, looked on as if still half afraid that they
had pulled some very bad characters out of the ground, muttering, as we
shook the dirt off our clothes, "_Madre de Deos! Santa Maria! Padre
bonita!_" I considered this a fitting opportunity, in view of the happy
issue of the disaster, to effect a full and complete reconciliation
between Abraham and the Doubter, and therefore proposed that they should
shake hands on the spot, and forego all future hostilities. My friend
immediately held out his hand in the frankest manner; the Doubter
hesitated a moment, as if afraid that it might result in his being
pulled back again into the pit; but, unable any longer to resist the
hearty sincerity of his opponent, he gave his hand, and suffered it to
be shaken; and so rejoiced was Abraham in finding every thing was thus
happily settled, that he shook on with all his force for at least five
minutes, during which the two Chilians, knowing no good reason why a
pair of strange gentlemen, just pulled out of a goat-trap, should stand
shaking hands with one another, exhibited the utmost surprise and
consternation, exclaiming, as before, "_Madre de Deos! Santa Maria!
Padre bonita!_"

We contrived to make up the sum of a dollar between us, which we gave to
the men, telling them, at the same time, that they need not mention this
matter, should they see any of our companions before we left the island.
We then started for Pearce's hut, which we soon reached. The rest of the
party had finished breakfast, and were waiting for us at the
boat-landing. They had left directions with Pearce that we were to
follow without delay, with or without the missing man, as the ship had
made a signal for us to come aboard. While the Doubter and myself were
making a hasty snack, Abraham took a piece of bread and meat, and
started off to let our friends know that we had found the missing man,
and would soon be down. In a few minutes we concluded our snack, and
were about leaving the cabin, when Pearce said he reckoned some of us
had left a bundle, which he had found in the corner. The bundle
consisted of a handkerchief tied up, with something in it, which I
quickly discovered to be the relic we had found in Crusoe's Cave.

"Where did you get that?" said Pearce.

"We dug it up in Crusoe's Cave; it was made by Alexander Selkirk."

"No it wasn't; it was made by me. I lived there a while when I first
came on the island, and made it myself. I know the mark. I made it about
a year and a half ago."

"But how is that?" said I, greatly astonished; "it looks to be over a
century and a half old."

"It wasn't baked enough," said Pearce; "that's the reason it didn't keep
well. The name's broke off, but there's part of what I writ on it."

"Impossible!" said I. "Don't you see "A S.... 170--?' What can that be
but Alexander Selkirk, 1704, which was just the time he lived here!"

"No, 'taint; Alexander Selkirk never made that 'ere. I made it myself. I
put my name on it; but the name's broke off. I writ, '_A Saucepan maid
by W. Pearce, 17 Oct._' That's all. 'Taint no use to me now; you may
take it, ef you want to."

I took it without saying another word; tied it up again in the
handkerchief, and asked Pearce if he was going down with us to the
boat-landing. He said he would be down there presently. So, without
farther delay, we set out to join our companions. As we walked rapidly
along the path, my shipmate suffered strange sounds to escape from his
throat, indicative of his feelings. Suddenly he stopped, as if unable to
restrain himself any longer.

"Where are you going?" said he.

"Going aboard, to be sure; come on, they're waiting for us."

"You are, eh? going aboard, eh? Well, any thing to humor the idea. It
sounds very like reality, indeed--very."

"And why shouldn't it?" said I.

"Of course, why shouldn't it? Look here, Luff, you're rather a clever
sort of fellow."

"Do you think so?" said I, a little embarrassed at so abrupt an opinion
in my favor.

"Yes, I do," said the Doubter; "I always did. Will you just have the
goodness to look into my mouth (opening it at the same time as wide as
he could). Now, just cast your eyes into this cavity."

I did as he desired me, thinking perhaps the poor fellow was suffering
from his fall into the goat-pit.

"Well," said I, "there's nothing there, so far as I can see, except a
piece of tobacco. Your tongue looks badly."

"It does, eh? No matter about that. This is what I want you to notice:
that I have a tolerably big swallowing apparatus, but I'm not the style
of man that's calculated to swallow an entire island. Possibly I might
get down a piece of a skull, or an old saucepan, with a grain of salt;
but I can't swallow Juan Fernandez, with Robinson Crusoe and Alexander
Selkirk--two of the biggest liars that ever existed, on top of it. No,
sir, it can't be done."

  [Illustration: SWALLOWING AN ISLAND.]

I thought myself that he was not a person likely to accomplish a feat of
that kind, for his throat was not uncommonly large, and his digestive
organs appeared to be weakly.

"No, I shouldn't think so," said I. "You don't look like a man that
could swallow so much."

"Very well, then; I'm willing to humor the idea. I'll imagine we're
going aboard from Juan Fernandez, if you like. But the island _doesn't
exist_! No, sir; it reads very well on paper; it's a very romantic
place, no doubt--if any body could find it; a very pleasant spot for a
small tea-party between a pair of wandering vagabonds; but it doesn't
exist any where else but on the maps. Don't you ever try, Luff, to make
me believe that any of these things which we imagine to have occurred
within the past three days have the slightest foundation in fact."

I was not prepared to go to the full extent of denying the entire
existence of the island; but, I must confess, there was a good deal in
our experiences of the past three days calculated to inspire doubt; so
much, indeed, that I hardly knew what to believe myself. Even now, after
the lapse of four years, and the frequent repetition of all these
adventures to my friends, which has given something more of reality to
the doubtful points, I would hardly be willing to swear to more than the
general outline; nor am I quite certain that even the main incidents
would stand cross-examination in a Court of Doubters. Such, reader, is
the deceptive nature of appearances!

While we were talking, Pearce overtook us with a bundle of goatskins
which we had bargained for the night before, and we all went down to the
boat-landing together. There we found our shipmates all ready to start.
The Anteus was lying-to about eight or ten miles off, outside the
harbor; and the sea being rather rough, we thought it best to agree with
Pearce for some seats in his boat, and hire a couple of the Chilians to
help us at the oars. In this way, having stored all our relics in the
bow of the boat except the earthen pot, which we had the misfortune to
drop overboard, we set out for the ship, bidding a general good-by to
Juan Fernandez and all its romantic vales with three hearty cheers. A
few heavy seas broke over us when we got outside the harbor; and we saw
the Brooklyn weighing anchor and preparing to stand out to sea, and a
small brig that we had met in Rio beating in; but, with the exception of
these little incidents, nothing occurred worth mentioning till we
arrived alongside the Anteus. The captain and all the passengers
received us in silence; not a word was spoken by any body; no sign of
rejoicing or recognition whatever took place as we stepped on board. We
thought it rather a cool termination to our adventures, and could only
account for it by supposing that this was the way people thought to be
dead and buried are usually treated when they come unexpectedly to life
again after a great deal of grief has been wasted upon them. Nor were we
wrong in our conjectures; for in about five minutes our friends on
board, including the kind-hearted captain, finding themselves entirely
unable to keep up such a state of displeasure, crowded around us in
different parts of the ship, and began shaking hands with us privately,
and asking us a thousand questions about Juan Fernandez and Robinson
Crusoe. We introduced our worthy host as the real Crusoe of the island,
and brought both him and the Chilians down into the cabin, where we gave
them as much as they could eat, besides honorably acquitting ourselves
of our indebtedness by paying our friend Pearce all the ham and bread we
had promised him, and loading him with sundry presents of clothing and
groceries. The captain then ordered the yards to be braced; the boat
swung off as we began to plow our way once more toward the Golden Land,
and before noon the island was blue in the distance.



CHAPTER XXIII.

DOCTOR STILLMAN'S JOURNAL.


I have been kindly permitted to select the following from the private
journal of Dr. J. D. B. Stillman, of New York, an intelligent
fellow-passenger on the Anteus. It will give some idea of the state of
feeling on board during our absence.

"_Sunday, May 20th._ Eleven passengers left the vessel yesterday in a
small boat, with the intention of going ashore on the island of Juan
Fernandez for fruit and fresh provisions. At first they made but little
progress ahead of the ship, but the wind soon fell away entirely, and
about noon the boat could not be seen from the mast-head. Another party
of eight passengers prepared to start about two o'clock this morning.
The captain, however, was so uneasy at the absence of the other boat,
that he refused liberty. Lights were kept burning in the rigging during
the night. Toward morning a breeze sprung up. Short sail was carried for
fear the boat should attempt to reach us and miss her way. At sunrise it
was again calm. The islands loomed higher, but nothing could be
distinguished. At 11 A.M. a stiff breeze sprang up from the direction of
Masatierra, and the day was spent in beating to windward, and straining
our eyes in the hope of discerning some traces of our lost comrades. The
wind continued to freshen all day. At 8 P.M. the sea was quite rough. No
light could be seen on the shore. The captain, who is well acquainted
with the island, says if they attempted to land on the south side they
would be inevitably swamped, and some or all lost, as the shore is
rock-bound, and the only safe landing is on the north side, fifteen
miles farther on. The probability is that they were too much exhausted
to attempt landing, and night would have fallen before they could have
reached the land at any rate. I am confident in the opinion that they
are on the north side of the island, and that they lay all last night on
their oars, and landed this morning, too much exhausted to attempt
returning the same day. I have great confidence in some of the company;
but to-night gloom is general, and a fearful presentiment seems to rest
upon the minds of all that we shall soon have to record a melancholy
casualty.

"_Monday, 21st._ The wind this morning is blowing very fresh. We have
been all day beating nearer the island. Objects are quite distinct on
the south shore. It is very high and nearly barren. Indeed, so steep are
the lofty mountain sides that there does not appear to be soil enough
adhering to the rocks to support a spire of grass, except near the
summits, which are over a thousand feet in height where they rise near
the water; and every where, so far as we can see, the shore is
rock-bound, upon which the surf beats fearfully. They could not be so
wild as to attempt landing on this side. To-night the wind blows a gale,
and we shall be compelled to await a change before we attempt the
windward side. Hopes are getting faint. The distress of those who are
most interested in the parties is great. Some of our best men were of
the company. In fact, it is a question which has absorbed all others,
What has become of the boat? To-night I have rather congratulated myself
that I did not go. To add to our perplexity, the air is becoming thick,
and rain is coming on. The clouds hang heavy and dark over the
mountains. At nightfall the wind suddenly changes to S.W. The ship is
put about, and run for the north side of the island.

"_May 22d._ While I was writing last night, a loud shout called us all
in great haste on deck. A light had been discovered on the shore, and
hearty cheers expressed the deep anxiety of all, now in a great measure
relieved. There was no doubt that they had reached the shore, and that
some of the number were surviving. I felt assured that all was right.
Signals were set from the rigging, and the vessel lay to during the
night. At dawn of day we were twenty miles distant from the island. Made
all sail and stood in for the harbor. As we neared the shore, discovered
a large ship at anchor, and a brig rounding the western point. Soon
after, we distinguished the tiny sail of our lost boat making for the
ship. The captain, in order to show a proper resentment for the
disobedience of orders, directed that no demonstrations of joy should be
made; and, as they came alongside, they were received in silence."

The shades of evening were gathering upon the horizon. A murmur of life
arose from the decks, but it fell unheeded upon my ear. For now, and for
many days and nights in our dreary voyage, there was no life for me but
in the past. I felt that my happiest hours were there.

Once more I turned to look upon the dim island that was fading away in
the south. A steady breeze wafted us onward; the sun's last rays yet
lingered in the sky; twilight hung upon the ocean, and its gentle spirit

          "Rendered birth
      To dim enchantments--melting heaven to earth--
      Leaving on craggy hills and running streams
      A softness like the atmosphere of dreams."

  [Illustration: DREAMS AND REALITIES.]

And was this the last of the island-world? was it to be in future years
a mere dream of the past? was I never more to behold its wild grottoes
and green valleys? was all the romance of life to fade away with it in
the twilight? was it, like the cream-colored volume, to reveal
enchantments that henceforth could dwell only in the memory?

Fresh, and fair, and wondrous it was in its romantic beauty when the
mists were scattered away, and I beheld it for the first time in the
glowing light of morning, with the white sea-foam sparkling on its
shores, and the birds singing in its groves. How rich the air was with
sweet odors; how varied and changing the colors upon the hill-sides; how
softly steeped in shadows were its glens and woodland slopes--what a
world of romance was there!

  [Illustration: PEAK OF YONKA.]

I had pressed its sod with my feet; reveled in its streams; lived again
my early life in its pleasant valleys; passed some happy hours there
with friends from whom I soon must part; and now, what was it? A dim
cloud on the horizon, sinking in the sea, fading away in the shadows of
night.

I looked again; faintly and more faintly still its mountains loomed
above the deep. Weary with gazing, I closed my eyes, and for a moment I
saw it again; but it was only in fancy. I looked--and it had passed
away! Was it forever?

            "And now the light of many stars
      Quivered in tremulous softness on the air."

Yet not forever is it lost to me; for often in the busy world I pause
and think of that dream-land in the far-off seas, and it rises before me
as I saw it in the morning sun, all rich and strange in its beauty; and
again I wander through its romantic vales, and again it brings back
pleasant memories of the cream-colored volume; and as I look once more,
startled from my reverie by the hum of life, it fades away as it faded
then in the shadows of night, but not forever. Though I never more may
behold it with mortal eyes, yet I see it where distance can not dim the
sight: it hath not passed away forever.



CHAPTER XXIV.

CONFIDENTIAL CHAT WITH THE READER.


  [Illustration: SCENERY OF JUAN FERNANDEZ.]

Now that we have finished our ramble together, and formed something of a
speaking acquaintance, I hope, my dear reader, that you will not take it
amiss if I hold you a moment by the button, and say a word in
confidence. It has been so long the custom of adventurers to speak now
and then about themselves, that I assume the privilege without farther
apology. If I have been so fortunate as to inspire you with a friendly
interest in my behalf during our pleasant wanderings in the footsteps of
Robinson Crusoe, I am sure you will be glad to learn that it has always
been my greatest ambition to prove myself a worthy disciple of that
distinguished adventurer. In this view I have, as you may have noticed,
adhered to simple facts, and carefully avoided every thing that might be
regarded in the light of fiction, though the temptation to indulge in
occasional touches of romance was very difficult to resist. Indeed, so
thoroughly have I striven to become imbued with the true spirit of
Crusoeism, that much which I thought at first a little doubtful myself,
now seems quite authentic; and I think, upon the whole, you may rely
upon the truthfulness of my narrative. That I was near being lost in an
open boat, with ten others, in trying to get ashore on the island of
Juan Fernandez, I conscientiously believe; that we did get ashore, and
sleep in caves and straw huts, and climb wonderful mountains, and
explore enchanting valleys, I will insist upon to the latest hour of my
life; that I have endeavored faithfully to describe the island as it
appeared to me, and to give a true and reliable account of its present
condition, climate, topography, and scenery, I affirm on the honor and
veracity of a traveler; that in every essential particular it has been
my aim to present a faithful picture of life in that remote little
world, I will swear to on the best edition of Robinson Crusoe: more than
that it would be unreasonable to expect. If, however, after this candid
avowal, you still insist upon having a distinct and emphatic declaration
in regard to any doubtful point, all I can say is, that, like the man
who made a statement concerning the height of a certain horse, I am
ready at all hazards to stick to whatever I said. If I spoke of a
mountain as three thousand miles high instead of three thousand feet,
why, in the name of peace, let it be three thousand miles; if I killed
any savages, I am sorry for it, but they must remain dead--it is
impossible to bring them to life now; if I put some of my own ideas into
the heads of others, it must have been because I thought them better
adapted to the subject than what those heads contained already, and I
hold myself responsible for them; if at any time I imagined myself to be
the original and genuine Crusoe, with a man in my service called Friday,
I still adhere to it that no Crusoe more certain than he was himself
ever existed upon that island; if, in short, there is any one point upon
which I have hazarded the reputation of a veracious chronicler of actual
events, or a faithful delineator of strange scenes in nature, I hereby
declare that I shall most cheerfully return to Juan Fernandez in an open
boat with any ten readers who desire to test the matter by ocular
demonstration, and thus convince the most skeptical that I have not made
a single unfounded assertion.

  [Illustration]

And now, in the hope that we may meet again, I wish to leave you a
trifling souvenir by which to bear me in mind.

One of the sailors on board the Anteus was kind enough to make me a suit
of clothes out of the goatskins that I bought of Pearce. He made them
according to a pattern of my own, which I intend some day or other to
introduce in the fashionable circles. I stowed them carefully away in my
berth, but the rats took such a fancy to them that, by the time I
reached California, there was nothing left but the tail of one goat upon
which to hang a portrait; and I regret to say the accompanying sketch,
taken from memory, affords but an imperfect conception of the suit as I
originally appeared in it. I trust the apparent egotism of smuggling my
likeness into print in a suit of goatskins, on the pretext of exhibiting
the suit itself, will be excused by the absolute necessity of filling it
up with something. At the same time, I must be permitted to observe that
the stiffness is in the material and not in the person of the author.

  [Illustration: THE AUTHOR À LA ROBINSON CRUSOE.]



CHAPTER XXV.

EARLY VOYAGES TO JUAN FERNANDEZ.


The group known as Juan Fernandez consists of two chief and several
smaller islands, situated in the Pacific Ocean, about four hundred miles
from the coast of Chili, in latitude 33° 40´ south, longitude 70° west.
These islands were discovered in 1563 by Juan Fernando, a Spanish
navigator, whose name they bear. The largest--lying nearest to the main
land--is that which is commonly known by the name of the discoverer; it
is also called Masatierra. The length of this island is about twelve
miles, the breadth six or seven. Ninety miles west is the island of
Masafuero, so named to distinguish it from Masatierra. Both are composed
of lofty mountains; the harbors are small and unsafe, and the shores,
for the most part, are rock-bound. The northern aspect, facing toward
the equator, is slightly wooded, and the valleys are fertile; but the
southern side, toward Cape Horn, is entirely barren. There are two or
three large rocks included in the group, the chief of which, lying at
the southern extremity of Masatierra, is called Goat Island, from the
great number of goats found there.

According to the early navigators, it would appear that these islands
must have been visited by the Indians of South America long before their
discovery by Juan Fernando, but it was probably only for the purpose of
fishing and catching seals.

The first attempt to form a regular settlement was made by Fernando
himself, who, elated by his discovery, and the prospect of colonizing
the island, endeavored to obtain a patent from the government at Lima.
Failing to receive encouragement from the government, he resolved upon
forming a settlement himself; and he visited the island soon after,
taking with him some families, with whom he resided there a short time.
A few goats, which they carried with them from Lima, speedily stocked
the island; and this is probably the origin of these animals in Juan
Fernandez, as no mention is made of their having existed there before.
Eventually the colony was broken up by the superior inducements held out
to settlers in Chili, which at this time fell under the dominion of the
Spaniards; and the Spanish authorities of Lima still refusing to grant a
patent to Fernando, he was forced to abandon all hope of forming another
and more permanent settlement.

For many years subsequently this group was the resort of pirates and
buccaneers, who found it convenient, in their cruising in the South
Pacific, to touch there for wood and water.

Captain Tasman, a Dutch navigator, sailed from Batavia in 1642, and
visited Juan Fernandez in 1643. A translation of his narrative, in
Pinkerton's Collection, contains an entertaining account of the island
at that period. He dwells enthusiastically upon the advantages of its
position, the salubrity of the climate, the fertility of the soil, and
strongly urges upon the Dutch East India Company the policy of forming a
settlement there, as a dépôt for their commerce in the Pacific.

Alonzo de Ovalle, a native of Chili, gives, in his Historical Relation
of the Kingdom of Chili, printed at Rome in 1649, a very entertaining
account of what he says he "found writ about these islands, in Theodore
and John de Bry, in their relation of the voyage of John Scutten."

Ringrose, in his account of the voyages of Captain Sharpe and other
buccaneers, mentions that a vessel was cast away here, from which only
one man out of the whole ship's company escaped; and that this man lived
five years alone upon this island, before he had any opportunity of
getting away in another vessel.

Captain Watlin was chased from Juan Fernandez in 1681 by three Spanish
ships. He left on the island a Musquito Indian, who was out hunting for
goats when the alarm was given, and was unable to reach the shore before
the ship got under way and put to sea. This Indian, according to
Dampier, whose narrative I quote, "had with him his gun and a knife,
with a small horn of powder, and a few shot, which being spent, he
contrived a way, by notching his knife, to saw the barrel of his gun
into small pieces, wherewith he made harpoons, lances, hooks, and a long
knife, heating the pieces first in the fire, which he struck with his
gun-flint, and a piece of the barrel of his gun, which he hardened,
having learned to do that among the English." With such rude instruments
as he made in that manner, he procured an abundant supply of provisions,
chiefly goats and fish. In 1684, three years after, when Dampier again
visited the island, they put out a canoe from the vessel, and went
ashore to look for the Musquito man. When they saw him, "he had no
clothes left, having worn out those he brought from Watlin's ship, but
only a skin about his waist." The scene that ensued is quaintly and
touchingly described in the simple language of the narrative. "He saw
our ship the day before we came to an anchor," says Dampier, "and did
believe we were English, and therefore killed two goats in the morning
before we came to an anchor, and dressed them with cabbage, to treat us
when we came ashore. He came then to the sea-side to congratulate our
safe arrival. And when we landed, a Musquito Indian, named Robin, first
leaped ashore, and, running to his brother Musquito man, threw himself
flat on his face at his feet, who, helping him up and embracing him,
fell flat on his face on the ground at Robin's feet, and was by him
taken up also. We stood with pleasure," continues the famous buccaneer,
"to behold the surprise, and tenderness, and solemnity of this
interview, which was exceedingly affectionate on both sides; and when
their ceremonies of civility were over, we also that stood gazing at
them drew near, each of us embracing him we had found here, who was
overjoyed to see so many of his old friends, come hither, as he
thought, purposely to fetch him."

Five Englishmen were left on the island at another time by Captain
Davis. After the vessel had sailed, they were attacked by a large body
of Spaniards, who landed in one of the bays; but, in consequence of the
facilities for defense afforded by the cliffs, they were enabled
successfully to maintain their position, although one of the party
deserted and joined the Spaniards. They were afterward taken away by
Captain Strong, of London.

Captain Woodes Rodgers, commander of the Duke and Duchess, privateers
belonging to Bristol, visited Juan Fernandez in February, 1709. The
original, and perhaps the most authentic account of the adventures of
Alexander Selkirk is contained in a very curious and entertaining
narrative of the voyage, written by Captain Rodgers himself, from which
it appears that when the ships came near the land, a light was
discovered, which it was thought must be on board of a ship at anchor.
Two French vessels had been cruising in search of Captain Rodgers's
vessel, and these vessels they supposed to be lying in wait for them
close to the shore. The boats which had started for the shore returned,
and preparations were made for action. On the following day, seeing no
vessel there, they went ashore, where they found a man clothed in
goatskins, looking, as the narrative says, "wilder than the first owners
of them." He had been on the island four years and four months. His name
was Alexander Selkirk, a Scotchman, who had been master of the _Cinque
Ports_. Having quarreled with Captain Stradling, under whose command he
sailed, he was left ashore at his own request, preferring solitude on an
unknown island to the life he led on board this vessel. Before the boat
that put him ashore left the beach, he repented of his resolution, and
begged to be taken back again; but his companions cruelly mocked him,
and left him to his fate. It was he that made the fire which had
attracted the attention of the two privateers. They took him on board,
and, being a good officer, well recommended by Captain Dampier, he was
appointed mate on board Captain Rodgers's vessel, and taken to England.
The account of his adventures during his long residence on the island is
supposed to have formed the foundation of Robinson Crusoe, the most
popular romance ever published in any language. A brief but very curious
and graphic narrative of his adventures was published in London, soon
after his arrival in England, under the quaint title of "Providence
displayed; or a very surprising Account of one _Mr. Alexander Selkirk_,
Master of a Merchant Man called The _Cinque Ports_; who, dreaming that
the Ship would soon after be lost, he desired to be left on a desolate
Island in the South Seas, where he lived Four Years and Four Months
without seeing the Face of Man, the ship being afterward cast away as he
dreamed. As also, How he came afterward to be miraculously preserved and
redeemed from that fatal Place by two _Bristol_ Privateers, called the
_Duke_ and _Duchess_, that took the rich _Acapulco_ Ship, worth one
hundred Ton of Gold, and brought it to England. To which is added, An
Account of his Birth and Education. His description of the Island where
he was cast; how he subsisted; the several strange things he saw; and
how he used to spend his Time. With some pious Ejaculations that he used
during his melancholy Residence there. Written by his own Hand, and
attested by most of the eminent Merchants upon the _Royal Exchange_."
_Quarto_, containing twelve pages.

Lord Anson visited this island in 1741 for the purpose of recruiting his
ships, after a succession of melancholy disasters in their passage round
Cape Horn. An accurate topographical survey, and a full and most
reliable description of Juan Fernandez, may be found in the narrative of
that expedition, compiled from Lord Anson's papers, and other materials,
by Richard Walter, chaplain of the Centurion. The style of this
delightful narrative is admirable for its simplicity; and the
information with which it abounds in regard to the topography, climate,
and productions of the island, is perhaps the most authentic of the
time.

In 1743 Ulloa visited this group. He gives, among many interesting
facts, a curious relation of the origin of the dogs which abound there.
"We saw many dogs," he says, "of different species, particularly of the
greyhound kind; and also a great number of goats, which it is very
difficult to come at, artfully keeping themselves among those crags and
precipices, where no other animal but themselves can live. The dogs owe
their origin to a colony sent thither, not many years ago, by the
President of Chili and the Viceroy of Peru, in order totally to
exterminate the goats, that any pirates or ships of the enemy might not
here be furnished with provisions. But this scheme has proved
ineffectual, the dogs being incapable of pursuing them among the
fastnesses where they live, these animals leaping from one rock to
another with surprising agility."

Don George Juan touched at Juan Fernandez in 1744, and made several
observations of its latitude.

Don Joseph Pizarro gives, in his narrative of his voyages, an account of
a visit a few years later.

In 1750 the Spanish government founded a settlement on the principal
island, and built a fort for the protection of the harbor. In the
following year both the fort and the town were destroyed by a violent
earthquake. They were afterward rebuilt farther from the shore, and were
in good order and inhabited in 1767, when Carteret visited the island.
Soon after the settlement was broken up, and the town and the
fortifications were abandoned.

The Chilian government established a penal colony on the same spot in
1819, which, according to some authorities, was discontinued, after
repeated efforts to maintain it, on account of its expense; according to
others, in consequence of a terrible earthquake, by which the houses and
fortifications were destroyed.

  [Illustration: CHILIAN.]

  [Illustration: CHILIENNE.]

When Lord Cochrane visited the island in 1823, as it appears from a
synopsis of Howel's Life of Selkirk, there were but four men stationed
on it, apparently in charge of some cattle. A lady who accompanied Lord
Cochrane gives the following description of its condition and appearance
at that time: "The island is the most picturesque I ever saw, being
composed of high perpendicular rocks, wooded nearly to the top, with
beautiful valleys, exceedingly fertile, and watered by copious streams,
which occasionally form small marshes. The little valley where the town
is, or rather was, is exceedingly beautiful. It is full of fruit-trees
and flowers, and sweet herbs, now grown wild; near the shore it is
covered with radish and sea-side oats. A small fort was situated on the
sea-shore, of which there is nothing now visible but the ditches and
part of one wall. Another, of considerable size for the place, is on a
high and commanding spot. It contained barracks for soldiers, which, as
well as the greater part of the fort, are ruined; but the flag-staff,
front wall, and a turret are still standing; and at the foot of the
flag-staff lies a very handsome brass gun, cast in Spain A.D. 1614. A
few houses and cottages are still in a tolerable condition, though most
of the doors, windows, and roofs have been taken away, or used as fuel
by whalers and other ships touching here. In the valleys we found
numbers of European shrubs and herbs--'where once the garden smiled.'
And in the half-ruined hedges, which denote the boundaries of former
fields, we found apple, pear, and quince trees, with cherries almost
ripe. The ascent is steep and rapid from the beach, even in the valleys,
and the long grass was dry and slippery, so that it rendered the walk
rather fatiguing; and we were glad to sit down under a large
quince-tree, on a carpet of balm bordered with roses, now neglected, and
feast our eyes on the lovely view before us. Lord Anson has not
exaggerated the beauty of the place or the delights of the climate. We
were rather early for its fruits, but even at this time we have gathered
delicious figs, cherries, and pears, that a few days of sun would have
perfected. The landing-place is also the watering-place. There a little
jetty is thrown out, formed of the beach-pebbles, making a little harbor
for boats, which lie there close to the fresh water, which comes
conducted by a pipe, so that, with a hose, the casks may be filled
without landing with the most delicious water. Along the beach some old
guns are sunk, to serve as moorings for vessels, which are the safer the
nearer in shore they lie, as violent gusts of wind often blow from the
mountain for a few minutes. The height of the island is about three
thousand feet."

"With all its beauties and resources," adds the biographer of Selkirk,
"the island seemed destined never to retain those who settled on it;
whether from its isolated position, at so great a distance from the
continent, or from some other cause, is uncertain. Not long after Lord
Cochrane's visit, however, it received an accession of inhabitants, some
of them English, who settled in it under the protection of the Chilian
government."

These islands (Masafuero and Masatierra) have been convulsed by several
of those destructive earthquakes which prevail to such an alarming
extent on the western coast of South America. In 1751 and 1835 the
destruction was unusually great. The earthquake of 1835 was attended by
some remarkable phenomena. An eruption burst from the sea, about a mile
from the land, where the water was from fifty to eighty fathoms deep.
Smoke and water were ejected during the day, and flames were seen at
night.

Mr. Richard H. Dana, Jun., who visited Juan Fernandez in November, 1835,
on his voyage to California, gives, in his admirable narrative (Two
Years before the Mast), the following graphic account of its condition
at that period: "I was called on deck to stand my watch at about three
in the morning, and I shall never forget the peculiar sensation which I
experienced on finding myself once more surrounded by land, feeling the
night-breeze coming from off shore, and hearing the frogs and crickets.
The mountains seemed almost to hang over us, and, apparently from the
very heart of them, there came out, at regular intervals, a loud echoing
sound, which affected me as hardly human. We saw no lights, and could
hardly account for the sound, until the mate, who had been there before,
told us that it was the 'Alerta' of the Spanish soldiers, who were
stationed over some convicts, confined in caves nearly half way up the
mountain. At the expiration of my watch I went below, feeling not a
little anxious for the day, that I might see more nearly, and perhaps
tread upon, this romantic, I may almost say classic island. When all
hands were called it was nearly sunrise, and between that time and
breakfast, although quite busy on board in getting up water-casks, etc.,
I had a good view of the objects about me. The harbor was nearly
land-locked, and at the head of it was a landing-place protected by a
small breakwater of stones, upon which two large boats were hauled up,
with a sentry standing over them. Near this was a variety of huts or
cottages, nearly a hundred in number, the best of them built of mud and
whitewashed, but the greater part only Robinson Crusoe-like--of posts
and branches of trees. The governor's house, as it is called, was the
most conspicuous, being large, with grated windows, plastered walls, and
roof of red tiles, yet, like all the rest, of only one story. Near it
was a small chapel, distinguished by a cross; and a long, low,
brown-looking building, surrounded by something like a palisade, from
which an old and dingy-looking Chilian flag was flying. This, of course,
was distinguished by the title of _Presidio_. A sentinel was stationed
at the chapel, another at the governor's house, and a few soldiers,
armed with bayonets, looking rather ragged, with shoes out at the toes,
were strolling about among the houses, or waiting at the landing-place
for our boat to come ashore."

Not long after Mr. Dana's visit this settlement was entirely broken up.
The houses and fortifications were destroyed by an earthquake, and the
penal establishment was discontinued.

From time to time, up to the present date, there have been straggling
settlers on this island, but there has been no attempt since 1835 to
colonize it permanently until recently. It has been occasionally visited
by vessels of different nations for supplies of wood and water, and such
vegetable productions as the valleys afford. American whalers have found
it a very convenient stopping-place in their cruisings on the coast of
Chili and Peru; but of late years, the whales becoming scarce in these
seas, they are forced to push their voyages into more remote regions.
Many still touch there, however, on their way to and from the northern
coast.

At the time of the writer's visit to Juan Fernandez (May, 1849), the
gold excitement had but recently broken out, and vessels bound to
California had just commenced making it a place of resort for
refreshments in their outward voyages. Since that period, it is stated
in the newspapers that an enterprising American has taken the island on
lease from the Chilian government, and established a settlement upon it
of a hundred and fifty Tahitians, with the design of cultivating the
earth, and furnishing vessels touching there with supplies of fruit and
vegetables.



CHAPTER XXVI.

ALEXANDER SELKIRK AND ROBINSON CRUSOE.


It is stated in Howel's life of Selkirk that the singular history of
this man (Alexander Selkirk) was soon made known to the public, and
immediately after his arrival in London he became an object of
curiosity, not only to the people at large, but to those elevated by
rank and learning. Sir Richard Steele, some time after, devoted to him
an article in the paper entitled "The Englishman," in which he tells the
reader that, as Selkirk is a man of good sense, it is a matter of great
curiosity to hear him give an account of the different revolutions of
his mind during the term of his solitude. "When I first saw him,"
continues this writer, "I thought, if I had not been let into his
character and story, I could have discovered that he had been much
separated from company, _from his aspect and gesture_; there was a
strong but cheerful seriousness in his look, and a certain disregard of
the ordinary things around him, as if he had been sunk in thought. In
the course of a few months," as it appears by the same writer, "familiar
converse with the town had _taken off the loneliness of his aspect, and
quite altered the expression of his face_."

"De Foe's romance of Robinson Crusoe was not published till the year
1719, when the original facts on which it was founded must have been
nearly forgotten. There is no record of any interview having taken place
between Selkirk and De Foe, so that it can not be decided whether De
Foe learned our hero's story from his own mouth, or from such narratives
as those published by Steele and others."

On this point a biographer of De Foe remarks: "Astonishing as was the
success of De Foe's romance, it did not deter the curious from
attempting to disparage it. The materials, it was said, were either
furnished by or surreptitiously obtained from Alexander Selkirk, a
mariner who had resided for four years on the desert island of Juan
Fernandez, and returned to England in 1711. Very probably his story,
which then excited considerable interest and attention, did suggest to
De Foe the idea of writing his romance; but all the details and
incidents are entirely his own. Most certainly De Foe had obtained no
papers or written documents from Selkirk, as the latter had none to
communicate."

Robinson Crusoe, however, can not be considered altogether a work of
fiction. Without adhering strictly to the actual adventures of Selkirk,
or of the Musquito Indian who preceded him, it gives, in the
descriptions of scenery, the mode of providing food, the rude expedients
resorted to for shelter against the weather, and all the trials and
consolations of solitude, a faithfully-drawn picture from these
narratives, and a most truthful and charming delineation of solitary
life, with such reflections as the subject naturally suggested. De Foe
was the great medium through which the spirit of the whole was fused; it
required the splendor of his genius to preserve from oblivion the
lessons therein taught--of the advantages of temperance, fortitude, and,
above all, an implicit reliance in the wisdom and mercy of the Creator.
He presents them in a most fascinating garb, with all the originality of
a master-mind; and it detracts nothing from his credit to say that the
pictures are drawn strictly from nature.

As Captain Rodgers well observes in his simple narrative of the
adventures of Selkirk, "One may see by this that solitude and retirement
from the world is not such an insufferable state of life as most men
imagine, especially when people are fairly called or thrown into it
unavoidably, as this man was; who, in all probability, must otherwise
have perished in the seas, the ship which left him being cast away not
long after, and few of the company escaped. We may perceive by this
story that necessity is the mother of invention, since he found means to
supply his wants in a very natural manner, so as to maintain his life,
though not so conveniently, yet as effectually as we are able to do with
all our arts and society. It may likewise instruct us how much a plain
and temperate way of living conduces to the health of the body and the
vigor of the mind, both of which we are apt to destroy by excess and
plenty, especially of strong liquor, and the variety as well as the
nature of our meat and drink; for this man, when he came to our ordinary
method of diet and life, though he was sober enough, lost much of his
strength and agility."

De Foe does not, as may be seen by reference to the fourth section of
"Robinson Crusoe," lay the scene of his narrative in Juan Fernandez.
Robinson starts from the Brazils, where he has been living as a planter,
on a voyage to the coast of Guinea. Driven to the northward along the
coast of South America by heavy gales, the captain of the vessel found
himself "upon the coast of Guinea, or the north part of Brazil, beyond
the River Amazon, toward that of the River Oronoco, commonly called the
Great River; and began to consult with me," says Robinson, "what course
he should take, for the ship was leaky and very much disabled, and he
was for going directly back to the coast of Brazil. I was positively
against that; and looking over the charts of the sea-coast of America
with him, we concluded there was no inhabited country for us to have
recourse to till we came within the circle of the Caribbee Islands, and
therefore resolved to stand away for Barbadoes; which, by keeping off to
sea, to avoid the indraught of the Bay or Gulf of Mexico, we might
easily perform, as we hoped, in about fifteen days' sail; whereas we
could not possibly make our voyage to the coast of Africa without some
assistance both to our ship and ourselves.

"With this design we changed our course, and steered away N.W. by W. in
order to reach some of our English islands, where I hoped for relief;
but our voyage was otherwise determined; for, being in the latitude of
12° 18´, a second storm came upon us, which carried us away with the
same impetuosity westward, and drove us so out of the very way of all
human commerce, that, had our lives been saved as to the sea, we were
rather in danger of being devoured by savages than ever returning to our
own country.

"In this distress, the wind still blowing very hard, one of our men
early in the morning cried out Land! and we had no sooner run out of the
cabin to look out, in hopes of seeing whereabouts in the world we were,
but the ship struck upon a sand, and in a moment her motion being so
stopped, the sea broke over her in such a manner that we expected we
should all have perished immediately; and we were immediately driven
into our close quarters to shelter us from the very foam and spray of
the sea."

It will be seen from the above that Robinson Crusoe was not wrecked on
the island of Juan Fernandez. In all probability he never saw that
island. I regret the fact as much as any body can regret it, because I
always thought so till I referred more particularly to his history; but
a due regard for truth compels me to give the facts as I find them.

"The History of Robinson Crusoe," says the biographer of De Foe, already
quoted, "was first published in the year 1719, and its popularity may be
said to have been established immediately, since four editions were
called for in about as many months, a circumstance at that time almost
unprecedented in the annals of literature. It rarely happens that an
author's expectations are surpassed by the success of his work, however
astonishing it may seem to others; yet perhaps even De Foe himself did
not venture to look forward to such a welcome on the part of the public,
after the repulses he had experienced on the part of the booksellers;
for, incredible as it now appears, the manuscript of the work had been
offered to, and rejected by, every one in the trade.

"The author of Robinson Crusoe would be entitled to a prominent place in
the history of our literature even had he never given to the world that
truly admirable production; and yet we may reasonably question whether
the name of De Foe would not long ago have sunk into oblivion, or at
least have been known, like those of most of his contemporaries, only to
the curious student, were it not attached to a work whose popularity has
been rarely equaled--never, perhaps, excelled. Even as it is, the
reputation due to the writer has been nearly altogether absorbed in that
of his hero, and in the all-engrossing interest of his adventures:
thousands who have read Robinson Crusoe with delight, and derived from
it a satisfaction in no wise diminished by repeated perusal, have never
bestowed a thought on its author, or, indeed, regarded it in the light
of a literary performance. While its fascination has been universally
felt, the genius that conceived it, the talent that perfected it, have
been generally overlooked, merely because it is so full of nature and
reality as to exhibit no invention or exertion on the part of the
author, inasmuch as he appears simply to have recorded what actually
happened, and consequently only to have committed to paper plain matter
of fact, without study or embellishment. We wonder at and are struck
with admiration by the powers of Shakspeare or Cervantes; with regard to
De Foe we experience no similar feeling: it is not the skill of the
artist that enchants us, but the perfect naturalness of the picture,
which is such that we mistake it for a mirror; so that every reader
persuades himself that he could write as well, perhaps better, were he
but furnished with the materials for an equally interesting narrative."



A DANGEROUS JOURNEY.



CHAPTER I.

THE CANNIBAL.


In the summer of 1849 I had occasion to visit San Luis Obispo, a small
town about two hundred and fifty miles south of San Francisco. At that
time no steamers touched at the Embarcadera, and but little dependence
could be placed upon the small sailing craft that occasionally visited
that isolated part of the coast. The trail through the Salinas and Santa
Marguerita valleys was considered the only reliable route, though even
that was not altogether as safe as could be desired. A portion of the
country lying between the Old Mission of Soledad and San Miguel was
infested by roving bands of Sonoranians and lawless native Californians.
Several drovers, who had started from San Francisco by this route to
purchase cattle on the southern ranches, had never reached their
destination. It was generally believed that they had been murdered on
the way. Indeed, in two instances, this fact was established by the
discovery of the mutilated remains of the murdered men. No clew could be
obtained to the perpetrators of the deed, nor do I know that any legal
measures were taken to find them. At that period the only laws existing
were those administered by the alcaldes, under the Mexican system, which
had been temporarily adopted in connection with the provisional
government established by General Riley. The people generally were too
deeply interested in the development of the gold regions to give
themselves much concern about the condition of other parts of the
country, and the chances of bringing criminals to punishment in the
southern districts were very remote.

  [Illustration: MIRAGE IN THE SALINAS VALLEY.]

My business was connected with the revenue service. A vessel laden with
foreign goods had been wrecked on the coast within a short distance of
San Luis. It was necessary that immediate official inquiry should be
made into the circumstances, with a view of securing payment of duties
upon the cargo. I was also charged with a commission to establish a line
of post-offices on the land-route to Los Angeles, and enter into
contracts for the carrying of the mails.

By the advice of some friends in San Francisco, I purchased a
fine-looking mule recently from the Colorado. The owner, a Texan
gentleman, assured me that he had never mounted a better animal; and, so
far as I was capable of judging, the recommendation seemed to be justly
merited. I willingly paid him his price--three hundred dollars. Next
day, having provided myself with a good pair of blankets, a few pounds
of coffee, sugar, and hard bread, and a hunting-knife and tin cup, I
bade adieu to my friends and set out on my journey. A tedious voyage of
six months around Cape Horn had given me a peculiar relish for
shore-life. There was something very pleasant in the novelty of the
scenery and the inspiring freshness of the air. The rush of emigrants
from all parts of the world; the amusing scenes along the road; the
free, social, and hopeful spirit which prevailed among all classes; the
clear, bright sky, and wonderful richness of coloring that characterized
the atmosphere, all contributed to produce the most agreeable
sensations. It was a long and rather hazardous journey I had undertaken,
and it would doubtless be very lonesome after passing San Jose; but the
idea of depending solely on my own resources, and becoming, in some
sort, an adventurer in an almost unknown country, had something in it
irresistibly captivating to one of my roving disposition. I had traveled
through Texas under nearly similar circumstances, and enjoyed many
pleasant recollections of the trip. There is a charm about this wild
sort of life, the entire freedom from restraint, the luxury of fresh
air, the camp under the trees, with a bright fire and a canopy of stars
overhead, that, once experienced, can never be forgotten.

Nothing of importance occurred till the evening of the fourth day. I met
crowds of travelers all along the road, singing and shouting in sheer
exuberance of spirit; and not unfrequently had some very pleasant and
congenial company, bound either to the mines or in search of vacant
government land for the location of claims. The road through the valleys
of Santa Clara and San Jose was perfectly enchanting, winding through
oak groves, and fields of wild oats and flowers; and nothing could
exceed the balminess of the air. Indeed, the whole country seemed to me
more like a succession of beautiful parks, in which each turn of the
road might bring in view some elegant mansion, with sweeping lawns in
front, and graceful ladies mounted on palfreys, than a rude and
uncivilized part of the world hitherto almost unknown.

I stopped a night at San Jose, where I was most hospitably received by
the alcalde, an American gentleman of intelligence, to whom I had a
letter of introduction. Next day, after a pleasant ride of forty-five
miles, I reached the Mission of San Juan, one of the most eligibly
located of all the old missionary establishments. It was now in a state
of decay. The vineyards were but partially cultivated, and the secos, or
ditches for the irrigation of the land, were entirely dry. I got some
very good pears from the old Spaniard in charge of the mission--a rare
luxury after a long sea-voyage. The only tavern in the place was the
"United States," kept by an American and his wife in an old adobe house,
originally a part of the missionary establishment. Having secured
accommodations for my mule, I took up my quarters for the night at the
"United States." The woman seemed to be the principal manager. Perhaps I
might have noticed her a little closely, since she was the only white
woman I had enjoyed the opportunity of conversing with for some time. It
was very certain, however, that she struck me as an uncommon
person--tall, raw-boned, sharp, and masculine--with a wild and piercing
expression of eye, and a smile singularly startling and unfeminine. I
even fancied that her teeth were long and pointed, and that she
resembled a picture of an ogress I had seen when a child. The man was a
subdued and melancholy-looking person, presenting no particular trait of
character in his appearance save that of general abandonment to the
influence of misfortune. His dress and expression impressed me with the
idea that he had experienced much trouble, without possessing that
strong power of recuperation so common among American adventurers in
California.

It would scarcely be worth while noticing these casual acquaintances of
a night, since they have nothing to do with my narrative, but for the
remarkable illustration they afford of the hardships that were
encountered at that time on the emigrant routes to California. In the
course of conversation with the man, I found that he and his wife were
among the few survivors of a party whose terrible sufferings in the
mountains during the past winter had been the theme of much comment in
the newspapers. He did not state--what I already knew from the published
narrative of their adventures--that the woman had subsisted for some
time on the dead body of a child belonging to one of the party. It was
said that the man had held out to the last, and refused to participate
in this horrible feast of human flesh.

So strangely impressive was it to be brought in direct contact with a
fellow-being, especially of the gentler sex, who had absolutely eaten of
human flesh, that I could not but look upon this woman with a shudder.
Her sufferings had been intense; that was evident from her marked and
weather-beaten features. Doubtless she had struggled against the
cravings of hunger as long as reason lasted. But still the one terrible
act, whether the result of necessity or insanity, invested her with a
repellant atmosphere of horror. Her very smile struck me as the gloating
expression of a cannibal over human blood. In vain I struggled against
this unchristian feeling. Was it right to judge a poor creature whose
great misfortune was perhaps no offense against the laws of nature? She
might be the tenderest and best of women--I knew nothing of her history.
It was a pitiable case. But, after all, she had eaten of human flesh;
there was no getting over that.

When I sat down to supper this woman was obliging enough to hand me a
plate of meat. I was hungry, and tried to eat it. Every morsel seemed to
stick in my throat. I could not feel quite sure that it was what it
seemed to be. The odor even disgusted me. Nor could I partake of the
bread she passed to me with any more relish. It was probably made by her
hands--the same hands that had torn the flesh from a corpse and passed
the reeking shreds to her mouth. The taint of an imaginary corruption
was upon it.

The room allotted to me for the night was roughly furnished, as might
reasonably be expected; but, apart from this, the bedding was filthy;
and, in common with every thing about the house, the slatternly
appearance of the furniture did not tend to remove the unpleasant
impression I had formed of my hostess. Whether owing to the vermin, or
an unfounded suspicion that she might become hungry during the night, I
slept but little. The picture of the terrible ogress that I had seen
when a child, and the story of the little children which she had
devoured, assumed a fearful reality, and became strangely mingled in my
dreams with this woman's face. I was glad when daylight afforded me an
excuse to get up and take a stroll in the fresh air.



CHAPTER II.

THE MIRAGE.


After an early breakfast, I mounted my mule and pursued my journey over
the pass of the San Juan. The view from the summit was magnificent.
Beyond a range of sand-hills toward the right stretched the great
Pacific. Ridges of mountains, singularly varied in outline, swept down
in front into the broad valley of the Salinas. The pine forests of
Monterey and Santa Cruz were dimly perceptible in the distance; and to
the left was a wilderness of rugged cliffs, as far as the eye could
reach, weird and desolate as a Cape Horn sea suddenly petrified in the
midst of a storm. Descending through a series of beautiful little
valleys clothed in a golden drapery of wild oats, and charmingly
diversified with groves of oak and sycamore, and rich shrubbery of
ceonosa, hazel, and wild grape, I at length entered the great valley of
the Salinas, nine miles from the Mission of San Juan. At that time
innumerable herds of cattle covered the rich pastures of this
magnificent valley; and although there are still many to be seen there,
the number has been greatly reduced during the last ten years. A large
portion of the country bordering on the Salinas River, as far south as
the Mission of Soledad, has been cut up into small ranches and farms;
and thriving settlements and extensive fields of grain are now to be
seen where formerly ranged wild bands of cattle, mustang, and
innumerable herds of antelope.

  [Illustration: PASS OF SAN JUAN.]

Turning to the southward, and keeping in view the two great ranges of
mountains which were the chief landmarks in former times, the scene that
lay outspread before me resembled rather some wild region of enchantment
than any thing that could be supposed to exist in a material world--so
light and hazy were the distant mountains, so vaguely mingled the earth
and sky, so rich and fanciful the atmospheric tints, and so visionary
the groves that decorated the plain. Never before had I witnessed the
mirage in the full perfection of its beauty. The whole scene was
transformed into a series of magnificent optical illusions, surpassing
the wildest dreams of romance. Points of woodland, sweeping from the
base of the mountains far into the valley, were reflected in mystic
lakes. Herds of cattle loomed up on the surface of the sleeping waters
like miniature fleets of vessels with variegated sails. Mounds of yellow
sand, rising a little above the level of the plain, had all the effect
of rich Oriental cities, with gorgeous palaces of gold, mosques, and
minarets, and wondrous temples glittering with jewels and precious
stones. Bands of antelope coursed gracefully over the foreground; but so
light and vaguely defined were their forms that they seemed rather to
sail through the air than touch the earth. By the illusory process of
the refraction, they appeared to sweep into the lakes and assume the
forms of aerial boats, more fanciful and richly colored than the caïques
of Constantinople. Birds, too, of snowy plumage, skimmed over the
silvery waste; and islands that lay sleeping in the glowing light were
covered with myriads of water-fowl. A solitary vulture, sitting upon the
carcass of some dead animal a few hundred yards off, loomed into the
form of a fabulous monster of olden times, with a gory head, and a beak
that opened as if to swallow all within his reach. These wonderful
features in the scene were continually changing: the lakes disappeared
with their islands and fleets, and new lakes, with still stranger and
more fantastic illusions, merged into existence out of the rarefied
atmosphere. Thus hour after hour was I beguiled on my way through this
mystic region of enchantment.

  [Illustration: ANTELOPE IN THE MIRAGE.]

Toward evening I reached the Salinas River, where I stopped to rest and
water my mule. A Spanish vaquero, whom I found under the trees enjoying
the siesta to which that race are addicted, informed me that it was
"_Dos leguos, poco mas o meno_," to Soledad. As he lived there, he would
show me the way. It was inhabited by the Sobranis family, and they owned
sixteen square leagues of land and "_muchos granada_." This much I
contrived to understand; but when I handed the vaquero a fine Principe
cigar, and he took a few whiffs and became eloquent, I entirely lost the
train of his observations. It is possible he may have been reciting a
poem on pastoral life. At all events, we jogged along very sociably, and
in something over an hour reached the mission.

  [Illustration: VULTURE IN THE MIRAGE.]

A more desolate place than Soledad can not well be imagined. The old
church is partially in ruins, and the adobe huts built for the Indians
are roofless, and the walls tumbled about in shapeless piles. Not a tree
or shrub is to be seen any where in the vicinity. The ground is bare,
like an open road, save in front of the main building (formerly occupied
by the priests), where the carcasses and bones of cattle are scattered
about, presenting a disgusting spectacle. But this is a common sight on
the Spanish ranches. Too lazy to carry the meat very far, the rancheros
generally do their butchering in front of the door, and leave the
Indians and buzzards to dispose of the offal.

  [Illustration: SOLEDAD.]

A young Spaniard, one of the proprietors, was the only person at home,
with the exception of a few dirty Indians who were lying about the door.
He received me rather coldly, as I thought, and took no concern
whatever about my mule. I learned afterward that this family had been
greatly imposed upon by travelers passing northward to the mines, who
killed their cattle, stole their corn, stopped of nights and went away
without paying any thing. At first they freely entertained all who came
along in the genuine style of Spanish hospitality; but, not content with
the kind treatment bestowed upon them, their rough guests seldom left
the premises without carrying away whatever they could lay hands upon.
This naturally embittered them against strangers, and of course I had to
bear my share of the ill feeling manifested toward the traveling public.
It was not long, however, before I discovered a key to my young host's
good graces. He was strumming on an old guitar when I arrived, and soon
resumed his solitary amusement, not seeming disposed to respond to my
feeble attempts at his native language, but rather enjoying the idea of
drawing himself into the doleful sphere of his own music. As soon as a
favorable opportunity occurred, I took the guitar, and struck up such a
lively song of "The Frogs that tried to Come it, but couldn't get a
Chance," that the cadaverous visage of my host gradually relaxed into a
smile, then into a broad grin, and at the climax he absolutely laughed.
It was all right. Music had soothed the savage breast. Sobranis was
conquered. He immediately directed the vaquero to see to my animal, and
set to work and got me an excellent supper of tortillas and frijoles,
jerked beef and oja; after which he insisted upon learning the song of
the Frog, which of course I was obliged to teach him. So passed the
hours till late bedtime. Notwithstanding the fleas, which abounded in
overwhelming numbers, I contrived to sleep soundly. Next morning, after
a good breakfast of coffee, tortillas, jerked beef, etc., as before, I
mounted my mule and proceeded on my journey, much to the regret of
Sobranis, who positively refused to accept a cent for the accommodations
he had afforded me.



CHAPTER III.

A DEATH-STRUGGLE.


In the vicinity of the sea-shore, and as far inland as Soledad, the
temperature was delightfully cool and bracing; but beyond the first
turning-point of mountains to the southward a marked change was
perceptible. Although the sun was not more than two hours high, the heat
was intense. The rich black soil, which had been thoroughly saturated
with the winter rains, was now baked nearly as hard as stone, and was
cracked open in deep fissures, rendering the trail in some places quite
difficult even for the practiced feet of the mule. Every thing like
vegetation was parched to a crisp with the scorching rays of the sun.
The bed of the river was quite dry, and no sign of moisture was visible
for many miles. The rich fields of wild oats were no longer to be seen,
but dried and cracking wastes of wild mustard, sage-weed, and bunch
grass. In some places deserts of sand, without a particle of vegetation,
and incrusted with saline deposits, stretched along the base of the
mountains as far as the eye could reach. The glare on these plains of
alkali (as they were commonly called) was absolutely blinding. Toward
noon, so intense was the heat, I thought it impossible to endure it
another hour. A dry, hot cloud of dust rose from the parched earth, and
hung around me like the fiery breath of an oven. Neither tree nor shrub
was to be seen any where along the wayside. As I toiled wearily along,
scarcely able to get my mule out of a walk, I thought of Denham and
Clapperton, the brothers Lander, Mungo Park, and all the great African
explorers, and wondered how they could have endured for weeks and months
what I found it so hard to bear for a few hours. There was no respite;
nothing in the world to alleviate the burning heat; not even a stunted
shrub to creep under. And yet, thought I, this is but a flash in the pan
to the deserts of Africa. Not that the heat is more intense there; for I
believe it is admitted that the thermometer rises higher in California
than in any other part of the world. I have known it to be 130°
Fahrenheit in the mines, and have been told that in the gulches of some
of the foot-hills of the Sierra Nevada it has been known to reach 150°.
The official table published by Congress shows that the maximum heat at
Fort Miller is 118°, while at Fort Yuma, on the Colorado, it does not
exceed 110°. In the narrative of the voyages of Lord Anson, written by
his chaplain, it is conceded that the heat is greater in California,
owing to local causes, than at any known point between the tropics. But
very different is it in Africa, or any tropical country, in this
respect--that the climate of California is never oppressive, whatever
may be the temperature. The nights are delightfully cool, and the
mornings peculiarly fresh and bracing. Hence the suffering from heat is
never protracted beyond a few hours. At all events, not to go into any
farther dissertation upon climate, I found it quite warm enough on the
present occasion, and would have been very glad to accept the loan of an
umbrella had any body been at hand to offer it to me.

About an hour before sunset, as I was riding slowly along, enjoying the
approaching shades of evening, I discovered for the first time that my
mule was lame. I had traveled very leisurely on account of the heat,
making not over thirty miles. The nearest water, as the young Spaniard,
Sobranis, had informed me, was at a point yet distant about five miles.
I saw that it was necessary to hurry, and began to spur my mule in the
hope of being able to reach this camping place; but I soon perceived
that the poor animal was not only lame, but badly foundered--at least it
seemed so then, though my convictions on that point were somewhat shaken
by what subsequently occurred. I had succeeded, after considerable
spurring, in getting him into a lope, when he suddenly stumbled and
threw me over his head. The shock of the fall stunned me for a few
moments, but fortunately I was not hurt. I must have turned a complete
somersault. As soon as consciousness returned I found that I was lying
on my back in the middle of the road, the mule quietly grazing within
ten feet. I got up a little bewildered, shook off some of the dust, and
started to regain the bridle; but, to my great surprise, the mule put
back his ears, kicked up his heels, and ran off at a rate of speed that
I deemed a foundered animal entirely incapable of achieving. There was
not the slightest symptom of lameness in his gait. He "loped" as freely
as if he had just begun his journey. In vain I shouted and ran after
him. Sometimes he seemed absolutely to enjoy my helpless condition, and
would permit me to approach within two or three feet, but never to get
hold of the bridle. Every attempt of that kind he resented by whirling
suddenly and kicking at me with both heels, so that once or twice it was
a miracle how I escaped. For the first time since morning,
notwithstanding the heat of the clay, my skin became moist. A profuse
sweat broke out all over me, and I was parched with a burning thirst. It
was thirty miles from Soledad, the nearest inhabited place that I knew
of, and even if I felt disposed to turn back it would have been at great
risk and inconvenience. My blankets, coat, pistol, and papers--the whole
of incalculable importance to me--were firmly strapped behind the
saddle, and there was no way of getting at them without securing the
mule. Upon reflection, it seemed best to follow him to the
watering-place. He must be pretty thirsty after his hard day's journey
in the sun, and would not be likely to pass that. I therefore walked on
as fast as possible, keeping the mule as near in the trail as his
stubborn nature would permit. It was not without difficulty, however,
that I could discern the right trail, for it was frequently intersected
by others, and occasionally became lost in patches of sand and
sage-brush.

In this way, with considerable toil, I had advanced about two miles,
when I discovered that a large band of Spanish cattle, which had been
visible for some time in the distance, began to close in toward the line
of my route, evidently with the intention of cutting me off. Their
gestures were quite hostile enough to inspire a solitary and unarmed
footman with uneasiness. A fierce-looking bull led the way, followed by
a lowing regiment of stags, steers, and cows, crowding one upon the
other in their furious charge. As they advanced, the leader occasionally
stopped to tear up the earth and shake his horns; but the mass kept
crowding on, their tails switching high in the air, and uttering the
most fearful bellowing, while they tossed their horns and stared wildly,
as if in mingled rage and astonishment. I had heard too much of the wild
cattle of California, and their hostility toward men on foot at this
season of the year, not to become at once sensible of my dangerous
position.

The nearest tree was half a mile to the left, on the margin of a dry
creek. There was a grove of small oaks winding for some distance along
the banks of the creek; but between the spot where I stood and this
place of security scattering bands of cattle were grazing. However,
there was no time to hesitate upon a choice of difficulties. Two or
three hundred wild cattle rushing furiously toward one in an open plain
assist him in coming to a very rapid conclusion. I know of no position
in which human strength is of so little avail--the tremendous
aggregation of brute force opposed to one feeble pair of arms seems so
utterly irresistible. I confess instinct lent me a helping hand in this
emergency. Scarcely conscious of the act, I ran with all my might for
the nearest tree. The thundering of heavy hoofs after me, and the
furious bellowing that resounded over the plain, spread a contagion
among the grazing herds on the way, and with one accord they joined in
the chase. It is in no spirit of boastfulness that I assert the fact,
but I certainly made that half mile in as few minutes as ever the same
distance was made by mortal man. When I reached the tree I looked back.
The advance body of the cattle were within a hundred yards, bearing down
in a whirlwind of dust. I lost no time in making my retreat secure. As
the enemy rushed in, tearing up the earth and glaring at me with their
fierce, wild eyes, I had gained the fork of the tree, about six feet
from the ground, and felt very thankful that I was beyond their reach.
Still there was something fearful in being blockaded in such a place for
the night. An intolerable thirst parched my throat. The effects of the
exertion were scarcely perceptible at first, but as I regained my breath
it seemed impossible to exist an hour longer without water. In this
valley the climate is so intensely dry during the summer heats that the
juices of the system are quickly absorbed, and the skin becomes like a
sheet of parchment. My head felt as if compressed in a band of iron; my
tongue was dry and swollen. I would have given all I possessed, or ever
hoped to possess, for a single glass of water.

While in this position, with the prospect of a dreary night before me,
and suffering the keenest physical anguish, a very singular circumstance
occurred to relieve me of farther apprehension respecting the cattle,
though it suggested a new danger for which I was equally unprepared. A
fine young bull had descended the bed of the creek in search of a
water-hole. While pushing his way through the bushes he was suddenly
attacked by a grizzly bear. The struggle was terrific. I could see the
tops of the bushes sway violently to and fro, and hear the heavy crash
of drift-wood as the two powerful animals writhed in their fierce
embrace. A cloud of dust rose from the spot. It was not distant over a
hundred yards from the tree in which I had taken refuge. Scarcely two
minutes elapsed before the bull broke through the bushes. His head was
covered with blood, and great flakes of flesh hung from his fore
shoulders; but, instead of manifesting signs of defeat, he seemed
literally to glow with defiant rage. Instinct had taught him to seek an
open space. A more splendid specimen of an animal I never saw; lithe and
wiry, yet wonderfully massive about the shoulders, combining the rarest
qualities of strength and symmetry. For a moment he stood glaring at the
bushes, his head erect, his eyes flashing, his nostrils distended, and
his whole form fixed and rigid. But scarcely had I time to glance at him
when a huge bear, the largest and most formidable I ever saw in a wild
state, broke through the opening.

A trial of brute force that baffles description now ensued. Badly as I
had been treated by the cattle, my sympathies were greatly in favor of
the bull, which seemed to me to be much the nobler animal of the two. He
did not wait to meet the charge, but, lowering his head, boldly rushed
upon his savage adversary. The grizzly was active and wary. He no sooner
got within reach of the bull's horns than he seized them in his powerful
grasp, keeping the head to the ground by main strength and the
tremendous weight of his body, while he bit at the nose with his teeth,
and raked stripes of flesh from the shoulders with his hind paws. The
two animals must have been of very nearly equal weight. On the one side
there was the advantage of superior agility and two sets of weapons--the
teeth and claws; but on the other, greater powers of endurance and more
inflexible courage. The position thus assumed was maintained for some
time--the bull struggling desperately to free his head, while the blood
streamed from his nostrils--the bear straining every muscle to drag him
to the ground. No advantage seemed to be gained on either side. The
result of the battle evidently depended on the merest accident.

  [Illustration: A DUEL À LA MORT.]

As if by mutual consent, each gradually ceased struggling, to regain
breath, and as much as five minutes must have elapsed while they were
locked in this motionless but terrible embrace. Suddenly the bull, by
one desperate effort, wrenched his head from the grasp of his adversary,
and retreated a few steps. The bear stood up to receive him. I now
watched with breathless interest, for it was evident that each animal
had staked his life upon the issue of the conflict. The cattle from the
surrounding plains had crowded in, and stood moaning and bellowing
around the combatants; but, as if withheld by terror, none seemed
disposed to interfere. Rendered furious by his wounds, the bull now
gathered up all his energies, and charged with such impetuous force and
ferocity that the bear, despite the most terrific blows with his paws,
rolled over in the dust, vainly struggling to defend himself. The lunges
and thrusts of the former were perfectly furious. At length, by a sudden
and well-directed motion of his head, he got one of his horns under the
bear's belly, and gave it a rip that brought out a clotted mass of
entrails. It was apparent that the battle must soon end. Both were
grievously wounded, and neither could last much longer. The ground was
torn up and covered with blood for some distance around, and the panting
of the struggling animals became each moment heavier and quicker. Maimed
and gory, they fought with the desperate certainty of death--the bear
rolling over and over, vainly striking out to avoid the fatal horns of
his adversary--the bull ripping, thrusting, and tearing with
irresistible ferocity.

At length, as if determined to end the conflict, the bull drew back,
lowered his head, and made one tremendous charge; but, blinded by the
blood that trickled down his forehead, he missed his mark, and rolled
headlong on the ground. In an instant the bear whirled and was upon him.
Thoroughly invigorated by the prospect of a speedy victory, he tore the
flesh in huge masses from the ribs of his prostrate foe. The two rolled
over and over in the terrible death-struggle; nothing was now to be seen
save a heaving, gory mass, dimly perceptible through the dust. A few
minutes would certainly have terminated the bloody strife, so far as my
favorite was concerned, when, to my astonishment, I saw the bear relax
in his efforts, roll over from the body of his prostrate foe, and drag
himself feebly a few yards from the spot. His entrails had burst
entirely through the wound in his belly, and now lay in long strings
over the ground. The next moment the bull was on his legs, erect and
fierce as ever. Shaking the blood from his eyes, he looked around, and
seeing the reeking mass before him, lowered his head for the final and
most desperate charge. In the death-struggle that ensued both animals
seemed animated by supernatural strength. The grizzly struck out wildly,
but with such destructive energy that the bull, upon drawing back his
head, presented a horrible and ghastly spectacle; his tongue, a mangled
mass of shreds, hanging from his mouth, his eyes torn completely from
their sockets, and his whole face stripped to the bone. On the other
hand, the bear was ripped completely open, and writhing in his last
agonies. Here it was that indomitable courage prevailed; for, blinded
and maimed as he was, the bull, after a momentary pause to regain his
wind, dashed wildly at his adversary again, determined to be victorious
even in death. A terrific roar escaped from the dying grizzly. With a
last frantic effort he sought to make his escape, scrambling over and
over in the dust. But his strength was gone. A few more thrusts from the
savage victor, and he lay stretched upon the sand, his muscles quivering
convulsively, his huge body a resistless mass. A clutching motion of the
claws--a groan--a gurgle of the throat, and he was dead.

The bull now raised his bloody crest, uttered a deep bellowing sound,
shook his horns triumphantly, and slowly walked off, not, however,
without turning every few steps to renew the struggle if necessary. But
his last battle was fought. As the blood streamed from his wounds a
death-chill came over him. He stood for some time, unyielding to the
last, bracing himself up, his legs apart, his head gradually drooping;
then dropped on his fore knees and lay down; soon his head rested upon
the ground; his body became motionless; a groan, a few convulsive
respirations, and he too, the noble victor, was dead.

During this strange and sanguinary struggle, the cattle, as I stated
before, had gathered in around the combatants. The most daring, as if
drawn toward the spot by the smell of blood or some irresistible
fascination, formed a circle within twenty or thirty yards, and gazed at
the murderous work that was going on with startled and terror-stricken
eyes; but none dared to join in the defense of their champion. No sooner
was the battle ended, and the victor and the vanquished stretched dead
upon the ground, than a panic seized upon the excited multitude, and by
one accord they set up a wild bellowing, switched their tails in the
air, and started off at full speed for the plains.

  [Illustration: THE CAMP.]



CHAPTER IV.

THE OUTLAWS' CAMP.


It was now nearly dark. The impressive scene I had just witnessed, and
in which I had become so absorbed as to lose all consciousness of
danger, now forcibly reminded me that this was not a safe place of
retreat for the night. I descended from the tree, seeing all clear, and
hurried out toward the edge of the plain, where I discovered a trail
leading down parallel with the creek. The water-hole I knew must be on
this creek, for there was no other in sight. It could not be more than
two or three miles distant, and there was yet sufficient light to enable
me to keep within range of the bushes on the left. I walked on rapidly
for nearly an hour, sometimes stumbling into the deep fissures which had
been made in the ground by the heat of the sun, and often obliged to
descend deep arroyas and seek for some time before I could find an
outlet on the other side; but in the course of an hour I was rejoiced to
see a point of woodland jutting into the plain, not over a few hundred
yards distant, in the midst of which there was the glimmer of a fire.

I say rejoiced, for certainly that was the first sensation; but in
approaching the light I could not but think of the savage character of
the country, and the probability of meeting with company here as little
to my liking as any I had yet encountered. This part of the Salinas was
entirely out of the range of civilization; neither miners nor settlers
had yet intruded upon these dreary solitudes; and the chances were
greatly in favor of meeting a party of Sonoranian desperadoes or
outlawed Californians. Yet what inducement could I present for robbery
or murder in such a destitute plight? Without coat, blankets, pistol, or
property of any kind except a watch concealed in the fob of my
pantaloons--even without money; for what little I owned, not over forty
or fifty dollars, was contained in a leather purse in the pocket of my
coat--of what avail would it be to molest me? If plunder should be an
object, they must already be in possession of all I had.

These considerations somewhat allayed my apprehensions; and, at all
events, I saw no alternative but to keep on. As I descended from the
plain into the oak grove bordering upon the bed of the creek, I observed
that there were only two men in camp. From their costume--the common
blue shirts, pantaloons, and rough boots of ordinary travelers on the
way to the mines--I judged them to be Americans. Nor was I mistaken. The
very first word I heard spoken was an oath, which it is unnecessary for
me to repeat.

"I say, Griff," said one, in a coarse, brutal voice, "if he comes don't
you budge. He'll be here certain."

"Jack," replied the man addressed, "you've done enough of that. You'd
better hold up a while, that's my opinion."

The other laughed; not a joyous laugh of natural mirthfulness, but
something resembling a chuckling sneer that was horribly repelling. An
instinctive feeling prompted me to retrace my steps and strike out for
the Mission of Soledad. Without well knowing why, I was impressed with
an irresistible conviction that the spirit of sin brooded over this
camp. Acting upon the impulse of the moment, I turned to retreat while
yet undiscovered, when a man emerged from the bushes a little below, and
called out sharply, "Who's that? Answer quick, or you're a dead man!"

I answered at once, "An American--a friend. Don't shoot! It's all
right!"

I then advanced into the camp, where I was greeted with an uneasy and
suspicious stare, very much unlike any reception I had ever met with
before from a party of countrymen. There was either distrust or
disappointment in their looks, probably both. The party consisted of
three men, two of whom were standing by the fire cooking a piece of
venison, while the third, who had hailed me from the bushes, seemed to
have been on the look-out.

The man called "Jack"--he who had first spoken--was a swarthy, thick-set
fellow, about thirty years of age, with a bull neck, a coarse black
beard, and heavy sun-burned mustache. His eyes were overhung by bushy
brows, and were of a cold, stony color and very deeply set, giving him
an appearance of peeping out furtively from a chaparral of brush. A
shock of black matted hair covered his head; his hands were begrimed
with dirt, and his dress was ragged, greasy, and stained with blotches
of filth and blood. On his feet he wore a pair of coarse heavy boots,
out at the toes, in the legs of which his pantaloons were carelessly
thrust, giving him a peculiarly slovenly and blackguard air. A belt
around his waist, with a revolver and knife, and a leather pouch for
balls and patching, completed his costume and trappings. I instinctively
recoiled from this man. His whole expression--his voice, manner,
dress, and all--pronounced him a coarse and unmitigated villain. There
was not a single redeeming point about him that I could discover. Hard,
crafty, and cruel, profane, filthy, and brutal, his character was patent
at a glance. If he was not intrinsically bad, nature had grievously
belied him.

  [Illustration: "JACK."]

The other, to whom this fellow had addressed his remarks when I first
heard their voices, and who was called "Griff," was apparently somewhat
younger, though rough and weather-beaten, as if he had been much
exposed. His form was gaunt and athletic, and his height over six feet.
There was something very sad in the expression of his face, which was
well chiseled, and not destitute of a certain quality of rough, manly
beauty. A prominent nose; firm and compressed lips; a square projecting
chin, evincing firmness, and a liquid blue eye, with a mingled
expression of gentleness and determination; deep furrows, tending
downward from the corners of his mouth; long waving hair, and a light
mustache, gave him something of a heroic cast of countenance, which, but
for an appearance of general recklessness, would have redeemed him under
all the disadvantages of ragged clothes and evil associations. Yet I
felt at once interested in this man. He seemed embarrassed as I scanned
his features, apparently struggling with some natural impulse of
politeness, which prompted him to offer me a more kindly welcome than
his comrades had bestowed upon me; but, if such an impulse moved him, it
was speedily checked. He drew his hat over his brow, and resumed his
occupation at the fire without saying a word. Still, even his silence
was not unfriendly.

The third of this strange party was a lithe, wiry man, not over five
feet eight in height, but compact and not ungracefully formed. He was
apparently much older than either of the others. To look upon him once
was to receive an impression of evil that could never be effaced. His
countenance was the most repellent I had ever seen, far surpassing that
of the man "Jack" in cool, crafty malignity. I could readily imagine
that this was the leader in all that required subtlety, intellect, and
skill. His forehead was high and narrow; his eyes closely set together,
black, and of piercing brilliancy; his features sharp and mobile; but it
was his mouth that more than all gave him the distinguishing expression
of cruelty and cunning. A sardonic smile continually played upon his
thin, bloodless lips. Every muscle seemed under perfect control. It
might well be said of this man that

       "He could smile, and smile, and be a villain still,"

for villainy lurked in every feature. Yet he was not deficient in a
certain air of personal neatness to which the other two had no
pretensions. His jet-black hair was closely cut, and his face quite
destitute of beard, and of that peculiar leaden color which indicates a
long career of dissipation. In his dress he was even slightly foppish;
wore a green cassimere hunting-jacket, with brass buttons; a white
shirt, a breast-pin, and a pair of check pantaloons. His fingers were
adorned with rings, and a watch-guard hung from his neck. The hilt of a
bowie-knife, ornamented with silver, protruded from under the breast of
his vest, and a revolver hung from a belt around his waist. In his
motions he was quick, supine, and noiseless. Something of the basilisk
there was about this man--something brilliant and glossy, as if he shone
with a peculiar light. I fancied I had seen gamblers like him in New
Orleans, fierce yet wary men, accustomed to play at hazardous games;
glossy outside and of fascinating suavity, but corrupt to the core. Even
his green coat added to the illusion; it fitted him so neatly, and
seemed so like the natural slimy skin of a poisonous reptile. It was
evident this was no ordinary adventurer. His manner was that of a man of
the world; he had seen much, and he knew much, mostly of evil I fancied,
for all that was about him was essentially bad. A certain deference
toward him was perceptible in the manner of the other two men,
especially in that of the thick-set fellow called Jack, who lost much of
his bravado air when "the Colonel" spoke, for such was the title
accorded to the last-named of the party. The Colonel was pleased to scan
me very closely for some moments before he opened his lips. When he
spoke I was astonished at the change in his voice, which, when I first
heard it, was sharp and hard. It was now wonderfully soft and silky.

"Sir," said he, blandly, "you seem to have lost your way. Have you
walked far?"

"Not very," was my answer. "Only five miles. My mule threw me and ran
away. I was unable to catch him, and thought probably he had made his
way to this pool of water. Have you seen him?--a large brown mule, with
a roll of blankets and a coat fastened to the saddle?"

The Colonel smiled pleasantly.

"I see, friend, you are not accustomed to traveling in this rough style.
Your mule has doubtless gone back to his old quarters, wherever you got
him. A mule never goes farther in a new direction than he can help."

"But I saw him start for this point. He was very thirsty, I know; and,
besides, he came from the Colorado not over a month ago. His course
would naturally be to the southward if he desired to return to his old
quarters."

"Very likely," said the Colonel, quietly: "it may be the same mule I
sold to a gentleman from Texas down there about that time."

"Yes--I bought him from a Texan. It must be the same," I answered, glad
to find some clew, however remote, to the object of my search.

The Colonel smiled again, and expressed his regret that it was not the
nature of that mule to go in the direction of the Colorado. The fare for
mules in that region was rather dry; and the animal in question had a
very keen appreciation of good fare. At all events, no such mule had
been seen here--"unless, perhaps, you may have seen him," added the
Colonel, turning to the thick-set man, and regarding him with a peculiar
expression--the same basilisk eye that I had noticed before.

"I?" said Jack, laughing coarsely; "the last mule I saw was a small
mustang horse that belongs to myself."

"Possibly _you_ may have seen him?" suggested the Colonel, looking at
the tall, gaunt man, Griff; and here I could not but notice the change
in his expression. His brow unconsciously lowered, and there was
something devilish in the cool malignity of his eye. Griff was silent.
His frame seemed convulsed with some emotion of disgust or hatred. The
Colonel, turning quickly to me, observed, with an affected suavity,
"This man may possibly be able to tell you something about your mule."

At this the person referred to drew himself up into an erect position,
and gave a look at the Colonel--a look of such mingled hatred, defiance,
and contempt, that I expected to see the latter wilt before it or draw
his revolver. But he did neither. And here I detected the secret of his
power over the other two men--imperturbable self-possession. He merely
elevated his brows superciliously as Griff sternly remarked,

"You know as much of the mule as I do! What do you ask me for? Be
careful."

"Oh," said the Colonel, jocularly, "I thought you might have seen him
while I was absent. You know I'm not in the habit of noticing these
things."

Griff resumed his slouching attitude, stirring the fire moodily, while
the Colonel requested me to be seated, and proceeded to do the honors of
the repast. All that I have attempted to describe was perfectly quiet;
not a loud word was spoken, and but for the peculiar expression of each
face, involving some dark complicity of experience, it might have passed
unnoticed. There was really nothing said that necessarily bore an evil
import. Yet what was it that filled me with such an indefinable
abhorrence of these men--of two of them, at least? That they were
unprincipled adventurers, I knew; that they were depraved enough to be
professed gamblers, highway robbers, or horse thieves, was reasonable to
suppose from their appearance; but there was something more than that
about them. The leader was no common gambler or horse-thief. He was too
keen, too polished, too subtle for that. He might be a forger, a slave
speculator, a dealer in blood-hounds, a gambler in fancy stocks; yet
this was no country for the exercise of that sort of talent--at least
that portion of it which he had chosen as a place of temporary abode. He
might be on his way to the mines. I asked no questions. It was enough
to feel the evil influence of the present--enough to know by intuition
that the hands of this man were stained with some deadly sin.

Hungry as I was, I could not swallow the bread he gave me without a
choking sensation of disgust. The act of eating with him implied a
species of fellowship against which my very soul rebelled.

Of the swarthy man, Jack, I had a different impression. He was purely
brutal. All his instincts were coarse, savage, and depraved. Whatever
quickness or cunning he possessed was that of an animal. He was far
inferior to the other in all the essential attributes of a successful
villain. I looked upon him as upon a vicious brute.

For the tall fellow, Griff, I must confess I felt a strange sympathy.
That he was not naturally depraved, no one who looked upon his fine
features, and frank, manly bearing, could for a moment doubt. He might
be dissipated, reckless, even criminal, but he surely was not all bad.
There was something of conscience left in him yet--some human emotion of
remorse. Otherwise, why was his expression so strangely sad? Why was it
that there seemed to be no bond of sympathy between him and the
others--beyond, perhaps, some complicity in crime, either accidental or
the result of evil associations? A deadly fascination seemed to be
spread over him by the leader, against which he struggled in vain. The
slight outburst of passion which I had witnessed showed too plainly the
powerful thraldom in which he was held. His defiant tone--the withering
hatred of his eye--the impatient gesture of contempt, were but the
momentary ebullitions of a proud spirit. No sentiment of personal fear
could have found a place in that manly breast. The cause of his
submission lay deeper than that. Something of self-accusation must have
had a share in it, thus to paralyze his strength--something more
inextricable than any web that mortal man could cast over him unaided by
a sense of his own iniquity. I could not conjecture what crime he had
committed. Whatever it was, I had a strong yearning to befriend him.
Surely there was still hope for him; he could not be utterly lost
without bearing in his features the impress of unmitigated evil.

As soon as supper was over, the Colonel lighted his pipe and seemed
disposed to be sociable. It was impossible for me to get over the
abhorrence I had for this man. Even his efforts to be agreeable had
something sinister in them that increased my dislike. Still, I was in
the power of these men, whether they chose to exercise it for good or
for evil, and it behooved me to suppress any disrelish I might have for
their company.

"You came from Soledad to-day, I think you said?" observed the Colonel.

"Yes; I stopped there last night."

"Did you meet any body on the road?" he asked, carelessly.

"Only two Spaniards from Santa Marguerita." The Colonel started.

"Any news from below?"

"None that I could understand. I don't speak the Spanish language."

"You heard nothing from San Miguel?"

"No."

"Which way are you bound, if I may take the liberty of asking?"

"To San Luis. I have business there connected with the revenue service.
Unfortunately, my mule has disappeared with my blankets, coat, pistol,
what little money I had, and my official papers, which are of no use to
any body but myself. I fear the loss will subject me to great
inconvenience."

"You are aware, I suppose," said the Colonel, with the same disagreeable
smile I had before noticed, "that the road is considered a little
dangerous for solitary travelers. Murders have been committed between
this and San Miguel."

"Any lately?" I asked, assuming more composure than I felt.

"Why as for that," replied the Colonel, making an effort to be humorous,
"it would be hard for me to keep the run of all I hear in this part of
the country. Society is rather backward, and the newspapers do not keep
us advised of the current events of the day."

Here there was a pause. I felt convinced that this man was capable of
any deed, however dark and damning. Even while he spoke his fingers
played with the butt of a revolver that hung from his belt. Something
caught my eye as his hand moved--a small silver star near the lock of
the pistol. This was not an ordinary mark. I at once knew the pistol to
be mine. A friend had given it to me. The star was a fanciful device of
his own, based upon the idea that its rays would guide the bullet to its
destination. The Colonel detected my inquisitive glance, and smiled
again in his peculiar way, but said nothing. If I had any doubt on the
subject before, I now felt quite satisfied that he was not only a
villain, but one who would not hesitate to take my life if it would
serve his purpose. Whether his thoughts ran in that direction at present
I could not determine. He possessed a wonderful power of inspiring dark
impressions without uttering a word. The mere suspicion of such a design
was at least unpleasant. At length he rose, having finished smoking his
pipe, and with an air of indifference said,

"It must be getting late. Have you the time, sir?"

I pulled out my watch, scarcely conscious of the act, and remarked that
it wanted a few minutes of nine.

"A nice-looking watch, that!" observed the Colonel. "It must be worth a
hundred dollars."

"Yes, more than that," I answered; for I saw at once that any
manifestation of suspicion would be the last thing to answer my purpose.
"It cost $150 in New York. It is a genuine chronometer, and the casing
is of solid gold."

The Colonel exchanged glances with the swarthy man, Jack, and proposed
to go out and take a look at the horses. Before they had proceeded fifty
yards they stopped and looked back. Griff had been sitting moodily
before the fire during the conversation above related, and did not seem
disposed to move at the summons of his leader, who now called sharply to
him to come on. The same expression of defiant hatred that I had noticed
before flashed from the man's eyes, and for a moment he seemed to
struggle against the Colonel's malign influence. "Come!" said the
latter, sharply, "what do you lag behind for? You know your duty!"

"Yes," muttered Griff, between his set teeth, "I know it! It is hardly
necessary to remind me of it." He then rose and proceeded to join his
comrades. As he passed by where I sat he hurriedly whispered, "_Stay
where you are. Don't attempt to escape yet. Depend upon me--I'll stand
by you!_"



CHAPTER V.

THE ESCAPE.


It may readily be conceived that my sensations were not the most
pleasant during the absence of the three men in whose power I was so
strangely and unexpectedly placed. That two of them were quite capable
of murdering me, if they had not already made up their minds to do so,
was beyond question. I looked around, and saw to my dismay that they
scarcely took the trouble to conceal the robbery they had already
perpetrated. My blankets lay under a tree not over fifteen steps from
the fire, and my coat and saddle were carelessly thrown among the common
camp equipments in the same place. What could one unarmed man do against
three, or even two, fully armed desperadoes? My first impulse was to
steal away, now that there was a chance--perhaps the only one I might
have--and conceal myself in the bushes till morning, then endeavor to
make my way along the bed of the creek to Soledad. Better trust to the
grizzly bears than to such men as the Colonel and Jack. But it was more
than probable they were thoroughly acquainted with every thicket and
trail in the country, and would not be long in overtaking me on
horseback. There was another serious consideration: I could not well
afford to lose my mule, money, and papers. The latter were of
incalculable value, and could not be replaced. I had no idea that they
had been suffered to remain in my coat pocket. So adroit a speculator as
the Colonel must have ascertained their contents and placed them beyond
danger of recovery. Besides, the man Griff had warned me not to attempt
an escape yet. Was he to be trusted? Surely I could not be deceived in
him. What object could he have in warning me unless to provide for my
safety?

These considerations were unanswerable. I determined to remain and abide
the issue.

It is said that danger sharpens men's wits. I believe it; for while
there was ample reason to suppose these men were deliberating upon my
destruction, a scheme flashed upon my mind which I at once resolved to
carry into effect. Up to this period I had given them a plain statement
of my misfortune. They evidently regarded me as a very simple-minded and
inexperienced traveler. Nothing could be easier than to improve upon
that idea.

As soon as they returned and resumed their places around the fire, I
made some casual inquiries of the Colonel about the route from San
Miguel to San Luis Obispo, professing to be exceedingly anxious to reach
the latter place within five or six days.

The Colonel was bland and obliging as usual, giving me, without reserve,
full particulars in regard to the route.

"But what's your hurry?" said he, smiling in his accustomed manner; "why
not stay with us a few days and make yourself comfortable? The weather
is rather warm for so long a pedestrian tour--unless, indeed, something
is to be made by it." This he said with a low chuckle and a significant
glance at the fellow with the thick neck.

"That is precisely why I want to get on," I answered; "a great deal is
to be made by it if I get there in time, and a great deal lost if I
don't. A vessel laden with foreign goods has gone ashore on the beach
below the Embarcadera. I have advices that most of the cargo is saved.
The duties, according to a copy of the manifest forwarded to the
Custom-house at San Francisco, amount to over ten thousand dollars. The
supercargo writes that he can sell out on advantageous terms at San
Luis, provided he can pay the duties there to some authorized officer of
the government within the period named. I am on my way down to receive
the money. If I can get back with it to San Francisco within ten or
twelve days, it will be of considerable advantage to the government as
well as to myself. Unfortunately, there is no water communication at
present, or I might gain time by taking a vessel. However, I apprehend
no difficulty in being able to hire a mule at San Miguel. As for the
stories of robbery and murder on the road, I have no faith in them. At
all events, I am not afraid to try the experiment."

This communication made an evident impression upon the minds of the
Colonel and Jack, both of whom listened with intense interest. The man
Griff looked a little puzzled, but a casual glance reassured him: he at
once caught at my meaning. I could see that the Colonel was embarrassed
as to what course to pursue in reference to the stolen property. He held
down his head for some time, pretending to be occupied in clearing the
stem of his pipe, but it was apparent that he was in considerable
perplexity. Deep and guarded as he was, it was not difficult to
conjecture what was passing in his mind. There was now a strong
inducement for permitting me to proceed on my journey. The prospect of
securing ten thousand dollars was worthy of some risk; yet, if he
acknowledged the stealing of my mule and other property, it was not
likely I would again place myself in his power. On the other hand, I had
seen the pistol, and must have some suspicion of the true state of the
case.

I have often observed that men deeply versed in villainy, while they
possess a certain sort of sagacity, are deficient in the perception of
character when it involves a more comprehensive knowledge of human
nature than usually falls within the limits of their individual
experience. They are quick to detect every species of vulgar trickery,
but their capacity to cope with straightforward truth is limited. They
suspect either too much or too little, and lose confidence in their own
penetration. With men like themselves they understand how to deal--they
know by intuition the governing motives; but simplicity and frankness
are weapons to which they are not accustomed. A direct statement of
facts, in which they can see no motive of prudence, sets them at fault.
They can analyze well through a dark atmosphere, but, like night-birds,
have very dim perceptive powers in daylight.

While the Colonel could discover no interested motive in my simple
statement respecting the loss of a vessel on the coast (of which he had
probably heard from other sources), and could see no reason why I should
not be simple enough to come back with a large sum of money, since I had
been simple enough to lose a valuable mule and exhibit a valuable watch,
he nevertheless seemed unable to extricate himself from suspicion in
reference to the pistol--the only article of my property which he had
reason to suppose I had seen. He could easily have said that he had
found it on the trail; but he was not skilled in degrees of innocence.
He had deferred his explanation too long, and, judging by himself, could
not imagine that any other person would credit so flimsy a statement. In
this he was correct, but his one-sided sagacity led him into puzzling
inconsistencies.

To lull all suspicion on this point was indispensable to the success of
my plan. The apparent confidence which I had manifested in the good
faith of the party tended greatly to prevent the leader from coming to a
satisfactory conclusion. So at least it appeared to me, as I watched the
uncertain movements of his hands and the changing expression of his
countenance. He was evidently aware that I had seen the star on the
handle of the pistol, yet my conduct indicated no suspicion. It was
necessary that I should remove whatever doubt on the subject might be
lurking in his mind. With this in view, I took occasion to renew the
conversation relative to the route, stating that although I apprehended
little danger, it was still an awkward position to be entirely without
arms in a strange country.

"The loss of my pistol," said I, "is a serious inconvenience. It must
have fallen from my belt when the mule threw me, and become covered with
dust. I could go back and find the place, but that would occupy nearly
half a day, and I can not afford to lose the time. The only particular
value the pistol has is that it is a present from a friend who belonged
to the Order of the Lone Star of Texas. The badge of the Association is
marked upon the handle, as usual with arms belonging to the members."

"Yes," said the Colonel, after a pause, "I once belonged to that Order
myself, and have a pistol similarly marked."

"Perhaps you would be willing to dispose of it?" I observed. "Not that I
have any money, but I would cheerfully give my watch for a good pistol,
which would be at least three times its value."

"My dear sir," said the Colonel, affecting an air of injured pride, "you
certainly can not be aware that a member of the Lone Star never sells or
barters his arms. Any thing else, but not his weapons of personal
defense. Fortunately, however, I have a spare revolver, which is
entirely at your service. As for your watch, I should be sorry to
deprive you of so useful an article, and one which would be of no value
to myself. Time is of little consequence to men who are accustomed to
spend it as they please, and whose chief dependence is on the sun, moon,
and stars."

I accepted the proffered gift, as may be supposed, without the slightest
qualms of conscience in depriving the donor of so valuable a piece of
property; and having expressed my thanks, noticed that, while pretending
to search for the pistol among the camp equipments, he took care to
cover up my blanket and coat.

The Colonel soon returned to the fire, and handed me a very handsome
revolver, a belt, powder-flask, and small leather bag containing caps,
balls, and other necessary appendages. It struck me as a little strange
that, having apparently made up his mind to let me depart, he had not
offered to lend me an animal to ride upon; but a moment's reflection
satisfied me that there was good cause for this. There could be no
doubt, from the character of the party, that the horses were stolen, and
would be recognized on the road. Besides, he knew I could easily hire a
horse or mule at San Miguel.

After this I observed that the Colonel took occasion to speak a few
words to Jack, the import of which I could only conjecture had some
reference to my papers. Jack answered aloud, "Yes, the grass is bad
there. I'll go put my mustang in another place." He then walked away,
and the Colonel busied himself in preparing our sleeping quarters for
the night.

It was nearly eleven o'clock. In about fifteen minutes Jack returned,
and we all lay down in different directions, within a short distance of
the fire. A saddle-blanket, kindly furnished by my chief entertainer,
enabled me to make quite a comfortable bed.

The night was mild and pleasant. A clear sky, spangled with stars, was
visible through the tops of the trees, and never had I seen it look so
beautifully serene. Could it be that guilt could slumber peacefully
under that heavenly canopy? Surely the evil spirit must be strong in
the hearts of men who, unconscious of the reproving purity of such a
night, could thus forget their sins, and lie calmly sleeping upon the
bosom of their mother earth. How deadened by a long career of crime must
conscience be in the breast of him who, steeped in guilt, could thus, in
the presence of his Maker,

            "O'erlabored with his being's strife,
      Sink to that sweet forgetfulness of life!"

Neither the Colonel nor the man Jack moved an inch after taking their
places. I almost envied them their capacity to sleep, so gentle and
profound was their oblivion to the world and all its cares. To me this
refreshing luxury was denied. My fate seemed to hang upon a thread. I
could not feel any confidence in these men. They might become suspicious
at any moment, and murder me as I lay helpless before them. For over two
hours I watched them; they never moved. The probable fact was, they had
made up their minds not to molest me, in view of the large sum of money
I expected to collect at San Luis. My course seemed clear enough. But
here was the difficulty. I could do nothing without my papers. Nor was I
content to lose my mule, saddle, and blankets, which I knew to be in
their possession.

The tall man, Griff, was restless, and turned repeatedly, moaning in his
sleep, "God have pity on me! Oh God, have pity on me!"

It was a sad sight to behold him. No mortal eye could fathom the
sufferings that thus moved him. Truly,

      "The mind that broods o'er guilty woes
        Is like a scorpion girt by fire."

At length--it must have been about an hour before day--he arose, looked
cautiously around, and, seeing all quiet, beckoned to me, and stealthily
left the camp. On his way out he gathered up my blanket, saddle, and
coat in his arms, and looked back to see if I had taken the hint. I lost
no time in slipping from my covering, and following his receding figure.
It was a trying moment. I expected to see the other two men rise, and
held my pistol ready for defense. In a few minutes we were beyond
immediate danger of discovery.

"Now," said Griff--"now is your time. Here is your mule. Mount him and
be off! They will undertake to pursue you as soon as they discover your
absence; but I shall loose the riatas, and it will take them some time
to catch the horses. You will find your papers on the trail as soon as
you strike the plain. Get to San Miguel, and you are safe. They dare not
go there; _but don't stop on the way_."

While he was talking Griff fixed my saddle and pack on the mule, and I
mounted without loss of time. What could I do to reward this noble
fellow? In the hurry of the moment I handed him my watch.

"Friend," said I, "you have done me an inestimable service. Take this
trifle as a keepsake, and with it my best thanks. You and I may never
meet again."

"No, it is not likely we shall," said Griff, sadly. "Our ways are
different. Keep your watch; I can't accept it. All I ask of you is not
to judge me harshly. Good-by!"

The impulse to serve this unfortunate man was irresistible. I could not
leave him thus. It was no idle curiosity that prompted me to probe the
mystery of his conduct.

"In heaven's name, friend, why do you stay with these bad men? What
unholy power have they over you? Leave them, I implore you--leave them
at once and forever. Come with me. I will do all I can for you. Surely
you are not too far gone in crime for repentance. The vilest sinner may
be saved!"

The poor fellow's frame was convulsed with agony. He sobbed like a
child, and for a moment seemed unable to speak. Suddenly, as if
recollecting himself, he said,

"No, sir, I can not turn traitor. It is no use--I am gone beyond
redemption. Their fate must be mine. God pity me! I struggled hard
against the evil spirit, but he has conquered. I am gone, sir--gone!
Yet, believe me, I am not wholly depraved--a criminal in the eyes of
the law; a robber; an outcast from society and civilization; but (here
he lowered his voice to a whisper)--but NOT A MURDERER. Oh God, pity me!
My mother--my poor old mother!"

This was all. The next moment he turned away, and was lost in the gloom
of the trees.



CHAPTER VI.

A LONELY RIDE.


As I struck into the trail and out into the broad valley of the Salinas
a sense of freedom relieved me in some degree of the gloom inspired by
the last words of this strangely unfortunate man. The stars were shining
brightly overhead, but the moon had gone down some time previously. It
was just light enough to see the way. A small white object lying in the
trail caused the mule to start. In the excitement of my escape I had
forgotten about the papers. Here they were, all safe. I had no doubt
they had been thus disposed of by the ruffian Jack during the previous
evening when he took occasion to absent himself from the camp. I quickly
dismounted and placed the package securely in the leg of one of my
boots, then pushed on with all speed to reach a turning-point of the
mountains some distance ahead, in order to be out of sight by the dawn
of day, which could not be far off. In about an hour I had gained this
point, and at the same time the first faint streaks of the coming day
began to appear in the eastern sky. The air was peculiarly balmy--cool
enough to be pleasant, and deliciously odorous with the herbage of the
mountains. Already the deer began to leave their coverts among the
shrubbery on the hill-sides, and numerous bands of them stood gazing at
me as I passed, their antlers erect, their beautiful forms motionless,
as if hewn from the solid rock, but manifesting more curiosity than
fear. Thousands of rabbits frisked about in the open glades, and
innumerable flocks of quail flitted from bush to bush. The field-larks
and doves made the air musical with their joyous hymns of praise to the
rising sun; the busy hum of bees rose among the wild flowers by the
wayside; all nature seemed to awake from its repose smiling with a
celestial joy. In no other country upon earth have I seen such mornings
as in the interior of California--so clear, bright, and sparkling--so
rich and glowing in atmospheric tints--so teeming with unbounded
opulence in all that gives vigor, health, and beauty to animated nature,
and inspiration to the higher faculties of man. There is a redundancy of
richness in the earth, air, and light unknown even in that land of
fascination which is said to possess "the fatal gift of beauty."

  [Illustration: A LONELY RIDE.]

Contrasted with the dark spirit of crime that hung over my late
encampment, such a morning was inexpressibly lovely. Every breath of
air--every sound that broke upon the listening ear--every thought of the
vast wild plains and towering mountains that swept around me in the
immeasurable distance, inspired vague and unutterable sensations of
pleasure and pain--pleasure that I was free and capable of enjoying such
exquisite physical and mental luxuries; pain that here, on God's own
footstool,

      "All but the spirit of man was divine."

As the sun rose, and spread over mountain and valley a drapery of
glowing light, giving promise of continued life to the birds of the air
and the beasts of the field, I could not but think with sadness how
man--made after God's own image, the most perfect of his works, gifted
with reason and intelligence--should so strangely turn aside from the
teachings of his Maker, and cast away the pure enjoyments so bountifully
spread before him. Was it possible that a single created being, however
steeped in crime, could be insensible to the soothing and humanizing
influences of such a scene?

The unhappy fate of the poor fellow to whom I was so deeply indebted
haunted me. He, at least, must have felt the better promptings of his
inner nature amid these beautiful works of a beneficent Creator. Surely
such a man could never be utterly lost. There were noble traits in his
character that must, some time or other, assert their supremacy.
Honorable even in his degradation, he scorned to turn traitor to men
whom he despised. His was not a nature formed for cruel and crafty
deeds. Frank, manly, and ingenuous in his whole bearing, there was
evidence of innate nobility in his misguided sense of honor, and a
manifest scorn of deception in his wild outbursts of passion. What could
have driven him to this career of crime? What satanic power was that by
which he was enthralled? I could not believe that he was voluntarily
bad. That single outburst of emotion as he spoke of his mother would
have redeemed him had he been the worst of criminals. A career of
dissipation must have brought him to this. He was evidently compromised,
but to what extent? Some painful mystery hung over his connection with
these bad men--I could not fathom it. The more I reflected upon all I
had seen and heard, the more profound became my sympathy; nor is it an
affectation of generosity to say that I would have sacrificed much to
have saved him. Yet this man's case was not an uncommon one in
California. There were many there, even at that early period, and there
are still many, who, with the noblest attributes that adorn human
nature, have become castaways.

As the day advanced a marked change became perceptible in the character
of the country. Passing out from the valley of the Salinas to the right,
the trail entered a series of smaller valleys, winding from one to
another through a succession of narrow cañons between low, gravelly
hills, destitute of shrubbery, and of a peculiarly whitish and barren
aspect. The scene was no longer enlivened by bands of deer and smaller
game, such as I had seen in the morning; the birds had also disappeared;
not a living thing was in sight save a few buzzards hovering in the air
over the bleached and sterile hills, and occasionally a coyote or
wild-cat skulking stealthily across the trail. Toward noon the earth
became like a fiery furnace. The air was scorching. In the narrow
passages, where the hills converged into a focus, cutting off every
current of air, the refraction of the sun's rays was absolutely
terrific. It seemed as if my very clothing must crisp into tinder and
drop from my body. The skin peeled from my face and hands; a thick
woolen hat was insufficient to keep the fierce and seething heat from my
head, and I sometimes feared I would be smitten to the earth. Not
knowing the water-holes, or rather having no time to look for them, I
was parched with an intolerable thirst. On every eminence I turned to
look back, but nothing was in sight save the dreary waste of barren
hills that lay behind.

Toward evening, having stopped only a few minutes at a pool of water, my
mule began to lag again. I had no spurs, and it was utterly in vain that
I urged him on by kicks and blows. His greatest speed was a slow trot,
and to keep that up for a few hundred yards at a time required my utmost
efforts. By sundown I estimated that the distance to San Miguel must be
twelve or fifteen miles. It was a very unpleasant position to be
in--pursued, as I had every reason to suppose, by men who would not
hesitate to take my life, yet unable to accelerate the speed of my
animal. All I could do was to continue beating him.

The country became still more lonesome and desolate as I advanced. The
chances of being overtaken momentarily increased. My anxiety to reach
San Miguel caused me to forget all the sufferings of fatigue and thirst,
and strain every nerve to get my mule over the ground. But the greater
the effort the slower he traveled. It was true, I had a pistol, and
could make some defense. Yet the chances were greatly against me.
Unskilled in this sort of warfare, an indifferent rider, unacquainted
with the trails by which I might be cut off and surprised, it seemed
indeed a very hopeless case, should such an emergency arise. Besides, it
would be very little satisfaction to shoot one, or even two men, against
whom I felt no enmity, and whose lives were worth nothing to me, and
still less to get killed myself. The truth is, I had a particular relish
for life; others were interested in it as well as myself, and I did not
feel disposed to risk it unnecessarily.

The sun went down at last, and the soft shadows of night began to soften
the asperities of the scene. I rode on, never once relaxing my efforts
to get a little more speed out of my mule. The moon rose, and
innumerable stars twinkled in the sky. The air became delightfully
balmy. Long shadows of rocks and trees swept across the trail. Mystic
forms seemed to flit through the dim distance, or stand like ghostly
sentinels along the wayside. Often I fancied I could see men on
horseback stationed under the overhanging rocks, and detect the glitter
of their arms in the moonlight. Stumps of trees riven by the storms of
winter loomed up among the rocks like grim spectres; the very bushes
assumed fantastic forms, and waved their long arms in gestures of
warning. The howling of innumerable coyotes and the hooting of the
night-owls had a singularly weird effect in the stillness of the night.



CHAPTER VII.

THE ATTACK.


It must have been nearly ten o'clock when my mule suddenly stopped,
turned around, and set up that peculiar nickering bray by which these
animals hail the approach of strangers. As soon as he ceased his
unwelcome noise I listened, and distinctly heard the clatter of hoofs in
the road, about half a mile in the rear. That my pursuers were rapidly
approaching there was now very little doubt. It was useless to attempt
to reach San Miguel, which must be still four or five miles distant. I
had no time, and resolved at once to make for a little grove some three
or four hundred yards to the right. As I approached the nearest trees I
was rejoiced to see something like a fence. A little farther on was a
gray object with a distinct outline. It must be a house. There was no
light; but I soon discovered that I was within fifty yards of a small
adobe building. My mule now pricked up his ears, snuffed the air wildly,
and absolutely refused to move a step nearer. I dismounted, and tried to
drag him toward the door. His terror seemed unconquerable. With starting
eyes, and a wild blowing sound from his nostrils, he broke away and
dashed out into the plain. I speedily lost sight of him.

This time I had taken the precaution to secure my papers and pistol on
my person. The mule had taken the direction of San Miguel; but, even
should I be unable to recover him, the loss would not be so great as
before. However, it was no time to calculate losses. The clatter of
hoofs grew nearer and nearer, and soon the advancing forms of two
mounted men became distinctly visible in the moonlight. There was no
alternative but to seek security in the old adobe. I ran for the door
and pushed it open. The house was evidently untenanted. No answer was
made to my summons save a mocking echo from the bare walls. My pursuers
must have caught sight of me as they approached. I could hear their
imprecations as they tried to force their animals up to the door. One of
the party--the Colonel, whose voice I had no difficulty in recognizing,
said,

"Blast the fellow! what did he come here for?"

The other answered with an oath and a brutal laugh,

"We've got him holed, any how. It won't take long to root him out."

They then dismounted and proceeded to tie their horses to the nearest
tree. I could hear them talk as they receded, but could not make out
what they said.

While this was going on I had closed the door, and was looking for some
bolt or fastening, when I heard the low, fierce growl of some animal.
There was no time to conjecture what it was; the next moment a furry
skin brushed past, and the animal sprang through an opening in the wall.

A wooden bar was all I could find; but the iron fastening had been
broken, and the only way of securing the door was to brace the bar
against it in a diagonal position. The floor was of rough hard clay, and
served in some sort to prevent the brace from slipping. A few moments of
painful anxiety passed. I had drawn my revolver, and stood close against
the inner wall, prepared to fire upon the first man that entered.
Presently the two men returned, approaching stealthily along the wall,
so as to avoid coming in range of the door. The sharp, hard voice of the
Colonel first broke the silence.

"Come," said he, "open the door! You can't help yourself now! It is all
up with you, my fine fellow!"

I knew the villains wanted to find my position, and made no answer.

"You may as well come out at once," said the Colonel; "you have no
chance. There is nobody here to stand by you as there was last night.
Your friend is keeping camp with a bullet through his head and a gash in
his throat."

Pressed as I was, this news shocked me beyond measure. The unfortunate
man who had befriended me had paid the penalty of his life for his
kindness.

"Out with you!" roared the Colonel, fiercely, "or we'll burst the door
down. Come, be quick!"

  [Illustration: THE ATTACK.]

Another pause. I heard a low whispering, and stood with breathless
anxiety with my finger upon the trigger of my pistol. In that brief
period it was wonderful how many thoughts flashed through my mind. I
knew nothing of the construction of the house; had no time even to look
around and see if there was any back entrance. A faint light through one
small window-hole in front, within three feet of the door, was all I
could discern. Every nerve was strained to its utmost tension. My sense
of hearing was painfully acute. The low whispering of the two ruffians,
the faint jingling of their spurs, the very creaking of their boots, as
they stealthily moved, was fearfully audible. With an almost absolute
certainty of death, without the remotest hope of relief, it was strange
how my thoughts wandered back upon the past; how the peaceful fireside
of home was pictured to my mind; how vividly I saw the beloved faces of
kindred and friends; how all that were dear to me seemed to sympathize
in my unhappy fate. Yet it was impossible to realize that my time had
come. The whole thing--the camp, the dark, murderous faces, the chase,
the blockade--resembled rather some horrible fantasy than the dread
truth. Strange, too, that I should have noticed something even grotesque
in my situation; run into a hole, as the ruffian Jack had said, like a
coyote or a badger. Five minutes--it seemed a long time--must have
passed in this way, when I became conscious of a gradual darkening in
the room. A low, heavy breathing attracted my attention. I looked in the
direction of the window, and thought I could detect something moving;
but the darkness was so impenetrable that it might be the result of
imagination. Should I fire and miss my mark, the flash would reveal my
position and be certain destruction. The dark mass again moved. I could
distinctly hear the respiration. It must be one of the men trying to get
in through the small window-hole. I raised my pistol, took dead aim as
near as possible upon the centre of the object, and fired. The fall of a
heavy body outside, a groan, an imprecation, was all I could hear, when
a tremendous effort was made to force the door, and two shots were fired
through it in quick succession. The wood was massive, but much decayed;
and I saw that it was rapidly giving way before the furious assaults
that were made upon it from the outside, evidently with a heavy piece of
timber. Another lunge or two of this powerful battering-ram must have
borne it from its hinges or shattered it to fragments.

"Hold on, Jack!" said the wounded man in a low voice; "come here, quick!
The infernal fool has shot me through the shoulder! I'm bleeding badly."

The ruffian dropped his bar, as I judged by the sound, and turned to
drag his leader out of range of the door. Now was the time for a bold
move. Hitherto I had acted on the defensive; but every thing depended on
following up the advantage. Removing the brace from the door, I made an
opening sufficient to get a glimpse of the two men. The stout fellow,
Jack, was stooping down, dragging the other toward the corner of the
house. I fired again. The ball was too low; it missed his body, but must
have shattered his wrist; for, with a horrible oath, he dropped his
burden, and staggered back a few paces writhing with pain, his hand
covered with blood. Before I could get another shot he darted behind the
house. At the same time the Colonel rose on his knee, turned quickly,
and fired. The ball whizzed by my head and struck the door. While I was
trying to get a shot at him in return, he jumped to his feet and
staggered out of range. I thought it best now to rest satisfied with my
success so far, and again retired to my position behind the door.

For the next ten or fifteen minutes I could hear, from time to time, the
smothered imprecations of the wounded ruffians, but after this there was
a dead silence. I heard nothing more. They had either gone or were lying
in wait near by, supposing I would come out. This uncertainty caused me
considerable anxiety, for I dared not abandon my gloomy retreat. Two or
three hours must have passed in this way, during which I was constantly
on the guard; but not the slightest indication of the presence of the
enemy was perceptible.

Two nights had nearly passed, during which I had not closed my eyes in
sleep. The perpetual strain of mind and the fatigue of travel were
beginning to tell. I felt faint and drowsy. During the whole terrible
ordeal of this night I had not dared to sit down. But now my legs
refused to support me any longer. I groped my way toward a corner of the
room to lie down. Some soft mass on the ground caused me to stumble. I
threw out my hands and fell. What was it that sent such a thrill of
horror through every fibre? A dead body lay in my embrace--cold,
mutilated, and clotted with blood!

It has been my fortune, during a long career of travel in foreign lands,
to see death in many forms. I do not profess to be exempt from the
weakness common to most men--a natural dread of that undiscovered region
toward which we are all traveling. But I never had any peculiar
repugnance to the presence of dead men. What are they, after all, but
inanimate clay? The living are to be feared--not the dead, who sleep the
sleep that knows no waking. Not this--not the sudden contact with a
corpse; not simply the cold and blood-clotted face over which I passed
my hand was it that caused me to recoil with such a thrill of horror. It
was the solution of a dread mystery. There, in a pool of clotted gore,
lay the corpse of a murdered man. No need was there to conjecture who
were his murderers.

I rose up, thoroughly aroused from my drowsiness. It was probable others
had shared the fate of this man. If so, their bodies must be near at
hand. I was afraid to open the door to let in the light, for, bad as it
was to be shut up in a dark room with the victim or victims of a cruel
murder, it was worse to incur the risk of a similar fate by exposing
myself. After somewhat recovering my composure I groped about, and soon
discovered that three other bodies were lying in the room: one on a
bed--a woman with her throat cut from ear to ear--and two smaller bodies
on the floor near by--children perhaps eight or ten years old, but so
mutilated that it was difficult to tell what they were. Their limbs were
almost denuded of flesh, and their faces and bodies were torn into
shapeless masses. This must have been the finishing work of the
animal--a coyote no doubt--that had startled me with a growl, and broken
through the window after I had first closed the door. I could also now
account for the strange manner in which the mule had snuffed the air,
and his unconquerable terror in approaching the house.

Only a few articles of furniture were in the room--a bed, two or three
broken stools, a frying-pan, coffee-pot, and a few other cooking
utensils, thrown in a heap near the fireplace. There was no other room;
nor was there any back entrance, as I had at first apprehended.

It was a gloomy place enough to spend a night in, but there was no help
for it. I certainly had less fear of the dead than of the living. It
could not be over two or three hours till morning; and it was not likely
the two men, who were seeking my life, would lurk about the premises
much longer, if they had not long since taken their departure, which
seemed the most probable.

I knelt down and commended my soul to God; then stretched myself across
the brace against the door, and, despite the presence of death, fell
fast asleep. It was broad daylight when I awoke. The sun's earliest rays
were pouring into the room through the little window and the cracks of
the door. A ghastly spectacle was revealed--a ghastly array of
room-mates lying stiff and stark before me.

From the general appearance of the dead bodies I judged them to be an
emigrant family from some of the Western States. They had probably taken
up a temporary residence in the old adobe hut after crossing the plains
by the southern route, and must have had money or property of some kind
to have inspired the cupidity of their murderers. The man was apparently
fifty years of age; his skull was split completely open, and his brains
scattered out upon the earthen floor. The woman was doubtless his wife.
Her clothes were torn partly from her body, and her head was cut nearly
off from her shoulders; besides which, her skull was fractured with
some dull instrument, and several ghastly wounds disfigured her person.
The bedclothes were saturated with blood, now clotted by the parching
heat. The two children had evidently been cut down by the blows of an
axe. Their heads were literally shattered to fragments. What the
murderers had failed to accomplish in mutilating the bodies had been
completed by some ravenous beast of prey--the same, no doubt, already
mentioned.

I saw no occasion to prolong my stay. It was hardly probable the Colonel
and Jack, wounded as they were, would renew their attack. They must have
made their way back to camp, or at least retired to some part of the
country where they would incur less risk of capture.



CHAPTER VIII.

SAN MIGUEL.


It was a bright and beautiful morning as I left the house and turned
toward San Miguel. The contrast between the peaceful scene before me and
the horrible sight I had just witnessed was exceedingly impressive. The
mellow light of the early sun on the mountains; the winding streams
fringed with shrubbery; the rich, golden hue of the valley; the cattle
grazing quietly in the low meadows bordering on the Salinas River; the
singing of the birds in the oak groves, were indescribably refreshing to
a fevered mind, and filled my heart with thankfulness that I was spared
to enjoy them once more. Yet I could not but think of what I had
witnessed in the adobe hut--a whole family cut down by the ruthless
hands of murderers who might still be lurking behind the bushes on the
wayside. Their dreadful crime haunted the scene, and its exquisite
repose seemed almost a cruel mockery. De Quincey somewhere remarks that
he never experienced such profound sensations of sadness as on a bright
summer day, when the very luxuriance and maturity of outer life, and
the fullness of sunshine that filled the visible world, made the
desolation and the darkness within the more oppressive. I could now well
understand the feeling; and though grief had but little part in it,
beyond a natural regret for the unhappy fate of the murdered family,
still it was sad to feel the contrast between the purity and beauty of
God's creation and the willful wickedness of man.

I had not lost the strong instinct of self-preservation, which, so far
at least, through the kind aid of Providence, had enabled me to preserve
my life; and in my lonely walk toward San Miguel I was careful to keep
in the open valley, and avoid, as much as possible, coming within range
of the rocks and bushes. In about an hour I saw the red tile roofs and
motley collection of ruinous old buildings that comprised the former
missionary station of San Miguel. A gang of lean wolfish dogs ran out to
meet me as I approached, and it was not without difficulty that I could
keep them off without resorting to my revolver, which was an alternative
that might produce a bad impression where I most hoped to meet with a
friendly reception. As I approached the main buildings I was struck with
the singularly wild and desolate aspect of the place. Not a living being
was in sight. The carcass of a dead ox lay in front of the door, upon
which a voracious brood of buzzards were feeding; and a coyote sat
howling on an eminence a little beyond. I walked into a dark, dirty
room, and called out, in what little Spanish I knew, for the man of the
house. "_Quien es?_" demanded a gruff voice. I looked in a corner, and
saw a filthy-looking object, wrapped in a poncho, sitting lazily on a
bed. By his uncouth manner and forbidding appearance I judged him to be
the vaquero in charge of the place, in which I was not mistaken. With
considerable difficulty I made him comprehend that I had lost my mule,
and supposed it had strayed to San Miguel.

"_Quien sabe?_" said the fellow, indifferently.

  [Illustration: SAN MIGUEL.]

Could he not find it? I would be willing to reward him. I would give
him the blankets. I was an _Oficiál_, and was on my way to San Luis
Obispo. To each of these propositions the man returned a stupid and
yawning answer, "_Quien sabe_--who knows?"

Finding nothing to be gained on that point, I asked him for something to
eat, for I was well-nigh famished with hunger. He pointed lazily to a
string of jerked beef strung across the rafters. It required but little
time to select a few dry pieces, and while I was eating them the fellow
asked me if I had any tobacco. I handed him a plug, which speedily
produced a good effect, for he got up and passed me a plate of cold
tortillas. When I had somewhat satisfied the cravings of hunger, I asked
him, in my broken Spanish, if he had heard of the murder--five persons
killed in an old adobe house near by. "_Quien sabe?_" said he, in the
same indifferent tone. "_Muchos malhos hombres aqui._" This was all he
knew, or professed to know, of the murder.

"Amigo," said I, "if you'll get my mule and bring him here, I'll give
you this watch."

He took the watch and examined it carefully, handed it back, and
remarked as before, "_Quien sabe?_" The glitter of the gold, however,
seemed to quicken his perceptive faculties to this extent that he got up
from the bed, put on his spurs, took a riata from a peg on the wall, and
walked out, leaving me to entertain myself as I thought proper during
his absence.

Having finished a substantial repast of jerked beef and tortillas, I
went out and rambled about among the ruins for nearly an hour. A few
lazy and thriftless Indians, lying in the sun here and there, were all
the inhabitants of the place I could see. This ranch must have been a
very desirable residence in former times. The climate is charming,
except that it was a little warm in summer, and the cattle ranges are
richly clothed with grass and very extensive.

  [Illustration: A SPANISH CABALLERO.]

In about an hour my friend the vaquero came back, mounted on a broncho
or wild horse, leading after him my mule, with the pack unchanged.
From what I could understand, he had found the mule entangled by the
bridle in the bushes, some three miles on the trail toward San Luis.
According to promise, I handed him my watch. He took it and examined it
again, then handed it back without saying a word.

"_Amigo_," said I, "the watch is yours. I promised it to you if you
found my mule."

To this he merely shrugged his shoulders.

"Won't you take it? I have no money."

"No, señor," said he, at length, with a somewhat haughty air, "I am a
Spanish gentleman."

"Oh, I beg your pardon. Will you do me the favor, then, to accept a plug
of tobacco?"

I opened my pack and handed him a large plug of the finest pressed
Cavendish.

"_Mil gracias!_" said the Spanish gentleman, smiling affably, and making
a condescending inclination of the head. "That suits me better. A watch
is bad property here. I don't want to be killed yet a while."

Here was a hint of his reason for declining the proffered reward. But he
did it very grandly; and I was quite willing to accord to him the title
of Señor Caballero to which he aspired, though he certainly looked as
unlike the Caballeros described by the learned Fray Antonio Agapida, who
went out to make war upon the Moors of Granada, as one distinguished
individual can look unlike another.

There was ample reason why I should regard my mule with dissatisfaction.
All my misfortunes, so far, had arisen from his defective physical and
mental organization (if I may use the term in reference to such an
animal); but the fact is, it has been my fate, as far back as I can
recollect, to have the worst stock in the country foisted upon me. Never
yet, up to this hour, have I succeeded in purchasing a sound, safe, and
reliable animal--except, indeed, an old horse that I once owned in
Oakland, generally known in the neighborhood as Selim the Steady--a
name derived from his unconquerable propensity for remaining in the
stable, or getting back to it as soon as ever he left the premises.

The vaquero, or, as he aspired to be called, the Caballero, offered to
barter his broncho for my mule, and, as an inducement, set him to
bucking all over the ground within a circle of fifty yards, merely to
show the spirit of the animal, of which I was so well satisfied that I
declined the barter.



CHAPTER IX.

A DANGEROUS ADVENTURE.


Bidding my worthy friend a kindly "adios," I mounted the mule and
pursued my journey toward San Luis. The country, for many miles after
leaving San Miguel, was very wild and picturesque. Blue mountains loomed
up in the distance; and the trail passed through a series of beautifully
undulating valleys, sometimes extensive and open, but often narrowed
down to a mere gorge between the irregular spurs of the mountains. Game
was very abundant, especially quail and rabbits. I saw also several fine
herds of deer, and occasionally bands of large red wolves. It was a very
lonesome road all the way to the valley of Santa Marguerita, not a house
or human being to be seen for twenty miles at a stretch. Toward evening,
on the first day after leaving San Miguel, I descended the bed of a
creek to water my mule. While looking for the water-hole, I heard some
voices, and suddenly found myself close by a camp of Sonoranians. It was
too late to retreat, for I was already betrayed by the braying of my
mule. Upon riding into the camp I was struck with the savage and
picturesque group before me, consisting of some ten or a dozen
Sonoranians. It is doing them no more than justice to say that they were
the most villainous, cut-throat, ill-favored looking gang of vagabonds
I had ever laid eyes upon. Some were smoking cigarritos by the fire,
others lying all about the trees playing cards, on their ragged
saddle-blankets, with little piles of silver before them; and those that
were not thus occupied were capering around on wild horses, breaking
them apparently, for the blood streamed from the nostrils and flanks of
the unfortunate animals, and they were covered with a reeking sweat.

Probably it may be thought that I exceeded the truth when I asked this
promising party if they had seen six "Americanos" pass that way with a
pack-train from San Luis, friends of mine that I was on the look-out
for. They had seen no such pack-train; it had not passed since they
camped there, which was several days ago.

"Then," said I, "it must be close at hand, and I must hurry on to meet
it. The mules are laden with _mucha plata_."

Having watered my mule, I rode on about five miles farther, where I
reached a small ranch-house occupied by a native Californian family.
They gave me a good supper of frijoles and jerked beef, and I slept
comfortably on the porch.

Next day I struck into the Valley of Santa Marguerita. I shall never
forget my first impression of this valley. Encircled by ranges of blue
mountains were broad, rich pastures, covered with innumerable herds of
cattle; beautifully diversified with groves, streams, and shrubbery;
castellated cliffs in the foreground as the trail wound downward; a
group of cattle grazing by the margin of a little lake, their forms
mirrored in the water; a mirage in the distance; mountain upon mountain
beyond, as far as the eye could reach, till their dim outlines were lost
in the golden glow of the atmosphere. Surely a more lovely spot never
existed upon earth. I have wandered over many a bright and beautiful
land, but never, even in the glorious East, in Italy, Spain,
Switzerland, or South America, have I seen a country so richly favored
by nature as California, and never a more lovely valley than Santa
Marguerita upon the whole wide world. There is nothing comparable to the
mingled wildness and repose of such a scene; the rich and glowing sky,
the illimitable distances, the teeming luxuriance of vegetation, its
utter isolation from the busy world, and the dreamy fascination that
lurks in every feature.

  [Illustration: VALLEY OF SANTA MARGUERITA.]

I had passed nearly across the valley, and was about to enter upon an
undulating and beautifully timbered range of country extending into it
from the foot-hills, when a dust arose on a rise of ground a little to
the left and about half a mile distant. My mule, ever on the alert for
some new danger, pricked up his ears and manifested symptoms of
uncontrollable fear. The object rapidly approached, and without farther
warning the mule whirled around and fled at the top of his speed.
Neither bridle nor switch had the slightest effect. In vain I struggled
to arrest his progress, believing this, like many other frights he had
experienced on the road, was rather the result of innate cowardice than
of any substantial cause of apprehension. One material difference was
perceptible. He never before ran so fast. Through brush and mire, over
rocks, into deep arroyas and out again, he dashed in his frantic career,
never once stopping till by some mischance one of his fore feet sank in
a squirrel-hole, when he rolled headlong on the ground, throwing me with
considerable violence several yards in advance. I jumped to my feet at
once, hoping to catch him before he could get up, but he was on his feet
and away before I had time to make the attempt. It now became a matter
of personal interest to know what he was running from. Upon looking
back, I was astonished to see not only one object, but four others in
the rear, bearing rapidly down toward me. The first was a large animal
of some kind--I could not determine what--the others mounted horsemen in
full chase. Whatever the object of the chase was, it was not safe to be
a spectator in the direct line of their route. I cast a hurried look
around, and discovered a break in the earth a few hundred yards
distant, toward which I ran with all speed. It was a sort of mound
rooted up by the squirrels or coyotes, and afforded some trifling
shelter, where I crouched down close to the ground. Scarcely had I
partially concealed myself when I heard a loud shouting from the men on
horseback, and, peeping over the bank, saw within fifty or sixty paces a
huge grizzly bear, but no longer retreating. He had faced round toward
his pursuers, and now seemed determined to fight. The horsemen were
evidently native Californians, and managed their animals with wonderful
skill and grace. The nearest swept down like an avalanche toward the
bear, while the others coursed off a short distance in a circling
direction to prevent his escape. Suddenly swerving a little to one side,
the leader whirled his lasso once or twice around his head, and let fly
at his game with unerring aim. The loop caught one of the fore paws, and
the bear was instantly jerked down upon his haunches, struggling and
roaring with all his might. It was a striking instance of the power of
the rider over the horse, that, wild with terror as the latter was, he
dared not disobey the slightest pressure of the rein, but went through
all the evolutions, blowing trumpet-blasts from his nostrils and with
eyes starting from their sockets. Despite the strain kept upon the
lasso, the bear soon regained his feet, and commenced hauling in the
spare line with his fore paws so as to get within reach of the horse. He
had advanced within ten feet before the nearest of the other horsemen
could bring his lasso to bear upon him. The first throw was at his hind
legs--the main object being to stretch him out--but it missed. Another
more fortunate cast took him round the neck. Both riders pulled in
opposite directions, and the bear soon rolled on the ground again,
biting furiously at the lassos, and uttering the most terrific roars.
The strain upon his neck soon choked off his breath, and he was forced
to let loose his grasp upon the other lasso. While struggling to free
his neck, the two other horsemen dashed up, swinging their lassos, and
shouting with all their might so as to attract his attention. The
nearest, watching narrowly every motion of the frantic animal, soon let
fly his lasso, and made a lucky hitch around one of his hind legs. The
other, following quickly with a large loop, swung it entirely over the
bear's body, and all four riders now set up a yell of triumph and began
pulling in opposite directions. The writhing, pitching, and straining of
the powerful monster were now absolutely fearful. A dust arose over him,
and the earth flew up in every direction. Sometimes by a desperate
effort he regained his feet, and actually dragged one or more of the
horses toward him by main strength; but, whenever he attempted this, the
others stretched their lassos, and either choked him or jerked him down
upon his haunches. It was apparent that his wind was giving out, partly
by reason of the long chase, and partly owing to the noose around his
throat. A general pull threw him once more upon his back. Before he
could regain his feet, the horsemen, by a series of dexterous
manoeuvres, wound him completely up, so that he lay perfectly quiet upon
the ground, breathing heavily, and utterly unable to extricate his paws
from the labyrinth of lassos in which he was entangled. One of the
riders now gave the reins of his horse to another and dismounted.
Cautiously approaching, with a spare riata, he cast a noose over the
bear's fore paws, and wound the remaining part tightly round the neck,
so that what strength might still have been left was speedily exhausted
by suffocation. This done, another rider dismounted, and the two soon
succeeded in binding their victim so firmly by the paws that it was
impossible for him to break loose. They next bound his jaws together by
means of another riata, winding it all the way up around his head, upon
which they loosened the fastening around his neck so as to give him air.
When all was secure, they freed the lassos and again mounted their
horses. I thought it about time now to make known my presence and stood
up. Some of the party had evidently seen me during the progress of the
chase, for they manifested no surprise; and the leader, after exchanging
a few words with one of the men, and pointing in the direction taken by
the mule, rode up and said very politely, "_Buenas dias, Señor!_" He
then informed me, as well as I could understand, that he had sent a man
to catch my mule, and it would be back presently. While we were
endeavoring to carry on some conversation in reference to the capture of
the bear, during which I made out to gather that they were going to drag
him to the ranch on a bullock's hide, and have a grand bullfight with
him in the course of a few days, the vaquero returned with my mule.

  [Illustration: LASSOING A GRIZZLY.]

I had a pleasant journey of thirty-five miles that day. Nothing farther
occurred worthy of record. When night overtook me I was within fifteen
miles of San Luis. I camped under a tree, and, notwithstanding some
apprehension of the Sonoranians, made out to get a good sleep.

Next morning I was up and on my way by daylight. The country, as I
advanced, increased in picturesque beauty, and the hope of soon reaching
my destination gave me additional pleasure. A few hours more, and I was
safely lodged with some American friends. Thus ended what I think the
reader must admit was "a dangerous journey."



CHAPTER X.

A TRAGEDY.


A few days after my arrival in San Luis I went, in company with a young
American by the name of Jackson, to a fandango given by the native
Californians. The invitation, as usual in such cases, was general, and
the company not very select. Every person within a circle of twenty
miles, and with money enough in his pockets to pay for the refreshments,
was expected to be present. The entertainment was held in a large adobe
building, formerly used for missionary purposes, the lower part of which
was occupied as a store-house. A large loft overhead, with a step-ladder
reaching to it from the outside, formed what the proprietor was pleased
to call the dancing-saloon. In the yard, which was encircled by a mud
wall, were several chapadens, or brush tents, in which whisky, gin,
aguardiente, and other refreshments of a like nature, "for ladies and
gentlemen," were for sale at "two bits a drink." A low rabble of Mexican
greasers, chiefly Sonoranians, hung around the premises in every
direction, among whom I recognized several belonging to the gang into
whose encampment I had fallen on my way down from Santa Marguerita.
Their dirty serapas, machillas, and spurs lay scattered about, just as
they had dismounted from their mustangs. The animals were picketed
around in the open spaces, and kept up a continual confusion by bucking
and kicking at every straggler who came within their reach. Such of the
rabble as were able to pay the entrance-fee of "_dos realles_" were
sitting in groups in the yard, smoking cigarritos and playing at monté.
A few of the better class of rancheros had brought señoritas with them,
mounted in front on their saddles, and were wending their way up the
step-ladder as we entered the premises.

I followed the crowd, in company with my friend Jackson, and was
admitted into the saloon upon the payment of half a dollar. This fund
was to defray the expense of lights and music.

On passing through the doorway I was forcibly impressed with the scene.
Some fifty or sixty couples were dancing to the most horrible scraping
of fiddles I had ever heard, marking the time by snapping their fingers,
whistling, and clapping their hands. The fiddles were accompanied by a
dreadful twanging of guitars; and an Indian in one corner of the saloon
added to the din by beating with all his might upon a rude drum. There
was an odor of steaming flesh, cigarritos, garlic, and Cologne in the
hot, reeking atmosphere that was almost suffocating; and the floor
swayed under the heavy tramp of the dancers, as if every turn of the
waltz might be the last. The assemblage was of a very mixed character,
as may well be supposed, consisting of native Californians, Sonoranians,
Americans, Frenchmen, Germans, and half-breed Indians.

Most of the Mexicans were rancheros and vaqueros from the neighboring
ranches, dressed in the genuine style of Caballeros del Campaña, with
black or green velvet jackets, richly embroidered; wide pantaloons, open
at the sides, ornamented with rows of silver buttons; a red sash around
the waist; and a great profusion of gold filigree on their vests. These
were the fast young fellows who had been successful in jockeying away
their horses, or gambling at monté. Others of a darker and lower grade,
such as the Sonoranians, wore their hats and machillas just as they had
come in from camp; for it was one of the privileges of the fandango that
every man could dress or undress as he pleased. A very desperate and
ill-favored set these were--perfect specimens of Mexican outlaws.

The Americans were chiefly a party of Texans, who had recently crossed
over through Chihuahua, and compared not unfavorably with the
Sonoranians in point of savage costume and appearance. Some wore
broadcloth frock-coats, ragged and defaced from the wear and tear of
travel; some red flannel shirts, without any coats--their pantaloons
thrust in their boots in a loose, swaggering style; and all with
revolvers and bowie-knives swinging from their belts. A more reckless,
devil-may-care looking set it would be impossible to find in a year's
journey. Take them altogether--with their uncouth costumes, bearded
faces, lean and brawny forms, fierce, savage eyes, and swaggering
manners--they were a fit assemblage for a frolic or a fight. Every word
they spoke was accompanied by an oath. The presence of the females
imposed no restraint upon the subject or style of the conversation,
which was disgusting to the last degree. I felt ashamed to think that
habit should so brutalize a people of my own race and blood.

Many of the señoritas were pretty, and those who had no great
pretensions to beauty in other respects were at least gifted with fine
eyes and teeth, rich brunette complexions, and forms of wonderful
pliancy and grace. All, or nearly all, were luminous with jewelry, and
wore dresses of the most flashy colors, in which flowers, lace, and
glittering tinsel combined to set off their dusky charms. I saw some
among them who would not have compared unfavorably with the ladies of
Cadiz, perhaps in more respects than one. They danced easily and
naturally; and, considering the limited opportunity of culture they had
enjoyed in this remote region, it was wonderful how free, simple, and
graceful they were in their manners.

  [Illustration: THE BELLE OF THE FANDANGO.]

The belle of the occasion was a dark-eyed, fierce-looking woman of about
six-and-twenty, a half-breed from Santa Barbara. Her features were far
from comely, being sharp and uneven; her skin was scarred with fire or
small-pox; and her form, though not destitute of a certain grace of
style, was too lithe, wiry, and acrobatic to convey any idea of
voluptuous attraction. Every motion, every nerve seemed the incarnation
of a suppressed vigor; every glance of her fierce, flashing eyes was
instinct with untamable passion. She was a mustang in human shape--one
that I thought would kick or bite upon very slight provocation. In the
matter of dress she was almost Oriental. The richest and most striking
colors decorated her, and made a rare accord with her wild and singular
physique; a gorgeous silk dress of bright orange, flounced up to the
waist; a white bodice, with blood-red ribbons upon each shoulder; a
green sash around the waist; an immense gold-cased breast-pin, with
diamonds glittering in the centre, the greatest profusion of rings on
her fingers, and her ears loaded down with sparkling ear-rings; while
her heavy black hair was gathered up in a knot behind, and pinned with a
gold dagger--all being in strict keeping with her wild, dashing
character, and bearing some remote affinity to a dangerous but royal
game-bird. I thought of the Mexican chichilaca as I gazed at her. There
was an intensity in the quick flash of her eye which produced a burning
sensation wherever it fell. She cast a spell around her not unlike the
fascination of a snake. The women shunned and feared her; the men
absolutely worshiped at her shrine. Their infatuation was almost
incredible. She seemed to have some supernatural capacity for arousing
the fiercest passions of love, jealousy, and hatred. Of course there was
great rivalry to engage the hand of such a belle for the dance. Crowds
of admirers were constantly urging their claims. It was impossible to
look upon their excited faces and savage rivalry, knowing the desperate
character of the men, without a foreboding of evil.

"Perhaps you will not be surprised," said Jackson, "to hear something
strange and startling about that woman. She is a murderess! Not long
since she stabbed to death a rival of hers, another half-breed, who had
attempted to win the affections of her paramour. But, worse than
that--she is strongly suspected of having killed her own child a few
months ago, in a fit of jealousy caused by the supposed infidelity of
its father--whose identity, however, can not be fixed with any
certainty. She is a strange, bad woman--a devil incarnate; yet you see
what a spell she casts around her! Some of these men are mad in love
with her! They will fight before the evening is over. Yet she is neither
pretty nor amiable. I can not account for it. Let me introduce you."

As soon as a pause in the dance occurred I was introduced. The revolting
history I had heard of this woman inspired me with a curiosity to know
how such a fiend in human shape could exercise such a powerful sway over
every man in the room.

Although she spoke but little English, there was a peculiar sweetness
in every word she uttered. I thought I could detect something of the
secret of her magical powers in her voice, which was the softest and
most musical I had ever heard. There was a wild, sweet, almost unearthly
cadence in it that vibrated upon the ear like the strains of an Æolian.
Added to this, there was a power of alternate ferocity and tenderness in
her deep, passionate eyes, that struck to the inner core wherever she
fixed her gaze. I could not determine for my life which she resembled
most--the untamed mustang, the royal game-bird, or the rattlesnake.
There were flitting hints of each in her, and yet the comparison is
feeble and inadequate. Sometimes she reminded me of Rachel--then the
living, now the dead, Queen of Tragedy. Had it not been for a horror of
her repulsive crimes, it is hard to say how far her fascinating powers
might have affected me. As it was, I could only wonder whether she was
most genius or devil. Not knowing how to dance, I could not offer my
services in that way, and, after a few commonplace remarks, withdrew to
a seat near the wall. The dance went on with great spirit. Absurd as it
may seem, I could not keep my eyes off this woman. Whichever way she
looked there was a commotion--a shrinking back among the women, or the
symptoms of a jealous rage among the men. For her own sex she manifested
an absolute scorn; for the other she had an inexhaustible fund of sweet
glances, which each admirer might take to himself.

At a subsequent period of the evening I observed, for the first time,
among the company a man of very conspicuous appearance, dressed in the
very picturesque style of a Texan Ranger. His face was turned from me
when I first saw him, but there was something manly and imposing about
his figure and address that attracted my attention. While I was looking
toward him he turned to speak to some person near him. My astonishment
may well be conceived when I recognized in his strongly-marked features
and dejected expression the face of the man "Griff," to whom I was
indebted for my escape from the assassins near Soledad! There could be
no doubt that this was the outlaw who had rendered me such an
inestimable service, differently dressed, indeed, and somewhat
disfigured by a ghastly wound across the temple, but still the same;
still bearing himself with an air of determination mingled with profound
sadness. It was evident the Colonel had misinformed me as to his death.
Perhaps, judging from the wound on his temple, which was still unhealed,
he might have been left for dead, and subsequently have effected his
escape. At all events, there was no doubt that he now stood before me.

I was about to spring forward and grasp him by the hand, when the
dreadful scene I had witnessed in the little adobe hut near San Miguel
flashed vividly upon my mind, and, for the moment, I felt like one who
was paralyzed. That hand might be stained with the blood of the
unfortunate emigrants! Who could tell? He had disavowed any
participation in the act, but his complicity, either remote or direct,
could scarcely be doubted from his own confession. How far his guilt
might render him amenable to the laws I could not of course conjecture.
It was enough for me, however, that he had saved my life; but I could
not take his hand.

While reflecting upon the course that it might become my duty to pursue
under the circumstances, I observed that he was not exempt from the
fascinating sway of the dark señorita, whose face he regarded with an
interest even more intense than that manifested by her other admirers.
He was certainly a person calculated to make an impression upon such a
woman; yet, strange to say, he was the only man in the crowd toward whom
she evinced a spirit of hostility. Several times he went up to her and
asked her to dance. Whether from caprice or some more potent cause I
could not conjecture, but she invariably repulsed him--once with a
degree of asperity that indicated something more than a casual
acquaintance. It was in vain he attempted to cajole her. She was
evidently bitter and unrelenting in her animosity. At length, incensed
at his pertinacity, she turned sharply upon him, and leaning her head
close to his ear, whispered something, the effect of which was magical.
He staggered back as if stunned, and, gazing a moment at her with an
expression of horror, turned away and walked out of the room. The
woman's face was a shade paler, but she quickly resumed her usual smile,
and otherwise manifested no emotion.

This little incident was probably unnoticed by any except myself. I sat
in a recess near the window, and could see all that was going on without
attracting attention. I had resolved, after overcoming my first friendly
impulses, not to discover myself to the outlaw until the fandango was
over, and then determine upon my future course regarding him by the
result of a confidential interview. I fully believed that he would tell
me the truth, and nothing but the truth, in reference to the murder of
the emigrants.

The dance went on. It was a Spanish waltz; the click-clack of the feet,
in slow-measured time, was very monotonous, producing a peculiarly
dreamy effect. I sometimes closed my eyes and fancied it was all a wild,
strange dream. Visions of the beautiful country through which I had
passed flitted before me--a country desecrated by the worst passions of
human nature. Amid the rarest charms of scenery and climate, what a
combination of dark and deadly sins oppressed the mind! What a cess-pool
of wickedness was here within these very walls!

Half an hour may have elapsed in this sort of dreaming, when Griff, who
had been so strangely repulsed by the dark señorita, came back and
pushed his way through the crowd. This time I noticed that his face was
flushed, and a gleam of desperation was in his eye. The wound in his
temple had a purple hue, and looked as if it might burst out bleeding
afresh. His motions were unsteady--he had evidently been drinking.
Edging over toward the woman, he stood watching her till there was a
pause in the dance. Her partner was a handsome young Mexican, very gayly
dressed, whom I had before noticed, and to whom she now made herself
peculiarly fascinating. She smiled when he spoke; laughed very musically
at every thing he said; leaned up toward him, and assumed a wonderfully
sweet and confidential manner. The Mexican was perfectly infatuated. He
made the most passionate avowals, scarcely conscious what he was saying.
I watched the tall Texan. The veins in his forehead were swollen; he
strode to and fro restlessly, fixing fierce and deadly glances upon the
loving couple. A terrible change had taken place in the expression of
his features, which ordinarily had something sweet and sad in it. It was
now dark, brutish, and malignant. Suddenly, as if by an ungovernable
impulse, he rushed up close to where they stood, and, drawing a large
bowie-knife, said to the woman, in a quick, savage tone,

"Dance with me now, or, damn you, I'll cut your heart out!"

She turned toward him haughtily--"Señor!"

"Dance with me, OR DIE!"

"Señor," said the woman, quietly, and with an unflinching eye, "you are
drunk! Don't come so near to me!"

The infuriated man made a motion as if to strike at her with his knife;
but, quick as lightning, the young Mexican grasped his uprisen arm and
the two clenched. I could not see what was done in the struggle. Those
of the crowd who were nearest rushed in, and the affray soon became
general. Pistols and knives were drawn in every direction; but so sudden
was the fight that nobody seemed to know where to aim or strike. In the
midst of the confusion, a man jumped up on one of the benches and
shouted,

"Back! back with you! The man's stabbed! Let him out!"

The swaying mass parted, and the tall Texan staggered through, then
fell upon the floor. His shirt was covered with blood, and he breathed
heavily. A moment after the woman uttered a low, wild cry, and, dashing
through the crowd--her long black hair streaming behind her--she cast
herself down by the prostrate man and sobbed,

"O cara mio! O Deos! is he dead? is he dead?"

"Who did this? Who stabbed this man?" demanded several voices, fiercely.

"No matter," answered the wounded man, faintly. "It was my own fault; I
deserved it;" and, turning his face toward the weeping woman, he said,
smiling, "Don't cry; don't go on so."

There was an ineffable tenderness in his voice, and something
indescribably sweet in the expression of his face.

"O Deos!" cried the woman, kissing him passionately. "O cara mio! Say
you will not die! Tell me you will not die!" And, tearing her dress with
frantic strength, she tried to stanch the blood, which was rapidly
forming a crimson pool around him.

The crowd meantime pressed so close that the man suffered for want of
air, and begged to be removed. Several persons seized hold of him, and,
lifting him from the floor, carried him out. The dark señorita followed
close up, still pressing the fragments of her bloodstained dress to his
wound.

Order was restored, and the music and dancing went on as if nothing had
happened.

I had no desire to see any more of the evening amusements.

Next day I learned that the unfortunate man was dead. He was a stranger
at San Luis, and refused to reveal his name, or make any disclosures
concerning the affray. His last words were addressed to the woman, who
clung to him with a devotion bordering on insanity. When she saw that he
was doomed to die, the tears ceased to flow from her eyes, and she sat
by his bedside with a wild, affrighted look, clutching his hands in
hers, and ever and anon bathing her lips in the life-blood that oozed
from his mouth.

"_I loved you--still love you better than my life!_"

These were his last words. A gurgle, a quivering motion of the stalwart
frame, and he was dead!

At an examination before the alcalde, it was proved that the stabbing
must have occurred before the affray became general. It was also shown
that the young Mexican was unarmed, and had no acquaintance with the
murdered man.

Who could have done it?

Was it the devil-woman? Was this a case of jealousy, and was the tall
Texan the father of the murdered child?

Upon these points I could get no information. The whole affair, with all
its antecedent circumstances, was wrapped in an impenetrable mystery.
When the body was carried to the grave by a few strangers, including
myself, the chief mourner was the half-breed woman--now a ghastly wreck.
The last I saw of her, as we turned sadly away, she was sitting upon the
sod at the head of the grave, motionless as a statue.

Next morning a vaquero, passing in that direction, noticed a shapeless
mass lying upon the newly-spaded earth. It proved to be the body of the
unfortunate woman, horribly mutilated by the wolves. The clothes were
torn from it, and the limbs presented a ghastly spectacle of fleshless
bones. Whether she died by her own hand, or was killed by the wolves
during the night, none could tell. She was buried by the side of her
lover.

Soon after these events, having completed my business in San Luis, I
took passage in a small schooner for San Francisco, where I had the
satisfaction in a few days of turning over ten thousand dollars to the
Collector of Customs.

I never afterward could obtain any information respecting the two men
mentioned in the early part of my narrative--the Colonel and Jack. No
steps were taken by the authorities to arrest them. It is the usual fate
of such men in California sooner or later to fall into the hands of an
avenging mob. Doubtless they met with a merited retribution.

Eleven years have passed since these events took place. Many changes
have occurred in California. The gangs of desperadoes that infested the
state have been broken up; some of the members have met their fate at
the hands of justice--more have fallen victims to their own excesses. I
have meanwhile traveled in many lands, and have had my full share of
adventures. But still, every incident in the "Dangerous Journey" which I
have attempted to describe is as fresh in my mind as if it happened but
yesterday.



OBSERVATIONS IN OFFICE.



I.

MY OFFICIAL EXPERIENCES.


There is something very fascinating in public office. The dignity of the
position touches our noblest sympathies, and makes heroes and patriots
of the most commonplace men. It is wonderful, too, how unselfish people
become under the influence of this most potent charm. Every four years
it becomes an epidemic. The passional attraction of office is felt
throughout the length and breadth of the land. Many thousands of our
best citizens visit the seat of government at the inauguration of a new
president. A large proportion of them have faithfully served their
country by contributing their time, talents, energies, and pecuniary
resources to the success of the dominant party. But they don't want any
thing; they have a natural repugnance to office; they merely come to
look on, and pay their respects to the chief magistrate. If he deems it
necessary to solicit their services for the common good, it is not for
them, as patriotic citizens, to refuse. The seductive influences of
official position may tend, perhaps, to quicken their perception of the
grades of service in which their time could be most profitably spent;
but modesty, after all, is their predominant trait. Indeed, for that
matter, the general characteristic of great men is modesty, and where
will you see so many notoriously great men as in Washington upon the
advent of a new administration. The difficulty is to find a man who is
not great. You may find many who are poor, some thriftless, and a few
worthless, but none deficient in greatness. It must not be understood,
however, that mercenary considerations have any connection with the
charm which allures them thither. These excellent people--as in my own
case, for example--are governed by motives of the purest and most
exalted patriotism. Who is there so destitute of national pride--so
indifferent to the welfare of his fellow-beings, that he does not desire
to serve his country when he sees that she stands in need of his
services?

The consideration of a per-diem allowance could not be wholly discarded,
but I assure you, upon the veracity of a public officer, it had not the
slightest influence upon me when I accepted the responsible position of
Inspector General of Public Depositories. The Secretary of the
Treasury--a gentleman in whom I had great confidence--required my
services. I was unwilling, of course, to stand in the way of an
efficient administration of the affairs of his department. The fact is,
I had great personal respect for him, and was anxious to afford him all
the assistance in my power. I do not pretend to say that the appointment
of inspector general was destitute of attractions in itself, but they
were not of a pecuniary character. The title had a sonorous and
authoritative ring about it altogether different from the groveling
jingle of filthy lucre--something that vibrated upon the higher chords
of the soul.

An honorable ambition to serve one's country is one of the highest and
most ennobling passions that can govern the human mind. To this may be
attributed some of the greatest achievements which have given lustre to
ancient and modern history. It has developed the greatest intellects of
the Old and New World, and furnished the rising generation with
illustrious models of unselfish devotion to the common welfare of
mankind.

No wonder, then, that office possesses such extraordinary attractions.
It is the cheapest way of becoming great. A man never before heard of
outside of his village home--never before known to do any thing
remarkable by his most intimate friends--never before suspected of
possessing the least capacity for mental or manual labor of any kind
whatsoever, may become, in the course of four-and-twenty hours, a topic
of newspaper comment throughout the whole country--praised for virtues
he never possessed, abused for vices to which he never aspired. An
appointment places him prominently before the public. It shows the world
that there was always something in him--whether whisky or sense matters
little, since he has received the endorsement of the "powers that be."

To make a short story of it, I was obliged to accept the position. The
party in power stood in need of my services. I could not refuse without
great detriment to the country. This was many years since; and I beg to
say that there is nothing in my journal of experiences bearing upon the
present state of affairs. At great pecuniary sacrifice (that is to say,
in a prospective sense, for I hadn't a dime in the world), I announced
myself as ready to proceed to duty. In his letter of instructions, the
Secretary of the Treasury was pleased to direct me to proceed to the
Pacific coast, and carefully examine into the condition of the revenue
service in that remote region. I was to see that the accounts of the
collectors were properly kept and rendered; that the revenue laws were
faithfully administered; that the valuation of imports was uniform
throughout the various districts; whether any reduction could be made in
the number of inspectors and aids to the revenue stationed within their
limits, with a view to a more economical administration of the laws;
whether the public moneys were kept in the manner prescribed by the
Independent Treasury Act of August 6th, 1846; and what additional
measures, if any, were necessary for the prevention of smuggling and
other frauds upon the revenue, all of which I was to report, with such
views as might be suggested in the course of the investigation for the
promotion of the public interests. These were but a few of the
important subjects of official inquiry upon which I was to enlighten the
Department. I frankly confess that, when I read the instructions, and
pondered over their massive proportions and severe tone of gravity, I
was appalled at the immensity of the interests committed to my charge. A
somewhat versatile career, during which I had served before the mast in
a whaler, studied medicine, hunted squirrels in the backwoods, followed
the occupation of ferry-keeper, flat-boat hand, and short-hand writer,
had not fitted me particularly for this sort of business. What did I
know about the forms of accounts current, drawbacks, permits, entries,
appraisements, licenses, enrollments, and abstracts of imports and
exports? What reliable or definite information was I prepared to give to
collectors of customs in reference to schedules and sliding scales? What
hope was there that I could ever get to the bottom of a fraud upon the
revenue service, when I had but a glimmering notion of the difference
between fabrics of which the component parts were two thirds wool, and
fabrics composed in whole or in part of sheet-iron, leather, or
gutta-percha?

As for inspectors of customs, how in the world was an agent to find out
how many inspectors were needed except by asking the collector of the
district, who ought to know more about it than a stranger? But if the
collector had half a dozen brothers, cousins, or friends in office as
inspectors, would it not be expecting a little too much of human nature
to suppose he would say there were too many in his district? I reflected
over the idea of asking one of these gentlemen to inform me
confidentially if he thought he could dispense with a dozen or so of his
relatives and friends without detriment to the public service, but
abandoned it as chimerical. Then, to go outside and question any
disinterested member of the community on this subject seemed equally
absurd. Who could be said to be disinterested when only a few offices
were to be filled, and a great many people wished to fill them? I would
be pretty sure to stumble upon some disappointed applicant for an
inspectorship, or, worse still, upon a smuggler. It is a
well-ascertained fact that disappointed applicants for office are always
opposed to the fortunate applicants, and smugglers, as a general rule,
have a natural antipathy to inspectors of customs.

There was another serious duty imposed upon me--to ascertain the
character and standing of all the public employés, their general
reputation for sobriety, industry, and honesty, and to report
accordingly. Here was rather a delicate matter--one, in fact, that might
be productive of innumerable personal difficulties. Having no unfriendly
feeling toward any man, and attaching a fair valuation to life, I did
not much relish the notion of placing any man's personal infirmities
upon the official records. If a public officer drank too much whisky, it
was certainly a very injurious practice, alike prejudicial to his health
and morals; but where was to be the gauge between too much and only just
enough? No man likes to have his predilection for stimulating beverages
made a matter of public question, and the gradations between temperance
and intemperance are so arbitrary in different communities that it would
be a very difficult matter to report upon. I have seen men "sociable" in
New Orleans who would be considered "elevated" in Boston, and men "a
little shot" in Texas who would be regarded as "drunk" in Maine. It is
all a matter of opinion. No man is ever drunk in his own estimation, and
whether he is so in the estimation of others depends pretty much upon
their standard of sobriety. With respect to honesty, that was an equally
delicate matter. What might be considered honest among politicians might
be very questionable in ordinary life. I once knew of a public officer
who had been charged with embezzling certain public moneys. There was no
doubt of the fact, but he fought a duel to prove his innocence. In one
respect, at least, he was honest--he placed a fair valuation upon his
life, which was worth no more to the community than it was to himself.
I did not think an ordinary per-diem allowance would be sufficient to
compensate for maintaining the public credit by such tests as this,
especially as there were nearly two hundred public offices to be
examined; but it seemed nothing more than reasonable that the laws
should be administered by sober and honest men, and, upon the whole, I
could not perceive how this unpleasant duty could be avoided.

The Department furnished me with a penknife, a pencil, several quires of
paper, and a copy of Gordon's Digest of the Revenue Laws. This was my
outfit. It was not equal to the outfit of a minister plenipotentiary,
but there was a certain dignity in its very simplicity. To be the owner
of a fine Congressional penknife, a genuine English lead-pencil, paper
_ad libitum_, and Gordon's Digest, was no trifling advance in my
practical resources. I looked into the Digest, read many of the laws,
and became satisfied that the Creator had not gifted me with any
capacity for understanding that species of writing. For Mr. Gordon, who
had digested those laws, I felt a very profound admiration. His powers
of digestion were certainly better than mine. I would much rather have
undertaken to digest a keg of spike nails. The Act of March 2, 1799,
upon which most of the others were based, was evidently drawn with great
ability, and covered the whole subject. Like a Boeotian fog, however,
it covered it up so deep that I don't think the author ever saw it again
after he got through writing the law. Whenever there was a tangible
point to be found, it was either abolished, or so obscured by some other
law made in conformity with the progress of the times that it became no
point at all; so that, after perusing pretty much the whole book, and
referring to Mayo's Compendium of Circulars and Treasury Regulations, I
am free to confess the effect was very decided. I knew a great deal less
than before, for I was utterly unable to determine who was
right--Congress, Gordon, Mayo, or myself.

Under these circumstances, it will hardly be a matter of surprise that
serious doubt as to my capacity for this service entered my mind.
Perhaps, in the whole history of government offices, it was the first
time such a doubt ever entered any man's head upon receiving an
appointment, and I claim some credit for originality on that account.
The position was highly responsible; the duties were of a very grave and
important character, bordering on the metaphysical. Now, had I been
requested to visit Juan Fernandez, and report upon the condition of
Robinson Crusoe's castle, or ascertain the spot in which he found the
footprint in the sand, or describe for the benefit of science the breed
of wild goats descended from the original stock--had these questions
been involved in my instructions, or had I been appointed to succeed
Sancho Panza in the government of Nantucket (which I verily believe was
the island referred to by Cervantes), I could have had no misgivings of
success. But this awful thing of abstracts and accounts current; this
subtile mystery of appraisements, appeals, drawbacks, bonds, and bonded
warehouses; this terrible demon of manifests, invoices, registers,
enrollments, and licenses; this hateful abomination of circulars on
refined sugar, and fabrics composed in whole or in part of wool; this
miserable subterfuge of triplicate vouchers and abstracts of
disbursements, combined to cast a gloom over my mind almost akin to
despair. The question arose, would it not be the most honorable course
to return the commission to the Secretary of the Treasury, and confess
to him confidentially, as a friend, that I thought he would render the
country greater service by appointing a more suitable agent? But then
there was the per-diem allowance, a very snug little sum, much needed at
the time; and there was the honor of the position--a pillar in the
federal structure; and then the advantage of travel, and the charm of
becoming at once famous in the national records. Besides, it might be
considered disrespectful to say to the Secretary of the Treasury--a
gentleman from an interior state, who had no experience in commerce or
public finances--that I had no experience in these things myself, and
doubted my capacity to do justice to the government. Might he not regard
such a confession in the light of a personal reflection?

After all, I thought it would be as well perhaps to try my hand at the
business. Many a man never finds out that he is great in some particular
line till he tries his hand. I have at this moment in my eye at least
half a dozen senators of the United States who I verily believe would
make excellent butchers, bakers, blacksmiths, and carpenters, if they
only knew it. I am acquainted with some that would be an ornament to any
court of justice as public criers, and not a few who would make capital
hands at playing quoits and pitch-penny. In short, I know many men
occupying these positions who would succeed even better in other
branches of industry than in the capacity of statesmen; but the
misfortune is, they are not aware of the fact, and never can be
persuaded to believe it. Very few men understand what they are good for
till some adventitious circumstance occurs to develop their latent and
peculiar talents. In this view, it might be that I was a capital hand at
revenue business, though, to tell the truth, I had never collected any
revenue worth mentioning on my own account; and what experience I had
had in depositories was confined to my own pockets, which seldom
retained the sums deposited in them over twelve hours, if so long as
that.

A transcript from my official reports will convey some idea of my labors
under the complicated instructions issued to me at various intervals
from Washington.

The first has reference to the general subject of smuggling, and
proposes the removal of the Custom-house from San Francisco to Bear
Harbor, near Cape Mendocino. This was addressed to his Honor the
Secretary of the Treasury:

"SIR,--If Bear Harbor is eligible for any purpose in the world, it is
for a port of entry and a custom-house. Not that there are any
inhabitants there at present, or in the vicinity, except Indians, bears,
elk, deer, and wildcats; not that any vessels ever come in there, or
ever will, perhaps, but as a guard against smuggling. You know, sir,
from the experience of collectors from Passamaquoddy Bay to Point
Isabel, and from San Diego to the Straits of Fuca, that smuggling must
be going on somewhere, else why is the Treasury Department flooded with
applications for an increase of inspectors? Even senators and members of
Congress unite in the opinion that a great deal of smuggling is
perpetrated on remote and isolated parts of our coast, for they are
always recommending some friend in whom they have confidence to keep a
guard upon the revenue at such places. One would think that smugglers
would rather pay duties and take their wares into a good market, than
put them ashore where there are no inhabitants, and transport them at
double the risk and cost to some place where they are wanted. If they
must enjoy the pleasure of violating the law at all, would it not pay
better to smuggle their wares directly into the principal cities, as New
York or San Francisco, for example? I know that in the former place they
incur some risk of detection from night inspectors, who are supposed to
be always on the look-out about the wharves after dark; but in San
Francisco the night inspectors have been abolished on account of the
soporific effects of the climate. Several of them fell asleep directly
after receiving their appointments, and never woke up, except on
pay-day, during the entire term of their service.

"For some years, at least, one collector of customs could perform all
the duties that might be required of him at Bear Harbor. No doubt the
dullest and laziest politician in the entire state could be hired to
occupy the position at three thousand dollars per annum. The collector
at the city of Gardner, which consists of two small frame shanties and a
pig-pen, situated at the mouth of the Umpqua River--where shipwreck is
almost absolutely certain in case a vessel attempts to enter--receives
only a thousand dollars per annum. Sir, it can not be expected that a
gentleman more than ordinarily gifted with valuable traits of character
can be obtained for so small a sum. Government is compelled to pay for
the services of active and intelligent collectors at the ports of
Benicia, Sacramento, Stockton, Monterey, San Pedro, and San Diego, three
thousand dollars a year each. If they were at all conspicuous for
idleness, it is impossible to conjecture what it would cost to obtain
their services; but the amount of labor performed by these gentlemen
(who, by the way, are all very excellent persons, and for whom I
entertain great personal respect) is almost incredible. At Benicia the
duties of the office are absolutely onerous. From one to two vessels a
year enter that port with coals from Cardiff, which are deposited at the
dépôt of the Pacific Steam-ship Company. Upon these coals the duties
have to be computed and accounts rendered to the Department, besides
which he is compelled to keep an accurate account of his own salary. For
all this he is only allowed the occasional services of one inspector,
whereas he ought to be allowed three. If they were gentlemen of a lively
temperament, they would at least give something of vitality to the
present deserted appearance of the port. I have known a smaller number
than that to produce a considerable sensation in the public streets of
other cities. A great deal of trouble to the Benicia collector might be
saved if the two Cardiff vessels per annum were permitted to enter at
San Francisco on their way up.

"At Sacramento the duties of the collector are still more arduous.
Indeed, it is a matter of surprise that any man can be found to
undertake them at three thousand dollars a year. A vessel with foreign
goods entered this port in 1849, since which period some six or eight
consecutive collectors have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of
another. The most remarkable part of it is, that the other vessel has
never yet arrived. Upon a review of the facts, I think that any person
of a less sanguine temperament than a collector of customs would have
long since given up the hope of obtaining any public revenue from this
source. Somehow all the vessels have a habit of stopping at San
Francisco, paying duties there, discharging their cargoes for interior
transportation, and going about their business, which must be a constant
subject of mortification to the Sacramento collectors. I have known
respectable gentlemen who occupied this position to be denied over
twenty-five dollars a month for office-rent, after it had ranged for
years at two or three hundred--even denied the services of a deputy or
clerk, and actually compelled to make out their own pay accounts!

"And yet these officers are required to attend at primary meetings,
conventions, and legislative assemblages, and keep the party all right,
when there may be a complication of difficulties between the various
aspirants for the Senate of the United States, utterly impossible to
settle except by electing them all.

"At Stockton the case is still harder. I never knew a collector there to
have any thing at all to do, except to keep the run of his office-rent
and salary, which, in justice it must be said, is a branch of public
duty always faithfully performed. Yet this officer is expected to pass
the time agreeably year after year on a miserable pittance of three
thousand dollars, without even the hope of ever seeing a dutiable cargo
landed upon the wharves of the city. I do not believe that the most
sanguine gentleman that ever held that position aspired to any thing of
greater commercial value than a flock of sheep supposed to be on the way
from Mexico, and for the capture and confiscation of which two
inspectors were for many years stationed at the Tejon Pass, about three
hundred miles from Stockton. But even the hope of seizing these sheep or
their descendants has been blasted since Congress abolished the duties
on stock; and now the collector, to protect the revenue, must fail
unless he succeeds in getting hold of a box of contraband articles that
it is supposed certain parties in San Francisco are awaiting an
opportunity to send up, either by the steam navigation line or some of
the small sailing craft that ply on this route. As this box of goods has
been expected ever since 1852, the prospect of its appearance and
seizure is becoming more favorable every year. If there was a surveyor
stationed at the mouth of the San Joaquin--say in the city called 'the
New York of the Pacific'--the chances of seizure would be greatly
augmented. There is a surveyor of customs at Nisquelly, in the Territory
of Washington, and another at Santa Barbara, who might render some aid
by the transmission of secret information. I do not know what has become
of the surveyor at Pacific City, near the mouth of the Columbia. The
last time I saw him he was engaged in the performance of his official
functions in the tin business at Oregon City, the City of Pacific having
been discontinued about two years previously in consequence of a lack of
inhabitants.

"At Monterey the amount of hardship endured by the collector is
absolutely incredible. Not only is he furnished with an indifferent
government house to live in, which costs an annual outlay of several
hundred dollars to keep it from falling to pieces, and thereby crushing
himself and assistants beneath the ruins, but he is required to look
after two inspectors, who are appointed to aid him in protecting the
coast from the nefarious operations of smugglers. Besides this, it is
supposed that a mysterious vessel has been hovering around the Bay of
Monterey ever since 1852, with an assorted cargo of bar fixtures,
billiard balls, whisky, nine-pins, cards, cotton handkerchiefs, boots,
bowie-knives, and revolvers, upon a considerable portion of which duties
have never been paid. This vessel is no doubt awaiting an opportunity to
land these articles in violation of law, and to the great detriment of
public morals and serious loss to the treasury. The collector is
expected to be present or within reach of a telegraphic dispatch
whenever she makes her appearance; and it is farther expected that he
will not flinch from his duty even should she prove to be the Flying
Dutchman or the Wizard of the Seas.

"At San Pedro the coasting steamer Senator touches for grapes and
passengers some half a dozen times a month, and the collector is
expected to keep a record of that vessel's arrivals and departures; also
the range of Captain Banning's paddle-wheeled steam skiff Medora, six
scows, and several fishing smacks. In addition to these onerous duties,
it devolves upon him to keep his own pay account, and see that the light
does not stop burning of nights in the public light-house on Point
Conception, without any money to pay the keeper and assistant except
such casual remittances as may be made once or twice in the course of as
many years. I knew one light-house keeper who stood by the light
manfully for a whole year, and finally had to sell his chance of pay for
the means of subsistence. Some of the light-house keepers, indeed, are
supposed to live on whale-oil, the Board in Washington being evidently
under the impression that oil is a light article of diet, upon which men
will not be apt to go to sleep. Another reason, perhaps, for the
remissness with which their salaries generally arrive is that their
stations are generally not densely populated with voters, or, in fact,
with any thing but sheep and rabbits. I have a person in my eye whom I
would like to recommend for the collectorship at San Pedro whenever the
present incumbent may think proper to resign. By the way, the latter is
a very clever and estimable gentleman, to whom I intend not the
slightest disrespect in thus referring to his office; but there are
peculiar qualifications for every position in life, and the individual
to whom I refer possesses some very remarkable advantages over the
generality of custom-house officers; that is to say, he can sleep on his
desk in the midst of the direst confusion; is never known to be in a
hurry; thinks no more of time than he does of eternity, or any thing
else; and invariably postpones till to-morrow what most people would
deem of vital importance to be done to-day. His work is generally in
arrears, but will be all right--_poco tiempo_!

"At San Diego the same burdensome and oppressive state of things exists.
The Custom-house is an old military building, with a roof that falls to
pieces every winter, and a set of doors and windows through which both
wind and rain have free access. The only article of public property
about the premises that yet sticks together is a tremendous iron safe,
in which the revenue is going to be kept--as soon as it is collected.
Even this is getting rusty for want of use. The books have an ancient
and fish-like aspect; and a public shovel, that is used to clear the mud
away from the door whenever a vessel is seen in the offing, is going
away year after year, and will eventually be reduced to a broken handle.
This office is accessible by means of a boat, though in bad weather the
deputy prefers to reside in an old hulk that lies at anchor in the bay.
The building is eligibly located in a chapparal of prickly pears, within
about five miles of Old Town, or, properly speaking, the beautiful city
of San Diego. Mexican stock were formerly imported into this district,
but, having been made free by act of Congress, the collector is left
destitute of occupation, and is compelled to seek business and society
in various parts of the state. Now and then, however, he is supposed to
take a look at his pay account, and see that the public light on the
Point keeps burning of nights, notwithstanding the roof has been blown
off. As government refuses to furnish him with rain-water to drink, he
is compelled, whenever his official duties call him to the port of
entry, to hitch up his buggy and travel five miles to the city of San
Diego every time he is thirsty. Indeed, so parsimonious is the
Department becoming of late, that it will not even allow him a deputy or
clerk at public expense, although there has been one there for years. I
look upon this as a very severe course of discipline to impose upon any
gentleman whose services are presumed to be worth three thousand
dollars per annum, and would recommend that he should at least be
allowed a bottle of whisky.

"All these are examples of the manner in which executive patronage may
be enlarged without inconvenience to commerce or obstruction to
navigation. If it were not for the collectorships, what would the
delegation in Congress have to make up the complement of their
indebtedness to partisan politicians? and if one delegation were denied
this privilege, how could accounts be settled with fellow-members
similarly situated in other states? An inspector of customs, at a
compensation of five hundred dollars a year (for there is nothing to
do), would of course answer the requirements of commerce at any of these
ports; but then what sort of an office would that be to offer to the
owner of one or more members of the Legislature? It would be especially
severe at Bear Harbor, where there will be no coffee-houses, billiard
saloons, or other places of amusement for some time.

"In view of these suggestions being urged upon Congress by the heads of
the departments, I would mention that, in the temporary absence of
government buildings at Bear Harbor, a number of chapadens, or brush
tents, at present occupied by Indians, can be leased for a term of years
at a rate of rent not exceeding from five hundred to a thousand dollars
each per month. The very best of them can be had for less than the rent
paid for the Union Street Bonded Warehouse in San Francisco, toward the
building of which government loaned seventy-two thousand dollars as an
advance of rent, and paid, by way of interest on the capital, for four
years, two hundred and eighty-eight thousand dollars; after which, upon
the united representation of twenty influential merchants, a collector
and deputy collector of customs, and a special agent, that the premises
were only worth about fourteen thousand per annum, it paid one hundred
and ten thousand more to abrogate the contract, and as a solemn warning
to all private individuals and public officers not to attempt such a
speculation as that again. The chapaden of the chief digger,
To-no-wauka, could be purchased in fee simple for less than twenty-eight
thousand dollars, which was the exact amount annually expended for the
rent of the United States Court-rooms at San Francisco until my friend
Yorick, the government agent, reduced it to ten thousand, after which,
of course, he was removed.

"As an additional protection to the revenue, I would suggest that a
revenue cutter be stationed at Bear Harbor, modeled after the fashion of
a large wash-tub, which would be but a slight improvement upon the
sailing capacity of the three cutters now stationed on the Pacific
coast. The masts might be constructed out of large tin dippers inverted,
in the bowls of which marines could be stationed to keep a look-out for
smugglers. Spare blankets would answer for the sails, and a large
carving-knife run out at the stern would serve admirably to steer by. In
order that there might be no danger of missing the way during dark
nights from any variation in the compass, it would be well, perhaps, to
abandon the compass altogether, and send a boat ahead with a light, to
point out where the rocks and smugglers might be found. There being no
vessels to catch at Bear Harbor, no inconvenience would result from the
fact that such a cutter would be as well calculated to lie at anchor as
the cutter Marcy at San Francisco, which has been known to pursue
several vessels for infractions of the revenue laws, but never to catch
any of them. I attribute this not to any want of zeal on the part of the
officers, but partly to the superior speed of the runaway vessels, and
partly to the fact that the Marcy is obliged to lie at anchor for six
months in the year in the Bay of San Francisco for want of other
occupation. The remaining six months she necessarily spends in the
Straits of Carquinas, near Benicia, in order to get rid of the barnacles
that accumulate on her bottom during the term of her sedentary career
below.

"If exception should be taken to this precedent on the ground that a
revenue cutter may sometimes really be wanted at a port of entry where
there is some commerce, surely none will be taken to the cutter Lane,
stationed within the mouth of the Columbia River. For the officers of
this cutter I entertain the most sincere respect; but if she has ever
been known to chase any thing larger than wild ducks, the fact must have
been hushed up from motives of public policy. It has certainly not been
a matter of general comment. About one vessel with dutiable merchandise
enters the Columbia in the course of half a dozen years, and certainly
all sailing vessels have difficulty enough in getting in, without
attempting to run away after they come to an anchor. Indeed, I don't
know where they would run to unless it might be over the Cascades, and
through the Dalles to Walla Walla, or up to Oregon City on the
Willamette River, where the flour-mills of Abernethy & Co. would soon
grind them to pieces. To suppose that they would undertake to run away
before they get over the bar is to suppose that they might just as well
stay away altogether, and thereby avoid the risk of shipwreck in
addition to the remote possibility of being captured by a revenue
cutter. The officers condemned to this station have my most ardent
sympathies. It generally rains at Astoria between two and three hundred
days every year, the consequence of which is, that the whole country and
every thing in it has a mildewed appearance. Already I can fancy that
barnacles are growing on the beards of these gentlemen; that their skin
is becoming slippery and green; their eyes sharkish in expression, from
a constant habit of looking out for smugglers that never can be within
five hundred miles; that the habit of pulling ashore in the boats and
back again; 'making it so' when four and eight bells are announced;
looking up at the mast-head and then down again; going below and reading
the same old newspaper, and coming up again; turning in and taking a
nap, and turning out when the nap is ended; exercising their quadrants
by an occasional peep at the heavenly bodies; eating three scanty and
melancholy meals a day; doing all this and never doing any thing else,
unless it may be to superintend the patching of an old sail which has
rotted to pieces, or the splicing of an old rope to keep the blocks from
falling down on their heads, will eventually so wear upon their mental
and physical resources as to drive them all mad. Should it ever be the
misfortune of any suspicious character to fall into the hands of these
gentlemen, I have no doubt he will have reason to regret it during the
brief period of his existence; for they will certainly cut him to pieces
with their swords, or blow him to fragments out of one of the public
guns, on the general principle that, being paid for doing something,
they ought to do it as soon as possible.

"The revenue cutter at Puget's Sound, familiarly known as the 'Jeff
Davis,' finds occasional occupation in chasing porpoises and wild
Indians. It is to be regretted that but little revenue has yet been
derived from either of these sources; but should she persist in her
efforts, there is hope that at no distant day she may overhaul a canoe
containing a keg of British brandy--that is to say, in case the paddles
are lost, and the Indians have no means of propelling it out of the way.

"These vessels, in addition to their original cost, which was not cheap
considering their quality and sailing capacity, require an expenditure
of some forty or fifty thousand dollars a year for repairs, rigging, pay
of officers and men, subsistence, etc., as also for powder to enable the
officers to kill ducks and salute distinguished people that visit these
remote regions. Now and then they run on the rocks in trying to find
their way from one anchorage to another, in which event they require
extra repairs. As this is for the benefit of navigation, it should not
be included in the account. They generally avoid running on the same
rock, and endeavor to find out a new one not laid down upon the
charts--unless, perhaps, by some reckless fly--in order that other
vessels may enjoy the advantage of additional experience. The beauty of
Bear Harbor in this respect is, that a revenue cutter could run on a new
rock every day in the year, so that, by designating its exact location
on the chart, there would be three hundred and sixty-five rocks per
annum to be avoided by vessels entering the harbor.

"Some military protection would probably be required there for several
years to come, in order to protect the citizens from the attacks of
grizzly bears. I would suggest that a post be established on some
eligible point, and comfortable quarters erected for the officers and
soldiers. While these quarters are in progress of erection, it might be
well to station a large rooster in the top of a neighboring tree to give
warning of the approach of the enemy. As Rome was saved in one way, so
might Bear Harbor be saved in another. Should it become necessary to
abandon them, the citizens will no doubt be willing to purchase them at
public auction.

"I do not know what the military quarters at Fort Miller are going to
do, but the last time I saw them they looked very sorry they had ever
been built. The same may be said of the quarters at Benicia, Fort Tejon,
and San Diego, which goes to prove the transitory character of military
operations. So long as our army goes about the country dropping down
beautiful little cities, we in the line of civil life can certainly have
no objection. As expense is no object, perhaps, to the War Department, I
would suggest that there is a very rugged point of rocks near the
entrance of Bear Harbor, upon which a friend of mine has located a claim
that he is willing to sell for military purposes for the sum of one
hundred and fifty thousand dollars. It commands a fine view of the
ocean, and abounds in mussels and albicores; besides which, it is
cheaper and uglier than Lime Point at the entrance of the Golden Gate,
and would not require near so much writing to make the purchase
satisfactory to the public.

"For a few years, during the infancy of the community, it may be
necessary for some enterprising citizen to borrow from government one
hundred thousand dollars at six per cent. per annum, in consequence of
the high rates of interest in California. There will be no difficulty in
doing this, I apprehend, if he have influence at court. A precedent may
be found in the case of the Folsom estate, against which judgment had
been obtained, and an execution placed in the hands of the marshal.
Private parties found it to their advantage to step in, purchase a
portion of the property, pay a portion of the debt, and, upon giving
satisfactory security, assume the remainder, amounting to a hundred
thousand dollars, at six per cent. It may be a little irregular to favor
particular parties in this way, but then public money had better be
bringing six per cent. than lying idle in the treasury; and besides,
when it is found necessary to issue treasury notes in order to carry on
the government, they bring a premium, and there is a gain to that extent
over the ready cash. If all the public money was loaned out at six per
cent., and all the private money that might be necessary borrowed at
five, of course the financial condition of the treasury would be one per
cent. better per annum.

"After these things were done, and the business of Bear Harbor placed
upon a permanent footing, private instructions might be issued to the
collector of customs to go out and stump the state in behalf of the
great principles of national economy. Experience would enable him to
stand firmly upon the broad platform of public integrity; and when he
addressed the multitude, he could dwell feelingly on the sublime
doctrine of earlier days--'Millions for defense, but not a cent for
tribute!' He could put his hand upon his brow, and solemnly declare
that, so long as he was gifted with the light of intellect to comprehend
the sound doctrines of public policy bequeathed to us by our
forefathers, he would stand by the laws and the Constitution. He could
put his hand upon his heart, and call upon the people to witness that
he, for one, had ever remained true to first principles. He could put
his hand upon his stomach, and avow, from the bottom of his soul, that
he conscientiously indorsed the measures of the prevailing party. He
could put his hand upon his pocket, and affirm in all sincerity that he
went heart and hand with the reigning powers on all the great questions
of the day. And, having fully delivered himself on these various points,
he could wind up with an anecdote from the Schildburghers. When the wise
men of Schilda undertook to build their grand council-house, they
carried down on their backs from the top of a high hill a large number
of heavy logs. In moving the last log, it fell out of their hands and
rolled to the bottom of the hill. 'Don't you see,' said the town fool,
'if you had started them all in the same way, they would have rolled
down of their own accord?' which they admitted was true, and accordingly
carried all the logs up to the top of the hill again, and then rolled
them down. So, if the people don't like this party, they can roll in
another just as good.

      Your obedient servant, etc."

In my next chapter of experiences I propose giving a succinct account of
the great Port Townsend Controversy. This cost me more trouble than all
my other experiences together, and came very near costing me my life.



II.

THE GREAT PORT TOWNSEND CONTROVERSY, SHOWING HOW WHISKY BUILT A CITY.


Few persons who have visited the Pacific coast of late years are
ignorant of the fact that the city of Port Townsend is eligibly situated
on Puget's Sound, near the Straits of Fuca; and none who have seen that
remarkable city can hesitate a moment to admit that it is a commercial
metropolis without parallel.

Port Townsend is indeed a remarkable place. I am not acquainted with
quite such another place in the whole world. It certainly possesses
natural and artificial advantages over most of the cities known in the
Atlantic States or Europe. In front there is an extensive water
privilege, embracing the various ramifications of Puget's Sound.
Admiralty Inlet forms an outlet for the exports of the country, and
Hood's Canal is an excellent place for hoodwinking the revenue officers.
On the rear, extending to Dunganess Point, is a jungle of pine and
matted brush, through which neither man nor beast can penetrate without
considerable effort. This will always be a secure place of retreat in
case of an invasion from a war-canoe manned by Northern Indians. With
regard to the town itself, it is singularly picturesque and diversified.
The prevailing style of architecture is a mixed order of the Gothic,
Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. The houses, of which there must be at
least twenty in the city and suburbs, are built chiefly of pine boards,
thatched with shingles, canvas, and wooden slabs. The palace and
out-buildings of the Duke of York are built of drift-wood from the
saw-mills of Port Ludlow, and are eligibly located near the wharf, so
as to be convenient to the clams and oysters, and afford his maids of
honor an opportunity of indulging in frequent ablutions. There is
somewhat of an ancient and fish-like odor about the premises of his
highness, and it must be admitted that his chimneys smoke horribly, but
still the artistic effect is very fine at a distance. The streets of
Port Townsend are paved with sand, and the public squares are curiously
ornamented with dead horses and the bones of many dead cows, upon the
beef of which the inhabitants have partially subsisted since the
foundation of the city. This, of course, gives a very original
appearance to the public pleasure-grounds, and enables strangers to know
when they arrive in the city, by reason of the peculiar odor, so that,
even admitting the absence of lamps, no person can fail to recognize
Port Townsend in the darkest night. When it was a port of entry under
the laws of the United States, there was a collector of customs
stationed in a small shanty on the principal wharf, whose business it
was to look out for smugglers, and pay the salary of an inspector who
owns some sheep on San Juan Island, and holds joint possession of that
disputed territory with the British government. The collector of
customs, being unable to attend to the many important duties that
devolved upon him without assistance, was allowed two boatmen, whose
duty it was to put him on board of suspicious vessels in the offing, and
one of whom, by virtue of a special commission, was ex-officio deputy
collector, and made up the accounts of the district.

The principal luxuries afforded by the market of this delightful
sea-port are clams, and the carcasses of dead whales that drift ashore,
by reason of eating which the inhabitants have clammy skins, and are
given to much spouting at public meetings. The prevailing languages
spoken are the Clallam, Chenook, and Skookum-Chuck, or Strong Water,
with a mixture of broken English; and all the public notices are written
on shingles with burnt sticks, and nailed up over the door of the
town-hall. A newspaper, issued here once every six months, is printed
by means of wooden types whittled out of pine knots by the Indians, and
rubbed against the bottom of the editor's potato pot. The cast-off
shirts of the inhabitants answer for paper. For the preservation of
public morals, a jail has been constructed out of logs that drifted
ashore in times past, in which noted criminals are put for safe keeping.
The first and last prisoners ever incarcerated in that institution were
eleven Northern Indians, who were suspected of the murder of Colonel Ehy
at Whidbey's Island. As the logs are laid upon sand to make the
foundation secure, the Indians, while rooting for clams one night,
happened to come up at the outside of the jail, and finding the
watchman, who had been placed there by the citizens, fast asleep, with
an empty whisky bottle in the distance, they stole his blanket, hat,
boots, and pipe, and bade an affectionate farewell to Port Townsend.

The municipal affairs of the city are managed by a mayor and six
councilmen, who are elected to office in a very peculiar manner. On the
day of election, notice having been previously given on the town
shingles, all the candidates for corporate honors go up on the top of
the hill back of the water-front, and play at pitch-penny and quoits
till a certain number are declared eligible; after which all the
eligible candidates are required to climb a greased pole in the centre
of the main public square. The two best then become eligible for the
mayoralty, and the twelve next best for the common council. These
fourteen candidates then get on the roof of the town-hall and begin to
yell like Indians. Whoever can yell the loudest is declared mayor, and
the six next loudest become the members of the common council for the
ensuing year.

While I had the misfortune to be in public employ (and for no
disreputable act that I can now remember), it became my duty to inquire
into the condition of the Indians on Puget's Sound. In the course of my
tour I visited this unique city for the purpose of having a "wa-wa"
with the Duke of York, chief of the Clallam tribe.

The principal articles of commerce, I soon discovered, were whisky,
cotton handkerchiefs, tobacco, and cigars, and the principal shops were
devoted to billiards and the sale of grog. I was introduced by the
Indian Agent to the Duke, who inhabited that region, and still disputed
the possession of the place with the white settlers. If the settlers
paid him any thing for the land upon which they built their shanties it
must have been in whisky, for the Duke was lying drunk in his wigwam at
the time of my visit. For the sake of morals, I regret to say that he
had two wives, ambitiously named "Queen Victoria" and "Jenny Lind;" and
for the good repute of Indian ladies of rank, it grieves me to add that
the Queen and Jenny were also very tipsy, if not quite drunk, when I
called to pay my respects.

The Duke was lying on a rough wooden bedstead, with a bullock's hide
stretched over it, enjoying his ease with the ladies of his household.
When the agent informed him that a Hyas Tyee, or Big Chief, had called
to see him with a message from the Great Chief of all the Indians, the
Duke grunted significantly, as much as to say "that's all right." The
Queen, who sat near him in the bed, gave him a few whacks to rouse him
up, and by the aid of Jenny Lind succeeded, after a while, in getting
him in an upright position. His costume consisted of a red shirt and
nothing else, but neither of the royal ladies seemed at all put out by
the scantiness of his wardrobe. There was something very amiable and
jolly in the face of the old Duke, even stupefied as he was by whisky.
He shook me by the hand in a friendly manner, and, patting his stomach,
remarked, "Duke York belly good man!"

  [Illustration: THE DUKE OF YORK, QUEEN VICTORIA, AND JENNY LIND.]

Of course I complimented him upon his general reputation as a good man,
and proceeded to make the usual speech, derived from the official
formula, about the Great Chief in Washington, whose children were as
numerous as the leaves on the trees and the grass on the plains.

"Oh, dam!" said the Duke, impatiently; "him send any whisky?"

No; on the contrary, the Great Chief had heard with profound regret that
the Indians of Puget's Sound were addicted to the evil practice of
drinking whisky, and it made his heart bleed to learn that it was
killing them off rapidly, and was the principal cause of all their
misery. It was very cruel and very wicked for white men to sell whisky
to the Indians, and it was his earnest wish that the law against this
illicit traffic might be enforced and the offenders punished.

"Oh, dam!" said the Duke, turning over on his bed, and contemptuously
waving his hand in termination of the interview--"dis Tyee no 'count!"

While this wa-wa, or grand talk, was going on, the Queen put her arms
affectionately around the Duke's neck, and giggled with admiration at
his eloquence. Jenny sat a little at one side, and seemed to be under
the combined influence of whisky, jealousy, and a black eye. I was
subsequently informed that the Duke was in the habit of beating both the
Queen and Jenny for their repeated quarrels, and when unusually drunk
was not particular about either the force or direction of his blows.
This accounted for Jenny's black eye and bruised features, and for the
alleged absence of two of the Queen's front teeth, which it was said
were knocked out in a recent brawl.

Some months after my visit to Port Townsend, in writing a report on the
Indians of Puget's Sound, I took occasion to refer to the salient points
of the above interview with the Duke of York, and to make a few remarks
touching the degraded condition of himself and tribe, attributing it to
the illegal practice on the part of the citizens of selling whisky to
the Indians. I stated that his wigwam was situated between two
whisky-shops, and that the Clallams would soon be reduced to the level
of bad white men in Port Townsend, "which, to say the least of it, was
a very benighted place." The report was printed by order of Congress,
though I was not aware of that fact till one day, sitting in my office
in San Francisco, I received a copy of the "Olympia Democrat" (if I
remember correctly), containing a series of grave charges against me,
signed by the principal citizens of Port Townsend. I have lost the
original documents, but shall endeavor to supply the deficiency as well
as my memory serves. The letter was addressed to the "United States
Special Agent," and was substantially as follows:

       "SIR,--The undersigned have read your official report
       relative to the Indians of Puget's Sound, and regret that
       you have deemed it necessary to step so far aside from the
       line of your duty as to traduce our fair name and
       reputation as citizens of Port Townsend. You will pardon
       us for expressing the opinion that you might have spent
       your time with more credit to yourself and benefit to the
       government.

       "Sir, it may be that on the occasion of your visit here
       the Duke of York and his wives were drunk; but the
       undersigned are satisfied, upon a personal examination,
       that neither Queen Victoria nor Jenny Lind suffered the
       loss of two front teeth, as you state in your report; and
       they are not aware that Jenny Lind's eyes were ever
       blacked by the Duke of York, nor do they believe it,
       although you have thought proper to make that statement in
       your report.

       "The undersigned do not pretend to say that there is no
       whisky sold in Port Townsend; but they deny, sir, that you
       ever saw any of them drunk, or that the citizens of Port
       Townsend, as a class, are at all intemperate. On the
       contrary, they claim to be as orderly, industrious, and
       law-abiding as the citizens of any other town on the
       Pacific coast or elsewhere.

       "Sir, it is scarcely possible that you can have forgotten
       so soon the marked kindness and hospitality with which
       you were treated by the citizens of this place during your
       sojourn here; and now the return you make is to blacken
       the reputation of our thriving little town, and endeavor
       to destroy our future prospects. You are, of course, at
       liberty to choose your own line of travel, but if ever you
       visit Port Townsend again, we can assure you, sir, you
       will enjoy a very different reception. Had you confined
       your misstatements to the Indians, we might have excused
       it on the ground that it is not customary for public
       officers to adhere strictly to facts in their reports; but
       when you go entirely out of your way, and commit such an
       unprovoked attack upon our character, we feel bound to set
       ourselves right before the world.

       "In charity, we can only suppose that you have been
       grossly deceived in your sources of information; yet, when
       you profess to have witnessed personally the evil effects
       of whisky in Port Townsend, and go so far as to pronounce
       it 'a benighted place,' we can not evade the conclusion
       that you must have had some experience in what you say you
       witnessed; either that, or you deliberately committed a
       base slander upon the citizens of this place. Although the
       undersigned consider themselves included in your sweeping
       assertion, it can not have escaped your memory, sir, that
       on the occasion of your visit to Port Townsend you found
       them engaged in their peaceful avocations as useful and
       respectable members of society; and they positively deny
       that any of them have ever sold whisky to the Indians, or
       committed the crime of murder.

       "Sir, the undersigned have made inquiry into that portion
       of your report in which you state that no less than six
       murders were committed here during the past year, and can
       only find that two were committed, and neither of them by
       citizens of this place. The conclusion, therefore, to
       which the undersigned are forced, is, that you were at a
       loss for something to say, and invented at least four
       murders for the purpose of contributing to the interest of
       your report.

       "Sir, when a respectable community are engaged in trying
       to make an honest living, we think it hardly fair that
       you, as a government agent, should come among them, and,
       without cause or provocation, slander their character and
       injure their reputation. We therefore enter our solemn
       protest against the unfounded charges made in your report,
       and respectfully recommend that in future you confine
       yourself to your official duties.

       "(Signed), J. Hodges, B. Punch, T. Thatcher, B. Fletcher,
       Warren Hastings, Wm. Pitt, J. Fox, E. Burke, and eleven
       others."

Here was a serious business. I can assure the reader that the sensations
experienced in the perusal of such a document, when addressed to one's
self through a public newspaper, and signed by fifteen or twenty
responsible persons, are peculiar and by no means agreeable. For a
moment I really began to think I was a very bad man, and that there must
be something uncommonly reprehensible in my conduct.

Upon the whole, I felt that I was a little in fault, and had better
apologize. There was no particular necessity for introducing Queen
Victoria's front teeth and Jenny Lind's black eye to Congress; and, to
confess the truth, it was really going a little beyond the usual limits
of official etiquette to "ring in" a public town possessing some
valuable political influence.

I therefore prepared and published in the newspapers an Apology, which
it seemed to me ought to be satisfactory. The following is as close a
copy of the original as I can now write out from memory:

       "San Francisco, Cal., April 1st, 1858. "To Messrs. J.
       Hodges, B. Punch, T. Thatcher, B. Fletcher, Warren
       Hastings, Wm. Pitt, J. Fox, E. Burke, and eleven others,
       citizens, Port Townsend, W. T.:

       "GENTLEMEN,--I have read with surprise and regret your
       letter of the 10th ult., in which you make several very
       serious charges against me in reference to certain
       statements contained in my report on the Indians of
       Puget's Sound. Not the least important of these charges is
       that I stepped aside from the line of my duty to traduce
       your fair name and reputation as citizens of Port
       Townsend. You entertain the opinion that I might have been
       better employed--an opinion in which I would cheerfully
       concur if it were not based upon erroneous premises. I
       have not the slightest recollection of having traduced
       'your fair name and reputation,' or made any reference to
       you whatever in my report. When I alluded to the
       'beach-combers, rowdies, and other bad characters' in Port
       Townsend, I had no idea that respectable gentlemen like
       yourselves would take it as personal. Of course, as none
       of you ever sold whisky to the Indians or committed
       murder, you do great injustice to your own reputation in
       supposing that the public at large would attribute these
       crimes to you because I mentioned them in my report.

       "You deny positively that either Queen Victoria or Jenny
       Lind had her front teeth knocked out by the Duke of York.
       Well, I take that back, for I certainly did not examine
       their mouths as closely as you seem to have done. But when
       you deny that Jenny Lind's eye was black, you do me great
       injustice. I shall insist upon it to the latest hour of my
       existence that it was black--deeply, darkly, beautifully
       black, with a prismatic circle of pink, blue, and yellow
       in the immediate vicinity. I cheerfully retract the teeth,
       but, gentlemen, I hold on to the eye. Depend upon it, I
       shall stand by that eye as long as the flag of freedom
       waves over this glorious republic! You will admit, at all
       events, that Jenny had a drop in her eye.

       "While you do not pretend to say that there is no whisky
       sold in Port Townsend, you do insist upon it that I never
       saw any of you drunk. Of course not, gentlemen. There are
       several of you that I do not recollect having ever seen,
       either drunk or sober. If I did see any of you under the
       influence of intoxicating spirits, the disguise was
       certainly effectual, for I am now entirely unable to say
       which of you it was. Besides, I never said I saw any of
       you drunk. It requires a great deal of whisky to
       intoxicate some people, and I should be sorry to hazard a
       conjecture as to the gauge of any citizen of Port
       Townsend. I do not believe you habitually drink whisky as
       a beverage--certainly not Port Townsend whisky, for that
       would kill the strongest man that ever lived in less than
       six months, if he drank nothing else. Many of you, no
       doubt, use tea or coffee at breakfast, and it is quite
       possible that some of you occasionally venture upon water.

       "Gentlemen, you were pleased to call my attention to
       certain custom-house claims, Indian claims, and
       pre-emption claims when I was at Port Townsend; but when
       you 'claim to be as orderly, industrious, and law-abiding
       as the citizens of any other town on the Pacific coast or
       elsewhere,' you go altogether beyond my official
       jurisdiction. I think you had better send that claim to
       Congress.

       "That 'it is not customary for public officers to adhere
       strictly to facts for their reports' is a melancholy
       truth. You have me there, gentlemen. Truth is very scarce
       in official documents. It is not expected by the public,
       and it would be utterly thrown away upon Congress.
       Besides, the truth is the last thing that would serve your
       purpose as claimants for public money.

       "You are charitable enough to suppose that I may have been
       grossly deceived in my sources of information. Well, you
       ought to know all about that, for I got most of the
       information from yourselves. As to my remark that Port
       Townsend is 'a benighted place,' I am astonished that you
       did not see into the true meaning of that expression. It
       was merely a jocular allusion to the absence of lamps in
       the public streets at night.

       "You do not think it can possibly have escaped my memory
       that I found you engaged in your peaceful avocations as
       useful and respectable members of society on the occasion
       of my visit to Port Townsend. Now, upon my honor, I can
       not remember who it was particularly that I saw engaged in
       peaceful avocations, but I certainly saw a good many white
       men lying about in sunny places fast asleep, and a good
       many more sitting on logs of wood whittling small sticks,
       and apparently waiting for somebody to invite them into
       the nearest saloon; others I saw playing billiards, and
       some few standing about the corners of the streets,
       waiting for the houses to grow--all of which were
       unquestionably peaceful, if not strictly useful
       avocations. I have no recollection of having seen any
       person engaged in the performance of any labor calculated
       to strain his vertebræ.

       "The result of your inquiries on the subject of murder
       appears to be that only two murders were committed in Port
       Townsend during the past year, instead of six, as stated
       in my report. Well, gentlemen, I was not present, and did
       not participate in any of these alleged murders, and
       cheerfully admit that your sheriff, who gave me the
       information, and whose name is appended to your letter,
       may not have counted them accurately. At all events, I
       take four of them back, and place them to the credit of
       Port Townsend for the ensuing year. I utterly disclaim
       having invented them, though I would at any time much
       rather invent four murders than commit one. Nor can I
       admit that I was at a loss for something to say. There was
       abundance of fictitious material presented in the course
       of my official investigations, without rendering it at all
       necessary for me to resort to imaginary murders. And I
       farther insist upon it that, if I did not personally
       witness the violent death of six men in Port Townsend, I
       heard the king's English most cruelly murdered there on at
       least six different occasions. Gentlemen, you need not
       take any farther trouble about 'setting yourselves right
       before the world.' I trust you will admit that you are all
       right now, since I have duly made the amende honorable.

       "Wishing you success in your 'peaceful avocations,' and
       exemption from all future anxiety relative to the price of
       lots in Port Townsend, I remain, very respectfully, your
       obedient servant," etc.

Strange to say, so far from being satisfied with this apology, the
citizens of Port Townsend were enraged to a degree bordering on
insanity. The mayor, upon the reception of the mail containing the fatal
document, called the Town Council together, and the schoolmaster read it
to the Town Council, and the Town Council deliberated over it for three
days, and then unanimously resolved that the author was a "Vile
Kalumater, unworthy of further Atension, and had beter stere cleer of
Port Townsend for the Future!" For two years they did nothing else, in
an official point of view, but write letters to the San Francisco papers
denouncing the author of this Vile Kalumy, and assuring the public that
his description of Port Townsend was wholly unworthy of credit; that
Port Townsend was the neatest, cleanest, most orderly, and most
flourishing little town on the Pacific coast. By the time the Frazer
River excitement broke out, the people of California were well
acquainted, through the newspapers, with at least one town on Puget's
Sound. If they knew nothing of Whatcomb, Squill-Chuck, and other rival
places that aspired to popular favor, they were no strangers to the
reputation of Port Townsend. Thousands, who had no particular business
there, went to take a look at this wonderful town, which had given rise
to so much controversy. The citizens were soon forced to build a fine
hotel. Many visitors liked the society, and concluded to remain. Others
thought it would soon be the great centre of commerce for all the
shipping that would be drawn thither by the mineral wealth of Frazer
River, and bought city lots on speculation. Traders came there and set
up stores; new whisky saloons were built; customers crowded in from all
parts; in short, it became a gay and dashing sort of place, and very
soon had quite the appearance of a city. When the Frazer River bubble
burst, nobody was killed at Port Townsend, because it had a strong
reputation, and could still persuade people that it was bound to be a
great city at some future period.

During the following year I made bold to pay my old friends a visit. A
delegation of the Common Council met me on the wharf. There were no
hacks yet introduced, but any number of horses were placed at my
disposal. The greeting was cordial and impressive. A most complimentary
address was read to me by the mayor of the city, in which it was fully
and frankly acknowledged that I was the means of building up the
fortunes of Port Townsend. After the address, the citizens with one
accord rushed to me, and, grasping me warmly by the hand, at once
retracted their injurious imputations. These gratifying public
demonstrations over, we adjourned to the nearest saloon, and buried the
hatchet forever in an ocean of the best Port Townsend whisky. It is due
to the citizens to say that not one of them went beyond reasonable
bounds on this joyous occasion, by which I do not mean to intimate that
they were accustomed to the beverage referred to. At all events, I think
it has been clearly demonstrated by these authentic documents that
"whisky built a great city."



III.

THE INDIANS OF CALIFORNIA.


When the State of California was admitted into the Union, the number of
Indians within its borders was estimated at one hundred thousand. Of
these, some five or six thousand, residing in the vicinity of the
Missions, were partially civilized, and subsisted chiefly by begging and
stealing. A few of the better class contrived to avoid starvation by
casual labor in the vineyards and on the farms of the settlers. They
were very poor and very corrupt, given to gambling, drinking, and other
vices prevailing among white men, and to which Indians have a natural
inclination. As the country became more settled, it was considered
profitable, owing to the high rate of compensation for white labor, to
encourage these Christian tribes to adopt habits of industry, and they
were employed very generally throughout the state. In the vine-growing
districts they were usually paid in native brandy every Saturday night,
put in jail next morning for getting drunk, and bailed out on Monday to
work out the fine imposed upon them by the local authorities. This
system still prevails in Los Angeles, where I have often seen a dozen of
these miserable wretches carried to jail roaring drunk of a Sunday
morning. The inhabitants of Los Angeles are a moral and intelligent
people, and many of them disapprove of the custom on principle, and hope
it will be abolished as soon as the Indians are all killed off.
Practically, it is not a bad way of bettering their condition; for some
of them die every week from the effects of debauchery, or kill one
another in the nocturnal brawls which prevail in the outskirts of the
Pueblo.

  [Illustration: THE DIGGERS AT HOME.]

The settlers in the northern portions of the state had a still more
effectual method of encouraging the Indians to adopt habits of
civilization. In general, they engaged them at a fixed rate of wages to
cultivate the ground, and during the season of labor fed them on beans,
and gave them a blanket or a shirt each; after which, when the harvest
was secured, the account was considered squared, and the Indians were
driven off to forage in the woods for themselves and families during the
winter. Starvation usually wound up a considerable number of the old and
decrepit ones every season; and of those that failed to perish from
hunger or exposure, some were killed on the general principle that they
must have subsisted by stealing cattle, for it was well known that
cattle ranged in the vicinity, while others were not unfrequently
slaughtered by their employers for helping themselves to the refuse
portions of the crop which had been left in the ground. It may be said
that these were exceptions to the general rule; but if ever an Indian
was fully and honestly paid for his labor by a white settler, it was not
my luck to hear of it; certainly it could not have been of frequent
occurrence.

The wild Indians inhabiting the Coast Range, the valleys of the
Sacramento and San Joaquin, and the western slope of the Sierra Nevada,
became troublesome at a very early period after the discovery of the
gold mines. It was found convenient to take possession of their country
without recompense, rob them of their wives and children, kill them in
every cowardly and barbarous manner that could be devised, and when that
was impracticable, drive them as far as possible out of the way. Such
treatment was not consistent with their rude ideas of justice. At best
they were an ignorant race of Diggers, wholly unacquainted with our
enlightened institutions. They could not understand why they should be
murdered, robbed, and hunted down in this way, without any other
pretense of provocation than the color of their skin and the habits of
life to which they had always been accustomed. In the traditionary
researches of their most learned sages they had never heard of the
snakes in Ireland that were exterminated for the public benefit by the
great and good St. Patrick. They were utterly ignorant of the sublime
doctrine of General Welfare. The idea, strange as it may appear, never
occurred to them that they were suffering for the great cause of
civilization, which, in the natural course of things, must exterminate
Indians. Actuated by base motives of resentment, a few of them
occasionally rallied, preferring rather to die than submit to these
imaginary wrongs. White men were killed from time to time; cattle were
driven off; horses were stolen, and various other iniquitous offenses
were committed.

The federal government, as is usual in cases where the lives of valuable
voters are at stake, was forced to interfere. Troops were sent out to
aid the settlers in slaughtering the Indians. By means of mounted
howitzers, muskets, Minié rifles, dragoon pistols, and sabres, a good
many were cut to pieces. But, on the whole, the general policy of the
government was pacific. It was not designed to kill any more Indians
than might be necessary to secure the adhesion of the honest yeomanry of
the state, and thus furnish an example of the practical working of our
political system to the savages of the forest, by which it was hoped
they might profit. Congress took the matter in hand at an early day, and
appropriated large sums of money for the purchase of cattle and
agricultural implements. From the wording of the law, it would appear
that these useful articles were designed for the relief and maintenance
of the Indians. Commissioners were appointed at handsome salaries to
treat with them, and sub-agents employed to superintend the distribution
of the purchases. In virtue of this munificent policy, treaties were
made in which the various tribes were promised a great many valuable
presents, which of course they never got. There was no reason to suppose
they ever should; it being a fixed principle with strong powers never
to ratify treaties made by their own agents with weaker ones, when there
is money to pay and nothing to be had in return.

The cattle were purchased, however, to the number of many thousands.
Here arose another difficulty. The honest miners must have something to
eat, and what could they have more nourishing than fat cattle? Good beef
has been a favorite article of subsistence with men of bone and muscle
ever since the days of the ancient Romans. So the cattle, or the greater
part of them, were driven up to the mines, and sold at satisfactory
rates--probably for the benefit of the Indians, though I never could
understand in what way their necessities were relieved by this
speculation, unless it might be that the parties interested turned over
to them the funds received for the cattle. It is very certain they
continued to starve and commit depredations in the most ungrateful
manner for some time after; and, indeed, to such a pitch of audacity did
they carry their rebellious spirit against the constituted authorities,
that many of the chiefs protested if the white people would only let
them alone, and give them the least possible chance to make a living,
they would esteem it a much greater favor than any relief they had
experienced from the munificent donations of Congress.

But government was not to be defeated in its benevolent intentions.
Voluminous reports were made to Congress, showing that a general
reservation system, on the plan so successfully pursued by the Spanish
missionaries, would best accomplish the object. It was known that the
Missions of California had been built chiefly by Indian labor; that
during their existence the priests had fully demonstrated the capacity
of this race for the acquisition of civilized habits; that extensive
vineyards and large tracts of land had been cultivated solely by Indian
labor, under their instruction; and that by this humane system of
teaching many hostile tribes had been subdued, and enabled not only to
support themselves, but to render the Missions highly profitable
establishments.

No aid was given by government beyond the grants of land necessary for
missionary purposes; yet they soon grew wealthy, owned immense herds of
cattle, supplied agricultural products to the rancheros, and carried on
a considerable trade in hides and tallow with the United States. If the
Spanish priests could do this without arms or assistance, in the midst
of a savage country, at a period when the Indians were more numerous and
more powerful than they are now, surely it could be done in a
comparatively civilized country by intelligent Americans, with all the
lights of experience and the co-operation of a beneficent government.

At least Congress thought so; and in 1853 laws were passed for the
establishment of a reservation system in California, and large
appropriations were made to carry it into effect. Tracts of land of
twenty-five thousand acres were ordered to be set apart for the use of
the Indians; officers were appointed to supervise the affairs of the
service; clothing, cattle, seeds, and agricultural implements were
purchased; and a general invitation was extended to the various tribes
to come in and learn how to work like white men. The first reservation
was established at the Tejon, a beautiful and fertile valley in the
southern part of the state. Head-quarters for the employés, and large
granaries for the crops, were erected. The Indians were feasted on
cattle, and every thing promised favorably. True, it cost a great deal
to get started, about $250,000; but a considerable crop was raised, and
there was every reason to hope that the experiment would prove
successful. In the course of time other reservations were established,
one in the foot-hills of the Sacramento Valley, at a place called Nome
Lackee; one at the mouth of the Noyo River, south of Cape Mendocino; and
one on the Klamath, below Crescent City; besides which, there were
Indian farms, or adjuncts, of these reservations at the Fresno, Nome
Cult or Round Valley, the Mattole Valley, near Cape Mendocino, and
other points where it was deemed advisable to give aid and instruction
to the Indians. The cost of these establishments was such as to justify
the most sanguine anticipations of their success.

In order that the appropriations might be devoted to their legitimate
purpose, and the greatest possible amount of instruction furnished at
the least expense, the Executive Department adopted the policy of
selecting officers experienced in the art of public speaking, and
thoroughly acquainted with the prevailing systems of primary elections.
A similar policy had been found to operate beneficially in the case of
Collectors of Customs, and there was no reason why it should not in
other branches of the public service. Gentlemen skilled in the tactics
of state Legislatures, and capable of influencing those refractory
bodies by the exercise of moral suasion, could be relied upon to deal
with the Indians, who are not so far advanced in the arts of
civilization, and whose necessities, in a pecuniary point of view, are
not usually so urgent. Besides, it was known that the Digger tribes were
exceedingly ignorant of our political institutions, and required more
instruction, perhaps, in this branch of knowledge than in any other. The
most intelligent of the chiefs actually had no more idea of the
respective merits of the great candidates for senatorial honors in
California than if those distinguished gentlemen had never been born. As
to primary meetings and caucuses, the poor Diggers, in their simplicity,
were just as apt to mistake them for some favorite game of thimblerig or
pitch-penny as for the practical exercise of the great system of free
suffrage. They could not make out why men should drink so much whisky
and swear so hard unless they were gambling; and if any farther proof
was necessary, it was plain to see that the game was one of hazard,
because the players were constantly whispering to each other, and
passing money from hand to hand, and from pocket to pocket. The only
difference they could see between the different parties was that some
had more money than others, but they had no idea where it came from. To
enlighten them on all these points was, doubtless, the object of the
great appointing powers in selecting good political speakers to preside
over them. After building their houses, it was presumed that there would
be plenty of stumps left in the woods from which they could be taught to
make speeches on the great questions of the day, and where a gratifying
scene might be witnessed, at no remote period, of big and little Diggers
holding forth from every stump in support of the presiding
administration. For men who possessed an extraordinary capacity for
drinking ardent spirits; who could number among their select friends the
most notorious vagrants and gamblers in the state; who spent their days
in idleness and their nights in brawling grog-shops; whose habits, in
short, were in every way disreputable, the authorities in Washington
entertained a very profound antipathy. I know this to be the case,
because the most stringent regulations were established prohibiting
persons in the service from getting drunk, and official orders written
warning them that they would be promptly removed in case of any
misconduct. Circular letters were also issued, and posted up at the
different reservations, forbidding the employés to adopt the wives of
the Indians, which it was supposed they might attempt to do from too
zealous a disposition to cultivate friendly relations with both sexes.
In support of this policy, the California delegation made it a point
never to indorse any person for office in the service who was not
considered peculiarly deserving of patronage. They knew exactly the kind
of men that were wanted, because they lived in the state and had read
about the Indians in the newspapers. Some of them had even visited a few
of the wigwams. Having the public welfare at heart--a fact that can not
be doubted, since they repeatedly asserted it in their speeches--they
saw where the great difficulty lay, and did all in their power to aid
the executive. They indorsed the very best friends they had--gentlemen
who had contributed to their election, and fought for them through thick
and thin. The capacity of such persons for conducting the affairs of a
reservation could not be doubted. If they had cultivated an extensive
acquaintance among pot-house voters, of course they must understand the
cultivation of potatoes and onions; if they could control half a dozen
members of the Legislature in a senatorial contest, why not be able to
control Indians, who were not near so difficult to manage? if they could
swallow obnoxious measures of the administration, were they not
qualified to teach savages how to swallow government provisions? if they
were honest enough to avow, in the face of corrupt and hostile factions,
that they stood by the Constitution, and always meant to stand by the
same broad platform, were they not honest enough to disburse public
funds?

In one respect, I think the policy of the government was
unfortunate--that is, in the disfavor with which persons of intemperate
and disreputable habits were regarded. Men of this kind--and they are
not difficult to find in California--could do a great deal toward
meliorating the moral condition of the Indians by drinking up all the
whisky that might be smuggled on the reservations, and behaving so
disreputably in general that no Indian, however degraded in his
propensities, could fail to become ashamed of such low vices.

In accordance with the views of the Department, it was deemed to be
consistent with decency that these untutored savages should be clothed
in a more becoming costume than Nature had bestowed upon them. Most of
them were as ignorant of covering as they were of the Lecompton
Constitution. With the exception of a few who had worked for the
settlers, they made their first appearance on the reservations very much
as they appeared when they first saw daylight. It was a great object to
make them sensible of the advantages of civilization by covering their
backs while cultivating their brains. Blankets, shirts, and pantaloons,
therefore, were purchased for them in large quantities. It is presumed
that when the Department read the vouchers for these articles, and for
the potatoes, beans, and cattle that were so plentifully sprinkled
through the accounts, it imagined that it was "clothing the naked and
feeding the hungry!"

The blankets, to be sure, were very thin, and cost a great deal of money
in proportion to their value; but, then, peculiar advantages were to be
derived from the transparency of the fabric. In some respects the worst
material might be considered the most economical. By holding his blanket
to the light, an Indian could enjoy the contemplation of both sides of
it at the same time; and it would only require a little instruction in
architecture to enable him to use it occasionally as a window to his
wigwam. Every blanket being marked by a number of blotches, he could
carry his window on his back whenever he went out on a foraging
expedition, so as to know the number of his residence when he returned,
as the citizens of Schilda carried their doors when they went away from
home, in order that they should not forget where they lived. Nor was it
the least important consideration, that when he gambled it away, or sold
it for whisky, he would not be subject to any inconvenience from a
change of temperature. The shirts and pantaloons were in general equally
transparent, and possessed this additional advantage, that they very
soon cracked open in the seams, and thereby enabled the squaws to learn
how to sew.

As many of the poor wretches were afflicted with diseases incident to
their mode of life, and likely to contract others from the white
employés of the reservations, physicians were appointed to give them
medicine. Of course Indians required a peculiar mode of treatment. They
spoke a barbarous jargon, and it was not possible that any thing but
barbarous compounds could operate on their bowels. Of what use would it
be to waste good medicines on stomachs that were incapable of
comprehending their use? Accordingly, any deficiency in the quality was
made up by the quantity and variety. Old drug stores were cleared of
their rubbish, and vast quantities of croton oil, saltpetre, alum,
paint, scent-bottles, mustard, vinegar, and other valuable laxatives,
diaphoretics, and condiments were supplied for their use. The result
was, that, aided by the peculiar system of diet adopted, the physicians
were enabled very soon to show a considerable roll of patients. In cases
where the blood was ascertained to be scorbutic, the patients were
allowed to go out in the valleys, and subsist for a few months on clover
or grass, which was regarded as a sovereign remedy. I was assured at one
reservation that fresh spring grass had a more beneficial effect on them
than the medicines, as it generally purged them. The Department was
fully advised of these facts in elaborate reports made by its special
emissaries, and congratulated itself upon the satisfactory progress of
the system. The elections were going all right--the country was safe.
Feeding Indians on grass was advancing them at least one step toward a
knowledge of the sacred Scriptures. It was following the time-honored
precedent of Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, who was driven from
men, and did eat grass as oxen, and was wet with the dews of heaven till
his hairs were grown like eagles' feathers, and his nails like birds'
claws. An ounce of croton oil would go a great way in lubricating the
intestines of an entire tribe of Indians; and if the paint could not be
strictly classed with any of the medicines known in the official
dispensary, it might at least be used for purposes of clothing during
the summer months. Red or green pantaloons painted on the legs of the
Indians, and striped blue shirts artistically marked out on their
bodies, would be at once cool, economical, and picturesque. If these
things cost a great deal of money, as appeared by the vouchers, it was a
consolation to know that, money being the root of all evil, no
injurious effects could grow out of such a root after it had been once
thoroughly eradicated.

The Indians were also taught the advantages to be derived from the
cultivation of the earth. Large supplies of potatoes were purchased in
San Francisco, at about double what they were worth in the vicinity of
the reservations. There were only twenty-five thousand acres of public
land available at each place for the growth of potatoes or any other
esculent for which the hungry natives might have a preference; but it
was much easier to purchase potatoes than to make farmers out of the
white men employed to teach them how to cultivate the earth. Sixteen or
seventeen men on each reservation had about as much as they could do to
attend to their own private claims, and keep the natives from eating
their private crops. It was not the policy of government to reward its
friends for their "adhesion to the Constitution" by requiring them to
perform any practical labor at seventy-five or a hundred dollars a
month, which was scarcely double the current wages of the day. Good men
could obtain employment any where by working for their wages; but it
required the best kind of administration men to earn extraordinary
compensations by an extraordinary amount of idleness. Not that they were
all absolutely worthless. On the contrary, some spent their time in
hunting, others in riding about the country, and a considerable number
in laying out and supervising private claims, aided by Indian labor and
government provisions.

The official reports transmitted to Congress from time to time gave
flattering accounts of the progress of the system. The extent and
variety of the crops were fabulously grand. Immense numbers of Indians
were fed and clothed--on paper. Like little children who cry for
medicines, it would appear that the whole red race were so charmed with
the new schools of industry that they were weeping to be removed there
and set to work. Indeed, many of them had already learned to work "like
white men;" they were bending to it cheerfully, and could handle the
plow and the sickle very skillfully, casting away their bows and arrows,
and adopting the more effective instruments of agriculture. No mention
was made of the fact that these working Indians had acquired their
knowledge from the settlers, and that, if they worked after the fashion
of the white men on the reservations, it was rarely any of them were
obliged to go to the hospital in consequence of injuries resulting to
the spinal column. The favorite prediction of the officers in charge
was, that in a very short time these institutions would be
self-sustaining--that is to say, that neither they nor the Indians would
want any more money after a while.

It may seem strange that the appropriations demanded of Congress did not
decrease in a ratio commensurate with these flattering reports. The
self-sustaining period had not yet come. On the contrary, as the Indians
were advancing into the higher branches of education--music, dancing,
and the fine arts, moral philosophy and ethics, political economy,
etc.--it required more money to teach them. The number had been
considerably diminished by death and desertion; but then their appetites
had improved, and they were getting a great deal smarter. Besides,
politics were becoming sadly entangled in the state, and many agents had
to be employed in the principal cities to protect the women and children
from any sudden invasion of the natives while the patriotic male
citizens were at the polls depositing their votes.

The Department, no doubt, esteemed all this to be a close approximation
to the Spanish Mission system, and in some respects it was. The priests
sought the conversion of heathens, who believed neither in the Divinity
nor the Holy Ghost; the Department the conversion of infidels, who had
no faith in the measures of the administration. If there was any
material difference, it was in the Head of the Church, and the
missionaries appointed to carry its views into effect.

But the most extraordinary feature in the history of this service in
California was the interpretation given by the federal authorities in
Washington to the Independent Treasury Act of 1846. That stringent
provision, prohibiting any public officer from using for private
purposes, loaning, or depositing in any bank or banking institution any
public funds committed to his charge; transmitting for settlement any
voucher for a greater amount than that actually paid; or appropriating
such funds to any other purpose than that prescribed by law, was so
amended in the construction of the Department as to mean, "except in
cases where such officer has rendered peculiar services to the party and
possesses strong influences in Congress." When any infraction of the law
was reported, it was subjected to the test of this amended reading; and
if the conditions were found satisfactory, the matter was disposed of in
a pigeon-hole. An adroit system of accountability was established, by
which no property return, abstract of issues, account current, or
voucher, was understood to mean what it expressed upon its face, so that
no accounting officer possessing a clew to the policy adopted could be
deceived by the figures. Thus it was perfectly well understood that five
hundred or a thousand head of cattle did not necessarily mean real
cattle with horns, legs, and tails, actually born in the usual course of
nature, purchased for money, and delivered on the reservations, but
prospective cattle, that might come into existence and be wanted at some
future period. For all the good the Indians got of them, it might as
well be five hundred or a thousand head of voters, for they no more fed
upon beef, as a general thing, than they did upon human flesh.

Neither was it beyond the capacity of the Department to comprehend that
traveling expenses on special Indian service might just as well mean a
trip to the Convention at Sacramento; that guides and assistants were a
very indefinite class of gentlemen of a roving turn of mind; that
expenses incurred in visiting wild tribes and settling difficulties
among them did not necessarily involve the exclusion of difficulties
among the party factions in the Legislature. In short, the original
purpose of language was so perverted in the official correspondence that
it had no more to do with the expression of facts than many of the
employés had to do with the Indians. The reports and regulations of the
Department actually bordered on the poetical. It was enough to bring
tears into the eyes of any feeling man to read the affecting
dissertations that were transmitted to Congress on the woes of the Red
men, and the labors of the public functionaries to meliorate their
unhappy condition. Faith, hope, and charity abounded in them. "See what
we are doing for these poor children of the forest!" was the burden of
the song, in a strain worthy the most pathetic flights of Mr. Pecksniff;
"see how faithful we are to our trusts, and how judiciously we expend
the appropriations! Yet they die off in spite of us--wither away as the
leaves of the trees in autumn! Let us hope, nevertheless, that the
beneficent intentions of Congress may yet be realized. We are the
guardians of these unfortunate and defenseless beings; they are our
wards; it is our duty to take care of them; we can afford to be liberal,
and spend a little more money on them. Through the judicious efforts of
our public functionaries, and the moral influences spread around them,
there is reason to believe they will yet embrace civilization and
Christianity, and become useful members of society." In accordance with
these views, the regulations issued by the Department were of the most
stringent character--encouraging economy, industry, and fidelity;
holding all agents and employés to a strict accountability; with here
and there some instructive maxim of morality--all of which, upon being
translated, meant that politicians are very smart fellows, and it was
not possible for them to humbug one another. "Do your duty to the
Indians as far as you can conveniently, and without too great a
sacrifice of money; but stand by our friends, and save the party by all
means and at all hazards. _Verbum sap!_" was the practical construction.

When public clamor called attention to these supposed abuses, and it
became necessary to make some effective demonstration of honesty, a
special agent was directed to examine into the affairs of the service
and report the result. It was particularly enjoined upon him to
investigate every complaint affecting the integrity of public officers,
collect and transmit the proofs of malfeasance, with his own views in
the premises, so that every abuse might be uprooted and cast out of the
service. Decency in official conduct must be respected and the public
eye regarded! Peremptory measures would be taken to suppress all frauds
upon the Treasury. It was the sincere desire of the administration to
preserve purity and integrity in the public service.

From mail to mail, during a period of three years, the agent made his
reports; piling up proof upon proof, and covering acres of valuable
paper with protests and remonstrances against the policy pursued;
racking his brains to do his duty faithfully; subjecting himself to
newspaper abuse for neglecting it, because no beneficial result was
perceptible, and making enemies as a matter of course. Reader, if ever
you aspire to official honors, let the fate of that unfortunate agent be
a warning to you. He did exactly what he was instructed to do, which was
exactly what he was not wanted to do. In order to save time and expense,
as well as farther loss of money in the various branches of public
service upon which he had reported, other agents were sent out to
ascertain if he had told the truth; and when they were forced to admit
that he had, there was a good deal of trouble in the wigwam of the great
chief. Not only did poor Yorick incur the hostility of powerful
senatorial influences, but by persevering in his error, and insisting
that he had told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,
he eventually lost the respect and confidence of the "powers that be,"
together with his official head. I knew him well. He was a fellow of
infinite jest. There was something so exquisitely comic in the idea of
taking official instructions literally, and carrying them into effect,
that he could not resist it. The humor of the thing kept him in a
constant chuckle of internal satisfaction; but it was the most serious
jest he ever perpetrated, for it cost him, besides the trouble of
carrying it out, the loss of a very comfortable per diem.

The results of the policy pursued were precisely such as might have been
expected. A very large amount of money was annually expended in feeding
white men and starving Indians. Such of the latter as were physically
able took advantage of the tickets-of-leave granted them so freely, and
left. Very few ever remained at these benevolent institutions when there
was a possibility of getting any thing to eat in the woods. Every year
numbers of them perished from neglect and disease, and some from
absolute starvation. When it was represented in the official reports
that two or three thousand enjoyed the benefit of aid from government
within the limits of each district--conveying the idea that they were
fed and clothed at public expense--it must have meant that the Territory
of California originally cost the United States fifteen millions of
dollars, and that the nuts and berries upon which the Indians subsisted,
and the fig-leaves in which they were supposed to be clothed, were
embraced within the cessions made by Mexico. At all events, it
invariably happened, when a visitor appeared on the reservations, that
the Indians were "out in the mountains gathering nuts and berries." This
was the case in spring, summer, autumn, and winter. They certainly
possessed a remarkable predilection for staying out a long time. Very
few of them, indeed, have yet come back. The only difference between the
existing state of things and that which existed prior to the
inauguration of the system is, that there were then some thousands of
Indians living within the limits of the districts set apart for
reservation purposes, whereas there are now only some hundreds. In the
brief period of six years they have been very nearly destroyed by the
generosity of government. What neglect, starvation, and disease have not
done, has been achieved by the co-operation of the white settlers in the
great work of extermination.

  [Illustration: OUT IN THE MOUNTAINS.]

No pretext has been wanted, no opportunity lost, whenever it has been
deemed necessary to get them out of the way. At Nome Cult Valley, during
the winter of 1858-'59, more than a hundred and fifty peaceable Indians,
including women and children, were cruelly slaughtered by the whites who
had settled there under official authority, and most of whom derived
their support either from actual or indirect connection with the
reservation. Many of them had been in public employ, and now enjoyed the
rewards of their meritorious services. True, a notice was posted up on
the trees that the valley was public land reserved for Indian purposes,
and not open to settlement; but nobody, either in or out of the service,
paid any attention to that, as a matter of course. When the Indians were
informed that it was their home, and were invited there on the pretext
that they would be protected, it was very well understood that, as soon
as government had spent money enough there to build up a settlement
sufficiently strong to maintain itself, they would enjoy very slender
chances of protection. It was alleged that they had driven off and eaten
private cattle. There were some three or four hundred head of public
cattle on the property returns, all supposed to be ranging in the same
vicinity; but the private cattle must have been a great deal better,
owing to some superior capacity for eating grass. Upon an investigation
of this charge, made by the officers of the army, it was found to be
entirely destitute of truth: a few cattle had been lost, or probably
killed by white men, and this was the whole basis of the massacre. Armed
parties went into the rancherias in open day, when no evil was
apprehended, and shot the Indians down--weak, harmless, and defenseless
as they were--without distinction of age or sex; shot down women with
sucking babes at their breasts; killed or crippled the naked children
that were running about; and, after they had achieved this brave
exploit, appealed to the state government for aid! Oh, Shame, Shame,
where is thy blush, that white men should do this with impunity in a
civilized country, under the very eyes of an enlightened government!
They did it, and they did more! For days, weeks, and months they ranged
the hills of Nome Cult, killing every Indian that was too weak to
escape; and, what is worse, they did it under a state commission, which
in all charity I must believe was issued upon false representations. A
more cruel series of outrages than those perpetrated upon the poor
Indians of Nome Cult never disgraced a community of white men. The state
said the settlers must be protected, and it protected them--protected
them from women and children, for the men are too imbecile and too
abject to fight. The general government folded its arms and said, "What
can we do? We can not chastise the citizens of a state. Are we not
feeding and clothing the savages, and teaching them to be moral, and is
not that as much as the civilized world can ask of us?"

At King's River, where there was a public farm maintained at
considerable expense, the Indians were collected in a body of two or
three hundred, and the white settlers, who complained that government
would not do any thing for them, drove them over to the Agency at the
Fresno. After an expenditure of some thirty thousand dollars a year for
six years, that farm had scarcely produced six blades of grass, and was
entirely unable to support over a few dozen Indians who had always lived
there, and who generally foraged for their own subsistence. The
new-comers, therefore, stood a poor chance till the agent purchased from
the white settlers, on public account, the acorns which they (the
Indians) had gathered and laid up for winter use at King's River.
Notwithstanding the acorns, they were very soon starved out at the
Fresno, and wandered away to find a subsistance wherever they could.
Many of them perished of hunger on the plains of the San Joaquin. The
rest are presumed to be in the mountains gathering berries.

At the Mattole Station, near Cape Mendocino, a number of Indians were
murdered on the public farm within a few hundred yards of the
head-quarters. The settlers in the valley alleged that government would
not support them, or take any care of them; and as settlers were not
paid for doing it, they must kill them to get rid of them.

At Humboldt Bay, and in the vicinity, a series of Indian massacres by
white men continued for over two years. The citizens held public
meetings, and protested against the action of the general government in
leaving these Indians to prowl upon them for a support. It was alleged
that the reservations cost two hundred and fifty thousand dollars a
year, and yet nothing was done to relieve the people of this burden.
Petitions were finally sent to the state authorities asking for the
removal of the Indians from that vicinity; and the state sent out its
militia, killed a good many, and captured a good many others, who were
finally carried down to the Mendocino reservation. They liked that place
so well that they left it very soon, and went back to their old places
of resort, preferring a chance of life to the certainty of starvation.
During the winter of last year a number of them were gathered at
Humboldt. The whites thought it was a favorable opportunity to get rid
of them altogether. So they went in a body to the Indian camp, during
the night when the poor wretches were asleep, shot all the men, women,
and children they could at the first onslaught, and cut the throats of
the remainder. Very few escaped. Next morning sixty bodies lay weltering
in their blood--the old and the young, male and female--with every wound
gaping a tale of horror to the civilized world. Children climbed upon
their mothers' breasts, and sought nourishment from the fountains that
death had drained; girls and boys lay here and there with their throats
cut from ear to ear; men and women, clinging to each other in their
terror, were found perforated with bullets or cut to pieces with
knives--all were cruelly murdered! Let any one who doubts this read the
newspapers of San Francisco of that date. It will be found there in its
most bloody and tragic details. Let them read of the Pitt River
massacre, and of all the massacres that for the past three years have
darkened the records of the state.

  [Illustration: PROTECTING THE SETTLERS.]

I will do the white people who were engaged in these massacres the
justice to say that they were not so much to blame as the general
government. They had at least given due warning of their intention. For
years they had burdened the mails with complaints of the inefficiency of
the agents; they had protested in the newspapers, in public meetings, in
every conceivable way, and on every possible occasion, against the
impolicy of permitting these Indians to roam about the settlements,
picking up a subsistence in whatever way they could, when there was a
fund of $250,000 a year appropriated by Congress for their removal to
and support on the reservations. What were these establishments for? Why
did they not take charge of the Indians? Where were the agents? What was
done with the money? It was repeatedly represented that, unless
something was done, the Indians would soon all be killed. They could no
longer make a subsistence in their old haunts. The progress of
settlement had driven them from place to place till there was no longer
a spot on earth they could call their own. Their next move could only be
into the Pacific Ocean. If ever an unfortunate people needed a few acres
of ground to stand upon, and the poor privilege of making a living for
themselves, it was these hapless Diggers. As often as they tried the
reservations, sad experience taught them that these were institutions
for the benefit of white men, not Indians. It was wonderful how the
employés had prospered on their salaries. They owned fine ranches in the
vicinity; in fact, the reservations themselves were pretty much covered
with the claims of persons in the service, who thought they would make
nice farms for white men. The principal work done was to attend to sheep
and cattle speculations, and make shepherds out of the few Indians that
were left.

What did it signify that thirty thousand dollars a year had been
expended at the Tejon? thirty thousand at the Fresno? fifty thousand at
Nome Lackee? ten thousand at Nome Cult? forty-eight thousand at
Mendocino? sixteen thousand at the Klamath? and some fifty or sixty
thousand for miscellaneous purposes? that all this had resulted in the
reduction of a hundred thousand Indians to about thirty thousand?
Meritorious services had been rewarded, and a premium in favor of public
integrity issued to an admiring world.

I am satisfied, from an acquaintance of eleven years with the Indians of
California, that, had the least care been taken of them, these
disgraceful massacres would never have occurred. A more inoffensive and
harmless race of beings does not exist on the face of the earth; but,
wherever they attempted to procure a subsistence, they were hunted down;
driven from the reservations by the instinct of self-preservation; shot
down by the settlers upon the most frivolous pretexts; and abandoned to
their fate by the only power that could have afforded them protection.

This was the result, in plain terms, of the inefficient and
discreditable manner in which public affairs were administered by the
federal authorities in Washington. It was the natural consequence of a
corrupt political system, which, for the credit of humanity, it is to be
hoped will be abandoned in future so far as the Indians are concerned.
They have no voice in public affairs. So long as they are permitted to
exist, party discipline is a matter of very little moment to them. All
they ask is the privilege of breathing the air that God gave to us all,
and living in peace wherever it may be convenient to remove them. Their
history in California is a melancholy record of neglect and cruelty; and
the part taken by public men high in position, in wresting from them
the very means of subsistence, is one of which any other than
professional politicians would be ashamed. For the Executive Department
there is no excuse. There lay the power and the remedy; but a paltry and
servile spirit, an abject submission to every shifting influence, an
utter absence of that high moral tone which is the characteristic trait
of genuine statesmen and patriots, have been the distinguishing features
of this branch of our government for some time past. Disgusted with
their own handiwork; involved in debt throughout the state, after
wasting all the money appropriated by Congress; the accounts in an
inextricable state of confusion; the creditors of the government
clamoring to be paid; the "honest yeomanry" turning against the party in
power; political affairs entangled beyond remedy; it was admitted to be
a very bad business--not at all such as to meet the approval of the
administration. The appropriation was cut down to fifty thousand
dollars. That would do damage enough. Two hundred and fifty thousand a
year, for six or seven years, had inflicted sufficient injury upon the
poor Indians. Now it was time to let them alone on fifty thousand, or
turn them over to the state. So the end of it is, that the reservations
are practically abandoned; the remainder of the Indians are being
exterminated every day; and the Spanish Mission System has signally
failed.



A PEEP AT WASHOE.



CHAPTER I.


When I inform the reader that I have scarcely dipped pen in ink for six
years save to unravel the mysteries of a Treasury voucher; that I have
lived chiefly among Indians, disbursing agents, and officers of the
customs; that I now sit writing in the attic of a German villa more than
eight thousand miles from the scene of my adventures, without note or
memorandum of any kind to refresh my memory, he will be prepared to make
reasonable allowance for such a loose, rambling, and disjointed
narrative as an ex-inspector general can be expected to write under such
adverse circumstances. If there be inconveniences in being hanged, as
the gentle Elia has attempted to prove, so likewise are there
inconveniences in being decapitated; for surely a man deprived of the
casket which nature has given him as a receptacle for his brains is no
better off than one with a broken neck. But it is not my present purpose
to enter into an analysis of this portion of my experience; nor do I
make these references to official life by way of excuse for any
rustiness of intellect that may be perceptible in my narrative, but
rather in mitigation of those unconscious violations of truth and
marvelous flights of fancy which may naturally result from long
experience in government affairs.

Ever since 1849, when I first trod the shores of California, the
citizens of that Land of Promise have been subject to periodical
excitements, the extent and variety of which can find no parallel in any
other state of the Union. To enumerate these in chronological detail
would be a difficult task, nor is it necessary to my purpose. The
destruction of towns by flood and fire; the uprisings and downfallings
of vigilance committees; the breaking of banking-houses and pecuniary
ruin of thousands; the political wars, senatorial tournaments, duels,
and personal affrays; the prison and bulkhead schemes; the extraordinary
ovations to the living and the dead, and innumerable other excitements,
have been too frequently detailed, and have elicited too much comment
from the Atlantic press not to be still in the memory of the public.

But, numerous as these agitations have been, and prejudicial as some of
them must long continue to be to the reputation of the state, they can
bear no comparison in point of extent and general interest to the mining
excitements which from time to time have convulsed the whole Pacific
coast, from Puget's Sound to San Diego. In these there can be no
occasion for party animosity; they are confined to no political or
sectional clique; all the industrial classes are interested, and in a
manner, too, affecting, either directly or incidentally, their very
means of subsistence. The country abounds in mineral wealth, and the
merchant, the banker, the shipper, the mechanic, the laborer, are all,
to some extent, dependent upon its development. Even the gentleman of
elegant leisure, vulgarly known as the "Bummer"--and there are many in
California--is occasionally driven by visions of cocktail and
cigar-money to doff his "stove-pipe," and exchange his gold-mounted cane
for a pick or a shovel. The axiom has been well established by an
eminent English writer that "every man wants a thousand pounds." It
seems, indeed, to be a chronic and constitutional want, as well in
California as in less favored countries.

  [Illustration: THE BUMMER.]

Few of the early residents of the state can have forgotten the Gold
Bluff excitement of '52, when, by all accounts, old Ocean himself turned
miner, and washed up cartloads of gold on the beach above Trinidad. It
was represented, and generally believed, that any enterprising man
could take his hat and a wheelbarrow, and in half an hour gather up gold
enough to last him for life. I have reason to suspect that, of the
thousands who went there, many will long remember their experience with
emotions, if pleasant, "yet mournful to the soul."

  [Illustration: GOING TO KERN RIVER.]

The Kern River excitement threatened for a time to depopulate the
northern portion of the state. The stages from Marysville and
Sacramento were crowded day after day, and new lines were established
from Los Angeles, Stockton, San José, and various other points; but such
was the pressure of travel in search of this grand depository, in which
it was represented the main wealth of the world had been treasured by a
beneficent Providence, that thousands were compelled to go on foot, and
carry their blankets and provisions on their backs. From Stockton to the
mining district, a distance of more than three hundred miles, the plains
of the San Joaquin were literally speckled with "honest miners." It is a
notable fact, that of those who went in stages, the majority returned on
foot; and of those who trusted originally to shoe-leather, many had to
walk back on their natural soles, or depend on sackcloth or charity.

  [Illustration: RETURNING FROM THE KERN RIVER.]

After the Kern River Exchequer had been exhausted, the public were
congratulated by the press throughout the state upon the effectual check
now put upon these ruinous and extravagant excitements. The enterprising
miners who had been tempted to abandon good claims in search of better
had undergone a species of purging which would allay any irritation of
the mucous membrane for some time. What they had lost in money they had
gained in experience. They would henceforth turn a deaf ear to
interested representations, and not be dazzled by visions of sudden
wealth conjured up by monte-dealers, travelers, and horse-jockeys. They
were, on the whole, wiser if not happier men. Nor would the lesson be
lost to the merchants and capitalists who had scattered their goods and
their funds over the picturesque heights of the Sierra Nevada. And even
the gentlemen of elegant leisure, who had gone off so suddenly in search
of small change for liquors and cigars, could now recuperate their
exhausted energies at the free lunch establishments of San Francisco,
or, if too far gone in seed for that, they could regenerate their
muscular system by some wholesome exercise in the old diggings, where
there was not so much gold perhaps as at Kern River, but where it could
be got at more easily.

  [Illustration: HO! FOR FRAZER RIVER.]

Scarcely had the reverberation caused by the bursting of the Kern River
bubble died away, and fortune again smiled upon the ruined multitudes,
when a faint cry was heard from afar--first low and uncertain, like a
mysterious whisper, then full and sonorous, like the boom of glad
tidings from the mouth of a cannon, the inspiring cry of FRAZER RIVER!
Here was gold sure enough! a river of gold! a country that dazzled the
eyes with its glitter of gold! There was no deception about it this
time. New Caledonia was the land of Ophir. True, it was in the British
possessions, but what of that? The people of California would develop
the British possessions.

Had our claim to 54° 40´ been insisted upon, this immense treasure would
now have been within our own boundaries; but no matter--it was ours by
right of proximity. The problem of Solomon's Temple was now solved.
Travelers, from Marco Polo down to the present era, who had attempted to
find the true land of Ophir, had signally failed; but here it was, the
exact locality, beyond peradventure. For where else in the world could
the river-beds, creeks, and cañons be lined with gold? Where else could
the honest miner "pan out" $100 per day every day in the year? But if
any who had been rendered incredulous by former excitements still
doubted, they could no longer discredit the statements that were brought
down by every steamer, accompanied by positive and palpable specimens of
the ore, and by the assurances of captains, pursers, mates, cooks, and
waiters, that Frazer River was the country. To be sure, it was afterward
hinted that the best part of the gold brought down from Frazer had made
the round voyage from San Francisco; but I consider this a gross and
unwarranted imputation upon the integrity of steam-boat owners,
captains, and speculators. Did not the famous Commodore Wright take the
matter in hand; put his best steamers on the route; hoist his banners
and placards in every direction, and give every man a chance of testing
the question in person? This was establishing the existence of immense
mineral wealth in that region upon a firm and practical basis. No man of
judgment and experience, like the commodore, would undertake to run his
steamers on "the baseless fabric of a vision." The cheapness and variety
of his rates afforded every man an opportunity of making a fortune. For
thirty, twenty, and even fifteen dollars, the ambitious aspirant for
Frazer could be landed at Victoria.

I will not now undertake to give a detail of that memorable excitement;
how the stages, north, south, east, and, I had almost said, west, were
crowded day and night with scores upon scores of sturdy adventurers;
how farms were abandoned and crops lost for want of hands to work them;
how rich claims in the old diggings were given away for a song; how the
wharves of San Francisco groaned under the pressure of the human freight
delivered upon them on every arrival of the Sacramento and Stockton
boats; how it was often impracticable to get through the streets in that
vicinity owing to the crowds gathered around the "runners," who cried
aloud the merits and demerits of the rival steamers; and, strangest of
all, how the head and front of the Frazerites were the very men who had
enjoyed such pleasant experience at Gold Bluff, Kern River, and other
places famous in the history of California. No sensible man could doubt
the richness of Frazer River when these veterans became leaders, and
called upon the masses to follow. They were not a class of men likely to
be deceived--they knew the signs of the times. And, in addition to all
this, who could resist the judgment and experience of Commodore Wright,
a man who had made an independent fortune in the steam-boat business?
Who could be deaf when assayers, bankers, jobbers, and speculators cried
aloud that it was all true?

Well, I am not going to moralize. Mr. Nugent was appointed a
commissioner, on the part of the United States, to settle the various
difficulties which had grown up between the miners and Governor
Douglass. He arrived at Victoria in time to perform signal service to
his fellow-citizens; that is to say, he found many of them in a state of
starvation, and sent them back to California at public expense. Frazer
River, always too high for mining purposes, could not be prevailed upon
to subside. Its banks were not banks of issue, nor were its beds stuffed
with the feathers of the Golden Goose. Had it not been for this turn of
affairs, it is difficult to say what would have been the result. The
British Lion had been slumbering undisturbed at Victoria for half a
century, and was very much astonished, upon waking up, to find thirty
thousand semi-barbarous Californians scattered broadcast over the
British possessions. Governor Douglass issued manifestoes in vain. He
evidently thought it no joke. The subject eventually became a matter of
diplomatic correspondence, in which much ink was shed, but fortunately
no blood, although the subsequent seizure of San Juan by General Harney
came very near producing that result.

  [Illustration: RETURNED FROM FRAZER RIVER.]

The steamers, in due course of time, began to return crowded with
enterprising miners, who still believed there was gold there if the
river would only fall. But generosity dictates that I should say no more
on this point. It is enough to add, that the time arrived when it
became a matter of personal offense to ask any spirited gentleman if he
had been to Frazer River.

There was now, of course, an end to all mining excitements. It could
never again happen that such an imposition could be practiced upon
public credulity. In the whole state there was not another sheep that
could be gulled by the cry of wolf. Business would now resume its steady
and legitimate course. Property would cease to fluctuate in value. Every
branch of industry would become fixed upon a permanent and reliable
basis. All these excitements were the natural results of the daring and
enterprising character of the people. But now, having worked off their
superabundant steam, they would be prepared to go ahead systematically,
and develop those resources which they had hitherto neglected. It was a
course of medical effervescence highly beneficial to the body politic.
All morbid appetite for sudden wealth was now gone forever.

But softly, good friends! What rumor is this? Whence come these silvery
strains that are wafted to our ears from the passes of the Sierra
Nevada? What dulcet Æolian harmonies--what divine, enchanting ravishment
is it

      "That with these raptures moves the vocal air?"

As I live, it is a cry of Silver! Silver in WASHOE! Not gold now, you
silly men of Gold Bluff; you Kern Riverites; you daring explorers of
British Columbia! But SILVER--solid, pure SILVER! Beds of it ten
thousand feet deep! Acres of it! miles of it! hundreds of millions of
dollars poking their backs up out of the earth ready to be pocketed!

Do you speak of the mines of Potosi or Golconda? Do you dare to quote
the learned Baron Von Tschudi on South America and Mexico? Do you refer
me to the ransom of Atahualpa, the unfortunate Inca, in the days of
Pizarro? Nothing at all, I assure you, to the silver mines of Washoe!
"Sir," said my informant to me, in strict confidence, no later than
this morning, "you may rely upon it, for I am personally acquainted with
a brother of the gentleman whose most intimate friend saw the man whose
partner has just come over the mountains, and he says there never was
the like on the face of the earth! The ledges are ten thousand feet
deep--solid masses of silver. Let us be off! Now is the time! A
pack-mule, pick and shovel, hammer and frying-pan will do. You need
nothing more. HURRAH FOR WASHOE!"

Kind and sympathizing reader, imagine a man who for six years had
faithfully served his government and his country; who had never, if he
knew himself intimately, embezzled a dollar of the public funds; who had
resisted the seductive influences of Gold Bluff, Kern, and Frazer Rivers
from the purest motives of patriotism; who scorned to abandon his post
in search of filthy lucre--imagine such a personage cut short in his
official career, and suddenly bereft of his per diem by a formal and
sarcastic note of three lines from head-quarters; then fancy you hear
him jingle the last of his federal emoluments in his pocket, and sigh at
the ingratitude of republics. Would you not consider him open to any
proposition short of murder or highway robbery? Would you be surprised
if he accepted an invitation from Mr. Wise, the aeronaut, to take a
voyage in a balloon? or the berth of assistant manager in a diving-bell?
or joined the first expedition in search of the treasure buried by the
Spanish galleon on her voyage to Acapulco in 1578? Then consider his
position, as he stands musing upon the mutability of human affairs, when
those strange and inspiring cries of Washoe fall upon his ears for the
first time, with a realizing sense of their import. Borne on the wings
of the wind from the Sierra Nevada; wafted through every street, lane,
and alley of San Francisco; whirling around the drinking saloons,
eddying over the counters of the banking offices, scattering up the dust
among the Front Street merchants, arousing the slumbering inmates of
the Custom-house--what man of enterprise could resist it? Washoe! The
Comstock lead! The Ophir! The Central--The Billy Choller Companies, and
a thousand others, indicating in trumpet-tones the high road to fortune!
From the crack of day to the shades of night nothing is heard but
Washoe. The steady men of San Francisco are aroused, the men of Front
Street, the gunny-bag men, the brokers, the gamblers, the butchers, the
bakers, the whisky-dealers, the lawyers, and all. The exception was to
find a sane man in the entire city.

  [Illustration: HURRAH FOR WASHOE.]

No wonder the abstracted personage already referred to was aroused from
his gloomy reflections. A friend appealed to him to go to Washoe. The
friend was interested there, but could not go himself. It was a matter
of incalculable importance. Millions were involved in it. He (the
friend) would pay expenses. The business would not occupy a week, and
would not interfere with any other business.



CHAPTER II.

START FOR WASHOE.


Next day an advertisement appeared in the city papers respectfully
inviting the public to commit their claims and investments to the hands
of their fellow-citizen, Mr. Yusef Badra, whose long experience in
government affairs eminently qualified him to undertake the task of
geological research. He was especially prepared to determine the exact
amount of silver contained in fossils. It would afford him pleasure to
be of service to his friends and fellow-citizens. The public would be so
kind as to address Mr. Badra, at Carson City, Territory of Utah.

This looked like business on an extensive scale. It read like business
of a scientific character. It was a card drawn up with skill, and
calculated to attract attention. I am proud to acknowledge that I am the
author, and, furthermore (if you will consider the information
confidential), that I am the identical agent referred to.

  [Illustration: THE AGENCY.]

Many good friends shook their heads when I announced my intention of
visiting Washoe, and, although they designed going themselves as soon as
the snow was melted from the mountains, they could not understand how a
person who had so long retained his faculties unimpaired could give up a
lucrative government office and engage in such a wild-goose chase as
that. Little did they know of the brief but irritating document which I
carried in my pocket, and for which I am determined some day or other
to write a satire against our system of government. I bade them a kindly
farewell, and on a fine evening, toward the latter part of March, took
my departure for Sacramento, there to take the stage for Placerville,
and from that point as fortune might direct.

My stock in trade consisted of two pair of blankets, a spare shirt, a
plug of tobacco, a note-book, and a paint-box. On my arrival in
Placerville I found the whole town in commotion. There was not an animal
to be had at any of the stables without applying three days in advance.
The stage for Strawberry had made its last trip in consequence of the
bad condition of the road. Every hotel and restaurant was full to
overflowing. The streets were blocked up with crowds of adventurers all
bound for Washoe. The gambling and drinking saloons were crammed to
suffocation with customers practicing for Washoe. The clothing stores
were covered with placards offering to sell goods at ruinous sacrifices
to Washoe miners. The forwarding houses and express offices were
overflowing with goods and packages marked for Washoe. The grocery
stores were making up boxes, bags, and bundles of groceries for the
Washoe trade. The stables were constantly starting off passenger and
pack trains for Washoe. Mexican _vaqueros_ were driving headstrong mules
through the streets on the road to Washoe. The newspapers were full of
Washoe. In short, there was nothing but Washoe to be seen, heard, or
thought of. Every arrival from the mountains confirmed the glad tidings
that enormous quantities of silver were being discovered daily in
Washoe. Any man who wanted a fortune needed only to go over there and
pick it up. There was Jack Smith, who made ten thousand dollars the
other day at a single trade; and Tom Jenkins, twenty thousand by right
of discovery; and Bill Brown, forty thousand in the tavern business, and
so on. Every body was getting rich "hand over fist." It was the place
for fortunes. No man could go amiss. I was in search of just such a
place. It suited me to find a fortune ready made. Like Professor
Agassiz, I could not afford to make money, but it would be no
inconvenience to draw a check on the great Washoe depository for fifty
thousand dollars or so, and proceed on my travels. I would visit Japan,
ascend the Amoor River, traverse Tartary, spend a few weeks in Siberia,
rest a day or so at St. Petersburg, cross through Russia to the Black
Sea, visit Persia, Nineveh, and Bagdad, and wind up somewhere in Italy.
I even began to look about the bar-rooms for a map in order to lay out
the route more definitely, but the only map to be seen was De Groot's
outline of the route from Placerville to Washoe. I went to bed rather
tired after the excitement of the day, and somewhat surfeited with
Washoe. Presently I heard a tap at the door; a head was popped through
the opening:

"I say, Cap!"

"Well, what do you say?"

"Are you the man that can't get a animal for Washoe?"

"Yes; have you got one to sell or hire?"

"No, I hain't got one myself, but me and my pardner is going to walk
there, and if you like you can jine our party."

"Thank you; I have a friend who is going with me, but I shall be very
glad to have more company."

"All right, Cap; good-night."

The door was closed, but presently opened again:

"I say, Cap!"

"What now?"

"Do you believe in Washoe?"

"Of course; why not?"

"Well, I suppose it's all right. Good-night; I'm in." And my new friend
left me to my slumbers.

  [Illustration: "I SAY, CAP!"]

But who could slumber in such a bedlam, where scores and hundreds of
crack-brained people kept rushing up and down the passage all night, in
and out of every room, banging the doors after them, calling for boots,
carpet sacks, cards, cocktails, and toddies; while amid the ceaseless
din arose ever and anon that potent cry of "Washoe!" which had unsettled
every brain. I turned over and over for the fiftieth time, and at length
fell into an uneasy doze. A mountain seemed to rise before me. Millions
of rats with human faces were climbing up its sides, some burrowing into
holes, some rolling down into bottomless pits, but all labeled Washoe.
Soon the mountain began to shake its sides with suppressed laughter, and
out of a volcano on the top burst sheets of flame, through which jumped
ten thousand grotesque figures in the shape of dollars with spider legs,
shrieking with all their might, "Washoe! ho! ho! Washoe! ho! ho!"

  [Illustration]

Surely the sounds were wonderfully real. Tap, tap, at the door.

"I say, Cap!"

"Well, what is it?"

"'Bout time to get up, if you calklate to make Pete's ranch to-night."

So I got up, and, after a cup of coffee, took a ramble on the heights,
where I was amply compensated for my loss of rest by the richness and
beauty of the sunrise. It was still early spring; the hills were covered
with verdure; flowers bloomed in all directions; pleasant little
cottages, scattered here and there, gave a civilized aspect to the
scene; and when I looked over the busy town, and heard the lively rattle
of stages, wagons, and buggies, and saw the long pack-trains winding
their way up the mountains, I felt proud of California and her people.
There is not a prettier little town in the state than Placerville, and
certainly not a better class of people any where than her thriving
inhabitants. They seemed, indeed, to be so well satisfied with their own
mining prospects that they were the least excited of the crowd on the
subject of the new discoveries. The impulse given to business in the
town, however, was well calculated to afford them satisfaction. This was
the last dépôt of trade on the way to Washoe. My excellent friend Dan
Gelwicks, of the _Mountain Democrat_, assured me that he was perfectly
satisfied to spend the remainder of his days in Placerville. Who that
has ever visited the mountains, or attended a political convention in
Sacramento, does not know the immortal "Dan"--the truest, best-hearted,
handsomest fellow in existence; the very cream and essence of a country
editor; who dresses as he pleases, chews tobacco when he pleases, writes
tremendous political philippics, knows every body, trusts every body,
sets up his own editorials, and on occasions stands ready to do the job
and press work! I am indebted to "Dan" for the free use of his sanctum;
and in consideration of his kindness and hospitality, do hereby transfer
to him all my right, title, and interest in the Roaring Jack Claim,
Wild-Cat Ledge, Devil's Gate, which by this time must be worth ten
thousand dollars a foot.

Before we were quite ready to start our party had increased to five; but
as each had to purchase a knife, tin cup, pound of cheese, or some other
article of luxury, it was ten o'clock before we got fairly under way.
And here I must say that, although our appearance as we passed along the
main street of Placerville elicited no higher token of admiration than
"Go it, Washoe!" such a party, habited and accoutred as we were, would
have made a profound sensation in Hyde Park, London, or even on
Broadway, New York.

  [Illustration: "GO IT, WASHOE."]

The road was in good condition, barring a little mud in the neighborhood
of "Hangtown;" and the day was exceedingly bright and pleasant. As I
ascended the first considerable elevation in the succession of heights
which extend all the way for a distance of fifty miles to the summit of
the Sierra Nevada, and cast a look back over the foot-hills, a more
glorious scene of gigantic forests, open valleys, and winding streams
seldom greeted my vision. The air was singularly pure and bracing; every
draught of it was equal to a glass of sparkling Champagne. At
intervals, varying from fifty yards to half a mile, streams of water of
crystal clearness and icy coolness burst from the mountain sides, making
a pleasant music as they crossed the road. Whether the day was
uncommonly warm, or the exercise rather heating, or the packs very
heavy, it was beyond doubt some of the party were afflicted with a
chronic thirst, for they stopped to drink at every spring and rivulet on
the way, giving rise to a suspicion in my mind that they had not been
much accustomed to that wholesome beverage of late. This suspicion was
strengthened by a mysterious circumstance. I had lagged behind at a turn
of the road to adjust my pack, when I was approached by the unique
personage whose head in the doorway had startled me the night before.

"I say, Cap!" At the same time pulling from the folds of his blanket a
dangerous-looking "pocket pistol," he put the muzzle to his mouth, and
discharged the main portion of the contents down his throat.

"What d'ye say, Cap?"

Now I claim to be under no legal obligation to state what I said or did
on that occasion; but this much I am willing to avow, that upon resuming
our journey there was a glorious sense of freedom and independence in
our adventurous mode of life. The fresh air, odorous with the scent of
pine forests and wild flowers; the craggy rocks overhung with the grape
and the morning-glory; the merry shouts of the Mexican _vaqueros_,
mingled with the wild dashing of the river down the cañon on our right;
the free exercise of every muscle; the consciousness of exemption from
all farther restraints of office, were absolutely inspiring. I think a
lyrical poem would not have exceeded my powers on that occasion. Every
faculty seemed invigorated to the highest pitch of perfection. Hang the
dignity of office! A murrain upon party politicians and inspector
generals! To the bottomless pit with all vouchers, abstracts, and
accounts current! I scorn that meagre and brainless style of the heads
of the Executive Departments, "Sir,--Your services are no longer--" What
dunce could not write a more copious letter than that? Who would be a
slave when all nature calls upon him in trumpet tones to be free? Who
would sell his birthright for a mess of pottage when he could lead the
life of an honest miner--earn his bread by the sweat of his
brow--breathe the fresh air of heaven without stint or limit? And of
all miners in the world, who would not be a Washoe miner? Beyond
question, this was a condition of mind to be envied and admired; and,
notwithstanding the two pair of heavy blankets on my back, and a stiff
pair of boots on my feet that galled my ankles most grievously, I really
felt lighter and brighter than for years past. Nor did it seem
surprising to me then that so many restless men should abandon the
haunts of civilization, and seek variety and freedom in the wilderness
of rugged mountains comprising the mining districts of the Sierra
Nevada. The life of the miner is one of labor, peril, and exposure; but
it possesses the fascinating element of liberty, and the promise of
unlimited reward. In the midst of privations, amounting, at times, to
the verge of starvation, what glowing visions fill the mind of the
toiling adventurer! Richer in anticipation than the richest of his
fellow-beings, he builds golden palaces, and scatters them over the
world with a princely hand. He may not be a man of imagination; but in
the secret depths of his soul there is a latent hope that some day or
other he will strike a "lead," and who knows but it may be a solid
mountain of gold, spangled with diamonds?

  [Illustration: THE POCKET PISTOL.]

The road from Placerville to Strawberry Flat is for the most part
graded, and no doubt is a very good road in summer; but it would be a
violation of conscience to recommend it in the month of April. The
melting of the accumulated snows of the past winter had partially washed
it away, and what remained was deeply furrowed by the innumerable
streams that sought an outlet in the ravines. In many places it seemed
absolutely impracticable for wheeled vehicles; but it is an article of
faith with California teamsters that wherever a horse can go a wagon can
follow. There were some exceptions to this rule, however, for the road
was literally lined with broken-down stages, wagons, and carts,
presenting every variety of aspect, from the general smash-up to the
ordinary capsize. Wheels had taken rectangular cuts to the bottom;
broken tongues projected from the mud; loads of dry-goods and
whisky-barrels lay wallowing in the general wreck of matter; stout beams
cut from the road-side were scattered here and there, having served in
vain efforts to extricate the wagons from the oozy mire. Occasionally
these patches of bad road extended for miles, and here the scenes were
stirring in the highest degree. Whole trains of pack-mules struggled
frantically to make the transit from one dry point to another; "burros,"
heavily laden, were frequently buried up to the neck, and had to be
hauled out by main force. Now and then an enterprising mule would emerge
from the mud, and, by attempting to keep the edge of the road, lose his
foothold, and go rolling to the bottom of the cañon, pack and all. Amid
the confusion worse confounded, the cries and maledictions of the
_vaqueros_ were perfectly overwhelming; but when the mules stuck fast in
the mud, and it became necessary to unpack them, then it was that the
_vaqueros_ shone out most luminously. They shouted, swore, beat the
mules, kicked them, pulled them, pushed them, swore again; and when all
these resources failed, tore their hair, and resorted to prayer and
meditation. (Opposite is a faint attempt at the _vaquero_
sliding-scale.)

  [Illustration: CALIFORNIA STAGE-DRIVER.]

It will doubtless be a consolation to some of these unhappy _vaqueros_
to know that such of their mules as they failed to extricate from the
mud during the winter may, during the approaching summer, find their way
out through the cracks. Should any future traveler be overtaken by
thirst, and see a pair of ears growing out of the road, he will be safe
in digging there, for underneath stands a mule, and on the back of that
mule is a barrel of whisky.

  [Illustration: WHISKY BELOW.]

Owing to repeated stoppages on the way, night overtook us at a place
called "Dirty Mike's." Here we found a ruinously dilapidated frame
shanty, the bar, of course, being the main feature. Next to the bar was
the public bedroom, in which there was every accommodation except beds,
bedding, chairs, tables, and washstands; that is to say, there was a
piece of looking-glass nailed against the window-frame, and the general
comb and tooth-brush hanging by strings from a neighboring post.

A very good supper of pork and beans, fried potatoes, and coffee, was
served up for us on very dirty plates, by Mike's cook; and after doing
it ample justice, we turned in on our blankets and slept soundly till
morning. It was much in favor of our landlord that he charged us only
double the customary price. I would cheerfully give him a recommendation
if he would only wash his face and his plates once or twice a week.

  [Illustration: CARAMBO!--CARAJA--SACRAMENTO!--SANTA MARIA!--DIAVOLO!]

The ascent of the mountains is gradual and continuous the entire
distance to Strawberry. After the first day's journey there is but
little variety in the scenery. On the right, a fork of the American
River plunges down through a winding cañon, its force and volume
augmented at short intervals by numerous smaller streams that cross the
road, and by others from the opposite side. Thick forests of pine loom
up on each side, their tops obscuring the sky. A few patches of snow lay
along our route on the first day, but on the second snow was visible on
both sides of the cañon.

The succession of scenes along the road afforded us constant
entertainment. In every gulch and ravine a tavern was in process of
erection. Scarcely a foot of ground upon which man or beast could find a
foothold was exempt from a claim. There were even bars with liquors,
offering a tempting place of refreshment to the weary traveler where no
vestige of a house was yet perceptible. Board and lodging signs over
tents not more than ten feet square were as common as blackberries in
June; and on no part of the road was there the least chance of suffering
from the want of whisky, dry-goods, or cigars.

  [Illustration: BOARD AND LODGING.]

An almost continuous string of Washoeites stretched "like a great snake
dragging its slow length along" as far as the eye could reach. In the
course of this day's tramp we passed parties of every description and
color: Irishmen, wheeling their blankets, provisions, and mining
implements on wheel-barrows; American, French, and German
foot-passengers, leading heavily-laden horses, or carrying their packs
on their backs, and their picks and shovels slung across their
shoulders; Mexicans, driving long trains of pack-mules, and swearing
fearfully, as usual, to keep them in order; dapper-looking gentlemen,
apparently from San Francisco, mounted on fancy horses; women, in men's
clothes, mounted on mules or "burros;" Pike County specimens, seated on
piles of furniture and goods in great lumbering wagons; whisky-peddlers,
with their bar-fixtures and whisky on mule-back, stopping now and then
to quench the thirst of the toiling multitude; organ-grinders, carrying
their organs; drovers, riding, raving, and tearing away frantically
through the brush after droves of self-willed cattle designed for the
shambles; in short, every imaginable class, and every possible species
of industry, was represented in this moving pageant. It was a striking
and impressive spectacle to see, in full competition with youth and
strength, the most pitiable specimens of age and decay--white-haired old
men, gasping for breath as they dragged their palsied limbs after them
in the exciting race of avarice; cripples and hunchbacks; even sick men
from their beds--all stark mad for silver.

But the tide was not setting entirely in the direction of Carson Valley.
A counter-current opposed our progress in the shape of saddle-trains
without riders, long lines of pack-mules laden with silver ore,
scattering parties of weather-beaten and foot-sore pedestrians, bearing
their hard experience in their faces, and solitary stragglers, of all
ages and degrees, mounted on skeleton horses, or toiling wearily
homeward on foot--some merry, some sad, some eagerly intent on farther
speculation, but all bearing the unmistakable impress of Washoe.

Among the latter, a lank, leathery-looking fellow, doubtless from the
land of wooden nutmegs, was shambling along through the mud, talking to
himself apparently for want of more congenial fellowship. I was about
to pass him, when he arrested my attention:

"Look here, stranger!"

I looked.

"You're bound for Washoe, I reckon?"

I was bound for Washoe.

"What line of business be you goin' into there?"

Was not quite certain, but thought it would be the agency line.

  [Illustration: GRINDSTONES.]

"Ho! the agency line--stage-agent, maybe? Burche's line, I guess?"

That was not it exactly; but no matter. Perhaps I could do something for
him in Washoe.

"Nothing, stranger, except to keep dark. Do you know the price of
grindstones in Placerville?"

I didn't know the price of grindstones in Placerville, but supposed they
might be cheap, as there were plenty there.

"That's my hand exactly!" said my friend, with an inward chuckle of
satisfaction. I expressed some curiosity to know in what respect the
matter of grindstones suited his hand so well, when, looking cautiously
around, he drew near, and informed me confidentially that he had struck
a "good thing" in Washoe. He had only been there a month, and had made a
considerable pile. There was a dreadful scarcity of grindstones there,
and, seeing that miners, carpenters, and mechanics of all sorts were
hard up for something to sharpen their tools on, he had secured the only
grindstone that could be had, which was pretty well used up when he got
it. But he rigged it up ship-shape and Bristol fashion, and set up a
grinding business, which brought him in from twenty to thirty dollars a
day, till nothing was left of the stone. Now he was bound to Placerville
in search of a good one, with which he intended to return immediately. I
wished him luck and proceeded on my way, wondering what would turn up
next.

It was not long before I was stopped by another enterprising personage;
but this was altogether a different style of man. There was something
brisk and spruce in his appearance, in spite of a shirt far gone in rags
and a shock of hair that had long been a stranger to the scissors. What
region of country he came from it was impossible to say. I think he was
a cosmopolite, and belonged to the world generally.

"Say, Colonel!"--this was his style of address--"on the way to Washoe?"

  [Illustration: A SPECULATOR.]

"Yes."

"Excuse me: I have a little list of claims here, Colonel, which I would
like to show you;" and he pulled from his shirt-pocket a greasy package
of papers, which he dexterously unfolded. "Guess you're from San
Francisco, Colonel? Here is--let me see--

      200 feet in the Pine Nut,
      300 feet in the Grizzly Ledge,
      150 feet in the Gouge Eye,
      125 feet in the Wild-Cat,
      100 feet in the Root-Hog-or-Die,
      50 feet in the Bobtail Horse,
      25 feet in the Hell Roaring;

and many others, Colonel, in the best leads. Now the fact is, d'ye see,
I'm a little hard up, and want to make a raise. I'll sell all, or a
part, at a considerable sacrifice for a small amount of ready cash."

"How much do you want?"

"Why, if I could raise twenty dollars or so, it would answer my present
purpose; I'll sell you twenty feet in any of these claims for that
amount. Every foot of them is worth a thousand dollars; but, d'ye see,
they're not yet developed."

Circumstances forced me to decline this offer, much to the disgust of
the enterprising speculator in claims, who assured me I might go farther
and fare worse; but somehow the names did not strike me as attractive in
a mineral point of view.

I had by this time lost the run of all my comrades, and was obliged to
pursue my journey alone. Three had gone ahead, and the other was nearly
used up. The day had opened fairly, but now there were indications of
bad weather. It was quite dark when I reached a small shanty about four
miles from Strawberry. Here I halted till my remaining comrade came up.
The proprietor of the shanty was going into the tavern business, and was
engaged in building a large clapboard house. His men were all at supper,
and in reply to our application for lodgings, he told us we might sleep
in the calf-pen if we liked, but there was no room in the house. He
could give us something to eat after his workmen were done supper, but
not before. He had brandy and gin, but no tea to spare. On the whole, he
thought we had better go on to Strawberry.

Now this was encouraging. It was already pattering down rain, and the
calf-pen to which he directed us was knee-deep in mud and manure,
without roof or shelter of any kind. Even the unfortunate progeny of the
old cow, which ran bellowing around the fence, in motherly solicitude
for her offspring, shivered with cold, and made piteous appeals to this
hard-hearted man. I finally bribed him, by means of a gold dollar, to
let us have a small piece of bread and a few swallows of tea. Thus
refreshed, we resumed our journey.

Four miles more of slush and snow, up hill nearly all the way, across
rickety bridges, over roaring cataracts, slippery rocks, stumps, and
brush, through acres of black oozy mire, and so dark a bat could
scarcely recognize his own father! It was a walk to be remembered. The
man in the shanty, if he possess a spark of humanity, will, I trust,
feel bitterly mortified when he reads this article. He caused me some
gloomy reflections upon human nature, which have been a constant source
of repentance ever since. But consider the provocation. The rain poured
down heavily, mingled with a cutting sleet; a doleful wind came moaning
through the pines; our blankets were wet through, and not a stitch upon
our backs left dry; even my spare shirt was soaking the strength out of
the plug of tobacco so carefully stowed away in its folds, and my paints
were giving it what aid they could in the way of color.

Well, there is an end to all misery upon earth, and so there was to this
day's walk. A light at length glimmered through the pines, first faint
and flickering, then a full blaze, then half a dozen brilliant lights,
which proved to be camp-fires under the trees, and soon we stood in
front of a large and substantial log house. This was the famous
"Strawberry," known throughout the length and breadth of the land as the
best stopping-place on the route to Washoe, and the last station before
crossing the summit of the Sierra Nevada. The winter road for
wheel-vehicles here ended; and, indeed, it may be said to have ended
some distance below, for the last twelve miles of the road seemed
utterly impracticable for wagons. At least, most of those I saw were
fast in the mud, and likely to remain there till the beginning of
summer. Dark and rainy as it was, there were crowds scattered around the
house, as if they had some secret and positive enjoyment in the
contemplation of the weather. Edging our way through, we found the
bar-room packed as closely as it could be without bursting out some of
the walls; and of all the motley gangs that ever happened together
within a space of twenty feet, this certainly was the most extraordinary
and the most motley. Dilapidated gentlemen with slouched hats and big
boots, Jew peddlers dripping wet, red-shirted miners, teamsters,
vaqueros, packers, and traders, swearing horribly at nothing; some
drinking at the bar, some warming themselves before a tremendous log
fire that sent up a reeking steam from the conglomerated mass of wet and
muddy clothes, to say nothing of the boots and socks that lay simmering
near the coals. A few bare and sore footed outcasts crouched down in the
corners, trying to catch a nap, and here and there a returned Washoeite,
describing in graphic language, garnished with oaths, the wonders and
beauties of Virginia City. But chiefly remarkable in the crowd was the
regiment of light infantry, pressed in double file against the
dining-room door, awaiting the fourth or fifth charge at the table.

  [Illustration: DINNER AT STRAWBERRY.]

At the first tinkle of the bell the door was burst open with a
tremendous crash, and for a moment no battle-scene in Waterloo, no
charge at Resaca de la Palma or the heights of Chapultepec, no Crimean
avalanche of troops dealing death and destruction around them, could
have equaled the terrific onslaught of the gallant troops of Strawberry.
The whole house actually tottered and trembled at the concussion, as if
shaken by an earthquake. Long before the main body had assaulted the
table the din of arms was heard above the general uproar; the deafening
clatter of plates, knives, and forks, and the dreadful battle-cry of
"Waiter! waiter! Pork and beans! Coffee, waiter! Beefsteak! Sausages!
Potatoes! Ham and eggs--quick, waiter, for God's sake!" It was a scene
of destruction and carnage long to be remembered. I had never before
witnessed a battle, but I now understood how men could become maddened
by the smell of blood. When the table was vacated it presented a
shocking scene of desolation. Whole dishes were swept of their contents;
coffee-pots were discharged to the dregs; knives, forks, plates, and
spoons lay in a confused mass among the bones and mutilated remnants of
the dead; chunks of bread and hot biscuit were scattered broadcast, and
mince-pies were gored into fragments; tea-cups and saucers were
capsized; and the waiters, hot, red, and steamy, were panting and
swearing after their superhuman labors.

Half an hour more and the battle-field was again cleared for action.
This was the sixth assault committed during the evening; but it was none
the less terrible on that account. Inspired by hunger, I joined the army
of invaders this time, and by gigantic efforts of strength maintained an
honorable position in the ranks. As the bell sounded, we broke! I fixed
my eye on a chair, rushed through the struggling mass, threw out my
hands frantically to seize it, but, alas! it was already captured. A
dark-visaged man, who looked as if he carried concealed weapons on his
person, was seated in it, shouting hoarsely the battle-cry of "Pork and
beans! Waiter! Coffee, waiter!" Up and down the table it was one gulping
mass, jaws distended, arms stretched out, knives, forks, and even the
bare hands plunged into the enemy. Not a spot was vacant. I venture to
assert that from the commencement of the assault till the capture and
complete investment of the fortifications did not exceed five seconds.
The storming of the Malakoff and the fall of Sebastopol could no longer
claim a place in history.

At length fortune favored the brave. I got a seat at the next onslaught,
and took ample satisfaction for the delay by devouring such a meal as
none but a hardy Washoeite could be expected to digest. Pork and beans,
cabbage, beef-steak, sausages, pies, tarts, coffee and tea, eggs,
etc.--these were only a few of the luxuries furnished by the
enterprising proprietor of the "Strawberry." May every blessing attend
that great benefactor of mankind! I say it in all sincerity; he is a
great and good man, a Websterian innkeeper, for he thoroughly
understands the constitution. I would give honorable mention to his name
if I knew it; but it matters not; his house so far surpasses the
Metropolitan or the St. Nicholas that there is no comparison in the
relish with which the food is devoured. In respect to sleeping
accommodations there may be some difference in their favor. I was too
late to secure a bed in the general bedroom up stairs, where two hundred
and fifty tired wayfarers were already snoring in double-shotted bunks 2
× 6; but the landlord was a man of inexhaustible resources. A private
whisper in his ear made him a friend forever. He nodded sagaciously, and
led me into a small parlor about 15 × 20, in which he gave my company of
five what he called a "lay-out," that is to say, a lay-out on the floor,
with our own blankets for beds and covering. This was a special favor,
and I would have cherished it in my memory for years had not a suspicion
been aroused in my mind before the lapse of half an hour that there were
others in the confidence of mine host. Scarcely had I entered upon the
first nap when somebody undertook to walk upon me, commencing on my head
and ending on the pit of my stomach. I grasped him firmly by the leg. He
apologized at once in the most abject manner; and well for him he did,
for it was enough to incense any man to be suddenly roused up in that
manner. The intruder, I discovered, was a Jew peddler. He offered me a
cigar, which I smoked in token of amity; and in the mean time he turned
in alongside and smoked another. When daylight broke I cast around me to
see what every body was doing to create such a general commotion. I
perceived that there were about forty sleepers, all getting up. Boots
strongly scented with feet, and stockings of every possible degree of
odor, were lying loose in all directions; blankets, packs, old clothes,
and ragged shirts, and I don't know what all--a palpable violation of
the landlord's implied compact. True, he had not agreed to furnish a
single bed for five, but he never hinted that he was going to put forty
men, of all sorts and sizes, in the same general "lay-out," as he was
pleased to style it, and that only large enough for half the number.
Once, in Minnesota, I slept in a bed with eight, and gave considerable
offense to my landlord when I remonstrated against his putting in a
ninth. He said he liked to see a man "accommodating"--a reflection upon
my good-nature which I considered wholly unwarranted by the
circumstances. But this was even a stronger case.

  [Illustration: THE "LAY OUT."]

The Jew peddler had not undressed, and, not to judge him harshly, I
don't think he ever did undress. He was soon up, and left, as I suppose,
while I was dressing. With him departed my stockings. They were not very
fine--perhaps, considering the muddy road, not very clean; but they were
all I had, and were valuable beyond gold or silver in this foot-weary
land. I never saw them more. What aggravated the offense, when I came to
review it seriously, was, that I remembered having seen him draw just
such a pair over his boots, as a protection against the snow, without
the remotest suspicion of the great wrong he was doing me.

  [Illustration: THE STOCKING-THIEF.]

We shall meet this Stocking-thief again.



CHAPTER III.

ACROSS THE MOUNTAINS.


Upon taking an observation from the front door at Strawberry, we were
rather startled to find that the whole place was covered with snow to
the depth of two or three feet. The pack trains had given up all hope of
getting over the mountain. It was snowing hard, and the appearance of
the weather was dark and threatening. To be housed up here with three or
four hundred men, and the additional numbers that might be expected
before night, was not a pleasant prospect; but to be caught in a
snow-storm on the summit, where so many had perished during the past
winter, was worse still. Upon reviewing the chances I resolved to start,
and if the storm continued I thought there would be no difficulty in
finding the way back. It was eight miles of a continuous and precipitous
ascent to the summit, and three miles from that point to the Lake House
in Lake Valley, where the accommodations were said to be the worst on
the whole trail.

  [Illustration: THE TRAIL FROM STRAWBERRY.]

A few miles from Strawberry one of the party gave out in consequence of
sore feet; the other two pushed on, despite the storm which now raged
fearfully, but had not proceeded far when they were forced to turn back.
I was loth to leave my disabled friend, and returned with him to
Strawberry, where we had a repetition of nearly all that has already
been described, only a little intensified in consequence of increased
numbers. The others of our party stopped somewhere on the road, and I
did not meet them again until next afternoon at Woodford's, on the other
side of the mountain.

As soon as it was light next morning I took another observation of the
weather. It was still snowing, but not so heavily as on the preceding
day. My remaining partner was by this time completely crippled in his
feet, and had to hire a horse at the rate of twenty dollars for
twenty-five miles.

I was delayed some hours in getting off, owing to the pressure of the
forces at the breakfast-table, but finally made a fair start for the
summit. My pack had become a source of considerable inconvenience. I was
accustomed to walking, but not to carrying a burden of twenty or
twenty-five pounds. My shoulders and ankles were so galled that every
step had to be made on the nicest calculation; but the new snow on top
of the old trail began to melt as soon as the sun came out, making a
very bad trail for pedestrians. Two miles from Strawberry we crossed a
bridge, and struck for the summit.

Here we had need of all our powers of endurance. It was a constant
struggle through melted snow and mud--slipping, sliding, grasping,
rolling, tumbling, and climbing, up again and still up, till it verily
seemed as if we must be approaching the clouds. The most prominent
peculiarity of these mountains is, that a person on foot, with a heavy
load on his back, is never at the top when he imagines he is; the
"divide" is always a little farther on and a little higher up--at least
until he passes it, which he does entirely ignorant of the fact. There
is really no perceptible "divide;" you pass a series of elevations, and
commence the descent without any apparent difference in the trail.

The pack trains had broken through the old snow in many places, leaving
deep holes, which, being now partially covered with recent snow, proved
to be regular man-traps, often bringing up the unwary pedestrian "all
standing." The sudden wrenching of the feet in the smaller holes, which
had been explored by the legs of horses, mules, and cattle, was an
occurrence of every ten or a dozen steps. In many places the trail was
perfectly honeycombed with holes, where the heavily-laden animals had
cut through the snow, and it was exceedingly difficult to find a
foothold. To step on either side and avoid these bad places would seem
easy enough, but I tried it on more than one occasion, and got very
nearly buried alive. All along the route, at intervals of a mile or two,
we continued to meet pack trains; and as every body had to give way
before them, the tumbling out and plunging in the snow were very lively.

I walked on rapidly in the hope of making Woodford's--the station on the
eastern slope of the mountain--before night, and by degrees got ahead of
the main body of footmen who had left Strawberry that morning. In a
narrow gorge, a short distance from the commencement of the descent into
Lake Valley, I happened to look up a little to the right, where, to my
astonishment, I perceived four large brown wolves sitting on their
haunches not over twenty feet from me! They seemed entirely unconcerned
at my presence, except in so far as they may have indulged in some
speculation as to the amount of flesh contained on my body. As I was
entirely unarmed, I thought it would be but common politeness to speak
to them, so I gave them a yell in the Indian language. At this they
retired a short distance, but presently came back again as if to inquire
the exact meaning of my salutation. I now thought it best not to be too
intimate, for I saw they were getting rather familiar on a short
acquaintance; and picking up a stick of wood, I made a rush and a yell
at them which must have been formidable in the extreme. This time they
retreated more rapidly, and seemed undecided about returning. At this
crisis in affairs a pack train came along, the driver of which had a
pistol. Upon pointing out the wolves to him he fired, but missed them.
They then retreated up the side of the mountain, and I saw nothing more
of them.

  [Illustration: "WE ARE WAITING FOR YOU."]

The descent of the "grade" was the next rough feature in our day's
journey. From the point overlooking Lake Valley the view is exceedingly
fine. Lake Bigler--a sheet of water forty or fifty miles in length by
ten or fifteen wide--lies embosomed in the mountains in full view from
this elevation; but there was a drizzling sleet which obscured it on
this occasion. I had a fine sight of it on my return, however, and have
seldom witnessed any scene in Europe or elsewhere to compare with it in
extent and grandeur.

  [Illustration: A SHORT CUT.]

The trail on the grade was slippery with sleet, and walking upon it was
out of the question. Running, jumping, and sliding were the only modes
of locomotion at all practicable. I tried one of the short cuts, and
found it an expeditious way of getting to the bottom. Some trifling
obstruction deprived me of the use of my feet at the very start, after
which I traveled down in a series of gyrations at once picturesque and
complicated. When I reached the bottom I was entirely unable to
comprehend how it had all happened; but there I was, pack and baggage,
all safely delivered in the snow--bones sound, and free of expense.

At the Lake House--a tolerably good-sized shanty at the foot of the
grade--we found a large party assembled, taking their ease as they best
could in such a place, without much to eat and but little to drink,
except old-fashioned tarentula-juice, "warranted to kill at forty
paces."

The host of the Lake was in a constant state of nervous excitement, and
did more scolding, swearing, gouging, and general hotel work in the
brief space of half an hour than any man I ever saw. He seemed to be
quite worn out with his run of customers--from a hundred to three
hundred of a night, and nowhere to stow 'em--all cussin' at him for not
keepin' provisions; and how could he, when they ate him clean out every
day, and some of 'em never paid him, and never will?

I was not sorry to get clear of the Lake House, its filth, and its
troubles.

Upon crossing the valley, which is here about a mile wide, the ascent of
the next summit commences. Here we had almost a repetition of the main
summit, except that the descent on the other side is more gradual.

At length we struck the beginning of Hope Valley. I shall always
remember this portion of the journey as the worst I ever traveled on
foot. Every yard of the trail was honeycombed to the depth of two or
three feet. On the edges there was no foothold at all; and occasionally
we had to wade knee-deep in black, sticky mire, from which it was
difficult to extricate one's feet and boots at the same time. I was glad
enough when myself and two casual acquaintances succeeded in reaching
the solitary log house which stands near the middle of the valley.

I little expected to find in this wilderness a philosopher of the old
school; but here was a man who had evidently made up his mind to
withstand all the allurements of wealth, and devote the remainder of his
life to ascetic reflections upon the follies of mankind. Diogenes in his
tub was not more rigorous in his seclusion than this isolated
inhabitant of Hope Valley. His log cabin, to be sure, was some
improvement, in extent, upon the domicile of that famous philosopher;
but in point of architectural style, I don't know that there could have
been much advantage either way.

A few empty bags, and a bar entirely destitute of bottles, with a rough
bench to sit upon, comprised all the furniture that was visible to the
naked eye. From a beam overhead hung a bunch of foxskins, which emitted
a very gamy odor; and the clay floor had apparently never been swept,
save by the storms that had passed over it before the cabin was built. A
couple of rifles hung upon pegs projecting from the chimney, and a
powder-flask was the only mantle-piece ornament. Diogenes sat, or rather
reclined, on the pile of empty sacks, holding by the neck a fierce
bull-dog. The sanguinary propensities of the animal were manifested by
repeated attempts to break away, and seize somebody by the throat or the
leg; not that he growled, or snarled, or showed any puppyish symptoms of
a trifling kind, but there was a playful switching of his tail and a
leer of the eye uncommonly vicious and tiger-like. It certainly would
not have taken him more than two minutes to hamstring the stoutest man
in the party.

Between the dog and his master there was a very striking congeniality of
disposition, if one might judge by the expression of their respective
countenances. It would apparently have taken but little provocation to
make either of them bite.

Battered and bruised as we were, and hungry into the bargain, after our
hard struggle over the mountain, it became a matter of vital importance
that we should secure lodgings for the night, and, if possible, get
something to eat. The place looked rather unpromising; but, after our
experience in Lake Valley, we were not easily discouraged. Upon
broaching the subject to Diogenes in the mildest possible manner, his
brow darkened, as if a positive insult to his common sense had been
attempted.

  [Illustration: DIOGENES.]

"Stay here all night!" he repeated, savagely. "What the h--ll do you
want to stay here all night for?"

We hinted at a disposition to sleep, and thought he might possibly have
room on the floor for our blankets.

At this he snapped his fingers contemptuously, and muttered, "Can't come
that over me! I've been here too long for that!"

"But we are willing to pay you whatever is fair."

"Pay? Who said I wanted pay? Do I look like a man that wants money?"

We thought not.

"If I wanted money," continued Diogenes, "I could have made fifty
dollars a day for the last two months. But I ask no favors of the world.
Some of 'em wants to stay here whether I will or no; I rather think I'm
too many for any of that sort--eh, Bull, what d'ye say?" Bull growled,
with a bloodthirsty meaning. "Too many altogether, gents--me and Bull."

There was a sturdy independence about this fellow, and a scorn for
filthy lucre that rather astonished me as a citizen of a money-loving
state.

"Well, if you can't let us stay all night, perhaps you can get us up a
snack of dinner?"

"Snack of dinner?"--and here there was a guttural chuckle that boded
failure again--"I tell you this ain't a tavern; and if it was, my cook's
gone out to take a airing."

"But have you nothing in the house to eat?"

"Oh yes, there's a bunch of foxskins. If you'd like some of 'em cooked,
I'll bile 'em for you."

This man's disposition had evidently been soured in early life. I think
he must have been crossed in love. His style had the merit of being
terse, but his manner was sarcastic to the verge of impoliteness.

"Well, I suppose we can warm ourselves at the fire?"

"If you can," quoth Diogenes, "you can do more than I can;" and here he
hauled his blanket over his shoulders, and fell back on the empty potato
sacks as if there was no more to be said on that or any other subject.

The bull-dog seemed to be of the same way of thinking, and quietly laid
down by his master; still, however, keeping his eye on us, as suspicious
characters.

Nothing remained but to push on for Woodford's, distant six miles.

Now, when you come to put six miles on the end of a day's journey such
as ours had been, it becomes a serious matter. Besides, it was growing
late, and a terrific wind, accompanied by a blinding sleet, rendered it
scarcely practicable to stand up, much less to walk. I do not know how
we ever staggered over that six miles. The last three, however, were
down hill, and not so bad, as the snow was pretty well gone from the
cañon on the approach to Woodford's.

This is the last station on the way over from Carson, and forms the
upper terminus of that valley. It is supposed to be in Utah, but our
landlord could not tell us exactly where the boundary-line ran.

We found here several hundred people, bound in both directions, and
passed a very rough night, trying to get a little sleep amid the motley
and noisy crowd.

I had endured the journey thus far very well, and had gained
considerably in strength and appetite. The next day, however, upon
striking into the sand of Carson Valley, my feet became terribly
blistered, and the walking was exceedingly painful. There are some good
farms in the upper part of the valley, between Woodford's and Genoa,
though the general aspect of the country is barren in the extreme.

By sundown I had made only fifteen miles, and still was three miles from
Genoa. Every hundred yards was now equal to a mile. At length I found it
utterly impossible to move another step. It was quite dark, and there
was nothing for it but to sit down on the road-side. Fortunately, the
weather was comparatively mild. As I was meditating how to pass the
night, I perceived a hot spring close by, toward which I crept; and
finding the water strongly impregnated with salt, it occurred to me that
it might benefit my feet. I soon plunged them in, and in half an hour
found them so much improved that I was enabled to resume my journey. An
hour more, and I was snugly housed at Genoa.

This was a place of some importance during the time of the Mormon
settlements, but had not kept pace with Carson City in the general
improvement caused by the recent discoveries. At present it contained a
population of not more than two or three hundred, chiefly store-keepers,
teamsters, and workmen employed upon a neighboring saw-mill. The
inhabitants professed to be rich in silver leads, but upon an
examination of the records to find the lead in which my San Francisco
friend had invested, and which was represented to be in this district, I
was unable to find any trace of it; and there was no such name as that
of the alleged owner known or ever heard of in Genoa. In fact, as I
afterward ascertained, it was purely a fictitious name, and the whole
transaction was one of those Peter Funk swindles so often practiced upon
the unwary during this memorable era of swindles. I don't know how my
friend received the intelligence, but I reported it to him without a
solitary mitigating circumstance. Had I met with the vile miscreant who
had imposed upon him, I should have felt bound to resort to personal
measures of satisfaction, in consideration of the fund expended by my
friend on the expenses of this commission of inquiry. The deeds were so
admirably drawn, and the names written so legibly, that I don't wonder
he was taken in. In fact, the only obstacle to his scheme of sudden
wealth was, that there were no such mines, and no such men as the
alleged discoverers in existence.

I proceeded the next day to Carson City, which I had fixed upon as the
future head-quarters of my agency. The distance from Genoa is fifteen
miles, the road winding around the base of the foot-hills most of the
way. I was much impressed with the marked difference between the country
on this side of the Sierra Nevada range and the California side. Here
the mountains were but sparsely timbered; the soil was poor and sandy,
producing little else than stunted sage bushes; and the few scattering
farms had a thriftless and poverty-stricken look, as if the task of
cultivation had proved entirely hopeless, and had long since been given
up. Across the valley toward the Desert, ranges of mountains, almost
destitute of trees, and of most stern and forbidding aspect, stretched
as far as the eye could reach. Carson River, which courses through the
plain, presented the only pleasing feature in the scene.

  [Illustration: CARSON CITY.]

I was rather agreeably surprised at the civilized aspect of Carson City.
It is really quite a pretty and thrifty little town. Situated within a
mile of the foot-hills, within reach of the main timber region of the
country, and well watered by streams from the mountains, it is rather
imposing on first acquaintance; but the climate is abominable, and not
to be endured. I know of none so bad except that of Virginia City, which
is infinitely worse. The population was about twelve or fifteen hundred
at the time of my visit. There was great speculation in town lots going
on, a rumor having come from Salt Lake that the seat of government of
Utah was about to be removed to Carson. Hotels and stores were in
progress of erection all about the Plaza, but especially drinking and
gambling saloons, it being an article of faith among the embryo
sovereigns of Utah that no government can be judiciously administered
without plenty of whisky, and superior accommodations for "bucking at
monte." I am not sure but there is a similar feature in the California
Constitution; at least, the practice is carried on to some extent at
Sacramento during the sittings of the Legislature. Measures of the most
vital importance are first introduced in rum cocktails, then steeped in
whisky, after which they are engrossed in gin for a third reading.
Before the final vote the opponents adjourn to a game of _poker_ or
_sledge_, and upon the amount of Champagne furnished on the occasion by
the respective parties interested in the bill depends its passage or
defeat. It was said that Champagne carried one of the great senatorial
elections; but this has been denied, and it would be dangerous to insist
upon it.

I had the pleasure of meeting in Carson an esteemed friend from San
Francisco, Mr. A. J. Van Winkle, Real Estate Agent, who, being a
descendant of the famous Rip Van Winkle, was thoughtful enough to
furnish me with a bunk to sleep in. Warned by the fate of his unhappy
ancestor, my friend had gone briskly into the land business, and now
owned enough of town lots, of amazingly appreciative value, to keep any
man awake for the remainder of his life. I think if I had as much
property, doubling itself up all the time like an acrobat in a circus, I
would never sleep another wink thinking about it.

Chief among the curiosities of Carson City is the _Territorial
Enterprise_--a newspaper of an origin long anterior to the mining
excitement. I was introduced to "the Colonel," who presides over the
editorial department, and found him uncommonly strong on the ultimate
destiny of Carson. His office was located in a dirty frame shanty,
where, amid types, rollers, composing-stones, and general rubbish of a
dark and literary aspect, those astounding editorials which now and then
arouse the public mind are concocted. The Colonel and his compositors
live in a sort of family fashion, entirely free from the rigorous
etiquette of such establishments in New York. They cook their own food
in the composition room (which is also the editorial and press room),
and being, as a general thing, short of plates, use the frying-pan in
common for that purpose. In cases of great festivity and rejoicing, when
a subscriber has settled up arrearages or the cash is paid down for a
good job of hand-bills, the Colonel purchases the best tenderloin steak
to be had in market, and cooks it with one hand, while with the other he
writes a letter of thanks to the subscriber, or a puff on the hand-bill.
But the great hope upon which the Colonel feeds his imagination is the
removal of the seat of government from Salt Lake to Carson City, which
he considers the proper place. Mr. Van Winkle is also of the same
opinion; and, as a general thing, the proposition is favorably
entertained by the citizens of Carson.

As usual in new countries, a strong feeling of rivalry exists between
the Carsonites and the inhabitants of Virginia City. I have summed up
the arguments on both sides and reduced them to the following pungent
essence:

Virginia City--a mud-hole; climate, hurricanes and snow; water, a
dilution of arsenic, plumbago, and copperas; wood, none at all except
sage-brush; no title to property, and no property worth having.

Carson City--a mere accident; occupation of the inhabitants, waylaying
strangers bound for Virginia; business, selling whisky, and so dull at
that, men fall asleep in the middle of the street going from one
groggery to another; productions, grass and weeds on the Plaza.

While this fight is going on, Silver City, which lies about midway
between the two, shrugs her shoulders and thanks her stars there can be
no rivalry in her case. If ever there was a spot fitted by nature for a
seat of government, it is Silver City--the most central, the most moral,
the most promising; in short, the only place where the seat of
government can exist for any length of time.

This Kilkenny-cat fight is highly edifying to a stranger, who, of
course, is expected to take sides, or at once acknowledge himself an
enemy. The result, I hope, will be satisfactory and triumphant to all
parties. I would suggest that the government be split into three slices,
and a slice stowed away under ground in each of the great cities, so
that it may permeate the foundations of society.



CHAPTER IV.

AN INFERNAL CITY.


A few days after my arrival in Carson the sky darkened, and we soon had
a specimen of the spring weather of this region. To say that it stormed,
snowed, and rained would be ridiculously tame in comparison with the
real state of the case. The wind whistled through the thin shanties in a
manner that left scarcely a hope of roof or frame standing till night.
Through the crevices came little hurricanes of snow-drift mixed with
sand; each tenement groaned and creaked as if its last hour had come;
the air was bitterly cold; and it seemed, in short, as if the vengeance
of Heaven had been let loose on this desolate and benighted region.

Next day the clouds gradually lifted from the mountain tops, and the sun
once more shone out bright and clear. The snow, which now covered the
valley, began to disappear; the lowing of half-starved cattle, in search
of the few green patches visible here and there, gave some promise of
life; but soon the portentous gusts of wind swept down again from the
cañons; dark clouds overspread the sky, and a still more violent storm
than on the preceding day set in, and continued without intermission all
night. By morning the whole face of the country was covered with snow. A
few stragglers came in from Woodford's, who reported that the trail to
Placerville was covered up to the depth of six or eight feet, and was
entirely impracticable for man or beast. Apprehensions were felt for the
safety of the trains on the way through, as nothing could be heard from
them. A large party had started out to open the trail, but were forced
back by the severity of the weather. The snow-drifts were said to vary
from twenty to thirty feet in depth.

Here was a pretty predicament! To be shut up in this desolate region,
where even the cattle were dying of starvation, with seven or eight
thousand human mouths to be fed, and the stock of provisions rapidly
giving out, was rather a serious aspect of affairs. I do not know that
actual starvation could have resulted for some time, certainly not until
what cattle were alive had been killed, and soup made of the dead
carcasses that covered the plain. Even before resorting to the latter
extremity there were horses, mules, burros, and dogs on hand, upon
which the cravings of hunger might be appeased for a month or so; and in
the event of all these resources giving out, should the worst come to
the worst, the few Digger Indians that hung around the settlements might
be made available as an article of temporary subsistence.

In this extremity, when considerable suffering, if not absolute
starvation, stared us in the face, the anxiety respecting the opening of
the trails became general. Groups of men of divers occupations stood in
the streets, or on every little rise of ground in the neighborhood,
speculating upon the chances or peering through the gloom in the hope of
discerning the approach of some relief train. The sugar was gone; flour
was eighty dollars a sack, and but little to be had at that; barley was
seventy-five cents a pound, and hay sixty cents; horses were dying for
want of something to eat; cigars were rapidly giving out; whisky might
stand the pull another week, but the prospect was gloomy of any thing
more nourishing.

In this exciting state of affairs, when every brain was racked to devise
ways and means of relief, and when hope of succor was almost at an end,
a scout came running in from the direction of the Downerville trail with
the glorious tidings of an approaching mule train. The taverns, billiard
saloons, groggeries, and various stores were soon empty--every body
rushed down the street to have assurance made doubly sure. Cheer after
cheer burst from the elated crowd when the train hove in sight. On it
came--at first like a row of ants creeping down the hillside; then
nearer and larger, till the clatter of the hoofs and the rattling of the
packs could be heard; then the blowing of the tired mules; and at last
the leader, an old gray mule, came staggering wearily along heavily
packed. A barrel was poised on his back--doubtless a barrel of beef, or
it might be pork, or bacon. The brand heaves in sight. Per Baccho! it is
neither beef, pork, nor bacon, but _whisky_--old Bourbon whisky! The
next mule totters along under two half barrels. Speculation is rife.
Every man with a stomach and an appetite for wholesome food is
interested. Pigs' feet perhaps, or mackerel, or, it may be, preserved
chicken? But here is the mark--_brandy_; by the powers! nothing but
_brandy!_ However, here comes the third with a load of five-gallon
kegs--molasses beyond question, or lard, or butter? Wrong again,
gentlemen--_gin_, nothing but _gin_. On staggers a fourth, heavily
burdened with more kegs--sugar, or corn-meal, or preserved apples, I'll
bet my head. Never bet your head. It is nothing but bitters--_Mack's
Bitters_! But surely the fifth carries a box of crushed sugar on his
back, he bears himself so gayly under his burden. And well he may! That
box contains no more sugar than you do, my friend; it is stuffed
choke-full with decanters, tumblers, and pewter spoons. But there are
still ten or fifteen mules more. Surely there must be some provisions in
the train. Nobody can live to a very protracted period of life on
brandy, whisky, gin, Mack's Bitters, and glass-ware. Alas for human
expectation! One by one the jaded animals pass, groaning and tottering
under their heavy burdens--a barrel of rum; two boxes of bottled ale;
six crates of Champagne; two pipes of California wine; a large crate of
bar fixtures; and a dozen boxes of cigars--none of them nutritious
articles of subsistence.

As if to enhance our troubles, the party in charge of the train had been
nearly starved out in the mountains, and now came in the very lankest
and hungriest of the crowd. If they were thirsty, it was their own
fault; but none of them looked as if they had suffered in that respect.

  [Illustration: THE STAGE.]

Before entering into the responsible duties of my agency, I was desirous
of seeing as much of the mining region as possible, and with this view
took the stage for Virginia City. The most remarkable peculiarity on the
road was the driver, whose likeness I struck in a happy moment of
inspiration. At Silver City, eight miles from Carson, I dismounted,
and proceeded the rest of the way on foot. The road here becomes rough
and hilly, and but little is to be seen of the city except a few tents
and board shanties. Half a mile beyond is a remarkable gap cut by Nature
through the mountain, as if for the express purpose of giving the road
an opportunity to visit Virginia City.

As I passed through the Devil's Gate it struck me that there was
something ominous in the name. "Let all who enter here--" But I had
already reached the other side. It was too late now for repentance. I
was about to inquire where the devil--Excuse me, I use the word in no
indecorous sense. I was simply about to ask where he lived, when,
looking up the road, I saw amid the smoke and din of shivered rocks,
where grimy imps were at work blasting for ore, a string of adventurers
laden with picks, shovels, and crowbars; kegs of powder, frying-pans,
pitch-forks, and other instruments of torture--all wearily toiling in
the same direction; decrepit old men, with avarice imprinted upon their
furrowed brows; Jews and Gentiles, foot-weary and haggard; the young and
the old, the strong and the weak, all alike burning with an unhallowed
lust for lucre; and then I shuddered as the truth flashed upon me that
they were going straight to--Virginia City.

Every foot of the cañon was claimed, and gangs of miners were at work
all along the road, digging and delving into the earth like so many
infatuated gophers. Many of these unfortunate creatures lived in holes
dug into the side of the hill, and here and there a blanket thrown over
a few stakes served as a domicile to shield them from the weather.

At Gold Hill, two miles beyond the Gate, the excitement was quite
pitiable to behold. Those who were not at work burrowing holes into the
mountain were gathered in gangs around the whisky saloons, pouring
liquid fire down their throats, and swearing all the time in a manner so
utterly reckless as to satisfy me they had long since bid farewell to
hope.

  [Illustration: THE DEVIL'S GATE.]

This district is said to be exceedingly rich in gold, and I fancy it may
well be so, for it is certainly rich in nothing else. A more
barren-looking and forbidding spot could scarcely be found elsewhere on
the face of the earth. The whole aspect of the country indicates that it
must have been burned up in hot fires many years ago and reduced to a
mass of cinders, or scraped up from all the desolate spots in the known
world, and thrown over the Sierra Nevada Mountains in a confused mass to
be out of the way. I do not wish to be understood as speaking
disrespectfully of any of the works of creation, but it is inconceivable
that this region should ever have been designed as an abode for man.

A short distance beyond Gold Hill we came in sight of the great mining
capital of Washoe, the far-famed Virginia City. In the course of a
varied existence it had been my fortune to visit the city of Jerusalem,
the city of Constantinople, the city of the Sea, the City of the Dead,
the Seven Cities, and others of historical celebrity in the Old World,
and many famous cities in the New, including Port Townsend, Crescent
City, Benicia, and the New York of the Pacific, but I had never yet
beheld such a city as that which now burst upon my distended organs of
vision.

On a slope of mountains speckled with snow, sage-bushes, and mounds of
upturned earth, without any apparent beginning or end, congruity or
regard for the eternal fitness of things, lay outspread the wondrous
city of Virginia.

Frame shanties, pitched together as if by accident; tents of canvas, of
blankets, of brush, of potato-sacks and old shirts, with empty
whisky-barrels for chimneys; smoky hovels of mud and stone; coyote holes
in the mountain side forcibly seized and held by men; pits and shafts
with smoke issuing from every crevice; piles of goods and rubbish on
craggy points, in the hollows, on the rocks, in the mud, in the snow,
every where, scattered broadcast in pell-mell confusion, as if the
clouds had suddenly burst overhead and rained down the dregs of all the
flimsy, rickety, filthy little hovels and rubbish of merchandise that
had ever undergone the process of evaporation from the earth since the
days of Noah. The intervals of space, which may or may not have been
streets, were dotted over with human beings of such sort, variety, and
numbers, that the famous ant-hills of Africa were as nothing in the
comparison. To say that they were rough, muddy, unkempt and unwashed,
would be but faintly expressive of their actual appearance; they were
all this by reason of exposure to the weather; but they seemed to have
caught the very diabolical tint and grime of the whole place. Here and
there, to be sure, a San Francisco dandy of the "boiled shirt" and
"stove-pipe" pattern loomed up in proud consciousness of the triumphs of
art under adverse circumstances, but they were merely peacocks in the
barn-yard.

  [Illustration: VIRGINIA CITY.]

A fraction of the crowd, as we entered the precincts of the town, were
engaged in a lawsuit relative to a question of title. The arguments used
on both sides were empty whisky-bottles, after the fashion of the
_Basilinum_, or club law, which, according to Addison, prevailed in the
colleges of learned men in former times. Several of the disputants had
already been knocked down and convinced, and various others were freely
shedding their blood in the cause of justice. Even the bull-terriers
took an active part--or, at least, a very prominent part. The difficulty
was about the ownership of a lot, which had been staked out by one party
and "jumped" by another. Some two or three hundred disinterested
observers stood by, enjoying the spectacle, several of them with their
hands on their revolvers, to be ready in case of any serious issue; but
these dangerous weapons are only used on great occasions--a refusal to
drink, or some illegitimate trick at monte.

  [Illustration: A QUESTION OF TITLE.]

Upon fairly reaching what might be considered the centre of the town, it
was interesting to observe the manners and customs of the place. Groups
of keen speculators were huddled around the corners, in earnest
consultation about the rise and fall of stocks; rough customers, with
red and blue flannel shirts, were straggling in from the Flowery
Diggings, the Desert, and other rich points, with specimens of croppings
in their hands, or offering bargains in the "Rogers," the "Lady
Bryant," the "Mammoth," the "Woolly Horse," and Heaven knows how many
other valuable _leads_, at prices varying from ten to seventy-five
dollars a foot. Small knots of the knowing ones were in confidential
interchange of thought on the subject of every other man's business;
here and there a loose man was caught by the button, and led aside
behind a shanty to be "stuffed;" every body had some grand secret, which
nobody else could find out; and the game of "dodge" and "pump" was
universally played. Jew clothing-men were setting out their goods and
chattels in front of wretched-looking tenements; monte-dealers,
gamblers, thieves, cut-throats, and murderers were mingling
miscellaneously in the dense crowds gathered around the bars of the
drinking saloons. Now and then a half-starved Pah-Ute or Washoe Indian
came tottering along under a heavy press of fagots and whisky. On the
main street, where the mass of the population were gathered, a jaunty
fellow who had "made a good thing of it" dashed through the crowds on
horseback, accoutred in genuine Mexican style, swinging his _riata_ over
his head, and yelling like a devil let loose. All this time the wind
blew in terrific gusts from the four quarters of the compass, tearing
away signs, capsizing tents, scattering the grit from the gravel-banks
with blinding force in every body's eyes, and sweeping furiously around
every crook and corner in search of some sinner to smite. Never was such
a wind as this--so scathing, so searching, so given to penetrate the
very core of suffering humanity; disdaining overcoats, and utterly
scornful of shawls and blankets. It actually seemed to double up, twist,
pull, push, and screw the unfortunate biped till his muscles cracked and
his bones rattled--following him wherever he sought refuge, pursuing him
down the back of the neck, up the coat-sleeves, through the legs of his
pantaloons, into his boots--in short, it was the most villainous and
persecuting wind that ever blew, and I boldly protest that it did nobody
good.

Yet, in the midst of the general wreck and crash of matter, the business
of trading in claims, "bucking" and "bearing," went on as if the zephyrs
of Virginia were as soft and balmy as those of San Francisco.

  [Illustration: "MY CLAIM, SIR."]

This was surely--No matter; nothing on earth could aspire to competition
with such a place. It was essentially infernal in every aspect, whether
viewed from the Comstock Ledge or the summit of Gold Hill. Nobody seemed
to own the lots except by right of possession; yet there was trading in
lots to an unlimited extent. Nobody had any money, yet every body was a
millionaire in silver claims. Nobody had any credit, yet every body
bought thousands of feet of glittering ore. Sales were made in the
Mammoth, the Lady Bryant, the Sacramento, the Winnebunk, and the
innumerable other "outside claims," at the most astounding figures, but
not a dime passed hands. All was silver under ground, and deeds and
mortgages on top; silver, silver every where, but scarce a dollar in
coin. The small change had somehow gotten out of the hands of the public
into the gambling saloons.

Every speck of ground covered by canvas, boards, baked mud, brush, or
other architectural material, was jammed to suffocation; there were
sleeping houses, twenty feet by thirty, in which from one hundred and
fifty to two hundred solid sleepers sought slumber at night, at a dollar
a head; tents, eight by ten, offering accommodations to the multitude;
any thing or any place, even a stall in a stable, would have been a
luxury.

  [Illustration: GOLD HILL.]

The chief hotel, called, if I remember, the "Indication," or the "Hotel
de Haystack," or some such euphonious name, professed to accommodate
three hundred live men, and it doubtless did so, for the floors were
covered from the attic to the solid earth--three hundred human beings in
a tinder-box not bigger than a first-class hen-coop! But they were
sorry-looking sleepers as they came forth each morning, swearing at the
evil genius who had directed them to this miserable spot--every man a
dollar and a pound of flesh poorer. I saw some, who perhaps were short
of means, take surreptitious naps against the posts and walls in the
bar-room, while they ostensibly professed to be mere spectators.

  [Illustration: SAN FRANCISCO SPECULATORS.]

In truth, wherever I turned there was much to confirm the forebodings
with which I had entered the Devil's Gate. The deep pits on the
hill-sides; the blasted and barren appearance of the whole country; the
unsightly hodge-podge of a town; the horrible confusion of tongues; the
roaring, raving drunkards at the bar-rooms, swilling fiery liquids from
morning till night; the flaring and flaunting gambling-saloons, filled
with desperadoes of the vilest sort; the ceaseless torrent of
imprecations that shocked the ear on every side; the mad speculations
and feverish thirst for gain--all combined to give me a forcible
impression of the unhallowed character of the place.

  [Illustration: ASSAY OFFICE.]

What dreadful savage is that? I asked, as a ferocious-looking monster in
human shape stalked through the crowd. Is it--can it be the--? No;
that's only a murderer. He shot three men a few weeks ago, and will
probably shoot another before night. And this aged and decrepit man, his
thin locks floating around his haggard and unshaved face, and matted
with filth? That's a speculator from San Francisco. See how wildly he
grasps at every "indication," as if he had a lease of life for a
thousand years! And this bull-dog fellow, with a mutilated face,
button-holing every by-passer? That fellow? Oh, he's only a "bummer" in
search of a cocktail. And this--and this--all these crazy-looking
wretches, running hither and thither with hammers and stones in their
hands, calling one another aside, hurrying to the assay offices, pulling
out papers, exchanging mysterious signals--who and what are all these?
Oh, these are Washoe millionaires. They are deep in "outside claims."
The little fragments of rock they carry in their hands are "croppings"
and "indications" from the "Wake-up-Jake," "Root-Hog-or-Die,"
"Wild-Cat," "Grizzly-Hill," "Dry-up," "Same Horse," "Let-her-Rip," "You
Bet," "Gouge-Eye," and other famous ledges and companies, in which they
own some thousands of feet. Hold, good friend! I am convinced there is
no rest for the wicked. All night long these dreadful noises continue;
the ears are distracted with an unintelligible jargon of "croppings,"
"ledges," "lodes," "leads," "indications," "feet," and "strikes," and
the nostrils offended with foul odors of boots, old pipes, and dirty
blankets--who can doubt the locality? If the climate is more rigorous
than Dante describes it--if Calypso might search in vain for Ulysses in
such a motley crowd--these apparent differences are not inconsistent
with the general theory of changes produced by American emigration and
the sudden conglomeration of such incongruous elements.

I was grieved and astonished to find many friends here--some of them
gentlemen who had borne a very fair reputation in San Francisco, and
whose unhappy fate I never could have anticipated. The bankers and
brokers who had been cut off, after a prosperous career on Montgomery
Street, had, of course, reached the goal toward which they had long been
tending; the lawyers, who had set their unfortunate fellow-creatures by
the ears, were now in a congenial element; the hard traders and
unscrupulous speculators, who had violated all the moral obligations of
life in their greedy lust for money, naturally abounded in large
numbers; in short, it was not a matter of surprise that justice had at
length been dealt out to many sinful men. But when I recognized friends
whom I had formerly known as good citizens, the fathers of interesting
families, exemplary members of society in San Francisco, I was
profoundly shocked. It was impossible to deny that they must have been
guilty of some grievous wickedness to entitle them to such a punishment.

(What surprised me most of all was to find Colonel R----, to whom I had
a letter of introduction, the leading spirit here. His assistance was
sought by all. He was the best friend to any man in need of advice.
Hospitality with him was a cardinal virtue. He had turned out of his own
snug quarters long since to make room for the sick and disabled, and now
slept about wherever he could find shelter. He was chief owner in the
"Comstock Lead," and showed great liberality in giving a helping hand to
others on the road to fortune. In fine, I am utterly unable to determine
for what crime he was now suffering expiation. There was nothing in his
conduct that I could discover the least unbecoming to a good citizen.
His benevolence, hospitality, and genial manners were worthy any
Christian. To me and to many others he proved the good Samaritan, and I
still hesitate to believe that he merited the hard fate now meted out to
him. But who can fathom the judgments pronounced upon men?)

The bare contemplation of the miseries suffered by the inhabitants of
this dreadful place was enough to stagger all convictions of my
identity. Could it be possible that I was at last in--in Virginia City?
What had I done to bring me to this? In vain I entered into a
retrospection of the various iniquities of my life; but I could hit upon
nothing that seemed bad enough to warrant such a fate. At length a
withering truth flashed upon me. This must be the end of a federal
existence! This must be the abode of ex-inspector-generals! It must be
here that the accounts current of the decapitated are examined. Woe to
the wretch who failed to profit by specie clause of the Independent
Treasury Act while he had official claws on hand! Such _laches_ of
public duty can not be tolerated even in--Virginia City.

  [Illustration: A FALL.]

I slept, or rather tried to sleep, at one "Zip's," where there were only
twenty "bunks" in the room, and was fortunate in securing a bunk even
there. But the great Macbeth himself, laboring under the stings of an
evil conscience, could have made a better hand of sleeping than I did at
Zip's. It proved to be a general meeting-place for my San Francisco
friends, and as they were all very rich in mining claims, and bent on
getting still richer, they were continually making out deeds, examining
titles, trading and transferring claims, discussing the purchases and
prospects of the day, and exhibiting the most extraordinary
"indications" yet discovered, in which one or other of them held an
interest of fifty or a hundred feet, worth, say, a thousand dollars a
foot. Between the cat-naps of oblivion that visited my eyes there was a
constant din of "croppings"--"feet"--"fifty thousand dollars"--"struck
it rich!"--"the Comstock Ledge!"--"the Billy Choller!"--"Miller on the
rise!"--"Mammoth!"--"Sacramento!"--"Lady Bryant!"--"a thousand feet
more!"--"great bargain"--"forty dollars a foot!"--crash! rip!
bang!--"an earthquake!"--"run for your lives!"

What the deuce is the matter?

It happened thus one night. The wind was blowing in terrific gusts. In
the midst of the general clatter on the subject of croppings, bargains,
and indications, down came our next neighbor's house on the top of us
with a terrific crash. For a moment it was difficult to tell which house
was the ruin. Amid projecting and shivered planks, the flapping of
canvas, and the howling of the wind, it really seemed as if chaos had
come again. But "Zip's" was well braced, and stood the shock without
much damage, a slight heel and lurch to leeward being the chief result.
I could not help thinking, as I turned in again after the alarm, that
there could no longer be a doubt on the subject which had already
occasioned me so many unpleasant reflections. It even seemed as if I
smelled something like brimstone; but, upon calling to Zip to know what
was the matter, he informed me that he was "only dryin' the boots on the
stove."



CHAPTER V.

SOCIETY OF VIRGINIA CITY.


  [Illustration: THE COMSTOCK LEAD.]

Notwithstanding the number of physicians who had already hoisted their
"shingles," there was much sickness in Virginia, owing chiefly to
exposure and dissipation, but in some measure to the deleterious quality
of the water. Nothing more was wanting to confirm my original
impressions. The water was certainly the worst ever used by man.
Filtered through the Comstock Lead, it carried with it much of the
plumbago, arsenic, copperas, and other poisonous minerals alleged to
exist in that vein. The citizens of Virginia had discovered what they
conceived to be an infallible way of "correcting it;" that is to say,
it was their practice to mix a spoonful of water in half a tumbler of
whisky, and then drink it. The whisky was supposed to neutralize the bad
effects of the water. Sometimes it was considered good to mix it with
gin. I was unable to see how any advantage could be gained in this way.
The whisky contained strychnine, oil of tobacco, tarentula juice, and
various effective poisons of the same general nature, including a dash
of corrosive sublimate; and the gin was manufactured out of turpentine
and whisky, with a sprinkling of prussic acid to give it flavor. For my
part, I preferred taking poison in its least complicated form, and
therefore adhered to the water. With hot saleratus bread, beans fried in
grease, and such drink as this, it was no wonder that scores were taken
down sick from day to day.

Sickness is bad enough at the best of times, but here the condition of
the sick was truly pitiable. There was scarcely a tenement in the place
that could be regarded as affording shelter against the piercing wind;
and crowded as every tent and hovel was to its utmost capacity, it was
hard even to find a vacant spot to lie down, much less sleep or rest in
comfort. Many had come with barely means sufficient to defray their
expenses to the diggings, in the confident belief that they would
immediately strike upon "something rich;" or, if they failed in that,
they could work a while on wages. But the highest wages here for common
labor were three dollars a day, while meals were a dollar each, and
lodgings the same. It was a favor to get work for "grub." Under such
circumstances, when a poor fellow fell sick, his recovery could only be
regarded as a matter of luck. No record of the deaths was kept. The mass
of the emigration were strangers to each other, and it concerned nobody
in particular when a man "pegged out," except to put him in a hole
somewhere out of the way.

I soon felt the bad effects of the water. Possibly I had committed an
error in not mixing it with the other poisons; but it was quite
poisonous enough alone to give me violent pains in the stomach and a
very severe diarrhea. At the same time, I was seized with an acute
attack of rheumatism in the shoulder and neuralgic pains in the head.
The complication of miseries which I now suffered was beyond all my
calculations of the hardships of mining life. As yet I had struck
nothing better than "Winn's Restaurant," where I took my meals. The
Comstock Ledge was all very fine, but a THOUSAND DOLLARS A FOOT! Who
ever had a thousand dollars to put in a running foot of ground, when not
even the great Comstock himself could tell where it was running to. On
the whole, I did not consider the prospect cheering.

At this period there were no laws of any kind in the district for the
preservation of order. Some regulations had been established to secure
the right of discovery to claimants, but they were loose and indefinite,
differing in each district according to the caprice of the miners, and
subject to no enforcement except that of the revolver. In some
localities the original discoverer of a vein was entitled to 400 running
feet; he could put down the names of as many friends as he chose at 200
feet each. Notice had to be recorded at certain places of record,
designating the date and location of discovery. All "leads" were taken
up with their "dips, spurs, and angles." But who was to judge of the
"dips, spurs, and angles?" That was the difficulty. Every man ran them
to suit himself. The Comstock Ledge was in a mess of confusion. The
shareholders had the most enlarged views of its "dips, spurs, and
angles;" but those who struck croppings above and below were equally
liberal in their notions; so that, in fine, every body's spurs were
running into every body else's angles. The Cedar Hill Company were
spurring the Miller Company; the Virginia Ledge was spurring the
Continuation; the Dow Company were spurring the Billy Choller, and so
on. It was a free fight all round, in which the dips, spurs, and angles
might be represented thus, after the pattern of a bunch of snakes:

  [Illustration: THE CLAIMS.]

The contention was very lively. Great hopes were entertained that when
Judge Cradlebaugh arrived he would hold court, and then there would be
some hope of settling these conflicting claims. I must confess I did not
share in the opinion that law would settle any dispute in which silver
was concerned. The Almaden Mine case is not yet settled, and never will
be as long as there are judges and juries to sit upon it, and lawyers to
argue it, and silver to pay expenses. Already Virginia City was infested
with gentlemen of the bar, thirsting and hungering for chances at the
Comstock. If it could only be brought into court, what a picking of
bones there would be!

When the snow began to clear away there was no end to the discoveries
alleged to be made every day. The Flowery Diggings, six miles below
Virginia, were represented to be wonderfully rich--so rich, indeed, that
the language of every speculator who held a claim there partook of the
flowery character of the diggings. The whole country was staked off to
the distance of twenty or thirty miles. Every hill-side was grubbed
open, and even the Desert was pegged, like the sole of a boot, with
stakes designating claims. Those who could not spare time to go out
"prospecting" hired others, or furnished provisions and pack-mules, and
went shares. If the prospecting party struck "any thing rich," it was
expected they would share it honestly; but I always fancied they would
find it more profitable to hold on to that, and find some other rich
lead for the resident partners.

In Virginia City, a man who had been at work digging a cellar found rich
indications. He immediately laid claim to a whole street covered with
houses. The excitement produced by this "streak of luck" was perfectly
frantic. Hundreds went to work grubbing up the ground under their own
and their neighbors' tents, and it was not long before the whole city
seemed in a fair way of being undermined. The famous _Winn_, as I was
told, struck the richest lead of all directly under his restaurant, and
was next day considered worth a million of dollars. The dips, spurs, and
angles of these various discoveries covered every foot of ground within
an area of six miles. It was utterly impossible that a fraction of the
city could be left. Owners of lots protested in vain. The mining laws
were paramount where there was no law at all. There was no security to
personal property, or even to persons. He who turned in to sleep at
night might find himself in a pit of silver by morning. At least it was
thus when I made up my mind to escape from that delectable region; and
now, four months later, I really don't know whether the great City of
Virginia is still in existence, or whether the inhabitants have not
found a "deeper deep, still threatening to devour."

  [Illustration: "SILVER, CERTAIN, SIR!"]

It must not be supposed, from the general character of the population,
that Virginia City was altogether destitute of men skilled in scientific
pursuits. There were few, indeed, who did not profess to know something
of geology; and as for assayers and assay offices, they were almost as
numerous as barkeepers and groggeries. A tent, a furnace, half a dozen
crucibles, a bottle of acid, and a hammer, generally comprised the
entire establishment; but it is worthy of remark that the assays were
always satisfactory. Silver, or indications of silver, were sure to be
found in every specimen. I am confident some of these learned gentlemen
in the assay business could have detected the precious metals in an
Irish potato or a round of cheese for a reasonable consideration.

It was also a remarkable peculiarity of the country that the great
"Comstock Lead" was discovered to exist in almost every locality,
however remote or divergent from the original direction of the vein. I
know a gentleman who certainly discovered a continuation of the Comstock
forty miles from the Ophir mines, and at an angle of more than sixty
degrees. But how could the enterprising adventurer fail to hit upon
something rich, when every clod of earth and fragment of rock contained,
according to the assays, both silver and gold? There was not a coyote
hole in the ground that did not develop "indications." I heard of one
lucky fellow who struck upon a rich vein, and organized an extensive
company on the strength of having stumped his toe. Claims were even
staked out and companies organized on "indications" rooted up by the
squirrels and gophers. If they were not always indications of gold or
silver, they were sure to contain copper, lead, or some other valuable
mineral--plumbago or iridium, for instance. One man actually professed
to have discovered "ambergris;" but I think he must have been an old
whaler.

  [Illustration: "INDICATIONS, SURE!"]

The complications of ills which had befallen me soon became so serious
that I resolved to get away by hook or crook, if it was possible to
cheat the ---- corporate authorities of their dues. I had not come there
to enlist in the service of Mammon at such wages.

Bundling up my pack one dark morning, I paid "Zip" the customary dollar,
and while the evil powers were roistering about the grog-shops, taking
their early bitters, made good my escape from the accursed place. Weak
as I was, the hope of never seeing it again gave me nerve; and when I
ascended the first elevation on the way to Gold Hill, and cast a look
back over the confused mass of tents and hovels, and thought of all I
had suffered there in the brief space of a few days, I involuntarily
exclaimed, "If ever I put foot in that hole again, may the--"

But perhaps I had better not use strong language till I once more get
clear of the Devil's Gate.



CHAPTER VI.

ESCAPE FROM VIRGINIA CITY.


As ill luck would have it, a perfect hurricane swept through the cañon
from Gold Hill, sometimes in gusts so sudden and violent that it was
utterly impossible to make an inch of headway. Tents were shivered and
torn to shreds all along the wayside. I saw one party sitting at
breakfast with nothing but the four posts which had originally sustained
their tent and a few fragments of canvas flapping from them as a
protection against the wind. Nothing could withstand its terrific
force. Cabins with bush tops were unroofed; frame shanties were rent
asunder, and the boards flew about like feathers; the air was filled
with grit and drift, striking the face as if the great guns, which are
sometimes said to blow, were loaded with duck-shot. Nor did the wind
confine itself to one channel. It ranged up hill and down hill, raking
the enemy fore and aft. In one place two tents were torn up, as one
might say, by the roots, and carried off bodily to the top of the
mountain; in another, half a dozen might be seen traveling down hill, at
the rate of forty miles an hour, toward the Flowery Diggings. What
became of all the unfortunate wretches who were thus summarily deprived
of their local habitations I never learned. Most likely they sought
refuge in the coyote holes, which, in fact, appeared to be untenanted;
for I don't think coyotes could live long in such a country.

A short distance beyond Gold Hill a trail strikes off to the right,
which is said to cut off four or five miles of the distance to Carson
City. That would be a considerable gain to a traveler making his escape
from Virginia City, and whose every step was attended with extreme
physical suffering, to say nothing of the mental disquietude occasioned
by his proximity to that place. Besides, it avoided the "Devil's Gate,"
of which I had also an intense dread. What hordes of dark and inexorable
imps might be laying in wait there, with pitchforks to impale a poor
fellow upon, and kegs of blasting powder to blow him up; what accounts
might have to be rendered of one's stewardship at head-quarters; what
particular kind of passport, sanded over with brimstone and stamped with
a cloven foot, might be demanded, it was not possible to conjecture. At
all events, it was safer to incur no risk. The old adage of the "longest
way round" did not occur to me.

I took the trail, and was soon out of sight of Gold City. The mountains
were covered with snow, not very deep, but soft and slippery. In my weak
state, with a racking rheumatism and the prostrating effects of the
arsenic water, the labor of making headway against the fierce gusts of
wind and keeping the trail was very severe. Every few hundred yards I
had to lie down in the snow and await some relief from the paroxysms of
pain. After an hour or two I reached a labyrinth of hills, in which the
trail became lost by the melting of the snow. I still had some idea of
the general direction, and kept on. My progress, however, was very slow,
and at times so difficult that it required considerable effort of mind
to avoid stopping altogether, and "taking the chances," as they say, in
this agreeable region. Now all this may seem very absurd, as compared
with the sufferings endured by Colonel Frémont in the Rocky Mountains,
and doubtless is, in some respects. As, for instance: I was not shut up
in a gorge of the mountains, a thousand miles from the habitations of
man; I was not in a state of starvation, though thin enough for a
starved man in all conscience; I was not at all likely to remain in any
one position, however isolated, without being "spotted" by some
enterprising miner in search of indications. But then, on the other
hand, I was thoroughly dredged with arsenic, plumbago, copperas, and
corrosive sublimate, and had neither mule nor "burro"--not even a woolly
horse to carry me. Does any body pretend to say that the renowned arctic
explorers ever encountered such a series of hardships as this? Four or
five months of perpetual night, with the thermometer 80° below zero, may
be uncomfortable; but then the adventurer in the polar regions has the
advantage of being the farthest possible distance from certain other
regions--say, from Virginia City.

About noon I came to the conclusion that, however willing the spirit
might be, the flesh had done its best, and was now quite used up; so I
stretched myself on the snow under a cedar bush, and resolved to await
what assistance Providence might send me. I was not long there when a
voice in the distance caught my ear. I rose and called. In a few
minutes a mysterious figure emerged from the bushes at the mouth of a
cañon a few hundred feet below. I beckoned to him to come up. The
singular appearance and actions of the man attracted my attention.

His face was nearly black with dirt, and his hair was long and shaggy.
On his head he wore a tattered cap, tied around the chin with a blue
cotton handkerchief. A tremendous blue nose, a pair of green goggles,
and boots extending up to his hips, completed the oddity of his
appearance. At first he approached me rapidly; but at the distance of
about fifty yards he halted, as if uncertain what to do. He then put
down his pack, and began to search for something in the pockets of his
coat--a knife, perhaps, or a pistol. Could it be possible this fellow
was a robber, who had descried me from the opposite mountain, and was
now bent upon murder? If so, it would be as well to bring the matter to
an issue at once. I was unarmed, having even lost my penknife by reason
of a rent in my pocket. There were desperate characters in this
wilderness, who would think nothing of killing a man for his money; and
although I had only about forty dollars left, that fact could not
possibly be known to this marauder. His appearance, to be sure, was not
formidable; but then one should not be too hasty in judging by
appearances. For all I knew he might be the--Old Gentleman himself on a
tour of inspection from Virginia City.

"Hallo, friend!" said I, assuming a conciliatory tone, "where are you
bound?"

Upon this he approached a little closer. I soon perceived that he was a
German Jew, who had either lost his way or was prospecting for silver.
As he drew near, he manifested some signs of trepidation, evidently
being afraid I would rob him of his pack, in which there was probably
some jewelry or old clothes. It is hardly necessary for me to say that I
had no intention of robbing him. I had not come to that yet. There was
no telling to what straits I might be reduced; but, as long as I had a
dollar in my pocket, I was determined to avoid highway robbery. Besides,
it was beyond my strength at this particular crisis; a fact which the
Jew seemed to recognize, for he now approached confidently. His first
exclamation, on reaching the spot where I stood, was,

"Dank Gott! Ish dis de trail?"

"Where are you bound?"

"To Carson. I pe going to Carson, and I pe losht for six hours. Mein
Gott! It ish an awful country. You know the way?"

"Of course. You don't suppose I'd be here if I didn't know the way?"

"Dat is zo."

"Come on, friend; I'm going in that direction. But don't walk very
fast--I'm sick."

"Zo? Was is de matter?"

"Poisoned."

"Mein Gott! mein Gott! Das is awful."

"Very--it makes a fellow so weak."

"Mein Gott! Did dey poison you for your money?" And here the Jew put his
hands behind him to see if his pack was safe.

"Oh no, it was only the water--arsenic and copperas."

"Zo!"

This explanation apparently relieved him of a very unpleasant train of
thought, for he now became quite lively and talkative. As we trudged
along, chatting sociably on various matters of common interest, it
occurred to me from time to time that I had seen this man's face before.
The idea grew upon me. It was not a matter of particular importance, and
yet I could not banish it. His voice, too, was familiar. Certainly there
was something about him that possessed an uncommon interest.

"Friend," said I, "it occurs to me I've seen you before."

"Zo? I dink de same."

  [Illustration: AN OLD FRIEND.]

Some moments elapsed before I could fix upon the occasion or the place.
All at once the truth flashed upon me. It was Strawberry Flat! I had
slept with the man! This was the identical wretch who had robbed me of
my stockings! In the excitement produced by the discovery and the
recollection of my blistered feet, I verily believe, had I been armed
with a broad-sword or battle-axe, after the fashion of Brian de Bois
Guilbert, I would have cloven him in twain.

"Ha! I remember; it was at Strawberry! You slept with me one night,"
said I, in a tone of suppressed passion.

"Das is it! Das is it!" cried the Jew. "I shlept mit you at
Sthrawberry!"

The effrontery of the villain was remarkable. Probably he would even
acknowledge the theft.

"Friend," said I, calmly and deliberately, "did you miss a pair of
woolen stockings in the morning about the time you started?"

"Look here!" quoth the wretch, suddenly halting, "was dey yours?"

"They were!"

At this the abominable rascal doubled himself up as if in a convulsion,
shook all over, and turned almost black in the face. It was his mode of
laughing.

"Well, I daught dey wos yours! I daught to myself, Mein Gott! how dat
fellow will shwear when he find his sthockings gone!"

And here the convulsions were so violent that he fairly rolled over in
the snow, and kicked as if in the agonies of death. It was doubtless
very funny to rob a man of his valuable property and cause him days of
suffering from blistered feet; but I was unable to see any wit in it
till the Jew regained his breath and said,

"Vel, vel! I must sthand dhreat for dat! I know'd you'd shwear when you
missed 'em. Vel, vel! das is goot! Here's a flask of first-rate
brandy--dhrink!"

I took a small pull--medicinally, of course. From that moment my
forgiveness was complete. I harbored not a particle of resentment
against the man, though I never again could have entertained implicit
confidence in his integrity.

In due time we reached the banks of Carson River at a place called Dutch
John's, distant about four miles from Carson City. I have an impression
that John was an emigrant from Salt Lake. He had brought with him a
woman to whom he was "sealed," and was the father of a thriving little
family of "cotton-heads." Some of the stage-drivers who were in the
habit of taking a "smile" at John's persuaded him that he was now among
a moral and civilized people, and must get married. To be "sealed" to a
woman was not enough. He must be spliced according to Church and State,
otherwise he would wake up some fine morning and find himself hanging to
a tree. John had heard that the Californians were terrible fellows, and
had a mortal dread of Vigilance Committees. The stage-drivers were
rather a clever set of fellows, and no way strict in morals; but then
they might hang him for fun, and what would be fun to them would be
death to him. There was some charm in living an immoral life, to be
sure, yet it would not do to enjoy that disreputable course at the
expense of a disjointed neck. On the whole, John took the advice of the
stage-drivers, and got married. Next day he rode through the streets of
Carson, boasting of the adroit manner in which he had escaped the
vengeance of the Vigilance Committee. I am happy to add that he is now a
respectable member of the community. Not that I recommend his whisky. I
consider it infinitely worse than any ever manufactured out of
tobacco-juice, Cayenne pepper, and whale-oil at Port Townsend,
Washington Territory, where the next worst whisky in the world is used
as the common beverage of the inhabitants.

Leaving John's we came to the plain. Here the sand was heavy, and the
walking very monotonous and tiresome. This part of Carson Valley is a
complete desert. Scarcely a blade of grass was to be seen. Shriveled
sage-bushes scattered here and there over the sand were the only signs
of vegetation. Even the rabbits and sage-hens had abandoned the country.
All the open spaces resembled the precincts of a slaughter-house. Cattle
lay dead in every direction, their skulls, horns, and carcasses giving
an exceedingly desolate aspect to the scene. Near the river it was a
perfect mass of corruption. Hundreds upon hundreds of bleached skeletons
and rotting carcasses dotted the banks or lay in great mounds, where
they had gathered for mutual warmth, and dropped down from sheer
starvation. The smell filled the air for miles. Thousands of buzzards
had gathered in from all parts to the great carnival of
flesh--presenting a disgusting spectacle as they sat gorged and
stupefied on the foul masses of carrion, they scarcely deigning to move
as we passed. In the sloughs bordering on the river, oxen, cows, and
horses were buried up to the necks where they had striven to get to the
water, but, from excess of weakness, had failed to get back to the solid
earth. Some were dead, others were dying. Around the latter the buzzards
were already hovering, scarcely awaiting the extinction of life before
they plunged in their ravenous beaks and tore out the eyes from the
sockets. On the dry plain many hundreds of cattle had fallen from
absolute starvation. The winter had been terribly severe, and the
prolonged snows had covered what little vegetation there was. Those of
the settlers who had saved hay enough for their stock found it more
profitable to sell it at $300 a ton and let the stock die. Horses, oxen,
and cows shared the same fate. Many lingered out the winter on the few
stunted shrubs to be found on the foot-hills, and died just as the grass
began to appear. It was a hard country for animals of all kinds. Those
that were retained for the transportation of goods were little better
than living skeletons, yet the amount of labor put upon them was
extraordinary. In Virginia City it was almost impossible to procure a
grain of barley for love or money. Enormous prices were offered for any
kind of horse-feed by men who had come over on good horses, and who
wished to keep them alive. At the rate of five dollars a day it required
but a short time for the best horse to "eat his head off." Hay was sold
in little wisps of a few pounds at sixty cents a pound, barley at
seventy-five cents, and but little to be had even at those extravagant
rates. A friend of mine from San Francisco, who arrived on a favorite
horse, could get nothing in the way of feed but bread, and he paid fifty
cents a loaf for a few scanty loaves about the size of biscuits to keep
the poor animal alive. It was truly pitiable to see fine horses starving
to death. The severity of the weather and the want of shelter were
terribly severe on animals of every kind. Good horses could scarcely be
sold for a tenth part of their cost, though the distance across the
mountain could be performed under ordinary circumstances in two days.
But where all was rush and confusion there was little time to devote to
the calls of humanity. Men were crazy after claims. Every body had his
fortune to make in a few months. The business of jockeying had not grown
into full vogue except among a few, who were always willing to sell at
very high prices and buy at very low--a remarkable fact connected with
dealers in horseflesh.

  [Illustration: CARSON VALLEY.]

The walk across Carson Valley through the heavy sand had exhausted what
little of my strength remained, and I was about to give up the ghost for
the third time, when a wagoner from Salt Lake gave me a lift on his
wagon and enabled me to reach the town. Here my excellent friend Van
Winkle gave me another chance in his bunk, and in the course of a few
days I was quite recruited.



CHAPTER VII.

MY WASHOE AGENCY.


The courteous reader who has followed me so far will doubtless be
disappointed that I have given so little practical information about the
mines. Touching that I can only say, as Macaulay said of Sir Horace
Walpole, the constitution of my mind is such that whatever is great
appears to me little, and whatever is little seems great. The serious
pursuits of life I regard as a monstrous absurdity on the part of
mankind, especially rooting in the ground for money. The Washoe mines
are nothing more than squirrel-holes on a large scale, the difference
being that squirrels burrow in the ground because they live there, and
men because they want to live somewhere else. I deny and repudiate the
idea that any man really has any necessity for money. He only thinks he
does--which is a most unaccountable error.

But then you may have some notion of going to Washoe yourself, just to
try your luck. Good friend, let me advise you--don't go. Stay where you
are. Devote the remainder of your life to your legitimate business, your
wife, and your baby. Don't go to Washoe. If you have no money, or but
little, you had better go to--any other place. It is no retreat for a
poor man. The working of silver mines requires capital. A poor man can
not make wages in Washoe. If you are rich and wish to speculate--a word
in your ear.

  [Illustration: HOLDING ON TO IT.]

       "The undersigned is prepared to sell at reasonable prices"
       [this I quote from one of my advertisements] "valuable
       claims in the following companies:

      The Dead Broke,
      The Rip Snorter,
      The Love's Despair,
      The Ragged End,
      The Fool Hardy,
      The Ousel Owl,
      The Grab Game,
      The Riff-Raff.

       "The titles to all these claims are perfect, and the
       purchaser of any claim will have no difficulty whatever in
       holding on to it."

I hope it will not be inferred from the desponding tone of my narrative
that I deny the existence of silver in Washoe, for certainly nothing is
farther from my intention. That there is silver in the Comstock Lead,
and in great quantities, is a well-established fact. How many thousands
of tons may be there it is impossible for me to say, but there must be
an immense quantity--beyond all calculation in fact, as the ore is
scattered all around the mines in great heaps, and every heap is said to
be worth a fortune if it would only bear transportation to San Francisco
at an expense of $600 per ton. The best of it is sorted out and packed
off on mules every day or two, partly to get the silver out of it, and
partly to show the speculators in San Francisco that the mines have not
yet given out. The yield per ton is estimated at from $1200 to $2500.
During the time of my visit to the mines but little work could be done
on account of the number of speculators who were engaged in trying to
sell out, few of them being disposed to engage in the slow operation of
mining. Some said it was on account of the weather, but I suspect the
weather had very little to do with it. The following is a rough estimate
of the companies who claim to hold in the Comstock vein:

      Billy Choller              1820 feet.
      Hill and Norcross           250 "
      Goold and Curry             300 "
      Savage                      800 "
      Washoe                     1200 "
      Belcher and Best            223 "
      Sides Ground                500 "
      Murphy                      100 "
      Kinney                       60 "
      Central                     100 "
      California                  250 "
      Welch and Bryan              50 "
      Central (again)             150 "
      Ophir                       200 "
      Mexican                      10 "
      Continuation of Ophir      1200 "
      Newman, Scott, & Co.        300 "
      Miller Co.                 3000 "
      Bob Allen and others        900 "

  [Illustration: MOUNT OPHIR.]

Besides about forty miles of outside claims, said to be on a direct line
with the Comstock, and to be richer, if any thing, than the original vein.

When I left, the prices asked for a share in any of the above companies
ranged from $200 to $2000 per running foot, and it was alleged that the
purchaser could follow his running foot through all its dips, spurs, and
angles. Some of these companies numbered as high as two or three
hundred. I know a gentleman who sold out all his assets and invested the
proceeds, $800, in 8 inches of the Central, and another who mortgaged
his property to secure five feet in the Billy Choller. These gentlemen
are, in all probability, at this moment worth a million of dollars each.

  [Illustration: CROPPINGS.]

In short, the whole country looks black, blue, and white with silver,
and where there is no silver there are croppings which indicate
sulphurets or copperas.

  [Illustration: THE FLOWERY DIGGINGS.]

The Flowery Diggings were in full flower; and if they have since failed
to realize the expectations that were then formed of them, it must be
because the Mammoth lead gave out, or Lady Bryant did not sustain her
reputation.

  [Illustration: HONEST MINER.]

To the honest miner I have a word to say. You are a free-born American
citizen--that is, unless you were born in Ireland, which is so much the
better, or in Germany, which is better still. You live by the sweat of
your brow. You are God's noblest work--an honest man. The free exercise
of the right of suffrage is guaranteed to you by the glorious
Constitution of our common country. Upon your vote may depend the fate
of millions of American freemen, nay, fate of Freedom itself, and the
ultimate destiny of mankind. I do not appeal to you on the present
occasion for any personal favor. Thank Fortune, I am beyond that. But in
the name of common sense, in the name of our beloved state, in the name
of the great Continental Congress, I do appeal to you, if you have a
claim in California, HOLD ON TO IT! Don't go pirouetting about the
country in search of better claims, abandoning ills that you are well
acquainted with, and flying to others that you know nothing about. If
you do, you may find it "a gloomy prospect."

  [Illustration: "A GLOOMY PROSPECT."]

I was now, so to say, permanently established at Carson City. In other
words, it was questionable whether I should ever be able to get away
without resorting to the intervention of friends, which was an
alternative too revolting for human nature to bear. The only resource
left was "The Agency." I had forgotten all about it hitherto, and now
resolved to call at the Express office, and see what fortune might be in
store for me. Surely the advertisement must have elicited various orders
of a lucrative nature. Nor was I disappointed. A package of letters
awaited me. Without violating any confidential obligations, I may say,
in general terms, that the contents and my answers were pretty much as
follows:

       _A._ Wishes to know what the prospect would be in Washoe
       for a young man of the medical profession. Has a small
       stock of drugs, and proposes to engage in the practice of
       medicine, and at the same time keep a drug store.

       _Ans._ Doctors are already a drug in Washoe. Brandy,
       whisky, and gin are the only medicines taken. Bring over a
       lot of good liquors, prescribe them at two bits a dose,
       and you will do well. Charge, $10--please remit.

       _B._ Has about twenty head of fine American cows. Would
       like to sell them, and wishes a contract made in advance.

       _Ans._ Could find nobody who wanted to pay cash for cows.
       Money is scarce and cows are plenty. Have sold your cows,
       however, for the following valuable claims: 25 feet in the
       Root-Hog-or-Die; 40 feet in the Let-her-Rip; 50 feet in
       the Gone Case; and 100 feet in the You Bet. Charge, $25,
       which please remit by Express.

       _C._ Would like to know if a school could be established
       in Washoe with any reasonable prospect of success. Has
       been engaged in the business for some years, and is
       qualified to teach the ordinary branches of a good English
       education, or, if desired, Greek and Latin.

       _Ans._ No time to waste in learning here, and no use for
       the English language, much less Greek or Latin. A pious
       missionary might find occupation. One accustomed to mining
       could develop what indications there are of a spiritual
       nature among the honest miners. No charge.

       _D._ Wishes to invest about $1500 in some good claims. Has
       three or four friends who will go in with him. Is willing
       to honor a draft for that amount. Hopes I will strike
       something rich.

       _Ans._ Have bought a thousand feet for you in the very
       best silver mines yet discovered. They are all in and
       about the Devil's Gate. Several of them are supposed to
       be in the Comstock Ledge. They are worth $50,000 this
       moment; but if you can sell them in S. F. for an advance
       of $2000, do so by all means, as the silver may give out.
       Charge, $400 or nothing.

       _E._ Has been in bad health for some time, and thinks a
       trip across the mountains would do him good. Please give
       him some information about the road and manner of living.
       How about lodgings and fare? Is troubled with the
       bronchitis, and wishes to know how the climate would be
       likely to affect it.

       _Ans._ Hire a mule at Placerville, and if you are not too
       far gone the trip may benefit your bronchial tubes. The
       road is five feet deep by 130 miles long, and is composed
       chiefly of mountains, snow, and mud. Lodgings--from one to
       two hundred lodgers in each room, and from two to four
       bedfellows in each bed. Will not be troubled long with the
       bronchitis. The water will probably make an end of you in
       about two weeks. Charge--nothing.

       _F._ Is a lawyer by profession, and desires to establish a
       business in some new country. Thinks there will be some
       litigation at Washoe in connection with the mines. Wishes
       to be informed on that point, and would be obliged for any
       general information.

       _Ans._ About every tenth man in Washoe is a lawyer. There
       will doubtless be abundance of litigation there before
       long. Would advise you to go to some other new country,
       say Pike's Peak, for instance. Respecting things
       generally, Miller and Rodgers are going up and whisky
       down. Charge, 50 cents. Please remit.

       _G._ Thinks of taking his family over to Washoe. How are
       the accommodations for women and children? And can
       servants be had?

       _Ans._ Keep on thinking about that or something else, but
       don't attempt to carry your thoughts into effect. If you
       do, your wife must wear the--excuse me--she must wear male
       apparel. For accommodations, yourself and family might
       possibly be able to hire one bunk two feet by six; and you
       might seduce a Digger Indian to remain in your domestic
       employ by giving him $2 in cash and a gallon of whisky per
       day. Charge--nothing.

       _H._ Has a house and lot worth about $10,000. Would like
       to trade it for some good mining claims. Can not sell the
       property for cash on account of a difficulty about the
       title; but this you need not mention, as it can probably
       be adjusted for a reasonable consideration.

       _Ans._ Have traded your house and lot for 100 feet in the
       Pine Nut, 50 do. in the Ousel Owl, 50 do. in the Salmon
       Tail, 25 in the Roaring Jack, and 25 in the Amador. These
       are all good claims, and it will make no difference about
       the title to your house and lot, as each claim in the
       above-mentioned companies has also several titles to it.
       Charge, $500. Please remit.

       _I._ Is in the stove business, and understands that
       cast-iron stoves bring a high price in Washoe. Has some
       notion of sending over a consignment. Please state
       expenses and prospect of success.

       _Ans._ Stoves are very valuable in Washoe, especially
       cooking-stoves. It costs from 25 to 50 cents per pound to
       get them over on mule-back, at which prices they can be
       sold for claims, but not for money. If you have any very
       young stoves that can be planted, as the Schildbergers
       planted the salt, a good crop of them can be sold.
       Charge--nothing.

       _J._ Is inventor of a process for extracting silver out of
       the crude ore without smelting. The machinery is simple,
       and would easily bear transportation. Could the patent
       right be sold in Washoe?

       _Ans._ Nothing is more needed here than just such an
       invention as yours. Bring it over by all means. If you can
       extract silver out of the general average of the ore found
       here, either by smelting or otherwise, you will do a
       splendid business. Charge, $50. Please remit.

       _K._ Understands that lumber is $300 a thousand in
       Virginia City. Can be delivered at the wharf in San
       Francisco from the Mendocino Mills for about $20 a
       thousand. Would it be practicable to get any quantity of
       it over, so as to make the speculation profitable?

       _Ans._ You are correctly informed as to the value of
       lumber in Washoe. A balloon might be constructed to carry
       over a small lot; but, in case you found that mode of
       transportation too expensive, I know of no other way than
       to remove a portion of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the
       rear of Placerville, or run a tunnel through underneath.
       It is possible that the price of labor might be an
       obstacle to the success of either of these plans, in which
       event, if you can contract to put one board on the back of
       each man leaving San Francisco, he may be able to earn his
       board, and you may be able to get your lumber over cheap.
       Charge, $25. Please remit.

I have thus given an average specimen of the letters that came pouring
in upon me by every mail. It kept me busy, as may well be supposed, to
attend to the numerous requests made by my correspondents; but the
trouble was, no money came. There was a great deal, to be sure, for
future collection, and as long as that was due it could not be lost by
any injudicious speculation. It was some consolation, therefore, to
reflect upon the large amount of capital that had accrued in the various
operations of the Agency.

At this crisis, when fortune had fairly begun to smile, the weather
changed again, and for days it stormed and snowed incessantly, covering
up the whole valley, and blocking up every trail. A relapse of
rheumatism and my poison-malady now seized me with renewed virulence. I
had scarcely any rest by night or day, and soon saw that to remain would
be a sure way of securing a claim to at least six feet of ground in the
vicinity of Carson. The extraordinary number of persons who had invested
in silver mines, and who were anxious to sell out in San Francisco,
suggested the idea of changing my Agency to that locality. I therefore
notified the public that there was a rare opportunity of selling out
their claims to the best advantage, and it was not long before I was
freighted down with "indications," powers of attorney, deeds, and bills
of sale.



CHAPTER VIII.

START FOR HOME.


As soon as the weather permitted I set forth on my journey homeward,
taking the stage to Genoa, in the hope of finding a horse or mule there
upon which to cross the mountains. It was doubtful whether the trail was
yet open; but a thaw had set in, and the prospect was that it would be
practicable to get over in a few days. The stage from Genoa to
Woodford's had been discontinued, in consequence of the expense of
feeding the horses. All the saddle trains had left before the late snow,
and there was not an animal of any kind to be had except by purchase--an
alternation for which I was not prepared.

In this unfortunate state of affairs there was nothing left but to try
it again on foot. It was with great difficulty that I could walk at all,
much less carry my blankets and the additional weight of a heavy bundle
of "croppings." The prospect of remaining at Genoa, however, was too
gloomy to be thought of. So I sold my blankets for a night's lodging,
and set out the next morning for Woodford's. By dint of labor and
perseverance I accomplished about eight miles that day. It was dark
night when I reached a small farm-house on the road-side. Here a worthy
couple lived, who gave me comfortable lodgings, and cooked up such a
luxurious repast of broiled chicken, toast, and tea, that I determined,
if practicable, to remain a day or two, in order to regain my strength
for the trip across the mountain.

  [Illustration: RETURN FROM WASHOE.]

The kindness and hospitality of these excellent people had the desired
effect. In two days I was ready to proceed. Fortunately, an ox-wagon was
going to Woodford's for lumber, and I contracted with the driver, a
good-humored negro, to give me a lift there for the sum of fifty cents.

I had the pleasure of meeting several San Francisco friends on the road,
and gave them agreeable tidings of the mines. The trail had just been
opened. A perfect torrent of adventurers came pouring over, forming an
almost unbroken line all the way from Placerville. By this time the
spring was well advanced and the excitement was at its height. The news
from below was, that the whole state would soon be depopulated. Every
body was coming--women, children, and all. Of course I wished them luck,
but it was a marvel to me what they would do when they reached Washoe.
Already there were eight or ten thousand people there, and not one in
fifty had any thing to do, or could get employment for board and
lodging. Companies were leaving every day for More's Lake and Walker's
River, and the probability was that there would be considerable
distress, if not absolute suffering. But it was useless to talk. Every
adventurer must have a look at the diggings for himself. There must be
luck in store for him, if for nobody else. For my part, I had taken a
look and was satisfied.

The ox-team traveled very slowly, so that there was a good opportunity
of seeing people pass both ways. The difference in the expression of the
incoming and the outgoing was very remarkable, being about the
difference between a man with fifty dollars in his pocket and one who
wished to borrow that amount. There was that canny air of confidence
about the former which betokens the possession of some knowledge
touching the philosopher's stone not shared by mankind generally. About
the latter there was a mingled expression of sadness and sarcasm, as if
they were rather inclined to the opinion that some people had not yet
seen the elephant.

  [Illustration: OUTGOING AND INCOMING.]

As my ox carriage crept along uneasily over the rocky road, I was hailed
from behind, "Hello dare! Sthop!" It was my friend the Jew again! I had
lost sight of him in Carson, and now, by some fatality, he was
destined to be my companion again.

"Mein Gott! I'm tired valking. Can't you give me a lift?" The driver was
willing provided I had no objection. Now I had freely forgiven this man
for the robbery of my stockings. I was not uncharitable enough to refuse
help to a tired wayfarer; yet I had a serious objection to his company
under existing circumstances. His boots were nearly worn out, and mine
had but recently been purchased in Carson. If this fellow could embezzle
my stockings and afterward unblushingly confess the act, what security
could I have on the journey for the safety of my boots? I knew if he
once started in with me he would never relinquish his claim to my
company until we reached Placerville; for the fellow was rather of a
sociable turn, and liked to talk. It seemed best, therefore, under all
circumstances, to have a distinct understanding at once. The treaty was
soon negotiated. On my part it was stipulated that Israel should ride to
Woodford's on the ox wagon provided he paid his own fare; that we should
cross the mountain together for mutual protection, provided he would
deposit in my hands his watch or a $10 gold piece as security for the
safety of my boots; and, finally, that he would bind himself by the most
solemn obligations of honor not to steal both the security and the
boots; to all of which the Jew assented with one of those internal
convulsions which betokened great satisfaction in the arrangement. The
watch was covered with pewter, as I discovered when he handed it to me;
but I had no doubt it was worth eight or ten dollars. Besides, the
treaty made no mention of the quality of the watch. It might possibly be
an excellent timepiece, and, at all events, seemed to be worth a pair of
boots.

Toward evening we arrived at Woodford's. Between two and three hundred
travelers from the other side of the mountain had already gotten in, and
it was represented that there was a line of pedestrians all the way
over to Strawberry. The rush for supper was tremendous. Not even the
famous Heenan and Sayers contest could compare with it, for here every
body went in--or at least tried to get in. At the sixth round I
succeeded in securing a favorable position, and when the battle
commenced was fortunate enough to be crushed into a seat.

In the way of sleeping there was a general spread-out up stairs. By
assuming a confidential tone with the proprietor I contrived to get a
mattress and a pair of blankets. The Jew slept alongside on his pack,
with a covering of loose coats. Nature's balmy restorer quickly put an
end to all the troubles of the day, notwithstanding the incessant noise
kept up throughout the night.

  [Illustration: THE JEW'S BOOTS.]

In the morning I awoke much refreshed. It was about seven o'clock, and
time to start. I turned to arouse my friend Israel, but, to my surprise,
found that he had already taken his departure. A horrible suspicion
seized me. Had he also taken--Yes, of course; my boots were gone too!
And the security? The watch? I looked under my pillow. Miserable wretch!
he had also taken the watch. I might have known it! I was a fool for
trusting him. When I picked up the old pair of boots bequeathed to me
as a token of remembrance by this depraved man--when I held them up to
the light and examined them critically--when I reflected upon the
journey before me, it was enough to bring tears to the sternest human
eye.

No matter; I would catch the dastardly wretch on the trail. If ever I
laid hands upon him again, so help me--But what is the use of swearing.
No man ever caught another in this world with such a pair of boots on
his feet--and here I examined them again--never! One might as well
attempt to walk in a pair of condemned fire-buckets.

There was no help for it but to await some chance of getting over on
horseback. Fortunately, a saddle-train which had passed down to Genoa
during the previous day returned a little after daylight. For the sum of
$30, cash in advance, I secured an unoccupied horse--the poorest animal,
perhaps, ever ridden by mortal man. There is no good reason that I am
aware of why people engaged in the horse-business should always select
for my use the refuse of their stock; but such has invariably been their
practice. I have never yet been favored with a horse that was not lame,
halt, or blind, or otherwise physically afflicted.

I had not ridden more than a mile from Woodford's before I discovered
that the miserable hack upon which I was mounted traveled diagonally,
like a lugger beating against a head wind. His fore feet were well
enough--they traveled on the trail; but his hind feet were continually
undertaking to luff up a little to windward. When it is borne in mind
that the trail was over a bank of snow from eight to ten feet deep, and
not more than a foot wide, the inconvenience of that mode of locomotion
will at once be perceived. Every few hundred yards the hind feet got off
the trail, and went down with a sudden lurch that kept me in constant
apprehension of being buried alive in the snow. Another serious
difficulty was, that my horse, owing perhaps to the defect in his hind
legs, had no capacity for short turns, so that whenever the trail
suddenly diverged from its direct course, he invariably brought up
against a rock, stump, or bank of snow.

I appealed to the captain or commander of the train to give me a better
animal, but he assured me positively this was the very best in the whole
lot, and that I would find him peculiarly adapted to mountain travel,
where it was often an advantage for an animal to hold on to an upper
trail with his fore feet while his hind ones were searching for another
down below. In short, on this account solely he had named him
"Guyascutas."

As there seemed to be no way of impressing the captain with a different
opinion of the merits of Guyascutas, I was obliged to make the best of a
bad bargain, and jog on as fast as spurs, blows, and entreaties could
effect that result.

In reference to the Jew, whom I expected to overtake, and for whom I
kept a sharp look-out, it may be as well to state at once that I never
again put eyes on him. Whether he secreted himself behind some tree or
rock till the saddle-train passed, or, overcome by remorse for the
dastardly act he had committed, cast himself headlong over some
precipice, I have never been able to ascertain. He is a miserable wretch
at best. In view of the future, I would not for all the wealth of the
Rothschilds stand in his--Well, yes, for that much money I might stand
in his boots, provided no others were to be had; but I should regret
extremely to be guilty of such an act toward any fellow-traveler as he
had committed.

It was four o'clock when we got under way from the Lake House. A
mule-driver from the other side of the divide had cautioned us against
starting. There had been several snow-slides during the day, and it was
only a few hours since the trail had been cut through. A large train of
mules heavily laden must now be on the way down the Grade, and fifteen
other trains had left Strawberry since noon.

  [Illustration: SNOW SLIDE.]

Those who have passed over the "Grade" can best appreciate our position.
Two of our horses had already died of starvation and hard usage. There
was no barley or feed of any kind to be had at the Lake House. The snow
was rapidly melting, and avalanches might be expected at any moment.
Only a day or two ago one of these fearful slides had occurred, sweeping
all before it. Two mules and a horse were carried over the precipice and
dashed to atoms, and the driver had barely escaped with his life.

It was considered perilous to stop on any part of the Grade. The trail
was not over a foot wide, being heavily banked up on each side by the
accumulated snow. Passing a pack train was very much like running a
muck. The Spanish mules are so well aware of their privileges when
laden, that they push on in defiance of all obstacles, often oversetting
the unwary traveler by main force. I was struck with a barrel of whisky
in one of the narrow passes some time previously and knocked nearly
senseless, so that I had good cause to remember their prowess.

It was put to the vote whether we should make the attempt or remain, and
finally, after much discussion, referred to our captain. He was
evidently determined to go on at all hazards, having a stronger interest
in the lives of his horses than any of the party.

At the word of command we mounted and put spurs to our jaded animals.

"Now, boys," said the captain, "keep together. Your lives depend upon
it! Watch out for the pack trains, and when you see them coming hang on
to a wide place! Don't come in contact with the pack-mules, or you'll go
over the Grade certain."

There was no need of caution. Every nerve was strained to make the
summit as soon as possible. It should be mentioned that the "Grade" is
the Placerville state road, cut in the eastern slope of the Sierra
Nevadas, and winding upward around each rib of the mountain for a
distance of two miles. It was now washed away in many places by the
melting of the snow, and some of the bridges across the ravines were in
a very bad condition. From the first main elevation there is still
another rise of two or three miles to the top of the divide, but this
part is open and the ascent is comparatively easy. In meeting the pack
trains the only hope of safety is to make for a point where the road
widens. These places of security occur only three or four times in the
entire ascent of the Grade. To be caught between them on a stubborn or
unruly horse is almost certain destruction at this season of the year.

The only alternative is to dismount with all speed, wheel your horse
round, and, if possible, get back to some place of security.

In about half an hour we made a point of rocks where the trail was bare.
Our captain gave the order to dismount, and proceeded a short distance
ahead to reconnoitre. The whole space occupied by our twelve horses and
riders was not over six or eight feet wide by about thirty in length.
Should any of the animals become stampeded, they were bound to go over.
The tracks of several which had recently been pushed over the precipice
by the pack trains were still visible. Our captain returned presently
with news that a train was in sight. Soon we heard the tinkling of the
bell attached to the leader, and then the clattering of the hoofs as the
mules descended with their heavy burdens. One by one they passed.
Whisky, gin, and brandy again! Barrels, half barrels, and kegs! The
vaqueros made the cliffs resound with their Carambas and Carajas, their
Doña Marias and Santa Sofias! a language apparently well understood by
the mules. This was a train of forty mules, all laden with liquors for
the thirsty miners. The vaqueros reported another train within half a
mile of twenty-five mules, and others on the Grade.

  [Illustration: THE GRADE.]

After another train had passed, our captain gave the word to mount and
"cut for our lives!" Scarcely five seconds elapsed before we were all
off, dashing helter-skelter up the trail. The horses plunged and
stumbled over the rocks, slush, and mud in a manner truly pitiable for
them and dangerous for us. In some places the mules had cut through for
hundreds of yards, and the trail was perfectly honey-combed. But there
was no time for humanity. Dashing the spurs into the bleeding sides of
our animals, we pushed on as if all the evil powers of Virginia City
were after us.

"Go it, boys!" our captain shouted; "neck or nothing! I see the train!
Two hundred yards more and we're all safe! Caraja! Here's another train
right on us!"

It was a palpable truth. The pack-mules came lumbering down around a
point not fifty yards from us.

"Dismount all! Wheel! and cut back for your lives!" This was the order.
In a moment we were all plunging frantically in the snow. Some of the
horses were stampeded, and one man had gotten his riata around his leg.
The mules had also commenced a stampede, when, by dint of shouting,
plunging, and struggling, we got clear of them, and went tearing down
the trail to our old station. The train soon passed us. Whisky again, of
course. "How many trains more, senor?" to the vaquero. "Carambo! muchos!
muchos!" and on he went laughing. This was hard. We could not stand here
much longer, for the tremendous bank of snow above us began to show
indications of breaking away. Two trains more passed in rapid
succession, and then our captain rode ahead again to reconnoitre. It was
growing dusk. The prospect was any thing but cheering. At a given signal
we mounted once more. Now commenced a terrible race. Heads, necks, legs,
or horse-flesh were as nothing in the desperate struggle to reach the
next point. This time we were in luck. The haven was attained just soon
enough to avoid a train of forty mules. From the vaquero we learned that
another was still on the Grade. We might be able to pass it, however,
half a mile farther on. At the word of command we again mounted, and
put spurs to our jaded animals. It was not long before we heard the
tinkling of a bell. Now for it! halt! The mules were on us before we
could turn; and here commenced a scene which baffles all description.
Some of us were overturned, horses and all, in the banks of snow. Others
sprang from their horses and let them struggle on their own account. All
had to break a way out of the trail. The mules were stampeded, and
kicked, brayed, and rolled by turns. The vaqueros were in a perfect
frenzy of rage and terror combined--shrieking Maladetto! Carambo! and
Caraja! till it seemed as if the reverberation must break loose the snow
from above, and send an avalanche down on top of us all. Bridles got
foul of stray legs and jerked the owners on their backs; riatas were
twisted and wound around horses, mules, and whisky-barrels; packs went
rolling hither and thither; men and animals kicked for their bare lives;
heads, legs, and bodies were covered up in snow-drifts; and nobody knew
what every body else was doing, or what he was doing himself. In short,
the scene was altogether very lively, and would have been amusing had it
not been intensified by the imminent risk of slipping over the
precipice. It was at least a thousand feet down into Lake Valley, and a
man might just as well be kicked on the head by twelve frantic horses
and twenty-five vicious mules as undertake a trip down there by the
short cut.

All troubles must end. Ours ended when the animals gave out for want of
breath. Upon picking up our scattered regiment, with all arms and
equipments used in the melee, we found the result as follows: Dead,
none; wounded by kicks, scratches, sprains, and bruises, six; mortally
frightened, the whole party, inclusive of our captain; lost, a keg of
whisky, which some say went down to Lake Valley; but I have my
suspicions where that keg went, and how it was secreted.

From this point over the summit we met several more pack trains, and
had an occasional tumble in the snow. Nothing more serious occurred. It
was quite dark as we commenced our descent. The road here was a running
stream of mud, obstructed by slippery rocks, ruts, stumps, and dead
animals. It was a marvel to me how we ever reached the bottom without
broken bones. My horse stumbled about every hundred yards, but never
fell more than three quarters down. Somehow people rarely get killed in
this country, unless shot by revolvers or bad whisky.



CHAPTER IX.

ARRIVAL IN SAN FRANCISCO.


The crowds were thicker than ever at Strawberry. From all accounts the
excitement had only just commenced. Five thousand were represented to be
on the road from the various diggings throughout California. I had
bargained for a bed, and was enjoying the idea of a good supper--the
savory odor of which came through the cracks of the bar-room door--when
our captain announced that he could get no feed for his animals, and we
must ride on to "Dick's," fourteen miles more. This was pretty tough on
a sick man. The ride since morning had been quite hard enough to try the
strength and temper of a well man; but add fourteen miles to that, of a
dark night and raining into the bargain, and the sum total is not
agreeable. It was useless to remonstrate. The captain was inflexible. He
could not see his horses starve. One was just giving his last kick, and
three more were about to "go in." I might stay if I pleased, suggested
the captain, but the horses must go on. As I had paid thirty dollars for
the ride, and had barely enough left to get to San Francisco, there was
no alternative but to mount. By this time three of the party were so ill
as to be scarcely able to sit in their saddles.

It is wonderful how much one can endure when there is nobody at hand to
care a pin whether he lives or dies. I rather incline to the opinion
that many people in this world die from the kindness and sympathy of
friends, who, if thrown upon their own resources, would weather it out.

I have an impressive recollection of the fourteen miles from Strawberry
to "Dick's." My horse, Guyascutas, broke down about half way. The rest
of the party pushed on. About the same time the old torture of
rheumatism and neuralgia assailed me in full force. It was pitch dark.
There was no stopping-place nearer than "Dick's." The weather was cold,
and a drenching rain had now penetrated my clothes to the skin.

A distinct recollection of my feelings a month ago, as I tramped along
over this road with my pack on my back, afforded me ample material for
philosophical reflection. Was it now somebody else--some decrepit old
fogy who had lost his all, and had nothing more to expect in this world?
Or could it possibly be the glowing enthusiast, just freed from the
trammels of office, and inspired by visions of mountain life, liberty,
and wealth? If it was the same--and there could hardly be any mistake
about it, unless some mysterious translation of the spirit into some
other body had taken place at Virginia Creek--the visions of mountain
life, liberty, and unbounded riches were certainly of a very different
character.

In addition to the peculiarity in the hind-quarters of Guyascutas, which
caused him always to make two trails at the same time, I had now reason
to suspect that he was entirely blind of one eye, and afflicted with a
cataract on the other. Every hundred yards or so he walked off the road,
and brought up in some deep cavity or against a pile of rocks. The mud
in many places was up to his haunches, and if there was a comparatively
dry spot any where in existence, he was sure to avoid it. I think he
disliked me on account of the spurring I gave him on the Grade, and
wanted to get rid of me in some way; or perhaps he considered his own
course of life beyond farther endurance.

The result of all the stumbling, and running into deep pits, banks of
rock, and mud-holes was, that I had to get down and walk the remainder
of the way. If a conviction had not taken possession of my mind that the
captain would compel me to pay for the horse in the event of failure to
produce him, I would cheerfully have left him to his fate and proceeded
alone; but, under the circumstances, I thought it best to lead him. At
last the welcome lights hove in sight. It was not long before I was
snugly housed at Dick's, where a good cup of tea brought life and hope
back again. This, I may safely say, was my hardest day's experience of
travel in any country.

Next day poor Guyascutas was so far gone on his long journey that I had
to leave him at a stable on the road-side, and proceed on foot. By night
I was within six miles of Placerville. Here I overtook a
fellow-traveler, and bargained with him for his horse. From Placerville,
by stage to Sacramento, the journey is devoid of interest. I arrived at
San Francisco in due time, a little the worse for the wear, but still
equal to any new emergency that might arise.

The citizens of San Francisco were on the _qui vive_ for news from
Washoe. Almost every man with a dollar to spare, and many who had
nothing to spare, had invested, to a greater or less extent, in
claims--from thousands of feet down to a few inches. Conflicting
accounts had recently come down. The public mind was in a state of
feverish excitement. Was Washoe a humbug, or was it not? Was there
silver there, or was it all sham? What was the Ophir worth at this time?
How about the Billy Choller and the Miller? These were but a few of the
questions asked me on Montgomery Street. It required an hour to walk
fifty yards, so great was the pressure for news. Could I tell any thing
about the Winnemuck, or the Pine Nut, or the Rogers? Did I happen to
know what the Wake-up-Jake was worth in Washoe? What about the Lady
Bryant--was it true that it had gone down? Whereabouts was the Jim Crack
located, and what was Dead Broke worth? In short, I looked over more
deeds, and answered more questions of a varied and indefinite nature, in
the brief space of three days, than had ever been put to and answered by
any one man before.

  [Illustration: RETURN TO SAN FRANCISCO.]

The editor of the _Bulletin_, who had made a flying visit to Washoe, and
in whose company I had traveled down from Placerville, commenced about
this time a series of articles, in which he told some startling truths.
Base metal had been found in the Comstock; to what extent it prevailed
nobody could tell. If the Comstock should prove to be worthless, what
hope was there for the "outside claims."

The news spread like wild-fire. A panic seized upon the multitudes whose
funds were invested in Washoe. Men hurried about the streets in search
of purchasers of Washoe stock; but purchasers were nowhere to be found.
Every body wanted to sell. The Comstock suddenly fell from one thousand
down to five dollars per foot, and no sales at that. Miller went down
fifty per cent.; and the Great Outside could scarcely be given away at
any price! Alas! had it come to this? The gigantic Washoe speculation
"gone in," and none so poor to do it reverence!

Softly! A word in your ear, reader! They are only "bucking it down" for
purposes of speculation. The keen men who know a thing or two are buying
up secretly. The silver is there, and it must come out. All this cry
about base metal is "a dodge" to frighten the timid. If you have claims,
hold on to them; they will be up again presently.

For my part, I thought it best to leave San Francisco before my
correspondents--for whom, it will be remembered, I had executed some
business in Washoe--retracted their good opinion of my sagacity. There
was no chance at this crisis to sell the various claims with which I
had been commissioned at Carson City. Capitalists were short of funds.
The money-market was laboring under a depression. The liver of the body
politic was in a state of collapse. I went to the principal bankers, but
failed to accomplish any thing. They even refused to lend money on
unquestionable security.

In view of all the circumstances, I determined to visit Europe. If the
moneyed men of the Old World could only be satisfied of the extent,
variety, and magnificence of the investments to be made in the New, they
would not hesitate to open negotiations with an agent direct from
Washoe.

       Frankfort-on-the-Main, January, 1861.

You will perceive from my address, most esteemed reader, that I am now
established at one of the best points for pecuniary transactions on the
Continent of Europe. I have seen many of the wealthy burghers of
Frankfort, and am pleased to say that they manifest a very friendly
disposition. As yet they do not quite understand the nature of the
proposed securities, but I have great confidence in their sagacity. My
negotiations with the Rothschilds have been of the most amicable
character. They have gone so far as to express the opinion that Washoe
must be a remarkable country; and yesterday, when I proposed to sell
them fifty feet in the Gone Case, and forty in the Roaring Grizzly, for
the sum of one hundred thousand florins, they smiled so politely, and
withal looked so completely puzzled, that I considered it best not to
force an immediate answer. You are aware, of course, that in important
negotiations of this kind it is judicious to let the opposite party
sleep a night or two over your proposition. That the Rothschilds are at
present a little wary of any investment in Washoe is quite natural. The
nomenclature is new to them. They have never before heard of Roaring
Grizzly and Gone Case silver mines. But if that should prove to be their
only objection, I have no doubt they will ultimately purchase to the
extent of several millions. If they do, I shall be happy to negotiate
further sales for a reasonable commission, to be paid strictly in
advance. My publishers will, I am confident, forward any letter to my
address.

  [Illustration: READING EXTRA BULLETIN.]

THE END.





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