Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

Chapter Fifteenth.

START FOR SACRAMENTO CITY-THE NIAGARÀ 00."-FREDERIC JEROME-A LOVE

CHASE-HEROINE UNDER A BLANKET-SUSPICIOUS BOOTS PART OF A LADY'S HAT FOUND—A BALL-ARRIVAL AT SACRAMENTO CITY-POOR ACCOMMODATIONS-RETURN TO THE INTERIOR-A CHASE-A NEW YORK MERCHANT-BEALS' BAR-EMBARK IN TRADE -A MOUNTAINEER-INDIAN CHARACTERISTICS.

On Monday morning I bade Tracy farewell, and started for Sacramento, promising to report at the earliest possible moment. After walking four miles I was taken sick and stopped at a tent until morning, when, feeling better, I left my rifle and pursued my journey. The heat was excessive, and the road a dreary one, with nothing to break the monotony. I exhausted the contents of my flask and was soon suffering with thirst; I met a gentlemen who supplied me with water, and I moved on. After traveling some twelve miles, as I was pursuing my course I was surprised at hearing a voice, and immediately heard my name called. I looked up and saw at a short distance from the road, two tents, and on approaching, found a company of gentlemen of Lockport, N. Y., who had been fellow passengers up the Pacific. They had started for the interior, and on reaching this point their wagon broke down, the team strayed, and left them no alternative but to encamp. As they were in the immediate vicinity of the river, they had commenced mining, and I am happy to add, with unexpected success. This they richly deserved, for a more gentlemanly, hospitable and energetic set of men, it was never my fortune to fall in with. They styled themselves the “Niagara Co.," and I have had the pleasure of meeting one of the gentlemen in this city since my return. At their solicitation I visited their works, and remained over night, and when I parted with them in the morning, it was like parting with brothers.

I started at day-break and after traveling an hour, fell in with Frederick Jerome, well known for his heroic efforts, in saving the passengers of the Ocean Monarch. He and his companions were bound for the interior. I soon came out on the margin of a prairie, some four miles in diameter, the road running through its center; I had but just entered upon it, when I discovered the track of a—not a grizzly bear, dear reader, but of a female. I did really discover the track of a female in California. It may seem a trivial circumstance to you, it was not so to me. A galvanic battery would not have created a more startling sensation, and I was half-tempted to faint in honor of the occasion. It was a small foot, encased in a slipper of the finest mould; then there was such a witching air about it, so pert, the toes turned a little out, the heel set down with just enough decision, and a something coquettish in the way she raised it up; then there was a sprightliness and elasticity, quite perceptible. I soon came to where she had turned round, as if she had been expecting me, and without designing to be silly, I soon found myself on a " round trot." I hurried on, buried in thought and conjecture, sometimes imagining it some one I had seen in the States; the track seemed familiar. Sometimes I would remember having met her at a cotillon party, and then I would notice a change in the track, as if she had been thinking of the same thing, and taking some of the "old steps;" I could see that the toe had removed a greater quantity of dust, as if she had been taking the standing, instead of the “chessa" balance. But the distance between us was fearful. I could see several miles and could not see her, and she might take another road. As these thoughts were running through my mind, I would come to myself, and find myself running at the top of my speed, the perspiration oozing from every pore. I was fast gaining the opposite side, and hope was in the ascendant.

I began to think of my personal appearance, which is in such cases of the utmost importance. After a careful examination, I came to the conclusion that it was not very flattering. I had not shaved in six months; I had on an under-shirt and cravat, pantaloons and long boots, a Panama hat, blue flannel shirt outside, over which was a belt with a sheath-knife, and a blue sash. I had seen men as badly dressed as myself. I was in hope she Irad, and hurried on. I soon reached the forest, and was on the

PART OF A LADY'S HAT FOUND.

89

in

qui vive, scanning every rock and log, expecting to find her at rest after her fatiguing walk across the prairie. I walked on, examining every shade, without seeing her. I soon saw at some distance a thick grove of underwood, the road passing through it, and I thought I saw a smoke rising beyond it. I soon arrived near, approaching very cautiously, and keeping an eye the direction of the smoke. I was not frightened, but my nervous system was in an unusual state of agitation. I wiped off the perspiration, and continued my cautious approach. I was soon sufficiently near to see what I at first thought to be a tent, but on a nearer examination proved to be blankets thrown over a pole, and sweeping the ground. I saw no one. I approached still nearer, and came to the conclusion that she was under the blankets taking her morning siesta. I still drew nearer, and stopped to take a survey of the premises. Just beyond the blankets I saw what appeared to be two pairs of heavy boots, and on changing my position they both appeared to have men in them. I neither fainted, nor ran, but I walked on noiselessly to a proper distance and sat down to rest. The men were sleeping on the ground, and I have no doubt the lady was doing the same under her temporary shelter. They had undoubtedly been to the mines, and perhaps became disheartened, and were returning to town.

The scarcity of ladies in California, is the theme of much conversation. There is an anecdote almost universally told in connection with the subject; it is as follows: At a certain point in the mineral regions, part of a lady's hat was discovered, which caused so much excitement and joy, that it was immediately decided to have a ball on the spot, in honor of the event. Invitations were immediately distributed throughout the country, and, on the appointed day, three hundred miners assembled, each dressed in a red flannel shirt, and accompanied by a bottle of brandy. In the exact spot was driven a stick, five feet high, on the top of which was placed the hat, and around it was wrapped a flannel blanket. It was made to represent, as nearly as possible, a female form. By the side of this was placed a miner's cradle, or machine, in which was placed a smoked ham, also wrapped in a flannel blanket. At the close of each dance the president of the meeting would rock the cradle, while the secretary would pour a bottle of brandy down the back of the lady's neck. The ball lasted two days, at the end of which time the ground was surveyed into town-lots, and called Auburn. It has been spoken of in a former chapter.

After waiting an hour without discovering any signs of life in the camp,

the sun admonished me that I must move on. I pursued my lonely walk until 11 o'clock, P. M., when I reached the American river. I prepared myself and waded through, and in one hour was passing Sutter's Fort. The dogs appeared to be on duty, and hailed me with such ferocity that I have no doubt they thought I meditated an attack. I hurried on, and at midnight reached Sacramento city. I found it impossible to get lodgings, and was obliged to seek shelter under some one of the large oaks in the suburbs of the town. Even here it was difficult to find a spot unoccupied. I found a place, however, by going some distance, and spread my blanket with a fair prospect of having the bed all to myself. It had been excessively hot during the day, but now a heavy dew had fallen, the air was cold, and after laying an hour found myself stiff and lame, and chilled to the very heart. I arose, but found it difficult to walk. I succeeded in reaching an unfinished house, into which I crawled, and spent the balance of the night in a vain effort to sleep.

In the morning I took a survey of the town, purchased a horse, and prepared for another incursion into the interior. A friend wished to accompany me, and at 4 o'clock, P. M., we were under way. We crossed the river and took our course across the plain in the direction of the great bend of the American River. Late in the afternoon, as we were galloping along, we fell in with a pack of wolves (coyotas,) and as we were both well mounted we were fast overhauling them. They were crazy with fright, making two or three tremendous leaps, then turning to look at us, their alarm would increase and they would bound away. We were close upon them when my companion's girth broke, and we were obliged to give up the chase. If they have ever come to the conclusion to stop, I am confident it was not in that immediate vicinity, for I never saw animals so frightened. What they were doing when we came upon them, I am unable to say. It has been suggested that they may have been tuning

« AnteriorContinuar »