Page images


[ocr errors]

began to realize that it was uncomfortably warm. With quite a crowd of others, I yielded to the seductiveness of the lemonade man. It was hard to resist his "Brrr! but it's cold, the fine homemade lemonade. It's cold, but drink it slow, and a barrel of it won't hurt you." So refreshed, I threw myself on the ground for a moment's rest after the jolting of the ride. But this did not accord with public opinion; for I soon heard an approaching team, then, "Don't drive quite over him." And a breezy hail, "Say, mister, don't you know a rabbit drive ain't any place to go to sleep?"

This was only a sample of the free and easy character of the occasion. There was little of formality all day, and no introduction was required before beginning a conversation.

Now the cry was "All aboard for the barbecue!" and I was fortunate enough to be taken in by a two-seated covered rig for the trip back to Traver. It was a hospitable crowd as well as an unconventional one, and I did not ask a favor all day that was not cheerfully granted, with no expectation of reward.

The ride back was in long procession that made the moving column a pillar of dust-cloud. But it was less vigorous than the cross-country riding. On the way there was a ditch to cross, and here a two-horse wagon driven by a woman came to grief. The axle broke with the strain. Nothing daunted, she promptly unharnessed the horses, and mounted on one of them with her babe in arms, while the other horse was ridden by her two small sons. The empty wagon was left "poste restante." The people were not by any means all men. I saw two very refined-looking girls in a buggy, and every farmer seemed to have brought his whole family. One one

[graphic][merged small][subsumed]

seated wagon had a man with a twoyear-old in his lap, his wife with a younger babe in her arms, a four-yearold kneeling down by the dashboard, and a six-year-old boy standing on the axle and holding on to the seat behind. On the way back there was more leisure to notice the beauty of the country round. We were going toward the east now, and before us was the great sweep of the Sierras, snow-clad and majestic. That highest peak north of Traver is Mount Whitney, surrounded by all the great brotherhood of mountains that guards the headwaters of Kings River. And toward the north are the ranges that hold the Yosemite and Hetchhetchy. It takes away the depression caused by the flatness of the immediate surroundings to have such mountain ramparts to which to lift the eyes. On that day in April the Sierras were still deeply clothed in the ermine of their winter garments. But the sun was at work on them, and over the whole line of peaks were piled in yet grander ranges great masses of cumulus made from the melting snow.

And there was an abundance of nearer and humbler things to admire. Meadow larks- fortunately no drive could dispossess them

made the air sweet with liquid melody; and though some of the plain was barren, there were many parts that were covered with the thick-piled carpet of spring. Eschscholtzias flamed in places, and nemophila répeated the blue of the skies. Mallows and calendrinias made a more beautiful red on the sod than we had been looking upon; and besides these there were a multitude more of flowers, red and white, and yellow and blue, some of them too small to have any name on the common tongue, yet all adding to the "anĕrithmon gelasma," "the numberless smile," of the California spring.

On reaching Traver the crowd separated, part going to the barbecue, which was to be followed by speaking, and part to the hotel for dinner. The second part was largely made up of young men

VOL. XX-6.

[blocks in formation]

I preferred to dine at the hotel, and found no little entertainment in observ. ing the country beaux and belles that filled the dining-room again and again. These were dressed in their best, the men a bit uncomfortablein the unwonted splendor of their attire, but the girls radiant in their consciousness of attractiveness in their much befrizzled hair, crisp new ribbons, and big hats. One thing I could not help remarking about these San Joaquin maidens,- the clear pink and white of their complexions. How they manage to preserve it in the scorching sun and winds, one day of which caused me a week of blistered cuticle, passes my comprehension.

The dinner was put on in truly lavish style. Eight dozen chickens, the Chinese cook told me, had bled to make a Traver holiday. I don't claim to have remembered his exact words. The table

was entirely covered with dishes heaped with food; and since all courses were spread forth at once, it was possible to see the end from the beginning, and plan the meal accordingly.

Supper was but a repetition of dinner. A little incident at table is worth telling, to show the spirit that prevailed. Tea had been given me by the "tea-er-coffee?" girl, but the sugar was distant some five or six places down the table. I waited patiently, hoping it would gravitate my way. Soon I noticed one of the serving maids standing by unoccupied, and asked her to give me. the sugar. Instead of going for it, she stood still by the head of the table, and called in a loud, clear voice: "Say, pass that sugar this way!" Her command

was at once obeyed by the guests, in a way that showed they felt the rebuke for their inattention implied in her tone.

And so, in revelry, the day wore on; and each could find something to amuse himself with, if it were only in patronizing the man that had set up a ringthrowing game; the board stuck full of case knives, and garnished with clocks, watches, and other seductive prizes. To these he called attention with his shrill cry, "Come up, now,- here's your fun, pleasure, and pastime!”

As we departed for the train the host of the hotel was cordial in his invitation to "come again."

[ocr errors]

'Ah, yes; but you don't have a time like this in Traver every day." . Charles S. Greene.


ONLY the last glimmers of daylight lingered about the snowy crests of the Sierras. The huge mountain peaks looked like saintly figures robed in their white night garments, and suggested the attitude of making ready for repose, as the gathering gloom rendered them more and more indistinct.

Two men on foot, each with a bundle strung to his back, stood on the ridge of the mountain divide, eagerly scanning the last discernible features of the country around them. They were poorly, almost raggedly clad; and their drawn brows and pinched faces bespoke mental anxiety, and none too crowded stomachs. They were dark visaged, somewhat swarthy of feature, and from their speech showed they were of Mexican or Spanish origin. Both bore the appearance of being old men, but on close examination one was perceptibly less aged than the other, and under favorable conditions might have passed for a man in the prime of life. This man carried

an antiquated rifle loosely slung across his shoulders, in a ready position for use; while the old man leaned wearily on a rough staff.

It was evident they had been standing on the mountain trail for some time, as the intense disappointment and despondency depicted on their hard, dry countenances could but have grown there slowly, and only after every ray of hope had flickered out.

"Do you see anything, señor?" questioned the elder man.

"Nothing, padre."

"Not a mountain, or river, or a species of vegetation that bears resemblance to the picture in your mind?"

Nothing but the birds that fly over. head. I know the birds, señor, but they may inhabit a wide, wide region," answered the young man dejectedly.

"Can you not associate the idea of a camp or settlement anywhere in the vicinity of the scene? See, lights twinkle down in the dark cañon below."

"Not a single hut, padre. But then the memory is of many years ago. The Americanoes now possess the country, and they have penetrated every range in the Sierras."

"More likely than not it has all been discovered decades back, and worked dry by this time." O what a wild theory has brought us from our sunny land. We shall yet perish amongst these dreary, isolated mountains if we continue this mad search," responded the old man. "Men of science,—bah, we are fools." And he turned away to hide his anger.

"Men of science!" 'Tis you alone, señor, who can claim that proud distinction," answered his companion sarcastically." I am here at the promptings of more material desires than the thirst for mystic knowledge."

"Such insolence is born of like chagrin, my friend. But forgive me, Pedose, . I am to blame in first complaining."

"Granted before the asking. Come, shall we go on? the light is failing?" "Not yet, Pedose. Think again. Close your eyes, and run over the scene. there nothing in this that might give a clue?"


"I cannot collect my thoughts, Padre. This cold wind sweeping the mountain heights pierces my very bones and freezes my imagination. This is hardly a fit place for scientific experimentation."

"Heed it not. Close your eyes, and bend your head to your breast, and become oblivious. I will cover you with my coat. It may be a long time before we gain another such view. But it would be well to be quick and away. See, snow is falling on yonder peak.' "My God! look! look!" "What is it, Pedose? Are you raving, or do you recognize something in the landscape? Speak, man."

"Those rocks, I know them. There, - on the slope of the mountain summit, where they are tinted crimson with the after-glow of the sunken sun.”

"Is that the place of gold?"

"I cannot tell. But I know the rocks, My God, I know the rocks." And the man fell fainting with excitement and sudden joy.

"Be calm, my son. We will descend to the village below us, and perhaps the vision will grow brighter with a changed view and the light of tomorrow. I feel that fortune is near us. If we are successful, I am famous,-famous amongst the greatest minds of the age."

"Take your fame and welcome," replied his younger companion. “I will be rich. The gold, the bright, heavy gold, will be mine."

"Let us hasten down the mountain. It will soon be too dark to see the trail," suggested the other. And the two men straightened their stiffened limbs, and after adjusting the bundles on their backs, started down the rough, precipitous descent to the valley. In their wild haste they leaped and ran with the agility of buoyant youth. Unheeding the dangers of the path they pushed frantically on; almost tearing their way through besetting obstacles. Their clothing was ripped to shreds as they crashed through straggling trees and brush, and their tired and swollen limbs were cut and bruised by the sharp, jagged rocks, until they spurted blood. along their track.

"Are you sure we are not followed, Pedose?" asked the elder man. "Look

[blocks in formation]

the time. How hope will intoxicate a man."

"When I refused that job of work at the camp they thought me a lunatic, for they only made the offer out of charity at our condition," said the young man. "But they treated us hospitably for all that, thinking maybe we would come to our senses by morning."

"And now that they find us gone?" "They will put us down for stark, raving mad. They scouted the idea of a prospector's striking anything in these parts now-a-days. The short, red-faced man in blue flannel shirt said to me at the bar that there had not been enough gold picked up here for the last ten years to gild the head of a pin; save what had been taken from the Gobble mine, which the company owns. meant it in good part though.'


"Think you, Pedose, it was the safest plan to make known our purpose of pushing on?" ventured the old man.


"The only doubt is in connection with the road. These trails bewilder and confuse me. There were none in those days, padre."

"Keep your eyes from them, and follow solely the beckonings of your mind as it recognizes objects in the landscape."

"We shall reach the cliff by sundown, padre, if we keep up this pace." "It is well, Pedose. We can camp tonight at the end of our journey, and begin the search with tomorrow's daybreak. It has been a long, weary journey," he added reflectively.

"Si, señor. Six months and more have passed since we left Mexico, and most of the time has been spent amidst these desolate wilds. How sweet will seem the charms of our native land when we return."

"If we return."

And the two men fell to silent thought, and trudged on up the heavy steep of the mountain side without venturing a renewal of the conversation.

"There was no choice in the matter, padre. It would have looked suspicious to be suddenly missing. Besides, it was necessary to obtain these few provisions and this pick. Such things tell a silent tale when they act mysteriously; and we would surely have been followed." "We may be tracked as it is." "They do not trouble themselves for heat was oppressive, for the afternoon crazy folks in this region."

For a few moments they walked on in silence. Then the old man asked: "Do you still recognise the country, Pedose?"

Every foot of it, señor."

"It seems incredible. The glad doubt almost stifles my faculties. O think what it means if we are successful."

"Every hope will be fulfilled, padre, I know this mountain gorge; the very trees that stud it; yea, the clouds in the heavens almost seem familiar."


"Almost as well as if I had seen them all before with my own eyes, and been here in actual life," continued the younger man.

It was laborious climbing, the path being cut up by innumerable small ravines, and broken by massive boulders and impenetrable entanglements of low shrubs and trailing ground vines. The

sun was in full glare, and not the slightest breeze aroused the dull atmosphere. Perspiration ran in little streams down the bronzed faces of the two men, but they seemed not to heed it, and clambered up as if weariness was the least of their troubles.

The younger man led the way, picking out the path carefully, with his gaze resting intently on the surrounding country. At times he lapsed into deep meditation, as if trying to recall something vague and half-hidden, and his brow frequently furrowed at the sudden appearance of some new uncertainty. But it would clear again as the doubt passed away, and he then would blithely resume the lead, as if mechanically fol

« PreviousContinue »