I can hardly describe the effect this sight produced upon our party. It seemed as if the fabled treasure of the Arabian Nights had been suddenly realised before us. We all shook hands, and swore to preserve good faith with each other, and to work hard for the common good. The gold-finders told us that some of them frequently got as much as fifty dollars a-day. As we rode from camp to camp, and saw the hoards of gold—some of it in flakes, but the greater part in a coarse sort of dust—which these people had amassed during the last few weeks, we felt in a perfect fluster of excitement at the sight of the wealth around us. One man showed us four hundred ounces of pure gold dust which he had washed from the dirt in a tin pan, and which he valued at fourteen dollars an ounce.
As may be imagined, the whole scene was one well calculated to take a strong hold upon the imagination. The eminences, rising gradually from the river’s banks, were dotted with white canvas tents, mingled with the more sombre-looking huts, constructed with once green but now withered branches. A few hundred yards from the river lay a large heap of planks and framings, which I was told were intended for constructing a store; the owner of which, a sallow Yankee, with a large pluffy cigaretto in his mouth, was labouring away in his shirt sleeves.
Bewildered and excited by the novelty of the scene, we were in haste to pitch our camp, and soon fixed upon a location. This was by the side of a dried-up water-course, through which, in the wet season, a small rivulet joined the larger stream; we did not, however, immediately set to work to make the necessary arrangements for the night. Our fingers were positively itching for the gold, and in less than half an hour after our arrival, the pack-horse which carried the shovels, scoops, and pans, had been released of his burden, and all our party were as busily employed as the rest. As for myself, armed with a large scoop or trowel, and a shallow tin pail, I leapt into the bed of the rivulet, at a spot where I perceived no trace of the gravel and earth having been artificially disturbed. Near me was a small clear pool, which served for washing the gold. Some of our party set to work within a short distance of me, while others tried their fortune along the banks of the Americanos, digging up the shingle which lay at the very brink of the stream. I shall not soon forget the feeling with which I first plunged my scoop into the soil beneath me. Half filling my tin pail with the earth and shingle, I carried it to the pool, and placing it beneath the surface of the water, I began to stir it with my hand, as I had observed the other diggers do. Of course I was not very expert at first, and I dare say I flung out a good deal of the valuable metal. However, I soon perceived that the earth was crumbling away, and was being carried by the agitation of the water into the pool, which speedily became turbid, while the sandy sediment of which I had heard remained at the bottom of the pail. Carefully draining the water away, I deposited the sand in one of the small close-woven Indian baskets we had brought with us, with the intention of drying it at the camp fire, there not being sufficient time before nightfall to allow the moisture gradually to absorb by the evaporation of the atmosphere.