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California eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 127 pages of information about California.

Breakfast was soon despatched, and the question as to the day’s operations asked.  Don Luis was the only one who, on the score of its being Sunday, would not go to the diggings.  He had no objection to amuse himself on Sunday, but he would not work.  To get over the difficulty, we agreed to go upon the principle of every man keeping his own findings, our bonds of unity as a party to extend merely to mutual protection and defence.  Leaving Don Luis, then, smoking in the tent, we proceeded to work, and found that the great majority of the gold-finders appeared to entertain our opinions, or at all events to imitate our practice, as to labouring on the Sunday.  I had now leisure more particularly to remark the nature of the soil in which the gold was found.  The dust is found amid the shingle actually below water, but the most convenient way of proceeding is to take the soil from that portion of the bed which has been overflowed but is now dry.  It is principally of a gravelly nature, full of small stones, composed, as far as I could make out, of a species of jasper and milky quality, mingled with fragments of slate and splinters of basalt.  The general opinion is, that the gold has been washed down from the hills.

I worked hard, as indeed we all did, the whole morning.  The toil is very severe, the constant stooping pressing, of course, upon the spinal column, whilst the constant immersion of the hands in water causes the skin to excoriate and become exceedingly painful.  But these inconveniences are slight when compared to the great gain by which one is recompensed for them.

At twelve o’clock, our usual primitive dinner hour, we met at the tents, tolerably well tired with our exertions.  No dinner, however, was prepared, both Jose and Horry being still absent in pursuit of the strayed horses.  We had, therefore, to resort to some of our jerked beef, which, with biscuits and coffee, formed our fare.  After dinner, we determined to rest until the next day.  The fact is, that the human frame will not stand, and was never intended to stand, a course of incessant toil; indeed, I believe that in civilized—­that is to say, in industrious—­communities, the Sabbath, bringing round as it does a stated remission from labour, is an institution physically necessary.

We therefore passed some time in conversation, which was interrupted by the arrival of Jose and Horry with the strayed horses.  Horry demanded an immediate increase of wages, threatening to leave us and set to work on his own account if we refused.  Bradley tried to talk big and bully him, but in vain.  Jose had a sort of fear of Don Luis—­who in return looked on his servant as his slave—­so he said nothing.  We could see, however, that they had evidently been in communication with the diggers around, and so we gave in.  Later in the afternoon I started with Malcolm and McPhail for a walk through the diggings.  We found comparatively a small proportion of the people who had commenced work in

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