California eBook

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

In building our cradles, or “gold canoes,” as the Indians called them, we found that to mortice the planks into each other was a feat of carpentering far above our skill, particularly as we had no mortice chisels.  We were therefore obliged to adopt the ruder experiment of making the boards overlap each other by about an inch, nailing them firmly together in that position.  As, however, the inequality of surface at the bottom of the cradle, produced by the mode of building, would have materially impeded our operations, we strained some pieces of tarred canvas, which we fortunately possessed amongst our tent cloths, over the bottoms, thus rendering the surface even, and suited to our purpose.  By the time we had got so far with our undertaking, we fell sufficiently tired to give over work for the night.  We had laboured unceasingly at them, pausing only to swallow a hasty meal, and stuck by our hammers and chisels till dusk.  We were up early the next morning, and toiled away to get the cradles completed, as we were constantly seeing proofs of the great advantages of these machines.  We fixed a wicker sieve over the head, by means of a couple of transverse bars, and then set about to construct the working Apparatus, which we had all along feared would put our mechanical skill to rather a severe test; but we found it easier than we had anticipated, and before sundown the rockers were fixed on both cradles, which, to all intents and purposes, were now ready for use.  The work was rather rough, but it was firm and strong.  So fearful were we first of all that our cradles might be removed or tampered with in the night, that I jocularly proposed two of us should give up the shelter of the tent, and, like pretty little children, sleep in our cradles till the morning.

The next day we set to work with them with the utmost eagerness, having first dragged the lumbering machines to a likely spot in the vicinity of the water.  The labour was hard enough, but nothing compared to the old plan of pot-washing, while it saved the hands from the injury inflicted by continual dabbling in sand and water.  We took the different departments of labour by turns, and found that the change, by bringing into play different sets of muscles, greatly relieved us, and enabled us to keep the stones rolling with great energy.  In the evening, with the help of our newly purchased scales, we tested our gains.  The cradle which was worked by Don Luis, Malcolm, and myself, for it was so near the water that three hands were sufficient, had realised six ounces of gold dust; the other, attended to by Bradley, McPhail, Biggs, and Lacosse, had nearly as much.  During the day there was another considerable influx of people to the diggings; the banks of the river are therefore getting more and more crowded, and we hear that the price of every article of subsistence is rising in the same proportion.

CHAPTER XI.

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California from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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