It is quite a treat, after a hard day’s work, to go at nightfall to one of these fandangos. The merry notes of the guitar and the violin announce them to all comers; and a motley enough looking crowd, every member of which is puffing away at a cigar, forms are applauding circle round the dancers, who smoke like the rest. One cannot help being struck by the picturesque costumes and graceful motions of the performers, who appear to dance not only with their legs, but with all their hearts and souls. Lacosse is a particular admirer of these fandangos, and he very frequently takes a part in them himself. During the interval between the dances, coffee is consumed by the senoras, and coffee with something, stronger by the senors; so that, as the, night advances, the merriment gets, if not “fast and furious,” at least animated and imposing.
25th June, Sunday.—We have all of us, given over working on Sundays, as we found the toil on six successive days quite hard enough. Last week we had rather indifferent success, having realized only nineteen ounces of gold, barely three ounces a man. The dust is weighed out and distributed every evening, and each man carries his portion about his person. Jose, who has amassed a tolerable quantity by working in his spare time, is constantly feeling to see whether his stock is safe. He weighs it two or three times a-day, to ascertain, I suppose, whether it exhausts itself by insensible perspiration, or other means, and invokes, by turns, every saint in the calendar—his patron-saint, Joseph, in particular—and all his old heathenish spirits, to keep his treasure safe. In accordance with a vow he made before he started from Monterey, he has set apart one-fourth of his treasure for the Big Woman, as he calls the Virgin Mary—in contradistinction to the Great Spirit, I imagine; but I fancy her stock of gold decreases every day, and that Jose doesn’t play her fair.
We had a great deal of serious conversation this afternoon upon the propriety of moving farther up the river, and trying some of the higher washings; for our last week’s labour was a terribly poor yield. We remembered Captain Sutter’s account of how Mr. Marshall had first discovered the gold in the vicinity of his mill, and how plentiful it seemed to lie there. Besides, the diggings are getting overcrowded; the consequence of which is, that we have had several of our pans and baskets stolen. We therefore decided that, if we could sell our cradles to advantage—and there is some likelihood of this, for there is not a carpenter left all through these diggings to make others for the constant new-comers—to move higher up the Fork, and try our fortune at a less crowded spot. There is one thing that I think I shall regret leaving myself, and that is, the fandango and the two or three pretty senoritas one has been in the habit of meeting at it almost every night.