August 8th.—We have engaged the services of our friend the trapper at the rate of fifteen dollars a-week, with an allowance of whisky twice a-day. He will hunt for us, but will have nothing to do with gold digging and washing. He has a tolerable contempt for dollars, or else he would have demanded higher wages. A man who has spent nearly all his life in the wilderness, who has known no wants but such as his rifle could quickly supply, may, however, well look with contempt on the “root of all evil.” If he were hungry, a shot at some panting elk or bellowing buffalo would stock him with food for weeks to come. If he were athirst, the clear water of some sparkling rivulet would yield him all that he would require. The hide of the bear or of the buffalo would serve to clothe him and to shelter him from the sharp night frosts; while a score of beaver skins would purchase him ammunition more than sufficient to last him all the year round. What, then, should he want with gold?
Yesterday, while we were at dinner, we were surprised by seeing a party of Indians approaching the camp from the direction of Truckee Lake. They appeared not to have any hostile intentions, so we quietly awaited their approach. The foremost chief held before him a long stick, with a bunch of white feathers dangling at the end. Story explained to us that this was a friendly sign, and said we had nothing to fear from the party. As they approached nearer towards us, they commenced dancing and singing, and we could soon perceive that very few among them were armed, and that altogether their appearance was anything but warlike and imposing.
Story went out to meet them, and shook hands with the few foremost chiefs. When they reached the shanty, before the door of which we were seated, the chiefs gathered on the right-hand side of us, and squatted themselves down upon the ground, when the pipe of peace was immediately produced by a veteran chief, and hemded round. I took a few whiffs with the rest, and then we learnt from our visiters that they were anxious to engage in a trade. All that they had, however, were some few esculent roots and several bags of pine-nuts. These last they roast and eat, but the taste is far from pleasant. In exchange for them, they wanted some charges of powder and ball. Three of them, I noticed, possessed old Spanish muskets, of which they seemed particularly proud; they held them in the usual cautious Indian style, with the butt-end clutched in the right hand, and the barrel resting on the left arm. A few of the others had bows and arrows slung across their backs. We pleaded shortness of ammunition as our excuse for declining the trade. Our provisions being run low made it impossible for us to offer them anything to eat, so we gave them a few blankets, which we could well spare, by way of keeping ourselves in their good graces; as, according to Story, they would have considered it a great affront if we had neglected to make them any presents.