On Monday, a council was held as to the propriety of sending another party in search of our missing friend; and, after some discussion, the trapper started off alone, taking rations with him to last him two or three days. On Wednesday we set to work again, digging and washing, confining ourselves, however, to that portion of the stream and to those canones which were in the vicinity of the camp. Upon the whole, we made good progress during the week, frequently averaging four ounces of gold dust and flakes a-day per man. Early on Wednesday the trapper made his appearance, but he had returned without any tidings of our missing friend.
It was upon Thursday evening, as we were returning to the camp after a hard day’s work, that we were delighted at perceiving our comrade McPhail, whom we had given up for lost, making his way towards us, accompanied by a couple of Indians, fantastically dressed in the Spanish fashion, the costumes having been probably purchased by the sale of gold dust lower down the country. Our friend was, of course, joyfully received, and a special can of pisco punch brewed in honour of his return.
His adventures since his separation from the party were soon related. He had turned aside to water his horse at a small rivulet, and, on his return, waited at the trail for his comrades, whom he conceived to be still in the rear. After waiting for nearly half-an-hour, he thought that they must have passed him, and galloped after them in what he conceived to be the proper trail. After half-an-hour’s ride, however, he found himself utterly at sea—no sign of the camp, or of his comrades. He mounted several high ridges, which he hoped might command a view of the Bear Valley; but all he could see was a wilderness of hills and deep ravines, here and there chequered with fertile bottoms clumped with pines and oaks. In fact, he grew quite confused, and, to add to his perplexity, in fording a rapid torrent his horse stumbled, and was carried off his legs by the strength of the stream, and had to swim for it. At length they gained the further bank; but our friend found that in his agitation he had dropped his rifle, which was irrecoverably gone.
Finding that he had no knowledge of the country about him, he determined to encamp for the night, and accordingly laid his head on his saddle, wrapped himself up in his cloak, and went supperless to sleep. When he awoke in the morning, he found that his horse, which he had tethered to a neighbouring stunted tree, had strayed away, and although he followed his trail for some time, he was eventually obliged to give up the search. The remainder of this and the following day he wandered about at random, amidst a wild and sterile country, furrowed with tremendous chasms several hundred feet in depth, and the edge of which it was necessary to skirt for miles ere a crossing-place could be found. During this time poor McPhail fared very hardly. He saw numerous herds of elk, but they bounded past unharmed: he had no rifle. He tried in vain to find some edible roots, and was at length reduced to the necessity of chewing grass and the pith of alder trees.