It is hardly necessary to say that even in 1856 intemperance was hardly as common in California as the statements of his new friend led Ben to suppose. His informant was sincere, and spoke according to his own observation. It is not remarkable that at the mines, in the absence of the comforts of civilization, those who drink rarely or not at all at home should seek the warmth and excitement of drink.
“What’s your name, boy?” asked the miner abruptly.
“Where were you raised?”
Though the term was a new one to Ben, he could not fail to understand it.
“In the State of Connecticut.”
“That’s where they make wooden nutmegs,” said the miner, “isn’t it?”
“I never saw any made there,” answered Ben, smiling.
“I reckon you’ve come out here to make your fortin?”
“I should like to,” answered Ben; “but I shall be satisfied if I make a living, and a little more.”
“You’ll do it. You look the right sort, you do. No bad habits, and willin’ to work hard, and go twenty-four hours hungry when you can’t help it.”
“Where’ll you go first?-to the mines, I reckon.” “Yes,” answered Ben, reflecting that he would be most likely to find Richard Dewey at some mining-settlement.
“Ef I hadn’t been a fool, and lost all my money, I’d go along with you.”
“I should like the company of some one who had already been at the mines,” said Ben.
Then it occurred to him that his new acquaintance might possibly have encountered Dewey in his wanderings. At any rate, it would do no harm to inquire.
“Did you ever meet a man named Dewey at the mines?” he asked.
“Friend of yours?”
“No; I never saw him, but I have promised to hunt him up. I have some important news for him.”
“Dewey!” mused the miner. “Somehow that name sounds familiar like. Can you tell what he was like?”
“I never saw him, but I can get a description of him.”
“I’m sure I’ve met a man by that name,” said the miner thoughtfully, “but I can’t rightly locate him. I have it,” he added suddenly. “It was at Murphy’s, over in Calaveras, that I came across him. A quiet, stiddy young man-looked as if he’d come from a city-not rough like the rest of us-might have been twenty-seven or twenty-eight years old-didn’t drink any more’n you do, but kept to work and minded his own business.”
“That must be the man I am after,” said Ben eagerly. “Do you think he is at Murphy’s now?”
“How can I tell? It’s most a year sence I met him. Likely he’s gone. Miners don’t stay as long as that in one place.”
Ben’s countenance fell. He did not seem as near to the object of his journey as he at first thought. Still, it was something to obtain a clue. Perhaps at Murphy’s he might get a trace of Dewey, and, following it up, find him at last.