Imágenes de páginas


The mustangs of Mexico and “ citizens," has written the picCalifornia could never have been turesque story of its early sold to the Mississippi dealers struggles. There was no better or mounted the cavalry of the timber to be found on the barren Union. But the gathering of hillsides than the brittle sage the golden harvest involved and brush ; and the sage scrub decompelled incessant and increas- notes a scarcity of water. Worse ing expenditure of capital and off than the Israelites, who had enterprise. In many cases specu- only to make bricks without lations were tolerably secure; straw, the first squatters could in most there was the possibility not find soil enough for the of enormous returns. Theurgent adobé building of the Mexicans. necessity was ever the develop- Yet the thousands who were ment of communications. The swelling their numbers day by vast population which was flock- day were to be somehow sheling to the least accessible localities tered. The

luxurious in the sterile wilderness must aristocrats ran up booths of be clothed, fed, and entertained. canvas or blanket, or housed The mushroom towns which themselves in hovels of mud were shooting up everywhere and sage branches. The boards increased by leaps and bounds from boxes or packing-cases were in a single season.

Forests were

at a premium. The more hardy felled, rivers were bridged, foot- were satisfied to roof themselves trails were made practicable for in with a blanket. Gradually, vehicles; a tolerably regular as civilisation progressed, they post was established, to be sup- bored tunnels and dug out plemented by the telegraph- chambers in holes scooped by wire, and the telegraph in due the coyotes or jack-rabbits. The

was succeeded by the first of the speculators built rival lines of inter-oceanic rail- what they were pleased to call ways. Many a thriving town- sleeping-houses, where two or ship at some temporary terminus three hundred lodgers were sprung up like the prophet's half-suffocated at a charge of gourd, only to die down or a dollar a-head. The London

But at the mining twopenny rope was sensuous incentres they grew rapidly into dulgence by comparison. Alcities in face of unexampled most simultaneously came the obstacles. And then enterprise gambling-saloons and the drinkand energy radiated from these ing-bars by the dozen; the trafocuses to meet the converging velling theatre or circus, and the advances from all sides, until the competing newspaper offices. whole Western Continent had Things

unpleasant quickened into spasmodic but enough in the summer, though feverish life. A typical example if the heat were stifling slight -though in adverting to it we shelter sufficed, and if living are rather anticipating - was was dear there could be no that of Virginia City, the capi- starvation. To do the rough tal of the famous Washoe dis- miner bare justice, when in luck trict, with its fabulous wealth. he was always willing to share Ross-Browne, one of the original with a neighbour. The man


move on.




who was ready to shoot at sight were frequent. After each conhad a heart open to melting flagration the streets rose from charity. But the sufferings in their ashes with improvements : the intense severity of the first as matter of economy stone winter were worse than any re- came to replace wood, and if corded in the colder latitude of the buildings were often in Klondyke. The miners had infamous taste, at least they taken the precaution of collect

solid. San Francisco ing cattle, but had forgotten to sprang up and extended itself consider how the cattle were to with the influx of prosperity be fed. What little coarse hay and in the fluctuating rushes there was came to sell at 300 of speculation. Every man of dollars the ton. The carcasses grit was ready for a gamble, of dead animals covered the and each citizen of prominence, ground: the seething mass of whatever his occupation, was a corruption attracted the vul- dealer in stocks and shares. tures and the wolves; but those But it is a remarkable fact scavengers were too few for the that, till after the discoveries work, and the effluvia bred epi- of silver in 1858, there was no demics. The transport horses regular stock exchange anywere wasted to skeletons, and where the Pacific coast, the trains bringing in supplies though the Californian capital were held up in the snow-drifts. was soon to boast three rival Yet, all the time, pickaxe and institutions, and even the cities shovel were busy in the frozen on the Comstock were provided ground, and the fever of specula- with municipal facilities for tion raged unabated, though going “wild-cat” mad. Then none of the rich bonanzas had there were no joint-stock comas yet been discovered.

panies (limited), with shares Meantime the Spanish hamlet officially quoted : all the quartzof San Francisco had been grow- mining was carried on by a few ing into a place of importance. confederates in partnership, and It was the capital of the mining on a system of the strictest territories, the centre of pro- secrecy. The buying, the sellmotion and speculation, and the ing, and the gambling went shipping port of the gold. forward none the less briskly Round San Francisco there was that the speculators were genno lack of timber, and the first erally in the dark and far from imposing structures, though in the seats of operations. Touts many storeys, were all of wood. were employed, as on the EngEven when Froude visited it in lish turf, to spy on prospectors 1885, when gathering materials and owners; detectives were for his 'Oceana,' most of the engaged to do duty disguised pavements were still of plank, as workmen; bribery and coralthough the great Palace Hotel ruption were everywhere rife, was become the biggest caravan- and large sums were paid for serai in the world. Of course reliable tips. It was as yet the the woodwork in a Californian day of small things in San

combustible as Francisco, but already comtinder, and consequently fires petencies or moderate fortunes




were being rapidly made and as metaphorically in champagne, easily lost. It was an easy- though they infinitely preferred going society, and not very whisky, and were consoled for lawless. Even in Nevada camps the discomfort of wearing clean many of the miners went un- linen by the display of shirtarmed, and murders were in- fronts blazing with diamonds. frequent. It was a charitable San Francisco sowed its wild world in every sense, and toler- oats in a series of orgies of sharp ant in its morality. Shrewd- dealings and mad dissipation, ness and a moderate amount ranging from the coarse excesses of squareness were the redeem- of common miners suddenly ening virtues. If a man acted on riched to the luxurious ostenthe straight with his pals and tation of ephemeral millionaires kept the secrets of their common seeking to outvie each other in business or rascality, he seldom prodigal extravagances. But wanted friends to give him a with the rapid and assured helping hand when he came to influx of wealth came respecttemporary grief. The easy ac- ability and the sense of muniquisition of precarious affluence cipal responsibility. The Regugave an extraordinary impulse to lators had prepared the way reckless habits. Successful men for the Reign of Law. Charrevelled in vulgar vice, and in acter became a matter of consethat drouthy climate, with the quence. The public promenades gold-fever flowing in the veins, and drives became at least as almost everybody opened an decent as the Bois de Boulogne unlimited credit with the thirst or the Parks of New York. which would never be sated. Since then a new generation What with bargaining all day has grown up, with all the and drinking far into the nights, advantages of education and a man kept himself up to the foreign travel, for the Californimark with continual stimulants, ans with their golden keys have and the semi-intoxicated exalta- been unlocking doors more or tion of the individual reacted on less exclusive on the Old Conthe general speculative mania. tinent. In short, the Golden There was no lack of female City of to-day shows as credisociety of a sort; there were table a record and as clean a gambling - saloons that never bill of moral health as New closed their doors, and stood York or London, with the fairest unlimited free drinks to favoured prospects of indefinite progress, patrons. But it was after the for as wealth still flows steadily great silver boom of 1859 that in, so the population multiplies San Francisco rose from timber and flourishes. And all that shanties and rough stone dwel- eventful evolution, with the exlings into a city of palaces; that pansion of the Union of which no nouveau riche made anything it is merely a symbol, came of of a name, or could pretend to the morning's incident on the municipal office or social respect, Sacramento, when the man who unless he were notoriously in was cutting poor Sutter's millthe habit of gambling for mil- race chanced to be something lions; that lucky miners bathed of a practical mineralogist.

[ocr errors]


BY BEATRICE HARRADEN. It was the hour of sunset, and something in his bearing and a wayfarer stood waiting out- in the sound of his voice and side the great courtyard of the in the expression of his face Sovereign's palace. He had which made the keeper of the been lingering there for several gate hesitate. long hours, and had watched “My son," he said, gently, many other travellers press "tell me thy mind, but be brief, boldly forward, each of them for lo! the sun hath almost set. apparently armed with some And when the sun hath set, my kind of credential, which the appointed task for the day is grave custodian read and re- over, and I may no longer peneread before signing to the bearer trate into the Lord Sovereign's to pass through the reluctant audience-hall." gates. This wayfarer had no The stranger meantime had such papers, and therefore he hastily inscribed a few words on might well pause before asking a tablet, and the old grey cusfor admittance into those fair todian raised it to his eyes and realms. But as he glanced to read, “I have waited."" wards the purple glory of the

I have waited'?” he resetting sun, something of the peated questioningly, and glancglow and splendour of that ing at the stranger. vision entered into his very soul, “Yes,” said the stranger with and thrilled him with a sudden a quiet dignity. “ I have waithope and rapture.

ed. That is my only credential, “ Ah," he said, softly, “it may but the Lord Sovereign will of be so—it may be that the Sov

a surety accept it. I entreat of ereign will deign to listen to thee to present it for me. Close me!”

thy gate against me, and I will Then he knocked, and the linger here until I have thy angate swung slowly open.

swer. And if I may not enter “And where is your pass- after all, thy courtesy and gentle

asked the custodian, ness have at least been my porlooking kindly at the tired way- tíon in spite of evil chance." farer.

I have waited,'murmured “ Alas! I have no passport,” the custodian half to himself. he said, "but I thought

“And how may I dare approach The custodian shook his head. the Lord Sovereign with such a

“No one may enter here with- strange message? Nevertheless out one,” he said, firmly, and in- I will venture, and, meanwhile, stinctively he stepped back and tarry thou here." touched the gate.

The great gate closed noise“Stay, I entreat you,” said lessly, and the wayfarer stood the wayfarer with almost pain- waiting outside. And the cusful eagerness.

And there was todian passed into the inner


[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

court, and thence into the pres- barriers, and lo! he stood beence - chamber of the Ruler of fore the dread Ruler in the the realm.

throned presence-chamber. It “My Lord Sovereign," he may be that his steps faltered said in anxious tones, as he somewhat, as we all must needs made obeisance, “there is a falter before the Unknown. But wayfarer who pleads for admis- his heart never wavered, and sion here, but he hath no pass- his courage never failed, for he port such as I can know and knew that his cause was just, recognise.”

or at least he believed it was “ Then there can be no en- such—and where shall we find trance," was the stern answer. that faint line of demarcation “Surely thou know'st that, after 'twixt what is true for us and thy many years of faithful ser- what is reality in itself ? So vice.”

he faced the Sovereign unflinch“Nay, but my Lord,” pleaded ingly, and glanced with quiet the old man,“the wayfarer hath confidence at the blessed followpresented me with this writing, ers whose credentials had been of and such was the fervour of his safer and surer worth than his. manner and the expression on “Speak,” said the Ruler, his noble countenance, that I “and unravel the mystery of knew not how to refuse to kneel thy strange message. And before thee on his behalf.” when we have heard, we will

Then the great Ruler read the give our answer.” writing on the tablet.

Then the wayfarer spoke. I have waited,

?" he said

“My Lord,” he said, “I thank aloud. “What can that mean?” thee for this gracious favour.

I have waited,'repeated My story is a brief one, and wonderingly those assembled though it may seem an unusual around him.

one, I do not claim that it is A great silence fell on all that my story only. It belongs to gracious company. One might countless others, but chance has have heard the soft sighing of so willed it that I should be the the tiniest flower.

And mean

one to tell the legend for all while the wayfarer tarried out- those who are in this, my woeside, lost in anxious meditation. ful plight.”

“Can it be," thought he, “Then thou hast come as an “that my pent-up sadness may ambassador?" asked the Ruler. find expression at last, and my Nay,” he answered. “I mind ease itself of all its griev- cannot aspire to be ous unfulfilments ?” And whilst personal. My own great necesthus wrapt up, the old custodian sity has urged me hither. But touched him on the arm.

as time sped on its way, I have Come, my son,” he said, learned what to me was a startkindly. “The Sovereign sum- ling revelation—that mine was mons thee to learn what thy not the only necessity of the words may well imply.” self-same kind."

The wayfarer followed his He paused, and the Ruler guide through the inner court, signed to him to proceed further, and through the great golden and there seemed a suppressed

[ocr errors]


so im


« AnteriorContinuar »