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Chapter Thirteen.
 Kindness to Strangers in Distress—Remarks in Reference to Early Rising—Diggings wax Unproductive—Ned takes a Ramble, and has a Small Adventure—Plans Formed and Partly Developed—Remarkable Human Creatures Discovered, and still more Remarkable Converse held with them.  
“I’ll throuble ye for two pounds of flour,” cried Larry O’Neil, dashing into one of the stores, which was thronged with purchasers, whom he thrust aside rather unceremoniously.
“You’ll have to take your turn, stranger, I calculate,” answered the store-keeper, somewhat sharply.
“Ah thin, avic, plaze do attind to me at wance; for sure I’ve run four miles to git stuff for a dyin’ family—won’t ye now?”
The earnest manner in which Larry made this appeal was received with a laugh by the bystanders, and a recommendation to the store-keeper to give him what he wanted.
“What’s the price?” inquired Larry, as the man measured it out.
“Two dollars a pound,” answered the man.
“Musha! I’ve seed it chaiper.”
“I guess so have I; but provisions are gittin’ up, for nothin’ has come from Sacramento for a fortnight.”
“Tay an’ sugar’ll be as bad, no doubt!”
“Wuss, they are; for there’s next to none at all, I opine, in this here location.”
“Faix, I’ll have a pound o’ both, av they wos two dollars the half-ounce. Have ye got raisins an’ sago?”
“Give me a pound o’ that, aich.”
These articles having been delivered and paid for, Larry continued—
“Ye’ll have brandy, av coorse?”
“I guess I have; plenty at twenty dollars a bottle.”
“Och, morther, it’ll brake the bank intirely; but it’s little I care. Hand me wan bottle, plaze.”
The bottle of brandy was added to his store, and then the Irishman, shouldering his bundle of good things, left the shop, and directed his steps once more towards the ravine in which dwelt Kate Morgan and her brother Pat.
It was late when the Irishman returned from his mission of kindness, and he found the fire nearly out, the tent closed, and all his comrades sound asleep, so, gently lifting the curtain that covered the entrance, he crept quietly in, lay down beside Bill Jones, whose nasal organ was performing a trombone solo, and in five minutes was sound asleep.
It seemed to him as if he had barely closed his eyes, when he was roused by his comrades making preparations to resume work; nevertheless, he had rested several hours, and the grey hue of early day that streamed in through the opening of the tent warned him that he must recommence the effort to realise his golden dreams. The pursuit of gold, however engrossing it may be, does not prevent men from desiring to lie still in the morning, or abate one jot of the misery of their condition when they are rudely roused by early comrades, and told that “it’s time to get up.” Larry O’Neil, Tom Collins, and Maxton groaned, on receiving this information from Ned, turned, and made as if they meant to go to sleep. But they meant nothing of the sort; it was merely a silent testimony to the fact of their thorough independence—an expressive way of shewing that they scorned to rise at the bidding of any man, and that they would not get up till it pleased themselves to do so. That this was the case became evident from their groaning again, two minutes afterwards, and turning round on their backs. Then they stretched themselves, and, sitting up, stared at each other like owls. A moment after, Maxton yawned vociferously, and fell back again quite flat, an act which was instantly imitated by the other two. Such is the force of bad example.
By this time the captain and Jones had left the tent, and Ned Sinton was buckling on his belt.
“Now, then, get up, and don’t be lazy,” cried the latter, as he stepped out, dragging all the blankets off the trio as he took his departure, an act which disclosed the fact that trousers and flannel shirts were the sleeping garments of Maxton and Tom, and that Larry had gone to bed in his boots.
The three sprang up immediately, and, after performing their toilets, sallied forth to the banks of the stream, where the whole population of the place was already hard at work.
Having worked out their claims, which proved to be pretty good, they commenced new diggings close beside the old ones, but these turned out complete failures, excepting that selected by Captain Bunting, which was as rich as the first. The gold deposits were in many places very irregular in their distribution, and it frequently happened that one man took out thirty or forty dollars a day from his claim, while another man, working within a few yards of him, was, to use a mining phrase, unable “to raise the colour;” that is, to find gold enough to repay his labour.
This uncertainty disgusted many of the impatient gold-hunters, and not a few returned home, saying that the finding of gold in California was a mere lottery, who, if they had exercised a little patience and observation, would soon have come to know the localities in which gold was most likely to be found. There is no doubt whatever, that the whole country is impregnated more or less with the precious material. The quartz veins in the mountains are full of it; and although the largest quantities are usually obtained in the beds of streams and on their banks, gold is to be found, in smaller quantities, even on the tops of the hills.
Hitherto the miners at Little Creek had found the diggings on the banks of the stream sufficiently remunerative; but the discovery of several lumps of gold in its bed, induced many of them to search for it in the shallow water, and they were successful. One old sea-captain was met by Bill Jones with a nugget the size of a goose-egg in each hand, and another man found a single lump of almost pure gold that weighed fourteen pounds. These discoveries induced Ned Sinton to think of adopting a plan which had been in his thoughts for some time past; so one day he took up his rifle, intending to wander up the valley, for the double purpose of thinking out his ideas, and seeing how the diggers higher up got on.
As he sauntered slowly along, he came to a solitary place where no miners were at work, in consequence of the rugged nature of the banks of the stream rendering the labour severe. Here, on a projecting cliff; which overhung a deep, dark pool or eddy, he observed the tall form of a naked man, whose brown skin bespoke him the native of a southern clime. While Ned looked at him, wondering what he could be about, the man suddenly bent forward, clasped his hands above his head, and dived into the pool. Ned ran to the margin immediately, and stood for nearly a minute observing the dark indistinct form of the savage as he groped along the bottom. Suddenly he rose, and made for the shore with a nugget of gold in his hand.
He seemed a little disconcerted on observing Ned, who addressed him in English, French, and Spanish, but without eliciting any reply, save a grunt. This, however, did not surprise our hero, who recognised the man to be a Sandwich Islander whom he had met before in the village, and whose powers of diving were well-known to the miners. He ascertained by signs, however, that there was much gold at the bottom of the stream, which, doubtless, the diver could not detach from the rocks during the short period of his immersion, so he hastened back to the tent, determined to promulgate his plan to his comrades. It was noon when he arrived, and the miners were straggling from all parts of the diggings to the huts, tents, and restaurants.
“Ha! Maxton, glad I’ve found you alone,” cried Ned, seating himself on an empty box before the fire, over which the former was engaged in culinary operations. “I have been thinking over a plan for turning the course of the stream, and so getting at a portion of its bed.”
“Now that’s odd,” observed Maxton, “I have been thinking of the very same thing all morning.”
“Indeed! wits jump, they say. I fancied that I had the honour of first hitting on the plan.”
“First hitting on it!” rejoined Maxton, smiling. “My dear fellow, it has not only been hit upon, but hit off, many months ago, with considerable success in some parts of the diggings. The only thing that prevents it being generally practised is, that men require to work in companies, for the preliminary labour is severe, and miners seem to prefer working singly, or in twos and threes, as long as there is good ‘pay-dirt’ on the banks.”
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