Gold Seekers of '49 - Edwin Sabin

The Best of All

Mr. Grigsby and Billy's father had arrived in time to hear as well as to see the outcome of the adventure on the newly-named Gold Hill. Watching the retreat of the Jacobs party, Mr. Grigsby, leaning on his rifle, laughed shortly.

"They got off easy," he said, in grim manner. "Let me see the map, boy."

"That smudgy place does look like a 'G. W.'," asserted Charley, passing the paper over. "Anyway, it looks as much like 'G. W.' as it does like 'G. H.'"

And so it did. However, that mattered little now, and the feebly scrawled assignment of the Golden West claim also was of small importance; for the Golden West had been found at last, and everything had turned out all right. Here on Gold Hill, as at the Shirt-tail Diggin's, "the goose hung high."

Now, with everybody busy, it remained to develop the Golden West lode, which under the hurried operations of the bevy of workers could be traced for a mile.

"I suppose," remarked Charley's father, "that the next thing for us to do is to form a company and to lay plans for development, and to name our property."

"If your party have no objections," spoke young Mr. Motte, hesitantly, coming forward, "my wife and I would be very willing to combine our claim with yours, under the name Golden West, and work all together. We are able to do our part, of course."

Certainly there were no objections. Thus the agreement was drawn up, and the Golden West Mining Company was formed from the two parties.

At the base of the ridge there almost immediately sprang into being the town of Gold Hill, for which Mr. Adams himself was elected alcalde, or mayor, and Mrs. Motte clerk. But the development of the Golden West mine went ahead much more slowly. Paying mines, especially lode mines, do not grow up in a day, or a week, or a month. The surface rock could be loosened with pick and crow-bar, and pulverized and washed, to get some gold, but the hard rock below the surface required special machinery, for treatment.

So pending the arrival of the machinery the work was all development work: picking here and there, digging a few tunnels, and much exploring and planning. Hard work it was, too. However, the weather continued to hold fine and sunny and crisp, in the early fall a light snow fell but soon disappeared, and an Indian summer set in. There was hunting for deer and elk, and fun, evenings, in the camp—but something seemed lacking. What that was, Charley found out, when one morning Billy hailed him excitedly.

"Say! Hurrah! Do you know it?"

"No," admitted Charley.

"My father and yours are going to send for my mother and yours! They might be out here with us as well as not. See? They'll be company for Mrs. Motte. She's having a great time, and loves it. If she can stand it, they can—and besides, we want 'em."

Want 'em? Want his mother! Charley let out a wild whoop, and rushed for his father, who greeted him with a twinkle. Why, that was the very thing lacking—his mother! Of course it was. And now——!

"Do you think it will be Christmas present enough for you?" queried his father. "They'll have just about time to get here for Christmas, we figure."

Surely nothing, not even another Golden West mine, could be half so good for a Christmas present.

Time fairly dragged, despite the busy days. Development work proceeded, but better far and more interesting were the two cabins that were being put up, in readiness for the great day. And suddenly (for all things come to him who waits!) Charley and Billy found themselves actually delegated to go down to San Francisco—just they two—and meet two Somebodies at the steamer pier!

It seemed great to be sent on such an errand; and it gave one rather an important feeling to be alone and responsible in a city like San Francisco. By way of Sacramento and the river and bay they landed there—two real miners from the hills, clad in their miner costumes.

They had intended to put up at the Parker-house; but at Sacramento rumors of a great fire reached them, and sure enough, they found San Francisco still smouldering. For in the middle of December fire had swept through all the flimsy buildings of down town. The whole of Portsmouth Square lay in ashes. However, already new buildings were going up as fast as hands could work. Nobody seemed discouraged, but toiled with a cheer. The floor beams of another Parker-house had been placed—and this new Parker-house was to be of brick! Good for San Francisco!

That night Charley and Billy slept in a large tent that had been erected by the Parker-house to take care of what patrons it could. Charley had tried to show his partner the "sights," but in only those few months San Francisco had changed amazingly. It had doubled in population since that date when the steamer California had landed the Adams party in the bay, and its people had changed, too. Why, there were as well-dressed men and women on the streets as in St. Louis; and some of the stores which had not burned were like Eastern stores!

A new scheme had been invented. On top of a high hill called Telegraph Hill, overlooking the Golden Gate, a signal had been installed. It consisted of a tall post equipped with wooden paddles, like arms, that flourished in a system of wigwags. The positions of the arms signaled "brig," "bark," "side-wheel steamer," etc. And on "steamer day"—a day when one of the big mail and passenger steamers was expected in—every citizen was gazing at Telegraph Hill to see the arms extend horizontally right and left, wigwagging, at last, "side-wheel steamer."

"The Panama! When was the Panama due?"

"On the nineteenth, bub."

But would she come? Supposing she were late. Then those mothers might be late, too, for Christmas! But she was not late; no, sir; for at sunset of the eighteenth, see, up went the two arms of the signal on Telegraph Hill, extended horizontally to announce: "Side-wheel steamer entering the Golden Gate." And presently there came the Panama, surging majestically through the channel, and rounding to before the city.

That was a long night, intervening before the passengers might land. Charley and Billy slept scarcely a wink. They were at the wharf bright and early—but no earlier than an army of other persons almost as excited as they. The Panama began to unload her passengers; the usual fleet of skiffs and ship's boats put out, filled, from her side.

Charley and Billy peered expectantly. Supposing, after all, those mothers had missed the Panama and had not come. But no! That was they, wasn't it, in the second boat? Yes! Hurrah and hurrah! Forward bolted Charley; forward bolted Billy; and delivered such a series of frantic hugs that their mothers simply had to know them, in spite of tan and clothes.

"Why!" gasped Charley's mother, holding him off a moment, to gain breath and to make sure. "How well you look! Where's your father? Is he all right? When do we get to the mine? Are things going well? Oh, Charley, but I'm glad to see you!"

"Everything's splendid," panted Charley. "But this is the best of all."

And from the behavior of Billy and his mother, Charley rather imagined that they agreed with him.

So it proved to be a merry Christmas at Gold Hill and the Golden West mine. And thus the famous year of Forty-nine passed into the busy prosperous year of Fifty, during which California and the Golden West mine grew and prospered together.