The Captain and the Runaway Sailor

His Gold Story

He said he was a book-keeper for a firm in Newport, Rhode Island, at a small salary. He made up his mind that if they would not raise his pay $100 per year on the 1st of January he would leave them. They refused, so he lost his situation, and it was dull times, and he could not get another one, so he shipped on a whaling vessel as a sailor. His health was poor, and he found he could not stand the hardships of that life. The vessel put in the harbor of San Francisco for water and fresh meat on their way to the Arctic ocean, so he deserted the ship and secreted himself until it left. Then he had to do something there for a living, so he squatted on one hundred veras of land on the beach, and put up a shanty and sold fruit and probably some liquor, etc., to make a living. No one disturbed him for one year. He applied to the alcalde and paid his $16 and got a good, valid title. After the gold was discovered it became the most valuable property in the city. When I was doing business with him he had a three-story brick store, which he owned. The whaling ship had been gone to the Arctic ocean two or three years and had heard nothing of the discovery of the gold, and wonderful changes in San Francisco, and the captain thought he would put in that port on his return and hunt up his runaway sailor, and behold, his absconding sailor was rich enough when he found him to buy his ship and his whole cargo of whale oil. I was introduced by him to his captain and shook hands with him, and we had a good talk over it. Wherein does our stories of fiction, of our boyhood, of Arabian Nights, surpass the actual events of life, of the wonderful fluctuations of fortunes in California in the days of the Forty-niners?

The Captain and the Runaway Sailor
The Captain and the Runaway Sailor

On the death of President Taylor, a meeting was called for the purpose of having funeral obsequies there in his honor. A man was named for president of the day. Then it was proposed to name a vice-president for each State and Territory, which was done. There were persons in the crowd from every one of them. A day was set apart for the ceremonies, and all business was to be suspended. There was a long procession on that day, and the masons and all societies and the people in general turned out in full force, including the Chinese, who were smart enough to think it would make a favorable impression in their favor. After the parade was dismissed in the plaza, the Chinese were requested to remain, and a missionary addressed them, and a Chinaman interpreted to them in their own language. I noticed that their language was much more condensed than ours. It took about a third of the time for him to translate what the missionary said. When the missionary closed, he said he hoped that we would all meet together in another and a better world. It seemed to them so absurd that they looked at each other and smiled as if it was a good joke. In those early days there were no particular prejudices against them. Pagans, as we call them, practiced the Christian virtues toward their own countrymen. When the ship arrived from China they were down to greet the newcomers, whom they had never seen before, and invite them to their homes. The present laws of restriction against them, I think, are all right. We cannot afford to run the risk of having the institutions of our country injured by an emigration that is uncongenial to it. We have gone too far in that line already, not from selfishness, but to perpetuate the institutions founded by our revolutionary ancestors, in their purity, for the interests of mankind.

I received a letter from my blanket friend. He informed me that he could not sell the blankets, and had traded them off for flour, and would start the next day for the Yuba, which was the most remote gold river. That was all a lie. He did that so that I would not follow him up. He had not a dollar invested in them. They were my property. I knew at once I had been dealing with a rascal, but I was powerless to do any thing about it, so I wrote him back that it was all right; that I had bought a brig; and that I had it running to Stockton, and he could take ventures up on that and make up what we had lost on the blankets, and much more. (More of him later on.)

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