Chapter 3: strangers in the land.
The ground is almost cleared; cleared of the original and the second growths.
What crops will occupy the soil?
On strolling to the orchard, we find a Portu guese squatter living in a mud lhut, under a fruit wall, and in the midst of apple trees.
“Fine apples, Sefor,” smirks the Portuguese.
“ Just try the flavour of our fruit.”
Though thin and cold, the acid has a grateful taste; but these Spanish apples cannot be compared with the American
variety, a fruit which is at once meat and drink, food and medicine; one of the most gracious products of American soil and sunshine.
“These trees seem old?”
“ Hundreds of years,” rejoins the squatter, with
Iberian fondness for antiquity and Indian ignorance of dates.
Yet they are old enough; having outlived the friars who planted them, and the natives for whose benefit they were trained.
“ You have a lovely country here about; why is Carmelo left a desert?”
the squatter laughs, “you see the good fathers have been driven away, and these poor devils, whether Redskins or Half-breeds, have now no friends to tell them what to do.”
“Tell them what to do!
The soil has not been sent away, nor have the sunshine and the rain been sent away.
They have the wood, the river, and the sea. Yon hills are full of ore, yon waters full of fish.”
“ Yes, Sefior, that is true; but who will find that ore and catch that fish?”
“All those who want to eat. Cannot the Redskin scale these heights, cannot the Half-breed plough those seas?”
“No Sefior,” sneers the Portuguese; “no Indian ever wrought a mine, no mixed-blood ever speared a whale.
Strangers may hunt for coal and gold, and bring in whale and seal.
You'll find some
English miners in that range, some Portuguese whalers in that bay; but you will see no Mexicans, either red or mixed, engaged in hardy work and daring deed.”
“ Bad roads down here” ? “ we ask, on gathering up the reins.”
“Bad roads! Ah, never mind, Sefior.
Go on --you'll find them worse-good bye!”
Tearing through scrub and grass, we rattle down the slope in search of a ford; now startling a hawk-owl from his perch, anon drawing up to bang at snipe or teal.
We reach the stream that ought to be the Kishon, here a broad and shallow river, rippling over beds of sand, and whispering to an angler of abundant trout.
When Capitan Carlos
was a buck of sixty, Rio Carmelo fed the mission and the tribe; but now no line is dropped into the flood for trout, no snare is drawn across the ford for duck.
All nature at Carmelo runs to waste.
Crossing the ford and climbing up the slopes towards Monte Carmelo, we crash our way through trough and tangle, swarm up ridge and rock, each moment getting deeper in the wood and higher on the range, until we catch, some height above our
heads, an opening in the mountain side.
There lie the lodes; there run the seams of coal.
Yon cleft, to which no native climbs, conceals a future town, just as this acorn hides a future oak.
Two foreign artists come into these parts.
To grow their beards, to bronze their cheeks, to shake the dust of Paris
from their feet.
A gay Bohemian circle welcomes them to San Francisco
; where a man may smoke and laugh, sitting over his cakes and ale, into those mystic hours which brush away the bloom from youthful cheeks.
This circle gives them Mont Parnasse
; but they are born for higher flights than Mont Parnasse
Donning their Indian pants and jackets, Monsieur Tavernier
grasps his sketch-book, Signor Franzeny
loads his gun. Each has an eye for nature, and observes her moods with care; noting how sunlight plays with colour in the sea, and how metallic veins add lustre to the earth.
Seeking for beauty, they find a seam of coal.
These young adventurers are tapping at the mountain side, assisted by some friends from San Francisco
, trusting that the seams will float into their trucks and sheds.
If so, a street will
ramble down this slope, with city-halls, hotels, and banks.
A school may occupy that copse, a jail adorn this rising ground.
New comers will be welcome to the Carmelo mountains
and the White
family will have gained another stronghold on the Slope.
A steep and winding track leads down from the ridges of Mount Carmelo to Carmelo Bay.
On crossing San Jose Creek
, we catch the cry of birds and seals, now and then broken by the bark of sea-lions.
A cove with curious port lies in our front.
No ships are in the road; no docks, no piers, no landing stairs are visible; yet the place must be a port.
Five or six boats are bobbing on the tide; strong six-oared boats, not built for gliding over lakes and pools.
Still larger craft are beached ill crevices of sand and rock.
Half-naked men are toiling on the shore.
Some sheds lie in the shadow of a granite wall, with piles of casks, as in a brewer's yard.
In several places jets of flame lap out, and burning smoke is vomited on the air. Cormorants fight among the rocks; and here the carcase of a whale, his fat peeled off, is floating on the tide.
Pushing into this tiny port, we come to these half-naked men, and hear the story of Carmelo Bay.
Some Portuguese sailors found the deserted quarries, where the monks had taught the Indians how to cut stone, and fancying they could work them for their profit, squatted on the spot.
A quarry man requires a builder, and the men who built in stone were gone.
Our mariners had fallen on an age of logs.
Unable to live by stone, they thought of fish.
There flowed the sea, alive with smelts and seals. . Below the headland they could see the whales go sweeping by. Why not put off in chase?
It was a dangerous trade; but when they plied it eagerly, they found it pay.
Six or eight men, they say, go out in each boat, according to the number of oars.
Two watch; the others pull.
On darting his harpoon into a whale, the leader pays out rope, and lets his victim writhe and plunge.
The fight is often long, and sometimes fatal to the men. When hooked, the whale is towed to port, where he is sliced and boiled.
“ You have no natives living in your port?”
“No, Sefior, the natives are no good in a whaling craft.”
Noticing some foreign faces in the boats and near the fires, Chinese
and even Sandwich Islanders, we ask the leading man whether he can employ such fellows in his trade.
“ Not the Chinese,” he answers; “they are only good for catching cuttle-fish and drying aballones.
Like the natives, they are skunks and cowards.
The Sandwich Islanders are a better lot; but they are hard to teach, and scarcely worth their salt.
We should be better off if we were left alone.”
“Have you Portuguese wives and families with you?”
“No, Sehor; we have to take such squaws as we can get. Our lasses live at home, in Cascaes Bay and other ports near Lisbon
; but we cannot fetch them over half the globe.
what are men to do?
We have to buy our wives.”
To buy their wives!
Yes, buy their wives.
It is a custom of the country.
The habit of buying and selling young women has existed on this spot time out of mind.
If young women are not bought they are always stolen, and the man is thought a decent wooer who comes with money in his pocket to an Indian lodge.
No Rumsen or Tularenos ever
gave away his squaw for love.
He sold her as he sold a buffalo hide or catamount skin.
tried to stop this sale of girls, but his successors winked at customs which they had no means of putting down.
and Alvaredo hoped to crush this traffic, but their secular energies were worsted in the vain attempt.
Neither Liberal Mexico
nor Independent California
was equal to the task of wrestling with this evil.
Indians sold their children to Spanish dons and Mexican
caballeros, just as Georgians and Circassians sold their girls to Greek
skippers and Turkish pashas.
Even under the Stars and Stripes, and in a region governed by American law, the trade goes on; less openly and briskly than in olden times; but still the Red
man's daughters are bought and sold, even in the neighbourhood of American courts.
It is a custom of the country, which, like other maladies, attacks the stranger when he lands.
You catch a local custom very much as you catch a local disease.
There is a fight between your constitution and the malady.
If you can compromise-you live; if not --you die.
says the Portuguese sailor, “we
buy our wives for money, and are punished for the sin. Our boys are only girls.
They cannot lift a weight or turn a wheel.
When we drop off, the whaling at Carmelo Bay will go into the hands of bolder men.”