...w.... -.V -- ... r. ,i .. ,
r 1)?F~ -~Bsa
F -l. __________________________________
S... ^,. Board School.
THIS BOOK WAS PRESENTED TO
of- ------- t ,- ----------
of ..............-........... Street,.....................
as a SPECIAL REWARD for having attended
with exemplary punctuality during the
year ended... ....... 88 ...
OFF TO CALIFORNIA.
;.i '::'::`.~r~~~i-: .i.::::::l~ :.:.-,
:$ --:it v
***- v ./. : ., .n '
*.. '.**:: *'..':
:' : A.. ** ::
..... ....... ~~r~
... ........... ....:;.:: ~ ~ 5~... .:. ui;~r~~~,
...... .. ........ ..... .....~:"::::::::3:':'~~; : ~;;,ss~:::
........... ........... .........
^^^''' .*.* *
.y.x:'l ./ c. > :: :.' .
n............... .............. ........ d& --1 1 -- .1 _----'" MI. ,--""
In his fear lest the party should start without him, he had jumped in such blind
haste on the gunwale of the boat that he lost his balance."
ADAPTED FROM TH7 FLEMISH OF HENDRIK CONS.CIENCE.
f THE WATCHERS ON TII I LONGSHIPS,' 'MARTIN THE SKIPPER,
ILLUSTRATED BY A. FORESTER.
I. THE GOLDEN BAIT
II. THE DEPARTURE
III. ON THE SCHELDT
IV. AT SEA
V. THE LION'S DEN
VI. THE EQUATOR
VII. THE SHARKS
VIII. THE MUTINY
IX. THE ARRIVAL
X. SAN FRANCISCO
XI. THE LETTER
XII. THE GAMBLING-HOUSE
XIII. THE WEAPONS
XIV. THE SAVAGES
XV. THE BANKRUPTCY
XVI. THE GOLD SEEKERS
XVII. THE BUSHRANGERS
XVIII. THE NUGGET
XIX. THE GHOST
XX. THE WOUNDED MAN
XXI. THE VAQUEROS .
THE DIGGINGS .
THE GOLD DIGGERS
LYNCH LAW .
THE GRIZZLY BEAR
DONATUS KWIK LOST HIS BALANCE AND FELL INTO THE
THREE OR FOUR SAILORS THREATENED VICTOR WITH
THEIR KNIVES 42
WHERE DO YOU COME FROM? .84
A LASSO CAUGHT ROOZEMAN ROUND THE WAIST 141
DONATUS KWIK GOES INTO THE POOL 215
THE WORK OF THE CALIFORNIAN SAVAGES 253
OFF TO CALIFORNIA,
THE GOLDEN BAIT.
SNE morning in the month of May, 1849, a
young clerk was sitting alone before his desk,
in the office of a small commercial house at
He was tall and fair-haired; there was a dreamy
look in his delicate face, though hope and vigour shone
in his bright blue eyes.
He was busy writing: but he often stopped in his
work to cast his eyes over a newspaper which lay open
on the desk before him. Its contents seemed to have
a strange charm for him, and he was plainly vexed with
himself for allowing his attention to be so often turned
away from his work. In the paper he read:
Gold is found there almost on the surface of the
earth, and in such abundance that one has only to stoop
down to pick up treasures. A sailor lately found a
nugget of gold weighing more than twenty pounds, and
worth at least 25,000 francs."
OFF TO CALIFORNIA.
The clerk looked up sadly.
Some one opened the office door; it was a strongly-
built young man, with ruddy cheeks and black sparkling
eyes-a picture of health and good humour.
"Jan, my friend, you will catch it! said the clerk at
the desk. "Our master has been to the office, and
showed his vexation at your absence."
"That's no matter to me, my good Victor," replied
Jan. "It's all settled; I am going to say good-bye to
the trade of quill-driving, and to this gloomy prison
where I have so foolishly wasted some of the best years
of my life. Hurrah! I am going to roam over the
world, free as a bird, and owning no other masters but
God and Fortune! "
"What do you mean ?" asked his companion.
This is what I mean," said Jan, drawing a folded
paper from his pocket.. "Here is the prospectus of a
French Company, 'The Californian,' which is having all
sorts of tools and implements made to work the best
mines in California. There, where the most precious
metal can be picked up with the hands, it will be able to
collect gold in heaps. Any one who likes can become a
shareholder. For 2000 francs we get a free passage,
second class, in one of the Company's ships, and receive
two shares, which give a right to a double portion of the
gold obtained. In California one has nothing to care
for: the Company procures for its shareholders good
food and comfortable wooden houses. As a third-class
passenger one pays only 1200 francs, and receives but
one share. My father has consented to sacrifice 2000
THE GOLDEN BAIT. 3
francs, so I shall become a shareholder in the 'Califor-
nian Company.' The ship, the Jonas, will sail from
Antwerp in a fortnight, for the gold land. Four other
vessels will be despatched by the Company to California;
among them one from Havre, with the tools and the
directors, who ought by this time to be at sea to receive
the shareholders when they arrive."
Victor gazed at his friend with sparkling eyes. What
he had just heard filled him with wonder.
"You are starting for the gold country ? You are
going to California ?" he said.
Yes, old fellow; within a fortnight."
You-you, Jan! Has the thirst of gold so suddenly
taken hold of you?"
Why you, Victor, have yourself turned my head,
by always talking about the strange country which has
just been discovered. In the voyage I see a good way
of escaping from this stifling office life. Ah! to-morrow
I shall be free! to-morrow I shall become a shareholder
in the Company! to-morrow I shall secure my berth on
board the Jonas !"
SHow lucky you are !" said Victor, sighing I wish
I could become your companion !"
"You have only to express the wish, Victor. Has
not Lucia's uncle said twenty times that he would lend
you the money required if you liked to risk a voyage to
California ? "
"And my mother, Jan ?"
"Yes, your mother. But you know all parents are
the same. If one did not make some effort to jump out
OFF TO CALIFORNIA.
of the nest
one's hair began to turn grey."
Why, Jan, the very thought
of such a plan makes
my mother tremble !
Lucia's uncle, when
he comes to
see us, talks of the long voyages he has made as a skipper,
and then my poor mother turns pale.
She has always
cannot plunge a dagger into
"But, remember, it is the only way of winning Lucia.
The captain is a rough fellow;
he hasn't much respect
for a man who passes his life bent over a desk,
has only seen a little corner of the world.
I reckon that
if you go to California, he will gladly give you his niece's
hand on your return."
"He has promised
reaches 2000 francs."
his consent, as soon as my salary
will have to wait a long time,
the chief said yesterday that he should be forced to
Victor did not answer.
"Perhaps you are afraid of such a long voyage ?" said
" Afraid !" exclaimed Victor. "
have been longing to undertake
Why, for six months
California open to me a chance of winning Lucia, but
there is another strong reason.
hard on herself lately; she spend
My mother has
it much of her little pro-
perty, in order
to give me a good education.
and my salary scarcely maintain us.
The time has now
come when my labour ought to bring some ease to her
THE GOLDEN BAIT. 5
old age, and reward her for her love and sacrifices for
me. Afraid of a voyage to California! None could
long more than I do for that promised land Oh! if I
could go with you, I should thank God for His goodness
with all my heart."
"Make another effort then, Victor. Reflect that other-
wise you condemn yourself to remain all your life grow-
ing paler and paler before that wretched desk: your
youth passing away as sadly and regularly as an old
clock. Man's happiness consists in liberty, in seeing the
world, and gazing on new wonders every day. And
then, after two years of independence, to return to our
native land with gold enough to enrich all those whom
we love! There's a glorious prospect for you! "
"Yes, yes!" cried Victor with excitement. "I'll ask
her again. I will beg her consent on my knees; I will
entreat her by all she holds dearest in the world."
"And to-day I will go and see Captain Moreels, and
tell him he must help you. Let me arrange it... A
good idea We will share all together out there-as
we have done here-good and evil."
"Hush, Jan!" said Victor in a whisper. "I hear
our principal coming into the office."
"Don't say a word to him about my departure. My
father might change his mind before to-morrow: one
The two clerks took up their pens, and when the door
opened their heads were bent in silence over their paper,
as if they had been for hours absorbed in their work.
T was on
a hot sunny afternoon in the month
when a large crowd had assembled
on the banks
Scheldt, watching a fine
in the wind, lay moored
in the port,
ready to sail.
It was the Jonas, fitted out
make a direct voyage to the newly-discovered gold land.
The brig's deck was already swarming with passengers,
their hats in the air.
success were sent to them from the banks of the Scheldt.
It was like a fair,
in which the inhabitants of Antwerp
did not seem to take less interest than the excited
the emigrants were mostly
from the northern departments, for very few
had been enticed
by the brilliant
promises of the Cali-
lay alongside the
board any laggards who were spending their
in the town.
to take on
Towards these three persons were hastily
making their way-a tradesman with his two sons, who
had just come from a street which led on to the river.
THE DEPARTURE.' 7
"Look, look, father !" said the elder of the two young
men; there is the Jonas, ready to be off!"
May God protect her!" said the old citizen, with a
"Surely you are not going to be sad now, father ?"
said the young man, laughing. "What are two years
in a man's life? I have wasted six at least before that
stupid desk. Don't be anxious, but happy and confident.
I shall return with heaps of gold and treasure, and it
will be my pride to have won for my father and mother,
a happy and peaceful life. Don't be anxious, therefore:
you will never have any reason to regret this voyage.
But where is Victor ? Is he lagging behind, now that
the critical hour has come ?"
"His mother and he have so many things to say to
each other," said the old citizen.
Look, Jan, there they are coming," said his brother.
"There is poor Lucia Moreels; she is trying to appear
happy, but the captain's servant told me a week ago that
when she is alone she does nothing but cry."
"Well, that is a proof that she loves my friend Victor,
so I am glad of it for his sake."
The persons whose arrival had been announced by
Jan's brother soon appeared at the corner of the street.
They consisted of an elderly lady, who walked by the
side of a young man, whose hand she pressed with
anxious tenderness as she spoke to him.
Behind them came an elderly man with sunburnt
cheeks and large whiskers; on his arm was a young girl,
whom he was trying to persuade that a sea voyage was
OFF TO CALIFORNIA.
little excursions to Brussels
Victor, Victor make haste! they are already weigh-
ing anchor !" cried Jan, who stood up in one of the boats;
"there is no time to lose."
When the widow saw from the banks
the frail skiff which
in a few minutes
was to bear-
perhaps for ever-her beloved son from her arms,
ran down her cheeks, and she pressed him sobbing to her
Victor was deeply moved by the tender embrace,
and he did all he could, by soothing words, to comfort his
mother in her bitter grief.
The old captain
had at last to drag him
arms, while Jan again called out that the boat could not
wait any longer.
Victor took Lucia's two
loving gaze seemed to ask ]
hands in his, and his earnest,
her, Will you wait for me ?
Will you remember me?"
Once more he embraced his mother, whispering words
of love into her ear.
since God wills
"go, my son; I will
pray for you
Do not forget your mother."
Victor went down into the boat.
into the river,
but at that moment
The oars dipped
a young man was
seen running in the distance, waving his
head, and calling out:-
arm above his
" Wait an instant,
for my passage;
I must go to the
gold country, too!"
lie seemed to
be a peasant;
the long blue
THE DEPARTURE. 9
reaching nearly to his heels, his bronzed face, and his
large hands and brawny limbs, told that he had left the
labour of the fields, in pursuit of fortune.
His first step was not a happy one. In his fear lest
the party should start without him, he had jumped in
such blind haste on the gunwale of the boat that he lost
his balance and fell head first into the water. One sailor
seized him by the hair; another, helped by Jan, dragged
him into the boat, amid shouts of laughter and applause
from the crowd on the quay.
The peasant looked round him with confusion, rubbed
his head, and as he spat the water from his mouth, he
There is too much salt in that soup, comrades.. You
need not have torn out half of my hair; I can swim
like an eel."
But as the boat bounded onwards beneath the quick
stroke of the oars, Donatus Kwik sank down on his knees
and held on to the gunwale.
Victor had scarcely noticed this incident. His eyes
were still fixed on the spot where his mother and Lucia
were making cheering signs to him, as if they thought,
dear souls that he was more unhappy than they were.
Jan stood up on a bench. He shouted one last fare-
well to his father and brother, waved his hat, and raised
a loud hurrah.
These joyful cries had a strange effect upon Donatus
Kwik. He jumped up, threw himself upon the neck
of the excited young man, and pressed him in his arms
with such force, that Jan felt the cold water wet him
OFF TO CALIFORNIA.
to the skin.
travelling companion, exclaiming,-
I say, my good fellow, are you mad or drunk ?"
"I think, perhaps, I have had a little too much;
Antwerp beer is very strong."
my clothes ? "
see that you have
me and spoilt
forgotten the cold bath.
we can buy
as many clothes as we like out
there-barrows full of gold "
What part do you come from ?
one would say from Aiechlin ?"
have guessed nearly
a peasant at
I am Donatus
My aunt is just
I have come in
her money: but there is not enough to please me,
am going to
On my return I shall
daughter, or Trina,
burgomaster's, or the young lady of the Castle.
pick up so much gold
whole village! "
shall be able to buy the
friend Victor, whose eyes were still fixed on the quay,
and began to chaff him about Lucia's love for him.
on their conversation
them a piece of printed paper.
"Comrades, look here! he said.
"You are a bore,
your comrades,' said Jan, in an angry tone.
"Well, I will say 'gentlemen,' as you wish it, though
cc Ah To
THE DEPARTURE. I
I'm not so poor as you seem to think. Come, will you
tell me, gentlemen, what this is which I hold in my
"It's an English five-pound note," replied Victor.
"Yes, but how much in francs ? "
"Rather more than 125 francs."
"I was afraid that the Jew with whom I. changed my
money had cheated me with these papers."
"Have you many of them? asked Victor, smiling.
Looking askance at the sailors, the peasant whispered
into the ears of the two friends,-
I have four of them, the remnant of my legacy. I
could have put these 500 francs out at interest with our
village banker, but it is well to be prudent, as one can't
tell what may happen out there. Supposing we were
taken in, and didn't find any gold after all? Donatus
then would not be the first to die of hunger!"
The boat now reached the ship, on board which the
new-comers were quickly welcomed.
Then the Jonas weighed anchor and spread her sails.
She was soon moving onward before a fresh breeze.
She fired a farewell salute to the city of Antwerp,
which was replied to by the guns of the port. The
sailors on the yards waved their caps, the passengers
filled the air with their shouts, the quays resounded
with the good wishes of the crowd, as the Jonas glided
over the waters.
Donatus Kwik jumped about like a madman, waving
his arms about, and crying "Hurrah! hurrah!" in a
voice far louder than that of any other of the passengers,
like the braying of an ass.
he received some cuff
As he pushed
Fs in the back
and not a few kicks in the legs, but of these he took no
Going up to the two friends, who were still gazing at
the crowd on the quay,
them, and said rudely,-
his head between
ha! comrades, are
gentlemen, are you sad ?"
my word! "
cried Jan fiercely,
bother us in this way I will knock you down!
hear, Donatus Kwik ? "
" But down in the
there is not a soul who
understands me: they are as stupid as calves; they don't
understand a word of Flemish," said Donatus.
"That's not my affair;
go away, I tell you."
The peasant, seeing
was in earnest,
"How proud these town folks are
find as much gold as they, and per
own countrymen won't talk to me I
up my mouth.
As if I shouldn't
shall have to
Hurrah for California "
And turning round
like a top,
while he waved
like a windmill,
he jumped into the midst
group of merry people.
Now the city
taking his friend's
"let us go down and look after our provisions."
"Yes," replied Victor; "let us drink to the success
of our voyage "
While they were sitting below talking of their plans
and hopes, the Jonas was dropping down the Scheldt as
far as Callao, where she anchored to await the next
The captain, notwithstanding his harsh and severe
air, was very amiable towards the passengers; he
encouraged them to pass the evening gaily, handing
round pipes and tobacco, wine and spirits. "Hurrah
for our good captain !" was the cry raised as he passed
along the deck.
All this time the sailors were exchanging glances with
one another, as much as to say that the captain's friendly
manners concealed a secret.
He allowed the passengers to amuse themselves up to
ten o'clock, then he gave them to understand that each
must go to bed in his appointed cabin. Soon all was
silent on board.
Towards midnight boats quietly left the ship and
made towards the Flemish bank of the Scheldt, return-
ing as quietly with fresh passengers. Then the sailors,
by the light of the lanterns, drew some planks from a
place where they had been hidden, and began to hammer
up berths out of these planks-prepared for the purpose-
for the new-comers. The passengers in bed in their
cabins were not surprised at the noise, for they had been
told that during the night a new kitchen was to be made
for their convenience.
In the port of Antwerp, as elsewhere, there are
OFF TO CALIFORNIA.
of passengers which
a vessel is allowed to carry, according
to her size.
commissioner visits the
the passengers, measures the space
each, weighs and examines the provisions, to be certain
that the passengers who embark shall want neither
found a superabundance, both
and all was arranged
counting the sailors.
But whilst the commissioner was finishing his visit
pronouncing the words "All
Flanders brought fifty more gold-seekers, all Frenchmen
from Lille and Douai, who were guided to Callao by people
bribed for the purpose, in order to embark secretly
midnight on board the
of this fraud
was a net gain of thirty or forty thousand francs for
Company ; as
they received the fares of fifty passengers
who, according to
were forbidden to
The addition of such a number of people would be
of great inconvenience, but the
seem to trouble
remark of his mate:-
" That will be all right, Nelis.
enotigh, and we will decrease the rations
"But the water, captain ?
for so many people."
"I know it, Nelis.
There is not half sufficient
That takes too much room:
will replenish our stock at the first American port."
THE DEPARTURE. 15
"The passengers will be greatly astonished at the
arrival of so many fresh companions."
"That does not matter in the least, if we can only
prevent complaints till we are out of the Scheldt. Once
in the open sea, I shall know well enough how to stop
their mouths. Tell Jacques, the chief cook, to light a
fire at once, and to cook beefsteaks for everybody. At
breakfast we will give them a good glass of rum. You
will see, Nelis, that they will be pleased at the arrival
of these new companions. Take care that all is ready
to raise the anchor at dawn. The vessel ought to be
under sail before the passengers have left their berths."
( 16 )
ON THE SCHELDT.
EFORE most of the passengers had made their
L appearance on deck, the Jonas was already
several miles on her way. Some expressed
their surprise at the sight of so many new-comers, while
others suspected foul play; but the captain gave them
to understand that these passengers were really included
in the official list, they were late, having missed the train,
and therefore had been sent on to overtake the vessel.
The good beefsteaks and the rum convinced the most
suspicious; and as the new arrivals seemed principally
merry fellows, they all soon began to dance and sing as
thoughtlessly as on the previous evening.
Now, however, Donatus Kwik had no desire to share
the general joy. The two Antwerpers found him sitting
sadly in a corner, his head buried in his hands. Victor,
out of pity, asked him what was the matter.
"I am ill, gentlemen," he replied: "sick as a horse
from the beer of Antwerp, and from the still worse gin,
which that poisoner of a captain made me drink last
night. Oh, my poor head! There are three or four
men threshing corn inside it! How I wish I was in
our hay-loft at Natten Haesdonck; for down in that
pigsty of a cabin, a marmot would scarcely be able to
ON THE SCHELDT.
sleep. I've had the night-mare all night: a block of
gold as big as a millstone on my stomach. It's all the cap-
tain's horrid gin; I wouldn't give ten sous for my life!"
"It all comes of taking too much," said Jan, laughing;
"you've only yourself to blame."
Victor tried to comfort the poor man, assuring him
that he would soon be better.
May I know, if you please, with whom I have the
honour of speaking ?" asked Donatus.
My name is Victor Roozeman."
"And that gentleman there? "
"That is my friend, Jan Creps."
"Well, Mr. Rooseman, I thank you heartily for your
kindness. I was rude and stupid yesterday, I confess.
Pardon me, gentlemen; it shan't happen again. I can
read and write; I have been well brought up, and ought
to know how to behave. When I am well again, allow
me now and then to exchange a few words with you.
It's not pleasant to have no one but myself to talk to.
Oh dear! oh dear! how my head burns! "
All this time the Jonas, borne along by a fresh
breeze, was sailing down the Scheldt. Most of the
passengers on the deck were more excited than on the
previous day. They had partaken of their first dinner
on board: an abundant meal, consisting of roast beef
and fresh vegetables for all, and even some roast fowls
for the more delicate of the two first classes. After this
they had their ration of wine or spirits, under the
influence of which some had become quite drunk, and
others wild and flighty.
OFF TO CALIFORNIA.
The mate tried to restore some degree
of order on the
but the passengers
angry at this, he went up to the helm, where the captain
with a grim smile was watching the merriment among
To his complaint, he replied,--
folk alone, Nelis.
Do you see
clouds rising over the sea ?
and as soon as the Jonas
The wind will soon get up,
ins to dance there will be
an end to all this bluster!
At this moment, Donatus
ran up to Jan and Victor, threw himself
"I pray you," he cried, "have pity on a poor
Fleming! I am going to die-I am poisoned! "
The kind-hearted Victor, thinking this might possibly
be true, took
what had happened.
"Ah good Mr. Roozeman ah
not well, you know, as I told you,"
! Mr. Creps!
groaned the peasant.
did not understand me down below.
laughed at my sufferings.
Some one went to look
a doctor, and a man came with a large red nose.
poured about a quart of salt water down my throat, and
a red powder-Cayenne pepper, I'm sure.
it is all over with me!
"Don't you see, gentlemen, that that fool is sea-sick?"
said a German, who passed by at the moment.
remark, and tried
persuade Donatus that his illness would soon pass away;
ON THE SCHELDT.
but the poor fellow was in great pain, and putting both
hands to his chest hurried down below to hide himself.
As the captain had predicted, the sky soon became
covered with clouds, while the wind, though still favour-
able, increased in force, and the Jonas began to dance
on the waves which hastened to meet her from the
The captain went up to the mate, and said, The end
of all this folly has come now, Nelis. There are twenty
of them yonder with their heads over the side."
The songs and merriment, indeed, were soon silenced.
Half the passengers were terribly sick, while many of
them were ignorant of the cause of this mysterious
malady, which had so suddenly prostrated them.
Victor was one of the first to be attacked by sea-sick-
ness: Jan, however, did not suffer at all: so he took
his friend by the arm, led him to his cabin, and helped
him into bed.
At last only about twenty passengers remained on
deck, and these were not altogether at their ease. They
gazed silently at the waves, which, with a monotonous
roll, beat against the sides of the ship.
When at the mouth of the Scheldt the Jonas entered
the channel, the captain remarked to Nelis, "It will
be some days before these fellows find their legs again.
We must use that time to get everything into order.
Let the sailors understand that they are to have no
dealings with the passengers. My orders are to be
strictly obeyed. I will be master in my own ship. We
are at sea now! "
E sea, indeed, was very rough for
growing worse as they proceeded
channel, where they had to contend with con-
All this time the passengers kept in their
cabins, fearing to move,
the sight of food, and
suffering from all the misery of sea-sickness.
On the night, when they left the channel to enter the
the wind had fallen and the waves became
While the Jonas continued her voyage under a
clear and starry
the passengers felt
For the first time they
enjoyed some sleep, which
seemed to give them renewed
appeared one by
deck, with faces almost as cheerful as on the day of their
Creps and Roozeman were especially happy.
Victor, seeing himself surrounded
his arms to Heaven, and thanked
having brought them so far on their way safely.
of the passengers, wishing to celebrate their
AT SEA. 21
restoration to health by a noisy carouse, had recourse
again to the bottle; but the captain now showed him-
self in his real character, of a stern and rough officer.
He read a number of regulations to them, which forbade
all disorderly cries and crowds on the deck. He told
them that disobedience to these rules would be punished
with imprisonment in the black hole, and rations of
bread and water.
The passengers listened with angry surprise; some
clenched their fists, protesting against such rules, which
they said deprived them of all pleasure and liberty: but
the captain gave them to understand, in a few words,
that the law gave him unlimited power on board his own
ship, and that he had even the right to shoot those who
rebelled against him. When some murmured at this
explanation he began to utter such terrible threats, that
the passengers saw he was really in earnest, and sub-
mitted to their fate. The sailors were not more civil
than their captain. If they saw several friends standing
together talking on the deck, a sailor would run up
dragging a rope, or some other large object, and cry out,
"Out of the gangway there! Look out for your legs!"
Two or three others, meanwhile, coming as rapidly from
the opposite direction, would pour pails of water all
over the deck.
A third would call out from the top of a mast, "Take
care below there Look out, you land-lubbers! after
which simple warning he would let a huge block fall
like a thunderbolt on the deck, at the risk of nearly
crushing some one.
OFF TO CALIFORNIA.
The captain, wishing to show the passengers that life
at sea was not a pleasant one, ordered the sailors to go
about their duties as if there was no one on board except
Towards noon the passengers were summoned on deck.
The captain stated that they were to be divided into
companies of eight, to dine together out of a large tin
dish. He then read a list of the passengers, and each
time he had named eight men he called out, First mess;
second mess; third mess ;" and so on.
When this arrangement was completed, notwith-
standing many murmurs and complaints, the captain
told them that henceforth the fresh bread and the few
fowls that remained, would be reserved for invalids. The
other passengers must content themselves with the usual
daily sea rations, viz. salt meat, peas or beans, biscuit,
a small allowance of gin, and a quart of fresh water.
Each mess must send one of its members, who were to
take their turn, week about, to the kitchen, to fetch the
dinner for the others.
Immediately after the bell was rung for the victuals
to be distributed, men were seen running on all sides
with tin plates full of smoking food, and a few minutes
later all the passengers were sitting round their
Fate had given very strange messmates to Jan and
Victor,-a French magistrate, who had fled from his
country for unknown reasons; a doctor of medicine; a
German banker, who had lost everything at the Hom-
burg gambling-table; a young gentleman of West
Flanders, who had spent the last remnant of his inhe-
ritance before starting for California; a French officer,
who boasted that he had killed his superior in a duel.
At first sight Victor thought that he had not much to
complain of; and, in fact, as our friends belonged to the
second class, they were not mixed up with the poor
third-class passengers, who all slept and lived together
between the decks.
However, Victor's sensitive heart was soon wounded
by the coarse and profane conversation of his com-
panions. He looked on in surprise, as they seized the
food eagerly and devoured it. If Creps had not warned
his friend in time, Victor would not have begun his
dinner till scarcely a bean was left in the plate. The
doctor drew a bottle of brandy from his pocket, which
he half emptied; the others, lighting their pipes, went
on deck, where they found most of the passengers,
some lying stretched in the sun, others seated on
benches, or walking about.
What a bad set of fellows we are thrown with!"
said Roozeman to his friend.
"Yes," answered Creps: "but you don't know all
yet. While you were sea-sick, I walked about the
deck and through the cabins to make a nearer acquaint-
ance with our travelling companions. There are a few
honest fellows among them, but the majority are rogues
who have deserved the gallows, or perhaps have really
escaped from it. Many are drunkards, who have left
wives and children in misery, and taken their last
penny to go to California. There are, too, spendthrifts,
ruined gamblers, bankrupts,
"A pleasant set of companions !"
said Victor, with
" If I could only have foreseen it-! "
"You would have stayed at home ?"
but I shouldn't have chosen the Jonas for the
Well, as we can't help ourselves we must make the
best of it.
On our long
voyage and in the savage land
to which we are going you must expect to see and hear
than you did
and the gentle Lucia Moreels."
"Certainly, Jan, I must submit
to my fate;
will cost me something to get used to these rude
whose words and manners sadden my heart."
As the two friends were talking together and pacing
the deck, they saw Donatus Kwik, who was munching a
sea-biscuit, grumbling, and making angry gestures.
As the peasant had not noticed them, Roozeman put
his hand on his shoulder.
for a fight. )
fists assumed the
he saw the
air of a man ready
&ntwerpers he became
calm at once, and exclaimed,
tlemen, I thought
was that Frenchman
had your rations,
excuse me, gen-
that you are eating
dinner?" asked Creps.
"Fine rations, indeed!"
eight sat round a tin dish and began to dine.
one of those villains from down below came behind me,
put his hands over my eyes, and called out something
which I did not understand. When he let go, the dish
was almost empty. I tried still to get my share, but
my companions were too quick for me : there was nothing
left. With an empty stomach, I sat looking at them
like an owl staring at the sun. But afterwards I paid
out that Frenchman with the big moustaches and little
eyes. My kicks have given him some blue marks on
the legs, which he won't find very pleasant."
"Fighting already, Donatus! You must be more
peaceable, my friend, or you will have a rough life with
those comrades of yours," said Roozeman.
"Fighting, indeed, sir! Why, after six of them
had set upon me with blows and kicks, they chucked
me out of their brigands' nest down below, up on to the
deck I went to the captain to complain, who speaks a
sort of sea-Dutch and understands me. But he only
swore at me, and said that each must do his best to
get his share in the mess. 'So much the worse,' he
added, 'for the lazy ones.' "
"He was right there; you must try and follow his
"Try, gentlemen! That is not necessary. All my
life I have eaten out of a common dish. If it had only
to do with eating fast, and swallowing hot beans, I
could teach those Frenchmen how to do it. Wait a
little. They'll soon see with whom they have to deal.
None of their blows can hurt me, and I will give them
such kicks as will take the skin off their shins."
Victor tried to calm his anger, and in the company
of the Antwerpers he forgot his ill-humour. No one
in the cabin understood him, and as they perceived that,
notwithstanding his coarse appearance, he was a sensible
fellow and grateful for any kindness, they let him remain
some time in their company.
While they were walking about together, Jan chaffed
him about the burgomaster's daughter and the young
lady of the castle, one of whom Donatus wished to
marry on his return from the gold country. The young
peasant looked serious, and had to confess to a more
modest attachment. For years he had fixed his choice
on one of the daughters of the police constable of Natten
Haesdonck, and the girl liked him; but the father, who
possessed some acres of land, had rejected him with con-
tempt because he was too poor, even after his aunt had
left him 1600 francs. All he had said about the burgo-
master's daughter and the lady of the castle was empty
boasting; Anneken, the constable's daughter, was his
only sweetheart. In shame and despair he had left his
native village because Anneken's father had shown him
to the door, when he had ventured to confess the wishes
of his heart. The only cause for his journey to the
gold land, was his desire to lay a large nugget of gold at
the constable's feet, and thus bring him to consent to
his marriage with his daughter. Anneken had promised
to wait, although her father wished to make her take
another husband, but she vowed she would marry none
other than her poor Donatus Kwik. He spoke with
such admiration of Anneken, that Victor was quite
pleased to listen to him; for his own case resembled that
OFF TO CALIFORNIA.
AT SEA. 27
of Donatus, whose words made him think of Lucia and
Thus they chatted of the friends they had left behind,
and of their plans for the future, till night obliged them
to seek rest in their cabins.
THE LION S DEN.
HE Jonas continued her voyage under favourable
winds. The food, although for the most part
only salt meat and beans, was distributed in
sufficient quantity to appease the hungry passengers.
The splendid weather and the quick voyage filled all
hearts with courage and hope.
A cloud, however, threatened the peace of the ship.
There were in the third class more than a hundred pas-
sengers; among whom were sixty Frenchmen, and at least
thirty Germans from the banks of the Rhine. Already a
sort of rivalry had arisen between the two nations, which
had once ended in a fight in which a German had
received a cut in the arm. The captain, seeing here a
good chance for showing his authority, ordered both the
aggressor and the wounded man to be thrown into a dark
and damp place at the bottom of the hold, which was
called The Lion's Den.' The friends of the condemned
wished to oppose the execution of this sentence; but the
captain said that he would give all those who dared to
resist him over to the police at the first port which they
approached, and that in any case he would disembark
them there. Those who did not wish to lose their
THE LION'S DEN.
passage-money or to interrupt their journey to Cali-
fornia, therefore, had nothing to do but to submit as
best they could.
This event made a deep impression on all. The
passengers felt that the captain was a man who did not
hesitate to carry his threats into execution. His ordi-
nary behaviour, too, tended much to increase his autho-
rity. He usually stood upon the poop, quite alone, with
a hard and stern look on his face. When a passenger
addressed him, or complained of anything, he only
answered in a short and sharp tone, and would not enter
into any conversation.
Roozeman and Creps walked up and down the deck
almost the whole day, speaking of their past lives, and
of their friends at home, or chatted of the gold they
hoped to find, of the marvels they were about to
see in California, and, above all, of their joyous return to
their own country.
As to their messmates, they now saw that they had
judged them rather too hastily. The German banker
proved to be a well-educated man, who hated both rude
manners and silly jokes; the young gentleman had be-
come quiet, and seemed sad; the others were boisterous,
indeed, but no one was obliged to listen to their senseless
remarks. The strangest of their companions was the
man who called himself a doctor of medicine. From
morning to night he drank spirits. The few bottles of
brandy which he privately possessed were soon emptied,
but he had found a new way of procuring every day a
supply of strong drink. He went over the decks and
OFF TO CALIFORNIA.
through the cabins, and used all sorts of stratagems to
persuade one or other of the passengers to give him their
ration of gin.
It was this doctor who had given Donatus Kwik a
pint of salt water with cayenne pepper in it, as a remedy
for sea-sickness. The peasant had given him the nick-
name of Dr. Gin-nose.
Long and weary days followed each other. Many of
the passengers had lost their cheerfulness, they would
sit for hours on the deck doing nothing, busy only with
their own thoughts. Many were tortured by remorse
for an ill-spent life; others were bitterly repenting evil
conduct and hasty resolutions.
On the sixteenth day of the voyage the passengers
were sitting at their mess-tables. For the last forty-
eight hours the weather had been wet, and the sun
hidden behind a thick curtain of fog, but now the sky
began to brighten, and some one announced with joy
that the Peak of Teneriffe was to be seen, though the
steersman said that it was still twenty-five miles distant.
Our friends went on deck and gazed towards the hori-
zon, where the Canary Islands seemed to float on the
surface of the ocean at the foot of the gigantic peak,
whose summit, covered with eternal snow, pierces the
clouds and seems to reach the heavens.
While the two Antwerpers were admiring this magni-
ficent sight they heard a great noise behind them of
people fighting. They saw Donatus Kwik running out
of the cabin, pursued by three or four men, uttering
curses upon him, as they dealt him violent blows. One
THE LION'S DEN.
of them was especially furious, striking Donatus on the
head with his fist. He was a robust man, with long red
moustaches and very little eyes.
Kwik, though he called for help, defended himself
vigorously, and rushing at his foes, kicked at their legs
to the right and left, causing them to utter loud cries of
Victor ran to the poor fellow's help, placing himself
between him and his assailants. The Frenchman with
the red moustaches dealt the young man a blow in the
chest, when he asked him to listen to reason. Then
Victor seized the Frenchman and threw him on the
ground; but as he clung on to him, both rolled down on
the deck. Creps now ran up, pushing away two or three
men who endeavoured to keep him back. Donatus raved
liked a madman, and soon the whole deck was in con-
fusion. But the stern captain appeared; he stopped the
fray by an imperious gesture, and by the words, "Hands
Then began complaints from both sides. The French-
man with the red moustaches said, "It is impossible to
eat at the same mess with the furious Fleming.
Scarcely have we our spoons in our hands, than
he swallows the meat and beans all burning hot, and
when we ask him to leave something for the others
he only laughs at us and eats faster than ever. And at
the least remonstrance, too, he kicks at us like a mad-
man. Look, captain, look at the marks on my legs! "
And with this he bared his leg and showed the blood
flowing down it.
32 OFF TO CALIFORNIA.
Donatus exclaimed that they had forced him to eat so
soon teach this
order not to die
be insulted with impunity.
of hunger; that
that a Fleming was not to
His threats were so noisy
that the captain put an end
with these words,-
Put this mad fellow into
den for three days."
This order struck Donatus with
thought that there really were lions in the hold of the
ship: he gazed at the captain as if he had not rightly
but when he felt himself seized by the
sailors he began to sob aloud, and fell on his knees before
the captain with outstretched
hands and eyes filled with
The two friends tried to obtain a reversal of this
that it would
be a shameful in-
from the first
he tried to make the captain understand how
day the poor fellow had
on the other hand, made light of the
whole affair, and asked for Donatus's pardon in a polite
and sensible manner; making out that he was a stupid
lout, and hardly responsible for his actions.
Whether it was these words which
took effect on his
heart, or Kwik's
humble attitude, the captain
peased, and said to the sailors, "Let him go."
he was released, went up to
kissed it, and said
" Mr. Roozeman, I thank you a thousand times for your
for you I would throw myself into the fire!"
THE LION'S DEN.
But the captain ordered him into the cabin, changed
his mess, gave him Germans for mates, and said severely,
as he left him, "Take care that I never hear of you
again, or you'll repent it."
( 34 )
HE Jonas had now been five weeks at sea, and
i was rapidly approaching the Equator, where
the rays of the sun possess such burning power.
The passengers began to get disgusted with the constant
salt meat, all the other provisions being exhausted.
There were poor fellows among them who would have
gone round the deck on their knees for a cigar or a pipe
of tobacco. The quart of water which was daily distri-
buted to each was not enough for most of them, owing to
the great heat and a diet of nothing but salt food and dry
biscuits. At last they arrived beneath the Equator. Here
the Jonas was stopped by one of those long calms which
seafaring men fear almost more than a violent tempest.
The sea was smooth and glittering as a mirror; not a
breath of wind stirred its surface. The sun blazed
like a globe of molten copper in the heavy leaden sky,
scorching everything on which his rays fell, so that the
decks had constantly to be watered with sea water to
prevent the wood from cracking and the pitch from
melting. The sails hung motionless from the masts,
and the ship lay like a dead carcase in the midst of the
THE EQUATOR. 35
vast ocean, which appeared to all on board like a bound-
The passengers crept about in despair; stifled, breath-
less, they had lost all courage under this terrific heat,
and sought in vain, on the deck and in the hold, for
some cool spot to rest in: but the atmosphere was equally
burning and suffocating everywhere. The lack of water
made their suffering still more painful. Many, tortured
by dry throats and parched tongues, exhausted their
rations before the sun's rays fell directly on their heads,
and passed the rest of the day struggling in misery
If they thus suffered on the first day of the calm,
what would their condition be should they have to remain
stationery for several weeks in the midst of this furnace
and in so terrible an atmosphere?
On the second day there was no wind, and the heat
appeared doubled. Fearing lest this prolonged calm
might exhaust their stock of water, which must be made
to last till they reached the shores of America, the cap-
tain announced that the safety of all forced him to issue
a cruel decree. Henceforth each passenger would only re-
ceive a pint of water daily. This order was received with
bitter murmurs, but the captain made them understand
that this calm might last a month, and that the water
must be spared to save all the passengers and crew
from perishing. To convince them, he related how,
on the very spot where the Jonas now lay, a Portu-
guese ship had once been found, which was supposed to
be abandoned. When she was boarded, nearly a hundred
36 OFF TO CALIFORNIA.
corpses were found in her. They learned from the log-
book that the passengers had seized upon the stock of
water by force, and used it recklessly. The entry was
made six weeks before, and it was plain that those
hundred men had all died of thirst-a horrible death,
caused by their own folly. The captain added that
he must take care to guard the Jonas from such a
misfortune, and that he would shoot the first man who
dared to touch a water-barrel.
Victor Roozeman bore his hardships with courage, but
he thought more than ever of his dear ones at home. He
remembered, too, the beautiful walks round Antwerp
under the shady trees on the banks of the Scheldt, where
the purest air was breathed, so different from this stifling
furnace. His mind wandered away to his mother's little
garden, where, after his day's work, he used to sit so
quietly and contentedly till she called him in to supper.
Jan did not say much; he found their position extremely
disagreeable, but then, they were not the first who had
.had to endure a similar fate. To-day or to-morrow,
perhaps, the wind might rise, and then there would be
an end to their misery. These thoughts, however, did
not prevent Jan from frequently exclaiming that he
would give five years of his life for a pail of cold water
from his father's pump.
The most contented in appearance was Donatus Kwik.
Hle carried his ration of water in a bottle hung round his
neck by a string, and he used it so carefully that twice
at the end of a day he had been able to refresh Victor
and Jan by giving them a drink from his bottle.
THE EQUATOR. 37
When questioned how he was able thus to resist the
cravings of thirst, he explained it in a way which proved
that he possessed great power of will.
Donatus may be a fool, but when his life is at stake
he becomes cunning as a fox. I will tell you how I
manage it. In the morning I get my ration of water,
don't I ? You think I begin to drink it in a hurry like
the others! No. I put the key of my trunk in my
mouth, and keep biting it, which makes my stomach
imagine it is drinking, till I can bear the thirst no longer,
when I take in a very little water; then I begin gnaw-
ing the key again. I drink no gin, I don't smoke. At
dinner I eat no meat, for it is salt, and I take as little
food as possible. Thus I am half hungry, half thirsty,
but it is easier to bear the half of each evil than the
whole of either."
( 38 )
AYS passed away, and still not a cloud was
seen on the horizon; the sun continued as
Scorching, and the air as sultry as ever.
One morning many passengers remained in their
berths, complaining that they had scarcely sufficient
strength to move.
The news rapidly spread throughout the ship that a
disease had broken out between decks. Some said it
was the cholera, others typhus, others yellow fever. All
trembled and turned pale, for any one of those maladies
was enough to kill off the whole crew in a very short
time, and here were a hundred persons huddled toge-
ther in close quarters beneath a burning sky !
The passengers were still shuddering from these terrible
tidings when Donatus Kwik, who was leaning over the
gunwale amusing himself by throwing things into the
sea, uttered a loud cry, as if he had seen something
"A whale! two whales! he exclaimed, running to-
wards Roozeman;" they have mouths as big as an oven,
and teeth at least a hundred, which they grind and snap
together like a threshing machine! I threw them an
old shoe just now: they swallowed it like an almond."
During so long and dreary a voyage the least incident
is a distraction. All, therefore, whose attention had
been aroused by Kwik's exclamation hastened to the
ship's side, and gazed into the sea, calm and transparent
as glass. They saw, indeed, not two, but six or eight
fish of extraordinary size. Whatever was thrown to
them, wood, iron, or pieces of rope, these monsters
jumped up for, hustling against each other, and
swallowed in an instant.
The doctor passed along, half-drunk, as usual. Glanc-
ing into the water he said, laughing,-
Ah! ah! there are the mourners for the dead! A
bad sign, gentlemen: the epidemic will claim its victims.
Those fish can smell, a hundred leagues off, that a man
is going to die at sea, and they are gnashing their teeth
and flapping their tails with joy because they expect a
good meal here. Look well down their huge mouths,
so that you may know the way, for it's a road many of
you will have to take ere long. As for me, I am too
much wanted here; those man-eaters wont have me
After this cruel mockery he went off.
The horrible thought that the bodies of those who
succumbed to the disease would be cast into the sea and
devoured by these hungry sharks quenched the last
spark of courage in the hearts of most of the passengers.
Next morning the doctor was found dead in his cabin,
with two empty bottles by his side. As so many
passengers were ill the doctor
hold of some
and his end was owing
his drinking so much of
fallen a victim, to that demon Drink, to whom, like so
many others both on shore and at sea, he had so blindly
yielded himself up.
Donatus met his two friends he exclaimed,
Dr. Gin-nose is dead!
the cayenne pepper he made me swallow.
think that the sharks had come for him "
In so crowded a vessel, where an epidemic had already
broken out, and in such an atmosphere,
that the remains of the doctor
it was necessary
be removed with
the utmost haste.
bell slowly tolled
as for a funeral; all
the passengers who were not in bed were summoned on
deck, and ranged on one side
of the ship.
sailors came up with
solemnly towards the place where the passengers
The poor doctor was sewn up in his
as in a sack, and a quantity of coal was put in to make
it sink to the bottom.
every arrangement for committing the body to the deep,
the captain took off his
cap and began to repeat the
The passengers also uncovered;
most of them shuddered
scene about to take place(
at the idea
e, and which
of the terrible
turn might so shortly be obliged to take part in.
The prayers were soon over.
On a sign
captain the sailors lowered the plank on which the body
rested to the surface of the sea, turned it over, and thus
threw the corpse into the deep. Most of the spectators
were looking over the side into the sea, but all drew
back with a shriek of horror at the terrible sight of the
hungry sharks disputing with each other for their prey.
Before the day was over five more victims of the
epidemic which raged between decks were cast into the
sea. Terror filled all hearts; some ran restlessly about
the deck, as if seeking a refuge out of the pestilential
circle in which they were imprisoned; others wandered
about like madmen. Many deplored that mad thirst for
gold which had led them on this fatal voyage.
Towards evening a terrible agony fell upon Victor.
While he was sitting on a bench beside his friend and
Kwik, talking sadly of happy Belgium, of beautiful
Antwerp, and the dear ones they had left there, while
Creps was still trying to inspire him with confidence
and hope, Jan's voice suddenly changed in an alarming
manner. A death-like paleness came over his face, his
eyes were glassy, and his limbs stiffened. These were
all signs of the disease. Jan Creps, the kind-hearted
fellow, the faithful friend, was about to die; perhaps
before the sun shone again the monsters of the deep
would have devoured his remains!
Such a thought filled Roozeman with despair; he
addressed a thousand consoling words to his friend,
words which he did not believe .himself. Donatus
holding one of his hands, tried to relieve his pain.
Jan endeavoured to struggle against the malady, and
make his friends think he was not so ill as he appeared
OFF TO CALIFORNIA.
to be; but soon his strength failed him, and with a sigh
he sank into his friend's arms, crying,-
"Water! water! water! My life for a draught of
water Water alone can save me !"
On hearing these words Victor jumped up and ran to
the captain, falling at his feet. He prayed, he offered a
handful of bank-notes, all that he possessed, for a pint
of water. But the captain remained as stern and silent
as if he did not even see the poor young fellow, who
was begging for the life of his friend.
Victor repeated his supplications to the mate, but
with the same ill success. Then he rushed towards a
water barrel, and laid his hands upon it. Three or four
sailors threatened him with their knives, and as even
the cold steel at his breast did not cause him to retire,
they fell upon him flinging him back some distance off
on to the deck.
Fearing now that there was no hope for his friend,
poor Roozeman sank down in despair, when a sailor
offered him half-a-pint of water in exchange for his
gold watch. Gladly did Victor sacrifice the treasured
present of his mother to prolong his friend's life-if
only for an hour! He ran to Creps and put the bottle
to his lips, pouring the refreshing draught into his
The sick man's strength seemed soon to return; he
begged his friend to help him to his bed, as he felt
exhausted and longed for rest.
All night Victor was in a state of terrible anxiety.
Seated with Donatus by his suffering friend's bedside,
: I:r -.
Three or four sailors threatened him with their knives.
he heard nothing but the melancholy cry, "Water!
water! water!" without being able to do anything to
satisfy it; for he could not have obtained a drop of
water in exchange for a whole fortune.
There came, too, a terrible moment, when Jan in
delirium no longer cried for water, but threw himself
about, howling like a madman, all his limbs writhing,
so that it seemed as if he would die in a fit of convul-
sions. Suddenly he started up, and said in a hollow
voice, and with bitter irony,-
"To California! You will go to California? Poor
madman! What are you going to seek there? Gold ?
Isn't there gold enough in your own country for him
who will earn it by industry and intelligence ? Happi-
ness ? Simpleton! Happiness does not dwell so far off:
it is where our cradle lay; in our father's house, in our
mother's eyes, amid our friends at home. The demon
of gold has tempted you; you longed to be rich without
working for it; to break the law which God has graven
in our hearts. He will punish you! Instead of gold
you will find misery, shame, death! death, and a
horrible tomb in the ocean's depths! "
Then he fell back in his bed, and was silent.
Victor felt utterly crushed by these terrible words,
which were only the echo of his own thoughts.
Kwik sat at the foot of the bed, and muttered, "Ah,
stupid animal that you are! this will teach you to go
to California! You will be eaten by sharks You have
richly deserved it! "
Later on in the night the fever seemed to have
OFF TO CALIFORNIA.
left the sick man. He breathed more freely, and
appeared to be slumbering.
Donatus had fallen asleep, his head on his knees; in
his dreams he talked aloud of his native village.
Roozeman, who continued to watch, was much touched
by the poor peasant's words:-
"Ah, Blesken, my dear cow! won't you eat that
tender grass ? You are dainty, are you? Perhaps you
are thirsty; it is so hot, isn't it? Come to the brook,
there is pure water, clear as crystal, and so fresh So
fresh, it is like velvet going down your throat. Bles,
Bles, there's Anneken yonder; she is looking at us
with her little black eyes, making signs, and laughing.
The fair comes next week, Bles. Anneken! dear
Anneken next week, isn't it ? Didn't you hear, Bles,
with what a sweet voice she called to me, 'Yes, Donatus,
next week?' What happiness! Bles, I shall go mad
with joy !"
HEN the sun rose next morning in a sky as cloud-
less as ever, Jan still lived, but eight more
.corpses were found in the third-class cabins.
The loss of so many companions, the sight of those
horrible funerals and of hungry sharks swimming round
the ship, filled the passengers with utter despair as well
as grim anger. Threats against the captain were heard
between decks, and men might here and there be seen
opening and sharpening their knives as if they were
preparing for a death-struggle.
The distribution of the daily ration of water calmed
for a few moments the storm which raged in the pas-
sengers' breasts. But towards noon, when the sun had
turned the deck of the Jonas into an unbearable
furnace, they began to urge each other on to violent
measures, exclaiming, Water, water, or death.!"
Neither Victor nor Donatus were present; they were
in their sick friend's cabin. His delirium had now left
him, and he listened to their consoling words with
The captain stood on the poop, anxiously watching all
46 OFF TO CALIFORNIA.
the movements of the passengers. When he saw that
matters were taking a serious turn he made signs to the
sailors, and giving each of them a six-barrelled revolver,
he posted them round the spot where the water-barrels
stood. Then, holding his pistol in his hand, he called
out in a loud voice to the passengers, Mad fellows that
you are! Do you wish the Jonas to share the fate of
the Portuguese ship ? You are crying out for water or
death. Water you shan't have, but death you shall, if
you dare to approach two paces nearer to us."
The passengers retreated, nevertheless they still
murmured and cast fierce looks at the captain, but the
sight of the sailors with their revolvers and cutlasses,
cooled their wrath, and made them hesitate.
However, the most desperate fellows among them had
gathered round the bows, where they mutually excited
each other, consulting as to how they could best attack
the captain. There were three or four who had already
drawn the handspikes from the capstan, and it seemed
as if the deck of the Jonas must soon be the scene of a
At that moment a strange cry escaped from the lips
of an old sailor. Trembling, he pointed with his finger
over the wide ocean, and exclaimed,-
"Captain, look! Look yonder to the south-west "
"Don't turn away your eyes from those mad fel-
lows! the captain said to his men, while he rapidly
turned his telescope towards the horizon. Then utter-
ing an exclamation of joy, he waved his hat in the air,
and cried aloud,---
"Hurrah, Hurrah Deliverance! God sends us help:
rain and wind "
At this announcement such a strange fierce smile
-passed over the faces of most of the passengers, that
they looked as if smitten with some insanity: but the
knives disappeared, the handspikes fell upon the deck;
they wept, danced, embraced the sailors, who had now
approached them, and pointed out to them a little black
cloud which had risen on the horizon, and which was
rapidly increasing in size. At the certainty of this
unhoped-for deliverance, many of them threw themselves
on their knees, and raised their hands in gratitude to
the good God Who had not been unmindful of them in
their sore trouble, and was now about to send them that
gracious rain and cool breeze for which they had all
so earnestly longed during the last few terrible days.
The good news quickly spread to the remotest parts
of the ship. Even the sick were roused to new life, and
implored the aid of their friends to be led up on deck.
It would rain, they said. To be wet, to feel the fresh
water 'from above stream down upon their limbs, to
breathe a moist air, oh, what joy what happiness!
Jan was carried on to the deck by Victor and Donatus.
Tears of hope and joy ran down his cheeks as he fixed
his eyes upon the black cloud which, like a messenger
from the Lord, was about to bring to these poor faint
creatures, relief and health.
With eager eyes did the passengers still scan the
horizon. Their hearts were beating, their nerves quiver-
ing; they had forgotten everything, even their thirst,
48 OFF TO CALIFORNIA.
as they gazed at the horizon. At first they could only
see a little black cloud, but now this appeared to be
drawing into its bosom all the mists of the air, and now
it had grown so large that, like a dark wall, it covered
the whole of the southern sky.
The captain gave orders that every preparation should
be made for collecting the rain water. All disposable
sails were stretched upon the deck, barrels, pails, and
basins, were placed at corners where the water was
likely to flow.
Scarcely were these preparations finished before the
whole heavens were obscured as by a dense black
pall. Then the lightning flashed, the thunder rolled
and rattled, the flood-gates of heaven were opened, and
torrents of water fell splashing down upon the Jonas's
What joy! How the poor passengers could drink
now, wash themselves, and feel the cool water like a
healing balm drip over their parched bodies!
Jan, poor sick, exhausted Jan, now embraced his two
friends, exclaiming, "God be praised I feel revived !
I shall not die!" The storm lasted for two hours. The
thunder rolled terribly. Constant flashes of lightning
wrapped the Jonas in a dazzling mass of fire; the con-
tending winds made the ship reel and shiver, almost
threatening to sink her; but all this was nothing now
that they had water, and felt a cool moist air once more
in their lungs. The most timid laughed and clapped
his hands in the midst of the storm. When at last the
tempest abated, the wind still continued to blow steadily,
and, fortunately, in a direction favourable to the voyage
of the gold-seekers.
the Jonas now darted
sound of the joyful hurrahs of all her passengers.
( 50 )
HE ship, as if desirous to make up for lost time,
sailed so quickly that in a few days it came
in sight of Brazil. The sick passengers reco-
vered rapidly; the sufferings they had endured were
forgotten. Already they began to sigh again for the
gold of California. They talked gaily of the mines,
of the treasures which they would amass there, and of
all that they would do on their return to their native
Creps, though still weak, was quite convalescent.
Doubtless he was ignorant of the severe judgment
which, during his delirium, he had pronounced against
the voyage, for his renewed life had doubled his courage,
and he looked with unlimited confidence upon the future
which was opening out before him. His friend Rooze-
man shared these feelings, and he already imagined
himself in the mines, finding gold nuggets in abundance;
or returned to his native land, and standing beside
Lucia at the altar, hearing the voice of the clergyman
pronounce, "Be united in the name of the Lord."
Donatus Kwik spent hours walking on the deck in
company with the two friends, amusing them by his
funny remarks and odd manner. At other times he
lounged between decks chattering with everybody, in a
jargon of French, English, and German, of which only
a word here and there could be understood.
The Jonas had another severe trial to undergo, and
death once more stood between her passengers and the
promised land of gold. This time so threatening was
the danger, that all on board fell on their knees, and,
with hands stretched out to Heaven, implored God's
help and mercy. When rounding Cape Horn, they
were assailed by long and terrific storms; and one night
they perceived through the darkness that they were
surrounded by immense icebergs, and the sailors them-
selves, giving up all hopes of safety in the ship, wished to
lower the boats and abandon her at this dreadful crisis.
But the Lord had pity on these poor terrified creatures,
and the captain, by his coolness, was able with marvel-
lous skill to avoid the icebergs; thus the gold-seekers
again escaped from the tomb which yawned before them.
At last they reached the Pacific Ocean, between Valpa-
raiso and Tahiti.
Nearly five months had elapsed since the day they
left Antwerp; another forty days of fair weather and
they would set foot on the shore of the wonderful land,
the one object of their desires, and the reward of all the
hardships they had suffered. All hearts beat with
excitement, all eyes glistened with hope and impatience.
During this latter part of the voyage only one incident
OFF TO CALIFORNIA.
disturbed the peace which reigned on board the Jonas.
Very early one morning Donatus Kwik ran upon deck
crying for help. To those who inquired what was the
matter he replied,-
"The captain! quick! quick! my money has been
stolen! Cheat! rogue I am robbed Oh my poor
money, my poor money!"
When the captain understood what had made Donatus
so desperate, he took up the matter very seriously.
According to the peasant's story, some one had, during
the night, broken the lock of his travelling bag, and
stolen from it four English bank-notes.
All the third-class passengers were summoned on
deck and minutely searched by the sailors. Then all
their boxes and trunks were opened and examined, but
no trace was found of the missing bank-notes.
Poor Kwik cried like a child, tore his hair, and filled
the air with his complaints. His friends, Creps and
Roozeman, tried to comfort him with the assurance
that he would find his notes at last; and when this
seemed to have no effect upon him, they told him that,
once in California, he would not need any money, nor
know what to do with it; for immediately on their
arrival the agents of the Company would provide them
with good food, comfortable lodgings, and, in fact, all
that they required.
It was, nevertheless, quite impossible to rouse Kwik
from his state of dejection. Roozeman, whom old
Captain Moreels had not allowed to start without some
money, took a bank-note from his pocket-book and
offered it to the poor fellow. Donatus gratefully accepted
the gift, and appeared a little consoled by it; neverthe-
less, from that day forward he led a doleful life on
board the ship. Whenever he was down below or on
deck he played the part of spy on everybody; he slunk
off to listen to the most private conversations; followed
all the movements of the passengers' hands, and it was
plain that he never looked at any one without the
thought in his mind that the thief might be before him.
The passengers, irritated by this suspicion, ill-treated
him, pushing him out of their way; he defended himself
by kicks to the right and left, but the odds were so great
against him, that he scarcely ever appeared on deck
without a black eye or a bruised nose. It was the
Frenchman with the red moustaches who persecuted
him the most. Donatus had taken it into his head
that his first enemy on board the ship was also the
robber of his bag, and the Frenchman could read this
suspicion in his eyes. One day, after he had struck
the poor fellow in the face, Victor ran up to defend his
fellow-countryman; Creps had also intervened, so a
violent struggle took place on the deck.
The captain, after hearing explanations from both
sides, ordered the Frenchman to prison for two days.
Henceforth the red moustache cherished a furious hatred
against Kwik, and incited his companions to plague and
annoy him in every possible way.
The winds were still favourable to the Jonas. At
last, when the captain announced that they were close
OFF TO CALIFORNIA.
to the Gulf of San Francisco, a fever of excitement took
possession of all the passengers.
One cloudy afternoon our two friends were sitting with
Donatus Kwik in the second-class cabin, talking, as
usual, about the approaching termination of their long
journey, and their landing in the gold country, and the
grand and generous projects they would carry out when
they once more returned to their native land. Suddenly
their conversation was interrupted by a joyful hurrah
which burst from the deck. They hastened up. There
they heard the triumphant cry of,-
Land! Land! California! San Francisco! Hurrah!"
The fog had dispersed, and the shores of California
lay revealed to their astonished gaze-the two sides of a
strait, which they were told was the Golden Gate,"
or the entrance to the Bay of San Francisco. To the
north and south they beheld an immense chain of moun-
tains, extending far away to the misty horizon. In
the foreground the Monte Diavolo raised its summit,
crowned with gigantic cedars.
As, mute with delight, they were gazing at the light-
house which marked the end of their voyage, the Jonas
reached the Golden Gate and entered the Bay of San
Francisco, studded with numerous islands, and large
enough to contain all the fleets of the world. They
cast anchor amid hundreds of vessels of all sizes and of
all nations, and the passengers, almost weeping for joy
and full of enthusiasm, rushed in crowds to that side
of the ship which was nearest the shore.
EVERAL boats came and went, from the Jonas
to the shore, to land the passengers.
Sixty of them were actually on the quay,
with their boxes and trunks, waiting for the directors or
agents of the Californian Company, whom they expected
to remove their luggage, and take them to the huts or
wooden houses which had been prepared for the recep-
tion of the shareholders.
All this time our two friends and Kwik were staring
at the strange-looking people standing by or passing
near them. It was not the Mexicans with their brilliant
costumes who most attracted their attention, nor the
Chinese with their long coats and pigtails, nor the
mulattoes with their broad chestnut-coloured faces, nor
even the half-savage natives of California. What was
most strange to them was the appearance of the Euro-
peans, who, probably, like themselves, had left their
native land in search of gold. Most of these were dirty
and ragged, with hair and beard neglected, and in dis-
order. But however miserable might be their dress,
all carried a revolver or a long knife in their belts, and
OFF TO CALIFORNIA.
walked with head erect, casting proud looks to the right
and left. Persons might be seen, too, rambling about,
whose dress and manner bespoke an easy position and a
distinguished education, yet who seemed on a footing of
perfect equality with those whose faces wore the impress of
vice and wretchedness. They saw men whom we should
take for beggars or thieves shake hands with one who had
the air of a nobleman, or brutally push away, pistol in hand,
those who had merely touched them as they passed.
"What a repulsive look all those people have!"
sighed Roozeman. "I should never have taken them
for anything better than a band of brigands. How dirty
and savage they are!"
"My head feels quite giddy," said Kwik. "Here,
they say, one has nothing to do to get gold but to pick it
up; it seems to me it would be better for those men to
pick up new trousers and new shoes. I begin to fear we
shall have to repent of our voyage. Oh! if I only had
my five hundred francs!"
"You look at everything on the dark side," said Jan,
laughing; "it stands to reason that all who come to
California do not become rich at once. These people are
probably travellers just arrived, like ourselves. They
have not had time or opportunity yet to go to the gold
mines; not being, as we are, shareholders of a Company
which provides for their maintenance, they suffer no
little misery and distress. Observe, nevertheless, how the
hope or certainty of soon becoming rich swells their
hearts and makes them proud. This is the fulfilment of
that dream which the noblest hearts in Europe so ardently
SAN FRANCISCO. 57
desire-fraternity and equality among all men and all
nations, without any distinction of blood or rank."
"Yes, but fraternity with all those pistols and long
knives inspires me with very little confidence," replied
Donatus. "If those fellows with their tangled beards
who stare at us so strangely are my brethren-well, I
should prefer not to meet any of those members of my
family, alone, in a wood!"
"You don't understand," answered Jan; "the arms
in those men's belts are signs of liberty and independence.
Have you not heard that in the United States of America
no one goes about without a revolver? But that is a
powerful and civilised nation, which gives the best ex-
ample of liberty and independence to the whole world.
You will experience it "
Just then a tolerably well-dressed gentleman, with a
proud and noble countenance, approached Creps, and
offered to carry their baggage to the town. The Flemings
gazed at him with wonder, and Jan answered in English
that they did not at the moment require his services, as
they were expecting people from the town to take charge of
their luggage. Roozeman asked him very politely, how
it was that such a gentleman as he appeared to be, was
obliged to resort to such hard work as that to earn a few
"A few shillings!" repeated the other, smiling. "It
isn't such a bad employment as you think. I earn eight
and sometimes twelve dollars a-day by it."
"What does he say?" cried Kwik, who during the
voyage had picked up a little English. "Twelve dollars!
58 OFF TO CALIFORNIA.
sixty francs a day! Oh, what a charming country One
does not require much wit to carry baggage. Now I
fear nothing. At Natten-Haesdonck I had to work like
a horse, and I scarcely earned two dollars a-month, with
my board and lodging."
And he laughed and clapped his hands, as if the cer-
tainty of escaping such misery had made him mad with joy.
The Englishman, who thought he was making fun of
him, put his hand to his knife, and cast a threatening
look at the amazed Donatus, as he turned away.
"A very touchy brother that," murmured the fright-
ened Kwik between his teeth. "A little more and he
would have stuck me like a pig. Say what you like,
gentlemen, all these fellows here resemble a band of
brigands, who are trying to pick a quarrel with you in
order to rob or murder you."
Thus saying, he took up his bag, pressing it tightly to
him, as if he feared lest it should be stolen.
"Since you lost your bank-notes you see robbers
everywhere," said Jan. "That gentleman did not under-
stand you, he thought you were laughing at him: no
wonder that he was annoyed."
He was interrupted by a great noise and by the com-
plaints of the passengers, who, like himself, were waiting
beside their luggage. They had been informed that
neither directors nor agents of the California Company
had yet arrived at San Francisco. The Jonas was the
second of the Company's vessels which had appeared in
the bay, and, doubtless, the ship containing the directors
and instruments of labour had been detained by contrary
winds. Next day it would probably be sighted. Besides
this, no one knew anything about the "California Com-
pany," and all that the passengers could do now was to
act upon the American proverb, "Help yourself."
Night was coming on; they must therefore seek a
lodging, or, at all events, some shelter.
Two men ran up together to carry Victor's trunk,
which was rather large. Both had their hands on it;
one pushed the other away violently, and with coarse
language. One drew his knife and threatened to stab
the other, but he jumped on him like a furious tiger, tore
away his knife from him, throwing it a long distance off,
and then struck him on the face with such force that the
blood streamed from his nose and mouth, and, revolver in
hand, he vowed that he would blow out his brains if he
came a step nearer.
"Odd sort of brothers!" murmured Donatus, pale
"He is a tiresome fellow," said the victor in French,
as he put the box on his shoulder; "one of these days I
shall be obliged to put a ball in his head. Where do you
gentlemen wish to go ?"
"But, I say, where is my trunk?" cried Creps sud-
denly; "it was here beside me just now."
"Ah! you speak Flemish, do you ?" asked the porter.
"From your accent you are from Antwerp. I am a
"But my trunk! my trunk!" repeated Creps, anxi-
ously ; "where can it be ?"
"Probably it is stolen," replied the Brusseller.
OFF TO CALIFORNIA.
"What am I to do, then ?"
"Nothing. You'll never hear of it again."
"Run to the burgomaster! to the police!" cried
"There are no police here," observed the Brusseller.
"Every one is free to do what he likes here. All the
worse for those who are not strong enough or cunning
"And if the mad fellow just now had stabbed you
with his knife, would there have been no justice to
avenge the murder?"
"None. Justice would have plenty to do if it existed
here. At the least word, blood flows between the best
friends: the thirst for gold makes the heart cruel and
pitiless. I was a mild, gentle fellow, when I came to
California, but seven months' work in the mines here
have taught me that a sheep, in order to live among
wolves, must become a wolf himself. In Belgium I did
not like to shoot a rabbit; now I should kill ten men with
my revolver without being more moved than when I
brush off the gnats which are trying to sting me."
Victor and Donatus shuddered when they heard these
words. Jan went some distance off, looking every-
where for some trace of his trunk.
"Useless trouble, comrade," said the Brusseller.
"You won't see it again. Make haste, or you will
have to pay me double, for you make me waste my time.
I can earn four dollars more before night."
So you say," said Creps, "that no justice exists in
the country ?"
"That is to say," replied the porter, no one
meddles with fights or murders; but if a thief is taken
in the act, those who are present-you or I, for
example-sometimes take him and hang him on the
nearest tree, without any trial or sentence. This is
what is called Lynch law here. You will soon become
acquainted with this strange sort of justice. But walk
a little quicker, please; and take care of the mud, of
which there is always plenty in San Francisco after
"Well, plainly enough, all my lamentations won't
bring me back my trunk!" sighed Creps. "It's a
good thing that I put my bank-notes in my pocket."
"Don't talk in that way for people to hear you,"
said the Brusseller.
"Why not ? "
"Don't you understand? If I, for example, was
desirous to possess your bank-notes, what is to prevent
me from stabbing you to the heart with my knife, and
then taking your bank-notes ?"
"You! cried the three friends at once.
"Well, I am not so far gone as that, thank God! I
am only giving you good advice. But you have not
told me yet where you mean to pass the night. There
are hotels of all prices. To sleep one night beneath a
roof one pays ten, five, three or two dollars a-head:
even for one dollar you can sleep on the ground under a
sail. Well, which will you choose ? "
"Five francs to sleep on the ground under a sail! "
exclaimed the Flemings.
OFF TO CALIFORNIA.
"Are you rich ? Have you much money ?" inquired
Much money? No, certainly not! But enough to
sleep for one night in a tolerable bed."
"Very well; I see you are inclined to follow my
advice. The best thing you can do is to give three
dollars a-head. The inns are all very full at San
Francisco, but I know one rather out of the way,
where four or five beds are to be had."
On the way Kwik said to their porter,-
"Tell me, comrade: you have, you say, been some
months in the mines; have you found much gold ?"
"Oh, yes, a great deal."
"How is it, then, that you carry luggage like some
poor unfortunate fellow, instead of living on your
income ? "
"Because I have no longer any gold."
You have been robbed P "
"You have lost it "
"Yes: lost it gambling. I was too eager; I wished
to double my treasures, and fortune took all from me.
I must soon return to the mines, and then I shall be
wiser. Here is your hotel, gentlemen. Open your
purse: two dollars for my trouble."
What!" cried Jan, amazed. "Ten francs for
carrying this trunk some three hundred yards? You
arc joking, surely ? "
"Two dollars, I tell you! "
"And if I refuse to be thus imposed upon ?"
SAN FRANCISCO. 63
"I shall force you to pay me, even if I resort to
"I laugh at your knife !" cried Jan.
"You are wrong, comrade; if you were not my
fellow-countryman you would repent those rash words.
Come, no dangerous quarrelling. Two dollars! "
Roozeman, who feared that his companion would pick
a serious quarrel with this ferocious person, did not
hesitate to pay him the price he demanded.
"Let this teach you to bargain beforehand for the
price of everything," said the Brusseller, very seriously,
as they entered the hotel; and added, Good evening,
gentlemen; if you want me, you will find me on the
quay. For a dollar an hour I am at your service."
The hotel servants took the trunk, and led the
travellers to a wide room upstairs, where there were
Will you sup, gentlemen ? asked a waiter.
Notwithstanding their amazement at all they had seen
and heard, our friends determined to have a good
supper, and even to indulge in a bottle of wine, that
they might forget the everlasting salt meat of the ship.
They were served immediately they entered the dining-
room. The table was a very long one; at one end were
four or five people playing at draughts. Two others
were seated near the Flemings, and were talking in
French about the gold mines, and of the varied success
they had experienced during the past season.
Donatus Kwik, on entering the room, had observed
something which filled him with joyful surprise. Even
64 OFF TO CALIFORNIA.
when his plate of smoking roast beef was placed before
him he did not turn away his eyes from the other end of
the table, where he saw gold-real Californian gold.
Hitherto, with his natural mistrust, he had feared that
he and all his companions on board the Jonas had been
made the victims of a clever and well-planned fraud.
Now he could believe in the gold, for it sparkled before
his eyes. He followed the movements of the gamblers
at the other end of the table; saw how, amid passionate
expressions, they weighed out the gold powder in some
small scales, arranging it in little heaps of an ounce
He was somewhat alarmed to perceive on the table
beside these heaps of gold several revolvers and knives.
Still the fortune he had dreamed of was a reality and
not a delusion. This conviction filled his heart with
courage and confidence; moreover, the men, who handled
the gold as if it were a substance without any value,
did not look any richer than the beggars they had seen
on the quay, for they were quite as dirty and ragged.
The bold air and rude plide of these fellows was now
explained to him: in tatters as they were, they had
their pockets full of gold; that was why they were so
independent, and demanded ten francs for carrying a
trunk about a hundred yards.
Roozeman and Creps also glanced eagerly now and
then at the gamblers and at the glittering gold before
them. But they ate and drank with a good appetite,
chatting gaily of their future journey to the mines,
and of the wealth they would bring back on their
SAN FRANCISCO. 65
triumphant return to Belgium, but especially of what
they would next day write to their relations and friends,
announcing their arrival in the gold country. They
would not say much about the sufferings they had
endured, nor about the savage life of the inhabitants of
San Francisco, for they did not wish to alarm them; on
the contrary, in order to cheer their friends, they would
paint everything in the brightest colours.
At this moment a great noise arose at the other end
of the table-two gamblers had got up a quarrel. They
struck their fists on the table, and threatened each
other with menacing fury. Suddenly, one of them put
the disputed heap of gold into his pocket; but the other,
roaring like a lion, sprang upon him, threw him down
on his back, and, with one knee upon his chest, cried
that he would strangle him if he did not give up the
"Give it up! give it up he cried.
The quarrel continued, and as the only answer he
received was a coarse insult, he seized a long knife from
the table, and with horrible threats held it at the breast
of his prostrate foe. Pale with terror in the prospect of
a murder, the Flemings had sprung up. Kwik, when he
saw the point of the knife at the bosom of the unhappy
gambler, was seized with compassion; a cry escaped him,
and he hastened to the help of the victim. His hand
was already on the would-be murderer, when two or three
of those present, seized him and threw him back with
such violence, that he reeled from one end of the room to
the other, falling at last at the feet of his friends.
OFF TO CALIFORNIA.
The two Antwerpers, indignant at such cruelty, ad-
vanced towards the gamblers, as if to call them to account
for their conduct; but at the sight of a couple of revolvers
and three daggers directed towards them, they stopped in
terror, and one of the strangers said to them in good
"Sit still, gentlemen; respect the law of California.
What goes on here does not concern you; it is our busi-
The man on the ground, seeing that he must yield to
the superior strength of his adversary, promised to give
up the gold. When he had placed it on the table, with
a gloomy air he wished his comrades "Good evening," put
his dagger into his belt, and was about to leave the house,
when an insult, addressed to him in the form of a farewell,
made him retrace his steps. He aimed a violent thrust
with his knife at his foe; two pistol-shots sounded, and
two balls pierced the door of the room. But the fugitive
had disappeared, and those who had pursued him re-
turned, grumbling at their want of success.
The waiters, hearing the pistol-shots, had entered the
room. They at once attended to the wounded man.
He had a terrible gash across the left arm. He howled
and stamped with fury whilst his wound was being
dressed; swore that that very evening he would find
out the cowardly assassin, and lodge a ball in his head.
Then he paid his bill, and hastened out with his com-
The Flemings looked at each other with horror and
SAN FRANCISCO. 67
"It is nothing, gentlemen!" said one of the waiters.
"Does this astonish you! You only arrived in San
Franciso this afternoon, I think? Sit down; shall I
fetch you another bottle of wine ?"
But the friends were too shocked to stay any longer in
the room, and resolved to go to bed at once.
The waiter showed them to the door of their room,
handed them a candle, and wished them Good night."
Kwik went in first; but scarcely had he glanced round
than he retreated with a suppressed cry, pointing out to
his companions something which terrified him.
Upon one of the four beds a huge man was stretched.
His face was almost entirely covered by a disordered
beard; his clothes were coarse and in rags; they saw
the end of a revolver under his pillow, and in his sleep
he put his hand to a long knife which he had in his
The Antwerpers laughed at Kwik's fear, trying to con-
vince him that this person was, like themselves, a guest
of the house.
"Speak low, Mr. Creps!" whispered Donatus. "Per&
haps you are right; still it may be dangerous to awake
that ugly giant. Oh, what a country! Three dollars to
have one's throat cut in a brigand's den! Oh! that I
was only in our hay-loft at Natten-Haesdonck !"
The others agreed that it would be best not to awake
the stranger, so they spoke in a whisper.
Suddenly an angry expression was heard, and a hollow
voice exclaimed in English, "Be quiet there! Put out
OFF TO CALIFORNIA.
Trembling with fright, Kwik extinguished the candle,
Oh get into your beds, and talk no more!"
Victor and Jan took his advice. Creps was soon
asleep; Roozeman was alarmed and out of heart at this
savage life, at the rudeness and coarseness of the people
here, and he remained awake a long time thinking of
the events of the evening. As to Donatus, he dreamed
all night of assassins with long tangled beards, huge
knives, and six-barrelled revolvers.
( 69 )
S WIK was the first to awake in the morning, but
She had scarcely opened his eyes when an anxi-
ous sigh escaped him, and he put his head back
under the blanket as if he had seen a phantom.
The bearded man was standing in the middle of the
room, his piercing glance fixed upon the poor fellow, just
as he awoke from his heavy slumbers. Trembling with
fright, Donatus secretly grasped Creps' hand, who was
snoring besides him, and shook it so that Jan began to rub
his eyes and grumble, while he gazed with amazement at
the stranger, who was washing his hands, and who said in
Good morning, gentlemen; have you slept well?"
"Tolerably, thank you, sir," replied Jan.
"You must be terribly tired," replied the man, as
he continued to wash himself and comb his thick
beard. "I thought that you were probably strolling
Donatus, who had now raised his head, stared at the
man with mistrust and amazement.
"Strolling players!" exclaimed Creps, who had got
70 OFF TO CALIFORNIA.
out of bed: "we are gold-seekers, like most of the popu-
lation of San Francisco."
"You see, gentlemen, that young fellow there, who
seems to be afraid of me, has been talking, singing, cry-
ing, flinging his arms about all night, like a comedian
learning a part. I jumped out of bed and ran to his aid,
for I thought one of you must be killing him."
Jan burst out laughing, and told the stranger the scene
they had witnessed the previous evening.
"You are new-comers here," said the other; "so I
can well understand that you are afraid at the sight of
blood, but that won't last. While waiting here, I advise
you to talk as little as possible with strangers, to be short
in your words and careful in your actions, neither medd-
ling with, nor offering assistance to, anybody."
While they were dressing, Jan continued his friendly
talk with the big man. He was by no means so repul-
sive in countenance, nor so ragged as the Flemings had
taken him to be, by candle-light. On the contrary, he
appeared to be an honest and well-educated young man.
He turned to Jan, and remarked,-
"The sky is blue, it will be fine to day. It is Sunday,
"Sunday! ah, so it is!" exclaimed Donatus. "I
should like to go to Church and say my prayers: we
have many reasons for thanking God, and many for ask-
ing His protection. Mr. Creps, ask that gentleman
where the Church is."
Shrugging his shoulders, the stranger replied with a
bitter smile; "In California there is no other God than
the god of gold; his temples are the gambling-houses
that you will probably see-there is no religion here but
the worship of self and thirst for gain."
With these words he lighted a cigar, then he offered
his case to our friends and insisted on their each taking
one; after which, wishing them "Good day," he left the
They all agreed that their first impression about this
gentleman had been quite wrong, and that he was by no
means so formidable as Donatus, especially, had thought.
As this was the day they had fixed for writing letters,
they asked the waiter, after breakfast, for paper and ink,
and then retiring to their room set to work. There was
no table. Roozeman and Creps had to stand and write
against the wall. Kwik sat on the ground before Victor's
trunk, on which he placed his paper.
Creps had finished first. After waiting some time, and
amusing himself by watching Kwik, he said to Rooze-
"Come, Victor, make haste and finish: it is quite
possible to write a volume about our voyage, but in that
case it would take you till to-morrow morning."
"I have done," said Victor; "but I have had a trou-
ble to arrange my words so that my mother should not
discover all the misery we have had to endure."
When Donatus had at last finished his letter, he ap-
proached the two friends, holding his paper in his hands,
and exclaimed in a triumphant tone: When Anneken's
father receives this he will believe that I must already
be terribly rich, to dare to write thus to him."
OFF TO CALIFORNIA.
"So it ought to
at it for a
quarter of a day."
Creps tried to decipher the letter, and read aloud,--
is to ac-
quaint you that I have arrived in California, happy and
in good health, and hope this finds
you the same.
I go to the
gold well, to draw out a corn-sack
full of it; and if you will keep your Anneken for me till
my return I will make you as rich as the Scheldt is deep at
You know that Anneken
hate me, and that, poor child, she has been half-distracted
since you showed me the door.
You have not a grain of
compassion for your
Donatus; but if you dare to give Anneken to another
whilst I am in the gold country, I will have you turned
out of your post
as garde-champetre, and to your great
you will see me married to the young lady of the
castle, that you
might have lived in yourself,
You have your choice now; consider it
Give my compliments to all friends.
"I have the honour to be
"Gold-seeker in a great hotel in San Francisco, California."
at this threatening
Roozeman tried to persuade the peasant that it would be
the terms a little.
Donatus would not
change a word, and his reason was that the garde-cham-
petre* was an obstinate man, from whom nothing could
ever be obtained by gentleness.
While Jan and Victor were addressing their letters,
"Oh, gentlemen, I have something on my mind! I am
eating and sleeping here without troubling myself who is
to pay. Everything here costs enough to ruin a man.
Ten francs to carry a box for five minutes! Perhaps they
will ask us a hundred francs for those hard morsels of
cow-flesh they served us yesterday, under all sorts of odd
"Do not be unhappy about that; we will pay for
"You are very kind, and I thank you; but I am not
a leech. This afternoon I shall look out for another inn,
and if I have to sleep under a sail, I must do so. It
seems that economy is more necessary in this gold country
than in Belgium; and I think-excuse me for saying so-
you'd do best too, gentlemen, to seek more modest quar-
ters. If you don't, you too may be obliged to carry
travellers' trunks on your heads."
The Antwerpers acknowledged that Donatus was right,
so they called the waiter and asked for their bill. In a
few minutes it was handed to Creps; it was no less than
140 francs for beds and supper, but Victor and Jan were
each able to pay the sum demanded, and they even
resolved to stay another night at the hotel, ruinous as it
was. They had 1,300 francs in bank-notes still left.
74 OFF TO CALIFORNIA.
They had slept very badly last night, still they were now
in a house where the people were honest and civil. It
might be very different elsewhere. Donatus should
remain with them till the morrow, when they must seri-
ously consider what course to pursue until the arrival of
the directors of the "Californian Company."
( 75 )
HE three Flemings roamed about all next day
through the streets of San Francisco, gazing
into the shops and stores, and wondering at the
motley crowd of strange figures in the midst of whom
they were living. Although at that period more than
50,000 men from all nations of the earth elbowed each
other there, San Francisco only consisted of one-sstoreyed
wooden houses, together with a few tents and canvas
sheds, which extended, like suburbs, into the country.
In the evening, on their way back to the hotel, they
passed a gambling-house with the sign "The Verandah,"
A brilliant light shone from it into the street.
Why should we not go in ? asked Creps.
Yes, why should we not see what is going on here? "
"Into a gambling-house !" murmured Victor, hesi-
"Come, come! we needn't gamble. We can get off
with a dollar. We mustn't leave San Francisco without
seeing what a gambling-house is like."
Victor let himself be persuaded, and followed his
friends into the gambling-house, where they sat down on a
76 OFF TO CALIFORNIA.
bench in a corner. They were in a large hall splendidly
lighted, but full of tobacco-smoke and crowded with men.
Some few looked like honest fellows, but most were
ruffians in appearance. There was a deafening sound of
voices, too, heard above that of the band, which, how-
ever, consisted of only one musician, who, with a flageolet
in his mouth, a drum at his back, brass cymbals in his
hands, and a stick with bells upon his head, made more
noise than a whole orchestra of musicians.
At the end of the room was the wide gambling-table,
behind which sat the banker with his numerous assist-
ants. The game they were playing was a Mexican one
called "Monte," which was very fashionable at San
Francisco. Heaps of gold-dust were placed before the
banker, as well as nuggets of gold, bundles of bank-
notes, and gold coins.
The gamblers stood round the table. Some lost in a
few hours all the gold they had won in the diggings;
others were marvellously favoured by fortune. One, who
had begun to play by staking only five dollars, had
already gained 20,000 in less than an hour.
"This is a true gold mine for him who has luck," said
Donatus: "who knows, if I were to venture, that I might
not have a chance ? Two dollars will not make much
difference one way or the other."
Do not play, I beg you! said Victor, in terror.
"Only two dollars If I lose them I stop at once."
"A few dollars will make no difference to us," re-
marked Creps. "I should like to try my hand at this
Victor remained seated, watching his friends, who
approached the table.
When, half-an-hour after, they returned, Jan was
laughing with an air of triumph, while Donatus grumbled
that he had lost seven dollars out of the twenty-five
which Victor had given him on board the Jonas. Creps
had been luckier; at one moment he had actually had
more than 3,000 francs, but fortune having at last
declared against him, on the advice of an American he
had left the table with still about 500 francs in his
Jan now ordered wine for his friends with. the money
he had won. While they were drinking he urged
Roozeman to risk a couple of dollars, just to see whether
fortune would favour him or no. He laughed at his
friend's horror of gambling. Victor, vexed at this,
suddenly got up, and said, Well, if you wish it, I will
play; but on this condition-I shall take out ten dollars
only, and when I have lost that money I insist that we
all return to our hotel, without staying here a minute
"Yes, but if you win ?"
"I shall lose, I know."
"Yoi can't be certain of it."
"But, Jan, why try to keep me here?" said Rooze-
man, sadly. "This gambling-house terrifies me; whether
I win or not, if you refuse to follow me to the hotel, I
shall go alone."
"Come, don't be angry; we accept your condi-
78 OFF TO CALIFORNIA.
The three friends approached the table. Matters
turned out as they often do; Fortune declared herself
in favour of him, who at heart hoped to lose. Roozeman
won several times, and as he placed dollar after dollar
on the table, gold-pieces and bank-notes were heaped up
before him in a surprising manner. This wealth at last
blinded him, and he continued to play as if he did not
know what he was doing.
As to his friends, Creps continued to lose, but Donatus
had a good heap of dollars before him. Fortune was fa-
vouring Victor in such an extraordinary manner that the
banker grumbled as he threw handfuls of gold and bank-
notes to him. A11 surrounded the lucky fellow, and
envious eyes were cast on the riches he had won. Victor
was too absorbed in the game to observe them; he had
almost forgotten that his friends were at his side. Sud-
denly he heard Creps utter a cry of rage.
"I have lost all, I have not a single dollar left !" he
muttered. "Quick, Victor, lend me a couple of hundred
But Roozeman, horror-struck at his friend's wild look,
put the bank-notes and gold which he had won into his
pocket, and said to Jan,-
No, no I let us flee from this house, Don't play
any more. I am off."
Saying these words, he rushed to the door of the room;
his friends followed grumbling; all three left the gambling-
There was a strange hesitation then among the
gamblers. It seemed as if the disappearance of the
lucky young man had cooled the ardour of most of
them. Many left the place.
The Flemings, meanwhile, passed through the
dark streets. It was very late, and they met scarcely
anybody. Roozeman, it was thought, could not have
made less than 40,000 francs, and Donatus had still
about 800. Notwithstanding Creps' loss there was no
reason then to be dissatisfied with the evening's results.
Roozeman himself began to rejoice in his ill-gotten
treasure, for gold had seared his conscience; still he
declared that he should look upon his gains, as belonging
to a common stock.
"It is true," said Jan, "that when the directors of the
Company arrive at San Francisco we shall not want for
anything, but meanwhile we can live comfortably and
remain at our hotel. Besides, this money will enable
us to hasten our return to our native country."
"Forty thousand eight hundred francs! murmured
Donatus; "that makes thirteen thousand six hundred
francs each! Well, if he goes on like this I don't see
why I shouldn't buy either the Castle at Natten-
Haesdonck or a large house in the town."
He skipped about and was beginning to sing with glee,
when a blow from behind threw him down. With the
sudden thought that he was to be robbed of his money,
he put his hand into his pocket and rapidly slipped his
money into his boot, but not before he had lost the tip
of his ear in the scuffle.
Both his friends had been attacked at the same time.
Victor was held down to the ground by three or four
OFF TO CALIFORNIA.
men while two others rifled his pockets. He had
succeeded in getting his arms free from them, and had
seized hold of one of the thieves, when a dagger pene-
trated his side and he was obliged to let go his hold.
But just then voices were heard, proceeding from a
side-street. At the sound the brigands all disappeared
in the darkness.
Jan hastened to Victor, and helped him to rise, but
when he felt the warm blood on his hand, he cried,-
"Oh, Victor! are you wounded ?"
"Slightly;. it will be nothing," was the reply.
"Where ? where ?"
In the side, with a dagger; don't be anxious."
Creps, terrified, wished to knock at the first house to
seek for help, but Victor said he had still enough
strength left, and insisted on going directly to the hotel.
Supported by his friends, they reached their quarters.
Jan made his wounded friend sit down, and begged
that a surgeon should instantly be sent for.
A waiter informed them that a surgeon lived a few
yards off, and that he would call him.
Though the blood was flowing from Victor's side, yet
he laughed and joked, wishing to make his friends
understand that they need not be alarmed, as his wound
was not dangerous.
The surgeon now arrived, and began to dress the wound.
Then, when he had helped his patient to dress again, he
held out his hand to Jan, saying,-
There, gentlemen, the matter is plain enough. One
night visit-an ounce of gold-sixteen dollars, please."
Sixteen dollars Very well. But tell us, at least,
what we have to fear or hope."
"There's nothing to fear. Half-an-inch higher up
and the young gentleman would now have been in
the other world; but as it is, there's nothing serious in
the wound. An ounce of gold-sixteen dollars. I have
no time to lose, and I want to go to bed."
Roozeman searched his pockets. The brigands had
taken everything-gold and bank-notes. Jan, in con-
fusion, besought the surgeon to give them a little time,
only out of pity for their misfortune.
Pity!" replied he, laughing. "Where do you come
from? Pity in California! What a joke! Come, come,
make haste! If I am not paid in ten minutes I shall
ask double! "
"But we have nothing; we have been robbed of all."
"You have probably a watch. Let me see it, I will
take it as a pledge."
Creps felt for his watch; but that had also disappeared.
Donatus had listened silently to this conversation,
and was trying to understand the sense of the English
words as much as possible. When he saw the surgeon
stamp with rage, while the hotel-keeper declared that he
would no longer lodge people without money, but would
turn them out of doors, Donatus came forward and
I have money. I pay."
He stooped down, took a handful of gold out of his
boot, and handed the surgeon the sixteen dollars. The
hotel-keeper suddenly became most amiable and polite.
OFF TO CALIFORNIA.
"Ah, Donatus! said Jan; why did you leave us
so long in difficulty ? Didn't you understand what was
going on ?"
Certainly," he replied, with a cunning smile; "but
I am beginning to understand that one can't get on in
California without paying people back in their own coin.
If the surgeon had gone without his money, we should
now possess the sixteen dollars we have just lost."
Now came the waiter and asked for the five dollars he
had been promised, for going to fetch the surgeon. Creps
reluctantly had to ask Donatus to advance this sum.
He did so with a grumble.
"Come along, let us go to bed," said Jan. "Not-
withstanding all our misfortunes we have still reason to
consider ourselves lucky. The wound of our dear friend
Victor is not dangerous, thank God. We have seen
enough of the evil of gambling, and let us resolve never
to enter one of those infamous dens again."
LHEN Creps awoke next morning, he seized his
friend's hand and anxiously asked how he was,
for Victor's paleness, caused by loss of blood,
Victor answered gaily that he hoped to be well in a
few days, and to confirm his words he leaped out of
bed; but this rapid movement caused a cry of pain to
escape from him.
"Oh, Victor, surely you are hiding your sufferings
so as not to alarm me! This misfortune which has
befallen you has taken away all my courage. If I had
received the wound I should not care so much; but
you! that breaks my heart. Oh, that we had only
stayed in Belgium, in that land of liberty, justice, and
Do not trouble yourself, Jan," answered Roozeman;
"in jumping out of bed I have moved the bandages,
thereby causing myself a little pain."
This morning another doctor shall carefully examine
the wound," murmured Creps.
It is altogether needless; and, besides, we have not
the money to pay the surgeon."
84 OFF TO CALIFORNIA.
"But Kwik has some," said Jan; and in saying so
he turned his eyes towards Donatus' bed. "Why, the
bed's empty !" he exclaimed.
He got up early and dressed quietly so as not to
awake us," replied Victor. "When I asked him
where he was going, he said, to look for the end of his
Creps suggested that as Donatus had now got some
money, he did not care to pay to support them, and had,
therefore, quietly taken himself off. Roozeman was
indignant at the accusation; he .asserted that though
Kwik might be coarse and stupid sometimes, yet that he
was grateful and good-hearted.
"We shall see," said Jan; "but remember, that
'everyone for himself' is the law of California, and that
we breathe this horrible sentiment with the air."
Victor still defended poor Kwik, and then they
talked long and sadly over their future prospects. As
they were thus chatting, Donatus himself opened the
The Antwerpers were struck with amazement at his
appearance as he stood before them, a red sash round
his waist, through which were passed a dagger a foot
and a half long, and two revolvers. He carried under
his arm two other daggers of the same length, and
two red woollen sashes; he held his head erect, and
tried to give himself a martial appearance.
Where do you come from? what does all this
mean ?" exclaimed Creps.
"It means," replied Donatus, drawing his long knife,
As they were thus chatting, Donatus himself opened the door. The Antwerpers
were struck with amazement at his appearance."
from his belt, "it means, that the first man who
threatens me I will stick as if he were a sucking-pig.
I met the Red Moustache of the Jonas in the street,
and I took care to hustle him ; but he pretended not to
recognize me, otherwise my cold steel would have
entered his skin as into a white cheese."
"But where did you get these arms from ?"
"Why, I bought them, of course! They only cost
a trifle of 375 francs. For that sum I could have pur-
chased the whole stock of a gunmaker at Mechlin."
"What a waste of money! said Creps, reproach-
fully; "just at the time when poor Roozeman is
wounded, and needs all our help."
"Oh! but I have not forgotten that," Donatus
interrupted: "but to eat is not the chief affair in this
country, as it is with us. The first thing that is
necessary is a revolver. This long knife is enough for
me; the revolvers and the other knives I have bought
for you. Take them and praise my foresight: you
will get more profit out of them than from a good
dinner and a soft bed. I have thought of everything.
Here are the belts to put the pistols in. Now, at all
events, we can go about the streets in the midst of these
rascals, with heads erect, and ready to defend our lives,
our ears, and our purses."
"Have you no more money?" asked Victor,
anxiously. "We owe nine dollars for our lodging
"I have thought of all that," said Kwik, with a
cunning smile; poor Donatus isn't so silly as he looks.
OFF TO CALIFORNIA.
No! no! I've done a good stroke of business this
morning. Mine's a long story; listen while I tell it
you. I dreamed all night," he continued, "about
men armed with revolvers and knives; and in my
dreams I howled with rage because I had not arms to
defend myself with, for I do not see why we should
allow ourselves to be slaughtered like sheep by these
Californian murderers. So I decided that we should be
properly armed. One revolver is wanting, because I
had not enough money. I am not so imprudent as you
think me; before leaving the hotel I gave the landlord
nine dollars for our lodging for to-night, and another
300 francs to pay for Mr. Victor during the next week."
"Thank you! thank you, Donatus! you have a good
heart!" cried Creps. And he held out his hand to
him, deeply touched by his kindness.
"Let me go on," said Kwik. "In California one
has to be cautious, and act quickly too. I went to look
for the Brusseler. I promised him two dollars to go
with me and give me his advice. I learned a heap of
useful things from him. He has San Francisco-all
California at his fingers' ends. I asked him what we
had best do, so as not to die of hunger. In the harbour
there's little stirring now, and most of our fellow-
passengers of the Jonas have got employment there;-
the nobleman of our mess carries deal planks on his
back,-the German banker draws a hand-cart with
bales of merchandise, in company with the newspaper
editor and the ex-magistrate. Red Moustache picks
up bits of broken crockery, bottles, and dirty shirts, for
THE WEAPONS. 87
an old Jew, who, as a rag-merchant and a store-dealer,
has already amassed a fortune. A new cotton shirt
costs a dollar, and for washing it one must pay half a
dollar! Everybody, therefore, wears his shirt as long as
he can, and then throws it away. The Jew picks them
up, washes them, and puts them up for sale again.
And the same with the empty bottles, which we are in
the habit of throwing out of the window at home. The
gambling-houses buy back the bottles from the Jew. If
I could not find a better employment, I should myself
become a Jew,-that is to say, a rag-merchant. But I
am losing the thread of my story: the Brusseler knows
a great many people at San Francisco. He went about
with me to seek some situation for you and for myself.
I am accepted as a washer-up of dishes and plates in a
refreshment-room, at five dollars a-day, in addition to
my board, and lodging in a kind of kennel among
the provisions; so I certainly shan't die of hunger.
As to Mr. Creps, I have found something better for
him,-assistant to a butcher ."
A butcher's boy!" exclaimed Jan. "I would
rather harness myself to a hand-cart, like the German
"But it seems that the butchers do a strange sort of
business here. Before the door of one I saw a great,
ugly, grey beast, with terrible teeth. I was thinking
that perhaps bullocks had hair like that in California,
but the Brusseler told me it was a bear. They eat
bear's flesh here! I am not surprised now that the
people are so wicked. You will not be a butcher's
OFF TO CALIFORNIA.
assistant then, Mr. Creps ? But I have some other
posts for you to choose from. There is a good place as
assistant in a gambling-house, with eight dollars a-day.
I know of another as cleaner of boots, washer of bottles,
and lamp-lighter in an hotel facing the harbour,-seven
dollars a-day, without board and lodging."
Creps shook his head impatiently.
"You ought'nt to be so particular, Mr. Jan,"
remarked Donatus. You will find many of our first-
class travelling companions employing themselves in
more menial offices. Besides, seven dollars! What's to
hinder you coming to sleep at the hotel here, till Mr.
Roozeman gets better? Three out of seven dollars,
and four remain.
"You are right," said Jan, suddenly. "Well, I will
be a boot cleaner."
"And have you found nothing for me?" asked Rooze-
man. "You don't think that I am going to live on
the profits of your labours "
"I have got an easy and good place for you," said
Kwik; "but probably you will laugh at it-that of a
shop-girl. I mean to say, a clerk at a fruiterer's! "
The two friends burst out laughing.
"It is serious,-quite serious," resumed Kwik.
"There is a large tent where they sell oranges, lemons,
figs, and other kinds of fruit. The proprietor wants
some one who knows how to write French and English.
He gives six dollars without board and lodging. At
the request of the Brusseler, who has procured him
many customers, he will keep the place vacant for five
days. You will then be nearly well, Mr. Roozeman.
This is, at any rate, a pleasant and honourable post."
"I thank you, Donatus," said Victor. "I accept it
Cleaner of boots at an hotel! said Jan, sneeringly.
"Plate-wiper at a dirty public-house!" growled
"Clerk at a fruiterer's! If my mother and Lucia
only knew it! said Victor.
What does it matter ?" said Kwik. "As soon as
we see the mines and are able to pick up gold in hand-
fuls, all this will be forgotten; and how many stories I
shall have to tell to Anneken and my children!"
"Well, we won't be cast down," said Creps. "Our
friend Roozeman is better and cheerful; that is the
chief matter. Perhaps the directors may come this
very afternoon; however, I shall go presently to my
hotel, where I am to begin my work as shoeblack.
This afternoon, at two o'clock, I shall be washing
plates and dishes-dabbling in greasy water, with bare
"If we had only breakfasted," said Creps, "I should
then feel more courage."
"I paid for breakfast before I went out this morning,"
"You are a marvel of foresight and kindly feeling! "
said Jan, gaily slapping him on the shoulder. "I
thought you were playing us false, friend Kwik."
"Possibly," said Donatus: "but if Mr. Victor had
not been ill, Donatus, probably, would not have