The Hidden Mine - Cover

The Hidden Mine

Copyright© 2023 by Joseph A. Altsheler

Chapter 3: The Manila Man

Starboard Sam’s tale interested us deeply, but we could make nothing out of it, and the next morning the preparations for our departure drove the matter out of our heads, for before going to bed we had decided that we must take a new start right away. It was time to stave off the lethargy that was creeping over us and numbing all our energies. We had no well concerted plan, but we would leave immediately for a new gold region, which, so it was reported, had been found in the foothills. We could make our preparations in one day and start on the following morning.

About noon Pike and I went out together to a general store to buy some provisions for the journey. On our way back we heard the tap-tap of light footsteps behind us. We paid no attention, thinking it was merely some ordinary pedestrian who happened to be going in the same direction we were, for we had no exclusive right to the streets of San Francisco. But presently a light hand was laid upon Pike’s arm, and as we faced around the hunter exclaimed:

“Wa’al, blame me ef it ain’t our little friend uv last night!”

Sure enough, it was the man who had shrunk and cowered so much in Halftrigger’s grasp. In the full light of day he looked smaller and yellower and more weazened than ever.

“I don’t know your name, my friend,” said Pike, “but ef thar’s any thin’ I kin do fur you, I’m at your sarvice.”

The little man smiled, rubbed his hands together, and said in fairly good English, though, he had talked in a foreign tongue the night before:

“Pedro not want any favor. Him come to do favor for you.”

“Do us a favor!” said Pike in surprise. “What kin you do fur us?”

“Perhaps more than you t’ink, Mr. Pike. Ah, you see I know your name. And I know that of your young frien’ too, Mr. Fielding.”

“Wa’al, you’ve sartinly hit us off right,” said Pike, “an’ ef you want to do us er sarvice we ain’t the boys to drive you away. We’re needin’ suthin’ uv that kind bad nuff just now. Whut is it?”

“I go with you to your room, your house. I tell you there. I no want any one to see me talkin’ with you on the street.”

The man looked all around him, like a rat caught in a trap, and again his whole form seemed to shrivel up with fear.

“Who are yer lookin’ fur?” asked Pike, impatiently. “Is it thet fellow, Halftrigger?”

The man nodded.

“Don’t be afraid uv him,” said Pike, “even ef he is erbout we’ll take keer uv yer.”

“Ah, I know that you not fear him,” said the little man. “Did I not behold how you held him back with your pistol last night? But I not want him to know at any time that I have been talkin’ with you an’ your frien’s.”

“Wa’al, come along,” said Pike, good-naturedly. “You kin go up to our room with us an’ tell us about this great favor you’re goin’ to do us.”

So we went to our room, the little man walking behind us, and looking uneasily about him all the time. When we arrived we found Henry, Sam and Bonneau there, making up our packs for the journey.

When the door was shut behind us and we were cut off from the observation of any one outside, the little man brightened up and the marks of fear passed out of his face.

“These are frien’s uv ours,” said Pike, waving his hand at Henry, Sam and Bonneau, “They belong to our party, an’ whut you say to us they’ll share.”

“It is very well,” said the man. “I also have seen them before, and what I say is for them, too.”

Starboard Sam looked attentively at the stranger, as if he were sizing him up.

“You’re a Manila man, I guess,” he said.

“Ah, it is right,” said the stranger. “Such I am. A sailor am I, too, and I came to California from Manila to hunt the bright gold.”

“Been in the Philippines myself,” said Sam, phlegmatically, “an’ I’ve seen your kind all through them islands an’ seas. Don’t make bad sailors, either, sometimes.”

The little man smiled at the compliment, and then sat down on a nail key that we tendered him.

“I come to tell you a great tale,” he began, without any preliminaries. “It be true tale, too, for I did see what I tell of. I came also to get your help, which will be of great profit to you. First, I ask that you will keep secret the great tale I tell you.”

“Oh, yes,” said Pike, lightly. “Now come along to the point, frien’.”

“Now,” said the Manila man, and for the first time his glance was direct and his face showed some spirit, “I, Pedro, of Manila, have foun’ a river full of gold, an’ I ask you to go with me an’ help get it.”

“What!” shouted Pike. “You say you’ve found a river full of gold?”

“Yes,” said the little man, and his form expanded. “I, Pedro, of Manila have foun’ the river full of gold, when so many others have not foun’ gold at all. Ah, it is there, heaps of it, plenty to make us all rich. An’ I will lead you there an’ we will divide it—Pedro of Manila and his new frien’s.”

The man’s emphasis and evident sincerity excited us all. I felt the gold fever bubbling with renewed vigor in my veins.

“Why have you come to us, who are strangers, with this secret?” asked Pike cautiously.

“I must have help,” said Pedro. “The place is far. There be many dangers on the way. Then I cannot get the beautiful yellow gold out by myself. An’ if I could get it out, I could not bring it away; just one man. I must have friends, a strong party, or I can do nothing. I come to you and ask you to go with me.”

“But I don’t see why you picked us out,” said Pike, doubtfully. “You never saw us but once, an’ that wuzn’t under circumstances that was calkylated to extend our acquaintance.”

“Ah!” said Pedro, “I know but one other in all California, an’ I not like him at all. You help me once. I see you be brave. I need men who be brave to help me, so it natural that I come to you. I not know other to come to.”

“Wa’al that does stan’ to reason,” said Pike, “though this is kinder suddint, as the man said when the bull tossed him over the fence. You said thar was one other man that you knowed. Is thet man Halftrigger?”

“Yes,” said Pedro, shivering.

“You’re afeard uv him, ain’t you?” said Pike bluntly.

The Manila man bowed.

“He’s got some kin’ uv a hold on you, hezn’t he?”

“I be afraid of him,” said the Manila man simply.

“Wa’al,” said Pike, “we’ll drop Halftrigger fur the present an’ git back to that river full uv gold. The gold is a blamed sight more interestin’ subject ter me, an’ I ‘xpect it is to the boys here, too. Whar did you say all thet gold is?”

“Many miles from here,” said Pedro, who recovered his courage when the subject of Halftrigger was dropped, “one, two, three, four, six, ten days’ journey. Cannot tell exactly, but can lead you there. Now, you look an’ I draw lines on paper here, which show you, so.”

And he drew a pencil and a sheet of paper from his pocket, and while we looked on he drew a rude diagram something like this:

“This straight line that run off to the southeast,” he said, “be the journey from San Francisco. It go across hill, valley, plain, mountain, take two weeks, three weeks for man ridin’ mule; then come to river runnin’ through narrow valley. Right there another but little river run into this river. Go up second river half-day’s journey, and there come to river bed dry in summer time. When rain comes water run down this bed into the second little river. Go up dry bed one, two, three miles and there you come where it curve right aroun’ rocky hill. Half-mile beyond rocky hill dig down in dry river bed an’ there we fin’ gold, beautiful gold, much of it, nuggets an’ grains, plenty for all of us.”

Route to the Mine Route to the Mine The man’s yellow, shrivelled face was transformed as he spoke. He had a case of the gold fever worse than any of ours.

“Now,” said Pike, who was still a doubting Thomas, or at least pretended to be, “all this is mighty interestin’, but how do you know the gold is thar? Thet is whut we want to find out.”

“I have seen the gold with these eyes,” said Pedro, putting a finger on each eye.

“You’ve seen it, ah?” said Pike. “Wa’al, will you tell us how thet happened?”

“It is this,” said Pedro. “I hear away off in my own country about the beautiful gold in California, an’ I come across the ocean to fin’ it, too. I go out with others sometimes, and sometimes alone, an’ I hunt for the beautiful gold. Men say it is often foun’ in the dry river beds, an’ one day when I alone I dig in the dry river bed, where I tell you, an’ there I fin’ the beautiful gold, much of it. But I see other men, bad men, not far away, an’ I fear if I tell them what I fin’ they kill me. So I say nothin’. But they watch me an’ think I fin’ something an’ I not able to go to my gold any more unless they see. At last I come back here, and then in week or two I see them here, too, an’ I know they not fin’ my gold. Nobody else have foun’ it either. It waitin’ there for me and my frien’s. You come go with me.”

“Wa’al whut yer say sounds purty straight,” said Pike. “It’s got ther right sort uv ring to it. Fur my part I kin say I believe you, Pedro.”

“And I,” said Henry.

“Certainelee! Certainelee!” said Bonneau.

“Gospel truth,” said Sam.

“I believe it too,” said I.

“Thar,” said Pike, “you kin hear what all the boys think about you.”

The Manila man bowed with exaggerated Oriental politeness, and his face expressed much gratification.

“I be proud,” he said, “to know that you and your frien’s believe my words.”

“Now,” said Pike, “we want to clear up all the groun’ as we go erlong. So we’ll go back to thet feller Halftrigger. We want to understan’ you. We want you to understan’ us. Why’re ye afraid uv him? What sort uv power hez he got over yer.”

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