The China Trail, from Lost Camp to the North Fork of the North Fork American, is one of the nicest little trails in Tahoe National Forest. It is about a mile long and descends 1300 feet from the trailhead to the river. Access is by a series of unmarked dirt roads, rough in places, from near Blue Canyon.
Like many historic trails around the North Fork American, this trail is at risk. Much of it has already been destroyed by logging, on the Sawtooth Ridge side of the river. At Lost Camp, the trail begins on private lands, owned by Siller Brothers lumber company. I would like Tahoe National Forest to make a special effort to acquire the private lands at Lost Camp, in order to secure public access to this historic trail. Short letters to the Forest Supervisor would be helpful. Refer to the Lost Camp Trail to the North Fork of the North Fork American, and ask that TNF try to acquire all of Section 23 in T16N R11E. Address the letters to
Forest Supervisor, Tahoe National Forest
631 Coyote Street
Nevada City, CA 95959
Some additional points might be, that the site of Lost Camp itself is of historic interest and importance, being a ghost town from the late 1850s, and that the trail itself is also of historic importance, and gives access to a very wild and beautiful canyon. The North Fork of the North Fork was considered for designation as a Wild & Scenic River, but Tahoe National Forest advised against this. The Environmental Protection Agency made these comments in 1996:
SUMMARY: EPA expressed environmental objections
to the minimal protection and designation of
exceptional ecological areas and the use of less protective classifications for acknowledged wild segments. EPA
urged the Forest Service to designate the Downieville complex or to actively seek Research Natural Area or
Special Interest Area designation for this exceptional, biologically rich area and for reconsideration of the
North Fork of the North Fork American River, North Fork of the Middle Fork American River, Fordyce
Creek, Middle Yuba River, and the upper South Yuba River for designation into an ecosystem watershed
The China Trail begins in Section 23, T16N R11E. The blue line represents the true course of the trail, as GPSed using a Garmin 12 on June 23, 2001. This map is a portion of the Westville 7.5 minute USGS quadrangle. Blue Canyon is to the northwest, Emigrant Gap to the northeast.
The History of Lost Camp. Lost Camp is the ghost of a ghost town, with nary
a single building left standing. It flourished, very briefly,
in 1858 and 1859, and several hydraulic mining pits surround the
town site. There is some evidence of mining work continuing in
the Depression era. From the November 13, 1862 Dutch Flat Enquirer,
in which an occasional correspondent relates news and historical
information about the mining regions of Placer county, I excerpt
Lost Camp. This Camp was established in the early days of California and derived its name, as I am told, from an emigrant train having encamped at this place during a severe snow storm, and being scarce of provisions, a party started out in search of "grub" and were unable, for some days, to find the spot where their unfortunate comrades were actually starving to death--hence the name--Lost Camp. This Camp lies about ten miles in a northerly direction from Dutch Flat. The road, most of the distance, is good, and can be rode over by wagon from six to seven months in the year. There are some four or five small valleys of fine agricultural land, better soil I have not seen in the State, through and along-side of which this road passes; one farm or ranch which contains 160 acres, and is owned by Mr. J.L. Herbert. There has been a considerable quantity of fruit raised in this section this year, but the main product has been potatoes, of which product, I am told, three ranches will furnish in the neighborhood of 150 tons.
There has been considerable mining done at Lost Camp, but from some cause, yet unknown, no great amounts have been realized. This Camp is pretty well deserted at present. The cabins (about twenty), of the first quality, and presenting quite a new appearance, are nearly all tenantless. There are but two families residing here, Mr. Gillson and Mr. Coyn, who appear to enjoy the life in a "Woodland Cot" very contentedly. There is but one of the many hydraulic claims (Mr. Harkness') to be worked this winter, and it promises a large return for money and labor expended upon the works, as he owns his own ditch which furnishes an overabundance of water. The single feature of water alone, when we calculate 400 inches a day at 15 cents per inch making $60 per day, $350 per week for water savings, we have quite a dividend on this commodity alone. This claim, so I am informed by Mr. Gillson, is now about ready for water, the "telegraph" up, flumes and sluices arranged, etc. Mr. Pause and partner are working in one of the small runs, and are taking out from $8 to $18 per day to the man. The gold is coarse and of fine quality.
There is one other important fact connected
with this locality. The residents hereabouts have arranged to
have a trail cut so as to shorten the distance from that place
to Onion Valley, besides making it easier for man and beast to
make the trip. It is also quite certain that a trading post will
be established at this point next spring, which will materially
add to the importance of this place.
The above deserves a few remarks. The story
of the lost emigrant train seems likely to be a garbled rendition
of the Donner Party, and of the Forlorn Hope party, whose exact
route towards Johnson's Ranch has never been established. Some
researchers believe the Forlorn Hope party may have passed near
Lost Camp. There were other stories told about how Lost Camp got
its name. The road from Dutch Flat to Lost Camp would be, in part,
the Old Emigrant Road, a branch from the Donner Trail which followed
the Dutch Flat Divide down from Emigrant Gap. The Dutch Flat Donner
Lake Wagon Road had not yet been constructed, and the railroad
was four years away. Finally, the trail to Onion Valley would
be that depicted in part on the 1866 General Land Office map of
Township 16 North, Range 11 East, and labeled "Trail to Monumental
Camp." See below.
The China Trail is that shown paralleling
Of the two books I have in print about the
history of Dutch Flat, one, the Dutch Flat Diary of Isaac Tibbetts
Coffin, contains his 1863-64 diary, written while he was living
near Texas Hill. Coffin was an avid Mason and walked to Dutch
Flat once a month for his Lodge meetings, often by way of the
China trail through Lost Camp (although he does not call it the
"China" trail). Coffin also mentions the miners at Monumental
Camp, which presumably was on or near Monumental Creek, a tributary
of the East Fork of the North Fork of the North Fork of the American
River. Coffin also mentions Mr. Coyn. The trading post must never
have realized success, for in 1864 Coffin and his mining partners
were relying on mule trains from Dutch Flat for most of their
The Geology of Lost Camp. The railroad tracks above Lost Camp and west of there, as they pass Blue Canyon, Shady Run, and Casa Loma, often approximately mark the contact between the very old slates and metamorphic rocks of the Subjacent Series, from the young volcanics and fluvial deposits of the Superjacent Series. At Lost Camp, however, the existence of a fragment of Eocene river channel pushes this contact well below the tracks. The youngest formations--andesitic mudflows of Pliocene age (the Mehrten Fm.)--and the underlying rhyolite volcanic ash of Miocene age (the Valley Springs Fm.) are passed as one descends from I-80 towards Blue Canyon. There are even some Quaternary glacial deposits atop the ridge near the Blue Canyon Airport.
At Lost Camp, river gravels guessed to be Eocene in age, or about 55 million years old, are exposed. I write, "guessed," because no direct fossil evidence that I know of has ever been collected at Lost Camp. However, the "signature" preponderance of rounded cobbles of quartz, so notable at Gold Run, Dutch Flat, You Bet, and other hydraulic mining areas located on the system of Eocene river channels, is also evident at Lost Camp. It is likely that this channel is that which reappears farther west at Blue Bluffs, Shady Run, and Hogback (where the railroad crosses a pass between Canyon Creek and the North Fork), and is a tributary of the Nary Red channel. The Nary Red joins the Dutch Flat channel between Dutch Flat and Alta.
Below the Eocene gravels of Lost Camp are the slates and metasandstones of the Shoo Fly Complex. These are the oldest rocks of the Sierra, dating to about 400 million years ago. They are tilted up almost 90 degrees, so that the original bedding planes are upright, and folded into tight kinks here and there. The gorge section of the North Fork of the North Fork--just upstream from where the China Trail meets the river--has fine water-polished and glacially-smoothed exposures of the Shoo Fly complex.
Ice overflowing from the shallow South Yuba
basin entered the North Fork of the North Fork American from several
places. The ice ran right over the top of Quartz Mountain and
down the East Fork of the North Fork of the North Fork; it ran
down the main North Fork of the North Fork itself; and it also
came down Fulda Creek.
Where the China Trail meets the river, at
the foot of Texas Canyon, seems to be the Ladybug Capital of the
The Pool of Cold Fire guards the entrance
to the Gorge section of the North Fork of the North Fork. It is
about a quarter to a half mile upstream from the China Trail.
Michael Joyce peers into the Pool-of-Cold-Fire
while Canyon O'Riley, Greg, and Janet examine a small garter snake.
As a curiosity bearing at least slightly
upon Lost Camp and the China Trail, I append this short story
by Mary Willis Glascock, published in the Overland Monthly in
1889. The site of "The Grizzly" can only be Lost Camp.
It was a lonesome place at the "Grizzly." Mountain upon mountain towered above it, until the most distant peaks seemed to blend into the blue of the sky. The small level place upon which the cabin was built seemed the only resting place for miles above or below. That spot was of itself at a great elevation, but there were so much greater heights to look up to that it seemed almost a valley by comparison. Below stretched vague, deep canons, filled with mysterious, impenetrable color. Great growths of pine, tamarack and juniper marched in solid phalanx down these canons, then up the mountain flanks again, until they too were blurred by the distance into a solid mass of perfect tones.
At a short distance from the house, there was evidence of hydraulic mining having been carried on. It looked as if part of the hill had been bared to the heart; and the red clay was left standing at intervals in fantastic shapes, which on a moonlight night looked weird and ghostly, as if the spirits of the mountains had gathered in council to avenge the desecration. Above the mine was a pretty sheet of water, one of those mountain lakes formed by the winter's snows, where evidently sufficient pressure of water was obtained to work the Grizzly.
There was a suggestion of isolation about the cabin, which was built of old logs covered with lichens, that at a distance gave it a venerable, grizzled air. The only signs of human habitation were a dun cow, with her calf, industriously searching among the pine needles for grass, which so quickly follows the snows in the Sierras; and a hen, with a brood of young chickens, scratching the damp earth with hungry eagerness. The garden consisted of a few hardy roses, planted at irregular intervals, which were just beginning to show the color in their buds, with here and there clusters of sturdy annuals, old fashioned marigolds, hollyhocks and zinnias.
Down towards the river, (the cabin was situated only two or three miles from the American River,) on the trail, the mountain lilies were already royal in orange and gold, the ceanothus feathery with blossom, and the azaleas filled the air with fragrance; but it was colder at the Grizzly. The snow seemed to linger longer at this particular spot, and the winds to sweep with greater force. Old Mrs. Carter used to grumble as she drew her small woolen shawl closer around her shoulders, "'Pears as if Job always would pick out the very worst places on earth."
Poor Aunt Liza, as the neighbors called her, - when she had any neighbors,- had a faculty of finding the hard places in life. She had crossed the plains, coming from Missouri in early), days when she was a bride, and afterwards roughed it around from one mining camp to another. It was always Job's luck to get to a place after it had been worked out, or if he struck anything it was sure to prove only a pocket, and he would spend the amount of pay dirt in trying to develop it further. If he had a gravel mine, he never found the channel; if it was quartz, he lost the lead. But that there was a channel and a lead he firmly believed, and left with reluctance. In fact, he never gave up any of his various enterprises until sickness or Aunt Liza demanded a move. Job was a philosopher. He believed in his luck, and that belief never deserted him, buoying him up after forty years of failures. He remained hopeful and cheerful, while Aunt Liza was peevish and broken down. One after another she had lost the children born to them, until only one was left, the child of their old age.
Years before the railroad ran through the mountains or Blue Canyon was named, Job had staked out a claim there, but after alternate success and failure, abandoned it. It was too costly to pack provisions so far up the mountain. But he always had believed in the Grizzly, and only stern necessity made him relinquish it. Through a great many years he secretly nourished the hope of some day going back and reopening it. One day he came in to Liza, who was sitting with little Sue on her lap, and said in a careless fashion, as if the thought had just come to him: "Liza, suppose we try our luck up at the old Grizzly again? I saw Jones yesterday. He tells me they've been strikin' it rich thereabouts lately."
He looked at her furtively with eager anxiety as if dreading her reply.
She pressed her thin lips together, and sat silent for a minute. "It's a living here," she answered shortly.
"A mighty pore one." Job took off his hat, and ran his fingers through his thick gray hair, and sat down.
Aunt Liza folded her hands in a helpless sort of a way, and prepared to listen.
"I've been in the saw-millin' business down here nigh on to five year now, and it's a mighty pore living," - he looked at her as if to impress that fact upon her indelibly,- " mighty darned pore. And there's little Sue growin' up, and wantin' a sight of things, and all I earn is jest corn bread and bacon, and you and me both work hard. I tell you, Liza, it's in the Grizzly, and I'm going to get it out." He clenched his brawny fist, and brought it down on the deal table. "You'll only have to wait a while, and you and little Sue will be set up like queens."
Job's face quite glowed at the prospect he had conjured up. It always did. Liza had heard the same plans so many times before that she listened with apathy; but Job still loyally believed in next time, and never gave up. Hope glowed as brightly in his breast at fifty as at twenty. But to Aunt Liza the years had been weary waiting. Hope to her was an unknown quantity. The years of hard work, privation, and all those little graves of long ago pressed sorely on her heart. She had grown sour and taciturn. The mill men used to pity Job as he went whistling home from his work, and say, "Job's bread ought to sour in the bakin' by havin' Aunt Liza to mix it"; but there was always little Sue, and Job's temper was of the sunniest, and "Liza, pore girl, has had her trials," he said, and answered her snappings with a smile.
After Job had taken a run up to the canyon, added on to the old cabin, and stocked it with provisions, he came for his family. Liza packed up their few belongings with many a sigh. She remembered the long winters of snow, and the summers almost as lonely, and she assumed that air of meekness which sometimes drove Job to smoking his pipe out of doors.
"There's a school six months in the year at the Canon for Sue," he said; for Sue was growing to be a big girl now. "And it's only two miles walk, and you kin hear the train of nights, and the whistle sounds mighty cheerful."
Ten years slipped by rapidly, and little Sue grew like a mountain pine in the high Sierra air. Job worked hard at the Grizzly, with sometimes a streak of luck, and more often long periods of disappointment. He spent his evenings in planning the mill he was going to build, and the methods of saving the fine gold. Nothing except little Sue was so dear to his heart as the Grizzly.
When Liza would fret when he came home after a long day's hard work in the "diggins," he would say soothingly, in reply to her complaints:
"It's there, Liza; jest wait a mite; you always was a leetle impatient. Mebbe I'll strike it tomorrow."
Then he would run his fingers through his hair with the old gesture, and unfold before her the old glorious vision, while his eyes sparkled with eager anticipation in the old time way. Liza audibly sniffed in a scornful fashion, and little Sue would break in and hand him his corncob pipe, to keep peace in the family.
Little Sue, as he would always call her, had grown to be a fine young woman, tall and slender, with just the same golden gleam in her brown hair that her mother used to have before time and trouble had faded it out; but Sue had inherited the sunshine of her father's nature, and it glanced from the sparkle of her dark gray eyes, and showed in the springiness of her step, and even in the dimple in her chin, until it seemed sometimes as if she had absorbed the beauty and freedom of the mountains in her whole being. It was her hand that planted the flowers and tended the broods of young chickens, when she came home from school. Aunt Liza had decided there was no use in doing any thing outside the line of ordinary house hold work, and talked of starvation when Sue sent to " the Bay" for flower seed; and she received the eggs in silence when Sue brought them in with pride to show her the few speckled hens were a profit able investment.
Sue's chief enjoyment was her walk to the Canon. On clear June days, when the air was crisp, just mellowed by a dash of summer warmth, it felt as if she was inhaling fresh vigor at every step. The aromatic odor of the pines, mingled with all the sweet woodsy fragrance that clusters around the mountains, makes an old heart quicken, much more makes a young one beat with rapid pulsations. One feels the ozone of the Sierra air to the very finger tips; there is no phase of nature so grand and elevating as the high Sierra on a mid-June day.
Of course this was an every day affair to Sue, hardly a thought of it crossing her mind as she sauntered up the trail. She simply absorbed it, like the squirrels and robins.
The only object that always commanded her attention was the haunted house. The trail ran directly in front of it, and it was about a mile from the Grizzly, in the lonesomest part of the woods. She always breathed a little freer when she had passed it by.
The house was only an empty frame, and in the sunshine not a creepy-looking affair. The door was broken off its hinges, the decayed doorstep was covered with green, climbing plants, and ferns grew between the wide chinks in the logs.
The story ran that a miner had been murdered there one night for his gold dust, and that stains of blood were still seen on the floor of the inner room, and at night weird sounds were heard through the house. As the cabin was window less and doorless, and at places whole logs were gone from the sides of the walls, the wind had a fair sweep to conjure up ghosts.
The school at the Canyon was a great comfort to Sue. She had always been a bright child, and learned quickly, al though her mother used to sigh and say she "didn't see any use for an eddication when folks lived among chipmunks and coyotes."
Sue laughed a merry little laugh: it was her usual way of answering her mother's complaints. When she had grown old enough to understand, her father had taken her out under the big sugar pine in the yard, and told her in a half whisper that "her mother was a mighty fine woman, but had seed a powerful lot of trouble, and they mus' n't fret her. You must promise never to fret her, little Sue," he said; and the old man and the little child clasped hands in a loyal compact, and the child always remembered.
Although her mother protested, her father kept her at school, making many little sacrifices to pay for the necessary books, and therefore she was better educated than is usual with young women of her class. And as she climbed up the hill to the schoolhouse, many an eye followed her and the rough station hands would say, "That gal of Job Carter's growin' powerful good lookin'."
She was unconscious of this admiration. As she grew older sometimes she would vaguely feel as if there must be something else in the world, and she would grow restless for a space, but home duties left her little time for brooding. Her mother gradually gave the household work into her hands, and for the past few weeks she had given up attending school.
Her mother did little but sit in the corner, knit, and complain in a monotonous sort of way to chance visitors who walked to the house from the hotel over at the Canyon. The haunted house and the Grizzly were the show places of the neighborhood. The point of view was especially fine at these places, and then the fishing was rumored good at the American; but few of the summer visitors cared to test that report after an exploration, for the trail was so steep that as a young Englishman, who had come to the Canyon with a choice assortment of fancy flies and tackle, declared, "I'll be blasted, if it was three miles down it was fifty back."
On this particular bright June day, though, a young fisherman came trudging down the trail with a fish basket slung on his back and a rod on his shoulder, whistling a merry tune as if to break the feeling of intense solitude.
At that moment Sue came around the corner of the house with a bowl of scalded corn meal in her hands to feed the young chickens. She heard the whistle distinctly but did not look up; she pulled her sunbonnet closer over her face and called to the chickens.
The whistle stopped and the gate latch clicked. She looked up in well feigned astonishment. " 0, it's you."
The fisherman smiled and took off his hat. He was a brown-faced, sturdy looking young fellow, with a cheery smile that matched Sue's own.
I stopped to see if you would like any fish this evening."
Sue laughed outright. "You are counting your fish before you catch them; and besides, it is rather late in the day to begin. Won't you come in?"
He hesitated. She walked to the gate and opened it, and it needed little urging to make the young man set his basket down on the porch and rest for a while.
Philip Carroll had been night operator at the Canyon for the past six months, and he had very often cut short his hours of sleep to watch Sue Carter as she came up the trail to school every day, and now that her school days were over he strolled toward the Grizzly quite frequently,- to talk to Job, he averred. His interest in mining became deep, and he evinced a desire for instruction in all the departments of mining lore. He was always a welcome visitor to Job, for the Grizzly was a theme he loved dearly to dilate upon, and the young man apparently sympathized with him in his belief in it.
Job was working with a rocker in the old primitive fashion. The law had shut down on hydraulics, and this summer he could not afford to hire men; only occasionally he employed a Chinaman to help him in a little drifting. Day after day, all through the summer, he worked patiently with hardly a show of color; still he kept cheerfully on. He taught Philip Carroll how to handle the pan, and sometimes for amusement he would help the old man for an afternoon; and then there was always the invitation to early supper in the evening, and a chat with Sue before he had to trudge back to his night-work.
Philip Carroll was very rapidly losing his heart. He was young and strong, and was only temporarily filling a vacancy in the telegraph office until something better should turn up. His father was a practical, stern business man, and when Philip left college he insisted upon his learning telegraphy as a trade to fall back upon. At first this position was an awful bore to him, but gradually he grew to enjoy the mountains. He only required the morning for sleeping, and was free to wander all the afternoon, fish or explore as fancy seized him. He stumbled upon old Job by accident on one of his walks, and in a short time a mutual regard sprang up between them. He could not help but respect the old man who worked so steadily and cheerfully.
As Sue and Philip Carroll chatted together on the porch, the old man came walking slowly home from the mine. His blue overalls were stained with clay, his faded red flannel shirt was patched neatly and darned in many places, his face was burnt a ruddy brown and covered with deep lines, his hair was turned almost white, but his eyes, full of kindliness showing a generous heart, lit up his rugged face, until it almost looked handsome.
Philip Carroll sprang to his feet. He was always courteous; and while this man was not of the pattern of gentlemen he met at home, he recognized in him one of nature's true hearts built on the finest plan of gentleman.
"Howdy, Mr. Carroll," the old man saluted him in old Missouri fashion. "Glad to see you. Little Sue,"- he turned towards the tall girl who had come down the path to meet him. In these words, almost unconsciously uttered while he stroked the bright hair which was almost on a level with his own, a world of love was expressed. "Where's your ma?"
"I'll call her." She went into the house and left the two men together.
"Take a cheer." The old man offered him the only seat on the porch.
"Thank you, I prefer standing."
"Well, I'm powerful tired; clean tuckered out." He struck a match on the bottom of his boot, and proceeded to light his pipe as he sat down on the door step. "Old bones and hard work don't jog along very well together; but I tell you,"- the tired look disappeared from his face,-"I believe I'11 strike that channel this summer." He waited a moment to see what effect these words would have upon the listener. "And it will be powerful rich gravel. I'm gittin' into a streak of blue gravel now that pays tolerable well, the channel can't be far off."
Philip was looking at the distant mountain in a far-off sort of way. "By the way, many strangers up to the Canyon now?" he asked.
"A lot of 'em been prowlin' round the Grizzly lately; some fellers with surveyin' instruments. I bounced them yesterday."
Philip hardly heard what he was saying. His eyes were still on the distant peaks, and his thoughts were with Sue, whom he could hear bustling around inside the cabin, singing a merry song as she laid the cloth for supper.
Do you know anything about them fellers? They were impudent kind of chaps," the old man went on, as he took his pipe out of his mouth, and knocked the ashes out against the pillar of the porch.
Philip stammered out a negative answer.
"Mr. Carter," he said, "I want to ask you something-about Sue,-" he hesitated. "I love her, and I want to ask her to be my wife."
Old Job stared at him for a minute, dropped his pipe, and replied in a harsh tone, half of astonishment and half of defiance, "You can't have her, sir," - then he walked out to the sugar pine and back again, while the young man on the porch looked and felt decidedly nervous.
The old man came up to him, after a moment, holding out his hand in the old hearty fashion. "Well, who'd have thought! our little Sue!" then he listened, while Philip told him frankly of his family, his prospects and future hopes, how that he was poor now but hoped soon to be able to make a home for Sue.
"How'll your folks like this?" Job looked at him with a quizzical air. "Me and ma are plain old folks, jest plain Missoury, but Sue," his face brightened, "there's no man on God's earth good enough for her."
Philip impulsively clasped the old man's hand in a warm grasp, when Sue opened the door and called them to supper.
"I thought as you would have a long walk back we would have an early supper, Mr. Carroll," she said.
The afternoon had slipped by very quickly; the fish basket and rod lay forgotten on the porch. The room they entered looked very attractive to Philip Carroll, after the rustic accommodations at the Canyon hotel. It had a touch of home about it, although a rag carpet covered the floor, and its furnishing was of the simplest. The large fireplace was filled with brakes, and a blue ginger jar full of fresh ferns occupied the center of the pine mantel; some good wood cuts, evidently cut from periodicals, framed in tamarack burrs covered the walls, and the windows were draped with spotless white cotton curtains trimmed with old-fashioned ball fringe made by Aunt Liza. The table looked very appetizing. A glass tumbler filled with maiden's hair was set in the center. The crockery was coarse and chipped, but there was bacon nicely broiled, dainty rolls of Sue's make, and a glass dish of wild blackberry preserves, flanked by a pitcher of cream from the dun cow's milk,- and Sue to serve it, looking tantalizingly pretty in a pink cotton gown, with cheeks of a deeper pink to match, as if she had overheard a few words of the conversation on the porch.
Mrs. Carter sat at the head of the table with her mouth drawn down, and sighed as she shook hands with Mr. Carroll, and he asked after her rheumatism.
Old Job came in soon, after washing the clay off his hands, chuckling to himself, and saying under his breath, "Who'd have thought it? - our little Sue!
"'Pears to me, Sue, these blackberries have soured," Aunt Liza sighed. "I told you, you didn't put sugar enough in them, and they've worked."
Notwithstanding the reflection on the, blackberries, the young people enjoyed their supper, and she walked as far as the haunted house to speed the parting guest. There he told her the sweet old story, and Sue with only the haunted house as witness gave the old, old promise of love and loyalty.
It was growing late, and Philip insisted on walking back again with her, despite the fact that he would be late at his office. The world did not hold two happier hearts that night. It had all been so sudden and so sweet, they felt as if they were alone in the mountains, walking in a new world created for them, where love and peace enfolded everything.
As the setting sun shone through the empty window frame of the old cabin, it looked like a fiery eye watching them in wrath, and Philip drew Sue closer to him as they left the haunted house, and she told him of her childish dread of it.
"Now," she said, stopping before they quite reached her home, "let me go on by myself. I want to think it all over, and I must tell father. It will be hard for him." Her voice saddened, and then she asked in a half embarrassed way, as if she had just realized that the world was not all their own, "Will your father like it?"
Philip looked at her as if he heartily believed old Job Carter when he said "There is no one on God's earth good enough for her," and answered:
" My father is a stern man, more fond of his business and money, I am afraid, than he is of me, but he is just. We have each other, Sue, and nothing can separate us. I came to tell you I am going to leave the office next month, and hope to be settled by next spring, so as to have a home for you."
She stood and watched him until his figure disappeared among the pines. Her heart beat fast. She had hardly known that she had loved him until that day. Now it was all clear to her why she had been so very happy lately. Life stretched bright before her that night as she sat by her father, while he smoked and talked to her of his past life and future hopes.
When she was preparing to go to bed, old Job called her to him. She knelt by him. "Sue," -his voice trembled, "you're all we've got, and it goes powerful hard with the ole woman. You must n't worry your ma, and by spring," his rough hand shook a little as he patted the brown head, "by spring we'll strike the channel. May be Philip will take to mining, and we'll all be happy right here together. I want to die here right by the ole Grizzly. We've seen many a hard day, your ma and me, but there's good times comin' yet, Sue, they're comin'."
The days went by too quickly to Sue. The first of the month came, and Philip left the Canon, but comforted her with promises of frequent letters. Old Mrs. Carter grumbled that Sue spent more time on the trail to the Canyon after letters than she did at home. Philip wrote her that he had got into business in San Francisco, and was doing well and saving money.
Old Job was hard at work. The Grizzly was prospering better; he had hired some Chinamen to help him run new drifts, and was getting in as much work as possible before the snows should come.
One day he came home looking worried. "Sue," he said, "those same men who were around here in June have been prowlin' round again, asking the Chinamen questions. I don't like the looks of it."
Sue laughed. "I guess they are Eastern people, who are curious."
"I don't like the looks of it." The old man shook his head.
A few days after, Sue went to the Canyon for the mail, and received a letter directed to her father. Job was not accustomed to receiving letters, and she wondered what such a bulky envelope could contain. When he came home to his noon dinner she gave it to him.
"'Job Carter, Esq.,' that's me," he laughed, reading the address and tearing open the envelope. A fierce expression came into his eyes.
"Sue," he spoke in a voice choked with passion, "read that. May be I don't make it out right. I'm not much on larnin'."
She took it from his hand and read it hastily aloud. It was a letter from a lawyer, stating that he wrote on behalf of his client, Mr. James Carroll, who had obtained a patent to the mining property known as the Grizzly, and he further desired, as the said Job Carter had no legal title to the said property, that he would quit and surrender up possession thereof. Otherwise he would be compelled to institute legal proceedings against him for the possession of the same.
Sue stood as one stunned, but old Job clenched his fist and said:
"Let 'em try to take it,- it will be over my dead body. Carroll?" he said, "Carroll? that's Philip's name, and his folks live down at the Bay."
Mrs. Carter came into the room, and Sue slipped out. A great fear came upon her. James Carroll was the name of Philip's father. Early in the summer she remembered a fussy old man, who had walked over to the Grizzly and asked a great many questions; afterwards she knew that it was his father.
Job left the house and walked towards the mine,-the mine that his whole soul was bound up in. He felt like a sick man, and his figure looked old and bent as he climbed the hill. Sue watched him from the house anxiously, then quietly followed him.
"Haven't you any papers?" she asked eagerly.
He shook his head: "No. I located here when a man had a right to a claim if he worked it, and when I come back I allers thought some day I would run down to Auburn. But Lord, honey, the Grizzly's mine, and no man on earth can take it from me." But Sue doubted.
"Next week I'11 take a run down to Auburn and see that mining lawyer."
When old Mrs. Carter heard the news she took to her bed and kept up a groaning night and day. "We might jest as well turn Digger Indians, and live on roots. Your pa is the most onfortunit man!"
Two or three weeks passed and no action followed the legal document; but Job took an old breech-loading rifle every day with him to his work and gave up the idea for the present of going to Auburn.
October was now well on the way. The mountain winds blew keen and cold, and the first rains had come, presagers of the winter's snows.
Sue grew white and thin from anxiety as she went about her work. She was always listening for sounds from the mine. She knew her father was desperate when roused, and a dead shot. The strain told upon her. Even Philip's letters were a worry to her. She dreaded the confirmation of Mr. James Carroll's identity. Evidently Philip knew nothing about affairs, for he wrote cheerfully, often alluding in a jesting way to the channel.
One cold evening, after a hard day's work, Sue sat by her mother, who was going over in a monotonous tone all of her old troubles. It was growing quite dark, and her father had not come in. He was working alone in the mine now, early and late. She walked to the door, opened it, and listened. She could hear no sound but the wind through the pines. She generally liked to hear it, but tonight it made her shudder.
After a time the suspense became intolerable. She turned to her mother, who was sitting bundled up in a big rocking chair. "I'll just walk up the hill a piece and meet father." She threw a shawl over her head and started up the trail. The mine was not more than a hundred yards from the house.
She had received a letter from Philip that day, telling her he was coming up to the Canyon for a few days to see her. She had felt that day happier than for some time.
She reached the mine and called. No one answered. She called again. A voice answered faintly from the mouth of the tunnel.
She looked in, and in the dim light saw her father, stretched on the ground near the entrance, looking like death.
"Are you hurt?" she cried. "Not much, I reckon," he spoke feebly. "I was down farther, and a piece of rotten timbering fell on my leg. I reckon it's broke. The timbering wasn't heavy. I pushed it off and crawled up here. It happened this afternoon." Here a groan interrupted his story.
"Don't worry your ma, Sue. It hurts powerful bad. I reckon my bones are old and brittle. I've been a long time gittin' this far, but if you help I reckon I can crawl to the house. I feel kind of faint like."
Sue was brave,-;there was no human creature nearer them than the Canyon, she must help him herself. She was strong of muscle and used to heavy weights, and it was only a hundred yards. She could not lift him, because Job was of a large frame, but gently as possible, and 0, so slowly, with long rests between, at last she succeeded in dragging him, with the help he could give by crawling, to the house.
"Mother,"-she went in quietly, "father is hurt, you must help me carry him in."
Old Mrs. Carter did not have time to moan, and something in Sue's face made her follow her.
Worn out by pain and exertion old Job had fainted at the step; but the two women, exerting their utmost strength, lifted him up and carried him to his bed. Sue ran for brandy, and for once Mrs. Carter forgot herself sufficiently to be of service. She had been considered a capital nurse in the old days when she crossed the plains.
"Mother, I am afraid his leg is broken," Sue said, after they had succeeded in reviving him. "I'm going over to the Canon."
Mrs. Carter stared in amazement even the sick man made a feeble protest against it.
"Sue Carter," her mother said, "are you crazy?"
"No." Sue smiled sadly as she looked at the lines of suffering on her father's face, and saw how nobly he was repressing all sounds of suffering. "If I go now, I can send word by the engineer on the night train to Dutch Flat," (that was the nearest point where a physician could be obtained,) "and we can get the doctor by the east-bound freight in the morning. If not, father must lie here until tomorrow night, until the passenger comes in."
"But it's pitch dark and beginning to rain!"
Sue tied a warm hood on her head, put an extra log on the fire, and bade her mother wring out hot cloths and keep them on her father's leg. She bent over him, kissed him, and was gone.
She picked up a lantern and went out into the night. How dark it was! and the wind blew her skirts about so it impeded her walking. Great drops of rain fitfully blew against her cheeks from time to time, telling of a coming storm. She looked up the trail. Rows of ghostly pines bordered it on every side, and they moaned and wailed like tortured beings. The wind shrieked down in the canyons in a wild, eerie way, and the pines echoed it in an unnatural lower tone on the tops of the mountains.
Sue was brave, and it was for her father; but as she drew near the haunted house a shudder ran through her frame. A pale moon was struggling through a bank of clouds, and the frame of the haunted house stood black against the sky. The boards creaked, and a shaft of moonlight flitted for an instant through the empty window-frame, and then, as a cloud swept over the moon's face again, left it in staring darkness. The wind blew harder; she had to clutch her shawl firmer with one hand and hold on to the lantern with the other. It seemed to her as if the horrors of a lifetime were condensed in those few moments; but on she pressed through the storm until she reached the top of the hill. She seemed possessed of superhuman strength. The bark of a coyote was the only living sound that broke the night, and it came to her as a sort of relief through the soughing of the pines.
She gained the track, then there was only a half mile more through the snowsheds. Her wet skirts clung to her figure, her head swam, she felt strangely weak. Once she sat down to rest in the dark shed; she crouched down on a pile of old lumber by the track, her limbs felt numb, and a drowsiness seemed stealing over her. Then the thought came to her that she did not know what time of night it was, shy might be late for the down freight, and she rose up with trembling limbs and pushed on.
It was only a bend in the snow-shed, and the welcome lights of the station twinkled before her. She reached the sitting-room of the hotel by the track, and the landlady, who was a friend of the Carters, stared at her with amazement.
"Sue Carter!" she gasped. "What's wrong at the Grizzly?"
Sue sat down. At first she thought she was going to faint; but she was made of sterner stuff. Born and bred in the mountains, she had inherited and cultivated endurance. She spread her numbed hands to the blaze of the fire, and told her story.
A small crowd had gathered around by this time. "The down freight is not due for an hour yet," a man said, consulting his watch.
"You must have flown from the mine; and such a night," the landlady said.
"After I rest and have some coffee I must go back," she said calmly. The color was slowly coming back into her cheeks, and she was feeling the reaction from the strain.
"I'11 go with you." "Me, too," "Me, too," half a dozen cried.
"I would like Jim Jones," she said. "He would be of very great help to me."
The station agent blushed at being accorded such distinction.
After an hour's rest, dry garments, with a basket packed by the sympathizing landlady, Sue with her escort started back home.
The storm had cleared away, the moon shone bright and full, and she felt like laughing at her former misery. She glanced regretfully at the telegraph office, where a new man was at work, and longed for Philip with all her heart.
When they reached the Grizzly her father had sunk into a quiet sleep, and she and her mother went to bed, while their good friend watched all night by Job's bedside.
Things did not look half so bad in the morning. Job was suffering, it is true, and Sue felt weak from her exertions of the night before; but friends came over from the Canyon almost at daybreak with proffers of assistance. Mountain people are kindly folk. Living nearer heaven seems to make them feel more deeply the brotherhood of man than do the dwellers in the valley. It is, with them, the thankfulness you give, not the coin they expect to receive.
As if trouble had not fallen heavily enough on the Carter household, a stranger knocked at the door that afternoon and asked for Mr. Carter. Sue opened the door and told him he could not see her father, and then of the accident.
"It won't happen again," the stranger smiled ironically.
"I have been sent by Mr. James Carroll to take possession of his mine. The superintendent will be up on the night train, and we'll have a gang of men at work by next week. If it pays we will put up a mill." The stranger was inclined to be communicative.
Sue led him away from the door, so that the invalid could not hear.
The doctor had arrived that morning, set his leg, and pronounced it a bad break on account of Job's age. The bones would knit very slowly, and it would keep him in bed for two or three months, probably. "The patient must be kept free from excitement and worry he enjoined upon them.
"The boss is going to send up his son to superintend, a young chap," -he winked in a disagreeable manner at Sue. '
I guess he didn't want to come. I was in the back office, and I heard him and his governor having a row; but what Mr. James Carroll wants to do he generally does, and Mr. Philip has to walk a chalk line. Likely place this for the mountains,"-; he eyed the house. "I guess as the old chap has a broken leg, he'll let you stay until it is cured. All improvements go with the land, you know."
Sick at heart Sue entered the house and flung herself down on the bed. "A broken leg!" she sobbed. "Poor old father, it will be a broken heart, too"; and "Philip Carroll! "- there could no longer be a doubt.
Job was feeling easier towards night, and quite cheerful. "I reckon the channel kin wait till summer, little Sue," he said jocularly, "to buy your wedding gown."
Sue waited all the next day in nervous dread. Toward evening she saw a familiar figure approaching the house.
She assumed an indifferent air in response to his cordial greeting. A hurt look came into his eyes.
"I know things look badly," he exclaimed. Then he began to explain. He told her that he was perfectly ignorant of the whole transaction until a day or two before. His father had then already secured the patent and her father had no real legal title, "though," he interposed, "I believe in his moral right." His father had insisted upon his superintending the mine, and promised him a half interest if he complied. When he still refused, his father said he would send some one else and turn the Carters out of their home as well. "And then, Sue," he said tenderly, "I thought it was better for me to come. I could protect you. I will put up a little cabin at the mine for the men and myself, and I will be near you. I heard of your trouble over at the Ca;ion. I know it will be hard for your father, but half the mine will be ours. I could give it to you in this way only. In the spring if it pays, we will put up a twelve-stamp mill, and then, Sue, you must keep your promise."
His arguments sounded well, but she knew her father would not be satisfied with them.
Philip returned to the Canyon and came back next day with a force of men and lumber to commence building. How blessed it was to Sue to have him near, but she dared not tell her father as yet.
Job improved rapidly. They warded off the fever by skillful nursing. One evening, about ten days after the accident, he noticed for the first time the noise of building.
"Woodchoppers, eh, Sue?" he asked of his faithful nurse, who rarely left him except for an occasional chat with Philip, who was at last established in his shanty on the hill.
Sue looked confused; but, as her father was better, she told him the whole story in her truthful, honest way. " Let me bring Philip to you father; he will explain it better."
The old man's eyes blazed. He could not move himself, but his voice trembled with wrath.
"That viper, that man's son! They're all of a breed, father and son; and I never suspected his creeping ways last summer."
Philip, who had come to the door and heard every word, (Job's bedroom opened directly off the living-room,) entered.
"Excuse me, Sue, let me talk to your father."
Then he retold the story, excusing no one, patiently explaining his motives to the old man. "Mr. Carter," he said "let me marry Sue now, and be a son to you in your trouble."
This seemed to anger the old man more. He stretched his arm out from under the bed-clothes.
"Git. out of my sight. You are all thieves, with your sneaky ways. Marry my little Sue! Why, man, there never was a Carter that was a thief or liar. We're plain folks, but the Carters are honest folks." "Father, you don't understand," she interposed. Old Job did not notice her. "Go," he motioned to Philip. "You've stole the Grizzly, you and your father between you, but you sha'n't steal my little gal."
Seeing her father's excitement, she motioned to Philip to leave the room.
"Father," she tried to speak.
"Stop, Sue. It's the first time in your life, honey, your father's crossed you, but I forbid you ever to speak to that thief, or have anything to do with him as long as I live. As soon as I can stir we will pack up our traps and move on. May be there'll be rest somewhere for us."
She saw that he was making himself ill by talking, so she quietly left the room with a heavy heart. She considered Philip's actions noble, but she recognized that her first duty was to her father, and she must abide by what he said until something happened. That something would intervene she believed with all the inherited hopefulness of her father's nature. Old Job took a turn for the worse. The noise at the mine fretted him, and he lay for weeks in bed, until the fall drifted into winter, and work was stopped on the Grizzly.
Although Philip Carroll was so near, Sue never held any communication with him. "It would be unfair to my father," she said, "while he is confined to his bed."
The days were long and dreary. She knew Philip had left the mine, and all the mountains were covered with snow. She had hired a young boy to stay with them all winter to do chores, giving him board and teaching him in return for his services. Twice a week he went to the Canyon on snowshoes for supplies and the mail. Their supplies were scant, and sometimes Sue feared they would never pull through the winter. At nights, when everybody was in bed, she would sit in the corner of the big fire place, over the embers, and think, until it seemed to her sometimes that she would go mad.
Philip wrote to her regularly, although she dared not answer; and that was all that kept her up during the dreary winter.
Job did not grow strong, even at the approach of spring, and Aunt Liza was taken down with acute rheumatism. As soon as possible the men returned to work at the Grizzly, and old Job would stand for hours at the window that looked towards the mine.
"If it wasn't for my leg," he groaned beneath his breath, "the man that stole it wouldn't be alive." They had finished the new mill, and every throb of the stamps seemed to crush his heart.
When Job looked at Sue and saw how pale and thin she was growing, how fragile she looked, a great fear crept into his heart. Her step lost its elasticity; she no longer sang about her work, and once in the evening he found her crying when she thought no one was near.
All this cut him to the quick. "It's worritin' about that chap," he muttered to himself, when he saw her looking towards the mine with a wistful, heartsick expression. He made up his mind that as soon as he could hobble around they would leave the Grizzly.
Philip Carroll never came near the house. Job saw this with satisfaction. He had acquired a habit of talking to himself, and one evening, as he sat in the room with his face turned towards the mine, he said aloud, "She's got clear Carter grit."
Aunt Liza had come in unnoticed; she picked up his sentence:
"Yes, and breakin' her pore heart doing it. Job Carter, you're a wicked sinner." She put the yarn sock she was knitting down on the table. "Women folk ain't as tough as you think, if they are Carters, and Sue's got a look about her eyes lately more like heaven than earth, like my sister Mely had in the States, 'fore she died, and it's you that are killin' her with your obstinacy."
Job stared at her in astonishment. He had no time to reply before a knock sounded on the door.
Aunt Liza opened it and started back as Philip Carroll walked in, bigger and browner than last year, but with the same cheery smile and manly face.
Sue came in through the kitchen door at the same time. There was perfect silence in the room. Sue first turned white, caught hold of a chair, then a pink flush crept into her cheeks and her gray eyes filled with tears.
Philip stepped forward and took her in his arms, while Aunt Liza picked up the yarn sock and wiped her eyes with it. Old Job stood aghast.
"Sue," Philip said, "I have been watching you every day through my marine glasses up at the mine, and you looked so badly I couldn't stay any longer, though I've broke my promise to you. Sue, I came to tell you we've struck the channel."
Old Job involuntarily flourished his manzanita stick over his head and shouted "Hooray!"
Sue looked frightened. She thought her father had lost his mind.
"It has panned out wonderfully well," he continued, "and will buy you a home, Sue, instead of a wedding gown. Mr. Carter,"- he turned towards the old man,- " my father has worked the Grizzly well. I've come to show you my deed to half the mine. I want to share it with you. You have a claim by right of discovery, and with the mill and good machinery, a part of the mine will prove more to you than the whole ever could if you had worked it alone."
Old Job did not answer for a moment. He drew himself up proudly, as he thought how impossible it would be for him to be beholden to any man.
He covered his face in his hands, and it took but a moment for all this to flash through his mind. He could shoulder his pick and hobble away to new fields up the mountains. He pictured the loneliness of it. Old and broken as he was, he knew life could not stretch out very far before him anywhere; he realized the utter desolation. They could go away: then the thought came to his mind, that if he chose to sacrifice himself it was not fair, not honorable, to "drag the women folks down."
He looked at Sue, at her transfigured face, and then at old Aunt Liza, worn and broken down, who was regarding him with trembling eagerness. He smiled half bitterly as he looked down at himself, and knew how useless he would be to them in the future.
"I will go alone," he said to himself; then he walked slowly to where the young people were standing, and put Sue's hand in Philip's.
"God bless the old Grizzly," he said in a broken voice, and turned away.
"Amen," Aunt Liza responded in a
quavering tone, for she was crying for joy, her face buried in
the old yarn sock.
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