Chapter 15: A Long Way Home

It was hard work shipping all of the ore, but after a few days, it was all sold and gone. We also had contacted the buyers, and they had made the payment and would have the land in two days once we were gone. Bernard was on the mend, and we have talked several times together about the Bible, and God, and he asked many questions, which was good, as it helped him understand what he was supposed to do with his life, as it seemed like he didn’t really know. Bernard was also helping us with things that he could do. He cooked for us several times and would shoot rabbits. Walter was a constant companion to him, and Bernard held no grudges against him, even though he was the man that shot him. I didn’t really know why he had stolen from us yet, but he had apologized, so I did not really care.

We were all ready to leave today, and we would ride to San Jose, and drop off Bernard, then ride to San Fransisco, where we would retrace the same route we took to get here. We loaded our horses, and the cart, which was mainly used for Bernard, since he couldn’t ride, and we were just leading his horse by a rope. We had much less stuff than we came with because we were leaving practically all of the mining equipment, except for a few odds and ends that we wanted to keep.

Bernard was all snug, Doc had all of his equipment in his saddlebags and a box at his back. I had my saddlebags filled with some gold, and personal belongings, and Walt’s were also filled with gold. It was odd seeing all that we had earned, since it looked quite small in comparison to the work we did, but when we consider the value, we considered ourselves lucky. Thomas needed to go to town since that was where he would be staying, so we took a small detour to drop him off. We rode to the hotel and said our goodbyes.

“It has been my pleasure to work for you gents, and am happy to have some new friends. If you ever visit California again, you make sure to visit.”

“Oh, we will be sure to,” I replied assuredly, and the others voices their agreements.

We waved to Thomas and rode off. His help had been invaluable, as the majority of our findings from the mine were because of his hard work.

It was nice to be on the road again, as I hadn’t been anywhere except the town for a while. I forgot what it was like to ride all day. Bernard was in very good spirits, which made me very happy, and I couldn’t help feeling that he was a new man. He told me a lot about his past, and he was often deep in trouble, but he had always made it out. I thought that he was saved so many times for him to meet me, so I could introduce him to Jesus.

He was reading as we rode, and he looked up towards me as I was the one driving the cart. “Fred, I buried the gold vein right over here, you can go dig it up.”

“I forgot about that! Thank you, Bernard. Boys! Over here the spot the gold vein is buried.” We rode over and dug it up. It was buried in a small patch of trees on the western side of the town. I put it in the cart beside him, and we continued on. I didn’t know what exactly we were going to do with the vein, as it was too large to take with us, so I guess we would sell it in either San Jose or San Fransisco.

That night we set up the tents and ate. Then we set off riding the next morning. And before we even knew it, we were approaching San Jose. Bernard had a brother, who had disowned him after he fell into bad ways, but he was sure that he would let him back into his life after he saw what he was like now. We stopped to say our goodbyes to Bernard on the main street.

“Bernard, you have truly changed, and I have no doubt that your brother will see it the way I do. You are a good man now, I and know you will live up to that.”

“Thank you, Fredrick. You saved my life in a way I didn’t know anyone could. And I promise I will live my life in service to the Lord.” He gave me a strong hug, which surprised me, as men like him do not often show emotion, but he did. He also hugged Walt, who had talked with him many times, and Doc who most likely saved his life.

He was able to walk with two crutches, and he made his way down the street. It was truly spectacular, because even though he was slouched over because of his bruised and battered spine, and he was limping, I never saw a man hold his head up so high. The sun was low in the sky, and we would only have a few hours of light left. We left quietly. There was still a good amount of sunlight left, so we continued to ride. We would make it back much quicker, and we would get there the next day with plenty of daylight left to organize our departure. We camped in a small forest once it got dark, and we ate most of our travel food, as we wouldn’t need to take all of the extra rations once we were in the city.

San Fransisco was even busier than when we first stepped foot here. Men were everywhere buying things, packing, selling. It was like a hive of bees. We would not be able to take our horses with us, so we would have to sell them, which was sad, as they served us quite well, and we never had any problems with them, except for the time Walts slipped and broke his ankle.

We made our way to the hotel, part of which was under construction probably to support the masses of men. There were also many new employees there, and we were taken to the front desk to order a room. Doc left to go to a friend’s house, but he told us that he would be back the next day to see us off. We got put on a waiting list, and they said that if we came back at the end of the day they could see if a room was available. Walt and I decided to go to a restaurant/bar and order a celebratory meal. We looked at the menu and recognized the Hangtown Fry. We heard of it from other miners, as it was a popular meal for those who struck gold, and made a small fortune. So that was what we ordered. When the other men in the restaurant saw the food being taken to our table, several clapped, and said cheers, as they obviously knew that we had found gold. Since we had our gold vein, we decided to buy everyone a drink. The men all cheered and then walked to the bar to get there’s. They obviously had had this situation happen before, as when they looked at us when we ordered the food, they looked expectant as if drinks on the house were what was supposed to come next.

The Hangtown Fry is an omelet with oysters and bacon, and as the oysters are quite expensive it is only for the lucky miners. It was cheaper here than in most places as San Fransisco had access to oysters while other towns had to have them shipped, which was quite the process.

It was delicious, and Walt and I enjoyed it. The oysters were excellent, though I hadn’t eaten them often, I could tell that they were exceptional. Walt and I went to the harbour to look for a passenger ship that was going down to Panama. It smelt of fish, and the wooden pier was slippery from a small bit of rain that they had in the morning. There were also hundreds of seagulls flying around looking for left-out fish. We had no luck, but we found a man taking goods down to South America, and he was going to stop in Panama, and he said that for a price he would take us along with him. We would only have the bunks that were for a crew, but as we did not want to wait for a ship to come up, we struck a deal. He was named Harvey, and he told us that he would be leaving early two days from then. We thanked him and left the harbour. We knew we could catch a ship from Panama and up, as since it was the peak of the gold rush many shipping companies were taking men down, then going back up for more. It was a simple plan, and there should be no complications. We spent the rest of the day enjoying ourselves, as this would be the last day in California, at least for a while. During the last days we had, we sold everything that we weren’t taking with us. We sold the horses, the cart, most of the gold, and all of the equipment that we had needed until then.

We awoke bright and early in the morning of our departure and went downstairs for breakfast. Once we had finished we headed to the docks. We had talked with Doc several times the previous day, and he would meet us there.

We saw him standing by the ship we were taking, he was talking with Captain Harvey. He saw us approach and turned to us.

“I guess you are both ready?”

“Everything that needed to be sold has been sold, and we have all of the things that we will need for the journey.”

“Good, good. It has been delightful working for you both, and the last few months have been some of the best since I came to California”

“Thank you, Andrew. You saved us quite a lot of pain and trouble. With Walt’s ankle, my leg, and with Bernard’s injuries. And of course, with all of the mining you did, very few doctors work in the mines as well as heal men.”

“I always hate to be unused, and you did pay me well.” He smiled, as I calculated all he had earned. It was a healthy amount for a personal doctor, and it was all well spent. “You have both been good friends, I hope your journey home is uneventful and quick.”

“Thank you, Doc”. Walt shook his hand and gave him a hug. I did the same, then we walked up the gangplank. The ship pulled out, and we waved from the deck, back at Doc, the Gold Rush, and the adventures we had had. We sat down on a bench on the deck and didn’t say much. We had sold almost all of the gold, except for a small bag of gold dust from the river that we first settled at. The crew was small, only five men, and there was room for several more. So we had comfortable quarters and did not have to share. The water was calm, and would gently wash up against the boat. I leaned over the rail and watched for some time. the motion of the water hitting the boat reminded me of panning for gold. How you let in water, then wash it out with the light dirt and sand. It was relaxing, but after watching for over an hour we got quite bored, so Walt and I played a game of chess. He had bought it the day before for the journey back, as well as two books.

We played every day on the deck, and soon we were arriving in Panama. We thanked Captain Harvey, and some of the crew we got to know, then walked ashore. It was not difficult finding a ship heading up the coast, and soon we found one going to Boston. It was leaving at seven that evening, and we paid for our fare. It was a passenger ship, much more comfortable, and had many things to keep us occupied. We played pool on the days that were not wavy, and we would chat with some of the other passengers. There was a musician that played the piano in the dining room, and we sat listening for some time. The whole trip back felt much shorter than the trip there, and we pulled into Boston and I saw the city I knew so well.

We gathered up all of our luggage and took our first steps in Boston. I said goodbye to Walt, as he lived on the other side of town, and I told him to come by some time, and I would split up the profits, and I walked back to my house. It was nice to see the quiet lane where I lived once again. The trees on either side of the road made a cool shady canopy that covered most of the road. I knocked on the door just so I wouldn’t startle my housekeeper Greta.

“Oh hello Fredrick, you are back I see”

“Is that all?”

“You forgot to send a postcard, which I am slightly annoyed about.”

“Oh. Do forgive me, In the short time we were in San Fransisco, I forgot all about that”

“Let me grab your coat, and you can tell me all about it. You have been gone for a while now, but time does fly. Where is Walt?”

“He might stop by some time soon, maybe tomorrow.” I walked my study and sat down in my chair. I looked around the room and could tell that Greta had been keeping everything tidy in my absence, as there was little to no dust in the room. She walked in, set a teapot down beside me, then sat down in the chair across from me.

Walt joined us around halfway through our story and made sure that I did not forget anything

It was very nice putting our adventures into words, and that was when I decided to write it all down.



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