A short time after his departure from Diamond Springs, the chief and his companions established their provisional camp on the northern branch of the Stanislaus River. That place seemed to them at night to be far from all habitation; but when the rays of dawn appeared, they were disagreeably surprised to find that a short distance away there was a camp, evidently occupied by Frenchmen. It seemed they had not noticed the proximity of that danger. They were completely ignorant as to the kind of neighbors they had. When the bandits asked them why they were living in such a secluded place, the Frenchmen replied without the slightest suspicion of fear that they were miners and were looking for gold.
“We are also miners,” said Joaquin, “and we want to find plenty of ore if it is possible.”
“Oh, it is indeed possible. The place is excellent, and ore abundant. But,” said the miner with an accent which proclaimed his origin, “you have no implements with which to work.”
“Yes, we have everything necessary; are you sure this is a good place?”
“Perfectly. Do you think that four or five men would amuse themselves by working for nothing? No, we have found what we consider a good claim, and have decided to remain in the great republic as long as we can.”
“You will live in it a shorter time than you imagine,” said Joaquin, drawing his revolver, his companions doing likewise, “unless you hand over to us immediately the last particle of gold you have.”
Seeing the threatening attitude and the firm resolution of the Mexicans, the five Frenchmen had no illusions concerning the danger they were in. Four of them rushed into their cabins and reappeared armed with pistols. But before they could aim them, Jack and Valenzuela had taken off the tops of their heads. The fifth miner