16th September 1834

One of the rules of this mine sounds very harsh, but answers pretty well. The method of stealing gold is to secrete pieces of the metal & take them out as occasion may offer. Whenever the Major-domo finds a lump of ore thus hidden, its full value is stopped out of the wages of all the men, who thus are obliged to keep watch on each other. The ore is sent down to the mills on mules. I was curious to enquire about the load which each mule carries: on a level road the regular cargo weighs 416 pounds. In a troop there is a muleteer to every six mules. Yet to carry this enormous weight, what delicate slim limbs they have; the bulk of muscle seems to bear no proportion to its power. The mule always strikes me as a most surprising animal: that a Hybrid should possess far more reason, memory, obstinacy, powers of digestion & muscular endurance, than either of its parents. One fancys art has here out-mastered Nature.

When the ore is brought to the Mill it is ground into an impalpable powder; the process of washing takes away the lighter particles & amalgamation at last secures all the gold dust. The washing when described sounds a very simple process: but it is at the same time beautiful to see how the exact adaptation of the current of water to the Specific Gravity of the gold so easily separates it from its matrix. It is curious how the minute particles of gold become scattered about, & not corroding, at last accumulate even in the least likely spots. Some men asked permission to sweep the ground round the house & mill; they washed the earth & obtained 30 dollars worth of gold.

No comments: