**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

When The Waters Were Up At “Jules'”
by [?]

When the waters were up at “Jules'” there was little else up on that monotonous level. For the few inhabitants who calmly and methodically moved to higher ground, camping out in tents until the flood had subsided, left no distracting wreckage behind them. A dozen half-submerged log cabins dotted the tranquil surface of the waters, without ripple or disturbance, looking in the moonlight more like the ruins of centuries than of a few days. There was no current to sap their slight foundations or sweep them away; nothing stirred that silent lake but the occasional shot-like indentations of a passing raindrop, or, still more rarely, a raft, made of a single log, propelled by some citizen on a tour of inspection of his cabin roof-tree, where some of his goods were still stored. There was no sense of terror in this bland obliteration of the little settlement; the ruins of a single burnt-up cabin would have been more impressive than this stupid and even grotesquely placid effect of the rival destroying element. People took it naturally; the water went as it had come,–slowly, impassively, noiselessly; a few days of fervid Californian sunshine dried the cabins, and in a week or two the red dust lay again as thickly before their doors as the winter mud had lain. The waters of Rattlesnake Creek dropped below its banks, the stage-coach from Marysville no longer made a detour of the settlement. There was even a singular compensation to this amicable invasion; the inhabitants sometimes found gold in those breaches in the banks made by the overflow. To wait for the “old Rattlesnake sluicing” was a vernal hope of the trusting miner.

The history of “Jules’,” however, was once destined to offer a singular interruption of this peaceful and methodical process. The winter of 1859-60 was an exceptional one. But little rain had fallen in the valleys, although the snow lay deep in the high Sierras. Passes were choked, ravines filled, and glaciers found on their slopes. And when the tardy rains came with the withheld southwesterly “trades,” the regular phenomenon recurred; Jules’ Flat silently, noiselessly, and peacefully went under water; the inhabitants moved to the higher ground, perhaps a little more expeditiously from an impatience born of the delay. The stagecoach from Marysville made its usual detour and stopped before the temporary hotel, express offices, and general store of “Jules’,” under canvas, bark, and the limp leaves of a spreading alder. It deposited a single passenger,–Miles Hemmingway, of San Francisco, but originally of Boston,–the young secretary of a mining company, dispatched to report upon the alleged auriferous value of “Jules’.” Of this he had been by no means impressed as he looked down upon the submerged cabins from the box-seat of the coach and listened to the driver’s lazy recital of the flood, and of the singularly patient acceptance of it by the inhabitants.

It was the old story of the southwestern miner’s indolence and incompetency,–utterly distasteful to his northern habits of thought and education. Here was their old fatuous endurance of Nature’s wild caprices, without that struggle against them which brought others strength and success; here was the old philosophy which accepted the prairie fire and cyclone, and survived them without advancement, yet without repining. Perhaps in different places and surroundings a submission so stoic might have impressed him; in gentlemen who tucked their dirty trousers in their muddy boots and lived only for the gold they dug, it did not seem to him heroic. Nor was he mollified as he stood beside the rude refreshment bar–a few planks laid on trestles–and drank his coffee beneath the dripping canvas roof, with an odd recollection of his boyhood and an inclement Sunday-school picnic. Yet these men had been living in this shiftless fashion for three weeks! It exasperated him still more to think that he might have to wait there a few days longer for the water to subside sufficiently for him to make his examination and report. As he took a proffered seat on a candle-box, which tilted under him, and another survey of the feeble makeshifts around him, his irascibility found vent.