|Home -> James H. Barry Press -> The Great Diamond Hoax - Chapter XXVIII|
Discoverers of Field of Diamonds Finally Lead the Party of Investors to the Scene of Wonderful Find.
Pick Turns Up Many Fine Gems, and Expert Grows Enthusiastic as He Figures Out the Profits.
Our friends in San Francisco had, of course, been advised by wire of our transactions and movements, including the date of our departure. We had not journeyed far before we received on the train a telegram that George D. Roberts and a considerable party were on the way to join us to visit the diamond fields and would meet us, if I recollect aright, at Omaha. Here again, Arnold absolutely rebelled. He had kept all his engagements, he said. The diamonds had been appraised by an expert of our own selection. He was now on his way with the mining engineer chosen by us and with the appointed representatives of the San Francisco interests to exhibit the diamond fields and permit any kind of examination we wished to make; but he was not willing to expose his hand to the whole world until other business arrangements were complete.
It seemed to me that Arnold's argument was unanswerable. Before we left San Francisco, every detail had been arranged. This was a plain departure from the plan. I took sides with Arnold. In fact, there was nothing else to do, for he insisted that everything was off unless we conceded to his wishes. Besides, I had every faith in Janin's ability to pass on the genuineness of the diamond fields. Accordingly a telegram was sent that turned Roberts and his party back.
We left the Union Pacific Railroad at a small station near Rawlings Springs. Here we hired the necessary outfit and struck out in the wilderness, Arnold and Slack leading the way. Our course was erratic. At times our leaders seemed to be perplexed, to have lost their way. At times they climbed high peaks, apparently in search of landmarks. The country was wild and inhospitable. We suffered during four days' travel many inconveniences. The party became cross and quarrelsome. At last, on the fourth day, early in the morning, Arnold set out alone, to get his bearings, as he said. He returned about noon, said everything was all right, and we set out again with high hopes. By four o'clock we pitched camp on the famous diamond fields.
The spot was at a high elevation, about 7,000 feet above sea level, I think. Physically, it embraced a small mesa or rather gently sloping basin, littered here and there with rocks comprising about thirty or forty acres, through which a small stream of water ran. It was located in one of the most unfrequented parts of the United States, although, as it afterwards proved, Arnold and Slack in their zig-zag course, had actually brought us nearly parallel with the railroad and not more than twenty or twenty-five miles from it. In fact, once, while we were at the mines, on a very still day, I thought I heard something in the far distance that sounded like the ghost of a whistle. When I mentioned this to Arnold, he merely smiled. The railroad was at least a hundred miles away, he said.
But at all events we were mighty glad to reach our destination and now everything was sidetracked to begin the diamond hunt. We barely unsaddled our animals and secured them; then commenced to hunt diamonds. Arnold and Slack were serene and confident. They pointed out several spots where they had previously dug and found the precious stones, already mined and delivered in San Francisco. We all went to work with our primitive mining implements-picks, shovels and pans. Everyone wanted to find the first diamond. After a few minutes Rubery gave a yell. He held up something glittering in his hand. It was a diamond, fast enough. Any fool could see that much. Then we began to have all kinds of luck. For more than an hour, diamonds were being found in profusion, together with occasional rubies, emeralds and sapphires. Why a few pearls weren't thrown in for good luck I have never yet been able to tell. Probably it was an oversight.
You may depend upon it that we were in a happy mood that night. There wasn't the usual row over who should cook supper, who should wash the dishes, who should care for the stock, which little incidents of camp life had brought us to the verge of bloodshed during the three previous days. On the contrary, good will and benevolence were slopping over. Arnold and Slack had excellent reason to be satisfied. Mr. Janin was exultant that his name should be associated with the most momentous discovery of the age, to say nothing of the increased value of his 1,000 shares; while General Dodge, Rubery and myself experienced the intoxication that comes with sudden accession of boundless wealth.
The next day prospecting was resumed and covered a wide range. Everywhere we found precious stones - principally diamonds - although a few sparklers of other kinds were interspersed. It was quite wonderful how generally the gems were scattered over a territory about a quarter of a mile square and of course we were only doing surface examination. No one could tell what depth might produce.
Accounts have been published to the effect that when we arrived at the diamond fields there were visible evidences of the ground having been tampered with and disturbed. This is absolutely absurd on its face. In the first place any such evidence would have excited the suspicion of the keen-eyed Janin in a moment. Secondly, such a clumsy method of "salting" was unthinkable. Undoubtedly holes were made in the soil with sharp iron rods, gems were dropped in the holes, which were closed by a hard stamp of the foot and the first winter's rain obliterated every trace that remained of human agency. Wherever we worked, the ground was "in place."
Two days' work satisfied Janin of the absolute genuineness of the diamond fields. He was wildly enthusiastic. It was useless, he said, to spend more time on that particular piece of property - that was proved. The important thing was to determine how much similar land was in the neighborhood, and be able to seize on everything in sight, for Mr. Janin pointed out that this new field would certainly control the gem market of the world and that the all-essential part of the program was for one great corporation to have absolute control.
So we started on a widely extended prospecting trip. Arnold and Slack did not care to go along, and, to tell the truth, we weren't very anxious for their company. We saw much landscape, also much land that exactly resembled the formation at the diamond mine. We staked off in a rough way an enormous stretch of the country, set up notices of claims that we hoped would hold things down and covered what we believed to be the entire diamondiferous area.
We returned to the original treasure fields and found Arnold and Slack patiently waiting. Some discussion arose over the vast values we were leaving behind us unguarded and the urgent necessity to place some one in charge. Slack was willing enough to stay, and Dodge and Janin begged me to induce Rubery to remain with him. This Rubery rebelled against lustily. He had come on a pleasure trip - nothing more. But he was a most accommodating man at heart, and finally gave in. So we rode away from the diamond fields, leaving Rubery and Slack on guard. I never saw Slack afterwards - what became of him is a dark mystery that I will take up later on.