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Monterey. - May 4th. - Started off early on the morning of the 2nd on our journey to Monterey. We found our horses in readiness in the hotel yard, in charge of a servant (here called a vaquero) of Mr. Bradley's. The latter, having business to transact at Monterey, accompanied us. My horse was equipped after the Spanish fashion, with the usual high-pommelled cumbrous saddle, with a great show of useless trappings, and clumsy wooden stirrups, and for a long time I found the riding sufficiently disagreeable, though, doubtless, far more pleasant than a coast journey would have been, with a repetition of the deadly sea-sickness from which I had already suffered so much. I soon found out, too, the advantages of the Spanish saddle, as enabling one to keep one's seat when travelling over thorough broken country through which our road ran. Bradley had told us to have our rifles in readiness, as no one travels any distance here without that very necessary protection, the mountains near the coast being infested with lawless gangs of ruffians, who lie in wait for solitary travellers.
The first part of our ride lay through a dense thicket of underwood, and afterwards across parched up valleys, and over low sandy hills; then past large grazing grounds - where cattle might be counted by the thousand - and numerous ranchos or farms, the white farm buildings, surrounded by little garden patches, scattered over the hill sides. We at length came to an extensive plain, with groups of oaks spread over its surface, and soon afterwards reached the neglected Mission of Santa Clara, where we halted for a few hours. On leaving here our road was over a raised causeway some two or three miles in length, beneath an avenue of shady trees, which extended as far as the outskirts of the town of St. Josť. This town, or pueblo as it is called, is nothing more than a mass of ill-arranged and ill built houses, with an ugly church and a broad plaza, peopled by three or four hundred inhabitants. Not being used to long journeys on horseback, I felt disposed to stop here for the night, but Bradley urged us to proceed a few miles farther, where we could take up our quarters at a rancho belonging to a friend of his. Accordingly we pushed on, and, after a ride of about seven miles, diverged from the main road, and soon reached the farm-house, where we were well entertained, and had a good night's rest.
Like the generality of houses in California, this was only one story high, and was built of piles driven into the ground, interlaced with boughs and sticks, and then plastered over with mud and whitewashed. The better class of farm-houses are built of adobes, or unburnt bricks, and tiled over. The interior was as plain and cheerless as it well could be. The floor was formed of the soil, beaten down till it was as firm and hard as a piece of stone. The room set apart for our sleeping accommodation boasted as its sole ornaments a Dutch clock and a few gaudily-coloured prints of saints hung round the walls. The beds were not over comfortable, but we were too tired to be nice. In the morning I took a survey of the exterior, and saw but few cattle stalled in the sheds around the house. The greater part, it sterns, after being branded, are suffered to run loose over the neighbouring pastures. There was a well-cultivated garden in the rear of the house, with abundance of fruit trees and vegetables.
While we were at breakfast, Malcolm asked our host several questions about his crops, and soon found that he was no practical agriculturist. He had, however, at Bradley's suggestion, discarded the native wooden plough for the more effective American implement. He told us that he calculated his crop of wheat this year would yield a hundred fanegas for every one sown; and, on our expressing our surprise at such a bountiful return, said that sixty or over was the usual average. If so, the soil must be somewhat wonderful. After expressing our thanks, for the hospitality shown us, to the wife of our host, who was a very pretty little dark-eyed woman, with a most winning way about her, we started off to resume our journey. For my own part, I felt very loth to proceed, for I was terribly fatigued by my performance of yesterday, and suffered not a little from that disagreeable malady called "saddle-sickness." Our Californian accompanied us some short distance on our road, which lay for many miles through a wide valley, watered by a considerable stream, and overgrown with oaks and sycamores. Low hills rose on either hand, covered with dark ridges of lofty pine trees, up which herds of elk and deer were every now and then seen scampering. We at length entered upon a narrow road through a range of green sheltering hills, and, passing the Mission of San Juan, crossed a wide plain and ascended the mountain ridge which lay between us and Monterey, where we arrived late in the day.
Next morning Mr. Bradley accompanied me to the Governor's house, where we saw Colonel Mason, the new governor of the State. He received us with great politeness, but said that the war, if war it deserved to be called, was now at an end, that but a small number of troops were stationed in the country, and that there was no vacancy for a surgeon. "Indeed," he said, "considering that we have given up head-breaking, and the climate is proverbially healthy, California is hardly the place for doctors to settle in. Besides," said he, "the native Californians all use the Temescal (a sort of air-bath) as a remedy for every disorder." Colonel Mason then asked Mr. Bradley if he had heard the reports of gold having been found on the Sacramento, as Mr. Fulsom had casually mentioned in a letter to him that such rumours were prevalent at San Francisco. Bradley replied that he had heard something about it, but believed that there was no truth in the matter, although a few fools had indeed rushed off to the reputed gold mines forthwith. With this our interview terminated.
Monterey seems to be a rising town. The American style of houses is superseding the old mud structures, and numbers of new huildings are being run up every month. The hotel we stopped at has only been recently opened by an American. Monterey is moreover a port of some importance, if one may judge from the number of vessels lying at anchor.