The Prisoner In American Shaft

: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

An Indian seldom forgets an injury or omits to revenge it, be it a real

or a fancied one. A young native of the New Almaden district, in

California, fell in love with a girl of the same race, and supposed that

he was prospering in his suit, for he was ardent and the girl was,

seemingly, not averse to him; but suddenly she became cold, avoided him,

and answered his greetings, if they met, in single words. He affected to

care not greatly for this change, but he took no rest until he had

discovered the cause of it. Her parents had conceived a dislike to him

that later events proved to be well founded, and had ordered or persuaded

her to deny his suit.

His retaliation was prompt and Indian-like. He killed the father and

mother at the first opportunity, seized the girl when she was at a

distance from the village, and carried her to the deserted quicksilver

mine near Spanish Camp. In a tunnel that branched from American Shaft he

had fashioned a rude cell of stone and wood, and into that he forced and

fastened her. He had stocked it with water and provisions, and for some

weeks he held the wretched girl a captive in total darkness, visiting her

whenever he felt moved to do so until, his passion sated, he resolved to

leave the country.

As an act of partial atonement for the wrong he had done, he hung a

leather coat at the mouth of the tunnel, on which, in picture writing, he

indicated the whereabouts of the girl. Search parties had been out from

the time of her disappearance, and one of them chanced on this clue and

rescued her as she was on the point of death. The savage who had exacted

so brutal and excessive a revenge fled afar, and his whereabouts were

never known.