It was past sunset, and we finally had relief from the heat. We continued onward, towards the mines, reaching the Snake River. We found a stretch of river that was shallow enough to walk through. The path, if you could call it that, continued alongside the river.
I heard a splash, and lo and behold, that fellow with the accent had tumbled into the river. I stretched out my parasol, and he grabbed it. For a few seconds, I was able to prevent him from being swept away in the current. Fortunately, the chinaman grabbed the foreigner and pulled him back onto the path.
The chill of the night was getting sharp, and we resumed our trek to the mines. In the distance, not too far, we heard gunfire. Senor Castillo, along with the priest and the chinaman, ran up a steep slope, in the direction of the shots. The rest of us took a bit longer to get up, with Mr. Gates’ leg setting the pace.
When we got to the top, I found another chinaman, collapsed and half dead in front of me. He drank from my canteen, and then he seemed okay to stand. There was a bit more gunfire and slashing and fancy moves. When the fighting finally stopped, we gathered, and it seems we had a captive—a sniveling wretch named Enus.
Enus was a hired gun at the mines, guarding the chinese, and had been hunting this half dead slave for miles. Chon was able to talk to the slave, and although they discussed matters at length, he would not recommend a good launderer in Portland. I did gather that a peculiar sickness was affecting the slaves, making them mine as if they were machines.
The priest had donned the clothing of the tallest gunman from the mines. Chon traded clothing with the slave. A plan was forming to approach the cave as friendlies, a ruse that hopefully would get us close enough for a surprise attack. The mine was still miles away, and we were cold and tired.
That simple-minded oaf, Enus, knew of a cabin where we could get shelter from the cold. We doubted if we could trust him, but we did not have better options. The cabin was small and old and very dirty. Inside we found a crate, not so old or dirty. It was full of machine parts, which the tinkerers thought was some kind of automated contraption.
Outside of the cabin, there was a strange tunnel leading underneath the floor. Chon went in and found a woman’s corpse in a rocking chair. She held something in her hand, which Chon buried, but he stubbornly refused to tell me the details. As if to prove this was the work Satan himself, a serpent appeared from the corpse and attacked Chon. Javier rushed down and filleted that snake.
After that dark omen, Mr. Sparks refused to sleep in the cabin. A grave was dug for the corpse, and the lady was put to rest not far from the cabin. We settled in for the night, with Mr. Sparks taking watch under a tree, and the rest of us slept in the cabin.
Well, Mr. Sparks, obviously unnerved by something he saw in the night, was talking nonsense. Apparently, a huge beast had dug up the old woman’s bones and ran off into the night. There wasn’t much point trying to make sense of his story. We needed to get a start on a long walk.