Samuel Davenport stood on the deck as he stared, captivated, at the horizon. It was nice to be able to fix his eyes upon something other than the endless monotony of the sea. What had an hour ago been merely a speck on the horizon could now clearly be seen as a harbor in the distance. The boat swayed, mildewed timbers creaking beneath his feet as Samuel feasted his eyes upon San Francisco, California. City of Gold.

Samuel's heart swelled with anticipation. This was what he had been waiting for. This was the reason he had left his comfortable Massachusetts home and a promising apprenticeship to endure four months on a cramped cutter vessel, with little entertainment and nothing to eat but stinking salt pork. He felt a pang with the thought of home, remembering Margaret. Her pleasant round face had been streaked with tears as she waved her handkerchief to him, her final goodbye as the boat pulled out from the dock. He absentmindedly twisted the ring on his finger; a token Margaret had woven from her own earth-brown hair. "So you'll remember me," she'd said as she slipped it onto his finger. As if he could forget.
            But Samuel couldn't keep his spirits down for long. It was a day of new beginnings. The sun shone in a cloudless sky, as clear a blue as Samuel's own eyes. A fresh salt breeze came in from the starboard, stinging his clean-shaven face and ruffling his wheat-colored hair. The wind sung a song of hope: gold, gold, gold! With any luck, he'd be back in time for the baby's first birthday. With a pile of cash to boot.

Samuel retired to his cabin and reflected. He was not the kind of man one would expect to embark on such a madcap voyage. Quite the contrary. He was a shy, soft-spoken lad; a printer's apprentice who kept to himself. He'd led a quiet existence back home in Massachusetts, until the lure of easy riches and the appeal of adventure to his restless 20-year-old spirit had pulled him westward. Gold, Samuel reflected, seemed to work its siren song even on the humblest of hearts. But-

His train of thought was interrupted from a cry above decks. "Drop anchor; here she is! San Francisco harbor!" Samuel hastily jumped up from his bunk, bumping his head against the low planks of the ceiling. He hardly noticed as he dashed up to the deck, eager for his first glimpse of El Dorado.
           Such commotion Samuel had never seen, even at the busy port of Boston. The place was thronged with seasoned miners and newcomers alike. Scores of vendors peddled their wares, mostly provisions and mining gear. The air rang with market place cries: "Wash pans! Wash pans, cheap! They'll only cost you ten dollars; they'll find you many more!"  "Food and gear, get them here! Mining starter pack for beginners!" and "Trade in your gold, trade it in here! 16 dollars to the ounce, that's right, you won't find a better rate anywhere else!" Owners of gambling saloons could be heard calling, "Here's the place to get your money back!"

A little ways off, he could just make out a valley that appeared to be no valley at all, but a sea of canvas tents. He disembarked in high spirits, his future shining like the precious metal it held.

Samuel had been glad of the storage room traveling by ship afforded. It meant he was able to pack much more than he could have, had he taken the overland route. Soon, however, he found himself wishing he had been more sparing in what he packed. He had to drag his trunk along, which contained clothing, blankets, cooking supplies, money, and an old, tattered Bible, among other things. It was exhausting work, especially under the eye of the hot California sun. As he traveled he added a wash pan, shovel, and a generous amount of food, so relieved was he to be free of the ship's monotonous salt pork and plum duff. The chest's weight, however, remained relatively the same; although each new object was an additional burden, the load of coins inside had lightened considerably.

Unable to take it any more, Samuel sat down for a rest and a bite to eat. The meal was a simple one- some water, a small loaf of bread, and some candied fruit- but it tasted like heaven after the ship's bland fare. Suddenly, Samuel was overtaken by a tremendous yawn. He hadn't realized just how tired he was. He stood up wearily, sighing as he prepared to trudge onward.

Samuel looked up and was shocked to see the sky awash in shining hues of orange and yellow. Even the sky is gold, he thought, his mind muddled with fatigue. He shook his head and realized he was witnessing one of the most spectacular sunsets he had even seen. The beauty was lost on him, however, as he resignedly dragged his chest along, following the crowd.

After plodding for a while, Samuel came to an abrupt stop, surprised to find himself in the tent-covered valley he had spotted earlier. All around him, newcomers like himself were crawling into their tents as twilight crept over the horizon. Scattered about was the occasional miserable fellow who had to make do with a blanket and an empty crate or barrel. Samuel cursed his lack of foresight when he realized he was among them.

He hastily removed a blanket from his chest and moved over to an empty crate nearby. Huddled under the crate, he drew his blanket close about him. Samuel shivered wretchedly in the wet grass as night drew a close to his first day in the Golden Country.