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The author gives several clues to the general spirit of the residents of Poker Flat. Most significantly, the last sentence of the first paragraph states explicitly:
There was a Sabbath lull in the air, which, in a settlement unused to Sabbath influences, looked ominous.
In the third paragraph, Harte writes:
It was experiencing a spasm of virtuous reaction, quite as lawless and ungovernable as any of the acts that had provoked it.
The vigilantes of Poker Flat have recently hanged two men without formal trials, and they are about to ostracize four other people without being much concerned whether or not they die trying to reach the next speck of civilization, which is called Sandy Bar. The epitaph that Oakhurst leaves pinned to a pine tree with his bowie knife states that his death occurred on December 7, 1850. Winter comes early to the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The vigilantes might have known that they could be sending the outcasts to their deaths.
No doubt Poker Flat was typical of the mining towns that sprang up during the California Gold Rush. There is no mention of any churches, but the place had saloons and houses of prostitution.
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