Digging for GoldŮÍŗųŗÚŁ ÍŪŤ„ů ŠŚŮÔŽŗÚŪÓ
GRANT AND HIS MOTHER
ďMother, this is an important day for me,Ē said Grant Colburn, as he entered the kitchen with an armful of wood, and deposited it in the box behind the stove.
His mother looked up from the table where she was cutting out pie crust, and asked in surprise, ďWhat do you mean, Grant? Why is to-day any different from ordinary days?Ē
ďI am sixteen to-day, mother!Ē
ďSo you are, Grant. I ought to have thought of it. I am sorry,Ē she added wistfully, ďthat I havenít got a present for you, but you know Mr. Tarbox Ė Ē
ďIs the stingiest man in the country. Yes, I know that well enough.Ē
ďI actually havenít a cent that I can call my own, Grant.Ē
ďI know that very well, mother. It was an unlucky day when you married that old skinflint.Ē
ďDonít call him that, Grant,Ē said his mother, with an apprehensive look in the direction of the door.
ďHeís all that, and more if possible. When did he give you any money last?Ē
ďTwo weeks ago.Ē
ďAnd how much did he give you at that time?Ē
ďWhat a shame! Why, if you had hired out as his housekeeper he would have been compelled to give you more.Ē
ďYes, Grant,Ē sighed Mrs. Tarbox, ďI wish I were his housekeeper instead of his wife. I should be more independent.Ē
ďHe made a good bargain when he married you, mother. But I never understood why you married him.Ē
ďI acted for the best, as I thought, Grant. You know how your poor father left us. After his affairs were settled, there were only two hundred and fifty dollars left, and you were but twelve years old. I took in sewing, and earned what I could, but at the end of a year I had used up a hundred dollars of our small capital. Then Mr. Tarbox asked me to marry him, and I agreed, for I thought it would give us a comfortable home.Ē
ďA comfortable home!Ē repeated Grant. ďWe have enough to eat, it is true, but you never worked so hard in your life, and I can say the same for myself. I was barely fourteen when Mr. Tarbox took me away from school, and since then I have had to work early and late. At five oíclock, winter and summer, I have to turn out of bed, and work all day, so that when night comes I am dead tired.Ē
ďThat is true, Grant,Ē said his mother, with a look of distress. ďYou work too hard for a boy of your age.Ē
ďAnd what do I get for it?Ē continued Grant indignantly. ďI havenít any clothes. Charlie Titus asked me the other day why I didnít go to church. I was ashamed to tell him that it was because I had no clothes fit to wear there. It is a year since I had my last suit, and now I have grown out of it. My coat is too short in the sleeves, and my pantaloons in the legs.Ē
ďPerhaps I can lengthen them out, Grant.Ē
ďYou did it six months ago. There is no more chance. No, Iíll tell you what I am going to do.
Iíll ask Mr. Tarbox for a new suit, and as it is my birthday, perhaps he will open his heart and be generous for once.Ē
ďIt is a good plan, Grant. There he is now, out by the well curb.Ē
ďThen Iíll speak at once. Wish me luck, mother.Ē
ďI do, my son. I heartily wish you good luck now and always.Ē
Grant opened the side door, and went out into the yard. Seth Tarbox looked up, and his glance fell upon his step-son.
ďCome here, Grant,Ē he said, ďI want you to turn the grindstone while I sharpen my scythe.Ē
ďWait a minute, Mr. Tarbox. I want to speak to you.Ē
ďGo ahead! You can speak if you want to,Ē said Tarbox, slightly surprised.
ďIt is my birthday to-day.Ē
ďIs it? How old be you?Ē
ďA boy of sixteen ought to do a great deal of work. Why, you are ímost a man.Ē
ďI do a good deal of work, Mr. Tarbox, but I donít seem to get much pay for it.Ē
ďHey? You want pay? Why, donít you get your victuals and clothes?Ē
ďI get my victuals, yes. But I donít get clothes, and that is just what I want to speak to you about.Ē
Mr. Tarbox began to grow uneasy. He knew what was coming.
ďWhat have you got on, Iíd like to know?Ē he inquired.
ďSome rags and overalls,Ē answered Grant bluntly.
ďTheyíre good enough to work in. Youíve got a suit to wear Sundays.Ē
ďHave I? Itís hardly fit to wear common days. Why, itís a year since I had the suit, and Iíve outgrown it.Ē
ďIím afraid youíre getting proud, Grant,Ē said his step-father uneasily.
ďIím not proud of my clothes, I can tell you that. Mr. Tarbox, Iíve worked for you the last year early and late, and I think I ought to have a new suit. It will make a nice birthday present.Ē
ďMoneyís very skerce, Grant,Ē said his step-father uneasily, ďand clothes are very high. I gave twelve dollars for that last suit of yours. It came hard. Think how long it takes to earn twelve dollars. I havenít had a suit myself for ten months.Ē
ďBut you can have one if you want it.Ē
ďIíll tell you what Iíll do, Grant,Ē said Mr. Tarbox, with a bright idea. ďYouíre ímost as big as I am. Youíre unusually large for your age. Iíll buy a new suit for myself, and give you mine. Your mother can fix it over to fit you.Ē
Grantís face assumed a look of disgust.
ďThank you, Mr. Tarbox,Ē he said, ďbut I donít want to wear your old clothes. If I canít have a new suit I donít want any.Ē
ďíPears to me youíre mighty particular.Ē
ďI donít think so. I only want whatís right. Most boys of my age have at least two new suits a year. Charlie Titus had three.Ē
ďThen his fatherís very foolish to gratify his love of finery. Come, weíd better go to work.Ē
ďYou havenít answered my question yet, Mr. Tarbox.Ē
ďWhat is it?Ē asked Tarbox peevishly.
ďWill you buy me a new suit?Ē
ďWait two or three months, Grant.Ē
ďWhy should I wait two or three months? I need the clothes now.Ē
ďMoney may be easier then.Ē
ďI am not willing to wait.Ē
ďíPears to me youíre very headstrong, Grant Colburn,Ē said the farmer in a tone of displeasure.
ďI want my rights. I wonít work if you are going to deal so closely with me.Ē
Seth Tarbox frowned, and looked perplexed. But presently an idea came to him and his face smoothed.
ďPerhaps we can fix it, Grant,Ē he said in a conciliatory tone.
Grant felt encouraged. It looked as if his request were to be granted.
ďI shall be very much obliged to you,Ē he said.
ďWait a minute! You aint got my idea. Your mother has money.Ē
ďWhat if she has?Ē asked Grant suspiciously.
ďIf she will lend you ten or twelve dollars to buy a suit Iíll make it up to her in, say three or four months.Ē
Grantís face darkened. He knew very well that the money never would be repaid, and he penetrated the crafty design of his step-father.
ďNo, Mr. Tarbox,Ē he said. ďMy motherís money must not be touched. Thereís little enough of it, and I donít want her to run the risk of losing it.Ē
ďBut she wonít lose it. Didnít I say I would pay it back?Ē
ďWhy canít you advance the money yourself?Ē
ďDidnít I tell you money was skerce?Ē said Seth Tarbox irritably.
ďI know youíve got money in two savings banks, besides some railroad bonds. Tom Wilson told me the other day that you had over five thousand dollars in money and bonds.Ē
ďTom Wilson donít know anything about my affairs,Ē said Tarbox hastily. ďIíll think it over, Grant, and mebbe Ė I wonít promise Ė Iíll see what I can do for you. Now weíll go to work. Itís a sin to be idle.Ē
Mr. Tarboxís farm was located in Woodburn, rather a small town in Iowa. He was originally from Connecticut, but at the age of thirty removed to the then frontier Western State. He owned a large farm, which he had bought at the government price of one dollar and a quarter an acre. He also owned a smaller farm a mile and a half west of the one he occupied, and this he cultivated on shares. It had been a lucky purchase, for a railway intersected it, and he had obtained a large price for the land used. Besides his two farms, he had from six to seven thousand dollars in money; yet it seemed that the richer he grew the meaner he became. He had a married daughter, living in Crestville, six miles away, and when he died she and her family would no doubt inherit the miserly farmerís possessions. Like her father she was selfish and close so far as others were concerned, but she was willing to spend money on herself. She had a son about the age of Grant, who liked to wear good clothes, and was something of a dude. His name was Rodney Bartlett, and he looked down with infinite contempt on his grandfatherís hard-working stepson.
Just before twelve oíclock a smart looking buggy drove into the yard. The occupants of the buggy were Rodney and his mother.
ďHey, you!Ē he called out to Grant, ďcome and hold the horse while we get out.Ē
Grant came forward and did as he was requested. Had Rodney been alone he would not have heeded the demand, but Mrs. Bartlettís sex claimed deference, though he did not like her.
ďJust go in and tell your mother weíve come to dinner.Ē
But Grant was spared the trouble, for the farmer came up at this moment.
ďHowdy do, Sophia!Ē he said. ďWhat sent you over?Ē
ďI wanted to consult you about a little matter of business, father. I hope Mrs. Tarbox will have enough dinner for us.Ē
ďI reckon so, I reckon so,Ē said Seth Tarbox, who, to do him justice, was not mean as regarded the table. ďHowís your husband?Ē
ďOh, heís ailing as usual. Heís lazy and shiftless, and if it wasnít for me I donít know what would become of us.Ē
By this time the two had entered the house. Rodney stayed behind, and glanced superciliously at Grant.
ďSeems to me youíre looking shabbier than ever,Ē he said.
ďYouíre right there,Ē said Grant bitterly, ďbut it isnít my fault.Ē
ďWhose is it?Ē
ďYour grandfatherís. He wonít buy me any clothes.Ē
ďWell, youíre not kin to him.Ē
ďI know that, but I work hard and earn a great deal more than I get.Ē
ďI donít know about that. Maybe I can hunt up one of my old suits for you,Ē Rodney added patronizingly.
ďThank you, but I donít want anybodyís cast-off clothes; at any rate, not yours.Ē
ďYouíre getting proud,Ē sneered Rodney.
ďYou can call it that if you like.Ē
ďDonít you wish you was me, so you could wear good clothes all the time?Ē
ďI should like to wear the good clothes, but Iíd rather be myself than anybody else.Ē
ďSome time I shall be rich,Ē said Rodney complacently. ďI shall have all grandfatherís money.Ē
ďWonít it go to your mother?Ē
ďOh, well, sheíll give it to me. I hope you donít think you and your mother will get any of it?Ē
ďWe ought to, for mother is making a slave of herself, but I donít think we will. If your grandfather would do more for us now we wouldnít mind inheriting anything.Ē
There was a tapping on the front window.
ďThat means dinner, I suppose,Ē said Grant.
ďAre you going to sit down with us?Ē asked Rodney, eying Grantís costume with disfavor.
ďIn those clothes?Ē
ďI havenít time to change them. Besides my Sunday suit isnít much better.Ē
At the table, toward the close of the meal, Rodney said, ďGrandfather, Grant isnít dressed very well.Ē
Seth Tarbox frowned.
ďHas he been complaining to you?Ē he asked. ďHeís been pesteriní all the morniní about new clothes. I told him money was skerce.Ē
ďI can save you expense, grandfather. I will give him an old suit of mine Ė one I have cast off.Ē
ďWhy, thatís an excellent plan,Ē said Tarbox, brightening up. ďDo you hear that, Grant? You wonít need to buy a new suit for yourself now.Ē
ďI donít care for any of Rodneyís old clothes,Ē answered Grant, with an indignant flush.
ďSho! sho! Youíre acting very contrary. Rodneyís suit is a good deal better than yours, Iíve no doubt.Ē
ďI donít know whether it is or not, but Iím entitled to new clothes, and I want them.Ē
ďWhat do you say to that, Mrs. Tarbox?Ē demanded the farmer, looking over at his wife.
ďI say that he is right. Grant has worked hard, Mr. Tarbox, and he ought to be decently dressed.Ē
ďRodney,Ē said his mother, ďyour kind offer is thrown away.Ē
ďSo I see,Ē said Rodney, extending his plate for another piece of pie.
ďIím sorry you take Grantís part, Mrs. T.,Ē said the farmer. ďI wonít countenance no extravagance. Whatís the use of spending good money when a suit of clothes is offered for nothing.Ē
ďIf the suit is a good one,Ē retorted Grant, ďwhy does Rodney lay it aside?Ē
ďThere is a difference between him and you,Ē said Mrs. Bartlett in an acid tone.
ďIím a gentleman and youíre a farm boy,Ē said Rodney, taking it upon himself to answer.
ďI shanít always be a farm boy!Ē
ďNo, you wonít be a boy when youíre grown up,Ē returned Rodney, looking around to see if his joke were appreciated.
ďThere aint no disgrace in beiní a farm boy,Ē said Seth Tarbox. ďI worked on a farm myself when I was a boy, and Iíve worked on a farm ever since.Ē
ďIím going to college, and be a lawyer,Ē said Rodney in a consequential tone.
ďIt costs a sight of money to go to college, Sophia,Ē said Tarbox deprecatingly.
ďI shall make a lot of money when I am a lawyer,Ē explained Rodney. ďWhy, I read in the paper that there are some lawyers that make fifty thousand dollars. Besides, I may get elected to Congress. Thatís better than working on a farm. When Grant is getting fifteen dollars a month and his board, as a hired man on a farm, I will ride in my carriage, and live like a gentleman.Ē
ďI may be a rich man myself,Ē interrupted Grant.
ďYou a rich man! Ho, ho!Ē laughed Rodney. ďYou look like it.Ē
ďNo, I donít look like it, but I may get there all the same.Ē
ďYou talk a good deal for a boy of your age,Ē remarked Mrs. Bartlett in a tone of rebuke.
ďNo more than Rodney.Ē
But Grant, looking at his mother, saw that she was disturbed, and refrained from noticing any further speeches of his young antagonist.
ďBy the way, father,Ē said Mrs. Bartlett, ďyou remember John Heywood, of our town?Ē
ďYes; what of him?Ē
ďHeís just got back from California.Ē
ďItís dreadful expensive goiní to California.Ē
ďThat isnít of much account if you can bring back a lot of money.Ē
ďDid John Heywood bring back a lot of money?Ē asked the farmer, pricking up his ears.
ďHe brought back ten thousand dollars.Ē
ďSho! How you talk!Ē
ďItís true, every word of it.Ē
ďHow did he make it?Ē
ďMining, I believe. Heís bought the Ezra Jones place, and is going to put up a nice house.Ē
Among the most interested listeners was Grant Colburn. His color went and came, and he seemed excited.
ďHow long was Mr. Heywood in California,Ē he asked.
ďAbout a year. He was gone a good deal longer, for he went across the plains, and it took four months. He came back across the Isthmus.Ē
ďI would like to go California,Ē said Grant thoughtfully.
ďYou go to California! A boy like you!Ē repeated Mrs. Bartlett scornfully. ďWhat could you do?Ē
ďI could make more money than I do here,Ē answered Grant with spirit.
ďI reckon you wonít go in a hurry,Ē said Seth Tarbox composedly. ďYou havenít money enough to get you twenty-five miles, and I sípose itís as much as two thousand miles from Iowa to Californy.Ē
Grant felt that there was a good deal of truth in his step-fatherís words, but the idea had found lodgment in his brain, and was likely to remain there.
ďI mean to go sometime!Ē he said resolutely.
ďYouíd better start right off after dinner!Ē said Rodney in a sneering tone.
A TERRIBLE RESPONSIBILITY
ďGrant, you may go over to the other farm and ask Luke Weldon for the pitchfork he borrowed of me last week. Thereís no knowing how long he would keep it if I didnít send for it.Ē
ďAll right, sir.Ē
ďRodney can walk with you if he wants to.Ē
ďThank you,Ē said Rodney, shrugging his shoulders, ďbut I donít care to walk a mile and a half for a pitchfork. Iíll go part way, though, to the village.Ē
The two boys started out together. Rodney looked askance at his companionís poor clothes.
ďYouíre foolish not to take the suit I offered you,Ē he said. ďIts a good deal better than yours.Ē
ďI presume it is.Ē
ďThen why donít you want it?Ē
ďBecause it will prevent your grandfather buying me a new one.Ē
ďHave you asked him?Ē
ďYes, I asked him this morning.Ē
ďWhat did he say?Ē
ďThat he would buy a new one for himself, and have his best suit cut down for me.Ē
ďYouíd look like a fright,Ē he said.
ďI think so myself,Ē assented Grant with a smile.
ďYouíd better take mine than his. Grandfather isnít much like a dude in dress.Ē
ďNo; he tells me that I dress as well as he.Ē
ďSo you do, nearly. However, it does not make much difference how an old man like him dresses.Ē
Rodney rather approved of his grandfatherís scanty outlay on dress, for it would enable him to leave more money to his mother and himself.
ďDo you know how old grandfather is?Ē asked Rodney.
ďI believe he is sixty-nine.Ē
ďThatís pretty old. He wonít live many years longer probably. Then the property will come to mother and me.Ē
ďShall you come to live on the farm?Ē
ďNot much. Mother says sheíll sell both farms, and then we may go to Chicago to live.Ē
Grant did not like Mr. Tarbox, but he was rather disgusted to hear his grandson speculate so coolly about his death.
ďDonít you think grandfather is failing?Ē continued Rodney.
ďI donít know that he is,Ē answered Grant coldly.
ďMother thinks heís got kidney disease. Old men are very apt to have that trouble.Ē
ďI never heard him complain of being sick.Ē
By this time the two boys had reached the village.
ďI think Iíll drop into the drug store,Ē said Rodney. ďThey keep cigarettes there, donít they?Ē
ďI believe so.Ē
ďMother donít like me to smoke, but I do it on the sly. Iíll give you a cigarette, if you want one,Ē he said, in an unusual fit of generosity.
ďThank you, but I donít smoke.Ē
ďItís just as well, for you are poor and couldnít afford to buy cigarettes. Well, I suppose youíve got to go on.Ē
So the two boys parted. Rodney entered the drug store, and not only bought a package of cigarettes, but drank a glass of soda water. It did not occur to him to offer Grant soda water, for that would have cost a nickel, while a cigarette was inexpensive.
ďSomehow I donít like Rodney,Ē said Grant to himself as he walked along. ďHe seems anxious to have his grandfather die in order to get hold of the property. I wouldnít want to feel that way about anybody, though money would be very acceptable.Ē
Grant walked a mile farther till he reached the farm. Luke Weldon, who had taken it on shares, was in the yard.
ďWell, Grant, have you come to see me?Ē he asked with a good-natured smile.
ďYes, Mr. Weldon. Mr. Tarbox wants his pitchfork, which you borrowed last week.Ē
ďWas the old man afraid he wouldnít get it back?Ē
ďHe doesnít mean to let anybody get the advantage of him. Well, come to the barn with me, and Iíll give it to you.Ē
Grant followed Luke to the barn, and received the borrowed article.
ďIt beats all how suspicious Seth Tarbox is,Ē continued Luke. ďYou know I run this farm on shares. The old man is dreadfully afraid I shall cheat him in the division of the crop. He comes over spying round from time to time. How do you like working for him?Ē
ďNot at all,Ē answered Grant bluntly.
ďDoes he pay you any wages?Ē
ďI work for my board and clothes, but I donít get any clothes. Look at me.Ē
ďThe old man is awful close. I sometimes ask myself how it is all to end. He stints himself and his family, and all his money will go to his daughter Sophia and her boy.Ē
ďThey are over there to-day.Ē
ďHow do you like the boy?Ē
ďAbout as much as his grandfather.Ē
ďHeís a disagreeable young cub, and about as mean as the old man.Ē
ďHe offered me a cigarette this morning,Ē said Grant smiling.
ďDid you accept?Ē
ďNo, I do not smoke. He offered me one of his old suits, too, but it was only to save his grandfather the expense of buying me a new one.Ē
ďI suppose you accepted that.Ē
ďNo, I didnít. I will have a new suit or none at all.Ē
ďI like your spirit. I wish I could have you to work for me.Ē
ďI would rather work for you than for Mr. Tarbox, but there is one thing I would like better still.Ē
ďWhat is that?Ē
ďTo go to California.Ē
ďWhat put that into your head?Ē
ďMrs. Bartlett was mentioning that John Heywood had just got back, bringing ten thousand dollars in gold.Ē
ďSho! You donít say so.Ē
ďAnd he bought a farm and is going to put up a new house.Ē
ďSome men are lucky, thatís a fact. Ten thousand dollars, and heís only just turned thirty. Well, I wish I were in his shoes.Ē
ďI mean to go to California some time.Ē
ďBut how will you go? It costs money to go so far.Ē
ďThatís true, and I donít know where the money is coming from, but I mean to get there all the same.Ē
ďIf you had the money Seth Tarbox wouldnít let you use it for that.Ē
ďIíd like to see him stop me!Ē said Grant, nodding his head with emphasis.
ďWell, I wish you luck, Grant, but I reckon itíll be a good many years before you get to California.Ē
Privately Grant was of the same opinion, but the idea had entered his mind, and was not likely to be dislodged.
There were two ways of going home, one through the village, the same way he came, and the other across the railroad and over the fields. This was no shorter, but there was a variety in it, and Grant decided that he should take it.
A hundred feet from the place where he crossed the railroad there was a bridge spanning the creek, not wide, but lying some twenty feet below. The bridge was about fifty feet long.ŮÍŗųŗÚŁ ÍŪŤ„ů ŠŚŮÔŽŗÚŪÓ
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