Digging for Goldñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
They fell in with a thin man, of medium stature, who talked in a drawling tone. He seemed to have a considerable share of curiosity.
“Where might you be from, strangers?” he inquired.
“We might be from China, but we aint,” said Tom.
“Is that a joke?” asked their new acquaintance, puzzled.
“Yes; it’s an attempt at a joke.”
“I reckon you don’t want to tell.”
“Oh, yes; we’re entirely willing. We came from Howe’s Gulch.”
“So? Did you strike it rich there?”
“No; we struck it poor,” said Grant, with a smile. “We found ourselves headed for the poorhouse, so we switched off.”
“I was at Howe’s Gulch myself a year ago.”
“Did you have luck?”
“Not much. I paid expenses.”
“Are you mining now?”
“No; I’m farming. I live just out of the village – me and Mrs. Crambo, and a boy that’s working for us.”
“How far from here?”
“About a mile.”
“How would you like a couple of boarders?”
“Are you going to stay ’round here?“
“We may – for a while.”
“Come to the house, then, and speak to Mrs. Crambo. If she’s agreeable, I am.”
They accompanied their new friend to a plain, but comfortable house, looking not unlike a New England farm-house. Mrs. Crambo was a pleasant looking woman, weighing at least fifty pounds more than her lord and master. She was evidently the “better man of the two,” being active and energetic, while he was slow and seemed to find exertion difficult.
“If you are willing to set up a hotel, Mrs. Crambo,” said her husband, “I bring you two boarders for a starter.”
“I shouldn’t mind a little company,” she said pleasantly. “How long have you been out here?”
“Not long enough to make our fortunes,” answered Tom.
“Do you expect to make them out here?” she asked shrewdly.
“We would like to. Perhaps Mr. Crambo will put us in the way of doing it.”
“Do you hear that, Paul?” she said, laughing.
Mr. Crambo scratched his head.
“I haven’t made my own yet,” he answered slowly.
“If it rained gold pieces, you wouldn’t pick up enough to keep you going for three months. You know you are shiftless, Paul.”
“Well, perhaps I am, Martha. I can’t get up and hustle like you.”
“No, you’re not one of the hustling kind. Well, gentlemen, if you want to stay with us awhile, and don’t object to seven dollars a week each, we’ll try to accommodate you. When do you want to begin?”
“Right off,” answered Tom, upon whose olfactories the savory smell of dinner, cooking in the next room, made an agreeable impression. “The terms are satisfactory.”
So it happened that Tom and Grant became inmates of the Crambo household. The first meal satisfied them that their hostess was a most accomplished cook, and the supper seemed to them delicious.
“Have you had any gold-digging near here?” asked Tom.
“Not much. There was an old man who had a claim somewhere near where I met you, but I don’t think he made much.
Finally he got discouraged and went away. That’s a good while since.”
“Evidently he doesn’t suspect anything,” thought Grant. “All the better. We shan’t have any competitors.”
“Then you don’t think he took much gold away with him?” he said aloud.
“No. I guess he wasn’t calc’lated for a gold miner.”
“He might have taken a lesson of you, Paul,” suggested Mrs. Crambo.
“I never had a good claim,” answered the master of the house. “If I had I’d have done as well as the next man.”
“It depends on who the next man was,” said his wife.
“There aint any more money in mining,” said Crambo dogmatically. “All the claims are petering out.”
“I guess you are the one that’s petered out.”
“Perhaps you’d like to go into the business yourself, Mrs. C.”
“No, thank you. I’ve all I can do to take care of you and the farm. Help yourself to the doughnuts, Mr. Cooper.”
“Thank you,” said Tom. “I haven’t eaten a doughnut before, since I left home. Your doughnuts can’t be beat.”
Mrs. Crambo was pleased with this tribute to her cooking, and was very gracious to her new boarders. After supper she showed them to a chamber on the second floor, well and comfortably furnished.
“You two gentlemen will have to room together,” she said. “This is the only room I have to spare.”
“We shan’t object,” said Tom. “Grant and I are friends and partners, and are not likely to quarrel.”
“Crambo and I never quarrel,” she said, with a significant laugh. “He knows better.”
“Yes my dear,” said Paul meekly.
“We’re in luck, Grant,” said Tom. “For the first time in months we shall live like Christians.”
“I hope you won’t be offended, Tom, but I like Mrs. Crambo’s cooking better than yours.”
“That’s where you show your good taste. I wasn’t intended by nature for a cook, and I can say the same for you.”
The next morning the two friends set out after breakfast for the deserted claim. They opened it up, and soon found traces of past workings.
They had been there for about a couple of hours when Paul Crambo came along.
“What’s up?” he asked, in surprise.
“We’ve gone to work,” answered Tom.
“That must be the claim the old man used to run.”
“Very likely. I thought some one must have been at work here before.”
“Likely you’ll get discouraged and go off, as he did.”
“We’ll try to make enough to pay our board. That’ll keep us here, even if we don’t succeed very well.”
“I never like digging for gold,” said Crambo. “It made my back ache.”
“Grant and I will try it awhile.”
Mr. Crambo looked on awhile and then sauntered away. It made him uncomfortable to see others work hard. He became fatigued himself out of sympathy.
THE BEGINNING OF SUCCESS
Tom and Grant met with little success during the first two days, and were correspondingly disappointed. After all the high hopes with which they had entered upon this new enterprise, it was certainly discouraging to realize scarcely more than at Howe’s Gulch. But on the third day they struck a “pocket,” and in the next two days took out five hundred dollars.
“That’s the way to do it, Grant,” said Tom, his face fairly radiant. “It pays to dig for gold at this rate.”
“So it does, Tom. I felt sure the old gentleman wouldn’t deceive us.”
“If it will only last, we shall make our fortunes.”
“This pocket won’t last, of course, but we may strike another. You know Mr. Gibbon told us he took out ten thousand dollars in six months.”
“That is true, so we may hope for a good streak of luck.”
“There is one thing I have been thinking of, Tom. Where shall we keep our gold-dust?”
Tom looked doubtful.
“If we could send it away,” he said, “it would be better. Of course, if we keep it under our own charge we may be robbed.”
“To begin with, we must not let any one know how well we are doing.”
“That is important. The news would attract adventurers and thieves.”
Finally it was decided to keep the dust for the present in a box at their boarding-place. In the room the two partners found a sailor’s chest which had been left by a former boarder, who had left the house in arrears. Grant bought it of Mr. Crambo for a couple of dollars, and Paul seemed glad to get rid of it at that price. There was a good lock upon it, and into this chest their daily findings were put, till at the end of a fortnight, they had, according to Tom Cooper’s estimate, about one thousand dollars.
Of their good luck neither Mr. nor Mrs. Crambo had the slightest idea.
“How are you making out at the mines, Mr. Cooper?” asked Mrs. Crambo one evening.
“So, so!” answered Tom indifferently.
“You’ll never make your fortune at that there mine,” said Paul.
“Oh, well, we are not ambitious,” rejoined Grant. “If we make enough to pay our board and a little more, we shall not complain.”
“I hope you’ll do that,” said Mrs. Crambo. “I have got used to having you here, and should be sorry to have you go. If you should find yourself short at any time, just put off paying your board. I am not afraid to trust you.”
“You are very kind,” said Tom warmly; “but we had a little money with us when we came, and we are doing enough to make it pretty certain that we can pay our board.”
“You wouldn’t if you didn’t work harder than my husband.”
“My dear,” interposed Mr. Crambo, shrugging his shoulders, “I work as hard as I can. I wasn’t made for hard work.”
“I don’t believe you were,” said his wife. “You never have made a success yet.”
“Except in marrying you,” responded Paul.
Mrs. Crambo smiled.
“It may have been good luck for you,” she replied, “but I am afraid that in becoming Mrs. Crambo I made a serious mistake.”
“I suppose you regret not marrying Silverthorn,” said Paul.
“Silverthorn!” exclaimed Grant and Tom Cooper in unison.
“Yes; his name was Dionysius Silverthorn, and he looked like a preacher. Do you know him?”
“We have met him.”
“He taught a dancing school in Wisconsin – that’s where my wife and I came from – and was rather sweet on her. I think she gave him some encouragement.”
“You know I never did, Paul.”
“I sometimes think you hanker after him yet, Rebecca.”
“Well, between you and him I am not sure that there is much choice,” retorted Mrs. Crambo.
“I can assure you there is,” said Grant. “Silverthorn is the worst fraud I ever came across.”
“I say the same,” chimed in Tom.
“What do you know of him? My wife will be interested to hear,” said Mr. Crambo.
Upon this the two partners gave an account of their personal experience with Silverthorn, and what they had learned of him through Nahum Stockton.
“Paul,” said Mrs. Crambo, “that settles it. You needn’t be jealous of Mr. Silverthorn. I wouldn’t marry him if I were left a widow to-morrow. For the first time I begin to see that I might have done worse. By the way,” resumed Mrs. Crambo, “I have had an application for board from another party.”
“Humph! I can’t say as to that. It’s a man, at any rate.”
“What did you say?” asked Tom, a little uneasy. The presence of another boarder would render the discovery of their secret more likely.
“I said I would take him for a few days on trial,” answered Mrs. Crambo.
“Is he in any business?”
“He says he is prospecting.”
“What is his name?”
“I can’t remember. However, we shall soon know, for he is to come this evening.”
In fact, just at this moment, there was a knock at the door, and Mr. Crambo, answering it, ushered in a person familiar to Grant, at least.
“Albert Benton!” he exclaimed.
“What, Grant, you here?” exclaimed Benton, in surprise.
“Why, are you gentlemen acquainted?” asked Mrs. Crambo.
“Yes,” answered Grant briefly; “we knew each other in Sacramento.”
Grant was by no means pleased to see his old associate in the restaurant.
“And what are you doing here, Grant?” asked Benton curiously.
“Mr. Cooper and I are working a claim,” answered Grant unwillingly.
“Is it rich? Don’t you want a partner?” inquired Benton briskly.
“No; we can do all the work that is required. But what are you doing?”
“Oh, I’ve been drifting around,” said Benton evasively. “I was digging for gold a part of the time.”
“Did you meet with any success?”
“Not much. I tell you, Grant, this mining business is played out. I don’t know what I shall take up next. If I had capital, I would set up a restaurant of my own.”
“You may be right about mining,” said Grant. “We made very little at Howe’s Gulch.”
“I suppose you are doing better here?”
“We are not ready to retire yet.”
“I am glad I happened to come here. It will be pleasant to be in the same house with an old friend.”
Grant was truthful, and did not respond to the compliment.
About eight o’clock he and his partner went up to their chamber, where, as the nights were growing cool, they were accustomed to sit before a fire and chat of their prospects. Now their privacy seemed likely to be broken in upon, for Benton invited himself to go up with them.
“Come, now, this is what I call comfort,” he said, and he leaned back in his chair and puffed at a cigar. “Reminds me of old times. I say, what a queer chap Crambo is!”
“He is rather peculiar, but a good-natured, pleasant man.”
“Oh, I don’t say anything about that, but he’s got a wife that is twice as smart as he is.”
“Mrs. Crambo knows how to cook. That is what chiefly interests us.”
Albert Benton had an inquiring mind, and was gifted with a large measure of curiosity. He looked about the room, and his glance fell on the chest.
“What do you keep in that?” he inquired.
“Clothing,” answered Grant briefly.
“What made you get a chest? A trunk would do better.”
“We found it here, and bought it of Mr. Crambo. As neither of us had a trunk, we find it convenient.”
“When do you go to work?”
“We have breakfast at seven o’clock, and generally get to work about eight.”
“What sent you here? This isn’t a mining region.”
“I suppose we drifted here, as you did.”
“Well, we’ll see what’ll come out of it.”
At ten o’clock Tom Cooper suggested to their guest, who showed no disposition to retire, that Grant and himself were in the habit of going to bed early, as their work during the day fatigued them.
“All right! I’ll see you both to-morrow,” returned Benton, as he bade them good-night.
When he had left the room Grant said: “I’m sorry to see Benton here. I am afraid he will give us trouble.”
“In what way? By giving us too much of his company?”
“Partly that, but if he had any suspicion as to the contents of the chest he wouldn’t rest till he had opened it.”
“He wouldn’t find it a very healthy proceeding,” remarked Tom Cooper grimly.
BENTON HAS A PLAN
Some days passed. The new-comer did not appear to find anything to do. He had sauntered out to the claim worked by Grant and Tom, and looked on, but had made no discoveries. He did not know whether to think they were prospering or not. He determined to obtain some information, if possible, from his landlord.
One morning, after the two friends had gone to work, he lingered at the table, asking for an extra cup of coffee as a pretext for remaining longer.
“Do you think my friend Grant and his chum are doing well?” he remarked carelessly.
“They can’t be making much,” answered Paul. “I think they are fools to waste their time here.”
“They must be making something,” said Mrs. Crambo. “They pay their board bills regularly.”
“Do they pay in gold-dust?”
“No; in coin.”
“Humph! what do they do with the gold-dust they get from the mine?”
“I don’t know. I never inquired.”
This was meant as a hint that Benton was unnecessarily curious, but he never took such hints.
“Is there any place in the village where they can dispose of it?”
“No,” answered Paul; “not that I know of. They would have to send it by express to Sacramento or San Francisco.”
“Where did you know Mr. Colburn?” asked Mrs. Crambo.
“We were employed together in Sacramento.”
“He seems to be a fine boy – or young man, perhaps I ought to call him. So steady, so regular in his habits.”
Benton shrugged his shoulders.
“Oh, he’s well enough,” he answered, “but he’s mighty close with his money.”
“I approve of young men being economical,” said Mrs. Crambo.
“But not tight. Why, I once asked Grant to lend me five dollars and, would you believe it, he wouldn’t do it.”
“Did he receive more pay than you?”
“I should say not. I received a good deal higher pay than he, as I ought to, being older and more experienced.”
“Then,” said Mrs. Crambo shrewdly, “I can’t understand why you should need to borrow money from him.”
“A man is sometimes hard up, no matter how large his income may be.”
“It ought not to be so,” said Mrs. Crambo dryly. “Our income isn’t large, but I never ask any one to lend me money.”
“Oh, well, I suppose you are a good manager.”
“Yes, I flatter myself that I am a fair manager. I think it my duty to be.”
“What a tiresome woman!” thought Benton. “I hate people who are always talking about duty.”
This was not surprising, for Benton concerned himself very little about duty in his own case.
When he left the table, he said to himself, “It seems pretty certain that Grant and Cooper haven’t parted with any of their gold-dust. The question is, where do they keep it?”
That day Benton strayed into a restaurant and boarding-house in the village, kept by a man named Hardy, and learned incidentally that he wanted to sell out.
“What do you want to sell out for?” asked Benton.
“I have got tired of the place. It is too quiet for me. I want to go to San Francisco. There’s more life there, and more money can always be made in a city like that.”
“How has the restaurant been paying?” questioned Benton.
“I can’t complain of it. It has paid me about forty dollars a week, net; perhaps a little more.”
“I have been in the restaurant business myself,” continued Albert.
“Then you are just the right man to buy me out.”
“Will you sell out for the money I have in my pocket?”
“How much have you?”
“‘I have fifteen dollars in my inside pocket,’ as the song has it.”
Hardy shook his head.
“I want a thousand dollars for the place,” he said.
“I will buy it, and pay you on instalments,” said Benton.
“Well, I might agree to that for half the purchase money. Pay me five hundred dollars down, and the rest you can pay at, say, twenty dollars a week. I am sure that is a liberal offer.”
“I don’t think so. Besides, I haven’t got five hundred dollars.”
“Can’t you borrow it?”
“I don’t know.” And then it occurred to Benton that perhaps Tom Cooper and Grant might be induced to advance that sum of money.
“Well, perhaps so,” he resumed, after a pause.
“Find out, and then come and talk to me.”
“Won’t four hundred dollars do?”
“No. I shall need to take five hundred dollars with me to San Francisco.”
“Is this the best you can do?”
“I will think of it, and let you know.”
Albert Benton walked thoughtfully out of the restaurant. He had tried gold-digging, and didn’t like it. His old business seemed to him more reliable, and this seemed a good opportunity to go back into it.
“Hardy hasn’t much enterprise,” he soliloquized. “If he can clear forty dollars a week, I shouldn’t be surprised if I could carry it up to sixty. I have never had a chance to show what I could do, always having had some one over me. I should just like to try it once.”
Benton waited till his two fellow boarders got home from their day’s work, and then opened the subject.
“I can tell you of a good investment for your money, Grant,” he said.
“How do you know I have any money to invest?”
“I suppose you have been making some, and you never spend any.”
“I never spend any foolishly, if that is what you mean.”
“You don’t seem to have much idea of enjoying life.”
“Not in your sense. I enjoy life in my own way.”
“I am glad you do, because you must have some money to lend me.”
“To lend you?”
“Yes; I have a chance to buy out a fine restaurant in the village, but must pay five hundred dollars down. I am almost sure I can clear sixty dollars a week, net profit, from it. You know yourself that I understand the business.”
“Yes, you ought to understand it.”
“I understand it better than digging for gold. I soon tired of that.”
“It is tiresome work,” admitted Grant.
“And doesn’t pay much.”
“It used to pay better – in the early days, I should think.”
“Well, Grant, what do you say? I can give you the restaurant as security, and pay you back at the rate of twenty dollars a week. I’ll pay you one per cent. a month interest.”
“How much of the sum are you going to furnish yourself?”
“Why,” said Benton, embarrassed, “I am not so fixed that I can pay anything at present. I’ve got an old uncle, over seventy years old, who is sure to leave me five thousand dollars, so that is additional security.”
“I haven’t five hundred dollars to lend.”
“I didn’t suppose you had, but your friend Cooper could chip in with you on the loan, and just draw his one per cent. a month regular. If that isn’t enough, I would pay fifteen per cent. It would pay me, for it would put me into a good business.”
“I don’t know how Cooper will feel about it, Mr. Benton, but I prefer to keep what little money I have in my own hands.”
“I think you might oblige a friend,” said Benton crossly.
“There’s a limit to friendship. I shall need my money for my own use.”
Cooper said the same, and Benton saw that he must get the money in some other way. He dropped the subject, in order to avert suspicion, and began to consider the scheme which all the time he had in view to fall back upon.
The next day, when the coast was clear, he went upstairs, and entered Grant’s room. There was no lock on the door, for in California people were not suspicious.
“Now I wonder where they keep their gold-dust?” Benton asked himself. “It must be somewhere in this room, for they have no other place.”
He looked about him. The room was very simply furnished. There was a bureau, with three drawers, which Benton was able to unlock, for he had a key that would fit it. There were only articles of underclothing inside, as, indeed, Benton anticipated.
“I think it must be in the chest,” he decided, as he fixed his glance upon it. “Let me lift it.”
He raised it, and found that it was quite heavy.
“That’s the weight of the gold-dust,” he reflected. “If I could only open it!”
He tried the different keys he had in his pocket, but none of them would answer.
“I must hunt up some more keys,” he said to himself. “It will pay.”
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