Horatio Alger.

Digging for Gold





CHAPTER XXX
BENTON LAYS HIS PLANS

As Benton left the room, Paul Crambo, who was just coming upstairs, caught sight of him. Observing his landlords surprised look, Benton, who was not easily disconcerted, said, I was looking for a clothes-brush. I thought Grant might have one in his room.

Did you find one? asked Crambo.

No.

I thought he had one.

Paul Crambo entered the chamber, and pointed out a whisk-broom lying on the bureau.

There is one, he said significantly.

So there is, said Benton, for once looking confused. Where could my eyes have been?

It is strange you didnt see it. It was in plain sight.

So it was. I am very absent-minded.

Paul Crambo made no answer, but when he went downstairs he said to his wife, I begin to mistrust that Benton.

Why?

Then Paul told what he had seen.

You are right, Paul. He wasnt in there for any good purpose. I cant say I am very much surprised. I didnt take any fancy to him.

Nor I. I wouldnt like to have him rob our two friends. They are fine fellows.

We had better tell them to-night.

Ill do it before that. Ill go out to their claim at once. The sooner they know it the better.

Do so.

Paul Crambo didnt often call on the two miners, and they were a little surprised to see him approaching the claim.

How are you, Mr. Crambo? Are you out for a walk? asked Grant.

Partly; but partly on business.

Do you want to buy us out?

Well, not at present. I aint in love with gold-digging. Is that Benton a friend of yours, Mr. Colburn?

He isnt a friend. He is an acquaintance.

Do you like him?

Not overmuch.

You had better look out for him.

What do you mean? asked Grant quickly.

I dont think hes honest.

You have some reason for saying that, Mr. Crambo, said Tom Cooper.

Just before I left the house I saw him coming out of your room.

Did he see you?

Yes.

What did he say?

He made a blind excuse; said he went in there for a clothes-brush, but he couldnt find one.

Why, there was one on the bureau.

So I found out when I went into the room. I called his attention to it, and asked how it happened that he didnt see it.

Well?

He said he was very absent-minded. I think he didnt visit the room for any good purpose.

I am sure of it, said Grant, and then he told of Bentons experience in Sacramento.

If you have anything of value in your chamber, continued Paul, I think you had better remove it, or make sure that it cant be taken away by your old friend.

The fact is, Mr. Crambo, said Tom Cooper, we have considerable dust in the chest which we bought of you. We have kept it secret hitherto, but I know I can rely upon you, and I want your advice as to what to do. You dont think Benton opened the chest?

No; he didnt have time.

Besides, he had nothing with him.

It wont be safe to keep it there any longer; but the problem is, what shall we do with it? We cant find a hiding-place for it here.

If you will see Mrs. Crambo about it, I think that she has a trunk that you can use for the purpose.

But wouldnt that be just as risky?

Not if the trunk is kept in our chamber. Of course that depends on whether you have any confidence in us.

The strongest, Mr. Crambo, said Tom cordially. The plan seems a good one. But the transfer must be made when Benton is out of the way.

We must pick out the right time. To-night you can consult with Mrs. C. Then if Mr. Benton carries out his plan, and opens the chest, no harm will be done.

I hope he will, said Tom. I should like to watch the fellows face, and see how disappointed he will look.

When Tom and Grant met Benton in the evening, it was difficult for them to treat him as usual. Tom had a strong desire, as he afterward told Grant, to seize Benton and shake the life out of him.

Did you have a good day, gentlemen? asked Benton nonchalantly.

Oh, so, so! We didnt come across a bonanza.

I have, but I cant avail myself of it.

You refer to the restaurant?

Yes; I am afraid it will slip out of my hands if I dont raise five hundred dollars within a week.

Have you any scheme for raising it? asked Tom Cooper.

Well, no, not exactly. I hope to find some one who will lend me the money. If you and Grant, now

We need the little money we have for other purposes, interrupted Cooper.

Oh, thats all right. I guess Ill raise it somewhere.

I suppose he means in our chest, thought Grant.

CHAPTER XXXI
BENTON OPENS THE TRUNK

Soon after supper Albert Benton went to the village, and this left Grant and Tom free to transfer their gold-dust to a trunk in Mr. Crambos chamber. When the change had been made, Grant said in a satisfied tone: Now, Benton can open the chest and welcome.

Id like to be present when he is doing it, said Tom Cooper.

Albert Benton was anxious to obtain a key that would open the chest. He scraped acquaintance with a clerk at the village hotel, and casually remarked: Im in a bad fix. Ive got a trunk at home that I cant open.

Why not? asked the clerk.

I havent a key that will fit it. You dont happen to have any keys, do you?

Ive got half a dozen, said the clerk, taking a handful from his pocket. They are keys that I picked up about the hotel.

Will you lend them to me?

Certainly. If you find one that suits, you can have it.

Benton took them, well pleased. From the size it seemed to him probable that one of them would fit the chest.

Thank you, he said. I will return them to you to-morrow.

Oh, dont be in any hurry. They are of no use to me.

He left the hotel, and it chanced soon afterward that Grant and Tom entered it. Tom was in search of a cigar, for he was a confirmed smoker.

I just had a call from one of your fellow boarders, remarked the clerk, who knew both Tom and Grant.

Benton?

Oh, is that his name? I only knew that he boarded at Paul Crambos. Seems a sociable sort of fellow.

Quite so, answered Tom dryly.

He is talking of buying a restaurant in the village the one kept by Hardy.

I heard him mention it.

He says he was in that business in Sacramento.

Yes, said Grant; I knew him there.

I did him a favor to-night lent him some keys, continued the clerk.

As may be imagined, this announcement was of great interest to Tom and Grant.

What did he want keys for? inquired Tom.

He said he couldnt open his trunk. He thought one of those I lent him might do.

Tom and Grant exchanged glances. They understood very well what it was that Benton wanted to unlock.

Did he think he would raise the money to buy the restaurant? inquired Tom.

Yes, he said he was negotiating for a loan.

Meanwhile Benton had observed Tom Cooper and Grant walking together. He had the keys in his pocket, and was anxious to test the question whether one of them would fit.

Why shouldnt I try this evening? he asked himself. It is a fine night, and Grant and Cooper will probably stay out some time. If I could only get the gold-dust and settle the matter about the restaurant to-morrow! Hardy wont keep it for me very long. He is likely to meet a man with money any time.

Benton kept on his way, and, seizing his opportunity, stole upstairs quietly and, as he thought, unobserved. But Mrs. Crambo saw him and suspected his purpose. When two minutes later Tom and Grant entered the house, she remarked: Mr. Benton has just gone upstairs.

I expected he would. He has borrowed some keys in the village.

Tom removed his shoes, and went upstairs softly. He saw at once that the door of his chamber was open. He approached quietly, and looked through the crack. There was Benton on his knees before the chest, trying one key after another.

At length he succeeded. The last key fitted the lock, and he raised the lid eagerly.

Now for it! he muttered in a tone of exultation.

When the lid of the chest was opened, a pile of shirts and underclothing was revealed. It is hardly necessary to say that Benton did not care for these. He was in search of something more valuable.

Eagerly he took out the clothing and piled it on the floor beside the chest. Then he looked anxiously for a box containing gold-dust, for it had occurred to him as probable that the two friends would keep their gold in a tin box. But to his deep disappointment no box was visible, nor any other receptacle for the coveted dust.

I was on a false scent! he exclaimed bitterly. Where in the world do they keep their gold?

He was beginning to replace the clothing in the chest, when the door was opened and Tom Cooper and Grant entered. Benton sprang to his feet in confusion, and tried to push his way out of the room. But at a signal from Tom, Grant closed the door and set his back against it.

Now, Mr. Albert Benton, said Tom Cooper sternly, what are you doing here in our room?

In spite of his assurance Albert Benton did not know what to say.

I I was in search of some old linen to wrap round my ankle, he stammered.

And so you entered our room, and broke open my chest?

I hope you will excuse me, I was indiscreet, muttered Benton.

That is a very mild way of putting it, retorted Tom. Benton, you are a thief.

Do you mean to insult me? asked Benton.

Yes, if the truth insults you. Shall I tell you what you were after?

Benton did not reply, and Tom Cooper resumed: You thought we kept our gold-dust in that chest.

Upon my honor! protested Benton.

The less you say about your honor the better, returned Tom, with contempt. Grant, what shall we do with him?

Benton began to be alarmed. Tom Cooper was a young giant. He had been brought up to his fathers business, and his muscles were as firm and strong as steel. Benton knew very well that he would be like a child in his grasp.

Spare me, he said, and I will not trouble you any more.

I dont think you will if you know what is best for yourself. But you deserve to be punished for what you have already done. Grant, open the window.

What are you going to do? asked Benton, in alarm.

Ill show you.

Tom seized the thief, and bore him in his strong arms to the window. He held him outside, making a futile resistance, and then dropped him.

The distance to the ground was only fifteen feet, and Benton landed on all-fours, a little jarred, but not seriously hurt.

Now, said Tom, leaning out, you had better leave this neighborhood as expeditiously as possible, or I will brand you as a thief, and let the citizens take what course they choose.

Benton knew very well that in California at that time thieves were not tolerated, and were often strung up to a tree without ceremony. He felt that he had better not stand upon the order of his going, but go at once.

Let me go into the house and get my things, he said submissively.

Have you settled up your board bill with Mrs. Crambo?

I have only five dollars! he pleaded.

Let the board go! said Mrs. Crambo, who was on the stairs. All I ask is that he shall go himself, and never come back.

Benton crept upstairs, and, getting his small satchel, left the house. Where he went Tom and Grant did not learn, nor did they care.

That fellow will never thrive, said Tom. He has made a bad beginning. Any man who wants to get rich by appropriating the property of another is sure to come to a bad end.

I guess you are right, Tom, said Grant. I am relieved to have Benton out of the house.

You have lost your boarder, Mrs. Crambo, said Tom. How much board is he owing you?

About five dollars.

We will pay that; wont we, Grant?

Certainly, answered Grant.

I wont accept it, said Mrs. Crambo decidedly. It isnt your fault that Mr. Benton came here. As for the small sum he owes me, I can get along without it. It wont break me. I dont believe you and your friend have any money to spare.

We have been doing pretty well, Mrs. Crambo. We have no cause to complain.

I am very glad to hear it, for you are likely to stay here longer. You have been working hard, and you are entitled to all you have made.

Have you really been doing well, Mr. Cooper? questioned Paul Crambo.

Yes, Mr. Crambo; we havent made a fortune, but we have been very well paid for our work. Would you like to buy a share in the claim?

Paul Crambo shook his head.

Digging for gold doesnt agree with me, he said. You are young men, and can stand it, but I have a pain in the back if I work over an hour.

Tom Cooper anticipated this reply, or he would not have made the proposal. He preferred to have Grant for his sole partner. Nor did he care to have any third party know how rich the claim really was. Notwithstanding the hint he had given, neither Mr. nor Mrs. Crambo had any idea what a bonanza the boys had struck.

CHAPTER XXXII
A LETTER FROM MR. CROSMONT

Four more weeks passed. The claim continued to yield richly, and at the end of this time the two partners reckoned that they had somewhat over two thousand dollars.

I wish we could sell the gold-dust, and invest the money where it would be safe, said Tom thoughtfully.

If we were in Sacramento, we should be able to send it by express to San Francisco.

True; but we have no means of doing it here.

There are plenty who would undertake the job, suggested Tom.

Could we find one that we could trust? asked Grant shrewdly.

Thats the question, said Tom.

That same evening brought a solution of the problem. A man who had just arrived from San Francisco called at the house.

Does a boy named Grant Colburn live here? he asked.

Yes.

I have a letter for him from San Francisco.

Grant was summoned, and in some surprise received the communication.

It is from Mr. Crosmont, he said joyfully, as he opened the letter and looked at the signature.

He read it aloud. It ran thus:

Dear Grant:

It seems a very long time since I have seen you, and I am in the dark as to your successes and prospects. As you know, my principal business is to look for my wayward son Gregory, who, I have reason to think, is in California. Now, all visitors to California come sooner or later to San Francisco, and it is for this reason that I have established myself here. Thus far I have not seen or heard of Gregory, but this is not at all surprising. He may be somewhere in the interior, and in that case there would be little chance of my hearing of him.

Meanwhile, I confess that I feel lonely. I am not a man to make many friends, and I have met no one in whom I feel an interest since I parted with you. I begin to think that I should like to have you with me, and I will promise that you will lose nothing by transferring yourself to San Francisco. Will you, on receipt of this letter, arrange to join me as soon as you can? I am the more anxious to have you do so, because I have not felt very well of late, and, if I should fall sick, I should like to have with me a tried and faithful friend whom I can thoroughly trust.

I dont know how you are situated. You may be in need. I, therefore, think it best to send by the bearer fifty dollars, which will pay your expenses to this city. You will find me at the Alameda Hotel in Stockton Street.

Though I am doing no business, I have made some investments in town lots which, I think, will pay me handsomely. I have bought two lots for you, which are recorded in your name. I look to see the present village of San Francisco become a large, populous and influential city. I may not live to see it, but you assuredly will. If you need more money, let me know. Let me see you soon.

Your old friend,
Giles Crosmont.

Well, said Tom, after the reading was ended, one question is settled.

What is that?

We neednt look any further for a messenger to take our gold to San Francisco.

You mean that I am to take it?

Yes.

The two partners realized that Grants mission would involve some risk. Californian routes of travel were in those days infested by robbers and road agents, who preferred making a living in a lawless way to the more creditable and less hazardous paths of industry. How to reduce the danger to a minimum was a subject of anxious thought.

You had better not send all the gold-dust by me, Tom, said Grant. Then, if I am robbed, it wont be a total loss.

This plan seemed wise, and Grant set out with about fifteen hundred dollars worth of gold. He carried it in a valise, and, the better to divert suspicion, wore an old and shabby working suit.

I am not proud of my appearance, he said, as he took a position in front of the mirror in their chamber. What do I look like?

A healthy young tramp, answered Tom, laughing.

I agree with you.

However, there is one comfort; no one will think you have anything of value with you.

What will Mr. Crosmont think when I make my appearance in San Francisco?

That you are down on your luck. However, you can explain to him.

The next morning Grant set out on his way to Sacramento. Tom Cooper accompanied him as far as the cabin of the old man to whom they owed their present good fortune. It was a long walk, and the valise, with its weight of gold-dust, was no light burden.

When they reached the cabin, they found Mr. Gilbert for this was the old mans name sitting on a chair in front of it. His face was naturally grave, but it lighted up when his glance rested on the two new-comers.

I am glad to see you, he said; but, as his glance dwelt on Grant in his shabby attire, you dont seem to have prospered, he added.

Grant laughed.

Appearances are deceitful, Mr. Gilbert, he said. I am in disguise.

I dont understand you.

Do I look as if I were worth robbing?

The old man smiled.

You look, he said, as if you had just escaped from a poorhouse.

Then the disguise is effective. said Tom. The fact is my young partner is going to San Francisco, and this valise, which he is taking with him, contains fifteen hundred dollars in gold-dust.

CHAPTER XXXIII
ON TO THE GOLDEN GATE

Then you have really prospered? said Mr. Gilbert.

Yes, sir; we must have as much as seven hundred dollars more, but this was as much as Grant could conveniently carry. We depend on his shabby attire to save him from attracting the attention of robbers.

You will remain at the claim? said Mr. Gilbert, addressing himself to Tom.

Yes, I shall continue to work it. Grant is summoned to San Francisco by a friend whose acquaintance he made in crossing the plains.

They stopped an hour to chat with the old man, and then, resuming their march, reached Howes Gulch in time for supper.

They were immediately surrounded by old acquaintances.

Where are you bound, Tom? asked one.

Grant is going to San Francisco. He has an offer of employment from a rich man there.

Wont you join us again?

No; I have a claim some way from here which will bear working a little longer.

The boy doesnt look as if you had struck luck.

He will be all right when he reaches San Francisco.

How about yourself?

Oh, well, I am not discouraged. There are better times in store.

One of the crowd was Nahum Stockton, to whom Grant and Tom had given their claims when they left Howes Gulch.

Look here, Cooper, he said. You did me a good turn. Ive done pretty well with the claim you gave me, and I want to show my gratitude. If fifty dollars will do you or the boy any good, I will let you have it.

Tom Cooper wrung his hand cordially.

Youre a good fellow, Stockton, he said, but we are not in want. I am glad you have done fairly well, but we dont stand in need of help at present. If we ever do, we wont forget your kind offer.

Thats right. You shall be heartily welcome to anything I have.

The two partners went to the hotel and stayed overnight. They were pleased to think that no one suspected them of having been fortunate. There were some friends Nahum Stockton, for instance to whom they would have been willing to communicate it, but they considered it advisable, on the whole, to keep the matter a profound secret.

The next morning Grant took the stage for Sacramento, and arrived there without any exciting adventure.

Go and see father and mother, Grant, said Tom. Dont tell them too much, but let them know that I am making a living, and have no cause to complain.

Mr. Cooper had just finished shoeing a horse, when Grant walked up to the shop.

Why, Grant Colburn! exclaimed the blacksmith, its good to see you. But and here he surveyed Grants attire you look kind of seedy, dont you?

Yes, laughed Grant; but there are no good tailors shops where I have been working.

Have you come to Sacramento to work?

No. I am bound for San Francisco. Mr. Crosmont has sent for me.

How did you leave Tom? asked Mrs. Cooper, who had entered the shop, as she shook hands with Grant.

Well and hearty, Mrs. Cooper.

Why didnt he come with you?

Mr. Crosmont didnt send for him.

How is he doing?

Well, he isnt exactly a millionnaire yet, answered Grant, with a laugh.

Im afraid not, if were to judge by appearances, and Mr. Cooper shook his head, as he bestowed another glance on Grants outfit. Hed much better give up this notion of gold-digging and come back here in the shop with me.





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