Horatio Alger.

Digging for Gold





Thats the case with some farmers, too, isnt it? returned his daughter.

I own youre right, Sophia. Why, theres Bill Jones is gettin poorer and poorer every year. Ive got a thousand-dollar mortgage on his farm, he chuckled, and I guess Ill have to foreclose sooner or later.

What will become of Mrs. Jones and her young children? asked Mrs. Tarbox, in a tone of pity.

That aint my lookout, said Seth Tarbox, in a hard tone.

But surely you wouldnt turn the poor woman out into the street.

It aint for me to look out for another mans wife and children, Mrs. T., returned the farmer.

But the farm must be worth a good deal more than the amount of your mortgage!

Yes, chuckled the farmer, its well worth three thousand dollars. So much the better for me!

You wouldnt take possession of it, and take such an advantage of the family!

Mrs. T., you dont understand business. When you talk in that way you only make yourself ridiculous. Youd better leave me to attend to business, and you look after the housekeeping, and he turned to his daughter for approval.

You are right, pa, said Sophia, and Mrs. Tarbox, though she means well, shows that she doesnt understand business.

Mrs. Tarbox bit her lip, but did not reply. She had made the discovery long since that the daughter was as cold and selfish as the father, and probably even more so.

Mrs. Tarbox, have you got Grants last letter? asked Rodney.

Yes.

Would you mind letting me read it?

Mrs. Tarbox hesitated a moment, and then replied: A part of it is private, but I will read you the part in which he speaks of his position and prospects.

Thank you. I would like to hear it.

Mrs. Tarbox took from her pocket a letter which she had perused half a dozen times already, and read as follows:

Well, mother, I have at last reached California. It is a long and tiresome journey across the plains. I hope, when I go back, I shall be able to go by steamer to New York. However, I made some pleasant friends on the way, and I have good courage, though my money is nearly out.

Humph! interrupted Seth Tarbox; just as I expected.

Grant didnt take a fortune with him, said his mother. How could you expect he would have much money left when he reached the end of his journey?

I didnt, Mrs. T. That is what I said. Read on.

I havent decided yet what I will do first. I expect sometime to go to the gold fields, but I may get a position first and earn some money to buy my outfit. I am well and strong, and I am sure I can make a living some way.

Mark my words, said Sophia Bartlett, the time will come when your son will wish he had never left the farm.

I dont feel sure of that, said Mrs. Tarbox. Grant is a manly boy, and he can work in California just as well as here, and will be paid better than here.

Do you mean to say that I didnt pay the boy enough for his work, Mrs.

T.?

I will express no opinion on that subject. California is a new country, where labor is naturally more highly compensated than here.

I am glad I am not in Grants place, said Rodney.

So am I, added his mother; but you always had good judgment, Rodney.

I hope so. When I am a man I may go to California, just to see the country, but I prefer to stay at home now.

He has an old head on young shoulders, said his mother complacently.

Its my birthday to-morrow, grandpa, observed Rodney significantly.

Is it? asked Seth Tarbox. How old are you?

Sixteen.

Well, well, I didnt know you were getting on so fast. Theres a quarter for a birthday present.

Rodney accepted the coin, but turned up his nose at his grandfathers niggardliness, and expressed himself freely on the subject to his mother on the way home.

What a mean old skinflint grandfather is! he exclaimed. Twenty-five cents, and he a rich man!

Hush, Rodney, dont let any one hear you speak in that way!

But he is mean! you cant deny it!

He is close, said Mrs. Bartlett cautiously. Most farmers are, I believe; but just wait patiently, and the money which he has saved by his economy will come to us. You must seem grateful, or he may take a notion to leave his property to Mrs. Tarbox and Grant.

Oh, Ill be careful, ma, never fear! I hope Grant Colburn wont get a cent.

I dont think he will. In fact, I feel sure of it.

Do you think Mrs. Tarbox will get much?

Not if I can prevent it! said his mother, closing her lips firmly.

I expect she only married the old man for his money.

I suppose she wanted a home for herself and Grant.

Will the law give her anything?

Yes; but Ive thought of a way to get over that.

What is it, ma?

If I can induce your grandfather to make a deed of gift to me of his property before he dies, on condition of my supporting him the rest of his life, that will evade the law.

That will be a good idea. I shouldnt wonder if Grant and his mother had to go to the poorhouse at last. Hed come down off his high horse then.

I hope not. Mrs. Tarbox can get employment as a housekeeper probably, and Grant ought to be able to support himself. Of course they must look out for themselves.

Not long afterward, unfortunately for Mrs. Tarbox, her husband lost fifty dollars. He had sold a horse to a man in a neighboring town for an excessive price, and fifty dollars remained due on the purchase money. This the purchaser refused to pay, and as his property was all in his wifes name, Seth Tarbox was unable to collect it, although, as may be imagined, he moved heaven and earth to accomplish it.

This made him feel very poor, and he determined to make it up by retrenchment in his personal expenses. Had the economy fallen upon himself he might have been justified, but as it occurred to him that by dismissing the woman who helped his wife on washing day he could save seventy-five cents a week, he was mean enough to make this proposal.

Mrs. Tarbox could hardly believe him in earnest, for she saw only too clearly at what he was aiming.

CHAPTER XXXVII
MRS. BARTLETTS LITTLE SCHEME

Do you mean that I am to get along without Nancy, Mr. Tarbox? Mrs. Tarbox said quickly.

Ive met with losses, Mrs. T., replied Seth, and I dont feel as if I could afford to pay out seventy-five cents every Monday for work that might as well be done in the family.

Does that mean that you expect me to do it, Mr. Tarbox?

Ahem! said Tarbox, a little embarrassed. Its your duty to help bear my burden.

I think I do that. I am sure that I work beyond my strength.

We all have to work. Dont I work in the fields, Mrs. Tarbox?

You choose to do it. You are able to lead an easier life.

Who says I am?

Everybody in the village knows that you are well to do, and have a large sum in the savings-bank.

Seth Tarbox frowned.

If I have got a little money ahead, he said, I dont mean to squander it in extravagant living.

I dont think you are in any danger of it, remarked Mrs. Tarbox dryly.

Mr. Tarbox left the house, and made it in his way to call at the home of Nancy Stokes and give her notice that her services would not be needed on the coming Monday.

Nancy opened her eyes in surprise.

Why, Mr. Tarbox, she said, Ive been goin to your house for ten years. Have you got any other woman in my place?

No, Miss Stokes; but Ive been thinkin that I cant afford to pay seventy-five cents a week for washin.

Why, you havent failed, have you, Mr. Tarbox?

No; but Ive met with losses, answered Seth vaguely.

They must be big losses if you cant afford the little money youve paid me.

You may call it little, Nancy, but seventy-five cents a week amounts in a year to thirty-nine dollars.

Itll take moren one thirty-nine dollars to break you, Mr. Tarbox.

You seem to know a good deal about my affairs, Nancy. Im the best judge of that.

Whos goin to do the washin, then?

Mrs. Tarbox will do it.

The whole of it?

Yes; my first wife used to do it.

And died of broken health at forty.

Seth Tarbox did not relish the plain speaking of Miss Stokes, and turning on his heel, walked away.

Nancy made it a point to call at the farm during the day.

I hear, Mrs. Tarbox, she said, that you are going to do all the washing hereafter.

Who told you? asked Mrs. Tarbox quickly.

Mr. Tarbox.

He is mistaken, said Mrs. Tarbox calmly. I shall do nothing of the kind.

He expects it.

I cant help that.

Good for you, Mrs. Tarbox. Dont let him impose upon you. Hes too mean to live.

The next Monday Seth Tarbox went out to his farm work in a complacent frame of mind. His wife had said nothing of the washing, and he concluded that when she found Nancy absent, she would turn to and do the whole herself. But when he returned to dinner he looked in vain for the clothes line.

Youre late about your washin, Mrs. T., he said, as he entered the kitchen.

I am not going to wash, Mr. Tarbox.

Hows that? You cant get along without having the clothes washed.

I intend to wash my own, but I dont propose to do the rest.

Wh-what? ejaculated Seth, in dismay.

You have taken it upon yourself to discharge Nancy. If the clothes remain unwashed, you are responsible.

But, Mrs. T., my first wife used to do all the washing. She didnt have Nancy to help her.

What your first wife did does not concern me. I do not propose to follow in her footsteps and die of overwork, as she did.

It seems to me, Mrs. T., you dont realize your duty as helpmeet to your husband.

And I dont propose to, if it requires me to work beyond my strength.

If you do all the washing this week, Nancy may come to your assistance next Monday as usual.

I decline to do it.

Seth Tarbox found that he was checkmated, and was obliged to make a second call upon Miss Stokes and countermand his first notice. But he felt very much dissatisfied, and the next day called on his daughter and laid the matter before her.

I am not surprised, said Sophia. Of course Mrs. Tarbox married you for your money. She expects you will leave her a good slice of your estate.

Shell be disappointed, said Seth angrily.

I dont know about that. Have you made a will?

No; why should I? You dont expect Im going to die right off, do you?

No; but still, life is uncertain. If you dont leave a will, the law will give her something.

Perhaps I shall live longer than she does.

Perhaps so, but she is twenty years younger than you. When she gets your money, she and her boy will have fine times.

Cant that be prevented? asked Seth.

There is one way.

What is that?

I hardly like to tell.

Out with it, Sophia!

If you should make me a deed of gift of the property at any rate, of the real estate she couldnt do anything.

But I dont want to give the farm away.

Oh, it would only be a mere form. Things would go on just the same as before. But it would put a spoke in your wifes wheel. Of course, pa, you know that I wouldnt take any advantage of what you did. It makes me laugh, though, to think how you would come up with that mercenary woman.

Just so, chuckled Seth. Well, Ill think of it.

Thats the first step, reflected Mrs. Bartlett. Now I know how to work on pas feelings, it wont be long before hell adopt my plan.

From that time Sophia lost no opportunity to enlarge to her father on his wifes expectations of profiting by his death, till at last she accomplished her purpose. One day she and her father called at a lawyers office, and the deed of gift was made out, and Mrs. Bartlett took charge of the document.

Mrs. Tarbox wont know anything of this, she said. Well keep it secret, pa.

Yes, well keep it secret.

If she knew, youd find it hard to get as much work out of her.

Thats so! chuckled Seth.

He would not have felt as well pleased had he known what a power he had put into the hands of his daughter.

We will now reproduce the letter which Grant received from his mother. After expressing the hope that he was in good health, and had something to do, she went on:

I am very unpleasantly situated at present. Grant. A week ago Mr. Tarbox fell from a scaffold in the barn, and broke his leg. His daughter, Mrs. Bartlett, on hearing of it, came to the house with Rodney, and has taken possession of the sick chamber. I am kept out of it, though his wife. I wont pretend that it hurts my feelings, but I dont like to be treated as a servant in the house of which I ought to be the mistress. Mrs. Bartlett treats me with very little respect, and I have reason to think that she means to influence Mr. Tarbox to leave all his property to her. This would be a very poor return for all I have done since I married him. As you know, it was chiefly on your account that I did so. If you were doing well, I would not mind so much, but I can hardly hope that a boy like you can earn much among strangers.

Grant showed this letter to Mr. Crosmont.

Write to your mother, said the Englishman, that she need feel no anxiety about you or herself. I will see that neither of you is in want.

Grant accordingly wrote a letter to his mother that raised her spirits and gave her hope for the future.

CHAPTER XXXVIII
FINDING THE PRODIGAL

Now, said Mr. Crosmont on the morning after Grants arrival, I have some work for you to do.

I am glad of it, sir, replied Grant. I should be homesick if I were idle.

I have great faith in the future of San Francisco, continued the Englishman. Real estate is sure to make rapid advances, and I am investing in lots all over the city. By the way, you are the owner of two lots on this street.

You are very kind, Mr. Crosmont, said Grant gratefully.

I mean to be. The lots are of large size, and only cost fifty dollars apiece. I could sell them for double that sum to-day, though I bought them only two months since. How much money have you belonging to Cooper and yourself?

Fifteen hundred dollars.

I advise you to invest a thousand in lots, under my direction.

You can invest the whole, sir. Tom Cooper has seven hundred dollars left in gold-dust, and that will be all the reserve we need.

Very well! For every dollar you invest, I feel sure that you can get five within a comparatively short time.

I will be guided by your judgment, sir.

Grant succeeded in getting twenty lots for his money, half of which were entered in the name of Tom Cooper. When he had in his possession the deeds for all his property he began to feel like a capitalist.

I wonder what Mr. Tarbox would say if he knew how I was fixed, thought Grant. He would want to be my guardian. I shall be glad when I can buy a nice home for my mother away from the whole Tarbox tribe. She works altogether too hard. If things go well she shall have an easier time henceforth.

Mr. Crosmont opened a real estate office and put Grant in charge. Though he was the responsible head, he left the principal work, including the bookkeeping, in the hands of his prot?g?.

You must have a regular salary, Grant, he said. Now, what shall it be?

Anything you like, Mr. Crosmont.

That isnt business-like. The laborer is worthy of his hire.

Would ten dollars a week be too much? Then I could pay you my board.

Mr. Crosmont smiled.

I see, Grant, he said, you have no idea of the value of your services. You will have nothing to pay for board, for I consider your society sufficient compensation. I will, besides that, pay you a fixed salary of one hundred and fifty dollars a month.

Grant opened his eyes in amazement.

But, sir, you forget that I am only sixteen.

No, I dont. In London or New York I should be unable to pay you anything like that sum, but here the case is different. Your salary, however, will be small compared with the profits you will realize on your lots.

I wont count my chickens before they are hatched, Mr. Crosmont, said Grant, smiling.

That is usually the prudent course, but you are sure to gain a good profit on your land investment.

Of this belief Grant had a very speedy confirmation, for within a week he was waited upon by a gentleman who wished to erect a hotel, on a site a part of which was owned by Grant and the balance by Mr. Crosmont. Mr. Crosmont managed the negotiations, and in the end Grant received two thousand dollars for his two lots.

I should like to keep that money, said Grant, as I may have a use for it at home.

Very well. You can let it out on call at three per cent. a month. That wont pay as well as real estate, but you will have it when you need it.

A month later Grant received a letter from Tom Cooper. The important part of the communication was the following paragraph:

Somehow it has leaked out, I dont know how, that our claim is unusually rich, and I have been waited upon by a couple of New York men who have offered me five thousand dollars for it. I think it will be well to accept, especially as I am now alone. I have on hand now about twelve hundred dollars in gold-dust, which I mean to take to San Francisco myself. I shall make arrangements to receive the money in a draft on a San Francisco banker, and will pay you your share when we meet. Perhaps I might make more money by retaining the claim, but it is dull work living here alone, though I have a good home with the Crambos. You may expect to see me in a short time.

I congratulate you, Grant, said Mr. Crosmont. You seem to be a favorite of fortune.

About this time an event occurred which calls for special mention. One evening Grant was walking through Montgomery Street, in the neighborhood of Telegraph Hill, when his attention was called to a young man who was walking in advance of him with unsteady steps. Something in his manner led Grant to think he was in trouble. After some hesitation, he hastened his steps and touched the stranger on the shoulder.

The other turned, and revealed the face of a young man of perhaps twenty-seven. His expression was troubled, almost despairing.

Can I be of any assistance to you? asked Grant gently.

I have eaten nothing for forty-eight hours, said the other, in a hopeless tone. I am without money and without hope.

Will you allow me to help you? repeated Grant.

You have spoken the first kind words I have listened to for weeks, said the other. I should enjoy a cup of coffee and a plate of meat.

Come with me, then, said Grant.

He led the way to a restaurant near by, and ordered a plain but substantial meal. The young mans face brightened, as a plate of beef-steak and a cup of coffee were placed before him. He ate with avidity and evident appetite.

When the meal was finished, he said: You seem to be only a boy. What brought you to this city?

I was poor and wanted to earn a living.

Have you prospects?

Beyond my expectations.

I, too, came here to earn a living. I had some money with me when I arrived, but it is all gone now. Nothing that I took hold of prospered. When you spoke to me I was in despair. I was making up my mind to commit suicide.

That would be very foolish and wicked.

Perhaps so, but consider my situation. I had no prospects and no money. I have none now, but somehow when a man has filled his stomach he feels less despondent.

I may be able to put something in your way. I came here a poor boy, but I am not poor now.

And I would you be surprised to hear that I am the son of a rich man and the heir of a large estate?

Yes, answered Grant, I am surprised. You dont look much like it. In that case I dont understand why you should be in this condition.

I can explain easily. I have been a prodigal son. I have wasted money in folly and dissipation, and alienated my fathers affections.

Have you seen or heard from him lately?

No.

Then how do you know that he is estranged?

It can hardly be otherwise. He is an honorable man, and my conduct has shamed and humiliated him.

It is not too late to repent and turn over a new leaf.

I fear it is. At any rate, I never expect to be reinstated in my fathers favor.

You can at any rate work for an honest living.

Yes, I am ready to do that, if the chance is offered me.

I am quite sure that you will have the chance. I could give it to you myself, but I have a friend here who is much better able than I.

You give me new hope. What is your friends name?

Giles Crosmont.

The young man started as if he had been shot. He showed signs of excitement.

What name did you say? he asked. Repeat it.

Giles Crosmont.

Is he an Englishman?

Yes; he has a large estate in Devonshire.

Great Heavens! exclaimed the young man; Giles Crosmont is my father.

Your father? Come, then, let me lead you to him at once.

No, no, said the young man, hanging back. He would not receive me.

Would not receive you? He is in California for the express purpose of hunting you up.

Are you sure of that? asked the young man eagerly.

Yes; he told me so himself.

That is the best news I have heard for many a day. Take me to him, then, at once.

The surprise and deep thankfulness of Mr. Crosmont when Grant arrived with his son may be imagined. He held out his arms without a word, and folded the young man in his embrace.





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