Horatio Alger.

Digging for Gold

I am ashamed to come back to you, father, said young Crosmont, after the way I have behaved.

Let us forget the past, my son, responded the father. Let us look forward to a bright future! Then, turning to Grant, he said: In restoring my son to me, Grant, you have fully paid me for all I have done for you. You have placed me under the deepest obligations.

And I, too, look upon you as my guardian angel, added young Crosmont, as he grasped the boys hand in his.

It was a mere chance, said Grant modestly.

Say, rather, it was a providence, corrected Giles Crosmont reverently.


Tom Cooper reached San Francisco two weeks after his letter. I stopped at Sacramento to see father, he said. I found the old gentleman doing well, and fully persuaded that I had made a mistake in not staying with him. He offered me four dollars a day to work in the shop. When I told him that I owned ten lots in San Francisco, was entitled to two thousand five hundred dollars for my share of the claim, and had considerable loose money besides, you ought to have seen him open his eyes. He was speechless for a minute; then he said: Youre smarter than I thought, Tom. I guess youd better go your own way, and I will look after the shop. Im too old to dig for gold, but I am making a good living at my trade.

Tom cashed a check for five thousand dollars, and made over half to Grant.

Theres some more money due you, Grant, he said, from the gold-dust I have brought with me.

Keep it all, Tom, rejoined Grant. I am rich enough without it, and you deserve some commission for selling the claim.

Tom objected to this at first, but Grant insisted upon it. Tom took possession of his lots, and sold three on very advantageous terms within a month.

I think you brought me luck, Grant, he said. Till you joined me I was plodding along comfortably, but making little more than I could have done at my trade. But after you and I began to work together in double harness, everything has prospered with me.

Not just at first, Tom. You remember our small earnings at Howes Gulch.

Thats true, but prosperity came afterward. It was your meeting old Mr. Gilbert that set us on our feet.

How is he? Did you call on him?

Yes. He is pretty well for him, but what a forlorn life he leads! Do you know he thinks a great deal of you?

I thought he did.

He inquired particularly after you, and said you were a fine boy.

It is well to have one admiring friend, said Grant, smiling.

You have many friends who are attached to you, returned Tom.

I have certainly received much kindness, said Grant. I seem to be appreciated considerably more here than at home.

How are things going on at home?

Not very well. Mr. Tarbox is sick, and his daughter has installed herself in his chamber, and is not willing that my mother should see him.

Does that trouble you?

No, for I am able to provide for mother better than her husband.

When I go back I shall establish her in a home of her own.

The very next day Grant received a letter from his mother, the contents of which were most important.

We reproduce it here:

Dear Grant:

Mr. Tarbox died last week. No one anticipated that his sickness would end fatally, but I attribute it to worry of mind. It appears that his daughter, Mrs. Bartlett, succeeded some time since in inducing him to deed the farm to her. I believe the argument she used was, that should he die, I would claim a good share of it as his widow. The law would no doubt have given me a claim to some portion of it.

Mr. Tarbox had scarcely given away the property than he repented it, and tried to persuade Sophia to give it back. She didnt exactly refuse, for she knew that he had considerable other property which he could leave her at his death. But she made delays, and raised objections, till he saw that there was no hope of recovering the farm. You know how fond he was of money, and the fact that he had alienated so large a share of his property preyed upon his mind and actually made him sick. Then his daughter came and established herself in his room.

Give me back the farm, Sophia, I overheard him say one day. Itll be yours some day, but I want to keep it while I live.

Wait till you get well, pa, she answered. You are too sick to trouble yourself about business now.

I shall be sick till I get the farm back, he answered.

Itll be all right. Dont worry yourself.

But he continued to worry, and the doctor says he fretted himself to death. It may be uncharitable in me, but I dont think Sophia grieved very much over her fathers taking away, though she put on a suit of deep black at the funeral.

Well, the will was read the next day, and all the property outside of the farm goes to Sophia and Rodney. The farm being already hers, of course there is nothing left for me. My friends are very indignant, and Mr Tower, the lawyer, tells me that I have good reason to contest it. I am certainly very poorly paid for all Ive done in the five years since we were married.

I remained at the farm for a day or two, but I found it so disagreeable, as Mrs. Bartlett evidently wished me out of the way, that I took board temporarily with Mrs. Draper in the village. You know I have some money remaining from what you left with me. Before that is gone I think I can get a chance to act as housekeeper for Mr. John Wilkins, whose wife recently died.

I feel quite lonely, and wish you were at home, but I am afraid you could not get any work that would pay you, and I am glad to hear that you are doing well in California. Write soon to your affectionate mother,

Helen Tarbox.

Tom, I must go home, said Grant. My mother needs me.

But, Grant, wont you come back again?

Yes. I have too many interests in San Francisco to keep away. I want to go home and establish my mother comfortably. Then I can return with a cheerful heart.

How will you go back over the plains?

No, once is enough for me. I will go to New York by steamer, and then take the railroad to Iowa.

The next day, and before Grant could get ready to start, he received another letter.

This was from Tom Childs, a schoolfellow and intimate friend. Here it is:

Dear Grant:

I got your address from your mother, and I am going to write you a short letter. I wish I could see you, for you were one of my most intimate friends. I hope you are doing well, and so do all the boys wish you well except one. That one is Rodney Bartlett, who is now living here in Woodburn. He and his mother are up at the old farm, and your mother has been turned out. It is a great shame, I think, and so does the whole village. Mr. Tarboxs death seemed very sudden, but people think he worried to death. Anyhow, Mrs. Bartlett has got the whole property, except a thousand dollars, which were left to Rodney.

You ought to see that boy strut round. He feels his oats as father says. Hes got a gold watch, a very showy one, and takes it out every five minutes to look at it. You would think he was a millionnaire by the airs he puts on. The other day he asked me: Do you ever hear from Grant Colburn?

I answered that I was going to write you.

He was a great fool to go to California, said Rodney.

What was there to stay for here? I asked. His mother has been turned out of the house without a cent, and you and your mother have taken everything.

Thats perfectly proper, said Rodney. We are blood relations to Mr. Tarbox.

And she was his wife, I told him.

Oh, well, she had her living for five years, said Rodney. Shell get along well enough. She can hire out in some family. Shes strong enough to work.

Shes been treated mighty mean, I said indignantly.

Ma offered her twenty-five dollars, replied Rodney, but she was too proud to take it. I spose she wanted more.

Well, it was a pretty mean sum to give your grandfathers widow, I remarked.

My mother understands whats proper, said Rodney stiffly. Have you seen my new watch?

Where did you buy it?

Ma sent to New York for it. It cost sixty dollars. I guess its as good a watch as anybody carries in Woodburn.

I wish, Grant, you could come home, and bring a better watch. How it would take down the pride of that young snob!

Oh, I mustnt forget to tell you that Mr. Jones Abner Jones is in trouble. It seems that your step-father held a mortgage of a thousand dollars on his farm, and it comes due in two or three months. Mrs. Bartlett threatens to foreclose, and unless he can get some one else to assume the mortgage, I am afraid the farm will be sold for much less than its value. It is worth three thousand dollars, but father says it wont fetch, at a forced sale, much over two thousand, perhaps only that sum. I pity Mrs. Jones. I was speaking to Arthur Jones yesterday. He feels very bad about it.

But I have written you a long letter. Let me hear from you soon.

Your true friend,
Tom Childs.

Theres another reason for going home, observed Grant, as he folded up the letter. I shall start by the next steamer.

I will expect you back in three months, said Mr. Crosmont. While you are away my son will take your place in the office, but I shall miss you very much.


Grant did not write his mother that he was coming home; he wanted to surprise her. He landed in New York and took the train the same day for Woodburn. He arrived early one morning and went at once to the house where his mother was boarding.

Mrs. Tarboxs face lighted up with amazement and joy when she saw Grant.

O Grant, can it really be you! she exclaimed, as she embraced him.

I dont think it is anybody else, mother, returned Grant, with a smile.

How you have grown!

Yes, mother; I am three inches taller than when I went away.

I have good news for you, Grant. Mr. Wilkins has engaged me as housekeeper, with a good salary.

How much is he going to pay you?

Three dollars a week.

You cant go, mother. I want you for my housekeeper, and will pay you five dollars a week.

I wish you could afford to do it, Grant.

I can, mother. As near as I can figure it out, I am worth about eight thousand dollars, and expect to be worth a good deal more within a year.

This cant be possible! How could you a boy of sixteen gain so much money?

Partly at the mines, partly by speculating in real estate in San Francisco. But I will give you particulars hereafter. Are the Bartletts living at the farm?

Yes; but I hear Mrs. Bartlett wants to sell it. She and Rodney want to go to a city to live.

And you didnt get a cent from the estate?

No; Mrs. Bartlett offered me twenty-five dollars.

Which you very properly refused. No matter! You wont need to depend on that family for anything. Youve got a rich son.

At this moment a buggy drove into the yard.

Thats Mr. Wilkins come for me, said Mrs. Tarbox. Dont you think it will be best for me to accept the engagement?

No, mother: I shall provide you with a home of your own, and give you enough to keep it up. I will buy back the house that used to be ours when father was alive.

O Grant, if you can!

I can. I shall be able to buy it for two thousand dollars.

It has been offered for eighteen hundred.

So much the better.

Here Mr. Wilkins entered the house. He was a pleasant looking elderly gentleman, with white hair.

Well, Mrs. Tarbox, are you ready? he asked.

I am very sorry to disappoint you, Mr. Wilkins; but my son Grant, who has just returned from California, wants me to have a home of my own.

Why, why; so Grant is back and looking stout and rugged. Have you done well, Grant?

Yes, Mr. Wilkins; far better than I expected. I am able to provide my mother with a home of her own, and while we appreciate your kind offer, she will be happier and more independent living so.

I wont say a word against it, though I am disappointed. Your father was an old friend of mine, and I would like to have had his widow in my home. But I am pleased with her better prospects.

Please dont mention my plan for her. I want to take some people by surprise.

Ill be mum, Grant.

Now, mother, I think Ill take a walk. Ill be back soon.

Out in the street Grant fell in with Tom Childs.

I am delighted to see you, Grant, said Tom, grasping his hand. Have you just arrived?

Yes, Tom.

Were you lucky?

Grant smiled, and pulled out an elegant gold watch.

You wrote me to get a watch that would, beat Rodneys. Here it is!

What a beauty! What did you pay for it?

I bought it at Tiffanys for one hundred and twenty-five dollars.

Tom opened wide his eyes in amazement.

A hundred and twenty-five dollars! he ejaculated. Then you must be rich!

Ive got a little money.

As much as a thousand dollars?

A good deal more.

Then youve beaten Rodney both in money and a watch. I am awfully glad.

What news is there, Tom?

Some bad news. You know, I told you about Abner Jones and the mortgage on his farm. It comes due in three days, and Mrs. Bartlett is going to foreclose and take possession of the farm.

Whats the amount of the mortgage?

A thousand dollars.

Then she wont do it! Ill advance the money and assume the mortgage myself.

Bully for you, Grant! Heres Mr. Jones himself coming. Tell him, and put him out of his anxiety.

Abner Jones approached with downcast eyes and sad face. He saw no way of saving the farm, and it would doubtless be sold far below its value. When he saw Grant his face brightened, for he had always liked the boy.

Welcome home, Grant! he said heartily. When did you come?

I have just arrived.

Did you do well?

Finely. How is it with you?

I am about to lose my home, Grant, he said sadly. Theres a mortgage on it, held by Mrs. Bartlett, that I cant pay.

And wont she extend it?

No; she wants to get possession of it.

Cant you get anybody to advance the money?

No; we have no capitalist in Woodburn that can command that sum in ready money.

You forget me, Mr. Jones.

What do you mean, Grant? asked the farmer quickly.

I mean that I will advance the money, Mr. Jones.

It isnt possible that youve got so much as that, Grant?

I assure you that it is.

But youll straiten yourself.

No; I have brought double that sum with me, and have more in California.

Then I am saved! You have made me very happy, Grant.

Its all right, Mr. Jones. I am making a business investment.

A few minutes later Grant met Rodney Bartlett walking with a slow dignified step, swinging a light bamboo cane.

Good-morning, Rodney! he said, touching his hat with a smile.

What! have you come back, Grant Colburn? cried Rodney, in surprise.

Yes, I arrived this morning.

Grandpas dead, and ma and I have got the property.

So I hear.

I suppose you hurried home to see if you couldnt get some of it, sneered Rodney.

I think my mother could get a share if she went to law.

Thats where you are mistaken. You have come on a fools errand.

That isnt what brought me.

If you want a place, perhaps ma will have you for a farm boy.

Grant smiled.

As she has you, I dont think she will need me, he said.

Do you think I would soil my hands by farm work? I am a gentleman.

I am glad to hear it.

What do you say to that watch? and Rodney complacently produced his gold chronometer.

It is a fair watch, said Grant, examining it.

I should say it was! It cost sixty dollars.

Suppose you look at mine; and Grant produced his. Rodney had not noticed that he had one.

Rodney looked paralyzed, for he saw that it was a much finer one than his.

Is it oroide? he gasped.

Grant laughed.

It was bought at Tiffanys, and Tiffany doesnt sell oroide watches.

How much did it cost?

A hundred and twenty-five dollars.

I dont believe it! said Rodney sharply.

I can show you Tiffanys receipt, he said, and he drew a paper from his pocket.

And you spent all your money for that watch? ejaculated Rodney.

No; I have more left.

Rodney walked away abruptly. All his pride in his watch had gone. He hurried back to the farm, and told his mother the astounding news.

Ma, he said, you must buy me a nicer watch. I dont want that farm boy to beat me.

Mrs. Bartlett would not at first believe that Rodneys story was correct. When convinced, she would not accede to her son s request.

A sixty-dollar watch is good enough for a boy of your age, she said. Grant Colburn will come to the poorhouse if he spends money like that. If pa were living he could claim the guardianship of the boy and take care of his money. Do you know how much he has got?

He didnt tell me.

It isnt likely he has as much as you. I hear his mother is going to be housekeeper for Mr. Wilkins.

But later in the day Mrs. Bartlett learned that this was a mistake. She was very much worried about Grants plans, and anxious to learn how much money he had.

Meanwhile Grant called on the proprietor of their old home and bought it for eighteen hundred dollars, only paying five hundred down, for he could get much better interest for his money in San Francisco, and could well afford to pay six per cent, interest on the balance. He bought the house just as it stood furniture and all as his mother had originally sold it. If the price of the property seems small, it must be remembered that Woodburn was a country village.

There was another surprise in store for the Bartletts.

On the day when the mortgage on the Jones place came due, Mrs. Bartlett, accompanied by her lawyer, called at the farm.

Mr. Jones, she said, I have come to foreclose the mortgage on your place.

You cant do it, Mrs. Bartlett, replied the farmer.

Mrs. Bartlett closed her thin lips firmly, and her cold gray eyes rested on the farmers face.

Why cant I do it, Mr. Jones? she asked, in an acid tone.

Because I am going to pay it.

But you cant do it! she exclaimed, in dismay.

Here is the money, maam. Youll find it correct. Now, Ill thank you to cancel the mortgage, Mr. Lawyer.

Have I got to take the money? asked Sophia Bartlett.

Certainly, said the lawyer.

Where did you get it? I didnt know you had any, she asked sharply.

I am not obliged to tell; but I will do so to satisfy you. The money is kindly advanced by Grant Colburn.

That boy! ejaculated Mrs. Bartlett furiously.

Yes; he has been to me a friend in need.

If evil wishes could have blighted him, Grant would have stood in great danger, for he had disappointed Sophia Bartlett in her cherished desire.

It beats all how that boy has got on! she muttered. I wish he had never been to California.

Prosperity makes friends. Though Rodney liked Grant no better he made friendly overtures to him now that he looked upon him as rich, but Grant, though polite, was cold. He understood the value of such friendship.

Now for a few concluding words. Grant returned to California. Eventually he intends to take his mother out there, for his business interests are growing more extensive, and in five years he will be a rich man. Mrs. Bartlett has sold her farm and gone to Chicago, but her pecuniary ventures have not been successful, and Rodney is by no means a dutiful son. He is growing extravagant, and is always calling upon his mother for money, while he shows no willingness to work. The whole family is likely to end in poverty.

Giles Crosmont has returned to England with his son, leaving his California property in charge of Grant. He has invited Grant and his mother to visit him at his home in Devonshire, and, some summer, the invitation will probably be accepted. Tom Cooper has established himself in San Francisco, but his father and mother have returned with a competence to their home in Iowa.

It was a lucky day, mother, said Grant one day, when I came to California to dig for gold.

Many came out here and failed, returned his mother; but you had good habits and the qualities that insure success.


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