Horatio Alger.

Digging for Gold

As Grant gave a careless glance at the structure, which he was not intending to cross, he saw something that startled him. The supports of the further end of the bridge had given way, and it hung, partially fallen, supported only from the other end. It was clear that no train could pass over it in its present condition without being precipitated into the creek below.

Good Heavens, thought Grant, therell be an accident! I wonder what could have weakened the bridge.

It was useless speculating about this point. The danger was imminent, for in less than ten minutes a train was due.

Grant thought of going to the village and giving the alarm, but there was no time. Before he could return the train would have arrived, if on time, and the accident would have happened.

What shall I do? Grant asked himself in excitement. The engineer will have no warning, and the train will push on at its usual speed.

A vision of the wrecking of the train and the death of innocent and unsuspecting passengers rose before Grants mind, and he felt that the catastrophe must be averted if possible. If only some one would come along with whom to consult. But he was alone, and on his young shoulders rested a terrible responsibility.

What could he do?


I must signal to the engineer in some way, thought Grant. How shall I do it?

He felt in his pocket and found that he had a white handkerchief of large size. He wore a soft felt hat. This he took off, spread the handkerchief over it, and then lifted it in the air on the tines of the pitchfork. Then he sought a place where he might attract the attention of the engineer.

About two hundred feet from the bridge there was a small eminence on one side of the railroad. It was just in front of a curve, and this seemed to Grant the best place to station himself. He posted himself there, raised the pitchfork, and waited anxiously for the train.

By and by he heard the cars approaching. His heart was in his mouth.

Will they see me? he asked himself. If not but he could not bear to think of the alternative.

As the train drew nearer and nearer he began to wave the hat vigorously, shouting at the same time, though he knew that his voice would be drowned by the thunderous noise of the train.

Nearer and nearer came the train. Would it stop?

All at once his heart was filled with joy, for the train began to slow up, and stopped just a little beyond where he was standing.

Grant ran forward till he was abreast with the engine.

Whats the matter, boy? demanded the engineer, half inclined to be angry. If you are playing a trick on me, Ill give you a good horse-whipping.

Its no trick, answered Grant earnestly. The bridge just ahead is broken down.

Good Heavens! is this true?

Get out and see for yourself.

The engineer lost no time in following Giants advice.

He and his young guide walked forward, and he saw that Grants information was correct.

Its a narrow escape, he said slowly. The train would have been wrecked, and by this time in all probability I should have been a dead man.

By this time a number of passengers, curious to know what had happened, and why the train had stopped so suddenly, got off the cars and advanced to where the engineer stood with Grant at his side.

Whats the matter, asked the first man.

You can see for yourself, answered the engineer, pointing to the bridge.

Good Heavens!

Youve been as near death as you probably ever will be without meeting it.

And what saved us?

This boy, said the engineer, pointing to Grant. But for him, some of us would be dead men at this moment.

Grant blushed, for all eyes were fixed on him.

It was lucky I was here and discovered the broken bridge, he said.

Gentlemen, said a portly, gray-haired man, a clergyman, this boy has under Providence been the means of saving our lives. He deserves a reward.

So he does! So he does! exclaimed a dozen men heartily.

Let me set the example, and the minister took off his hat and deposited therein a five dollar bill. I am not a rich man ministers seldom are but what I give, I give with all my heart.

Here is another! said the engineer. I am perhaps under deeper obligations than any one.

Let me contribute! said a sweet-faced old lady, and she dropped another five-dollar bill into the ministers hat.

Then the passengers generally brought forward their contributions, though some were able to give but a silver coin. There was one notable exception: One man, when he saw what was going forward, quietly shrunk away, and got back into the train.

Whos that man, asked the engineer sharply.

I know, said an Irishman, who out of his poverty had given a dollar. Its Mr. Leonard Buckley, of New York. Hes worth a million. He is rich enough to buy us all up.

No matter how much money he possesses, he is a poor man, said the minister significantly.

Hes given all his life is worth to the world, said a passenger cynically. When he dies he wont be missed.

And now, my young friend, said the clergyman to Grant, let me make over to you this collection of money as a small acknowledgement from the passengers of this train of the great service you have rendered us.

While the collection was being taken up, Grant stood as if dazed. All had passed so suddenly that he could not realize what it meant. Now he found a voice to speak.

I dont think I ought to take it, he said. I didnt do it for money.

Of course you didnt! said the clergyman. If you had, your act would have been far less commendable, though it might have been as effective. I think you need not hesitate to take the money.

Take it, take it! said more than one.

So Grant took the hat, and held it awkwardly for a moment, hardly knowing what to do with the contents till some one suggested, Put it in your own hat!

Grant did so, and then the engineer went forward to examine the bridge more carefully, and decide what had better be done.

There was no further reason for Grant to remain, and he walked a little distance away and began to count his money. There were one hundred and forty dollars in bills, and about twelve dollars in silver.

One hundred and fifty-two dollars! said Grant, elated. Now, and his face brightened up, now I can go to California!

But what should he do with the money? He felt that it would not be prudent to carry it home, for his step-father would be sure to claim it. He might hide it somewhere, but there was danger that it would be discovered, and lost. Finally, he decided to carry it to Luke Weldon, and ask him to keep it for him for the present. Luke was a poor man, but he was thoroughly honest. There was no one in town who would not sooner have trusted him than Seth Tarbox, though Seth had twenty dollars to his one.

When Grant entered the farm-yard again, Luke looked up with surprise.

What brings you back, Grant? he asked.

I want to ask a favor of you, Mr. Weldon.

I am always ready to do you a favor, Grant.

Will you keep some money for me?

Luke Weldon was surprised. He knew pretty well how Grant was situated, and that money must be a scarce article with him. Perhaps, however, he had a little extra change which he was afraid of losing, he reflected.

All right, Grant! was his reply. Ill keep it for you. How much is it?

When Grant began to draw the bills out of his pocket, Lukes eyes opened with amazement.

Where did you get all this money, Grant? he asked. You havent been no, I cant believe it possible youve been robbing the old man.

I should think not, returned Grant indignantly. I havent sunk so low as that.

But where did you get it? Why didnt you ask me to take charge of it when you were here before?

Because I didnt have it.

Have you got it since?


Then you found it somewhere. It must belong to some one who hid it.

No, it doesnt. It was given to me.

I want to believe you, Grant, and I never knew you to tell a lie, but it aint easy, boy, it aint easy. If you dont tell me where and how you got it, I cant agree to keep it for you. It might be stolen money for aught I know.

Then Ill tell you, Luke. When I crossed the railroad I found the bridge was broken. I signalled the train just in time to stop its going across.

Sho! you dont say! Then but for you the train would have been wrecked?


Im proud of you, Grant! Give me your hand. Why, boy, youve saved fifty lives, perhaps.

Thats what the engineer said.

But about the money

The passengers took up a contribution, and here it is.

How much is there?

As near as I can tell, for I counted it in a hurry, theres a hundred and fifty-two dollars.

And you deserve it all, Grant. Yes, Ill keep it for you, and give it back whenever you ask for it.

I was afraid Mr. Tarbox might try to get it away from me.

So he would, I make no doubt. He wont get it from me, Ill tell you that.

Now I must be getting home. Ive been away a long time.

When Grant approached the farm-house, Rodney, who was standing in front of the house, hailed him.

Say, theres a rod in pickle for you. Grandfathers awfully mad at your staying so long.


Grant listened to what Rodney said, but Mr. Tarboxs anger did not signify as much to him as it would have done a few hours earlier. The money he possessed made him feel independent.

Seth Tarbox appeared at the door, ready to empty the vials of his wrath on Grants devoted head.

So youve been loiterin on the way, have you? he said harshly. Youve been twice as long as you need to be.

Well, perhaps I have, Grant admitted coolly.

So you own up to it, do you?

Of course I do.

And what excuse have you?

Do you expect me to work all the time?

I expect you to earn your board and clothes.

I earn them both, and more too, but I dont get the clothes.

Hey? Oh, I see. You loitered because I wouldnt buy you a suit of clothes, snarled Seth.

You can take it that way if you want to, said Grant.

Whats got into you, Grant Colburn? Pears to me you are mighty independent all at once.

Thats the way I feel.

You seem to forget that but for me you wouldnt have a home.

When you get tired of providing me with a home, Mr. Tarbox, I will find one somewhere else.

So you think, but if you leave my home youll become a poor tramp.

Rodney laughed.

I guess youre right, grandfather, he said.

Grant darted a look at him which showed that he understood the nature of his feelings.

Well, he said, Ill take the risk.

I dont take back the offer of a suit of clothes, Grant, said Rodney smoothly. Ill bring em over the next time I come.

Yes, do, Rodney, put in his grandfather.

You neednt take the trouble, Rodney, said Grant. I shant wear the suit if you bring it.

I suppose you expect Ill buy you a new one, sneered Seth Tarbox.

No, I dont.

Then you are content to go as you are?

No, I shall have a new suit in a few days, if I have to pay for it myself.

Youre welcome to do that, responded Seth in a tone of satisfaction, for he concluded that Grants mother would pay the bill, and that suited him.

No more was said to Grant on the subject of his delay in returning from the other farm. He had occasion a little later to go on an errand, and called at the village tailors.

Mr. Shick, he said, I want you to make me up a good serviceable suit. How much will it cost?

It depends on the cloth, Grant. Here is a remnant that will wear like iron. I can make it up in two styles, according to the trimmings, seventeen dollars or twenty.

I want a good suit, and will pay twenty.

The tailor was rather surprised, for he knew that Grants step-father was a thoroughly mean man.

Mr. Tarbox is getting liberal, isnt he? he inquired. Thats more than he pays for his own suits.

He isnt going to pay for mine.

Oh, its your mother, then.

No, I shall pay for it myself.

Will it be cash down?


I am glad you are so well off, Grant, said Mr. Shick, puzzled.

So am I. You may rest assured that you wont have to wait for your money.

Then Ill do a good job. You shall have as nice a suit as any boy in the village. You deserve it, too, Grant, for youre a hard-working boy.

Just say that to Mr. Tarbox when you meet him, said Grant, smiling, for I am afraid he doesnt fully appreciate me.

As Grant left the tailors shop he met Rodney at the door. Rodney found the farm rather a slow place, and had made a second visit to the village.

Hallo, he exclaimed, have you been into the tailors?


I suppose you had business there.

I had.

What was it?

You can ask Mr. Shick, if you like. Im in a hurry.

Rodney decided to act on this suggestion.

How do you do, Mr. Shick? he said politely, for he wanted to get some information. I see Grant has just been in here.


Are you going to make him a suit?


Rodney was surprised.

Would you mind showing me the cloth? he asked. I might like to get a suit myself.

I shall be happy to fill your order. This is the cloth.

It looks pretty good.

Yes, it is of excellent quality.

How much do you charge for a suit off this cloth?

Twenty dollars is what I charged Grant.

It must be explained that Shick, being in the country, was obliged to put his prices a good deal lower for the same article than if he lived in the city.

Well, I hope youll get your pay, said Rodney shortly.

I shant trouble myself about that. Grant is an honest boy.

Well, Im glad you feel so confident.

Rodney left the shop abruptly, and, going into the street, came face to face with his grandfather.

Grandfather, he said, Ive got some news for you.

Have you, Rodney? What is it?

Grant has ordered a suit of Mr. Shick, for which the price is twenty dollars.

You dont mean it? ejaculated the farmer.

Yes, I do. I suppose the bill will be sent to you, added Rodney, desirous of making trouble.

I wont pay it! exclaimed Seth Tarbox excitedly.

Youd better see Mr. Shick about it.

Seth Tarbox entered the shop, looking flurried.

Is it true, Mr. Shick, he said abruptly, that Grant has ordered a twenty-dollar suit of you?

Yes, Mr. Tarbox.

If you expect me to pay for it, youll be disappointed. Did Grant tell you to charge it to me?

No; he said he would pay for it himself.

I suppose he expects to get the money out of his mother, continued Mr. Tarbox, feeling somewhat relieved. It will be a shame to make her pay so much. Why, I dont pay that for my own suits.

Why dont you? asked the tailor bluntly. You can afford it.

I dont believe in throwing away money, answered Seth shortly.

You wouldnt. This suit of Grants will wear like iron.

Its all foolish extravagance. Rodney, my grandson, offered to give him one of his old cast-off suits.

Mr. Shick smiled.

Probably Grant thought he would prefer a new one.

But its wasteful extravagance.

Mr. Tarbox, you need a new suit yourself. Youd better let me make you one. You dont want your step-son to outshine you.

Ill see about it. I can make the old one do a little longer.

When Mr. Tarbox got home he at once tackled his wife.

Mrs. T., he said, Im surprised at your letting Grant order a twenty-dollar suit. Truly a fool and his money are soon parted, as the saying is.

I dont know what you mean, Mr. Tarbox, and Ill thank you not to call me a fool, she added, with a flash of spirit.

You mean to say you havent authorized Grant to order a twenty-dollar suit at Mr. Shicks?

Grant hasnt asked me to buy him a suit?

Well, hes ordered one, for Mr. Shick told me so. It aint possible that hes going to trust that boy. I dont understand it.

Nor do I. I will speak to Grant about it.

Mrs. Tarbox felt anxious, for the story seemed strange and almost incredible. It did not seem like Grant, but still she knew that he was very anxious to have a new suit. She would have been willing to advance ten dollars to buy him a ready-made one, but twenty dollars in her circumstances would be extravagant.

Just then Grant entered the room.

Grant, she said, have you ordered a suit at Mr. Shicks?

Yes, mother.

At twenty dollars?

Yes, mother.

How could you be so inconsiderate? Mr. Tarbox will not pay for it, and I cannot afford to pay so high a price.

Dont be worried, mother, said Grant quietly, I shall pay for it myself.


Two pairs of eyes were fixed upon Grant in wonderment those of his mother and Mr. Tarbox.

Are you crazy, Grant Colburn? asked Mr. Tarbox.

Not that I know of, Mr. Tarbox.

Do you mean to say you have got twenty dollars to pay for your suit?

Yes, I do.

Show it to me.

I havent got the money with me.

Where is it, then?

I decline to tell.

Do you know, Grant, that I, as your step-father, and natural guardian, have a right to make you tell?

No, I dont. At any rate, I shant tell.

Youre getting dreadful contrary lately, Grant. Mrs. T., I think we are going to have trouble with that boy. Of course Mr. Shick wont be paid, and hell send in his bill to you or me likely. He cant make us pay, for he has trusted a minor without consultin his parents or guardians. I wash my hands of the matter.

So saying, Mr. Tarbox left the room.

Grant, said his mother, I cant help feeling anxious. It does seem a crazy idea for you to order a twenty-dollar suit.

Why should it, mother?

When you have no money to pay for it.

Mother, did you ever know me to tell a lie?

No, Grant.

Then, when I tell you that Ive got money enough to pay for this suit, and more, too, you can believe me.

Was it got honestly, Grant?

Of course it was.

And the money is really and truly yours?

It is.

Are you willing to tell me where you got it?

Not just yet, mother. I will before long.

Well, Grant, I will trust your word, said Mrs. Tarbox, relieved, and I am really glad of your good fortune.

You wont worry any more, then, mother?

No, Grant.

I am glad you havent lost confidence in me.

Grant took an opportunity, after supper, to go to Luke Weldons, and draw twenty-five dollars. On his way back he called at the tailors, and paid Mr. Shick for his suit in advance. The remaining five dollars, in silver, he kept in his pocket.

It is so long since I carried any money, he said to himself, that I want to know how it seems.

Meanwhile Jotham Perry, a neighbor, called at the farm-house on an errand.

Thats a pretty bad thing, the breaking down of the railroad bridge, isnt it?

I havent heard of it, said Seth Tarbox, pricking up his ears.

Sho! I thought everybody knew it.

How did it happen?

I dont know, except it gave way from old age. Its long been shaky.

When was it found out?

This afternoon, just before the accommodation train came along. I tell you it was a narraw escape for the train. They stopped just a few rods before they got to the bridge.

What made them stop? How did the engineer come to suspect?

It seems a boy came along that way, and saw the condition of the bridge, and signalled the train.

A boy?

Yes. He had a pitchfork, and stuck his hat and a handkerchief on the tines, and so attracted the engineers attention.

Mr. Tarbox opened his eyes wide, and a sudden revelation came to him.

Why, it must have been Grant, he said.

Didnt he tell you anything about it?


I heerd the passengers took up a collection for the boy, whoever he was. He must have got as much as twenty-five dollars.

Thats where Grants money came from, exclaimed Seth Tarbox, slapping his leg vigorously. Hes gone and ordered a twenty-dollar suit, and been hintin mysteriously that hed got money enough to pay for it.

Yes, I suppose that explains it. Well, the boy needs a new suit and hes earned it easy.

But its such a foolish way of spendin his money. My grandson Rodney offered him a suit of his for nothin, and he might have given me the money to keep for him.

Yes, he might, said Jotham with a queer smile, but I think if Id been in Grants place Id have done the same thing he did.

Mr. Perry went away directly afterward, and Seth Tarbox sought his wife.

Where is Grant, Mrs. T.?

He went out to walk after his chores were done, but he didnt say where he was going.

Ive found out where he got his money, said Seth, nodding his head.

Where, then? He didnt do anything wrong, I am sure.

Well, no, not in gettin the money, but hed ought to have consulted me before bein so extravagant.

Where did he get the money?

He found out the bridge was broken, and signalled the train and saved it from being wrecked.

Mrs. Tarboxs eyes sparkled with maternal pride.

It was a noble act, she said.

The passengers took up a contribution, and Jotham Perry thinks Grant got about twenty-five dollars.

He deserved it.

Well, Im glad he got it, but he had no right to spend it himself. Thers one thing that dont occur to you, Mrs. T. What he did was done in time, and he lost at least an hour by the delay it cost. You know yourself how late he came home.

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