Horatio Alger.

Digging for Gold

What is that, Mr. Tarbox, to the lives of the passengers and the safety of the train?

You dont understand me, Mrs. T. Under the circumstances I think I ought to have half the money he received.

Mr. Tarbox! exclaimed his wife in profound disgust.

Thats so, and of course if I had it he wouldnt have no twenty dollars to throw away on a suit of clothes.

You forget, Mr. Tarbox, that it has saved you the money you would have to pay for a new suit for him.

It has saved me nothing. I wouldnt have bought him a new suit. My grandson, Rodney, was goin to give him one of his old suits. Now I think of it, Ill go down and see Mr. Shick and warn him not to make up the suit, tellin him that Grant cant pay for it with my permission.

That will be a mean thing to do, Seth Tarbox.

Mrs. Tarbox always called her husband by his full name when she had occasion to feel displeased with him.

You and I dont look on things in the same way, Mrs. T., said her husband calmly. Ill go and see Mr. Shick at once.

The tailor shop was still open for business when Mr. Tarbox entered.

Well, Mr. Tarbox, have you come to pick out a suit for yourself?

No, I havent. Have you cut out Grants suit yet?

Yes; it is nearly finished.

Then Im sorry for you. You mustnt make it up?

Why not?

Because I shall forbid the boy to pay for it. Hes got the money, as Ive found out, but part of it belongs to me, and I wont have him spendin it so extravagantly.

I shant be able to oblige you, Mr. Tarbox. The suit will be made up, as I agreed, and delivered to Grant.

Well, youll be takin a risk. Ive warned you that you wont get your pay.

You are behind the times, Mr. Tarbox. You have taken your walk for nothing. The suit is already paid for.

What! ejaculated Mr. Tarbox.

It is just as I said. Grant has paid me for the suit in advance. I advise you to give me an order and do the same thing.

Mr. Tarbox felt that he had been outwitted. He persuaded himself that Grant had treated him meanly. Of course there was no resource. He was too wise to ask Mr. Shick to refund the money, for he knew he would not do it. He found nothing to say, and shuffled out, looking down in the mouth.

There goes the meanest man in town! soliloquized the tailor, as his visitor walked slowly down the road. Grant must have a pretty uncomfortable time at home. I am glad that in this case the boy has got the better of his step-father.

Hes got five dollars left, reflected Mr. Tarbox. Id ought to have that, for it was in my time that he earned the money. Ill go upstairs and get it to-night when Grant is asleep.

Grant went to bed about nine oclock, for he was tired out, and he was soon asleep.

Usually he did not wake up at all till morning, but it so happened that this night he waked up about eleven, and saw Mr.

Tarbox rummaging in the pocket of his pantaloons.

He hardly knew whether to feel amused or indignant.

What are you doing here, Mr. Tarbox? he demanded in a voice which he made purposely loud.


Mr. Tarbox had not bargained for Grants being awake, and he had the grace to look ashamed, but he put a bold face on it.

Ive come for the rest of the money you got for stoppin the train, he said.

What right have you to it, Mr. Tarbox, said Grant, more amused than surprised. It was given to me.

Mebbe it was, but you stopped the train in my time, and Id ought to have half the money.

You cant have it, Mr. Tarbox.

I know youve fooled away twenty dollars on a new suit, when you might have had Rodneys; but you got as much as twenty-five dollars, so Jotham Perry said.

How did he find out? asked Grant in artful surprise.

Then you did get twenty-five?


So I thought. Well, I want you to give me the five. You came home an hour late.

And you charge me five dollars for an hour? If youll pay me at that rate, Mr. Tarbox, Ill work for you all my life.

Quit your foolin, Grant Colburn, said Seth, feeling that logic was against him. Im your guardian, and I claim the money. Ill keep four dollars of it for you.

The fact is, Mr. Tarbox, Ive disposed of part of the money. Ive only got a dollar left.

This was true, for Grant had given his mother four dollars, to buy a new print dress.

What did you do with it? asked his step-father, disappointed.

I gave it to mother.

Youd ought to have given it to me.

I dont think so.

Wheres the other dollar?

Its in my vest pocket.

Seth Tarbox thrust his fingers into the pocket of Grants vest, and drew out two silver half-dollars. It was better than nothing, but he felt disappointed.

Ill take this, he said, to pay for your time.

You are welcome to it, but dont you think you could spare me one half-dollar? asked Grant meekly.

When youve gone and spent twenty for a suit? No, I guess not. You can think yourself pretty lucky to get as much as you did.

Seth Tarbox took the candle, and went slowly down stairs. Grant was so much amused by the way in which he had outwitted his step-father that he laughed loud enough for Mr. Tarbox to hear.

Thats a queer boy, said Tarbox to himself. I dont think hes exactly right in his head. Id ought to have got more than one dollar out of all the money the passengers raised for him; but still its something.

When Grant came down stairs to breakfast the next morning he looked very cheerful, in spite of losing his money the night before, and laughed two or three times, without any apparent reason for doing so. Mr. Tarbox had suggested to his wife the propriety of giving up to him half the money she had received from Grant, but Mrs. Tarbox, yielding as she generally was, had positively refused. Indeed, Grant had made her promise to do so.

Grants new suit was finished in time for him to wear it on Sunday. He had great satisfaction in entering the village church decently clothed. Indeed, he felt that he was as well dressed as any boy in town, and this was for him a decidedly new sensation.

Grant had one hundred and twenty-seven dollars left in the hands of Luke Weldon. He withdrew ten dollars, and bought some shirts and underclothing. This did not come to the notice of Mr. Tarbox, who was under the impression that Grants stock of money was exhausted. Had he known the truth, he would have moved heaven and earth to get hold of the balance of Grants little fortune.

Grant was anxious to see John Heywood, the returned Californian. He was more than ever determined to leave the service of his step-father, and make a bold stroke for a fortune. All day he thought of the Golden State of the Pacific Coast, and all night he dreamed of it. For him it had the greatest fascination. The idea of wandering across the continent to this wonderful new land became strengthened, and he felt that, with the sum he had at command, he would be able to do it. He spoke of it to his mother privately, and, though it made her feel anxious, he succeeded in persuading her that it would be for the best.

But he could do nothing without seeing John Heywood, and getting more information. He thought of going to Crestville, and accordingly, one morning after breakfast, he started without notifying Mr. Tarbox, and walked the whole distance six miles.

Mr. Heywood lived half a mile this side of the village, and Grant had the luck to find him at home.

Good-morning, Grant, said the young man. What brings you to Crestville so early?

I came to see you, Mr. Heywood.

You did? Well, Im glad to see you. Wont you come into the house?

No, Ill sit down here, and Grant took a seat on a wood horse, while Heywood leaned against the well curb, and waited for his young visitor to open his business.

I hear you have been very lucky in California, Mr. Heywood.

Yes, answered the young man, with complacency. I brought home ten thousand dollars. It makes me feel like a rich man. Im only twenty-nine, and I didnt look to be worth that sum before I was sixty-nine. A clear gain of forty years! he added with a laugh.

You got it by digging gold, didnt you?


And I suppose theres more gold in California? You didnt take it all?

I should say not. Theres piles, and piles of it left.

Is digging gold very hard work? Is it too hard for a boy?

You dont mean to say youre thinkin of goin to California yourself? said Heywood quickly.

Yes, I do.

Well, youre a good, stout boy. I dont see why you should not succeed. But youll have to work hard.

I am willing to.

What will your folks say?

Mother has given her consent. As for Mr. Tarbox, my step-father, he hasnt got anything to say about it.

You are working for him now, arent you?

Yes, Im working for my board and clothes. The board is fair enough, but he is not willing to give me any clothes.

Thats a nice suit you have on.

So it is, but I had to buy it with my own money. He hasnt spent but ten dollars for my clothing in a whole year.

Ive heard he was a mean man.

He thinks everything of a dollar. Mother made a great mistake in marrying him.

Then, under the circumstances, Grant, I dont know as I blame you. But, you know, it takes money to go to California.

I know that. How much did it cost you?

I went across the plains. By the time I reached the mines I had spent about ninety dollars.

Ninety dollars! repeated Grant in a tone of satisfaction. But how am I to go, even if I have the money. I cant start across the plains alone.

No, of course not. Its always better to have a little company. Theres a family goin from this town in about a week Mr. Coopers family. I am sure they will be willing to have you go with them. Shall I speak to them about it?

Yes, I wish you would.

Much pleased, Grant set out on his long walk home. He found his step-father furious at his absence.

Where have you been, Grant? he demanded.

Over to Crestville.

Youve taken most a day of my time. Its a shame! I cant afford to take care of you, and give you victuals and clothes, when youre playin truant half the time.

I dont expect you to, Mr. Tarbox. I dont want you to lose money by me, said Grant demurely, so Ive made up my mind to leave you.

To leave me? ejaculated Seth Tarbox, aghast. Where are you goin?

Im going to California!

Seth Tarbox dropped the hoe he had in his hand, and stared at Grant as though the boy had taken leave of his senses.


Goin to Californy! ejaculated Mr. Tarbox in a dazed tone.

Yes. Ive seen John Heywood thats what I went to Crestville for and he tells me theres a chance for a boy to make money out there.

Goin to walk, I spose, said Seth satirically.

Im going across the plains, if thats what you mean.

Where are you goin to get the money? It will cost a good deal.

I have made arrangements about the money.

Is John Heywood goin to supply you with funds?

Id rather not tell, answered Grant mysteriously. He was glad that this idea had occurred to his step-father, as he did not wish him to know that he had any funds of his own.

I dont know as Ill let you go, went on Seth Tarbox slowly.

What right have you to stop me? demanded Grant, not very much alarmed.

Im your step-father.

Yes; but youre not my guardian.

Mind, I dont say Ill stop you, said Seth, for an idea had occurred to him whereby he might turn the expedition to his own advantage. Should Grant bring back a good sum of money, he meant to get control of it, and thought he should succeed on account of the boys being so young.

No, Mr. Tarbox, it wouldnt be any use.

Does John Heywood really think you can make it pay?

He says theres piles of gold there.

Piles of gold! repeated Seth Tarbox, an expression of greed stealing over his face.

Yes, thats what he said.

I wish I was a young man. I aint sure but Id go myself. But Im sixty-eight.

Thats a little too old to go.

If you are prosperous, Grant, take care of your money and bring it all home. Well be glad to see you back safe and prosperous, your mother and me.

Thank you, Mr. Tarbox.

This conversation relieved Grants mind. Even if Mr. Tarbox were opposed to his going, he meant to go all the same, but it was pleasanter to have no trouble in the matter.

The next day he went to Crestville again, this time to see Jerry Cooper, as everybody called him, and his son Tom, and ascertain whether they were willing that he should join their party.

Mr. Cooper, a weather-beaten man of fifty, was at work in his yard when Grant came up. Grant knew him by sight, and bade him good-morning.

Has John Heywood spoken to you about me? he asked.

Yes. Youre the boy that wants to go to Californy with us.

Yes, sir.

You look kind of rugged; I guess you can stand it, said the blacksmith, surveying critically Grants broad shoulders and athletic frame.

Yes, Mr. Cooper; Im not a city dude. Ive always been accustomed to hard work.

Thats good. Theres a good deal of hard work in goin across the plains.

How long do you think it will take to make the journey?

About four months.

It will give us a good chance to see the country

That aint what Im goin for. When you get to be fifty years old you wont care much about seein the country. You will be more practical.

I shall try to be practical, said Grant, with a smile.

Its my belief we shall see more of the country than we care for. I wish it wasnt so fur.

So do I. Some time there may be a railroad across the continent.

Mr. Cooper shook his head.

I never expect to see that, he said. It wouldnt pay. Youre a boy, and by the time you get to be an old man there may be a railroad, but I doubt it.

When do you expect to start, Mr. Cooper?

Next Thursday. Can you be ready?

I could be ready to-morrow if necessary, returned Grant promptly. How much is it going to cost me, Mr. Cooper? he added. If you will tell me, I can give you the money in a lump, and you can undertake to see me through.

Mebbe that will be a good plan, as I shall have to lay in more supplies. Well say seventy-five dollars; and it will be well for you to bring a pair of blankets.

All right. I will give you the money now if you will give me a paper acknowledging the receipt, and what it is for.

Just as you say, Grant.

Grant had brought a hundred dollars with him, and handed over to Jerry Cooper the sum he had mentioned, receiving back a receipt. This he put into his pocket with a sense of satisfaction. He felt that now the die was cast, and he was really bound for California; that he had taken the first step on the road to fortune.

On his way home he chanced to meet Rodney Bartlett. Rodney was walking with an affected step and swinging his cane. He had an idea that he was a striking figure and excited the admiration of all whom he met.

When his eyes fell on Grant, he started in genuine surprise.

How do you happen to be over here, Grant Colburn? he asked.

I am here on business, answered Grant.

Oh, come over on an errand for my grandfather, I suppose.

No, I came on business of my own.

Rodney arched his eyebrows.

Oh, so you have business of your own? he said, in a ironical tone.


What is it?

I dont think you would feel interested in it.

Look here, Grant, I dont believe you have any business here at all, said Rodney rudely.

It makes little difference to me what you think, returned Grant briefly.

I think you are playing truant from the farm that you have come over here to get rid of work. If I were grandfather I wouldnt let you come. Id keep you at work.

You are very kind and considerate, as usual, Rodney. However, you are mistaken in one thing.

Whats that?

You think I am in the employ of your grandfather.

I know you are a farm boy.

I was, but am so no longer.

What do you mean? Has grandfather discharged you?

No, I have discharged myself. I dont expect to work for your grandfather any longer.

What are you going to do? Do you expect to live without work?

No; I expect to work harder next year than ever before.

I dont understand you, said Rodney, puzzled. Are you trying to fool me?


Then what do you mean?

I start next Thursday for California.

Rodney was surprised.

You dont mean it! he ejaculated.

Its true.

Who are you going with?

With Jerry Coopers family.

But you cant go without money.

Thats true.

And you havent got any.

Thats a mistake. I have all I need.

Where did you get it?

Thats my business.

Who put you up to going?

I had a talk with John Heywood. He told me he thought I would succeed in making money.

Oh, I see. I suppose he was fool enough to lend you the money.

Grant smiled, but did not answer. This confirmed Rodney in his belief. He looked at Grant with envy and dislike. With the amiable desire to depress him, he said, I predict that youll come back poorer than you went away.

It may be so, but I dont believe it.

When he parted with Grant, Rodney went around to John Heywoods house, with the view of ascertaining whether he had supplied Grant with the funds necessary for his journey.

I think you are foolish, Mr. Heywood, Rodney began, to lend Grant Colburn money to go to California.

John Heywood looked up from his work.

Who told you I had supplied him with money? he asked.

Well, no one.

Then why do you say I did?

He must have got the money somewhere, so I concluded you had let him have it.

Then you concluded wrong. He never asked me to lend him money. If he had

Well, if he had? repeated Rodney eagerly.

If he had, I should probably have done it. Grant Colburns a hardworking boy and a good fellow, and I think hell be happier out in California than on your grandfathers farm.

Itll be a relief to grandfather to have him go. Hes been supporting him for the last two years.

Grant has earned his living twice over. Hell have to work hard in California, but hell be paid for it. I shouldnt be surprised to see him a rich man some time.

Rodney scowled and walked away. He thought the prediction ridiculous, and hoped it would not come true.


The day before they were to start Grant came over and spent the night with Mr. Cooper and his family. The blacksmith had been guided by John Heywood in making his preparations. Independence, Mo., was at that time the usual starting-point for overland emigrants, and it was to this point that the little party directed their course. Mr. Cooper started with two horses, but at Independence he exchanged one of them for a yoke of oxen, being advised that oxen were upon the whole more reliable, and less likely to be stolen by the Indians. Here, too, he laid in a supply of flour, bacon, coffee, and sugar, with a quantity of rice, crackers, and smaller articles, for they were going through a land where there were no hotels, and must carry their own provender.

When they had completed their outfit they set out. A long journey lay before them. From Independence to the gold region was rather more than two thousand miles, and such were the difficulties of the way that they only averaged about fifteen miles a day. A detailed account of the trip would only be wearisome, and I shall confine myself to some of the salient incidents.

The custom was to make an early start and stop at intervals, partly for the preparation of meals and partly to give the patient animals a chance to rest.

One evening it was about ten weeks after the start they had encamped for the night, and Mrs. Cooper, assisted by Grant, was preparing supper, a fire having been kindled about fifty feet from the wagon, when steps were heard, and a singular looking figure emerged from the underbush. It was a man, with a long, grizzled beard, clad in a tattered garb, with an old slouch hat on his head, and a long, melancholy visage.

I trust you are well, my friends, he said. Do not be alarmed. I mean you no harm.

Tom Cooper laughed.

We are not alarmed, he said. That is, not much. Who are you?

An unhappy wayfarer, who has been wandering for days, almost famished, through this wilderness.

Do you live about here?

No; I am on my way to California.

Not alone, surely?

I started with a party, but we were surprised a week since by a party of Cheyenne Indians, and I alone escaped destruction.

Mrs. Cooper turned pale.

Are the Indians so bloodthirsty, then?

Some of them, my dear lady, some of them. They took all our supplies, and I have been living on what I could pick up. Pardon my saying so, but I am almost famished.

Our supper is nearly ready, said Mrs. Cooper hospitably. You are welcome to a portion.

Ah, how kind you are! ejaculated the stranger, clasping his hands. I shall, indeed, be glad to join you.

What is your name, sir? asked the blacksmith cautiously.

Dionysius Silverthorn.

Thats a strange name.

Yes, but I am not responsible for it. We do not choose our own names.

And where are you from?

I came from Illinois.

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