Digging for Goldñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
“Yes, you have your mother to live for,” said Crosmont; and he dropped into a thoughtful mood.
“Will you go to the mines also?” asked Grant, less from curiosity than in order to break the silence.
“No – yes; I will go with you for a time; but the mines have no attraction for me.”
“Don’t you care for gold?”
“I have enough already.”
Then, seeing that Grant’s curiosity was excited, he added: “I don’t mind telling you, Grant, that I am a rich man, rich beyond my wants, and I have no temptation to increase my wealth.”
Grant regarded his companion with the respect that a boy of his age is apt to feel for a rich man – so rich that he doesn’t care to increase his wealth.
“I wonder how it would seem to be rich,” he said thoughtfully.
“Perhaps you will have a chance to experience the feeling some time.”
“I hope so.”
“You are young, strong, self-reliant. In your favored country this will help you to become rich. But after you have acquired wealth, I doubt if you will find it makes you as happy as you expect.”
“But,” said Grant, “if I am rich I can help others. That will make me happy.”
“True!” returned the other, as if it were a new idea. “This ought to have occurred to me before. I will remember it.”
“Were you always rich, sir?”
“Yes. I was born to wealth. My father was a wealthy gentleman living in Devonshire, England. From my earliest years I was accustomed to all that wealth could buy. I never knew what poverty meant.”
“I should think you would wish to live in England.”
“If I lived there it would be alone.”
“Then you have no family!”
Giles Crosmont was silent, and a pained expression showed itself on his face.
“Excuse me if I have shown too much curiosity,” said Grant apologetically.
“There is no need to apologize, yet your question called up painful memories. I had a son – I don’t know if he is still alive – who must now be twenty-five years old. He disappointed me. I sent him to college, and he plunged into extravagance. I paid his debts twice. The last time, in my anger, I declined to do so. He forged a check on me for a large sum, paid his debts with part of the proceeds, and then disappeared.”
“How long ago was that?” inquired Grant, in a sympathetic tone.
“Four years. For a year I remained at my home, hoping to hear something from him, but no tidings came. Then I began to travel, and am still travelling. Sometime I may meet him, and if I do – ”
“You will forgive him?”
“I will try to reclaim him.”
“I wish my father were living.”
“You have your mother.”
“Yes, I wish I could see her at this moment.”
“I think you are a good boy. I wish my boy had been like you.”
“Thank you, Mr. Crosmont. I will try to deserve your compliment.”
“Grant and the Englishman are getting pretty thick,” said Tom to his mother.
“Yes, Tom. He seems to have taken a fancy to the boy.”
Grant is a good fellow. I wonder if this Mr. Crosmont is rich?” For Grant had respected the confidence of his new acquaintance and had not communicated what he had learned to his companions.
“I hope he is. Then he might do something for Grant, and the boy deserves it.”
“He’ll never get much from old Tarbox, I’ll be bound.”
Day by day they drew nearer to the land of gold. The stock of provisions held out wonderfully, for Mr. Crosmont made good his promise, and more than one deer and antelope fell before his unerring aim, and eked out the supply. At length, after some weeks, they crossed the mountains and looked upon the promised land. From this point on there were settlements, and there was no fear of starvation.
ARRIVAL AT SACRAMENTO
At length the little party reached Sacramento. This was already a place of some importance, as it was in the neighborhood of the mining region, and it was here that mining parties obtained their outfits and came at intervals to bring their gold dust and secure supplies. Situated, as it was, on the Sacramento River, with communication with San Francisco by water, it was, besides, the starting-point of numberless lines of stages bound for the different mines. For a town of its size the activity seemed almost incredible. The party went to a hotel, where, for very indifferent accommodations, they were charged five dollars a day. To the blacksmith, accustomed to village prices, this seemed exorbitant.
“We needn’t engage board till night,“ suggested Tom. “We’ll take our meals at a restaurant till then.”
They were all hungry, and this suggestion seemed a good one. Looking about, Tom found a small, one-story building, on the front of which was this sign:
METROPOLITAN HOTEL AND RESTAURANT
“What do you ask for breakfast?” inquired Tom, entering.
“A dollar a head!”
“A dollar!” repeated Mrs. Cooper, in dismay.
“Tom,” said Mr. Cooper, “I haven’t had a civilized meal or sat down at a table for months. No matter what it costs, I’m going to have breakfast now.”
“All right, father! I guess I can do my share of eating.”
Grant listened with dismay to the announcement of prices. Of all the money he had brought with him he had but ten dollars left. How long would it last?
“Grant, are you going to join us?” asked Tom.
“I don’t know as I can afford it,” answered Grant anxiously.
“We can’t any of us afford it,” returned Mr. Cooper. “Sit down, boy, and we’ll borrow trouble afterward.”
“Now,” said Mr. Cooper, as he rose from the table, “I’ll take a turn round the town and see what information I can gain. I’ll turn in the wagon into the yard alongside. Mrs. Cooper, will you keep your eye on it while the rest of us go on a tour of inspection? I don’t think the oxen will be likely to run away,” he added jocosely.
“All right, father.”
Mr. Cooper, Tom, and Grant set out in different directions.
Grant started on his walk feeling sober, if not depressed. Here he was, two thousand miles from his old home, with only nine dollars in his pocket, and the prices for living extortionate. How was he to get to the mines? Before he could get ready to leave Sacramento his money would be exhausted. Since he left home, four months before, Grant hadn’t felt so perplexed and disturbed.
He had walked only five minutes, when he found himself in front of the Sacramento Hotel, the largest in the place.
Half a dozen stages were in the street outside, each drawn by four horses, and each bearing the name of some mining camp to which it proposed to carry passengers. The drivers were calling lustily for recruits. This was what Grant heard – “All aboard for Hangtown! Only four seats left! Who’s going to Gold Gulch? Now’s your chance! Get you through in six hours. Start in fifteen minutes for Frost’s Bar! Richest diggings, within fifty miles!”
“I wonder what they charge,” thought Grant. “I’ll ask.” He went up to the stage bound for Weaver Creek, and inquired the fare.
“Carry you through for ten dollars,” was the reply. “Jump aboard. We’ll start in half an hour.”
“No,” answered Grant slowly. “I shan’t be ready by that time. Besides, I have only nine dollars.”
“I’ll take you to Frost’s Bar for that,” said the driver of the Frost’s Bar stage.
“I suppose you will,” interposed the Weaver Creek driver with a sneer. “Your regular charge is only seven dollars. You want to cheat the boy out of two dollars.”
This led to an altercation between the rival drivers, in which some blows were exchanged, but neither was hurt. Before they had finished Grant had passed on. He knew that, with his limited capital, he could not afford to go to either place and arrive at the mines without a penny.
GRANT GETS A JOB
An hour later Grant was surprised to come across Tom sawing and splitting wood in front of a restaurant.
“What are you doing, Tom?” he asked, in surprise.
“Earning some money,” answered Tom complacently.
“How much will you get for the job?” asked Grant.
“Three dollars and my dinner. It won’t take me more than three hours to finish up the job. What do you think of that?”
“I’d like a job like it. I’m getting alarmed at the high prices here in Sacramento. I don’t know what I am going to do.”
“How much have you got left?”
“Only nine dollars, and it will cost me that to get to the nearest mines.”
“That’s bad!” said Tom, looking perplexed. “Perhaps father’ll lend you some.”
Grant shook his head.
“I don’t want to borrow of him,” he said. “He will have all he can do to look out for himself and your mother.”
“I don’t know but he will.”
“I guess I’ll get along somehow,” said Grant, with assumed cheerfulness.
“If I can help you, Grant, I will; but it isn’t like being out on the plains. It didn’t cost so much there for living.”
At this point a stout man came to the door of the restaurant. It was the proprietor.
“How are you getting on with the wood?” he asked Tom.
“Whenever you want your dinner you can stop short and come in.”
“Thank you. I took a late breakfast, and will finish the job first.”
“Who is the boy – your brother?”
“No; it’s a friend of mine.”
“Do you want a job?” asked the proprietor, turning to Grant.
“Yes, if it’s anything I can do.”
“One of my waiters has left me and gone to the mines. The rascal left without notice, and I am short-handed. Did you ever wait in a restaurant?”
“Never mind, you’ll soon learn. Will you take the job?”
“How much do you pay?”
“Three dollars a day and board.”
“I’ll take it,” said Grant promptly.
“Come right in, then.”
Grant followed his new employer into the Eldorado restaurant, and received instructions. It may seem easy enough to wait on guests at an eating-house, but, like everything else, an apprenticeship is needful. Here, however, it was easier than in a New York or Chicago restaurant, as the bill of fare was limited, and neither the memory nor the hands were taxed as severely as would have been the case elsewhere. Grant was supplied with an apron, and began work at once. When Tom got through his job, and came in for dinner it was Grant who waited upon him.
“It seems queer to have you waiting upon me, Grant,” he said. “How do you like it as far as you’ve got?”
“There’s other things I would like better, Tom, but I think I’m lucky to get this.”
“Yes; yours is a more permanent job than mine. I’m through.”
“Just tell your father and mother where I am,” said Grant. “I hear I’m to sleep in the restaurant.”
“That’ll save the expense of a bed. How long do you think you’ll keep at it, Grant?”
“A month, perhaps, if I suit well enough. By that time I’ll have money enough to go to the mines.”
“Then you haven’t given that up?”
“No; I came out to California to dig gold, and I shan’t be satisfied till I get at it.”
When meal hours were over that afternoon Grant started out for a stroll through the town. As he was passing the Morning Star saloon a rough, bearded fellow, already under the influence of liquor, seized him by the arm.
“Come in, boy, and have a drink,” he said.
Grant shrank from him with a repugnance he could not conceal.
“No, thank you!” he answered. “I don’t drink.”
“But you’ve got to drink,” hiccoughed his new acquaintance.
In reply Grant tried to tear himself away, but he could not release the strong grip the man had on his coat-sleeve.
“Come along, boy; it’s no use. Do you want to insult me?”
“No, I don’t,” said Grant; “but I never drink.”
“Are you a temperance sneak?” was the next question. “Don’t make no difference. When Bill Turner wants you to drink, you must drink – or fight. Want to fight?”
“Then come in.”
Against his will Grant was dragged into the saloon, where half a dozen fellows were leaning against the bar.
AN UNPLEASANT ADVENTURE
“Couple of whiskeys – straight – for me and the kid,” ordered Grant’s companion, as he came to a standstill in front of the bar.
“None for me!” said Grant quickly.
But, all the same, two glasses were set out, and the bottle placed beside them.
“Pour it out!” said the miner to the barkeeper. “I’m afraid the boy will get away.”
The barkeeper, with a smile, followed directions, and the two glasses were filled.
The miner tossed his off at a single gulp, but Grant left his standing.
“Why don’t you drink, boy?” demanded his companion, with an oath.
“I told you I wouldn’t,” said Grant angrily.
“We’ll see if you won’t,” said the miner, and, seizing the glass, he attempted to pour it down Grant’s throat, but his arm was unsteady from the potations he had already indulged in, and the whiskey was spilled, partly on the floor, and partly on the boy’s clothes. Grant seized this opportunity to dash out of the saloon, with the miner after him. Fortunately for him, Bill Turner, as he called himself, tripped and fell, lying prostrate for a moment, an interval which Grant improved to so good purpose that, by the time the miner was again on his feet, he was well out of harm’s way.
“I thought the drinking habit was bad enough at home,” thought Grant; “but no one ever tried to make me drink before.”
And now we will go back and see how it fared with Mr. Cooper.
Some quarter of a mile from the Metropolitan Hotel and Restaurant his attention was drawn to a blacksmith’s shop. That was his own line of business, and he felt a curiosity to interview his California brother-workman.
Entering, he saw a stout, black-bearded man in the act of shoeing a horse.
“Good-morning, friend,” he said.
“I thought I’d take a look in, as you are in my line of business.”
“Is that so?” asked the blacksmith, looking up with interest. “How long since you arrived?”
“Just got in this morning.”
“Going to stay in Sacramento?”
“I am ready for anything that will bring money. I suppose I shall go to the mines.”
“Humph! Why not buy me out, and carry on your old business in Sacramento?”
“Do you want to sell?” asked Jerry Cooper, surprised.
“Yes; I want a little change. I might go to the mines myself.”
“Can’t you make money blacksmithing?” asked Cooper cautiously.
“Yes; that isn’t my reason. I haven’t seen anything of the country yet. I bought out this shop as soon as I reached Sacramento, and I’ve been at work steady. I want a change.”
“How well does it pay you?”
“I get big prices. A dollar for a single shoe, and I have all I can do. Why, how much money do you think I have made since I took the shop, a year since?”
“I can’t tell.”
“I’ve laid up three thousand dollars, besides paying all expenses.”
“You don’t say so!” exclaimed the blacksmith, impressed.
“Yes; I shan’t make as much money at the mines probably, but it’ll be a change, and not so hard work.”
“Then you want to sell out?”
“What will you take?”
“A thousand dollars. That buys the shop, too. It’s dirt cheap.”
“It may be, but I haven’t the money.”
“I will take half cash, and a mortgage for the balance.”
“Suppose I bought, is there a house near by where I can live?”
“What family have you?”
“A wife and son; but I suppose Tom will want to go to the mines.”
“There is a cabin across the street with three rooms. It is empty. You can hire it for fifty dollars a month, likely.”
“Fifty dollars a month for a cabin with three rooms!” ejaculated Cooper.
“Yes; or you can buy it for five hundred dollars, I expect.”
“Seems to me prices are pretty steep in Sacramento.”
“So they are; but you can get rich faster than at home, in spite of the high prices.”
“Well, that’s a consideration, certainly. How much time will you give me to consider your offer?”
“I’ll let you know by that time.”
Jerry Cooper walked away in a state of excitement. He felt that he would rather stay in Sacramento and carry on his own old business, with which he was thoroughly acquainted, than undertake gold-mining, of which he knew nothing. He was a man of fifty, and was not so enterprising as he had been when half the age.
“It seems a good chance,” he reflected. “But how will I get the money?”
He had five hundred dollars left, perhaps more; but all this would have to be paid down for the shop, without leaving anything to provide for his family in the interval before he got to earning an income.
“If I only had the money I would take the shop,” he said to himself. “I wonder if I could borrow any. I might send home for some, but it would come too late.”
He walked slowly back to the hotel and restaurant.
In front of it Mrs. Cooper was waiting for him.
“I’m glad you’ve come, father,” she said. “I was afraid you would be gone all day.”
“Were you discontented, mother?”
“No; it isn’t that; but I’ve had an offer for the wagon and oxen.”
“Yes; quarter of an hour after you went away a man came in and inquired of the landlord who owned the team. He was referred to me, and asked me if I wanted to sell. I told him I didn’t know what your plan might be, but finally he offered me eight hundred dollars, or a thousand if Dobbin were thrown in.”
“You should have accepted,” exclaimed her husband excitedly.
“I didn’t dare to. I didn’t know what you would say. But he’s coming back again, and – there he is!”
Fifteen minutes later the bargain was struck and the money paid, cash down.
“That settles it!” decided the blacksmith. “Mother and I will stay in Sacramento.”
A TRUE FRIEND
The next morning, as Grant was enjoying a few minutes’ rest, breakfast being over, he was surprised by the entrance of Giles Crosmont. It seemed pleasant to see a familiar face.
“I am glad to see you, Mr. Crosmont,” he said warmly. “Will you have breakfast?”
“No; I am staying at the hotel and have already breakfasted. I have come in to see you.”
“I am glad to see you, sir. I was afraid we would not meet again. How did you know where to find me?”
“I met Tom Cooper on the street early this morning.”
“Tom has gone to the mines.”
“So he told me. That is, he told me he was to start this morning. You intended to go to the mines, did you not?”
“Then why didn’t you go?”
“I hadn’t money enough,” answered Grant candidly.
“That needn’t have prevented your going.”
Grant looked inquiringly at Mr. Crosmont.
“I mean that I would have lent you a hundred dollars. That would have been enough, wouldn’t it?”
“It would have been ample. You are very kind, Mr. Crosmont.”
“Why shouldn’t I be? I have more money than I know what to do with.”
“But I might never have been able to repay you.”
“I would have taken the risk of that. Besides, to be frank, I should have intended the money as a gift, not a loan.”
“Thank you, sir,” said Grant gratefully. “I never met such kindness before.”
“Do you wish to give up your situation, and go to the mines at once?”
“No, sir. I enjoy feeling that I am so well paid for my labor. You see I never earned much before; Mr. Tarbox only gave me my board.”
“And how much are you paid for your services here?”
“Three dollars a day and my board,” answered Grant proudly.
“That is indeed high pay for a boy of your age. If you will let me advise you, don’t let it make you extravagant. Don’t form the habit of gambling. I notice there are several gambling saloons here.”
“No, sir, I won’t. I know nothing about cards.”
“You could soon learn.”
“Thank you for your advice, Mr. Crosmont.”
“I give it because I feel an interest in you, Grant. I can’t explain why, for I have met a good many young persons in my travels, and never was drawn to any one as I am drawn to you.”
“I am glad to have so good a friend, Mr. Crosmont,” said Grant earnestly.
“And I am glad to have found some one in whom I can feel an interest. I begin to feel that there is some object in living.”
“Are you going to remain in Sacramento, Mr. Crosmont?”
“No, I start this afternoon for San Francisco.”
Grant’s countenance fell. Just as he had ascertained how true and reliable a friend Mr. Crosmont was, he was destined to part with him.
“Then I shall not see you again,” he said soberly.
“I hope you will, Grant,” returned Mr. Crosmont, with a friendly smile. “Indeed, I mean that you shall. I don’t propose to lose sight of you. How long do you think you shall remain in your present employment?”
“One month, and possibly two. I would like to get a good sum of money together before I start. I shall need to buy a few things.”
“Some underclothing, a new pair of shoes, and a new suit. The clothes I have on were pretty well worn out by the trip across the plains.”
“Don’t trouble yourself about that. I will take your directions on the size, and send you what you need from San Francisco.”
“I can’t thank you enough, Mr. Crosmont. It will save me a good deal of money.”
“You will need all the money you can earn. Now I will give you my address in San Francisco, and if you have any occasion to ask help or advice write unhesitatingly. I shall travel a part of the time, but I shall always answer your letters as soon as I receive them.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“You have no father. Look upon me as a father or guardian, whichever you please. This will be my address.”
He took a card from his pocket, and wrote upon it, under his name, “Care of C.D. Vossler, Jeweler, Market St., San Francisco.”
“Mr. Vossler is an old friend of mine,” he said, “and he will take care of any letters that come directed in this way. I don’t know where I shall put up, so that it will be best always to address me, when you write, in his care.”ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
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