Horatio Alger.

Digging for Gold

You may be right, sir. You remember what I told you about the boy?

You think he took the money?

I feel about sure of it.

And you think he gambles it away?

Such is my impression.

How am I to find out the truth of the matter?

I would suggest that you have the boy searched. I feel sure that you will find that he has a considerable sum of money in his pocket.

That may be, but he will say that he has saved it from his wages.

Oh, yes; I have no doubt he will say so, said Benton, nodding his head significantly.

And it may be true. He doesnt seem to spend much.

He has bought some clothes.

True; but he was quite able to do so out of what I pay him and have money left over.

Well, I hope it is so. I dont want to harm the boy, but I thought it only due to you to tell you what I know.

You dont appear to know much. You only suspect. However, I will call Grant and see what he has to say.

Grant, being summoned, came up to where they were standing.

Do you want to speak to me, Mr. Smithson? he asked.

Yes, Grant; about an unpleasant matter.

Have I done anything wrong? Are you dissatisfied with me?

I cant say. The fact is, for some time past I have been missing money from the drawer.

Grants look of surprise was genuine.

I am very sorry to hear it, he said.

Of course the money could not have disappeared of itself. Some one must have taken it.

I hope you dont suspect me, said Grant quickly.

I have always regarded you as honest, but Benton here tells me that you have formed some bad habits.

I should be glad to know what Mr. Benton has to say about me, said Grant, regarding his fellow waiter with indignation. Benton, in spite of his assurance, could not help looking confused and ill at ease.

He tells me that you are in the habit of visiting gambling saloons.

He has told you a falsehood, said Grant boldly.

I told you he would deny it, Mr. Smithson, said Benton, determined to face it through.

Has he seen me in a gambling-house? demanded Grant.

I have seen you coming out of one.

Thats false. If he can find any one to confirm his false charge, I will not object to your believing it.

I have no doubt a good many have seen you there.

Is there any other charge he brings against me, Mr. Smithson?

He says he has seen you under the influence of liquor.

That also is false. He has invited me to go into a saloon and take a drink, but I always refused.

Oh, you are an angel! sneered Benton.

I dont pretend to be an angel, but I am honest and temperate, and I never drink.

I think, Mr. Smithson, if you will search the boy you will find a good sum of money in his pocket.

Is that true, Grant? asked the restaurant keeper.

Yes, sir. I have about a hundred dollars in my pocket.

I told you so, said Benton triumphantly.

I never knew there was anything wrong in saving money, retorted Grant.

I am anxious to get together money enough to warrant me in going to the mines.

There is nothing wrong in that, said Smithson kindly. And now, Grant, that we have had Bentons testimony against you, I want to ask you what you know against him.

I would rather not tell, answered Grant.

That is very creditable to you; but you must remember that you have a duty to me, your employer. Have you seen him enter a gambling-house?

Yes, sir, answered Grant reluctantly.

I told you, sir, that I had looked in once or twice, said Benton, ill at ease.

Only once or twice?

Well, I wont be precise as to the number of times.

Were you in a gambling-house last night?

Yes; I looked on.

How long did you stay?

A few minutes.

Did you play?

No, answered Benton hesitatingly.

I wish I knew how much he knows, thought Benton. Somebody must have been telling him about me.

What, then, was your object in going in?

I was wakeful, and thought I would while away a few minutes there. When I felt sleepy, I withdrew.

Just then Vincent entered, as previously arranged between him and Smithson.

Mr. Vincent, said the proprietor, did you see either of my waiters in a gambling house last evening?

I saw him, pointing to Benton.

He admits that he went in, but says he did not play.

He seems to be forgetful, said Vincent coolly. He played for a considerable time, and had a great run of luck.

Benton said nothing. He looked very much discomposed, but waited to see how much Vincent could tell.

So he was a winner?

He won nearly five hundred dollars.

That doesnt look as if he were the novice he claims to be.

But he didnt keep his winnings. He kept on playing till he lost all he had won.

You must remember, sir, interrupted Benton, that a green hand is often luckier than a practiced gambler.

So I have heard.

And if I did play, that doesnt convict me of having stolen money from your till.

That is true.

I was foolish, I admit, and I mean to give up the practice.

You said you didnt play.

Because I thought it would make you think I was guilty of theft.

On that point I have other evidence.

What is it? If Grant says he saw me take anything he lies.

I have not said it, Mr. Benton.

Then I should like to know what evidence you can bring against me.

Do you remember these two bills? asked Vincent, taking out his wallet and producing two five-dollar notes.

Well, what about them? asked Benton doggedly.

I gave you two gold pieces for them last evening.

Yes; I believe you did.

You took them from the money drawer before you left the restaurant.

That is false!

Do you see the cross, in red ink, on the reverse side of the bills?

Well, what of it?

I marked the bills in that way, so as to be able to trace them.

Well, said Benton faintly.

They were put into the drawer at three oclock yesterday afternoon. They must have been taken out some time between that hour and the time when you produced them in the gambling-house.

I am the victim of a conspiracy, said Benton, turning pale.

If it is a conspiracy to put my friend here on your track, said Smithson, then you have some color for your statement. Mr. Vincent is an old detective.

Albert Benton was silenced. Ingenious as he was, there was nothing left for him to say.

Now, Benton, said Mr. Smithson, how much have you taken from me during the time you have been in my employment?

Perhaps a hundred dollars, answered Benton sullenly.

I am very much mistaken if the amount is not four or five times as great. Are you prepared to make restitution?

I have no money.

Then I shall feel justified in ordering your arrest. Your guilt is aggravated by your seeking to throw the blame on Grant.

I have a valuable diamond at home. I will turn that over to you, said Benton, with a sudden thought.

How much is it worth?

I paid three hundred dollars for it.

You can go and get it.

Benton took off his apron, put on his hat, and left the restaurant.

Half an hour an hour passed, and he did not return.

Mr. Smithson, said Vincent, the fellow has given us the slip. He wont come back, nor will you ever see anything of his diamond. I dont believe, for my part, that he had any.

The detective was right. Benton managed to borrow fifteen dollars of a friend, and within an hour he had left Sacramento for good.


Mr. Smithson supplied the place vacated by Benton without delay. He engaged a man of middle age who had come back from the mines with a fair sum of money. Before the first week was up, he made his employer an offer for the restaurant, and after some negotiation the transfer was made.

I should like to have you continue Grant Colburn in your employment, said Smithson, with a kindly consideration for his young waiter.

I am sorry to say that I cannot do it, answered his successor. I have a young townsman at the mines who has not been very successful. I have promised to send for him in case I went into business.

It is of no consequence, said Grant. I have always wanted to go to the mines, and now I have money enough to make the venture.

The same day, by a lucky coincidence, Grant received the following letter from Tom Cooper:

Howes Gulch, October 5.

Dear Grant:

I have been meaning to write you for some time, but waited till I could tell whether I was likely to succeed or not. For the first month I was here I only got out enough gold-dust to pay my expenses, and envied father and you, who have a sure thing. The fact is, nothing is more uncertain than mining. You may strike it rich, or may fail entirely. Till last week it looked as if it would be the last in my case. But all at once I struck a pocket, and have thus far got two hundred and seventy-five dollars out of it, with more in prospect. That will make up for lost time. I tell you, Grant, it is a very exciting life. You are likely any day to make a strike. Further down the creek there is a long, lank Vermonter, who in a single week realized a thousand dollars from his claim. He took it pretty coolly, but was pleased all the same. If this sort of thing continues a little longer, he told me, Ill become a bloated bondholder, and go home and marry Sal Stebbins. Shes waitin for me, but the old man, her father, told her shed have to wait till I could show him two thousand dollars, all my own. Well I dont think Ill have to wait long before that time comes, and I guess hes right.

But I havent said what I set out to say. That is I wish you would pull up stakes and come out here. I feel awful lonely, and would like your company. Theres a claim about a hundred feet from mine that I have bought for twenty-five dollars, and I will give it to you. The man thats been workin it is a lazy, shiftless creeter, and although hes got discouraged, I think its his fault that it hasnt paid better. Half the time hes been sittin down by his claim, readin a novel. If a man wants to succeed here, hes got to have a good share of get there about him. I think youll fill the bill. Now, just pack up your things, and come right out. Go and see father and mother, but dont show em this letter. I dont want them to know how I am getting along. I mean some day to surprise em. Just tell them that Im gettin fair pay, and hope to do better.

Theres a stage that leaves Sacramento Hotel for these diggins. You wont have any trouble in findin it. Hopin soon to see you, I am,

Your friend,
Tom Cooper.

This letter quite cheered up Grant. He was anxious to find out how it seemed to be digging for gold. He counted over his savings and found he had a little over a hundred dollars. But lack of money need not have interfered with his plans. On the same day he received a letter from Giles Crosmont, from which we extract a paragraph:

Remember, Grant, that when you get ready to go to the mines, you can draw upon me for any sum of money you want. Or, should you lose your place, or get short of money, let me know, and I will see that you are not inconvenienced for lack of funds. I am thinking of making a little investment in your name, which I think will be of advantage to you.

Thats a friend worth having, said Grant to himself. If I had a father, I should like to have him like Mr. Crosmont. He certainly could not be any kinder.

He wrote back that he was intending to start on the following day for Howes Gulch, and would write again from there. He concluded thus: I thank you very much for your kind offer of a loan, but I have enough to start me at the mines, and will wait till I stand in need. When I do need money, I wont hesitate to call upon you, for I know that you are a true friend.

He went round to see the blacksmith the next forenoon.

How do you happen to be off work at this hour? asked Mr. Cooper.

Im a gentleman of leisure, Mr. Cooper.

How is that, Grant? You havent been discharged, have you?

Well, Ive lost my place. Mr. Smithson has sold out his restaurant, and the new man has a friend of his whom he is going to put in my place.

Im sorry, Grant, said the blacksmith in a tone of concern. It doesnt seem hardly fair.

Oh, its all right, Mr. Cooper. I am going out to the mines, as I always intended to do. I shall start to-morrow morning.

I wish you luck. I dont know how Tom is getting along.

Then I can tell you, for Ive had a letter from him. He writes that he is doing fairly well.

Jerry Cooper shook his head.

I guess he aint doing as well as he did on the old farm at home, he said.

He writes very cheerfully and wants me to come out.

Hes too proud to own up that hes disappointed. Just tell him that if he wants to come back to Sacramento and help me in the shop, I can give him two dollars a day and his living.

Ill tell him, sir. I hope you are doing well.

I never did so well in my life, answered the blacksmith complacently. Why, Grant, Ive averaged ten dollars a day over and above all expenses ever since I took the shop. How is that for high?

Why, father, I never knew you to use slang before, said Mrs. Cooper reprovingly.

Cant help it, old lady. Its my good luck that makes me a bit frisky. If we were only to home, Id give you money to buy a new bonnet and a silk dress.

Thank you, father, but they wouldnt do me any good here. Just fancy me walking through the town dressed up in that style. How folks would stare! When I get home I wont mind accepting your offer.

Well, folks dont dress much here, thats a fact. Why, they dont dress as much as they did in Crestville. I never looked so shabby there, but nobody takes any notice of it. Theres one comfort, if I dont wear fine clothes it isnt because I cant afford it.

If youre going away to-morrow, Grant, said Mrs. Cooper hospitably, you must come and take supper with us to-night. I dont know as I can give you any brown bread, but Ill give you some baked beans, in Eastern style.

I shall be glad to get them, Mrs. Cooper. I havent tasted any since I left home.

I wish I could send some to Tom, said his mother. Poor fellow, I dont suppose he gets many of the comforts of home where he is.

Im afraid I couldnt carry the beans very conveniently, said Grant, with a laugh.

On his way back to the restaurant, to make some preparations for his coming departure, he was accosted by a tall, thin man, who looked like a lay preacher.

My young friend, he said, with an apologetic cough, excuse me for addressing you, but I am in great need of assistance. I Why, its Grant! he exclaimed in amazement.

Mr. Silverthorn!

Yes, my young friend, it is your old friend Silverthorn, who counts himself fortunate in meeting you once more, and he grasped Grants reluctant hand and shook it vigorously.

You may be my old friend, Mr. Silverthorn, returned Grant, but it strikes me you didnt treat me as such when you took the money from my pocket.

I acknowledge it, Grant, I acknowledge it, said Silverthorn, as he took the same old red silk handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his eyes, but I was driven to it by want and dire necessity.

Well, let it pass! When did you reach Sacramento?

Only yesterday. Ah, Grant, I have had sad vicissitudes! I wandered in the wilderness, nearly starving, till I came across a party of Pennsylvania Quakers, who aided me and brought me with them to this place.

I hope you did not repay their hospitality as you did ours.

No, no. I obeyed the promptings of my better nature. And now, how have you prospered? Have you been to the mines?

No, I have been employed in a restaurant.

In a restaurant! Oh, how the word moves me! Ah, Grant, I have not tasted food for twenty-four hours.

Come with me, then, and I will see that you have a dinner.

He took Silverthorn to the restaurant and authorized him to order what he liked. Mr. Silverthorn was by no means backward in accepting the invitation, and Grant had a dollar to pay.

I feel better! sighed Silverthorn. Do you think I could get employment here?

No; my place is taken.

And how are my old friends, the Coopers?

Mr. Cooper is running a blacksmith shop, and Tom is at Howes Gulch, where I am going.

Could you you are so kind pay my expenses to the mines? I should so like to see my friend Tom.

No, I couldnt, answered Grant bluntly.

I thought I would ask, said Silverthorn, by no means abashed. Tell Mr. Cooper that I will soon call at his shop.

I dont think he will care to see you, thought Grant.


About three oclock in the afternoon the stage from Sacramento arrived at Howes Gulch.

Among the other passengers Grant descended, his limbs sore from rattling over the roughest kind of roads, and stretching himself, he looked around him.

The stage had drawn up in front of the hotel, but it was not such a hotel as the reader is accustomed to see. It was a long, low frame building, with what might be called an attic overhead, which was used as a general dormitory, with loose beds of straw spread over the floor. Here twenty-five persons slept in a single room. Down below rude meals were supplied for those who could afford to pay the price.

But Grant felt little interest in the hotel. He expected to meet Tom Cooper, and looked out for him.

He had not long to wait.

How are you, Grant? Delighted to see you. Hows the folks?

Grant turned, and in the bearded, roughly dressed miner found it difficult to recognize his friend of the plains Tom Cooper.

His face lighted up as he grasped Toms hand cordially.

Your father and mother are well, he said, and so is Mr. Silverthorn.

What! have you seen that scoundrel?

I left him at Sacramento. He wanted me to pay his fare out here.

You declined?

Yes; I thought he would be company for your father. He may adopt Silverthorn in your place.

Hes welcome to him, if he likes. Its good for sore eyes to see you, Grant. How do you feel?

Sore enough. I thought I should be shaken to pieces over the rough road.

You are hungry, I reckon. Come into the hotel, and well have dinner.

Nothing loath, Grant followed Tom into the dining-room, where dinner was laid in readiness for the stage passengers. It was not such a meal as an epicure would enjoy, but Grant ate with great relish.

So you have been doing well, Tom? said Grant, between two mouthfuls.

Yes; you didnt tell father what I wrote you?

No; you told me not to.

What did he say about me?

He said that he didnt believe you were doing much; he thought you had better come back to Sacramento and help him in the shop.

Tom laughed.

I think Ill stay here a little longer, he replied. How is dad doing?

Finely. He is making ten dollars a day.

Good for him! He wouldnt do for mining. Besides, theres mother. Hes better off where he is.

Where do you sleep, Tom?

Upstairs. I have a pair of blankets up there, and a pillow, and I dont need anybody to make my bed.

I suppose I ought to have a pair of blankets.

Ill buy you a pair. Theres a chap going to leave to-day, and we can buy his. Now come out and see the mines.

Leaving the hotel, Tom led the way to the mining claims. There was a deep gulch half a mile distant, at the base of which ran a creek, and it was along this that the claims were staked out. They were about twenty feet wide, in some cases more. Tom led the way to his, and showed Grant the way he worked. He used a rocker, or cradle. A sieve was fitted in at the top, and into this the miner shoveled the dirt. Tom rocked the cradle with one hand, after it was filled, and poured water on the dirt from a dipper. Gradually the dirt was washed out, and if there was any gold it would remain in small gleaming particles mixed with black sand.

Isnt that rather a rough way of working, Tom? asked Grant, after his tour of inspection.

Yes; I have been thinking of getting what the miners call a long tom no pun intended.

What is that?

I wont give Toms answer, but quote a more accurate description from an English book published in 1857: A long tom is nothing more than a wooden trough from twelve to twenty-five feet long, and about a foot wide. At the lower end it widens considerably, and the floor of it is a sheet of iron, pierced with holes half an inch in diameter, under which is placed a flat box a couple of inches deep. The long tom is set at a slight inclination over the place which is to be worked, and a stream of water is kept running through it by means of a hose. While some of the party shovel the dirt into the tom as fast as they can dig it up, one man stands at the lower end, stirring up the dirt as it is washed down, separating the stones and throwing them out, while the earth and small gravel fall with the water through the sieve into the ripple box. This box is about five feet long, and is crossed by two partitions. It is also placed at an inclination, so that the water falling into it keeps the dirt loose, allowing the gold and heavy particles to settle to the bottom, while all the lighter stuff washes over the end of the box along with the water.

The dirt taken out of the ripple box has to be washed out afterward, so as to leave the gold particles.

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