Horatio Alger.

Digging for Gold

Where is the claim you have bought for me, Tom? asked Grant.

A little farther down the creek. I will show you.

Lend me your cradle, and, see if I can work it.

Grant took the cradle and, under Toms direction, shoveled in some dirt, and proceeded to rock it. He was quite delighted when, as the result of his labors, a few specks of gold appeared at the bottom.

How much does it amount to, Tom? he asked, gathering it into his hand.

Perhaps a dime.

Grant looked rather disappointed.

It would take some time to get rich at that rate, he said rather ruefully.

Yes; but there is always a chance of striking it rich. That is what keeps our spirits up. By the way, Grant, I have a proposal to make to you.

What is it, Tom?

Suppose we work together. We can take turns in digging, shovelling in the dirt, and rocking the cradle. That will be more sociable, and we can divide equally whatever gold we obtain.

That will suit me exactly, Tom; but as you are more experienced than I, you ought to have more than half.

No, Grant. It shall be share and share alike. There is another advantage. It will save getting an extra rocker.

I am ready to begin at once.

Are you not too tired?

No, Tom. I want to feel that I have begun to work. If I get tired I can sleep better to-night.

They worked for two hours, when they knocked off for the day. The work was done on Grants claim. Tom estimated the result at a dollar.

That is fifty cents apiece, he said. To-morrow well do better.

I dont mind, Tom. I have made a beginning. Now I feel that I am a miner.

At six oclock they went to the hotel, which was a general lounging-place for the miners.


Shall we take supper at the hotel? asked Grant. How much do they charge?

Two dollars a day for meals and lodging.

Isnt that considerable? asked Grant, rather dismayed.

Yes, if one only earns fifty cents, answered Tom, smiling.

Do you like sleeping in such a crowd, Tom?

No; but there seems no other way, unless I bought a cabin, and I should feel too lonely.

But now there are two of us together. Why cant we hire a cabin, and lodge and eat independently? We can take turns in doing the cooking, and it will be a good deal cheaper.

Do you know anything about cooking, Grant? I dont.

Yes; I took some lessons at the restaurant. I can teach you all I know myself.

Then we can establish ourselves to-morrow. There is a deserted cabin a little way up the gulch, which no one seems to care to occupy. It is in fair condition, and the last occupant kept house, so that there are dishes and cooking utensils. We can take possession, and then, if any one disputes our right, we can agree to pay rent.

That will be capital, said Grant, in a tone of satisfaction.

For a month Grant and Tom Cooper worked assiduously, sometimes at one claim, sometimes at the other.

The life of a miner is full of excitement. Even when he meets with poor luck, there is the prospect every day of making a rich find. But in the case of the two friends it was always hope deferred. At the end of the month they sat down to consider the situation.

Well, Grant, we dont seem to get much richer, said Tom, taking a whiff from a clay pipe, which was his evening luxury after a hard days work.

We made fifty cents yesterday, responded Grant soberly.

Between us. That is twenty-five cents each.

On the whole, we have been losing ground during the last month. I am twenty dollars poorer than when I came here.

And I have fallen behind as much, or more than that.

Digging for gold isnt what I thought it to be, said Grant. I was doing a good deal better in Sacramento.

That maybe; but we mustnt forget that a man does strike luck once in a while.

It wont do us any good to have some other man strike luck.

I see you are getting down-hearted, Grant.

Well, not exactly; but I think Ive made a mistake. Neither of our claims amounts to much.

What do you propose, then?

I have nothing to propose, said Grant modestly. You are older and more experienced than I. I will follow your plan.

Then let us work three days longer. If, at the end of that time, nothing turns up, we will pull up stakes, and go elsewhere. We cant afford to go on working and falling behind all the time.

Three days then, Tom.

You havent had any luck yet, Grant. I had a share before you came.

I am afraid my coming brought you bad luck.

Bad luck or not, I am glad to have you here. After a hard days work it seems pleasant to have some one to talk to.

If I should leave you, how would Silverthorn do? asked Grant, smiling.

Poor company is worse than none. Id rather hustle by myself than have that man round.

The next morning the two partners went to work as usual. They always started hopeful of good results, but, as the day wore away and results were meager, their hopes began to sink. That day they cleared between them a dollar and a half, while their expenses, at a modest calculation, so high were provisions, were nearly double this sum.

Another day lost! commented Tom as they sat over their evening fire, for it was beginning to grow cold at the close of the day.

We wont say anything about it, said Grant. Let the three days pass, and then we will consult.

About the middle of the next afternoon Grant was attacked by a violent headache.

I shall have to close up work for the day, Tom, he said.

Go to the cabin and lie down, suggested Tom.

I would rather go on a walk. The fresh air may do me good.

Grant dipped his handkerchief in the stream, bathed his forehead, and then set out on a stroll to the south of the claims. Finding relief, he pushed on till he had probably walked a couple of miles.

It was a lonely stretch of country, and, with the exception of a boy, he met no one. His surprise was the greater, therefore, when at one point he heard a groan, evidently proceeding from some one in pain. He looked about him, and finally discovered an old man lying under a tree, doubled up with pain. It was hard to tell his age, for his appearance was neglected, and he had the air of one who lived apart from his fellow men.

What is the matter? asked Grant, in a tone of sympathy. Can I help you?

I am suffering from an attack of rheumatism, answered the old man. It came upon me suddenly, and has disabled me, as you see.

What can I do for you?

If you can help me to my cabin it will be a great service.

Where is your cabin?

In the edge of yonder woods.

He pointed feebly, and Grant, following the direction, espied a small hut, brown and discolored with age, standing under the shadow of a rock about a quarter of a mile away.

He helped the old man to his feet, and half supported him as he walked toward the cabin.

Are you often seized in this way? he asked.

Not often so suddenly and violently, though I have been in the grip of my enemy for years.


They reached the cabin at last, and then a question which Grant was about to ask was answered. The old man lived alone.

The furniture was of the simplest: a bed, a couple of chairs, a table, and a few dishes.

Is there no one to take care of you? asked Grant.

No, I need no one, was the quick reply. I have remedies that will soon quiet the pain.

I should think you would feel lonely.

I prefer solitude to the society of mean, selfish, and designing men, answered the old man bitterly.

All men are not mean or selfish.

No doubt you are right, but those whom I trusted most have proved so.

How long have you lived here?

Six years.

Are you poor? If so, perhaps I can help you.

No, no; poverty is the smallest of my troubles. Look there! and the old man drew from his pocket a handful of gold pieces. I have enough to see me through the few years I have yet to live.

But you have no occupation no way to fill up your time?

I have a few books and my own thoughts. I will tell you what little is to be told. I came here six years ago, and for a time devoted myself to gold-digging. I was fortunate, and secured all I needed for my modest wants. Then I stopped, for I had no object in accumulating more. But you tell me about yourself. You are young to be in California.

Yes, I came to seek my fortune. I was a poor boy, and my mother is unhappily situated. I came to see if I could not improve her lot and my own.

What are you doing?

I am digging for gold.


At Howes Gulch.

Have you succeeded?

So poorly that I am thinking of giving it up and going elsewhere. In Sacramento I worked in a restaurant, and made a good deal more money than I have made at the mines. I am twenty dollars poorer than when I came here.

Are you alone?

No, I have a friend with me a young man whose acquaintance I made in crossing the plains.

Is he a true friend a loyal friend?


Then there are such in the world. Those I have met have been of a different kind. Has he been any more fortunate than yourself?

Not since I arrived. He did something before I came, but I must have brought him bad luck, for he has been running behind ever since. We have not been making expenses for the last month.

I never thought much of Howes Gulch, though some have been fortunate there.

Then it was not there that you found your gold?


Grant wanted to ask the old man where it was that his claim was located, but hesitated, not knowing how the question would be received.

I can direct you to a rich spot, said the old man, after a pause. I had intended to let the secret die with me, but you have done me a service

A very slight one, said Grant modestly.

Not slight, for without your help I should have been unable to get home.

I was glad to serve you, and do not need compensation. You may wish to work the claim yourself.

No; my days of labor are over. I am sixty-five, and might easily be taken for ten years older. I shall be glad to contribute to your happiness and success, and that of your friend.

Perhaps some one may have discovered and worked the claim.

No; it is an out-of-the-way place, and has not attracted attention.

How, then, did you discover it?

By accident. As to the richness, let this convince you: in less than six months I took out ten thousand dollars, and having no need of more, stopped working, and carefully removed all traces likely to betray the mines entrance to a casual observer.

It will be a great favor to Tom and myself. We ought to give you a share of the proceeds.

The old man shook his head.

I shall not live long enough to spend the money I have, he answered. You are welcome to all it will yield you. Come here with your friend to-morrow morning, and I will give you the directions that will enable you to find the claim.

Can I do anything more for you before I go?

Yes; you may go to the stream behind the cabin and bring me some fresh water.

Grant did as requested, and, elated by his unexpected good luck, started on his return to Howes Gulch.

When Grant reached the cabin jointly occupied by himself and Tom Cooper, he found Tom sitting outside, smoking his pipe.

He looked very thoughtful.

Have you got rid of your headache, Grant? he asked.

Yes; I feel as lively as a cricket.

Then your walk has done you good?

A great deal of good, answered Grant; but Tom did not detect the significance hidden in the reply. How long have you been at home?

An hour.

Then you knocked off work earlier than usual.

Yes, answered Tom soberly. To tell the truth, Grant, Im discouraged. How much do you think our days work amounts to?

Yours and mine?


How much?

A dollar and seventy-five cents! I think, Grant, we had better inquire the location of the nearest poor house. We may want to ask admission.

Theres an old saying, Tom: The darkest hour is just before the day.

How does that apply here?

I will tell you. I have secured a claim from which ten thousand dollars was obtained within six months.

And then it petered out?

No; the owner stopped working it because he had money enough, and was satisfied.

Hasnt it been worked since?


How much did you agree to pay for it? asked Tom, in excitement.

Nothing. It was given me for a service I rendered the owner.

This seems like a fairy tale, Grant. What does it mean?

I will tell you; and Grant related his afternoons adventure.

Hurrah! were in luck! exclaimed Tom, rising to his feet and swinging his hat in excitement. If what you say is true, were made men.

I am glad you look upon me as a man, said Grant, smiling.

Im only anticipating a little. I hope, he added anxiously, the old man wont reconsider the matter.

Not much chance of it. I havent known him long, but I am quite sure that he isnt that kind of a man.


What shall we do with our old claims? Before Grant could answer that question a step was heard, and looking up, the two friends saw approaching a tall, gaunt man of thirty-five a typical Yankee whose shabby attire indicated that he was down on his luck.

Good-evenin, friends, he said.

Good-evening, responded Tom cordially. Sit down with us, wont you? Ive got an extra pipe, if you would like a smoke.

Thank you; Im just pinin for a smoke. Is this your tenement?

Well, we found it vacant, and squatted here. The owner hasnt called on us for any rent yet.

Youre in luck.

Have you just arrived?

Yes, I have. Im a rollin stone, and I havent gathered any moss.

Theres a good many in that fix.

Do you see that coin? and the stranger took from his pocket a silver quarter and flipped it up in the air.

Yes. Is there anything strange about it?

Well, theres this its the last and only piece of property now belonging to Nahum Stockton. If you are acquainted with the tax-collector, dont mention it, for I wouldnt like to be assessed on it.

I will respect your wishes, Mr. Stockton, said Tom, laughing. May I ask what are your plans?

If I can buy a claim for a quarter, I will settle down here and dig for gold.

Tom looked at Grant, and Grant nodded, for he read his friends thought.

Having so much money, said Tom soberly, youd better buy a couple of claims.

Thats a good joke, returned Stockton, with a grim smile.

No joke at all! My friend and I own a couple of claims, and we leave Howes Gulch to-morrow. We will make them over to you without money and without price. As to a cradle, you can buy one on instalments.

Do you mean it? asked Stockton eagerly.

Yes; but I dont want to deceive you in the matter. They havent been paying very well lately, and Grant and I are going elsewhere to prospect.

If they are paying anything, Ill accept them with pleasure.

They are paying something, and of course theres a possibility of striking it rich in either one of them.

Gentlemen, said Stockton earnestly, you dont know what youve done for me. I was at the end of my resources, and felt kind o reckless. Youve made a new man of me.

We are glad to do you a service. Grant, cant you get us some supper? After eating, well go and show Mr. Stockton the claims, for we shall want to make an early start to-morrow morning. Mr. Stockton, our supper will be a plain one, but we shall be glad to have you join us in eating it.

You cant be gladder than I am, said Nahum quaintly. I havent had anything to eat since mornin, and then it was only a slice of bread and a glass of milk and water with the milk left out.

Grant was in the cabin, making ready the evening meal. There was bread and butter, some cold meat, and cup of tea for each. Mr. Stockton ate as if he enjoyed every mouthful.

You dont ask me how I lost my money, he said.

You lost it, then; you didnt spend it?

No; if I had got the worth of it I wouldnt have cared so much, but to be cheated out of it by a mean scoundrel was a little too much.

Were you cheated out of it?

Yes. Ill tell you how. Coming from Frisco I struck Frosts Bar with a hundred dollars in my pocket. A hundred dollars! Sometimes I wonder if there is so much money in the world, now that I am dead broke! Well, I had been meaning to buy a claim, and was walkin round when I met a sleek appearin man, who looked as if butter wouldnt melt in his mouth. He asked me what my plans were, and I told him I wanted to buy a claim. Youre the very man Im lookin after, he said. Ive got a rich claim here, but my health has given way, and I havent strength to work it. Im willin to sell for half price.

Well, I looked at the claim, and I liked the appearance of it. The artful rascal found out how much money I had, and asked me a hundred dollars for the claim. But, said I, that wont leave me anything to work it with. I like you, Mr. Stockton, he said, as he grabbed my hand, and the tears came into his eyes. I feel like bein a true friend to you. Ill let you have it for ninety dollars, and that aint half what its worth.

Well, to make a long story short, I paid over the ninety dollars, and he wrote out a paper making over the claim to me. Then he shook hands with me and went away. I havent seen him since.

Wasnt the claim a good one? asked Grant.

Yes, the best at the Bar.

Then I dont see what you have to complain of.

Ill tell you. The next mornin I went round to take possession of my claim, when I saw a stout, good-looking man workin it. Hold on, my friend, I said, what are you doin with my claim?

Your claim! repeated Charles Ambrose, for that was his name. What are you talkin about?

I reckon I speak plain enough, said I, provoked. I bought that claim last night, and I mean to hold it.

Oh, you bought it? said Ambrose. Of whom did you buy it?

On that I produced the paper.

Heres the document, I said. It is signed by Dionysius Silverthorn.

What! ejaculated Tom and Grant jointly.

Do you know the man? asked Stockton.

I think we do, answered Tom Cooper. Hes a tall, thin fellow, with a lamb-like expression, but hes an experienced swindler.

Youve about hit it. Did he swindle you?

No, but he tried to. Well, how did you come out?

At the little end of the horn. Silverthorn was off with my money, and I had nothing to show for it. Id just like to get hold of him. He wouldnt look quite so much like an innocent lamb when I got through with him.

I left him at Sacramento, said Grant.

Ill hunt him up when I get a little money, went on Stockton. Ive met scoundrels before, but hell take the cake.

Or anything else he can lay hands on, said Grant, with a laugh.

They walked over to the mining-camp, put Stockton into possession of the claims, and introduced him to a miner, who agreed to sell him a cradle on instalments.

Now, Grant, said Tom, well go to bed, for we may have a long walk before us to-morrow.


Full of hope, Grant and Tom arrived at the cabin of the old man who had promised them his claim.

How are you feeling this morning? inquired Grant, when they were admitted.

Rather stiff, but better than yesterday. Is this your friend?

Yes. His name is Tom Cooper.

The old man scrutinized him closely.

Its a good face, he said. You can trust him.

I do.

Tom looked well pleased.

You have come to ask me to keep my promise.

Yes. Your offer was a very kind one. On the strength of it we have given our claims at Howes Gulch to a stranger, who came to our cabin last night penniless.

Then I shall be helping him, too. Are you ready to go to work at once?

Yes; thats our hope.

The place where I made my pile is fifteen miles away. Are you good for a long walk?

I am, answered Grant.

I will try to keep up with you, said Tom Cooper, smiling.

My claim was on a creek at the base of a hill, about a mile from a village called Eldora. In the pocket of yonder coat I have drawn, roughly, a plan of the place, which will be a sufficient guide.

May I keep the paper? asked Grant.


If we start now, Grant, we can get there before night.

Go, then, and may success attend you.

Cant we do anything for you before we go, sir?

No, thank you. One thing, however, I will ask. In a month, let me know how you are getting along. I look upon you as my successors. I hope you may be as fortunate as I was.

The two friends set out with stout hearts, in excellent spirits. The walk was long and fatiguing, but there is nothing like hope to sweeten toil. About midway they sat down under a tree, and ate, with hearty appetite, the lunch they had taken the precaution to carry with them.

I wish there was more, said Grant wistfully.

Your appetite seems improving.

Theres nothing like a good walk to make a fellow feel hungry. I wonder how Stockton is getting along.

He will make something at any rate. I pity Silverthorn if ever our long-legged friend gets hold of him.

After an hour they resumed their walk, and about four oclock they reached their destination. They visited the location of the claim, and surveyed it with a guarded manner, not wishing to draw attention to it.

: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14