Page images
PDF
EPUB

READE. And the amiable heathen cleared up a little at the prospect of serving George, whom he loved — aboriginally.

Jem remained with the natives upon some frivolous pretence. His real hope was to catch the ruffian whom he secretly believed to be still in the wood. “He is like enough to creep out this way,” thought Jem, " and then – won't I nail him!”

In half an hour they were standing under the spot whose existence Robinson had so often doubted.

“Well, George, you painted it true: it really is a river of quartz running between those two black rocks. And that you think is the home of the gold, eh ?”

“Well, I do. Look here, Tom ! look at this great large heap of quartz bowlders, all of different sizes; they have all rolled down here out of that river of quartz.”

“ Why, of course they have! who doubts that?”

“Many is the time I have sat on that green mound where Jacky is sitting now, and eaten my bread and cheese."

“I dare say! but what has that to do with it? what are we to do ? Are we to go up the rock, and peck into that mass of quartz ?

« Well, I think it is worth while."

“ Why, it would be like biting a piece out of the world! Look here, Master George, we can put your notion about the home of the gold to the test without all that trouble."

“ As how ?”

“ You own all these quartz stones rolled out of yon river; if 80, they are samples of it. Ten thousand quartz stones is quite sample enough, so begin and turn them all over, examine them, — break them, if you like. If we find but a speck of gold in one of them I'll believe that quartz river is gold's home, – if not, it is all humbug!”

George pulled a wry face; he found himself pinned to his own theory.

“Well,” said he, “I own the sample tells us what is in the barn; so now I am vexed for bringing you here.”

“Now we are here, give it a fair trial ; let us set to and break every bowlder in the thundering heap."

They went to work and picked the quartz bowlders ; full two hours they worked, and by this time they had made a considerable heap of broken quartz; it glittered in the sun, but it glittered white, not a speck of yellow came to light.

George was vexed. Robinson grinned; expecting nothing, he was not disappointed. Besides, he was winning an argument, and we all like to turn our prophets. Presently a little cackle from Jacky.

“I find um !”
“Find what ?” asked Robinson, without looking up.

“A good deal yellow stone,” replied Jacky, with at least equal composure.

“Let me see that,” said George, with considerable curiosity; and they both went to Jacky.

Now the fact is that this heap of quartz stones was in reality much larger than they thought, only the greater part of it had been overgrown with moss and patches of grass a few centuries of centuries ago.

Jacky, seated on what seemed a grassy mound, was in reality perched upon a part of the antique heap; his keen eye saw a little bit of yellow protruding through the moss, and he was amusing himself clipping it with his tomahawk, cutting away the moss and chipping the stone, which made the latter glitter more and yellower.

“Hallo!” cried George, “this looks better."
Robinson went on his knees without a word.

“It is all right,” said he, in a great flutter, “it is a nugget, - and a good-sized one, — a pound weight, I think. Now then, my lad, out you come;" and he dug his fingers under it to jerk it out.

But the next moment he gave a screech and looked up amazed.

“Why, this is the point of the nugget; it lies the other way, not flat. George! I can't move it! The pick! O Lord! O Lord! The pick! the pick!” !

“Stand clear,” shouted George, and he drove the point of the pick down close by the prize, then he pressed on the handle. “Why, Tom, it is jammed somehow.”

“No, it is not jammed, — it is its own weight. Why, George!”

“ Then, Tom! it is an hundred-weight if it is an ounce!”

“Don't be a fool,” cried the other, trembling all over; " there is no such thing in nature.”

The nugget now yielded slowly to the pressure, and began to come up into the world again inch by inch after so many thousand years. Of course, before it could come all out, the soil must open first, and when Robinson, glaring down, saw a

square foot of earth part and gape as the nugget came majes. tically up, he gave another cry, and with trembling hands laid hold of the prize, and pulled and tugged and rolled it on the clean moss, — to lift it was not so easy. They fell down on their knees by the side of it like men in a dream. Such a thing had never been seen or heard of, – a hundred-weight of quartz and gold, and beautiful as it was great. It was like honeycomb, the cells of which had been sliced by a knife; the shining metal brimmed over in the delicate quartz cells.

They lifted it. Yes, full a hundred-weight; half the mass was quartz, but four-fifths of the weight they knew must be gold. Then they jumped up and each put a foot on it, and shook hands over it.

“O you beauty!” cried George, and he went on his knees and kissed it; “that is not because you are gold, but because you take me to Susan. Now, Tom, let us thank Heaven for its goodness to us, and back to camp this very day.”

“Ay! but stop, we must wrap it in our wipes or we shall never get back alive. The very honest ones would turn villains at sight of it. It is the wonder of the world.”

“I see my Susan's eyes in it,” cried George, in rapture. “O Tom, good, kind, honest Tom, shake hands over it once more!”

EXTRACT FROM A SIXTEENTH-CENTURY LETTER.

(From “The Cloister and the Hearth.”) (Margaret has received a letter from her young husband, Gerard, who is travelling

afoot to Italy. She reads it to his father and mother, brothers and sister.) ELI. “Whisht, wife!”

“And I did sigh, loud and often. And me sighing so, one came carolling like a bird adown t’ other road. “Ay, chirp and chirp,' cried I bitterly. Thou hast not lost sweetheart and friend, thy father's hearth, thy mother's smile, and every penny in the world.' And at last he did so carol and carol, I jumped up in ire to get away from his most jarring mirth. But ere I fled from it, I looked down the path to see what could make a man so light-hearted in this weary world; and lo! the songster was a humpbacked cripple, with a bloody bandage o'er his eye, and both legs gone at the knee.”

“He! he! he! he! he!” went Sybrandt, laughing and cackling.

Margaret's eyes flashed; she began to fold the letter up.

“Nay, lass,” said Eli, “heed him not! Thou unmannerly cur, offer 't but again and I put thee to the door.”

“Why, what was there to gibe at, Sybrandt ?” remonstrated Catherine more mildly. “Is not our Kate afflicted ? and is she not the most content of us all, and singeth like a merle at times between her pains ? But I am as bad as thou: prithee read on, lass, and stop our gabble wi' somewhat worth the hearkening.”

“Then,' said I, may this thing be?' And I took myself to task: Gerard, son of Eli, dost thou well to bemoan thy lot, that hast youth and health; and here comes the wreck of nature on crutches, praising God's goodness with singing like a mavis ?'"

CATHERINE. “There you see.”
ELI. “Whisht, dame, whisht!"

“And whenever he saw me, he left carolling and presently hobbled up and chanted, “Charity, for love of Heaven, sweet master, charity;' with a whine as piteous as wind at keyhole. 'Alack, poor soul,' said I, charity is in my heart, but not my purse; I am poor as thou.' Then he believed me none, and to melt me undid his sleeve, and showed a sore wound on his arm, and said he, “Poor cripple though I be, I am like to lose this eye to boot, look else.' I saw and groaned for him, and to excuse myself, let him wot how I had been robbed of my last copper. Thereat he left whining all in a moment, and said in a big manly voice, “Then I'll e'en take a rest. Here, youngster, pull thou this strap: nay, fear not!' I pulled, and down came a stout pair of legs out of his back; and half his hump had melted away, and the wound in his eye no deeper than the bandage.”

“Oh!” ejaculated Margaret's hearers in a body.

“Whereat, seeing me astounded, he laughed in my face, and told me I was not worth gulling, and offered me his protection. My face was prophetic,' he said. “Of what?' said I. “Marry,' said he, that its owner will starve in this thievish land.' Travel teaches e'en the young wisdom. Time was I had turned and fled this impostor as a pestilence; but now I listened patiently to pick up crumbs of counsel. And well I did; for nature and his adventurous life had crammed the poor knave with shrewdness and knowledge of the homelier sort a child was I beside him. When he had turned me inside out,

said he, Didst well to leave France and make for Germany; but think not of Holland again. Nay, on to Augsburg and Nürnberg, the Paradise of craftsmen; thence to Venice, an thou wilt. But thou wilt never bide in Italy nor any other land, having once tasted the great German cities. Why, there is but one honest country in Europe, and that is Germany; and since thou art honest, and since I am a vagabond, Germany was made for us twain.' I bade him make that good: how might one country fit true men and knaves! Why, thou novice,' said he, because in an honest land are fewer knaves to bite the honest man, and many honest men for the knave to bite.' 'I was in luck, being honest, to hare fallen in with a friendly sharp.' 'Be my pal,' said he: 'I go to Nürnberg; we will reach it with full pouches. I'll learn ye the cul de bois, and the cul de jatte, and how to maund, and chaunt, and patter, and to raise swellings, and paint sores and ulcers on thy body would take in the divell.' I told him, shivering, I'd liefer die than shame myself and my folk so.”

ELI. “Good lad! good lad!”

“«Why, what shame was it for such as I to turn beggar? Beggary was an ancient and most honorable mystery. What did holy monks, and bishops, and kings, when they would win Heaven's smile ? why, wash the feet of beggars, those favorites of the saints. The saints were no fools,' he told me. Then he did put out his foot. Look at that, that was washed by the greatest king alive, Louis of France, the last holy Thursday that was. And the next day, Friday, clapped in the stocks by the warden of a petty hamlet.'

“So I told him my foot should walk between such high honor and such low disgrace, on the safe path of honesty, please God. Well, then, since I had not spirit to beg, he would indulge my perversity. I should work under him; he be the head, I the fingers.' And with that he set himself up like a judge, on a heap of dust by the road's side, and questioned me strictly what I could do. I began to say I was strong and willing. “Bah!' said he, so is an ox. Say, what canst do that Sir Ox cannot ?'- I could write; I had won a prize for it. Canst write as fast as the printers ?' quo' he, jeering: what else ?' — I could paint. “That was better.' I was like to tear my hair to hear him say so, and me going to Rome to write. — I could twang the psaltery a bit. That was well. Could I tell stories ?' Ay, by the score. “Then,' said

« PreviousContinue »