A MILLIONAIRE OF ROUGH-AND-READY
A MILLIONAIRE OF ROUGH-AND-READY
There was no mistake this time: he had struck gold at last!
It had lain there before him a moment ago--a misshapen piece of
brown-stained quartz interspersed with dull yellow metal; yielding
enough to have allowed the points of his pick to penetrate its
honeycombed recesses yet heavy enough to drop from the point of
his pick as he endeavored to lift it from the red earth.
He was seeing all this plainly although he found himself he knew
not why at some distance from the scene of his discovery his
heart foolishly beating his breath impotently hurried. Yet he was
walking slowly and vaguely; conscious of stopping and staring at
the landscape which no longer looked familiar to him. He was
hoping for some instinct or force of habit to recall him to
himself; yet when he saw a neighbor at work in an adjacent claim
he hesitated and then turned his back upon him. Yet only a moment
before he had thought of running to him saying "By Jingo! I've
struck it" or "D--n it old man I've got it"; but that moment had
passed and now it seemed to him that he could scarce raise his
voice or if he did the ejaculation would appear forced and
artificial. Neither could he go over to him coolly and tell his
good fortune; and partly from this strange shyness and partly
with a hope that another survey of the treasure might restore him
to natural expression he walked back to his tunnel.
Yes; it was there! No mere "pocket" or "deposit" but a part of
the actual vein he had been so long seeking. It was there sure
enough lying beside the pick and the debris of the "face" of the
vein that he had exposed sufficiently after the first shock of
discovery to assure himself of the fact and the permanence of his
fortune. It was there and with it the refutation of his enemies'
sneers the corroboration of his friends' belief the practical
demonstration of his own theories the reward of his patient
labors. It was there sure enough. But somehow he not only
failed to recall the first joy of discovery but was conscious of a
vague sense of responsibility and unrest. It was no doubt an
enormous fortune to a man in his circumstances: perhaps it meant a
couple of hundred thousand dollars or more judging from the value
of the old Martin lead which was not as rich as this but it
required to be worked constantly and judiciously. It was with a
decided sense of uneasiness that he again sought the open sunlight
of the hillside. His neighbor was still visible on the adjacent
claim; but he had apparently stopped working and was
contemplatively smoking a pipe under a large pine-tree. For an
instant he envied him his apparent contentment. He had a sudden
fierce and inexplicable desire to go over to him and exasperate his
easy poverty by a revelation of his own new-found treasure. But
even that sensation quickly passed and left him staring blankly at
the landscape again.
As soon as he had made his discovery known and settled its value
he would send for his wife and her children in the States. He
would build a fine house on the opposite hillside if she would
consent to it unless she preferred for the children's sake to
live in San Francisco. A sense of a loss of independence--of a
change of circumstances that left him no longer his own master--
began to perplex him in the midst of his brightest projects.
Certain other relations with other members of his family which had
lapsed by absence and his insignificance must now be taken up
anew. He must do something for his sister Jane for his brother
William for his wife's poor connections. It would be unfair to
him to say that he contemplated those things with any other
instinct than that of generosity; yet he was conscious of being
already perplexed and puzzled.
Meantime however the neighbor had apparently finished his pipe
and knocking the ashes out of it rose suddenly and ended any
further uncertainty of their meeting by walking over directly
towards him. The treasure-finder advanced a few steps on his side
and then stopped irresolutely.
"Hollo Slinn!" said the neighbor confidently.
"Hollo Masters" responded Slinn faintly. From the sound of the
two voices a stranger might have mistaken their relative condition.
"What in thunder are you mooning about for? What's up?" Then
catching sight of Slinn's pale and anxious face he added abruptly
"Are you sick?"
Slinn was on the point of telling him his good fortune but
stopped. The unlucky question confirmed his consciousness of his
physical and mental disturbance and he dreaded the ready ridicule
of his companion. He would tell him later; Masters need not know
WHEN he had made the strike. Besides in his present vagueness he
shrank from the brusque practical questioning that would be sure
to follow the revelation to a man of Masters' temperament.
"I'm a little giddy here" he answered putting his hand to his
head "and I thought I'd knock off until I was better."
Masters examined him with two very critical gray eyes. "Tell ye
what old man!--if you don't quit this dog-goned foolin' of yours
in that God-forsaken tunnel you'll get loony! Times you get so
tangled up in follerin' that blind lead o' yours you ain't
Here was the opportunity to tell him all and vindicate the justice
of his theories! But he shrank from it again; and now adding to
the confusion was a singular sense of dread at the mental labor of
explanation. He only smiled painfully and began to move away.
"Look you!" said Masters peremptorily "ye want about three
fingers of straight whiskey to set you right and you've got to
take it with me. D--n it man it may be the last drink we take
together! Don't look so skeered! I mean--I made up my mind about
ten minutes ago to cut the whole d--d thing and light out for
fresh diggings. I'm sick of getting only grub wages out o' this
bill. So that's what I mean by saying it's the last drink you and
me'll take together. You know my ways: sayin' and doin' with me's
the same thing."
It was true. Slinn had often envied Masters' promptness of
decision and resolution. But he only looked at the grim face of
his interlocutor with a feeble sense of relief. He was GOING. And
he Slinn would not have to explain anything!
He murmured something about having to go over to the settlement on
business. He dreaded lest Masters should insist upon going into
"I suppose you want to mail that letter" said Masters drily.
"The mail don't go till to-morrow so you've got time to finish it
and put it in an envelope."
Following the direction of Masters' eyes Slinn looked down and
saw to his utter surprise that he was holding an unfinished
pencilled note in his hand. How it came there when he had written
it he could not tell; he dimly remembered that one of his first
impulses was to write to his wife but that he had already done so
he had forgotten. He hastily concealed the note in his breast-
pocket with a vacant smile. Masters eyed him half contemptuously
"Don't forget yourself and drop it in some hollow tree for a
letter-box" be said. "Well--so long!--since you won't drink.
Take care of yourself" and turning on his heel Masters walked
Slinn watched him as he crossed over to his abandoned claim saw
him gather his few mining utensils strap his blanket over his
back lift his hat on his long-handled shovel as a token of
farewell and then stride light-heartedly over the ridge.
He was alone now with his secret and his treasure. The only man in
the world who knew of the exact position of his tunnel had gone
away forever. It was not likely that this chance companion of a
few weeks would ever remember him or the locality again; he would
now leave his treasure alone--for even a day perhaps--until he had
thought out some plan and sought out some friend in whom to
confide. His secluded life the singular habits of concentration
which had at last proved so successful had at the same time left
him few acquaintances and no associates. And in all his well-laid
plans and patiently-digested theories for finding the treasure the
means and methods of working it and disposing of it had never
And now at the hour when he most needed his faculties what was
the meaning of this strange benumbing of them!
Patience! He only wanted a little rest--a little time to recover
himself. There was a large boulder under a tree in the highway of
the settlement--a sheltered spot where he had often waited for the
coming of the stage-coach. He would go there and when he was
sufficiently rested and composed he would go on.
Nevertheless on his way he diverged and turned into the woods for
no other apparent purpose than to find a hollow tree. "A hollow
tree." Yes! that was what Masters had said; he remembered it
distinctly; and something was to be done there but what it was or
why it should be done he could not tell. However it was done
and very luckily for his limbs could scarcely support him further
and reaching that boulder he dropped upon it like another stone.
And now strange to say the uneasiness and perplexity which had
possessed him ever since he had stood before his revealed wealth
dropped from him like a burden laid upon the wayside. A
measureless peace stole over him in which visions of his new-found
fortune no longer a trouble and perplexity but crowned with
happiness and blessing to all around him assumed proportions far
beyond his own weak selfish plans. In its even-handed
benefaction his wife and children his friends and relations even
his late poor companion of the hillside met and moved harmoniously
together; in its far-reaching consequences there was only the
influence of good. It was not strange that this poor finite mind
should never have conceived the meaning of the wealth extended to
him; or that conceiving it he should faint and falter under the
revelation. Enough that for a few minutes he must have tasted a
joy of perfect anticipation that years of actual possession might
The sun seemed to go down in a rosy dream of his own happiness as
he still sat there. Later the shadows of the trees thickened and
surrounded him and still later fell the calm of a quiet evening
sky with far-spaced passionless stars that seemed as little
troubled by what they looked upon as he was by the stealthy
creeping life in the grasses and underbrush at his feet. The dull
patter of soft little feet in the soft dust of the road the gentle
gleam of moist and wondering little eyes on the branches and in the
mossy edges of the boulder did not disturb him. He sat patiently
through it all as if he had not yet made up his mind.
But when the stage came with the flashing sun the next morning and
the irresistible clamor of life and action the driver suddenly
laid his four spirited horses on their haunches before the quiet
spot. The express messenger clambered down from the box and
approached what seemed to be a heap of cast-off clothes upon the
"He don't seem to be drunk" he said in reply to a querulous
interrogation from the passengers. "I can't make him out. His
eyes are open but he cannot speak or move. Take a look at him
A rough unprofessional-looking man here descended from the inside
of the coach and carelessly thrusting aside the other curious
passengers suddenly leant over the heap of clothes in a
"He is dead" said one of the passengers.
The rough man let the passive head sink softly down again. "No
such luck for him" he said curtly but not unkindly. "It's a
stroke of paralysis--and about as big as they make 'em. It's a
toss-up if he ever speaks or moves again as long as he lives."
When Alvin Mulrady announced his intention of growing potatoes and
garden "truck" on the green slopes of Los Gatos the mining
community of that region and the adjacent hamlet of "Rough-and-
Ready" regarded it with the contemptuous indifference usually
shown by those adventurers towards all bucolic pursuits. There was
certainly no active objection to the occupation of two hillsides
which gave so little promise to the prospector for gold that it was