Alice B. (Alice Bradley) Haven.

All's not gold that glitters, or, The young Californian online

. (page 8 of 10)
Online LibraryAlice B. (Alice Bradley) HavenAll's not gold that glitters, or, The young Californian → online text (page 8 of 10)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

the moon was almost down when he roused
himself, and in this time, not content with liv-
ing ruin, dolcord had robbed the dead I

Mr. Oilman's ravings had been a prophecy.
" It was all gone," every dollar, and with it the

y Google

bright pictures of home and a comfortable inde-
pendence. Sam felt this with a dreadful heart-
sinking, as he dropped the knife and rushed out
upon the beach. His first impulse was to call
out his loss, and pursue the thief. No one was
near him at the moment, and he remembered
how many hours Colcord had been gone, and what
would be his fate if he was overtaken by these
unscrupulous dealers of justice, the miners.

Every thing about the theft was so aggravated,
they would be sure to hang him on the spot, —
others had been for even less offences, and yet
Sam knew that there was but one crime that
made this less than murder. The divine law
has ordained life to be taken only for life.

Oh, it was very hard — too hard for him to
bear — whichever way he turned ! He went back
to the tent and sat and brooded over every thing,
feeling that he should go crazy ; and then he
started up, and hurried away to the most deso-
late spot he could find, lest he should be tempted
to the revenge that was boiling up in his mind.
And there he laid hours and hours, away from
every human sight and sound, battling with him-
self, until he looked up despairingly to the sky

y Google


above him, and its peaceful serenity fell like a
thought of God and heaven upon the tumult of
his mind.

Passion and revenge, hate and despair were
arrested by one thought. " Vengeance is mine,
I will repay, saith the Lord." A moment of
some Sunday's lesson, or it might have been only
the text to a sermon he had not listened to at the
time ; no matter how he had learned it, he knew
that it was as much to be regarded as the com-
mand, "thou shalt not kill." It was listened to
then, but many, a time afterwards the struggle
came up again, and the self-conquest grew harder
and harder.

It was well for him that the miners did not
trouble themselves to pry into each other's affairs,
and that Sam knew too little of any of them,
to ask or expect their advice. They thought he
was a sensible little fellow to keep on at work ;
and called him a " queer stick," for not wasting
what he ipade as they did. He was as indus-
trious as ever, but grew sullen and moody. How
could he help it ? he was old before his time ; the
very strength of will that made him without his
knowing it a moral hero, in keeping the secret

Digitized by LiOOQ IC

164 "all's not gold that glitters ;"

of Colcord's Yillany, and working on when many
a man would have given up discouraged, was a
proof of it. It was all there, a natural trait of
character, but he might have grown up without
its being called out in less eventful life.

Sam toiled on at the nearly exhausted claim,
for he had not the means to secure a better one,
until the men began to talk of emigrating, for
the rainy season, to the dry diggings. It was
very discouraging to work so very, very hard, and
deny himself every thing, with so little success.
Many a night what he had made seemed hardly
worth adding to his little stock. The disappoint-
ed men on the bar drank and gamed to throw off
their troubles, and he was often tempted to do the
same. Once he raised the glass to his very lips,
— but his promise was stronger than the wish to
drink it ; and more than once, night after night
that miserable winter, he lingered in the large
gaming tent, made alluring by light, and warmth,
and jovial choruses, and watched the glittering
piles grow larger and higher, to be swept off by
some eager looker-on. It seemed so easy to make
up losses, by a single throw of the dice, or lucky
turn of the cards. He would not think of those

y Google


who were ruined by the same throw, then, but
steal off through the dark wet night to his own
tent, calling himself a fool for hesitating at the risk,
and resolved to play the desperate stake when
another evening came.

But even if he could have forgotten the warn-
ing of his father's example, he knew his mother
never would receive the wages of sin, and it was
for her, only for her, he cared to hoard.

He often looked back to that dismal and
pitied winter himself. Some of the miners, from
Larkin's Bar, prepared to leave for the States, not
many weeks after he began the world again, con-
tented with what they had made. By one of
them Sam wrote a short desponding letter home,
trying to soften the news of his father's death,
a^d theirnew misfortune ; and then he left that
grave in the wilderness, and followed the miners
to their winter encampment.

The heavy rains made the roads almost im-
passable before they reached it, and more than
one died, as Mr. Oilman had done, from fatigue
and exposure. Death in many forms was no
longer a strange sight.

I know it is a sad thing to read of these trials

y Google

166 " all's not gold that glitters ;"

happening to one so young, and I will not dwell
on the dark picture. Those who are reading it
in their pleasant homes, where want, and care,
and hardships are only heard of, cannot even
understand all the weariness and temptation of
that winter to the young exile. But they can
thank our Heavenly Father that their paths are
made full of pleasantness, and be more grateful
for the comforts around them. There were many
days when the steady fall of rain, — coming not
in showers but like a heavy column, — deluged
and obscured every thing, and left not even the
refuge of hard work, from home-sickness, and
heart-sickness. And then prospects brightened,
and hope came back with the sunshine, as the
boy worked cheerfully all day long, untouched by
the discontent and, worse than all, sickness around
him. So the winter wore away, darkness and
clouds, hope and brighter days coming and going,
to many an exile beside our young miner, through
the dry diggings of California.

y Google




" Well, what now ? " one of his neighbors
called out, as Sam struck his shovel into the ground
and turned over his pan face downwards, one fine
April morning. The men were in high spirits,
for the rains were nearly over, and every thing
promised a successful season.

" I'm going to the States — that's all — off in
the first boat, and want to sell out cheap. —
"What '11 you give for every thing as it stands,
tent and all — give us a bid."

" Two ounces ; they ain't much use now,
the dry season's coming/' said the man, concisely.
He had been sharing the tent and accommoda-
ting himself with its kitchen department, for a
weekly sum, since his arrival at Free Man's Dig-
gings, a month before, and did not mind becom-
ing proprietor instead of boarder. It did not

Digitized by LiOOQ IC

168 "all's not gold that, gutters ;"

need much time or many words to make a bar-
gain in those early days of California.

" I'll take it," from Sam was all tfcat vyta
necessary, and with this, in addition to Jbis care-
ful winter's work, he was the possessor of nine
hundred dollars. It was very little, — but it
would take him home, and they could hire the
old place, which he had hoped to buy back
again. This hope had helped him through many
a hard day's work. Never mind — it was not the
first disappointment he had met with. He
could help his mother along somehow — and see
her he must. The feeling was not exactly home-
sickness ; it was a hearty disgust of every thing
around him. The monotony of a miner's life
seemed unbearable that morning, with the bright
sunshine and perfumed foliage reminding him of
the spring at home. No such intention as start-
ing for it had crossed his mind when he went
out as usual The fresh wind made him think
of what the farmers were doing on the hill sides
of New England. The lowing of oxen, the tin-
kle of bells from the pasture, seemed to sound "
in his ears. He thought of the brown earth,
turning up with its fresh smell, in long unbroken

Digitized by LiOOQ IC


furrows, — the children going to school along the
road, with their books and dinner baskets !

He struck down his shovel, and said to him-
self, he would go home to civilized life, that was
the end of it. He had enough to take him there
and hands to work with afterwards.

In two hours more he was on the road to San
Francisco ; his gold dust, sewn up in a little can-
vas bag, was not a very heavy burden. He whis-
tled as he went along with & lighter heart than lte
had had for many a day ; and found himself
once more floating on the Sacramento, before te
had .time to change his mind. Perhaps it was
just as well, — many a man worked on and on, to
find himself without the means to come home
when health and strength gave out.

Sam did not "rub his eyes" at this first
glimpse of San Francisco, — as his favorite princes
in the Arabian Nights always used to when things
astonished them ; but it seemed quite as much
like the change of magic, as any thing in those
enchanted pages. He had left, not a year ago, a
crowd of tents scattered along an open beach, with
a few old frame houses, looking like any thing but
a city. Now a flourishing metropolis, with streets^

Digitized by LiOOQ IC

170 "all's not gold that glittebs;"

and stores, and hotels, invaded the hills and ex-
tended into Happy Valley, where the smoke of
manufactories was going steadily up. Ware-
houses stood beside the bay, and a wharf stretched
out at the very spot where he had landed, on an
empty beach, with vessels discharging their car-
goes, as he had seen on the piers and docks of
New- York. When he landed and went into
the hurry of the crowd, it seemed stranger stilL
The rough dress of the miners was conspicuous
among them, and he saw shops, with every arti-
cle of use and luxury for sale as in^the States.
Hotels had grown up around the old Plaza, now
re-named as Portsmouth Square ; and merchants
collected in the piazzas and talked of business,
and " the markets," the day's transactions being
over, as they would have done on the steps of the
Astor or the Tremont House.

It was, indeed, " magic," but the magic of
industry and enterprise, such as never has been
heard of in the history of the world. San Fran-
cisco seemed to reverse the meaning of the old
proverb, " Borne was not built in a day."

Sam went to bed that night, one among
twenty tenants of a large room in a lodging

y Google


house, near Portsmouth Square ; the first time
he had slept under a roof, since leaving the
coast. He was completely bewildered with all
he had seen and heard, and so tired that he fell
asleep, in the midst of the talking and confusion
around him five minutes after he had placed
his travelling companion, the canvas bag, un-
der his head for safe keeping.

He woke with a strange roar, sounding
through his dreams, and half roused, thought he
was at sea, homeward bound, and the vessel
was nearing breakers. But he was in the midst
of a more awful storm, than any which ever
swept over the ocean. A thick, choking cloud,
a quick crackling of fire, a heat so inte^e that
he groped blindly along, his hands blistering on
every thing he touched, were all around him, and
he had scarcely reached the outer air, when a
volume of flame and smoke, red and dense, burst
through the adjoining roof, and swept down on
the pine building from which he had escaped,
with a shower of sparks and crash of falling
timber. The scene was more fearful, that no
help could avail to check the advancing flames.
Men worked with desperate energy to save their

Digitized by LiOOQ IC

172 "all's not gold that glitters;"

goods and papers, but were driven back, square
after square, and street after street, by the rush
and roar of the fiery tide, that ran along the
dry, wooden pavements, like water forcing a
channel from the hills, and sweeping down all
before i^ Some shut themselves up in build-
ings that were thought fire-proof, and perished
with the goods they had heaped together for
safety. Men cried, and wrung their hands like
women, when they saw their property burning
like tinder, before their eyes, and the offer of
boundless rewards, could bring them no help.
When noonday came, and the fury of the
fiery storm went down, the very heart of the
town was desolated. Heaps of ashes, and smoul-
dering blackened timbers,, only marked the
places, where rich warehouses stood. The
crowds of men were still there, but climbing
over ruins, instead of counting up their gains,
and among them, once more penniless, was the
boy whose strange history we are describing.

He discovered in the first moment .of safety,
that he had left his gold in the burning house,
but saw at the same instant how useless trying
to reach it would be. It seemed nothing to

Digitized by LiOOQ IC


him then, in the thankfulness for his own
escape, and the wild excitement of the fire. It
scarcely crossed his mind, as he worked among
men who were losing hundreds of thousands,
plunging in the thickest smoke, and venturing
on the edge of frightful explosions, with almost
reckless courage ; wild with the excitement of
the scene. But that was all over now — only the
certainty of loss remained to the merchants,
whose warehouses were in ashes, and the boy,
whose few hundreds had been his all.

He slept on the ground again that night
with only the sky above him, and woke with
the old heart-sickness and despondency ; as far
from home as ever, though the waves of the Pa-
cific broke on the beach before him.

So many had been thrown out of business
and employment the day before, that he felt it
would be useless to seek for work where no one
knew him. He might earn enough to carry him
up to the mines, perhaps, but he could not bear
the thought of going back to the men tod the
employment he had quitted. It was like re-
turning to hopeffiss slavery; "he would die
first" — he thought, as he made his way among

y Google


the piles of goods, and foiling timber, where men
were already at work, clearing away the rains
and preparing to build again, that business
might not be swept out of their hands. Many
of these men had lost every thing in the fire of
December, and now what they had made since
then, but were ready to go on, and trust once
more the treacherous element. They showed a
perseverance equal to their industry, and he
had borne up bravely before. Business was go-
ing on the same, when the fire had ceased, as if
nothing had interrupted it. He met people hur-
rying along to and from the post-office, with let-
ters and papers from the States. It was long
since he heard a word from home, and he had no
reason to think a letter would be. directed to
him there ; he did not expect any thing as he
followed after them, and inquired among the
rest. There was a few minutes' delay, and he
fell back among the little crowd, as if he already
had heard "nothing for you." No one would
have known him as the light-hearted, cheerful,
Yankee boy, who had battled bravely through
so much. He had grown both taller and thinner
the past winter. His clothes were blackened and

y Google


scotched by the fire, his hands blistered, and
there was a deep cut or braise on his forehead.
With bodfly pain to bear, and faint from want
of food, he scarcely cared what became of him.
For the first time he doubted God's help and
goodness, and felt as if he was given up to evil

The general mail from the States had been
distributed several days before, and letters from
business correspondents in the interior, were not
so eagerly looked for. The space in front of the
window at which Sam applied was nearly
empty, when his name was called, and to his
great astonishment a letter was held out to
him. But postage in those days was no trifle.
" Forty cents," the clerk said, and Sam had not
forty farthings. He saw that it was, indeed, for
him, and in his mother's handwriting.

"Forty cents," the clerk repeated me-
chanically, thinking he had not understood.

" Oh, dear, what shall I do 1" burst out invol-
untarily,- — that precious letter lying within his
reach, yet it might as well have been in the
New- York post-office, for want of a single half

y Google

176 "all's hot gold that glitters;*'

" Do about what? Why don't you take yfur
letter and be off ; and give somebody else s

The words were rough, but the voice was
cheerful and kindly. Sam turned with a pite-
ously anxious look ; his voice trembled, and his
hands shook as he pointed to the letter.

" Oh, sir — it is from home, from my mother/'
he said, "and I haven't a dollar, not a cent in
the world. I lost every thing in the fire yes-

Even the post-office clerk in the hurry of
business looked interested, for the tears were
rolling down the poor boy's face.

" You look as if you'd nearly lost yourself
in the bargain," the gentleman said. " Here,
give the boy his letter,"— and he threw down a
gold piece carelessly. " Any thing for Frank
Hadley ? I don't expect to empty a steam-
er's mail"

The manner and the voice sounded very fa-
miliar to Sam ; he noticed it even in his thank-
ful joy at having the letter in his possession.
He had never heard the name before — no, he
had known Frank Hadley, — but only as " the.

Digitized by LiOOQ IC



Major/' His outward man had altered almost
as much as his name, since they parted that
morning at the mines. His hair and beard were
shorn of their immoderate length, though still
several inches longer than he would have worn
them in Broadway. Pantaloons made a differ-
ence too. — Sam thought them a decided im-
provement on the red flannel drawers, and his
teeth were whiter than ever.

a Ohj sir, I can't thank you," he began <o
say, grasping the letter as if he was afraid some
one would claim it back.

" Well, then, I wouldn't try— I'd read the
news. Hurry up there, if there's any thing for
me — this sun's as hot as a furnace."

" But I thank you so much, and I'm so glad
to see you again"— Sam went on eagerly. .

" Wasn't aware you ever had that pleasure
before" — returned Hadley, facing around sud-
denly. Well, if it isn't you, what business
have you here I'd like to know, cutting such a
figure as , that ! I thought you were in the
States, long ago. Did not I send you home ? "

"I couldn't go— truly I couldn't, he stole
all I held — Golcord, the man that used to be
with us."

Digitized by LiOOQ IC

178 "all's not gold that gutters;"

"And you have been lying round ever
since. Why did not you jump up and try it
again, as the fellows down there are doing ? "

" But I did, and thaf s all^one too, in the
fife. I only got here yesterday, and the house
I slept in was burnt down, and now I don't
know what to do/'

"A mighty hard case/' said the clerk, ap-
pearing again. "One letter, sir— here's your
change ;" for Hadley was walking Sam off as
fast as possible, in utter forgetfulness of the five
dollar piece he had thrown down.

" I'll tell you what to do ; read your mo-
ther's letter right off, and see what she says. No
— come along and get some breakfast" — he
said, thrusting the change uncounted into his
pocket. You look as thin as a weasel. Well,
Colcord's got his deserts, that's one consolation.
I always thought he had a hang dog look.

"Bobbed and murdered, coming from the
mines," he answered to Sam's questioning eyes,
as the boy tried to keep pace with his quick
strides down the hill. " I should have thought
you'd have heard of it — 'twas in all the papers ;
there, read your letter — and break your neck

y Google


stumbling, if you want to, I'll pick you up" —
and the good-natured fellow broke the seal of
his own by way of example, Sam tried to read,
but the words were blurred and confused, and
he comprehended little more than that all were
well, until he was seated in the comparative quiet
of a little restaurant, and Hadley was calling for
coffee and mutton chops.

y Google

180 "ALL'S NOT GOLD THAT gutters ;



" My dear, dear child" (Sam could almost hear
his mother say these precious words), "I am
writing to you to-night, though our Heavenly
Father only can tell whether you will ever know
from this how my heart aches for you. I have
just got your letter with its dreadful news, but I
feel more for the poor girls and for you than Ido
for myself I am used to trouble. I don't mean
to murmur, but it seems to me as if I'd had
hardly any thing else since my father and moth-
er died. God forgive me 1 when my children
have been such a comfort to me, you especially,

" I know it's all right ; but if I could only
have been with your poor father and taken care
of him, if he was only buried here among his

y Google


own people, where I could go and see his grave
sometimes, it seems as if I could submit. But
I know you did every thing, Sam. I knew you
would when I let you go. God will reward you
tor being a good, dutiful boy. I know it ; I
feel it ; and that's all that keeps me up when I
think about your being alone, so far off, without
a friend to look to. if you could only get
home to us 1 I only ask to see you again, and I
could die in peace.

" Poor Abby has cried herself to sleep these
two nights, and hasn't eaten a meal. Tou know
she was always Aw favorite — and Hannah doesn't
seem well this cold weather ; she never was very
strong. All the neighbors are very kind, espe-
cially Squire Merrill and Mrs. Chase — she sends
Ben over almost every day, to see if he can^
do any thing, and I don't know how we should
get along sometimes, if they did not send in
something every little while. Squire Merrill
was in here this afternoon, and says I had bet-
ter send this to San Francisco, for you might get *
enough to come home with, and think to ask at
the post-office there before you do. He thinks
you will come right home as soon aB you can.-

y Google

182 " all's not gold that glitters;"

It seems to me as if it would be best, but I don't
know* My only comfort is, God knows what is
best for all of us ; if we didn't need trouble Tie
wouldn't send it; - 1 say that to myself over and
over again, and I pray for you, morning, noon,
and night. He has been my guide from my
youth up, only make Him yours, my son, and
He will take care of you. Whether I ever see
you again in this world or not, I hope to see you
in another, for absence or death can make no
difference in my love for you.

"It has been very hard to say 'forgive us
our trespasses/ when I think of Colcord, but I
try to, and I'm glad you did not telL Sam,
there isn't one boy in a hundred would have
done what you've done. No, nor in a thousand
neither 1 "

Sam's hot tears fell faster and faster on these
words. He felt rewarded for all he had suffered,
and all that was before him. He was not
ashamed to lay his head down on the table and
" cry it out."

" Well, now, if you're through, suppose we
have some breakfast," Hadley said, as he came
back with the waiter, bearing a tray covered

y Google


with good things, "/haven't had any letters
ftom home, and Fm hungry. Yes — two oyster
stews, boy — any thing that's good — hurry up
there. "

It was such V meal as Scon had not seen for
many a day, and served on a table with some
pretensions to comfort and elegance. At first
he tried to eat to please his generous friend, and
because he felt that he needed food ; but by the
time the savory oyster stew arrived, he was do-
ing almost as well as his companion, in the way
of clearing the other dishes.

" I was just thinking it's a great pity you're
not a girl," Hadley leisurely remarked, in the
interval of breaking a cracker into his plate, and
giving a little stir with his spoon.

Sam looked up, wondering why his sex waa
a matter of regret ; it never had been to him.
Who ever did see a boy that was not proud of
being one, and had not in the bottom of his
heart a great feeling of superiority towards all

" Why, you see, I'm looking up a cook, that's
my errand down here. You did not know I had
turned ranchero, country gentleman, with a villa

y Google

184 "all's not gold that guttebs;"

1 2 3 4 5 6 8 10

Online LibraryAlice B. (Alice Bradley) HavenAll's not gold that glitters, or, The young Californian → online text (page 8 of 10)