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feet deep, or may be (and is in some instances) as much as five
hundred feet. Subject to exceptions here and there, a quartz vein,
will yield gold down to a certain depth, then gold and mundic (iron
pyrites and other minerals), and finally mundic without gold. There
is thus much of the excitement of speculation in quartz-mining,
though not so much as in nugget-searching and sand-washing. The
mode of sinking shafts and driving galleries does not differ materially
from that adopted in the copper and tin mines of Cornwall ; nor
does the employment of the blasting-fuse, the pick, and the shovel
need description. The upper-ground works connected with this
kind of gold-mining embrace the following: (i.) The quartz or other
vein-ore, brought up in pieces of any size, is crushed to a fine
powder, usually by means of a stamping-mill worked by steam or
water-power. (2.) The powder is plentifully washed with water, to
carry off all the quartz and light mineral matter. (3.) Mercury or
quicksilver is added to the remaining powder (that which contains
the gold) ; the mercury and the gold unite by their intense affinity,



effect a separation from all other substances, and form an amalgam.
(4.) This amalgam is exposed to heat in a suitable furnace or oven ;
the gold separates as pure metal ; while the mercury rises in vapour,,
which is afterwards condensed again by cold into a liquid for further
use, with very little waste.


Concerning the total quantity of gold in the world, there are
many difficulties in the way of arriving at a just judgment. The
annual addition to the existing stock of bullion or uncoined gold,
which used to average about 5,000,000, took a sudden leap imme-
diately after the Californian discoveries. The bullion-dealers of
Europe received, from that year to 1857, quantities averaging about
20,000,000 every year. Still the wealth went on increasing. Mr
Jacob some years ago calculated that there was gold coin in the
whole world to the value of something like 380,000,000; but the
great discoveries within the last twenty-two years must have largely
increased this amount. England, in the last ten years, has coined
80,000,000 sovereigns ; while France has exceeded this value, in the
gold pieces of that country. According to the latest estimate, the
annual produce of gold and silver mines now averages about
40,000,000, of which three-fourths is gold. The whole quantity
now existing, and in use, is roughly guessed at 500,000,000.

We may readily suppose that none of this gold and silver is wil-
fully or wantonly wasted; yet it is found that the ordinary wear and
tear amounts to something considerable in the course of a year. In
one of the magazines, there was recently (1869) the following curious
information on this subject : ' Gold coins wear away with singular
regularity. Very few of -them are hoarded ; for nearly all classes are
conversant with the fact that it is better to invest than to hoard, better
to have money out at interest than idle in a box or an old stocking ;
and thus most gold coins go through about an equal amount of hard
work. A sovereign of good sterling gold remains legally current
until it has lost three-quarters of a grain in weight, after which time
it becomes " light," in which state any one may refuse to take it [in
legal payment of a debt] ; and so proportionately of the half-sove-
reign. Now, it is found that a sovereign generally becomes "light"
in about eighteen years, and a half-sovereign in ten years : the
difference being due to the fact, that the surface of a half-sovereign
is much more than half that of a sovereign, and is therefore exposed
to proportionately harder usage. ... If a sovereign is set to work
on the 1st of January, it becomes lessened in value by the 3ist of
December to the extent of one-third of a farthing. A trifle certainly ;
but when we consider that nearly all the sovereigns are wearing
away at the same rate during the same time, we shall see that the
aggregate of trifles assumes a form very much like 30,000 a year.


This is a remarkable instance of unintentional and unavoidable
waste ; the particles of gold disappear, no one knows whither/
Some further remarks illustrate one of the curiosities of trade : ' A
sovereign passed at the west end of London meets with better usage
in such shops as jewellers' or milliners' than it does when rung with
a strong arm on the counter of a potato salesman, where it would
be rubbed by the sand. In commercial towns, the coin becomes
light sooner than in other places ; not only from its greater circula-
tion, but in consequence of the rough usage it undergoes in being
so often thrown into bankers' scales and drawers.'

It is hardly possible to form even a rough estimate of the quantity
of gold used for purposes other than coinage. Many years ago, it
was calculated that Birmingham used ,50,000 worth of gold annually
in making pencil-cases, eye-glasses, ear-rings, studs, buttons, and
miscellaneous trinkets ; but the quantity must now be very much,
larger, owing to the great increase of trade in that busy town, and
especially to the introduction of electro-gilding. The quantity used
by goldsmiths, jewellers, gilders, &c. all over the world, must of
course be very large : 'it has been recently estimated at ,15,000,000
annually 80 per cent, new metal, and 20 per cent. old.

Not the least curious among the facts connected with this subject:
is the very small amount of actual waste which occurs in gold and
golden commodities. True (as was stated in a former paragraph),,
the wear and tear of our English sovereigns in the course of a year
amounts to a value sufficient to attract the attention of financiers ~ r
but this amount is very trifling compared with the whole quantity
over which it is spread. Every grain of gold is more care-
fully shielded from destruction than a grain of any other sub-
stance with which we are familiar. Not only do we preserve
coin, plate, gold and gilt jewellery, &c. as long as possible, but
every scrap is melted and re-melted over and over again, to be
converted into new forms. Even the dust and refuse in goldbeaters'
and jewellers' workshops are eagerly bought, to obtain the minute
particles of gold out of them by burning, washing, melting, and
other processes. A working goldbeater can obtain a new waistcoat
in exchange for his old one, for the sake of the minute bits of gold
which cling to it. From these usages it results that very little gold
is actually wasted, lost, dissipated for ever : nearly all of it takes a
new and useful life again. Where the lost particles go to, no one
can say ; to a certain limited extent we eat gold, drink gold, walk
upon gold, impregnate the cloth of our pockets and the wood of our
desks and drawers with gold.

Has the great increase in the supply of gold within the last few
years materially lessened its exchangeable value, and so raised the
prices of other commodities ? Opinions have greatly differed on
this point ; but in the latest edition of M'Culloch's Dictionary of
Commerce (1869), the question is answered in the negative. Gold



and silver are taken together, as 'precious metals ;' and the matter
is presented in the following light : The yearly addition to the gold
and silver in the world is roughly estimated at .40,000,000. Of
this, i^ per cent will be wanted to replace wear and tear, loss, &c.
amounting to ,7,500,000. The currency in the whole world being
set down at 500,000,000, about 2 per cent on this is needed for
the increase of coined money to meet the demands of increasing
commerce : this will absorb 10,000,000. Then, it is supposed that
15,000,000 worth of gold and silver is used in new plate, goldsmiths'
work, &c. ; and as one-fifth of this is obtained by melting up old
gold and silver articles, there remains a demand for 12,000,000 of
new metal annually. These three sums make up a total of
29,500,000, which, subtracted from 40,000,000, leaves a residue of
10,500,000. It is believed that this residue will be brought down
still lower by the increase in gold and silver luxuries (beyond the
present annual rate), which society in the aggregate will be able to
afford. So that it comes to this : there will not be a surplus of such
amount as materially to affect prices. ' The present supply of the
precious metals is not more than adequate to meet the average
existing demand ; there is therefore no ground for anticipating a
fall in their value, unless the supply should be increased, or the
demand diminished.' After twenty-one years of Californian and
eighteen of Australian supply of gold, there is nothing like ^general
rise in prices. ' There is in truth nothing whatever, in comparing
the prices of to-day with those of twenty years ago, to entitle any
one to affirm that the value of gold and silver has undergone any
appreciable change in the interval.' Moreover, ' in all speculations
in regard to the probable future supply of gold, it should be carefully
borne in mind, that any considerable fall in its value would unavoid-
ably check its production, and consequently tend to lessen or prevent
its further fall. It is plain, for example, that a decline of ten per
cent, in the value of gold, would, cateris paribus, occasion the
abandonment of all those mines, diggings, washings, &c., which
already only yield a nett profit of that amount.'

The ' Welcome Nugget.'



JVERY one who has visited Tweeddale, and has traversed
the banks of the lovely river which gives the district
its most familiar name, must recollect the stately and
massive castle of Neidpath, which rears its head within

a short walk and in sight of Peebles, one of the most

picturesquely situated towns in Scotland. The situation of the castle
is a very fine one. The eminence on which it stands projects* into
the centre of the vale, here remarkably narrow, and around the
southern base of the knoll winds the clear and sparkling Tweed.
Immediately below, on the east, the vale opens widely up, but again
becomes contracted about three miles farther down. A kind of
amphitheatre is thus formed, bounded by hills, and having the town
of Peebles in the centre, with Neidpath, like a gray-haired warder,
overlooking all from its ground of vantage. Nor is the castle itself
unworthy of such a position or such an office, partially ruinous
though it now be. It is an old baronial tower, of square form
and great bulk, with walls of remarkable height and thickness. The
front of the castle looks down the vale, and is approached by an
avenue, terminating in a courtyard, the gateway of which still bears
a deer's head couped, and bunch of strawberries, the cognizance
of the Frasers, once lords of the fortlet castle, and probably its


founders. On the top of the castle, in front, is a terrace, passing
between two corner turrets or bartizans, and affording a splendid
view of the adjacent country.

After being the property of the noble families of Fraser and
Yester, the demesne and castle were purchased, in the latter part of
the seventeenth century, by William, Duke of Queensberry, for his
second son the Earl of March, and during his occupation an event
occurred which forms one of the traditionary tales of the district.

Among the many noblemen and gentlemen of note who sought the
hand of the lovely Lady Mary, daughter of the Earl of March, there
was not one on whom she could be persuaded to look with favour.
Her parents beheld this indifference with surprise, for among the
suitors were several young men who were graced with handsome
persons, high birth, and splendid fortune. This mysterious uncon-
cern was, however, presently accounted for by the jealous watch-
fulness of the Countess of March, whose pride had taken alarm
at certain indications of regard shewn by her daughter for the young
laird of Tushielaw. When taxed with this dereliction of duty, the
blushes of Lady 'Mary, and the perturbation into which she was
thrown by the mention of her lover's name, confirmed her mother
in her supposition. If, however, any doubt remained, it was speedily
dissipated by an application of Tushielaw for the consent of the
parents to a union with their daughter, while he urged their mutual
affection as an apology for his seeming presumption. Young Scott
of Tushielaw, though of an old and honourable family, was neither
rich nor titled, and of course, in the opinion of the Earl and
Countess of March, no fitting mate for their daughter. Lady Mary
was therefore summoned into the presence of her incensed parents,
and severely reprimanded for her undutiful conduct in having
bestowed her affections without their leave. She was also informed
of their unalterable determination to refuse their consent to her
marriage, and forbidden ever to think again of her devoted lover.
In those days it was more customary for high-born young women
to sacrifice their feelings and attachments to the will of their parents,
and the aggrandisement of their family, than it now is; and this
command, which the unfortunate girl felt she could not obey, was
yet received with meek submission, while she gave a reluctant
promise that she would never marry without their consent. So
far, she was able to control her own wishes, but from that moment
she ceased to appear like one who has any interest in life or its

The earl and countess, elated with the victory which they imagined
they had gained over the affections of their daughter, next rejected
in haughty terms the proposal of Tushielaw; while they gave a
death-blow to his hopes, by informing him that Lady Mary was
now brought to a proper sense of her duty, and would never consent
to be his. The attachment of this high-spirited young man was


Characterised by all the deep devotion which possesses the heart
of an enthusiastic lover in the days of his youthful romance ; and
feeling himself alike unable to brook the indignity put upon him by
the parents, or to forget his love for the daughter, he speedily sought
an alleviation of his wounded feelings in the fatigues and the amuse-
ments of foreign travel. It is in this manner that man, by his
superior strength of nerve, is generally enabled to adopt some active
measure by which he stems the tide of grief. The world lies open
before him, inviting him to tread its busy paths, and investigate
its novel features. The cup in which are mingled all its varied
and fascinating pleasures is presented to his lips, and though
principle and prudence may prevent his drinking too deeply of the
intoxicating draught, he seldom refuses to find in it a temporary
alleviation of his woes. But the woman who has given her whole
heart, and all the sensibilities of her nature, to another, can only
retire into solitude, to hide there from every eye the canker that
consumes her spirit; and often does she fall a silent victim to
her unobtrusive sorrow.

After Tushielaw had quitted Scotland, the parents of Lady Mary
beheld her begin to droop and seek retirement. They knew too
much of human nature to suppose that their mandate, though
dutifully submitted to, could be so literally obeyed as to obliterate
at once from the mind of their obedient child all traces of a first
and ardent attachment; but, content for the present with her
seeming wish to comply with their command, they trusted to time for
her cure. They knew, however, but little of the depth of feeling and
the unshaken constancy which resided in her bosom. Touched in
some degree by her grief-stricken appearance, they became again kind
and indulgent ; and though the poor girl had a painful presentiment
of a mortal wound, she endeavoured to contend with it for the sake of
her parents, whose renewed affection she now felt with that redoubled
force which is produced by contrast, and by that response of our
nature which ever answers to the voice of love. Still, hers was a deep
and silent grief, in which no one participated, and which she thought
all seemed agreed in blaming, but which occupied her heart day and
night, without being affected by change of season or of place, while
she was denied that sympathy which would have allowed her, under
any other calamity, the natural relief of lamentation and tears. In
this state of mind she suffered herself, at the entreaty of her parents,
to be once more led into the: society from which she had withdrawn
for a time, and in which, as she only appeared rather more quiet and
thoughtful than formerly, they looked upon their hopes of a change
in her sentiments as nearly confirmed. It was, in the meantime,
merely by a strong effort that she concealed her inward sufferings
from the eyes of casual observers ; for nothing can be more repugnant
to the unfortunate, than to satisfy the curiosity of common minds
by any display of their misery. But when, having so far yielded



to the wishes of her parents, they ventured to second the suit of
a new lover, whose alliance was calculated to add to the aggrandise-
ment of even the proud family from which she sprung when they
tortured her harassed spirit by importunity, and mocked her desolate
heart by telling her of the happiness she was to feel in this splendid
alliance, her courage utterly failed. She now no longer sought to
contend with her adverse destiny, but withdrew once more into the
solitude she had only left that she might conciliate her parents, and
refused again to quit it.

Displeased with this conduct of her daughter, and exasperated
by the failure of the scheme for her establishment, her mother's
manner towards her became distant and supercilious. This cruel
:and ungracious humour of Lady March bore hard upon the crushed
spirit of the wretched girl, who, feeling unable to exist under the
constant frown of her parents, frequently absented herself for days
together from the family apartments, where she only encountered
cold looks and unsympathising speech, and where every feeling was
driven inwards. These periods of entire seclusion were looked upon
by her mother as moody fits, which would again pass away; and
although she was not altogether unmoved by the expression of uncom-
plaining misery which had taken possession of her beautiful features,
still all was unattempted which could have soothed her gentle spirit.
Feeling thus abandoned by all, and without hope in this world,
the only solace of the unfortunate Mary was her twilight walks in
the vicinity of the castle. There, as she glided in her white gar-
ments, with noiseless footstep, along the sheep-tracks, the parents
stood mutely and fearfully gazing upon her, almost persuading them-
selves they beheld a parted spirit moving before them on the brown

It was autumn when young Tushielaw left Scotland. The winter
had passed, and spring again returned ; but little recked the broken-
hearted girl of the fair flowers that were springing, or the bright
skies that were beaming. Lady March had hitherto borne to look
upon her daughter's anguish of mind without seeming moved by it ;
but when she at length beheld bodily indisposition added to mental
suffering, and learned from Lady Mary's attendant that her nights
were spent in sleepless vigils, while her bosom heaved heavily with
the respiration which became hourly more difficult, then it was
that all the mother was roused within her. Then the woe-worn look
of the hitherto unpitied girl fell on her like a spell, and regret and
sorrow filled her heart, and she earnestly sought to repair the injury
she had done by the most soothing language and the most careful
nursing. This change in her mother's conduct was received with
affection, and acknowledged with gratitude ; but it appeared to come
too late for the heart that seemed as if it could no longer vibrate to
the voice of joy, and which treasured the hope that its struggles were
about to cease in the grave. Lady March perceived this with terror



and alarm, and, seeing no other means which gave the most distant
hope of saving her daughter's life, she prevailed on her lord to send
a confidential servant abroad, charged with dispatches for Tushielaw,
informing him of their daughter's dangerous state of health, and
conjuring him, if he was still attached to her, to return with all
possible speed.

Of this new arrangement Lady Mary was cautiously informed
by her mother, and she listened with a charmed ear, while a host
of fond recollections and secret hopes took possession of her bosom.
Love was once more dressed in smiles, and wove his mystic spells
around her heart ; and a surprising degree of renovation seemed
for a while to take place. But a false bloom was on her cheek,
and gleams of sepulchral brightness were darting from her eyes.
While anxious to believe what she so much desired, the deceived
mother, wrapping herself in security, looked upon her with tears
of joy. This treacherous calm, however, soon passed away, and
the hapless Mary's fits of languor became daily longer, and the
exhaustion of nature more apparent.

The time was already past when tidings of Tushielaw were expected
from the continent, and she who had courted death was now clinging
to life, and assiduously following every prescription of her physician
to retard the rapid progress of her insidious disease, that she might
once more behold him ; for, while struggling for the humblest
resignation to what she felt must now inevitably be her fate, she
sent forth many a fervent prayer that she might be permitted, ere
her eyes were closed for ever, to lay her throbbing head upon his
bosom, and hear his words of constancy and love. Still, day
followed day, and she grew weaker and weaker, till she was at
length unable to walk or stand, and yet no tidings of the wanderer.

At length intelligence arrived, which gave notice of the very hour
at which he might be expected, ere yet that same day had closed.
Again the sinking spirit of the dying Mary revived ; and when the
time was at hand that she expected her lover, she caused herself to
be carried into a little stone balcony above the principal gateway of
the castle, which commanded a view of the road by which he must
approach. It was a glorious evening in June ; the heavens were
calm and beautiful, the glare and heat of day had departed, and left
the mild lustre of the sinking sun, with all its accompaniments of
light and shade. And while Mary sat reclining on her pillowed
chair, so unclouded was her brow, so bright her eye, and so bland
her smile, that, as her mother stood at her side, gazing on her fragile
but lovely child, she was again almost beguiled into hope.

Time was now fast flying, and the expected one did not appear.
The sun was approaching the horizon, the last flush of day was
spread over the landscape, its background began to grow dim, and
shades to lie on the sides of the Edston hills ; and, with the fading
light, Mary's hopes seemed also to fade. In this state of anxiety her


sight and hearing became supernaturally acute, and Lady March
was presently aware, from her listening attitude, that some sound
had struck upon her ear, which seemed to agitate her frame. So
deep was the calm that lay upon all around, that the wing of the
smallest bird was heard to flutter through the air ; yet no one but
herself distinguished that sound of horse's feet which had caused
the sensation observed by her mother. And now her thin white
hand was raised to fling back from the keenly hearing ear, and the
sharply searching eye, the long rich tresses of dark-brown shining
hair, on which the last rays of the sun were glowing ; and after
gazing intensely forward for an instant, her lips murmured forth :
' It is he !' Yet Lady March could not for some time discern that
what appeared at first to her as a mere speck upon the distant road,
was a man and horse.

What had at first sight appeared the smallest object, came on
and on, and presently approached, while Lady March anxiously
regarded the countenance of her daughter, who, with a trembling
intensity of feeling, watched the progress of the advancing figure.
And now he reached the gate of the castle, and threw himself from
his steed, while Mary, who was before unable to stand, sprang from
her chair, and, bending her attenuated form over the balcony,
extended her arms as if about to fly towards him, while she uttered

Online LibraryWilliam ChambersChambers's miscellany of instructive & entertaining tracts (Volume 4) → online text (page 12 of 58)