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view, perceived that he might have done better, and shaped the pattern of his tongue to it. Firm, hearing this, had good hopes of him; yet knowing how volatile repentance is, he strove to form a well-marked track for it. And when the captain ceased to receive cow-hide, he must have had it long enough to miss it.
Now this might have ended honourably and amicably for all concerned, if the captain had known when he was well off. Unluckily he had purloined a bottle of Mr. Gundry's whisky, and he drew the cork now to rub his stripes, and the smell of it moved him to try it inside. And before very long, his ideas of honour, which he had sense enough to drop when sober, began to come into his eyes again, and to stir him up to mischief. Hence it was that he followed Firm, who was riding home well satisfied, and appeased his honour by shooting in cold blood, and justice by being shot any how.
It was beautiful, through all this trying time, to watch Uncle Sam's proceedings. He appeared so delightfully calm, and almost careless, whenever he was looked at. And then he was ashamed of himself perpetually, if any one went on with it. Nobody tried to observe him, of course, or remark upon any of his doings, and for this he would become so grateful, that he would long to tell all his thoughts, and then stop. This must have been a great worry to him, seeing how open his manner was; and whenever he wanted to hide anything, he informed us of that intention. So that we exhorted Firm every day to come round and restore us to our usual state. This was the poor fellow's special desire; and often he was angry with himself, and made himself worse again by declaring that he must be a milksop to lie there so long. Whereas, it was much more near the truth that few other men, even in the Western States, would ever have got over such a wound. I am not learned enough to say exactly where the damage was, but the doctor called it, I think, the sternum, and pronounced that "a building-up process" was required, and must take a long time, if it ever could be done.
It was done at last, thanks to Suan Isco, who scarcely ever left him by day or night, and treated him skilfully with healing herbs. But he, without meaning it, vexed her often by calling for me a mere ignorant child. Suan was dreadfully jealous of this, and perhaps I was proud of that sentiment of hers, and tried to justify it, instead of labouring to remove it, as would have been the more proper course. And Firm most ungratefully said that my hand was lighter than poor Suan's, and everything I did was better done, according to him—which was shameful on his part, and as untrue as anything could be. However, we yielded to him in all things, while he was so delicate; and it often made us, poor weak things, cry to be the masters of a tall strong man.
Firm Gundry received that shot in May, about ten days before the twelvemonth was completed from my father's death. The brightness of summer, and beauty of autumn, went by without his feeling them, and while his system was working hard to fortify itself by walling-up, as the
learned man had called it. There had been some difficulties in this process, caused partly, perhaps, by our too lavish supply of the raw material; and before Firm's gap in his "sternum" was stopped, the mountains were coming down upon us, as we always used to say when the snow-line stooped. In some seasons this is a sharp time of hurry, broken with storms, and capricious, while men have to slur in the driving weather tasks that should have been matured long since. But in other years, the long descent into the depth of winter is taken not with a jump like that, but gently, and softly, and windingly, with a great many glimpses back at the summer, and a good deal of leaning on the arm of the sun.
And so it was this time. The autumn and the winter for a fortnight stood looking quietly at each other. They had quite agreed to share the hours, to suit the arrangements of the sun. The nights were starry and fresh and brisk, without any touch of tartness; and the days were sunny and soft and gentle, without any sense of languor. It was a lovely scene blue shadows gliding among golden light.
The Sawyer came forth, and cried, "What a shame! This makes me feel quite young again. And yet I have done not a stroke of work. No excuse. Make no excuse. I can do that pretty well for myself. Praise God for all his mercies. I might do worse, perhaps, than have a pipe." Then Firm came out to surprise him, and to please us all with the sight of himself. He steadied his steps, with one great white hand upon his grandfather's Sunday staff, and his clear blue eyes were trembling with a sense of gratitude and a fear of tears. And I stepped behind a red strawberry-tree, for my sense of respect for him almost made me sob.
Then Jowler thought it high time to appear upon the scene, and convince us that he was not a dead dog yet. He had known tribulation, as his master had, and had found it a difficult thing to keep from the shadowy hunting-ground of dogs, who have lived a conscientious life. I had wondered at first what his reason could have been for not coming forward, according to his custom, to meet that troop of robbers. But his reason, alas, was too cogent to himself, though nobody else in that dreadful time could pay any attention to him. The Rovers, well knowing poor Jowler's repute, and declining the fair mode of testing it, had sent in advance a very crafty scout, a half-bred Indian, who knew as much about dogs as they could ever hope to know about themselves. This rogue approached faithful Jowler- so we were told long afterwards-not in an upright way, but as if he had been a brother quadruped. And he took advantage of the dog's unfeigned surprise and interest, to accost him with a piece of kidney containing a powerful poison. According to all sound analogy, this should have stopped the dear fellow's earthly tracks; but his spirit was such, that he simply went away to nurse himself up in retirement. Neither man nor dog can tell what agonies he suffered; and doubtless his tortures of mind about duty unperformed were the worst of all. These things are out of human
knowledge in its present unsympathetic state. Enough that poor Jowler came home at last, with his ribs all up and his tail very low.
Like friends who have come together again, almost from the jaws of death, we sat in the sunny noon, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The trees above us looked proud and cheerful, laying aside the mere frippery of leaves, with a good grace and contented arms, and a surety of having quite enough next spring. Much of the fruity wealth of autumn still was clustering in our sight, heavily fetching the arched bough down, to lessen the fall, when fall they must. And against the golden leaves of maple behind the unpretending roof, a special wreath of blue shone like a climbing Ipomea. But coming to examine this, one found it to be nothing more nor less than the smoke of the kitchen chimney, busy with a quiet roasting job.
This shows how clear the air was; but a thousand times as much could never tell how clear our spirits were. Nobody made any " demonstration," or cut any frolicsome capers, or even said anything exuberant. The stedfast brooding breed of England, which despises antics, was present in us all, and strengthened by a soil whose native growth is peril, chance, and marvel. And so we nodded at one another, and I ran over and curtseyed to Uncle Sam, and he took me to him.
"You have been a dear good child," he said, as he rose, and looked over my head at Firm; "my own granddarter, if such there had been, could not have done more to comfort me; nor half so much for ought I know. There is no picking and choosing among the females, as God gives them. But He has given you for a blessing and saving to my old age, my dearie."
"Oh, Uncle Sam, now the nugget!" I cried, desiring like a child to escape deep feeling, and fearing any strong words from Firm. "You have promised me ever so long that I should be the first to show Firm the nugget."
"And so you shall, my dear, and Firm shall see it before he is an hour older, and Jowler shall come down to show us where it is."
Firm, who had little faith in the nugget, but took it for a dream of mine, and had proved conclusively from his pillow that it could not exist in earnest, now with a gentle, satirical smile declared his anxiety to see it; and I led him along by his better arm, faster, perhaps, than he ought to have walked.
In a very few minutes we were at the place, and I ran eagerly to point it; but behold, where the nugget had been, there was nothing except the white bed of the river! The blue water flowed very softly on its way, without a gleam of gold to corrupt it.
"Oh, nobody will ever believe me again!" I exclaimed in the saddest of sad dismay. "I dreamed about it first, but it never can have been a dream throughout. You know that I told you about it, Uncle Sam, even when you were very busy, and that shows that it never could have been a dream."
"You told me about it, I remember now," Mr. Gundry answered dryly; "but it does not follow that there was such a thing. My dear, you may have imagined it; because it was the proper time for it to come, when my good friends had no money to lend. Your heart was so good that it got into your brain; and you must not be vexed, my dear child; it has done you good to dream of it."
"I said so all along," Firm observed; "Miss Rema felt that it ought to be, and so she believed that it must be there. She is always so warm and trustful.
"Is that all you are good for?" I cried, with no gratitude for his compliment. "As sure as I stand here I saw a great boulder of gold, and so did Jowler; and I gave you the piece that he brought up. Did you take them all in a dream, Uncle Sam? Come, can you get over that?"
I assure you that for the moment I knew not whether I stood upon my feet or head, until I perceived an extraordinary grin on the Sawyer's ample countenance; but Firm was not in the secret yet, for he gazed at me with compassion; and Uncle Sam looked at us both, as if he were balancing our abilities.
"Send your dog in, Missy," at last he said; "he is more your dog than mine, I believe, and he obeys you like a Christian. Let him go and find it if he can."
At a sign from me, the great dog dashed in, and scratched with all four feet at once, and made the valley echo with the ring of mighty barking; and in less than two minutes, there shone the nugget, as yellow and as big as ever.
"Ha, ha! I never saw a finer thing," shouted Uncle Sam, like a schoolboy. "I were too many for you, Missy dear; but the old dog wollops the whole of us. I just shot a barrow-load of gravel on your nugget, to keep it all snug till Firm should come round; and if the boy had never come round, there the gold might have waited the will of the Almighty. It is a big spot anyhow."
It certainly was not a little spot, though they all seemed to make so light of it—which vexed me, because I had found it, and was as proud as if I had made it. Not by any means that the Sawyer was half as careless as he seemed to be; he put on much of this for my sake, having very lofty principles, especially concerning the duty of the young. Young people were never to have small ideas, so far as he could help it, particularly upon such matters as Mammon, or the world, or fashion; and not so very seldom he was obliged to catch himself up in his talking, when he chanced to be going on, and forgetting that I, who required a higher vein of thought for my youth, was taking his words downright; and I think that all this had a great deal to do with his treating all that gold in such an exemplary manner; for if it had really mattered nothing, what made him go in the dark and shoot a great barrow-load of gravel over it?
BROUGHT TO BANK.
THE sanity of a man is mainly tested among his neighbours and kindred by the amount of consideration which he has consistently given to cash. If money has been the chief object of his life, and he for its sake has spared nobody, no sooner is he known to be successful than admiration overpowers all the ill-will he has caused. He is shrewd, sagacious, longheaded, and great; he has earned his success, and few men grudge, while many seek to get a slice of it; but he, as a general rule, declines any premature distribution; and for this custody of his wealth, he is admired all the more by those who have no hope of sharing it.
As soon as ever it was known that Uncle Sam had lodged at his bankers a tremendous lump of gold, which rumour declared to be worth at least a hundred thousand dollars, friends from every side poured in, all in hot haste, to lend him their last farthing. The Sawyer was pleased with their kindness, but thought that his second-best whisky met the merits of the case. And he was more particular than usual with his words; for according to an old saying of the diggers, a big nugget always has children, and, being too heavy to go very far, it is likely to keep all its little ones at home. Many people, therefore, were longing to seek for the frogs of this great toad; for so in their slang the miners called them, with a love of preternatural history. But Mr. Gundry allowed no search for the frogs, or even the tadpoles, of his patriarchal nugget. And much as he hated the idea of sowing the seeds of avarice in any one, he showed himself most consistent now in avoiding that imputation; for not only did he refuse to show the bed of his great treasure, after he had secured it, but he fenced the whole of it in, and tarred the fence and put loopholes in it; and then he established Jowler where he could neither be shot nor poisoned, and kept a man with a double-barrelled rifle in the ruin of the mill, handy to shoot, but not easy to be shot; and this was a resolute man, being Martin himself, who had now no business. Of course Martin grumbled; but the worse his temper was, the better for his duty, as seems to be the case with a great many men ; and if any one had come to console him in his grumbling, never would he have gone away again.
It would have been reckless of me to pretend to say what anybody ought to do; from the first to the last I left everything to those who knew so much better; at the same time, I felt that it might have done no harm if I had been more consulted, though I never dreamed of saying so, because the great gold had been found by me, and although I cared for it scarcely more than for the tag of a boot-lace, nobody seemed to me able to enter into it quite as I did; and as soon as Firm's danger and pain grew less, I began to get rather impatient, but Uncle Sam was not to be hurried.
Before ever he hoisted that rock of gold, he had made up his mind for me to be there, and he even put the business off, because I would