Page images

lowing some mysterious beckoning. The old man followed in silence.

Towards evening they gained an extensive level ledge, which nature had cut out of the mountain side. Behind it the rocks towered in precipitous cliffs, until they gradually narrowed into a white, gleaming peak, the top of which was dim in a cloud of mist.

The two men sat down on a loose boulder to regain their breath and reconnoitre their surroundings.

"Padre," exclaimed the younger man sadly, almost pathetically. "It seems that we are at the end of our journey. This is the rock we saw crimsoned by last evening's sunset. Here I lose all further knowledge. The vision is a blank. Yet there appears to be nothing, not even a sign of the work of man."

"What gold? Pedose, do you not know me. I am your friend and fellow traveler, Carlos Silva."

"It is a lie. You are Señor Guzman. I traveled with you for years, -I know your face,-I see your eyes now as when you threw me from these very rocks. You robbed me of the gold, but I lived, I lived. Now is the time for revenge. Caramba, where is my knife? O heaven, give me strength to kill him."

"Mad fool!" exclaimed the old man with relief, as he observed his companion fall in a faint from over-excitement. "We never saw the place before. What thought can have got into his mind?" he added to himself, reflectively.

"Yes, I seem to know the name,Señor Guzman,- very familiar. Ah, I remember, that was the name assumed by my grandfather when traveling in the States." And he sat down on the boulder to think out the strange coincidence. "Who drags me over the ground, whose hot breath is it I feel on my face? It is you, Juanita, my sweet "A cave, padre, merely a cave wrought sister, who bend over me, and so tenderout by nature."

"Courage, Pedose," answered the elder man consolingly. "See, what is that opening in the side of the cliff? Let us examine it. It may unravel the doubt." The two men arose and ran hastily towards it.

"A shaft."


[ocr errors]

ly smooth my hair. '
"It is none other, amigo."

"Where am I? Is this my own sunny

"A shaft-a natural shaft-I know it Mexico? It seems so cold - it is like is. It leads to the mine."

"Why, padre, you know this place better than I. Strange,- strange!" And as he gazed curiously into the withered face of the old man, his composure changed into agitation, and the expression on his face grew suddenly startled and fierce.

"My God! padre, who are you?" he cried, wringing his hands as if in agony. "O Heaven, what dark memory unfolds in my brain? Yes, I know you. You are the black wretch who tried to kill me."

"Kill you! Pedose, you are mad. This sudden fortune has turned your head."

"Yes, kill me," shrieked the younger man. "You tried to murder me for the gold."

the evening wind in the Sierras. Do the palm trees wave in the garden, as when I was a boy? I cannot see, I am blind. Are the flowers still in bloom on our mother's grave?"

"He raves," muttered Carlos Silva to himself. "Hell's dog, he would have killed me! I understand it all now. How I long to hurl him down. If he lives he will remember again, and seek to slay me for the crime of one long dead. No, I will let him do it himself,— I will drag him to the very edge of the rocks, and leave him to wake in-," and Silva paused and cautiously peered through the gathering gloom in every direction. Then turning a fiendish look toward the prostrate form of his friend, he continued: "The gold, all the gold will then be mine. I thought I did not want it

But there comes a strange thirst, strange as it is devouring; gold is gold." "Dear Juanita, move me gently,carefully. I am sore,- and so tired." "Turn on your side, hermano Pedose. It will relieve your pain. No, the other side, to the right."

There was a rumbling noise over the cliff, and a pattering, dashing sound as of falling stones and dirt.

"Ha! ha! he has gone. mine all mine "the old

to himself.


The gold is man chuckled

SUCH a town as R was only to be found in the Sierras. It was a typical California mining camp; rudely constructed, irregular, and scattered; and with a moulding, musty odor constantly pervading the atmosphere during the wet winter months. One straggling, ungraded street, bordered with dingy saloons and half-stocked stores, and a few ungainly, nondescript dwellings, roughly constructed of shaggy logs or unplaned pine boards, comprised the business portion of the town.

No sign of industry was visible there, but several hundred yards away, across the rapidly flowing creek, stood a plain shed-like building, from the roof of which issued a thin column of yellow, curling smoke, out of a chimney scarcely bigger than a good-sized tin whistle. This was the engine-house of "the Company," and the motive-power there generated was put to use in connection with the Gobble mine, and likewise served to run a diminutive sawmill near by, at the foot of the mountain.

There was one building in the little town, however, that assumed a more pretentious appearance than the rest; in that it stood two stories high, and made heroic efforts to veil its mechanical defects behind a thin coat of dirty greenish paint. It bore the legend "Hotel," inscribed over the door-way, and the execution was such as to sug gest that the artist who painted it was

deficient in sense of proportion, or else drunk at the time.

In front of this hotel was a long pineboard bench, pleasantly appreciated by the inhabitants of R-, judging from the generous, even clamorous patronage it received all day long. In fact, this was the "stamping ground," for all the idlers of the camp.

"Heard the news, boys?" exclaimed a tall, dark-bearded, coatless man, running up.

"What's up now, Stack?" asked a short, red-faced nan, with a prematurely incredulous air. "You've always got some remarkable story to tell."

"It is remarkable, as ye 'll agree when I tell it. That crazy jay that was here bumming grub for himself and the old greaser is back in camp again."

"As I expected," said several voices. "An' he's struck it."

"Fooling agin, Stack," observed the red-faced man.

"Straight goods, fellers. He's struck it rich. it rich. I saw the specimens with my own eyes They be chock full of free gold. He had to sell 'em to Wert s store to raise the money for his claim. Ye can all see 'em yerselves."

"Are ye honest, Stack?"

"As God made me. An' the curious part of it is, they struck it not more 'n a day out from camp,- somewhere near Old Rocky. They must a'know'd of it all the time, boys. You bet they be way-back old-timers round these parts."

"Hurrah!" cried several voices in unison. "If this be true, R- 'll have a boom, sure. a boom, sure. Times 'll liven up again in the old camp."

[blocks in formation]

ing worse. But he says it's all right, that the old man is still out, holding down the claim, though it seems to me he be better fitted for that job himself." "Strange doings," muttered several men in the crowd.

"An' where is this lucky duck now?" asked the red-faced man. "It's the custom to set 'em up on such occasions, aint it, boys?"

"Right y' are," assented the body appealed to. "He's up at the doctor's house attending his ailments. He won't see nobody till he has got the best of two or three days' rest. That is no more than right, fellers - give him a chance," replied the informant of the day, with an air of superiority at the knowledge under his command.

The crowd of men fell to talking amongst themselves, in no little excitement, each venturing an opinion as to the strange discovery, when the redfaced man interrupted their debate by exclaiming:

"Well! blanked if this ain't the old greaser a-coming up the road!" They all rushed forward to look in the direction indicated.

"Yer right, Tom, it's none other," assented Stack. "Say nothing, boys. Be green. Let's hear his story. May be we'll learn something. Why, hang me, if the galoot ain't a started running now that he sees us waiting."

The old man tottered into their midst with eyes dilated and roving, and arms outstretched, and his broad chest heaving convulsively as he painfully struggled for breath. He threw himself to his knees, and assuming an imploring attitude to the crowd of men, cried wildly in a tremulous voice: "Perdonar! perdonar, hombres. Kill me, kill me! tear me to pieces! let me die! I cannot live. He follows me everywhere - all night long, and after the sun is over the mountain top. I see him everywhere I go,- he is never from me. I run and hide,—for two days I have fled, crouched behind rocks and crawled in

dark holes; but he finds me out. Mercy, God, mercy. O kill me, hombres. Yo temo, yo temo !"

[ocr errors]

"The old greaser's a-raving," exclaimed one of the bystanders. put him in the jug."

"Who is it yer a-speaking of, old man?" brusquely asked the little redfaced man.

"Pedose, Pedose, my comrade of many a day. I rolled him from the cliffs. I murdered him. Down, down he went. I heard his bones crack on the rocks below. I peered over - many hours after- and saw his ghost. There in the moonlight was a shadowy form, hurrying up and down the cañon, and trying to reach me. It was Pedose, and his face was sad, and covered with blood. He looked up and saw me, and cried, 'O padre! padre, quita allá! quita allá!' The reproachful, weird voice drove me wild with remorse, and I ran away in fear. I knew he was dead, and it was all too late for forgiveness. O, hombres end my misery,- kill me."

"Simmer down, old man," said Stack, the miner. "Yer partner ain't as much dead as you are. We see him alive yesterday, and I guess he's still a-kicking. Look 's as if you'd got the worst of this affair already, dad, but it'll put yer in a deal worse fix. It means the jug for many a year, and a diet of beans, with beans for a change off,- if he says this agin yer."

"Pedose alive?" joyously cried the spirit-broken man, springing to his feet, without heeding his informant's latter insinuation. "O thank heaven! Alive! Alive! Bring him to me,- he will forgive me. Be quick, - I shall soon die."

"Go ferret him out, one of you fellers, and some one help me carry the old man inside," directed the tall, black-bearded miner, as the old man fell trembling and exhausted to the ground. "Feared he's a-going under, boys."

Willing hands were not wanting to carry him within the "hotel," for the rough hearts of the miners were sym

pathetic. They laid their burden on a rough shake-down in a little corner room on the upper floor of the building, where they applied the few crude remedies that they knew to bring him back to consciousness.

myself,- but it does n't matter now,- I shall say nothing. Tell him I never uttered a word about the discovery of the mine. I leave it all to him. Ask him if he ever again reaches our native Mexico to -"


No human ears heard that last request

After a while the old man rallied, and opening his eyes gazed into the faces the old man gasped,—grew pallid,— and sank slowly back.

about him with an expression of expectancy, which, however, soon gave place to one of disappointment, as he failed to see the object of his search.

The doctor laid the body flat on the bed, and after straightening the stiffening limbs, he closed the wide, expres

"Pedose not come?" he asked de- sionless eyes, and covered the aged and spondently. withered form with a half dirty sheet made of stitched flour-sacks.

"Not yet, dad. Have ye any message? He may be kind o' long," answered Stack.

My blood is growing cold. I have something to tell him. Give me a pencil and paper. I will write it,— in case

in case he is late."

The pencil and paper were brought, and the old man raised himself on the rude couch in position for writing, muttering almost incoherently, "Graciasgracias, señor."

As he was about concluding his task, - which had been wrought with much difficulty, the messenger who had gone in search of Pedose returned, accompanied by the doctor alone.

"Your partner started out for the claim this morning, señor," the doctor said, as the old man turned his eyes inquiringly toward him. "He may not be back for some days. He has gone in search of you. Can we do anything for you?"

The old man was calm and resigned on hearing the doctor's report, and learning that he could not live long. Much of the recent madness had left him, and he seemed to have become reconciled to his fate, being, apparently, sufficiently contented with the revelation that Pedose was alive.

"Seal this letter, and see that he gets it, señor,— I can trust you. Tell him I forgave him, and asked the same from him. He will understand it was all a mistake. Were I to live I could clear


It was many years before Señor Pedose Diaz could be induced to relate the details of the strange affair in which he had figured so prominently.

Two days after Silva's death he returned from the claim, and was immediately made acquainted with the occurences that had taken place during his absence. He affected indifference at the news; but it was plainly visible that inwardly he was much agitated. The sealed paper was handed over to him according to the dying request of the old man, but he remained reticent as to its contents. He turned his attention. solely to developing his suddenly acquired treasure,and before many months 'Old Rocky' was one of the richest paying mines in California, and its owner, Señor Pedose Diaz, was classed with the great gold kings of the West. The weird story of its discovery was talked of many a long winter's night at more than one camp fire in the Sierras, but as no one really knew anything about it, it was relegated to the mysterious, and ever after referred to as "that ghost affair."

In the course of time, Señor Pedose Diaz wearied of the solitude and inconveniences of frontier life, and being sufficiently wealthy to relinquish personal supervision of the mine, he concluded to

secure an experienced agent to take charge of his affairs, and thenceforth spend his life in ease and study.

After placing a handsome monument over the grave of his former friend, and inscribing along with the name the significant words, "Unto the third and fourth generation," he left the Old Rocky' mine in charge of an adept manager, and repaired to San Francisco. Before leaving for a few months' visit to Mexico he bought a magnificent house in one of the near suburbs of the city, and left directions for expensive furnishings and decorations.

On his return to California in the early fall of the same year he built up a magnificent library in his new dwelling, and thenceforth devoted the greater part of his time to scientific study and research. He was generally considered a crank by those who were sufficiently intimate to form any opinion. One of his peculiar theories was the possibility of the transmission of memory through several successive generations.

It happened one evening while he was present at an informal gathering, that this same subject of memory came under discussion; and Señor Diaz, while attempting to substantiate some of his arguments, so far committed himself on matters relating to the mysterious discovery of the "Old Rocky" mine, that he concluded to make a clean breast of the whole affair.

"Do I believe in the transmission of memory germs? Well, there was a time when I did n't. But the sudden posses sion of several millions of unexpected dollars very forcibly removed all doubts from my own mind as to the truth of the theory," was the startling prelude with which he began.

"I have never cared to tell the story, for the simple reason that I would not have been believed, and all manner of accusations might have been laid against me in consequence. I had concluded it was safer to say nothing, and let people nurse their own opinions. But as this

matter has come up, and as I feel I ought sometime to give it to the world in the interest of science, I now beg your attention.

"It is not necessary to go over the details of my early life. Suffice it that at the age of thirty-eight years, having lost my last parent with the recent death of my mother, and my only sister having concluded to marry, I found myself making preparations to vacate the old homestead of my father, near the Mexican capital, and join an old friend of the family out in the western province of Sinaloa. Señor Carlos Silva was not only an older fellow-student of my early days, but in my estimation occupied the position of guardian towards me, in that he had been the young friend of my father, who, dying when I was but a child, had exacted a promise from him of friendly protectorship over me. He was fully twenty years my senior, and as he was a man of finished education, extensively traveled, and a deep student of the world and its ways, I had naturally become accustomed to look upon him as my counsellor in all important matters. So that when I became alone in the world, and the old place more of a burden than a source of profit, and he advised me to turn my face toward the Pacific shores, and join him in his free and wild sort of life, I had no two thoughts about accepting.

"On arriving in the West, I secured a tract of land near the property of my friend Silva, stocked it with cattle, and placed them in the charge of a poor herdsman living in the vicinity, so that I might have less to do on my own rancho, and thus be able to give more time to the pleasure and benefit of my friend's company.

[ocr errors][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »