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Posey's Nugget by Louis A. Roberts

When the California "gold fever" broke out in the spring of 1849, Doctor Hanchett was living at Clarksville in Southern Indiana. Doctor Hanchett, it should be stated, had received his professional title not by the favor of any medical college or other learned institution, but through the simpler and less formal method that obtains among the free and generous people amongst whom his lines were cast. The process may be explained in a few words. In the fall of 1846 a recruiting station was established at Vicksburg to enlist volunteers for the war with Mexico, and Hanchett, at that time a resident of Vicksburg, and laboring in a profession—the saltatorial, to wit—a shade less illustrious than that to which he was so soon to attain, was the first man in the city to enlist. This momentous circumstance procured for him not only the prompt recognition of a patriotic press, which blazoned his name abroad with so many eccentricities of spelling that he came near losing his identity, but also gave him a claim in courtesy to such a position in the organization of his company, within the grasp of the mere high private, as he might select. After due deliberation he chose that of company commissary—an office unknown, I think, to the United States Army Regulations, but none the less familiar to our volunteer service. To this post he was promptly appointed by his captain; and, thus placed in the line of promotion, he rose rapidly till he attained the rank of hospital steward. The thing was done. Hanchett was Doctor Hanchett from that day, and the title was very much the larger part of the man ever after. How he had lived for forty years or more without it is still a mystery.

When the war was over, Doctor Hanchett stranded upon the northern bank of the Ohio, in the State of Indiana. As a returning brave he was, naturally, quite warmly received. As a veteran not unwilling to recount his adventures by flood and field, he speedily became famous as the hero of many deeds of valor and of blood. He had been assistant surgeon of his regiment, it appeared, but nevertheless had fought in the ranks in every important engagement of the war from Monterey to Churubusco, and the number of men who had fallen by his own hand from first to last he could not undertake to estimate. Though traces of a somewhat lively imagination might be detected in most of the doctor's stories, there is really no good reason to doubt that he spoke the simple truth when he averred that with his red right hand he had mowed down men like grass, for he actually retained the position of hospital steward throughout the whole term of his service.

Finding himself after the lapse of a few weeks not without honor in this Indiana town, he struck out suddenly one day a brilliant idea: he would devote his remaining years to the practice of the profession into which Fortune had so kindly inducted him. He hired a house, hung out his banner, and wrote to his wife and daughter, who had remained at Vicksburg, to come on immediately to his new home, as his fortune was now made.

Hanchett had married, at an early stage in his original career, the only daughter of a bankrupt Vicksburg storekeeper. This young woman, who had doubtless found ample opportunity for the practice of domestic economy in the paternal home, soon proved herself to be a most excellent housekeeper on her own account. She was a jewel indeed to her improvident husband, who, finding that she made shift by one means or another to keep the family larder supplied, whether he kept her purse supplied or not, dismissed a great care from his mind at once and for ever, and thenceforth to the end of his days never exerted himself beyond his natural bent. As the daughter, Dora Hanchett, grew to womanhood, she divided her mother's burden with her, and ultimately, as the mother's health failed, relieved her of it almost entirely.

The family once reunited and domiciled in their new home, it soon became evident to the most casual observer that Dora exercised the functions of commander-in-chief of that force, and that the doctor, notwithstanding his brilliant record in the field, had been incontinently reduced to the ranks, and subjected to a rather rigid discipline. Let it not be inferred, however, that Dora ruled with a high hand or with a rod of iron. Far from it. She was the quietest and meekest of tyrants, controlling not by conscious will or effort, but by divine commission, as many a woman does.

Not only was Dora the head of the household in the sense of directing its internal affairs, but she likewise soon proved herself to be its mainstay as bread-winner. The doctor under her hands became a dignified and not unornamental figure-head to the concern, in whom she took a certain filial pride. His banner was still allowed to hang upon the outer wall, and, as some slight justification of the legend borne upon it, the semblance of an office was maintained for him, where he spent many solitary and irksome hours daily in the semblance of professional study and work. But his income did not amount even to a semblance, and upon Dora, therefore, devolved the task of maintaining the cuisine as well as the character of the establishment. She had been accustomed to this duty indeed ever since, upon becoming a schoolteacher at the age of sixteen, she had proved her capacity to perform it. She early found her place in the public schools of Clarksville, and so the pot was soon boiling merrily, and the demands of the doctor's magnificent appetite were duly honored at sight.

Thus, Doctor Hanchett was enabled to live a life of elegant leisure, devoid of care and fruitful of enjoyment to a man of his temperament, for some fourteen months. Then he was suddenly smitten with the "gold fever," and went raging through the town, seeking whom he might infect. It was one of the curiosities of this singular epidemic that it claimed not only those youthful and adventurous spirits who were by common consent held to be its legitimate victims, but carried off also old and infirm men, chronic invalids, and, stranger still, such shiftless, incompetent and altogether worthless cumberers of the ground as this Doctor Hanchett; thus proving itself to be, like most other contagions, a not entirely unmixed evil.

Not wholly through the efforts of Doctor Hanchett, it is safe to say, but in due process of time and events, a company was mustered in Clarksville to go overland to California, as so many other companies were mustered in hundreds of other towns all over the country in that memorable spring of '49. This company, composed principally of men from the surrounding country, and containing only two or three residents of the village proper, regarded itself as peculiarly fortunate in being able to count among its members a gentleman like Doctor Hanchett, who, besides being a physician, was an old campaigner, and thus likely to prove doubly desirable as a comrade in an expedition like that upon which they were embarked.

It being definitely settled that the doctor was to march with his company upon a certain day not far distant, it devolved upon his chancellor of the exchequer to provide the sinews of war. Whether Dora found this duty an agreeable one or not, she performed it promptly and cheerfully. The little hoard that by the sharpest economy the frugal girl had contrived to save from her earnings was placed in the doctor's hands without reserve, to be appropriated, first to the purchase of an outfit, and next to the defrayment of the general expenses of the campaign.

Proverbially careful and judicious in the expenditure of money, as may be supposed, in the purchase of his supplies on this occasion Doctor Hanchett quite outshone himself. Besides the indispensable pans and shovels and picks with which every man provided himself, Doctor Hanchett laid in an assortment of miscellaneous drugs and surgical instruments, that added a new lustre to his distinction in the eyes of his comrades. But it was in the compilation of his wardrobe and his deadly weapons that he displayed an individuality of taste altogether unique. It being now the month of May, and the journey across the Plains being expected to occupy about three months, the doctor, who was a small man, bought first a great—uncommonly great—coat, that fitted him about as snugly as a sentry-box might have done; secondly, a pair of cavalry boots, the tops of which towered almost to his eyebrows; and thirdly, a silk hat of the very finest and very tallest description to be found in the market. Then he purchased a pair of large Colt's revolvers, handsomely mounted in silver, and had his name engraved on the plate in bold letters—"ELIAS HANCHETT, M.D.;" and his armory was completed by the addition of numerous and various knives of vast length and breadth of blade, into the hasp of each of which was let a neat silver plate, upon which was engraved his name—"ELIAS HANCHETT, M.D." Thus clad and thus arsenaled, he bore down upon Dora with much elation as she was returning home from her school, and proudly challenged her admiration. Of course the loving girl responded heartily, notwithstanding her thrifty and methodical soul was racked to see such few of her hardly-earned coins as remained unexpended falling to the ground and rolling away in all directions as the doctor turned pocket after pocket inside out in search of yet another and another knife to surprise her withal.

At last the company got off, going by river to Council Bluffs, and thence striking out upon the almost interminable trail, that, however surely it might lead to fortune, was far from being a royal road thereto. It was two months later when a member of the party, compelled by ill-health to abandon the tedious journey and return home, brought to Clarksville the first intelligence of the achievements of Doctor Hanchett in the capacity of a physician and surgeon in actual practice. These achievements cannot be recorded here, but a single incident may be mentioned as indicating the estimation in which the doctor's skill speedily came to be held by his companions. Before the expedition had been three weeks upon the march his surviving comrades, taking alarm at the rapidly augmenting number of lonely graves with which they were dotting the dreary trail, hastily formed a conspiracy to despoil him of his enginery of death. Under the silent stars, what time the doctor was sleeping the deep sleep of the overworked practitioner, his medicine-case and his miscellaneous assortment of cutlery were quietly spirited away, and were never seen again. The doctor proclaimed his loss upon waking in the morning, and felt it keenly. He declared, however, that he deplored the casualty chiefly in the interest of his companions, who were thus deprived, at one fell blow, of his further services; and he cursed very heartily, in the same interest, the "dastardly red-skins," whom he assumed to be guilty of the theft.

Dora and her mother waited long and anxiously for a letter from the doctor's own hand, and after many months it came. It was dated from "the Heart of the Gold Region," and, after asking them to join him in due ascriptions of thanks to the Almighty Powers for his deliverance from many perils and his safe arrival in the promised land, and after passing lightly over the invaluable services he had been able to render to his companions in his professional capacity—it was not for a modest man to dwell upon these—the doctor proceeded to state frankly that his success in the gold fields had far exceeded his most sanguine hopes; that, indeed, he might even then call himself an opulent man, inasmuch as nothing but the necessary papers were wanting to confirm him in the possession of a half interest in the Big Grizzly Claim—a claim that promised an enormously rich yield as soon as arrangements could be perfected for developing it. He advised his daughter to give up her school at once, and to begin to prepare herself for that happy change in her circumstances which was now so near at hand; and he closed by requesting her to send him by return of mail fifty dollars, and more if she could possibly spare more, as he urgently required a little money for "present needs."

Is it necessary to say how this clear-headed and conscientious girl acted upon reading this transparent balderdash? She knew, as well as you and I know, that the whole thing was a clumsy game of her worthy sire to deplete once more the little hoard that had been slowly growing during his absence. She knew that her mother, who had worn her life out trying to support an ornamental husband, was fast failing in health, and might very soon require such attendance as nothing but money could procure. And of course she went directly to the bank, drew out her entire deposit, and sped it on its way to Elias Hanchett, M.D., before the sun went down.

It was nearly a year after the arrival of his first letter when another epistle was received from the absent doctor. Bad news this time—the worst of bad news. He had been stricken down by a terrible malady at a most critical moment in his affairs, and the consequence was that his interests had suffered irretrievably. He might call himself, in short, a ruined man. He felt that his distress of mind, together with the physical anguish of his disease, was more than he could bear up against for many hours longer. It was hard for an old man to die thus among strangers, far from his own hearthstone and the gentle influences that clustered round it. But he should be consoled in his last hour by the reflection that he had always maintained his family liberally, and had tried to be a kind and indulgent husband and father; and he hoped that his daughter, thus left alone in the world without any earthly protector, would not wholly despair, but would strive for his sake to bear up against adversity, and prove herself worthy of the father who had lost his life in trying to serve her in his old age. And so farewell! His eyes were now about to close for the last time upon the scenes of this earth. Signed ELIAS HANCHETT, M.D., with the customary flourish beneath the name, as bravely executed as if the writer might have twenty years of life ahead of him yet. But stay! P.S. Would not his dear daughter, for whom he had sacrificed so much, grant him one last little favor? He had not means enough left out of the sad wreck of his fortune to procure him decent burial. Would she not send him a small sum for that purpose? She might direct it to his own address, for if he were gone it would be received by a friend, who would apply it faithfully according to the directions he should leave. "And now again farewell! And may we meet above!" Signed ELIAS HANCHETT, M.D. Flourish as usual.

I do not believe that Dora Hanchett's honest estimate of this letter was very far different from our own. I am persuaded that she was mentally incapable of being seriously deceived by it. But the heart of woman is the mystery of the universe. In the face of her honest judgment, in the truth of that clear common sense that constituted the strongest trait in her character, this absurd girl went about bemoaning in dead earnest and in the bitterest grief the death of her father. This lasted a week; by which time she had succeeded in convincing her mother, at least, that the affliction was a real one; and that good lady, being finally, as she believed, released from her responsibility, and having no occasion to live longer, quietly and peacefully passed away. And Dora, by the light of this actual sorrow, came after a while to acknowledge to herself that she had been breaking her heart over a fictitious one.

Of course the money had gone on before this time, and she was far from wishing to recall it now. If her father was alive, he was welcome to it, she said, for he could not possibly put it to a worse use than that to which it had been dedicated.

A girl as good as Dora could not be left friendless, whatever domestic affliction she might suffer; and so with all her trouble she had no opportunity to become absorbed in her sorrow. It would have pained her unspeakably if she had been aware that her friends generally, however, so far from inclining to grieve with her grief at the possibility of her father's death, were quite unanimous in the view that such a dispensation would be "the best thing for Dory that ever turned up." For her part, she could not, after all, rid her mind of the apprehension that her father might possibly have been in as serious extremity as his letter represented. And if so, and she neglected to do her utmost to succor him in his need, what peace could she ever find in this world again? In this way she dwelt upon the subject, until at last she convinced herself that her whole duty lay in nothing less than an immediate effort to go to him. If, fortunately, she should find him alive and well, she would gladly share his fortune, however hard it might be, and would never leave him so long as he lived. But if, as she feared, he should prove to be indeed sick and near his end in that wild region, where, she asked, should his daughter be but at his side?

This is the ridiculous way in which such headstrong creatures as this Dora Hanchett are accustomed to meet you when you seek to point out to them the unreasonableness of a line of conduct on which they have set their hearts.

Deaf to all arguments, therefore, Dora shut up her house and set about making preparations for her journey. In the adjoining county, as she had learned, a company of gold-hunters had been organized, and was then on the point of starting for the Sacramento Valley, in which was situated the little town from which her father had last written. Of this company of sixty men she knew but one, and he was a mere boy in years, the youngest of the party. This was Hiram Bridge, familiarly termed Posey in honor of his native county, who four years before had been one of Dora's first pupils in her Clarksville school. She was little more than a girl herself at that time, and Hiram was her biggest boy; and her recollection now of the bond of good-fellowship that soon grew up between herself and the shy, overgrown but not overbright lad relieved her of any hesitation she might otherwise have felt in applying to him to obtain permission for her to accompany his party to its destination.

"Yes, you can go, Miss Hanchett," Posey quietly replied to her appeal.

"But will the rest of the men be willing?" she suggested.

"Doesn't signify," said Posey.

She did prevail on him, however, as a matter of form, to mention the subject to his comrades; but as he never took the trouble to report to her what action, if any, they took in the matter, she started at last, relying altogether on his single friendship for protection. That was no mean reliance, though, as she soon began to realize. He was an immense fellow, six feet two in height, and broad in proportion; and he soon proved to Dora that, however readily he had undertaken her safe conduct, he did not lightly esteem that charge, but was determined to aid and befriend her in every way possible. Thus at the outset she found herself relieved of much of the embarrassment and annoyance she had believed to be inseparable from such a journey in such companionship. Posey himself she did not find to be companionable in the ordinary sense of that word, notwithstanding his constant kindness. He was of a quiet turn, reserved; of speech, rather forbidding of countenance, and did not wear his excellent heart upon his sleeve. There were few surface indications of the gold that was in him. Dora was not long, however, in finding the auriferous vein; and, to drop metaphor, she soon became conscious of a very warm sentiment of gratitude growing up in her heart toward her uncouth guide, philosopher and friend.

Posey's outfit consisted of a pair of powerful mules and a covered wagon, with the usual mining and cooking utensils, and the provisions necessary for the journey. In the forward part of this wagon, while the expedition was on the march, Dora sat enthroned; and in its dusky recesses she made her couch at night. Not only did the loyal Posey devote himself to her guardianship by day, but he kept watch and ward by night, sitting bolt upright within a couple of yards of his precious charge until the stars grew pale in the dawn. Then, if opportunity offered, he would snatch a surreptitious nap, still disdaining to lie down, however; and it frequently occurred that the earlier risers in the camp would discover Posey sitting on the ground, embracing his nether limbs with his long arms, while his head, with its close-cut, sandy hair, sank slumberous between his towering knees, like the sun going down between two mountain-peaks. To such a length did he carry these romantic vigils that he shortly came to look as gaunt and hollow-eyed as Famine. In addition to which he had to endure no end of raillery from his not too considerate or fastidious companions, who, so far from inclining to harm a hair of Dora's head, were generally wholly indifferent to her presence, and could not enter into Posey's solicitude on her behalf.

Just here, also, Jake Savage, who had spent a year in the mines and was piloting the present expedition, was reminded of a story, which he obligingly related to Posey, apropos.

"You see, Posey," said Jake, "me and Hooker—Hooker was my chum—had been scratchin' and washin' for about seven or eight dollars a day down there to McCracken's Bend, till we got disgusted, and we made up our minds that if we couldn't make more'n that we might as well give up and strike for the States. But just then who should come along but little Bill Skinner, bound all so fast for up the gulch? Bill had been prospectin' around all summer on his own hook, but hadn't struck nothin' yet, and was so much worse off than we was that Hooker and me concluded to stay by a while longer. A day or two afore, we found out, little Bill had run across a Digger somewhere that had told him—the Lord knows how, for I never see a Digger that, could talk English more'n a mule,—but this Digger told little Bill that up the gulch there was rich diggin's. And so Bill was on the rampage to get there. Of course me and Hooker we didn't take no stock in that yarn, and little Bill went off alone.

"A couple of months after that me and Hooker see we'd got to do something pretty quick or starve, and so we made up our minds to prospect a little. We headed up the gulch, but without ever thinkin' of little Bill, and as indications was good, we kept on in the same direction for a couple of days. It was on the third day out, and we'd got about twenty miles from the Bend, and hadn't struck nothin' yet to bet on, when all of a sudden Hooker yells out, 'Holy Moses, Jake! look-a there!' and what do you s'pose we see?

"About as fur as from here to that mule there, leanin' ag'in a tree, sot little Bill Skinner—what was left of him, I mean, for he was as dead as a dornick. And what do you s'pose he was a-settin' on? A nugget of the pure metal worth forty thousand dollars! Yes, sir! We could see in a minute how it was. Bill had found this nugget, and bein' weak for want of grub, of course he couldn't carry it. So he had sot down on it to guard it. And there he sot and sot. He dassent go to sleep for fear somebody'd hook it, and he couldn't leave it to get any grub for the same reason. We could see he'd browsed 'round on the bushes as fur as he could reach, but that couldn't keep him alive long, and so there he'd sot and sot till finally he'd pegged out.

"And that's what's the matter with Posey. I wakes up in the night and sees him a-settin' thar by that wagon, and says I to myself, 'Thar sets Posey on his nugget!' And one of these fine mornin's we'll find nothin' but Posey's bones a-settin' there, and his buttons and such like."

About this time, as they were now nearing the region where danger from Indian raids was apprehended, Savage's company and another party hailing from Illinois joined forces for mutual protection, and all proceeded thenceforward under Savage's direction. Accompanying this Illinois party was a woman going out to the diggings to join her husband, who was prospering, and had sent for her to come on. The two women thereafter keeping constantly together, Posey felt his responsibility so far lightened that he occasionally indulged himself in a "square" night's sleep, while Dora and her new-found friend slumbered beneath his ample wagon-cover.

His partial separation from Dora, occasioned by the advent of this other woman on the scene, soon opened Posey's eyes to the fact that a total separation from her would take the ground entirely from under his feet, and leave him in a condition that he felt disinclined to contemplate so long as there might be a chance to avert such a calamity. He accordingly improved the first opportunity that offered, and cast himself at the feet of Dora—literally, mind you, on the lee side of a sage bush—and lisped his love. On this sacred ground let us tread as lightly as may be. Suffice it that Posey's suit prospered, and that presently a little programme came to be agreed upon between the contracting parties to this effect: They would go on for the present precisely as if nothing had happened—Dora to seek her father and Posey to seek his fortune. As soon, however, as Dora should have succeeded in restoring the doctor to health, or had haply buried him, Posey should be notified, and they would thereupon be married. Then Dora would open a school somewhere, wherever she might chance to find the indispensable children, while Posey, accompanied by his newly-fledged father-in-law, if perchance that worthy individual should be spared, would launch into the mines and conquer Fortune at the point of the pick.

Time flew fast with the lovers after this, and they were quite startled one day when Savage informed them that they were upon the very borders of the promised land.

That evening, an hour before sunset, the train was halted for the night at a point whence the travel-worn adventurers could look down for the first time into the Sacramento Valley, and render thanks in their various ways that the end of their tedious pilgrimage was almost reached. As Dora Hanchett and Posey stood together upon a green knoll, following with their eyes the winding trail that their feet were to descend on the morrow, they descried, toiling slowly toward them, one of those returning bands of unsuccessful and discouraged veterans—the reflux of the great wave of immigration constantly pouring into the golden valley—which they had frequently met in the course of their long journey. As the cavalcade drew nearer, Dora's attention fixed itself upon a curious figure that brought up the rear. Mounted upon a loose aggregation of bones and ears that purported to be a mule, this mysterious figure gradually approached, while Dora watched it as if fascinated. On and on it came, and still she gazed, spell-bound. Opposite her it paused. There was no longer any doubt: it was He. Clad in the mangled remains of the original great-coat, the original boot-tops yet towering in the region of his ears, and the upper half of the original beaver crowning his well-developed brain, there He was. Slowly and carefully he descended from the back of his shambling steed, settled himself well in his boots, pulled up the collar of his great-coat—and there was little but collar left of it—tipped the curtailed and weatherbeaten stovepipe to the proper angle, opened his paternal arms and feebly embraced his daughter. He announced himself to all concerned as a broken man—a poor unfortunate going home to die, where his bones might rest with those of his ancestors, and where his humble name and his honorable record in the service of his country would be cherished by his fellow-citizens after he should be gone. Providence had surely, in his extremity, drawn his daughter to his succor. Now he was relieved of all anxiety, and might turn his mind to things above. His daughter would fan the spark of life, and keep it burning, God willing, till the old home should be reached. Then he would release her from her labor of love. Then he would be at peace with all the world, and would cheerfully die in the midst of his weeping friends. He had up to this hour been haunted with the apprehension that his poor old frame might be left to moulder somewhere in the wide, inhospitable desert that stretched between him and his roof-tree. Now that dreadful apprehension was banished. The Lord had remembered his own. Dora would walk beside his beast and protect him, and the knowledge that she had thus been instrumental in prolonging her father's life would be her exceeding great reward.

A most enchanting prospect for Dora, was it not? Even she did not put her neck under the yoke until she had first informed her father of her momentous secret, and invited him to assume his rĂ´le in the programme already mentioned as arranged by her lover and herself. But, as a matter of course, he scorned the suggestion. Posey begged and raved, but without avail. The girl never had a question in her mind as to her duty from the moment she saw her father approaching. She must do as he said—go back with him as his slave. There was no help for it.

And so the lovers held a hurried consultation, pledged eternal fidelity and all that, agreed that Posey should go on and make his fortune, and that when Dora should be released by death from her duty to her father he should either come back for her or she should go to him, and then they would be married. Meantime, he engaged to write to her frequently, and she promised to write to him faithfully once every week. And then farewell!

By this time the doctor's party had left him far behind, and naturally, considering the capabilities of his steed, he was growing impatient to move on. The early stars were already coming out, and he testily reminded Dora, as she lingered over her leavetaking, that there was no more time to lose. And so, without a murmur, the devoted soul turned her back upon all her new-born hope and joy, and dutifully took up the long and dreadful homeward march on foot. And Posey, his heart in his mouth and his tongue charged with unutterable execrations, gazed gloomily down into the darkening valley, that half an hour before had been filled with a radiance "that never shone on land or sea." And as he gazed all the bad in him persistently rose up to curse the despicable author of his woe, while all the good in him—about an even balance—rose up to bless the fast-disappearing idol of his heart.

Slowly and painfully, day after day, the little company of stragglers toiled on toward their distant homes, the redoubtable doctor, with his unwilling beast and his willing bond-woman, ever bringing up the rear. No one but Dora herself could know how grievously she suffered in her chains—how her very heart's blood was gradually consumed by the vampire whom she chose to cherish and obey because it was her misfortune to be his daughter.

The old home was reached at last. On the whole, the doctor had rather enjoyed the journey, and brought to the family board, as of yore, a tremendous appetite. He "resumed practice at the old stand" without delay, publishing a card to that effect in the village newspaper. He seemed scarcely to note the absence of his wife, who for a quarter of a century had been wearing her life out in a vain endeavor to justify his existence on this globe. In short, he speedily settled back into his old habit of life, and appeared to have totally forgotten that he had come home to die. And Dora, too, soon lapsed into her old routine of schoolkeeping, and so once more the pot boiled merrily. Once a week, with scrupulous regularity, she wrote her promised letter to Posey, and she waited long and anxiously for some word from him, but in vain. Weary weeks lost themselves in months, and month after month crept slowly away till almost a year had passed, and still the faithful soul famished for some token that she was not forgotten. Then one evening she went home from her school to find that the heavens had fallen. Her father, whom she had left four hours before apparently in the highest health and spirits, was dead. The village physician attributed his sudden death to apoplexy, which seems illogical. But he was dead, whatever the cause, and his orphaned daughter mourned him with as genuine a grief as ever wrung a human heart.

When in process of time the first transports of grief had subsided there seemed to be nothing left for Dora to do but to concentrate all the overflowing tenderness and devotion of her heart upon her lover, and to brood and pine over his long-continued silence. She never doubted that he had written to her, for the mail-service to and from the gold regions was notoriously unreliable in those days, and she was by no means the only one who looked in vain for letters thence. At last she could bear the suspense no longer. The spring had opened early, and a party in a neighboring town was to start for the diggings by the middle of April. This party, in which were already included two women, Dora resolved to join. Once let her reach that indefinite region denominated "the mines," and she felt the most unquestioning faith in her ability to find her lover.

And so once more the dauntless girl set out upon that long and tedious journey of three thousand miles. Not many weeks passed before the inevitable homeward-bound stragglers began to be encountered, and of these Dora eagerly sought information concerning the object of her quest.

"Bridge? No, marm," was almost uniformly the reply to her first question in that direction.

"He was sometimes called Posey," she would then suggest; and at last she found a man who acknowledged that he knew Posey. "He was at the Buny Visty in Carter's Gulch at last accounts," this individual informed her, but he omitted to commit himself as to the nature of Posey's occupation. "Wife, p'r'aps?" he observed, incidentally.

"No, sir," said Dora.



"Ah! Well, he's a stocky chap, that Posey, and ought to make his fortune in the mines, if anybody could. But nobody can't—take my word for't. Look at me!"

He was a spectacle indeed. The retrogressive Doctor Hanchett had been quite an exquisite in the matter of apparel compared with this tatterdemalion. With Dora's companions he was less reticent concerning the character and calling of Posey than he had been with Dora herself. By his account it appeared that Posey had spent about a month in the mines without striking a single streak of luck to hearten him. At the end of that time, completely discouraged, he went to the nearest village and advertised himself as willing to work for his board at anything that might offer. The thing that offered was a situation as assistant bar-tender at the Buena Vista gambling-house. Posey accepted this situation with ardor, and discharged the delicate duties pertaining to the place so satisfactorily that he very soon found himself promoted to the distinguished position of "stool pigeon." In this capacity he developed shining talents, and the Buena Vista's gaming-tables soon became the most famous resort in all that region for those confiding birds whose favorite amusement appears to lie in being plucked. And thus Posey went on prospering until he achieved a partnership in the concern; and his partner soon after being suddenly called to that bourne whence no traveler returns, Posey found himself sole proprietor and manager of an uncommonly flourishing concern in an uncommonly lively line of business.

All this information was carefully kept by her companions from the ears of Dora, of course; and she, having obtained the long-coveted trace by means of which she felt sure that she could not fail to find her lover, was quite cheerful and happy throughout the remainder of the seemingly endless journey.

The end neared at last, however, and as Dora recognized the familiar landmarks that told her she had almost reached the fruition of her hope deferred, her eyes brightened daily, a new flush came into her thin cheeks; and though she grew more quiet and abstracted than formerly, it was plain that her reveries had no tinge of darkness, her hope no shadow of fear, her faith no alloy of doubt. And when the time came for her to part with the good people in whose company she had traveled so far, she bade them adieu with a light heart, and at once set out alone by stage for Carter's Gulch.

Reaching the straggling, ill-conditioned village at nightfall, she asked the driver, as she alighted in front of the stage-office, to direct her to the Buena Vista.

"The Buny Visty! The Buny Visty's not a hotel, ma'am," that individual explained. "It's the Golden Gate that you want, I reckon."

"No, sir," she replied confidently. "I have a friend at the Buena Vista—Mr.—Mr. Posey. Perhaps," she went on, with a little tremor in her voice, "you can tell me if he is well?"

"Posey!" He stopped some moments at the word and looked in blank amazement at the delicate, tender, unmistakably honest face that confronted him. Then he continued hastily: "Never better. Saw him yesterday morning. You see that green lantern? That's the Buny Visty. Good-night, ma'am. I stay here—if you should want a friend, you know. Good-night."

Dora thanked him for his kindness, returned his salutation, and tripped away with unruffled spirits. She had been so much concerned to conceal her own agitation as she mentioned the name of her lover that she had quite overlooked the astonishment with which that name had seemed to transfix the driver.

As she picked her way along the dark and muddy sidewalk she could not help complaining a little petulantly to herself because the stage-office had not been located nearer to that distant green lantern. But she was not the girl to lose heart now. Bravely she plodded on, and when at last she was able to discern the words "Buena Vista" upon the beacon toward which she was toiling, suddenly her heart gave a great bound, the tears rushed to her eyes, her knees quaked beneath her, and from her pious soul there went up an earnest thanksgiving to the dear Father of us all for His great mercy in bringing her safely to the end of her momentous journey.

It was some minutes before she could so far compose herself as to be able to proceed; and when she did move forward again, I think a vague notion of the true character of the Buena Vista began to cast a shadow upon her ardor. As she came within a couple of rods of the isolated wooden building in front of which the green lantern was suspended she was suddenly startled at hearing several shots discharged in quick succession within, and a minute later three or four men rushed hastily into the street and hurried away, evidently without noticing her, though they passed within a few feet of her as she stood, almost paralyzed with alarm, just outside the door. Her fright was gone in a moment, however—soon enough, indeed, to enable her to satisfy herself that none of these fugitives was the man she sought. As the door stood wide open, there seemed nothing for her to do but enter, which she did at once. The front apartment of the saloon, though lighted, she found to be a mere ante-room, bare of all furniture save a few chairs; and without pausing here the resolute girl, who must have had a foreboding of the awful truth by this time, passed on into the gambling-room in the rear. There, stretched upon the floor, shot through the heart, lay the stark form of the man she had journeyed so far and so patiently and hopefully to find. He had grown muscular and brawny since she parted with him. His face, too, had changed, and not for the better: it was flushed, sodden and bearded, and the beard was dyed black. She knelt down beside the corpse and took one of the great hands in her own. It was still warm! But the chill of death crept over it as she held it to her heart, and thus her last ray of hope expired.

She sat still by her dead till the man's former companions came to prepare the body for burial. As it was borne to the lonely grave upon the hillside she walked beside the rough coffin. And when the grave was reached she dropped upon her knees beside it, and poured forth in a clear voice a fervent petition to the Most High to receive, for the sake of the dear Saviour who died for all the world, the soul of this poor sinner.

They had said that she might bear up till the funeral was over, but that then she would break down. She did not. The next morning she set her face to the East, and began again, for the fourth time, that awful journey across the Plains. We need not follow her throughout its length. She reached her home worn and sick, but nevertheless at once took up her old school and went on with it a few weeks. And then the end came.