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The Young Bank Messenger By Jr. Horatio Alger Characters: 8301

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

When Ernest and Luke Robbins started for California they had no very definite plans as to the future. But they found among their fellow-passengers a man who was just returning from the East, where he had been to visit his family. He was a practical and successful miner, and was by no means reluctant to speak of his success.

"When I landed in Frisco," he said, "two years ago, I had just forty dollars left after paying the expenses of my trip. I couldn't find anything to do in the city, so I set out for the mines."

"Where did you go?" asked Luke, becoming interested.

"To Oreville. At least, that's what they call it now. Then it didn't have a name."

"I hope you prospered," said Ernest.

"Well, not just at first, but luck came after a while. When I reached the mines I was dead broke, and went to work for somebody else. After a while I staked out a claim for myself. Well, I won't go into particulars, but I've got six thousand dollars salted down with a trust company in Frisco, and I've got a few hundred dollars about my clothes besides."

"That's the place for us, Ernest," said Luke.

"So I think," answered Ernest.

"Do you want to go to the mines?" asked the miner.

"Yes; we have our fortunes to make, and are willing to work."

"Then go out to Oreville with me. Have you got any money?"

"We have enough to get there, and perhaps a little over."

"That will do. I'll set you to work on one of my claims. We will share and share alike. How will that suit you?"

"It seems fair. Do you think we can make enough to live upon?"

"That depends partly on yourselves and partly upon luck. Luck has something to do with it."

"At any rate, we are willing to work," said Ernest.

"Then I'm your friend, and will help you," said the miner heartily. "Tom Ashton never goes back on his friends."

This was very encouraging. Luke and Ernest were not dead broke, but were near it. They had less than forty dollars between them, and they had already found out that living was high in California. They remained but a day in San Francisco, and then started for Oreville with Mr. Ashton.

The two friends knew nothing of mining, but as practised in those early days it took very little time to learn. They found that their new friend was a man of consideration at Oreville. He owned several claims, and had no difficulty in finding them employment. They set to work at once, for they were almost penniless.

It may be easily supposed that the miners were not fastidious about living. The cabins or huts which they occupied were primitive to the last degree. Generally they did their own cooking, such as it was. Three of these cabins Tom Ashton owned, and one was assigned to the use of Ernest and his friend.

For years, Ernest, with his old friend and supposed uncle, Peter Brant, had lived in a cabin at Oak Forks, but it was superior to their new residence. Yet his former experience enabled him the better to accommodate himself to the way of living at Oreville.

For a month the two friends worked steadily at their claim, which Ashton had finally given them. They made something, but not much. In fact, it was with difficulty that they made expenses.

"It will be a long time before we make our pile, Ernest," said Luke one evening, as he sat in front of his cabin smoking.

"Yes, Luke, things don't look very promising," replied Ernest, gravely.

"If it weren't for my pipe I should feel blue. Smoking cheers me up."

"That is where you have the advantage of me, Luke."

"You have the same chance that I have. I have an extra pipe. Won't you take a smoke?"

Ernest shook his head.

"I think I'm better off without it."

"Perhaps you're right, lad. I remember my poor father warned me against smoking. The question is, how long we'd better keep at it."

"Is there anything else, Luke?"

"Well, no; not here."

"And we haven't money enough to get away."

Just then a tall man with reddish hair strode across the field to their cabin.

"Good evening, neighbors," he said. "How are you making out?"

"Not over-well," answered Luke.

"There's a difference in claims. You've

got a poor one."

"Probably you are right."

"There's been considerable gold dust gathered in Oreville within six months. I have been one of the lucky ones."

"Indeed! I am glad of it."

"Yes; I found a nugget two months since that I sold for two thousand dollars. I have made five thousand within a year."

"You've been in luck. I wish the boy and I could be as successful."

"The claim is not good enough to support two. Why not let the boy find something else?"

"You wouldn't have me freeze him out?" said Luke, in a tone of displeasure.

"No, but suppose I find something for him to do? What then?"

"That's a different matter. Have you an extra claim?"

"Yes; but that isn't what I offer him. I have a plan in which he can help me."

"What is it?"

"All our supplies come from Sacramento. What we need is a retail store in Oreville--a general store for the sale of almost everything that miners need."

"It would be a good plan to open one," said Luke, approvingly.

"Now, you must know that I am an old storekeeper. I had for years a store about twenty miles from Boston. I succeeded fairly with it, but my health gave out. The doctor told me I must not be so confined--that I needed out-of-door exercise. So I came out here and got it. Well, the advice proved good. I am strong and robust, and I feel enterprising. Now, what I propose is this: I will open a store, and put the boy in charge under me."

"I should like it," said Ernest, eagerly.

"You know what we pay for supplies. There's at least a hundred per cent, made, and no one objects to the prices. Why shouldn't we make it as well as the Sacramento storekeepers?"

"True!" said Luke.

"I don't ask you to work for me, my friend, for I don't think it would suit you."

"It wouldn't. At home--that's in Oak Forks, Iowa--I was a hunter. I was always in the open air. The sort of life we live here suits me, though I haven't made much money as yet."

"The boy, I think, would do. He looks like a hustler. I need only look at his face to know that he'd be honest and faithful. What is your name, boy?"

"Ernest Ray."

"That's a good name. You'll only have to live up to it--to the first part of it, I mean. Then you accept my offer?"

"You haven't made any," said Ernest, smiling.

"Oh, you mean about wages. Well, I don't offer any stated wages. I will give you one-third profits, and then your pay will depend on your success. The fact is, you are to keep the store."

Ernest looked an inquiry.

"One person can attend to it by day. I will come in the evening, and take a general look after things. Just at first I'll stay with you till you've got the hang of things. But during the day I shall be looking after my claims. Do you know how to keep books?"

"I understand single entry bookkeeping."

"That will be all you will require."

"How soon shall you start?" asked Ernest, who began to feel very much interested.

"I will go to Sacramento to-morrow, now that we have come to terms. You know that frame building near Ashton's cabin?"


"I don't know what it was originally used for, but it is empty and I can secure it for our store. It isn't large, but it will hold all we need. I can get new supplies as we need them."

"Yes, that will do."

"You haven't said how you like my offer."

"Of one-third profits? I like it better than if you paid me wages. I will make it amount to a good deal."

"That will suit me. I don't care how much you make out of it, for I shall make twice as much."

"How did you happen to think of me?"

"I've watched you ever since you came. I can judge of any one, boy or man, if I have time enough to take stock of him. I saw that you were just the man for me."

"Boy," suggested Ernest, smiling.

"Oh, well, I'll make a man of you. By the way, an idea has just occurred to me. You'd better go to Sacramento with me to-morrow."

"I should like to do it," said Ernest, brightening up.

"Then you can notice where I buy my supplies. You may need to go alone sometimes."

"At what time will we start?"

"The stage leaves at seven o'clock."

"I will be ready."

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