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CHAPTER V

AFTER a long journey over the mountains Donald reached his log cabin on the Silver Creek. The monkey, however, did not find quite so immediate a welcome as himself from Donald’s wife. The only pet her children had ever seen before was a baby puma, which the miner had picked out of the stream one day in a half-drowned state. Donald had mistaken it for a kitten of some new brand, and it was not until some weeks later, when it sprang upon his little girl and buried his claws in her neck, that he realised what sort of plaything—the puma is the lion of the Rocky Mountains—he had introduced into his family. So Donald’s wife was suspicious of pets, and when she saw the monkey she was sure it was another lion, and would not allow it to enter the door. But Gum had other ways of entering houses than by doors, and finally he was received as a lawful member of the family, for the simple reason that he could not be kept out. The new guest gave little trouble. Most of the day the monkey spent with Donald at the mine. He went off with him when he went to work in the morning, and gambolled round him till he came home for supper. And very soon an incident happened which more than reconciled Donald’s wife to her strange visitor. Donald’s gold-mine was a poor one. He had to work very hard to get enough of the precious dust to keep his family in food, but his spirits were kept up by the constant hope that he would strike a richer bed and make his fortune. The way he got the gold was to take the sand and gravel from the banks of the river and wash it about in a pan till all the lighter particles passed off with the water, leaving the little spangles of gold at the bottom. Sometimes a week would pass without the miner getting more than a thimbleful, but occasionally he would find a few lumps as big as a pea. One day, however just as Donald was getting discouraged, a piece of great good-luck befell him. He had been particularly depressed that day, for no gold at all had rewarded his search for a week, and the family were already in debt for flour and clothes. But, thanks to the monkey, he was able to go home to his wife with the largest gold nugget that had been seen in that valley for many years. Gum had been skirmishing about as usual on the gravel-heaps, when some loose pebbles were dislodged by his paws, and, as they rolled down, he must have been attracted by the yellow glitter in one large lump, for the next moment he had picked up the nugget and laid it, with a wag of his tail, at Donald’s feet. The miner almost wept for gladness, and, taking Gum up in his arms as if he were a child, hurried home to proclaim his fortune. That night the family had a great feast, and Gum’s health was drunk in the strongest tea the mining camp could furnish. Perhaps if they had known what was shortly to happen they would not have slept quite so soundly.

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The Nugget of Gold

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