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Weary of the Expedition. — A Chance Discovery which promises well. — Breaking it to Raed. —
The Expedition not a Failure. — Air-Castles. — “Heigh, Betty Martin!” — Going Home To morrow
SEPT. 8. — We went to the ledges with a greater effort than ever this morning. Wade growled a little, audibly. Wash and I merely said we felt homesick. Raed tried to inspire us by an historic reference to Robert Bruce and the spider; but it was no go. Wade remarked that he thought that “spider-story” was about played out.
About half way to the top of the ridge we separated, according to our custom; Raed and Wade going to the summit, while Wash and I searched along the side a few hundred yards be low.
It was warm and uncomfortable. Climbing down the edge, we saw a place where the quartzose rocks jutted out, overhanging a substratum of coarse, rusty granite. It looked shady and cool under there. We went along, and sat down to rest. In fact, we had come to feel that our labor searching was all thrown away; and that, when we could do so without giving offense to Raed, it was just about as well to sit still and rest as to search after a — myth.
“Kit,” said Wash, grinding the nails in his well-worn boot-heel on the rock, “Raed is a good fellow, a persevering fellow, — a very persevering fellow.”
“Yes, he is all that,” I assented.
“There’s not a chap in the world I like better,” Wash continued, taking off his hat to brush back the hair from his sweaty forehead. “But don’t you think this lead expedition is getting a little thin?”
“I’ve been of that opinion more than a week.”
“I am disappointed somewhat.”
“Well, so am I.”
“I did hope to find it.”
“Well, I did.”
“I’m sorry for Raed, — more for him than for myself. He is one of that sort, that, when he has set his mind on a thing like this, it is hard turning him from it. It hurts his feelings to let go. He has set his heart on finding this lead to get money for a yacht. That’s been his grand object, — to get a yacht, and go off to see and study the world for himself; and he meant to take us too. If ever there was a good, true, big-hearted fellow in the world, it. is Raed.”
“That’s so,” I indorsed.
“He knows just how hopeless it’s getting to look,” Wash resumed. “I’ve watched him. He feels bad; he feels awfully: though he don’t lisp a word, and makes believe he has all confidence. I suppose he would be offended if I were to say a word. He can’t bear to give it up; but he has got to.”
“Yes, that’s pretty plain.”
“This lead-story is all a hoax. We might hunt here seven years, and never find lead enough to make one rifle-slug. It’s a wild-goose chase; and the sooner we can get out of it, without hurting Raed’s feelings, the better.”
“That’s it exactly. But how are we to do it? How can we get Raed to give in?”
“Well, that’s the question; a tough one too,” replied Wash, resting back on one elbow, and turning to pick up bits of stone to send rattling down the ledge.
It was a tough question; and I betook myself to a similar employment by way of aiding my wits to solve it. We lay there for some time rattling bits of rock down the ledge. Presently Wash turned toward me. I thought he was going to suggest some plan of influencing the inexorable Raed; but, instead, he simply asked,‑
“What sort of stuff is that, Kit?”
I turned to look. He was holding a bit of some black substance in his fingers about as big as the end of my thumb.
“I don’t know,” said I almost impatiently.
“It’s kind of funny stuff,” he remarked, holding it toward me. “You look at it.”
I took it with very little interest, however. One gets sick of fingering bits of rock after a while, unless he is a born geologist; and then he might occasionally. It was very uninteresting stuff, — a mere crumbling, dull-black fragment.
“Looks as much like dried muck as anything,” said I, rubbing it in the palm of my hand; when I suddenly noticed that it left a blue-black, metallic mark. I rubbed it again, and then drew it across the back of my hand. It left a clear, well‑defined trace. Wash was looking on, and, as if struck by a sudden idea, pulled out his note book.
“Let me take it,” said he.
Turning to a blank page, he drew the bit of stone sharply across it. A clear black line followed the fragment. We looked at it attentively, and then into each other’s well-tanned faces. Wash’s eye had grown very bright. It flashed upon me.
“Black-lead!” he exclaimed.
“Graphite!” I echoed.
We jumped up; then as quickly got down again to search amid the gritty fragments for more; and then our eager eyes instinctively glanced back to the coarse, yellow-stained, and overhanging rocks whence these gritty bits must have crumbled and fallen. ‘Twas a sight I shall never forget, since it was perhaps the most gratifying I have ever beheld. All along where the whitish, quartzose rock overlaid the coarse granitic ledge, there were veins and layers of the graphite outcropping in fine, black knobs; some of them looking almost as pure and steely as the tiny, refined bars we use in our pencils. Some of these veins were as thick as one’s wrist. One was all of five inches in diameter, a pure blue-black, running back under the superincumbent rocks. Then there were thin layers half and a quarter of an inch in thickness, and several feet broad. These extended along the crag for a distance of four or five rods, then gradually thinned out on both sides.
“Hurrah!” shouted Wash, swinging his hat as we completed our hasty survey. “I don’t fully know about the value of this stuff; but I reckon we’ve struck it rich. It must be worth some thing by the way we pay for our pencils; and here’s any quantity of it. Isn’t it the same thing as plumbago?”
“Yes: graphite and plumbago are all the same, I believe.”
“And it’s not like common lead?”
“No: graphite is of carbon, like the diamond and like coal. That’s what the chemistry says. It must be worth more than galena” (common lead).
“Then it will be a better thing than if we had found the very article we’ve been searching for.”
“Looks as if it might,” said Wash. “Come on! Let’s hunt up Raed and Wade!”
“But no: let’s not be too fast. Let’s take an other look at it. Question is, Can we get at it? Can the mine be worked? Here’s lots of rocks on top of it.”
There was from eight to twelve feet of ledge piled over the deposit; but the rock was of a coarse, loose texture. We concluded that it might be blasted off at a not impracticable expense by a company formed to work the mine. Of course, we could not tell how far back into the ledge the graphite veins ran: that could only be ascertained by actual blasting. It looked, however, as if they might extend under the whole superposed ledge of quartzose rocks; and, on climbing to the top, it appeared that this ledge covered quite a large area.
“Won’t this just make Raed brighten up!” cried Wash, quite unable to hold in his elation.
“How glad the old fellow will look! and yet how grave he will be about it!”
“How about Cluey?” said I.
“Well, I don’t know hardly. Is there any necessity for making him a partner?”
“I don’t see any.”
“We merely hire him for so much a day. He’s not spending his time and money.”
“Not a bit of it. And then there’s another thing,” said I, suddenly remembering that we had made our discovery on the wild, unappropriated lands. “We’ve got to keep still about this, or some other party may get in ahead of us, and oust us out.”
“That’s so!” exclaimed Wash.
“You know what the old man’s habits are,” I continued. “He would be going down to Mattawamkeag, and getting outside of some of their bad whiskey there: then ten to one he would let out the whole story.”
It was very apparent that Cluey was not a safe person to put in possession of a valuable secret.
“Mum’s the word,” said Wash. “Not a syllable of this in his hearing.”
“But, if we should actually make a good thing out of this,” continued he as we went down to ward the camp, “we could give the old fellow a nice little gratuity.”
This seemed to be the best way of arranging it.
We found Cluey busy getting dinner, and lay down in the shade of a spruce to rest. Presently Raed and Wade came in; Raed looking tired and serious, Wade tired and impatient. We could sympathize with both, and had hard work to keep from hurrahing out our discovery. We held in with an effort; and dinner was eaten in silence. Then, while Cluey smoked, we lay in the shade; for the sun shone out pretty hot. By and by Raed got up.
“I won’t ask the rest of you to go out this afternoon,” he said. “It is warm. You stay here in the shade, and get rested up. There are two or three more ledges up near the top of the ridge I want to look at. I’ll be back by supper-time. Enjoy yourselves, now, — the best you can,” he added, a little deprecatingly. “Spin them one of your best yarns, Cluey.”
“I guess we’ll go with you, old fellow,” said Wash; both he and myself getting up to follow him.
“I rather think you had better rest,” said Raed. “No, no!” exclaimed Wash, laughing. “Come on, Wade!” — turning to that worthy, who had seemed very much inclined to avail himself of the captain’s permission.
Wade got up. Something in Wash’s face, I think, made him change his mind. He got up, and came on after us.
“What’s up now?” he whispered to me, catching up when twenty or thirty rods from where we had left Cluey smoking.
I gave him an encouraging wink. Raed and Wash were a number of yards ahead. Raed was veering off to climb the ridge at some distance be yond where we had discovered the graphite. I do not think he had any suspicion of the surprise we had in store for him; for he was walking on with a very sober, preoccupied air, — the same he had worn for several days.
“Hold on!” exclaimed Wash. “Don’t drive ahead so! It’s a warm day, remember.”
Raed slackened up, and turned to wait for the rest of us. Seeing us grinning, he looked a little curious; for, to tell the truth, we had not looked very smiling of late.
“Kit and I found something this forenoon,” Wash began. “It wasn’t galena, and it wasn’t silver: so don’t go to looking so queer. Still we should like to have you just take a look at it as we go up the mountain.”
“Where is it?” asked Raed, glancing alternately from Wash’s face to mine.
“Right up straight above us, where you sent us to looking this forenoon,” said Wash.
“Lead the way!” exclaimed Raed.
Wade came closing up, his great black eyes round as saucers.
“Don’t go to expecting too much, now,” cautioned Wash, starting up the side of the hill.
He led on pretty fast; but Raed and Wade kept close to his heels. They were all curiosity. I greatly feared they would be disappointed.
In our haste we got considerably above the ledge; in fact, had nearly lost it, and had to come down several hundred feet: but at length we got our eye on it, and soon came under the same overhanging rock.
“There!” exclaimed Wash, stopping at the place where we had lain when we picked up the black bit. “That’s what we found,” — pointing to the black knobs and layers.
Raed and Wade glanced eagerly along the rusty granite.
“What is that?” they both demanded.
“What do you call it?” asked Wash.
They both stepped up to finger it.
“It’s coal!” cried Wade.
“Rub it with your finger, Raed,” said I. He did so.
“Now try it on this piece of paper,” said Wash. Raed made a mark with it.
“Black-lead, is it?” said he, turning quickly.
“That’s what we think,” replied Wash. “Now, the question is, Is it good for any thing? Will it be worth any thing?”
“Why, yes; I should think so,” Raed replied. “Black-lead, or graphite, is quite valuable. There are very few mines of it in this country. They work a poor little vein of it at Sturbridge, Mass., at quite a profit, I believe. There’s a mine at Brandon, Vt., I’ve heard; and another at Ticonderoga, N. Y.”
“And I have read of a famous mine in England that the proprietors guard as rigidly as if it were gold or diamonds,” said Wade. “It’s on a mountain called the Seatallor Fell, in Borrowdale, Cumberland. They only keep it open six weeks in a year, and the profits are forty thousand pounds, — two hundred thousand dollars.
“That’s what it used to be, anyway,” added Wade.
“It is not worth so much now,” said Raed. “That mine, too, has always been noted for its. great purity. In order to pay well, nowadays, the: deposit must be tolerably pure, I believe.”
“That’s why we had hopes of this being worth something,” remarked Wash. “It seems to be real pure. Just look at that big steel-blue vein! Doesn’t that seem pure enough for pencils?”
Raed got out his knife, and tried it; broke out bits, and marked with them.
“From what I know of such things, I should call that a very pure article,” he said at length. “If there’s only a good lot of it,” he continued, looking about, “I shall think you’ve struck a good thing here.”
“Well, just go up on top of the ledge and look about,” said Wash. “It looks to me as if these veins ran back a good ways. The top ledge covers acres of ground.”
Raed and Wade climbed up Where we had gone in the morning: they were up there some time, and came down looking very hopeful.
“I think, boys,” cried Raed, “that you’ve made a ten-strike! It looks so.”
“Don’t say we’ve made it,” said Wash: “say you have made it yourself. You know that we should have gone back long ago if it hadn’t been for your grit and perseverance.”
“That’s so!” cried Wade.
“Don’t talk about my grit!” exclaimed Raed. “I was just ready to give it up to-day noon. Why didn’t you say something about this at dinner-time?”
Wash then explained what we had thought about Cluey.
“Well, on the Whole, that was wise,” replied Raed; “though, of course, we’ll remember the old man if we make this pay.”
“Then this is on the State land,” remarked Wade.
“Cluey says this land belongs to a Bangor lumbering company,” said Raed. “I supposed all along it was State land; but one day I asked Cluey, and he told me that the State has either sold it, or let it for a long term of years, to these lumber-men, with the right to use it as they please. I presume that would include a right to work any mine they might find on it.”
“Then that just stops us!” exclaimed Wash.
“Not quite,” said Raed; “for we know where this graphite is, and they don’t. They may be glad to buy our secret of us. What we want to do now is to keep shady. We must carry away some good specimens of the graphite here, and get the opinion of some chemist, geologist, or State assayer: then we can make the land-holders a proposal to sell our valuable secret. We probably couldn’t work this mine ourselves without trouble, — lawsuits, etc.”
“I do not believe this lumbering company has any right to work the mineral resources of these unincorporated lands,” said I.
“Whether they could or not, they would probably give us trouble if we undertook it,” replied Raed; “and, in case of a lawsuit, they would be too heavy for us, as legal questions are decided nowdays. They would stop us, and cause us expense. Our best way will be to sell our secret for what we can get. Besides, we do not wish to turn miners ourselves. What we want is to raise money for another purpose, — the one we have previously discussed.”
“In other words, a yacht,” suggested Wash.
“Exactly,” replied Raed.
“To make a voyage up north,” said Wade.
“Well, I have sometimes looked forward to that,” said Raed. “It would be a grand thing to penetrate within the polar circle. What an experience it would give us!”
“Hurrah for the land of the ‘Huskies’* and the iceberg,” shouted Wash, “where the days are six months long!”
“And the nights ditto,” added Wade.
There was a good deal of this sort of boyish talk, which I record simply to show how our thoughts were running that day.
It was nearly four o’clock before we had finished our castle-building, and were brought back to the more practical matters of the present by Wash’s suddenly asking Raed if he felt as well satisfied as he would if it had been galena ore in stead of this graphite.
“Well,” said Raed, “a person had commonly rather find what he sets out to find than any thing else. Still I think this graphite deposit bids fair to be as valuable as galena; perhaps more valuable.”
“Then we may fairly consider the object of this expedition as gained; can we not?” asked Wade.
“I should say we fairly might,” replied Raed.
“Which means that we are to get out of this and go home as soon as we can, I suppose?” re plied Wash.
“Yes; and the sooner the better,” said Raed.
We all jumped up, and gave three cheers. Cluey beard us, and responded from far down in the valley with a faint “Hooraw!” We then went down to camp, and still further electrified the old man by telling him to prepare a big supper, and get ready to go home the next day.
“Show!” exclaimed the old man: “hey ye dis kivered that ar galliny?”
“No, sir,” said Wade.
“I didn’t know but ye had when I heerd ye hollerin’.”
It seemed too bad not to let the old fellow share our triumph; but, on the whole, we concluded that it wasn’t best.
Cluey cooked the choicest of every thing that night. We had a “grand feed” for that region. During the evening we made the forest resound to songs, Cluey winding up the concert with a very spirited ballad commencing, —
“Heigh, Betty Martin! tiptoe, tiptoe!
Heigh, Betty Martin! tiptoe fine!”
which tickled Wade immoderately.
In the morning we
went up after the specimens. By a very reckless use of the hatchet we succeeded
in breaking out several junks as large as one’s fist. We also spotted several
spruces, and set up a “landmark” on the top of the ledge. Wade then took the
bearings of several peaks with a compass, and Raed made a rough map of the
locality, to facilitate a future visit. This done, we went back to camp. Cluey
had packed up the lug gage, and stood waiting for us.
* “Huskies,” — a common name for the Esquimaux among the whalemen.