A Newport Aquarelle/Chapter 9

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It was exactly half-past five o'clock on Saturday afternoon when Gladys Carleton pronounced those three words which made Larkington for the moment consider himself the most triumphant man in the wide world.

At exactly half-past five o'clock on the same Saturday afternoon, Charles Farwell said to Mr. John Cartwright, his only companion,—

"Jack, I must start for home to-night."

"You're not in earnest, Charlie?"

"Yes, old man, in dead earnest."

"What has made you change your mind so suddenly?"

Charles Farwell was silent, and Cartwright stood leaning against the damp wall of the mine. The only light that showed the two men's faces to each other came from the candles in their miner's hats. The feeble rays lighted up a small space of the gallery of the silver mine where they were standing, and beyond, on either side, all was black and dark.

It was not easy to recognize the exquisitely dressed New Yorker whom we left at Newport, in the man sitting on a mound of earth, dressed in a red shirt, corduroy breeches, and top boots, all besplashed and bemired with the dark mud of the mine. He looked infinitely more original and individual in this dress, which showed his fine well-knit body and strong limbs. His hair, untroubled for the past six weeks by barber's shears, had grown rather longer than Gladys Carleton had seen it since his childhood, and the curl had got the better of him, as it had in those old days.

Jack Cartwright stood looking at his friend with a puzzled expression. Farwell had come to Leadville in answer to his telegram telling him of the new vein which he had found in the mine which was their joint property, and had remained ever since, working with him, and making plans for the best running of the mine, which Cartwright was sure would make their fortunes.

They had been college chums, and the friendship begun so early in life was a very strong one. Cartwright had led a rolling-stone existence during the ten years that had elapsed since he had left college, and had certainly gathered no moss.

Farwell, on the contrary, had led a quiet, industrious life, working hard in a broker's office in Wall Street, and making a comfortable income for himself, with which he managed to do just twice as many charitable acts as did his employer, a man whose fortune was estimated by millions.

Just about a year before the date of the despatch which had called Farwell to Leadville so suddenly, Jack Cartwright had come to him absolutely without means of subsistence, but full of visions of a great fortune he could realize if Farwell would supply him with the capital to buy a certain Leadville claim which Cartwright was persuaded would prove to be a mine of riches. The man who owned the claim was not of the same sanguine mind, and so Cartwright got it for a mere song, Farwell paying the piper. With varying small successes Cartwright had worked the claim until the discovery of the rich vein of ore. Farwell had, since his arrival, summoned the aid of several mining experts, and had finally satisfied himself of the real value of the property, which he had always considered worthless, as did every one else except the hopeful Cartwright. Once sure of the solid value of the mine, the next requisite step was the forming of a company to work it, and it had been decided that Cartwright should go to New York, and make all the necessary arrangements for the starting of such a company, while Farwell remained in charge of the "claim."

The two friends had been making a tour of inspection through the deserted galleries of the mine, which were so soon to be filled with a crowd of toiling miners, when Farwell suddenly announced his intention of returning to the East.

Receiving no answer to his last question, Cartwright asked again somewhat more emphatically,—

"What the deuce has put such an idea into your head, Charlie?"

"You did not hear any sound, I suppose, a minute ago?" said Farwell.

"No. What was it like?"

"It was the sound of a woman's voice, and it called my name. No, Cartwright, I did not suppose that you had heard the voice; but I did. It was the voice of the woman I love; she called to me in distress. I must go to her."

He rose as he spoke, looked into the darkness dreamily, and then walked with a quick, determined pace down the gallery, Cartwright following him, more and more amazed by the words of his friend. It was not like Farwell, this sort of thing; he could not understand it, and, thinking the close air of the mine might have affected his head, he took his friend by the arm, and they soon were out of the dark, damp, underground region, where thousands of human beings are condemned to pass the greater part of their lives in toiling for treasures for other men to waste, out into the pure air of the splendid September day.

Their eyes, accustomed to the darkness of the mine, were dazzled by the light, and Farwell shaded the too sudden glory of the sunshine with his hand. In the vast open plain where they found themselves were many works, some of them deserted and dilapidated, others with every sign of busy mining life about them. The rude buildings which stood at the mouth of their mine were fallen into a lamentable state of unrepair, but to the sanguine eyes of Cartwright they were already repaired and in good condition.

In the little office, the one room which boasted a whole roof, were collected all Cartwright's worldly possessions, and into this apartment he led the way. Farwell stood leaning against the door-post, his eyes fixed on the wonderful scene spread before him. Across the wide plain, two miles distant, lay the city of Leadville, a straggling town, at this distance picturesque, outlined against the high mountains which lie beyond it, rough, inaccessible, and grand. The clearness of the atmosphere in this country is most deceptive, and the sun-tipped range of hills seemed within easy walking distance. The summits, which earlier in the day had been dazzling white, were now touched into a soft rosy color by the warm reflection of the sunset tints, and the sky had softened to a dim and tender blue, more restful to the eyes than the intense and vivid color of mid-day.

"Well, Charlie, we must be off if you are in earnest about starting to-night," said Cartwright, as he unhitched the bridle of his mustang. Farwell nodded an assent, and mounting their horses the two friends rode off across the arid plain, whose soil produces nothing but a few scraggy fir-trees, and the short grayish grass so common in mining districts.

As Farwell rode through Chestnut Street, he said with a half-sigh,—

"Jack, I am sorry to go, for some reasons. I have not been here long enough to feel the monotony which must come, I suppose, and I still am bound by the novelty and freshness of the existence here. There is a vigor and youth about the country which we in the East have lost already; before we have grown to our prime, we are old."

"Yes," said Jack; "remember this is the boss mining camp of the world that you are turning your back upon, because of an echo in the mine that you fancy is the voice of some woman. It's not like you, Charlie, to be so deuced fanciful."

"Is n't it? Well, I don't know. I may come back, Jack, and become a pioneer of the new State, a leading man in Colorado; but I doubt it. If the voice did not call me, if she tells me she did not want to see me, then I shall be back as soon as the business can be settled. But if it was the voice of Gladys Carleton, you will have to manage the mine by yourself, and I will take care of the city interests. I suppose you and I will be called rich men in a month's time, Jack?"

"Yes, I suppose we will, if you don't get muddled by hearing any more of these echoes," said Cartwright, peevishly. "I don't feel altogether satisfied to have the matter in your hands; are you sure your head's all right?"

Farwell laughed, and answered more briskly than he had done since he had heard the echo in the mine. Seeing that his friend was really concerned about his wits, he proceeded to discuss the prospects and the business arrangements they had decided upon in his usual clear manner.

Before the two men parted that night, Cartwright was quite satisfied that it was for the best that he should remain, and his partner make the necessary journey to New York.