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|My Mining Speculation.
"I Believe the Lord has put me in the way of making a competency for my old age," said the dear old Doctor, as he seated himself in the armchair reserved for him at the cottage at North Beach.
"How?" I asked.
"I met a Texas man today, who told me of the discovery of an immensely rich silver mining district in Deep Spring Valley, Mono county, and he says he can get me in as one of the owners."
I laughingly made some remark expressive of incredulity. The honest and benignant face of the old Doctor showed that he was a little nettled.
"I have made full inquiry, and am sure this is no mere speculation. The stock will not be put upon the market, and will not be assessable. They propose to make me a trustee, and the owners, limited in number, will have entire control of the property. But I will not he hasty in the matter. I will make it a subject of prayer for twenty-four hours, and then if there be no adverse indications I will go on with it."
The next day I met the broad-faced Texan, and was impressed by him as the old Doctor had been.
It seemed a sure thing. An old prospector had been equipped and sent out by a few gentlemen, and he had found outcroppings of silver in a range of hills extending not less than three miles. Assays had been made of the ores, and they were found to be very rich. All the timber and waterpower of Deep Spring Valley had been taken up for the company under the general and local preemption and mining laws. It was a big thing. The beauty of the whole arrangement was that no "mining sharps" were to be let in; we were to manage it ourselves, and reap all the profits.
We went into it, the old Doctor and I, feeling deeply grateful to the broad-faced Texan, who had so kindly given us the chance. I was made a trustee, and began to have a decidedly business feeling as such. At the meetings of "the board," my opinions were frequently called for, and were given with great gravity. The money was paid for the shares I had taken, and the precious evidences of ownership were carefully put in a place of safety. A mill was built near the richest of the claims, and the assays were good. There were delays, and more money was called for, and sent up. The assays were still good, and the reports from our superintendent were glowing. "The biggest thing in the history of California mining," he wrote; and when the secretary read his letter to the board, there was a happy expression on each face.
At this point I began to be troubled. It seemed, from reasonable ciphering, that I should soon be a millionaire. It made me feel solemn and anxious. I lay awake at night, praying that I might not be spoiled by my good fortune. The scriptures that speak of the deceitfulness of riches were called to mind, and I rejoiced with trembling. Many beneficent enterprises were planned, principally in the line of endowing colleges, and paying church-debts. (I had had an experience in this line.) There were further delays, and more money was called for. The ores were rebellious, and our "process" did not suit them. Fryborg and Deep Spring Valley were not the same. A new superintendent - one that understood rebellious ores - was employed at a higher salary. He reported that all was right, and that we might expect "big news" in a few days, as he proposed to crush about seventy tons of the best rock, "by a new and improved process."
The board held frequent meetings, and in view of the nearness of great results did not hesitate to meet the requisitions made for further outlays of money. They resolved to pursue a prudent but vigorous policy in developing the vast property when the mill should be fairly in operation.
All this time I felt an undercurrent of anxiety lest I might sustain spiritual loss by my sudden accession to great wealth, and continued to fortify myself with good resolutions.
As a matter of special caution, I sent for a parcel of the ore, and had a private assay made of it. The assay was good.
The new superintendent notified us that on a certain date we might look for a report of the result of the first great crushing and cleanup of the seventy tons of rock. The day came. On Kearny street I met one of the stockholders - a careful Presbyterian brother, who loved money. He had a solemn look, and was walking slowly, as if in deep thought. Lifting his eyes as we met, he saw me, and spoke:
"It is lead!"
"What is lead?"
"Our silver mine in Deep Spring Valley."
Yes; from the seventy tons of rock we got eleven dollars in silver, and about fifty pounds of as good lead as was ever molded into bullets.
The board held a meeting the next evening. It was a solemn one. The fifty-pound bar of lead was placed in the midst, and was eyed reproachfully. I resigned my trusteeship, and they saw me not again. That was my first and last mining speculation. It failed somehow - but the assays were all very good.