The gold has been gained with an easy labour. I knew where to seek for it, whether under the turf or in the bed of the creek. But Margrave’s eyes, hungrily gazing round every spot from which the ore was disburied, could not detect the substance of which he alone knew the outward appearance. I had begun to believe that, even in the description given to him of this material, he had been credulously duped, and that no such material existed, when, coming back from the bed of the watercourse, I saw a faint yellow gleam amidst the roots of a giant parasite plant, the leaves and blossoms of which climbed up the sides of the cave with its antediluvian relics. The gleam was the gleam of gold, and on removing the loose earth round the roots of the plant, we came on — No, I will not, I dare not, describe it. The gold-digger would cast it aside, the naturalist would pause not to heed it; and did I describe it, and chemistry deign to subject it to analysis, could chemistry alone detach or discover its boasted virtues?
Its particles, indeed, are very minute, not seeming readily to crystallize with each other; each in itself of uniform shape and size, spherical as the egg which contains the germ of life, and small as the egg from which the life of an insect may quicken.
But Margrave’s keen eye caught sight of the atoms upcast by the light of the moon. He exclaimed to me, “Found! I shall live!” And then, as he gathered up the grains with tremulous hands, he called out to the Veiled Woman, hitherto still seated motionless on the crag. At his word she rose and went to the place bard by, where the fuel was piled, busying herself there. I had no leisure to heed her. I continued my search in the soft and yielding soil that time and the decay of vegetable life had accumulated over the Pre–Adamite strata on which the arch of the cave rested its mighty keystone.
When we had collected of these particles about thrice as much as a man might hold in his hand, we seemed to have exhausted their bed. We continued still to find gold, but no more of the delicate substance, to which, in our sight, gold was as dross.
“Enough,” then said Margrave, reluctantly desisting. “What we have gained already will suffice for a life thrice as long as legend attributes to Haroun. I shall live — I shall live through the centuries.”
“Forget not that I claim my share.”
“Your share — yours! True — your half of my life! It is true.” He paused with a low, ironical, malignant laugh; and then added, as he rose and turned away, “But the work is yet to be done.”
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:06