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6,000 Tons of Gold

6,000 Tons of Gold
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Title: 6,000 Tons of Gold
Release Date: 2018-11-11
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Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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SIX THOUSAND TONS OF GOLD.

6,000
Tons of Gold

BY
H. R. CHAMBERLAIN
London Correspondent of “The Sun,” New York.
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Copyright, 1894
By Flood & Vincent
Entered at Stationer’s Hall, London
By H. R. Chamberlain

The Chautauqua-Century Press, Meadville, Pa., U. S. A.
Electrotyped, Printed, and Bound by Flood & Vincent.

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CONTENTS.

CHAPTER. PAGE.
I.The Secret of the Cordilleras 7
II.Invading Nature’s Treasure-Chamber34
III.Where Gold was as Dross58
IV.The Voyage of the Richmond85
V.A Mole-Hill that became a Mountain107
VI.The Fate of the Wall Street Bears128
VII.Strange Events in the Financial World150
VIII.Fabulous but Mysterious Benefactions181
IX.An Epoch-Making Voyage and its Effect upon a European War-Cloud202
X.Shadows of Great Evils231
XI.A Struggle and a Sacrifice257
XII.A Consultation at the White House281
XIII.The Verdict of the World’s Wise Men of Finance305
XIV.A Burial at Sea327

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SIX THOUSAND TONS OF GOLD.

CHAPTER I.
THE SECRET OF THE CORDILLERAS.

The steamship Elbe had crossed the equator on her long passage fromSouthampton to Buenos Ayres in September, 1893. All but the final phasesof a well-regulated, fair-weather voyage on a big passenger ship hadduly presented themselves. The first irksomeness of the long monotonyhad worn off; the invalids had begun to enjoy the slow, lazy rollingwhich at first had been their hopeless undoing; companions of afortnight were exchanging confidences which the friendship of years onland would not have induced. The frankness, the unrestraint, theoffguard good fellowship of life at sea held full sway.

We are concerned with only two of the numerous ship’s company. Strangersto each other and to all on board at the outset of the voyage, they hadby this time formed rather an odd intimacy. Men of widely differenttypes, it would be difficult to discover any natural bond of sympathybetween Robert Brent and Duncan Fraser. The one an American, whosequiet, self-possessed bearing had in it that indescrib{8}able ease ofmanner which is the unfailing mark of thorough acquaintance with men andaffairs in the best phases of fin de siècle existence. The other aScotchman, of rougher mold, more advanced in years, and whose naturalkeenness had been sharpened into an intuitive suspicion by much grindingagainst the unpolished side of human nature.

Physically the two men were in marked contrast. It would have puzzledyou to say whether or no the American had reached his thirtiethbirthday. He was rather above the medium height, neither light nor dark,and of well-built, athletic frame. Few would have called him handsome,but his face combined strength, intelligence, and refinement, with atouch of something which at first you might have described as cynicismor melancholy. The Scotchman had evidently been a typical representativeof his race. The large-boned, sturdy, close-knit body was well-preservedafter fifty years spent, many of them, under suns less kind than thoseof his native moors and mountains. But the sandy complexion and almostflaxen hair had given place to a grizzled head and that peculiardeep-tanned, almost leathery skin which is always a record of wholechapters of adventure. The left cheek and tip of the left ear bore anindex to some special record of violence. A furrow in the skin just overthe high cheek-bone and a bit missing{9} from the top of the earimmediately back of it seemed to mark the course of a bullet that hadfailed by the smallest margin in the accomplishment of a deadly mission.

The vicissitudes of life ashore would seldom throw two such men intocompanionship, much less into close friendship. The sea fortunately issometimes responsible for delightful bits of social phenomena. Perhapsafter all it was the lottery of seats at table that brought it about.One must be at least conventionally sociable with one’s vis-à-vis andnearest neighbors, in a steamship saloon. Fraser and Brent were assignedadjoining seats and after a day or two the acquaintance begun at tablewas continued on deck and in the smoking-room. They became interestedeach in the opposite tastes, antecedents, and manner of life of theother. Brent speedily gained a high respect for the Scotchman’s deep,though rather uncouth philosophy and downright hard sense. Fraseradmired the American’s alert, broad-minded mastery of all the absorbingtopics of the day. Both were men naturally reserved and each respectedthis quality in the other. Their talks did not become personal for somedays, save for an occasional anecdote from the Scotchman’s variedexperience. It came out that Fraser was well acquainted with Argentinaand other parts of the continent to which the{10} ship was bound, while itwas Brent’s first trip below the equator.

The young man’s close inquiries about Buenos Ayres led at length to someexplanation of his mission there and the causes of it. He had suddenlyfound himself a month before face to face with the necessity for earninghis living. The silver panic in America in the summer had swept away allbut a few thousands of a comfortable fortune, which had enabled him toindulge a too enervating love of ease. His indulgences had not beenvicious, they were intellectual rather than physical, and he hadstrength of character enough after the first disappointment of loss towelcome the coming struggle. He had been in London when the blow fell.His first determination was to return to New York and undertake thepractice of law. He had prepared himself for admission to the bar afterleaving college, but the sudden death of his father deprived him of hislast family tie and led him to postpone active work at his profession.He went abroad to be gone a few months and his absence had lengthenedinto three years, when the disaster to his property compelled him torouse his dormant talents to action.

When the necessity was upon him his energy was unbounded. He dreaded thedull days that would probably come before he could secure anyopportu{11}nity for an active display of his powers. Besides he was notparticularly in love with his profession. His sudden afflux of energytempted him to challenge fortune in some more desperate struggle. Thetrip to Argentina, however, was not an unreasoning whim. Two or three ofhis London friends had suffered severely by the financial misfortunes ofthe Argentine Republic in 1892-93. They had been informed by agents inBuenos Ayres that the prevailing depression offered temptingopportunities for the investment of fresh enterprise and capital inseveral directions, notably in mines, real estate, and manufacturing.Brent had decided to make a trip for investigation, partly on his ownaccount and partly on the assurance of his friends that they would joinhim financially in any promising enterprise.

These plain facts about his recent life and prospects Brent made knownto his companion while they sat sheltered from the already tropical sununder the deck-awning one hot afternoon. The Scotchman was a sympatheticlistener. It was, indeed, his genuine and apparent interest whichinduced the narration of most of the points in the simple biography. Hedid not refuse confidence in return, but what little he said abouthimself was in such general terms that Brent felt that it was modesty aswell as natural reticence which withheld the details of a mostadventurous{12} career. He had evidently taken a strong fancy to theyounger man and he discussed with greatest interest the chances ofsuccess in his search for fortune amid the many difficulties thenexisting in the struggling republic. He was silent, however, about hisown immediate plans and about the nature of the interests which wereoccupying him. His offers of assistance to his new friend in the strangecity to which he was going were coupled with the announcement that heshould remain only a few days in Buenos Ayres, because business calledhim further south immediately.

The heat of the tropics was unrelieved even by one of the sudden stormswhich often break the monotony of the long southern voyage. Those whohoped for something out of the ordinary to make the trip memorable hadbegun to content themselves with anticipations of early arrival in port,when they were informed that the steamer had already entered the watersof the Rio de la Plata. No land was in sight. The sea was apparently asboundless as it had been for three weeks past. Most of the passengersthought it was a joke of the steward. There was only one river in theworld, the Amazon, into whose mouth one could sail without sightingland—so, at least, they had read in their geographies. They were wrong,though, as they found when they applied to{13} the first officer forinformation and had looked the matter up on the large map in the saloon.Buenos Ayres was still more than one hundred miles distant and theywould see no land during the remaining two hours of daylight.

But an experience much more exciting than the first sight of land wasvouchsafed them. A white line upon the sea appeared suddenly on the portbow away off to the southwest. It was seen from the bridge first and twoor three quick orders set sailors and stewards flying in their hastyexecution. Awnings were taken down in a trice, passengers were drivenfrom their comfortable lounging chairs on deck, everything movable wastaken away or made fast. To most of the passengers the sudden excitementwas inexplicable and alarming.

“The pampero” was the only explanation anybody would stop to give. Itwas not many moments before ample explanation arrived. The pampero wassoon upon them and it explained itself. The wind-storm, or dryhurricane, which comes off the land from the southwest and withoutwarning lashes the Rio de la Plata and the sea beyond with a furysometimes worse than the heaviest ocean storms, is a phenomenon peculiarto these latitudes. It never lasts long but its violence is oftenterrible. The Elbe faced the furious blast at first with dignifiedsteadiness.{14} Then as the sea became white, tempestuous, cyclonic, theship forgot her dignity and struggled with trembling, straining frameagainst her merciless enemies. It was a test of her sternest resources.It was not a new peril. She had faced it before, not always unscathed,and this time again she survived the struggle. With only a few hurts,she emerged from the hour’s battle, shaken but safe.

It had been a trying hour below. Neptune’s transformation was full ofterror for the passengers. His anger under the sudden assault of thewinds seemed directed against those who had complained of his monotonoustranquillity. The wise ones among the ship’s company acted on the adviceof the stewards and sought their berths at the beginning of theoutbreak. Those whose curiosity to witness the fury of the sea kept themupon their feet were glad to seek a safer anchorage before the stormreached its height. Fraser and Brent were among these latter. Both werefairly good sailors and nature’s outburst of passion was a sublimespectacle which they were loth to leave. But they had no choice. Thepitching of the ship became wilder and more erratic every moment. It wasimpossible to stand upright at a port-hole to watch the chaos of windand water without. They did not abandon the attempt until two or threesudden lurches had thrown them into violent{15} contact with tables,chairs, and other fixed objects.

They started at last to go to their staterooms below, but locomotion bythis time was a dangerous experiment. They steered a zigzag course tothe staircase, which they did not reach without several collisions, andBrent began to descend. He clung to the reeling railing and

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