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"You have noticed this nugget I wear on my watch-chain, steward? I could not afford it at that time, but I talked golden instead, California gold, nuggets and nuggets, oodles and oodles, from the diggings of forty-nine and fifty. That was literary. That was colour. Later, after my first voyage out of Boston I was financially able to buy a nugget. It was so much bait to which men rose like fishes. And like fishes they nibbled. These rings, also--bait. You never see such rings now. After I got in funds, I purchased them, too. Take this nugget: I am talking. I toy with it absently as I am telling of the great gold treasure we buried under the sand. Suddenly the nugget flashes fresh recollection into my mind. I speak of the longboat, of our thirst and hunger, and of the third officer, the fair lad with cheeks virgin of the razor, and that he it was who used it as a sinker when we strove to catch fish.
"But back in Boston. Yarns and yarns, when seemingly I was gone in drink, I told my apparent cronies--men whom I despised, stupid dolts of creatures that they were. But the word spread, until one day, a young man, a reporter, tried to interview me about the treasure and the _Wide Awake_. I was indignant, angry.--Oh, softly, steward, softly; in my heart was great joy as I denied that young reporter, knowing that from my cronies he already had a sufficiency of the details.
"And the morning paper gave two whole columns and headlines to the tale. I began to have callers. I studied them out well. Many were for adventuring after the treasure who themselves had no money. I baffled and avoided them, and waited on, eating even less as my little capital dwindled away.
"And then he came, my gay young doctor--doctor of philosophy he was, for he was very wealthy. My heart sang when I saw him. But twenty-eight dollars remained to me--after it was gone, the poor-house, or death. I had already resolved upon death as my choice rather than go back to be of that dolorous company, the living dead of the poor-farm. But I did not go back, nor did I die. The gay young doctor's blood ran warm at thought of the South Seas, and in his nostrils I distilled all the scents of the flower-drenched air of that far-off land, and in his eyes I builded him the fairy visions of the tradewind clouds, the monsoon skies, the palm isles and the coral seas.
"He was a gay, mad young dog, grandly careless of his largess, fearless as a lion's whelp, lithe and beautiful as a leopard, and mad, a trifle mad of the deviltries and whimsies that tickled in that fine brain of his. Look you, steward. Before we sailed in the _Gloucester_ fishing- schooner, purchased by the doctor, and that was like a yacht and showed her heels to most yachts, he had me to his house to advise about personal equipment. We were overhauling in a gear-room, when suddenly he spoke:
"'I wonder how my lady will take my long absence. What say you? Shall she go along?'