« ZurückWeiter »
word to the wise is sufficient. I conclude, with all demonstrable respect, yours and Urania’s votary,
In the evening, after I had received this letter, I made a visit to my second-sighted friend, and commu. nicated to him the proposal. When he had read it, he assured me, that to his certain knowledge, there is not at this time so much as one ounce of silver or gold hid under ground in any part of this province ; for that the late and present scarcity of money had obliged those who were living, and knew where they had formerly hid any, to take it up, and use it in their own necessary affairs, and as to all the rest which was buried by pirates and others in old times, who were never like to come for it, he himself had dug it all up and applied it to charitable uses ; and this he desired me to publish for the general good. For, as he acquainted me, there are among us great numbers of honest artificers and labouring people, who, fed with a vain hope of growing suddenly rich, neglect their business almost to the ruin of themselves and families, and voluntarily endure abundance of fatigue in a fruitless search after imaginary hidden treasure. They wander through the woods and bushes by day, to discover the marks and signs; at midnight they repair to the hopeful spots with spades and pickaxes : full of expectation, they labour violently, trembling at the time in every joint, through fear of certain malicious denions who are said to haunt and guard such places. At length a mighty hole is dug, and perhaps several cart-loads of earth thrown out, but alas, no cag or iron pot is found ! no seaman's chest crammed with Spanish pistoles, or weighty pieces of eight! Then they cor.clude, that through some mistake in the procedure, some rash word spoke, or some rule of art neglected, the guardian spirit had power to sink it deeper into the earth, and convey it out of their reach. Yet, when a man is once thus infatuated, he is so far from being discouraged by ill success, that he is rather animated to double his industry, and will try again and again in a hundred different places, in hopes at last of meeting with some lucky hit, that shall at once sufficiently reward him for all expense of time and labour.
This odd humour of digging for money, through a belief that much has been hid by pirates formerly frequenting the river, has for several years been mighty prevalent among us ; insomuch that you can hardly walk half a mile out of the town on any side, without observing several pits dug with that design, and perhaps lately opened. Men, otherwise of very good sense, have been drawn into this practice through an overweening desire of sudden wealth, and an easy credulity of what they so earnestly wished might be
While the rational and almost certain methods of acquiring riches by industry and frugality are neglected or forgotten, there seems
to be some peculiar character in the conceit of finding money ; and if the sands of Schuylkil were so much mixed with small grains of gold, that a man might in a day's time, with care and application, get together to the value of half-a-crown, I make no question, but we should find several people employed there, that can with ease earn five shillings a day at their proper trades.
Many are the idle stories told of the private success of some people, by which others are encouraged
to proceed; and the astrologers, with whom the country swarms at this time, are either in the belief of these things themselves, or find their advantage in persuading others to believe them; for they are often consulted about the critical times for digging, the methods of laying the spirit, and the like whimsies, which renders them very necessary to, and very much caressed by, the poor deluded money-hunters.
There is certainly something very bewitching in the pursuit after mines of gold and silver and other valuable metals, and many have been ruined by it. A sea-captain of my acquaintance used to blame the English for envying Spain their mines of silver, and too much despising or overlooking the advantages of their own industry and manufactures ! •For my part,' says he, “I esteem the banks of Newfoundland to be a more valuable possession than the moun. tains of Potosi ; and when I have been there on the fishing account, have looked upon every cod pulled up into the vessel as a certain quantity of silver ore, which required only carrying to the next Spanish port to be coined into pieces of eight;' not to mention the national profit of fitting out and employing such a number of ships and seamen. Let honest Peter Buckram, who has long without success been a searcher after hidden money, reflect on this, and be reclaimed from that unaccountable folly. Let him consider, that every stitch he takes when he is on his shop-board is picking up part of a grain of gold, that will in a few days' time amount to a pistole; and let Faber think the same of every nail he drives, or every stroke with his plane. Such thoughts may make them industrious, and in consequence, in time they may be wealthy: but how ab
surd is it to neglect a certain profit for such a ridi. culous whimsey! to spend whole days at the George in company with an idle pretender to astrology, contriving schemes to discover what was never bid. den, and forgetful how carelessly business is managed at home in their absence; to leave their wives and a warm bed at midnight (no matter if it rain, hail, snow, or blow a hurricane, provided that be the cri. tical hour), and fatigue themselves with the violent exercise of digging for what they shall never find, and perhaps getting a cold that may cost their lives, or at least disordering themselves so as to be fit for no business beside for some days after. Surely this is nothing less than the most egregious folly and madness.
I shall conclude with these words of my discreet friend Agricola, of Chester county, when he gave his son a good plantation :-'My son,' said he, “I give thee now a valuable parcel of land: I assure thee I have found a considerable quantity of gold by digging there ; thee mayst do the same; but thee must carefully observethis, Never to dig more than plough-decp."
PETITION OF THE CATS.
An humble petition, presented to Madame Helvetius,
by her cats.
A terrible piece of news has just reached us to in. terrupt the happiness we enjoyed in your poultry-yard and wood-yard. We learn, that in consequence of certain calumnious representations on the part of our enemies your Abbés, * a sentence of proscription has
* The Abbés Morellet and La Roche.
been issued against us, and that by means of a diabo. lical invention, we are all to be seized, put into a cask, rolled down to the river, and abandoned to the mercy of the waters. At the moment at which we are drawing up this our humble request, we hear the strokes of the hammer and hatchet from the hands of your coachman, who is employed to frame the instru. ment of our destruction.
But, most illustrious lady, shall we be condem... without being heard ? and shall we be the only creatures among so many fed and nourished by you, who do not find your bosom alive to justice and compassion? We see your beneficent hand every day feeding two or three hundred chickens, as many canary birds, pigeons without number, all the sparrows of the neighbourhood, all the blackbirds of the wood of Boulogne, nay, even the very dogs of your domain ; and shall we alone not only cease to experience the effects of your beneficence, but, what is more terrible to think of, become the objects of a cruelty wholly foreign to your nature, and never exercised but towards us ? No, the natural goodness of your heart will recall in you sentiments more worthy of your cateity.
Alas! what are the crimes that we have committed ? We are accused-to what length will not calumny go ? we are accused of eating your chickens while they are still young, of making depredations from time to time upon your pigeons, of watching your canary birds incessantly, and seizing any that come near enough to the lattice of your aviary, and of suffering the mice to infest your house unmolested.
But are imputed crimes sufficient to render any one guilty? These horrible accusations we can easily