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Chapter Two.
 Our Hero.  
We have entered thus minutely into the details of our hero’s dream, because it was the climax to a long series of day-dreams in which he had indulged ever since the discovery of gold in California.
Edward Sinton was a youth of eighteen at the time of which we write, and an orphan. He was tall, strong, broad-shouldered, fair-haired, blue-eyed, Roman-nosed, and gentle as a lamb. This last statement may perhaps appear inconsistent with the fact that, during the whole course of his school-life, he had a pitched battle every week—sometimes two or three in the week. Ned never began a fight, and, indeed, did not like fighting. But some big boys will domineer over little ones, and Ned would not be domineered over; consequently he had to be thrashed. He was possessed, even in boyhood, of an amount of physical courage that would have sufficed for any two ordinary men. He did not boast. He did not quarrel. He never struck the first blow, but, if twenty boys had attacked him, he would have tried to fight them all. He never tyrannised over small boys. It was not his nature to do so; but he was not perfect, any more than you are, dear reader. He sometimes punched small boys’ heads when they worried him, though he never did so without repenting of it, and doing them a kindness afterwards in order to make up. He was very thoughtless, too, and very careless; nevertheless he was fond of books—specially of books of adventure—and studied these like a hero—as he was.
Boys of his own size, or even a good deal bigger, never fought with Ned Sinton. They knew better than that; but they adored him, in some cases envied him, and in all cases trusted and followed him. It was only very big boys who fought with him, and all they got by it was a good deal of hard pummelling before they floored their little adversary, and a good deal of jeering from their comrades for fighting a small boy. From one cause or another, Ned’s visage was generally scratched, often cut, frequently swelled, and almost always black and blue.
But as Ned grew older, the occasions for fighting became less frequent; his naturally amiable disposition improved, (partly owing, no doubt, to the care of his uncle, who was, in every sense of the term, a good old man,) and when he attained the age of fifteen and went to college, and was called “Sinton,” instead of “Ned,” his fighting days were over. No man in his senses would have ventured to attack that strapping youth with the soft blue eyes, the fair hair, the prominent nose, and the firm but smiling lips, or, if he had, he would have had to count on an hour’s extremely hard work, whether the fortune of war went for or against him.
When Ned had been three years at college, his uncle hinted that it was time to think of a profession, and suggested that as he was a first-rate mathematician, and had been fond of mechanics from his childhood, he should turn an engineer. Ned would probably have agreed to this cheerfully, had not a thirst for adventure been created by the stirring accounts which had begun to arrive at this time from the recently-discovered gold-fields of California. His enthusiastic spirit was stirred, not so much by the prospect of making a large fortune suddenly by the finding of a huge nugget—although that was a very pleasant idea—as by the hope of meeting with wild adventures in that imperfectly-known and distant land. And the effect of such dreams was to render the idea of sitting down to an engineer’s desk, or in a mercantile counting-room, extremely distasteful.
Thus it came to pass that Edward Sinton felt indisposed to business, and disposed to indulge in golden visions.
When he entered the breakfast-parlour, his mind was still full of his curious dream.
“Come along, my lad,” cried Mr Shirley, laying down the Bible, and removing his spectacles from a pair of eyes that usually twinkled with a sort of grave humour, but in which there was now an expression of perplexity; “set to work and get the edge off your appetite, and then I’ll read Moxton’s letter.”
When Mr Shirley had finished breakfast, Ned was about half done, having just commenced his third slice of toast. So the old gentleman complimented his nephew on the strength of his appetite, put on his spectacles, drew a letter from his pocket, and leaned back in his chair.
“Now, lad, open your ears and consider what I am about to read.”
“Go on, uncle, I’m all attention,” said Ned, attacking slice number four.
“This is Moxton’s letter. It runs thus—
“‘Dear Sir,—I beg to acknowledge receipt of yours of the 5th inst. I shall be happy to take your nephew on trial, and, if I find him steady, shall enter into an engagement with him, I need not add that unremitting application to business is the only road to distinction in the profession he is desirous of adopting. Let him call at my office to-morrow between ten and twelve.—Yours very truly, Daniel Moxton.’”
“Is that all?” inquired Ned, drawing his chair towards the fire, into which he gazed contemplatively.
Mr Shirley looked at his nephew over the top of his spectacles, and said—
“That’s all.”
“It’s very short,” remarked Ned.
“But to the point,” rejoined his uncle. “Now, boy, I see that you don’t relish the idea, and I must say that I would rather that you became an engineer than a lawyer; but then, lad, situations are difficult to get now-a-days, and, after all, you might do worse than become a lawyer. To be sure, I have no great love for the cloth, Ned; but the ladder reaches very high. The foot is crowded with a struggling mass of aspirants, many of whom are of very questionable character, but the top reaches to one of the highest positions in the empire. You might become the Lord High Chancellor at last, who knows! But seriously, I think you should accept this offer. Moxton is a grave, stern man, but a sterling fellow for all that, and in good practice. Now, what do you think!”
“Well, uncle,” replied Ned, “I’ve never concealed my thoughts from you since the day you took me by the hand, eleven years ago, and brought me to live under your roof; and I’ll not begin to dissemble now. The plain truth is, that I don’t like it at all.”
“Stop, now,” cried Mr Shirley, with a grieved expression of countenance; “don’t be hasty in forming your opinion. Besides, my boy, you ought to be more ready to take my advice, even although it be not altogether palatable.”
“My dear uncle, you quite misunderstand me. I only tell you what I think about the proposal. As to taking your advice, I fully intend to do that whether I like it or not; but I think, if you will listen to me for a few minutes, you will change your mind in regard to this matter. You know that I am very fond of travelling, and that I dislike the idea of taking up my abode on the top of a three-legged stool, either as a lawyer’s or a merchant’s clerk. Well, unless a man likes his profession, and goes at it with a will, he cannot hope to succeed, so that I have no prospect of getting on, I fear, in the line you wish me to adopt. Besides, there are plenty of poor fellows out of work, who love sitting still from nine a.m. to ten p.m., and whose bread I would be taking out of their mouths by devoting myself to the legal profession, and—”
At this point Ned hesitated for a moment, and his uncle broke in with—
“Tell me, now, if every one thought about business as you do, how would the world get on, think you?”
“Badly, I fear,” replied the youth, with a smile; “but everybody doesn’t think of it as I do; and, tell me, uncle, if everybody thought of business as you would wish me to do, what would come of the soldiers and sailors who defend our empire, and extend our foreign trade, and achieve the grand geographical discoveries that have of late added so much lustre to the British name?”
Ned flushed and became quite eloquent at this point. “Now, look at California,” he continued; “there’s a magnificent region, full of gold; not a mere myth, or an exaggeration, but a veritable fact, attested by the arrival of letters and gold-dust every month. Surely that land was made to be peopled; and the poor savages who dwell there need to be converted to Christianity, and delivered from their degraded condition; and the country must be worked, and its resources be developed; and who’s to do it, if enterprising clergymen, and schoolmasters, and miners do not go to live there, and push their fortunes?”
“And which of the three callings do you propose adopting?” inquired Mr Shirley, with a peculiar smile.
“Well uncle, I—a—the fact is, I have not thought much about that as yet. Of course, I never thought of the first. I do not forget your own remark, that the calling of a minister of the gospel of Christ is not, like other professions, to be adopted merely as a means of livelihood. Then, as to the second, I might perhaps manage that; but I don’t think it would suit me.”
“Do you think, then, that you would make a good digger?”
“Well, perhaps I would,” replied Ned, modestly.
Mr Shirley gravely regarded the powerful frame that reclined in the easy-chair before him, and was compelled to admit that the supposition was by no means outrageous.
“Besides,” continued the youth, “I might turn my hand to many things in a new country. You know I have studied surveying, and I can sketch a little, and know something of architecture. I suppose that Latin and Greek would not be of much use, but the little I have picked up of medicine and surgery among the medical students would be useful. Then I could take notes, and sketch the scenery, and bring back a mass of material that might interest the public, and do good to the country.”
“Oh,” said the old gentleman, shortly; “come back and turn author, in fact, and write a book that nobody would publish, or which, in the event of its being published, nobody would read!”
“Come, now, my dear uncle, don’t laugh at me. I assure you it seems very reasonable to me to think that what others have done, and are doing every day, I am able to do.”
“Well, I won’t laugh at you; but, to be serious, you are wise enough to know that an old man’s experience is worth more than a youth’s fancies. Much of what you have said is true, I admit, but I assure you that the bright prospects you have cut out for yourself are very delusive. They will never be realised, at least in the shape in which you have depicted them on your imagination. They will dissolve, my boy, on a nearer approach, and, as Shakespeare has it, ‘like the baseless fabric of a vision, leave not a wrack behind,’ or, at least, not much more than a wrack.”
Ned reverted to the golden dream, and felt uneasy under his uncle’s kind but earnest gaze.
“Most men,” continued Mr Shirley, “enjoy themselves at first, when they go to wild countries in search of adventure, but they generally regret the loss of their best years afterwards. In my opinion men should never emigrate unless they purpose making the foreign land they go to their home. But I won’t oppose you, if you are determined to go; I will do all I can to help you, and give you my blessing; but before you make up your mind, I would recommend you to call on Mr Moxton, and hear what prospects he holds out to you. Then take a week to think seriously over it; and if at the end of that time, you are as anxious to go as ever, I’ll not stand in your way.”
“You are kind to me, uncle; more so than I deserve,” said Ned earnestly. “I’ll do as you desire, and you may depend upon it that the generous way in which you have left me to make my own choice will influence me against going abroad more than anything else.”
Ned sighed as he rose to quit the room, for he felt that his hopes at that moment were sinking.
“And before you take a step in the matter, my boy,” said old Mr Shirley, “go to your room and ask counsel of Him who alone has the power to direct your steps in this life.”
Ned replied briefly, “I will, uncle,” and hastily left the room. Mr Shirley poked the fire, put on his spectacles, smoothed out the wrinkles on his bald forehead with his hand, took up the Times, and settled himself down in his easy-chair to read; but his nephew’s prospects could not be banished from his mind. He went over the whole argument again, mentally, with copious additions, ere he became aware of the fact, that for three-quarters of an hour he had been, (apparently), reading the newspaper upside down.

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