THE SILVER MINE *
IN a small village of Sweden there were once five men who went on a moose hunt. One of them was the parson; two were soldiers, named Eric and Olaf Sward; the fourth man was the innkeeper and the fifth was a peasant named Israel Per Persson.
These men were good hunters who usually had luck with them; but that day they wandered long and far without getting anything. They grew much discouraged and had sat down to talk when the parson saw something that glittered where he had kicked away a moss-tuft. He picked up a sliver of stone that came with the moss and it shone exactly like the other. "It can't be possible that this stuff is lead," said he. Then the others sprang up and scraped away the turf with the butt end of their rifles. When they did this they saw plainly that a broad vein of ore followed the mountain. "What do you think this might be?" asked the parson. The men chipped off bits of stone and bit into them. "It must be lead, or zinc at least," said they. "And the whole mountain is full of it," added the innkeeper.
The clergyman and his companions were very happy; they fancied that now they had found that which would give them wealth. "I'll never have to do any more work," said one. "Now I can afford to do nothing at all the whole week through, and on Sundays I shall drive to church in a golden chariot!" They put back the moss-tuft to conceal the vein of ore. Then they carefully noted where the place was, and on the way home agreed that the parson should travel to Falun to ask the mining expert what kind of ore this was. He was to return as soon as possible, and until then they promised one another not to reveal to a single soul where the ore was to be found.
Then the parson departed with a few samples of ore in his pocket. He was just as happy in the thought of being rich as the others were. He would rebuild the parsonage and have a comfortable living. After driving two days he reached Falun and showed his bits of ore to the expert there.
"No, it's not lead," said the mineralogist.
"Perhaps it's zinc, then," said the parson.
"No, nor zinc, either."
The parson thought that all the hope within him sank. He had not been so depressed in many a long day.
"Have you many stones like this in your parish?" asked the mineralogist.
"We have a whole mountain full," said the parson.
Then the mineralogist came up closer, slapped the parson on the shoulder, and said, "Let us see that you make such good use of this that it will prove a blessing both to you and to the country, for it is silver."
* * * * * * *
When the parson reached home again, he went first to tell his partners of the value of their find. Stopping at the innkeeper's gate, he noticed that evergreen was strewn all up the path to the door. "Who has died in this place?" he asked of a boy who was leaning against the fence.
"The innkeeper himself," answered the boy. "He had drunk himself full of brandy every day for a week. He said he had found a mine, and was very rich. He should never have to do anything now but drink, he said. Last night, he drove off, full as he was, and the wagon turned over and he was killed."
When the parson heard this, he drove homeward, much distressed, instead of being so happy over his good news, as he had been before. When he had driven a few paces, he saw Israel Per Persson walking along. Him he would cheer at once with the good news that he was a rich man. But when Per Persson heard that the ore was silver he began looking more and more mournful.
"Oh, is it silver?" he said again.
"Why, of course it is silver," replied the parson. "I would not deceive you. You must not be afraid of being happy."
"Happy!" said Per Persson. "Should I be happy? I believed it was only glitter that we had found, so I thought it would be better to take the certain for the uncertain. I have sold my share to Olaf Sward for a hundred dollars.' He was desperate, and when the parson left him, he stood on the highway and wept.
When the clergyman got back to his home, he sent a servant to tell Olaf and Eric that it was silver they had found. He thought he had had enough of spreading the good news himself. In the evening as he thought the whole matter over, he decided, "I will dream no more of bringing glory and profit to myself with these riches; but I can't let the silver lie buried in the earth! I must take it out, for the benefit of the poor and needy. I will work the mine, to put the whole parish on its feet."
So one day the parson went out to see Olaf Sward, to ask him and his brother as to what should be done immediately with the silver mountain. When he came to the barracks; what was his amazement and grief to hear that Olaf and his brother had had such violent quarrels about the silver that Eric had been killed and Olaf was being sent away for long years of punishment.
"Promise me," said Olaf to the parson, "that you will watch over my children, and never let them have any portion of that which comes from the mine." The parson staggered back a step and was dumb. "If you do not promise, I cannot go in peace," said the prisoner.
"Yes," said the parson, slowly, "I will do as you ask."
On the way home he thought of the wealth which he had been so happy over. Was it really true that the people in this community could not stand riches? Already four were ruined, who hitherto had been dignified and excellent men. He pictured to himself how this silver mine would destroy one after another of the whole community. Was it fitting that he, who had been appointed to watch over these poor human beings' souls, should let loose upon them that which would be their destruction?
He called the peasants together to vote. He reminded them of all the misfortunes which the discovery of the mountain had brought upon them, and he asked them if they were going to let themselves be ruined or if they would save themselves. Then he told them that they must not expect him, their spiritual adviser, to help on their destruction. Now he had decided not to reveal to anyone where the silver mine was, and never would he himself take riches from it. If they wished to continue their search for the mine and wait upon riches, then he would go so far away that no hearsay of their misery could reach him. But if they would give up thinking about the silver mine, and be as before, he would remain with them. "Whichever way you may choose," said the parson, "remember this, that, from me, no one shall ever know anything about the silver mountain."
And the peasants decided that the parson should go to the forest and conceal the vein of ore with evergreen and stone, so that no one would be able to find it neither themselves nor their posterity.
Long after, the land of Sweden was in great danger, and the parson thought it would be right to offer the King the secret of the mountain, that its wealth might be used for the defense of the realm. "When the King heard all the story, "You must let the mine lie in peace," he said.
"But if the kingdom is in danger?" asked the parson. "The kingdom is better served with men than with money," answered the King.