With the savings of his two years of school-teaching Keith found that he had enough, by practising rigid economy, to give himself another year at college, and he practised rigid economy.
He worked under the spur of ambition to show Alice Yorke and those who surrounded her that he was not a mere country clod.
With his face set steadily in the direction where stood the luminous form of the young girl he had met and come to worship amid the blossoming woods, he studied to such good purpose that at the end of the session he had packed two years’ work into one.
Keith had no very definite ideas, when he started out at the end of his college year, as to what he should do. He only knew that he had strong pinions, and that the world was before him. He wished to bury himself from observation until he should secure the success with which he would burst forth on an astonished world, overwhelm Mrs. Yorke, and capture Alice. His first intention had been to go to the far West; but on consideration he abandoned the idea.
Rumors were already abroad that in the great Appalachian mountain-range opportunity might be as golden as in that greater range on the other side of the continent.
Keith had a sentiment that he would rather succeed in the South than elsewhere.
“Only get rifles out and railroads in, and capital will come pouring after them,” Rhodes had said. “Old Wickersham knows his business.”
That was a good while ago, and at last the awakening had begun. Now that carpet-bagging was at an end, and affairs were once more settled in that section, the wealth of the country was again being talked of in the press.
The chief centre of the new life was a day’s drive farther in the mountains than Eden, the little hamlet which Keith had visited once with Dr. Balsam when he attended an old stage-driver, Gilsey by name, and cut a bullet out of what he called his “off-leg.” This was the veiled Golconda. To the original name of Humboldt the picturesque and humorous mountaineer had given the name of “Gumbolt.”
This was where old Adam Rawson, stirred by the young engineer’s prophecy, had taken time by the forelock and had bought up the mineral rights, and “gotten ahead” of Wickersham & Company.
Times and views change even in the Ridge region, and now, after years of delay, Wickersham & Company’s railroad was about to be built. It had already reached Eden.
Keith, after a few days with his father, stopped at Ridgely to see his old friends. The Doctor looked him over with some disapproval.
“As gaunt as a greyhound,” he muttered. “My patient not married yet, I suppose? Well, she will be. You’d better tear her out of your memory before she gets too firmly lodged there.”
Keith boldly said he would take the chances.