England remained little more than a rendezvous for wild tribes until her people learned mining and began the study of how to reduce the metals which the mines supplied, and her advancement since can be rated exactly by the progress she has made in bringing the metals into effective forms and combinations. When first the rude Saxon acquired the art to mend the broken links in a knight’s armor, and how to temper one of the old-fashioned two-handed swords, it was possible to comprehend, that from that germ would expand the brains that would by and by construct a steel ship or bridge; when the first rude spindle was fashioned, all the commencement necessary to create and work the world’s looms was made.
Out of these accomplishments, commerce was born; foreign commerce required ships, and so the ships were supplied; with commerce was developed a financial system, and soon it was discovered that after all the chiefest power of the world was money; that the swiftest way to win money was to perfect machinery so that out of raw material forms of beauty and of use could be wrought, and thus in regular chain the majesty of England expanded from the first day that an Englishman was able to convert from the dull iron ore something which the world would want, until ships laden with her wares reached all the world’s ports, and to barbarous lands she became an iron nation more terrible than the first iron nation.
The world’s highest civilization does not come from the fruitful fields, but from the darkness of the deep mines. Power and independence come with the digging and working of the baser metals; full civilization waits upon the production of enough of the royal metals to give to the people wealth in a form that enables them to command the best attainable talent and forces to serve them, and enough of leisure to enable them to put forward their best efforts.
Below the surface of the story which makes this book is a deeper story of what may be performed by brave hearts when they leave the fruitful fields behind them and turn with all their hearts to woo the desert that turns her forbidding face to them at their coming, and holds, closely hidden within her sere breast, her inestimable treasures.
“What think you of it, Jack?”
“It is growing soft in the drift, Jim; the stringers of ore are growing stronger and giving promise of concentrating soon.”
“So it strikes me,” was the response, “and when Uncle Jimmie Fair was down here an hour ago, I put two things together, and they have kept me thinking ever since.”
“And what were the two things, Jim?”
“Why, Jack, did you hear him sigh as he moved the candle along the face of the drift, and hear him say, ’You are doing beautifully, my sons, beautifully; I never had better men,’ and then sighed again, and added, ‘I fear it’s no use; I fear we shall have to drop the work soon?’ That was one of the things. The other was the light in his eyes when he examined the face of the drift. If I were a gambler, Jack, I would ‘copper’ what he said and wager all I had on the twinkle of his eyes.”