He had never seen a more desolate place. A decrepit, weather-beaten cabin on the edge of an arid, rocky creek bed... yes, Carrion Gulch lived up to its name.
Reverend Gordon tethered his horse to a weathered eucalyptus tree and knocked at the cabin door. A hoarse croak, dry as dust, answered him.
The few comforts inside–armchairs, table, wall cabinet, woven rugs–were dingy and grim. The owner of the hoarse voice lay on a bed in the corner. Reverend Gordon knew the look of a dying man, and he took his Testament from his coat pocket as he knelt beside him. No wonder the message, conveyed through several hands, had said: “Come at once.”
“You’re Gordon?” rasped the man. He had a tough, leathery face, but his cheeks were grey and shrunken.
“Yes, sir–Ian Gordon.”
“Name’s Charley Shivey. Put away your book, I’ve got no use for that. Don’t say nothin'–just listen.”
“All right,” agreed Ian.
“You knew a feller named Ellison?”
“Lawrence Ellison?” Ian frowned. “Yes... years ago. I came to Victoria as a very young mission teacher, and Reverend Ellison was my mentor. He had a heart for the Aborigines. But like so many, he caught the fatal gold fever. He believed God would lead him to a fortune that would fund our work. So he went away, and never returned. Did you... know him?”
Charley grinned toothlessly.
“I’m coming to it. I got the fever, too... came over from Ireland about 1853. But the first place I tried was played out, so I came to Ballarat. First night there, this fellow Ellison comes into town. Had a message he wanted delivered to you, and I said I’d do it. But instead, I read it–and there it is.”
He motioned to an old, creased paper on the nightstand. Ian picked it up and read,
God has blessed. I have found what I sought, and hidden it well near my cabin at Carrion Gulch. Come at once, and bring other young men to assist, for the quantity of gold is remarkable.
Yours in Christ, Ellison
Ian gripped the note tightly.
“What did you do?”
“Came here, that’s what. Tried to make him tell me where he’d hid it. Waved my gun around, and it went off. Accident... I’d swear it on the Book. He had just a few more breaths in him. I says, ‘You tell me where it is, I’ll split it with you.’ And he says, ‘Jeremiah 29:13, go look it up.’ And I says, ‘Ain’t got no time for that, just tell me what it says.’ And he told me.”
“'Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart,'” quoted Gordon.
“Yep, that’s right. Heck of a lot of good it’s done. Since he died, I’ve been searchin’ with all my heart... arms, legs and back, too. Covered every inch of ground for miles around. Reckon I’m cursed by God. Some others came for a while... set up a camp. They didn’t find it, neither. They went away, and I stayed. Now you know.”
Ian put his hand on the man’s shoulder.
“Yes, I know, and it doesn’t matter now. All that matters is how you stand with God.”
He stayed by Charley’s bedside all night, listening, comforting, praying. Charley died at dawn, but not before making peace with the One he had resisted all his life.
Ian stood up, stretched, and rubbed his eyes. He knew he must ride to town and get someone to assist with the burial. And he must send telegrams to Ireland... perhaps the old prospector had a relative or two still alive.
He paused at the door of the cabin, allowing himself a moment of grief for his old mentor. Ah, the fatal gold fever! If Reverend Ellison had found something, it was probably lost forever.
Jeremiah 29:13. Go look it up...
Ian stood very still. His eyes scanned the shelves of the cabinet; then he crossed the room in a few strides and took down the ancient Bible from the top shelf, bringing three decades of dust and cobwebs with it. But he brushed these aside, and opened the Bible to the Book of Jeremiah...
... And he was not at all surprised to find, at Chapter 29, a folded piece of parchment: a map, with precise directions to the cave that held the lost gold of Carrion Gulch.
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