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The Crumbling Silver


Source: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

There is a clay bank on Little Neck, Long Island, where metallic nodules
are now and then exposed by rain. Rustics declare them to be silver, and
account for their crumbling on the theory that the metal is under a
curse. A century ago the Montauks mined it, digging over enough soil to
unearth these pellets now and again, and exchanging them at the nearest
settlements for tobacco and rum. The seeming abundance of these lumps of
silver aroused the cupidity of one Gardiner, a dweller in the central
wilderness of the island, but none of the Indians would reveal the source
of their treasure. One day Gardiner succeeded in getting an old chief so
tipsy that, without realizing what he was doing, he led the white man to
the clay bed and showed him the metallic spots glittering in the sun.
With a cry of delight Gardiner sprang forward and tore at the earth with
his fingers, while the Indian stood by laughing at his eagerness.

Presently a shade crossed the white man's face, for he thought that this
vast treasure would have to be shared by others. It was too much to
endure. He wanted all. He would be the richest man on earth. Stealing
behind the Indian as he stood swaying and chuckling, he wrenched the
hatchet from his belt and clove his skull at a blow. Then, dragging the
body to a thicket and hiding it under stones and leaves, he hurried to
his house for cart and pick and shovel, and returning with speed he dug
out a half ton of the silver before sunset. The cart was loaded, and he
set homeward, trembling with excitement and conjuring bright visions for
his future, when a wailing sound from a thicket made him halt and turn
pale. Noiselessly a figure glided from the bush. It was the Indian he had
killed. The form approached the treasure, flung up its arm, uttered a few
guttural words; then a rising wind seemed to lift it from the ground and
it drifted toward the Sound, fading like a cloud as it receded.

Full of misgiving, Gardiner drove to his home, and, by light of a
lantern, transferred his treasure to his cellar. Was it the dulness of
the candle that made the metal look so black? After a night of feverish
tossing on his bed he arose and went to the cellar to gloat upon his
wealth. The light of dawn fell on a heap of gray dust, a few brassy
looking particles showing here and there. The curse of the ghost had been
of power and the silver was silver no more. Mineralogists say that the
nodules are iron pyrites. Perhaps so; but old residents know that they
used to be silver.

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