The Seven Dwarves’ Mine
The seven extremely short companions walked down the gangplank of the ship docked in lower Manhattan. Each lugged their chests on their backs and nearly stumbled under the load. But with Europe behind them and the humiliation they had experienced becoming just a bad memory, a huge psychological weight had been removed. Maybe in America people would accept them for who they were instead of what they were.
The seven had been circus and household dwarves that were used for entertainment purposes. They pooled their money, made some wise investments over the years, and were now ready to take advantage of the many opportunities America offered people with abilities and dreams. In case success didn’t occur quickly, the small fortune they had obtained would help them get by for awhile. The year was 1829 and most of a continent lay before them.
They started a restaurant and bakery in Greenwich Village that offered fine food and a friendly face to greet immigrants who treated the small men with respect they longed for. There were stares from some, but after years of gawking, they were used to it. At least they were being treated like adults instead of pets and comic relief.
One winter night as the men were walking home, they discovered a baby girl wrapped in a tattered blanket nestled in a snow drift. They instantly fell in love with the precious little bundle and decided Snow White would be the perfect name for her. They acted like seven proud fathers around her and by the time she was as tall as they were, she was helping around the restaurant and bakery.
Snow White became a beauty and the men were able to open a second restaurant in the Bowery. Then came the announcement of the gold discovery in California. The seven dwarves had worked a while in a couple mines in Europe, so they were used to hard work that was dirty and sometimes dangerous.
The restaurants and bakeries were sold to finance the journey around the Horn and to purchase supplies to start a mining operation in California. Snow White would take care of the chores as the men worked their claim. After months of difficult travel, the “family” of eight arrived in San Francisco. They traveled upland to a parcel of land in the Sierra Nevadas, where they staked a claim. The dwarves knew working the claim would be difficult in the rugged conditions. But since most miners worked claims along rivers and streams, working a claim in the mountains didn’t appeal to most prospectors.
A cabin was built by five of the dwarves as two worked the claim. It was finished shortly before the first snows of winter arrived. By then, the mine was about 100 feet deep inside the mountain. The cabin was located in front of the mine entrance to block the winds from entering and chilling the prospectors.
Shortly before Spring in 1850, the miners struck the mother lode. A wide vein of gold was discovered about 240 feet in that ran for over 400 feet. The Seven Dwarves Mine was about to make the men wealthy as long as they could keep claim jumpers from invading. To confuse possible jumpers, other mine entrances were dug and a network of caves joined the fake mine with the genuine mine.
During the summer, the work in the mine was sweaty; especially after the small smelter was built to allow the dwarves to refine the gold before bringing it in to sell. Every couple or three weeks, three or four of the dwarves would load the wagon with gold ingots and drive it to one to the assay offices or to Sacramento to sell the precious metal. They would buy supplies and place a portion of what they earned in various banks for safekeeping. There was no way they were going to gamble it away or lose it by the whiskey glassful. They had to think about their ward who made it possible for them to work the mine without worrying about washing their clothes or preparing the meals.
One of the assayers who purchased the gold the dwarves mined had a covetous wife who wanted her husband to follow the dwarves that came in back to their mine. So that he wouldn’t be nagged mercilessly, he obeyed his witch-like wife and followed from a distance. But the men suspected that they were being followed and led him to one of the fake mines that connected to the maze of cave passages. After an hour of fruitless searching, the man grew tired and somehow managed to find his way outside. He returned home discouraged and afraid of his wife’s reaction.
As expected, the woman was enraged. She decided that maybe the only way they could get rich without the seven dwarves being in the way was to kill them. She bought a basket of apples and coated them with poison. Afterwards, she rode out to the cabin with the deadly present.
The dwarves were working the mine and Snow White was the only one able to accept the fruit. She wasn’t suspicious of the woman as she should have been, so she accepted the basket and thanked the woman for the “friendly” gesture. The apples were luscious and red. She couldn’t resist taking a bite out of one of the pieces of fruit. After rubbing one on her apron, she sunk her teeth into it and swallowed the chunk. In a couple minutes, she was on her second apple. That was when remnants of the poison she had failed to rub off of the fruit attacked her. She collapsed onto the dirt floor and lay there unconscious until the dwarves returned to the cabin for the evening meal.
Snow White was clinging to life in a coma. Two of the dwarves headed for the nearest town in the wagon; desperate to find a doctor who might save the life of their “daughter.” It was also where the woman who had tried to kill the small miners lived. When she saw the wagon pull into town she had mixed emotions. Maybe all but the two dwarves were dead or dying. If that were the case, it would be easier to eliminate them instead of seven angry little men.
The dwarves discovered Dr. Prince who was a quite charming young man in his office. He brought his medical bag full of medicines and other treatments with him along with a 44-caliber Colt revolver just in case of trouble. He hid it in his bag along with extra cartridges in case he had to reload.
The would-be murderer accompanied by her husband followed the trio from a discreet distance back to the cabin. They hid behind a rock outcropping and waited until it was dark before approaching the cabin. Inside, the doctor examined his patient by lightly kissing her lips to taste what she had last eaten. The poison was detected and spit out onto the floor. Hopefully it hadn’t entered her system yet.
The doctor stuck his fingers down her throat and gagged her so she would vomit. The treatment worked. Half digested chunks of apples came up and landed on the floor. A few minutes later, the young woman opened her eyes and smiled. Her protectors were jubilant and asked her saviour to stay for dinner which definitely wouldn’t include apples for dessert.
Outside, the couple approached the cabin and were twenty yards from the front door when one of the dwarves happened to look out and spotted them. He sounded the alarm and his companions sprang into action. Three rifles and a shotgun were removed from beside the fireplace and poked through the gun ports in the wall.
A gunfight ensued. The man and wife hid behind boulders and fired upon the cabin while the dwarves fired back. As the weapons were fired, they would be removed from the gun port and reloaded. There was plenty of powder and shot in the cabin, so holding out wouldn’t be a problem. But there was no telling what the couple would do. They might burn the occupants out, for all the dwarves knew.
Moments later, the doctor came upon a plan of attack. Since the cabin was in front of the main entrance and there were many openings and passages that connected to the mine, the doctor and one of the dwarves entered the mine and made their way to an entrance to one of the fake mines, which was about 65 feet away from where the couple was hiding.
The doctor and dwarf were both armed with revolvers. They didn’t dare light a torch for fear the attackers would see the flame. They felt their way through the passages until they came to the entrance that was in view of the couple.
The couple was concentrating on the cabin and didn’t see or hear the doctor and his guide approach them until it was too late. The man turned and saw the pair almost on him. He aimed his rifle at them, but a shot from each revolver cut him down. The wife met the same fate her husband met when she tried to fire her 38 at the doctor and dwarf. A bullet from the doctor’s Colt hit her square in the chest and killed her instantly.
Shortly before dawn, the bodies of the couple and the basket with the remaining apples were loaded into the wagon and taken to the nearby town. The sheriff realized it was self-defense and attempted murder on the part of the couple. The man and wife would have been hanged anyway, so the doctor and dwarf saved the court the time and trouble that would have been required to try and punish the pair.
The dwarves greatly appreciated what the doctor had done and made him a partner in the Seven Dwarves Mine. He worked it whenever he had the time or whenever the patient load was light. That meant Sundays and evenings mainly. It was strenuous. But every couple or three weeks, the one or two small ingots of gold he was able to bring into the local bank made the effort worthwhile.
The doctor and Snow White fell in love and by 1851 were married. Instead of moving into town with the doctor, he hired some builders to construct a large house near the cabin that had a spectacular westward view of the mountains and the mining town in the distance where the doctor still practiced though not as much since the town brought in another doctor.
The doctor and dwarves worked the Seven Dwarves Mine up until 1868 when they sold it to a mining company for $10 million up front and 9% of the profits, since there were nine people who owned the mine, counting Snow White.
They moved to San Francisco to a large mansion that overlooked Alcatraz. The seven dwarves took the train east on many occasions and even returned to Europe a couple times. By 1875 they were wealthy enough to buy some of the circuses and palaces in which they had been on display and entertained the public. With the mine bringing in an average of $1 million a month for the partners to divide ten ways, with one of the portions being set aside for the children of the doctor and Snow White, no one lacked money. You could say they lived happily ever after.
Copyright © 2005 by Bewildering Stories on behalf of the author