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Title: Salomy Jane
Author: Harte, Bret, 1836-1902
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Salomy Jane" ***

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[Illustration]

SALOMY JANE

BY

BRET HARTE


WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY

HARRISON FISHER AND

ARTHUR I. KELLER


BOSTON AND NEW YORK

HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY

THE RIVERSIDE PRESS CAMBRIDGE

1910


COPYRIGHT, 1898, BY BRET HARTE

COPYRIGHT, 1900, BY HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & CO.

COPYRIGHT, 1910, BY HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

_Published October 1910_



CONTENTS

  I A KISS AND AN ESCAPE      1

  II THE LADY'S REFLECTIONS      19

  III THE KISS REPEATED      35

  IV ANOTHER ESCAPE      59

A KISS AND AN ESCAPE

[Illustration]



I


Only one shot had been fired. It had gone wide of its mark,--the
ringleader of the Vigilantes,--and had left Red Pete, who had fired
it, covered by their rifles and at their mercy. For his hand had been
cramped by hard riding, and his eye distracted by their sudden onset,
and so the inevitable end had come. He submitted sullenly to his
captors; his companion fugitive and horse-thief gave up the protracted
struggle with a feeling not unlike relief. Even the hot and revengeful
victors were content. They had taken their men alive. At any
time during the long chase they could have brought them down by a
rifle-shot, but it would have been unsportsmanlike, and have ended
in a free fight, instead of an example. And, for the matter of that,
their doom was already sealed. Their end, by a rope and a tree,
although not sanctified by law, would have at least the deliberation
of justice. It was the tribute paid by the Vigilantes to that order
which they had themselves disregarded in the pursuit and capture. Yet
this strange logic of the frontier sufficed them, and gave a certain
dignity to the climax.

"Ef you've got anything to say to your folks, say it _now_, and say it
quick," said the ringleader.

Red Pete glanced around him. He had been run to earth at his own cabin
in the clearing, whence a few relations and friends, mostly women and
children, non-combatants, had outflowed, gazing vacantly at the twenty
Vigilantes who surrounded them. All were accustomed to scenes of
violence, blood-feud, chase, and hardship; it was only the suddenness
of the onset and its quick result that had surprised them. They looked
on with dazed curiosity and some disappointment; there had been no
fight to speak of--no spectacle! A boy, nephew of Red Pete, got upon
the rain-barrel to view the proceedings more comfortably; a tall,
handsome, lazy Kentucky girl, a visiting neighbor, leaned against the
doorpost, chewing gum. Only a yellow hound was actively perplexed.
He could not make out if a hunt were just over or beginning, and ran
eagerly backwards and forwards, leaping alternately upon the captives
and the captors.

The ringleader repeated his challenge. Red Pete gave a reckless laugh
and looked at his wife.

At which Mrs. Red Pete came forward. It seemed that she had much to
say, incoherently, furiously, vindictively, to the ringleader. His
soul would roast in hell for that day's work! He called himself a man,
skunkin' in the open and afraid to show himself except with a crowd
of, other "Kiyi's" around a house of women and children. Heaping
insult upon insult, inveighing against his low blood, his ancestors,
his dubious origin, she at last flung out a wild taunt of his invalid
wife, the insult of a woman to a woman, until his white face grew
rigid, and only that Western-American fetich of the sanctity of
sex kept his twitching fingers from the lock of his rifle. Even her
husband noticed it, and with a half-authoritative "Let up on that,
old gal," and a pat of his freed left hand on her back, took his last
parting. The ringleader, still white under the lash of the woman's
tongue, turned abruptly to the second captive. "And if _you_'ve got
anybody to say 'good-by' to, now's your chance."

The man looked up. Nobody stirred or spoke. He was a stranger there,
being a chance confederate picked up by Red Pete, and known to no one.
Still young, but an outlaw from his abandoned boyhood, of which father
and mother were only a forgotten dream, he loved horses and
stole them, fully accepting the frontier penalty of life for the
interference with that animal on which a man's life so often depended.
But he understood the good points of a horse, as was shown by the
one he bestrode--until a few days before the property of Judge
Boompointer. This was his sole distinction.

The unexpected question stirred him for a moment out of the attitude
of reckless indifference, for attitude it was, and a part of his
profession. But it may have touched him that at that moment he was
less than his companion and his virago wife. However, he only shook
his head. As he did so his eye casually fell on the handsome girl by
the doorpost, who was looking at him. The ringleader, too, may have
been touched by his complete loneliness, for _he_ hesitated. At
the same moment he saw that the girl was looking at his friendless
captive.

A grotesque idea struck him.

"Salomy Jane, ye might do worse than come yere and say 'good-by' to a
dying man, and him a stranger," he said.

There seemed to be a subtle stroke of poetry and irony in this that
equally struck the apathetic crowd. It was well known that Salomy
Jane Clay thought no small potatoes of herself, and always held off
the local swain with a lazy nymph-like scorn. Nevertheless, she
slowly disengaged herself from the doorpost, and, to everybody's
astonishment, lounged with languid grace and outstretched hand towards
the prisoner. The color came into the gray reckless mask which the
doomed man wore as her right hand grasped his left, just loosed by his
captors. Then she paused; her shy, fawn-like eyes grew bold, and fixed
themselves upon him. She took the chewing-gum from her mouth, wiped
her red lips with the back of her hand, by a sudden lithe spring
placed her foot on his stirrup, and, bounding to the saddle, threw her
arms about his neck and pressed a kiss upon his lips.

[Illustration]

They remained thus for a hushed moment--the man on the threshold of
death, the young woman in the fullness of youth and beauty--linked
together. Then the crowd laughed; in the audacious effrontery of the
girl's act the ultimate fate of the two men was forgotten. She slipped
languidly to the ground; _she_ was the focus of all eyes,--she
only! The ringleader saw it and his opportunity. He shouted: "Time's
up--Forward!" urged his horse beside his captives, and the next moment
the whole cavalcade was sweeping over the clearing into the darkening
woods.

Their destination was Sawyer's Crossing, the headquarters of the
committee, where the council was still sitting, and where both
culprits were to expiate the offense of which that council had already
found them guilty. They rode in great and breathless haste,--a haste
in which, strangely enough, even the captives seemed to join. That
haste possibly prevented them from noticing the singular change which
had taken place in the second captive since the episode of the kiss.
His high color remained, as if it had burned through his mask of
indifference; his eyes were quick, alert, and keen, his mouth half
open as if the girl's kiss still lingered there. And that haste had
made them careless, for the horse of the man who led him slipped in
a gopher-hole, rolled over, unseated his rider, and even dragged the
bound and helpless second captive from Judge Boompointer's favorite
mare. In an instant they were all on their feet again, but in that
supreme moment the second captive felt the cords which bound his arms
had slipped to his wrists. By keeping his elbows to his sides, and
obliging the others to help him mount, it escaped their notice. By
riding close to his captors, and keeping in the crush of the throng,
he further concealed the accident, slowly working his hands downwards
out of his bonds. Their way lay through a sylvan wilderness, mid-leg
deep in ferns, whose tall fronds brushed their horses' sides in their
furious gallop and concealed the flapping of the captive's loosened
cords. The peaceful vista, more suggestive of the offerings of nymph
and shepherd than of human sacrifice, was in a strange contrast to
this whirlwind rush of stern, armed men. The westering sun pierced
the subdued light and the tremor of leaves with yellow lances; birds
started into song on blue and dove-like wings, and on either side of
the trail of this vengeful storm could be heard the murmur of hidden
and tranquil waters. In a few moments they would be on the open ridge,
whence sloped the common turnpike to "Sawyer's," a mile away. It
was the custom of returning cavalcades to take this hill at headlong
speed, with shouts and cries that heralded their coming. They withheld
the latter that day, as inconsistent with their dignity; but, emerging
from the wood, swept silently like an avalanche down the slope. They
were well under way, looking only to their horses, when the second
captive slipped his right arm from the bonds and succeeded in grasping
the reins that lay trailing on the horse's neck. A sudden _vaquero_
jerk, which the well-trained animal understood, threw him on his
haunches with his forelegs firmly planted on the slope. The rest of
the cavalcade swept on; the man who was leading the captive's horse
by the _riata_, thinking only of another accident, dropped the line to
save himself from being dragged backwards from his horse. The captive
wheeled, and the next moment was galloping furiously up the slope.

It was the work of a moment; a trained horse and an experienced hand.
The cavalcade had covered nearly fifty yards before they could pull
up; the freed captive had covered half that distance uphill. The road
was so narrow that only two shots could be fired, and these broke dust
two yards ahead of the fugitive. They had not dared to fire low; the
horse was the more valuable animal. The fugitive knew this in his
extremity also, and would have gladly taken a shot in his own leg to
spare that of his horse. Five men were detached to recapture or kill
him. The latter seemed inevitable. But he had calculated his chances;
before they could reload he had reached the woods again; winding in
and out between the pillared tree trunks, he offered no mark. They
knew his horse was superior to their own; at the end of two hours they
returned, for he had disappeared without track or trail. The end was
briefly told in the "Sierra Record:"--

"Red Pete, the notorious horse-thief, who had so long eluded justice,
was captured and hung by the Sawyer's Crossing Vigilantes last week;
his confederate, unfortunately, escaped on a valuable horse belonging
to Judge Boompointer. The judge had refused one thousand dollars for
the horse only a week before. As the thief, who is still at large,
would find it difficult to dispose of so valuable an animal without
detection, the chances are against either of them turning up again."



THE LADY'S REFLECTIONS

[Illustration]



II


Salomy Jane watched the cavalcade until it had disappeared. Then she
became aware that her brief popularity had passed. Mrs. Red Pete,
in stormy hysterics, had included her in a sweeping denunciation of
the whole universe, possibly for simulating an emotion in which she
herself was deficient. The other women hated her for her momentary
exaltation above them; only the children still admired her as one who
had undoubtedly "canoodled" with a man "a-going to be hung"--a daring
flight beyond their wildest ambition. Salomy Jane accepted the change
with charming unconcern. She put on her yellow nankeen sunbonnet,--a
hideous affair that would have ruined any other woman, but which only
enhanced the piquancy of her fresh brunette skin,--tied the strings,
letting the blue-black braids escape below its frilled curtain behind,
jumped on her mustang with a casual display of agile ankles in shapely
white stockings, whistled to the hound, and waving her hand with a "So
long, sonny!" to the lately bereft but admiring nephew, flapped and
fluttered away in her short brown holland gown.

Her father's house was four miles distant. Contrasted with the
cabin she had just quitted, it was a superior dwelling, with a long
"lean-to" at the rear, which brought the eaves almost to the ground
and made it look like a low triangle. It had a long barn and cattle
sheds, for Madison Clay was a "great" stockraiser and the owner of
a "quarter section." It had a sitting-room and a parlor organ, whose
transportation thither had been a marvel of "packing." These things
were supposed to give Salomy Jane an undue importance, but the
girl's reserve and inaccessibility to local advances were rather the
result of a cool, lazy temperament and the preoccupation of a large,
protecting admiration for her father, for some years a widower. For
Mr. Madison Clay's life had been threatened in one or two feuds,--it
was said, not without cause,--and it is possible that the pathetic
spectacle of her father doing his visiting with a shotgun may
have touched her closely and somewhat prejudiced her against the
neighboring masculinity. The thought that cattle, horses, and "quarter
section" would one day be hers did not disturb her calm. As for Mr.
Clay, he accepted her as housewifely, though somewhat "interfering,"
and, being one of "his own womankind," therefore not without some
degree of merit.

"Wot's this yer I'm hearin' of your doin's over at Red Pete's?
Honey-foglin' with a horse-thief, eh?" said Mr. Clay two days later at
breakfast.

"I reckon you heard about the straight thing, then," said Salomy Jane
unconcernedly, without looking round.

"What do you kalkilate Rube will say to it? What are you goin' to tell
_him_?" said Mr. Clay sarcastically.

"Rube," or Reuben Waters, was a swain supposed to be favored
particularly by Mr. Clay. Salomy Jane looked up.

"I'll tell him that when _he's_ on his way to be hung, I'll kiss
him,--not till then," said the young lady brightly.

This delightful witticism suited the paternal humor, and Mr. Clay
smiled; but, nevertheless, he frowned a moment afterwards.

"But this yer hoss-thief got away arter all, and that's a hoss of a
different color," he said grimly.

Salomy Jane put down her knife and fork. This was certainly a new and
different phase of the situation. She had never thought of it before,
and, strangely enough, for the first time she became interested in the
man. "Got away?" she repeated. "Did they let him off?"

"Not much," said her father briefly. "Slipped his cords, and going
down the grade pulled up short, just like a _vaquero_ agin a
lassoed bull, almost draggin' the man leadin' him off his hoss, and
then skyuted up the grade. For that matter, on that hoss o' Judge
Boompointer's he mout have dragged the whole posse of 'em down on
their knees ef he liked! Sarved 'em right, too. Instead of stringin'
him up afore the door, or shootin' him on sight, they must allow to
take him down afore the hull committee 'for an example.' 'Example' be
blowed! Ther' 's example enough when some stranger comes unbeknownst
slap onter a man hanged to a tree and plugged full of holes. _That's_
an example, and _he_ knows what it means. Wot more do ye want? But
then those Vigilantes is allus clingin' and hangin' onter some mere
scrap o'the law they're pretendin' to despise. It makes me sick! Why,
when Jake Myers shot your ole Aunt Viney's second husband, and I laid
in wait for Jake afterwards in the Butternut Hollow, did _I_ tie him
to his hoss and fetch him down to your Aunt Viney's cabin 'for an
example' before I plugged him? No!" in deep disgust. "No! Why, I just
meandered through the wood, careless-like, till he comes out, and I
just rode up to him, and I said"--

But Salomy Jane had heard her father's story before. Even one's
dearest relatives are apt to become tiresome in narration. "I know,
dad," she interrupted; "but this yer man,--this hoss-thief,--did _he_
get clean away without gettin' hurt at all?"

"He did, and unless he's fool enough to sell the hoss he kin keep
away, too. So ye see, ye can't ladle out purp stuff about a 'dyin'
stranger' to Rube. He won't swaller it."

"All the same, dad," returned the girl cheerfully, "I reckon to say
it, and say _more_; I'll tell him that ef _he_ manages to get away
too, I'll marry him--there! But ye don't ketch Rube takin' any such
risks in gettin' ketched, or in gettin' away arter!"

Madison Clay smiled grimly, pushed back his chair, rose, dropped a
perfunctory kiss on his daughter's hair, and, taking his shotgun from
the corner, departed on a peaceful Samaritan mission to a cow who
had dropped a calf in the far pasture. Inclined as he was to Reuben's
wooing from his eligibility as to property, he was conscious that he
was sadly deficient in certain qualities inherent in the Clay family.
It certainly would be a kind of _mésalliance_.

Left to herself, Salomy Jane stared a long while at the coffee-pot,
and then called the two squaws who assisted her in her household
duties, to clear away the things while she went up to her own room to
make her bed. Here she was confronted with a possible prospect of that
proverbial bed she might be making in her willfulness, and on which
she must lie, in the photograph of a somewhat serious young man of
refined features--Reuben Waters--stuck in her window-frame. Salomy
Jane smiled over her last witticism regarding him and enjoyed it, like
your true humorist, and then, catching sight of her own handsome face
in the little mirror, smiled again. But wasn't it funny about that
horse-thief getting off after all? Good Lordy! Fancy Reuben hearing he
was alive and going round with that kiss of hers set on his lips! She
laughed again, a little more abstractedly. And he had returned it like
a man, holding her tight and almost breathless, and he going to be
hung the next minute! Salomy Jane had been kissed at other times, by
force, chance, or stratagem. In a certain ingenuous forfeit game of
the locality known as "I'm a-pinin'," many had "pined" for a "sweet
kiss" from Salomy Jane, which she had yielded in a sense of honor and
fair play. She had never been kissed like this before--she would never
again; and yet the man was alive! And behold, she could see in the
mirror that she was blushing!

She should hardly know him again. A young man with very bright eyes,
a flushed and sunburnt cheek, a kind of fixed look in the face, and
no beard; no, none that she could feel. Yet he was not at all like
Reuben, not a bit. She took Reuben's picture from the window, and
laid it on her work-box. And to think she did not even know this young
man's name! That was queer. To be kissed by a man whom she might never
know! Of course he knew hers. She wondered if he remembered it and
her. But of course he was so glad to get off with his life that he
never thought of anything else. Yet she did not give more than four or
five minutes to these speculations, and, like a sensible girl, thought
of something else. Once again, however, in opening the closet, she
found the brown holland gown she had worn on the day before; thought
it very unbecoming, and regretted that she had not worn her best gown
on her visit to Red Pete's cottage. On such an occasion she really
might have been more impressive.



THE KISS REPEATED

[Illustration]



III


When her father came home that night she asked him the news. No, they
had _not_ captured the second horse-thief, who was still at large.
Judge Boompointer talked of invoking the aid of the despised law. It
remained, then, to see whether the horse-thief was fool enough to try
to get rid of the animal. Red Pete's body had been delivered to his
widow. Perhaps it would only be neighborly for Salomy Jane to ride
over to the funeral. But Salomy Jane did not take to the suggestion
kindly, nor yet did she explain to her father that, as the other man
was still living, she did not care to undergo a second disciplining
at the widow's hands. Nevertheless, she contrasted her situation with
that of the widow with a new and singular satisfaction. It might have
been Red Pete who had escaped. But he had not the grit of the nameless
one. She had already settled his heroic quality.

"Ye ain't harkenin' to me, Salomy."

Salomy Jane started.

"Here I'm askin' ye if ye've see that hound Phil Larrabee sneaking by
yer to-day?"

Salomy Jane had not. But she became interested and self-reproachful
for she knew that Phil Larrabee was one of her father's enemies. "He
wouldn't dare to go by here unless he knew you were out," she said
quickly.

"That's what gets me," he said, scratching his grizzled head. "I've
been kind o' thinkin' o' him all day, and one of them Chinamen said he
saw him at Sawyer's Crossing. He was a kind of friend o' Pete's wife.
That's why I thought yer might find out ef he'd been there." Salomy
Jane grew more self-reproachful at her father's self-interest in her
"neighborliness." "But that ain't all," continued Mr. Clay. "Thar was
tracks over the far pasture that warn't mine. I followed them, and
they went round and round the house two or three times, ez ef they
mout hev bin prowlin', and then I lost 'em in the woods again. It's
just like that sneakin' hound Larrabee to hev bin lyin' in wait for me
and afraid to meet a man fair and square in the open."

"You just lie low, dad, for a day or two more, and let me do a little
prowlin'," said the girl, with sympathetic indignation in her dark
eyes. "Ef it's that skunk, I'll spot him soon enough and let you know
whar he's hiding."

"You'll just stay where ye are, Salomy," said her father decisively.
"This ain't no woman's work--though I ain't sayin' you haven't got
more head for it than some men I know." Nevertheless, that night,
after her father had gone to bed, Salomy Jane sat by the open window
of the sitting-room in an apparent attitude of languid contemplation,
but alert and intent of eye and ear. It was a fine moonlit night. Two
pines near the door, solitary pickets of the serried ranks of distant
forest, cast long shadows like paths to the cottage, and sighed their
spiced breath in the windows. For there was no frivolity of vine or
flower round Salomy Jane's bower. The clearing was too recent, the
life too practical for vanities like these. But the moon added a vague
elusiveness to everything, softened the rigid outlines of the sheds,
gave shadows to the lidless windows, and touched with merciful
indirectness the hideous débris of refuse gravel and the gaunt scars
of burnt vegetation before the door. Even Salomy Jane was affected by
it, and exhaled something between a sigh and a yawn with the breath of
the pines. Then she suddenly sat upright.

Her quick ear had caught a faint "click, click," in the direction
of the wood; her quicker instinct and rustic training enabled her to
determine that it was the ring of a horse's shoe on flinty ground;
her knowledge of the locality told her it came from the spot where
the trail passed over an outcrop of flint scarcely a quarter of a mile
from where she sat, and within the clearing. It was no errant "stock,"
for the foot was _shod_ with iron; it was a mounted trespasser by
night, and boded no good to a man like Clay.

She rose, threw her shawl over her head, more for disguise than
shelter, and passed out of the door. A sudden impulse made her seize
her father's shotgun from the corner where it stood,--not that she
feared any danger to herself, but that it was an excuse. She made
directly for the wood, keeping in the shadow of the pines as long as
she could. At the fringe she halted; whoever was there must pass her
before reaching the house.

Then there seemed to be a suspense of all nature. Everything was
deadly still--even the moonbeams appeared no longer tremulous; soon
there was a rustle as of some stealthy animal among the ferns,
and then a dismounted man stepped into the moonlight. It was the
horse-thief--the man she had kissed!

For a wild moment a strange fancy seized her usually sane intellect
and stirred her temperate blood. The news they had told her was _not_
true; he had been hung, and this was his ghost! He looked as white and
spirit-like in the moonlight, dressed in the same clothes, as when she
saw him last. He had evidently seen her approaching, and moved quickly
to meet her. But in his haste he stumbled slightly; she reflected
suddenly that ghosts did not stumble, and a feeling of relief came
over her. And it was no assassin of her father that had been prowling
around--only this unhappy fugitive. A momentary color came into her
cheek; her coolness and hardihood returned; it was with a tinge of
sauciness in her voice that she said:--

"I reckoned you were a ghost."

"I mout have been," he said, looking at her fixedly; "but I reckon I'd
have come back here all the same."

"It's a little riskier comin' back alive," she said, with a levity
that died on her lips, for a singular nervousness, half fear and half
expectation, was beginning to take the place of her relief of a moment
ago. "Then it was _you_ who was prowlin' round and makin' tracks in
the far pasture?"

"Yes; I came straight here when I got away."

She felt his eyes were burning her, but did not dare to raise her own.
"Why," she began, hesitated, and ended vaguely. "_How_ did you get
here?"

"You helped me!"

"I?"

"Yes. That kiss you gave me put life into me--gave me strength to get
away. I swore to myself I'd come back and thank you, alive or dead."

Every word he said she could have anticipated, so plain the situation
seemed to her now. And every word he said she knew was the truth. Yet
her cool common sense struggled against it.

"What's the use of your escaping, ef you're comin' back here to be
ketched again?" she said pertly.

He drew a little nearer to her, but seemed to her the more awkward as
she resumed her self-possession. His voice, too, was broken, as if by
exhaustion, as he said, catching his breath at intervals:--

"I'll tell you. You did more for me than you think. You made another
man o' me. I never had a man, woman, or child do to me what you did.
I never had a friend--only a pal like Red Pete, who picked me up 'on
shares.' I want to quit this yer--what I'm doin'. I want to begin by
doin' the square thing to you"--He stopped, breathed hard, and then
said brokenly, "My hoss is over thar, staked out. I want to give him
to you. Judge Boompointer will give you a thousand dollars for him. I
ain't lyin'; it's God's truth! I saw it on the handbill agin a tree.
Take him, and I'll get away afoot. Take him. It's the only thing I can
do for you, and I know it don't half pay for what you did. Take it;
your father can get a reward for you, if you can't."

Such were the ethics of this strange locality that neither the man who
made the offer nor the girl to whom it was made was struck by anything
that seemed illogical or indelicate, or at all inconsistent with
justice or the horse-thief's real conversion. Salomy Jane nevertheless
dissented, from another and weaker reason.

"I don't want your hoss, though I reckon dad might; but you're just
starvin'. I'll get suthin'." She turned towards the house.

"Say you'll take the hoss first," he said, grasping her hand. At
the touch she felt herself coloring and struggled, expecting perhaps
another kiss. But he dropped her hand. She turned again with a saucy
gesture, said, "Hol' on; I'll come right back," and slipped away,
the mere shadow of a coy and flying nymph in the moonlight, until she
reached the house.

Here she not only procured food and whiskey, but added a long
dust-coat and hat of her father's to her burden. They would serve
as a disguise for him and hide that heroic figure, which she
thought everybody must now know as she did. Then she rejoined him
breathlessly. But he put the food and whiskey aside.

"Listen," he said; "I've turned the hoss into your corral. You'll find
him there in the morning, and no one will know but that he got lost
and joined the other hosses."

Then she burst out. "But you--_you_--what will become of you? You'll
be ketched!"

"I'll manage to get away," he said in a low voice, "ef--ef"--

"Ef what?" she said tremblingly.

"Ef you'll put the heart in me again,--as you did!" he gasped.

She tried to laugh--to move away. She could do neither. Suddenly he
caught her in his arms, with a long kiss, which she returned again and
again. Then they stood embraced as they had embraced two days before,
but no longer the same. For the cool, lazy Salomy Jane had been
transformed into another woman--a passionate, clinging savage. Perhaps
something of her father's blood had surged within her at that supreme
moment. The man stood erect and determined.

"Wot's your name?" she whispered quickly. It was a woman's quickest
way of defining her feelings.

"Dart."

"Yer first name?"

"Jack."

"Let me go now, Jack. Lie low in the woods till to-morrow sunup. I'll
come again."

He released her. Yet she lingered a moment. "Put on those things," she
said, with a sudden happy flash of eyes and teeth, "and lie close till
I come." And then she sped away home.

But midway up the distance she felt her feet going slower, and
something at her heartstrings seemed to be pulling her back. She
stopped, turned, and glanced to where he had been standing. Had she
seen him then, she might have returned. But he had disappeared. She
gave her first sigh, and then ran quickly again. It must be nearly ten
o'clock! It was not very long to morning!

She was within a few steps of her own door, when the sleeping woods
and silent air appeared to suddenly awake with a sharp "crack!"

She stopped, paralyzed. Another "crack!" followed, that echoed over to
the far corral. She recalled herself instantly and dashed off wildly
to the woods again.

As she ran she thought of one thing only. He had been "dogged" by one
of his old pursuers and attacked. But there were two shots, and he was
unarmed. Suddenly she remembered that she had left her father's gun
standing against the tree where they were talking. Thank God! she may
again have saved him. She ran to the tree; the gun was gone. She ran
hither and thither, dreading at every step to fall upon his lifeless
body. A new thought struck her; she ran to the corral. The horse was
not there! He must have been able to regain it, and escaped, _after_
the shots had been fired. She drew a long breath of relief, but it was
caught up in an apprehension of alarm. Her father, awakened from his
sleep by the shots, was hurriedly approaching her.

"What's up now, Salomy Jane?" he demanded excitedly.

"Nothin'," said the girl with an effort. "Nothin', at least, that _I_
can find." She was usually truthful because fearless, and a lie stuck
in her throat; but she was no longer fearless, thinking of _him_. "I
wasn't abed; so I ran out as soon as I heard the shots fired," she
answered in return to his curious gaze.

"And you've hid my gun somewhere where it can't be found," he said
reproachfully. "Ef it was that sneak Larrabee, and he fired them shots
to lure me out, he might have potted me, without a show, a dozen times
in the last five minutes."

She had not thought since of her father's enemy! It might indeed
have been he who had attacked Jack. But she made a quick point of the
suggestion. "Run in, dad, run in and find the gun; you've got no show
out here without it." She seized him by the shoulders from behind,
shielding him from the woods, and hurried him, half expostulating,
half struggling, to the house.

But there no gun was to be found. It was strange; it must have been
mislaid in some corner! Was he sure he had not left it in the barn?
But no matter now. The danger was over; the Larrabee trick had failed;
he must go to bed now, and in the morning they would make a search
together. At the same time she had inwardly resolved to rise before
him and make another search of the wood, and perhaps--fearful joy as
she recalled her promise!--find Jack alive and well, awaiting her!



ANOTHER ESCAPE

[Illustration]



IV


Salomy Jane slept little that night, nor did her father. But towards
morning he fell into a tired man's slumber until the sun was well up
the horizon. Far different was it with his daughter: she lay with her
face to the window, her head half lifted to catch every sound, from
the creaking of the sun-warped shingles above her head to the far-off
moan of the rising wind in the pine trees. Sometimes she fell into
a breathless, half-ecstatic trance, living over every moment of the
stolen interview; feeling the fugitive's arm still around her, his
kisses on her lips; hearing his whispered voice in her ears--the birth
of her new life! This was followed again by a period of agonizing
dread--that he might even then be lying, his life ebbing away, in the
woods, with her name on his lips, and she resting here inactive, until
she half started from her bed to go to his succor. And this went on
until a pale opal glow came into the sky, followed by a still paler
pink on the summit of the white Sierras, when she rose and hurriedly
began to dress. Still so sanguine was her hope of meeting him, that
she lingered yet a moment to select the brown holland skirt and yellow
sunbonnet she had worn when she first saw him. And she had only seen
him twice! Only _twice_! It would be cruel, too cruel, not to see him
again!

She crept softly down the stairs, listening to the long-drawn
breathing of her father in his bedroom, and then, by the light of a
guttering candle, scrawled a note to him, begging him not to trust
himself out of the house until she returned from her search, and
leaving the note open on the table, swiftly ran out into the growing
day.

Three hours afterwards Mr. Madison Clay awoke to the sound of loud
knocking. At first this forced itself upon his consciousness as his
daughter's regular morning summons, and was responded to by a grunt of
recognition and a nestling closer in the blankets. Then he awoke with
a start and a muttered oath, remembering the events of last night, and
his intention to get up early, and rolled out of bed. Becoming aware
by this time that the knocking was at the outer door, and hearing the
shout of a familiar voice, he hastily pulled on his boots, his jean
trousers, and fastening a single suspender over his shoulder as he
clattered downstairs, stood in the lower room. The door was open,
and waiting upon the threshold was his kinsman, an old ally in many a
blood-feud--Breckenridge Clay!

"You _are_ a cool one, Mad!" said the latter in half-admiring
indignation.

"What's up?" said the bewildered Madison.

"_You_ ought to be, and scootin' out o' this," said Breckenridge
grimly. "It's all very well to 'know nothin';' but here Phil
Larrabee's friends hev just picked him up, drilled through with slugs
and deader nor a crow, and now they're lettin' loose Larrabee's two
half-brothers on you. And you must go like a derned fool and leave
these yer things behind you in the bresh," he went on querulously,
lifting Madison Clay's dust-coat, hat, and shotgun from his horse,
which stood saddled at the door. "Luckily I picked them up in the
woods comin' here. Ye ain't got more than time to get over the state
line and among your folks thar afore they'll be down on you. Hustle,
old man! What are you gawkin' and starin' at?"

Madison Clay had stared amazed and bewildered--horror-stricken.
The incidents of the past night for the first time flashed upon him
clearly--hopelessly! The shot; his finding Salomy Jane alone in
the woods; her confusion and anxiety to rid herself of him; the
disappearance of the shotgun; and now this new discovery of the taking
of his hat and coat for a disguise! _She_ had killed Phil Larrabee
in that disguise, after provoking his first harmless shot! She, his
own child, Salomy Jane, had disgraced herself by a man's crime; had
disgraced him by usurping his right, and taking a mean advantage, by
deceit, of a foe!

"Gimme that gun," he said hoarsely.

Breckenridge handed him the gun in wonder and slowly gathering
suspicion. Madison examined nipple and muzzle; one barrel had been
discharged. It was true! The gun dropped from his hand.

"Look here, old man," said Breckenridge, with a darkening face,
"there's bin no foul play here. Thar's bin no hiring of men, no deputy
to do this job. _You_ did it fair and square--yourself?"

"Yes, by God!" burst out Madison Clay in a hoarse voice. "Who says I
didn't?"

Reassured, yet believing that Madison Clay had nerved himself for
the act by an over-draught of whiskey, which had affected his memory,
Breckenridge said curtly, "Then wake up and 'lite' out, ef ye want me
to stand by you."

"Go to the corral and pick me out a hoss," said Madison slowly, yet
not without a certain dignity of manner. "I've suthin' to say to
Salomy Jane afore I go." He was holding her scribbled note, which he
had just discovered, in his shaking hand.

Struck by his kinsman's manner, and knowing the dependent relations
of father and daughter, Breckenridge nodded and hurried away. Left
to himself, Madison Clay ran his fingers through his hair, and
straightened out the paper on which Salomy Jane had scrawled her note,
turned it over, and wrote on the back:--

    You might have told me you did it, and not leave your ole
    father to find it out how you disgraced yourself and him, too,
    by a low-down, underhanded, woman's trick! I've said I done
    it, and took the blame myself, and all the sneakiness of it
    that folks suspect. If I get away alive--and I don't care much
    which--you needn't foller. The house and stock are yours; but
    you ain't any longer the daughter of your disgraced father,

    MADISON CLAY.

He had scarcely finished the note when, with a clatter of hoofs and a
led horse, Breckenridge reappeared at the door elate and triumphant.
"You're in nigger luck, Mad! I found that stole hoss of Judge
Boompointer's had got away and strayed among your stock in the corral.
Take him and you're safe; he can't be outrun this side of the state
line."

"I ain't no hoss-thief," said Madison grimly.

"Nobody sez ye are, but you'd be wuss--a fool--ef you didn't take him.
I'm testimony that you found him among your hosses; I'll tell Judge
Boompointer you've got him, and ye kin send him back when you're safe.
The judge will be mighty glad to get him back, and call it quits. So
ef you've writ to Salomy Jane, come."

Madison Clay no longer hesitated. Salomy Jane might return at any
moment,--it would be part of her "fool womanishness,"--and he was
in no mood to see her before a third party. He laid the note on
the table, gave a hurried glance around the house, which he grimly
believed he was leaving forever, and, striding to the door, leaped on
the stolen horse, and swept away with his kinsman.

But that note lay for a week undisturbed on the table in full view of
the open door. The house was invaded by leaves, pine cones, birds,
and squirrels during the hot, silent, empty days, and at night by shy,
stealthy creatures, but never again, day or night, by any of the Clay
family. It was known in the district that Clay had flown across the
state line, his daughter was believed to have joined him the next day,
and the house was supposed to be locked up. It lay off the main road,
and few passed that way. The starving cattle in the corral at last
broke bounds and spread over the woods. And one night a stronger blast
than usual swept through the house, carried the note from the table
to the floor, where, whirled into a crack in the flooring, it slowly
rotted.

But though the sting of her father's reproach was spared her, Salomy
Jane had no need of the letter to know what had happened. For as she
entered the woods in the dim light of that morning she saw the figure
of Dart gliding from the shadow of a pine towards her. The unaffected
cry of joy that rose from her lips died there as she caught sight of
his face in the open light.

"You are hurt," she said, clutching his arm passionately.

"No," he said. "But I wouldn't mind that if"--

"You're thinkin' I was afeard to come back last night when I heard the
shootin', but I _did_ come," she went on feverishly. "I ran back here
when I heard the two shots, but you were gone. I went to the corral,
but your hoss wasn't there, and I thought you'd got away."

"I _did_ get away," said Dart gloomily. "I killed the man, thinkin'
he was huntin' _me_, and forgettin' I was disguised. He thought I was
your father."

"Yes," said the girl joyfully, "he was after dad, and _you_--you
killed him." She again caught his hand admiringly.

But he did not respond. Possibly there were points of honor which this
horse-thief felt vaguely with her father. "Listen," he said grimly.
"Others think it was your father killed him. When _I_ did it--for
he fired at me first--I ran to the corral again and took my hoss,
thinkin' I might be follered. I made a clear circuit of the house,
and when I found he was the only one, and no one was follerin', I come
back here and took off my disguise. Then I heard his friends find him
in the wood, and I know they suspected your father. And then another
man come through the woods while I was hidin' and found the clothes
and took them away." He stopped and stared at her gloomily.

But all this was unintelligible to the girl. "Dad would have got
the better of him ef you hadn't," she said eagerly, "so what's the
difference?"

"All the same," he said gloomily, "I must take his place."

She did not understand, but turned her head to her master. "Then
you'll go back with me and tell him _all_?" she said obediently.

"Yes," he said.

She put her hand in his, and they crept out of the wood together. She
foresaw a thousand difficulties, but, chiefest of all, that he did not
love as she did. _She_ would not have taken these risks against their
happiness.

But alas for ethics and heroism. As they were issuing from the wood
they heard the sound of galloping hoofs, and had barely time to
hide themselves before Madison Clay, on the stolen horse of Judge
Boompointer, swept past them with his kinsman.

Salomy Jane turned to her lover.

       *       *       *       *       *

And here I might, as a moral romancer, pause, leaving the guilty,
passionate girl eloped with her disreputable lover, destined to
lifelong shame and misery, misunderstood to the last by a criminal,
fastidious parent. But I am confronted by certain facts, on which this
romance is based. A month later a handbill was posted on one of the
sentinel pines, announcing that the property would be sold by auction
to the highest bidder by Mrs. John Dart, daughter of Madison Clay,
Esq., and it was sold accordingly. Still later--by ten years--the
chronicler of these pages visited a certain "stock" or "breeding
farm," in the "Blue Grass Country," famous for the popular racers
it has produced. He was told that the owner was the "best judge of
horse-flesh in the country." "Small wonder," added his informant, "for
they say as a young man out in California he was a horse-thief, and
only saved himself by eloping with some rich farmer's daughter. But
he's a straight-out and respectable man now, whose word about horses
can't be bought; and as for his wife, _she_'s a beauty! To see her at
the 'Springs,' rigged out in the latest fashion, you'd never think
she had ever lived out of New York or wasn't the wife of one of its
millionaires."


The Riverside Press

CAMBRIDGE. MASSACHUSETTS

U.S.A





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