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´╗┐Title: The Bell-Ringer of Angel's
Author: Harte, Bret, 1836-1902
Language: English
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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.

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THE BELL-RINGER OF ANGEL'S


By Bret Harte



CONTENTS


THE BELL-RINGER OF ANGEL'S

JOHNNYBOY

YOUNG ROBIN GRAY

THE SHERIFF OF SISKYOU

A ROSE OF GLENBOGIE

THE MYSTERY OF THE HACIENDA

CHU CHU

MY FIRST BOOK



THE BELL-RINGER OF ANGEL'S



CHAPTER I.


Where the North Fork of the Stanislaus River begins to lose its youthful
grace, vigor, and agility, and broadens more maturely into the plain,
there is a little promontory which at certain high stages of water lies
like a small island in the stream. To the strongly-marked heroics of
Sierran landscape it contrasts a singular, pastoral calm. White and
gray mosses from the overhanging rocks and feathery alders trail their
filaments in its slow current, and between the woodland openings there
are glimpses of vivid velvet sward, even at times when the wild oats and
"wire-grasses" of the plains are already yellowing. The placid river,
unstained at this point by mining sluices or mill drift, runs clear
under its contemplative shadows. Originally the camping-ground of a
Digger Chief, it passed from his tenancy with the American rifle bullet
that terminated his career. The pioneer who thus succeeded to its
attractive calm gave way in turn to a well-directed shot from the
revolver of a quartz-prospector, equally impressed with the charm of
its restful tranquillity. How long he might have enjoyed its riparian
seclusion is not known. A sudden rise of the river one March night
quietly removed him, together with the overhanging post oak beneath
which he was profoundly but unconsciously meditating. The demijohn of
whiskey was picked up further down. But no other suggestion of these
successive evictions was ever visible in the reposeful serenity of the
spot.

It was later occupied, and a cabin built upon the spot, by one Alexander
McGee, better known as "the Bell-ringer of Angel's." This euphonious
title, which might have suggested a consistently peaceful occupation,
however, referred to his accuracy of aim at a mechanical target, where
the piercing of the bull's eye was celebrated by the stroke of a bell.
It is probable that this singular proficiency kept his investment of
that gentle seclusion unchallenged. At all events it was uninvaded. He
shared it only with the birds. Perhaps some suggestion of nest building
may have been in his mind, for one pleasant spring morning he brought
hither a wife. It was his OWN; and in this way he may be said to have
introduced that morality which is supposed to be the accompaniment and
reflection of pastoral life. Mrs. McGee's red petticoat was sometimes
seen through the trees--a cheerful bit of color. Mrs. McGee's red
cheeks, plump little figure, beribboned hat and brown, still-girlish
braids were often seen at sunset on the river bank, in company with
her husband, who seemed to be pleased with the discreet and distant
admiration that followed them. Strolling under the bland shadows of the
cotton-woods, by the fading gold of the river, he doubtless felt that
peace which the mere world cannot give, and which fades not away before
the clear, accurate eye of the perfect marksman.

Their nearest neighbors were the two brothers Wayne, who took up
a claim, and built themselves a cabin on the river bank near the
promontory. Quiet, simple men, suspected somewhat of psalm-singing, and
undue retirement on Sundays, they attracted but little attention. But
when, through some original conception or painstaking deliberation, they
turned the current of the river so as to restrict the overflow between
the promontory and the river bank, disclosing an auriferous "bar" of
inconceivable richness, and establishing their theory that it was really
the former channel of the river, choked and diverted though ages of
alluvial drift, they may be said to have changed, also, the fortunes
of the little settlement. Popular feeling and the new prosperity which
dawned upon the miners recognized the two brothers by giving the name of
Wayne's Bar to the infant settlement and its post-office. The peaceful
promontory, although made easier of access, still preserved its calm
seclusion, and pretty Mrs. McGee could contemplate through the leaves of
her bower the work going on at its base, herself unseen. Nevertheless,
this Arcadian retreat was being slowly and surely invested; more than
that, the character of its surroundings was altered, and the complexion
of the river had changed. The Wayne engines on the point above had
turned the drift and debris into the current that now thickened and ran
yellow around the wooded shore. The fringes of this Eden were already
tainted with the color of gold.

It is doubtful, however, if Mrs. McGee was much affected by this
sentimental reflection, and her husband, in a manner, lent himself to
the desecration of his exclusive domain by accepting a claim along
the shore--tendered by the conscientious Waynes in compensation for
restricting the approach to the promontory--and thus participated in
the fortunes of the Bar. Mrs. McGee amused herself by watching from
her eyrie, with a presumably childish interest, the operations of
the red-shirted brothers on the Bar; her husband, however, always
accompanying her when she crossed the Bar to the bank. Some two or three
other women--wives of miners--had joined the camp, but it was evident
that McGee was as little inclined to intrust his wife to their
companionship as to that of their husbands. An opinion obtained that
McGee, being an old resident, with alleged high connections in Angel's,
was inclined to be aristocratic and exclusive.

Meantime, the two brothers who had founded the fortunes of the Bar were
accorded an equally high position, with an equal amount of reserve.
Their ways were decidedly not those of the other miners, and were as
efficacious in keeping them from familiar advances as the reputation of
Mr. McGee was in isolating his wife. Madison Wayne, the elder, was
tall, well-knit and spare, reticent in speech and slow in deduction;
his brother, Arthur, was of rounder outline, but smaller and of a more
delicate and perhaps a more impressible nature. It was believed by some
that it was within the range of possibility that Arthur would yet be
seen "taking his cocktail like a white man," or "dropping his scads"
at draw poker. At present, however, they seemed content to spend their
evenings in their own cabin, and their Sundays at a grim Presbyterian
tabernacle in the next town, to which they walked ten miles, where, it
was currently believed, "hell fire was ladled out free," and "infants
damned for nothing." When they did not go to meeting it was also
believed that the minister came to them, until it was ascertained that
the sound of sacred recitation overheard in their cabin was simply
Madison Wayne reading the Bible to his younger brother. McGee is said
to have stopped on one of these occasions--unaccompanied by his
wife--before their cabin, moving away afterwards with more than his
usual placid contentment.

It was about eleven o'clock one morning, and Madison Wayne was at work
alone on the Bar. Clad in a dark gray jersey and white duck trousers
rolled up over high india-rubber boots, he looked not unlike a peaceful
fisherman digging stakes for his nets, as he labored in the ooze and
gravel of the still half-reclaimed river bed. He was far out on the Bar,
within a stone's throw of the promontory. Suddenly his quick ear caught
an unfamiliar cry and splash. Looking up hastily, he saw Mrs. McGee's
red petticoat in the water under the singularly agitated boughs of an
overhanging tree. Madison Wayne ran to the bank, threw off his heavy
boots, and sprang into the stream. A few strokes brought him to Mrs.
McGee's petticoat, which, as he had wisely surmised, contained Mrs.
McGee, who was still clinging to a branch of the tree. Grasping her
waist with one hand and the branch with the other, he obtained a
foothold on the bank, and dragged her ashore. A moment later they both
stood erect and dripping at the foot of the tree.

"Well?" said the lady.

Wayne glanced around their seclusion with his habitual caution, slightly
knit his brows perplexedly, and said: "You fell in?"

"I didn't do nothin' of the sort. I JUMPED in."

Wayne again looked around him, as if expecting her companion, and
squeezed the water out of his thick hair. "Jumped in?" he repeated
slowly. "What for?"

"To make you come over here, Mad Wayne," she said, with a quick laugh,
putting her arms akimbo.

They stood looking at each other, dripping like two river gods. Like
them, also, Wayne had apparently ignored the fact that his trousers were
rolled up above his bare knees, and Mrs. McGee that her red petticoat
clung closely to her rather pretty figure. But he quickly recovered
himself. "You had better go in and change your clothes," he said, with
grave concern. "You'll take cold."

She only shook herself disdainfully. "I'm all right," she said; "but
YOU, Mad Wayne, what do you mean by not speaking to me--not knowing me?
You can't say that I've changed like that." She passed her hand down her
long dripping braids as if to press the water from them, and yet with a
half-coquettish suggestion in the act.

Something struggled up into the man's face which was not there before.
There was a new light in his grave eyes. "You look the same," he said
slowly; "but you are married--you have a husband."

"You think that changes a girl?" she said, with a laugh "That's where
all you men slip up! You're afraid of his rifle--THAT'S the change that
bothers you, Mad."

"You know I care little for carnal weapons," he said quietly. She DID
know it; but it is the privilege of the sex to invent its facts and then
to graciously abandon them as if they were only arguments. "Then why do
you keep off from me? Why do you look the other way when I pass?" she
said quickly.

"Because you are married," he said slowly.

She again shook the water from her like a Newfoundland dog. "That's it.
You're mad because I got married. You're mad because I wouldn't marry
you and your church over on the cross roads, and sing hymns with you and
become SISTER Wayne. You wanted me to give up dancing and buggy ridin'
Sundays--and you're just mad because I didn't. Yes, mad--just mean, baby
mad, Mr. Maddy Wayne, for all your CHRISTIAN resignation! That's what's
the matter with you." Yet she looked very pretty and piquant in her
small spitefulness, which was still so general and superficial that
she seemed to shake it out of her wet petticoats in a vicious flap that
disclosed her neat ankles.

"You preferred McGee to me," he said grimly. "I didn't blame you."

"Who said I PREFERRED him?" she retorted quickly. "Much you know!"
Then, with swift feminine abandonment of her position, she added, with a
little laugh, "It's all the same whether you're guarded with a rifle or
a Church Presbytery, only"--

"Only what?" said Madison earnestly.

"There's men who'd risk being SHOT for a girl, that couldn't stand
psalm-singin' palaver."

The quick expression of pain that passed over his hard, dark face seemed
only to heighten her pretty mischievousness. But he simply glanced again
around the solitude, passed his hand over his wet sleeve, and said, "I
must go now; your husband wouldn't like me being here."

"He's workin' in the claim,--the claim YOU gave him," said Mrs. McGee,
with cheerful malice. "Wonder what he'd say if he knew it was given to
him by the man who used to spark his wife only two years ago? How does
that suit your Christian conscience, Mad?"

"I should have told him, had I not believed that everything was over
between us, or that it was possible that you and me should ever meet
again," he returned, in a tone so measured that the girl seemed to hear
the ring of the conventicle in it.

"Should you, BROTHER Wayne?" she said, imitating him. "Well, let me tell
you that you are the one man on the Bar that Sandy has taken a fancy
to."

Madison's sallow cheek colored a little, but he did not speak.

"Well!" continued Mrs. McGee impatiently. "I don't believe he'd object
to your comin' here to see me--if you cared."

"But I wouldn't care to come, unless he first knew that I had been once
engaged to you," said Madison gravely.

"Perhaps he might not think as much of that as you do," retorted the
woman pertly. "Every one isn't as straitlaced as you, and every girl has
had one or two engagements. But do as you like--stay at home if you want
to, and sing psalms and read the Scriptures to that younger brother of
yours! All the same, I'm thinkin' he'd rather be out with the boys."

"My brother is God-fearing and conscientious," said Madison quickly.
"You do not know him. You have never seen him."

"No," said Mrs. McGee shortly. She then gave a little shiver (that was,
however, half simulated) in her wet garments, and added: "ONE saint was
enough for me; I couldn't stand the whole church, Mad."

"You are catching cold," he said quickly, his whole face brightening
with a sudden tenderness that seemed to transfigure the dark features.
"I am keeping you here when you should be changing your clothes. Go, I
beg you, at once."

She stood still provokingly, with an affectation of wiping her arms and
shoulders and sopping her wet dress with clusters of moss.

"Go, please do--Safie, please!"

"Ah!"--she drew a quick, triumphant breath. "Then you'll come again to
see me, Mad?"

"Yes," he said slowly, and even more gravely than before.

"But you must let me show you the way out--round under those
trees--where no one can see you come." She held out her hand.

"I'll go the way I came," he said quietly, swinging himself silently
from the nearest bough into the stream. And before she could utter a
protest he was striking out as silently, hand over hand, across the
current.



CHAPTER II.


A week later Madison Wayne was seated alone in his cabin. His supper
table had just been cleared by his Chinese coolie, as it was getting
late, and the setting sun, which for half an hour had been persistently
making a vivid beacon of his windows for the benefit of wayfarers along
the river bank, had at last sunk behind the cottonwoods. His head was
resting on his hand; the book he had been reading when the light faded
was lying open on the table before him. In this attitude he became aware
of a hesitating step on the gravel outside his open door. He had been
so absorbed that the approach of any figure along the only highway--the
river bank--had escaped his observation. Looking up, he discovered
that Mr. Alexander McGee was standing in the doorway, his hand resting
lightly on the jamb. A sudden color suffused Wayne's cheek; his hand
reached for his book, which he drew towards him hurriedly, yet half
automatically, as he might have grasped some defensive weapon.

The Bell-ringer of Angel's noticed the act, but not the blush, and
nodded approvingly. "Don't let me disturb ye. I was only meanderin'
by and reckoned I'd say 'How do?' in passin'." He leaned gently back
against the door-post, to do which comfortably he was first obliged to
shift the revolver on his hip. The sight of the weapon brought a slight
contraction to the brows of Wayne, but he gravely said: "Won't you come
in?"

"It ain't your prayin' time?" said McGee politely.

"No."

"Nor you ain't gettin' up lessons outer the Book?" he continued
thoughtfully.

"No."

"Cos it don't seem, so to speak, you see, the square thing to be
botherin' a man when he might be doin' suthin' else, don't you see? You
understand what I mean?"

It was his known peculiarity that he always seemed to be suffering from
an inability to lucid expression, and the fear of being misunderstood in
regard to the most patent or equally the most unimportant details of his
speech. All of which, however, was in very remarkable contrast to his
perfectly clear and penetrating eyes.

Wayne gravely assured him that he was not interrupting him in any way.

"I often thought--that is, I had an idea, you understand what I mean--of
stoppin' in passing. You and me, you see, are sorter alike; we don't
seem to jibe in with the gin'ral gait o' the camp. You understand what I
mean? We ain't in the game, eh? You see what I'm after?"

Madison Wayne glanced half mechanically at McGee's revolver. McGee's
clear eyes at once took in the glance.

"That's it! You understand? You with them books of yours, and me with
my shootin' iron--we're sort o' different from the rest, and ought to be
kinder like partners. You understand what I mean? We keep this camp in
check. We hold a full hand, and don't stand no bluffing."

"If you mean there is some effect in Christian example and the life of a
God-fearing man"--began Madison gravely.

"That's it! God-fearin' or revolver-fearin', it amounts to the same when
you come down to the hard pan and bed-rock," interrupted McGee. "I ain't
expectin' you to think much of my style, but I go a heap on yours, even
if I can't play your game. And I sez to my wife, 'Safie'--her that trots
around with me sometimes--I sez, 'Safie, I oughter know that man, and
shall. And I WANT YOU to know him.' Hol' on," he added quickly, as
Madison rose with a flushed face and a perturbed gesture. "Ye don't
understand! I see wot's in your mind--don't you see? When I married
my wife and brought her down here, knowin' this yer camp, I sez: 'No
flirtin', no foolin', no philanderin' here, my dear! You're young and
don't know the ways o' men. The first man I see you talking with, I
shoot. You needn't fear, my dear, for accidents. I kin shoot all round
you, under your arm, across your shoulders, over your head and between
your fingers, my dear, and never start skin or fringe or ruffle. But I
don't miss HIM. You sorter understand what I mean,' sez I,'so don't!' Ye
noticed how my wife is respected, Mr. Wayne? Queen Victoria sittin' on
her throne ain't in it with my Safie. But when I see YOU not herdin'
with that cattle, never liftin' your eyes to me or Safie as we pass,
never hangin' round the saloons and jokin', nor winkin', nor slingin'
muddy stories about women, but prayin' and readin' Scripter stories,
here along with your brother, I sez to myself, I sez, 'Sandy, ye kin
take off your revolver and hang up your shot gun when HE'S around. For
'twixt HIM and your wife ain't no revolver, but the fear of God and hell
and damnation and the world to come!' You understand what I mean, don't
ye? Ye sorter follow my lead, eh? Ye can see what I'm shootin' round,
don't ye? So I want you to come up neighborly like, and drop in to see
my wife."

Madison Wayne's face became set and hard again, but he advanced towards
McGee with the book against his breast, and his finger between the
leaves. "I already know your wife, Mr. McGee! I saw her before YOU ever
met her. I was engaged to her; I loved her, and--as far as man may
love the wife of another and keep the commands of this book--I love her
still!"

To his surprise, McGee, whose calm eyes had never dimmed or blenched,
after regarding him curiously, took the volume from him, laid it on the
table, opened it, turned its leaves critically, said earnestly, "That's
the law here, is it?" and then held out his hand.

"Shake!"

Madison Wayne hesitated--and then grasped his hand.

"Ef I had known this," continued McGee, "I reckon I wouldn't have
been so hard on Safie and so partikler. She's better than I took her
for--havin' had you for a beau! You understand what I mean. You follow
me--don't ye? I allus kinder wondered why she took me, but sens you've
told me that YOU used to spark her, in your God-fearin' way, I reckon it
kinder prepared her for ME. You understand? Now you come up, won't ye?"

"I will call some evening with my brother," said Wayne embarrassedly.

"With which?" demanded McGee.

"My brother Arthur. We usually spend the evenings together."

McGee paused, leaned against the doorpost, and, fixing his clear eyes on
Wayne, said: "Ef it's all the same to you, I'd rather you did not bring
him. You understand what I mean? You follow me; no other man but you and
me. I ain't sayin' anything agin' your brother, but you see how it is,
don't you? Just me and you."

"Very well, I will come," said Wayne gloomily. But as McGee backed out
of the door, he followed him, hesitatingly. Then, with an effort he
seemed to recover himself, and said almost harshly: "I ought to tell you
another thing--that I have seen and spoken to Mrs. McGee since she
came to the Bar. She fell into the water last week, and I swam out and
dragged her ashore. We talked and spoke of the past."

"She fell in," echoed McGee.

Wayne hesitated; then a murky blush came into his face as he slowly
repeated, "She FELL in."

McGee's eyes only brightened. "I have been too hard on her. She might
have drowned ef you hadn't took risks. You see? You understand what I
mean? And she never let out anything about it--and never boasted o' YOU
helpin' her out. All right--you'll come along and see her agin'." He
turned and walked cheerfully away.

Wayne re-entered the cabin. He sat for a long time by the window until
the stars came out above the river, and another star, with which he had
been long familiar, took its place apparently in the heart of the wooded
crest of the little promontory. Then the fringing woods on the opposite
shore became a dark level line across the landscape, and the color
seemed to fade out of the moist shining gravel before his cabin.
Presently the silhouette of his dark face disappeared from the window,
and Mr. McGee might have been gratified to know that he had slipped to
his knees before the chair whereon he had been sitting, and that his
head was bowed before it on his clasped hands. In a little while he rose
again, and, dragging a battened old portmanteau from the corner, took
out a number of letters tied up in a package, with which, from time to
time, he slowly fed the flame that flickered on his hearth. In this way
the windows of the cabin at times sprang into light, making a somewhat
confusing beacon for the somewhat confused Arthur Wayne, who was
returning from a visit to Angel's, and who had fallen into that slightly
morose and irritated state which follows excessive hilarity, and is also
apt to indicate moral misgivings.

But the last letter was burnt and the cabin quite dark when he entered.
His brother was sitting by the slowly dying fire, and he trusted that
in that uncertain light any observation of his expression or manner--of
which he himself was uneasily conscious--would pass unheeded.

"You are late," said Madison gravely.

At which his brother rashly assumed the aggressive. He was no later than
the others, and if the Rogers boys were good enough to walk with him
for company he couldn't run ahead of them just because his brother was
waiting! He didn't want any supper, he had something at the Cross Roads
with the others. Yes! WHISKEY, if he wanted to know. People couldn't
keep coffee and temperance drinks just to please him and his brother,
and he wasn't goin' to insult the others by standing aloof. Anyhow, he
had never taken the pledge, and as long as he hadn't he couldn't see
why he should refuse a single glass. As it was, everybody said he was a
milksop, and a tender-foot, and he was just sick of it.

Madison rose and lit a candle and held it up before his brother's face.
It was a handsome, youthful face that looked into his, flushed with the
excitement of novel experiences and perhaps a more material stimulation.
The little silken moustache was ostentatiously curled, the brown curls
were redolent of bear's grease. Yet there was a certain boyish timidity
and nervousness in the defiance of his blue eyes that momentarily
touched the elder brother.

"I've been too hand with him," he said to himself, half consciously
recalling what McGee had said of Safie. He put the candle down, laid
his hand gently on Arthur's shoulder, and said, with a certain cautious
tenderness, "Come, Arty, sit down and tell me all about it."

Whereupon the mercurial Arthur, not only relieved of his nervousness but
of his previous ethical doubts and remorse, became gay and voluble.
He had finished his purchases at Angel's, and the storekeeper had
introduced him to Colonel Starbottle, of Kentucky, as one of "the Waynes
who had made Wayne's Bar famous." Colonel Starbottle had said in his
pompous fashion--yet he was not such a bad fellow, after all--that the
Waynes ought to be represented in the Councils of the State, and
that he, Starbottle, would be proud to nominate Madison for the next
Legislature and run him, too. "And you know, really, Mad, if you mixed
a little more with folks, and they weren't--well, sorter AFRAID of
you--you could do it. Why, I've made a heap o' friends over there,
just by goin' round a little, and one of old Selvedge's girls--the
storekeeper, you know--said from what she'd heard of us, she always
thought I was about fifty, and turned up the whites of my eyes instead
of the ends of my moustache! She's mighty smart! Then the Postmaster has
got his wife and three daughters out from the States, and they've asked
me to come over to their church festival next week. It isn't our church,
of course, but I suppose it's all right."

This and much more with the volubility of relieved feelings. When he
stopped, out of breath, Madison said, "I have had a visitor since you
left--Mr. McGee."

"And his wife?" asked Arthur quickly. Madison flushed slightly. "No; but
he asked me to go and see her."

"That's HER doin', then," returned Arthur, with a laugh. "She's always
lookin' round the corners of her eyes at me when she passes. Why, John
Rogers was joking me about her only yesterday, and said McGee would blow
a hole through me some of these days if I didn't look out! Of course,"
he added, affectedly curling his moustache, "that's nonsense! But you
know how they talk, and she's too pretty for that fellow McGee."

"She has found a careful helpmeet in her husband," said Madison sternly,
"and it's neither seemly nor Christian in you, Arthur, to repeat the
idle, profane gossip of the Bar. I knew her before her marriage, and if
she was not a professing Christian, she was, and is, a pure, good woman!
Let us have no more of this."

Whether impressed by the tone of his brother's voice, or only affected
by his own mercurial nature, Arthur changed the subject to further
voluble reminiscences of his trip to Angel's. Yet he did not seem
embarrassed nor disconcerted when his brother, in the midst of his
speech, placed the candle and the Bible on the table, with two chairs
before it. He listened to Madison's monotonous reading of the evening
exercise with equally monotonous respect. Then they both arose, without
looking at each other, but with equally set and stolid faces, and knelt
down before their respective chairs, clasping the back with both hands,
and occasionally drawing the hard, wooden frames against their breasts
convulsively, as if it were a penitential act. It was the elder brother
who that night prayed aloud. It was his voice that rose higher by
degrees above the low roof and encompassing walls, the level river camp
lights that trembled through the window, the dark belt of riverside
trees, and the light on the promontory's crest--up to the tranquil,
passionless stars themselves.

With those confidences to his Maker this chronicle does not
lie--obtrusive and ostentatious though they were in tone and attitude.
Enough that they were a general arraignment of humanity, the Bar,
himself, and his brother, and indeed much that the same Maker had
created and permitted. That through this hopeless denunciation still
lingered some human feeling and tenderness might have been shown by the
fact that at its close his hands trembled and his face was bedewed by
tears. And his brother was so deeply affected that he resolved hereafter
to avoid all evening prayers.



CHAPTER III.


It was a week later that Madison Wayne and Mr. McGee were seen, to the
astonishment of the Bar, leisurely walking together in the direction of
the promontory. Here they disappeared, entering a damp fringe of willows
and laurels that seemed to mark its limits, and gradually ascending some
thickly-wooded trail, until they reached its crest, which, to Madison's
surprise, was cleared and open, and showed an acre or two of rude
cultivation. Here, too, stood the McGees' conjugal home--a small,
four-roomed house, but so peculiar and foreign in aspect that it at
once challenged even Madison's abstracted attention. It was a tiny Swiss
chalet, built in sections, and originally packed in cases, one of the
early importations from Europe to California after the gold discovery,
when the country was supposed to be a woodless wilderness. Mr. McGee
explained, with his usual laborious care, how he had bought it at
Marysville, not only for its picturesqueness, but because in its
unsuggestive packing-cases it offered no indication to the curious
miners, and could be put up by himself and a single uncommunicative
Chinaman, without any one else being aware of its existence. There was,
indeed, something quaint in this fragment of Old World handicraft, with
its smooth-jointed paneling, in two colors, its little lozenge fretwork,
its lapped roof, overhanging eaves, and miniature gallery. Inartistic
as Madison was--like most men of rigidly rectangular mind and
principle--and accustomed to the bleak and economic sufficiency of the
Californian miner's cabin, he was touched strangely by its novel grace
and freshness. It reminded him of HER; he had a new respect for this
rough, sinful man who had thus idealized his wife in her dwelling.
Already a few Madeira vines and a Cherokee rose clambered up the
gallery. And here Mrs. McGee was sitting.

In the face that she turned upon the two men Madison could see that she
was not expecting them, and even in the slight curiosity with which
she glanced at her husband, that evidently he had said nothing of his
previous visit or invitation. And this conviction became certainty at
Mr. McGee's first words.

"I've brought you an ole friend, Safie. He used to spark ye once at
Angel's afore my time--he told me so; he picked ye outer the water
here--he told me that, too. Ye mind that I said afore that he was the
only man I wanted ter know; I reckon now it seems the square thing that
he should be the one man YOU wanted ter know, too. You understand what I
mean--you follow me, don't you?"

Whether or not Mrs. McGee DID follow him, she exhibited neither concern,
solicitude, nor the least embarrassment. An experienced lover might have
augured ill from this total absence of self-consciousness. But Madison
was not an experienced lover. He accepted her amused smile as a
recognition of his feelings, trembled at the touch of her cool hands,
as if it had been a warm pressure, and scarcely dared to meet her
maliciously laughing eyes. When he had followed Mr. McGee to the little
gallery, the previous occupation of Mrs. McGee when they arrived was
explained. From that slight elevation there was a perfect view over the
whole landscape and river below; the Bar stretched out as a map at her
feet; in that clear, transparent air she could see every movement and
gesture of Wayne's brother, all unconscious of that surveillance, at
work on the Bar. For an instant Madison's sallow cheek reddened, he knew
not why; a remorseful feeling that he ought to be there with Arthur came
over him. Mrs. McGee's voice seemed to answer his thought. "You can see
everything that's going on down there without being seen yourself. It's
good fun for me sometimes. The other day I saw that young Carpenter
hanging round Mrs. Rogers's cabin in the bush when old Rogers was away.
And I saw her creep out and join him, never thinking any one could see
her!"

She laughed, seeking Madison's averted eyes, yet scarcely noticing his
suddenly contracted brows. Mr. McGee alone responded.

"That's why," he said, explanatorily, to Madison, "I don't allow to have
my Safie go round with those women. Not as I ever see anything o'
that sort goin' on, or keer to look, but on gin'ral principles. You
understand what I mean."

"That's your brother over there, isn't it?" said Mrs. McGee, turning to
Madison and calmly ignoring her husband's explanation, as she indicated
the distant Arthur. "Why didn't you bring him along with you?"

Madison hesitated, and looked at McGee. "He wasn't asked," said that
gentleman cheerfully. "One's company, two's none! You don't know him,
my dear; and this yer ain't a gin'ral invitation to the Bar. You follow
me?"

To this Mrs. McGee made no comment, but proceeded to show Madison over
the little cottage. Yet in a narrow passage she managed to touch his
hand, lingered to let her husband precede them from one room to another,
and once or twice looked meaningly into his eyes over McGee's shoulder.
Disconcerted and embarrassed, he tried to utter a few commonplaces, but
so constrainedly that even McGee presently noticed it. And the result
was still more embarrassing.

"Look yer," he said, suddenly turning to them both. "I reckon as how you
two wanter talk over old times, and I'll just meander over to the claim,
and do a spell o' work. Don't mind ME. And if HE"--indicating Madison
with his finger--"gets on ter religion, don't you mind him. It won't
hurt you, Safie,--no more nor my revolver,--but it's pow'ful persuadin',
and you understand me? You follow me? Well, so long!"

He turned away quickly, and was presently lost among the trees. For an
instant the embarrassed Madison thought of following him; but he was
confronted by Mrs. McGee's wicked eyes and smiling face between him
and the door. Composing herself, however, with a simulation of perfect
gravity she pointed to a chair.

"Sit down, Brother Wayne. If you're going to convert me, it may take
some time, you know, and you might as well make yourself comfortable.
As for me, I'll take the anxious bench." She laughed with a certain
girlishness, which he well remembered, and leaped to a sitting posture
on the table with her hands on her knees, swinging her smart shoes
backwards and forwards below it.

Madison looked at her in hopeless silence, with a pale, disturbed face
and shining eyes.

"Or, if you want to talk as we used to talk, Mad, when we sat on the
front steps at Angel's and pa and ma went inside to give us a show, ye
can hop up alongside o' me." She made a feint of gathering her skirts
beside her.

"Safie!" broke out the unfortunate man, in a tone that seemed to
increase in formal solemnity with his manifest agitation, "this is
impossible. The laws of God that have joined you and this man"--

"Oh, it's the prayer-meeting, is it?" said Safie, settling her skirts
again, with affected resignation. "Go on."

"Listen, Safie," said Madison, turning despairingly towards her. "Let
us for His sake, let us for the sake of our dear blessed past, talk
together earnestly and prayerfully. Let us take this time to root out of
our feeble hearts all yearnings that are not prompted by Him--yearnings
that your union with this man makes impossible and sinful. Let us for
the sake of the past take counsel of each other, even as brother and
sister."

"Sister McGee!" she interrupted mockingly. "It wasn't as brother and
sister you made love to me at Angel's."

"No! I loved you then, and would have made you my wife."

"And you don't love me any more," she said, audaciously darting a wicked
look into his eyes, "only because I didn't marry you? And you think that
Christian?"

"You know I love you as I have loved you always," he said passionately.

"Hush!" she said mockingly; "suppose he should hear you."

"He knows it!" said Madison bitterly. "I told him all!"

She stared at him fixedly.

"You have--told--him--that--you STILL love me?" she repeated slowly.

"Yes, or I wouldn't be here now. It was due to him--to my own
conscience."

"And what did he say?"

"He insisted upon my coming, and, as God is my Judge and witness--he
seemed satisfied and content."

She drew her pretty lips together with a long whistle, and then leaped
from the table. Her face was hard and her eyes were bright as she went
to the window and looked out. He followed her timidly.

"Don't touch me," she said, sharply striking away his proffered hand.
He turned with a flushed cheek and walked slowly towards the door. Her
laugh stopped him.

"Come! I reckon that squeezin' hands ain't no part of your contract with
Sandy?" she said, glancing down at her own. "Well, so you're goin'?"

"I only wished to talk seriously and prayerfully with you for a few
moments, Safie, and then--to see you no more."

"And how would that suit him," she said dryly, "if he wants your company
here? Then, just because you can't convert me and bring me to your ways
of thinkin' in one visit, I suppose you think it is Christian-like to
run away like this! Or do you suppose that, if you turn tail now, he
won't believe that your Christian strength and Christian resignation is
all humbug?"

Madison dropped into the chair, put his elbows on the table, and buried
his face in his hands. She came a little nearer, and laid her hand
lightly on his arm. He made a movement as if to take it, but she
withdrew it impatiently.

"Come," she said brusquely; "now you're in for it you must play the game
out. He trusts you; if he sees you can't trust yourself, he'll shoot you
on sight. That don't frighten you? Well, perhaps this will then! He'll
SAY your religion is a sham and you a hypocrite--and everybody will
believe him. How do you like that, Brother Wayne? How will that help
the Church? Come! You're a pair of cranks together; but he's got the
whip-hand of you this time. All you can do is to keep up to his idea
of you. Put a bold face on it, and come here as often as you can--the
oftener the better; the sooner you'll both get sick of each other--and
of ME. That's what you're both after, ain't it? Well! I can tell you
now, you needn't either of you be the least afraid of me."

She walked away to the window again, not angrily, but smoothing down the
folds of her bright print dress as if she were wiping her hands of her
husband and his guest. Something like a very material and man-like sense
of shame struggled up through his crust of religion. He stammered, "You
don't understand me, Safie."

"Then talk of something I do understand," she said pertly. "Tell me
some news of Angel's. Your brother was over there the other day. He
made himself quite popular with the young ladies--so I hear from Mrs.
Selvedge. You can tell me as we walk along the bank towards Sandy's
claim. It's just as well that you should move on now, as it's your FIRST
call, and next time you can stop longer." She went to the corner of the
room, removed her smart slippers, and put on a pair of walking-shoes,
tying them, with her foot on a chair, in a quiet disregard of her
visitor's presence; took a brown holland sunbonnet from the wall,
clapped it over her browner hair and hanging braids, and tied it under
her chin with apparently no sense of coquetry in the act--becoming
though it was--and without glancing at him. Alas for Madison's ethics!
The torment of her worldly speech and youthful contempt was nothing to
this tacit ignoring of the manhood of her lover--this silent acceptance
of him as something even lower than her husband. He followed her with a
burning cheek and a curious revolting of his whole nature that it is to
be feared were scarcely Christian. The willows opened to let them pass
and closed behind them.

An hour later Mrs. McGee returned to her leafy bower alone. She took off
her sunbonnet, hung it on its nail on the wall, shook down her braids,
took off her shoes, stained with the mud of her husband's claim, and put
on her slippers. Then she ascended to her eyrie in the little gallery,
and gazed smilingly across the sunlit Bar. The two gaunt shadows of
her husband and lover, linked like twins, were slowly passing along the
river bank on their way to the eclipsing obscurity of the cottonwoods.
Below her--almost at her very feet--the unconscious Arthur Wayne was
pushing his work on the river bed, far out to the promontory. The
sunlight fell upon his vivid scarlet shirt, his bared throat, and head
clustering with perspiring curls. The same sunlight fell upon Mrs.
McGee's brown head too, and apparently put a wicked fancy inside it. She
ran to her bedroom, and returned with a mirror from its wall, and, after
some trials in getting the right angle, sent a searching reflection upon
the spot where Arthur was at work.

For an instant a diamond flash played around him. Then he lifted his
head and turned it curiously towards the crest above him. But the next
moment he clapped his hands over his dazzled but now smiling eyes, as
Mrs. McGee, secure in her leafy obscurity, fell back and laughed to
herself, like a very schoolgirl.

It was three weeks later, and Madison Wayne was again sitting alone in
his cabin. This solitude had become of more frequent occurrence lately,
since Arthur had revolted and openly absented himself from his religious
devotions for lighter diversions of the Bar. Keenly as Madison felt his
defection, he was too much preoccupied with other things to lay much
stress upon it, and the sting of Arthur's relapse to worldliness and
folly lay in his own consciousness that it was partly his fault. He
could not chide his brother when he felt that his own heart was absorbed
in his neighbor's wife, and although he had rigidly adhered to his own
crude ideas of self-effacement and loyalty to McGee, he had been again
and again a visitor at his house. It was true that Mrs. McGee had
made this easier by tacitly accepting his conditions of their
acquaintanceship, by seeming more natural, by exhibiting a gayety, and
at times even a certain gentleness and thoughtfulness of conduct that
delighted her husband and astonished her lover. Whether this wonderful
change had really been effected by the latter's gloomy theology and
still more hopeless ethics, he could not say. She certainly showed no
disposition to imitate their formalities, nor seemed to be impressed by
them on the rare occasions when he now offered them. Yet she appeared to
link the two men together--even physically--as on these occasions when,
taking an arm of each, she walked affectionately between them along the
river bank promenade, to the great marveling and admiration of the Bar.
It was said, however, that Mr. Jack Hamlin, a gambler, at that moment
professionally visiting Wayne's Bar, and a great connoisseur of feminine
charms and weaknesses, had glanced at them under his handsome lashes,
and asked a single question, evidently so amusing to the younger members
of the Bar that Madison Wayne knit his brow and Arthur Wayne blushed.
Mr. Hamlin took no heed of the elder brother's frown, but paid some
slight attention to the color of the younger brother, and even more to
a slightly coquettish glance from the pretty Mrs. McGee. Whether or
not--as has been ingeniously alleged by some moralists--the light
and trifling of either sex are prone to recognize each other by some
mysterious instinct, is not a necessary consideration of this chronicle;
enough that the fact is recorded.

And yet Madison Wayne should have been satisfied with his work! His
sacrifice was accepted; his happy issue from a dangerous situation, and
his happy triumph over a more dangerous temptation, was complete and
perfect, and even achieved according to his own gloomy theories of
redemption and regeneration. Yet he was not happy. The human heart is
at times strangely unappeasable. And as he sat that evening in the
gathering shadows, the Book which should have yielded him balm and
comfort lay unopened in his lap.

A step upon the gravel outside had become too familiar to startle him.
It was Mr. McGee lounging into the cabin like a gaunt shadow. It must be
admitted that the friendship of these strangely contrasted men, however
sincere and sympathetic, was not cheerful. A belief in the thorough
wickedness of humanity, kept under only through fear of extreme penalty
and punishment, material and spiritual, was not conducive to light and
amusing conversation. Their talk was mainly a gloomy chronicle of life
at the Bar, which was in itself half an indictment. To-night, Mr. McGee
spoke of the advent of Mr. Jack Hamlin, and together they deplored the
diversion of the hard-earned gains and valuable time of the Bar through
the efforts of that ingenious gentleman. "Not," added McGee cautiously,
"but what he can shoot straight enough, and I've heard tell that he
don't LIE. That mout and it moutn't be good for your brother who goes
around with him considerable, there's different ways of lookin' at
that; you understand what I mean? You follow me?" For all that, the
conversation seemed to languish this evening, partly through some
abstraction on the part of Wayne and partly some hesitation in McGee,
who appeared to have a greater fear than usual of not expressing himself
plainly. It was quite dark in the cabin when at last, detaching himself
from his usual lounging place, the door-post, he walked to the window
and leaned, more shadowy than ever, over Wayne's chair. "I want to
tell you suthin'," he said slowly, "that I don't want you to
misunderstand--you follow me? and that ain't no ways carpin' or
criticisin' nor reflectin' on YOU--you understand what I mean? Ever sens
you and me had that talk here about you and Safie, and ever sens I got
the hang of your ways and your style o' thinkin', I've been as sure
of you and her as if I'd been myself trottin' round with you and
a revolver. And I'm as sure of you now--you sabe what I mean? you
understand? You've done me and her a heap o' good; she's almost another
woman sens you took hold of her, and ef you ever want me to stand up
and 'testify,' as you call it, in church, Sandy McGee is ready. What
I'm tryin' to say to ye is this. Tho' I understand you and your work and
your ways--there's other folks ez moutn't--you follow? You understand
what I mean? And it's just that I'm coming to. Now las' night, when you
and Safie was meanderin' along the lower path by the water, and I kem
across you"--

"But," interrupted Madison quickly, "you're mistaken. I wasn't"--

"Hol' on," said McGee, quietly; "I know you got out o' the way without
you seein' me or me you, because you didn't know it was me, don't you
see? don't you follow? and that's just it! It mout have bin some one
from the Bar as seed you instead o' ME. See? That's why you lit out
before I could recognize you, and that's why poor Safie was so mighty
flustered at first and was for runnin' away until she kem to herself
agin. When, of course, she laughed, and agreed you must have mistook
me."

"But," gasped Madison quickly, "I WASN'T THERE AT ALL LAST NIGHT."

"What?"

The two men had risen simultaneously and were facing each other. McGee,
with a good-natured, half-critical expression, laid his hand on Wayne's
shoulder and slightly turned him towards the window, that he might see
his face. It seemed to him white and dazed.

"You--wasn't there--last night?" he repeated, with a slow tolerance.

Scarcely a moment elapsed, but the agony of an hour may have thrilled
through Wayne's consciousness before he spoke. Then all the blood of his
body rushed to his face with his first lie as he stammered, "No! Yes! Of
course. I have made a mistake--it WAS I."

"I see--you thought I was riled?" said McGee quietly.

"No; I was thinking it was NIGHT BEFORE LAST! Of course it was last
night. I must be getting silly." He essayed a laugh--rare at any
time with him--and so forced now that it affected McGee more than his
embarrassment. He looked at Wayne thoughtfully, and then said slowly: "I
reckon I did come upon you a little too sudden last night, but, you see,
I was thinkin' of suthin' else and disremembered you might be there. But
I wasn't mad--no! no! and I only spoke about it now that you might be
more keerful before folks. You follow me? You understand what I mean?"

He turned and walked to the door, when he halted. "You follow me, don't
you? It ain't no cussedness o' mine, or want o' trustin', don't you see?
Mebbe I oughtened have spoken. I oughter remembered that times this
sort o' thing must be rather rough on you and her. You follow me? You
understand what I mean? Good-night."

He walked slowly down the path towards the river. Had Madison Wayne been
watching him, he would have noticed that his head was bent and his step
less free. But Madison Wayne was at that moment sitting rigidly in his
chair, nursing, with all the gloomy concentration of a monastic nature,
a single terrible suspicion.



CHAPTER IV.


Howbeit the sun shone cheerfully over the Bar the next morning and the
next; the breath of life and activity was in the air; the settlement
never had been more prosperous, and the yield from the opened placers
on the drained river-bed that week was enormous. The Brothers Wayne
were said to be "rolling in gold." It was thought to be consistent with
Madison Wayne's nature that there was no trace of good fortune in his
face or manner--rather that he had become more nervous, restless, and
gloomy. This was attributed to the joylessness of avarice as contrasted
with the spendthrift gayety of the more liberal Arthur, and he was
feared and RESPECTED as a miser. His long, solitary walks around the
promontory, his incessant watchfulness, his reticence when questioned,
were all recognized as the indications of a man whose soul was absorbed
in money-getting. The reverence they failed to yield to his religious
isolation they were willing to freely accord to his financial
abstraction. But Mr. McGee was not so deceived. Overtaking him one
day under the fringe of willows, he characteristically chided him
with absenting himself from Mrs. McGee and her house since their last
interview.

"I reckon you did not harbor malice in your Christianity," he said;
"but it looks mighty like ez if ye was throwing off on Safie and me on
account of what I said."

In vain Madison gloomily and almost sternly protested.

McGee looked him all over with his clear measuring eye, and for some
minutes was singularly silent. At last he said slowly: "I've been
thinkin' suthin' o' goin' down to 'Frisco, and I'd be a heap easier in
my mind ef you'd promise to look arter Safie now and then."

"You surely are not going to leave her here ALONE?" said Wayne roughly.

"Why not?"

For an instant Wayne hesitated. Then he burst out. "For a hundred
reasons! If she ever wanted your protection, before, she surely does
now. Do you suppose the Bar is any less heathen or more regenerated than
it was when you thought it necessary to guard her with your revolver?
Man! It is a hundred times worse than then! The new claims have
filled it with spying adventurers--with wolves like Hamlin and his
friends--idolaters who would set up Baal and Ashteroth here--and fill
your tents with the curses of Sodom!"

Perhaps it was owing to the Scriptural phrasing, perhaps it was from
some unusual authority of the man's manner, but a look of approving
relief and admiration came into McGee's clear eyes.

"And YOU'RE just the man to tackle 'em," he said, clapping his hand on
Wayne's shoulder. "That's your gait--keep it up! But," he added, in
a lower voice, "me and my revolver are played out." There was a
strangeness in the tone that arrested Wayne's attention. "Yes,"
continued McGee, stroking his beard slowly, "men like me has their day,
and revolvers has theirs; the world turns round and the Bar fills up,
and this yer river changes its course--and it's all in the day's work.
You understand what I mean--you follow me? And if anything should happen
to me--not that it's like to; but it's in the way o' men--I want you
to look arter Safie. It ain't every woman ez has two men, ez like and
unlike, to guard her. You follow me--you understand what I mean, don't
you?" With these words he parted somewhat abruptly from Wayne, turning
into the steep path to the promontory crest and leaving his companion
lost in gloomy abstraction. The next day Alexander McGee had departed on
a business trip to San Francisco.

In his present frame of mind, with his new responsibility and the
carrying out of a plan which he had vaguely conceived might remove the
terrible idea that had taken possession of him, Madison Wayne was even
relieved when his brother also announced his intention of going to
Angel's for a few days.

For since his memorable interview with McGee he had been convinced that
Safie had been clandestinely visited by some one. Whether it was the
thoughtless and momentary indiscretion of a willful woman, or the sequel
to some deliberately planned intrigue, did not concern him so much as
the falsity of his own position, and the conniving lie by which he had
saved her and her lover. That at this crucial moment he had failed to
"testify" to guilt and wickedness; that he firmly believed--such is the
inordinate vanity of the religious zealot--that he had denied Him in his
effort to shield HER; and that he had broken faith with the husband who
had entrusted to him the custody of his wife's honor, seemed to him more
terrible than her faithlessness. In his first horror he had dreaded
to see her, lest her very confession--he knew her reckless frankness
towards himself--should reveal to him the extent of his complicity. But
since then, and during her husband's absence, he had convinced himself
that it was his duty to wrestle and strive with her weak spirit, to
implore her to reveal her new intrigue to her husband, and then he would
help her to sue for his forgiveness. It was a part of the inconsistency
of his religious convictions; in his human passion he was perfectly
unselfish, and had already forgiven her the offense against himself. He
would see her at once!

But it happened to be a quiet, intense night, with the tremulous
opulence of a full moon that threw quivering shafts of light like summer
lightning over the blue river, and laid a wonderful carpet of intricate
lace along the path that wound through the willows to the crest. There
was the dry, stimulating dust and spice of heated pines from below; the
languorous odors of syringa; the faint, feminine smell of southernwood,
and the infinite mystery of silence. This silence was at times softly
broken with the tender inarticulate whisper of falling leaves, broken
sighs from the tree-tops, and the languid stretching of wakened and
unclasping boughs. Madison Wayne had not, alas! taken into account this
subtle conspiracy of Night and Nature, and as he climbed higher, his
steps began to falter with new and strange sensations. The rigidity
of purpose which had guided the hard religious convictions that always
sustained him, began to relax. A tender sympathy stole over him; a
loving mercy to himself as well as others stole into his heart. He
thought of HER as she had nestled at his side, hand in hand, upon the
moonlit veranda of her father's house, before his hard convictions had
chilled and affrighted her. He thought of her fresh simplicity, and what
had seemed to him her wonderful girlish beauty, and lo! in a quick turn
of the path he stood breathless and tremulous before the house. The
moonbeams lay tenderly upon the peaceful eaves; the long blossoms of the
Madeira vine seemed sleeping also. The pink flush of the Cherokee rose
in the unreal light had become chastely white.

But he was evidently too late for an interview. The windows were blank
in the white light; only one--her bedroom--showed a light behind the
lowered muslin blind. Her draped shadow once or twice passed across it.
He was turning away with soft steps and even bated breath when suddenly
he stopped. The exaggerated but unmistakable shadow of a man stood
beside her on the blind.

With a fierce leap as of a maniac, he was at the door, pounding,
rattling, and uttering hoarse and furious outcries. Even through his
fury he heard quickened footsteps--her light, reckless, half-hysterical
laugh--a bound upon the staircase--the hurried unbolting and opening of
distant doors, as the lighter one with which he was struggling at last
yielded to his blind rage, and threw him crashing into the sitting-room.
The back door was wide open. He could hear the rustling and crackling of
twigs and branches in different directions down the hillside, where the
fugitives had separated as they escaped. And yet he stood there for an
instant, dazed and wondering, "What next?"

His eyes fell upon McGee's rifle standing upright in the corner. It was
a clean, beautiful, precise weapon, even to the unprofessional eye,
its long, laminated hexagonal barrel taking a tenderer blue in the
moonlight. He snatched it up. It was capped and loaded. Without a pause
he dashed down the hill.

Only one thought was in his mind now--the crudest, simplest duty. He
was there in McGee's place; he should do what McGee would do. God had
abandoned him, but McGee's rifle remained.

In a few minutes' downward plunging he had reached the river bank. The
tranquil silver surface quivered and glittered before him. He saw what
he knew he would see, the black target of a man's head above it, making
for the Bar. He took deliberate aim and fired. There was no echo to that
sharp detonation; a distant dog barked, there was a slight whisper
in the trees beside him, that was all! But the head of the man was no
longer visible, and the liquid silver filmed over again, without a speck
or stain.

He shouldered the rifle, and with the automatic action of men in great
crises returned slowly and deliberately to the house and carefully
replaced the rifle in its old position. He had no concern for the
miserable woman who had fled; had she appeared before him at the moment,
he would not have noticed her. Yet a strange instinct--it seemed to him
the vaguest curiosity--made him ascend the stairs and enter her
chamber. The candle was still burning on the table with that awful
unconsciousness and simplicity of detail which makes the scene of real
tragedy so terrible. Beside it lay a belt and leather pouch. Madison
Wayne suddenly dashed forward and seized it, with a wild, inarticulate
cry; staggered, fell over the chair, rose to his feet, blindly groped
his way down the staircase, burst into the road, and, hugging the pouch
to his bosom, fled like a madman down the hill.

*****

The body of Arthur Wayne was picked up two days later a dozen miles down
the river. Nothing could be more evident and prosaic than the manner
in which he had met his fate. His body was only partly clothed, and
the money pouch and belt, which had been securely locked next his skin,
after the fashion of all miners, was gone. He was known to have left the
Bar with a considerable sum of money; he was undoubtedly dogged, robbed,
and murdered during his journey on the river bank by the desperadoes who
were beginning to infest the vicinity. The grief and agony of his only
brother, sole survivor of that fraternal and religious partnership so
well known to the camp, although shown only by a grim and speechless
melancholy,--broken by unintelligible outbursts of religious
raving,--was so real, that it affected even the callous camp. But
scarcely had it regained its feverish distraction, before it was
thrilled by another sensation. Alexander McGee had fallen from the deck
of a Sacramento steamboat in the Straits of Carquinez, and his body had
been swept out to sea. The news had apparently been first to reach the
ears of his devoted wife, for when the camp--at this lapse of the old
prohibition--climbed to her bower with their rude consolations, the
house was found locked and deserted. The fateful influence of the
promontory had again prevailed, the grim record of its seclusion was
once more unbroken.

For with it, too, drooped and faded the fortunes of the Bar. Madison
Wayne sold out his claim, endowed the church at the Cross Roads with the
proceeds, and the pulpit with his grim, hopeless, denunciatory presence.
The first rains brought a freshet to the Bar. The river leaped the
light barriers that had taken the place of Wayne's peaceful engines,
and regained the old channel. The curse that the Rev. Madison Wayne had
launched on this riverside Sodom seemed to have been fulfilled. But even
this brought no satisfaction to the gloomy prophet, for it was presently
known that he had abandoned his terror-stricken flock to take the
circuit as revivalist preacher and camp-meeting exhorter, in the rudest
and most lawless of gatherings. Desperate ruffians writhed at his feet
in impotent terror or more impotent rage; murderers and thieves listened
to him with blanched faces and set teeth, restrained only by a more
awful fear. Over and over again he took his life with his Bible into his
own hands when he rose above the excited multitude; he was shot at, he
was rail-ridden, he was deported, but never silenced. And so, sweeping
over the country, carrying fear and frenzy with him, scouting life and
mercy, and crushing alike the guilty and innocent, he came one Sabbath
to a rocky crest of the Sierras--the last tattered and frayed and soiled
fringe of civilization on the opened tract of a great highway. And here
he was to "testify," as was his wont.

But not as he expected. For as he stood up on a boulder above the thirty
or forty men sitting or lying upon other rocks and boulders around him,
on the craggy mountain shelf where they had gathered, a man also rose,
elbowed past them, and with a hurried impulse tried to descend
the declivity. But a cry was suddenly heard from others, quick and
clamoring, which called the whole assembly to its feet, and it was seen
that the fugitive had in some blundering way fallen from the precipice.

He was brought up cruelly maimed and mangled, his ribs crushed, and one
lung perforated, but still breathing and conscious. He had asked to see
the preacher. Death impending, and even then struggling with his breath,
made this request imperative. Madison Wayne stopped the service, and
stalked grimly and inflexibly to where the dying man lay. But there he
started.

"McGee!" he said breathlessly.

"Send these men away," said McGee faintly. "I've got suthin' to tell
you."

The men drew back without a word. "You thought I was dead," said McGee,
with eyes still undimmed and marvelously clear. "I orter bin, but it
don't need no doctor to say it ain't far off now. I left the Bar to get
killed; I tried to in a row, but the fellows were skeert to close with
me, thinkin' I'd shoot. My reputation was agin me, there! You follow me?
You understand what I mean?"

Kneeling beside him now and grasping both his hands, the changed and
horror-stricken Wayne gasped, "But"--

"Hold on! I jumped off the Sacramento boat--I was goin' down the third
time--they thought on the boat I was gone--they think so now! But a
passin' fisherman dived for me. I grappled him--he was clear grit and
would have gone down with me, but I couldn't let him die too--havin' so
to speak no cause. You follow me--you understand me? I let him save me.
But it was all the same, for when I got to 'Frisco I read as how I was
drowned. And then I reckoned it was all right, and I wandered HERE,
where I wasn't known--until I saw you."

"But why should you want to die?" said Wayne, almost fiercely. "What
right have you to die while others--double-dyed and blood-stained, are
condemned to live, 'testify,' and suffer?"

The dying man feebly waved a deprecation with his maimed hand, and even
smiled faintly. "I knew you'd say that. I knew what you'd think about
it, but it's all the same now. I did it for you and Safie! I knew I was
in the way; I knew you was the man she orter had; I knew you was the man
who had dragged her outer the mire and clay where I was leavin' her, as
you did when she fell in the water. I knew that every day I lived I was
makin' YOU suffer and breakin' HER heart--for all she tried to be gentle
and gay."

"Great God in heaven! Will you stop!" said Wayne, springing to his feet
in agony. A frightened look--the first that any one had ever seen in
the clear eyes of the Bell-ringer of Angel's--passed over them, and he
murmured tremulously: "All right--I'm stoppin'!"

So, too, was his heart, for the wonderful eyes were now slowly glazing.
Yet he rallied once more--coming up again the third time as it seemed
to Wayne--and his lips moved slowly. The preacher threw himself
despairingly on the ground beside him.

"Speak, brother! For God's sake, speak!"

It was his last whisper--so faint it might have been the first of his
freed soul. But he only said:--

"You're--followin'--me? You--understand--what--I--mean?"



JOHNNYBOY.


The vast dining-room of the Crustacean Hotel at Greyport, U. S., was
empty and desolate. It was so early in the morning that there was a
bedroom deshabille in the tucked-up skirts and bare legs of the
little oval breakfast-tables as they had just been left by the dusting
servants. The most stirring of travelers was yet abed, the most
enterprising of first-train catchers had not yet come down; there was
a breath of midsummer sleep still in the air; through the half-opened
windows that seemed to be yawning, the pinkish blue Atlantic beyond
heaved gently and slumberously, and drowsy early bathers crept into it
as to bed. Yet as I entered the room I saw that one of the little
tables in the corner was in reality occupied by a very small and very
extraordinary child. Seated in a high chair, attended by a dreamily
abstracted nurse on one side, an utterly perfunctory negro waiter on the
other, and an incongruous assortment of disregarded viands before
him, he was taking--or, rather, declining--his solitary breakfast. He
appeared to be a pale, frail, but rather pretty boy, with a singularly
pathetic combination of infant delicacy of outline and maturity of
expression. His heavily fringed eyes expressed an already weary and
discontented intelligence, and his willful, resolute little mouth was, I
fancied, marked with lines of pain at either corner. He struck me as not
only being physically dyspeptic, but as morally loathing his attendants
and surroundings.

My entrance did not disturb the waiter, with whom I had no financial
relations; he simply concealed an exaggerated yawn professionally behind
his napkin until my own servitor should appear. The nurse slightly awoke
from her abstraction, shoved the child mechanically,--as if starting
up some clogged machinery,--said, "Eat your breakfast, Johnnyboy," and
subsided into her dream. I think the child had at first some faint hope
of me, and when my waiter appeared with my breakfast he betrayed some
interest in my selection, with a view of possible later appropriation,
but, as my repast was simple, that hope died out of his infant mind.
Then there was a silence, broken at last by the languid voice of the
nurse:--

"Try some milk then--nice milk."

"No! No mik! Mik makes me sick--mik does!"

In spite of the hurried infantine accent the protest was so emphatic,
and, above all, fraught with such pent-up reproach and disgust, that I
turned about sympathetically. But Johnnyboy had already thrown down his
spoon, slipped from his high chair, and was marching out of the room as
fast as his little sandals would carry him, with indignation bristling
in every line of the crisp bows of his sash.

I, however, gathered from Mr. Johnson, my waiter, that the unfortunate
child owned a fashionable father and mother, one or two blocks of
houses in New York, and a villa at Greyport, which he consistently and
intelligently despised. That he had imperiously brought his parents
here on account of his health, and had demanded that he should breakfast
alone in the big dining-room. That, however, he was not happy. "Nuffin
peahs to agree wid him, Sah, but he doan' cry, and he speaks his mind,
Sah; he speaks his mind."

Unfortunately, I did not keep Johnnyboy's secret, but related the scene
I had witnessed to some of the lighter-hearted Crustaceans of either
sex, with the result that his alliterative protest became a sort of
catchword among them, and that for the next few mornings he had a large
audience of early breakfasters, who fondly hoped for a repetition of
his performance. I think that Johnnyboy for the time enjoyed
this companionship, yet without the least affectation or
self-consciousness--so long as it was unobtrusive. It so chanced,
however, that the Rev. Mr. Belcher, a gentleman with bovine lightness
of touch, and a singular misunderstanding of childhood, chose to
presume upon his paternal functions. Approaching the high chair in which
Johnnyboy was dyspeptically reflecting, with a ponderous wink at the
other guests, and a fat thumb and forefinger on Johnnyboy's table, he
leaned over him, and with slow, elephantine playfulness said:--

"And so, my dear young friend, I understand that 'mik makes you
sick--mik does.'"

Anything approaching to the absolute likeness of this imitation of
Johnnyboy's accents it is impossible to conceive. Possibly Johnnyboy
felt it. But he simply lifted his lovely lashes, and said with great
distinctness:--

"Mik don't--you devil!"

After this, closely as it had knitted us together, Johnnyboy's morning
presence was mysteriously withdrawn. It was later pointed out to us by
Mr. Belcher, upon the veranda, that, although Wealth had its privileges,
it was held in trust for the welfare of Mankind, and that the children
of the Rich could not too early learn the advantages of Self-restraint
and the vanity of a mere gratification of the Senses. Early and frequent
morning ablutions, brisk morning toweling, half of a Graham biscuit in
a teacup of milk, exercise with the dumb-bells, and a little
rough-and-tumble play in a straw hat, check apron, and overalls would
eventually improve that stamina necessary for his future Position, and
repress a dangerous cerebral activity and tendency to give way to--He
suddenly stopped, coughed, and absolutely looked embarrassed. Johnnyboy,
a moving cloud of white pique, silk, and embroidery, had just turned
the corner of the veranda. He did not speak, but as he passed raised
his blue-veined lids to the orator. The look of ineffable scorn and
superiority in those beautiful eyes surpassed anything I had ever seen.
At the next veranda column he paused, and, with his baby thumbs inserted
in his silk sash, again regarded him under his half-dropped lashes as
if he were some curious animal, and then passed on. But Belcher was
silenced for the second time.

I think I have said enough to show that Johnnyboy was hopelessly
worshiped by an impressible and illogical sex. I say HOPELESSLY, for
he slipped equally from the proudest silken lap and the humblest one
of calico, and carried his eyelashes and small aches elsewhere. I think
that a secret fear of his alarming frankness, and his steady rejection
of the various tempting cates they offered him, had much to do with
their passion. "It won't hurt you, dear," said Miss Circe, "and it's so
awfully nice. See!" she continued, putting one of the delicacies in
her own pretty mouth with every assumption of delight. "It's SO good!"
Johnnyboy rested his elbows on her knees, and watched her with a grieved
and commiserating superiority. "Bimeby, you'll have pains in youse
tommick, and you'll be tookt to bed," he said sadly, "and then
you'll--have to dit up and"--But as it was found necessary here to
repress further details, he escaped other temptation.

Two hours later, as Miss Circe was seated in the drawing-room with her
usual circle of enthusiastic admirers around her, Johnnyboy--who was
issued from his room for circulation, two or three times a day, as a
genteel advertisement of his parents--floated into the apartment in a
new dress and a serious demeanor. Sidling up to Miss Circe he laid a
phial--evidently his own pet medicine--on her lap, said, "For youse
tommikake to-night," and vanished. Yet I have reason to believe that
this slight evidence of unusual remembrance on Johnnyboy's part more
than compensated for its publicity, and for a few days Miss Circe was
quite "set up" by it.

It was through some sympathy of this kind that I first gained
Johnnyboy's good graces. I had been presented with a small pocket case
of homoeopathic medicines, and one day on the beach I took out one of
the tiny phials and, dropping two or three of the still tinier pellets
in my hand, swallowed them. To my embarrassment, a small hand presently
grasped my trouser-leg. I looked down; it was Johnnyboy, in a new and
ravishing smuggler suit, with his questioning eyes fixed on mine.

"Howjer do dat?"

"Eh?"

"Wajer do dat for?"

"That?--Oh, that's medicine. I've got a headache."

He searched the inmost depths of my soul with his wonderful eyes. Then,
after a pause, he held out his baby palm.

"You kin give Johnny some."

"But you haven't got headache--have you?"

"Me alluz has."

"Not ALWAYS."

He nodded his head rapidly. Then added slowly, and with great
elaboration, "Et mo'nins, et affernoons, et nights, 'nd mo'nins adain.
'N et becker" (i. e., breakfast).

There was no doubt it was the truth. Those eyes did not seem to be in
the habit of lying. After all, the medicine could not hurt him. His
nurse was at a little distance gazing absently at the sea. I sat down
on a bench, and dropped a few of the pellets into his palm. He ate
them seriously, and then turned around and backed--after the well-known
appealing fashion of childhood--against my knees. I understood the
movement--although it was unlike my idea of Johnnyboy. However, I
raised him to my lap--with the sensation of lifting a dozen lace-edged
handkerchiefs, and with very little more effort--where he sat silently
for a moment, with his sandals crossed pensively before him.

"Wouldn't you like to go and play with those children?" I asked,
pointing to a group of noisy sand levelers not far away.

"No!" After a pause, "You wouldn't neither."

"Why?"

"Hediks."

"But," I said, "perhaps if you went and played with them and ran up and
down as they do, you wouldn't have headache."

Johnnyboy did not answer for a moment; then there was a perceptible
gentle movement of his small frame. I confess I felt brutally like
Belcher. He was getting down.

Once down he faced me, lifted his frank eyes, said, "Do way and play
den," smoothed down his smuggler frock, and rejoined his nurse.

But although Johnnyboy afterwards forgave my moral defection, he did not
seem to have forgotten my practical medical ministration, and our brief
interview had a surprising result. From that moment he confounded his
parents and doctors by resolutely and positively refusing to take any
more of their pills, tonics, or drops. Whether from a sense of
loyalty to me, or whether he was not yet convinced of the efficacy of
homoeopathy, he did not suggest a substitute, declare his preferences,
or even give his reasons, but firmly and peremptorily declined his
present treatment. And, to everybody's astonishment, he did not seem a
bit the worse for it.

Still he was not strong, and his continual aversion to childish sports
and youthful exercise provoked the easy criticism of that large part
of humanity who are ready to confound cause and effect, and such brief
moments as the Sluysdaels could spare him from their fashionable duties
were made miserable to them by gratuitous suggestions and plans for
their child's improvement. It was noticeable, however, that few of them
were ever offered to Johnnyboy personally. He had a singularly direct
way of dealing with them, and a precision of statement that was
embarrassing.

One afternoon, Jack Bracy drove up to the veranda of the Crustacean
with a smart buggy and spirited thoroughbred for Miss Circe's especial
driving, and his own saddle-horse on which he was to accompany her.
Jack had dismounted, a groom held his saddle-horse until the young lady
should appear, and he himself stood at the head of the thoroughbred. As
Johnnyboy, leaning against the railing, was regarding the turnout
with ill-concealed disdain, Jack, in the pride of his triumph over his
rivals, good-humoredly offered to put him in the buggy, and allow him to
take the reins. Johnnyboy did not reply.

"Come along!" continued Jack, "it will do you a heap of good! It's
better than lazing there like a girl! Rouse up, old man!"

"Me don't like that geegee," said Johnnyboy calmly. "He's a silly fool."

"You're afraid," said Jack.

Johnnyboy lifted his proud lashes, and toddled to the steps. Jack
received him in his arms, swung him into the seat, and placed the slim
yellow reins in his baby hands.

"Now you feel like a man, and not like a girl!" said Jack. "Eh, what?
Oh, I beg your pardon."

For Miss Circe had appeared--had absolutely been obliged to wait a
whole half-minute unobserved--and now stood there a dazzling but pouting
apparition. In eagerly turning to receive her, Jack's foot slipped on
the step, and he fell. The thoroughbred started, gave a sickening plunge
forward, and was off! But so, too, was Jack, the next moment, on his own
horse, and before Miss Circe's screams had died away.

For two blocks on Ocean Avenue, passersby that afternoon saw a strange
vision. A galloping horse careering before a light buggy, in which a
small child, seated upright, was grasping the tightened reins. But so
erect and composed was the little face and figure--albeit as white
as its own frock--that for an instant they did not grasp its awful
significance. Those further along, however, read the whole awful story
in the drawn face and blazing eyes of Jack Bracy as he, at last, swung
into the Avenue. For Jack had the brains as well as the nerve of your
true hero, and, knowing the dangerous stimulus of a stern chase to
a frightened horse, had kept a side road until it branched into the
Avenue. So furious had been his pace, and so correct his calculation,
that he ranged alongside of the runaway even as it passed, grasped the
reins, and, in half a block, pulled up on even wheels.

"I never saw such pluck in a mite like that," he whispered afterwards to
his anxious auditory. "He never dropped those ribbons, by G--, until I
got alongside, and then he just hopped down and said, as short and cool
as you please, 'Dank you!'"

"Me didn't," uttered a small voice reproachfully.

"Didn't you, dear! What DID you say then, darling?" exclaimed a
sympathizing chorus.

"Me said: 'Damn you!' Me don't like silly fool geegees. Silly fool
geegees make me sick--silly fool geegees do!"

Nevertheless, in spite of this incident, the attempts at Johnnyboy's
physical reformation still went on. More than that, it was argued by
some complacent casuists that the pluck displayed by the child was the
actual result of this somewhat heroic method of taking exercise, and NOT
an inherent manliness distinct from his physical tastes. So he was made
to run when he didn't want to--to dance when he frankly loathed his
partners--to play at games that he despised. His books and pictures were
taken away; he was hurried past hoardings and theatrical posters that
engaged his fancy; the public was warned against telling him fairy
tales, except those constructed on strictly hygienic principles.
His fastidious cleanliness was rebuked, and his best frocks taken
away--albeit at a terrible sacrifice of his parents' vanity--to suit
the theories of his critics. How long this might have continued is not
known--for the theory and practice were suddenly arrested by another
sensation.

One morning a children's picnic party was given on a rocky point only
accessible at certain states of the tide, whither they were taken in a
small boat under the charge of a few hotel servants, and, possibly as
part of his heroic treatment, Johnnyboy, who was included in the party,
was not allowed to be attended by his regular nurse.

Whether this circumstance added to his general disgust of the whole
affair, and his unwillingness to go, I cannot say, but it is to be
regretted, since the omission deprived Johnnyboy of any impartial
witness to what subsequently occurred. That he was somewhat roughly
handled by several of the larger children appeared to be beyond doubt,
although there was conflicting evidence as to the sequel. Enough that
at noon screams were heard in the direction of certain detached rocks
on the point, and the whole party proceeding thither found three of the
larger boys on the rocks, alone and cut off by the tide, having been
left there, as they alleged, by Johnnyboy, WHO HAD RUN AWAY WITH THE
BOAT. They subsequently admitted that THEY had first taken the boat and
brought Johnnyboy with them, "just to frighten him," but they adhered to
the rest. And certainly Johnnyboy and the boat were nowhere to be found.
The shore was communicated with, the alarm was given, the telegraph,
up and down the coast trilled with excitement, other boats were
manned--consternation prevailed.

But that afternoon the captain of the "Saucy Jane," mackerel fisher,
lying off the point, perceived a derelict "Whitehall" boat drifting
lazily towards the Gulf Stream. On boarding it he was chagrined to find
the expected flotsam already in the possession of a very small child,
who received him with a scornful reticence as regarded himself and his
intentions, and some objurgation of a person or persons unknown. It was
Johnnyboy. But whether he had attempted the destruction of the three
other boys by "marooning" them upon the rocks--as their parents firmly
believed--or whether he had himself withdrawn from their company simply
because he did not like them, was never known. Any further attempt to
improve his education by the roughing gregarious process was, however,
abandoned. The very critics who had counseled it now clamored for
restraint and perfect isolation. It was ably pointed out by the Rev.
Mr. Belcher that the autocratic habits begotten by wealth and pampering
should be restricted, and all intercourse with their possessor promptly
withheld.

But the season presently passed with much of this and other criticism,
and the Sluysdaels passed too, carrying Johnnyboy and his small aches
and long eyelashes beyond these Crustacean voices, where it was to be
hoped there was peace. I did not hear of him again for five years,
and then, oddly enough, from the lips of Mr. Belcher on the deck of
a transatlantic steamer, as he was being wafted to Europe for his
recreation by the prayers and purses of a grateful and enduring flock.
"Master John Jacob Astor Sluysdael," said Mr. Belcher, speaking
slowly, with great precision of retrospect, "was taken from his private
governess--I may say by my advice--and sent to an admirable school in
New York, fashioned upon the English system of Eton and Harrow, and
conducted by English masters from Oxford and Cambridge. Here--I may
also say at my suggestion--he was subjected to the wholesome discipline
equally of his schoolmates and his masters; in fact, sir, as you are
probably aware, the most perfect democracy that we have yet known,
in which the mere accidents of wealth, position, luxury, effeminacy,
physical degeneration, and over-civilized stimulation, are not
recognized. He was put into compulsory cricket, football, and rounders.
As an undersized boy he was subjected to that ingenious preparation for
future mastership by the pupillary state of servitude known, I think,
as 'fagging.' His physical inertia was stimulated and quickened, and his
intellectual precocity repressed, from time to time, by the exuberant
playfulness of his fellow-students, which occasionally took the form
of forced ablutions and corporal discomfort, and was called, I am
told, 'hazing.' It is but fair to state that our young friend had some
singular mental endowments, which, however, were promptly checked to
repress the vanity and presumption that would follow." The Rev. Mr.
Belcher paused, closed his eyes resignedly, and added, "Of course, you
know the rest."

"Indeed, I do not," I said anxiously.

"A most deplorable affair--indeed, a most shocking incident! It was
hushed up, I believe, on account of the position of his parents." He
glanced furtively around, and in a lower and more impressive voice said,
"I am not myself a believer in heredity, and I am not personally aware
that there was a MURDERER among the Sluysdael ancestry, but it seems
that this monstrous child, in some clandestine way, possessed himself of
a huge bowie-knife, sir, and on one of those occasions actually rushed
furiously at the larger boys--his innocent play-fellows--and absolutely
forced them to flee in fear of their lives. More than that, sir, a
LOADED REVOLVER was found in his desk, and he boldly and shamelessly
avowed his intention to eviscerate, or--to use his own revolting
language--'to cut the heart out' of the first one who again 'laid a
finger on him.'" He paused again, and, joining his two hands together
with the fingers pointing to the deck, breathed hard and said, "His
instantaneous withdrawal from the school was a matter of public
necessity. He was afterwards taken, in the charge of a private tutor, to
Europe, where, I trust, we shall NOT meet."

I could not resist saying cheerfully that, at least, Johnnyboy had for a
short time made it lively for the big boys.

The Rev. Mr. Belcher rose slowly, but painfully, said with a deeply
grieved expression, "I don't think that I entirely follow you," and
moved gently away.

The changes of youth are apt to be more bewildering than those of age,
and a decade scarcely perceptible in an old civilization often means
utter revolution to the new. It did not seem strange to me, therefore,
on meeting Jack Bracy twelve years after, to find that he had forgotten
Miss Circe, or that SHE had married, and was living unhappily with a
middle-aged adventurer by the name of Jason, who was reputed to have had
domestic relations elsewhere. But although subjugated and exorcised,
she at least was reminiscent. To my inquiries about the Sluysdaels, she
answered with a slight return of her old vivacity:--

"Ah, yes, dear fellow, he was one of my greatest admirers."

"He was about four years old when you knew him, wasn't he?" suggested
Jason meanly. "Yes, they usually WERE young, but so kind of you to
recollect them. Young Sluysdael," he continued, turning to me, "is--but
of course you know that disgraceful story."

I felt that I could stand this no longer. "Yes," I said indignantly,
"I know all about the school, and I don't call his conduct disgraceful
either."

Jason stared. "I don't know what you mean about the school," he
returned. "I am speaking of his stepfather."

"His STEPFATHER!"

"Yes; his father, Van Buren Sluysdael, died, you know--a year after they
left Greyport. The widow was left all the money in trust for Johnny,
except about twenty-five hundred a year which he was in receipt of as a
separate income, even as a boy. Well, a glib-tongued parson, a fellow by
the name of Belcher, got round the widow--she was a desperate fool--and,
by Jove! made her marry him. He made ducks and drakes of not only her
money, but Johnny's too, and had to skip to Spain to avoid the trustees.
And Johnny--for the Sluysdaels are all fools or lunatics--made over his
whole separate income to that wretched, fashionable fool of a mother,
and went into a stockbroker's office as a clerk."

"And walks to business before eight every morning, and they say even
takes down the shutters and sweeps out," broke in Circe impulsively.
"Works like a slave all day, wears out his old clothes, has given up his
clubs and amusements, and shuns society."

"But how about his health?" I asked. "Is he better and stronger?"

"I don't know," said Circe, "but he LOOKS as beautiful as Endymion."

*****

At his bank, in Wall Street, Bracy that afternoon confirmed all that
Jason had told me of young Sluysdael. "But his temper?" I asked. "You
remember his temper--surely."

"He's as sweet as a lamb, never quarrels, never whines, never alludes to
his lost fortune, and is never put out. For a youngster, he's the most
popular man in the street. Shall we nip round and see him?"

"By all means."

"Come. It isn't far."

A few steps down the crowded street we dived into a den of plate-glass
windows, of scraps of paper, of rattling, ticking machines, more voluble
and excited than the careworn, abstracted men who leaned over them. But
"Johnnyboy"--I started at the familiar name again--was not there. He was
at luncheon.

"Let us join him," I said, as we gained the street again and turned
mechanically into Delmonico's.

"Not there," said Bracy with a laugh. "You forget! That's not
Johnnyboy's gait just now. Come here." He was descending a few steps
that led to a humble cake-shop. As we entered I noticed a young fellow
standing before the plain wooden counter with a cake of gingerbread in
one hand and a glass of milk in the other. His profile was before me;
I at once recognized the long lashes. But the happy, boyish, careless
laugh that greeted Bracy, as he presented me, was a revelation.

Yet he was pleased to remember me. And then--it may have been
embarrassment that led me to such tactlessness, but as I glanced at him
and the glass of milk he was holding, I could not help reminding him of
the first words I had ever heard him utter.

He tossed off the glass, colored slightly, as I thought, and said with a
light laugh:--

"I suppose I have changed a good deal since then, sir."

I looked at his demure and resolute mouth, and wondered if he had.



YOUNG ROBIN GRAY.


The good American barque Skyscraper was swinging at her moorings in
the Clyde, off Bannock, ready for sea. But that good American
barque--although owned in Baltimore--had not a plank of American timber
in her hulk, nor a native American in her crew, and even her nautical
"goodness" had been called into serious question by divers of that
crew during her voyage, and answered more or less inconclusively
with belaying-pins, marlin-spikes, and ropes' ends at the hands of an
Irish-American captain and a Dutch and Danish mate. So much so, that
the mysterious powers of the American consul at St. Kentigern had been
evoked to punish mutiny on the one hand, and battery and starvation
on the other; both equally attested by manifestly false witness and
subornation on each side. In the exercise of his functions the consul
had opened and shut some jail doors, and otherwise effected the usual
sullen and deceitful compromise, and his flag was now flying, on a final
visit, from the stern sheets of a smart boat alongside. It was with a
feeling of relief at the end of the interview that he at last lifted his
head above an atmosphere of perjury and bilge-water and came on deck.
The sun and wind were ruffling and glinting on the broadening river
beyond the "measured mile"; a few gulls were wavering and dipping near
the lee scuppers, and the sound of Sabbath bells, mellowed by a distance
that secured immunity of conscience, came peacefully to his ear.

"Now that job's over ye'll be takin' a partin' dhrink," suggested the
captain.

The consul thought not. Certain incidents of "the job" were fresh in his
memory, and he proposed to limit himself to his strict duty.

"You have some passengers, I see," he said, pointing to a group of two
men and a young girl, who had apparently just come aboard.

"Only wan; an engineer going out to Rio. Them's just his friends seein'
him off, I'm thinkin'," returned the captain, surveying them somewhat
contemptuously.

The consul was a little disturbed. He wondered if the passenger knew
anything of the quality and reputation of the ship to which he was
entrusting his fortunes. But he was only a PASSENGER, and the consul's
functions--like those of the aloft-sitting cherub of nautical song--were
restricted exclusively to looking after "Poor Jack." However, he asked a
few further questions, eliciting the fact that the stranger had already
visited the ship with letters from the eminently respectable consignees
at St. Kentigern, and contented himself with lingering near them. The
young girl was accompanied by her father, a respectably rigid-looking
middle-class tradesman, who, however, seemed to be more interested in
the novelty of his surroundings than in the movements of his daughter
and their departing friend. So it chanced that the consul re-entered
the cabin--ostensibly in search of a missing glove, but really with the
intention of seeing how the passenger was bestowed--just behind them.
But to his great embarrassment he at once perceived that, owing to the
obscurity of the apartment, they had not noticed him, and before he
could withdraw, the man had passed his arm around the young girl's half
stiffened, yet half yielding figure.

"Only one, Ailsa," he pleaded in a slow, serious voice, pathetic from
the very absence of any youthful passion in it; "just one now. It'll be
gey lang before we meet again. Ye'll not refuse me now."

The young girl's lips seemed to murmur some protest that, however, was
lost in the beginning of a long and silent kiss.

The consul slipped out softly. His smile had died away. That
unlooked-for touch of human weakness seemed to purify the stuffy and
evil-reeking cabin, and the recollection of its brutal past to drop with
a deck-load of iniquity behind him to the bottom of the Clyde. It is
to be feared that in his unofficial moments he was inclined to be
sentimental, and it seemed to him that the good ship Skyscraper
henceforward carried an innocent freight not mentioned in her manifest,
and that a gentle, ever-smiling figure, not entered on her books, had
invisibly taken a place at her wheel.

But he was recalled to himself by a slight altercation on deck. The
young girl and the passenger had just returned from the cabin. The
consul, after a discreetly careless pause, had lifted his eyes to the
young girl's face, and saw that it was singularly pretty in color and
outline, but perfectly self-composed and serenely unconscious. And he
was a little troubled to observe that the passenger was a middle-aged
man, whose hard features were already considerably worn with trial and
experience.

Both he and the girl were listening with sympathizing but cautious
interest to her father's contention with the boatman who had brought
them from shore, and who was now inclined to demand an extra fee for
returning with them. The boatman alleged that he had been detained
beyond "kirk time," and that this imperiling of his salvation could
only be compensated by another shilling. To the consul's surprise,
this extraordinary argument was recognized by the father, who, however,
contented himself by simply contending that it had not been stipulated
in the bargain. The issue was, therefore, limited, and the discussion
progressed slowly and deliberately, with a certain calm dignity and
argumentative satisfaction on both sides that exalted the subject,
though it irritated the captain.

"If ye accept the premisses that I've just laid down, that it's a
contract"---began the boatman.

"Dry up! and haul off," said the captain.

"One moment," interposed the consul, with a rapid glance at the slight
trouble in the young girl's face. Turning to the father, he went on:
"Will you allow me to offer you and your daughter a seat in my boat?"

It was an unlooked-for and tempting proposal. The boatman was lazily
lying on his oars, secure in self-righteousness and the conscious
possession of the only available boat to shore; on the other hand, the
smart gig of the consul, with its four oars, was not only a providential
escape from a difficulty, but even to some extent a quasi-official
endorsement of his contention. Yet he hesitated.

"It'll be costin' ye no more?" he said interrogatively, glancing at the
consul's boat crew, "or ye'll be askin' me a fair proportion."

"It will be the gentleman's own boat," said the girl, with a certain shy
assurance, "and he'll be paying his boatmen by the day."

The consul hastened to explain that their passage would involve no
additional expense to anybody, and added, tactfully, that he was glad to
enable them to oppose extortion.

"Ay, but it's a preencipel," said the father proudly, "and I'm pleased,
sir, to see ye recognize it."

He proceeded to help his daughter into the boat without any further
leave-taking of the passenger, to the consul's great surprise, and with
only a parting nod from the young girl. It was as if this momentous
incident were a sufficient reason for the absence of any further trivial
sentiment.

Unfortunately the father chose to add an exordium for the benefit of the
astonished boatsman still lying on his oars.

"Let this be a lesson to ye, ma frien', when ye're ower sure! Ye'll
ne'er say a herrin' is dry until it be reestit an' reekit."

"Ay," said the boatman, with a lazy, significant glance at the consul,
"it wull be a lesson to me not to trust to a lassie's GANGIN' jo, when
thair's anither yin comin'."

"Give way," said the consul sharply.

Yet his was the only irritated face in the boat as the men bent over
their oars. The young girl and her father looked placidly at the
receding ship, and waved their hands to the grave, resigned face over
the taffrail. The consul examined them more attentively. The father's
face showed intelligence and a certain probity in its otherwise
commonplace features. The young girl had more distinction, with,
perhaps, more delicacy of outline than of texture. Her hair was dark,
with a burnished copper tint at its roots, and eyes that had the same
burnished metallic lustre in their brown pupils. Both sat respectfully
erect, as if anxious to record the fact that the boat was not their
own to take their ease in; and both were silently reserved, answering
briefly to the consul's remarks as if to indicate the formality of
their presence there. But a distant railway whistle startled them into
emotion.

"We've lost the train, father!" said the young girl.

The consul followed the direction of her anxious eyes; the train was
just quitting the station at Bannock.

"If ye had not lingered below with Jamie, we'd have been away in time,
ay, and in our own boat," said the father, with marked severity.

The consul glanced quickly at the girl. But her face betrayed no
consciousness, except of their present disappointment.

"There's an excursion boat coming round the Point," he said, pointing
to the black smoke trail of a steamer at the entrance of a loch, "and it
will be returning to St. Kentigern shortly. If you like, we'll pull over
and put you aboard."

"Eh! but it's the Sabbath-breaker!" said the old man harshly.

The consul suddenly remembered that that was the name which the
righteous St. Kentigerners had given to the solitary bold, bad
pleasure-boat that defied their Sabbatical observances.

"Perhaps you won't find very pleasant company on board," said the consul
smiling; "but, then, you're not seeking THAT. And as you would be only
using the boat to get back to your home, and not for Sunday recreation,
I don't think your conscience should trouble you."

"Ay, that's a fine argument, Mr. Consul, but I'm thinkin' it's none the
less sopheestry for a' that," said the father grimly. "No; if ye'll just
land us yonder at Bannock pier, we'll be ay thankin' ye the same."

"But what will you do there? There's no other train to-day."

"Ay, we'll walk on a bit."

The consul was silent. After a pause the young girl lifted her clear
eyes, and with a half pathetic, half childish politeness, said: "We'll
be doing very well--my father and me. You're far too kind."

Nothing further was said as they began to thread their way between a
few large ships and an ocean steamer at anchor, from whose decks a few
Sunday-clothed mariners gazed down admiringly on the smart gig and the
pretty girl in a Tam o' Shanter in its stern sheets. But here a new
idea struck the consul. A cable's length ahead lay a yacht, owned by an
American friend, and at her stern a steam launch swung to its painter.
Without intimating his intention to his passengers he steered for it.
"Bow!--way enough," he called out as the boat glided under the yacht's
counter, and, grasping the companion-ladder ropes, he leaped aboard. In
a few hurried words he explained the situation to Mr. Robert Gray, her
owner, and suggested that he should send the belated passengers to St.
Kentigern by the launch. Gray assented with the easy good-nature of
youth, wealth, and indolence, and lounged from his cabin to the side.
The consul followed. Looking down upon the boat he could not help
observing that his fair young passenger, sitting in her demure stillness
at her father's side, made a very pretty picture. It was possible that
"Bob Gray" had made the same observation, for he presently swung himself
over the gangway into the gig, hat in hand. The launch could easily take
them; in fact, he added unblushingly, it was even then getting up steam
to go to St. Kentigern. Would they kindly come on board until it was
ready? At an added word or two of explanation from the consul, the
father accepted, preserving the same formal pride and stiffness, and the
transfer was made. The consul, looking back as his gig swept round again
towards Bannock pier, received their parting salutations, and the first
smile he had seen on the face of his grave little passenger. He thought
it very sweet and sad.

He did not return to the Consulate at St. Kentigern until the next day.
But he was somewhat surprised to find Mr. Robert Gray awaiting him, and
upon some business which the young millionaire could have easily deputed
to his captain or steward. As he still lingered, the consul pleasantly
referred to his generosity on the previous day, and hoped the passengers
had given him no trouble.

"No," said Gray with a slight simulation of carelessness. "In fact I
came up with them myself. I had nothing to do; it was Sunday, you know."

The consul lifted his eyebrows slightly.

"Yes, I saw them home," continued Gray lightly. "In one of those
by-streets not far from here; neat-looking house outside; inside,
corkscrew stone staircase like a lighthouse; fourth floor, no lift, but
SHE circled up like a swallow! Flat--sitting-room, two bedrooms, and
a kitchen--mighty snug and shipshape and pretty as a pink. They OWN it
too--fancy OWNING part of a house! Seems to be a way they have here in
St. Kentigern." He paused and then added: "Stayed there to a kind of
high tea!"

"Indeed," said the consul.

"Why not? The old man wanted to return my 'hospitality' and square the
account! He wasn't going to lie under any obligation to a stranger, and,
by Jove! he made it a special point of honor! A Spanish grandee couldn't
have been more punctilious. And with an accent, Jerusalem! like a
northeaster off the Banks! But the feed was in good taste, and he only a
mathematical instrument maker, on about twelve hundred dollars a year!"

"You seem to know all about him," said the consul smilingly.

"Not so much as he does about me," returned Gray, with a half perplexed
face; "for he saw enough to admonish me about my extravagance, and even
to intimate that that rascal Saunderson, my steward, was imposing on me.
SHE took me to task, too, for not laying the yacht up on Sunday that the
men could go 'to kirk,' and for swearing at a bargeman who ran across
our bows. It's their perfect simplicity and sincerity in all this that
gets me! You'd have thought that the old man was my guardian, and the
daughter my aunt." After a pause he uttered a reminiscent laugh. "She
thought we ate and drank too much on the yacht, and wondered what we
could find to do all day. All this, you know, in the gentlest, caressing
sort of voice, as if she was really concerned, like one's own sister.
Well, not exactly like mine"--he interrupted himself grimly--"but, hang
it all, you know what I mean. You know that our girls over there haven't
got THAT trick of voice. Too much self-assertion, I reckon; things made
too easy for them by us men. Habit of race, I dare say." He laughed a
little. "Why, I mislaid my glove when I was coming away, and it was as
good as a play to hear her commiserating and sympathizing, and hunting
for it as if it were a lost baby."

"But you've seen Scotch girls before this," said the consul. "There were
Lady Glairn's daughters, whom you took on a cruise."

"Yes, but the swell Scotch all imitate the English, as everybody else
does, for the matter of that, our girls included; and they're all alike.
Society makes 'em fit in together like tongued and grooved planks that
will take any amount of holy-stoning and polish. It's like dropping into
a dead calm, with every rope and spar that you know already reflected
back from the smooth water upon you. It's mighty pretty, but it isn't
getting on, you know." After a pause he added: "I asked them to take a
little holiday cruise with me."

"And they declined," interrupted the consul.

Gray glanced at him quickly.

"Well, yes; that's all right enough. They don't know me, you see, but
they do know you; and the fact is, I was thinking that as you're our
consul here, don't you see, and sort of responsible for me, you might
say that it was all right, you know. Quite the customary thing with us
over there. And you might say, generally, who I am."

"I see," said the consul deliberately. "Tell them you're Bob Gray, with
more money and time than you know what to do with; that you have a
fine taste for yachting and shooting and racing, and amusing yourself
generally; that you find that THEY amuse you, and you would like your
luxury and your dollars to stand as an equivalent to their independence
and originality; that, being a good republican yourself, and recognizing
no distinction of class, you don't care what this may mean to them, who
are brought up differently; that after their cruise with you you don't
care what life, what friends, or what jealousies they return to; that
you know no ties, no responsibilities beyond the present, and that you
are not a marrying man."

"Look here, I say, aren't you making a little too much of this?" said
Gray stiffly.

The consul laughed. "I should be glad to know that I am."

Gray rose. "We'll be dropping down the river to-morrow," he said, with
a return of his usual lightness, "and I reckon I'll be toddling down to
the wharf. Good-bye, if I don't see you again."

He passed out. As the consul glanced from the window he observed,
however, that Mr. Gray was "toddling" in quite another direction than
the wharf. For an instant he half regretted that he had not suggested,
in some discreet way, the conclusion he had arrived at after witnessing
the girl's parting with the middle-aged passenger the day before. But he
reflected that this was something he had only accidentally overseen, and
was the girl's own secret.


II.


When the summer had so waxed in its fullness that the smoke of factory
chimneys drifted high, permitting glimpses of fairly blue sky; when the
grass in St. Kentigern's proudest park took on a less sober green in the
comfortable sun, and even in the thickest shade there was no chilliness,
the good St. Kentigerners recognized that the season had arrived to go
"down the river," and that it was time for them to betake themselves,
with rugs, mackintoshes, and umbrellas, to the breezy lochs and misty
hillsides for which the neighborhood of St. Kentigern is justly famous.
So when it came to pass that the blinds were down in the highest places,
and the most exclusive pavements of St. Kentigern were echoless and
desolate, the consul heroically tore himself from the weak delight of
basking in the sunshine, and followed the others.

He soon found himself settled at the furthest end of a long narrow loch,
made longer and narrower by the steep hillside of rock and heather which
flanked its chilly surface on either side, and whose inequalities were
lost in the firs and larches that filled ravine and chasm. The fragrant
road which ran sinuously through their shadowy depths was invisible from
the loch; no protuberance broke the seemingly sheer declivity; the even
sky-line was indented in two places--one where it was cracked into a
fanciful resemblance to a human profile, the other where it was curved
like a bowl. Need it be said that one was distinctly recognized as
the silhouette of a prehistoric giant, and that the other was his
drinking-cup; need it be added that neither lent the slightest human
suggestion to the solitude? A toy-like pier extending into the loch,
midway from the barren shore, only heightened the desolation. And when
the little steamboat that occasionally entered the loch took away a
solitary passenger from the pier-head, the simplest parting was invested
with a dreary loneliness that might have brought tears to the most
hardened eye.

Still, when the shadow of either hillside was not reaching across the
loch, the meridian sun, chancing upon this coy mirror, made the most of
it. Then it was that, seen from above, it flashed like a falchion lying
between the hills; then its reflected glory, striking up, transfigured
the two acclivities, tipped the cold heather with fire, gladdened the
funereal pines, and warmed the ascetic rocks. And it was in one of those
rare, passionate intervals that the consul, riding along the wooded
track and turning his eyes from their splendors, came upon a little
house.

It had once been a sturdy cottage, with a grim endurance and
inflexibility which even some later and lighter additions had softened
rather than changed. On either side of the door, against the bleak
whitewashed wall, two tall fuchsias relieved the rigid blankness with a
show of color. The windows were prettily draped with curtains caught up
with gay ribbons. In a stony pound-like enclosure there was some attempt
at floral cultivation, but all quite recent. So, too, were a wicker
garden seat, a bright Japanese umbrella, and a tropical hammock
suspended between two arctic-looking bushes, which the rude and rigid
forefathers of the hamlet would have probably resented.

He had just passed the house when a charming figure slipped across the
road before him. To his surprise it was the young girl he had met a few
months before on the Skyscraper. But the Tam o' Shanter was replaced by
a little straw hat; and a light dress, summery in color and texture,
but more in keeping with her rustic surroundings, seemed as grateful and
rare as the sunshine. Without knowing why, he had an impression that
it was of her own making--a gentle plagiarism of the style of her more
fortunate sisters, but with a demure restraint all her own. As she
recognized him a faint color came to her cheek, partly from surprise,
partly from some association. To his delighted greeting she responded by
informing him that her father had taken the cottage he had just passed,
where they were spending a three weeks' vacation from his business. It
was not so far from St. Kentigern but that he could run up for a day to
look after the shop. Did the consul not think it was wise?

Quite ready to assent to any sagacity in those clear brown eyes, the
consul thought it was. But was it not, like wisdom, sometimes lonely?

Ah! no. There was the loch and the hills and the heather; there were her
flowers; did he not think they were growing well? and at the head of the
loch there was the old tomb of the McHulishes, and some of the coffins
were still to be seen.

Perhaps emboldened by the consul's smile, she added, with a more serious
precision which was, however, lost in the sympathizing caress of her
voice, "And would you not be getting off and coming in and resting a wee
bit before you go further? It would be so good of you, and father would
think it so kind. And he will be there now, if you're looking."

The consul looked. The old man was standing in the doorway of the
cottage, as respectably uncompromising as ever, with the slight
concession to his rural surroundings of wearing a Tam o' Shanter and
easy slippers. The consul dismounted and entered. The interior was
simply, but tastefully furnished. It struck him that the Scotch prudence
and economy, which practically excluded display and meretricious
glitter, had reached the simplicity of the truest art and the most
refined wealth. He felt he could understand Gray's enthusiasm, and by an
odd association of ideas he found himself thinking of the resigned face
of the lonely passenger on the Skyscraper.

"Have you heard any news of your friend who went to Rio?" he asked
pleasantly, but without addressing himself particularly to either.

There was a perceptible pause; doubtless of deference to her father
on the part of the young girl, and of the usual native conscientious
caution on the part of the father, but neither betrayed any
embarrassment or emotion. "No; he would not be writing yet," she at
length said simply, "he would be waiting until he was settled to his
business. Jamie would be waiting until he could say how he was doing,
father?" she appealed interrogatively to the old man.

"Ay, James Gow would not fash himself to write compliments and gossip
till he knew his position and work," corroborated the old man. "He'll
not be going two thousand miles to send us what we can read in the
'St. Kentigern Herald.' But," he added, suddenly, with a recall of
cautiousness, "perhaps YOU will be hearing of the ship?"

"The consul will not be remembering what he hears of all the ships,"
interposed the young girl, with the same gentle affectation of superior
worldly knowledge which had before amused him. "We'll be wearying him,
father," and the subject dropped.

The consul, glancing around the room again, but always returning to the
sweet and patient seriousness of the young girl's face and the grave
decorum of her father, would have liked to ask another question, but it
was presently anticipated; for when he had exhausted the current topics,
in which both father and daughter displayed a quiet sagacity, and he had
gathered a sufficient knowledge of their character to seem to justify
Gray's enthusiasm, and was rising to take his leave, the young girl said
timidly:--

"Would ye not let Bessie take your horse to the grass field over yonder,
and yourself stay with us to dinner? It would be most kind, and you
would meet a great friend of yours who will be here."

"Mr. Gray?" suggested the consul audaciously. Yet he was greatly
surprised when the young girl said quietly, "Ay."

"He'll be coming in the loch with his yacht," said the old man. "It's
not so expensive lying here as at Bannock, I'm thinking; and the men
cannot gang ashore for drink. Eh, but it's an awful waste o' pounds,
shillings, and pence, keeping these gowks in idleness with no feeshin'
nor carrying of passengers."

"Ay, but it's better Mr. Gray should pay them for being decent and
well-behaved on board his ship, than that they should be out of work
and rioting in taverns and lodging-houses. And you yourself, father,
remember the herrin' fishers that come ashore at Ardie, and the deck
hands of the excursion boat, and the language they'll be using."

"Have you had a cruise in the yacht?" asked the consul quickly.

"Ay," said the father, "we have been up and down the loch, and around
the far point, but not for boardin' or lodgin' the night, nor otherwise
conteenuing or parteecipating. I have explained to Mr. Gray that we
must return to our own home and our own porridge at evening, and he has
agreed, and even come with us. He's a decent enough lad, and not above
instructin', but extraordinar' extravagant."

"Ye know, father," interposed the young girl, "he talks of fitting up
the yacht for the fishing, and taking some of his most decent men on
shares. He says he was very fond of fishing off the Massachusetts coast,
in America. It will be, I'm thinking," she said, suddenly turning to the
consul with an almost pathetic appeal in her voice, "a great occupation
for the rich young men over there."

The consul, desperately struggling with a fanciful picture of Mr. Robert
Gray as a herring fisher, thought gravely that it "might be." But he
thought still more gravely, though silently, of this singular companion
ship, and was somewhat anxious to confront his friend with his new
acquaintances. He had not long to wait. The sun was just dipping behind
the hill when the yacht glided into the lonely loch. A boat was put off,
and in a few moments Robert Gray was climbing the little path from the
loch.

Had the consul expected any embarrassment or lover-like consciousness
on the face of Mr. Gray at their unexpected meeting, he would have been
disappointed. Nor was the young man's greeting of father and daughter,
whom he addressed as Mr. and Miss Callender, marked by any tenderness or
hesitation. On the contrary, a certain seriousness and quiet reticence,
unlike Gray, which might have been borrowed from his new friends,
characterized his speech and demeanor. Beyond this freemasonry of sad
repression there was no significance of look or word passed between
these two young people. The girl's voice retained its even pathos.
Gray's grave politeness was equally divided between her and her father.
He corroborated what Callender had said of his previous visits without
affectation or demonstration; he spoke of the possibilities of his
fitting up the yacht for the fishing season with a practical detail and
economy that left the consul's raillery ineffective. Even when, after
dinner, the consul purposely walked out in the garden with the father,
Gray and Ailsa presently followed them without lingering or undue
precipitation, and with no change of voice or manner. The consul was
perplexed. Had the girl already told Gray of her lover across the sea,
and was this singular restraint their joint acceptance of their fate;
or was he mistaken in supposing that their relations were anything more
than the simple friendship of patron and protegee? Gray was rich enough
to indulge in such a fancy, and the father and daughter were too proud
to ever allow it to influence their own independence. In any event the
consul's right to divulge the secret he was accidentally possessed
of seemed more questionable than ever. Nor did there appear to be any
opportunity for a confidential talk with Gray, since it was proposed
that the whole party should return to the yacht for supper, after
which the consul should be dropped at the pier-head, distant only a few
minutes from his hotel, and his horse sent to him the next day.

A faint moon was shimmering along the surface of Loch Dour in icy little
ripples when they pulled out from the shadows of the hillside. By the
accident of position, Gray, who was steering, sat beside Ailsa in the
stern, while the consul and Mr. Callender were further forward, although
within hearing. The faces of the young people were turned towards each
other, yet in the cold moonlight the consul fancied they looked as
impassive and unemotional as statues. The few distant, far-spaced lights
that trembled on the fading shore, the lonely glitter of the water,
the blackness of the pine-clad ravines seemed to be a part of this
repression, until the vast melancholy of the lake appeared to meet and
overflow them like an advancing tide. Added to this, there came from
time to time the faint sound and smell of the distant, desolate sea.

The consul, struggling manfully to keep up a spasmodic discussion on
Scotch diminutives in names, found himself mechanically saying:

"And James you call Jamie?"

"Ay; but ye would say, to be pure Scotch, 'Hamish,'" said Mr. Callender
precisely. The girl, however, had not spoken; but Gray turned to her
with something of his old gayety.

"And I suppose you would call me 'Robbie'?"

"Ah, no!"

"What then?"

"Robin."

Her voice was low yet distinct, but she had thrown into the two
syllables such infinite tenderness, that the consul was for an instant
struck with an embarrassment akin to that he had felt in the cabin of
the Skyscraper, and half expected the father to utter a shocked protest.
And to save what he thought would be an appalling silence, he said with
a quiet laugh:--

"That's the fellow who 'made the assembly shine' in the song, isn't it?"

"That was Robin Adair," said Gray quietly; "unfortunately I would only
be 'Robin Gray,' and that's quite another song."

"AULD Robin Gray, sir, deestinctly 'auld' in the song," interrupted Mr.
Callender with stern precision; "and I'm thinking he was not so very
unfortunate either."

The discussion of Scotch diminutives halting here, the boat sped on
silently to the yacht. But although Robert Gray, as host, recovered some
of his usual lightheartedness, the consul failed to discover anything
in his manner to indicate the lover, nor did Miss Ailsa after her single
lapse of tender accent exhibit the least consciousness. It was true that
their occasional frank allusions to previous conversations seemed to
show that their opportunities had not been restricted, but nothing more.
He began again to think he was mistaken.

As he wished to return early, and yet not hasten the Callenders, he
prevailed upon Gray to send him to the pier-head first, and not disturb
the party. As he stepped into the boat, something in the appearance
of the coxswain awoke an old association in his mind. The man at first
seemed to avoid his scrutiny, but when they were well away from the
yacht, he said hesitatingly:--

"I see you remember me, sir. But if it's all the same to you, I've got a
good berth here and would like to keep it."

The consul had a flash of memory. It was the boatswain of the
Skyscraper, one of the least objectionable of the crew. "But what are
you doing here? you shipped for the voyage," he said sharply.

"Yes, but I got away at Key West, when I knew what was coming. I wasn't
on her when she was abandoned."

"Abandoned!" repeated the consul. "What the d---l! Do you mean to say she
was wrecked?"

"Well, yes--you know what I mean, sir. It was an understood thing. She
was over-insured and scuttled in the Bahamas. It was a put-up job, and I
reckoned I was well out of it."

"But there was a passenger! What of him?" demanded the consul anxiously.

"Dnnno! But I reckon he got away. There wasn't any of the crew lost that
I know of. Let's see, he was an engineer, wasn't he? I reckon he had to
take a hand at the pumps, and his chances with the rest."

"Does Mr. Gray know of this?" asked the consul after a pause.

The man stared.

"Not from me, sir. You see it was nothin' to him, and I didn't care
talking much about the Skyscraper. It was hushed up in the papers. You
won't go back on me, sir?"

"You don't know what became of the passenger?"

"No! But he was a Scotchman, and they're bound to fall on their feet
somehow!"


III.


The December fog that overhung St. Kentigern had thinned sufficiently to
permit the passage of a few large snowflakes, soiled in their descent,
until in color and consistency they spotted the steps of the Consulate
and the umbrellas of the passers-by like sprinklings of gray mortar.
Nevertheless the consul thought the streets preferable to the persistent
gloom of his office, and sallied out. Youthful mercantile St. Kentigern
strode sturdily past him in the lightest covert coats; collegiate St.
Kentigern fluttered by in the scantiest of red gowns, shaming the furs
that defended his more exotic blood; and the bare red feet of a few
factory girls, albeit their heads and shoulders were draped and hooded
in thick shawls, filled him with a keen sense of his effeminacy.
Everything of earth, air, and sky, and even the faces of those he looked
upon, seemed to be set in the hard, patient endurance of the race.
Everywhere on that dismal day, he fancied he could see this energy
without restlessness, this earnestness without geniality, all grimly set
against the hard environment of circumstance and weather.

The consul turned into one of the main arteries of St. Kentigern, a wide
street that, however, began and ended inconsequently, and with half a
dozen social phases in as many blocks. Here the snow ceased, the fog
thickened suddenly with the waning day, and the consul found himself
isolated and cut off on a block which he did not remember, with the
clatter of an invisible tramway in his ears. It was a block of small
houses with smaller shop-fronts. The one immediately before him seemed
to be an optician's, but the dimly lighted windows also displayed the
pathetic reinforcement of a few watches, cheap jewelry on cards, and
several cairngorm brooches and pins set in silver. It occurred to him
that he wanted a new watch crystal, and that he would procure it here
and inquire his way. Opening the door he perceived that there was no one
in the shop, but from behind the counter another open door disclosed
a neat sitting-room, so close to the street that it gave the casual
customer the sensation of having intruded upon domestic privacy. The
consul's entrance tinkled a small bell which brought a figure to the
door. It was Ailsa Callender.

The consul was startled. He had not seen her since he had brought to
their cottage the news of the shipwreck with a precaution and delicacy
that their calm self-control and patient resignation, however, seemed to
make almost an impertinence. But this was no longer the handsome shop in
the chief thoroughfare with its two shopmen, which he previously knew as
"Callender's." And Ailsa here! What misfortune had befallen them?

Whatever it was, there was no shadow of it in her clear eyes and frank
yet timid recognition of him. Falling in with her stoical and reticent
acceptance of it, he nevertheless gathered that the Callenders had lost
money in some invention which James Gow had taken with him to Rio, but
which was sunk in the ship. With this revelation of a business interest
in what he had believed was only a sentimental relation, the consul
ventured to continue his inquiries. Mr. Gow had escaped with his life
and had reached Honduras, where he expected to try his fortunes anew.
It might be a year or two longer before there were any results. Did the
consul know anything of Honduras? There was coffee there--so she and her
father understood. All this with little hopefulness, no irritation,
but a divine patience in her eyes. The consul, who found that his watch
required extensive repairing, and had suddenly developed an inordinate
passion for cairngorms, watched her as she opened the show-case with no
affectation of unfamiliarity with her occupation, but with all her old
serious concern. Surely she would have made as thorough a shop-girl as
she would--His half-formulated thought took the shape of a question.

"Have you seen Mr. Gray since his return from the Mediterranean?"

Ah! one of the brooches had slipped from her fingers to the bottom of
the case. There was an interval or two of pathetic murmuring, with her
fair head under the glass, before she could find it; then she lifted
her eyes to the consul. They were still slightly suffused with her
sympathetic concern. The stone, which was set in a thistle--the national
emblem--did he not know it?--had dropped out. But she could put it in.
It was pretty and not expensive. It was marked twelve shillings on the
card, but he could have it for ten shillings. No, she had not seen Mr.
Gray since they had lost their fortune. (It struck the consul as none
the less pathetic that she seemed really to believe in their former
opulence.) They could not be seeing him there in a small shop, and they
could not see him elsewhere. It was far better as it was. Yet she
paused a moment when she had wrapped up the brooch. "You'd be seeing him
yourself some time?" she added gently.

"Perhaps."

"Then you'll not mind saying how my father and myself are sometimes
thinking of his goodness and kindness," she went on, in a voice whose
tenderness seemed to increase with the formal precision of her speech.

"Certainly."

"And you'll say we're not forgetting him."

"I promise."

As she handed him the parcel her lips softly parted in what might have
been equally a smile or a sigh.

He was able to keep his promise sooner than he had imagined. It was only
a few weeks later that, arriving in London, he found Gray's hatbox and
bag in the vestibule of his club, and that gentleman himself in the
smoking-room. He looked tanned and older.

"I only came from Southampton an hour ago, where I left the yacht. And,"
shaking the consul's hand cordially, "how's everything and everybody up
at old St. Kentigern?"

The consul thought fit to include his news of the Callenders in
reference to that query, and with his eyes fixed on Gray dwelt at some
length on their change of fortune. Gray took his cigar from his mouth,
but did not lift his eyes from the fire. Presently he said, "I suppose
that's why Callender declined to take the shares I offered him in the
fishing scheme. You know I meant it, and would have done it."

"Perhaps he had other reasons."

"What do you mean?" said Gray, facing the consul suddenly.

"Look here, Gray," said the consul, "did Miss Callender or her father
ever tell you she was engaged?"

"Yes; but what's that to do with it?"

"A good deal. Engagements, you know, are sometimes forced, unsuitable,
or unequal, and are broken by circumstances. Callender is proud."

Gray turned upon the consul the same look of gravity that he had worn
on the yacht--the same look that the consul even fancied he had seen
in Ailsa's eyes. "That's exactly where you're mistaken in her," he said
slowly. "A girl like that gives her word and keeps it. She waits, hopes,
accepts what may come--breaks her heart, if you will, but not her word.
Come, let's talk of something else. How did he--that man Gow--lose
Callender's money?"

The consul did not see the Callenders again on his return, and perhaps
did not think it necessary to report the meeting. But one morning he
was delighted to find an official document from New York upon his desk,
asking him to communicate with David Callender of St. Kentigern, and,
on proof of his identity, giving him authority to draw the sum of five
thousand dollars damages awarded for the loss of certain property on
the Skyscraper, at the request of James Gow. Yet it was with mixed
sensations that the consul sought the little shop of the optician with
this convincing proof of Gow's faithfulness and the indissolubility of
Ailsa's engagement. That there was some sad understanding between the
girl and Gray he did not doubt, and perhaps it was not strange that he
felt a slight partisanship for his friend, whose nature had so strangely
changed. Miss Ailsa was not there. Her father explained that her health
had required a change, and she was visiting some friends on the river.

"I'm thinkin' that the atmosphere is not so pure here. It is deficient
in ozone. I noticed it myself in the early morning. No! it was not the
confinement of the shop, for she never cared to go out."

He received the announcement of his good fortune with unshaken calm and
great practical consideration of detail. He would guarantee his identity
to the consul. As for James Gow, it was no more than fair; and what he
had expected of him. As to its being an equivalent of his loss, he could
not tell until the facts were before him.

"Miss Ailsa," suggested the consul venturously, "will be pleased to hear
again from her old friend, and know that he is succeeding."

"I'm not so sure that ye could call it 'succeeding,'" returned the old
man, carefully wiping the glasses of a pair of spectacles that he held
critically to the light, "when ye consider that, saying nothing of the
waste of valuable time, it only puts James Gow back where he was when he
went away."

"But any man who has had the pleasure of knowing Mr. and Miss Callender
would be glad to be on that footing," said the consul, with polite
significance.

"I'm not agreeing with you there," said Mr. Callender quietly; "and I'm
observing in ye of late a tendency to combine business wi'
compleement. But it was kind of ye to call; and I'll be sending ye the
authorization."

Which he did. But the consul, passing through the locality a few weeks
later, was somewhat concerned to find the shop closed, with others
on the same block, behind a hoarding that indicated rebuilding and
improvement. Further inquiry elicited the fact that the small leases
had been bought up by some capitalist, and that Mr. Callender, with the
others, had benefited thereby. But there was no trace nor clew to his
present locality. He and his daughter seemed to have again vanished with
this second change in their fortunes.

It was a late March morning when the streets were dumb with snow, and
the air was filled with flying granulations that tinkled against the
windows of the Consulate like fairy sleigh-bells, when there was the
stamping of snow-clogged feet in the outer hall, and the door was opened
to Mr. and Miss Callender. For an instant the consul was startled. The
old man appeared as usual--erect, and as frigidly respectable as one
of the icicles that fringed the window, but Miss Ailsa was, to his
astonishment, brilliant with a new-found color, and sparkling with
health and only half-repressed animation. The snow-flakes, scarcely
melting on the brown head of this true daughter of the North, still
crowned her hood; and, as she threw back her brown cloak and disclosed a
plump little scarlet jacket and brown skirt, the consul could not resist
her suggested likeness to some bright-eyed robin redbreast, to whom the
inclement weather had given a charming audacity. And shy and demure as
she still was, it was evident that some change had been wrought in her
other than that evoked by the stimulus of her native sky and air.

To his eager questioning, the old man replied briefly that he had bought
the old cottage at Loch Dour, where they were living, and where he
had erected a small manufactory and laboratory for the making of his
inventions, which had become profitable. The consul reiterated his
delight at meeting them again.

"I'm not so sure of that, sir, when you know the business on which I
come," said Mr. Callender, dropping rigidly into a chair, and clasping
his hands over the crutch of a shepherd-like staff. "Ye mind, perhaps,
that ye conveyed to me, osteensibly at the request of James Gow,
a certain sum of money, for which I gave ye a good and sufficient
guarantee. I thought at the time that it was a most feckless and
unbusiness-like proceeding on the part of James, as it was without
corroboration or advice by letter; but I took the money."

"Do you mean to say that he made no allusion to it in his other
letters?" interrupted the consul, glancing at Ailsa.

"There were no other letters at the time," said Callender dryly. "But
about a month afterwards we DID receive a letter from him enclosing a
draft and a full return of the profits of the invention, which HE HAD
SOLD IN HONDURAS. Ye'll observe the deescrepancy! I then wrote to the
bank on which I had drawn as you authorized me, and I found that they
knew nothing of any damages awarded, but that the sum I had drawn had
been placed to my credit by Mr. Robert Gray."

In a flash the consul recalled the one or two questions that Gray had
asked him, and saw it all. For an instant he felt the whole bitterness
of Gray's misplaced generosity--its exposure and defeat. He glanced
again hopelessly at Ailsa. In the eye of that fresh, glowing, yet
demure, young goddess, unhallowed as the thought might be, there was
certainly a distinctly tremulous wink.

The consul took heart. "I believe I need not say, Mr. Callender," he
began with some stiffness, "that this is as great a surprise to me as
to you. I had no reason to believe the transaction other than bona
fide, and acted accordingly. If my friend, deeply sympathizing with your
previous misfortune, has hit upon a delicate, but unbusiness-like way of
assisting you temporarily--I say TEMPORARILY, because it must have
been as patent to him as to you, that you would eventually find out his
generous deceit--you surely can forgive him for the sake of his kind
intention. Nay, more; may I point out to you that you have no right to
assume that this benefaction was intended exclusively for you; if Mr.
Gray, in his broader sympathy with you and your daughter, has in this
way chosen to assist and strengthen the position of a gentleman so
closely connected with you, but still struggling with hard fortune"--

"I'd have ye know, sir," interrupted the old man, rising to his feet,
"that ma frien' Mr. James Gow is as independent of yours as he is of
me and mine. He has married, sir, a Mrs. Hernandez, the rich widow of
a coffee-planter, and now is the owner of the whole estate, minus the
encumbrance of three children. And now, sir, you'll take this,"--he drew
from his pocket an envelope. "It's a draft for five thousand dollars,
with the ruling rate of interest computed from the day I received it
till this day, and ye'll give it to your frien' when ye see him. And
ye'll just say to him from me"--

But Miss Ailsa, with a spirit and independence that challenged her
father's, here suddenly fluttered between them with sparkling eyes and
outstretched hands.

"And ye'll say to him from ME that a more honorable, noble, and generous
man, and a kinder, truer, and better friend than he, cannot be found
anywhere! And that the foolishest and most extravagant thing he ever did
is better than the wisest and most prudent thing that anybody else ever
did, could, or would do! And if he was a bit overproud--it was only
because those about him were overproud and foolish. And you'll tell him
that we're wearying for him! And when you give him that daft letter from
father you'll give him this bit line from me," she went on rapidly as
she laid a tiny note in his hand. "And," with wicked dancing eyes that
seemed to snap the last bond of repression, "ye'll give him THAT too,
and say I sent it!"

There was a stir in the official apartment! The portraits of Lincoln and
Washington rattled uneasily in their frames; but it was no doubt only a
discreet blast of the north wind that drowned the echo of a kiss.

"Ailsa!" gasped the shocked Mr. Callender.

"Ah! but, father, if it had not been for HIM we would not have known
Robin."

*****

It was the last that the consul saw of Ailsa Callender; for the next
summer when he called at Loch Dour she was Mrs. Gray.



THE SHERIFF OF SISKYOU.


I.


On the fifteenth of August, 1854, what seemed to be the entire
population of Wynyard's Bar was collected upon a little bluff which
overlooked the rude wagon road that was the only approach to the
settlement. In general appearance the men differed but little from
ordinary miners, although the foreign element, shown in certain Spanish
peculiarities of dress and color, predominated, and some of the men
were further distinguished by the delicacy of education and sedentary
pursuits. Yet Wynyard's Bar was a city of refuge, comprised among its
inhabitants a number who were "wanted" by the State authorities, and
its actual attitude at that moment was one of open rebellion against the
legal power, and of particular resistance to the apprehension by warrant
of one of its prominent members. This gentleman, Major Overstone, then
astride of a gray mustang, and directing the movements of the crowd,
had, a few days before, killed the sheriff of Siskyou county, who had
attempted to arrest him for the double offense of misappropriating
certain corporate funds of the State and the shooting of the editor who
had imprudently exposed him. The lesser crime of homicide might have
been overlooked by the authorities, but its repetition upon the body
of their own over-zealous and misguided official could not pass
unchallenged if they expected to arrest Overstone for the more serious
offense against property. So it was known that a new sheriff had been
appointed and was coming to Wynyard's Bar with an armed posse. But it
was also understood that this invasion would be resisted by the Bar to
its last man.

All eyes were turned upon a fringe of laurel and butternut that
encroached upon the road half a mile away, where it seemed that such
of the inhabitants who were missing from the bluff were hidden to give
warning or retard the approach of the posse. A gray haze, slowly rising
between the fringe and the distant hillside, was recognized as the
dust of a cavalcade passing along the invisible highway. In the hush
of expectancy that followed, the irregular clatter of hoofs, the sharp
crack of a rifle, and a sudden halt were faintly audible. The
men, scattered in groups on the bluff, exchanged a smile of grim
satisfaction.

Not so their leader! A quick start and an oath attracted attention to
him. To their surprise he was looking in another direction, but as
they looked too they saw and understood the cause. A file of horsemen,
hitherto undetected, were slowly passing along the little ridge on their
right. Their compact accoutrements and the yellow braid on their
blue jackets, distinctly seen at that distance, showed them to be a
detachment of United States cavalry.

Before the assemblage could realize this new invasion, a nearer clatter
of hoofs was heard along the high road, and one of the ambuscading party
dashed up from the fringe of woods below. His face was flushed, but
triumphant.

"A reg'lar skunk--by the living hokey!" he panted, pointing to the faint
haze that was again slowly rising above the invisible road. "They backed
down as soon as they saw our hand, and got a hole through their new
sheriff's hat. But what are you lookin' at? What's up?"

The leader impatiently pointed with a darkening face to the distant
file.

"Reg'lars, by gum!" ejaculated the other. "But Uncle Sam ain't in this
game. Wot right have THEY"--

"Dry up!" said the leader.

The detachment was now moving at right angles with the camp, but
suddenly halted, almost doubling upon itself in some evident commotion.
A dismounted figure was seen momentarily flying down the hillside
dodging from bush to bush until lost in the underbrush. A dozen shots
were fired over its head, and then the whole detachment wheeled and
came clattering down the trail in the direction of the camp. A single
riderless horse, evidently that of the fugitive, followed.

"Spread yourselves along the ridge, every man of you, and cover them as
they enter the gulch!" shouted the leader. "But not a shot until I give
the word. Scatter!"

The assemblage dispersed like a startled village of prairie dogs,
squatting behind every available bush and rock along the line of bluff.
The leader alone trotted quietly to the head of the gulch.

The nine cavalrymen came smartly up in twos, a young officer leading.
The single figure of Major Overstone opposed them with a command to
halt. Looking up, the young officer drew rein, said a word to his file
leader, and the four files closed in a compact square motionless on the
road. The young officer's unsworded hand hung quietly at his thigh,
the men's unslung carbines rested easily on their saddles. Yet at that
moment every man of them knew that they were covered by a hundred
rifles and shot guns leveled from every bush, and that they were caught
helplessly in a trap.

"Since when," said Major Overstone with an affectation of tone and
manner different from that in which he had addressed his previous
companions, "have the Ninth United States Cavalry helped to serve a
State court's pettifogging process?"

"We are hunting a deserter--a half-breed agent--who has just escaped
us," returned the officer. His voice was boyish--so, too, was his figure
in its slim, cadet-like smartness of belted tunic--but very quiet and
level, although his face was still flushed with the shock and shame of
his surprise.

The relaxation of relief went through the wrought and waiting camp. The
soldiers were not seeking THEM. Ready as these desperate men had been to
do their leader's bidding, they were well aware that a momentary victory
over the troopers would not pass unpunished, and meant the ultimate
dispersion of the camp. And quiet as these innocent invaders seemed
to be they would no doubt sell their lives dearly. The embattled
desperadoes glanced anxiously at their leader; the soldiers, on the
contrary, looked straight before them.

"Process or no process," said Major Overstone with a sneer, "you've
come to the last place to recover your deserter. We don't give up men in
Wynyard's Bar. And they didn't teach you at the Academy, sir, to stop to
take prisoners when you were outflanked and outnumbered."

"Bedad! They didn't teach YOU, Captain Overstone, to engage a battery at
Cerro Gordo with a half company, but you did it; more shame to you now,
sorr, commandin' the thayves and ruffians you do."

"Silence!" said the young officer.

The sleeve of the sergeant who had spoken--with the chevrons of long
service upon it--went up to a salute, and dropped again over his carbine
as he stared stolidly before him. But his shot had told. A flush of
mingled pride and shame passed over Overstone's face.

"Oh! it's YOU, Murphy," he said with an affected laugh, "and you haven't
improved with your stripes."

The young officer turned his head slightly.

"Attention!"

"One moment more," said Overstone coming forward. "I have told you that
we don't give up any man who seeks our protection. But," he added with
a half-careless, half-contemptuous wave of his hand, and a significant
glance at his followers, "we don't prevent you from seeking him. The
road is clear; the camp is before you."

The young officer continued without looking at him. "Forward--in two
files--open order. Ma-arch!"

The little troop moved forward, passed Major Overstone at the head of
the gully, and spread out on the hillside. The assembled camp, still
armed, lounging out of ambush here and there, ironically made way for
them to pass. A few moments of this farcical quest, and a glance at
the impenetrably wooded heights around, apparently satisfied the young
officer, and he turned his files again into the gully. Major Overstone
was still lingering there.

"I hope you are satisfied," he said grimly. He then paused, and in a
changed and more hesitating voice added: "I am an older soldier than
you, sir, but I am always glad to make the acquaintance of West Point."
He paused and held out his hand.

West Point, still red and rigid, glanced at him with bright clear eyes
under light lashes and the peak of a smartly cocked cap, looked coolly
at the proffered hand, raised his own to a stiff salute, said, "Good
afternoon, sir," and rode away.

Major Overstone wheeled angrily, but in doing so came sharply upon his
coadjutor--the leader of the ambushed party.

"Well, Dawson," he said impatiently. "Who was it?"

"Only one of them d----d half-breed Injin agents. He's just over there
in the brush with Simpson, lying low till the soldiers clear out."

"Did you talk to him?"

"Not much!" returned Dawson scornfully. "He ain't my style."

"Fetch him up to my cabin; he may be of some use to us."

Dawson looked skeptical. "I reckon he ain't no more gain here than he
was over there," he said, and turned away.


II.


The cabin of Major Overstone differed outwardly but little from those of
his companions. It was the usual structure of logs, laid lengthwise, and
rudely plastered at each point of contact with adobe, the material from
which the chimney, which entirely occupied one gable, was built. It
was pierced with two windows and a door, roofed with smaller logs, and
thatched with long half cylinders of spruce bark. But the interior
gave certain indications of the distinction as well as the peculiar
experiences of its occupant. In place of the usual bunk or berth built
against the wall stood a small folding camp bedstead, and upon a rude
deal table that held a tin wash-basin and pail lay two ivory-handled
brushes, combs, and other elegant toilet articles, evidently the
contents of the major's dressing-bag. A handsome leather trunk occupied
one corner, with a richly caparisoned silver-mounted Mexican saddle,
a mahogany case of dueling pistols, a leather hat-box, locked and
strapped, and a gorgeous gold and quartz handled ebony "presentation"
walking stick. There was a certain dramatic suggestion in this
revelation of the sudden and hurried transition from a life of
ostentatious luxury to one of hidden toil and privation, and a further
significance in the slow and gradual distribution and degradation of
these elegant souvenirs. A pair of silver boot-hooks had been used
for raking the hearth and lifting the coffee kettle; the ivory of the
brushes was stained with coffee; the cut-glass bottles had lost their
stoppers, and had been utilized for vinegar and salt; a silver-framed
hand mirror hung against the blackened wall. For the major's occupancy
was the sequel of a hurried flight from his luxurious hotel at
Sacramento--a transfer that he believed was only temporary until
the affair blew over, and he could return in safety to brow-beat his
accusers, as was his wont. But this had not been so easy as he had
imagined; his prosecutors were bitter, and his enforced seclusion had
been prolonged week by week until the fracas which ended in the shooting
of the sheriff had apparently closed the door upon his return to
civilization forever. Only here was his life and person secure. For
Wynyard's Bar had quickly succumbed to the domination of his reckless
courage, and the eminence of his double crime had made him respected
among spendthrifts, gamblers, and gentlemen whose performances had
never risen above a stage-coach robbery or a single assassination. Even
criticism of his faded luxuries had been delicately withheld.

He was leaning over his open trunk--which the camp popularly supposed
to contain State bonds and securities of fabulous amount--and had taken
some letters from it, when a figure darkened the doorway. He looked up,
laying his papers carelessly aside. WITHIN Wynyard's Bar property was
sacred.

It was the late fugitive. Although some hours had already elapsed since
his arrival in camp, and he had presumably refreshed himself inwardly,
his outward appearance was still disheveled and dusty. Brier and
milkweed clung to his frayed blouse and trousers. What could be seen of
the skin of his face and hands under its stains and begriming was of
a dull yellow. His light eyes had all the brightness without the
restlessness of the mongrel race. They leisurely took in the whole
cabin, the still open trunk before the major, and then rested
deliberately on the major himself.

"Well," said Major Overstone abruptly, "what brought you here?"

"Same as brought you, I reckon," responded the man almost as abruptly.

The major knew something of the half-breed temper, and neither the
retort nor its tone affected him.

"You didn't come here just because you deserted," said the major coolly.
"You've been up to something else."

"I have," said the man with equal coolness.

"I thought so. Now, you understand you can't try anything of that kind
HERE. If you do, up you go on the first tree. That's Rule 1."

"I see you ain't pertickler about waiting for the sheriff here, you
fellers."

The major glanced at him quickly. He seemed to be quite unconscious of
any irony in his remark, and continued grimly, "And what's Rule 2?"

"I reckon you needn't trouble yourself beyond No. 1," returned the major
with dry significance. Nevertheless, he opened a rude cupboard in the
corner and brought out a rich silver-mounted cut-glass drinking-flask,
which he handed to the stranger.

"I say," said the half-breed, admiringly, "yours?"

"Certainly."

"Certainly NOW, but BEFORE, eh?"

Rule No. 2 may have indicated that references to the past held no
dishonor. The major, although accustomed to these pleasantries, laughed
a little harshly.

"Mine always," he said. "But you don't drink?"

The half-breed's face darkened under its grime.

"Wot you're givin' us? I've been filled chock up by Simpson over thar. I
reckon I know when I've got a load on."

"Were you ever in Sacramento?"

"Yes."

"When?"

"Last week."

"Did you hear anything about me?"

The half-breed glanced through his tangled hair at the major in some
wonder, not only at the question, but at the almost childish eagerness
with which it was asked.

"I didn't hear much of anything else," he answered grimly.

"And--what did they SAY?"

"Said you'd got to be TOOK anyhow! They allowed the new sheriff would do
it too."

The major laughed. "Well, you heard HOW the new sheriff did it--skunked
away with his whole posse before one-eighth of my men! You saw how the
rest of this camp held up your nine troopers, and that sap-headed cub
of a lieutenant--didn't you? You wouldn't have been standing here if
you hadn't. No; there isn't the civil process nor the civil power in all
California that can take me out of this camp."

But neither his previous curiosity nor present bravado seemed to impress
the ragged stranger with much favor. He glanced sulkily around the cabin
and began to shuffle towards the door.

"Stop! Where are you going to? Sit down. I want to talk to you."

The fugitive hesitated for a moment, and then dropped ungraciously on
the edge of a camp-stool near the door. The major looked at him.

"I may have to remind you that I run this camp, and the boys hereabouts
do pretty much as I say. What's your name?"

"Tom."

"Tom? Well, look here, Tom! D--n it all! Can't you see that when a man
is stuck here alone, as I am, he wants to know what's going on outside,
and hear a little fresh talk?"

The singular weakness of this blended command and appeal apparently
struck the fugitive curiously. He fixed his lowering eyes on the major
as if in gloomy doubt if he were really the reckless desperado he had
been represented. That this man--twice an assassin and the ruler
of outlaws as reckless as himself--should approach him in this
half-confidential way evidently puzzled him.

"Wot you wanter know?" he asked gruffly.

"Well, what's my party saying or doing about me?" said the major
impatiently. "What's the 'Express' saying about me?"

"I reckon they're throwing off on you all round; they allow you never
represented the party, but worked for yourself," said the man shortly.

Here the major lashed out. A set of traitors and hirelings! He had
bought and paid for them all! He had sunk two thousand dollars in the
"Express" and saved the editor from being horsewhipped and jailed for
libel! Half the cursed bonds that they were making such a blanked
fuss about were handled by these hypocrites--blank them! They were a
low-lived crew of thieves and deserters! It is presumed that the major
had forgotten himself in this infelicitous selection of epithets, but
the stranger's face only relaxed into a grim smile. More than that, the
major had apparently forgotten his desire to hear his guest talk, for he
himself at once launched into an elaborate exposition of his own affairs
and a specious and equally elaborate defense and justification of
himself and denunciation of his accusers. For nearly half an hour he
reviewed step by step and detail by detail the charges against him--with
plausible explanation and sophistical argument, but always with
a singular prolixity and reiteration that spoke of incessant
self-consciousness and self-abstraction. Of that dashing
self-sufficiency which had dazzled his friends and awed his enemies
there was no trace! At last, even the set smile of the degraded
recipient of these confidences darkened with a dull, bewildered disgust.
Then, to his relief, a step was heard without. The major's manner
instantly changed.

"Well?" he demanded impatiently, as Dawson entered.

"I came to know what you want done with HIM," said Dawson, indicating
the fugitive with a contemptuous finger.

"Take him to your cabin!"

"My cabin! HIM?" ejaculated Dawson, turning sharply on his chief.

The major's light eyes contracted and his thin lips became a straight
line. "I don't think you understand me, Dawson, and another time you'd
better wait until I'm done. I want you to take him to your cabin--and
then CLEAR OUT OF IT YOURSELF. You understand? I want him NEAR ME AND
ALONE!"


III.


Dawson was not astonished the next morning to see Major Overstone and
the half-breed walking together down the gully road, for he had already
come to the conclusion that the major was planning some extraordinary
reprisals against the invaders, that would ensure the perpetual security
of the camp. That he should use so insignificant and unimportant a tool
now appeared to him to be quite natural, particularly as the service
was probably one in which the man would be sacrificed. "The major," he
suggested to his companions, "ain't going to risk a white man's skin,
when he can get an Injun's hide handy."

The reluctant hesitating step of the half-breed as they walked along
seemed to give some color to this hypothesis. He listened sullenly to
the major as he pointed out the strategic position of the Bar. "That
wagon road is the only approach to Wynyard's, and a dozen men along the
rocks could hold it against a hundred. The trail that you came by, over
the ridge, drops straight into this gully, and you saw what that would
mean to any blanked fools who might try it. Of course we could be
shelled from that ridge if the sheriff had a howitzer, or the men who
knew how to work one, but even then we could occupy the ridge before
them." He paused a moment and then added: "I used to be in the army,
Tom; I saw service in Mexico before that cub you got away from had his
first trousers. I was brought up as a gentleman--blank it all--and HERE
I am!"

The man slouched on by his side, casting his surly, furtive glances
from left to right, as if seeking to escape from these confidences.
Nevertheless, the major kept on through the gully, until reaching the
wagon road they crossed it, and began to ascend the opposite slope, half
hidden by the underbrush and larches. Here the major paused again and
faced about. The cabins of the settlement were already behind the bluff;
the little stream which indicated the "bar"--on which some perfunctory
mining was still continued--now and then rang out quite clearly at their
feet, although the bar itself had disappeared. The sounds of occupation
and labor had at last died away in the distance. They were quite alone.
The major sat down on a boulder, and pointed to another. The man,
however, remained sullenly standing where he was, as if to accent as
strongly as possible the enforced companionship. Either the major
was too self-absorbed to notice it, or accepted it as a satisfactory
characteristic of the half-breed's race. He continued confidently:--

"Now look here, Tom. I want to leave this cursed hole, and get clear out
of the State! Anywhere; over the Oregon line into British Columbia, or
to the coast, where I can get a coasting vessel down to Mexico. It will
cost money, but I've got it. It will cost a lot of risks, but I'll take
them. I want somebody to help me, some one to share risks with me, and
some one to share my luck if I succeed. Help to put me on the other side
of the border line, by sea or land, and I'll give you a thousand dollars
down BEFORE WE START and a thousand dollars when I'm safe."

The half-breed had changed his slouching attitude. It seemed more
indolent on account of the loosely hanging strap that had once held his
haversack, which was still worn in a slovenly fashion over his shoulder
as a kind of lazy sling for his shiftless hand.

"Well, Tom, is it a go? You can trust ME, for you'll have the thousand
in your pocket before you start. I can trust YOU, for I'll kill you
quicker than lightning if you say a word of this to any one before I go,
or play a single trick on me afterwards."

Suddenly the two men were rolling over and over in the underbrush. The
half-breed had thrown himself upon the major, bearing him down to the
ground. The haversack strap for an instant whirled like the loop of a
lasso in the air, and descended over the major's shoulders, pinioning
his arms to his side. Then the half-breed, tearing open his ragged
blouse, stripped off his waist-belt, and as dexterously slipped it over
the ankles of the struggling man.

It was all over in a moment. Neither had spoken a word. Only their rapid
panting broke the profound silence. Each probably knew that no outcry
would be overheard.

For the first time the half-breed sat down. But there was no trace of
triumph or satisfaction in his face, which wore the same lowering look
of disgust, as he gazed upon the prostrate man.

"I want to tell you first," he said, slowly wiping his face, "that I
didn't kalkilate upon doin' this in this yer kind o' way. I expected
more of a stan' up fight from you--more risk in gettin' you out o' that
hole--and a different kind of a man to tackle. I never expected you
to play into my hand like this--and it goes against me to hev to take
advantage of it."

"Who are you?" said the major, pantingly.

"I'm the new sheriff of Siskyou!"

He drew from beneath his begrimed shirt a paper wrapping, from which
he gingerly extracted with the ends of his dirty fingers a clean,
legal-looking folded paper.

"That's my warrant! I've kept it fresh for you. I reckon you don't care
to read it--you've seen it afore. It's just the same as t'other sheriff
had--what you shot."

"Then this was a plant of yours, and that whelp's troopers?" said the
major.

"Neither him nor the sojers knows any more about it than you," returned
the sheriff slowly. "I enlisted as Injin guide or scout ten days ago.
I deserted just as reg'lar and nat'ral like when we passed that ridge
yesterday. I could be took to-morrow by the sojers if they caught sight
o' me and court-martialed--it's as reg'lar as THAT! But I timed to have
my posse, under a deputy, draw you off by an attack just as the escort
reached the ridge. And here I am."

"And you're no half-breed?"

"There's nothin' Injin about me that water won't wash off. I kalkilated
you wouldn't suspect anything so insignificant as an INJIN, when I fixed
myself up. You saw Dawson didn't hanker after me much. But I didn't
reckon on YOUR tumbling to me so quick. That's what gets me! You must
hev been pretty low down for kempany when you took a man like me inter
your confidence. I don't see it yet."

He looked inquiringly at his captive--with the same wondering surliness.
Nor could he understand another thing which was evident. After the first
shock of resistance the major had exhibited none of the indignation of
a betrayed man, but actually seemed to accept the situation with a
calmness that his captor lacked. His voice was quite unemotional as he
said:

"And how are you going to get me away from here?"

"That's MY look out, and needn't trouble you, major; but, seein' as how
confidential you've been to me, I don't mind tellin' you. Last night
that posse of mine that you 'skunked,' you know, halted at the cross
roads till them sojers went by. They has only to SEE THEM to know that I
had got away. They'll hang round the cross roads till they see my signal
on top of the ridge, and then they'll make another show against that
pass. Your men will have their hands full, I reckon, without huntin' for
YOU, or noticin' the three men o' mine that will come along this ridge
where the sojers come yesterday--to help me get you down in the same
way. You see, major, your little trap in that gully ain't in this
fight--WE'RE THE OTHER SIDE OF IT. I ain't much of a sojer, but I
reckon I've got you there! And it's all owing to YOU. I ain't," he added
gloomily, "takin' much pride in it MYSELF."

"I shouldn't think you would," said the major, "and look here! I'll
double that offer I made you just now. Set me down just as I am on the
deck of some coasting vessel, and I'll pay you four thousand dollars.
You may have all the glory of having captured me, HERE, and of making
your word good before your posse. But you can arrange afterwards on the
way to let me give you the slip somewhere near Sacramento."

The sheriff's face actually brightened. "Thanks for that, major. I was
gettin' a little sick of my share in this job, but, by God, you've put
some sand in me. Well, then! there ain't gold enough in all Californy to
make me let you go. You hear me; so drop that. I've TOOK you, and TOOK
ye'll remain until I land you in Sacramento jail. I don't want to kill
you, though your life's forfeit a dozen times over, and I reckon you
don't care for it either way, but if you try any tricks on me I may have
to MAIM ye to make you come along comf'able and easy. I ain't hankerin'
arter THAT either, but come you shall!"

"Give your signal and have an end of this," said the major curtly.

The sheriff looked at him again curiously. "I never had my hands in
another man's pockets before, major, but I reckon I'll have to take your
derringers from yours." He slipped his hand into the major's waistcoat
and secured the weapons. "I'll have to trouble you for your sash, too,"
he said, unwinding the knitted silken girdle from the captive's waist.
"You won't want it, for you ain't walking, and it'll come in handy to me
just now."

He bent over, and, passing it across the major's breast with more
gentleness and solicitude than he had yet shown, secured him in an easy
sitting posture against the tree. Then, after carefully trying the knots
and straps that held his prisoner, he turned and lightly bounded up the
hill.

He was absent scarcely ten minutes, yet when he returned the major's
eyes were half closed. But not his lips. "If you expect to hold me until
your posse comes you had better take me to some less exposed position,"
he said dryly. "There's a man just crossed the gully, coming into the
brush below in the wood."

"None of your tricks, major!"

"Look for yourself."

The sheriff glanced quickly below him. A man with an axe on his shoulder
could be seen plainly making his way through the underbrush not a
hundred yards away. The sheriff instantly clapped his hand upon his
captive's mouth, but at a look from his eyes took it away again.

"I see," he said grimly, "you don't want to lure that man within reach
of my revolver by calling to him."

"I could have called him while you were away," returned the major
quietly.

The sheriff with a darkened face loosened the sash that bound his
prisoner to the tree, and then, lifting him in his arms, began to ascend
the hill cautiously, dipping into the heavier shadows. But the ascent
was difficult, the load a heavy one, and the sheriff was agile rather
than muscular. After a few minutes' climbing he was forced to pause and
rest his burden at the foot of a tree. But the valley and the man in the
underbrush were no longer in view.

"Come," said the major quietly, "unstrap my ankles and I'll WALK up.
We'll never get there at this rate."

The sheriff paused, wiped his grimy face with his grimier blouse, and
stood looking at his prisoner. Then he said slowly:--

"Look yer! Wot's your little game? Blessed if I kin follow suit."

For the first time the major burst into a rage. "Blast it all! Don't you
see that if I'm discovered HERE, in this way, there's not a man on the
Bar who would believe that I walked into your trap, not a man, by God,
who wouldn't think it was a trick of yours and mine together?"

"Or," interrupted the sheriff slowly, fixing his eyes on his prisoner,
"not a man who would ever trust Major Overstone for a leader again?"

"Perhaps," said the major, unmovedly again, "I don't think EITHER OF US
would ever get a chance of being trusted again by any one."

The sheriff still kept his eyes fixed on his prisoner, his gloomy face
growing darker under its grime. "THAT ain't the reason, major. Life and
death don't mean much more to you than they do to me in this yer game. I
know that you'd kill me quicker nor lightning if you got the chance; YOU
know that I'm takin' you to the gallows."

"The reason is that I want to leave Wynyard's Bar," said the major
coolly; "and even this way out of it will suit me."

The sheriff took his revolver from his pocket and deliberately cocked
it. Then, leaning down, he unbuckled the strap from the major's ankles.
A wild hope that his incomprehensible captive might seize that moment to
develop his real intent--that he might fly, fight, or in some way act up
to his reckless reputation--sustained him for a moment, but in the next
proved futile. The major only said, "Thank you, Tom," and stretched his
cramped legs.

"Get up and go on," said the sheriff roughly.

The major began to slowly ascend the hill, the sheriff close on his
heels, alert, tingling, and watchful of every movement. For a few
moments this strain upon his faculties seemed to invigorate him, and his
gloom relaxed, but presently it became too evident that the prisoner's
pinioned arms made it impossible for him to balance or help himself on
that steep trail, and once or twice he stumbled and reeled dangerously
to one side. With an oath the sheriff caught him, and tore from his arms
the only remaining bonds that fettered him. "There!" he said savagely;
"go on; we're equal!"

Without replying, the major continued his ascent; it became steeper
as they neared the crest, and at last they were both obliged to drag
themselves up by clutching the vines and underbrush. Suddenly the major
stopped with a listening gesture. A strange roaring--as of wind or
water--was distinctly audible.

"How did you signal?" asked the major abruptly.

"Made a smoke," said the sheriff as abruptly.

"I thought so--well! you've set the woods on fire."

They both plunged upwards again, now quite abreast, vying with each
other to reach the summit as if with the one thought only. Already the
sting and smart of acrid fumes were in their eyes and nostrils; when
they at last stood on level ground again, it was hidden by a thin film
of grayish blue haze that seemed to be creeping along it. But above
was the clear sky, seen through the interlacing boughs, and to
their surprise--they who had just come from the breathless, stagnant
hillside--a fierce wind was blowing! But the roaring was louder than
before.

"Unless your three men are already here, your game is up," said the
major calmly. "The wind blows dead along the ridge where they should
come, and they can't get through the smoke and fire."

It was indeed true! In the scarce twenty minutes that had elapsed since
the sheriff's return the dry and brittle underbrush for half a mile on
either side had been converted into a sheet of flame, which at times
rose to a furnace blast through the tall chimney-like conductors of tree
shafts, from whose shriveled sides bark was crackling, and lighted dead
limbs falling in all directions. The whole valley, the gully, the Bar,
the very hillside they had just left, were blotted out by a creeping,
stifling smoke-fog that scarcely rose breast high, but was beaten down
or cut off cleanly by the violent wind that swept the higher level
of the forest. At times this gale became a sirocco in temperature,
concentrating its heat in withering blasts which they could not face, or
focusing its intensity upon some mass of foliage that seemed to shrink
at its touch and open a scathed and quivering aisle to its approach. The
enormous skeleton of a dead and rotten redwood, not a hundred yards to
their right, broke suddenly like a gigantic firework into sparks and
flame.

The sheriff had grasped the full meaning of their situation. In spite of
his first error--the very carelessness of familiarity--his knowledge
of woodcraft was greater than his companion's, and he saw their danger.
"Come," he said quickly, "we must make for an opening or we shall be
caught."

The major smiled in misapprehension.

"Who could catch us here?"

The sheriff pointed to the blazing tree.

"THAT," he said. "In five minutes IT will have a posse that will wipe us
both out."

He caught the major by the arm and rushed him into the smoke,
apparently in the direction of the greatest mass of flame. The heat was
suffocating, but it struck the major that the more they approached the
actual scene of conflagration the heat and smoke became less, until he
saw that the fire was retreating before them and the following wind.
In a few moments their haven of safety--the expanse already burnt
over--came in sight. Here and there, seen dimly through the drifting
smoke, the scattered embers that still strewed the forest floor glowed
in weird nebulous spots like will-o'-the-wisps. For an instant the major
hesitated; the sheriff cast a significant glance behind them.

"Go on; it's our only chance," he said imperatively.

They darted on, skimming the blackened or smouldering surface, which at
times struck out sparks and flame from their heavier footprints as they
passed. Their boots crackled and scorched beneath them; their shreds
of clothing were on fire; their breathing became more difficult, until,
providentially, they fell upon an abrupt, fissure-like depression of the
soil, which the fire had leaped, and into which they blindly plunged and
rolled together. A moment of relief and coolness followed, as they crept
along the fissure, filled with damp and rotting leaves.

"Why not stay here?" said the exhausted prisoner.

"And be roasted like sweet potatoes when these trees catch," returned
the sheriff grimly. "No." Even as he spoke, a dropping rain of
fire spattered through the leaves from a splintered redwood, before
overlooked, that was now blazing fiercely in the upper wind. A vague and
indefinable terror was in the air. The conflagration no longer seemed
to obey any rule of direction. The incendiary torch had passed
invisibly everywhere. They scrambled out of the hollow, and again dashed
desperately forward.

Beaten, bruised, blackened, and smoke-grimed--looking less human than
the animals who had long since deserted the crest--they at last limped
into a "wind opening" in the woods that the fire had skirted. The major
sank exhaustedly to the ground; the sheriff threw himself beside him.
Their strange relations to each other seemed to have been forgotten;
they looked and acted as if they no longer thought of anything beyond
the present. And when the sheriff finally arose and, disappearing for
several minutes, brought his hat full of water for his prisoner from a
distant spring that they had passed in their flight, he found him where
he had left him--unchanged and unmoved.

He took the water gratefully, and after a pause fixed his eyes earnestly
upon his captor. "I want you to do a favor to me," he said slowly. "I'm
not going to offer you a bribe to do it either, nor ask you anything
that isn't in a line with your duty. I think I understand you now, if I
didn't before. Do you know Briggs's restaurant in Sacramento?"

The sheriff nodded.

"Well! over the restaurant are my private rooms, the finest in
Sacramento. Nobody knows it but Briggs, and he has never told. They've
been locked ever since I left; I've got the key still in my pocket. Now
when we get to Sacramento, instead of taking me straight to jail, I want
you to hold me THERE as your prisoner for a day and a night. I don't
want to get away; you can take what precautions you like--surround the
house with policemen, and sleep yourself in the ante-room. I don't want
to destroy any papers or evidence; you can go through the rooms and
examine everything before and after; I only want to stay there a day and
a night; I want to be in my old rooms, have my meals from the restaurant
as I used to, and sleep in my own bed once more. I want to live for one
day like a gentleman, as I used to live before I came here. That's all!
It isn't much, Tom. You can do it and say you require to do it to get
evidence against me, or that you want to search the rooms."

The expression of wonder which had come into the sheriff's face at
the beginning of this speech deepened into his old look of surly
dissatisfaction. "And that's all ye want?" he said gloomily. "Ye don't
want no friends--no lawyer? For I tell you, straight out, major, there
ain't no hope for ye, when the law once gets hold of ye in Sacramento."

"That's all. Will you do it?"

The sheriff's face grew still darker. After a pause he said: "I don't
say 'no,' and I don't say 'yes.' But," he added grimly, "it strikes me
we'd better wait till we get clear o' these woods afore you think o'
your Sacramento lodgings."

The major did not reply. The day had worn on, but the fire, now
completely encircling them, opposed any passage in or out of that
fateful barrier. The smoke of the burning underbrush hung low around
them in a bank equally impenetrable to vision. They were as alone as
shipwrecked sailors on an island, girded by a horizon of clouds.

"I'm going to try to sleep," said the major; "if your men come you can
waken me."

"And if YOUR men come?" said the sheriff dryly.

"Shoot me."

He lay down, closed his eyes, and to the sheriff's astonishment
presently fell asleep. The sheriff, with his chin in his grimy hands,
sat and watched him as the day slowly darkened around them and the
distant fires came out in more lurid intensity. The face of the captive
and outlawed murderer was singularly peaceful; that of the captor and
man of duty was haggard, wild, and perplexed.

But even this changed soon. The sleeping man stirred restlessly and
uneasily; his face began to work, his lips to move. "Tom," he gasped
suddenly, "Tom!"

The sheriff bent over him eagerly. The sleeping man's eyes were still
closed; beads of sweat stood upon his forehead. He was dreaming.

"Tom," he whispered, "take me out of this place--take me out from
these dogs and pimps and beggars! Listen, Tom!--they're Sydney ducks,
ticket-of-leave men, short card sharps, and sneak thieves! There isn't a
gentleman among 'em! There isn't one I don't loathe and hate--and would
grind under my heel, elsewhere. I'm a gentleman, Tom--yes, by God--an
officer and a gentleman! I've served my country in the 9th Cavalry.
That cub of West Point knows it and despises me, seeing me here in such
company. That sergeant knows it--I recommended him for his first stripes
for all he taunts me,--d--n him!"

"Come, wake up!" said the sheriff harshly.

The prisoner did not heed him; the sheriff shook him roughly, so roughly
that the major's waistcoat and shirt dragged open, disclosing his fine
silk undershirt, delicately worked and embroidered with golden thread.
At the sight of this abased and faded magnificence the sheriff's hand
was stayed; his eye wandered over the sleeping form before him. Yes, the
hair was dyed too; near the roots it was quite white and grizzled; the
pomatum was coming off the pointed moustache and imperial; the face in
the light was very haggard; the lines from the angles of the nostril and
mouth were like deep, half-healed gashes. The major was, without doubt,
prematurely worn and played out.

The sheriff's persistent eyes, however, seemed to effect what his ruder
hand could not. The sleeping man stirred, awoke to full consciousness,
and sat up.

"Are they here? I'm ready," he said calmly.

"No," said the sheriff deliberately; "I only woke ye to say that I've
been thinkin' over what ye asked me, and if we get to Sacramento all
right, why, I'll do it and give ye that day and night at your old
lodgings."

"Thank you."

The major reached out his hand; the sheriff hesitated, and then extended
his own. The hands of the two men clasped for the first, and it would
seem, the last time.

For the "cub of West Point" was, like most cubs, irritable when
thwarted. And having been balked of his prey, the deserter, and possibly
chaffed by his comrades for his profitless invasion of Wynyard's Bar, he
had persuaded his commanding officer to give him permission to effect a
recapture. Thus it came about that at dawn, filing along the ridge, on
the outskirts of the fire, his heart was gladdened by the sight of
the half-breed--with his hanging haversack belt and tattered army
tunic--evidently still a fugitive, not a hundred yards away on the other
side of the belt of fire, running down the hill with another ragged
figure at his side. The command to "halt" was enforced by a single rifle
shot over the fugitives' heads--but they still kept on their flight.
Then the boy-officer snatched a carbine from one of his men, a volley
rang out from the little troop--the shots of the privates mercifully
high, those of the officer and sergeant leveled with wounded pride and
full of deliberate purpose. The half-breed fell; so did his companion,
and, rolling over together, both lay still.

But between the hunters and their fallen quarry reared a cheval de
frise of flame and fallen timber impossible to cross. The young officer
hesitated, shrugged his shoulders, wheeled his men about, and left the
fire to correct any irregularity in his action.

It did not, however, change contemporaneous history, for a week later,
when Wynyard's Bar discovered Major Overstone lying beside the man now
recognized by them as the disguised sheriff of Siskyou, they rejoiced at
this unfailing evidence of their lost leader's unequaled prowess. That
he had again killed a sheriff and fought a whole posse, yielding only
with his life, was never once doubted, and kept his memory green in
Sierran chronicles long after Wynyard's Bar had itself become a memory.



A ROSE OF GLENBOGIE.


The American consul at St. Kentigern stepped gloomily from the train at
Whistlecrankie station. For the last twenty minutes his spirits had been
slowly sinking before the drifting procession past the carriage windows
of dull gray and brown hills--mammiform in shape, but so cold and
sterile in expression that the swathes of yellow mist which lay in
their hollows, like soiled guipure, seemed a gratuitous affectation of
modesty. And when the train moved away, mingling its escaping steam
with the slower mists of the mountain, he found himself alone on the
platform--the only passenger and apparently the sole occupant of the
station. He was gazing disconsolately at his trunk, which had taken upon
itself a human loneliness in the emptiness of the place, when a railway
porter stepped out of the solitary signal-box, where he had evidently
been performing a double function, and lounged with exasperating
deliberation towards him. He was a hard-featured man, with a thin fringe
of yellow-gray whiskers that met under his chin like dirty strings to
tie his cap on with.

"Ye'll be goin' to Glenbogie House, I'm thinkin'?" he said moodily.

The consul said that he was.

"I kenned it. Ye'll no be gettin' any machine to tak' ye there. They'll
be sending a carriage for ye--if ye're EXPECTED." He glanced half
doubtfully at the consul as if he was not quite so sure of it.

But the consul believed he WAS expected, and felt relieved at the
certain prospect of a conveyance. The porter meanwhile surveyed him
moodily.

"Ye'll be seein' Mistress MacSpadden there!"

The consul was surprised into a little over-consciousness. Mrs.
MacSpadden was a vivacious acquaintance at St. Kentigern, whom he
certainly--and not without some satisfaction--expected to meet at
Glenbogie House. He raised his eyes inquiringly to the porter's.

"Ye'll no be rememberin' me. I had a machine in St. Kentigern and drove
ye to MacSpadden's ferry often. Far, far too often! She's a strange
flagrantitious creature; her husband's but a puir fule, I'm thinkin',
and ye did yersel' nae guid gaunin' there."

It was a besetting weakness of the consul's that his sense of the
ludicrous was too often reached before his more serious perceptions. The
absurd combination of the bleak, inhospitable desolation before him, and
the sepulchral complacency of his self-elected monitor, quite upset his
gravity.

"Ay, ye'll be laughin' THE NOO," returned the porter with gloomy
significance.

The consul wiped his eyes. "Still," he said demurely, "I trust you won't
object to my giving you sixpence to carry my box to the carriage when
it comes, and let the morality of this transaction devolve entirely
upon me. Unless," he continued, even more gravely, as a spick and span
brougham, drawn by two thoroughbreds, dashed out of the mist up to
the platform, "unless you prefer to state the case to those two
gentlemen"--pointing to the smart coachman and footman on the box--"and
take THEIR opinion as to the propriety of my proceeding any further.
It seems to me that their consciences ought to be consulted as well
as yours. I'm only a stranger here, and am willing to do anything to
conform to the local custom."

"It's a saxpence ye'll be payin' anyway," said the porter, grimly
shouldering the trunk, "but I'll be no takin' any other mon's opinion on
matters of my am dooty and conscience."

"Ah," said the consul gravely, "then you'll perhaps be allowing ME the
same privilege."

The porter's face relaxed, and a gleam of approval--purely intellectual,
however,--came into his eyes.

"Ye were always a smooth deevel wi' your tongue, Mr. Consul," he said,
shouldering the box and walking off to the carriage.

Nevertheless, as soon as he was fairly seated and rattling away from the
station, the consul had a flashing conviction that he had not only
been grievously insulted but also that he had allowed the wife of an
acquaintance to be spoken of disrespectfully in his presence. And he had
done nothing! Yes--it was like him!--he had LAUGHED at the absurdity of
the impertinence without resenting it! Another man would have slapped
the porter's face! For an instant he hung out of the carriage window,
intent upon ordering the coachman to drive back to the station, but the
reflection--again a ludicrous one--that he would now be only bringing
witnesses to a scene which might provoke a scandal more invidious to his
acquaintance, checked him in time. But his spirits, momentarily diverted
by the porter's effrontery, sunk to a lower ebb than before.

The clattering of his horses' hoofs echoed back from the rocky walls
that occasionally hemmed in the road was not enlivening, but was less
depressing than the recurring monotony of the open. The scenery did not
suggest wildness to his alien eyes so much as it affected him with a
vague sense of scorbutic impoverishment. It was not the loneliness of
unfrequented nature, for there was a well-kept carriage road traversing
its dreariness; and even when the hillside was clothed with scanty
verdure, there were "outcrops" of smooth glistening weather-worn rocks
showing like bare brown knees under the all too imperfectly kilted
slopes. And at a little distance, lifting above a black drift of firs,
were the square rigid sky lines of Glenbogie House, standing starkly
against the cold, lingering northern twilight. As the vehicle turned,
and rolled between two square stone gate-posts, the long avenue before
him, though as well kept as the road, was but a slight improvement upon
the outer sterility, and the dark iron-gray rectangular mansion beyond,
guiltless of external decoration, even to the outlines of its small
lustreless windows, opposed the grim inhospitable prospect with an
equally grim inhospitable front. There were a few moments more of rapid
driving, a swift swishing over soft gravel, the opening of a heavy
door into a narrow vestibule, and then--a sudden sense of exquisitely
diffused light and warmth from an arched and galleried central hall, the
sounds of light laughter and subdued voices half lost in the airy space
between the lofty pictured walls; the luxury of color in trophies,
armor, and hangings; one or two careless groups before the recessed
hearth or at the centre table, and the halted figure of a pretty woman
on the broad, slow staircase. The contrast was sharp, ironical, and
bewildering.

So much so that the consul, when he had followed the servant to his
room, was impelled to draw aside the heavy window-curtains and look out
again upon the bleak prospect it had half obliterated. The wing in which
he was placed overhung a dark ravine or gully choked with shrubs and
brambles that grew in a new luxuriance. As he gazed a large black bird
floated upwards slowly from its depths, circled around the house with a
few quick strokes of its wing, and then sped away--a black bolt--in one
straight undeviating line towards the paling north. He still gazed into
the abyss--half expecting another, even fancying he heard the occasional
stir and flutter of obscure life below, and the melancholy call of
nightfowl. A long-forgotten fragment of old English verse began to haunt
him--

     Hark! the raven flaps hys wing
        In the briered dell belowe,
     Hark! the dethe owl loude doth synge
        To the night maers as thaie goe.

"Now, what put that stuff in my head?" he said as he turned impatiently
from the window. "And why does this house, with all its interior luxury,
hypocritically oppose such a forbidding front to its neighbors?" Then
it occurred to him that perhaps the architect instinctively felt that
a more opulent and elaborate exterior would only bring the poverty of
surrounding nature into greater relief. But he was not in the habit of
troubling himself with abstruse problems. A nearer recollection of the
pretty frock he had seen on the staircase--in whose wearer he had
just recognized his vivacious friend--turned his thoughts to her. He
remembered how at their first meeting he had been interested in her
bright audacity, unconventionality, and high spirits, which did not,
however, amuse him as greatly as his later suspicion that she was
playing a self-elected role, often with difficulty, opposition, and
feverishness, rather than spontaneity. He remembered how he had watched
her in the obtrusive assumption of a new fashion, in some reckless
departure from an old one, or in some ostentatious disregard of certain
hard and set rules of St. Kentigern; but that it never seemed to him
that she was the happier for it. He even fancied that her mirth at such
times had an undue nervousness; that her pluck--which was undoubted--had
something of the defiance of despair, and that her persistence often had
the grimness of duty rather than the thoughtlessness of pure amusement.
What was she trying to do?--what was she trying to UNDO or forget? Her
married life was apparently happy and even congenial. Her young husband
was clever, complaisant, yet honestly devoted to her, even to the
extension of a certain camaraderie to her admirers and a chivalrous
protection by half-participation in her maddest freaks. Nor could he
honestly say that her attitude towards his own sex--although marked by a
freedom that often reached the verge of indiscretion--conveyed the least
suggestion of passion or sentiment. The consul, more perceptive than
analytical, found her a puzzle--who was, perhaps, the least mystifying
to others who were content to sum up her eccentricities under the single
vague epithet, "fast." Most women disliked her: she had a few associates
among them, but no confidante, and even these were so unlike her,
again, as to puzzle him still more. And yet he believed himself strictly
impartial.

He walked to the window again, and looked down upon the ravine from
which the darkness now seemed to be slowly welling up and obliterating
the landscape, and then, taking a book from his valise, settled himself
in the easy-chair by the fire. He was in no hurry to join the party
below, whom he had duly recognized and greeted as he passed through.
They or their prototypes were familiar friends. There was the recently
created baronet, whose "bloody hand" had apparently wiped out the
stains of his earlier Radicalism, and whose former provincial
self-righteousness had been supplanted by an equally provincial
skepticism; there was his wife, who through all the difficulties of
her changed position had kept the stalwart virtues of the Scotch
bourgeoisie, and was--"decent"; there were the two native lairds that
reminded him of "parts of speech," one being distinctly alluded to as
a definite article, and the other being "of" something, and apparently
governed always by that possessive case. There were two or three
"workers"--men of power and ability in their several vocations; indeed,
there was the general over-proportion of intellect, characteristic of
such Scotch gatherings, and often in excess of minor social qualities.
There was the usual foreigner, with Latin quickness, eagerness,
and misapprehending adaptability. And there was the solitary
Englishman--perhaps less generously equipped than the others--whom
everybody differed from, ridiculed, and then looked up to and imitated.
There were the half-dozen smartly frocked women, who, far from being
the females of the foregoing species, were quite indistinctive, with
the single exception of an American wife, who was infinitely more Scotch
than her Scotch husband.

Suddenly he became aware of a faint rustling at his door, and what
seemed to be a slight tap on the panel. He rose and opened it--the long
passage was dark and apparently empty, but he fancied he could detect
the quick swish of a skirt in the distance. As he re-entered his room,
his eye fell for the first time on a rose whose stalk was thrust through
the keyhole of his door. The consul smiled at this amiable solution of a
mystery. It was undoubtedly the playful mischievousness of the vivacious
MacSpadden. He placed it in water--intending to wear it in his coat at
dinner as a gentle recognition of the fair donor's courtesy.

Night had thickened suddenly as from a passing cloud. He lit the two
candles on his dressing-table, gave a glance into the now scarcely
distinguishable abyss below his window, as he drew the curtains, and by
the more diffused light for the first time surveyed his room critically.
It was a larger apartment than that usually set aside for bachelors;
the heavy four-poster had a conjugal reserve about it, and a tall cheval
glass and certain minor details of the furniture suggested that it had
been used for a married couple. He knew that the guest-rooms in country
houses, as in hotels, carried no suggestion or flavor of the last
tenant, and therefore lacked color and originality, and he was
consequently surprised to find himself impressed with some distinctly
novel atmosphere. He was puzzling himself to discover what it might
be, when he again became aware of cautious footsteps apparently halting
outside his door. This time he was prepared. With a half smile he
stepped softly to the door and opened it suddenly. To his intense
surprise he was face to face with a man.

But his discomfiture was as nothing compared to that of the
stranger--whom he at once recognized as one of his fellow-guests--the
youthful Laird of Whistlecrankie. The young fellow's healthy color at
once paled, then flushed a deep crimson, and a forced smile stiffened
his mouth.

"I--beg your par-r-rdon," he said with a nervous brusqueness that
brought out his accent. "I couldna find ma room. It'll be changed, and
I--"

"Perhaps I have got it," interrupted the consul smilingly. "I've only
just come, and they've put me in here."

"Nae! Nae!" said the young man hurriedly, "it's no' thiss. That is, it's
no' mine noo."

"Won't you come in?" suggested the consul politely, holding open the
door.

The young man entered the room with the quick strides but the mechanical
purposelessness of embarrassment. Then he stiffened and stood erect. Yet
in spite of all this he was strikingly picturesque and unconventional in
his Highland dress, worn with the freedom of long custom and a
certain lithe, barbaric grace. As the consul continued to gaze at him
encouragingly, the quick resentful pride of a shy man suddenly mantled
his high cheekbones, and with an abrupt "I'll not deesturb ye longer,"
he strode out of the room.

The consul watched the easy swing of his figure down the passage, and
then closed the door. "Delightful creature," he said musingly, "and not
so very unlike an Apache chief either! But what was he doing outside
my door? And was it HE who left that rose--not as a delicate Highland
attention to an utter stranger, but"--the consul's mouth suddenly
expanded--"to some fair previous occupant? Or was it really HIS room--he
looked as if he were lying--and"--here the consul's mouth expanded even
more wickedly--"and Mrs. MacSpadden had put the flower there for him."
This implied snub to his vanity was, however, more than compensated by
his wicked anticipation of the pretty perplexity of his fair friend when
HE should appear at dinner with the flower in his own buttonhole. It
would serve her right, the arrant flirt! But here he was interrupted by
the entrance of a tall housemaid with his hot water.

"I am afraid I've dispossessed Mr.--Mr.--Kilcraithie rather
prematurely," said the consul lightly.

To his infinite surprise the girl answered with grim decision, "Nane too
soon."

The consul stared. "I mean," he explained, "that I found him hesitating
here in the passage, looking for his room."

"Ay, he's always hoaverin' and glowerin' in the passages--but it's no'
for his ROOM! And it's a deesgrace to decent Christian folk his carryin'
on wi' married weemen--mebbee they're nae better than he!"

"That will do," said the consul curtly. He had no desire to encourage a
repetition of the railway porter's freedom.

"Ye'll no fash yoursel' aboot HIM," continued the girl, without heeding
the rebuff. "It's no' the meestreess' wish that he's keepit here in the
wing reserved for married folk, and she's no' sorry for the excuse to
pit ye in his place. Ye'll be married yoursel', I'm hearin'. But, I ken
ye's nae mair to be lippened tae for THAT."

This was too much for the consul's gravity. "I'm afraid," he said with
diplomatic gayety, "that although I am married, as I haven't my wife
with me, I've no right to this superior accommodation and comfort. But
you can assure your mistress that I'll try to deserve them."

"Ay," said the girl, but with no great confidence in her voice as she
grimly quitted the room.

"When our foot's upon our native heath, whether our name's Macgregor or
Kilcraithie, it would seem that we must tread warily," mused the consul
as he began to dress. "But I'm glad she didn't see that rose, or MY
reputation would have been ruined." Here another knock at the door
arrested him. He opened it impatiently to a tall gillie, who instantly
strode into the room. There was such another suggestion of Kilcraithie
in the man and his manner that the consul instantly divined that he was
Kilcraithie's servant.

"I'll be takin' some bit things that yon Whistlecrankie left," said the
gillie gravely, with a stolid glance around the room.

"Certainly," said the consul; "help yourself." He continued his dressing
as the man began to rummage in the empty drawers. The consul had his
back towards him, but, looking in the glass of the dressing-table, he
saw that the gillie was stealthily watching him. Suddenly he passed
before the mantelpiece and quickly slipped the rose from its glass into
his hand.

"I'll trouble you to put that back," said the consul quietly, without
turning round. The gillie slid a quick glance towards the door, but the
consul was before him. "I don't think THAT was left by your master," he
said in an ostentatiously calm voice, for he was conscious of an absurd
and inexplicable tumult in his blood, "and perhaps you'd better put it
back."

The man looked at the flower with an attention that might have been
merely ostentatious, and replaced it in the glass.

"A thocht it was hiss."

"And I think it isn't," said the consul, opening the door.

Yet when the man had passed out he was by no means certain that the
flower was not Kilcraithie's. He was even conscious that if the young
Laird had approached him with a reasonable explanation or appeal he
would have yielded it up. Yet here he was--looking angrily pale in the
glass, his eyes darker than they should be, and with an unmistakable
instinct to do battle for this idiotic gage! Was there some morbid
disturbance in the air that was affecting him as it had Kilcraithie?
He tried to laugh, but catching sight of its sardonic reflection in
the glass became grave again. He wondered if the gillie had been
really looking for anything his master had left--he had certainly TAKEN
nothing. He opened one or two of the drawers, and found only a woman's
tortoiseshell hairpin--overlooked by the footman when he had emptied
them for the consul's clothes. It had been probably forgotten by some
fair and previous tenant to Kilcraithie. The consul looked at his
watch--it was time to go down. He grimly pinned the fateful flower in
his buttonhole, and half-defiantly descended to the drawing-room.

Here, however, he was inclined to relax when, from a group of pretty
women, the bright gray eyes of Mrs. MacSpadden caught his, were suddenly
diverted to the lapel of his coat, and then leaped up to his again with
a sparkle of mischief. But the guests were already pairing off in dinner
couples, and as they passed out of the room, he saw that she was on the
arm of Kilcraithie. Yet, as she passed him, she audaciously turned her
head, and in a mischievous affectation of jealous reproach, murmured:--

"So soon!"

At dinner she was too far removed for any conversation with him,
although from his seat by his hostess he could plainly see her saucy
profile midway up the table. But, to his surprise, her companion,
Kilcraithie, did not seem to be responding to her gayety. By turns
abstracted and feverish, his glances occasionally wandered towards the
end of the table where the consul was sitting. For a few moments he
believed that the affair of the flower, combined, perhaps, with the
overhearing of Mrs. MacSpadden's mischievous sentence, rankled in the
Laird's barbaric soul. But he became presently aware that Kilcraithie's
eyes eventually rested upon a quiet-looking blonde near the hostess. Yet
the lady not only did not seem to be aware of it, but her face was more
often turned towards the consul, and their eyes had once or twice met.
He had been struck by the fact that they were half-veiled but singularly
unimpassioned eyes, with a certain expression of cold wonderment and
criticism quite inconsistent with their veiling. Nor was he surprised
when, after a preliminary whispering over the plates, his hostess
presented him. The lady was the young wife of the middle-aged dignitary
who, seated further down the table, opposite Mrs. MacSpadden, was
apparently enjoying that lady's wildest levities. The consul bowed, the
lady leaned a little forward.

"We were saying what a lovely rose you had."

The consul's inward response was "Hang that flower!" His outward
expression was the modest query:--

"Is it SO peculiar?"

"No; but it's very pretty. Would you allow me to see it?"

Disengaging the flower from his buttonhole he handed it to her. Oddly
enough, it seemed to him that half the table was watching and listening
to them. Suddenly the lady uttered a little cry. "Dear me! it's full
of thorns; of course you picked and arranged it yourself, for any lady
would have wrapped something around the stalk!"

But here there was a burlesque outcry and a good-humored protest from
the gentlemen around her against this manifestly leading question. "It's
no fair! Ye'll not answer her--for the dignity of our sex." Yet in the
midst of it, it suddenly occurred to the consul that there HAD been a
slip of paper wrapped around it, which had come off and remained in the
keyhole. The blue eyes of the lady were meanwhile sounding his, but he
only smiled and said:--

"Then it seems it IS peculiar?"

When the conversation became more general he had time to observe other
features of the lady than her placid eyes. Her light hair was very long,
and grew low down the base of her neck. Her mouth was firm, the upper
lip slightly compressed in a thin red line, but the lower one, although
equally precise at the corners, became fuller in the centre and turned
over like a scarlet leaf, or, as it struck him suddenly, like the
tell-tale drop of blood on the mouth of a vampire. Yet she was
very composed, practical, and decorous, and as the talk grew more
animated--and in the vicinity of Mrs. MacSpadden, more audacious--she
kept a smiling reserve of expression,--which did not, however, prevent
her from following that lively lady, whom she evidently knew, with a
kind of encouraging attention.

"Kate is in full fling to-night," she said to the hostess. Lady
Macquoich smiled ambiguously--so ambiguously that the consul thought it
necessary to interfere for his friend. "She seems to say what most of
us think, but I am afraid very few of us could voice as innocently," he
smilingly suggested.

"She is a great friend of yours," returned the lady, looking at him
through her half-veiled lids. "She has made us quite envy her."

"And I am afraid made it impossible for ME to either sufficiently thank
her or justify her taste," he said quietly. Yet he was vexed at an
unaccountable resentment which had taken possession of him--who but a
few hours before had only laughed at the porter's criticism.

After the ladies had risen, the consul with an instinct of sympathy was
moving up towards "Jock" MacSpadden, who sat nearer the host, when he
was stopped midway of the table by the dignitary who had sat opposite
to Mrs. MacSpadden. "Your frien' is maist amusing wi' her audacious
tongue--ay, and her audacious ways," he said with large official
patronage; "and we've enjoyed her here immensely, but I hae mae doots
if mae Leddy Macquoich taks as kindly to them. You and I--men of the
wurrld, I may say--we understand them for a' their worth; ay!--ma wife
too, with whom I observed ye speakin'--is maist tolerant of her, but
man! it's extraordinar'"--he lowered his voice slightly--"that yon
husband of hers does na' check her freedoms with Kilcraithie. I wadna'
say anythin' was wrong, ye ken, but is he no' over confident and
conceited aboot his wife?"

"I see you don't know him," said the consul smilingly, "and I'd be
delighted to make you acquainted. Jock," he continued, raising his
voice as he turned towards MacSpadden, "let me introduce you to Sir
Alan Deeside, who don't know YOU, although he's a great admirer of your
wife;" and unheeding the embarrassed protestations of Sir Alan and the
laughing assertions of Jock that they were already acquainted, he moved
on beside his host. That hospitable knight, who had been airing his
knowledge of London smart society to his English guest with a singular
mixture of assertion and obsequiousness, here stopped short. "Ay, sit
down, laddie, it was so guid of ye to come, but I'm thinkin' at your end
of the table ye lost the bit fun of Mistress MacSpadden. Eh, but she was
unco' lively to-night. 'Twas all Kilcraithie could do to keep her from
proposin' your health with Hieland honors, and offerin' to lead off with
her ain foot on the table! Ay, and she'd ha' done it. And that's a
braw rose she's been givin' ye--and ye got out of it claverly wi' Lady
Deeside."

When he left the table with the others to join the ladies, the same
unaccountable feeling of mingled shyness and nervous irascibility still
kept possession of him. He felt that in his present mood he could not
listen to any further criticisms of his friend without betraying some
unwonted heat, and as his companions filed into the drawing-room he
slipped aside in the hope of recovering his equanimity by a few moments'
reflection in his own room. He glided quickly up the staircase and
entered the corridor. The passage that led to his apartment was quite
dark, especially before his door, which was in a bay that really ended
the passage. He was consequently surprised and somewhat alarmed at
seeing a shadowy female figure hovering before it. He instinctively
halted; the figure became more distinct from some luminous halo that
seemed to encompass it. It struck him that this was only the light of
his fire thrown through his open door, and that the figure was probably
that of a servant before it, who had been arranging his room. He started
forward again, but at the sound of his advancing footsteps the figure
and the luminous glow vanished, and he arrived blankly face to face with
his own closed door. He looked around the dim bay; it was absolutely
vacant. It was equally impossible for any one to have escaped
without passing him. There was only his room left. A half-nervous,
half-superstitious thrill crept over him as he suddenly grasped the
handle of the door and threw it open. The leaping light of his fire
revealed its emptiness: no one was there! He lit the candle and peered
behind the curtains and furniture and under the bed; the room was as
vacant and undisturbed as when he left it.

Had it been a trick of his senses or a bona-fide apparition? He had
never heard of a ghost at Glenbogie--the house dated back some
fifty years; Sir John Macquoich's tardy knighthood carried no such
impedimenta. He looked down wonderingly on the flower in his buttonhole.
Was there something uncanny in that innocent blossom? But here he was
struck by another recollection, and examined the keyhole of his door.
With the aid of the tortoiseshell hairpin he dislodged the paper he had
forgotten. It was only a thin spiral strip, apparently the white outer
edge of some newspaper, and it certainly seemed to be of little service
as a protection against the thorns of the rose-stalk. He was holding it
over the fire, about to drop it into the blaze, when the flame revealed
some pencil-marks upon it. Taking it to the candle he read, deeply
bitten into the paper by a hard pencil-point: "At half-past one."
There was nothing else--no signature; but the handwriting was NOT Mrs.
MacSpadden's!

Then whose? Was it that of the mysterious figure whom he had just seen?
Had he been selected as the medium of some spiritual communication, and,
perhaps, a ghostly visitation later on? Or was he the victim of some
clever trick? He had once witnessed such dubious attempts to relieve the
monotony of a country house. He again examined the room carefully, but
without avail. Well! the mystery or trick would be revealed at half-past
one. It was a somewhat inconvenient hour, certainly. He looked down at
the baleful gift in his buttonhole, and for a moment felt inclined
to toss it in the fire. But this was quickly followed by his former
revulsion of resentment and defiance. No! he would wear it, no matter
what happened, until its material or spiritual owner came for it. He
closed the door and returned to the drawing-room.

Midway of the staircase he heard the droning of pipes. There was dancing
in the drawing-room to the music of the gorgeous piper who had marshaled
them to dinner. He was not sorry, as he had no inclination to talk, and
the one confidence he had anticipated with Mrs. MacSpadden was out of
the question now. He had no right to reveal his later discovery. He
lingered a few moments in the hall. The buzzing of the piper's drones
gave him that impression of confused and blindly aggressive intoxication
which he had often before noticed in this barbaric instrument, and had
always seemed to him as the origin of its martial inspiration. From this
he was startled by voices and steps in the gallery he had just
quitted, but which came from the opposite direction to his room. It was
Kilcraithie and Mrs. MacSpadden. As she caught sight of him, he fancied
she turned slightly and aggressively pale, with a certain hardening of
her mischievous eyes. Nevertheless, she descended the staircase
more deliberately than her companion, who brushed past him with an
embarrassed self-consciousness, quite in advance of her. She lingered
for an instant.

"You are not dancing?" she said.

"No."

"Perhaps you are more agreeably employed?"

"At this exact moment, certainly."

She cast a disdainful glance at him, crossed the hall, and followed
Kilcraithie.

"Hang me, if I understand it all!" mused the consul, by no means
good-humoredly. "Does she think I have been spying upon her and her
noble chieftain? But it's just as well that I didn't tell her anything."

He turned to follow them. In the vestibule he came upon a figure which
had halted before a large pier-glass. He recognized M. Delfosse, the
French visitor, complacently twisting the peak of his Henri Quatre
beard. He would have passed without speaking, but the Frenchman glanced
smilingly at the consul and his buttonhole. Again the flower!

"Monsieur is decore," he said gallantly.

The consul assented, but added, not so gallantly, that though they were
not in France he might still be unworthy of it. The baleful flower had
not improved his temper. Nor did the fact that, as he entered the room,
he thought the people stared at him--until he saw that their attention
was directed to Lady Deeside, who had entered almost behind him. From
his hostess, who had offered him a seat beside her, he gathered that
M. Delfosse and Kilcraithie had each temporarily occupied his room, but
that they had been transferred to the other wing, apart from the married
couples and young ladies, because when they came upstairs from
the billiard and card room late, they sometimes disturbed the fair
occupants. No!--there were no ghosts at Glenbogie. Mysterious footsteps
had sometimes been heard in the ladies' corridor, but--with peculiar
significance--she was AFRAID they could be easily accounted for. Sir
Alan, whose room was next to the MacSpaddens', had been disturbed by
them.

He was glad when it was time to escape to the billiard-room and tobacco.
For a while he forgot the evening's adventure, but eventually found
himself listening to a discussion--carried on over steaming tumblers of
toddy--in regard to certain predispositions of the always debatable sex.

"Ye'll not always judge by appearances," said Sir Alan. "Ye'll mind the
story o' the meenester's wife of Aiblinnoch. It was thocht that she
was ower free wi' one o' the parishioners--ay! it was the claish o' the
whole kirk, while none dare tell the meenester hisself--bein' a bookish,
simple, unsuspectin' creeter. At last one o' the elders bethocht him of
a bit plan of bringing it home to the wife, through the gospel lips
of her ain husband! So he intimated to the meenester his suspicions
of grievous laxity amang the female flock, and of the necessity of a
special sermon on the Seventh Command. The puir man consented--although
he dinna ken why and wherefore--and preached a gran' sermon! Ay, man! it
was crammed wi' denunciation and an emptyin' o' the vials o' wrath! The
congregation sat dumb as huddled sheep--when they were no' starin' and
gowpin' at the meenester's wife settin' bolt upright in her place. And
then, when the air was blue wi' sulphur frae tae pit, the meenester's
wife up rises! Man! Ivry eye was spearin' her--ivry lug was prickt
towards her! And she goes out in the aisle facin' the meenester, and--"

Sir Alan paused.

"And what?" demanded the eager auditory.

"She pickit up the elder's wife, sobbin' and tearin' her hair in strong
hysterics."

At the end of a relieved pause Sir Alan slowly concluded: "It was said
that the elder removed frae Aiblinnoch wi' his wife, but no' till he had
effected a change of meenesters."

It was already past midnight, and the party had dropped off one by one,
with the exception of Deeside, Macquoich, the young Englishman, and a
Scotch laird, who were playing poker--an amusement which he understood
they frequently protracted until three in the morning. It was nearly
time for him to expect his mysterious visitant. Before he went upstairs
he thought he would take a breath of the outer evening air, and throwing
a mackintosh over his shoulders, passed out of the garden door of the
billiard-room. To his surprise it gave immediately upon the fringe of
laurel that hung over the chasm.

It was quite dark; the few far-spread stars gave scarcely any light,
and the slight auroral glow towards the north was all that outlined the
fringe of the abyss, which might have proved dangerous to any unfamiliar
wanderer. A damp breath of sodden leaves came from its depths. Beside
him stretched the long dark facade of the wing he inhabited, his own
window the only one that showed a faint light. A few paces beyond, a
singular structure of rustic wood and glass, combining the peculiarities
of a sentry-box, a summer-house, and a shelter, was built against the
blank wall of the wing. He imagined the monotonous prospect from
its windows of the tufted chasm, the coldly profiled northern hills
beyond,--and shivered. A little further on, sunk in the wall like a
postern, was a small door that evidently gave easy egress to seekers
of this stern retreat. In the still air a faint grating sound like the
passage of a foot across gravel came to him as from the distance. He
paused, thinking he had been followed by one of the card-players, but
saw no one, and the sound was not repeated.

It was past one. He re-entered the billiard-room, passed the unchanged
group of card-players, and taking a candlestick from the hall ascended
the dark and silent staircase into the corridor. The light of his candle
cast a flickering halo around him--but did not penetrate the gloomy
distance. He at last halted before his door, gave a scrutinizing glance
around the embayed recess, and opened the door half expectantly. But the
room was empty as he had left it.

It was a quarter past one. He threw himself on the bed without
undressing, and fixed his eyes alternately on the door and his watch.
Perhaps the unwonted seriousness of his attitude struck him, but a
sudden sense of the preposterousness of the whole situation, of his
solemnly ridiculous acceptance of a series of mere coincidences as
a foregone conclusion, overcame him, and he laughed. But in the same
breath he stopped.

There WERE footsteps approaching--cautious footsteps--but not at his
door! They were IN THE ROOM--no! in the WALL just behind him! They were
descending some staircase at the back of his bed--he could hear the
regular tap of a light slipper from step to step and the rustle of
a skirt seemingly in his very ear. They were becoming less and less
distinct--they were gone! He sprang to his feet, but almost at the
same instant he was conscious of a sudden chill--that seemed to him
as physical as it was mental. The room was slowly suffused with a cool
sodden breath and the dank odor of rotten leaves. He looked at the
candle--its flame was actually deflecting in this mysterious blast.
It seemed to come from a recess for hanging clothes topped by a heavy
cornice and curtain. He had examined it before, but he drew the
curtain once more aside. The cold current certainly seemed to be more
perceptible there. He felt the red-clothed backing of the interior,
and his hand suddenly grasped a doorknob. It turned, and the whole
structure--cornice and curtains--swung inwards towards him with THE DOOR
ON WHICH IT WAS HUNG! Behind it was a dark staircase leading from the
floor above to some outer door below, whose opening had given ingress to
the chill humid current from the ravine. This was the staircase where he
had just heard the footsteps--and this was, no doubt, the door through
which the mysterious figure had vanished from his room a few hours
before!

Taking his candle, he cautiously ascended the stairs until he found
himself on the landing of the suites of the married couples and directly
opposite to the rooms of the MacSpaddens and Deesides. He was about to
descend again when he heard a far-off shout, a scuffling sound on the
outer gravel, and the frenzied shaking of the handle of the lower door.
He had hardly time to blow out his candle and flatten himself against
the wall, when the door was flung open and a woman frantically flew up
the staircase. His own door was still open; from within its depths the
light of his fire projected a flickering beam across the steps. As she
rushed past it the light revealed her face; it needed not the peculiar
perfume of her garments as she swept by his concealed figure to make him
recognize--Lady Deeside!

Amazed and confounded, he was about to descend, when he heard the lower
door again open. But here a sudden instinct bade him pause, turn, and
reascend to the upper landing. There he calmly relit his candle, and
made his way down to the corridor that overlooked the central hall. The
sound of suppressed voices--speaking with the exhausted pauses that come
from spent excitement--made him cautious again, and he halted. It was
the card party slowly passing from the billiard-room to the hall.

"Ye owe it yoursel'--to your wife--not to pit up with it a day longer,"
said the subdued voice of Sir Alan. "Man! ye war in an ace o' havin' a
braw scandal."

"Could ye no' get your wife to speak till her," responded Macquoich, "to
gie her a hint that she's better awa' out of this? Lady Deeside has some
influence wi' her."

The consul ostentatiously dropped the extinguisher from his candlestick.
The party looked up quickly. Their faces were still flushed and
agitated, but a new restraint seemed to come upon them on seeing him.

"I thought I heard a row outside," said the consul explanatorily.

They each looked at their host without speaking.

"Oh, ay," said Macquoich, with simulated heartiness, "a bit fuss between
the Kilcraithie and yon Frenchman; but they're baith goin' in the
mornin'."

"I thought I heard MacSpadden's voice," said the consul quietly.

There was a dead silence. Then Macquoich said hurriedly:--

"Is he no' in his room--in bed--asleep,--man?"

"I really don't know; I didn't inquire," said the consul with a slight
yawn. "Good night!"

He turned, not without hearing them eagerly whispering again, and
entered the passage leading to his own room. As he opened the door
he was startled to find the subject of his inquiry--Jock
MacSpadden--quietly seated in his armchair by his fire.

"Jock!"

"Don't be alarmed, old man; I came up by that staircase and saw the door
open, and guessed you'd be returning soon. But it seemed you went ROUND
BY THE CORRIDOR," he said, glancing curiously at the consul's face. "Did
you meet the crowd?"

"Yes, Jock! WHAT does it all mean?"

MacSpadden laughed. "It means that I was just in time to keep
Kilbraithie from chucking Delfosse down that ravine; but they both
scooted when they saw me. By Jove! I don't know which was the most
frightened."

"But," said the consul slowly, "what was it all about, Jock?"

"Some gallantry of that d----d Frenchman, who's trying to do some
woman-stalking up here, and jealousy of Kilcraithie's, who's just got
enough of his forbears' blood in him to think nothing of sticking three
inches of his dirk in the wame of the man that crosses him. But I say,"
continued Jock, leaning easily back in his chair, "YOU ought to know
something of all this. This room, old man, was used as a sort of
rendezvous, having two outlets, don't you see, when they couldn't get at
the summer-house below. By Jove! they both had it in turns--Kilcraithie
and the Frenchman--until Lady Macquoich got wind of something, swept
them out, and put YOU in it."

The consul rose and approached his friend with a grave face. "Jock, I
DO know something about it--more about it than any one thinks. You and I
are old friends. Shall I tell you WHAT I know?"

Jock's handsome face became a trifle paler, but his frank, clear eyes
rested steadily on the consul's.

"Go on!" he said.

"I know that this flower which I am wearing was the signal for the
rendezvous this evening," said the consul slowly, "and this paper,"
taking it from his pocket, "contained the time of the meeting, written
in the lady's own hand. I know who she was, for I saw her face as
plainly as I see yours now, by the light of the same fire; it was as
pale, but not as frank as yours, old man. That is what I know. But I
know also what people THINK they know, and for that reason I put that
paper in YOUR hand. It is yours--your vindication--your REVENGE, if you
choose. Do with it what you like."

Jock, with unchanged features and undimmed eyes, took the paper from the
consul's hand, without looking at it.

"I may do with it what I like?" he repeated.

"Yes."

He was about to drop it into the fire, but the consul stayed his hand.

"Are you not going to LOOK at the handwriting first?"

There was a moment of silence. Jock raised his eyes with a sudden flash
of pride in them and said, "No!"

The friends stood side by side, grasping each other's hands, as the
burning paper leaped up the chimney in a vanishing flame.

"Do you think you have done quite right, Jock, in view of any scandal
you may hear?"

"Quite! You see, old man, I know MY WIFE--but I don't think that Deeside
KNOWS HIS."



THE MYSTERY OF THE HACIENDA.


Dick Bracy gazed again at the Hacienda de los Osos, and hesitated. There
it lay--its low whitewashed walls looking like a quartz outcrop of the
long lazy hillside--unmistakably hot, treeless, and staring broadly in
the uninterrupted Californian sunlight. Yet he knew that behind those
blistering walls was a reposeful patio, surrounded by low-pitched
verandas; that the casa was full of roomy corridors, nooks, and
recesses, in which lurked the shadows of a century, and that hidden by
the further wall was a lonely old garden, hoary with gnarled pear-trees,
and smothered in the spice and dropping leaves of its baking roses. He
knew that, although the unwinking sun might glitter on its red tiles,
and the unresting trade winds whistle around its angles, it always kept
one unvarying temperature and untroubled calm, as if the dignity of
years had triumphed over the changes of ephemeral seasons. But would
others see it with his eyes? Would his practical, housekeeping aunt, and
his pretty modern cousin--

"Well, what do you say? Speak the word, and you can go into it with your
folks to-morrow. And I reckon you won't want to take anything either,
for you'll find everything there--just as the old Don left it. I don't
want it; the land is good enough for me; I shall have my vaqueros and
rancheros to look after the crops and the cattle, and they won't trouble
you, for their sheds and barns will be two miles away. You can stay
there as long as you like, and go when you choose. You might like to try
it for a spell; it's all the same to me. But I should think it the sort
of thing a man like you would fancy, and it seems the right thing to
have you there. Well,--what shall it be? Is it a go?"

Dick knew that the speaker was sincere. It was an offer perfectly
characteristic of his friend, the Western millionaire, who had halted
by his side. And he knew also that the slow lifting of his bridle-rein,
preparatory to starting forward again, was the business-like gesture of
a man who wasted no time even over his acts of impulsive liberality.
In another moment he would dismiss the unaccepted offer from his
mind--without concern and without resentment.

"Thank you--it is a go," said Dick gratefully.

Nevertheless, when he reached his own little home in the outskirts of
San Francisco that night, he was a trifle nervous in confiding to the
lady, who was at once his aunt and housekeeper, the fact that he was
now the possessor of a huge mansion in whose patio alone the little
eight-roomed villa where they had lived contentedly might be casually
dropped. "You see, Aunt Viney," he hurriedly explained, "it would have
been so ungrateful to have refused him--and it really was an offer as
spontaneous as it was liberal. And then, you see, we need occupy only a
part of the casa."

"And who will look after the other part?" said Aunt Viney grimly. "That
will have to be kept tidy, too; and the servants for such a house, where
in heaven are they to come from? Or do they go with it?"

"No," said Dick quickly; "the servants left with their old master, when
Ringstone bought the property. But we'll find servants enough in the
neighborhood--Mexican peons and Indians, you know."

Aunt Viney sniffed. "And you'll have to entertain--if it's a big house.
There are all your Spanish neighbors. They'll be gallivanting in and out
all the time."

"They won't trouble us," he returned, with some hesitation. "You
see, they're furious at the old Don for disposing of his lands to an
American, and they won't be likely to look upon the strangers in the new
place as anything but interlopers."

"Oh, that is it, is it?" ejaculated Aunt Viney, with a slight puckering
of her lips. "I thought there was SOMETHING."

"My dear aunt," said Dick, with a sudden illogical heat which he tried
to suppress; "I don't know what you mean by 'it' and 'something.'
Ringstone's offer was perfectly unselfish; he certainly did not suppose
that I would be affected, any more than he would he, by the childish
sentimentality of these people over a legitimate, every-day business
affair. The old Don made a good bargain, and simply sold the land he
could no longer make profitable with his obsolete method of farming, his
gang of idle retainers, and his Noah's Ark machinery, to a man who knew
how to use steam reapers, and hired sensible men to work on shares."
Nevertheless he was angry with himself for making any explanation, and
still more disturbed that he was conscious of a certain feeling that it
was necessary.

"I was thinking," said Aunt Viney quietly, "that if we invited anybody
to stay with us--like Cecily, for example--it might be rather dull for
her if we had no neighbors to introduce her to."

Dick started; he had not thought of this. He had been greatly influenced
by the belief that his pretty cousin, who was to make them a visit,
would like the change and would not miss excitement. "We can always
invite some girls down there and make our own company," he answered
cheerfully. Nevertheless, he was dimly conscious that he had already
made an airy castle of the old hacienda, in which Cecily and her aunt
moved ALONE. It was to Cecily that he would introduce the old garden, it
was Cecily whom he would accompany through the dark corridors, and
with whom he would lounge under the awnings of the veranda. All this
innocently, and without prejudice or ulterior thought. He was not yet
in love with the pretty cousin whom he had seen but once or twice
during the past few years, but it was a possibility not unpleasant to
occasionally contemplate. Yet it was equally possible that she might
yearn for lighter companionship and accustomed amusement; that the
passion-fringed garden and shadow-haunted corridor might be profaned by
hoydenish romping and laughter, or by that frivolous flirtation which,
in others, he had always regarded as commonplace and vulgar.

Howbeit, at the end of two weeks he found himself regularly installed
in the Hacienda de los Osos. His little household, re-enforced by
his cousin Cecily and three peons picked up at Los Pinos, bore
their transplantation with a singular equanimity that seemed to him
unaccountable. Then occurred one of those revelations of character with
which Nature is always ready to trip up merely human judgment. Aunt
Viney, an unrelenting widow of calm but unshaken Dutch prejudices,
high but narrow in religious belief, merged without a murmur into the
position of chatelaine of this unconventional, half-Latin household.
Accepting the situation without exaltation or criticism, placid but
unresponsive amidst the youthful enthusiasm of Dick and Cecily over
each quaint detail, her influence was, nevertheless, felt throughout
the lingering length and shadowy breadth of the strange old house. The
Indian and Mexican servants, at first awed by her practical superiority,
succumbed to her half-humorous toleration of their incapacity, and
became her devoted slaves. Dick was astonished, and even Cecily was
confounded. "Do you know," she said confidentially to her cousin,
"that when that brown Conchita thought to please Aunty by wearing white
stockings instead of going round as usual with her cinnamon-colored
bare feet in yellow slippers--which I was afraid would be enough to send
Aunty into conniption fits--she actually told her, very quietly, to take
them off, and dress according to her habits and her station? And you
remember that in her big, square bedroom there is a praying-stool and
a ghastly crucifix, at least three feet long, in ivory and black,
quite too human for anything? Well, when I offered to put them in the
corridor, she said I 'needn't trouble'; that really she hadn't noticed
them, and they would do very well where they were. You'd think she had
been accustomed to this sort of thing all her life. It's just too sweet
of her, any way, even if she's shamming. And if she is, she just does
it to the life too, and could give those Spanish women points. Why, she
rode en pillion on Manuel's mule, behind him, holding on by his
sash, across to the corral yesterday; and you should have seen Manuel
absolutely scrape the ground before her with his sombrero when he let
her down." Indeed, her tall, erect figure in black lustreless silk,
appearing in a heavily shadowed doorway, or seated in a recessed window,
gave a new and patrician dignity to the melancholy of the hacienda. It
was pleasant to follow this quietly ceremonious shadow gliding along
the rose garden at twilight, halting at times to bend stiffly over the
bushes, garden-shears in hand, and carrying a little basket filled with
withered but still odorous petals, as if she were grimly gathering the
faded roses of her youth.

It was also probable that the lively Cecily's appreciation of her aunt
might have been based upon another virtue of that lady--namely, her
exquisite tact in dealing with the delicate situation evolved from the
always possible relations of the two cousins. It was not to be supposed
that the servants would fail to invest the young people with Southern
romance, and even believe that the situation was prearranged by the
aunt with a view to their eventual engagement. To deal with the problem
openly, yet without startling the consciousness of either Dick or
Cecily; to allow them the privileges of children subject to the
occasional restraints of childhood; to find certain household duties
for the young girl that kept them naturally apart until certain hours
of general relaxation; to calmly ignore the meaning of her retainers'
smiles and glances, and yet to good-humoredly accept their interest as a
kind of feudal loyalty, was part of Aunt Viney's deep diplomacy. Cecily
enjoyed her freedom and companionship with Dick, as she enjoyed the
novel experiences of the old house, the quaint, faded civilization that
it represented, and the change and diversion always acceptable to youth.
She did not feel the absence of other girls of her own age; neither was
she aware that through this omission she was spared the necessity of
a confidante or a rival--both equally revealing to her thoughtless
enjoyment. They took their rides together openly and without
concealment, relating their adventures afterwards to Aunt Viney with
a naivete and frankness that dreamed of no suppression. The city-bred
Cecily, accustomed to horse exercise solely as an ornamental and
artificial recreation, felt for the first time the fearful joy of a dash
across a league-long plain, with no onlookers but the scattered wild
horses she might startle up to scurry before her, or race at her side.
Small wonder that, mounted on her fiery little mustang, untrammeled by
her short gray riding-habit, free as the wind itself that blew through
the folds of her flannel blouse, with her brown hair half-loosed beneath
her slouched felt hat, she seemed to Dick a more beautiful and womanly
figure than the stiff buckramed simulation of man's angularity and
precision he had seen in the parks. Perhaps one day she detected this
consciousness too plainly in his persistent eyes. Up to that moment
she had only watched the glittering stretches of yellow grain, in which
occasional wind-shorn evergreen oaks stood mid-leg deep like cattle in
water, the distant silhouette of the Sierras against the steely blue, or
perhaps the frankly happy face of the good-looking young fellow at her
side. But it seemed to her now that an intruder had entered the field--a
stranger before whom she was impelled to suddenly fly--half-laughingly,
half-affrightedly--the anxious Dick following wonderingly at her
mustang's heels, until she reached the gates of the hacienda, where she
fell into a gravity and seriousness that made him wonder still more. He
did not dream that his guileless cousin had discovered, with a woman's
instinct, a mysterious invader who sought to share their guileless
companionship, only to absorb it entirely, and that its name was--love!

The next day she was so greatly preoccupied with her household duties
that she could not ride with him. Dick felt unaccountably lost. Perhaps
this check to their daily intercourse was no less accelerating to his
feelings than the vague motive that induced Cecily to withhold herself.
He moped in the corridor; he rode out alone, bullying his mustang in
proportion as he missed his cousin's gentle companionship, and circling
aimlessly, but still unconsciously, around the hacienda as a centre of
attraction. The sun at last was sinking to the accompaniment of a
rising wind, which seemed to blow and scatter its broad rays over the
shimmering plain until every slight protuberance was burnished
into startling brightness; the shadows of the short green oaks grew
disproportionally long, and all seemed to point to the white-walled
casa. Suddenly he started and instantly reined up.

The figure of a young girl, which he had not before noticed, was slowly
moving down the half-shadowed lane made by the two walls of the garden
and the corral. Cecily! Perhaps she had come out to meet him. He spurred
forward; but, as he came nearer, he saw that the figure and its attire
were surely not hers. He reined up again abruptly, mortified at his
disappointment, and a little ashamed lest he should have seemed to have
been following an evident stranger. He vaguely remembered, too, that
there was a trail to the high road, through a little swale clothed
with myrtle and thorn bush which he had just passed, and that she was
probably one of his reserved and secluded neighbors--indeed, her dress,
in that uncertain light, looked half Spanish. This was more confusing,
since his rashness might have been taken for an attempt to force an
acquaintance. He wheeled and galloped towards the front of the casa as
the figure disappeared at the angle of the wall.

"I don't suppose you ever see any of our neighbors?" said Dick to his
aunt casually.

"I really can't say," returned the lady with quiet equanimity. "There
were some extraordinary-looking foreigners on the road to San Gregorio
yesterday. Manuel, who was driving me, may have known who they were--he
is a kind of Indian Papist himself, you know--but I didn't. They might
have been relations of his, for all I know."

At any other time Dick would have been amused at this serene relegation
of the lofty Estudillos and Peraltas to the caste of the Indian convert,
but he was worried to think that perhaps Cecily was really being bored
by the absence of neighbors. After dinner, when they sought the rose
garden, he dropped upon the little lichen-scarred stone bench by her
side. It was still warm from the sun; the hot musk of the roses filled
the air; the whole garden, shielded from the cool evening trade winds by
its high walls, still kept the glowing memory of the afternoon sunshine.
Aunt Viney, with her garden basket on her arm, moved ghost-like among
the distant bushes.

"I hope you are not getting bored here?" he said, after a slight
inconsequent pause.

"Does that mean that YOU are?" she returned, raising her mischievous
eyes to his.

"No; but I thought you might find it lonely, without neighbors."

"I stayed in to-day," she said, femininely replying to the unasked
question, "because I fancied Aunt Viney might think it selfish of me to
leave her alone so much."

"But YOU are not lonely?"

Certainly not! The young lady was delighted with the whole place, with
the quaint old garden, the mysterious corridors, the restful quiet of
everything, the picture of dear Aunt Viney--who was just the sweetest
soul in the world--moving about like the genius of the casa. It was
such a change to all her ideas, she would never forget it. It was so
thoughtful of him, Dick, to have given them all that pleasure.

"And the rides," continued Dick, with the untactful pertinacity of the
average man at such moments--"you are not tired of THEM?"

No; she thought them lovely. Such freedom and freshness in the exercise;
so different from riding in the city or at watering-places, where it was
one-half show, and one was always thinking of one's habit or one's self.
One quite forgot one's self on that lovely plain--with everything so far
away, and only the mountains to look at in the distance. Nevertheless
she did not lift her eyes from the point of the little slipper which had
strayed beyond her skirt.

Dick was relieved, but not voluble; he could only admiringly follow the
curves of her pretty arms and hands, clasped lightly in her lap, down to
the point of the little slipper. But even that charming vanishing point
was presently withdrawn--possibly through some instinct--for the young
lady had apparently not raised her eyes.

"I'm so glad you like it," said Dick earnestly, yet with a nervous
hesitation that made his speech seem artificial to his own ears. "You
see I--that is--I had an idea that you might like an occasional change
of company. It's a great pity we're not on speaking terms with one
of these Spanish families. Some of the men, you know, are really fine
fellows, with an old-world courtesy that is very charming."

He was surprised to see that she had lifted her head suddenly, with a
quick look that however changed to an amused and half coquettish smile.

"I am finding no fault with my present company," she said demurely,
dropping her head and eyelids until a faint suffusion seemed to
follow the falling lashes over her cheek. "I don't think YOU ought to
undervalue it."

If he had only spoken then! The hot scent of the roses hung suspended in
the air, which seemed to be hushed around them in mute expectancy; the
shadows which were hiding Aunt Viney from view were also closing round
the bench where they sat. He was very near her; he had only to reach
out his hand to clasp hers, which lay idly in her lap. He felt himself
glowing with a strange emanation; he even fancied that she was turning
mechanically towards him, as a flower might turn towards the fervent
sunlight. But he could not speak; he could scarcely collect his
thoughts, conscious though he was of the absurdity of his silence. What
was he waiting for? what did he expect? He was not usually bashful, he
was no coward; there was nothing in her attitude to make him hesitate to
give expression to what he believed was his first real passion. But he
could do nothing. He even fancied that his face, turned towards hers,
was stiffening into a vacant smile.

The young girl rose. "I think I heard Aunt Viney call me," she said
constrainedly, and made a hesitating step forward. The spell which had
held Dick seemed to be broken suddenly; he stretched forth his arm
to detain her. But the next step appeared to carry her beyond his
influence; and it was even with a half movement of rejection that
she quickened her pace and disappeared down the path. Dick fell back
dejectedly into his seat, yet conscious of a feeling of RELIEF that
bewildered him.

But only for a moment. A recollection of the chance that he had
impotently and unaccountably thrown away returned to him. He tried to
laugh, albeit with a glowing cheek, over the momentary bashfulness which
he thought had overtaken him, and which must have made him ridiculous
in her eyes. He even took a few hesitating steps in the direction of the
path where she had disappeared. The sound of voices came to his ear, and
the light ring of Cecily's laughter. The color deepened a little on his
cheek; he re-entered the house and went to his room.

The red sunset, still faintly showing through the heavily recessed
windows to the opposite wall, made two luminous aisles through the
darkness of the long low apartment. From his easy-chair he watched the
color drop out of the sky, the yellow plain grow pallid and seem to
stretch itself to infinite rest; then a black line began to deepen and
creep towards him from the horizon edge; the day was done. It seemed to
him a day lost. He had no doubt now but that he loved his cousin, and
the opportunity of telling her so--of profiting by her predisposition of
the moment--had passed. She would remember herself, she would remember
his weak hesitancy, she would despise him. He rose and walked uneasily
up and down. And yet--and it disgusted him with himself still more--he
was again conscious of the feeling of relief he had before experienced.
A vague formula, "It's better as it is," "Who knows what might have
come of it?" he found himself repeating, without reason and without
resignation.

Ashamed even of his seclusion, he rose to join the little family circle,
which now habitually gathered around a table on the veranda of the
patio under the rays of a swinging lamp to take their chocolate. To his
surprise the veranda was empty and dark; a light shining from the inner
drawing-room showed him his aunt in her armchair reading, alone. A
slight thrill ran over him: Cecily might be still in the garden! He
noiselessly passed the drawing-room door, turned into a long corridor,
and slipped through a grating in the wall into the lane that separated
it from the garden. The gate was still open; a few paces brought him
into the long alley of roses. Their strong perfume--confined in the
high, hot walls--at first made him giddy. This was followed by an
inexplicable languor; he turned instinctively towards the stone bench
and sank upon it. The long rows of calla lilies against the opposite
wall looked ghostlike in the darkness, and seemed to have turned their
white faces towards him. Then he fancied that ONE had detached itself
from the rank and was moving away. He looked again: surely there was
something gliding along the wall! A quick tremor of anticipation passed
over him. It was Cecily, who had lingered in the garden--perhaps to
give him one more opportunity! He rose quickly, and stepped towards the
apparition, which had now plainly resolved itself into a slight girlish
figure; it slipped on beneath the trees; he followed quickly--his
nervous hesitancy had vanished before what now seemed to be a half-coy,
half-coquettish evasion of him. He called softly, "Cecily!" but she did
not heed him; he quickened his pace--she increased hers. They were both
running. She reached the angle of the wall where the gate opened upon
the road. Suddenly she stopped, as if intentionally, in the clear open
space before it. He could see her distinctly. The lace mantle slipped
from her head and shoulders. It was NOT Cecily!

But it was a face so singularly beautiful and winsome that he was as
quickly arrested. It was a woman's deep, passionate eyes and heavy hair,
joined to a childish oval of cheek and chin, an infantine mouth, and a
little nose whose faintly curved outline redeemed the lower face from
weakness and brought it into charming harmony with the rest. A yellow
rose was pinned in the lustrous black hair above the little ear; a
yellow silk shawl or mantle, which had looked white in the shadows, was
thrown over one shoulder and twisted twice or thrice around the plump
but petite bust. The large black velvety eyes were fixed on his in
half wonderment, half amusement; the lovely lips were parted in half
astonishment and half a smile. And yet she was like a picture, a
dream,--a materialization of one's most fanciful imaginings,--like
anything, in fact, but the palpable flesh and blood she evidently was,
standing only a few feet before him, whose hurried breath he could see
even now heaving her youthful breast.

His own breath appeared suspended, although his heart beat rapidly as
he stammered out: "I beg your pardon--I thought--" He stopped at the
recollection that this was the SECOND time he had followed her.

She did not speak, although her parted lips still curved with their
faint coy smile. Then she suddenly lifted her right hand, which had
been hanging at her side, clasping some long black object like a stick.
Without any apparent impulse from her fingers, the stick slowly seemed
to broaden in her little hand into the segment of an opening disk, that,
lifting to her face and shoulders, gradually eclipsed the upper part of
her figure, until, mounting higher, the beautiful eyes and the yellow
rose of her hair alone remained above--a large unfurled fan! Then
the long eyelashes drooped, as if in a mute farewell, and they too
disappeared as the fan was lifted higher. The half-hidden figure
appeared to glide to the gateway, lingered for an instant, and vanished.
The astounded Dick stepped quickly into the road, but fan and figure
were swallowed up in the darkness.

Amazed and bewildered, he stood for a moment, breathless and irresolute.
It was no doubt the same stranger that he had seen before. But WHO was
she, and what was she doing there? If she were one of their Spanish
neighbors, drawn simply by curiosity to become a trespasser, why had she
lingered to invite a scrutiny that would clearly identify her? It was
not the escapade of that giddy girl which the lower part of her face had
suggested, for such a one would have giggled and instantly flown; it was
not the deliberate act of a grave woman of the world, for its sequel
was so purposeless. Why had she revealed herself to HIM alone? Dick
felt himself glowing with a half-shamed, half-secret pleasure. Then he
remembered Cecily, and his own purpose in coming into the garden. He
hurriedly made a tour of the walks and shrubbery, ostentatiously calling
her, yet seeing, as in a dream, only the beautiful eyes of the stranger
still before him, and conscious of an ill-defined remorse and disloyalty
he had never known before. But Cecily was not there; and again he
experienced the old sensation of relief!

He shut the garden gate, crossed the road, and found the grille just
closing behind a slim white figure. He started, for it was Cecily; but
even in his surprise he was conscious of wondering how he could have
ever mistaken the stranger for her. She appeared startled too; she
looked pale and abstracted. Could she have been a witness of his strange
interview?

Her first sentence dispelled the idea.

"I suppose you were in the garden?" she said, with a certain timidity.
"I didn't go there--it seemed so close and stuffy--but walked a little
down the lane."

A moment before he would have eagerly told her his adventure; but in the
presence of her manifest embarrassment his own increased. He concluded
to tell her another time. He murmured vaguely that he had been looking
for her in the garden, yet he had a flushing sense of falsehood in his
reserve; and they passed silently along the corridor and entered the
patio together. She lit the hanging lamp mechanically. She certainly
WAS pale; her slim hand trembled slightly. Suddenly her eyes met his,
a faint color came into her cheek, and she smiled. She put up her hand
with a girlish gesture towards the back of her head.

"What are you looking at? Is my hair coming down?"

"No," hesitated Dick, "but--I--thought--you were looking just a LITTLE
pale."

An aggressive ray slipped into her blue eyes.

"Strange! I thought YOU were. Just now at the grille you looked as if
the roses hadn't agreed with you."

They both laughed, a little nervously, and Conchita brought the
chocolate. When Aunt Viney came from the drawing-room she found the two
young people together, and Cecily in a gale of high spirits.

She had had SUCH a wonderfully interesting walk, all by herself, alone
on the plain. It was really so queer and elfish to find one's self where
one could see nothing above or around one anywhere but stars. Stars
above one, to right and left of one, and some so low down they seemed
as if they were picketed on the plain. It was so odd to find the horizon
line at one's very feet, like a castaway at sea. And the wind! it seemed
to move one this way and that way, for one could not see anything,
and might really be floating in the air. Only once she thought she saw
something, and was quite frightened.

"What was it?" asked Dick quickly.

"Well, it was a large black object; but--it turned out only to be a
horse."

She laughed, although she had evidently noticed her cousin's eagerness,
and her own eyes had a nervous brightness.

"And where was Dick all this while?" asked Aunt Viney quietly.

Cecily interrupted, and answered for him briskly. "Oh, he was trying to
make attar of rose of himself in the garden. He's still stupefied by his
own sweetness."

"If this means," said Aunt Viney, with matter-of-fact precision, "that
you've been gallivanting all alone, Cecily, on that common plain, where
you're likely to meet all sorts of foreigners and tramps and savages,
and Heaven knows what other vermin, I shall set my face against a
repetition of it. If you MUST go out, and Dick can't go with you--and
I must say that even you and he going out together there at night
isn't exactly the kind of American Christian example to set to our
neighbors--you had better get Concepcion to go with you and take a
lantern."

"But there is nobody one meets on the plain--at least, nobody likely to
harm one," protested Cecily.

"Don't tell ME," said Aunt Viney decidedly; "haven't I seen all sorts
of queer figures creeping along by the brink after nightfall between San
Gregorio and the next rancho? Aren't they always skulking backwards and
forwards to mass and aguardiente?"

"And I don't know why WE should set any example to our neighbors. We
don't see much of them, or they of us."

"Of course not," returned Aunt Viney; "because all proper Spanish young
ladies are shut up behind their grilles at night. You don't see THEM
traipsing over the plain in the darkness, WITH or WITHOUT cavaliers!
Why, Don Rafael would lock one of HIS sisters up in a convent and
consider her disgraced forever, if he heard of it."

Dick felt his cheeks burning; Cecily slightly paled. Yet both said
eagerly together: "Why, what do YOU know about it, Aunty?"

"A great deal," returned Aunt Viney quietly, holding her tatting up to
the light and examining the stitches with a critical eye. "I've got
my eyes about me, thank heaven! even if my ears don't understand the
language. And there's a great deal, my dears, that you young people
might learn from these Papists."

"And do you mean to say," continued Dick, with a glowing cheek and an
uneasy smile, "that Spanish girls don't go out alone?"

"No young LADY goes out without her duenna," said Aunt Viney
emphatically. "Of course there's the Concha variety, that go out without
even stockings."

As the conversation flagged after this, and the young people once or
twice yawned nervously, Aunt Viney thought they had better go to bed.

But Dick did not sleep. The beautiful face beamed out again from the
darkness of his room; the light that glimmered through his deep-set
curtainless windows had an odd trick of bringing out certain hanging
articles, or pieces of furniture, into a resemblance to a mantled
figure. The deep, velvety eyes, fringed with long brown lashes, again
looked into his with amused, childlike curiosity. He scouted the harsh
criticisms of Aunt Viney, even while he shrank from proving to her her
mistake in the quality of his mysterious visitant. Of course she was
a lady--far superior to any of her race whom he had yet met. Yet how
should he find WHO she was? His pride and a certain chivalry forbade his
questioning the servants--before whom it was the rule of the
household to avoid all reference to their neighbors. He would make the
acquaintance of the old padre--perhaps HE might talk. He would ride
early along the trail in the direction of the nearest rancho,--Don Jose
Amador's,--a thing he had hitherto studiously refrained from doing. It
was three miles away. She must have come that distance, but not ALONE.
Doubtless she had kept her duenna in waiting in the road. Perhaps it
was she who had frightened Cecily. Had Cecily told ALL she had seen? Her
embarrassed manner certainly suggested more than she had told. He felt
himself turning hot with an indefinite uneasiness. Then he tried to
compose himself. After all, it was a thing of the past. The fair unknown
had bribed the duenna for once, no doubt--had satisfied her girlish
curiosity--she would not come again! But this thought brought with
it such a sudden sense of utter desolation, a deprivation so new and
startling, that it frightened him. Was his head turned by the witcheries
of some black-eyed schoolgirl whom he had seen but once? Or--he felt his
cheeks glowing in the darkness--was it really a case of love at first
sight, and she herself had been impelled by the same yearning that now
possessed him? A delicious satisfaction followed, that left a smile on
his lips as if it had been a kiss. He knew now why he had so strangely
hesitated with Cecily. He had never really loved her--he had never known
what love was till now!

He was up early the next morning, skimming the plain on the back of
"Chu Chu," before the hacienda was stirring. He did not want any one to
suspect his destination, and it was even with a sense of guilt that
he dashed along the swale in the direction of the Amador rancho. A
few vaqueros, an old Digger squaw carrying a basket, two little Indian
acolytes on their way to mass passed him. He was surprised to find that
there were no ruts of carriage wheels within three miles of the casa,
and evidently no track for carriages through the swale. SHE must have
come on HORSEBACK. A broader highway, however, intersected the trail at
a point where the low walls of the Amador rancho came in view. Here he
was startled by the apparition of an old-fashioned family carriage drawn
by two large piebald mules. But it was unfortunately closed. Then, with
a desperate audacity new to his reserved nature, he ranged close beside
it, and even stared in the windows. A heavily mantled old woman, whose
brown face was in high contrast to her snow-white hair, sat in the back
seat. Beside her was a younger companion, with the odd blonde hair and
blue eyes sometimes seen in the higher Castilian type. For an instant
the blue eyes caught his, half-coquettishly. But the girl was NOT at all
like his mysterious visitor, and he fell, discomfited, behind.

He had determined to explain his trespass on the grounds of his
neighbor, if questioned, by the excuse that he was hunting a strayed
mustang. But his presence, although watched with a cold reserve by the
few peons who were lounging near the gateway, provoked no challenge from
them; and he made a circuit of the low adobe walls, with their barred
windows and cinnamon-tiled roofs, without molestation--but equally
without satisfaction. He felt he was a fool for imagining that he would
see her in that way. He turned his horse towards the little Mission
half a mile away. There he had once met the old padre, who spoke a
picturesque but limited English; now he was only a few yards ahead of
him, just turning into the church. The padre was pleased to see Don
Ricardo; it was an unusual thing for the Americanos, he observed, to
be up so early: for himself, he had his functions, of course. No, the
ladies that the caballero had seen had not been to mass! They were Donna
Maria and her daughter, going to San Gregorio. They comprised ALL the
family at the rancho,--there were none others, unless the caballero, of
a possibility, meant Donna Inez, a maiden aunt of sixty--an admirable
woman, a saint on earth! He trusted that he would find his estray; there
was no doubt a mark upon it, otherwise the plain was illimitable; there
were many horses--the world was wide!

Dick turned his face homewards a little less adventurously, and it must
be confessed, with a growing sense of his folly. The keen, dry morning
air brushed away his fancies of the preceding night; the beautiful eyes
that had lured him thither seemed to flicker and be blown out by its
practical breath. He began to think remorsefully of his cousin, of his
aunt,--of his treachery to that reserve which the little alien household
had maintained towards their Spanish neighbors. He found Aunt Viney and
Cecily at breakfast--Cecily, he thought, looking a trifle pale. Yet (or
was it only his fancy?) she seemed curious about his morning ride. And
he became more reticent.

"You must see a good many of our neighbors when you are out so early?"

"Why?" he asked shortly, feeling his color rise.

"Oh, because--because we don't see them at any other time."

"I saw a very nice chap--I think the best of the lot," he began, with
assumed jocularity; then, seeing Cecily's eyes suddenly fixed on him, he
added, somewhat lamely, "the padre! There were also two women in a queer
coach."

"Donna Maria Amador, and Dona Felipa Peralta--her daughter by her first
husband," said Aunt Viney quietly. "When you see the horses you think
it's a circus; when you look inside the carriage you KNOW it's a
funeral."

Aunt Viney did not condescend to explain how she had acquired her
genealogical knowledge of her neighbor's family, but succeeded in
breaking the restraint between the young people. Dick proposed a ride
in the afternoon, which was cheerfully accepted by Cecily. Their
intercourse apparently recovered its old frankness and freedom, marred
only for a moment when they set out on the plain. Dick, really to forget
his preoccupation of the morning, turned his horse's head AWAY from
the trail, to ride in another direction; but Cecily oddly, and with an
exhibition of caprice quite new to her, insisted upon taking the old
trail. Nevertheless they met nothing, and soon became absorbed in the
exercise. Dick felt something of his old tenderness return to this
wholesome, pretty girl at his side; perhaps he betrayed it in his voice,
or in an unconscious lingering by her bridle-rein, but she accepted it
with a naive reserve which he naturally attributed to the effect of
his own previous preoccupation. He bore it so gently, however, that it
awakened her interest, and, possibly, her pique. Her reserve relaxed,
and by the time they returned to the hacienda they had regained
something of their former intimacy. The dry, incisive breath of the
plains swept away the last lingering remnants of yesterday's illusions.
Under this frankly open sky, in this clear perspective of the remote
Sierras, which admitted no fanciful deception of form or distance--there
remained nothing but a strange incident--to be later explained or
forgotten. Only he could not bring himself to talk to HER about it.

After dinner, and a decent lingering for coffee on the veranda, Dick
rose, and leaning half caressingly, half mischievously, over his aunt's
rocking-chair, but with his eyes on Cecily, said:--

"I've been deeply considering, dear Aunty, what you said last evening
of the necessity of our offering a good example to our neighbors. Now,
although Cecily and I are cousins, yet, as I am HEAD of the house,
lord of the manor, and padron, according to the Spanish ideas I am her
recognised guardian and protector, and it seems to me it is my positive
DUTY to accompany her if she wishes to walk out this evening."

A momentary embarrassment--which, however, changed quickly into an
answering smile to her cousin--came over Cecily's face. She turned to
her aunt.

"Well, don't go too far," said that lady quietly.

When they closed the grille behind them and stepped into the lane,
Cecily shot a quick glance at her cousin.

"Perhaps you'd rather walk in the garden?"

"I? Oh, no," he answered honestly. "But"--he hesitated--"would you?"

"Yes," she said faintly.

He impulsively offered his arm; her slim hand slipped lightly through
it and rested on his sleeve. They crossed the lane together, and entered
the garden. A load appeared to be lifted from his heart; the moment
seemed propitious,--here was a chance to recover his lost ground, to
regain his self-respect and perhaps his cousin's affection. By a common
instinct, however, they turned to the right, and AWAY from the stone
bench, and walked slowly down the broad allee.

They talked naturally and confidingly of the days when they had met
before, of old friends they had known and changes that had crept into
their young lives; they spoke affectionately of the grim, lonely, but
self-contained old woman they had just left, who had brought them thus
again together. Cecily talked of Dick's studies, of the scientific work
on which he was engaged, that was to bring him, she was sure, fame and
fortune! They talked of the thoughtful charm of the old house, of its
quaint old-world flavor. They spoke of the beauty of the night, the
flowers and the stars, in whispers, as one is apt to do--as fearing to
disturb a super-sensitiveness in nature.

They had come out later than on the previous night; and the moon,
already risen above the high walls of the garden, seemed a vast silver
shield caught in the interlacing tops of the old pear-trees, whose
branches crossed its bright field like dark bends or bars. As it rose
higher, it began to separate the lighter shrubbery, and open white lanes
through the olive-trees. Damp currents of air, alternating with drier
heats, on what appeared to be different levels, moved across the
whole garden, or gave way at times to a breathless lull and hush of
everything, in which the long rose alley seemed to be swooning in its
own spices. They had reached the bottom of the garden, and had turned,
facing the upper moonlit extremity and the bare stone bench. Cecily's
voice faltered, her hand leaned more heavily on his arm, as if she were
overcome by the strong perfume. His right hand began to steal towards
hers. But she had stopped; she was trembling.

"Go on," she said in a half whisper. "Leave me a moment; I'll join you
afterwards."

"You are ill, Cecily! It's those infernal flowers!" said Dick earnestly.
"Let me help you to the bench."

"No--it's nothing. Go on, please. Do! Will you go!"

She spoke with imperiousness, unlike herself. He walked on mechanically
a dozen paces and turned. She had disappeared. He remembered there was a
smaller gate opening upon the plain near where they had stopped. Perhaps
she had passed through that. He continued on, slowly, towards the upper
end of the garden, occasionally turning to await her return. In this way
he gradually approached the stone bench. He was facing about to continue
his walk, when his heart seemed to stop beating. The beautiful visitor
of last night was sitting alone on the bench before him!

She had not been there a moment before; he could have sworn it. Yet
there was no illusion now of shade or distance. She was scarcely six
feet from him, in the bright moonlight. The whole of her exquisite
little figure was visible, from her lustrous hair down to the tiny,
black satin, low-quartered slipper, held as by two toes. Her face was
fully revealed; he could see even the few minute freckles, like powdered
allspice, that heightened the pale satin sheen of her beautifully
rounded cheek; he could detect even the moist shining of her parted red
lips, the white outlines of her little teeth, the length of her curved
lashes, and the meshes of the black lace veil that fell from the yellow
rose above her ear to the black silk camisa; he noted even the thick
yellow satin saya, or skirt, heavily flounced with black lace and
bugles, and that it was a different dress from that worn on the
preceding night, a half-gala costume, carried with the indescribable air
of a woman looking her best and pleased to do so: all this he had noted,
drawing nearer and nearer, until near enough to forget it all and drown
himself in the depths of her beautiful eyes. For they were no
longer childlike and wondering: they were glowing with expectancy,
anticipation--love!

He threw himself passionately on the bench beside her. Yet, even if he
had known her language, he could not have spoken. She leaned towards
him; their eyes seemed to meet caressingly, as in an embrace. Her little
hand slipped from the yellow folds of her skirt to the bench. He eagerly
seized it. A subtle thrill ran through his whole frame. There was
no delusion here; it was flesh and blood, warm, quivering, and even
tightening round his own. He was about to carry it to his lips, when she
rose and stepped backwards. He pressed eagerly forward. Another backward
step brought her to the pear-tree, where she seemed to plunge into its
shadow. Dick Bracy followed--and the same shadow seemed to fold them in
its embrace.

*****

He did not return to the veranda and chocolate that evening, but sent
word from his room that he had retired, not feeling well.

Cecily, herself a little nervously exalted, corroborated the fact of
his indisposition by telling Aunt Viney that the close odors of the rose
garden had affected them both. Indeed, she had been obliged to leave
before him. Perhaps in waiting for her return--and she really was not
well enough to go back--he was exposed to the night air too long. She
was very sorry.

Aunt Viney heard this with a slight contraction of her brows and a
renewed scrutiny of her knitting; and, having satisfied herself by
a personal visit to Dick's room that he was not alarmingly ill, set
herself to find out what was really the matter with the young people;
for there was no doubt that Cecily was in some vague way as disturbed
and preoccupied as Dick. He rode out again early the next morning,
returning to his studies in the library directly after breakfast; and
Cecily was equally reticent, except when, to Aunt Viney's perplexity,
she found excuses for Dick's manner on the ground of his absorption in
his work, and that he was probably being bored by want of society. She
proposed that she should ask an old schoolfellow to visit them.

"It would give Dick a change of ideas, and he would not be perpetually
obliged to look so closely after me." She blushed slightly under Aunt
Viney's gaze, and added hastily, "I mean, of course, he would not feel
it his DUTY."

She even induced her aunt to drive with her to the old mission church,
where she displayed a pretty vivacity and interest in the people they
met, particularly a few youthful and picturesque caballeros. Aunt Viney
smiled gravely. Was the poor child developing an unlooked-for coquetry,
or preparing to make the absent-minded Dick jealous? Well, the idea was
not a bad one. In the evening she astonished the two cousins by offering
to accompany them into the garden--a suggestion accepted with eager and
effusive politeness by each, but carried out with great awkwardness by
the distrait young people later. Aunt Viney clearly saw that it was not
her PRESENCE that was required. In this way two or three days elapsed
without apparently bringing the relations of Dick and Cecily to any more
satisfactory conclusion. The diplomatic Aunt Viney confessed herself
puzzled.

One night it was very warm; the usual trade winds had died away before
sunset, leaving an unwonted hush in sky and plain. There was something
so portentous in this sudden withdrawal of that rude stimulus to the
otherwise monotonous level, that a recurrence of such phenomena was
always known as "earthquake weather." The wild cattle moved uneasily in
the distance without feeding; herds of unbroken mustangs approached
the confines of the hacienda in vague timorous squads. The silence and
stagnation of the old house was oppressive, as if the life had really
gone out of it at last; and Aunt Viney, after waiting impatiently for
the young people to come in to chocolate, rose grimly, set her lips
together, and went out into the lane. The gate of the rose garden
opposite was open. She walked determinedly forward and entered.

In that doubly stagnant air the odor of the roses was so suffocating
and overpowering that she had to stop to take breath. The whole garden,
except a near cluster of pear-trees, was brightly illuminated by the
moonlight. No one was to be seen along the length of the broad allee,
strewn an inch deep with scattered red and yellow petals--colorless in
the moonbeams. She was turning away, when Dick's familiar voice, but
with a strange accent of entreaty in it, broke the silence. It seemed to
her vaguely to come from within the pear-tree shadow.

"But we must understand one another, my darling! Tell me all. This
suspense, this mystery, this brief moment of happiness, and these hours
of parting and torment, are killing me!"

A slight cough broke from Aunt Viney. She had heard enough--she did not
wish to hear more. The mystery was explained. Dick loved Cecily; the
coyness or hesitation was not on HIS part. Some idiotic girlish caprice,
quite inconsistent with what she had noticed at the mission church,
was keeping Cecily silent, reserved, and exasperating to her lover. She
would have a talk with the young lady, without revealing the fact that
she had overheard them. She was perhaps a little hurt that affairs
should have reached this point without some show of confidence to her
from the young people. Dick might naturally be reticent--but Cecily!

She did not even look towards the pear-tree, but turned and walked
stiffly out of the gate. As she was crossing the lane she suddenly
started back in utter dismay and consternation! For Cecily, her
niece,--in her own proper person,--was actually just coming OUT OF THE
HOUSE!

Aunt Viney caught her wrist. "Where have you been?" she asked quickly.

"In the house," stammered Cecily, with a frightened face.

"You have not been in the garden with Dick?" continued Aunt Viney
sharply--yet with a hopeless sense of the impossibility of the
suggestion.

"No, I was not even going there. I thought of just strolling down the
lane."

The girl's accents were truthful; more than that, she absolutely looked
relieved by her aunt's question. "Do you want me, Aunty?" she added
quickly.

"Yes--no. Run away, then--but don't go far."

At any other time Aunt Viney might have wondered at the eagerness with
which Cecily tripped away; now she was only anxious to get rid of her.
She entered the casa hurriedly.

"Send Josefa to me at once," she said to Manuel.

Josefa, the housekeeper,--a fat Mexican woman,--appeared. "Send Concha
and the other maids here." They appeared, mutely wondering. Aunt Viney
glanced hurriedly over them--they were all there--a few comely, but not
too attractive, and all stupidly complacent. "Have you girls any friends
here this evening--or are you expecting any?" she demanded. Of a surety,
no!--as the padrona knew--it was not night for church. "Very well,"
returned Aunt Viney; "I thought I heard your voices in the garden;
understand, I want no gallivanting there. Go to bed."

She was relieved! Dick certainly was not guilty of a low intrigue with
one of the maids. But who and what was she?

Dick was absent again from chocolate; there was unfinished work to do.
Cecily came in later, just as Aunt Viney was beginning to be anxious.
Had she appeared distressed or piqued by her cousin's conduct, Aunt
Viney might have spoken; but there was a pretty color on her cheek--the
result, she said, of her rapid walking, and the fresh air; did Aunt
Viney know that a cool breeze had just risen?--and her delicate lips
were wreathed at times in a faint retrospective smile. Aunt Viney
stared; certainly the girl was not pining! What young people were made
of now-a-days she really couldn't conceive. She shrugged her shoulders
and resumed her tatting.

Nevertheless, as Dick's unfinished studies seemed to have whitened his
cheek and impaired his appetite the next morning, she announced her
intention of driving out towards the mission alone. When she returned at
luncheon she further astonished the young people by casually informing
them they would have Spanish visitors to dinner--namely, their
neighbors, Donna Maria Amador and the Dona Felipa Peralta.

Both faces were turned eagerly towards her; both said almost in the same
breath, "But, Aunt Viney! you don't know them! However did you--What
does it all mean?"

"My dears," said Aunt Viney placidly, "Mrs. Amador and I have always
nodded to each other, and I knew they were only waiting for the
slightest encouragement. I gave it, and they're coming."

It was difficult to say whether Cecily's or Dick's face betrayed the
greater delight and animation. Aunt Viney looked from the one to the
other. It seemed as if her attempt at diversion had been successful.

"Tell us all about it, you dear, clever, artful Aunty!" said Cecily
gayly.

"There's nothing whatever to tell, my love! It seems, however, that the
young one, Dona Felipa, has seen Dick, and remembers him." She shot a
keen glance at Dick, but was obliged to admit that the rascal's face
remained unchanged. "And I wanted to bring a cavalier for YOU, dear, but
Don Jose's nephew isn't at home now." Yet here, to her surprise, Cecily
was faintly blushing.

Early in the afternoon the piebald horses and dark brown chariot of the
Amadors drew up before the gateway. The young people were delighted
with Dona Felipa, and thought her blue eyes and tawny hair gave an added
piquancy to her colorless satin skin and otherwise distinctively
Spanish face and figure. Aunt Viney, who entertained Donna Maria, was
nevertheless watchful of the others; but failed to detect in Dick's
effusive greeting, or the Dona's coquettish smile of recognition, any
suggestion of previous confidences. It was rather to Cecily that
Dona Felipa seemed to be characteristically exuberant and childishly
feminine. Both mother and stepdaughter spoke a musical infantine
English, which the daughter supplemented with her eyes, her eyebrows,
her little brown fingers, her plump shoulders, a dozen charming
intonations of voice, and a complete vocabulary in her active and
emphatic fan.

The young lady went over the house with Cecily curiously, as if
recalling some old memories. "Ah, yes, I remember it--but it was long
ago and I was very leetle--you comprehend, and I have not arrive mooch
when the old Don was alone. It was too--too--what you call melank-oaly.
And the old man have not make mooch to himself of company."

"Then there were no young people in the house, I suppose?" said Cecily,
smiling.

"No--not since the old man's father lif. Then there were TWO. It is a
good number, this two, eh?" She gave a single gesture, which took in,
with Cecily, the distant Dick, and with a whole volume of suggestion
in her shoulders, and twirling fan, continued: "Ah! two sometime make
one--is it not? But not THEN in the old time--ah, no! It is a sad story.
I shall tell it to you some time, but not to HIM."

But Cecily's face betrayed no undue bashful consciousness, and she only
asked, with a quiet smile, "Why not to--to my cousin?"

"Imbecile!" responded that lively young lady.

After dinner the young people proposed to take Dona Felipa into the rose
garden, while Aunt Viney entertained Donna Maria on the veranda. The
young girl threw up her hands with an affectation of horror. "Santa
Maria!--in the rose garden? After the Angelus, you and him? Have you not
heard?"

But here Donna Maria interposed. Ah! Santa Maria! What was all that!
Was it not enough to talk old woman's gossip and tell vaqueros tales at
home, without making uneasy the strangers? She would have none of it.
"Vamos!"

Nevertheless Dona Felipa overcame her horror of the rose garden at
infelicitous hours, so far as to permit herself to be conducted by the
cousins into it, and to be installed like a rose queen on the stone
bench, while Dick and Cecily threw themselves in submissive and
imploring attitudes at her little feet. The young girl looked
mischievously from one to the other.

"It ees very pret-ty, but all the same I am not a rose: I am what you
call a big goose-berry! Eh--is it not?"

The cousins laughed, but without any embarrassed consciousness. "Dona
Felipa knows a sad story of this house," said Cecily; "but she will not
tell it before you, Dick."

Dick, looking up at the coquettish little figure, with Heaven knows what
OTHER memories in his mind, implored and protested.

"Ah! but this little story--she ees not so mooch sad of herself as she
ees str-r-r-ange!" She gave an exaggerated little shiver under her lace
shawl, and closed her eyes meditatively.

"Go on," said Dick, smiling in spite of his interested expectation.

Dona Felipa took her fan in both hands, spanning her knees, leaned
forward, and after a preliminary compressing of her lips and knitting of
her brows, said:--

"It was a long time ago. Don Gregorio he have his daughter Rosita here,
and for her he will fill all thees rose garden and gif to her; for she
like mooch to lif with the rose. She ees very pret-ty. You shall have
seen her picture here in the casa. No? It have hang under the crucifix
in the corner room, turn around to the wall--WHY, you shall comprehend
when I have made finish thees story. Comes to them here one day Don
Vincente, Don Gregorio's nephew, to lif when his father die. He was
yong, a pollio--same as Rosita. They were mooch together; they have
make lofe. What will you?--it ees always the same. The Don Gregorio have
comprehend; the friends have all comprehend; in a year they will make
marry. Dona Rosita she go to Monterey to see his family. There ees
an English warship come there; and Rosita she ees very gay with the
officers, and make the flirtation very mooch. Then Don Vincente he is
onhappy, and he revenge himself to make lofe with another. When Rosita
come back it is very miserable for them both, but they say nossing. The
warship he have gone away; the other girl Vincente he go not to no more.
All the same, Rosita and Vincente are very triste, and the family will
not know what to make. Then Rosita she is sick and eat nossing, and walk
to herself all day in the rose garden, until she is as white and
fade away as the rose. And Vincente he eat nossing, but drink mooch
aguardiente. Then he have fever and go dead. And Rosita she have
fainting and fits; and one day they have look for her in the rose
garden, and she is not! And they poosh and poosh in the ground for her,
and they find her with so mooch rose-leaves--so deep--on top of her. SHE
has go dead. It is a very sad story, and when you hear it you are very,
very mooch dissatisfied."

It is to be feared that the two Americans were not as thrilled by this
sad recital as the fair narrator had expected, and even Dick ventured to
point out that those sort of things happened also to his countrymen, and
were not peculiar to the casa.

"But you said that there was a terrible sequel," suggested Cecily
smilingly: "tell us THAT. Perhaps Mr. Bracy may receive it a little more
politely."

An expression of superstitious gravity, half real, half simulated, came
over Dona Felipa's face, although her vivacity of gesticulation and
emphasis did not relax. She cast a hurried glance around her, and leaned
a little forward towards the cousins.

"When there are no more young people in the casa because they are dead,"
she continued, in a lower voice, "Don Gregorio he is very melank-oaly,
and he have no more company for many years. Then there was a rodeo near
the hacienda, and there came five or six caballeros to stay with him
for the feast. Notabilimente comes then Don Jorge Martinez. He is a bad
man--so weeked--a Don Juan for making lofe to the ladies. He lounge in
the garden, he smoke his cigarette, he twist the moustache--so! One day
he came in, and he laugh and wink so and say, 'Oh, the weeked, sly Don
Gregorio! He have hid away in the casa a beautiful, pret-ty girl, and
he will nossing say.' And the other caballeros say, 'Mira! what is this?
there is not so mooch as one young lady in the casa.' And Don Jorge he
wink, and he say, 'Imbeciles! pigs!' And he walk in the garden and twist
his moustache more than ever. And one day, behold! he walk into the
casa, very white and angry, and he swear mooch to himself; and he orders
his horse, and he ride away, and never come back no more, never-r-r!
And one day another caballero, Don Esteban Briones, he came in, and say,
'Hola! Don Jorge has forgotten his pret-ty girl: he have left her over
on the garden bench. Truly I have seen.' And they say, 'We will too.'
And they go, and there is nossing. And they say, 'Imbecile and pig!' But
he is not imbecile and pig; for he has seen, and Don Jorge has seen; and
why? For it is not a girl, but what you call her--a ghost! And they will
that Don Esteban should make a picture of her--a design; and he make
one. And old Don Gregorio he say, 'madre de Dios! it is Rosita'--the
same that hung under the crucifix in the big room."

"And is that all?" asked Dick, with a somewhat pronounced laugh, but a
face that looked quite white in the moonlight.

"No, it ees NOT all. For when Don Gregorio got himself more company
another time--it ees all yonge ladies, and my aunt she is invite too;
for she was yonge then, and she herself have tell to me this:--

"One night she is in the garden with the other girls, and when they want
to go in the casa one have say, 'Where is Francisca Pacheco? Look,
she came here with us, and now she is not.' Another one say, 'She have
conceal herself to make us affright.' And my aunt she say, 'I will
go seek that I shall find her.' And she go. And when she came to the
pear-tree, she heard Francisca's voice, and it say to some one she see
not, 'Fly! vamos! some one have come.' And then she come at the moment
upon Francisca, very white and trembling, and--alone. And Francisca she
have run away and say nossing, and shut herself in her room. And one of
the other girls say: 'It is the handsome caballero with the little black
moustache and sad white face that I have seen in the garden that make
this. It is truly that he is some poor relation of Don Gregorio, or
some mad kinsman that he will not we should know.' And my aunt ask Don
Gregorio; for she is yonge. And he have say: 'What silly fool ees thees?
There is not one caballero here, but myself.' And when the other young
girl have tell to him how the caballero look, he say: 'The saints save
us! I cannot more say. It ees Don Vincente, who haf gone dead.' And
he cross himself, and--But look! Madre de Dios! Mees Cecily, you are
ill--you are affrighted. I am a gabbling fool! Help her, Don Ricardo;
she is falling!"

But it was too late: Cecily had tried to rise to her feet, had staggered
forward and fallen in a faint on the bench.

*****

Dick did not remember how he helped to carry the insensible Cecily to
the casa, nor what explanation he had given to the alarmed inmates of
her sudden attack. He recalled vaguely that something had been said of
the overpowering perfumes of the garden at that hour, that the lively
Felipa had become half hysterical in her remorseful apologies, and that
Aunt Viney had ended the scene by carrying Cecily into her own
room, where she presently recovered a still trembling but reticent
consciousness. But the fainting of his cousin and the presence of a real
emergency had diverted his imagination from the vague terror that
had taken possession of it, and for the moment enabled him to control
himself. With a desperate effort he managed to keep up a show of
hospitable civility to his Spanish friends until their early departure.
Then he hurried to his own room. So bewildered and horrified he had
become, and a prey to such superstitious terrors, that he could not at
that moment bring himself to the test of looking for the picture of the
alleged Rosita, which might still be hanging in his aunt's room. If
it were really the face of his mysterious visitant--in his present
terror--he felt that his reason might not stand the shock. He would look
at it to-morrow, when he was calmer! Until then he would believe that
the story was some strange coincidence with what must have been his
hallucination, or a vulgar trick to which he had fallen a credulous
victim. Until then he would believe that Cecily's fright had been only
the effect of Dona Felipa's story, acting upon a vivid imagination, and
not a terrible confirmation of something she had herself seen. He threw
himself, without undressing, upon his bed in a benumbing agony of doubt.

The gentle opening of his door and the slight rustle of a skirt started
him to his feet with a feeling of new and overpowering repulsion. But it
was a familiar figure that he saw in the long aisle of light which led
from his recessed window, whose face was white enough to have been a
spirit's, and whose finger was laid upon its pale lips, as it softly
closed the door behind it.

"Cecily!"

"Hush!" she said, in a distracted whisper: "I felt I must see you
to-night. I could not wait until day--no, not another hour! I could
not speak to you before them. I could not go into that dreadful garden
again, or beyond the walls of this house. Dick, I want to--I MUST tell
you something! I would have kept it from every one--from you most of
all! I know you will hate me, and despise me; but, Dick, listen!"--she
caught his hand despairingly, drawing it towards her--"that girl's awful
story was TRUE!" She threw his hand away.

"And you have seen HER!" said Dick, frantically. "Good God!"

The young girl's manner changed. "HER!" she said, half scornfully, "you
don't suppose I believe THAT story? No. I--I--don't blame me, Dick,--I
have seen HIM."

"Him?"

She pushed him nervously into a seat, and sat down beside him. In the
half light of the moon, despite her pallor and distraction, she was
still very human, womanly, and attractive in her disorder.

"Listen to me, Dick. Do you remember one afternoon, when we were riding
together, I got ahead of you, and dashed off to the casa. I don't know
what possessed me, or WHY I did it. I only know I wanted to get home
quickly, and get away from you. No, I was not angry, Dick, at YOU;
it did not seem to be THAT; I--well, I confess I was FRIGHTENED--at
something, I don't know what. When I wheeled round into the lane, I
saw--a man--a young gentleman standing by the garden-wall. He was very
picturesque-looking, in his red sash, velvet jacket, and round silver
buttons; handsome, but oh, so pale and sad! He looked at me very
eagerly, and then suddenly drew back, and I heard you on Chu Chu coming
at my heels. You must have seen him and passed him too, I thought: but
when you said nothing of it, I--I don't know why, Dick, I said nothing
of it too. Don't speak!" she added, with a hurried gesture: "I know NOW
why you said nothing,--YOU had not seen him."

She stopped, and put back a wisp of her disordered chestnut hair.

"The next time was the night YOU were so queer, Dick, sitting on that
stone bench. When I left you--I thought you didn't care to have me
stay--I went to seek Aunt Viney at the bottom of the garden. I was very
sad, but suddenly I found myself very gay, talking and laughing with
her in a way I could not account for. All at once, looking up, I saw HIM
standing by the little gate, looking at me very sadly. I think I would
have spoken to Aunt Viney, but he put his finger to his lips--his
hand was so slim and white, quite like a hand in one of those Spanish
pictures--and moved slowly backwards into the lane, as if he wished to
speak with ME only--out there. I know I ought to have spoken to Aunty; I
knew it was wrong what I did, but he looked so earnest, so appealing, so
awfully sad, Dick, that I slipped past Aunty and went out of the gate.
Just then she missed me, and called. He made a kind of despairing
gesture, raising his hand Spanish fashion to his lips, as if to say
good-night. You'll think me bold, Dick, but I was so anxious to know
what it all meant, that I gave a glance behind to see if Aunty was
following, before I should go right up to him and demand an explanation.
But when I faced round again, he was gone! I walked up and down the lane
and out on the plain nearly half an hour, seeking him. It was strange, I
know; but I was not a bit FRIGHTENED, Dick--that was so queer--but I was
only amazed and curious."

The look of spiritual terror in Dick's face here seemed to give way to a
less exalted disturbance, as he fixed his eyes on Cecily's.

"You remember I met YOU coming in: you seemed so queer then that I
did not say anything to you, for I thought you would laugh at me, or
reproach me for my boldness; and I thought, Dick, that--that--that--this
person wished to speak only to ME." She hesitated.

"Go on," said Dick, in a voice that had also undergone a singular
change.

The chestnut head was bent a little lower, as the young girl nervously
twisted her fingers in her lap.

"Then I saw him again--and--again," she went on hesitatingly. "Of course
I spoke to him, to--to--find out what he wanted; but you know, Dick, I
cannot speak Spanish, and of course he didn't understand me, and didn't
reply."

"But his manner, his appearance, gave you some idea of his meaning?"
said Dick suddenly.

Cecily's head drooped a little lower. "I thought--that is, I fancied I
knew what he meant."

"No doubt," said Dick, in a voice which, but for the superstitious
horror of the situation, might have impressed a casual listener as
indicating a trace of human irony.

But Cecily did not seem to notice it. "Perhaps I was excited that night,
perhaps I was bolder because I knew you were near me; but I went up to
him and touched him! And then, Dick!--oh, Dick! think how awful--"

Again Dick felt the thrill of superstitious terror creep over him. "And
he vanished!" he said hoarsely.

"No--not at once," stammered Cecily, with her head almost buried in her
lap; "for he--he--he took me in his arms and--"

"And kissed you?" said Dick, springing to his feet, with every trace
of his superstitious agony gone from his indignant face. But Cecily,
without raising her head, caught at his gesticulating hand.

"Oh, Dick, Dick! do you think he really did it? The horror of it, Dick!
to be kissed by a--a--man who has been dead a hundred years!"

"A hundred fiddlesticks!" said Dick furiously. "We have been deceived!
No," he stammered, "I mean YOU have been deceived--insulted!"

"Hush! Aunty will hear you," murmured the girl despairingly.

Dick, who had thrown away his cousin's hand, caught it again, and
dragged her along the aisle of light to the window. The moon shone upon
his flushed and angry face.

"Listen!" he said; "you have been fooled, tricked--infamously tricked
by these people, and some confederate, whom--whom I shall horsewhip if I
catch. The whole story is a lie!"

"But you looked as if you believed it--about the girl," said Cecily;
"you acted so strangely. I even thought, Dick,--sometimes--you had seen
HIM."

Dick shuddered, trembled; but it is to be feared that the lower, more
natural human element in him triumphed.

"Nonsense!" he stammered; "the girl was a foolish farrago of
absurdities, improbable on the face of things, and impossible to prove.
But that infernal, sneaking rascal was flesh and blood."

It seemed to him to relieve the situation and establish his own
sanity to combat one illusion with another. Cecily had already been
deceived--another lie wouldn't hurt her. But, strangely enough, he was
satisfied that Cecily's visitant was real, although he still had doubts
about his own.

"Then you think, Dick, it was actually some real man?" she said
piteously. "Oh, Dick, I have been so foolish!"

Foolish she no doubt had been; pretty she certainly was, sitting there
in her loosened hair, and pathetic, appealing earnestness. Surely the
ghostly Rosita's glances were never so pleading as these actual honest
eyes behind their curving lashes. Dick felt a strange, new-born sympathy
of suffering, mingled tantalizingly with a new doubt and jealousy, that
was human and stimulating.

"Oh, Dick, what are WE to do?"

The plural struck him as deliciously sweet and subtle. Had they
really been singled out for this strange experience, or still stranger
hallucination? His arm crept around her; she gently withdrew from it.

"I must go now," she murmured; "but I couldn't sleep until I told you
all. You know, Dick, I have no one else to come to, and it seemed to me
that YOU ought to know it first. I feel better for telling you. You will
tell me to-morrow what you think we ought to do."

They reached the door, opening it softly. She lingered for a moment on
the threshold.

"Tell me, Dick" (she hesitated), "if that--that really were a spirit,
and not a real man,--you don't think that--that kiss" (she shuddered)
"could do me harm!"

He shuddered too, with a strange and sympathetic consciousness that,
happily, she did not even suspect. But he quickly recovered himself
and said, with something of bitterness in his voice, "I should be more
afraid if it really were a man."

"Oh, thank you, Dick!"

Her lips parted in a smile of relief; the color came faintly back to her
cheek.

A wild thought crossed his fancy that seemed an inspiration. They would
share the risks alike. He leaned towards her: their lips met in their
first kiss.

"Oh, Dick!"

"Dearest!"

"I think--we are saved."

"Why?"

"It wasn't at all like that."

He smiled as she flew swiftly down the corridor. Perhaps he thought so
too.

*****

No picture of the alleged Rosita was ever found. Dona Felipa, when the
story was again referred to, smiled discreetly, but was apparently too
preoccupied with the return of Don Jose's absent nephew for further
gossiping visits to the hacienda; and Dick and Cecily, as Mr. and Mrs.
Bracy, would seem to have survived--if they never really solved--the
mystery of the Hacienda de los Osos. Yet in the month of June, when the
moon is high, one does not sit on the stone bench in the rose garden
after the last stroke of the Angelus.



CHU CHU.


I do not believe that the most enthusiastic lover of that "useful and
noble animal," the horse, will claim for him the charm of geniality,
humor, or expansive confidence. Any creature who will not look you
squarely in the eye--whose only oblique glances are inspired by fear,
distrust, or a view to attack; who has no way of returning caresses, and
whose favorite expression is one of head-lifting disdain, may be "noble"
or "useful," but can be hardly said to add to the gayety of nations.
Indeed it may be broadly stated that, with the single exception of
gold-fish, of all animals kept for the recreation of mankind the
horse is alone capable of exciting a passion that shall be absolutely
hopeless. I deem these general remarks necessary to prove that my
unreciprocated affection for "Chu Chu" was not purely individual or
singular. And I may add that to these general characteristics she
brought the waywardness of her capricious sex.

She came to me out of the rolling dust of an emigrant wagon, behind
whose tailboard she was gravely trotting. She was a half-broken colt--in
which character she had at different times unseated everybody in the
train--and, although covered with dust, she had a beautiful coat, and
the most lambent gazelle-like eyes I had ever seen. I think she kept
these latter organs purely for ornament--apparently looking at things
with her nose, her sensitive ears, and, sometimes, even a slight lifting
of her slim near fore-leg. On our first interview I thought she favored
me with a coy glance, but as it was accompanied by an irrelevant "Look
out!" from her owner, the teamster, I was not certain. I only know that
after some conversation, a good deal of mental reservation, and the
disbursement of considerable coin, I found myself standing in the dust
of the departing emigrant-wagon with one end of a forty-foot riata in my
hand, and Chu Chu at the other.

I pulled invitingly at my own end, and even advanced a step or two
towards her. She then broke into a long disdainful pace, and began to
circle round me at the extreme limit of her tether. I stood admiring
her free action for some moments--not always turning with her, which was
tiring--until I found that she was gradually winding herself up ON ME!
Her frantic astonishment when she suddenly found herself thus brought up
against me was one of the most remarkable things I ever saw, and nearly
took me off my legs. Then when she had pulled against the riata until
her narrow head and prettily arched neck were on a perfectly straight
line with it, she as suddenly slackened the tension and condescended to
follow me, at an angle of her own choosing. Sometimes it was on one
side of me, sometimes on the other. Even then the sense of my dreadful
contiguity apparently would come upon her like a fresh discovery, and
she would become hysterical. But I do not think that she really SAW me.
She looked at the riata and sniffed it disparagingly, she pawed some
pebbles that were near me tentatively with her small hoof; she started
back with a Robinson Crusoe-like horror of my footprints in the wet
gully, but my actual personal presence she ignored. She would sometimes
pause, with her head thoughtfully between her fore-legs, and apparently
say: "There is some extraordinary presence here: animal, vegetable, or
mineral--I can't make out which--but it's not good to eat, and I loathe
and detest it."

When I reached my house in the suburbs, before entering the "fifty vara"
lot inclosure, I deemed it prudent to leave her outside while I informed
the household of my purchase; and with this object I tethered her by the
long riata to a solitary sycamore which stood in the centre of the road,
the crossing of two frequented thoroughfares. It was not long, however,
before I was interrupted by shouts and screams from that vicinity, and
on returning thither I found that Chu Chu, with the assistance of her
riata, had securely wound up two of my neighbors to the tree, where they
presented the appearance of early Christian martyrs. When I released
them it appeared that they had been attracted by Chu Chu's graces,
and had offered her overtures of affection, to which she had
characteristically rotated with this miserable result. I led her, with
some difficulty, warily keeping clear of the riata, to the inclosure,
from whose fence I had previously removed several bars. Although the
space was wide enough to have admitted a troop of cavalry she affected
not to notice it, and managed to kick away part of another section on
entering. She resisted the stable for some time, but after carefully
examining it with her hoofs, and an affectedly meek outstretching of
her nose, she consented to recognize some oats in the feed-box--without
looking at them--and was formally installed. All this while she had
resolutely ignored my presence. As I stood watching her she suddenly
stopped eating; the same reflective look came over her. "Surely I am not
mistaken, but that same obnoxious creature is somewhere about here!" she
seemed to say, and shivered at the possibility.

It was probably this which made me confide my unreciprocated affection
to one of my neighbors--a man supposed to be an authority on horses, and
particularly of that wild species to which Chu Chu belonged. It was he
who, leaning over the edge of the stall where she was complacently and,
as usual, obliviously munching, absolutely dared to toy with a pet lock
of hair which she wore over the pretty star on her forehead. "Ye see,
captain," he said with jaunty easiness, "hosses is like wimmen; ye don't
want ter use any standoffishness or shyness with THEM; a stiddy but
keerless sort o' familiarity, a kind o' free but firm handlin', jess
like this, to let her see who's master"--

We never clearly knew HOW it happened; but when I picked up my neighbor
from the doorway, amid the broken splinters of the stall rail, and a
quantity of oats that mysteriously filled his hair and pockets, Chu Chu
was found to have faced around the other way, and was contemplating her
forelegs, with her hind ones in the other stall. My neighbor spoke of
damages while he was in the stall, and of physical coercion when he
was out of it again. But here Chu Chu, in some marvelous way, righted
herself, and my neighbor departed hurriedly with a brimless hat and an
unfinished sentence.

My next intermediary was Enriquez Saltello--a youth of my own age,
and the brother of Consuelo Saltello, whom I adored. As a Spanish
Californian he was presumed, on account of Chu Chu's half-Spanish
origin, to have superior knowledge of her character, and I even vaguely
believed that his language and accent would fall familiarly on her ear.
There was the drawback, however, that he always preferred to talk in
a marvelous English, combining Castilian precision with what he fondly
believed to be Californian slang.

"To confer then as to thees horse, which is not--observe me--a Mexican
plug! Ah, no! you can your boots bet on that. She is of Castilian
stock--believe me and strike me dead! I will myself at different times
overlook and affront her in the stable, examine her as to the assault,
and why she should do thees thing. When she is of the exercise I will
also accost and restrain her. Remain tranquil, my friend! When a few
days shall pass much shall be changed, and she will be as another. Trust
your oncle to do thees thing! Comprehend me? Everything shall be lovely,
and the goose hang high!"

Conformably with this he "overlooked" her the next day, with a cigarette
between his yellow-stained finger-tips, which made her sneeze in a
silent pantomimic way, and certain Spanish blandishments of speech which
she received with more complacency. But I don't think she ever even
looked at him. In vain he protested that she was the "dearest" and
"littlest" of his "little loves"--in vain he asserted that she was his
patron saint, and that it was his soul's delight to pray to her; she
accepted the compliment with her eyes fixed upon the manger. When he had
exhausted his whole stock of endearing diminutives, adding a few playful
and more audacious sallies, she remained with her head down, as if
inclined to meditate upon them. This he declared was at least an
improvement on her former performances. It may have been my own
jealousy, but I fancied she was only saying to herself, "Gracious! can
there be TWO of them?"

"Courage and patience, my friend," he said, as we were slowly quitting
the stable. "Thees horse is yonge, and has not yet the habitude of the
person. To-morrow, at another season, I shall give to her a foundling"
("fondling," I have reason to believe, was the word intended by
Enriquez)--"and we shall see. It shall be as easy as to fall away from
a log. A leetle more of this chin music which your friend Enriquez
possesses, and some tapping of the head and neck, and you are there.
You are ever the right side up. Houp la! But let us not precipitate this
thing. The more haste, we do not so much accelerate ourselves."

He appeared to be suiting the action to the word as he lingered in the
doorway of the stable. "Come on," I said.

"Pardon," he returned, with a bow that was both elaborate and evasive,
"but you shall yourself precede me--the stable is YOURS."

"Oh, come along!" I continued impatiently. To my surprise he seemed to
dodge back into the stable again. After an instant he reappeared.

"Pardon! but I am re-strain! Of a truth, in this instant I am grasp by
the mouth of thees horse in the coat-tail of my dress! She will that I
should remain. It would seem"--he disappeared again--"that"--he was out
once more--"the experiment is a sooccess! She reciprocate! She is, of a
truth, gone on me. It is lofe!"--a stronger pull from Chu Chu here sent
him in again--"but"--he was out now triumphantly with half his garment
torn away--"I shall coquet."

Nothing daunted, however, the gallant fellow was back next day with
a Mexican saddle, and attired in the complete outfit of a vaquero.
Overcome though HE was by heavy deerskin trousers, open at the side
from the knees down, and fringed with bullion buttons, an enormous
flat sombrero, and a stiff, short embroidered velvet jacket, I was more
concerned at the ponderous saddle and equipments intended for the slim
Chu Chu. That these would hide and conceal her beautiful curves and
contour, as well as overweight her, seemed certain; that she would
resist them all to the last seemed equally clear. Nevertheless, to my
surprise, when she was led out, and the saddle thrown deftly across her
back, she was passive. Was it possible that some drop of her old Spanish
blood responded to its clinging embrace? She did not either look at it
nor smell it. But when Enriquez began to tighten the "cinch" or girth
a more singular thing occurred. Chu Chu visibly distended her slender
barrel to twice its dimensions; the more he pulled the more she swelled,
until I was actually ashamed of her. Not so Enriquez. He smiled at us,
and complacently stroked his thin moustache.

"Eet is ever so! She is the child of her grandmother! Even when you
shall make saddle thees old Castilian stock, it will make large--it will
become a balloon! Eet is a trick--eet is a leetle game--believe me. For
why?"

I had not listened, as I was at that moment astonished to see the saddle
slowly slide under Chu Chu's belly, and her figure resume, as if by
magic, its former slim proportions. Enriquez followed my eyes, lifted
his shoulders, shrugged them, and said smilingly, "Ah, you see!"

When the girths were drawn in again with an extra pull or two from the
indefatigable Enriquez, I fancied that Chu Chu nevertheless secretly
enjoyed it, as her sex is said to appreciate tight-lacing. She drew a
deep sigh, possibly of satisfaction, turned her neck, and apparently
tried to glance at her own figure--Enriquez promptly withdrawing to
enable her to do so easily. Then the dread moment arrived. Enriquez,
with his hand on her mane, suddenly paused and, with exaggerated
courtesy, lifted his hat and made an inviting gesture.

"You will honor me to precede."

I shook my head laughingly.

"I see," responded Enriquez gravely. "You have to attend the obsequies
of your aunt who is dead, at two of the clock. You have to meet your
broker who has bought you feefty share of the Comstock lode--at thees
moment--or you are loss! You are excuse! Attend! Gentlemen, make your
bets! The band has arrived to play! 'Ere we are!"

With a quick movement the alert young fellow had vaulted into the
saddle. But, to the astonishment of both of us, the mare remained
perfectly still. There was Enriquez bolt upright in the stirrups,
completely overshadowing by his saddle-flaps, leggings, and gigantic
spurs the fine proportions of Chu Chu, until she might have been a
placid Rosinante, bestridden by some youthful Quixote. She closed her
eyes, she was going to sleep! We were dreadfully disappointed. This
clearly would not do. Enriquez lifted the reins cautiously! Chu Chu
moved forward slowly--then stopped, apparently lost in reflection.

"Affront her on thees side."

I approached her gently. She shot suddenly into the air, coming down
again on perfectly stiff legs with a springless jolt. This she instantly
followed by a succession of other rocket-like propulsions, utterly
unlike a leap, all over the inclosure. The movements of the unfortunate
Enriquez were equally unlike any equitation I ever saw. He appeared
occasionally over Chu Chu's head, astride of her neck and tail, or in
the free air, but never IN the saddle. His rigid legs, however, never
lost the stirrups, but came down regularly, accentuating her springless
hops. More than that, the disproportionate excess of rider, saddle,
and accoutrements was so great that he had, at times, the appearance of
lifting Chu Chu forcibly from the ground by superior strength, and of
actually contributing to her exercise! As they came towards me, a wild
tossing and flying mass of hoofs and spurs, it was not only difficult
to distinguish them apart, but to ascertain how much of the jumping was
done by Enriquez separately. At last Chu Chu brought matters to a close
by making for the low-stretching branches of an oak-tree which stood at
the corner of the lot. In a few moments she emerged from it--but without
Enriquez.

I found the gallant fellow disengaging himself from the fork of a branch
in which he had been firmly wedged, but still smiling and confident, and
his cigarette between his teeth. Then for the first time he removed it,
and seating himself easily on the branch with his legs dangling down, he
blandly waved aside my anxious queries with a gentle reassuring gesture.

"Remain tranquil, my friend. Thees does not count! I have conquer--you
observe--for why? I have NEVER for once ARRIVE AT THE GROUND! Consequent
she is disappoint! She will ever that I SHOULD! But I have got her when
the hair is not long! Your oncle Henry"--with an angelic wink--"is fly!
He is ever a bully boy, with the eye of glass! Believe me. Behold! I am
here! Big Injin! Whoop!"

He leaped lightly to the ground. Chu Chu, standing watchfully at a
little distance, was evidently astonished at his appearance. She threw
out her hind hoofs violently, shot up into the air until the stirrups
crossed each other high above the saddle, and made for the stable in a
succession of rabbit-like bounds--taking the precaution to remove the
saddle, on entering, by striking it against the lintel of the door. "You
observe," said Enriquez blandly, "she would make that thing of ME. Not
having the good occasion, she ees dissatisfied. Where are you now?"

Two or three days afterwards he rode her again with the same
result--accepted by him with the same heroic complacency. As we did not,
for certain reasons, care to use the open road for this exercise, and as
it was impossible to remove the tree, we were obliged to submit to the
inevitable. On the following day I mounted her--undergoing the same
experience as Enriquez, with the individual sensation of falling from a
third-story window on top of a counting-house stool, and the variation
of being projected over the fence. When I found that Chu Chu had not
accompanied me, I saw Enriquez at my side. "More than ever is become
necessary that we should do thees things again," he said gravely, as
he assisted me to my feet. "Courage, my noble General! God and Liberty!
Once more on to the breach! Charge, Chestare, charge! Come on, Don
Stanley! 'Ere we are!"

He helped me none too quickly to catch my seat again, for it apparently
had the effect of the turned peg on the enchanted horse in the Arabian
Nights, and Chu Chu instantly rose into the air. But she came down this
time before the open window of the kitchen, and I alighted easily on the
dresser. The indefatigable Enriquez followed me.

"Won't this do?" I asked meekly.

"It ees BETTER--for you arrive NOT on the ground," he said cheerfully;
"but you should not once but a thousand times make trial! Ha! Go and
win! Nevare die and say so! 'Eave ahead! 'Eave! There you are!"

Luckily, this time I managed to lock the rowels of my long spurs under
her girth, and she could not unseat me. She seemed to recognize the fact
after one or two plunges, when, to my great surprise, she suddenly
sank to the ground and quietly rolled over me. The action disengaged
my spurs, but, righting herself without getting up, she turned her
beautiful head and absolutely LOOKED at me!--still in the saddle. I felt
myself blushing! But the voice of Enriquez was at my side.

"Errise, my friend; you have conquer! It is SHE who has arrive at the
ground! YOU are all right. It is done; believe me, it is feenish! No
more shall she make thees thing. From thees instant you shall ride her
as the cow--as the rail of thees fence--and remain tranquil. For she is
a-broke! Ta-ta! Regain your hats, gentlemen! Pass in your checks! It is
ovar! How are you now?" He lit a fresh cigarette, put his hands in his
pockets, and smiled at me blandly.

For all that, I ventured to point out that the habit of alighting in the
fork of a tree, or the disengaging of one's self from the saddle on the
ground, was attended with inconvenience, and even ostentatious display.
But Enriquez swept the objections away with a single gesture. "It is
the PREENCIPAL--the bottom fact--at which you arrive. The next come of
himself! Many horse have achieve to mount the rider by the knees, and
relinquish after thees same fashion. My grandfather had a barb of thees
kind--but she has gone dead, and so have my grandfather. Which is sad
and strange! Otherwise I shall make of them both an instant example!"

I ought to have said that although these performances were never
actually witnessed by Enriquez's sister--for reasons which he and I
thought sufficient--the dear girl displayed the greatest interest in
them, and, perhaps aided by our mutually complimentary accounts of each
other, looked upon us both as invincible heroes. It is possible also
that she over-estimated our success, for she suddenly demanded that I
should RIDE Chu Chu to her house, that she might see her. It was
not far; by going through a back lane I could avoid the trees which
exercised such a fatal fascination for Chu Chu. There was a pleading,
child-like entreaty in Consuelo's voice that I could not resist, with
a slight flash from her lustrous dark eyes that I did not care to
encourage. So I resolved to try it at all hazards.

My equipment for the performance was modeled after Enriquez's previous
costume, with the addition of a few fripperies of silver and stamped
leather out of compliment to Consuelo, and even with a faint hope
that it might appease Chu Chu. SHE certainly looked beautiful in her
glittering accoutrements, set off by her jet-black shining coat. With an
air of demure abstraction she permitted me to mount her, and even for
a hundred yards or so indulged in a mincing maidenly amble that was not
without a touch of coquetry. Encouraged by this, I addressed a few terms
of endearment to her, and in the exuberance of my youthful enthusiasm I
even confided to her my love for Consuelo, and begged her to be "good"
and not disgrace herself and me before my Dulcinea. In my foolish
trustfulness I was rash enough to add a caress, and to pat her soft
neck. She stopped instantly with a hysteric shudder. I knew what was
passing through her mind: she had suddenly become aware of my baleful
existence.

The saddle and bridle Chu Chu was becoming accustomed to, but who was
this living, breathing object that had actually touched her? Presently
her oblique vision was attracted by the fluttering movement of a fallen
oak-leaf in the road before her. She had probably seen many oak-leaves
many times before; her ancestors had no doubt been familiar with them on
the trackless hills and in field and paddock, but this did not alter her
profound conviction that I and the leaf were identical, that our baleful
touch was something indissolubly connected. She reared before that
innocent leaf, she revolved round it, and then fled from it at the top
of her speed.

The lane passed before the rear wall of Saltello's garden.
Unfortunately, at the angle of the fence stood a beautiful Madrono-tree,
brilliant with its scarlet berries, and endeared to me as Consuelo's
favorite haunt, under whose protecting shade I had more than once avowed
my youthful passion. By the irony of fate Chu Chu caught sight of it,
and with a succession of spirited bounds instantly made for it. In
another moment I was beneath it, and Chu Chu shot like a rocket into the
air. I had barely time to withdraw my feet from the stirrups, to throw
up one arm to protect my glazed sombrero and grasp an overhanging branch
with the other, before Chu Chu darted off. But to my consternation, as
I gained a secure perch on the tree, and looked about me, I saw
her--instead of running away--quietly trot through the open gate into
Saltello's garden.

Need I say that it was to the beneficent Enriquez that I again owed my
salvation? Scarcely a moment elapsed before his bland voice rose in
a concentrated whisper from the corner of the garden below me. He had
divined the dreadful truth!

"For the love of God, collect to yourself many kinds of thees berry! All
you can! Your full arms round! Rest tranquil. Leave to your ole oncle to
make for you a delicate exposure. At the instant!"

He was gone again. I gathered, wonderingly, a few of the larger clusters
of parti-colored fruit and patiently waited. Presently he reappeared,
and with him the lovely Consuelo--her dear eyes filled with an adorable
anxiety.

"Yes," continued Enriquez to his sister, with a confidential lowering
of tone but great distinctness of utterance, "it is ever so with the
American! He will ever make FIRST the salutation of the flower or the
fruit, picked to himself by his own hand, to the lady where he call. It
is the custom of the American hidalgo! My God--what will you? I make it
not--it is so! Without doubt he is in this instant doing thees thing.
That is why he have let go his horse to precede him here; it is always
the etiquette to offer these things on the feet. Ah! Behold! it is
he!--Don Francisco! Even now he will descend from thees tree! Ah! You
make the blush, little sister (archly)! I will retire! I am discreet;
two is not company for the one! I make tracks! I am gone!"

How far Consuelo entirely believed and trusted her ingenious brother
I do not know, nor even then cared to inquire. For there was a pretty
mantling of her olive cheek, as I came forward with my offering, and a
certain significant shyness in her manner that were enough to throw
me into a state of hopeless imbecility. And I was always miserably
conscious that Consuelo possessed an exalted sentimentality, and a
predilection for the highest mediaeval romance, in which I knew I was
lamentably deficient. Even in our most confidential moments I was
always aware that I weakly lagged behind this daughter of a gloomily
distinguished ancestry, in her frequent incursions into a vague
but poetic past. There was something of the dignity of the Spanish
chatelaine in the sweetly grave little figure that advanced to accept my
specious offering. I think I should have fallen on my knees to present
it, but for the presence of the all seeing Enriquez. But why did I even
at that moment remember that he had early bestowed upon her the nickname
of "Pomposa"? This, as Enriquez himself might have observed, was "sad
and strange."

I managed to stammer out something about the Madrono berries being at
her "disposicion" (the tree was in her own garden!), and she took the
branches in her little brown hand with a soft response to my unutterable
glances.

But here Chu Chu, momentarily forgotten, executed a happy diversion. To
our astonishment she gravely walked up to Consuelo and, stretching out
her long slim neck, not only sniffed curiously at the berries, but even
protruded a black underlip towards the young girl herself. In another
instant Consuelo's dignity melted. Throwing her arms around Chu Chu's
neck she embraced and kissed her. Young as I was, I understood the
divine significance of a girl's vicarious effusiveness at such a moment,
and felt delighted. But I was the more astonished that the usually
sensitive horse not only submitted to these caresses, but actually
responded to the extent of affecting to nip my mistress's little right
ear.

This was enough for the impulsive Consuelo. She ran hastily into the
house, and in a few moments reappeared in a bewitching riding-skirt
gathered round her jimp waist. In vain Enriquez and myself joined in
earnest entreaty: the horse was hardly broken for even a man's riding
yet; the saints alone could tell what the nervous creature might do
with a woman's skirt flapping at her side! We begged for delay, for
reflection, for at least time to change the saddle--but with no avail!
Consuelo was determined, indignant, distressingly reproachful! Ah, well!
if Don Pancho (an ingenious diminutive of my Christian name) valued
his horse so highly--if he were jealous of the evident devotion of the
animal to herself, he would--but here I succumbed! And then I had the
felicity of holding that little foot for one brief moment in the hollow
of my hand, of readjusting the skirt as she threw her knee over
the saddle-horn, of clasping her tightly--only half in fear--as I
surrendered the reins to her grasp. And to tell the truth, as Enriquez
and I fell back, although I had insisted upon still keeping hold of the
end of the riata, it was a picture to admire. The petite figure of the
young girl, and the graceful folds of her skirt, admirably harmonized
with Chu Chu's lithe contour, and as the mare arched her slim neck and
raised her slender head under the pressure of the reins, it was so like
the lifted velvet-capped toreador crest of Consuelo herself, that they
seemed of one race.

"I would not that you should hold the riata," said Consuelo petulantly.

I hesitated--Chu Chu looked certainly very amiable--I let go. She began
to amble towards the gate, not mincingly as before, but with a freer and
fuller stride. In spite of the incongruous saddle the young girl's seat
was admirable. As they neared the gate she cast a single mischievous
glance at me, jerked at the rein, and Chu Chu sprang into the road at
a rapid canter. I watched them fearfully and breathlessly, until at the
end of the lane I saw Consuelo rein in slightly, wheel easily, and come
flying back. There was no doubt about it; the horse was under perfect
control. Her second subjugation was complete and final!

Overjoyed and bewildered, I overwhelmed them with congratulations;
Enriquez alone retaining the usual brotherly attitude of criticism, and
a superior toleration of a lover's enthusiasm. I ventured to hint to
Consuelo (in what I believed was a safe whisper) that Chu Chu only
showed my own feelings towards her. "Without doubt," responded Enriquez
gravely. "She have of herself assist you to climb to the tree to pull
to yourself the berry for my sister." But I felt Consuelo's little hand
return my pressure, and I forgave and even pitied him.

From that day forward, Chu Chu and Consuelo were not only firm friends
but daily companions. In my devotion I would have presented the horse
to the young girl, but with flattering delicacy she preferred to call it
mine. "I shall erride it for you, Pancho," she said; "I shall feel," she
continued with exalted although somewhat vague poetry, "that it is of
YOU! You lofe the beast--it is therefore of a necessity YOU, my Pancho!
It is YOUR soul I shall erride like the wings of the wind--your lofe in
this beast shall be my only cavalier for ever." I would have preferred
something whose vicarious qualities were less uncertain than I still
felt Chu Chu's to be, but I kissed the girl's hand submissively. It was
only when I attempted to accompany her in the flesh, on another horse,
that I felt the full truth of my instinctive fears. Chu Chu would not
permit any one to approach her mistress's side. My mounted presence
revived in her all her old blind astonishment and disbelief in my
existence; she would start suddenly, face about, and back away from me
in utter amazement as if I had been only recently created, or with an
affected modesty as if I had been just guilty of some grave indecorum
towards her sex which she really could not stand. The frequency of these
exhibitions in the public highway were not only distressing to me as
a simple escort, but as it had the effect on the casual spectators of
making Consuelo seem to participate in Chu Chu's objections, I felt
that, as a lover, it could not be borne. Any attempt to coerce Chu Chu
ended in her running away. And my frantic pursuit of her was open to
equal misconstruction. "Go it, Miss, the little dude is gainin' on you!"
shouted by a drunken teamster to the frightened Consuelo, once checked
me in mid career. Even the dear girl herself saw the uselessness of my
real presence, and after a while was content to ride with "my soul."

Notwithstanding this, I am not ashamed to say that it was my custom,
whenever she rode out, to keep a slinking and distant surveillance of
Chu Chu on another horse, until she had fairly settled down to her pace.
A little nod of Consuelo's round black-and-red toreador hat or a kiss
tossed from her riding-whip was reward enough!

I remember a pleasant afternoon when I was thus awaiting her in the
outskirts of the village. The eternal smile of the Californian summer
had begun to waver and grow less fixed; dust lay thick on leaf and
blade; the dry hills were clothed in russet leather; the trade winds
were shifting to the south with an ominous warm humidity; a few days
longer and the rains would be here. It so chanced that this afternoon my
seclusion on the roadside was accidentally invaded by a village belle--a
Western young lady somewhat older than myself, and of flirtatious
reputation. As she persistently and--as I now have reason to
believe--mischievously lingered, I had only a passing glimpse of
Consuelo riding past at an unaccustomed speed which surprised me at
the moment. But as I reasoned later that she was only trying to avoid
a merely formal meeting, I thought no more about it. It was not until I
called at the house to fetch Chu Chu at the usual hour, and found that
Consuelo had not yet returned, that a recollection of Chu Chu's furious
pace again troubled me. An hour passed--it was getting towards sunset,
but there were no signs of Chu Chu nor her mistress. I became seriously
alarmed. I did not care to reveal my fears to the family, for I felt
myself responsible for Chu Chu. At last I desperately saddled my horse,
and galloped off in the direction she had taken. It was the road to
Rosario and the hacienda of one of her relations, where she sometimes
halted.

The road was a very unfrequented one, twisting like a mountain river;
indeed, it was the bed of an old watercourse, between brown hills of
wild oats, and debouching at last into a broad blue lake-like expanse of
alfalfa meadows. In vain I strained my eyes over the monotonous level;
nothing appeared to rise above or move across it. In the faint hope that
she might have lingered at the hacienda, I was spurring on again when I
heard a slight splashing on my left. I looked around. A broad patch
of fresher-colored herbage and a cluster of dwarfed alders indicated
a hidden spring. I cautiously approached its quaggy edges, when I was
shocked by what appeared to be a sudden vision! Mid-leg deep in the
centre of a greenish pool stood Chu Chu! But without a strap or buckle
of harness upon her--as naked as when she was foaled!

For a moment I could only stare at her in bewildered terror. Far from
recognizing me, she seemed to be absorbed in a nymph-like contemplation
of her own graces in the pool. Then I called "Consuelo!" and galloped
frantically around the spring. But there was no response, nor was there
anything to be seen but the all-unconscious Chu Chu. The pool, thank
Heaven! was not deep enough to have drowned any one; there were no signs
of a struggle on its quaggy edges. The horse might have come from a
distance! I galloped on, still calling. A few hundred yards further
I detected the vivid glow of Chu Chu's scarlet saddle-blanket, in the
brush near the trail. My heart leaped--I was on the track. I called
again; this time a faint reply, in accents I knew too well, came from
the field beside me!

Consuelo was there! reclining beside a manzanita bush which screened
her from the road, in what struck me, even at that supreme moment, as a
judicious and picturesquely selected couch of scented Indian grass and
dry tussocks. The velvet hat with its balls of scarlet plush was laid
carefully aside; her lovely blue-black hair retained its tight coils
undisheveled, her eyes were luminous and tender. Shocked as I was at her
apparent helplessness, I remember being impressed with the fact that it
gave so little indication of violent usage or disaster.

I threw myself frantically on the ground beside her.

"You are hurt, Consita! For Heaven's sake, what has happened?"

She pushed my hat back with her little hand, and tumbled my hair gently.

"Nothing. YOU are here, Pancho--eet is enofe! What shall come after
thees--when I am perhaps gone among the grave--make nothing! YOU are
here--I am happy. For a little, perhaps--not mooch."

"But," I went on desperately, "was it an accident? Were you thrown? Was
it Chu Chu?"--for somehow, in spite of her languid posture and voice, I
could not, even in my fears, believe her seriously hurt.

"Beat not the poor beast, Pancho. It is not from HER comes thees thing.
She have make nothing--believe me! I have come upon your assignation
with Miss Essmith! I make but to pass you--to fly--to never come back!
I have say to Chu Chu, 'Fly!' We fly many miles. Sometimes together,
sometimes not so mooch! Sometimes in the saddle, sometimes on the neck!
Many things remain in the road; at the end, I myself remain! I have
say, 'Courage, Pancho will come!' Then I say, 'No, he is talk with Miss
Essmith!' I remember not more. I have creep here on the hands. Eet is
feenish!"

I looked at her distractedly. She smiled tenderly, and slightly smoothed
down and rearranged a fold of her dress to cover her delicate little
boot.

"But," I protested, "you are not much hurt, dearest. You have broken no
bones. Perhaps," I added, looking at the boot, "only a slight sprain.
Let me carry you to my horse; I will walk beside you, home. Do, dearest
Consita!"

She turned her lovely eyes towards me sadly. "You comprehend not, my
poor Pancho! It is not of the foot, the ankle, the arm, or the head that
I can say, 'She is broke!' I would it were even so. But"--she lifted her
sweet lashes slowly--"I have derrange my inside. It is an affair of my
family. My grandfather have once toomble over the bull at a rodeo. He
speak no more; he is dead. For why? He has derrange his inside. Believe
me, it is of the family. You comprehend? The Saltellos are not as the
other peoples for this. When I am gone, you will bring to me the berry
to grow upon my tomb, Pancho; the berry you have picked for me. The
little flower will come too, the little star will arrive, but Consuelo,
who lofe you, she will come not more! When you are happy and talk in the
road to the Essmith, you will not think of me. You will not see my eyes,
Pancho; thees little grass"--she ran her plump little fingers through a
tussock--"will hide them; and the small animals in the black coats that
lif here will have much sorrow--but you will not. It ees better so! My
father will not that I, a Catholique, should marry into a camp-meeting,
and lif in a tent, and make howl like the coyote." (It was one
of Consuelo's bewildering beliefs that there was only one form of
dissent--Methodism!) "He will not that I should marry a man who possess
not the many horses, ox, and cow, like him. But I care not. YOU are my
only religion, Pancho! I have enofe of the horse, and ox, and cow when
YOU are with me! Kiss me, Pancho. Perhaps it is for the last time--the
feenish! Who knows?"

There were tears in her lovely eyes; I felt that my own were growing
dim; the sun was sinking over the dreary plain to the slow rising of the
wind; an infinite loneliness had fallen upon us, and yet I was miserably
conscious of some dreadful unreality in it all. A desire to laugh, which
I felt must be hysterical, was creeping over me; I dared not speak. But
her dear head was on my shoulder, and the situation was not unpleasant.

Nevertheless, something must be done! This was the more difficult as it
was by no means clear what had already been done. Even while I supported
her drooping figure I was straining my eyes across her shoulder for
succor of some kind. Suddenly the figure of a rapid rider appeared
upon the road. It seemed familiar. I looked again--it was the blessed
Enriquez! A sense of deep relief came over me. I loved Consuelo; but
never before had lover ever hailed the irruption of one of his beloved's
family with such complacency.

"You are safe, dearest; it is Enriquez!"

I thought she received the information coldly. Suddenly she turned upon
me her eyes, now bright and glittering. "Swear to me at the instant,
Pancho, that you will not again look upon Miss Essmith, even for once."

I was simple and literal. Miss Smith was my nearest neighbor, and,
unless I was stricken with blindness, compliance was impossible. I
hesitated--but swore.

"Enofe--you have hesitate--I will no more."

She rose to her feet with grave deliberation. For an instant, with the
recollection of the delicate internal organization of the Saltellos
on my mind, I was in agony lest she should totter and fall, even then,
yielding up her gentle spirit on the spot. But when I looked again she
had a hairpin between her white teeth, and was carefully adjusting her
toreador hat. And beside us was Enriquez--cheerful, alert, voluble, and
undaunted.

"Eureka! I have found! We are all here! Eet is a leetle public--eh! a
leetle too much of a front seat for a tete-a-tete, my yonge friends,"
he said, glancing at the remains of Consuelo's bower, "but for the
accounting of taste there is none. What will you? The meat of the one
man shall envenom the meat of the other. But" (in a whisper to me)
"as to thees horse--thees Chu Chu, which I have just pass--why is she
undress? Surely you would not make an exposition of her to the traveler
to suspect! And if not, why so?"

I tried to explain, looking at Consuelo, that Chu Chu had run away, that
Consuelo had met with a terrible accident, had been thrown, and I feared
had suffered serious internal injury. But to my embarrassment Consuelo
maintained a half scornful silence, and an inconsistent freshness of
healthful indifference, as Enriquez approached her with an engaging
smile. "Ah, yes, she have the headache, and the molligrubs. She will sit
on the damp stone when the gentle dew is falling. I comprehend. Meet
me in the lane when the clock strike nine! But," in a lower voice,
"of thees undress horse I comprehend nothing! Look you--it is sad and
strange."

He went off to fetch Chu Chu, leaving me and Consuelo alone. I do not
think I ever felt so utterly abject and bewildered before in my life.
Without knowing why, I was miserably conscious of having in some way
offended the girl for whom I believed I would have given my life, and
I had made her and myself ridiculous in the eyes of her brother. I had
again failed in my slower Western nature to understand her high romantic
Spanish soul! Meantime she was smoothing out her riding-habit, and
looking as fresh and pretty as when she first left her house.

"Consita," I said hesitatingly, "you are not angry with me?"

"Angry?" she repeated haughtily, without looking at me. "Oh, no! Of a
possibility eet is Mees Essmith who is angry that I have interroopt her
tete-a-tete with you, and have send here my brother to make the same
with me."

"But," I said eagerly, "Miss Smith does not even know Enriquez!"

Consuelo turned on me a glance of unutterable significance. "Ah!" she
said darkly, "you TINK!"

Indeed I KNEW. But here I believed I understood Consuelo, and was
relieved. I even ventured to say gently, "And you are better?"

She drew herself up to her full height, which was not much. "Of my
health, what is it? A nothing. Yes! Of my soul let us not speak."

Nevertheless, when Enriquez appeared with Chu Chu she ran towards her
with outstretched arms. Chu Chu protruded about six inches of upper
lip in response--apparently under the impression, which I could quite
understand, that her mistress was edible. And, I may have been mistaken,
but their beautiful eyes met in an absolute and distinct glance of
intelligence!

During the home journey Consuelo recovered her spirits, and parted from
me with a magnanimous and forgiving pressure of the hand. I do not know
what explanation of Chu Chu's original escapade was given to Enriquez
and the rest of the family; the inscrutable forgiveness extended to me
by Consuelo precluded any further inquiry on my part. I was willing
to leave it a secret between her and Chu Chu. But, strange to say, it
seemed to complete our own understanding, and precipitated, not only our
lovemaking, but the final catastrophe which culminated that romance.
For we had resolved to elope. I do not know that this heroic remedy was
absolutely necessary from the attitude of either Consuelo's family or
my own; I am inclined to think we preferred it, because it involved no
previous explanation or advice. Need I say that our confidant and firm
ally was Consuelo's brother--the alert, the linguistic, the ever-happy,
ever-ready Enriquez! It was understood that his presence would not only
give a certain mature respectability to our performance--but I do not
think we would have contemplated this step without it. During one of our
riding excursions we were to secure the services of a Methodist minister
in the adjoining county, and, later, that of the Mission padre--when the
secret was out. "I will gif her away," said Enriquez confidently, "it
will on the instant propitiate the old shadbelly who shall perform the
affair, and withhold his jaw. A little chin-music from your oncle 'Arry
shall finish it! Remain tranquil and forgot not a ring! One does not
always, in the agony and dissatisfaction of the moment, a ring remember.
I shall bring two in the pocket of my dress."

If I did not entirely participate in this roseate view it may have
been because Enriquez, although a few years my senior, was much
younger-looking, and with his demure deviltry of eye, and his upper lip
close shaven for this occasion, he suggested a depraved acolyte rather
than a responsible member of a family. Consuelo had also confided to
me that her father--possibly owing to some rumors of our previous
escapade--had forbidden any further excursions with me alone. The
innocent man did not know that Chu Chu had forbidden it also, and that
even on this momentous occasion both Enriquez and myself were obliged to
ride in opposite fields like out flankers. But we nevertheless felt the
full guilt of disobedience added to our desperate enterprise. Meanwhile,
although pressed for time, and subject to discovery at any moment, I
managed at certain points of the road to dismount and walk beside Chu
Chu (who did not seem to recognize me on foot), holding Consuelo's hand
in my own, with the discreet Enriquez leading my horse in the distant
field. I retain a very vivid picture of that walk--the ascent of a
gentle slope towards a prospect as yet unknown, but full of glorious
possibilities; the tender dropping light of an autumn sky, slightly
filmed with the promise of the future rains, like foreshadowed tears,
and the half frightened, half serious talk into which Consuelo and I
had insensibly fallen. And then, I don't know how it happened, but as we
reached the summit Chu Chu suddenly reared, wheeled, and the next moment
was flying back along the road we had just traveled, at the top of her
speed! It might have been that, after her abstracted fashion, she only
at that moment detected my presence; but so sudden and complete was
her evolution that before I could regain my horse from the astonished
Enriquez she was already a quarter of a mile on the homeward stretch,
with the frantic Consuelo pulling hopelessly at the bridle. We started
in pursuit. But a horrible despair seized us. To attempt to overtake
her, to even follow at the same rate of speed would only excite Chu
Chu and endanger Consuelo's life. There was absolutely no help for
it, nothing could be done; the mare had taken her determined long,
continuous stride, the road was a straight, steady descent all the way
back to the village, Chu Chu had the bit between her teeth, and there
was no prospect of swerving her. We could only follow hopelessly,
idiotically, furiously, until Chu Chu dashed triumphantly into the
Saltellos' courtyard, carrying the half-fainting Consuelo back to the
arms of her assembled and astonished family.

It was our last ride together. It was the last I ever saw of Consuelo
before her transfer to the safe seclusion of a convent in Southern
California. It was the last I ever saw of Chu Chu, who in the confusion
of that rencontre was overlooked in her half-loosed harness, and allowed
to escape though the back gate to the fields. Months afterwards it was
said that she had been identified among a band of wild horses in the
Coast Range, as a strange and beautiful creature who had escaped the
brand of the rodeo and had become a myth. There was another legend that
she had been seen, sleek, fat, and gorgeously caparisoned, issuing from
the gateway of the Rosario patio, before a lumbering Spanish cabriole in
which a short, stout matron was seated--but I will have none of it. For
there are days when she still lives, and I can see her plainly still
climbing the gentle slope towards the summit, with Consuelo on her back,
and myself at her side, pressing eagerly forward towards the illimitable
prospect that opens in the distance.



MY FIRST BOOK.


When I say that my "First Book" was NOT my own, and contained beyond the
title-page not one word of my own composition, I trust that I will not
be accused of trifling with paradox, or tardily unbosoming myself of
youthful plagiary. But the fact remains that in priority of publication
the first book for which I became responsible, and which probably
provoked more criticism than anything I have written since, was a small
compilation of Californian poems indited by other hands.

A well-known bookseller of San Francisco one day handed me a collection
of certain poems which had already appeared in Pacific Coast magazines
and newspapers, with the request that I should, if possible, secure
further additions to them, and then make a selection of those which I
considered the most notable and characteristic, for a single volume to
be issued by him. I have reason to believe that this unfortunate man was
actutated by a laudable desire to publish a pretty Californian book--HIS
first essay in publication--and at the same time to foster Eastern
immigration by an exhibit of the Californian literary product; but,
looking back upon his venture, I am inclined to think that the little
volume never contained anything more poetically pathetic or touchingly
imaginative than that gentle conception. Equally simple and trustful
was his selection of myself as compiler. It was based somewhat, I think,
upon the fact that "the artless Helicon" I boasted "was Youth," but I
imagine it was chiefly owing to the circumstance that I had from the
outset, with precocious foresight, confided to him my intention of not
putting any of my own verses in the volume. Publishers are appreciative;
and a self-abnegation so sublime, to say nothing of its security, was
not without its effect.

We settled to our work with fatuous self-complacency, and no suspicion
of the trouble in store for us, or the storm that was to presently
hurtle around our devoted heads. I winnowed the poems, and he exploited
a preliminary announcement to an eager and waiting press, and we moved
together unwittingly to our doom. I remember to have been early struck
with the quantity of material coming in--evidently the result of some
popular misunderstanding of the announcement. I found myself in daily
and hourly receipt of sere and yellow fragments, originally torn from
some dead and gone newspaper, creased and seamed from long folding in
wallet or pocketbook. Need I say that most of them were of an emotional
or didactic nature; need I add any criticism of these homely souvenirs,
often discolored by the morning coffee, the evening tobacco, or, heaven
knows! perhaps blotted by too easy tears! Enough that I knew now what
had become of those original but never recopied verses which filled the
"Poet's Corner" of every country newspaper on the coast. I knew now
the genesis of every didactic verse that "coldly furnished forth the
marriage table" in the announcement of weddings in the rural press. I
knew now who had read--and possibly indited--the dreary hic jacets of
the dead in their mourning columns. I knew now why certain letters
of the alphabet had been more tenderly considered than others, and
affectionately addressed. I knew the meaning of the "Lines to Her who
can best understand them," and I knew that they HAD been understood.
The morning's post buried my table beneath these withered leaves of
posthumous passion. They lay there like the pathetic nosegays of
quickly fading wild flowers, gathered by school children, inconsistently
abandoned upon roadsides, or as inconsistently treasured as limp and
flabby superstitions in their desks. The chill wind from the Bay blowing
in at the window seemed to rustle them into sad articulate appeal. I
remember that when one of them was whisked from the window by a stronger
gust than usual, and was attaining a circulation it had never known
before, I ran a block or two to recover it. I was young then, and in an
exalted sense of editorial responsibility which I have since survived,
I think I turned pale at the thought that the reputation of some unknown
genius might have thus been swept out and swallowed by the all-absorbing
sea.

There were other difficulties arising from this unexpected wealth of
material. There were dozens of poems on the same subject. "The Golden
Gate," "Mount Shasta," "The Yosemite," were especially provocative. A
beautiful bird known as the "Californian Canary" appeared to have been
shot at and winged by every poet from Portland to San Diego. Lines to
the "Mariposa" flower were as thick as the lovely blossoms themselves in
the Merced valley, and the Madrone tree was as "berhymed" as Rosalind.
Again, by a liberal construction of the publisher's announcement,
MANUSCRIPT poems, which had never known print, began to coyly unfold
their virgin blossoms in the morning's mail. They were accompanied by
a few lines stating, casually, that their sender had found them lying
forgotten in his desk, or, mendaciously, that they were "thrown off" on
the spur of the moment a few hours before. Some of the names appended
to them astonished me. Grave, practical business men, sage financiers,
fierce speculators, and plodding traders, never before suspected of
poetry, or even correct prose, were among the contributors. It seemed as
if most of the able-bodied inhabitants of the Pacific Coast had been in
the habit at some time of expressing themselves in verse. Some sought
confidential interviews with the editor. The climax was reached when,
in Montgomery Street, one day, I was approached by a well known and
venerable judicial magnate. After some serious preliminary conversation,
the old gentleman finally alluded to what he was pleased to call a task
of "great delicacy and responsibility laid upon my young shoulders."
"In fact," he went on paternally, adding the weight of his judicial
hand to that burden, "I have thought of speaking to you about it. In
my leisure moments on the Bench I have, from time to time, polished and
perfected a certain college poem begun years ago, but which may now be
said to have been finished in California, and thus embraced in the scope
of your proposed selection. If a few extracts, selected by myself, to
save you all trouble and responsibility, be of any benefit to you, my
dear young friend, consider them at your service."

In this fashion the contributions had increased to three times the
bulk of the original collection, and the difficulties of selection
were augmented in proportion. The editor and publisher eyed each other
aghast. "Never thought there were so many of the blamed things alive,"
said the latter with great simplicity, "had you?" The editor had not.
"Couldn't you sorter shake 'em up and condense 'em, you know? keep their
ideas--and their names--separate, so that they'd have proper credit.
See?" The editor pointed out that this would infringe the rule he had
laid down. "I see," said the publisher thoughtfully; "well, couldn't
you pare 'em down; give the first verse entire and sorter sample the
others?" The editor thought not. There was clearly nothing to do but to
make a more rigid selection--a difficult performance when the material
was uniformly on a certain dead level, which it is not necessary to
define here. Among the rejections were, of course, the usual plagiarisms
from well-known authors imposed upon an inexperienced country press;
several admirable pieces detected as acrostics of patent medicines,
and certain veiled libels and indecencies such as mark the "first"
publications on blank walls and fences of the average youth. Still the
bulk remained too large, and the youthful editor set to work reducing
it still more with a sympathizing concern which the good-natured, but
unliterary, publisher failed to understand, and which, alas! proved to
be equally unappreciated by the rejected contributors.

The book appeared--a pretty little volume typographically, and
externally a credit to pioneer book-making. Copies were liberally
supplied to the press, and authors and publishers self-complacently
awaited the result. To the latter this should have been satisfactory;
the book sold readily from his well-known counters to purchasers who
seemed to be drawn by a singular curiosity, unaccompanied, however, by
any critical comment. People would lounge in to the shop, turn over the
leaves of other volumes, say carelessly, "Got a new book of California
poetry out, haven't you?" purchase it, and quietly depart. There were
as yet no notices from the press; the big dailies were silent; there was
something ominous in this calm.

Out of it the bolt fell. A well-known mining weekly, which I here
poetically veil under the title of the Red Dog "Jay Hawk," was first to
swoop down upon the tuneful and unsuspecting quarry. At this century-end
of fastidious and complaisant criticism, it may be interesting to
recall the direct style of the Californian "sixties." "The hogwash and
'purp'-stuff ladled out from the slop-bucket of Messrs. ---- and Co., of
'Frisco, by some lop-eared Eastern apprentice, and called 'A Compilation
of Californian Verse,' might be passed over, so far as criticism goes. A
club in the hands of any able-bodied citizen of Red Dog, and a steamboat
ticket to the Bay, cheerfully contributed from this office, would
be all-sufficient. But when an imported greenhorn dares to call his
flapdoodle mixture 'Californian,' it is an insult to the State that has
produced the gifted 'Yellow Hammer,' whose lofty flights have from time
to time dazzled our readers in the columns of the 'Jay Hawk.' That this
complacent editorial jackass, browsing among the dock and thistles which
he has served up in this volume, should make no allusion to California's
greatest bard, is rather a confession of his idiocy than a slur upon the
genius of our esteemed contributor." I turned hurriedly to my pile of
rejected contributions--the nom de plume of "Yellow Hammer" did NOT
appear among them; certainly I had never heard of its existence. Later,
when a friend showed me one of that gifted bard's pieces, I was inwardly
relieved! It was so like the majority of the other verses, in and out of
the volume, that the mysterious poet might have written under a hundred
aliases. But the Dutch Flat "Clarion," following, with no uncertain
sound, left me small time for consideration. "We doubt," said that
journal, "if a more feeble collection of drivel could have been made,
even if taken exclusively from the editor's own verses, which we note he
has, by an equal editorial incompetency, left out of the volume. When
we add that, by a felicity of idiotic selection, this person has chosen
only one, and the least characteristic, of the really clever poems of
Adoniram Skaggs, which have so often graced these columns, we have
said enough to satisfy our readers." The Mormon Hill "Quartz Crusher"
relieved this simple directness with more fancy: "We don't know
why Messrs. ---- and Co. send us, under the title of 'Selections of
Californian Poetry,' a quantity of slumgullion which really belongs
to the sluices of a placer mining camp, or the ditches of the rural
districts. We have sometimes been compelled to run a lot of tailings
through our stamps, but never of the grade of the samples offered,
which, we should say, would average about 33-1/3 cents per ton. We have,
however, come across a single specimen of pure gold evidently overlooked
by the serene ass who has compiled this volume. We copy it with
pleasure, as it has already shone in the 'Poet's Corner' of the
'Crusher' as the gifted effusion of the talented Manager of the
Excelsior Mill, otherwise known to our delighted readers as 'Outcrop.'"
The Green Springs "Arcadian" was no less fanciful in imagery: "Messrs.
---- and Co. send us a gaudy green-and-yellow, parrot-colored volume,
which is supposed to contain the first callow 'cheepings' and 'peepings'
of Californian songsters. From the flavor of the specimens before us we
should say that the nest had been disturbed prematurely. There seems to
be a good deal of the parrot inside as well as outside the covers, and
we congratulate our own sweet singer 'Blue Bird,' who has so often made
these columns melodious, that she has escaped the ignominy of being
exhibited in Messrs. ---- and Co.'s aviary." I should add that this
simile of the aviary and its occupants was ominous, for my tuneful choir
was relentlessly slaughtered; the bottom of the cage was strewn with
feathers! The big dailies collected the criticisms and published them
in their own columns with the grim irony of exaggerated head-lines. The
book sold tremendously on account of this abuse, but I am afraid that
the public was disappointed. The fun and interest lay in the criticisms,
and not in any pointedly ludicrous quality in the rather commonplace
collection, and I fear I cannot claim for it even that merit. And it
will be observed that the animus of the criticism appeared to be the
omission rather than the retention of certain writers.

But this brings me to the most extraordinary feature of this singular
demonstration. I do not think that the publishers were at all troubled
by it; I cannot conscientiously say that I was; I have every reason to
believe that the poets themselves, in and out of the volume, were not
displeased at the notoriety they had not expected, and I have long since
been convinced that my most remorseless critics were not in earnest, but
were obeying some sudden impulse started by the first attacking journal.
The extravagance of the Red Dog "Jay Hawk" was emulated by others:
it was a large, contagious joke, passed from journal to journal in
a peculiar cyclonic Western fashion. And there still lingers, not
unpleasantly, in my memory the conclusion of a cheerfully scathing
review of the book which may make my meaning clearer: "If we have
said anything in this article which might cause a single pang to the
poetically sensitive nature of the youthful individual calling himself
Mr. Francis Bret Harte--but who, we believe, occasionally parts his name
and his hair in the middle--we will feel that we have not labored in
vain, and are ready to sing Nunc Dimittis, and hand in our checks. We
have no doubt of the absolutely pellucid and lacteal purity of Franky's
intentions. He means well to the Pacific Coast, and we return the
compliment. But he has strayed away from his parents and guardians while
he was too fresh. He will not keep without a little salt."

It was thirty years ago. The book and its Rabelaisian criticisms have
been long since forgotten. Alas! I fear that even the capacity for that
Gargantuan laughter which met them, in those days, exists no longer.
The names I have used are necessarily fictitious, but where I have been
obliged to quote the criticisms from memory I have, I believe, only
softened their asperity. I do not know that this story has any moral.
The criticisms here recorded never hurt a reputation nor repressed a
single honest aspiration. A few contributors to the volume, who were
of original merit, have made their mark, independently of it or its
critics. The editor, who was for two months the most abused man on the
Pacific slope, within the year became the editor of its first successful
magazine. Even the publisher prospered, and died respected!





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