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´╗┐Title: Blix
Author: Norris, Frank, 1870-1902
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Blix" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



BLIX

by Frank Norris

1899



Chapter I

It had just struck nine from the cuckoo clock that hung over the
mantelpiece in the dining-room, when Victorine brought in the halved
watermelon and set it in front of Mr. Bessemer's plate.  Then she went
down to the front door for the damp, twisted roll of the Sunday
morning's paper, and came back and rang the breakfast-bell for the
second time.

As the family still hesitated to appear, she went to the bay window at
the end of the room, and stood there for a moment looking out.  The
view was wonderful.  The Bessemers lived upon the Washington Street
hill, almost at its very summit, in a flat in the third story of the
building.  The contractor had been clever enough to reverse the
position of kitchen and dining-room, so that the latter room was at the
rear of the house.  From its window one could command a sweep of San
Francisco Bay and the Contra Costa shore, from Mount Diablo, along past
Oakland, Berkeley, Sausalito, and Mount Tamalpais, out to the Golden
Gate, the Presidio, the ocean, and even--on very clear days--to the
Farrallone islands.

For some time Victorine stood looking down at the great expanse of land
and sea, then faced about with an impatient exclamation.

On Sundays all the week-day regime of the family was deranged, and
breakfast was a movable feast, to be had any time after seven or before
half-past nine.  As Victorine was pouring the ice-water, Mr. Bessemer
himself came in, and addressed himself at once to his meal, without so
much as a thought of waiting for the others.

He was a little round man.  He wore a skull-cap to keep his bald spot
warm, and read his paper through a reading-glass.  The expression of
his face, wrinkled and bearded, the eyes shadowed by enormous gray
eyebrows, was that of an amiable gorilla.

Bessemer was one of those men who seem entirely disassociated from
their families.  Only on rare and intense occasions did his paternal
spirit or instincts assert themselves.  At table he talked but little.
Though devotedly fond of his eldest daughter, she was a puzzle and a
stranger to him.  His interests and hers were absolutely dissimilar.
The children he seldom spoke to but to reprove; while Howard, the son,
the ten-year-old and terrible infant of the household, he always
referred to as "that boy."

He was an abstracted, self-centred old man, with but two
hobbies--homoeopathy and the mechanism of clocks.  But he had a strange
way of talking to himself in a low voice, keeping up a running,
half-whispered comment upon his own doings and actions; as, for
instance, upon this occasion: "Nine o'clock--the clock's a little fast.
I think I'll wind my watch.  No, I've forgotten my watch.  Watermelon
this morning, eh? Where's a knife? I'll have a little salt.
Victorine's forgot the spoons--ha, here's a spoon! No, it's a knife I
want."

After he had finished his watermelon, and while Victorine was pouring
his coffee, the two children came in, scrambling to their places, and
drumming on the table with their knife-handles.

The son and heir, Howard, was very much a boy.  He played baseball too
well to be a very good boy, and for the sake of his own self-respect
maintained an attitude of perpetual revolt against his older sister,
who, as much as possible, took the place of the mother, long since
dead.  Under her supervision, Howard blacked his own shoes every
morning before breakfast, changed his underclothes twice a week, and
was dissuaded from playing with the dentist's son who lived three doors
below and who had St. Vitus' dance.

His little sister was much more tractable.  She had been christened
Alberta, and was called Snooky.  She promised to be pretty when she
grew up, but was at this time in that distressing transitional stage
between twelve and fifteen; was long-legged, and endowed with all the
awkwardness of a colt.  Her shoes were still innocent of heels; but on
those occasions when she was allowed to wear her tiny first pair of
corsets she was exalted to an almost celestial pitch of silent ecstasy.
The clasp of the miniature stays around her small body was like the
embrace of a little lover, and awoke in her ideas that were as vague,
as immature and unformed as the straight little figure itself.

When Snooky and Howard had seated themselves, but one chair--at the end
of the breakfast-table, opposite Mr. Bessemer--remained vacant.

"Is your sister--is Miss Travis going to have her breakfast now?  Is
she got up yet?" inquired Victorine of Howard and Snooky, as she pushed
the cream pitcher out of Howard's reach.  It was significant of Mr.
Bessemer's relations with his family that Victorine did not address her
question to him.

"Yes, yes, she's coming," said both the children, speaking together;
and Howard added: "Here she comes now."

Travis Bessemer came in.  Even in San Francisco, where all women are
more or less beautiful, Travis passed for a beautiful girl.  She was
young, but tall as most men, and solidly, almost heavily built.  Her
shoulders were broad, her chest was deep, her neck round and firm.  She
radiated health; there were exuberance and vitality in the very touch
of her foot upon the carpet, and there was that cleanliness about her,
that freshness, that suggested a recent plunge in the surf and a
"constitutional" along the beach.  One felt that here was stamina, good
physical force, and fine animal vigor.  Her arms were large, her wrists
were large, and her fingers did not taper.  Her hair was of a brown so
light as to be almost yellow.  In fact, it would be safer to call it
yellow from the start--not golden nor flaxen, but plain, honest yellow.
The skin of her face was clean and white, except where it flushed to a
most charming pink upon her smooth, cool cheeks.  Her lips were full
and red, her chin very round and a little salient.  Curiously enough,
her eyes were small--small, but of the deepest, deepest brown, and
always twinkling and alight, as though she were just ready to smile or
had just done smiling, one could not say which.  And nothing could have
been more delightful than these sloe-brown, glinting little eyes of
hers set off by her white skin and yellow hair.

She impressed one as being a very normal girl: nothing morbid about
her, nothing nervous or false or overwrought.  You did not expect to
find her introspective.  You felt sure that her mental life was not at
all the result of thoughts and reflections germinating from within, but
rather of impressions and sensations that came to her from without.
There was nothing extraordinary about Travis.  She never had her
vagaries, was not moody--depressed one day and exalted the next.  She
was just a good, sweet, natural, healthy-minded, healthy-bodied girl,
honest, strong, self-reliant, and good-tempered.

Though she was not yet dressed for church, there was style in her to
the pointed tips of her patent-leather slippers.  She wore a heavy
black overskirt that rustled in delicious fashion over the colored silk
skirt beneath, and a white shirt-waist, striped black, and starched to
a rattling stiffness.  Her neck was swathed tight and high with a broad
ribbon of white satin, while around her waist, in place of a belt, she
wore the huge dog-collar of a St. Bernard--a chic little idea which was
all her own, and of which she was very proud.

She was as trig and trim and crisp as a crack yacht: not a pin was
loose, not a seam that did not fall in its precise right line; and with
every movement there emanated from her a barely perceptible delicious
feminine odor--an odor that was in part perfume, but mostly a subtle,
vague smell, charming beyond words, that came from her hair, her neck,
her arms--her whole sweet personality.  She was nineteen years old.

She sat down to breakfast and ate heartily, though with her attention
divided between Howard--who was atrociously bad, as usual of a Sunday
morning--and her father's plate.  Mr. Bessemer was as like as not to
leave the table without any breakfast at all unless his fruit, chops,
and coffee were actually thrust under his nose.

"Papum," she called, speaking clear and distinct, as though to the
deaf, "there's your coffee there at your elbow; be careful, you'll tip
it over.  Victorine, push his cup further on the table.  Is it strong
enough for you, Papum?"

"Eh? Ah, yes--yes--yes," murmured the old man, looking vaguely about
him; "coffee, to be sure"--and he emptied the cup at a single draught,
hardly knowing whether it was coffee or tea.  "Now I'll take a roll,"
he continued, in a monotonous murmur.  "Where are the rolls? Here they
are.  Hot rolls are bad for my digestion--I ought to eat bread.  I
think I eat too much.  Where's my place in the paper?--always lose my
place in the paper.  Clever editorials this fellow Eastman writes,
unbiassed by party prejudice--unbiassed--unbiassed." His voice died to
a whisper.

The breakfast proceeded, Travis supervising everything that went
forward, even giving directions to Victorine as to the hour for serving
dinner.  It was while she was talking to Victorine as to this matter
that Snooky began to whine.

"Stop!"

"And tell Maggie," pursued Travis, "to fricassee her chicken, and not
to have it too well done--"

"Sto-o-op!" whined Snooky again.

"And leave the heart out for Papum.  He likes the heart--"

"Sto-o-op!"

"Unbiassed by prejudice," murmured Mr. Bessemer, "vigorous and to the
point.  I'll have another roll."

"Pa, make Howard stop!"

"Howard!" exclaimed Travis; "what is it now?"

"Howard's squirting watermelon-seeds at me," whined Snooky, "and Pa
won't make him stop."

"Oh, I didn't so!" vociferated Howard.  "I only held one between my
fingers, and it just kind of shot out."

"You'll come upstairs with me in just five minutes," announced Travis,
"and get ready for Sunday-school."

Howard knew that his older sister's decisions were as the laws of the
Persians, and found means to finish his breakfast within the specified
time, though not without protest.  Once upstairs, however, the usual
Sunday morning drama of despatching him to Sunday-school in presentable
condition was enacted.  At every moment his voice could be heard
uplifted in shrill expostulation and debate.  No, his hands were clean
enough, and he didn't see why he had to wear that little old pink tie;
and, oh! his new shoes were too tight and hurt his sore toe; and he
wouldn't, he wouldn't--no, not if he were killed for it, change his
shirt.  Not for a moment did Travis lose her temper with him.  But
"very well," she declared at length, "the next time she saw that little
Miner girl she would tell her that he had said she was his beau-heart.
NOW would he hold still while she brushed his hair?"

At a few minutes before eleven Travis and her father went to church.
They were Episcopalians, and for time out of mind had rented a half-pew
in the church of their denomination on California Street, not far from
Chinatown.  By noon the family reassembled at dinner-table, where Mr.
Bessemer ate his chicken-heart--after Travis had thrice reminded him of
it--and expressed himself as to the sermon and the minister's theology:
sometimes to his daughter and sometimes to himself.

After dinner Howard and Snooky foregathered in the nursery with their
beloved lead soldiers; Travis went to her room to write letters; and
Mr. Bessemer sat in the bay window of the dining-room reading the paper
from end to end.

At five Travis bestirred herself.  It was Victorine's afternoon out.
Travis set the table, spreading a cover of blue denim edged with white
braid, which showed off the silver and the set of delft--her great and
never-ending joy--to great effect.  Then she tied her apron about her,
and went into the kitchen to make the mayonnaise dressing for the
potato salad, to slice the ham, and to help the cook (a most
inefficient Irish person, taken on only for that month during the
absence of the family's beloved and venerated Sing Wo) in the matter of
preparing the Sunday evening tea.

Tea was had at half-past five.  Never in the history of the family had
its menu varied: cold ham, potato salad, pork and beans, canned fruit,
chocolate, and the inevitable pitcher of ice-water.

In the absence of Victorine, Maggie waited on the table, very
uncomfortable in her one good dress and stiff white apron.  She stood
off from the table, making awkward dabs at it from time to time.  In
her excess of deference she developed a clumsiness that was beyond all
expression.  She passed the plates upon the wrong side, and remembered
herself with a broken apology at inopportune moments.  She dropped a
spoon, she spilled the ice-water.  She handled the delft cups and
platters with an exaggerated solicitude, as though they were glass
bombs.  She brushed the crumbs into their laps instead of into the
crumb-tray, and at last, when she had sat even Travis' placid nerves in
a jangle, was dismissed to the kitchen, and retired with a gasp of
unspeakable relief.

Suddenly there came a prolonged trilling of the electric bell, and
Howard flashed a grin at Travis.  Snooky jumped up and pushed back,
crying out: "I'll go! I'll go!"

Mr. Bessemer glanced nervously at Travis.  "That's Mr. Rivers, isn't
it, daughter?" Travis smiled.  "Well, I think I'll--I think I'd
better--" he began.

"No," said Travis, "I don't want you to, Papum; you sit right where you
are.  How absurd!"

The old man dropped obediently back into his seat.

"That's all right, Maggie," said Travis as the cook reappeared from the
pantry.  "Snooky went."

"Huh!" exclaimed Howard, his grin widening.  "Huh!"

"And remember one thing, Howard," remarked Travis calmly, "don't you
ever again ask Mr. Rivers for a nickel to put in your bank."

Mr. Bessemer roused up.  "Did that boy do that?" he inquired sharply of
Travis.

"Well, well, he won't do it again," said Travis soothingly.  The old
man glared for an instant at Howard, who shifted uneasily in his seat.
But meanwhile Snooky had clambered down to the outside door, and before
anything further could be said young Rivers came into the dining-room.



Chapter II

For some reason, never made sufficiently clear, Rivers' parents had
handicapped him from the baptismal font with the prenomen of Conde,
which, however, upon Anglo-Saxon tongues, had been promptly modified to
Condy, or even, among his familiar and intimate friends, to Conny.
Asked as to his birthplace--for no Californian assumes that his
neighbor is born in the State--Condy was wont to reply that he was
"bawn 'n' rais'" in Chicago; "but," he always added, "I couldn't help
that, you know." His people had come West in the early eighties, just
in time to bury the father in alien soil.  Condy was an only child.  He
was educated at the State University, had a finishing year at Yale, and
a few months after his return home was taken on the staff of the San
Francisco "Daily Times" as an associate editor of its Sunday
supplement.  For Condy had developed a taste and talent in the matter
of writing.  Short stories were his mania.  He had begun by an
inoculation of the Kipling virus, had suffered an almost fatal attack
of Harding Davis, and had even been affected by Maupassant.  He "went
in" for accuracy of detail; held that if one wrote a story involving
firemen one should have, or seem to have, every detail of the
department at his fingers' ends, and should "bring in" to the tale all
manner of technical names and cant phrases.

Much of his work on the Sunday supplement of "The Times" was of the
hack order--special articles, write-ups, and interviews.  About once a
month, however, he wrote a short story, and of late, now that he was
convalescing from Maupassant and had begun to be somewhat himself,
these stories had improved in quality, and one or two had even been
copied in the Eastern journals.  He earned $100 a month.

When Snooky had let him in, Rivers dashed up the stairs of the
Bessemers' flat, two at a time, tossed his stick into a porcelain
cane-rack in the hall, wrenched off his overcoat with a single
movement, and precipitated himself, panting, into the dining-room,
tugging at his gloves.

He was twenty-eight years old--nearly ten years older than Travis; tall
and somewhat lean; his face smooth-shaven and pink all over, as if he
had just given it a violent rubbing with a crash towel.  Unlike most
writing folk, he dressed himself according to prevailing custom.  But
Condy overdid the matter.  His scarfs and cravats were too bright, his
colored shirt-bosoms were too broadly barred, his waistcoats too
extreme.  Even Travis, as she rose to his abrupt entrance? told herself
that of a Sunday evening a pink shirt and scarlet tie were a
combination hardly to be forgiven.

Condy shook her hand in both of his, then rushed over to Mr. Bessemer,
exclaiming between breaths: "Don't get up, sir--don't THINK of it!
Heavens! I'm disgustingly late.  You're all through.  My watch--this
beastly watch of mine--I can't imagine how I came to be so late.  You
did quite right not to wait."

Then as his morbidly keen observation caught a certain look of
blankness on Travis' face, and his rapid glance noted no vacant chair
at table, he gave a quick gasp of dismay.

"Heavens and earth! didn't you EXPECT me?" he cried.  "I thought you
said--I thought--I must have forgotten--I must have got it mixed up
somehow.  What a hideous mistake, what a blunder! What a fool I am!"

He dropped into a chair against the wall and mopped his forehead with a
blue-bordered handkerchief.

"Well, what difference does it make, Condy?" said Travis quietly.
"I'll put another place for you."

"No, no!" he vociferated, jumping up.  "I won't hear of it, I won't
permit it! You'll think I did it on purpose!"

Travis ignored his interference, and made a place for him opposite the
children, and had Maggie make some more chocolate.

Condy meanwhile covered himself with opprobrium.

"And all this trouble--I always make trouble everywhere I go.  Always a
round man in a square hole, or a square man in a round hole."

He got up and sat down again, crossed and recrossed his legs, picked up
little ornaments from the mantelpiece, and replaced them without
consciousness of what they were, and finally broke the crystal of his
watch as he was resetting it by the cuckoo clock.

"Hello!" he exclaimed suddenly, "where did you get that clock?  Where
did you get that clock? That's new to me.  Where did that come from?"

"That cuckoo clock?" inquired Travis, with a stare.  "Condy Rivers,
you've been here and in this room at least twice a week for the last
year and a half, and that clock, and no other, has always hung there."

But already Condy had forgotten or lost interest in the clock.

"Is that so? is that so?" he murmured absent-mindedly, seating himself
at the table.

Mr. Bessemer was murmuring: "That clock's a little fast.  I can not
make that clock keep time.  Victorine has lost the key.  I have to wind
it with a monkey-wrench.  Now I'll try some more beans.  Maggie has put
in too much pepper.  I'll have to have a new key made to-morrow."

"Hey? Yes--yes.  Is that so?" answered Condy Rivers, bewildered,
wishing to be polite, yet unable to follow the old man's mutterings.

"He's not talking to you," remarked Travis, without lowering her voice.
"You know how Papum goes on.  He won't hear a word you say.  Well, I
read your story in this morning's 'Times.'"

A few moments later, while Travers and Condy were still discussing this
story, Mr. Bessemer rose.  "Well, Mr. Rivers," he announced, "I guess
I'll say good-night.  Come, Snooky."

"Yes, take her with you, Papum," said Travis.  "She'll go to sleep on
the lounge here if you don't.  Howard, have you got your lessons for
to-morrow?"

It appeared that he had not.  Snooky whined to stay up a little longer,
but at last consented to go with her father.  They all bade Condy
good-night and took themselves away, Howard lingering a moment in the
door in the hope of the nickel he dared not ask for.  Maggie reappeared
to clear away the table.

"Let's go in the parlor," suggested Travis, rising.  "Don't you want
to?"

The parlor was the front room overlooking the street, and was reached
by the long hall that ran the whole length of the flat, passing by the
door of each one of its eight rooms in turn.

Travis preceded Condy, and turned up one of the burners in colored
globe of the little brass chandelier.

The parlor was a small affair, peopled by a family of chairs and sofas
robed in white drugget.  A gold-and-white effect had been striven for
throughout the room.  The walls had been tinted instead of papered, and
bunches of hand-painted pink flowers tied up with blue ribbons
straggled from one corner of the ceiling.  Across one angle of the room
straddled a brass easel upholding a crayon portrait of Travis at the
age of nine, "enlarged from a photograph." A yellow drape ornamented
one corner of the frame, while another drape of blue depended from one
end of the mantelpiece.

The piano, upon which nobody ever played, balanced the easel in an
opposite corner.  Over the mantelpiece hung in a gilded frame a steel
engraving of Priscilla and John Alden; and on the mantel itself two
bisque figures of an Italian fisher boy and girl kept company with the
clock, a huge timepiece, set in a red plush palette, that never was
known to go.  But at the right of the fireplace, and balancing the tuft
of pampa-grass to the left, was an inverted section of a sewer-pipe
painted blue and decorated with daisies.  Into it was thrust a sheaf of
cat-tails, gilded, and tied with a pink ribbon.

Travis dropped upon the shrouded sofa, and Condy set himself carefully
down on one of the frail chairs with its spindling golden legs, and
they began to talk.

Condy had taken her to the theatre the Monday night of that week, as
had been his custom ever since he had known her well, and there was
something left for them to say on that subject.  But in ten minutes
they had exhausted it.  An engagement of a girl known to both of them
had just been announced.  Condy brought that up, and kept conversation
going for another twenty minutes, and then filled in what threatened to
be a gap by telling her stories of the society reporters, and how they
got inside news by listening to telephone party wires for days at a
time.  Travis' condemnation of this occupied another five or ten
minutes; and so what with this and with that they reached nine o'clock.
Then decidedly the evening began to drag.  It was too early to go.
Condy could find no good excuse for taking himself away, and, though
Travis was good-natured enough, and met him more than half-way, their
talk lapsed, and lapsed, and lapsed.  The breaks became more numerous
and lasted longer.  Condy began to wonder if he was boring her.  No
sooner had the suspicion entered his head than it hardened into a
certainty, and at once what little fluency and freshness he yet
retained forsook him on the spot.  What made matters worse was his
recollection of other evenings that of late he had failed in precisely
the same manner.  Even while he struggled to save the situation Condy
was wondering if they two were talked out--if they had lost charm for
each other.  Did he not know Travis through and through by now--her
opinions, her ideas, her convictions? Was there any more freshness in
her for him? Was their little flirtation of the last eighteen months,
charming as it had been, about to end?  Had they played out the play,
had they come to the end of each other's resources? He had never
considered the possibility of this before, but all at once as he looked
at Travis--looked fairly into her little brown-black eyes--it was borne
in upon him that she was thinking precisely the same thing.

Condy Rivers had met Travis at a dance a year and a half before this,
and, because she was so very pretty, so unaffected, and so
good-natured, had found means to see her three or four times a week
ever since.  They two "went out" not a little in San Francisco society,
and had been in a measure identified with what was known as the Younger
Set; though Travis was too young to come out, and Rivers too old to
feel very much at home with girls of twenty and boys of eighteen.

They had known each other in the conventional way (as conventionality
goes in San Francisco); during the season Rivers took her to the
theatres Monday nights, and called regularly Wednesdays and Sundays.
Then they met at dances, and managed to be invited to the same houses
for teas and dinners.  They had flirted rather desperately, and at
times Condy even told himself that he loved this girl so much younger
than he--this girl with the smiling eyes and robust figure and yellow
hair, who was so frank, so straightforward, and so wonderfully pretty.

But evidently they had come to the last move in the game, and as Condy
reflected that after all he had never known the real Travis, that the
girl whom he told himself he knew through and through was only the
Travis of dinner parties and afternoon functions, he was suddenly
surprised to experience a sudden qualm of deep and genuine regret.  He
had never been NEAR to her, after all.  They were as far apart as when
they had first met.  And yet he knew enough of her to know that she was
"worth while." He had had experience--all the experience he
wanted--with other older women and girls of society.  They were
sophisticated, they were all a little tired, they had run the gamut of
amusements--in a word, they were jaded.  But Travis, this girl of
nineteen, who was not yet even a debutante, had been fresh and
unspoiled, had been new and strong and young.

"Of course, you may call it what you like.  He was nothing more nor
less than intoxicated--yes, drunk."

"Hah! who--what--wh--what are you talking about?" gasped Condy sitting
bolt upright.

"Jack Carter," answered Travis.  "No," she added, shaking her head at
him helplessly, "he hasn't been listening to a word.  I'm talking about
Jack Carter and the 'Saturday Evening' last night."

"No, no, I haven't heard.  Forgive me; I was thinking--thinking of
something else.  Who was drunk?"

Travis paused a moment, settling her side-combs in her hair; then:

"If you will try to listen, I'll tell it all over again, because it's
serious with me, and I'm going to take a very decided stand about it.
You know," she went on--"you know what the 'Saturday Evening' is.
Plenty of the girls who are not 'out' belong, and a good many of last
year's debutantes come, as well as the older girls of three or four
seasons' standing.  You could call it representative couldn't you?
Well, they always serve punch; and you know yourself that you have seen
men there who have taken more than they should."

"Yes, yes," admitted Condy.  "I know Carter and the two Catlin boys
always do."

"It gets pretty bad sometimes, doesn't it?" she said.

"It does, it does--and it's shameful.  But most of the girls--MOST of
them don't seem to mind."

Miss Bessemer stiffened a bit.  "There are one or two girls that do,"
she said quietly.  "Frank Catlin had the decency to go home last
night," she continued; "and his brother wasn't any worse than usual.
But Jack Carter must have been drinking before he came.  He was very
bad indeed--as bad," she said between her teeth, "as he could be and
yet walk straight.  As you say, most of the girls don't mind.  They
say, 'It's only Johnnie Carter; what do you expect?' But one of the
girls--you know her, Laurie Flagg--cut a dance with him last night and
told him exactly why.  Of course, Carter was furious.  He was sober
enough to think he had been insulted; and what do you suppose he did?"

"What? what?" exclaimed Condy, breathless, leaning toward her.

"Went about the halls and dressing-rooms circulating some dirty little
lie about Laurie.  Actually trying to--to"--Travis hesitated--"to make
a scandal about her."

Condy bounded in his seat.  "Beast, cad, swine!" he exclaimed.

"I didn't think," said Travis, "that Carter would so much as dare to
ask me to dance with him--"

"Did he? did--did--"

"Wait," she interrupted.  "So I wasn't at all prepared for what
happened.  During the german, before I knew it, there he was in front
of me.  It was a break, and he wanted it.  I hadn't time to think.  The
only idea I had was that if I refused him he might tell some dirty
little lie about me.  I was all confused--mixed up.  I felt just as
though it were a snake that I had to humor to get rid of.  I gave him
the break."

Condy sat speechless.  Suddenly he arose.

"Well, now, let's see," he began, speaking rapidly, his hands twisting
and untwisting till the knuckles cracked.  "Now, let's see.  You leave
it to me.  I know Carter.  He's going to be at a stag dinner where I am
invited to-morrow night, and I--I--"

"No, you won't, Condy," said Travis placidly.  "You'll pay no attention
to it, and I'll tell you why.  Suppose you should make a scene with Mr.
Carter--I don't know how men settle these things.  Well, it would be
told in all the clubs and in all the newspaper offices that two men had
quarreled over a girl; and my name is mentioned, discussed, and handed
around from one crowd of men to another, from one club to another; and
then, of course, the papers take it up.  By that time Mr. Carter will
have told his side of the story and invented another dirty little lie,
and I'm the one who suffers the most in the end.  And remember, Condy,
that I haven't any mother in such an affair, not even an older sister.
No, we'll just let the matter drop.  It would be more dignified,
anyhow.  Only I have made up my mind what I am going to do."

"What's that?"

"I'm not coming out.  If that's the sort of thing one has to put up
with in society"--Travis drew a little line on the sofa at her side
with her finger-tip--"I am going to--stop--right--there.  It's
not"--Miss Bessemer stiffened again--"that I'm afraid of Jack Carter
and his dirty stories; I simply don't want to know the kind of people
who have made Jack Carter possible.  The other girls don't mind it, nor
many men besides you, Condy; and I'm not going to be associated with
people who take it as a joke for a man to come to a function drunk.
And as for having a good time, I'll find my amusements somewhere else.
I'll ride a wheel, take long walks, study something.  But as for
leading the life of a society girl--no! And whether I have a good time
or not, I'll keep my own self-respect.  At least I'll never have to
dance with a drunken man.  I won't have to humiliate myself like that a
second time."

"But I presume you will still continue to go out somewhere," protested
Condy Rivers.

She shook her head.

"I have thought it all over, and I've talked about it with Papum.
There's no half way about it.  The only way to stop is to stop short.
Just this afternoon I've regretted three functions for next week, and I
shall resign from the 'Saturday Evening.' Oh, it's not the Jack Carter
affair alone!" she exclaimed; "the whole thing tires me.  Mind, Condy,"
she exclaimed, "I'm not going to break with it because I have any
'purpose in life,' or that sort of thing.  I want to have a good time,
and I'm going to see if I can't have it in my own way.  If the kind of
thing that makes Jack Carter possible is conventionality, then I'm done
with conventionality for good.  I am going to try, from this time on,
to be just as true to myself as I can be.  I am going to be sincere,
and not pretend to like people and things that I don't like; and I'm
going to do the things that I like to do--just so long as they are the
things a good girl can do.  See, Condy?"

"You're fine," murmured Condy breathless.  "You're fine as gold,
Travis, and I--I love you all the better for it."

"Ah, NOW!" exclaimed Travis, with a brusque movement, "there's mother
thing we must talk about.  No more foolishness between us.  We've had a
jolly little flirtation, I know, and it's been good fun while it
lasted.  I know you like me, and you know that I like you; but as for
loving each other, you know we don't.  Yes, you say that you love me
and that I'm the only girl.  That's part of the game.  I can play
it"--her little eyes began to dance--"quite as well as you.  But it's
playing with something that's quite too serious to be played
with--after all, isn't it, now? It's insincere, and, as I tell you,
from now on I'm going to be as true and as sincere and as honest as I
can."

"But I tell you that I DO love you," protested Condy, trying to make
the words ring true.

Travis looked about the room an instant as if in deliberation; then
abruptly: "Ah! what am I going to DO with such a boy as you are, after
all--a great big, overgrown boy? Condy Rivers, look at me straight in
the eye.  Tell me, do you honestly love me? You know what I mean when I
say 'love.' Do you love me?"

"No, I don't!" he exclaimed blankly, as though he had just discovered
the fact.

"There!" declared Travis--"and I don't love you." They both began to
laugh.

"Now," added Travis, "we don't need to have the burden and trouble of
keeping up the pretences any more.  We understand each other, don't we?"

"This is queer enough," said Condy drolly.

"But isn't it an improvement?"

Condy scoured his head.

"Tell me the truth," she insisted; "YOU be sincere."

"I do believe it is.  Why--why--Travis by Jingo! Travis, I think I'm
going to like you better than ever now."

"Never mind.  Is it an agreement?"

"What is?"

"That we don't pretend to love each other any more?"

"All right--yes--you're right; because the moment I began to love you I
should like you so much less."

She put out her hand.  "That's an agreement, then."

Condy took her hand in his.  "Yes, it's an agreement." But when, as had
been his custom, he made as though to kiss her hand, Travis drew it
quickly away.

"No! no!" she said firmly, smiling for all that--"no more foolishness."

"But--but," he protested, "it's not so radical as that, is it?  You're
not going to overturn such time-worn, time-honored customs as that?
Why, this is a regular rebellion."

"No, sire," quoted Travis, trying not to laugh, "it is a revolution."



Chapter III

Although Monday was practically a holiday for the Sunday-supplement
staff of "The Times," Condy Rivers made a point to get down to the
office betimes the next morning.  There were reasons why a certain
article descriptive of a great whaleback steamer taking on grain for
famine-stricken India should be written that day, and Rivers wanted his
afternoon free in order to go to Laurie Flagg's coming-out tea.

But as he came into his room at "The Times" office, which he shared
with the exchange and sporting editors, and settled himself at his
desk, he suddenly remembered that, under the new order of things, he
need not expect to see Travis at the Flaggs'.

"Well," he muttered, "maybe it doesn't make so much difference, after
all.  She was a corking fine girl, but--might as well admit it--the
play is played out.  Of course, I don't love her--any more than she
loves me.  I'll see less and less of her now.  It's inevitable, and
after a while we'll hardly even meet.  In a way, it's a pity; but, of
course, one has to be sensible about these things. . . .  Well, this
whaleback now."

He rang up the Chamber of Commerce, and found out that the "City of
Everett," which was the whaleback's name, was at the Mission Street
wharf.  This made it possible for him to write the article in two ways.
He either could fake his copy from a clipping on the subject which the
exchange editor had laid on his desk, or he could go down in person to
the wharf, interview the captain, and inspect the craft for himself.
The former was the short and easy method.  The latter was more
troublesome, but would result in a far more interesting article.

Condy debated the subject a few minutes, then decided to go down to the
wharf.  San Francisco's water-front was always interesting, and he
might get hold of a photograph of the whaleback.  All at once the
"idea" of the article struck him, the certain underlying notion that
would give importance and weight to the mere details and descriptions.
Condy's enthusiasm flared up in an instant.

"By Jove!" he exclaimed; "by Jove!"

He clapped on his hat wrong side foremost, crammed a sheaf of
copy-paper into his pocket, and was on the street again in another
moment.  Then it occurred to him that he had forgotten to call at his
club that morning for his mail, as was his custom, on the way to the
office.  He looked at his watch.  It was early yet, and his club was
but two blocks' distance.  He decided that he would get his letters at
the club, and read them on the way down to the wharf.

For Condy had joined a certain San Francisco club of artists,
journalists, musicians, and professional men that is one of the
institutions of the city, and, in fact, famous throughout the United
States.  He was one of the younger members, but was popular and well
liked, and on more than one occasion had materially contributed to the
fun of the club's "low jinks."

In his box this morning he found one letter that he told himself he
must read upon the instant.  It bore upon the envelope the name of a
New York publishing house to whom Condy had sent a collection of his
short stories about a month before.  He took the letter into the "round
window" of the club, overlooking the street, and tore it open
excitedly.  The fact that he had received a letter from the firm
without the return of his manuscript seemed a good omen.  This was what
he read:

Conde Rivers, Esq., Bohemian Club, San Francisco, Cal.

DEAR SIR: We return to you by this mail the manuscript of your stories,
which we do not consider as available for publication at the present
moment.  We would say, however, that we find in several of them
indications of a quite unusual order of merit.  The best-selling book
just now is the short novel--say thirty thousand words--of action and
adventure.  Judging from the stories of your collection, we suspect
that your talent lies in this direction, and we would suggest that you
write such a novel and submit the same to us.
             Very respectfully,
                    THE CENTENNIAL CO.,
                                  New York.

Condy shoved the letter into his pocket and collapsed limply into his
chair.

"What's the good of trying to do anything anyhow!" he muttered, looking
gloomily down into the street.  "My level is just the hack-work of a
local Sunday supplement, and I am a fool to think of anything else."

His enthusiasm in the matter of the "City of Everett" was cold and dead
in a moment.  He could see no possibilities in the subject whatever.
His "idea" of a few minutes previous seemed ridiculous and overwrought.
He would go back to the office and grind out his copy from the exchange
editor's clipping.

Just then his eye was caught by a familiar figure in trim, well-fitting
black halted on the opposite corner waiting for the passage of a cable
car.  It was Travis Bessemer.  No one but she could carry off such
rigorous simplicity in the matter of dress so well: black skirt, black
Russian blouse, tiny black bonnet and black veil, white kids with black
stitching.  Simplicity itself.  Yet the style of her, as Condy Rivers
told himself, flew up and hit you in the face; and her figure--was
there anything more perfect? and the soft pretty effect of her yellow
hair seen through the veil--could anything be more fetching? and her
smart carriage and the fling of her fine broad shoulders, and--no, it
was no use; Condy had to run down to speak to her.

"Come, come!" she said as he pretended to jostle against her on the
curbstone without noticing her; "you had best go to work.  Loafing at
ten o'clock on the street corners--the idea!"

"It IS not--it can not be--and yet it is--it is SHE," he burlesqued;
"and after all these years!" Then in his natural voice: "Hello T.B."

"Hello, C.R."

"Where are you going?'

"Home.  I've just run down for half an hour to have the head of my
banjo tightened."

"If I put you on the car, will you expect me to pay your car-fare?"

"Condy Rivers, I've long since got over the idea of ever expecting you
to have any change concealed about your person."

"Huh! no, it all goes for theatre tickets, and flowers, and boxes of
candy for a certain girl I know.  But"--and he glared at her
significantly--"no more foolishness."

She laughed.  "What are you 'on' this morning, Condy?"

Condy told her as they started to walk toward Kearney Street.

"But why DON'T you go to the dock and see the vessel, if you can make a
better article that way?"

"Oh, what's the good! The Centennial people have turned down my
stories."

She commiserated him for this; then suddenly exclaimed:

"No, you must go down to the dock! You ought to, Condy. Oh, I tell you,
let me go down with you!"

In an instant Condy leaped to the notion.  "Splendid! splendid! no
reason why you shouldn't!" he exclaimed.  And within fifteen minutes
the two were treading the wharves and quays of the city's water-front.

Ships innumerable nuzzled at the endless line of docks, mast
overspiring mast, and bowsprit overlapping bowsprit, till the eye was
bewildered, as if by the confusion of branches in a leafless forest.
In the distance the mass of rigging resolved itself into a solid gray
blur against the sky.  The great hulks, green and black and slate gray,
laid themselves along the docks, straining leisurely at their mammoth
chains, their flanks opened, their cargoes, as it were their entrails,
spewed out in a wild disarray of crate and bale and box.  Sailors and
stevedores swarmed them like vermin.  Trucks rolled along the wharves
like peals of ordnance, the horse-hoofs beating the boards like heavy
drum-taps.  Chains clanked, a ship's dog barked incessantly from a
companionway, ropes creaked in complaining pulleys, blocks rattled,
hoisting-engines coughed and strangled, while all the air was redolent
of oakum, of pitch, of paint, of spices, of ripe fruit, of clean cool
lumber, of coffee, of tar, of bilge, and the brisk, nimble odor of the
sea.

Travis was delighted, her little brown eyes snapping, her cheeks
flushing, as she drank in the scene.

"To think," she cried, "where all these ships have come from! Look at
their names; aren't they perfect? Just the names, see: the 'Mary
Baker,' Hull; and the 'Anandale,' Liverpool; and the 'Two Sisters,'
Calcutta, and see that one they're calking, the 'Montevideo,' Callao;
and there, look! look! the very one you're looking for, the 'City of
Everett,' San Francisco."

The whaleback, an immense tube of steel plates, lay at her wharf,
sucking in entire harvests of wheat from the San Joaquin
valley--harvests that were to feed strangely clad skeletons on the
southern slopes of the Himalaya foot-hills.  Travis and Condy edged
their way among piles of wheat-bags, dodging drays and rumbling trucks,
and finally brought up at the after gangplank, where a sailor halted
them.  Condy exhibited his reporter's badge.

"I represent 'The Times,'" he said, with profound solemnity, "and I
want to see the officer in charge."

The sailor fell back upon the instant.

"Power of the press," whispered Condy to Travis as the two gained the
deck.

A second sailor directed them to the mate, whom they found in the
chart-room, engaged, singularly enough, in trimming the leaves of a
scraggly geranium.

Condy explained his mission with flattering allusions to the whaleback
and the novelty of the construction.  The mate--an old man with a
patriarchal beard--softened at once, asked them into his own cabin aft,
and even brought out a camp-stool for Travis, brushing it with his
sleeve before setting it down.

While Condy was interviewing the old fellow, Travis was examining, with
the interest of a child, the details of the cabin: the rack-like bunk,
the washstand, ingeniously constructed so as to shut into the bulkhead
when not in use, the alarm-clock screwed to the wall, and the array of
photographs thrust into the mirror between frame and glass.  One, an
old daguerreotype, particularly caught her fancy.  It was the portrait
of a very beautiful girl, wearing the old-fashioned side curls and high
comb of a half-century previous.  The old mate noticed the attention
she paid to it, and, as soon as he had done giving information to
Condy, turned and nodded to Travis, and said quietly: "She was pretty,
wasn't she?"

"Oh, very!" answered Travis, without looking away.

There was a silence.  Then the mate, his eyes wide and thoughtful, said
with a long breath:

"And she was just about your age, miss, when I saw her; and you favor
her, too."

Condy and Travis held their breaths in attention.  There in the cabin
of that curious nondescript whaleback they had come suddenly to the
edge of a romance--a romance that had been lived through before they
were born.  Then Travis said in a low voice, and sweetly:

"She died?"

"Before I ever set eyes on her, miss.  That is, MAYBE she died.  I
sometimes think--fact is, I really believe she's alive yet, and waiting
for me." He hesitated awkwardly.  "I dunno," he said pulling his beard.
"I don't usually tell that story to strange folk, but you remind me so
of her that I guess I will."

Condy sat down on the edge of the bunk, and the mate seated himself on
the plush settle opposite the door, his elbows on his knees, his eyes
fixed on a patch of bright sunlight upon the deck outside.

"I began life," he said, "as a deep-sea diver--began pretty young, too.
I first put on the armor when I was twenty, nothing but a lad; but I
could take the pressure up to seventy pounds even then.  One of my very
first dives was off Trincomalee, on the coast of Ceylon.  A mail packet
had gone down in a squall with all on board.  Six of the bodies had
come up and had been recovered, but the seventh hadn't.  It was the
body of the daughter of the governor of the island, a beautiful young
girl of nineteen, whom everybody loved.  I was sent for to go down and
bring the body up.  Well, I went down.  The packet lay in a hundred
feet of water, and that's a wonder deep dive.  I had to go down twice.
The first time I couldn't find anything, though I went all through the
berth-deck.  I came up to the wrecking-float and reported that I had
seen nothing.  There were a lot of men there belonging to the wrecking
gang, and some correspondents of London papers.  But they would have it
that she was below, and had me go down again.  I did, and this time I
found her."

The mate paused a moment

"I'll have to tell you," he went on, "that when a body don't come to
the surface it will stand or sit in a perfectly natural position until
a current or movement of the water around touches it.  When that
happens--well, you'd say the body was alive; and old divers have a
superstition--no, it AIN'T just a superstition, I believe it's so--that
drowned people really don't die till they come to the surface, and the
air touches them.  We say that the drowned who don't come up still have
some sort of life of their own way down there in all that green
water . . . some kind of life . . . surely . . . surely.  When I went
down the second time, I came across the door of what I thought at first
was the linen-closet.  But it turned out to be a little stateroom.  I
opened it.  There was the girl.  She was sitting on the sofa opposite
the door, with a little hat on her head, and holding a satchel in her
lap, just as if she was ready to go ashore.  Her eyes were wide open,
and she was looking right at me and smiling.  It didn't seem terrible
or ghastly in the least.  She seemed very sweet.  When I opened the
door it set the water in motion, and she got up and dropped the
satchel, and came toward me smiling and holding out her arms.

"I stepped back quick and shut the door, and sat down in one of the
saloon chairs to fetch my breath, for it had given me a start.  The
next thing to do was to send her up.  But I began to think.  She seemed
so pretty as she was.  What was the use of bringing her up--up there on
the wrecking float with that crowd of men--up where the air would get
at her, and where they would put her in the ground along o' the worms?
If I left her there she'd always be sweet and pretty--always be
nineteen; and I remembered what old divers said about drowned people
living just so long as they stayed below.  You see, I was only a lad
then, and things like that impress you when you're young.  Well, I
signaled to be hauled up.  They asked me on the float if I'd seen
anything, and I said no.  That was all there was to the affair.  They
never raised the ship, and in a little while it was all forgotten.

"But I never forgot it, and I always remembered her, way down there in
all that still green water, waiting there in that little state-room for
me to come back and open the door.  And I've growed to be an old man
remembering her; but she's always stayed just as she was the first day
I saw her, when she came toward me smiling and holding out her arms.
She's always stayed young and fresh and pretty.  I never saw her but
that once.  Only afterward I got her picture from a native woman of
Trincomalee who was house-keeper at the Residency where the governor of
the island lived.  Somehow I never could care for other women after
that, and I ain't never married for that reason."

"No, no, of course not! exclaimed Travis, in a low voice as the old
fellow paused.

"Fine, fine; oh, fine as gold!" murmured Condy, under his breath.

"Well," said the mate, getting up and rubbing his knee, "that's the
story.  Now you know all about that picture.  Will you have a glass of
Madeira, miss?"

He got out a bottle of wine bearing the genuine Funchal label and
filled three tiny glasses.  Travis pushed up her veil, and she and
Condy rose.

"This is to HER," said Travis gravely.

"Thank you, miss," answered the mate, and the three drank in silence.

As Travis and Condy were going down the gangplank they met the captain
of the whaleback coming up.

"I saw you in there talking to old McPherson," he explained.  "Did you
get what you wanted from him?"

"More, more!" exclaimed Condy.

"My hand in the fire, he told you that yarn about the girl who was
drowned off Trincomalee.  Of course, I knew it.  The old boy's wits are
turned on that subject.  He WILL have it that the body hasn't
decomposed in all this time.  Good seaman enough, and a first-class
navigator, but he's soft in that one spot."



Chapter IV

"Oh, but the STORY of it!" exclaimed Condy as he and Travis regained
the wharf--"the story of it! Isn't it a ripper.  Isn't it a corker! His
leaving her that way, and never caring for any other girl afterward."

"And so original," she commented, quite as enthusiastic as he.

"Original?--why, it's new as paint! It's--it's--Travis, I'll make a
story out of this that will be copied in every paper between the two
oceans."

They were so interested in the mate's story that they forgot to take a
car, and walked up Clay Street talking it over, suggesting,
rearranging, and embellishing; and Condy was astonished and delighted
to note that she "caught on" to the idea as quickly as he, and knew the
telling points and what details to leave out.

"And I'll make a bang-up article out of the whaleback herself,"
declared Condy.  The "idea" of the article had returned to him, and all
his enthusiasm with it.

"And look here," he said, showing her the letter from the Centennial
Company.  "They turned down my book, but see what they say.

"Quite an unusual order of merit!" cried Travis.  "Why, that's fine!
Why didn't you show this to me before?--and asking you like this to
write them a novel of adventure! What MORE can you want?  Oh!" she
exclaimed impatiently, "that's so like you; you would tell everybody
about your reverses, and carry on about them yourself, but never say a
word when you get a little boom.  Have you an idea for a
thirty-thousand-word novel? Wouldn't that diver's story do?"

"No, there's not enough in that for thirty thousand words.  I haven't
any idea at all--never wrote a story of adventure--never wrote anything
longer than six thousand words.  But I'll keep my eye open for
something that will do.  By the way--by Jove! Travis, where are we?"

They looked briskly around them, and the bustling, breezy waterfront
faded from their recollections.  They were in a world of narrow
streets, of galleries and overhanging balconies.  Craziest structures,
riddled and honeycombed with stairways and passages, shut out the sky,
though here and there rose a building of extraordinary richness and
most elaborate ornamentation.  Color was everywhere.  A thousand little
notes of green and yellow, of vermilion and sky blue, assaulted the
eye.  Here it was a doorway, here a vivid glint of cloth or hanging,
here a huge scarlet sign lettered with gold, and here a kaleidoscopic
effect in the garments of a passer-by.  Directly opposite, and two
stories above their heads, a sort of huge "loggia," one blaze of
gilding and crude vermilions, opened in the gray cement of a crumbling
facade, like a sudden burst of flame.  Gigantic pot-bellied lanterns of
red and gold swung from its ceiling, while along its railing stood a
row of pots--brass, ruddy bronze, and blue porcelain--from which were
growing red saffron, purple, pink, and golden tulips without number.
The air was vibrant with unfamiliar noises.  From one of the balconies
near at hand, though unseen, a gong, a pipe, and some kind of stringed
instrument wailed and thundered in unison.  There was a vast shuffling
of padded soles and a continuous interchange of singsong monosyllables,
high-pitched and staccato, while from every hand rose the strange
aromas of the East--sandalwood, punk, incense, oil, and the smell of
mysterious cookery.

"Chinatown!" exclaimed Travis.  "I hadn't the faintest idea we had come
up so far.  Condy Rivers, do you know what time it is?" She pointed a
white kid finger through the doorway of a drug-store, where, amid
lacquer boxes and bronze urns of herbs and dried seeds, a round Seth
Thomas marked half-past two.

"And your lunch?" cried Condy.  "Great heavens! I never thought."

"It's too late to get any at home.  Never mind; I'll go somewhere and
have a cup of tea."

"Why not get a package of Chinese tea, now that you're down here, and
take it home with you?"

"Or drink it here."

"Where?"

"In one of the restaurants.  There wouldn't be a soul there at this
hour.  I know they serve tea any time.  Condy, let's try it.  Wouldn't
it be fun?"

Condy smote his thigh.  "Fun!" he vociferated; "fun! It is--by Jove--it
would be HEAVENLY! Wait a moment.  I'll tell you what we will do.  Tea
won't be enough.  We'll go down to Kearney Street, or to the market,
and get some crackers to go with it."

They hurried back to the California market, a few blocks distant, and
bought some crackers and a wedge of new cheese.  On the way back to
Chinatown Travis stopped at a music store on Kearney Street to get her
banjo, which she had left to have its head tightened; and thus burdened
they regained the "town," Condy grieving audibly at having to carry
"brown-paper bundles through the street."

"First catch your restaurant," said Travis as they turned into Dupont
Street with its thronging coolies and swarming, gayly clad children.
But they had not far to seek.

"Here you are!" suddenly exclaimed Condy, halting in front of a
wholesale tea-house bearing a sign in Chinese and English.  "Come on,
Travis!"

They ascended two flights of a broad, brass-bound staircase leading up
from the ground floor, and gained the restaurant on the top story of
the building.  As Travis had foretold, it was deserted.  She clasped
her gloved hands gayly, crying: "Isn't it delightful! We've the whole
place to ourselves."

The restaurant ran the whole depth of the building, and was finished
off at either extremity with a gilded balcony, one overlooking Dupont
Street and the other the old Plaza.  Enormous screens of gilded ebony,
intricately carved and set with colored glass panes, divided the room
into three, and one of these divisions, in the rear part, from which
they could step out upon the balcony that commanded the view of the
Plaza, they elected as their own.

It was charming.  At their backs they had the huge, fantastic screen,
brave and fine with its coat of gold.  In front, through the
glass-paned valves of a pair of folding doors, they could see the roofs
of the houses beyond the Plaza, and beyond these the blue of the bay
with its anchored ships, and even beyond this the faint purple of the
Oakland shore.  On either side of these doors, in deep alcoves, were
divans with mattings and head-rests for opium smokers.  The walls were
painted blue and hung with vertical Cantonese legends in red and
silver, while all around the sides of the room small ebony tables
alternated with ebony stools, each inlaid with a slab of mottled
marble.  A chandelier, all a-glitter with tinsel, swung from the centre
of the ceiling over a huge round table of mahogany.

And not a soul was there to disturb them.  Below them, out there around
the old Plaza, the city drummed through its work with a lazy, soothing
rumble.  Nearer at hand, Chinatown sent up the vague murmur of the life
of the Orient.  In the direction of the Mexican quarter, the bell of
the cathedral knolled at intervals.  The sky was without a cloud and
the afternoon was warm.

Condy was inarticulate with the joy of what he called their
"discovery." He got up and sat down.  He went out into the other room
and came back again.  He dragged up a couple of the marble-seated
stools to the table.  He took off his hat, lighted a cigarette, let it
go out, lighted it again, and burned his fingers.  He opened and closed
the folding-doors, pushed the table into a better light, and finally
brought Travis out upon the balcony to show her the "points of
historical interest" in and around the Plaza.

"There's the Stevenson memorial ship in the centre, see; and right
there, where the flagstaff is, General Baker made the funeral oration
over the body of Terry.  Broderick killed him in a duel--or was it
Terry killed Broderick? I forget which.  Anyhow, right opposite, where
that pawnshop is, is where the Overland stages used to start in '49.
And every other building that fronts on the Plaza, even this one we're
in now, used to be a gambling-house in bonanza times; and, see, over
yonder is the Morgue and the City Prison."

They turned back into the room, and a great, fat Chinaman brought them
tea on Condy's order.  But besides tea, he brought dried almonds,
pickled watermelon rinds, candied quince, and "China nuts."

Travis cut the cheese into cubes with Condy's penknife, and arranged
the cubes in geometric figures upon the crackers.

"But, Condy," she complained, "why in the world did you get so many
crackers? There's hundreds of them here--enough to feed a regiment.
Why didn't you ask me?"

"Huh! what? what? I don't know.  What's the matter with the crackers?
You were dickering with the cheese, and the man said, 'How many
crackers?' I didn't know.  I said, 'Oh, give me a quarter's worth!'"

"And we couldn't possibly have eaten ten cents' worth! Oh, Condy, you
are--you are--But never mind, here's your tea.  I wonder if this green,
pasty stuff is good."

They found that it was, but so sweet that it made their tea taste
bitter.  The watermelon rinds were flat to their Western palates, but
the dried almonds were a great success.  Then Condy promptly got the
hiccoughs from drinking his tea too fast, and fretted up and down the
room like a chicken with the pip till Travis grew faint and weak with
laughter.

"Oh, well," he exclaimed aggrievedly--"laugh, that's right! I don't
laugh.  It isn't such fun when you've got 'em yoursel'--HULP."

"But sit down, for goodness' sake! You make me so nervous.  You can't
walk them off.  Sit down and hold your breath while you count nine.
Condy, I'm going to take off my gloves and veil.  What do you think?"

"Sure, of course; and I'll have a cigarette.  Do you mind if I smoke?"

"Well, what's that in your hand now?"

"By Jove, I have been smoking! I--I beg your pardon.  I'm a regular
stable boy.  I'll throw it away."

Travis caught his wrist.  "What nonsense! I would have told you before
if I'd minded."

"But it's gone out!" he exclaimed.  "I'll have another."

As he reached into his pocket for his case, his hand encountered a
paper-covered volume, and he drew it out in some perplexity.

"Now, how in the wide world did that book come in my pocket?" he
muttered, frowning.  "What have I been carrying it around for?  I've
forgotten.  I declare I have."

"What book is it?"

"Hey? book? . . . h'm," he murmured, staring.

Travis pounded on the table.  "Wake up, Condy, I'm talking to you," she
called.

"It's 'Life's Handicap,'" he answered, with a start; "but why and but
why have I--"

"What's it about? I never heard of it," she declared.

"You never heard of 'Life's Handicap'?" he shouted; "you never
heard--you never--you mean to say you never heard--but here, this won't
do.  Sit right still, and I'll read you one of these yarns before
you're another minute older.  Any one of them--open the book at random.
Here we are--'The Strange Ride of Morrowbie Jukes'; and it's a
stem-winder, too."

And then for the first time in her life, there in that airy, golden
Chinese restaurant, in the city from which he hasted to flee, Travis
Bessemer fell under the charm of the little spectacled colonial, to
whose song we all must listen and to whose pipe we all must dance.

There was one "point" in the story of Jukes' strange ride that Condy
prided himself upon having discovered.  So far as he knew, all critics
had overlooked it.  It is where Jukes is describing the man-trap of the
City of the Dead who are alive, and mentions that the slope of the
inclosing sandhills was "about forty-five degrees." Jukes was a civil
engineer, and Condy held that it was a capital bit of realism on the
part of the author to have him speak of the pitch of the hills in just
such technical terms.  At first he thought he would call Travis'
attention to this bit of cleverness; but as he read he abruptly changed
his mind.  He would see if she would find it out for herself.  It would
be a test of her quickness, he told himself; almost an unfair test,
because the point was extremely subtle and could easily be ignored by
the most experienced of fiction readers.  He read steadily on, working
himself into a positive excitement as he approached the passage.  He
came to it and read it through without any emphasis, almost slurring
over it in his eagerness to be perfectly fair.  But as he began to read
the next paragraph, Travis, her little eyes sparkling with interest and
attention, exclaimed:

"Just as an engineer would describe it.  Isn't that good!"

"Glory hallelujah!" cried Condy, slamming down the book joyfully.
"Travis, you are one in a thousand!"

"What--what is it?' she inquired blankly.

"Never mind, never mind; you're a wonder, that's all"--and he finished
the tale without further explanation.  Then, while he smoked another
cigarette and she drank another cup of tea, he read to her "The Return
of Imri" and the "Incarnation of Krishna Mulvaney." He found her an
easy and enrapt convert to the little Englishman's creed, and for
himself tasted the intense delight of revealing to another an
appreciation of a literature hitherto ignored.

"Isn't he strong!" cried Travis.  "Just a LITTLE better than Marie
Corelli and the Duchess!"

"And to think of having all those stories to read! You haven't read any
of them yet?"

"Not a one.  I've been reading only the novels we take up in the
Wednesday class."

"Lord!" muttered Condy.

Condy's spirits had been steadily rising since the incident aboard the
whaleback.  The exhilaration of the water-front, his delight over the
story he was to make out of the old mate's yarn, Chinatown, the
charming unconventionality of their lunch in the Chinese restaurant,
the sparkling serenity of the afternoon, and the joy of discovering
Travis' appreciation of his adored and venerated author, had put him
into a mood bordering close upon hilarity.

"The next event upon our interesting programme," he announced, "will be
a banjosephine obligato in A-sia minor, by that justly renowned
impresario, Signor Conde Tin-pani Rivers, specially engaged for this
performance; with a pleasing and pan-hellenic song-and-dance turn by
Miss Travis Bessemer, the infant phenomenon, otherwise known as 'Babby
Bessie.'"

"You're not going to play that banjo here?" said Travis, as he stripped
away the canvas covering.

"Order in the gallery!" cried Condy, beginning to tune up.  Then in a
rapid, professional monotone: "Ladies-and-gentlemen - with - your -
kind - permission - I - will - endeavor - to - give - you - an -
imitation - of - a - Carolina - coon - song"--and without more ado,
singing the words to a rattling, catchy accompaniment, swung off into--


    "F--or MY gal's a high-born leddy,
    SHE'S brack, but not too shady."


He did not sing loud, and the clack and snarl of the banjo carried
hardly further than the adjoining room; but there was no one to hear,
and, as he went along, even Travis began to hum the words, but at that,
Condy stopped abruptly, laid the instrument across his knees with
exaggerated solicitude, and said deliberately:

"Travis, you are a good, sweet girl, and what you lack in beauty you
make up in amiability, and I've no doubt you are kind to your aged
father; but you--can--not--sing."

Travis was cross in a moment, all the more so because Condy had spoken
the exact truth.  It was quite impossible for her to carry a tune half
a dozen bars without entangling herself in as many different keys.
What voice she had was not absolutely bad; but as she persisted in
singing in spite of Condy's guying, he put back his head and began a
mournful and lugubrious howling.

"Ho!" she exclaimed, grabbing the banjo from his knees, "if I can't
sing, I can play better than some smart people."

"Yes, by note," rallied Condy, as Travis executed a banjo "piece" of no
little intricacy.  "That's just like a machine--like a hand-piano.

"Order in the gallery!" she retorted, without pausing in her playing.
She finished with a great flourish and gazed at him in triumph, only to
find him pretending a profound slumber.  "O--o--o!" she remarked
between her teeth, "I just hate you, Condy Rivers."

"There are others," he returned airily.

"Talk about slang."

"NOW what will we do?" he cried.  "Let's DO something.  Suppose we
break something--just for fun."

Then suddenly the gayety went out of his face, and he started up and
clapped his hand to his head with a gasp of dismay.  "Great Heavens!"
he exclaimed.

"Condy," cried Travis in alarm, "what is it"'

"The Tea!" he vociferated.  "Laurie Flagg's Tea.  I ought to be
there--right this minute."

Travis fetched a sigh of relief.  "Is that all?"

"All!" he retorted.  "All! Why, it's past four now--and I'd forgotten
every last thing." Then suddenly falling calm again, and quietly
resuming his seat: "I don't see as it makes any difference.  I won't
go, that's all.  Push those almonds here, will you, Miss Lady?--But we
aren't DOING anything," he exclaimed, with a brusque return of
exuberance.  "Let's do things.  What'll we do? Think of something.  Is
there anything we can break?" Then, without any transition, he vaulted
upon the table and began to declaim, with tremendous gestures:


  "There once was a beast called an Ounce,
   Who went with a spring and a bounce.
     His head was as flat
     As the head of a cat,
   This quadrupetantical Ounce,
          ---tical Ounce,
   This quadrupetantical Ounce.

  "You'd think from his name he was small,
   But that was not like him at all.
     He weighed, I'll be bound,
     Three or four hundred pound,
   And he looked most uncommonly tall,
          --monly tall,
   And he looked most uncommonly tall."


"Bravo! bravo!" cried Travis, pounding on the table.  "Hear,
hear--none, Brutus, none."

Condy sat down on the table and swung his legs But during the next few
moments, while they were eating the last of their cheese, his good
spirits fell rapidly away from him.  He heaved a sigh, and thrust both
hands gloomily into his pockets.

"Cheese, Condy?" asked Travis.

He shook his head with a dark frown, muttering: "No cheese, no cheese."

"What's wrong, Condy--what's the matter?" asked Travis, with concern.

For some time he would not tell her, answering all her inquiries by
closing his eyes and putting his chin in the air, nodding his head in
knowing fashion.

"But what is it?"

"You don't respect me," he muttered; and for a long time this was all
that could be got from him.  No, no, she did not respect him; no, she
did not take him seriously.

"But of course I do.  Why don't I? Condy Rivers, what's got into you
NOW?"

"No, no; I know it.  I can tell.  You don't take me seriously.  You
don't respect me."

"But why?"

"Make a blooming buffoon of myself," he mumbled tragically.

In great distress Travis labored to contradict him.  Why, they had just
been having a good time, that was all.  Why, she had been just as silly
as he.  Condy caught at the word.

"Silly! There.  I knew it.  I told you.  I'm silly.  I'm a
buffoon.--But haven't we had a great afternoon?" he added, with a
sudden grin.

"I never remember," announced Travis emphatically, "when I've had a
better time than I've had to-day; and I know just why it's been such a
success."

"Why, then?"

"Because we've had no foolishness.  We've just been ourselves, and
haven't pretended we were in love with each other when we are not.
Condy, let's do this lots."

"Do what?"

"Go round to queer little, interesting little places.  We've had a
glorious time to-day, haven't we?--and we haven't been talked out once.

"As we were last night, for instance," he hazarded.

"I THOUGHT you felt it, the same as I did.  It WAS a bit awful wasn't
it?"

"It was."

"From now on, let's make a resolution.  I know you've had a good time
to-day.  Haven't you had a better time than if you had gone to the
Tea?'"

"Well, RATHER.  I don't know when I've had a better, jollier afternoon."

"Well, now, we're going to try to have lots more good times, but just
as chums.  We've tried the other, and it failed.  Now be sincere;
didn't it fail?"

"It worked out.  It DID work out."

"Now from this time on, no more foolishness.  We'll just be chums."

"Chums it is.  No more foolishness."

"The moment you begin to pretend you're in love with me, it will spoil
everything.  It's funny," said Travis, drawing on her gloves.  "We're
doing a funny thing, Condy.  With ninety-nine people out of one
hundred, this little affair would have been all ended after our
'explanation' of last night--confessing, as we did, that we didn't love
each other.  Most couples would have 'drifted apart'; but here we are,
planning to be chums, and have good times in our own original,
unconventional way--and we can do it, too.  There, there, he's a
thousand miles away.  He's not heard a single word I've said.  Condy,
are you listening to me?"

"Blix," he murmured, staring at her vaguely.  "Blix--you look that way;
I don't know, look kind of blix.  Don't you feel sort of blix?" he
inquired anxiously.

"Blix?"

He smote the table with his palm.  "Capital!" he cried; "sounds bully,
and snappy, and crisp, and bright, and sort of sudden.  Sounds--don't
you know, THIS way?"--and he snapped his fingers.  "Don't you see what
I mean? Blix, that's who you are.  You've always been Blix, and I've
just found it out.  Blix," he added, listening to the sound of the
name.  "Blix, Blix.  Yes, yes; that's your name."

"Blix?" she repeated; "but why Blix?"

"Why not?"

"I don't know why not."

"Well, then," he declared, as though that settled the question.  They
made ready to go, as it was growing late.

"Will you tie that for me, Condy," she asked, rising and turning the
back of her head toward him, the ends of the veil held under her
fingers.  "Not too tight.  Condy, don't pull it so tight.  There,
there, that will do.  Have you everything that belongs to you? I know
you'll go away and leave something here.  There's your cigarette case,
and your book, and of course the banjo."

As if warned by a mysterious instinct, the fat Chinaman made his
appearance in the outer room.  Condy put his fingers into his vest
pocket, then dropped back upon his stool with a suppressed exclamation
of horror.

"Condy!" exclaimed Blix in alarm, "are you sick?"--for he had turned a
positive white.

"I haven't a cent of money," he murmured faintly.  "I spent my last
quarter for those beastly crackers.  What's to be done? What is to be
done? I'll--I'll leave him my watch.  Yes, that's the only thing."

Blix calmly took out her purse.  "I expected it," she said resignedly.
"I knew this would happen sooner or later, and I always have been
prepared.  How much is it, John?" she asked of the Chinaman.

"Hefahdollah."

"I'll never be able to look you in the face again," protested Condy.
"I'll pay you back to-night.  I will! I'll send it up by a messenger
boy."

"Then you WOULD be a buffoon."

"Don't!" he exclaimed.  "Don't, it humiliates me to the dust."

"Oh, come along and don't be so absurd.  It must be after five."

Half-way down the brass-bound stairs, he clapped his hand to his head
with a start.

"And NOW what is it?" she inquired meekly.

"Forgotten, forgotten!" he exclaimed.  "I knew I would forget
something."

"I knew it, you mean."

He ran back, and returned with the great bag of crackers, and thrust it
into her hands.  "Here, here, take these.  We mustn't leave these," he
declared earnestly.  "It would be a shameful waste of money;" and in
spite of all her protests, he insisted upon taking the crackers along.

"I wonder," said Blix, as the two skirted the Plaza, going down to
Kearney Street; "I wonder if I ought to ask him to supper?"

"Ask who--me?--how funny to--"

"I wonder if we are talked out--if it would spoil the day?"

"Anyhow, I'm going to have supper at the Club; and I've got to write my
article some time to-night."

Blix fixed him with a swift glance of genuine concern.  "Don't play
to-night, Condy," she said, with a sudden gravity.

"Fat lot I can play! What money have I got to play with?"

"You might get some somewheres.  But, anyhow, promise me you won't
play."

"Well, of course I'll promise.  How can I, if I haven't any money?  And
besides, I've got my whaleback stuff to write.  I'll have supper at the
Club, and go up in the library and grind out copy for a while."

"Condy," said Blix, "I think that diver's story is almost too good for
'The Times.' Why don't you write it and send it East? Send it to the
Centennial Company, why don't you? They've paid some attention to you
now, and it would keep your name in their minds if you sent the story
to them, even if they didn't publish it.  Why don't you think of that?"

"Fine--great idea! I'll do that.  Only I'll have to write it out of
business hours.  It will be extra work."

"Never mind, you do it; and," she added, as he put her on the cable
car, "keep your mind on that thirty-thousand-word story of adventure.
Good-by, Condy; haven't we had the jolliest day that ever was?"

"Couldn't have been better.  Good-by, Blix."

Condy returned to his club., It was about six o'clock. In response to
his question, the hall-boy told him that Tracy Sargeant had arrived a
few moments previous, and had been asking for him.

The Saturday of the week before, Condy had made an engagement with
young Sargeant to have supper together that night, and perhaps go to
the theatre afterward.  And now at the sight of Sargeant in the "round
window" of the main room, buried in the file of the "Gil Blas," Condy
was pleased to note that neither of them had forgotten the matter.

Sargeant greeted him with extreme cordiality as he came up, and at once
proposed a drink.  Sargeant was a sleek, well-groomed, well-looking
fellow of thirty, just beginning to show the effects of a certain
amount of dissipation in the little puffs under the eyes and the faint
blueness of the temples.  The sudden death of his father for which
event Sargeant was still mourning, had left him in such position that
his monthly income was about five times as large as Condy's salary.
The two had supper together, and Sargeant proposed the theatre.

"No, no; I've got to work to-night," asserted Condy.

After dinner, while they were smoking their cigars in a window of the
main room, one of the hall-boys came up and touched Condy on the arm.

"Mr. Eckert, and Mr. Hendricks, and Mr. George Hands, and several other
of those gentlemen are up in the card-room, and are asking for you and
Mr. Sargeant."

"Why, I didn't know the boys were here! They've got a game going,
Condy.  Let's go up and get in.  Shall we?"

Condy remembered that he had no money.  "I'm flat broke, Tracy," he
announced, for he knew Sargeant well enough to make the confession
without wincing.  "No, I'll not get in; but I'll go up and watch you a
few minutes."

They ascended to the card-room, where the air was heavy and acrid with
cigar smoke, and where the silence was broken only by the click of
poker-chips.  At the end of twenty minutes Condy was playing, having
borrowed enough money of Sargeant to start him in the game.

Unusually talkative and restless, he had suddenly hardened and
stiffened to a repressed, tense calm; speechless, almost rigid in his
chair.  Excitable under even ordinary circumstances, his every faculty
was now keyed to its highest pitch.  The nervous strain upon him was
like the stretching and tightening of harp-strings, too taut to quiver.
The color left his face, and the moisture fled his lips.  His projected
article, his promise to Blix, all the jollity of the afternoon, all
thought of time or place, faded away as the one indomitable, evil
passion of the man leaped into life within him, and lashed and roweled
him with excitement.  His world resolved itself to a round green table,
columns of tri-colored chips, and five ever-changing cards that came
and went and came again before his tired eyes like the changing,
weaving colors of the kaleidoscope.  Midnight struck, then one o'clock,
then two, three, and four.  Still his passion rode him like a hag,
spurring the jaded body, rousing up the wearied brain.

Finally, at half-past four, at a time when Condy was precisely where he
had started, neither winner nor loser by so much as a dime, a round of
Jack-pots was declared, and the game broke up.  Condy walked home to
the uptown hotel where he lived with his mother, and went to bed as the
first milk-wagons began to make their appearance and the newsboys to
cry the morning papers.

Then, as his tired eyes closed at last, occurred that strange trick of
picture-making that the overtaxed brain plays upon the retina.  A swift
series of pictures of the day's doings began to whirl THROUGH rather
than BEFORE the pupils of his shut eyes.  Condy saw again a brief
vision of the street, and Blix upon the corner waiting to cross; then
it was the gay, brisk confusion of the water-front, the old mate's
cabin aboard the whaleback, Chinatown, and a loop of vermilion cloth
over a gallery rail, the golden balcony, the glint of the Stevenson
ship upon the green Plaza, Blix playing the banjo, the delightful and
picturesque confusion of the deserted Chinese restaurant; Blix again,
turning her head for him to fasten her veil, holding the ends with her
white-kid fingers; Blix once more, walking at his side with her trim
black skirt, her round little turban hat, her yellow hair, and her
small dark, dancing eyes.

Then, suddenly, he remembered the promise he had made her in the matter
of playing that night.  He winced sharply at this, and the remembrance
of his fault harried and harassed him.  In spite of himself, he felt
contemptible.  Yet he had broken his promises to her in this very
matter of playing before--before that day of their visit to the Chinese
restaurant--and had felt no great qualm of self-reproach.  Had their
relations changed? Rather the reverse for they had done with
"foolishness."

"Never worried me before," muttered Condy, as he punched up his
pillow--"never worried me before.  Why should it worry me now--worry me
like the devil;--and she caught on to that 'point' about the slope of
forty-five degrees."



Chapter V

Condy began his week's work for the supplement behindhand.  Naturally
he overslept himself Tuesday morning, and, not having any change in his
pockets, was obliged to walk down to the office.  He arrived late, to
find the compositors already fretting for copy.  His editor promptly
asked for the whaleback stuff, and Condy was forced into promising it
within a half-hour.  It was out of the question to write the article
according to his own idea in so short a time; so Condy faked the stuff
from the exchange clipping, after all.  His description of the boat and
his comments upon her mission--taken largely at second hand--served
only to fill space in the paper.  They were lacking both in interest
and in point.  There were no illustrations.  The article was a failure.

But Condy redeemed himself by a witty interview later in the week with
an emotional actress, and by a solemn article compiled after an hour's
reading in Lafcadio Hearn and the Encyclopedia--on the "Industrial
Renaissance in Japan."

But the idea of the diver's story came back to him again and again, and
Thursday night after supper he went down to his club, and hid himself
at a corner desk in the library, and, in a burst of enthusiasm, wrote
out some two thousand words of it.  In order to get the "technical
details," upon which he set such store, he consulted the Encyclopedias
again, and "worked in" a number of unfamiliar phrases and odd-sounding
names.  He was so proud of the result that he felt he could not wait
until the tale was finished and in print to try its effect.  He wanted
appreciation and encouragement upon the instant.  He thought of Blix.

"She saw the point in Morrowbie Jukes' description of the slope of the
sandhill," he told himself; and the next moment had resolved to go up
and see her the next evening, and read to her what he had written.

This was on Thursday.  All through that week Blix had kept much to
herself, and for the first time in two years had begun to spend every
evening at home.  In the morning of each day she helped Victorine with
the upstairs work, making the beds, putting the rooms to rights; or
consulted with the butcher's and grocer's boys at the head of the back
stairs, or chaffered with urbane and smiling Chinamen with their
balanced vegetable baskets.  She knew the house and its management at
her fingers' ends, and supervised everything that went forward.  Laurie
Flagg coming to call upon her, on Wednesday afternoon, to remonstrate
upon her sudden defection, found her in the act of tacking up a curtain
across the pantry window.

But Blix had the afternoons and evenings almost entirely to herself.
These hours, heretofore taken up with functions and the discharge of
obligations, dragged not a little during the week that followed upon
her declaration of independence.  Wednesday afternoon, however, was
warm and fine, and she went to the Park with Snooky.  Without looking
for it or even expecting it, Blix came across a little Japanese
tea-house, or rather a tiny Japanese garden, set with almost toy
Japanese houses and pavilions, where tea was served and thin sweetish
wafers for five cents.  Blix and Snooky went in.  There was nobody
about but the Japanese serving woman.  Snooky was in raptures, and Blix
spent a delightful half-hour there, drinking Japanese tea, and feeding
the wafers to the carp and gold-fish in the tiny pond immediately below
where she sat.  A Chinaman, evidently of the merchant class, came in,
with a Chinese woman following.  As he took his place and the Japanese
girl came up to get his order, Blix overheard him say in English:
"Bring tea for-um leddy."

"He had to speak in English to her," she whispered; "isn't that
splendid! Did you notice that, Snooky?"

On the way home Blix was wondering how she should pass her evening.
She was to have made one of a theatre party where Jack Carter was to be
present.  Then she suddenly remembered "Morrowbie Jukes," "The Return
of Imri," and "Krishna Mulvaney." She continued on past her home,
downtown, and returned late for supper with "Plain Tales" and "Many
Inventions."

Toward half-past eight there came a titter of the electric bell.  At
the moment Blix was in the upper chamber of the house of Suddhoo,
quaking with exquisite horror at the Seal-cutter's magic.  She looked
up quickly as the bell rang.  It was not Condy Rivers' touch.  She
swiftly reflected that it was Wednesday night, and that she might
probably expect Frank Catlin.  He was a fair specimen of the Younger
Set, a sort of modified Jack Carter, and called upon her about once a
fortnight.  No doubt he would hint darkly as to his riotous living
during the past few days and refer to his diet of bromo-seltzers.  He
would be slangy, familiar, call her by her first name as many times as
he dared, discuss the last dance of the Saturday cotillion, and try to
make her laugh over Carter's drunkenness.  Blix knew the type.  Catlin
was hardly out of college; but the older girls, even the young women of
twenty-five or six, encouraged and petted these youngsters, driven to
the alternative by the absolute dearth of older men.

"I'm not at home, Victorine," announced Blix, intercepting the maid in
the hall.  It chanced that it was not Frank Catlin, but another boy of
precisely the same breed; and Blix returned to Suddhoo, Mrs. Hawksbee,
and Mulvaney with a little cuddling movement of satisfaction.

"There is only one thing I regret about this," she said to Condy Rivers
on the Friday night of that week; "that is, that I never thought of
doing it before." Then suddenly she put up her hand to shield her eyes,
as though from an intense light, turning away her head abruptly.

"I say, what is it? What--what's the matter?" he exclaimed.

Blix peeped at him fearfully from between her fingers.  "He's got it
on," she whispered--"that awful crimson scarf."

"Hoh!" said Condy, touching his scarf nervously, "it's--it's very
swell.  Is it too loud?" he asked uneasily.

Blix put her fingers in her ears; then:

"Condy, you're a nice, amiable young man, and, if you're not brilliant,
you're good and kind to your aged mother; but your scarfs and neckties
are simply impossible."

"Well, look at this room!" he shouted--they were in the parlor.  "You
needn't talk about bad taste.  Those drapes--oh-h! those drapes!!
Yellow, s'help me! And those bisque figures that you get with every
pound of tea you buy; and this, this, THIS," he whimpered, waving his
hands at the decorated sewer-pipe with its gilded cat-tails.  "Oh,
speak to me of this; speak to me of art; speak to me of aesthetics.
Cat-tails, GILDED.  Of course, why not GILDED!" He wrung his hands.
"'Somewhere people are happy.  Somewhere little children are at play--'"

"Oh, hush!" she interrupted.  "I know it's bad; but we've always had it
so, and I won't have it abused.  Let's go into the dining-room, anyway.
We'll sit in there after this.  We've always been stiff and constrained
in here."

They went out into the dining-room, and drew up a couple of armchairs
into the bay window, and sat there looking out.  Blix had not yet
lighted the gas--it was hardly dark enough for that; and for upward of
ten minutes they sat and watched the evening dropping into night.

Below them the hill fell away so abruptly that the roofs of the nearest
houses were almost at their feet; and beyond these the city tumbled
raggedly down to meet the bay in a confused, vague mass of roofs,
cornices, cupolas, and chimneys, blurred and indistinct in the
twilight, but here and there pierced by a new-lighted street lamp.
Then came the bay.  To the east they could see Goat Island, and the
fleet of sailing-ships anchored off the water-front; while directly in
their line of vision the island of Alcatraz, with its triple crown of
forts, started from the surface of the water.  Beyond was the Contra
Costa shore, a vast streak of purple against the sky.  The eye followed
its sky-line westward till it climbed, climbed, climbed up a long slope
that suddenly leaped heavenward with the crest of Tamalpais, purple and
still, looking always to the sunset like a great watching sphinx.
Then, further on, the slope seemed to break like the breaking of an
advancing billow, and go tumbling, crumbling downward to meet the
Golden Gate--the narrow inlet of green tide-water with its flanking
Presidio.  But, further than this, the eye was stayed.  Further than
this there was nothing, nothing but a vast, illimitable plain of
green--the open Pacific.  But at this hour the color of the scene was
its greatest charm.  It glowed with all the sombre radiance of a
cathedral.  Everything was seen through a haze of purple--from the low
green hills in the Presidio Reservation to the faint red mass of Mount
Diablo shrugging its rugged shoulder over the Contra Costa foot-hills.
As the evening faded, the west burned down to a dull red glow that
overlaid the blue of the bay with a sheen of ruddy gold.  The
foot-hills of the opposite shore, Diablo, and at last even Tamalpais,
resolved themselves in the velvet gray of the sky.  Outlines were lost.
Only the masses remained, and these soon began to blend into one
another.  The sky, and land, and the city's huddled roofs were one.
Only the sheen of dull gold remained, piercing the single vast mass of
purple like the blade of a golden sword.

"There's a ship!" said Blix in a low tone.

A four-master was dropping quietly through the Golden Gate, swimming on
that sheen of gold, a mere shadow, specked with lights red and green.
In a few moments her bows were shut from sight by the old fort at the
Gate.  Then her red light vanished, then the mainmast.  She was gone.
By midnight she would be out of sight of land, rolling on the swell of
the lonely ocean under the moon's white eye.

Condy and Blix sat quiet and without speech, not caring to break the
charm of the evening.  For quite five minutes they sat thus, watching
the stars light one by one, and the immense gray night settle and
broaden and widen from mountain-top to horizon.  They did not feel the
necessity of making conversation.  There was no constraint in their
silence now.

Gently, and a little at a time, Condy turned his head and looked at
Blix.  There was just light enough to see.  She was leaning back in her
chair, her hands fallen into her lap, her head back and a little to one
side.  As usual, she was in black; but now it was some sort of
dinner-gown that left her arms and neck bare.  The line of the chin and
the throat and the sweet round curve of the shoulder had in it
something indescribable--something that was related to music, and that
eluded speech.  Her hair was nothing more than a warm colored mist
without form or outline.  The sloe-brown of her little eyes and the
flush of her cheek were mere inferences--like the faintest stars that
are never visible when looked at directly; and it seemed to him that
there was disengaged from her something for which there was no name;
something that appealed to a mysterious sixth sense--a sense that only
stirred at such quiet moments as this; something that was now a dim,
sweet radiance, now a faint aroma, and now again a mere essence, an
influence, an impression--nothing more.  It seemed to him as if her
sweet, clean purity and womanliness took a form of its own which his
accustomed senses were too gross to perceive.  Only a certain vague
tenderness in him went out to meet and receive this impalpable
presence; a tenderness not for her only, but for all the good things of
the world.  Often he had experienced the same feeling when listening to
music.  Her sweetness, her goodness, appealed to what he guessed must
be the noblest in him.  And she was only nineteen.  Suddenly his heart
swelled, the ache came to his throat and the smart to his eyes.

"Blixy," he said, just above a whisper; "Blixy, wish I was a better
sort of chap."

"That's the beginning of being better, isn't it, Condy?" she answered,
turning toward him, her chin on her hand.

"It does seem a pity," he went on, "that when you WANT to do the right,
straight thing, and be clean and fine, that you can't just BE it, and
have it over with.  It's the keeping it up that's the grind."

"But it's the keeping it up, Condy, that makes you WORTH BEING GOOD
when you finally get to be good; don't you think? It's the keeping it
up that makes you strong; and then when you get to be good you can make
your goodness count.  What's a good man if he's weak?--if his goodness
is better than he is himself? It's the good man who is strong--as
strong as his goodness, and who can make his goodness count--who is the
right kind of man.  That's what I think."

"There's something in that, there's something in that." Then, after a
pause: "I played Monday night, after all, Blix, after promising I
wouldn't."

For a time she did not answer, and when she spoke, she spoke quietly:
"Well--I'm glad you told me"; and after a little she added, "Can't you
stop, Condy?"

"Why, yes--yes, of course--I--oh, Blix, sometimes I don't know!  You
can't understand! How could a girl understand the power of it?  Other
things, I don't say; but when it comes to gambling, there seems to be
another me that does precisely as he chooses, whether I will or not.
But I'm going to do my best.  I haven't played since, although there
was plenty of chance.  You see, this card business is only a part of
this club life, this city life--like drinking and--other vices of men.
If I didn't have to lead the life, or if I didn't go with that
crowd--Sargeant and the rest of those men--it would be different;
easier, maybe."

"But a man ought to be strong enough to be himself and master of
himself anywhere.  Condy, IS there anything in the world better or
finer than a strong man?"

"Not unless it is a good woman, Blix."

"I suppose I look at it from a woman's point of view; but for me a
STRONG man--strong in everything--is the grandest thing in the world.
Women love strong men, Condy.  They can forgive a strong man almost
anything."

Condy did not immediately answer, and in the interval an idea occurred
to Blix that at once hardened into a determination.  But she said
nothing at the moment.  The spell of the sunset was gone and they had
evidently reached the end of that subject of their talk.  Blix rose to
light the gas.  "Will you promise me one thing, Condy?" she said.
"Don't if you don't want to.  But will you promise me that you will
tell me whenever you do play?"

"That I'll promise you!" exclaimed Condy; "and I'll keep that, too."

"And now, let's hear the story--or what you've done of it."

They drew up to the dining-room table with its cover of blue denim
edged with white cord, and Condy unrolled his manuscript and read
through what he had written.  She approved, and, as he had foreseen,
"caught on" to every one of his points.  He was almost ready to burst
into cheers when she said:

"Any one reading that would almost believe you had been a diver
yourself, or at least had lived with divers.  Those little details
count, don't they? Condy, I've an idea.  See what you think of it.
Instead of having the story end with his leaving her down there and
going away, do it this way.  Let him leave her there, and then go back
after a long time when he gets to be an old man.  Fix it up some way to
make it natural.  Have him go down to see her and never come up again,
see? And leave the reader in doubt as to whether it was an accident or
whether he did it on purpose."

Condy choked back a whoop and smote his knee.  "Blix, you're the eighth
wonder! Magnificent--glorious! Say!"--he fixed her with a glance of
curiosity--"you ought to take to story-writing yourself."

"No, no," she retorted significantly.  "I'll just stay with my singing
and be content with that.  But remember that story don't go to 'The
Times' supplement.  At least not until you have tried it East--with the
Centennial Company, at any rate."

"Well, I guess NOT!" snorted Condy.  "Why, this is going to be one of
the best yarns I ever wrote."

A little later on he inquired with sudden concern: "Have you got
anything to eat in the house?"

"I never saw such a man!" declared Blix; "you are always hungry."

"I love to eat," he protested.

"Well, we'll make some creamed oysters; how would that do?" suggested
Blix.

Condy rolled his eyes.  "Oh, speak to me of creamed oysters!" Then,
with abrupt solemnity: "Blix, I never in my life had as many oysters as
I could eat."

She made the creamed oysters in the kitchen over the gas-stove, and
they ate them there--Condy sitting on the washboard of the sink, his
plate in his lap.

Condy had a way of catching up in his hands whatever happened to be
nearest him, and, while still continuing to talk, examining it with
apparent deep interest.  Just now it happened to be the morning's paper
that Victorine had left on the table.  For five minutes Condy had been
picking it up and laying it down, frowning abstractedly at it during
the pauses in the conversation.  Suddenly he became aware of what it
was, and instantly read aloud the first item that caught his glance:

"'Personal.--Young woman, thirty-one, good housekeeper, desires
acquaintance respectable middle-aged gentleman.  Object, matrimony.
Address K. D. B., this office.'--Hum!" he commented, "nothing equivocal
about K. D. B.; has the heroism to call herself young at thirty-one.
I'll bet she IS a good housekeeper.  Right to the point.  If K. D. B.
don't see what she wants, she asks for it."

"I wonder," mused Blix, "what kind of people they are who put personals
in the papers.  K. D. B., for instance; who is she, and what is she
like?"

"They're not tough," Condy assured her.  "I see 'em often down at 'The
Times' office.  They are usually a plain, matter-of-fact sort, quite
conscientious, you know; generally middle-aged--or thirty-one; outgrown
their youthful follies and illusions, and want to settle down."

"Read some more," urged Blix.  Condy went on.

"'Bachelor, good habits, twenty-five, affectionate disposition,
accomplishments, money, desires acquaintance pretty, refined girl.
Object, matrimony.  McB., this office.'"

"No, I don't like McB.," said Blix.  "He's too--ornamental, somehow."

"He wouldn't do for K. D. B., would he?"

"Oh, my, no! He'd make her very unhappy."

"'Widower, two children, home-loving disposition, desires introduction
to good, honest woman to make home for his children.  Matrimony, if
suitable.  B. P. T., Box A, this office.'"

"He's not for K. D. B., that's flat," declared Blix; "the idea,
'matrimony if suitable'--patronizing enough! I know just what kind of
an old man B. P. T. is.  I know he would want K. D. B. to warm his
slippers, and would be fretful and grumpy.  B. P. T., just an
abbreviation of bumptious.  No, he can't have her."

Condy read the next two or three to himself, despite her protests.

"Condy, don't be mean! Read them to--"

"Ah!" he exclaimed, "here's one for K. D. B.  Behold, the bridegroom
cometh! Listen."

"'Bachelor, thirty-nine, sober and industrious, retired sea captain,
desires acquaintance respectable young woman, good housekeeper and
manager.  Object, matrimony.  Address Captain Jack, office this paper."

"I know he's got a wooden leg!" cried Blix.  "Can't you just see it
sticking out between the lines? And he lives all alone somewhere down
near the bay with a parrot--"

"And makes a glass of grog every night."

"And smokes a long clay pipe."

"But he chews tobacco."

"Yes, isn't it a pity he will chew that nasty, smelly tobacco? But K.
D. B. will break him of that."

"Oh, is he for K. D. B.?"

"Sent by Providence!" declared Blix.  "They were born for each other.
Just see, K. D. B. is a good housekeeper, and wants a respectable
middle-aged gentleman.  Captain Jack is a respectable middle-aged
gentleman, and wants a good housekeeper.  Oh, and besides, I can read
between the lines! I just feel they would be congenial.  If they know
what's best for themselves, they would write to each other right away."

"But wouldn't you love to be there and see them meet!" exclaimed Condy.

"Can't we fix it up some way," said Blix, "to bring these two
together--to help them out in some way?"

Condy smote the table and jumped to his feet.

"Write to 'em!" he shouted.  "Write to K. D. B. and sign it Captain
Jack, and write to Captain Jack--"

"And sign it K. D. B.," she interrupted, catching his idea.

"And have him tell her, and her tell him," he added, "to meet at some
place; and then we can go to that place and hide, and watch."

"But how will we know them? How would they know each other?  They've
never met."

"We'll tell them both to wear a kind of flower.  Then we can know them,
and they can know each other.  Of course as soon as they began to talk
they would find out they hadn't written."

"But they wouldn't care."

"No--they want to meet each other.  They would be thankful to us for
bringing them together."

"Won't it be the greatest fun?"

"Fun! Why, it will be a regular drama.  Only we are running the show,
and everything is real.  Let's get at it!"

Blix ran into her room and returned with writing material.  Condy
looked at the note-paper critically.  "This kind's too swell.  K. D. B.
wouldn't use Irish linen--never! Here, this is better, glazed with blue
lines and a flying bird stamped in the corner.  Now I'll write for the
Captain, and you write for K. D. B."

"But where will we have them meet?"

This was a point.  They considered the Chinese restaurant, the Plaza,
Lotta's fountain, the Mechanics' Library, and even the cathedral over
in the Mexican quarter, but arrived at no decision.

"Did you ever hear of Luna's restaurant?" said Condy.  "By Jove, it's
just the place! It's the restaurant where you get Mexican dinners;
right in the heart of the Latin quarter; quiet little old-fashioned
place, below the level of the street, respectable as a tomb.  I was
there just once.  We'll have 'em meet there at seven in the evening.
No one is there at that hour.  The place isn't patronized much, and it
shuts up at eight.  You and I can go there and have dinner at six, say,
and watch for them to come."

Then they set to work at their letters.

"Now," said Condy, "we must have these sound perfectly natural, because
if either of these people smell the smallest kind of a rat, you won't
catch 'em.  You must write not as YOU would write, but as you think
THEY would.  This is an art, a kind of fiction, don't you see? We must
imagine a certain character, and write a letter consistent with that
character.  Then it'll sound natural.  Now, K. D. B.  Well, K. D. B.,
she's prim.  Let's have her prim, and proud of using correct, precise,
'elegant' language.  I guess she wears mits, and believes in cremation.
Let's have her believe in cremation.  And Captain Jack; oh! he's got a
terrible voice, like this, ROW-ROW-ROW see? and whiskers, very fierce;
and he says, 'Belay there!' and 'Avast!' and is very grandiloquent and
orotund and gallant when it comes to women.  Oh, he's the devil of a
man when it comes to women, is Captain Jack!"

After countless trials and failures, they evolved the two following
missives, which Condy posted that night:


"Captain Jack.

"SIR:--I have perused with entire satisfaction your personal in 'The
Times.' I should like to know more of you.  I read between the lines,
and my perception ineradicably convinces me that you are honest and
respectable.  I do not believe I should compromise my self-esteem at
all in granting you an interview.  I shall be at Luna's restaurant at
seven precisely, next Monday eve, and will bear a bunch of white
marguerites.  Will you likewise, and wear a marguerite in your lapel?

"Trusting this will find you in health, I am

                "Respectfully yours,

                                   "K. D. B."



"Miss K. D. B.

"DEAR MISS:--From the modest and retiring description of your qualities
and character, I am led to believe that I will find in you an agreeable
life companion.  Will you not accord me the great favor of a personal
interview? I shall esteem it a high honor.  I will be at Luna's Mexican
restaurant at seven of the clock P.M. on Monday evening next.  May I
express the fervent hope that you also will be there? I name the
locality because it is quiet and respectable.  I shall wear a white
marguerite in my buttonhole.  Will you also carry a bunch of the same
flower?

                 "Yours to command,

                             "CAPTAIN JACK."


So great was her interest in the affair that Blix even went out with
Condy while he mailed the letters in the nearest box, for he was quite
capable of forgetting the whole matter as soon as he was out of the
house.

"Now let it work!" she exclaimed as the iron flap clanked down upon the
disappearing envelopes.  But Condy was suddenly smitten with nameless
misgiving.  "Now we've done it! now we've done it!" he cried aghast.
"I wish we hadn't.  We're in a fine fix now."

Still uneasy, he saw Blix back to the flat, and bade her good-by at the
door.

But before she went to bed that night, Blix sought out her father, who
was still sitting up tinkering with the cuckoo clock, which he had
taken all to pieces under the pretext that it was out of order and went
too fast.

"Papum," said Blix, sitting down on the rug before him, "did you
ever--when you were a pioneer, when you first came out here in the
fifties--did you ever play poker?"

"I--oh, well! it was the only amusement the miners had for a long time."

"I want you to teach me."

The old man let the clock fall into his lap and stared.  But Blix
explained her reasons.



Chapter VI

The next day was Saturday, and Blix had planned a walk out to the
Presidio.  But at breakfast, while she was debating whether she should
take with her Howard and Snooky, or "Many Inventions," she received a
note from Condy, sent by special messenger:


"'All our fun is spoiled,' he wrote.  'I've got ptomaine poisoning from
eating the creamed oysters last night, and am in for a solid fortnight
spent in bed.  Have passed a horrible night.  Can't you look in at the
hotel this afternoon? My mother will be here at the time.'"


"Ptomaine poisoning!" The name had an ugly sound, and Condy's use of
the term inferred the doctor's visit.  Blix decided that she would put
off her walk until the afternoon, and call on Mrs. Rivers at once, and
ask how Condy did.

She got away from the flat about ten o'clock, but on the steps outside
met Condy dressed as if for bicycling, and smoking a cigarette.

"I've got eleven dollars!" he announced cheerily.

"But I thought it was ptomaine poisoning!" she cried with sudden
vexation.

"Pshaw! that's what the doctor says.  He's a flapdoodle; nothing but a
kind of a sort of a pain.  It's all gone now.  I'm as fit as a
fiddle--and I've got eleven dollars.  Let's go somewhere and do
something."

"But your work?"

"They don't expect me.  When I thought I was going to be sick, I
telephoned the office, and they said all right, that they didn't need
me.  Now I've got eleven dollars, and there are three holidays of
perfect weather before us: to-day, to-morrow, and Monday.  What will we
do? What must we do to be saved? Our matrimonial objects don't
materialize till Monday night.  In the meanwhile, what? Shall we go
down to Chinatown--to the restaurant, or to the water-front again?
Maybe the mate on the whaleback would invite us to lunch.  Or," added
Condy, his eye caught by a fresh-fish peddler who had just turned into
the street, "we can go fishing."

"For oysters, perhaps."

But the idea had caught Condy's fancy.

"Blix!" he exclaimed, "let's go fishing."

"Where?"

"I don't know.  Where DO people fish around here? Where there's water,
I presume."

"No, is it possible?" she asked with deep concern.  "I thought they
fished in their back yards, or in their front parlors perhaps."

"Oh, you be quiet! you're all the time guying me," he answered.  "Let
me think--let me think," he went on, frowning heavily, scouring at his
hair.  Suddenly he slapped a thigh.

"Come on," he cried, "I've an idea!" He was already half-way down the
steps, when Blix called him back.

"Leave it all to me," he assured her; "trust me IMPLICITLY.  Don't you
want to go?" he demanded with abrupt disappointment.

"Want to!" she exclaimed.  "Why, it would be the very best kind of fun,
but--"

"Well, then, come along."

They took a downtown car.

"I've got a couple of split bamboo rods," he explained as the car slid
down the terrific grade of the Washington-Street hill.  "I haven't used
'em in years--not since we lived East; but they're hand-made, and are
tip-top.  I haven't any other kind of tackle; but it's just as well,
because the tackle will all depend upon where we are going to fish."

"Where's that?"

"Don't know yet; am going down now to find out."

He took her down to the principal dealer in sporting goods on Market
Street.  It was a delicious world, whose atmosphere and charm were not
to be resisted.  There were shot-guns in rows, their gray barrels
looking like so many organ-pipes; sheaves of fishing-rods, from the
four-ounce whisp of the brook-trout up to the rigid eighteen-ounce
lance of the king-salmon and sea-bass; showcases of wicked revolvers,
swelling by calibres into the thirty-eight and forty-four man-killers
of the plainsmen and Arizona cavalry; hunting knives and dirks, and the
slender steel whips of the fencers; files of Winchesters, sleeping
quietly in their racks, waiting patiently for the signal to speak the
one grim word they knew; swarms of artificial flies of every
conceivable shade, brown, gray, black, gray-brown, gray-black, with
here and there a brisk vermilion note; coils of line, from the
thickness of a pencil, spun to hold the sullen plunges of a jew-fish
off the Catalina Islands, down to the sea-green gossamers that a
vigorous fingerling might snap; hooks, snells, guts, leaders, gaffs,
cartridges, shells, and all the entrancing munitions of the sportsman,
that savored of lonely canons, deer-licks, mountain streams, quail
uplands, and the still reaches of inlet and marsh grounds, gray and
cool in the early autumn dawn.

Condy and Blix got the attention of a clerk, and Condy explained.

"I want to go fishing--we want to go fishing.  We want some place where
we can go and come in the same day, and we want to catch fair-sized
fish--no minnows."

The following half-hour was charming.  Never was there a clerk more
delightful.  It would appear that his one object in life was that Condy
and Blix should catch fish.  The affairs of the nation stood still
while he pondered, suggested, advised, and deliberated.  He told them
where to go, how to get there, what train to take coming back, and who
to ask for when they arrived.  They would have to wait till Monday
before going, but could return long before the fated hour of 7 P.M.

"Ask for Richardson," said the clerk; "and here, give him my card.
He'll put you on to the good spots; some places are A-1 to-day, and
to-morrow in the same place you can't kill a single fish."

Condy nudged Blix as the Mentor turned away to get his card.

"Notice that," he whispered: "KILL a fish.  You don't say 'catch,' you
say 'kill'--technical detail."

Then they bought their tackle: a couple of cheap reels, lines, leaders,
sinkers, a book of assorted flies that the delightful clerk suggested,
and a beautiful little tin box painted green, and stenciled with a
gorgeous gold trout upon the lid, in which they were to keep the pint
of salted shrimps to be used as bait in addition to the flies.  Blix
would get these shrimps at a little market near her home.

"But," said the clerk, "you got to get a permit to fish in that lake.
Have you got a pull with the Water Company? Are you a stockholder?"

Condy's face fell, and Blix gave a little gasp of dismay.  They looked
at each other.  Here was a check, indeed.

"Well," said the sublime being in shirt sleeves from behind the
counter, "see what you can do; and if you can't make it, come back here
an' lemmeno, and we'll fix you up in some other place.  But Lake San
Andreas has been bang-up this last week--been some great kills there;
hope to the deuce you can make it."

Everything now hinged upon this permit.  It was not until their
expedition had been in doubt that Condy and Blix realized how alluring
had been its prospects.

"Oh, I guess you can get a permit," said the clerk soothingly.  "An' if
you make any good kills, lemmeno and I'll put it in the paper.  I'm the
editor of the 'Sport-with-Gun-and-Rod' column in 'The Press,'" he added
with a flush of pride.

Toward the middle of the afternoon Blix, who was waiting at home, in
great suspense, for that very purpose, received another telegram from
Condy:


"Tension of situation relieved.  Unconditional permission obtained.
Don't forget the shrimps."


It had been understood that Condy was to come to the flat on Sunday
afternoon to talk over final arrangements with Blix.  But as it was,
Saturday evening saw him again at the Bessemers.

He had been down at his club in the library, writing the last
paragraphs of his diver's story, when, just as he finished, Sargeant
discovered him.

"Why, Conny, old man, all alone here? Let's go downstairs and have a
cigar.  Hendricks and George Hands are coming around in half an hour.
They told me not to let you get away."

Condy stirred nervously in his chair.  He knew what that meant.  He had
enough money in his pockets to play that night, and in an instant the
enemy was all awake.  The rowel was in his flank again, and the scourge
at his back.  Sargeant stood there, the well-groomed clubman of thirty;
a little cynical perhaps, but a really good fellow for all that, and
undeniably fond of Condy.  But somewhere with the eyes of some second
self Condy saw the girl of nineteen, part child and part woman; saw her
goodness, her fine, sweet feminine strength as it were a dim radiance;
"What's a good man worth, Condy," she had said, "if he's not a strong
man?"

"I suppose we'll have a game going before midnight," admitted Sargeant
resignedly, smiling good-humoredly nevertheless.

Condy set his teeth.  "I'll join you later.  Wait a few moments," he
said.  He hurried to the office of the club, and sent a despatch to
Blix--the third since morning:


"Can I come up right away? It's urgent.  Send answer by this messenger."


He got his answer within three-quarters of an hour, and left the club
as Hendricks and George Hands arrived by the elevator entrance.

Sitting in the bay window of the dining-room, he told Blix why he had
come.

"Oh, you were right!" she told him.  "Always, ALWAYS come, when--when
you feel you must."

"It gets so bad sometimes, Blix," he confessed with abject
self-contempt, "that when I can't get some one to play against I'll sit
down and deal dummy hands, and bet on them.  Just the touch of the
cards--just the FEEL of the chips.  Faugh! it's shameful."

The day following, Sunday, Condy came to tea as usual; and after the
meal, as soon as the family and Victorine had left the pair alone in
the dining-room, they set about preparing for their morrow's excursion.
Blix put up their lunch--sandwiches of what Condy called "devilish"
ham, hard-boiled eggs, stuffed olives, and a bottle of claret.

Condy took off his coat and made a great show of stringing the tackle:
winding the lines from the spools on to the reels, and attaching the
sinkers and flies to the leaders, smoking the while, and scowling
fiercely.  He got the lines fearfully and wonderfully snarled, he
caught the hooks in the table-cloth, he lost the almost invisible gut
leaders on the floor and looped the sinkers on the lines when they
should have gone on the leaders.  In the end Blix had to help him out,
disentangling the lines foot by foot with a patience that seemed to
Condy little short of superhuman.

At nine o'clock she said decisively:

"Do you know what time we must get up in the morning if we are to have
breakfast and get the seven-forty train? Quarter of six by the latest,
and YOU must get up earlier than that, because you're at the hotel and
have further to go.  Come here for breakfast, and--listen--be here by
half-past six--are you LISTENING, Condy?--and we'll go down to the
depot from here.  Don't forget to bring the rods."

"I'll wear my bicycle suit," he said, "and one of those golf scarfs
that wrap around your neck."

"No," she declared, "I won't have it.  Wear the oldest clothes you've
got, but look fairly respectable, because we're to go to Luna's when we
get back, remember.  And now go home; you need all the sleep you can
get if you are to get up at six o'clock."

Instead of being late, as Blix had feared, Condy was absurdly ahead of
time the next morning.  For a wonder, he had not forgotten the rods;
but he was one tremor of nervousness.  He would eat no breakfast.

"We're going to miss that train," he would announce from time to time;
"I just know it.  Blix, look what time it is.  We ought to be on the
way to the depot now.  Come on; you don't want any more coffee.  Have
you got everything? Did you put the reels in the lunch-basket?--and the
fly-book? Lord, if we should forget the fly-book!"

He managed to get her to the depot over half an hour ahead of time.
The train had not even backed in, nor the ticket office opened.

"I told you, Condy, I told you," complained Blix, sinking helplessly
upon a bench in the waiting-room.

"No--no--no," he answered vaguely, looking nervously about, his head in
the air.  "We're none too soon--have more time to rest now.  I wonder
what track the train leaves from.  I wonder if it stops at San Bruno.
I wonder how far it is from San Bruno to Lake San Andreas.  I'm afraid
it's going to rain.  Heavens and earth, Blix, we forgot the shrimps!"

"No, NO! Sit down, I've got the shrimps.  Condy, you make me so nervous
I shall scream in a minute."

Some three-quarters of an hour later the train had set them down at San
Bruno--nothing more than a road-house, the headquarters for
duck-shooters and fishermen from the city.  However, Blix and Condy
were the only visitors.  Everybody seemed to be especially nice to them
on that wonderful morning.  Even the supercilious ticket-seller at the
San Francisco depot had unbent, and wished them good luck.  The
conductor of the train had shown himself affable.  The very brakeman
had gone out of his way to apprise them, quite five minutes ahead of
time, that "the next stop was their place." And at San Bruno the
proprietor of the road-house himself hitched up to drive them over to
the lake, announcing that he would call for them at "Richardson's" in
time for the evening train.

"And he only asked me four bits for both trips," whispered Condy to
Blix as they jogged along.

The country was beautiful.  It was hardly eight o'clock, and the
morning still retained much of the brisk effervescence of the early
dawn.  Great bare, rolling hills of gray-green, thinly scattered with
live-oak, bore back from the road on either hand.  The sky was pale
blue.  There was a smell of cows in the air, and twice they heard an
unseen lark singing.  It was very still.  The old buggy and complacent
horse were embalmed in a pungent aroma of old leather and of stables
that was entrancing; and a sweet smell of grass and sap came to them in
occasional long whiffs.  There was exhilaration in the very thought of
being alive on that odorous, still morning.  The young blood went
spanking in the veins.  Blix's cheeks were ruddy, her little dark-brown
eyes fairly coruscating with pleasure.

"Condy, isn't it all splendid?" she suddenly burst out.

"I feel regularly bigger," he declared solemnly.  "I could do anything
a morning like this."

Then they came to the lake, and to Richardson's, where the farmer lived
who was also the custodian of the lake.  The complacent horse jogged
back, and Condy and Blix set about the serious business of the day.
Condy had no need to show Richardson the delightful sporting clerk's
card.  The old Yankee--his twang and dry humor singularly incongruous
on that royal morning--was solicitude itself.  He picked out the best
boat on the beach for them, loaned them his own anchor of railroad
iron, indicated minutely the point on the opposite shore off which the
last big trout had been "killed," and wetted himself to his ankles as
he pushed off the boat.

Condy took the oars.  Blix sat in the stern, jointing the rods and
running the lines through the guides.  She even baited the hooks with
the salt shrimp herself, and by nine o'clock they were at anchor some
forty feet off shore, and fishing, according to Richardson's advice, "a
leetle mite off the edge o' the weeds."

"If we don't get a bite the whole blessed day," said Condy, as he paid
out his line to the ratchet music of the reel, "we'll have fun just the
same.  Look around--isn't this great?"

They were absolutely alone.  The day was young yet.  The lake, smooth
and still as gray silk, widened to the west and south without so much
as a wrinkle to roughen the surface.  Only to the east, where the sun
looked over a shoulder of a higher hill, it flamed up into a blinding
diamond iridescence.  The surrounding land lay between sky and water,
hushed to a Sunday stillness.  Far off across the lake by Richardson's
they heard a dog bark, and the sound came fine and small and delicate.
At long intervals the boat stirred with a gentle clap-clapping of the
water along its sides.  From the nearby shore in the growth of
manzanita bushes quail called and clucked comfortably to each other; a
bewildered yellow butterfly danced by over their heads, and slim blue
dragon-flies came and poised on their lines and fishing-rods, bowing
their backs.

From his seat in the bow, Condy cast a glance at Blix.  She was holding
her rod in both hands, absorbed, watchful, very intent.  She was as
trim as ever, even in the old clothes she had worn for the occasion.
Her round, strong neck was as usual swathed high and tight in white,
and the huge dog-collar girdled her waist according to her custom.  She
had taken off her hat.  Her yellow hair rolled back from her round
forehead and cool pink cheeks like a veritable nimbus, and for the
fiftieth time Condy remarked the charming contrast of her small,
deep-brown eyes in the midst of this white satin, yellow hair, white
skin, and exquisite pink cheeks.

An hour passed.  Then two.

"No fish," murmured Condy, drawing in his line to examine the bait.
But, as he was fumbling with the flies he was startled by a sharp
exclamation from Blix.

"Oh-Condy-I've-got-a-bite!"

He looked up just in time to see the tip of her rod twitch, twitch,
twitch.  Then the whole rod arched suddenly, the reel sang, the line
tautened and cut diagonally through the water.

"You got him! you got him!" he shouted, palpitating with excitement.
"And he's a good one!"

Blix rose, reeling in as rapidly as was possible, the butt of the
twitching, living rod braced against her belt.  All at once the rod
straightened out again, the strain was released, and the line began to
slant rapidly away from the boat.

"He's off!" she cried.

"Off, nothing! HE'S GOING TO JUMP.  Look out for him, now!"

And then the two watching from the boat, tense and quivering with the
drama of the moment, saw that most inspiriting of sights--the "break"
of a salmon-trout.  Up he went, from a brusque explosion of ripples and
foam--up into the gray of the morning from out the gray of the water:
scales all gleaming, hackles all a-bristle; a sudden flash of silver, a
sweep as of a scimitar in gray smoke, with a splash, a turmoil, an
abrupt burst of troubled sound that stabbed through the silence of the
morning, and in a single instant dissipated all the placid calm of the
previous hours.

"Keep the line taut," whispered Condy, gritting his teeth.  "When he
comes toward you, reel him in; an' if he pulls too hard, give him his
head."

Blix was breathing fast, her cheeks blazing, her eyes all alight.

"Oh," she gasped, "I'm so afraid I'll lose him! Oh, look at that!" she
cried, as the trout darted straight for the bottom, bending the rod
till the tip was submerged.  "Condy, I'll lose him--I know I shall;
you, YOU take the rod!"

"Not for a thousand dollars! Steady, there, he's away again! Oh, talk
about SPORT!"

Yard by yard Blix reeled in until they began to see the silver glint of
the trout's flanks through the green water.  She brought him nearer.
Swimming parallel with the boat, he was plainly visible from his
wide-opened mouth--the hook and fly protruding from his lower jaw--to
the red, quivering flanges of the tail.  His sides were faintly
speckled, his belly white as chalk.  He was almost as long as Condy's
forearm.

"Oh, he's a beauty! Oh, isn't he a beauty!" murmured Condy.  "Now,
careful, careful; bring him up to the boat where I can reach him;
e-easy, Blix.  If he bolts again, let him run."

Twice the trout shied from the boat's shadow, and twice, as Blix gave
him his head, the reel sang and hummed like a watch-man's rattle.  But
the third time he came to the surface and turned slowly on his side,
the white belly and one red fin out of the water, the gills opening and
shutting.  He was tired out.  A third time Blix drew him gently to the
boat's side.  Condy reached out and down into the water till his very
shoulder was wet, hooked two fingers under the distended gills, and
with a long, easy movement of the arm swung him into the boat.

Their exultation was that of veritable children.  Condy whooped like an
Apache, throwing his hat into the air; Blix was hardly articulate, her
hands clasped, her hair in disarray, her eyes swimming with tears of
sheer excitement.  They shook each other's hands; they talked wildly at
the same time: they pounded on the boat's thwarts with their fists;
they laughed at their own absurdity; they looked at the trout again and
again, guessed at his weight, and recalled to each other details of the
struggle.

"When he broke that time, wasn't it grand?"

"And when I first felt him bite! It was so sudden--why, it actually
frightened me.  I never--no, never in my life!" exclaimed Blix, "was so
happy as I am at this moment.  Oh, Condy, to think--just to THINK!"

"Isn't it glory hallelujah?"

"Isn't it better than teas, and dancing, and functions?"

"Blix--how old are we?"

"I don't care how old we are; I think that trout will weigh two pounds."

When they were calm again, they returned to their fishing.  The morning
passed, and it was noon before they were aware of it.  By half-past
twelve Blix had caught three trout, though the first was by far the
heaviest.  Condy had not had so much as a bite.  At one o'clock they
rowed ashore and had lunch under a huge live-oak in a little
amphitheatre of manzanita.

Never had a lunch tasted so delicious.  What if the wine was warm and
the stuffed olives oily? What if the pepper for the hard-boiled eggs
had sifted all over the "devilish" ham sandwiches?  What if the eggs
themselves had not been sufficiently cooked, and the corkscrew
forgotten? They COULD not be anything else but inordinately happy,
sublimely gay.  Nothing short of actual tragedy could have marred the
joy of that day.

But after they were done eating, and Blix had put away the forks and
spoons, and while Condy was stretched upon his back smoking a cigar,
she said to him:

"Now, Condy, what do you say to a little game of cards with me?"

The cigar dropped from Condy's lips, and he sat suddenly upright,
brushing the fallen leaves from his hair.  Blix had taken a deck of
cards from the lunch-basket, and four rolls of chips wrapped in tissue
paper.  He stared at her in speechless amazement.

"What do you say?" she repeated, looking at him and smiling.

"Why, Blix!" he exclaimed in amazement, "what do you mean?"

"Just what I say.  I want you to play cards with me."

"I'll not to do it," he declared, almost coldly.

"Listen to me, Condy," answered Blix; and for quite five minutes, while
he interrupted and protested and pshawed and argued, she talked to him
calmly and quietly.

"I don't ask you to stop playing, Condy," she said, as she finished; "I
just ask you that when you feel you must play--or--I mean, when you
want to very bad, you will come and play with me, instead of playing at
your club."

"But it's absurd, it's preposterous.  I hate to see a girl
gambling--and you of all girls!"

"It's no worse for me than it is for you and--well, do you suppose I
would play with any one else? Maybe you think I can't play well enough
to make it interesting for you," she said gayly.  "Is that it? I can
soon show you, Condy Rivers--never mind when I learned how."

"But, Blix, you don't know how often we play, those men and I.  Why, it
is almost every--you don't know how often we play."

"Condy, whenever you want to play, and will play with ME, no matter
what I've got in hand, I'll stop everything and play with you."

"But why?"

"Because I think, Condy, that THIS way perhaps you won't play quite so
often at first; and then little by little perhaps--perhaps--well, never
mind that now.  I want to play; put it that way.  But I want you to
promise me never to play with any one else--say for six months."

And in the end, whipped by a sense of shame, Condy made her the
promise.  They became very gay upon the instant.

"Hoh!" exclaimed Condy; "what do YOU know of poker? I think we had best
play old sledge or cassino."

Blix had dealt a hand and partitioned the chips.

"Straights and flushes BEFORE the draw," she announced calmly.

Condy started and stared; then, looking at her askance, picked up his
hand.

"It's up to you."

"I'll make it five to play."

"Five? Very well.  How many cards?"

"Three."

"I'll take two."

"Bet you five more."

Blix looked at her hand.  Then, without trace of expression in her
voice or face, said:

"There's your five, and I'll raise you five."

"Five better."

"And five better than that."

"Call you."

"Full house.  Aces on tens," said Blix, throwing down her cards.

"Heavens! they're good as gold," muttered Condy as Blix gathered in the
chips.

An hour later she had won all the chips but five.

"Now we'll stop and get to fishing again; don't you want to?"

He agreed, and she counted the chips.

"Condy, you owe me seven dollars and a half," she announced.

Condy began to smile.  "Well," he said jocosely, "I'll send you around
a check to-morrow."

But at this Blix was cross upon the instant.  "You wouldn't do
that--wouldn't talk that way with one of your friends at the club!" she
exclaimed; "and it's not right to do it with me.  Condy, give me seven
dollars and a half.  When you play cards with me it's just as though it
were with another man.  I would have paid you if you had won."

"But I haven't got more than nine dollars.  Who'll pay for the supper
to-night at Luna's, and our railroad fare going home?"

"I'll pay."

"But I--I can't afford to lose money this way."

"Shouldn't have played, then.  I took the same chances as you.  Condy,
I want my money."

"You--you--why you've regularly flimflammed me."

"Will you give me my money?"

"Oh, take your money then!"

Blix shut the money in her purse, and rose, dusting her dress.

"Now," she said--"now that the pastime of card-playing is over, we will
return to the serious business of life, which is the catching--no,
'KILLING' of lake trout."

At five o'clock in the afternoon, Condy pulled up the anchor of
railroad iron and rowed back to Richardson's.  Blix had six trout to
her credit, but Condy's ill-luck had been actually ludicrous.

"I can hold a string in the water as long as anybody," he complained,
"but I'd like to have the satisfaction of merely changing the bait
OCCASIONALLY.  I've not had a single bite--not a nibble, y' know, all
day.  Never mind, you got the big trout, Blix; that first one.  That
five minutes was worth the whole day.  It's been glorious, the whole
thing.  We'll come down here once a week right along now."

But the one incident that completed the happiness of that wonderful day
occurred just as they were getting out of the boat on the shore by
Richardson's.  In a mud-hole between two rocks they discovered a tiny
striped snake, hardly bigger than a lead pencil, in the act of
swallowing a little green frog, and they passed a rapt ten minutes in
witnessing the progress of this miniature drama, which culminated
happily in the victim's escape, and triumph of virtue.

"That," declared Blix as they climbed into the old buggy which was to
take them to the train, "was the one thing necessary.  That made the
day perfect."

They reached the city at dusk, and sent their fish, lunch-basket, and
rods up to the Bessemers' flat by a messenger boy with an explanatory
note for Blix's father.

"Now," said Condy, "for Luna's and the matrimonial objects."



Chapter VII

Luna's Mexican restaurant has no address.  It is on no particular
street, at no particular corner; even its habitues, its most
enthusiastic devotees, are unable to locate it upon demand.  It is
"over there in the quarter," "not far from the cathedral there." One
could find it if one started out with that intent; but to direct
another there--no, that is out of the question.  It CAN be reached by
following the alleys of Chinatown.  You will come out of the last
alley--the one where the slave girls are--upon the edge of the Mexican
quarter, and by going straight forward a block or two and by keeping a
sharp lookout to right and left you will hit upon it.  It is always to
be searched for.  Always to be discovered.

On that particular Monday evening Blix and Condy arrived at Luna's some
fifteen minutes before seven.  Condy had lost himself and all sense of
direction in the strange streets of the quarter, and they were on the
very brink of despair when Blix discovered the sign upon an opposite
corner.

As Condy had foretold, they had the place to themselves.  They went
into the back room with its one mirror, six tables, and astonishing
curtains of Nottingham lace; and the waiter, whose name was Richard or
Riccardo, according to taste, began to officiate at the solemn rites of
the "supper Mexican." Condy and Blix ate with their eyes continually
wandering to the door; and as the FRIJOLES were being served, started
simultaneously and exchanged glances.

A man wearing two marguerites in the lapel of his coat had entered
abruptly, and sat down to a table close at hand.

Condy drew a breath of suppressed excitement.

"There he is," he whispered--"Captain Jack!"

They looked at the newcomer with furtive anxiety, and told themselves
that they were disappointed.  For a retired sea captain he was
desperately commonplace.  His hair was red, he was younger than they
had expected, and, worst of all, he did look tough.

"Oh, poor K. D. B.!" sighed Blix, shaking her head.  "He'll never do,
I'm afraid.  Perhaps he has a good heart, though; red-headed people are
SOMETIMES affectionate."

"They are impulsive," hazarded Condy.

As he spoke the words, a second man entered the little room.  He, too,
sat down at a nearby table.  He, too, ordered the "supper Mexican." He,
too, wore marguerites in his buttonhole.

"Death and destruction!" gasped Condy, turning pale.

Blix collapsed helplessly in her chair, her hands dropping in her lap.
They stared at each other in utter confusion.

"Here's a how-do-you-do," murmured Condy, pretending to strip a TAMALE
that Richard had just set before him.  But Blix had pushed hers aside.

"What does it mean?" whispered Condy across the table.  "In Heaven's
name, what does it mean?"

"It can only mean one thing," Blix declared; "one of them is the
captain, and one is a coincidence.  Anybody might wear a marguerite; we
ought to have thought of that."

"But which is which?"

"If K. D. B. should come now!"

"But the last man looks more like the captain."

The last man was a sturdy, broad-shouldered fellow, who might have been
forty.  His heavy mustache was just touched with gray, and he did have
a certain vaguely "sober and industrious" appearance.  But the
difference between the two men was slight, after all; the red-headed
man could easily have been a sea captain, and he certainly was over
thirty-five.

"Which? which? which?--how can we tell? We might think of some way to
get rid of the coincidence, if we could only tell which the coincidence
was.  We owe it to K. D. B. In a way, Condy, it's our duty.  We brought
her here, or we are going to, and we ought to help her all we can; and
she may be here at any moment.  What time is it now?"

"Five minutes after seven.  But, Blix, I should think the right
one--the captain--would be all put out himself by seeing another chap
here wearing marguerites.  Does either one of 'em seem put out to you?
Look.  I should think the captain, whichever one he is, would kind of
GLARE at the coincidence."

Stealthily they studied the two men for a moment.

"No, no," murmured Blix, "you can't tell.  Neither of them seems to
glare much.  Oh, Condy"--her voice dropped to a faint whisper.  "The
red-headed one has put his hat on a chair, just behind him, notice? Do
you suppose if you stood up you could see inside?"

"What good would that do?"

"He might have his initials inside the crown, or his whole name even;
and you could see if he had a 'captain' before it."

Condy made a pretence of rising to get a match in a ribbed, truncated
cone of china that stood upon an adjacent table, and Blix held her
breath as he glanced down into the depths of the hat.  He resumed his
seat.

"Only initials," he breathed--"W. J. A.  It might be Jack, that J., and
it might be Joe, or Jeremiah, or Joshua; and even if he was a captain
he might not use the title.  We're no better off than we were before."

"And K. D. B. may come at any moment.  Maybe she has come already and
looked through the windows, and saw TWO men with marguerites and went
away.  She'd be just that timid.  What can we do?"

"Wait a minute, look here," murmured Condy.  "I've an idea. I'LL find
out which the captain is.  You see that picture, that chromo, on the
wall opposite?"

Blix looked as he indicated.  The picture was a gorgeously colored
lithograph of a pilot-boat, schooner-rigged, all sails set, dashing
bravely through seas of emerald green color.

"You mean that schooner?" asked Blix.

"That schooner, exactly.  Now, listen.  You ask me in a loud voice what
kind of a boat that is; and when I answer, you keep your eye on the two
men."

"Why, what are you going to do?"

"You'll see.  Try it now; we've no time to lose."

Blix shifted in her seat and cleared her throat.  Then:

"What a pretty boat that is up there, that picture on the wall.  See
over there, on the wall opposite? Do you notice it? Isn't she pretty?
Condy, tell me what kind of a boat is that?"

Condy turned about in his place with great deliberation, fixed the
picture with a judicial eye, and announced decisively:

"That?--why, that's a BARKENTINE."

Condy had no need to wait for Blix's report.  The demonstration came
far too quickly for that.  The red-headed man at his loud declaration
merely   glanced in the direction of the chromo and returned to his
enchellados.  But he of the black mustache followed Condy's glance,
noted the picture of which he spoke, and snorted contemptuously.  They
even heard him mutter beneath his mustache:

"BARKENTINE your eye!"

"No doubt as to which is the captain now," whispered Condy so soon as
the other had removed from him a glance of withering scorn.

They could hardly restrain their gayety; but their gravity promptly
returned when Blix kicked Condy's foot under the table and murmured:
"He's looking at his watch, the captain is.  K. D.  B. isn't here yet,
and the red-headed man, the coincidence, is.  We MUST get rid of him.
Condy, can't you think of something?"

"Well, he won't go till he's through his supper, you can depend upon
that.  If he's here when K. D. B. arrives, it will spoil everything.
She wouldn't stay a moment.  She wouldn't even come in."

"Isn't it disappointing? And I had so counted upon bringing these two
together! And Captain Jack is a nice man!"

"You can see that with one hand tied behind you," whispered Condy.
"The other chap's tough."

"Looks just like the kind of man to get into jail sooner or later."

"Maybe he's into some mischief now; you never can tell.  And the
Mexican quarter of San Francisco is just the place for 'affairs.' I'll
warrant he's got PALS."

"Well, here he is--that's the main point--just keeping those people
apart, spoiling a whole romance.  Maybe ruining their lives.  It's
QUITE possible; really it is.  Just stop and think.  This is a positive
crisis we're looking at now."

"Can't we get rid of him SOMEHOW?"

"O-oh!" whispered Blix, all at once, in a quiver of excitement.  "There
is a way, if we'd ever have the courage to do it.  It might work; and
if it didn't, he'd never know the difference, never would suspect us.
Oh! but we wouldn't dare."

"What? what? In Heaven's name what is it, Blix?"

"We wouldn't dare--we couldn't.  Oh! but it would be such--"

"K. D. B. may come in that door at any second."

"I'm half afraid, but all the same--Condy, let me have a pencil." She
dashed off a couple of lines on the back of the bill of fare, and her
hand trembled like a leaf as she handed him what she had written.

"Send him--the red-headed man--that telegram.  There's an office just
two doors below here, next the drug-store.  I saw it as we came by.
You know his initials: remember, you saw them in his hat.  W. J. A.,
Luna's restaurant.  That's all you want."

"Lord," muttered Condy, as he gazed upon what Blix had written.

"Do you dare?" she whispered, with a little hysterical shudder.

"If it failed we've nothing to lose."

"And K. D. B. is coming nearer every instant!"

"But would he go--that is, at once?"

"We can only try.  You won't be gone a hundred seconds.  You can leave
me here that length of time.  Quick, Condy; decide one way or the
other.  It's getting desperate."

Condy reached for his hat.

"Give me some money, then," he said.  "You won all of mine."

A few moments later he was back again and the two sat, pretending to
eat their chili peppers, their hearts in their throats, hardly daring
to raise their eyes from their plates.  Condy was actually sick with
excitement, and all but tipped the seltzer bottle to the floor when a
messenger boy appeared in the outer room.  The boy and the proprietor
held a conference over the counter.  Then Richard appeared between the
portieres of Nottingham lace, the telegram in his hand and the boy at
his heels.

Evidently Richard knew the red-headed man, for he crossed over to him
at once with the words:

"I guess this is for you, Mr. Atkins?"

He handed him the despatch and retired.  The red-headed man signed the
receipt; the boy departed.  Blix and Condy heard the sound of torn
paper as the red-headed man opened the telegram.

Ten seconds passed, then fifteen, then twenty.  There was a silence.
Condy dared to steal a glance at the red-headed man's reflection in the
mirror.  He was studying the despatch, frowning horribly.  He put it
away in his pocket, took it out again with a fierce movement of
impatience, and consulted it a second time.  His "supper Mexican"
remained untasted before him; Condy and Blix heard him breathing loud
through his nose.  That he was profoundly agitated, they could not
doubt for a single moment.  All at once a little panic terror seemed to
take possession of him.  He rose, seized his hat, jammed it over his
ears, slapped a half-dollar upon the table, and strode from the
restaurant.

This is what the read-headed man had read in the despatch; this is what
Blix had written:


"ALL IS DISCOVERED.  FLY AT ONCE."


And never in all their subsequent rambles about the city did Blix or
Condy set eyes upon the red-headed man again, nor did Luna's
restaurant, where he seemed to have been a habitue, ever afterward know
his presence.  He disappeared; he was swallowed up.  He had left the
restaurant, true.  Had he also left that neighborhood?  Had he fled the
city, the State, the country even? What skeleton in the red-headed
man's closet had those six words called to life and the light of day.
Had they frightened him forth to spend the rest of his days fleeing
from an unnamed, unknown avenger--a veritable wandering Jew? What
mystery had they touched upon there in the bald, bare back room of the
Quarter's restaurant? What dark door had they opened, what red-headed
phantom had they evoked? Had they broken up a plot, thwarted a
conspiracy, prevented a crime?  They never knew.  One thing only was
certain.  The red-headed man had had a past.

Meanwhile the minutes were passing, and K. D. B. still failed to
appear.  Captain Jack was visibly growing impatient, anxious.  By now
he had come to the fiery liqueur called mescal.  He was nearly through
his supper.  At every moment he consulted his watch and fixed the
outside door with a scowl.  It was already twenty minutes after seven.

"I know the red-headed man spoiled it, after all," murmured Blix.  "K.
D. B. saw the two of them in here and was frightened."

"We could send Captain Jack a telegram from her," suggested Condy.
"I'm ready for anything now."

"What could you say?"

"Oh, that she couldn't come.  Make another appointment."

"He'd be offended with her.  He'd never make another appointment.  Sea
captains are always so punctilious, y' know."

Richard brought them their coffee and kirsch, and Condy showed Blix how
to burn a lump of sugar and sweeten the coffee with syrup.  But they
were disappointed.  Captain Jack was getting ready to leave.  K. D. B.
had evidently broken the appointment.

Then all at once she appeared.

They knew it upon the instant by a brisk opening and shutting of the
street door, and by a sudden alertness on the part of Captain Jack,
which he immediately followed by a quite inexplicable move.  The street
door in the outside room had hardly closed before his hand shot to his
coat lapel and tore out the two marguerites.

The action was instinctive; Blix knew it for such immediately.  The
retired captain had not premeditated it.  He had not seen the face of
the newcomer.  She had not time to come into the back room, or even to
close the street door.  But the instant that the captain had recognized
a bunch of white marguerites in her belt he had, without knowing why,
been moved to conceal his identity.

"He's afraid," whispered Blix.  "Positively, I believe he's afraid.
How absolutely stupid men are!"

But meanwhile, K. D. B., the looked-for, the planned-for and
intrigued-for; the object of so much diplomacy, such delicate
manoeuvring; the pivot upon which all plans were to turn, the
storm-centre round which so many conflicting currents revolved, and for
whose benefit the peace of mind of the red-headed man had been forever
broken up--had entered the room.

"Why, she's PRETTY!" was Blix's first smothered exclamation, as if she
had expected a harridan.

K. D. B. looked like a servant-girl of the better sort, and was really
very neatly dressed.  She was small, little even.  She had snappy black
eyes, a resolute mouth, and a general air of being very quiet, very
matter-of-fact and complacent.  She would be disturbed at nothing,
excited at nothing; Blix was sure of that.  She was placid, but it was
the placidity not of the absence of emotion, but of emotion disdained.
Not the placidity of the mollusk, but that of a mature and
contemplative cat.

Quietly she sat down at a corner table, quietly she removed her veil
and gloves, and quietly she took in the room and its three occupants.

Condy and Blix glued their eyes upon their coffee cups like guilty
conspirators; but a crash of falling crockery called their attention to
the captain's table.

Captain Jack was in a tremor.  Hitherto he had acted the role of a sane
and sensible gentleman of middle age, master of himself and of the
situation.  The entrance of K. D. B. had evidently reduced him to a
semi-idiotic condition.  He enlarged himself; he eased his neck in his
collar with a rotary movement of head and shoulders.  He frowned
terribly at trifling objects in corners of the room.  He cleared his
throat till the glassware jingled.  He pulled at his mustache.  He
perspired, fumed, fretted, and was suddenly seized with an insane
desire to laugh.  Once only he caught the eye of K. D. B., calmly
sitting in her corner, picking daintily at her fish, whereupon he
immediately overturned the vinegar and pepper casters upon the floor.
Just so might have behaved an overgrown puppy in the presence of a
sleepy, unperturbed chessy-cat, dozing by the fire.

"He ought to be shaken," murmured Blix at the end of her patience.
"Does he think SHE is going to make the first move?"

"Ha, ah'm!" thundered the captain, clearing his throat for the
twentieth time, twirling his mustache, and burying his scarlet face in
an enormous pocket handkerchief.

Five minutes passed and he was still in his place.  From time to time
K. D. B. fixed him with a quiet, deliberate look, and resumed her
delicate picking.

"Do you think she knows it's he, now that he's taken off his
marguerites?" whispered Condy.

"Know it?--of course she does! Do you think women are absolutely BLIND,
or so imbecile as men are? And, then, if she didn't think it was he,
she'd go away.  And she's so really pretty, too.  He ought to thank his
stars alive.  Think what a fright she might have been! She doesn't LOOK
thirty-one."

"Huh!" returned Condy.  "As long as she SAID she was thirty-one, you
can bet everything you have that she is; that's as true as revealed
religion."

"Well, it's something to have seen the kind of people who write the
personals," said Blix.  "I had always imagined that they were kind of
tough."

"You see they are not," he answered.  "I told you they were not.
Maybe, however, we have been exceptionally fortunate.  At any rate,
these are respectable enough."

"Not the least doubt about that.  But why don't he do something, that
captain?" mourned Blix.  "Why WILL he act like such a ninny?"

"He's waiting for us to go," said Condy; "I'm sure of it.  They'll
never meet so long as we're here.  Let's go and give 'em a chance.  If
you leave the two alone here, one or the other will HAVE to speak.  The
suspense would become too terrible.  It would be as though they were on
a desert island."

"But I wanted to SEE them meet," she protested.

"You wouldn't hear what they said."

"But we'd never know if they did meet, and oh--and WHO spoke first?"

"She'll speak first," declared Condy.

"Never!" returned Blix, in an indignant whisper.

"I tell you what.  We could go and then come back in five minutes.
I'll forget my stick here.  Savvy?"

"You would probably do it anyhow," she told him.

They decided this would be the better course.  They got together their
things, and Condy neglected his stick, hanging upon a hook on the wall.

At the counter in the outside room, Blix, to the stupefaction of
Richard, the waiter, paid the bill.  But as she was moving toward the
door, Condy called her back.

"Remember the waiter," he said severely, while Richard grinned and
bobbed.  "Fifty cents is the very least you could tip him." Richard
actually protested, but Condy was firm, and insisted upon a half-dollar
tip.

"Noblesse oblige," he declared with vast solemnity.

They walked as far as the cathedral, listened for a moment to the bell
striking the hour of eight; then as they remembered that the restaurant
closed at that time, hurried back and entered the outside room in
feigned perturbation.

"Did I, could I have possibly left my stick here?" exclaimed Condy to
Richard, who was untying his apron behind the counter.  But Richard had
not noticed.

"I think I must have left it back here where we were sitting."

Condy stepped into the back room, Blix following.  They got his stick
and returned to the outside room.

"Yes, yes, I did leave it," he said, as he showed it to Richard.  "I'm
always leaving that stick wherever I go."

"Come again," said Richard, as he bowed them out of the door.

On the curb outside Condy and Blix shook hands and congratulated each
other on the success of all their labors.  In the back room, seated at
the same table, a bunch of wilting marguerites between them, they had
seen their "matrimonial objects" conferring earnestly together,
absorbed in the business of getting acquainted.

Blix heaved a great sigh of relief and satisfaction, exclaiming:

"At last K. D. B. and Captain Jack have met!"



Chapter VIII

"But," she added, as they started to walk, "we will never know which
one spoke first."

But Condy was already worrying.

"I don't know, I don't know!" he murmured anxiously.  "Perhaps we've
done an awful thing.  Suppose they aren't happy together after they're
married? I wish we hadn't; I wish we hadn't now.  We've been playing a
game of checkers with human souls.  We've an awful responsibility.
Suppose he kills her some time?"

"Fiddlesticks, Condy! And, besides, if we've done wrong with our
matrimonial objects, we've offset it by doing well with our red-headed
coincidence.  How do you know, you may have 'foiled a villain' with
that telegram--prevented a crime?"

Condy grinned at the recollection of the incident.

"'Fly at once,'" he repeated.  "I guess he's flying yet.  'All is
discovered.' I'd give a dollar and a half--"

"If you had it?"

"Oh, well, if I had it--to know just what it was we have discovered."

Suddenly Blix caught his arm.

"Condy, here they come!"

"Who? Who?"

"Our objects, Captain Jack and K. D. B."

"Of course, of course.  They couldn't stay.  The restaurant shuts up at
eight."

Blix and Condy had been walking slowly in the direction of Pacific
Street, and K. D. B. and her escort soon overtook them going in the
same direction.  As they passed, the captain was saying:

"--jumped on my hatches, and says we'll make it an international
affair.  That didn't--"

A passing wagon drowned the sound of his voice.

"He was telling her of his adventures!" cried Blix.  "Splendid!
Othello and Desdemona.  They're getting on."

"Let's follow them!" exclaimed Condy.

"Should we? Wouldn't it be indiscreet?"

"No.  We are the arbiters of their fate; we MUST take an interest."

They allowed their objects to get ahead some half a block and then fell
in behind.  There was little danger of their being detected.  The
captain and K. D. B. were absorbed in each other.  She had even taken
his arm.

"They make a fine-looking couple, really," said Blix.  "Where do you
suppose they are going? To another restaurant?"

But this was not the case.  Blix and Condy followed them as far as
Washington Square, where the Geodetic Survey stone stands, and the
enormous flagstaff; and there in front of a commonplace little house,
two doors above the Russian church with its minarets like inverted
balloons K. D. B. and the captain halted.  For a few moments they
conversed in low tones at the gate, then said good-night, K. D. B.
entering the house, the captain bowing with great deference, his hat in
his hand.  Then he turned about, glanced once or twice at the house,
set his hat at an angle, and disappeared across the square, whistling a
tune, his chin in the air.

"Very good, excellent, highly respectable," approved Blix; and Condy
himself fetched a sigh of relief.

"Yes, yes, it might have been worse."

"We'll never see them again, our 'Matrimonial Objects,'" said Blix,
"and they'll never know about us; but we have brought them together.
We've started a romance.  Yes, I think we've done a good day's work.
And now, Condy, I think we had best be thinking of home ourselves.  I'm
just beginning to get most awfully sleepy.  What a day we've had!"

A sea fog, or rather THE sea fog--San Francisco's old and inseparable
companion--had gathered by the time they reached the top of the
Washington Street hill.  Everything was wet with it.  The asphalt was
like varnished ebony.  Indistinct masses and huge dim shadows stood for
the houses on either side.  From the eucalyptus trees and the palms the
water dripped like rain.  Far off oceanward, the fog-horn was lowing
like a lost gigantic bull.  The gray bulk of a policeman--the light
from the street lamp reflected in his star--loomed up on the corner as
they descended from the car.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

Condy had intended to call his diver's story "A Submarine Romance," but
Blix had disapproved.

"It's too 'Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,'" she had said.  "You
want something much more dignified.  There is that about you, Condy,
you like to be too showy; you don't know when to stop.  But you have
left off red-and-white scarfs, and I am very glad to see you wearing
white shirt-fronts instead of pink ones."

"Yes, yes, I thought it would be quieter," he had answered, as though
the idea had come from him.  Blix allowed him to think so.

But "A Victory Over Death," as the story was finally called, was a
success.  Condy was too much of a born story-teller not to know when he
had done something distinctly good.  When the story came back from the
typewriter's, with the additional strength that print lends to fiction,
and he had read it over, he could not repress a sense of jubilation.
The story rang true.

"Bully, bully!" he muttered between his teeth as he finished the last
paragraph.  "It's a corker! If it's rejected everywhere, it's an
out-of-sight yarn just the same."

And there Condy's enthusiasm in the matter began to dwindle.  The fine
fire which had sustained him during the story's composition had died
out.  He was satisfied with his work.  He had written a good story, and
that was the end of it.  No doubt he would send it East--to the
Centennial Company--to-morrow or the day after--some time that week.
To mail the manuscript meant quite half an hour's effort.  He would
have to buy stamps for return postage; a letter would have to be
written, a large envelope procured, the accurate address ascertained.
For the moment his supplement work demanded his attention.  He put off
sending the story from day to day.  His interest in it had abated.  And
for that matter he soon discovered he had other things to think of.

It had been easy to promise Blix that he would no longer gamble at his
club with the other men of his acquaintance; but it was "death and the
devil," as he told himself, to abide by that promise.  More than once
in the fortnight following upon his resolution he had come up to the
little flat on the Washington Street hill as to a place of refuge; and
Blix, always pretending that it was all a huge joke and part of their
good times, had brought out the cards and played with him.  But she
knew very well the fight he was making against the enemy, and how hard
it was for him to keep from the round green tables and group of silent
shirt-sleeved men in the card-rooms of his club.  She looked forward to
the time when Condy would cease to play even with her.  But she was too
sensible and practical a girl to expect him to break a habit of years'
standing in a couple of weeks.  The thing would have to be accomplished
little by little.  At times she had misgivings as to the honesty of the
course she had adopted.  But nowadays, playing as he did with her only,
Condy gambled but two or three evenings in the week, and then not for
more than two hours at a time.  Heretofore hardly an evening that had
not seen him at the round table in his club's card-room, whence he had
not risen until long after midnight.

Condy had told young Sargeant that he had "reformed" in the matter of
gambling, and intended to swear off for a few months.  Sargeant, like
the thoroughbred he was, never urged him to play after that, and never
spoke of the previous night's game when Condy was about.  The other men
of his "set" were no less thoughtful, and, though they rallied him a
little at first upon his defection, soon let the matter drop.  Condy
told himself that there were plenty of good people in the world, after
all.  Every one seemed conspiring to make it easy for him, and he swore
at himself for a weak-kneed cad.

On a certain Tuesday, about a week after the fishing excursion and the
affair of the "Matrimonial Objects," toward half-past six in the
evening, Condy was in his room, dressing for a dinner engagement.
Young Sargeant's sister had invited him to be one of a party who were
to dine at the University Club, and later on fill a box at a charity
play, given by amateurs at one of the downtown theatres.  But as he was
washing his linen shirt-studs with his tooth-brush his eye fell upon a
note, in Laurie Flagg's handwriting, that lay on his writing-desk, and
that he had received some ten days previous.  Condy turned cold upon
the instant, hurled the tooth-brush across the room, and dropped into a
chair with a groan of despair.  Miss Flagg was giving a theatre party
for the same affair, and he remembered now that he had promised to join
her party as well, forgetting all about the engagement he had made with
Miss Sargeant.  It was impossible at this late hour to accept either
one of the young women's invitations without offending the other.

"Well, I won't go to EITHER, that's all," he vociferated aloud to the
opposite wall.  "I'll send 'em each a wire, and say that I'm sick or
have got to go down to the office, and--and, by George!  I'll go up and
see Blix, and we'll read and make things to eat."

And no sooner had this alternative occurred to him than it appeared too
fascinating to be resisted.  A weight seemed removed from his mind.
When it came to that, what amusement would he have at either affair?

"Sit up there with your shirt-front starched like a board," he
blustered, "and your collar throttling you, and smile till your face is
sore, and reel off small talk to a girl whose last name you can't
remember! Do I have any fun, does it do me any good, do I get ideas for
yarns? What do I do it for? I don't know."

While speaking he had been kicking off his tight shoes and such of his
full dress as he had already put on, and with a feeling of enormous
relief turned again to his sack suit of tweed.  "Lord, these feel
better!" he exclaimed, as he substituted the loose business suit for
the formal rigidity of his evening dress.  It was with a sensation of
positive luxury that he put on a "soft" shirt of blue cheviot and his
tan walking-shoes.

"But no more red scarfs," he declared, as he knotted his black satin
"club" before the mirror.  "She WAS right there." He put his cigarettes
in his pocket, caught up his gloves and stick, clapped on his hat, and
started for the Bessemers' flat with a feeling of joyous expectancy he
had not known for days.

Evidently Blix had seen him coming, for she opened the door herself;
and it suited her humor for the moment to treat him as a peddler or
book-agent.

"No, no," she said airily, her head in the air as she held the door.
"No, we don't want any to-day.  We HAVE the biography of Abraham
Lincoln.  Don't want to subscribe to any Home Book of Art.  We're not
artistic; we use drapes in our parlors.  Don't want 'The Wives and
Mothers of Great Men.'"

But Condy had noticed a couple of young women on the lower steps of the
adjacent flat, quite within ear-shot, and at once he began in a loud,
harsh voice:

"Well, y' know, we can't wait for our rent forever; I'm only the
collector, and I've nothing to do with repairs.  Pay your rent that's
three months overdue, and then--"

But Blix pulled him within the house and clapped to the door.

"Condy RIVERS!" she exclaimed, her cheeks flaming, "those are our
neighbors.  They heard every word.  What do you suppose they think?"

"Huh! I'd rather have 'em think I was a rent-collector than a
book-agent.  You began it.  'Evenin', Miss Lady."

"'Evenin', Mister Man."

But Condy's visit, begun thus gayly, soon developed along much more
serious lines.  After supper, while the light still lasted, Blix read
stories to him while he smoked cigarettes in the bay window of the
dining-room.  But as soon as the light began to go she put the book
aside, and the two took their accustomed places in the window, and
watched the evening burning itself out over the Golden Gate.

It was just warm enough to have one of the windows opened, and for a
long time after the dusk they sat listening to the vague clamor of the
city, lapsing by degrees, till it settled into a measured, soothing
murmur, like the breathing of some vast monster asleep.  Condy's
cigarette was a mere red point in the half-darkness.  The smoke drifted
out of the open window in long, blue strata.  At his elbow Blix was
leaning forward, looking down upon the darkening, drowsing city, her
round, strong chin propped upon her hand. She was just close enough for
Candy to catch the sweet, delicious feminine perfume that came
indefinitely from her clothes, her hair, her neck.  From where Condy
sat he could see the silhouette of her head and shoulders against the
dull golden blur of the open window; her round, high forehead, with the
thick yellow hair rolling back from her temples and ears, her pink,
clean cheeks, her little dark-brown, scintillating eyes, and her firm
red mouth, made all the firmer by the position of her chin upon her
hand.  As ever, her round, strong neck was swathed high and tight in
white satin; but between the topmost fold of the satin and the rose of
one small ear-lobe was a little triangle of white skin, that was partly
her neck and partly her cheek, and that Condy knew should be softer
than down, smoother than satin, warm and sweet and redolent as new
apples.  Condy imagined himself having the right to lean toward her
there and kiss that little spot upon her neck or her cheek; and as he
fancied it, was surprised to find his breath come suddenly quick, and a
barely perceptible qualm, as of a certain faintness, thrill him to his
finger-tips; and then, he thought, how would it be if he could, without
fear of rebuff, reach out his arm and put it about her trim, firm
waist, and draw her very close to him, till he should feel the satiny
coolness of her smooth cheek against his; till he could sink his face
in the delicious, fragrant confusion of her hair, then turn that face
to his--that face with its strong, calm mouth and sweet, full lips--
the face of this dear young girl of nineteen, and then--

"I say--I--shall we--let's read again.  Let's--let's do something."

"Condy, how you frightened me!" exclaimed Blix, with a great start.
"No, listen: I want to talk to you, to tell you something.  Papum and I
have been having some very long and serious talks since you were last
here.  What do you think, I may go away."

"The deuce you say!" exclaimed Condy, sitting suddenly upright.  "Where
to, in Heaven's name?" he added--"and when? and what for?"

"To New York, to study medicine."

There was a silence; then Condy exclaimed, waving his hands at her:

"Oh, go right on! Don't mind me.  Little thing like going to New
York--to study medicine.  Of course, that happens every day, a mere
detail.  I presume you'll go back and forth for your meals?"

Then Blix began to explain.  It appeared that she had two aunts, both
sisters of her father--one a widow, the other unmarried.  The widow, a
certain Mrs. Kihm, lived in New York, and was wealthy, and had views on
"women's sphere of usefulness." The other, Miss Bessemer, a little old
maid of fifty, Condy had on rare occasions seen at the flat, where
every one called her Aunt Dodd.  She lived in that vague region of the
city known as the Mission, where she owned a little property.

From what Blix told him that evening, Condy learned that Mrs. Kihm had
visited the coast a few winters previous and had taken a great fancy to
Blix.  Even then she had proposed to Mr. Bessemer to take Blix back to
New York with her, and educate her to some woman's profession; but at
that time the old man would not listen to it.  Now it seemed that the
opportunity had again presented itself.

"She's a dear old lady," Blix said; "not a bit strong-minded, as you
would think, and ever so much cleverer than most men.  She manages all
her property herself.  For the last month she's been writing again to
Papum for me to come on and stay with her three, or four years.  She
hasn't a chick nor a child, and she don't entertain or go out any, so
maybe she feels lonesome.  Of course if I studied there, Papum wouldn't
think of Aunt Kihm--don't you know--paying for it all.  I wouldn't go
if it was that way.  But I could stay with her and she could make a
home for me while I was there--if I should study--anything--study
medicine."

"But why!" he exclaimed.  "What do you want to study to be a doctor
for? It isn't as though you had to support yourself."

"I know, I know I've not got to support myself.  But why shouldn't I
have a profession just like a man--just like you, Condy? You stop and
think.  It seemed strange to me when I first thought of it; but I got
thinking about it and talking it over with Papum, and I should LOVE it.
I'd do it, not because I would have to do it, but because it would
interest me.  Condy, you know that I'm not a bit strong-minded, and
that I hate a masculine, unfeminine girl as much as you do."

"But a medical college, Blix! You don't know what you are talking
about."

"Yes, I do.  There's a college in New York just for women.  Aunt Kihm
sent me the prospectus, and it's one of the best in the country.  I
don't dream of practicing, you know; at least, I don't think about that
now.  But one must have some occupation; and isn't studying medicine,
Condy, better than piano-playing, or French courses, or literary
classes and Browning circles? Oh, I've no patience with that kind of
girl! And look at the chance I have now; and Aunt Kihm is such a dear!
Think, she writes, I could go to and from the college in her coupe
every day, and I would see New York; and just being in a big city like
that is an education."

"You're right, it would be a big thing for you," assented Condy, "and I
like the idea of you studying something.  It would be the making of
such a girl as you, Blix."

And then Blix, seeing him thus acquiescent, said:

"Well, it's all settled; Papum and I both wrote last night."

"When are you going?"

"The first week in January."

"Well, that's not so AWFULLY soon.  But who will take your place here?
However in the world would your father get along without you--and
Snooky and Howard?"

"Aunt Dodd is going to come."

"Sudden enough," said Condy, "but it IS a great thing for you, Blix,
and I'm mighty glad for you.  Your future is all cut out for you now.
Of course your aunt, if she's so fond of you and hasn't any children,
will leave you everything--maybe settle something on you right away;
and you'll marry some one of those New York chaps, and be great big
people before you know it."

"The idea, Condy!" she protested.  "No; I'm going there to study
medicine.  Oh, you don't know how enthusiastic I am over the idea!
I've bought some of the first-year books already, and have been reading
them.  Really, Condy, they are even better than 'Many Inventions.'"

"Wish I could get East," muttered Condy gloomily.  Blix forgot her own
good fortune upon the instant.

"I do so wish you COULD, Condy!" she exclaimed.  "You are too good for
a Sunday supplement. I know it and YOU know it, and I've heard ever so
many people who have read your stories say the same thing.  You could
spend twenty years working as you are now, and at the end what would
you be? Just an assistant editor of a Sunday supplement, and still in
the same place; and worse, you'd come to be contented with that, and
think you were only good for that and nothing better.  You've got it in
you, Condy, to be a great story-teller.  I believe in you, and I've
every confidence in you.  But just so long as you stay here and are
willing to do hack work, just so long you will be a hack writer.  You
must break from it; you MUST get away.  I know you have a good time
here; but there are so many things better than that and more worth
while.  You ought to make up your mind to get East, and work for that
and nothing else.  I know you want to go, but wanting isn't enough.
Enthusiasm without energy isn't enough.  You have enthusiasm, Condy;
but you MUST have energy.  You must be willing to give up things; you
must make up your mind that you will go East, and then set your teeth
together and do it.  Oh, I LOVE a man that can do that--make up his
mind to a thing and then put it through!"

Condy watched her as she talked, her brown-black eyes coruscating, her
cheeks glowing, her small hands curled into round pink fists.

"Blix, you're splendid!" he exclaimed; "you're fine! You could put life
into a dead man.  You're the kind of girl that are the making of men.
By Jove, you'd back a man up, wouldn't you? You'd stand by him till the
last ditch.  Of course," he went on after a pause--"of course I ought
to go to New York.  But, Blix, suppose I went--well, then what? It
isn't as though I had any income of my own, or rich aunt.  Suppose I
didn't find something to do--and the chances are that I wouldn't for
three or four months--what would I live on in the meanwhile? 'What
would the robin do then, poor thing?' I'm a poor young man, Miss
Bessemer, and I've got to eat.  No; my only chance is 'to be
discovered' by a magazine or a publishing house or somebody, and get a
bid of some kind."

"Well, there is the Centennial Company.  They have taken an interest in
you, Condy.  You must follow that right up and keep your name before
them all the time.  Have you sent them 'A Victory Over Death' yet?"

Condy sat down to his eggs and coffee the next morning in the hotel,
harried with a certain sense of depression and disappointment for which
he could assign no cause.  Nothing seemed to interest him.  The
newspaper was dull.  He could look forward to no pleasure in his day's
work; and what was the matter with the sun that morning? As he walked
down to the office he noted no cloud in the sky, but the brightness was
gone from the day.  He sat down to his desk and attacked his work, but
"copy" would not come.  The sporting editor and his inane jokes
harassed him beyond expression.  Just the sight of the clipping
editor's back was an irritation.  The office boy was a mere incentive
to profanity.  There was no spring in Condy that morning, no
elasticity, none of his natural buoyancy.  As the day wore on, his
ennui increased; his luncheon at the club was tasteless, tobacco had
lost its charm.  He ordered a cocktail in the wine-room, and put it
aside with a wry face.

The afternoon was one long tedium.  At every hour he flung his pencil
down, utterly unable to formulate the next sentence of his article,
and, his hands in his pockets, gazed gloomily out of the window over
the wilderness of roofs--grimy, dirty, ugly roofs that spread out
below.  He craved diversion, amusement, excitement.  Something there
was that he wanted with all his heart and soul; yet he was quite unable
to say what it was.  Something was gone from him to-day that he had
possessed yesterday, and he knew he would not regain it on the morrow,
nor the next day, nor the day after that.  What was it? He could not
say.  For half an hour he imagined he was going to be sick.  His mother
was not to be at home that evening, and Condy dined at his club in the
hopes of finding some one with whom he could go to the theatre later on
in the evening.  Sargeant joined him over his coffee and cigarette, but
declined to go with him to the theatre.

"Another game on to-night?" asked Condy.

"I suppose so," admitted the other.

"I guess I'll join you to-night," said Condy. "I've had the blue devils
since morning, and I've got to have something to drive them off."

"Don't let me urge you, you know," returned Sargeant.

"Oh, that's all right!" Condy assured him.  "My time's about up,
anyways."

An hour later, just as he, Sargeant, and the other men of their "set"
were in the act of going upstairs to the card-rooms, a hall-boy gave
Condy a note, at that moment brought by a messenger, who was waiting
for an answer.  It was from Blix.  She wrote:


"Don't you want to come up and play cards with me to-night? We haven't
had a game in over a week?"


"How did she know?" thought Condy to himself--"how could she tell?"
Aloud, he said:

"I can't join you fellows, after all.  'Despatch from the managing
editor.' Some special detail or other."

For the first time since the previous evening Condy felt his spirits
rise as he set off toward the Washington Street hill.  But though he
and Blix spent as merry an evening as they remembered in a long time,
his nameless, formless irritation returned upon him almost as soon as
he had bidden her good-night.  It stayed with him all through the week,
and told upon his work.  As a result, three of his articles were thrown
out by the editor.

"We can't run such rot as that in the paper," the chief had said.
"Can't you give us a story?"

"Oh, I've got a kind of a yarn you can run if you like," answered
Condy, his week's depression at its very lowest.

"A Victory Over Death" was published in the following Sunday's
supplement of the "Times," with illustrations by one of the staff
artists.  It attracted not the least attention.

Just before he went to bed the Sunday evening of its appearance, Condy
read it over again for the last time.

"It's a rotten failure," he muttered gloomily as he cast the paper from
him.  "Simple drivel.  I wonder what Blix will think of it.  I wonder
if I amount to a hill of beans.  I wonder WHAT she wants to go East
for, anyway."



Chapter IX

The old-fashioned Union Street cable car, with its low, comfortable
outside seats, put Blix and Condy down just inside the Presidio
Government Reservation.  Condy asked a direction of a sentry nursing
his Krag-Jorgensen at the terminus of the track, and then with Blix set
off down the long board walk through the tunnel of overhanging
evergreens.

The day could not have been more desirable.  It was a little after ten
of a Monday morning, Condy's weekly holiday.  The air was neither cool
nor warm, effervescent merely, brisk and full of the smell of grass and
of the sea.  The sky was a speckless sheen of pale blue.  To their
right, and not far off, was the bay, blue as indigo.  Alcatraz seemed
close at hand; beyond was the enormous green, red, and purple pyramid
of Tamalpais climbing out of the water, head and shoulders above the
little foothills, and looking out to the sea and to the west.

The Reservation itself was delightful.  There were rows of the
officers' houses, all alike, drawn up in lines like an assembly of the
staff; there were huge barracks, most like college dormitories; and on
their porches enlisted men in shirt sleeves and overalls were cleaning
saddles, and polishing the brass of head-stalls and bridles, whistling
the while or smoking corn-cob pipes.  Here on the parade-ground a
soldier, his coat and vest removed, was batting grounders and flies to
a half-dozen of his fellows.  Over by the stables, strings of horses,
all of the same color, were being curried and cleaned.  A young
lieutenant upon a bicycle spun silently past.  An officer came from his
front gate, his coat unbuttoned and a briar in his teeth.  The walks
and roads were flanked with lines of black-painted cannon-balls;
inverted pieces of abandoned ordnance stood at corners.  From a
distance came the mellow snarling of a bugle.

Blix and Condy had planned a long walk for that day.  They were to go
out through the Presidio Reservation, past the barracks and officers'
quarters, and on to the old fort at the Golden Gate.  Here they would
turn and follow the shore-line for a way, then strike inland across the
hills for a short half-mile, and regain the city and the street-car
lines by way of the golf-links.  Condy had insisted upon wearing his
bicycle outfit for the occasion, and, moreover, carried a little
satchel, which, he said, contained a pair of shoes.

But Blix was as sweet as a rose that morning, all in tailor-made black
but for the inevitable bands of white satin wrapped high and tight
about her neck.  The St. Bernard dog-collar did duty as a belt.  She
had disdained a veil, and her yellow hair was already blowing about her
smooth pink cheeks.  She walked at his side, her step as firm and solid
as his own, her round, strong arms swinging, her little brown eyes
shining with good spirits and vigor, and the pure, clean animal joy of
being alive on that fine cool Western morning.  She talked almost
incessantly.  She was positively garrulous.  She talked about the fine
day that it was, about the queer new forage caps of the soldiers, about
the bare green hills of the Reservation, about the little cemetery they
passed just beyond the limits of the barracks, about a rabbit she saw,
and about the quail they both heard whistling and calling in the
hollows under the bushes.

Condy walked at her side in silence, yet no less happy than she,
smoking his pipe and casting occasional glances at a great ship--a
four-master that was being towed out toward the Golden Gate.  At every
moment and at every turn they noted things that interested them, and to
which they called each other's attention.

"Look, Blix!"

"Oh, Condy, look at that!"

They were soon out of the miniature city of the Post, and held on down
through the low reach of tules and sand-dunes that stretch between the
barracks and the old red fort.

"Look, Condy!" said Blix.  "What's that building down there on the
shore of the bay--the one with the flagstaff?"

"I think that must be the lifeboat station."

"I wonder if we could go down and visit it.  I think it would be good
fun."

"Idea!" exclaimed Condy.

The station was close at hand.  To reach it they had but to leave the
crazy board walk that led on toward the fort, and cross a few hundred
yards of sand-dune.  Condy opened the gate that broke the line of
evergreen hedge around the little two-story house, and promptly
unchained a veritable pandemonium of dogs.

Inside, the place was not without a certain charm of its own.  A brick
wall, bordered with shells, led to the front of the station, which gave
directly upon the bay; a little well-kept lawn opened to right and
left, and six or eight gaily-painted old rowboats were set about, half
filled with loam in which fuchsias, geraniums, and mignonettes were
flowering.  A cat or two dozed upon the window-sills in the sun.  Upon
a sort of porch overhead, two of the crew paced up and down in a manner
that at once suggested the poop.  Here and there was a gleam of highly
polished red copper or brass trimmings.  The bay was within two steps
of the front door, while a little further down the beach was the house
where the surf-boat was kept, and the long runway leading down from it
to the water.  Condy rapped loudly at the front door.  It was opened by
Captain Jack.

Captain Jack, and no other; only now he wore a blue sweater and a
leather-visored cap, with the letters U. S. L. B. S. around the band.

Not an instant was given them for preparation.  The thing had happened
with the abruptness of a transformation scene at a theatre.  Condy's
knock had evoked a situation.  Speech was stricken from their mouths.
For a moment they were bereft even of action, and stood there on the
threshold, staring open-mouthed and open-eyed at the sudden
reappearance of their "matrimonial object." Condy was literally dumb;
in the end it was Blix who tided them over the crisis.

"We were just going by--just taking a walk," she explained, "and we
thought we'd like to see the station.  Is it all right? Can we look
around?"

"Why, of course," assented the Captain with great cordiality.  "Come
right in.  This is visitors' day.  You just happened to hit it--only
it's mighty few visitors we ever have," he added.

While Condy was registering for himself and Blix, they managed to
exchange a lightning glance.  It was evident the Captain did not
recognize them.  The situation readjusted itself, even promised to be
of extraordinary interest.  And for that matter it made little
difference whether the captain remembered them or not.

"No, we don't get many visitors," the Captain went on, as he led them
out of the station and down the small gravel walk to the house where
the surf-boat was kept.  "This is a quiet station.  People don't fetch
out this way very often, and we're not called out very often, either.
We're an inside post, you see, and usually we don't get a call unless
the sea's so high that the Cliff House station can't launch their boat.
So, you see, we don't go out much, but when we DO, it means business
with a great big B.  Now, this here, you see," continued the Captain,
rolling back the sliding doors of the house, "is the surf-boat.  By the
way, let's see; I ain't just caught your names yet."

"Well, my name's Rivers," said Condy, "and this is Miss Bessemer.
We're both from the city."

"Happy to know you, sir; happy to know you, miss," he returned, pulling
off his cap.  "My name's Hoskins, but you can just call me Captain
Jack.  I'm so used to it that I don't kind of answer to the other.
Well, now, Miss Bessemer, this here's the surf-boat; she's
self-rightin', self-bailin', she can't capsize, and if I was to tell
you how many thousands of dollars she cost, you wouldn't believe me."

Condy and Blix spent a delightful half-hour in the boat-house while
Captain Jack explained and illustrated, and told them anecdotes of
wrecks, escapes, and rescues till they held their breaths like
ten-year-olds.

It did not take Condy long to know that he had discovered what the
story-teller so often tells of but so seldom finds, and what, for want
of a better name, he elects to call "a character."

Captain Jack had been everywhere, had seen everything, and had done
most of the things worth doing, including a great many things that he
had far better have left undone.  But on this latter point the Captain
seemed to be innocently and completely devoid of a moral sense of right
and wrong.  It was quite evident that he saw no matter for conscience
in the smuggling of Chinamen across the Canadian border at thirty
dollars a head--a venture in which he had had the assistance of the
prodigal son of an American divine of international renown.  The trade
to Peruvian insurgents of condemned rifles was to be regretted only
because the ring manipulating it was broken up.  The appropriation of a
schooner in the harbor of Callao was a story in itself; while the
robbery of thirty thousand dollars' worth of sea-otter skins from a
Russian trading-post in Alaska, accomplished chiefly through the agency
of a barrel of rum manufactured from sugar-cane, was a veritable
achievement.

He had been born, so he told them, in Winchester, in England, and--
Heaven save the mark!--had been brought up with a view of taking
orders.  For some time he was a choir boy in the great Winchester
Cathedral; then, while yet a lad, had gone to sea.  He had been
boat-steerer on a New Bedford whaler, and struck his first whale when
only sixteen.  He had filibustered down to Chili; had acted as ice
pilot on an Arctic relief expedition; had captained a crew of Chinamen
shark-fishing in Magdalena Bay, and had been nearly murdered by his
men; had been a deep-sea diver, and had burst his ear-drums at the
business, so that now he could blow tobacco smoke out of his ears; he
had been shipwrecked in the Gilberts, fought with the Seris on the
lower California Islands, sold champagne--made from rock candy,
effervescent salts, and Reisling wine--to the Coreans, had dreamed of
"holding up" a Cunard liner, and had ridden on the Strand in a hansom
with William Ewart Gladstone.  But the one thing of which he was proud,
the one picture of his life he most delighted to recall, was himself as
manager of a negro minstrel troupe, in a hired drum-major's uniform,
marching down the streets of Sacramento at the head of the brass band
in burnt cork and regimentals.

"The star of the troupe," he told them, "was the lady with the iron
jore.  We busted in Stockton, and she gave me her diamonds to pawn.  I
pawned 'em, and kept back something in the hand for myself and hooked
it to San Francisco.  Strike me straight if she didn't follow me, that
iron-jored piece; met me one day in front of the Bush Street Theatre,
and horsewhipped me properly.  Now, just think of that"--and he laughed
as though it was the best kind of a joke.

"But," hazarded Blix, "don't you find it rather dull out here--
lonesome? I should think you would want to have some one with you to
keep you company--to--to do your cooking for you?"

But Condy, ignoring her diplomacy and thinking only of possible
stories, blundered off upon another track.

"Yes," he said, "you've led such a life of action, I should think this
station would be pretty dull for you.  How did you happen to choose it?"

"Well, you see," answered the Captain, leaning against the smooth white
flank of the surf-boat, his hands in his pockets, "I'm lying low just
now.  I got into a scrape down at Libertad, in Mexico, that made talk,
and I'm waiting for that to die down some.  You see, it was this way."

Mindful of their experience with the mate of the whaleback, Condy and
Blix were all attention in an instant.  Blix sat down upon an upturned
box, her elbows on her knees, leaning forward, her little eyes fixed
and shining with interest and expectation; Condy, the story-teller all
alive and vibrant in him, stood at her elbow, smoking cigarette after
cigarette, his fingers dancing with excitement and animation as the
Captain spoke.

And then it was that Condy and Blix, in that isolated station, the bay
lapping at the shore within ear-shot, in that atmosphere redolent of
paint and oakum and of seaweed decaying upon the beach outside, first
heard the story of "In Defiance of Authority."

Captain Jack began it with his experience as a restaurant keeper during
the boom days in Seattle, Washington.  He told them how he was the
cashier of a dining-saloon whose daily net profits exceeded eight
hundred dollars; how its proprietor suddenly died, and how he, Captain
Jack, continued the management of the restaurant pending a settlement
of the proprietor's affairs and an appearance of heirs; how in the
confusion and excitement of the boom no settlement was ever made; and
how, no heirs appearing, he assumed charge of the establishment
himself, paying bills, making contracts, and signing notes, until he
came to consider the business and all its enormous profits as his own;
and how at last, when the restaurant was burned, he found himself some
forty thousand dollars "ahead of the game."

Then he told them of the strange club of the place, called "The
Exiles," made up chiefly of "younger sons" of English and
British-Canadian families, every member possessed of a "past" more or
less disreputable; men who had left their country for their country's
good, and for their family's peace of mind--adventurers, wanderers,
soldiers of fortune, gentlemen-vagabonds, men of hyphenated names and
even noble birth, whose appellations were avowedly aliases.  He told
them of his meeting with Billy Isham, one of the club's directors, and
of the happy-go-lucky, reckless, unpractical character of the man; of
their acquaintance, intimacy, and subsequent partnership; of how the
filibustering project was started with Captain Jack's forty thousand,
and the never-to-be-forgotten interview in San Francisco with Senora
Estrada, the agent of the insurgents; of the incident of her
calling-card--how she tore it in two and gave one-half to Isham; of
their outfitting, and the broken sextant that was to cause their
ultimate discomfiture and disaster, and of the voyage to the rendezvous
on a Panama liner.

"Strike me!" continued Captain Jack, "you should have seen Billy Isham
on that Panama dough-dish; a passenger ship she was, and Billy was the
life of her from stem to stern-post.  There was a church pulpit aboard
that they were taking down to Mazatlan for some chapel or other, and
this here pulpit was lashed on deck aft.  Well, Billy had been most
kinds of a fool in his life, and among others a play-actor; called
himself Gaston Maundeville, and was clean daft on his knowledge of
Shakespeare and his own power of interpretin' the hidden meanin' of the
lines.  I ain't never going to forgit the day he gave us Portia's
speech.  We were just under the tropic, and the day was a scorcher.
There was mostly men folk aboard, and we lay around the deck in our
pajamas, while Billy--Gaston Maundeville, dressed in striped red and
white pajamas--clum up in that bally pulpit, with the ship's
Shakespeare in his hands, an' let us have--'The quality o' mercy isn't
strained; it droppeth as the genteel dew from heavun.' Laugh, I tell
you I was sore with it.  Lord, how we guyed him! An' the more we guyed
and the more we laughed, the more serious he got and the madder he
grew.  He said he was interpretin' the hidden meanin' of the lines."

And so the Captain ran through that wild, fiery tale--of fighting and
loving, buccaneering and conspiring; mandolins tinkling, knives
clicking; oaths mingling with sonnets, and spilled wine with spilled
blood.  He told them of Isham's knife duel with the Mexican lieutenant,
their left wrists lashed together; of the "battle of the thirty" in the
pitch dark of the Custom House cellar; of Senora Estrada's love for
Isham; and all the roll and plunge of action that make up the story of
"In Defiance of Authority."

At the end, Blix's little eyes were snapping like sparks; Condy's face
was flaming, his hands were cold, and he was shifting his weight from
foot to foot, like an excited thoroughbred horse.

"Heavens and earth, what a yarn!" he exclaimed almost in a whisper.

Blix drew a long, tremulous breath and sat back upon the upturned box,
looking around her as though she had but that moment been awakened.

"Yes, sir," said the Captain, rolling a cigarette.  "Yes, sir, those
were great days.  Get down there around the line in those little,
out-o'-the-way republics along the South American coast, and things
happen to you.  You hold a man's life in the crook of your forefinger,
an' nothing's done by halves.  If you hate a man, you lay awake nights
biting your mattress, just thinking how you hate him; an' if you love a
woman--good Lord, how you do LOVE her!"

"But--but!" exclaimed Condy, "I don't see how you can want to do
anything else.  Why, you're living sixty to the minute when you're
playing a game like that!"

"Oh, I ain't dead yet!" answered the Captain.  "I got a few schemes
left that I could get fun out of."

"How can you wait a minute!" exclaimed Blix breathlessly.  "Why don't
you get a ship right away--to-morrow--and go right off on some other
adventure?"

"Well, I can't just now," returned the Captain, blowing the smoke from
his cigarette through his ears.  "There's a good many reasons; one of
'em is that I've just been married."



Chapter X

Mum--mar--married! gasped Condy, swallowing something in his throat.

Blix rose to her feet.

"Just been MARRIED!" she repeated, a little frightened.
"Why--why--why; how DELIGHTFUL!"

"Yes--yes," mumbled Condy.  "How delightful.  I congratulate you!"

"Come in--come back to the station," said the Captain jovially, "and
I'll introduce you to m' wife.  We were married only last Sunday."

"Why, yes--yes, of course, we'd be delighted," vociferated the two
conspirators a little hysterically.

"She's a mighty fine little woman," declared the Captain, as he rolled
the door of the boat-house to its place and preceded them up the gravel
walk to the station.

"Of course she is," responded Blix.  Behind Captain Jack's back she
fixed Condy with a wide-eyed look, and nudged him fiercely with an
elbow to recall him to himself; for Condy's wits were scattered like a
flock of terrified birds, and he was gazing blankly at the Captain's
coat collar with a vacant, maniacal smile.

"For Heaven's sake, Condy!" she had time to whisper before they arrived
in the hallway of the station.

But fortunately they were allowed a minute or so to recover themselves
and prepare for what was coming.  Captain Jack ushered them into what
was either the parlor, office, or sitting-room of the station, and left
them with the words:

"Just make yourselves comfortable here, an' I'll go fetch the little
woman."

No sooner had he gone than the two turned to each other.

"Well!"

"WELL!"

"We're in for it now."

"But we must see it through, Condy; act just as natural as you can, and
we're all right."

"But supposing SHE recognizes us!"

"Supposing she does--what then.  How ARE they to know that we wrote the
letters?"

"Sh, Blix, not so loud! They know by now that THEY didn't."

"But it seems that it hasn't made any difference to them; they are
married.  And besides, they wouldn't speak about putting 'personals' in
the paper to us.  They would never let anybody know that."

"Do you suppose they could possibly suspect?"

"I'm sure they couldn't."

"Here they come."

"Keep perfectly calm, and we're saved."

"Suppose it isn't K. D. B., after all?"

But it was, of course, and she recognized them in an instant.  She and
the Captain--the latter all grins--came in from the direction of the
kitchen, K. D. B. wearing a neat blue calico gown and an apron that was
really a marvel of cleanliness and starch.

"Kitty!" exclaimed Captain Jack, seized again with an unexplainable
mirth, "here's some young folks come out to see the place an' I want
you to know 'em.  Mr. Rivers, this is m' wife, Kitty, and--lessee,
miss, I don't rightly remember your name."

"Bessemer!" exclaimed Condy and Blix in a breath.

"Oh!" exclaimed K. D. B., "you were in the restaurant the night that
the Captain and I--I--that is--yes, I'm quite sure I've seen you
before." She turned from one to the other, beginning to blush furiously.

"Yes, yes, in Luna's restaurant, wasn't it?" said Condy desperately.
"It seems to me I do just barely remember."

"And wasn't the Captain there?" Blix ventured.

"I forgot my stick, I remember," continued Condy.  "I came back for it;
and just as I was going out it seems to me I saw you two at a table
near the door."

He thought it best to allow their "matrimonial objects" to believe he
had not seen them before.

"Yes, yes, we were there," answered K. D. B. tactfully.  "We dine there
almost every Monday night."

Blix guessed that K. D. B. would prefer to have the real facts of the
situation ignored, and determined she should have the chance to change
the conversation if she wished.

"What a delicious supper one has there!" she said.

"Can't say I like Mexican cooking myself," answered K. D. B.,
forgetting that they dined there every Monday night.  "Plain United
States is good enough for me."

Suddenly Captain Jack turned abruptly to Condy, exclaiming: "Oh, you
was the chap that called the picture of that schooner a barkentine."

"Yes; WASN'T that a barkentine?" he answered innocently.

"Barkentine your EYE!" spluttered the Captain.  "Why, that was a
schooner as plain as a pie plate."

But ten minutes later the ordeal was over, and Blix and Condy, once
more breathing easily, were on their walk again.  The Captain and K. D.
B. had even accompanied them to the gate of the station, and had
strenuously urged them to "come in and see them again the next time
they were out that way."

"Married!" murmured Condy, putting both hands to his head.  "We've done
it, we've done it now."

"Well, what of it?" declared Blix, a little defiantly.  "I think it's
all right.  You can see the Captain is in love with her, and she with
him.  No, we've nothing to reproach ourselves with."

"But--but--but so sudden!" whispered Condy, all aghast.  "That's what
makes me faint--the suddenness of it."

"It shows how much they are in love, how--how readily they--adapted
themselves to each other.  No, it's all right."

"They seemed to like us--actually."

"Well, they had better--if they knew the truth.  Without us they never
would have met."

"They both asked us to come out and see them again, did you notice
that? Let's do it, Blix," Condy suddenly exclaimed; "let's get to know
them!"

"Of course we must.  Wouldn't it be fun to call on them--to get
regularly acquainted with them!"

"They might ask us to dinner some time."

"And think of the stories he could tell you!"

They enthused immediately upon this subject, both talking excitedly at
the same time, going over the details of the Captain's yarns, recalling
the incidents to each other.

"Fancy!" exclaimed Condy--"fancy Billy Isham in his pajamas, red and
white stripes, reading Shakespeare from that pulpit on board the ship,
and the other men guying him! Isn't that a SCENE for you? Can't you
just SEE it?

"I wonder if the Captain wasn't making all those things up as he went
along.  He don't seem to have any sense of right and wrong at all.  He
might have been lying, Condy."

"What difference would that make?"

And so they went along in that fine, clear, Western morning, on the
edge of the Continent, both of them young and strong and vigorous, the
Pacific under their eyes, the great clean Trades blowing in their
faces, the smell of the salt sea coming in long aromatic whiffs to
their nostrils.  Young and strong and fresh, their imaginations
thronging with pictures of vigorous action and adventure, buccaneering,
filibustering, and all the swing, the leap, the rush and gallop, the
exuberant, strong life of the great, uncharted world of Romance.

And all unknowingly they were a Romance in themselves.  Cynicism, old
age, and the weariness of all things done had no place in the world in
which they walked.  They still had their illusions, all the keenness of
their sensations, all the vividness of their impressions.  The simple
things of the world, the great, broad, primal emotions of the race
stirred in them.  As they swung along, going toward the ocean, their
brains were almost as empty of thought or of reflection as those of two
fine, clean animals.  They were all for the immediate sensation; they
did not think--they FELT.  The intellect was dormant; they looked at
things, they heard things, they smelled the smell of the sea, and of
the seaweed, of the fat, rank growth of cresses in the salt marshes;
they turned their cheeks to the passing wind, and filled their mouths
and breasts with it.  Their life was sweet to them; every hour was one
glad effervescence.  The fact that the ocean was blue was a matter for
rejoicing.  It was good to be alive on that royal morning.  Just to be
young was an exhilaration; and everything was young with them--the day
was young, the country was young, and the civilization to which they
belonged, teeming there upon the green, Western fringe of the
continent, was young and heady and tumultuous with the boisterous, red
blood of a new race.

Condy even forgot, or rather disdained on such a morning as that, to
piece together and rearrange Captain Jack's yarns into story form.  To
look at the sea and the green hills, to watch the pink on Blix's cheek
and her yellow hair blowing across her eyes and lips, was better than
thinking.  Life was better than literature.  To live was better than to
read; one live human being was better than ten thousand Shakespeares;
an act was better than a thought.  Why, just to love Blix, to be with
her, to see the sweet, clean flush of her cheek, to know that she was
there at his side, and to have the touch of her elbow as they walked,
was better than the best story, the greatest novel he could ever hope
to write.  Life was better than literature, and love was the best thing
in life.  To love Blix and to be near her--what else was worth while?
Could he ever think of finding anything in life sweeter and finer than
this dear young girl of nineteen?

Suddenly Condy came to himself with an abrupt start.  What was this he
was thinking--what was this he was telling himself? Love Blix! He loved
Blix! Why, of COURSE he loved her--loved her so, that with the thought
of it there came a great, sudden clutch at the heart and a strange
sense of tenderness, so vague and yet so great that it eluded speech
and all expression.  Love her! Of course he loved her! He had, all
unknowing, loved her even before this wonderful morning: had loved her
that day at the lake, and that never-to-be-forgotten, delicious
afternoon in the Chinese restaurant; all those long, quiet evenings
spent in the window of the little dining-room, looking down upon the
darkening city, he had loved her.  Why, all his days for the last few
months had been full of the love of her.

How else had he been so happy? how else did it come about that little
by little he was withdrawing from the society and influence of his
artificial world, as represented by such men as Sargeant?  how else was
he slowly loosening the grip of the one evil and vicious habit that had
clutched him so long? how else was his ambition stirring? how else was
his hitherto aimless enthusiasm hardening to energy and determination?
She had not always so influenced him.  In the days when they had just
known each other, and met each other in the weekly course of their
formal life, it had not been so, even though they pretended a certain
amount of affection.  He remembered the evening when Blix had brought
those days to an abrupt end, and how at the moment he had told himself
that after all he had never known the real Blix.  Since then, in the
charming, unconventional life they had led, everything had been
changed.  He had come to know her for what she was, to know her genuine
goodness, her sincerity, her contempt of affectations, her comradeship,
her calm, fine strength and unbroken good nature; and day by day, here
a little and there a little, his love for her had grown so quietly, so
evenly, that he had never known it, until now, behold! it was suddenly
come to flower, full and strong--a flower whose fragrance had suddenly
filled all his life and all his world with its sweetness.

Half an hour after leaving the lifeboat station, Condy and Blix reached
the old, red-brick fort, deserted, abandoned, and rime-incrusted, at
the entrance of the Golden Gate.  They turned its angle, and there
rolled the Pacific, a blue floor of shifting water, stretching out
there forever and forever over the curve of the earth, over the
shoulder of the world, with never a sail in view and never a break from
horizon to horizon.

They followed down the shore, sometimes upon the old and broken flume
that runs along the seaward face of the hills that rise from the beach,
or sometimes upon the beach itself, stepping from bowlder to bowlder,
or holding along at the edge of the water upon reaches of white, hard
sand.

The beach was solitary; not a soul was in sight.  Close at hand, to
landward, great hills, bare and green, shut off the sky; and here and
there the land came tumbling down into the sea in great, jagged, craggy
rocks, knee-deep in swirling foam, and all black with wet.  The air was
full of the prolonged thunder of the surf, and at intervals sea-birds
passed overhead with an occasional piping cry.  Wreckage was tumbled
about here and there; and innumerable cocoanut shards, huge, brown cups
of fuzzy bark, lay underfoot and in the crevices of the rocks.  They
found a jellyfish--a pulpy translucent mass; and once even caught a
sight of a seal in the hollow of a breaker, with sleek and shining
head, his barbels bristling, and heard his hoarse croaking bark as he
hunted the off-shore fish.

Blix refused to allow Condy to help her in the least.  She was quite as
active and strong as he, and clambered from rock to rock and over the
shattered scantling of the flume with the vigor and agility of a young
boy.  She muddied her shoes to the very tops scratched her hands, tore
her skirt, and even twisted her ankle; but her little eyes were never
so bright, nor was the pink flush of her cheeks ever more adorable.
And she was never done talking--a veritable chatterbox.  She saw
everything and talked about everything she saw, quite indifferent as to
whether or no Condy listened.  Now it was a queer bit of seaweed, now
it was a group of gulls clamoring over a dead fish, now a purple
starfish, now a breaker of unusual size.  Her splendid vitality carried
her away.  She was excited, alive to her very finger-tips, vibrant to
the least sensation, quivering to the least impression.

"Let's get up here and sit down somewhere," said Condy, at length.

They left the beach and climbed up the slope of the hills, near a point
where a long arm of land thrust out into the sea and shut off the wind;
a path was there, and they followed it for a few yards, till they had
come to a little amphitheatre surrounded with blackberry bushes.

Here they sat down, Blix settling herself on an old log with a little
sigh of contentment, Condy stretching himself out, a new-lighted pipe
in his teeth, his head resting on the little handbag he had
persistently carried ever since morning.  Then Blix fell suddenly
silent, and for a long time the two sat there without speaking,
absorbed in the enjoyment of looking at the enormous green hills
rolling down to the sea, the breakers thundering at the beach, the
gashed pinnacles of rock, the vast reach of the Pacific, and the
distant prospect of the old fort at the entrance of the Golden Gate.

"We might be a thousand miles away from the city, for all the looks of
it, mightn't we, Condy?" said Blix, after a while.  "And I'm that
HUNGRY! It must be nearly noon."

For answer, Condy sat up with profound gravity, and with a great air of
nonchalance opened the handbag, and, instead of shoes took out, first,
a pint bottle of claret, then "devilish" ham sandwiches in oiled paper,
a bottle of stuffed olives, a great bag of salted almonds, two little
tumblers, a paper-covered novel, and a mouth organ.

Blix fairly crowed with delight, clasping her hands upon her knees, and
rocking to and fro where she sat upon the log.

"Oh, Condy, and you thought of a LUNCH--you said it was shoes--and you
remembered I loved stuffed olives, too; and a book to read.  What is
it--'The Seven Seas.' No, I never WAS so happy.  But the mouth
organ--what's that for?"

"To play on.  What did you think--think it was a can-opener?"

Blix choked with merriment over his foolery, and Condy added proudly:

"Look there! I made those sandwiches!"

They looked as though he had--great, fat chunks of bread, the crust
still on; the "devilish" ham in thick strata between; and, positively,
he had BUTTERED the bread.  But it was all one with them; they ate as
though at a banquet, and Blix even took off her hat and hung it upon
one of the nearby bushes.  Of course Condy had forgotten a corkscrew.
He tried to dig out the cork of the claret bottle with his knife, until
he had broken both blades and was about to give up in despair, when
Blix, at the end of her patience, took the bottle from him and pushed
in the cork with her finger.

"Wine, music, literature, and feasting," observed Condy.  "We're
getting regularly luxurious, just like Sardine-apalus."

But Condy himself had suddenly entered into an atmosphere of happiness,
the like of which he had never known or dreamed of before.  He loved
Blix--he had just discovered it.  He loved her because she was so
genuine, so radiantly fresh and strong; loved her because she liked the
things that he liked, because they two looked at the world from
precisely the same point of view, hating shams and affectations, happy
in the things that were simple and honest and natural.  He loved her
because she liked his books, appreciating the things therein that he
appreciated, liking what he liked, disapproving of what he condemned.
He loved her because she was nineteen, and because she was so young and
unspoiled and was happy just because the ocean was blue and the morning
fine.  He loved her because she was so pretty, because of the softness
of her yellow hair, because of her round, white forehead and pink
cheeks, because of her little, dark-brown eyes, with that look in them
as if she were just done smiling or just about to smile, one could not
say which; loved her because of her good, firm mouth and chin, because
of her full neck and its high, tight bands of white satin.  And he
loved her because her arms were strong and round, and because she wore
the great dog-collar around her trim, firm-corseted waist, and because
there emanated from her with every movement a barely perceptible,
delicious, feminine odor, that was in part perfume, but mostly a
subtle, vague aroma, charming beyond words, that came from her mouth,
her hair, her neck, her arms, her whole sweet personality.  And he
loved her because she was herself, because she was Blix, because of
that strange, sweet influence that was disengaged from her in those
quiet moments when she seemed so close to him, when some unnamed,
mysterious sixth sense in him stirred and woke and told him of her
goodness, of her clean purity and womanliness; and that certain, vague
tenderness in him went out toward her, a tenderness not for her only,
but for all the good things of the world; and he felt his nobler side
rousing up and the awakening of the desire to be his better self.

Covertly he looked at her, as she sat near him, her yellow hair rolling
and blowing back from her forehead, her hands clasped over her knee,
looking out over the ocean, thoughtful, her eyes wide.

She had told him she did not love him.  Condy remembered that perfectly
well.  She was sincere in the matter; she did not love him.  That
subject had been once and for all banished from their intercourse.  And
it was because of that very reason that their companionship of the last
three or four months had been so charming.  She looked upon him merely
as a chum.  She had not changed in the least from that time until now,
whereas he--why, all his world was new for him that morning! Why, he
loved her so, she had become so dear to him, that the very thought of
her made his heart swell and leap.

But he must keep all this to himself.  If he spoke to her, told her of
how he loved her, it would spoil and end their companionship upon the
instant.  They had both agreed upon that; they had tried the other, and
it had worked out.  As lovers they had wearied of each other; as chums
they had been perfectly congenial, thoroughly and completely happy.

Condy set his teeth.  It was a hard situation.  He must choose between
bringing an end to this charming comradeship of theirs, or else fight
back all show of love for her, keep it down and under hand, and that at
a time when every nerve of him quivered like a smitten harp-string.  It
was not in him or in his temperament to love her calmly, quietly, or at
a distance; he wanted the touch of her hand, the touch of her cool,
smooth cheek, the delicious aroma of her breath in his nostrils her
lips against his, her hair and all its fragrance in his face.

"Condy, what's the matter?" Blix was looking at him with an expression
of no little concern.  "What are you frowning so about, and clinching
your fists? And you're pale, too.  What's gone wrong?"

He shot a glance at her, and bestirred himself sharply.

"Isn't this a jolly little corner?" he said.  "Blix, how long is it
before you go?"

"Six weeks from to-morrow."

"And you're going to be gone four years--four years! Maybe you never
will come back.  Can't tell what will happen in four years.  Where's
the blooming mouth-organ?"

But the mouth-organ was full of crumbs.  Condy could not play on it.
To all his efforts it responded only by gasps, mournfulest
death-rattles, and lamentable wails.  Condy hurled it into the sea.

"Well, where's the blooming book, then?" he demanded.  "You're sitting
on it, Blix.  Here, read something in it.  Open it anywhere."

"No; you read to me."

"I will not.  Haven't I done enough? Didn't I buy the book and get the
lunch, and make the sandwiches, and pay the car-fare? I think this
expedition will cost me pretty near three dollars before we're through
with the day.  No; the least you can do is to read to me.  Here, we'll
match for it."

Condy drew a dime from his pocket, and Blix a quarter from her purse.

"You're matching me," she said.

Condy tossed the coin and lost, and Blix said, as he picked up the book:

"For a man that has such unvarying bad luck as you, gambling is just
simple madness.  You and I have never played a game of poker yet that
I've not won every cent of money you had."

"Yes; and what are you doing with it all?"

"Spending it," she returned loftily; "gloves and veils and lace
pins--all kinds of things."

But Condy knew the way she spoke that this was not true.

For the next hour or so he read to her from "The Seven Seas," while the
afternoon passed, the wind stirring the chaparral and blackberry bushes
in the hollows of the huge, bare hills, the surf rolling and grumbling
on the beach below, the sea-birds wheeling overhead.  Blix listened
intently, but Condy could not have told of what he was reading.  Living
was better than reading, life was better than literature, and his
new-found love for her was poetry enough for him.  He read so that he
might not talk to her or look at her, for it seemed to him at times as
though some second self in him would speak and betray him in spite of
his best efforts.  Never before in all his life had he been so happy;
never before had he been so troubled.  He began to jumble the lines and
words as he read, over-running periods, even turning two pages at once.

"What a splendid line!" Blix exclaimed.

"What line--what--what are you talking about? Blix, let's always
remember to-day.  Let's make a promise, no matter what happens or where
we are, let's always write to each other on the anniversary of to-day.
What do you say?"

"Yes; I'll promise--and you--"

"I'll promise faithfully.  Oh, I'll never forget to-day nor--yes, yes,
I'll promise--why, to-day--Blix--where's that damn book gone?"

"Condy!"

"Well, I can't find the book.  You're sitting on it again.  Confound
the book, anyway! Let's walk some more."

"We've a long ways to go if we're to get home in time for supper.
Let's go to Luna's for supper."

"I never saw such a girl as you to think of ways for spending money.
What kind of a purse-proud plutocrat do you think I am?  I've only
seventy-five cents left.  How much have you got?"

Blix had fifty-five cents in her purse, and they had a grave council
over their finances.  They had just enough for car-fare and two
"suppers Mexican," with ten cents left over.

"That's for Richard's tip," said Blix.

"That's for my CIGAR," he retorted.

"You made ME give him fifty cents.  You said it was the least I could
offer him--noblesse oblige."

"Well, then, I COULDN'T offer him a dime, don't you see? I'll tell him
we are broke this time."

They started home, not as they had come, but climbing the hill and
going across a breezy open down, radiant with blue iris, wild
heliotrope, yellow poppies, and even a violet here and there.  A little
further on they gained one of the roads of the Reservation, red earth
smooth as a billiard table; and just at an angle where the road made a
sharp elbow and trended cityward, they paused for a moment and looked
down and back at the superb view of the ocean, the vast half-moon of
land, and the rolling hills in the foreground tumbling down toward the
beach and all spangled with wild flowers.

Some fifteen minutes later they reached the golf-links.

"We can go across the links," said Condy, "and strike any number of car
lines on the other side."

They left the road and struck across the links, Condy smoking his
new-lighted pipe.  But as they came around the edge of a long line of
eucalyptus trees near the teeing ground, a warning voice suddenly
called out:

"Fore!"

Condy and Blix looked up sharply, and there in a group not twenty feet
away, in tweeds and "knickers," in smart, short golfing skirts and
plaid cloaks, they saw young Sargeant and his sister, two other girls
whom they knew as members of the fashionable "set," and Jack Carter in
the act of swinging his driving iron.



Chapter XI

As the clock in the library of the club struck midnight, Condy laid
down his pen, shoved the closely written sheets of paper from him, and
leaned back in his chair, his fingers to his tired eyes.  He was
sitting at a desk in one of the further corners of the room and shut
off by a great Japanese screen.  He was in his shirt-sleeves, his hair
was tumbled, his fingers ink-stained, and his face a little pale.

Since late in the evening he had been steadily writing.  Three chapters
of "In Defiance of Authority" were done, and he was now at work on the
fourth.  The day after the excursion to the Presidio--that wonderful
event which seemed to Condy to mark the birthday of some new man within
him--the idea had suddenly occurred to him that Captain Jack's story of
the club of the exiles, the boom restaurant, and the filibustering
expedition was precisely the novel of adventure of which the Centennial
Company had spoken.  At once he had set to work upon it, with an
enthusiasm that, with shut teeth, he declared would not be lacking in
energy.  The story would have to be written out of his business hours.
That meant he would have to give up his evenings to it.  But he had
done this, and for nearly a week had settled himself to his task in the
quiet corner of the club at eight o'clock, and held to it resolutely
until twelve.

The first two chapters had run off his pen with delightful ease.  The
third came harder; the events and incidents of the story became
confused and contradictory; the character of Billy Isham obstinately
refused to take the prominent place which Condy had designed for him;
and with the beginning of the fourth chapter, Condy had finally come to
know the enormous difficulties, the exasperating complications, the
discouragements that begin anew with every paragraph, the obstacles
that refuse to be surmounted, and all the pain, the labor, the
downright mental travail and anguish that fall to the lot of the writer
of novels.

To write a short story with the end in plain sight from the beginning
was an easy matter compared to the upbuilding, grain by grain, atom by
atom, of the fabric of "In Defiance of Authority." Condy soon found
that there was but one way to go about the business.  He must shut his
eyes to the end of his novel--that far-off, divine event--and take his
task chapter by chapter, even paragraph by paragraph; grinding out the
tale, as it were, by main strength, driving his pen from line to line,
hating the effort, happy only with the termination of each chapter, and
working away, hour by hour, minute by minute, with the dogged, sullen,
hammer-and-tongs obstinacy of the galley-slave, scourged to his daily
toil.

At times the tale, apparently out of sheer perversity, would come to a
full stop.  To write another word seemed beyond the power of human
ingenuity, and for an hour or more Condy would sit scowling at the
half-written page, gnawing his nails, scouring his hair, dipping his
pen into the ink-well, and squaring himself to the sheet of paper, all
to no purpose.

There was no pleasure in it for him.  A character once fixed in his
mind, a scene once pictured in his imagination, and even before he had
written a word the character lost the charm of its novelty, the scene
the freshness of its original conception.  Then, with infinite
painstaking and with a patience little short of miraculous, he must
slowly build up, brick by brick, the plan his brain had outlined in a
single instant.  It was all work--hard, disagreeable, laborious work;
and no juggling with phrases, no false notions as to the "delight of
creation," could make it appear otherwise.  "And for what," he muttered
as he rose, rolled up his sheaf of manuscript, and put on his coat;
"what do I do it for, I don't know."

It was beyond question that, had he begun his novel three months before
this time, Condy would have long since abandoned the hateful task.  But
Blix had changed all that.  A sudden male force had begun to develop in
Condy.  A master-emotion had shaken him, and he had commenced to see
and to feel the serious, more abiding, and perhaps the sterner side of
life.  Blix had steadied him, there was no denying that.  He was not
quite the same boyish, hairbrained fellow who had made "a buffoon of
himself" in the Chinese restaurant, three months before.

The cars had stopped running by the time Condy reached the street.  He
walked home and flung himself to bed, his mind tired, his nerves
unstrung, and all the blood of his body apparently concentrated in his
brain.  Working at night after writing all day long was telling upon
him, and he knew it.

What with his work and his companionship with Blix, Condy soon began to
drop out of his wonted place in his "set."  He was obliged to decline
one invitation after another that would take him out in the evening,
and instead of lunching at his club with Sargeant or George Hands, as
he had been accustomed to do at one time, he fell into another habit of
lunching with Blix at the flat on Washington Street, and spending the
two hours allowed to him in the middle of the day in her company.

Condy's desertion of them was often spoken of by the men of his club
with whom he had been at one time so intimate, and the subject happened
to be brought up again one noon when Jack Carter was in the club as
George Hands' guest.  Hands, Carter, and Eckert were at one of the
windows over their after-dinner cigars and liqueurs.

"I say," said Eckert suddenly, "who's that girl across the street
there--the one in black, just going by that furrier's sign? I've seen
her somewhere before.  Know who it is?"

"That's Miss Bessemer, isn't it?" said George Hands, leaning forward.
"Rather a stunning-looking girl."

"Yes, that's Travis Bessemer," assented Jack Carter; adding, a moment
later, "it's too bad about that girl."

"What's the matter?" asked Eckert.

Carter lifted a shoulder.  "Isn't ANYTHING the matter as far as I know,
only somehow the best people have dropped her.  She USED to be received
everywhere."

"Come to think, I HAVEN'T seen her out much this season," said Eckert.
"But I heard she had bolted from 'Society' with the big S, and was
going East--going to study medicine, I believe."

"I've always noticed," said Carter, with a smile, "that so soon as a
girl is declassee, she develops a purpose in life and gets earnest, and
all that sort of thing.

"Oh, well, come," growled George Hands, "Travis Bessemer is not
declassee."

"I didn't say she was," answered Carter; "but she has made herself
talked about a good deal lately.  Going around with Rivers, as she
does, isn't the most discreet thing in the world.  Of course, it's all
right, but it all makes talk, and I came across them by a grove of
trees out on the links the other day--"

"Yes," observed Sargeant, leaning on the back of Carter's armchair;
"yes; and I noticed, too, that she cut you dead.  You fellows should
have been there," he went on, in perfect good humor, turning to the
others.  "You missed a good little scene.  Rivers and Miss Bessemer had
been taking a tramp over the Reservation--and, by the way, it's a great
place to walk, so my sister tells me; she and Dick Forsythe take a
constitutional out there every Saturday morning--well, as I was saying,
Rivers and Miss Bessemer came upon our party rather unexpectedly.  We
were all togged out in our golfing bags, and I presume we looked more
like tailor's models, posing for the gallery, than people who were
taking an outing; but Rivers and Miss Bessemer had been regularly
exercising; looked as though they had done their fifteen miles since
morning.  They had their old clothes on, and they were dusty and muddy.

"You would have thought that a young girl such as Miss Bessemer is--for
she's very young--would have been a little embarrassed at running up
against such a spick and span lot as we were.  Not a bit of it; didn't
lose her poise for a moment.  She bowed to my sister and to me, as
though from the top of a drag, by Jove! and as though she were fresh
from Redfern and Virot.  You know a girl that can manage herself that
way is a thoroughbred.  She even remembered to cut little Johnnie
Carter here, because Johnnie forced himself upon her one night at a
dance when he was drunk; didn't she, Johnnie? Johnnie came up to her
there, out on the links, fresh as a daisy, and put out his hand, with,
'Why, how do you do, Miss Bessemer?' and 'wherever did you come from?'
and 'I haven't seen you in so long'; and she says, 'No, not since our
last dance, I believe, Mr. Carter,' and looked at his hand as though it
was something funny.

"Little Johnnie mumbled and flushed and stammered and backed off; and
it was well that he did, because Rivers had begun to get red around the
wattles.  I say the little girl is a thoroughbred, and my sister wants
to give her a dinner as soon as she comes out.  But Johnnie says she's
declassee, so may be my sister had better think it over."

"I didn't say she was declassee," exclaimed Carter.  "I only said she
would do well to be more careful."

Sargeant shifted his cigar to the other corner of his mouth, one eye
shut to avoid the smoke.

"One might say as much of lots of people," he answered.

"I don't like your tone!" Carter flared out.

"Oh, go to the devil, Johnnie!  Shall we all have a drink?"

On the Friday evening of that week, Condy set himself to his work at
his accustomed hour.  But he had had a hard day on the "Times,"
Supplement, and his brain, like an overdriven horse, refused to work.
In half an hour he had not written a paragraph.

"I thought it would be better, in the end, to loaf for one evening," he
explained to Blix, some twenty minutes later, as they settled
themselves in the little dining-room.  "I can go at it better
to-morrow.  See how you like this last chapter."

Blix was enthusiastic over "In Defiance of Authority." Condy had told
her the outline of the story, and had read to her each chapter as he
finished it.

"It's the best thing you have ever done, Condy, and you know it.  I
suppose it has faults, but I don't care anything about them.  It's the
story itself that's so interesting.  After that first chapter of the
boom restaurant and the exiles' club, nobody would want to lay the book
down.  You're doing the best work of your life so far, and you stick to
it."

"It's grinding out copy for the Supplement at the same time that takes
all the starch out of me.  You've no idea what it means to write all
day, and then sit down and write all evening."

"I WISH you could get off the 'Times,'" said Blix.  "You're just giving
the best part of your life to hack work, and NOW it's interfering with
your novel.  I know you could do better work on your novel if you
didn't have to work on the 'Times,' couldn't you?"

"Oh, if you come to that, of course I could," he answered.  "But they
won't give me a vacation.  I was sounding the editor on it day before
yesterday.  No; I'll have to manage somehow to swing the two together."

"Well, let's not talk shop now.  Condy.  You need a rest.  Do you want
to play poker?"

They played for upward of an hour that evening, and Condy, as usual,
lost.  His ill-luck was positively astonishing.  During the last two
months he had played poker with Blix on an average of three or four
evenings in the week, and at the close of every game it was Blix who
had all the chips.

Blix had come to know the game quite as well, if not better, than he.
She could almost invariably tell when Condy held a good hand, but on
her part could assume an air of indifference absolutely inscrutable.

"Cards?" said Condy, picking up the deck after the deal.

"I'll stand pat, Condy."

"The deuce you say," he answered, with a stare.  "I'll take three."

"I'll pass it up to you," continued Blix gravely.

"Well--well, I'll bet you five chips."

"Raise you twenty."

Condy studied his hand, laid down the cards, picked them up again,
scratched his head, and moved uneasily in his place.  Then he threw
down two high pairs.

"No," he said; "I won't see you.  What did you have? Let's see, just
for the fun of it."

Blix spread her cards on the table.

"Not a blessed thing!" exclaimed Condy.  "I might have known it.
There's my last dollar gone, too.  Lend me fifty cents, Blix."

Blix shook her head.

"Why, what a little niggard!" he exclaimed aggrievedly.  "I'll pay them
all back to you."

"Now, why should I lend you money to play against me? I'll not give you
a chip; and, besides, I don't want to play any more.  Let's stop."

"I've a mind to stop for good; stop playing even with you."

Blix gave a little cry of joy.

"Oh, Condy, will you, could you? and never, never touch a card again?
never play for money? I'd be so happy--but don't unless you know you
would keep your promise.  I would much rather have you play every
night, down there at your club, than break your promise."

Condy fell silent, biting thoughtfully at the knuckle of a forefinger.

"Think twice about it, Condy," urged Blix; "because this would be for
always."

Condy hesitated; then, abstractedly and as though speaking to himself:

"It's different now.  Before we took that--three months ago, I don't
say.  It was harder for me to quit then, but now--well, everything is
different now; and it would please you, Blixy!"

"More than anything else I can think of, Condy."

He gave her his hand.

"That settles it," he said quietly.  "I'll never gamble again, Blix."

Blix gripped his hand hard, then jumped up, and, with a quick breath of
satisfaction, gathered up the cards and chips and flung them into the
fireplace.

"Oh, I'm so glad that's over with," she exclaimed, her little eyes
dancing.  "I've pretended to like it, but I've hated it all the time.
You don't know HOW I've hated it! What men can see in it to make them
sit up all night long is beyond me.  And you truly mean, Condy, that
you never will gamble again? Yes, I know you mean it this time.  Oh,
I'm so happy I could sing!"

"Good Heavens, don't do that!" he cried quickly.  "You're a nice,
amiable girl, Blix, even if you're not pretty, and you--"

"Oh, bother you!" she retorted; "but you promise?"

"On my honor."

"That's enough," she said quietly.

But even when "loafing" as he was this evening, Condy could not rid
himself of the thought and recollection of his novel; resting or
writing, it haunted him.  Otherwise he would not have been the
story-writer that he was.  From now on until he should set down the
last sentence, the "thing" was never to let him alone, never to allow
him a moment's peace.  He could think of nothing else, could talk of
nothing else; every faculty of his brain, every sense of observation or
imagination incessantly concentrated themselves upon this one point.

As they sat in the bay window watching the moon rise, his mind was
still busy with it, and he suddenly broke out:

"I ought to work some kind of a TREASURE into the yarn.  What's a story
of adventure without a treasure? By Jove, Blix, I wish I could give my
whole time to this stuff! It's ripping good material, and it ought to
be handled as carefully as glass.  Ought to be worked up, you know."

"Condy," said Blix, looking at him intently, "what is it stands in your
way of leaving the 'Times'? Would they take you back if you left them
long enough to write your novel? You could write it in a month,
couldn't you, if you had nothing else to do? Suppose you left them for
a month--would they hold your place for you?"

"Yes--yes, I think they would; but in the meanwhile, Blix--there's the
rub.  I've never saved a cent out of my salary.  When I stop, my pay
stops, and wherewithal would I be fed? What are you looking for in that
drawer--matches? Here, I've got a match."

Blix faced about at the sideboard, shutting the drawer by leaning
against it.  In both hands she held one of the delft sugar-bowls.  She
came up to the table, and emptied its contents upon the blue denim
table-cover--two or three gold pieces, some fifteen silver dollars, and
a handful of small change.

Disregarding all Condy's inquiries, she counted it, making little piles
of the gold and silver and nickel pieces.

"Thirty-five and seven is forty-two," she murmured, counting off on her
fingers, "and six is forty-eight, and ten is fifty-eight, and ten is
sixty-eight; and here is ten, twenty, thirty, fifty-five cents in
change." She thrust it all toward him, across the table.  "There," she
said, "is your wherewithal."

Condy stared.  "My wherewithal!" he muttered.

"It ought to be enough for over a month."

"Where did you get all that? Whose is it?"

"It's your money, Condy.  You loaned it to me, and now it has come in
very handy."

"I LOANED it to you?"

"It's the money I won from you during the time you've been playing
poker with me.  You didn't know it would amount to so much, did you?"

"Pshaw, I'll not touch it!" he exclaimed, drawing back from the money
as though it was red-hot.

"Yes, you will," she told him.  "I've been saving it up for you, Condy,
every penny of it, from the first day we played down there at the lake;
and I always told myself that the moment you made up your mind to quit
playing, I would give it back to you."

"Why, the very idea!" he vociferated, his hands deep in his pockets,
his face scarlet.  "It's--it's preposterous, Blix! I won't let you TALK
about it even--I won't touch a nickel of that money.  But, Blix,
you're--you're--the finest woman I ever knew.  You're a man's woman,
that's what you are." He set his teeth.  "If you loved a man, you'd be
a regular pal to him; you'd back him up, you'd stand by him till the
last gun was fired.  I could do ANYTHING if a WOMAN like you cared for
me.  Why, Blix, I--you haven't any idea--" He cleared his throat,
stopping abruptly.

"But you must take this money," she answered; "YOUR money.  If you
didn't, Condy, it would make me out nothing more nor less than a
gambler.  I wouldn't have dreamed of playing cards with you if I had
ever intended to keep one penny of your money.  From the very start I
intended to keep it for you, and give it back to you so soon as you
would stop; and now you have a chance to put this money to a good use.
You don't have to stay on the 'Times' now.  You can't do your novel
justice while you are doing your hack work at the same time, and I do
so want 'In Defiance of Authority' to be a success.  I've faith in you,
Condy.  I know if you got the opportunity you would make a success."

"But you and I have played like two men playing," exclaimed Condy.
"How would it look if Sargeant, say, should give me back the money he
had won from me? What a cad I would be to take it!"

"That's just it--we've not played like two men.  Then I WOULD have been
a gambler.  I've played with you because I thought it would make a way
for you to break off with the habit; and knowing as I did how fond you
were of playing cards and how bad it was for you, how wicked it would
have been for me to have played with you in any other spirit! Don't you
see? And as it has turned out, you've given up playing, and you've
enough money to make it possible for you to write your novel.  The
Centennial Company have asked you to try a story of adventure for them,
you've found one that is splendid, you're just the man who could handle
it, and now you've got the money to make it possible.  Condy," she
exclaimed suddenly, "don't you see your CHANCE? Aren't you a big enough
man to see your chance when it comes? And, besides, do you think I
would take MONEY from you? Can't you understand? If you don't take this
money that belongs to you, you would insult me.  That is just the way I
would feel about it.  You must see that.  If you care for me at all,
you'll take it."

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

The editor of the Sunday Supplement put his toothpick behind his ear
and fixed Condy with his eyeglasses.

"Well, it's like this, Rivers," he said.  "Of course, you know your own
business best.  If you stay on here with us, it will be all right.  But
I may as well tell you that I don't believe I can hold your place for a
month.  I can't get a man in here to do your work for just a month, and
then fire him out at the end of that time.  I don't like to lose you,
but if you have an opportunity to get in on another paper during this
vacation of yours, you're at liberty to do so, for all of me."

"Then you think my chance of coming back here would be pretty slim if I
leave for a month now?"

"That's right."

There was a silence.  Condy hesitated; then he rose.

"I'll take the chance," he announced.

To Blix, that evening, as he told her of the affair, he said: "It's
neck or nothing now, Blix."



Chapter XII

But did Blix care for him?

In the retired corner of his club, shut off by the Japanese screen, or
going up and down the city to and from his work, or sitting with her in
the bay window of the little dining-room looking down upon the city,
blurred in the twilight or radiant with the sunset, Condy asked himself
the question.  A score of times each day he came to a final, definite,
negative decision; and a score of times reopened the whole subject.
Beyond the fact that Blix had enjoyed herself in his company during the
last months, Condy could find no sign or trace of encouragement; and
for that matter he told himself that the indications pointed rather in
the other direction.  She had no compunction in leaving him to go away
to New York, perhaps never to return.  In less than a month now all
their companionship was to end, and he would probably see the last of
her.

He dared not let her know that at last he had really come to love
her--that it was no pretence now; for he knew that with such
declaration their "good times" would end even before she should go
away.  But every day; every hour that they were together made it harder
for him to keep himself within bounds.

What with this trouble on his mind and the grim determination with
which he held to his work, Condy changed rapidly.  Blix had steadied
him, and a certain earnestness and seriousness of purpose, a certain
STRENGTH he had not known before, came swiftly into being.

Was Blix to go away, leave him, perhaps for all time, and not know how
much he cared? Would he speak before she went? Condy did not know.  It
was a question that circumstances would help him to decide.  He would
not speak, so he resolved, unless he was sure that she cared herself;
and if she did, she herself would give him a cue, a hint whereon to
speak.  But days went by, the time set for Blix's departure drew nearer
and nearer, and yet she gave him not the slightest sign.

These two interests had now absorbed his entire life for the
moment--his love for Blix, and his novel.  Little by little "In
Defiance of Authority" took shape.  The boom restaurant and the club of
the exiles were disposed of, Billy Isham began to come to the front,
the filibustering expedition and Senora Estrada (with her torn calling
card) had been introduced, and the expedition was ready to put to sea.
But here a new difficulty was encountered.

"What do I know about ships?" Condy confessed to Blix.  "If Billy Isham
is going to command a filibustering schooner, I've got to know
something about a schooner--appear to, anyhow.  I've got to know
nautical lingo, the real thing, you know.  I don't believe a REAL
sailor ever in his life said 'belay there,' or 'avast.' We'll have to
go out and see Captain Jack; get some more technical detail."

This move was productive of the most delightful results.  Captain Jack
was all on fire with interest the moment that Condy and Blix told him
of the idea.

"An' you're going to put Billy Isham in a book.  Well, strike me
straight, that's a snorkin' good idea.  I've always said that all Billy
needed was a ticket seller an' an advance agent, an' he was a whole
show in himself."

"We're going to send it East," said Blix, "as soon as it's finished,
and have it published."

"Well, it ought to make prime readin', Miss; an' that's a good fetchin'
title, 'In Defiance of Authority.'"

Regularly Wednesday and Sunday afternoons, Blix and Condy came out to
the lifeboat station.  Captain Jack received them in sweater and
visored cap, and ushered them into the front room.

"Well, how's the yarn getting on?" Captain Jack would ask.

Then Condy would read the last chapter while the Captain paced the
floor, frowning heavily, smoking cigars, listening to every word.
Condy told the story in the first person, as if Billy Isham's partner
were narrating scenes and events in which he himself had moved.  Condy
called this protagonist "Burke Cassowan," and was rather proud of the
name.  But the captain would none of it.  Cassowan, the protagonist,
was simply "Our Mug."

"Now," Condy would say, notebook in hand, "now, Cap., we've got down to
Mazatlan.  Now I want to sort of organize the expedition in this next
chapter."

"I see, I see," Captain Jack would exclaim, interested at once.  "Wait
a bit till I take off my shoes.  I can think better with my shoes off";
and having removed his shoes, he would begin to pace the room in his
stocking feet, puffing fiercely on his cigar as he warmed to the tale,
blowing the smoke out through either ear, gesturing savagely, his face
flushed and his eyes kindling.

"Well, now, lessee.  First thing Our Mug does when he gets to Mazatlan
is to communicate his arrival to Senora Estrada--telegraphs, you know;
and, by the way, have him use a cipher."

"What kind of cipher?"

"Count three letters on from the right letter, see.  If you were
spelling 'boat,' for instance, you would begin with an E, the third
letter after B; then R for the O, being the third letter from O.  So
you'd spell 'boat,' ERDW; and Senora Estrada knows when she gets that
despatch that she must count three letters BACK from each letter to get
the right ones.  Take now such a cipher word as ULIOH.  That means
RIFLE.  Count three letters back from each letter of ULIOH, and it'll
spell RIFLE.  You can make up a lot of despatches like that, just to
have the thing look natural; savvy?"

"Out of sight!" muttered Condy, making a note.

"Then Our Mug and Billy Isham start getting a crew.  And Our Mug, he
buys the sextant there in Mazatlan--the sextant, that got out of order
and spoiled everything.  Or, no; don't have it a sextant; have it a
quadrant--an old-fashioned, ebony quadrant.  Have Billy Isham buy it
because it was cheap."

"How did it get out of order, Captain Jack?" inquired Blix.  "That
would be a good technical detail, wouldn't it, Condy?"

"Well, it's like this.  Our Mug an' Billy get a schooner that's so
bally small that they have to do their cooking in the cabin; quadrant's
on a rack over the stove, and the heat warps the joints, so when Our
Mug takes his observation he gets fifty miles off his course and raises
the land where the government forces are watching for him."

"And here's another point, Cap.," said Condy.  "We ought to work some
kind of a treasure into this yarn; can't you think up something new and
original in the way of a treasure? I don't want the old game of a
buried chest of money.  Let's have him get track of something that's
worth a fortune--something novel."

"Yes, yes; I see the idea," answered the Captain, striding over the
floor with great thuds of his stockinged feet.  "Now, lessee; let me
think," he began, rubbing all his hair the wrong way.  "We want
something new and queer, something that ain't ever been written up
before.  I tell you what! Here it is! Have Our Mug get wind of a little
river schooner that sunk fifty years before his time in one of the big
South American rivers, during a flood--I heard of this myself.
Schooner went down and was buried twenty feet under mud and sand; and
since that time--you know how the big rivers act--the whole blessed
course of the river has changed at that point, and the schooner is on
dry land, or rather twenty feet under it, and as sound as the day she
was chartered."

"Well?"

"Well, have it that when she sank she had aboard of her a cargo of five
hundred cases of whiskey, prime stuff, seven thousand quart bottles,
sealed up tight as drums.  Now Our Mug--nor Billy Isham either--they
ain't born yesterday.  No, sir; they're right next to themselves! They
figure this way.  This here whiskey's been kept fifty years without
being moved.  Now, what do you suppose seven thousand quart bottles of
fifty-year-old whiskey would be worth?  Why, twenty dollars a quart
wouldn't be too fancy.  So there you are; there's your treasure.  Our
Mug and Billy Isham have only got to dig through twenty feet of sand to
pick up a hundred thousand dollars, IF THEY CAN FIND THE SCHOONER."

Blix clapped her hands with a little cry of delight, and Condy smote a
knee, exclaiming:

"By Jove! that's as good as Loudon Dodds' opium ship! Why, Cap., you're
a treasure in yourself for a fellow looking for stories."

Then after the notes were taken and the story talked over, Captain
Jack, especially if the day happened to be Sunday, would insist upon
their staying to dinner--boiled beef and cabbage, smoking coffee and
pickles--that K. D. B. served in the little, brick-paved kitchen in the
back of the station.  The crew messed in their quarters overhead.

K. D. B. herself was not uninteresting.  Her respectability incased her
like armor plate, and she never laughed without putting three fingers
to her lips.  She told them that she had at one time been a "costume
reader."

"A costume reader?"

"Yes; reading extracts from celebrated authors in the appropriate
costume of the character.  It used to pay very well, and it was very
refined.  I used to do 'In a Balcony,' by Mister Browning, and 'Laska,'
the same evening! and it always made a hit.  I'd do 'In a Balcony'
first, and I'd put on a Louis-Quinze-the-fifteenth gown and
wig-to-match over a female cowboy outfit.  When I'd finished 'In a
Balcony,' I'd do an exit, and shunt the gown and wig-to-match, and come
on as 'Laska,' with thunder noises off.  It was one of the strongest
effects in my repertoire, and it always got me a curtain call."

And Captain Jack would wag his head and murmur:

"Extraordinary! extraordinary!"

Blix and Condy soon noted that upon the occasion of each one of their
visits, K. D. B. found means to entertain them at great length with
long discussions upon certain subjects of curiously diversified
character.  Upon their first visit she elected to talk upon the Alps
mountains.  The Sunday following it was bacteriology; on the next
Wednesday it was crystals; while for two hours during their next visit
to the station, Condy and Blix were obliged to listen to K. D. B.'s
interminable discourse on the origin, history, and development of the
kingdom of Denmark.  Condy was dumfounded.

"I never met such a person, man or woman, in all my life.  Talk about
education! Why, I think she knows everything!"

"In Defiance of Authority" soon began to make good progress, but Condy,
once launched upon technical navigation, must have Captain Jack at his
elbow continually, to keep him from foundering.  In some sea novel he
remembered to have come across the expression "garboard streak," and
from the context guessed it was to be applied to a detail of a vessel's
construction.  In an unguarded moment he had written that his
schooner's name "was painted in showy gilt letters upon her garboard
streak."

"What's the garboard streak, Condy?" Blix had asked, when he had read
the chapter to her.

"That's where they paint her name," he declared promptly.  "I don't
know exactly, but I like the sound of it."

But the next day, when he was reading this same chapter to Captain
Jack, the latter suddenly interrupted with an exclamation as of acute
physical anguish.

"What's that? Read that last over again," he demanded.

"'When they had come within a few boat's lengths,'" read Condy, "'they
were able to read the schooner's name, painted in showy gilt letters
upon her garboard streak.'"

"My God!" gasped the Captain, clasping his head.  Then, with a shout:
"Garboard streak! garboard streak? Don't you know that the garboard
streak is the last plank next the keel? You mean counter, not garboard
streak.  That regularly graveled me, that did!"

They stayed to dinner with the couple that afternoon, and for half an
hour afterward K. D. B. told them of the wonders of the caves of
Elephantis.  One would have believed that she had actually been at the
place.  But when she changed the subject to the science of
fortification, Blix could no longer restrain herself.

"But it is really wonderful that you should know all these things!
Where did you find time to study so much?"

"One must have an education," returned K. D. B. primly.

But Condy had caught sight of a half-filled book-shelf against the
opposite wall, and had been suddenly smitten with an inspiration.  On a
leaf of his notebook he wrote: "Try her on the G's and H's," and found
means to show it furtively to Blix.  But Blix was puzzled, and at the
earliest opportunity Condy himself said to the retired costume reader:

"Speaking of fortifications, Mrs. Hoskins, Gibraltar now--that's a
wonderful rock, isn't it?"

"Rock!" she queried.  "I thought it was an island."

"Oh, no; it's a fortress.  They have a castle there--a castle,
something like--well, like the old Schloss at Heidelberg.  Did you ever
hear about or read about Heidelberg University?"

But K. D. B. was all abroad now.  Gibraltar and Heidelberg were unknown
subjects to her, as were also inoculation, Japan, and Kosciusko.  Above
the G's she was sound; below that point her ignorance was benighted.

"But what is it, Condy?" demanded Blix, as soon as they were alone.

"I've the idea," he answered, chuckling.  "Wait till after Sunday to
see if I'm right; then I'll tell you.  It's a dollar to a paper dime,
K. D. B. will have something for us by Sunday, beginning with an I."

And she had.  It was Internal Revenue.

"Right! right!" Condy shouted gleefully, as he and Blix were on their
way home.  "I knew it.  She's done with Ash--Bol, Bol--Car, and all
those, and has worked through Cod--Dem, and Dem--Eve.  She's down to
Hor--Kin now, and she'll go through the whole lot before she's
done--Kin--Mag, Mag--Mot, Mot--Pal, and all the rest."

"The Encyclopaedia?"

"Don't you see it? No wonder she didn't know beans about Gibraltar! She
hadn't come to the G's by then."

"She's reading the Encyclopaedia."

"And she gets the volumes on the installment plan, don't you see?
Reads the leading articles, and then springs 'em on us.  To know things
and talk about em, that's her idea of being cultured.  'One must have
an education.' Do you remember her saying that 'Oh, our matrimonial
objects are panning out beyond all expectation!"

What a delicious, never-to-be-forgotten month it was for those two!
There in the midst of life they were as much alone as upon a tropic
island.  Blix had deliberately freed herself from a world that had
grown distasteful to her; Condy little by little had dropped away from
his place among the men and the women of his acquaintance, and the two
came and went together, living in a little world of their own creation,
happy in each other's society, living only in the present, and asking
nothing better than to be left alone and to their own devices.

They saw each other every day.  In the morning from nine till twelve,
and in the afternoon until three, Condy worked away upon his novel, but
not an evening passed that did not see him and Blix in the dining-room
of the little flat.  Thursdays and Sunday afternoons they visited the
life-boat station, and at other times prowled about the unfrequented
corners of the city, now passing an afternoon along the water front,
watching the departure of a China steamer or the loading of the great,
steel wheat ships; now climbing the ladder-like streets of Telegraph
Hill, or revisiting the Plaza, Chinatown, and the restaurant; or taking
long walks in the Presidio Reservation, watching cavalry and artillery
drills; or sitting for hours on the rocks by the seashore, watching the
ceaseless roll and plunge of the surf, the wheeling sea-birds, and the
sleek-headed seals hunting the offshore fish, happy for a half-hour
when they surprised one with his prey in his teeth.

One day, some three weeks before the end of the year, toward two in the
afternoon, Condy sat in his usual corner of the club, behind the
screen, writing rapidly.  His coat was off and the stump of a cigar was
between his teeth.  At his elbow was the rectangular block of his
manuscript.  During the last week the story had run from him with a
facility that had surprised and delighted him; words came to him
without effort, ranging themselves into line with the promptitude of
well-drilled soldiery; sentences and paragraphs marched down the
clean-swept spaces of his paper, like companies and platoons defiling
upon review; his chapters were brigades that he marshaled at will,
falling them in one behind the other, each preceded by its
chapter-head, like an officer in the space between two divisions.  In
the guise of a commander-in-chief sitting his horse upon an eminence
that overlooked the field of operations, Condy at last took in the
entire situation at a glance, and, with the force and precision of a
machine, marched his forces straight to the goal he had set for himself
so long a time before.

Then at length he took a fresh penful of ink, squared his elbows, drew
closer to the desk, and with a single swift spurt of the pen wrote the
last line of his novel, dropping the pen upon the instant and pressing
the blotter over the words as though setting a seal of approval upon
the completed task.

"There!" he muttered, between his teeth; "I've done for YOU!"

That same afternoon he read the last chapter to Blix, and she helped
him to prepare the manuscript for expressage.  She insisted that it
should go off that very day, and herself wrote the directions upon the
outside wrapper.  Then the two went down together to the Wells Fargo
office, and "In Defiance of Authority" was sent on its journey across
the continent.

"Now," she said, as they came out of the express office and stood for a
moment upon the steps, "now there's nothing to do but wait for the
Centennial Company.  I do so hope we'll get their answer before I go
away.  They OUGHT to take it.  It's just what they asked for.  Don't
you think they'll take it, Condy?"

"Oh, bother that!" answered Condy.  "I don't care whether they take it
or not.  How long now is it before you go, Blix?"



Chapter XIII

A week passed; then another.  The year was coming to a close.  In ten
days Blix would be gone.  Letters had been received from Aunt Kihm, and
also an exquisite black leather traveling-case, a present to her niece,
full of cut-glass bottles, ebony-backed brushes, and shell combs.  Blix
was to leave on the second day of January.  In the meanwhile she had
been reading far into her first-year text-books, underscoring and
annotating, studying for hours upon such subjects as she did not
understand, so that she might get hold of her work the readier when it
came to class-room routine and lectures.  Hers was a temperament
admirably suited to the study she had chosen--self-reliant, cool, and
robust.

But it was not easy for her to go.  Never before had Blix been away
from her home; never for longer than a week had she been separated from
her father, nor from Howard and Snooky.  That huge city upon the
Atlantic seaboard, with its vast, fierce life, where beat the heart of
the nation, and where beyond Aunt Kihm she knew no friend, filled Blix
with a vague sense of terror and of oppression.  She was going out into
a new life, a life of work and of study, a harsher life than she had
yet known.  Her father, her friends, her home--all these were to be
left behind.  It was not surprising that Blix should be daunted at the
prospect of so great a change in her life, now so close at hand.  But
if the tears did start at times, no one ever saw them fall, and with a
courage that was all her own Blix watched the last days of the year
trooping past and the approach of the New Year that was to begin the
new life.

But Condy was thoroughly unhappy.  Those wonderful three months were at
an end.  Blix was going.  In less than a week now she would be gone.
He would see the last of her.  Then what? He pictured himself--when he
had said good-by to her and the train had lessened to a smoky blur in
the distance--facing about, facing the life that must then begin for
him, returning to the city alone, picking up the routine again.  There
would be nothing to look forward to then; he would not see Blix in the
afternoon; would not sit with her in the evening in the little
dining-room of the flat overlooking the city and the bay; would not
wake in the morning with the consciousness that before the sun would
set he would see her again, be with her, and hear the sound of her
voice.  The months that were to follow would be one long ache, one
long, harsh, colorless grind without her.  How was he to get through
that first evening that he must pass alone? And she did not care for
him.  Condy at last knew this to be so.  Even the poor solace of
knowing that she, too, was unhappy was denied him.  She had never loved
him, and never would.  He was a chum to her, nothing more.  Condy was
too clear-headed to deceive himself upon this point.  The time was come
for her to go away, and she had given him no sign, no cue.

The last days passed; Blix's trunk was packed, her half section
engaged, her ticket bought.  They said good-by to the old places they
had come to know so well--Chinatown, the Golden Balcony, the
water-front, the lake of San Andreas, Telegraph Hill, and Luna's--and
had bade farewell to Riccardo and to old Richardson.  They had left K.
D. B. and Captain Jack until the last day.  Blix was to go on the
second of January.  On New Year's Day she and Condy were to take their
last walk, were to go out to the lifeboat station, and then on around
the shore to the little amphitheatre of blackberry bushes--where they
had promised always to write one another on the anniversary of their
first visit--and then for the last time climb the hill, and go across
the breezy downs to the city.

Then came the last day of the old year, the last day but one that they
would be together.  They spent it in a long ramble along the
water-front, following the line of the shipping even as far as Meiggs's
Wharf.  They had come back to the flat for supper, and afterward, as
soon as the family had left them alone, had settled themselves in the
bay window to watch the New Year in.

The little dining-room was dark, but for the indistinct blur of light
that came in through the window--a light that was a mingling of the
afterglow, the new-risen moon, and the faint haze that the city threw
off into the sky from its street lamps and electrics.  From where they
sat they could look down, almost as from a tower, into the city's
streets.  Here a corner came into view; further on a great puff of
green foliage--palms and pines side by side--overlooked a wall.  Here a
street was visible for almost its entire length, like a stream of
asphalt flowing down the pitch of the hill, dammed on either side by
rows upon rows of houses; while further on the vague confusion of roofs
and facades opened out around a patch of green lawn, the garden of some
larger residence.

As they looked and watched, the afterglow caught window after window,
till all that quarter of the city seemed to stare up at them from a
thousand ruddy eyes.  The windows seemed infinite in number, the
streets endless in their complications: yet everything was deserted.
At this hour the streets were empty, and would remain so until
daylight.  Not a soul was stirring; no face looked from any of those
myriads of glowing windows; no footfall disturbed the silence of those
asphalt streets.  There, almost within call behind those windows, shut
off from those empty streets, a thousand human lives were teeming, each
the centre of its own circle of thoughts and words and actions; and yet
the solitude was profound, the desolation complete, the stillness
unbroken by a single echo.

The night--the last night of the old year--was fine; the white, clear
light from a moon they could not see grew wide and clear over the city,
as the last gleam of the sunset faded.  It was just warm enough for the
window to be open, and for nearly three hours Condy and Blix sat
looking down upon the city in these last moments of the passing year,
feeling upon their faces an occasional touch of the breeze, that
carried with it the smell of trees and flowers from the gardens below
them, and the faint fine taint of the ocean from far out beyond the
Heads.  But the scene was not in reality silent.  At times when they
listened intently, especially when they closed their eyes, there came
to them a subdued, steady bourdon, profound, unceasing, a vast, numb
murmur, like no other sound in all the gamut of nature--the sound of a
city at night, the hum of a great, conglomerate life, wrought out there
from moment to moment under the stars and under the moon, while the
last hours of the old year dropped quietly away.

A star fell.

Sitting in the window, the two noticed it at once, and Condy stirred
for the first time in fifteen minutes.

"That was a very long one," he said, in a low voice.  "Blix, you must
write to me--we must write each other often."

"Oh, yes," she answered.  "We must not forget each other; we have had
too good a time for that."

"Four years is a long time," he went on.  "Lots can happen in four
years.  Wonder what I'll be doing at the end of four years? We've had a
pleasant time while it lasted, Blix."

"Haven't we?" she said, her chin on her hand, the moonlight shining in
her little, dark-brown eyes.

Well, he was going to lose her.  He had found out that he loved her
only in time to feel the wrench of parting from her all the more
keenly.  What was he to do with himself after she was gone?  What could
he turn to in order to fill up the great emptiness that her going would
leave in his daily life? And was she never to know how dear she was to
him? Why not speak to her, why not tell her that he loved her? But
Condy knew that Blix did not love him, and the knowledge of that must
keep him silent; he must hug his secret to him, like the Spartan boy
with his stolen fox, no matter how grievously it hurt him to do so.  He
and Blix had lived through two months of rarest, most untroubled
happiness, with hardly more self-consciousness than two young and
healthy boys.  To bring that troublous, disquieting element of love
between them--unrequited love, of all things--would be a folly.  She
would tell him--must in all honesty tell him that she did not love him,
and all their delicious camaraderie would end in a "scene." Condy,
above everything, wished to look back on those two months, after she
had gone, without being able to remember therein one single note that
jarred.  If the memory of her was all that he was to have, he resolved
that at least that memory should be perfect.

And the love of her had made a man of him--he could not forget that;
had given to him just the strength that made it possible for him to
keep that resolute, grim silence now.  In those two months he had grown
five years; he was more masculine, more virile.  The very set of his
mouth was different; between the eye-brows the cleft had deepened; his
voice itself vibrated to a heavier note.  No, no; so long as he should
live, he, man grown as he was, could never forget this girl of nineteen
who had come into his life so quietly, so unexpectedly, who had
influenced it so irresistibly and so unmistakably for its betterment,
and who had passed out of it with the passing of the year.

For a few moments Condy had been absent-mindedly snapping the lid of
his cigarette case, while he thought; now he selected a cigarette,
returned the case to his pocket, and fumbled for a match.  But the
little gun-metal case he carried was empty.  Blix rose and groped for a
moment upon the mantel-shelf, then returned and handed him a match, and
stood over him while he scraped it under the arm of the chair wherein
he sat.  Even when his cigarette was lighted she still stood there,
looking at him, the fingers of her hands clasped in front of her, her
hair, one side of her cheek, her chin, and sweet, round neck outlined
by the faint blur of light that came from the open window.  Then
quietly she said:

"Well, Condy?"

"Well, Blix?"

"Just 'well'?" she repeated.  "Is that all? Is that all you have to say
to me?"

He gave a great start.

"Blix!" he exclaimed.

"Is that all? And you are going to let me go away from you for so long,
and say nothing more than that to me? You think you have been so
careful, think you have kept your secret so close! Condy, don't you
suppose I know? Do you suppose women are so blind? No, you don't need
to tell me; I know--I've known it--oh, for weeks!"

"You know--know--know what?" he exclaimed, breathless.

"That you have been pretending that you did not love me.  I know that
you do love me--I know you have been trying to keep it from me for fear
it would spoil our good times, and because we had made up our minds to
be chums, and have 'no more foolishness.' Once--in those days when we
first knew each other--I knew you did not love me when you said you
did; but now, since--oh, since that afternoon in the Chinese
restaurant, remember?--I've known that you did love me, although you
pretended you didn't.  It was the pretence I wanted to be rid of; I
wanted to be rid of it when you said you loved me and didn't, and I
want to be rid of it now when YOU pretend not to love me and I KNOW you
do," and Blix leaned back her head as she spoke that "know," looking at
him from under her lids, a smile upon her lips.  "It's the pretence
that I won't have," she added.  "We must be sincere with each other,
you and I."

"Blix, do YOU love ME?"

Condy had risen to his feet, his breath was coming quick, his cigarette
was flung away, and his hands opened and shut swiftly.

"Oh, Blixy, little girl, do YOU love ME?"

They stood there for a moment in the half dark, facing one another,
their hearts beating, their breath failing them in the tension of the
instant.  There in that room, high above the city, a little climax had
come swiftly to a head, a crisis in two lives had suddenly developed.
The moment that had been in preparation for the last few months, the
last few years, the last few centuries, behold! it had arrived.

"Blix, do you love me?"

Suddenly it was the New Year.  Somewhere close at hand a chorus of
chiming church bells sang together.  Far off in the direction of the
wharves, where the great ocean steamships lay, came the glad, sonorous
shouting of a whistle; from a nearby street a bugle called aloud.  And
then from point to point, from street to roof top, and from roof to
spire, the vague murmur of many sounds grew and spread and widened,
slowly, grandly; that profound and steady bourdon, as of an invisible
organ swelling, deepening, and expanding to the full male diapason of
the city aroused and signaling the advent of another year.

And they heard it, they two heard it, standing there face to face,
looking into each other's eyes, that unanswered question yet between
them, the question that had come to them with the turning of the year.
It was the old year yet when Condy had asked that question.  In that
moment's pause, while Blix hesitated to answer him, the New Year had
come.  And while the huge, vast note of the city swelled and vibrated,
she still kept silent.  But only for a moment.  Then she came closer to
him, and put a hand on each of his shoulders.

"Happy New Year, dear," she said.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

On New Year's Day, the last day they were to be together, Blix and
Condy took "their walk," as they had come to call it--the walk that
included the lifeboat station, the Golden Gate, the ocean beach beyond
the old fort, the green, bare, flower-starred hills and downs, and the
smooth levels of the golf links.  Blix had been busy with the last
details of her packing, and they did not get started until toward two
in the afternoon.

"Strike me!" exclaimed Captain Jack, as Blix informed him that she had
come to say good-by.  "Why, ain't this very sudden-like, Miss Bessemer?
Hey, Kitty, come in here.  Here's Miss Bessemer come to say good-by;
going to New York to-morrow."

"We'll regularly be lonesome without you, miss," said K. D. B., as she
came into the front room, bringing with her a brisk, pungent odor of
boiled vegetables.  "New York--such a town as it must be!  It was
called Manhattan at first, you know, and was settled by the Dutch."

Evidently K. D. B. had reached the N's.

With such deftness as she possessed, Blix tried to turn the
conversation upon the first meeting of the retired sea captain and the
one-time costume reader, but all to no purpose.  The "Matrimonial
Objects" were perhaps a little ashamed of their "personals" by now, and
neither Blix nor Condy were ever to hear their version of the meeting
in the back dining-room of Luna's Mexican restaurant.  Captain Jack
was, in fact, anxious to change the subject.

"Any news of the yarn yet?" he suddenly inquired of Condy "What do
those Eastern publishin' people think of Our Mug and Billy Isham and
the whiskey schooner?"

Condy had received the rejected manuscript of "In Defiance of
Authority" that morning, accompanied by a letter from the Centennial
Company.

"Well," he said in answer, "they're not, as you might say, falling over
themselves trying to see who'll be the first to print it.  It's been
returned."

"The devil you say!" responded the Captain.  "Well, that's kind of
disappointin' to you, ain't it?"

"But," Blix hastened to add, "we're not at all discouraged.  We're
going to send it off again right away."

Then she said good-by to them.

"I dunno as you'll see me here when you come back, miss," said the
Captain, at the gate, his arm around K. D. B. "I've got to schemin'
again.  Do you know," he added, in a low, confidential tone, "that all
the mines in California send their clean-ups and gold bricks down to
the Selby smeltin' works once every week? They send 'em to San
Francisco first, and they are taken up to Selby's Wednesday afternoons
on a little stern-wheel steamer called the "Monticello." All them
bricks are in a box--dumped in like so much coal--and that box sets
just under the wheel-house, for'ard.  How much money do you suppose
them bricks represent? Well, I'll tell you; last week they represented
seven hundred and eighty thousand dollars.  Well, now, I got a chart of
the bay near Vallejo; the channel's all right, but there are mudflats
that run out from shore three miles.  Enough water for a whitehall, but
not enough for--well, for the patrol boat, for instance.  Two or three
slick boys, of a foggy night--of course, I'm not in that kind of game,
but strike! it would be a deal now, wouldn't it?"

"Don't you believe him, miss," put in K. D. B. "He's just talking to
show off."

"I think your scheme of holding up a Cunard liner," said Condy, with
great earnestness, "is more feasible.  You could lay across her course
and fly a distress signal.  She'd have to heave to."

"Yes, I been thinkin' o' that; but look here--what's to prevent the
liner taking right after your schooner after you've got the stuff
aboard--just followin' you right around an' findin' out where you land?"

"She'd be under contract to carry Government mails," contradicted
Condy.  "She couldn't do that.  You'd leave her mails aboard for just
that reason.  You wouldn't rob her of her mails; just so long as she
was carrying government mails she couldn't stop."

The Captain clapped his palm down upon the gate-post.

"Strike me straight! I never thought of that."



Chapter XIV

Blix and Condy went on; on along the narrow road upon the edge of the
salt marshes and tules that lay between the station and the Golden
Gate; on to the Golden Gate itself, and around the old grime-incrusted
fort to the ocean shore, with its reaches of hard, white sand, where
the bowlders lay tumbled and the surf grumbled incessantly.

The world seemed very far away from them here on the shores of the
Pacific, on that first afternoon of the New Year.  They were supremely
happy, and they sufficed to themselves.  Condy had forgotten all about
the next day, when he must say good-by to Blix.

It did not seem possible, it was not within the bounds of possibility,
that she was to go away--that they two were to be separated.  And for
that matter, to-morrow was to-morrow.  It was twenty-four hours away.
The present moment was sufficient.

The persistence with which they clung to the immediate moment, their
happiness in living only in the present, had brought about a rather
curious condition of things between them.

In their love for each other there was no thought of marriage; they
were too much occupied with the joy of being together at that
particular instant to think of the future.  They loved each other, and
that was enough.  They did not look ahead further than the following
day, and then but furtively, and only in order that their morrow's
parting might intensify their happiness of to-day.  That New Year's Day
was to be the end of everything.  Blix was going; she and Condy would
never see each other again.  The thought of marriage--with its certain
responsibilities, its duties, its gravity, its vague, troublous
seriousness, its inevitable disappointments--was even a little
distasteful to them.  Their romance had been hitherto without a flaw;
they had been genuinely happy in little things.  It was as well that it
should end that day, in all its pristine sweetness, unsullied by a
single bitter moment, undimmed by the cloud of a single disillusion or
disappointment.  Whatever chanced to them in later years, they could at
least cherish this one memory of a pure, unselfish affection, young and
unstained and almost without thought of sex, come and gone on the very
threshold of their lives.  This was the end, they both understood.
They were glad that it was to be so.  They did not even speak again of
writing to each other.

They found once more the little semicircle of blackberry bushes and the
fallen log, half-way up the hill above the shore, and sat there a
while, looking down upon the long green rollers, marching incessantly
toward the beach, and there breaking in a prolonged explosion of solid
green water and flying spume.  And their glance followed their
succeeding ranks further and further out to sea, till the multitude
blended into the mass--the vast, green, shifting mass that drew the eye
on and on, to the abrupt, fine line of the horizon.

There was no detail in the scene.  There was nothing but the great
reach of the ocean floor, the unbroken plane of blue sky, and the bare
green slope of land--three immensities, gigantic, vast, primordial.  It
was no place for trivial ideas and thoughts of little things.  The mind
harked back unconsciously to the broad, simpler, basic emotions, the
fundamental instincts of the race.  The huge spaces of earth and air
and water carried with them a feeling of kindly but enormous
force--elemental force, fresh, untutored, new, and young.  There was
buoyancy in it; a fine, breathless sense of uplifting and exhilaration;
a sensation as of bigness and a return to the homely, human, natural
life, to the primitive old impulses, irresistible, changeless, and
unhampered; old as the ocean, stable as the hills, vast as the
unplumbed depths of the sky.

Condy and Blix sat still, listening, looking, and watching--the
intellect drowsy and numb; the emotions, the senses, all alive and
brimming to the surface.  Vaguely they felt the influence of the
moment.  Something was preparing for them.  From the lowest, untouched
depths in the hearts of each of them something was rising steadily to
consciousness and the light of day.  There is no name for such things,
no name for the mystery that spans the interval between man and
woman--the mystery that bears no relation to their love for each other,
but that is something better than love, and whose coming savors of the
miraculous.

The afternoon had waned and the sun had begun to set when Blix rose.

"We should be going, Condy," she told him.

They started up the hill, and Condy said: "I feel as though I had been
somehow asleep with my eyes wide open.  What a glorious sunset! It
seems to me as though I were living double every minute; and oh! Blix,
isn't it the greatest thing in the world to love each other as we do?"

They had come to the top of the hill by now, and went on across the
open, breezy downs, all starred with blue iris and wild heliotrope.
Blix drew his arm about her waist, and laid her cheek upon his shoulder
with a little caressing motion.

"And I do love you, dear," she said--"love you with all my heart.  And
it's for always, too; I know that.  I've been a girl until within the
last three or four days--just a girl, dearest; not very serious, I'm
afraid, and not caring for anything else beyond, what was happening
close around me--don't you understand? But since I've found out how
much I loved you and knew that you loved me--why, everything is changed
for me.  I'm not the same, I enjoy things that I never thought of
enjoying before, and I feel so--oh, LARGER, don't you know?--and
stronger, and so much more serious.  Just a little while ago I was only
nineteen, but I think, dear, that by loving you I have become--all of a
sudden and without knowing it--a woman."

A little trembling ran through her with the words.  She stopped and put
both arms around his neck, her head tipped back, her eyes half closed,
her sweet yellow hair rolling from her forehead.  Her whole dear being
radiated with that sweet, clean perfume that seemed to come alike from
her clothes, her neck, her arms, her hair, and mouth--the delicious,
almost divine, feminine aroma that was part of herself.

"You do love me, Condy, don't you, just as I love you?"

Such words as he could think of seemed pitifully inadequate.  For
answer he could only hold her the closer.  She understood.  Her eyes
closed slowly, and her face drew nearer to his.  Just above a whisper,
she said:

"I love you, dear!"

"I love you, Blix!"

And they kissed each other then upon the mouth.

Meanwhile the sun had been setting.  Such a sunset! The whole world,
the three great spaces of sea and land and sky, were incarnadined with
the glory of it.  The ocean floor was a blinding red radiance, the
hills were amethyst, the sky one gigantic opal, and they two seemed
poised in the midst of all the chaotic glory of a primitive world.  It
was New Year's Day; the earth was new, the year was new, and their love
was new and strong.  Everything was before them.  There was no longer
any past, no longer any present.  Regrets and memories had no place in
their new world.  It was Hope, Hope, Hope, that sang to them and called
to them and smote into life the new keen blood of them.

Then suddenly came the miracle, like the flashing out of a new star,
whose radiance they felt but could not see, like a burst of music whose
harmony they felt but could not hear.  And as they stood there alone in
all that simple glory of sky and earth and sea, they knew all in an
instant that THEY WERE FOR EACH OTHER, forever and forever, for better
or for worse, till death should them part.  Into their romance, into
their world of little things, their joys of the moment, their happiness
of the hour, had suddenly descended a great and lasting joy, the
happiness of the great, grave issues of life--a happiness so deep, so
intense, as to thrill them with a sense of solemnity and wonder.
Instead of being the end, that New Year's Day was but the
beginning--the beginning of their real romance.  All the fine, virile,
masculine energy of him was aroused and rampant.  All her sweet, strong
womanliness had been suddenly deepened and broadened.  In fine, he had
become a man, and she woman.  Youth, life, and the love of man and
woman, the strength of the hills, the depth of the ocean, and the
beauty of the sky at sunset; that was what the New Year had brought to
them.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

"It's good-by, dear, isn't it?" said Blix.

But Condy would not have it so.

"No, no," he told her; "no, Blix; no matter how often we separate after
this wonderful New Year's Day, no matter how far we are apart, WE two
shall never, never say good-by."

"Oh, you're right, you're right!" she answered, the tears beginning to
shine in her little dark-brown eyes.  "No; so long as we love each
other, nothing matters.  There's no such thing as distance for us, is
there? Just think, you will be here on the shores of the Pacific, and I
on the shores of the Atlantic, but the whole continent can't come
between US."

"And we'll be together again, Blix," he said; "and it won't be very
long now.  Just give me time--a few years now."

"But so long as we love each other, TIME won't matter either."

"What are the tears for, Blixy?" he asked, pressing his handkerchief to
her cheek.

"Because this is the saddest and happiest day of my life," she
answered.  Then she pulled from him with a little laugh, adding: "Look,
Condy, you've dropped your letter.  You pulled it out just now with
your handkerchief."

As Condy picked it up, she noted the name of the Centennial Company
upon the corner.

"It's the letter I got with the manuscript of the novel when they sent
it back," he explained.

"What did they say?"

"Oh, the usual thing.  I haven't read it yet.  Here's what they say."
He opened it and read:


"We return to you herewith the MS. of your novel, 'In Defiance of
Authority,' and regret that our reader does not recommend it as
available for publication at present.  We have, however, followed your
work with considerable interest, and have read a story by you, copied
in one of our exchanges, under the title, 'A Victory Over Death,' which
we would have been glad to publish ourselves, had you given us the
chance.

"Would you consider the offer of the assistant editorship of our
QUARTERLY, a literary and critical pamphlet, that we publish in New
York, and with which we presume you are familiar? We do not believe
there would be any difficulty in the matter of financial arrangements.
In case you should decide to come on, we inclose R. R. passes via the
A. T. & S. F., C. & A., and New York Central.

"Very truly,

             "THE CENTENNIAL PUBLISHING COMPANY,
                                      "NEW YORK."


The two exchanged glances.  But Blix was too excited to speak, and
could only give vent to a little, quivering, choking sigh.  The letter
was a veritable god from the machine, the one thing lacking to complete
their happiness.

"I don't know how this looks to you," Condy began, trying to be calm,
"but it seems to me that this is--that this--this--"

But what they said then they could never afterward remember.  The
golden haze of the sunset somehow got into their recollection of the
moment, and they could only recall the fact that they had been gayer in
that moment than ever before in all their lives.

Perhaps as gay as they ever were to be again.  They began to know the
difference between gayety and happiness.  That New Year's Day, that
sunset, marked for them an end and a beginning.  It was the end of
their gay, irresponsible, hour-to-hour life of the past three months;
and it was the beginning of a new life, whose possibilities of sorrow
and of trouble, of pleasure and of happiness, were greater than aught
they had yet experienced.  They knew this--they felt it instinctively,
as with a common impulse they turned and looked back upon the glowing
earth and sea and sky, the breaking surf, the beach, the distant,
rime-incrusted, ancient fort--all that scene that to their eyes stood
for the dear, free, careless companionship of those last few months.
Their new-found happiness was not without its sadness already.  All was
over now; their solitary walks, the long, still evenings in the little
dining-room overlooking the sleeping city, their excursions to Luna's,
their afternoons spent in the golden Chinese balcony, their mornings on
the lake, calm and still and hot.  Forever and forever they had said
good-by to that life.  Already the sunset was losing its glory.

Then, with one last look, they turned about and set their faces from it
to the new life, to the East, where lay the Nation.  Out beyond the
purple bulwarks of the Sierras, far off, the great, grim world went
clashing through its grooves--the world that now they were to know, the
world that called to them, and woke them, and roused them.  Their
little gayeties were done; the life of little things was all behind.
Now for the future.  The sterner note had struck--work was to be done;
that, too, the New Year had brought to them--work for each of them,
work and the world of men.

For a moment they shrank from it, loth to take the first step beyond
the confines of the garden wherein they had lived so joyously and
learned to love each other; and as they stood there, facing the gray
and darkening Eastern sky, their backs forever turned to the sunset,
Blix drew closer to him, putting her hand in his, looking a little
timidly into his eyes.  But his arm was around her, and the strong
young force that looked into her eyes from his gave her courage.

"A happy New Year, dear," she said.

"A very, very happy New Year, Blix," he answered.



[The End]





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