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Title: A Little Girl in Old San Francisco
Author: Douglas, Amanda Minnie, 1831-1916
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.

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A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD SAN FRANCISCO


 *      *      *      *      *

THE "LITTLE GIRL" SERIES

     A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD NEW YORK
     HANNAH ANN; A SEQUEL
     A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD BOSTON
     A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD PHILADELPHIA
     A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD WASHINGTON
     A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD NEW ORLEANS
     A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD DETROIT
     A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD ST. LOUIS
     A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD CHICAGO
     A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD SAN FRANCISCO
     A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD QUEBEC

      *      *      *      *      *



A LITTLE GIRL IN OLD SAN FRANCISCO

LLBY

AMANDA M. DOUGLAS



New York
Dodd, Mead and Company
1905

Copyright, 1905
By Dodd, Mead & Company
All rights reserved

Published September, 1905



TO

MARTHA REDINGTON


To you who have enjoyed the charms and wonders of the newer city, the
old and remarkable may have a charm. Half a century is not much in
which to rear the Queen City of the Western Coast.

     With a friend's regard,
     The Author.



CONTENTS


     CHAPTER                            PAGE

         I   FROM MAINE TO CALIFORNIA      1

        II   OLD SAN FRANCISCO            15

       III   MAKING A NEW HOME            27

        IV   A QUEER WINTER               43

         V   PELAJO                       59

        VI   A DIFFERENT OUTLOOK          79

       VII   A TASTE OF GAYETY            94

      VIII   GIRLS AND GIRLS             107

        IX   A PARTY AND AN ADMIRER      124

         X   ETHICS AND ETIQUETTE        138

        XI   IN THE SUNSHINE OF YOUTH    155

       XII   NEW EXPERIENCES             174

      XIII   BALDER THE BEAUTIFUL        189

       XIV   A WEDDING AND A PARTING     205

        XV   THE ENCHANTMENT OF YOUTH    223

       XVI   IN THE BALANCE              241

      XVII   THE DECISION OF FATE        258

     XVIII   TO SEE YOU ONCE AGAIN       276

       XIX   THE GUIDING FINGER          292

        XX   AN ENCHANTED JOURNEY        313



CHAPTER I

FROM MAINE TO CALIFORNIA


It was a long journey for a little girl, so long indeed that the old
life had almost faded from her mind, and seemed like something done in
another existence. When she was younger still she had once surprised
her mother by saying, "Mother, where did I live before I came here?"
The pale, care-worn woman had glanced at her in vague surprise and
answered rather fretfully, "Why, nowhere, child."

"Oh, but I remember things," said the little girl with a confident
air, looking out of eyes that seemed to take an added shade from her
present emotions.

"Nonsense! You can't remember things that never happened. That's
imagining them, and it isn't true. If you told them they would be
falsehoods. There, go out and get me a basket of chips."

She was afraid of telling falsehoods, most of those rigid people
called them by their plain name, "lies," and whipped their children.
So the little girl kept them to herself; she was a very good and
upright child as a general thing and knew very little about her tricky
father. But she went on imagining. Especially when she studied
geography, which she was extravagantly fond of, yet she could never
quite decide which country she had lived in.

Through those months of journeying in the big vessel over strange
waters, for she had been born in an inland hamlet with a great woods
of hemlock, spruce, and fir behind the little cottage, and two or
three small creeks wandering about, she had many strange thoughts.
Though at first she was quite ill, but Uncle Jason was the best nurse
in the world, and presently she began to run about and get acquainted.
There were only a few women passengers. One middle-aged, with a son
sixteen, who was working his way; a few wives emigrating with their
husbands, three women friends who were in the hope of finding an
easier life and perhaps husbands, though they hardly admitted that to
each other.

She often sat in Uncle Jason's lap, hugged up to his breast. Of
course, her mother had been his sister, they had settled upon that,
and he did not contradict. She was lulled by the motion of the vessel
and often fell asleep, but in her waking moments these were the
memories that were growing more vague and getting tangled up with
various things.

Her father had taught school at South Berwick the winter she could
recall most readily, and came home on Saturday morning, spending most
of the time at the store. Woodville was only a sort of hamlet, though
it had a church, a school, and a general store. Sometimes he would go
back on Sunday, but oftener early Monday morning. Then late in the
summer he was home for a while, and went away after talks with her
mother that did not always seem pleasant. He took very little notice
of her, in her secret heart she felt afraid of him, though he was
seldom really cross to her. And then he went away and did not appear
again until the winter, when there seemed a great deal of talking and
business, and he brought a boxful of clothes for them, and seemed in
excellent spirits. He was in business in Boston, and would move them
all there at once, if grandmother would consent, but she was old, and
had had a stroke, and could not get about without a cane. The old
house was hers and she would finish out her days there. Of course,
then, her mother could not go. She had a new, warm woollen frock and a
cloak that was the envy of the other children, and absolute city shoes
that she could only wear on Sunday, and, of course, were presently
outgrown.

She studied up everything she could concerning Boston, but her mother
would not talk about it. In the summer, grandmother had another stroke
and then was bedridden. It was a poor little village, and everybody
had hard work to live, summers were especially busy, and winters were
long and hard. Grandmother was fretful, and wandered a little in her
mind. Now and then a neighbor came in to spell Mrs. Westbury, and
there was always some mysterious talking that her mother did not care
for her to hear. Grandmother lived more than a year and was a helpless
burden at the last. After she had gone the poor mother sank down,
overwhelmed with trouble. David Westbury had persuaded the old lady to
sign over the house for a business venture he was to make in Boston
that would put him on the road to fortune. And now it was found that
he had decamped, that there had been no business but speculating, and
she no longer had a home for herself and her child.

They were very poor. People bore straits bravely in those days and
suffered in silence. The poor mother grew paler and thinner and had a
hard cough. In the spring they would be homeless. By spring she would
be--and what would happen to the child! A little bound-out girl,
perhaps.

Laverne was not taken into these sorrowful confidences. She did not go
to school, her mother needed to be waited upon. One bright afternoon
she went out to skate on the creek. The school children joined her,
and it was almost dark when they started for home. The little girl's
heart upbraided her, but she had carried in the last armful of wood,
and had not told her mother. What would they do to-morrow!

She went in hesitatingly. Oh, how good and warm the room felt and two
candles were burning. A man sat beside the stove with a sort of frank,
bright, yet weather-beaten face, a mop of chestnut-colored hair, a
beard growing up to his very mouth, but with the brightest blue eyes
she had ever seen, merry blue eyes, too, that looked as if there was
just a twinkle back of the lashes.

"This is my little girl, Laverne," said her mother. "We have always
called her Verne, seeing there were three of the same name. And this
is"--the mother's tone had a curious tremble in it, as if she caught
her breath--"this is Uncle Jason."

The first glance made them friends. They both smiled. She was like her
mother in the young days, and had the same dimple in her cheek, and
the one in her chin where the children used to hold a buttercup. She
put out both hands. They had been so lonely, so poor, and she was
glad all over with a strange feeling, just as if they had come to
better times.

What a supper they had! She was very hungry. She had been quite used
to eating bread and molasses, or a little moist brown sugar. And here
was a great chunk of butter on the edge of her plate, and the room was
fragrant with the smell of broiled ham.

If she had known anything about fairies she would have believed in
enchantment at once. And there was part of a splendid cake, and orange
jam, and she could hardly make it real. No neighbor had known all
their straits, and the little girl had borne them as bravely as her
mother. Then, so many people had pinches in the winter, for crops were
often poor.

She helped her mother with the dishes and then she sat down on a stool
beside Uncle Jason. Presently, her head sank on his knee and she went
fast asleep. She never heard a word of what her mother and Uncle Jason
were saying.

At nine o'clock he carried her into the bedroom and laid her on the
bed, and she never woke up while her mother undressed her. He went
over to the store where he had bargained for a room. The storekeeper,
Mr. Lane, had been as much surprised to see Mr. Chadsey as Mrs.
Westbury. He had been born in the old town and his romance had
blossomed and blighted here.

"Now, I tell you," Seth Lane said to his wife, when the store was shut
and they were preparing for bed, "if that scalawag Westbury was dead
there'd be a weddin' in this town straight away. My, how Chadsey was
cut up over hearin' his mean villainy an' gettin' hold of the house!
I never b'lieved the old woman knew what she was about. And Chadsey's
come back in the nick o' time, for I don't b'lieve she'll go through
March."

Jason Chadsey planned for their comfort, and went to Boston the next
day, but could find no trace of David Westbury, dead or alive.

As for the little girl, when she woke up in the morning she thought
she had had the loveliest dream that could ever haunt one. But when
she saw the bountiful breakfast she was amazed to the last degree.

"Was Uncle Jason really here?" she asked timidly. She was quite sure
her mother had been crying.

"Yes, dear. He has gone to Boston and will be back in a few days. Oh,
Laverne, I hope you will learn to love him. Some day, when you are
older, you will understand why he came back, and he will be your best
friend when"--when I am gone, she was about to say, but checked
herself, and substituted "all your life. When I was a little girl he
was a kind and generous big boy. Then he went to sea, and was back
only a few times. For years I had heard nothing from him--he has been
round the world, everywhere. And he has a big, tender heart----"

"Oh, I am sure I shall be glad to love him. Why, you seem to go right
to his heart;" and the child's face glowed with enthusiasm.

"Yes, yes." She began to cough and sat down suddenly, putting her
handkerchief to her mouth.

"The salt, quick, Verne," she gasped.

She lay on the old wooden settee and stuffed her mouth full of salt.

"Oh, what can I do?" cried the child, in mild alarm.

"Run for Aunt Cynthy Beers. Tell her to come quick."

The neighbor, who was the village nurse, came back with the child.
Then she was despatched for the doctor. He shook his head gravely.

"Doctor, you must keep me alive a little while longer," she pleaded.

"Oh, you are good for some time yet, only you must not make the
slightest exertion. Cynthy, how long can you stay?"

"Ten days or so. Then I have to go over on the Creek," she answered
laconically.

"That will do." Then he gave sundry charges to Miss Beers, and left
the remedies she was to use, but that lady knew what was meant.

Mrs. Westbury beckoned the nurse to her when he had gone.

"Don't tell Laverne," she said. "Don't say anything about----"

"That's cruel. Why, she ought to know and be prepared."

"No, no; I will not have a word said. I cannot explain, no one can.
And if she took it hard, don't you see, it would drive me wild and
shorten my days. I'm all worn out. And she will be provided for."

Everybody was kind and solicitous, sending in cooked food, offering to
sit up at night, but Miss Beers was equal to all demands. The sick
woman really did improve. Laverne hovered about her mother, read to
her out of her geography and Peter Parley's history, as well as the
sweetest hymns out of the hymn book. Jimmy Cox came over and did the
chores, provided the wood, took Verne out on his sled, and the days
passed along. Jason Chadsey returned. Miss Beers had to go her way,
and a neighbor came in to do what was needed. One day, before the
minister and the Squire, she gave her child to Jason Chadsey, who
promised to care for her and educate her, and keep her from all harm.

"You both know that I loved her mother and would gladly have married
her in the old days, but untoward fate intervened. I could find no
trace of the child's father. She has no near relatives to care for
her, so I shall be father to her, and Heaven may judge me at the
last."

He was holding the child on his knee that evening, "You are to be my
little girl always," he said, with tender solemnity. "You shall be
made happy as a little bird. And if you will only love me----"

"Oh, I shall, I do. And will you stay here? Mother will be so glad.
She was longing so to have you come back. You will never go away
again?"

"Never from you, my little girl;" and he kissed the child's trust into
perfect belief.

There were two more alarms, then the frail life went out peacefully.
The child was stunned. It had seemed right for grandmother to leave a
world that she was forgetting about, but Laverne could not understand
all the mystery. Her mother had always been quiet and reserved, it was
the fashion in those days, and the child could not miss the things she
had never had. And neither could she ever have understood her sorrow
over the great mistake in giving her such a father. But Heaven had
helped her to make amends, for the child was the embodiment of her own
youth. It was all she had and she gave it to the man who had loved her
sincerely, glad and thankful that she was not to be left to the
uncertain charity of the world.

The frightened child clung very closely to him. The worn furniture and
bedding were distributed among the neighbors, a few keepsakes
collected, a few good-bys said, and good wishes given, and they went
first to Boston and then to New York. Then they were to go to the
wonderful land of gold and sunshine, California. They found it on the
map. And there was the long, long sail, and the little girl was going
far away from the only sorrow of her life, that was so strangely
mingled with the only dear love. For while the other had been hedged
about with the severe training of the times, afraid of sinfulness in
indulging in what was called carnal affections, even in loving a
child, now she had the utmost tenderness lavished upon her. She had no
one but him, and that was a continual joy and kept his heart at high
tide. She was all his.

Later she was to know about the young love between them, and how when
her mother was just fifteen he had shipped for three years aboard a
merchantman. They had sailed about the Eastern seas, bought and sold,
and at last started for home, to be wrecked, and nearly all had
perished. Of the few saved there were no tidings of Jason Chadsey.
Laverne waited and hoped and came to her twentieth birthday. David
Westbury was considered a smart young man. He had been a clerk in a
store, he had worked on a newspaper, and taught school, and could
turn his hand to a good many things. He had a smooth tongue, too, and
a certain polish in his manner above the country youths. Grandmother
espoused his cause at once. Jason Chadsey was dead, lovers were not so
plentiful in these small places, where the enterprising young men went
away. It was hard to stand out against one's own mother, and all the
years to come to be taunted as an old maid. And so Laverne married
David Westbury, and when her little girl was a month old he came back
not altogether penniless, but it was too late.

He had roamed about the world a good deal. He had made money, and
spent it freely, lost some of it, helped friends in distress. Now, he
was going out to that wonderful land that had been the dream of the
Spaniard, and another nation had brought the dream true. He would
visit the little old village once more, and see how it had fared with
his early love and his old friends, and then say good-bye forever. And
knowing she was near to death, Laverne Westbury told him her sad
story, and he read between the broken sentences that he had been her
early love, her only love.

So they whiled the time away, the man's dreams growing more vivid, the
child's fading. They passed strange countries, there were seas of
peerless blue, seas of emerald green, then strange colors commingled.
There were cloudless skies and broad sheets of sunshine that seemed to
envelop the whole world in a blaze; there were nights of such glowing
stars as one seldom sees on land, there were gray days with sullen
winds, and storms that sent a thrill to the stoutest hearts, when the
vessel groaned and creaked and the women cried in terror. But Laverne
only crept closer in Uncle Jason's arms and felt safe.

They stopped here and there at a port, places they hunted up on the
map, cities that seemed marvels to the little girl, shores with waving
blooming forests and almost steaming fragrance. Strange birds, strange
many-hued fish, darting hither and thither, seaweed that in the
sunshine looked like masses of bloom, or living things swimming about.
Curious people, too, speaking languages no little girl could
understand, then leaving the warmth, and shivering with blasts of cold
air, wonderful islands and capes jutting out--some bleak and bare and
rocky, others shining in verdure and waving smiles of welcome, it
seemed; going safely round the Horn with half their journey done and
finding more wonders, great mountain ranges, shores thickly studded
with islands, natives swimming about like fishes, queer, half ruinous
old Spanish towns, and when they stopped at a port, such a clatter of
tongues, such a screaming of voices, such a confusion, one was glad to
get out of it to lovely, enchanting peace once more.

Warmer grew the air with a languorous, permeating fragrance. Moonlight
silvering the water that leaped softly up and down as if playing hide
and seek with the next wave. All the boundless space lighted with it,
going round the world, swelling, decreasing, a golden crescent, then a
pale gibbous thing and afterward darkness when the ship crept softly
along.

If one came in near the shore it was like the blast of a furnace.
Then, passing the equator with the queer ceremony among the sailors,
and looking across at the little neck of land joining the two
countries, past Central America, which the little girl insisted made
three Americas. She had listened to the tales of the early explorers
and their cruel lust for gold until she had shuddered.

"Uncle Jason, are you going for gold in California, and will the
people murder whole nations and rob them? I would rather not have the
gold."

"No, my little girl; and the country that has the gold belongs to us.
But it has many other delightful things as well. It is not like bleak
Maine."

"What a strange journey it has been, and oh, how beautiful most of the
time. I do not believe I shall ever be afraid of storms again."

"You have made a most excellent sailor. It will seem queer to be on
land again. You will keep your sea legs for some time to come."

"Sea legs?" She laughed inquiringly.

"The faculty one acquires of walking with the roll of the ship.
Sailors always do it on land. And you will see that you have an
inclination to go from side to side as if the street was hardly wide
enough;" and he looked at her out of humorous eyes.

He had a way of nearly shutting one eye, which gave an absolutely
funny expression to his face. He had buffeted so many storms and
narrow escapes that he looked fully ten years beyond his age, which
was but thirty-five. He had a tall, vigorous frame, with a little
stoop in the shoulders and a way of sitting down all in a heap. The
little girl told him he made a cave for her to sit in. Every day she
loved him more dearly, and to him she was the one thing that
brightened his way and gave him new aims. He had been going to
California simply to see a strange and new land. He had not been won
by the wonderful tales of gold, he had cared very little for wealth.
But now he would make a fortune for her and have it so safely invested
that she should not come to want if she lived to be old. He could
never forget the afternoon he had come to Laverne Westbury's home,
that she had been warned to leave in the spring, and found her almost
on the verge of starvation, too proud to keep asking charity, worn out
and disheartened, with only the county house looming before her.
Little Verne should never know this, never suffer as her mother had
done.

And this was one reason he led her thoughts away from the old life.
She was too young to know that he had loved her mother, she took the
relationship for granted. And even on the long voyage there had been
so much to entertain her. The only child on board, and a winsome one
at that, she had been a universal favorite; and Jason Chadsey hardly
less so. The trio, as the three single women had been dubbed, though
the married ones often said "the old maids," after a little,
established very friendly relations with Mr. Chadsey. Miss Holmes was
past thirty, and had worn herself almost out teaching school. A sea
voyage had been prescribed to avoid consumption, that scourge of the
eastern towns. She had gained in health and strength, and certainly in
looks. When she found the little girl and her uncle poring over their
old map, she brought out some of her school books, to Laverne's great
delight. Among them was the story of the Argonauts that caught the
young imagination, and even Dick Folsom became interested in the
various explorers who had dreamed of gold and of the straight route to
China. Miss Gaines had been a dressmaker until a troublesome pain in
her side warned her to seek a different occupation, and Miss Alwood
had kept house, done nursing, and they had planned to make better
fortunes in the new country, where there were fewer women. Mrs. Dawson
was going out to meet her husband, who had been among the
"Forty-miners," and now kept a sort of lodging ranch, that with her
help could be transformed into a regular hotel, much in demand at that
time.

And so they had made quite a little colony on shipboard. Slowly they
came up the Pacific Coast, past the long peninsula of Southern
California, and there, fairly in sight, was the Golden Gate.



CHAPTER II

OLD SAN FRANCISCO


Was it any wonder the old explorers missed the narrow outlet from the
great bay when the hills from the farther shore cast a great gloomy
shadow, and dreary rocks flanked the shore, inhabited by cormorants
and auks and gulls, screaming out their discordant music? What if the
tide did run out sweeping like a torrent--were they going to breast
the danger back of it? Was the great rocky point worth their
consideration? In the islands off the shore seals and sea lions had it
all their own way and basked and frolicked in the sunshine.

It had changed then, in the early fifties, but half a century has
almost forgotten the bareness of it then. And yet it was magnificent
in the October sunset as the old ship made its way, puffing from the
strains of its long journey. They had nearly all huddled on deck to
view their land of promise. There are few enthusiastic emigrants now,
everything is viewed with commercial eyes. Afar to the westward
stretched the magnificent ocean, a sheet of billowy ranges tipped with
molten gold, changing to a hundred iridescent tints and throwing up
the gold again in prodigal fashion, sweeping it over to foreign seas.
And, on the other hand, the mile-wide gap, the gateway to the
wonderful land, tranquil enough now, with frowning rocks like the
cave of Scylla on the one hand, that was to be transformed into a
wonderful city. They are piloted through to the great magnificent bay
that seems endless at the first glance of its seventy miles. Northward
long lines of rolling hills, purple and blue and black, with glints of
the setting sun fighting the shadows like some strange old gods with
their fire-tipped arrows. At the south it fades into misty dreamland.
Red Rock stands up defiant. And so they look at their new country and
then at each other. There is shipping at the rude wharves, and they
find a place to anchor, but it is too late to look for a home and so
they make themselves content. But if they thought they were coming to
great space, and semi-loneliness they were mistaken and confused by
the noise and tumult, the crowds, the bustle of business, the people
of all countries it seemed.

"Why, I had no idea," the women said to one another. "The place must
be overcrowded."

What chance was there then for women who had come to seek their
fortunes?

They soon found that San Francisco was the stopping place of nearly
every nation, and yet there was room for more, and work for those
willing to do it.

Mr. Dawson came down to meet his wife the next morning, and was made
acquainted with the little party that had become such friends in their
long journey.

"We can take some of you in if you will accept the accommodations," he
said cordially. "They might be worse," with a shrug of the shoulders.
"Luckily, I escaped being burnt out. Will you come and take a view of
our town?"

What an odd place it was, built on the hills like Rome. On the ocean
side great frowning rocks that suggested fortresses. At the extreme
end, the highest of hills, the city began, and it spread out over
little valleys and other hills, sloping to the busy, beautiful bay.
And it seemed right in the heart of it lay devastation, débris and
ashes. Hundreds of men were clearing, laying foundations again,
rearing new structures.

"It was an awful fire," explained their guide. "We had thought
fireproof bricks and iron-bound structures would at least stay the
devastating hand of destruction, and even that proved useless. But for
the loss one might have enjoyed the magnificent spectacle of the
immense fiery field. The fierce roar of the flames, the shouts and
shrieks of the flying people, the glowing crackling mass sending
spires up to the very sky, it seemed, was something we shall never
forget. It was said to have been visible a hundred miles away."

The ruins were startling even now. Then the party turned, crossed
Market Street and came into Spear Street. Here there was a rambling
frame building that had been added to several times, two stories for
the most part, but a long ell of only one story. The main end bore the
name of "Dawson House." It was not a hotel, and had no bar, that usual
accompaniment. Round in the next street, Mr. Dawson had a clubhouse
that supplied this want, and all games of chance, but this place was
of the better sort.

The Farnsworths had gone to friends only a few squares from the wharf.
Mr. Dawson made friends at once with young Folsom and offered him a
position.

"I'm in for the gold fields," he declared with boyish eagerness.

"You'd better consider a day or two," suggested his mother.

"And I'll take the mother, too, if she is as good a housekeeper as she
looks to be," Mr. Dawson subjoined laughingly. "If I don't, young
fellow, some man will snap your mother up before you'll have a chance
to see the color of his eyes."

"Well, here are four husbandless women," she retorted gayly. "He could
have a choice."

They were ushered into a spacious room with a painted floor and
nondescript furnishing. In one corner was a large desk at which sat a
clerk. This opened into a dining room, in which the long table was
seldom without a guest. Several were seated there now. On the other
side were two smaller rooms tolerably well furnished, one a sleeping
chamber.

"You'll find we're suffering from the want of woman's hands and
woman's wit. I could hardly believe my wife had consented to come. You
see those who are worth anything are soon offered homes of their own,
and the others----" He made a peculiar little gesture, that elicited a
shrewd smile from Jason Chadsey.

It was comforting to find a place of refuge so soon, they all thought.
On the second floor were lodging rooms for the better class. The ell
was fitted up with rows of bunks, and there was seldom a vacancy by
midnight.

Laverne kept tight hold of Uncle Jason's hand, and when Mr. Dawson
smiled over to her, half hid her face on Uncle Jason's ample frame.

"Are we all going to live here?" she asked in a low tone.

"For a little while, I think. We would not want to go away alone. And
there must be some one to keep the house when I get one."

"But you know that I helped mother, oh, for a long while. Sometimes I
chopped up the wood. And in the autumn I dug the potatoes and husked
the corn, but we had to kill the poor hens, after all," and she
sighed. "I swept up the house, too. Oh, I can do a great many things."

He took the slim little hand in his and tried to smile over her
eagerness, but his heart ached as he thought of her mother, and the
hardships he could not save.

"Will it be winter soon?" she inquired.

"Not a Maine winter, my child. I believe there is no real winter."

"Everything looks queer and dried up, yet it isn't cold. And what a
great city, it is almost as large as New York."

He laughed at that, then he was grave a moment. "It may be as great,
some day. The Pacific will be a big rival to the Atlantic."

"To think we are clear over here! Why don't they build a
railroad--just so?" and she made a mark with her small finger.

"No doubt that will come also."

They made arrangements about staying for the present. It seemed queer
to the child that the friend she had known so long should be Mr.
Dawson's wife. Already she was giving some orders and telling what
she wanted done, and did not seem a bit afraid of the portly man who
could speak so sharply to the Chinese servants.

Laverne thought them very odd. She had only seen pictures of them
before. They walked so softly in their pointed slippers, and looked a
little like women in their loose blue shirts with hanging sleeves. The
long queue twisted around their heads, and their slanting eyes seemed
weird enough.

She saw many other queer people in their walk back to the boat. Uncle
Jason thought it too long, but she pleaded so to go. There were other
curious dark-eyed and dark-skinned men, small and bright Japanese she
came to know, and tall Spaniards in picturesque attire with handsome
sashes about their waists; Indians, too, and a group of squaws girt
about with blankets, two carrying their babies on their backs, and
these made her think of the Maine clear across the continent, for you
occasionally saw them there.

The old vessel seemed almost like home to her. They gathered up their
luggage and that belonging to the ladies and ordered it sent to the
Dawson House. Then they went up on Telegraph Hill, and half the world
seemed spread out before them. The sun was shining in well-nigh
blinding brilliancy. There was the narrow passageway that hardly
looked its real width, there was the northern peninsula, Mount
Tamalpais, Belvidere, Sausalito, and all the places she was to come to
know so well. And there over the bay were the low spurs of the Coast
Range, at whose feet were to spring up towns and cities. The bay
looked to her like a smaller ocean. But boats were plying back and
forth. And they could see the other hills about, and the town
spreading here and there outside of the burned district.

Suddenly she said she was very tired, and her steps lagged a little.
Uncle Jason would have been glad to carry her, he had occasionally
carried greater burdens in times of peril, but that would be hardly
admissible, they were going downhill too, which was easier. She had
not seen all the strange people yet, for they met a group of
Portuguese sailors with big hoop earrings, who were gesticulating
fiercely, and some Russians with high caps and black, bushy beards.
She was glad she had studied so much geography on shipboard, and she
began to feel quite wise about different countries.

When she reached their present home she begged that she might go to
bed. She did not want to eat even a tempting bit of cake. Mrs. Dawson
took her into her room and put a pillow on the lounge, and while the
others talked and planned she slept soundly.

"What a pretty child she is," Mr. Dawson said. "You will have to watch
her closely that no one steals her."

"Oh!" Uncle Jason said thoughtfully. But in this wild, bustling life
few would want to be burdened with a child not belonging to them.

When Laverne woke there was a queer, rushing, rustling sound, and it
was dark like twilight. Where was she? What was happening? Then she
sprang up and remembered. The ladies were talking in the next room.
Oh, it rained and the wind seemed blowing a gale.

"Oh, what a nice sleep you have had!" exclaimed Mrs. Dawson. "And now
you must be hungry, though we shall have dinner in a very short time.
You look rested," and she smiled cheerfully.

"Yes, I am. I don't know what made me so tired." She had not climbed a
hill in a long while.

"We didn't have any hills to climb on shipboard, and in all these
months we did get out of practice," said Miss Holmes. "I was tired as
well. And now the rainy season has begun, and Mr. Dawson has been
saying that in a week or two the country will look like spring."

"And won't there be any winter? Though I don't like winter very much,"
she added naïvely. "Only the sledding and skating."

"I shouldn't care to live in Maine," and Miss Gaines gave a little
shiver. "All my life I have longed for a warm winter climate. And if
this doesn't suit, I shall go further south."

"You women without husbands are very independent," laughed Mrs.
Dawson.

"You certainly can go where you like if you have money enough to take
you there," was the reply. "Verne, come sit here and tell me if you
like San Francisco as well as the ship and the voyage."

"It's queer and such lots of queer people, and how they can understand
each other I can't see, for they all seem to talk different. I'd
rather not live on a ship all my life."

"Then do not marry a sea captain. But your uncle may take a fancy to
go to China or Japan. It is not so far from here. Grace, have you
written any letters this afternoon?"

"No," replied Miss Alwood. "I think my friends will not be immediately
alarmed."

"And this little girl has left no relatives behind, I heard her uncle
say. Haven't you any cousins?"

"My mother had no brothers or sisters." Then she remembered how little
she had ever heard about her father.

Mrs. Dawson brushed her hair and they were summoned to dinner. They
had the upper end of the table. Two other women came in with their
husbands. There were some Spaniards among the men, and a few very
dark, peculiar-looking people. There was a great deal of talking in
tongues unknown to the little girl, but some of the voices had a soft,
musical sound.

The little girl was really hungry and enjoyed her dinner. Afterward
most of the party played cards. The other lodgers were of the commoner
sort, had a dining room to themselves, and generally sallied out in
the evening. Fights were not infrequent and the harmless phases of
games degenerated into gambling.

Miss Holmes had not mastered the art even on the long voyage. She took
Laverne under her wing now.

"You and I will have to learn Spanish," she said. "Once Spain owned
all this country."

"And will we have to learn all the other talk? I know some Indian
words, there were two old Indian women in our town, and in the summer
some of the tribes would come down. But Chinese--that funny reading
that comes on tea chests----" and a knot gathered in her forehead.

"We will not take Chinese the first. I have a friend who went out as a
missionary and who can talk it fluently. But all down along the coast
it is settled by Spaniards, and they were in South America, you know,
and it seems as if half the people here were talking it. Then it is a
stately and beautiful language. You know you learned some French on
shipboard."

"And there are so many things to learn. There were so few in our
little place. They spun and knit and sewed, and you made bed quilts in
case you were married. Mother had two she had never used, and a great
counterpane grandmother had knit."

"Yes. It is a pity they couldn't have been saved for you. I have a
chest of heirlooms stored in the house of a cousin at Dorchester, and
some Revolutionary relics. My grandfather fought in the war. And I
have left them all behind."

Miss Holmes gave a little sighing laugh. She could not tell whether
she was glad or sorry that she had taken this long journey to a
strange land.

"What did Spain want of America?" queried the little girl.

"Oh, don't you remember how they came to Mexico for the gold. There
was Pizarro and Cortez----"

"And poor Montezuma in South America. Are there any real gold mines
here?"

"Not just in the town."

"Then no one will come and fight us and take the gold away," she said
with a sigh of relief.

Uncle Jason gave a dry smile. There was fighting enough, he had found
already.

"Would you care for the gold?" The child raised soft, inquiring eyes.

"Why, yes; I should like to have a share of it. But I do not think I
shall go and work in the mines."

"Did they fight very much at the fort. And who did they drive away?"
she asked in a rather awe-stricken voice.

"Oh, my child, they did not fight at all. The country belonged to us.
The gold was free for any one willing to mine. We shall see the men
coming in with their bags of gold dust and nuggets, and though they
may talk fiercely and quarrel, they need not disturb us," and Miss
Holmes smiled reassuringly.

"Uncle Jason will not go," she said confidently, after quite a pause.
Then she glanced over to him and smiled, and was answered in return.

He lost that trick and the next and Mrs. Dawson won his money. It did
well enough to play for fun on shipboard, the captain had strictly
forbidden gambling, but here one would not dream of such a thing. The
stakes were not high, however.

He was thinking of his little girl and whether he had done wisely to
bring her here. He had planned this journey before he knew whether the
little girl was dead or alive; at any rate he had supposed she would
be in the keeping of her own father. And the pitiful story of the
woman he had loved, and would have slaved for had she been his, had
roused all the chivalrous feelings of his nature. And that she should
give him the child who had her smile and her soft, appealing voice,
and the pretty eagerness that had cropped out now and then, though it
was the fashion to repress it, seemed so wonderful and so sacred to
him, and occupied so much of his thoughts that he never dreamed of
altering his plans, or whether they would be best for her. Everything
was so different, such a hurly-burly, that he wondered if a little
girl could be brought up clean and wholesome and happy. A touch of
uncertainty was creeping through every nerve. A man's life was so
different. And there must be some one to guard her since he had to
make the fortune for her. Would Miss Holmes do? They had become great
friends. Then Miss Holmes had the Eastern refinement and uprightness.

He had not counted on sharing her with any one, his ideas had been
vague and impractical and he would have to remodel them.

"Upon my word, I never knew you to play so poorly," laughed Mrs.
Dawson teasingly; "I believe you are half asleep."

"I think that must be it. I am a landlubber to-night, so I beg you to
excuse me," and he rose.



CHAPTER III

MAKING A NEW HOME


It rained three days, not quite like sullen Eastern storms, but in
gusts and showers. At times the wind drove it along like a trampling
army, then the fog came up and you could hardly see anything but the
vaguest outlines. The rainy season had set in.

"Will it rain all the time?" asked Laverne. "And I have no rubbers."

"That is a sad oversight. I don't believe you will find any small ones
here," answered Mrs. Dawson. "But I have interviewed some of the old
residents, and they say it only rains by spells, but that the spells
are rather frequent. I suppose we shall get used to it."

It was mid-forenoon. Laverne had asked questions about everything she
could imagine, and heard many wonderful stories. The convent tales
interested her deeply. They had found an old volume of the early days,
and she had rejoiced in the legend of Father Francis, who had been
left out of the list of missions that were to be named after the
Saints.

"And no St. Francis!" cried the good missionary, surprised at such
neglect. "Is not our own dear Father Francis to have a mission
assigned to him?"

The visitador replied loftily, "If St. Francis wishes a mission let
him show you a good port and it shall bear his name."

They had been discouraged at the rough shores and rocky heights. But
they went on and suddenly the gateway opened before them, and the bay
came in view. So they entered it, and while they were waiting for the
storeship, they cut down timber and began to make a settlement on a
fertile plain surrounded by vine-clad hills. When the storeship
arrived with cattle, provisions, and some more emigrants, they built
some plain houses, and the mission, and on the day of St. Francis it
was blessed and consecrated with a Mass, and for music they had a
continual discharge of firearms, while the smoke answered for incense.
Then they set about converting the natives who were poor, wandering
clans with no religion, but a great fear of sorcerers, and were very
easily managed. And now the Mission de los Dolores was but a crumbling
ruin, while the good St. Francis lives in the noble name of bay and
city.

Then there was the pathetic story of Doña Conceptione, daughter of the
Commandant of Presidio. A Russian official visited it, and fell deeply
in love with the beautiful girl. But he not only had to return with
business matters, but had to lay before the Czar his earnest wish to
espouse his sweetheart. Doña Conceptione waited at first in great joy
and hope, but no word and no lover came. When her father tried to win
her from her love by various devices, she would not be comforted with
them. Many a time she looked longingly over the ocean, straining her
eyes to see the vague outline of his ship that never came, and so her
sweet youth passed, her beauty began to fade, but she would not give
up her faith. He was dead, or he would have come. He could not prove
false. She went into a convent and prayed for his soul's rest. Long
afterward she heard he had been killed on his way home, and her sad
heart was comforted by the thought that she had never doubted his
love.

And then another beautiful girl, whose lover had gone to battle with a
fierce tribe of Indians who had attacked one of the lower missions.
His horse had found its way back unharmed, and some one who had seen
him fall brought back his bloody scarf and his jewelled dagger, picked
up from the ground, but the Indians had mutilated his body horribly
and cast it away in fragments. When Doña Eustacia recovered from her
long illness she would take the veil in spite of her mother's
protests, for there was another lover the elder had preferred. And so
two years passed away when a poor, dishevelled, footsore man came
back, who had not been killed but wounded and taken prisoner, and at
last managed to escape. And when the Señor Roldan learned Eustacia's
sorrowful mistake he begged that she be released from her vows, and
proffered his estate to the mission for her. But the Padre was
obdurate and would not listen. Did some bird carry messages to her?
There was no need to pray for his soul, and his faithful love was too
sweet to give up. So the little bird comforted her, and though she
knew she was perilling her soul's salvation she slipped out of the
convent one night, and her lover lifted her on his horse and they went
away in the storm and the darkness, whither no one ever knew, but the
Padre took his estate, and they were both laid under the ban of the
Church.

"But did it really hurt them?" queried the young listener.

"I should like to think they were very happy," declared Miss Holmes,
closing the book, "and we will end it that way."

"Do see!" cried Laverne, running to the window. "Why, it is yellow and
purple, and rolling up----"

"The fog is lifting. And the sun is coming out," was the reply.

"The cobwebs being swept from the sky," laughed the child. "But there
is no old woman with a broom."

Yes, there was the sun out in all its glory, driving the fog into the
ocean, tearing it into tatters, and suddenly everything was glorified.
The evergreens had been washed free from dust and were in their
metallic tints, other foliage that had seemed brown a few days ago,
glowed and shimmered in the crystal-clear air. The change was
marvellous. The newcomers glanced at each other in surprise, with no
words to express their exhilaration.

"And now we can go out!" cried Laverne. "I want to climb a hill."

Uncle Jason laughed. "Come and see," he replied.

Alas! Rivulets were running down the slopes and the wind was
appalling. Some of the streets were simply seas meandering along.

"Never mind, to-morrow it will be nice and you will see it dry up by
magic."

Laverne went back to the book of legends and stories. The others had
been considering plans. Mrs. Folsom had accepted Mr. Dawson's proposal
and was installed as housekeeper to his wife's great satisfaction.

"It would be folly for a young fellow like you to go out to the
mines," Mr. Dawson said to Richard. "There's gold enough to last ten
years or I'll miss my guess. It's no place for a boy. And there is
plenty to do right here. I'll take you as a clerk."

"We certainly have fallen in a clover bed," exclaimed his mother; "I
don't know how to thank you."

"I guess I need you as much as you need me. And if the boy keeps
honest and upright and doesn't take to gambling his fortune is made."

"But I shall go to the gold fields in the end," Dick said to his
mother. She was satisfied to have it put off a while.

The rain had not kept Jason Chadsey in the house. He had gone on
several inspecting tours. There was work to be had everywhere.
Building up the burned district, draying around the bay in every
conceivable branch. Every week dozens of men threw up a job and
started for the gold fields. Three or four shipping houses almost
fought for him when they learned he was a Maine man, and had been half
over the world, was indeed full of shrewd knowledge that had been
discriminated by a wide experience, and neither drank nor gambled, the
besetting sins of those early days.

Then there was the home. Miss Alwood had found a position. The other
two had been friends for years. A needlewoman would readily gain
employment, and no doubt teachers would be in demand.

Jason Chadsey ruminated over the matter. Women had hardly begun to
make homes for themselves in that chaotic region. What if he made a
home for them both and Miss Holmes took care of Laverne? The child was
very fond of her.

He went about the matter in a straightforward fashion. Miss Holmes
accepted at once. She had begun to wonder a little at her temerity in
seeking her fortune in this new land. In the older cities it was
different. And she had a motherly heart for Laverne. Indeed, if Jason
Chadsey had offered her marriage she would have accepted it readily,
though it would have been based on respect and friendship.

"You will be head of the interior," he said, in a rather humorous
tone. "We may find some one to do the rough part. And if Miss Gaines
would like to make her home with you we shall be a cheerful and
comfortable family, I fancy."

It was not so easy to find a domicile ready made. Too many of the
houses, even among those offered for sale, were flimsy things and held
at exorbitant prices. But he struck one presently. The man's wife had
died and he wanted to go to the mines, but did not really care to
sell. He would rent furniture and all for six months.

The Dawsons were sorry to have them leave. To be sure, their places
could be filled easily enough, but they had all been so friendly.

Meanwhile the weather would have been amusing if it had not been so
trying. It had come off very hot, and the north wind seemed to be
bringing gusts from the desert that scorched the green things with its
withering fury. The stars shone out pitiless like lesser suns. Then
splendid revivifying showers, and air as balmy as spring, laden with
wafts of curious fragrance, touching the hillsides with magic,
clothing them with daintiest verdure. Was this winter? Were not the
seasons absolutely lost?

The little girl was as much interested in the house as if she had been
a decade older. It was rather out of the business region, and built on
a side hill. Downstairs, even with the street in front, which had a
narrow plank sidewalk, there were two rooms; on the next floor four,
and you stepped out on the level again at the back. There was a flat
rock, then another declivity, but not so steep. Up here there was a
magnificent prospect. A little shrubbery grew about, but it was mostly
a tangle of vines, where flowers were to run riot in the spring.

It was quite as plain as the little cottage in the Maine town though
much less substantial. Sometimes in a strong west wind it seemed as if
it might slide to the street below. But houses seldom blew about that
way.

Outside a series of rude steps had been laid. Now and then they washed
out in a heavy rain, but they could be relaid without much trouble,
and sometimes the sticky clay hardened like stone and they remained
for a long while. She liked to run up and down them, flying like a
gull, stretching out her small arms, to the terror of Miss Holmes.

"You will slip some day and break your neck or some of your limbs, and
your uncle will think I was careless about you," she said anxiously.

"Oh, I will tell him that you were always cautioning me. And I do not
believe I shall break easily," laughing with a child's glee.

Every day changed her it seemed. Her eyes glowed with quivering lights
like the bay, her cheeks rounded out, the dimple grew deeper and held
a pink tint like the heart of a rose. Uncle Jason put uncounted kisses
in it. She would be prettier than her mother, and that gave him a
jealous pang. Her father had been esteemed good-looking, but really
she was not like him. The coloring and hair resembled her mother's.
Ah, if she could be here amid the splendor, and he shuddered, thinking
of the bleak little town.

The housekeeping was not arduous. Even in those early days fruits were
abundant and vegetables enough to surprise one. Then Jason Chadsey
went away in the morning and oftener took his lunch at the Dawsons',
not coming home until night. Everything in a business way rushed.

There were schools already, for the American plants his schoolhouse if
there are a dozen children. They could see the one down on the Plaza.
There were churches, too. Even in 1848 there had been Sunday worship
established on the Plaza, and a year later, in spite of all the
hubbub, churches were really organized. Then they erected a
substantial tent on Dupont Street, until one of their members ordered
a church ready to be put together, from New York. There was beside a
Congregational Society and this attracted Miss Holmes, for she had
always been "orthodox" in Boston. But the long sea voyage and the
lawless life all about her were rather demoralizing.

Men and women broadened out, sharp corners of creeds were rubbed off.
There was a very earnest endeavor among the better classes for the
extension of higher moral purposes, and a purer rule, and all of that
mind worked heartily together.

Marian Holmes was much interested in her friend's welfare. Miss
Gaines, with true Yankee faculty, was meaning to make a place for
herself and some money. Her heart yearned for the intelligence and
order of her native city.

"I shall not spend all my life in this riotous, disorderly place where
you cannot tell what will happen to you next. Like the men, I want to
make some money. It doesn't take so very much to be comfortable in
Boston, and there are all the appliances and enjoyments of
civilization. I was talking to that Mrs. Latham who has come to the
Dawsons for a few weeks while their house is being finished. And she
recommends that I shall start an establishment at once, while I am new
to the town."

Miss Gaines studied her compeer. She had been talking so rapidly she
was out of breath.

"Well?" as Miss Holmes was silent.

"Why, it might be an excellent thing. Only could you get girls to sew?
I do not think the young women are of that type. They flock to the
restaurants."

"There are two Catholic women Mrs. Latham spoke of--you know their
priests keep stricter watch over them. They are of the old Spanish
Californian stock. They have sewed for her and are neat as new pins,
but have no style. They rent out the lower floor of their house, being
in straitened circumstances. Their tenant is to go next week, I
believe I shall take the two rooms, and open a shop, emporium,
establishment, whatever it is best to call it. They will work for me.
And the more bizarre clothes are made the better. I think they will
suit these people, who do not care how they spend their money if it is
so their neighbors can see it. Then we will all be provided for.
Though I think I could have had an offer of marriage last night. A man
had just come in from the mines with a pile of gold. He was a Boston
man, but sadly demoralized by drink. I felt sorry for him at first,
then disgusted."

Miss Holmes laughed. "And thereby missed a chance that it is supposed
no woman lets slip."

"I certainly shall not take a chance like that. Come with me to see
the rooms."

"I must find Laverne. The child grows wild as the wildest thing in
town, and yet she is sweet as a rose. There's something in the air
that sets all your blood astir. I have not danced for years. I should
like to dance. I feel curiously young."

"Marian Holmes! You are in love! But I can't imagine Jason Chadsey
dancing. Though you are not compelled to dance with your husband in
this lawless place."

"I am afraid it would be love's labor lost if that were the case. He
like you has his heart set on making money, but for the child."

She ran out and looked at Table Rock, as they called a large, flattish
boulder. Laverne was not there. Then she glanced around. Some distance
down the street was a group of little girls, but Laverne's light hair
made her distinctive. She walked a short distance and then called.

The child hesitated, and the call was repeated. Laverne came with the
rush of a wild deer.

"Oh, can't I stay a little longer? I'm telling them about Maine, and
the snows and coasting. And it doesn't snow here, at least only a
little bit. They are such nice girls, and I am so lonely with only big
folks. They talk Spanish and very broken English."

"I want to take you out. Your uncle wouldn't like me to leave you
among strangers."

"Oh, but we're not strangers now. We know each other's names.
Carmencita,--isn't that pretty,--and Juana, and Anesta, and their
voices are so soft, and such black eyes as they have!"

"But you must come with me, dear," and there was a firmness in Miss
Holmes' tone.

The child looked irresolute. "Well, I must tell them," and she was off
again. These walks about the city always interested her. She made
amends by promising to come in the afternoon.

There was not much regularity in the streets save in the business
section. Some were little better than alleyways, others wound about,
and like most new places, houses had been set anywhere, but there were
a few pretty spots belonging to some of the older settlers before the
irruption of the horde. And already the Chinese had congregated
together, the Germans had a settlement, and the American was
everywhere.

This was really a pretty nook, with some wild olive trees about and
almonds, while grape vines clambered over the rocks. It had been quite
a fine estate, but its day was past. At one end was the adobe cottage
of two stories, with a flat roof and small deep-set windows, that
made it look like the spur of a mission. At the southern end was a
great open porch, the adobe floor stained a dullish red, and vines
were climbing over the columns. The little garden in front had some
vegetables growing in it.

The Señora Vanegas came down the outside stairs, she had seen the
guests from her window. She spoke quite brokenly, falling into Spanish
when she was at loss for a word. Then she called her daughter
Jacintha, who had mastered English, but spoke it with a charming
accent, and translated into Spanish that her mother more readily
understood the desire of the visitors. Mrs. Latham had sent them. Yes,
they knew Mrs. Latham very well. Oh, it would be charming to have some
one to take the lead, they did not profess to understand all the art
of costuming. But Jacintha brought down some exquisite embroidery and
drawn work, and the mother made cushion lace for some of the big
ladies. Her brother, it seemed, had owned the whole estate, which had
come from their father, and drank and gambled it away, keeping racing
horses. Only this little spot was left to them, and they were very
poor. The mother would gladly retire to a convent, but the
daughters----

"I could not like the life," Jacintha protested. "Perhaps, when I am
old and have had no lovers, I might be willing. But while I can work,
and the world is so bright," smiling with youth and hope.

"All three of you----" inquired the mother.

"Only Miss Gaines," explained Jacintha. "The others have a home, and
Miss Gaines will go there on Sunday. Oh, Señorita, you will find
plenty of work, and we will be glad to help. And it will be a great
interest."

The mother brought in a plate of crispy spiced cakes, and some sweet
wine of berries that she always prepared. For berries grew almost
everywhere, even if they were not of the choicest kind. A little
cultivation worked wonders.

So that was settled. They all went to Dawson House and had luncheon.
Mrs. Dawson was really in her glory.

"I was a fool that I didn't come out before," she said, with her
heartsome laugh. "Several of my cousins went West and suffered
everything, and I had no taste for emigrating. So I said to Dawson
when he was smitten with the gold craze, 'Go out and make some money,
and get a home to keep me in, and a servant to wait upon me, and then
I will come.' But I might as well have been here a year ago. There is
money to be paid for everything, no one haggles over the price. So,
Miss Gaines, we will wish you success and a fortune."

"Thank you for your hand in it;" and Miss Gaines nodded merrily.

"Hillo!" cried a bright voice, as Laverne stood talking to the
beautiful big dog in the hall. "Why, I've not seen you for ever so
long. Where have you been?"

"Home--I suppose that's home over there," and she nodded her head,
while the dimple in her cheek deepened. "But it is all so queer. Well,
when you are over on the other side of the world,--turned upside
down"----and she looked half funny, half perplexed.

"Are you homesick? Do you want to go back to Maine?"

"But there isn't any one to care for me there," she said a little
sadly. "Uncle Jason's all I have. It's so queer for winter, though. No
snow, no sliding, no skating, no fun at snowballing. And between the
rains things spring up and grow. I've tamed two funny little
squirrels, so one of them will eat out of my hand. And the birds come
to be fed."

"You can see snow enough up on the mountain-tops. It never melts away.
I like the fun and stir and strange people. It makes you believe in
Sir Francis Drake and the pirates and everything. But my! how they
spend money and gamble it away! I hope your uncle will have a level
head and hold on to what he gets."

"I've found three Spanish girls that are just lovely. There are so few
little girls about," in a rather melancholy tone. "And Miss Holmes
teaches me at home. I'd rather go to school, but it's too far, and
uncle says wait until I get older."

"I guess that's best," returned the experienced youth. "Sometimes it
is hardly safe for a little girl in the street. There are so many
drunken rowdies."

"Oh, I never do go out alone, except over at the cedars. They are sort
of scrubby and look like Maine. The little girls live there. I don't
quite like their mother; she has such sharp black eyes. Why do you
suppose so many people have black eyes?"

Dick considered a moment. "Why, the tropical nations are darker, and
the Mexicans, and those queer people from Hawaii and all the islands
over yonder. Your uncle will know all about them. When I am a few
years older I mean to travel. I'll go up to the gold fields and make a
pile, and you bet I won't come in town and gamble it away in a single
night, the way some of them do. I'll go over to Australia and China."

Laverne drew a long breath. What a wonderful world it was! If she
could be suddenly dropped down into the small district school and tell
them all she had seen!

Some one called Dick. She sauntered back into the room, but the women
were still talking business and clothes. There was a beautiful big
hound who looked at her with wistful eyes, and she spoke to him. He
nodded and looked gravely wise.

"You've a most uncompromising name," Mrs. Latham was saying. "You
can't seem to Frenchify the beginning nor end. You must put a card in
the paper." For the newspaper had been a necessity from the very
first, and the _Alta Californian_ was eagerly scanned.

"Yes," Miss Gaines returned, "Calista Gaines. It has a sound of the
old Bay State. Well, I'm not ashamed of it," almost defiantly.

"And we shall have to get most of our fashions from the States for
some time to come. We are not in the direct line from Paris. And I
really don't see why we shouldn't have fashions of our own. Here are
the picturesque Spanish garments that can be adapted. Oh, you will do,
and we shall be glad enough to have you," giving a most hearty and
encouraging laugh.

"Fortune-making is in the very air," declared Miss Gaines on the
homeward way. "Well, I think I like a new, energetic country. And what
a delicious voice that Jacintha has! I wonder if voices do not get
toned down in this air. Our east wind is considered bad for them. And
it is said a foggy air is good for the complexion. We may end by being
rich and beautiful, who knows!"

Laverne ran out to look after her squirrels, and chattered with them.
Then something bright caught her eye up among the tangles of vines and
shrubs. Why, flowers, absolutely in bloom in December! She gathered a
handful of them and hurried back overjoyed.

"Oh, see, see!" she cried, out of breath. "They are up here on the
hill, and everything is growing. Isn't it queer! Do you suppose the
real winter will come in July?"

"If stories are true we will hardly have any winter at all," was the
reply.

"And they are all snowed up in Maine. Oh, I wish there was some one to
write me a letter."



CHAPTER IV

A QUEER WINTER


Christmas and New Year's brought a mad whirl. All that could, came in
from the mines. The streets were thronged. Banjo and guitar were
thrummed to the songs and choruses of the day, and even the accordion
notes floated out on the air, now soft and pathetic with "Annie
Laurie", "Home, Sweet Home," and "There's Nae Luck About the House,"
"The Girl I Left Behind Me," or a jolly song from fine male voices.
Then there were balls, and a great masquerade, until it seemed as if
there was nothing to life but pleasure.

Miss Gaines came in with some of the stories. But the most delightful
were those of the three little Estenega girls about the Christmas eve
at the church and the little child Jesus in the cradle, the wise men
bringing their gifts, the small plain chapel dressed with greens and
flowers in Vallejo Street. Laverne had not been brought up to
Christmas services and at first was quite shocked. But the child's
heart warmed to the thought, and Miss Holmes read the simple story of
Bethlehem in Judea, that touched her immeasurably.

And then there seemed a curious awakening of spring. Flowers sprang up
and bloomed as if the rain had a magic that it scattered with every
drop. The atmosphere had a startling transparency. There were the
blue slopes of Tamalpais, and far away in the San Matteo Range the
redwood trees stood up in their magnificence. Out through the Golden
Gate one could discern the Farallones forty miles away. The very air
was full of exhilarating balm, and the wild oats sprang up in the
night, it seemed, and nodded their lucent green heads on slender
stems. And the wild poppies in gorgeous colors, though great patches
were of an intense yellow like a field of the cloth of gold.

Sometimes Jason Chadsey of a Sunday, the only leisure time he could
find to devote to her, took his little girl out oceanward. There were
the seals disporting themselves, there were flocks of ducks and
grebes, gulls innumerable, and everything that could float or fly.
Ships afar off, with masts and sails visible as if indeed they were
being submerged. What stores they brought from the Orient! Spices and
silks, and all manner of queer things. And the others coming up from
the Pacific Coast, where there were old towns dotted all along.

Or they took the bayside with its circle of hills, its far-off
mountains, its dots of cities yet to be. Angel Island and Yerba Buena
where the first settlement was made, growing so slowly that in ten
years not more than twenty or thirty houses lined the beach. Or they
boarded the various small steamers, plying across or up and down the
bay. Miss Holmes did object somewhat to this form of Sunday
entertainment. There was always a motley assemblage, and often rough
language. Men who had come from decent homes and proper training
seemed to lay it aside in the rush and excitement. Yet that there
were many fine, earnest, strong men among those early emigrants was
most true; men who saw the grand possibilities of this western coast
as no eastern stay-at-home could.

Was the old legend true that some mighty cataclysm had rent the rocks
apart and the rivers that had flowed into the bay found an outlet to
the sea? Up at the northern end was San Pablo Bay into which emptied
the Sacramento and its tributaries, and a beautiful fertile country
spreading out in a series of brilliant pictures, which was to be the
home of thousands later on.

And from here one had a fine view of the city, fast rising into
prominence on its many hills as it lay basking in the brilliant
sunshine. Irregular and full of small green glens which now had burst
into luxuriant herbage and were glowing with gayest bloom, and
diversified with low shrubbery; then from the middle down great belts
of timber at intervals, but that portion of the city best known now
was from Yerba Buena Cove, from North Beach to Mission Cove. Already
it was thriving, and buildings sprang up every day as if by magic, and
the busy people breathed an enchanted air that incited them to
purposes that would have been called wildest dreams at the sober East.

The little girl looked out on the changeful picture and held tight to
her uncle's hand as the throngs from all parts of the world, and in
strange attire, passed and repassed her, giving now and then a sharp
glance which brought the bright color to her face. For the Spanish
families kept their little girls under close supervision, as they
went decorously to and from church on Sunday; the dirty, forlorn
Indian and half-breed children hardly attracted a moment's notice,
except to be kicked or cuffed out of the way. More than one man
glanced at Jason Chadsey with envious eyes, and remembered a little
girl at home for whom he was striving to make a fortune.

Jason Chadsey did not enjoy the crowd, though the sails to and fro had
been so delightful. Miss Holmes was shocked at the enormity of
Sabbath-breaking.

"There is no other day," he said, in apology. "I shouldn't like you to
go alone on a week-day, the rabble would be quite as bad."

She sighed, thinking of orderly Boston and its church-going people.
Not but what churches flourished here, new as the place was, and the
ready giving of the people was a great surprise to one who had been
interested, even taken part in providing money for various religious
wants. It was a great mystery to her that there should be so many
sides to human nature.

"I wonder if you would like a pony?" he asked of the little girl, as
they were picking their way up the irregularities of the pavement or
where there was no pavement at all.

"A pony?" There was a dubious expression in the child's face, and a
rather amazed look in her eyes. "But--I don't know how to ride,"
hesitatingly.

"You could learn," and he smiled.

"But a horse is so large, and looks at you so--so curiously--I think I
do feel a little bit afraid," she admitted, with a flush.

"Oh, I mean just a nice little pony that you could hug if you wanted
to. And I guess I could teach you to ride. Then we could have nice
long journeys about. There are so many beautiful places and such
fields and fields of wild flowers. You cannot walk everywhere. And I
have not money enough to buy a boat of my own," with a humorous smile.

"I suppose a boat does cost a good deal," she returned thoughtfully.
"I love to be on the water. Though at first I was afraid, and when
that dreadful storm came. A ship is a queer thing, isn't it? One would
think with all the people and all the cargo it must sink. I don't see
_how_ it keeps up," and her face settled into lines of perplexity,
even her sweet mouth betraying it.

"That is in the building. You couldn't understand now."

"Do you know who made the first ship?"

He laughed then. He had such a hearty, jolly laugh, though he had been
tossed about the world so much.

She had a mind to be a little offended. "It isn't in the geography,"
she said, with dignity. "And Columbus knew all about ships.

"Yes, we can go back of Columbus. The first one I ever really heard
about was Noah's Ark."

"Oh, Noah's Ark! I never thought of that!" She laughed then, and the
lines went out of her face. "I'm glad we didn't have a deluge on our
long journey. And think of all the animals on board! Was the whole
world drowned out?"

"I believe that has never been satisfactorily settled. And long
before the time of Christ there were maritime nations----"

"Maritime?" she interrupted.

"Sailors, vessels, traders. The old Phoenicians and the nations
bordering on the Mediterranean Sea. Though they went outside the
pillars of Hercules, and there were seamen on the Asian side of the
world."

"Oh, dear, how much there is for me to learn," and she drew a long
breath. "And they thought I was real smart in our little old school.
But I could spell almost everything."

"There are years in which you can learn it," he said encouragingly.

"And you have been almost everywhere." There was a note of admiration
in her voice. "The stories were so wonderful when you told them on
shipboard. I didn't half understand them then because I didn't think
the world could be such a great place, so you must tell them over to
me."

"Yes. And some day you may go the rest of the way round the world.
You've been nearly half round it and you are still in America."

They paused at the little cottage. Bruno, the great dog, lay on the
doorstep, but he rose and shook himself, and put his nose in the
little girl's hand.

She had been rather afraid of him at first. Even now when he gave a
low growl at some tramp prowling round it sent a shiver down her
spine. But he was a very peaceable fellow and now devoted to his new
mistress.

Miss Holmes prepared the supper. She had a fondness for housekeeping,
and this life seemed idyllic to her. The old weariness of heart and
brain had vanished. Miss Gaines told her she looked five years younger
and that it would not take her long to go back to twenty. Miss Gaines
had made some charming new friends and did not always spend Sunday
with them.

Laverne wiped the dishes for Miss Holmes. Jason Chadsey lighted his
pipe, and strolled uptown.

"I wish you would read all about Noah's ark to me," Laverne said, and
Miss Holmes sat down by the lamp.

The child had many new thoughts about it at this time.

"People must have been very wicked then if there were not ten good
ones. There are more than that now," confidently.

"But the world will never be drowned again. We have that promise."

"Only it is to be burned up. And that will be dreadful, too. Do you
suppose--the people will be--burned?" hesitating awesomely.

"Oh, no, no! Don't think of that, child."

"I wonder why they saved so many horrid animals? Did you ever see a
tiger and a lion?"

"Oh, yes, at a menagerie."

"Tell me about it."

She had an insatiable desire for stories, this little girl, and picked
up much knowledge that way. Miss Holmes taught her, for there was no
nearby school.

She made friends with the Estenega girls, though at first their
mother, with true Spanish reticence and pride held aloof, but interest
in her children's welfare and a half fear of the Americanos, beside
the frankness of the little girl induced her to walk in their
direction one day, and in a shaded nook she found Miss Holmes and her
charge. Perhaps the truth was that Señora Estenega had many lonely
hours. Friends and relatives were dead or had gone away, for there had
been no little friction when California was added to the grasping
"States." When she could sell her old homestead she meant to remove to
Monterey, which at this period was not quite so overrun with
Americanos. But she had been born here, and her happy childhood was
connected with so many favorite haunts. Here she had been wedded, her
children born, in the closed room where there was a little altar her
husband had died, and she kept commemorative services on
anniversaries. And then no one had offered to buy the place--it was
out of the business part, and though the town might stretch down
there, it had shown no symptoms as yet.

Miss Holmes was reading and Laverne sewing. She had taken a decided
fancy to this feminine branch of learning, and was hemming ruffles for
a white apron. Her mother had taught her long ago, when it had been a
very tiresome process. But the Estenega girls made lace and
embroidered.

Laverne sprang up. "It is Carmen's mother," she said. Then she glanced
up at the visitor, with her lace mantilla thrown over her high comb,
her black hair in precise little curls, each side of her face, and her
eyes rather severe but not really unpleasant.

"I do not know how you say it," and she flushed with embarrassment.
"It is not Madame or Mrs.----"

"Señora," answered the Spanish woman, her face softening under the
appealing eyes of the child.

Then Laverne performed the introduction with an ease hardly expected
in a child. Miss Holmes rose.

"I am very glad to meet you. I was deciding to come to ask about the
children. Laverne is often lonely and would like playmates. And she is
picking up many Spanish words. You understand English."

"Somewhat. It is of necessity. These new people have possessed our
country and you cannot always trust servants to interpret. Yes, the
children. I have a little fear. They are Catholics. Carmencita will go
to the convent next year for her education. And I should not want
their faith tampered with."

"Oh, no," Miss Holmes responded cheerfully. "You know we have
different kinds of faith and yet agree as friends." And glancing at
Laverne she almost smiled. These Spanish children would be much more
likely to convert her to their faith. Would her uncle mind, she
wondered? He seemed to think they all stood on the same foundation.

"You have not been here long?" and there was more assertion than
inquiry in the tone.

"No," returned the younger woman. And then she told a part of her
story, how she had come from the east, the Atlantic coast, and that
she was governess to the child, and housekeeper. "Did the Señora know
a family by the name of Vanegas?"

"Ah, yes, they were old friends. Two daughters, admirable girls,
devoted to their mother, who had suffered much and whose husband had
made away with most of the estates. There was an American lady in her
house, she rented two rooms."

"A friend of mine. She came from the same place, and we have known
each other from girlhood."

Then the ice was broken, and Miss Holmes in a certain manner was
vouched for, which rather amused her, yet she accepted the Spanish
woman's pride. Many of them felt as if they had been banished from
their own land by these usurpers. Others accepted the new order of
things, and joined heart and soul in the advancement of the place, the
advancement of their own fortunes also. But these were mostly men. The
prejudice of the women died harder.

The children were in a group at one of the little hillocks, much
amused it would seem by their laughter. And the two women patched up a
bit of friendship which they both needed, seeing they were near
neighbors, and interested in the education of young people, Miss
Holmes listened to what the elder woman said and did not contradict or
call the ideas old-fashioned. After all it was very like some of her
old grandmother's strictures, and she was a staunch Puritan. What
would she have said to women who had not yet reached middle life, and
had planned to go to a strange land to seek their fortunes!

The Señora was so well satisfied that she asked Miss Holmes to come
and take coffee and sweetmeats with her the next afternoon.

Oh, how lovely the hills and vales were as they wandered homeward. For
now it was the time of growth and bloom and such sweetness in the air
that Marian Holmes thought of the gales of Araby the blest. Truly it
was an enchanted land. The birds were filling the air with melody,
here and there a farmer or gardener, for there was fine cultivated
lands about the foothills, and even higher up there were great patches
of green where some one would reap a harvest, garden stuff waving or
running about rich with melon blooms, here the blue of the wild
forget-me-nots and the lupines. And further on flocks of sheep
nibbling the tufts of grass or alfalfa. Some one was singing a song, a
rich, young voice:

     "Oh, Susanna, don't you cry for me,
     I'm goin' to California with my banjo on my knee."

Here and there in a clump of trees was a dark shadow, and the long
slant rays betokened the coming of evening. It gave one a luxurious
emotion, as if here was the true flavor of life.

Miss Holmes was feeling a little sorry for those swept off of their
own land, as it were.

"What have they been doing with it these hundreds of years?" asked
Jason Chadsey. "Even the Indians they have pretended to educate are
little better off for their civilization. And think how the gold lay
untouched in the hills! Spain still has the Philippines with all her
treasures."

It rained the next morning with a musical patter on everything, and
little rivulets ran down the steps. Then it suddenly lighted up and
all San Francisco was glorified. Pablo, an old Mexican, came to work
in the little garden patch. Laverne said her lessons, then went out to
find her squirrels and talk to her birds who came to enjoy the repast
of crumbs, and then went hunting bugs and worms for their importunate
babies. And at last they were making ready for their walk.

"It is nice to go out visiting," Laverne said, as she danced along,
for the sunshine and the magnetic air had gotten into the child's
feet. "We have been nowhere but at Mrs. Dawson's."

"And Miss Gaines."

"Oh, that isn't really visiting. Just a little cake and fruit on a
plate. And now she is so busy she can hardly look at you. I wish we
lived farther up in the town. Don't you think Uncle Jason would move
if you said you did not like it here?"

"But I do like it. And there are so many dreadful things happening all
about the town. And we might be burned out."

"Well, I am glad of the Estenegas, anyhow."

The old place was like some of the other old homes going to decay now,
but it was so embowered with vines that one hardly noted it. The
chimney had partly fallen in, the end of the porch roof was propped up
by a pile of stones. But the great veranda was a room in itself, with
its adobe floor washed clean, and the big jars of bloom disposed
around, the wicker chairs, the piles of cushions, and the low seats
for the children. Little tables stood about with work, many of the
women were very industrious, the mothers thinking of possible
trousseaus, when laces and fine drawn work would be needed. Carmencita
had her cushion on her knees, and her slim fingers carried the thread
over the pins in and out, in a fashion that mystified Laverne.

"It's like the labyrinth," she said.

"What was that?" glancing up.

"Why, a place that was full of all kinds of queer passages and you did
not know how to get out unless you took a bit of thread and wound it
up when you came back."

"But I know where I am going. Now, this is round the edge of a leaf. I
leave that little place for a loop, and then I come back so. The
Señorita Felicia makes beautiful lace for customers. But mine will be
for myself when I am married."

"But I thought--you were going to a convent," said Laverne, wide-eyed.

"So I am. But that will be for education, accomplishments. And there
are more Spanish men there," lowering her voice, "more lovers. Pepito
Martinez, who lived in the other end of the old place, down there,"
nodding her head southward, "found a splendid lover and was married in
the chapel. Her mother went on to live with her. They had no
troublesome house to sell," and she sighed.

"Juana," exclaimed the mother, "get thy guitar. The guests may like
some music."

Juana rose obediently. She, too, was older than Laverne, but Anesta
younger. She seated herself on one of the low stools, and passed a
broad scarlet ribbon about her neck, which made her look very
picturesque. And she played well, indeed, for such a child. Then she
sang several little songs in a soft, extremely youthful voice. Miss
Holmes was much interested.

The children were sent to play. There was a little pond with several
tame herons, there were two great cages of mocking birds that sang and
whistled to the discomfiture of the brilliant green and scarlet
parrot. The children ran races in the walk bordered with wild olive
trees on the one side, and on the other a great tangle of flowers,
with the most beautiful roses Laverne had ever seen, and hundreds of
them.

"Oh, I should like to live here," declared Laverne.

"Then ask thy uncle to buy. The Americanos have money in plenty. And
see here. It is my tame stork. His leg was broken so he could not fly.
Diego bound it up and he staid here. But when he sees a gun he dashes
away and hides."

He had a number of amusing tricks, but he eyed the strange little girl
suspiciously and would not let her come too near.

They went back to the house and swung in the hammock, talking broken
English and Spanish and laughing merrily over the blunders. Carmencita
put away her lace and began to prepare two of the small tables,
spreading over each a beautiful cloth.

Miss Holmes had been taken through the apartments. There were three on
the lower floor, the kitchen being detached. The walls were a dark
faded red, the windows small, with odd little panes of glass. There
was some fine old furniture, and a rug soft as velvet on the floor
that long ago had crossed the ocean. Family portraits were hung high
on the wall, and looked down frowningly, the brilliancy of their
garments faded and tarnished, but Miss Holmes noted that they were
mostly all military men. In the next room were several portraits of
the priests of the family, and hideous copies of the old Madonnas. In
this room a high cabinet of wonderful carving, filled with curios and
one shelf of books. The third was evidently a sitting and sleeping
chamber, with a spindle-post bedstead and canopy of faded yellow silk,
edged with old lace; while the bedspread in its marvellous handiwork
would have filled a connoisseur with envy. For two hundred years or
more there had been Estenegas here, and then the old part, now fallen
down, had its ballroom and its long dining room where banquets and
wedding feasts had been given.

"There is another branch of the family at Santa Margarita who have not
fallen into decay as we have, and as many old families do. I dare say
they would be glad to have some of the heirlooms. They have young men,
and it would be but right that they should propose to marry one of my
daughters."

Carmen summoned her mother and the guest. The tables were daintily
arranged with fruit and custards, some sweet fried cakes and bread
covered with a sort of jelly compound that was very appetizing, with
some shredded cold chicken highly spiced. For drink, tea for the
elders, but fruit juice made of orange and berries for the young
people. Carmencita was at the table with her mother, the three others
together, and they had a merry time.

The Señora and the children walked part of the way with them. Miss
Holmes had proposed that they should come up in the morning for
lessons with Laverne. The distance to the Sisters' school was too
great, and now one dreaded to send young girls through the new part of
the town.

"It was very nice," declared Laverne, "only I think I like the little
Maine girls better. They understand more quickly, and they have so
many thoughts about everything, while you have to explain continually
as you talk to these children."

"Perhaps it is because they do not understand the language," said Miss
Holmes.



CHAPTER V

PELAJO


Laverne was about to reply, with the feeling of superior knowledge,
"It's because they are not Americans," when she caught sight of Uncle
Jason, Pablo, and a pile of rough timber, an excavation made in the
side hill, a slope over which she had been training some blossoming
vines.

"Oh, Uncle Jason," she cried, with eager forbiddance. "That's my
garden. What are you going to do?"

"Build a house for a pony. This seemed most convenient, though he is
such a cunning little fellow I think we could have trained him to go
up the steps."

His shrewd, humorous smile and her own curiosity disarmed her.

"The pony? Have you really----"

"Well, I had to take him or see him go to some one else. I was afraid
he would get a hard master. And he is such a pretty intelligent
fellow. He talks, his fashion. And he laughs, too."

"Oh, now you are making fun."

"Well, if you won't have him I can sell him again. He's just fit for a
little girl, or some one hardly grown up."

"But who had him before?"

"A young lady. A delicate little body. I've had my eye on him some
time."

"If she loved him why did she want to sell him?" and Laverne glanced
up with a kind of incredulity.

"She was going away." He had not the courage to say that she was dead,
that she had made a vain struggle for recovery, and failed.

"I suppose horses are not quite like people," she returned
thoughtfully. "They like those who are good to them."

"Well--they're grateful, and as a general thing appreciate kind
treatment. Humans don't always do that."

She had not gone very far in the philosophy of ingratitude, but she
was wondering if the pony had been very fond of his mistress.

"This place was the handiest. Then he can go cropping the tufts of
grass about here, and we shall not have to lug the feed up on the next
round," viewing the sort of natural terraces with a squint in one eye.
"I'm sorry about the posies."

"Oh, well--they grow so easily. And here was the spruce tree, and, oh,
we ought to have a big veranda to the house, where we could sit and
sew and I could study lessons and we could have supper."

"But the place isn't really mine, you know. And I shouldn't want to
spend a great deal of money. Some day we may have a house in which we
can truly settle ourselves."

Miss Holmes, who had been looking on, smiled now. "The Señora Estenega
is very anxious to sell," she said.

"And it is so splendid all around. There are trees and trees and they
are full of birds. Oh, you never heard such singing. And the flowers!
Why, I wanted to dance all around the paths for very gladness. But it
was dull and dark inside, and full of ugly portraits and Virgins and
hideous babies."

"They wouldn't want to sell the pictures, they are old family relics,"
appended Miss Holmes.

"And she asks a fortune for the estate. These old Spanish people have
caught on to values mighty quick. But a house for the pony is as much
as we can compass now. In a few years you shall have a home to your
liking."

Miss Holmes went within, and soon there was a savory smell of fish
frying and cakes baking on a bed of coals.

"That will do for to-night, Pablo," Jason Chadsey said. "Come early
to-morrow morning and I will show you about the posts."

The Mexican nodded slowly, and walked to the kitchen door, where Miss
Holmes gave him a chunk of bread and a fish, and he went his way.

Uncle Jason washed hands and face in true Yankee fashion, with a great
splurge. He had enlarged the rude cistern and led a rivulet of clear
water down to it. In many of the outlying districts there were but few
conveniences, and yet San Francisco had flashed into existence as if a
new Kubla Khan had decreed it. Perhaps no city in the world could
boast such rapid advances, or gain in population. Those early years
will always sound like a fairy tale. But it had some of the best and
most energetic brain and brawn from the East, whose forefathers had
settled other wildernesses much less promising.

The pony shared interest with the visit and the promise of the
Estenega girls coming up every morning. She was a very happy little
girl to-night; Uncle Jason thought she had not been quite so bright of
late, but now her eyes flashed with an eager light, and her pretty
lips melted from one curve to another, while her voice had a bird-like
gayety. The day had been so full and taken so much energy, that she
laid her head in Miss Holmes' lap and went fast asleep. Jason Chadsey
read his paper by the light of the smoky lamp, and Miss Holmes dreamed
of clean, orderly Boston even if its streets did run crooked.

The Estenegas were certainly not bright scholars. But the Yankee
schoolma'am had seen obtuse children before. They were extremely
narrow and incurious as to real knowledge, but anxious to get on with
English. Laverne flashed up and down the walk. Pablo set up the frame,
put on a rude roof, then filled in the chinks with a common kind of
adobe. The pony would not live much indoors, to be sure, but he needed
some shelter.

"Do you know what his name is, Pablo?" the child asked.

Pablo shook his head. He was a dried-up specimen, with a skin like
leather and small deep-set eyes, quite bowed in the shoulders, which
made him no taller than some boys of a dozen years. He had a little
hut of his own down in the wilds, and he often lay on the sand when
the sun was too hot, and drowsed from pure laziness.

Uncle Jason led the pony home at night. He had been well kept, for his
coat was smooth, just far enough off of black to be a rich brown.
Shapely, with slender legs, a head not too large for his body, a
flowing mane, now braided up in tails, flexible nostrils that quivered
with every breath, and the most beautiful large, dark eyes that looked
as if they could laugh and understand many things.

She had been somewhat dubious all along. She had really felt afraid of
Bruno at first, but as she looked at the merry eyes she laughed.

"Yes, I _do_ like you," she said. "I'm glad you are not any larger.
And his tail almost sweeps the ground," watching her uncle, who was
patting his neck and smoothing down to his nose, and talking in a
persuasive voice.

"Maybe you won't like his name. He comes of good stock, it seems, and
if he was ten years younger would be worth a pile of money."

"Why, he doesn't look old. And his name--"

"Is Pelajo."

She repeated it, and he came a step nearer. She ventured to pat him,
and then she reached up and put her arm over his neck. Uncle Jason
handed her a lump of sugar, but she drew back as his soft nose touched
her hand.

"You must learn to give him tidbits, even a handful of grass or wild
oats."

"Oh, I shall like you very much, I know," she declared, in a glad
voice, and he seemed to understand, for he rubbed against her
shoulder, and this time she did not shrink away. He was used to being
caressed. Perhaps he dumbly questioned what had become of his sweet
young mistress who had petted him the last year.

It was so warm they tethered him and set Bruno to keep watch, for
there were many prowlers and thieves about; not quite as many down
here perhaps, since horses and money were the only desirable things in
their estimation. He was all right in the morning. The first thing
Laverne did was to rush out and greet him, and he seemed quite as glad
to see her.

She did shake a little when she was perched up on his back, but Uncle
Jason walked beside her up and down the gravelly path, and after a
little it was really exhilarating. When she had taken two or three
lessons she felt quite safe and began to enjoy it. Uncle Jason taught
her to ride astride as well; it might be useful, he declared, and
certainly was a common-sense view of the matter. So Pelajo grew into
the little girl's heart.

On Sunday morning she always went to church with Miss Holmes, and the
churches were really well filled if the rest of the day was devoted to
pleasure. The lovely spring was now over, though fruit trees were
still blooming and laden with fruit. But there had been a few days
that seemed to scorch up everything and dry up the small streams and
cisterns.

The church bells were ringing in a leisurely, devoted fashion. "Come
to church for rest and refreshment," they said, when suddenly there
was a wild clangor and each one looked at his neighbor with frightened
eyes, or stood motionless, not knowing which way to turn. Then
something shot up in the air, scarlet against the sunshine, and the
cry of terror rang out, "Fire! Fire!"

There had been a fear lest the gang of lawless desperadoes who had
half threatened and half laughed about keeping the anniversary of the
great fire the year before would make some endeavor. But June 14th had
passed, though there had been unusual watchfulness. After a week the
orderly part of the city breathed more freely. And this day seemed
almost like a special thanksgiving for safety. Before they had time to
voice it the red terror began. Crowds with hymn and prayer books in
their hands paused paralyzed before the church they had made such
efforts to gain and enjoyed so thoroughly, the brief five months they
had worshipped in it. And now they fled up and down the streets, while
the fire swept this way and that with a tremendous roar. From Pacific
over to Jackson Street, Washington, Stockton, Dupont. Goods and
invalids were hurried out to the Plaza, and then the wind swept the
fire this way and that, and they had to fly again and save nothing.
Buildings were blown up with a horrid din like war. And so for four
mortal hours of frantic endeavor with no reservoirs near. And when it
had ceased to spread it lay a great mass of charred and smouldering
ruins, and several lives had gone with it. That it was the work of
incendiaries there could be no doubt. Ruined men invoked the arm of
speedy justice if they could not have law.

In one way it was not so disastrous as the fire of the year before,
which had taken the business part and immense stocks of goods. This
was more of a residential section, but homeless people were running to
and fro, wild with the agony of loss of all they had. Parents and
children separated, elderly people wandering about in a dazed
condition, the scene one of the wildest confusion.

Miss Holmes had decided to go over to hear Mr. Williams, instead of
the church nearer by, which she usually attended. Then they would go
to Mr. Dawson's for lunch, and meet Miss Gaines and bring her home
with them. At first she thought she could find a way through, but the
fire spread so rapidly over to Montgomery Street, that she did not
dare venture. It might go down to the very edge of the bay and on its
march take in the Dawsons. She held tight to Laverne, and used
strenuous efforts to force her way through, but throngs were coming
up, drawn by a weird fascination such as a fire always exercises. The
child began to cry. Her hat was torn off. Oh, if anything _should_
happen to her!

After a while the way began to grow clearer, but it seemed as if she
was in a new place.

"Oh, I'm so tired," cried Laverne. "And my foot hurts. Let us sit
down."

They were out of the well-built part. A tall old pine offered shelter.
She sat down on the dry earth and took the child in her lap.

"Oh, do you think Uncle Jason will be burned up?" she moaned. "If we
could only find him. And will our house go, too?"

"Oh, no, dear. It is in a different direction. That will be safe."

"If we could only get there. Do you think Pelajo will be frightened?
And everything looks so strange here. Are you not afraid of all these
wild men?"

They seemed, indeed, inhabitants of every clime. And though they
looked sharply at the woman and child, no one molested them.

"Are you rested now? Shall we go home?"

"Oh, I do hope Uncle Jason is there. What if he had come to the fire
and was killed!"

"Hush, dear! Don't think of such a thing."

What would she do alone with the child if any untoward accident
happened to him? She shuddered!

They picked their way over strange places, but they still saw the
black smoke of the holocaust going skyward. Miss Holmes kept one or
two objective points in mind. True, streets had been laid out, but
they were overgrown with brush and the rampant cactus, with tangles of
vines. In some places they had begun to wither. Rabbits scurried
hither and thither, amazed at the steps. Birds were still carolling as
if there was naught but joy in the world.

"And I am so hungry! Oh, when will we get home? Suppose we are lost?"
complained the child wearily.

"I think we have been lost, but now I see where we are," the elder
exclaimed, in a hopeful tone. "It is not far. And then we will have a
nice supper. Poor, tired little girl, I wish I could carry you."

"Oh, you couldn't," and there was a sound in her voice as if she had
smiled. "But if it isn't much farther--my legs feel as if they would
drop off."

"We have come ever so much out of our way. I could not see in the
crowd, and it pushed one about so. I never want to see another fire."

"Oh, now I know." Laverne let go of the elder's hand, and in spite of
fatigue gave two or three skips. "Could I make Bruno hear, I wonder?
Bruno! Bru--no!"

Either she made him hear or he had a presentiment. He came bounding
through the brush with short, sharp barks of joy, and lunged so
against Laverne that she nearly lost her balance.

"Oh, good doggie, good Bruno!" she cried, in joy. "What if there were
dogs burned up in the fire, and maybe horses?"

Miss Holmes shuddered. She had seen some men carrying a mattress with
a human body, when a fierce blazing brand had fallen in it, and though
she turned her head then, she almost screamed now.

They dropped down on the small porch steps and sat there a few
moments.

"I must go and see Pelajo," Laverne said, weary as she was.

He whinnied with joy, and rubbed his nose on her small hand.

"Oh, Pelajo, I am so glad you were not in the fire," and she could
have kissed him for very thankfulness.

Uncle Jason was nowhere to be seen. When Miss Holmes was a little
rested she built a fire and put on the kettle. There was part of the
leg of lamb they had had yesterday, and the pie she had baked early
this morning. For in spite of all his wanderings, Jason Chadsey had
preserved his New England fondness for such pies as a New England
woman could make. And there was a great bowl of delicious berries.

They had their meal, being puzzled just what to call it, since it was
a little too early for supper. Then they swung in the hammocks while
old Pablo came to look after Pelajo, and talk about the fire, which
he insisted was still burning. They waited and waited until the poor
little girl begged to go to bed.

"It hasn't seemed a bit like Sunday," she murmured sleepily.

Then Marian Holmes swung drowsily in the hammock again. Through the
opening between two trees she could see the great glowing stars that
seemed as gorgeous again as in the eastern skies. There were screams
of night birds, the long note of the owl, the tree frog beseeching
stridently for rain. Now and then Bruno would flip his ears or
straighten them, and at last he gave a sudden rush down the street,
and returned with his master, but the clock had struck ten.

He dropped on the step as they had done.

"Were you alarmed when you came from church? Of course you knew about
the fire."

"We were really in it," and Miss Holmes detailed her day, leaving out
some of the most trying incidents.

"Thank God you came back safely," he returned, with deep feeling. "It
was a most awful catastrophe. There has been an indignation meeting
held, and some of the miscreants will be brought to justice. Then,
there must be better arrangements for fighting fires. It was a
terrific sight, and there are hundreds of homeless people. The best
provision that could be, was made for them. Generous-hearted people
took them in, supplied them with food. Accidents were plentiful. Yet
it has been a terrible day, but if I had thought of you and the child
being there--"

"Oh, you couldn't, you see. And we came safely out of it all, so
don't feel distressed. Will you have some supper?"

"Yes. Though I was at the Dawsons' and had a meal. They came mighty
near going once or twice, if a dangerous gust of wind had lasted
longer. And the crowds that poured in upon them! The courage of these
people seems superhuman, but it has been severely tried now. I do not
believe any city ever suffered so much by fire and had the pluck to go
on again."

She began to busy herself about the meal. He leaned against the flat
post and went sound asleep, though he wakened easily. Then leaving her
dishes, an unusual thing for her, she retired herself.

For days the fire was the uppermost subject. They had always planned
rebuilding before with tremendous energy, but now courage seemed to
wane in this direction. But it was taken up energetically in others.
The great want of water in the fire department had to be remedied
speedily, and at any cost. Money was offered freely.

The other was a more strenuous effort for the punishment of criminals,
and a rigorous observance of law.

Among the immigrants had been convicts from different lands, lawless
men who formed themselves into bands for plunder and maliciousness.
Clark's Point, Broadway, and one end of Pacific Street was called
Sydney Town from its great number of convicts and ticket-of-leave men
from the Colonies; and to them were added the criminally inclined from
the States, who had left their own cities for the city's good. And
out of the earnest endeavor to put a stop to the lawlessness and crime
the Vigilance Committee was formed. Then an old Mexican law was
exhumed that forbade the emigration to California of criminals
convicted of crime elsewhere. Notices were served upon many vicious
persons and they were compelled to leave the city. And with it all
grew a greater regard for law and order.

Energy and perseverance did not fail, it is true, and the confidence
born of the geographical knowledge that this must eventually be the
great highway of trade, and the idea of a glorious future destiny,
inspired the really solid portion of the community to continue their
efforts to make it the city of the world. Still, many of the middle
classes, discouraged by misfortunes, returned to their native cities.
Others went further south in the more equable climate and became
farmers. Still others wooed by the endless forests further north, and
the many advantages for starting new cities on a better industrial
foundation, went to seek better fortunes. The city never could recover
from all the evils it was said. But the splendid bay and the
magnificent harbor were left, the gold fields were not exhausted. And
now arose the demand for a railroad across the Continent, which had a
hard fight for many years, but succeeded at length.

At Clark's Point a huge rock was quarried, and removed, and the hill
excavated to make room for new streets. Sansome and Battery Streets
were carried out and filled up with the débris. The wharves were
pushed further out, great warehouses built, and though it was a fact
that fewer people came to seek their fortunes, more brought with them
the idea of settling. Wherever any tiny stream ran among the sand
hills numerous vegetable gardens were laid out, and the fertility was
remarkable. Markets opened here and there, the New World Market,
enlarged and improved, where it seemed as if one might buy all the
luxuries of the world. San Francisco began to lose the characteristics
of a Spanish or Mexican town, how could such drowsy ways be tolerated
among the adventurous, hard-working people!

There came to be an admixture of foreign races--musical Germans;
light-hearted, theatre and dance-loving French; some from different
Mongolian countries, who looked on with grave faces, seldom
affiliating, and the Chinese, who made a settlement of their own, many
of them content to be hewers of wood and drawers of water, laundrymen
and servants, but others aspiring to the rank of merchants, even
bringing their wives later on.

On the opposite side of the bay, settlements were changing into towns,
and business seemed to run riot everywhere. There was no lack of
employment for those willing to work.

All these things were far away from the little girl's life. She
studied because she loved to know about everything, that was a New
England heritage. She acquired Spanish rapidly, while the Estenega
girls were stumbling over English. The Señora came up one afternoon
and they had a sort of high tea, with game of several kinds, a bird
pie, and a pudding that would have rejoiced the heart of a far
Easterner. It was a wonderful feast for the children, but the Señora
shook her head gravely over the superabundance of luxuries.

"Was not the little girl going to learn lace-making and drawn-work
that she would want presently for her trousseau? And were not the
catechism and the prayers, confirmation, music, and languages enough
for any girl? And these new Americanos, who dressed in silks and
velvets, and trailed up and down the streets nodding and laughing to
men!" and the Señora shuddered.

It was very true that stylishly attired women promenaded the two
shopping streets where the windows were full of rich goods. For the
early settlers had not to spin and weave in this golden country.
Vessels were coming in frequently laden with goods from almost
everywhere. India and China sent treasures, France and England did not
lag behind. So the women went gorgeously arrayed, leaned out of
handsome private equipages, as if they were queens. For gold was found
in most unexpected places, and miners came in only to waste and gamble
it away.

The old Spanish residents shook their heads over this wild
extravagance, and clung more closely to their Church and the old ways.
Even the natives were often amazed. There were not a few who had
Spanish blood, and proud enough they were of it. The emigration of the
French began to exercise an influence upon the heterogeneous society.
The skilled workman gave a finer air to shops and buildings; the
higher classes, lured by the wonderful reports, added their ease and
refinement to the society, gradually crystallizing into settled
classes.

"It is not all the Americans," Miss Holmes said, in answer to the
Señora's strictures. "All the Eastern cities I have seen are quite
unlike this. They grew slowly, and each from its own peculiar
industry. We had no gold mines on the Eastern coast, and you are
likely to prize more highly the fortunes you have to struggle for.
Here we have every nation, it seems to me, and often the very liberty
of choice degenerates into license. But it is hardly fair to blame it
all on our people."

"They have invaded us and taken away our land, our rights. Years ago
we were happy and content, and now it is all excitement, and if you do
not join you are pushed to the wall, driven out. The gold in the hills
was all ours."

"But you let it lie there. Yes, you could have discovered it. It was
the wild dream of more than one explorer, and yet he never tapped the
great secrets the land held."

Now that the hitherto placid Spanish woman was roused she went over
the ground with great bitterness, the war, the ceding of the country,
the influx of the nations for greed. Half her talk lapsed into her
native tongue. Miss Holmes pitied her in a certain way, but was it not
the old, old story since De Soto had crossed the Continent and Tonti
came down the Mississippi? The weaker nation was always distanced by
the stronger. And was supine content a virtue?

Meanwhile, the children had a merry time. Carmen gained courage to
mount Pelajo and rode around in fine style. The younger ones wanted
their turn. When they were called in to tea their cheeks glowed,
their eyes were bright with excitement, and they chattered like a
flock of birds.

The Señora looked on in surprise.

"Do you always allow so much wildness?" she asked, in a rather
disapproving tone.

If they had a little frolic their walk home always sobered them.

"Oh, no," returned Miss Holmes, with a smile. "They have lessons. This
is a holiday. And I am glad for Laverne to have companions. We
sometimes think she gets too grave."

"Girls," and their mother rapped on the table. What with their
laughing, the broken English, and the Spanish they were in quite a
whirl. Laverne looked on more calmly. Indeed, the Señora was a little
angry that she seemed rather to shame her girls.

"Oh, please, Señora, do not scold them. We were so merry riding the
pony. He is almost human. And he understood Spanish. I did not know
that before."

Laverne's face was a study, in its sweet pleading. The girls quieted
down, and their mother looked less severe, but she was considering a
proper penance.

The moon came up early. How magnificently the soft light silvered all
the open spaces, until one forgot the drought. Each twig that swayed
to and fro in the translucent air seemed alive.

Miss Holmes and Laverne walked some distance with their guests,
leaving Bruno to keep watch. They parted with the utmost cordiality.

"We have had such a splendid time," whispered Carmencita. "I wish I
was an American girl and had a good indulgent uncle such as thou
hast, little one. Then I would not care to go to the convent."

Laverne was astonished at the outburst, for Carmen had heretofore
rather cavilled at Americans. They walked back in silence until they
met Bruno's greeting.

"Didn't you have a nice time with the girls?" Miss Holmes asked.

"Oh, yes! Carmen was--well, I think I have been not exactly afraid of
her, but she seemed so much older, and this afternoon she was
splendid. And she wished--what do you think--that she was an American
girl! And I wish I knew some American girls."

"You will go to school presently. Your uncle was talking of it."

The thought startled the little girl. She was not quite sure she liked
it.

"Oh, there he is now," and she ran to meet him. The moon was up higher
and it was lighter. Her hands were outstretched, but he caught her
under the arms and, lifting her up, gave her several kisses. It was so
gratifying to have her always glad to see him.

Then he put her down and she caught his hand in both of hers and went
a hop and a skip, giving short, soft laughs.

"I'm late. Did you eat up all the supper?"

"Oh, we had ours early. The Estenegas were here, the mother and all.
We had a good, good time," with emphasis. "They all rode Pelajo.
Anesta fell off twice, but it didn't hurt any, she asked us not to
tell. And oh, how hungry they were!"

"Little girls ought always to be hungry. That makes them grow."

"And Carmen wished she had an uncle like you."

"Why--she has scarcely seen me."

"But then I talk about you," the child added, naïvely.

"Well--do you want to give me away?"

"Oh no, no."

"Or shall we adopt her?"

A positive unwillingness sprang up in the child's heart.

"I think her mother would not let her come," she replied evasively.

"But you would like her? You are tired of being alone."

"No, I don't want any one but you for all time," she admitted, a
little jealously.

He laughed. He was fond of this confession.

Miss Holmes' supper was satisfactory to the hungry man as well.
Afterward they went out and sat on the flat stone step. That always
made him think of his boyhood.

"Little one," he began, "how would you like to move? Or are the
Estenegas too dear to give up?"

"Move!" in a tone of surprise.

"Yes. We haven't much worldly goods, as these traps do not belong to
us. But we can take ourselves, Bruno, and Pelajo."

"Where would we go?"

"Quite far from here. Up on Telegraph Hill."

"Oh, that would be splendid! We could always see the bay, and over the
strait to all the mountains beyond. Yes, I should like to go."

"Well, I am glad. It will be more convenient for me, but we would
have to go, anyhow. This place has been sold."

"Is there a stable? And I think I would like a garden. And at least
_one_ tree."

He laughed.

"They have been taking down part of the hill. No doubt some day they
will take it all down. That is the fashion of cities. But our end not
being so high will not be disturbed for some time to come."

"This has been nice," she said retrospectively. "But I shall like the
new place, and the bay, and--and----"

"And the change," he laughed. Then he called Miss Holmes, who had put
away the last of her dishes.

He had talked this over with her before, but he had not made his
bargain until to-day. Then they settled a few of the most important
points. There were to be some repairs made, but they could go the next
week. And to-morrow he would take them up to see it.

"Will you like to go?" Laverne asked of Miss Holmes as they were
preparing for bed.

"Yes, I think I shall. We shall be so much nearer everything. We can
often walk down among the stores. And we shall be nearer Miss Gaines.
You will miss the Estenega girls."

"But there may be other girls. I'd like to know some new ones," and
there was a sound of delightful expectation in her voice.



CHAPTER VI

A DIFFERENT OUTLOOK


It was almost being in a new town, Laverne thought. They had trotted
all over this bluff, to be sure; they had looked over to Sausalito, up
and down the bay, and to the wonderful ocean that reached to China.
But before they had been rather hidden away in a valley between the
ridges, and from the windows you could see very little. She was quite
wild at first, running from window to window, and calling on Miss
Holmes to see this or that.

Then they had a Chinaman to come in and help them settle, and that
amused her very much. He understood, but could not speak much English,
and she did wonder why he should tack another syllable to the short
words by adding the double e. But he was very handy and obedient,
quick to see, and the soft shoes that made no clatter allowed him to
go about so quietly that he often surprised one. His name was Ah Ling.

"I think I like Pablo better," she said gravely. "Then he knows so
many things about the country and the missions and the priests, and
the races of the Spaniards, and they did have bull fights, you know,
they have some now. Uncle Jason said he must not tell me about them,
they were too cruel. Do you suppose Pablo will come?"

Jason Chadsey had made the old Mexican an offer to come and live with
them, but he was loath to leave his little hut and his independence.
He knew Pablo could be trusted anywhere with the little girl, and that
he was a good gardener. He had even offered him a new hut, and Pablo
was taking matters into consideration as he lolled in the sun and
smoked his pipe. He did not want to be too hard worked, what good did
so much money do these Americanos; they went on working and working
and hustling the life out of one.

Here was the old Franciscan Mission where the first settlement was
made by the Fathers. It might have had the semi-solitude in those
early years, for all about was poetic enough. When it became a Mexican
province early in the century it had been stripped of its treasures,
and was even now a poor unsightly ruin with its few padres eking out
their subsistence and saying prayers for the living and the dead in
the little Campo Santo. Presently a modern cathedral was to overshadow
it, but that had not come yet, with the shops and dwellings that were
to crowd it still closer. But now there were outlying fields, tangles
of shrubbery and vines run wild. Not so many trees as farther down,
but still some that withstood the ocean blasts. And there was Alcatras
and Buena Yerba; almost within a stone's throw, it seemed, in the
clear air that often foreshortened space. Laverne never wearied
studying the marvellous pictures, and when her thoughts went back to
the dreary little Maine village she always gave a shiver.

The house was a newer one, its first story of adobe, as so many were
in the early days. It was not nearly so small, to begin with, and
there was so much entertainment buying furniture and supplying
household needs. Jason Chadsey had picked up a number of curious
articles from the ships coming in from foreign ports, some that would
have been the envy of a connoisseur.

But the early spring was rushing on again and every leaf and spear and
weed grew as if by magic.

One morning they had a visitor who came in a carriage, and Miss Holmes
glanced out in some surprise.

"Why, it's my friend Miss Alwood--you remember Miss Grace, Laverne. I
haven't seen her this long while," and the next instant she was
welcoming her warmly.

"We thought you had dropped out of existence. Why, even the Dawsons
have heard nothing from you--let me see--you went down to Santa Cruz
with an invalid lady----"

"Yes." Miss Alwood gave a short amused sound that was hardly a laugh,
and continued: "Well, there was plenty of money, but she was about as
queer as they make them. She had come from Baltimore, but she had some
of the worst New England features, though I think they do not belong
altogether to the Puritan birthright. But it kept one on the alert
attending to her whims. When she had been there a month her brother
came to see her. He thought she had better go on farther south--I
think she had consumption, the sort of wasting away without a cough.
While we were making preparations she was taken down to her bed. Mr.
Personette had to return here on urgent business matters. Four weeks
later she died. So he came back and there was the burial and all----"

Miss Alwood paused and a flush with an amused expression passed over
her face.

"And so you were released from bondage," suggested Miss Holmes; and
she, somehow, smiled, too.

"And accepted another. Mr. Personette, being a widower, made me an
offer of marriage. We are to be a not very far-away neighbor, as he
owns a house on Mason Street, and is really well-to-do, as we say at
home. There is a son of seventeen, a daughter two years younger, and
one of twelve. I went to hunt you up, but found the place deserted,
then looked up Miss Gaines and have been spending a week over wedding
gowns, though it is to be just a quiet marriage in church. He has had
housekeepers that were unsatisfactory, indeed, he was afraid the last
one would marry him out of hand," and this time she did laugh
heartily. "So you see I have made my fortune the first of the trio."

"Let me congratulate you on your good fortune. I suppose it _is_
that."

"Why, yes, as far as one can see. I'm not a romantic young girl, and
he is just forty, has made one fortune and lost it, and now is--well,
he spends money as if there would be no end to it. Do you remember the
old story of the bees that were taken to a place where the flowers
bloomed all the year round, and ceased laying up honey? That seems the
way with so many here. There were people who lost everything in the
great fire and in no time were on their feet again. It is in the air,
I think, or perhaps the fusion of so many people from everywhere. And
now Mr. Personette is prospering, and I am to share the prosperity and
have a home of my own, and like the bees, I'm not going to worry about
the future. You see I am already a recreant Yankee. Where is your
little girl?"

The little girl had been sitting on the window ledge of the next room,
and remembering the long journey round the Horn, often cheered by the
brightness of Miss Alwood. She sprang down now and came forward.

"What a little dot she keeps! Laverne, I am going to be your neighbor,
and I am to have a little girl who will be a playmate for you. I can't
answer about the other, girls begin to put on airs so soon. Do you go
to school?"

"No, I have taught her thus far. But it is rather lonely for a child.
There was no one about where we lived, but some distance below a
Spanish family which hardly knew whether to affiliate or not."

"They are very brilliant farther down the coast. Monterey is the place
to see them in their glory. I wish we had gone there, but Miss
Personette hated the strumming of a guitar and the click-clack of the
language, as she termed it. And now, can't you leave household cares
and come for a drive?"

"I have a splendid pony," said Laverne.

"Why, that is quite delightful. But you will not disdain my carriage,
I hope."

Miss Holmes rather hesitated, but Miss Alwood overruled all the
objections. And she remembered that Mr. Chadsey said they need not
expect him home to dinner. Now that he was so much nearer he came
back to an old-fashioned love for a midday dinner.

First they went down to Mason Street. There was quite a fine finished
block of houses, detached, with gardens on both sides. Down below it
was unfinished but the street had been straightened, the low places
were being filled up, the hillocks levelled.

"Oh," Miss Holmes began, with a depth of feeling that touched her
friend, "you can't think how glad I am this has happened to you. We
have had some hard things in our lives, and now we have really gone
into a new world."

"And I wish you the same good luck. I did not quite like your being
buried down in that out-of-the-way place."

"There were so few houses to be had when we came."

"Yes; there were people living in tents. There are a few of them now
on the outskirts. And building is going on everywhere. Oh, what do you
suppose it will be in twenty years?"

That really brought a stretch to the imagination and they looked
blankly at each other.

Improvements were going on everywhere with a rush startling to these
New England women.

There were new stores opened in the past two months. They passed Russ
Garden, one of the public places near the Mission Road, devoted to
amusements of various kinds, and thronged on Saturday afternoons. Down
by the Plaza the "steam paddys" were levelling the numerous sand hills
that lay between that and Happy Valley. Even the burned district of
less than a year ago was rising rapidly from its ashes.

"I've never had quite such a fine view of the town," Miss Holmes said.
"Heretofore we have only taken it in parts. What it will be when
finished----"

"Only New England cities get finished. I think I have heard of some
places that were fenced in and whitewashed, but they must have been
mere country towns," declared Miss Alwood laughingly.

They made a call on Miss Gaines, who now had a workroom full of girls
and piles of dazzling material. Nothing was too rich or too expensive
for these California dames, whose husbands made fortunes in a month or
cleared thousands of dollars in a day. Those early years were an
Arabian Nights' tale.

The three friends had a genial time together, and then Miss Holmes and
the little girl were set down at their own door. She was very quiet.

"What are you thinking of?" Miss Holmes asked at length.

"Of the little girl Miss Alwood is to have, and whether I shall like
her. Of course, she will not be like the Estenegas. And it seems queer
to have a new mother who isn't a real mother."

"You will understand that better by and by."

Laverne nodded. She could never have a new mother. She wondered a
little about her father. Uncle Jason never spoke of him. Of course he
was dead also.

Mrs. Dawson was very anxious to give Miss Alwood a wedding feast, and
indeed was fain to have her married in the parlor, but she preferred
the church. Mr. Personette was well known, and the church was
crowded. The two daughters walked in front and strewed flowers in
their path, there were congratulations and good wishes, and a luncheon
at the Dawson House, when the new husband and wife took a short
journey, and ended the festivities by a reception at their own home.

Laverne thought it was very fine to have a new white frock,
lace-trimmed, and a knot of blue ribbons on one shoulder, with long
streamers. Isabel Personette was tall of her age, and quite a young
lady, rather pretty. Olive had large, dark eyes, and shining chestnut
hair, was round, plump, and merry-looking.

"Our new mother has been telling us about you," she began, grasping
Laverne's hand. "And that you came from Maine with her. What a long,
long journey. Weren't you awfully afraid? I looked up Maine on the
map. But you had to go round the Horn. What did it look like?"

"It's a cape, you know."

"But--I supposed there was something," in a surprised tone. "Perhaps
they blew a horn?"

"They didn't do anything as I remember," and Laverne smiled a little.

"I've never been farther than Monterey. But father went up to British
Columbia once. It is desperately cold up there. And there is a Russian
country where it is colder still. And you have snows in Maine."

"Oh, dreadful snows that do not go off all winter, and it seems so
queer not to have any here. It was such fun to snowball and have
sled-rides and build snowhouses."

"You didn't live in them?" in surprise.

"Oh, no! But sometimes we brought in dry hemlock branches and brush,
and had a fire. It looks so pretty."

"Didn't it melt the house?"

"Oh, yes, a little. But you see it froze again."

"Which do you like best--there or here?"

"Oh, this is the most beautiful, for there are so many flowers and
lovely places. And--I think I like the pleasant weather best."

"How many cousins have you?"

"None," answered Laverne rather regretfully.

"Oh, isn't that queer? I have four over to Oaklands. And two in
London. And one of father's sisters married a Mexican, and lives way
down to Santa Barbara. They have ever so many children with queer
names. Aunt Amy died a little while ago, and as she hadn't any
children, she left some money to us and the Oakland cousins. But not
to have any----"

Olive Personette looked very sympathetic. Presently she said, "How
many little girls do you know?"

"Only three, and they are Spanish. There were none where we lived
before. It was a kind of wild place. I like this ever so much better."

"Did you love them?"

Laverne considered, while her eyes wandered off into space.

"I think I didn't really _love_ them. I liked them. They came up to
learn English, and Miss Holmes and I studied Spanish. And we played
about. They had a queer old house and a lovely garden, with fruit and
flowers, and tame birds, and everything. And I had a squirrel I tamed.
We brought him up here, and I kept him two weeks in a little pen, but
when I let him out he ran away."

"I'll tell you what I'll do. We'll make believe to ourselves that we
are cousins. Mother said she hoped I would like you a good deal. You
see, Isabel begins to go with big girls, and they just push you out
when they tell secrets, and they have so many to tell. Do you know any
secrets?"

Laverne shook her head gravely.

"But sometimes you do bad things and you don't want to tell anybody."

"Why, I tell Uncle Jason everything. And----"

Did she ever do anything very bad? She didn't always study when Miss
Holmes told her to, and she sometimes tore her frocks scrambling up or
down the hills. She had been brought up to be truthful and obedient,
and now these traits were part of her nature.

"Well, it's this way--you must not tell your uncle the things I tell
you, and you must find something to tell me--when Miss Holmes is cross
to you."

"But she isn't ever cross."

"Oh, yes, everybody has a cross streak in her, or him. I'm cross
often. And I do hope our new mother won't scold. Father said she was
so good to Aunt Amy, and Aunt Amy was dreadful at times. Then the Mrs.
Barr we had for housekeeper was just awful. She said naughty words,
too, like the men. No one is good always. You can't be. And when I get
in a taking I'm a terror at school. Miss Carson once wrote a note to
father, but I begged so she tore it up. I wanted a watch for Christmas
and I was afraid he would not give it to me if he knew. That was a
secret I've kept until now, but he gave me the watch. I let it fall
and it had to go away to be repaired. And I have three rings. See, are
they not pretty? That garnet is getting tight. I'll have to give it
away," and she laughed.

Her new mother came around to them.

"Are you making friends?" she asked. "That is right. Laverne, are you
having a nice time? Come and see the dancing."

They were waltzing up and down the spacious hall. There had been
dancing on shipboard among the men, but this was something that
fascinated the little girl. The beautiful dresses and sparkling
jewels, the delicate laces that floated like clouds, and among the men
were two or three young Spaniards. One of them wore a beautiful
fringed sash about his waist.

"Do you go to dancing school?

"No," replied Laverne.

"But you will. I began last winter. Isabel dances. See, some one has
taken her out. Oh, dear, I wish I could grow up in a night, just three
years. Wouldn't it be funny to have it happen in your sleep?"

Jason Chadsey had been looking about for his little girl. He had
insisted at first that he could not come, that he was too old, and
such a plain fellow, that he would look queer among the fine people.
But Mrs. Personette had written him a special invitation, and he had
compromised with Miss Holmes by promising to come for them. He knew
Mr. Personette a little in a business way, and he was really
gratified at Miss Alwood's good fortune. So he had gone to the
tailor's and treated himself to a new suit of clothes, and looked
fully five years younger.

Laverne stared at him a moment, then a lovely smile illumined her face
as she slipped her hand in his and rather bashfully introduced her new
friend.

"I have been making the acquaintance of your brother and your sister,"
he said. "I hope you and my little girl will be friends."

"Oh, we have promised to," declared Olive. "I am coming to see her
pony, and I am very glad to know her."

He nodded and escorted the children about, or rather followed Olive,
who gracefully made herself mistress of the occasion and chatted with
an ease that amused him. But it was getting late, and as he had
performed his round of duties, he proposed now that they should return
home. Olive kissed her new friend with much fervor.

"Parties are just splendid," Laverne said, as she danced alongside of
Uncle Jason. "Can't you have a party unless you are married?"

"Oh, yes, there are birthday parties and Christmas parties and parties
just for fun."

"But you have to know a good many people, don't you?"

"I think I have seen three or four little girls have a party."

"I know four now."

"And perhaps by Christmas you will know four more," returned Uncle
Jason.

She was very tired and sleepy when she reached home, and they all
retired. And it so happened she slept late the next morning and had
her breakfast alone. Pablo had found it very lonely without them and
had decided to accept Mr. Chadsey's offer. So she ran out now to say
good-morning to him and Pelajo.

Something scampered along at her feet, and then made a sudden dash
among the vines. Two bright eyes peeped out and there was a peculiar
little chatter.

"Why, if it isn't Snippy," she cried. "Snip, Snip!" and she knelt down
in the gravelly path. "Snip!"

There was a sudden rush, and the squirrel ran up her arm, across her
shoulders, and fairly nestled in the little curve below her ear. And
then he began to chatter as if he was telling over his journey and his
tribulations and expressing his joy. Surely no squirrel was ever more
eloquent to his mate in love-making time. Laverne laughed until the
tears came into her eyes, and she had a vague suspicion that she was
crying as well, but it was for very joy.

Snippy wriggled out of the warm embrace presently and questioned her
with his bright beady eyes, as if the voice might have led him into a
mistake. But no, this was his little mistress sure enough.

She gathered him up and ran into the kitchen where Miss Holmes was
making a pie.

"Oh," she cried, "Snippy has come back, my dear, darling Snippy."

He had come by his name in a rather unexpected fashion. When Laverne
first had him tame enough to come into the house, throw his beautiful
bushy tail up his back, and let the feathery end droop over his ears
like a bit of Spanish lace, a trick of the Señoras, and eat a fragment
of cracker, Miss Holmes said one day, "He looks so pert and snippy one
has to smile at his daintiness."

They had tried on several names that did not seem to fit. It was easy
enough to get something for a dog or a horse.

"Oh, that will just do, Snippy," and Laverne danced around in delight.
"Then we can call him Snip when we are in a hurry--he is such a dear
little dot, too. His tail is as big as his body; Snippy, Snippy!"

Perhaps there was something in the sound that attracted him, for he
glanced up out of brightest eyes and winked as if he approved it.

He did soon come to know his name. Perhaps it was because it became
connected with some tidbit, for when the little girl called him she
always had a dainty morsel for him.

He glanced about the room now, and then thrust his head under
Laverne's arm. Miss Holmes spoke and he peered out. Yes, he knew that
voice surely, but the place was strange.

"Oh, Snippy, you can't imagine how glad I am to have you. I've been
homesick for you, though I like this place better, and we're nearer
the grand ocean, and can look over into the Golden Gate, and golden it
is in the sunset. Oh, why did you run away?"

Snippy said something in his own language and struggled to get free.
She let him run down her skirt and leap to the floor. He glanced round
with sharp, inquiring eyes, then ran to one corner where, in the old
place, he used to find nuts and perhaps a crust. Oh, it wasn't the
same place. He fairly scolded, up went his tail, and he scampered out
of the door. Laverne ran, calling him. Over the path, the rockery
Uncle Jason had built for her, plunging into the great ferns that grew
as high as her head, and shook off an odorous fragrance at being
disturbed.

"Oh, Snippy! Snippy!" in a beseeching tone.

The little girl sat down on a stone and cried. Sorrow had followed so
on the heels of delight. Bruno came and put his nose in her hand and
looked comfort out of great wistful eyes.

Miss Holmes came out presently.

"I think he will come back," she said hopefully. "You see he found the
way once and he can again. And now come in and study a lesson. There
is nothing like work to lighten sorrow."

"If he only would come back! Bruno, if you see him, come and tell me
at once."

Bruno nodded sagaciously.



CHAPTER VII

A TASTE OF GAYETY


May was beautiful enough to make the heart leap for joy. Rose-bushes
sent up spikes of pink and blood-red blossoms or clambered over
hillocks, lilies stood up among the ferns and bushes, and the poppies
that grew everywhere seemed to dance with joy, as they flung out their
silken leaves in a dazzle, wooed by the wind. Bees were busy enough
with their bustle and humming, birds were singing everywhere.
Squirrels and rabbits scudded about, little harmless lizards came out
and sunned themselves on the stones, and great flying iridescent bugs
that shot across the air with golden and green rays. Oh, how
enchanting it all was. It stirred the little girl with unutterable
thoughts.

"Laverne," Miss Holmes called. Oh, was it lesson time!

"Come, dear, Mrs. Personette has the carriage here, and we are going
to take a look at the great German Mayday festival. Come quick, and
slip in another frock."

For what with building dams for waterfalls, making paths and rockeries
and flower beds, the little girl was not always in company trim.

"Oh, Uncle Jason was talking about that, and he was so sorry he could
not get away, but some vessels were coming in. Oh, yes, I'll hurry."

There were baths and sundry conveniences in many of the houses in this
new city. Perhaps no place in the world had ever worked such marvels
in five years. But Jason Chadsey had not come to luxuries yet.
However, the little girl did very well without them. She washed and
dressed in a trice.

Mrs. Personette and Olive were in the big carriage. Isabel and Howard
had taken the buggy. She greeted them cordially. Olive made room for
Laverne, or rather beckoned her to her own seat.

The Germans were holding a grand festival at Russ's Garden. There was
a big flag flying from the great marquee, and numerous lesser ones.
There were the park of shade trees, the houses of refreshment, the
arches wreathed with flowers, and German flags vying with the Stars
and Stripes. Gay beds of flowers were interspersed that lent richest
coloring. The broad driveway was thronged with carriages already, but
none were allowed inside.

The _Turner Gesang Verein_ was really the leader of the festivities.
The members were dressed in brown linen, loose and baggy, and marched
from their headquarters with banners flying and the band playing
inspiriting airs from Vaterland. And when they all assembled before
the marquee, "_Das Deutsche Vaterland_" swelled out on the balmy air
in a most rapturous manner. They were in their home atmosphere again,
they hardly remembered the land giving them shelter. The grand
choruses went up in a shout. The instruments seemed fairly to beat
waves of music on the air.

It appeared, indeed, as if all the Germans in the city had gathered
there, and even at this time there were about two thousand. And then
the games began. They leaped and balanced, they performed various
athletic feats, the victor being crowned with shouts, as well as
winning a prize. They danced, the boys and men with each other, many
of them in native garments of the provinces from which they had
emigrated, and some were amusing in motley array.

Outside there were booths with tables for refreshments, where wives
and children congregated, and the place was patrolled by policemen to
keep roughs away. The onlookers drove around or were on horseback;
among them were the old Californians in leggings, sash, and sombrero,
and a few Spaniards, who looked on haughtily at these people who were
fast superseding the old stock.

There were not many places of amusement really proper for women and
children of the better class. The circus had been the pioneer
entertainment, then the theatre. Even at a concert of vocal music
given by the favorite, Stephen C. Massett, where front seats were
reserved for ladies, only four were present. A neat little theatre had
been destroyed by fire; the Jenny Lind had shared the same fate, until
a Mr. Maguire erected a large stone theatre destined for first-class
amusements and that had been taken for the city hall. But the year
before Mr. and Mrs. Baker, fine actors, had succeeded in establishing
a new era in the Californian drama, and given it a style and
excellence, and catered to the best class of people, who had begun to
give tone to society.

Laverne hardly heeded Olive's chatter, she was so interested in the
gay scene. There had never been anything like it to her. And the music
stirred her wonderfully. They drove slowly round and round, watched
the athletes and held their breath at some of the daring feats.

"Oh, you should hear Howard talk of the circus performers and what
they do," exclaimed Olive. "There's a flying leap when a man comes
over the head of the audience, and catches a big hoop on the stage,
and hangs suspended while the audience applauds, and a woman that
rides on two horses, changing about, and sometimes stands up. She's a
foreigner of some sort."

"I should think they would be afraid;" and Laverne shuddered.

"Oh, no; they're trained, you see. And the races are splendid. We can
go to them. And they used to have bull-baits at the Mission, but they
don't allow it now."

"Bull-baits?" echoed Laverne.

"Oh, bull-fights," laughed Olive. "That's real Spanish, you know. Why,
it seems all right to them, of course. And there are dog-fights and
cock-fights here--I don't see much difference, only the bulls are
bigger and stronger."

Then a Turk halted at the carriage which had been stopped in the
press. He had a great clapper, which made a hideous noise, and a voice
that went through your ears. A tray was suspended from a leathern
strap that passed around his neck. He wore a gay fez, and a jacket
embroidered with gold thread much tarnished, and full Turkish trousers
of red silk so soiled one could hardly tell the color. His swarthy
skin and long, waxed mustache gave him a fierce look.

"Oh, mother, get some candy," cried Olive, "I'm just dying for some."

Fortunately it was done up in a kind of soft Chinese paper, and so
kept from the dust. Then in a jar he had some curious shredded stuff
that looked like creamy ravellings.

"Oh, we will drive around and get some at Winn's," said her mother.

"Oh, Laverne, don't you want some real Turkish candy?"

Laverne looked undecided.

"Oh, do, do," pleaded Olive, and Mrs. Personette yielded.

The ravelly stuff was very funny and melted in your mouth, and the
candy seemed saturated with all flavors.

"Of course, Winn's is much better," declared Olive, with an air. "Oh,
mother, can't we go to Winn's and have some lunch!"

"I've been considering that," returned her mother.

The two friends had so much to talk about that the children's chatter
had not really reached them. Old times and beliefs that seemed of some
bygone century rather than a decade or two, so utterly had this
Western coast outgrown them.

"Have you seen Howard anywhere?" asked Mrs. Personette.

"No," returned Olive. Then in a lower tone--"They're off, having a
good time, I know. Let Isabel alone for that; mother needn't think
she'll know everything," and the girl laughed.

They drove around once more. Now a good many were seated at the
refreshment tables, smoking, drinking beer, and laughing over jokes of
the old fatherland. Of course, before night they would be rather
uproarious. They had seen the best part of the celebration.

"I do wish we could find the children," said Mrs. Personette. "We
might have lunch together."

At Washington and Montgomery Streets was the new establishment of Mr.
Winn, who had been twice burned out and had not lost his courage. It
seemed the fate of nearly all of the old settlers, and would have
ruined and discouraged a community with less pluck. For, after all,
while there were no end of toughs and roughs and adventurers, there
was still some of the best blood of the Eastern cities, full of
knowledge and perseverance.

Winn's was a large refectory of the highest order. It was furnished in
the most elegant and tasteful manner, and the service was admirable.
Indeed, it had come to be quite a calling place for the real society
people, where they could meet a friend and sit over their tea or
coffee and exchange the news of the day, which meant more really than
in any other city. For every twenty-four hours something stirring was
happening. Every fortnight now a steamship came in. New people, new
goods, letters from the States, messages to this one and that from
friends thousands of miles away.

The large rooms were connected by arches with costly draperies. Tables
here and there for guests, sofas, easy-chairs, a stand for flowers,
the papers of the day and magazines that had to be old before they
reached these Western readers. Silks and satins rustled, skirts were
beginning to be voluminous, bonnets had wreaths of flowers under the
brim, and it was the day of shawls, India, cashmere, and lace. Now and
then a dark-eyed Señorita wore hers in some graceful folds that made a
point over the curls on her forehead. But women mostly had their hair
banded Madonna-wise that gave some faces a very serene and placid
look. Long ringlets were another style. Demi-trains were also in
vogue, and at Winn's at luncheon time, it had the appearance of a
fashionable reception. Children wore stiffly starched skirts and gypsy
hats with wreaths of flowers. Laverne's were forget-me-nots, with
streamers of blue ribbon, and her soft light hair was braided in two
tails, tied with a blue ribbon about halfway, the rest floating loose.

They had a dainty luncheon. Mrs. Personette received nods from this
one and that one, for already she was becoming quite well known.

"Oh," she said presently, "do you know the school children are to have
their walk on Monday, a Mayday walk, quite an institution, I believe.
And Laverne ought to go to school, do you not think so? And this is to
be quite an event. She must see it, and you as well."

"Alice Payne is to be Queen of the May, and seven maids of honor from
the different schools," said Olive. "Why, I could take Laverne with
me. You'd have to wear your white frock, that's all."

Laverne glanced up eagerly, with a dainty flush. Could she really take
part in it?

It was true Jason Chadsey had not been very anxious to push his
little girl forward. They had lived too far from schools before, and
she was too much of a stranger to go around alone.

"It will be just splendid! And you will see so many girls. Of course,
we have lived here a long while and know almost everybody."

"Of all the thousands," appended her mother, rather humorously. "Then
you must be a 'Forty-niner.'"

Olive colored. "We're older than that," she answered, with some pride.
"Father is a real Californian."

"And you children will belong to the old aristocracy when birth begins
to count. I suppose that will come in presently."

"It always does," returned Miss Holmes. "Think of the pride of Boston
over her early immigrants."

They drove around the garden and then took the two guests home. Miss
Holmes expressed her pleasure warmly.

"Oh," laughed Mrs. Personette, "when we were on our long journey,
coming to a strange land, who could have imagined that in so short a
time I should be riding round in my carriage! And I seemed to have no
special gift or attraction. Truly it is a Golden State."

Laverne had a great deal to tell Uncle Jason. She was so bright and
happy, and had seen so much. And then there was the procession for
Monday. Could she go?

Certainly, it was not possible to deny the eager, appealing face and
pleading voice.

After supper, when she was in bed and Uncle Jason reading his papers,
Miss Holmes broached the subject of school.

The first schools, as happens in most new places, were private
enterprises. The earliest of all had been among the old residents
before the great influx, and in 1847 the old plain little schoolhouse
was erected on Portsmouth Square. It was used for many purposes.
Religious bodies held their first meetings here, and the early public
amusements were given, even political and benevolent assemblies. It
was dignified as a Court House under Judge Almond, and at length
turned into a station house until it went the way of transitory
things. To this effort for education succeeded a real public school,
with a board of trustees of prominent men, there being sixty children
of school age in a population of a little over eight hundred,
including Indians. Then suddenly the gold fever swept the town like
wildfire, the public-school project was dropped, and the Rev. Albert
Williams collected twenty-five pupils into a pay-school. In the spring
of 1850, Mr. and Mrs. Pelton, who had succeeded the clergyman, and
gathered in a large number of pupils, applied to the city for adequate
recompense, and it was virtually made a public school. In January, a
beautiful lot at Spring Valley, on the Presidio Road, was purchased,
and a school was built in a delightful road of evergreens.

Soon after this the city started again and in time had seven schools,
though several private schools were in a very flourishing condition.
But many children were sent East to finishing academies, or to
Monterey and other Southern towns to convent schools. Still the cause
of education began to demand more attention, as the necessity for
good citizenship became more strenuous.

Uncle Jason glanced up from his paper when Miss Holmes spoke of the
school.

"Not that I find it at all troublesome to teach her, and she is the
most tractable child I ever saw. Then she is so eager to get to the
very foundation of things. Why, you would hardly believe how much she
knows about botany. I found an old book--but the flowers here are so
different. And I really love to teach now that I am well and strong. I
could almost go in school again."

"Oh, don't think of such a thing. We couldn't do without you," he
exclaimed earnestly. "But you think--a school----" and he paused, his
eyes fixed on the floor as if he was ruminating.

"Laverne needs the companionship of children, comparing thoughts with
them, playing, the harmless rivalry of studying together. When it
comes to that, I could have a small school. You see she will be
growing older all the time."

"Frankly, which would be best? You are more capable of deciding, since
you have had a wider experience in this matter."

"Oh, the school. You see she must take a place with other people. She
has no relatives, and friends must stand in their stead."

He turned back to his paper, but he was not reading. The little girl
was all his. He had a feeling when they left Maine that nothing and no
one should come between them. Every thought, every desire should
cluster about her. He would make a fortune for her. His first plan in
going to California was to start to the gold fields for the sake of
adventures. He would cut loose from all old recollections. He would
leave Laverne Westbury a comfortable and satisfied wife and mother. He
had no bitterness against his rival now. It had all been so different.
Many a night on shipboard he lived over those few sad weeks and hugged
to his heart the consolation that she had loved him, and that fate had
been cruel to both. And then, conscious of the finer strain of
fatherhood that had so long lain fallow in his soul, the child slipped
into the place, and aims were changed for him. There would be enough
for him to do in the new town where everything was needed, and he
could turn his hand to almost anything. But he must keep to her, she
was the apple of his eye, and he would go groping in sorrowful
darkness without her.

He had a curious feeling at first that he must hide her away lest her
father should start up from somewhere and claim her, and was glad to
light on that out-of-the-way place. The long voyage had been like
living in the same village with these people. The New England
reticence of Miss Holmes appealed to him in a peculiar manner, he was
reticent himself. Then the child took the greatest fancy to her. She
was rather timid about this new world while the others were ready for
adventures. And when he offered her a home for the care of the child
she was very willing to accept it for the present. Her belief was that
when she was rested and in her usual health she should teach school
again.

Her two friends had teased her a little about finding a possible
lover in Jason Chadsey. She had the fine feminine delicacy that shrank
from the faintest suspicion of putting herself in the way of such a
possibility. He was a sturdy, upright, plain-spoken fellow, not at all
her ideal, and she still had the romance of girlhood. She came to know
presently by her womanly intuition that marriage had no place in his
thoughts, that were centred in the little girl. Perhaps, her mother
was his only sister, a deserted wife, she gathered from childish
prattle of Laverne's. She knew so little about her past. Uncle Jason
had come when they were in great want, and her mother had died. And
now, Jason Chadsey knew it would be best for this idea to gain
credence. He would always be her uncle.

But he had some duties toward her. She could not always remain a
child, a plaything. That was the sorrow of it. There must be a rich,
delightful life before her. She must have the joys her mother had
missed, the prosperity that had not come to her.

He looked up from the paper presently.

"About the school," he began. "Yes, I have been considering it. And
you will have quite enough to do to keep the house and have the
oversight of her; I will make it an object for you to stay. We get
along comfortably together, though sometimes I feel I am a queer
unsocial Dick, much occupied now with business. But it is all for her.
She is the only thing out of a life that has been all ups and downs,
but, please God, there'll be some clear sailing now. I like San
Francisco. I like the rush and bustle and newness, the effort for a
finer civilization that has strength and purpose in it. Heaven knows
there is enough of the other sort, but the dross does get sifted out
and the gold is left. It will be so here, and these earnest men ten
years hence will be proud of the city they are rearing."

He glanced at her steadily, forgetting he had wandered from the main
question.

"You will not leave us----"

"I? Oh, no;" yet she colored a little.

"There will be enough to do if the child does go to school. And you
can walk down for her in the afternoon, wherever it is, and have
little outings. I am glad you are so fond of her, and she loves you.
She isn't the kind to strew her love broadcast."

"Yes, I am very fond of her," was the reply.



CHAPTER VIII

GIRLS AND GIRLS


They rambled over the hills on Sunday, for Miss Holmes had given her
ankle a little wrench and was applying hot fomentations. Up there was
the Presidio, and over here the beautiful ocean, blue as the sky
to-day, except where the swells drove up on the rocks and, catching
the sun, made spray of all colors. The ground squirrels ran about,
scudding at the slightest sound of human beings, which they seemed to
distinguish from the rustling and whispering of the trees, or the
tinkle of a little stream over the stones. It ran under a crevice in
the rock that was splitting apart now by some of Nature's handiwork
and came out over west of their house where it dropped into a little
basin. Here was a blasted pine that had been struck by some freak of
rare lightning, then piles of sand over which cactus crept. And here
was a deer-trail, though civilization had pretty well scared them
away.

But the birds! Here was the jay with his scolding tongue, the swallows
darting to and fro in a swift dazzle, the martins in bluish purple,
the tanager in his brilliant red, the robin, thrush, meadowlark, the
oriole, and the mocking birds that filled the air with melody this May
Sunday. And nearly every foot of ground was covered with bloom. Now
and then the little girl hopped over a tuft that she might not crush
the beautiful things. Great clouds of syringas and clusters of white
lilies filled the air with a delicious fragrance. And the wild lilac
with its spikes of bloom nodding to the faintest breeze. Wild barley
and wild oats, and a curious kind of clover, and further down the
coarse salt grass with its spear-like blades.

They sat down on some stones and glanced over the ocean. There were
two vessels coming up the coast and some seamews were screaming. It
was all wild and strange, almost weird, and no little girl could have
dreamed that in a few years streets would be stretching out here. As
for trolleys going to and fro, even grown people would have laughed at
such a thing.

They talked of the great procession that was to be the next day. And
then Uncle Jason wondered how she would like going to school
regularly.

"I shall like girls," she said. "There are no boys where Olive goes.
She thinks boys are more fun."

"But you don't go to school for the mere fun."

"They make so much noise in the street. And some times they sing such
funny songs. But they were nice about sledding back home, only there's
no snow here."

"Are you ever homesick?"

"You know I was sick sometimes on the ship."

"But to go back, I mean."

"There wouldn't be any one--I've almost forgotten who were there.
Mother, you know----" with a pitiful sort of retrospection.

"Yes, yes," hurriedly.

"Would you want to go?"

"Oh, no, no!" with some vehemence.

She came and leaned against his knee, put her arms about his neck, and
her soft cheek against his weather-beaten one.

"I should never want to go anywhere without you," she replied, with
grave sweetness.

"You are all I have, my little darling."

"And I haven't any one else. Olive has such a lot of cousins. She goes
over to Oaklands to see them."

There was a long pause and the wind rushed by laden with perfumes.
They heard the lapping of the surf against the rocks. The strange
beauty penetrated both souls that were not so far apart after all.

"Uncle Jason, did you ever have a wife?" she asked, with a child's
innocence.

"No, dear." Sometime he would tell her the story of his love for her
mother.

"Then you won't want to marry any one?"

"Marry! I?" Had that Personette girl put some nonsense into her head
about Miss Holmes? He colored under the weather-browned skin.

"You see, Mr. Personette's wife had died, and I suppose he had to
marry some one again to look after the children."

"Would you like me to marry some one to look after you?" in a half
humorous tone.

"Why, Miss Holmes can do that," she returned, in surprise.

"She seems to do it very well." There was a lurking smile about the
corners of his mouth.

"I like her. No, I shouldn't like any one else coming in. Perhaps she
would not stay. No, Uncle Jason, I don't want you to marry any one,"
she said, simply. "And when I get old I shall not marry, though Carmen
means to. And we will live together always. Oh," with a bright little
laugh, "let's promise. Put your little finger--so." She hooked hers in
it. "Now, you must say: Honest and true, I love but you!"

He uttered it solemnly. He had said it to one other little girl when
he was a big boy.

Then she repeated it, looking out of clear, earnest eyes.

After that she gathered a great armful of flowers and they rambled off
home.

"Who do you think has been here?" inquired Miss Holmes, with a laugh
in her very voice.

"Who--Olive, perhaps. Or, maybe, Dick Folsom."

"No. Guess again."

She cudgelled her wits. "Not Snippy?"

"Yes, Snippy. He actually came into the house and looked so sharply at
me that I told him you would be home about noon. Then I gave him a bit
of cracker, and when he had eaten a little he scampered off with the
rest. I think he has been planning a house near us."

"Oh, wouldn't that be splendid! I'm just going to scatter a path of
cracker bits as Hop o' my Thumb did."

"But if he eats them up how much wiser will you be?"

Laverne looked nonplussed. "Well, he will have them at any rate," and
she nodded her head with satisfaction.

Pablo had built a stone fireplace and was roasting some ducks out of
doors. He was sure he couldn't do it any other way.

"I must go and view the camping process," and Uncle Jason laughed.
"How is your ankle?"

"Oh, quite on the mend," she answered.

Pablo had built a stone fireplace and was roasting the ducks over a
great bed of coals that he was burning at one side. It might be
wasteful, as when the Chinaman first roasted his pig, but it was
filling the air with a savory smell, and they were browned to a turn.

"They look just delicious," announced Laverne. She took the platter
out and Pablo carried them in with a proud air.

And delicious they certainly were. The little girl was hungry, and
Uncle Jason said he had not enjoyed anything so much in a long while.
She insisted she should wash up the dishes while Uncle Jason took his
usual nap. Then she went out and dropped some cracker crumbs and
strictly forbade Bruno to touch them.

"If you would like to go down to the Estenegas I will get one of the
horses," Uncle Jason said. His Sundays were always devoted to her.

So she went out and talked to Pelajo while Pablo harnessed him. He
said very plainly that she had quite neglected him of late and he did
not like it. He did not want to be thrown over for new friends.

All along the road the beauty of the May met them, and it stirred both
riders, making them respond to the joy of motion and the sweetness of
all blooming things, the merriment of the birds, the touch of the wind
in the trees as a voice playing on a flute. He thought it was all the
delight of owning the little girl who would always be his. How he
would care for her in old age, and he quite forgot that he would be
there decades and decades first. But he suddenly felt so young, with
all these signs of youth about him, the magnetism of the air in this
wondrous land.

Here was the old house. They were straightening the road, digging away
hills, filling up hollows, and a corner of it had tumbled down. There
seemed a damp, marshy smell of the newly turned earth, and two trees
had fallen and begun to wither up. The wood doves were calling
plaintively.

"Oh, I wouldn't come back for anything!" cried Laverne. "Did we have
nice times here, and did we really like it?"

"This is the hand of improvement. Sometime, when we are trotting over
a nice level road, with pretty houses and grounds, we shall admire it
again."

But it was lovely enough at the Estenegas, out of doors. The children
were wild with delight. It seemed as if Carmencita had suddenly shot
up into a tall girl. And in the autumn she was to go to Monterey, to
the old convent, where Doña Conceptione de Arguello had gone after her
Russian lover had been killed, and where she had finally become Mother
Superior and lived to old age, always praying for his soul.

"But I am going only for accomplishments. And it seems the distant
cousin of the Estenegas wishes a wife who will grace the great house
and carry on the honors. Mamacita is very proud that he made the
offer. And the children will go up to the Mission to stay all the week
at the Sisters' School."

"And they must visit me sometimes. The new home is so much pleasanter.
I am going to school also, and I have some new friends. It is splendid
to be in the heart of the city." Then she told them about the day at
Russ's garden, and that on to-morrow, Monday, she was going out to
walk with hundreds of children.

The Spanish girl's eyes grew larger and larger at all the wonders.
They walked up and down with their arms about each other and were full
of childish happiness. Then Señora Estenega summoned them to
refreshments on the balcony, now a wilderness of roses. Uncle Jason
did not care much for the Spanish sweetmeats and candied fruits, the
freshly ripened ones were more to his taste and he had been quite
spoiled again by New England living. But he knew how to be polite.

It was quite dusk when they reached home. Olive Personette had been
over. They would call for her to-morrow, and she was to be dressed in
white, sure. It would be a greater thing than the German Festival.

And great it surely was! There had never been such an event in San
Francisco. There were over a thousand children, and each one carried a
bouquet of flowers. Miss Holmes had found some white ribbon and
trimmed her gypsy hat, and the little girl with her fair hair looked
like a lily. There were crowds of people in the streets to see them,
proud mothers and aunts. Each school had a distinctive banner, and
there was a band of music. The Queen of May wore a wreath, and so did
her maids of honor.

When they had gone through the principal thoroughfares and been
cheered enthusiastically, they moved to the schoolhouse on Broadway,
where they had a little sort of play dialogue, and sang some beautiful
songs. A few brief addresses were made, and San Francisco declared
itself proud of its children that day, the children who were to be the
future men and women of the city.

Then there was quite a feast, which the young people enjoyed mightily.
How they laughed and talked and declared they would not have missed it
for anything.

Afterward they dispersed. The Personette carriage was waiting, with
instructions to take home all it would hold, so they crowded in. And
at the gate stood Uncle Jason.

"Oh," the little girl exclaimed, with a tired sigh, "it was just
splendid. If you had only been there!"

"Do you think I would have missed it? I came up to see the procession
and I picked you out, walking with Olive. Why, I was as proud of you
as if you had been the Queen."

"But the Queen was lovely. And the play! I couldn't hear all of it,
there was such a crowd, and I had to stand up to see. Wasn't it good
of Olive to ask me! And she wanted to take me home to dinner."

"I couldn't have eaten dinner without you." He kissed her over and
over again. He was so glad to see her happy. Not that she was ever a
sad little girl.

Miss Holmes was very much improved and regretted she could not have
gone out to see the procession. Snippy had called, and all the cracker
bits were gone, but she had seen the wood doves carrying off some of
the crumbs.

"I guess Snippy has moved for good," said Uncle Jason. "It's rather
funny, too. You must have charmed him."

She gave a pleased laugh.

Nearly midnight of that happy day the bells rang out with their
dreadful alarm. Uncle Jason sprang up, and before he was dressed he
saw the blaze. Citizens turned out _en masse_. The Rassete House on
Sansome Street was in a sheet of flame. A fine five-story hotel, full
of lodgers, who had to flee for their lives. The firemen were quite
well organized now and made great efforts to keep it from spreading,
remembering the former big fires. In this they were quite successful.
Other generous people were taking in the four hundred homeless ones,
and it was found the next day that no lives had been lost, which was a
source of thanksgiving.

A little later there were some imposing ceremonies near the Presidio,
just at the foot of the hill. This was the commencement of the
Mountain Lake Water Works, a much-needed project. There were various
artesian wells, and water was brought in tanks from Sausalito, but the
supply was inadequate in case of fires and the city was growing so
rapidly. The rather curious Mountain Lake was not large, but a short
distance from its northern margin a stream of water gushed through the
ground, which was a great spring or a subterranean river from the
opposite shores. It was begun with great rejoicing, but like all large
undertakings it had progressed slowly.

Indeed, San Francisco had so many things on its hands. There were
plans for the State Marine Hospital and other benevolent institutions.
Churches too were urging demands on a generous people who felt they
must make an effort to redeem the standing of the city. The toughs had
been somewhat restrained, but the continual influx of miners with
their pouches of gold, ready for any orgies after having been deprived
of the amenities of social life, and the emigration from nearly all
quarters of the globe constituted a class very difficult to govern,
who drank, gambled, frequented dance houses, quarrelled, and scrupled
not at murder.

But of this side the little girl was to hear nothing, though Uncle
Jason was often shocked in spite of all his experiences. He was having
a warehouse down on the bay, fitting out vessels, disposing of
cargoes, and keeping the peace with one of those imperturbable
temperaments, grown wise by training of various sorts, and the deep
settled endeavor to make a fortune for the Little Girl. It did not
matter so much now, but when she grew up she should be a lady and have
everything heart could desire.

In a short street that came to be called Pine afterward, and was at
the head of the streets that were to be named after trees, there stood
quite a substantial brick building with some fine grounds. Here a Mrs.
Goddart and her sister, Miss Bain, kept a school for young girls and
smaller children, and had a few boarding scholars. The Personette
girls had gone there because it was near by, and out of the range of
the noisier part of the city. Howard was at the San Francisco Academy,
kept by a Mr. Prevaux, in quite a different direction. There was a
plan for a new public school on Telegraph Hill, but these were more
largely filled with boys, as is often the case in the youth of towns.

So the little girl went to Mrs. Goddart's and quite surprised her
teachers by her acquirements and her love of study. Perhaps, if she
had not lived so much alone she would have been more interested in
play and childish gossip. And her walks with Uncle Jason had brought
her into companionship not only with trees and flowers, but with
different countries of the world, and their products. Uncle Jason had
grafted upon a boy's common education the intelligence that travel and
business give, and though a quiet man he had taken a keen interest not
only in the resources of countries, but their governments as well, and
these things were the little girl's fairy stories. She would find the
places on the map, the Orient, the northern coast of Africa, the
country of the Turks, Arabia, India. A trading vessel goes from port
to port.

She liked her school very much, though she was rather shy of the
girls. Some of them called her a little prig because she would not
talk and was correct in her deportment. She found in the course of a
few days that Olive "squirmed" out of some things and did not always
tell the truth. Back in Maine children had been soundly whipped for
telling falsehoods and it was considered shameful; Miss Holmes was a
very upright person, of the old Puritan strain.

She was not finding fault, but she did want to know if a prig was
something rather disgraceful.

"It is never disgraceful to be honest in word and deed, to obey
whatever rules are set before you, to study honestly and not shirk. I
think the prig would set himself above his neighbors for this, but you
see he would only be doing his duty, he would have no extra claim.
But when he set himself up to be better than his neighbors and
triumphed over them, he would be a prig."

Her delicately pencilled brows worked a little.

"Some of them are ever so much prettier than I am," she said
innocently, "and they say such funny things, and their clothes are
very nice. Well, I like them. We have such fun playing at recess."

He remembered about the clothes and spoke to Miss Holmes.

"I do not think it best to dress a child so much for school. What will
she have afterward? And it does fill their heads with vanity."

He had given her a pretty ring for a birthday, and she had her
grandmother's string of gold beads that had come over from London with
some great, great-grandmother.

Snippy had settled himself quite comfortably, just where they could
not tell, and he had evidently coaxed his wife to emigrate. She was
not quite as handsome as he. Dick Folsom, who ran up every now and
then, said he was what was called a hare squirrel, on account of his
splendid feathery tail, though why, he couldn't see, as hares had
scarcely any tail at all. Snippy was so tame now, or else he was so
glad to be near the little girl, that he was not much afraid of
strangers if they did not offer to touch him. He would run around
Uncle Jason, and nose in his pockets until he found nuts or crumbs.
But he didn't like tobacco a bit and scolded in his funny way when he
came across that.

Pelajo was not forgotten, though he sometimes complained a little.
Uncle Jason said Miss Holmes must learn to ride. The big dray horse
was not fit for a lady, and though the Mexican and Indian women rode
mules and were very expert, they were not considered quite the thing.

There was a stream coming out in a sort of split rock up above the
place, and it made a kind of pool just below. In the autumn rains it
ran along down the slope of the ground, tumbling over the stones that
were in its way. Pablo and the little girl had made quite a pretty
waterfall and a new pond where the ducks could swim about. The upper
one they covered over and had for family use. Springs were not very
plentiful, and Uncle Jason believed this a little underground spur of
the Mountain Lake, as it never quite dried up.

And one Saturday, when Laverne was working at her stream, meaning to
make it more extensive when the rainy season set in, a great white
something fell at her very feet and gave such a screech that she
started and ran. It lay on the ground and fluttered and cried, so she
knew it was some kind of a bird and came nearer. It looked up at her
out of frightened black eyes, rose on one foot, flapped one wing, and
fell over again. Was it really a gull?

She called Pablo.

"Yes, Señorita, it is a gull. I never could get nearby one unless it
was shot. They are the wildest things. This have a leg broke," and he
picked up the limp member.

"Oh, the poor thing," softly stroking it.

"And wing too, see? Better kill it."

"Oh, no, no! Poor thing," she cried, full of sympathy.

"What then? He must die. He starve."

"No, we can feed him."

"But he eat fish."

"So do we. There is plenty of fish. And you catch so many. Can't you
do anything for him?"

Pablo lifted the leg again, and examined it.

"No--shot!" he exclaimed, shaking his head.

"Why couldn't you do it up in splints?"

"Not worth it," and he shook his head decisively. "And the wing too.
Yes, that's shot."

Laverne patted the poor thing, who screeched and tried to rise. How
soft the feathers were and snowy white, except about the neck that had
the faintest shade of blue. Then, suddenly, she picked it up in her
skirt, though it struggled. How light it was for such a large thing.
She had taken off her shoes and stockings while she was paddling in
the stream, and she ran down to the house not minding the rough path.

"Oh, see this poor gull!" she cried. "It just dropped down--out of the
clouds, I guess. There were no others around."

She laid it down on the patch of grass Miss Holmes took great pains
with for a bleachery.

"Poor thing!" said the lady pityingly.

"Better end him," and Pablo took hold of his neck.

"No, no, no! You shall not kill him. Poor fellow!" she cried.

He was gasping now, and then he lay quite still, exhausted.

"You could splint up his leg," said Miss Holmes. "You did the duck,
you know."

"That good for something. He squak and squak."

"Yes, you must splint it up," Laverne said, with decision. "I can find
some cord, and--what will you have?"

Pablo shrugged his shoulders and said something just under his breath
in pure Mexican, not quite the thing for a little girl to hear.

"And when Uncle Jason comes home we will see about the wing. Won't
this old basket make splints?"

Pablo went about his job unwillingly. Laverne wrapped him up so that
he could not kick with the other leg, and presently they had the
wounded member bandaged. The gull lay quite still, but Laverne saw the
frightened heart beat through the feathers.

Pablo raised the wing and shook his head dubiously.

"Uncle Jason is coming home early with the horses, you know," she said
to Miss Holmes. "Oh, my shoes and stockings!" and off she ran to the
spot where they had been at work. "Pablo can go on clearing this out,"
she said to herself. "It will be all ready when the rainy season sets
in. Oh, the poor flowers! Sun, why do you scorch them up so! And in
Maine the summer is so delightful. But the winter, oh!" and she made a
half wry, half amused face.

She was all ready when Uncle Jason came up the street on one horse and
leading the other; and all eagerness, she was telling her story while
he dismounted and fastened them both.

"That's funny," he said. "Next a black bear will come knocking at your
door. Or you might snare a silver-gray fox and have a tippet made of
his skin."

"As if I could be so cruel!"

The gull had hardly moved. Now, it seemed frightened at the strange
face and struggled. Uncle Jason spoke softly, and lifted the wounded
wing which was considerably shattered.

"I suppose it _could_ be mended, but there are hundreds of gulls."

"This one came straight to me. Why, he fairly asked me to take pity on
him;" and she drew an eager breath.

She was a very sympathetic little girl, and he smiled.

Some shot had better be taken out. He opened the small blade of his
knife. It was not a really fresh wound, for the blood was dry. He
picked out the shot, scraped the pieces of bone a trifle, and studied
how they were to go together, Pablo holding the body tight. He pulled
out some of the downy feathers, pinched the skin together, wound it
with threads of soft silk and then bound it up with splints.

"Poor thing," he said.

"Don't you believe he will get over it? Oh, what if he never could fly
again."

"Then he will have to live with you."

"Oh, I should like that if he would only be content."

Then they put him in a tub so he could not flounder around much, and
laid some bits of meat near him. Pablo was to keep watch so that no
evil would happen.

Miss Holmes had hardly mounted a horse since girlhood. She did feel a
little timid.

"She's a lady's mount and very gentle. Old knowledge soon comes back
to one," Uncle Jason said, with an encouraging smile.

They took their way up on the cliff, where there was a pretence of a
road that long afterward was to be magnificent. From here the town
was a succession of terraces to the bay. The houses were in many
instances hidden, but here and there a high one, or a church, loomed
up.

On the ocean side it was simply magnificent. The wave-washed rocks
glinting in the brilliant sunlight, the seals diving, swimming about
as if they were at play, then coming up to sun themselves, the flocks
of gulls, the terns, the murres, and the fulmars, who expertly catch
fish from the gulls, the auks, diving and swimming about. To-day
almost every variety seemed out.

The air was like the wine of a new life and made the blood tingle in
the veins. The midday heat was over, the west wind bore the tang of
the broad ocean. Miss Holmes wondered if she had ever known before
this just what life was, and the joy of living.



CHAPTER IX

A PARTY AND AN ADMIRER


When the sun dropped into the ocean the world for a time seemed
ablaze. Certainly, here was the place for sunsets. And as they went on
they crushed the dying ferns and foot-high evergreens into penetrating
fragrance. Down below the Estenegas they turned around and took a
lower road that had little in it except the whispering trees and
plaintive bird songs, until houses came into view, and human figures
moving about. They did not go down in the city, there was always more
or less carousing on Saturday night. A strong young voice was shouting
out a favorite song:

     "Oh, Sally, dearest Sally; oh, Sally, for your sake,
     I'll go to California and try to make a shake;
     Says she to me, 'Joe Bowers, you are the man to win,
     Here's a kiss to bind the bargain,' and she hove a dozen in."

There were musical voices, too. A square below them a wagon load were
singing to the accompaniment of an accordion. Lights were flashing
out, throngs began to gather in the streets, and they were glad to
canter away to quiet.

"It is the most splendid thing of my life," Miss Holmes said.

"And you have done exceptionally well. You and Laverne can take many
an hour's enjoyment when I am busy."

Pablo took the horses down while Miss Holmes spread the supper, and
the two went to look after the gull, who seemed very well content, and
allowed his neck to be stroked without demur.

"And we saw a great bird snatch a fish from one of your kind," Laverne
told him. "And such lots of your relations!"

Bruno looked on curiously.

"Don't you touch him. And don't you let any wild cat or fox come after
him. Mind, now."

Bruno beat his tail on the dry grass.

If there were nations from almost every corner of the globe, they all
joined in celebrating Fourth of July. This year there was a fine
military parade, and Sutter's Rifles from Sacramento City came up and
passed in review before the old true-hearted pioneer, Major-General
John H. Sutter, rapturously applauded by the crowd. Then they marched
to the Russ Garden, where they were presented with a set of colors.
Irish and German were alike patriotic. There were singing and
speeches; booths on corners dispensed simple refreshments to the weary
and the children. Carriages were ornamented with small flags, and
filled with the better class, who cheered as heartily. It was really a
gala day. They had been invited to the Personettes, where tea was set
out on the lawn, and as there was no moon it was hung with Chinese
lanterns. There were some schoolgirls, and they had a table to
themselves, and some dancing. Several of the young people gave the
fancy dances they had learned at the classes the winter before.

Vacations had generally commenced. There were picnics to San José and
mountain climbs; there were excursions up and down the bay and to the
towns opposite up to San Pablo and Mare's Island, over to Sausalito.
And on Sunday, the road to the old Mission Dolores was always thronged
with pleasure-seekers, elegant open carriages filled with
finely-dressed ladies, equestrians of all kinds, and the Spanish
señors often disported themselves in all their bravery. Miss Holmes
was rather startled at first, and to her it was Sabbath-breaking, but
Jason Chadsey was so used to the cosmopolitan order of the day, and
she met the people who had been to church in the morning.

The hot sun and lack of rain had not dried up everything. There were
fogs on the coast that dripped like fine rain, and fairly drenched
bush and faded grass. There were fine green hills and fields of
flowers, and the new crop of wild oats and barley.

And then autumn came in again, schools opened, business stirred up,
there were blessed rains, and it was like a later summer.

The little girl had been much interested in her gull and he had grown
very fond of her, eating out of her hand, and hiding his head under
her arms as the squirrel did. She had traced Snippy to his home, and
sure enough he had a companion. There was an old scrubby dead pine in
which there was a hollow, or they had gnawed it, and thither they
carried nuts and crusts of bread that Laverne pretended to lose.

"Uncle Jason," she said one day, "did you ever see an albatross?"

"Yes. Not very often. They are in the Northern Pacific."

"They are not like gulls."

"Oh, much larger."

"There is a story about one. Miss Bain has it in a beautiful book. One
day she read it."

"Oh, 'The Ancient Mariner.'"

"Do you know about it?" Her face was alight with pleasure. "And is it
true? Did he kill the bird:

     "'Who, every day for food or play,
     Came to the Mariner's hollo.'"

"It's a queer story. No, I don't suppose it was really true. But it is
always considered bad luck to kill one. I must get the book for you."

"Oh, if you would," in her pretty, coaxing way. "Pablo wanted to kill
the gull. Then we might have had bad luck. And now we can't find any
name for him."

"That's bad, too."

His leg had mended nicely and the splints were off, though it must be
confessed he had tugged a great deal at them, and could not be brought
to understand their benefit, though it was explained over and over
again. But his wing did not seem to be just right, and his efforts to
fly were not successful.

"But I wish he could. He would look so lovely sailing about."

"And fly away!"

"Oh, I don't really believe he would."

Uncle Jason brought home a fine illustrated copy of the "Ancient
Mariner" from an English press. In the early fifties, even in vaunted
New York, Boston, and Philadelphia illustrating had not reached the
high point of art it was destined to later on.

She was delighted and in a little while knew it all by heart. She grew
very fond of poetry. She used to read to the gull until he seemed
hypnotized, and presently would nod, sometimes put his head under his
wing.

In September, there was another great celebration on the opening of
the first electric telegraph. This was between San Francisco and Point
Lobos, and was erected by Messrs. Sweeny and Baugh to give early
information of shipping arrivals. They had a station on Telegraph Hill
in which they used various signals, but this was of immeasurably
greater service.

Early in November, there was the anniversary of the founding of the
Mission of Dolores. There were a number of Catholic children in the
school, and a holiday was given.

"Oh, come, go," Olive coaxed. "Eulogia Garfias and her mother are
going, and we are great friends. You've never been in a Catholic
Church?"

"No; but I know some Catholic girls, and one has gone to a convent to
be educated. Oh, and the two little ones were to come up to the
Sisters' School."

"Why, maybe they will be there."

She had not been to the Estenegas in a long, long time; since the day
she and Uncle Jason had ridden down there.

Miss Holmes made no objection. People grew broader in this grand air.
There were many points in which all denominations worked together for
the city's welfare.

It was constructed of adobe, partly whitewashed. It had been very
grand in its day, and had a capacious interior. The walls and roof
roughly painted still held saints and angels and sacred subjects much
faded by the seventy-five years. The damp earthen floor struck a chill
to one. Some of the ornaments of the great altar had been carried
away, and those left were of no great value. But on this occasion
every year there was a large accession of worshippers, even Spanish
and Mexican men as well as women, kneeling reverently on the floor,
and that seemed strange to Laverne, who glanced up with great awe to
the figure of the Christ on the cross between the two oriel windows.
At the side was a female figure with hands clasped, the Virgin. Tall
candles were burning on each side of the altar.

The service was mostly in Latin. The congregation went out reverently,
some to walk in the small graveyard. Yes, there were Juana and Anesta
and several other girls, attended by a sister. They were delighted to
meet Laverne, and were full of confidences as they walked out to the
street. The house was shut up, their mother had gone to Monterey, and
they were staying at school all the time. They liked it so much. And,
if they were allowed, they would be so glad to visit Laverne. Eulogia
Garfias knew the sister and introduced her schoolmates; that made the
sister soften somewhat to them, and listen to their plea.

So Laverne had quite an eventful morning.

"But the little girls look sad, I think," she commented. "And the old
church isn't a bit pretty, it looks faded. And no seats to sit on. It
didn't seem at all like church."

What with lessons, her pets, and her rides, the days were all too
short. Her gull still remained and now could fly a short distance. It
really seemed to love the shelter of the house, and this amused Uncle
Jason very much. Then it never flapped its wings, but seemed to rise
slowly and float about with a serene air. It enjoyed the stream and
the new lake Pablo and Laverne had made. For now the frequent rains
swelled all the streams, and the bright bracing northwest winds
brought the fragrance of spring. Everything grew by bounds. The little
girl could hardly believe it was winter. The bluest skies, the golden
sunshine that flashed in streams of brilliance, the bay a sea of
silver bearing on its bosom treasures of every land.

And so came in a Merry Christmas, with pleasure in every home; a
children's festival, with not so much religious significance as now.
They went to a grand dinner at Mrs. Personette's, Miss Gaines with
them, who looked splendid in her satin gown, and who was coining money
rapidly. Lines were not very closely drawn; the aristocrat of to-day
riding round in his carriage was the workman of last year. The poor
mechanic lucky enough to find a nugget of gold brought his wife in the
front rank and dressed her in velvet, loaded her with jewels. The
keeper of an ordinary restaurant branched out presently in a very
respectable hotel. It was difficult to keep up with all the changes.
Then, it must be admitted, that many of these people were from the
East and had good educations, had, indeed, been accustomed to the
refinements of civilized life, but the thought of making a fortune in
a few years had given them courage to breast the vulgarity and rough
life until they could advance themselves to the old standard.

The children had a party in the evening. Howard had gone to a
preparatory school in the East, as his keen-eyed stepmother found he
was in a rather dangerous circle of young men--girls, too, for that
matter--who were likely to lead one astray, and this had also
influenced Isabel and was bringing her forward much more rapidly than
was judicious. So they were principally schoolgirls, with the cousin
from Oaklands and the young sons of a few friends and neighbors. At
first Isabel was rather stiff and important, but she thawed presently.
Mrs. Personette remembered her own youth and how much these pleasures
had been to her, and really exerted herself in a delightful manner to
keep them well entertained.

Victor Savedra, one of the cousins from Oaklands, took a great fancy
to the shy little girl, and asked her to dance.

"I don't know how," she said, flushing and drawing back.

"Why--don't you dance?" in surprise.

"Just a little, with the girls at school. But--I am afraid----"

"Why, I'll take you through. This is just the plainest quadrille. Oh,
Aunt Grace, don't you think this--" little girl, he was about to
say--"your name is Laverne, isn't it--can't she dance? She looks as if
she could--she's as light as a feather."

"Oh, you can never learn younger. All the children dance here. I think
it comes natural. But you are too late for that. And, Victor, you
might be explaining the figures to her and be ready for the next one."

Victor led her a little to one side. "Aunt Grace is just a trump," he
said. "We thought at first we shouldn't like her, some of the Yankees
are so queer, and talk so outlandish and all that, through their
noses, you know, but she is just a lady all through, and full of fun.
Now, look at this--it's an easy figure--balancing to corners, turning
your partner and a galop down the middle----"

"Why, it's like the fairy rings you read about--I have a splendid
fairy book uncle brought me, and on moonlight nights the little people
go out and dance on the green. The Irish stories are just enchanting.
They love the little people."

Her eyes had been following the dances and she moved her head faintly
as if she was keeping time. Then the fiddles gave a sharp staccato and
stopped.

"Oh," she exclaimed, in bewilderment.

He laughed at the startled look.

"They'll tune up and begin again." Oh, what eager eyes she had. Why,
she was really very pretty, with that soft rose flush and fair hair.
Olive had called her "a plain little thing."

Sure enough that was long ago, remember, before we heard of Strauss
and Sousa. Many a quadrille has begun with "Life let us cherish."
Victor took her hand and fairly impelled her out on the floor. "Now,
I'll tell you everything, and you just mind and don't feel afraid."

She never knew whether she minded or not. She was thinking of Nora of
the Mill when she stepped in the magic ring, and Laudeen, with the
blue coat and a firefly for each button all the way down, just whisked
her around until the air was full of fireflies. It was splendid.

"Oh, you've done very well," Victor said, in a delighted tone. "You
didn't mind the mistakes at all, but just kept on, and that's the way
to do. But you must learn to dance regularly. And I hope we shall
dance together often. You are just like a fairy. That Larkin girl trod
on my foot about every other step. Oh, that is the Cheat. That's rare
fun. Now, see--when it is 'All hands round,' and your partner turns
the other girls, come straight back to him, to _me_, will you? The
fellows left out get laughed at. Now, you'll see."

When the Cheat came he told her again. She turned away from the
outstretched arms and looked for Victor, whose face was flushed. For
he felt he had been really rude to one of the best dancers in the
room. And in the next Cheat some one picked up Laverne, almost lifting
her off her feet, while Esta Collins paid him back with interest and a
triumphant smile.

"I didn't do it right," Laverne said ruefully. "He was so big and
strong, and I never saw him----"

"Oh, that's a good deal of the fun when you know all about it. The
girls flirt awfully, but now and then one gets left in the lurch. The
next is the Spanish Galop, and then the refreshments. Who is going to
take you in?"

"Why--I don't know----" hesitatingly.

"Then I will, and we will have this galop."

"Victor," Isabel said, rather sharply, in the pause. "You take Miss
Payne in for refreshments."

"Can't, my dear cousin. I wouldn't dare poach on Leon Sturges' manor."

"Victor!" But he had gone.

"Just see how that little thing holds on to Victor! Olive, you put a
stop to it as soon as supper is over. I didn't think Victor would make
such a fool of himself. He's danced three times with her. And she's
just crazy over it. She's making a sight of herself."

Olive nodded. She had had all the attention she wanted, and had never
once thought of Laverne, or Victor either.

Victor was asking if Laverne didn't most blow away up on the hill
where she lived, and if she didn't get lost in the dreadful fogs. And
she told him about her squirrel and the gull.

"Why, I thought they were the shyest, wildest things, and that you
couldn't touch them while they were alive. And he really stays with
you?" in amaze.

"He can't fly very far. You see, his wing isn't quite right, though he
can raise it, but it doesn't seem strong. Still he flies so
beautifully a short distance it is a pleasure to see him. Sometimes I
make believe he is an albatross. And I tell him about the 'Ancient
Mariner.'"

"Oh, do you know that queer old thing! And do you love verses? We're
reading the Iliad at school. It isn't verse exactly, but it's poetry
all the same. There are some splendid heroes in it."

She didn't know exactly what it was, but she liked reading about
heroes and her eyes kindled.

"Do you think I might come to visit you and the gull? Are there any
more pets?"

"Oh, yes, a splendid big dog; and I never feel afraid with him. And
the loveliest Mexican pony. Then the birds are very tame. There is the
sauciest mocking bird, and we whistle to each other. He will come for
crumbs, and when the weather is very dry we put out a pan of water and
it is fun to see them bathe. And the jays chatter and scold so."

"How much you must love everything!"

"Well--there are no children near by. Though now I go to school."

"And you came from Maine, Aunt Grace said, all the way round the Horn.
Do you know they are talking of a railroad across the Continent? Oh,
what lots of things we would have to talk about. I'll ask father to
let me come over here and then I'll come up and see you--some
Saturday."

"Oh, I shall be just delighted." The little face was all rosy
eagerness.

"You're not eating anything. Oh, here are the mottoes. Now, we'll have
some fun."

They were prizes to children in those days. A candy in a pretty
colored fringed paper, with two or four printed rhymes, sometimes very
funny, at others sentimental. Victor had numbers sent to him by
different girls, who were beginning to think the little Maine damsel
was getting more than her share of him.

Olive stood ready to pounce upon him. But Miss Holmes was there at the
doorway.

"Uncle Jason has come," she said, in a low tone. "Are you not tired
and almost ready to go home?"

Laverne took the outstretched hand.

"Remember," Victor said, "I shall come before long."

"Really," began Olive tauntingly, "you seem very fond of small fry."

"Why--she is your friend. You have told us ever so much about her. And
she's a nice little thing."

"Oh, a mere child! A flower of the field sort of thing," rather
disdainfully.

He thought her very ungracious when she had been quite eloquent over
Laverne at Oaklands.

She leaned against Miss Holmes' shoulder and talked of the dancing,
while two or three men discussed the prospect of a road across the
continent. The hardships of the overland journey were almost
incredible. Congress could hardly be roused on the subject. Daniel
Webster, broad statesman as he was, opposed it with energy. The Great
American Desert was a formidable thing. And there were the Rocky
Mountains. The gold fields might give out--it was not an agricultural
region--how could manufactures ever be established so remote from
every centre! Spain and Mexico had tried their hands. There was enough
to do nearer home.

The little girl listened with a curious interest. It was a wonderful
country to her. Maine had nothing to compare with it. And though she
began to feel sleepy now that she was quiet, she winked her eyes hard
so as not to lose a word.

"We must go," Miss Holmes said at length; so they rose and wished
their host good-night.

What a glorious night it was! There was no moon, but the wide blue
vault was studded so thick with stars, great golden, twinkling globes,
that seemed to keep Christmas as truly as when they sang to the
shepherds on the plains of Judea. All the air was spicily fragrant,
for there was just enough fog over on the ocean side to make a dew and
distil sweetness. Some of the newly whitewashed houses glistened like
marble, and the brick ones threw a weird kind of shade. There were
clumps of trees, and the little girl half suspected Indians or wolves
lurking behind them.

"Did you have a nice time, little one?" asked her uncle, in a fond
tone.

The cool, fresh, inspiriting air had wakened her.

"Oh, it was splendid! And I danced. Don't you think I might go to
dancing school? All the children do. Olive's cousin was so nice to me,
and he wants to come and see the gull. And he has a pony, too. He is
going to ride over some day. He's nicer than Dick Folsom; that is--he
is polite and gentle, and has such a sweet voice. Oh, I liked him so
much. And there were so many pretty and finely dressed girls--maybe it
was because I didn't have any brother or cousin that he was so good to
me."

Jason Chadsey gave a soft little sigh.



CHAPTER X

ETHICS AND ETIQUETTE


It was midnight, and the bells rang out for 1854. The streets were
full of people. Banjos were being strummed, accordions lent their
music. Singers really made bedlam, but above all you heard every
little while the refrain from a chorus of voices:

     "The days of old, the days of gold,
     The days of forty-nine."

Was San Francisco getting old in its scarcely more than childhood? For
in August of that year, John W. Geary, who had been the last alcalde
of the town, was elected its first mayor, and the city had her charter
in due American form. It had stretched up and down the bay, the
wharves were crowded with shipping. Had ever any other city such a
marvellous story!

Yet in 1854, the world was still a little old-fashioned and friendly.
Never was there a more peerless day. Over the hilltops came streams of
brilliance with the rising sun that drove the fog before it into the
ocean. The lowlands were alive with the slant rays that wavered and
wandered about like seas of gold. Flowers seemed to have sprung up in
the night. Flags were flying. The streets were full of men and boys;
one would have thought it a grand procession. For New Year's calls
were then the great fashion. The day was given over to the renewals of
friendships. Men put on their Sunday best, and went from house to
house with joyous greetings. And within doors were groups of women to
welcome them, and rooms presented a gala aspect. Lovers found an
opportunity to say sweet things, friends clasped hands, business was
laid aside.

No doubt there were orgies here and there, quarrels over cups, and
fights, but even among the lower ranks there was a great deal of
jollity.

Then everybody went back to business. The great Express Building was
opened, having been more than a year under way, and a big banquet
given in the evening.

The weather underwent a sudden change. Ice froze in the pools about
the streets. Icicles hung from the roofs of the houses and children
thrashed them down, and went about eating them like sticks of candy.
There was veritable snow on some of the hills, and those at Contra
Costa were white and glittering in the sun. The old Californians, who
were fond of lazing about in the sun, and smoking a pipe, laid it to
those Yankee devils who had turned everything upside down. There would
be no more good times in "Californy." Even the miners came in and
grumbled. The rains in the fall and winter had been slight, then a
sort of freshet had swollen the rivers, which were too full for "wet
diggings," as the hill sides had been too dry for "dry diggings."

It seemed as if a series of misfortunes happened. The fine new
clipper ship _San Francisco_ missed her bearings and struck on the
rocks on the north side of the channel. Some lives were lost, and a
storm coming up, scattered much of the cargo. Added to this was a very
general depression in business, but in all new cities there are lean
years as well as fat ones.

The little girl had said nothing more about dancing school, although
there was a very nice class that met twice a week not far from the
school. She and Olive had a little "tiff," and now hardly spoke. She
would have liked to consult some one, but Miss Holmes and Mrs.
Personette were now very cordial friends, and she was not sure that
she had been exactly right herself. She could not quite make up her
mind to be blamed. She had said to Uncle Jason that she had changed
her mind, she did not want to go to dancing school just yet.

"There's plenty of time for that," he responded cheerfully. "And I
guess dancing comes kind of natural to little girls. You can put on
the fancy touches by and by."

Then he gave her such a hug that she knew he was pleased with her
decision, though down in the depths of her heart she really would have
liked it. Sometimes she danced around out of doors, going through
whatever figures she could recall.

This was what had happened: She had spoken cordially to Olive the
first morning school had begun again, and Olive had given her head a
toss, and mumbled something. Then at recess she had joined some of the
larger girls. The Personette girls went home to luncheon; Laverne
brought hers. There were several smaller children that she liked very
much, and they had a nice play together. Olive generally claimed her,
but for several days she took very little notice of her. She had a
feeling that Laverne would feel hurt and want to know the reason. But
the latter was too much afraid of a rebuff to advert to it.

"I suppose you think it's queer that I'm acting this way," Olive
began, when her indifference seemed to pass unnoticed. "But, really,
you were so forward at my party----"

"Forward!" Laverne gasped. "Why, I--I was almost frightened at first.
I had never been to a real party before."

"Well, you made yourself very conspicuous. Esta Collins thought you
bold enough."

Laverne's face was scarlet. "What did I do?" she asked in a tremulous
tone, trying to keep down a great throb that wanted to rise in her
throat.

"What did you do, Miss Innocence? Well, I declare! You didn't dance
three times with my cousin, and then march in to supper with him, and
talk and laugh just as if you didn't mean to let him look at another
girl. And you had never met him before! It was shameful!"

"But--he asked me!"

The tears did come now. She tried very hard to wink them away.

"Oh, yes! But he never supposed you were going to hang on him that
way. And there were girls who had known him long before, just waiting
to be asked. You see, as he was _my_ cousin, he was--well, almost like
the host, and should have gone around. You're a regular flirt,
Laverne Chadsey, and you will never get asked to any party of mine
again."

"You didn't ask me this time," said Laverne, with spirit. "It was your
mother. And it wasn't altogether your party."

"Well, it was _my_ cousin."

"She is Isabel's cousin also."

"Well, she did not like it, either."

Laverne wanted to say she was sorry. No one had ever quarrelled with
her before. But was she really at fault? There came a sudden flash of
spirit.

"It was mean in your cousin to ask me to dance so many times when he
knew it wasn't quite proper. He was used to parties, I wasn't. I shall
never want to go to parties again; I just hate them."

With that Laverne turned away, holding her head very high. She missed
in one lesson that afternoon, and asked Miss Bain if she might not
stay in and go over it; she knew it then, but she was confused by
something else. Her uncle was always so proud of her marks that she
did not want to disappoint him.

"Why, yes," returned Miss Bain smilingly. "I wish all little girls
were as careful."

She was rather grave at home that afternoon. She told Bruno about it
and he gave her a world of sympathy out of large, loving eyes.

Then there were several smaller girls that she found very
companionable. One of them discovered a way to walk together for some
distance by making the circuit just a little longer. Her mother was
French and had been born in New Orleans. There were five children;
she, Lucie, was the oldest. Her father was one of the old California
residents, and had fought in the war. Last summer they had gone down
to Santa Cruz and had a lovely time. She had only one little sister,
the baby. So they made quite a friendship.

After the cold snap it seemed as if spring had come in earnest.
Everything took to growing. Miss Holmes and Laverne had delightful
rides about on Saturdays. And one morning the child watched a lad
coming up the somewhat crooked road. He waved his hand--yes, he
smiled, too. Why, it couldn't be Victor Savedra!

But it was, though. Laverne hardly knew whether to be glad or sorry.
But she was glad down in the bottom of her heart, and ran a few steps
to meet him, then paused in pure bashfulness.

"Are you glad to see me? Don't you remember that I told you I would
come? I was at uncle's a fortnight ago and meant to beg Olive to come
up with me, but behold!" and he laughed.

It was such a gay, infectious sort of laugh, and he slid down from his
pony and threw the rein over his neck, then took both of her hands,
while she colored scarlet, and her eyes had merry lights in them.

"I dragged it all out of Olive. Did you have much of a fuss with her?
Girls are so queer! It was because I danced two or three times with
you. Why, I thought you were such a dainty little thing. I liked you.
Some of the girls are so--well, so sentimental--silly. Olive has a
temper, though. And now--_are_ you glad. Father knows your uncle a
little. And he said I might come over; father, I mean. I always tell
him where I go on Saturdays."

"Yes, I am glad," Laverne replied. "Oh, we were going out to ride."

"We? Who?" and the bright young face fell a little.

"Why, Miss Holmes--who takes care of us."

"Oh, yes, that's all right. Girls always do have some one, you know.
And I remember her. She is Aunt Grace's friend."

"Yes, Pablo is bringing the horses." She led the way with a springing
step and smiled without knowing just what made her happy.

"And the gull! Father thinks it really odd, that you should tame him
and he should want to stay."

"And he can fly quite well. Just a bit of the wing droops down. Oh,
here he is! We had such a time to find a name for him. And once Uncle
Jason was up the coast of Norway and learned about the gods, and I
liked the story of Balder so much, Balder the beautiful, and then I
called him that. But Uncle Jason calls him Jim."

"Did your uncle come for the Golden Fleece?"

"I think they find it here, if anywhere," she returned, smiling.
"Here, Balder," and she held out her hand.

He was not exactly graceful in his walk. But he came and put his head
in his little mistress's hand.

She stroked his neck, "Pretty Balder," she said. "Did Pablo get you
some fish?"

Balder glanced rather suspiciously at the newcomer. And just then Miss
Holmes came down. After the first glance she remembered the young
fellow, who explained a certain amount of curiosity had drawn him
hither, and since they were ready for a ride he begged to accompany
them.

"Oh," she said, "why didn't you bring the girls and we should have had
quite a party."

"I am afraid if I had gone there first I should have missed you, they
would have had so many plans. And this excursion has been in my mind
some time. I wanted to see these remarkable pets."

"Snippy seems quite busy in these days providing for his family; I
think, too, he is rather jealous of Jim."

"There are some such cunning little squirrels, but Snippy keeps them
closely at home, down in the hollow of the tree."

"If you would like to walk about a little--the rains have given us
quite a picturesque aspect, and the weather has brought us into
spring."

"Will Miss Laverne be my guide?"

"That sounds just like school. When you get in the highest class,
where your cousin Isabel is, you are called Miss--whatever your last
name happens to be. I don't like it so well."

"But you will when you get to be a young lady."

"I like girls the best," she said simply.

He thought they would be quite charming if they all resembled her.

They took the winding path up to the spring, if it were that; Pablo,
under Uncle Jason's direction, had made quite a basin of it. Then it
trickled down to the next level, and this was Balder's pool. It was
arranged so that it irrigated quite a little garden. There were some
orange trees, but they had been nipped by the frosts.

"They are rather bitter and sour and full of seeds," said Laverne,
"only they are beautiful with their glossy leaves, and the blossoms
are sweet. Everything is wonderful here."

"It truly is." He was glancing about. "Father ought to see this. But
you know we think Oaklands the garden spot of all as you go on down
the Bay. It's much wilder going up, and here it doesn't seem a bit
promising, but you have made it so. I wonder what about it charmed
your uncle?"

She remembered the old home in Maine was rather rocky and wild. She
rarely thought of it now.

"Here is where Snippy lives. Though there are plenty of squirrels
about and rabbits and everything, it seems to me. Snippy," she called,
"Snippy."

A sharp nose and two bright eyes appeared above the hollow and dropped
down at once. "Snippy! Oh! you needn't be afraid." She threw some bits
of hardtack down. Then there was a sudden gray flash, and he was out
on the ground, caught on her frock and ran up to her shoulder. He
looked saucily over to Victor Savedra as if he questioned what
business he had there.

The boy laughed. "We have some fine birds, and beautiful tame deer. I
suppose I could tame a squirrel. But the funny thing is that he should
have decided to move up here."

"We brought him first, you know. I didn't think about his having any
folks then. And there is getting to be quite a colony of them. Uncle
Jason will not have them shot. Though Pablo shot a wildcat not long
ago. And the birds do not seem afraid any more. I know where there are
several quails' nests."

"I expect you understand bird language."

They turned to go down. Pablo had given Victor's pony a drink. Miss
Holmes stood patting her horse's neck.

"I've done up a little lunch," she announced. "Are you quite sure you
have time to devote to our picnic?"

"Oh, yes! I have a whole day to spend. And I am delighted that you
permit me to accompany you. I hope you will come to Oaklands and allow
me to be the host."

They went down on the westerly path. Part of the way it was a rather
rough road, and they had the ocean at their side. Here was a kind of
depression in the rocky barricade, and down by the shore a herd of
deer were sniffing the ocean breezes. How pretty and graceful they
looked, startled, too, as the wind wafted the sound of voices to them.
Then they suddenly vanished as if the ocean had swallowed them up, and
the three looked at each other with surprised and laughing eyes.

Miss Holmes found young Savedra a very entertaining companion. He
expected presently to go to England for his education. There was a
rather delicate girl next in age to him, who had not been strong
enough to come over to the Christmas party. Then a rollicking hoyden,
and last of all a second son. It was evident he cared a great deal for
his mother. His sister had one of the nervous musical temperaments,
and was fond of solitude. The Personette girls were very different,
more like their father.

He was really entertaining for so young a person. He knew many of the
older stories of the country, the Missions, the Indians, and the
lower-class Mexicans. They turned into quite a new road for them, that
seemed hidden away by an edge of woods, and presently came to a
charming spot where he tethered the horses, and they ate their lunch.
Little did they dream that one day even this solitude would be invaded
by the resistless hand of improvement. Shy, wild things were running
about, birds sang in every sort of key. Gulls swooped down for fish, a
great cormorant went sailing slowly along, and seals frolicked almost
like children.

"I suppose we could go across here and come up to the eastward," Miss
Holmes said. "This has been delightful. We keep to the beaten paths
when we are alone, but on Sunday, with Mr. Chadsey, we make farther
ventures. We must bring him here, Laverne, if we can remember the
way."

"I'll make a diagram for you," he laughed. "I might have 'blazed a
trail,'--isn't that what you Yankees call it? But there are so many
beautiful roads. And farther down everything is lovelier still. I
suppose the eastern world is quite different, with its long, cold
winters."

"But to the southward we have pleasant lands, where there is not much
winter, and where vegetation is almost as wonderful as here, where
roses bloom and tropical fruit ripens. Oh, the Atlantic has many fine
points and great cities."

"I should like to see them. I hope some day to travel round the whole
world. Miss Laverne, don't you want to go to India?"

"I don't know," and she made a little gesture of aversion. "Uncle
Jason has been to many of the seaport towns. And he did not like the
natives over well. He thinks them indolent and cruel and all that. And
there are tigers and poisonous snakes--no, I do not think I want to
go."

"I should like to talk with your uncle. You know we larger boys are
studying up curious vestiges of the old civilizations and races. There
were people here before the Indians, and it is supposed they came
across Behring Strait from Asia."

She opened her eyes wide.

"Why, I thought the Indians were the first race."

"They must have driven out some other people, or driven them down to
Mexico, perhaps. But I suppose girls don't need to know all this;" and
he laughed. "Oh, look at this picture before we go."

The curve of the path down toward the rocky shore made a striking
perspective. There was no wind, but the far-off waves had a golden
crest that came nearer and nearer, as if bearing the treasures of the
Orient; the air was full of spice and sweetness; wild grape, fern,
cedar, and pine, fluttering butterflies, almost like small birds, made
swift dazzles, or seemed to hang poised in the still air as if
considering which way to take. The sea was marvellously blue, so was
the sky overhead, but round the edges where it touched the sea there
was a soft gray mistiness, here whitening, there taking on an azure
tint.

He was mysteriously touched by beauty, though he was a whole-hearted
boy, and occasionally dipped into fun of the unorthodox sort. Who
could help it in such a wild country?

Miss Holmes nodded, she, too, was deeply moved. They turned about, the
road was narrow and carpeted, one might say, with countless wild
roses, flaming lilies, others as yellow as the palest sulphur color;
little juniper trees, with their pale green shoots that had never yet
seen sunshine; blackberry vines, that were in bloom at least six
months of the year, with their starry crowns, and berries of all
ripening colors. The horses kicked them aside, they were meet food for
the birds.

They came farther inland through tall woods, great stretches of wild
oats and barley, meadows that would presently be brown with burnt
roots of vanished things. Here and there an adobe house, small
children playing about in cotton shirts, and shouting with the same
riotous glee that informed the bird's song.

Pelajo gave a whinny as they came in sight of the house that looked as
if set among the rocks. Bruno rushed out. Balder gave a cry of
welcome. They had all missed the little girl, who talked to them in a
language they understood and loved.

"I hardly know how to thank you for such a delightful day," Victor
Savedra said, in his refined manner that was hearty as well. "I had
not thought of so much pleasure when I came. And I do hope to return
it. You see, I haven't felt quite like a stranger, Aunt Grace has
talked of you so often. We all like her so much. And at first we felt
quite startled at the thought of uncle marrying a Yankee woman," and
he smiled, with a sort of gay retrospection. "Yet, she had been so
good to the aunt that died. But it is largely in the cultivation,
don't you think? Many of those first Eastern people were of good
birth, and they were fine pioneers, we can't deny that. And we shall
plan for you to come over on some Saturday with her and the girls, for
I want you to see mother."

Miss Holmes thanked him cordially, and the little girl said the same
thing with her eyes and her smile.

Yet, after she had made the round of her pets, had a splendid drink of
water, and seen Pelajo munching his wisps of alfalfa--Pablo would not
give him too much at a time--she came in and sat down in her favorite
low chair, while Miss Holmes was making some supper preparations,
beating-up an old-fashioned cake of which Uncle Jason was very fond,
and that suggested to him the weekly bakings in the old ovens back in
Maine.

The little girl was quiet so long that Miss Holmes said presently:
"Are you very tired?"

"Oh, no; I was thinking," and for an instant the rosy lips were
compressed. "Is it--do you think it wrong to have secrets?"

Miss Holmes was alarmed and studied her anxiously.

"It depends on what they are, and with whom," she answered gravely.

"Long ago, when we first knew her, Olive Personette said girls always
had secrets. They were mostly about other girls. And I only knew the
Estenegas, and there wasn't anything about them except the queer old
house and Carmen going to a convent. She didn't care about that. Then
there was the party."

"Yes," encouragingly.

"Olive was very angry because--because her cousin was so nice to me."

Then the whole story came out, how Olive had scarcely taken any notice
of her, and had her seat changed and played with the larger girls.
But, after awhile, it had blown over, and now they were good friends
again.

Miss Holmes had remarked an estrangement, but she was not in love with
Olive herself, and had made no comment.

"I didn't want to tell Uncle Jason----"

"Oh, no, no," interrupted Miss Holmes quickly.

"And--I should have liked to know whether it was quite right to dance
so much with Victor, but you see it was all done, and--and----"

"On the whole, you were a very discreet little girl. You did not know,
of course. Olive should have been more attentive to her guests. That
wasn't a very harmful secret, but I think your uncle would have been
quite vexed with Olive."

"I was afraid he would," she returned gravely.

"It is better to keep a secret than to stir up strife," Miss Holmes
remarked.

"But now there's another secret," and a look of distress clouded the
fair face. "It's been such a lovely day. I didn't ever suppose he
would come without the girls, but he has, and they do not know. Olive
will be angry, I am afraid."

Miss Holmes smiled inwardly, so as not to pain Laverne. Even these
little girls began to have troubles and jealousies about the boys. She
had been in it herself during childhood, she had seen a great deal of
it later on. And childhood should be such a sweet and simple thing--a
season of pure enjoyment.

"I think you had better say nothing about to-day. I'll explain the
matter sometime to Mrs. Personette."

"Oh, that will be splendid! It was just a glorious time, wasn't it?
And I should be sorry to have it spoiled."

Her face was joyous again with relief.

"But I can tell Uncle Jason?"

"Oh, yes."

She would have felt much relieved if she had known that the young
fellow went straight to the Personettes and found his aunt home alone.
The girls were out driving with some friends.

"Aunt Grace," he said frankly, after the first courtesies had passed,
"I've been up there on the hill where the Chadseys live, getting
acquainted with the pets; and what an odd, pretty place it is. I like
Miss Holmes very much. I wish Isola had just such a friend instead of
that half-French governess. And Miss Laverne is a very charming little
child, isn't she? Can't you bring them over some Saturday and I'll do
my best to entertain you. I've told mother a good deal about
them--well, so have you;" and he laughed with boyish gayety.

"Yes, I've been thinking of it. And now everything is at its best.
I'll be over in a day or two and we will settle upon the time. I
should like your mother to know Miss Holmes. And, oh, what a treat it
will be for that little Laverne. She might almost as well be in a
convent, but she is happy and bright as a lark. She's a really
charming child, but it would be a pity to make an early 1800 girl out
of her when we are passed the middle of the century."

They both laughed at the idea.



CHAPTER XI

IN THE SUNSHINE OF YOUTH


There was a great talk about hard times. Some discouraged people
returned east, convinced there was just as good a chance for
prosperity there. But the city went on laying out streets, paving
some, erecting large business buildings, discarding old oil lamps, for
now gas was introduced. And in April, a branch Mint was opened by the
Government on Commercial Street, which had been a great necessity,
though there had been allowed a private coining establishment. The
payment of many transactions had been in gold dust or nuggets. There
was also an earnest endeavor to awake interest in a through railroad
service. The overland route was hazardous, painful, and expensive,
that round the Horn tedious, and across the isthmus difficult.

There were also several filibustering expeditions that came to grief,
and some quite noted citizens were tried and punished. Riots, too,
were of frequent occurrence, but, on the whole, a spirit of
improvement was visible everywhere. The long-neglected Plaza was
regraded, a fence placed around it, a flagstaff raised, and it became
quite a favorite resort, the drive around it being thronged by
carriages on pleasant afternoons.

The Vigilance Committee had done good work and rendered the city much
safer. Manufactures were started. True, coal had to be brought from
some distance, and there was a great need of really skilled labor.

The little party that had taken the "Hazard of new fortunes" were
prospering. Now and then Dick Folsom had been seized with a mining
fever that had required all the ingenious arguments of his mother to
combat. Then, seeing an opportunity, and having good backers in the
Dawsons, she had opened a sort of Home Hotel that at once became a
great favorite on account of its excellent bread and rolls, and now
Dick had business enough on his hands, though it did not quench his
longing for a more adventurous life.

Miss Gaines, too, had extended her borders. She had taken a place on
an attractive street and opened a real business of dressmaking and
millinery, and was largely patronized, Boston being considered really
higher style than New York. Jacintha Vanegas had married, and Miss
Gaines had persuaded the mother to sell her old house as the lot was
needed for an important improvement. So Señora Vanegas came to keep
house for her, and Felicia to be her right-hand woman.

"It's worlds better than teaching school," she explained to Miss
Holmes. "When you once rise to a positive dictum in style, people give
in to you and pay you any price. I'm not going to spend all my time on
furbelows. After a few years I shall retire and take some journeys
about the world. One of my cousins is anxious to come out and I shall
send for her. As for marrying--I certainly shall not take a man to
hang on to me, as one might easily every month in the year."

The hard times had touched Jason Chadsey rather severely, but he held
up his head bravely. For he saw that San Francisco must be the brain
of the outlying country. The treaty with Japan would open up new
ventures. There was to be a line of mail steamers from San Francisco
to Shanghai. And all up and down the coast from Puget Sound to the
Isthmus vessels were plying, bringing the treasures of other lands.

The visit to Oaklands had been beautifully arranged. Mrs. Savedra had
sent a written invitation to her sister-in-law, enclosing a note to
Miss Holmes. They were to come early in the morning, at least the big
carriage would meet the boat at ten. It was across the bay, to be
sure, but only like a ferry.

Olive took upon herself the real significance of the visit. They were
_her_ relatives, not even her stepmother's. Her aunt was quite French
still and talked with a pretty accent, and was really very charming,
though she did not go much into society.

"Of course, you've seen Victor--you can't help liking him, you know.
Isola is only a year younger, but she's a queer, fretful sort of girl,
who always has a headache if she doesn't want to do the things you
choose. Elena is a little witch, good and bad, sweet and sour all in a
minute. Then some children died, and Andrea is a sweet, big, spoiled
baby."

Laverne laughed.

"If Isola was like most girls we could have lots of fun. I hate
half-sick people, don't you? I want them to be ill enough to stay in
bed, or else able to have some fun. She plays beautifully on the
organ, though, and the piano."

"Oh, I do love music," declared Laverne. "I could listen forever."

"Then you and she will get along. Victor will entertain Isabel, of
course. You can't have him all the time," with a touch of malice.

Laverne turned scarlet.

Up and down the bay seemed alive with vessels of every kind and
degree, and some sailboats keeping out of the way of the larger craft.

Victor had the big family carriage with its three seats.

"I'm going to sit with the driver," announced Olive.

Victor assisted the ladies in, expressing his pleasure that it was a
fine day and that they could all come. The two handsome horses flung
up their heads and pawed the ground a little. They went somewhat
south-easterly, passed the streets that already had quite a city
aspect, and then turned into a road bordered with magnificent trees
and almost paved with great violets of all colors, and farther back a
wild profusion of bloom. Geraniums like small trees, brilliant in
scarlet, rose, and pink. Magnificent palms, shining olive trees, and
oranges that had been cultivated to perfection. Laverne drew long
breaths of the perfumed air.

All at the southern side was an immense garden. At the north it was
protected by a great belt of woods. How different from their rocky
mound, but she recalled the fact that Victor had found some points to
admire.

The mansion was broad and low, the centre reaching up two stories with
a sharp peak, the wings but one story. A porch ran the whole length of
it, shaded by heliotrope trained as a vine and full of purple bloom,
and passion flowers in lavender, purplish red and white, with touches
of grayish purple. These climbed over lattices, leaving spaces between
that looked like French windows reaching to the ground. It was really
a succession of rooms. Easy chairs, lounging chairs (one on wheels for
Isola when she felt indisposed for walking), small tables with books
and papers, or a work-basket, and down one end a large one with
various dishes of fruit.

Mrs. Savedra welcomed them in a most cordial manner. She was hardly
medium height; indeed, she looked short beside these taller women. Her
black hair was a bed of ripples with curling ends, her eyes a soft
dusky black, and her complexion a rather pale sort of olive with a
dash of color in the cheeks.

Victor could hardly be said to resemble her, and yet he had taken some
of her best points.

Isola stood beside her mother, almost as tall, but slim as a willow
wand, and sallow as to complexion, with a deep shade under the eyes.
Her hair was a duller tint, and her eyes a gleam that in some lights
would have a suggestion of yellow.

There were also two young gentlemen--one a visitor who had come with
his father on some business, the other a schoolmate of Victor's that
the Personette girls had met before, Vance Lensam. Louis Alvarado was
older than either of them, a handsome young fellow, with blue black
hair and eyes that seemed to look through one.

Victor had asked his friend Vance, so that, he said laughingly, his
cousins would not pull him to pieces.

"And this is the little girl we have heard about, who took the long,
long journey around Cape Horn," Mrs. Savedra said, holding her small
fair hand and glancing smilingly into the deep blue eyes. "I took one
journey from New Orleans with my husband, and it seemed endless,
though we had many pleasures by the way and some dangers. Once we lost
our way and had to sleep in the woods, and we heard the wolves howl."

"There were no wolves on shipboard and we couldn't get lost," returned
the child, in a soft tone.

"Oh, you might have been blown out of your course by a storm,"
commented Victor.

"I think we were once or twice. But they all said it was an
exceptional passage," returned his aunt.

Then they were seated on the porch while the maids took their hats and
mantles, for one never quite knew when a strong west wind would come
up. And for a few moments there was a confusion of pleasant voices.
The servant brought a great stone pitcher of delightful fruit beverage
and filled the glasses. It was ice-cold and most grateful. There were
some queer crispy cakes with scalloped edges that were very nice,
Laverne thought.

The elders began to talk on the subjects of the day. There was never
any lack of news in the various papers, though there were few
telegraph connections and no cables to flash around the world. Vance
Lensam came round to Isabel's side. He had been to the theatre a few
nights before and seen a remarkable young actress, Miss Heron, in the
play of "Fazio," and it was superb.

"I want so to go to the theatre," declared Isabel. "Father will not
allow us, he declares it is no place for young people."

"Anybody might see this play, I think. And the audiences have grown
more respectful and respectable. We are getting to be quite a staid
and orderly city," and he laughed with a little irony.

"And just as soon as a girl is married she can go anywhere," Isabel
declared.

"With her husband--yes."

"And I want to go to a real ball. I have outgrown children's parties.
Oh, there are to be some splendid picnics when school closes. I hope
we can go. Mother has so many engagements all the time. We ought to
have a summer governess."

"That would be a good idea. One as manageable as the Señorita's," and
he half nodded in Isola's direction.

"But she never wants to do anything worth while. Oh, dear, it isn't a
nice thing never to be real well."

"No, I wouldn't like it."

"Do you know that Mr. Alvarado?"

"I only met him yesterday. They are Spanish Cubans, I believe."

"Come down and talk to him. Oh, I do get on so slowly with French and
Spanish. Mother wishes she could send me to a good Eastern school,
where they make girls study."

"You wouldn't like it?" enquiringly.

"Do they lock them up and keep them on bread and water, or beat them?
I'd like to see the teacher who could make me study."

"Are you so very obstreperous?" he laughed.

"I don't see the use of so much of it. You marry, and that's the end
of learning. But I wish I was a good French scholar. I was quite
ashamed the other night. Father had a French visitor come in about
something, and he didn't understand English very well, so he asked me
to translate, and I couldn't."

"Moral!" Vance said sententiously.

They had been moving slowly down to the young man, who now gave them a
nod of welcome, and began to air his rather lame English.

The nurse brought out the baby, a charming child of four, and
Laverne's face lighted up with joy.

"You are fond of babies," said the mother, in a glad tone.

"Oh, yes, and there are so few of them, except the dirty street
children."

"Where is Lena?" asked Olive.

"One can never tell for five minutes where she is," said the mother.

"I'm going to hunt her up; she's such fun."

But Olive went no further than the group shaded by the passion vine,
and the four were in the midst of something amusing, to judge by their
merry laughs.

"Why, I didn't know Alvarado could be so gay," declared Victor. "He
doesn't talk very well, and last night I hardly knew how to entertain
him. His father is to send him North to one of the cities in the
autumn. We need some of this work here, high schools and colleges."

"That will come. Think how young you are. I am amazed at the
progress," declared Mrs. Personette.

"I suppose San Francisco is an old, young city. The Americanos have
really overpowered us. But, Aunt Grace, did you ever stand in the
street a few moments and listen to the jargon? You can imagine what
the Tower of Babel must have been. I think we have gathered all the
nations of the earth within our borders. And the Chinese are the
oddest. Oh, mother, I am glad you were not a Chinese woman."

"I think your father would not have been allowed to marry me," she
said smilingly. "And I did not know a word of English then. I had been
in a convent. We thought it a barbarous tongue."

"It's going to conquer the world some day."

"Will everybody speak English, do you think?" and Laverne glanced up.
The baby's arms were tight about her neck.

"Oh, baby!" cried the mother. "Nurse, you had better take him."

It was funny to hear the baby scold in French.

"Victor, you might take the little girl--Laverne, is it not? and show
her the garden. I heard about your pets. You must have a charm."

Laverne smiled. They walked down the porch and Victor paused a moment
to invite his friends to join them. They did not at once, but the two
kept on. They turned down a wide alley, under some orange trees. The
late blossoms had fruited, the early ones been killed by the unusual
frost of the winter.

"Oh, it is so beautiful, so very beautiful!" she exclaimed, with
almost the poignancy of joy. "I never supposed there was all this
beauty such a little distance from us. Why didn't they come over here
and build the city?"

"You will not ask that twenty years from this time. San Francisco
will be one of the great cities of the world, the gateway of the
Western coast, the link of everything splendid! Think of the Golden
Gate, of the magnificent bay, where no enemy could touch a ship. And
that rocky coast, a defence in itself."

"Twenty years," she repeated musingly. "Why, I shall be quite an old
woman," and a look almost of terror flashed up in her face.

He laughed at her dismay. "I am not quite seventeen. Then I shall be
thirty-seven, and I hope to have a home and be just as happy as my
father is, and shall endeavor to be just as prosperous. But I wouldn't
want you to call me an old man."

She flushed under his eager eyes.

"Everything grows finer here than in San Francisco. Even at the
Estenegas it was not luxuriant like this."

"For fifteen years father has had it cultivated. There are two
gardeners working all the time. He is so fond of beautiful
things--trees, and flowers, and birds. No one is allowed to molest
them. Oh, listen!"

They both stood still. She clasped her hands, and her eyes were lucent
with mistiness.

"Oh," she cried, "it is like this:

     "'How they seemed to fill the sea and air,
     With their sweet jargoning.'"

Certainly they were a gay and happy lot, singing for the very love of
melody, it seemed. Then they passed masses of flowers, beautiful
groups of trees again, wound around unexpected corners.

"I wonder you found anything to praise up there on the hill," she said
in a low, rather disheartened tone.

"Oh, I came to see you, and the gull, and Snippy, and to have the nice
ride. And I did have a fine day. Now, you are not going to envy your
neighbor's garden!"

"Why, no; I wouldn't want to take it away if I could, for there are so
many of you to enjoy it, you see, and only so few of us."

"And your uncle will be rich enough to give you everything you want
some day."

She had never thought about his being that.

A sudden shower of olives dropped down upon them like a great pelting
rain.

"Oh, Elena, where are you, you little witch! Ah, I see you. Shall I
shake you down out of the tree?"

A gay, rippling laugh mocked him.

"Lena, come down. The little girl is here who has the squirrel named
Snippy, and the gull."

"I thought it was Olive. I was going to crown her with her namesakes.
Why did they give her that name, like hard, bitter fruit?"

"Why are girls named Rose and Lily?"

"Oh, they are pretty names, and sweet."

"Well, you see, no one consulted me about it. Please, come down."

She laughed again, like the shivering of glass that made a hundred
echoes. Then there was a rustling among the branches, and a lithe
figure stood before them, looking as if she might fly the next moment.

"Lena! Lena!" and Victor caught her by the shoulder. "What did you
promise this very morning--that you wouldn't torment Olive, but
behave discreetly."

"This isn't Olive," and she gave her elfin laugh.

"But you meant it for Olive. This is the little girl who lives over on
the rock, where we go to see the seals and the great flocks of birds.
You know I told you of her."

Elena stared at the visitor. She had a curious, gypsy-like brilliance,
with her shining, laughing mischievous eyes and the glow in her
cheeks. She was very dark, a good deal from living in the sun, and not
a bad-looking child either. And now an odd, coquettish smile flashed
over the eyes, mouth, and chin, and was fascinating in its softness.
She held out her hand.

"Victor likes you so much," she said, and Victor flushed at the
betrayal of confidence he had used to persuade her into cordiality. "I
think I shall like you, too. Let us run a race. If I beat you, you
must like me the most and do just as I say, and if you beat I will be
just like your slave all day long."

"No, Lena. You must not do any such thing."

"She is like a little snail then! She is afraid!" and the black eyes
flashed mirth as well as insolence.

"I am not afraid." Laverne stood up very straight, a bright red rose
blooming on each cheek. "Where to?" she asked briefly.

"Down to the fig trees."

"Will you count three?" Laverne asked of Victor.

He smiled and frowned.

"Count!" she insisted authoritatively.

They started like a flash, the shadows dancing on the path. Elena
gained. Victor grew angry, and came after them; then Laverne gave a
sudden swift swirl and turned on her antagonist.

Lena stopped with a laugh. She was not angry.

"How you can run!" she exclaimed. "I wish you lived here. We would
have races twenty times a day. And--can you climb trees?"

"Oh, yes."

"And swim?"

"No," admitted Laverne frankly.

"Then you can't do everything that I can."

"And she can do something you cannot. She can read French and Spanish,
while you really can't read English; she can do sums and write
letters, and--and sew," he was guessing at accomplishments now.

"There are the women to sew."

"But you might be wrecked on an island where there were no women, and
tear your frocks, as you generally do."

Laverne smiled. How find a needle and thread on a desolate island?
Lena did not see the point, and looked rather nonplussed.

"Oh, well, I shouldn't care then," she retorted.

"Come, let us go to the aviary. Miss Laverne will like to see the
birds."

There was a large space netted in from tree to tree in which there
were many rare birds of most exquisite plumage, and quantities of tiny
South American love birds, gossiping with each other in low, melodious
tones.

"Oh, how wonderful!" Laverne exclaimed.

"It's a great fancy of father's. Sea captains bring him birds from all
countries. After a while, when they get really acclimated and can
protect themselves, he lets them out to settle in the woods about. Do
you see those two with the beautiful long tails? They came from the
island of Java. Do you know where that is?"

"Oh, it is one of the Sunda Islands down by the Indian Ocean. Uncle
Jason has been to Borneo and Sumatra. And coffee comes from Java."

"How do you know? Have you been there?" questioned Elena.

"Father knows, and he has not been there," returned Victor. "He could
tell you a good many things if you did not like to learn them out of
books."

Laverne walked round the inclosure in a trance of delight. And though
the voices now and then made discord, on the whole it was a
fascinating orchestra.

"Couldn't you tame some of them?"

"It would take a long time, I think. Those bright Brazilian birds are
very wild. Every one cannot charm birds, and father is a pretty busy
man."

Elena soon tired of the birds, and inquired if Laverne had a pony.
Then they might ride after luncheon.

"And it must be nearly that now. Come, let us go up to the house."

Elena chattered like a magpie, and danced about, now and then hopping
on one foot, and running to and fro.

"You will think we are a rather queer lot," Victor said, half in
apology.

"Oh, _you_ are not queer. I like you very much." She raised her clear,
innocent eyes, and it seemed a very sweet compliment to him.

"There isn't much training. Mamacita could not govern a cat, though,
for that matter, I don't believe cats are easily governed. Cats are
queer things. But school straightens up one, I suppose. Elena will go
to a convent to be trained presently. Isola cannot, so she has a
governess to teach her music and a few things. You must hear her play
on the organ. All she cares about is music."

"Is she very ill?"

"Oh, not very, I think. But she won't ride, which the doctor thinks
would be good for her, and she goes about in that wheeling chair when
she ought to walk, and lies in the hammock. Mamacita would like her to
be gay and bright and entertaining to the young men, as Isabel is,
because all girls are expected to marry. Mamacita was only fifteen
when papa met her at a ball at New Orleans. That must be a very gay
place, without the crime and rough life that San Francisco has. I do
hope sometime we will be civilized, and not have to take in the
off-scourings of all lands. I want it to be a splendid city, like Rome
on its seven hills. And there is the grand sea outlook that Rome did
not have, though she made herself mistress of the seas."

The little girl watched him with such intelligent eyes that it was a
great satisfaction to talk to her. She was different from any one he
had known. For those of the Southern blood were coquettes from their
very cradle, and wanted to talk of pleasure only. Of course, she was
being brought up by a great traveller, even if he had never risen
higher than mate of a trading vessel. And then the eastern women were
somehow different.

Elena ran on, and announced with a shout "that they were coming." The
porch was set out with little tables. Mrs. Personette was the matron
of the one that had her daughters and the two young men. Mrs. Savedra
took charge of Elena and Isola, and left Miss Holmes to Laverne and
Victor.

There were flowers and fruits, dainty summer viands, and much gay
chatting, since they were near enough to interchange with each other.
Laverne was very enthusiastic about the aviary.

"Oh, you must go out and see it," she said eagerly.

Victor was thinking of the great difference between Miss Holmes and
Mam'selle Claire. Of course, she could talk about musicians, she
seemed to have them at her tongue's end, and some French writers. He
was not of an age to appreciate them; young, energetic souls were
quoting Carlyle, even Emerson had crept out here on the Western coast.
In a way there was a good deal of politics talked, and a rather bitter
feeling against the East for turning so much of the cold shoulder to
them. Even the suggestion of war with England over the northern
boundary did not seem very stirring to these people. It was their own
advancement, the appreciation of all they held in their hands, the
wonderful possibilities of the Oriental trade. And though it seemed
quite necessary to study French, when there were so many French
citizens, the young fellow considered the literature rather
effeminate. But Miss Holmes was conversant with the march of the
Carthaginian general over the Alps, and later, that of Napoleon, and
the newer scheme that had set their wisdom at naught, and that the
railroad was a necessity if the Union was not to part in the middle.
He liked Miss Holmes' admiration of California. Mam'selle Claire
thought it rude and rough.

There was lounging in the hammocks afterward, the sun was too hot to
drive about. Isola went in the room presently, and played some soft,
low chords on the organ. Laverne crept in, enchanted. She liked the
voluntaries in church when they had no grand crushes in them. Victor
was talking with Miss Holmes, so she slipped away, for Elena had found
the quiet irksome, and there were always dogs to play with. The dogs
she thought better company than most people.

Laverne had never been near an organ. This was not a very large one,
but sweet-toned for parlor use. She crept nearer and nearer, and
almost held her breath, while the tears came to her eyes. It seemed
the sad story of some one, the story the ocean waves told at times, or
the wind in the trees, when twilight was falling, and now it was
darkness, and you could almost hear the stars pricking through the
blue. Then one faint call of a bird, and a far-off answer, and lower,
lower, until the sound wandered away and was lost.

"Oh," she breathed, "oh!"

"You like it?"

Laverne drew a long breath. "Oh, that isn't the word," she said. "We
may like a good many things, but they do not all go to your heart."

Isola took the fair face in both hands, which were cold, but the child
did not shrink, she was still so impressed with the melody.

"Let me look at you. Oh, what beautiful eyes you have--sometimes you
find that color in the sky. But music goes to the soul, the brain,
and I wish I could see yours. Did you feel as if you could swoon
away?"

"I wanted to cry," Laverne said, in a tremulous tone. "But it was not
from sorrow nor joy; you sometimes do cry when you are full of
delight, but--at times when I hear the right music in church, I think
that is what heaven will be like."

"What was that like--not heaven?"

"It was night when I am sitting out on the step, and not thinking, but
just watching the stars come out."

"Oh, you little darling. I wish you could stay here always. I wish
they, your people, would fancy Elena, and we could change. She laughs,
and it goes through me like a bolt of lightning, and leaves me numb.
I'd like to have some one who listens that way. Mam'selle declares the
playing is wrong because I do not follow the notes, and one day when
she insisted, I flung myself down on the floor and cried until I was
sick. And now I am let to play what I like most of the time. I hate
books--do you like to study dry, prosy things? What does it matter
whether the world is round or square?"

"Why, it might not revolve in quite the right way, and I guess the
ships couldn't sail as well." She smiled at the thought of the
corners.

"Now, we will have morning."

First it was a wind rustling among the trees. The sort of metallic
swish of the evergreens, the whisper of the pines, the patter of the
oaks; then a bird singing somewhere, another answering, hardly awake;
young ones peeping a hungry cry, then a gay, swinging, dashing chorus,
with a merry lark going higher and higher, until he was out of
hearing. Sounds growing discordant, impatient, harsh.

"That's the world," she explained; "morning down on the bay; the
people working, scolding, swearing; don't you hate all that?"

"We are not near enough to hear it."

"But if you have heard it once you can imagine it. And some music
isn't much better. Mam'selle plays things that set my teeth on edge.
Do you know what your soul is?"

Laverne was startled. "Why," hesitatingly, "it is the part that goes
to heaven."

"Well--heaven must be sweet and soft and fair, if it is full of
angels. And why don't we keep to the soft and lovely sides of
everything if we are to go there. Is kneeling on a hard stone floor in
a convent at all like heaven?"

"I should think not."

"Mam'selle considers it useful discipline. Why, it is being dead to be
shut up in a cold, dark cell. And I think you are taken up in strong,
tender arms, and wafted above the clouds, like this----"

Then she began to play again. The sound stole along softly, halting a
little, murmuring, comforting, entreating, floating on and on to
sounds so sweet that the tears did overflow Laverne's eyes, and yet
she was not crying.

Victor glanced through the wide doorway.

"Why, that child has even found a way to Isola's heart," he said.

"I have been listening. Your sister is really a musical genius," Miss
Holmes replied.



CHAPTER XII

NEW EXPERIENCES


Mr. Savedra came home early to have a share in the guests. It was
pleasant now for riding and driving, for the wind was coming from the
ocean, and wafting with it the inspiration that started the pulses
afresh. There were ponies and saddle horses. Laverne must ride.

"I will go if she can sit by me in the carriage," said Isola.

Laverne gave a quick breath. She would rather have had the mount, but
the almost melancholy eyes decided her. She held out her hand with a
smile, and she saw that it pleased Mr. Savedra also.

Victor had a little of his mother, but he had taken most of his good
looks from his father.

"Aunt Grace, won't you go with them?" he said persuasively. "I want
Miss Holmes. Both of us will be needed to keep watch of this monkey."

"As if I didn't go alone often and often!" Elena retorted, wrinkling
up her face in a funny fashion.

They took their way to the eastward, and were soon in the open
country, with the great Sierra Range towering in the distance. Summer
had not scorched up the fields or the woods. Hill and valley were
spread out before them, here glowing with flowers, there still green
with herbage, where Mexican shepherds were letting their flocks
browse. Some pastures had been eaten off to the roots and glinted in
golden bronze. Tangles of wild grapes, with their pungent fragrance,
reaching up and climbing over clumps of trees. The far-off points
seemed to touch the very sky that was like a great sea with drifts one
could imagine were an array of ships bound to some wondrous port.
Laverne thought of the weird experiences of the "Ancient Mariner."

Yellow wings, blues of every shade, black and gold and iridescent,
dashed here and there or floated lazily as if the butterfly had no
body.

Isola held the child's hand, but did not say anything, she hated
exclamations. Mrs. Savedra smiled to herself, she knew her daughter
was enjoying her companion. Laverne felt half mesmerized by the hand
that had been cold at first, and was now gently throbbing with some
human warmth. She seemed to have gone into a strange country.

The sun set gorgeously as they were returning. There was a tempting
supper spread for them, and some lanterns were lighted at the edge of
the porch. Then Mr. Savedra insisted upon sending the party home in
the carriage.

"I hope you have had a nice time, Laverne," Mrs. Personette said, in a
most cordial tone. "I don't know what the Savedras will do with that
daughter. I'd like to shake her up out of that dreaminess. She'll be
in a consumption next. As for you two girls, I think you have had your
fill of attention to-day," and she laughed. "You have a stepmother
out of a thousand, and I hope you will never do her any discredit."

They certainly had enjoyed their day wonderfully, never imagining
Victor had planned it so that he could be left at liberty.

The little girl sat out under the rose vine that trailed over their
little porch, thinking of the beautiful house, the garden, the
grounds, the birds, and, oh, the organ with its bewildering music.

"An organ must cost a good deal," she said, in a grave tone, but there
was no longing in it. "And then if you couldn't play--I like the
things that are not tunes, that just go on when you don't know what is
coming next, and the voices of the birds and the sound of the waves
and all sweet things. It was like fairyland, only I don't believe
fairyland could be quite so satisfying, and this is all real and won't
vanish when you wake up." She laughed tenderly in her joy. "Mr.
Savedra must be very rich," she continued.

"Yes, he is," said Uncle Jason.

She leaned her head down on the broad breast where the heart beat for
her alone.

"And you had a happy day?"

"Oh, so happy. If you had been there!"

She should have all these things some day. He was working and saving
for her. And times had changed very much. He and her mother could have
been happy in a little cottage where the sharp north winds rushed
down, and the drifts of snow hedged one in half the winter. She busy
about household work, he wresting scanty crops from the grudging
earth. Yet if she could have seen a world like this! Well, the little
one should have it all, and see strange lands and no end of beautiful
things, for the world kept improving all the time.

He began to feel a good deal more secure about her. At first, when he
saw men from every State in the Union, men who had committed various
crimes, tramps, and scamps, he had a vague fear that somewhere among
them David Westbury would come to light. He would not know him, only
the name. And he wished now he had changed his in this new western
world. But he would know nothing about the child unless he went to the
old home, and that was hardly likely. But if some day, stepping off a
vessel or wandering around the docks, a man should clap him on the
shoulder and say, "Hello, Chadsey, old man, I never thought to find
you here!" he would shake him off, or pay his way somewhere else.

It had never happened, and was not likely to now. He could go on
planning this delightful life for the little girl. Presently they
would make another move, have a better house and finer furniture. He
had lost nothing through this snap of hard times, neither had he made,
but business looked brighter. Occasionally he had a longing to go to
the mines. Several times he had dreamed of finding a great nugget, and
once he dreamed that in stumbling over rocks and wilds, he had lost
her. Night came on and all through the darkness he called and called,
and woke with great drops of cold perspiration streaming down his
brow. No, he could not go to the gold fields and leave her behind.

The weeks and months passed on. There was vacation when she went over
to Oaklands, and had splendid times again, and was fascinated by Isola
and her music, and they took up a peculiar friendship that seemed to
rouse the dreamy girl and delight Mrs. Savedra. Then Mrs. Personette
was going down to Monterey with her two girls for a fortnight, and
nothing would do but Miss Holmes and Laverne should accompany them. It
was not the Monterey of forty years later, but a queer old Spanish
town with its convent, where they found Carmencita Estenega, who did
not look like a joyous, happy girl, though next year she was to be
married.

"Dear me!" exclaimed Mrs. Personette; "it seems the same thing
everywhere, just lovers and marriage. There is really no career for
girls here but that, and the convent people are as anxious to marry
them off as any one else. To be sure, they can become sisters, which
covers the obloquy of old maidism. And so many of the husbands are not
worth having, and desert their wives on the slightest pretext. I'd
counted on taking some comfort with my girls, but here is Isabel
considering every young man as a matrimonial subject, wanting to leave
school and go into society, and her father saying, 'Why not?'"

Miss Holmes smiled a little.

"We used to think a girl ought to look at marriage in a serious light,
and get ready for the important step; now it is fine clothes, an
engagement ring, and a wedding gown. But I suppose in this wonderful
land where your fruit buds, and blossoms, and ripens in a night, girls
do mature sooner."

Some weeks later she saw her friend again and announced that she had
been compelled to yield.

"Isabel would not go to school," she said. "If there had been a good
boarding school anywhere near, I should have pleaded hard for that.
But her father would not listen to her being sent East. She has a
smattering of several branches. She can converse quite fluently in
French and Spanish, she dances with grace and elegance, she has
correct ideas of the fitness of things that are certainly attractive,
and is quick at repartee. She reads the fashion magazines when they
arrive, and the newspaper bits of arranging a table, cooking odd
dishes, giving luncheons and dinners. She is really a fashionable
young lady. And we are to give a ball for her, and after that I must
see that she is properly chaperoned. My dear Marian, we _do_ belong to
the past generation, there is no denying it. And I half envy you that
you can live out of the hurly-burly."

"I am glad myself," Miss Holmes returned. "So far as most things go,
we could be living in some quaint old Puritan town. I don't know
whether it is really best for the child, but it suits her uncle to
have it so. Now she is going over to the Savedras two afternoons a
week to study piano music. They think Isola improves by the
companionship. And those French children, the Verriers, are very nice
and trusty. They are up here quite often. She likes some of her
schoolmates very well, and she and Olive have friendly spells,"
laughing.

"Olive blows hot and cold. She takes up a girl with a certain vehement
preference and for a while can think of no one else. Then she finds
her friend has some faults, or fails in two or three points, and she
is on with a new admiration. Girls are crude, funny creatures! Do you
suppose we were like them?" she questioned with laughing, disavowing
eyes.

"No, we were not," returned Marian. "Times have changed. Life and its
demands have changed. We were taught to sew, to darn, to do fine
needlework; here a Mexican or a Spanish woman will do the most
exquisite work for a trifle. Every country lays its treasures at our
feet; it would be folly to spin and to weave. And there is money to
buy everything with. How careful we were of a bit of lace that our
grandmother had! The women of the street flaunt in yards and yards of
it, handsomer than we could ever have achieved. We are on the other
side of the country, and are topsy-turvy. We have begun at the big end
of everything. Whether we are to come out at the little end----" and
she paused, her eyes indecisive in their expression.

"Would you like to go back?"

"I'd like to see dear old, proper Boston, and really feel how much we
had changed. But the breadth and freedom here are fascinating. It has
not the hardships of new settlers. Even the men who sleep out on the
foothills with the blue sky for covering may be rich six months hence,
and putting up fine buildings. And when you come to that there is no
lack of intelligence. Haven't we some of the best brain and blood of
the East, as well as some of the worst? Our papers are teeming with
news, with plans, with business schemes, that would craze an Eastern
man. No, I do not believe I should be satisfied to take up the old
life there again."

"And now I must consider my daughter's entrée into society. Think of
the mothers in the old novels, who took their daughters to Bath or to
London, and looked over the list of eligibles and made two or three
selections. Our young women will select for themselves in a
half-mercenary fashion, and one can't altogether blame them. Poverty
is not an attractive subject."

Miss Holmes was out for a little shopping expedition, and went in her
friend's carriage. Every year saw great changes. Fire destroyed only
to have something grander rise from the ashes. There was already an
imposing line of stores, and a display of fabrics that roused envy and
heart-burning. Where there had been one-story shanties filled with the
miscellany of a country store, only a few years ago, now all things
were systematized and compared well with some Eastern towns, not as
much, but certainly as great a variety. It had taken San Francisco
only a few years to grow up. She sprang from childhood to full
stature.

Then one drove round the Plaza to Russ's, mingling in the gay
cavalcade until a stranger might have considered it a gala day of some
sort. Then to Winn's for luncheon, tickets, perhaps, to the theatre
where Laura Keene was drawing full houses of better-class people.

The little girl was not in much of this. She went to school regularly;
she found some very congenial friends. She never could tell how much
she liked Olive, and she was accustomed to be taken up with fervor
and then dropped with a suddenness that might have dislocated most
regards, and would if she had set her heart on Olive. She had a serene
sort of temperament not easily ruffled; she had brought that from
Maine with her. She talked over her lessons with Uncle Jason, who
seemed to know so many things, more she thought than Miss Holmes,
though she had taught school in Boston.

She had a host of squirrel friends now, though Snippy was amusingly
jealous, and at times drove the others off. There were flocks of
birds, too, who would hop up close or circle round her and
occasionally light on her shoulder, and sing deafeningly in her ear,
trills and roulades, such as Mam'selle played on the piano--she was
not so fond of the organ, it was fit only for church and convents in
the Frenchwoman's estimation.

It was funny to see Balder follow her about. During the rainy season
he found so many puddles in which to stop and rest and disport
himself, but in the dry times they filled a tub for him, and he was
content. Pablo caught fish for him, and it was his opinion that Balder
lived like some grand Señor. She never tired of the flowers, and was
always finding stray nooks where they bloomed. She and Miss Holmes
often went over to the ocean and sat on the rocks, looking, wondering.

"Sometime Uncle Jason is going to take me way over yonder," nodding
her head. "We shall go to the Sandwich Islands, which he says are
still more beautiful than California. And then to China. Perhaps then
all the gates of Japan will be open and they will let us in. I'd like
to see the little girls in Japan; they don't drown them there, they
never have too many. And then there will be India, and all those
queer islands. You wouldn't think there would be room for Australia,
which is almost a continent by itself, would you? The world is very
wonderful, isn't it?"

Sometimes they watched magnificent sunsets when the whole Pacific
seemed aflame with gorgeous tints, for which there could be no name,
for they changed as quick as thought. Then they noted a faint
pearl-gray tint just edging the horizon line, it seemed, and then
spreading out in filmy layers, growing more distinct and yet darker,
marching on like an army. Gulls circled and screamed, great loons and
murres gave their mournful cry, cormorants swept on, hardly stirring a
wing until, with one swift lurch, they went down and came up
triumphant. Then the sky and sea faded, though you knew the sea was
there because it dashed upon the rocks, though its tone was curiously
muffled.

"Come," Miss Holmes would say, "we shall be caught in the fog."

"I'd just like to be damp and cold. It has been so dry that one wants
to be wet through and through."

"We shall have to pick our way."

It would sometimes come up very fast, woolly, soft to the skin, at
others like a fine cutting mist, when the west wind drove it in. And
now it was all gray like a peculiar twilight that made ghosts out of
the rocks, piled about and shut out the Golden Gate and the peaks
beyond, but they drew long breaths of the sea fragrance that were
reviving. The ponies stepped carefully down this way, and across that
level, and then on the road Pablo was making for his mistress. The
ponies shook their heads and whinnied for very gladness. Bruno gave
his cheerful bark. Balder made a funny grumbling noise as if he were
scolding.

"Oh, you know you like the fog. You are dripping wet," with a hug of
tenderness.

They were dripping wet, too, but they soon found dry clothes. Miss
Holmes kindled up the fire, for Pablo kept them well supplied, though
sometimes he went long distances and came home with a great bundle on
his back that almost bent him double.

"Now you look just like a German peasant," Laverne would declare; and
Pablo would shake his head mysteriously. The young Missy had seen so
many wonderful things.

Wood was a rather scarce article in this vicinity, and was expensive.
Coal likewise, though now some had been discovered nearer home. The
charcoal venders were familiar figures in the streets. Wild indeed
would he have been who had ventured to predict a gas range, even the
useful kerosene stove.

The fog storms were all they would have for a time in the summer, and
it was wonderful how in a night vegetation would start up.

Then Uncle Jason would come in puffing and blowing, fling off his
long, wet coat, and stand before the fire and declare that Maine
people said:

     "An August fog would freeze a dog,"

which always made Laverne laugh.

Miss Holmes did not go to the ball given in honor of Miss Isabel
Personette, but Miss Gaines was among the grown people. It was at one
of the fine halls used for such purposes, and was beautifully
decorated with vines and flowers and American flags. The greatest
curiosity was the really splendid chandelier with its branching
burners and glittering prisms. Few of the real boy friends were
invited--there were enough young men very glad to come and dance their
best. No one had to entreat them in those days. Indeed, dancing
parties were the great entertainment for young people. True, women
played cards and lost and won real money, but it was done rather
privately and not considered the thing for any but the seniors.

It was very gay and delightful, quite an ovation to Miss Personette,
and the banquet part eminently satisfactory to the elders. Of course,
Victor Savedra was included, being a cousin, and went, and it brought
freshly to his mind the party when he had danced with the sweet,
fair-haired, little girl, who had no knowledge, but infinite grace,
and how happy she had been.

Even with politics, city improvements, vigilance committees, quarrels,
and crimes, there was found space in the papers of the day for the
social aspects of life, and though "sweet girl graduates" had not come
in fashion, débutantes were graciously welcomed. Miss Isabel felt much
elated. She had shot up into a tall girl and was very well looking.
Miss Gaines had transformed her into beauty.

Olive considered it very hard and cruel that she could not go, but she
was quite a heroine at school for several days. It was truly the next
thing to a wedding.

"And to think of all the splendid things that come to real young
ladies!" she complained, yet there was a kind of pride in her tone as
well. "Two theatre parties, and she goes to Sausalito to a birthday
ball, and stays three days with some very stylish English people,
friends of father's. I just hate being thought a little schoolgirl!
And I want to go to the Seminary."

And then she said to Laverne:

"I don't see what you find in Isola to be so devoted to her. I
wouldn't go over there twice a week and bother with her for all the
music in the world. And those cold hands of hers make you shiver.
They're like a frog."

"They have grown warmer. She goes to ride every day now. And we read
French and English, and--verses. I like the music so much."

Olive was still secretly jealous of Victor. But presently he was going
away to finish his education. And she knew several boys who went to
the Academy that she thought much more fun. Victor was growing too
sober, too intellectual.

They had all become very fond of the little girl at the Savedras. Even
wild Elena, in a half-bashful way, copied her. She could run races and
climb and ride the pony with the utmost fearlessness, she did not
squeal over bugs and mice and the little lizards that came out to sun
themselves. Lena had thrown one on her, and she had never told of it.
She was not a bit like Isola, although she could sit hours over the
music and reading of verses. And she knew so much of those queer
countries where tigers and lions and elephants lived.

"But you have never been there," the child said with severe disbelief.

"You study it in books and at school."

"I hate to study!"

"You will love it when you are older. Some day your father may take
you to France, and then you will want to know the language."

"I know a little of it, enough to talk."

"Mam'selle will be glad to teach you the rest."

"And Spanish--I knew that first."

"And I had to learn it, and French, with a good deal of trouble."

"But you knew English," rather jealously.

"Just as you knew Spanish--in my babyhood."

That seemed very funny, and Lena laughed over it.

"Then you really were a baby, just like Andrea, only whiter. Will your
hair always be goldy like that?"

"I think so. Uncle Jason likes it."

She asked dozens of inconsequent questions.

"You must not let her trouble you so much," Mrs. Savedra said. "She
will have more sense as she grows older."

Laverne only smiled a little.

Isola found her such a companion, such a listener as she had never
known before. Isabel did not care for music; Olive teased her, and she
put her stolid side out. She would not get angry and satisfy them. And
then it seemed as if Victor suddenly cared more for her, and she half
unconsciously did some of the things he suggested. She did not know
that Laverne had said to him, "Oh, you ought to do the things that
please her, and then she will love you. I wish I had a sister."

She wondered a little whom she would want her like? It was a serious
matter to have a sister who would be with one continually. She was
used to Miss Holmes, and that was more like--well, like an aunt.
Sometimes she tried to think of her mother, but the remembrance was
vague. She could seem to see her old grandmother much easier, fretting
and scolding.

Victor was glad and proud that she had found a way to all their
hearts.

There were Christmas and New Year's with all their gayety. And in a
month spring, that had run away from the tropics.

"It goes on too fast," she said to Uncle Jason. "And do you see how I
am growing? Miss Holmes says something has to be done to my frocks all
the time. I don't want to be big and grown up."

He studied her in amazement. He did not want her to be big and grown
up either. These years were so satisfying.



CHAPTER XIII

BALDER THE BEAUTIFUL


They were planning at the school for a May Celebration. They would go
clear up the bay in a boat to San Pablo, and have a picnic and a dance
out of doors, and come home in the moonlight.

So it was a little late, and Bruno stood watching out for her. "Good
old fellow!" she said, with a pat. Miss Holmes had a visitor, she saw
through the open window. She went round by the kitchen.

Bruno tugged at her skirt.

"What is it, Bruno?"

His eyes had a sorrowful look, she thought. "What is it, what do you
want?"

He tugged again at her skirt.

"Well, come on. Though I've stacks of lessons to learn. Look at all
those books."

She dropped them on the step, and followed the dog. Up the winding
path, and now there was water enough for a musical trickle over the
stones.

There was Balder's basin, where he was so fond of disporting himself
after the rains filled it up. Oh, what was that lying on the side,
that still white thing glistening in the sunshine!

"Bruno?" She stamped her foot and looked upbraidingly at him. Had he
been playing roughly with her pet? Oh, what was the meaning of these
blood-stained feathers about his neck! She flung herself down beside
him. The eyes were dull and partly closed. She stroked the white
feathers with tender hands.

"Bruno, I shall never love you again, never! Oh, how could you!"

He took a few steps away. Then he dragged some tumbled gray thing to
her feet. Why, that was a fox, with his bushy tail. They had been
hunted a good deal and were giving civilization a rather wide berth.

She looked at the dog, who told the story with his eyes as he glanced
from one to the other. She reached up and put her arms about his neck.

"Oh, Bruno, I'm sorry I blamed you. I thought perhaps you were a
little rough, but you cared so for my beautiful Balder that I might
have known you couldn't hurt him! And that wicked, wretched fox! Well,
I am glad he has his deserts. But that will not bring back my dear
Balder. Oh, have you gone to join the old heroes in Valhalla? For I
can't think you were just a common bird. You would have gone back to
your kind if you had been. I ought to write a lament for you."

Pablo was coming up the road with a back load of brush. But he dropped
it in dismay as she called.

Bruno pawed the fox, then gave it a push, and glanced up at Pablo.

"You see--the fox must have crept up here, and seized my dear Balder
by the neck and killed him. And Bruno made him pay for it."

When Pablo was deeply moved or amazed, he went back to his Mexican
patois, that Bruno had come to understand very well, and nodded
sagaciously.

"The thief! The murderer! Last year, you know, your uncle and I shot
two of the bloody thieves over the ridge there, and I've not seen one
since. Bruno seized him by the throat, and has torn him well. Look at
the brush--why, a lady could put it on her tippet. And the skin--I'll
have that. We'll throw him out to feed the hawks. Oh, the poor gull!
He was like folks, Missy, you had all trained him so much. Oh, don't
cry so, Missy."

Bruno came up and rubbed her shoulder, licked her hand, and gave a
low, mournful lament of sympathy.

Laverne rose and took the dead bird in her arms. The visitor had gone,
and Miss Holmes stood out by the door, wondering. The procession took
their way thither.

"The mean, sneaking brute, that he should have come just when I had
gone. The bird was so fond of paddling round there. Strange that he
never wanted to go with his kind, but most things want to keep by you,
Missy."

They told the sad story over. Laverne laid the gull down tenderly on a
bit of matting.

"Pablo, will you wash his neck and have him all clean and white?"

"My dear," Miss Holmes said, and clasped the child in her arms,
letting her cry out her sorrow. She and Bruno went down to meet Uncle
Jason presently. No grief, hardly a disappointment, had come near her
until now. How could he comfort his darling? And he felt with Pablo
that the bird had been almost human.

"I wonder," he said in the evening, "if you would like to have him
mounted. There's an old Frenchman down in Rincon Street who does this
to perfection. The birds look alive."

Laverne considered. "No, I believe I would rather have him buried. I
should think how the sly fox crept up and dragged him out before he
could turn to defend himself. We will put him in a box and bury him.
Oh, Balder, I shall miss you so much."

"I think I could capture one easily."

"To be sure you could. They're stupid things," subjoined Pablo.

"But he wasn't. Uncle Jason, I think some wicked fairy changed him
from something else, for he used to look at times as if he had a story
in his eyes. No, I don't want another. And I should always be afraid
of a fox."

He snuggled her up with his arm close about her. So they sat until the
stars came out, twinkling like live spirits in the cloudless blue. It
was warm, with all manner of odors in the air, and the hum of the
city, lying below them, came up faintly. Oh, how he loved her. And he
prayed there might never come any deeper sorrow to touch her tender
heart.

Pablo dug a grave the next morning, and they buried Balder the
beautiful. All day she dreamed of the Norse gods, and of Hermod, who
took the journey to the barred gates of Hell, at Frigga's earnest
persuasion, and how every rock, and tree and all living things wept
for him, except one old hag, sitting in the mouth of a cavern, who
refused because she hated him, and so Balder could not return. She was
a little absent, and missed two or three questions, and Miss Bain
asked her if her head ached, she made such an effort to keep the tears
from her eyes.

So Balder slept under a straight young pine near the little lake they
had made for him. Pablo skinned the fox with great zest, and made of
it a fine rug, with a strip of black bearskin for a border.

She wondered whether she ought to feel merry enough to go on the May
party. But the children insisted. The boat was a fine strong one, and
there really was no danger; Uncle Jason was assured of that. Then it
was such a glorious day. There was a fog early in the morning, and the
fight between the golden arrows of the sun and the gray armor that
came up out of the sea. Sometimes it did conquer, and came over the
city, but this morning it was pierced here and there, and then torn to
tatters, driven out beyond the strait, into the ocean.

Miss Bain took supervision of her scholars, and Miss Holmes had many
charges not to let the little girl out of her sight a moment. There
were a number of schools, but some of the children preferred the May
walk, and the treat afterward. They started off with flags flying, and
the young Geary Band had volunteered their services. There were a
drum, two fifes, a cornet, and a French horn, and the boys began with
the stirring patriotic tunes. But even here the old negro melodies had
found their way, many of them pathetic reminders of the cotton fields
of the South, that seemed to gain melody from the stretch of bay.

They passed Fort Point and Alcatraz Island, where the government was
beginning magnificent defences, its high point looming up grandly.
Angel Island, then almost covered with a forest of oak, yet oddly
enough containing a fine quarry, where laborers were at work, hewing
into the rock, almost under the shadow of the waving trees. Yerba
Buena, with its fragrant odors blown about by the wind, smaller
islands, big rocks rising out of the sea, the inhabitants being
chiefly birds; vessels of nearly every description, and intent mostly
upon trade, plied hither and thither. Here was another strait opening
into San Pablo Bay, into which emptied creeks and rivers, the
Sacramento washing down golden sands; and the San Joaquin. And up
there was the wonderful land where the Argonauts were searching for
treasure with less toil and anxiety than the elder Jason, though here,
too, there were treachery and murder.

Almost by the strait there was a beautiful point of land jutting out
in the water, and nearly covered with magnificent trees, that had
grown so close together that the branches interlaced and made arches,
while underneath were aisles, carpeted with fallen leaves and moss,
that made you feel as if you were walking over velvet. You could see
San Raphael and San Quentin, and the mountain range with the one high
peak, as you looked westward; eastward there was, after the woodland,
meadows of richest verdure, with their thousand blooms nodding gayly
to each other, and softly gossiping, perhaps about these strange
newcomers, who were presently to disturb their long, long
possessorship. There the great, grand Sierras, that looked so near in
the marvellously clear air.

They found a choice spot, and built a fire--it would not have been a
picnic without that. There were boys, of course, though a girl was
restricted to a brother or cousin. I fancy some cousins were smuggled
in. They ran about; they were even young enough to play "tag," and
"blind man in a ring," and "fox and geese," which was the greatest fun
of all. Then they spread out their tablecloths on a level space, and
though real paper plates and thin wooden ones had not come in yet,
they had made some for themselves that answered the purpose. They were
merry enough with jests and laughter.

Olive Personette was quite the heroine of the day. Miss Isabel's
engagement to Captain Gilbert, who had been appointed to take some
charge at Alcatraz, and had come of an old Californian family, beside
being educated at West Point, was still a topic of interest, because
there had been two other aspirants for her hand who had quarrelled and
fought a duel, which was quite an ordinary matter in those days,
though frowned upon by the best people. So neither had won her heart.
One was lying in the hospital, the other had fled northward. But it
had made quite a stir.

Of course, she had asked Victor, importuned him, though he had meant
all the time to come. He was a fine, manly fellow now, and the girls
_did_ flock about him. He had such a grave, courteous manner, and
never descended into rudeness, though he was quick enough at fun, and
it does not need an intricate order of wit to amuse before one is
twenty.

Olive picked out the most prominent girls for him, and kept him busy
enough. But he managed now and then to pass Laverne and say a word to
show that she was in his mind.

"I think Isola wanted to come very much," he announced to her once.
"She's taking such an interest in the pleasures that girls have, and
she has grown stronger. Father is planning some day to take a sail all
around the bay, just a little party of us, and we want you and Miss
Holmes."

That was such a delight. She did not refuse to talk to other boys, but
she liked the girls better. Her rather secluded life had not given her
so much interest in hunting and fishing and ball-playing and
race-running. Then on Sunday there was always horse-racing up on the
track by the old Mission. Church-going people, not really members, but
those who considered it the proper thing to pay a decorous attention
to religion, went to church in the morning and drove out in the
afternoon. Throngs of fine carriages, and handsomely dressed ladies,
men on horseback, with enough of the old-style attire to stamp them as
Mexican, Spanish, or the more than half Old Californian. Many of the
more successful ones began to plume themselves on a sort of
aristocracy.

The boys knew the favorite horses, some of their fathers owned a fast
trotter. But somehow she did not care much to talk about them, though
she had gone out occasionally with Uncle Jason, and it was exciting to
witness the trials of speed. But she liked better to jog about on
Pelajo and talk in the lovely by-paths they were always finding.

After the repast they swung in hammocks and talked over plans, or
rambled about, then the band played for dancing. No gathering would
have been perfect without that. Of course, they flirted a little, that
was in the young blood, but they came home merry, and had not disputed
unduly about their respective admirers.

Victor found time to say that he should come over next Saturday.
"We'll have a nice time, all to ourselves," he whispered, and she
glanced up with delighted eyes.

All her life thus far had been very quiet, in spite of the fact that
she was in such a turbulent place, and with all sorts of people,
gathered from the ends of the earth; where seldom a day passed without
some tragedy. And it seemed as if the city was coming nearer and
nearer, though it went southward, too, and all along the bay, docks
and wharves and warehouses were springing up in a night.

Victor came over the following Saturday as he had promised. They sat
under the pine tree and wrote verses to Balder's memory. Victor had
found a volume of Scandinavian legends and poems, and they were
fascinated with it.

"Of course, we can't write anything like that," she said simply, "but
you notice these do not rhyme. Do you not think it really grander,
tenderer?"

     "I heard a voice that cried
     'Balder the Beautiful
     Is dead, is dead!
     And through the misty air,
     Passed like the mournful cry
     Of sunward sailing cranes.'"

"You repeat poetry so beautifully," he exclaimed, enchanted with the
pathetic voice, that could express so much, yet was so simply sweet.

They were not born poets. He had great trouble about his Latin
hexameters. He could feel it floating through his brain, but it was
very elusive, vanishing before it was caught. She made a few little
lines without rhyming.

Then he told her of the other god that had ruled a realm of lovely
thoughts, until, as the legend ran, when Christ, the Redeemer of
mankind, was born, a great groan was heard all over the isles of
Greece, the rushes bowed their heads, and the waves shuddered when it
was proclaimed that Olympus was dethroned, and Pan was dead.

       "And that dismal cry rose slowly,
       And sank slowly through the air,
       Full of spirit's melancholy
       And eternity's despair
     As they heard the words it said--
     Pan is dead, great Pan is dead--
                     Pan, Pan is dead."

And then, as they listened, the gulls' cry came to them, toned by the
distance, softened by the murmur of the wind into a requiem for the
dead Balder.

After all he did not tell her what he had meant to. He would put off
the evil day.

Everybody--children, I mean--was anxious about examinations. Very few
really longed for them, but there was the vacation beyond.

She had been wandering about one afternoon, Bruno keeping close to her
side, though there was little to call strangers up this way. The view
was finer from the Presidio, and the principal fishing ground was
farther down below. So, when Bruno gave a growl, she started and
glanced about, and saw some one toiling over the rocks with a cane. A
very old woman it seemed, as she leaned upon her stick, and hardly
knew which way to go.

"Hush, Bruno, hush!" she commanded.

The figure came nearer. Bruno was not at all pleased with it.

The rough hair was a grayish white. A flowered handkerchief was tied
over it with a knot that hid the chin. The garments were coarse and
faded, the short skirt of a Mexican woman, and clumsy shoes.

"It is Laverne Chadsey." Something in the voice connected it with the
past. And now that she straightened herself up, she was quite tall.

"But I don't know you," Laverne said, rather hesitatingly.

"Then the disguise must be very good. I am an old--shall I say, old
friend? We were not very warm friends when I knew you."

Was it a school friend playing a prank?

"I am so tired." She dropped down on a stone. "I wanted to see you
first--I am a little afraid of Miss Holmes." Then she pulled off the
headgear, afterward the gray wig.

Laverne stood astounded. "It isn't, it surely isn't Carmen Estenega!"

"Why--yes; you know you saw me last at the Convent."

"And you were going to be married."

"Oh, what a blind idiot I was! But it was considered a great thing,
and I didn't know how any one might love then. I know now. I have run
away. I would kill myself sooner than marry Pascuel Estenega."

Laverne drew a long breath. Yes, this really was Carmen. The eyes, the
mouth, when she talked, but there was a fire in the face that had not
been there in childhood, and a spirit that half frightened Laverne.

"I want to see your uncle. I have a note to him, from--from a person
he has confidence in. And I want to tell him my story. I think men
take a different view, of some things, at least I believe he will, and
another person thinks so."

She blushed as she uttered this.

"You ran away--from the Convent?"

"Yes. It was very skilfully planned. They were not quite so strict--I
was to be married in a month, there in the chapel, and they allowed me
time to myself. I had a--a girl devoted to me, who did embroidery and
sewing, and she carried notes. Then there was a place in the old
garden where the railing was broken, but it was hidden by the
shrubbery. A girl had seen a snake there, and no one would go near it.
We used to meet there when his vessel came in. And it was all
planned."

"He--who? Not----" and Laverne hardly knew how to put her question.

"Oh, not Pascuel Estenega. He love a girl!"

The face seemed to quiver with scornful indignation, and the eyes
fairly blazed.

"He is an American. He is in the employ of your uncle, and he will be
good to us both. Perhaps in his youth he knew what love was. We are
going to trust him. He comes up with the trading vessel on Saturday.
He put me on another, the _Lulita_, an old Spanish thing, and I was an
old Mexican woman. No one suspected. We came in at noon, and I walked
off. Gracious! how the world has changed. I had to ask the way; no one
paid any attention to an old woman with a stick, and bent in the
shoulders."

She gave a triumphant laugh.

"But--your marriage----"

She seemed to study Laverne from head to foot, and the girl shrank a
little.

"Holy Mother, what a child you are! Not in long skirts yet! And you
know nothing about love; but you may some day. Not like the heat that
is in the Spanish blood, when it is roused, but many a woman is given
in marriage who knows no more about it than a child. Papa Estenega
came to see me when I had been in the Convent some months. I do not
understand, but mamacita has some old portraits and archives and
jewels, that came from Spain, and we are the last of the two houses.
He was very anxious for these, and mamacita had no son. So when she
came they signed a marriage contract. Pascuel had been ill, and the
doctor had taken him away for his health. We went out to the estate.
It is a splendid old place. I was very proud then of being chosen as
its mistress. Well, perhaps I held my head too lofty. Then I heard
that years before Pascuel had wedded a young girl, and when her baby
was born dead, he treated her very bitterly, and one night she threw
herself down an old well, though it was said she had gone out of her
mind. He came to the convent after a while, and I thought I should
faint when I saw him. He was a shrunken-up thing, a good head shorter
than his father. Oh, I do believe I could have married Papa Estenega
more willingly. His eyes were small and cruel, he had a great
mustache, over a hanging lip, and his hair was already turning white.
Then I began to place some credence in what one of the girls said, and
repeated it to mamacita. Panchita was sent away from school the next
week, and no one knew just why. Mamacita would not hear a word, and
said it was sheer envy; that any girl would be proud of reigning
there, and being the mother of an Estenega heir. And then I saw Señor
José Hudson, the American, and my heart seemed to go out of me at
once. We talked with our eyes, and then he sent me a note. He came to
church two or three times, but of course we hardly dared look at each
other. He found this broken place, and I used to steal down there. Oh,
it was delicious! I told him all the story, and he said we would run
away and that I should be his wife. He had no estate, but he could
make enough money to take care of me, and that we would go farther
north, and be, oh, so happy with each other. So I seemed to give in,
and fretted mamacita no more, and they began with the trousseau. Señor
Hudson planned it all, and brought me the wig and the garments. And
one day, just dusk, I slipped out, a lame old woman, and a servant
took me to the boat. He was waiting there, and we had a talk. You see,
it would not have been best for me to come on his boat. When he asked
me if I had any trusty friend in San Francisco, I spoke of you, and he
said, 'Oh, that is my master. Jason Chadsey owns the boat. I have
worked for him two years. Go straight to him and he will befriend
you.' So he wrote the letter I have in my hand. I could not seek him
in that busy place, where there were crowds of men around, so I found
my way up here. Juana had written me about it, though I was frightened
at every step. And I found you. I saw you up here with the dog. You
know in that old time I did not care much for you, we were taught that
the Americanos were interlopers, and would sweep us out of our homes,
drive us, heaven only knew where, but now, because I have found one so
sweet and noble and tender, I can see the virtues and graces in you
all. And I know you will befriend me."

She knelt suddenly at Laverne's feet, and snatching her hands, covered
them with kisses. Isola Savedra sometimes did this. The child was
confused, helpless.

"And the Señor Chadsey will be good to me for the sake of Señor
Hudson. It will be only two days. And will you beseech your Señora to
be kind and pitiful, and to pardon this attire, as if I was a beggar?"

A bell rang then. It was Miss Holmes' call for a return home, a
warning that it was near supper time.

"Come," Laverne said. She was still bewildered, but led the way. And
there, turning round the corner, she saw Uncle Jason, so she ran
forward with outstretched arms, her light hair flying like a cloud.

"Well, little one!" smiling fondly.

"Something so queer has happened." She was out of breath, and flushed,
for her heart was beating tremendously. "Carmen Estenega is here and
she is going to marry the man you have talked about, Joseph Hudson."

"Why, the vessel has not come in, will not be in until Saturday."

"Yes. She wants to wait here for him. Oh, Uncle Jason, you will be
good to her. She has run away from the convent, and it is like a story
from a book. Come!"

Carmencita stood where Laverne had left her. For the first time she
began to feel frightened. "Oh," she cried, "have pity on me; do not
send me away until Señor Hudson comes, and you will see that my story
is true."

"What is all this?" He looked from one to the other. Miss Holmes came
out. Then Carmen turned scarlet, remembering her attire.

"It is--" Miss Holmes looked her over.

"Carmencita Estenega, who asks shelter for two days, and prays that
you will not betray her to a cruel life. Oh, like the other poor lady,
I should drown myself."

"You have run away from a convent?"

"Oh, let me explain!"

She told the story over again as they stood there, now her voice
athrill with love, now piteous with entreaty. And it did move Jason
Chadsey's heart. Besides, he had found the young fellow trusty, and
liked him, and his note was very straightforward.

"We will talk more at length about it," he said gravely, "and I dare
say supper is ready."



CHAPTER XIV

A WEDDING AND A PARTING


Miss Holmes led her guest to her room, where she might refresh
herself, and provided her with some garments, as they were nearly of a
size. Carmen was too excited to be hungry. She did not attempt to
disguise her dislike and fear for the man chosen to be her husband,
but Chadsey knew family fortunes were often united that way, and girls
had little voice in the matter. That she loved young Hudson was quite
apparent. Miss Holmes smiled. She had thought Carmen a rather proud,
stolid girl, quite captious about Americans.

Jason and Miss Holmes considered after the girls had gone to bed. It
was a rather risky thing to harbor her and consent to a marriage, but
the escape had been so well managed, they would hardly look for her in
the city. Telegraphs did not flash news from everywhere then.

"But suppose this young man is not quite trustworthy?" said prudent
Miss Holmes.

"Oh, you don't know Hudson. He is straight as a yardstick. And,
somehow, I hate to spoil the romance and the love. We can wait until
Saturday. Yes, I think that will be better."

Laverne was not to go to school the next day, lest she might
inadvertently touch upon the adventure. And so the two girls steeped
themselves in Romance. Carmen had heard more than one confidence
within the cloistered walls that had never gone to confession. There
were girls with their destinies mapped out before them as hers had
been, sent there to keep them from the grasp of another love which had
already caught them, girls praying for husbands with the life of a nun
before them. They went out and sat under the pine tree.

"Oh," said Carmen, "if you have had no greater love and no greater
sorrow than that for a bird, your life has flowed evenly enough. But
you Americanos are so much colder of blood."

In the main, it was a wonderful day to Laverne, but she felt that she
did not need any other love than that of Uncle Jason.

"You are such a child," Carmen said almost pityingly. Yet it was an
unknown childhood to her.

Miss Holmes brought down one of her frocks, that, with a spasm of
economy, she had meant to make over for the child. She had grown a
little stouter in this wonderful climate, and could not wear it. She
glanced at the slender virginal form, and decided what could be done.
Carmen was handy with her needle, there had been need enough in her
straitened life.

No one came near them. Pablo had forgotten about the Estenegas, or
thought of them vaguely as children, and this was a friend of Missy's.

Jason Chadsey was much puzzled what course to pursue. The right way
seemed to be to send word to the Señora Estenega. But the tidings
could just as well be sent if he found Joseph Hudson untrustworthy.
The vessel came in Saturday afternoon. The master was watching out,
and saw Mr. Chadsey on the pier. He waved his broad-fronted tarpaulin,
and was answered by the return wave of a hand. There were some orders
to give, the boat was made fast, and Hudson sprang ashore. And as the
elder man looked full into the young, trusty face, his heart went out
to the lovers, and he resolved to befriend them.

So he brought him home to supper, and it was planned that they would
go over to Sausalito on the morrow and find a priest to marry them.
Then he must secure a vessel going northward, and be out of the way
some months at least, for he knew Spanish vengeance was quick and
sharp. He had heard a few stories about Pascuel Estenega's treatment
of servants that were rather chilling. The matter had been so well
managed that he had not been suspicioned at all, and when the vessel
left Monterey, the disappearance had not been whispered outside the
convent walls. But that was not to say no search had been made.

Jason Chadsey accompanied them, and stood as sort of sponsor for the
marriage. The priest was old and not inquisitive, or perhaps the fee
in hand convinced him that all things were right. The sponsor was
curiously touched by the unalloyed delight of the young couple, who
seemed now so perfectly content that they made love in the most
unabashed fashion, while before, Carmen had appeared shy and in
terror.

They returned to the home that had sheltered them, and Hudson thought
it best to take some trip up northward, perhaps settle there for a
while. Already there was much trading up to the Columbia River.
Chadsey hated to give up so trusty and capable a man. He might fit out
a vessel with miscellaneous stores; indeed, that was the way to carry
trade to strange places. He would put Joseph Hudson in as captain, and
leave the bargain-making in his hands.

Miss Holmes did some shopping for the young wife, as it was not deemed
prudent for Carmen to venture out. She longed ardently to see her
little sisters, and begged that Laverne might go and call on them. The
latter had not seen them for a long while, the watchful sister had
discouraged any intimacy.

Laverne had begun school on Monday with many injunctions from Miss
Holmes to be most watchful over herself. She had a wonderful secret
now. Olive Personette never had had anything like it, for her sister's
engagement had been announced at once. And she was so full of that,
and the marriage in the early autumn, that she could hardly steady her
mind sufficiently to pass her examinations. Then she was going to the
Academy next year. They were all young ladies in the department, you
had nothing to do with little girls. There were to be three
bridesmaids, and their attendants were to wear full military costumes.

"Don't you think I might go over to the sisters?" Laverne pleaded. "I
would be very, very cautious. Carmen wants so to hear about them."

Miss Holmes was almost afraid, but the pleading eyes conquered.

She went after school. There was the long, bare corridor, with one
table and a big registry book, two wooden benches, and a few chairs.
The adobe floor had been painted gray, like the walls, and it looked
cheerless to the American girl.

Sister Anasticia was not quite sure. The children were busy with the
study hour. But Laverne pleaded with the same eyes that she had won
Miss Holmes, and presently the sister brought the children in, and
seated herself at the table with some needlework.

They were full of quiet joy, and squeezed Laverne's hands with the old
friendliness. And they had so much to tell her. Carmen was to be
married soon, the wedding gowns were being made, and they were
beautiful. The old home had been dismantled, the city was to cut
streets through it. They did not care, it was a lonely old place. They
were going to Monterey to live, and they were so glad. Carmen would be
a great lady, and live on a fine estate, ride around in her carriage,
and give balls, and they would all be so happy.

Juana resembled her mother in face and figure. But Anesta had shot up
into a tall girl, and suggested Carmencita, carried her head rather
haughtily.

The sister rapped on the table with her thimble, raising her eyes.

"You are too noisy and too frivolous," she said, with severity.

They kissed each other good-by.

"I wish we could come over and see you," Juana whispered. "We always
had such a good time. Perhaps you will come to Monterey," wistfully.

"Oh, I think I shall," was the hopeful reply.

Carmen was so glad to hear about them, and how they looked, and if
they seemed happy. She had considered writing letters to them a great
hardship, now she felt she could fill pages and pages. She wondered
how it was that her heart was so overflowing with love. And the
thought that she might never see them again filled her eyes with
tears.

"Oh, I do wonder if Pascuel will desire to marry either of the girls?"
she cried in half affright.

"But if he is so old----"

"That doesn't seem to matter where there is money. And Papa Estenega
wanted both branches of the family united. And if I had not had a
son!"

She shuddered, thinking of the poor wife who had drowned herself.

It was not until the last of the week that Captain Hudson was ready to
start with his venture. Carmen packed her plain trousseau, and was
most grateful for all the kindness.

"I shall see you sometime again," she said, in a broken voice, "but
not in quite a while. It will be best to stay until they have
forgotten about me. I shall be cast out, you know. They will take my
name off the books, and excommunicate me, I think. But I shall be an
American, and you do not fear such things, so I will try not to. Oh,
how good you have all been to me. I can never repay, but I shall pray
night and morning, and you will live in my thoughts."

They started out Saturday afternoon. Jason Chadsey pressed a roll of
money in the bride's hands. In those days wedding gifts were pure
friendship. There would be a full moon, and they could sail all night,
for a full moon on the Pacific Coast was something really beyond
description. Jason Chadsey sat out on the step enjoying it. He always
felt beauty keenly, though he had no words for it. This was why he
delighted in the child's prattle. She had so much imagination.

Had he been young once and loved like that? Young people of to-day put
their love in passionate words, rapturous kisses. They were not afraid
of making it the best thing of life, as it was. And his love had only
sipped the dregs.

Was Laverne crying? "What is it, dear?" he asked.

"The house seems so lonely, just as if some one had been buried, as it
did when Balder was killed. Uncle Jason, couldn't we go somewhere? Or
if something would happen again. I liked Captain Hudson so much. And
Carmencita has grown so sweet. Oh, it has been such a lovely week, but
it went so rapidly. Does the time pass quickly when you are happy, and
slowly when you are a little dull?"

"But you have me," he said jealously.

"I couldn't live without you." She nestled closer.

"I want you always, always."

"And sometime we might go up North. It is a queer, wild country,
grand, but not as beautiful as the southland, with its millions of
flowers. Something like Maine, I reckon."

"I've almost forgotten about Maine."

"Up there the mountain peaks are covered with snow the year round."

"Then it is like the Alps."

"And the great Columbia River. No towns to speak of, but stations,
hunters, and trappers, and fur animals, and wildness of every kind,
game of every kind."

Something of the old adventurous life stirred within him. But he had
the little girl. And when they began their travels, she would be older
and have a taste for beautiful things.

Yes, the house _did_ seem lonesome, but Laverne was very busy, and
events began to happen. Mrs. Folsom made another move, this time to
quite a fine family hotel, and she gave a housewarming on going in.
Old friends, there were not many of them, and new friends, of whom
there was an abundance, for she was a favorite as a householder. Dick
had grown up into a jaunty, well-looking young fellow, and had not
plunged into ruinous excesses, partly because his mother had kept a
sharp oversight, and the rest his clean New England stamina, the
wrecks had filled him with disgust and repulsion.

All the old friends met, of course. Mrs. Dawson was rosy and plump,
and had retired to a stylish house with servants and carriage. The
Dawson Café was one of the better-class institutions of the town, and
coining money. Miss Gaines stood at the head of fashionable modistes,
and there was no appeal from her dictum. You could accept her style or
go elsewhere. There had been offers of marriage, too, she laughingly
admitted to her friends. "Ten years ago I should have accepted one of
them gratefully; now I value my independence."

Dick Folsom went over to Laverne.

"I haven't seen you in so long and you have grown so, I hardly knew
you," he said. "May I beg the honor of your hand for this quadrille?"

She was quite longing to dance and accepted.

"We oughtn't forget each other after that five months' journey
together," he remarked in one of the pauses. "Does it ever seem queer
to you, as if it was something you dreamed? I can't make it real. But
they've improved the overland so much, and when we get the
railroad--presto; you will see a change! If we were only nearer
England. But there's China, if we are not swamped by the pigtails and
pointed slippers! How queer they are! We don't need to go to foreign
lands to study the nations. I sometimes wonder what the outcome of all
this conglomeration will be!"

"We are so far off," she replied in a sort of tentative fashion. "It's
almost like another town."

"Yes. They'll tumble you down presently, as they did before. You
wouldn't know the old place, would you? They've carted away stones and
débris to fill up the marshy edges of the bay. And there's a long,
straight street, a drive out to fine country ways. Is there any other
land so full of flowers, I wonder!"

"And they are so royally lovely. Think of great patches of callas in
blossom nearly all the time. Miss Holmes said when she was at home she
used to nurse up one to blossom about Easter. If she had two flowers
she thought it quite a marvel."

What a soft, musical laugh the child had! They used to run races on
the boat, he remembered, and he had enough boyish gallantry to let her
win. They ought to be dear old friends.

"Do you ever go out to drive on Sunday afternoon?"

"It's Uncle Jason's day, the only leisure he has. And we spend it
together."

"He's had stunning luck, too. Getting to be a rich man."

"Is he?" she said simply.

"Is he? Well, you ought to know," laughing.

"He doesn't talk much about business."

"A great country this is for making fortunes! The trouble is that you
can spend them so easily. But I'm bound to hold on to mine, when I get
it made."

Some one else took her. He looked after her. She would be a pretty
girl presently and quite worth considering. He had a good opinion of
himself, and was not going to be lightly thrown away.

They trudged up the hill just after midnight. Laverne was gay and
chatty, recounting her good times. It seemed as if she had as much
attention as Olive from the younger men, and Olive was always so proud
of that.

Uncle Jason gave a sigh.

"Oh," she cried, "you look tired. Don't you like parties? I thought it
splendid!"

"I'm getting old, dear----"

"Oh, you mustn't get old!" she interrupted impulsively. "Why can't
people turn back a little somewhere along, and be young again? For,
you know, I can't get old very fast, and I think--yes, I am quite sure
I don't want to. I'm having such a splendid time since you were so
lovely to Carmen, and made her happy. I sometimes think if you had
sent her back to Monterey--but you couldn't have done that, could
you?"

"No, dear," he answered softly.

He had heard a point discussed this evening that did trouble him a
little. They were talking of lowering Telegraph Hill again. He was not
ready to go yet. In two years maybe. She would not have any lovers by
that time, and then they could start off together. He must not grow
old too fast.

The next happening in their little circle did interest her a good
deal. Howard Personette had finished his year's term at college, and
come home quite unexpectedly, when his father had intended him to
finish and take a degree.

"I'm not a student, I'm convinced of that," he announced rather
doggedly. "I don't see any sense in keeping at what you don't like,
and don't mean to follow. I want the stir and rush of business instead
of splitting hairs about this and that. I've been awfully homesick the
last year, and dissatisfied, but I knew you would not agree to my
coming home, so I just came. And if there's nothing else for me to do,
I'll go to work on the streets."

Students were expected to study in those days. Athletics had not come
in for their diversion. Mr. Personette was disappointed. He wanted to
make a lawyer out of his son, and to lay a good foundation for the
years to come.

Mrs. Personette rather sympathized with the eager young fellow, who
was ready to take up any active life.

"The East is so different," he explained. "Perhaps if I hadn't been
born here and breathed this free, exhilarating air all my life, I
might have toned myself down and stayed. But I had begun to hate
books, and what was the use maundering away several years?"

Olive thought him quite a hero. Captain Franklin said if there was any
lack of employment in the city he could come out to Alcantraz. They
would be very glad to have a fellow who was not afraid to work.

"Why, I should feel proud of him, shouldn't you?" Laverne asked of
Uncle Jason.

"That depends," he answered, with a shake of the head.

But if one came home from an indifference to study, another was going
to take a greater absence. Four years without coming home at all! The
journey was long and expensive, and there seemed a better use for
vacations.

This was Victor Savedra, who had many student longings. And so one
afternoon the two sat out under the pine, their favorite place, and he
was explaining to Laverne his plans for a few years to come.

"Father wanted me to go to Paris," he said. "If I meant to be a
physician, I think I would. But first and last and always I mean to be
an American citizen. I suppose I might go to Yale or Harvard, but that
seems almost as far away, and my choice appears more satisfactory all
around," smiling a little. "We like the new, but we have a hankering
for the old civilizations, and the accretions of knowledge."

They both looked out over the Golden Gate, the ocean. There were
dancing sails, jungles of masts, cordage like bits of webs, tossing
whitecaps in strong contrast to the blue, and over beyond, the green,
wooded shores. The old semaphore's gaunt arms were dilapidated, and
it was to come down. But it had thrilled hundreds of hearts with its
tidings that friends, neighbors, and greatest joy of all, letters from
loved ones in lands that seemed so distant then.

Now the lack of rain had dried up vegetation, except the cactus and
some tufts of hardy grass. The little rivulet was spent, there was
only a bed of stones. But they had managed to keep something green and
inviting about the house. A riotous Madeira vine flung out long
streamers of fragrant white blooms that seemed to defy fate
laughingly. Down below they were levelling again, this time for a last
grade, it was said.

"It will all be so changed when I return. I wonder where you will go?
For you cannot climb up to this eyrie. You would be perhaps a hundred
feet up. They want the sand and the débris to fill in the big piers
they are building. Why, they will almost sweep the great hill away,
but they will have to leave the rocks by the sea. It will be a new San
Francisco."

"Why, it is almost new now," and she smiled.

"Everything will have changed. And we shall change, too. I shall be
twenty-three when I come back."

Laverne looked at him wonderingly. They had all been big boys to her,
and she had been a little girl. True, he had grown to man's estate in
height, and there was a dainty line of darkness on his upper lip. It
had been so imperceptible that just now it seemed new to her.

"And I shall be--why, I shall be past nineteen then," she commented in
surprise.

"And--and married," he hazarded. The thought gave him a pang, for that
was new, too.

"No," she returned, looking up at him out of innocent eyes, while the
faint rose tint in her cheek never deepened. "No, I shall not be
married in a long, long time. Presently Uncle Jason and Miss Holmes
and I are to set out on a journey, just as they do in some of the
stories. We shall go to the strange lands he tells me about, we shall
see the people in their native element," and she smiled at the
conceit, "where we see only a dozen or two here. What do you suppose
draws them to California?"

"Why, the stories of gold, of course." Their coming and going did not
interest him. "I wonder if you will be in London?" he inquired.

"Oh, of course. I want to see the Queen and the palaces, and
Edinburgh, and Holyrood, and all the places those proud old Scots
fought over, and poor Marie Stuart! And Sweden and Norway, and the
midnight sun, and the Neva, and St. Petersburg----"

She paused, out of breath.

"London is what interests me," he interposed. "And if you could come
over next summer----"

She shook her head. "No, it won't be next summer, but it may be the
year after," she returned gravely.

"And if it was my vacation. Then I might join you for a few weeks."

"That would be splendid." Her soft eyes glowed.

"I shall keep thinking of that."

"Oh, will you? Then I will think of it, too. And it is queer how time
runs away. You hardly notice it until the bells ring out for New
Year's."

"I wonder--if you will miss me any?" and his voice fell a trifle,
though he tried to keep anxiety out of it.

"Miss you? Why, of course!" She was full of wondering, and to him,
delicious surprise. "We have been such friends, haven't we? Ever since
that night you showed me about the dancing? I've been amazed since
that I had the courage, when I hardly knew a step, but after all it
was very much like dancing to the singing of the birds, and I had
often done that. Olive didn't like it. We were not good friends for
ever so long afterwards."

"Olive wants to be head and front of everything, and have the main
attention. I'm sorry not to stay to the wedding--it will be a grand
affair. And no doubt next year Olive will go off. You haven't many
girl friends, have you?"

"Well,"--she hesitated delicately and smiled in a half absent but
adorable fashion,--"I do not believe I have. You see, we seem to live
a little apart up on this hill, and there have been lessons, and
riding about on the pony, and going over to your house, and most of
the girls are larger----"

"The children all adore you. Oh, I hope you will go over often. I
don't know what Isola would do without you."

"Yes, I shall," she said. "I'm so fond of music. If I were a poet, a
real poet, you know," and she flushed charmingly, "I should write
little songs to her music. They go through my brain with lovely words,
and I can see them, but they don't stay long enough to be written
down. Oh, yes, I shall go over often. And we shall talk about you. Of
course, you will write to your father, and we shall hear."

"Yes." Something, perhaps not quite new, but deeper and stronger than
any emotion he had ever known before, stirred within him. If he were
going to stay here he would insist upon being her best friend, her
admirer, her---- He choked down some poignant pain that was delicious
in spite of the hurt. He hated to think of leaving her behind, two
long years. She would be seventeen then; yes, old enough for any man
to marry--but she did not mean to marry, that was the comfort. And he
believed it because he wanted to so very much. She was such an
innocent child. If this tumult within him was love, it would frighten
her, she would not know what it meant.

She slipped her hand in his. "We shall all be so sorry to have you go,
but then you _will_ return. And perhaps--oh, yes, I shall beg to go to
London first," she cried eagerly.

He was different from an impulsive American. He had been trained to
have great respect for the sacredness of young girls, and he owed a
duty to his father, who had planned out a prosperous life for him.

The sun was dropping down into the ocean, and the fog, creeping along,
sent gray and soft purplish dun tints to soften and almost hide the
gold. And, oh, how the birds sang, freed most of them from family
cares. The meadowlark, the oriole, the linnets, and the evening
grosbeak, with a clear whistling chorus after the few melodious notes
of his song. They both rose, and went scrambling down the winding path
that defied Pablo's efforts to keep in order. The shifting sand and
the stones so often loosened and made rough walking, so he held her
up, and she skipped from one solid place to another.

Down below they were moving some houses on the newly cut street, so as
to prepare for the next.

"They ought to begin at the top," she said, "but I am glad they
didn't. What a great city it is!"

"And if one could see the little town it was twenty years ago!"

He would not stay to supper--he did sometimes. He wanted to be alone,
to disentangle his tumultuous thoughts, and wonder if this thing that
had swept over him was the romance of love.

The next fortnight was very full. They went over to Alcantraz to view
the foundations for the new fortress. They went up to Mare's Island,
where, in days to come, was to be the splendid navy yard, and then on
a day's excursion down the bay. There was no railroad all along the
coast line, though it was talked of. And after a little they left the
shipping and the business behind them. All along were little clusters
of houses that were some day to be thriving cities. Then long
stretches of field where sheep were browsing, the wheat and oats
having been cut long before, clumps of timber reaching back to the
mountain ridge, clothed in a curious half shade from the slanting sun.

They left the boat at the little cove, and found a fine level where
they spread out the luncheon, and decorated it with flowers, wild
geranium, or rather geraniums growing wild, some of it in tall trees.
Vines creeping everywhere, grapes ripening, figs and fruits of
various kinds, that later, under cultivation, were to be the marvels
of the world.

Isabel and her betrothed, Olive and a young lieutenant, were
chaperoned by Mrs. Personette. Mrs. Savedra, the governess, and all
the children, with the two from "the Hill," and Isabel's dearest
friend and chosen first bridesmaid. And now Olive cared very little
for her cousin, if he was a handsome young man. He was going away, and
she would be married before his return, then he was too much of a
student, although an elegant dancer. So he could well be apportioned
to his sister and Laverne, neither in the realm of real womanhood, or
society.

They sailed up the western side of the bay, following some of the
indentations, and in the clear air the Pacific did not seem so far
away. The elders had enjoyed the converse with each other. The young
people were merry, not even the lovers were unduly sentimental. Mrs.
Savedra watched her daughter and noted a great improvement.

"If we could have Miss Holmes and Laverne all the time," she thought.



CHAPTER XV

THE ENCHANTMENT OF YOUTH


They went to wish Victor _bon voyage_. Laverne was learning to play on
the guitar, and another event happened to interest her very much. Mr.
Chadsey had used his influence to obtain a position of first mate on a
vessel bound for Shanghai for Joseph Hudson, who was expected in daily
with his wife. No word had come from the Estenegas. The two children
had been sent to Monterey, the old house dismantled, and now swallowed
up by the fine street that would some day make a great driveway. For
anything else the world might have swallowed them up.

Mrs. Hudson had been quite Americanized, but was more deeply in love
than ever. There was a certain piquancy and dainty freedom that was
very attractive, quite unlike her former stiffness. She was not afraid
to go anywhere with José now--to the very ends of the earth if there
was need.

Captain Blarcom was delighted to secure the services of so trusty a
man and good seaman as Joseph Hudson for his first mate. Being a
trading vessel, they might be gone two years or more.

"I shall send mamma a letter, and tell her the whole story," said
Carmen. "I have been so happy I think she will soften her anger and
not curse me as mothers sometimes do. And perhaps, when I come back,
she may admit me to her again, since I was married lawfully and by a
priest of our Holy Church. For in quiet moments one longs for the
mother of all one's earlier years. Only the life here is so much
broader and earnest, and every one seems working to some end, not
trifles that become monotonous."

"Yes," Miss Holmes returned, "I should write by all means."

They kept her very close; indeed, she was rather afraid to venture
down in the town. And at last, the ship was laden and ready, and
another friend went out of Laverne's life for a while at least.

Nearly a year later they heard the sequel of the Estenegas' fortunes.
Pascuel Estenega had been most savagely angry that this young bride
should have slipped out of his reach, and left no clew. He blamed the
Convent Superior, he threatened vengeance on any daring lover who had
circumvented him. But no lover or maiden was found, they had covered
their flight so securely. He grew more and more ill-tempered, until
hardly a servant would accept a position with him. And on one
occasion, for some trifling fault, he had beaten his coachman so
severely that he himself had fallen into a fit, and never recovered
consciousness, dying a few days after. Then the Señora and her
daughters had gone to care for the elder man, who had been made quite
ill from the shock.

Isabel Personette's marriage was one of the events of the early
season. Even Major Barnard honored the occasion with his presence, and
the younger military men were in their most notable array. There was
an elegant reception afterward, and Olive was in her glory as the
only Miss Personette. Howard's bent was mechanical, and his father
presently admitted that he had chosen wisely.

Indeed, there was much call for ability in every direction. A railroad
had been projected to Sacramento. Congress had established a line of
mail steamers between San Francisco and Shanghai. Between the city and
the Hawaiian Islands there was frequent communication. Coal was being
brought now from Bellingham Bay, gas was furnished about the city,
there were rows of handsome dwellings. The new Merchants' Exchange was
begun, the Custom House would be massive and beautiful. The shipping
and mercantile part of the city seemed to settle itself about Clark's
Point, on account of the great advantages it offered for wharves.

Then there were several fine theatres and a large music hall, erected
by a Mr. Henry Meiggs, where people of the more quiet and intellectual
order could patronize concerts, oratorios, and lectures. Private balls
were quite the thing, and people struggled to get within the charmed
circle, where an invitation could be secured.

If the little girl had lost one friend, two came in his place. Howard
Personette constituted himself her knight when they met at any
gathering, and brought them tickets for concerts, and new books or
magazines, when he found Miss Holmes was much interested in them.
There was indeed a library association that readers found very useful,
and the daily papers were good news purveyors.

Richard Folsom felt he had something of a claim on her friendship, and
was importuning them both to come to dinner and go to some
entertainment.

"You show the result of your quiet life and freedom from care," Mrs.
Folsom said to Miss Holmes. "You're younger looking to-day than when
we met on shipboard. I half envy you your easy time, and I
occasionally wonder if the money one piles up is worth the hard work
and anxiety. Only I had a son to look after and place in the world. He
was crazy to go to the gold fields, but I think he saw enough at the
Dawsons. It's hard work to keep a boy from going to the bad in a place
like this, but Dick has grown up into a pretty nice fellow. Now, if he
can only marry a sensible girl, one of the home kind, who isn't all
for show and pleasure! I wouldn't mind if she hadn't anything but her
wedding clothes. An early marriage steadies a fellow."

But Dick wasn't thinking particularly about marriage. He couldn't have
told just why he liked to climb Telegraph Hill an hour or so before
sundown and chat a while, bringing some rare fruit, or a new kind of
flower, and have a talk and a ramble about. There were girls that were
lots more fun, girls who jumped at a chance for a drive behind his
fine trotter, Hero, and who didn't even disdain the Sunday drive to
the races. Miss Holmes never went to these.

Sometimes of a Sunday they all went over to Oaklands. Mr. Savedra was
much interested in the quaint, intelligent man who was not only making
a reputation for honesty and fair dealing, but fortune as well. The
place was so lovely and restful.

The agricultural resources of the outlying places were beginning to be
appreciated. Gardens and farms were found to be largely profitable
since people must be fed. Fruit, too, could be improved upon and bring
in abundant returns.

After several conversations with Miss Holmes, it was deemed advisable
to have an English governess, since French and Spanish were as native
tongues to the children. Isola was improving in health, but quite
backward for her age, except for her really wonderful gift in music.

"I can't seem to make up my mind to send either of them away," she
said to Miss Holmes. "We miss Victor so much. And a mother's joy
centres largely in her children. I could not live without them. If I
could find some one like you."

"There are some still better adapted to the undertaking than I should
be," Miss Holmes returned with a half smile. "I sometimes feel that I
have been out of the world of study so long, that I am old-fashioned."

"That is what I like. The modern unquiet flurry and ferment annoys me.
And pleasure continually. As if there were no finer graces to life, no
composure, nothing but dress and going about. And you have made such a
charming child of Miss Laverne. How pretty she grows."

And now she was growing tall rapidly. Miss Holmes wondered
occasionally what would happen in a year or two, if, indeed, the idea
of travel was a settled purpose. Mr. Chadsey seldom spoke of it,
except to the child. He was very much engrossed with his business.
But presently she would need different environment. She could not
always remain a little girl. And she _was_ pretty with a kind of
modest fairness that had an attractive spirituality in it, yet it did
not savor of convent breeding. It was the old New England type. She
seemed to take so little from her surroundings, she kept so pure to
the standard.

They were at Mrs. Folsom's to dinner one day. Uncle Jason had found it
necessary to be away late on business, and would come for them. He did
not quite like to leave them alone in Pablo's care, though Bruno was a
good keeper. But an evil-disposed person might shoot the dog. He began
to realize that it was more exposed up on the hill now that there were
so many rough workmen about. Another year of it, and then----

They had a delightful little dinner in a "tea room," there was a great
deal of coming and going in the large dining room. And Mrs. Folsom
said:

"I'm going to ask a guest in to share your company. She's rather
lonely, as her husband is away on some business. They have been here a
fortnight or so. Laverne will like to hear her talk. She's been most
all over."

So she brought in Mrs. Westbury, and introduced her.

"I hope I haven't intruded," the newcomer said, in a peculiarly
attractive voice. In a young girl it would have been pronounced
winsome. "I have been taking some meals in my own room; I tired of
going to the public table when Mr. Westbury was not here. But I do get
so lonely. I generally go with him, but this was up to the mines,
where the roughness and wickedness of the whole world congregates, I
believe."

"You are quite welcome," Miss Holmes replied, with a certain New
England reserve in her voice.

"You came from the East?" with an appreciative smile, as if that was
in her favor.

"From Boston; yes." Miss Holmes was always proud of that.

"And I from southern New Hampshire; we're not so very far apart. I
married Mr. Westbury in New York, but we have been about--almost
everywhere," in a tired voice. "I had wanted to travel, and I've had
it."

Laverne's eyes kindled. "And were you abroad?" she asked rather
timidly.

"Well--yes," smiling. "I've lived longest in London. And there's been
Paris and Berlin, and, oh, ever so many German towns, where they're
queer and slow, and wouldn't risk a dollar a month if they could make
ten by it. Most of the Eastern cities, too, but I think this is the
strangest, wildest, most bewildering place I ever was in; as if the
whole town was seething and had no time to settle."

"I think that is it. You see, we are used to age in our New England
towns; permanent habits, and all that. Yet, one would hardly believe
so much could have been done towards a great city in a dozen years."

Mrs. Westbury raised her brows. "Is it as young as that?"

"And we have people from everywhere who will presently settle into a
phase of Americanism, different from all other cities. Most places
begin poor and accumulate slowly. San Francisco has begun rich."

"And the newly rich hardly know what to do with their money. You have
some fine buildings, and queer old ones, that look as if they had
stood hundreds of years."

There was something peculiar in the voice, and that had been born with
the girl, and had needed very little training. It had an appealing
quality; it indicated possibilities, that fixed it in one's memory.
She might have suffered, had strange experiences, but one deeply
versed in such matters would have said that she had come short of
entire happiness, that hers was not the tone of rich content. She had
a delicate enunciation that charmed you; she passed from one subject
to another with a grace that never wearied the listener.

Mrs. Folsom came in to see if all was agreeable. She had taken a fancy
to Mrs. Westbury, she had such an air of refinement and good-breeding.
Mr. Westbury seemed a fine, hearty, wholesome man, prosperous yet no
braggart. That was apt to be the fault out here. He had commended his
wife to Mrs. Folsom's special care, and paid liberally in advance,
besides depositing money at a banker's for his wife's needs.

They were having a pleasant, social time. When the dinner was through
they retired to Mrs. Folsom's private parlor. In the large one there
were card playing and piano drumming and flirtations going on.

Perhaps Mrs. Westbury did most of the talking, but she made sundry
halts to give her listeners opportunity to answer, and she never
seemed aggressive. Laverne listened, charmed over the delightful
experiences.

She had learned that these were more attractive than one's troubles or
perplexities, and she had set out to be a charming woman. There was
only one terror to her life now--she was growing so much older every
year. She had kept her youth uncommonly, but alas, no arts could bring
the genuine article back.

Some lives go purling along like a simple stream that encounters
nothing much larger than pebbles in its course, others wind in and
out, tumble over rocks, widen and narrow, and take in every variety.
She had been a mill hand, pretty, graceful, modest. After having been
a widower two years and married to a woman older than himself, a
bustling, busy worker who lived mostly in her kitchen, Mr. Carr, the
mill owner, married this pretty girl, installed her in the big, gloomy
mansion, and made her the envy of the small town where many of the
families were related to him. He had some peculiar views in this
marriage. He meant to rule, not to be ruled; he hoped there would be
children to heir every dollar of his estate. He succeeded in the
first, but in the twelve years there were no children. She was
miserable and lonely; there were times when she would have preferred
the old mill life. Her only solace came to be reading. There was a
fine library, histories, travels, and old English novels, and it
really was a liberal education.

Then Mr. Carr died suddenly, having made a will that tied up
everything just as far as the law allowed. She was to live in the
house, a brother and a cousin were to run the mill on a salary that
was made dependent on the profits. A shrewd lawyer discovered flaws,
and it was broken. The heirs paid her very well to step out of it all
and have no litigation. She was extremely glad. She took her money and
went to New York, and for three years had a really enjoyable time.

She was thirty-seven when she married David Westbury, who was
thirty-five. She set herself back five years and no one would have
questioned. After several years of ill-luck, fortune had smiled on him
and whatever he touched was a success. He bought up some valuable
patents and exploited them, he formed stock companies, he had been
sent abroad as an agent, he was shrewd, sharp, long-headed, and not
especially tricky. Honesty paid in the long run. And now she had
enjoyed seven happy, prosperous years. She had proved an admirable
co-partner, she had a way of attracting men that he wanted to deal
with and not lowering her dignity by any real overt act. Her
flirtations never reached off-color. But of late she felt she had lost
a little of her charm. She was not inclined to play the motherly to
young men, nor to flatter old men. Those between went to the charming
young girls.

"Oh, dear, I'm so sorry to go," Laverne exclaimed, when word was sent
up that Mr. Chadsey was waiting for them. "I've had such a splendid
time listening to you. It's been like travelling. And to see so many
celebrated people and places, and queens."

"I'm glad you enjoyed it. I hope you will come again. Oh, I like you
very much," and she leaned over and kissed her, though she was not an
effusive woman.

Jason Chadsey had been sorely bothered. A young fellow he had had high
hopes of had proved recreant and gone off with considerable money. He
had been straightening accounts, and trying to decide whether to set
the officers on his track or let him go--to do the trick over again on
some one else. So he only half listened, glad to have his darling gay
and full of delight. He really did not notice when she said "Mrs.
Westbury."

That lady had a talk with Dick the next morning. He thought she was
"quite nice for an old girl," so far off does youth remove itself.
Could she get a carriage and ask Miss Holmes and her young charge to
go out with her?

"Why, I'll take you, ma'am, and be glad to. Oh, yes, we're such old
friends. It's odd, but we may be called old settlers, really. A party
of us came round the Horn just at the last of '51. She was such a
little thing, the only child on board. And we all stayed and are
settled just about here. Tell you what I'll do. We'll stop at school
for her and take her home, and then go on."

"But, Miss Holmes"--hesitatingly--"she ought to have notice," smiling
deprecatingly.

"Oh, that won't count. You just take my word, Laverne will be glad
enough."

He was glad enough. He had a vague idea somehow that Miss Holmes
rather fenced him out. This time he would have Laverne on the front
seat with him. Not that he really was in love with her now, but in
time to come----

His plan worked admirably. Laverne was delighted and greeted her new
friend cordially. They drove around a little at first, then up to the
hill, and now the road was broken up unless one went a long way
round.

"I can run up," Laverne said eagerly. "I won't be many minutes," and
she sprang out.

"They're going to lower this hill," Dick explained. "They started it
once, but land! only a goat can climb it now."

"Say a deer or an antelope," with a light laugh, as both watched the
child threading her way in a zig-zag fashion, the shortest.

"It must be awfully lonely up there."

"But the prospect is wonderful. And there is Golden Gate and the
ocean. Still, I should like to be more with folks. Chadsey doesn't
mind. He's a queer Dick, and his mind is all on making money."

"She is his niece. Are there any others?"

"No, I guess not. I never heard of any. All her folks--family are
dead."

"And Miss Holmes isn't related?"

"Oh, no."

They watched and saw them coming down presently, but they took a
better pathway. Miss Holmes seemed pleased with the plan. Laverne
sprang in beside Mrs. Westbury.

"Perhaps the ladies----" Dick was disappointed.

"I want to sit here," the girl said rather imperiously. "And you know
you won't let me drive."

"You'd be like that fellow you told of driving the chariot to the sun,
I'm afraid. I don't dare trust any one except Nervy, the jockey, to
ride her. It was immense on Sunday. You saw that she won. Mother's
against having me enter her, and I don't do it often. But jimini! I'd
like to. And ride her myself."

Mrs. Westbury had seen the Derby, where all the style of London went,
and fortunes were lost and won. Dick was fascinated by the account.

They turned oceanward. Sandhills, stones, patches of verdure where one
least expected, tangled depths of laurels and alder, manzanita, vines
scrambling everywhere and such a wealth of bloom, then barren rocks
and sand. Now you could see the glorious ocean, the great flocks of
sea birds swirling, diving, flying so straight and swiftly that not a
wing moved. Cries of all kinds, then from the landward side a strange,
clear song that seemed to override the other. Seals thrusting up their
shiny black heads and diving again, sunning themselves lazily on the
rocks.

"Is there another country in the world like this?" exclaimed Mrs.
Westbury. "And all down the coast! I stayed at Monterey before. We
crossed the Isthmus and came up. It is wonderful."

Dick kept them out quite late to see the gorgeous sunset, and then
would fain have taken them home with him. Laverne had her hands full
of flowers that she had never seen before, and her eyes were lovely in
their delight.

"I shall be spoiled. I shall want to see you every day. I wish there
was no school," Mrs. Westbury said. "Oh, can't I come and visit you?"
and the entreaty in her voice would have won a harder heart.

"Our home is so very simple, and now the streets are in such a state,
almost impassable. But if you have the courage we shall be glad to see
you," responded Miss Holmes, curiously won.

"I shall come, most assuredly, although I have rather begged the
invitation. But you are so different from the women of the Hotel. I do
tire of their frivolity. I even go out alone to walk, though at first
I was afraid. Could I meet my little friend at her school and come
up?"

"Oh, yes, she will be glad to pilot you."

It was late that evening when Jason Chadsey came home. He looked tired
and worn. Indeed, the farther he went in the matter the worse it
appeared. And the culprit had made his escape. So there was nothing to
do but to pocket the loss.

"Shall I make you a cup of tea?" inquired Miss Holmes.

"If you please--yes. Then I shall go straight to bed; I must be up
betimes in the morning. Is Laverne in bed?"

She answered in the affirmative.

Friday Mrs. Westbury sent a little note to Laverne, asking if Saturday
would do for the visit. Every other Saturday the child spent at
Oaklands. So it was the next week when the visit was made. She stopped
at the school for Laverne, and Dick Folsom was to come for her in the
evening.

"It is very queer," she declared, laughing. "It seems a little like
Swiss châlets built in the mountain sides where you go up by wooden
steps. Only--the sand. I should think you would slip away."

"They are not going to take another street until next year. Of course,
we shall move; I think down in the town. But it has been so delightful
up here. And it did not seem so queer at first. But since they have
been putting up such splendid buildings in the town, and making such
fine streets, it has given us a wild appearance. Presently there will
not be anything of Old San Francisco left. A good part of it has
burned down already."

Miss Holmes welcomed her guest warmly and brought her a glass of
delightful fruit sherbet. The place was plain enough, and yet it gave
evidence of refined and womanly tastes in its adornments. And the
clustering vines and bloom made a complete bower of it.

Mrs. Westbury espied the guitar. She was really glad there was no
piano. Was Laverne musical?

"I've been learning the guitar. And I sing some. But you should hear
my friend at Oaklands. Her voice is most beautiful. If mine was not a
contralto I shouldn't venture to sing with her."

"You don't look like a contralto. A pure blonde should be a soprano."

"Perhaps I'm not a very pure blonde," with a merry light in her eyes.
"I've heard concert singers who could not compare with Miss Savedra,
but her people would be shocked at the idea of her singing in public.
I was telling her about you. We are great friends. She is odd in some
ways and foreign; they are Spanish people, but I love her better than
any girl I know."

"And this Olive?" questioningly.

"Oh, Olive. She took a great liking to me in the beginning--we were
quite children. She and the Savedras are cousins. And her father
married a friend of Miss Holmes, but she is a delightful stepmother.
Only now Olive seems so much older and has lovers. Yes, we are
friends in a way, but we do not really love each other."

"And you haven't any lovers?"

"Oh, no." She flushed at that. "I don't want any. Why, I am not
through school."

Mrs. Westbury found that she could not only read, but talk French
and Spanish, and that she was being sensibly educated. But that
was not the chief charm. It was a simplicity that defied art, a
straightforwardness that was gentle, almost deprecating, yet never
swerved from truth, a sweetness that was winning, a manner shy but
quite captivating. And though she told many things about her life up
here on the hill, there were no indiscreet or effusive confidences
such as she had often listened to in young girls.

When Mr. Chadsey met the guest as they were coming in from the arbor,
he simply stared at the name, not realizing that he had heard it
mentioned before. A fair, somewhat faded woman, so well made up that
she could still discount a few years. Her attire and her jewels
betokened comfortable circumstances, indeed wealth, for besides some
fine diamonds she had two splendid rubies.

Twice since he had been in California he had been startled by the
name. Once by a young fellow of two or three and twenty, looking for a
chance at clerking. The other had been a miserable, disreputable
fellow, who had failed at mining and was likely through drunkenness to
fail at everything else. He questioned him closely. The man had left a
wife and family at Vincennes, and would be only too glad to get back
to them. He had been born and raised in Indiana. So he had helped him
on his way, praying that he might reach there. And here it had cropped
up again. It sent a shiver through him.

He questioned the guest adroitly, carefully. She was proud of her
husband and his successes. She had met him in New York; she thought
him a native of that State.

Surely the David Westbury he knew could never have had all this good
fortune. So he dismissed this case from his mind, and smiled over
Laverne's new friend, who would be one of the transient guests of the
heart.

Mr. Westbury sent word by a messenger that he would be detained longer
than he expected. He hoped she found her quarters satisfactory, and
that she would take all the entertainment she could. He had struck a
new opening that would in all probability make a millionaire of him.
When he returned they must go at once to London, and they might remain
there for years, since it was one of the places she liked.

Yes, she did like it, and had made some very nice friends there.
But--if she had a daughter like this girl to draw young men; she
should always yearn for the young life that had never been hers, and a
girl to dress beautifully, to take out driving in the "Row," to have
one and another nod to her, to take her calling--that was the way
mothers did in England, to give dainty parties for her, to let her
tend stalls at fairs, to have her some day presented to the Queen, and
at last to marry well. Her daughter might have such a fortune. David
Westbury had been lucky in a good many things and he seldom made a
mistake.

She dreamed this over and over again. She had never cared for babies
or little children, and she had felt glad there had been no children
to tie her to the old New Hampshire town, where she must then have
spent her life. She had had so much more enjoyment, larger liberty,
and oh, worlds more money. Travelling, hotels, meeting delightful
people. But now her day was about over. If there was a young blossom
growing up beside her to shed a charm around, to attract, to fill a
house with gayety, so she could go through with it all again. Then
lovers and marriage. She should want a pretty girl, one with a winsome
manner. A little training would do wonders with this one, who was just
the right age to be moulded into success.

Of course, her uncle would never give her up, and one could not coax
her away. A man's journeying about would have no society advantages.
Miss Holmes was very nice and sensible, but there were some
old-maidish traits. She was rather narrow. She really pitied the
girl's life between them. It would lose the exquisite flavor of
enjoyment that by right belonged to youth.

Of course, all this was folly. But she did like the child so much. And
she wanted a new adoration, which she believed she could win easily.



CHAPTER XVI

IN THE BALANCE


Agnes Westbury had listened all the early part of the evening to her
husband's enthusiastic plans. Good fortune expanded him in every
direction. It was true that quicksilver had been discovered at
Alameda, also that the new process of separating gold was a great
saving. Working mines had been most extravagant and wasteful. Some of
the old ones had been deserted that no doubt would pay again. He had
taken options for the London Company, he had two or three for himself.
Luck had surely come his way. Now they must leave as soon as possible.

Had she enjoyed herself? Had the landlady been satisfactory? Had she
gone about and seen much, made any pleasant friends? San Francisco was
a strange and wonderful place. It had risen up in a night, as it were.
It was in the line of the Eastern trade, it would be the great mart of
the world. What was Congress thinking about not to establish a through
route, but depend on this miserable overland accommodation for the
crowds who would come! Its very wildness and sublimity outdid Europe.
Some day it would be a worldwide attraction for tourists. Such
mountains, such a range of climate, such a profusion of everything,
such a seacoast line.

David Westbury was pacing up and down the apartment with a light,
springy step. He had been in his youth a tall and rather lanky
down-easter. Now he had filled out, was fine and robust, with a good
clear skin. In those days his nose had been too large, his mouth wide,
with rather loose lips. Now the rest of his face had rounded out, his
lips had grown firm-set, decisive, and his mustache was trimmed in the
latest style. Just at the corners of his mouth his beard had begun to
whiten a little, his lightish hair had turned darker. Prosperity had
made a man of him. He had grown sharp, far-sighted, but he had an
amiability that was more than pleasing--attractive. He had learned to
use his own phrase, "not to buck against the world." Where he had been
rather credulous and lax in early life, he had become wary and shrewd,
and did not hesitate if he could turn the best of the deal his way.

"Yes, she had enjoyed herself very much. Mrs. Folsom and her son had
been most attentive, there had been some star players at the theatres
and a noted singer or two. She had met some nice people, there was a
good deal of crudeness and display, but on the whole it was very fair
for a new place. And some odd, quaint individuals, some really refined
women from Boston, and such a charming young girl that she coveted;
she wished she had her for a daughter."

"That's a queer wish; too, I thought you were not fond of children."

"Well, I am not generally. I'd like them full-grown, and attractive,"
laughing.

"I wouldn't mind a fine, upright, sober, honorable son that one could
trust in all things, but they are scarce."

"David, what will you do with your money?"

"Well,"--he laughed a little. "Let me see--endow a hospital perhaps,
or build a college. But we must have all the pleasure we desire."

She gave a little sigh.

"About this girl, now?" he queried.

"She's the dearest, sweetest, simplest body, not foolish, not
sentimental, but like water in a ground glass globe, if you can
understand. She's one of the old settlers, and that's laughable, came
in '51, round the Horn, from Maine, I believe, with an uncle and some
friends. He is a Mr. Chadsey, and keeps a big warehouse, shipping
stores and what not, and is, I believe, making a fortune--to take her
journeying round the world."

"Chadsey," he said thoughtfully. "Chadsey. What is the girl's name?"

"Oh, Chadsey, too."

"Ah!" nodding, yet he drew his brows a little.

"I suppose he was her mother's brother. Her mother died just before
they came out here."

He made a brief calculation. "Yes, it was in '51 that _she_ died. And
Jason Chadsey was there, he took the little girl away. At Boston all
trace was lost, though he had _not_ searched very exhaustively for
her. He had a feeling that she would be well cared for."

David Westbury glanced at his wife. Her elbow was on the window sill
and her cheek rested on her hand. There was a touch of sadness in her
face, a longing in her eyes. He loved her more now than when he had
married her. She was a little exacting then. She had been very fond of
pleasure, theatres, balls, fine dinners at hotels, journeys, dress,
jewels. He enjoyed them, too, with the zest that generally comes to
one who has been deprived of them in early life, and whose training
has been to consider them reprehensible.

They had taken their fill. Now his mind was all on business; he liked
to surmount difficulties, to bring success out of chaos. He had to
leave her alone a good deal. She used to find entertainment in
conquering the admiration of young men, but these last few years she
had found herself less attractive, except as she listened to their
love troubles and begged her for advice. He did not understand this at
all, only he felt he had an engrossing business and she had nothing
but looking on.

"You like this girl very much?"

"Yes, I can't tell just why, except that she is so honestly sweet, so
ready to give of her best without expecting any return. Do you
remember Lady Westmere and her two daughters? They were fine girls and
devoted to her. I had not considered it much before, but I understood
then what an interest and solace a young girl of the right sort would
be. You know I had Gladys Wynne to stay a month with me when you were
over to Paris. I had half a mind to engage her as a sort of companion,
and she would have been glad enough to come. But I found she had some
mean, underhand tricks, and was looking out for her own advantage
while she was trying to persuade you that it was yours. And she told
little fibs. So I gave up the idea. A maid, you know, is no company,
though one must have her abroad. But we couldn't coax or kidnap this
girl," and she sighed in the midst of a sad smile.

He still paced up and down. How long since he had thought of that old
life. He had always said to himself that he had been a fool to marry
Laverne Dallas, but he had taken a good deal of satisfaction then in
"cutting out" Jason Chadsey. What fools young fellows were!

"Agnes," he began, "before I married you I did not tell you my whole
story. I said I had lost my wife and child, that ill luck had dragged
me through those early years. She had another lover, Jason Chadsey, a
seafaring man, of whom she had not heard in a long time, when she
married me. Some years later I was at a low ebb and away, trying to
make money for them as well as myself. When I had a little success I
went back. She was dead and buried. Chadsey had come back, it seems,
and taken the child, since there were no near relatives to say him
nay. At Boston I lost trace of them."

"Oh, David!" She sprang up and flung both arms about him. "You don't
think--this Laverne--why, what if she should be yours!"

"She came here late in '51. Her mother died early in the spring
before. She must have been about eight. Why, it's quite a romance for
this prosaic world."

"If you are her father, you have the best right. Oh, David, I should
love her and be so good to her. She should have everything, and I
would be so happy. Oh, you _must_ see to-morrow."

There was a hysterical catch in her voice, and a great throb at her
heart.

"There, don't get into a fit. Why, I didn't suppose you could care so
much. Yes, I know you will be good to her. Chadsey may kick about
giving her up, but I doubt if he took any steps toward legal adoption.
Oh, I think there will not be any real trouble unless she will not
come."

"But she ought to have some regard for her father! And he isn't really
her uncle or guardian. Why, it wouldn't be quite the thing for her to
travel round the world with him."

They talked it over until their plans seemed most reasonable. And then
they wondered at the strangeness of it. He had no real compunctions of
conscience about the past, though of course he would have accepted the
responsibility of his daughter if he could have found her. He had a
practical business way of looking at matters. And while Agnes Westbury
lay awake, and had vague visions, dropping now and then into snatches
of dreams, he slept soundly and awoke with a resolve to settle the
question with just the same purpose as if he had resolved to buy his
wife thousands of dollars' worth of jewels.

They had begun the necessary sea wall that was to safeguard the piers
and the shipping that grew more extensive every year. Here was the old
Fisherman's Pier, then steamers, trading vessels, queer foreign ships,
business places of all sorts, many of them quite dilapidated, fringed
East Street. Here, where Clay Street ran down, almost meeting
Sacramento, there were warehouses, packing houses, boxes and bales and
general confusion. The one-story place with the sign "J. Chadsey" over
the wide doorway, not much handsomer than that of a barn, but
strengthened with iron bars and great bolts, had stretched out and
out, and now they were packing in stores from the Orient, stores from
the Isthmus, that were being unloaded from two vessels. Jason Chadsey
had been giving orders here and there, setting men at work, and was
warm and tired when word came that a gentleman wanted to see him in
the office. They made distinctions in those days, even if the country
was new and rough.

That was no strange summons. He pulled out his handkerchief, and wiped
the sweat and grime from his face, listened a moment to the wrangling,
swearing, strange Chinese chatter, songs in various languages, then
turned and went in, hardly able to see at first from the glitter of
the sun that had drenched him. This was a place just now with two big
desks and a clerk writing at one. The inner office had a window on the
street side and two wooden stools, one dilapidated leathern chair
before another desk.

A man rose up and faced him. A well-dressed, well-kept man, with a
certain air of prosperity and authority, and if he had any scheme to
exploit it would no doubt have some advantage in it. But he was a
stranger.

"You are Jason Chadsey?" Westbury would have known him anywhere.
Except to grow older, to be a little more wrinkled,--weatherbeaten, he
had always been,--and his hair slightly grizzled at the temples, he
was the same. There was honesty, truth, and goodness in the face that
had not changed either.

"Yes," Chadsey replied briefly.

"And you don't remember me?"

Chadsey tried to consider the voice, but that had grown rounder,
fuller, and lost all the Maine twang. There had been so many faces
between youth and this time.

"Well, I am David Westbury."

Jason Chadsey dropped on a stool and stared, then mopped his face
again, while a shiver passed over him that seemed to wring his very
vitals, turn him stone-cold.

"It's odd how things come about." The man of the world had his rival
at a disadvantage. "I'd had runs of hard luck," in an easy, almost
indifferent tone, being where he could laugh at the past, "and I'd
tried about everything in vain. I was too proud to come back to
Laverne empty-handed. Then, when I had made something, I turned,
hoping to ease up her hard life, and found she was dead and buried.
You had befriended her; thank you for that. But you took my child. I
traced you to Boston. After that my search was vain. I have looked
over lists of vessels, thinking to strike your name as captain or
mate, and finally given up search. Business brought me here, perhaps
fate, too, had a hand in it. My wife has seen and known the child, and
already loves her. I am grateful for your care all these years, but I
would rather have had her in my keeping. I am a rich man--if I was a
poor devil I would put in no claim, no matter how dear she was to me,
but a father has the best right."

Jason Chadsey rose. For a moment he had murder in his heart. The man's
evident prosperity and effrontery stung him so. The past came rushing
over him.

"Do you know how I found her?" he began hoarsely. "I had resolved to
come out here. I was getting tired of seafaring. I went to Munro to
say good-by to a few old friends. I expected to find her a happy wife
and mother, with little ones about her. Instead it was a virtually
deserted wife, who had heard nothing of her husband in a long while,
who had used up all her little store and was in debt besides, who was
suffering from cold, want, heartbreak, and dying, knowing no refuge
for her child except the poor farm or to be bound out to some
neighbor."

"No, she would not have been," was the almost fierce interruption.

"The dying woman did not know that. She had some comfort in her last
moments," and his voice softened curiously with remembered pathos.
"She gave me the child. I have been father and mother to her. You
cannot have her."

"I believe the law gives the parent the right to the child until she
is of age. You had no consent of mine. You could not legally adopt
her, at least, it would not hold in law."

Jason Chadsey turned pale under the tan of years. Why, he had not even
thought of any legal protection for his claim. It rested only on love
and care.

"You see," continued the confident voice, "that my right has been in
no way jeopardized. I am Laverne Westbury's father, amply able to care
for her in an attractive and refined manner, place her in the best
society, to give her whatever education and accomplishment she needs,
the protection of a mother, the standing of a father, travel--we are
to go to England shortly--and it would be worse than folly to stand in
her way."

"She will not go," Jason Chadsey said sturdily.

"She will if the law directs."

"She will not when she knows the struggle of the last year of her
mother's life. Why, you robbed _her_ mother, the poor, old, helpless
woman, of the little she had. You persuaded her to take up money on
the house--it was not worth much, but it was a home to shelter them."

"Laverne was as anxious to get out of the place as I. What could I do
there? She was willing that I should try. I was unfortunate. Other men
have been--you find wrecks everywhere. I struggled hard to recover,
and did, even if it was too late for her. We thank Providence for our
successes--doesn't the same power direct reverses? It wasn't my fault.
Luck runs against a man his whole life sometimes."

"You could have written. That would have cheered her solitary hours.
She would have told you she was dying, and begged you to come. When I
think of what that dreary winter was to her----"

"You were there to comfort her." There was a half sneer on the face.
"See here, Jason Chadsey, you were her first lover, not a very ardent
one, I fancy, either. I was a fool to persuade her to marry me, though
I think her grandmother had a strong hand in it. You were there those
last weeks. Did she confess her mistake, and admit that you had held
her heart all these years? What confidences took place?"

"None that you might not hear. Nothing but some truths that I guessed,
and wrung out of her--your neglect. You would not dare to stain the
mother's memory to the child. If you did I think I could kill you. Any
one who knows aught about those New England women, brought up among
the snowy hills like nuns, would know it was a base lie!"

"Come, come, we won't slop over into melodrama. We will leave it to
the law if you agree to abide by the decision."

"The law will not force her to go."

"I think she will be convinced. You are no kin to her. Now that she is
grown, it is hardly the thing for her to go on living in this fashion.
You may mean to marry her. That would be monstrous!"

"Go your way, go your way, David Westbury," and he made an indignant
gesture as if he would sweep him out of the place. "I have other
matters on hand. I have no time to parley."

Then Chadsey turned and, being near the door, made a rush for the
street, plunging the next minute into the thick of business. Westbury
laughed a moment, lighted a cigar, and sauntered out at his leisure.
Up in a more respectable street he glanced about, finding a lawyer's
office, and though he guessed the opinion must be in his favor he
wanted an assurance.

"If there had been an assignment under belief that the father was
dead, he could recover, if it was proved he was the proper person to
have the care of the child, and amply able to support it."

Jason Chadsey worked furiously. He would not think. It was high noon
before he found a respite. Then he went in the office instead of going
to lunch. He could not eat.

The shadow that would hang over him now and then, that he had always
managed to drive away, had culminated at length in a storm that would
sweep from its moorings the dearest thing he held on earth, that he
had toiled for, that he had loved with the tenderness of a strong,
true heart, that had been all his life. Without her it would only be a
breathing shell of a body, inert, with no hope, no real feeling. Ah,
if they had been ready to go away a few months ago! If Laverne was of
age! If he had a legal adoption, they might make a fight on that. He
had nothing. But she would not go, she would not go.

Ah, how could he tell her? Perhaps her father and yes, that
soft-spoken, insinuating woman, was her stepmother, and Laverne had a
young girl's fancy for her--perhaps they would go and lay the case
before her, persuade, entreat--oh, no, they could not win, he felt
sure of that. How could he ever go home! What would the home be
without her! What would life be--the money--anything!

It was quite late when he climbed the ascent, growing worse and worse.
There had been two landslides. Why, presently they would be swept
away.

"Oh, how late you are!" cried the soft, girlish voice. "How did you
get up? Isn't it dreadful! Have you had a hard day? Was there a
steamer in? Do you suppose we shall ever have a letter from the
Hudsons?"

Nothing had happened. Perhaps David Westbury did not dare. He almost
crushed the slim figure in his arms.

"Oh, what a bear hug!" she cried, when she could get her breath. "And
you are so late. We had such a splendid big fish that Pablo caught and
cooked, and it was delicious. And I made a berry cake, but you like
that cold, and we will have the fish heated up. Was it an awful busy
day?"

"Yes, a vessel in, and another to be loaded up."

His voice shook a little.

"Oh, you dear old darling, you are tired to death. Here's a cup of
nice tea. And if you were a young lover, I would sing you the
daintiest little Spanish song. Isola and I made it up. You see, things
don't sound quite so bare and bald in Spanish, and you can make the
rhymes easier. The music is all hers. We are supposed to sing it to
some one gone on a journey that we want back with us."

"Well, I'm an old lover; sing it to me!" Then she would not notice
that he was not eating much supper.

The guitar had a blue ribbon, and she threw it over her shoulder and
shook her golden hair about. Tinkle, tinkle, went the soft
accompaniment. She had a sweet parlor voice, with some sad notes in
it, wistful, longing notes. He wondered if she was thinking of any one
miles and miles across the water.

"It is tender and beautiful," he said, "sing something else."

"You are not eating your cake."

"But I shall." He must choke down a little.

Afterward they strolled about the hill. There was no moon, but the
stars were like great golden and silver globes, and the air was sweet
with a hundred fragrances. Nothing had happened, and he wondered a
little at it. Suddenly she said:

"Oh, you must go to bed after such a hard day's work. And I am cruel
dragging you about."

He could not tell her. Oh, what if he should never need to tell her!
How could he give her up? Was life all sacrifice?

Something odd had happened to her. She sat by the window living it
over. She had gone around by Folsom House to see Mrs. Westbury,
thinking how she should miss her when they went back to England. She
ran up to her room. There was a thin lace drapery in the doorway to
bring a breeze through and yet shield the occupant from the passer-by.

"Oh, you sweet little darling! Did you dream that I was wishing for
you? I've been just crazy to see you all day."

She was in a dainty white silk négligée, with cascades of lace and
some pale pink bows. She wore such pretty gowns, Laverne thought.

"Do you know that in about a week we shall go away? And I shan't know
how to live without you. I love you so! Why do you suppose I should be
always longing for you, thinking about you? Last night----"

She gave her a rapturous embrace and kissed lips and brow and eyelids.
Sometimes Isola Savedra caressed her this way. But Isola was just a
girl, musical, vehement, Spanish.

"I couldn't sleep for thinking of you, longing for you. Shall I steal
you and take you away? Oh, if you loved me well enough to come, you
should have everything heart could desire. I am so lonesome at times."

"I shouldn't come for the things," she returned, coloring. "And if I
loved you ever so much----"

"No, don't say you wouldn't. Oh, to-morrow I shall have something
strange to tell you, but now I say over and over again I want you, I
want you!"

Laverne drew a long breath. She was half magnetized by the intensity,
by the strange expression in the face, the eager eyes.

"I shall be sorry to have you go." She hardly knew what to say. Sorrow
did not half express it.

"Don't mind me--yes, it is true, too. But I heard a story last night
that suggested such a splendid possibility. I couldn't sleep. And I
can't tell you just yet, but when you hear it--oh, you'll be tender
and not break my heart that is so set upon it. Something you can do
for me."

"I will do anything in my power."

"Remember that when I ask you."

She was fain to keep her longer, but Laverne had a curious feeling
that she could not understand, a half fear or mystery. And then she
had some translation to make for to-morrow. She was studying German
now.

She worked steadily at her lessons. Then she had a race with Bruno,
and waited out on the steps for Uncle Jason. What would happen to her
to-morrow? It might be an elegant parting gift. How strange Mrs.
Westbury had been. No one had influenced her in just that way before.

Then she went to bed and fell asleep with the ease of healthy youth.
Jason Chadsey tossed and tumbled. What would to-morrow bring? How
would Laverne take it? Must she go? Would she go? How could he endure
it?

"One," the solemn old clock downstairs said. "Two." He had half a mind
to get up. Hark, what was that? Or was he dreaming? Oh, again, now a
clang sharp enough to arouse any one. Fire! Fire! He sprang out of bed
and went to the window. Was it down there on the bay? He stood
paralyzed while the clamor grew louder, and flames shot up in great
spires, yellow-red against the blue sky. And now an immense sheet that
seemed to blot out the middle of the bay, as if it could run across.
"Clang, clang," went the bells.

"Oh, what is it, fire?" cried Miss Holmes.

"Fire down on the docks. I must go. Do not disturb Laverne."

Let her sleep now. She would know sorrow soon enough.

He dressed hurriedly and went out. The stars were still shining in the
blue sky, though round the edges toward the eastward there were faint
touches of grayish white. But the zenith seemed aflame. Up went the
great spires grandly, a thing to be admired if it brought no loss. He
went stumbling down the rough ways in the semi-darkness. Once a stone
rolled and he fell. Then he hurried on. Other people were out--you
could discern windows crowded with heads. Was San Francisco to have
another holocaust? There were shrieks and cries. The noise of the
engines, blowing of horns, whistles, boats steaming up, others being
towed out in the bay, wooden buildings hastily demolished to stay the
progress of the red fiend. Crowds upon crowds, as if the sight were a
new one.

On the corner of Davis Street he sat down on a barrel, close by a
stoop, overwhelmed by the certainty. Why go any nearer? The rigging of
a vessel had caught, the flames twisted this way and that by their own
force, as there was no wind, fortunately.

All the labor of years was swallowed up, her fortune, her luxuries,
her pleasures. Another twelve months and it would have been secured.
But, alas! she would not be here to share it. Did it matter so very
much? His soul within him was numb. Since he had lost her, what need
he care for a prosperity she could not share?

The hot air swept his face. Pandemonium sounded in his ears. Men ran
to and fro, but he sat there in a kind of dumb despair that all his
life should have gone for nought, labor, and love as well.



CHAPTER XVII

THE DECISION OF FATE


Pablo told them the heart-breaking news. But about eight o'clock Uncle
Jason returned. The fire was out, there were only heaps of smoking
ashes and smouldering brands. Jason Chadsey had been warmly
sympathized with, proffered assistance to rebuild, to recommence
business, and would have been deluged with whiskey if he had accepted.
That was still a panacea for all ills and troubles. But he refused,
and wandered about in dogged silence. No one knew the whole loss.

In the farther office desk he had slipped a box with a string of
pearls for his darling's birthday. Some one had said pearls were for
blondes, and in spite of much out-of-door living, she had kept her
beautiful complexion. Then crushed by the astounding news, he had
forgotten about it.

"Oh, Uncle Jason!" Grimed as he was with smoke and cinders, she flew
to his arms, and sobbed out her sorrow.

"There, there, dear." His voice had the stress of fatigue and great
emotion. "I am not fit to touch. And I can't talk now. I am tired to
death. Give me a cup of coffee."

"I don't believe I will go to school to-day," she said, with fine
disregard of rules. "And yet I ought. There are the translations to be
handed in."

"Yes, do go. I must get some rest."

"I'll come home at noon," kissing him fondly.

He nodded. He was a broken old man in what should have been the prime
of life. He drank his coffee, then took the whiskey he had refused
down on the dock, went to his room, and after a good cool wash, threw
himself on the bed.

The fire was on everybody's tongue. Not that fires were a rarity. But
this might have been much worse, yet it was bad enough for Jason
Chadsey. The air was still full of smoke, there was a dense fog and a
cloudy sky. Everywhere you heard the same talk.

The lessons at school went on well enough, though Laverne's nerves
were all of a tremble. Just after eleven as recess began she was
summoned to the reception room.

David Westbury had been out to the fire and come in again.

"Gad!" he exclaimed. "It's that Chadsey's place! And he had a
tremendous stock, a new shipload just in, some others waiting to be
loaded up. This is a queer town where every so often there's a big
fire. The only amends is that it is rebuilt better. Half of the old
rookeries ought to come down, they look so forlorn and ancient."

"Oh, David. Well, if he has lost everything he will be the more
willing to give up the girl."

"He will give her up, anyhow," in a determined tone. Some things
Chadsey had said still rankled in David Westbury's mind.

He went downtown again. Yes, it was ruin sure enough. Being prosperous
now, he could afford to pity the unfortunate ones. Chadsey had gone
home. The police were in charge, to keep off the roughs and the
thieves.

"We must have the matter settled to-day," he declared to his wife.

"I know where she is at school. Let us go there."

"Excellent. I should like to see her alone. It is right that she
should hear my story."

So to the school they went. Laverne came in a little flurried, and yet
bewitching in her simple girlhood. Her bodice was rather low about the
throat, with some edging around, and a band of black velvet encircled
her white neck. Her skirt was ankle length, and the man noted her
trim, slender feet, with the high arch of the instep.

Mrs. Westbury kissed her with warmth and tenderness. Her eyes were
luminous this morning, and the flushes showed above the delicately
tinted cheeks; her whole air was pleading, enchanting.

"You know I said there was a strange story for you to hear," she
exclaimed, when they had talked at length about the fire. "Mr.
Westbury will tell you."

He began to pace up and down, as was his habit, so slowly that it gave
him an air of thoughtfulness. Mrs. Westbury had her arm around
Laverne.

"Yes, a rather curious story, yet numbers of these instances crop out
along life. Friends, often relatives are reunited, tangled threads are
straightened, mysteries explained. In a little village in Maine lived
a girl and her two friends, they were a little too old for real
schoolmates. Her name was Laverne Dallas."

Why, that was her mother's name. And Maine. She began to listen
attentively, just as one pieces out a dream that has nearly escaped
from memory. And Westbury! Why, she had forgotten she ever had any
other name than Chadsey--it was her story as well, and now she looked
at the man, who certainly had nothing repellant about him, and the
story of those early years was pathetic as he lent it several
appealing embellishments. She really could not remember him with any
distinctness. The death of her grandmother, the pale, reserved mother,
coughing and holding on to her side, the coming of Uncle Jason, who it
seemed was no uncle at all, her mother's death, and all the rest was
school and play.

"Oh! Oh!" she cried, and hid her face on Mrs. Westbury's shoulder.

"So you see you are my little daughter. Your own mother is not here to
care for you and make you happy, but here is a new mother, who has
learned to love you unaware. And now we are returning to London, and
will take you with us, and give you the life that rightly belongs to
you----"

"Oh, no, no," she interrupted with poignant pathos. "I cannot go. I
could not leave Uncle Jason in this sad loss and trouble. He has been
so good, so kind, so tender----"

"As if an own father could not be that! Laverne, my darling, my own
little girl!"

If he had been poor he would have thought any child a great burden. He
was not the sort of man to make sacrifices for any one. They would
have irked him terribly. But in prosperity he was very indulgent.
There are many such people. Jason Chadsey would have shared his last
dollar, his last crust, ungrudgingly.

They began to set the matter before her in a reasonable, practical
light. Henceforward she would be a burden on Mr. Chadsey, who had
already done so much for her. She would have in her parents' care
accomplishments, travel, society, a lovely home, pleasures of all
kinds, and now she was old enough to enjoy them. And they wanted her.
Her father had the lawful right, would have until she was of age.

"I must go home," she said at length. "It is so strange. I must think
it over. And if Uncle Jason wants me----"

"And we want you." Agnes Westbury gave her a tender embrace, as she
wiped the tears from her own eyes. They could not be allowed to run
riot down the cheeks as Laverne's were doing.

She rose unsteadily.

"Have you no word for me, your father?"

She went to the outstretched arms and hid her face on his breast. She
could not love all at once. She could not break Uncle Jason's heart.

"I know it must seem strange, but I think Mr. Chadsey will recognize
my right in you. We must see him----"

"To-morrow, then," she interrupted. "Let me have this afternoon to
consider, to talk."

Her voice trembled from exhaustion. She took a few unsteady steps. The
noon bells began to ring, and again she said she must go.

They importuned her to accompany them to the Folsom House to dinner,
but she would not consent. Then her father insisted that she should
have a hack, but she refused that strenuously. They walked together
some distance.

"Arrangements must be made to-morrow morning," her father said
authoritatively. She felt as if she had been metamorphosed into some
other person. Laverne Westbury! it made her shiver. She liked the old
personality so much better. Must she go away? This was all the real
home she had ever known, this strange, odd, ever-changing Old San
Francisco. Why, over here there was a row of tents when they first
came. And the queer little one-room and two-room adobe houses, and the
tangled-up streets that ended at some one's house. How plainly she
could see it all!

She began to climb the hill wearily. Then some one came to meet her,
helped her tenderly over the rough places. They did not pause at the
house, but took the winding path up to the pine tree that grew more
beautiful every year, with its shining needles and gray-green, fuzzy
buds, almost like little kittens rolling and tumbling in the wind.
Balder the beautiful was resting here. Here Victor had really said
good-by to her. Why, Victor was in London. And suddenly London seemed
to emerge from the gloom of the Tower, and the execution of King
Charles and a hundred other melancholy reminiscences.

"Laverne!" her uncle began.

"Oh, I know! I know! They both came to school. They told me
everything. But I shall not go. Do you think I could be so ungrateful,
so heartless now in all this trouble? And I love you. It is years of
love between us, and only a few weeks with them. Oh, no, no!"

There was a long silence. A vireo came and sang his merry lilt in the
tree overhead. The fog and a good deal of the smoke had cleared away,
and the sun was shining.

He was very glad of the love. It would comfort him all the rest of the
weary way.

"Listen, child," he said at length, and he went carefully over the
ground. The strongest point of all was that the law would give her to
her father the next four years. And now he would have to start in anew
and make another fortune. "I am not too old," he declared, with a
little pride.

A word had caught her, just as one catches a ball with a chain at
careless throw.

"Four years," she said. "Why, then when I am twenty-one I could come
back. Four years only! Will you be waiting for me? I shall surely
come."

She would be married before that. A pretty young girl with a fortune
was not likely to be left on the bush. He caught at it, too. It would
smooth the way since the parting had to be. He had nothing; Westbury
had it all.

"Oh," she cried impulsively, "I can think how you loved my mother. Was
she happy there at the last with you? But you two should have been
married, and I should have been your child. Why do things, wishes,
events go at cross-purposes?"

Alas! no one could tell. It was one of the great world's mysteries.

Miss Holmes summoned them to dinner presently. She had heard the
story, and though it was hard, they had to admit that the child
belonged to her father while she was under age.

Half the night Laverne thought she would defy them all and stay. Would
her father want to drag her away a prisoner? What was a father's love
like? Wasn't the playing at it better and holier; the sense of loss
somewhere else making it diviner, giving it a yearning that a full
right could never quite embody? She did not like the full right to be
taken, she would rather be coaxed a little and led along. And she
could not positively decide about Mrs. Westbury. Some girls she found
were quite extravagant in their protestations and then forgot. Olive
was one; there was another very sweet girl in school who wanted always
to be caressing the one she liked. Isola was not always demonstrative.
They did have some delightful quiet times. Were not women girls grown
larger and older?

It was strange, Laverne thought, how nearly every one was ranged on
Mr. Westbury's side. The Personettes admired him, Mrs. Folsom
considered him a gentleman, and at that time the term was a
compliment. The schoolgirls envied her the romance and the going
abroad. Even Miss Holmes thought it the right and proper thing to do.
Uncle Jason did not discuss the right, with him there was nothing else
to do.

Other matters troubled him. Property had been queerly held in the
city. There had been squatters, there had been old Mexican deeds,
claims coming up every now and then to be settled with difficulty.
Jason Chadsey had leased the ground and the waterfront when it had
not been very valuable. He had bought one building, erected others. In
a year more the lease would expire. Already large prices had been
offered for it. He could not rebuild, though generous friends had
proffered him any amount of money. He felt unable to take the stir and
struggle for no end, that he could not explain. Like a wounded animal,
he wanted to go off in quiet and seclusion and nurse his hurts. He had
been worsted everywhere, let him give up.

Mrs. Westbury had wisdom enough not to make her claim at all onerous.
There would be plenty of time on the long journey. Every day her old
friends seemed dearer to Laverne. At Oaklands they bewailed the
separation, but recognized its rightfulness, its necessity. To Isola
it was a joy that she would see Victor, and she sent no end of
messages.

Mrs. Savedra said to Miss Holmes, "If you desire to make a change, we
shall be more than glad to have you."

David Westbury drove his wife and pretty daughter about with a proud,
satisfied air. Agnes shopped for her, "just enough to make her
presentable," she said when Laverne protested. But, after all, the
parting was very hard.

"You must not come and see me off, Uncle Jason." She could not
renounce the dear, familiar name. "If you did, I should give one wild
leap and land on the wharf, and you would have to keep me. Four
years--it's a long, long while, and there will be room for a great
many heartaches in it, but one day they will be healed."

He obeyed her, and did not come. There were many friends who did. So
she went sailing out of the Golden Gate on as fair a day as she had
first entered it. Oh, how the sun shone and tipped the waves with
molten gold. Never were skies bluer. Even the rocks, and the clefts,
and the crannies brought out their indescribable colors, browns that
deepened through every shade into purple and black, grays that were
pink and mauve and dun, blues that ran into sapphire, and green and
chrysoprase. Telegraph Hill and the old, time-worn semaphore. Oh,
farewell, farewell, dear old San Francisco!

There was some trouble getting insurance matters straightened up and
paying debts. Jason Chadsey had lost the spring of ambition and life.
He would take a voyage up north with some of the explorers, then he
would think of the next thing. Four years. Oh, no, she would never
return. The bright, laughing, gay world would swallow her up.

Marian Holmes pitied the man profoundly through this time. They had
been excellent, sensible friends. There had been two or three
occasions when she would have married him if he had been really in
love with her. She knew now why his love-day had passed. She enjoyed
her own life, her own neat ways, her liberty. She and Miss Gaines were
still very warm friends, and the latter would have liked her to come
with her.

"I have a fancy to try it at Oaklands, and help Americanize these
charming people, perhaps spoil them. It will be very easy and
delightful. The daughter will be a rather curious study. If she were
poor, she would have a fortune in her voice. She has quite a gift of
poetry. I shall try to keep her from morbidness and a convent, now
that she has lost her friend. And her mother wants her fitted for
marriage. How these foreigners harp on that!" laughing a little.

Laverne Westbury cried herself to sleep many a night, though in the
daytime she took a warm interest in all about her, and tried to be
agreeable, tried to draw near to her father. He was proud of her
prettiness, of her refined ways, the delicacy that had come down to
her from the New England strain. It was English, and she would "take"
over there. Then he was glad to have Agnes so happy. It was like a
girl with her first doll. Often Laverne would rather have been left
alone, but she tried not to be ungracious.

They crossed the Isthmus, quite a new experience. They went up to
Washington, where David Westbury had an excellent scheme to exploit
that did get taken up afterward. Then to Liverpool. The little girl
never dreamed there would come a time when one could cross the
continent in a week, the ocean in another, and her father's
expectations seemed quite wild to her.

There was a visit over to Paris. Eugénie was at the height of her
popularity, but now she had to take a little pains with her beauty.
Still she was the mother of a future Emperor, she was a favorite
daughter of the Church, she set the fashions and the manners of the
day and did it most admirably.

It was not possible for a girl to be unhappy or cry herself to sleep
amid such charming surroundings. Her French was very useful, she had
been so in the habit of using it at home that she did not take it up
awkwardly.

Then they must go to London and get settled. They would have a real
home, an attractive place where they could entertain. Mr. Westbury
would be away a good deal on flying trips, and now he would not mind
leaving his wife with her pleasant companion. He really grew fond of
Laverne in a proud sort of way. He liked women to have attractions. He
was not jealous, he had found his wife too useful to spoil it by any
petty captiousness.

Laverne was really amazed. A simple little home, Mrs. Westbury had
said, but it seemed to her quite grand. A pretty court, the house
standing back a little, a plot of flowers and some vines, a spacious
hall with rooms on both sides, a large drawing room, smaller
delightful apartments, sleeping and dressing rooms upstairs, a man and
several maids, and a carriage kept on livery.

On one side of the hall were an office and a smoking room devoted to
the gentlemen who called on business, and there were many of them, but
they did not disturb the ladies.

Some old friends came to welcome Mrs. Westbury back, and this was Miss
Westbury, who had been at school in the "States" while they were
travelling about, and now would remain permanently with them. Mrs.
Westbury sent out cards for a Sunday reception and presented her
daughter to the guests. She was something delightfully fresh and new,
a pretty, modest girl who might have been reared in any English
family, and who was not handsome enough to shine down the daughters of
other mammas.

It was her very naturalness that proved her greatest charm. And Mrs.
Westbury found she had not made any mistake in desiring her. Young men
sought her favor again. Older men lingered for a bit of bright talk.
Laverne felt at times as if she were in an enchanted world. How could
youth remain blind to the delight?

Then all the wonderful journeys about to famous places, art galleries,
concerts, drives in the parks. It seemed as if there was no end to the
money. Since prosperity had dawned upon David Westbury he had made it
a rule never to want twice for a thing be it indulgence of any
reasonable sort, once when he had, and once when he had not. His plans
were working admirably. A golden stream was pouring in and he was in
his element. A few years of this and he could retire on his
competency.

She wrote to Miss Holmes and heard from her the current news about
every one. Olive Personette was well married. Isola had a music
master, an enthusiastic German, who insisted such a voice should not
be hidden out of sight and hearing. Her father had been persuaded to
allow her to sing in St. Mary's Church, recently completed in a very
fine manner, on Ascension Sunday and there had been great enthusiasm
over the unknown singer. Elena was growing up into a bright, eager
girl who rode magnificently and danced to perfection, and was already
drawing crowds of admirers, much to her mother's satisfaction, and
would make amends for Isola's diffidence and distaste of society. Dick
Folsom was still flirting with pretty girls. Nothing had been heard
from Mr. Chadsey, except that he had gone up to the wild Russian
possessions. There was inclosed a letter from Mrs. Hudson, who was a
happy mother, and José was the best of husbands.

Laverne wondered at times how it was possible to hear anything of
Victor Savedra. Girls were so hedged about here, everything they did
inquired into. It would not be proper for her to write, and if she had
an answer Mrs. Westbury would know it. She kept an excellent watch
over her pretty daughter. She was really glad no one heard from Jason
Chadsey. In this round of pleasure Laverne would soon forget that
crude life, and not care to go back to it.

She did find many things to interest. But the Westbury society was not
of the intellectual type. Then there were no stirring questions about
one's own town. London seemed a great agglomeration of small places,
and was to a degree finished. There was no especial Steamer day, there
was no influx of miners, no great bay with its shipping at hand, and,
oh, no great ocean with its multitude of denizens to watch.

Yet, of course, there were other wonderful things, the galleries, with
their pictures and statues, only it seemed to her that people went
quite as much to see each other's fine clothes. There were the
churches, the palaces, the great piles of learning that had trained
Englishmen hundreds of years. Mr. Westbury took them to the House of
Commons to a debate that he was interested in, but she felt a little
disappointed. Somewhere at Oxford was Victor Savedra, but what was one
amid the great multitude?

They went over on the French coast for a summering and Laverne found
herself quite a favorite at once. She was so modest and unassuming.
American tourists had not invaded every corner of Europe. And a young
American who knew French and Spanish people at home, where no one
supposed they could be found, where they looked only for wild Indians,
was indeed an unusual personage.

Mrs. Westbury was proud of her stepdaughter. She was so tractable, it
was so easy to keep her out of the reach of undesirable admirers.
Indeed, she thought she should be jealous when Laverne came to have
lovers.

Then back to London again, visiting at country houses where there were
hunts and much fine riding, pretty evening balls, queer old women,
titled and bejewelled, to whom every one seemed to bow.

And it was while they were at Thorley that Lord Wrexford came home
from the Continent, where he had been trying to live cheaply for a
while. He was five and thirty, very well looking and agreeable, and
though he had taken on some flesh he was not too stout for dancing, so
he was invited out considerably, though he was not esteemed a catch in
the matrimonial market. For it was well known that Wrexford Grange was
nearly covered with mortgages. The old lord was helpless from
paralysis, not able to sign his name, and too infirm in mind to
consent lawfully to any measures looking to the disposal of the old
place. Indeed, his death was looked for almost any time.

He came with a purpose beside dancing. A friend had said: "See if
Westbury can't do something for you, or put you in a way to help
yourself. He has some companies under way that are simply coining
money."

"Why, I thought he went to America."

"He did and has been back a year perhaps. Lord Elsden is in one
company. It has something to do with quicksilver, and there's a gold
mine. You used to be quite cronies."

"Yes, he was a good fellow. He helped me out of one difficulty."

So he went to Thorley Wold not only to dance, but the day after the
ball he took David Westbury over to Wrexford Grange and they went
through papers and debts, some to the Jews that had been ruinous and
were now pressing.

"You see," the younger man said, "if I stood alone I should let the
place go. You must know of chances to make money out there in the new
countries. I'd start off to-morrow if I could, and hunt up a gold
mine."

"They are not always to be found," smiling with a touch of shrewdness.
"And mining isn't just the thing for----"

"A scion of nobility. What did I read the other day?--some lucky
fellow unearthed a nugget worth thousands."

"Yes--that does happen," nodding rather incredulously. "Well, if you
want me to, I will take these papers to London with me and see what I
can do for you. It's a fine old estate."

"And nothing to keep it on. Oh, I shall get out of it fast enough when
the poor old Governor is gone. It's a good thing he's past worrying
over it, or knowing it, for that matter."

So they returned to Thorley in time for dinner, and in the small dance
that evening among the house guests, he took Laverne Westbury out
twice, and heard part of her story.

Mrs. Westbury did not think particularly of the matter until Lord
Wrexford had been at the house several times and paid her some marked
attention, invited her and her daughter to visit Grosvenor Gallery and
see an especially handsome portrait, the work of a friend of his who
was coming rapidly up to fame.

"The fur on her wrap is so beautifully done that it seems as if you
might blow it about with a breath. And she is an extremely handsome
woman, was one of the court beauties a few years ago."

Mrs. Westbury was very much pleased with her escort. A title did go
some distance in her favor, though she never made any vulgar snatch at
it.

"What about that Lord Wrexford?" she asked of her husband one of the
evenings they happened to be alone.

He looked up from the stock list he was going over.

"The man or the estate?" with a short, rather brusque laugh.

"Well--both." Her smile might have been that of an arch conspirator. A
sudden thought occurred to him. There were many business proffers made
to him in these days.

"He's trying to stave off some business until his father has gone. He
was willing to cut off the entail, but the question arose as to
whether his father was capable, and the lawyers declare he is not.
Some parties are to bring suit unless certain claims are met. The
indebtedness is enough to swallow up the whole thing. A fine old
estate, too."

"It is a pity the title cannot go with it," she remarked longingly,
with a meaning look.

"The young man can," and he laughed.

"I wonder some one hasn't----" and she made a suggestive pause.

"He might marry the daughter of a rich tradesman, I suppose. He is
really a better class fellow, and would shrink from a lot of vulgar
relations. Most of these Commoners have such large families, and the
other class seldom have fortunes for their daughters. The Jews will
get the estate in the end, I think, and I am really sorry for him."

"And he wants some help from you?"

"To tide over the present, he imagines. But it will be for all time.
Now, if you want a handsome estate right in among good old families.
You know we heard about it at Thorley. It wouldn't be a bad
speculation if one wanted to live there. It's not such a great
distance from London."

"If one could buy the title," and she sighed.

He gave a short laugh and then returned to his list.

She leaned back in her luxurious chair and dreamed. They really had
something wherewith to purchase the title.



CHAPTER XVIII

TO SEE YOU ONCE AGAIN


Mr. and Mrs. Westbury had gone to Wrexford Grange. Laverne was glad to
have a few days to herself. At first she wrote a long homesick letter
to Miss Holmes. Already she was tired of her new life. Yet more than a
year had passed--three years more and she would be free. But how long
it looked!

After Uncle Jason's tender love she was cruelly hurt by her father's
indifference. He was deeply immersed in business and proud of his
successes. Indeed, why should he not be? He was shrewd enough to take
no honor in coming up from the ranks. He preferred to have his patrons
think he had always been quite high on the ladder of fortune. Making
money was now his chief enjoyment, his one ambition. Laverne was a
pretty enough girl, but not the sort that drew men irresistibly to her
side. His wife was much more attractive. And then Laverne brought some
remembrances that he wished strenuously to forget, that he had once
dismissed from his mind. He had made a little romance of it for his
wife's ears, and he had a vague fear that Laverne might recall some
disagreeable fact that it would not be so easy to disavow. She never
had, but he was not sure how much might linger in her memory.

There was always a gulf between the father and the child. He had
demanded her mostly to please his wife, the rest to satisfy a little
grudge against Jason Chadsey that he had happened to possess himself
of the episode not at all to his, Westbury's, credit. From the bottom
of his heart he wished Chadsey had come back in time to marry Laverne.
It had been a most unfortunate step for him, he reasoned.

Laverne had been in a way fascinated by Mrs. Westbury's protestations
of affection. She had appealed to all that was sweetest and finest in
the girl's nature, all these years she had been studying men and women
on the emotional side, she was not capable of any intellectual
analysis. And though she could assume so much, at heart she had very
little faith in her fellow beings, as she measured them mostly by
herself. An attractive young girl would draw young people, and she
sunned herself in the enthusiasms of youth, they were a tonic to her.
She did not mean to grow old, but she had a quality rare in the people
who cling to youth, she made no silly assumption further than to use
all the arts and aids that she persuaded herself were quite as
necessary as a good diet to conserve health. She enjoyed her world,
her wealth, her little elusive pretexts and inventions, and was amused
to see how easily people who pretended to discrimination were
ensnared.

At first Laverne had been a new toy, a plaything, a puppet that she
could draw in any fashion that she thought best. But presently she was
amazed at the child's utter honesty, her shrinking from dissimulation,
the surprise at some things she read in the clear eyes. It had been
pleasant, but now she was tiring of her toy. Would she be the sort of
girl who would draw lovers to her feet and dismiss them with a wave of
her fan?

There was marriage, of course. This was really her first season. The
daughter of a rich man would not lack offers. She wished she was a
little less cold, self-contained, indifferent.

And now a new scheme had presented itself. Why should not Laverne be
Lady Wrexford? If her father became the virtual owner of Wrexford
Grange, why would it not be a fine dowry? And they could manage that
Lord Wrexford should be judicious in expenditures. It might be best
that the entail should not be meddled with.

Laverne did enjoy the solitude. She was coming to feel that she was
watched continually, criticised gently, of course, but often it hurt.
And she had not gone down to the real heart of anything. Was there a
heart or was it all surface living?

She went out to take her drive each day with her maid. Several young
friends had called.

One afternoon Preston brought up a card. "Mr. Victor Savedra," Laverne
read.

"He requested especially to see you," Preston said. "I was not
sure----" and she glanced inquiringly. "It is all right, quite right,"
the girl made answer, but her heart was in her throat, her voice
husky. She stood there some seconds, fingering the card. Truth to
tell, she felt hurt that Victor had made no effort to see her through
all this time, knowing from his own family she was in London. It was
hardly her place to appeal to him. Indeed, she had soon learned her
old friends were not subjects of pleasure to her new relatives. And
now she had quite given up hope with a sad heartache.

Laverne walked slowly down the broad staircase, lingered a moment,
while she felt her color coming and going in great bounds. Then there
was a step, a figure emerged from the reception room, and caught both
hands in his. Neither of them spoke, but simply glanced in each
other's eyes. He had changed, matured, and was a really handsome young
man in the somewhat brilliant Spanish style. But the soft eyes had not
lost their olden tenderness.

"Oh," he began, "I was afraid I should never see you again," and the
glance seemed almost to devour her.

"You have been in London all this time." There was the faintest touch
of reproach in her tone.

"And you? It seems to me if one can credit society news you have been
very gay."

She flushed, and her eyes were downcast, the brown lashes making a
shadow on her cheek.

"You must not upbraid me. I made some effort to find you. I was so
amazed at the strange turn of affairs. Isola and mother wrote to me
and begged me to call on you. At last I did learn where you were and
sent you a note, directed to your father's care. It was answered by
Mrs. Westbury, who explained that you were not in society, a gentle
suggestion that I might have been rather forward, also that you were
going to some French watering place, but no hint that I might be
welcome on your return," and he half smiled.

"I never saw the note--I never heard. Oh, did you think I could forget
an old friend when all things were so strange and I so lonely?"

Now the lashes were gemmed with tears. He longed to kiss them away.
An infinite pity stirred his heart.

"Have you been lonely and unhappy? Forgive me, but I thought of you as
gay and full of pleasure. I have not been much in ladies' society. I
have made some fine friends among men, and it has been study, study,
but I have achieved most of my plans and pleased the best of fathers.
Last summer with some friends I made a walking tour of Switzerland.
This summer I return home. I like America best. And how San Francisco
will look after four years' absence! Nothing of the kind could happen
in this staid old world. I wonder sometimes if I have not dreamed part
of it. And if I have not dreamed about you! Oh, what a brute I am.
Come and sit down and let us talk it all over. And your poor
uncle--what do you hear from him?"

She wiped the tears from her eyes and in a broken voice said:
"Nothing."

"Oh, poor child!" All his heart went out to her. He had thought
nothing of love before. He had been but a boy, but he knew he loved
her now with a man's love, and with a sudden resolve he determined to
take her back with him even if it had to be his wife without his
parents' blessing and God speed.

"No one hears, I believe," she replied when she had recovered her
voice. "Only--I promised to come back to him when I was twenty-one and
free, and he will be waiting for me, I know."

Then this new relationship had not been happy. He had besought Miss
Holmes to tell him about it, but she had been very non-committal. He
gathered from that she had not been favorably impressed with either
Mrs. or Mr. Westbury, although under the circumstances there was
nothing else to be done.

When they had recovered self-possession a little they began to talk of
the old times, the old days that had been full of delight, it
appeared, now touched by the enchanter, memory. The first time they
had danced together when she was a little girl, his Saturday at the
old house, and the ride they had taken down the coast. Snippy, and the
verses they had tried to make for the dead Balder. How he had hated to
tell her _he_ was going away for four long years, and how glad he had
been to get Isola's extravagant letters, "for you know she simply
adored you," he confessed, with a smile.

"It has all changed," she said mournfully, "There will be no more San
Francisco. The hill has been lowered so much, and our old house has
gone with it. Olive was married in the autumn, you know."

"And Howard is turning into a fine young business fellow, father
writes. Uncle Personette may well be proud of his children, who have
had the kindest of stepmothers. I always liked Aunt Grace and your
Miss Holmes. Mother thinks she couldn't do without her. And it's
queer," laughing a little, "she declined a very nice offer of marriage
that a friend of father's made her, the captain of a vessel going up
and down to the Isthmus. She was very fond of you."

The sweet eyes filled with tears again. Had she left all love behind
in the grand city guarded by the Golden Gate?

The room grew dusky. The maid came in to light up, and glanced sharply
at them.

"Oh, what an unconscionable visit I have been making," and yet he
laughed lightly, not at all troubled by the proprieties that he had
really outraged--and he knew better.

How very charming he was, standing up there, just medium height, with
one of the figures that is often likened to Mercury or Ganymede. The
rich tinted Spanish complexion, the dark melting eyes, when he
smiled--could they ever look fierce? the narrow mustache, leaving the
red line on the short upper lip, the chin rounded out with youth and
health, the hands dainty enough for a lady. They reached over and held
hers, the eyes smiled into hers, but all the same there came a sharp
pang at his going.

"For the next two weeks I shall be awfully busy," he explained. "Then
come the Christmas holidays. I didn't have any last year. I just
stayed and ground in the mill. I was bound to reach a certain point.
But now I shall spend a week in London. I think I can persuade Mrs.
Westbury to admit me."

Why should she not? Laverne thought.

A happy girl sat down to her solitary meal. She was no longer lonely.
Christmas was near. Of next summer she would not think.

A letter came from Mrs. Westbury with news that scarcely touched
Laverne, and perhaps after all had not much of real sadness in it.
They had gone to Wrexford Grange to settle some important business,
and before it was finished the poor old paralytic, who for the last
year had been scarcely conscious of anything but breathing, had passed
out of life. Lord Wrexford had insisted upon their staying until after
the funeral. Would she mind if she gave up the Liscombes' dance? Mrs.
Leigh would be pleased to chaperon her, but it would be in better
taste to remain at home.

Laverne did this cheerfully. To be sure, the days were rather lonely,
but the driving and a little shopping and going to some picture
exhibitions with Mrs. Leigh filled them up.

There was a pile of notes and invitations on Mrs. Westbury's desk when
she returned. Laverne often answered the least important. Between them
she sandwiched Wrexford Grange. It was an old, old estate, the title
dating back for more than three hundred years, and though it had been
neglected of late could be put in excellent order again. Such grand
rooms, such a splendid hall, such a great stone stairway with oaken
railing. Family portraits and a copy of the First Charles,--the
Wrexfords had been royalists,--but all these things had been hidden
away until the accession of the son, with the old family silver,
rather clumsy, she thought, but she was wise enough to know that age
redeemed it.

"Oh," she began suddenly, "the Doncasters want you for their Christmas
Bazaar. The Thorleys are coming up--yes, I think you must go. It is
for the doctor's pet charity, those crippled babies. I think it would
be a mercy if the Lord took some of the poor things out of the world,
but while they are here they must be taken care of. It is only one day
and evening. We must give a luncheon to Florence and Claire Thorley.
I'm sorry Lord Wrexford must be counted out of the Christmas gayeties.
Yes, write an acceptance."

When she came down to the bottom she glanced over the cards, smiling,
then frowning, not sorry to have missed some of the calls.

"Victor Savedra," she exclaimed, "why----"

"It is those Spanish people at home, at least, the son is here at
Oxford, and he called."

She confessed it very quietly, without a change of color or
embarrassment.

"Oh, yes--let me see--he asked permission to call--I think I told
you--sometime in the early summer--we were going away."

These little half truths annoyed Laverne, but she made no comment.

Mrs. Westbury had accomplished one step toward what she thought would
be the crowning point of her life, and she was amazed that it had been
done so easily. As Laverne was an important factor in it she was
prepared to be very sweet.

"He is still at Oxford?"

"Yes, he will be through in June, and then he will return to America."

She was not even troubled when Preston told her the young man had
stayed two good hours. In fact, Laverne was rather surprised at her
amiability and indulgence. She saw very little of her father, but he,
too, seemed awakening to a new interest in her. There were business
and board meetings and dinners of directors, but he was always in
excellent spirits. He sometimes wondered himself how it was that fate
seemed to send everything his way. He was very lavish with Christmas
money to his wife and daughter.

So she went to the Bazaar in the best of spirits. She really liked Amy
Doncaster, though she was finding that the type of Olive Personette
was by no means an uncommon one. Amy was deeply interested in her
brother's hospital, and often visited it and made garments for the
poorer patients.

It was quite a pet charity in one circle. There were hundreds of other
things in the great city, but they had their share of patronage. The
hall was dressed with evergreens, and though some of the half-hidden
flowers were paper they looked quite as pretty and did not wither in
the heat and light. Tastefully arranged tables, with handiwork both
useful and ornamental, attractive for Christmas gifts; young girls in
simple white attire, the fashion of those days, older ones with more
elegance keeping supervision and adding dignity. Carriages came and
went before the broad doorway, and visitors seemed generously
inclined.

She was very happy, this charming American girl. At the middle of the
century there were not so many of them to share and often fight for
triumphs. Then, Mr. Westbury had won a standing of his own and was
paving a golden path. It was not trade, something that was held in
higher esteem. Miss Westbury might be quite an heiress. There was no
older brother to demand a share. For we had not outgrown the idea that
the brothers must be provided for first of all.

When the hall was lighted up and the young men began to throng in, the
scene was brilliant and the moneychangers brought out their best
charms and sweetest smiles. Mrs. Westbury had been in during the
afternoon and had gone to a "high tea" at old Lady Carcroft's. So in
the early evening she came again.

Fred Doncaster, who had elected the Church for a profession, since
there was a very excellent living in the other branch of the family,
and he being a second son, brought in his friend Victor Savedra.

"He is a Spaniard," explained Amy Doncaster to a group of girls. "And
isn't he handsome! Fred brought him over once, they are great chums,
and he has the most charming manners. Oh, Miss Westbury, he
lives--well--it isn't far from that wonderful San Francisco where you
came from, and they must be very rich, Fred thinks, though he never
boasts of it, but it must be something like a big English estate. Oh,
they are coming over here."

They made their way through, and Victor's face lighted with intense
satisfaction. Laverne flushed "celestial rosy red." He reached over
and took her hand, exclaiming, "What a pleasure! I am so glad to see
you here."

"Hillo!" and Fred gazed from one to the other.

"We have been friends from childhood--isn't it?" smiling out of his
delight. "And Miss Doncaster--I came almost purposely to buy some of
your wares," glancing at that lady.

"Oh, thank you," she returned gayly.

The rest of the introductions were given and the party fell into a
social chat. Mrs. Westbury entered the hall at that juncture with Mrs.
Doncaster. A spasm of something like anger shot over her. Yes, she was
quite sure that must be Victor Savedra. Was Laverne making secret
engagements with him?

"Oh," Mrs. Doncaster began, "there is Fred's friend, a young Spaniard,
who has been over here for his education. We were all charmed with him
when Fred brought him to dinner one night, and wished we had made his
acquaintance earlier, since he leaves us in the summer. The Spaniards,
I believe, were some of the old settlers on the western coast. I don't
quite understand all the distinctions of American people."

Mrs. Westbury recalled the fact that she had met the elder Mr.
Savedra, who had come to say farewell to Laverne and to assure her
that they would do their best to make Miss Holmes happy. Then she was
formally introduced to the young man, who had a notably distinctive
charm, partly due no doubt to his foreign air.

Fred certainly was in high spirits, and helped the girls in their
sales, even if he did call them shopkeepers. Then he insisted that
Miss Westbury should accompany him around to "spy out the nakedness of
the land," he said, which in this case meant an accession of funds for
the Hospital. "My brother _would_ study surgery," he said, with a half
protest. "Minturn is a born philanthropist, so between us both we
shall care for bodies and souls. I'd worlds rather have my
profession."

Amy and Savedra were talking just in front of them, now and then
pausing at a booth, where the girl proudly introduced her companion.
Some stalls were already sold out; indeed, every one seemed jubilant
over the success. In a little rather private corner groups were having
some refreshments, and at one they found Miss Doncaster and an
admirer, who made room for them, and they had a merry time. Victor sat
on one side of Laverne, and they exchanged bits of talk mostly
satisfactory to each.

Savedra had accepted an invitation from the Doncasters. It was true
Londoners were rushing out to country homes, or to holiday house
parties, but there were hosts of them left.

"I had no idea the Doncasters knew you," Victor said. "I am glad we
have a mutual friend. I shall spend all the holidays in town, and we
must see a good deal of each other to make up for the lost time."

Her eyes drooped and a delicious flush overspread her face. How shy
and sweet she was! He would not think of the time when he must go away
and leave her behind.

Mrs. Doncaster accepted a seat in Mrs. Westbury's brougham. The young
people would walk home, as the doctor headed the party. The girls had
planned to have a little dance the night after Christmas, just an
informal, suddenly arranged matter, and Laverne must be sure to come.
They were to go to a Christmas dinner, but there was no engagement for
Friday evening.

After they had set their companion down at her own door, Mrs. Westbury
still commented on the success of the Bazaar and the prettiness of the
girls.

"And I thought that young Savedra quite _épris_ with Miss Amy, didn't
you? He was devoted to her."

"They all like him very much." She was so happy there was no room in
her heart for jealousy. Indeed, gladness forbade the thought of
possessorship.

"And English girls don't mind marrying and going to the ends of the
earth. That Miss Morven went to Canada to marry her betrothed, who was
in some government position, and couldn't leave. And Lady Estee's
daughter went out to India. Of course, Laverne, you will not give a
second thought to Fred Doncaster. It will be two years before he can
be ordained. And there's such a family, six children!"

"Oh, no," returned Laverne cheerfully.

She had it in her mind to say: "Your father has other views for you,"
but caution intervened. Still, when she glanced her over in the light
of her room as she was saying good-night, she thought how really
pretty the girl looked to-night, her soft eyes shining, her mouth
settled in the curves of a half smile that would tempt any lover to
kiss, the clear, beautiful complexion, the long bronze lashes that
seemed to play with the dainty color on her cheek, as the sun over
dimpling waters. Yes, she wanted the excitement of pleasure.

Laverne went to the dance with great gladness of heart and a strange
freedom. Victor danced with the Doncaster girls first, they were the
hostesses. Then it came Laverne's turn, and they had a delightful time
between the figures.

"Oh, do you remember how frightened you were that night at Uncle
Personette's? I really made you dance, didn't I? I wonder that you
were not vexed. Was I worse than importunate?" laughing.

"Oh, I thought you were so good, so delightful, to take the trouble.
And I was such a child. There were so many big girls. How could I have
been vexed? That would have been ungrateful."

"We have always been such friends. And now I shall venture to call on
you. I had a fancy that Mrs. Westbury didn't quite like--well, of
course, you were not in society. Customs are different."

"You are going back so soon." She said it with a most adorable little
sigh.

"There will be the Easter vacation, and we must make the best of this.
When I am away I shall think of you half the time. Let us see. Can't
we make a plan--just at twilight, let us say. No matter where we are
we will send a thought to each other. There's a queer new belief,
magnetism or some such thing, that you _can_ send an influence to your
friends across any space, that if you sit still a few moments and
think of them they will respond."

"Oh, that is a most felicitous thought!" Could she make Uncle Jason or
any one think of her in that manner?

"Let _us_ promise--just at twilight."

Some one took her in the next figure. What a slim, graceful girl she
was. How like a bird she skimmed along when she ran races with Elena!
And how they had scrambled over rocks and sat on the summits
overlooking the ocean! There were no such fascinating memories with
any other human being. There was no one quite like her.

And they did have a merry, delightful time. A week of going somewhere
every day, of chances to slip in bits of charming confidences, of
strolls in the old Museum and other famous places, and then it came to
an end.

Fred and Savedra, friends as they were, dropped in to say good-by.
Mrs. Westbury was present. He went over and took her hand--what
magnificent rubies those were!

"I want to thank you for a great deal of courtesy," he said, "and
much pleasure. And now we must both return to our old pastures and dig
away at the dry roots and forget about everything but the exams."

He shook hands quietly with both ladies.



CHAPTER XIX

THE GUIDING FINGER


Agnes Westbury watched her stepdaughter closely when the two young men
were gone. She did not droop. She was happy and serene, compliant with
whatever was proposed. She made some visits to the hospital with Miss
Doncaster; that was safe enough. Charity had not come to be a fad
then, though there were many earnest workers.

Mr. Westbury and Lord Wrexford took a run over to Paris. After that he
was a frequent visitor. Mrs. Westbury had a curious charm for him. She
was so intelligent that he sometimes forgot it was like talking to a
man.

"You American women know about your husband's business and never seem
to think it a bore," he said one evening. "Ours do take an interest in
politics when their husbands are up. And you have the art of making
attractive homes. Now, the average person would have a certain
stiffness about this place----" The belongings were of the regulation
sort, and individual taste was hardly comprehended.

She had added some easy chairs, an odd and pretty table, with a series
of shelves to hold books of engravings, and portraits of celebrated
authors and artists, several fine vases disposed around, and these
articles announced with an air "we belong to the present mistress,"
the furniture belongs to the house.

"I like to take some comfort and not be continually fretted with
surroundings. As we are living in furnished houses mostly, I can't
suit myself. I don't pretend to. I just have a little and dream of
what will be when we are permanently settled."

"I wonder if that will be here--in London?" tentatively.

"I think I shall not go back to America, 'the States,' as you call
it," smiling a little. "I shall have Laverne to keep me company if Mr.
Westbury has to take a business journey. I confess to a fondness for
the older civilization. Our land is still in an undeniably crude
state. But so were you a few centuries back."

This woman had a curious charm in her frankness, that was never rude
even in its most truthful moments. There was something about her that
he could not define, and that kept him studying and full of interest,
watching the next turn. If it was art, it was the most judiciously
managed. If it was due to temperament, then, indeed, she had a
many-sided nature. She kept young, but it was not the shy simplicity
of her daughter, she seemed to have a wide range of knowledge, but she
was not pedantic, not obtrusive. There were dainty concessions that
flattered a man, little embellishments that seemed an understanding of
a man's mood, too delicate for him to pick to pieces, if he could.
Then there was a mysterious charm about her attire, a French
adaptiveness of style, of something made different from most women,
with a touch of color, a bow or a flower. She was a pleasant study.

Now and then she delicately drew Laverne into the talk. She asked her
to bring over the portfolio of Albert Dürer's engravings they had
bought only a few days before, and draw up the small buhl stand. Then
they discussed them and Holland; she had been reading up a volume of
travels that very morning, and was as fresh as if she had just come
from there. Laverne was appealed to for this or that. She was not kept
in the background, but she seemed always flying there with adorable
shyness.

Afterward in his own room, smoking his pipe, he thought the matter
over, as he often did. He had been rescued from an _esclandre_, his
father had been buried as became one of the old line of Wrexfords. He
could go back to the Grange with a certain prestige. He might be asked
to stand for Chediston. There would be no more straits and pinches of
poverty, and he had suffered a good many during the last three years.
All this smooth sailing was conditioned on his marrying Laverne
Westbury. She was a nice enough young girl, but he had had a surfeit
of young girls. It would be hard to bridge over the seventeen years
between them, very hard for her.

If it was the mother instead! Not being her own daughter she was
hardly likely to resemble her more as time went on. He had a vague
feeling that the child was something less than money-making in her
father's life. All this matter was largely in her mother's hands, and
if the threads were not wisely pulled, Wrexford Grange would be in her
hands, too. Yes, if _she_ were single.

For the present he was out of society proper. He went to his club, he
called on a few old friends, and he was taking a rather curious
interest in one of the new companies. He really might be a rich man
again.

So passed away a month or two. Mrs. Westbury had meant to push Laverne
into society, perhaps have her "presented" at some Court drawing room
in the season. But as Lady Wrexford it would have a much greater
effect. There could be a marriage four or five months after the old
lord's death.

Was Laverne ignorant of the trend of all this? She was thinking that
at Easter she should see Victor again, and that would be another bit
of the old life to sustain her exile. So she listened with only half
attention to hints and suggestions. She knew her father had invested a
good deal of money in Wrexford Grange, and that her mother liked Lord
Wrexford, that as they were not very gay he enjoyed dropping in, that
he was their attendant on various occasions of the soberer sort.

David Westbury said to his wife: "You had better state the case to
her. She has some of that New England obtuseness. Well, she is very
young. We have grown much wiser in the world's ways since that early
period of our lives. It is the gain of experience," with a short,
brusque laugh.

Then he kissed her. She always exacted that, and it was generally
freely given.

"I may not be back until late to-night," he said.

It was a miserable day, with a blinding fog that had better have been
a rain. Laverne practiced two hours instead of one, then she read
aloud in a novel of the day. There was luncheon; some dawdling and
scolding about the weather.

Once Mrs. Westbury put her arms about Laverne and looked into her eyes
with an intense expression.

"I wonder how much you love me?" in a caressing, pleading tone. "I'm
trying to do all the nice things I can for you; what would you do for
me?"

"Why--there is nothing I _could_ do," with a delicate emphasis. Surely
she could not spend all her life with Mrs. Westbury--making that
mental reservation.

"You _could_ do something that would repay, that would give your
father and myself the greatest happiness."

She was not destined to hear it just then. Some styles had been sent
from the dressmaker's, would Mrs. Westbury look them over and choose
which suited her?

She was having a lavender satin made, and here were also patterns of
lace for the trimming. So they discussed them. Then the postman, a few
invitations to answer. It was so dark the house was lighted up.
Laverne went to the piano again and tried to catch some of the elusive
things she had learned from Isola Savedra. She could see the lovely,
half-tropical home, hear the sweet voices, smell the fragrances of a
hundred blooms. Ah, how lovely it must be on that Pacific slope. She
could have cried with rapture and pain.

Dinner, then a long evening. No one came in. Laverne read, hardly
taking in an impression.

"Put up the book, Laverne." The voice was persuasive, but it struck a
chord of fear in the girl's soul. "Your father wished me to lay a
subject before you that is very near his heart, that would really
crown his endeavors for wealth and standing. And it is _my_ desire as
well. I think I have always studied your welfare from the time I
snatched you out of that crude, half-barbarous life. And a third
person's happiness is at stake."

Laverne shivered. A sudden light broke in upon her. She had half
fancied that she had been used as a sort of blind that her mother
might enjoy Lord Westbury's society, but if it should be----

"What an odd girl you are, not a bit curious? So I must put my story
in plain terms."

It was embellished. In business statements Mrs. Westbury could come to
the point quickly, but she did somehow dread this a little, for she
began to mistrust the girl she had fancied would be easily convinced.
She went briefly over the commercial side, and suggested this had been
done because Lord Wrexford had taken a great fancy to her the first
evening he had met her at the Thorleys. For her sake and for her
advantage her father had rescued Wrexford Grange. Any girl would be
proud of such an opportunity. Lord Wrexford was getting impatient, and
desired to make his proposal, though the marriage would not be hurried
unduly.

"I saw you were not dreaming of such a thing, and your father thought
I had better prepare you a little. Think, Laverne, a simple American
girl becoming Lady Wrexford!"

Laverne threw herself at Mrs. Westbury's feet, and buried her face on
the elder's lap, shuddering in every limb.

"Oh, I cannot! I cannot!" she cried passionately. "No, do not ask me.
I cannot love him, he does not love me. Why, it is like being
sold----"

"Hush, you silly girl. There is no being sold about it. He has asked
for your hand honorably. It is a chance out of a thousand. Any girl
would jump at it. Your father put his money in the Grange for you, and
you will be a most ungrateful daughter not to accede to his wishes.
When you have made up your mind you will find Lord Wrexford most
agreeable. It can be a late spring marriage, and you really will be
the envy of many a high-born girl when you step among them. You can be
presented at the last drawing room, Lady Wrexford! Why, you would be
worse than an idiot to refuse it."

Laverne rose. "No, I cannot--I cannot," shuddering.

"Your father will have his say to-morrow. There, no words. You can go
to your room, and resolve that you will pay due respect to your
father. You are under age."

She was glad to go. Oh, yes, she had been blind. For the last month
Lord Wrexford had really been _their_ devoted admirer. Most of his
conversation had been addressed to Mrs. Westbury. Yet he had watched
her closely, she recalled that now. He had shown a delicate solicitude
in many things. Oh, could it be possible that he really cared for her!
That would make it so much harder. And how could she meet her father,
how defy him! Yes, she was really afraid of him. Oh, if he would only
be angry and send her back to California!

She opened the window as if she could look across to the old home. The
fog was absolute blackness, chilling, penetrating every nerve. She
shut it down again, but the breath of it seemed to strangle her. She
did not cry, her terror and dread were too deep for tears.

She would hear him come home presently, his full, strong voice, and
they would talk it over. So she listened and listened. The clocks
inside struck midnight, then the small hours. Would she never get to
sleep!

Somewhere toward dawn there was a sharp clang of the bell, and strange
voices. Then hurried steps up and down, Mrs. Westbury giving a shriek,
crying out confusedly, calling the maid, going downstairs, then a
carriage driving away, and the servants still talking. She opened her
door.

"Oh, what is it, what is it?" she asked.

"We were not to disturb you, Miss Laverne."

"But I was awake. I heard--has Mrs. Westbury gone away? Oh, did
something happen to father?"

"Yes, Miss. He was hurt, knocked down somehow, and taken to the
hospital. But I guess it will all be right. It's natural he would want
Mrs. Westbury."

Laverne threw herself down on the bed, shocked. One would never think
of associating death with that active, robust physique. Oh, no, it
would not be that, only some hurt. And if he should be ill and ask
this great sacrifice of her!

There was no word the next morning. The butler had even forgotten to
inquire what was the name of the hospital. Laverne did not want any
breakfast, she wandered from room to room, she sat down at the piano
and played a few melancholy tunes. How hard the uncertainty was! Her
very fingers grew nerveless.

At noon Lord Wrexford came. He was so gentle and sympathetic that her
heart almost went out to him. He told the story with a tender gravity.
Whether in the dense fog Mr. Westbury had missed his carriage or
slipped and fallen no one knew. An oncoming horse had stepped on him,
and the injury was severe. There had been an operation----

"But he will not die! He cannot die! He is so strong--Oh, surely,
surely----" and her voice broke.

"My dear child, we must wait and see. I am going back. Mrs. Westbury
will stay----"

He had not the courage to say that a few hours would end it all. The
young, grief-stricken face touched his heart. Yes, he would make her a
good, kind husband. If he were free to choose he would not select her
from all the women he knew, but now the marriage would be imperative,
and he would do his best.

That evening he brought Mrs. Westbury home. She would not see Laverne,
but went at once to her room. He told the child the story as far as
any one could learn the particulars. A horse's hoof had injured the
skull, crushed it in so that there was only a very faint hope from the
first, but he worded it delicately, and stayed in the library all day,
receiving the body when it came, seeing various people, and having one
interview with Mrs. Westbury. After that she sent for Laverne, and
they wept together in each other's arms. Laverne thought she must have
loved him, she was so shocked by his fate.

It was a distressing occurrence to all his friends, and he had won
many. Beside there was the great question of what the two companies
were to do without the working head. Lord Wrexford proved himself
invaluable through these troublous days.

A sad Easter it was. The Doncasters and others brought their warmest
sympathy. Victor Savedra came, and the pale girl in her deep mourning
went at once to the heart that had thought of her daily and kept
tryst. Ah, how should she tell him that since that fatal night she had
not! For now she began to understand the great reason why she could
never come to care for Lord Wrexford. He had not asked her to marry
him, but somehow he had taken a lover's authority.

Mrs. Westbury had many subjects to revolve in her mind, and was
alarmed at first lest matters might go wrong. So she accepted and
acted upon the fact that Lord Wrexford should be her son-in-law. She
would not give up the chance of this connection with nobility. Besides
Lord Wrexford was necessary.

Affairs were found in excellent order, and Mr. Westbury gained in the
esteem of the directors. But now the company must assume the
responsibility.

The new method of separating ore had been patented in both countries,
and was invaluable. Lord Wrexford, it was assumed, had been a kind of
confidential secretary and his knowledge must be devoted to the
company. Mrs. Westbury had large interests, he was made her agent at
once.

Now, it was found that he had willed everything to his wife, who was
to make such settlements on his daughter as she considered best. And
she held the right to Wrexford Grange.

She demanded the utmost affection and sympathy from Laverne.

"Of course, you cannot understand all that he was to me. Marriage
interprets one to the other. And you have only known him such a brief
while. Then, I think these placid natures cannot love and suffer like
the more intense ones. The shock has nearly killed me. Oh, do comfort
me! You are all I have left."

Laverne tried earnestly. But she noted that she quickly overcame a
paroxysm of grief when Lord Wrexford or the lawyer came, and could
spend hours over the business.

"Of course," she said, a few weeks afterward, "the marriage must be
put off a while, but it is more necessary than ever. Your father felt
you were too young to be made independent. The Grange was to be your
dowry on your wedding day--to you and your children. The marriage can
be rather a quiet one, and in six months, under the circumstances, you
can lay your mourning aside. Meanwhile we may be considering the
trousseau. We can go to Paris----"

Laverne threw herself at her stepmother's feet, and clasped her hands
in entreaty. "Oh, do not, do not compel me," she cried, in anguish. "I
do not care for the Grange nor the money. If you will only send me
back to America----"

"I shall not send you back. I am your natural, lawful guardian now. I
shall do what I consider best for you, and in the years to come you
will thank me for it. There, we will have no discussion."

What should she do? A dozen plans came and went through her brain. She
remembered how Carmen Estenega had run away from a hateful marriage.
But she had an ardent lover. This would be such a long journey, and
she would have no friends on the way. Should she appeal to Victor? Oh,
no, she could not. Yet she had a consciousness that he would respond
at once.

She was coming to have a strange fear of Mrs. Westbury, as if she
might dominate all her life. Surely she would if this marriage should
take place. Oh, it could not. She would not consent even at the last
moment. No one was forced to marry. Ah, would not Carmen have been
forced?

Lord Wrexford came and went. There were visits from lawyers and
directors, and calls of condolence. A certain kind of peace, but it
seemed like an armed truce. And Laverne realized more thoroughly every
day that there had never been any true and tender love for her in Mrs.
Westbury's heart. She was older now, and could see more clearly, had
more discrimination, yet she did wonder why her father's wife had been
so exigent. She could not understand the vanity, the selfish desire
for the admiration of this young soul. And she also saw that Mrs.
Westbury sought her own advantage in this marriage. To be allied to
the higher orders, to be the mother-in-law to Lord Wrexford, to have
the entrée into the charmed circles. How had she grown so wise!

She thought of her father with infinite pity, that he should have been
wrenched out of the life he enjoyed so much. She felt that he had
never truly loved her, and that she had not succeeded in loving him.
Always her heart was turning back to Uncle Jason. Yes, that was the
sweet, tender, and true life, finer and nobler than this striving and
subterfuge, this greediness for wealth and high places.

Lord Wrexford came one afternoon, quite a custom with him now. Mrs.
Westbury had been sent for to some important meeting. He walked in
with the easy familiarity that characterized him, and passed a few
pleasant conventionalities. How many times she had thought if she
could see him alone, and now that the opportunity had come she
trembled with a certain kind of fear and shame. What could she say to
a man who had not yet asked her to marry him?

He began to perceive that she was unduly excited. The color wavering
over her face and the quivering lips touched him. He was not a
heartless man, and every day he was feeling this was more of a dilemma
for him.

"My child," he began, rather blunderingly, realizing all the years
between them, and then he saw that her eyes were overflowing.

"Lord Wrexford," she tried to steady her voice, but it trembled
noticeably, "I believe I have been offered to you as--as--an
equivalent----"

"No, don't put it that way," he interrupted quickly. "Your father was
very honorable."

"I do not know much about marriage, but it seems as if----"

"As if youth and love should go hand in hand? Middle age and money may
make a dicker. But if there were love, or if the title won you in any
degree," and he knew there were some who would have been won even by
poverty and a title with the background of the Grange.

"I do not love you," she said simply. "It seems ungrateful when you
have been both kind and patient. Indeed, I have been trying----" There
was such a wistful cadence to her tremulous voice that it touched him,
man of the world as he was. The slow tears dropped from her lashes,
but she could not raise her eyes, though there was entreaty in every
line of her slight figure, even in the limp hands that hung by her
side.

"And a love that is forced is no love at all. But you must realize the
sacrifice you will make, and consider. It will be more than giving up
a title. Everything is in your mother's hands----"

"Oh, I have told her that I do not care for the money. I remembered so
little of papa that he seemed an utter stranger to me, and--some one
had loved and adopted me before. She knows I wish to go back home----"

Her voice faltered and broke.

"You are a brave little girl," he exclaimed admiringly. "An honest and
true one, and you deserve to be happy, to love some one who has love
and youth to give in return." Did she know such a one? "I think you
are not taking root here."

"You know mamma is not any real relation," she began as if in apology.
"She has been very kind and indulgent to me. I would like to please
her. But, oh, I would so much rather have been left in San Francisco.
My dear uncle would not have gone away. We should have been poor, for
he had just lost everything in a dreadful fire, but I wouldn't have
minded----"

"My dear child, you shall not be sacrificed." He wanted to take the
drooping figure in his arms, and kiss away the tears that rolled
silently over the softly rounded cheeks. She looked so fragile in her
black frock. If she could be his little sister! But he had nothing to
dower her with, he would even lose the Grange himself. But he said,
"Do not give yourself any further uneasiness, I will see Mrs.
Westbury."

"Oh, thank you a thousand times!" She did not know how adorably her
face lighted up. Yes, if she had loved him it might have done. And if
the race of Wrexford died out with him what matter?

Laverne felt so much more friendly toward him that she could not help
showing it. Mrs. Westbury hailed this with delight.

"Have you asked, and has she accepted?" she inquired one afternoon
when they were alone.

It was a warm day, and she defied custom sufficiently to lay aside
heavy crapes indoors. Her gown was of some thin black stuff, trailing
and cloud-like. Her arms, that were well shaped, showed through in
their whiteness, and she often used them in a caressing sort of
manner. Her throat had the delicate prettiness of art, and she looked
really younger in this half simplicity. The fragrance and quiet of the
room seemed to be a perfect setting for her, and it made her
suggestive, attractive to the verge of fascination.

"Neither," he said, drawing nearer. "We understand each other. When
the time comes, a year hence or less, perhaps, I am going to ask you
to accept the title to Wrexford Grange. It will suit me worlds
better. I have outgrown the bread and butter period."

She was very little rouged, and a color flushed up in her face. She
had cultivated the trick of this. She was versed in men's meanings and
knew this was no idle compliment. But she was surprised.

"Yes, a year or so," in a slow charming manner with becoming
hesitation.

"Meanwhile be good to the poor little thing."

"Since you plead for her. I confess I have been somewhat disappointed
in her. Perhaps no child can be quite like your own. She wants to go
back to America--shall I send her?"

She did not care for a daughter now. As Lady Wrexford she would rather
have all the homage. The girl had been useful. There are people who
can drop one easily when no longer needed. Laverne Westbury was too
honest to be a comfortable companion. And then--what if Lord Wrexford
should come to consider a younger wife preferable? Men _did_ change in
many of their views, she had learned by experience.

In a way she had loved David Westbury. He was fond of caresses, but
she had never tired him of them. She was proud of his successes, yet
she had a conviction that it was her money that had been the keynote
of prosperity. He was one of the men who dropped an unsuccess very
soon, and did not spend his energies fighting his way through. For the
first weeks she had been crushed by the loss, and this she said to
herself was because of her deep love for him. When she found that
affairs were in a good shape, that she was a rich woman, to be
consulted by the directors, that she still held many things in her
hands, and that she would have still more prestige by being the
mother-in-law of a lord, who had about sown all his wild oats, and
found the crop unprofitable; Laverne was of use to her. And now with a
better understanding the child had become something of a trial. She
was no longer a half-blind worshipper.

"What friends has she there?" he asked after some consideration.

"Oh, I suppose the man who adopted her is somewhere--he was a lover of
her own mother. And there was another family connected with the
Savedras--why, there _is_ the young man. I half suspected he was a
rival about Christmas time. And I'm not sure now----"

"He was here at the Easter holidays. Well, that would be more
appropriate. May and December, you know," with a vague smile.

"You have a long later summer and autumn before you reach December,"
and she raised her eyes with a look of appreciation, and that
admiration which always touches a man's vanity. "I will not have you
growing old too fast. And I think almost any young girl would fall in
love with you, unless there was some prior claim. Perhaps there was."

"He returns home in July. Well, why not give him the opportunity?"
smiling softly.

She looked undecided.

"At least give her a choice. I _do_ admire her sincerely. Many girls
would not have refused a title."

She knew that. And Laverne's refusal was going to bring her the best
of good fortune. So she could afford to pardon her high
conscientiousness.

"I will have a talk with her. If we cannot make her happy here, and I
think she is not suited to this sort of life, it would be cruel to
keep her."

The reluctance betokened some affection on Mrs. Westbury's part, he
thought, though he could not divine the secret joy this new aspect had
brought her. She was not desirous of sharing her right in him with
anybody.

Laverne waited in a state of tremulous fear and expectation. Mrs.
Westbury was quietly gracious at dinner. Afterward they retired to the
library.

"Lord Wrexford came to me this afternoon when you had dismissed him,"
she began rather severely.

She did not mean to be too lenient with the girl.

"You have been most foolish and short-sighted," she said. "And knowing
that it was your father's dearest wish, his plan for a splendid
future. The money he put in Wrexford Grange was for you. He would not
have risked his money merely for the young man."

"I--I couldn't have married him. Oh, you do not understand----"

"You are a little fool. I suppose that young Savedra stood in the
way?"

Laverne was silent. She was glad she had her scarlet face turned away.

"You pride yourself on truthfulness and honor, yet you have been
underhand and deceitful. You have carried on an intrigue with a lover
while you assumed a sort of ultra conscientiousness toward Lord
Wrexford----"

Laverne rose and came forward in the light. Now she was very pale, but
her face wore a high, serene expression.

"You accuse me unjustly, Mrs. Westbury," she began with quiet dignity,
that awed the older woman. "I have carried on no intrigue. No word of
love has been uttered between us. He has not asked me anything that
you and Lord Wrexford might not hear. He wrote me a letter of
condolence--if you would like you can see it. It called for no answer.
We had been friends since childhood. The home at Oaklands was like a
second home to me. If Victor Savedra had been engaged to Amy Doncaster
I should have felt just the same toward Lord Wrexford. Oh, I think he
understands it better than you do."

"You needn't be so tragic about it. I _am_ disappointed in you. I
hoped to have a daughter who would love me tenderly, sincerely. If I
had been opposed to the plan, your father would have left you there in
that wild land among barbarians, who do not know what to do with their
gold, when they have dug it out of the ground."

No, it was not for any real love for her, she had known that this long
while. And now she understood that she and her stepmother were on
lines that were too dissimilar for friendship even. She was an alien
and a stranger, she would drift farther and farther away.

"You seem to have made up your mind that you cannot be happy here,
that my regard is worth very little. Matters have changed with me
somewhat. I shall not keep this house, I must get away from the
remembrance that my dear husband has lain dead in it, after the awful
tragedy. And if you have any choice----"

"Oh, I have, I have! Send me back home, that is all I ask. And--I do
not want the money. My father's wish that you should have it all was
right enough. You see, I never seemed like a real child to him. I do
not think he cared much for my mother. Yes, let me go----"

The voice with its pathos did pierce Agnes Westbury's heart, but there
were so many motives ranged on the other side, and she persuaded
herself that the child really had been ungrateful and was incapable of
any ardent or sustained feeling. It would be much better for them to
part.

"I will consider," she said languidly. "Now go, I have a headache, and
these scenes are too much for me in my weak and excited state. I have
had so much sorrow to bear."

"Good-night," Laverne said. She did not offer the kiss that after it
had failed to be tenderness, remained a perfunctory duty, but now had
ceased to be even that.

"Good-night, to you. Mine will be wretched enough, they always are."

But after a few moments' thought, and when Laverne had dismissed the
maid on the upper landing, she stepped briskly over to the desk,
turned up the light, and wrote a letter to Victor Savedra.

Fate or Providence had played into her hands always. She would be very
decorous and observe the strictest propriety, but she counted up the
months that must elapse before she could be Lady Wrexford. She had her
lover in her own hands.



CHAPTER XX

AN ENCHANTED JOURNEY


Was it a happy dream Laverne Savedra kept asking herself, out on the
broad ocean with no land in sight and the great vault overhead, that
by night filled up with myriads of stars, that by day was a great
unknown country over which other ships went drifting to ports beyond
mortal ken. It was a much longer journey then, but going round the
world would not have been too long for all the confidences she and her
husband never wearied of exchanging.

She felt a little confused that he should have appeared so suddenly,
with such a brave air, and in the long talk told all his doubts and
fears, the whisper he had heard that she was likely to marry Lord
Wrexford, and that he found he had loved her since that first evening
they had danced together. And when he heard that, he felt he had no
right to keep a tryst with her in the twilight, but still he could not
put her out of his thoughts. And to him Lord Wrexford seemed quite a
middle-aged man, and he wondered if the Grange, said to be one of the
fine old estates in that shire, had won her with perhaps the
persuasion of her parents. Then her father's sudden and terrible death
had deterred him from a wild dream of coming to press his claim, for
he was not sure her regard was more than a childish preference. And
he, too, had been brought up to respect parental authority. Then,
there were so many regulations in English society that he feared to
transgress, and he was desperately busy with examination papers, and
now all that trouble was ended, and he should rejoice his father's
heart by his degrees. But there never would be any place to him like
his beloved California, so rich in treasures of the God-sent kind, if
she could not boast great universities and picture galleries and
libraries. They would all come in time.

Mrs. Westbury had insisted upon one condition. He was to destroy her
letter and never make any mention of it. For Laverne, with her ultra
delicate notions, might resent being offered to another lover. He was
to come as any friend might and learn for himself.

She had thought of the difficulty of sending the child on such a long
journey with only a maid. It was not merely crossing the ocean--for
then there was no cable and even telegraph communications were apt to
be interrupted. But if she could be really married and in a husband's
care, the way would be clear.

Victor Savedra had hesitated a little. They would hardly fail to
accord Laverne a warm welcome; but when his father had been so
indulgent to him, to take such an important step without his
knowledge! But there was no other course.

"I'll give you a generous trousseau, Laverne," she said, "but your
father's property is so tied up in stocks and various things that I
hardly know where to turn for money for myself."

"Oh, please do not think about the money. I am glad you are not
displeased about--about----" and she colored deeply. "Indeed, I never
thought of Mr. Savedra as a lover. We had been such friends----"

"To have you Lady Wrexford would have been very flattering to me,
seeing that you were hardly in society. But your refusal was so
decided, and I must say, he took it in a very gentlemanly manner. It
might have cost me my friend, even, and I should hardly have known
what to do. He has been most kind and useful."

"I do not think he really loved me," Laverne answered, with some
spirit.

"The acquaintance had hardly been long enough for that. And a man at
his time of life has lost the impetuosity of youth," the elder
returned rather dryly.

Laverne had made one protest about the marriage. She wanted to see
Uncle Jason first. In a way she belonged to him. If he were poor and
unfortunate he would need her so much the more.

"But you see you could not search for him alone. We will both try to
find him. And I think he is dearer than your father was. I always
liked him so much. And his home shall be with us always."

"How good you are," Laverne murmured with deep feeling.

It was not merely crossing the ocean, that was done by even an
unattended woman, it would be the remainder of the journey, and that
would prove simply impossible. But Mrs. Westbury was determined to
have some reflected distinction in her stepdaughter. This marriage had
an aureole of romance about it. She could wash her hands of Laverne
in a very satisfactory manner.

So it was a very pretty wedding in church, with the Doncaster girls
for bridesmaids and a quiet reception to say farewell to friends as
they were to sail on the morrow. Mrs. Westbury was modest in her white
crêpe dress with the plainest of adornment. The bride was charming,
the groom a proud and handsome young fellow. Lord Wrexford bestowed
upon her a handsome necklace of pearls and gave her the best of
wishes. Mrs. Westbury parted with some jewels she cared little about,
but to enhance their value she said with well-assumed emotion:

"They may be dear to you, Laverne, as mementoes of your father. He was
a good judge of such articles, and would have the best or none. And in
times of prosperity he was most generous. Of course, he had not always
been as successful as during these last few years."

The parting was very amicable, tender, indeed, with the hope that
Laverne and her husband would find their way abroad again. It was
hardly likely _she_ would ever visit America.

They began their new life as lovers indeed, but the hopes of both were
centred in the old place where they had first met. Dozens of fresh
recollections came to light every day. His memory went back farther
than hers, and now they said "Old San Francisco." He wondered how much
it had changed in the four years, and she supposed Telegraph Hill had
been cut down still more. Probably the old house was no more. Pelajo
had been sent over to Oaklands--would he be alive? And had the
squirrels all been driven to other wilds by the march of improvement?

A long, long journey it proved. All her life she was to be a great
traveller, but she thought then these two journeys were enough to
satisfy any one.

And at last the Golden Gate came in view. Oh, had it ever been so
grand and imposing before! Here was the rocky frowning coast line with
its few breaks. The sun was not shining, but the soft, low clouds
floating in silvery gray, turning to mauve with here and there a high
light just edging them, gave the gray brown rocks all manner of
indescribable tints that blended with the gray green lapping waves.
There was no stormy aspect about it, but a splendid, serene peace.
Even the gulls seemed to float in the mysterious ether, the under side
of their wings matching the prevailing tint. And nothing screamed, or
cried, or disputed. Clusters were settled sleepily in the recesses of
the rocks. And way up above they could see Mount Tamalpais with vales
and woods and great sandheaps between, and here was Sausalito, Point
Bonito, Point Lobos, as they entered in. They had reached the Promised
Land. Laverne glanced up with eyes full of tears. The joy was too deep
for words.

Here were streets running out to the newly begun sea wall. Here were
new piers, the Old Fisherman's Pier made over. Why, Telegraph Hill had
stepped from its lofty estate, though there were still some terraces
left, some houses perched up high with winding paths. Streets
straightened down to Market Street, which seemed to cut the city
diagonally in two. The old islands, the opposite shores, the towns
that had sprung up. How strange and yet how familiar. But now going
and returning was such an ordinary occurrence that there were no great
crowds to welcome travellers. And every one seemed so intent upon
business that it almost confused Laverne.

There were three who came to greet them. Mr. Savedra, Miss Holmes, and
Elena, a tall girl now, with flashing black eyes, a saucy scarlet
mouth, and brilliant complexion. And Miss Holmes was no longer young,
to Laverne's surprise, who had always held her in mind as she had
appeared on that first voyage, and who had never noted any change in
her when she saw her day by day.

Victor had apprised his father of his marriage and Laverne found
herself tenderly welcomed, as a foretaste of what was awaiting her on
the opposite side of the bay. So a little of the luggage was
collected, to follow them the next day, and they left the fine, new
mail ship for the ferry boat. The same old diversity of people that
looked strange now to the young girl. And the whirl, the bustle, the
confusion of tongues, the jostling of rough and refined, how queer it
seemed.

"You have hardly changed," Miss Holmes said when she had studied her
for some time.

"Haven't I?" with the old girlish smile. "Sometimes I feel as if I had
lived a hundred years in these two. Oh, I shall have so much to tell
you."

And yet she had an oddly pretty air and self-possession of wifehood
gained in these months when the world of travel had held only each
other, when every day had brought new revelations.

The remainder of the family were out on the porch with open arms and
kisses that it was worth crossing the ocean to win. For it was early
spring again, with everything a vision of beauty, though they had left
midwinter behind somewhere. Oh, the fragrance in the air, had she ever
breathed anything so delicious since she said good-by to the old
place!

They were very glad to have her, if the marriage had been out of the
usual order. Isola had a mind to be quite jealous of Victor, and that
amused him greatly. She had improved a great deal under Miss Holmes'
sensible care and training, and had an exalted, spiritual kind of
grace and expression. Laverne felt as if she had gone into a new
world, and the atmosphere was enchanting.

There was so much to say that midnight came before they had half said
it. And it was not until the next day she had the courage to inquire
if anything had been heard of Uncle Jason.

Miss Holmes smiled. "Mr. Savedra has a story for you," she answered.
"I will not spoil it."

He was walking up and down the path with Victor when she ran out to
him, eager-eyed and breathless.

"If you have missed one fortune, you seem in a fair way for another,"
he began smilingly. "I have been telling Victor." He put his arm about
her and drew her close. "Jason Chadsey's love for you is one of the
rare affections seldom met with. You know we were all surprised to
learn that you were no kin to him. But your mother did wisely when she
bequeathed you to him."

"Oh, you have heard, you know----" she interrupted vehemently. "He is
living. I--we," coloring, "must go and find him. He was more than a
father to me. Oh, tell me," and he felt her pulse tremble.

"You need not go. He will be only too glad to come to you. Two months
ago I was surprised when he entered my office. At first I could not
place him. But his voice and his eyes recalled him. He had gone
through a variety of adventures. He admitted that he had been eager to
get away from the town and forget his losses, though friends would
have been ready enough to help him in business again. He wandered up
to British Columbia, and all the land between he thinks marvellous in
its capabilities. It is like a romance to hear him talk. Then he came
down again, sometimes trying the wilds and forests, and at last
returning to an old resolve that had taken possession of him before he
saw you--to go to the gold fields. And thither he found his way about
six months ago. At first he was not much prepossessed. It seemed as if
everything worth while had been claimed. Then he fell in with a poor
young man dying with consumption, whose claim had been very promising
in the beginning, but some way had failed, but he had not lost faith
in it from certain scientific indications. They worked together for a
while. This Jarvis, it seems, had been at the School of Mines in New
York. But at the last he went very rapidly, and bequeathed his claim
to your uncle. A week after he had buried the poor fellow he unearthed
the secret again, and it was just as he was about to give it up. He
made no comment, but worked steadily, burying his gold every night
instead of taking it to his cabin, and adroitly hiding the real lode.
His companions laughed and jeered, one after another left the gulch.
Then, as I said, he came down to me with two or three small bags of
gold nuggets hidden about his person. Upon assaying, they turned out
first-class. So he left them in my possession and went back again,
delighted that he was at last on the sure track of your fortune. He
had the utmost confidence that you would return to him when you were
of age----"

"Oh, poor, dear Uncle Jason! His life has been devoted to me! But he
must not take all this toil and trouble. I do not care for the
fortune. Oh, you must believe that if I had not been compelled to go,
I should never have left him in adversity. It almost broke my heart,"
and she paused in tears.

"My dear child, no one could blame you. There was no other course
then. I understand how he felt about it."

"And now I must go to him at once----" raising her lovely eyes, full
of entreaty.

"My child, it will be better to send for him. It is a rough journey,
and a miner's cabin will not afford much accommodation for a lady," he
returned, with gentle firmness.

"But, I cannot wait. Why, I could fly to him," and she looked in her
beautiful eagerness as if she might.

"And Victor promised----" glancing at him.

"We can send a messenger at once, to-day, and a man can travel more
rapidly, put up with hardships. Neither can we lose you, when we have
hardly seen you. Think how patiently he is waiting, almost two years
more, he believes."

Laverne did yield to persuasion at length. For that matter not half
the experiences had been told over. They were all so glad to have her
that she felt it would be ungracious not to be joyous and happy. Elena
wanted to hear about London. Yes, she had seen the Queen and some of
the princesses, but she had not been presented.

"She would have been, as Lady Wrexford," said Victor laughingly. "And
you can't think all that a title counts for there. I wonder she wasn't
tempted. For I had not asked her then."

"But I had promised Uncle Jason."

Isola's music was a greater delight than ever. She had improved very
much under her careful training, though her soul's desire was still
improvising.

"Oh, how you would be admired in London," Laverne cried
enthusiastically. "Such a gift is really wonderful. Why some one ought
to write it down."

"Professor Gerhart has tried some things. But you see I never play
them twice quite alike, and that bothers. I want to turn this way and
that," smiling, yet flushing a little.

"Yes," Victor added, "you could make fame and fortune abroad."

"But she could not play in public," said the mother.

Then they must take new views of the town.

"There is no more Old San Francisco," Victor declared. "One would
hardly credit the changes if he were told."

There were streets now running out to Islais Creek, where the marsh
was being filled up. And the queer little corner, where the streets
ran a block or two in every direction by Channel Creek, still held
some adobe houses. Some day the Southern Pacific Railroad would run
along here and build its immense freight houses and stations. Market
Street was creeping along. Sandhills had been toppled over into
depressions. Great buildings had been reared. Kearny Street was
running up over Telegraph Hill. The lower end was given over to
handsome stores, that displayed goods which could stand comparison
with any other city.

Telegraph Hill was to be lowered, even after this revolution, that had
left the topmost crest fifty or sixty feet above sea level. It had a
rather curious aspect now. Some of the quaint old houses had been
lowered, and smart new ones formed a striking contrast. A few scrubby
oaks, firmly rooted, had defied removal, it would seem, and were left
in sandy backyards. The beautiful pine was gone, the old house had not
been worth any trouble, and so had shared destruction.

"I can't make it seem real," Laverne said piteously, with tears in her
eyes. "There is no more Old San Francisco."

There was no more little girl either.

But farther down the aspect was more natural. Here was the new
Presbyterian Church, where she had seen the old one burn down. And
here was Saint Mary's, with its fine spire still unfinished. The
Mission on Vallejo Street, and St. Patrick's in Happy Valley, and the
fine school of Mission de Dolores, they had all improved, though she
found some familiar features.

And the little nucleus of China Town had spread out. While the old
Californian and the Spaniard relinquished the distinguishing features
of the attire, the Chinaman in his blue shirt, full trousers, white
stockings, and pointed toes set way above the soles, and the black
pigtail wound about his head, looked just as she had seen them in her
childhood, and they had not grown appreciably older, or had they
always been old?

Mr. Dawson had died, and his wife had retired to a handsome private
dwelling, and kept her carriage. The Folsom House was much grander,
and Dick, a "young blood," whom girls were striving in vain to
captivate. Mrs. Folsom wanted to hear about her father's death, and if
her stepmother had lived up to her promises.

"I do suppose your father died a rich man. Or, did it all take wings
and vanish?"

Laverne answered that the business had not been settled, and that Mrs.
Westbury had proved very kind to her.

"I never could quite make up my mind about her. Queer, wasn't it, that
she should take such a fancy to you and insist upon having you, for
second wives' fancies don't often run that way. I had an idea she
would marry you to some lord, with all the money, they expected to
have. And here you've married that Mr. Savedra and come back. Does any
one hear what has become of that old uncle of yours?"

"Oh yes, he keeps in touch with Victor's father."

"It was too bad he should have lost all by that dreadful fire. Fires
have been the bane of the town, but we do not have as many now. Oh,
didn't the place look queer when we first came. There were rows of
tents still, and such shanties, and now great four-story bricks and
stone, and banks and business places. One would hardly believe it if
he had not seen it."

Mr. Personette was in a large real estate business, and even yet was
hardly reconciled that Howard had not gone into the law. But he was
very well satisfied with what he called "real business."

Mrs. Personette was stout and rosy, and had been made a grandmother
twice. Miss Gaines had taken a husband, though she still kept up a
very stylish establishment. Sometimes the three old friends met and
talked over their adventures.

Laverne was very happy and added a great charm to the household. Elena
would have had her talk continually about her life abroad.

"Why do you not make Victor describe some of the places where _he_ has
been? Every summer he took a journey away," she said, rather amused.

"He talks about places. You always put in the people, and they are
more interesting."

Jason Chadsey was startled by this message. His little girl really
here--but, after all, another's. At first it gave him a sharp pang.
Yes, he must fly to her. So he picked up his nuggets again. Norcross
Gulch was about deserted. Better mining had been found up on a little
stream emptying into the Sacramento. Cabins had mostly been carried
off, shacks had fallen down. Certainly, nothing could look more dreary
than a deserted mining region. But in a month or two another horde
would doubtless invade it.

He came in town and "spruced up," in his old Maine vernacular, was
trimmed as to beard and hair, and purchased a suit of new clothes. His
little girl! He ought to take some great treasure to her. What if she
were changed; but no, they would love each other to the very end of
life. He had sent her away in that desperate time, but no, he could
not have kept her.

Ah, what a meeting it was! A pretty girl with the air of a princess,
he thought, sweeter than some of the princesses he had seen, coming
back to his arms with all the old love, nay, more than the old love.
For now she realized what his affection had been, and how he had
soothed her mother in those last sad days. And she confessed to him
much that she had not even told Victor; how, by degrees, she had
learned the hollowness of the lavish professions that had put on the
semblance of love as the present whim had swayed Mrs. Westbury, and,
at the last, she had been really relieved to dismiss her, because she
could not bend her to her desires. For even Laverne had not suspected
her of aiming at the title for herself.

"And she takes everything!" he said indignantly. "He was concerned
with a company that will make some tremendous fortunes in
quicksilver--an English company. And it is said that he managed by
underhand ways to get possession of the tract while he was here. They
have just sent out a new agent, and that you, his only child, should
have no part nor lot in this!"

"Oh, don't mind," she cried, "I would rather belong to you in poverty
than to live with them in luxury. It was dreadful to have him die that
way; he was so fond of life, and business, and plans. It makes me feel
quite free not to be under any obligation to them. And I do not care
about the money. I would a hundred times rather have stayed with you
and helped you, and comforted you, if I could have been any comfort."

They would fain have kept Jason Chadsey for a longer stay, but he was
a little restless and would go back. He had not secured all the Golden
Fleece, he declared, and he must live up to his name. But he would see
them often now. To himself he said, he must get used to sharing his
little girl's heart with another, and, since it must be, he would
rather have it Victor than a stranger.

They were all very happy at the Savedras. The house was large, and
they gave them room and the heartiest of welcomes. And there was room
in the rapidly growing town, and need for young men of culture and
integrity and all the earnest purposes of life that mould men into
fine citizens. For there was much work to do in this glorious land,
even if nature had dealt bountifully by it.

And then came the terrific struggle that swept through the country,
with its four years of hopes and fears, sacrifices and sorrows, and
the loss of human lives. California took her share bravely. Gold mines
missed the rapid influx, the city had to call a halt in improvements.
But a great interest in agriculture was awakened, and now they
understood that this might be the most bountiful garden spot of the
world.

Through this time of anguish to many, Laverne Savedra felt that she
had been singled out for good fortune and some of the choicest
blessings of life. Her little son was born, and to none did it give
greater joy than to Jason Chadsey. He kept at his lode with varying
fortunes, and at length struck his aim in a splendid nugget that for a
while was the town's marvel. Now the place swarmed again, and he was
offered a fabulous price for his claim. He listened at length to his
earnest advisers, and retired from the field. For, though he was not
an old man, he had borne much of the heat and burden of life, and won
a resting time.

And, after years of trading about and buying a boat of his own,
Captain Hudson sailed in to San Francisco one fine day with his wife
and three babies, bright rosy children, and she with content written
in every line of her face. He had a cargo of valuables consigned to
several San Francisco firms, and they were overjoyed to meet old
friends. When her first baby was born, Carmen had written a long,
tender letter to her mother, and was glad to have a reply, even if it
did upbraid her dreadful disobedience. After that matters softened.
The old Papa Estenega died, and, though there were still some distant
cousins, he left the estate to those who had cared for him in his last
days. Juana had married well, and Anesta had a nice lover. She was to
go to Monterey to see them all as soon as Captain Hudson could be
spared.

And then, the last spike in the line that united California with the
East, was driven by Leland Stanford in May, 1869. Railroads were being
built elsewhere, but this was the dream and desire of the Old San
Francisco that had almost passed away.

But nothing could take away the beautiful Bay and the Golden Gate, the
entrance to the golden land that had been the dream of centuries.

Afterward they did go round the world. Some of the old ports had
changed greatly. Some just as Jason Chadsey had seen them thirty or
more years agone. And there was wonderful Japan, which was some day
to startle the world with its marvellous capacities. Strange India,
with its old gods and old beliefs; Arabia, the Holy Land, with its
many vicissitudes; great, barbarous Russia, Germany, the conqueror,
and the beautiful Eugénie a sorrowful widow.

In Europe, Isola Savedra joined them, and did make a name as a
remarkable improvisatrice. She did not court publicity, but the higher
circles of music were really enchanted with her marvellous gift, and
invitations came from crowned heads to play at palaces.

Lady Wrexford had achieved most of her ambitions, and was a social
success. If she could only have kept off old age!

They came back well content. And, lo! again San Francisco had changed,
stretched out up and down, with the hill-encircled bay on one side and
the ocean-fretted rocks on the other. Is this old Market Street, and
this Montgomery, with its splendid buildings? Whole blocks taken up by
spacious hotels. California Street, with its palaces; Kearny Street,
with its glittering stores and throngs of handsome shoppers or
promenaders--everywhere a marvellous city.

But the old "Forty-niners" are gone, the Mexican in his serape and
sombrero, the picturesque Californian on horseback, and nearly all the
wandering Indians. Tents and shacks and two-roomed adobe houses have
disappeared before the march of improvement.

The Savedras are prosperous and happy, and have a lovely home out of
the turmoil and confusion, where beautiful nature reigns supreme. And
an old, white-haired man, rather bent in the shoulders, tells a group
of pretty, joyous children about the Old San Francisco of half a
century before, and the long search of Jason after the Golden Fleece
and the little girl that he loved so well. They go up Telegraph Hill
and say, "Was it here she and Pablo made the little lake for Balder,
was it here she climbed up the crooked paths and tamed birds and
squirrels, and here that Bruno killed the cruel fox?" It is more
wonderful than any fairy story to them.



      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber's note:

  Inconsistent hyphenation and spelling in the original document have
  been preserved. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

  The island currently called Alcatraz is variously spelled Alcatras,
  Alcantraz, and Alcatraz.

  Belvidere on page 20 should possibly be Belvedere.

  Matteo on page 44 should possibly be Mateo.





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ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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