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Title: Stories in Light and Shadow
Author: Harte, Bret
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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STORIES IN LIGHT AND SHADOW

By Bret Harte


From: “ARGONAUT EDITION” OF THE WORKS OF BRET HARTE, VOL. 13

P. F. COLLIER & SON

NEW YORK



CONTENTS

“UNSER KARL”

UNCLE JIM AND UNCLE BILLY

SEE YUP

THE DESBOROUGH CONNECTIONS

SALOMY JANE’S KISS

THE MAN AND THE MOUNTAIN

THE PASSING OF ENRIQUEZ



STORIES IN LIGHT AND SHADOW



“UNSER KARL”


The American consul for Schlachtstadt had just turned out of the broad
Konig’s Allee into the little square that held his consulate. Its
residences always seemed to him to wear that singularly uninhabited air
peculiar to a street scene in a theatre. The facades, with their stiff,
striped wooden awnings over the windows, were of the regularity, color,
and pattern only seen on the stage, and conversation carried on in the
street below always seemed to be invested with that perfect confidence
and security which surrounds the actor in his painted desert of urban
perspective. Yet it was a peaceful change to the other byways and
highways of Schlachtstadt which were always filled with an equally
unreal and mechanical soldiery, who appeared to be daily taken out of
their boxes of “caserne” or “depot” and loosely scattered all over
the pretty linden-haunted German town. There were soldiers standing on
street corners; soldiers staring woodenly into shop windows; soldiers
halted suddenly into stone, like lizards, at the approach of Offiziere;
Offiziere lounging stiffly four abreast, sweeping the pavement with
their trailing sabres all at one angle. There were cavalcades of
red hussars, cavalcades of blue hussars, cavalcades of Uhlans, with
glittering lances and pennons--with or without a band--formally
parading; there were straggling “fatigues” or “details” coming round
the corners; there were dusty, businesslike columns of infantry, going
nowhere and to no purpose. And they one and all seemed to be WOUND
UP--for that service--and apparently always in the same place. In the
band of their caps--invariably of one pattern--was a button, in the
centre of which was a square opening or keyhole. The consul was always
convinced that through this keyhole opening, by means of a key, the
humblest caporal wound up his file, the Hauptmann controlled his
lieutenants and non-commissioned officers, and even the general himself,
wearing the same cap, was subject through his cap to a higher moving
power. In the suburbs, when the supply of soldiers gave out, there
were sentry-boxes; when these dropped off, there were “caissons,” or
commissary wagons. And, lest the military idea should ever fail from
out the Schlachtstadt’s burgher’s mind, there were police in uniform,
street-sweepers in uniform; the ticket-takers, guards, and sweepers at
the Bahnhof were in uniform,--but all wearing the same kind of cap, with
the probability of having been wound up freshly each morning for their
daily work. Even the postman delivered peaceful invoices to the consul
with his side-arms and the air of bringing dispatches from the field
of battle; and the consul saluted, and felt for a few moments the whole
weight of his consular responsibility.

Yet, in spite of this military precedence, it did not seem in the least
inconsistent with the decidedly peaceful character of the town, and this
again suggested its utter unreality; wandering cows sometimes got mixed
up with squadrons of cavalry, and did not seem to mind it; sheep passed
singly between files of infantry, or preceded them in a flock when on
the march; indeed, nothing could be more delightful and innocent than
to see a regiment of infantry in heavy marching order, laden with every
conceivable thing they could want for a week, returning after a cheerful
search for an invisible enemy in the suburbs, to bivouac peacefully
among the cabbages in the market-place. Nobody was ever imposed upon
for a moment by their tremendous energy and severe display; drums might
beat, trumpets blow, dragoons charge furiously all over the Exercier
Platz, or suddenly flash their naked swords in the streets to the
guttural command of an officer--nobody seemed to mind it. People glanced
up to recognize Rudolf or Max “doing their service,” nodded, and went
about their business. And although the officers always wore their
side-arms, and at the most peaceful of social dinners only relinquished
their swords in the hall, apparently that they might be ready to buckle
them on again and rush out to do battle for the Fatherland between the
courses, the other guests only looked upon these weapons in the light
of sticks and umbrellas, and possessed their souls in peace. And
when, added to this singular incongruity, many of these warriors were
spectacled, studious men, and, despite their lethal weapons, wore a
slightly professional air, and were--to a man--deeply sentimental and
singularly simple, their attitude in this eternal Kriegspiel seemed to
the consul more puzzling than ever.

As he entered his consulate he was confronted with another aspect of
Schlachtstadt quite as wonderful, yet already familiar to him. For,
in spite of these “alarums without,” which, however, never seem to
penetrate beyond the town itself, Schlachtstadt and its suburbs were
known all over the world for the manufactures of certain beautiful
textile fabrics, and many of the rank and file of those warriors had
built up the fame and prosperity of the district over their peaceful
looms in wayside cottages. There were great depots and counting-houses,
larger than even the cavalry barracks, where no other uniform but that
of the postman was known. Hence it was that the consul’s chief duty
was to uphold the flag of his own country by the examination
and certification of divers invoices sent to his office by the
manufacturers. But, oddly enough, these business messengers were chiefly
women,--not clerks, but ordinary household servants, and, on busy days,
the consulate might have been mistaken for a female registry office,
so filled and possessed it was by waiting Madchen. Here it was that
Gretchen, Lieschen, and Clarchen, in the cleanest of blue gowns, and
stoutly but smartly shod, brought their invoices in a piece of clean
paper, or folded in a blue handkerchief, and laid them, with fingers
more or less worn and stubby from hard service, before the consul for
his signature. Once, in the case of a very young Madchen, that signature
was blotted by the sweep of a flaxen braid upon it as the child turned
to go; but generally there was a grave, serious business instinct and
sense of responsibility in these girls of ordinary peasant origin which,
equally with their sisters of France, were unknown to the English or
American woman of any class.

That morning, however, there was a slight stir among those who, with
their knitting, were waiting their turn in the outer office as the
vice-consul ushered the police inspector into the consul’s private
office. He was in uniform, of course, and it took him a moment to
recover from his habitual stiff, military salute,--a little stiffer than
that of the actual soldier.

It was a matter of importance! A stranger had that morning been arrested
in the town and identified as a military deserter. He claimed to be an
American citizen; he was now in the outer office, waiting the consul’s
interrogation.

The consul knew, however, that the ominous accusation had only a mild
significance here. The term “military deserter” included any one who
had in youth emigrated to a foreign country without first fulfilling his
military duty to his fatherland. His first experiences of these cases
had been tedious and difficult,--involving a reference to his Minister
at Berlin, a correspondence with the American State Department, a
condition of unpleasant tension, and finally the prolonged detention of
some innocent German--naturalized--American citizen, who had forgotten
to bring his papers with him in revisiting his own native country. It so
chanced, however, that the consul enjoyed the friendship and confidence
of the General Adlerkreutz, who commanded the 20th Division, and it
further chanced that the same Adlerkreutz was as gallant a soldier as
ever cried Vorwarts! at the head of his men, as profound a military
strategist and organizer as ever carried his own and his enemy’s
plans in his iron head and spiked helmet, and yet with as simple and
unaffected a soul breathing under his gray mustache as ever issued from
the lips of a child. So this grim but gentle veteran had arranged
with the consul that in cases where the presumption of nationality
was strong, although the evidence was not present, he would take the
consul’s parole for the appearance of the “deserter” or his papers,
without the aid of prolonged diplomacy. In this way the consul had saved
to Milwaukee a worthy but imprudent brewer, and to New York an excellent
sausage butcher and possible alderman; but had returned to martial duty
one or two tramps or journeymen who had never seen America except from
the decks of the ships in which they were “stowaways,” and on which they
were returned,--and thus the temper and peace of two great nations were
preserved.

“He says,” said the inspector severely, “that he is an American citizen,
but has lost his naturalization papers. Yet he has made the damaging
admission to others that he lived several years in Rome! And,” continued
the inspector, looking over his shoulder at the closed door as he placed
his finger beside his nose, “he says he has relations living
at Palmyra, whom he frequently visited. Ach! Observe this
unheard-of-and-not-to-be-trusted statement!”

The consul, however, smiled with a slight flash of intelligence. “Let me
see him,” he said.

They passed into the outer office; another policeman and a corporal of
infantry saluted and rose. In the centre of an admiring and sympathetic
crowd of Dienstmadchen sat the culprit, the least concerned of the
party; a stripling--a boy--scarcely out of his teens! Indeed, it was
impossible to conceive of a more innocent, bucolic, and almost angelic
looking derelict. With a skin that had the peculiar white and rosiness
of fresh pork, he had blue eyes, celestially wide open and staring, and
the thick flocculent yellow curls of the sun god! He might have been
an overgrown and badly dressed Cupid who had innocently wandered from
Paphian shores. He smiled as the consul entered, and wiped from his
full red lips with the back of his hand the traces of a sausage he was
eating. The consul recognized the flavor at once,--he had smelled it
before in Lieschen’s little hand-basket.

“You say you lived at Rome?” began the consul pleasantly. “Did you take
out your first declaration of your intention of becoming an American
citizen there?”

The inspector cast an approving glance at the consul, fixed a stern eye
on the cherubic prisoner, and leaned back in his chair to hear the reply
to this terrible question.

“I don’t remember,” said the culprit, knitting his brows in infantine
thought. “It was either there, or at Madrid or Syracuse.”

The inspector was about to rise; this was really trifling with the
dignity of the municipality. But the consul laid his hand on the
official’s sleeve, and, opening an American atlas to a map of the State
of New York, said to the prisoner, as he placed the inspector’s hand on
the sheet, “I see you know the names of the TOWNS on the Erie and New
York Central Railroad. But”--

“I can tell you the number of people in each town and what are the
manufactures,” interrupted the young fellow, with youthful vanity.
“Madrid has six thousand, and there are over sixty thousand in”--

“That will do,” said the consul, as a murmur of Wunderschon! went round
the group of listening servant girls, while glances of admiration were
shot at the beaming accused. “But you ought to remember the name of the
town where your naturalization papers were afterwards sent.”

“But I was a citizen from the moment I made my declaration,” said the
stranger smiling, and looking triumphantly at his admirers, “and I could
vote!”

The inspector, since he had come to grief over American geographical
nomenclature, was grimly taciturn. The consul, however, was by no means
certain of his victory. His alleged fellow citizen was too encyclopaedic
in his knowledge: a clever youth might have crammed for this with a
textbook, but then he did not LOOK at all clever; indeed, he had rather
the stupidity of the mythological subject he represented. “Leave him
with me,” said the consul. The inspector handed him a precis of the
case. The cherub’s name was Karl Schwartz, an orphan, missing from
Schlachtstadt since the age of twelve. Relations not living, or in
emigration. Identity established by prisoner’s admission and record.

“Now, Karl,” said the consul cheerfully, as the door of his private
office closed upon them, “what is your little game? Have you EVER had
any papers? And if you were clever enough to study the map of New York
State, why weren’t you clever enough to see that it wouldn’t stand you
in place of your papers?”

“Dot’s joost it,” said Karl in English; “but you see dot if I haf
declairet mine intention of begomming a citizen, it’s all the same,
don’t it?”

“By no means, for you seem to have no evidence of the DECLARATION; no
papers at all.”

“Zo!” said Karl. Nevertheless, he pushed his small, rosy,
pickled-pig’s-feet of fingers through his fleecy curls and beamed
pleasantly at the consul. “Dot’s vot’s der matter,” he said, as if
taking a kindly interest in some private trouble of the consul’s. “Dot’s
vere you vos, eh?”

The consul looked steadily at him for a moment. Such stupidity was by
no means phenomenal, nor at all inconsistent with his appearance. “And,”
 continued the consul gravely, “I must tell you that, unless you have
other proofs than you have shown, it will be my duty to give you up to
the authorities.”

“Dot means I shall serve my time, eh?” said Karl, with an unchanged
smile.

“Exactly so,” returned the consul.

“Zo!” said karl. “Dese town--dose Schlachtstadt--is fine town, eh? Fine
vomens. Goot men. Und beer und sausage. Blenty to eat and drink, eh?
Und,” looking around the room, “you and te poys haf a gay times.”

“Yes,” said the consul shortly, turning away. But he presently faced
round again on the unfettered Karl, who was evidently indulging in a
gormandizing reverie.

“What on earth brought you here, anyway?”

“Was it das?”

“What brought you here from America, or wherever you ran away from?”

“To see der, volks.”

“But you are an ORPHAN, you know, and you have no folks living here.”

“But all Shermany is mine volks,--de whole gountry, don’t it? Pet your
poots! How’s dot, eh?”

The consul turned back to his desk and wrote a short note to General
Adlerkreutz in his own American German. He did not think it his duty
in the present case to interfere with the authorities or to offer his
parole for Karl Schwartz. But he would claim that, as the offender
was evidently an innocent emigrant and still young, any punishment or
military degradation be omitted, and he be allowed to take his place
like any other recruit in the ranks. If he might have the temerity to
the undoubted, far-seeing military authority of suggestion making here,
he would suggest that Karl was for the commissariat fitted! Of course,
he still retained the right, on production of satisfactory proof, his
discharge to claim.

The consul read this aloud to Karl. The cherubic youth smiled and said,
“Zo!” Then, extending his hand, he added the word “Zshake!”

The consul shook his hand a little remorsefully, and, preceding him to
the outer room, resigned him with the note into the inspector’s hands. A
universal sigh went up from the girls, and glances of appeal sought the
consul; but he wisely concluded that it would be well, for a while, that
Karl--a helpless orphan--should be under some sort of discipline! And
the securer business of certifying invoices recommenced.

Late that afternoon he received a folded bit of blue paper from the
waistbelt of an orderly, which contained in English characters and as
a single word “Alright,” followed by certain jagged pen-marks, which he
recognized as Adlerkreutz’s signature. But it was not until a week later
that he learned anything definite. He was returning one night to his
lodgings in the residential part of the city, and, in opening the door
with his pass-key, perceived in the rear of the hall his handmaiden
Trudschen, attended by the usual blue or yellow or red shadow. He was
passing by them with the local ‘n’ Abend! on his lips when the soldier
turned his face and saluted. The consul stopped. It was the cherub Karl
in uniform!

But it had not subdued a single one of his characteristics. His hair
had been cropped a little more closely under his cap, but there was its
color and woolliness still intact; his plump figure was girt by belt and
buttons, but he only looked the more unreal, and more like a combination
of pen-wiper and pincushion, until his puffy breast and shoulders seemed
to offer a positive invitation to any one who had picked up a pin. But,
wonderful!--according to his brief story--he had been so proficient
in the goose step that he had been put in uniform already, and allowed
certain small privileges,--among them, evidently the present one.
The consul smiled and passed on. But it seemed strange to him that
Trudschen, who was a tall strapping girl, exceedingly popular with
the military, and who had never looked lower than a corporal at least,
should accept the attentions of an Einjahriger like that. Later he
interrogated her.

Ach! it was only Unser Karl! And the consul knew he was Amerikanisch!

“Indeed!”

“Yes! It was such a tearful story!”

“Tell me what it is,” said the consul, with a faint hope that Karl had
volunteered some communication of his past.

“Ach Gott! There in America he was a man, and could ‘vote,’ make laws,
and, God willing, become a town councilor,--or Ober Intendant,--and
here he was nothing but a soldier for years. And this America was a
fine country. Wunderschon? There were such big cities, and one
‘Booflo’--could hold all Schlachtstadt, and had of people five hundred
thousand!”

The consul sighed. Karl had evidently not yet got off the line of the
New York Central and Erie roads. “But does he remember yet what he did
with his papers?” said the consul persuasively.

“Ach! What does he want with PAPERS when he could make the laws? They
were dumb, stupid things--these papers--to him.”

“But his appetite remains good, I hope?” suggested the consul.

This closed the conversation, although Karl came on many other nights,
and his toy figure quite supplanted the tall corporal of hussars in the
remote shadows of the hall. One night, however, the consul returned home
from a visit to a neighboring town a day earlier than he was expected.
As he neared his house he was a little surprised to find the windows of
his sitting-room lit up, and that there were no signs of Trudschen in
the lower hall or passages. He made his way upstairs in the dark and
pushed open the door of his apartment. To his astonishment, Karl was
sitting comfortably in his own chair, his cap off before a student-lamp
on the table, deeply engaged in apparent study. So profound was his
abstraction that it was a moment before he looked up, and the consul had
a good look at his usually beaming and responsive face, which, however,
now struck him as wearing a singular air of thought and concentration.
When their eyes at last met, he rose instantly and saluted, and
his beaming smile returned. But, either from his natural phlegm or
extraordinary self-control he betrayed neither embarrassment nor alarm.

The explanation he gave was direct and simple. Trudschen had gone out
with the Corporal Fritz for a short walk, and had asked him to “keep
house” during their absence. He had no books, no papers, nothing to read
in the barracks, and no chance to improve his mind. He thought the Herr
Consul would not object to his looking at his books. The consul was
touched; it was really a trivial indiscretion and as much Trudschen’s
fault as Karl’s! And if the poor fellow had any mind to improve,--his
recent attitude certainly suggested thought and reflection,--the consul
were a brute to reprove him. He smiled pleasantly as Karl returned a
stubby bit of pencil and some greasy memoranda to his breast pocket, and
glanced at the table. But to his surprise it was a large map that Karl
had been studying, and, to his still greater surprise, a map of the
consul’s own district.

“You seem to be fond of map-studying,” said the consul pleasantly. “You
are not thinking of emigrating again?”

“Ach, no!” said Karl simply; “it is my cousine vot haf lif near here. I
find her.”

But he left on Trudschen’s return, and the consul was surprised to
see that, while Karl’s attitude towards her had not changed, the girl
exhibited less effusiveness than before. Believing it to be partly
the effect of the return of the corporal, the consul taxed her with
faithlessness. But Trudschen looked grave.

“Ah! He has new friends, this Karl of ours. He cares no more for poor
girls like us. When fine ladies like the old Frau von Wimpfel make much
of him, what will you?”

It appeared, indeed, from Trudschen’s account, that the widow of a
wealthy shopkeeper had made a kind of protege of the young soldier,
and given him presents. Furthermore, that the wife of his colonel had
employed him to act as page or attendant at an afternoon Gesellschaft,
and that since then the wives of other officers had sought him. Did not
the Herr Consul think it was dreadful that this American, who could vote
and make laws, should be subjected to such things?

The consul did not know what to think. It seemed to him, however, that
Karl was “getting on,” and that he was not in need of his assistance.
It was in the expectation of hearing more about him, however, that
he cheerfully accepted an invitation from Adlerkreutz to dine at the
Caserne one evening with the staff. Here he found, somewhat to his
embarrassment, that the dinner was partly in his own honor, and at the
close of five courses, and the emptying of many bottles, his health was
proposed by the gallant veteran Adlerkreutz in a neat address of many
syllables containing all the parts of speech and a single verb. It was
to the effect that in his soul-friend the Herr Consul and himself was
the never-to-be-severed union of Germania and Columbia, and in their
perfect understanding was the war-defying alliance of two great nations,
and that in the consul’s noble restoration of Unser Karl to the German
army there was the astute diplomacy of a great mind. He was satisfied
that himself and the Herr Consul still united in the great future,
looking down upon a common brotherhood,--the great Germanic-American
Confederation,--would feel satisfied with themselves and each other
and their never-to-be-forgotten earth-labors. Cries of “Hoch! Hoch!”
 resounded through the apartment with the grinding roll of heavy-bottomed
beer-glasses, and the consul, tremulous with emotion and a reserve verb
in his pocket, rose to reply. Fully embarked upon this perilous voyage,
and steering wide and clear of any treacherous shore of intelligence or
fancied harbor of understanding and rest, he kept boldly out at sea. He
said that, while his loving adversary in this battle of compliment had
disarmed him and left him no words to reply to his generous panegyric,
he could not but join with that gallant soldier in his heartfelt
aspirations for the peaceful alliance of both countries. But while he
fully reciprocated all his host’s broader and higher sentiments, he must
point out to this gallant assembly, this glorious brotherhood, that
even a greater tie of sympathy knitted him to the general,--the tie of
kinship! For while it was well known to the present company that their
gallant commander had married an Englishwoman, he, the consul, although
always an American, would now for the first time confess to them that he
HIMSELF was of Dutch descent on his mother’s side! He would say no more,
but confidently leave them in possession of the tremendous significance
of this until-then-unknown fact! He sat down, with the forgotten verb
still in his pocket, but the applause that followed this perfectly
conclusive, satisfying, and logical climax convinced him of his success.
His hand was grasped eagerly by successive warriors; the general turned
and embraced him before the breathless assembly; there were tears in the
consul’s eyes.

As the festivities progressed, however, he found to his surprise that
Karl had not only become the fashion as a military page, but that his
naive stupidity and sublime simplicity was the wondering theme and
inexhaustible delight of the whole barracks. Stories were told of his
genius for blundering which rivaled Handy Andy’s; old stories of fatuous
ignorance were rearranged and fitted to “our Karl.” It was “our Karl”
 who, on receiving a tip of two marks from the hands of a young lady to
whom he had brought the bouquet of a gallant lieutenant, exhibited some
hesitation, and finally said, “Yes, but, gnadiges Fraulein, that COST us
nine marks!” It was “our Karl” who, interrupting the regrets of another
lady that she was unable to accept his master’s invitation, said
politely, “Ah! what matter, Gnadigste? I have still a letter for
Fraulein Kopp [her rival], and I was told that I must not invite you
both.” It was “our Karl” who astonished the hostess to whom he was sent
at the last moment with apologies from an officer, unexpectedly detained
at barrack duty, by suggesting that he should bring that unfortunate
officer his dinner from the just served table. Nor were these charming
infelicities confined to his social and domestic service. Although
ready, mechanical, and invariably docile in the manual and physical
duties of a soldier,--which endeared him to the German drill-master,--he
was still invincibly ignorant as to its purport, or even the meaning
and structure of the military instruments he handled or vacantly
looked upon. It was “our Karl” who suggested to his instructors that in
field-firing it was quicker and easier to load his musket to the
muzzle at once, and get rid of its death-dealing contents at a single
discharge, than to load and fire consecutively. It was “our Karl” who
nearly killed the instructor at sentry drill by adhering to the letter
of his instructions when that instructor had forgotten the password.
It was the same Karl who, severely admonished for his recklessness, the
next time added to his challenge the precaution, “Unless you instantly
say ‘Fatherland’ I’ll fire!” Yet his perfect good humor and childlike
curiosity were unmistakable throughout, and incited his comrades and
his superiors to show him everything in the hope of getting some
characteristic comment from him. Everything and everybody were open to
Karl and his good-humored simplicity.

That evening, as the general accompanied the consul down to the gateway
and the waiting carriage, a figure in uniform ran spontaneously before
them and shouted “Heraus!” to the sentries. But the general promptly
checked “the turning out” of the guard with a paternal shake of his
finger to the over-zealous soldier, in whom the consul recognized Karl.
“He is my Bursche now,” said the general explanatorily. “My wife has
taken a fancy to him. Ach! he is very popular with these women.” The
consul was still more surprised. The Frau Generalin Adlerkreutz he
knew to be a pronounced Englishwoman,--carrying out her English
ways, proprieties, and prejudices in the very heart of Schlachtstadt,
uncompromisingly, without fear and without reproach. That she should
follow a merely foreign society craze, or alter her English household so
as to admit the impossible Karl, struck him oddly.

A month or two elapsed without further news of Karl, when one afternoon
he suddenly turned up at the consulate. He had again sought the consular
quiet to write a few letters home; he had no chance in the confinement
of the barracks.

“But by this time you must be in the family of a field-marshal, at
least,” suggested the consul pleasantly.

“Not to-day, but next week,” said Karl, with sublime simplicity; “THEN I
am going to serve with the governor commandant of Rheinfestung.”

The consul smiled, motioned him to a seat at a table in the outer
office, and left him undisturbed to his correspondence.

Returning later, he found Karl, his letters finished, gazing with
childish curiosity and admiration at some thick official envelopes,
bearing the stamp of the consulate, which were lying on the table. He
was evidently struck with the contrast between them and the thin, flimsy
affairs he was holding in his hand. He appeared still more impressed
when the consul told him what they were.

“Are you writing to your friends?” continued the consul, touched by his
simplicity.

“Ach ja!” said Karl eagerly.

“Would you like to put your letter in one of these envelopes?” continued
the official.

The beaming face and eyes of Karl were a sufficient answer. After all,
it was a small favor granted to this odd waif, who seemed to still cling
to the consular protection. He handed him the envelope and left him
addressing it in boyish pride.

It was Karl’s last visit to the consulate. He appeared to have spoken
truly, and the consul presently learned that he had indeed been
transferred, through some high official manipulation, to the personal
service of the governor of Rheinfestung. There was weeping among the
Dienstmadchen of Schlachtstadt, and a distinct loss of originality and
lightness in the gatherings of the gentler Hausfrauen. His memory
still survived in the barracks through the later editions of his
former delightful stupidities,--many of them, it is to be feared,
were inventions,--and stories that were supposed to have come from
Rheinfestung were described in the slang of the Offiziere as being
“colossal.” But the consul remembered Rheinfestung, and could not
imagine it as a home for Karl, or in any way fostering his peculiar
qualities. For it was eminently a fortress of fortresses, a magazine of
magazines, a depot of depots. It was the key of the Rhine, the citadel
of Westphalia, the “Clapham Junction” of German railways, but defended,
fortified, encompassed, and controlled by the newest as well as the
oldest devices of military strategy and science. Even in the pipingest
time of peace, whole railway trains went into it like a rat in a trap,
and might have never come out of it; it stretched out an inviting
hand and arm across the river that might in the twinkling of an eye be
changed into a closed fist of menace. You “defiled” into it, commanded
at every step by enfilading walls; you “debouched” out of it, as you
thought, and found yourself only before the walls; you “reentered” it at
every possible angle; you did everything apparently but pass through it.
You thought yourself well out of it, and were stopped by a bastion. Its
circumvallations haunted you until you came to the next station. It had
pressed even the current of the river into its defensive service. There
were secrets of its foundations and mines that only the highest military
despots knew and kept to themselves. In a word--it was impregnable.

That such a place could not be trifled with or misunderstood in its
right-and-acute-angled severities seemed plain to every one. But set on
by his companions, who were showing him its defensive foundations, or
in his own idle curiosity, Karl managed to fall into the Rhine and was
fished out with difficulty. The immersion may have chilled his military
ardor or soured his good humor, for later the consul heard that he had
visited the American consular agent at an adjacent town with the old
story of his American citizenship. “He seemed,” said the consul’s
colleague, “to be well posted about American railways and American
towns, but he had no papers. He lounged around the office for a while
and”--

“Wrote letters home?” suggested the consul, with a flash of
reminiscence.

“Yes, the poor chap had no privacy at the barracks, and I reckon was
overlooked or bedeviled.”

This was the last the consul heard of Karl Schwartz directly; for a
week or two later he again fell into the Rhine, this time so fatally and
effectually that in spite of the efforts of his companions he was swept
away by the rapid current, and thus ended his service to his country.
His body was never recovered.

A few months before the consul was transferred from Schlachtstadt to
another post his memory of the departed Karl was revived by a visit from
Adlerkreutz. The general looked grave.

“You remember Unser Karl?” he said.

“Yes.”

“Do you think he was an impostor?”

“As regards his American citizenship, yes! But I could not say more.”

“So!” said the general. “A very singular thing has happened,” he added,
twirling his mustache. “The Inspector of police has notified us of the
arrival of a Karl Schwartz in this town. It appears he is the REAL Karl
Schwartz, identified by his sister as the only one. The other, who was
drowned, was an impostor. Hein?”

“Then you have secured another recruit?” said the consul smilingly.

“No. For this one has already served his time in Elsass, where he went
when he left here as a boy. But, Donnerwetter, why should that dumb fool
take his name?”

“By chance, I fancy. Then he stupidly stuck to it, and had to take the
responsibilities with it. Don’t you see?” said the consul, pleased with
his own cleverness.

“Zo-o!” said the general slowly, in his deepest voice. But the German
exclamation has a variety of significance, according to the inflection,
and Adlerkreutz’s ejaculation seemed to contain them all.

*****

It was in Paris, where the consul had lingered on his way to his new
post. He was sitting in a well-known cafe, among whose habitues were
several military officers of high rank. A group of them were gathered
round a table near him. He was idly watching them with an odd
recollection of Schlachtstadt in his mind, and as idly glancing from
them to the more attractive Boulevard without. The consul was getting a
little tired of soldiers.

Suddenly there was a slight stir in the gesticulating group and a cry of
greeting. The consul looked up mechanically, and then his eyes remained
fixed and staring at the newcomer. For it was the dead Karl; Karl,
surely! Karl!--his plump figure belted in a French officer’s tunic; his
flaxen hair clipped a little closer, but still its fleece showing under
his kepi. Karl, his cheeks more cherubic than ever--unchanged but for a
tiny yellow toy mustache curling up over the corners of his full lips.
Karl, beaming at his companions in his old way, but rattling off French
vivacities without the faintest trace of accent. Could he be mistaken?
Was it some phenomenal resemblance, or had the soul of the German
private been transmigrated to the French officer.

The consul hurriedly called the garcon. “Who is that officer who has
just arrived?”

“It is the Captain Christian, of the Intelligence Bureau,” said the
waiter, with proud alacrity. “A famous officer, brave as a rabbit,--un
fier lapin,--and one of our best clients. So drole, too, such a farceur
and mimic. M’sieur would be ravished to hear his imitations.”

“But he looks like a German; and his name!”

“Ah, he is from Alsace. But not a German!” said the waiter, absolutely
whitening with indignation. “He was at Belfort. So was I. Mon Dieu! No,
a thousand times no!”

“But has he been living here long?” said the consul.

“In Paris, a few months. But his Department, M’sieur understands, takes
him EVERYWHERE! Everywhere where he can gain information.”

The consul’s eyes were still on the Captain Christian. Presently the
officer, perhaps instinctively conscious of the scrutiny, looked towards
him. Their eyes met. To the consul’s surprise, the ci-devant Karl beamed
upon him, and advanced with outstretched hand.

But the consul stiffened slightly, and remained so with his glass in his
hand. At which Captain Christian brought his own easily to a military
salute, and said politely:--

“Monsieur le Consul has been promoted from his post. Permit me to
congratulate him.”

“You have heard, then?” said the consul dryly.

“Otherwise I should not presume. For our Department makes it a
business--in Monsieur le Consul’s case it becomes a pleasure--to know
everything.”

“Did your Department know that the real Karl Schwartz has returned?”
 said the consul dryly.

Captain Christian shrugged his shoulders. “Then it appears that the sham
Karl died none too soon,” he said lightly. “And yet”--he bent his eyes
with mischievous reproach upon the consul.

“Yet what?” demanded the consul sternly.

“Monsieur le Consul might have saved the unfortunate man by accepting
him as an American citizen and not helping to force him into the German
service.”

The consul saw in a flash the full military significance of this logic,
and could not repress a smile. At which Captain Christian dropped easily
into a chair beside him, and as easily into broken German English:--

“Und,” he went on, “dees town--dees Schlachtstadt is fine town, eh? Fine
womens? Goot men? Und peer and sausage? Blenty to eat and trink, eh? Und
you und te poys haf a gay times?”

The consul tried to recover his dignity. The waiter behind him,
recognizing only the delightful mimicry of this adorable officer, was in
fits of laughter. Nevertheless, the consul managed to say dryly:--

“And the barracks, the magazines, the commissariat, the details, the
reserves of Schlachtstadt were very interesting?”

“Assuredly.”

“And Rheinfestung--its plans--its details, even its dangerous
foundations by the river--they were to a soldier singularly
instructive?”

“You have reason to say so,” said Captain Christian, curling his little
mustache.

“And the fortress--you think?”

“Imprenable! Mais”--

The consul remembered General Adlerkreutz’s “Zo-o,” and wondered.



UNCLE JIM AND UNCLE BILLY


They were partners. The avuncular title was bestowed on them by Cedar
Camp, possibly in recognition of a certain matured good humor, quite
distinct from the spasmodic exuberant spirits of its other members,
and possibly from what, to its youthful sense, seemed their advanced
ages--which must have been at least forty! They had also set habits
even in their improvidence, lost incalculable and unpayable sums to
each other over euchre regularly every evening, and inspected their
sluice-boxes punctually every Saturday for repairs--which they never
made. They even got to resemble each other, after the fashion of old
married couples, or, rather, as in matrimonial partnerships, were
subject to the domination of the stronger character; although in
their case it is to be feared that it was the feminine Uncle
Billy--enthusiastic, imaginative, and loquacious--who swayed the
masculine, steady-going, and practical Uncle Jim. They had lived in the
camp since its foundation in 1849; there seemed to be no reason why
they should not remain there until its inevitable evolution into a
mining-town. The younger members might leave through restless ambition
or a desire for change or novelty; they were subject to no such trifling
mutation. Yet Cedar Camp was surprised one day to hear that Uncle Billy
was going away.

The rain was softly falling on the bark thatch of the cabin with a
muffled murmur, like a sound heard through sleep. The southwest trades
were warm even at that altitude, as the open door testified, although
a fire of pine bark was flickering on the adobe hearth and striking out
answering fires from the freshly scoured culinary utensils on the rude
sideboard, which Uncle Jim had cleaned that morning with his usual
serious persistency. Their best clothes, which were interchangeable and
worn alternately by each other on festal occasions, hung on the
walls, which were covered with a coarse sailcloth canvas instead of
lath-and-plaster, and were diversified by pictures from illustrated
papers and stains from the exterior weather. Two “bunks,” like ships’
berths,--an upper and lower one,--occupied the gable-end of this single
apartment, and on beds of coarse sacking, filled with dry moss, were
carefully rolled their respective blankets and pillows. They were the
only articles not used in common, and whose individuality was respected.

Uncle Jim, who had been sitting before the fire, rose as the square bulk
of his partner appeared at the doorway with an armful of wood for the
evening stove. By that sign he knew it was nine o’clock: for the last
six years Uncle Billy had regularly brought in the wood at that hour,
and Uncle Jim had as regularly closed the door after him, and set out
their single table, containing a greasy pack of cards taken from its
drawer, a bottle of whiskey, and two tin drinking-cups. To this was
added a ragged memorandum-book and a stick of pencil. The two men drew
their stools to the table.

“Hol’ on a minit,” said Uncle Billy.

His partner laid down the cards as Uncle Billy extracted from his pocket
a pill-box, and, opening it, gravely took a pill. This was clearly an
innovation on their regular proceedings, for Uncle Billy was always in
perfect health.

“What’s this for?” asked Uncle Jim half scornfully.

“Agin ager.”

“You ain’t got no ager,” said Uncle Jim, with the assurance of intimate
cognizance of his partner’s physical condition.

“But it’s a pow’ful preventive! Quinine! Saw this box at Riley’s store,
and laid out a quarter on it. We kin keep it here, comfortable, for
evenings. It’s mighty soothin’ arter a man’s done a hard day’s work on
the river-bar. Take one.”

Uncle Jim gravely took a pill and swallowed it, and handed the box back
to his partner.

“We’ll leave it on the table, sociable like, in case any of the boys
come in,” said Uncle Billy, taking up the cards. “Well. How do we
stand?”

Uncle Jim consulted the memorandum-book. “You were owin’ me sixty-two
thousand dollars on the last game, and the limit’s seventy-five
thousand!”

“Je whillikins!” ejaculated Uncle Billy. “Let me see.”

He examined the book, feebly attempted to challenge the additions, but
with no effect on the total. “We oughter hev made the limit a hundred
thousand,” he said seriously; “seventy-five thousand is only triflin’
in a game like ours. And you’ve set down my claim at Angel’s?” he
continued.

“I allowed you ten thousand dollars for that,” said Uncle Jim, with
equal gravity, “and it’s a fancy price too.”

The claim in question being an unprospected hillside ten miles distant,
which Uncle Jim had never seen, and Uncle Billy had not visited for
years, the statement was probably true; nevertheless, Uncle Billy
retorted:--

“Ye kin never tell how these things will pan out. Why, only this mornin’
I was taking a turn round Shot Up Hill, that ye know is just rotten with
quartz and gold, and I couldn’t help thinkin’ how much it was like my
ole claim at Angel’s. I must take a day off to go on there and strike a
pick in it, if only for luck.”

Suddenly he paused and said, “Strange, ain’t it, you should speak of it
to-night? Now I call that queer!”

He laid down his cards and gazed mysteriously at his companion. Uncle
Jim knew perfectly that Uncle Billy had regularly once a week for
many years declared his final determination to go over to Angel’s and
prospect his claim, yet nevertheless he half responded to his partner’s
suggestion of mystery, and a look of fatuous wonder crept into his eyes.
But he contented himself by saying cautiously, “You spoke of it first.”

“That’s the more sing’lar,” said Uncle Billy confidently. “And I’ve been
thinking about it, and kinder seeing myself thar all day. It’s mighty
queer!” He got up and began to rummage among some torn and coverless
books in the corner.

“Where’s that ‘Dream Book’ gone to?”

“The Carson boys borrowed it,” replied Uncle Jim. “Anyhow, yours wasn’t
no dream--only a kind o’ vision, and the book don’t take no stock in
visions.” Nevertheless, he watched his partner with some sympathy, and
added, “That reminds me that I had a dream the other night of being in
‘Frisco at a small hotel, with heaps o’ money, and all the time being
sort o’ scared and bewildered over it.”

“No?” queried his partner eagerly yet reproachfully. “You never let
on anything about it to ME! It’s mighty queer you havin’ these strange
feelin’s, for I’ve had ‘em myself. And only to-night, comin’ up from
the spring, I saw two crows hopping in the trail, and I says, ‘If I see
another, it’s luck, sure!’ And you’ll think I’m lyin’, but when I went
to the wood-pile just now there was the THIRD one sittin’ up on a log as
plain as I see you. Tell ‘e what folks ken laugh--but that’s just what
Jim Filgee saw the night before he made the big strike!”

They were both smiling, yet with an underlying credulity and seriousness
as singularly pathetic as it seemed incongruous to their years and
intelligence. Small wonder, however, that in their occupation and
environment--living daily in an atmosphere of hope, expectation, and
chance, looking forward each morning to the blind stroke of a pick that
might bring fortune--they should see signs in nature and hear mystic
voices in the trackless woods that surrounded them. Still less strange
that they were peculiarly susceptible to the more recognized diversions
of chance, and were gamblers on the turning of a card who trusted to the
revelation of a shovelful of upturned earth.

It was quite natural, therefore, that they should return from their
abstract form of divination to the table and their cards. But they were
scarcely seated before they heard a crackling step in the brush outside,
and the free latch of their door was lifted. A younger member of the
camp entered. He uttered a peevish “Halloo!” which might have passed
for a greeting, or might have been a slight protest at finding the door
closed, drew the stool from which Uncle Jim had just risen before the
fire, shook his wet clothes like a Newfoundland dog, and sat down. Yet
he was by no means churlish nor coarse-looking, and this act was rather
one of easy-going, selfish, youthful familiarity than of rudeness. The
cabin of Uncles Billy and Jim was considered a public right or “common”
 of the camp. Conferences between individual miners were appointed there.
“I’ll meet you at Uncle Billy’s” was a common tryst. Added to this was a
tacit claim upon the partners’ arbitrative powers, or the equal right to
request them to step outside if the interviews were of a private nature.
Yet there was never any objection on the part of the partners, and
to-night there was not a shadow of resentment of this intrusion in the
patient, good-humored, tolerant eyes of Uncles Jim and Billy as they
gazed at their guest. Perhaps there was a slight gleam of relief in
Uncle Jim’s when he found that the guest was unaccompanied by any one,
and that it was not a tryst. It would have been unpleasant for the
two partners to have stayed out in the rain while their guests were
exchanging private confidences in their cabin. While there might have
been no limit to their good will, there might have been some to their
capacity for exposure.

Uncle Jim drew a huge log from beside the hearth and sat on the driest
end of it, while their guest occupied the stool. The young man, without
turning away from his discontented, peevish brooding over the fire,
vaguely reached backward for the whiskey-bottle and Uncle Billy’s tin
cup, to which he was assisted by the latter’s hospitable hand. But on
setting down the cup his eye caught sight of the pill-box.

“Wot’s that?” he said, with gloomy scorn. “Rat poison?”

“Quinine pills--agin ager,” said Uncle Jim. “The newest thing out. Keeps
out damp like Injin-rubber! Take one to follow yer whiskey. Me and Uncle
Billy wouldn’t think o’ settin’ down, quiet like, in the evening arter
work, without ‘em. Take one--ye ‘r’ welcome! We keep ‘em out here for
the boys.”

Accustomed as the partners were to adopt and wear each other’s opinions
before folks, as they did each other’s clothing, Uncle Billy was,
nevertheless, astonished and delighted at Uncle Jim’s enthusiasm over
HIS pills. The guest took one and swallowed it.

“Mighty bitter!” he said, glancing at his hosts with the quick
Californian suspicion of some practical joke. But the honest faces of
the partners reassured him.

“That bitterness ye taste,” said Uncle Jim quickly, “is whar the
thing’s gittin’ in its work. Sorter sickenin’ the malaria--and kinder
water-proofin’ the insides all to onct and at the same lick! Don’t yer
see? Put another in yer vest pocket; you’ll be cryin’ for ‘em like a
child afore ye get home. Thar! Well, how’s things agoin’ on your claim,
Dick? Boomin’, eh?”

The guest raised his head and turned it sufficiently to fling his answer
back over his shoulder at his hosts. “I don’t know what YOU’D call’
boomin’,’” he said gloomily; “I suppose you two men sitting here
comfortably by the fire, without caring whether school keeps or not,
would call two feet of backwater over one’s claim ‘boomin’;’ I reckon
YOU’D consider a hundred and fifty feet of sluicing carried away,
and drifting to thunder down the South Fork, something in the way of
advertising to your old camp! I suppose YOU’d think it was an inducement
to investors! I shouldn’t wonder,” he added still more gloomily, as a
sudden dash of rain down the wide-throated chimney dropped in his
tin cup--“and it would be just like you two chaps, sittin’ there
gormandizing over your quinine--if yer said this rain that’s lasted
three weeks was something to be proud of!”

It was the cheerful and the satisfying custom of the rest of the camp,
for no reason whatever, to hold Uncle Jim and Uncle Billy responsible
for its present location, its vicissitudes, the weather, or any
convulsion of nature; and it was equally the partners’ habit, for no
reason whatever, to accept these animadversions and apologize.

“It’s a rain that’s soft and mellowin’,” said Uncle Billy gently,
“and supplin’ to the sinews and muscles. Did ye ever notice,
Jim”--ostentatiously to his partner--“did ye ever notice that you get
inter a kind o’ sweaty lather workin’ in it? Sorter openin’ to the
pores!”

“Fetches ‘em every time,” said Uncle Billy. “Better nor fancy soap.”

Their guest laughed bitterly. “Well, I’m going to leave it to you. I
reckon to cut the whole concern to-morrow, and ‘lite’ out for something
new. It can’t be worse than this.”

The two partners looked grieved, albeit they were accustomed to these
outbursts. Everybody who thought of going away from Cedar Camp used it
first as a threat to these patient men, after the fashion of runaway
nephews, or made an exemplary scene of their going.

“Better think twice afore ye go,” said Uncle Billy.

“I’ve seen worse weather afore ye came,” said Uncle Jim slowly. “Water
all over the Bar; the mud so deep ye couldn’t get to Angel’s for a
sack o’ flour, and we had to grub on pine nuts and jackass-rabbits. And
yet--we stuck by the camp, and here we are!”

The mild answer apparently goaded their guest to fury. He rose from his
seat, threw back his long dripping hair from his handsome but querulous
face, and scattered a few drops on the partners. “Yes, that’s just it.
That’s what gets me! Here you stick, and here you are! And here you’ll
stick and rust until you starve or drown! Here you are,--two men who
ought to be out in the world, playing your part as grown men,--stuck
here like children ‘playing house’ in the woods; playing work in your
wretched mud-pie ditches, and content. Two men not so old that you
mightn’t be taking your part in the fun of the world, going to balls
or theatres, or paying attention to girls, and yet old enough to have
married and have your families around you, content to stay in this
God-forsaken place; old bachelors, pigging together like poorhouse
paupers. That’s what gets me! Say you LIKE it? Say you expect by
hanging on to make a strike--and what does that amount to? What are YOUR
chances? How many of us have made, or are making, more than grub wages?
Say you’re willing to share and share alike as you do--have you got
enough for two? Aren’t you actually living off each other? Aren’t you
grinding each other down, choking each other’s struggles, as you sink
together deeper and deeper in the mud of this cussed camp? And while
you’re doing this, aren’t you, by your age and position here, holding
out hopes to others that you know cannot be fulfilled?”

Accustomed as they were to the half-querulous, half-humorous, but always
extravagant, criticism of the others, there was something so new in this
arraignment of themselves that the partners for a moment sat silent.
There was a slight flush on Uncle Billy’s cheek, there was a slight
paleness on Uncle Jim’s. He was the first to reply. But he did so with a
certain dignity which neither his partner nor their guest had ever seen
on his face before.

“As it’s OUR fire that’s warmed ye up like this, Dick Bullen,” he said,
slowly rising, with his hand resting on Uncle Billy’s shoulder, “and as
it’s OUR whiskey that’s loosened your tongue, I reckon we must put up
with what ye ‘r’ saying, just as we’ve managed to put up with our own
way o’ living, and not quo’ll with ye under our own roof.”

The young fellow saw the change in Uncle Jim’s face and quickly extended
his hand, with an apologetic backward shake of his long hair. “Hang
it all, old man,” he said, with a laugh of mingled contrition and
amusement, “you mustn’t mind what I said just now. I’ve been so worried
thinking of things about MYSELF, and, maybe, a little about you, that I
quite forgot I hadn’t a call to preach to anybody--least of all to you.
So we part friends, Uncle Jim, and you too, Uncle Billy, and you’ll
forget what I said. In fact, I don’t know why I spoke at all--only I
was passing your claim just now, and wondering how much longer your old
sluice-boxes would hold out, and where in thunder you’d get others when
they caved in! I reckon that sent me off. That’s all, old chap!”

Uncle Billy’s face broke into a beaming smile of relief, and it was HIS
hand that first grasped his guest’s; Uncle Jim quickly followed with
as honest a pressure, but with eyes that did not seem to be looking at
Bullen, though all trace of resentment had died out of them. He walked
to the door with him, again shook hands, but remained looking out in the
darkness some time after Dick Bullen’s tangled hair and broad shoulders
had disappeared.

Meantime, Uncle Billy had resumed his seat and was chuckling and
reminiscent as he cleaned out his pipe.

“Kinder reminds me of Jo Sharp, when he was cleaned out at poker by his
own partners in his own cabin, comin’ up here and bedevilin’ US about
it! What was it you lint him?”

But Uncle Jim did not reply; and Uncle Billy, taking up the cards,
began to shuffle them, smiling vaguely, yet at the same time somewhat
painfully. “Arter all, Dick was mighty cut up about what he said, and I
felt kinder sorry for him. And, you know, I rather cotton to a man that
speaks his mind. Sorter clears him out, you know, of all the slumgullion
that’s in him. It’s just like washin’ out a pan o’ prospecting: you pour
in the water, and keep slushing it round and round, and out comes first
the mud and dirt, and then the gravel, and then the black sand, and
then--it’s all out, and there’s a speck o’ gold glistenin’ at the
bottom!”

“Then you think there WAS suthin’ in what he said?” said Uncle Jim,
facing about slowly.

An odd tone in his voice made Uncle Billy look up. “No,” he said
quickly, shying with the instinct of an easy pleasure-loving nature from
a possible grave situation. “No, I don’t think he ever got the color!
But wot are ye moonin’ about for? Ain’t ye goin’ to play? It’s mor’ ‘n
half past nine now.”

Thus adjured, Uncle Jim moved up to the table and sat down, while Uncle
Billy dealt the cards, turning up the Jack or right bower--but WITHOUT
that exclamation of delight which always accompanied his good fortune,
nor did Uncle Jim respond with the usual corresponding simulation of
deep disgust. Such a circumstance had not occurred before in the history
of their partnership. They both played in silence--a silence only
interrupted by a larger splash of raindrops down the chimney.

“We orter put a couple of stones on the chimney-top, edgewise, like Jack
Curtis does. It keeps out the rain without interferin’ with the draft,”
 said Uncle Billy musingly.

“What’s the use if”--

“If what?” said Uncle Billy quietly.

“If we don’t make it broader,” said Uncle Jim half wearily.

They both stared at the chimney, but Uncle Jim’s eye followed the wall
around to the bunks. There were many discolorations on the canvas, and
a picture of the Goddess of Liberty from an illustrated paper had broken
out in a kind of damp, measly eruption. “I’ll stick that funny handbill
of the ‘Washin’ Soda’ I got at the grocery store the other day right
over the Liberty gal. It’s a mighty perty woman washin’ with short
sleeves,” said Uncle Billy. “That’s the comfort of them picters, you kin
always get somethin’ new, and it adds thickness to the wall.”

Uncle Jim went back to the cards in silence. After a moment he rose
again, and hung his overcoat against the door.

“Wind’s comin’ in,” he said briefly.

“Yes,” said Uncle Billy cheerfully, “but it wouldn’t seem nat’ral if
there wasn’t that crack in the door to let the sunlight in o mornin’s.
Makes a kind o’ sundial, you know. When the streak o’ light’s in
that corner, I says ‘six o’clock!’ when it’s across the chimney I say
‘seven!’ and so ‘tis!”

It certainly had grown chilly, and the wind was rising. The
candle guttered and flickered; the embers on the hearth brightened
occasionally, as if trying to dispel the gathering shadows, but always
ineffectually. The game was frequently interrupted by the necessity of
stirring the fire. After an interval of gloom, in which each partner
successively drew the candle to his side to examine his cards, Uncle Jim
said:--

“Say?”

“Well!” responded Uncle Billy.

“Are you sure you saw that third crow on the wood-pile?”

“Sure as I see you now--and a darned sight plainer. Why?”

“Nothin’, I was just thinkin’. Look here! How do we stand now?”

Uncle Billy was still losing. “Nevertheless,” he said cheerfully, “I’m
owin’ you a matter of sixty thousand dollars.”

Uncle Jim examined the book abstractedly. “Suppose,” he said slowly, but
without looking at his partner, “suppose, as it’s gettin’ late now, we
play for my half share of the claim agin the limit--seventy thousand--to
square up.”

“Your half share!” repeated Uncle Billy, with amused incredulity.

“My half share of the claim,--of this yer house, you know,--one half of
all that Dick Bullen calls our rotten starvation property,” reiterated
Uncle Jim, with a half smile.

Uncle Billy laughed. It was a novel idea; it was, of course, “all in the
air,” like the rest of their game, yet even then he had an odd feeling
that he would have liked Dick Bullen to have known it. “Wade in, old
pard,” he said. “I’m on it.”

Uncle Jim lit another candle to reinforce the fading light, and the deal
fell to Uncle Billy. He turned up Jack of clubs. He also turned a little
redder as he took up his cards, looked at them, and glanced hastily at
his partner. “It’s no use playing,” he said. “Look here!” He laid down
his cards on the table. They were the ace, king and queen of clubs,
and Jack of spades,--or left bower,--which, with the turned-up Jack of
clubs,--or right bower,--comprised ALL the winning cards!

“By jingo! If we’d been playin’ four-handed, say you an’ me agin some
other ducks, we’d have made ‘four’ in that deal, and h’isted some
money--eh?” and his eyes sparkled. Uncle Jim, also, had a slight
tremulous light in his own.

“Oh no! I didn’t see no three crows this afternoon,” added Uncle Billy
gleefully, as his partner, in turn, began to shuffle the cards with
laborious and conscientious exactitude. Then dealing, he turned up a
heart for trumps. Uncle Billy took up his cards one by one, but when
he had finished his face had become as pale as it had been red before.
“What’s the matter?” said Uncle Jim quickly, his own face growing white.

Uncle Billy slowly and with breathless awe laid down his cards, face up
on the table. It was exactly the same sequence IN HEARTS, with the knave
of diamonds added. He could again take every trick.

They stared at each other with vacant faces and a half-drawn smile of
fear. They could hear the wind moaning in the trees beyond; there was a
sudden rattling at the door. Uncle Billy started to his feet, but Uncle
Jim caught his arm. “DON’T LEAVE THE CARDS! It’s only the wind; sit
down,” he said in a low awe-hushed voice, “it’s your deal; you were two
before, and two now, that makes your four; you’ve only one point to make
to win the game. Go on.”

They both poured out a cup of whiskey, smiling vaguely, yet with a
certain terror in their eyes. Their hands were cold; the cards slipped
from Uncle Billy’s benumbed fingers; when he had shuffled them he passed
them to his partner to shuffle them also, but did not speak. When Uncle
Jim had shuffled them methodically he handed them back fatefully to his
partner. Uncle Billy dealt them with a trembling hand. He turned up a
club. “If you are sure of these tricks you know you’ve won,” said Uncle
Jim in a voice that was scarcely audible. Uncle Billy did not reply, but
tremulously laid down the ace and right and left bowers.

He had won!

A feeling of relief came over each, and they laughed hysterically and
discordantly. Ridiculous and childish as their contest might have seemed
to a looker-on, to each the tension had been as great as that of the
greatest gambler, without the gambler’s trained restraint, coolness, and
composure. Uncle Billy nervously took up the cards again.

“Don’t,” said Uncle Jim gravely; “it’s no use--the luck’s gone now.”

“Just one more deal,” pleaded his partner.

Uncle Jim looked at the fire, Uncle Billy hastily dealt, and threw the
two hands face up on the table. They were the ordinary average cards.
He dealt again, with the same result. “I told you so,” said Uncle Jim,
without looking up.

It certainly seemed a tame performance after their wonderful hands, and
after another trial Uncle Billy threw the cards aside and drew his stool
before the fire. “Mighty queer, warn’t it?” he said, with reminiscent
awe. “Three times running. Do you know, I felt a kind o’ creepy feelin’
down my back all the time. Criky! what luck! None of the boys would
believe it if we told ‘em--least of all that Dick Bullen, who don’t
believe in luck, anyway. Wonder what he’d have said! and, Lord! how he’d
have looked! Wall! what are you starin’ so for?”

Uncle Jim had faced around, and was gazing at Uncle Billy’s
good-humored, simple face. “Nothin’!” he said briefly, and his eyes
again sought the fire.

“Then don’t look as if you was seein’ suthin’--you give me the creeps,”
 returned Uncle Billy a little petulantly. “Let’s turn in, afore the fire
goes out!”

The fateful cards were put back into the drawer, the table shoved
against the wall. The operation of undressing was quickly got over,
the clothes they wore being put on top of their blankets. Uncle Billy
yawned, “I wonder what kind of a dream I’ll have tonight--it oughter be
suthin’ to explain that luck.” This was his “good-night” to his partner.
In a few moments he was sound asleep.

Not so Uncle Jim. He heard the wind gradually go down, and in the
oppressive silence that followed could detect the deep breathing of
his companion and the far-off yelp of a coyote. His eyesight becoming
accustomed to the semi-darkness, broken only by the scintillation of
the dying embers of their fire, he could take in every detail of their
sordid cabin and the rude environment in which they had lived so long.
The dismal patches on the bark roof, the wretched makeshifts of each
day, the dreary prolongation of discomfort, were all plain to him now,
without the sanguine hope that had made them bearable. And when he
shut his eyes upon them, it was only to travel in fancy down the steep
mountain side that he had trodden so often to the dreary claim on the
overflowed river, to the heaps of “tailings” that encumbered it, like
empty shells of the hollow, profitless days spent there, which they
were always waiting for the stroke of good fortune to clear away. He saw
again the rotten “sluicing,” through whose hopeless rifts and holes even
their scant daily earnings had become scantier. At last he arose,
and with infinite gentleness let himself down from his berth without
disturbing his sleeping partner, and wrapping himself in his blanket,
went to the door, which he noiselessly opened. From the position of a
few stars that were glittering in the northern sky he knew that it was
yet scarcely midnight; there were still long, restless hours before the
day! In the feverish state into which he had gradually worked himself it
seemed to him impossible to wait the coming of the dawn.

But he was mistaken. For even as he stood there all nature seemed to
invade his humble cabin with its free and fragrant breath, and invest
him with its great companionship. He felt again, in that breath, that
strange sense of freedom, that mystic touch of partnership with the
birds and beasts, the shrubs and trees, in this greater home before him.
It was this vague communion that had kept him there, that still held
these world-sick, weary workers in their rude cabins on the slopes
around him; and he felt upon his brow that balm that had nightly lulled
him and them to sleep and forgetfulness. He closed the door, turned
away, crept as noiselessly as before into his bunk again, and presently
fell into a profound slumber.

But when Uncle Billy awoke the next morning he saw it was late; for
the sun, piercing the crack of the closed door, was sending a pencil of
light across the cold hearth, like a match to rekindle its dead embers.
His first thought was of his strange luck the night before, and of
disappointment that he had not had the dream of divination that he had
looked for. He sprang to the floor, but as he stood upright his
glance fell on Uncle Jim’s bunk. It was empty. Not only that, but his
BLANKETS--Uncle Jim’s own particular blankets--WERE GONE!

A sudden revelation of his partner’s manner the night before struck him
now with the cruelty of a blow; a sudden intelligence, perhaps the very
divination he had sought, flashed upon him like lightning! He glanced
wildly around the cabin. The table was drawn out from the wall a little
ostentatiously, as if to catch his eye. On it was lying the stained
chamois-skin purse in which they had kept the few grains of gold
remaining from their last week’s “clean up.” The grains had been
carefully divided, and half had been taken! But near it lay the little
memorandum-book, open, with the stick of pencil lying across it. A deep
line was drawn across the page on which was recorded their imaginary
extravagant gains and losses, even to the entry of Uncle Jim’s half
share of the claim which he had risked and lost! Underneath were
hurriedly scrawled the words:--

“Settled by YOUR luck, last night, old pard.--JAMES FOSTER.”


It was nearly a month before Cedar Camp was convinced that Uncle Billy
and Uncle Jim had dissolved partnership. Pride had prevented Uncle Billy
from revealing his suspicions of the truth, or of relating the events
that preceded Uncle Jim’s clandestine flight, and Dick Bullen had gone
to Sacramento by stage-coach the same morning. He briefly gave out that
his partner had been called to San Francisco on important business of
their own, that indeed might necessitate his own removal there later. In
this he was singularly assisted by a letter from the absent Jim, dated
at San Francisco, begging him not to be anxious about his success, as he
had hopes of presently entering into a profitable business, but with no
further allusions to his precipitate departure, nor any suggestion of
a reason for it. For two or three days Uncle Billy was staggered and
bewildered; in his profound simplicity he wondered if his extraordinary
good fortune that night had made him deaf to some explanation of his
partner’s, or, more terrible, if he had shown some “low” and incredible
intimation of taking his partner’s extravagant bet as REAL and binding.
In this distress he wrote to Uncle Jim an appealing and apologetic
letter, albeit somewhat incoherent and inaccurate, and bristling
with misspelling, camp slang, and old partnership jibes. But to this
elaborate epistle he received only Uncle Jim’s repeated assurances of
his own bright prospects, and his hopes that his old partner would be
more fortunate, single-handed, on the old claim. For a whole week or two
Uncle Billy sulked, but his invincible optimism and good humor got the
better of him, and he thought only of his old partner’s good fortune.
He wrote him regularly, but always to one address--a box at the San
Francisco post-office, which to the simple-minded Uncle Billy suggested
a certain official importance. To these letters Uncle Jim responded
regularly but briefly.

From a certain intuitive pride in his partner and his affection, Uncle
Billy did not show these letters openly to the camp, although he spoke
freely of his former partner’s promising future, and even read them
short extracts. It is needless to say that the camp did not accept Uncle
Billy’s story with unsuspecting confidence. On the contrary, a hundred
surmises, humorous or serious, but always extravagant, were afloat in
Cedar Camp. The partners had quarreled over their clothes--Uncle Jim,
who was taller than Uncle Billy, had refused to wear his partner’s
trousers. They had quarreled over cards--Uncle Jim had discovered that
Uncle Billy was in possession of a “cold deck,” or marked pack. They had
quarreled over Uncle Billy’s carelessness in grinding up half a box
of “bilious pills” in the morning’s coffee. A gloomily imaginative
mule-driver had darkly suggested that, as no one had really seen Uncle
Jim leave the camp, he was still there, and his bones would yet be found
in one of the ditches; while a still more credulous miner averred that
what he had thought was the cry of a screech-owl the night previous to
Uncle Jim’s disappearance, might have been the agonized utterance of
that murdered man. It was highly characteristic of that camp--and,
indeed, of others in California--that nobody, not even the ingenious
theorists themselves, believed their story, and that no one took the
slightest pains to verify or disprove it. Happily, Uncle Billy never
knew it, and moved all unconsciously in this atmosphere of burlesque
suspicion. And then a singular change took place in the attitude of the
camp towards him and the disrupted partnership. Hitherto, for no reason
whatever, all had agreed to put the blame upon Billy--possibly because
he was present to receive it. As days passed that slight reticence and
dejection in his manner, which they had at first attributed to remorse
and a guilty conscience, now began to tell as absurdly in his favor.
Here was poor Uncle Billy toiling though the ditches, while his selfish
partner was lolling in the lap of luxury in San Francisco! Uncle Billy’s
glowing accounts of Uncle Jim’s success only contributed to the sympathy
now fully given in his behalf and their execration of the absconding
partner. It was proposed at Biggs’s store that a letter expressing the
indignation of the camp over his heartless conduct to his late partner,
William Fall, should be forwarded to him. Condolences were offered to
Uncle Billy, and uncouth attempts were made to cheer his loneliness. A
procession of half a dozen men twice a week to his cabin, carrying their
own whiskey and winding up with a “stag dance” before the premises, was
sufficient to lighten his eclipsed gayety and remind him of a happier
past. “Surprise” working parties visited his claim with spasmodic essays
towards helping him, and great good humor and hilarity prevailed. It was
not an unusual thing for an honest miner to arise from an idle gathering
in some cabin and excuse himself with the remark that he “reckoned he’d
put in an hour’s work in Uncle Billy’s tailings!” And yet, as before, it
was very improbable if any of these reckless benefactors REALLY believed
in their own earnestness or in the gravity of the situation. Indeed, a
kind of hopeful cynicism ran through their performances. “Like as not,
Uncle Billy is still in ‘cahoots’ [i. e., shares] with his old pard, and
is just laughin’ at us as he’s sendin’ him accounts of our tomfoolin’.”

And so the winter passed and the rains, and the days of cloudless skies
and chill starlit nights began. There were still freshets from the snow
reservoirs piled high in the Sierran passes, and the Bar was flooded,
but that passed too, and only the sunshine remained. Monotonous as the
seasons were, there was a faint movement in the camp with the stirring
of the sap in the pines and cedars. And then, one day, there was a
strange excitement on the Bar. Men were seen running hither and thither,
but mainly gathering in a crowd on Uncle Billy’s claim, that still
retained the old partners’ names in “The Fall and Foster.” To add to the
excitement, there was the quickly repeated report of a revolver, to all
appearance aimlessly exploded in the air by some one on the outskirts
of the assemblage. As the crowd opened, Uncle Billy appeared, pale,
hysterical, breathless, and staggering a little under the back-slapping
and hand-shaking of the whole camp. For Uncle Billy had “struck it
rich”--had just discovered a “pocket,” roughly estimated to be worth
fifteen thousand dollars!

Although in that supreme moment he missed the face of his old partner,
he could not help seeing the unaffected delight and happiness shining
in the eyes of all who surrounded him. It was characteristic of that
sanguine but uncertain life that success and good fortune brought no
jealousy nor envy to the unfortunate, but was rather a promise
and prophecy of the fulfillment of their own hopes. The gold was
there--Nature but yielded up her secret. There was no prescribed limit
to her bounty. So strong was this conviction that a long-suffering but
still hopeful miner, in the enthusiasm of the moment, stooped down and
patted a large boulder with the apostrophic “Good old gal!”

Then followed a night of jubilee, a next morning of hurried consultation
with a mining expert and speculator lured to the camp by the good
tidings; and then the very next night--to the utter astonishment of
Cedar Camp--Uncle Billy, with a draft for twenty thousand dollars in his
pocket, started for San Francisco, and took leave of his claim and the
camp forever!

*****

When Uncle Billy landed at the wharves of San Francisco he was a little
bewildered. The Golden Gate beyond was obliterated by the incoming
sea-fog, which had also roofed in the whole city, and lights already
glittered along the gray streets that climbed the grayer sand-hills.
As a Western man, brought up by inland rivers, he was fascinated and
thrilled by the tall-masted seagoing ships, and he felt a strange sense
of the remoter mysterious ocean, which he had never seen. But he was
impressed and startled by smartly dressed men and women, the passing of
carriages, and a sudden conviction that he was strange and foreign to
what he saw. It had been his cherished intention to call upon his old
partner in his working clothes, and then clap down on the table before
him a draft for ten thousand dollars as HIS share of their old claim.
But in the face of these brilliant strangers a sudden and unexpected
timidity came upon him. He had heard of a cheap popular hotel, much
frequented by the returning gold-miner, who entered its hospitable
doors--which held an easy access to shops--and emerged in a few hours
a gorgeous butterfly of fashion, leaving his old chrysalis behind him.
Thence he inquired his way; hence he afterwards issued in garments
glaringly new and ill fitting. But he had not sacrificed his beard, and
there was still something fine and original in his handsome weak face
that overcame the cheap convention of his clothes. Making his way to the
post-office, he was again discomfited by the great size of the building,
and bewildered by the array of little square letter-boxes behind glass
which occupied one whole wall, and an equal number of opaque and locked
wooden ones legibly numbered. His heart leaped; he remembered the
number, and before him was a window with a clerk behind it. Uncle Billy
leaned forward.

“Kin you tell me if the man that box 690 b’longs to is in?”

The clerk stared, made him repeat the question, and then turned away.
But he returned almost instantly, with two or three grinning heads
besides his own, apparently set behind his shoulders. Uncle Billy was
again asked to repeat his question. He did so.

“Why don’t you go and see if 690 is in his box?” said the first clerk,
turning with affected asperity to one of the others.

The clerk went away, returned, and said with singular gravity, “He was
there a moment ago, but he’s gone out to stretch his legs. It’s rather
crampin’ at first; and he can’t stand it more than ten hours at a time,
you know.”

But simplicity has its limits. Uncle Billy had already guessed his
real error in believing his partner was officially connected with the
building; his cheek had flushed and then paled again. The pupils of his
blue eyes had contracted into suggestive black points. “Ef you’ll let
me in at that winder, young fellers,” he said, with equal gravity,
“I’ll show yer how I kin make YOU small enough to go in a box without
crampin’! But I only wanted to know where Jim Foster LIVED.”

At which the first clerk became perfunctory again, but civil. “A letter
left in his box would get you that information,” he said, “and here’s
paper and pencil to write it now.”

Uncle Billy took the paper and began to write, “Just got here. Come and
see me at”--He paused. A brilliant idea had struck him; He could impress
both his old partner and the upstarts at the window; he would put in the
name of the latest “swell” hotel in San Francisco, said to be a fairy
dream of opulence. He added “The Oriental,” and without folding the
paper shoved it in the window.

“Don’t you want an envelope?” asked the clerk.

“Put a stamp on the corner of it,” responded Uncle Billy, laying down a
coin, “and she’ll go through.” The clerk smiled, but affixed the stamp,
and Uncle Billy turned away.

But it was a short-lived triumph. The disappointment at finding Uncle
Jim’s address conveyed no idea of his habitation seemed to remove him
farther away, and lose his identity in the great city. Besides, he must
now make good his own address, and seek rooms at the Oriental. He went
thither. The furniture and decorations, even in these early days of
hotel-building in San Francisco, were extravagant and over-strained,
and Uncle Billy felt lost and lonely in his strange surroundings. But
he took a handsome suite of rooms, paid for them in advance on the spot,
and then, half frightened, walked out of them to ramble vaguely through
the city in the feverish hope of meeting his old partner. At night his
inquietude increased; he could not face the long row of tables in the
pillared dining-room, filled with smartly dressed men and women;
he evaded his bedroom, with its brocaded satin chairs and its gilt
bedstead, and fled to his modest lodgings at the Good Cheer House, and
appeased his hunger at its cheap restaurant, in the company of retired
miners and freshly arrived Eastern emigrants. Two or three days passed
thus in this quaint double existence. Three or four times a day he would
enter the gorgeous Oriental with affected ease and carelessness, demand
his key from the hotel-clerk, ask for the letter that did not come, go
to his room, gaze vaguely from his window on the passing crowd below for
the partner he could not find, and then return to the Good Cheer House
for rest and sustenance. On the fourth day he received a short note
from Uncle Jim; it was couched in his usual sanguine but brief and
businesslike style. He was very sorry, but important and profitable
business took him out of town, but he trusted to return soon and welcome
his old partner. He was also, for the first time, jocose, and hoped
that Uncle Billy would not “see all the sights” before he, Uncle Jim,
returned. Disappointing as this procrastination was to Uncle Billy, a
gleam of hope irradiated it: the letter had bridged over that gulf which
seemed to yawn between them at the post-office. His old partner had
accepted his visit to San Francisco without question, and had alluded to
a renewal of their old intimacy. For Uncle Billy, with all his trustful
simplicity, had been tortured by two harrowing doubts: one, whether
Uncle Jim in his new-fledged smartness as a “city” man--such as he
saw in the streets--would care for his rough companionship; the other,
whether he, Uncle Billy, ought not to tell him at once of his changed
fortune. But, like all weak, unreasoning men, he clung desperately to
a detail--he could not forego his old idea of astounding Uncle Jim by
giving him his share of the “strike” as his first intimation of it, and
he doubted, with more reason perhaps, if Jim would see him after he
had heard of his good fortune. For Uncle Billy had still a frightened
recollection of Uncle Jim’s sudden stroke for independence, and
that rigid punctiliousness which had made him doggedly accept the
responsibility of his extravagant stake at euchre.

With a view of educating himself for Uncle Jim’s company, he “saw the
sights” of San Francisco--as an overgrown and somewhat stupid child
might have seen them--with great curiosity, but little contamination or
corruption. But I think he was chiefly pleased with watching the arrival
of the Sacramento and Stockton steamers at the wharves, in the hope
of discovering his old partner among the passengers on the gang-plank.
Here, with his old superstitious tendency and gambler’s instinct, he
would augur great success in his search that day if any one of the
passengers bore the least resemblance to Uncle Jim, if a man or woman
stepped off first, or if he met a single person’s questioning eye.
Indeed, this got to be the real occupation of the day, which he would on
no account have omitted, and to a certain extent revived each day in
his mind the morning’s work of their old partnership. He would say to
himself, “It’s time to go and look up Jim,” and put off what he
was pleased to think were his pleasures until this act of duty was
accomplished.

In this singleness of purpose he made very few and no entangling
acquaintances, nor did he impart to any one the secret of his fortune,
loyally reserving it for his partner’s first knowledge. To a man of
his natural frankness and simplicity this was a great trial, and was,
perhaps, a crucial test of his devotion. When he gave up his rooms at
the Oriental--as not necessary after his partner’s absence--he sent
a letter, with his humble address, to the mysterious lock-box of his
partner without fear or false shame. He would explain it all when they
met. But he sometimes treated unlucky and returning miners to a dinner
and a visit to the gallery of some theatre. Yet while he had an active
sympathy with and understanding of the humblest, Uncle Billy, who
for many years had done his own and his partner’s washing, scrubbing,
mending, and cooking, and saw no degradation in it, was somewhat
inconsistently irritated by menial functions in men, and although
he gave extravagantly to waiters, and threw a dollar to the
crossing-sweeper, there was always a certain shy avoidance of them in
his manner. Coming from the theatre one night Uncle Billy was, however,
seriously concerned by one of these crossing-sweepers turning hastily
before them and being knocked down by a passing carriage. The man rose
and limped hurriedly away; but Uncle Billy was amazed and still more
irritated to hear from his companion that this kind of menial occupation
was often profitable, and that at some of the principal crossings the
sweepers were already rich men.

But a few days later brought a more notable event to Uncle Billy. One
afternoon in Montgomery Street he recognized in one of its smartly
dressed frequenters a man who had a few years before been a member of
Cedar Camp. Uncle Billy’s childish delight at this meeting, which
seemed to bridge over his old partner’s absence, was, however, only
half responded to by the ex-miner, and then somewhat satirically. In the
fullness of his emotion, Uncle Billy confided to him that he was seeking
his old partner, Jim Foster, and, reticent of his own good fortune,
spoke glowingly of his partner’s brilliant expectations, but deplored
his inability to find him. And just now he was away on important
business. “I reckon he’s got back,” said the man dryly. “I didn’t know
he had a lock-box at the post-office, but I can give you his other
address. He lives at the Presidio, at Washerwoman’s Bay.” He stopped and
looked with a satirical smile at Uncle Billy. But the latter, familiar
with Californian mining-camp nomenclature, saw nothing strange in it,
and merely repeated his companion’s words.

“You’ll find him there! Good-by! So long! Sorry I’m in a hurry,” said
the ex-miner, and hurried away.

Uncle Billy was too delighted with the prospect of a speedy meeting with
Uncle Jim to resent his former associate’s supercilious haste, or even
to wonder why Uncle Jim had not informed him that he had returned. It
was not the first time that he had felt how wide was the gulf between
himself and these others, and the thought drew him closer to his old
partner, as well as his old idea, as it was now possible to surprise
him with the draft. But as he was going to surprise him in his own
boarding-house--probably a handsome one--Uncle Billy reflected that he
would do so in a certain style.

He accordingly went to a livery stable and ordered a landau and pair,
with a negro coachman. Seated in it, in his best and most ill-fitting
clothes, he asked the coachman to take him to the Presidio, and leaned
back in the cushions as they drove through the streets with such an
expression of beaming gratification on his good-humored face that the
passers-by smiled at the equipage and its extravagant occupant. To them
it seemed the not unusual sight of the successful miner “on a spree.” To
the unsophisticated Uncle Billy their smiling seemed only a natural and
kindly recognition of his happiness, and he nodded and smiled back
to them with unsuspecting candor and innocent playfulness. “These yer
‘Frisco fellers ain’t ALL slouches, you bet,” he added to himself half
aloud, at the back of the grinning coachman.

Their way led through well-built streets to the outskirts, or rather
to that portion of the city which seemed to have been overwhelmed by
shifting sand-dunes, from which half-submerged fences and even low
houses barely marked the line of highway. The resistless trade-winds
which had marked this change blew keenly in his face and slightly
chilled his ardor. At a turn in the road the sea came in sight, and
sloping towards it the great Cemetery of Lone Mountain, with white
shafts and marbles that glittered in the sunlight like the sails of
ships waiting to be launched down that slope into the Eternal Ocean.
Uncle Billy shuddered. What if it had been his fate to seek Uncle Jim
there!

“Dar’s yar Presidio!” said the negro coachman a few moments later,
pointing with his whip, “and dar’s yar Wash’woman’s Bay!”

Uncle Billy stared. A huge quadrangular fort of stone with a flag flying
above its battlements stood at a little distance, pressed against the
rocks, as if beating back the encroaching surges; between him and the
fort but farther inland was a lagoon with a number of dilapidated,
rudely patched cabins or cottages, like stranded driftwood around its
shore. But there was no mansion, no block of houses, no street, not
another habitation or dwelling to be seen!

Uncle Billy’s first shock of astonishment was succeeded by a feeling of
relief. He had secretly dreaded a meeting with his old partner in the
“haunts of fashion;” whatever was the cause that made Uncle Jim seek
this obscure retirement affected him but slightly; he even was thrilled
with a vague memory of the old shiftless camp they had both abandoned. A
certain instinct--he knew not why, or less still that it might be one of
delicacy--made him alight before they reached the first house. Bidding
the carriage wait, Uncle Billy entered, and was informed by a blowzy
Irish laundress at a tub that Jim Foster, or “Arkansaw Jim,” lived at
the fourth shanty “beyant.” He was at home, for “he’d shprained his
fut.” Uncle Billy hurried on, stopped before the door of a shanty
scarcely less rude than their old cabin, and half timidly pushed it
open. A growling voice from within, a figure that rose hurriedly,
leaning on a stick, with an attempt to fly, but in the same moment sank
back in a chair with an hysterical laugh--and Uncle Billy stood in the
presence of his old partner! But as Uncle Billy darted forward, Uncle
Jim rose again, and this time with outstretched hands. Uncle Billy
caught them, and in one supreme pressure seemed to pour out and
transfuse his whole simple soul into his partner’s. There they swayed
each other backwards and forwards and sideways by their still clasped
hands, until Uncle Billy, with a glance at Uncle Jim’s bandaged ankle,
shoved him by sheer force down into his chair.

Uncle Jim was first to speak. “Caught, b’ gosh! I mighter known you’d be
as big a fool as me! Look you, Billy Fall, do you know what you’ve done?
You’ve druv me out er the streets whar I was makin’ an honest livin’, by
day, on three crossin’s! Yes,” he laughed forgivingly, “you druv me out
er it, by day, jest because I reckoned that some time I might run into
your darned fool face,”--another laugh and a grasp of the hand,--“and
then, b’gosh! not content with ruinin’ my business BY DAY, when I
took to it at night, YOU took to goin’ out at nights too, and so put a
stopper on me there! Shall I tell you what else you did? Well, by the
holy poker! I owe this sprained foot to your darned foolishness and my
own, for it was getting away from YOU one night after the theatre that I
got run into and run over!

“Ye see,” he went on, unconscious of Uncle Billy’s paling face, and with
a naivete, though perhaps not a delicacy, equal to Uncle Billy’s own, “I
had to play roots on you with that lock-box business and these letters,
because I did not want you to know what I was up to, for you mightn’t
like it, and might think it was lowerin’ to the old firm, don’t yer
see? I wouldn’t hev gone into it, but I was played out, and I don’t
mind tellin’ you NOW, old man, that when I wrote you that first chipper
letter from the lock-box I hedn’t eat anythin’ for two days. But it’s
all right NOW,” with a laugh. “Then I got into this business--thinkin’
it nothin’--jest the very last thing--and do you know, old pard, I
couldn’t tell anybody but YOU--and, in fact, I kept it jest to tell
you--I’ve made nine hundred and fifty-six dollars! Yes, sir, NINE
HUNDRED AND FIFTY-SIX DOLLARS! solid money, in Adams and Co.’s Bank,
just out er my trade.”

“Wot trade?” asked Uncle Billy.

Uncle Jim pointed to the corner, where stood a large, heavy
crossing-sweeper’s broom. “That trade.”

“Certingly,” said Uncle Billy, with a quick laugh.

“It’s an outdoor trade,” said Uncle Jim gravely, but with no suggestion
of awkwardness or apology in his manner; “and thar ain’t much difference
between sweepin’ a crossin’ with a broom and raking over tailing with a
rake, ONLY--WOT YE GET with a broom YOU HAVE HANDED TO YE, and ye don’t
have to PICK IT UP AND FISH IT OUT ER the wet rocks and sluice-gushin’;
and it’s a heap less tiring to the back.”

“Certingly, you bet!” said Uncle Billy enthusiastically, yet with a
certain nervous abstraction.

“I’m glad ye say so; for yer see I didn’t know at first how you’d tumble
to my doing it, until I’d made my pile. And ef I hadn’t made it, I
wouldn’t hev set eyes on ye agin, old pard--never!”

“Do you mind my runnin’ out a minit,” said Uncle Billy, rising. “You
see, I’ve got a friend waitin’ for me outside--and I reckon”--he
stammered--“I’ll jest run out and send him off, so I kin talk comf’ble
to ye.”

“Ye ain’t got anybody you’re owin’ money to,” said Uncle Jim earnestly,
“anybody follerin’ you to get paid, eh? For I kin jest set down right
here and write ye off a check on the bank!”

“No,” said Uncle Billy. He slipped out of the door, and ran like a deer
to the waiting carriage. Thrusting a twenty-dollar gold-piece into the
coachman’s hand, he said hoarsely, “I ain’t wantin’ that kerridge just
now; ye ken drive around and hev a private jamboree all by yourself the
rest of the afternoon, and then come and wait for me at the top o’ the
hill yonder.”

Thus quit of his gorgeous equipage, he hurried back to Uncle Jim,
grasping his ten-thousand dollar draft in his pocket. He was nervous, he
was frightened, but he must get rid of the draft and his story, and have
it over. But before he could speak he was unexpectedly stopped by Uncle
Jim.

“Now, look yer, Billy boy!” said Uncle Jim; “I got suthin’ to say to
ye--and I might as well clear it off my mind at once, and then we can
start fair agin. Now,” he went on, with a half laugh, “wasn’t it enough
for ME to go on pretendin’ I was rich and doing a big business, and
gettin’ up that lock-box dodge so as ye couldn’t find out whar I hung
out and what I was doin’--wasn’t it enough for ME to go on with all this
play-actin’, but YOU, you long-legged or nary cuss! must get up and go
to lyin’ and play-actin’, too!”

“ME play-actin’? ME lyin’?” gasped Uncle Billy.

Uncle Jim leaned back in his chair and laughed. “Do you think you could
fool ME? Do you think I didn’t see through your little game o’ going
to that swell Oriental, jest as if ye’d made a big strike--and all the
while ye wasn’t sleepin’ or eatin’ there, but jest wrastlin’ yer hash
and having a roll down at the Good Cheer! Do you think I didn’t spy on
ye and find that out? Oh, you long-eared jackass-rabbit!”

He laughed until the tears came into his eyes, and Uncle Billy laughed
too, albeit until the laugh on his face became quite fixed, and he was
fain to bury his head in his handkerchief.

“And yet,” said Uncle Jim, with a deep breath, “gosh! I was
frighted--jest for a minit! I thought, mebbe, you HAD made a big
strike--when I got your first letter--and I made up my mind what I’d
do! And then I remembered you was jest that kind of an open sluice that
couldn’t keep anythin’ to yourself, and you’d have been sure to have
yelled it out to ME the first thing. So I waited. And I found you out,
you old sinner!” He reached forward and dug Uncle Billy in the ribs.

“What WOULD you hev done?” said Uncle Billy, after an hysterical
collapse.

Uncle Jim’s face grew grave again. “I’d hev--I’d--hev cl’ared out! Out
er ‘Frisco! out er Californy! out er Ameriky! I couldn’t have stud it!
Don’t think I would hev begrudged ye yer luck! No man would have been
gladder than me.” He leaned forward again, and laid his hand caressingly
upon his partner’s arm--“Don’t think I’d hev wanted to take a penny of
it--but I--thar! I COULDN’T hev stood up under it! To hev had YOU, you
that I left behind, comin’ down here rollin’ in wealth and new partners
and friends, and arrive upon me--and this shanty--and”--he threw towards
the corner of the room a terrible gesture, none the less terrible
that it was illogical and inconsequent to all that had gone
before--“and--and--THAT BROOM!”

There was a dead silence in the room. With it Uncle Billy seemed to feel
himself again transported to the homely cabin at Cedar Camp and that
fateful night, with his partner’s strange, determined face before him
as then. He even fancied that he heard the roaring of the pines without,
and did not know that it was the distant sea.

But after a minute Uncle Jim resumed:--

“Of course you’ve made a little raise somehow, or you wouldn’t be here?”

“Yes,” said Uncle Billy eagerly. “Yes! I’ve got”--He stopped and
stammered. “I’ve got--a--few hundreds.”

“Oh, oh!” said Uncle Jim cheerfully. He paused, and then added
earnestly, “I say! You ain’t got left, over and above your d--d
foolishness at the Oriental, as much as five hundred dollars?”

“I’ve got,” said Uncle Billy, blushing a little over his first
deliberate and affected lie, “I’ve got at least five hundred and
seventy-two dollars. Yes,” he added tentatively, gazing anxiously at his
partner, “I’ve got at least that.”

“Je whillikins!” said Uncle Jim, with a laugh. Then eagerly, “Look here,
pard! Then we’re on velvet! I’ve got NINE hundred; put your FIVE with
that, and I know a little ranch that we can get for twelve hundred.
That’s what I’ve been savin’ up for--that’s my little game! No more
minin’ for ME. It’s got a shanty twice as big as our old cabin, nigh on
a hundred acres, and two mustangs. We can run it with two Chinamen and
jest make it howl! Wot yer say--eh?” He extended his hand.

“I’m in,” said Uncle Billy, radiantly grasping Uncle Jim’s. But his
smile faded, and his clear simple brow wrinkled in two lines.

Happily Uncle Jim did not notice it. “Now, then, old pard,” he said
brightly, “we’ll have a gay old time to-night--one of our jamborees!
I’ve got some whiskey here and a deck o’ cards, and we’ll have a little
game, you understand, but not for ‘keeps’ now! No, siree; we’ll play for
beans.”

A sudden light illuminated Uncle Billy’s face again, but he said, with a
grim desperation, “Not to-night! I’ve got to go into town. That fren’
o’ mine expects me to go to the theayter, don’t ye see? But I’ll be out
to-morrow at sun-up, and we’ll fix up this thing o’ the ranch.”

“Seems to me you’re kinder stuck on this fren’,” grunted Uncle Jim.

Uncle Billy’s heart bounded at his partner’s jealousy. “No--but I MUST,
you know,” he returned, with a faint laugh.

“I say--it ain’t a HER, is it?” said Uncle Jim.

Uncle Billy achieved a diabolical wink and a creditable blush at his
lie.

“Billy?”

“Jim!”

And under cover of this festive gallantry Uncle Billy escaped. He ran
through the gathering darkness, and toiled up the shifting sands to the
top of the hill, where he found the carriage waiting.

“Wot,” said Uncle Billy in a low confidential tone to the coachman,
“wot do you ‘Frisco fellers allow to be the best, biggest, and riskiest
gamblin’-saloon here? Suthin’ high-toned, you know?”

The negro grinned. It was the usual case of the extravagant spendthrift
miner, though perhaps he had expected a different question and order.

“Dey is de ‘Polka,’ de ‘El Dorado,’ and de ‘Arcade’ saloon, boss,” he
said, flicking his whip meditatively. “Most gents from de mines prefer
de ‘Polka,’ for dey is dancing wid de gals frown in. But de real prima
facie place for gents who go for buckin’ agin de tiger and straight-out
gamblin’ is de ‘Arcade.’”

“Drive there like thunder!” said Uncle Billy, leaping into the carriage.

*****

True to his word, Uncle Billy was at his partner’s shanty early the next
morning. He looked a little tired, but happy, and had brought a draft
with him for five hundred and seventy-five dollars, which he explained
was the total of his capital. Uncle Jim was overjoyed. They would start
for Napa that very day, and conclude the purchase of the ranch; Uncle
Jim’s sprained foot was a sufficient reason for his giving up his
present vocation, which he could also sell at a small profit. His
domestic arrangements were very simple; there was nothing to take
with him--there was everything to leave behind. And that afternoon, at
sunset, the two reunited partners were seated on the deck of the Napa
boat as she swung into the stream.

Uncle Billy was gazing over the railing with a look of abstracted relief
towards the Golden Gate, where the sinking sun seemed to be drawing
towards him in the ocean a golden stream that was forever pouring
from the Bay and the three-hilled city beside it. What Uncle Billy was
thinking of, or what the picture suggested to him, did not transpire;
for Uncle Jim, who, emboldened by his holiday, was luxuriating in an
evening paper, suddenly uttered a long-drawn whistle, and moved closer
to his abstracted partner. “Look yer,” he said, pointing to a paragraph
he had evidently just read, “just you listen to this, and see if we
ain’t lucky, you and me, to be jest wot we air--trustin’ to our own hard
work--and not thinkin’ o’ ‘strikes’ and ‘fortins.’ Jest unbutton yer
ears, Billy, while I reel off this yer thing I’ve jest struck in the
paper, and see what d--d fools some men kin make o’ themselves. And that
theer reporter wot wrote it--must hev seed it reely!”

Uncle Jim cleared his throat, and holding the paper close to his eyes
read aloud slowly:--

“‘A scene of excitement that recalled the palmy days of ‘49 was
witnessed last night at the Arcade Saloon. A stranger, who might have
belonged to that reckless epoch, and who bore every evidence of being
a successful Pike County miner out on a “spree,” appeared at one of the
tables with a negro coachman bearing two heavy bags of gold. Selecting
a faro-bank as his base of operations, he began to bet heavily and with
apparent recklessness, until his play excited the breathless attention
of every one. In a few moments he had won a sum variously estimated at
from eighty to a hundred thousand dollars. A rumor went round the room
that it was a concerted attempt to “break the bank” rather than the
drunken freak of a Western miner, dazzled by some successful strike.
To this theory the man’s careless and indifferent bearing towards his
extraordinary gains lent great credence. The attempt, if such it was,
however, was unsuccessful. After winning ten times in succession the
luck turned, and the unfortunate “bucker” was cleared out not only of
his gains, but of his original investment, which may be placed roughly
at twenty thousand dollars. This extraordinary play was witnessed by a
crowd of excited players, who were less impressed by even the magnitude
of the stakes than the perfect sang-froid and recklessness of the
player, who, it is said, at the close of the game tossed a twenty-dollar
gold-piece to the banker and smilingly withdrew. The man was not
recognized by any of the habitues of the place.’

“There!” said Uncle Jim, as he hurriedly slurred over the French
substantive at the close, “did ye ever see such God-forsaken
foolishness?”

Uncle Billy lifted his abstracted eyes from the current, still pouring
its unreturning gold into the sinking sun, and said, with a deprecatory
smile, “Never!”

Nor even in the days of prosperity that visited the Great Wheat Ranch of
“Fall and Foster” did he ever tell his secret to his partner.



SEE YUP


I don’t suppose that his progenitors ever gave him that name, or,
indeed, that it was a NAME at all; but it was currently believed
that--as pronounced “See UP”--it meant that lifting of the outer angle
of the eye common to the Mongolian. On the other hand, I had been told
that there was an old Chinese custom of affixing some motto or legend,
or even a sentence from Confucius, as a sign above their shops, and that
two or more words, which might be merely equivalent to “Virtue is its
own reward,” or “Riches are deceitful,” were believed by the simple
Californian miner to be the name of the occupant himself. Howbeit, “See
Yup” accepted it with the smiling patience of his race, and never
went by any other. If one of the tunnelmen always addressed him as
“Brigadier-General,” “Judge,” or “Commodore,” it was understood to be
only the American fondness for ironic title, and was never used except
in personal conversation. In appearance he looked like any other
Chinaman, wore the ordinary blue cotton blouse and white drawers of the
Sampan coolie, and, in spite of the apparent cleanliness and freshness
of these garments, always exhaled that singular medicated odor--half
opium, half ginger--which we recognized as the common “Chinese smell.”

Our first interview was characteristic of his patient quality. He had
done my washing for several months, but I had never yet seen him.
A meeting at last had become necessary to correct his impressions
regarding “buttons”--which he had seemed to consider as mere
excrescences, to be removed like superfluous dirt from soiled linen.
I had expected him to call at my lodgings, but he had not yet made his
appearance. One day, during the noontide recess of the little frontier
school over which I presided, I returned rather early. Two or three of
the smaller boys, who were loitering about the school-yard, disappeared
with a certain guilty precipitation that I suspected for the moment,
but which I presently dismissed from my mind. I passed through the
empty school-room to my desk, sat down, and began to prepare the coming
lessons. Presently I heard a faint sigh. Looking up, to my intense
concern, I discovered a solitary Chinaman whom I had overlooked, sitting
in a rigid attitude on a bench with his back to the window. He caught my
eye and smiled sadly, but without moving.

“What are you doing here?” I asked sternly.

“Me washee shilts; me talkee ‘buttons.’”

“Oh! you’re See Yup, are you?”

“Allee same, John.”

“Well, come here.”

I continued my work, but he did not move.

“Come here, hang it! Don’t you understand?”

“Me shabbee, ‘comme yea.’ But me no shabbee Mellican boy, who catchee
me, allee same. YOU ‘comme yea’--YOU shabbee?”

Indignant, but believing that the unfortunate man was still in fear
of persecution from the mischievous urchins whom I had evidently just
interrupted, I put down my pen and went over to him. Here I discovered,
to my surprise and mortification, that his long pigtail was held hard
and fast by the closed window behind him which the young rascals had
shut down upon it, after having first noiselessly fished it outside with
a hook and line. I apologized, opened the window, and released him. He
did not complain, although he must have been fixed in that uncomfortable
position for some minutes, but plunged at once into the business that
brought him there.

“But WHY didn’t you come to my lodgings?” I asked.

He smiled sadly but intelligently.

“Mishtel Bally [Mr. Barry, my landlord] he owce me five dollee fo
washee, washee. He no payee me. He say he knock hellee outee me allee
time I come for payee. So me no come HOUSEE, me come SCHOOLEE, Shabbee?
Mellican boy no good, but not so big as Mellican man. No can hurtee
Chinaman so much. Shabbee?”

Alas! I knew that this was mainly true. Mr. James Barry was an Irishman,
whose finer religious feelings revolted against paying money to a
heathen. I could not find it in my heart to say anything to See Yup
about the buttons; indeed, I spoke in complimentary terms about the
gloss of my shirts, and I think I meekly begged him to come again for my
washing. When I went home I expostulated with Mr. Barry, but succeeded
only in extracting from him the conviction that I was one of “thim black
Republican fellys that worshiped naygurs.” I had simply made an enemy of
him. But I did not know that, at the same time, I had made a friend of
See Yup!

I became aware of this a few days later, by the appearance on my desk of
a small pot containing a specimen of camellia japonica in flower. I knew
the school-children were in the habit of making presents to me in this
furtive fashion,--leaving their own nosegays of wild flowers, or perhaps
a cluster of roses from their parents’ gardens,--but I also knew that
this exotic was too rare to come from them. I remembered that See Yup
had a Chinese taste for gardening, and a friend, another Chinaman, who
kept a large nursery in the adjoining town. But my doubts were set at
rest by the discovery of a small roll of red rice-paper containing my
washing-bill, fastened to the camellia stalk. It was plain that this
mingling of business and delicate gratitude was clearly See Yup’s
own idea. As the finest flower was the topmost one, I plucked it for
wearing, when I found, to my astonishment, that it was simply wired to
the stalk. This led me to look at the others, which I found also wired!
More than that, they seemed to be an inferior flower, and exhaled that
cold, earthy odor peculiar to the camellia, even, as I thought, to an
excess. A closer examination resulted in the discovery that, with the
exception of the first flower I had plucked, they were one and all
ingeniously constructed of thin slices of potato, marvelously cut to
imitate the vegetable waxiness and formality of the real flower. The
work showed an infinite and almost pathetic patience in detail,
yet strangely incommensurate with the result, admirable as it was.
Nevertheless, this was also like See Yup. But whether he had tried to
deceive me, or whether he only wished me to admire his skill, I could
not say. And as his persecution by my scholars had left a balance of
consideration in his favor, I sent him a warm note of thanks, and said
nothing of my discovery.

As our acquaintance progressed, I became frequently the recipient of
other small presents from him: a pot of preserves of a quality I could
not purchase in shops, and whose contents in their crafty, gingery
dissimulation so defied definition that I never knew whether they were
animal, vegetable, or mineral; two or three hideous Chinese idols, “for
luckee,” and a diabolical fire-work with an irregular spasmodic activity
that would sometimes be prolonged until the next morning. In return, I
gave him some apparently hopeless oral lessons in English, and certain
sentences to be copied, which he did with marvelous precision. I
remember one instance when this peculiar faculty of imitation was
disastrous in result. In setting him a copy, I had blurred a word which
I promptly erased, and then traced the letters more distinctly over the
scratched surface. To my surprise, See Yup triumphantly produced HIS
copy with the erasion itself carefully imitated, and, in fact, much more
neatly done than mine.

In our confidential intercourse, I never seemed to really get nearer
to him. His sympathy and simplicity appeared like his flowers--to be a
good-humored imitation of my own. I am satisfied that his particularly
soulless laugh was not derived from any amusement he actually felt, yet
I could not say it was forced. In his accurate imitations, I fancied he
was only trying to evade any responsibility of his own. THAT devolved
upon his taskmaster! In the attention he displayed when new ideas
were presented to him, there was a slight condescension, as if he were
looking down upon them from his three thousand years of history.

“Don’t you think the electric telegraph wonderful?” I asked one day.

“Very good for Mellican man,” he said, with his aimless laugh; “plenty
makee him jump!”

I never could tell whether he had confounded it with electro-galvanism,
or was only satirizing our American haste and feverishness. He was
capable of either. For that matter, we knew that the Chinese themselves
possessed some means of secretly and quickly communicating with one
another. Any news of good or ill import to their race was quickly
disseminated through the settlement before WE knew anything about it. An
innocent basket of clothes from the wash, sent up from the river-bank,
became in some way a library of information; a single slip of
rice-paper, aimlessly fluttering in the dust of the road, had the
mysterious effect of diverging a whole gang of coolie tramps away from
our settlement.

When See Yup was not subject to the persecutions of the more ignorant
and brutal he was always a source of amusement to all, and I cannot
recall an instance when he was ever taken seriously. The miners found
diversions even in his alleged frauds and trickeries, whether innocent
or retaliatory, and were fond of relating with great gusto his evasion
of the Foreign Miners’ Tax. This was an oppressive measure aimed
principally at the Chinese, who humbly worked the worn-out “tailings” of
their Christian fellow miners. It was stated that See Yup, knowing the
difficulty--already alluded to--of identifying any particular Chinaman
by NAME, conceived the additional idea of confusing recognition by
intensifying the monotonous facial expression. Having paid his tax
himself to the collector, he at once passed the receipt to his fellows,
so that the collector found himself confronted in different parts of the
settlement with the receipt and the aimless laugh of, apparently, See
Yup himself. Although we all knew that there were a dozen Chinamen or
more at work at the mines, the collector never was able to collect the
tax from more than TWO,--See Yup and one See Yin,--and so great was
THEIR facial resemblance that the unfortunate official for a long time
hugged himself with the conviction that he had made See Yup PAY TWICE,
and withheld the money from the government! It is very probable that the
Californian’s recognition of the sanctity of a joke, and his belief that
“cheating the government was only cheating himself,” largely accounted
for the sympathies of the rest of the miners.

But these sympathies were not always unanimous.

One evening I strolled into the bar-room of the principal saloon, which,
so far as mere upholstery and comfort went, was also the principal house
in the settlement. The first rains had commenced; the windows were open,
for the influence of the southwest trades penetrated even this far-off
mountain mining settlement, but, oddly enough, there was a fire in the
large central stove, around which the miners had collected, with their
steaming boots elevated on a projecting iron railing that encircled it.
They were not attracted by the warmth, but the stove formed a social
pivot for gossip, and suggested that mystic circle dear to the
gregarious instinct. Yet they were decidedly a despondent group. For
some moments the silence was only broken by a gasp, a sigh, a muttered
oath, or an impatient change of position. There was nothing in the
fortunes of the settlement, nor in their own individual affairs to
suggest this gloom. The singular truth was that they were, one and all,
suffering from the pangs of dyspepsia.

Incongruous as such a complaint might seem to their healthy
environment,--their outdoor life, their daily exercise, the healing
balsam of the mountain air, their enforced temperance in diet, and
the absence of all enervating pleasures,--it was nevertheless the
incontestable fact. Whether it was the result of the nervous, excitable
temperament which had brought them together in this feverish hunt for
gold; whether it was the quality of the tinned meats or half-cooked
provisions they hastily bolted, begrudging the time it took to prepare
and to consume them; whether they too often supplanted their meals by
tobacco or whiskey, the singular physiological truth remained that these
young, finely selected adventurers, living the lives of the natural,
aboriginal man, and looking the picture of health and strength, actually
suffered more from indigestion than the pampered dwellers of the cities.
The quantity of “patent medicines,” “bitters,” “pills,” “panaceas,”
 and “lozenges” sold in the settlement almost exceeded the amount of
the regular provisions whose effects they were supposed to correct.
The sufferers eagerly scanned advertisements and placards. There
were occasional “runs” on new “specifics,” and general conversation
eventually turned into a discussion of their respective merits. A
certain childlike faith and trust in each new remedy was not the least
distressing and pathetic of the symptoms of these grown-up, bearded men.

“Well, gentlemen,” said Cyrus Parker, glancing around at his fellow
sufferers, “ye kin talk of your patent medicines, and I’ve tackled ‘em
all, but only the other day I struck suthin’ that I’m goin’ to hang on
to, you bet.”

Every eye was turned moodily to the speaker, but no one said anything.

“And I didn’t get it outer advertisements, nor off of circulars. I got
it outer my head, just by solid thinking,” continued Parker.

“What was it, Cy?” said one unsophisticated and inexperienced sufferer.

Instead of replying, Parker, like a true artist, knowing he had the ear
of his audience, dramatically flashed a question upon them.

“Did you ever hear of a Chinaman having dyspepsy?”

“Never heard he had sabe enough to hev ANYTHING,” said a scorner.

“No, but DID ye?” insisted Parker.

“Well, no!” chorused the group. They were evidently struck with the
fact.

“Of course you didn’t,” said Parker triumphantly. “‘Cos they AIN’T.
Well, gentlemen, it didn’t seem to me the square thing that a pesky lot
o’ yellow-skinned heathens should be built different to a white man,
and never know the tortur’ that a Christian feels; and one day, arter
dinner, when I was just a-lyin’ flat down on the bank, squirmin’, and
clutching the short grass to keep from yellin’, who should go by but
that pizened See Yup, with a grin on his face.

“‘Mellican man plenty playee to him Joss after eatin’,’ sez he; ‘but
Chinaman smellee punk, allee same, and no hab got.’

“I knew the slimy cuss was just purtendin’ he thought I was prayin’ to
my Joss, but I was that weak I hadn’t stren’th, boys, to heave a rock at
him. Yet it gave me an idea.”

“What was it?” they asked eagerly.

“I went down to his shop the next day, when he was alone, and I was
feeling mighty bad, and I got hold of his pigtail and I allowed I’d
stuff it down his throat if he didn’t tell me what he meant. Then he
took a piece of punk and lit it, and put it under my nose, and, darn my
skin, gentlemen, you migh’n’t believe me, but in a minute I felt better,
and after a whiff or two I was all right.”

“Was it pow’ful strong, Cy?” asked the inexperienced one.

“No,” said Parker, “and that’s just what’s got me. It was a sort o’
dreamy, spicy smell, like a hot night. But as I couldn’t go ‘round ‘mong
you boys with a lighted piece o’ punk in my hand, ez if I was settin’
off Fourth of July firecrackers, I asked him if he couldn’t fix me up
suthin’ in another shape that would be handier to use when I was took
bad, and I’d reckon to pay him for it like ez I’d pay for any other
patent medicine. So he fixed me up this.”

He put his hand in his pocket, and drew out a small red paper which,
when opened, disclosed a pink powder. It was gravely passed around the
group.

“Why, it smells and tastes like ginger,” said one.

“It is only ginger!” said another scornfully.

“Mebbe it is, and mebbe it isn’t,” returned Cy Parker stoutly. “Mebbe
ut’s only my fancy. But if it’s the sort o’ stuff to bring on that
fancy, and that fancy CURES me, it’s all the same. I’ve got about two
dollars’ worth o’ that fancy or that ginger, and I’m going to stick to
it. You hear me!” And he carefully put it back in his pocket.

At which criticisms and gibes broke forth. If he (Cy Parker), a white
man, was going to “demean himself” by consulting a Chinese quack, he’d
better buy up a lot o’ idols and stand ‘em up around his cabin. If he
had that sort o’ confidences with See Yup, he ought to go to work with
him on his cheap tailings, and be fumigated all at the same time. If
he’d been smoking an opium pipe, instead of smelling punk, he ought to
be man enough to confess it. Yet it was noticeable that they were
all very anxious to examine the packet again, but Cy Parker was alike
indifferent to demand or entreaty.

A few days later I saw Abe Wynford, one of the party, coming out of See
Yup’s wash-house. He muttered something in passing about the infamous
delay in sending home his washing, but did not linger long in
conversation. The next day I met another miner AT the wash-house, but HE
lingered so long on some trifling details that I finally left him there
alone with See Yup. When I called upon Poker Jack of Shasta, there was a
singular smell of incense in HIS cabin, which he attributed to the very
resinous quality of the fir logs he was burning. I did not attempt
to probe these mysteries by any direct appeal to See Yup himself: I
respected his reticence; indeed, if I had not, I was quite satisfied
that he would have lied to me. Enough that his wash-house was well
patronized, and he was decidedly “getting on.”

It might have been a month afterwards that Dr. Duchesne was setting a
broken bone in the settlement, and after the operation was over, had
strolled into the Palmetto Saloon. He was an old army surgeon, much
respected and loved in the district, although perhaps a little feared
for the honest roughness and military precision of his speech. After he
had exchanged salutations with the miners in his usual hearty fashion,
and accepted their invitation to drink, Cy Parker, with a certain
affected carelessness which did not, however, conceal a singular
hesitation in his speech, began:--

“I’ve been wantin’ to ask ye a question, Doc,--a sort o’ darned fool
question, ye know,--nothing in the way of consultation, don’t you see,
though it’s kin er in the way o’ your purfeshun. Sabe?”

“Go on, Cy,” said the doctor good-humoredly, “this is my dispensary
hour.”

“Oh! it ain’t anything about symptoms, Doc, and there ain’t anything the
matter with me. It’s only just to ask ye if ye happened to know anything
about the medical practice of these yer Chinamen?”

“I don’t know,” said the doctor bluntly, “and I don’t know ANYBODY who
does.”

There was a sudden silence in the bar, and the doctor, putting down his
glass, continued with slight professional precision:--

“You see, the Chinese know nothing of anatomy from personal observation.
Autopsies and dissection are against their superstitions, which declare
the human body sacred, and are consequently never practiced.”

There was a slight movement of inquiring interest among the party,
and Cy Parker, after a meaning glance at the others, went on half
aggressively, half apologetically:--

“In course, they ain’t surgeons like you, Doc, but that don’t keep them
from having their own little medicines, just as dogs eat grass, you
know. Now I want to put it to you, as a fa’r-minded man, if you mean ter
say that, jest because those old women who sarve out yarbs and spring
medicines in families don’t know anything of anatomy, they ain’t fit to
give us their simple and nat’ral medicines?”

“But the Chinese medicines are not simple or natural,” said the doctor
coolly.

“Not simple?” echoed the party, closing round him.

“I don’t mean to say,” continued the doctor, glancing around at their
eager, excited faces with an appearance of wonder, “that they are
positively noxious, unless taken in large quantities, for they are not
drugs at all, but I certainly should not call them ‘simple.’ Do YOU know
what they principally are?”

“Well, no,” said Parker cautiously, “perhaps not EXACTLY.”

“Come a little closer, and I’ll tell you.”

Not only Parker’s head but the others were bent over the counter. Dr.
Duchesne uttered a few words in a tone inaudible to the rest of the
company. There was a profound silence, broken at last by Abe Wynford’s
voice:--

“Ye kin pour me out about three fingers o’ whiskey, Barkeep. I’ll take
it straight.”

“Same to me,” said the others.

The men gulped down their liquor; two of them quietly passed out. The
doctor wiped his lips, buttoned his coat, and began to draw on his
riding-gloves.

“I’ve heerd,” said Poker Jack of Shasta, with a faint smile on his white
face, as he toyed with the last drops of liquor in his glass, “that the
darned fools sometimes smell punk as a medicine, eh?”

“Yes, THAT’S comparatively decent,” said the doctor reflectively. “It’s
only sawdust mixed with a little gum and formic acid.”

“Formic acid? Wot’s that?”

“A very peculiar acid secreted by ants. It is supposed to be used by
them offensively in warfare--just as the skunk, eh?”

But Poker Jack of Shasta had hurriedly declared that he wanted to speak
to a man who was passing, and had disappeared. The doctor walked to the
door, mounted his horse, and rode away. I noticed, however, that there
was a slight smile on his bronzed, impassive face. This led me to
wonder if he was entirely ignorant of the purpose for which he had been
questioned, and the effect of his information. I was confirmed in the
belief by the remarkable circumstances that nothing more was said of it;
the incident seemed to have terminated there, and the victims made no
attempt to revenge themselves on See Yup. That they had one and all,
secretly and unknown to one another, patronized him, there was no doubt;
but, at the same time, as they evidently were not sure that Dr. Duchesne
had not hoaxed them in regard to the quality of See Yup’s medicines,
they knew that an attack on the unfortunate Chinaman would in either
case reveal their secret and expose them to the ridicule of their
brother miners. So the matter dropped, and See Yup remained master of
the situation.

Meantime he was prospering. The coolie gang he worked on the river, when
not engaged in washing clothes, were “picking over” the “tailings,”
 or refuse of gravel, left on abandoned claims by successful miners.
As there was no more expense attending this than in stone-breaking or
rag-picking, and the feeding of the coolies, which was ridiculously
cheap, there was no doubt that See Yup was reaping a fair weekly return
from it; but, as he sent his receipts to San Francisco through coolie
managers, after the Chinese custom, and did not use the regular Express
Company, there was no way of ascertaining the amount. Again, neither
See Yup nor his fellow countrymen ever appeared to have any money about
them. In ruder times and more reckless camps, raids were often made by
ruffians on their cabins or their traveling gangs, but never with any
pecuniary result. This condition, however, it seemed was destined to
change.

One Saturday See Yup walked into Wells, Fargo & Co.’s Express office
with a package of gold-dust, which, when duly weighed, was valued at
five hundred dollars. It was consigned to a Chinese company in San
Francisco. When the clerk handed See Yup a receipt, he remarked
casually:--

“Washing seems to pay, See Yup.”

“Washee velly good pay. You wantee washee, John?” said See Yup eagerly.

“No, no,” said the clerk, with a laugh. “I was only thinking five
hundred dollars would represent the washing of a good many shirts.”

“No leplesent washee shirts at all! Catchee gold-dust when washee
tailings. Shabbee?”

The clerk DID “shabbee,” and lifted his eyebrows. The next Saturday See
Yup appeared with another package, worth about four hundred dollars,
directed to the same consignee.

“Didn’t pan out quite so rich this week, eh?” said the clerk engagingly.

“No,” returned See Yup impassively; “next time he payee more.”

When the third Saturday came, with the appearance of See Yup and four
hundred and fifty dollars’ worth of gold-dust, the clerk felt he was no
longer bound to keep the secret. He communicated it to others, and
in twenty-four hours the whole settlement knew that See Yup’s coolie
company were taking out an average of four hundred dollars per week from
the refuse and tailings of the old abandoned Palmetto claim!

The astonishment of the settlement was profound. In earlier days
jealousy and indignation at the success of these degraded heathens might
have taken a more active and aggressive shape, and it would have fared
ill with See Yup and his companions. But the settlement had become more
prosperous and law-abiding; there were one or two Eastern families and
some foreign capital already there, and its jealousy and indignation
were restricted to severe investigation and legal criticism. Fortunately
for See Yup, it was an old-established mining law that an abandoned
claim and its tailings became the property of whoever chose to work
it. But it was alleged that See Yup’s company had in reality “struck a
lead,”--discovered a hitherto unknown vein or original deposit of gold,
not worked by the previous company, and having failed legally to declare
it by preemption and public registry, in their foolish desire for
secrecy, had thus forfeited their right to the property. A surveillance
of their working, however, did not establish this theory; the gold that
See Yup had sent away was of the kind that might have been found in the
tailings overlooked by the late Palmetto owners. Yet it was a very large
yield for mere refuse.

“Them Palmetto boys were mighty keerless after they’d made their big
‘strike’ and got to work on the vein, and I reckon they threw a lot
of gold away,” said Cy Parker, who remembered their large-handed
recklessness in the “flush days.” “On’y that WE didn’t think it was
white man’s work to rake over another man’s leavin’s, we might hev had
what them derned Chinamen hev dropped into. Tell ye what, boys, we’ve
been a little too ‘high and mighty,’ and we’ll hev to climb down.”

At last the excitement reached its climax, and diplomacy was employed to
effect what neither intimidation nor espionage could secure. Under the
pretense of desiring to buy out See Yup’s company, a select committee of
the miners was permitted to examine the property and its workings. They
found the great bank of stones and gravel, representing the cast-out
debris of the old claim, occupied by See Yup and four or five plodding
automatic coolies. At the end of two hours the committee returned to
the saloon bursting with excitement. They spoke under their breath, but
enough was gathered to satisfy the curious crowd that See Yup’s pile of
tailings was rich beyond their expectations. The committee had seen with
their own eyes gold taken out of the sand and gravel to the amount of
twenty dollars in the two short hours of their examination. And the work
had been performed in the stupidest, clumsiest, yet PATIENT Chinese way.
What might not white men do with better appointed machinery! A syndicate
was at once formed. See Yup was offered twenty thousand dollars if
he would sell out and put the syndicate in possession of the claim
in twenty-four hours. The Chinaman received the offer stolidly. As he
seemed inclined to hesitate, I am grieved to say that it was intimated
to him that if he declined he might be subject to embarrassing and
expensive legal proceedings to prove his property, and that companies
would be formed to “prospect” the ground on either side of his heap of
tailings. See Yup at last consented, with the proviso that the money
should be paid in gold into the hands of a Chinese agent in San
Francisco on the day of the delivery of the claim. The syndicate made
no opposition to this characteristic precaution of the Chinaman. It
was like them not to travel with money, and the implied uncomplimentary
suspicion of danger from the community was overlooked. See Yup departed
the day that the syndicate took possession. He came to see me before he
went. I congratulated him upon his good fortune; at the same time, I was
embarrassed by the conviction that he was unfairly forced into a sale of
his property at a figure far below its real value.

I think differently now.

At the end of the week it was said that the new company cleared up
about three hundred dollars. This was not so much as the community
had expected, but the syndicate was apparently satisfied, and the new
machinery was put up. At the end of the next week the syndicate were
silent as to their returns. One of them made a hurried visit to San
Francisco. It was said that he was unable to see either See Yup or the
agent to whom the money was paid. It was also noticed that there was no
Chinaman remaining in the settlement. Then the fatal secret was out.

The heap of tailings had probably never yielded the See Yup company more
than twenty dollars a week, the ordinary wage of such a company. See Yup
had conceived the brilliant idea of “booming” it on a borrowed capital
of five hundred dollars in gold-dust, which he OPENLY transmitted by
express to his confederate and creditor in San Francisco, who in turn
SECRETLY sent it back to See Yup by coolie messengers, to be again
openly transmitted to San Francisco. The package of gold-dust was thus
passed backwards and forwards between debtor and creditor, to the
grave edification of the Express Company and the fatal curiosity of the
settlement. When the syndicate had gorged the bait thus thrown out, See
Yup, on the day the self-invited committee inspected the claim, promptly
“salted” the tailings by CONSCIENTIOUSLY DISTRIBUTING THE GOLD-DUST OVER
IT so deftly that it appeared to be its natural composition and yield.

I have only to bid farewell to See Yup, and close this reminiscence of
a misunderstood man, by adding the opinion of an eminent jurist in San
Francisco, to whom the facts were submitted: “So clever was this alleged
fraud, that it is extremely doubtful if an action would lie against See
Yup in the premises, there being no legal evidence of the ‘salting,’
and none whatever of his actual allegation that the gold-dust was the
ORDINARY yield of the tailings, that implication resting entirely with
the committee who examined it under false pretense, and who subsequently
forced the sale by intimidation.”



THE DESBOROUGH CONNECTIONS


“Then it isn’t a question of property or next of kin?” said the consul.

“Lord! no,” said the lady vivaciously. “Why, goodness me! I reckon
old Desborough could, at any time before he died, have ‘bought up’ or
‘bought out’ the whole lot of his relatives on this side of the
big pond, no matter what they were worth. No, it’s only a matter of
curiosity and just sociableness.”

The American consul at St. Kentigorn felt much relieved. He had feared
it was only the old story of delusive quests for imaginary estates and
impossible inheritances which he had confronted so often in nervous
wan-eyed enthusiasts and obstreperous claimants from his own land.
Certainly there was no suggestion of this in the richly dressed and
be-diamonded matron before him, nor in her pretty daughter, charming in
a Paris frock, alive with the consciousness of beauty and admiration,
and yet a little ennuye from gratified indulgence. He knew the mother to
be the wealthy widow of a New York millionaire, that she was traveling
for pleasure in Europe, and a chance meeting with her at dinner a
few nights before had led to this half-capricious, half-confidential
appointment at the consulate.

“No,” continued Mrs. Desborough; “Mr. Desborough came to America, when
a small boy, with an uncle who died some years ago. Mr. Desborough never
seemed to hanker much after his English relatives as long as I knew him,
but now that I and Sadie are over here, why we guessed we might look ‘em
up and sort of sample ‘em! ‘Desborough’ ‘s rather a good name,” added
the lady, with a complacency that, however, had a suggestion of query in
it.

“Yes,” said the consul; “from the French, I fancy.”

“Mr. Desborough was English--very English,” corrected the lady.

“I mean it may be an old Norman name,” said the consul.

“Norman’s good enough for ME,” said the daughter, reflecting. “We’ll
just settle it as Norman. I never thought about that DES.”

“Only you may find it called ‘Debborough’ here, and spelt so,” said the
consul, smiling.

Miss Desborough lifted her pretty shoulders and made a charming grimace.
“Then we won’t acknowledge ‘em. No Debborough for me!”

“You might put an advertisement in the papers, like the ‘next of
kin’ notice, intimating, in the regular way, that they would ‘hear of
something to their advantage’--as they certainly would,” continued the
consul, with a bow. “It would be such a refreshing change to the kind
of thing I’m accustomed to, don’t you know--this idea of one of my
countrywomen coming over just to benefit English relatives! By Jove! I
wouldn’t mind undertaking the whole thing for you--it’s such a novelty.”
 He was quite carried away with the idea.

But the two ladies were far from participating in this joyous outlook.
“No,” said Mrs. Desborough promptly, “that wouldn’t do. You see,” she
went on with superb frankness, “that would be just giving ourselves
away, and saying who WE were before we found out what THEY were like.
Mr. Desborough was all right in HIS way, but we don’t know anything
about his FOLKS! We ain’t here on a mission to improve the Desboroughs,
nor to gather in any ‘lost tribes.’”

It was evident that, in spite of the humor of the situation and the
levity of the ladies, there was a characteristic national practicalness
about them, and the consul, with a sigh, at last gave the address of one
or two responsible experts in genealogical inquiry, as he had often
done before. He felt it was impossible to offer any advice to ladies
as thoroughly capable of managing their own affairs as his fair
countrywomen, yet he was not without some curiosity to know the result
of their practical sentimental quest. That he should ever hear of them
again he doubted. He knew that after their first loneliness had worn off
in their gregarious gathering at a London hotel they were not likely to
consort with their own country people, who indeed were apt to fight
shy of one another, and even to indulge in invidious criticism of one
another when admitted in that society to which they were all equally
strangers. So he took leave of them on their way back to London with the
belief that their acquaintance terminated with that brief incident. But
he was mistaken.

In the year following he was spending his autumn vacation at a
country house. It was an historic house, and had always struck him as
being--even in that country of historic seats--a singular example of the
vicissitudes of English manorial estates and the mutations of its
lords. His host in his prime had been recalled from foreign service
to unexpectedly succeed to an uncle’s title and estate. That estate,
however, had come into the possession of the uncle only through his
marriage with the daughter of an old family whose portraits still looked
down from the walls upon the youngest and alien branch. There were
likenesses, effigies, memorials, and reminiscences of still older
families who had occupied it through forfeiture by war or the favoritism
of kings, and in its stately cloisters and ruined chapel was still felt
the dead hand of its evicted religious founders, which could not be
shaken off.

It was this strange individuality that affected all who saw it. For,
however changed were those within its walls, whoever were its inheritors
or inhabiters, Scrooby Priory never changed nor altered its own
character. However incongruous or ill-assorted the portraits that looked
from its walls,--so ill met that they might have flown at one another’s
throats in the long nights when the family were away,--the great
house itself was independent of them all. The be-wigged, be-laced, and
be-furbelowed of one day’s gathering, the round-headed, steel-fronted,
and prim-kerchiefed congregation of another day, and even the
black-coated, bare-armed, and bare-shouldered assemblage of to-day had
no effect on the austerities of the Priory. Modern houses might show
the tastes and prepossessions of their dwellers, might have caught some
passing trick of the hour, or have recorded the augmented fortunes or
luxuriousness of the owner, but Scrooby Priory never! No one had dared
even to disturb its outer rigid integrity; the breaches of time and
siege were left untouched. It held its calm indifferent sway over all
who passed its low-arched portals, and the consul was fain to believe
that he--a foreign visitor--was no more alien to the house than its
present owner.

“I’m expecting a very charming compatriot of yours to-morrow,” said Lord
Beverdale as they drove from the station together. “You must tell me
what to show her.”

“I should think any countrywoman of mine would be quite satisfied with
the Priory,” said the consul, glancing thoughtfully towards the pile
dimly seen through the park.

“I shouldn’t like her to be bored here,” continued Beverdale. “Algy met
her at Rome, where she was occupying a palace with her mother--they’re
very rich, you know. He found she was staying with Lady Minever at
Hedham Towers, and I went over and invited her with a little party.
She’s a Miss Desborough.”

The consul gave a slight start, and was aware that Beverdale was looking
at him.

“Perhaps you know her?” said Beverdale.

“Just enough to agree with you that she is charming,” said the consul.
“I dined with them, and saw them at the consulate.”

“Oh yes; I always forget you are a consul. Then, of course, you know
all about them. I suppose they’re very rich, and in society over there?”
 said Beverdale in a voice that was quite animated.

It was on the consul’s lips to say that the late Mr. Desborough was an
Englishman, and even to speak playfully of their proposed quest, but a
sudden instinct withheld him. After all, perhaps it was only a caprice,
or idea, they had forgotten,--perhaps, who knows?--that they were
already ashamed of. They had evidently “got on” in English society, if
that was their real intent, and doubtless Miss Desborough, by this time,
was quite as content with the chance of becoming related to the Earl of
Beverdale, through his son and heir, Algernon, as if they had found a
real Lord Desborough among their own relatives. The consul knew that
Lord Beverdale was not a rich man, that like most men of old family he
was not a slave to class prejudice; indeed, the consul had seen very few
noblemen off the stage or out of the pages of a novel who were. So he
said, with a slight affectation of authority, that there was as
little doubt of the young lady’s wealth as there was of her personal
attractions.

They were nearing the house through a long avenue of chestnuts whose
variegated leaves were already beginning to strew the ground beneath,
and they could see the vista open upon the mullioned windows of the
Priory, lighted up by the yellow October sunshine. In that sunshine
stood a tall, clean-limbed young fellow, dressed in a shooting-suit,
whom the consul recognized at once as Lord Algernon, the son of his
companion. As if to accent the graces of this vision of youth and vigor,
near him, in the shadow, an old man had halted, hat in hand, still
holding the rake with which he had been gathering the dead leaves in the
avenue; his back bent, partly with years, partly with the obeisance of
a servitor. There was something so marked in this contrast, in this
old man standing in the shadow of the fading year, himself as dried and
withered as the leaves he was raking, yet pausing to make his reverence
to this passing sunshine of youth and prosperity in the presence of his
coming master, that the consul, as they swept by, looked after him with
a stirring of pain.

“Rather an old man to be still at work,” said the consul.

Beverdale laughed. “You must not let him hear you say so; he considers
himself quite as fit as any younger man in the place, and, by Jove!
though he’s nearly eighty, I’m inclined to believe it. He’s not one of
our people, however; he comes from the village, and is taken on at odd
times, partly to please himself. His great aim is to be independent of
his children,--he has a granddaughter who is one of the maids at the
Priory,--and to keep himself out of the workhouse. He does not come from
these parts--somewhere farther north, I fancy. But he’s a tough lot, and
has a deal of work in him yet.”

“Seems to be going a bit stale lately,” said Lord Algernon, “and I think
is getting a little queer in his head. He has a trick of stopping and
staring straight ahead, at times, when he seems to go off for a minute
or two. There!” continued the young man, with a light laugh. “I say!
he’s doing it now!” They both turned quickly and gazed at the bent
figure--not fifty yards away--standing in exactly the same attitude as
before. But, even as they gazed, he slowly lifted his rake and began his
monotonous work again.

At Scrooby Priory, the consul found that the fame of his fair
countrywoman had indeed preceded her, and that the other guests were
quite as anxious to see Miss Desborough as he was. One of them had
already met her in London; another knew her as one of the house party at
the Duke of Northforeland’s, where she had been a central figure. Some
of her naive sallies and frank criticisms were repeated with great
unction by the gentlemen, and with some slight trepidation and a
“fearful joy” by the ladies. He was more than ever convinced that mother
and daughter had forgotten their lineal Desboroughs, and he resolved to
leave any allusion to it to the young lady herself.

She, however, availed herself of that privilege the evening after her
arrival. “Who’d have thought of meeting YOU here?” she said, sweeping
her skirts away to make room for him on a sofa. “It’s a coon’s age
since I saw you--not since you gave us that letter to those genealogical
gentlemen in London.”

The consul hoped that it had proved successful.

“Yes, but maw guessed we didn’t care to go back to Hengist and Horsa,
and when they let loose a lot of ‘Debboroughs’ and ‘Daybrooks’ upon us,
maw kicked! We’ve got a drawing ten yards long, that looks like a sour
apple tree, with lots of Desboroughs hanging up on the branches like
last year’s pippins, and I guess about as worm-eaten. We took that well
enough, but when it came to giving us a map of straight lines and dashes
with names written under them like an old Morse telegraph slip, struck
by lightning, then maw and I guessed that it made us tired.

“You know,” she went on, opening her clear gray eyes on the consul, with
a characteristic flash of shrewd good sense through her quaint humor,
“we never reckoned where this thing would land us, and we found we
were paying a hundred pounds, not only for the Desboroughs, but all the
people they’d MARRIED, and their CHILDREN, and children’s children, and
there were a lot of outsiders we’d never heard of, nor wanted to hear
of. Maw once thought she’d got on the trail of a Plantagenet, and
followed it keen, until she found she had been reading the dreadful
thing upside down. Then we concluded we wouldn’t take any more stock in
the family until it had risen.”

During this speech the consul could not help noticing that, although her
attitude was playfully confidential to him, her voice really was pitched
high enough to reach the ears of smaller groups around her, who were not
only following her with the intensest admiration, but had shamelessly
abandoned their own conversation, and had even faced towards her. Was
she really posing in her naivete? There was a certain mischievous,
even aggressive, consciousness in her pretty eyelids. Then she suddenly
dropped both eyes and voice, and said to the consul in a genuine aside,
“I like this sort of thing much better.”

The consul looked puzzled. “What sort of thing?”

“Why, all these swell people, don’t you see? those pictures on the
walls! this elegant room! everything that has come down from the past,
all ready and settled for you, you know--ages ago! Something you haven’t
to pick up for yourself and worry over.”

But here the consul pointed out that the place itself was not
“ancestral” as regarded the present earl, and that even the original
title of his predecessors had passed away from it. “In fact, it came
into the family by one of those ‘outsiders’ you deprecate. But I dare
say you’d find the place quite as comfortable with Lord Beverdale for a
host as you would if you had found out he were a cousin,” he added.

“Better,” said the young lady frankly.

“I suppose your mother participates in these preferences?” said the
consul, with a smile.

“No,” said Miss Desborough, with the same frankness, “I think maw’s
rather cut up at not finding a Desborough. She was invited down here,
but SHE’S rather independent, you know, so she allowed I could take care
of myself, while she went off to stay with the old Dowager Lady Mistowe,
who thinks maw a very proper womanly person. I made maw mad by telling
her that’s just what old Lady Mistowe would say of her cook--for I can’t
stand these people’s patronage. However, I shouldn’t wonder if I was
invited here as a ‘most original person.’”

But here Lord Algernon came up to implore her to sing them one of “those
plantation songs;” and Miss Desborough, with scarcely a change of voice
or manner, allowed herself to be led to the piano. The consul had
little chance to speak with her again, but he saw enough that evening to
convince him not only that Lord Algernon was very much in love with
her, but that the fact had been equally and complacently accepted by the
family and guests. That her present visit was only an opportunity for a
formal engagement was clear to every woman in the house--not excepting,
I fear, even the fair subject of gossip herself. Yet she seemed so
unconcerned and self-contained that the consul wondered if she really
cared for Lord Algernon. And having thus wondered, he came to the
conclusion that it didn’t much matter, for the happiness of so
practically organized a young lady, if she loved him or not.

It is highly probable that Miss Sadie Desborough had not even gone so
far as to ask herself that question. She awoke the next morning with a
sense of easy victory and calm satisfaction that had, however, none of
the transports of affection. Her taste was satisfied by the love of
a handsome young fellow,--a typical Englishman,--who, if not exactly
original or ideal, was, she felt, of an universally accepted,
“hall-marked” standard, the legitimate outcome of a highly ordered,
carefully guarded civilization, whose repose was the absence of struggle
or ambition; a man whose regular features were not yet differentiated
from the rest of his class by any of those disturbing lines which people
call character. Everything was made ready for her, without care or
preparation; she had not even an ideal to realize or to modify. She
could slip without any jar or dislocation into this life which was just
saved from self-indulgence and sybaritic luxury by certain conventional
rules of activity and the occupation of amusement which, as obligations
of her position, even appeared to suggest the novel aspect of a DUTY!
She could accept all this without the sense of being an intruder in
an unbroken lineage--thanks to the consul’s account of the Beverdales’
inheritance. She already pictured herself as the mistress of this fair
domain, the custodian of its treasures and traditions, and the dispenser
of its hospitalities, but--as she conscientiously believed--without
pride or vanity, in her position; only an intense and thoughtful
appreciation of it. Nor did she dream of ever displaying it
ostentatiously before her less fortunate fellow countrywomen; on the
contrary, she looked forward to their possible criticism of her casting
off all transatlantic ties with an uneasy consciousness that was perhaps
her nearest approach to patriotism. Yet, again, she reasoned that, as
her father was an Englishman, she was only returning to her old home.
As to her mother, she had already comforted herself by noticing certain
discrepancies in that lady’s temperament, which led her to believe that
she herself alone inherited her father’s nature--for her mother was, of
course, distinctly American! So little conscious was she of any possible
snobbishness in this belief, that in her superb naivete she would have
argued the point with the consul, and employed a wit and dialect that
were purely American.

She had slipped out of the Priory early that morning that she might
enjoy alone, unattended and unciceroned, the aspect of that vast estate
which might be hers for the mere accepting. Perhaps there was some
instinct of delicacy in her avoiding Lord Algernon that morning; not
wishing, as she herself might have frankly put it, “to take stock” of
his inheritance in his presence. As she passed into the garden through
the low postern door, she turned to look along the stretching facade of
the main building, with the high stained windows of its banqueting-hall
and the state chamber where a king had slept. Even in that crisp October
air, and with the green of its ivied battlements against the gold of
the distant wood, it seemed to lie in the languid repose of an eternal
summer. She hurried on down the other terrace into the Italian garden, a
quaint survival of past grandeur, passed the great orangery and numerous
conservatories, making a crystal hamlet in themselves--seeing everywhere
the same luxury. But it was a luxury that she fancied was redeemed
from the vulgarity of ostentation by the long custom of years and
generations, so unlike the millionaire palaces of her own land; and, in
her enthusiasm, she even fancied it was further sanctified by the grim
monastic founders who had once been content with bread and pulse in the
crumbling and dismantled refectory. In the plenitude of her feelings she
felt a slight recognition of some beneficent being who had rolled this
golden apple at her feet, and felt as if she really should like to “do
good” in her sphere.

It so chanced that, passing through a small gate in the park, she saw
walking, a little ahead of her, a young girl whom she at once recognized
as a Miss Amelyn, one of the guests of the evening before. Miss
Desborough remembered that she played the accompaniment of one or two
songs upon the piano, and had even executed a long solo during the
general conversation, without attention from the others, and apparently
with little irritation to herself, subsiding afterwards into an
armchair, quite on the fringe of other people’s conversation. She had
been called “my dear” by one or two dowagers, and by her Christian name
by the earl, and had a way of impalpably melting out of sight at times.
These trifles led Miss Desborough to conclude that she was some kind of
dependent or poor relation. Here was an opportunity to begin her work of
“doing good.” She quickened her pace and overtook Miss Amelyn.

“Let me walk with you,” she said graciously.

The young English girl smiled assent, but looked her surprise at seeing
the cynosure of last night’s eyes unattended.

“Oh,” said Sadie, answering the mute query, “I didn’t want to be ‘shown
round’ by anybody, and I’m not going to bore YOU with asking to see
sights either. We’ll just walk together; wherever YOU’RE going is good
enough for me.”

“I’m going as far as the village,” said Miss Amelyn, looking down
doubtfully at Sadie’s smart French shoes--“if you care to walk so far.”

Sadie noticed that her companion was more solidly booted, and that
her straight, short skirts, although less stylish than her own, had
a certain character, better fitted to the freer outdoor life of the
country. But she only said, however, “The village will do,” and gayly
took her companion’s arm.

“But I’m afraid you’ll find it very uninteresting, for I am going to
visit some poor cottages,” persisted Miss Amelyn, with a certain
timid ingenuousness of manner which, however, was as distinct as Miss
Desborough’s bolder frankness. “I promised the rector’s daughter to take
her place to-day.”

“And I feel as if I was ready to pour oil and wine to any extent,” said
Miss Desborough, “so come along!”

Miss Amelyn laughed, and yet glanced around her timidly, as if she
thought that Miss Desborough ought to have a larger and more important
audience. Then she continued more confidentially and boldly, “But it
isn’t at all like ‘slumming,’ you know. These poor people here are not
very bad, and are not at all extraordinary.”

“Never mind,” said Sadie, hurrying her along. After a pause she went on,
“You know the Priory very well, I guess?”

“I lived there when I was a little girl, with my aunt, the Dowager Lady
Beverdale,” said Miss Amelyn. “When my cousin Fred, who was the young
heir, died, and the present Lord Beverdale succeeded,--HE never expected
it, you know, for there were two lives, his two elder brothers, besides
poor Fred’s, between, but they both died,--we went to live in the Dower
House.”

“The Dower House?” repeated Sadie.

“Yes, Lady Beverdale’s separate property.”

“But I thought all this property--the Priory--came into the family
through HER.”

“It did--this was the Amelyns’ place; but the oldest son or nearest male
heir always succeeds to the property and title.”

“Do you mean to say that the present Lord Beverdale turned that old lady
out?”

Miss Amelyn looked shocked. “I mean to say,” she said gravely, “Lady
Beverdale would have had to go when her own son became of age, had
he lived.” She paused, and then said timidly, “Isn’t it that way in
America?”

“Dear no!” Miss Desborough had a faint recollection that there was
something in the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence against
primogeniture. “No! the men haven’t it ALL their own way THERE--not
much!”

Miss Amelyn looked as if she did not care to discuss this problem. After
a few moments Sadie continued, “You and Lord Algernon are pretty old
friends, I guess?”

“No,” replied Miss Amelyn. “He came once or twice to the Priory for the
holidays, when he was quite a boy at Marlborough--for the family weren’t
very well off, and his father was in India. He was a very shy boy, and
of course no one ever thought of him succeeding.”

Miss Desborough felt half inclined to be pleased with this, and yet half
inclined to resent this possible snubbing of her future husband. But
they were nearing the village, and Miss Amelyn turned the conversation
to the object of her visit. It was a new village--an unhandsome village,
for all that it stood near one of the gates of the park. It had been
given over to some mines that were still worked in its vicinity, and to
the railway, which the uncle of the present earl had resisted; but the
railway had triumphed, and the station for Scrooby Priory was there.
There was a grim church, of a blackened or weather-beaten stone, on the
hill, with a few grim Amelyns reposing cross-legged in the chancel, but
the character of the village was as different from the Priory as if it
were in another county. They stopped at the rectory, where Miss Amelyn
provided herself with certain doles and gifts, which the American
girl would have augmented with a five-pound note but for Miss Amelyn’s
horrified concern. “As many shillings would do, and they would be as
grateful,” she said. “More they wouldn’t understand.”

“Then keep it, and dole it out as you like,” said Sadie quickly.

“But I don’t think that--that Lord Beverdale would quite approve,”
 hesitated Miss Amelyn.

The pretty brow of her companion knit, and her gray eyes flashed
vivaciously. “What has HE to do with it?” she said pertly; “besides, you
say these are not HIS poor. Take that five-pound note--or--I’ll DOUBLE
it, get it changed into sovereigns at the station, and hand ‘em round to
every man, woman, and child.”

Miss Amelyn hesitated. The American girl looked capable of doing what
she said; perhaps it was a national way of almsgiving! She took the
note, with the mental reservation of making a full confession to the
rector and Lord Beverdale.

She was right in saying that the poor of Scrooby village were not
interesting. There was very little squalor or degradation; their poverty
seemed not a descent, but a condition to which they had been born; the
faces which Sadie saw were dulled and apathetic rather than sullen
or rebellious; they stood up when Miss Amelyn entered, paying HER the
deference, but taking little note of the pretty butterfly who was with
her, or rather submitting to her frank curiosity with that dull consent
of the poor, as if they had lost even the sense of privacy, or a right
to respect. It seemed to the American girl that their poverty was more
indicated by what they were SATISFIED with than what she thought they
MISSED. It is to be feared that this did not add to Sadie’s sympathy;
all the beggars she had seen in America wanted all they could get, and
she felt as if she were confronted with an inferior animal.

“There’s a wonderful old man lives here,” said Miss Amelyn, as they
halted before a stone and thatch cottage quite on the outskirts of
the village. “We can’t call him one of our poor, for he still works,
although over eighty, and it’s his pride to keep out of the poorhouse,
and, as he calls it, ‘off’ the hands of his granddaughters. But we
manage to do something for THEM, and we hope he profits by it. One of
them is at the Priory; they’re trying to make a maid of her, but her
queer accent--they’re from the north--is against her with the servants.
I am afraid we won’t see old Debs, for he’s at work again to-day, though
the doctor has warned him.”

“Debs! What a funny name!”

“Yes, but as many of these people cannot read or write, the name is
carried by the ear, and not always correctly. Some of the railway
navvies, who come from the north as he does, call him ‘Debbers.’”

They were obliged to descend into the cottage, which was so low that it
seemed to have sunk into the earth until its drooping eaves of thatch
mingled with the straw heap beside it. Debs was not at home. But his
granddaughter was there, who, after a preliminary “bob,” continued the
stirring of the pot before the fire in tentative silence.

“I am sorry to find that your grandfather has gone to work again in
spite of the doctor’s orders,” said Miss Amelyn.

The girl continued to stir the pot, and then said without looking
up, but as if also continuing a train of aggressive thoughts with her
occupation: “Eay, but ‘e’s so set oop in ‘issen ‘ee doan’t take orders
from nobbut--leastways doctor. Moinds ‘em now moor nor a floy. Says ‘ee
knaws there nowt wrong wi’ ‘is ‘eart. Mout be roight--how’siver, sarten
sewer, ‘is ‘EAD’S a’ in a muddle! Toims ‘ee goes off stamrin’ and
starin’ at nowt, as if ‘ee a’nt a n’aporth o’ sense. How’siver I be
doing my duty by ‘em--and ‘ere’s ‘is porritch when a’ cooms--‘gin a’ be
sick or maad.”

What the American understood of the girl’s speech and manner struck
her as having very little sympathy with either her aged relative or her
present visitor. And there was a certain dogged selfish independence
about her that Miss Desborough half liked and half resented. However,
Miss Amelyn did not seem to notice it, and, after leaving a bottle of
port for the grandfather, she took her leave and led Sadie away. As they
passed into the village a carriage, returning to the Priory, filled with
their fellow guests, dashed by, but was instantly pulled up at a word
from Lord Algernon, who leaped from the vehicle, hat in hand, and
implored the fair truant and her companion to join them.

“We’re just making a tour around Windover Hill, and back to luncheon,”
 he said, with a rising color. “We missed you awfully! If we had known
you were so keen on ‘good works,’ and so early at it, by Jove! we’d have
got up a ‘slummin’ party,’ and all joined!”

“And you haven’t seen half,” said Lord Beverdale from the box. “Miss
Amelyn’s too partial to the village. There’s an old drunken retired
poacher somewhere in a hut in Crawley Woods, whom it’s death to
approach, except with a large party. There’s malignant diphtheria over
at the South Farm, eight down with measles at the keeper’s, and an old
woman who has been bedridden for years.”

But Miss Desborough was adamant, though sparkling. She thanked him,
but said she had just seen an old woman “who had been lying in bed for
twenty years, and hadn’t spoken the truth once!” She proposed “going
outside of Lord Beverdale’s own preserves of grain-fed poor,” and
starting up her own game. She would return in time for luncheon--if she
could; if not, she “should annex the gruel of the first kind incapable
she met.”

Yet, actually, she was far from displeased at being accidentally
discovered by these people while following out her capricious whim of
the morning. One or two elder ladies, who had fought shy of her frocks
and her frankness the evening before, were quite touched now by this
butterfly who was willing to forego the sunlight of society, and soil
her pretty wings on the haunts of the impoverished, with only a single
companion,--of her own sex!--and smiled approvingly. And in her present
state of mind, remembering her companion’s timid attitude towards Lord
Beverdale’s opinions, she was not above administering this slight snub
to him in her presence.

When they had driven away, with many regrets, Miss Amelyn was deeply
concerned. “I am afraid,” she said, with timid conscientiousness, “I
have kept you from going with them. And you must be bored with what you
have seen, I know. I don’t believe you really care one bit for it--and
you are only doing it to please me.”

“Trot out the rest of your show,” said Sadie promptly, “and we’ll wind
up by lunching with the rector.”

“He’d be too delighted,” said Miss Amelyn, with disaster written all
over her girlish, truthful face, “but--but--you know--it really wouldn’t
be quite right to Lord Beverdale. You’re his principal guest--you know,
and--they’d think I had taken you off.”

“Well,” said Miss Desborough impetuously, “what’s the matter with that
inn--the Red Lion? We can get a sandwich there, I guess. I’m not VERY
hungry.”

Miss Amelyn looked horrified for a moment, and then laughed; but
immediately became concerned again. “No! listen to me, REALLY now! Let
me finish my round alone! You’ll have ample time if you go NOW to reach
the Priory for luncheon. Do, please! It would be ever so much better for
everybody. I feel quite guilty as it is, and I suppose I am already in
Lord Beverdale’s black books.”

The trouble in the young girl’s face was unmistakable, and as it suited
Miss Desborough’s purpose just as well to show her independence by
returning, as she had set out, alone, she consented to go. Miss Amelyn
showed her a short cut across the park, and they separated--to meet at
dinner. In this brief fellowship, the American girl had kept a certain
supremacy and half-fascination over the English girl, even while she was
conscious of an invincible character in Miss Amelyn entirely different
from and superior to her own. Certainly there was a difference in the
two peoples. Why else this inherited conscientious reverence for Lord
Beverdale’s position, shown by Miss Amelyn, which she, an American alive
to its practical benefits, could not understand? Would Miss Amelyn and
Lord Algernon have made a better match? The thought irritated her, even
while she knew that she herself possessed the young man’s affections,
the power to marry him, and, as she believed, kept her own independence
in the matter.

As she entered the iron gates at the lower end of the park, and glanced
at the interwoven cipher and crest of the Amelyns still above, she was
conscious that the wind was blowing more chill, and that a few clouds
had gathered. As she walked on down the long winding avenue, the sky
became overcast, and, in one of those strange contrasts of the English
climate, the glory of the whole day went out with the sunshine. The
woods suddenly became wrinkled and gray, the distant hills sombre, the
very English turf beneath her feet grew brown; a mile and a half away,
through the opening of the trees, the west part of the Priory looked
a crumbling, ivy-eaten ruin. A few drops of rain fell. She hurried
on. Suddenly she remembered that the avenue made a long circuit before
approaching the house, and that its lower end, where she was walking,
was but a fringe of the park. Consequently there must be a short cut
across some fields and farm buildings to the back of the park and the
Priory. She at once diverged to the right, presently found a low fence,
which she clambered over, and again found a footpath which led to a
stile. Crossing that, she could see the footpath now led directly to the
Priory,--now a grim and austere looking pile in the suddenly dejected
landscape,--and that it was probably used only by the servants and
farmers. A gust of wind brought some swift needles of rain to her cheek;
she could see the sad hills beyond the Priory already veiling their
faces; she gathered her skirts and ran. The next field was a long one,
but beside the further stile was a small clump of trees, the only ones
between her and the park. Hurrying on to that shelter, she saw that the
stile was already occupied by a tall but bent figure, holding a long
stick in his hand, which gave him the appearance, against the horizon,
of the figure of Time leaning on his scythe. As she came nearer she saw
it was, indeed, an old man, half resting on his rake. He was very
rugged and weather-beaten, and although near the shelter of the trees,
apparently unmindful of the rain that was falling on his bald head, and
the limp cap he was holding uselessly in one hand. He was staring at
her, yet apparently unconscious of her presence. A sudden instinct came
upon her--it was “Debs”!

She went directly up to him, and with that frank common sense which
ordinarily distinguished her, took his cap from his hand and put it
on his head, grasped his arm firmly, and led him to the shelter of the
tree. Then she wiped the raindrops from his face with her handkerchief,
shook out her own dress and her wet parasol, and, propping her companion
against the tree, said:--

“There, Mr. Debs! I’ve heard of people who didn’t know enough to come in
when it rained, but I never met one before.”

The old man started, lifted his hairy, sinewy arm, bared to the elbow,
and wiped his bare throat with the dry side of it. Then a look of
intelligence--albeit half aggressive--came into his face. “Wheer beest
tha going?” he asked.

Something in his voice struck Sadie like a vague echo. Perhaps it was
only the queer dialect--or some resemblance to his granddaughter’s
voice. She looked at him a little more closely as she said:--

“To the Priory.”

“Whaat?”

She pointed with her parasol to the gray pile in the distance. It was
possible that this demented peasant didn’t even UNDERSTAND English.

“The hall. Oh, ay!” Suddenly his brows knit ominously as he faced her.
“An’ wassist tha doin’ drest oop in this foinery? Wheer gettist thee
that goawn? Thissen, or thy maester? Nowt even a napron, fit for thy
wark as maaid at serviss; an’ parson a gettin’ tha plaace at Hall! So
thou’lt be high and moity will tha! thou’lt not walk wi’ maaids, but
traipse by thissen like a slut in the toon--dang tha!”

Although it was plain to Sadie that the old man, in his wandering
perception, had mistaken her for his granddaughter in service at the
Priory, there was still enough rudeness in his speech for her to have
resented it. But, strange to say, there was a kind of authority in it
that touched her with an uneasiness and repulsion that was stronger than
any other feeling. “I think you have mistaken me for some one else,”
 she said hurriedly, yet wondering why she had admitted it, and even
irritated at the admission. “I am a stranger here, a visitor at the
Priory. I called with Miss Amelyn at your cottage, and saw your other
granddaughter; that’s how I knew your name.”

The old man’s face changed. A sad, senile smile of hopeless bewilderment
crept into his hard mouth; he plucked his limp cap from his head and
let it hang submissively in his fingers, as if it were his sole apology.
Then he tried to straighten himself, and said, “Naw offins, miss, naw
offins! If tha knaws mea tha’ll knaw I’m grandfeyther to two galls as
moight be tha owern age; tha’ll tell ‘ee that old Debs at haaty years
‘as warked and niver lost a day as man or boy; has niver coome oopen ‘em
for n’aporth. An’ ‘e’ll keep out o’ warkus till he doy. An’ ‘ee’s put by
enow to by wi’ his own feythers in Lanksheer, an’ not liggen aloane in
parson’s choorchyard.”

It was part of her uneasiness that, scarcely understanding or, indeed,
feeling any interest in these maundering details, she still seemed
to have an odd comprehension of his character and some reminiscent
knowledge of him, as if she were going through the repetition of some
unpleasant dream. Even his wrinkled face was becoming familiar to her.
Some weird attraction was holding her; she wanted to get away from it as
much as she wanted to analyze it. She glanced ostentatiously at the sky,
prepared to open her parasol, and began to edge cautiously away.

“Then tha beant from these pearts?” he said suddenly.

“No, no,” she said quickly and emphatically,--“no, I’m an American.”

The old man started and moved towards her, eagerly, his keen eyes
breaking through the film that at times obscured them. “‘Merrikan! tha
baist ‘Merrikan? Then tha knaws ma son John, ‘ee war nowt but a bairn
when brether Dick took un to ‘Merriky! Naw! Now! that wor fifty years
sen!--niver wroate to his old feyther--niver coomed back, ‘Ee wor
tall-loike, an’ thea said ‘e feavored mea.” He stopped, threw up his
head, and with his skinny fingers drew back his long, straggling locks
from his sunken cheeks, and stared in her face. The quick transition
of fascination, repulsion, shock, and indefinable apprehension made her
laugh hysterically. To her terror he joined in it, and eagerly clasped
her wrists. “Eh, lass! tha knaws John--tha coomes from un to ole
grandfeyther. Who-rr-u! Eay! but tha tho’t to fool mea, did tha, lass?
Whoy, I knoawed tha voice, for a’ tha foine peacock feathers. So tha be
John’s gell coom from Ameriky. Dear! a dear! Coom neaur, lass! let’s see
what tha’s loike. Eh, but thou’lt kiss tha grandfather, sewerly?”

A wild terror and undefined consternation had completely overpowered
her! But she made a desperate effort to free her wrists, and burst out
madly:--

“Let me go! How dare you! I don’t know you or yours! I’m nothing to you
or your kin! My name is Desborough--do you understand--do you hear me,
Mr. Debs?--DESBOROUGH!”

At the word the old man’s fingers stiffened like steel around her
wrists, as he turned upon her a hard, invincible face.

“So thou’lt call thissen Des-borough, wilt tha? Let me tell tha, then,
that ‘Debs,’ ‘Debban,’ ‘Debbrook,’ and ‘Des-borough’ are all a seame!
Ay! thy feyther and thy feyther’s feyther! Thou’lt be a Des-borough,
will tha? Dang tha! and look doon on tha kin, and dress thissen in silks
o’ shame! Tell ‘ee thou’rt an ass, gell! Don’t tha hear? An ass! for all
tha bean John’s bairn! An ass! that’s what tha beast!”

With flashing eyes and burning cheeks she made one more supreme
effort, lifting her arms, freeing her wrists, and throwing the old man
staggering from her. Then she leaped the stile, turned, and fled through
the rain. But before she reached the end of the field she stopped! She
had freed herself--she was stronger than he--what had she to fear? He
was crazy! Yes, he MUST be crazy, and he had insulted her, but he was an
old man--and God knows what! Her heart was beating rapidly, her breath
was hurried, but she ran back to the stile.

He was not there. The field sloped away on either side of it. But she
could distinguish nothing in the pouring rain above the wind-swept
meadow. He must have gone home. Relieved for a moment she turned and
hurried on towards the Priory.

But at every step she was followed, not by the old man’s presence, but
by what he had said to her, which she could not shake off as she had
shaken off his detaining fingers. Was it the ravings of insanity, or had
she stumbled unwittingly upon some secret--was it after all a SECRET?
Perhaps it was something they all knew, or would know later. And she had
come down here for this. For back of her indignation, back even of her
disbelief in his insanity, there was an awful sense of truth! The names
he had flung out, of “Debs,” “Debban,” and “Debbrook” now flashed upon
her as something she had seen before, but had not understood. Until she
satisfied herself of this, she felt she could not live or breathe! She
loathed the Priory, with its austere exclusiveness, as it rose before
her; she wished she had never entered it; but it contained that which
she must know, and know at once! She entered the nearest door and ran
up the grand staircase. Her flushed face and disordered appearance were
easily accounted for by her exposure to the sudden storm. She went to
her bedroom, sent her maid to another room to prepare a change of dress,
and sinking down before her traveling-desk, groped for a document. Ah!
there it was--the expensive toy that she had played with! She hastily
ran over its leaves to the page she already remembered. And there, among
the dashes and perpendicular lines she had jested over last night, on
which she had thought was a collateral branch of the line, stood her
father’s name and that of Richard, his uncle, with the bracketed note in
red ink, “see Debbrook, Daybrook, Debbers, and Debs.” Yes! this gaunt,
half-crazy, overworked peasant, content to rake the dead leaves before
the rolling chariots of the Beverdales, was her grandfather; that poorly
clad girl in the cottage, and even the menial in the scullery of this
very house that might be HERS, were her COUSINS! She burst into a laugh,
and then refolded the document and put it away.

At luncheon she was radiant and sparkling. Her drenched clothes were
an excuse for a new and ravishing toilette. She had never looked so
beautiful before, and significant glances were exchanged between some
of the guests, who believed that the expected proposal had already come.
But those who were of the carriage party knew otherwise, and of Lord
Algernon’s disappointment. Lord Beverdale contented himself with
rallying his fair guest on the becomingness of “good works.” But he
continued, “You’re offering a dreadful example to these ladies, Miss
Desborough, and I know I shall never hereafter be able to content them
with any frivolous morning amusement at the Priory. For myself, when
I am grown gouty and hideous, I know I shall bloom again as a district
visitor.”

Yet under this surface sparkle and nervous exaltation Sadie never lost
consciousness of the gravity of the situation. If her sense of humor
enabled her to see one side of its grim irony; if she experienced a
wicked satisfaction in accepting the admiration and easy confidence of
the high-born guests, knowing that her cousin had assisted in preparing
the meal they were eating, she had never lost sight of the practical
effect of the discovery she had made. And she had come to a final
resolution. She should leave the Priory at once, and abandon all idea of
a matrimonial alliance with its heir! Inconsistent as this might seem
to her selfish, worldly nature, it was nevertheless in keeping with a
certain pride and independence that was in her blood. She did not love
Lord Algernon, neither did she love her grandfather; she was equally
willing to sacrifice either or both; she knew that neither Lord Algernon
nor his father would make her connections an objection, however they
might wish to keep the fact a secret, or otherwise dispose of them by
pensions or emigration, but she could not bear to KNOW IT HERSELF!
She never could be happy as the mistress of Scrooby Priory with that
knowledge; she did not idealize it as a principle! Carefully weighing it
by her own practical common sense, she said to herself that “it wouldn’t
pay.” The highest independence is often akin to the lowest selfishness;
she did not dream that the same pride which kept her grandfather from
the workhouse and support by his daughters, and had even kept him from
communicating with his own son, now kept her from acknowledging them,
even for the gift of a title and domain. There was only one question
before her: should she stay long enough to receive the proposal of Lord
Algernon, and then decline it? Why should she not snatch that single
feminine joy out of the ashes of her burnt-up illusion? She knew that an
opportunity would be offered that afternoon. The party were to take tea
at Broxby Hall, and Lord Algernon was to drive her there in his dogcart.
Miss Desborough had gone up to her bedroom to put on a warmer cloak, and
had rung twice or thrice impatiently for her maid.

When the girl made her appearance, apologetic, voluble, and excited,
Miss Desborough scarcely listened to her excuses, until a single word
suddenly arrested her attention. It was “old Debs.”

“What ARE you talking about?” said Sadie, pausing in the adjustment of
her hat on her brown hair.

“Old Debs, miss,--that’s what they call him; an old park-keeper, just
found dead in a pool of water in the fields; the grandfather of one of
the servants here; and there’s such an excitement in the servants’ hall.
The gentlemen all knew it, too, for I heard Lord Algernon say that
he was looking very queer lately, and might have had a fit; and Lord
Beverdale has sent word to the coroner. And only think, the people here
are such fools that they daren’t touch or move the poor man, and him
lyin’ there in the rain all the time, until the coroner comes!”

Miss Desborough had been steadily regarding herself in the glass to see
if she had turned pale. She had. She set her teeth together until
the color partly returned. But she kept her face away from the maid.
“That’ll do,” she said quietly. “You can tell me all later. I have some
important news myself, and I may not go out after all. I want you to
take a note for me.” She went to her table, wrote a line in pencil,
folded it, scribbled an address upon it, handed it to the girl, and
gently pushed her from the room.

*****

The consul was lingering on the terrace beside one of the carriages; at
a little distance a groom was holding the nervous thoroughbred of Lord
Algernon’s dog-cart. Suddenly he felt a touch on his shoulder, and Miss
Desborough’s maid put a note in his hand. It contained only a line:--


Please come and see me in the library, but without making any fuss about
it--at once. S. D.


The consul glanced around him; no one had apparently noticed the
incident. He slipped back into the house and made his way to the
library. It was a long gallery; at the further end Miss Desborough stood
cloaked, veiled, and coquettishly hatted. She was looking very beautiful
and animated. “I want you to please do me a great favor,” she said, with
an adorable smile, “as your own countrywoman, you know--for the sake of
Fourth of July and Pumpkin Pie and the Old Flag! I don’t want to go
to this circus to-day. I am going to leave here to-night! I am! Honest
Injin! I want YOU to manage it. I want you to say that as consul you’ve
received important news for me: the death of some relative, if you like;
or better, something AFFECTING MY PROPERTY, you know,” with a little
satirical laugh. “I guess that would fetch ‘em! So go at once.”

“But really, Miss Desborough, do let us talk this over before you
decide!” implored the bewildered consul. “Think what a disappointment to
your host and these ladies. Lord Algernon expects to drive you there; he
is already waiting! The party was got up for you!” Miss Desborough made
a slight grimace. “I mean you ought to sacrifice something--but I trust
there is really nothing serious--to them!”

“If YOU do not speak to them, I will!” said Miss Desborough firmly. “If
you say what I tell you, it will come the more plausibly from you. Come!
My mind is made up. One of us must break the news! Shall it be you or
I?” She drew her cloak over her shoulders and made a step forwards.

The consul saw she was determined. “Then wait here till I return, but
keep yourself out of sight,” he said, and hurried away. Between the
library and the terrace he conceived a plan. His perplexity lent him a
seriousness which befitted the gravity of the news he had to disclose.
“I am sorry to have to tell you,” he said, taking Lord Beverdale aside,
“that I was the unlucky bearer of some sad news to Miss Desborough this
morning, through my consular letters--some matter concerning the death
of a relation of hers, and some wearisome question of property. I
thought that it was of little importance, and that she would not take
it seriously, but I find I was mistaken. It may even oblige her to catch
the London train to-night. I promised to make her excuses to you for the
present, and I’m afraid I must add my own to them, as she wishes me to
stay and advise her in this matter, which requires some prompt action.”

Miss Desborough was right: the magic word “property” changed the slight
annoyance on the earl’s face to a sympathetic concern. “Dear me! I trust
it is nothing really serious,” he said. “Of course, you will advise her,
and, by the way, if my solicitor, Withers, who’ll be here to-morrow,
can do anything, you know, call him in. I hope she’ll be able to see
me later. It could not be a NEAR relation who died, I fancy; she has no
brothers or sisters, I understand.”

“A cousin, I think; an old friend,” said the consul hastily. He heard
Lord Beverdale say a few words to his companions, saw with a tinge of
remorse a cloud settle upon Lord Algernon’s fresh face, as he appealed
in a whisper to old Lady Mesthyn, who leaned forward from the carriage,
and said, “If the dear child thought I could be of any service, I should
only be too glad to stay with her.”

“I knew she would appreciate Lady Mesthyn’s sympathy,” said the
ingenious consul quickly, “but I really think the question is more a
business one--and”--

“Ah, yes,” said the old lady, shaking her head, “it’s dreadful, of
course, but we must all think of THAT!”

As the carriage drove away, the consul hurried back a little viciously
to his fair countrywoman. “There!” he said, “I have done it! If I have
managed to convey either the idea that you are a penniless orphan, or
that I have official information that you are suspected of a dynamite
conspiracy, don’t blame me! And now,” he said, “as I have excused myself
on the ground that I must devote myself to this dreadful business of
yours, perhaps you’ll tell me WHAT it really is.”

“Not a word more,” said Miss Desborough; “except,” she added,--checking
her smile with a weary gesture,--“except that I want to leave this
dreadful place at once! There! don’t ask me any more!”

There could be no doubt of the girl’s sincerity. Nor was it the
extravagant caprice of a petted idol. What had happened? He might have
believed in a lovers’ quarrel, but he knew that she and Lord Algernon
could have had no private interview that evening. He must perforce
accept her silence, yet he could not help saying:--

“You seemed to like the place so much last night. I say, you haven’t
seen the Priory ghost, have you?”

“The Priory ghost,” she said quickly. “What’s that?”

“The old monk who passes through the cloisters with the sacred oil, the
bell, and the smell of incense whenever any one is to die here. By Jove!
it would have been a good story to tell instead of this cock-and-bull
one about your property. And there WAS a death here to-day. You’d have
added the sibyl’s gifts to your other charms.”

“Tell me about that old man,” she said, looking past him out of the
window. “I was at his cottage this morning. But, no! first let us go
out. You can take me for a walk, if you like. You see I am all ready,
and I’m just stifling here.”

They descended to the terrace together. “Where would you like to go?” he
asked.

“To the village. I may want to telegraph, you know.”

They turned into the avenue, but Miss Desborough stopped.

“Is there not a shorter cut across the fields,” she asked, “over there?”

“There is,” said the consul.

They both turned into the footpath which led to the farm and stile.
After a pause she said, “Did you ever talk with that poor old man?”

“No.”

“Then you don’t know if he really was crazy, as they think.”

“No. But they may have thought an old man’s forgetfulness of present
things and his habit of communing with the past was insanity. For all
that he was a plucky, independent old fellow, with a grim purpose that
was certainly rational.”

“I suppose in his independence he would not have taken favors from these
people, or anybody?”

“I should think not.”

“Don’t you think it was just horrid--their leaving him alone in the
rain, when he might have been only in a fit?”

“The doctor says he died suddenly of heart disease,” said the consul.
“It might have happened at any moment and without warning.”

“Ah, that was the coroner’s verdict, then,” said Miss Desborough
quickly.

“The coroner did not think it necessary to have any inquest after Lord
Beverdale’s statement. It wouldn’t have been very joyous for the Priory
party. And I dare say he thought it might not be very cheerful for YOU.”

“How very kind!” said the young girl, with a quick laugh. “But do you
know that it’s about the only thing human, original, and striking that
has happened in this place since I’ve been here! And so unexpected,
considering how comfortably everything is ordered here beforehand.”

“Yet you seemed to like that kind of thing very well, last evening,”
 said the consul mischievously.

“That was last night,” retorted Miss Desborough; “and you know the line,
‘Colors seen by candlelight do not look the same by day.’ But I’m going
to be very consistent to-day, for I intend to go over to that poor man’s
cottage again, and see if I can be of any service. Will you go with me?”

“Certainly,” said the consul, mystified by his companion’s extraordinary
conduct, yet apparent coolness of purpose, and hoping for some further
explanation. Was she only an inexperienced flirt who had found herself
on the point of a serious entanglement she had not contemplated? Yet
even then he knew she was clever enough to extricate herself in some
other way than this abrupt and brutal tearing through the meshes. Or was
it possible that she really had any intelligence affecting her property?
He reflected that he knew very little of the Desboroughs, but on the
other hand he knew that Beverdale knew them much better, and was a
prudent man. He had no right to demand her confidence as a reward for
his secrecy; he must wait her pleasure. Perhaps she would still explain;
women seldom could resist the triumph of telling the secret that puzzled
others.

When they reached the village she halted before the low roof of Debs’s
cottage. “I had better go in first,” she said; “you can come in later,
and in the meantime you might go to the station for me and find out the
exact time that the express train leaves for the north.”

“But,” said the astonished consul, “I thought you were going to London?”

“No,” said Miss Desborough quietly, “I am going to join some friends at
Harrogate.”

“But that train goes much earlier than the train south, and--and I’m
afraid Lord Beverdale will not have returned so soon.”

“How sad!” said Miss Desborough, with a faint smile, “but we must bear
up under it, and--I’ll write him. I will be here until you return.”

She turned away and entered the cottage. The granddaughter she had
already seen and her sister, the servant at the Priory, were both
chatting comfortably, but ceased as she entered, and both rose with
awkward respect. There was little to suggest that the body of their
grandfather, already in a rough oak shell, was lying upon trestles
beside them.

“You have carried out my orders, I see,” said Miss Desborough, laying
down her parasol.

“Ay, miss; but it was main haard gettin’ et dooan so soon, and et
cooast”--

“Never mind the cost. I’ve given you money enough, I think, and if I
haven’t, I guess I can give you more.”

“Ay, miss! Abbut the pa’son ‘ead gi’ un a funeral for nowt.”

“But I understood you to say,” said Miss Desborough, with an impatient
flash of eye, “that your grandfather wished to be buried with his
kindred in the north?”

“Ay, miss,” said the girl apologetically, “an naw ‘ees savit th’ munny.
Abbut e’d bean tickled ‘ad ‘ee knowed it! Dear! dear! ‘ee niver thowt et
‘ud be gi’en by stranger an’ not ‘es ownt fammaly.”

“For all that, you needn’t tell anybody it was given by ME,” said Miss
Desborough. “And you’ll be sure to be ready to take the train this
afternoon--without delay.” There was a certain peremptoriness in her
voice very unlike Miss Amelyn’s, yet apparently much more effective with
the granddaughter.

“Ay, miss. Then, if tha’ll excoose mea, I’ll go streight to ‘oory oop
sexten.”

She bustled away. “Now,” said Miss Desborough, turning to the other
girl, “I shall take the same train, and will probably see you on the
platform at York to give my final directions. That’s all. Go and see if
the gentleman who came with me has returned from the station.”

The girl obeyed. Left entirely alone, Miss Desborough glanced around
the room, and then went quietly up to the unlidded coffin. The repose of
death had softened the hard lines of the old man’s mouth and brow into a
resemblance she now more than ever understood. She had stood thus only
a few years before, looking at the same face in a gorgeously inlaid
mahogany casket, smothered amidst costly flowers, and surrounded by
friends attired in all the luxurious trappings of woe; yet it was the
same face that was now rigidly upturned to the bare thatch and rafters
of that crumbling cottage, herself its only companion. She lifted her
delicate veil with both hands, and, stooping down, kissed the hard, cold
forehead, without a tremor. Then she dropped her veil again over her dry
eyes, readjusted it in the little, cheap, black-framed mirror that hung
against the wall, and opened the door as the granddaughter returned. The
gentleman was just coming from the station.

“Remember to look out for me at York,” said Miss Desborough, extending
her gloved hand. “Good-by till then.” The young girl respectfully
touched the ends of Miss Desborough’s fingers, dropped a curtsy, and
Miss Desborough rejoined the consul.

“You have barely time to return to the Priory and see to your luggage,”
 said the consul, “if you must go. But let me hope that you have changed
your mind.”

“I have not changed my mind,” said Miss Desborough quietly, “and my
baggage is already packed.” After a pause, she said thoughtfully, “I’ve
been wondering”--

“What?” said the consul eagerly.

“I’ve been wondering if people brought up to speak in a certain dialect,
where certain words have their own significance and color, and are part
of their own lives and experience--if, even when they understand another
dialect, they really feel any sympathy with it, or the person who speaks
it?”

“Apropos of”--asked the consul.

“These people I’ve just left! I don’t think I quite felt with them, and
I guess they didn’t feel with me.”

“But,” said the consul laughingly, “you know that we Americans speak
with a decided dialect of our own, and attach the same occult meaning to
it. Yet, upon my word, I think that Lord Beverdale--or shall I say Lord
Algernon?--would not only understand that American word ‘guess’ as you
mean it, but would perfectly sympathize with you.”

Miss Desborough’s eyes sparkled even through her veil as she glanced at
her companion and said, “I GUESS NOT.”

As the “tea” party had not yet returned, it fell to the consul to
accompany Miss Desborough and her maid to the station. But here he was
startled to find a collection of villagers upon the platform, gathered
round two young women in mourning, and an ominous-looking box.
He mingled for a moment with the crowd, and then returned to Miss
Desborough’s side.

“Really,” he said, with a concern that was scarcely assumed, “I ought
not to let you go. The omens are most disastrous! You came here to a
death; you are going away with a funeral!”

“Then it’s high time I took myself off!” said the lady lightly.

“Unless, like the ghostly monk, you came here on a mission, and have
fulfilled it.”

“Perhaps I have. Good-by!”

*****

In spite of the bright and characteristic letter which Miss Desborough
left for her host,--a letter which mingled her peculiar shrewd sense
with her humorous extravagance of expression,--the consul spent a
somewhat uneasy evening under the fire of questions that assailed him
in reference to the fair deserter. But he kept loyal faith with her,
adhering even to the letter of her instructions, and only once was
goaded into more active mendacity. The conversation had turned upon
“Debs,” and the consul had remarked on the singularity of the name. A
guest from the north observed, however, that the name was undoubtedly a
contraction. “Possibly it might have been ‘Debborough,’ or even the same
name as our fair friend.”

“But didn’t Miss Desborough tell you last night that she had been
hunting up her people, with a family tree, or something like that?” said
Lord Algernon eagerly. “I just caught a word here and there, for you
were both laughing.”

The consul smiled blandly. “You may well say so, for it was all the most
delightful piece of pure invention and utter extravagance. It would have
amused her still more if she had thought you were listening and took it
seriously!”

“Of course; I see!” said the young fellow, with a laugh and a slight
rise of color. “I knew she was taking some kind of a rise out of YOU,
and that remark reminded me of it.”

Nevertheless, within a year, Lord Algernon was happily married to the
daughter of a South African millionaire, whose bridal offerings alone
touched the sum of half a million. It was also said that the mother
was “impossible” and the father “unspeakable,” the relations
“inextinguishable;” but the wedding was an “occasion,” and in the
succeeding year of festivity it is presumed that the names of “Debs” and
“Desborough” were alike forgotten.

But they existed still in a little hamlet near the edge of a bleak
northern moor, where they were singularly exalted on a soaring shaft of
pure marble above the submerged and moss-grown tombstones of a simple
country churchyard. So great was the contrast between the modern and
pretentious monument and the graves of the humbler forefathers of the
village, that even the Americans who chanced to visit it were shocked at
what they believed was the ostentatious and vulgar pride of one of their
own countrywomen. For on its pedestal was inscribed:--

                       Sacred to the Memory
                               of
                       JOHN DEBS DESBOROUGH,
                     Formerly of this parish,
             Who departed this life October 20th, 1892,
                        At Scrooby Priory,
                   At the age of eighty-two years.
           This monument was erected as a loving testimony
                       by his granddaughter,
               Sadie Desborough, of New York, U. S. A.

                   “And evening brings us home.”



SALOMY JANE’S KISS


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

“Ef you’ve got anything to say to your folks, say it NOW, and say it
quick,” said the ringleader.

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

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

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

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

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

A grotesque idea struck him.

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

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

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

Their destination was Sawyer’s Crossing, the headquarters of the
committee, where the council was still sitting, and where both culprits
were to expiate the offense of which that council had already found
them guilty. They rode in great and breathless haste,--a haste in which,
strangely enough, even the captives seemed to join. That haste possibly
prevented them from noticing the singular change which had taken place
in the second captive since the episode of the kiss. His high color
remained, as if it had burned through his mask of indifference; his eyes
were quick, alert, and keen, his mouth half open as if the girl’s kiss
still lingered there. And that haste had made them careless, for the
horse of the man who led him slipped in a gopher-hole, rolled over,
unseated his rider, and even dragged the bound and helpless second
captive from Judge Boompointer’s favorite mare. In an instant they were
all on their feet again, but in that supreme moment the second captive
felt the cords which bound his arms had slipped to his wrists. By
keeping his elbows to his sides, and obliging the others to help him
mount, it escaped their notice. By riding close to his captors, and
keeping in the crush of the throng, he further concealed the accident,
slowly working his hands downwards out of his bonds.

Their way lay through a sylvan wilderness, mid-leg deep in ferns, whose
tall fronds brushed their horses’ sides in their furious gallop and
concealed the flapping of the captive’s loosened cords. The peaceful
vista, more suggestive of the offerings of nymph and shepherd than of
human sacrifice, was in a strange contrast to this whirlwind rush of
stern, armed men. The westering sun pierced the subdued light and the
tremor of leaves with yellow lances; birds started into song on blue and
dove-like wings, and on either side of the trail of this vengeful
storm could be heard the murmur of hidden and tranquil waters. In a
few moments they would be on the open ridge, whence sloped the common
turnpike to “Sawyer’s,” a mile away. It was the custom of returning
cavalcades to take this hill at headlong speed, with shouts and cries
that heralded their coming. They withheld the latter that day, as
inconsistent with their dignity; but, emerging from the wood, swept
silently like an avalanche down the slope. They were well under way,
looking only to their horses, when the second captive slipped his right
arm from the bonds and succeeded in grasping the reins that lay trailing
on the horse’s neck. A sudden vaquero jerk, which the well-trained
animal understood, threw him on his haunches with his forelegs firmly
planted on the slope. The rest of the cavalcade swept on; the man who
was leading the captive’s horse by the riata, thinking only of another
accident, dropped the line to save himself from being dragged backwards
from his horse. The captive wheeled, and the next moment was galloping
furiously up the slope.

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

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

*****

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

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

“Wot’s this yer I’m hearin’ of your doin’s over at Red Pete’s?
Honeyfoglin’ with a horse-thief, eh?” said Mr. Clay two days later at
breakfast.

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

“What do you kalkilate Rube will say to it? What are you goin’ to tell
HIM?” said Mr. Clay sarcastically.

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

“I’ll tell him that when HE’S on his way to be hung, I’ll kiss him,--not
till then,” said the young lady brightly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ye ain’t harkenin’ to me, Salomy.”

Salomy Jane started.

“Here I’m askin’ ye if ye’ve see that hound Phil Larrabee sneaking by
yer today?”

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

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

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

“You’ll just stay where ye are, Salomy,” said her father decisively.
“This ain’t no woman’s work--though I ain’t sayin’ you haven’t got more
head for it than some men I know.”

Nevertheless, that night, after her father had gone to bed, Salomy Jane
sat by the open window of the sitting-room in an apparent attitude of
languid contemplation, but alert and intent of eye and ear. It was a
fine moonlit night. Two pines near the door, solitary pickets of the
serried ranks of distant forest, cast long shadows like paths to the
cottage, and sighed their spiced breath in the windows. For there was no
frivolity of vine or flower round Salomy Jane’s bower. The clearing was
too recent, the life too practical for vanities like these. But the moon
added a vague elusiveness to everything, softened the rigid outlines
of the sheds, gave shadows to the lidless windows, and touched with
merciful indirectness the hideous debris of refuse gravel and the gaunt
scars of burnt vegetation before the door. Even Salomy Jane was affected
by it, and exhaled something between a sigh and a yawn with the breath
of the pines. Then she suddenly sat upright.

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

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

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

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

“I reckoned you were a ghost.”

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

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

“Yes; I came straight here when I got away.”

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

“You helped me!”

“I?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then she burst out. “But you--YOU--what will become of you? You’ll be
ketched!”

“I’ll manage to get away,” he said in a low voice, “ef--ef”--

“Ef what?” she said tremblingly. “Ef you’ll put the heart in me
again,--as you did!” he gasped.

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

“Wot’s your name?” she whispered quickly. It was a woman’s quickest way
of defining her feelings.

“Dart.”

“Yer first name?”

“Jack.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s up now, Salomy Jane?” he demanded excitedly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You ARE a cool one, Mad!” said the latter in half-admiring indignation.

“What’s up?” said the bewildered Madison.

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

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

“Gimme that gun,” he said hoarsely.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

MADISON CLAY.


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

“I ain’t no hoss-thief,” said Madison grimly.

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

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

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

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

“You are hurt,” she said, clutching his arm passionately.

“No,” he said. “But I wouldn’t mind that if”--

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

“I DID get away,” said Dart gloomily. “I killed the man, thinkin’ he
was huntin’ ME, and forgettin’ I was disguised. He thought I was your
father.”

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

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

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

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

She did not understand, but turned her head to her master. “Then you’ll
go back with me and tell him ALL?” she said obediently.

“Yes,” he said.

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

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

Salomy Jane turned to her lover.

*****

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



THE MAN AND THE MOUNTAIN


He was such a large, strong man that, when he first set foot in the
little parallelogram I called my garden, it seemed to shrink to half its
size and become preposterous. But I noticed at the same time that he was
holding in the open palm of his huge hand the roots of a violet, with
such infinite tenderness and delicacy that I would have engaged him as
my gardener on the spot. But this could not be, as he was already the
proud proprietor of a market-garden and nursery on the outskirts of the
suburban Californian town where I lived. He would, however, come for two
days in the week, stock and look after my garden, and impart to my
urban intellect such horticultural hints as were necessary. His name was
“Rutli,” which I presumed to be German, but which my neighbors rendered
as “Rootleigh,” possibly from some vague connection with his occupation.
His own knowledge of English was oral and phonetic. I have a delightful
recollection of a bill of his in which I was charged for “fioletz,” with
the vague addition of “maine cains.” Subsequent explanation proved it to
be “many kinds.”

Nevertheless, my little garden bourgeoned and blossomed under his
large, protecting hand. I became accustomed to walk around his feet
respectfully when they blocked the tiny paths, and to expect the total
eclipse of that garden-bed on which he worked, by his huge bulk. For the
tiniest and most reluctant rootlet seemed to respond to his caressing
paternal touch; it was a pretty sight to see his huge fingers tying up
some slender stalk to its stick with the smallest thread, and he had
a reverent way of laying a bulb or seed in the ground, and then gently
shaping and smoothing a small mound over it, which made the little
inscription on the stick above more like an affecting epitaph than
ever. Much of this gentleness may have been that apology for his great
strength, common with large men; but his face was distinctly amiable,
and his very light blue eyes were at times wistful and doglike in their
kindliness. I was soon to learn, however, that placability was not
entirely his nature.

The garden was part of a fifty vara lot of land, on which I was
simultaneously erecting a house. But the garden was finished before the
house was, through certain circumstances very characteristic of that
epoch and civilization. I had purchased the Spanish title, the only
LEGAL one, to the land, which, however, had been in POSSESSION of a
“squatter.” But he had been unable to hold that possession against a
“jumper,”--another kind of squatter who had entered upon it covertly,
fenced it in, and marked it out in building sites. Neither having legal
rights, they could not invoke the law; the last man held possession.
There was no doubt that in due course of litigation and time both these
ingenuous gentlemen would have been dispossessed in favor of the real
owner,--myself,--but that course would be a protracted one. Following
the usual custom of the locality, I paid a certain sum to the jumper to
yield up peaceably HIS possession of the land, and began to build upon
it. It might be reasonably supposed that the question was settled.
But it was not. The house was nearly finished when, one morning, I was
called out of my editorial sanctum by a pallid painter, looking even
more white-leaded than usual, who informed me that my house was in the
possession of five armed men! The entry had been made peaceably
during the painters’ absence to dinner under a wayside tree. When they
returned, they had found their pots and brushes in the road, and an
intimation from the windows that their reentrance would be forcibly
resisted as a trespass.

I honestly believe that Rutli was more concerned than myself over
this dispossession. While he loyally believed that I would get back
my property, he was dreadfully grieved over the inevitable damage
that would be done to the garden during this interval of neglect and
carelessness. I even think he would have made a truce with my enemies,
if they would only have let him look after his beloved plants. As it
was, he kept a passing but melancholy surveillance of them, and was
indeed a better spy of the actions of the intruders than any I could
have employed. One day, to my astonishment, he brought me a moss-rose
bud from a bush which had been trained against a column of the veranda.
It appeared that he had called, from over the fence, the attention of
one of the men to the neglected condition of the plant, and had obtained
permission to “come in and tie it up.” The men, being merely hirelings
of the chief squatter, had no personal feeling, and I was not therefore
surprised to hear that they presently allowed Rutli to come in
occasionally and look after his precious “slips.” If they had any
suspicions of his great strength, it was probably offset by his peaceful
avocation and his bland, childlike face. Meantime, I had begun the usual
useless legal proceeding, but had also engaged a few rascals of my own
to be ready to take advantage of any want of vigilance on the part of my
adversaries. I never thought of Rutli in that connection any more than
they had.

A few Sundays later I was sitting in the little tea-arbor of Rutli’s
nursery, peacefully smoking with him. Presently he took his long
china-bowled pipe from his mouth, and, looking at me blandly over his
yellow mustache, said:--

“You vonts sometimes to go in dot house, eh?”

I said, “Decidedly.”

“Mit a revolver, and keep dot house dose men out?”

“Yes!”

“Vell! I put you in dot house--today!”

“Sunday?”

“Shoost so! It is a goot day! On der Suntay DREE men vill out go to
valk mit demselluffs, and visky trinken. TWO,” holding up two gigantic
fingers, apparently only a shade or two smaller than his destined
victims, “stay dere. Dose I lift de fence over.”

I hastened to inform him that any violence attempted against the parties
WHILE IN POSSESSION, although that possession was illegal, would, by a
fatuity of the law, land him in the county jail. I said I would not hear
of it.

“But suppose dere vos no fiolence? Suppose dose men vos villin’, eh? How
vos dot for high?”

“I don’t understand.”

“So! You shall NOT understand! Dot is better. Go away now and dell your
men to coom dot house arount at halluff past dree. But YOU coom, mit
yourselluff alone, shoost as if you vos spazieren gehen, for a valk, by
dat fence at dree! Ven you shall dot front door vide open see, go in,
and dere you vos! You vill der rest leef to me!”

It was in vain that I begged Rutli to divulge his plan, and pointed out
again the danger of his technically breaking the law. But he was firm,
assuring me that I myself would be a witness that no assault would be
made. I looked into his clear, good-humored eyes, and assented. I had a
burning desire to right my wrongs, but I think I also had considerable
curiosity.

I passed a miserable quarter of an hour after I had warned my partisans,
and then walked alone slowly down the broad leafy street towards the
scene of contest. I have a very vivid recollection of my conflicting
emotions. I did not believe that I would be killed; I had no distinct
intention of killing any of my adversaries; but I had some considerable
concern for my loyal friend Rutli, whom I foresaw might be in some peril
from the revolver in my unpracticed hand. If I could only avoid shooting
HIM, I would be satisfied. I remember that the bells were ringing for
church,--a church of which my enemy, the chief squatter, was a deacon
in good standing,--and I felt guiltily conscious of my revolver in my
hip-pocket, as two or three church-goers passed me with their hymn-books
in their hands. I walked leisurely, so as not to attract attention,
and to appear at the exact time, a not very easy task in my youthful
excitement. At last I reached the front gate with a beating heart. There
was no one on the high veranda, which occupied three sides of the low
one-storied house, nor in the garden before it. But the front door was
open; I softly passed through the gate, darted up the veranda and into
the house. A single glance around the hall and bare, deserted rooms,
still smelling of paint, showed me it was empty, and with my pistol in
one hand and the other on the lock of the door, I stood inside, ready to
bolt it against any one but Rutli. But where was HE?

The sound of laughter and a noise like skylarking came from the rear of
the house and the back yard. Then I suddenly heard Rutli’s heavy tread
on the veranda, but it was slow, deliberate, and so exaggerated in
its weight that the whole house seemed to shake with it. Then from the
window I beheld an extraordinary sight! It was Rutli, swaying from
side to side, but steadily carrying with outstretched arms two of the
squatter party, his hands tightly grasping their collars. Yet I
believe his touch was as gentle as with the violets. His face was
preternaturally grave; theirs, to my intense astonishment, while they
hung passive from his arms, wore that fatuous, imbecile smile seen on
the faces of those who lend themselves to tricks of acrobats and strong
men in the arena. He slowly traversed the whole length of one side of
the house, walked down the steps to the gate, and then gravely deposited
them OUTSIDE. I heard him say, “Dot vins der pet, ain’t it?” and
immediately after the sharp click of the gate-latch.

Without understanding a thing that had happened, I rightly conceived
this was the cue for my appearance with my revolver at the front door.
As I opened it I still heard the sound of laughter, which, however,
instantly stopped at a sentence from Rutli, which I could not hear.
There was an oath, the momentary apparition of two furious and indignant
faces over the fence; but these, however, seemed to be instantly
extinguished and put down by the enormous palms of Rutli clapped upon
their heads. There was a pause, and then Rutli turned around and quietly
joined me in the doorway. But the gate was not again opened until the
arrival of my partisans, when the house was clearly in my possession.

Safe inside with the door bolted, I turned eagerly to Rutli for an
explanation. It then appeared that during his occasional visits to the
garden he had often been an object of amusement and criticism to the men
on account of his size, which seemed to them ridiculously inconsistent
with his great good humor, gentleness, and delicacy of touch. They had
doubted his strength and challenged his powers. He had responded once
or twice before, lifting weights or even carrying one of his critics
at arm’s length for a few steps. But he had reserved his final feat
for this day and this purpose. It was for a bet, which they had eagerly
accepted, secure in their belief in his simplicity, the sincerity of his
motives in coming there, and glad of the opportunity of a little Sunday
diversion. In their security they had not locked the door when they
came out, and had not noticed that HE had opened it. This was his simple
story. His only comment, “I haf von der pet, but I dinks I shall nod
gollect der money.” The two men did not return that afternoon, nor did
their comrades. Whether they wisely conceived that a man who was so
powerful in play might be terrible in earnest; whether they knew that
his act, in which they had been willing performers, had been witnessed
by passing citizens, who supposed it was skylarking; or whether their
employer got tired of his expensive occupation, I never knew. The public
believed the latter; Rutli, myself, and the two men he had evicted alone
kept our secret.

From that time Rutli and I became firm friends, and, long after I had
no further need of his services in the recaptured house, I often found
myself in the little tea-arbor of his prosperous nursery. He was frugal,
sober, and industrious; small wonder that in that growing town he waxed
rich, and presently opened a restaurant in the main street, connected
with his market-garden, which became famous. His relations to me
never changed with his changed fortunes; he was always the simple
market-gardener and florist who had aided my first housekeeping, and
stood by me in an hour of need. Of all things regarding himself he was
singularly reticent; I do not think he had any confidants or intimates,
even among his own countrymen, whom I believed to be German. But one day
he quite accidentally admitted he was a Swiss. As a youthful admirer
of the race I was delighted, and told him so, with the enthusiastic
addition that I could now quite understand his independence, with his
devoted adherence to another’s cause. He smiled sadly, and astonished me
by saying that he had not heard from Switzerland since he left six years
ago. He did not want to hear anything; he even avoided his countrymen
lest he should. I was confounded.

“But,” I said, “surely you have a longing to return to your country; all
Swiss have! You will go back some day just to breathe the air of your
native mountains.”

“I shall go back some days,” said Rutli, “after I have made mooch, mooch
money, but not for dot air.”

“What for, then?”

“For revenge--to get efen.”

Surprised, and for a moment dismayed as I was, I could not help
laughing. “Rutli and revenge!” Impossible! And to make it the more
absurd, he was still smoking gently and regarding me with soft,
complacent eyes. So unchanged was his face and manner that he might have
told me he was going back to be married.

“You do not oonderstand,” he said forgivingly. “Some days I shall dell
to you id. Id is a story. You shall make it yourselluff for dose babers
dot you write. It is not bretty, berhaps, ain’t it, but it is droo. And
de endt is not yet.”

Only that Rutli never joked, except in a ponderous fashion with many
involved sentences, I should have thought he was taking a good-humored
rise out of me. But it was not funny. I am afraid I dismissed it from my
mind as a revelation of something weak and puerile, quite inconsistent
with his practical common sense and strong simplicity, and wished he had
not alluded to it. I never asked him to tell me the story. It was a year
later, and only when he had invited me to come to the opening of a new
hotel, erected by him at a mountain spa of great resort, that he himself
alluded to it.

The hotel was a wonderful affair, even for those days, and Rutli’s
outlay of capital convinced me that by this time he must have made the
“mooch money” he coveted. Something of this was in my mind when we sat
by the window of his handsomely furnished private office, overlooking
the pines of a Californian canyon. I asked him if the scenery was like
Switzerland.

“Ach! no!” he replied; “but I vill puild a hotel shoost like dis dare.”

“Is that a part of your revenge?” I asked, with a laugh.

“Ah! so! a bart.”

I felt relieved; a revenge so practical did not seem very malicious or
idiotic. After a pause he puffed contemplatively at his pipe, and then
said, “I dell you somedings of dot story now.”

He began. I should like to tell it in his own particular English, mixed
with American slang, but it would not convey the simplicity of the
narrator. He was the son of a large family who had lived for centuries
in one of the highest villages in the Bernese Oberland. He attained his
size and strength early, but with a singular distaste to use them in
the rough regular work on the farm, although he was a great climber and
mountaineer, and, what was at first overlooked as mere boyish fancy, had
an insatiable love and curious knowledge of plants and flowers. He knew
the haunts of Edelweiss, Alpine rose, and blue gentian, and had brought
home rare and unknown blossoms from under the icy lips of glaciers.
But as he did this when his time was supposed to be occupied in looking
after the cows in the higher pastures and making cheeses, there was
trouble in that hard-working, practical family. A giant with the tastes
and disposition of a schoolgirl was an anomaly in a Swiss village.
Unfortunately again, he was not studious; his record in the village
school had been on a par with his manual work, and the family had not
even the consolation of believing that they were fostering a genius. In
a community where practical industry was the highest virtue, it was not
strange, perhaps, that he was called “lazy” and “shiftless;” no one knew
the long climbs and tireless vigils he had undergone in remote solitudes
in quest of his favorites, or, knowing, forgave him for it. Abstemious,
frugal, and patient as he was, even the crusts of his father’s table
were given him grudgingly. He often went hungry rather than ask the
bread he had failed to earn. How his great frame was nurtured in those
days he never knew; perhaps the giant mountains recognized some kin
in him and fed and strengthened him after their own fashion. Even his
gentleness was confounded with cowardice. “Dot vos de hardtest,” he said
simply; “it is not goot to be opligit to half crush your brudder, ven he
would make a laugh of you to your sweetheart.” The end came sooner than
he expected, and, oddly enough, through this sweetheart. “Gottlieb,” she
said to him one day, “the English Fremde who stayed here last night met
me when I was carrying some of those beautiful flowers you gave me. He
asked me where they were to be found, and I told him only YOU knew. He
wants to see you; go to him. It may be luck to you.” Rutli went. The
stranger, an English Alpine climber of scientific tastes, talked with
him for an hour. At the end of that time, to everybody’s astonishment,
he engaged this hopeless idler as his personal guide for three months,
at the sum of five francs a day! It was inconceivable, it was unheard
of! The Englander was as mad as Gottlieb, whose intellect had always
been under suspicion! The schoolmaster pursed up his lips, the pastor
shook his head; no good could come of it; the family looked upon it as
another freak of Gottlieb’s, but there was one big mouth less to feed
and more room in the kitchen, and they let him go. They parted from him
as ungraciously as they had endured his presence.

Then followed two months of sunshine in Rutli’s life--association with
his beloved plants, and the intelligent sympathy and direction of a
cultivated man. Even in altitudes so dangerous that they had to take
other and more experienced guides, Rutli was always at his master’s
side. That savant’s collection of Alpine flora excelled all previous
ones; he talked freely with Rutli of further work in the future, and
relaxed his English reserve so far as to confide to him that the outcome
of their collection and observation might be a book. He gave a flower
a Latin name, in which even the ignorant and delighted Rutli could
distinguish some likeness to his own. But the book was never compiled.
In one of their later and more difficult ascents they and their two
additional guides were overtaken by a sudden storm. Swept from their
feet down an ice-bound slope, Rutli alone of the roped-together party
kept a foothold on the treacherous incline. Here this young Titan, with
bleeding fingers clenched in a rock cleft, sustained the struggles and
held up the lives of his companions by that precious thread for more
than an hour. Perhaps he might have saved them, but in their desperate
efforts to regain their footing the rope slipped upon a jagged edge of
outcrop and parted as if cut by a knife. The two guides passed without
an outcry into obscurity and death; Rutli, with a last despairing
exertion, dragged to his own level his unconscious master, crippled by a
broken leg.

Your true hero is apt to tell his tale simply. Rutli did not dwell upon
these details, nor need I. Left alone upon a treacherous ice slope
in benumbing cold, with a helpless man, eight hours afterwards he
staggered, half blind, incoherent, and inarticulate, into a “shelter”
 hut, with the dead body of his master in his stiffened arms. The
shelter-keepers turned their attention to Rutli, who needed it most.
Blind and delirious, with scarce a chance for life, he was sent the next
day to a hospital, where he lay for three months, helpless, imbecile,
and unknown. The dead body of the Englishman was identified, and sent
home; the bodies of the guides were recovered by their friends; but no
one knew aught of Rutli, even his name. While the event was still fresh
in the minds of those who saw him enter the hut with the body of his
master, a paragraph appeared in a Berne journal recording the heroism of
this nameless man. But it could not be corroborated nor explained by the
demented hero, and was presently forgotten. Six months from the day he
had left his home he was discharged cured. He had not a kreutzer in his
pocket; he had never drawn his wages from his employer; he had preferred
to have it in a lump sum that he might astonish his family on his
return. His eyes were still weak, his memory feeble; only his great
physical strength remained through his long illness. A few sympathizing
travelers furnished him the means to reach his native village, many
miles away. He found his family had heard of the loss of the Englishman
and the guides, and had believed he was one of them. Already he was
forgotten.

“Ven you vos once peliefed to be det,” said Rutli, after a philosophic
pause and puff, “it vos not goot to ondeceif beoples. You oopset
somedings, soomdimes always. Der hole dot you hef made in der grount,
among your frients and your family, vos covered up alretty. You are
loocky if you vill not fint some vellars shtanding upon id! My frent,
ven you vos DINK det, SHTAY det, BE det, and you vill lif happy!”

“But your sweetheart?” I said eagerly.

A slight gleam of satire stole into Rutli’s light eyes. “My sweetheart,
ven I vos dinks det, is der miller engaged do bromply! It is mooch
better dan to a man dot vos boor and plint and grazy! So! Vell, der next
day I pids dem goot-py, und from der door I say, ‘I am det now; but ven
I next comes pack alife, I shall dis village py! der lants, der houses
all togedders. And den for yourselluffs look oudt!’”

“Then that’s your revenge? That is what you really intend to do?” I
said, half laughing, yet with an uneasy recollection of his illness and
enfeebled mind.

“Yes. Look here! I show you somedings.” He opened a drawer of his desk
and took out what appeared to be some diagrams, plans, and a small
water-colored map, like a surveyor’s tracing. “Look,” he said, laying
his finger on the latter, “dat is a map from my fillage. I hef myselluff
made it out from my memory. Dot,” pointing to a blank space, “is der
mountain side high up, so far. It is no goot until I vill a tunnel make
or der grade lefel. Dere vas mine fader’s house, dere vos der church,
der schoolhouse, dot vos de burgomaster’s house,” he went on, pointing
to the respective plots in this old curving parallelogram of the
mountain shelf. “So was the fillage when I leave him on the 5th of
March, eighteen hundred and feefty. Now you shall see him shoost as I
vill make him ven I go back.” He took up another plan, beautifully
drawn and colored, and evidently done by a professional hand. It was
a practical, yet almost fairylike transformation of the same spot!
The narrow mountain shelf was widened by excavation, and a boulevard
stretched on either side. A great hotel, not unlike the one in which we
sat, stood in an open terrace, with gardens and fountains--the site of
his father’s house. Blocks of pretty dwellings, shops, and cafes filled
the intermediate space. I laid down the paper.

“How long have you had this idea?”

“Efer since I left dere, fifteen years ago.”

“But your father and mother may be dead by this time?”

“So, but dere vill be odders. Und der blace--it vill remain.”

“But all this will cost a fortune, and you are not sure”--

“I know shoost vot id vill gost, to a cend.”

“And you think you can ever afford to carry out your idea?”

“I VILL affort id. Ven you shall make yet some moneys and go to Europe,
you shall see. I VILL infite you dere first. Now coom and look der house
around.”

*****

I did NOT make “some moneys,” but I DID go to Europe. Three years after
this last interview with Rutli I was coming from Interlaken to Berne
by rail. I had not heard from him, and I had forgotten the name of his
village, but as I looked up from the paper I was reading, I suddenly
recognized him in the further end of the same compartment I occupied.
His recognition of me was evidently as sudden and unexpected. After our
first hand-grasp and greeting, I said:--

“And how about our new village?”

“Dere is no fillage.”

“What! You have given up the idea?”

“Yes. There is no fillage, olt or new.”

“I don’t understand.”

He looked at me a moment. “You have not heard?”

“No.”

He gently picked up a little local guidebook that lay in my lap, and
turning its leaves, pointed to a page, and read as follows:--

“5 M. beyond, the train passes a curve R., where a fine view of the lake
may be seen. A little to the R. rises the steep slopes of the ----, the
scene of a terrible disaster. At three o’clock on March 5, 1850, the
little village of ----, lying midway of the slope, with its population
of 950 souls, was completely destroyed by a landslip from the top of
the mountain. So sudden was the catastrophe that not a single escape
is recorded. A large portion of the mountain crest, as will be observed
when it is seen in profile, descended to the valley, burying the
unfortunate village to a depth variously estimated at from 1000 ft.
to 1800 ft. The geological causes which produced this extraordinary
displacement have been fully discussed, but the greater evidence points
to the theory of subterranean glaciers. 5 M. beyond ---- the train
crosses the R. bridge.”

I laid down the guide-book in breathless astonishment.

“And you never heard of this in all these years?”

“Nefer! I asked no questions, I read no pooks. I have no ledders from
home.”

“And yet you”--I stopped, I could not call him a fool; neither could
I, in the face of his perfect composure and undisturbed eyes, exhibit
a concern greater than his own. An uneasy recollection of what he
confessed had been his mental condition immediately after his accident
came over me. Had he been the victim of a strange hallucination
regarding his house and family all these years? Were these dreams of
revenge, this fancy of creating a new village, only an outcome of
some shock arising out of the disaster itself, which he had long since
forgotten?

He was looking from the window. “Coom,” he said, “ve are near der blace.
I vill show id to you.” He rose and passed out to the rear platform.
We were in the rear car, and a new panorama of the lake and mountains
flashed upon us at every curve of the line. I followed him. Presently
he pointed to what appeared to be a sheer wall of rock and stunted
vegetation towering two or three thousand feet above us, which started
out of a gorge we were passing. “Dere it vos!” he said. I saw the vast
stretch of rock face rising upward and onward, but nothing else. No
debris, no ruins, nor even a swelling or rounding of the mountain flank
over that awful tomb. Yet, stay! as we dashed across the gorge, and the
face of the mountain shifted, high up, the sky-line was slightly broken
as if a few inches, a mere handful, of the crest was crumbled away. And
then--both gorge and mountain vanished.

I was still embarrassed and uneasy, and knew not what to say to this man
at my side, whose hopes and ambition had been as quickly overthrown and
buried, and whose life-dream had as quickly vanished. But he himself,
taking his pipe from his lips, broke the silence.

“It vos a narrow esgabe!”

“What was?”

“Vy, dis dings. If I had stayed in my fader’s house, I vould haf been
det for goot, and perried too! Somedimes dose dings cooms oudt apout
right, don’t id?”

Unvanquished philosopher! As we stood there looking at the flying
landscape and sinking lesser hills, one by one the great snow peaks
slowly arose behind them, lifting themselves, as if to take a last
wondering look at the man they had triumphed over, but had not subdued.



THE PASSING OF ENRIQUEZ


When Enriquez Saltillo ran away with Miss Mannersley, as already
recorded in these chronicles,* her relatives and friends found it much
easier to forgive that ill-assorted union than to understand it. For,
after all, Enriquez was the scion of an old Spanish-Californian family,
and in due time would have his share of his father’s three square
leagues, whatever incongruity there was between his lively Latin
extravagance and Miss Mannersley’s Puritan precision and intellectual
superiority. They had gone to Mexico; Mrs. Saltillo, as was known,
having an interest in Aztec antiquities, and he being utterly submissive
to her wishes. For myself from my knowledge of Enriquez’s nature, I had
grave doubts of his entire subjugation, although I knew the prevailing
opinion was that Mrs. Saltillo’s superiority would speedily tame him.
Since his brief and characteristic note apprising me of his marriage,
I had not heard from him. It was, therefore, with some surprise, a good
deal of reminiscent affection, and a slight twinge of reproach that, two
years after, I looked up from some proofs, in the sanctum of the “Daily
Excelsior,” to recognize his handwriting on a note that was handed to me
by a yellow Mexican boy.

     * See “The Devotion of Enriquez,” in Selected Stories by
     Bret Harte Gutenberg #1312.

A single glance at its contents showed me that Mrs. Saltillo’s
correct Bostonian speech had not yet subdued Enriquez’s peculiar
Spanish-American slang:--

“Here we are again,--right side up with care,--at 1110 Dupont Street,
Telegraph Hill. Second floor from top. ‘Ring and push.’ ‘No book agents
need apply.’ How’s your royal nibs? I kiss your hand! Come at six,--the
band shall play at seven,--and regard your friend ‘Mees Boston,’ who
will tell you about the little old nigger boys, and your old Uncle
‘Ennery.”

Two things struck me: Enriquez had not changed; Mrs. Saltillo had
certainly yielded up some of her peculiar prejudices. For the address
given, far from being a fashionable district, was known as the “Spanish
quarter,” which, while it still held some old Spanish families, was
chiefly given over to half-castes and obscurer foreigners. Even poverty
could not have driven Mrs. Saltillo to such a refuge against her will;
nevertheless, a good deal of concern for Enriquez’s fortune mingled with
my curiosity, as I impatiently waited for six o’clock to satisfy it.

It was a breezy climb to 1110 Dupont Street; and although the street
had been graded, the houses retained their airy elevation, and were
accessible only by successive flights of wooden steps to the front door,
which still gave perilously upon the street, sixty feet below. I now
painfully appreciated Enriquez’s adaptation of the time-honored joke
about the second floor. An invincible smell of garlic almost took my
remaining breath away as the door was opened to me by a swarthy Mexican
woman, whose loose camisa seemed to be slipping from her unstable bust,
and was held on only by the mantua-like shawl which supplemented it,
gripped by one brown hand. Dizzy from my ascent to that narrow perch,
which looked upon nothing but the distant bay and shores of Contra
Costa, I felt as apologetic as if I had landed from a balloon; but the
woman greeted me with a languid Spanish smile and a lazy display of
white teeth, as if my arrival was quite natural. Don Enriquez, “of a
fact,” was not himself in the casa, but was expected “on the instant.”
 “Donna Urania” was at home.

“Donna Urania”? For an instant I had forgotten that Mrs. Saltillo’s
first name was Urania, so pleasantly and spontaneously did it fall
from the Spanish lips. Nor was I displeased at this chance of learning
something of Don Enriquez’s fortunes and the Saltillo menage before
confronting my old friend. The servant preceded me to the next floor,
and, opening a door, ushered me into the lady’s presence.

I had carried with me, on that upward climb, a lively recollection of
Miss Mannersley as I had known her two years before. I remembered her
upright, almost stiff, slight figure, the graceful precision of her
poses, the faultless symmetry and taste of her dress, and the atmosphere
of a fastidious and wholesome cleanliness which exhaled from her. In the
lady I saw before me, half reclining in a rocking-chair, there was
none of the stiffness and nicety. Habited in a loose gown of some easy,
flexible, but rich material, worn with that peculiarly indolent
slouch of the Mexican woman, Mrs. Saltillo had parted with half her
individuality. Even her arched feet and thin ankles, the close-fitting
boots or small slippers of which were wont to accent their delicacy,
were now lost in a short, low-quartered kid shoe of the Spanish type,
in which they moved loosely. Her hair, which she had always worn with a
certain Greek simplicity, was parted at one side. Yet her face, with
its regularity of feature, and small, thin, red-lipped mouth, was quite
unchanged; and her velvety brown eyes were as beautiful and inscrutable
as ever.

With the same glance I had taken in her surroundings, quite as
incongruous to her former habits. The furniture, though of old and heavy
mahogany, had suffered from careless alien hands, and was interspersed
with modern and unmatchable makeshifts, yet preserving the distinctly
scant and formal attitude of furnished lodgings. It was certainly
unlike the artistic trifles and delicate refinements of her uncle’s
drawing-room, which we all knew her taste had dictated and ruled. The
black and white engravings, the outlined heads of Minerva and Diana,
were excluded from the walls for two cheap colored Catholic prints,--a
soulless Virgin, and the mystery of the Bleeding Heart. Against the
wall, in one corner, hung the only object which seemed a memento of
their travels,--a singular-looking upright Indian “papoose-case” or
cradle, glaringly decorated with beads and paint, probably an Aztec
relic. On a round table, the velvet cover of which showed marks of usage
and abusage, there were scattered books and writing materials; and my
editorial instinct suddenly recognized, with a thrill of apprehension,
the loose leaves of an undoubted manuscript. This circumstance, taken
with the fact of Donna Urania’s hair being parted on one side, and the
general negligee of her appearance, was a disturbing revelation.

My wandering eye apparently struck her, for after the first greeting she
pointed to the manuscript with a smile.

“Yes; that is THE manuscript. I suppose Enriquez told you all about it?
He said he had written.”

I was dumfounded. I certainly had not understood ALL of Enriquez’s
slang; it was always so decidedly his own, and peculiar. Yet I could not
recall any allusion to this.

“He told me something of it, but very vaguely,” I ventured to say
deprecatingly; “but I am afraid that I thought more of seeing my old
friend again than of anything else.”

“During our stay in Mexico,” continued Mrs. Saltillo, with something of
her old precision, “I made some researches into Aztec history, a subject
always deeply interesting to me, and I thought I would utilize the
result by throwing it on paper. Of course it is better fitted for a
volume of reference than for a newspaper, but Enriquez thought you might
want to use it for your journal.”

I knew that Enriquez had no taste for literature, and had even rather
depreciated it in the old days, with his usual extravagance; but I
managed to say very pleasantly that I was delighted with his suggestion
and should be glad to read the manuscript. After all, it was not
improbable that Mrs. Saltillo, who was educated and intelligent, should
write well, if not popularly. “Then Enriquez does not begrudge you the
time that your work takes from him,” I added laughingly. “You seem to
have occupied your honeymoon practically.”

“We quite comprehend our respective duties,” said Mrs. Saltillo dryly;
“and have from the first. We have our own lives to live, independent
of my uncle and Enriquez’s father. We have not only accepted the
responsibility of our own actions, but we both feel the higher
privilege of creating our own conditions without extraneous aid from our
relatives.”

It struck me that this somewhat exalted statement was decidedly a pose,
or a return of Urania Mannersley’s old ironical style. I looked quietly
into her brown, near-sighted eyes; but, as once before, my glance seemed
to slip from their moist surface without penetrating the inner thought
beneath. “And what does Enriquez do for HIS part?” I asked smilingly.

I fully expected to hear that the energetic Enriquez was utilizing
his peculiar tastes and experiences by horse-breaking, stock-raising,
professional bull-fighting, or even horse-racing, but was quite
astonished when she answered quietly:--

“Enriquez is giving himself up to geology and practical metallurgy, with
a view to scientific, purely scientific, mining.”

Enriquez and geology! In that instant all I could remember of it were
his gibes at the “geologian,” as he was wont to term Professor Dobbs,
a former admirer of Miss Mannersley’s. To add to my confusion Mrs.
Saltillo at the same moment absolutely voiced my thought.

“You may remember Professor Dobbs,” she went on calmly, “one of the most
eminent scientists over here, and a very old Boston friend. He has
taken Enriquez in hand. His progress is most satisfactory; we have the
greatest hopes of him.”

“And how soon do you both hope to have some practical results of his
study?” I could not help asking a little mischievously; for I somehow
resented the plural pronoun in her last sentence.

“Very soon,” said Mrs. Saltillo, ignoring everything but the question.
“You know Enriquez’s sanguine temperament. Perhaps he is already given
to evolving theories without a sufficient basis of fact. Still, he has
the daring of a discoverer. His ideas of the oolitic formation are not
without originality, and Professor Dobbs says that in his conception of
the Silurian beach there are gleams that are distinctly precious.”

I looked at Mrs. Saltillo, who had reinforced her eyes with her old
piquant pince-nez, but could detect no irony in them. She was prettily
imperturbable, that was all. There was an awkward silence. Then it was
broken by a bounding step on the stairs, a wide-open fling of the door,
and Enriquez pirouetted into the room: Enriquez, as of old, unchanged
from the crown of his smooth, coal-black hair to the tips of his small,
narrow Arabian feet; Enriquez, with his thin, curling mustache, his
dancing eyes set in his immovable face, just as I had always known him!

He affected to lapse against the door for a minute, as if staggered by a
resplendent vision. Then he said:--

“What do I regard? Is it a dream, or have I again got them--thees
jimjams? My best friend and my best--I mean my ONLY--wife! Embrace me!”

He gave me an enthusiastic embrace and a wink like sheet-lightning,
passed quickly to his wife, before whom he dropped on one knee, raised
the toe of her slipper to his lips, and then sank on the sofa in
simulated collapse, murmuring, “Thees is too mooch of white stone for
one day!”

Through all this I saw his wife regarding him with exactly the same
critically amused expression with which she had looked upon him in the
days of their strange courtship. She evidently had not tired of his
extravagance, and yet I feel as puzzled by her manner as then. She rose
and said: “I suppose you have a good deal to say to each other, and I
will leave you by yourselves.” Turning to her husband, she added, “I
have already spoken about the Aztec manuscript.”

The word brought Enriquez to his feet again. “Ah! The little old
nigger--you have read?” I began to understand. “My wife, my best
friend, and the little old nigger, all in one day. Eet is perfect!”
 Nevertheless, in spite of this ecstatic and overpowering combination,
he hurried to take his wife’s hand; kissing it, he led her to a door
opening into another room, made her a low bow to the ground as she
passed out, and then rejoined me.

“So these are the little old niggers you spoke of in your note,” I said,
pointing to the manuscript. “Deuce take me if I understood you!”

“Ah, my leetle brother, it is YOU who have changed!” said Enriquez
dolorously. “Is it that you no more understand American, or have the
‘big head’ of the editor? Regard me! Of these Aztecs my wife have made
study. She have pursued the little nigger to his cave, his grotto, where
he is dead a thousand year. I have myself assist, though I like it not,
because thees mummy, look you, Pancho, is not lively. And the mummy who
is not dead, believe me! even the young lady mummy, you shall not take
to your heart. But my wife”--he stopped, and kissed his hand toward the
door whence she had flitted--“ah, SHE is wonderful! She has made the
story of them, the peecture of them, from the life and on the instant!
You shall take them, my leetle brother, for your journal; you shall
announce in the big letter: ‘Mooch Importance. The Aztec, He is Found.’
‘How He Look and Lif.’ ‘The Everlasting Nigger.’ You shall sell many
paper, and Urania shall have scoop in much spondulics and rocks.
Hoop-la! For--you comprehend?--my wife and I have settled that she shall
forgif her oncle; I shall forgif my father; but from them we take no
cent, not a red, not a scad! We are independent! Of ourselves we make a
Fourth of July. United we stand; divided we shall fall over! There you
are! Bueno!”

It was impossible to resist his wild, yet perfectly sincere,
extravagance, his dancing black eyes and occasional flash of white teeth
in his otherwise immovable and serious countenance. Nevertheless, I
managed to say:--

“But how about yourself, Enriquez, and this geology, you know?”

His eyes twinkled. “Ah, you shall hear. But first you shall take a
drink. I have the very old Bourbon. He is not so old as the Aztec, but,
believe me, he is very much liflier. Attend! Hol’ on!” He was already
rummaging on a shelf, but apparently without success; then he explored
a buffet, with no better results, and finally attacked a large drawer,
throwing out on the floor, with his old impetuosity, a number of
geological specimens, carefully labeled. I picked up one that had rolled
near me. It was labeled “Conglomerate sandstone.” I picked up another:
it had the same label.

“Then you are really collecting?” I said, with astonishment.

“Ciertamente,” responded Enriquez,--“what other fool shall I look? I
shall relate of this geology when I shall have found this beast of a
bottle. Ah, here he have hide!” He extracted from a drawer a bottle
nearly full of spirits,--tippling was not one of Enriquez’s vices. “You
shall say ‘when.’ ‘Ere’s to our noble selfs!”

When he had drunk, I picked up another fragment of his collection. It
had the same label. “You are very rich in ‘conglomerate sandstone,’” I
said. “Where do you find it?”

“In the street,” said Enriquez, with great calmness.

“In the street?” I echoed.

“Yes, my friend! He ees call the ‘cobblestone,’ also the
‘pouding-stone,’ when he ees at his home in the country. He ees also
a small ‘boulder.’ I pick him up; I crack him; he made three separate
piece of conglomerate sandstone. I bring him home to my wife in my
pocket. She rejoice; we are happy. When comes the efening, I sit down
and make him a label; while my wife, she sit down and write of the
Aztec. Ah, my friend, you shall say of the geology it ees a fine, a
BEAUTIFUL study; but the study of the wife, and what shall please her,
believe me, ees much finer! Believe your old Uncle ‘Ennery every time!
On thees question he gets there; he gets left, nevarre!”

“But Professor Dobbs, your geologian, what does HE say to this frequent
recurrence of the conglomerate sandstone period in your study?” I asked
quickly.

“He say nothing. You comprehend? He ees a profound geologian, but he
also has the admiration excessif for my wife Urania.” He stopped to kiss
his hand again toward the door, and lighted a cigarette. “The geologian
would not that he should break up the happy efening of his friends
by thees small detail. He put aside his head--so; he say, ‘A leetle
freestone, a leetle granite, now and then, for variety; they are
building in Montgomery Street.’ I take the hint, like a wink to the
horse that has gone blind. I attach to myself part of the edifice that
is erecting himself in Montgomery Street. I crack him; I bring him
home. I sit again at the feet of my beautiful Urania, and I label him
‘Freestone,’ ‘Granite;’ but I do not say ‘from Parrott’s Bank’--eet is
not necessary for our happiness.”

“And you do this sort of thing only because you think it pleases your
wife?” I asked bluntly.

“My friend,” rejoined Enriquez, perching himself on the back of the
sofa, and caressing his knees as he puffed his cigarette meditatively,
“you have ask a conundrum. Gif to me an easier one! It is of truth that
I make much of these thing to please Urania. But I shall confess all.
Behold, I appear to you, my leetle brother, in my camisa--my shirt! I
blow on myself; I gif myself away.”

He rose gravely from the sofa, and drew a small box from one of the
drawers of the wardrobe. Opening it, he discovered several specimens of
gold-bearing quartz, and one or two scales of gold. “Thees,” he said,
“friend Pancho, is my own geology; for thees I am what you see. But I
say nothing to Urania; for she have much disgust of mere gold,--of what
she calls ‘vulgar mining,’--and believe me, a fear of the effect of
‘speculation’ upon my temperamento--you comprehend my complexion, my
brother? Reflect upon it, Pancho! I, who am the filosofo, if that I am
anything!” He looked at me with great levity of eye and supernatural
gravity of demeanor. “But eet ees the jealous affection of the wife,
my friend, for which I make play to her with the humble leetle
pouding-stone rather than the gold quartz that affrights.”

“But what do you want with them, if you have no shares in anything and
do not speculate?” I asked.

“Pardon! That ees where you slip up, my leetle friend.” He took from the
same drawer a clasped portfolio, and unlocked it, producing half a dozen
prospectuses and certificates of mining shares. I stood aghast as I
recognized the names of one or two extravagant failures of the last ten
years,--“played-out” mines that had been galvanized into deceptive life
in London, Paris, and New York, to the grief of shareholders abroad
and the laughter of the initiated at home. I could scarcely keep my
equanimity. “You do not mean to say that you have any belief or interest
in this rubbish?” I said quickly.

“What you call ‘rubbish,’ my good Pancho, ees the rubbish that the
American speculator have dump himself upon them in the shaft, the
rubbish of the advertisement, of the extravagant expense, of the salary,
of the assessment, of the ‘freeze-out.’ For thees, look you, is the old
Mexican mine. My grandfather and hees father have both seen them work
before you were born, and the American knew not there was gold in
California.”

I knew he spoke truly. One or two were original silver mines in the
south, worked by peons and Indian slaves, a rope windlass, and a
venerable donkey.

“But those were silver mines,” I said suspiciously, “and these are gold
specimens.”

“They are from the same mother,” said the imperturbable Enriquez,--“the
same mine. The old peons worked him for SILVER, the precious dollar that
buy everything, that he send in the galleon to the Philippines for
the silk and spice! THAT is good enough for HIM! For the gold he made
nothing, even as my leetle wife Urania. And regard me here! There ees a
proverb of my father’s which say that ‘it shall take a gold mine to
work a silver mine,’ so mooch more he cost. You work him, you are lost!
Naturalmente, if you turn him round, if it take you only a silver mine
to work a gold mine, you are gain. Thees ees logic!”

The intense gravity of his face at this extraordinary deduction upset
my own. But as I was never certain that Enriquez was not purposely
mystifying me, with some ulterior object, I could not help saying a
little wickedly:--

“Yes, I understand all that; but how about this geologian? Will he not
tell your wife? You know he was a great admirer of hers.”

“That shall show the great intelligence of him, my Pancho. He will have
the four S’s,’ especially the secreto!”

There could be no serious discussion in his present mood. I gathered up
the pages of his wife’s manuscript, said lightly that, as she had the
first claim upon my time, I should examine the Aztec material and report
in a day or two. As I knew I had little chance in the hands of these two
incomprehensibles together, I begged him not to call his wife, but
to convey my adieus to her, and, in spite of his embraces and
protestations, I managed to get out of the room. But I had scarcely
reached the front door when I heard Enriquez’s voice and his bounding
step on the stairs. In another moment his arm was round my neck.

“You must return on the instant! Mother of God! I haf forget, SHE haf
forget, WE all haf forget! But you have not seen him!”

“Seen whom?”

“El nino, the baby! You comprehend, pig! The criaturica, the leetle
child of ourselfs!”

“The baby?” I said confusedly. “IS there--is there a BABY?”

“You hear him?” said Enriquez, sending an appealing voice upward. “You
hear him, Urania? You comprehend. This beast of a leetle brother demands
if there ees one!”

“I beg your pardon,” I said, hurriedly reascending the stairs. On the
landing I met Mrs. Saltillo, but as calm, composed, and precise as
her husband was extravagant and vehement. “It was an oversight of
Enriquez’s,” she said quietly, reentering the room with us; “and was all
the more strange, as the child was in the room with you all the time.”

She pointed to the corner of the wall, where hung what I had believed
to be an old Indian relic. To my consternation, it WAS a bark
“papoose-case,” occupied by a LIVING child, swathed and bandaged after
the approved Indian fashion. It was asleep, I believe, but it opened a
pair of bright huckleberry eyes, set in the smallest of features, that
were like those of a carved ivory idol, and uttered a “coo” at the sound
of its mother’s voice. She stood on one side with unruffled composure,
while Enriquez threw himself into an attitude before it, with clasped
hands, as if it had been an image of the Holy Child. For myself, I was
too astounded to speak; luckily, my confusion was attributed to the
inexperience of a bachelor.

“I have adopted,” said Mrs. Saltillo, with the faintest touch of
maternal pride in her manner, “what I am convinced is the only natural
and hygienic mode of treating the human child. It may be said to be
a reversion to the aborigine, but I have yet to learn that it is not
superior to our civilized custom. By these bandages the limbs of the
infant are kept in proper position until they are strong enough to
support the body, and such a thing as malformation is unknown. It is
protected by its cradle, which takes the place of its incubating-shell,
from external injury, the injudicious coddling of nurses, the so-called
‘dancings’ and pernicious rockings. The supine position, as in the
adult, is imposed only at night. By the aid of this strap it may be
carried on long journeys, either by myself or by Enriquez, who thus
shares with me, as he fully recognizes, its equal responsibility and
burden.”

“It--certainly does not--cry,” I stammered.

“Crying,” said Mrs. Saltillo, with a curve of her pretty red lip, “is
the protest of the child against insanitary and artificial treatment.
In its upright, unostentatious cradle it is protected against that
injudicious fondling and dangerous promiscuous osculation to which, as
an infant in human arms, it is so often subjected. Above all, it is kept
from that shameless and mortifying publicity so unjust to the weak and
unformed animal. The child repays this consideration by a gratifying
silence. It cannot be expected to understand our thoughts, speech, or
actions; it cannot participate in our pleasures. Why should it be
forced into premature contact with them, merely to feed our vanity or
selfishness? Why should we assume our particular parental accident
as superior to the common lot? If we do not give our offspring that
prominence before our visitors so common to the young wife and husband,
it is for that reason solely; and this may account for what seemed the
forgetfulness of Enriquez in speaking of it or pointing it out to
you. And I think his action in calling you back to see it was somewhat
precipitate. As one does not usually introduce an unknown and inferior
stranger without some previous introduction, he might have asked you if
you wished to see the baby before he recalled you.”

I looked from Urania’s unfathomable eyes to Enriquez’s impenetrable
countenance. I might have been equal to either of them alone, but
together they were invincible. I looked hopelessly at the baby. With
its sharp little eyes and composed face, it certainly was a marvelous
miniature of Enriquez. I said so.

“It would be singular if it was not,” said Mrs. Saltillo dryly; “and as
I believe it is by no means an uncommon fact in human nature, it seems
to me strange that people should insist upon it as a discovery. It is
an inheritance, however, that in due time progress and science will no
doubt interrupt, to the advancement of the human race. I need not
say that both Enriquez and myself look forward to it with confident
tranquillity.”

There was clearly nothing for me to do now but to shake hands again and
take my leave. Yet I was so much impressed with the unreality of the
whole scene that when I reached the front door I had a strong impulse
to return suddenly and fall in upon them in their relaxed and natural
attitudes. They could not keep up this pose between themselves; and I
half expected to see their laughing faces at the window, as I glanced up
before wending my perilous way to the street.

I found Mrs. Saltillo’s manuscript well written and, in the narrative
parts, even graphic and sparkling. I suppressed some general remarks
on the universe, and some correlative theories of existence, as
not appertaining particularly to the Aztecs, and as not meeting any
unquenchable thirst for information on the part of the readers of the
“Daily Excelsior.” I even promoted my fair contributor to the position
of having been commissioned, at great expense, to make the Mexican
journey especially for the “Excelsior.” This, with Mrs. Saltillo’s
somewhat precise preraphaelite drawings and water-colors, vilely
reproduced by woodcuts, gave quite a sensational air to her production,
which, divided into parts, for two or three days filled a whole page
of the paper. I am not aware of any particular service that it did to
ethnology; but, as I pointed out in the editorial column, it showed that
the people of California were not given over by material greed to the
exclusion of intellectual research; and as it was attacked instantly
in long communications from one or two scientific men, it thus produced
more copy.

Briefly, it was a boom for the author and the “Daily Excelsior.” I
should add, however, that a rival newspaper intimated that it was also a
boom for Mrs. Saitillo’s HUSBAND, and called attention to the fact that
a deserted Mexican mine, known as “El Bolero,” was described graphically
in the Aztec article among the news, and again appeared in the
advertising columns of the same paper. I turned somewhat indignantly
to the file of the “Excelsior,” and, singularly enough, found in the
elaborate prospectus of a new gold-mining company the description of the
El Bolero mine as a QUOTATION from the Aztec article, with extraordinary
inducements for the investment of capital in the projected working of an
old mine. If I had had any difficulty in recognizing in the extravagant
style the flamboyant hand of Enriquez in English writing, I might have
read his name plainly enough displayed as president of the company. It
was evidently the prospectus of one of the ventures he had shown me. I
was more amused than indignant at the little trick he had played upon
my editorial astuteness. After all, if I had thus benefited the young
couple I was satisfied. I had not seen them since my first visit, as I
was very busy,--my communications with Mrs. Saltillo had been carried on
by letters and proofs,--and when I did finally call at their house, it
was only to find that they were visiting at San Jose. I wondered whether
the baby was still hanging on the wall, or, if he was taken with them,
who carried him.

A week later the stock of El Bolero was quoted at par. More than that,
an incomprehensible activity had been given to all the deserted Mexican
mines, and people began to look up scrip hitherto thrown aside as
worthless. Whether it was one of those extraordinary fevers which
attacked Californian speculation in the early days, or whether Enriquez
Saltillo had infected the stock-market with his own extravagance, I
never knew; but plans as wild, inventions as fantastic, and arguments
as illogical as ever emanated from his own brain, were set forth “on
‘Change” with a gravity equal to his own. The most reasonable hypothesis
was that it was the effect of the well-known fact that the Spanish
Californian hitherto had not been a mining speculator, nor connected
in any way with the gold production on his native soil, deeming it
inconsistent with his patriarchal life and landed dignity, and that when
a “son of one of the oldest Spanish families, identified with the land
and its peculiar character for centuries, lent himself to its mineral
exploitations,”--I beg to say that I am quoting from the advertisement
in the “Excelsior,”--“it was a guerdon of success.” This was so far true
that in a week Enriquez Saltillo was rich, and in a fair way to become a
millionaire.


It was a hot afternoon when I alighted from the stifling Wingdam coach,
and stood upon the cool, deep veranda of the Carquinez Springs Hotel.
After I had shaken off the dust which had lazily followed us, in our
descent of the mountain road, like a red smoke, occasionally overflowing
the coach windows, I went up to the room I had engaged for my brief
holiday. I knew the place well, although I could see that the hotel
itself had lately been redecorated and enlarged to meet the increasing
requirements of fashion. I knew the forest of enormous redwoods where
one might lose one’s self in a five minutes’ walk from the veranda. I
knew the rocky trail that climbed the mountain to the springs, twisting
between giant boulders. I knew the arid garden, deep in the wayside
dust, with its hurriedly planted tropical plants, already withering in
the dry autumn sunshine, and washed into fictitious freshness, night
and morning by the hydraulic irrigating-hose. I knew, too, the cool,
reposeful night winds that swept down from invisible snow-crests beyond,
with the hanging out of monstrous stars, that too often failed to bring
repose to the feverish guests. For the overstrained neurotic workers
who fled hither from the baking plains of Sacramento, or from the chill
sea-fogs of San Francisco, never lost the fierce unrest that had driven
them here. Unaccustomed to leisure, their enforced idleness impelled
them to seek excitement in the wildest gayeties; the bracing mountain
air only reinvigorated them to pursue pleasure as they had pursued the
occupations they had left behind. Their sole recreations were furious
drives over break-neck roads; mad, scampering cavalcades through the
sedate woods; gambling parties in private rooms, where large sums were
lost by capitalists on leave; champagne suppers; and impromptu balls
that lasted through the calm, reposeful night to the first rays of light
on the distant snowline. Unimaginative men, in their temporary sojourn
they more often outraged or dispossessed nature in her own fastnesses
than courted her for sympathy or solitude. There were playing-cards left
lying behind boulders, and empty champagne bottles forgotten in forest
depths.

I remembered all this when, refreshed by a bath, I leaned from the
balcony of my room and watched the pulling up of a brake, drawn by six
dusty, foam-bespattered horses, driven by a noted capitalist. As
its hot, perspiring, closely veiled yet burning-faced fair occupants
descended, in all the dazzling glory of summer toilets, and I saw the
gentlemen consult their watches with satisfaction, and congratulate
their triumphant driver, I knew the characteristic excitement they had
enjoyed from a “record run,” probably for a bet, over a mountain road in
a burning sun.

“Not bad, eh? Forty-four minutes from the summit!”

The voice seemed at my elbow. I turned quickly, to recognize an
acquaintance, a young San Francisco broker, leaning from the next
balcony to mine. But my attention was just then preoccupied by the face
and figure, which seemed familiar to me, of a woman who was alighting
from the brake.

“Who is that?” I asked; “the straight slim woman in gray, with the white
veil twisted round her felt hat?”

“Mrs. Saltillo,” he answered; “wife of ‘El Bolero’ Saltillo, don’t you
know. Mighty pretty woman, if she is a little stiffish and set up.”

Then I had not been mistaken! “Is Enriquez--is her husband--here?” I
asked quickly.

The man laughed. “I reckon not. This is the place for other people’s
husbands, don’t you know.”

Alas! I DID know; and as there flashed upon me all the miserable
scandals and gossip connected with this reckless, frivolous caravansary,
I felt like resenting his suggestion. But my companion’s next words were
more significant:--

“Besides, if what they say is true, Saltillo wouldn’t be very popular
here.”

“I don’t understand,” I said quickly.

“Why, after all that row he had with the El Bolero Company.”

“I never heard of any row,” I said, in astonishment.

The broker laughed incredulously. “Come! and YOU a newspaper man! Well,
maybe they DID try to hush it up, and keep it out of the papers, on
account of the stock. But it seems he got up a reg’lar shindy with the
board, one day; called ‘em thieves and swindlers, and allowed he was
disgracing himself as a Spanish hidalgo by having anything to do with
‘em. Talked, they say, about Charles V. of Spain, or some other royal
galoot, giving his ancestors the land in trust! Clean off his head,
I reckon. Then shunted himself off the company, and sold out. You can
guess he wouldn’t be very popular around here, with Jim Bestley, there,”
 pointing to the capitalist who had driven the brake, “who used to be on
the board with him. No, sir. He was either lying low for something, or
was off his head. Think of his throwing up a place like that!”

“Nonsense!” I said indignantly. “He is mercurial, and has the quick
impulsiveness of his race, but I believe him as sane as any who sat with
him on the board. There must be some mistake, or you haven’t got the
whole story.” Nevertheless, I did not care to discuss an old friend
with a mere acquaintance, and I felt secretly puzzled to account for his
conduct, in the face of his previous cleverness in manipulating the El
Bolero, and the undoubted fascination he had previously exercised over
the stockholders. The story had, of course, been garbled in repetition.
I had never before imagined what might be the effect of Enriquez’s
peculiar eccentricities upon matter-of-fact people,--I had found them
only amusing,--and the broker’s suggestion annoyed me. However, Mrs.
Saltillo was here in the hotel, and I should, of course, meet her. Would
she be as frank with me?

I was disappointed at not finding her in the drawing-room or on the
veranda; and the heat being still unusually oppressive, I strolled out
toward the redwoods, hesitating for a moment in the shade before I ran
the fiery gauntlet of the garden. To my surprise, I had scarcely passed
the giant sentinels on its outskirts before I found that, from some
unusual condition of the atmosphere, the cold undercurrent of air
which generally drew through these pillared aisles was withheld that
afternoon; it was absolutely hotter than in the open, and the wood was
charged throughout with the acrid spices of the pine. I turned back to
the hotel, reascended to my bedroom, and threw myself in an armchair by
the open window. My room was near the end of a wing; the corner room at
the end was next to mine, on the same landing. Its closed door, at right
angles to my open one, gave upon the staircase, but was plainly visible
from where I sat. I remembered being glad that it was shut, as it
enabled me without offense to keep my own door open.

The house was very quiet. The leaves of a catalpa, across the roadway,
hung motionless. Somebody yawned on the veranda below. I threw away
my half-finished cigar, and closed my eyes. I think I had not lost
consciousness for more than a few seconds before I was awakened by the
shaking and thrilling of the whole building. As I staggered to my feet,
I saw the four pictures hanging against the wall swing outwardly from
it on their cords, and my door swing back against the wall. At the same
moment, acted upon by the same potential impulse, the door of the end
room in the hall, opposite the stairs, also swung open. In that brief
moment I had a glimpse of the interior of the room, of two figures, a
man and a woman, the latter clinging to her companion in abject terror.
It was only for an instant, for a second thrill passed through the
house, the pictures clattered back against the wall, the door of the end
room closed violently on its strange revelation, and my own door swung
back also. Apprehensive of what might happen, I sprang toward it, but
only to arrest it an inch or two before it should shut, when, as my
experience had taught me, it might stick by the subsidence of the walls.
But it did stick ajar, and remained firmly fixed in that position. From
the clattering of the knob of the other door, and the sound of hurried
voices behind it, I knew that the same thing had happened there when
that door had fully closed.

I was familiar enough with earthquakes to know that, with the second
shock or subsidence of the earth, the immediate danger was passed, and
so I was able to note more clearly what else was passing. There was the
usual sudden stampede of hurrying feet, the solitary oath and scream,
the half-hysterical laughter, and silence. Then the tumult was
reawakened to the sound of high voices, talking all together, or the
impatient calling of absentees in halls and corridors. Then I heard
the quick swish of female skirts on the staircase, and one of the fair
guests knocked impatiently at the door of the end room, still immovably
fixed. At the first knock there was a sudden cessation of the hurried
whisperings and turning of the doorknob.

“Mrs. Saltillo, are you there? Are you frightened?” she called.

“Mrs. Saltillo”! It was SHE, then, who was in the room! I drew nearer
my door, which was still fixed ajar. Presently a voice,--Mrs. Saltillo’s
voice,--with a constrained laugh in it, came from behind the door: “Not
a bit. I’ll come down in a minute.”

“Do,” persisted the would-be intruder. “It’s all over now, but we’re all
going out into the garden; it’s safer.”

“All right,” answered Mrs. Saltillo. “Don’t wait, dear. I’ll follow. Run
away, now.”

The visitor, who was evidently still nervous, was glad to hurry away,
and I heard her retreating step on the staircase. The rattling of the
door began again, and at last it seemed to yield to a stronger pull,
and opened sufficiently to allow Mrs. Saltillo to squeeze through. I
withdrew behind my door. I fancied that it creaked as she passed, as if,
noticing it ajar, she had laid an inquiring hand upon it. I waited, but
she was not followed by any one. I wondered if I had been mistaken. I
was going to the bell-rope to summon assistance to move my own door when
a sudden instinct withheld me. If there was any one still in that room,
he might come from it just as the servant answered my call, and a public
discovery would be unavoidable. I was right. In another instant the
figure of a man, whose face I could not discern, slipped out of the
room, passed my door, and went stealthily down the staircase.

Convinced of this, I resolved not to call public attention to my being
in my own room at the time of the incident; so I did not summon any one,
but, redoubling my efforts, I at last opened the door sufficiently to
pass out, and at once joined the other guests in the garden. Already,
with characteristic recklessness and audacity, the earthquake was
made light of; the only dictate of prudence had resolved itself into
a hilarious proposal to “camp out” in the woods all night, and have
a “torch-light picnic.” Even then preparations were being made for
carrying tents, blankets, and pillows to the adjacent redwoods; dinner
and supper, cooked at campfires, were to be served there on stumps of
trees and fallen logs. The convulsion of nature had been used as an
excuse for one of the wildest freaks of extravagance that Carquinez
Springs had ever known. Perhaps that quick sense of humor which
dominates the American male in exigencies of this kind kept the
extravagances from being merely bizarre and grotesque, and it was
presently known that the hotel and its menage were to be appropriately
burlesqued by some of the guests, who, attired as Indians, would
personate the staff, from the oracular hotel proprietor himself down to
the smart hotel clerk.

During these arrangements I had a chance of drawing near Mrs. Saltillo.
I fancied she gave a slight start as she recognized me; but her
greetings were given with her usual precision. “Have you been here
long?” she asked.

“I have only just come,” I replied laughingly; “in time for the shock.”

“Ah, you felt it, then? I was telling these ladies that our eminent
geologist, Professor Dobbs, assured me that these seismic disturbances
in California have a very remote centre, and are seldom serious.”

“It must be very satisfactory to have the support of geology at such a
moment,” I could not help saying, though I had not the slightest idea
whose the figure was that I had seen, nor, indeed, had I recognized
it among the guests. She did not seem to detect any significance in
my speech, and I added: “And where is Enriquez? He would enjoy this
proposed picnic to-night.”

“Enriquez is at Salvatierra Rancho, which he lately bought from his
cousin.”

“And the baby? Surely, here is a chance for you to hang him up on a
redwood tonight, in his cradle.”

“The boy,” said Mrs. Saltillo quickly, “is no longer in his cradle; he
has passed the pupa state, and is now free to develop his own perfected
limbs. He is with his father. I do not approve of children being
submitted to the indiscriminate attentions of a hotel. I am here myself
only for that supply of ozone indicated for brain exhaustion.”

She looked so pretty and prim in her gray dress, so like her old correct
self, that I could not think of anything but her mental attitude, which
did not, by the way, seem much like mental depression. Yet I was aware
that I was getting no information of Enriquez’s condition or affairs,
unless the whole story told by the broker was an exaggeration. I did
not, however, dare to ask more particularly.

“You remember Professor Dobbs?” she asked abruptly.

This recalled a suspicion awakened by my vision, so suddenly that I
felt myself blushing. She did not seem to notice it, and was perfectly
composed.

“I do remember him. Is he here?”

“He is; that is what makes it so particularly unfortunate for me. You
see, after that affair of the board, and Enriquez’s withdrawal, although
Enriquez may have been a little precipitate in his energetic way, I
naturally took my husband’s part in public; for although we preserve
our own independence inviolable, we believe in absolute confederation as
against society.”

“But what has Professor Dobbs to do with the board?” I interrupted.

“The professor was scientific and geological adviser to the board, and
it was upon some report or suggestion of his that Enriquez took issue,
against the sentiment of the board. It was a principle affecting
Enriquez’s Spanish sense of honor.”

“Do tell me all about it,” I said eagerly; “I am very anxious to know
the truth.”

“As I was not present at the time,” said Mrs. Saltillo, rebuking my
eagerness with a gentle frigidity, “I am unable to do so. Anything else
would be mere hearsay, and more or less ex parte. I do not approve of
gossip.”

“But what did Enriquez tell you? You surely know that.”

“THAT, being purely confidential, as between husband and wife,--perhaps
I should say partner and partner,--of course you do not expect me to
disclose. Enough that I was satisfied with it. I should not have spoken
to you about it at all, but that, through myself and Enriquez, you are
an acquaintance of the professor’s, and I might save you the awkwardness
of presenting yourself with him. Otherwise, although you are a friend of
Enriquez, it need not affect your acquaintance with the professor.”

“Hang the professor!” I ejaculated. “I don’t care a rap for HIM.”

“Then I differ with you,” said Mrs. Saltillo, with precision. “He is
distinctly an able man, and one cannot but miss the contact of his
original mind and his liberal teachings.”

Here she was joined by one of the ladies, and I lounged away. I dare say
it was very mean and very illogical, but the unsatisfactory character
of this interview made me revert again to the singular revelation I had
seen a few hours before. I looked anxiously for Professor Dobbs; but
when I did meet him, with an indifferent nod of recognition, I found
I could by no means identify him with the figure of her mysterious
companion. And why should I suspect him at all, in the face of Mrs.
Saltillo’s confessed avoidance of him? Who, then, could it have been? I
had seen them but an instant, in the opening and the shutting of a door.
It was merely the shadowy bulk of a man that flitted past my door,
after all. Could I have imagined the whole thing? Were my perceptive
faculties--just aroused from slumber, too insufficiently clear to be
relied upon? Would I not have laughed had Urania, or even Enriquez
himself, told me such a story?

As I reentered the hotel the clerk handed me a telegram. “There’s been
a pretty big shake all over the country,” he said eagerly. “Everybody
is getting news and inquiries from their friends. Anything fresh?” He
paused interrogatively as I tore open the envelope. The dispatch had
been redirected from the office of the “Daily Excelsior.” It was dated,
“Salvatierra Rancho,” and contained a single line: “Come and see your
old uncle ‘Ennery.”

There was nothing in the wording of the message that was unlike
Enriquez’s usual light-hearted levity, but the fact that he should have
TELEGRAPHED it to me struck me uneasily. That I should have received it
at the hotel where his wife and Professor Dobbs were both staying, and
where I had had such a singular experience, seemed to me more than a
mere coincidence. An instinct that the message was something personal
to Enriquez and myself kept me from imparting it to Mrs. Saltillo. After
worrying half the night in our bizarre camp in the redwoods, in the
midst of a restless festivity which was scarcely the repose I had been
seeking at Carquinez Springs, I resolved to leave the next day for
Salvatierra Rancho. I remembered the rancho,--a low, golden-brown,
adobe-walled quadrangle, sleeping like some monstrous ruminant in a
hollow of the Contra Costa Range. I recalled, in the midst of this noisy
picnic, the slumberous coolness of its long corridors and soundless
courtyard, and hailed it as a relief. The telegram was a sufficient
excuse for my abrupt departure. In the morning I left, but without again
seeing either Mrs. Saltillo or the professor.

It was late the next afternoon when I rode through the canada that led
to the rancho. I confess my thoughts were somewhat gloomy, in spite of
my escape from the noisy hotel; but this was due to the sombre scenery
through which I had just ridden, and the monotonous russet of the
leagues of wild oats. As I approached the rancho, I saw that Enriquez
had made no attempt to modernize the old casa, and that even the garden
was left in its lawless native luxuriance, while the rude tiled sheds
near the walled corral contained the old farming implements, unchanged
for a century, even to the ox-carts, the wheels of which were made of a
single block of wood. A few peons, in striped shirts and velvet
jackets, were sunning themselves against a wall, and near them hung
a half-drained pellejo, or goatskin water-bag. The air of absolute
shiftlessness must have been repellent to Mrs. Saltillo’s orderly
precision, and for a moment I pitied her. But it was equally
inconsistent with Enriquez’s enthusiastic ideas of American progress,
and the extravagant designs he had often imparted to me of the
improvements he would make when he had a fortune. I was feeling uneasy
again, when I suddenly heard the rapid clack of unshod hoofs on a rocky
trail that joined my own. At the same instant a horseman dashed past me
at full speed. I had barely time to swerve my own horse aside to avoid a
collision, yet in that brief moment I recognized the figure of Enriquez.
But his face I should have scarcely known. It was hard and fixed. His
upper lip and thin, penciled mustache were drawn up over his teeth,
which were like a white gash in his dark face. He turned into the
courtyard of the rancho. I put spurs to my horse, and followed, in
nervous expectation. He turned in his saddle as I entered. But the next
moment he bounded from his horse, and, before I could dismount, flew to
my side and absolutely lifted me from the saddle to embrace me. It was
the old Enriquez again; his face seemed to have utterly changed in that
brief moment.

“This is all very well, old chap,” I said; “but do you know that you
nearly ran me down, just now, with that infernal half-broken mustang? Do
you usually charge the casa at that speed?”

“Pardon, my leetle brother! But here you shall slip up. The mustang is
not HALF-broken; he is not broke at all! Look at his hoof--never have
a shoe been there. For myself--attend me! When I ride alone, I
think mooch; when I think mooch I think fast; my idea he go like a
cannon-ball! Consequent, if I ride not thees horse like the cannon-ball,
my thought HE arrive first, and where are you? You get left! Believe
me that I fly thees horse, thees old Mexican plug, and your de’ uncle
‘Ennery and his leetle old idea arrive all the same time, and on the
instant.”

It WAS the old Enriquez! I perfectly understood his extravagant speech
and illustration, and yet for the first time I wondered if others did.

“Tak’-a-drink!” he said, all in one word. “You shall possess the old
Bourbon or the rhum from the Santa Cruz! Name your poison, gentlemen!”

He had already dragged me up the steps from the patio to the veranda,
and seated me before a small round table still covered with the
chocolate equipage of the morning. A little dried-up old Indian woman
took it away, and brought the spirits and glasses.

“Mirar the leetle old one!” said Enriquez, with unflinching gravity.
“Consider her, Pancho, to the bloosh! She is not truly an Aztec, but
she is of years one hundred and one, and LIFS! Possibly she haf not the
beauty which ravishes, which devastates. But she shall attent you to the
hot water, to the bath. Thus shall you be protect, my leetle brother,
from scandal.”

“Enriquez,” I burst out suddenly, “tell me about yourself. Why did you
leave the El Bolero board? What was the row about?”

Enriquez’s eyes for a moment glittered; then they danced as before.

“Ah,” he said, “you have heard?”

“Something; but I want to know the truth from you.”

He lighted a cigarette, lifted himself backward into a grass hammock, on
which he sat, swinging his feet. Then, pointing to another hammock, he
said: “Tranquillize yourself there. I will relate; but, truly, it ees
nothing.”

He took a long pull at his cigarette, and for a few moments
seemed quietly to exude smoke from his eyes, ears, nose, even his
finger-ends--everywhere, in fact, but his mouth. That and his mustache
remained fixed. Then he said slowly, flicking away the ashes with his
little finger:--

“First you understand, friend Pancho, that I make no row. The other
themself make the row, the shindig. They make the dance, the howl, the
snap of the finger, the oath, the ‘Helen blazes,’ the ‘Wot the devil,’
the ‘That be d--d,’ the bad language; they themselves finger the
revolver, advance the bowie-knife, throw off the coat, square off, and
say ‘Come on.’ I remain as you see me now, little brother--tranquil.”
 He lighted another cigarette, made his position more comfortable in the
hammock, and resumed: “The Professor Dobbs, who is the geologian of the
company, made a report for which he got two thousand dollar. But thees
report--look you, friend Pancho--he is not good for the mine. For in the
hole in the ground the Professor Dobbs have found a ‘hoss.’”

“A what?” I asked.

“A hoss,” repeated Enriquez, with infinite gravity. “But not, leetle
Pancho, the hoss that run, the hoss that buck-jump, but what the miner
call a ‘hoss,’ a something that rear up in the vein and stop him. You
pick around the hoss; you pick under him; sometimes you find the vein,
sometimes you do not. The hoss rear up, and remain! Eet ees not good for
the mine. The board say, ‘D--- the hoss!’ ‘Get rid of the hoss.’ ‘Chuck
out the hoss.’ Then they talk together, and one say to the Professor
Dobbs: ‘Eef you cannot thees hoss remove from the mine, you can take
him out of the report.’ He look to me, thees professor. I see nothing; I
remain tranquil. Then the board say: ‘Thees report with the hoss in
him is worth two thousand dollar, but WITHOUT the hoss he is worth five
thousand dollar. For the stockholder is frighted of the rearing hoss. It
is of a necessity that the stockholder should remain tranquil. Without
the hoss the report is good; the stock shall errise; the director
shall sell out, and leave the stockholder the hoss to play with.’ The
professor he say, ‘Al-right;’ he scratch out the hoss, sign his name,
and get a check for three thousand dollar.”

“Then I errise--so!” He got up from the hammock, suiting the action
to the word, and during the rest of his narrative, I honestly believe,
assumed the same attitude and deliberate intonation he had exhibited at
the board. I could even fancy I saw the reckless, cynical faces of
his brother directors turned upon his grim, impassive features. “I am
tranquil. I smoke my cigarette. I say that for three hundred year my
family have held the land of thees mine; that it pass from father to
son, and from son to son; it pass by gift, it pass by grant, but that
NEVARRE THERE PASS A LIE WITH IT! I say it was a gift by a Spanish
Christian king to a Christian hidalgo for the spread of the gospel, and
not for the cheat and the swindle! I say that this mine was worked
by the slave, and by the mule, by the ass, but never by the cheat and
swindler. I say that if they have struck the hoss in the mine, they have
struck a hoss IN THE LAND, a Spanish hoss; a hoss that have no bridle
worth five thousand dollar in his mouth, but a hoss to rear, and a
hoss that cannot be struck out by a Yankee geologian; and that hoss is
Enriquez Saltillo!”

He paused, and laid aside his cigarette.

“Then they say, ‘Dry up,’ and ‘Sell out;’ and the great bankers say,
‘Name your own price for your stock, and resign.’ And I say, ‘There is
not enough gold in your bank, in your San Francisco, in the mines of
California, that shall buy a Spanish gentleman. When I leave, I leave
the stock at my back; I shall take it, nevarre! Then the banker he say,
‘And you will go and blab, I suppose?’ And then, Pancho, I smile, I
pick up my mustache--so! and I say: ‘Pardon, senor, you haf mistake, The
Saltillo haf for three hundred year no stain, no blot upon him. Eet is
not now--the last of the race--who shall confess that he haf sit at a
board of disgrace and dishonor!’ And then it is that the band begin to
play, and the animals stand on their hind leg and waltz, and behold, the
row he haf begin!”

I ran over to him, and fairly hugged him. But he put me aside with
a gentle and philosophical calm. “Ah, eet is nothing, Pancho. It is,
believe me, all the same a hundred years to come, and where are you,
then? The earth he turn round, and then come el temblor, the earthquake,
and there you are! Bah! eet is not of the board that I have asked you
to come; it is something else I would tell you. Go and wash yourself
of thees journey, my leetle brother, as I have”--looking at his narrow,
brown, well-bred hands--“wash myself of the board. Be very careful of
the leetle old woman, Pancho; do not wink to her of the eye! Consider,
my leetle brother, for one hundred and one year he haf been as a nun, a
saint! Disturb not her tranquillity.”

Yes, it was the old Enriquez; but he seemed graver,--if I could use that
word of one of such persistent gravity; only his gravity heretofore had
suggested a certain irony rather than a melancholy which I now fancied I
detected. And what was this “something else” he was to “tell me later”?
Did it refer to Mrs. Saltillo? I had purposely waited for him to speak
of her, before I should say anything of my visit to Carquinez Springs.
I hurried through my ablutions in the hot water, brought in a bronze jar
on the head of the centenarian handmaid; and even while I was smiling
over Enriquez’s caution regarding this aged Ruth, I felt I was getting
nervous to hear his news.

I found him in his sitting-room, or study,--a long, low apartment with
small, deep windows like embrasures in the outer adobe wall, but glazed
in lightly upon the veranda. He was sitting quite abstractedly, with a
pen in his hand, before a table, on which a number of sealed envelopes
were lying. He looked SO formal and methodical for Enriquez.

“You like the old casa, Pancho?” he said in reply to my praise of its
studious and monastic gloom. “Well, my leetle brother, some day that is
fair--who knows?--it may be at your disposicion; not of our politeness,
but of a truth, friend Pancho. For, if I leave it to my wife”--it was
the first time he had spoken of her--“for my leetle child,” he added
quickly, “I shall put in a bond, an obligacion, that my friend Pancho
shall come and go as he will.”

“The Saltillos are a long-lived race,” I laughed. “I shall be a
gray-haired man, with a house and family of my own by that time.” But I
did not like the way he had spoken.

“Quien sabe?” he only said, dismissing the question with the national
gesture. After a moment he added: “I shall tell you something that is
strrange, so strrange that you shall say, like the banker say, ‘Thees
Enriquez, he ees off his head; he ees a crank, a lunatico;’ but it ees a
FACT; believe me, I have said!”

He rose, and, going to the end of the room, opened a door. It showed
a pretty little room, femininely arranged in Mrs. Saltillo’s refined
taste. “Eet is pretty; eet is the room of my wife. Bueno! attend me
now.” He closed the door, and walked back to the table. “I have sit here
and write when the earthquake arrive. I have feel the shock, the grind
of the walls on themselves, the tremor, the stagger, and--that--door--he
swing open!”

“The door?” I said, with a smile that I felt was ghastly.

“Comprehend me,” he said quickly; “it ees not THAT which ees strrange.
The wall lift, the lock slip, the door he fell open; it is frequent; it
comes so ever when the earthquake come. But eet is not my wife’s room
I see; it is ANOTHER ROOM, a room I know not. My wife Urania, she stand
there, of a fear, of a tremble; she grasp, she cling to someone. The
earth shake again; the door shut. I jump from my table; I shake and
tumble to the door. I fling him open. Maravilloso! it is the room of my
wife again. She is NOT there; it is empty; it is nothing!”

I felt myself turning hot and cold by turns. I was horrified, and--and I
blundered. “And who was the other figure?” I gasped.

“Who?” repeated Enriquez, with a pause, a fixed look at me, and a
sublime gesture. “Who SHOULD it be, but myself, Enriquez Saltillo?”

A terrible premonition that this was a chivalrous LIE, that it was NOT
himself he had seen, but that our two visions were identical, came upon
me. “After all,” I said, with a fixed smile, “if you could imagine you
saw your wife, you could easily imagine you saw yourself too. In the
shock of the moment you thought of HER naturally, for then she would as
naturally seek your protection. You have written for news of her?”

“No,” said Enriquez quietly.

“No?” I repeated amazedly.

“You understand, Pancho! Eef it was the trick of my eyes, why should
I affright her for the thing that is not? If it is the truth, and it
arrive to ME, as a warning, why shall I affright her before it come?”

“Before WHAT comes? What is it a warning of?” I asked impetuously.

“That we shall be separated! That I go, and she do not.”

To my surprise, his dancing eyes had a slight film over them. “I don’t
understand you,” I said awkwardly.

“Your head is not of a level, my Pancho. Thees earthquake he remain for
only ten seconds, and he fling open the door. If he remain for twenty
seconds, he fling open the wall, the hoose toomble, and your friend
Enriquez is feenish.”

“Nonsense!” I said. “Professor--I mean the geologists--say that the
centre of disturbance of these Californian earthquakes is some far-away
point in the Pacific and there never will be any serious convulsions
here.”

“Ah, the geologist,” said Enriquez gravely, “understand the hoss that
rear in the mine, and the five thousand dollar, believe me, no more.
He haf lif here three year. My family haf lif here three hundred. My
grandfather saw the earth swallow the church of San Juan Baptista.”

I laughed, until, looking up, I was shocked to see for the first time
that his dancing eyes were moist and shining. But almost instantly he
jumped up, and declared that I had not seen the garden and the corral,
and, linking his arm in mine, swept me like a whirlwind into the patio.
For an hour or two he was in his old invincible spirits. I was glad
I had said nothing of my visit to Carquinez Springs and of seeing his
wife; I determined to avoid it as long as possible; and as he did not
again refer to her, except in the past, it was not difficult. At last
he infected me with his extravagance, and for a while I forgot even the
strangeness of his conduct and his confidences. We walked and talked
together as of old. I understood and enjoyed him perfectly, and it
was not strange that in the end I began to believe that this strange
revelation was a bit of his extravagant acting, got up to amuse me. The
coincidence of his story with my own experience was not, after all,
such a wonderful thing, considering what must have been the nervous
and mental disturbance produced by the earthquake. We dined together,
attended only by Pedro, an old half-caste body-servant. It was easy to
see that the household was carried on economically, and, from a word
or two casually dropped by Enriquez, it appeared that the rancho and
a small sum of money were all that he retained from his former fortune
when he left the El Bolero. The stock he kept intact, refusing to take
the dividend upon it until that collapse of the company should occur
which he confidently predicted, when he would make good the swindled
stockholders. I had no reason to doubt his perfect faith in this.

The next morning we were up early for a breezy gallop over the three
square miles of Enriquez’s estate. I was astounded, when I descended to
the patio, to find Enriquez already mounted, and carrying before him,
astride of the horn of his saddle, a small child,--the identical papoose
of my memorable first visit. But the boy was no longer swathed and
bandaged, although, for security, his plump little body was engirt by
the same sash that encircled his father’s own waist. I felt a stirring
of self-reproach; I had forgotten all about him! To my suggestion
that the exercise might be fatiguing to him, Enriquez shrugged his
shoulders:--

“Believe me, no! He is ever with me when I go on the pasear. He is not
too yonge. For he shall learn ‘to rride, to shoot, and to speak the
truth,’ even as the Persian chile. Eet ees all I can gif to him.”

Nevertheless, I think the boy enjoyed it, and I knew he was safe with
such an accomplished horseman as his father. Indeed, it was a fine sight
to see them both careering over the broad plain, Enriquez with jingling
spurs and whirling riata, and the boy, with a face as composed as his
father’s, and his tiny hand grasping the end of the flapping rein with
a touch scarcely lighter than the skillful rider’s own. It was a lovely
morning; though warm and still, there was a faint haze--a rare thing in
that climate--on the distant range. The sun-baked soil, arid and thirsty
from the long summer drought, and cracked into long fissures, broke
into puffs of dust, with a slight detonation like a pistol-shot, at each
stroke of our pounding hoofs. Suddenly my horse swerved in full gallop,
almost lost his footing, “broke,” and halted with braced fore feet,
trembling in every limb. I heard a shout from Enriquez at the same
instant, and saw that he too had halted about a hundred paces from me,
with his hand uplifted in warning, and between us a long chasm in the
dry earth, extending across the whole field. But the trembling of the
horse continued until it communicated itself to me. I was shaking,
too, and, looking about for the cause, when I beheld the most weird and
remarkable spectacle I had ever witnessed. The whole llano, or plain,
stretching to the horizon-line, was DISTINCTLY UNDULATING! The faint
haze of the hills was repeated over its surface, as if a dust had arisen
from some grinding displacement of the soil. I threw myself from my
horse, but the next moment was fain to cling to him, as I felt the
thrill under my very feet. Then there was a pause, and I lifted my
head to look for Enriquez. He was nowhere to be seen! With a terrible
recollection of the fissure that had yawned between us, I sprang to the
saddle again, and spurred the frightened beast toward that point. BUT
IT WAS GONE, TOO! I rode backward and forward repeatedly along the line
where I had seen it only a moment before. The plain lay compact and
uninterrupted, without a crack or fissure. The dusty haze that had
arisen had passed as mysteriously away; the clear outline of the valley
returned; the great field was empty!

Presently I was aware of the sound of galloping hoofs. I remembered
then--what I had at first forgotten--that a few moments before we had
crossed an arroyo, or dried bed of a stream, depressed below the level
of the field. How foolish that I had not remembered! He had evidently
sought that refuge; there were his returning hoofs. I galloped toward
it, but only to meet a frightened vaquero, who had taken that avenue of
escape to the rancho.

“Did you see Don Enriquez?” I asked impatiently.

I saw that the man’s terror was extreme, and his eyes were staring in
their sockets. He hastily crossed himself:--

“Ah, God, yes!”

“Where is he?” I demanded.

“Gone!”

“Where?”

He looked at me with staring, vacant eyes, and, pointing to the ground,
said in Spanish: “He has returned to the land of his fathers!”

We searched for him that day and the next, when the country was aroused
and his neighbors joined in a quest that proved useless. Neither he
nor his innocent burden was ever seen again of men. Whether he had been
engulfed by mischance in some unsuspected yawning chasm in that brief
moment, or had fulfilled his own prophecy by deliberately erasing
himself for some purpose known only to himself, no one ever knew. His
country-people shook their heads and said “it was like a Saltillo.” And
the few among his retainers who knew him and loved him, whispered
still more ominously: “He will yet return to his land to confound the
Americanos.”

Yet the widow of Enriquez did NOT marry Professor Dobbs. But she too
disappeared from California, and years afterward I was told that she was
well known to the ingenuous Parisians as the usual wealthy widow “from
South America.”





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