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Title: Tales of the Argonauts
Author: Harte, Bret
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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By Bret Harte












It was nearly two o’clock in the morning. The lights were out in
Robinson’s Hall, where there had been dancing and revelry; and the moon,
riding high, painted the black windows with silver. The cavalcade, that
an hour ago had shocked the sedate pines with song and laughter, were
all dispersed. One enamoured swain had ridden east, another west,
another north, another south; and the object of their adoration, left
within her bower at Chemisal Ridge, was calmly going to bed.

I regret that I am not able to indicate the exact stage of that process.
Two chairs were already filled with delicate inwrappings and white
confusion; and the young lady herself, half-hidden in the silky threads
of her yellow hair, had at one time borne a faint resemblance to a
partly-husked ear of Indian corn. But she was now clothed in that
one long, formless garment that makes all women equal; and the round
shoulders and neat waist, that an hour ago had been so fatal to the
peace of mind of Four Forks, had utterly disappeared. The face above
it was very pretty: the foot below, albeit shapely, was not small. “The
flowers, as a general thing, don’t raise their heads MUCH to look after
me,” she had said with superb frankness to one of her lovers.

The expression of the “Rose” to-night was contentedly placid. She walked
slowly to the window, and, making the smallest possible peephole through
the curtain, looked out. The motionless figure of a horseman still
lingered on the road, with an excess of devotion that only a coquette,
or a woman very much in love, could tolerate. The “Rose,” at that
moment, was neither, and, after a reasonable pause, turned away, saying
quite audibly that it was “too ridiculous for any thing.” As she came
back to her dressing-table, it was noticeable that she walked steadily
and erect, without that slight affectation of lameness common to people
with whom bare feet are only an episode. Indeed, it was only four years
ago, that without shoes or stockings, a long-limbed, colty girl, in a
waistless calico gown, she had leaped from the tailboard of her father’s
emigrant-wagon when it first drew up at Chemisal Ridge. Certain wild
habits of the “Rose” had outlived transplanting and cultivation.

A knock at the door surprised her. In another moment she had leaped into
bed, and with darkly-frowning eyes, from its secure recesses demanded
“Who’s there?”

An apologetic murmur on the other side of the door was the response.

“Why, father!--is that you?”

There were further murmurs, affirmative, deprecatory, and persistent.

“Wait,” said the “Rose.” She got up, unlocked the door, leaped nimbly
into bed again, and said, “Come.”

The door opened timidly. The broad, stooping shoulders, and grizzled
head, of a man past the middle age, appeared: after a moment’s
hesitation, a pair of large, diffident feet, shod with canvas slippers,
concluded to follow. When the apparition was complete, it closed the
door softly, and stood there,--a very shy ghost indeed,--with apparently
more than the usual spiritual indisposition to begin a conversation.
The “Rose” resented this impatiently, though, I fear, not altogether

“Do, father, I declare!”

“You was abed, Jinny,” said Mr. McClosky slowly, glancing, with a
singular mixture of masculine awe and paternal pride, upon the two
chairs and their contents,--“you was abed and ondressed.”

“I was.”

“Surely,” said Mr. McClosky, seating himself on the extreme edge of the
bed, and painfully tucking his feet away under it,--“surely.” After
a pause, he rubbed a short, thick, stumpy beard, that bore a general
resemblance to a badly-worn blacking-brush, with the palm of his hand,
and went on, “You had a good time, Jinny?”

“Yes, father.”

“They was all there?”

“Yes, Rance and York and Ryder and Jack.”

“And Jack!” Mr. McClosky endeavored to throw an expression of arch
inquiry into his small, tremulous eyes; but meeting the unabashed,
widely-opened lid of his daughter, he winked rapidly, and blushed to the
roots of his hair.

“Yes, Jack was there,” said Jenny, without change of color, or the least
self-consciousness in her great gray eyes; “and he came home with me.”
 She paused a moment, locking her two hands under her head, and assuming
a more comfortable position on the pillow. “He asked me that same
question again, father, and I said, ‘Yes.’ It’s to be--soon. We’re going
to live at Four Forks, in his own house; and next winter we’re going to
Sacramento. I suppose it’s all right, father, eh?” She emphasized the
question with a slight kick through the bed-clothes, as the parental
McClosky had fallen into an abstract revery.

“Yes, surely,” said Mr. McClosky, recovering himself with some
confusion. After a pause, he looked down at the bed-clothes, and,
patting them tenderly, continued, “You couldn’t have done better,
Jinny. They isn’t a girl in Tuolumne ez could strike it ez rich as
you hev--even if they got the chance.” He paused again, and then said,

“Yes, father.”

“You’se in bed, and ondressed?”


“You couldn’t,” said Mr. McClosky, glancing hopelessly at the two
chairs, and slowly rubbing his chin,--“you couldn’t dress yourself again
could yer?”

“Why, father!”

“Kinder get yourself into them things again?” he added hastily. “Not all
of ‘em, you know, but some of ‘em. Not if I helped you--sorter stood by,
and lent a hand now and then with a strap, or a buckle, or a necktie, or
a shoestring?” he continued, still looking at the chairs, and evidently
trying to boldly familiarize himself with their contents.

“Are you crazy, father?” demanded Jenny suddenly sitting up with a
portentous switch of her yellow mane. Mr. McClosky rubbed one side of
his beard, which already had the appearance of having been quite worn
away by that process, and faintly dodged the question.

“Jinny,” he said, tenderly stroking the bedclothes as he spoke, “this
yer’s what’s the matter. Thar is a stranger down stairs,--a stranger to
you, lovey, but a man ez I’ve knowed a long time. He’s been here about
an hour; and he’ll be here ontil fower o’clock, when the up-stage
passes. Now I wants ye, Jinny dear, to get up and come down stairs, and
kinder help me pass the time with him. It’s no use, Jinny,” he went on,
gently raising his hand to deprecate any interruption, “it’s no use! He
won’t go to bed; he won’t play keerds; whiskey don’t take no effect on
him. Ever since I knowed him, he was the most onsatisfactory critter to
hev round”--

“What do you have him round for, then?” interrupted Miss Jinny sharply.

Mr. McClosky’s eyes fell. “Ef he hedn’t kem out of his way to-night to
do me a good turn, I wouldn’t ask ye, Jinny. I wouldn’t, so help me! But
I thought, ez I couldn’t do any thing with him, you might come down, and
sorter fetch him, Jinny, as you did the others.”

Miss Jenny shrugged her pretty shoulders.

“Is he old, or young?”

“He’s young enough, Jinny; but he knows a power of things.”

“What does he do?”

“Not much, I reckon. He’s got money in the mill at Four Forks. He
travels round a good deal. I’ve heard, Jinny that he’s a poet--writes
them rhymes, you know.” Mr. McClosky here appealed submissively but
directly to his daughter. He remembered that she had frequently been
in receipt of printed elegaic couplets known as “mottoes,” containing
enclosures equally saccharine.

Miss Jenny slightly curled her pretty lip. She had that fine contempt
for the illusions of fancy which belongs to the perfectly healthy young

“Not,” continued Mr. McClosky, rubbing his head reflectively, “not ez
I’d advise ye, Jinny, to say any thing to him about poetry. It ain’t
twenty minutes ago ez I did. I set the whiskey afore him in the
parlor. I wound up the music-box, and set it goin’. Then I sez to him,
sociable-like and free, ‘Jest consider yourself in your own house, and
repeat what you allow to be your finest production,’ and he raged. That
man, Jinny, jest raged! Thar’s no end of the names he called me. You
see, Jinny,” continued Mr. McClosky apologetically, “he’s known me a
long time.”

But his daughter had already dismissed the question with her usual
directness. “I’ll be down in a few moments, father,” she said after a
pause, “but don’t say any thing to him about it--don’t say I was abed.”

Mr. McClosky’s face beamed. “You was allers a good girl, Jinny,” he
said, dropping on one knee the better to imprint a respectful kiss on
her forehead. But Jenny caught him by the wrists, and for a moment held
him captive. “Father,” said she, trying to fix his shy eyes with the
clear, steady glance of her own, “all the girls that were there to-night
had some one with them. Mame Robinson had her aunt; Lucy Rance had her
mother; Kate Pierson had her sister--all, except me, had some other
woman. Father dear,” her lip trembled just a little, “I wish mother
hadn’t died when I was so small. I wish there was some other woman in
the family besides me. I ain’t lonely with you, father dear; but if
there was only some one, you know, when the time comes for John and

Her voice here suddenly gave out, but not her brave eyes, that were
still fixed earnestly upon his face. Mr. McClosky, apparently tracing
out a pattern on the bedquilt, essayed words of comfort.

“Thar ain’t one of them gals ez you’ve named, Jinny, ez could do what
you’ve done with a whole Noah’s ark of relations, at their backs! Thar
ain’t ‘one ez wouldn’t sacrifice her nearest relation to make the strike
that you hev. Ez to mothers, maybe, my dear you’re doin’ better without
one.” He rose suddenly, and walked toward the door. When he reached it,
he turned, and, in his old deprecating manner, said, “Don’t be long,
Jinny,” smiled, and vanished from the head downward, his canvas slippers
asserting themselves resolutely to the last.

When Mr. McClosky reached his parlor again, his troublesome guest was
not there. The decanter stood on the table untouched; three or four
books lay upon the floor; a number of photographic views of the Sierras
were scattered over the sofa; two sofa-pillows, a newspaper, and a
Mexican blanket, lay on the carpet, as if the late occupant of the room
had tried to read in a recumbent position. A French window opening
upon a veranda, which never before in the history of the house had been
unfastened, now betrayed by its waving lace curtain the way that the
fugitive had escaped. Mr. McClosky heaved a sigh of despair. He looked
at the gorgeous carpet purchased in Sacramento at a fabulous price, at
the crimson satin and rosewood furniture unparalleled in the history
of Tuolumne, at the massively-framed pictures on the walls, and looked
beyond it, through the open window, to the reckless man, who, fleeing
these sybaritic allurements, was smoking a cigar upon the moonlit road.
This room, which had so often awed the youth of Tuolumne into filial
respect, was evidently a failure. It remained to be seen if the “Rose”
 herself had lost her fragrance. “I reckon Jinny will fetch him yet,”
 said Mr. McClosky with parental faith.

He stepped from the window upon the veranda; but he had scarcely done
this, before his figure was detected by the stranger, who at once
crossed the road. When within a few feet of McClosky, he stopped. “You
persistent old plantigrade!” he said in a low voice, audible only to the
person addressed, and a face full of affected anxiety, “why don’t you go
to bed? Didn’t I tell you to go and leave me here alone? In the name of
all that’s idiotic and imbecile, why do you continue to shuffle about
here? Or are you trying to drive me crazy with your presence, as you
have with that wretched music-box that I’ve just dropped under yonder
tree? It’s an hour and a half yet before the stage passes: do you think,
do you imagine for a single moment, that I can tolerate you until then,
eh? Why don’t you speak? Are you asleep? You don’t mean to say that you
have the audacity to add somnambulism to your other weaknesses? you’re
not low enough to repeat yourself under any such weak pretext as that,

A fit of nervous coughing ended this extraordinary exordium; and half
sitting, half leaning against the veranda, Mr. McClosky’s guest turned
his face, and part of a slight elegant figure, toward his host. The
lower portion of this upturned face wore an habitual expression of
fastidious discontent, with an occasional line of physical suffering.
But the brow above was frank and critical; and a pair of dark, mirthful
eyes, sat in playful judgment over the super-sensitive mouth and its

“I allowed to go to bed, Ridgeway,” said Mr. McClosky meekly; “but my
girl Jinny’s jist got back from a little tear up at Robinson’s, and
ain’t inclined to turn in yet. You know what girls is. So I thought we
three would jist have a social chat together to pass away the time.”

“You mendacious old hypocrite! She got back an hour ago,” said Ridgeway,
“as that savage-looking escort of hers, who has been haunting the house
ever since, can testify. My belief is, that, like an enterprising idiot
as you are, you’ve dragged that girl out of her bed, that we might
mutually bore each other.”

Mr. McClosky was too much stunned by this evidence of Ridgeway’s
apparently superhuman penetration to reply. After enjoying his host’s
confusion for a moment with his eyes, Ridgeway’s mouth asked grimly,--

“And who is this girl, anyway?”


“Your wife’s?”

“Yes. But look yar, Ridgeway,” said McClosky, laying one hand
imploringly on Ridgeway’s sleeve, “not a word about her to Jinny. She
thinks her mother’s dead--died in Missouri. Eh!”

Ridgeway nearly rolled from the veranda in an excess of rage. “Good God!
Do you mean to say that you have been concealing from her a fact that
any day, any moment, may come to her ears? That you’ve been letting
her grow up in ignorance of something that by this time she might have
outgrown and forgotten? That you have been, like a besotted old ass,
all these years slowly forging a thunderbolt that any one may crush her
with? That”--but here Ridgeway’s cough took possession of his voice,
and even put a moisture into his dark eyes, as he looked at McClosky’s
aimless hand feebly employed upon his beard.

“But,” said McClosky, “look how she’s done! She’s held her head as high
as any of ‘em. She’s to be married in a month to the richest man in the
county; and,” he added cunningly, “Jack Ashe ain’t the kind o’ man to
sit by and hear any thing said of his wife or her relations, you bet!
But hush--that’s her foot on the stairs. She’s cummin’.”

She came. I don’t think the French window ever held a finer view than
when she put aside the curtains, and stepped out. She had dressed
herself simply and hurriedly, but with a woman’s knowledge of her
best points; so that you got the long curves of her shapely limbs, the
shorter curves of her round waist and shoulders, the long sweep of her
yellow braids, the light of her gray eyes, and even the delicate rose of
her complexion, without knowing how it was delivered to you.

The introduction by Mr. McClosky was brief. When Ridgeway had got over
the fact that it was two o’clock in the morning, and that the cheek of
this Tuolumne goddess nearest him was as dewy and fresh as an infant’s,
that she looked like Marguerite, without, probably, ever having heard
of Goethe’s heroine, he talked, I dare say, very sensibly. When Miss
Jenny--who from her childhood had been brought up among the sons of
Anak, and who was accustomed to have the supremacy of our noble sex
presented to her as a physical fact--found herself in the presence of a
new and strange power in the slight and elegant figure beside her, she
was at first frightened and cold. But finding that this power, against
which the weapons of her own physical charms were of no avail, was
a kindly one, albeit general, she fell to worshipping it, after the
fashion of woman, and casting before it the fetishes and other idols of
her youth. She even confessed to it. So that, in half an hour, Ridgeway
was in possession of all the facts connected with her life, and a great
many, I fear, of her fancies--except one. When Mr. McClosky found the
young people thus amicably disposed, he calmly went to sleep.

It was a pleasant time to each. To Miss Jenny it had the charm of
novelty; and she abandoned herself to it, for that reason, much more
freely and innocently than her companion, who knew something more of the
inevitable logic of the position. I do not think, however, he had any
intention of love-making. I do not think he was at all conscious of
being in the attitude. I am quite positive he would have shrunk from the
suggestion of disloyalty to the one woman whom he admitted to himself
he loved. But, like most poets, he was much more true to an idea than
a fact, and having a very lofty conception of womanhood, with a
very sanguine nature, he saw in each new face the possibilities of a
realization of his ideal. It was, perhaps, an unfortunate thing for the
women, particularly as he brought to each trial a surprising freshness,
which was very deceptive, and quite distinct from the ‘blase’
familiarity of the man of gallantry. It was this perennial virginity of
the affections that most endeared him to the best women, who were prone
to exercise toward him a chivalrous protection,--as of one likely to go
astray, unless looked after,--and indulged in the dangerous combination
of sentiment with the highest maternal instincts. It was this quality
which caused Jenny to recognize in him a certain boyishness that
required her womanly care, and even induced her to offer to accompany
him to the cross-roads when the time for his departure arrived. With her
superior knowledge of woodcraft and the locality, she would have kept
him from being lost. I wot not but that she would have protected him
from bears or wolves, but chiefly, I think, from the feline fascinations
of Mame Robinson and Lucy Rance, who might be lying in wait for this
tender young poet. Nor did she cease to be thankful that Providence had,
so to speak, delivered him as a trust into her hands.

It was a lovely night. The moon swung low, and languished softly on
the snowy ridge beyond. There were quaint odors in the still air; and a
strange incense from the woods perfumed their young blood, and seemed
to swoon in their pulses. Small wonder that they lingered on the white
road, that their feet climbed, unwillingly the little hill where they
were to part, and that, when they at last reached it, even the saving
grace of speech seemed to have forsaken them.

For there they stood alone. There was no sound nor motion in earth, or
woods, or heaven. They might have been the one man and woman for whom
this goodly earth that lay at their feet, rimmed with the deepest azure,
was created. And, seeing this, they turned toward each other with a
sudden instinct, and their hands met, and then their lips in one long

And then out of the mysterious distance came the sound of voices, and
the sharp clatter of hoofs and wheels, and Jenny slid away--a white
moonbeam--from the hill. For a moment she glimmered through the trees,
and then, reaching the house, passed her sleeping father on the veranda,
and, darting into her bedroom, locked the door, threw open the window,
and, falling on her knees beside it, leaned her hot cheeks upon her
hands, and listened. In a few moments she was rewarded by the sharp
clatter of hoofs on the stony road; but it was only a horseman, whose
dark figure was swiftly lost in the shadows of the lower road. At
another time she might have recognized the man; but her eyes and ears
were now all intent on something else. It came presently with dancing
lights, a musical rattle of harness, a cadence of hoof-beats, that
set her heart to beating in unison--and was gone. A sudden sense of
loneliness came over her; and tears gathered in her sweet eyes.

She arose, and looked around her. There was the little bed, the
dressing-table, the roses that she had worn last night, still fresh
and blooming in the little vase. Every thing was there; but every thing
looked strange. The roses should have been withered, for the party
seemed so long ago. She could hardly remember when she had worn this
dress that lay upon the chair. So she came back to the window, and sank
down beside it, with her cheek a trifle paler, leaning on her hand, and
her long braids reaching to the floor. The stars paled slowly, like her
cheek; yet with eyes that saw not, she still looked from her window for
the coming dawn.

It came, with violet deepening into purple, with purple flushing
into rose, with rose shining into silver, and glowing into gold. The
straggling line of black picket-fence below, that had faded away with
the stars, came back with the sun. What was that object moving by
the fence? Jenny raised her head, and looked intently. It was a man
endeavoring to climb the pickets, and falling backward with each
attempt. Suddenly she started to her feet, as if the rosy flushes of the
dawn had crimsoned her from forehead to shoulders; then she stood, white
as the wall, with her hands clasped upon her bosom; then, with a single
bound, she reached the door, and, with flying braids and fluttering
skirt, sprang down the stairs, and out to the garden walk. When within a
few feet of the fence, she uttered a cry, the first she had given,--the
cry of a mother over her stricken babe, of a tigress over her mangled
cub; and in another moment she had leaped the fence, and knelt beside
Ridgeway, with his fainting head upon her breast.

“My boy, my poor, poor boy! who has done this?”

Who, indeed? His clothes were covered with dust; his waistcoat was torn
open; and his handkerchief, wet with the blood it could not stanch, fell
from a cruel stab beneath his shoulder.

“Ridgeway, my poor boy! tell me what has happened.”

Ridgeway slowly opened his heavy blue-veined lids, and gazed upon her.
Presently a gleam of mischief came into his dark eyes, a smile stole
over his lips as he whispered slowly,--

“It--was--your kiss--did it, Jenny dear. I had forgotten--how
high-priced the article was here. Never mind, Jenny!”--he feebly raised
her hand to his white lips,--“it was--worth it,” and fainted away.

Jenny started to her feet, and looked wildly around her. Then, with a
sudden resolution, she stooped over the insensible man, and with one
strong effort lifted him in her arms as if he had been a child. When her
father, a moment later, rubbed his eyes, and awoke from his sleep upon
the veranda, it was to see a goddess, erect and triumphant, striding
toward the house with the helpless body of a man lying across that
breast where man had never lain before,--a goddess, at whose imperious
mandate he arose, and cast open the doors before her. And then, when
she had laid her unconscious burden on the sofa, the goddess fled; and a
woman, helpless and trembling, stood before him,--a woman that cried out
that she had “killed him,” that she was “wicked, wicked!” and that, even
saying so, staggered, and fell beside her late burden. And all that
Mr. McClosky could do was to feebly rub his beard, and say to himself
vaguely and incoherently, that “Jinny had fetched him.”


Before noon the next day, it was generally believed throughout Four
Forks that Ridgeway Dent had been attacked and wounded at Chemisal Ridge
by a highwayman, who fled on the approach of the Wingdam coach. It is to
be presumed that this statement met with Ridgeway’s approval, as he did
not contradict it, nor supplement it with any details. His wound was
severe, but not dangerous. After the first excitement had subsided,
there was, I think, a prevailing impression common to the provincial
mind, that his misfortune was the result of the defective moral quality
of his being a stranger, and was, in a vague sort of a way, a warning to
others, and a lesson to him. “Did you hear how that San Francisco feller
was took down the other night?” was the average tone of introductory
remark. Indeed, there was a general suggestion that Ridgeway’s presence
was one that no self-respecting, high-minded highwayman, honorably
conservative of the best interests of Tuolumne County, could for a
moment tolerate.

Except for the few words spoken on that eventful morning, Ridgeway was
reticent of the past. When Jenny strove to gather some details of
the affray that might offer a clew to his unknown assailant, a subtle
twinkle in his brown eyes was the only response. When Mr. McClosky
attempted the same process, the young gentleman threw abusive epithets,
and, eventually slippers, teaspoons, and other lighter articles within
the reach of an invalid, at the head of his questioner. “I think he’s
coming round, Jinny,” said Mr. McClosky: “he laid for me this morning
with a candlestick.”

It was about this time that Miss Jenny, having sworn her father to
secrecy regarding the manner in which Ridgeway had been carried into the
house, conceived the idea of addressing the young man as “Mr. Dent,”
 and of apologizing for intruding whenever she entered the room in the
discharge of her household duties. It was about this time that she
became more rigidly conscientious to those duties, and less general in
her attentions. It was at this time that the quality of the invalid’s
diet improved, and that she consulted him less frequently about it. It
was about this time that she began to see more company, that the house
was greatly frequented by her former admirers, with whom she rode,
walked, and danced. It was at about this time also, and when Ridgeway
was able to be brought out on the veranda in a chair, that, with great
archness of manner, she introduced to him Miss Lucy Ashe, the sister of
her betrothed, a flashing brunette, and terrible heart-breaker of Four
Forks. And, in the midst of this gayety, she concluded that she would
spend a week with the Robinsons, to whom she owed a visit. She
enjoyed herself greatly there, so much, indeed, that she became quite
hollow-eyed, the result, as she explained to her father, of a too
frequent indulgence in festivity. “You see, father, I won’t have many
chances after John and I are married: you know how queer he is, and I
must make the most of my time;” and she laughed an odd little laugh,
which had lately become habitual to her. “And how is Mr. Dent getting
on?” Her father replied that he was getting on very well indeed,--so
well, in fact, that he was able to leave for San Francisco two days ago.
“He wanted to be remembered to you, Jinny,--‘remembered kindly,’--yes,
they is the very words he used,” said Mr. McClosky, looking down, and
consulting one of his large shoes for corroboration. Miss Jenny was glad
to hear that he was so much better. Miss Jenny could not imagine any
thing that pleased her more than to know that he was so strong as to be
able to rejoin his friends again, who must love him so much, and be so
anxious about him. Her father thought she would be pleased, and, now
that he was gone, there was really no necessity for her to hurry
back. Miss Jenny, in a high metallic voice, did not know that she
had expressed any desire to stay, still if her presence had become
distasteful at home, if her own father was desirous of getting rid
of her, if, when she was so soon to leave his roof forever, he still
begrudged her those few days remaining, if--“My God, Jinny, so help me!”
 said Mr. McClosky, clutching despairingly at his beard, “I didn’t go for
to say any thing of the kind. I thought that you”--“Never mind, father,”
 interrupted Jenny magnanimously, “you misunderstood me: of course you
did, you couldn’t help it--you’re a MAN!” Mr. McClosky, sorely crushed,
would have vaguely protested; but his daughter, having relieved herself,
after the manner of her sex, with a mental personal application of an
abstract statement, forgave him with a kiss.

Nevertheless, for two or three days after her return, Mr. McClosky
followed his daughter about the house with yearning eyes, and
occasionally with timid, diffident feet. Sometimes he came upon her
suddenly at her household tasks, with an excuse so palpably false, and
a careless manner so outrageously studied, that she was fain to be
embarrassed for him. Later, he took to rambling about the house at
night, and was often seen noiselessly passing and repassing through the
hall after she had retired. On one occasion, he was surprised, first by
sleep, and then by the early-rising Jenny, as he lay on the rug outside
her chamber-door. “You treat me like a child, father,” said Jenny. “I
thought, Jinny,” said the father apologetically,--“I thought I
heard sounds as if you was takin’ on inside, and, listenin’ I fell
asleep.”--“You dear, old simple-minded baby!” said Jenny, looking
past her father’s eyes, and lifting his grizzled locks one by one with
meditative fingers: “what should I be takin’ on for? Look how much
taller I am than you!” she said, suddenly lifting herself up to the
extreme of her superb figure. Then rubbing his head rapidly with both
hands, as if she were anointing his hair with some rare unguent, she
patted him on the back, and returned to her room. The result of this and
one or two other equally sympathetic interviews was to produce a
change in Mr. McClosky’s manner, which was, if possible, still more
discomposing. He grew unjustifiably hilarious, cracked jokes with the
servants, and repeated to Jenny humorous stories, with the attitude of
facetiousness carefully preserved throughout the entire narration, and
the point utterly ignored and forgotten. Certain incidents reminded him
of funny things, which invariably turned out to have not the slightest
relevancy or application. He occasionally brought home with him
practical humorists, with a sanguine hope of setting them going, like
the music-box, for his daughter’s edification. He essayed the singing of
melodies with great freedom of style, and singular limitation of note.
He sang “Come haste to the Wedding, Ye Lasses and Maidens,” of which he
knew a single line, and that incorrectly, as being peculiarly apt and
appropriate. Yet away from the house and his daughter’s presence, he was
silent and distraught. His absence of mind was particularly noted by his
workmen at the Empire Quartz Mill. “Ef the old man don’t look out and
wake up,” said his foreman, “he’ll hev them feet of his yet under the
stamps. When he ain’t givin’ his mind to ‘em, they is altogether too

A few nights later, Miss Jenny recognized her father’s hand in a timid
tap at the door. She opened it, and he stood before her, with a valise
in his hand, equipped as for a journey. “I takes the stage to-night,
Jinny dear, from Four Forks to ‘Frisco. Maybe I may drop in on Jack
afore I go. I’ll be back in a week. Good-by.”

“Good-by.” He still held her hand. Presently he drew her back into the
room, closing the door carefully, and glancing around. There was a look
of profound cunning in his eye as he said slowly,--

“Bear up, and keep dark, Jinny dear, and trust to the old man. Various
men has various ways. Thar is ways as is common, and ways as is
uncommon; ways as is easy, and ways as is oneasy. Bear up, and keep
dark.” With this Delphic utterance he put his finger to his lips, and

It was ten o’clock when he reached Four Forks. A few minutes later,
he stood on the threshold of that dwelling described by the Four Forks
“Sentinel” as “the palatial residence of John Ashe,” and known to the
local satirist as the “ash-box.” “Hevin’ to lay by two hours, John,” he
said to his prospective son-in-law, as he took his hand at the door,
“a few words of social converse, not on business, but strictly
private, seems to be about as nat’ral a thing as a man can do.” This
introduction, evidently the result of some study, and plainly committed
to memory, seemed so satisfactory to Mr. McClosky, that he repeated
it again, after John Ashe had led him into his private office, where,
depositing his valise in the middle of the floor, and sitting down
before it, he began carefully to avoid the eye of his host. John Ashe, a
tall, dark, handsome Kentuckian, with whom even the trifles of life
were evidently full of serious import, waited with a kind of chivalrous
respect the further speech of his guest. Being utterly devoid of any
sense of the ridiculous, he always accepted Mr. McClosky as a grave
fact, singular only from his own want of experience of the class.

“Ores is running light now,” said Mr. McClosky with easy indifference.

John Ashe returned that he had noticed the same fact in the receipts of
the mill at Four Forks.

Mr. McClosky rubbed his beard, and looked at his valise, as if for
sympathy and suggestion.

“You don’t reckon on having any trouble with any of them chaps as you
cut out with Jinny?”

John Ashe, rather haughtily, had never thought of that. “I saw Rance
hanging round your house the other night, when I took your daughter
home; but he gave me a wide berth,” he added carelessly.

“Surely,” said Mr. McClosky, with a peculiar winking of the eye. After a
pause, he took a fresh departure from his valise.

“A few words, John, ez between man and man, ez between my daughter’s
father and her husband who expects to be, is about the thing, I take it,
as is fair and square. I kem here to say them. They’re about Jinny, my

Ashe’s grave face brightened, to Mr. McClosky’s evident discomposure.

“Maybe I should have said about her mother; but, the same bein’ a
stranger to you, I says naterally, ‘Jinny.’”

Ashe nodded courteously. Mr. McClosky, with his eyes on his valise, went

“It is sixteen year ago as I married Mrs. McClosky in the State of
Missouri. She let on, at the time, to be a widder,--a widder with one
child. When I say let on, I mean to imply that I subsekently found out
that she was not a widder, nor a wife; and the father of the child was,
so to speak, onbeknowst. Thet child was Jinny--my gal.”

With his eyes on his valise, and quietly ignoring the wholly-crimsoned
face and swiftly-darkening brow of his host, he continued,--

“Many little things sorter tended to make our home in Missouri
onpleasant. A disposition to smash furniture, and heave knives around;
an inclination to howl when drunk, and that frequent; a habitooal use of
vulgar language, and a tendency to cuss the casooal visitor,--seemed to
pint,” added Mr. McClosky with submissive hesitation “that--she--was--so
to speak--quite onsuited to the marriage relation in its holiest

“Damnation! Why didn’t”--burst out John Ashe, erect and furious.

“At the end of two year,” continued Mr. McClosky, still intent on the
valise, “I allowed I’d get a diworce. Et about thet time, however,
Providence sends a circus into thet town, and a feller ez rode three
horses to onct. Hevin’ allez a taste for athletic sports, she left town
with this feller, leavin’ me and Jinny behind. I sent word to her, thet,
if she would give Jinny to me, we’d call it quits. And she did.”

“Tell me,” gasped Ashe, “did you ask your daughter to keep this from me?
or did she do it of her own accord?”

“She doesn’t know it,” said Mr. McClosky. “She thinks I’m her father,
and that her mother’s dead.”

“Then, sir, this is your”--

“I don’t know,” said Mr. McClosky slowly, “ez I’ve asked any one to
marry my Jinny. I don’t know ez I’ve persood that ez a biziness, or even
taken it up as a healthful recreation.”

John Ashe paced the room furiously. Mr. McClosky’s eyes left the
valise, and followed him curiously. “Where is this woman?” demanded Ashe
suddenly. McClosky’s eyes sought the valise again.

“She went to Kansas; from Kansas she went into Texas; from Texas she
eventooally came to Californy. Being here, I’ve purvided her with money,
when her business was slack, through a friend.”

John Ashe groaned. “She’s gettin’ rather old and shaky for hosses, and
now does the tight-rope business and flying trapeze. Never hevin’ seen
her perform,” continued Mr. McClosky with conscientious caution, “I
can’t say how she gets on. On the bills she looks well. Thar is
a poster,” said Mr. McClosky glancing at Ashe, and opening his
valise,--“thar is a poster givin’ her performance at Marysville next
month.” Mr. McClosky slowly unfolded a large yellow-and-blue printed
poster, profusely illustrated. “She calls herself ‘Mams’elle J.
Miglawski, the great Russian Trapeziste.’”

John Ashe tore it from his hand. “Of course,” he said, suddenly facing
Mr. McClosky, “you don’t expect me to go on with this?”

Mr. McClosky took up the poster, carefully refolded it, and returned
it to his valise. “When you break off with Jinny,” he said quietly,
“I don’t want any thing said ‘bout this. She doesn’t know it. She’s a
woman, and I reckon you’re a white man.”

“But what am I to say? How am I to go back of my word?”

“Write her a note. Say something hez come to your knowledge (don’t say
what) that makes you break it off. You needn’t be afeard Jinny’ll ever
ask you what.”

John Ashe hesitated. He felt he had been cruelly wronged. No gentleman,
no Ashe, could go on further in this affair. It was preposterous to
think of it. But somehow he felt at the moment very unlike a gentleman,
or an Ashe, and was quite sure he should break down under Jenny’s steady
eyes. But then--he could write to her.

“So ores is about as light here as on the Ridge. Well, I reckon they’ll
come up before the rains. Good-night.” Mr. McClosky took the hand that
his host mechanically extended, shook it gravely, and was gone.

When Mr. McClosky, a week later, stepped again upon his own veranda, he
saw through the French window the figure of a man in his parlor. Under
his hospitable roof, the sight was not unusual; but, for an instant, a
subtle sense of disappointment thrilled him. When he saw it was not the
face of Ashe turned toward him, he was relieved; but when he saw the
tawny beard, and quick, passionate eyes of Henry Rance, he felt a new
sense of apprehension, so that he fell to rubbing his beard almost upon
his very threshold.

Jenny ran into the hall, and seized her father with a little cry of joy.
“Father,” said Jenny in a hurried whisper, “don’t mind HIM,” indicating
Rance with a toss of her yellow braids: “he’s going soon. And I think,
father, I’ve done him wrong. But it’s all over with John and me now.
Read that note, and see how he’s insulted me.” Her lip quivered; but she
went on, “It’s Ridgeway that he means, father; and I believe it was HIS
hand struck Ridgeway down, or that he knows who did. But hush now! not a

She gave him a feverish kiss, and glided back into the parlor, leaving
Mr. McClosky, perplexed and irresolute, with the note in his hand. He
glanced at it hurriedly, and saw that it was couched in almost the very
words he had suggested. But a sudden, apprehensive recollection came
over him. He listened; and, with an exclamation of dismay, he seized his
hat, and ran out of the house, but too late. At the same moment a quick,
nervous footstep was heard upon the veranda; the French window flew
open, and, with a light laugh of greeting, Ridgeway stepped into the

Jenny’s finer ear first caught the step. Jenny’s swifter feelings had
sounded the depths of hope, of joy, of despair, before he entered the
room. Jenny’s pale face was the only one that met his, self-possessed
and self-reliant, when he stood before them. An angry flush suffused
even the pink roots of Rance’s beard as he rose to his feet. An ominous
fire sprang into Ridgeway’s eyes, and a spasm of hate and scorn passed
over the lower part of his face, and left the mouth and jaw immobile and

Yet he was the first to speak. “I owe you an apology,” he said to Jenny,
with a suave scorn that brought the indignant blood back to her cheek,
“for this intrusion; but I ask no pardon for withdrawing from the only
spot where that man dare confront me with safety.”

With an exclamation of rage, Rance sprang toward him. But as quickly
Jenny stood between them, erect and menacing. “There must be no quarrel
here,” she said to Rance. “While I protect your right as my guest, don’t
oblige me to remind you of mine as your hostess.” She turned with a
half-deprecatory air to Ridgeway; but he was gone. So was her father.
Only Rance remained with a look of ill-concealed triumph on his face.

Without looking at him, she passed toward the door. When she reached
it, she turned. “You asked me a question an hour ago. Come to me in the
garden, at nine o’clock tonight, and I will answer you. But promise me,
first, to keep away from Mr. Dent. Give me your word not to seek him--to
avoid him, if he seeks you. Do you promise? It is well.”

He would have taken her hand; but she waved him away. In another moment
he heard the swift rustle of her dress in the hall, the sound of her
feet upon the stair, the sharp closing of her bedroom door, and all was

And even thus quietly the day wore away; and the night rose slowly from
the valley, and overshadowed the mountains with purple wings that fanned
the still air into a breeze, until the moon followed it, and lulled
every thing to rest as with the laying-on of white and benedictory
hands. It was a lovely night; but Henry Rance, waiting impatiently
beneath a sycamore at the foot of the garden, saw no beauty in earth or
air or sky. A thousand suspicions common to a jealous nature, a vague
superstition of the spot, filled his mind with distrust and doubt.
“If this should be a trick to keep my hands off that insolent pup!” he
muttered. But, even as the thought passed his tongue, a white figure
slid from the shrubbery near the house, glided along the line of
picket-fence, and then stopped, midway, motionless in the moonlight.

It was she. But he scarcely recognized her in the white drapery that
covered her head and shoulders and breast. He approached her with a
hurried whisper. “Let us withdraw from the moonlight. Everybody can see
us here.”

“We have nothing to say that cannot be said in the moonlight, Henry
Rance,” she replied, coldly receding from his proffered hand. She
trembled for a moment, as if with a chill, and then suddenly turned upon
him. “Hold up your head, and let me look at you! I’ve known only what
men are: let me see what a traitor looks like!”

He recoiled more from her wild face than her words. He saw from the
first that her hollow cheeks and hollow eyes were blazing with fever. He
was no coward; but he would have fled.

“You are ill, Jenny,” he said: “you had best return to the house.
Another time”--

“Stop!” she cried hoarsely. “Move from this spot, and I’ll call for
help! Attempt to leave me now, and I’ll proclaim you the assassin that
you are!”

“It was a fair fight,” he said doggedly.

“Was it a fair fight to creep behind an unarmed and unsuspecting man?
Was it a fair fight to try to throw suspicion on some one else? Was it a
fair fight to deceive me? Liar and coward that you are!”

He made a stealthy step toward her with evil eyes, and a wickeder hand
that crept within his breast. She saw the motion; but it only stung her
to newer fury.

“Strike!” she said with blazing eyes, throwing her hands open before
him. “Strike! Are you afraid of the woman who dares you? Or do you keep
your knife for the backs of unsuspecting men? Strike, I tell you!
No? Look, then!” With a sudden movement, she tore from her head and
shoulders the thick lace shawl that had concealed her figure, and stood
before him. “Look!” she cried passionately, pointing to the bosom and
shoulders of her white dress, darkly streaked with faded stains and
ominous discoloration,--“look! This is the dress I wore that morning
when I found him lying here,--HERE,--bleeding from your cowardly knife.
Look! Do you see? This is his blood,--my darling boy’s blood!--one drop
of which, dead and faded as it is, is more precious to me than the whole
living pulse of any other man. Look! I come to you to-night, christened
with his blood, and dare you to strike,--dare you to strike him again
through me, and mingle my blood with his. Strike, I implore you! Strike!
if you have any pity on me, for God’s sake! Strike! if you are a man!
Look! Here lay his head on my shoulder; here I held him to my breast,
where never--so help me my God!--another man--Ah!”--

She reeled against the fence, and something that had flashed in Rance’s
hand dropped at her feet; for another flash and report rolled him over
in the dust; and across his writhing body two men strode, and caught her
ere she fell.

“She has only fainted,” said Mr. McClosky. “Jinny dear, my girl, speak
to me!”

“What is this on her dress?” said Ridgeway, kneeling beside her, and
lifting his set and colorless face. At the sound of his voice, the color
came faintly back to her cheek: she opened her eyes, and smiled.

“It’s only your blood, dear boy,” she said; “but look a little deeper,
and you’ll find my own.”

She put up her two yearning hands, and drew his face and lips down to
her own. When Ridgeway raised his head again, her eyes were closed; but
her mouth still smiled as with the memory of a kiss.

They bore her to the house, still breathing, but unconscious. That night
the road was filled with clattering horsemen; and the summoned skill of
the countryside for leagues away gathered at her couch. The wound, they
said, was not essentially dangerous; but they had grave fears of the
shock to a system that already seemed suffering from some strange and
unaccountable nervous exhaustion. The best medical skill of Tuolumne
happened to be young and observing, and waited patiently an opportunity
to account for it. He was presently rewarded.

For toward morning she rallied, and looked feebly around. Then she
beckoned her father toward her, and whispered, “Where is he?”

“They took him away, Jinny dear, in a cart. He won’t trouble you agin.”
 He stopped; for Miss Jenny had raised herself on her elbow, and was
levelling her black brows at him. But two kicks from the young surgeon,
and a significant motion towards the door, sent Mr. McClosky away
muttering. “How should I know that ‘HE’ meant Ridgeway?” he said
apologetically, as he went and returned with the young gentleman. The
surgeon, who was still holding her pulse, smiled, and thought
that--with a little care--and attention--the stimulants--might
be--diminished--and---he--might leave--the patient for some hours with
perfect safety. He would give further directions to Mr. McClosky--down

It was with great archness of manner, that, half an hour later, Mr.
McClosky entered the room with a preparatory cough; and it was with some
disappointment that he found Ridgeway standing quietly by the window,
and his daughter apparently fallen into a light doze. He was still more
concerned, when, after Ridgeway had retired, noticing a pleasant smile
playing about her lips, he said softly:--

“You was thinking of some one, Jinny?”

“Yes, father,” the gray eyes met his steadily,--“of poor John Ashe!”

Her recovery was swift. Nature, that had seemed to stand jealously aloof
from her in her mental anguish, was kind to the physical hurt of her
favorite child. The superb physique, which had been her charm and her
trial, now stood her in good stead. The healing balsam of the pine, the
balm of resinous gums, and the rare medicaments of Sierran altitudes,
touched her as it might have touched the wounded doe; so that in two
weeks she was able to walk about. And when, at the end of the month,
Ridgeway returned from a flying visit to San Francisco, and jumped from
the Wingdam coach at four o’clock in the morning, the Rose of Tuolumne,
with the dewy petals of either cheek fresh as when first unfolded to his
kiss, confronted him on the road.

With a common instinct, their young feet both climbed the little hill
now sacred to their thought. When they reached its summit, they were
both, I think, a little disappointed. There is a fragrance in the
unfolding of a passion, that escapes the perfect flower. Jenny thought
the night was not as beautiful; Ridgeway, that the long ride had blunted
his perceptions. But they had the frankness to confess it to each
other, with the rare delight of such a confession, and the comparison
of details which they thought each had forgotten. And with this, and an
occasional pitying reference to the blank period when they had not known
each other, hand in hand they reached the house.

Mr. McClosky was awaiting them impatiently upon the veranda. When Miss
Jenny had slipped up stairs to replace a collar that stood somewhat
suspiciously awry, Mr. McClosky drew Ridgeway solemnly aside. He held a
large theatre poster in one hand, and an open newspaper in the other.

“I allus said,” he remarked slowly, with the air of merely renewing a
suspended conversation,--“I allus said that riding three horses to onct
wasn’t exactly in her line. It would seem that it ain’t. From remarks in
this yer paper, it would appear that she tried it on at Marysville last
week, and broke her neck.”


He always thought it must have been fate. Certainly nothing could have
been more inconsistent with his habits than to have been in the Plaza at
seven o’clock of that midsummer morning. The sight of his colorless
face in Sacramento was rare at that season, and, indeed, at any season,
anywhere publicly, before two o’clock in the afternoon. Looking back
upon it in after-years in the light of a chanceful life, he determined,
with the characteristic philosophy of his profession, that it must have
been fate.

Yet it is my duty, as a strict chronicler of facts, to state that Mr.
Oakhurst’s presence there that morning was due to a very simple cause.
At exactly half-past six, the bank being then a winner to the amount of
twenty thousand dollars, he had risen from the faro-table, relinquished
his seat to an accomplished assistant, and withdrawn quietly, without
attracting a glance from the silent, anxious faces bowed over the table.
But when he entered his luxurious sleeping-room, across the passage-way,
he was a little shocked at finding the sun streaming through an
inadvertently opened window. Something in the rare beauty of the
morning, perhaps something in the novelty of the idea, struck him as he
was about to close the blinds; and he hesitated. Then, taking his hat
from the table, he stepped down a private staircase into the street.

The people who were abroad at that early hour were of a class quite
unknown to Mr. Oakhurst. There were milkmen and hucksters delivering
their wares, small tradespeople opening their shops, housemaids sweeping
doorsteps, and occasionally a child. These Mr. Oakhurst regarded with
a certain cold curiosity, perhaps quite free from the cynical disfavor
with which he generally looked upon the more pretentious of his
race whom he was in the habit of meeting. Indeed, I think he was not
altogether displeased with the admiring glances which these humble women
threw after his handsome face and figure, conspicuous even in a
country of fine-looking men. While it is very probable that this wicked
vagabond, in the pride of his social isolation, would have been coldly
indifferent to the advances of a fine lady, a little girl who ran
admiringly by his side in a ragged dress had the power to call a faint
flush into his colorless cheek. He dismissed her at last, but not
until she had found out--what, sooner or later, her large-hearted and
discriminating sex inevitably did--that he was exceedingly free and
open-handed with his money, and also--what, perhaps, none other of her
sex ever did--that the bold black eyes of this fine gentleman were in
reality of a brownish and even tender gray.

There was a small garden before a white cottage in a side-street,
that attracted Mr. Oakhurst’s attention. It was filled with roses,
heliotrope, and verbena,--flowers familiar enough to him in the
expensive and more portable form of bouquets, but, as it seemed to him
then, never before so notably lovely. Perhaps it was because the dew was
yet fresh upon them; perhaps it was because they were unplucked: but
Mr. Oakhurst admired them--not as a possible future tribute to the
fascinating and accomplished Miss Ethelinda, then performing at the
Varieties, for Mr. Oakhurst’s especial benefit, as she had often assured
him; nor yet as a douceur to the inthralling Miss Montmorrissy, with
whom Mr. Oakhurst expected to sup that evening; but simply for himself,
and, mayhap, for the flowers’ sake. Howbeit he passed on, and so out
into the open Plaza, where, finding a bench under a cottonwood-tree, he
first dusted the seat with his handkerchief, and then sat down.

It was a fine morning. The air was so still and calm, that a sigh from
the sycamores seemed like the deep-drawn breath of the just awakening
tree, and the faint rustle of its boughs as the outstretching of cramped
and reviving limbs. Far away the Sierras stood out against a sky so
remote as to be of no positive color,--so remote, that even the sun
despaired of ever reaching it, and so expended its strength recklessly
on the whole landscape, until it fairly glittered in a white and vivid
contrast. With a very rare impulse, Mr. Oakhurst took off his hat, and
half reclined on the bench, with his face to the sky. Certain birds who
had taken a critical attitude on a spray above him, apparently began an
animated discussion regarding his possible malevolent intentions. One or
two, emboldened by the silence, hopped on the ground at his feet, until
the sound of wheels on the gravel-walk frightened them away.

Looking up, he saw a man coming slowly toward him, wheeling a
nondescript vehicle, in which a woman was partly sitting, partly
reclining. Without knowing why, Mr. Oakhurst instantly conceived that
the carriage was the invention and workmanship of the man, partly from
its oddity, partly from the strong, mechanical hand that grasped it, and
partly from a certain pride and visible consciousness in the manner
in which the man handled it. Then Mr. Oakhurst saw something more: the
man’s face was familiar. With that regal faculty of not forgetting
a face that had ever given him professional audience, he instantly
classified it under the following mental formula: “At ‘Frisco, Polka
Saloon. Lost his week’s wages. I reckon--seventy dollars--on red. Never
came again.” There was, however, no trace of this in the calm eyes and
unmoved face that he turned upon the stranger, who, on the contrary,
blushed, looked embarrassed, hesitated and then stopped with an
involuntary motion that brought the carriage and its fair occupant face
to face with Mr. Oakhurst.

I should hardly do justice to the position she will occupy in this
veracious chronicle by describing the lady now, if, indeed, I am able to
do it at all. Certainly the popular estimate was conflicting. The late
Col. Starbottle--to whose large experience of a charming sex I have
before been indebted for many valuable suggestions--had, I regret to
say, depreciated her fascinations. “A yellow-faced cripple, by dash!
a sick woman, with mahogany eyes; one of your blanked spiritual
creatures--with no flesh on her bones.” On the other hand, however, she
enjoyed later much complimentary disparagement from her own sex. Miss
Celestina Howard, second leader in the ballet at the Varieties, had,
with great alliterative directness, in after-years, denominated her
as an “aquiline asp.” Mlle. Brimborion remembered that she had always
warned “Mr. Jack” that this woman would “empoison” him. But Mr.
Oakhurst, whose impressions are perhaps the most important, only saw a
pale, thin, deep-eyed woman, raised above the level of her companion
by the refinement of long suffering and isolation, and a certain shy
virginity of manner. There was a suggestion of physical purity in the
folds of her fresh-looking robe, and a certain picturesque tastefulness
in the details, that, without knowing why, made him think that the robe
was her invention and handiwork, even as the carriage she occupied was
evidently the work of her companion. Her own hand, a trifle too thin,
but well-shaped, subtle-fingered, and gentle-womanly, rested on the side
of the carriage, the counterpart of the strong mechanical grasp of her

There was some obstruction to the progress of the vehicle; and Mr.
Oakhurst stepped forward to assist. While the wheel was being lifted
over the curbstone, it was necessary that she should hold his arm; and
for a moment her thin hand rested there, light and cold as a snowflake,
and then, as it seemed to him, like a snow-flake melted away. Then there
was a pause, and then conversation, the lady joining occasionally and

It appeared that they were man and wife; that for the past two years she
had been a great invalid, and had lost the use of her lower limbs from
rheumatism; that until lately she had been confined to her bed, until
her husband--who was a master-carpenter--had bethought himself to make
her this carriage. He took her out regularly for an airing before
going to work, because it was his only time, and--they attracted less
attention. They had tried many doctors, but without avail. They had been
advised to go to the Sulphur Springs; but it was expensive. Mr. Decker,
the husband, had once saved eighty dollars for that purpose, but while
in San Francisco had his pocket picked--Mr Decker was so senseless!
(The intelligent reader need not be told that it is the lady who is
speaking.) They had never been able to make up the sum again, and they
had given up the idea. It was a dreadful thing to have one’s pocket
picked. Did he not think so?

Her husband’s face was crimson; but Mr. Oakhurst’s countenance was quite
calm and unmoved, as he gravely agreed with her, and walked by her
side until they passed the little garden that he had admired. Here
Mr. Oakhurst commanded a halt, and, going to the door, astounded the
proprietor by a preposterously extravagant offer for a choice of the
flowers. Presently he returned to the carriage with his arms full of
roses, heliotrope, and verbena, and cast them in the lap of the invalid.
While she was bending over them with childish delight, Mr. Oakhurst took
the opportunity of drawing her husband aside.

“Perhaps,” he said in a low voice, and a manner quite free from any
personal annoyance,--“perhaps it’s just as well that you lied to her
as you did. You can say now that the pick-pocket was arrested the other
day, and you got your money back.” Mr. Oakhurst quietly slipped four
twenty-dollar gold-pieces into the broad hand of the bewildered Mr.
Decker. “Say that--or any thing you like--but the truth. Promise me you
won’t say that.”

The man promised. Mr. Oakhurst quietly returned to the front of the
little carriage. The sick woman was still eagerly occupied with the
flowers, and, as she raised her eyes to his, her faded cheek seemed to
have caught some color from the roses, and her eyes some of their dewy
freshness. But at that instant Mr. Oakhurst lifted his hat, and before
she could thank him was gone.

I grieve to say that Mr. Decker shamelessly broke his promise. That
night, in the very goodness of his heart and uxorious self-abnegation,
he, like all devoted husbands, not only offered himself, but his friend
and benefactor, as a sacrifice on the family-altar. It is only fair,
however, to add that he spoke with great fervor of the generosity of Mr.
Oakhurst, and dwelt with an enthusiasm quite common with his class on
the mysterious fame and prodigal vices of the gambler.

“And now, Elsie dear, say that you’ll forgive me,” said Mr. Decker,
dropping on one knee beside his wife’s couch. “I did it for the best. It
was for you, dearey, that I put that money on them cards that night in
‘Frisco. I thought to win a heap--enough to take you away, and enough
left to get you a new dress.”

Mrs. Decker smiled, and pressed her husband’s hand. “I do forgive you,
Joe dear,” she said, still smiling, with eyes abstractedly fixed on the
ceiling; “and you ought to be whipped for deceiving me so, you bad boy!
and making me make such a speech. There, say no more about it. If you’ll
be very good hereafter, and will just now hand me that cluster of roses,
I’ll forgive you.” She took the branch in her angers, lifted the roses
to her face, and presently said, behind their leaves,--


“What is it, lovey?”

“Do you think that this Mr.--what do you call him?--Jack Oakhurst would
have given that money back to you, if I hadn’t made that speech?”


“If he hadn’t seen me at all?”

Mr. Decker looked up. His wife had managed in some way to cover up
her whole face with the roses, except her eyes, which were dangerously

“No! It was you, Elsie--it was all along of seeing you that made him do

“A poor sick woman like me?”

“A sweet, little, lovely, pooty Elsie--Joe’s own little wifey! how could
he help it?”

Mrs. Decker fondly cast one arm around her husband’s neck, still keeping
the roses to her face with the other. From behind them she began to
murmur gently and idiotically, “Dear, ole square Joey. Elsie’s oney
booful big bear.” But, really, I do not see that my duty as a chronicler
of facts compels me to continue this little lady’s speech any further;
and, out of respect to the unmarried reader, I stop.

Nevertheless, the next morning Mrs. Decker betrayed some slight
and apparently uncalled for irritability on reaching the Plaza, and
presently desired her husband to wheel her back home. Moreover, she
was very much astonished at meeting Mr. Oakhurst just as they were
returning, and even doubted if it were he, and questioned her husband
as to his identity with the stranger of yesterday as he approached. Her
manner to Mr. Oakhurst, also, was quite in contrast with her husband’s
frank welcome. Mr. Oakhurst instantly detected it. “Her husband has
told her all, and she dislikes me,” he said to himself, with that fatal
appreciation of the half-truths of a woman’s motives that causes the
wisest masculine critic to stumble. He lingered only long enough to take
the business address of the husband, and then lifting his hat gravely,
without looking at the lady, went his way. It struck the honest
master-carpenter as one of the charming anomalies of his wife’s
character, that, although the meeting was evidently very much
constrained and unpleasant, instantly afterward his wife’s spirits began
to rise. “You was hard on him, a leetle hard; wasn’t you, Elsie?”
 said Mr. Decker deprecatingly. “I’m afraid he may think I’ve broke
my promise.”--“Ah, indeed!” said the lady indifferently. Mr. Decker
instantly stepped round to the front of the vehicle. “You look like an
A 1 first-class lady riding down Broadway in her own carriage, Elsie,”
 said he. “I never seed you lookin’ so peart and sassy before.”

A few days later, the proprietor of the San Isabel Sulphur Springs
received the following note in Mr. Oakhurst’s well-known, dainty hand:--

“DEAR STEVE,--I’ve been thinking over your proposition to buy Nichols’s
quarter-interest, and have concluded to go in. But I don’t see how the
thing will pay until you have more accommodation down there, and for the
best class,--I mean MY customers. What we want is an extension to the
main building, and two or three cottages put up. I send down a builder
to take hold of the job at once. He takes his sick wife with him; and
you are to look after them as you would for one of us.

“I may run down there myself after the races, just to look after things;
but I sha’n’t set up any game this season.

“Yours always,


It was only the last sentence of this letter that provoked criticism.
“I can understand,” said Mr. Hamlin, a professional brother, to whom Mr.
Oakhurst’s letter was shown,--“I can understand why Jack goes in heavy
and builds; for it’s a sure spec, and is bound to be a mighty soft thing
in time, if he comes here regularly. But why in blank he don’t set up a
bank this season, and take the chance of getting some of the money back
that he puts into circulation in building, is what gets me. I wonder
now,” he mused deeply, “what IS his little game.”

The season had been a prosperous one to Mr Oakhurst, and proportionally
disastrous to several members of the legislature, judges, colonels,
and others who had enjoyed but briefly the pleasure of Mr. Oakhurst’s
midnight society. And yet Sacramento had become very dull to him. He had
lately formed a habit of early morning walks, so unusual and startling
to his friends, both male and female, as to occasion the intensest
curiosity. Two or three of the latter set spies upon his track; but the
inquisition resulted only in the discovery that Mr. Oakhurst walked to
the Plaza, sat down upon one particular bench for a few moments, and
then returned without seeing anybody; and the theory that there was a
woman in the case was abandoned. A few superstitious gentlemen of his
own profession believed that he did it for “luck.” Some others, more
practical, declared that he went out to “study points.”

After the races at Marysville, Mr. Oakhurst went to San Francisco; from
that place he returned to Marysville, but a few days after was seen at
San Jose, Santa Cruz, and Oakland. Those who met him declared that his
manner was restless and feverish, and quite unlike his ordinary calmness
and phlegm. Col. Starbottle pointed out the fact, that at San Francisco,
at the club, Jack had declined to deal. “Hand shaky, sir; depend upon
it. Don’t stimulate enough--blank him!”

From San Jose he started to go to Oregon by land with a rather expensive
outfit of horses and camp equipage; but, on reaching Stockton, he
suddenly diverged, and four hours later found him with a single horse
entering the canyon of the San Isabel Warm Sulphur Springs.

It was a pretty triangular valley lying at the foot of three sloping
mountains, dark with pines, and fantastic with madrono and manzanita.
Nestling against the mountain-side, the straggling buildings and long
piazza of the hotel glittered through the leaves, and here and there
shone a white toy-like cottage. Mr. Oakhurst was not an admirer of
Nature; but he felt something of the same novel satisfaction in the
view, that he experienced in his first morning walk in Sacramento. And
now carriages began to pass him on the road filled with gayly-dressed
women; and the cold California outlines of the landscape began to take
upon themselves somewhat of a human warmth and color. And then the long
hotel piazza came in view, efflorescent with the full-toiletted fair.
Mr. Oakhurst, a good rider after the California fashion, did not check
his speed as he approached his destination, but charged the hotel at a
gallop, threw his horse on his haunches within a foot of the piazza, and
then quietly emerged from the cloud of dust that veiled his dismounting.

Whatever feverish excitement might have raged within, all his habitual
calm returned as he stepped upon the piazza. With the instinct of
long habit, he turned and faced the battery of eyes with the same cold
indifference with which he had for years encountered the half-hidden
sneers of men and the half-frightened admiration of women. Only one
person stepped forward to welcome him. Oddly enough, it was Dick
Hamilton, perhaps the only one present, who by birth, education, and
position, might have satisfied the most fastidious social critic.
Happily for Mr. Oakhurst’s reputation, he was also a very rich banker
and social leader. “Do you know who that is you spoke to?” asked
young Parker with an alarmed expression. “Yes,” replied Hamilton with
characteristic effrontery. “The man you lost a thousand dollars to last
week. I only know him SOCIALLY.” “But isn’t he a gambler?” queried the
youngest Miss Smith. “He is,” replied Hamilton; “but I wish, my dear
young lady, that we all played as open and honest a game as our friend
yonder, and were as willing as he is to abide by its fortunes.”

But Mr. Oakhurst was happily out of hearing of this colloquy, and was
even then lounging listlessly yet watchfully along the upper hall.
Suddenly he heard a light footstep behind him, and then his name called
in a familiar voice that drew the blood quickly to his heart. He turned,
and she stood before him.

But how transformed! If I have hesitated to describe the hollow-eyed
cripple, the quaintly-dressed artisan’s wife, a few pages ago, what
shall I do with this graceful, shapely, elegantly-attired gentlewoman
into whom she has been merged within these two months? In good faith she
was very pretty. You and I, my dear madam, would have been quick to
see that those charming dimples were misplaced for true beauty, and too
fixed in their quality for honest mirthfulness; that the delicate lines
around these aquiline nostrils were cruel and selfish; that the sweet
virginal surprise of these lovely eyes were as apt to be opened on
her plate as upon the gallant speeches of her dinner partner; that her
sympathetic color came and went more with her own spirits than yours.
But you and I are not in love with her, dear madam, and Mr. Oakhurst
is. And, even in the folds of her Parisian gown, I am afraid this poor
fellow saw the same subtle strokes of purity that he had seen in her
homespun robe. And then there was the delightful revelation that she
could walk, and that she had dear little feet of her own in the tiniest
slippers of her French shoemaker, with such preposterous blue bows, and
Chappell’s own stamp--Rue de something or other, Paris--on the narrow

He ran toward her with a heightened color and outstretched hands. But
she whipped her own behind her, glanced rapidly up and down the long
hall, and stood looking at him with a half-audacious, half-mischievous
admiration, in utter contrast to her old reserve.

“I’ve a great mind not to shake hands with you at all. You passed me
just now on the piazza without speaking; and I ran after you, as I
suppose many another poor woman has done.”

Mr. Oakhurst stammered that she was so changed.

“The more reason why you should know me. Who changed me? You. You have
re-created me. You found a helpless, crippled, sick, poverty-stricken
woman, with one dress to her back, and that her own make, and you gave
her life, health, strength, and fortune. You did; and you know it, sir.
How do you like your work?” She caught the side-seams of her gown in
either hand, and dropped him a playful courtesy. Then, with a sudden,
relenting gesture, she gave him both her hands.

Outrageous as this speech was, and unfeminine as I trust every fair
reader will deem it, I fear it pleased Mr. Oakhurst. Not but that he was
accustomed to a certain frank female admiration; but then it was of the
coulisse, and not of the cloister, with which he always persisted in
associating Mrs. Decker. To be addressed in this way by an invalid
Puritan, a sick saint with the austerity of suffering still clothing
her, a woman who had a Bible on the dressing-table, who went to church
three times a day, and was devoted to her husband, completely bowled him
over. He still held her hands as she went on,--

“Why didn’t you come before? What were you doing in Marysville, in San
Jose, in Oakland? You see I have followed you. I saw you as you came
down the canyon, and knew you at once. I saw your letter to Joseph,
and knew you were coming. Why didn’t you write to me? You will some
time!--Good-evening, Mr. Hamilton.”

She had withdrawn her hands, but not until Hamilton, ascending the
staircase, was nearly abreast of them. He raised his hat to her with
well-bred composure, nodded familiarly to Oakhurst, and passed on. When
he had gone, Mrs. Decker lifted her eyes to Mr. Oakhurst. “Some day I
shall ask a great favor of you.”

Mr. Oakhurst begged that it should be now.

“No, not until you know me better. Then, some day, I shall want you
to--kill that man!”

She laughed such a pleasant little ringing laugh, such a display of
dimples,--albeit a little fixed in the corners of her mouth,--such an
innocent light in her brown eyes, and such a lovely color in her cheeks,
that Mr. Oakhurst (who seldom laughed) was fain to laugh too. It was as
if a lamb had proposed to a fox a foray into a neighboring sheepfold.

A few evenings after this, Mrs. Decker arose from a charmed circle of
her admirers on the hotel piazza, excused herself for a few moments,
laughingly declined an escort, and ran over to her little cottage--one
of her husband’s creation--across the road. Perhaps from the sudden
and unwonted exercise in her still convalescent state, she breathed
hurriedly and feverishly as she entered her boudoir, and once or twice
placed her hand upon her breast. She was startled on turning up the
light to find her husband lying on the sofa.

“You look hot and excited, Elsie love,” said Mr. Decker. “You ain’t took
worse, are you?”

Mrs Decker’s face had paled, but now flushed again. “No,” she said;
“only a little pain here,” as she again placed her hand upon her

“Can I do any thing for you?” said Mr. Decker, rising with affectionate

“Run over to the hotel and get me some brandy, quick!”

Mr. Decker ran. Mrs Decker closed and bolted the door, and then, putting
her hand to her bosom, drew out the pain. It was folded foursquare, and
was, I grieve to say, in Mr. Oakhurst’s handwriting.

She devoured it with burning eyes and cheeks until there came a step
upon the porch; then she hurriedly replaced it in her bosom, and
unbolted the door. Her husband entered. She raised the spirits to her
lips, and declared herself better.

“Are you going over there again to-night?” asked Mr. Decker

“No,” said Mrs. Decker, with her eyes fixed dreamily on the floor.

“I wouldn’t if I was you,” said Mr. Decker with a sigh of relief. After
a pause, he took a seat on the sofa, and, drawing his wife to his side,
said, “Do you know what I was thinking of when you came in, Elsie?”
 Mrs. Decker ran her fingers through his stiff black hair, and couldn’t

“I was thinking of old times, Elsie: I was thinking of the days when
I built that kerridge for you, Elsie,--when I used to take you out to
ride, and was both hoss and driver. We was poor then, and you was sick,
Elsie; but we was happy. We’ve got money now, and a house; and you’re
quite another woman. I may say, dear, that you’re a NEW woman. And
that’s where the trouble comes in. I could build you a kerridge, Elsie;
I could build you a house, Elsie--but there I stopped. I couldn’t build
up YOU. You’re strong and pretty, Elsie, and fresh and new. But somehow,
Elsie, you ain’t no work of mine!”

He paused. With one hand laid gently on his forehead, and the other
pressed upon her bosom, as if to feel certain of the presence of her
pain, she said sweetly and soothingly,--

“But it was your work, dear.”

Mr. Decker shook his head sorrowfully. “No, Elsie, not mine. I had the
chance to do it once, and I let it go. It’s done now--but not by me.”

Mrs. Decker raised her surprised, innocent eyes to his. He kissed her
tenderly, and then went on in a more cheerful voice,--

“That ain’t all I was thinking of, Elsie. I was thinking that maybe you
give too much of your company to that Mr. Hamilton. Not that there’s any
wrong in it, to you or him; but it might make people talk. You’re the
only one here, Elsie,” said the master-carpenter, looking fondly at his
wife, “who isn’t talked about, whose work ain’t inspected or condemned.”

Mrs. Decker was glad he had spoken about it. She had thought so too. But
she could not well be uncivil to Mr. Hamilton, who was a fine gentleman,
without making a powerful enemy. “And he’s always treated me as if I was
a born lady in his own circle,” added the little woman, with a certain
pride that made her husband fondly smile. “But I have thought of a plan.
He will not stay here if I should go away. If, for instance, I went
to San Francisco to visit ma for a few days, he would be gone before I
should return.”

Mr. Decker was delighted. “By all means,” he said, “go to-morrow. Jack
Oakhurst is going down; and I’ll put you in his charge.”

Mrs. Decker did not think it was prudent. “Mr. Oakhurst is our friend,
Joseph; but you know his reputation.” In fact, she did not know that
she ought to go now, knowing that he was going the same day; but, with
a kiss, Mr. Decker overcame her scruples. She yielded gracefully. Few
women, in fact, knew how to give up a point as charmingly as she.

She staid a week in San Francisco. When she returned, she was a trifle
thinner and paler than she had been. This she explained as the result of
perhaps too active exercise and excitement. “I was out of doors nearly
all the time, as ma will tell you,” she said to her husband, “and always
alone. I am getting quite independent now,” she added gayly. “I don’t
want any escort. I believe, Joey dear, I could get along even without
you, I’m so brave!”

But her visit, apparently, had not been productive of her impelling
design. Mr. Hamilton had not gone, but had remained, and called upon
them that very evening. “I’ve thought of a plan, Joey dear,” said Mrs.
Decker, when he had departed. “Poor Mr. Oakhurst has a miserable room at
the hotel. Suppose you ask him, when he returns from San Francisco,
to stop with us. He can have our spare-room. I don’t think,” she added
archly, “that Mr. Hamilton will call often.” Her husband laughed,
intimated that she was a little coquette, pinched her cheek,
and complied. “The queer thing about a woman,” he said afterward
confidentially to Mr. Oakhurst, “is, that, without having any plan
of her own, she’ll take anybody’s, and build a house on it entirely
different to suit herself. And dern my skin if you’ll be able to say
whether or not you didn’t give the scale and measurements yourself!
That’s what gets me!”

The next week Mr. Oakhurst was installed in the Deckers’ cottage. The
business relations of her husband and himself were known to all, and her
own reputation was above suspicion. Indeed, few women were more popular.
She was domestic, she was prudent, she was pious. In a country of great
feminine freedom and latitude, she never rode or walked with anybody
but her husband. In an epoch of slang and ambiguous expression, she was
always precise and formal in her speech. In the midst of a fashion of
ostentatious decoration, she never wore a diamond, nor a single
valuable jewel. She never permitted an indecorum in public. She never
countenanced the familiarities of California society. She declaimed
against the prevailing tone of infidelity and scepticism in religion.
Few people who were present will ever forget the dignified yet stately
manner with which she rebuked Mr. Hamilton in the public parlor for
entering upon the discussion of a work on materialism, lately published;
and some among them, also, will not forget the expression of amused
surprise on Mr. Hamilton’s face, that gradually changed to sardonic
gravity, as he courteously waived his point; certainly not Mr. Oakhurst,
who, from that moment, began to be uneasily impatient of his friend,
and even--if such a term could be applied to any moral quality in Mr.
Oakhurst--to fear him.

For during this time Mr. Oakhurst had begun to show symptoms of a change
in his usual habits. He was seldom, if ever, seen in his old haunts,
in a bar-room, or with his old associates. Pink and white notes, in
distracted handwriting, accumulated on the dressing-table in his rooms
at Sacramento. It was given out in San Francisco that he had some
organic disease of the heart, for which his physician had prescribed
perfect rest. He read more; he took long walks; he sold his fast horses;
he went to church.

I have a very vivid recollection of his first appearance there. He did
not accompany the Deckers, nor did he go into their pew, but came in as
the service commenced, and took a seat quietly in one of the back-pews.
By some mysterious instinct, his presence became presently known to the
congregation, some of whom so far forgot themselves, in their curiosity,
as to face around, and apparently address their responses to him. Before
the service was over, it was pretty well understood that “miserable
sinners” meant Mr. Oakhurst. Nor did this mysterious influence fail
to affect the officiating clergyman, who introduced an allusion to
Mr. Oakhurst’s calling and habits in a sermon on the architecture of
Solomon’s temple, and in a manner so pointed, and yet labored, as to
cause the youngest of us to flame with indignation. Happily, however,
it was lost upon Jack: I do not think he even heard it. His handsome,
colorless face, albeit a trifle worn and thoughtful, was inscrutable.
Only once, during the singing of a hymn, at a certain note in the
contralto’s voice, there crept into his dark eyes a look of wistful
tenderness, so yearning and yet so hopeless, that those who were
watching him felt their own glisten. Yet I retain a very vivid
remembrance of his standing up to receive the benediction, with the
suggestion, in his manner and tightly-buttoned coat, of taking the fire
of his adversary at ten paces. After church, he disappeared as quietly
as he had entered, and fortunately escaped hearing the comments on his
rash act. His appearance was generally considered as an impertinence,
attributable only to some wanton fancy, or possibly a bet. One or two
thought that the sexton was exceedingly remiss in not turning him out
after discovering who he was; and a prominent pew-holder remarked,
that if he couldn’t take his wife and daughters to that church, without
exposing them to such an influence, he would try to find some church
where he could. Another traced Mr. Oakhurst’s presence to certain Broad
Church radical tendencies, which he regretted to say he had lately noted
in their pastor. Deacon Sawyer, whose delicately-organized, sickly wife
had already borne him eleven children, and died in an ambitious attempt
to complete the dozen, avowed that the presence of a person of Mr.
Oakhurst’s various and indiscriminate gallantries was an insult to the
memory of the deceased, that, as a man, he could not brook.

It was about this time that Mr. Oakhurst, contrasting himself with a
conventional world in which he had hitherto rarely mingled, became aware
that there was something in his face, figure, and carriage quite unlike
other men,--something, that, if it did not betray his former career, at
least showed an individuality and originality that was suspicious. In
this belief, he shaved off his long, silken mustache, and religiously
brushed out his clustering curls every morning. He even went so far as
to affect a negligence of dress, and hid his small, slim, arched feet
in the largest and heaviest walking-shoes. There is a story told that
he went to his tailor in Sacramento, and asked him to make him a suit
of clothes like everybody else. The tailor, familiar with Mr. Oakhurst’s
fastidiousness, did not know what he meant. “I mean,” said Mr. Oakhurst
savagely, “something RESPECTABLE,--something that doesn’t exactly fit
me, you know.” But, however Mr. Oakhurst might hide his shapely limbs
in homespun and homemade garments, there was something in his carriage,
something in the pose of his beautiful head, something in the strong
and fine manliness of his presence, something in the perfect and utter
discipline and control of his muscles, something in the high repose of
his nature,--a repose not so much a matter of intellectual ruling as of
his very nature,--that, go where he would, and with whom, he was
always a notable man in ten thousand. Perhaps this was never so clearly
intimated to Mr. Oakhurst, as when, emboldened by Mr. Hamilton’s advice
and assistance, and his own predilections, he became a San Francisco
broker. Even before objection was made to his presence in the
Board,--the objection, I remember, was urged very eloquently by Watt
Sanders, who was supposed to be the inventor of the “freezing-out”
 system of disposing of poor stockholders, and who also enjoyed the
reputation of having been the impelling cause of Briggs of Tuolumne’s
ruin and suicide,--even before this formal protest of respectability
against lawlessness, the aquiline suggestions of Mr. Oakhurst’s mien and
countenance, not only prematurely fluttered the pigeons, but absolutely
occasioned much uneasiness among the fish-hawks who circled below
him with their booty. “Dash me! but he’s as likely to go after us as
anybody,” said Joe Fielding.

It wanted but a few days before the close of the brief summer season at
San Isabel Warm Springs. Already there had been some migration of the
more fashionable; and there was an uncomfortable suggestion of dregs and
lees in the social life that remained. Mr. Oakhurst was moody. It was
hinted that even the secure reputation of Mrs. Decker could no longer
protect her from the gossip which his presence excited. It is but fair
to her to say, that, during the last few weeks of this trying ordeal,
she looked like a sweet, pale martyr, and conducted herself toward her
traducers with the gentle, forgiving manner of one who relied not upon
the idle homage of the crowd, but upon the security of a principle that
was dearer than popular favor. “They talk about myself and Mr. Oakhurst,
my dear,” she said to a friend; “but heaven and my husband can best
answer their calumny. It never shall be said that my husband ever turned
his back upon a friend in the moment of his adversity, because the
position was changed,--because his friend was poor, and he was rich.”
 This was the first intimation to the public that Jack had lost money,
although it was known generally that the Deckers had lately bought some
valuable property in San Francisco.

A few evenings after this, an incident occurred which seemed to
unpleasantly discord with the general social harmony that had always
existed at San Isabel. It was at dinner; and Mr. Oakhurst and Mr.
Hamilton, who sat together at a separate table, were observed to rise
in some agitation. When they reached the hall, by a common instinct they
stepped into a little breakfast-room which was vacant, and closed the
door. Then Mr. Hamilton turned with a half-amused, half-serious smile
toward his friend, and said,--

“If we are to quarrel, Jack Oakhurst,--you and I,--in the name of all
that is ridiculous, don’t let it be about a”--

I do not know what was the epithet intended. It was either unspoken
or lost; for at that very instant Mr. Oakhurst raised a wineglass, and
dashed its contents into Hamilton’s face.

As they faced each other, the men seemed to have changed natures.
Mr. Oakhurst was trembling with excitement, and the wineglass that he
returned to the table shivered between his fingers. Mr. Hamilton stood
there, grayish white, erect, and dripping. After a pause, he said

“So be it. But remember, our quarrel commences here. If I fall by your
hand, you shall not use it to clear her character: if you fall by mine,
you shall not be called a martyr. I am sorry it has come to this; but
amen, the sooner now, the better.”

He turned proudly, dropped his lids over cold steel-blue eyes, as if
sheathing a rapier bowed, and passed coldly out.

They met, twelve hours later, in a little hollow two miles from the
hotel, on the Stockton road. As Mr. Oakhurst received his pistol from
Col. Starbottle’s hands, he said to him in a low voice, “Whatever
turns up or down, I shall not return to the hotel. You will find some
directions in my room. Go there”--But his voice suddenly faltered,
and he turned his glistening eyes away, to his second’s intense
astonishment. “I’ve been out a dozen times with Jack Oakhurst,” said
Col. Starbottle afterward, “and I never saw him anyways cut before.
Blank me if I didn’t think he was losing his sand, till he walked to

The two reports were almost simultaneous. Mr. Oakhurst’s right arm
dropped suddenly to his side, and his pistol would have fallen from
his paralyzed fingers; but the discipline of trained nerve and muscle
prevailed, and he kept his grasp until he had shifted it to the other
hand, without changing his position. Then there was a silence that
seemed interminable, a gathering of two or three dark figures where a
smoke-curl still lazily floated, and then the hurried, husky, panting
voice of Col. Starbottle in his ear, “He’s hit hard--through the lungs
you must run for it!”

Jack turned his dark, questioning eyes upon his second, but did not
seem to listen,--rather seemed to hear some other voice, remoter in the
distance. He hesitated, and then made a step forward in the direction
of the distant group. Then he paused again as the figures separated, and
the surgeon came hastily toward him.

“He would like to speak with you a moment,” said the man. “You have
little time to lose, I know; but,” he added in a lower voice, “it is my
duty to tell you he has still less.”

A look of despair, so hopeless in its intensity, swept over Mr.
Oakhurst’s usually impassive face, that the surgeon started. “You are
hit,” he said, glancing at Jack’s helpless arm.

“Nothing--a mere scratch,” said Jack hastily. Then he added with a
bitter laugh, “I’m not in luck to-day. But come: we’ll see what he

His long, feverish stride outstripped the surgeon’s; and in another
moment he stood where the dying man lay,--like most dying men,--the one
calm, composed, central figure of an anxious group. Mr. Oakhurst’s face
was less calm as he dropped on one knee beside him, and took his
hand. “I want to speak with this gentleman alone,” said Hamilton, with
something of his old imperious manner, as he turned to those about him.
When they drew back, he looked up in Oakhurst’s face.

“I’ve something to tell you, Jack.”

His own face was white, but not so white as that which Mr. Oakhurst
bent over him,--a face so ghastly, with haunting doubts, and a hopeless
presentiment of coming evil,--a face so piteous in its infinite
weariness and envy of death, that the dying man was touched, even in the
languor of dissolution, with a pang of compassion; and the cynical smile
faded from his lips.

“Forgive me, Jack,” he whispered more feebly, “for what I have to say. I
don’t say it in anger, but only because it must be said. I could not do
my duty to you, I could not die contented, until you knew it all. It’s a
miserable business at best, all around. But it can’t be helped now. Only
I ought to have fallen by Decker’s pistol, and not yours.”

A flush like fire came into Jack’s cheek, and he would have risen; but
Hamilton held him fast.

“Listen! In my pocket you will find two letters. Take them--there! You
will know the handwriting. But promise you will not read them until you
are in a place of safety. Promise me.”

Jack did not speak, but held the letters between his fingers as if they
had been burning coals.

“Promise me,” said Hamilton faintly.

“Why?” asked Oakhurst, dropping his friend’s hand coldly.

“Because,” said the dying man with a bitter smile,--“because--when you
have read them--you--will--go back--to capture--and death!”

They were his last words. He pressed Jack’s hand faintly. Then his grasp
relaxed, and he fell back a corpse.

It was nearly ten o’clock at night, and Mrs. Decker reclined languidly
upon the sofa with a novel in her hand, while her husband discussed
the politics of the country in the bar-room of the hotel. It was a
warm night; and the French window looking out upon a little balcony was
partly open. Suddenly she heard a foot upon the balcony, and she raised
her eyes from the book with a slight start. The next moment the window
was hurriedly thrust wide, and a man entered.

Mrs. Decker rose to her feet with a little cry of alarm.

“For Heaven’s sake, Jack, are you mad? He has only gone for a little
while--he may return at any moment. Come an hour later, to-morrow, any
time when I can get rid of him--but go, now, dear, at once.”

Mr. Oakhurst walked toward the door, bolted it, and then faced her
without a word. His face was haggard; his coat-sleeve hung loosely over
an arm that was bandaged and bloody.

Nevertheless her voice did not falter as she turned again toward him.
“What has happened, Jack. Why are you here?”

He opened his coat, and threw two letters in her lap.

“To return your lover’s letters; to kill you--and then myself,” he said
in a voice so low as to be almost inaudible.

Among the many virtues of this admirable woman was invincible courage.
She did not faint; she did not cry out; she sat quietly down again,
folded her hands in her lap, and said calmly,--

“And why should you not?”

Had she recoiled, had she shown any fear or contrition, had she essayed
an explanation or apology, Mr. Oakhurst would have looked upon it as an
evidence of guilt. But there is no quality that courage recognizes so
quickly as courage. There is no condition that desperation bows before
but desperation. And Mr. Oakhurst’s power of analysis was not so keen as
to prevent him from confounding her courage with a moral quality. Even
in his fury, he could not help admiring this dauntless invalid.

“Why should you not?” she repeated with a smile. “You gave me life,
health, and happiness, Jack. You gave me your love. Why should you not
take what you have given? Go on. I am ready.”

She held out her hands with that same infinite grace of yielding with
which she had taken his own on the first day of their meeting at the
hotel. Jack raised his head, looked at her for one wild moment, dropped
upon his knees beside her, and raised the folds of her dress to his
feverish lips. But she was too clever not to instantly see her victory:
she was too much of a woman, with all her cleverness, to refrain from
pressing that victory home. At the same moment, as with the impulse of
an outraged and wounded woman, she rose, and, with an imperious gesture,
pointed to the window. Mr. Oakhurst rose in his turn, cast one glance
upon her, and without another word passed out of her presence forever.

When he had gone, she closed the window and bolted it, and, going to
the chimney-piece, placed the letters, one by one, in the flame of the
candle until they were consumed. I would not have the reader think,
that, during this painful operation, she was unmoved. Her hand trembled,
and--not being a brute--for some minutes (perhaps longer) she felt very
badly, and the corners of her sensitive mouth were depressed. When her
husband arrived, it was with a genuine joy that she ran to him, and
nestled against his broad breast with a feeling of security that
thrilled the honest fellow to the core.

“But I’ve heard dreadful news to-night, Elsie,” said Mr. Decker, after a
few endearments were exchanged.

“Don’t tell me any thing dreadful, dear: I’m not well to-night,” she
pleaded sweetly.

“But it’s about Mr. Oakhurst and Hamilton.”

“Please!” Mr. Decker could not resist the petitionary grace of those
white hands and that sensitive mouth, and took her to his arms. Suddenly
he said, “What’s that?”

He was pointing to the bosom of her white dress. Where Mr. Oakhurst had
touched her, there was a spot of blood.

It was nothing: she had slightly cut her hand in closing the window; it
shut so hard! If Mr. Decker had remembered to close and bolt the shutter
before he went out, he might have saved her this. There was such a
genuine irritability and force in this remark, that Mr. Decker was quite
overcome by remorse. But Mrs. Decker forgave him with that graciousness
which I have before pointed out in these pages. And with the halo of
that forgiveness and marital confidence still lingering above the pair,
with the reader’s permission we will leave them, and return to Mr.

But not for two weeks. At the end of that time, he walked into his rooms
in Sacramento, and in his old manner took his seat at the faro-table.

“How’s your arm, Jack?” asked an incautious player.

There was a smile followed the question, which, however, ceased as Jack
looked up quietly at the speaker.

“It bothers my dealing a little; but I can shoot as well with my left.”

The game was continued in that decorous silence which usually
distinguished the table at which Mr. John Oakhurst presided.


As I opened Hop Sing’s letter, there fluttered to the ground a square
strip of yellow paper covered with hieroglyphics, which, at first
glance, I innocently took to be the label from a pack of Chinese
fire-crackers. But the same envelope also contained a smaller strip of
rice-paper, with two Chinese characters traced in India ink, that I
at once knew to be Hop Sing’s visiting-card. The whole, as afterwards
literally translated, ran as follows:--

“To the stranger the gates of my house are not closed: the rice-jar is
on the left, and the sweetmeats on the right, as you enter.

Two sayings of the Master:--

Hospitality is the virtue of the son and the wisdom of the ancestor.

The Superior man is light hearted after the crop-gathering: he makes a

When the stranger is in your melon-patch, observe him not too closely:
inattention is often the highest form of civility.

Happiness, Peace, and Prosperity.


Admirable, certainly, as was this morality and proverbial wisdom, and
although this last axiom was very characteristic of my friend Hop Sing,
who was that most sombre of all humorists, a Chinese philosopher, I must
confess, that, even after a very free translation, I was at a loss to
make any immediate application of the message. Luckily I discovered a
third enclosure in the shape of a little note in English, and Hop Sing’s
own commercial hand. It ran thus:--

“The pleasure of your company is requested at No. -- Sacramento Street,
on Friday evening at eight o’clock. A cup of tea at nine,--sharp.


This explained all. It meant a visit to Hop Sing’s warehouse, the
opening and exhibition of some rare Chinese novelties and curios, a chat
in the back office, a cup of tea of a perfection unknown beyond these
sacred precincts, cigars, and a visit to the Chinese theatre or temple.
This was, in fact, the favorite programme of Hop Sing when he exercised
his functions of hospitality as the chief factor or superintendent of
the Ning Foo Company.

At eight o’clock on Friday evening, I entered the warehouse of Hop Sing.
There was that deliciously commingled mysterious foreign odor that I had
so often noticed; there was the old array of uncouth-looking objects,
the long procession of jars and crockery, the same singular blending of
the grotesque and the mathematically neat and exact, the same endless
suggestions of frivolity and fragility, the same want of harmony in
colors, that were each, in themselves, beautiful and rare. Kites in the
shape of enormous dragons and gigantic butterflies; kites so ingeniously
arranged as to utter at intervals, when facing the wind, the cry of a
hawk; kites so large as to be beyond any boy’s power of restraint,--so
large that you understood why kite-flying in China was an amusement for
adults; gods of china and bronze so gratuitously ugly as to be beyond
any human interest or sympathy from their very impossibility; jars of
sweetmeats covered all over with moral sentiments from Confucius; hats
that looked like baskets, and baskets that looked like hats; silks so
light that I hesitate to record the incredible number of square yards
that you might pass through the ring on your little finger,--these, and
a great many other indescribable objects, were all familiar to me. I
pushed my way through the dimly-lighted warehouse, until I reached the
back office, or parlor, where I found Hop Sing waiting to receive me.

Before I describe him, I want the average reader to discharge from
his mind any idea of a Chinaman that he may have gathered from the
pantomime. He did not wear beautifully scalloped drawers fringed with
little bells (I never met a Chinaman who did); he did not habitually
carry his forefinger extended before him at right angles with his body;
nor did I ever hear him utter the mysterious sentence, “Ching a ring
a ring chaw;” nor dance under any provocation. He was, on the whole,
a rather grave, decorous, handsome gentleman. His complexion, which
extended all over his head, except where his long pig-tail grew, was
like a very nice piece of glazed brown paper-muslin. His eyes were black
and bright, and his eyelids set at an angle of fifteen degrees; his nose
straight, and delicately formed; his mouth small; and his teeth white
and clean. He wore a dark blue silk blouse; and in the streets, on cold
days, a short jacket of astrachan fur. He wore, also, a pair of drawers
of blue brocade gathered tightly over his calves and ankles, offering
a general sort of suggestion, that he had forgotten his trousers that
morning, but that, so gentlemanly were his manners, his friends had
forborne to mention the fact to him. His manner was urbane, although
quite serious. He spoke French and English fluently. In brief, I doubt
if you could have found the equal of this Pagan shopkeeper among the
Christian traders of San Francisco.

There were a few others present,--a judge of the Federal Court, an
editor, a high government official, and a prominent merchant. After we
had drunk our tea, and tasted a few sweetmeats from a mysterious jar,
that looked as if it might contain a preserved mouse among its other
nondescript treasures, Hop Sing arose, and, gravely beckoning us to
follow him, began to descend to the basement. When we got there, we were
amazed at finding it brilliantly lighted, and that a number of chairs
were arranged in a half-circle on the asphalt pavement. When he had
courteously seated us, he said,--

“I have invited you to witness a performance which I can at least
promise you no other foreigners but yourselves have ever seen. Wang,
the court-juggler, arrived here yesterday morning. He has never given a
performance outside of the palace before. I have asked him to entertain
my friends this evening. He requires no theatre, stage accessories, or
any confederate,--nothing more than you see here. Will you be pleased to
examine the ground yourselves, gentlemen.”

Of course we examined the premises. It was the ordinary basement or
cellar of the San Francisco storehouse, cemented to keep out the damp.
We poked our sticks into the pavement, and rapped on the walls, to
satisfy our polite host--but for no other purpose. We were quite content
to be the victims of any clever deception. For myself, I knew I was
ready to be deluded to any extent, and, if I had been offered an
explanation of what followed, I should have probably declined it.

Although I am satisfied that Wang’s general performance was the first of
that kind ever given on American soil, it has, probably, since become so
familiar to many of my readers, that I shall not bore them with it here.
He began by setting to flight, with the aid of his fan, the usual number
of butterflies, made before our eyes of little bits of tissue-paper, and
kept them in the air during the remainder of the performance. I have a
vivid recollection of the judge trying to catch one that had lit on his
knee, and of its evading him with the pertinacity of a living insect.
And, even at this time, Wang, still plying his fan, was taking chickens
out of hats, making oranges disappear, pulling endless yards of silk
from his sleeve, apparently filling the whole area of the basement with
goods that appeared mysteriously from the ground, from his own sleeves,
from nowhere! He swallowed knives to the ruin of his digestion for years
to come; he dislocated every limb of his body; he reclined in the air,
apparently upon nothing. But his crowning performance, which I have
never yet seen repeated, was the most weird, mysterious, and astounding.
It is my apology for this long introduction, my sole excuse for writing
this article, and the genesis of this veracious history.

He cleared the ground of its encumbering articles for a space of about
fifteen feet square, and then invited us all to walk forward, and
again examine it. We did so gravely. There was nothing but the cemented
pavement below to be seen or felt. He then asked for the loan of a
handkerchief; and, as I chanced to be nearest him, I offered mine. He
took it, and spread it open upon the floor. Over this he spread a large
square of silk, and over this, again, a large shawl nearly covering the
space he had cleared. He then took a position at one of the points of
this rectangle, and began a monotonous chant, rocking his body to and
fro in time with the somewhat lugubrious air.

We sat still and waited. Above the chant we could hear the striking
of the city clocks, and the occasional rattle of a cart in the street
overhead. The absolute watchfulness and expectation, the dim, mysterious
half-light of the cellar falling in a grewsome way upon the misshapen
bulk of a Chinese deity in the back ground, a faint smell of opium-smoke
mingling with spice, and the dreadful uncertainty of what we were really
waiting for, sent an uncomfortable thrill down our backs, and made us
look at each other with a forced and unnatural smile. This feeling was
heightened when Hop Sing slowly rose, and, without a word, pointed with
his finger to the centre of the shawl.

There was something beneath the shawl. Surely--and something that was
not there before; at first a mere suggestion in relief, a faint outline,
but growing more and more distinct and visible every moment. The chant
still continued; the perspiration began to roll from the singer’s face;
gradually the hidden object took upon itself a shape and bulk that
raised the shawl in its centre some five or six inches. It was now
unmistakably the outline of a small but perfect human figure, with
extended arms and legs. One or two of us turned pale. There was a
feeling of general uneasiness, until the editor broke the silence by a
gibe, that, poor as it was, was received with spontaneous enthusiasm.
Then the chant suddenly ceased. Wang arose, and with a quick, dexterous
movement, stripped both shawl and silk away, and discovered, sleeping
peacefully upon my handkerchief, a tiny Chinese baby.

The applause and uproar which followed this revelation ought to have
satisfied Wang, even if his audience was a small one: it was loud enough
to awaken the baby,--a pretty little boy about a year old, looking
like a Cupid cut out of sandal-wood. He was whisked away almost as
mysteriously as he appeared. When Hop Sing returned my handkerchief to
me with a bow, I asked if the juggler was the father of the baby. “No
sabe!” said the imperturbable Hop Sing, taking refuge in that Spanish
form of non-committalism so common in California.

“But does he have a new baby for every performance?” I asked. “Perhaps:
who knows?”--“But what will become of this one?”--“Whatever you choose,
gentlemen,” replied Hop Sing with a courteous inclination. “It was born
here: you are its godfathers.”

There were two characteristic peculiarities of any Californian
assemblage in 1856,--it was quick to take a hint, and generous to the
point of prodigality in its response to any charitable appeal. No
matter how sordid or avaricious the individual, he could not resist the
infection of sympathy. I doubled the points of my handkerchief into
a bag, dropped a coin into it, and, without a word, passed it to the
judge. He quietly added a twenty-dollar gold-piece, and passed it to the
next. When it was returned to me, it contained over a hundred dollars. I
knotted the money in the handkerchief, and gave it to Hop Sing.

“For the baby, from its godfathers.”

“But what name?” said the judge. There was a running fire of “Erebus,”
 “Nox,” “Plutus,” “Terra Cotta,” “Antaeus,” &c. Finally the question was
referred to our host.

“Why not keep his own name?” he said quietly,--“Wan Lee.” And he did.

And thus was Wan Lee, on the night of Friday, the 5th of March, 1856,
born into this veracious chronicle.

The last form of “The Northern Star” for the 19th of July, 1865,--the
only daily paper published in Klamath County,--had just gone to press;
and at three, A.M., I was putting aside my proofs and manuscripts,
preparatory to going home, when I discovered a letter lying under
some sheets of paper, which I must have overlooked. The envelope was
considerably soiled: it had no post-mark; but I had no difficulty in
recognizing the hand of my friend Hop Sing. I opened it hurriedly, and
read as follows:--

“MY DEAR SIR,--I do not know whether the bearer will suit you; but,
unless the office of ‘devil’ in your newspaper is a purely technical
one, I think he has all the qualities required. He is very quick,
active, and intelligent; understands English better than he speaks it;
and makes up for any defect by his habits of observation and imitation.
You have only to show him how to do a thing once, and he will repeat
it, whether it is an offence or a virtue. But you certainly know him
already. You are one of his godfathers; for is he not Wan Lee, the
reputed son of Wang the conjurer, to whose performances I had the honor
to introduce you? But perhaps you have forgotten it.

“I shall send him with a gang of coolies to Stockton, thence by express
to your town. If you can use him there, you will do me a favor, and
probably save his life, which is at present in great peril from the
hands of the younger members of your Christian and highly-civilized race
who attend the enlightened schools in San Francisco.

“He has acquired some singular habits and customs from his experience
of Wang’s profession, which he followed for some years,--until he became
too large to go in a hat, or be produced from his father’s sleeve. The
money you left with me has been expended on his education. He has gone
through the Tri-literal Classics, but, I think, without much benefit. He
knows but little of Confucius, and absolutely nothing of Mencius. Owing
to the negligence of his father, he associated, perhaps, too much with
American children.

“I should have answered your letter before, by post; but I thought that
Wan Lee himself would be a better messenger for this.

“Yours respectfully,


And this was the long-delayed answer to my letter to Hop Sing. But where
was “the bearer”? How was the letter delivered? I summoned hastily the
foreman, printers, and office-boy, but without eliciting any thing. No
one had seen the letter delivered, nor knew any thing of the bearer. A
few days later, I had a visit from my laundry-man, Ah Ri.

“You wantee debbil? All lightee: me catchee him.”

He returned in a few moments with a bright-looking Chinese boy, about
ten years old, with whose appearance and general intelligence I was so
greatly impressed, that I engaged him on the spot. When the business was
concluded, I asked his name.

“Wan Lee,” said the boy.

“What! Are you the boy sent out by Hop Sing? What the devil do you mean
by not coming here before? and how did you deliver that letter?”

Wan Lee looked at me, and laughed. “Me pitchee in top side window.”

I did not understand. He looked for a moment perplexed, and then,
snatching the letter out of my hand, ran down the stairs. After a
moment’s pause, to my great astonishment, the letter came flying in the
window, circled twice around the room, and then dropped gently, like
a bird upon my table. Before I had got over my surprise, Wan Lee
re-appeared, smiled, looked at the letter and then at me, said, “So,
John,” and then remained gravely silent. I said nothing further; but it
was understood that this was his first official act.

His next performance, I grieve to say, was not attended with equal
success. One of our regular paper-carriers fell sick, and, at a pinch,
Wan Lee was ordered to fill his place. To prevent mistakes, he was shown
over the route the previous evening, and supplied at about daylight with
the usual number of subscribers’ copies. He returned, after an hour,
in good spirits, and without the papers. He had delivered them all, he

Unfortunately for Wan Lee, at about eight o’clock, indignant subscribers
began to arrive at the office. They had received their copies; but how?
In the form of hard-pressed cannon-balls, delivered by a single shot,
and a mere tour de force, through the glass of bedroom-windows. They had
received them full in the face, like a base ball, if they happened to be
up and stirring; they had received them in quarter-sheets, tucked in at
separate windows; they had found them in the chimney, pinned against
the door, shot through attic-windows, delivered in long slips through
convenient keyholes, stuffed into ventilators, and occupying the same
can with the morning’s milk. One subscriber, who waited for some time
at the office-door to have a personal interview with Wan Lee (then
comfortably locked in my bedroom), told me, with tears of rage in
his eyes, that he had been awakened at five o’clock by a most hideous
yelling below his windows; that, on rising in great agitation, he was
startled by the sudden appearance of “The Northern Star,” rolled hard,
and bent into the form of a boomerang, or East-Indian club, that sailed
into the window, described a number of fiendish circles in the room,
knocked over the light, slapped the baby’s face, “took” him (the
subscriber) “in the jaw,” and then returned out of the window, and
dropped helplessly in the area. During the rest of the day, wads and
strips of soiled paper, purporting to be copies of “The Northern Star”
 of that morning’s issue, were brought indignantly to the office. An
admirable editorial on “The Resources of Humboldt County,” which I had
constructed the evening before, and which, I had reason to believe,
might have changed the whole balance of trade during the ensuing year,
and left San Francisco bankrupt at her wharves, was in this way lost to
the public.

It was deemed advisable for the next three weeks to keep Wan Lee closely
confined to the printing-office, and the purely mechanical part of the
business. Here he developed a surprising quickness and adaptability,
winning even the favor and good will of the printers and foreman, who
at first looked upon his introduction into the secrets of their trade as
fraught with the gravest political significance. He learned to set type
readily and neatly, his wonderful skill in manipulation aiding him in
the mere mechanical act, and his ignorance of the language confining him
simply to the mechanical effort, confirming the printer’s axiom, that
the printer who considers or follows the ideas of his copy makes a poor
compositor. He would set up deliberately long diatribes against himself,
composed by his fellow-printers, and hung on his hook as copy, and even
such short sentences as “Wan Lee is the devil’s own imp,” “Wan Lee is a
Mongolian rascal,” and bring the proof to me with happiness beaming from
every tooth, and satisfaction shining in his huckleberry eyes.

It was not long, however, before he learned to retaliate on his
mischievous persecutors. I remember one instance in which his reprisal
came very near involving me in a serious misunderstanding. Our foreman’s
name was Webster; and Wan Lee presently learned to know and recognize
the individual and combined letters of his name. It was during a
political campaign; and the eloquent and fiery Col. Starbottle of
Siskyou had delivered an effective speech, which was reported especially
for “The Northern Star.” In a very sublime peroration, Col. Starbottle
had said, “In the language of the godlike Webster, I repeat”--and here
followed the quotation, which I have forgotten. Now, it chanced that Wan
Lee, looking over the galley after it had been revised, saw the name of
his chief persecutor, and, of course, imagined the quotation his. After
the form was locked up, Wan Lee took advantage of Webster’s absence to
remove the quotation, and substitute a thin piece of lead, of the same
size as the type, engraved with Chinese characters, making a sentence,
which, I had reason to believe, was an utter and abject confession of
the incapacity and offensiveness of the Webster family generally, and
exceedingly eulogistic of Wan Lee himself personally.

The next morning’s paper contained Col. Starbottle’s speech in full,
in which it appeared that the “godlike” Webster had, on one occasion,
uttered his thoughts in excellent but perfectly enigmatical Chinese. The
rage of Col. Starbottle knew no bounds. I have a vivid recollection of
that admirable man walking into my office, and demanding a retraction of
the statement.

“But my dear sir,” I asked, “are you willing to deny, over your own
signature, that Webster ever uttered such a sentence? Dare you deny,
that, with Mr. Webster’s well-known attainments, a knowledge of Chinese
might not have been among the number? Are you willing to submit a
translation suitable to the capacity of our readers, and deny, upon
your honor as a gentleman, that the late Mr. Webster ever uttered such a
sentiment? If you are, sir, I am willing to publish your denial.”

The colonel was not, and left, highly indignant.

Webster, the foreman, took it more coolly. Happily, he was unaware,
that, for two days after, Chinamen from the laundries, from the gulches,
from the kitchens, looked in the front office-door, with faces beaming
with sardonic delight; that three hundred extra copies of the “Star”
 were ordered for the wash-houses on the river. He only knew, that,
during the day, Wan Lee occasionally went off into convulsive spasms,
and that he was obliged to kick him into consciousness again. A week
after the occurrence, I called Wan Lee into my office.

“Wan,” I said gravely, “I should like you to give me, for my own
personal satisfaction, a translation of that Chinese sentence which
my gifted countryman, the late godlike Webster, uttered upon a public
occasion.” Wan Lee looked at me intently, and then the slightest
possible twinkle crept into his black eyes. Then he replied with equal

“Mishtel Webstel, he say, ‘China boy makee me belly much foolee. China
boy makee me heap sick.’” Which I have reason to think was true.

But I fear I am giving but one side, and not the best, of Wan Lee’s
character. As he imparted it to me, his had been a hard life. He had
known scarcely any childhood: he had no recollection of a father or
mother. The conjurer Wang had brought him up. He had spent the first
seven years of his life in appearing from baskets, in dropping out of
hats, in climbing ladders, in putting his little limbs out of joint in
posturing. He had lived in an atmosphere of trickery and deception. He
had learned to look upon mankind as dupes of their senses: in fine, if
he had thought at all, he would have been a sceptic; if he had been a
little older, he would have been a cynic; if he had been older still,
he would have been a philosopher. As it was, he was a little imp. A
good-natured imp it was, too,--an imp whose moral nature had never
been awakened,--an imp up for a holiday, and willing to try virtue as
a diversion. I don’t know that he had any spiritual nature. He was very
superstitious. He carried about with him a hideous little porcelain god,
which he was in the habit of alternately reviling and propitiating.
He was too intelligent for the commoner Chinese vices of stealing or
gratuitous lying. Whatever discipline he practised was taught by his

I am inclined to think that his feelings were not altogether
unimpressible, although it was almost impossible to extract an
expression from him; and I conscientiously believe he became attached
to those that were good to him. What he might have become under more
favorable conditions than the bondsman of an overworked, under-paid
literary man, I don’t know: I only know that the scant, irregular,
impulsive kindnesses that I showed him were gratefully received. He
was very loyal and patient, two qualities rare in the average American
servant. He was like Malvolio, “sad and civil” with me. Only once,
and then under great provocation, do I remember of his exhibiting any
impatience. It was my habit, after leaving the office at night, to take
him with me to my rooms, as the bearer of any supplemental or happy
after-thought, in the editorial way, that might occur to me before the
paper went to press. One night I had been scribbling away past the
usual hour of dismissing Wan Lee, and had become quite oblivious of
his presence in a chair near my door, when suddenly I became aware of
a voice saying in plaintive accents, something that sounded like “Chy

I faced around sternly.

“What did you say?”

“Me say, ‘Chy Lee.’”

“Well?” I said impatiently.

“You sabe, ‘How do, John?’”


“You sabe, ‘So long, John’?”


“Well, ‘Chy Lee’ allee same!”

I understood him quite plainly. It appeared that “Chy Lee” was a form of
“good-night,” and that Wan Lee was anxious to go home. But an instinct
of mischief, which, I fear, I possessed in common with him, impelled
me to act as if oblivious of the hint. I muttered something about not
understanding him, and again bent over my work. In a few minutes I heard
his wooden shoes pattering pathetically over the floor. I looked up. He
was standing near the door.

“You no sabe, ‘Chy Lee’?”

“No,” I said sternly.

“You sabe muchee big foolee! allee same!”

And, with this audacity upon his lips, he fled. The next morning,
however, he was as meek and patient as before, and I did not recall his
offence. As a probable peace-offering, he blacked all my boots,--a duty
never required of him,--including a pair of buff deer-skin slippers
and an immense pair of horseman’s jack-boots, on which he indulged his
remorse for two hours.

I have spoken of his honesty as being a quality of his intellect rather
than his principle, but I recall about this time two exceptions to the
rule. I was anxious to get some fresh eggs as a change to the heavy
diet of a mining-town; and, knowing that Wan Lee’s countrymen were great
poultry-raisers, I applied to him. He furnished me with them regularly
every morning, but refused to take any pay, saying that the man did not
sell them,--a remarkable instance of self-abnegation, as eggs were then
worth half a dollar apiece. One morning my neighbor Forster dropped in
upon me at breakfast, and took occasion to bewail his own ill fortune,
as his hens had lately stopped laying, or wandered off in the bush. Wan
Lee, who was present during our colloquy, preserved his characteristic
sad taciturnity. When my neighbor had gone, he turned to me with a
slight chuckle: “Flostel’s hens--Wan Lee’s hens allee same!” His
other offence was more serious and ambitious. It was a season of great
irregularities in the mails, and Wan Lee had heard me deplore the delay
in the delivery of my letters and newspapers. On arriving at my office
one day, I was amazed to find my table covered with letters, evidently
just from the post-office, but, unfortunately, not one addressed to me.
I turned to Wan Lee, who was surveying them with a calm satisfaction,
and demanded an explanation. To my horror he pointed to an empty
mail-bag in the corner, and said, “Postman he say, ‘No lettee, John; no
lettee, John.’ Postman plentee lie! Postman no good. Me catchee lettee
last night allee same!” Luckily it was still early: the mails had not
been distributed. I had a hurried interview with the postmaster; and
Wan Lee’s bold attempt at robbing the United States mail was finally
condoned by the purchase of a new mail-bag, and the whole affair thus
kept a secret.

If my liking for my little Pagan page had not been sufficient, my duty
to Hop Sing was enough, to cause me to take Wan Lee with me when I
returned to San Francisco after my two years’ experience with “The
Northern Star.” I do not think he contemplated the change with pleasure.
I attributed his feelings to a nervous dread of crowded public streets
(when he had to go across town for me on an errand, he always made a
circuit of the outskirts), to his dislike for the discipline of the
Chinese and English school to which I proposed to send him, to his
fondness for the free, vagrant life of the mines, to sheer wilfulness.
That it might have been a superstitious premonition did not occur to me
until long after.

Nevertheless it really seemed as if the opportunity I had long looked
for and confidently expected had come,--the opportunity of placing Wan
Lee under gently restraining influences, of subjecting him to a life and
experience that would draw out of him what good my superficial care and
ill-regulated kindness could not reach. Wan Lee was placed at the school
of a Chinese missionary,--an intelligent and kind-hearted clergyman,
who had shown great interest in the boy, and who, better than all, had
a wonderful faith in him. A home was found for him in the family of a
widow, who had a bright and interesting daughter about two years younger
than Wan Lee. It was this bright, cheery, innocent, and artless child
that touched and reached a depth in the boy’s nature that hitherto had
been unsuspected; that awakened a moral susceptibility which had lain
for years insensible alike to the teachings of society, or the ethics of
the theologian.

These few brief months--bright with a promise that we never saw
fulfilled--must have been happy ones to Wan Lee. He worshipped his
little friend with something of the same superstition, but without any
of the caprice, that he bestowed upon his porcelain Pagan god. It was
his delight to walk behind her to school, carrying her books--a service
always fraught with danger to him from the little hands of his Caucasian
Christian brothers. He made her the most marvellous toys; he would cut
out of carrots and turnips the most astonishing roses and tulips; he
made life-like chickens out of melon-seeds; he constructed fans and
kites, and was singularly proficient in the making of dolls’ paper
dresses. On the other hand, she played and sang to him, taught him a
thousand little prettinesses and refinements only known to girls, gave
him a yellow ribbon for his pig-tail, as best suiting his complexion,
read to him, showed him wherein he was original and valuable, took him
to Sunday school with her, against the precedents of the school, and,
small-woman-like, triumphed. I wish I could add here, that she effected
his conversion, and made him give up his porcelain idol. But I am
telling a true story; and this little girl was quite content to fill him
with her own Christian goodness, without letting him know that he was
changed. So they got along very well together,--this little Christian
girl with her shining cross hanging around her plump, white little neck;
and this dark little Pagan, with his hideous porcelain god hidden away
in his blouse.

There were two days of that eventful year which will long be remembered
in San Francisco,--two days when a mob of her citizens set upon and
killed unarmed, defenceless foreigners because they were foreigners,
and of another race, religion, and color, and worked for what wages they
could get. There were some public men so timid, that, seeing this, they
thought that the end of the world had come. There were some eminent
statesmen, whose names I am ashamed to write here, who began to
think that the passage in the Constitution which guarantees civil and
religious liberty to every citizen or foreigner was a mistake. But
there were, also, some men who were not so easily frightened; and in
twenty-four hours we had things so arranged, that the timid men could
wring their hands in safety, and the eminent statesmen utter their
doubts without hurting any body or any thing. And in the midst of this I
got a note from Hop Sing, asking me to come to him immediately.

I found his warehouse closed, and strongly guarded by the police against
any possible attack of the rioters. Hop Sing admitted me through a
barred grating with his usual imperturbable calm, but, as it seemed to
me, with more than his usual seriousness. Without a word, he took my
hand, and led me to the rear of the room, and thence down stairs into
the basement. It was dimly lighted; but there was something lying on the
floor covered by a shawl. As I approached he drew the shawl away with a
sudden gesture, and revealed Wan Lee, the Pagan, lying there dead.

Dead, my reverend friends, dead,--stoned to death in the streets of San
Francisco, in the year of grace 1869, by a mob of half-grown boys and
Christian school-children!

As I put my hand reverently upon his breast, I felt something crumbling
beneath his blouse. I looked inquiringly at Hop Sing. He put his hand
between the folds of silk, and drew out something with the first bitter
smile I had ever seen on the face of that Pagan gentleman.

It was Wan Lee’s porcelain god, crushed by a stone from the hands of
those Christian iconoclasts!


I think we all loved him. Even after he mismanaged the affairs of the
Amity Ditch Company, we commiserated him, although most of us were
stockholders, and lost heavily. I remember that the blacksmith went so
far as to say that “them chaps as put that responsibility on the old man
oughter be lynched.” But the blacksmith was not a stockholder; and the
expression was looked upon as the excusable extravagance of a large,
sympathizing nature, that, when combined with a powerful frame, was
unworthy of notice. At least, that was the way they put it. Yet I
think there was a general feeling of regret that this misfortune would
interfere with the old man’s long-cherished plan of “going home.”

Indeed, for the last ten years he had been “going home.” He was going
home after a six-months’ sojourn at Monte Flat; he was going home after
the first rains; he was going home when the rains were over; he was
going home when he had cut the timber on Buckeye Hill, when there was
pasture on Dow’s Flat, when he struck pay-dirt on Eureka Hill, when the
Amity Company paid its first dividend, when the election was over, when
he had received an answer from his wife. And so the years rolled by, the
spring rains came and went, the woods of Buckeye Hill were level with
the ground, the pasture on Dow’s Flat grew sear and dry, Eureka Hill
yielded its pay-dirt and swamped its owner, the first dividends of the
Amity Company were made from the assessments of stockholders, there were
new county officers at Monte Flat, his wife’s answer had changed into a
persistent question, and still old man Plunkett remained.

It is only fair to say that he had made several distinct essays toward
going. Five years before, he had bidden good-by to Monte Hill with much
effusion and hand-shaking. But he never got any farther than the next
town. Here he was induced to trade the sorrel colt he was riding for a
bay mare,--a transaction that at once opened to his lively fancy a vista
of vast and successful future speculation. A few days after, Abner Dean
of Angel’s received a letter from him, stating that he was going to
Visalia to buy horses. “I am satisfied,” wrote Plunkett, with that
elevated rhetoric for which his correspondence was remarkable,--“I
am satisfied that we are at last developing the real resources
of California. The world will yet look to Dow’s Flat as the great
stock-raising centre. In view of the interests involved, I have deferred
my departure for a month.” It was two before he again returned to
us--penniless. Six months later, he was again enabled to start for the
Eastern States; and this time he got as far as San Francisco. I have
before me a letter which I received a few days after his arrival, from
which I venture to give an extract: “You know, my dear boy, that I have
always believed that gambling, as it is absurdly called, is still in its
infancy in California. I have always maintained that a perfect system
might be invented, by which the game of poker may be made to yield a
certain percentage to the intelligent player. I am not at liberty at
present to disclose the system; but before leaving this city I intend to
perfect it.” He seems to have done so, and returned to Monte Flat
with two dollars and thirty-seven cents, the absolute remainder of his
capital after such perfection.

It was not until 1868 that he appeared to have finally succeeded in
going home. He left us by the overland route,--a route which he declared
would give great opportunity for the discovery of undeveloped resources.
His last letter was dated Virginia City. He was absent three years. At
the close of a very hot day in midsummer, he alighted from the Wingdam
stage, with hair and beard powdered with dust and age. There was a
certain shyness about his greeting, quite different from his usual
frank volubility, that did not, however, impress us as any accession
of character. For some days he was reserved regarding his recent visit,
contenting himself with asserting, with more or less aggressiveness,
that he had “always said he was going home, and now he had been there.”
 Later he grew more communicative, and spoke freely and critically of
the manners and customs of New York and Boston, commented on the social
changes in the years of his absence, and, I remember, was very hard upon
what he deemed the follies incidental to a high state of civilization.
Still later he darkly alluded to the moral laxity of the higher planes
of Eastern society; but it was not long before he completely tore away
the veil, and revealed the naked wickedness of New York social life in a
way I even now shudder to recall. Vinous intoxication, it appeared, was
a common habit of the first ladies of the city. Immoralities which he
scarcely dared name were daily practised by the refined of both sexes.
Niggardliness and greed were the common vices of the rich. “I have
always asserted,” he continued, “that corruption must exist where luxury
and riches are rampant, and capital is not used to develop the natural
resources of the country. Thank you--I will take mine without sugar.”
 It is possible that some of these painful details crept into the local
journals. I remember an editorial in “The Monte Flat Monitor,” entitled
“The Effete East,” in which the fatal decadence of New York and New
England was elaborately stated, and California offered as a means of
natural salvation. “Perhaps,” said “The Monitor,” “we might add that
Calaveras County offers superior inducements to the Eastern visitor with

Later he spoke of his family. The daughter he had left a child had grown
into beautiful womanhood. The son was already taller and larger than his
father; and, in a playful trial of strength, “the young rascal,”
 added Plunkett, with a voice broken with paternal pride and humorous
objurgation, had twice thrown his doting parent to the ground. But it
was of his daughter he chiefly spoke. Perhaps emboldened by the
evident interest which masculine Monte Flat held in feminine beauty, he
expatiated at some length on her various charms and accomplishments, and
finally produced her photograph,--that of a very pretty girl,--to their
infinite peril. But his account of his first meeting with her was so
peculiar, that I must fain give it after his own methods, which were,
perhaps, some shades less precise and elegant than his written style.

“You see, boys, it’s always been my opinion that a man oughter be able
to tell his own flesh and blood by instinct. It’s ten years since I’d
seen my Melindy; and she was then only seven, and about so high. So,
when I went to New York, what did I do? Did I go straight to my house,
and ask for my wife and daughter, like other folks? No, sir! I rigged
myself up as a peddler, as a peddler, sir; and I rung the bell. When the
servant came to the door, I wanted--don’t you see?--to show the ladies
some trinkets. Then there was a voice over the banister says, ‘Don’t
want any thing: send him away.’--‘Some nice laces, ma’am, smuggled,’
I says, looking up. ‘Get out, you wretch!’ says she. I knew the voice,
boys: it was my wife, sure as a gun. Thar wasn’t any instinct thar.
‘Maybe the young ladies want somethin’,’ I said. ‘Did you hear me?’ says
she; and with that she jumps forward, and I left. It’s ten years, boys,
since I’ve seen the old woman; but somehow, when she fetched that leap,
I naterally left.”

He had been standing beside the bar--his usual attitude--when he made
this speech; but at this point he half faced his auditors with a look
that was very effective. Indeed, a few who had exhibited some signs
of scepticism and lack of interest, at once assumed an appearance of
intense gratification and curiosity as he went on,--

“Well, by hangin round there for a day or two, I found out at last it
was to be Melindy’s birthday next week, and that she was goin’ to have
a big party. I tell ye what, boys, it weren’t no slouch of a reception.
The whole house was bloomin’ with flowers, and blazin’ with lights; and
there was no end of servants and plate and refreshments and fixin’s”--

“Uncle Joe.”


“Where did they get the money?”

Plunkett faced his interlocutor with a severe glance. “I always said,”
 he replied slowly, “that, when I went home, I’d send on ahead of me a
draft for ten thousand dollars. I always said that, didn’t I? Eh? And I
said I was goin’ home--and I’ve been home, haven’t I? Well?”

Either there was something irresistibly conclusive in this logic, or
else the desire to hear the remainder of Plunkett’s story was stronger;
but there was no more interruption. His ready good-humor quickly
returned, and, with a slight chuckle, he went on,--

“I went to the biggest jewelry shop in town, and I bought a pair of
diamond ear-rings, and put them in my pocket, and went to the house.
‘What name?’ says the chap who opened the door; and he looked like a
cross ‘twixt a restaurant waiter and a parson. ‘Skeesicks,’ said I. He
takes me in; and pretty soon my wife comes sailin’ into the parlor,
and says, ‘Excuse me; but I don’t think I recognize the name.’ She was
mighty polite; for I had on a red wig and side-whiskers. ‘A friend of
your husband’s from California, ma’am, with a present for your daughter,
Miss--,’ and I made as I had forgot the name. But all of a sudden a
voice said, ‘That’s too thin;’ and in walked Melindy. ‘It’s playin’ it
rather low down, father, to pretend you don’t know your daughter’s name;
ain’t it, now? How are you, old man?’ And with that she tears off my wig
and whiskers, and throws her arms around my neck--instinct, sir, pure

Emboldened by the laughter which followed his description of the filial
utterances of Melinda, he again repeated her speech, with more or less
elaboration, joining in with, and indeed often leading, the hilarity
that accompanied it, and returning to it, with more or less incoherency,
several times during the evening.

And so, at various times and at various places, but chiefly in
bar-rooms, did this Ulysses of Monte Flat recount the story of his
wanderings. There were several discrepancies in his statement; there was
sometimes considerable prolixity of detail; there was occasional change
of character and scenery; there was once or twice an absolute change in
the denoument: but always the fact of his having visited his wife and
children remained. Of course, in a sceptical community like that of
Monte Flat,--a community accustomed to great expectation and small
realization,--a community wherein, to use the local dialect, “they
got the color, and struck hardpan,” more frequently than any other
mining-camp,--in such a community, the fullest credence was not given
to old man Plunkett’s facts. There was only one exception to the
general unbelief,--Henry York of Sandy Bar. It was he who was always
an attentive listener; it was his scant purse that had often furnished
Plunkett with means to pursue his unprofitable speculations; it was to
him that the charms of Melinda were more frequently rehearsed; it was he
that had borrowed her photograph; and it was he that, sitting alone in
his little cabin one night, kissed that photograph, until his honest,
handsome face glowed again in the firelight.

It was dusty in Monte Flat. The ruins of the long dry season were
crumbling everywhere: everywhere the dying summer had strewn its red
ashes a foot deep, or exhaled its last breath in a red cloud above the
troubled highways. The alders and cottonwoods, that marked the line of
the water-courses, were grimy with dust, and looked as if they might
have taken root in the open air. The gleaming stones of the parched
water-courses themselves were as dry bones in the valley of death. The
dusty sunset at times painted the flanks of the distant hills a dull,
coppery hue: on other days, there was an odd, indefinable earthquake
halo on the volcanic cones of the farther coast-spurs. Again an acrid,
resinous smoke from the burning wood on Heavytree Hill smarted the eyes,
and choked the free breath of Monte Flat; or a fierce wind, driving
every thing, including the shrivelled summer, like a curled leaf before
it, swept down the flanks of the Sierras, and chased the inhabitants to
the doors of their cabins, and shook its red fist in at their windows.
And on such a night as this, the dust having in some way choked the
wheels of material progress in Monte Flat, most of the inhabitants were
gathered listlessly in the gilded bar-room of the Moquelumne Hotel,
spitting silently at the red-hot stove that tempered the mountain winds
to the shorn lambs of Monte Flat, and waiting for the rain.

Every method known to the Flat of beguiling the time until the advent of
this long-looked-for phenomenon had been tried. It is true, the methods
were not many, being limited chiefly to that form of popular facetiae
known as practical joking; and even this had assumed the seriousness
of a business-pursuit. Tommy Roy, who had spent two hours in digging
a ditch in front of his own door, into which a few friends casually
dropped during the evening, looked ennuye and dissatisfied. The four
prominent citizens, who, disguised as foot-pads, had stopped the county
treasurer on the Wingdam road, were jaded from their playful efforts
next morning. The principal physician and lawyer of Monte Flat, who had
entered into an unhallowed conspiracy to compel the sheriff of Calaveras
and his posse to serve a writ of ejectment on a grizzly bear, feebly
disguised under the name of one “Major Ursus,” who haunted the groves
of Heavytree Hill, wore an expression of resigned weariness. Even the
editor of “The Monte Flat Monitor,” who had that morning written a
glowing account of a battle with the Wipneck Indians, for the benefit
of Eastern readers,--even HE looked grave and worn. When, at last, Abner
Dean of Angel’s, who had been on a visit to San Francisco, walked into
the room, he was, of course, victimized in the usual way by one or two
apparently honest questions, which ended in his answering them, and then
falling into the trap of asking another, to his utter and complete shame
and mortification; but that was all. Nobody laughed; and Abner,
although a victim, did not lose his good-humor. He turned quietly on his
tormentors, and said,--

“I’ve got something better than that--you know old man Plunkett?”

Everybody simultaneously spat at the stove, and nodded his head.

“You know he went home three years ago?” Two or three changed the
position of their legs from the backs of different chairs; and one man
said, “Yes.”

“Had a good time, home?”

Everybody looked cautiously at the man who had said, “Yes;” and he,
accepting the responsibility with a faint-hearted smile, said, “Yes,”
 again, and breathed hard. “Saw his wife and child--purty gal?” said
Abner cautiously. “Yes,” answered the man doggedly. “Saw her photograph,
perhaps?” continued Abner Dean quietly.

The man looked hopelessly around for support. Two or three, who had been
sitting near him, and evidently encouraging him with a look of interest,
now shamelessly abandoned him and looked another way. Henry York flushed
a little, and veiled his gray eyes. The man hesitated, and then with a
sickly smile, that was intended to convey the fact that he was perfectly
aware of the object of this questioning, and was only humoring it from
abstract good feeling, returned, “Yes,” again.

“Sent home--let’s see--ten thousand dollars, wasn’t it?” Abner Dean went
on. “Yes,” reiterated the man with the same smile.

“Well, I thought so,” said Abner quietly. “But the fact is, you see,
that he never went home at all--nary time.”

Everybody stared at Abner in genuine surprise and interest, as, with
provoking calmness and a half-lazy manner, he went on,--

“You see, thar was a man down in ‘Frisco as knowed him, and saw him in
Sonora during the whole of that three years. He was herding sheep, or
tending cattle, or spekilating all that time, and hadn’t a red cent.
Well it ‘mounts to this,--that ‘ar Plunkett ain’t been east of the Rocky
Mountains since ‘49.”

The laugh which Abner Dean had the right to confidently expect came;
but it was bitter and sardonic. I think indignation was apparent in the
minds of his hearers. It was felt, for the first time, that there was
a limit to practical joking. A deception carried on for a year,
compromising the sagacity of Monte Flat, was deserving the severest
reprobation. Of course, nobody had believed Plunkett; but then the
supposition that it might be believed in adjacent camps that they
HAD believed him was gall and bitterness. The lawyer thought that an
indictment for obtaining money under false pretences might be found. The
physician had long suspected him of insanity, and was not certain but
that he ought to be confined. The four prominent merchants thought that
the business-interests of Monte Flat demanded that something should be
done. In the midst of an excited and angry discussion, the door slowly
opened, and old man Plunkett staggered into the room.

He had changed pitifully in the last six months. His hair was a dusty,
yellowish gray, like the chemisal on the flanks of Heavytree Hill; his
face was waxen white, and blue and puffy under the eyes; his clothes
were soiled and shabby, streaked in front with the stains of
hurriedly eaten luncheons, and fluffy behind with the wool and hair of
hurriedly-extemporized couches. In obedience to that odd law, that, the
more seedy and soiled a man’s garments become, the less does he seem
inclined to part with them, even during that portion of the twenty-four
hours when they are deemed less essential, Plunkett’s clothes had
gradually taken on the appearance of a kind of a bark, or an outgrowth
from within, for which their possessor was not entirely responsible.
Howbeit, as he entered the room, he attempted to button his coat over
a dirty shirt, and passed his fingers, after the manner of some animal,
over his cracker-strewn beard, in recognition of a cleanly public
sentiment. But, even as he did so, the weak smile faded from his
lips; and his hand, after fumbling aimlessly around a button, dropped
helplessly at his side. For as he leaned his back against the bar, and
faced the group, he, for the first time, became aware that every eye but
one was fixed upon him. His quick, nervous apprehension at once leaped
to the truth. His miserable secret was out, and abroad in the very air
about him. As a last resort, he glanced despairingly at Henry York; but
his flushed face was turned toward the windows.

No word was spoken. As the bar-keeper silently swung a decanter and
glass before him, he took a cracker from a dish, and mumbled it with
affected unconcern. He lingered over his liquor until its potency
stiffened his relaxed sinews, and dulled the nervous edge of his
apprehension, and then he suddenly faced around. “It don’t look as if we
were goin’ to hev any rain much afore Christmas,” he said with defiant

No one made any reply.

“Just like this in ‘52, and again in ‘60. It’s always been my opinion
that these dry seasons come reg’lar. I’ve said it afore. I say it again.
It’s jist as I said about going home, you know,” he added with desperate

“Thar’s a man,” said Abner Dean lazily, “ez sez you never went home.
Thar’s a man ez sez you’ve been three years in Sonora. Thar’s a man ez
sez you hain’t seen your wife and daughter since ‘49. Thar’s a man ez
sez you’ve been playin’ this camp for six months.”

There was a dead silence. Then a voice said quite as quietly,--

“That man lies.”

It was not the old man’s voice. Everybody turned as Henry York slowly
rose, stretching out his six feet of length, and, brushing away the
ashes that had fallen from his pipe upon his breast, deliberately placed
himself beside Plunkett, and faced the others.

“That man ain’t here,” continued Abner Dean, with listless indifference
of voice, and a gentle pre-occupation of manner, as he carelessly
allowed his right hand to rest on his hip near his revolver. “That man
ain’t here; but, if I’m called upon to make good what he says, why, I’m
on hand.”

All rose as the two men--perhaps the least externally agitated of them
all--approached each other. The lawyer stepped in between them.

“Perhaps there’s some mistake here. York, do you KNOW that the old man
has been home?”


“How do you know it?”

York turned his clear, honest, frank eyes on his questioner, and without
a tremor told the only direct and unmitigated lie of his life. “Because
I’ve seen him there.”

The answer was conclusive. It was known that York had been visiting the
East during the old man’s absence. The colloquy had diverted attention
from Plunkett, who, pale and breathless, was staring at his unexpected
deliverer. As he turned again toward his tormentors, there was something
in the expression of his eye that caused those that were nearest to him
to fall back, and sent a strange, indefinable thrill through the boldest
and most reckless. As he made a step forward, the physician, almost
unconsciously, raised his hand with a warning gesture; and old man
Plunkett, with his eyes fixed upon the red-hot stove, and an odd smile
playing about his mouth, began,--

“Yes--of course you did. Who says you didn’t? It ain’t no lie. I said I
was goin’ home--and I’ve been home. Haven’t I? My God! I have. Who says
I’ve been lyin’? Who says I’m dreamin’? Is it true--why don’t you speak?
It is true, after all. You say you saw me there: why don’t you speak
again? Say, say!--is it true? It’s going now. O my God! it’s going
again. It’s going now. Save me!” And with a fierce cry he fell forward
in a fit upon the floor.

When the old man regained his senses, he found himself in York’s cabin.
A flickering fire of pine-boughs lit up the rude rafters, and fell upon
a photograph tastefully framed with fir-cones, and hung above the brush
whereon he lay. It was the portrait of a young girl. It was the first
object to meet the old man’s gaze; and it brought with it a flush of
such painful consciousness, that he started, and glanced quickly around.
But his eyes only encountered those of York,--clear, gray, critical, and
patient,--and they fell again.

“Tell me, old man,” said York not unkindly, but with the same cold,
clear tone in his voice that his eye betrayed a moment ago,--“tell me,
is THAT a lie too?” and he pointed to the picture.

The old man closed his eyes, and did not reply. Two hours before, the
question would have stung him into some evasion or bravado. But the
revelation contained in the question, as well as the tone of York’s
voice, was to him now, in his pitiable condition, a relief. It was
plain, even to his confused brain, that York had lied when he had
indorsed his story in the bar-room; it was clear to him now that he had
not been home, that he was not, as he had begun to fear, going mad.
It was such a relief, that, with characteristic weakness, his former
recklessness and extravagance returned. He began to chuckle, finally to
laugh uproariously.

York, with his eyes still fixed on the old man, withdrew the hand with
which he had taken his.

“Didn’t we fool ‘em nicely; eh, Yorky! He, he! The biggest thing yet
ever played in this camp! I always said I’d play ‘em all some day, and
I have--played ‘em for six months. Ain’t it rich?--ain’t it the richest
thing you ever seed? Did you see Abner’s face when he spoke ‘bout that
man as seed me in Sonora? Warn’t it good as the minstrels? Oh, it’s too
much!” and, striking his leg with the palm of his hand, he almost
threw himself from the bed in a paroxysm of laughter,--a paroxysm that,
nevertheless, appeared to be half real and half affected.

“Is that photograph hers?” said York in a low voice, after a slight

“Hers? No! It’s one of the San Francisco actresses. He, he! Don’t you
see? I bought it for two bits in one of the bookstores. I never thought
they’d swaller THAT too; but they did! Oh, but the old man played ‘em
this time didn’t he--eh?” and he peered curiously in York’s face.

“Yes, and he played ME too,” said York, looking steadily in the old
man’s eye.

“Yes, of course,” interposed Plunkett hastily; “but you know, Yorky, you
got out of it well! You’ve sold ‘em too. We’ve both got em on a string
now--you and me--got to stick together now. You did it well, Yorky: you
did it well. Why, when you said you’d seen me in York City, I’m d----d
if I didn’t”--

“Didn’t what?” said York gently; for the old man had stopped with a pale
face and wandering eye.


“You say when I said I had seen you in New York you thought”--

“You lie!” said the old man fiercely. “I didn’t say I thought any thing.
What are you trying to go back on me for, eh?” His hands were trembling
as he rose muttering from the bed, and made his way toward the hearth.

“Gimme some whiskey,” he said presently “and dry up. You oughter treat
anyway. Them fellows oughter treated last night. By hookey, I’d made
‘em--only I fell sick.”

York placed the liquor and a tin cup on the table beside him, and,
going to the door, turned his back upon his guest, and looked out on the
night. Although it was clear moonlight, the familiar prospect never to
him seemed so dreary. The dead waste of the broad Wingdam highway never
seemed so monotonous, so like the days that he had passed, and were to
come to him, so like the old man in its suggestion of going sometime,
and never getting there. He turned, and going up to Plunkett put his
hand upon his shoulder, and said,--

“I want you to answer one question fairly and squarely.”

The liquor seemed to have warmed the torpid blood in the old man’s
veins, and softened his acerbity; for the face he turned up to York was
mellowed in its rugged outline, and more thoughtful in expression, as he

“Go on, my boy.”

“Have you a wife and--daughter?”

“Before God I have!”

The two men were silent for a moment, both gazing at the fire. Then
Plunkett began rubbing his knees slowly.

“The wife, if it comes to that, ain’t much,” he began cautiously, “being
a little on the shoulder, you know, and wantin’, so to speak a liberal
California education, which makes, you know, a bad combination. It’s
always been my opinion, that there ain’t any worse. Why, she’s as
ready with her tongue as Abner Dean is with his revolver, only with
the difference that she shoots from principle, as she calls it; and the
consequence is, she’s always layin’ for you. It’s the effete East, my
boy, that’s ruinin’ her. It’s them ideas she gets in New York and Boston
that’s made her and me what we are. I don’t mind her havin’ ‘em, if she
didn’t shoot. But, havin’ that propensity, them principles oughtn’t to
be lying round loose no more’n firearms.”

“But your daughter?” said York.

The old man’s hands went up to his eyes here, and then both hands and
head dropped forward on the table. “Don’t say any thing ‘bout her, my
boy, don’t ask me now.” With one hand concealing his eyes, he fumbled
about with the other in his pockets for his handkerchief--but vainly.
Perhaps it was owing to this fact, that he repressed his tears; for,
when he removed his hand from his eyes, they were quite dry. Then he
found his voice.

“She’s a beautiful girl, beautiful, though I say it; and you shall see
her, my boy,--you shall see her sure. I’ve got things about fixed now.
I shall have my plan for reducin’ ores perfected a day or two; and
I’ve got proposals from all the smeltin’ works here” (here he hastily
produced a bundle of papers that fell upon the floor), “and I’m goin’
to send for ‘em. I’ve got the papers here as will give me ten thousand
dollars clear in the next month,” he added, as he strove to collect the
valuable documents again. “I’ll have ‘em here by Christmas, if I live;
and you shall eat your Christmas dinner with me, York, my boy,--you
shall sure.”

With his tongue now fairly loosened by liquor and the suggestive
vastness of his prospects, he rambled on more or less incoherently,
elaborating and amplifying his plans, occasionally even speaking of them
as already accomplished, until the moon rode high in the heavens, and
York led him again to his couch. Here he lay for some time muttering
to himself, until at last he sank into a heavy sleep. When York had
satisfied himself of the fact, he gently took down the picture and
frame, and, going to the hearth, tossed them on the dying embers, and
sat down to see them burn.

The fir-cones leaped instantly into flame; then the features that had
entranced San Francisco audiences nightly, flashed up and passed away
(as such things are apt to pass); and even the cynical smile on York’s
lips faded too. And then there came a supplemental and unexpected flash
as the embers fell together, and by its light York saw a paper upon
the floor. It was one that had fallen from the old man’s pocket. As he
picked it up listlessly, a photograph slipped from its folds. It was the
portrait of a young girl; and on its reverse was written in a scrawling
hand, “Melinda to father.”

It was at best a cheap picture, but, ah me! I fear even the deft
graciousness of the highest art could not have softened the rigid
angularities of that youthful figure, its self-complacent vulgarity, its
cheap finery, its expressionless ill-favor. York did not look at it a
second time. He turned to the letter for relief.

It was misspelled; it was unpunctuated; it was almost illegible; it
was fretful in tone, and selfish in sentiment. It was not, I fear, even
original in the story of its woes. It was the harsh recital of poverty,
of suspicion, of mean makeshifts and compromises, of low pains and lower
longings, of sorrows that were degrading, of a grief that was pitiable.
Yet it was sincere in a certain kind of vague yearning for the presence
of the degraded man to whom it was written,--an affection that was more
like a confused instinct than a sentiment.

York folded it again carefully, and placed it beneath the old man’s
pillow. Then he returned to his seat by the fire. A smile that had been
playing upon his face, deepening the curves behind his mustache, and
gradually overrunning his clear gray eyes, presently faded away. It was
last to go from his eyes; and it left there, oddly enough to those who
did not know him, a tear.

He sat there for a long time, leaning forward, his head upon his hands.
The wind that had been striving with the canvas roof all at once lifted
its edges, and a moonbeam slipped suddenly in, and lay for a moment
like a shining blade upon his shoulder; and, knighted by its touch,
straightway plain Henry York arose, sustained, high-purposed and

The rains had come at last. There was already a visible greenness on the
slopes of Heavytree Hill; and the long, white track of the Wingdam road
was lost in outlying pools and ponds a hundred rods from Monte Flat. The
spent water-courses, whose white bones had been sinuously trailed over
the flat, like the vertebrae of some forgotten saurian, were full again;
the dry bones moved once more in the valley; and there was joy in the
ditches, and a pardonable extravagance in the columns of “The Monte Flat
Monitor.” “Never before in the history of the county has the yield
been so satisfactory. Our contemporary of ‘The Hillside Beacon,’ who
yesterday facetiously alluded to the fact (?) that our best citizens
were leaving town in ‘dugouts,’ on account of the flood, will be glad
to hear that our distinguished fellow-townsman, Mr. Henry York, now on a
visit to his relatives in the East, lately took with him in his ‘dugout’
the modest sum of fifty thousand dollars, the result of one week’s
clean-up. We can imagine,” continued that sprightly journal, “that no
such misfortune is likely to overtake Hillside this season. And yet we
believe ‘The Beacon’ man wants a railroad.” A few journals broke out
into poetry. The operator at Simpson’s Crossing telegraphed to “The
Sacramento Universe” “All day the low clouds have shook their garnered
fulness down.” A San Francisco journal lapsed into noble verse, thinly
disguised as editorial prose: “Rejoice: the gentle rain has come, the
bright and pearly rain, which scatters blessings on the hills, and sifts
them o’er the plain. Rejoice,” &c. Indeed, there was only one to whom
the rain had not brought blessing, and that was Plunkett. In some
mysterious and darksome way, it had interfered with the perfection of
his new method of reducing ores, and thrown the advent of that invention
back another season. It had brought him down to an habitual seat in the
bar-room, where, to heedless and inattentive ears, he sat and discoursed
of the East and his family.

No one disturbed him. Indeed, it was rumored that some funds had been
lodged with the landlord, by a person or persons unknown, whereby his
few wants were provided for. His mania--for that was the charitable
construction which Monte Flat put upon his conduct--was indulged, even
to the extent of Monte Flat’s accepting his invitation to dine with his
family on Christmas Day,--an invitation extended frankly to every one
with whom the old man drank or talked. But one day, to everybody’s
astonishment, he burst into the bar-room, holding an open letter in his
hand. It read as follows:--

“Be ready to meet your family at the new cottage on Heavytree Hill on
Christmas Day. Invite what friends you choose.


The letter was handed round in silence. The old man, with a look
alternating between hope and fear, gazed in the faces of the group.
The doctor looked up significantly, after a pause. “It’s a forgery
evidently,” he said in a low voice. “He’s cunning enough to conceive it
(they always are); but you’ll find he’ll fail in executing it. Watch his
face!--Old man,” he said suddenly, in a loud peremptory tone, “this is
a trick, a forgery, and you know it. Answer me squarely, and look me in
the eye. Isn’t it so?”

The eyes of Plunkett stared a moment, and then dropped weakly. Then,
with a feebler smile, he said, “You’re too many for me, boys. The Doc’s
right. The little game’s up. You can take the old man’s hat;” and so,
tottering, trembling, and chuckling, he dropped into silence and his
accustomed seat. But the next day he seemed to have forgotten this
episode, and talked as glibly as ever of the approaching festivity.

And so the days and weeks passed until Christmas--a bright, clear day,
warmed with south winds, and joyous with the resurrection of springing
grasses--broke upon Monte Flat. And then there was a sudden commotion in
the hotel bar-room; and Abner Dean stood beside the old man’s chair,
and shook him out of a slumber to his feet. “Rouse up, old man. York is
here, with your wife and daughter, at the cottage on Heavytree. Come,
old man. Here, boys, give him a lift;” and in another moment a dozen
strong and willing hands had raised the old man, and bore him in triumph
to the street up the steep grade of Heavytree Hill, and deposited him,
struggling and confused, in the porch of a little cottage. At the same
instant two women rushed forward, but were restrained by a gesture from
Henry York. The old man was struggling to his feet. With an effort at
last, he stood erect, trembling, his eye fixed, a gray pallor on his
cheek, and a deep resonance in his voice.

“It’s all a trick, and a lie! They ain’t no flesh and blood or kin o’
mine. It ain’t my wife, nor child. My daughter’s a beautiful girl--a
beautiful girl, d’ye hear? She’s in New York with her mother, and I’m
going to fetch her here. I said I’d go home, and I’ve been home: d’ye
hear me? I’ve been home! It’s a mean trick you’re playin’ on the old
man. Let me go: d’ye hear? Keep them women off me! Let me go! I’m
going--I’m going--home!”

His hands were thrown up convulsively in the air, and, half turning
round, he fell sideways on the porch, and so to the ground. They picked
him up hurriedly, but too late. He had gone home.


He lived alone. I do not think this peculiarity arose from any wish to
withdraw his foolishness from the rest of the camp, nor was it probable
that the combined wisdom of Five Forks ever drove him into exile. My
impression is, that he lived alone from choice,--a choice he made long
before the camp indulged in any criticism of his mental capacity. He was
much given to moody reticence, and, although to outward appearances a
strong man, was always complaining of ill-health. Indeed, one theory of
his isolation was, that it afforded him better opportunities for taking
medicine, of which he habitually consumed large quantities.

His folly first dawned upon Five Forks through the post-office windows.
He was, for a long time, the only man who wrote home by every mail; his
letters being always directed to the same person,--a woman. Now, it so
happened that the bulk of the Five Forks correspondence was usually the
other way. There were many letters received (the majority being in
the female hand), but very few answered. The men received them
indifferently, or as a matter of course. A few opened and read them on
the spot, with a barely repressed smile of self-conceit, or quite as
frequently glanced over them with undisguised impatience. Some of the
letters began with “My dear husband;” and some were never called for.
But the fact that the only regular correspondent of Five Forks never
received any reply became at last quite notorious. Consequently, when
an envelope was received, bearing the stamp of the “dead letter office,”
 addressed to “The Fool,” under the more conventional title of “Cyrus
Hawkins,” there was quite a fever of excitement. I do not know how the
secret leaked out; but it was eventually known to the camp, that the
envelope contained Hawkins’s own letters returned. This was the first
evidence of his weakness. Any man who repeatedly wrote to a woman who
did not reply must be a fool. I think Hawkins suspected that his folly
was known to the camp; but he took refuge in symptoms of chills and
fever, which he at once developed, and effected a diversion with three
bottles of Indian cholagogue and two boxes of pills. At all events, at
the end of a week, he resumed a pen stiffened by tonics, with all his
old epistolatory pertinacity. This time the letters had a new address.

In those days a popular belief obtained in the mines, that luck
particularly favored the foolish and unscientific. Consequently, when
Hawkins struck a “pocket” in the hillside near his solitary cabin, there
was but little surprise. “He will sink it all in the next hole” was
the prevailing belief, predicated upon the usual manner in which the
possessor of “nigger luck” disposed of his fortune. To everybody’s
astonishment, Hawkins, after taking out about eight thousand dollars,
and exhausting the pocket, did not prospect for another. The camp
then waited patiently to see what he would do with his money. I think,
however, that it was with the greatest difficulty their indignation was
kept from taking the form of a personal assault when it became known
that he had purchased a draft for eight thousand dollars, in favor of
“that woman.” More than this, it was finally whispered that the draft
was returned to him as his letters had been, and that he was ashamed
to reclaim the money at the express-office. “It wouldn’t be a bad
specilation to go East, get some smart gal, for a hundred dollars, to
dress herself up and represent that ‘Hag,’ and jest freeze onto that
eight thousand,” suggested a far-seeing financier. I may state here,
that we always alluded to Hawkins’s fair unknown as the “Hag” without
having, I am confident, the least justification for that epithet.

That the “Fool” should gamble seemed eminently fit and proper. That he
should occasionally win a large stake, according to that popular theory
which I have recorded in the preceding paragraph, appeared, also, a not
improbable or inconsistent fact. That he should, however, break the faro
bank which Mr. John Hamlin had set up in Five Forks, and carry off a
sum variously estimated at from ten to twenty thousand dollars, and
not return the next day, and lose the money at the same table, really
appeared incredible. Yet such was the fact. A day or two passed without
any known investment of Mr. Hawkins’s recently-acquired capital. “Ef he
allows to send it to that ‘Hag,’” said one prominent citizen, “suthin’
ought to be done. It’s jest ruinin’ the reputation of this yer
camp,--this sloshin’ around o’ capital on non-residents ez don’t claim
it!” “It’s settin’ an example o’ extravagance,” said another, “ez is
little better nor a swindle. Thais mor’n five men in this camp, thet,
hearin’ thet Hawkins hed sent home eight thousand dollars, must jest
rise up and send home their hard earnings too! And then to think thet
thet eight thousand was only a bluff, after all, and thet it’s lyin’
there on call in Adams & Co.’s bank! Well, I say it’s one o’ them things
a vigilance committee oughter look into.”

When there seemed no possibility of this repetition of Hawkins’s folly,
the anxiety to know what he had really done with his money became
intense. At last a self-appointed committee of four citizens dropped
artfully, but to outward appearances carelessly, upon him in his
seclusion. When some polite formalities had been exchanged, and some
easy vituperation of a backward season offered by each of the parties,
Tom Wingate approached the subject.

“Sorter dropped heavy on Jack Hamlin the other night, didn’t ye? He
allows you didn’t give him no show for revenge. I said you wasn’t
no such d----d fool; didn’t I, Dick?” continued the artful Wingate,
appealing to a confederate.

“Yes,” said Dick promptly. “You said twenty thousand dollars wasn’t
goin’ to be thrown around recklessly. You said Cyrus had suthin’ better
to do with his capital,” super-added Dick with gratuitous mendacity. “I
disremember now what partickler investment you said he was goin’ to make
with it,” he continued, appealing with easy indifference to his friend.

Of course Wingate did not reply, but looked at the “Fool,” who, with
a troubled face, was rubbing his legs softly. After a pause, he turned
deprecatingly toward his visitors.

“Ye didn’t enny of ye ever hev a sort of tremblin’ in your legs, a
kind o’ shakiness from the knee down? Suthin’,” he continued, slightly
brightening with his topic,--“suthin’ that begins like chills, and
yet ain’t chills? A kind o’ sensation of goneness here, and a kind o’
feelin’ as it you might die suddint?--when Wright’s Pills don’t somehow
reach the spot, and quinine don’t fetch you?”

“No!” said Wingate with a curt directness, and the air of
authoritatively responding for his friends,--“no, never had. You was
speakin’ of this yer investment.”

“And your bowels all the time irregular?” continued Hawkins, blushing
under Wingate’s eye, and yet clinging despairingly to his theme, like a
shipwrecked mariner to his plank.

Wingate did not reply, but glanced significantly at the rest. Hawkins
evidently saw this recognition of his mental deficiency, and said
apologetically, “You was saying suthin’ about my investment?”

“Yes,” said Wingate, so rapidly as to almost take Hawkins’s breath
away,--“the investment you made in”--

“Rafferty’s Ditch,” said the “Fool” timidly.

For a moment, the visitors could only stare blankly at each other.
“Rafferty’s Ditch,” the one notorious failure of Five Forks!--Rafferty’s
Ditch, the impracticable scheme of an utterly unpractical
man!--Rafferty’s Ditch, a ridiculous plan for taking water that could
not be got to a place where it wasn’t wanted!--Rafferty’s Ditch, that
had buried the fortunes of Rafferty and twenty wretched stockholders in
its muddy depths!

“And thet’s it, is it?” said Wingate, after a gloomy pause. “Thet’s it!
I see it all now, boys. That’s how ragged Pat Rafferty went down to San
Francisco yesterday in store-clothes, and his wife and four children
went off in a kerridge to Sacramento. Thet’s why them ten workmen of
his, ez hadn’t a cent to bless themselves with, was playin’ billiards
last night, and eatin’ isters. Thet’s whar that money kum frum,--one
hundred dollars to pay for the long advertisement of the new issue of
ditch stock in the ‘Times’ yesterday. Thet’s why them six strangers
were booked at the Magnolia hotel yesterday. Don’t you see? It’s thet
money--and that ‘Fool’!”

The “Fool” sat silent. The visitors rose without a word.

“You never took any of them Indian Vegetable Pills?” asked Hawkins
timidly of Wingate.

“No!” roared Wingate as he opened the door.

“They tell me, that, took with the Panacea,--they was out o’ the Panacea
when I went to the drug-store last week,--they say, that, took with the
Panacea, they always effect a certin cure.” But by this time, Wingate
and his disgusted friends had retreated, slamming the door on the “Fool”
 and his ailments.

Nevertheless, in six months the whole affair was forgotten: the money
had been spent; the “Ditch” had been purchased by a company of Boston
capitalists, fired by the glowing description of an Eastern tourist, who
had spent one drunken night at Five Forks; and I think even the mental
condition of Hawkins might have remained undisturbed by criticism, but
for a singular incident.

It was during an exciting political campaign, when party-feeling ran
high, that the irascible Capt. McFadden of Sacramento visited Five
Forks. During a heated discussion in the Prairie Rose Saloon, words
passed between the captain and the Hon. Calhoun Bungstarter, ending in
a challenge. The captain bore the infelicitous reputation of being
a notorious duellist and a dead-shot. The captain was unpopular. The
captain was believed to have been sent by the opposition for a deadly
purpose; and the captain was, moreover, a stranger. I am sorry to say
that with Five Forks this latter condition did not carry the quality
of sanctity or reverence that usually obtains among other nomads. There
was, consequently, some little hesitation when the captain turned upon
the crowd, and asked for some one to act as his friend. To everybody’s
astonishment, and to the indignation of many, the “Fool” stepped
forward, and offered himself in that capacity. I do not know
whether Capt. McFadden would have chosen him voluntarily; but he was
constrained, in the absence of a better man, to accept his services.

The duel never took place. The preliminaries were all arranged, the
spot indicated; the men were present with their seconds; there was
no interruption from without; there was no explanation or apology
passed--but the duel did not take place. It may be readily imagined
that these facts, which were all known to Five Forks, threw the whole
community into a fever of curiosity. The principals, the surgeon, and
one second left town the next day. Only the “Fool” remained. HE resisted
all questioning, declaring himself held in honor not to divulge: in
short, conducted himself with consistent but exasperating folly. It was
not until six months had passed, that Col. Starbottle, the second of
Calhoun Bungstarter, in a moment of weakness, superinduced by the social
glass, condescended to explain. I should not do justice to the parties,
if I did not give that explanation in the colonel’s own words. I may
remark, in passing, that the characteristic dignity of Col. Starbottle
always became intensified by stimulants, and that, by the same process,
all sense of humor was utterly eliminated.

“With the understanding that I am addressing myself confidentially to
men of honor,” said the colonel, elevating his chest above the bar-room
counter of the Prairie Rose Saloon, “I trust that it will not be
necessary for me to protect myself from levity, as I was forced to do in
Sacramento on the only other occasion when I entered into an explanation
of this delicate affair by--er--er--calling the individual to a personal
account--er. I do not believe,” added the colonel, slightly waving
his glass of liquor in the air with a graceful gesture of courteous
deprecation, “knowing what I do of the present company, that such a
course of action is required here. Certainly not, sir, in the home of
Mr. Hawkins--er--the gentleman who represented Mr. Bungstarter, whose
conduct, ged, sir, is worthy of praise, blank me!”

Apparently satisfied with the gravity and respectful attention of his
listeners, Col. Starbottle smiled relentingly and sweetly, closed his
eyes half-dreamily, as if to recall his wandering thoughts, and began,--

“As the spot selected was nearest the tenement of Mr. Hawkins, it was
agreed that the parties should meet there. They did so promptly at
half-past six. The morning being chilly, Mr. Hawkins extended the
hospitalities of his house with a bottle of Bourbon whiskey, of which
all partook but myself. The reason for that exception is, I believe,
well known. It is my invariable custom to take brandy--a wineglassful
in a cup of strong coffee--immediately on rising. It stimulates the
functions, sir, without producing any blank derangement of the nerves.”

The barkeeper, to whom, as an expert, the colonel had graciously
imparted this information, nodded approvingly; and the colonel, amid a
breathless silence, went on.

“We were about twenty minutes in reaching the spot. The ground was
measured, the weapons were loaded, when Mr. Bungstarter confided to me
the information that he was unwell, and in great pain. On consultation
with Mr. Hawkins, it appeared that his principal, in a distant part of
the field, was also suffering, and in great pain. The symptoms were
such as a medical man would pronounce ‘choleraic.’ I say WOULD
have pronounced; for, on examination, the surgeon was also found to
be--er--in pain, and, I regret to say, expressing himself in language
unbecoming the occasion. His impression was, that some powerful drug
had been administered. On referring the question to Mr. Hawkins, he
remembered that the bottle of whiskey partaken by them contained a
medicine which he had been in the habit of taking, but which, having
failed to act upon him, he had concluded to be generally ineffective,
and had forgotten. His perfect willingness to hold himself personally
responsible to each of the parties, his genuine concern at the
disastrous effect of the mistake, mingled with his own alarm at the
state of his system, which--er--failed to--er--respond to the peculiar
qualities of the medicine, was most becoming to him as a man of honor
and a gentleman. After an hour’s delay, both principals being completely
exhausted, and abandoned by the surgeon, who was unreasonably alarmed
at his own condition, Mr. Hawkins and I agreed to remove our men to
Markleville. There, after a further consultation with Mr. Hawkins, an
amicable adjustment of all difficulties, honorable to both parties,
and governed by profound secrecy, was arranged. I believe,” added the
colonel, looking around, and setting down his glass, “no gentleman has
yet expressed himself other than satisfied with the result.”

Perhaps it was the colonel’s manner; but, whatever was the opinion of
Five Forks regarding the intellectual display of Mr. Hawkins in this
affair, there was very little outspoken criticism at the moment. In a
few weeks the whole thing was forgotten, except as part of the necessary
record of Hawkins’s blunders, which was already a pretty full one.
Again, some later follies conspired to obliterate the past, until, a
year later, a valuable lead was discovered in the “Blazing Star” tunnel,
in the hill where he lived; and a large sum was offered him for a
portion of his land on the hilltop. Accustomed as Five Forks had become
to the exhibition of his folly, it was with astonishment that they
learned that he resolutely and decidedly refused the offer. The reason
that he gave was still more astounding,--he was about to build.

To build a house upon property available for mining-purposes was
preposterous; to build at all, with a roof already covering him, was
an act of extravagance; to build a house of the style he proposed was
simply madness.

Yet here were facts. The plans were made, and the lumber for the new
building was already on the ground, while the shaft of the “Blazing
Star” was being sunk below. The site was, in reality, a very picturesque
one, the building itself of a style and quality hitherto unknown in
Five Forks. The citizens, at first sceptical, during their moments of
recreation and idleness gathered doubtingly about the locality. Day by
day, in that climate of rapid growths, the building, pleasantly known
in the slang of Five Forks as the “Idiot Asylum,” rose beside the green
oaks and clustering firs of Hawkins Hill, as if it were part of the
natural phenomena. At last it was completed. Then Mr. Hawkins proceeded
to furnish it with an expensiveness and extravagance of outlay quite in
keeping with his former idiocy. Carpets, sofas, mirrors, and finally a
piano,--the only one known in the county, and brought at great expense
from Sacramento,--kept curiosity at a fever-heat. More than that, there
were articles and ornaments which a few married experts declared only
fit for women. When the furnishing of the house was complete,--it had
occupied two months of the speculative and curious attention of the
camp,--Mr. Hawkins locked the front-door, put the key in his pocket, and
quietly retired to his more humble roof, lower on the hillside.

I have not deemed it necessary to indicate to the intelligent reader all
of the theories which obtained in Five Forks during the erection of the
building. Some of them may be readily imagined. That the “Hag” had, by
artful coyness and systematic reticence, at last completely subjugated
the “Fool,” and that the new house was intended for the nuptial bower of
the (predestined) unhappy pair, was, of course, the prevailing opinion.
But when, after a reasonable time had elapsed, and the house still
remained untenanted, the more exasperating conviction forced itself upon
the general mind, that the “Fool” had been for the third time imposed
upon; when two months had elapsed, and there seemed no prospect of
a mistress for the new house,--I think public indignation became so
strong, that, had the “Hag” arrived, the marriage would have been
publicly prevented. But no one appeared that seemed to answer to this
idea of an available tenant; and all inquiry of Mr. Hawkins as to his
intention in building a house, and not renting it, or occupying it,
failed to elicit any further information. The reasons that he gave were
felt to be vague, evasive, and unsatisfactory. He was in no hurry to
move, he said. When he WAS ready, it surely was not strange that he
should like to have his house all ready to receive him. He was often
seen upon the veranda, of a summer evening, smoking a cigar. It is
reported that one night the house was observed to be brilliantly lighted
from garret to basement; that a neighbor, observing this, crept toward
the open parlor-window, and, looking in, espied the “Fool” accurately
dressed in evening costume, lounging upon a sofa in the drawing-room,
with the easy air of socially entertaining a large party.
Notwithstanding this, the house was unmistakably vacant that evening,
save for the presence of the owner, as the witness afterward testified.
When this story was first related, a few practical men suggested the
theory that Mr. Hawkins was simply drilling himself in the elaborate
duties of hospitality against a probable event in his history. A few
ventured the belief that the house was haunted. The imaginative editor
of the Five Forks “Record” evolved from the depths of his professional
consciousness a story that Hawkins’s sweetheart had died, and that
he regularly entertained her spirit in this beautifully furnished
mausoleum. The occasional spectacle of Hawkins’s tall figure pacing the
veranda on moonlight nights lent some credence to this theory, until an
unlooked-for incident diverted all speculation into another channel.

It was about this time that a certain wild, rude valley, in the
neighborhood of Five Forks, had become famous as a picturesque resort.
Travellers had visited it, and declared that there were more cubic yards
of rough stone cliff, and a waterfall of greater height, than any they
had visited. Correspondents had written it up with extravagant rhetoric
and inordinate poetical quotation. Men and women who had never enjoyed a
sunset, a tree, or a flower, who had never appreciated the graciousness
or meaning of the yellow sunlight that flecked their homely doorways,
or the tenderness of a midsummer’s night, to whose moonlight they bared
their shirt-sleeves or their tulle dresses, came from thousands of miles
away to calculate the height of this rock, to observe the depth of this
chasm, to remark upon the enormous size of this unsightly tree, and to
believe with ineffable self-complacency that they really admired
Nature. And so it came to pass, that, in accordance with the tastes or
weaknesses of the individual, the more prominent and salient points of
the valley were christened; and there was a “Lace Handkerchief Fall,”
 and the “Tears of Sympathy Cataract,” and one distinguished orator’s
“Peak,” and several “Mounts” of various noted people, living or dead,
and an “Exclamation-Point,” and a “Valley of Silent Adoration.” And, in
course of time, empty soda-water bottles were found at the base of the
cataract, and greasy newspapers, and fragments of ham-sandwiches, lay
at the dusty roots of giant trees. With this, there were frequent
irruptions of closely-shaven and tightly-cravated men, and delicate,
flower-faced women, in the one long street of Five Forks, and a
scampering of mules, and an occasional procession of dusty brown-linen

A year after “Hawkins’s Idiot Asylum” was completed, one day there
drifted into the valley a riotous cavalcade of “school-marms,”
 teachers of the San Francisco public schools, out for a holiday. Not
severely-spectacled Minervas, and chastely armed and mailed Pallases,
but, I fear, for the security of Five Forks, very human, charming, and
mischievous young women. At least, so the men thought, working in the
ditches, and tunnelling on the hillside; and when, in the interests
of science, and the mental advancement of juvenile posterity, it was
finally settled that they should stay in Five Forks two or three
days for the sake of visiting the various mines, and particularly the
“Blazing Star” tunnel, there was some flutter of masculine anxiety.
There was a considerable inquiry for “store-clothes,” a hopeless
overhauling of old and disused raiment, and a general demand fox “boiled
shirts” and the barber.

Meanwhile, with that supreme audacity and impudent hardihood of the sex
when gregarious, the school-marms rode through the town, admiring openly
the handsome faces and manly figures that looked up from the ditches,
or rose behind the cars of ore at the mouths of tunnels. Indeed, it is
alleged that Jenny Forester, backed and supported by seven other equally
shameless young women, had openly and publicly waved her handkerchief to
the florid Hercules of Five Forks, one Tom Flynn, formerly of Virginia,
leaving that good-natured but not over-bright giant pulling his blonde
mustaches in bashful amazement.

It was a pleasant June afternoon that Miss Milly Arnot, principal of the
primary department of one of the public schools of San Francisco, having
evaded her companions, resolved to put into operation a plan which had
lately sprung up in her courageous and mischief-loving fancy. With that
wonderful and mysterious instinct of her sex, from whom no secrets of
the affections are hid, and to whom all hearts are laid open, she had
heard the story of Hawkins’s folly, and the existence of the “Idiot
Asylum.” Alone, on Hawkins Hill, she had determined to penetrate its
seclusion. Skirting the underbrush at the foot of the hill, she managed
to keep the heaviest timber between herself and the “Blazing Star”
 tunnel at its base, as well as the cabin of Hawkins, half-way up the
ascent, until, by a circuitous route, at last she reached, unobserved,
the summit. Before her rose, silent, darkened, and motionless, the
object of her search. Here her courage failed her, with all the
characteristic inconsequence of her sex. A sudden fear of all the
dangers she had safely passed--bears, tarantulas, drunken men, and
lizards--came upon her. For a moment, as she afterward expressed it,
“she thought she should die.” With this belief, probably, she gathered
three large stones, which she could hardly lift, for the purpose of
throwing a great distance; put two hair-pins in her mouth; and carefully
re-adjusted with both hands two stray braids of her lovely blue-black
mane, which had fallen in gathering the stones. Then she felt in the
pockets of her linen duster for her card-case, handkerchief, pocketbook,
and smelling-bottle, and, finding them intact, suddenly assumed an
air of easy, ladylike unconcern, went up the steps of the veranda,
and demurely pulled the front doorbell, which she knew would not be
answered. After a decent pause, she walked around the encompassing
veranda, examining the closed shutters of the French windows until she
found one that yielded to her touch. Here she paused again to adjust her
coquettish hat by the mirror-like surface of the long sash-window, that
reflected the full length of her pretty figure. And then she opened the
window, and entered the room.

Although long closed, the house had a smell of newness and of fresh
paint, that was quite unlike the mouldiness of the conventional
haunted house. The bright carpets, the cheerful walls, the glistening
oil-cloths, were quite inconsistent with the idea of a ghost. With
childish curiosity, she began to explore the silent house, at first
timidly,--opening the doors with a violent push, and then stepping
back from the threshold to make good a possible retreat,--and then more
boldly, as she became convinced of her security and absolute loneliness.
In one of the chambers--the largest--there were fresh flowers in a vase,
evidently gathered that morning; and, what seemed still more remarkable,
the pitchers and ewers were freshly filled with water. This obliged Miss
Milly to notice another singular fact, namely, that the house was free
from dust, the one most obtrusive and penetrating visitor of Five Forks.
The floors and carpets had been recently swept, the chairs and furniture
carefully wiped and dusted. If the house WAS haunted, it was possessed
by a spirit who had none of the usual indifference to decay and mould.
And yet the beds had evidently never been slept in, the very springs
of the chair in which she sat creaked stiffly at the novelty; the
closet-doors opened with the reluctance of fresh paint and varnish; and
in spite of the warmth, cleanliness, and cheerfulness of furniture and
decoration, there was none of the ease of tenancy and occupation. As
Miss Milly afterward confessed, she longed to “tumble things around;”
 and, when she reached the parlor or drawing-room again, she could hardly
resist the desire. Particularly was she tempted by a closed piano, that
stood mutely against the wall. She thought she would open it just to see
who was the maker. That done, it would be no harm to try its tone. She
did so, with one little foot on the soft pedal. But Miss Milly was
too good a player, and too enthusiastic a musician, to stop at
half-measures. She tried it again, this time so sincerely, that the
whole house seemed to spring into voice. Then she stopped and listened.
There was no response: the empty rooms seemed to have relapsed into
their old stillness. She stepped out on the veranda. A woodpecker
recommenced his tapping on an adjacent tree: the rattle of a cart in the
rocky gulch below the hill came faintly up. No one was to be seen far or
near. Miss Milly, re-assured, returned. She again ran her fingers over
the keys, stopped, caught at a melody running in her mind, half played
it, and then threw away all caution. Before five minutes had elapsed,
she had entirely forgotten herself, and with her linen duster thrown
aside, her straw hat flung on the piano, her white hands bared, and a
black loop of her braided hair hanging upon her shoulder, was fairly
embarked upon a flowing sea of musical recollection.

She had played, perhaps, half an hour, when having just finished an
elaborate symphony, and resting her hands on the keys, she heard very
distinctly and unmistakably the sound of applause from without. In an
instant the fires of shame and indignation leaped into her cheeks; and
she rose from the instrument, and ran to the window, only in time to
catch sight of a dozen figures in blue and red flannel shirts vanishing
hurriedly through the trees below.

Miss Milly’s mind was instantly made up. I think I have already
intimated, that, under the stimulus of excitement, she was not wanting
in courage; and as she quietly resumed her gloves, hat, and duster, she
was not, perhaps, exactly the young person that it would be entirely
safe for the timid, embarrassed, or inexperienced of my sex to meet
alone. She shut down the piano; and having carefully reclosed all
the windows and doors, and restored the house to its former desolate
condition, she stepped from the veranda, and proceeded directly to the
cabin of the unintellectual Hawkins, that reared its adobe chimney above
the umbrage a quarter of a mile below.

The door opened instantly to her impulsive knock, and the “Fool of
Five Forks” stood before her. Miss Milly had never before seen the man
designated by this infelicitous title; and as he stepped backward,
in half courtesy and half astonishment, she was, for the moment,
disconcerted. He was tall, finely formed, and dark-bearded. Above cheeks
a little hollowed by care and ill-health shone a pair of hazel eyes,
very large, very gentle, but inexpressibly sad and mournful. This was
certainly not the kind of man Miss Milly had expected to see; yet, after
her first embarrassment had passed, the very circumstance, oddly enough,
added to her indignation, and stung her wounded pride still more deeply.
Nevertheless, the arch hypocrite instantly changed her tactics with the
swift intuition of her sex.

“I have come,” she said with a dazzling smile, infinitely more dangerous
than her former dignified severity,--“I have come to ask your pardon for
a great liberty I have just taken. I believe the new house above us on
the hill is yours. I was so much pleased with its exterior, that I left
my friends for a moment below here,” she continued artfully, with a
slight wave of the hand, as if indicating a band of fearless Amazons
without, and waiting to avenge any possible insult offered to one of
their number, “and ventured to enter it. Finding it unoccupied, as I had
been told, I am afraid I had the audacity to sit down and amuse myself
for a few moments at the piano, while waiting for my friends.”

Hawkins raised his beautiful eyes to hers. He saw a very pretty girl,
with frank gray eyes glistening with excitement, with two red, slightly
freckled cheeks glowing a little under his eyes, with a short scarlet
upper-lip turned back, like a rose-leaf, over a little line of white
teeth, as she breathed somewhat hurriedly in her nervous excitement. He
saw all this calmly, quietly, and, save for the natural uneasiness of a
shy, reticent man, I fear without a quickening of his pulse.

“I knowed it,” he said simply. “I heerd ye as I kem up.”

Miss Milly was furious at his grammar, his dialect, his coolness, and,
still more, at the suspicion that he was an active member of her in
visible elaque.

“Ah!” she said, still smiling. “Then I think I heard YOU”--

“I reckon not,” he interrupted gravely. “I didn’t stay long. I found
the boys hanging round the house, and I allowed at first I’d go in and
kinder warn you; but they promised to keep still: and you looked so
comfortable, and wrapped up in your music, that I hadn’t the heart to
disturb you, and kem away. I hope,” he added earnestly, “they didn’t
let on ez they heerd you. They ain’t a bad lot,--them Blazin’ Star
boys--though they’re a little hard at times. But they’d no more hurt
ye then they would a--a--a cat!” continued Mr. Hawkins, blushing with a
faint apprehension of the inelegance of his simile.

“No, no!” said Miss Milly, feeling suddenly very angry with herself,
the “Fool,” and the entire male population of Five Forks. “No! I have
behaved foolishly, I suppose--and, if they HAD, it would have served me
right. But I only wanted to apologize to you. You’ll find every thing as
you left it. Good-day!”

She turned to go. Mr. Hawkins began to feel embarrassed. “I’d have asked
ye to sit down,” he said finally, “if it hed been a place fit for a
lady. I oughter done so, enny way. I don’t know what kept me from it.
But I ain’t well, miss. Times I get a sort o’ dumb ager,--it’s the
ditches, I think, miss,--and I don’t seem to hev my wits about me.”

Instantly Miss Arnot was all sympathy: her quick woman’s heart was

“Can I--can any thing be done?” she asked more timidly than she had
before spoken.

“No--not onless ye remember suthin’ about these pills.” He exhibited a
box containing about half a dozen. “I forget the direction--I don’t
seem to remember much, any way, these times. They’re ‘Jones’s Vegetable
Compound.’ If ye’ve ever took ‘em, ye’ll remember whether the reg’lar
dose is eight. They ain’t but six here. But perhaps ye never tuk any,”
 he added deprecatingly.

“No,” said Miss Milly curtly. She had usually a keen sense of the
ludicrous; but somehow Mr. Hawkins’s eccentricity only pained her.

“Will you let me see you to the foot of the hill?” he said again, after
another embarrassing pause.

Miss Arnot felt instantly that such an act would condone her trespass in
the eyes of the world. She might meet some of her invisible admirers,
or even her companions; and, with all her erratic impulses, she was,
nevertheless, a woman, and did not entirely despise the verdict of
conventionality. She smiled sweetly, and assented; and in another moment
the two were lost in the shadows of the wood.

Like many other apparently trivial acts in an uneventful life, it was
decisive. As she expected, she met two or three of her late applauders,
whom, she fancied, looked sheepish and embarrassed; she met, also, her
companions looking for her in some alarm, who really appeared astonished
at her escort, and, she fancied, a trifle envious of her evident
success. I fear that Miss Arnot, in response to their anxious inquiries,
did not state entirely the truth, but, without actual assertion, led
them to believe that she had, at a very early stage of the proceeding,
completely subjugated this weak-minded giant, and had brought him
triumphantly to her feet. From telling this story two or three times,
she got finally to believing that she had some foundation for it, then
to a vague sort of desire that it would eventually prove to be true, and
then to an equally vague yearning to hasten that consummation. That
it would redound to any satisfaction of the “Fool” she did not stop
to doubt. That it would cure him of his folly she was quite confident.
Indeed, there are very few of us, men or women, who do not believe that
even a hopeless love for ourselves is more conducive to the salvation of
the lover than a requited affection for another.

The criticism of Five Forks was, as the reader may imagine, swift and
conclusive. When it was found out that Miss Arnot was not the “Hag”
 masquerading as a young and pretty girl, to the ultimate deception of
Five Forks in general, and the “Fool” in particular, it was at once
decided that nothing but the speedy union of the “Fool” and the “pretty
school-marm” was consistent with ordinary common sense. The singular
good-fortune of Hawkins was quite in accordance with the theory of his
luck as propounded by the camp. That, after the “Hag” failed to make
her appearance, he should “strike a lead” in his own house, without the
trouble of “prospectin’,” seemed to these casuists as a wonderful but
inevitable law. To add to these fateful probabilities, Miss Arnot fell,
and sprained her ankle, in the ascent of Mount Lincoln, and was confined
for some weeks to the hotel after her companions had departed. During
this period, Hawkins was civilly but grotesquely attentive. When, after
a reasonable time had elapsed, there still appeared to be no immediate
prospect of the occupancy of the new house, public opinion experienced a
singular change in regard to its theories of Mr. Hawkins’s conduct. The
“Hag” was looked upon as a saint-like and long-suffering martyr to the
weaknesses and inconsistency of the “Fool.” That, after erecting this
new house at her request, he had suddenly “gone back” on her; that his
celibacy was the result of a long habit of weak proposal and subsequent
shameless rejection; and that he was now trying his hand on the helpless
schoolmarm, was perfectly plain to Five Forks. That he should be
frustrated in his attempts at any cost was equally plain. Miss Milly
suddenly found herself invested with a rude chivalry that would have
been amusing, had it not been at times embarrassing; that would have
been impertinent, but for the almost superstitious respect with which
it was proffered. Every day somebody from Five Forks rode out to inquire
the health of the fair patient. “Hez Hawkins bin over yer to-day?”
 queried Tom Flynn, with artful ease and indifference, as he leaned over
Miss Milly’s easy-chair on the veranda. Miss Milly, with a faint pink
flush on her cheek, was constrained to answer, “No.” “Well, he sorter
sprained his foot agin a rock yesterday,” continued Flynn with shameless
untruthfulness. “You mus’n’t think any thing o’ that, Miss Arnot. He’ll
be over yer to-morrer; and meantime he told me to hand this yer bookay
with his re-gards, and this yer specimen.” And Mr. Flynn laid down the
flowers he had picked en route against such an emergency, and presented
respectfully a piece of quartz and gold, which he had taken that morning
from his own sluice-box. “You mus’n’t mind Hawkins’s ways, Miss Milly,”
 said another sympathizing miner. “There ain’t a better man in camp than
that theer Cy Hawkins--but he don’t understand the ways o’ the world
with wimen. He hasn’t mixed as much with society as the rest of us,” he
added, with an elaborate Chesterfieldian ease of manner; “but he means
well.” Meanwhile a few other sympathetic tunnelmen were impressing upon
Mr. Hawkins the necessity of the greatest attention to the invalid. “It
won’t do, Hawkins,” they explained, “to let that there gal go back to
San Francisco and say, that, when she was sick and alone, the only man
in Five Forks under whose roof she had rested, and at whose table she
had sat” (this was considered a natural but pardonable exaggeration of
rhetoric) “ever threw off on her; and it sha’n’t be done. It ain’t the
square thing to Five Forks.” And then the “Fool” would rush away to the
valley, and be received by Miss Milly with a certain reserve of manner
that finally disappeared in a flush of color, some increased vivacity,
and a pardonable coquetry. And so the days passed. Miss Milly grew
better in health, and more troubled in mind; and Mr. Hawkins became more
and more embarrassed; and Five Forks smiled, and rubbed its hands,
and waited for the approaching denoument. And then it came--but not,
perhaps, in the manner that Five Forks had imagined.

It was a lovely afternoon in July that a party of Eastern tourists rode
into Five Forks. They had just “done” the Valley of Big Things; and,
there being one or two Eastern capitalists among the party, it
was deemed advisable that a proper knowledge of the practical
mining-resources of California should be added to their experience
of the merely picturesque in Nature. Thus far every thing had been
satisfactory; the amount of water which passed over the Fall was large,
owing to a backward season; some snow still remained in the canyons near
the highest peaks; they had ridden round one of the biggest trees, and
through the prostrate trunk of another. To say that they were delighted
is to express feebly the enthusiasm of these ladies and gentlemen, drunk
with the champagny hospitality of their entertainers, the utter novelty
of scene, and the dry, exhilarating air of the valley. One or two had
already expressed themselves ready to live and die there; another had
written a glowing account to the Eastern press, depreciating all other
scenery in Europe and America; and, under these circumstances, it was
reasonably expected that Five Forks would do its duty, and equally
impress the stranger after its own fashion.

Letters to this effect were sent from San Francisco by prominent
capitalists there; and, under the able superintendence of one of their
agents, the visitors were taken in hand, shown “what was to be seen,”
 carefully restrained from observing what ought not to be visible, and so
kept in a blissful and enthusiastic condition. And so the graveyard of
Five Forks, in which but two of the occupants had died natural deaths;
the dreary, ragged cabins on the hillsides, with their sad-eyed,
cynical, broken-spirited occupants, toiling on day by day for a
miserable pittance, and a fare that a self-respecting Eastern mechanic
would have scornfully rejected,--were not a part of the Eastern
visitors’ recollection. But the hoisting works and machinery of the
“Blazing Star Tunnel Company” was,--the Blazing Star Tunnel Company,
whose “gentlemanly superintendent” had received private information
from San Francisco to do the “proper thing” for the party. Wherefore the
valuable heaps of ore in the company’s works were shown; the oblong bars
of gold, ready for shipment, were playfully offered to the ladies who
could lift and carry them away unaided; and even the tunnel itself,
gloomy, fateful, and peculiar, was shown as part of the experience; and,
in the noble language of one correspondent, “The wealth of Five Forks,
and the peculiar inducements that it offered to Eastern capitalists,”
 were established beyond a doubt. And then occurred a little incident,
which, as an unbiassed spectator, I am free to say offered no
inducements to anybody whatever, but which, for its bearing upon the
central figure of this veracious chronicle, I cannot pass over.

It had become apparent to one or two more practical and sober-minded in
the party, that certain portions of the “Blazing Star” tunnel (owing,
perhaps, to the exigencies of a flattering annual dividend) were
economically and imperfectly “shored” and supported, and were,
consequently, unsafe, insecure, and to be avoided. Nevertheless, at a
time when champagne corks were popping in dark corners, and enthusiastic
voices and happy laughter rang through the half-lighted levels and
galleries, there came a sudden and mysterious silence. A few lights
dashed swiftly by in the direction of a distant part of the gallery,
and then there was a sudden sharp issuing of orders, and a dull, ominous
rumble. Some of the visitors turned pale: one woman fainted.

Something had happened. What? “Nothing” (the speaker is fluent, but
uneasy)--“one of the gentlemen, in trying to dislodge a ‘specimen’
from the wall, had knocked away a support. There had been a ‘cave’--the
gentleman was caught, and buried below his shoulders. It was all right,
they’d get him out in a moment--only it required great care to keep from
extending the ‘cave.’ Didn’t know his name. It was that little man, the
husband of that lively lady with the black eyes. Eh! Hullo, there! Stop
her! For God’s sake! Not that way! She’ll fall from that shaft. She’ll
be killed!”

But the lively lady was already gone. With staring black eyes,
imploringly trying to pierce the gloom, with hands and feet that sought
to batter and break down the thick darkness, with incoherent cries and
supplications following the moving of ignis fatuus lights ahead, she
ran, and ran swiftly!--ran over treacherous foundations, ran by
yawning gulfs, ran past branching galleries and arches, ran wildly, ran
despairingly, ran blindly, and at last ran into the arms of the “Fool of
Five Forks.”

In an instant she caught at his hand. “Oh, save him!” she cried. “You
belong here; you know this dreadful place: bring me to him. Tell me
where to go, and what to do, I implore you! Quick, he is dying! Come!”

He raised his eyes to hers, and then, with a sudden cry, dropped the
rope and crowbar he was carrying, and reeled against the wall.

“Annie!” he gasped slowly. “Is it you?”

She caught at both his hands, brought her face to his with staring eyes,
murmured, “Good God, Cyrus!” and sank upon her knees before him.

He tried to disengage the hand that she wrung with passionate entreaty.

“No, no! Cyrus, you will forgive me--you will forget the past! God has
sent you here to-day. You will come with me. You will--you must--save

“Save who?” cried Cyrus hoarsely.

“My husband!”

The blow was so direct, so strong and overwhelming, that, even through
her own stronger and more selfish absorption, she saw it in the face of
the man, and pitied him.

“I thought--you--knew--it,” she faltered.

He did not speak, but looked at her with fixed, dumb eyes. And then
the sound of distant voices and hurrying feet started her again into
passionate life. She once more caught his hand.

“O Cyrus, hear me! If you have loved me through all these years, you
will not fail me now. You must save him! You can! You are brave and
strong--you always were, Cyrus. You will save him, Cyrus, for my sake,
for the sake of your love for me! You will--I know it. God bless you!”

She rose as if to follow him, but, at a gesture of command, she stood
still. He picked up the rope and crowbar slowly, and in a dazed, blinded
way, that, in her agony of impatience and alarm, seemed protracted
to cruel infinity. Then he turned, and, raising her hand to his lips,
kissed it slowly, looked at her again, and the next moment was gone.

He did not return; for at the end of the next half-hour, when they laid
before her the half-conscious, breathing body of her husband, safe and
unharmed, but for exhaustion and some slight bruises, she learned that
the worst fears of the workmen had been realized. In releasing him, a
second cave had taken place. They had barely time to snatch away the
helpless body of her husband, before the strong frame of his rescuer,
Cyrus Hawkins, was struck and smitten down in his place.

For two hours he lay there, crushed and broken-limbed, with a heavy beam
lying across his breast, in sight of all, conscious and patient. For two
hours they had labored around him, wildly, despairingly, hopefully, with
the wills of gods and the strength of giants; and at the end of that
time they came to an upright timber, which rested its base upon the
beam. There was a cry for axes, and one was already swinging in the air,
when the dying man called to them feebly,--

“Don’t cut that upright!”


“It will bring down the whole gallery with it.”


“It’s one of the foundations of my house.”

The axe fell from the workman’s hand, and with a blanched face he turned
to his fellows. It was too true. They were in the uppermost gallery; and
the “cave” had taken place directly below the new house. After a pause,
the “Fool” spoke again more feebly.

“The lady--quick!”

They brought her,--a wretched, fainting creature, with pallid face and
streaming eyes,--and fell back as she bent her face above him.

“It was built for you, Annie darling,” he said in a hurried whisper,
“and has been waiting up there for you and me all these long days. It’s
deeded to you, Annie; and you must--live there--with HIM! He will not
mind that I shall be always near you; for it stands above--my grave.”

And he was right. In a few minutes later, when he had passed away, they
did not move him, but sat by his body all night with a torch at his feet
and head. And the next day they walled up the gallery as a vault; but
they put no mark or any sign thereon, trusting, rather, to the monument,
that, bright and cheerful, rose above him in the sunlight of the hill.
And those who heard the story said, “This is not an evidence of death
and gloom and sorrow, as are other monuments, but is a sign of life and
light and hope, wherefore shall all know that he who lies under it is
what men call--‘a fool’.”


It was at a little mining-camp in the California Sierras that he first
dawned upon me in all his grotesque sweetness.

I had arrived early in the morning, but not in time to intercept the
friend who was the object of my visit. He had gone “prospecting,”--so
they told me on the river,--and would not probably return until late
in the afternoon. They could not say what direction he had taken; they
could not suggest that I would be likely to find him if I followed. But
it was the general opinion that I had better wait.

I looked around me. I was standing upon the bank of the river;
and apparently the only other human beings in the world were my
interlocutors, who were even then just disappearing from my horizon,
down the steep bank, toward the river’s dry bed. I approached the edge
of the bank.

Where could I wait?

Oh! anywhere,--down with them on the river-bar, where they were working,
if I liked. Or I could make myself at home in any of those cabins that
I found lying round loose. Or perhaps it would be cooler and pleasanter
for me in my friend’s cabin on the hill. Did I see those three large
sugar-pines, and, a little to the right, a canvas roof and chimney,
over the bushes? Well, that was my friend’s,--that was Dick Sylvester’s
cabin. I could stake my horse in that little hollow, and just hang round
there till he came. I would find some books in the shanty. I could amuse
myself with them or I could play with the baby.

Do what?

But they had already gone. I leaned over the bank, and called after
their vanishing figures,--“What did you say I could do?” The answer
floated slowly up on the hot, sluggish air,--

“Pla-a-y with the ba-by.”

The lazy echoes took it up, and tossed it languidly from hill to hill,
until Bald Mountain opposite made some incoherent remark about the baby;
and then all was still.

I must have been mistaken. My friend was not a man of family; there
was not a woman within forty miles of the river camp; he never was so
passionately devoted to children as to import a luxury so expensive. I
must have been mistaken.

I turned my horse’s head toward the hill. As we slowly climbed the
narrow trail, the little settlement might have been some exhumed
Pompeiian suburb, so deserted and silent were its habitations. The open
doors plainly disclosed each rudely-furnished interior,--the rough pine
table, with the scant equipage of the morning meal still standing; the
wooden bunk, with its tumbled and dishevelled blankets. A golden lizard,
the very genius of desolate stillness, had stopped breathless upon the
threshold of one cabin; a squirrel peeped impudently into the window
of another; a woodpecker, with the general flavor of undertaking
which distinguishes that bird, withheld his sepulchral hammer from the
coffin-lid of the roof on which he was professionally engaged, as
we passed. For a moment I half regretted that I had not accepted the
invitation to the river-bed; but, the next moment, a breeze swept up the
long, dark canyon, and the waiting files of the pines beyond bent toward
me in salutation. I think my horse understood, as well as myself,
that it was the cabins that made the solitude human, and therefore
unbearable; for he quickened his pace, and with a gentle trot brought
me to the edge of the wood, and the three pines that stood like vedettes
before the Sylvester outpost.

Unsaddling my horse in the little hollow, I unslung the long riata from
the saddle-bow, and, tethering him to a young sapling, turned toward the
cabin. But I had gone only a few steps, when I heard a quick trot behind
me; and poor Pomposo, with every fibre tingling with fear, was at my
heels. I looked hurriedly around. The breeze had died away; and only
an occasional breath from the deep-chested woods, more like a long sigh
than any articulate sound, or the dry singing of a cicala in the
heated canyon, were to be heard. I examined the ground carefully for
rattlesnakes, but in vain. Yet here was Pomposo shivering from his
arched neck to his sensitive haunches, his very flanks pulsating with
terror. I soothed him as well as I could, and then walked to the edge
of the wood, and peered into its dark recesses. The bright flash of a
bird’s wing, or the quick dart of a squirrel, was all I saw. I confess
it was with something of superstitious expectation that I again turned
towards the cabin. A fairy-child, attended by Titania and her train,
lying in an expensive cradle, would not have surprised me: a Sleeping
Beauty, whose awakening would have repeopled these solitudes with life
and energy, I am afraid I began to confidently look for, and would have
kissed without hesitation.

But I found none of these. Here was the evidence of my friend’s
taste and refinement, in the hearth swept scrupulously clean, in the
picturesque arrangement of the fur-skins that covered the floor and
furniture, and the striped serape lying on the wooden couch. Here were
the walls fancifully papered with illustrations from “The London News;”
 here was the woodcut portrait of Mr. Emerson over the chimney, quaintly
framed with blue-jays’ wings; here were his few favorite books on the
swinging-shelf; and here, lying upon the couch, the latest copy of
“Punch.” Dear Dick! The flour-sack was sometimes empty; but the gentle
satirist seldom missed his weekly visit.

I threw myself on the couch, and tried to read. But I soon exhausted my
interest in my friend’s library, and lay there staring through the open
door on the green hillside beyond. The breeze again sprang up; and a
delicious coolness, mixed with the rare incense of the woods, stole
through the cabin. The slumbrous droning of bumblebees outside the
canvas roof, the faint cawing of rooks on the opposite mountain, and
the fatigue of my morning ride, began to droop my eyelids. I pulled the
serape over me, as a precaution against the freshening mountain breeze,
and in a few moments was asleep.

I do not remember how long I slept. I must have been conscious, however,
during my slumber, of my inability to keep myself covered by the serape;
for I awoke once or twice, clutching it with a despairing hand as it was
disappearing over the foot of the couch. Then I became suddenly aroused
to the fact that my efforts to retain it were resisted by some equally
persistent force; and, letting it go, I was horrified at seeing it
swiftly drawn under the couch. At this point I sat up, completely awake;
for immediately after, what seemed to be an exaggerated muff began to
emerge from under the couch. Presently it appeared fully, dragging the
serape after it. There was no mistaking it now: it was a baby-bear,--a
mere suckling, it was true, a helpless roll of fat and fur, but
unmistakably a grizzly cub!

I cannot recall any thing more irresistibly ludicrous than its aspect
as it slowly raised its small, wondering eyes to mine. It was so
much taller on its haunches than its shoulders, its forelegs were so
disproportionately small, that, in walking, its hind-feet invariably
took precedence. It was perpetually pitching forward over its pointed,
inoffensive nose, and recovering itself always, after these involuntary
somersaults with the gravest astonishment. To add to its preposterous
appearance, one of its hind-feet was adorned by a shoe of Sylvester’s,
into which it had accidentally and inextricably stepped. As this
somewhat impeded its first impulse to fly, it turned to me; and then,
possibly recognizing in the stranger the same species as its master, it
paused. Presently it slowly raised itself on its hind-legs, and vaguely
and deprecatingly waved a baby-paw, fringed with little hooks of steel.
I took the paw, and shook it gravely. From that moment we were friends.
The little affair of the serape was forgotten.

Nevertheless, I was wise enough to cement our friendship by an act
of delicate courtesy. Following the direction of his eyes, I had no
difficulty in finding on a shelf near the ridge-pole the sugar-box and
the square lumps of white sugar that even the poorest miner is never
without. While he was eating them, I had time to examine him more
closely. His body was a silky, dark, but exquisitely-modulated gray,
deepening to black in his paws and muzzle. His fur was excessively long,
thick, and soft as eider-down; the cushions of flesh beneath perfectly
infantine in their texture and contour. He was so very young, that the
palms of his half-human feet were still tender as a baby’s. Except for
the bright blue, steely hooks, half sheathed in his little toes, there
was not a single harsh outline or detail in his plump figure. He was as
free from angles as one of Leda’s offspring. Your caressing hand
sank away in his fur with dreamy languor. To look at him long was an
intoxication of the senses; to pat him was a wild delirium; to embrace
him, an utter demoralization of the intellectual faculties.

When he had finished the sugar, he rolled out of the door with a
half-diffident, half-inviting look in his eyes as if he expected me
to follow. I did so; but the sniffing and snorting of the keen-scented
Pomposo in the hollow not only revealed the cause of his former terror,
but decided me to take another direction. After a moment’s hesitation,
he concluded to go with me, although I am satisfied, from a certain
impish look in his eye, that he fully understood and rather enjoyed the
fright of Pomposo. As he rolled along at my side, with a gait not unlike
a drunken sailor, I discovered that his long hair concealed a leather
collar around his neck, which bore for its legend the single word
“Baby!” I recalled the mysterious suggestion of the two miners. This,
then, was the “baby” with whom I was to “play.”

How we “played;” how Baby allowed me to roll him down hill, crawling
and puffing up again each time with perfect good-humor; how he climbed
a young sapling after my Panama hat, which I had “shied” into one of the
topmost branches; how, after getting it, he refused to descend until it
suited his pleasure; how, when he did come down, he persisted in walking
about on three legs, carrying my hat, a crushed and shapeless mass,
clasped to his breast with the remaining one; how I missed him at last,
and finally discovered him seated on a table in one of the tenantless
cabins, with a bottle of sirup between his paws, vainly endeavoring to
extract its contents,--these and other details of that eventful day I
shall not weary the reader with now. Enough that, when Dick Sylvester
returned, I was pretty well fagged out, and the baby was rolled up, an
immense bolster, at the foot of the couch, asleep. Sylvester’s first
words after our greeting were,--

“Isn’t he delicious?”

“Perfectly. Where did you get him?”

“Lying under his dead mother, five miles from here,” said Dick, lighting
his pipe. “Knocked her over at fifty yards: perfectly clean shot; never
moved afterwards. Baby crawled out, scared, but unhurt. She must have
been carrying him in her mouth, and dropped him when she faced me; for
he wasn’t more than three days old, and not steady on his pins. He takes
the only milk that comes to the settlement, brought up by Adams Express
at seven o’clock every morning. They say he looks like me. Do you
think so?” asked Dick with perfect gravity, stroking his hay-colored
mustachios, and evidently assuming his best expression.

I took leave of the baby early the next morning in Sylvester’s
cabin, and, out of respect to Pomposo’s feelings, rode by without any
postscript of expression. But the night before I had made Sylvester
solemnly swear, that, in the event of any separation between himself and
Baby, it should revert to me. “At the same time,” he had added, “it’s
only fair to say that I don’t think of dying just yet, old fellow; and I
don’t know of any thing else that would part the cub and me.”

Two months after this conversation, as I was turning over the morning’s
mail at my office in San Francisco, I noticed a letter bearing
Sylvester’s familiar hand. But it was post-marked “Stockton,” and I
opened it with some anxiety at once. Its contents were as follows:--

“O FRANK!--Don’t you remember what we agreed upon anent the baby? Well,
consider me as dead for the next six months, or gone where cubs can’t
follow me,--East. I know you love the baby; but do you think, dear
boy,--now, really, do you think you COULD be a father to it? Consider
this well. You are young, thoughtless, well-meaning enough; but dare you
take upon yourself the functions of guide, genius, or guardian to one so
young and guileless? Could you be the Mentor to this Telemachus? Think
of the temptations of a metropolis. Look at the question well, and
let me know speedily; for I’ve got him as far as this place, and he’s
kicking up an awful row in the hotel-yard, and rattling his chain like a
maniac. Let me know by telegraph at once.


“P.S.--Of course he’s grown a little, and doesn’t take things always as
quietly as he did. He dropped rather heavily on two of Watson’s ‘purps’
last week, and snatched old Watson himself bald headed, for interfering.
You remember Watson? For an intelligent man, he knows very little of
California fauna. How are you fixed for bears on Montgomery Street, I
mean in regard to corrals and things? S.

“P.P.S.--He’s got some new tricks. The boys have been teaching him to
put up his hands with them. He slings an ugly left. S.”

I am afraid that my desire to possess myself of Baby overcame all other
considerations; and I telegraphed an affirmative at once to Sylvester.
When I reached my lodgings late that afternoon, my landlady was awaiting
me with a telegram. It was two lines from Sylvester,--

“All right. Baby goes down on night-boat. Be a father to him. S.”

It was due, then, at one o’clock that night. For a moment I was
staggered at my own precipitation. I had as yet made no preparations,
had said nothing to my landlady about her new guest. I expected to
arrange every thing in time; and now, through Sylvester’s indecent
haste, that time had been shortened twelve hours.

Something, however, must be done at once. I turned to Mrs. Brown. I
had great reliance in her maternal instincts: I had that still greater
reliance common to our sex in the general tender-heartedness of pretty
women. But I confess I was alarmed. Yet, with a feeble smile, I tried
to introduce the subject with classical ease and lightness. I even said,
“If Shakspeare’s Athenian clown, Mrs. Brown, believed that a lion among
ladies was a dreadful thing, what must”--But here I broke down; for
Mrs. Brown, with the awful intuition of her sex, I saw at once was
more occupied with my manner than my speech. So I tried a business
brusquerie, and, placing the telegram in her hand, said hurriedly, “We
must do something about this at once. It’s perfectly absurd; but he will
be here at one to-night. Beg thousand pardons; but business prevented my
speaking before”--and paused out of breath and courage.

Mrs. Brown read the telegram gravely, lifted her pretty eyebrows, turned
the paper over, and looked on the other side, and then, in a remote and
chilling voice, asked me if she understood me to say that the mother was
coming also.

“Oh, dear no!” I exclaimed with considerable relief. “The mother is
dead, you know. Sylvester, that is my friend who sent this, shot her
when the baby was only three days old.” But the expression of Mrs.
Brown’s face at this moment was so alarming, that I saw that nothing
but the fullest explanation would save me. Hastily, and I fear not very
coherently, I told her all.

She relaxed sweetly. She said I had frightened her with my talk about
lions. Indeed, I think my picture of poor Baby, albeit a trifle highly
colored, touched her motherly heart. She was even a little vexed at what
she called Sylvester’s “hard-heartedness.” Still I was not without some
apprehension. It was two months since I had seen him; and Sylvester’s
vague allusion to his “slinging an ugly left” pained me. I looked at
sympathetic little Mrs. Brown; and the thought of Watson’s pups covered
me with guilty confusion.

Mrs. Brown had agreed to sit up with me until he arrived. One o’clock
came, but no Baby. Two o’clock, three o’clock, passed. It was almost
four when there was a wild clatter of horses’ hoofs outside, and with
a jerk a wagon stopped at the door. In an instant I had opened it, and
confronted a stranger. Almost at the same moment, the horses attempted
to run away with the wagon.

The stranger’s appearance was, to say the least, disconcerting. His
clothes were badly torn and frayed; his linen sack hung from his
shoulders like a herald’s apron; one of his hands was bandaged; his face
scratched; and there was no hat on his dishevelled head. To add to the
general effect, he had evidently sought relief from his woes in drink;
and he swayed from side to side as he clung to the door-handle, and, in
a very thick voice, stated that he had “suthin” for me outside. When he
had finished, the horses made another plunge.

Mrs. Brown thought they must be frightened at something.

“Frightened!” laughed the stranger with bitter irony. “Oh, no! Hossish
ain’t frightened! On’y ran away four timesh comin’ here. Oh, no!
Nobody’s frightened. Every thin’s all ri’. Ain’t it, Bill?” he said,
addressing the driver. “On’y been overboard twish; knocked down a
hatchway once. Thash nothin’! On’y two men unner doctor’s han’s at
Stockton. Thash nothin’! Six hunner dollarsh cover all dammish.”

I was too much disheartened to reply, but moved toward the wagon. The
stranger eyed me with an astonishment that almost sobered him.

“Do you reckon to tackle that animile yourself?” he asked, as he
surveyed me from head to foot.

I did not speak, but, with an appearance of boldness I was far from
feeling, walked to the wagon, and called “Baby!”

“All ri’. Cash loose them straps, Bill, and stan’ clear.”

The straps were cut loose; and Baby, the remorseless, the terrible,
quietly tumbled to the ground, and, rolling to my side, rubbed his
foolish head against me.

I think the astonishment of the two men was beyond any vocal expression.
Without a word, the drunken stranger got into the wagon, and drove away.

And Baby? He had grown, it is true, a trifle larger; but he was thin,
and bore the marks of evident ill usage. His beautiful coat was
matted and unkempt; and his claws, those bright steel hooks, had been
ruthlessly pared to the quick. His eyes were furtive and restless;
and the old expression of stupid good humor had changed to one of
intelligent distrust. His intercourse with mankind had evidently
quickened his intellect, without broadening his moral nature.

I had great difficulty in keeping Mrs. Brown from smothering him in
blankets, and ruining his digestion with the delicacies of her larder;
but I at last got him completely rolled up in the corner of my room, and
asleep. I lay awake some time later with plans for his future. I finally
determined to take him to Oakland--where I had built a little cottage,
and always spent my Sundays--the very next day. And in the midst of a
rosy picture of domestic felicity, I fell asleep.

When I awoke, it was broad day. My eyes at once sought the corner where
Baby had been lying; but he was gone. I sprang from the bed, looked
under it, searched the closet, but in vain. The door was still locked;
but there were the marks of his blunted claws upon the sill of the
window that I had forgotten to close. He had evidently escaped that way.
But where? The window opened upon a balcony, to which the only other
entrance was through the hall. He must be still in the house.

My hand was already upon the bell-rope; but I stayed it in time. If he
had not made himself known, why should I disturb the house? I dressed
myself hurriedly, and slipped into the hall. The first object that met
my eyes was a boot lying upon the stairs. It bore the marks of Baby’s
teeth; and, as I looked along the hall, I saw too plainly that the usual
array of freshly-blackened boots and shoes before the lodgers’ doors
was not there. As I ascended the stairs, I found another, but with the
blacking carefully licked off. On the third floor were two or three more
boots, slightly mouthed; but at this point Baby’s taste for blacking had
evidently palled. A little farther on was a ladder, leading to an open
scuttle. I mounted the ladder, and reached the flat roof, that formed
a continuous level over the row of houses to the corner of the street.
Behind the chimney on the very last roof, something was lurking. It was
the fugitive Baby. He was covered with dust and dirt and fragments of
glass. But he was sitting on his hind-legs, and was eating an enormous
slab of peanut candy, with a look of mingled guilt and infinite
satisfaction. He even, I fancied, slightly stroked his stomach with his
disengaged fore-paw as I approached. He knew that I was looking for
him; and the expression of his eye said plainly, “The past, at least, is

I hurried him, with the evidences of his guilt, back to the scuttle, and
descended on tiptoe to the floor beneath. Providence favored us: I met
no one on the stairs; and his own cushioned tread was inaudible. I think
he was conscious of the dangers of detection; for he even forebore
to breathe, or much less chew the last mouthful he had taken; and he
skulked at my side with the sirup dropping from his motionless jaws. I
think he would have silently choked to death just then, for my sake; and
it was not until I had reached my room again, and threw myself panting
on the sofa, that I saw how near strangulation he had been. He gulped
once or twice apologetically, and then walked to the corner of his
own accord, and rolled himself up like an immense sugarplum, sweating
remorse and treacle at every pore.

I locked him in when I went to breakfast, when I found Mrs. Brown’s
lodgers in a state of intense excitement over certain mysterious events
of the night before, and the dreadful revelations of the morning. It
appeared that burglars had entered the block from the scuttles; that,
being suddenly alarmed, they had quitted our house without committing
any depredation, dropping even the boots they had collected in the
halls; but that a desperate attempt had been made to force the till in
the confectioner’s shop on the corner, and that the glass show-cases had
been ruthlessly smashed. A courageous servant in No. 4 had seen a masked
burglar, on his hands and knees, attempting to enter their scuttle; but,
on her shouting, “Away wid yees!” he instantly fled.

I sat through this recital with cheeks that burned uncomfortably; nor
was I the less embarrassed, on raising my eyes, to meet Mrs. Brown’s
fixed curiously and mischievously on mine. As soon as I could make my
escape from the table, I did so, and, running rapidly up stairs, sought
refuge from any possible inquiry in my own room. Baby was still asleep
in the corner. It would not be safe to remove him until the lodgers had
gone down town; and I was revolving in my mind the expediency of keeping
him until night veiled his obtrusive eccentricity from the public eye,
when there came a cautious tap at my door. I opened it. Mrs. Brown
slipped in quietly, closed the door softly, stood with her back against
it, and her hand on the knob, and beckoned me mysteriously towards her.
Then she asked in a low voice,--

“Is hair-dye poisonous?”

I was too confounded to speak.

“Oh, do! you know what I mean,” she said impatiently. “This stuff.” She
produced suddenly from behind her a bottle with a Greek label so long
as to run two or three times spirally around it from top to bottom. “He
says it isn’t a dye: it’s a vegetable preparation, for invigorating”--

“Who says?” I asked despairingly.

“Why, Mr. Parker, of course!” said Mrs. Brown severely, with the air of
having repeated the name a great many times,--“the old gentleman in the
room above. The simple question I want to ask,” she continued with the
calm manner of one who has just convicted another of gross ambiguity of
language, “is only this: If some of this stuff were put in a saucer, and
left carelessly on the table, and a child, or a baby, or a cat, or any
young animal, should come in at the window, and drink it up,--a whole
saucer full,--because it had a sweet taste, would it be likely to hurt

I cast an anxious glance at Baby, sleeping peacefully in the corner, and
a very grateful one at Mrs. Brown, and said I didn’t think it would.

“Because,” said Mrs. Brown loftily as she opened the door, “I thought,
if it was poisonous, remedies might be used in time. Because,” she added
suddenly, abandoning her lofty manner, and wildly rushing to the corner
with a frantic embrace of the unconscious Baby, “because, if any nasty
stuff should turn its booful hair a horrid green, or a naughty pink, it
would break its own muzzer’s heart, it would!”

But, before I could assure Mrs. Brown of the inefficiency of hair-dye as
an internal application, she had darted from the room.

That night, with the secrecy of defaulters, Baby and I decamped from
Mrs. Brown’s. Distrusting the too emotional nature of that noble animal,
the horse, I had recourse to a handcart, drawn by a stout Irishman, to
convey my charge to the ferry. Even then, Baby refused to go, unless I
walked by the cart, and at times rode in it.

“I wish,” said Mrs. Brown, as she stood by the door, wrapped in an
immense shawl, and saw us depart, “I wish it looked less solemn,--less
like a pauper’s funeral.”

I must admit, that, as I walked by the cart that night, I felt very much
as if I were accompanying the remains of some humble friend to his last
resting-place; and that, when I was obliged to ride in it, I never could
entirely convince myself that I was not helplessly overcome by liquor,
or the victim of an accident, en route to the hospital. But at last we
reached the ferry. On the boat, I think no one discovered Baby, except a
drunken man, who approached me to ask for a light for his cigar, but who
suddenly dropped it, and fled in dismay to the gentlemen’s cabin, where
his incoherent ravings were luckily taken for the earlier indications of
delirium tremens.

It was nearly midnight when I reached my little cottage on the outskirts
of Oakland; and it was with a feeling of relief and security that I
entered, locked the door, and turned him loose in the hall, satisfied
that henceforward his depredations would be limited to my own property.
He was very quiet that night; and after he had tried to mount the
hatrack, under the mistaken impression that it was intended for his own
gymnastic exercise, and knocked all the hats off, he went peaceably to
sleep on the rug.

In a week, with the exercise afforded him by the run of a large,
carefully-boarded enclosure, he recovered his health, strength, spirits,
and much of his former beauty. His presence was unknown to my neighbors,
although it was noticeable that horses invariably “shied” in passing
to the windward of my house, and that the baker and milkman had great
difficulty in the delivery of their wares in the morning, and indulged
in unseemly and unnecessary profanity in so doing.

At the end of the week, I determined to invite a few friends to see the
Baby, and to that purpose wrote a number of formal invitations. After
descanting, at some length, on the great expense and danger attending
his capture and training, I offered a programme of the performance, of
the “Infant Phenomenon of Sierran Solitudes,” drawn up into the highest
professional profusion of alliteration and capital letters. A few
extracts will give the reader some idea of his educational progress:--

1. He will, rolled up in a Round Ball, roll down the Wood-Shed Rapidly,
illustrating His manner of Escaping from His Enemy in His Native Wilds.

2. He will Ascend the Well-Pole, and remove from the Very Top a Hat, and
as much of the Crown and Brim thereof, as May be Permitted.

3. He will perform in a pantomime, descriptive of the Conduct of the Big
Bear, The Middle-Sized Bear, and The Little Bear of the Popular Nursery

4. He will shake his chain Rapidly, showing his Manner of striking
Dismay and Terror in the Breasts of Wanderers in Ursine Wildernesses.

The morning of the exhibition came; but an hour before the performance
the wretched Baby was missing. The Chinese cook could not indicate his
whereabouts. I searched the premises thoroughly; and then, in despair,
took my hat, and hurried out into the narrow lane that led toward the
open fields and the woods beyond. But I found no trace nor track of
Baby Sylvester. I returned, after an hour’s fruitless search, to find
my guests already assembled on the rear veranda. I briefly recounted my
disappointment, my probable loss, and begged their assistance.

“Why,” said a Spanish friend, who prided himself on his accurate
knowledge of English, to Barker, who seemed to be trying vainly to rise
from his reclining position on the veranda, “why do you not disengage
yourself from the veranda of our friend? And why, in the name of Heaven,
do you attach to yourself so much of this thing, and make to yourself
such unnecessary contortion? Ah,” he continued, suddenly withdrawing one
of his own feet from the veranda with an evident effort, “I am myself
attached! Surely it is something here!”

It evidently was. My guests were all rising with difficulty. The floor
of the veranda was covered with some glutinous substance. It was--sirup!

I saw it all in a flash. I ran to the barn. The keg of “golden sirup,”
 purchased only the day before, lay empty upon the floor. There were
sticky tracks all over the enclosure, but still no Baby.

“There’s something moving the ground over there by that pile of dirt,”
 said Barker.

He was right. The earth was shaking in one corner of the enclosure like
an earthquake. I approached cautiously. I saw, what I had not before
noticed, that the ground was thrown up; and there, in the middle of an
immense grave-like cavity, crouched Baby Sylvester, still digging, and
slowly but surely sinking from sight in a mass of dust and clay.

What were his intentions? Whether he was stung by remorse, and wished to
hide himself from my reproachful eyes, or whether he was simply trying
to dry his sirup-besmeared coat, I never shall know; for that day, alas!
was his last with me.

He was pumped upon for two hours, at the end of which time he still
yielded a thin treacle. He was then taken, and carefully inwrapped in
blankets, and locked up in the store-room. The next morning he was
gone! The lower portion of the window sash and pane were gone too.
His successful experiments on the fragile texture of glass at the
confectioner’s, on the first day of his entrance to civilization, had
not been lost upon him. His first essay at combining cause and effect
ended in his escape.

Where he went, where he hid, who captured him, if he did not succeed in
reaching the foothills beyond Oakland, even the offer of a large reward,
backed by the efforts of an intelligent police, could not discover. I
never saw him again from that day until--

Did I see him? I was in a horse-car on Sixth Avenue, a few days ago,
when the horses suddenly became unmanageable, and left the track for the
sidewalk, amid the oaths and execrations of the driver. Immediately in
front of the car a crowd had gathered around two performing bears and a
showman. One of the animals, thin, emaciated, and the mere wreck of his
native strength, attracted my attention. I endeavored to attract his. He
turned a pair of bleared, sightless eyes in my direction; but there was
no sign of recognition. I leaned from the car-window, and called softly,
“Baby!” But he did not heed. I closed the window. The car was just
moving on, when he suddenly turned, and, either by accident or design,
thrust a callous paw through the glass.

“It’s worth a dollar and half to put in a new pane,” said the conductor,
“if folks will play with bears!”


In 1858 Fiddletown considered her a very pretty woman. She had a
quantity of light chestnut hair, a good figure, a dazzling complexion,
and a certain languid grace which passed easily for gentlewomanliness.
She always dressed becomingly, and in what Fiddletown accepted as the
latest fashion. She had only two blemishes: one of her velvety eyes,
when examined closely, had a slight cast; and her left cheek bore a
small scar left by a single drop of vitriol--happily the only drop of
an entire phial--thrown upon her by one of her own jealous sex, that
reached the pretty face it was intended to mar. But, when the observer
had studied the eyes sufficiently to notice this defect, he was
generally incapacitated for criticism; and even the scar on her cheek
was thought by some to add piquancy to her smile. The youthful editor
of “The Fiddletown Avalanche” had said privately that it was “an
exaggerated dimple.” Col. Starbottle was instantly “reminded of the
beautifying patches of the days of Queen Anne, but more particularly,
sir, of the blankest beautiful women, that, blank you, you ever laid
your two blank eyes upon,--a Creole woman, sir, in New Orleans. And this
woman had a scar,--a line extending, blank me, from her eye to her
blank chin. And this woman, sir, thrilled you, sir; maddened you, sir;
absolutely sent your blank soul to perdition with her blank fascination!
And one day I said to her, ‘Celeste, how in blank did you come by that
beautiful scar, blank you?’ And she said to me, ‘Star, there isn’t
another white man that I’d confide in but you; but I made that scar
myself, purposely, I did, blank me.’ These were her very words, sir, and
perhaps you think it a blank lie, sir; but I’ll put up any blank sum you
can name and prove it, blank me.”

Indeed, most of the male population of Fiddletown were or had been in
love with her. Of this number, about one-half believed that their love
was returned, with the exception, possibly, of her own husband. He alone
had been known to express scepticism.

The name of the gentleman who enjoyed this infelicitous distinction was
Tretherick. He had been divorced from an excellent wife to marry this
Fiddletown enchantress. She, also, had been divorced; but it was hinted
that some previous experiences of hers in that legal formality had made
it perhaps less novel, and probably less sacrificial. I would not have
it inferred from this that she was deficient in sentiment, or devoid of
its highest moral expression. Her intimate friend had written (on the
occasion of her second divorce), “The cold world does not understand
Clara yet;” and Col. Starbottle had remarked blankly, that with the
exception of a single woman in Opelousas Parish, La., she had more soul
than the whole caboodle of them put together. Few indeed could read
those lines entitled “Infelissimus,” commencing, “Why waves no cypress
o’er this brow?” originally published in “The Avalanche,” over the
signature of “The Lady Clare,” without feeling the tear of sensibility
tremble on his eyelids, or the glow of virtuous indignation mantle his
cheek, at the low brutality and pitiable jocularity of “The Dutch Flat
Intelligencer,” which the next week had suggested the exotic character
of the cypress, and its entire absence from Fiddletown, as a reasonable
answer to the query.

Indeed, it was this tendency to elaborate her feelings in a metrical
manner, and deliver them to the cold world through the medium of the
newspapers, that first attracted the attention of Tretherick. Several
poems descriptive of the effects of California scenery upon a too
sensitive soul, and of the vague yearnings for the infinite, which an
enforced study of the heartlessness of California society produced in
the poetic breast, impressed Mr. Tretherick, who was then driving a
six-mule freight-wagon between Knight’s Ferry and Stockton, to seek out
the unknown poetess. Mr. Tretherick was himself dimly conscious of a
certain hidden sentiment in his own nature; and it is possible that
some reflections on the vanity of his pursuit,--he supplied several
mining-camps with whiskey and tobacco,--in conjunction with the
dreariness of the dusty plain on which he habitually drove, may have
touched some chord in sympathy with this sensitive woman. Howbeit, after
a brief courtship,--as brief as was consistent with some previous legal
formalities,--they were married; and Mr. Tretherick brought his blushing
bride to Fiddletown, or “Fideletown,” as Mrs. Tretherick preferred to
call it in her poems.

The union was not a felicitous one. It was not long before Mr.
Tretherick discovered that the sentiment he had fostered while
freighting between Stockton and Knight’s Ferry was different from that
which his wife had evolved from the contemplation of California scenery
and her own soul. Being a man of imperfect logic, this caused him to
beat her; and she, being equally faulty in deduction, was impelled to
a certain degree of unfaithfulness on the same premise. Then Mr.
Tretherick began to drink, and Mrs. Tretherick to contribute regularly
to the columns of “The Avalanche.” It was at this time that Col.
Starbottle discovered a similarity in Mrs. Tretherick’s verse to the
genius of Sappho, and pointed it out to the citizens of Fiddletown in
a two-columned criticism, signed “A. S.,” also published in “The
Avalanche,” and supported by extensive quotation. As “The Avalanche” did
not possess a font of Greek type, the editor was obliged to reproduce
the Leucadian numbers in the ordinary Roman letter, to the intense
disgust of Col. Starbottle, and the vast delight of Fiddletown, who saw
fit to accept the text as an excellent imitation of Choctaw,--a language
with which the colonel, as a whilom resident of the Indian Territories,
was supposed to be familiar. Indeed, the next week’s “Intelligencer”
 contained some vile doggerel, supposed to be an answer to Mrs.
Tretherick’s poem, ostensibly written by the wife of a Digger Indian
chief, accompanied by a glowing eulogium, signed “A. S. S.”

The result of this jocularity was briefly given in a later copy of
“The Avalanche.” “An unfortunate rencounter took place on Monday last,
between the Hon. Jackson Flash of ‘The Dutch Flat Intelligencer’ and the
well-known Col. Starbottle of this place, in front of the Eureka saloon.
Two shots were fired by the parties without injury to either, although
it is said that a passing Chinaman received fifteen buckshot in the
calves of his legs from the colonel’s double-barrelled shot-gun, which
were not intended for him. John will learn to keep out of the way of
Melican man’s fire-arms hereafter. The cause of the affray is not known,
although it is hinted that there is a lady in the case. The rumor that
points to a well-known and beautiful poetess whose lucubrations have
often graced our columns seems to gain credence from those that are

Meanwhile the passiveness displayed by Tretherick under these trying
circumstances was fully appreciated in the gulches. “The old man’s
head is level,” said one long-booted philosopher. “Ef the colonel
kills Flash, Mrs. Tretherick is avenged: if Flash drops the colonel,
Tretherick is all right. Either way, he’s got a sure thing.” During
this delicate condition of affairs, Mrs. Tretherick one day left her
husband’s home, and took refuge at the Fiddletown Hotel, with only the
clothes she had on her back. Here she staid for several weeks, during
which period it is only justice to say that she bore herself with the
strictest propriety.

It was a clear morning in early spring that Mrs. Tretherick, unattended,
left the hotel, and walked down the narrow street toward the fringe of
dark pines which indicated the extreme limits of Fiddletown. The few
loungers at that early hour were pre-occupied with the departure of the
Wingdown coach at the other extremity of the street; and Mrs. Tretherick
reached the suburbs of the settlement without discomposing observation.
Here she took a cross street or road, running at right angles with the
main thoroughfare of Fiddletown, and passing through a belt of woodland.
It was evidently the exclusive and aristocratic avenue of the town. The
dwellings were few, ambitious, and uninterrupted by shops. And here she
was joined by Col. Starbottle.

The gallant colonel, notwithstanding that he bore the swelling port
which usually distinguished him, that his coat was tightly buttoned, and
his boots tightly fitting, and that his cane, hooked over his arm,
swung jauntily, was not entirely at his ease. Mrs. Tretherick, however,
vouchsafed him a gracious smile and a glance of her dangerous eyes;
and the colonel, with an embarrassed cough and a slight strut, took his
place at her side.

“The coast is clear,” said the colonel, “and Tretherick is over at Dutch
Flat on a spree. There is no one in the house but a Chinaman; and you
need fear no trouble from him. I,” he continued, with a slight inflation
of the chest that imperilled the security of his button, “I will see
that you are protected in the removal of your property.”

“I’m sure it’s very kind of you, and so disinterested!” simpered the
lady as they walked along. “It’s so pleasant to meet some one who
has soul,--some one to sympathize with in a community so hardened and
heartless as this.” And Mrs. Tretherick cast down her eyes, but not
until they wrought their perfect and accepted work upon her companion.

“Yes, certainly, of course,” said the colonel, glancing nervously up and
down the street,--“yes, certainly.” Perceiving, however, that there
was no one in sight or hearing, he proceeded at once to inform Mrs.
Tretherick that the great trouble of his life, in fact, had been the
possession of too much soul. That many women--as a gentleman she would
excuse him, of course, from mentioning names--but many beautiful women
had often sought his society, but being deficient, madam, absolutely
deficient, in this quality, he could not reciprocate. But when two
natures thoroughly in sympathy, despising alike the sordid trammels of
a low and vulgar community, and the conventional restraints of a
hypocritical society,--when two souls in perfect accord met and mingled
in poetical union, then--but here the colonel’s speech, which had been
remarkable for a certain whiskey-and-watery fluency, grew husky, almost
inaudible, and decidedly incoherent. Possibly Mrs. Tretherick may have
heard something like it before, and was enabled to fill the hiatus.
Nevertheless, the cheek that was on the side of the colonel was quite
virginal and bashfully conscious until they reached their destination.

It was a pretty little cottage, quite fresh and warm with paint, very
pleasantly relieved against a platoon of pines, some of whose foremost
files had been displaced to give freedom to the fenced enclosure in
which it sat. In the vivid sunlight and perfect silence, it had a new,
uninhabited look, as if the carpenters and painters had just left it. At
the farther end of the lot, a Chinaman was stolidly digging; but there
was no other sign of occupancy. “The coast,” as the colonel had said,
was indeed “clear.” Mrs. Tretherick paused at the gate. The colonel
would have entered with her, but was stopped by a gesture. “Come for me
in a couple of hours, and I shall have every thing packed,” she said,
as she smiled, and extended her hand. The colonel seized and pressed it
with great fervor. Perhaps the pressure was slightly returned; for the
gallant colonel was impelled to inflate his chest, and trip away as
smartly as his stubby-toed, high-heeled boots would permit. When he had
gone, Mrs. Tretherick opened the door, listened a moment in the deserted
hall, and then ran quickly up stairs to what had been her bedroom.

Every thing there was unchanged as on the night she left it. On the
dressing-table stood her bandbox, as she remembered to have left it
when she took out her bonnet. On the mantle lay the other glove she had
forgotten in her flight. The two lower drawers of the bureau were half
open (she had forgotten to shut them); and on its marble top lay her
shawl-pin and a soiled cuff. What other recollections came upon her I
know not; but she suddenly grew quite white, shivered, and listened with
a beating heart, and her hand upon the door. Then she stepped to the
mirror, and half fearfully, half curiously, parted with her fingers the
braids of her blonde hair above her little pink ear, until she came upon
an ugly, half-healed scar. She gazed at this, moving her pretty head
up and down to get a better light upon it, until the slight cast in her
velvety eyes became very strongly marked indeed. Then she turned away
with a light, reckless, foolish laugh, and ran to the closet where
hung her precious dresses. These she inspected nervously, and missing
suddenly a favorite black silk from its accustomed peg, for a moment,
thought she should have fainted. But discovering it the next instant
lying upon a trunk where she had thrown it, a feeling of thankfulness
to a superior Being who protects the friendless, for the first time
sincerely thrilled her. Then, albeit she was hurried for time, she could
not resist trying the effect of a certain lavender neck-ribbon upon the
dress she was then wearing, before the mirror. And then suddenly she
became aware of a child’s voice close beside her, and she stopped. And
then the child’s voice repeated, “Is it mamma?”

Mrs. Tretherick faced quickly about. Standing in the doorway was a
little girl of six or seven. Her dress had been originally fine, but was
torn and dirty; and her hair, which was a very violent red, was tumbled
serio-comically about her forehead. For all this, she was a picturesque
little thing, even through whose childish timidity there was a certain
self-sustained air which is apt to come upon children who are left much
to themselves. She was holding under her arm a rag doll, apparently
of her own workmanship, and nearly as large as herself,--a doll with a
cylindrical head, and features roughly indicated with charcoal. A
long shawl, evidently belonging to a grown person, dropped from her
shoulders, and swept the floor.

The spectacle did not excite Mrs. Tretherick’s delight. Perhaps she had
but a small sense of humor. Certainly, when the child, still standing in
the doorway, again asked, “Is it mamma?” she answered sharply, “No, it
isn’t,” and turned a severe look upon the intruder.

The child retreated a step, and then, gaining courage with the distance,
said in deliciously imperfect speech,--

“Dow ‘way then! why don’t you dow away?”

But Mrs. Tretherick was eying the shawl. Suddenly she whipped it off the
child’s shoulders, and said angrily,--

“How dared you take my things, you bad child?”

“Is it yours? Then you are my mamma; ain’t you? You are mamma!” she
continued gleefully; and, before Mrs. Tretherick could avoid her, she
had dropped her doll, and, catching the woman’s skirts with both hands,
was dancing up and down before her.

“What’s your name, child?” said Mrs. Tretherick coldly, removing the
small and not very white hands from her garments.



“Yeth. Tarry. Tarowline.”


“Yeth. Tarowline Tretherick.”

“Whose child ARE you?” demanded Mrs. Tretherick still more coldly, to
keep down a rising fear.

“Why, yours,” said the little creature with a laugh. “I’m your little
durl. You’re my mamma, my new mamma. Don’t you know my ole mamma’s dorn
away, never to turn back any more? I don’t live wid my ol’ mamma now. I
live wid you and papa.”

“How long have you been here?” asked Mrs. Tretherick snappishly.

“I fink it’s free days,” said Carry reflectively.

“You think! Don’t you know?” sneered Mrs. Tretherick. “Then, where did
you come from?”

Carry’s lip began to work under this sharp cross-examination. With a
great effort and a small gulp, she got the better of it, and answered,--

“Papa, papa fetched me,--from Miss Simmons--from Sacramento, last week.”

“Last week! You said three days just now,” returned Mrs. Tretherick with
severe deliberation.

“I mean a monf,” said Carry, now utterly adrift in sheer helplessness
and confusion.

“Do you know what you are talking about?” demanded Mrs. Tretherick
shrilly, restraining an impulse to shake the little figure before her,
and precipitate the truth by specific gravity.

But the flaming red head here suddenly disappeared in the folds of Mrs.
Tretherick’s dress, as if it were trying to extinguish itself forever.

“There now--stop that sniffling,” said Mrs. Tretherick, extricating
her dress from the moist embraces of the child, and feeling exceedingly
uncomfortable. “Wipe your face now, and run away, and don’t bother.
Stop,” she continued, as Carry moved away. “Where’s your papa?”

“He’s dorn away too. He’s sick. He’s been dorn”--she hesitated--“two,
free, days.”

“Who takes care of you, child?” said Mrs. Tretherick, eying her

“John, the Chinaman. I tresses myselth. John tooks and makes the beds.”

“Well, now, run away and behave yourself, and don’t bother me any more,”
 said Mrs. Tretherick, remembering the object of her visit. “Stop--where
are you going?” she added, as the child began to ascend the stairs,
dragging the long doll after her by one helpless leg.

“Doin up stairs to play and be dood, and no bother mamma.”

“I ain’t your mamma,” shouted Mrs. Tretherick, and then she swiftly
re-entered her bedroom, and slammed the door.

Once inside, she drew forth a large trunk from the closet, and set to
work with querulous and fretful haste to pack her wardrobe. She tore her
best dress in taking it from the hook on which it hung: she scratched
her soft hands twice with an ambushed pin. All the while, she kept up an
indignant commentary on the events of the past few moments. She said to
herself she saw it all. Tretherick had sent for this child of his first
wife--this child of whose existence he had never seemed to care--just
to insult her, to fill her place. Doubtless the first wife herself would
follow soon, or perhaps there would be a third. Red hair, not auburn,
but RED,--of course the child, this Caroline, looked like its mother,
and, if so, she was any thing but pretty. Or the whole thing had been
prepared: this red-haired child, the image of its mother, had been
kept at a convenient distance at Sacramento, ready to be sent for when
needed. She remembered his occasional visits there on--business, as he
said. Perhaps the mother already was there; but no, she had gone East.
Nevertheless, Mrs. Tretherick, in her then state of mind, preferred to
dwell upon the fact that she might be there. She was dimly conscious,
also, of a certain satisfaction in exaggerating her feelings. Surely
no woman had ever been so shamefully abused. In fancy, she sketched
a picture of herself sitting alone and deserted, at sunset, among
the fallen columns of a ruined temple, in a melancholy yet graceful
attitude, while her husband drove rapidly away in a luxurious
coach-and-four, with a red-haired woman at his side. Sitting upon
the trunk she had just packed, she partly composed a lugubrious poem,
describing her sufferings, as, wandering alone, and poorly clad, she
came upon her husband and “another” flaunting in silks and diamonds.
She pictured herself dying of consumption, brought on by sorrow,--a
beautiful wreck, yet still fascinating, gazed upon adoringly by the
editor of “The Avalanche,” and Col. Starbottle. And where was Col.
Starbottle all this while? Why didn’t he come? He, at least, understood
her. He--she laughed the reckless, light laugh of a few moments before;
and then her face suddenly grew grave, as it had not a few moments

What was that little red-haired imp doing all this time? Why was she so
quiet? She opened the door noiselessly, and listened. She fancied
that she heard, above the multitudinous small noises and creakings
and warpings of the vacant house, a smaller voice singing on the floor
above. This, as she remembered, was only an open attic that had been
used as a storeroom. With a half-guilty consciousness, she crept softly
up stairs, and, pushing the door partly open, looked within.

Athwart the long, low-studded attic, a slant sunbeam from a single small
window lay, filled with dancing motes, and only half illuminating the
barren, dreary apartment. In the ray of this sunbeam she saw the child’s
glowing hair, as if crowned by a red aureola, as she sat upon the floor
with her exaggerated doll between her knees. She appeared to be talking
to it; and it was not long before Mrs. Tretherick observed that she was
rehearsing the interview of a half-hour before. She catechised the
doll severely, cross-examining it in regard to the duration of its
stay there, and generally on the measure of time. The imitation of Mrs.
Tretherick’s manner was exceedingly successful, and the conversation
almost a literal reproduction, with a single exception. After she had
informed the doll that she was not her mother, at the close of the
interview she added pathetically, “that if she was dood, very dood, she
might be her mamma, and love her very much.”

I have already hinted that Mrs. Tretherick was deficient in a sense of
humor. Perhaps it was for this reason that this whole scene affected
her most unpleasantly; and the conclusion sent the blood tingling to her
cheek. There was something, too, inconceivably lonely in the situation.
The unfurnished vacant room, the half-lights, the monstrous doll, whose
very size seemed to give a pathetic significance to its speechlessness,
the smallness of the one animate, self-centred figure,--all these
touched more or less deeply the half-poetic sensibilities of the woman.
She could not help utilizing the impression as she stood there, and
thought what a fine poem might be constructed from this material, if the
room were a little darker, the child lonelier,--say, sitting beside a
dead mother’s bier, and the wind wailing in the turrets. And then she
suddenly heard footsteps at the door below, and recognized the tread of
the colonel’s cane.

She flew swiftly down the stairs, and encountered the colonel in the
hall. Here she poured into his astonished ear a voluble and exaggerated
statement of her discovery, and indignant recital of her wrongs. “Don’t
tell me the whole thing wasn’t arranged beforehand; for I know it was!”
 she almost screamed. “And think,” she added, “of the heartlessness of
the wretch, leaving his own child alone here in that way.”

“It’s a blank shame!” stammered the colonel without the least idea
of what he was talking about. In fact, utterly unable as he was to
comprehend a reason for the woman’s excitement with his estimate of
her character, I fear he showed it more plainly than he intended. He
stammered, expanded his chest, looked stern, gallant, tender, but
all unintelligently. Mrs. Tretherick, for an instant, experienced a
sickening doubt of the existence of natures in perfect affinity.

“It’s of no use,” said Mrs. Tretherick with sudden vehemence, in answer
to some inaudible remark of the colonel’s, and withdrawing her hand from
the fervent grasp of that ardent and sympathetic man. “It’s of no use:
my mind is made up. You can send for my trunk as soon as you like; but I
shall stay here, and confront that man with the proof of his vileness. I
will put him face to face with his infamy.”

I do not know whether Col. Starbottle thoroughly appreciated the
convincing proof of Tretherick’s unfaithfulness and malignity afforded
by the damning evidence of the existence of Tretherick’s own child in
his own house. He was dimly aware, however, of some unforeseen obstacle
to the perfect expression of the infinite longing of his own sentimental
nature. But, before he could say any thing, Carry appeared on the
landing above them, looking timidly, and yet half-critically at the

“That’s her,” said Mrs. Tretherick excitedly. In her deepest emotions,
either in verse or prose, she rose above a consideration of grammatical

“Ah!” said the colonel, with a sudden assumption of parental affection
and jocularity that was glaringly unreal and affected. “Ah! pretty
little girl, pretty little girl! How do you do? How are you? You find
yourself pretty well, do you, pretty little girl?” The colonel’s impulse
also was to expand his chest, and swing his cane, until it occurred to
him that this action might be ineffective with a child of six or seven.
Carry, however, took no immediate notice of this advance, but
further discomposed the chivalrous colonel by running quickly to Mrs.
Tretherick, and hiding herself, as if for protection, in the folds of
her gown. Nevertheless, the colonel was not vanquished. Falling back
into an attitude of respectful admiration, he pointed out a marvellous
resemblance to the “Madonna and Child.” Mrs. Tretherick simpered, but
did not dislodge Carry as before. There was an awkward pause for a
moment; and then Mrs. Tretherick, motioning significantly to the child,
said in a whisper, “Go now. Don’t come here again, but meet me
to-night at the hotel.” She extended her hand: the colonel bent over it
gallantly, and, raising his hat, the next moment was gone.

“Do you think,” said Mrs. Tretherick with an embarrassed voice and a
prodigious blush, looking down, and addressing the fiery curls just
visible in the folds of her dress,--“do you think you will be ‘dood,’ if
I let you stay in here and sit with me?”

“And let me tall you mamma?” queried Carry, looking up.

“And let you call me mamma!” assented Mrs. Tretherick with an
embarrassed laugh.

“Yeth,” said Carry promptly.

They entered the bedroom together. Carry’s eye instantly caught sight of
the trunk.

“Are you dowin away adain, mamma?” she said with a quick nervous look,
and a clutch at the woman’s dress.

“No-o,” said Mrs. Tretherick, looking out of the window.

“Only playing your dowin away,” suggested Carry with a laugh. “Let me
play too.”

Mrs. Tretherick assented. Carry flew into the next room, and presently
re-appeared, dragging a small trunk, into which she gravely proceeded
to pack her clothes. Mrs. Tretherick noticed that they were not many. A
question or two regarding them brought out some further replies from
the child; and, before many minutes had elapsed, Mrs. Tretherick was in
possession of all her earlier history. But, to do this, Mrs. Tretherick
had been obliged to take Carry upon her lap, pending the most
confidential disclosures. They sat thus a long time after Mrs.
Tretherick had apparently ceased to be interested in Carry’s
disclosures; and, when lost in thought, she allowed the child to rattle
on unheeded, and ran her fingers through the scarlet curls.

“You don’t hold me right, mamma,” said Carry at last, after one or two
uneasy shiftings of position.

“How should I hold you?” asked Mrs. Tretherick with a half-amused,
half-embarrassed laugh.

“Dis way,” said Carry, curling up into position, with one arm around
Mrs. Tretherick’s neck, and her cheek resting on her bosom,--“dis
way,--dere.” After a little preparatory nestling, not unlike some small
animal, she closed her eyes, and went to sleep.

For a few moments the woman sat silent, scarcely daring to breathe in
that artificial attitude. And then, whether from some occult sympathy in
the touch, or God best knows what, a sudden fancy began to thrill her.
She began by remembering an old pain that she had forgotten, an old
horror that she had resolutely put away all these years. She recalled
days of sickness and distrust,--days of an overshadowing fear,--days of
preparation for something that was to be prevented, that WAS prevented,
with mortal agony and fear. She thought of a life that might have
been,--she dared not say HAD been,--and wondered. It was six years ago:
if it had lived, it would have been as old as Carry. The arms which were
folded loosely around the sleeping child began to tremble, and tighten
their clasp. And then the deep potential impulse came, and with a
half-sob, half-sigh, she threw her arms out, and drew the body of the
sleeping child down, down, into her breast, down again and again as if
she would hide it in the grave dug there years before. And the gust that
shook her passed, and then, ah me! the rain.

A drop or two fell upon the curls of Carry, and she moved uneasily in
her sleep. But the woman soothed her again,--it was so easy to do it
now,--and they sat there quiet and undisturbed, so quiet that they might
have seemed incorporate of the lonely silent house, the slowly-declining
sunbeams, and the general air of desertion and abandonment, yet a
desertion that had in it nothing of age, decay, or despair.

Col. Starbottle waited at the Fiddletown hotel all that night in vain.
And the next morning, when Mr. Tretherick returned to his husks, he
found the house vacant and untenanted, except by motes and sunbeams.

When it was fairly known that Mrs. Tretherick had run away, taking Mr.
Tretherick’s own child with her, there was some excitement, and much
diversity of opinion, in Fiddletown. “The Dutch Flat Intelligencer”
 openly alluded to the “forcible abduction” of the child with the same
freedom, and it is to be feared the same prejudice, with which it had
criticised the abductor’s poetry. All of Mrs. Tretherick’s own sex, and
perhaps a few of the opposite sex, whose distinctive quality was not,
however, very strongly indicated, fully coincided in the views of “The
Intelligencer.” The majority, however, evaded the moral issue: that
Mrs. Tretherick had shaken the red dust of Fiddletown from her dainty
slippers was enough for them to know. They mourned the loss of the fair
abductor more than her offence. They promptly rejected Tretherick as
an injured husband and disconsolate father, and even went so far as to
openly cast discredit on the sincerity of his grief. They reserved an
ironical condolence for Col. Starbottle, overbearing that excellent
man with untimely and demonstrative sympathy in bar-rooms, saloons,
and other localities not generally deemed favorable to the display
of sentiment. “She was alliz a skittish thing, kernel,” said one
sympathizer, with a fine affectation of gloomy concern, and great
readiness of illustration; “and it’s kinder nat’ril thet she’d get away
some day, and stampede that theer colt: but thet she should shake YOU,
kernel, thet she should just shake you--is what gits me. And they do
say thet you jist hung around thet hotel all night, and payrolled them
corriders, and histed yourself up and down them stairs, and meandered
in and out o’ thet piazzy, and all for nothing?” It was another generous
and tenderly commiserating spirit that poured additional oil and wine
on the colonel’s wounds. “The boys yer let on thet Mrs. Tretherick
prevailed on ye to pack her trunk and a baby over from the house to the
stage-offis, and that the chap ez did go off with her thanked you, and
offered you two short bits, and sed ez how he liked your looks, and ud
employ you agin--and now you say it ain’t so? Well, I’ll tell the boys
it aint so, and I’m glad I met you, for stories DO get round.”

Happily for Mrs. Tretherick’s reputation, however, the Chinaman in
Tretherick’s employment, who was the only eye-witness of her flight,
stated that she was unaccompanied, except by the child. He further
deposed, that, obeying her orders, he had stopped the Sacramento coach,
and secured a passage for herself and child to San Francisco. It was
true that Ah Fe’s testimony was of no legal value. But nobody doubted
it. Even those who were sceptical of the Pagan’s ability to recognize
the sacredness of the truth admitted his passionless, unprejudiced
unconcern. But it would appear, from a hitherto unrecorded passage of
this veracious chronicle, that herein they were mistaken.

It was about six months after the disappearance of Mrs. Tretherick,
that Ah Fe, while working in Tretherick’s lot, was hailed by two passing
Chinamen. They were the ordinary mining coolies, equipped with long
poles and baskets for their usual pilgrimages. An animated conversation
at once ensued between Ah Fe and his brother Mongolians,--a conversation
characterized by that usual shrill volubility and apparent animosity
which was at once the delight and scorn of the intelligent Caucasian who
did not understand a word of it. Such, at least, was the feeling
with which Mr. Tretherick on his veranda, and Col. Starbottle who was
passing, regarded their heathenish jargon. The gallant colonel simply
kicked them out of his way: the irate Tretherick, with an oath, threw a
stone at the group, and dispersed them, but not before one or two slips
of yellow rice-paper, marked with hieroglyphics, were exchanged, and a
small parcel put into Ah Fe’s hands. When Ah Fe opened this in the dim
solitude of his kitchen, he found a little girl’s apron, freshly washed,
ironed, and folded. On the corner of the hem were the initials “C. T.”
 Ah Fe tucked it away in a corner of his blouse, and proceeded to wash
his dishes in the sink with a smile of guileless satisfaction.

Two days after this, Ah Fe confronted his master. “Me no likee
Fiddletown. Me belly sick. Me go now.” Mr. Tretherick violently
suggested a profane locality. Ah Fe gazed at him placidly, and withdrew.

Before leaving Fiddletown, however, he accidentally met Col. Starbottle,
and dropped a few incoherent phrases which apparently interested that
gentleman. When he concluded, the colonel handed him a letter and
a twenty-dollar gold-piece. “If you bring me an answer, I’ll double
that--Sabe, John?” Ah Fe nodded. An interview equally accidental,
with precisely the same result, took place between Ah Fe and another
gentleman, whom I suspect to have been the youthful editor of “The
Avalanche.” Yet I regret to state, that, after proceeding some distance
on his journey, Ah Fe calmly broke the seals of both letters, and, after
trying to read them upside down and sideways, finally divided them into
accurate squares, and in this condition disposed of them to a brother
Celestial whom he met on the road, for a trifling gratuity. The agony of
Col. Starbottle on finding his wash-bill made out on the unwritten side
of one of these squares, and delivered to him with his weekly clean
clothes, and the subsequent discovery that the remaining portions of his
letter were circulated by the same method from the Chinese laundry
of one Fung Ti of Fiddletown, has been described to me as peculiarly
affecting. Yet I am satisfied that a higher nature, rising above the
levity induced by the mere contemplation of the insignificant details
of this breach of trust, would find ample retributive justice in the
difficulties that subsequently attended Ah Fe’s pilgrimage.

On the road to Sacramento he was twice playfully thrown from the top
of the stage-coach by an intelligent but deeply-intoxicated Caucasian,
whose moral nature was shocked at riding with one addicted to
opium-smoking. At Hangtown he was beaten by a passing stranger,--purely
an act of Christian supererogation. At Dutch Flat he was robbed by
well-known hands from unknown motives. At Sacramento he was arrested
on suspicion of being something or other, and discharged with a severe
reprimand--possibly for not being it, and so delaying the course of
justice. At San Francisco he was freely stoned by children of the public
schools; but, by carefully avoiding these monuments of enlightened
progress, he at last reached, in comparative safety, the Chinese
quarters, where his abuse was confined to the police, and limited by the
strong arm of the law.

The next day he entered the wash-house of Chy Fook as an assistant, and
on the following Friday was sent with a basket of clean clothes to Chy
Fook’s several clients.

It was the usual foggy afternoon as he climbed the long wind-swept hill
of California Street,--one of those bleak, gray intervals that made the
summer a misnomer to any but the liveliest San Franciscan fancy. There
was no warmth or color in earth or sky, no light nor shade within or
without, only one monotonous, universal neutral tint over every thing.
There was a fierce unrest in the wind-whipped streets: there was a
dreary vacant quiet in the gray houses. When Ah Fe reached the top of
the hill, the Mission Ridge was already hidden; and the chill sea-breeze
made him shiver. As he put down his basket to rest himself, it is
possible, that, to his defective intelligence and heathen experience,
this “God’s own climate,” as it was called, seemed to possess but
scant tenderness, softness, or mercy. But it is possible that Ah
Fe illogically confounded this season with his old persecutors, the
school-children, who, being released from studious confinement, at this
hour were generally most aggressive. So he hastened on, and, turning a
corner, at last stopped before a small house.

It was the usual San Franciscan urban cottage. There was the little
strip of cold green shrubbery before it; the chilly, bare veranda, and
above this, again, the grim balcony, on which no one sat. Ah Fe rang
the bell. A servant appeared, glanced at his basket, and reluctantly
admitted him, as if he were some necessary domestic animal. Ah Fe
silently mounted the stairs, and, entering the open door of the
front-chamber, put down the basket, and stood passively on the

A woman, who was sitting in the cold gray light of the window, with a
child in her lap, rose listlessly, and came toward him. Ah Fe instantly
recognized Mrs. Tretherick; but not a muscle of his immobile face
changed, nor did his slant eyes lighten as he met her own placidly. She
evidently did not recognize him as she began to count the clothes. But
the child, curiously examining him, suddenly uttered a short, glad cry.

“Why, it’s John, mamma! It’s our old John what we had in Fiddletown.”

For an instant Ah Fe’s eyes and teeth electrically lightened. The child
clapped her hands, and caught at his blouse. Then he said shortly, “Me
John--Ah Fe--allee same. Me know you. How do?”

Mrs. Tretherick dropped the clothes nervously, and looked hard at Ah Fe.
Wanting the quick-witted instinct of affection that sharpened Carry’s
perception, she even then could not distinguish him above his fellows.
With a recollection of past pain, and an obscure suspicion of impending
danger, she asked him when he had left Fiddletown.

“Longee time. No likee Fiddletown, no likee Tlevelick. Likee San Flisco.
Likee washee. Likee Tally.”

Ah Fe’s laconics pleased Mrs. Tretherick. She did not stop to consider
how much an imperfect knowledge of English added to his curt directness
and sincerity. But she said, “Don’t tell anybody you have seen me,” and
took out her pocket-book.

Ah Fe, without looking at it, saw that it was nearly empty. Ah Fe,
without examining the apartment, saw that it was scantily furnished.
Ah Fe, without removing his eyes from blank vacancy, saw that both Mrs.
Tretherick and Carry were poorly dressed. Yet it is my duty to
state that Ah Fe’s long fingers closed promptly and firmly over the
half-dollar which Mrs. Tretherick extended to him.

Then he began to fumble in his blouse with a series of extraordinary
contortions. After a few moments, he extracted from apparently no
particular place a child’s apron, which he laid upon the basket with the

“One piecee washman flagittee.”

Then he began anew his fumblings and contortions. At last his efforts
were rewarded by his producing, apparently from his right ear, a
many-folded piece of tissue-paper. Unwrapping this carefully, he at
last disclosed two twenty-dollar gold-pieces, which he handed to Mrs.

“You leavee money topside of blulow, Fiddletown. Me findee money. Me
fetchee money to you. All lightee.”

“But I left no money on the top of the bureau, John,” said Mrs.
Tretherick earnestly. “There must be some mistake. It belongs to some
other person. Take it back, John.”

Ah Fe’s brow darkened. He drew away from Mrs. Tretherick’s extended
hand, and began hastily to gather up his basket.

“Me no takee it back. No, no! Bimeby pleesman he catchee me. He say,
‘God damn thief!--catchee flowty dollar: come to jailee.’ Me no takee
back. You leavee money top-side blulow, Fiddletown. Me fetchee money
you. Me no takee back.”

Mrs. Tretherick hesitated. In the confusion of her flight, she MIGHT
have left the money in the manner he had said. In any event, she had no
right to jeopardize this honest Chinaman’s safety by refusing it. So she
said, “Very well. John, I will keep it. But you must come again and see
me”--here Mrs. Tretherick hesitated with a new and sudden revelation of
the fact that any man could wish to see any other than herself--“and,

Ah Fe’s face lightened. He even uttered a short ventriloquistic laugh
without moving his mouth. Then shouldering his basket, he shut the door
carefully, and slid quietly down stairs. In the lower hall he, however,
found an unexpected difficulty in opening the front-door, and, after
fumbling vainly at the lock for a moment, looked around for some help
or instruction. But the Irish handmaid who had let him in was
contemptuously oblivious of his needs, and did not appear.

There occurred a mysterious and painful incident, which I shall simply
record without attempting to explain. On the hall-table a scarf,
evidently the property of the servant before alluded to, was lying.
As Ah Fe tried the lock with one hand, the other rested lightly on the
table. Suddenly, and apparently of its own volition, the scarf began to
creep slowly towards Ah Fe’s hand; from Ah Fe’s hand it began to creep
up his sleeve slowly, and with an insinuating, snake-like motion;
and then disappeared somewhere in the recesses of his blouse. Without
betraying the least interest or concern in this phenomenon, Ah Fe still
repeated his experiments upon the lock. A moment later the tablecloth
of red damask, moved by apparently the same mysterious impulse, slowly
gathered itself under Ah Fe’s fingers, and sinuously disappeared by the
same hidden channel. What further mystery might have followed, I cannot
say; for at this moment Ah Fe discovered the secret of the lock, and was
enabled to open the door coincident with the sound of footsteps upon
the kitchen-stairs. Ah Fe did not hasten his movements, but, patiently
shouldering his basket, closed the door carefully behind him again, and
stepped forth into the thick encompassing fog that now shrouded earth
and sky.

From her high casement-window, Mrs. Tretherick watched Ah Fe’s figure
until it disappeared in the gray cloud. In her present loneliness, she
felt a keen sense of gratitude toward him, and may have ascribed to
the higher emotions and the consciousness of a good deed, that certain
expansiveness of the chest, and swelling of the bosom, that was really
due to the hidden presence of the scarf and tablecloth under his blouse.
For Mrs. Tretherick was still poetically sensitive. As the gray fog
deepened into night, she drew Carry closer towards her, and, above
the prattle of the child, pursued a vein of sentimental and egotistic
recollection at once bitter and dangerous. The sudden apparition of Ah
Fe linked her again with her past life at Fiddletown. Over the dreary
interval between, she was now wandering,--a journey so piteous, wilful,
thorny, and useless, that it was no wonder that at last Carry stopped
suddenly in the midst of her voluble confidences to throw her small arms
around the woman’s neck, and bid her not to cry.

Heaven forefend that I should use a pen that should be ever dedicated
to an exposition of unalterable moral principle to transcribe Mrs.
Tretherick’s own theory of this interval and episode, with its feeble
palliations, its illogical deductions, its fond excuses, and weak
apologies. It would seem, however, that her experience had been hard.
Her slender stock of money was soon exhausted. At Sacramento she
found that the composition of verse, although appealing to the highest
emotions of the human heart, and compelling the editorial breast to the
noblest commendation in the editorial pages, was singularly inadequate
to defray the expenses of herself and Carry. Then she tried the stage,
but failed signally. Possibly her conception of the passions was
different from that which obtained with a Sacramento audience; but it
was certain that her charming presence, so effective at short range, was
not sufficiently pronounced for the footlights. She had admirers enough
in the green-room, but awakened no abiding affection among the audience.
In this strait, it occurred to her that she had a voice,--a contralto of
no very great compass or cultivation, but singularly sweet and touching;
and she finally obtained position in a church-choir. She held it for
three months, greatly to her pecuniary advantage, and, it is said, much
to the satisfaction of the gentlemen in the back-pews, who faced toward
her during the singing of the last hymn.

I remember her quite distinctly at this time. The light that slanted
through the oriel of St. Dives choir was wont to fall very tenderly on
her beautiful head with its stacked masses of deerskin-colored hair, on
the low black arches of her brows, and to deepen the pretty fringes
that shaded her eyes of Genoa velvet. Very pleasant it was to watch
the opening and shutting of that small straight mouth, with its quick
revelation of little white teeth, and to see the foolish blood faintly
deepen her satin cheek as you watched. For Mrs. Tretherick was very
sweetly conscious of admiration, and, like most pretty women, gathered
herself under your eye like a racer under the spur.

And then, of course, there came trouble. I have it from the soprano,--a
little lady who possessed even more than the usual unprejudiced judgment
of her sex,--that Mrs. Tretherick’s conduct was simply shameful; that
her conceit was unbearable; that, if she considered the rest of the
choir as slaves, she (the soprano) would like to know it; that her
conduct on Easter Sunday with the basso had attracted the attention of
the whole congregation; and that she herself had noticed Dr. Cope
twice look up during the service; that her (the soprano’s) friends had
objected to her singing in the choir with a person who had been on the
stage, but she had waived this. Yet she had it from the best authority
that Mrs. Tretherick had run away from her husband, and that this
red-haired child who sometimes came in the choir was not her own. The
tenor confided to me behind the organ, that Mrs. Tretherick had a way
of sustaining a note at the end of a line in order that her voice might
linger longer with the congregation,--an act that could be attributed
only to a defective moral nature; that as a man (he was a very popular
dry-goods clerk on week-days, and sang a good deal from apparently
behind his eyebrows on the sabbath)--that as a man, sir, he would put up
with it no longer. The basso alone--a short German with a heavy voice,
for which he seemed reluctantly responsible, and rather grieved at its
possession--stood up for Mrs. Tretherick, and averred that they were
jealous of her because she was “bretty.” The climax was at last reached
in an open quarrel, wherein Mrs. Tretherick used her tongue with
such precision of statement and epithet, that the soprano burst into
hysterical tears, and had to be supported from the choir by her husband
and the tenor. This act was marked intentionally to the congregation
by the omission of the usual soprano solo. Mrs. Tretherick went home
flushed with triumph, but on reaching her room frantically told Carry
that they were beggars henceforward; that she--her mother--had just
taken the very bread out of her darling’s mouth, and ended by bursting
into a flood of penitent tears. They did not come so quickly as in her
old poetical days; but when they came they stung deeply. She was roused
by a formal visit from a vestryman,--one of the music committee. Mrs.
Tretherick dried her long lashes, put on a new neck-ribbon, and went
down to the parlor. She staid there two hours,--a fact that might have
occasioned some remark, but that the vestryman was married, and had a
family of grown-up daughters. When Mrs. Tretherick returned to her room,
she sang to herself in the glass and scolded Carry--but she retained her
place in the choir.

It was not long, however. In due course of time, her enemies received a
powerful addition to their forces in the committee-man’s wife. That lady
called upon several of the church-members and on Dr. Cope’s family.
The result was, that, at a later meeting of the music committee, Mrs.
Tretherick’s voice was declared inadequate to the size of the building
and she was invited to resign. She did so. She had been out of a
situation for two months, and her scant means were almost exhausted,
when Ah Fe’s unexpected treasure was tossed into her lap.

The gray fog deepened into night, and the street-lamps started into
shivering life, as, absorbed in these unprofitable memories, Mrs.
Tretherick still sat drearily at her window. Even Carry had slipped away
unnoticed; and her abrupt entrance with the damp evening paper in
her hand roused Mrs. Tretherick, and brought her back to an active
realization of the present. For Mrs. Tretherick was wont to scan
the advertisements in the faint hope of finding some avenue of
employment--she knew not what--open to her needs; and Carry had noted
this habit.

Mrs. Tretherick mechanically closed the shutters, lit the lights, and
opened the paper. Her eye fell instinctively on the following paragraph
in the telegraphic column:--

“FIDDLETOWN, 7th.--Mr. James Tretherick, an old resident of this place,
died last night of delirium tremens. Mr. Tretherick was addicted to
intemperate habits, said to have been induced by domestic trouble.”

Mrs. Tretherick did not start. She quietly turned over another page of
the paper, and glanced at Carry. The child was absorbed in a book. Mrs.
Tretherick uttered no word, but, during the remainder of the evening,
was unusually silent and cold. When Carry was undressed and in bed, Mrs.
Tretherick suddenly dropped on her knees beside the bed, and, taking
Carry’s flaming head between her hands, said,--

“Should you like to have another papa, Carry darling?”

“No,” said Carry, after a moment’s thought.

“But a papa to help mamma take care of you, to love you, to give you
nice clothes, to make a lady of you when you grow up?”

Carry turned her sleepy eyes toward the questioner. “Should YOU, mamma?”

Mrs. Tretherick suddenly flushed to the roots of her hair. “Go to
sleep,” she said sharply, and turned away.

But at midnight the child felt two white arms close tightly around her,
and was drawn down into a bosom that heaved, fluttered, and at last was
broken up by sobs.

“Don’t ky, mamma,” whispered Carry, with a vague retrospect of their
recent conversation. “Don’t ky. I fink I SHOULD like a new papa, if he
loved you very much--very, very much!”

A month afterward, to everybody’s astonishment, Mrs. Tretherick was
married. The happy bridegroom was one Col. Starbottle, recently elected
to represent Calaveras County in the legislative councils of the State.
As I cannot record the event in finer language than that used by the
correspondent of “The Sacramento Globe,” I venture to quote some of his
graceful periods. “The relentless shafts of the sly god have been lately
busy among our gallant Solons. We quote ‘one more unfortunate.’
The latest victim is the Hon. C. Starbottle of Calaveras. The fair
enchantress in the case is a beautiful widow, a former votary of
Thespis, and lately a fascinating St. Cecilia of one of the most
fashionable churches of San Francisco, where she commanded a high

“The Dutch Flat Intelligencer” saw fit, however, to comment upon the
fact with that humorous freedom characteristic of an unfettered press.
“The new Democratic war-horse from Calaveras has lately advented in
the legislature with a little bill to change the name of Tretherick
to Starbottle. They call it a marriage-certificate down there. Mr.
Tretherick has been dead just one month; but we presume the gallant
colonel is not afraid of ghosts.” It is but just to Mrs. Tretherick
to state that the colonel’s victory was by no means an easy one. To
a natural degree of coyness on the part of the lady was added the
impediment of a rival,--a prosperous undertaker from Sacramento, who
had first seen and loved Mrs. Tretherick at the theatre and church; his
professional habits debarring him from ordinary social intercourse, and
indeed any other than the most formal public contact with the sex. As
this gentleman had made a snug fortune during the felicitous prevalence
of a severe epidemic, the colonel regarded him as a dangerous rival.
Fortunately, however, the undertaker was called in professionally to lay
out a brother-senator, who had unhappily fallen by the colonel’s pistol
in an affair of honor; and either deterred by physical consideration
from rivalry, or wisely concluding that the colonel was professionally
valuable, he withdrew from the field.

The honeymoon was brief, and brought to a close by an untoward incident.
During their bridal-trip, Carry had been placed in the charge of
Col. Starbottle’s sister. On their return to the city, immediately on
reaching their lodgings, Mrs. Starbottle announced her intention of
at once proceeding to Mrs. Culpepper’s to bring the child home. Col.
Starbottle, who had been exhibiting for some time a certain uneasiness
which he had endeavored to overcome by repeated stimulation, finally
buttoned his coat tightly across his breast, and, after walking
unsteadily once or twice up and down the room, suddenly faced his wife
with his most imposing manner.

“I have deferred,” said the colonel with an exaggeration of port that
increased with his inward fear, and a growing thickness of speech,--“I
have deferr--I may say poshponed statement o’ fack thash my duty ter
dishclose ter ye. I did no wish to mar sushine mushal happ’ness, to
bligh bud o’ promise, to darken conjuglar sky by unpleasht revelashun.
Musht be done--by G-d, m’m, musht do it now. The chile is gone!”

“Gone!” echoed Mrs. Starbottle.

There was something in the tone of her voice, in the sudden
drawing-together of the pupils of her eyes, that for a moment nearly
sobered the colonel, and partly collapsed his chest.

“I’ll splain all in a minit,” he said with a deprecating wave of the
hand. “Every thing shall be splained. The-the-the-melencholly event
wish preshipitate our happ’ness--the myster’us prov’nice wish releash
you--releash chile! hunerstan?--releash chile. The mom’t Tretherick
die--all claim you have in chile through him--die too. Thash law. Whose
chile b’long to? Tretherick? Tretherick dead. Chile can’t b’long dead
man. Damn nonshense b’long dead man. I’sh your chile? no! who’s chile
then? Chile b’long to ‘ts mother. Unnerstan?”

“Where is she?” said Mrs. Starbottle with a very white face and a very
low voice.

“I’ll splain all. Chile b’long to ‘ts mother. Thash law. I’m lawyer,
leshlator, and American sis’n. Ish my duty as lawyer, as leshlator, and
‘merikan sis’n to reshtore chile to suff’rin mother at any coss--any

“Where is she?” repeated Mrs. Starbottle with her eyes still fixed on
the colonel’s face.

“Gone to ‘ts m’o’r. Gone East on shteamer, yesserday. Waffed by fav’rin
gales to suff’rin p’rent. Thash so!”

Mrs. Starbottle did not move. The colonel felt his chest slowly
collapsing, but steadied himself against a chair, and endeavored to beam
with chivalrous gallantry not unmixed with magisterial firmness upon her
as she sat.

“Your feelin’s, m’m, do honor to yer sex, but conshider situashun.
Conshider m’or’s feelings--conshider MY feelin’s.” The colonel paused,
and, flourishing a white handkerchief, placed it negligently in his
breast, and then smiled tenderly above it, as over laces and ruffles, on
the woman before him. “Why should dark shedder cass bligh on two sholes
with single beat? Chile’s fine chile, good chile, but summonelse chile!
Chile’s gone, Clar’; but all ish’n’t gone, Clar’. Conshider dearesht,
you all’s have me!”

Mrs. Starbottle started to her feet. “YOU!” she cried, bringing out a
chest note that made the chandeliers ring,--“you that I married to give
my darling food and clothes,--YOU! a dog that I whistled to my side to
keep the men off me,--YOU!”

She choked up, and then dashed past him into the inner room, which had
been Carry’s; then she swept by him again into her own bedroom, and then
suddenly re-appeared before him, erect, menacing, with a burning fire
over her cheek-bones, a quick straightening of her arched brows and
mouth, a squaring of jaw, and ophidian flattening of the head.

“Listen!” she said in a hoarse, half-grown boy’s voice. “Hear me! If
you ever expect to set eyes on me again, you must find the child. If you
ever expect to speak to me again, to touch me, you must bring her back.
For where she goes, I go: you hear me! Where she has gone, look for me.”

She struck out past him again with a quick feminine throwing-out of her
arms from the elbows down, as if freeing herself from some imaginary
bonds, and, dashing into her chamber, slammed and locked the door. Col.
Starbottle, although no coward, stood in superstitious fear of an angry
woman, and, recoiling as she swept by, lost his unsteady foothold,
and rolled helplessly on the sofa. Here, after one or two unsuccessful
attempts to regain his foothold, he remained, uttering from time to time
profane but not entirely coherent or intelligible protests, until at
last he succumbed to the exhausting quality of his emotions, and the
narcotic quantity of his potations.

Meantime, within, Mrs. Starbottle was excitedly gathering her valuables,
and packing her trunk, even as she had done once before in the course
of this remarkable history. Perhaps some recollection of this was in her
mind; for she stopped to lean her burning cheeks upon her hand, as if
she saw again the figure of the child standing in the doorway, and heard
once more a childish voice asking, “Is it mamma?” But the epithet now
stung her to the quick and with a quick, passionate gesture she dashed
it away with a tear that had gathered in her eye. And then it chanced,
that, in turning over some clothes, she came upon the child’s slipper
with a broken sandal-string. She uttered a great cry here,--the first
she had uttered,--and caught it to her breast, kissing it passionately
again and again, and rocking from side to side with a motion peculiar
to her sex. And then she took it to the window, the better to see it
through her now streaming eyes. Here she was taken with a sudden fit of
coughing that she could not stifle with the handkerchief she put to her
feverish lips. And then she suddenly grew very faint. The window
seemed to recede before her, the floor to sink beneath her feet; and,
staggering to the bed, she fell prone upon it with the sandal and
handkerchief pressed to her breast. Her face was quite pale, the orbit
of her eyes dark; and there was a spot upon her lip, another on her
handkerchief, and still another on the white counterpane of the bed.

The wind had risen, rattling the window-sashes, and swaying the white
curtains in a ghostly way. Later, a gray fog stole softly over the
roofs, soothing the wind-roughened surfaces, and inwrapping all things
in an uncertain light and a measureless peace. She lay there very
quiet--for all her troubles, still a very pretty bride. And on the
other side of the bolted door the gallant bridegroom, from his temporary
couch, snored peacefully.

A week before Christmas Day, 1870, the little town of Genoa, in the
State of New York, exhibited, perhaps more strongly than at any
other time, the bitter irony of its founders and sponsors. A driving
snow-storm, that had whitened every windward hedge, bush, wall, and
telegraph-pole, played around this soft Italian Capitol, whirled in and
out of the great staring wooden Doric columns of its post-office
and hotel, beat upon the cold green shutters of its best houses, and
powdered the angular, stiff, dark figures in its streets. From the
level of the street, the four principal churches of the town stood out
starkly, even while their misshapen spires were kindly hidden in the
low, driving storm. Near the railroad-station, the new Methodist chapel,
whose resemblance to an enormous locomotive was further heightened by
the addition of a pyramidal row of front-steps, like a cowcatcher, stood
as if waiting for a few more houses to be hitched on to proceed to a
pleasanter location. But the pride of Genoa--the great Crammer Institute
for Young Ladies--stretched its bare brick length, and reared its cupola
plainly from the bleak Parnassian hill above the principal avenue. There
was no evasion in the Crammer Institute of the fact that it was a public
institution. A visitor upon its doorsteps, a pretty face at its window,
were clearly visible all over the township.

The shriek of the engine of the four-o’clock Northern express brought
but few of the usual loungers to the depot. Only a single passenger
alighted, and was driven away in the solitary waiting sleigh toward the
Genoa Hotel. And then the train sped away again, with that
passionless indifference to human sympathies or curiosity peculiar
to express-trains; the one baggage-truck was wheeled into the station
again; the station-door was locked; and the station-master went home.

The locomotive-whistle, however, awakened the guilty consciousness
of three young ladies of the Crammer Institute, who were even
then surreptitiously regaling themselves in the bake-shop and
confectionery-saloon of Mistress Phillips in a by-lane. For even the
admirable regulations of the Institute failed to entirely develop
the physical and moral natures of its pupils. They conformed to
the excellent dietary rules in public, and in private drew upon the
luxurious rations of their village caterer. They attended church with
exemplary formality, and flirted informally during service with the
village beaux. They received the best and most judicious instruction
during school-hours, and devoured the trashiest novels during recess.
The result of which was an aggregation of quite healthy, quite human,
and very charming young creatures, that reflected infinite credit on
the Institute. Even Mistress Phillips, to whom they owed vast sums,
exhilarated by the exuberant spirits and youthful freshness of her
guests, declared that the sight of “them young things” did her good; and
had even been known to shield them by shameless equivocation.

“Four o’clock, girls! and, if we’re not back to prayers by five, we’ll
be missed,” said the tallest of these foolish virgins, with an aquiline
nose, and certain quiet elan that bespoke the leader, as she rose
from her seat. “Have you got the books, Addy?” Addy displayed three
dissipated-looking novels under her waterproof. “And the provisions,
Carry?” Carry showed a suspicious parcel filling the pocket of her sack.
“All right, then. Come girls, trudge.--Charge it,” she added, nodding to
her host as they passed toward the door. “I’ll pay you when my quarter’s
allowance comes.”

“No, Kate,” interposed Carry, producing her purse, “let me pay: it’s my

“Never!” said Kate, arching her black brows loftily, “even if you
do have rich relatives, and regular remittances from California.
Never!--Come, girls, forward, march!”

As they opened the door, a gust of wind nearly took them off their feet.
Kind-hearted Mrs. Phillips was alarmed. “Sakes alive, galls! ye mussn’t
go out in sich weather. Better let me send word to the Institoot, and
make ye up a nice bed to-night in my parlor.” But the last sentence was
lost in a chorus of half-suppressed shrieks, as the girls, hand in hand,
ran down the steps into the storm, and were at once whirled away.

The short December day, unlit by any sunset glow, was failing fast. It
was quite dark already; and the air was thick with driving snow. For
some distance their high spirits, youth, and even inexperience, kept
them bravely up; but, in ambitiously attempting a short-cut from the
high-road across an open field, their strength gave out, the laugh grew
less frequent, and tears began to stand in Carry’s brown eyes. When they
reached the road again, they were utterly exhausted. “Let us go back,”
 said Carry.

“We’d never get across that field again,” said Addy.

“Let’s stop at the first house, then,” said Carry.

“The first house,” said Addy, peering through the gathering darkness,
“is Squire Robinson’s.” She darted a mischievous glance at Carry, that,
even in her discomfort and fear, brought the quick blood to her cheek.

“Oh, yes!” said Kate with gloomy irony, “certainly; stop at the squire’s
by all means, and be invited to tea, and be driven home after tea by
your dear friend Mr. Harry, with a formal apology from Mrs. Robinson,
and hopes that the young ladies may be excused this time. No!” continued
Kate with sudden energy. “That may suit YOU; but I’m going back as I
came,--by the window, or not at all.” Then she pounced suddenly, like a
hawk, on Carry, who was betraying a tendency to sit down on a snowbank,
and whimper, and shook her briskly. “You’ll be going to sleep next.
Stay, hold your tongues, all of you,--what’s that?”

It was the sound of sleigh-bells. Coming down toward them out of the
darkness was a sleigh with a single occupant. “Hold down your heads,
girls: if it’s anybody that knows us, we’re lost.” But it was not; for a
voice strange to their ears, but withal very kindly and pleasant, asked
if its owner could be of any help to them. As they turned toward him,
they saw it was a man wrapped in a handsome sealskin cloak, wearing
a sealskin cap; his face, half concealed by a muffler of the same
material, disclosing only a pair of long mustaches, and two keen
dark eyes. “It’s a son of old Santa Claus!” whispered Addy. The girls
tittered audibly as they tumbled into the sleigh: they had regained
their former spirits. “Where shall I take you?” said the stranger
quietly. There was a hurried whispering; and then Kate said boldly, “To
the Institute.” They drove silently up the hill, until the long, ascetic
building loomed up before them. The stranger reined up suddenly. “You
know the way better than I,” he said. “Where do you go in?”--“Through
the back-window,” said Kate with sudden and appalling frankness. “I
see!” responded their strange driver quietly, and, alighting quickly,
removed the bells from the horses. “We can drive as near as you please
now,” he added by way of explanation. “He certainly is a son of Santa
Claus,” whispered Addy. “Hadn’t we better ask after his father?” “Hush!”
 said Kate decidedly. “He is an angel, I dare say.” She added with a
delicious irrelevance, which was, however, perfectly understood by her
feminine auditors, “We are looking like three frights.”

Cautiously skirting the fences, they at last pulled up a few feet from
a dark wall. The stranger proceeded to assist them to alight. There was
still some light from the reflected snow; and, as he handed his fair
companions to the ground, each was conscious of undergoing an intense
though respectful scrutiny. He assisted them gravely to open the window,
and then discreetly retired to the sleigh until the difficult and
somewhat discomposing ingress was made. He then walked to the window,
“Thank you and good-night!” whispered three voices. A single figure
still lingered. The stranger leaned over the window-sill. “Will you
permit me to light my cigar here? it might attract attention if I struck
a match outside.” By the upspringing light he saw the figure of Kate
very charmingly framed in by the window. The match burnt slowly out
in his fingers. Kate smiled mischievously. The astute young woman had
detected the pitiable subterfuge. For what else did she stand at the
head of her class, and had doting parents paid three years’ tuition?

The storm had passed, and the sun was shining quite cheerily in the
eastern recitation-room the next morning, when Miss Kate, whose seat
was nearest the window, placing her hand pathetically upon her heart,
affected to fall in bashful and extreme agitation upon the shoulder of
Carry her neighbor. “HE has come,” she gasped in a thrilling whisper.
“Who?” asked Carry sympathetically, who never clearly under stood when
Kate was in earnest. “Who?--why, the man who rescued us last night! I
saw him drive to the door this moment. Don’t speak: I shall be better in
a moment--there!” she said; and the shameless hypocrite passed her hand
pathetically across her forehead with a tragic air.

“What can he want?” asked Carry, whose curiosity was excited.

“I don’t know,” said Kate, suddenly relapsing into gloomy cynicism.
“Possibly to put his five daughters to school; perhaps to finish his
young wife, and warn her against us.”

“He didn’t look old, and he didn’t seem like a married man,” rejoined
Addy thoughtfully.

“That was his art, you poor creature!” returned Kate scornfully. “You
can never tell any thing of these men, they are so deceitful Besides,
it’s just my fate!”

“Why, Kate,” began Carry, in serious concern.

“Hush! Miss Walker is saying something,” said Kate, laughing.

“The young ladies will please give attention,” said a slow, perfunctory
voice. “Miss Carry Tretherick is wanted in the parlor.”

Meantime Mr. Jack Prince, the name given on the card, and various
letters and credentials submitted to the Rev. Mr. Crammer, paced the
somewhat severe apartment known publicly as the “reception parlor,” and
privately to the pupils as “purgatory.” His keen eyes had taken in the
various rigid details, from the flat steam “radiator,” like an
enormous japanned soda-cracker, that heated one end of the room, to the
monumental bust of Dr. Crammer, that hopelessly chilled the other;
from the Lord’s Prayer, executed by a former writing-master in such
gratuitous variety of elegant calligraphic trifling as to considerably
abate the serious value of the composition, to three views of Genoa from
the Institute, which nobody ever recognized, taken on the spot by the
drawing-teacher; from two illuminated texts of Scripture in an English
Letter, so gratuitously and hideously remote as to chill all human
interest, to a large photograph of the senior class, in which the
prettiest girls were Ethiopian in complexion, and sat, apparently, on
each other’s heads and shoulders. His fingers had turned listlessly the
leaves of school-catalogues, the “Sermons” of Dr. Crammer, the “Poems”
 of Henry Kirke White, the “Lays of the Sanctuary” and “Lives of
Celebrated Women.” His fancy, and it was a nervously active one, had
gone over the partings and greetings that must have taken place here,
and wondered why the apartment had yet caught so little of the flavor of
humanity; indeed, I am afraid he had almost forgotten the object of his
visit, when the door opened, and Carry Tretherick stood before him.

It was one of those faces he had seen the night before, prettier even
than it had seemed then; and yet I think he was conscious of some
disappointment, without knowing exactly why. Her abundant waving hair
was of a guinea-golden tint, her complexion of a peculiar flower-like
delicacy, her brown eyes of the color of seaweed in deep water. It
certainly was not her beauty that disappointed him.

Without possessing his sensitiveness to impression, Carry was, on her
part, quite as vaguely ill at ease. She saw before her one of those men
whom the sex would vaguely generalize as “nice,” that is to say,
correct in all the superficial appointments of style, dress, manners and
feature. Yet there was a decidedly unconventional quality about him: he
was totally unlike any thing or anybody that she could remember; and,
as the attributes of originality are often as apt to alarm as to attract
people, she was not entirely prepossessed in his favor.

“I can hardly hope,” he began pleasantly, “that you remember me. It is
eleven years ago, and you were a very little girl. I am afraid I cannot
even claim to have enjoyed that familiarity that might exist between a
child of six and a young man of twenty-one. I don’t think I was fond
of children. But I knew your mother very well. I was editor of ‘The
Avalanche’ in Fiddletown, when she took you to San Francisco.”

“You mean my stepmother: she wasn’t my mother, you know,” interposed
Carry hastily.

Mr. Prince looked at her curiously. “I mean your stepmother,” he said
gravely. “I never had the pleasure of meeting your mother.”

“No: MOTHER hasn’t been in California these twelve years.”

There was an intentional emphasizing of the title and of its
distinction, that began to coldly interest Prince after his first
astonishment was past.

“As I come from your stepmother now,” he went on with a slight laugh,
“I must ask you to go back for a few moments to that point. After your
father’s death, your mother--I mean your stepmother--recognized the fact
that your mother, the first Mrs. Tretherick, was legally and morally
your guardian, and, although much against her inclination and
affections, placed you again in her charge.”

“My stepmother married again within a month after father died, and sent
me home,” said Carry with great directness, and the faintest toss of her

Mr. Prince smiled so sweetly, and apparently so sympathetically, that
Carry began to like him. With no other notice of the interruption
he went on, “After your stepmother had performed this act of simple
justice, she entered into an agreement with your mother to defray the
expenses of your education until your eighteenth year, when you were to
elect and choose which of the two should thereafter be your guardian,
and with whom you would make your home. This agreement, I think, you are
already aware of, and, I believe, knew at the time.”

“I was a mere child then,” said Carry.

“Certainly,” said Mr. Prince, with the same smile. “Still the
conditions, I think, have never been oppressive to you nor your mother;
and the only time they are likely to give you the least uneasiness will
be when you come to make up your mind in the choice of your guardian.
That will be on your eighteenth birthday,--the 20th, I think, of the
present month.”

Carry was silent.

“Pray do not think that I am here to receive your decision, even if it
be already made. I only came to inform you that your stepmother, Mrs.
Starbottle, will be in town to-morrow, and will pass a few days at the
hotel. If it is your wish to see her before you make up your mind, she
will be glad to meet you. She does not, however, wish to do any thing to
influence your judgment.”

“Does mother know she is coming?” said Carry hastily.

“I do not know,” said Prince gravely. “I only know, that, if you
conclude to see Mrs. Starbottle, it will be with your mother’s
permission. Mrs. Starbottle will keep sacredly this part of the
agreement, made ten years ago. But her health is very poor; and the
change and country quiet of a few days may benefit her.” Mr. Prince bent
his keen, bright eyes upon the young girl, and almost held his breath
until she spoke again.

“Mother’s coming up to-day or to-morrow,” she said, looking up.

“Ah!” said Mr. Prince with a sweet and languid smile.

“Is Col. Starbottle here too?” asked Carry, after a pause.

“Col. Starbottle is dead. Your stepmother is again a widow.”

“Dead!” repeated Carry.

“Yes,” replied Mr. Prince. “Your step-mother has been singularly
unfortunate in surviving her affections.”

Carry did not know what he meant, and looked so. Mr. Prince smiled

Presently Carry began to whimper.

Mr. Prince softly stepped beside her chair.

“I am afraid,” he said with a very peculiar light in his eye, and a
singular dropping of the corners of his mustache,--“I am afraid you are
taking this too deeply. It will be some days before you are called upon
to make a decision. Let us talk of something else. I hope you caught no
cold last evening.”

Carry’s face shone out again in dimples.

“You must have thought us so queer! It was too bad to give you so much

“None, whatever, I assure you. My sense of propriety,” he added
demurely, “which might have been outraged, had I been called upon to
help three young ladies out of a schoolroom window at night, was deeply
gratified at being able to assist them in again.” The door-bell rang
loudly, and Mr. Prince rose. “Take your own time, and think well before
you make your decision.” But Carry’s ear and attention were given to
the sound of voices in the hall. At the same moment, the door was thrown
open, and a servant announced, “Mrs. Tretherick and Mr. Robinson.”

The afternoon train had just shrieked out its usual indignant protest
at stopping at Genoa at all, as Mr. Jack Prince entered the outskirts
of the town, and drove towards his hotel. He was wearied and cynical.
A drive of a dozen miles through unpicturesque outlying villages,
past small economic farmhouses, and hideous villas that violated his
fastidious taste, had, I fear, left that gentleman in a captious state
of mind. He would have even avoided his taciturn landlord as he drove up
to the door; but that functionary waylaid him on the steps. “There’s a
lady in the sittin’-room, waitin’ for ye.” Mr. Prince hurried up stairs,
and entered the room as Mrs. Starbottle flew towards him.

She had changed sadly in the last ten years. Her figure was wasted
to half its size. The beautiful curves of her bust and shoulders were
broken or inverted. The once full, rounded arm was shrunken in its
sleeve; and the golden hoops that encircled her wan wrists almost
slipped from her hands as her long, scant fingers closed convulsively
around Jack’s. Her cheek-bones were painted that afternoon with the
hectic of fever: somewhere in the hollows of those cheeks were buried
the dimples of long ago; but their graves were forgotten. Her lustrous
eyes were still beautiful, though the orbits were deeper than before.
Her mouth was still sweet, although the lips parted more easily over the
little teeth, and even in breathing, and showed more of them than she
was wont to do before. The glory of her blonde hair was still left: it
was finer, more silken and ethereal, yet it failed even in its plenitude
to cover the hollows of the blue-veined temples.

“Clara!” said Jack reproachfully.

“Oh, forgive me, Jack!” she said, falling into a chair, but still
clinging to his hand, “forgive me, dear; but I could not wait longer.
I should have died, Jack,--died before another night. Bear with me a
little longer (it will not be long), but let me stay. I may not see her,
I know; I shall not speak to her: but it’s so sweet to feel that I am at
last near her, that I breathe the same air with my darling. I am better
already, Jack, I am indeed. And you have seen her to-day? How did
she look? What did she say? Tell me all, every thing, Jack. Was she
beautiful? They say she is. Has she grown? Would you have known her
again? Will she come, Jack? Perhaps she has been here already; perhaps,”
 she had risen with tremulous excitement, and was glancing at the
door,--“perhaps she is here now. Why don’t you speak, Jack? Tell me

The keen eyes that looked down into hers were glistening with an
infinite tenderness that none, perhaps, but she would have deemed them
capable of. “Clara,” he said gently and cheerily, “try and compose
yourself. You are trembling now with the fatigue and excitement of your
journey. I have seen Carry: she is well and beautiful. Let that suffice
you now.”

His gentle firmness composed and calmed her now, as it had often done
before. Stroking her thin hand, he said, after a pause, “Did Carry ever
write to you?”

“Twice, thanking me for some presents. They were only school-girl
letters,” she added, nervously answering the interrogation of his eyes.

“Did she ever know of your own troubles? of your poverty, of the
sacrifices you made to pay her bills, of your pawning your clothes and
jewels, of your”--

“No, no!” interrupted the woman quickly: “no! How could she? I have no
enemy cruel enough to tell her that.”

“But if she--or if Mrs. Tretherick--had heard of it? If Carry thought
you were poor, and unable to support her properly, it might influence
her decision. Young girls are fond of the position that wealth can give.
She may have rich friends, maybe a lover.”

Mrs. Starbottle winced at the last sentence. “But,” she said eagerly,
grasping Jack’s hand, “when you found me sick and helpless at
Sacramento, when you--God bless you for it, Jack!--offered to help me to
the East, you said you knew of something, you had some plan, that would
make me and Carry independent.”

“Yes,” said Jack hastily; “but I want you to get strong and well first.
And, now that you are calmer, you shall listen to my visit to the

It was then that Mr. Jack Prince proceeded to describe the interview
already recorded, with a singular felicity and discretion that shames
my own account of that proceeding. Without suppressing a single fact,
without omitting a word or detail, he yet managed to throw a poetic veil
over that prosaic episode, to invest the heroine with a romantic roseate
atmosphere, which, though not perhaps entirely imaginary, still, I fear,
exhibited that genius which ten years ago had made the columns of “The
Fiddletown Avalanche” at once fascinating and instructive. It was not
until he saw the heightening color, and heard the quick breathing, of
his eager listener, that he felt a pang of self-reproach. “God help her
and forgive me!” he muttered between his clinched teeth, “but how can I
tell her ALL now!”

That night, when Mrs. Starbottle laid her weary head upon her pillow,
she tried to picture to herself Carry at the same moment sleeping
peacefully in the great schoolhouse on the hill; and it was a rare
comfort to this yearning, foolish woman to know that she was so near.
But at this moment Carry was sitting on the edge of her bed, half
undressed, pouting her pretty lips, and twisting her long, leonine locks
between her fingers, as Miss Kate Van Corlear--dramatically wrapped in a
long white counterpane, her black eyes sparkling, and her thorough-bred
nose thrown high in air,--stood over her like a wrathful and indignant
ghost; for Carry had that evening imparted her woes and her history to
Miss Kate, and that young lady had “proved herself no friend” by falling
into a state of fiery indignation over Carry’s “ingratitude,” and openly
and shamelessly espousing the claims of Mrs. Starbottle. “Why, if the
half you tell me is true, your mother and those Robinsons are making of
you not only a little coward, but a little snob, miss. Respectability,
forsooth! Look you, my family are centuries before the Trethericks; but
if my family had ever treated me in this way, and then asked me to turn
my back on my best friend, I’d whistle them down the wind;” and here
Kate snapped her fingers, bent her black brows, and glared around the
room as if in search of a recreant Van Corlear.

“You just talk this way, because you have taken a fancy to that Mr.
Prince,” said Carry.

In the debasing slang of the period, that had even found its way
into the virgin cloisters of the Crammer Institute, Miss Kate, as she
afterwards expressed it, instantly “went for her.”

First, with a shake of her head, she threw her long black hair over one
shoulder, then, dropping one end of the counterpane from the other like
a vestal tunic, she stepped before Carry with a purposely-exaggerated
classic stride. “And what if I have, miss! What if I happen to know
a gentleman when I see him! What if I happen to know, that among a
thousand such traditional, conventional, feeble editions of their
grandfathers as Mr. Harry Robinson, you cannot find one original,
independent, individualized gentleman like your Prince! Go to bed, miss,
and pray to Heaven that he may be YOUR Prince indeed. Ask to have a
contrite and grateful heart, and thank the Lord in particular for having
sent you such a friend as Kate Van Corlear.” Yet, after an imposing
dramatic exit, she re-appeared the next moment as a straight white
flash, kissed Carry between the brows, and was gone.

The next day was a weary one to Jack Prince. He was convinced in his
mind that Carry would not come; yet to keep this consciousness from
Mrs. Starbottle, to meet her simple hopefulness with an equal degree of
apparent faith, was a hard and difficult task. He would have tried to
divert her mind by taking her on a long drive; but she was fearful that
Carry might come during her absence; and her strength, he was obliged to
admit, had failed greatly. As he looked into her large and awe-inspiring
clear eyes, a something he tried to keep from his mind--to put off day
by day from contemplation--kept asserting itself directly to his inner
consciousness. He began to doubt the expediency and wisdom of his
management. He recalled every incident of his interview with Carry, and
half believed that its failure was due to himself. Yet Mrs. Starbottle
was very patient and confident: her very confidence shook his faith in
his own judgment. When her strength was equal to the exertion, she was
propped up in her chair by the window, where she could see the school
and the entrance to the hotel. In the intervals she would elaborate
pleasant plans for the future, and would sketch a country home. She had
taken a strange fancy, as it seemed to Prince, to the present location;
but it was notable that the future, always thus outlined, was one of
quiet and repose. She believed she would get well soon: in fact, she
thought she was now much better than she had been; but it might be long
before she should be quite strong again. She would whisper on in this
way until Jack would dash madly down into the bar-room, order liquors
that he did not drink, light cigars that he did not smoke, talk with men
that he did not listen to, and behave generally as our stronger sex is
apt to do in periods of delicate trials and perplexity.

The day closed with a clouded sky and a bitter, searching wind. With
the night fell a few wandering flakes of snow. She was still content
and hopeful; and, as Jack wheeled her from the window to the fire, she
explained to him, how, that, as the school-term was drawing near its
close, Carry was probably kept closely at her lessons during the day,
and could only leave the school at night. So she sat up the greater part
of the evening, and combed her silken hair, and, as far as her strength
would allow, made an undress toilet to receive her guest. “We must not
frighten the child, Jack,” she said apologetically, and with something
of her old coquetry.

It was with a feeling of relief, that, at ten o’clock, Jack received a
message from the landlord, saying that the doctor would like to see
him for a moment down stairs. As Jack entered the grim, dimly-lighted
parlor, he observed the hooded figure of a woman near the fire. He was
about to withdraw again, when a voice that he remembered very pleasantly

“Oh, it’s all right! I’m the doctor.”

The hood was thrown back; and Prince saw the shining black hair, and
black, audacious eyes, of Kate Van Corlear.

“Don’t ask any questions. I’m the doctor and there’s my prescription,”
 and she pointed to the half-frightened, half-sobbing Carry in the
corner--“to be taken at once.”

“Then Mrs. Tretherick has given her permission?”

“Not much, if I know the sentiments of that lady,” replied Kate saucily.

“Then how did you get away?” asked Prince gravely.


When Mr. Prince had left Carry in the arms of her stepmother, he
returned to the parlor.

“Well?” demanded Kate.

“She will stay--YOU will, I hope, also--to-night.”

“As I shall not be eighteen, and my own mistress on the 20th, and as I
haven’t a sick stepmother, I won’t.”

“Then you will give me the pleasure of seeing you safely through the
window again?”

When Mr. Prince returned an hour later, he found Carry sitting on a low
stool at Mrs. Starbottle’s feet. Her head was in her stepmother’s lap;
and she had sobbed herself to sleep. Mrs. Starbottle put her finger
to her lip. “I told you she would come. God bless you, Jack! and

The next morning Mrs. Tretherick, indignant, the Rev. Asa Crammer,
principal, injured, and Mr. Joel Robinson, sen., complacently
respectable, called upon Mr. Prince. There was a stormy meeting, ending
in a demand for Carry. “We certainly cannot admit of this interference,”
 said Mrs. Tretherick, a fashionably dressed, indistinctive looking
woman. “It is several days before the expiration of our agreement; and
we do not feel, under the circumstances, justified in releasing
Mrs. Starbottle from its conditions.” “Until the expiration of the
school-term, we must consider Miss Tretherick as complying entirely with
its rules and discipline,” imposed Dr. Crammer. “The whole proceeding is
calculated to injure the prospects, and compromise the position, of Miss
Tretherick in society,” suggested Mr. Robinson.

In vain Mr. Prince urged the failing condition of Mrs. Starbottle, her
absolute freedom from complicity with Carry’s flight, the pardonable
and natural instincts of the girl, and his own assurance that they were
willing to abide by her decision. And then with a rising color in his
cheek, a dangerous look in his eye, but a singular calmness in his
speech, he added,--

“One word more. It becomes my duty to inform you of a circumstance which
would certainly justify me, as an executor of the late Mr. Tretherick,
in fully resisting your demands. A few months after Mr. Tretherick’s
death, through the agency of a Chinaman in his employment, it was
discovered that he had made a will, which was subsequently found among
his papers. The insignificant value of his bequest--mostly land, then
quite valueless--prevented his executors from carrying out his wishes,
or from even proving the will, or making it otherwise publicly known,
until within the last two or three years, when the property had
enormously increased in value. The provisions of that bequest are
simple, but unmistakable. The property is divided between Carry and
her stepmother, with the explicit condition that Mrs. Starbottle shall
become her legal guardian, provide for her education, and in all details
stand to her in loco parentis.”

“What is the value of this bequest?” asked Mr. Robinson. “I cannot
tell exactly, but not far from half a million, I should say,” returned
Prince. “Certainly, with this knowledge, as a friend of Miss Tretherick,
I must say that her conduct is as judicious as it is honorable to her,”
 responded Mr. Robinson. “I shall not presume to question the wishes,
or throw any obstacles in the way of carrying out the intentions, of my
dead husband,” added Mrs. Tretherick; and the interview was closed.

When its result was made known to Mrs. Starbottle, she raised Jack’s
hand to her feverish lips. “It cannot add to MY happiness now, Jack; but
tell me, why did you keep it from her?” Jack smiled, but did not reply.

Within the next week the necessary legal formalities were concluded; and
Carry was restored to her stepmother. At Mrs. Starbottle’s request, a
small house in the outskirts of the town was procured; and thither they
removed to wait the spring, and Mrs. Starbottle’s convalescence. Both
came tardily that year.

Yet she was happy and patient. She was fond of watching the budding
of the trees beyond her window,--a novel sight to her Californian
experience,--and of asking Carry their names and seasons. Even at this
time she projected for that summer, which seemed to her so mysteriously
withheld, long walks with Carry through the leafy woods, whose gray,
misty ranks she could see along the hilltop. She even thought she
could write poetry about them, and recalled the fact as evidence of her
gaining strength; and there is, I believe, still treasured by one of the
members of this little household a little carol so joyous, so simple,
and so innocent, that it might have been an echo of the robin that
called to her from the window, as perhaps it was.

And then, without warning, there dropped from Heaven a day so tender, so
mystically soft, so dreamily beautiful, so throbbing, and alive with the
fluttering of invisible wings, so replete and bounteously overflowing
with an awakening and joyous resurrection not taught by man or limited
by creed, that they thought it fit to bring her out, and lay her in that
glorious sunshine that sprinkled like the droppings of a bridal torch
the happy lintels and doors. And there she lay beatified and calm.

Wearied by watching, Carry had fallen asleep by her side; and Mrs.
Starbottle’s thin fingers lay like a benediction on her head. Presently
she called Jack to her side.

“Who was that,” she whispered, “who just came in?”

“Miss Van Corlear,” said Jack, answering the look in her great hollow

“Jack,” she said, after a moment’s silence, “sit by me a moment, dear
Jack: I’ve something I must say. If I ever seemed hard, or cold, or
coquettish to you in the old days, it was because I loved you, Jack, too
well to mar your future by linking it with my own. I always loved you,
dear Jack, even when I seemed least worthy of you. That is gone now.
But I had a dream lately, Jack, a foolish woman’s dream,--that you might
find what I lacked in HER,” and she glanced lovingly at the sleeping
girl at her side; “that you might love her as you have loved me. But
even that is not to be, Jack, is it?” and she glanced wistfully in his
face. Jack pressed her hand, but did not speak. After a few moments’
silence, she again said, “Perhaps you are right in your choice. She is a
good-hearted girl, Jack--but a little bold.”

And with this last flicker of foolish, weak humanity in her struggling
spirit, she spoke no more. When they came to her a moment later, a tiny
bird that had lit upon her breast flew away; and the hand that they
lifted from Carry’s head fell lifeless at her side.


I have seen her at last. She is a hundred and seven years old, and
remembers George Washington quite distinctly. It is somewhat confusing,
however, that she also remembers a contemporaneous Josiah W. Perkins of
Basking Ridge, N. J., and, I think, has the impression that Perkins was
the better man. Perkins, at the close of the last century, paid her some
little attention. There are a few things that a really noble woman of a
hundred and seven never forgets.

It was Perkins, who said to her in 1795, in the streets of Philadelphia,
“Shall I show thee Gen. Washington?” Then she said careless-like (for
you know, child, at that time it wasn’t what it is now to see Gen.
Washington), she said, “So do, Josiah, so do!” Then he pointed to a
tall man who got out of a carriage, and went into a large house. He was
larger than you be. He wore his own hair--not powdered; had a
flowered chintz vest, with yellow breeches and blue stockings, and a
broad-brimmed hat. In summer he wore a white straw hat, and at his farm
at Basking Ridge he always wore it. At this point, it became too evident
that she was describing the clothes of the all-fascinating Perkins: so I
gently but firmly led her back to Washington. Then it appeared that she
did not remember exactly what he wore. To assist her, I sketched the
general historic dress of that period. She said she thought he was
dressed like that. Emboldened by my success, I added a hat of Charles
II., and pointed shoes of the eleventh century. She indorsed these with
such cheerful alacrity, that I dropped the subject.

The house upon which I had stumbled, or, rather, to which my horse--a
Jersey hack, accustomed to historic research--had brought me, was
low and quaint. Like most old houses, it had the appearance of being
encroached upon by the surrounding glebe, as if it were already half in
the grave, with a sod or two, in the shape of moss thrown on it, like
ashes on ashes, and dust on dust. A wooden house, instead of acquiring
dignity with age, is apt to lose its youth and respectability together.
A porch, with scant, sloping seats, from which even the winter’s snow
must have slid uncomfortably, projected from a doorway that opened most
unjustifiably into a small sitting-room. There was no vestibule, or
locus poenitentiae, for the embarrassed or bashful visitor: he passed
at once from the security of the public road into shameful privacy.
And here, in the mellow autumnal sunlight, that, streaming through the
maples and sumach on the opposite bank, flickered and danced upon the
floor, she sat and discoursed of George Washington, and thought of
Perkins. She was quite in keeping with the house and the season, albeit
a little in advance of both; her skin being of a faded russet, and her
hands so like dead November leaves, that I fancied they even rustled
when she moved them.

For all that, she was quite bright and cheery; her faculties still quite
vigorous, although performing irregularly and spasmodically. It was
somewhat discomposing, I confess, to observe, that at times her lower
jaw would drop, leaving her speechless, until one of the family would
notice it, and raise it smartly into place with a slight snap,--an
operation always performed in such an habitual, perfunctory manner,
generally in passing to and fro in their household duties, that it was
very trying to the spectator. It was still more embarrassing to observe
that the dear old lady had evidently no knowledge of this, but believed
she was still talking, and that, on resuming her actual vocal utterance,
she was often abrupt and incoherent, beginning always in the middle of
a sentence, and often in the middle of a word. “Sometimes,” said her
daughter, a giddy, thoughtless young thing of eighty-five,--“sometimes
just moving her head sort of unhitches her jaw; and, if we don’t happen
to see it, she’ll go on talking for hours without ever making a sound.”
 Although I was convinced, after this, that during my interview I had
lost several important revelations regarding George Washington through
these peculiar lapses, I could not help reflecting how beneficent were
these provisions of the Creator,--how, if properly studied and applied,
they might be fraught with happiness to mankind,--how a slight jostle
or jar at a dinner-party might make the post-prandial eloquence of
garrulous senility satisfactory to itself, yet harmless to others,--how
a more intimate knowledge of anatomy, introduced into the domestic
circle, might make a home tolerable at least, if not happy,--how a
long-suffering husband, under the pretence of a conjugal caress,
might so unhook his wife’s condyloid process as to allow the flow of
expostulation, criticism, or denunciation, to go on with gratification
to her, and perfect immunity to himself.

But this was not getting back to George Washington and the early
struggles of the Republic. So I returned to the commander-in-chief, but
found, after one or two leading questions, that she was rather inclined
to resent his re-appearance on the stage. Her reminiscences here were
chiefly social and local, and more or less flavored with Perkins. We got
back as far as the Revolutionary epoch, or, rather, her impressions of
that epoch, when it was still fresh in the public mind. And here I came
upon an incident, purely personal and local, but, withal, so novel,
weird, and uncanny, that for a while I fear it quite displaced George
Washington in my mind, and tinged the autumnal fields beyond with a red
that was not of the sumach. I do not remember to have read of it in the
books. I do not know that it is entirely authentic. It was attested to
me by mother and daughter, as an uncontradicted tradition.

In the little field beyond, where the plough still turns up musket-balls
and cartridge-boxes, took place one of those irregular skirmishes
between the militiamen and Knyphausen’s stragglers, that made the
retreat historical. A Hessian soldier, wounded in both legs and utterly
helpless, dragged himself to the cover of a hazel-copse, and lay there
hidden for two days. On the third day, maddened by thirst, he managed
to creep to the rail-fence of an adjoining farm-house, but found himself
unable to mount it or pass through. There was no one in the house but
a little girl of six or seven years. He called to her, and in a faint
voice asked for water. She returned to the house, as if to comply
with his request, but, mounting a chair, took from the chimney
a heavily-loaded Queen Anne musket, and, going to the door, took
deliberate aim at the helpless intruder, and fired. The man fell back
dead, without a groan. She replaced the musket, and, returning to the
fence, covered the body with boughs and leaves, until it was hidden. Two
or three days after, she related the occurrence in a careless, casual
way, and leading the way to the fence, with a piece of bread and butter
in her guileless little fingers, pointed out the result of her simple,
unsophisticated effort. The Hessian was decently buried, but I could not
find out what became of the little girl. Nobody seemed to remember. I
trust, that, in after-years, she was happily married; that no Jersey
Lovelace attempted to trifle with a heart whose impulses were so prompt,
and whose purposes were so sincere. They did not seem to know if she had
married or not. Yet it does not seem probable that such simplicity of
conception, frankness of expression, and deftness of execution, were
lost to posterity, or that they failed, in their time and season, to
give flavor to the domestic felicity of the period. Beyond this,
the story perhaps has little value, except as an offset to the usual
anecdotes of Hessian atrocity.

They had their financial panics even in Jersey, in the old days.
She remembered when Dr. White married your cousin Mary--or was it
Susan?--yes, it was Susan. She remembers that your Uncle Harry brought
in an armful of bank-notes,--paper money, you know,--and threw them in
the corner, saying they were no good to anybody. She remembered playing
with them, and giving them to your Aunt Anna--no, child, it was your own
mother, bless your heart! Some of them was marked as high as a hundred
dollars. Everybody kept gold and silver in a stocking, or in a “chaney”
 vase, like that. You never used money to buy any thing. When Josiah went
to Springfield to buy any thing, he took a cartload of things with him
to exchange. That yaller picture-frame was paid for in greenings. But
then people knew jest what they had. They didn’t fritter their substance
away in unchristian trifles, like your father, Eliza Jane, who doesn’t
know that there is a God who will smite him hip and thigh; for vengeance
is mine, and those that believe in me. But here, singularly enough, the
inferior maxillaries gave out, and her jaw dropped. (I noticed that her
giddy daughter of eighty-five was sitting near her; but I do not pretend
to connect this fact with the arrested flow of personal disclosure.)
Howbeit, when she recovered her speech again, it appeared that she was
complaining of the weather.

The seasons had changed very much since your father went to sea.
The winters used to be terrible in those days. When she went over to
Springfield, in June, she saw the snow still on Watson’s Ridge. There
were whole days when you couldn’t git over to William Henry’s, their
next neighbor, a quarter of a mile away. It was that drefful winter that
the Spanish sailor was found. You don’t remember the Spanish sailor,
Eliza Jane--it was before your time. There was a little personal
skirmishing here, which I feared, at first, might end in a suspension of
maxillary functions, and the loss of the story; but here it is. Ah, me!
it is a pure white winter idyl: how shall I sing it this bright, gay
autumnal day?

It was a terrible night, that winter’s night, when she and the century
were young together. The sun was lost at three o’clock: the snowy night
came down like a white sheet, that flapped around the house, beat at the
windows with its edges, and at last wrapped it in a close embrace. In
the middle of the night, they thought they heard above the wind a voice
crying, “Christus, Christus!” in a foreign tongue. They opened the
door,--no easy task in the north wind that pressed its strong shoulders
against it,--but nothing was to be seen but the drifting snow. The next
morning dawned on fences hidden, and a landscape changed and obliterated
with drift. During the day, they again heard the cry of “Christus!” this
time faint and hidden, like a child’s voice. They searched in vain: the
drifted snow hid its secret. On the third day they broke a path to the
fence, and then they heard the cry distinctly. Digging down, they found
the body of a man,--a Spanish sailor, dark and bearded, with ear-rings
in his ears. As they stood gazing down at his cold and pulseless figure,
the cry of “Christus!” again rose upon the wintry air; and they turned
and fled in superstitious terror to the house. And then one of the
children, bolder than the rest, knelt down, and opened the dead man’s
rough pea-jacket, and found--what think you?--a little blue-and-green
parrot, nestling against his breast. It was the bird that had echoed
mechanically the last despairing cry of the life that was given to save
it. It was the bird, that ever after, amid outlandish oaths and wilder
sailor-songs, that I fear often shocked the pure ears of its gentle
mistress, and brought scandal into the Jerseys, still retained that one
weird and mournful cry.

The sun meanwhile was sinking behind the steadfast range beyond, and I
could not help feeling that I must depart with my wants unsatisfied.
I had brought away no historic fragment: I absolutely knew little or
nothing new regarding George Washington. I had been addressed variously
by the names of different members of the family who were dead and
forgotten; I had stood for an hour in the past: yet I had not added to
my historical knowledge, nor the practical benefit of your readers. I
spoke once more of Washington, and she replied with a reminiscence of

Stand forth, O Josiah W. Perkins of Basking Ridge, N. J. Thou wast of
little account in thy life, I warrant; thou didst not even feel the
greatness of thy day and time; thou didst criticise thy superiors; thou
wast small and narrow in thy ways; thy very name and grave are unknown
and uncared for: but thou wast once kind to a woman who survived thee,
and, lo! thy name is again spoken of men, and for a moment lifted up
above thy betters.

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