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Title: Deserted - 1898
Author: Bellamy, Edward
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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DESERTED

By Edward Bellamy

1898


“What a glorious, all-satisfying country this Nevada desert would be,
if one were only all eyes, and had no need of food, drink, and shelter!
Would n’t it, Miss Dwyer? Do you know, I ‘ve no doubt that this is the
true location of heaven. You see, the lack of water and vegetation would
be no inconvenience to spirits, while the magnificent scenery and the
cloudless sky would be just the thing to make them thrive.”

“But what I can’t get over,” responded the young lady addressed, “is
that these alkali plains, which have been described as so dreary and
uninteresting, should prove to be in reality one of the most wonderfully
impressive and beautiful regions in the world. What awful fibbers, or
what awfully dull people, they must have been whose descriptions have
so misled the public! It is perfectly unaccountable. Here I expected to
doze all the way across the desert, while in fact I ‘ve grudged my eyes
time enough to wink ever since I left my berth this morning.”

“The trouble is,” replied her companion, “that persons in search of
the picturesque, or with much eye for it, are rare travelers along this
route. The people responsible for the descriptions you complain of
are thrifty businessmen, with no idea that there can be any possible
attraction in a country where crops can’t be raised, timber cut, or ore
dug up. For my part, I thank the Lord for the beautiful barrenness that
has consecrated this great region to loneliness. Here there will always
be a chance to get out of sight and sound of the swarming millions who
have already left scarcely standing-room for a man in the East. I
wouldn’t give much for a country where there are no wildernesses left.”

“But I really think it is rather hard to say in just what the beauty of
the desert consists,” said Miss Dwyer. “It is so simple. I scribbled two
pages of description in my note-book this morning, but when I read them
over, and then looked out of the window, I tore them up. I think the
wonderfully fine, clear, brilliant air transfigures the landscape and
makes it something that must be seen and can’t be told. After seeing how
this air makes the ugly sagebrush and the patches of alkali and brown
earth a feast to the eye, one can understand how the light of heaven may
make the ugliest faces beautiful.”

The pretty talker is sitting next the window of palace-car No. 30 of
the Central Pacific line, which has already been her flying home for
two days. The gentleman who sits beside her professes to be sharing
the view, but it is only fair I should tell the reader that under this
pretense he is nefariously delighting in the rounded contour of his
companion’s half-averted face, as she, in unfeigned engrossment, scans
the panorama unrolled before them by the swift motion of the car. How
sweet and fresh is the bright tint of her cheek against the ghastly
white background of the alkali-patches as they flit by! Still, it can’t
be said that he is n’t enjoying the scenery too, for surely there is
no such Claude-Lorraine glass to reflect and enhance the beauty of a
landscape as the face of a _spirituelle_ girl.

With a profound sigh, summing up both her admiration and that despair of
attaining the perfect insight and sympathy imagined and longed for which
is always a part of intense appreciation of natural beauty, Miss Dwyer
threw herself back in her seat, and fixed her eyes on the car-ceiling
with an expression as if she were looking at something at least as far
away as the moon.

“I ‘m going to make a statue when I get home,” she said,--“a statue
which will personify Nevada, and represent the tameless, desolate,
changeless, magnificent beauty and the self-sufficient loneliness of
the desert. I can see it in my mind’s eye now. It will probably be the
finest statue in the world.”

“If you ‘d as lief put your ideal into a painting, I will give you a
suggestion that will be original if nothing else,” he observed.

“What’s that?”

“Why, having in view these white alkali-patches that chiefly
characterize Nevada, paint her as a leper.”

“That’s horrid! You need n’t talk to me any more,” she exclaimed
emphatically.

With this sort of chatter they had beguiled the time since leaving San
Francisco the morning of the day before. Acquaintances are indeed made
as rapidly on an overland train as on an ocean steamship, but theirs had
dated from the preceding winter, during which they had often met in San
Francisco. When Mr. Lombard heard that Miss Dwyer and Mrs. Eustis, her
invalid sister, were going East in April, he discovered that he would
have business to attend to in New York at about that time; and oddly
enough,--that is, if you choose to take that view of it,--when the
ladies came to go, it turned out that Lombard had taken his ticket for
the selfsame train and identical sleeping-car. The result of which
was that he had the privilege of handing Miss Dwyer in and out at the
eating-stations, of bringing Mrs. Eustis her cup of tea in the car, and
of sharing Miss Dwyer’s seat and monopolizing her conversation when
he had a mind to, which was most of the time. A bright and congenial
companion has this advantage over a book, that he or she is an author
whom you can make discourse on any subject you please, instead of being
obliged to follow an arbitrary selection by another, as when you commune
with the printed page.

By way of peace-offering for his blasphemy in calling the Nevada desert
a leper, Lombard had embezzled a couple of chairs from the smoking-room
and carried them to the rear platform of the car, which happened to be
the last of the train, and invited Miss Dwyer to come thither and see
the scenery. Whether she had wanted to pardon him or not, he knew very
well that this was a temptation which she could not resist, for the rear
platform was the best spot for observation on the entire train, unless
it were the cowcatcher of the locomotive.

The April sun mingled with the frosty air like whiskey with ice-water,
producing an effect cool but exhilarating. As she sat in the door of the
little passage leading to the platform, she scarcely needed the shawl
which he wrapped about her with absurdly exaggerated solicitude. One
of the most unmistakable symptoms of the lover is the absorbing and
superfluous care with which he adjusts the wraps about the object of his
affections whether the weather be warm or cold: it is as if he thought
he could thus artificially warm her heart toward him. But Miss Dwyer did
not appear vexed, pretending indeed to be oblivious of everything else
in admiration of the spectacle before her.

The country stretched flat and bare as a table for fifty miles on either
side the track,--a distance looking in the clear air not over one
fifth as great. On every side this great plain was circled by mountains,
the reddish-brown sides of some of them bare to the summits, while
others were robed in folds of glistening snow and looked like
white curtains drawn part way up the sky. The whitey-gray of the
alkali-patches, the brown of the dry earth, and the rusty green of
the sagebrush filled the foreground, melting in the distance into a
purple-gray. The wondrous dryness and clearness of the air lent to these
modest tints a tone and dazzling brilliance that surprised the eye with
a revelation of possibilities never before suspected in them. But the
mountains were the greatest wonder. It was as if the skies, taking pity
on their nakedness, had draped their majestic shoulders in imperial
purple, while at this hour the westering sun tipped their pinnacles with
gilt. In the distance half a dozen sand-spouts, swiftly-moving white
pillars, looking like desert genii with too much “tanglefoot” aboard,
were careering about in every direction.

But as Lombard pointed out the various features of the scene to his
companion, I fear that his chief motive was less an admiration of Nature
that sought sympathy than a selfish delight in making her eyes flash,
seeing the color come and go in her cheeks, and hearing her charming
unstudied exclamations of pleasure,--a delight not unmingled with
complacency in associating himself in her mind with emotions of delight
and admiration. It is appalling, the extent to which spoony young people
make the admiration of Nature in her grandest forms a mere sauce to
their love-making. The roar of Niagara has been notoriously utilized
as a cover to unlimited osculation, and Adolphus looks up at the
sky-cleaving peak of Mont Blanc only to look down at Angelina’s
countenance with a more vivid appreciation of its superior attractions.

It was delicious, Lombard thought, sitting there with her on the rear
platform, out of sight and sound of everybody. He had such a pleasant
sense of proprietorship in her! How agreeable--flatteringly so, in
fact--she had been all day! There was nothing like traveling together
to make people intimate. It was clear that she understood his intentions
very well: indeed, how could she help it? He had always said that
a fellow had shown himself a bungler at love-making if he were not
practically assured of the result before he came to the point of the
declaration. The sensation of leaving everything else so rapidly behind
that people have when sitting on the rear platform of a train of cars
makes them feel, by force of contrast, nearer to each other and more
identified. How pretty she looked sitting there in the doorway, her
eyes bent so pensively on the track behind as the car-wheels so swiftly
reeled it off! He had tucked her in comfortably. No cold could get to
the sweet little girl, and none ever should so long as he lived to make
her comfort his care.

One small gloved hand lay on her lap outside the shawl. What a jolly
little hand it was! He reached out his own and took it, but, without
even a moment’s hesitation for him to extract a flattering inference
from, she withdrew it. Perhaps something in his matter-of-course way
displeased her.

To know when it is best to submit to a partial rebuff, rather than make
a bad matter worse by trying to save one’s pride, is a rare wisdom.
Still, Lombard might have exercised it at another time. But there are
days when the magnetisms are all wrong, and a person not ordinarily
deficient in tact, having begun wrong, goes on blundering like a
schoolboy. Piqued at the sudden shock to the pleasant day-dream, in
which he had fancied himself already virtually assured of this young
lady,--a day-dream which she was not really accountable for spoiling,
since she had not been privy to it,--what should he do but find
expression for his mingled vexation and wounded affection by reminding
her of a previous occasion on which she had allowed him the liberty she
now denied? Doubtless helping to account for this lack of tact was the
idea that he should thus justify himself for so far presuming just
now. Not, of course, that there is really any excuse for a young man’s
forgetting that ladies have one advantage over Omniscience, in that
not only are they privileged to remember what they please, but also to
ignore what they see fit to forget.

“You have forgotten that evening at the California Theatre,” was what
this devoted youth said.

“I ‘m sure I don’t know to what you refer, sir,” she replied freezingly.

He was terrified at the distant accent of her voice. It appeared to
come from somewhere beyond the fixed stars, and brought the chill of
the interstellar spaces with it. He forgot in an instant all about his
pique, vexation, and wounded pride, and was in a panic of anxiety to
bring her back. In a moment more he knew that she would rise from her
chair and remark that it was getting cold and she must go in. If he
allowed her to depart in that mood, he might lose her forever. He could
think of but one way of convincing her instantaneously of his devotion;
and so what should he do but take the most inopportune occasion in the
entire course of their acquaintance to make his declaration. He was
like a general whose plan of battle has been completely deranged by an
utterly unexpected repulse in a preliminary movement, compelling him to
hurry forward his last reserves in a desperate attempt to restore the
battle.

“What have I done, Miss Dwyer? Don’t you know that I love you? Won’t you
be my wife?”

“No, sir,” she said flatly, her taste outraged and her sensibilities
set on edge by the stupid, blundering, hammer-and-tongs onset which from
first to last he had made. She loved him, and had meant to accept him,
but if she had loved him ten times as much she couldn’t have helped
refusing him just then, under those circumstances,--not if she died
for it. As she spoke, she rose and disappeared within the car. It is
certainly to be hoped that the noise of the wheels, which out on the
platform was considerable, prevented the recording angel from getting
the full force of Lombard’s ejaculation.

It is bad enough to be refused when the delicacy and respectfulness of
the lady’s manner make “No” sound so much like “Yes” that the rejected
lover can almost persuade himself that his ears have deceived him. It is
bad enough to be refused when she does it so timidly and shrinkingly and
deprecatingly that it might be supposed she were the rejected party. It
is bad enough to be refused when she expresses the hope that you will
always be friends, and shows a disposition to make profuse amends in
general agreeableness for the consummate favor which she is forced to
decline you. Not to put too fine a point upon it, it is bad enough to be
refused anyhow you can arrange the circumstances, but to be refused as
Lombard had been, with a petulance as wounding to his dignity as was
the refusal itself to his affections, is to take a bitter pill with an
asafotida coating.

In the limp and demoralized condition in which he was left, the only
clear sentiment in his mind was that he did not want to meet her
again just at present. So he sat for an hour or more longer out on the
platform, and had become as thoroughly chilled without as he was within
when at dusk the train stopped at a little three-house station for
supper. Then he went into one of the forward day-cars, not intending to
return to the sleeping-car till Miss Dwyer should have retired. When the
train reached Ogden the next morning, instead of going on East he would
take the same train back to San Francisco, and that would be the end of
his romance. His engagement in New York had been a myth, and with Miss
Dwyer’s “No, sir,” the only business with the East that had brought him
on this trip was at an end.

About an hour after leaving the supper-station, the train suddenly
stopped in the midst of the desert. Something about the engine had
become disarranged, which it would take some time to put right. Glad
to improve an opportunity to stretch their legs, many of the passengers
left the cars and were strolling about, curiously examining the
sagebrush and the alkali, and admiring the ghostly plain as it spread,
bare, level, and white as an icebound polar sea, to the feet of the
far-off mountains.

Lombard had also left the car, and was walking about, his hands in
his overcoat pockets, trying to clear his mind of the wreckage that
obstructed its working; for Miss Dwyer’s refusal had come upon him as
a sudden squall that carries away the masts and sails of a vessel and
transforms it in a moment from a gallant bounding ship to a mere hulk
drifting in an entangled mass of débris. Of course she had a perfect
right to suit herself about the kind of a man she took for a husband,
but he certainly had not thought she was such an utter coquette. If ever
a woman gave a man reason to think himself as good as engaged, she had
given him that reason, and yet she refused him as coolly as she would
have declined a second plate of soup. There must be some truth, after
all, in the rant of the poets about the heartlessness and fickleness of
women, although he had always been used to consider it the merest bosh.
Suddenly he heard the train moving. He was perhaps fifty yards off, and,
grumbling anathemas at the stupidity of the conductor, started to run
for the last car. He was not quite desperate enough to fancy being left
alone on the Nevada desert with night coming on. He would have caught
the train without difficulty, if his foot had not happened to catch in
a tough clump of sage, throwing him violently to the ground. As he
gathered himself up, the train was a hundred yards off, and moving
rapidly. To overtake it was out of the question.

“Stop! ho! stop!” he yelled at the top of his lungs. But there was no
one on the rear platform to see him, and the closed windows and the
rattle of the wheels were sufficient to render a much louder noise than
he could make inaudible to the dozing passengers. And now the engineer
pulled out the throttle-valve to make up for lost time, and the clatter
of the train faded into a distant roar, and its lights began to twinkle
into indistinctness.

“Damnation!”

A voice fell like a falling star: “Gentlemen do not use profane language
in ladies’ company.”

He first looked up in the air, as on the whole the likeliest quarter for
a voice to come from in this desert, then around. Just on the other
side of the track stood Miss Dwyer, smiling, with a somewhat constrained
attempt at self-possession. Lombard was a good deal taken aback, but
in his surprise he did not forget that this was the young lady who had
refused him that afternoon.

“I beg your pardon,” he replied, with a stiff bow; “I did not suppose
that there were any ladies within hearing.”

“I got out of the car supposing there was plenty of time to get a
specimen of sagebrush to carry home,” she explained; “but when the cars
started, although I was but a little way off, I could not regain the
platform;” which, considering that she wore a tie-back of the then
prevalent fashion, was not surprising.

“Indeed!” replied Lombard, with the same formal manner.

“But won’t the train come back for us?” she asked, in a more anxious
voice.

“That will depend on whether we are missed. Nobody will miss me. Mrs.
Eustis, if she hasn’t gone to bed, may miss you.”

“But she has. She went to bed before I left the car, and is asleep by
this time.”

“That ‘s unfortunate,” was his brief reply, as he lit a cigar and began
to smoke and contemplate the stars.

His services, so far as he could do anything for her, she should, as a
lady, command, but if she thought that he was going to do the agreeable
after what had happened a few hours ago, she was mightily mistaken.

There was a silence, and then she said, hesitatingly, “What are we going
to do?”

He glanced at her. Her attitude and the troubled expression of her face,
as well as her voice, indicated that the logic of the situation was
overthrowing the jaunty self-possession which she had at first affected.
The desert was staring her out of countenance. How his heart yearned
toward her! If she had only given him a right to take care of her, how
he would comfort her! what prodigies would he be capable of to succor
her! But this rising impulse of tenderness was turned to choking
bitterness by the memory of that scornful “No, sir.” So he replied
coldly, “I ‘m not in the habit of being left behind in deserts, and
I don’t know what it is customary to do in such cases. I see nothing
except to wait for the next train, which will come along some time
within twenty-four hours.”

There was another long silence, after which she said in a timid voice,
“Had n’t we better walk to the next station?”

At the suggestion of walking he glanced at her close-fitting dress, and
a sardonic grin slightly twitched the corners of his mouth as he dryly
answered, “It is thirty miles one way and twenty the other to the first
station.”

Several minutes passed before she spoke again, and then she said, with
an accent almost like that of a child in trouble and about to cry, “I ‘m
cold.”

The strong, unceasing wind, blowing from snowy mountain-caverns across
a plain on which there was not the slightest barrier of hill or tree to
check its violence, was indeed bitterly cold, and Lombard himself felt
chilled to the marrow of his bones. He took off his overcoat and offered
it to her.

“No,” said she, “you are as cold as I am.”

“You will please take it,” he replied, in a peremptory manner; and she
took it.

“At this rate we shall freeze to death before midnight,” he added, as
if in soliloquy. “I must see if I can’t contrive to make some sort of a
shelter with this sagebrush.”

He began by tearing up a large number of bushes by the roots. Seeing
what he was doing, Miss Dwyer was glad to warm her stiffened muscles by
taking hold and helping; which she did with a vigor that shortly reduced
her gloves to shreds and filled her fingers with scratches from the
rough twigs. Lombard next chose an unusually high and thick clump of
brush, and cleared a small space three feet across in the centre of it,
scattering twigs on the uncovered earth to keep off its chill.

“Now, Miss Dwyer, if you will step inside this spot, I think I can build
up the bushes around us so as to make a sort of booth which may save us
from freezing.”

She silently did as he directed, and he proceeded to pile the brush
which they had torn up on the tops of the bushes left standing around
the spot where they were, thus making a circular wall about three feet
high. Over the top he managed to draw together two or three bushes, and
the improvised wigwam was complete.

The moonlight penetrated the loose roof sufficiently to reveal to each
other the faces and figures of the two occupants as they sat in opposite
corners, as far apart as possible, she cold and miserable, he cold and
sulky, and both silent. And, as if to mock him, the idea kept recurring
to his mind how romantic and delightful, in spite of the cold and
discomfort, the situation would be if she had only said Yes, instead of
No, that afternoon. People have odd notions sometimes, and it actually
seemed to him that his vexation with her for destroying the pleasure of
the present occasion was something quite apart from, and in addition to,
his main grievance against her. It might have been so jolly, and now she
had spoiled it. He could have boxed her pretty little ears.

She wondered why he did not try to light a fire, but she wouldn’t ask
him another thing, if she died. In point of fact, he knew the sagebrush
would not burn. Suddenly the wind blew fiercer, there came a rushing
sound, and the top and walls of the wigwam were whisked off like a
flash, and as they staggered to their feet, buffeted by the whirling
bushes, a cloud of fine alkali-dust enveloped them, blinding their eyes,
penetrating their ears and noses, and setting them gasping, sneezing,
and coughing spasmodically. Then, like a puff of smoke, the suffocating
storm was dissipated, and when they opened their smarting eyes there was
nothing but the silent, glorious desolation of the ghostly desert around
them, with the snow-peaks in the distance glittering beneath the moon.
A sand-spout had struck them, that was all,--one of the whirling
dust-columns which they had admired all day from the car-windows.

Wretched enough before, both for physical and sentimental reasons,
this last experience quite demoralized Miss Dwyer, and she sat down and
cried. Now, a few tears, regarded from a practical, middle-aged point
of view, would not appear to have greatly complicated the situation, but
they threw Lombard into a panic. If she was going to cry, something
must be done. Whether anything could be done or not, something _must_ be
done.

“Don’t leave me,” she cried hysterically, as he rushed off to
reconnoitre the vicinity.

“I ‘ll return presently,” he called back.

But five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes passed, and he did not
come back. Terror dried her tears, and her heart almost stopped
beating. She had quite given him up for lost, and herself too, when with
inexpressible relief she heard him call to her. She replied, and in a
moment more he was at her side, breathless with running.

“I lost my bearings,” he said. “If you had not answered me, I could not
have found you.”

“Don’t leave me again,” she sobbed, clinging to his arm.

He put his arms round her and kissed her. It was mean, base,
contemptible, to take advantage of her agitation in that way, but she
did not resist, and he did it again and again,--I forbear to say how
many times.

“Is n’t it a perfectly beautiful night?” he exclaimed, with a fine gush
of enthusiasm.

“Is n’t it exquisite?” she echoed, with a rush of sympathetic feeling.

“See those stars: they look as if they had just been polished,” he
cried.

“What a droll idea!” she exclaimed gleefully. “But do see that lovely
mountain.”

Holding her with a firmer clasp, and speaking with what might be styled
a fierce tenderness, he demanded, “What did you mean, miss, by refusing
me this afternoon?”

“What did you go at me so stupidly for? I had to refuse,” she retorted
smilingly.

“Will you be my wife?”

“Yes, sir; I meant to be all the time.”

The contract having been properly sealed, Lombard said, with a
countenance curiously divided between a tragical expression and a smile
of fatuous complacency, “There was a clear case of poetical justice in
your being left behind in the desert to-night. To see the lights of the
train disappearing, leaving you alone in the midst of desolation, gave
you a touch of my feeling on being rejected this afternoon. Of all
leavings behind, there’s none so miserable as the experience of the
rejected lover.”

“Poor fellow! so he should n’t be left behind. He shall be conductor
of the train,” she said, with a bewitching laugh. His response was not
verbal.

“How cold the wind is!” she said.

“Shall I build you another wigwam?”

“No; let us exercise a little. You whistle ‘The Beautiful Blue Danube,’
and we’ll waltz. This desert is the biggest, jolliest ball-room floor
that ever was, and I dare say we shall be the first to waltz on it since
the creation of the world. That will be something to boast of when we
get home. Come, let’s dedicate the Great American Desert to Terpsichore.”

They stepped out from among the ruins of their sagebrush booth upon a
patch of hard, bare earth close to the railroad track. Lombard
puckered his lips and struck up the air, and off they went with as much
enthusiasm as if inspired by a first-class orchestra. Round and round,
to and fro, they swept until, laughing, flushed, and panting, they came
to a stop.

It was then that they first perceived that they were not without
a circle of appreciative spectators. Sitting like statues on their
sniffing, pawing ponies, a dozen Piute Indians encircled them. Engrossed
with the dance and with each other, they had not noticed them as they
rode up, attracted from their route by this marvelous spectacle of a
pale-face squaw and brave engaged in a solitary war dance in the midst
of the desert.

At sight of the grim circle of centaurs around them Miss Dwyer would
have fainted but for Lombard’s firm hold.

“Pretend not to see them; keep on dancing,” he hissed in her ear. He had
no distinct plan in what he said, but spoke merely from an instinct of
self-preservation, which told him that when they stopped, the Indians
would be upon them. But as she mechanically, and really more dead
than alive, obeyed his direction and resumed the dance, and he in his
excitement was treading on her feet at every step, the thought flashed
upon him that there was a bare chance of escaping violence, if they
could keep the Indians interested without appearing to notice their
presence. In successive whispers he communicated his idea to Miss Dyer:
“Don’t act as if you saw them at all, but do everything as if we were
alone. That will puzzle them, and make them think us supernatural
beings, or perhaps crazy: Indians have great respect for crazy people.
It’s our only chance. We will stop dancing now, and sing awhile. Give
them a burlesque of opera. I ‘ll give you the cues and show you how.
Don’t be frightened. I don’t believe they ‘ll touch us so long as we act
as if we did n’t see them. Do you understand? Can you do your part?”

“I understand; I ‘ll try,” she whispered.

“Now,” he said, and as they separated, he threw his hat on the ground,
and, assuming an extravagantly languishing attitude, burst forth in a
most poignant burlesque of a lovelorn tenor’s part, rolling his eyes,
clasping his hands, striking his breast, and gyrating about Miss
Dwyer-in the most approved operatic style. He had a fine voice and knew
a good deal of music; so that, barring a certain nervousness in the
performer, the exhibition was really not bad. In his singing he had used
a meaningless gibberish varied with the syllables of the scale, but he
closed by singing the words, “Are you ready now? Go ahead, then.”

With that she took it up, and rendered the prima donna quite as
effectively, interjecting “The Last Rose of Summer” as an aria in a
manner that would have been encored in San Francisco. He responded with
a few staccato notes, and the scene ended by their rushing into each
other’s arms and waltzing down the stage with abandon.

The Indians sat motionless on their horses, not even exchanging comments
among themselves. They were evidently too utterly astonished by the
goings on before them to have any other sentiment as yet beyond pure
amazement. Here were two richly-dressed pale-faces, such as only lived
in cities, out in the middle of an uninhabitable desert, in the freezing
midnight, having a variety and minstrel show all to themselves, and, to
make the exhibition the more unaccountable, without apparently seeing
their auditors at all. Had they started up the show after being
captured, Indian cunning would have recognized in it a device to save
their lives, but the two had been at it before the party rode up,--
had, in fact, first attracted attention by their gyrations, which were
visible for miles out on the moony plain.

Lombard, without ever letting his eyes rest a moment on the Indians so
as to indicate that he saw them, had still managed by looks askance and
sweeping glances to keep close watch upon their demeanor, and noted with
prodigious relief that his wild scheme was succeeding better than he had
dared to hope. Without any break in the entertainment he communicated
his reassurance to Miss Dwyer by singing, to the tune of “My Country,
‘tis of Thee,” the following original hymn:--

     “We ‘re doing admir’blee--
     They ‘re heap much tickledee:
          Only keep on.”

To which she responded, to the lugubrious air of “John Brown’s Body:”--

     “Oh, what do you s’pose they ‘ll go for to do,
     Oh, what do you s’pose they ‘ll go for to do,
     Oh, what do you s’pose they ‘ll go for to do,
          When we can sing no more?”

A thing may be ridiculous without being amusing, and neither of these
two felt the least inclination to smile at each other’s poetry. After
duly joining in the chorus of “Glory, Hallelujah!” Lombard endeavored
to cheer his companion by words adapted to the inspiriting air of “Rally
Bound the Flag, Boys.” This was followed by a series of popular airs,
with solos, duets, and choruses.

But this sort of thing could not go on forever. Lombard was becoming
exhausted in voice and legs, and as for Miss Dwyer, he was expecting
to see her drop from moment to moment: Indeed, to the air of “‘Way down
upon the Swanee River” she now began to sing:--

     “Oh, dear! I can’t bear up much longer:
          I ‘m tired to death;
     My voice’s gone all to pie-ee-ee-ces,
          My throat is very sore.”

They must inevitably give out in a few minutes, and then he--and,
terribly worse, she--would be at the mercy of these bestial savages,
and this seeming farce would turn into most revolting tragedy. With this
sickening conviction coming over him, Lombard cast a despairing
look around the horizon to see if there were no help in their bitter
extremity. Suddenly he burst forth, to the tune of “The Star-Spangled
Banner: “--

     “Oh, say can you see,
     Far away to the east,
     A bright star that doth grow
     Momentarily brighter?
     ‘Tis the far-flashing headlight
     Of a railroad-train:
     Ten minutes from now
     We shall be safe and sound.”

What they did in those ten minutes neither could tell afterward. The
same idea was in both their minds,--that unless the attention of the
Indians could be held until the train arrived, its approach would
only precipitate their own fate by impelling the savages to carry out
whatever designs of murder, insult, or capture they might have. Under
the influence of the intense excitement of this critical interval it is
to be feared that the performance degenerated from a high-toned concert
and variety show into something very like a Howling-Dervish exhibition.
But, at any rate, it answered its purpose until, after a period that
seemed like a dozen eternities, the West-bound overland express with
a tremendous roar and rattle drew up beside them, in response to the
waving of Miss Dwyer’s handkerchief and to Lombard’s shouts.

Even had the Indians contemplated hostile intentions,--which they were
doubtless in a condition of too great general stupefaction to do,--the
alacrity with which the two performers clambered aboard the cars would
probably have foiled their designs. But as the train gathered headway
once more, Lombard could not resist the temptation of venting his
feelings by shaking his fist ferociously at the audience which he had
been so conscientiously trying to please up to that moment. It was a
gratification which had like to have cost him dear. There was a quick
motion on the part of one of the Indians, and the conductor dragged
Lombard within the car just as an arrow struck the door.

Mrs. Eustis had slept sweetly all night, and was awakened the next
morning an hour before the train reached Ogden by the sleeping-car
porter, who gave her a telegram which had overtaken the train at the
last station. It read:--

     Am safe and sound. Was left behind by your train last night,
     and picked up by West-bound express. Will join you at Ogden
     to-morrow morning.

     Jennie Dwyer.

Mrs. Eustis read the telegram through twice without getting the least
idea from it. Then she leaned over and looked down into Jennie’s berth.
It had not been slept in. Then she began to understand. Heroically
resisting a tendency to scream, she thus secured space for second
thought, and, being a shrewd woman of the world, ended by making up her
mind to tell no one about the matter. Evidently, Jennie had been having
some decidedly unconventional experience, and the less publicity given
to all such passages in young ladies’ lives, the better for their
prospects. It so happened that in the bustle attending the approach to
the terminus and the prospective change of cars everybody was too busy
to notice that any passengers were missing. At Ogden Mrs. Eustis left
the train and went to a hotel. The following morning, a few minutes
after the arrival of the Central Pacific train, Jennie Dwyer walked into
her room, Lombard having stopped at the office to secure berths for the
three to Omaha by the Union Pacific. After Jennie had given an outline
account of her experiences, and Mrs.’ Eustis’s equilibrium had been
measurably restored by proper use of the smelling-salts, the latter lady
remarked, “And so Mr. Lombard was alone with you there all night? It’s
very unfortunate that it should have happened so.”

“Why, I was thinking it very fortunate,” replied Jennie, with her most
childlike expression. “If Mr. Lombard had not been there, I should
either have frozen to death, or by this time been celebrating my
honeymoon as bride of a Piute chief.”

“Nonsense, child! You know what I mean. People will talk; such
unpleasant things will be said! I would n’t have had it happen for
anything. And when you were under my charge, too! Do hand me my salts.”

“If people are going to say unpleasant things because I am out of an
evening alone with Mr. Lombard,” remarked Jennie, with a mischievous
smile, “you must prepare yourself to hear a good deal said, my dear, for
I presume this won’t be the last time it will happen. We’re engaged to
be married.”





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