An Heiress of Red Dog by Bret Harte
The first intimation given of the eccentricity of the testator was, I
think, in the spring of 1854. He was at that time in possession of a
considerable property, heavily mortgaged to one friend, and a wife of some
attraction, on whose affections another friend held an encumbering lien.
One day it was found that he had secretly dug, or caused to be dug, a deep
trap before the front-door of his dwelling, into which a few friends, in
the course of the evening, casually and familiarly dropped. This
circumstance, slight in itself, seemed to point to the existence of a
certain humor in the man, which might eventually get into literature,
although his wife's lover—a man of quick discernment, whose leg was
broken by the fall—took other views. It was some weeks later, that,
while dining with certain other friends of his wife, he excused himself
from the table to quietly re-appear at the front-window with a
three-quarter inch hydraulic pipe, and a stream of water projected at the
assembled company. An attempt was made to take public cognizance of this;
but a majority of the citizens of Red Dog, who were not at dinner, decided
that a man had a right to choose his own methods of diverting his company.
Nevertheless, there were some hints of his insanity; his wife recalled
other acts clearly attributable to dementia; the crippled lover argued
from his own experience that the integrity of her limbs could only be
secured by leaving her husband's house; and the mortgagee, fearing a
further damage to his property, foreclosed. But here the cause of all this
anxiety took matters into his own hands, and disappeared.
When we next heard from him, he had, in some mysterious way, been relieved
alike of his wife and property, and was living alone at Rockville fifty
miles away, and editing a newspaper. But that originality he had displayed
when dealing with the problems of his own private life, when applied to
politics in the columns of "The Rockville Vanguard" was singularly
unsuccessful. An amusing exaggeration, purporting to be an exact account
of the manner in which the opposing candidate had murdered his Chinese
laundryman, was, I regret to say, answered only by assault and battery. A
gratuitous and purely imaginative description of a great religious revival
in Calaveras, in which the sheriff of the county—a notoriously
profane sceptic—was alleged to have been the chief exhorter,
resulted only in the withdrawal of the county advertising from the paper.
In the midst of this practical confusion he suddenly died. It was then
discovered, as a crowning proof of his absurdity, that he had left a will,
bequeathing his entire effects to a freckle-faced maid-servant at the
Rockville Hotel. But that absurdity became serious when it was also
discovered that among these effects were a thousand shares in the Rising
Sun Mining Company, which a day or two after his demise, and while people
were still laughing at his grotesque benefaction, suddenly sprang into
opulence and celebrity. Three millions of dollars was roughly estimated as
the value of the estate thus wantonly sacrificed. For it is only fair to
state, as a just tribute to the enterprise and energy of that young and
thriving settlement, that there was not probably a single citizen who did
not feel himself better able to control the deceased humorist's property.
Some had expressed a doubt of their ability to support a family; others
had felt perhaps too keenly the deep responsibility resting upon them when
chosen from the panel as jurors, and had evaded their public duties; a few
had declined office and a low salary: but no one shrank from the
possibility of having been called upon to assume the functions of Peggy
Moffat, the heiress.
The will was contested,—first by the widow, who it now appeared had
never been legally divorced from the deceased; next by four of his
cousins, who awoke, only too late, to a consciousness of his moral and
pecuniary worth. But the humble legatee—a singularly plain,
unpretending, uneducated Western girl—exhibited a dogged pertinacity
in claiming her rights. She rejected all compromises. A rough sense of
justice in the community, while doubting her ability to take care of the
whole fortune, suggested that she ought to be content with three hundred
thousand dollars. "She's bound to throw even THAT away on some derned
skunk of a man, natoorally; but three millions is too much to give a chap
for makin' her onhappy. It's offerin' a temptation to cussedness." The
only opposing voice to this counsel came from the sardonic lips of Mr.
Jack Hamlin. "Suppose," suggested that gentleman, turning abruptly on the
speaker,—"suppose, when you won twenty thousand dollars of me last
Friday night—suppose that, instead of handing you over the money as
I did—suppose I'd got up on my hind-legs, and said, 'Look yer, Bill
Wethersbee, you're a d——d fool. If I give ye that twenty
thousand, you'll throw it away in the first skin-game in 'Frisco, and hand
it over to the first short-card sharp you'll meet. There's a thousand,—enough
for you to fling away,—take it and get!' Suppose what I'd said to
you was the frozen truth, and you know'd it, would that have been the
square thing to play on you?" But here Wethersbee quickly pointed out the
inefficiency of the comparison by stating that HE had won the money fairly
with a STAKE. "And how do you know," demanded Hamlin savagely, bending his
black eyes on the astounded casuist,—"how do you know that the gal
hezn't put down a stake?" The man stammered an unintelligible reply. The
gambler laid his white hand on Wethersbee's shoulder. "Look yer, old man,"
he said, "every gal stakes her WHOLE pile,—you can bet your life on
that,—whatever's her little game. If she took to keerds instead of
her feelings, if she'd put up 'chips' instead o' body and soul, she'd bust
every bank 'twixt this and 'Frisco! You hear me?"
Somewhat of this idea was conveyed, I fear not quite as sentimentally, to
Peggy Moffat herself. The best legal wisdom of San Francisco, retained by
the widow and relatives, took occasion, in a private interview with Peggy,
to point out that she stood in the quasi-criminal attitude of having
unlawfully practised upon the affections of an insane elderly gentleman,
with a view of getting possession of his property, and suggested to her
that no vestige of her moral character would remain after the trial, if
she persisted in forcing her claims to that issue. It is said that Peggy,
on hearing this, stopped washing the plate she had in her hands, and,
twisting the towel around her fingers, fixed her small pale blue eyes at
"And ez that the kind o' chirpin these critters keep up?"
"I regret to say, my dear young lady," responded the lawyer, "that the
world is censorious. I must add," he continued, with engaging frankness,
"that we professional lawyers are apt to study the opinion of the world,
and that such will be the theory of—our side."
"Then," said Peggy stoutly, "ez I allow I've got to go into court to
defend my character, I might as well pack in them three millions too."
There is hearsay evidence that Peg added to this speech a wish and desire
to "bust the crust" of her traducers, and, remarking that "that was the
kind of hairpin" she was, closed the conversation with an unfortunate
accident to the plate, that left a severe contusion on the legal brow of
her companion. But this story, popular in the bar-rooms and gulches,
lacked confirmation in higher circles. Better authenticated was the legend
related of an interview with her own lawyer. That gentleman had pointed
out to her the advantage of being able to show some reasonable cause for
the singular generosity of the testator.
"Although," he continued, "the law does not go back of the will for reason
or cause for its provisions, it would be a strong point with the judge and
jury—particularly if the theory of insanity were set up—for us
to show that the act was logical and natural. Of course you have—I
speak confidently, Miss Moffat—certain ideas of your own why the
late Mr. Byways was so singularly generous to you."
"No, I haven't," said Peg decidedly.
"Think again. Had he not expressed to you—you understand that this
is confidential between us, although I protest, my dear young lady, that I
see no reason why it should not be made public—had he not given
utterance to sentiments of a nature consistent with some future
matrimonial relations?" But here Miss Peg's large mouth, which had been
slowly relaxing over her irregular teeth, stopped him.
"If you mean he wanted to marry me—No!"
"I see. But were there any conditions—of course you know the law
takes no cognizance of any not expressed in the will; but still, for the
sake of mere corroboration of the bequest—do you know of any
conditions on which he gave you the property?"
"You mean did he want anything in return?"
"Exactly, my dear young lady."
Peg's face on one side turned a deep magenta color, on the other a lighter
cherry, while her nose was purple, and her forehead an Indian red. To add
to the effect of this awkward and discomposing dramatic exhibition of
embarrassment, she began to wipe her hands on her dress, and sat silent.
"I understand," said the lawyer hastily. "No matter—the conditions
"No!" said Peg amazedly. "How could they be until he was dead?"
It was the lawyer's turn to color and grow embarrassed.
"He DID say something, and make some conditions," continued Peg, with a
certain firmness through her awkwardness; "but that's nobody's business
but mine and his'n. And it's no call o' yours or theirs."
"But, my dear Miss Moffat, if these very conditions were proofs of his
right mind, you surely would not object to make them known, if only to
enable you to put yourself in a condition to carry them out."
"But," said Peg cunningly, "s'pose you and the Court didn't think 'em
satisfactory? S'pose you thought 'em QUEER? Eh?"
With this helpless limitation on the part of the defence, the case came to
trial. Everybody remembers it,—how for six weeks it was the daily
food of Calaveras County; how for six weeks the intellectual and moral and
spiritual competency of Mr. James Byways to dispose of his property was
discussed with learned and formal obscurity in the court, and with
unlettered and independent prejudice by camp-fires and in bar-rooms. At
the end of that time, when it was logically established that at least
nine-tenths of the population of Calaveras were harmless lunatics, and
everybody else's reason seemed to totter on its throne, an exhausted jury
succumbed one day to the presence of Peg in the court-room. It was not a
prepossessing presence at any time; but the excitement, and an injudicious
attempt to ornament herself, brought her defects into a glaring relief
that was almost unreal. Every freckle on her face stood out and asserted
itself singly; her pale blue eyes, that gave no indication of her force of
character, were weak and wandering, or stared blankly at the judge; her
over-sized head, broad at the base, terminating in the scantiest possible
light-colored braid in the middle of her narrow shoulders, was as hard and
uninteresting as the wooden spheres that topped the railing against which
The jury, who for six weeks had had her described to them by the
plaintiffs as an arch, wily enchantress, who had sapped the failing reason
of Jim Byways, revolted to a man. There was something so appallingly
gratuitous in her plainness, that it was felt that three millions was
scarcely a compensation for it. "Ef that money was give to her, she earned
it SURE, boys: it wasn't no softness of the old man," said the foreman.
When the jury retired, it was felt that she had cleared her character:
when they re-entered the room with their verdict, it was known that she
had been awarded three millions damages for its defamation.
She got the money. But those who had confidently expected to see her
squander it were disappointed: on the contrary, it was presently whispered
that she was exceedingly penurious. That admirable woman, Mrs. Stiver of
Red Dog, who accompanied her to San Francisco to assist her in making
purchases, was loud in her indignation. "She cares more for two bits than
I do for five dollars. She wouldn't buy anything at the 'City of Paris,'
because it was 'too expensive,' and at last rigged herself out, a perfect
guy, at some cheap slop-shops in Market Street. And after all the care
Jane and me took of her, giving up our time and experience to her, she
never so much as made Jane a single present." Popular opinion, which
regarded Mrs. Stiver's attention as purely speculative, was not shocked at
this unprofitable denouement; but when Peg refused to give anything to
clear the mortgage off the new Presbyterian Church, and even declined to
take shares in the Union Ditch, considered by many as an equally sacred
and safe investment, she began to lose favor. Nevertheless, she seemed to
be as regardless of public opinion as she had been before the trial; took
a small house, in which she lived with an old woman who had once been a
fellow-servant, on apparently terms of perfect equality, and looked after
her money. I wish I could say that she did this discreetly; but the fact
is, she blundered. The same dogged persistency she had displayed in
claiming her rights was visible in her unsuccessful ventures. She sunk two
hundred thousand dollars in a worn-out shaft originally projected by the
deceased testator; she prolonged the miserable existence of "The Rockville
Vanguard" long after it had ceased to interest even its enemies; she kept
the doors of the Rockville Hotel open when its custom had departed; she
lost the co-operation and favor of a fellow-capitalist through a trifling
misunderstanding in which she was derelict and impenitent; she had three
lawsuits on her hands that could have been settled for a trifle. I note
these defects to show that she was by no means a heroine. I quote her
affair with Jack Folinsbee to show she was scarcely the average woman.
That handsome, graceless vagabond had struck the outskirts of Red Dog in a
cyclone of dissipation which left him a stranded but still rather
interesting wreck in a ruinous cabin not far from Peg Moffat's virgin
bower. Pale, crippled from excesses, with a voice quite tremulous from
sympathetic emotion more or less developed by stimulants, he lingered
languidly, with much time on his hands, and only a few neighbors. In this
fascinating kind of general deshabille of morals, dress, and the emotions,
he appeared before Peg Moffat. More than that, he occasionally limped with
her through the settlement. The critical eye of Red Dog took in the
singular pair,—Jack, voluble, suffering, apparently overcome by
remorse, conscience, vituperation, and disease; and Peg, open-mouthed,
high-colored, awkward, yet delighted; and the critical eye of Red Dog,
seeing this, winked meaningly at Rockville. No one knew what passed
between them; but all observed that one summer day Jack drove down the
main street of Red Dog in an open buggy, with the heiress of that town
beside him. Jack, albeit a trifle shaky, held the reins with something of
his old dash; and Mistress Peggy, in an enormous bonnet with pearl-colored
ribbons a shade darker than her hair, holding in her short, pink-gloved
fingers a bouquet of yellow roses, absolutely glowed crimson in
distressful gratification over the dash-board. So these two fared on, out
of the busy settlement, into the woods, against the rosy sunset. Possibly
it was not a pretty picture: nevertheless, as the dim aisles of the solemn
pines opened to receive them, miners leaned upon their spades, and
mechanics stopped in their toil to look after them. The critical eye of
Red Dog, perhaps from the sun, perhaps from the fact that it had itself
once been young and dissipated, took on a kindly moisture as it gazed.
The moon was high when they returned. Those who had waited to congratulate
Jack on this near prospect of a favorable change in his fortunes were
chagrined to find, that, having seen the lady safe home, he had himself
departed from Red Dog. Nothing was to be gained from Peg, who, on the next
day and ensuing days, kept the even tenor of her way, sunk a thousand or
two more in unsuccessful speculation, and made no change in her habits of
personal economy. Weeks passed without any apparent sequel to this
romantic idyl. Nothing was known definitely until Jack, a month later,
turned up in Sacramento, with a billiard-cue in his hand, and a heart
overcharged with indignant emotion. "I don't mind saying to you,
gentlemen, in confidence," said Jack to a circle of sympathizing players,—"I
don't mind telling you regarding this thing, that I was as soft on that
freckled-faced, red-eyed, tallow-haired gal, as if she'd been—a—a—an
actress. And I don't mind saying, gentlemen, that, as far as I understand
women, she was just as soft on me. You kin laugh; but it's so. One day I
took her out buggy-riding,—in style, too,—and out on the road
I offered to do the square thing, just as if she'd been a lady,—offered
to marry her then and there. And what did she do?" said Jack with a
hysterical laugh. "Why, blank it all! OFFERED ME TWENTY-FIVE DOLLARS A
WEEK ALLOWANCE—PAY TO BE STOPPED WHEN I WASN'T AT HOME!" The roar of
laughter that greeted this frank confession was broken by a quiet voice
asking, "And what did YOU say?"—"Say?" screamed Jack, "I just told
her to go to —— with her money."—"They say," continued
the quiet voice, "that you asked her for the loan of two hundred and fifty
dollars to get you to Sacramento—and that you got it."—"Who
says so roared Jack. Show me the blank liar." There was a dead silence.
Then the possessor of the quiet voice, Mr. Jack Hamlin, languidly reached
under the table, took the chalk, and, rubbing the end of his billiard-cue,
began with gentle gravity: "It was an old friend of mine in Sacramento, a
man with a wooden leg, a game eye, three fingers on his right hand, and a
consumptive cough. Being unable, naturally, to back himself, he leaves
things to me. So, for the sake of argument," continued Hamlin, suddenly
laying down his cue, and fixing his wicked black eyes on the speaker, "say
I am afraid that this story, whether truthful or not, did not tend to
increase Peg's popularity in a community where recklessness and generosity
condoned for the absence of all the other virtues; and it is possible,
also, that Red Dog was no more free from prejudice than other more
civilized but equally disappointed matchmakers. Likewise, during the
following year, she made several more foolish ventures, and lost heavily.
In fact, a feverish desire to increase her store at almost any risk seemed
to possess her. At last it was announced that she intended to reopen the
infelix Rockville Hotel, and keep it herself.
Wild as this scheme appeared in theory, when put into practical operation
there seemed to be some chance of success. Much, doubtless, was owing to
her practical knowledge of hotel-keeping, but more to her rigid economy
and untiring industry. The mistress of millions, she cooked, washed,
waited on table, made the beds, and labored like a common menial. Visitors
were attracted by this novel spectacle. The income of the house increased
as their respect for the hostess lessened. No anecdote of her avarice was
too extravagant for current belief. It was even alleged that she had been
known to carry the luggage of guests to their rooms, that she might
anticipate the usual porter's gratuity. She denied herself the ordinary
necessaries of life. She was poorly clad, she was ill-fed—but the
hotel was making money.
A few hinted of insanity; others shook their heads, and said a curse was
entailed on the property. It was believed, also, from her appearance, that
she could not long survive this tax on her energies, and already there was
discussion as to the probable final disposition of her property.
It was the particular fortune of Mr. Jack Hamlin to be able to set the
world right on this and other questions regarding her.
A stormy December evening had set in when he chanced to be a guest of the
Rockville Hotel. He had, during the past week, been engaged in the
prosecution of his noble profession at Red Dog, and had, in the graphic
language of a coadjutor, "cleared out the town, except his fare in the
pockets of the stage-driver." "The Red Dog Standard" had bewailed his
departure in playful obituary verse, beginning, "Dearest Johnny, thou hast
left us," wherein the rhymes "bereft us" and "deplore" carried a vague
allusion to "a thousand dollars more." A quiet contentment naturally
suffused his personality, and he was more than usually lazy and deliberate
in his speech. At midnight, when he was about to retire, he was a little
surprised, however, by a tap on his door, followed by the presence of
Mistress Peg Moffat, heiress, and landlady of Rockville hotel.
Mr. Hamlin, despite his previous defence of Peg, had no liking for her.
His fastidious taste rejected her uncomeliness; his habits of thought and
life were all antagonistic to what he had heard of her niggardliness and
greed. As she stood there, in a dirty calico wrapper, still redolent with
the day's cuisine, crimson with embarrassment and the recent heat of the
kitchen range, she certainly was not an alluring apparition. Happily for
the lateness of the hour, her loneliness, and the infelix reputation of
the man before her, she was at least a safe one. And I fear the very
consciousness of this scarcely relieved her embarrassment.
"I wanted to say a few words to ye alone, Mr. Hamlin," she began, taking
an unoffered seat on the end of his portmanteau, "or I shouldn't hev
intruded. But it's the only time I can ketch you, or you me; for I'm down
in the kitchen from sunup till now."
She stopped awkwardly, as if to listen to the wind, which was rattling the
windows, and spreading a film of rain against the opaque darkness without.
Then, smoothing her wrapper over her knees, she remarked, as if opening a
desultory conversation, "Thar's a power of rain outside."
Mr. Hamlin's only response to this meteorological observation was a yawn,
and a preliminary tug at his coat as he began to remove it.
"I thought ye couldn't mind doin' me a favor," continued Peg, with a hard,
awkward laugh, "partik'ly seein' ez folks allowed you'd sorter bin a
friend o' mine, and hed stood up for me at times when you hedn't any
partikler call to do it. I hevn't" she continued, looking down on her lap,
and following with her finger and thumb a seam of her gown,—"I
hevn't so many friends ez slings a kind word for me these times that I
disremember them." Her under lip quivered a little here; and, after vainly
hunting for a forgotten handkerchief, she finally lifted the hem of her
gown, wiped her snub nose upon it, but left the tears still in her eyes as
she raised them to the man, Mr. Hamlin, who had by this time divested
himself of his coat, stopped unbuttoning his waistcoat, and looked at her.
"Like ez not thar'll be high water on the North Fork, ef this rain keeps
on," said Peg, as if apologetically, looking toward the window.
The other rain having ceased, Mr. Hamlin began to unbutton his waistcoat
"I wanted to ask ye a favor about Mr.—about—Jack Folinsbee,"
began Peg again hurriedly. "He's ailin' agin, and is mighty low. And he's
losin' a heap o' money here and thar, and mostly to YOU. You cleaned him
out of two thousand dollars last night—all he had."
"Well?" said the gambler coldly.
"Well, I thought ez you woz a friend o' mine, I'd ask ye to let up a
little on him," said Peg, with an affected laugh. "You kin do it. Don't
let him play with ye."
"Mistress Margaret Moffat," said Jack, with lazy deliberation, taking off
his watch, and beginning to wind it up, "ef you're that much stuck after
Jack Folinsbee, YOU kin keep him off of me much easier than I kin. You're
a rich woman. Give him enough money to break my bank, or break himself for
good and all; but don't keep him forlin' round me in hopes to make a
raise. It don't pay, Mistress Moffat—it don't pay!"
A finer nature than Peg's would have misunderstood or resented the
gambler's slang, and the miserable truths that underlaid it. But she
comprehended him instantly, and sat hopelessly silent.
"Ef you'll take my advice," continued Jack, placing his watch and chain
under his pillow, and quietly unloosing his cravat, "you'll quit this yer
forlin', marry that chap, and hand over to him the money and the
money-makin' that's killin' you. He'll get rid of it soon enough. I don't
say this because I expect to git it; for, when he's got that much of a
raise, he'll make a break for 'Frisco, and lose it to some first-class
sport THERE. I don't say, neither, that you mayn't be in luck enough to
reform him. I don't say, neither—and it's a derned sight more
likely!—that you mayn't be luckier yet, and he'll up and die afore
he gits rid of your money. But I do say you'll make him happy NOW; and, ez
I reckon you're about ez badly stuck after that chap ez I ever saw any
woman, you won't be hurtin' your own feelin's either."
The blood left Peg's face as she looked up. "But that's WHY I can't give
him the money—and he won't marry me without it."
Mr. Hamlin's hand dropped from the last button of his waistcoat. "Can't—give—him—the—money?"
he repeated slowly.
"Because—because I LOVE him."
Mr. Hamlin rebuttoned his waistcoat, and sat down patiently on the bed.
Peg arose, and awkwardly drew the portmanteau a little nearer to him.
"When Jim Byways left me this yer property," she began, looking cautiously
around, "he left it to me on CONDITIONS; not conditions ez waz in his
WRITTEN will, but conditions ez waz SPOKEN. A promise I made him in this
very room, Mr. Hamlin,—this very room, and on that very bed you're
sittin' on, in which he died."
Like most gamblers, Mr. Hamlin was superstitious. He rose hastily from the
bed, and took a chair beside the window. The wind shook it as if the
discontented spirit of Mr. Byways were without, re-enforcing his last
"I don't know if you remember him," said Peg feverishly, "he was a man ez
hed suffered. All that he loved—wife, fammerly, friends—had
gone back on him. He tried to make light of it afore folks; but with me,
being a poor gal, he let himself out. I never told anybody this. I don't
know why he told ME; I don't know," continued Peg, with a sniffle, "why he
wanted to make me unhappy too. But he made me promise, that, if he left me
his fortune, I'd NEVER, NEVER—so help me God!—never share it
with any man or woman that I LOVED; I didn't think it would be hard to
keep that promise then, Mr. Hamlin; for I was very poor, and hedn't a
friend nor a living bein' that was kind to me, but HIM."
"But you've as good as broken your promise already," said Hamlin. "You've
given Jack money, as I know."
"Only what I made myself. Listen to me, Mr. Hamlin. When Jack proposed to
me, I offered him about what I kalkilated I could earn myself. When he
went away, and was sick and in trouble, I came here and took this hotel. I
knew that by hard work I could make it pay. Don't laugh at me, please. I
DID work hard, and DID make it pay—without takin' one cent of the
fortin'. And all I made, workin' by night and day, I gave to him. I did,
Mr. Hamlin. I ain't so hard to him as you think, though I might be kinder,
Mr. Hamlin rose, deliberately resumed his coat, watch, hat, and overcoat.
When he was completely dressed again, he turned to Peg. "Do you mean to
say that you've been givin' all the money you made here to this A 1
"Yes; but he didn't know where I got it. O Mr. Hamlin! he didn't know
"Do I understand you, that he's bin buckin agin Faro with the money that
you raised on hash? And YOU makin' the hash?"
"But he didn't know that, he wouldn't hev took it if I'd told him."
"No, he'd hev died fust!" said Mr. Hamlin gravely. "Why, he's that
sensitive—is Jack Folinsbee—that it nearly kills him to take
money even of ME. But where does this angel reside when he isn't fightin'
the tiger, and is, so to speak, visible to the naked eye?"
"He—he—stops here," said Peg, with an awkward blush.
"I see. Might I ask the number of his room—or should I be a—disturbing
him in his meditations?" continued Jack Hamlin, with grave politeness.
"Oh! then you'll promise? And you'll talk to him, and make HIM promise?"
"Of course," said Hamlin quietly.
"And you'll remember he's sick—very sick? His room's No. 44, at the
end of the hall. Perhaps I'd better go with you?"
"I'll find it."
"And you won't be too hard on him?"
"I'll be a father to him," said Hamlin demurely, as he opened the door and
stepped into the hall. But he hesitated a moment, and then turned, and
gravely held out his hand. Peg took it timidly. He did not seem quite in
earnest; and his black eyes, vainly questioned, indicated nothing. But he
shook her hand warmly, and the next moment was gone.
He found the room with no difficulty. A faint cough from within, and a
querulous protest, answered his knock. Mr. Hamlin entered without further
ceremony. A sickening smell of drugs, a palpable flavor of stale
dissipation, and the wasted figure of Jack Folinsbee, half-dressed,
extended upon the bed, greeted him. Mr. Hamlin was for an instant
startled. There were hollow circles round the sick man's eyes; there was
palsy in his trembling limbs; there was dissolution in his feverish
"What's up?" he asked huskily and nervously.
"I am, and I want YOU to get up too."
"I can't, Jack. I'm regularly done up." He reached his shaking hand
towards a glass half-filled with suspicious, pungent-smelling liquid; but
Mr. Hamlin stayed it.
"Do you want to get back that two thousand dollars you lost?"
"Well, get up, and marry that woman down stairs."
Folinsbee laughed half hysterically, half sardonically.
"She won't give it to me."
"No; but I will."
Folinsbee, with an attempt at a reckless laugh, rose, trembling and with
difficulty, to his swollen feet. Hamlin eyed him narrowly, and then bade
him lie down again. "To-morrow will do," he said, "and then—"
"If I don't—"
"If you don't," responded Hamlin, "why, I'll just wade in and CUT YOU
But on the morrow Mr. Hamlin was spared that possible act of disloyalty;
for, in the night, the already hesitating spirit of Mr. Jack Folinsbee
took flight on the wings of the south-east storm. When or how it happened,
nobody knew. Whether this last excitement and the near prospect of
matrimony, or whether an overdose of anodyne, had hastened his end, was
never known. I only know, that, when they came to awaken him the next
morning, the best that was left of him—a face still beautiful and
boy-like—looked up coldly at the tearful eyes of Peg Moffat. "It
serves me right, it's a judgment," she said in a low whisper to Jack
Hamlin; "for God knew that I'd broken my word, and willed all my property
She did not long survive him. Whether Mr. Hamlin ever clothed with action
the suggestion indicated in his speech to the lamented Jack that night, is
not of record. He was always her friend, and on her demise became her
executor. But the bulk of her property was left to a distant relation of
handsome Jack Folinsbee, and so passed out of the control of Red Dog