STORIES IN LIGHT AND SHADOW
By Bret Harte
From: "ARGONAUT EDITION" OF THE WORKS OF BRET HARTE, VOL. 13
P. F. COLLIER & SON
UNCLE JIM AND UNCLE BILLY
THE DESBOROUGH CONNECTIONS
SALOMY JANE'S KISS
THE MAN AND THE MOUNTAIN
THE PASSING OF ENRIQUEZ
STORIES IN LIGHT AND SHADOW
The American consul for Schlachtstadt had just turned out of the broad
Konig's Allee into the little square that held his consulate. Its
residences always seemed to him to wear that singularly uninhabited air
peculiar to a street scene in a theatre. The facades, with their stiff,
striped wooden awnings over the windows, were of the regularity, color,
and pattern only seen on the stage, and conversation carried on in the
street below always seemed to be invested with that perfect confidence and
security which surrounds the actor in his painted desert of urban
perspective. Yet it was a peaceful change to the other byways and highways
of Schlachtstadt which were always filled with an equally unreal and
mechanical soldiery, who appeared to be daily taken out of their boxes of
"caserne" or "depot" and loosely scattered all over the pretty
linden-haunted German town. There were soldiers standing on street
corners; soldiers staring woodenly into shop windows; soldiers halted
suddenly into stone, like lizards, at the approach of Offiziere; Offiziere
lounging stiffly four abreast, sweeping the pavement with their trailing
sabres all at one angle. There were cavalcades of red hussars, cavalcades
of blue hussars, cavalcades of Uhlans, with glittering lances and pennons—with
or without a band—formally parading; there were straggling
"fatigues" or "details" coming round the corners; there were dusty,
businesslike columns of infantry, going nowhere and to no purpose. And
they one and all seemed to be WOUND UP—for that service—and
apparently always in the same place. In the band of their caps—invariably
of one pattern—was a button, in the centre of which was a square
opening or keyhole. The consul was always convinced that through this
keyhole opening, by means of a key, the humblest caporal wound up his
file, the Hauptmann controlled his lieutenants and non-commissioned
officers, and even the general himself, wearing the same cap, was subject
through his cap to a higher moving power. In the suburbs, when the supply
of soldiers gave out, there were sentry-boxes; when these dropped off,
there were "caissons," or commissary wagons. And, lest the military idea
should ever fail from out the Schlachtstadt's burgher's mind, there were
police in uniform, street-sweepers in uniform; the ticket-takers, guards,
and sweepers at the Bahnhof were in uniform,—but all wearing the
same kind of cap, with the probability of having been wound up freshly
each morning for their daily work. Even the postman delivered peaceful
invoices to the consul with his side-arms and the air of bringing
dispatches from the field of battle; and the consul saluted, and felt for
a few moments the whole weight of his consular responsibility.
Yet, in spite of this military precedence, it did not seem in the least
inconsistent with the decidedly peaceful character of the town, and this
again suggested its utter unreality; wandering cows sometimes got mixed up
with squadrons of cavalry, and did not seem to mind it; sheep passed
singly between files of infantry, or preceded them in a flock when on the
march; indeed, nothing could be more delightful and innocent than to see a
regiment of infantry in heavy marching order, laden with every conceivable
thing they could want for a week, returning after a cheerful search for an
invisible enemy in the suburbs, to bivouac peacefully among the cabbages
in the market-place. Nobody was ever imposed upon for a moment by their
tremendous energy and severe display; drums might beat, trumpets blow,
dragoons charge furiously all over the Exercier Platz, or suddenly flash
their naked swords in the streets to the guttural command of an officer—nobody
seemed to mind it. People glanced up to recognize Rudolf or Max "doing
their service," nodded, and went about their business. And although the
officers always wore their side-arms, and at the most peaceful of social
dinners only relinquished their swords in the hall, apparently that they
might be ready to buckle them on again and rush out to do battle for the
Fatherland between the courses, the other guests only looked upon these
weapons in the light of sticks and umbrellas, and possessed their souls in
peace. And when, added to this singular incongruity, many of these
warriors were spectacled, studious men, and, despite their lethal weapons,
wore a slightly professional air, and were—to a man—deeply
sentimental and singularly simple, their attitude in this eternal
Kriegspiel seemed to the consul more puzzling than ever.
As he entered his consulate he was confronted with another aspect of
Schlachtstadt quite as wonderful, yet already familiar to him. For, in
spite of these "alarums without," which, however, never seem to penetrate
beyond the town itself, Schlachtstadt and its suburbs were known all over
the world for the manufactures of certain beautiful textile fabrics, and
many of the rank and file of those warriors had built up the fame and
prosperity of the district over their peaceful looms in wayside cottages.
There were great depots and counting-houses, larger than even the cavalry
barracks, where no other uniform but that of the postman was known. Hence
it was that the consul's chief duty was to uphold the flag of his own
country by the examination and certification of divers invoices sent to
his office by the manufacturers. But, oddly enough, these business
messengers were chiefly women,—not clerks, but ordinary household
servants, and, on busy days, the consulate might have been mistaken for a
female registry office, so filled and possessed it was by waiting Madchen.
Here it was that Gretchen, Lieschen, and Clarchen, in the cleanest of blue
gowns, and stoutly but smartly shod, brought their invoices in a piece of
clean paper, or folded in a blue handkerchief, and laid them, with fingers
more or less worn and stubby from hard service, before the consul for his
signature. Once, in the case of a very young Madchen, that signature was
blotted by the sweep of a flaxen braid upon it as the child turned to go;
but generally there was a grave, serious business instinct and sense of
responsibility in these girls of ordinary peasant origin which, equally
with their sisters of France, were unknown to the English or American
woman of any class.
That morning, however, there was a slight stir among those who, with their
knitting, were waiting their turn in the outer office as the vice-consul
ushered the police inspector into the consul's private office. He was in
uniform, of course, and it took him a moment to recover from his habitual
stiff, military salute,—a little stiffer than that of the actual
It was a matter of importance! A stranger had that morning been arrested
in the town and identified as a military deserter. He claimed to be an
American citizen; he was now in the outer office, waiting the consul's
The consul knew, however, that the ominous accusation had only a mild
significance here. The term "military deserter" included any one who had
in youth emigrated to a foreign country without first fulfilling his
military duty to his fatherland. His first experiences of these cases had
been tedious and difficult,—involving a reference to his Minister at
Berlin, a correspondence with the American State Department, a condition
of unpleasant tension, and finally the prolonged detention of some
innocent German—naturalized—American citizen, who had
forgotten to bring his papers with him in revisiting his own native
country. It so chanced, however, that the consul enjoyed the friendship
and confidence of the General Adlerkreutz, who commanded the 20th
Division, and it further chanced that the same Adlerkreutz was as gallant
a soldier as ever cried Vorwarts! at the head of his men, as profound a
military strategist and organizer as ever carried his own and his enemy's
plans in his iron head and spiked helmet, and yet with as simple and
unaffected a soul breathing under his gray mustache as ever issued from
the lips of a child. So this grim but gentle veteran had arranged with the
consul that in cases where the presumption of nationality was strong,
although the evidence was not present, he would take the consul's parole
for the appearance of the "deserter" or his papers, without the aid of
prolonged diplomacy. In this way the consul had saved to Milwaukee a
worthy but imprudent brewer, and to New York an excellent sausage butcher
and possible alderman; but had returned to martial duty one or two tramps
or journeymen who had never seen America except from the decks of the
ships in which they were "stowaways," and on which they were returned,—and
thus the temper and peace of two great nations were preserved.
"He says," said the inspector severely, "that he is an American citizen,
but has lost his naturalization papers. Yet he has made the damaging
admission to others that he lived several years in Rome! And," continued
the inspector, looking over his shoulder at the closed door as he placed
his finger beside his nose, "he says he has relations living at Palmyra,
whom he frequently visited. Ach! Observe this
The consul, however, smiled with a slight flash of intelligence. "Let me
see him," he said.
They passed into the outer office; another policeman and a corporal of
infantry saluted and rose. In the centre of an admiring and sympathetic
crowd of Dienstmadchen sat the culprit, the least concerned of the party;
a stripling—a boy—scarcely out of his teens! Indeed, it was
impossible to conceive of a more innocent, bucolic, and almost angelic
looking derelict. With a skin that had the peculiar white and rosiness of
fresh pork, he had blue eyes, celestially wide open and staring, and the
thick flocculent yellow curls of the sun god! He might have been an
overgrown and badly dressed Cupid who had innocently wandered from Paphian
shores. He smiled as the consul entered, and wiped from his full red lips
with the back of his hand the traces of a sausage he was eating. The
consul recognized the flavor at once,—he had smelled it before in
Lieschen's little hand-basket.
"You say you lived at Rome?" began the consul pleasantly. "Did you take
out your first declaration of your intention of becoming an American
The inspector cast an approving glance at the consul, fixed a stern eye on
the cherubic prisoner, and leaned back in his chair to hear the reply to
this terrible question.
"I don't remember," said the culprit, knitting his brows in infantine
thought. "It was either there, or at Madrid or Syracuse."
The inspector was about to rise; this was really trifling with the dignity
of the municipality. But the consul laid his hand on the official's
sleeve, and, opening an American atlas to a map of the State of New York,
said to the prisoner, as he placed the inspector's hand on the sheet, "I
see you know the names of the TOWNS on the Erie and New York Central
"I can tell you the number of people in each town and what are the
manufactures," interrupted the young fellow, with youthful vanity. "Madrid
has six thousand, and there are over sixty thousand in"—
"That will do," said the consul, as a murmur of Wunderschon! went round
the group of listening servant girls, while glances of admiration were
shot at the beaming accused. "But you ought to remember the name of the
town where your naturalization papers were afterwards sent."
"But I was a citizen from the moment I made my declaration," said the
stranger smiling, and looking triumphantly at his admirers, "and I could
The inspector, since he had come to grief over American geographical
nomenclature, was grimly taciturn. The consul, however, was by no means
certain of his victory. His alleged fellow citizen was too encyclopaedic
in his knowledge: a clever youth might have crammed for this with a
textbook, but then he did not LOOK at all clever; indeed, he had rather
the stupidity of the mythological subject he represented. "Leave him with
me," said the consul. The inspector handed him a precis of the case. The
cherub's name was Karl Schwartz, an orphan, missing from Schlachtstadt
since the age of twelve. Relations not living, or in emigration. Identity
established by prisoner's admission and record.
"Now, Karl," said the consul cheerfully, as the door of his private office
closed upon them, "what is your little game? Have you EVER had any papers?
And if you were clever enough to study the map of New York State, why
weren't you clever enough to see that it wouldn't stand you in place of
"Dot's joost it," said Karl in English; "but you see dot if I haf
declairet mine intention of begomming a citizen, it's all the same, don't
"By no means, for you seem to have no evidence of the DECLARATION; no
papers at all."
"Zo!" said Karl. Nevertheless, he pushed his small, rosy,
pickled-pig's-feet of fingers through his fleecy curls and beamed
pleasantly at the consul. "Dot's vot's der matter," he said, as if taking
a kindly interest in some private trouble of the consul's. "Dot's vere you
The consul looked steadily at him for a moment. Such stupidity was by no
means phenomenal, nor at all inconsistent with his appearance. "And,"
continued the consul gravely, "I must tell you that, unless you have other
proofs than you have shown, it will be my duty to give you up to the
"Dot means I shall serve my time, eh?" said Karl, with an unchanged smile.
"Exactly so," returned the consul.
"Zo!" said karl. "Dese town—dose Schlachtstadt—is fine town,
eh? Fine vomens. Goot men. Und beer und sausage. Blenty to eat and drink,
eh? Und," looking around the room, "you and te poys haf a gay times."
"Yes," said the consul shortly, turning away. But he presently faced round
again on the unfettered Karl, who was evidently indulging in a
"What on earth brought you here, anyway?"
"Was it das?"
"What brought you here from America, or wherever you ran away from?"
"To see der, volks."
"But you are an ORPHAN, you know, and you have no folks living here."
"But all Shermany is mine volks,—de whole gountry, don't it? Pet
your poots! How's dot, eh?"
The consul turned back to his desk and wrote a short note to General
Adlerkreutz in his own American German. He did not think it his duty in
the present case to interfere with the authorities or to offer his parole
for Karl Schwartz. But he would claim that, as the offender was evidently
an innocent emigrant and still young, any punishment or military
degradation be omitted, and he be allowed to take his place like any other
recruit in the ranks. If he might have the temerity to the undoubted,
far-seeing military authority of suggestion making here, he would suggest
that Karl was for the commissariat fitted! Of course, he still retained
the right, on production of satisfactory proof, his discharge to claim.
The consul read this aloud to Karl. The cherubic youth smiled and said,
"Zo!" Then, extending his hand, he added the word "Zshake!"
The consul shook his hand a little remorsefully, and, preceding him to the
outer room, resigned him with the note into the inspector's hands. A
universal sigh went up from the girls, and glances of appeal sought the
consul; but he wisely concluded that it would be well, for a while, that
Karl—a helpless orphan—should be under some sort of
discipline! And the securer business of certifying invoices recommenced.
Late that afternoon he received a folded bit of blue paper from the
waistbelt of an orderly, which contained in English characters and as a
single word "Alright," followed by certain jagged pen-marks, which he
recognized as Adlerkreutz's signature. But it was not until a week later
that he learned anything definite. He was returning one night to his
lodgings in the residential part of the city, and, in opening the door
with his pass-key, perceived in the rear of the hall his handmaiden
Trudschen, attended by the usual blue or yellow or red shadow. He was
passing by them with the local 'n' Abend! on his lips when the soldier
turned his face and saluted. The consul stopped. It was the cherub Karl in
But it had not subdued a single one of his characteristics. His hair had
been cropped a little more closely under his cap, but there was its color
and woolliness still intact; his plump figure was girt by belt and
buttons, but he only looked the more unreal, and more like a combination
of pen-wiper and pincushion, until his puffy breast and shoulders seemed
to offer a positive invitation to any one who had picked up a pin. But,
wonderful!—according to his brief story—he had been so
proficient in the goose step that he had been put in uniform already, and
allowed certain small privileges,—among them, evidently the present
one. The consul smiled and passed on. But it seemed strange to him that
Trudschen, who was a tall strapping girl, exceedingly popular with the
military, and who had never looked lower than a corporal at least, should
accept the attentions of an Einjahriger like that. Later he interrogated
Ach! it was only Unser Karl! And the consul knew he was Amerikanisch!
"Yes! It was such a tearful story!"
"Tell me what it is," said the consul, with a faint hope that Karl had
volunteered some communication of his past.
"Ach Gott! There in America he was a man, and could 'vote,' make laws,
and, God willing, become a town councilor,—or Ober Intendant,—and
here he was nothing but a soldier for years. And this America was a fine
country. Wunderschon? There were such big cities, and one 'Booflo'—could
hold all Schlachtstadt, and had of people five hundred thousand!"
The consul sighed. Karl had evidently not yet got off the line of the New
York Central and Erie roads. "But does he remember yet what he did with
his papers?" said the consul persuasively.
"Ach! What does he want with PAPERS when he could make the laws? They were
dumb, stupid things—these papers—to him."
"But his appetite remains good, I hope?" suggested the consul.
This closed the conversation, although Karl came on many other nights, and
his toy figure quite supplanted the tall corporal of hussars in the remote
shadows of the hall. One night, however, the consul returned home from a
visit to a neighboring town a day earlier than he was expected. As he
neared his house he was a little surprised to find the windows of his
sitting-room lit up, and that there were no signs of Trudschen in the
lower hall or passages. He made his way upstairs in the dark and pushed
open the door of his apartment. To his astonishment, Karl was sitting
comfortably in his own chair, his cap off before a student-lamp on the
table, deeply engaged in apparent study. So profound was his abstraction
that it was a moment before he looked up, and the consul had a good look
at his usually beaming and responsive face, which, however, now struck him
as wearing a singular air of thought and concentration. When their eyes at
last met, he rose instantly and saluted, and his beaming smile returned.
But, either from his natural phlegm or extraordinary self-control he
betrayed neither embarrassment nor alarm.
The explanation he gave was direct and simple. Trudschen had gone out with
the Corporal Fritz for a short walk, and had asked him to "keep house"
during their absence. He had no books, no papers, nothing to read in the
barracks, and no chance to improve his mind. He thought the Herr Consul
would not object to his looking at his books. The consul was touched; it
was really a trivial indiscretion and as much Trudschen's fault as Karl's!
And if the poor fellow had any mind to improve,—his recent attitude
certainly suggested thought and reflection,—the consul were a brute
to reprove him. He smiled pleasantly as Karl returned a stubby bit of
pencil and some greasy memoranda to his breast pocket, and glanced at the
table. But to his surprise it was a large map that Karl had been studying,
and, to his still greater surprise, a map of the consul's own district.
"You seem to be fond of map-studying," said the consul pleasantly. "You
are not thinking of emigrating again?"
"Ach, no!" said Karl simply; "it is my cousine vot haf lif near here. I
But he left on Trudschen's return, and the consul was surprised to see
that, while Karl's attitude towards her had not changed, the girl
exhibited less effusiveness than before. Believing it to be partly the
effect of the return of the corporal, the consul taxed her with
faithlessness. But Trudschen looked grave.
"Ah! He has new friends, this Karl of ours. He cares no more for poor
girls like us. When fine ladies like the old Frau von Wimpfel make much of
him, what will you?"
It appeared, indeed, from Trudschen's account, that the widow of a wealthy
shopkeeper had made a kind of protege of the young soldier, and given him
presents. Furthermore, that the wife of his colonel had employed him to
act as page or attendant at an afternoon Gesellschaft, and that since then
the wives of other officers had sought him. Did not the Herr Consul think
it was dreadful that this American, who could vote and make laws, should
be subjected to such things?
The consul did not know what to think. It seemed to him, however, that
Karl was "getting on," and that he was not in need of his assistance. It
was in the expectation of hearing more about him, however, that he
cheerfully accepted an invitation from Adlerkreutz to dine at the Caserne
one evening with the staff. Here he found, somewhat to his embarrassment,
that the dinner was partly in his own honor, and at the close of five
courses, and the emptying of many bottles, his health was proposed by the
gallant veteran Adlerkreutz in a neat address of many syllables containing
all the parts of speech and a single verb. It was to the effect that in
his soul-friend the Herr Consul and himself was the never-to-be-severed
union of Germania and Columbia, and in their perfect understanding was the
war-defying alliance of two great nations, and that in the consul's noble
restoration of Unser Karl to the German army there was the astute
diplomacy of a great mind. He was satisfied that himself and the Herr
Consul still united in the great future, looking down upon a common
brotherhood,—the great Germanic-American Confederation,—would
feel satisfied with themselves and each other and their
never-to-be-forgotten earth-labors. Cries of "Hoch! Hoch!" resounded
through the apartment with the grinding roll of heavy-bottomed
beer-glasses, and the consul, tremulous with emotion and a reserve verb in
his pocket, rose to reply. Fully embarked upon this perilous voyage, and
steering wide and clear of any treacherous shore of intelligence or
fancied harbor of understanding and rest, he kept boldly out at sea. He
said that, while his loving adversary in this battle of compliment had
disarmed him and left him no words to reply to his generous panegyric, he
could not but join with that gallant soldier in his heartfelt aspirations
for the peaceful alliance of both countries. But while he fully
reciprocated all his host's broader and higher sentiments, he must point
out to this gallant assembly, this glorious brotherhood, that even a
greater tie of sympathy knitted him to the general,—the tie of
kinship! For while it was well known to the present company that their
gallant commander had married an Englishwoman, he, the consul, although
always an American, would now for the first time confess to them that he
HIMSELF was of Dutch descent on his mother's side! He would say no more,
but confidently leave them in possession of the tremendous significance of
this until-then-unknown fact! He sat down, with the forgotten verb still
in his pocket, but the applause that followed this perfectly conclusive,
satisfying, and logical climax convinced him of his success. His hand was
grasped eagerly by successive warriors; the general turned and embraced
him before the breathless assembly; there were tears in the consul's eyes.
As the festivities progressed, however, he found to his surprise that Karl
had not only become the fashion as a military page, but that his naive
stupidity and sublime simplicity was the wondering theme and inexhaustible
delight of the whole barracks. Stories were told of his genius for
blundering which rivaled Handy Andy's; old stories of fatuous ignorance
were rearranged and fitted to "our Karl." It was "our Karl" who, on
receiving a tip of two marks from the hands of a young lady to whom he had
brought the bouquet of a gallant lieutenant, exhibited some hesitation,
and finally said, "Yes, but, gnadiges Fraulein, that COST us nine marks!"
It was "our Karl" who, interrupting the regrets of another lady that she
was unable to accept his master's invitation, said politely, "Ah! what
matter, Gnadigste? I have still a letter for Fraulein Kopp [her rival],
and I was told that I must not invite you both." It was "our Karl" who
astonished the hostess to whom he was sent at the last moment with
apologies from an officer, unexpectedly detained at barrack duty, by
suggesting that he should bring that unfortunate officer his dinner from
the just served table. Nor were these charming infelicities confined to
his social and domestic service. Although ready, mechanical, and
invariably docile in the manual and physical duties of a soldier,—which
endeared him to the German drill-master,—he was still invincibly
ignorant as to its purport, or even the meaning and structure of the
military instruments he handled or vacantly looked upon. It was "our Karl"
who suggested to his instructors that in field-firing it was quicker and
easier to load his musket to the muzzle at once, and get rid of its
death-dealing contents at a single discharge, than to load and fire
consecutively. It was "our Karl" who nearly killed the instructor at
sentry drill by adhering to the letter of his instructions when that
instructor had forgotten the password. It was the same Karl who, severely
admonished for his recklessness, the next time added to his challenge the
precaution, "Unless you instantly say 'Fatherland' I'll fire!" Yet his
perfect good humor and childlike curiosity were unmistakable throughout,
and incited his comrades and his superiors to show him everything in the
hope of getting some characteristic comment from him. Everything and
everybody were open to Karl and his good-humored simplicity.
That evening, as the general accompanied the consul down to the gateway
and the waiting carriage, a figure in uniform ran spontaneously before
them and shouted "Heraus!" to the sentries. But the general promptly
checked "the turning out" of the guard with a paternal shake of his finger
to the over-zealous soldier, in whom the consul recognized Karl. "He is my
Bursche now," said the general explanatorily. "My wife has taken a fancy
to him. Ach! he is very popular with these women." The consul was still
more surprised. The Frau Generalin Adlerkreutz he knew to be a pronounced
Englishwoman,—carrying out her English ways, proprieties, and
prejudices in the very heart of Schlachtstadt, uncompromisingly, without
fear and without reproach. That she should follow a merely foreign society
craze, or alter her English household so as to admit the impossible Karl,
struck him oddly.
A month or two elapsed without further news of Karl, when one afternoon he
suddenly turned up at the consulate. He had again sought the consular
quiet to write a few letters home; he had no chance in the confinement of
"But by this time you must be in the family of a field-marshal, at least,"
suggested the consul pleasantly.
"Not to-day, but next week," said Karl, with sublime simplicity; "THEN I
am going to serve with the governor commandant of Rheinfestung."
The consul smiled, motioned him to a seat at a table in the outer office,
and left him undisturbed to his correspondence.
Returning later, he found Karl, his letters finished, gazing with childish
curiosity and admiration at some thick official envelopes, bearing the
stamp of the consulate, which were lying on the table. He was evidently
struck with the contrast between them and the thin, flimsy affairs he was
holding in his hand. He appeared still more impressed when the consul told
him what they were.
"Are you writing to your friends?" continued the consul, touched by his
"Ach ja!" said Karl eagerly.
"Would you like to put your letter in one of these envelopes?" continued
The beaming face and eyes of Karl were a sufficient answer. After all, it
was a small favor granted to this odd waif, who seemed to still cling to
the consular protection. He handed him the envelope and left him
addressing it in boyish pride.
It was Karl's last visit to the consulate. He appeared to have spoken
truly, and the consul presently learned that he had indeed been
transferred, through some high official manipulation, to the personal
service of the governor of Rheinfestung. There was weeping among the
Dienstmadchen of Schlachtstadt, and a distinct loss of originality and
lightness in the gatherings of the gentler Hausfrauen. His memory still
survived in the barracks through the later editions of his former
delightful stupidities,—many of them, it is to be feared, were
inventions,—and stories that were supposed to have come from
Rheinfestung were described in the slang of the Offiziere as being
"colossal." But the consul remembered Rheinfestung, and could not imagine
it as a home for Karl, or in any way fostering his peculiar qualities. For
it was eminently a fortress of fortresses, a magazine of magazines, a
depot of depots. It was the key of the Rhine, the citadel of Westphalia,
the "Clapham Junction" of German railways, but defended, fortified,
encompassed, and controlled by the newest as well as the oldest devices of
military strategy and science. Even in the pipingest time of peace, whole
railway trains went into it like a rat in a trap, and might have never
come out of it; it stretched out an inviting hand and arm across the river
that might in the twinkling of an eye be changed into a closed fist of
menace. You "defiled" into it, commanded at every step by enfilading
walls; you "debouched" out of it, as you thought, and found yourself only
before the walls; you "reentered" it at every possible angle; you did
everything apparently but pass through it. You thought yourself well out
of it, and were stopped by a bastion. Its circumvallations haunted you
until you came to the next station. It had pressed even the current of the
river into its defensive service. There were secrets of its foundations
and mines that only the highest military despots knew and kept to
themselves. In a word—it was impregnable.
That such a place could not be trifled with or misunderstood in its
right-and-acute-angled severities seemed plain to every one. But set on by
his companions, who were showing him its defensive foundations, or in his
own idle curiosity, Karl managed to fall into the Rhine and was fished out
with difficulty. The immersion may have chilled his military ardor or
soured his good humor, for later the consul heard that he had visited the
American consular agent at an adjacent town with the old story of his
American citizenship. "He seemed," said the consul's colleague, "to be
well posted about American railways and American towns, but he had no
papers. He lounged around the office for a while and"—
"Wrote letters home?" suggested the consul, with a flash of reminiscence.
"Yes, the poor chap had no privacy at the barracks, and I reckon was
overlooked or bedeviled."
This was the last the consul heard of Karl Schwartz directly; for a week
or two later he again fell into the Rhine, this time so fatally and
effectually that in spite of the efforts of his companions he was swept
away by the rapid current, and thus ended his service to his country. His
body was never recovered.
A few months before the consul was transferred from Schlachtstadt to
another post his memory of the departed Karl was revived by a visit from
Adlerkreutz. The general looked grave.
"You remember Unser Karl?" he said.
"Do you think he was an impostor?"
"As regards his American citizenship, yes! But I could not say more."
"So!" said the general. "A very singular thing has happened," he added,
twirling his mustache. "The Inspector of police has notified us of the
arrival of a Karl Schwartz in this town. It appears he is the REAL Karl
Schwartz, identified by his sister as the only one. The other, who was
drowned, was an impostor. Hein?"
"Then you have secured another recruit?" said the consul smilingly.
"No. For this one has already served his time in Elsass, where he went
when he left here as a boy. But, Donnerwetter, why should that dumb fool
take his name?"
"By chance, I fancy. Then he stupidly stuck to it, and had to take the
responsibilities with it. Don't you see?" said the consul, pleased with
his own cleverness.
"Zo-o!" said the general slowly, in his deepest voice. But the German
exclamation has a variety of significance, according to the inflection,
and Adlerkreutz's ejaculation seemed to contain them all.
It was in Paris, where the consul had lingered on his way to his new post.
He was sitting in a well-known cafe, among whose habitues were several
military officers of high rank. A group of them were gathered round a
table near him. He was idly watching them with an odd recollection of
Schlachtstadt in his mind, and as idly glancing from them to the more
attractive Boulevard without. The consul was getting a little tired of
Suddenly there was a slight stir in the gesticulating group and a cry of
greeting. The consul looked up mechanically, and then his eyes remained
fixed and staring at the newcomer. For it was the dead Karl; Karl, surely!
Karl!—his plump figure belted in a French officer's tunic; his
flaxen hair clipped a little closer, but still its fleece showing under
his kepi. Karl, his cheeks more cherubic than ever—unchanged but for
a tiny yellow toy mustache curling up over the corners of his full lips.
Karl, beaming at his companions in his old way, but rattling off French
vivacities without the faintest trace of accent. Could he be mistaken? Was
it some phenomenal resemblance, or had the soul of the German private been
transmigrated to the French officer.
The consul hurriedly called the garcon. "Who is that officer who has just
"It is the Captain Christian, of the Intelligence Bureau," said the
waiter, with proud alacrity. "A famous officer, brave as a rabbit,—un
fier lapin,—and one of our best clients. So drole, too, such a
farceur and mimic. M'sieur would be ravished to hear his imitations."
"But he looks like a German; and his name!"
"Ah, he is from Alsace. But not a German!" said the waiter, absolutely
whitening with indignation. "He was at Belfort. So was I. Mon Dieu! No, a
thousand times no!"
"But has he been living here long?" said the consul.
"In Paris, a few months. But his Department, M'sieur understands, takes
him EVERYWHERE! Everywhere where he can gain information."
The consul's eyes were still on the Captain Christian. Presently the
officer, perhaps instinctively conscious of the scrutiny, looked towards
him. Their eyes met. To the consul's surprise, the ci-devant Karl beamed
upon him, and advanced with outstretched hand.
But the consul stiffened slightly, and remained so with his glass in his
hand. At which Captain Christian brought his own easily to a military
salute, and said politely:—
"Monsieur le Consul has been promoted from his post. Permit me to
"You have heard, then?" said the consul dryly.
"Otherwise I should not presume. For our Department makes it a business—in
Monsieur le Consul's case it becomes a pleasure—to know everything."
"Did your Department know that the real Karl Schwartz has returned?" said
the consul dryly.
Captain Christian shrugged his shoulders. "Then it appears that the sham
Karl died none too soon," he said lightly. "And yet"—he bent his
eyes with mischievous reproach upon the consul.
"Yet what?" demanded the consul sternly.
"Monsieur le Consul might have saved the unfortunate man by accepting him
as an American citizen and not helping to force him into the German
The consul saw in a flash the full military significance of this logic,
and could not repress a smile. At which Captain Christian dropped easily
into a chair beside him, and as easily into broken German English:—
"Und," he went on, "dees town—dees Schlachtstadt is fine town, eh?
Fine womens? Goot men? Und peer and sausage? Blenty to eat and trink, eh?
Und you und te poys haf a gay times?"
The consul tried to recover his dignity. The waiter behind him,
recognizing only the delightful mimicry of this adorable officer, was in
fits of laughter. Nevertheless, the consul managed to say dryly:—
"And the barracks, the magazines, the commissariat, the details, the
reserves of Schlachtstadt were very interesting?"
"And Rheinfestung—its plans—its details, even its dangerous
foundations by the river—they were to a soldier singularly
"You have reason to say so," said Captain Christian, curling his little
"And the fortress—you think?"
The consul remembered General Adlerkreutz's "Zo-o," and wondered.
UNCLE JIM AND UNCLE BILLY
They were partners. The avuncular title was bestowed on them by Cedar
Camp, possibly in recognition of a certain matured good humor, quite
distinct from the spasmodic exuberant spirits of its other members, and
possibly from what, to its youthful sense, seemed their advanced ages—which
must have been at least forty! They had also set habits even in their
improvidence, lost incalculable and unpayable sums to each other over
euchre regularly every evening, and inspected their sluice-boxes
punctually every Saturday for repairs—which they never made. They
even got to resemble each other, after the fashion of old married couples,
or, rather, as in matrimonial partnerships, were subject to the domination
of the stronger character; although in their case it is to be feared that
it was the feminine Uncle Billy—enthusiastic, imaginative, and
loquacious—who swayed the masculine, steady-going, and practical
Uncle Jim. They had lived in the camp since its foundation in 1849; there
seemed to be no reason why they should not remain there until its
inevitable evolution into a mining-town. The younger members might leave
through restless ambition or a desire for change or novelty; they were
subject to no such trifling mutation. Yet Cedar Camp was surprised one day
to hear that Uncle Billy was going away.
The rain was softly falling on the bark thatch of the cabin with a muffled
murmur, like a sound heard through sleep. The southwest trades were warm
even at that altitude, as the open door testified, although a fire of pine
bark was flickering on the adobe hearth and striking out answering fires
from the freshly scoured culinary utensils on the rude sideboard, which
Uncle Jim had cleaned that morning with his usual serious persistency.
Their best clothes, which were interchangeable and worn alternately by
each other on festal occasions, hung on the walls, which were covered with
a coarse sailcloth canvas instead of lath-and-plaster, and were
diversified by pictures from illustrated papers and stains from the
exterior weather. Two "bunks," like ships' berths,—an upper and
lower one,—occupied the gable-end of this single apartment, and on
beds of coarse sacking, filled with dry moss, were carefully rolled their
respective blankets and pillows. They were the only articles not used in
common, and whose individuality was respected.
Uncle Jim, who had been sitting before the fire, rose as the square bulk
of his partner appeared at the doorway with an armful of wood for the
evening stove. By that sign he knew it was nine o'clock: for the last six
years Uncle Billy had regularly brought in the wood at that hour, and
Uncle Jim had as regularly closed the door after him, and set out their
single table, containing a greasy pack of cards taken from its drawer, a
bottle of whiskey, and two tin drinking-cups. To this was added a ragged
memorandum-book and a stick of pencil. The two men drew their stools to
"Hol' on a minit," said Uncle Billy.
His partner laid down the cards as Uncle Billy extracted from his pocket a
pill-box, and, opening it, gravely took a pill. This was clearly an
innovation on their regular proceedings, for Uncle Billy was always in
"What's this for?" asked Uncle Jim half scornfully.
"You ain't got no ager," said Uncle Jim, with the assurance of intimate
cognizance of his partner's physical condition.
"But it's a pow'ful preventive! Quinine! Saw this box at Riley's store,
and laid out a quarter on it. We kin keep it here, comfortable, for
evenings. It's mighty soothin' arter a man's done a hard day's work on the
river-bar. Take one."
Uncle Jim gravely took a pill and swallowed it, and handed the box back to
"We'll leave it on the table, sociable like, in case any of the boys come
in," said Uncle Billy, taking up the cards. "Well. How do we stand?"
Uncle Jim consulted the memorandum-book. "You were owin' me sixty-two
thousand dollars on the last game, and the limit's seventy-five thousand!"
"Je whillikins!" ejaculated Uncle Billy. "Let me see."
He examined the book, feebly attempted to challenge the additions, but
with no effect on the total. "We oughter hev made the limit a hundred
thousand," he said seriously; "seventy-five thousand is only triflin' in a
game like ours. And you've set down my claim at Angel's?" he continued.
"I allowed you ten thousand dollars for that," said Uncle Jim, with equal
gravity, "and it's a fancy price too."
The claim in question being an unprospected hillside ten miles distant,
which Uncle Jim had never seen, and Uncle Billy had not visited for years,
the statement was probably true; nevertheless, Uncle Billy retorted:—
"Ye kin never tell how these things will pan out. Why, only this mornin' I
was taking a turn round Shot Up Hill, that ye know is just rotten with
quartz and gold, and I couldn't help thinkin' how much it was like my ole
claim at Angel's. I must take a day off to go on there and strike a pick
in it, if only for luck."
Suddenly he paused and said, "Strange, ain't it, you should speak of it
to-night? Now I call that queer!"
He laid down his cards and gazed mysteriously at his companion. Uncle Jim
knew perfectly that Uncle Billy had regularly once a week for many years
declared his final determination to go over to Angel's and prospect his
claim, yet nevertheless he half responded to his partner's suggestion of
mystery, and a look of fatuous wonder crept into his eyes. But he
contented himself by saying cautiously, "You spoke of it first."
"That's the more sing'lar," said Uncle Billy confidently. "And I've been
thinking about it, and kinder seeing myself thar all day. It's mighty
queer!" He got up and began to rummage among some torn and coverless books
in the corner.
"Where's that 'Dream Book' gone to?"
"The Carson boys borrowed it," replied Uncle Jim. "Anyhow, yours wasn't no
dream—only a kind o' vision, and the book don't take no stock in
visions." Nevertheless, he watched his partner with some sympathy, and
added, "That reminds me that I had a dream the other night of being in
'Frisco at a small hotel, with heaps o' money, and all the time being sort
o' scared and bewildered over it."
"No?" queried his partner eagerly yet reproachfully. "You never let on
anything about it to ME! It's mighty queer you havin' these strange
feelin's, for I've had 'em myself. And only to-night, comin' up from the
spring, I saw two crows hopping in the trail, and I says, 'If I see
another, it's luck, sure!' And you'll think I'm lyin', but when I went to
the wood-pile just now there was the THIRD one sittin' up on a log as
plain as I see you. Tell 'e what folks ken laugh—but that's just
what Jim Filgee saw the night before he made the big strike!"
They were both smiling, yet with an underlying credulity and seriousness
as singularly pathetic as it seemed incongruous to their years and
intelligence. Small wonder, however, that in their occupation and
environment—living daily in an atmosphere of hope, expectation, and
chance, looking forward each morning to the blind stroke of a pick that
might bring fortune—they should see signs in nature and hear mystic
voices in the trackless woods that surrounded them. Still less strange
that they were peculiarly susceptible to the more recognized diversions of
chance, and were gamblers on the turning of a card who trusted to the
revelation of a shovelful of upturned earth.
It was quite natural, therefore, that they should return from their
abstract form of divination to the table and their cards. But they were
scarcely seated before they heard a crackling step in the brush outside,
and the free latch of their door was lifted. A younger member of the camp
entered. He uttered a peevish "Halloo!" which might have passed for a
greeting, or might have been a slight protest at finding the door closed,
drew the stool from which Uncle Jim had just risen before the fire, shook
his wet clothes like a Newfoundland dog, and sat down. Yet he was by no
means churlish nor coarse-looking, and this act was rather one of
easy-going, selfish, youthful familiarity than of rudeness. The cabin of
Uncles Billy and Jim was considered a public right or "common" of the
camp. Conferences between individual miners were appointed there. "I'll
meet you at Uncle Billy's" was a common tryst. Added to this was a tacit
claim upon the partners' arbitrative powers, or the equal right to request
them to step outside if the interviews were of a private nature. Yet there
was never any objection on the part of the partners, and to-night there
was not a shadow of resentment of this intrusion in the patient,
good-humored, tolerant eyes of Uncles Jim and Billy as they gazed at their
guest. Perhaps there was a slight gleam of relief in Uncle Jim's when he
found that the guest was unaccompanied by any one, and that it was not a
tryst. It would have been unpleasant for the two partners to have stayed
out in the rain while their guests were exchanging private confidences in
their cabin. While there might have been no limit to their good will,
there might have been some to their capacity for exposure.
Uncle Jim drew a huge log from beside the hearth and sat on the driest end
of it, while their guest occupied the stool. The young man, without
turning away from his discontented, peevish brooding over the fire,
vaguely reached backward for the whiskey-bottle and Uncle Billy's tin cup,
to which he was assisted by the latter's hospitable hand. But on setting
down the cup his eye caught sight of the pill-box.
"Wot's that?" he said, with gloomy scorn. "Rat poison?"
"Quinine pills—agin ager," said Uncle Jim. "The newest thing out.
Keeps out damp like Injin-rubber! Take one to follow yer whiskey. Me and
Uncle Billy wouldn't think o' settin' down, quiet like, in the evening
arter work, without 'em. Take one—ye 'r' welcome! We keep 'em out
here for the boys."
Accustomed as the partners were to adopt and wear each other's opinions
before folks, as they did each other's clothing, Uncle Billy was,
nevertheless, astonished and delighted at Uncle Jim's enthusiasm over HIS
pills. The guest took one and swallowed it.
"Mighty bitter!" he said, glancing at his hosts with the quick Californian
suspicion of some practical joke. But the honest faces of the partners
"That bitterness ye taste," said Uncle Jim quickly, "is whar the thing's
gittin' in its work. Sorter sickenin' the malaria—and kinder
water-proofin' the insides all to onct and at the same lick! Don't yer
see? Put another in yer vest pocket; you'll be cryin' for 'em like a child
afore ye get home. Thar! Well, how's things agoin' on your claim, Dick?
The guest raised his head and turned it sufficiently to fling his answer
back over his shoulder at his hosts. "I don't know what YOU'D call'
boomin','" he said gloomily; "I suppose you two men sitting here
comfortably by the fire, without caring whether school keeps or not, would
call two feet of backwater over one's claim 'boomin';' I reckon YOU'D
consider a hundred and fifty feet of sluicing carried away, and drifting
to thunder down the South Fork, something in the way of advertising to
your old camp! I suppose YOU'd think it was an inducement to investors! I
shouldn't wonder," he added still more gloomily, as a sudden dash of rain
down the wide-throated chimney dropped in his tin cup—"and it would
be just like you two chaps, sittin' there gormandizing over your quinine—if
yer said this rain that's lasted three weeks was something to be proud
It was the cheerful and the satisfying custom of the rest of the camp, for
no reason whatever, to hold Uncle Jim and Uncle Billy responsible for its
present location, its vicissitudes, the weather, or any convulsion of
nature; and it was equally the partners' habit, for no reason whatever, to
accept these animadversions and apologize.
"It's a rain that's soft and mellowin'," said Uncle Billy gently, "and
supplin' to the sinews and muscles. Did ye ever notice, Jim"—ostentatiously
to his partner—"did ye ever notice that you get inter a kind o'
sweaty lather workin' in it? Sorter openin' to the pores!"
"Fetches 'em every time," said Uncle Billy. "Better nor fancy soap."
Their guest laughed bitterly. "Well, I'm going to leave it to you. I
reckon to cut the whole concern to-morrow, and 'lite' out for something
new. It can't be worse than this."
The two partners looked grieved, albeit they were accustomed to these
outbursts. Everybody who thought of going away from Cedar Camp used it
first as a threat to these patient men, after the fashion of runaway
nephews, or made an exemplary scene of their going.
"Better think twice afore ye go," said Uncle Billy.
"I've seen worse weather afore ye came," said Uncle Jim slowly. "Water all
over the Bar; the mud so deep ye couldn't get to Angel's for a sack o'
flour, and we had to grub on pine nuts and jackass-rabbits. And yet—we
stuck by the camp, and here we are!"
The mild answer apparently goaded their guest to fury. He rose from his
seat, threw back his long dripping hair from his handsome but querulous
face, and scattered a few drops on the partners. "Yes, that's just it.
That's what gets me! Here you stick, and here you are! And here you'll
stick and rust until you starve or drown! Here you are,—two men who
ought to be out in the world, playing your part as grown men,—stuck
here like children 'playing house' in the woods; playing work in your
wretched mud-pie ditches, and content. Two men not so old that you
mightn't be taking your part in the fun of the world, going to balls or
theatres, or paying attention to girls, and yet old enough to have married
and have your families around you, content to stay in this God-forsaken
place; old bachelors, pigging together like poorhouse paupers. That's what
gets me! Say you LIKE it? Say you expect by hanging on to make a strike—and
what does that amount to? What are YOUR chances? How many of us have made,
or are making, more than grub wages? Say you're willing to share and share
alike as you do—have you got enough for two? Aren't you actually
living off each other? Aren't you grinding each other down, choking each
other's struggles, as you sink together deeper and deeper in the mud of
this cussed camp? And while you're doing this, aren't you, by your age and
position here, holding out hopes to others that you know cannot be
Accustomed as they were to the half-querulous, half-humorous, but always
extravagant, criticism of the others, there was something so new in this
arraignment of themselves that the partners for a moment sat silent. There
was a slight flush on Uncle Billy's cheek, there was a slight paleness on
Uncle Jim's. He was the first to reply. But he did so with a certain
dignity which neither his partner nor their guest had ever seen on his
"As it's OUR fire that's warmed ye up like this, Dick Bullen," he said,
slowly rising, with his hand resting on Uncle Billy's shoulder, "and as
it's OUR whiskey that's loosened your tongue, I reckon we must put up with
what ye 'r' saying, just as we've managed to put up with our own way o'
living, and not quo'll with ye under our own roof."
The young fellow saw the change in Uncle Jim's face and quickly extended
his hand, with an apologetic backward shake of his long hair. "Hang it
all, old man," he said, with a laugh of mingled contrition and amusement,
"you mustn't mind what I said just now. I've been so worried thinking of
things about MYSELF, and, maybe, a little about you, that I quite forgot I
hadn't a call to preach to anybody—least of all to you. So we part
friends, Uncle Jim, and you too, Uncle Billy, and you'll forget what I
said. In fact, I don't know why I spoke at all—only I was passing
your claim just now, and wondering how much longer your old sluice-boxes
would hold out, and where in thunder you'd get others when they caved in!
I reckon that sent me off. That's all, old chap!"
Uncle Billy's face broke into a beaming smile of relief, and it was HIS
hand that first grasped his guest's; Uncle Jim quickly followed with as
honest a pressure, but with eyes that did not seem to be looking at
Bullen, though all trace of resentment had died out of them. He walked to
the door with him, again shook hands, but remained looking out in the
darkness some time after Dick Bullen's tangled hair and broad shoulders
Meantime, Uncle Billy had resumed his seat and was chuckling and
reminiscent as he cleaned out his pipe.
"Kinder reminds me of Jo Sharp, when he was cleaned out at poker by his
own partners in his own cabin, comin' up here and bedevilin' US about it!
What was it you lint him?"
But Uncle Jim did not reply; and Uncle Billy, taking up the cards, began
to shuffle them, smiling vaguely, yet at the same time somewhat painfully.
"Arter all, Dick was mighty cut up about what he said, and I felt kinder
sorry for him. And, you know, I rather cotton to a man that speaks his
mind. Sorter clears him out, you know, of all the slumgullion that's in
him. It's just like washin' out a pan o' prospecting: you pour in the
water, and keep slushing it round and round, and out comes first the mud
and dirt, and then the gravel, and then the black sand, and then—it's
all out, and there's a speck o' gold glistenin' at the bottom!"
"Then you think there WAS suthin' in what he said?" said Uncle Jim, facing
An odd tone in his voice made Uncle Billy look up. "No," he said quickly,
shying with the instinct of an easy pleasure-loving nature from a possible
grave situation. "No, I don't think he ever got the color! But wot are ye
moonin' about for? Ain't ye goin' to play? It's mor' 'n half past nine
Thus adjured, Uncle Jim moved up to the table and sat down, while Uncle
Billy dealt the cards, turning up the Jack or right bower—but
WITHOUT that exclamation of delight which always accompanied his good
fortune, nor did Uncle Jim respond with the usual corresponding simulation
of deep disgust. Such a circumstance had not occurred before in the
history of their partnership. They both played in silence—a silence
only interrupted by a larger splash of raindrops down the chimney.
"We orter put a couple of stones on the chimney-top, edgewise, like Jack
Curtis does. It keeps out the rain without interferin' with the draft,"
said Uncle Billy musingly.
"What's the use if"—
"If what?" said Uncle Billy quietly.
"If we don't make it broader," said Uncle Jim half wearily.
They both stared at the chimney, but Uncle Jim's eye followed the wall
around to the bunks. There were many discolorations on the canvas, and a
picture of the Goddess of Liberty from an illustrated paper had broken out
in a kind of damp, measly eruption. "I'll stick that funny handbill of the
'Washin' Soda' I got at the grocery store the other day right over the
Liberty gal. It's a mighty perty woman washin' with short sleeves," said
Uncle Billy. "That's the comfort of them picters, you kin always get
somethin' new, and it adds thickness to the wall."
Uncle Jim went back to the cards in silence. After a moment he rose again,
and hung his overcoat against the door.
"Wind's comin' in," he said briefly.
"Yes," said Uncle Billy cheerfully, "but it wouldn't seem nat'ral if there
wasn't that crack in the door to let the sunlight in o mornin's. Makes a
kind o' sundial, you know. When the streak o' light's in that corner, I
says 'six o'clock!' when it's across the chimney I say 'seven!' and so
It certainly had grown chilly, and the wind was rising. The candle
guttered and flickered; the embers on the hearth brightened occasionally,
as if trying to dispel the gathering shadows, but always ineffectually.
The game was frequently interrupted by the necessity of stirring the fire.
After an interval of gloom, in which each partner successively drew the
candle to his side to examine his cards, Uncle Jim said:—
"Well!" responded Uncle Billy.
"Are you sure you saw that third crow on the wood-pile?"
"Sure as I see you now—and a darned sight plainer. Why?"
"Nothin', I was just thinkin'. Look here! How do we stand now?"
Uncle Billy was still losing. "Nevertheless," he said cheerfully, "I'm
owin' you a matter of sixty thousand dollars."
Uncle Jim examined the book abstractedly. "Suppose," he said slowly, but
without looking at his partner, "suppose, as it's gettin' late now, we
play for my half share of the claim agin the limit—seventy thousand—to
"Your half share!" repeated Uncle Billy, with amused incredulity.
"My half share of the claim,—of this yer house, you know,—one
half of all that Dick Bullen calls our rotten starvation property,"
reiterated Uncle Jim, with a half smile.
Uncle Billy laughed. It was a novel idea; it was, of course, "all in the
air," like the rest of their game, yet even then he had an odd feeling
that he would have liked Dick Bullen to have known it. "Wade in, old
pard," he said. "I'm on it."
Uncle Jim lit another candle to reinforce the fading light, and the deal
fell to Uncle Billy. He turned up Jack of clubs. He also turned a little
redder as he took up his cards, looked at them, and glanced hastily at his
partner. "It's no use playing," he said. "Look here!" He laid down his
cards on the table. They were the ace, king and queen of clubs, and Jack
of spades,—or left bower,—which, with the turned-up Jack of
clubs,—or right bower,—comprised ALL the winning cards!
"By jingo! If we'd been playin' four-handed, say you an' me agin some
other ducks, we'd have made 'four' in that deal, and h'isted some money—eh?"
and his eyes sparkled. Uncle Jim, also, had a slight tremulous light in
"Oh no! I didn't see no three crows this afternoon," added Uncle Billy
gleefully, as his partner, in turn, began to shuffle the cards with
laborious and conscientious exactitude. Then dealing, he turned up a heart
for trumps. Uncle Billy took up his cards one by one, but when he had
finished his face had become as pale as it had been red before. "What's
the matter?" said Uncle Jim quickly, his own face growing white.
Uncle Billy slowly and with breathless awe laid down his cards, face up on
the table. It was exactly the same sequence IN HEARTS, with the knave of
diamonds added. He could again take every trick.
They stared at each other with vacant faces and a half-drawn smile of
fear. They could hear the wind moaning in the trees beyond; there was a
sudden rattling at the door. Uncle Billy started to his feet, but Uncle
Jim caught his arm. "DON'T LEAVE THE CARDS! It's only the wind; sit down,"
he said in a low awe-hushed voice, "it's your deal; you were two before,
and two now, that makes your four; you've only one point to make to win
the game. Go on."
They both poured out a cup of whiskey, smiling vaguely, yet with a certain
terror in their eyes. Their hands were cold; the cards slipped from Uncle
Billy's benumbed fingers; when he had shuffled them he passed them to his
partner to shuffle them also, but did not speak. When Uncle Jim had
shuffled them methodically he handed them back fatefully to his partner.
Uncle Billy dealt them with a trembling hand. He turned up a club. "If you
are sure of these tricks you know you've won," said Uncle Jim in a voice
that was scarcely audible. Uncle Billy did not reply, but tremulously laid
down the ace and right and left bowers.
He had won!
A feeling of relief came over each, and they laughed hysterically and
discordantly. Ridiculous and childish as their contest might have seemed
to a looker-on, to each the tension had been as great as that of the
greatest gambler, without the gambler's trained restraint, coolness, and
composure. Uncle Billy nervously took up the cards again.
"Don't," said Uncle Jim gravely; "it's no use—the luck's gone now."
"Just one more deal," pleaded his partner.
Uncle Jim looked at the fire, Uncle Billy hastily dealt, and threw the two
hands face up on the table. They were the ordinary average cards. He dealt
again, with the same result. "I told you so," said Uncle Jim, without
It certainly seemed a tame performance after their wonderful hands, and
after another trial Uncle Billy threw the cards aside and drew his stool
before the fire. "Mighty queer, warn't it?" he said, with reminiscent awe.
"Three times running. Do you know, I felt a kind o' creepy feelin' down my
back all the time. Criky! what luck! None of the boys would believe it if
we told 'em—least of all that Dick Bullen, who don't believe in
luck, anyway. Wonder what he'd have said! and, Lord! how he'd have looked!
Wall! what are you starin' so for?"
Uncle Jim had faced around, and was gazing at Uncle Billy's good-humored,
simple face. "Nothin'!" he said briefly, and his eyes again sought the
"Then don't look as if you was seein' suthin'—you give me the
creeps," returned Uncle Billy a little petulantly. "Let's turn in, afore
the fire goes out!"
The fateful cards were put back into the drawer, the table shoved against
the wall. The operation of undressing was quickly got over, the clothes
they wore being put on top of their blankets. Uncle Billy yawned, "I
wonder what kind of a dream I'll have tonight—it oughter be suthin'
to explain that luck." This was his "good-night" to his partner. In a few
moments he was sound asleep.
Not so Uncle Jim. He heard the wind gradually go down, and in the
oppressive silence that followed could detect the deep breathing of his
companion and the far-off yelp of a coyote. His eyesight becoming
accustomed to the semi-darkness, broken only by the scintillation of the
dying embers of their fire, he could take in every detail of their sordid
cabin and the rude environment in which they had lived so long. The dismal
patches on the bark roof, the wretched makeshifts of each day, the dreary
prolongation of discomfort, were all plain to him now, without the
sanguine hope that had made them bearable. And when he shut his eyes upon
them, it was only to travel in fancy down the steep mountain side that he
had trodden so often to the dreary claim on the overflowed river, to the
heaps of "tailings" that encumbered it, like empty shells of the hollow,
profitless days spent there, which they were always waiting for the stroke
of good fortune to clear away. He saw again the rotten "sluicing," through
whose hopeless rifts and holes even their scant daily earnings had become
scantier. At last he arose, and with infinite gentleness let himself down
from his berth without disturbing his sleeping partner, and wrapping
himself in his blanket, went to the door, which he noiselessly opened.
From the position of a few stars that were glittering in the northern sky
he knew that it was yet scarcely midnight; there were still long, restless
hours before the day! In the feverish state into which he had gradually
worked himself it seemed to him impossible to wait the coming of the dawn.
But he was mistaken. For even as he stood there all nature seemed to
invade his humble cabin with its free and fragrant breath, and invest him
with its great companionship. He felt again, in that breath, that strange
sense of freedom, that mystic touch of partnership with the birds and
beasts, the shrubs and trees, in this greater home before him. It was this
vague communion that had kept him there, that still held these world-sick,
weary workers in their rude cabins on the slopes around him; and he felt
upon his brow that balm that had nightly lulled him and them to sleep and
forgetfulness. He closed the door, turned away, crept as noiselessly as
before into his bunk again, and presently fell into a profound slumber.
But when Uncle Billy awoke the next morning he saw it was late; for the
sun, piercing the crack of the closed door, was sending a pencil of light
across the cold hearth, like a match to rekindle its dead embers. His
first thought was of his strange luck the night before, and of
disappointment that he had not had the dream of divination that he had
looked for. He sprang to the floor, but as he stood upright his glance
fell on Uncle Jim's bunk. It was empty. Not only that, but his BLANKETS—Uncle
Jim's own particular blankets—WERE GONE!
A sudden revelation of his partner's manner the night before struck him
now with the cruelty of a blow; a sudden intelligence, perhaps the very
divination he had sought, flashed upon him like lightning! He glanced
wildly around the cabin. The table was drawn out from the wall a little
ostentatiously, as if to catch his eye. On it was lying the stained
chamois-skin purse in which they had kept the few grains of gold remaining
from their last week's "clean up." The grains had been carefully divided,
and half had been taken! But near it lay the little memorandum-book, open,
with the stick of pencil lying across it. A deep line was drawn across the
page on which was recorded their imaginary extravagant gains and losses,
even to the entry of Uncle Jim's half share of the claim which he had
risked and lost! Underneath were hurriedly scrawled the words:—
"Settled by YOUR luck, last night, old pard.—JAMES FOSTER."
It was nearly a month before Cedar Camp was convinced that Uncle Billy and
Uncle Jim had dissolved partnership. Pride had prevented Uncle Billy from
revealing his suspicions of the truth, or of relating the events that
preceded Uncle Jim's clandestine flight, and Dick Bullen had gone to
Sacramento by stage-coach the same morning. He briefly gave out that his
partner had been called to San Francisco on important business of their
own, that indeed might necessitate his own removal there later. In this he
was singularly assisted by a letter from the absent Jim, dated at San
Francisco, begging him not to be anxious about his success, as he had
hopes of presently entering into a profitable business, but with no
further allusions to his precipitate departure, nor any suggestion of a
reason for it. For two or three days Uncle Billy was staggered and
bewildered; in his profound simplicity he wondered if his extraordinary
good fortune that night had made him deaf to some explanation of his
partner's, or, more terrible, if he had shown some "low" and incredible
intimation of taking his partner's extravagant bet as REAL and binding. In
this distress he wrote to Uncle Jim an appealing and apologetic letter,
albeit somewhat incoherent and inaccurate, and bristling with misspelling,
camp slang, and old partnership jibes. But to this elaborate epistle he
received only Uncle Jim's repeated assurances of his own bright prospects,
and his hopes that his old partner would be more fortunate, single-handed,
on the old claim. For a whole week or two Uncle Billy sulked, but his
invincible optimism and good humor got the better of him, and he thought
only of his old partner's good fortune. He wrote him regularly, but always
to one address—a box at the San Francisco post-office, which to the
simple-minded Uncle Billy suggested a certain official importance. To
these letters Uncle Jim responded regularly but briefly.
From a certain intuitive pride in his partner and his affection, Uncle
Billy did not show these letters openly to the camp, although he spoke
freely of his former partner's promising future, and even read them short
extracts. It is needless to say that the camp did not accept Uncle Billy's
story with unsuspecting confidence. On the contrary, a hundred surmises,
humorous or serious, but always extravagant, were afloat in Cedar Camp.
The partners had quarreled over their clothes—Uncle Jim, who was
taller than Uncle Billy, had refused to wear his partner's trousers. They
had quarreled over cards—Uncle Jim had discovered that Uncle Billy
was in possession of a "cold deck," or marked pack. They had quarreled
over Uncle Billy's carelessness in grinding up half a box of "bilious
pills" in the morning's coffee. A gloomily imaginative mule-driver had
darkly suggested that, as no one had really seen Uncle Jim leave the camp,
he was still there, and his bones would yet be found in one of the
ditches; while a still more credulous miner averred that what he had
thought was the cry of a screech-owl the night previous to Uncle Jim's
disappearance, might have been the agonized utterance of that murdered
man. It was highly characteristic of that camp—and, indeed, of
others in California—that nobody, not even the ingenious theorists
themselves, believed their story, and that no one took the slightest pains
to verify or disprove it. Happily, Uncle Billy never knew it, and moved
all unconsciously in this atmosphere of burlesque suspicion. And then a
singular change took place in the attitude of the camp towards him and the
disrupted partnership. Hitherto, for no reason whatever, all had agreed to
put the blame upon Billy—possibly because he was present to receive
it. As days passed that slight reticence and dejection in his manner,
which they had at first attributed to remorse and a guilty conscience, now
began to tell as absurdly in his favor. Here was poor Uncle Billy toiling
though the ditches, while his selfish partner was lolling in the lap of
luxury in San Francisco! Uncle Billy's glowing accounts of Uncle Jim's
success only contributed to the sympathy now fully given in his behalf and
their execration of the absconding partner. It was proposed at Biggs's
store that a letter expressing the indignation of the camp over his
heartless conduct to his late partner, William Fall, should be forwarded
to him. Condolences were offered to Uncle Billy, and uncouth attempts were
made to cheer his loneliness. A procession of half a dozen men twice a
week to his cabin, carrying their own whiskey and winding up with a "stag
dance" before the premises, was sufficient to lighten his eclipsed gayety
and remind him of a happier past. "Surprise" working parties visited his
claim with spasmodic essays towards helping him, and great good humor and
hilarity prevailed. It was not an unusual thing for an honest miner to
arise from an idle gathering in some cabin and excuse himself with the
remark that he "reckoned he'd put in an hour's work in Uncle Billy's
tailings!" And yet, as before, it was very improbable if any of these
reckless benefactors REALLY believed in their own earnestness or in the
gravity of the situation. Indeed, a kind of hopeful cynicism ran through
their performances. "Like as not, Uncle Billy is still in 'cahoots' [i.
e., shares] with his old pard, and is just laughin' at us as he's sendin'
him accounts of our tomfoolin'."
And so the winter passed and the rains, and the days of cloudless skies
and chill starlit nights began. There were still freshets from the snow
reservoirs piled high in the Sierran passes, and the Bar was flooded, but
that passed too, and only the sunshine remained. Monotonous as the seasons
were, there was a faint movement in the camp with the stirring of the sap
in the pines and cedars. And then, one day, there was a strange excitement
on the Bar. Men were seen running hither and thither, but mainly gathering
in a crowd on Uncle Billy's claim, that still retained the old partners'
names in "The Fall and Foster." To add to the excitement, there was the
quickly repeated report of a revolver, to all appearance aimlessly
exploded in the air by some one on the outskirts of the assemblage. As the
crowd opened, Uncle Billy appeared, pale, hysterical, breathless, and
staggering a little under the back-slapping and hand-shaking of the whole
camp. For Uncle Billy had "struck it rich"—had just discovered a
"pocket," roughly estimated to be worth fifteen thousand dollars!
Although in that supreme moment he missed the face of his old partner, he
could not help seeing the unaffected delight and happiness shining in the
eyes of all who surrounded him. It was characteristic of that sanguine but
uncertain life that success and good fortune brought no jealousy nor envy
to the unfortunate, but was rather a promise and prophecy of the
fulfillment of their own hopes. The gold was there—Nature but
yielded up her secret. There was no prescribed limit to her bounty. So
strong was this conviction that a long-suffering but still hopeful miner,
in the enthusiasm of the moment, stooped down and patted a large boulder
with the apostrophic "Good old gal!"
Then followed a night of jubilee, a next morning of hurried consultation
with a mining expert and speculator lured to the camp by the good tidings;
and then the very next night—to the utter astonishment of Cedar Camp—Uncle
Billy, with a draft for twenty thousand dollars in his pocket, started for
San Francisco, and took leave of his claim and the camp forever!
When Uncle Billy landed at the wharves of San Francisco he was a little
bewildered. The Golden Gate beyond was obliterated by the incoming
sea-fog, which had also roofed in the whole city, and lights already
glittered along the gray streets that climbed the grayer sand-hills. As a
Western man, brought up by inland rivers, he was fascinated and thrilled
by the tall-masted seagoing ships, and he felt a strange sense of the
remoter mysterious ocean, which he had never seen. But he was impressed
and startled by smartly dressed men and women, the passing of carriages,
and a sudden conviction that he was strange and foreign to what he saw. It
had been his cherished intention to call upon his old partner in his
working clothes, and then clap down on the table before him a draft for
ten thousand dollars as HIS share of their old claim. But in the face of
these brilliant strangers a sudden and unexpected timidity came upon him.
He had heard of a cheap popular hotel, much frequented by the returning
gold-miner, who entered its hospitable doors—which held an easy
access to shops—and emerged in a few hours a gorgeous butterfly of
fashion, leaving his old chrysalis behind him. Thence he inquired his way;
hence he afterwards issued in garments glaringly new and ill fitting. But
he had not sacrificed his beard, and there was still something fine and
original in his handsome weak face that overcame the cheap convention of
his clothes. Making his way to the post-office, he was again discomfited
by the great size of the building, and bewildered by the array of little
square letter-boxes behind glass which occupied one whole wall, and an
equal number of opaque and locked wooden ones legibly numbered. His heart
leaped; he remembered the number, and before him was a window with a clerk
behind it. Uncle Billy leaned forward.
"Kin you tell me if the man that box 690 b'longs to is in?"
The clerk stared, made him repeat the question, and then turned away. But
he returned almost instantly, with two or three grinning heads besides his
own, apparently set behind his shoulders. Uncle Billy was again asked to
repeat his question. He did so.
"Why don't you go and see if 690 is in his box?" said the first clerk,
turning with affected asperity to one of the others.
The clerk went away, returned, and said with singular gravity, "He was
there a moment ago, but he's gone out to stretch his legs. It's rather
crampin' at first; and he can't stand it more than ten hours at a time,
But simplicity has its limits. Uncle Billy had already guessed his real
error in believing his partner was officially connected with the building;
his cheek had flushed and then paled again. The pupils of his blue eyes
had contracted into suggestive black points. "Ef you'll let me in at that
winder, young fellers," he said, with equal gravity, "I'll show yer how I
kin make YOU small enough to go in a box without crampin'! But I only
wanted to know where Jim Foster LIVED."
At which the first clerk became perfunctory again, but civil. "A letter
left in his box would get you that information," he said, "and here's
paper and pencil to write it now."
Uncle Billy took the paper and began to write, "Just got here. Come and
see me at"—He paused. A brilliant idea had struck him; He could
impress both his old partner and the upstarts at the window; he would put
in the name of the latest "swell" hotel in San Francisco, said to be a
fairy dream of opulence. He added "The Oriental," and without folding the
paper shoved it in the window.
"Don't you want an envelope?" asked the clerk.
"Put a stamp on the corner of it," responded Uncle Billy, laying down a
coin, "and she'll go through." The clerk smiled, but affixed the stamp,
and Uncle Billy turned away.
But it was a short-lived triumph. The disappointment at finding Uncle
Jim's address conveyed no idea of his habitation seemed to remove him
farther away, and lose his identity in the great city. Besides, he must
now make good his own address, and seek rooms at the Oriental. He went
thither. The furniture and decorations, even in these early days of
hotel-building in San Francisco, were extravagant and over-strained, and
Uncle Billy felt lost and lonely in his strange surroundings. But he took
a handsome suite of rooms, paid for them in advance on the spot, and then,
half frightened, walked out of them to ramble vaguely through the city in
the feverish hope of meeting his old partner. At night his inquietude
increased; he could not face the long row of tables in the pillared
dining-room, filled with smartly dressed men and women; he evaded his
bedroom, with its brocaded satin chairs and its gilt bedstead, and fled to
his modest lodgings at the Good Cheer House, and appeased his hunger at
its cheap restaurant, in the company of retired miners and freshly arrived
Eastern emigrants. Two or three days passed thus in this quaint double
existence. Three or four times a day he would enter the gorgeous Oriental
with affected ease and carelessness, demand his key from the hotel-clerk,
ask for the letter that did not come, go to his room, gaze vaguely from
his window on the passing crowd below for the partner he could not find,
and then return to the Good Cheer House for rest and sustenance. On the
fourth day he received a short note from Uncle Jim; it was couched in his
usual sanguine but brief and businesslike style. He was very sorry, but
important and profitable business took him out of town, but he trusted to
return soon and welcome his old partner. He was also, for the first time,
jocose, and hoped that Uncle Billy would not "see all the sights" before
he, Uncle Jim, returned. Disappointing as this procrastination was to
Uncle Billy, a gleam of hope irradiated it: the letter had bridged over
that gulf which seemed to yawn between them at the post-office. His old
partner had accepted his visit to San Francisco without question, and had
alluded to a renewal of their old intimacy. For Uncle Billy, with all his
trustful simplicity, had been tortured by two harrowing doubts: one,
whether Uncle Jim in his new-fledged smartness as a "city" man—such
as he saw in the streets—would care for his rough companionship; the
other, whether he, Uncle Billy, ought not to tell him at once of his
changed fortune. But, like all weak, unreasoning men, he clung desperately
to a detail—he could not forego his old idea of astounding Uncle Jim
by giving him his share of the "strike" as his first intimation of it, and
he doubted, with more reason perhaps, if Jim would see him after he had
heard of his good fortune. For Uncle Billy had still a frightened
recollection of Uncle Jim's sudden stroke for independence, and that rigid
punctiliousness which had made him doggedly accept the responsibility of
his extravagant stake at euchre.
With a view of educating himself for Uncle Jim's company, he "saw the
sights" of San Francisco—as an overgrown and somewhat stupid child
might have seen them—with great curiosity, but little contamination
or corruption. But I think he was chiefly pleased with watching the
arrival of the Sacramento and Stockton steamers at the wharves, in the
hope of discovering his old partner among the passengers on the
gang-plank. Here, with his old superstitious tendency and gambler's
instinct, he would augur great success in his search that day if any one
of the passengers bore the least resemblance to Uncle Jim, if a man or
woman stepped off first, or if he met a single person's questioning eye.
Indeed, this got to be the real occupation of the day, which he would on
no account have omitted, and to a certain extent revived each day in his
mind the morning's work of their old partnership. He would say to himself,
"It's time to go and look up Jim," and put off what he was pleased to
think were his pleasures until this act of duty was accomplished.
In this singleness of purpose he made very few and no entangling
acquaintances, nor did he impart to any one the secret of his fortune,
loyally reserving it for his partner's first knowledge. To a man of his
natural frankness and simplicity this was a great trial, and was, perhaps,
a crucial test of his devotion. When he gave up his rooms at the Oriental—as
not necessary after his partner's absence—he sent a letter, with his
humble address, to the mysterious lock-box of his partner without fear or
false shame. He would explain it all when they met. But he sometimes
treated unlucky and returning miners to a dinner and a visit to the
gallery of some theatre. Yet while he had an active sympathy with and
understanding of the humblest, Uncle Billy, who for many years had done
his own and his partner's washing, scrubbing, mending, and cooking, and
saw no degradation in it, was somewhat inconsistently irritated by menial
functions in men, and although he gave extravagantly to waiters, and threw
a dollar to the crossing-sweeper, there was always a certain shy avoidance
of them in his manner. Coming from the theatre one night Uncle Billy was,
however, seriously concerned by one of these crossing-sweepers turning
hastily before them and being knocked down by a passing carriage. The man
rose and limped hurriedly away; but Uncle Billy was amazed and still more
irritated to hear from his companion that this kind of menial occupation
was often profitable, and that at some of the principal crossings the
sweepers were already rich men.
But a few days later brought a more notable event to Uncle Billy. One
afternoon in Montgomery Street he recognized in one of its smartly dressed
frequenters a man who had a few years before been a member of Cedar Camp.
Uncle Billy's childish delight at this meeting, which seemed to bridge
over his old partner's absence, was, however, only half responded to by
the ex-miner, and then somewhat satirically. In the fullness of his
emotion, Uncle Billy confided to him that he was seeking his old partner,
Jim Foster, and, reticent of his own good fortune, spoke glowingly of his
partner's brilliant expectations, but deplored his inability to find him.
And just now he was away on important business. "I reckon he's got back,"
said the man dryly. "I didn't know he had a lock-box at the post-office,
but I can give you his other address. He lives at the Presidio, at
Washerwoman's Bay." He stopped and looked with a satirical smile at Uncle
Billy. But the latter, familiar with Californian mining-camp nomenclature,
saw nothing strange in it, and merely repeated his companion's words.
"You'll find him there! Good-by! So long! Sorry I'm in a hurry," said the
ex-miner, and hurried away.
Uncle Billy was too delighted with the prospect of a speedy meeting with
Uncle Jim to resent his former associate's supercilious haste, or even to
wonder why Uncle Jim had not informed him that he had returned. It was not
the first time that he had felt how wide was the gulf between himself and
these others, and the thought drew him closer to his old partner, as well
as his old idea, as it was now possible to surprise him with the draft.
But as he was going to surprise him in his own boarding-house—probably
a handsome one—Uncle Billy reflected that he would do so in a
He accordingly went to a livery stable and ordered a landau and pair, with
a negro coachman. Seated in it, in his best and most ill-fitting clothes,
he asked the coachman to take him to the Presidio, and leaned back in the
cushions as they drove through the streets with such an expression of
beaming gratification on his good-humored face that the passers-by smiled
at the equipage and its extravagant occupant. To them it seemed the not
unusual sight of the successful miner "on a spree." To the unsophisticated
Uncle Billy their smiling seemed only a natural and kindly recognition of
his happiness, and he nodded and smiled back to them with unsuspecting
candor and innocent playfulness. "These yer 'Frisco fellers ain't ALL
slouches, you bet," he added to himself half aloud, at the back of the
Their way led through well-built streets to the outskirts, or rather to
that portion of the city which seemed to have been overwhelmed by shifting
sand-dunes, from which half-submerged fences and even low houses barely
marked the line of highway. The resistless trade-winds which had marked
this change blew keenly in his face and slightly chilled his ardor. At a
turn in the road the sea came in sight, and sloping towards it the great
Cemetery of Lone Mountain, with white shafts and marbles that glittered in
the sunlight like the sails of ships waiting to be launched down that
slope into the Eternal Ocean. Uncle Billy shuddered. What if it had been
his fate to seek Uncle Jim there!
"Dar's yar Presidio!" said the negro coachman a few moments later,
pointing with his whip, "and dar's yar Wash'woman's Bay!"
Uncle Billy stared. A huge quadrangular fort of stone with a flag flying
above its battlements stood at a little distance, pressed against the
rocks, as if beating back the encroaching surges; between him and the fort
but farther inland was a lagoon with a number of dilapidated, rudely
patched cabins or cottages, like stranded driftwood around its shore. But
there was no mansion, no block of houses, no street, not another
habitation or dwelling to be seen!
Uncle Billy's first shock of astonishment was succeeded by a feeling of
relief. He had secretly dreaded a meeting with his old partner in the
"haunts of fashion;" whatever was the cause that made Uncle Jim seek this
obscure retirement affected him but slightly; he even was thrilled with a
vague memory of the old shiftless camp they had both abandoned. A certain
instinct—he knew not why, or less still that it might be one of
delicacy—made him alight before they reached the first house.
Bidding the carriage wait, Uncle Billy entered, and was informed by a
blowzy Irish laundress at a tub that Jim Foster, or "Arkansaw Jim," lived
at the fourth shanty "beyant." He was at home, for "he'd shprained his
fut." Uncle Billy hurried on, stopped before the door of a shanty scarcely
less rude than their old cabin, and half timidly pushed it open. A
growling voice from within, a figure that rose hurriedly, leaning on a
stick, with an attempt to fly, but in the same moment sank back in a chair
with an hysterical laugh—and Uncle Billy stood in the presence of
his old partner! But as Uncle Billy darted forward, Uncle Jim rose again,
and this time with outstretched hands. Uncle Billy caught them, and in one
supreme pressure seemed to pour out and transfuse his whole simple soul
into his partner's. There they swayed each other backwards and forwards
and sideways by their still clasped hands, until Uncle Billy, with a
glance at Uncle Jim's bandaged ankle, shoved him by sheer force down into
Uncle Jim was first to speak. "Caught, b' gosh! I mighter known you'd be
as big a fool as me! Look you, Billy Fall, do you know what you've done?
You've druv me out er the streets whar I was makin' an honest livin', by
day, on three crossin's! Yes," he laughed forgivingly, "you druv me out er
it, by day, jest because I reckoned that some time I might run into your
darned fool face,"—another laugh and a grasp of the hand,—"and
then, b'gosh! not content with ruinin' my business BY DAY, when I took to
it at night, YOU took to goin' out at nights too, and so put a stopper on
me there! Shall I tell you what else you did? Well, by the holy poker! I
owe this sprained foot to your darned foolishness and my own, for it was
getting away from YOU one night after the theatre that I got run into and
"Ye see," he went on, unconscious of Uncle Billy's paling face, and with a
naivete, though perhaps not a delicacy, equal to Uncle Billy's own, "I had
to play roots on you with that lock-box business and these letters,
because I did not want you to know what I was up to, for you mightn't like
it, and might think it was lowerin' to the old firm, don't yer see? I
wouldn't hev gone into it, but I was played out, and I don't mind tellin'
you NOW, old man, that when I wrote you that first chipper letter from the
lock-box I hedn't eat anythin' for two days. But it's all right NOW," with
a laugh. "Then I got into this business—thinkin' it nothin'—jest
the very last thing—and do you know, old pard, I couldn't tell
anybody but YOU—and, in fact, I kept it jest to tell you—I've
made nine hundred and fifty-six dollars! Yes, sir, NINE HUNDRED AND
FIFTY-SIX DOLLARS! solid money, in Adams and Co.'s Bank, just out er my
"Wot trade?" asked Uncle Billy.
Uncle Jim pointed to the corner, where stood a large, heavy
crossing-sweeper's broom. "That trade."
"Certingly," said Uncle Billy, with a quick laugh.
"It's an outdoor trade," said Uncle Jim gravely, but with no suggestion of
awkwardness or apology in his manner; "and thar ain't much difference
between sweepin' a crossin' with a broom and raking over tailing with a
rake, ONLY—WOT YE GET with a broom YOU HAVE HANDED TO YE, and ye
don't have to PICK IT UP AND FISH IT OUT ER the wet rocks and
sluice-gushin'; and it's a heap less tiring to the back."
"Certingly, you bet!" said Uncle Billy enthusiastically, yet with a
certain nervous abstraction.
"I'm glad ye say so; for yer see I didn't know at first how you'd tumble
to my doing it, until I'd made my pile. And ef I hadn't made it, I
wouldn't hev set eyes on ye agin, old pard—never!"
"Do you mind my runnin' out a minit," said Uncle Billy, rising. "You see,
I've got a friend waitin' for me outside—and I reckon"—he
stammered—"I'll jest run out and send him off, so I kin talk
comf'ble to ye."
"Ye ain't got anybody you're owin' money to," said Uncle Jim earnestly,
"anybody follerin' you to get paid, eh? For I kin jest set down right here
and write ye off a check on the bank!"
"No," said Uncle Billy. He slipped out of the door, and ran like a deer to
the waiting carriage. Thrusting a twenty-dollar gold-piece into the
coachman's hand, he said hoarsely, "I ain't wantin' that kerridge just
now; ye ken drive around and hev a private jamboree all by yourself the
rest of the afternoon, and then come and wait for me at the top o' the
Thus quit of his gorgeous equipage, he hurried back to Uncle Jim, grasping
his ten-thousand dollar draft in his pocket. He was nervous, he was
frightened, but he must get rid of the draft and his story, and have it
over. But before he could speak he was unexpectedly stopped by Uncle Jim.
"Now, look yer, Billy boy!" said Uncle Jim; "I got suthin' to say to ye—and
I might as well clear it off my mind at once, and then we can start fair
agin. Now," he went on, with a half laugh, "wasn't it enough for ME to go
on pretendin' I was rich and doing a big business, and gettin' up that
lock-box dodge so as ye couldn't find out whar I hung out and what I was
doin'—wasn't it enough for ME to go on with all this play-actin',
but YOU, you long-legged or nary cuss! must get up and go to lyin' and
"ME play-actin'? ME lyin'?" gasped Uncle Billy.
Uncle Jim leaned back in his chair and laughed. "Do you think you could
fool ME? Do you think I didn't see through your little game o' going to
that swell Oriental, jest as if ye'd made a big strike—and all the
while ye wasn't sleepin' or eatin' there, but jest wrastlin' yer hash and
having a roll down at the Good Cheer! Do you think I didn't spy on ye and
find that out? Oh, you long-eared jackass-rabbit!"
He laughed until the tears came into his eyes, and Uncle Billy laughed
too, albeit until the laugh on his face became quite fixed, and he was
fain to bury his head in his handkerchief.
"And yet," said Uncle Jim, with a deep breath, "gosh! I was frighted—jest
for a minit! I thought, mebbe, you HAD made a big strike—when I got
your first letter—and I made up my mind what I'd do! And then I
remembered you was jest that kind of an open sluice that couldn't keep
anythin' to yourself, and you'd have been sure to have yelled it out to ME
the first thing. So I waited. And I found you out, you old sinner!" He
reached forward and dug Uncle Billy in the ribs.
"What WOULD you hev done?" said Uncle Billy, after an hysterical collapse.
Uncle Jim's face grew grave again. "I'd hev—I'd—hev cl'ared
out! Out er 'Frisco! out er Californy! out er Ameriky! I couldn't have
stud it! Don't think I would hev begrudged ye yer luck! No man would have
been gladder than me." He leaned forward again, and laid his hand
caressingly upon his partner's arm—"Don't think I'd hev wanted to
take a penny of it—but I—thar! I COULDN'T hev stood up under
it! To hev had YOU, you that I left behind, comin' down here rollin' in
wealth and new partners and friends, and arrive upon me—and this
shanty—and"—he threw towards the corner of the room a terrible
gesture, none the less terrible that it was illogical and inconsequent to
all that had gone before—"and—and—THAT BROOM!"
There was a dead silence in the room. With it Uncle Billy seemed to feel
himself again transported to the homely cabin at Cedar Camp and that
fateful night, with his partner's strange, determined face before him as
then. He even fancied that he heard the roaring of the pines without, and
did not know that it was the distant sea.
But after a minute Uncle Jim resumed:—
"Of course you've made a little raise somehow, or you wouldn't be here?"
"Yes," said Uncle Billy eagerly. "Yes! I've got"—He stopped and
stammered. "I've got—a—few hundreds."
"Oh, oh!" said Uncle Jim cheerfully. He paused, and then added earnestly,
"I say! You ain't got left, over and above your d—d foolishness at
the Oriental, as much as five hundred dollars?"
"I've got," said Uncle Billy, blushing a little over his first deliberate
and affected lie, "I've got at least five hundred and seventy-two dollars.
Yes," he added tentatively, gazing anxiously at his partner, "I've got at
"Je whillikins!" said Uncle Jim, with a laugh. Then eagerly, "Look here,
pard! Then we're on velvet! I've got NINE hundred; put your FIVE with
that, and I know a little ranch that we can get for twelve hundred. That's
what I've been savin' up for—that's my little game! No more minin'
for ME. It's got a shanty twice as big as our old cabin, nigh on a hundred
acres, and two mustangs. We can run it with two Chinamen and jest make it
howl! Wot yer say—eh?" He extended his hand.
"I'm in," said Uncle Billy, radiantly grasping Uncle Jim's. But his smile
faded, and his clear simple brow wrinkled in two lines.
Happily Uncle Jim did not notice it. "Now, then, old pard," he said
brightly, "we'll have a gay old time to-night—one of our jamborees!
I've got some whiskey here and a deck o' cards, and we'll have a little
game, you understand, but not for 'keeps' now! No, siree; we'll play for
A sudden light illuminated Uncle Billy's face again, but he said, with a
grim desperation, "Not to-night! I've got to go into town. That fren' o'
mine expects me to go to the theayter, don't ye see? But I'll be out
to-morrow at sun-up, and we'll fix up this thing o' the ranch."
"Seems to me you're kinder stuck on this fren'," grunted Uncle Jim.
Uncle Billy's heart bounded at his partner's jealousy. "No—but I
MUST, you know," he returned, with a faint laugh.
"I say—it ain't a HER, is it?" said Uncle Jim.
Uncle Billy achieved a diabolical wink and a creditable blush at his lie.
And under cover of this festive gallantry Uncle Billy escaped. He ran
through the gathering darkness, and toiled up the shifting sands to the
top of the hill, where he found the carriage waiting.
"Wot," said Uncle Billy in a low confidential tone to the coachman, "wot
do you 'Frisco fellers allow to be the best, biggest, and riskiest
gamblin'-saloon here? Suthin' high-toned, you know?"
The negro grinned. It was the usual case of the extravagant spendthrift
miner, though perhaps he had expected a different question and order.
"Dey is de 'Polka,' de 'El Dorado,' and de 'Arcade' saloon, boss," he
said, flicking his whip meditatively. "Most gents from de mines prefer de
'Polka,' for dey is dancing wid de gals frown in. But de real prima facie
place for gents who go for buckin' agin de tiger and straight-out gamblin'
is de 'Arcade.'"
"Drive there like thunder!" said Uncle Billy, leaping into the carriage.
True to his word, Uncle Billy was at his partner's shanty early the next
morning. He looked a little tired, but happy, and had brought a draft with
him for five hundred and seventy-five dollars, which he explained was the
total of his capital. Uncle Jim was overjoyed. They would start for Napa
that very day, and conclude the purchase of the ranch; Uncle Jim's
sprained foot was a sufficient reason for his giving up his present
vocation, which he could also sell at a small profit. His domestic
arrangements were very simple; there was nothing to take with him—there
was everything to leave behind. And that afternoon, at sunset, the two
reunited partners were seated on the deck of the Napa boat as she swung
into the stream.
Uncle Billy was gazing over the railing with a look of abstracted relief
towards the Golden Gate, where the sinking sun seemed to be drawing
towards him in the ocean a golden stream that was forever pouring from the
Bay and the three-hilled city beside it. What Uncle Billy was thinking of,
or what the picture suggested to him, did not transpire; for Uncle Jim,
who, emboldened by his holiday, was luxuriating in an evening paper,
suddenly uttered a long-drawn whistle, and moved closer to his abstracted
partner. "Look yer," he said, pointing to a paragraph he had evidently
just read, "just you listen to this, and see if we ain't lucky, you and
me, to be jest wot we air—trustin' to our own hard work—and
not thinkin' o' 'strikes' and 'fortins.' Jest unbutton yer ears, Billy,
while I reel off this yer thing I've jest struck in the paper, and see
what d—d fools some men kin make o' themselves. And that theer
reporter wot wrote it—must hev seed it reely!"
Uncle Jim cleared his throat, and holding the paper close to his eyes read
"'A scene of excitement that recalled the palmy days of '49 was witnessed
last night at the Arcade Saloon. A stranger, who might have belonged to
that reckless epoch, and who bore every evidence of being a successful
Pike County miner out on a "spree," appeared at one of the tables with a
negro coachman bearing two heavy bags of gold. Selecting a faro-bank as
his base of operations, he began to bet heavily and with apparent
recklessness, until his play excited the breathless attention of every
one. In a few moments he had won a sum variously estimated at from eighty
to a hundred thousand dollars. A rumor went round the room that it was a
concerted attempt to "break the bank" rather than the drunken freak of a
Western miner, dazzled by some successful strike. To this theory the man's
careless and indifferent bearing towards his extraordinary gains lent
great credence. The attempt, if such it was, however, was unsuccessful.
After winning ten times in succession the luck turned, and the unfortunate
"bucker" was cleared out not only of his gains, but of his original
investment, which may be placed roughly at twenty thousand dollars. This
extraordinary play was witnessed by a crowd of excited players, who were
less impressed by even the magnitude of the stakes than the perfect
sang-froid and recklessness of the player, who, it is said, at the close
of the game tossed a twenty-dollar gold-piece to the banker and smilingly
withdrew. The man was not recognized by any of the habitues of the place.'
"There!" said Uncle Jim, as he hurriedly slurred over the French
substantive at the close, "did ye ever see such God-forsaken foolishness?"
Uncle Billy lifted his abstracted eyes from the current, still pouring its
unreturning gold into the sinking sun, and said, with a deprecatory smile,
Nor even in the days of prosperity that visited the Great Wheat Ranch of
"Fall and Foster" did he ever tell his secret to his partner.
I don't suppose that his progenitors ever gave him that name, or, indeed,
that it was a NAME at all; but it was currently believed that—as
pronounced "See UP"—it meant that lifting of the outer angle of the
eye common to the Mongolian. On the other hand, I had been told that there
was an old Chinese custom of affixing some motto or legend, or even a
sentence from Confucius, as a sign above their shops, and that two or more
words, which might be merely equivalent to "Virtue is its own reward," or
"Riches are deceitful," were believed by the simple Californian miner to
be the name of the occupant himself. Howbeit, "See Yup" accepted it with
the smiling patience of his race, and never went by any other. If one of
the tunnelmen always addressed him as "Brigadier-General," "Judge," or
"Commodore," it was understood to be only the American fondness for ironic
title, and was never used except in personal conversation. In appearance
he looked like any other Chinaman, wore the ordinary blue cotton blouse
and white drawers of the Sampan coolie, and, in spite of the apparent
cleanliness and freshness of these garments, always exhaled that singular
medicated odor—half opium, half ginger—which we recognized as
the common "Chinese smell."
Our first interview was characteristic of his patient quality. He had done
my washing for several months, but I had never yet seen him. A meeting at
last had become necessary to correct his impressions regarding "buttons"—which
he had seemed to consider as mere excrescences, to be removed like
superfluous dirt from soiled linen. I had expected him to call at my
lodgings, but he had not yet made his appearance. One day, during the
noontide recess of the little frontier school over which I presided, I
returned rather early. Two or three of the smaller boys, who were
loitering about the school-yard, disappeared with a certain guilty
precipitation that I suspected for the moment, but which I presently
dismissed from my mind. I passed through the empty school-room to my desk,
sat down, and began to prepare the coming lessons. Presently I heard a
faint sigh. Looking up, to my intense concern, I discovered a solitary
Chinaman whom I had overlooked, sitting in a rigid attitude on a bench
with his back to the window. He caught my eye and smiled sadly, but
"What are you doing here?" I asked sternly.
"Me washee shilts; me talkee 'buttons.'"
"Oh! you're See Yup, are you?"
"Allee same, John."
"Well, come here."
I continued my work, but he did not move.
"Come here, hang it! Don't you understand?"
"Me shabbee, 'comme yea.' But me no shabbee Mellican boy, who catchee me,
allee same. YOU 'comme yea'—YOU shabbee?"
Indignant, but believing that the unfortunate man was still in fear of
persecution from the mischievous urchins whom I had evidently just
interrupted, I put down my pen and went over to him. Here I discovered, to
my surprise and mortification, that his long pigtail was held hard and
fast by the closed window behind him which the young rascals had shut down
upon it, after having first noiselessly fished it outside with a hook and
line. I apologized, opened the window, and released him. He did not
complain, although he must have been fixed in that uncomfortable position
for some minutes, but plunged at once into the business that brought him
"But WHY didn't you come to my lodgings?" I asked.
He smiled sadly but intelligently.
"Mishtel Bally [Mr. Barry, my landlord] he owce me five dollee fo washee,
washee. He no payee me. He say he knock hellee outee me allee time I come
for payee. So me no come HOUSEE, me come SCHOOLEE, Shabbee? Mellican boy
no good, but not so big as Mellican man. No can hurtee Chinaman so much.
Alas! I knew that this was mainly true. Mr. James Barry was an Irishman,
whose finer religious feelings revolted against paying money to a heathen.
I could not find it in my heart to say anything to See Yup about the
buttons; indeed, I spoke in complimentary terms about the gloss of my
shirts, and I think I meekly begged him to come again for my washing. When
I went home I expostulated with Mr. Barry, but succeeded only in
extracting from him the conviction that I was one of "thim black
Republican fellys that worshiped naygurs." I had simply made an enemy of
him. But I did not know that, at the same time, I had made a friend of See
I became aware of this a few days later, by the appearance on my desk of a
small pot containing a specimen of camellia japonica in flower. I knew the
school-children were in the habit of making presents to me in this furtive
fashion,—leaving their own nosegays of wild flowers, or perhaps a
cluster of roses from their parents' gardens,—but I also knew that
this exotic was too rare to come from them. I remembered that See Yup had
a Chinese taste for gardening, and a friend, another Chinaman, who kept a
large nursery in the adjoining town. But my doubts were set at rest by the
discovery of a small roll of red rice-paper containing my washing-bill,
fastened to the camellia stalk. It was plain that this mingling of
business and delicate gratitude was clearly See Yup's own idea. As the
finest flower was the topmost one, I plucked it for wearing, when I found,
to my astonishment, that it was simply wired to the stalk. This led me to
look at the others, which I found also wired! More than that, they seemed
to be an inferior flower, and exhaled that cold, earthy odor peculiar to
the camellia, even, as I thought, to an excess. A closer examination
resulted in the discovery that, with the exception of the first flower I
had plucked, they were one and all ingeniously constructed of thin slices
of potato, marvelously cut to imitate the vegetable waxiness and formality
of the real flower. The work showed an infinite and almost pathetic
patience in detail, yet strangely incommensurate with the result,
admirable as it was. Nevertheless, this was also like See Yup. But whether
he had tried to deceive me, or whether he only wished me to admire his
skill, I could not say. And as his persecution by my scholars had left a
balance of consideration in his favor, I sent him a warm note of thanks,
and said nothing of my discovery.
As our acquaintance progressed, I became frequently the recipient of other
small presents from him: a pot of preserves of a quality I could not
purchase in shops, and whose contents in their crafty, gingery
dissimulation so defied definition that I never knew whether they were
animal, vegetable, or mineral; two or three hideous Chinese idols, "for
luckee," and a diabolical fire-work with an irregular spasmodic activity
that would sometimes be prolonged until the next morning. In return, I
gave him some apparently hopeless oral lessons in English, and certain
sentences to be copied, which he did with marvelous precision. I remember
one instance when this peculiar faculty of imitation was disastrous in
result. In setting him a copy, I had blurred a word which I promptly
erased, and then traced the letters more distinctly over the scratched
surface. To my surprise, See Yup triumphantly produced HIS copy with the
erasion itself carefully imitated, and, in fact, much more neatly done
In our confidential intercourse, I never seemed to really get nearer to
him. His sympathy and simplicity appeared like his flowers—to be a
good-humored imitation of my own. I am satisfied that his particularly
soulless laugh was not derived from any amusement he actually felt, yet I
could not say it was forced. In his accurate imitations, I fancied he was
only trying to evade any responsibility of his own. THAT devolved upon his
taskmaster! In the attention he displayed when new ideas were presented to
him, there was a slight condescension, as if he were looking down upon
them from his three thousand years of history.
"Don't you think the electric telegraph wonderful?" I asked one day.
"Very good for Mellican man," he said, with his aimless laugh; "plenty
makee him jump!"
I never could tell whether he had confounded it with electro-galvanism, or
was only satirizing our American haste and feverishness. He was capable of
either. For that matter, we knew that the Chinese themselves possessed
some means of secretly and quickly communicating with one another. Any
news of good or ill import to their race was quickly disseminated through
the settlement before WE knew anything about it. An innocent basket of
clothes from the wash, sent up from the river-bank, became in some way a
library of information; a single slip of rice-paper, aimlessly fluttering
in the dust of the road, had the mysterious effect of diverging a whole
gang of coolie tramps away from our settlement.
When See Yup was not subject to the persecutions of the more ignorant and
brutal he was always a source of amusement to all, and I cannot recall an
instance when he was ever taken seriously. The miners found diversions
even in his alleged frauds and trickeries, whether innocent or
retaliatory, and were fond of relating with great gusto his evasion of the
Foreign Miners' Tax. This was an oppressive measure aimed principally at
the Chinese, who humbly worked the worn-out "tailings" of their Christian
fellow miners. It was stated that See Yup, knowing the difficulty—already
alluded to—of identifying any particular Chinaman by NAME, conceived
the additional idea of confusing recognition by intensifying the
monotonous facial expression. Having paid his tax himself to the
collector, he at once passed the receipt to his fellows, so that the
collector found himself confronted in different parts of the settlement
with the receipt and the aimless laugh of, apparently, See Yup himself.
Although we all knew that there were a dozen Chinamen or more at work at
the mines, the collector never was able to collect the tax from more than
TWO,—See Yup and one See Yin,—and so great was THEIR facial
resemblance that the unfortunate official for a long time hugged himself
with the conviction that he had made See Yup PAY TWICE, and withheld the
money from the government! It is very probable that the Californian's
recognition of the sanctity of a joke, and his belief that "cheating the
government was only cheating himself," largely accounted for the
sympathies of the rest of the miners.
But these sympathies were not always unanimous.
One evening I strolled into the bar-room of the principal saloon, which,
so far as mere upholstery and comfort went, was also the principal house
in the settlement. The first rains had commenced; the windows were open,
for the influence of the southwest trades penetrated even this far-off
mountain mining settlement, but, oddly enough, there was a fire in the
large central stove, around which the miners had collected, with their
steaming boots elevated on a projecting iron railing that encircled it.
They were not attracted by the warmth, but the stove formed a social pivot
for gossip, and suggested that mystic circle dear to the gregarious
instinct. Yet they were decidedly a despondent group. For some moments the
silence was only broken by a gasp, a sigh, a muttered oath, or an
impatient change of position. There was nothing in the fortunes of the
settlement, nor in their own individual affairs to suggest this gloom. The
singular truth was that they were, one and all, suffering from the pangs
Incongruous as such a complaint might seem to their healthy environment,—their
outdoor life, their daily exercise, the healing balsam of the mountain
air, their enforced temperance in diet, and the absence of all enervating
pleasures,—it was nevertheless the incontestable fact. Whether it
was the result of the nervous, excitable temperament which had brought
them together in this feverish hunt for gold; whether it was the quality
of the tinned meats or half-cooked provisions they hastily bolted,
begrudging the time it took to prepare and to consume them; whether they
too often supplanted their meals by tobacco or whiskey, the singular
physiological truth remained that these young, finely selected
adventurers, living the lives of the natural, aboriginal man, and looking
the picture of health and strength, actually suffered more from
indigestion than the pampered dwellers of the cities. The quantity of
"patent medicines," "bitters," "pills," "panaceas," and "lozenges" sold in
the settlement almost exceeded the amount of the regular provisions whose
effects they were supposed to correct. The sufferers eagerly scanned
advertisements and placards. There were occasional "runs" on new
"specifics," and general conversation eventually turned into a discussion
of their respective merits. A certain childlike faith and trust in each
new remedy was not the least distressing and pathetic of the symptoms of
these grown-up, bearded men.
"Well, gentlemen," said Cyrus Parker, glancing around at his fellow
sufferers, "ye kin talk of your patent medicines, and I've tackled 'em
all, but only the other day I struck suthin' that I'm goin' to hang on to,
Every eye was turned moodily to the speaker, but no one said anything.
"And I didn't get it outer advertisements, nor off of circulars. I got it
outer my head, just by solid thinking," continued Parker.
"What was it, Cy?" said one unsophisticated and inexperienced sufferer.
Instead of replying, Parker, like a true artist, knowing he had the ear of
his audience, dramatically flashed a question upon them.
"Did you ever hear of a Chinaman having dyspepsy?"
"Never heard he had sabe enough to hev ANYTHING," said a scorner.
"No, but DID ye?" insisted Parker.
"Well, no!" chorused the group. They were evidently struck with the fact.
"Of course you didn't," said Parker triumphantly. "'Cos they AIN'T. Well,
gentlemen, it didn't seem to me the square thing that a pesky lot o'
yellow-skinned heathens should be built different to a white man, and
never know the tortur' that a Christian feels; and one day, arter dinner,
when I was just a-lyin' flat down on the bank, squirmin', and clutching
the short grass to keep from yellin', who should go by but that pizened
See Yup, with a grin on his face.
"'Mellican man plenty playee to him Joss after eatin',' sez he; 'but
Chinaman smellee punk, allee same, and no hab got.'
"I knew the slimy cuss was just purtendin' he thought I was prayin' to my
Joss, but I was that weak I hadn't stren'th, boys, to heave a rock at him.
Yet it gave me an idea."
"What was it?" they asked eagerly.
"I went down to his shop the next day, when he was alone, and I was
feeling mighty bad, and I got hold of his pigtail and I allowed I'd stuff
it down his throat if he didn't tell me what he meant. Then he took a
piece of punk and lit it, and put it under my nose, and, darn my skin,
gentlemen, you migh'n't believe me, but in a minute I felt better, and
after a whiff or two I was all right."
"Was it pow'ful strong, Cy?" asked the inexperienced one.
"No," said Parker, "and that's just what's got me. It was a sort o'
dreamy, spicy smell, like a hot night. But as I couldn't go 'round 'mong
you boys with a lighted piece o' punk in my hand, ez if I was settin' off
Fourth of July firecrackers, I asked him if he couldn't fix me up suthin'
in another shape that would be handier to use when I was took bad, and I'd
reckon to pay him for it like ez I'd pay for any other patent medicine. So
he fixed me up this."
He put his hand in his pocket, and drew out a small red paper which, when
opened, disclosed a pink powder. It was gravely passed around the group.
"Why, it smells and tastes like ginger," said one.
"It is only ginger!" said another scornfully.
"Mebbe it is, and mebbe it isn't," returned Cy Parker stoutly. "Mebbe ut's
only my fancy. But if it's the sort o' stuff to bring on that fancy, and
that fancy CURES me, it's all the same. I've got about two dollars' worth
o' that fancy or that ginger, and I'm going to stick to it. You hear me!"
And he carefully put it back in his pocket.
At which criticisms and gibes broke forth. If he (Cy Parker), a white man,
was going to "demean himself" by consulting a Chinese quack, he'd better
buy up a lot o' idols and stand 'em up around his cabin. If he had that
sort o' confidences with See Yup, he ought to go to work with him on his
cheap tailings, and be fumigated all at the same time. If he'd been
smoking an opium pipe, instead of smelling punk, he ought to be man enough
to confess it. Yet it was noticeable that they were all very anxious to
examine the packet again, but Cy Parker was alike indifferent to demand or
A few days later I saw Abe Wynford, one of the party, coming out of See
Yup's wash-house. He muttered something in passing about the infamous
delay in sending home his washing, but did not linger long in
conversation. The next day I met another miner AT the wash-house, but HE
lingered so long on some trifling details that I finally left him there
alone with See Yup. When I called upon Poker Jack of Shasta, there was a
singular smell of incense in HIS cabin, which he attributed to the very
resinous quality of the fir logs he was burning. I did not attempt to
probe these mysteries by any direct appeal to See Yup himself: I respected
his reticence; indeed, if I had not, I was quite satisfied that he would
have lied to me. Enough that his wash-house was well patronized, and he
was decidedly "getting on."
It might have been a month afterwards that Dr. Duchesne was setting a
broken bone in the settlement, and after the operation was over, had
strolled into the Palmetto Saloon. He was an old army surgeon, much
respected and loved in the district, although perhaps a little feared for
the honest roughness and military precision of his speech. After he had
exchanged salutations with the miners in his usual hearty fashion, and
accepted their invitation to drink, Cy Parker, with a certain affected
carelessness which did not, however, conceal a singular hesitation in his
"I've been wantin' to ask ye a question, Doc,—a sort o' darned fool
question, ye know,—nothing in the way of consultation, don't you
see, though it's kin er in the way o' your purfeshun. Sabe?"
"Go on, Cy," said the doctor good-humoredly, "this is my dispensary hour."
"Oh! it ain't anything about symptoms, Doc, and there ain't anything the
matter with me. It's only just to ask ye if ye happened to know anything
about the medical practice of these yer Chinamen?"
"I don't know," said the doctor bluntly, "and I don't know ANYBODY who
There was a sudden silence in the bar, and the doctor, putting down his
glass, continued with slight professional precision:—
"You see, the Chinese know nothing of anatomy from personal observation.
Autopsies and dissection are against their superstitions, which declare
the human body sacred, and are consequently never practiced."
There was a slight movement of inquiring interest among the party, and Cy
Parker, after a meaning glance at the others, went on half aggressively,
"In course, they ain't surgeons like you, Doc, but that don't keep them
from having their own little medicines, just as dogs eat grass, you know.
Now I want to put it to you, as a fa'r-minded man, if you mean ter say
that, jest because those old women who sarve out yarbs and spring
medicines in families don't know anything of anatomy, they ain't fit to
give us their simple and nat'ral medicines?"
"But the Chinese medicines are not simple or natural," said the doctor
"Not simple?" echoed the party, closing round him.
"I don't mean to say," continued the doctor, glancing around at their
eager, excited faces with an appearance of wonder, "that they are
positively noxious, unless taken in large quantities, for they are not
drugs at all, but I certainly should not call them 'simple.' Do YOU know
what they principally are?"
"Well, no," said Parker cautiously, "perhaps not EXACTLY."
"Come a little closer, and I'll tell you."
Not only Parker's head but the others were bent over the counter. Dr.
Duchesne uttered a few words in a tone inaudible to the rest of the
company. There was a profound silence, broken at last by Abe Wynford's
"Ye kin pour me out about three fingers o' whiskey, Barkeep. I'll take it
"Same to me," said the others.
The men gulped down their liquor; two of them quietly passed out. The
doctor wiped his lips, buttoned his coat, and began to draw on his
"I've heerd," said Poker Jack of Shasta, with a faint smile on his white
face, as he toyed with the last drops of liquor in his glass, "that the
darned fools sometimes smell punk as a medicine, eh?"
"Yes, THAT'S comparatively decent," said the doctor reflectively. "It's
only sawdust mixed with a little gum and formic acid."
"Formic acid? Wot's that?"
"A very peculiar acid secreted by ants. It is supposed to be used by them
offensively in warfare—just as the skunk, eh?"
But Poker Jack of Shasta had hurriedly declared that he wanted to speak to
a man who was passing, and had disappeared. The doctor walked to the door,
mounted his horse, and rode away. I noticed, however, that there was a
slight smile on his bronzed, impassive face. This led me to wonder if he
was entirely ignorant of the purpose for which he had been questioned, and
the effect of his information. I was confirmed in the belief by the
remarkable circumstances that nothing more was said of it; the incident
seemed to have terminated there, and the victims made no attempt to
revenge themselves on See Yup. That they had one and all, secretly and
unknown to one another, patronized him, there was no doubt; but, at the
same time, as they evidently were not sure that Dr. Duchesne had not
hoaxed them in regard to the quality of See Yup's medicines, they knew
that an attack on the unfortunate Chinaman would in either case reveal
their secret and expose them to the ridicule of their brother miners. So
the matter dropped, and See Yup remained master of the situation.
Meantime he was prospering. The coolie gang he worked on the river, when
not engaged in washing clothes, were "picking over" the "tailings," or
refuse of gravel, left on abandoned claims by successful miners. As there
was no more expense attending this than in stone-breaking or rag-picking,
and the feeding of the coolies, which was ridiculously cheap, there was no
doubt that See Yup was reaping a fair weekly return from it; but, as he
sent his receipts to San Francisco through coolie managers, after the
Chinese custom, and did not use the regular Express Company, there was no
way of ascertaining the amount. Again, neither See Yup nor his fellow
countrymen ever appeared to have any money about them. In ruder times and
more reckless camps, raids were often made by ruffians on their cabins or
their traveling gangs, but never with any pecuniary result. This
condition, however, it seemed was destined to change.
One Saturday See Yup walked into Wells, Fargo & Co.'s Express office
with a package of gold-dust, which, when duly weighed, was valued at five
hundred dollars. It was consigned to a Chinese company in San Francisco.
When the clerk handed See Yup a receipt, he remarked casually:—
"Washing seems to pay, See Yup."
"Washee velly good pay. You wantee washee, John?" said See Yup eagerly.
"No, no," said the clerk, with a laugh. "I was only thinking five hundred
dollars would represent the washing of a good many shirts."
"No leplesent washee shirts at all! Catchee gold-dust when washee
The clerk DID "shabbee," and lifted his eyebrows. The next Saturday See
Yup appeared with another package, worth about four hundred dollars,
directed to the same consignee.
"Didn't pan out quite so rich this week, eh?" said the clerk engagingly.
"No," returned See Yup impassively; "next time he payee more."
When the third Saturday came, with the appearance of See Yup and four
hundred and fifty dollars' worth of gold-dust, the clerk felt he was no
longer bound to keep the secret. He communicated it to others, and in
twenty-four hours the whole settlement knew that See Yup's coolie company
were taking out an average of four hundred dollars per week from the
refuse and tailings of the old abandoned Palmetto claim!
The astonishment of the settlement was profound. In earlier days jealousy
and indignation at the success of these degraded heathens might have taken
a more active and aggressive shape, and it would have fared ill with See
Yup and his companions. But the settlement had become more prosperous and
law-abiding; there were one or two Eastern families and some foreign
capital already there, and its jealousy and indignation were restricted to
severe investigation and legal criticism. Fortunately for See Yup, it was
an old-established mining law that an abandoned claim and its tailings
became the property of whoever chose to work it. But it was alleged that
See Yup's company had in reality "struck a lead,"—discovered a
hitherto unknown vein or original deposit of gold, not worked by the
previous company, and having failed legally to declare it by preemption
and public registry, in their foolish desire for secrecy, had thus
forfeited their right to the property. A surveillance of their working,
however, did not establish this theory; the gold that See Yup had sent
away was of the kind that might have been found in the tailings overlooked
by the late Palmetto owners. Yet it was a very large yield for mere
"Them Palmetto boys were mighty keerless after they'd made their big
'strike' and got to work on the vein, and I reckon they threw a lot of
gold away," said Cy Parker, who remembered their large-handed recklessness
in the "flush days." "On'y that WE didn't think it was white man's work to
rake over another man's leavin's, we might hev had what them derned
Chinamen hev dropped into. Tell ye what, boys, we've been a little too
'high and mighty,' and we'll hev to climb down."
At last the excitement reached its climax, and diplomacy was employed to
effect what neither intimidation nor espionage could secure. Under the
pretense of desiring to buy out See Yup's company, a select committee of
the miners was permitted to examine the property and its workings. They
found the great bank of stones and gravel, representing the cast-out
debris of the old claim, occupied by See Yup and four or five plodding
automatic coolies. At the end of two hours the committee returned to the
saloon bursting with excitement. They spoke under their breath, but enough
was gathered to satisfy the curious crowd that See Yup's pile of tailings
was rich beyond their expectations. The committee had seen with their own
eyes gold taken out of the sand and gravel to the amount of twenty dollars
in the two short hours of their examination. And the work had been
performed in the stupidest, clumsiest, yet PATIENT Chinese way. What might
not white men do with better appointed machinery! A syndicate was at once
formed. See Yup was offered twenty thousand dollars if he would sell out
and put the syndicate in possession of the claim in twenty-four hours. The
Chinaman received the offer stolidly. As he seemed inclined to hesitate, I
am grieved to say that it was intimated to him that if he declined he
might be subject to embarrassing and expensive legal proceedings to prove
his property, and that companies would be formed to "prospect" the ground
on either side of his heap of tailings. See Yup at last consented, with
the proviso that the money should be paid in gold into the hands of a
Chinese agent in San Francisco on the day of the delivery of the claim.
The syndicate made no opposition to this characteristic precaution of the
Chinaman. It was like them not to travel with money, and the implied
uncomplimentary suspicion of danger from the community was overlooked. See
Yup departed the day that the syndicate took possession. He came to see me
before he went. I congratulated him upon his good fortune; at the same
time, I was embarrassed by the conviction that he was unfairly forced into
a sale of his property at a figure far below its real value.
I think differently now.
At the end of the week it was said that the new company cleared up about
three hundred dollars. This was not so much as the community had expected,
but the syndicate was apparently satisfied, and the new machinery was put
up. At the end of the next week the syndicate were silent as to their
returns. One of them made a hurried visit to San Francisco. It was said
that he was unable to see either See Yup or the agent to whom the money
was paid. It was also noticed that there was no Chinaman remaining in the
settlement. Then the fatal secret was out.
The heap of tailings had probably never yielded the See Yup company more
than twenty dollars a week, the ordinary wage of such a company. See Yup
had conceived the brilliant idea of "booming" it on a borrowed capital of
five hundred dollars in gold-dust, which he OPENLY transmitted by express
to his confederate and creditor in San Francisco, who in turn SECRETLY
sent it back to See Yup by coolie messengers, to be again openly
transmitted to San Francisco. The package of gold-dust was thus passed
backwards and forwards between debtor and creditor, to the grave
edification of the Express Company and the fatal curiosity of the
settlement. When the syndicate had gorged the bait thus thrown out, See
Yup, on the day the self-invited committee inspected the claim, promptly
"salted" the tailings by CONSCIENTIOUSLY DISTRIBUTING THE GOLD-DUST OVER
IT so deftly that it appeared to be its natural composition and yield.
I have only to bid farewell to See Yup, and close this reminiscence of a
misunderstood man, by adding the opinion of an eminent jurist in San
Francisco, to whom the facts were submitted: "So clever was this alleged
fraud, that it is extremely doubtful if an action would lie against See
Yup in the premises, there being no legal evidence of the 'salting,' and
none whatever of his actual allegation that the gold-dust was the ORDINARY
yield of the tailings, that implication resting entirely with the
committee who examined it under false pretense, and who subsequently
forced the sale by intimidation."
THE DESBOROUGH CONNECTIONS
"Then it isn't a question of property or next of kin?" said the consul.
"Lord! no," said the lady vivaciously. "Why, goodness me! I reckon old
Desborough could, at any time before he died, have 'bought up' or 'bought
out' the whole lot of his relatives on this side of the big pond, no
matter what they were worth. No, it's only a matter of curiosity and just
The American consul at St. Kentigorn felt much relieved. He had feared it
was only the old story of delusive quests for imaginary estates and
impossible inheritances which he had confronted so often in nervous
wan-eyed enthusiasts and obstreperous claimants from his own land.
Certainly there was no suggestion of this in the richly dressed and
be-diamonded matron before him, nor in her pretty daughter, charming in a
Paris frock, alive with the consciousness of beauty and admiration, and
yet a little ennuye from gratified indulgence. He knew the mother to be
the wealthy widow of a New York millionaire, that she was traveling for
pleasure in Europe, and a chance meeting with her at dinner a few nights
before had led to this half-capricious, half-confidential appointment at
"No," continued Mrs. Desborough; "Mr. Desborough came to America, when a
small boy, with an uncle who died some years ago. Mr. Desborough never
seemed to hanker much after his English relatives as long as I knew him,
but now that I and Sadie are over here, why we guessed we might look 'em
up and sort of sample 'em! 'Desborough' 's rather a good name," added the
lady, with a complacency that, however, had a suggestion of query in it.
"Yes," said the consul; "from the French, I fancy."
"Mr. Desborough was English—very English," corrected the lady.
"I mean it may be an old Norman name," said the consul.
"Norman's good enough for ME," said the daughter, reflecting. "We'll just
settle it as Norman. I never thought about that DES."
"Only you may find it called 'Debborough' here, and spelt so," said the
Miss Desborough lifted her pretty shoulders and made a charming grimace.
"Then we won't acknowledge 'em. No Debborough for me!"
"You might put an advertisement in the papers, like the 'next of kin'
notice, intimating, in the regular way, that they would 'hear of something
to their advantage'—as they certainly would," continued the consul,
with a bow. "It would be such a refreshing change to the kind of thing I'm
accustomed to, don't you know—this idea of one of my countrywomen
coming over just to benefit English relatives! By Jove! I wouldn't mind
undertaking the whole thing for you—it's such a novelty." He was
quite carried away with the idea.
But the two ladies were far from participating in this joyous outlook.
"No," said Mrs. Desborough promptly, "that wouldn't do. You see," she went
on with superb frankness, "that would be just giving ourselves away, and
saying who WE were before we found out what THEY were like. Mr. Desborough
was all right in HIS way, but we don't know anything about his FOLKS! We
ain't here on a mission to improve the Desboroughs, nor to gather in any
It was evident that, in spite of the humor of the situation and the levity
of the ladies, there was a characteristic national practicalness about
them, and the consul, with a sigh, at last gave the address of one or two
responsible experts in genealogical inquiry, as he had often done before.
He felt it was impossible to offer any advice to ladies as thoroughly
capable of managing their own affairs as his fair countrywomen, yet he was
not without some curiosity to know the result of their practical
sentimental quest. That he should ever hear of them again he doubted. He
knew that after their first loneliness had worn off in their gregarious
gathering at a London hotel they were not likely to consort with their own
country people, who indeed were apt to fight shy of one another, and even
to indulge in invidious criticism of one another when admitted in that
society to which they were all equally strangers. So he took leave of them
on their way back to London with the belief that their acquaintance
terminated with that brief incident. But he was mistaken.
In the year following he was spending his autumn vacation at a country
house. It was an historic house, and had always struck him as being—even
in that country of historic seats—a singular example of the
vicissitudes of English manorial estates and the mutations of its lords.
His host in his prime had been recalled from foreign service to
unexpectedly succeed to an uncle's title and estate. That estate, however,
had come into the possession of the uncle only through his marriage with
the daughter of an old family whose portraits still looked down from the
walls upon the youngest and alien branch. There were likenesses, effigies,
memorials, and reminiscences of still older families who had occupied it
through forfeiture by war or the favoritism of kings, and in its stately
cloisters and ruined chapel was still felt the dead hand of its evicted
religious founders, which could not be shaken off.
It was this strange individuality that affected all who saw it. For,
however changed were those within its walls, whoever were its inheritors
or inhabiters, Scrooby Priory never changed nor altered its own character.
However incongruous or ill-assorted the portraits that looked from its
walls,—so ill met that they might have flown at one another's
throats in the long nights when the family were away,—the great
house itself was independent of them all. The be-wigged, be-laced, and
be-furbelowed of one day's gathering, the round-headed, steel-fronted, and
prim-kerchiefed congregation of another day, and even the black-coated,
bare-armed, and bare-shouldered assemblage of to-day had no effect on the
austerities of the Priory. Modern houses might show the tastes and
prepossessions of their dwellers, might have caught some passing trick of
the hour, or have recorded the augmented fortunes or luxuriousness of the
owner, but Scrooby Priory never! No one had dared even to disturb its
outer rigid integrity; the breaches of time and siege were left untouched.
It held its calm indifferent sway over all who passed its low-arched
portals, and the consul was fain to believe that he—a foreign
visitor—was no more alien to the house than its present owner.
"I'm expecting a very charming compatriot of yours to-morrow," said Lord
Beverdale as they drove from the station together. "You must tell me what
to show her."
"I should think any countrywoman of mine would be quite satisfied with the
Priory," said the consul, glancing thoughtfully towards the pile dimly
seen through the park.
"I shouldn't like her to be bored here," continued Beverdale. "Algy met
her at Rome, where she was occupying a palace with her mother—they're
very rich, you know. He found she was staying with Lady Minever at Hedham
Towers, and I went over and invited her with a little party. She's a Miss
The consul gave a slight start, and was aware that Beverdale was looking
"Perhaps you know her?" said Beverdale.
"Just enough to agree with you that she is charming," said the consul. "I
dined with them, and saw them at the consulate."
"Oh yes; I always forget you are a consul. Then, of course, you know all
about them. I suppose they're very rich, and in society over there?" said
Beverdale in a voice that was quite animated.
It was on the consul's lips to say that the late Mr. Desborough was an
Englishman, and even to speak playfully of their proposed quest, but a
sudden instinct withheld him. After all, perhaps it was only a caprice, or
idea, they had forgotten,—perhaps, who knows?—that they were
already ashamed of. They had evidently "got on" in English society, if
that was their real intent, and doubtless Miss Desborough, by this time,
was quite as content with the chance of becoming related to the Earl of
Beverdale, through his son and heir, Algernon, as if they had found a real
Lord Desborough among their own relatives. The consul knew that Lord
Beverdale was not a rich man, that like most men of old family he was not
a slave to class prejudice; indeed, the consul had seen very few noblemen
off the stage or out of the pages of a novel who were. So he said, with a
slight affectation of authority, that there was as little doubt of the
young lady's wealth as there was of her personal attractions.
They were nearing the house through a long avenue of chestnuts whose
variegated leaves were already beginning to strew the ground beneath, and
they could see the vista open upon the mullioned windows of the Priory,
lighted up by the yellow October sunshine. In that sunshine stood a tall,
clean-limbed young fellow, dressed in a shooting-suit, whom the consul
recognized at once as Lord Algernon, the son of his companion. As if to
accent the graces of this vision of youth and vigor, near him, in the
shadow, an old man had halted, hat in hand, still holding the rake with
which he had been gathering the dead leaves in the avenue; his back bent,
partly with years, partly with the obeisance of a servitor. There was
something so marked in this contrast, in this old man standing in the
shadow of the fading year, himself as dried and withered as the leaves he
was raking, yet pausing to make his reverence to this passing sunshine of
youth and prosperity in the presence of his coming master, that the
consul, as they swept by, looked after him with a stirring of pain.
"Rather an old man to be still at work," said the consul.
Beverdale laughed. "You must not let him hear you say so; he considers
himself quite as fit as any younger man in the place, and, by Jove! though
he's nearly eighty, I'm inclined to believe it. He's not one of our
people, however; he comes from the village, and is taken on at odd times,
partly to please himself. His great aim is to be independent of his
children,—he has a granddaughter who is one of the maids at the
Priory,—and to keep himself out of the workhouse. He does not come
from these parts—somewhere farther north, I fancy. But he's a tough
lot, and has a deal of work in him yet."
"Seems to be going a bit stale lately," said Lord Algernon, "and I think
is getting a little queer in his head. He has a trick of stopping and
staring straight ahead, at times, when he seems to go off for a minute or
two. There!" continued the young man, with a light laugh. "I say! he's
doing it now!" They both turned quickly and gazed at the bent figure—not
fifty yards away—standing in exactly the same attitude as before.
But, even as they gazed, he slowly lifted his rake and began his
monotonous work again.
At Scrooby Priory, the consul found that the fame of his fair countrywoman
had indeed preceded her, and that the other guests were quite as anxious
to see Miss Desborough as he was. One of them had already met her in
London; another knew her as one of the house party at the Duke of
Northforeland's, where she had been a central figure. Some of her naive
sallies and frank criticisms were repeated with great unction by the
gentlemen, and with some slight trepidation and a "fearful joy" by the
ladies. He was more than ever convinced that mother and daughter had
forgotten their lineal Desboroughs, and he resolved to leave any allusion
to it to the young lady herself.
She, however, availed herself of that privilege the evening after her
arrival. "Who'd have thought of meeting YOU here?" she said, sweeping her
skirts away to make room for him on a sofa. "It's a coon's age since I saw
you—not since you gave us that letter to those genealogical
gentlemen in London."
The consul hoped that it had proved successful.
"Yes, but maw guessed we didn't care to go back to Hengist and Horsa, and
when they let loose a lot of 'Debboroughs' and 'Daybrooks' upon us, maw
kicked! We've got a drawing ten yards long, that looks like a sour apple
tree, with lots of Desboroughs hanging up on the branches like last year's
pippins, and I guess about as worm-eaten. We took that well enough, but
when it came to giving us a map of straight lines and dashes with names
written under them like an old Morse telegraph slip, struck by lightning,
then maw and I guessed that it made us tired.
"You know," she went on, opening her clear gray eyes on the consul, with a
characteristic flash of shrewd good sense through her quaint humor, "we
never reckoned where this thing would land us, and we found we were paying
a hundred pounds, not only for the Desboroughs, but all the people they'd
MARRIED, and their CHILDREN, and children's children, and there were a lot
of outsiders we'd never heard of, nor wanted to hear of. Maw once thought
she'd got on the trail of a Plantagenet, and followed it keen, until she
found she had been reading the dreadful thing upside down. Then we
concluded we wouldn't take any more stock in the family until it had
During this speech the consul could not help noticing that, although her
attitude was playfully confidential to him, her voice really was pitched
high enough to reach the ears of smaller groups around her, who were not
only following her with the intensest admiration, but had shamelessly
abandoned their own conversation, and had even faced towards her. Was she
really posing in her naivete? There was a certain mischievous, even
aggressive, consciousness in her pretty eyelids. Then she suddenly dropped
both eyes and voice, and said to the consul in a genuine aside, "I like
this sort of thing much better."
The consul looked puzzled. "What sort of thing?"
"Why, all these swell people, don't you see? those pictures on the walls!
this elegant room! everything that has come down from the past, all ready
and settled for you, you know—ages ago! Something you haven't to
pick up for yourself and worry over."
But here the consul pointed out that the place itself was not "ancestral"
as regarded the present earl, and that even the original title of his
predecessors had passed away from it. "In fact, it came into the family by
one of those 'outsiders' you deprecate. But I dare say you'd find the
place quite as comfortable with Lord Beverdale for a host as you would if
you had found out he were a cousin," he added.
"Better," said the young lady frankly.
"I suppose your mother participates in these preferences?" said the
consul, with a smile.
"No," said Miss Desborough, with the same frankness, "I think maw's rather
cut up at not finding a Desborough. She was invited down here, but SHE'S
rather independent, you know, so she allowed I could take care of myself,
while she went off to stay with the old Dowager Lady Mistowe, who thinks
maw a very proper womanly person. I made maw mad by telling her that's
just what old Lady Mistowe would say of her cook—for I can't stand
these people's patronage. However, I shouldn't wonder if I was invited
here as a 'most original person.'"
But here Lord Algernon came up to implore her to sing them one of "those
plantation songs;" and Miss Desborough, with scarcely a change of voice or
manner, allowed herself to be led to the piano. The consul had little
chance to speak with her again, but he saw enough that evening to convince
him not only that Lord Algernon was very much in love with her, but that
the fact had been equally and complacently accepted by the family and
guests. That her present visit was only an opportunity for a formal
engagement was clear to every woman in the house—not excepting, I
fear, even the fair subject of gossip herself. Yet she seemed so
unconcerned and self-contained that the consul wondered if she really
cared for Lord Algernon. And having thus wondered, he came to the
conclusion that it didn't much matter, for the happiness of so practically
organized a young lady, if she loved him or not.
It is highly probable that Miss Sadie Desborough had not even gone so far
as to ask herself that question. She awoke the next morning with a sense
of easy victory and calm satisfaction that had, however, none of the
transports of affection. Her taste was satisfied by the love of a handsome
young fellow,—a typical Englishman,—who, if not exactly
original or ideal, was, she felt, of an universally accepted,
"hall-marked" standard, the legitimate outcome of a highly ordered,
carefully guarded civilization, whose repose was the absence of struggle
or ambition; a man whose regular features were not yet differentiated from
the rest of his class by any of those disturbing lines which people call
character. Everything was made ready for her, without care or preparation;
she had not even an ideal to realize or to modify. She could slip without
any jar or dislocation into this life which was just saved from
self-indulgence and sybaritic luxury by certain conventional rules of
activity and the occupation of amusement which, as obligations of her
position, even appeared to suggest the novel aspect of a DUTY! She could
accept all this without the sense of being an intruder in an unbroken
lineage—thanks to the consul's account of the Beverdales'
inheritance. She already pictured herself as the mistress of this fair
domain, the custodian of its treasures and traditions, and the dispenser
of its hospitalities, but—as she conscientiously believed—without
pride or vanity, in her position; only an intense and thoughtful
appreciation of it. Nor did she dream of ever displaying it ostentatiously
before her less fortunate fellow countrywomen; on the contrary, she looked
forward to their possible criticism of her casting off all transatlantic
ties with an uneasy consciousness that was perhaps her nearest approach to
patriotism. Yet, again, she reasoned that, as her father was an
Englishman, she was only returning to her old home. As to her mother, she
had already comforted herself by noticing certain discrepancies in that
lady's temperament, which led her to believe that she herself alone
inherited her father's nature—for her mother was, of course,
distinctly American! So little conscious was she of any possible
snobbishness in this belief, that in her superb naivete she would have
argued the point with the consul, and employed a wit and dialect that were
She had slipped out of the Priory early that morning that she might enjoy
alone, unattended and unciceroned, the aspect of that vast estate which
might be hers for the mere accepting. Perhaps there was some instinct of
delicacy in her avoiding Lord Algernon that morning; not wishing, as she
herself might have frankly put it, "to take stock" of his inheritance in
his presence. As she passed into the garden through the low postern door,
she turned to look along the stretching facade of the main building, with
the high stained windows of its banqueting-hall and the state chamber
where a king had slept. Even in that crisp October air, and with the green
of its ivied battlements against the gold of the distant wood, it seemed
to lie in the languid repose of an eternal summer. She hurried on down the
other terrace into the Italian garden, a quaint survival of past grandeur,
passed the great orangery and numerous conservatories, making a crystal
hamlet in themselves—seeing everywhere the same luxury. But it was a
luxury that she fancied was redeemed from the vulgarity of ostentation by
the long custom of years and generations, so unlike the millionaire
palaces of her own land; and, in her enthusiasm, she even fancied it was
further sanctified by the grim monastic founders who had once been content
with bread and pulse in the crumbling and dismantled refectory. In the
plenitude of her feelings she felt a slight recognition of some beneficent
being who had rolled this golden apple at her feet, and felt as if she
really should like to "do good" in her sphere.
It so chanced that, passing through a small gate in the park, she saw
walking, a little ahead of her, a young girl whom she at once recognized
as a Miss Amelyn, one of the guests of the evening before. Miss Desborough
remembered that she played the accompaniment of one or two songs upon the
piano, and had even executed a long solo during the general conversation,
without attention from the others, and apparently with little irritation
to herself, subsiding afterwards into an armchair, quite on the fringe of
other people's conversation. She had been called "my dear" by one or two
dowagers, and by her Christian name by the earl, and had a way of
impalpably melting out of sight at times. These trifles led Miss
Desborough to conclude that she was some kind of dependent or poor
relation. Here was an opportunity to begin her work of "doing good." She
quickened her pace and overtook Miss Amelyn.
"Let me walk with you," she said graciously.
The young English girl smiled assent, but looked her surprise at seeing
the cynosure of last night's eyes unattended.
"Oh," said Sadie, answering the mute query, "I didn't want to be 'shown
round' by anybody, and I'm not going to bore YOU with asking to see sights
either. We'll just walk together; wherever YOU'RE going is good enough for
"I'm going as far as the village," said Miss Amelyn, looking down
doubtfully at Sadie's smart French shoes—"if you care to walk so
Sadie noticed that her companion was more solidly booted, and that her
straight, short skirts, although less stylish than her own, had a certain
character, better fitted to the freer outdoor life of the country. But she
only said, however, "The village will do," and gayly took her companion's
"But I'm afraid you'll find it very uninteresting, for I am going to visit
some poor cottages," persisted Miss Amelyn, with a certain timid
ingenuousness of manner which, however, was as distinct as Miss
Desborough's bolder frankness. "I promised the rector's daughter to take
her place to-day."
"And I feel as if I was ready to pour oil and wine to any extent," said
Miss Desborough, "so come along!"
Miss Amelyn laughed, and yet glanced around her timidly, as if she thought
that Miss Desborough ought to have a larger and more important audience.
Then she continued more confidentially and boldly, "But it isn't at all
like 'slumming,' you know. These poor people here are not very bad, and
are not at all extraordinary."
"Never mind," said Sadie, hurrying her along. After a pause she went on,
"You know the Priory very well, I guess?"
"I lived there when I was a little girl, with my aunt, the Dowager Lady
Beverdale," said Miss Amelyn. "When my cousin Fred, who was the young
heir, died, and the present Lord Beverdale succeeded,—HE never
expected it, you know, for there were two lives, his two elder brothers,
besides poor Fred's, between, but they both died,—we went to live in
the Dower House."
"The Dower House?" repeated Sadie.
"Yes, Lady Beverdale's separate property."
"But I thought all this property—the Priory—came into the
family through HER."
"It did—this was the Amelyns' place; but the oldest son or nearest
male heir always succeeds to the property and title."
"Do you mean to say that the present Lord Beverdale turned that old lady
Miss Amelyn looked shocked. "I mean to say," she said gravely, "Lady
Beverdale would have had to go when her own son became of age, had he
lived." She paused, and then said timidly, "Isn't it that way in America?"
"Dear no!" Miss Desborough had a faint recollection that there was
something in the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence against
primogeniture. "No! the men haven't it ALL their own way THERE—not
Miss Amelyn looked as if she did not care to discuss this problem. After a
few moments Sadie continued, "You and Lord Algernon are pretty old
friends, I guess?"
"No," replied Miss Amelyn. "He came once or twice to the Priory for the
holidays, when he was quite a boy at Marlborough—for the family
weren't very well off, and his father was in India. He was a very shy boy,
and of course no one ever thought of him succeeding."
Miss Desborough felt half inclined to be pleased with this, and yet half
inclined to resent this possible snubbing of her future husband. But they
were nearing the village, and Miss Amelyn turned the conversation to the
object of her visit. It was a new village—an unhandsome village, for
all that it stood near one of the gates of the park. It had been given
over to some mines that were still worked in its vicinity, and to the
railway, which the uncle of the present earl had resisted; but the railway
had triumphed, and the station for Scrooby Priory was there. There was a
grim church, of a blackened or weather-beaten stone, on the hill, with a
few grim Amelyns reposing cross-legged in the chancel, but the character
of the village was as different from the Priory as if it were in another
county. They stopped at the rectory, where Miss Amelyn provided herself
with certain doles and gifts, which the American girl would have augmented
with a five-pound note but for Miss Amelyn's horrified concern. "As many
shillings would do, and they would be as grateful," she said. "More they
"Then keep it, and dole it out as you like," said Sadie quickly.
"But I don't think that—that Lord Beverdale would quite approve,"
hesitated Miss Amelyn.
The pretty brow of her companion knit, and her gray eyes flashed
vivaciously. "What has HE to do with it?" she said pertly; "besides, you
say these are not HIS poor. Take that five-pound note—or—I'll
DOUBLE it, get it changed into sovereigns at the station, and hand 'em
round to every man, woman, and child."
Miss Amelyn hesitated. The American girl looked capable of doing what she
said; perhaps it was a national way of almsgiving! She took the note, with
the mental reservation of making a full confession to the rector and Lord
She was right in saying that the poor of Scrooby village were not
interesting. There was very little squalor or degradation; their poverty
seemed not a descent, but a condition to which they had been born; the
faces which Sadie saw were dulled and apathetic rather than sullen or
rebellious; they stood up when Miss Amelyn entered, paying HER the
deference, but taking little note of the pretty butterfly who was with
her, or rather submitting to her frank curiosity with that dull consent of
the poor, as if they had lost even the sense of privacy, or a right to
respect. It seemed to the American girl that their poverty was more
indicated by what they were SATISFIED with than what she thought they
MISSED. It is to be feared that this did not add to Sadie's sympathy; all
the beggars she had seen in America wanted all they could get, and she
felt as if she were confronted with an inferior animal.
"There's a wonderful old man lives here," said Miss Amelyn, as they halted
before a stone and thatch cottage quite on the outskirts of the village.
"We can't call him one of our poor, for he still works, although over
eighty, and it's his pride to keep out of the poorhouse, and, as he calls
it, 'off' the hands of his granddaughters. But we manage to do something
for THEM, and we hope he profits by it. One of them is at the Priory;
they're trying to make a maid of her, but her queer accent—they're
from the north—is against her with the servants. I am afraid we
won't see old Debs, for he's at work again to-day, though the doctor has
"Debs! What a funny name!"
"Yes, but as many of these people cannot read or write, the name is
carried by the ear, and not always correctly. Some of the railway navvies,
who come from the north as he does, call him 'Debbers.'"
They were obliged to descend into the cottage, which was so low that it
seemed to have sunk into the earth until its drooping eaves of thatch
mingled with the straw heap beside it. Debs was not at home. But his
granddaughter was there, who, after a preliminary "bob," continued the
stirring of the pot before the fire in tentative silence.
"I am sorry to find that your grandfather has gone to work again in spite
of the doctor's orders," said Miss Amelyn.
The girl continued to stir the pot, and then said without looking up, but
as if also continuing a train of aggressive thoughts with her occupation:
"Eay, but 'e's so set oop in 'issen 'ee doan't take orders from nobbut—leastways
doctor. Moinds 'em now moor nor a floy. Says 'ee knaws there nowt wrong
wi' 'is 'eart. Mout be roight—how'siver, sarten sewer, 'is 'EAD'S a'
in a muddle! Toims 'ee goes off stamrin' and starin' at nowt, as if 'ee
a'nt a n'aporth o' sense. How'siver I be doing my duty by 'em—and
'ere's 'is porritch when a' cooms—'gin a' be sick or maad."
What the American understood of the girl's speech and manner struck her as
having very little sympathy with either her aged relative or her present
visitor. And there was a certain dogged selfish independence about her
that Miss Desborough half liked and half resented. However, Miss Amelyn
did not seem to notice it, and, after leaving a bottle of port for the
grandfather, she took her leave and led Sadie away. As they passed into
the village a carriage, returning to the Priory, filled with their fellow
guests, dashed by, but was instantly pulled up at a word from Lord
Algernon, who leaped from the vehicle, hat in hand, and implored the fair
truant and her companion to join them.
"We're just making a tour around Windover Hill, and back to luncheon," he
said, with a rising color. "We missed you awfully! If we had known you
were so keen on 'good works,' and so early at it, by Jove! we'd have got
up a 'slummin' party,' and all joined!"
"And you haven't seen half," said Lord Beverdale from the box. "Miss
Amelyn's too partial to the village. There's an old drunken retired
poacher somewhere in a hut in Crawley Woods, whom it's death to approach,
except with a large party. There's malignant diphtheria over at the South
Farm, eight down with measles at the keeper's, and an old woman who has
been bedridden for years."
But Miss Desborough was adamant, though sparkling. She thanked him, but
said she had just seen an old woman "who had been lying in bed for twenty
years, and hadn't spoken the truth once!" She proposed "going outside of
Lord Beverdale's own preserves of grain-fed poor," and starting up her own
game. She would return in time for luncheon—if she could; if not,
she "should annex the gruel of the first kind incapable she met."
Yet, actually, she was far from displeased at being accidentally
discovered by these people while following out her capricious whim of the
morning. One or two elder ladies, who had fought shy of her frocks and her
frankness the evening before, were quite touched now by this butterfly who
was willing to forego the sunlight of society, and soil her pretty wings
on the haunts of the impoverished, with only a single companion,—of
her own sex!—and smiled approvingly. And in her present state of
mind, remembering her companion's timid attitude towards Lord Beverdale's
opinions, she was not above administering this slight snub to him in her
When they had driven away, with many regrets, Miss Amelyn was deeply
concerned. "I am afraid," she said, with timid conscientiousness, "I have
kept you from going with them. And you must be bored with what you have
seen, I know. I don't believe you really care one bit for it—and you
are only doing it to please me."
"Trot out the rest of your show," said Sadie promptly, "and we'll wind up
by lunching with the rector."
"He'd be too delighted," said Miss Amelyn, with disaster written all over
her girlish, truthful face, "but—but—you know—it really
wouldn't be quite right to Lord Beverdale. You're his principal guest—you
know, and—they'd think I had taken you off."
"Well," said Miss Desborough impetuously, "what's the matter with that inn—the
Red Lion? We can get a sandwich there, I guess. I'm not VERY hungry."
Miss Amelyn looked horrified for a moment, and then laughed; but
immediately became concerned again. "No! listen to me, REALLY now! Let me
finish my round alone! You'll have ample time if you go NOW to reach the
Priory for luncheon. Do, please! It would be ever so much better for
everybody. I feel quite guilty as it is, and I suppose I am already in
Lord Beverdale's black books."
The trouble in the young girl's face was unmistakable, and as it suited
Miss Desborough's purpose just as well to show her independence by
returning, as she had set out, alone, she consented to go. Miss Amelyn
showed her a short cut across the park, and they separated—to meet
at dinner. In this brief fellowship, the American girl had kept a certain
supremacy and half-fascination over the English girl, even while she was
conscious of an invincible character in Miss Amelyn entirely different
from and superior to her own. Certainly there was a difference in the two
peoples. Why else this inherited conscientious reverence for Lord
Beverdale's position, shown by Miss Amelyn, which she, an American alive
to its practical benefits, could not understand? Would Miss Amelyn and
Lord Algernon have made a better match? The thought irritated her, even
while she knew that she herself possessed the young man's affections, the
power to marry him, and, as she believed, kept her own independence in the
As she entered the iron gates at the lower end of the park, and glanced at
the interwoven cipher and crest of the Amelyns still above, she was
conscious that the wind was blowing more chill, and that a few clouds had
gathered. As she walked on down the long winding avenue, the sky became
overcast, and, in one of those strange contrasts of the English climate,
the glory of the whole day went out with the sunshine. The woods suddenly
became wrinkled and gray, the distant hills sombre, the very English turf
beneath her feet grew brown; a mile and a half away, through the opening
of the trees, the west part of the Priory looked a crumbling, ivy-eaten
ruin. A few drops of rain fell. She hurried on. Suddenly she remembered
that the avenue made a long circuit before approaching the house, and that
its lower end, where she was walking, was but a fringe of the park.
Consequently there must be a short cut across some fields and farm
buildings to the back of the park and the Priory. She at once diverged to
the right, presently found a low fence, which she clambered over, and
again found a footpath which led to a stile. Crossing that, she could see
the footpath now led directly to the Priory,—now a grim and austere
looking pile in the suddenly dejected landscape,—and that it was
probably used only by the servants and farmers. A gust of wind brought
some swift needles of rain to her cheek; she could see the sad hills
beyond the Priory already veiling their faces; she gathered her skirts and
ran. The next field was a long one, but beside the further stile was a
small clump of trees, the only ones between her and the park. Hurrying on
to that shelter, she saw that the stile was already occupied by a tall but
bent figure, holding a long stick in his hand, which gave him the
appearance, against the horizon, of the figure of Time leaning on his
scythe. As she came nearer she saw it was, indeed, an old man, half
resting on his rake. He was very rugged and weather-beaten, and although
near the shelter of the trees, apparently unmindful of the rain that was
falling on his bald head, and the limp cap he was holding uselessly in one
hand. He was staring at her, yet apparently unconscious of her presence. A
sudden instinct came upon her—it was "Debs"!
She went directly up to him, and with that frank common sense which
ordinarily distinguished her, took his cap from his hand and put it on his
head, grasped his arm firmly, and led him to the shelter of the tree. Then
she wiped the raindrops from his face with her handkerchief, shook out her
own dress and her wet parasol, and, propping her companion against the
"There, Mr. Debs! I've heard of people who didn't know enough to come in
when it rained, but I never met one before."
The old man started, lifted his hairy, sinewy arm, bared to the elbow, and
wiped his bare throat with the dry side of it. Then a look of intelligence—albeit
half aggressive—came into his face. "Wheer beest tha going?" he
Something in his voice struck Sadie like a vague echo. Perhaps it was only
the queer dialect—or some resemblance to his granddaughter's voice.
She looked at him a little more closely as she said:—
"To the Priory."
She pointed with her parasol to the gray pile in the distance. It was
possible that this demented peasant didn't even UNDERSTAND English.
"The hall. Oh, ay!" Suddenly his brows knit ominously as he faced her.
"An' wassist tha doin' drest oop in this foinery? Wheer gettist thee that
goawn? Thissen, or thy maester? Nowt even a napron, fit for thy wark as
maaid at serviss; an' parson a gettin' tha plaace at Hall! So thou'lt be
high and moity will tha! thou'lt not walk wi' maaids, but traipse by
thissen like a slut in the toon—dang tha!"
Although it was plain to Sadie that the old man, in his wandering
perception, had mistaken her for his granddaughter in service at the
Priory, there was still enough rudeness in his speech for her to have
resented it. But, strange to say, there was a kind of authority in it that
touched her with an uneasiness and repulsion that was stronger than any
other feeling. "I think you have mistaken me for some one else," she said
hurriedly, yet wondering why she had admitted it, and even irritated at
the admission. "I am a stranger here, a visitor at the Priory. I called
with Miss Amelyn at your cottage, and saw your other granddaughter; that's
how I knew your name."
The old man's face changed. A sad, senile smile of hopeless bewilderment
crept into his hard mouth; he plucked his limp cap from his head and let
it hang submissively in his fingers, as if it were his sole apology. Then
he tried to straighten himself, and said, "Naw offins, miss, naw offins!
If tha knaws mea tha'll knaw I'm grandfeyther to two galls as moight be
tha owern age; tha'll tell 'ee that old Debs at haaty years 'as warked and
niver lost a day as man or boy; has niver coome oopen 'em for n'aporth.
An' 'e'll keep out o' warkus till he doy. An' 'ee's put by enow to by wi'
his own feythers in Lanksheer, an' not liggen aloane in parson's
It was part of her uneasiness that, scarcely understanding or, indeed,
feeling any interest in these maundering details, she still seemed to have
an odd comprehension of his character and some reminiscent knowledge of
him, as if she were going through the repetition of some unpleasant dream.
Even his wrinkled face was becoming familiar to her. Some weird attraction
was holding her; she wanted to get away from it as much as she wanted to
analyze it. She glanced ostentatiously at the sky, prepared to open her
parasol, and began to edge cautiously away.
"Then tha beant from these pearts?" he said suddenly.
"No, no," she said quickly and emphatically,—"no, I'm an American."
The old man started and moved towards her, eagerly, his keen eyes breaking
through the film that at times obscured them. "'Merrikan! tha baist
'Merrikan? Then tha knaws ma son John, 'ee war nowt but a bairn when
brether Dick took un to 'Merriky! Naw! Now! that wor fifty years sen!—niver
wroate to his old feyther—niver coomed back, 'Ee wor tall-loike, an'
thea said 'e feavored mea." He stopped, threw up his head, and with his
skinny fingers drew back his long, straggling locks from his sunken
cheeks, and stared in her face. The quick transition of fascination,
repulsion, shock, and indefinable apprehension made her laugh
hysterically. To her terror he joined in it, and eagerly clasped her
wrists. "Eh, lass! tha knaws John—tha coomes from un to ole
grandfeyther. Who-rr-u! Eay! but tha tho't to fool mea, did tha, lass?
Whoy, I knoawed tha voice, for a' tha foine peacock feathers. So tha be
John's gell coom from Ameriky. Dear! a dear! Coom neaur, lass! let's see
what tha's loike. Eh, but thou'lt kiss tha grandfather, sewerly?"
A wild terror and undefined consternation had completely overpowered her!
But she made a desperate effort to free her wrists, and burst out madly:—
"Let me go! How dare you! I don't know you or yours! I'm nothing to you or
your kin! My name is Desborough—do you understand—do you hear
me, Mr. Debs?—DESBOROUGH!"
At the word the old man's fingers stiffened like steel around her wrists,
as he turned upon her a hard, invincible face.
"So thou'lt call thissen Des-borough, wilt tha? Let me tell tha, then,
that 'Debs,' 'Debban,' 'Debbrook,' and 'Des-borough' are all a seame! Ay!
thy feyther and thy feyther's feyther! Thou'lt be a Des-borough, will tha?
Dang tha! and look doon on tha kin, and dress thissen in silks o' shame!
Tell 'ee thou'rt an ass, gell! Don't tha hear? An ass! for all tha bean
John's bairn! An ass! that's what tha beast!"
With flashing eyes and burning cheeks she made one more supreme effort,
lifting her arms, freeing her wrists, and throwing the old man staggering
from her. Then she leaped the stile, turned, and fled through the rain.
But before she reached the end of the field she stopped! She had freed
herself—she was stronger than he—what had she to fear? He was
crazy! Yes, he MUST be crazy, and he had insulted her, but he was an old
man—and God knows what! Her heart was beating rapidly, her breath
was hurried, but she ran back to the stile.
He was not there. The field sloped away on either side of it. But she
could distinguish nothing in the pouring rain above the wind-swept meadow.
He must have gone home. Relieved for a moment she turned and hurried on
towards the Priory.
But at every step she was followed, not by the old man's presence, but by
what he had said to her, which she could not shake off as she had shaken
off his detaining fingers. Was it the ravings of insanity, or had she
stumbled unwittingly upon some secret—was it after all a SECRET?
Perhaps it was something they all knew, or would know later. And she had
come down here for this. For back of her indignation, back even of her
disbelief in his insanity, there was an awful sense of truth! The names he
had flung out, of "Debs," "Debban," and "Debbrook" now flashed upon her as
something she had seen before, but had not understood. Until she satisfied
herself of this, she felt she could not live or breathe! She loathed the
Priory, with its austere exclusiveness, as it rose before her; she wished
she had never entered it; but it contained that which she must know, and
know at once! She entered the nearest door and ran up the grand staircase.
Her flushed face and disordered appearance were easily accounted for by
her exposure to the sudden storm. She went to her bedroom, sent her maid
to another room to prepare a change of dress, and sinking down before her
traveling-desk, groped for a document. Ah! there it was—the
expensive toy that she had played with! She hastily ran over its leaves to
the page she already remembered. And there, among the dashes and
perpendicular lines she had jested over last night, on which she had
thought was a collateral branch of the line, stood her father's name and
that of Richard, his uncle, with the bracketed note in red ink, "see
Debbrook, Daybrook, Debbers, and Debs." Yes! this gaunt, half-crazy,
overworked peasant, content to rake the dead leaves before the rolling
chariots of the Beverdales, was her grandfather; that poorly clad girl in
the cottage, and even the menial in the scullery of this very house that
might be HERS, were her COUSINS! She burst into a laugh, and then refolded
the document and put it away.
At luncheon she was radiant and sparkling. Her drenched clothes were an
excuse for a new and ravishing toilette. She had never looked so beautiful
before, and significant glances were exchanged between some of the guests,
who believed that the expected proposal had already come. But those who
were of the carriage party knew otherwise, and of Lord Algernon's
disappointment. Lord Beverdale contented himself with rallying his fair
guest on the becomingness of "good works." But he continued, "You're
offering a dreadful example to these ladies, Miss Desborough, and I know I
shall never hereafter be able to content them with any frivolous morning
amusement at the Priory. For myself, when I am grown gouty and hideous, I
know I shall bloom again as a district visitor."
Yet under this surface sparkle and nervous exaltation Sadie never lost
consciousness of the gravity of the situation. If her sense of humor
enabled her to see one side of its grim irony; if she experienced a wicked
satisfaction in accepting the admiration and easy confidence of the
high-born guests, knowing that her cousin had assisted in preparing the
meal they were eating, she had never lost sight of the practical effect of
the discovery she had made. And she had come to a final resolution. She
should leave the Priory at once, and abandon all idea of a matrimonial
alliance with its heir! Inconsistent as this might seem to her selfish,
worldly nature, it was nevertheless in keeping with a certain pride and
independence that was in her blood. She did not love Lord Algernon,
neither did she love her grandfather; she was equally willing to sacrifice
either or both; she knew that neither Lord Algernon nor his father would
make her connections an objection, however they might wish to keep the
fact a secret, or otherwise dispose of them by pensions or emigration, but
she could not bear to KNOW IT HERSELF! She never could be happy as the
mistress of Scrooby Priory with that knowledge; she did not idealize it as
a principle! Carefully weighing it by her own practical common sense, she
said to herself that "it wouldn't pay." The highest independence is often
akin to the lowest selfishness; she did not dream that the same pride
which kept her grandfather from the workhouse and support by his
daughters, and had even kept him from communicating with his own son, now
kept her from acknowledging them, even for the gift of a title and domain.
There was only one question before her: should she stay long enough to
receive the proposal of Lord Algernon, and then decline it? Why should she
not snatch that single feminine joy out of the ashes of her burnt-up
illusion? She knew that an opportunity would be offered that afternoon.
The party were to take tea at Broxby Hall, and Lord Algernon was to drive
her there in his dogcart. Miss Desborough had gone up to her bedroom to
put on a warmer cloak, and had rung twice or thrice impatiently for her
When the girl made her appearance, apologetic, voluble, and excited, Miss
Desborough scarcely listened to her excuses, until a single word suddenly
arrested her attention. It was "old Debs."
"What ARE you talking about?" said Sadie, pausing in the adjustment of her
hat on her brown hair.
"Old Debs, miss,—that's what they call him; an old park-keeper, just
found dead in a pool of water in the fields; the grandfather of one of the
servants here; and there's such an excitement in the servants' hall. The
gentlemen all knew it, too, for I heard Lord Algernon say that he was
looking very queer lately, and might have had a fit; and Lord Beverdale
has sent word to the coroner. And only think, the people here are such
fools that they daren't touch or move the poor man, and him lyin' there in
the rain all the time, until the coroner comes!"
Miss Desborough had been steadily regarding herself in the glass to see if
she had turned pale. She had. She set her teeth together until the color
partly returned. But she kept her face away from the maid. "That'll do,"
she said quietly. "You can tell me all later. I have some important news
myself, and I may not go out after all. I want you to take a note for me."
She went to her table, wrote a line in pencil, folded it, scribbled an
address upon it, handed it to the girl, and gently pushed her from the
The consul was lingering on the terrace beside one of the carriages; at a
little distance a groom was holding the nervous thoroughbred of Lord
Algernon's dog-cart. Suddenly he felt a touch on his shoulder, and Miss
Desborough's maid put a note in his hand. It contained only a line:—
Please come and see me in the library, but without making any fuss about
it—at once. S. D.
The consul glanced around him; no one had apparently noticed the incident.
He slipped back into the house and made his way to the library. It was a
long gallery; at the further end Miss Desborough stood cloaked, veiled,
and coquettishly hatted. She was looking very beautiful and animated. "I
want you to please do me a great favor," she said, with an adorable smile,
"as your own countrywoman, you know—for the sake of Fourth of July
and Pumpkin Pie and the Old Flag! I don't want to go to this circus
to-day. I am going to leave here to-night! I am! Honest Injin! I want YOU
to manage it. I want you to say that as consul you've received important
news for me: the death of some relative, if you like; or better, something
AFFECTING MY PROPERTY, you know," with a little satirical laugh. "I guess
that would fetch 'em! So go at once."
"But really, Miss Desborough, do let us talk this over before you decide!"
implored the bewildered consul. "Think what a disappointment to your host
and these ladies. Lord Algernon expects to drive you there; he is already
waiting! The party was got up for you!" Miss Desborough made a slight
grimace. "I mean you ought to sacrifice something—but I trust there
is really nothing serious—to them!"
"If YOU do not speak to them, I will!" said Miss Desborough firmly. "If
you say what I tell you, it will come the more plausibly from you. Come!
My mind is made up. One of us must break the news! Shall it be you or I?"
She drew her cloak over her shoulders and made a step forwards.
The consul saw she was determined. "Then wait here till I return, but keep
yourself out of sight," he said, and hurried away. Between the library and
the terrace he conceived a plan. His perplexity lent him a seriousness
which befitted the gravity of the news he had to disclose. "I am sorry to
have to tell you," he said, taking Lord Beverdale aside, "that I was the
unlucky bearer of some sad news to Miss Desborough this morning, through
my consular letters—some matter concerning the death of a relation
of hers, and some wearisome question of property. I thought that it was of
little importance, and that she would not take it seriously, but I find I
was mistaken. It may even oblige her to catch the London train to-night. I
promised to make her excuses to you for the present, and I'm afraid I must
add my own to them, as she wishes me to stay and advise her in this
matter, which requires some prompt action."
Miss Desborough was right: the magic word "property" changed the slight
annoyance on the earl's face to a sympathetic concern. "Dear me! I trust
it is nothing really serious," he said. "Of course, you will advise her,
and, by the way, if my solicitor, Withers, who'll be here to-morrow, can
do anything, you know, call him in. I hope she'll be able to see me later.
It could not be a NEAR relation who died, I fancy; she has no brothers or
sisters, I understand."
"A cousin, I think; an old friend," said the consul hastily. He heard Lord
Beverdale say a few words to his companions, saw with a tinge of remorse a
cloud settle upon Lord Algernon's fresh face, as he appealed in a whisper
to old Lady Mesthyn, who leaned forward from the carriage, and said, "If
the dear child thought I could be of any service, I should only be too
glad to stay with her."
"I knew she would appreciate Lady Mesthyn's sympathy," said the ingenious
consul quickly, "but I really think the question is more a business one—and"—
"Ah, yes," said the old lady, shaking her head, "it's dreadful, of course,
but we must all think of THAT!"
As the carriage drove away, the consul hurried back a little viciously to
his fair countrywoman. "There!" he said, "I have done it! If I have
managed to convey either the idea that you are a penniless orphan, or that
I have official information that you are suspected of a dynamite
conspiracy, don't blame me! And now," he said, "as I have excused myself
on the ground that I must devote myself to this dreadful business of
yours, perhaps you'll tell me WHAT it really is."
"Not a word more," said Miss Desborough; "except," she added,—checking
her smile with a weary gesture,—"except that I want to leave this
dreadful place at once! There! don't ask me any more!"
There could be no doubt of the girl's sincerity. Nor was it the
extravagant caprice of a petted idol. What had happened? He might have
believed in a lovers' quarrel, but he knew that she and Lord Algernon
could have had no private interview that evening. He must perforce accept
her silence, yet he could not help saying:—
"You seemed to like the place so much last night. I say, you haven't seen
the Priory ghost, have you?"
"The Priory ghost," she said quickly. "What's that?"
"The old monk who passes through the cloisters with the sacred oil, the
bell, and the smell of incense whenever any one is to die here. By Jove!
it would have been a good story to tell instead of this cock-and-bull one
about your property. And there WAS a death here to-day. You'd have added
the sibyl's gifts to your other charms."
"Tell me about that old man," she said, looking past him out of the
window. "I was at his cottage this morning. But, no! first let us go out.
You can take me for a walk, if you like. You see I am all ready, and I'm
just stifling here."
They descended to the terrace together. "Where would you like to go?" he
"To the village. I may want to telegraph, you know."
They turned into the avenue, but Miss Desborough stopped.
"Is there not a shorter cut across the fields," she asked, "over there?"
"There is," said the consul.
They both turned into the footpath which led to the farm and stile. After
a pause she said, "Did you ever talk with that poor old man?"
"Then you don't know if he really was crazy, as they think."
"No. But they may have thought an old man's forgetfulness of present
things and his habit of communing with the past was insanity. For all that
he was a plucky, independent old fellow, with a grim purpose that was
"I suppose in his independence he would not have taken favors from these
people, or anybody?"
"I should think not."
"Don't you think it was just horrid—their leaving him alone in the
rain, when he might have been only in a fit?"
"The doctor says he died suddenly of heart disease," said the consul. "It
might have happened at any moment and without warning."
"Ah, that was the coroner's verdict, then," said Miss Desborough quickly.
"The coroner did not think it necessary to have any inquest after Lord
Beverdale's statement. It wouldn't have been very joyous for the Priory
party. And I dare say he thought it might not be very cheerful for YOU."
"How very kind!" said the young girl, with a quick laugh. "But do you know
that it's about the only thing human, original, and striking that has
happened in this place since I've been here! And so unexpected,
considering how comfortably everything is ordered here beforehand."
"Yet you seemed to like that kind of thing very well, last evening," said
the consul mischievously.
"That was last night," retorted Miss Desborough; "and you know the line,
'Colors seen by candlelight do not look the same by day.' But I'm going to
be very consistent to-day, for I intend to go over to that poor man's
cottage again, and see if I can be of any service. Will you go with me?"
"Certainly," said the consul, mystified by his companion's extraordinary
conduct, yet apparent coolness of purpose, and hoping for some further
explanation. Was she only an inexperienced flirt who had found herself on
the point of a serious entanglement she had not contemplated? Yet even
then he knew she was clever enough to extricate herself in some other way
than this abrupt and brutal tearing through the meshes. Or was it possible
that she really had any intelligence affecting her property? He reflected
that he knew very little of the Desboroughs, but on the other hand he knew
that Beverdale knew them much better, and was a prudent man. He had no
right to demand her confidence as a reward for his secrecy; he must wait
her pleasure. Perhaps she would still explain; women seldom could resist
the triumph of telling the secret that puzzled others.
When they reached the village she halted before the low roof of Debs's
cottage. "I had better go in first," she said; "you can come in later, and
in the meantime you might go to the station for me and find out the exact
time that the express train leaves for the north."
"But," said the astonished consul, "I thought you were going to London?"
"No," said Miss Desborough quietly, "I am going to join some friends at
"But that train goes much earlier than the train south, and—and I'm
afraid Lord Beverdale will not have returned so soon."
"How sad!" said Miss Desborough, with a faint smile, "but we must bear up
under it, and—I'll write him. I will be here until you return."
She turned away and entered the cottage. The granddaughter she had already
seen and her sister, the servant at the Priory, were both chatting
comfortably, but ceased as she entered, and both rose with awkward
respect. There was little to suggest that the body of their grandfather,
already in a rough oak shell, was lying upon trestles beside them.
"You have carried out my orders, I see," said Miss Desborough, laying down
"Ay, miss; but it was main haard gettin' et dooan so soon, and et cooast"—
"Never mind the cost. I've given you money enough, I think, and if I
haven't, I guess I can give you more."
"Ay, miss! Abbut the pa'son 'ead gi' un a funeral for nowt."
"But I understood you to say," said Miss Desborough, with an impatient
flash of eye, "that your grandfather wished to be buried with his kindred
in the north?"
"Ay, miss," said the girl apologetically, "an naw 'ees savit th' munny.
Abbut e'd bean tickled 'ad 'ee knowed it! Dear! dear! 'ee niver thowt et
'ud be gi'en by stranger an' not 'es ownt fammaly."
"For all that, you needn't tell anybody it was given by ME," said Miss
Desborough. "And you'll be sure to be ready to take the train this
afternoon—without delay." There was a certain peremptoriness in her
voice very unlike Miss Amelyn's, yet apparently much more effective with
"Ay, miss. Then, if tha'll excoose mea, I'll go streight to 'oory oop
She bustled away. "Now," said Miss Desborough, turning to the other girl,
"I shall take the same train, and will probably see you on the platform at
York to give my final directions. That's all. Go and see if the gentleman
who came with me has returned from the station."
The girl obeyed. Left entirely alone, Miss Desborough glanced around the
room, and then went quietly up to the unlidded coffin. The repose of death
had softened the hard lines of the old man's mouth and brow into a
resemblance she now more than ever understood. She had stood thus only a
few years before, looking at the same face in a gorgeously inlaid mahogany
casket, smothered amidst costly flowers, and surrounded by friends attired
in all the luxurious trappings of woe; yet it was the same face that was
now rigidly upturned to the bare thatch and rafters of that crumbling
cottage, herself its only companion. She lifted her delicate veil with
both hands, and, stooping down, kissed the hard, cold forehead, without a
tremor. Then she dropped her veil again over her dry eyes, readjusted it
in the little, cheap, black-framed mirror that hung against the wall, and
opened the door as the granddaughter returned. The gentleman was just
coming from the station.
"Remember to look out for me at York," said Miss Desborough, extending her
gloved hand. "Good-by till then." The young girl respectfully touched the
ends of Miss Desborough's fingers, dropped a curtsy, and Miss Desborough
rejoined the consul.
"You have barely time to return to the Priory and see to your luggage,"
said the consul, "if you must go. But let me hope that you have changed
"I have not changed my mind," said Miss Desborough quietly, "and my
baggage is already packed." After a pause, she said thoughtfully, "I've
"What?" said the consul eagerly.
"I've been wondering if people brought up to speak in a certain dialect,
where certain words have their own significance and color, and are part of
their own lives and experience—if, even when they understand another
dialect, they really feel any sympathy with it, or the person who speaks
"Apropos of"—asked the consul.
"These people I've just left! I don't think I quite felt with them, and I
guess they didn't feel with me."
"But," said the consul laughingly, "you know that we Americans speak with
a decided dialect of our own, and attach the same occult meaning to it.
Yet, upon my word, I think that Lord Beverdale—or shall I say Lord
Algernon?—would not only understand that American word 'guess' as
you mean it, but would perfectly sympathize with you."
Miss Desborough's eyes sparkled even through her veil as she glanced at
her companion and said, "I GUESS NOT."
As the "tea" party had not yet returned, it fell to the consul to
accompany Miss Desborough and her maid to the station. But here he was
startled to find a collection of villagers upon the platform, gathered
round two young women in mourning, and an ominous-looking box. He mingled
for a moment with the crowd, and then returned to Miss Desborough's side.
"Really," he said, with a concern that was scarcely assumed, "I ought not
to let you go. The omens are most disastrous! You came here to a death;
you are going away with a funeral!"
"Then it's high time I took myself off!" said the lady lightly.
"Unless, like the ghostly monk, you came here on a mission, and have
"Perhaps I have. Good-by!"
In spite of the bright and characteristic letter which Miss Desborough
left for her host,—a letter which mingled her peculiar shrewd sense
with her humorous extravagance of expression,—the consul spent a
somewhat uneasy evening under the fire of questions that assailed him in
reference to the fair deserter. But he kept loyal faith with her, adhering
even to the letter of her instructions, and only once was goaded into more
active mendacity. The conversation had turned upon "Debs," and the consul
had remarked on the singularity of the name. A guest from the north
observed, however, that the name was undoubtedly a contraction. "Possibly
it might have been 'Debborough,' or even the same name as our fair
"But didn't Miss Desborough tell you last night that she had been hunting
up her people, with a family tree, or something like that?" said Lord
Algernon eagerly. "I just caught a word here and there, for you were both
The consul smiled blandly. "You may well say so, for it was all the most
delightful piece of pure invention and utter extravagance. It would have
amused her still more if she had thought you were listening and took it
"Of course; I see!" said the young fellow, with a laugh and a slight rise
of color. "I knew she was taking some kind of a rise out of YOU, and that
remark reminded me of it."
Nevertheless, within a year, Lord Algernon was happily married to the
daughter of a South African millionaire, whose bridal offerings alone
touched the sum of half a million. It was also said that the mother was
"impossible" and the father "unspeakable," the relations
"inextinguishable;" but the wedding was an "occasion," and in the
succeeding year of festivity it is presumed that the names of "Debs" and
"Desborough" were alike forgotten.
But they existed still in a little hamlet near the edge of a bleak
northern moor, where they were singularly exalted on a soaring shaft of
pure marble above the submerged and moss-grown tombstones of a simple
country churchyard. So great was the contrast between the modern and
pretentious monument and the graves of the humbler forefathers of the
village, that even the Americans who chanced to visit it were shocked at
what they believed was the ostentatious and vulgar pride of one of their
own countrywomen. For on its pedestal was inscribed:—
Sacred to the Memory
JOHN DEBS DESBOROUGH,
Formerly of this parish,
Who departed this life October 20th, 1892,
At Scrooby Priory,
At the age of eighty-two years.
This monument was erected as a loving testimony
by his granddaughter,
Sadie Desborough, of New York, U. S. A.
"And evening brings us home."
SALOMY JANE'S KISS
Only one shot had been fired. It had gone wide of its mark,—the
ringleader of the Vigilantes,—and had left Red Pete, who had fired
it, covered by their rifles and at their mercy. For his hand had been
cramped by hard riding, and his eye distracted by their sudden onset, and
so the inevitable end had come. He submitted sullenly to his captors; his
companion fugitive and horse-thief gave up the protracted struggle with a
feeling not unlike relief. Even the hot and revengeful victors were
content. They had taken their men alive. At any time during the long chase
they could have brought them down by a rifle shot, but it would have been
unsportsmanlike, and have ended in a free fight, instead of an example.
And, for the matter of that, their doom was already sealed. Their end, by
a rope and a tree, although not sanctified by law, would have at least the
deliberation of justice. It was the tribute paid by the Vigilantes to that
order which they had themselves disregarded in the pursuit and capture.
Yet this strange logic of the frontier sufficed them, and gave a certain
dignity to the climax.
"Ef you've got anything to say to your folks, say it NOW, and say it
quick," said the ringleader.
Red Pete glanced around him. He had been run to earth at his own cabin in
the clearing, whence a few relations and friends, mostly women and
children, non-combatants, had outflowed, gazing vacantly at the twenty
Vigilantes who surrounded them. All were accustomed to scenes of violence,
blood-feud, chase, and hardship; it was only the suddenness of the onset
and its quick result that had surprised them. They looked on with dazed
curiosity and some disappointment; there had been no fight to speak of—no
spectacle! A boy, nephew of Red Pete, got upon the rain-barrel to view the
proceedings more comfortably; a tall, handsome, lazy Kentucky girl, a
visiting neighbor, leaned against the doorpost, chewing gum. Only a yellow
hound was actively perplexed. He could not make out if a hunt were just
over or beginning, and ran eagerly backwards and forwards, leaping
alternately upon the captives and the captors.
The ringleader repeated his challenge. Red Pete gave a reckless laugh and
looked at his wife.
At which Mrs. Red Pete came forward. It seemed that she had much to say,
incoherently, furiously, vindictively, to the ringleader. His soul would
roast in hell for that day's work! He called himself a man, skunkin' in
the open and afraid to show himself except with a crowd of other "Kiyi's"
around a house of women and children. Heaping insult upon insult,
inveighing against his low blood, his ancestors, his dubious origin, she
at last flung out a wild taunt of his invalid wife, the insult of a woman
to a woman, until his white face grew rigid, and only that
Western-American fetich of the sanctity of sex kept his twitching fingers
from the lock of his rifle. Even her husband noticed it, and with a
half-authoritative "Let up on that, old gal," and a pat of his freed left
hand on her back, took his last parting. The ringleader, still white under
the lash of the woman's tongue, turned abruptly to the second captive.
"And if YOU'VE got anybody to say 'good-by' to, now's your chance."
The man looked up. Nobody stirred or spoke. He was a stranger there, being
a chance confederate picked up by Red Pete, and known to no one. Still
young, but an outlaw from his abandoned boyhood, of which father and
mother were only a forgotten dream, he loved horses and stole them, fully
accepting the frontier penalty of life for the interference with that
animal on which a man's life so often depended. But he understood the good
points of a horse, as was shown by the ones he bestrode—until a few
days before the property of Judge Boompointer. This was his sole
The unexpected question stirred him for a moment out of the attitude of
reckless indifference, for attitude it was, and a part of his profession.
But it may have touched him that at that moment he was less than his
companion and his virago wife. However, he only shook his head. As he did
so his eye casually fell on the handsome girl by the doorpost, who was
looking at him. The ringleader, too, may have been touched by his complete
loneliness, for HE hesitated. At the same moment he saw that the girl was
looking at his friendless captive.
A grotesque idea struck him.
"Salomy Jane, ye might do worse than come yere and say 'good-by' to a
dying man, and him a stranger," he said.
There seemed to be a subtle stroke of poetry and irony in this that
equally struck the apathetic crowd. It was well known that Salomy Jane
Clay thought no small potatoes of herself, and always held off the local
swain with a lazy nymph-like scorn. Nevertheless, she slowly disengaged
herself from the doorpost, and, to everybody's astonishment, lounged with
languid grace and outstretched hand towards the prisoner. The color came
into the gray reckless mask which the doomed man wore as her right hand
grasped his left, just loosed by his captors. Then she paused; her shy,
fawn-like eyes grew bold, and fixed themselves upon him. She took the
chewing-gum from her mouth, wiped her red lips with the back of her hand,
by a sudden lithe spring placed her foot on his stirrup, and, bounding to
the saddle, threw her arms about his neck and pressed a kiss upon his
They remained thus for a hushed moment—the man on the threshold of
death, the young woman in the fullness of youth and beauty—linked
together. Then the crowd laughed; in the audacious effrontery of the
girl's act the ultimate fate of the two men was forgotten. She slipped
languidly to the ground; SHE was the focus of all eyes,—she only!
The ringleader saw it and his opportunity. He shouted: "Time's up—Forward!"
urged his horse beside his captives, and the next moment the whole
cavalcade was sweeping over the clearing into the darkening woods.
Their destination was Sawyer's Crossing, the headquarters of the
committee, where the council was still sitting, and where both culprits
were to expiate the offense of which that council had already found them
guilty. They rode in great and breathless haste,—a haste in which,
strangely enough, even the captives seemed to join. That haste possibly
prevented them from noticing the singular change which had taken place in
the second captive since the episode of the kiss. His high color remained,
as if it had burned through his mask of indifference; his eyes were quick,
alert, and keen, his mouth half open as if the girl's kiss still lingered
there. And that haste had made them careless, for the horse of the man who
led him slipped in a gopher-hole, rolled over, unseated his rider, and
even dragged the bound and helpless second captive from Judge
Boompointer's favorite mare. In an instant they were all on their feet
again, but in that supreme moment the second captive felt the cords which
bound his arms had slipped to his wrists. By keeping his elbows to his
sides, and obliging the others to help him mount, it escaped their notice.
By riding close to his captors, and keeping in the crush of the throng, he
further concealed the accident, slowly working his hands downwards out of
Their way lay through a sylvan wilderness, mid-leg deep in ferns, whose
tall fronds brushed their horses' sides in their furious gallop and
concealed the flapping of the captive's loosened cords. The peaceful
vista, more suggestive of the offerings of nymph and shepherd than of
human sacrifice, was in a strange contrast to this whirlwind rush of
stern, armed men. The westering sun pierced the subdued light and the
tremor of leaves with yellow lances; birds started into song on blue and
dove-like wings, and on either side of the trail of this vengeful storm
could be heard the murmur of hidden and tranquil waters. In a few moments
they would be on the open ridge, whence sloped the common turnpike to
"Sawyer's," a mile away. It was the custom of returning cavalcades to take
this hill at headlong speed, with shouts and cries that heralded their
coming. They withheld the latter that day, as inconsistent with their
dignity; but, emerging from the wood, swept silently like an avalanche
down the slope. They were well under way, looking only to their horses,
when the second captive slipped his right arm from the bonds and succeeded
in grasping the reins that lay trailing on the horse's neck. A sudden
vaquero jerk, which the well-trained animal understood, threw him on his
haunches with his forelegs firmly planted on the slope. The rest of the
cavalcade swept on; the man who was leading the captive's horse by the
riata, thinking only of another accident, dropped the line to save himself
from being dragged backwards from his horse. The captive wheeled, and the
next moment was galloping furiously up the slope.
It was the work of a moment; a trained horse and an experienced hand. The
cavalcade had covered nearly fifty yards before they could pull up; the
freed captive had covered half that distance uphill. The road was so
narrow that only two shots could be fired, and these broke dust two yards
ahead of the fugitive. They had not dared to fire low; the horse was the
more valuable animal. The fugitive knew this in his extremity also, and
would have gladly taken a shot in his own leg to spare that of his horse.
Five men were detached to recapture or kill him. The latter seemed
inevitable. But he had calculated his chances; before they could reload he
had reached the woods again; winding in and out between the pillared tree
trunks, he offered no mark. They knew his horse was superior to their own;
at the end of two hours they returned, for he had disappeared without
track or trail. The end was briefly told in the "Sierra Record:"—
"Red Pete, the notorious horse-thief, who had so long eluded justice, was
captured and hung by the Sawyer's Crossing Vigilantes last week; his
confederate, unfortunately, escaped on a valuable horse belonging to Judge
Boompointer. The judge had refused one thousand dollars for the horse only
a week before. As the thief, who is still at large, would find it
difficult to dispose of so valuable an animal without detection, the
chances are against either of them turning up again."
Salomy Jane watched the cavalcade until it had disappeared. Then she
became aware that her brief popularity had passed. Mrs. Red Pete, in
stormy hysterics, had included her in a sweeping denunciation of the whole
universe, possibly for simulating an emotion in which she herself was
deficient. The other women hated her for her momentary exaltation above
them; only the children still admired her as one who had undoubtedly
"canoodled" with a man "a-going to be hung"—a daring flight beyond
their wildest ambition. Salomy Jane accepted the change with charming
unconcern. She put on her yellow nankeen sunbonnet,—a hideous affair
that would have ruined any other woman, but which only enhanced the
piquancy of her fresh brunette skin,—tied the strings, letting the
blue-black braids escape below its frilled curtain behind, jumped on her
mustang with a casual display of agile ankles in shapely white stockings,
whistled to the hound, and waving her hand with a "So long, sonny!" to the
lately bereft but admiring nephew, flapped and fluttered away in her short
brown holland gown.
Her father's house was four miles distant. Contrasted with the cabin she
had just quitted, it was a superior dwelling, with a long "lean-to" at the
rear, which brought the eaves almost to the ground and made it look like a
low triangle. It had a long barn and cattle sheds, for Madison Clay was a
"great" stock-raiser and the owner of a "quarter section." It had a
sitting-room and a parlor organ, whose transportation thither had been a
marvel of "packing." These things were supposed to give Salomy Jane an
undue importance, but the girl's reserve and inaccessibility to local
advances were rather the result of a cool, lazy temperament and the
preoccupation of a large, protecting admiration for her father, for some
years a widower. For Mr. Madison Clay's life had been threatened in one or
two feuds,—it was said, not without cause,—and it is possible
that the pathetic spectacle of her father doing his visiting with a
shotgun may have touched her closely and somewhat prejudiced her against
the neighboring masculinity. The thought that cattle, horses, and "quarter
section" would one day be hers did not disturb her calm. As for Mr. Clay,
he accepted her as housewifely, though somewhat "interfering," and, being
one of "his own womankind," therefore not without some degree of merit.
"Wot's this yer I'm hearin' of your doin's over at Red Pete's?
Honeyfoglin' with a horse-thief, eh?" said Mr. Clay two days later at
"I reckon you heard about the straight thing, then," said Salomy Jane
unconcernedly, without looking round.
"What do you kalkilate Rube will say to it? What are you goin' to tell
HIM?" said Mr. Clay sarcastically.
"Rube," or Reuben Waters, was a swain supposed to be favored particularly
by Mr. Clay. Salomy Jane looked up.
"I'll tell him that when HE'S on his way to be hung, I'll kiss him,—not
till then," said the young lady brightly.
This delightful witticism suited the paternal humor, and Mr. Clay smiled;
but, nevertheless, he frowned a moment afterwards.
"But this yer hoss-thief got away arter all, and that's a hoss of a
different color," he said grimly.
Salomy Jane put down her knife and fork. This was certainly a new and
different phase of the situation. She had never thought of it before, and,
strangely enough, for the first time she became interested in the man.
"Got away?" she repeated. "Did they let him off?"
"Not much," said her father briefly. "Slipped his cords, and going down
the grade pulled up short, just like a vaquero agin a lassoed bull, almost
draggin' the man leadin' him off his hoss, and then skyuted up the grade.
For that matter, on that hoss o' Judge Boompointer's he mout have dragged
the whole posse of 'em down on their knees ef he liked! Sarved 'em right,
too. Instead of stringin' him up afore the door, or shootin' him on sight,
they must allow to take him down afore the hull committee 'for an
example.' 'Example' be blowed! Ther' 's example enough when some stranger
comes unbeknownst slap onter a man hanged to a tree and plugged full of
holes. THAT'S an example, and HE knows what it means. Wot more do ye want?
But then those Vigilantes is allus clingin' and hangin' onter some mere
scrap o' the law they're pretendin' to despise. It makes me sick! Why,
when Jake Myers shot your ole Aunt Viney's second husband, and I laid in
wait for Jake afterwards in the Butternut Hollow, did I tie him to his
hoss and fetch him down to your Aunt Viney's cabin 'for an example' before
I plugged him? No!" in deep disgust. "No! Why, I just meandered through
the wood, careless-like, till he comes out, and I just rode up to him, and
But Salomy Jane had heard her father's story before. Even one's dearest
relatives are apt to become tiresome in narration. "I know, dad," she
interrupted; "but this yer man,—this hoss-thief,—did HE get
clean away without gettin' hurt at all?"
"He did, and unless he's fool enough to sell the hoss he kin keep away,
too. So ye see, ye can't ladle out purp stuff about a 'dyin' stranger' to
Rube. He won't swaller it."
"All the same, dad," returned the girl cheerfully, "I reckon to say it,
and say MORE; I'll tell him that ef HE manages to get away too, I'll marry
him—there! But ye don't ketch Rube takin' any such risks in gettin'
ketched, or in gettin' away arter!"
Madison Clay smiled grimly, pushed back his chair, rose, dropped a
perfunctory kiss on his daughter's hair, and, taking his shotgun from the
corner, departed on a peaceful Samaritan mission to a cow who had dropped
a calf in the far pasture. Inclined as he was to Reuben's wooing from his
eligibility as to property, he was conscious that he was sadly deficient
in certain qualities inherent in the Clay family. It certainly would be a
kind of mesalliance.
Left to herself, Salomy Jane stared a long while at the coffee-pot, and
then called the two squaws who assisted her in her household duties, to
clear away the things while she went up to her own room to make her bed.
Here she was confronted with a possible prospect of that proverbial bed
she might be making in her willfulness, and on which she must lie, in the
photograph of a somewhat serious young man of refined features—Reuben
Waters—stuck in her window-frame. Salomy Jane smiled over her last
witticism regarding him and enjoyed, it, like your true humorist, and
then, catching sight of her own handsome face in the little mirror, smiled
again. But wasn't it funny about that horse-thief getting off after all?
Good Lordy! Fancy Reuben hearing he was alive and going round with that
kiss of hers set on his lips! She laughed again, a little more
abstractedly. And he had returned it like a man, holding her tight and
almost breathless, and he going to be hung the next minute! Salomy Jane
had been kissed at other times, by force, chance, or stratagem. In a
certain ingenuous forfeit game of the locality known as "I'm a-pinin',"
many had "pined" for a "sweet kiss" from Salomy Jane, which she had
yielded in a sense of honor and fair play. She had never been kissed like
this before—she would never again; and yet the man was alive! And
behold, she could see in the mirror that she was blushing!
She should hardly know him again. A young man with very bright eyes, a
flushed and sunburnt cheek, a kind of fixed look in the face, and no
beard; no, none that she could feel. Yet he was not at all like Reuben,
not a bit. She took Reuben's picture from the window, and laid it on her
workbox. And to think she did not even know this young man's name! That
was queer. To be kissed by a man whom she might never know! Of course he
knew hers. She wondered if he remembered it and her. But of course he was
so glad to get off with his life that he never thought of anything else.
Yet she did not give more than four or five minutes to these speculations,
and, like a sensible girl, thought of something else. Once again, however,
in opening the closet, she found the brown holland gown she had worn on
the day before; thought it very unbecoming, and regretted that she had not
worn her best gown on her visit to Red Pete's cottage. On such an occasion
she really might have been more impressive.
When her father came home that night she asked him the news. No, they had
NOT captured the second horse-thief, who was still at large. Judge
Boompointer talked of invoking the aid of the despised law. It remained,
then, to see whether the horse-thief was fool enough to try to get rid of
the animal. Red Pete's body had been delivered to his widow. Perhaps it
would only be neighborly for Salomy Jane to ride over to the funeral. But
Salomy Jane did not take to the suggestion kindly, nor yet did she explain
to her father that, as the other man was still living, she did not care to
undergo a second disciplining at the widow's hands. Nevertheless, she
contrasted her situation with that of the widow with a new and singular
satisfaction. It might have been Red Pete who had escaped. But he had not
the grit of the nameless one. She had already settled his heroic quality.
"Ye ain't harkenin' to me, Salomy."
Salomy Jane started.
"Here I'm askin' ye if ye've see that hound Phil Larrabee sneaking by yer
Salomy Jane had not. But she became interested and self-reproachful, for
she knew that Phil Larrabee was one of her father's enemies. "He wouldn't
dare to go by here unless he knew you were out," she said quickly.
"That's what gets me," he said, scratching his grizzled head. "I've been
kind o' thinkin' o' him all day, and one of them Chinamen said he saw him
at Sawyer's Crossing. He was a kind of friend o' Pete's wife. That's why I
thought yer might find out ef he'd been there." Salomy Jane grew more
self-reproachful at her father's self-interest in her "neighborliness."
"But that ain't all," continued Mr. Clay. "Thar was tracks over the far
pasture that warn't mine. I followed them, and they went round and round
the house two or three times, ez ef they mout hev bin prowlin', and then I
lost 'em in the woods again. It's just like that sneakin' hound Larrabee
to hev bin lyin' in wait for me and afraid to meet a man fair and square
in the open."
"You just lie low, dad, for a day or two more, and let me do a little
prowlin'," said the girl, with sympathetic indignation in her dark eyes.
"Ef it's that skunk, I'll spot him soon enough and let you know whar he's
"You'll just stay where ye are, Salomy," said her father decisively. "This
ain't no woman's work—though I ain't sayin' you haven't got more
head for it than some men I know."
Nevertheless, that night, after her father had gone to bed, Salomy Jane
sat by the open window of the sitting-room in an apparent attitude of
languid contemplation, but alert and intent of eye and ear. It was a fine
moonlit night. Two pines near the door, solitary pickets of the serried
ranks of distant forest, cast long shadows like paths to the cottage, and
sighed their spiced breath in the windows. For there was no frivolity of
vine or flower round Salomy Jane's bower. The clearing was too recent, the
life too practical for vanities like these. But the moon added a vague
elusiveness to everything, softened the rigid outlines of the sheds, gave
shadows to the lidless windows, and touched with merciful indirectness the
hideous debris of refuse gravel and the gaunt scars of burnt vegetation
before the door. Even Salomy Jane was affected by it, and exhaled
something between a sigh and a yawn with the breath of the pines. Then she
suddenly sat upright.
Her quick ear had caught a faint "click, click," in the direction of the
wood; her quicker instinct and rustic training enabled her to determine
that it was the ring of a horse's shoe on flinty ground; her knowledge of
the locality told her it came from the spot where the trail passed over an
outcrop of flint scarcely a quarter of a mile from where she sat, and
within the clearing. It was no errant "stock," for the foot was shod with
iron; it was a mounted trespasser by night, and boded no good to a man
She rose, threw her shawl over her head, more for disguise than shelter,
and passed out of the door. A sudden impulse made her seize her father's
shotgun from the corner where it stood,—not that she feared any
danger to herself, but that it was an excuse. She made directly for the
wood, keeping in the shadow of the pines as long as she could. At the
fringe she halted; whoever was there must pass her before reaching the
Then there seemed to be a suspense of all nature. Everything was deadly
still—even the moonbeams appeared no longer tremulous; soon there
was a rustle as of some stealthy animal among the ferns, and then a
dismounted man stepped into the moonlight. It was the horse-thief—the
man she had kissed!
For a wild moment a strange fancy seized her usually sane intellect and
stirred her temperate blood. The news they had told her was NOT true; he
had been hung, and this was his ghost! He looked as white and spirit-like
in the moonlight, dressed in the same clothes, as when she saw him last.
He had evidently seen her approaching, and moved quickly to meet her. But
in his haste he stumbled slightly; she reflected suddenly that ghosts did
not stumble, and a feeling of relief came over her. And it was no assassin
of her father that had been prowling around—only this unhappy
fugitive. A momentary color came into her cheek; her coolness and
hardihood returned; it was with a tinge of sauciness in her voice that she
"I reckoned you were a ghost."
"I mout have been," he said, looking at her fixedly; "but I reckon I'd
have come back here all the same."
"It's a little riskier comin' back alive," she said, with a levity that
died on her lips, for a singular nervousness, half fear and half
expectation, was beginning to take the place of her relief of a moment
ago. "Then it was YOU who was prowlin' round and makin' tracks in the far
"Yes; I came straight here when I got away."
She felt his eyes were burning her, but did not dare to raise her own.
"Why," she began, hesitated, and ended vaguely. "HOW did you get here?"
"You helped me!"
"Yes. That kiss you gave me put life into me—gave me strength to get
away. I swore to myself I'd come back and thank you, alive or dead."
Every word he said she could have anticipated, so plain the situation
seemed to her now. And every word he said she knew was the truth. Yet her
cool common sense struggled against it.
"What's the use of your escaping, ef you're comin' back here to be ketched
again?" she said pertly.
He drew a little nearer to her, but seemed to her the more awkward as she
resumed her self-possession. His voice, too, was broken, as if by
exhaustion, as he said, catching his breath at intervals:—
"I'll tell you. You did more for me than you think. You made another man
o' me. I never had a man, woman, or child do to me what you did. I never
had a friend—only a pal like Red Pete, who picked me up 'on shares.'
I want to quit this yer—what I'm doin'. I want to begin by doin' the
square thing to you"—He stopped, breathed hard, and then said
brokenly, "My hoss is over thar, staked out. I want to give him to you.
Judge Boompointer will give you a thousand dollars for him. I ain't lyin';
it's God's truth! I saw it on the handbill agin a tree. Take him, and I'll
get away afoot. Take him. It's the only thing I can do for you, and I know
it don't half pay for what you did. Take it; your father can get a reward
for you, if you can't."
Such were the ethics of this strange locality that neither the man who
made the offer nor the girl to whom it was made was struck by anything
that seemed illogical or indelicate, or at all inconsistent with justice
or the horse-thief's real conversion. Salomy Jane nevertheless dissented,
from another and weaker reason.
"I don't want your hoss, though I reckon dad might; but you're just
starvin'. I'll get suthin'." She turned towards the house.
"Say you'll take the hoss first," he said, grasping her hand. At the touch
she felt herself coloring and struggled, expecting perhaps another kiss.
But he dropped her hand. She turned again with a saucy gesture, said,
"Hol' on; I'll come right back," and slipped away, the mere shadow of a
coy and flying nymph in the moonlight, until she reached the house.
Here she not only procured food and whiskey, but added a long dust-coat
and hat of her father's to her burden. They would serve as a disguise for
him and hide that heroic figure, which she thought everybody must now know
as she did. Then she rejoined him breathlessly. But he put the food and
"Listen," he said; "I've turned the hoss into your corral. You'll find him
there in the morning, and no one will know but that he got lost and joined
the other hosses."
Then she burst out. "But you—YOU—what will become of you?
You'll be ketched!"
"I'll manage to get away," he said in a low voice, "ef—ef"—
"Ef what?" she said tremblingly. "Ef you'll put the heart in me again,—as
you did!" he gasped.
She tried to laugh—to move away. She could do neither. Suddenly he
caught her in his arms, with a long kiss, which she returned again and
again. Then they stood embraced as they had embraced two days before, but
no longer the same. For the cool, lazy Salomy Jane had been transformed
into another woman—a passionate, clinging savage. Perhaps something
of her father's blood had surged within her at that supreme moment. The
man stood erect and determined.
"Wot's your name?" she whispered quickly. It was a woman's quickest way of
defining her feelings.
"Yer first name?"
"Let me go now, Jack. Lie low in the woods till to-morrow sunup. I'll come
He released her. Yet she lingered a moment. "Put on those things," she
said, with a sudden happy flash of eyes and teeth, "and lie close till I
come." And then she sped away home.
But midway up the distance she felt her feet going slower, and something
at her heartstrings seemed to be pulling her back. She stopped, turned,
and glanced to where he had been standing. Had she seen him then, she
might have returned. But he had disappeared. She gave her first sigh, and
then ran quickly again. It must be nearly ten o'clock! It was not very
long to morning!
She was within a few steps of her own door, when the sleeping woods and
silent air appeared to suddenly awake with a sharp "crack!"
She stopped, paralyzed. Another "crack!" followed, that echoed over to the
far corral. She recalled herself instantly and dashed off wildly to the
As she ran she thought of one thing only. He had been "dogged" by one of
his old pursuers and attacked. But there were two shots, and he was
unarmed. Suddenly she remembered that she had left her father's gun
standing against the tree where they were talking. Thank God! she may
again have saved him. She ran to the tree; the gun was gone. She ran
hither and thither, dreading at every step to fall upon his lifeless body.
A new thought struck her; she ran to the corral. The horse was not there!
He must have been able to regain it, and escaped, AFTER the shots had been
fired. She drew a long breath of relief, but it was caught up in an
apprehension of alarm. Her father, awakened from his sleep by the shots,
was hurriedly approaching her.
"What's up now, Salomy Jane?" he demanded excitedly.
"Nothin'," said the girl with an effort. "Nothin', at least, that I can
find." She was usually truthful because fearless, and a lie stuck in her
throat; but she was no longer fearless, thinking of HIM. "I wasn't abed;
so I ran out as soon as I heard the shots fired," she answered in return
to his curious gaze.
"And you've hid my gun somewhere where it can't be found," he said
reproachfully. "Ef it was that sneak Larrabee, and he fired them shots to
lure me out, he might have potted me, without a show, a dozen times in the
last five minutes."
She had not thought since of her father's enemy! It might indeed have been
he who had attacked Jack. But she made a quick point of the suggestion.
"Run in, dad, run in and find the gun; you've got no show out here without
it." She seized him by the shoulders from behind, shielding him from the
woods, and hurried him, half expostulating, half struggling, to the house.
But there no gun was to be found. It was strange; it must have been
mislaid in some corner! Was he sure he had not left it in the barn? But no
matter now. The danger was over; the Larrabee trick had failed; he must go
to bed now, and in the morning they would make a search together. At the
same time she had inwardly resolved to rise before him and make another
search of the wood, and perhaps—fearful joy as she recalled her
promise!—find Jack alive and well, awaiting her!
Salomy Jane slept little that night, nor did her father. But towards
morning he fell into a tired man's slumber until the sun was well up the
horizon. Far different was it with his daughter: she lay with her face to
the window, her head half lifted to catch every sound, from the creaking
of the sun-warped shingles above her head to the far-off moan of the
rising wind in the pine trees. Sometimes she fell into a breathless,
half-ecstatic trance, living over every moment of the stolen interview;
feeling the fugitive's arm still around her, his kisses on her lips;
hearing his whispered voice in her ears—the birth of her new life!
This was followed again by a period of agonizing dread—that he might
even then be lying, his life ebbing away, in the woods, with her name on
his lips, and she resting here inactive, until she half started from her
bed to go to his succor. And this went on until a pale opal glow came into
the sky, followed by a still paler pink on the summit of the white
Sierras, when she rose and hurriedly began to dress. Still so sanguine was
her hope of meeting him, that she lingered yet a moment to select the
brown holland skirt and yellow sunbonnet she had worn when she first saw
him. And she had only seen him twice! Only TWICE! It would be cruel, too
cruel, not to see him again!
She crept softly down the stairs, listening to the long-drawn breathing of
her father in his bedroom, and then, by the light of a guttering candle,
scrawled a note to him, begging him not to trust himself out of the house
until she returned from her search, and leaving the note open on the
table, swiftly ran out into the growing day.
Three hours afterwards Mr. Madison Clay awoke to the sound of loud
knocking. At first this forced itself upon his consciousness as his
daughter's regular morning summons, and was responded to by a grunt of
recognition and a nestling closer in the blankets. Then he awoke with a
start and a muttered oath, remembering the events of last night, and his
intention to get up early, and rolled out of bed. Becoming aware by this
time that the knocking was at the outer door, and hearing the shout of a
familiar voice, he hastily pulled on his boots, his jean trousers, and
fastening a single suspender over his shoulder as he clattered downstairs,
stood in the lower room. The door was open, and waiting upon the threshold
was his kinsman, an old ally in many a blood-feud—Breckenridge Clay!
"You ARE a cool one, Mad!" said the latter in half-admiring indignation.
"What's up?" said the bewildered Madison.
"YOU ought to be, and scootin' out o' this," said Breckenridge grimly.
"It's all very well to 'know nothin';' but here Phil Larrabee's friends
hev just picked him up, drilled through with slugs and deader nor a crow,
and now they're lettin' loose Larrabee's two half-brothers on you. And you
must go like a derned fool and leave these yer things behind you in the
bresh," he went on querulously, lifting Madison Clay's dust-coat, hat, and
shotgun from his horse, which stood saddled at the door. "Luckily I picked
them up in the woods comin' here. Ye ain't got more than time to get over
the state line and among your folks thar afore they'll be down on you.
Hustle, old man! What are you gawkin' and starin' at?"
Madison Clay had stared amazed and bewildered—horror-stricken. The
incidents of the past night for the first time flashed upon him clearly—hopelessly!
The shot; his finding Salomy Jane alone in the woods; her confusion and
anxiety to rid herself of him; the disappearance of the shotgun; and now
this new discovery of the taking of his hat and coat for a disguise! SHE
had killed Phil Larrabee in that disguise, after provoking his first
harmless shot! She, his own child, Salomy Jane, had disgraced herself by a
man's crime; had disgraced him by usurping his right, and taking a mean
advantage, by deceit, of a foe!
"Gimme that gun," he said hoarsely.
Breckenridge handed him the gun in wonder and slowly gathering suspicion.
Madison examined nipple and muzzle; one barrel had been discharged. It was
true! The gun dropped from his hand.
"Look here, old man," said Breckenridge, with a darkening face, "there's
bin no foul play here. Thar's bin no hiring of men, no deputy to do this
job. YOU did it fair and square—yourself?"
"Yes, by God!" burst out Madison Clay in a hoarse voice. "Who says I
Reassured, yet believing that Madison Clay had nerved himself for the act
by an over-draught of whiskey, which had affected his memory, Breckenridge
said curtly, "Then wake up and 'lite' out, ef ye want me to stand by you."
"Go to the corral and pick me out a hoss," said Madison slowly, yet not
without a certain dignity of manner. "I've suthin' to say to Salomy Jane
afore I go." He was holding her scribbled note, which he had just
discovered, in his shaking hand.
Struck by his kinsman's manner, and knowing the dependent relations of
father and daughter, Breckenridge nodded and hurried away. Left to
himself, Madison Clay ran his fingers through his hair, and straightened
out the paper on which Salomy Jane had scrawled her note, turned it over,
and wrote on the back:—
You might have told me you did it, and not leave your ole father to find
it out how you disgraced yourself and him, too, by a low-down,
underhanded, woman's trick! I've said I done it, and took the blame
myself, and all the sneakiness of it that folks suspect. If I get away
alive—and I don't care much which—you needn't foller. The
house and stock are yours; but you ain't any longer the daughter of your
He had scarcely finished the note when, with a clatter of hoofs and a led
horse, Breckenridge reappeared at the door elate and triumphant. "You're
in nigger luck, Mad! I found that stole hoss of Judge Boompointer's had
got away and strayed among your stock in the corral. Take him and you're
safe; he can't be outrun this side of the state line."
"I ain't no hoss-thief," said Madison grimly.
"Nobody sez ye are, but you'd be wuss—a fool—ef you didn't
take him. I'm testimony that you found him among your hosses; I'll tell
Judge Boompointer you've got him, and ye kin send him back when you're
safe. The judge will be mighty glad to get him back, and call it quits. So
ef you've writ to Salomy Jane, come."
Madison Clay no longer hesitated. Salomy Jane might return at any moment,—it
would be part of her "fool womanishness,"—and he was in no mood to
see her before a third party. He laid the note on the table, gave a
hurried glance around the house, which he grimly believed he was leaving
forever, and, striding to the door, leaped on the stolen horse, and swept
away with his kinsman.
But that note lay for a week undisturbed on the table in full view of the
open door. The house was invaded by leaves, pine cones, birds, and
squirrels during the hot, silent, empty days, and at night by shy,
stealthy creatures, but never again, day or night, by any of the Clay
family. It was known in the district that Clay had flown across the state
line, his daughter was believed to have joined him the next day, and the
house was supposed to be locked up. It lay off the main road, and few
passed that way. The starving cattle in the corral at last broke bounds
and spread over the woods. And one night a stronger blast than usual swept
through the house, carried the note from the table to the floor, where,
whirled into a crack in the flooring, it slowly rotted.
But though the sting of her father's reproach was spared her, Salomy Jane
had no need of the letter to know what had happened. For as she entered
the woods in the dim light of that morning she saw the figure of Dart
gliding from the shadow of a pine towards her. The unaffected cry of joy
that rose from her lips died there as she caught sight of his face in the
"You are hurt," she said, clutching his arm passionately.
"No," he said. "But I wouldn't mind that if"—
"You're thinkin' I was afeard to come back last night when I heard the
shootin', but I DID come," she went on feverishly. "I ran back here when I
heard the two shots, but you were gone. I went to the corral, but your
hoss wasn't there, and I thought you'd got away."
"I DID get away," said Dart gloomily. "I killed the man, thinkin' he was
huntin' ME, and forgettin' I was disguised. He thought I was your father."
"Yes," said the girl joyfully, "he was after dad, and YOU—you killed
him." She again caught his hand admiringly.
But he did not respond. Possibly there were points of honor which this
horse-thief felt vaguely with her father. "Listen," he said grimly.
"Others think it was your father killed him. When I did it—for he
fired at me first—I ran to the corral again and took my hoss,
thinkin' I might be follered. I made a clear circuit of the house, and
when I found he was the only one, and no one was follerin', I come back
here and took off my disguise. Then I heard his friends find him in the
wood, and I know they suspected your father. And then another man come
through the woods while I was hidin' and found the clothes and took them
away." He stopped and stared at her gloomily.
But all this was unintelligible to the girl. "Dad would have got the
better of him ef you hadn't," she said eagerly, "so what's the
"All the same," he said gloomily, "I must take his place."
She did not understand, but turned her head to her master. "Then you'll go
back with me and tell him ALL?" she said obediently.
"Yes," he said.
She put her hand in his, and they crept out of the wood together. She
foresaw a thousand difficulties, but, chiefest of all, that he did not
love as she did. SHE would not have taken these risks against their
But alas for ethics and heroism. As they were issuing from the wood they
heard the sound of galloping hoofs, and had barely time to hide themselves
before Madison Clay, on the stolen horse of Judge Boompointer, swept past
them with his kinsman.
Salomy Jane turned to her lover.
And here I might, as a moral romancer, pause, leaving the guilty,
passionate girl eloped with her disreputable lover, destined to lifelong
shame and misery, misunderstood to the last by a criminal, fastidious
parent. But I am confronted by certain facts, on which this romance is
based. A month later a handbill was posted on one of the sentinel pines,
announcing that the property would be sold by auction to the highest
bidder by Mrs. John Dart, daughter of Madison Clay, Esq., and it was sold
accordingly. Still later—by ten years—the chronicler of these
pages visited a certain "stock" or "breeding farm," in the "Blue Grass
Country," famous for the popular racers it has produced. He was told that
the owner was the "best judge of horse-flesh in the country." "Small
wonder," added his informant, "for they say as a young man out in
California he was a horse-thief, and only saved himself by eloping with
some rich farmer's daughter. But he's a straight-out and respectable man
now, whose word about horses can't be bought; and as for his wife, she's a
beauty! To see her at the 'Springs,' rigged out in the latest fashion,
you'd never think she had ever lived out of New York or wasn't the wife of
one of its millionaires."
THE MAN AND THE MOUNTAIN
He was such a large, strong man that, when he first set foot in the little
parallelogram I called my garden, it seemed to shrink to half its size and
become preposterous. But I noticed at the same time that he was holding in
the open palm of his huge hand the roots of a violet, with such infinite
tenderness and delicacy that I would have engaged him as my gardener on
the spot. But this could not be, as he was already the proud proprietor of
a market-garden and nursery on the outskirts of the suburban Californian
town where I lived. He would, however, come for two days in the week,
stock and look after my garden, and impart to my urban intellect such
horticultural hints as were necessary. His name was "Rutli," which I
presumed to be German, but which my neighbors rendered as "Rootleigh,"
possibly from some vague connection with his occupation. His own knowledge
of English was oral and phonetic. I have a delightful recollection of a
bill of his in which I was charged for "fioletz," with the vague addition
of "maine cains." Subsequent explanation proved it to be "many kinds."
Nevertheless, my little garden bourgeoned and blossomed under his large,
protecting hand. I became accustomed to walk around his feet respectfully
when they blocked the tiny paths, and to expect the total eclipse of that
garden-bed on which he worked, by his huge bulk. For the tiniest and most
reluctant rootlet seemed to respond to his caressing paternal touch; it
was a pretty sight to see his huge fingers tying up some slender stalk to
its stick with the smallest thread, and he had a reverent way of laying a
bulb or seed in the ground, and then gently shaping and smoothing a small
mound over it, which made the little inscription on the stick above more
like an affecting epitaph than ever. Much of this gentleness may have been
that apology for his great strength, common with large men; but his face
was distinctly amiable, and his very light blue eyes were at times wistful
and doglike in their kindliness. I was soon to learn, however, that
placability was not entirely his nature.
The garden was part of a fifty vara lot of land, on which I was
simultaneously erecting a house. But the garden was finished before the
house was, through certain circumstances very characteristic of that epoch
and civilization. I had purchased the Spanish title, the only LEGAL one,
to the land, which, however, had been in POSSESSION of a "squatter." But
he had been unable to hold that possession against a "jumper,"—another
kind of squatter who had entered upon it covertly, fenced it in, and
marked it out in building sites. Neither having legal rights, they could
not invoke the law; the last man held possession. There was no doubt that
in due course of litigation and time both these ingenuous gentlemen would
have been dispossessed in favor of the real owner,—myself,—but
that course would be a protracted one. Following the usual custom of the
locality, I paid a certain sum to the jumper to yield up peaceably HIS
possession of the land, and began to build upon it. It might be reasonably
supposed that the question was settled. But it was not. The house was
nearly finished when, one morning, I was called out of my editorial
sanctum by a pallid painter, looking even more white-leaded than usual,
who informed me that my house was in the possession of five armed men! The
entry had been made peaceably during the painters' absence to dinner under
a wayside tree. When they returned, they had found their pots and brushes
in the road, and an intimation from the windows that their reentrance
would be forcibly resisted as a trespass.
I honestly believe that Rutli was more concerned than myself over this
dispossession. While he loyally believed that I would get back my
property, he was dreadfully grieved over the inevitable damage that would
be done to the garden during this interval of neglect and carelessness. I
even think he would have made a truce with my enemies, if they would only
have let him look after his beloved plants. As it was, he kept a passing
but melancholy surveillance of them, and was indeed a better spy of the
actions of the intruders than any I could have employed. One day, to my
astonishment, he brought me a moss-rose bud from a bush which had been
trained against a column of the veranda. It appeared that he had called,
from over the fence, the attention of one of the men to the neglected
condition of the plant, and had obtained permission to "come in and tie it
up." The men, being merely hirelings of the chief squatter, had no
personal feeling, and I was not therefore surprised to hear that they
presently allowed Rutli to come in occasionally and look after his
precious "slips." If they had any suspicions of his great strength, it was
probably offset by his peaceful avocation and his bland, childlike face.
Meantime, I had begun the usual useless legal proceeding, but had also
engaged a few rascals of my own to be ready to take advantage of any want
of vigilance on the part of my adversaries. I never thought of Rutli in
that connection any more than they had.
A few Sundays later I was sitting in the little tea-arbor of Rutli's
nursery, peacefully smoking with him. Presently he took his long
china-bowled pipe from his mouth, and, looking at me blandly over his
yellow mustache, said:—
"You vonts sometimes to go in dot house, eh?"
I said, "Decidedly."
"Mit a revolver, and keep dot house dose men out?"
"Vell! I put you in dot house—today!"
"Shoost so! It is a goot day! On der Suntay DREE men vill out go to valk
mit demselluffs, and visky trinken. TWO," holding up two gigantic fingers,
apparently only a shade or two smaller than his destined victims, "stay
dere. Dose I lift de fence over."
I hastened to inform him that any violence attempted against the parties
WHILE IN POSSESSION, although that possession was illegal, would, by a
fatuity of the law, land him in the county jail. I said I would not hear
"But suppose dere vos no fiolence? Suppose dose men vos villin', eh? How
vos dot for high?"
"I don't understand."
"So! You shall NOT understand! Dot is better. Go away now and dell your
men to coom dot house arount at halluff past dree. But YOU coom, mit
yourselluff alone, shoost as if you vos spazieren gehen, for a valk, by
dat fence at dree! Ven you shall dot front door vide open see, go in, and
dere you vos! You vill der rest leef to me!"
It was in vain that I begged Rutli to divulge his plan, and pointed out
again the danger of his technically breaking the law. But he was firm,
assuring me that I myself would be a witness that no assault would be
made. I looked into his clear, good-humored eyes, and assented. I had a
burning desire to right my wrongs, but I think I also had considerable
I passed a miserable quarter of an hour after I had warned my partisans,
and then walked alone slowly down the broad leafy street towards the scene
of contest. I have a very vivid recollection of my conflicting emotions. I
did not believe that I would be killed; I had no distinct intention of
killing any of my adversaries; but I had some considerable concern for my
loyal friend Rutli, whom I foresaw might be in some peril from the
revolver in my unpracticed hand. If I could only avoid shooting HIM, I
would be satisfied. I remember that the bells were ringing for church,—a
church of which my enemy, the chief squatter, was a deacon in good
standing,—and I felt guiltily conscious of my revolver in my
hip-pocket, as two or three church-goers passed me with their hymn-books
in their hands. I walked leisurely, so as not to attract attention, and to
appear at the exact time, a not very easy task in my youthful excitement.
At last I reached the front gate with a beating heart. There was no one on
the high veranda, which occupied three sides of the low one-storied house,
nor in the garden before it. But the front door was open; I softly passed
through the gate, darted up the veranda and into the house. A single
glance around the hall and bare, deserted rooms, still smelling of paint,
showed me it was empty, and with my pistol in one hand and the other on
the lock of the door, I stood inside, ready to bolt it against any one but
Rutli. But where was HE?
The sound of laughter and a noise like skylarking came from the rear of
the house and the back yard. Then I suddenly heard Rutli's heavy tread on
the veranda, but it was slow, deliberate, and so exaggerated in its weight
that the whole house seemed to shake with it. Then from the window I
beheld an extraordinary sight! It was Rutli, swaying from side to side,
but steadily carrying with outstretched arms two of the squatter party,
his hands tightly grasping their collars. Yet I believe his touch was as
gentle as with the violets. His face was preternaturally grave; theirs, to
my intense astonishment, while they hung passive from his arms, wore that
fatuous, imbecile smile seen on the faces of those who lend themselves to
tricks of acrobats and strong men in the arena. He slowly traversed the
whole length of one side of the house, walked down the steps to the gate,
and then gravely deposited them OUTSIDE. I heard him say, "Dot vins der
pet, ain't it?" and immediately after the sharp click of the gate-latch.
Without understanding a thing that had happened, I rightly conceived this
was the cue for my appearance with my revolver at the front door. As I
opened it I still heard the sound of laughter, which, however, instantly
stopped at a sentence from Rutli, which I could not hear. There was an
oath, the momentary apparition of two furious and indignant faces over the
fence; but these, however, seemed to be instantly extinguished and put
down by the enormous palms of Rutli clapped upon their heads. There was a
pause, and then Rutli turned around and quietly joined me in the doorway.
But the gate was not again opened until the arrival of my partisans, when
the house was clearly in my possession.
Safe inside with the door bolted, I turned eagerly to Rutli for an
explanation. It then appeared that during his occasional visits to the
garden he had often been an object of amusement and criticism to the men
on account of his size, which seemed to them ridiculously inconsistent
with his great good humor, gentleness, and delicacy of touch. They had
doubted his strength and challenged his powers. He had responded once or
twice before, lifting weights or even carrying one of his critics at arm's
length for a few steps. But he had reserved his final feat for this day
and this purpose. It was for a bet, which they had eagerly accepted,
secure in their belief in his simplicity, the sincerity of his motives in
coming there, and glad of the opportunity of a little Sunday diversion. In
their security they had not locked the door when they came out, and had
not noticed that HE had opened it. This was his simple story. His only
comment, "I haf von der pet, but I dinks I shall nod gollect der money."
The two men did not return that afternoon, nor did their comrades. Whether
they wisely conceived that a man who was so powerful in play might be
terrible in earnest; whether they knew that his act, in which they had
been willing performers, had been witnessed by passing citizens, who
supposed it was skylarking; or whether their employer got tired of his
expensive occupation, I never knew. The public believed the latter; Rutli,
myself, and the two men he had evicted alone kept our secret.
From that time Rutli and I became firm friends, and, long after I had no
further need of his services in the recaptured house, I often found myself
in the little tea-arbor of his prosperous nursery. He was frugal, sober,
and industrious; small wonder that in that growing town he waxed rich, and
presently opened a restaurant in the main street, connected with his
market-garden, which became famous. His relations to me never changed with
his changed fortunes; he was always the simple market-gardener and florist
who had aided my first housekeeping, and stood by me in an hour of need.
Of all things regarding himself he was singularly reticent; I do not think
he had any confidants or intimates, even among his own countrymen, whom I
believed to be German. But one day he quite accidentally admitted he was a
Swiss. As a youthful admirer of the race I was delighted, and told him so,
with the enthusiastic addition that I could now quite understand his
independence, with his devoted adherence to another's cause. He smiled
sadly, and astonished me by saying that he had not heard from Switzerland
since he left six years ago. He did not want to hear anything; he even
avoided his countrymen lest he should. I was confounded.
"But," I said, "surely you have a longing to return to your country; all
Swiss have! You will go back some day just to breathe the air of your
"I shall go back some days," said Rutli, "after I have made mooch, mooch
money, but not for dot air."
"What for, then?"
"For revenge—to get efen."
Surprised, and for a moment dismayed as I was, I could not help laughing.
"Rutli and revenge!" Impossible! And to make it the more absurd, he was
still smoking gently and regarding me with soft, complacent eyes. So
unchanged was his face and manner that he might have told me he was going
back to be married.
"You do not oonderstand," he said forgivingly. "Some days I shall dell to
you id. Id is a story. You shall make it yourselluff for dose babers dot
you write. It is not bretty, berhaps, ain't it, but it is droo. And de
endt is not yet."
Only that Rutli never joked, except in a ponderous fashion with many
involved sentences, I should have thought he was taking a good-humored
rise out of me. But it was not funny. I am afraid I dismissed it from my
mind as a revelation of something weak and puerile, quite inconsistent
with his practical common sense and strong simplicity, and wished he had
not alluded to it. I never asked him to tell me the story. It was a year
later, and only when he had invited me to come to the opening of a new
hotel, erected by him at a mountain spa of great resort, that he himself
alluded to it.
The hotel was a wonderful affair, even for those days, and Rutli's outlay
of capital convinced me that by this time he must have made the "mooch
money" he coveted. Something of this was in my mind when we sat by the window
of his handsomely furnished private office, overlooking the pines of a
Californian canyon. I asked him if the scenery was like Switzerland.
"Ach! no!" he replied; "but I vill puild a hotel shoost like dis dare."
"Is that a part of your revenge?" I asked, with a laugh.
"Ah! so! a bart."
I felt relieved; a revenge so practical did not seem very malicious or
idiotic. After a pause he puffed contemplatively at his pipe, and then
said, "I dell you somedings of dot story now."
He began. I should like to tell it in his own particular English, mixed
with American slang, but it would not convey the simplicity of the
narrator. He was the son of a large family who had lived for centuries in
one of the highest villages in the Bernese Oberland. He attained his size
and strength early, but with a singular distaste to use them in the rough
regular work on the farm, although he was a great climber and mountaineer,
and, what was at first overlooked as mere boyish fancy, had an insatiable
love and curious knowledge of plants and flowers. He knew the haunts of
Edelweiss, Alpine rose, and blue gentian, and had brought home rare and
unknown blossoms from under the icy lips of glaciers. But as he did this
when his time was supposed to be occupied in looking after the cows in the
higher pastures and making cheeses, there was trouble in that
hard-working, practical family. A giant with the tastes and disposition of
a schoolgirl was an anomaly in a Swiss village. Unfortunately again, he
was not studious; his record in the village school had been on a par with
his manual work, and the family had not even the consolation of believing
that they were fostering a genius. In a community where practical industry
was the highest virtue, it was not strange, perhaps, that he was called
"lazy" and "shiftless;" no one knew the long climbs and tireless vigils he
had undergone in remote solitudes in quest of his favorites, or, knowing,
forgave him for it. Abstemious, frugal, and patient as he was, even the
crusts of his father's table were given him grudgingly. He often went
hungry rather than ask the bread he had failed to earn. How his great
frame was nurtured in those days he never knew; perhaps the giant
mountains recognized some kin in him and fed and strengthened him after
their own fashion. Even his gentleness was confounded with cowardice. "Dot
vos de hardtest," he said simply; "it is not goot to be opligit to half
crush your brudder, ven he would make a laugh of you to your sweetheart."
The end came sooner than he expected, and, oddly enough, through this
sweetheart. "Gottlieb," she said to him one day, "the English Fremde who
stayed here last night met me when I was carrying some of those beautiful
flowers you gave me. He asked me where they were to be found, and I told
him only YOU knew. He wants to see you; go to him. It may be luck to you."
Rutli went. The stranger, an English Alpine climber of scientific tastes,
talked with him for an hour. At the end of that time, to everybody's
astonishment, he engaged this hopeless idler as his personal guide for
three months, at the sum of five francs a day! It was inconceivable, it
was unheard of! The Englander was as mad as Gottlieb, whose intellect had
always been under suspicion! The schoolmaster pursed up his lips, the
pastor shook his head; no good could come of it; the family looked upon it
as another freak of Gottlieb's, but there was one big mouth less to feed
and more room in the kitchen, and they let him go. They parted from him as
ungraciously as they had endured his presence.
Then followed two months of sunshine in Rutli's life—association
with his beloved plants, and the intelligent sympathy and direction of a
cultivated man. Even in altitudes so dangerous that they had to take other
and more experienced guides, Rutli was always at his master's side. That
savant's collection of Alpine flora excelled all previous ones; he talked
freely with Rutli of further work in the future, and relaxed his English
reserve so far as to confide to him that the outcome of their collection
and observation might be a book. He gave a flower a Latin name, in which
even the ignorant and delighted Rutli could distinguish some likeness to
his own. But the book was never compiled. In one of their later and more
difficult ascents they and their two additional guides were overtaken by a
sudden storm. Swept from their feet down an ice-bound slope, Rutli alone
of the roped-together party kept a foothold on the treacherous incline.
Here this young Titan, with bleeding fingers clenched in a rock cleft,
sustained the struggles and held up the lives of his companions by that
precious thread for more than an hour. Perhaps he might have saved them,
but in their desperate efforts to regain their footing the rope slipped
upon a jagged edge of outcrop and parted as if cut by a knife. The two
guides passed without an outcry into obscurity and death; Rutli, with a
last despairing exertion, dragged to his own level his unconscious master,
crippled by a broken leg.
Your true hero is apt to tell his tale simply. Rutli did not dwell upon
these details, nor need I. Left alone upon a treacherous ice slope in
benumbing cold, with a helpless man, eight hours afterwards he staggered,
half blind, incoherent, and inarticulate, into a "shelter" hut, with the
dead body of his master in his stiffened arms. The shelter-keepers turned
their attention to Rutli, who needed it most. Blind and delirious, with
scarce a chance for life, he was sent the next day to a hospital, where he
lay for three months, helpless, imbecile, and unknown. The dead body of
the Englishman was identified, and sent home; the bodies of the guides
were recovered by their friends; but no one knew aught of Rutli, even his
name. While the event was still fresh in the minds of those who saw him
enter the hut with the body of his master, a paragraph appeared in a Berne
journal recording the heroism of this nameless man. But it could not be
corroborated nor explained by the demented hero, and was presently
forgotten. Six months from the day he had left his home he was discharged
cured. He had not a kreutzer in his pocket; he had never drawn his wages
from his employer; he had preferred to have it in a lump sum that he might
astonish his family on his return. His eyes were still weak, his memory
feeble; only his great physical strength remained through his long
illness. A few sympathizing travelers furnished him the means to reach his
native village, many miles away. He found his family had heard of the loss
of the Englishman and the guides, and had believed he was one of them.
Already he was forgotten.
"Ven you vos once peliefed to be det," said Rutli, after a philosophic
pause and puff, "it vos not goot to ondeceif beoples. You oopset
somedings, soomdimes always. Der hole dot you hef made in der grount,
among your frients and your family, vos covered up alretty. You are loocky
if you vill not fint some vellars shtanding upon id! My frent, ven you vos
DINK det, SHTAY det, BE det, and you vill lif happy!"
"But your sweetheart?" I said eagerly.
A slight gleam of satire stole into Rutli's light eyes. "My sweetheart,
ven I vos dinks det, is der miller engaged do bromply! It is mooch better
dan to a man dot vos boor and plint and grazy! So! Vell, der next day I
pids dem goot-py, und from der door I say, 'I am det now; but ven I next
comes pack alife, I shall dis village py! der lants, der houses all
togedders. And den for yourselluffs look oudt!'"
"Then that's your revenge? That is what you really intend to do?" I said,
half laughing, yet with an uneasy recollection of his illness and
"Yes. Look here! I show you somedings." He opened a drawer of his desk and
took out what appeared to be some diagrams, plans, and a small
water-colored map, like a surveyor's tracing. "Look," he said, laying his
finger on the latter, "dat is a map from my fillage. I hef myselluff made
it out from my memory. Dot," pointing to a blank space, "is der mountain
side high up, so far. It is no goot until I vill a tunnel make or der
grade lefel. Dere vas mine fader's house, dere vos der church, der
schoolhouse, dot vos de burgomaster's house," he went on, pointing to the
respective plots in this old curving parallelogram of the mountain shelf.
"So was the fillage when I leave him on the 5th of March, eighteen hundred
and feefty. Now you shall see him shoost as I vill make him ven I go
back." He took up another plan, beautifully drawn and colored, and
evidently done by a professional hand. It was a practical, yet almost
fairylike transformation of the same spot! The narrow mountain shelf was
widened by excavation, and a boulevard stretched on either side. A great
hotel, not unlike the one in which we sat, stood in an open terrace, with
gardens and fountains—the site of his father's house. Blocks of
pretty dwellings, shops, and cafes filled the intermediate space. I laid
down the paper.
"How long have you had this idea?"
"Efer since I left dere, fifteen years ago."
"But your father and mother may be dead by this time?"
"So, but dere vill be odders. Und der blace—it vill remain."
"But all this will cost a fortune, and you are not sure"—
"I know shoost vot id vill gost, to a cend."
"And you think you can ever afford to carry out your idea?"
"I VILL affort id. Ven you shall make yet some moneys and go to Europe,
you shall see. I VILL infite you dere first. Now coom and look der house
I did NOT make "some moneys," but I DID go to Europe. Three years after
this last interview with Rutli I was coming from Interlaken to Berne by
rail. I had not heard from him, and I had forgotten the name of his
village, but as I looked up from the paper I was reading, I suddenly
recognized him in the further end of the same compartment I occupied. His
recognition of me was evidently as sudden and unexpected. After our first
hand-grasp and greeting, I said:—
"And how about our new village?"
"Dere is no fillage."
"What! You have given up the idea?"
"Yes. There is no fillage, olt or new."
"I don't understand."
He looked at me a moment. "You have not heard?"
He gently picked up a little local guidebook that lay in my lap, and
turning its leaves, pointed to a page, and read as follows:—
"5 M. beyond, the train passes a curve R., where a fine view of the lake
may be seen. A little to the R. rises the steep slopes of the ——,
the scene of a terrible disaster. At three o'clock on March 5, 1850, the
little village of ——, lying midway of the slope, with its
population of 950 souls, was completely destroyed by a landslip from the
top of the mountain. So sudden was the catastrophe that not a single
escape is recorded. A large portion of the mountain crest, as will be
observed when it is seen in profile, descended to the valley, burying the
unfortunate village to a depth variously estimated at from 1000 ft. to
1800 ft. The geological causes which produced this extraordinary
displacement have been fully discussed, but the greater evidence points to
the theory of subterranean glaciers. 5 M. beyond —— the train
crosses the R. bridge."
I laid down the guide-book in breathless astonishment.
"And you never heard of this in all these years?"
"Nefer! I asked no questions, I read no pooks. I have no ledders from
"And yet you"—I stopped, I could not call him a fool; neither could
I, in the face of his perfect composure and undisturbed eyes, exhibit a
concern greater than his own. An uneasy recollection of what he confessed
had been his mental condition immediately after his accident came over me.
Had he been the victim of a strange hallucination regarding his house and
family all these years? Were these dreams of revenge, this fancy of
creating a new village, only an outcome of some shock arising out of the
disaster itself, which he had long since forgotten?
He was looking from the window. "Coom," he said, "ve are near der blace. I
vill show id to you." He rose and passed out to the rear platform. We were
in the rear car, and a new panorama of the lake and mountains flashed upon
us at every curve of the line. I followed him. Presently he pointed to
what appeared to be a sheer wall of rock and stunted vegetation towering
two or three thousand feet above us, which started out of a gorge we were
passing. "Dere it vos!" he said. I saw the vast stretch of rock face
rising upward and onward, but nothing else. No debris, no ruins, nor even
a swelling or rounding of the mountain flank over that awful tomb. Yet,
stay! as we dashed across the gorge, and the face of the mountain shifted,
high up, the sky-line was slightly broken as if a few inches, a mere
handful, of the crest was crumbled away. And then—both gorge and
I was still embarrassed and uneasy, and knew not what to say to this man
at my side, whose hopes and ambition had been as quickly overthrown and
buried, and whose life-dream had as quickly vanished. But he himself,
taking his pipe from his lips, broke the silence.
"It vos a narrow esgabe!"
"Vy, dis dings. If I had stayed in my fader's house, I vould haf been det
for goot, and perried too! Somedimes dose dings cooms oudt apout right,
Unvanquished philosopher! As we stood there looking at the flying
landscape and sinking lesser hills, one by one the great snow peaks slowly
arose behind them, lifting themselves, as if to take a last wondering look
at the man they had triumphed over, but had not subdued.
THE PASSING OF ENRIQUEZ
When Enriquez Saltillo ran away with Miss Mannersley, as already recorded
in these chronicles,* her relatives and friends found it much easier to
forgive that ill-assorted union than to understand it. For, after all,
Enriquez was the scion of an old Spanish-Californian family, and in due
time would have his share of his father's three square leagues, whatever
incongruity there was between his lively Latin extravagance and Miss
Mannersley's Puritan precision and intellectual superiority. They had gone
to Mexico; Mrs. Saltillo, as was known, having an interest in Aztec
antiquities, and he being utterly submissive to her wishes. For myself
from my knowledge of Enriquez's nature, I had grave doubts of his entire
subjugation, although I knew the prevailing opinion was that Mrs.
Saltillo's superiority would speedily tame him. Since his brief and
characteristic note apprising me of his marriage, I had not heard from
him. It was, therefore, with some surprise, a good deal of reminiscent
affection, and a slight twinge of reproach that, two years after, I looked
up from some proofs, in the sanctum of the "Daily Excelsior," to recognize
his handwriting on a note that was handed to me by a yellow Mexican boy.
* See "The Devotion of Enriquez," in Selected Stories by
Bret Harte Gutenberg #1312.
A single glance at its contents showed me that Mrs. Saltillo's correct
Bostonian speech had not yet subdued Enriquez's peculiar Spanish-American
"Here we are again,—right side up with care,—at 1110 Dupont
Street, Telegraph Hill. Second floor from top. 'Ring and push.' 'No book
agents need apply.' How's your royal nibs? I kiss your hand! Come at six,—the
band shall play at seven,—and regard your friend 'Mees Boston,' who
will tell you about the little old nigger boys, and your old Uncle
Two things struck me: Enriquez had not changed; Mrs. Saltillo had
certainly yielded up some of her peculiar prejudices. For the address
given, far from being a fashionable district, was known as the "Spanish
quarter," which, while it still held some old Spanish families, was
chiefly given over to half-castes and obscurer foreigners. Even poverty
could not have driven Mrs. Saltillo to such a refuge against her will;
nevertheless, a good deal of concern for Enriquez's fortune mingled with
my curiosity, as I impatiently waited for six o'clock to satisfy it.
It was a breezy climb to 1110 Dupont Street; and although the street had
been graded, the houses retained their airy elevation, and were accessible
only by successive flights of wooden steps to the front door, which still
gave perilously upon the street, sixty feet below. I now painfully
appreciated Enriquez's adaptation of the time-honored joke about the
second floor. An invincible smell of garlic almost took my remaining
breath away as the door was opened to me by a swarthy Mexican woman, whose
loose camisa seemed to be slipping from her unstable bust, and was held on
only by the mantua-like shawl which supplemented it, gripped by one brown
hand. Dizzy from my ascent to that narrow perch, which looked upon nothing
but the distant bay and shores of Contra Costa, I felt as apologetic as if
I had landed from a balloon; but the woman greeted me with a languid
Spanish smile and a lazy display of white teeth, as if my arrival was
quite natural. Don Enriquez, "of a fact," was not himself in the casa, but
was expected "on the instant." "Donna Urania" was at home.
"Donna Urania"? For an instant I had forgotten that Mrs. Saltillo's first
name was Urania, so pleasantly and spontaneously did it fall from the
Spanish lips. Nor was I displeased at this chance of learning something of
Don Enriquez's fortunes and the Saltillo menage before confronting my old
friend. The servant preceded me to the next floor, and, opening a door,
ushered me into the lady's presence.
I had carried with me, on that upward climb, a lively recollection of Miss
Mannersley as I had known her two years before. I remembered her upright,
almost stiff, slight figure, the graceful precision of her poses, the
faultless symmetry and taste of her dress, and the atmosphere of a
fastidious and wholesome cleanliness which exhaled from her. In the lady I
saw before me, half reclining in a rocking-chair, there was none of the
stiffness and nicety. Habited in a loose gown of some easy, flexible, but
rich material, worn with that peculiarly indolent slouch of the Mexican
woman, Mrs. Saltillo had parted with half her individuality. Even her
arched feet and thin ankles, the close-fitting boots or small slippers of
which were wont to accent their delicacy, were now lost in a short,
low-quartered kid shoe of the Spanish type, in which they moved loosely.
Her hair, which she had always worn with a certain Greek simplicity, was
parted at one side. Yet her face, with its regularity of feature, and
small, thin, red-lipped mouth, was quite unchanged; and her velvety brown
eyes were as beautiful and inscrutable as ever.
With the same glance I had taken in her surroundings, quite as incongruous
to her former habits. The furniture, though of old and heavy mahogany, had
suffered from careless alien hands, and was interspersed with modern and
unmatchable makeshifts, yet preserving the distinctly scant and formal
attitude of furnished lodgings. It was certainly unlike the artistic
trifles and delicate refinements of her uncle's drawing-room, which we all
knew her taste had dictated and ruled. The black and white engravings, the
outlined heads of Minerva and Diana, were excluded from the walls for two
cheap colored Catholic prints,—a soulless Virgin, and the mystery of
the Bleeding Heart. Against the wall, in one corner, hung the only object
which seemed a memento of their travels,—a singular-looking upright
Indian "papoose-case" or cradle, glaringly decorated with beads and paint,
probably an Aztec relic. On a round table, the velvet cover of which
showed marks of usage and abusage, there were scattered books and writing
materials; and my editorial instinct suddenly recognized, with a thrill of
apprehension, the loose leaves of an undoubted manuscript. This
circumstance, taken with the fact of Donna Urania's hair being parted on
one side, and the general negligee of her appearance, was a disturbing
My wandering eye apparently struck her, for after the first greeting she
pointed to the manuscript with a smile.
"Yes; that is THE manuscript. I suppose Enriquez told you all about it? He
said he had written."
I was dumfounded. I certainly had not understood ALL of Enriquez's slang;
it was always so decidedly his own, and peculiar. Yet I could not recall
any allusion to this.
"He told me something of it, but very vaguely," I ventured to say
deprecatingly; "but I am afraid that I thought more of seeing my old
friend again than of anything else."
"During our stay in Mexico," continued Mrs. Saltillo, with something of
her old precision, "I made some researches into Aztec history, a subject
always deeply interesting to me, and I thought I would utilize the result
by throwing it on paper. Of course it is better fitted for a volume of
reference than for a newspaper, but Enriquez thought you might want to use
it for your journal."
I knew that Enriquez had no taste for literature, and had even rather
depreciated it in the old days, with his usual extravagance; but I managed
to say very pleasantly that I was delighted with his suggestion and should
be glad to read the manuscript. After all, it was not improbable that Mrs.
Saltillo, who was educated and intelligent, should write well, if not
popularly. "Then Enriquez does not begrudge you the time that your work
takes from him," I added laughingly. "You seem to have occupied your
"We quite comprehend our respective duties," said Mrs. Saltillo dryly;
"and have from the first. We have our own lives to live, independent of my
uncle and Enriquez's father. We have not only accepted the responsibility
of our own actions, but we both feel the higher privilege of creating our
own conditions without extraneous aid from our relatives."
It struck me that this somewhat exalted statement was decidedly a pose, or
a return of Urania Mannersley's old ironical style. I looked quietly into
her brown, near-sighted eyes; but, as once before, my glance seemed to
slip from their moist surface without penetrating the inner thought
beneath. "And what does Enriquez do for HIS part?" I asked smilingly.
I fully expected to hear that the energetic Enriquez was utilizing his
peculiar tastes and experiences by horse-breaking, stock-raising,
professional bull-fighting, or even horse-racing, but was quite astonished
when she answered quietly:—
"Enriquez is giving himself up to geology and practical metallurgy, with a
view to scientific, purely scientific, mining."
Enriquez and geology! In that instant all I could remember of it were his
gibes at the "geologian," as he was wont to term Professor Dobbs, a former
admirer of Miss Mannersley's. To add to my confusion Mrs. Saltillo at the
same moment absolutely voiced my thought.
"You may remember Professor Dobbs," she went on calmly, "one of the most
eminent scientists over here, and a very old Boston friend. He has taken
Enriquez in hand. His progress is most satisfactory; we have the greatest
hopes of him."
"And how soon do you both hope to have some practical results of his
study?" I could not help asking a little mischievously; for I somehow
resented the plural pronoun in her last sentence.
"Very soon," said Mrs. Saltillo, ignoring everything but the question.
"You know Enriquez's sanguine temperament. Perhaps he is already given to
evolving theories without a sufficient basis of fact. Still, he has the
daring of a discoverer. His ideas of the oolitic formation are not without
originality, and Professor Dobbs says that in his conception of the
Silurian beach there are gleams that are distinctly precious."
I looked at Mrs. Saltillo, who had reinforced her eyes with her old
piquant pince-nez, but could detect no irony in them. She was prettily
imperturbable, that was all. There was an awkward silence. Then it was
broken by a bounding step on the stairs, a wide-open fling of the door,
and Enriquez pirouetted into the room: Enriquez, as of old, unchanged from
the crown of his smooth, coal-black hair to the tips of his small, narrow
Arabian feet; Enriquez, with his thin, curling mustache, his dancing eyes
set in his immovable face, just as I had always known him!
He affected to lapse against the door for a minute, as if staggered by a
resplendent vision. Then he said:—
"What do I regard? Is it a dream, or have I again got them—thees
jimjams? My best friend and my best—I mean my ONLY—wife!
He gave me an enthusiastic embrace and a wink like sheet-lightning, passed
quickly to his wife, before whom he dropped on one knee, raised the toe of
her slipper to his lips, and then sank on the sofa in simulated collapse,
murmuring, "Thees is too mooch of white stone for one day!"
Through all this I saw his wife regarding him with exactly the same
critically amused expression with which she had looked upon him in the
days of their strange courtship. She evidently had not tired of his
extravagance, and yet I feel as puzzled by her manner as then. She rose
and said: "I suppose you have a good deal to say to each other, and I will
leave you by yourselves." Turning to her husband, she added, "I have
already spoken about the Aztec manuscript."
The word brought Enriquez to his feet again. "Ah! The little old nigger—you
have read?" I began to understand. "My wife, my best friend, and the
little old nigger, all in one day. Eet is perfect!" Nevertheless, in spite
of this ecstatic and overpowering combination, he hurried to take his
wife's hand; kissing it, he led her to a door opening into another room,
made her a low bow to the ground as she passed out, and then rejoined me.
"So these are the little old niggers you spoke of in your note," I said,
pointing to the manuscript. "Deuce take me if I understood you!"
"Ah, my leetle brother, it is YOU who have changed!" said Enriquez
dolorously. "Is it that you no more understand American, or have the 'big
head' of the editor? Regard me! Of these Aztecs my wife have made study.
She have pursued the little nigger to his cave, his grotto, where he is
dead a thousand year. I have myself assist, though I like it not, because
thees mummy, look you, Pancho, is not lively. And the mummy who is not
dead, believe me! even the young lady mummy, you shall not take to your
heart. But my wife"—he stopped, and kissed his hand toward the door
whence she had flitted—"ah, SHE is wonderful! She has made the story
of them, the peecture of them, from the life and on the instant! You shall
take them, my leetle brother, for your journal; you shall announce in the
big letter: 'Mooch Importance. The Aztec, He is Found.' 'How He Look and
Lif.' 'The Everlasting Nigger.' You shall sell many paper, and Urania
shall have scoop in much spondulics and rocks. Hoop-la! For—you
comprehend?—my wife and I have settled that she shall forgif her
oncle; I shall forgif my father; but from them we take no cent, not a red,
not a scad! We are independent! Of ourselves we make a Fourth of July.
United we stand; divided we shall fall over! There you are! Bueno!"
It was impossible to resist his wild, yet perfectly sincere, extravagance,
his dancing black eyes and occasional flash of white teeth in his
otherwise immovable and serious countenance. Nevertheless, I managed to
"But how about yourself, Enriquez, and this geology, you know?"
His eyes twinkled. "Ah, you shall hear. But first you shall take a drink.
I have the very old Bourbon. He is not so old as the Aztec, but, believe
me, he is very much liflier. Attend! Hol' on!" He was already rummaging on
a shelf, but apparently without success; then he explored a buffet, with
no better results, and finally attacked a large drawer, throwing out on
the floor, with his old impetuosity, a number of geological specimens,
carefully labeled. I picked up one that had rolled near me. It was labeled
"Conglomerate sandstone." I picked up another: it had the same label.
"Then you are really collecting?" I said, with astonishment.
"Ciertamente," responded Enriquez,—"what other fool shall I look? I
shall relate of this geology when I shall have found this beast of a
bottle. Ah, here he have hide!" He extracted from a drawer a bottle nearly
full of spirits,—tippling was not one of Enriquez's vices. "You
shall say 'when.' 'Ere's to our noble selfs!"
When he had drunk, I picked up another fragment of his collection. It had
the same label. "You are very rich in 'conglomerate sandstone,'" I said.
"Where do you find it?"
"In the street," said Enriquez, with great calmness.
"In the street?" I echoed.
"Yes, my friend! He ees call the 'cobblestone,' also the 'pouding-stone,'
when he ees at his home in the country. He ees also a small 'boulder.' I
pick him up; I crack him; he made three separate piece of conglomerate
sandstone. I bring him home to my wife in my pocket. She rejoice; we are
happy. When comes the efening, I sit down and make him a label; while my
wife, she sit down and write of the Aztec. Ah, my friend, you shall say of
the geology it ees a fine, a BEAUTIFUL study; but the study of the wife,
and what shall please her, believe me, ees much finer! Believe your old
Uncle 'Ennery every time! On thees question he gets there; he gets left,
"But Professor Dobbs, your geologian, what does HE say to this frequent
recurrence of the conglomerate sandstone period in your study?" I asked
"He say nothing. You comprehend? He ees a profound geologian, but he also
has the admiration excessif for my wife Urania." He stopped to kiss his
hand again toward the door, and lighted a cigarette. "The geologian would
not that he should break up the happy efening of his friends by thees
small detail. He put aside his head—so; he say, 'A leetle freestone,
a leetle granite, now and then, for variety; they are building in
Montgomery Street.' I take the hint, like a wink to the horse that has
gone blind. I attach to myself part of the edifice that is erecting
himself in Montgomery Street. I crack him; I bring him home. I sit again
at the feet of my beautiful Urania, and I label him 'Freestone,'
'Granite;' but I do not say 'from Parrott's Bank'—eet is not
necessary for our happiness."
"And you do this sort of thing only because you think it pleases your
wife?" I asked bluntly.
"My friend," rejoined Enriquez, perching himself on the back of the sofa,
and caressing his knees as he puffed his cigarette meditatively, "you have
ask a conundrum. Gif to me an easier one! It is of truth that I make much
of these thing to please Urania. But I shall confess all. Behold, I appear
to you, my leetle brother, in my camisa—my shirt! I blow on myself;
I gif myself away."
He rose gravely from the sofa, and drew a small box from one of the
drawers of the wardrobe. Opening it, he discovered several specimens of
gold-bearing quartz, and one or two scales of gold. "Thees," he said,
"friend Pancho, is my own geology; for thees I am what you see. But I say
nothing to Urania; for she have much disgust of mere gold,—of what
she calls 'vulgar mining,'—and believe me, a fear of the effect of
'speculation' upon my temperamento—you comprehend my complexion, my
brother? Reflect upon it, Pancho! I, who am the filosofo, if that I am
anything!" He looked at me with great levity of eye and supernatural
gravity of demeanor. "But eet ees the jealous affection of the wife, my
friend, for which I make play to her with the humble leetle pouding-stone
rather than the gold quartz that affrights."
"But what do you want with them, if you have no shares in anything and do
not speculate?" I asked.
"Pardon! That ees where you slip up, my leetle friend." He took from the
same drawer a clasped portfolio, and unlocked it, producing half a dozen
prospectuses and certificates of mining shares. I stood aghast as I
recognized the names of one or two extravagant failures of the last ten
years,—"played-out" mines that had been galvanized into deceptive
life in London, Paris, and New York, to the grief of shareholders abroad
and the laughter of the initiated at home. I could scarcely keep my
equanimity. "You do not mean to say that you have any belief or interest
in this rubbish?" I said quickly.
"What you call 'rubbish,' my good Pancho, ees the rubbish that the
American speculator have dump himself upon them in the shaft, the rubbish
of the advertisement, of the extravagant expense, of the salary, of the
assessment, of the 'freeze-out.' For thees, look you, is the old Mexican
mine. My grandfather and hees father have both seen them work before you
were born, and the American knew not there was gold in California."
I knew he spoke truly. One or two were original silver mines in the south,
worked by peons and Indian slaves, a rope windlass, and a venerable
"But those were silver mines," I said suspiciously, "and these are gold
"They are from the same mother," said the imperturbable Enriquez,—"the
same mine. The old peons worked him for SILVER, the precious dollar that
buy everything, that he send in the galleon to the Philippines for the
silk and spice! THAT is good enough for HIM! For the gold he made nothing,
even as my leetle wife Urania. And regard me here! There ees a proverb of
my father's which say that 'it shall take a gold mine to work a silver
mine,' so mooch more he cost. You work him, you are lost! Naturalmente, if
you turn him round, if it take you only a silver mine to work a gold mine,
you are gain. Thees ees logic!"
The intense gravity of his face at this extraordinary deduction upset my
own. But as I was never certain that Enriquez was not purposely mystifying
me, with some ulterior object, I could not help saying a little wickedly:—
"Yes, I understand all that; but how about this geologian? Will he not
tell your wife? You know he was a great admirer of hers."
"That shall show the great intelligence of him, my Pancho. He will have
the four S's,' especially the secreto!"
There could be no serious discussion in his present mood. I gathered up
the pages of his wife's manuscript, said lightly that, as she had the
first claim upon my time, I should examine the Aztec material and report
in a day or two. As I knew I had little chance in the hands of these two
incomprehensibles together, I begged him not to call his wife, but to
convey my adieus to her, and, in spite of his embraces and protestations,
I managed to get out of the room. But I had scarcely reached the front
door when I heard Enriquez's voice and his bounding step on the stairs. In
another moment his arm was round my neck.
"You must return on the instant! Mother of God! I haf forget, SHE haf
forget, WE all haf forget! But you have not seen him!"
"El nino, the baby! You comprehend, pig! The criaturica, the leetle child
"The baby?" I said confusedly. "IS there—is there a BABY?"
"You hear him?" said Enriquez, sending an appealing voice upward. "You
hear him, Urania? You comprehend. This beast of a leetle brother demands
if there ees one!"
"I beg your pardon," I said, hurriedly reascending the stairs. On the
landing I met Mrs. Saltillo, but as calm, composed, and precise as her
husband was extravagant and vehement. "It was an oversight of Enriquez's,"
she said quietly, reentering the room with us; "and was all the more
strange, as the child was in the room with you all the time."
She pointed to the corner of the wall, where hung what I had believed to
be an old Indian relic. To my consternation, it WAS a bark "papoose-case,"
occupied by a LIVING child, swathed and bandaged after the approved Indian
fashion. It was asleep, I believe, but it opened a pair of bright
huckleberry eyes, set in the smallest of features, that were like those of
a carved ivory idol, and uttered a "coo" at the sound of its mother's
voice. She stood on one side with unruffled composure, while Enriquez
threw himself into an attitude before it, with clasped hands, as if it had
been an image of the Holy Child. For myself, I was too astounded to speak;
luckily, my confusion was attributed to the inexperience of a bachelor.
"I have adopted," said Mrs. Saltillo, with the faintest touch of maternal
pride in her manner, "what I am convinced is the only natural and hygienic
mode of treating the human child. It may be said to be a reversion to the
aborigine, but I have yet to learn that it is not superior to our
civilized custom. By these bandages the limbs of the infant are kept in
proper position until they are strong enough to support the body, and such
a thing as malformation is unknown. It is protected by its cradle, which
takes the place of its incubating-shell, from external injury, the
injudicious coddling of nurses, the so-called 'dancings' and pernicious
rockings. The supine position, as in the adult, is imposed only at night.
By the aid of this strap it may be carried on long journeys, either by
myself or by Enriquez, who thus shares with me, as he fully recognizes,
its equal responsibility and burden."
"It—certainly does not—cry," I stammered.
"Crying," said Mrs. Saltillo, with a curve of her pretty red lip, "is the
protest of the child against insanitary and artificial treatment. In its
upright, unostentatious cradle it is protected against that injudicious
fondling and dangerous promiscuous osculation to which, as an infant in
human arms, it is so often subjected. Above all, it is kept from that
shameless and mortifying publicity so unjust to the weak and unformed
animal. The child repays this consideration by a gratifying silence. It
cannot be expected to understand our thoughts, speech, or actions; it
cannot participate in our pleasures. Why should it be forced into
premature contact with them, merely to feed our vanity or selfishness? Why
should we assume our particular parental accident as superior to the
common lot? If we do not give our offspring that prominence before our
visitors so common to the young wife and husband, it is for that reason
solely; and this may account for what seemed the forgetfulness of Enriquez
in speaking of it or pointing it out to you. And I think his action in
calling you back to see it was somewhat precipitate. As one does not
usually introduce an unknown and inferior stranger without some previous
introduction, he might have asked you if you wished to see the baby before
he recalled you."
I looked from Urania's unfathomable eyes to Enriquez's impenetrable
countenance. I might have been equal to either of them alone, but together
they were invincible. I looked hopelessly at the baby. With its sharp
little eyes and composed face, it certainly was a marvelous miniature of
Enriquez. I said so.
"It would be singular if it was not," said Mrs. Saltillo dryly; "and as I
believe it is by no means an uncommon fact in human nature, it seems to me
strange that people should insist upon it as a discovery. It is an
inheritance, however, that in due time progress and science will no doubt
interrupt, to the advancement of the human race. I need not say that both
Enriquez and myself look forward to it with confident tranquillity."
There was clearly nothing for me to do now but to shake hands again and
take my leave. Yet I was so much impressed with the unreality of the whole
scene that when I reached the front door I had a strong impulse to return
suddenly and fall in upon them in their relaxed and natural attitudes.
They could not keep up this pose between themselves; and I half expected
to see their laughing faces at the window, as I glanced up before wending
my perilous way to the street.
I found Mrs. Saltillo's manuscript well written and, in the narrative
parts, even graphic and sparkling. I suppressed some general remarks on
the universe, and some correlative theories of existence, as not
appertaining particularly to the Aztecs, and as not meeting any
unquenchable thirst for information on the part of the readers of the
"Daily Excelsior." I even promoted my fair contributor to the position of
having been commissioned, at great expense, to make the Mexican journey
especially for the "Excelsior." This, with Mrs. Saltillo's somewhat
precise preraphaelite drawings and water-colors, vilely reproduced by
woodcuts, gave quite a sensational air to her production, which, divided
into parts, for two or three days filled a whole page of the paper. I am
not aware of any particular service that it did to ethnology; but, as I
pointed out in the editorial column, it showed that the people of
California were not given over by material greed to the exclusion of
intellectual research; and as it was attacked instantly in long
communications from one or two scientific men, it thus produced more copy.
Briefly, it was a boom for the author and the "Daily Excelsior." I should
add, however, that a rival newspaper intimated that it was also a boom for
Mrs. Saitillo's HUSBAND, and called attention to the fact that a deserted
Mexican mine, known as "El Bolero," was described graphically in the Aztec
article among the news, and again appeared in the advertising columns of
the same paper. I turned somewhat indignantly to the file of the
"Excelsior," and, singularly enough, found in the elaborate prospectus of
a new gold-mining company the description of the El Bolero mine as a
QUOTATION from the Aztec article, with extraordinary inducements for the
investment of capital in the projected working of an old mine. If I had
had any difficulty in recognizing in the extravagant style the flamboyant
hand of Enriquez in English writing, I might have read his name plainly
enough displayed as president of the company. It was evidently the
prospectus of one of the ventures he had shown me. I was more amused than
indignant at the little trick he had played upon my editorial astuteness.
After all, if I had thus benefited the young couple I was satisfied. I had
not seen them since my first visit, as I was very busy,—my
communications with Mrs. Saltillo had been carried on by letters and
proofs,—and when I did finally call at their house, it was only to
find that they were visiting at San Jose. I wondered whether the baby was
still hanging on the wall, or, if he was taken with them, who carried him.
A week later the stock of El Bolero was quoted at par. More than that, an
incomprehensible activity had been given to all the deserted Mexican
mines, and people began to look up scrip hitherto thrown aside as
worthless. Whether it was one of those extraordinary fevers which attacked
Californian speculation in the early days, or whether Enriquez Saltillo
had infected the stock-market with his own extravagance, I never knew; but
plans as wild, inventions as fantastic, and arguments as illogical as ever
emanated from his own brain, were set forth "on 'Change" with a gravity
equal to his own. The most reasonable hypothesis was that it was the
effect of the well-known fact that the Spanish Californian hitherto had
not been a mining speculator, nor connected in any way with the gold
production on his native soil, deeming it inconsistent with his
patriarchal life and landed dignity, and that when a "son of one of the
oldest Spanish families, identified with the land and its peculiar
character for centuries, lent himself to its mineral exploitations,"—I
beg to say that I am quoting from the advertisement in the "Excelsior,"—"it
was a guerdon of success." This was so far true that in a week Enriquez
Saltillo was rich, and in a fair way to become a millionaire.
It was a hot afternoon when I alighted from the stifling Wingdam coach,
and stood upon the cool, deep veranda of the Carquinez Springs Hotel.
After I had shaken off the dust which had lazily followed us, in our
descent of the mountain road, like a red smoke, occasionally overflowing
the coach windows, I went up to the room I had engaged for my brief
holiday. I knew the place well, although I could see that the hotel itself
had lately been redecorated and enlarged to meet the increasing
requirements of fashion. I knew the forest of enormous redwoods where one
might lose one's self in a five minutes' walk from the veranda. I knew the
rocky trail that climbed the mountain to the springs, twisting between
giant boulders. I knew the arid garden, deep in the wayside dust, with its
hurriedly planted tropical plants, already withering in the dry autumn
sunshine, and washed into fictitious freshness, night and morning by the
hydraulic irrigating-hose. I knew, too, the cool, reposeful night winds
that swept down from invisible snow-crests beyond, with the hanging out of
monstrous stars, that too often failed to bring repose to the feverish
guests. For the overstrained neurotic workers who fled hither from the
baking plains of Sacramento, or from the chill sea-fogs of San Francisco,
never lost the fierce unrest that had driven them here. Unaccustomed to
leisure, their enforced idleness impelled them to seek excitement in the
wildest gayeties; the bracing mountain air only reinvigorated them to
pursue pleasure as they had pursued the occupations they had left behind.
Their sole recreations were furious drives over break-neck roads; mad,
scampering cavalcades through the sedate woods; gambling parties in
private rooms, where large sums were lost by capitalists on leave;
champagne suppers; and impromptu balls that lasted through the calm,
reposeful night to the first rays of light on the distant snowline.
Unimaginative men, in their temporary sojourn they more often outraged or
dispossessed nature in her own fastnesses than courted her for sympathy or
solitude. There were playing-cards left lying behind boulders, and empty
champagne bottles forgotten in forest depths.
I remembered all this when, refreshed by a bath, I leaned from the balcony
of my room and watched the pulling up of a brake, drawn by six dusty,
foam-bespattered horses, driven by a noted capitalist. As its hot,
perspiring, closely veiled yet burning-faced fair occupants descended, in
all the dazzling glory of summer toilets, and I saw the gentlemen consult
their watches with satisfaction, and congratulate their triumphant driver,
I knew the characteristic excitement they had enjoyed from a "record run,"
probably for a bet, over a mountain road in a burning sun.
"Not bad, eh? Forty-four minutes from the summit!"
The voice seemed at my elbow. I turned quickly, to recognize an
acquaintance, a young San Francisco broker, leaning from the next balcony
to mine. But my attention was just then preoccupied by the face and
figure, which seemed familiar to me, of a woman who was alighting from the
"Who is that?" I asked; "the straight slim woman in gray, with the white
veil twisted round her felt hat?"
"Mrs. Saltillo," he answered; "wife of 'El Bolero' Saltillo, don't you
know. Mighty pretty woman, if she is a little stiffish and set up."
Then I had not been mistaken! "Is Enriquez—is her husband—here?"
I asked quickly.
The man laughed. "I reckon not. This is the place for other people's
husbands, don't you know."
Alas! I DID know; and as there flashed upon me all the miserable scandals
and gossip connected with this reckless, frivolous caravansary, I felt
like resenting his suggestion. But my companion's next words were more
"Besides, if what they say is true, Saltillo wouldn't be very popular
"I don't understand," I said quickly.
"Why, after all that row he had with the El Bolero Company."
"I never heard of any row," I said, in astonishment.
The broker laughed incredulously. "Come! and YOU a newspaper man! Well,
maybe they DID try to hush it up, and keep it out of the papers, on
account of the stock. But it seems he got up a reg'lar shindy with the
board, one day; called 'em thieves and swindlers, and allowed he was
disgracing himself as a Spanish hidalgo by having anything to do with 'em.
Talked, they say, about Charles V. of Spain, or some other royal galoot,
giving his ancestors the land in trust! Clean off his head, I reckon. Then
shunted himself off the company, and sold out. You can guess he wouldn't
be very popular around here, with Jim Bestley, there," pointing to the
capitalist who had driven the brake, "who used to be on the board with
him. No, sir. He was either lying low for something, or was off his head.
Think of his throwing up a place like that!"
"Nonsense!" I said indignantly. "He is mercurial, and has the quick
impulsiveness of his race, but I believe him as sane as any who sat with
him on the board. There must be some mistake, or you haven't got the whole
story." Nevertheless, I did not care to discuss an old friend with a mere
acquaintance, and I felt secretly puzzled to account for his conduct, in
the face of his previous cleverness in manipulating the El Bolero, and the
undoubted fascination he had previously exercised over the stockholders.
The story had, of course, been garbled in repetition. I had never before
imagined what might be the effect of Enriquez's peculiar eccentricities
upon matter-of-fact people,—I had found them only amusing,—and
the broker's suggestion annoyed me. However, Mrs. Saltillo was here in the
hotel, and I should, of course, meet her. Would she be as frank with me?
I was disappointed at not finding her in the drawing-room or on the
veranda; and the heat being still unusually oppressive, I strolled out
toward the redwoods, hesitating for a moment in the shade before I ran the
fiery gauntlet of the garden. To my surprise, I had scarcely passed the
giant sentinels on its outskirts before I found that, from some unusual
condition of the atmosphere, the cold undercurrent of air which generally
drew through these pillared aisles was withheld that afternoon; it was
absolutely hotter than in the open, and the wood was charged throughout
with the acrid spices of the pine. I turned back to the hotel, reascended
to my bedroom, and threw myself in an armchair by the open window. My room
was near the end of a wing; the corner room at the end was next to mine,
on the same landing. Its closed door, at right angles to my open one, gave
upon the staircase, but was plainly visible from where I sat. I remembered
being glad that it was shut, as it enabled me without offense to keep my
own door open.
The house was very quiet. The leaves of a catalpa, across the roadway,
hung motionless. Somebody yawned on the veranda below. I threw away my
half-finished cigar, and closed my eyes. I think I had not lost
consciousness for more than a few seconds before I was awakened by the
shaking and thrilling of the whole building. As I staggered to my feet, I
saw the four pictures hanging against the wall swing outwardly from it on
their cords, and my door swing back against the wall. At the same moment,
acted upon by the same potential impulse, the door of the end room in the
hall, opposite the stairs, also swung open. In that brief moment I had a
glimpse of the interior of the room, of two figures, a man and a woman,
the latter clinging to her companion in abject terror. It was only for an
instant, for a second thrill passed through the house, the pictures
clattered back against the wall, the door of the end room closed violently
on its strange revelation, and my own door swung back also. Apprehensive
of what might happen, I sprang toward it, but only to arrest it an inch or
two before it should shut, when, as my experience had taught me, it might
stick by the subsidence of the walls. But it did stick ajar, and remained
firmly fixed in that position. From the clattering of the knob of the
other door, and the sound of hurried voices behind it, I knew that the
same thing had happened there when that door had fully closed.
I was familiar enough with earthquakes to know that, with the second shock
or subsidence of the earth, the immediate danger was passed, and so I was
able to note more clearly what else was passing. There was the usual
sudden stampede of hurrying feet, the solitary oath and scream, the
half-hysterical laughter, and silence. Then the tumult was reawakened to
the sound of high voices, talking all together, or the impatient calling
of absentees in halls and corridors. Then I heard the quick swish of
female skirts on the staircase, and one of the fair guests knocked
impatiently at the door of the end room, still immovably fixed. At the
first knock there was a sudden cessation of the hurried whisperings and
turning of the doorknob.
"Mrs. Saltillo, are you there? Are you frightened?" she called.
"Mrs. Saltillo"! It was SHE, then, who was in the room! I drew nearer my
door, which was still fixed ajar. Presently a voice,—Mrs. Saltillo's
voice,—with a constrained laugh in it, came from behind the door:
"Not a bit. I'll come down in a minute."
"Do," persisted the would-be intruder. "It's all over now, but we're all
going out into the garden; it's safer."
"All right," answered Mrs. Saltillo. "Don't wait, dear. I'll follow. Run
The visitor, who was evidently still nervous, was glad to hurry away, and
I heard her retreating step on the staircase. The rattling of the door
began again, and at last it seemed to yield to a stronger pull, and opened
sufficiently to allow Mrs. Saltillo to squeeze through. I withdrew behind
my door. I fancied that it creaked as she passed, as if, noticing it ajar,
she had laid an inquiring hand upon it. I waited, but she was not followed
by any one. I wondered if I had been mistaken. I was going to the
bell-rope to summon assistance to move my own door when a sudden instinct
withheld me. If there was any one still in that room, he might come from
it just as the servant answered my call, and a public discovery would be
unavoidable. I was right. In another instant the figure of a man, whose
face I could not discern, slipped out of the room, passed my door, and
went stealthily down the staircase.
Convinced of this, I resolved not to call public attention to my being in
my own room at the time of the incident; so I did not summon any one, but,
redoubling my efforts, I at last opened the door sufficiently to pass out,
and at once joined the other guests in the garden. Already, with
characteristic recklessness and audacity, the earthquake was made light
of; the only dictate of prudence had resolved itself into a hilarious
proposal to "camp out" in the woods all night, and have a "torch-light
picnic." Even then preparations were being made for carrying tents,
blankets, and pillows to the adjacent redwoods; dinner and supper, cooked
at campfires, were to be served there on stumps of trees and fallen logs.
The convulsion of nature had been used as an excuse for one of the wildest
freaks of extravagance that Carquinez Springs had ever known. Perhaps that
quick sense of humor which dominates the American male in exigencies of
this kind kept the extravagances from being merely bizarre and grotesque,
and it was presently known that the hotel and its menage were to be
appropriately burlesqued by some of the guests, who, attired as Indians,
would personate the staff, from the oracular hotel proprietor himself down
to the smart hotel clerk.
During these arrangements I had a chance of drawing near Mrs. Saltillo. I
fancied she gave a slight start as she recognized me; but her greetings
were given with her usual precision. "Have you been here long?" she asked.
"I have only just come," I replied laughingly; "in time for the shock."
"Ah, you felt it, then? I was telling these ladies that our eminent
geologist, Professor Dobbs, assured me that these seismic disturbances in
California have a very remote centre, and are seldom serious."
"It must be very satisfactory to have the support of geology at such a
moment," I could not help saying, though I had not the slightest idea
whose the figure was that I had seen, nor, indeed, had I recognized it
among the guests. She did not seem to detect any significance in my
speech, and I added: "And where is Enriquez? He would enjoy this proposed
"Enriquez is at Salvatierra Rancho, which he lately bought from his
"And the baby? Surely, here is a chance for you to hang him up on a
redwood tonight, in his cradle."
"The boy," said Mrs. Saltillo quickly, "is no longer in his cradle; he has
passed the pupa state, and is now free to develop his own perfected limbs.
He is with his father. I do not approve of children being submitted to the
indiscriminate attentions of a hotel. I am here myself only for that
supply of ozone indicated for brain exhaustion."
She looked so pretty and prim in her gray dress, so like her old correct
self, that I could not think of anything but her mental attitude, which
did not, by the way, seem much like mental depression. Yet I was aware
that I was getting no information of Enriquez's condition or affairs,
unless the whole story told by the broker was an exaggeration. I did not,
however, dare to ask more particularly.
"You remember Professor Dobbs?" she asked abruptly.
This recalled a suspicion awakened by my vision, so suddenly that I felt
myself blushing. She did not seem to notice it, and was perfectly
"I do remember him. Is he here?"
"He is; that is what makes it so particularly unfortunate for me. You see,
after that affair of the board, and Enriquez's withdrawal, although
Enriquez may have been a little precipitate in his energetic way, I
naturally took my husband's part in public; for although we preserve our
own independence inviolable, we believe in absolute confederation as
"But what has Professor Dobbs to do with the board?" I interrupted.
"The professor was scientific and geological adviser to the board, and it
was upon some report or suggestion of his that Enriquez took issue,
against the sentiment of the board. It was a principle affecting
Enriquez's Spanish sense of honor."
"Do tell me all about it," I said eagerly; "I am very anxious to know the
"As I was not present at the time," said Mrs. Saltillo, rebuking my
eagerness with a gentle frigidity, "I am unable to do so. Anything else
would be mere hearsay, and more or less ex parte. I do not approve of
"But what did Enriquez tell you? You surely know that."
"THAT, being purely confidential, as between husband and wife,—perhaps
I should say partner and partner,—of course you do not expect me to
disclose. Enough that I was satisfied with it. I should not have spoken to
you about it at all, but that, through myself and Enriquez, you are an
acquaintance of the professor's, and I might save you the awkwardness of
presenting yourself with him. Otherwise, although you are a friend of
Enriquez, it need not affect your acquaintance with the professor."
"Hang the professor!" I ejaculated. "I don't care a rap for HIM."
"Then I differ with you," said Mrs. Saltillo, with precision. "He is
distinctly an able man, and one cannot but miss the contact of his
original mind and his liberal teachings."
Here she was joined by one of the ladies, and I lounged away. I dare say
it was very mean and very illogical, but the unsatisfactory character of
this interview made me revert again to the singular revelation I had seen
a few hours before. I looked anxiously for Professor Dobbs; but when I did
meet him, with an indifferent nod of recognition, I found I could by no
means identify him with the figure of her mysterious companion. And why
should I suspect him at all, in the face of Mrs. Saltillo's confessed
avoidance of him? Who, then, could it have been? I had seen them but an
instant, in the opening and the shutting of a door. It was merely the
shadowy bulk of a man that flitted past my door, after all. Could I have
imagined the whole thing? Were my perceptive faculties—just aroused
from slumber, too insufficiently clear to be relied upon? Would I not have
laughed had Urania, or even Enriquez himself, told me such a story?
As I reentered the hotel the clerk handed me a telegram. "There's been a
pretty big shake all over the country," he said eagerly. "Everybody is
getting news and inquiries from their friends. Anything fresh?" He paused
interrogatively as I tore open the envelope. The dispatch had been
redirected from the office of the "Daily Excelsior." It was dated,
"Salvatierra Rancho," and contained a single line: "Come and see your old
There was nothing in the wording of the message that was unlike Enriquez's
usual light-hearted levity, but the fact that he should have TELEGRAPHED
it to me struck me uneasily. That I should have received it at the hotel
where his wife and Professor Dobbs were both staying, and where I had had
such a singular experience, seemed to me more than a mere coincidence. An
instinct that the message was something personal to Enriquez and myself
kept me from imparting it to Mrs. Saltillo. After worrying half the night
in our bizarre camp in the redwoods, in the midst of a restless festivity
which was scarcely the repose I had been seeking at Carquinez Springs, I
resolved to leave the next day for Salvatierra Rancho. I remembered the
rancho,—a low, golden-brown, adobe-walled quadrangle, sleeping like
some monstrous ruminant in a hollow of the Contra Costa Range. I recalled,
in the midst of this noisy picnic, the slumberous coolness of its long
corridors and soundless courtyard, and hailed it as a relief. The telegram
was a sufficient excuse for my abrupt departure. In the morning I left,
but without again seeing either Mrs. Saltillo or the professor.
It was late the next afternoon when I rode through the canada that led to
the rancho. I confess my thoughts were somewhat gloomy, in spite of my
escape from the noisy hotel; but this was due to the sombre scenery
through which I had just ridden, and the monotonous russet of the leagues
of wild oats. As I approached the rancho, I saw that Enriquez had made no
attempt to modernize the old casa, and that even the garden was left in
its lawless native luxuriance, while the rude tiled sheds near the walled
corral contained the old farming implements, unchanged for a century, even
to the ox-carts, the wheels of which were made of a single block of wood.
A few peons, in striped shirts and velvet jackets, were sunning themselves
against a wall, and near them hung a half-drained pellejo, or goatskin
water-bag. The air of absolute shiftlessness must have been repellent to
Mrs. Saltillo's orderly precision, and for a moment I pitied her. But it
was equally inconsistent with Enriquez's enthusiastic ideas of American
progress, and the extravagant designs he had often imparted to me of the
improvements he would make when he had a fortune. I was feeling uneasy
again, when I suddenly heard the rapid clack of unshod hoofs on a rocky
trail that joined my own. At the same instant a horseman dashed past me at
full speed. I had barely time to swerve my own horse aside to avoid a
collision, yet in that brief moment I recognized the figure of Enriquez.
But his face I should have scarcely known. It was hard and fixed. His
upper lip and thin, penciled mustache were drawn up over his teeth, which
were like a white gash in his dark face. He turned into the courtyard of
the rancho. I put spurs to my horse, and followed, in nervous expectation.
He turned in his saddle as I entered. But the next moment he bounded from
his horse, and, before I could dismount, flew to my side and absolutely
lifted me from the saddle to embrace me. It was the old Enriquez again;
his face seemed to have utterly changed in that brief moment.
"This is all very well, old chap," I said; "but do you know that you
nearly ran me down, just now, with that infernal half-broken mustang? Do
you usually charge the casa at that speed?"
"Pardon, my leetle brother! But here you shall slip up. The mustang is not
HALF-broken; he is not broke at all! Look at his hoof—never have a
shoe been there. For myself—attend me! When I ride alone, I think
mooch; when I think mooch I think fast; my idea he go like a cannon-ball!
Consequent, if I ride not thees horse like the cannon-ball, my thought HE
arrive first, and where are you? You get left! Believe me that I fly thees
horse, thees old Mexican plug, and your de' uncle 'Ennery and his leetle
old idea arrive all the same time, and on the instant."
It WAS the old Enriquez! I perfectly understood his extravagant speech and
illustration, and yet for the first time I wondered if others did.
"Tak'-a-drink!" he said, all in one word. "You shall possess the old
Bourbon or the rhum from the Santa Cruz! Name your poison, gentlemen!"
He had already dragged me up the steps from the patio to the veranda, and
seated me before a small round table still covered with the chocolate
equipage of the morning. A little dried-up old Indian woman took it away,
and brought the spirits and glasses.
"Mirar the leetle old one!" said Enriquez, with unflinching gravity.
"Consider her, Pancho, to the bloosh! She is not truly an Aztec, but she
is of years one hundred and one, and LIFS! Possibly she haf not the beauty
which ravishes, which devastates. But she shall attent you to the hot
water, to the bath. Thus shall you be protect, my leetle brother, from
"Enriquez," I burst out suddenly, "tell me about yourself. Why did you
leave the El Bolero board? What was the row about?"
Enriquez's eyes for a moment glittered; then they danced as before.
"Ah," he said, "you have heard?"
"Something; but I want to know the truth from you."
He lighted a cigarette, lifted himself backward into a grass hammock, on
which he sat, swinging his feet. Then, pointing to another hammock, he
said: "Tranquillize yourself there. I will relate; but, truly, it ees
He took a long pull at his cigarette, and for a few moments seemed quietly
to exude smoke from his eyes, ears, nose, even his finger-ends—everywhere,
in fact, but his mouth. That and his mustache remained fixed. Then he said
slowly, flicking away the ashes with his little finger:—
"First you understand, friend Pancho, that I make no row. The other
themself make the row, the shindig. They make the dance, the howl, the
snap of the finger, the oath, the 'Helen blazes,' the 'Wot the devil,' the
'That be d—d,' the bad language; they themselves finger the
revolver, advance the bowie-knife, throw off the coat, square off, and say
'Come on.' I remain as you see me now, little brother—tranquil." He
lighted another cigarette, made his position more comfortable in the
hammock, and resumed: "The Professor Dobbs, who is the geologian of the
company, made a report for which he got two thousand dollar. But thees
report—look you, friend Pancho—he is not good for the mine.
For in the hole in the ground the Professor Dobbs have found a 'hoss.'"
"A what?" I asked.
"A hoss," repeated Enriquez, with infinite gravity. "But not, leetle
Pancho, the hoss that run, the hoss that buck-jump, but what the miner
call a 'hoss,' a something that rear up in the vein and stop him. You pick
around the hoss; you pick under him; sometimes you find the vein,
sometimes you do not. The hoss rear up, and remain! Eet ees not good for
the mine. The board say, 'D—- the hoss!' 'Get rid of the hoss.'
'Chuck out the hoss.' Then they talk together, and one say to the
Professor Dobbs: 'Eef you cannot thees hoss remove from the mine, you can
take him out of the report.' He look to me, thees professor. I see
nothing; I remain tranquil. Then the board say: 'Thees report with the
hoss in him is worth two thousand dollar, but WITHOUT the hoss he is worth
five thousand dollar. For the stockholder is frighted of the rearing hoss.
It is of a necessity that the stockholder should remain tranquil. Without
the hoss the report is good; the stock shall errise; the director shall
sell out, and leave the stockholder the hoss to play with.' The professor
he say, 'Al-right;' he scratch out the hoss, sign his name, and get a
check for three thousand dollar."
"Then I errise—so!" He got up from the hammock, suiting the action
to the word, and during the rest of his narrative, I honestly believe,
assumed the same attitude and deliberate intonation he had exhibited at
the board. I could even fancy I saw the reckless, cynical faces of his
brother directors turned upon his grim, impassive features. "I am
tranquil. I smoke my cigarette. I say that for three hundred year my
family have held the land of thees mine; that it pass from father to son,
and from son to son; it pass by gift, it pass by grant, but that NEVARRE
THERE PASS A LIE WITH IT! I say it was a gift by a Spanish Christian king
to a Christian hidalgo for the spread of the gospel, and not for the cheat
and the swindle! I say that this mine was worked by the slave, and by the
mule, by the ass, but never by the cheat and swindler. I say that if they
have struck the hoss in the mine, they have struck a hoss IN THE LAND, a
Spanish hoss; a hoss that have no bridle worth five thousand dollar in his
mouth, but a hoss to rear, and a hoss that cannot be struck out by a
Yankee geologian; and that hoss is Enriquez Saltillo!"
He paused, and laid aside his cigarette.
"Then they say, 'Dry up,' and 'Sell out;' and the great bankers say, 'Name
your own price for your stock, and resign.' And I say, 'There is not
enough gold in your bank, in your San Francisco, in the mines of
California, that shall buy a Spanish gentleman. When I leave, I leave the
stock at my back; I shall take it, nevarre! Then the banker he say, 'And
you will go and blab, I suppose?' And then, Pancho, I smile, I pick up my
mustache—so! and I say: 'Pardon, senor, you haf mistake, The
Saltillo haf for three hundred year no stain, no blot upon him. Eet is not
now—the last of the race—who shall confess that he haf sit at
a board of disgrace and dishonor!' And then it is that the band begin to
play, and the animals stand on their hind leg and waltz, and behold, the
row he haf begin!"
I ran over to him, and fairly hugged him. But he put me aside with a
gentle and philosophical calm. "Ah, eet is nothing, Pancho. It is, believe
me, all the same a hundred years to come, and where are you, then? The
earth he turn round, and then come el temblor, the earthquake, and there
you are! Bah! eet is not of the board that I have asked you to come; it is
something else I would tell you. Go and wash yourself of thees journey, my
leetle brother, as I have"—looking at his narrow, brown, well-bred
hands—"wash myself of the board. Be very careful of the leetle old
woman, Pancho; do not wink to her of the eye! Consider, my leetle brother,
for one hundred and one year he haf been as a nun, a saint! Disturb not
Yes, it was the old Enriquez; but he seemed graver,—if I could use
that word of one of such persistent gravity; only his gravity heretofore
had suggested a certain irony rather than a melancholy which I now fancied
I detected. And what was this "something else" he was to "tell me later"?
Did it refer to Mrs. Saltillo? I had purposely waited for him to speak of
her, before I should say anything of my visit to Carquinez Springs. I
hurried through my ablutions in the hot water, brought in a bronze jar on
the head of the centenarian handmaid; and even while I was smiling over
Enriquez's caution regarding this aged Ruth, I felt I was getting nervous
to hear his news.
I found him in his sitting-room, or study,—a long, low apartment
with small, deep windows like embrasures in the outer adobe wall, but
glazed in lightly upon the veranda. He was sitting quite abstractedly,
with a pen in his hand, before a table, on which a number of sealed
envelopes were lying. He looked SO formal and methodical for Enriquez.
"You like the old casa, Pancho?" he said in reply to my praise of its
studious and monastic gloom. "Well, my leetle brother, some day that is
fair—who knows?—it may be at your disposicion; not of our
politeness, but of a truth, friend Pancho. For, if I leave it to my wife"—it
was the first time he had spoken of her—"for my leetle child," he
added quickly, "I shall put in a bond, an obligacion, that my friend
Pancho shall come and go as he will."
"The Saltillos are a long-lived race," I laughed. "I shall be a
gray-haired man, with a house and family of my own by that time." But I
did not like the way he had spoken.
"Quien sabe?" he only said, dismissing the question with the national
gesture. After a moment he added: "I shall tell you something that is
strrange, so strrange that you shall say, like the banker say, 'Thees
Enriquez, he ees off his head; he ees a crank, a lunatico;' but it ees a
FACT; believe me, I have said!"
He rose, and, going to the end of the room, opened a door. It showed a
pretty little room, femininely arranged in Mrs. Saltillo's refined taste.
"Eet is pretty; eet is the room of my wife. Bueno! attend me now." He
closed the door, and walked back to the table. "I have sit here and write
when the earthquake arrive. I have feel the shock, the grind of the walls
on themselves, the tremor, the stagger, and—that—door—he
"The door?" I said, with a smile that I felt was ghastly.
"Comprehend me," he said quickly; "it ees not THAT which ees strrange. The
wall lift, the lock slip, the door he fell open; it is frequent; it comes
so ever when the earthquake come. But eet is not my wife's room I see; it
is ANOTHER ROOM, a room I know not. My wife Urania, she stand there, of a
fear, of a tremble; she grasp, she cling to someone. The earth shake
again; the door shut. I jump from my table; I shake and tumble to the
door. I fling him open. Maravilloso! it is the room of my wife again. She
is NOT there; it is empty; it is nothing!"
I felt myself turning hot and cold by turns. I was horrified, and—and
I blundered. "And who was the other figure?" I gasped.
"Who?" repeated Enriquez, with a pause, a fixed look at me, and a sublime
gesture. "Who SHOULD it be, but myself, Enriquez Saltillo?"
A terrible premonition that this was a chivalrous LIE, that it was NOT
himself he had seen, but that our two visions were identical, came upon
me. "After all," I said, with a fixed smile, "if you could imagine you saw
your wife, you could easily imagine you saw yourself too. In the shock of
the moment you thought of HER naturally, for then she would as naturally
seek your protection. You have written for news of her?"
"No," said Enriquez quietly.
"No?" I repeated amazedly.
"You understand, Pancho! Eef it was the trick of my eyes, why should I
affright her for the thing that is not? If it is the truth, and it arrive
to ME, as a warning, why shall I affright her before it come?"
"Before WHAT comes? What is it a warning of?" I asked impetuously.
"That we shall be separated! That I go, and she do not."
To my surprise, his dancing eyes had a slight film over them. "I don't
understand you," I said awkwardly.
"Your head is not of a level, my Pancho. Thees earthquake he remain for
only ten seconds, and he fling open the door. If he remain for twenty
seconds, he fling open the wall, the hoose toomble, and your friend
Enriquez is feenish."
"Nonsense!" I said. "Professor—I mean the geologists—say that
the centre of disturbance of these Californian earthquakes is some
far-away point in the Pacific and there never will be any serious
"Ah, the geologist," said Enriquez gravely, "understand the hoss that rear
in the mine, and the five thousand dollar, believe me, no more. He haf lif
here three year. My family haf lif here three hundred. My grandfather saw
the earth swallow the church of San Juan Baptista."
I laughed, until, looking up, I was shocked to see for the first time that
his dancing eyes were moist and shining. But almost instantly he jumped
up, and declared that I had not seen the garden and the corral, and,
linking his arm in mine, swept me like a whirlwind into the patio. For an
hour or two he was in his old invincible spirits. I was glad I had said
nothing of my visit to Carquinez Springs and of seeing his wife; I
determined to avoid it as long as possible; and as he did not again refer
to her, except in the past, it was not difficult. At last he infected me
with his extravagance, and for a while I forgot even the strangeness of
his conduct and his confidences. We walked and talked together as of old.
I understood and enjoyed him perfectly, and it was not strange that in the
end I began to believe that this strange revelation was a bit of his
extravagant acting, got up to amuse me. The coincidence of his story with
my own experience was not, after all, such a wonderful thing, considering
what must have been the nervous and mental disturbance produced by the
earthquake. We dined together, attended only by Pedro, an old half-caste
body-servant. It was easy to see that the household was carried on
economically, and, from a word or two casually dropped by Enriquez, it
appeared that the rancho and a small sum of money were all that he
retained from his former fortune when he left the El Bolero. The stock he
kept intact, refusing to take the dividend upon it until that collapse of
the company should occur which he confidently predicted, when he would
make good the swindled stockholders. I had no reason to doubt his perfect
faith in this.
The next morning we were up early for a breezy gallop over the three
square miles of Enriquez's estate. I was astounded, when I descended to
the patio, to find Enriquez already mounted, and carrying before him,
astride of the horn of his saddle, a small child,—the identical
papoose of my memorable first visit. But the boy was no longer swathed and
bandaged, although, for security, his plump little body was engirt by the
same sash that encircled his father's own waist. I felt a stirring of
self-reproach; I had forgotten all about him! To my suggestion that the
exercise might be fatiguing to him, Enriquez shrugged his shoulders:—
"Believe me, no! He is ever with me when I go on the pasear. He is not too
yonge. For he shall learn 'to rride, to shoot, and to speak the truth,'
even as the Persian chile. Eet ees all I can gif to him."
Nevertheless, I think the boy enjoyed it, and I knew he was safe with such
an accomplished horseman as his father. Indeed, it was a fine sight to see
them both careering over the broad plain, Enriquez with jingling spurs and
whirling riata, and the boy, with a face as composed as his father's, and
his tiny hand grasping the end of the flapping rein with a touch scarcely
lighter than the skillful rider's own. It was a lovely morning; though
warm and still, there was a faint haze—a rare thing in that climate—on
the distant range. The sun-baked soil, arid and thirsty from the long
summer drought, and cracked into long fissures, broke into puffs of dust,
with a slight detonation like a pistol-shot, at each stroke of our
pounding hoofs. Suddenly my horse swerved in full gallop, almost lost his
footing, "broke," and halted with braced fore feet, trembling in every
limb. I heard a shout from Enriquez at the same instant, and saw that he
too had halted about a hundred paces from me, with his hand uplifted in
warning, and between us a long chasm in the dry earth, extending across
the whole field. But the trembling of the horse continued until it
communicated itself to me. I was shaking, too, and, looking about for the
cause, when I beheld the most weird and remarkable spectacle I had ever
witnessed. The whole llano, or plain, stretching to the horizon-line, was
DISTINCTLY UNDULATING! The faint haze of the hills was repeated over its
surface, as if a dust had arisen from some grinding displacement of the
soil. I threw myself from my horse, but the next moment was fain to cling
to him, as I felt the thrill under my very feet. Then there was a pause,
and I lifted my head to look for Enriquez. He was nowhere to be seen! With
a terrible recollection of the fissure that had yawned between us, I
sprang to the saddle again, and spurred the frightened beast toward that
point. BUT IT WAS GONE, TOO! I rode backward and forward repeatedly along
the line where I had seen it only a moment before. The plain lay compact
and uninterrupted, without a crack or fissure. The dusty haze that had
arisen had passed as mysteriously away; the clear outline of the valley
returned; the great field was empty!
Presently I was aware of the sound of galloping hoofs. I remembered then—what
I had at first forgotten—that a few moments before we had crossed an
arroyo, or dried bed of a stream, depressed below the level of the field.
How foolish that I had not remembered! He had evidently sought that
refuge; there were his returning hoofs. I galloped toward it, but only to
meet a frightened vaquero, who had taken that avenue of escape to the
"Did you see Don Enriquez?" I asked impatiently.
I saw that the man's terror was extreme, and his eyes were staring in
their sockets. He hastily crossed himself:—
"Ah, God, yes!"
"Where is he?" I demanded.
He looked at me with staring, vacant eyes, and, pointing to the ground,
said in Spanish: "He has returned to the land of his fathers!"
We searched for him that day and the next, when the country was aroused
and his neighbors joined in a quest that proved useless. Neither he nor
his innocent burden was ever seen again of men. Whether he had been
engulfed by mischance in some unsuspected yawning chasm in that brief
moment, or had fulfilled his own prophecy by deliberately erasing himself
for some purpose known only to himself, no one ever knew. His
country-people shook their heads and said "it was like a Saltillo." And
the few among his retainers who knew him and loved him, whispered still
more ominously: "He will yet return to his land to confound the
Yet the widow of Enriquez did NOT marry Professor Dobbs. But she too
disappeared from California, and years afterward I was told that she was
well known to the ingenuous Parisians as the usual wealthy widow "from