On the Sands
by Frances Fuller Victor
I was summering at our Oregon Newport, known to us by the aboriginal name of Clatsop. Had a balloonist, uninstructed in the geography and topography of this portion of the Pacific coast, dropped down among us, his impression would have been that he had alighted in a military encampment, very happily chosen, as military encampments usually are.
Given, one long, low, whitewashed house enclosed by whitewashed pickets; a group of tents outside the enclosure and on the bank of a beautiful graveled-bottom, tree-shadowed stream, and you have the brief summing up of accommodations for summer visitors at Clatsop. The plentiful sprinkling of army buttons among the guests—for there are two forts within a three hours' ride of this beach—tend to confirm the impression of military possession. Besides, our host of the whitewashed hotel is a half-breed; and there is enough of the native element hanging about the place, picking berries and digging clams, to suggest an Indian family where a temporary station might be demanded. It would only be by peeping inside those tents where ladies and children are more numerous than bearded men, that one could be convinced of the gypsy nature of this encampment; though, to be sure, one need not press inside to find them, for the gay campers are sauntering about in all directions, ladies with their escorts, children with their nurses, parties returning from boating or fishing, or riding or bathing: everybody living out in the open air the whole day through on one pretense or another, and only repairing to the hotel at meal times, when the exquisite dishes prepared by French half-breeds suffer the most instant demolition—such hunger does open air inspire.
I had come here just invalid enough to be benefited by our primitive style of living; not too delicate to endure it, nor too robust to enjoy the utter vagabondism of it. There had been no necessity upon us to ape fashionable manners; no obligation to dress three times a day; no balls to weary ourselves with at night. Therefore this daily recurring picnic was just sufficient for our physical recreation, while our mental powers took absolute rest. For weeks I had arisen every morning to a breakfast of salmon-trout. French coffee (au lait), delicious bread, and fresh berries; and afterwards to wander about in the cool sea-fog, well wrapped up in a water-proof cloak. Sometimes we made a boating party up the lovely Neah-can-a-cum, pulling our boat along under the overhanging alders and maples, frightening the trout into their hiding-places under the banks, instead of hooking them as was our ostensible design. The limpid clearness of the water seemed to reflect the trees from the very bottom, and truly made a medium almost as transparent as air, through which the pebbles at the greatest depth appeared within reach of our hands. A morning idled away in this manner, and an afternoon spent in seeing the bathers—I never trust my easily curdled blood to the chill of the sea—and in walking along the sands with a friend, or dreaming quietly by myself as I watched the surf rolling in all the way from Tilamook Head to Cape Disappointment,—these were my daily labors and recreations. The arrival of a bundle of letters, or, still better, of a new visitor, made what variety there was in our life.
I had both of these excitements in one day. One of my correspondents had written: "I hope to see you soon, and to have the opportunity, long sought, of telling you some of the experiences of my early life. When I promised you this I had not anticipated the pleasure of talking over the recollections of my youth while listening with you to the monotone of the great Pacific, whose 'ever, forever' is more significant to me than to most lovers of its music. I never gaze upon its restless waves, nor hear the sound of their ripple on the sands, or their thunder on the rocks without being reminded of one episode in my life peculiarly agitating to remember; but perhaps when I have told it to you, you may have power to exercise the restless spirit which rises in me at the recollection."
So here was promise of the intellectual aliment I had begun to crave after all these weeks of physical, without mental, action. I folded my letter with a feeling of self-congratulation, and turned to watch the movements of a newly arrived party for whom our half-breed host was spreading a tent, and placing in it rather an extra amount of furniture; for, be it known to the uninitiated, we had platform floors under our tents, real bedsteads, dressing-bureaus, rugs, and other comforts to match. That our new arrival exceeded us in elegant conveniences was, of course, duly noted by such idlers as we.
The party consisted of a lady, a little girl of ten, and a Kanaka servant. The lady's name, we learned, was Mrs. Sancy, and she was from the Sandwich Islands. More than that no one was informed. We discussed her looks, her manners, her dress, and her probable circumstances, as we sat around the camp-fire that evening, after the way of idle people. It occurred to me, as I glanced toward her tent door, illuminated by our blazing fire, and saw her regarding the weird scene with evident admiration of its picturesqueness, to ask her to come and sit with us and help us eat roast potatoes—roasted as they cook pigs in the Islands, by covering up in the ground with hot stones. The fact that the potatoes, and the butter which went with them, were purloined from our host's larder, gave a special flavor to the feast—accompanied as it was, too, by instrumental and vocal music, and enlivened by sallies of wit.
Mrs. Sancy seemed to enjoy the novelty of her surroundings, contributing her quota to the general fund of mirth and sparkling talk, and I congratulated myself on having acquired an interesting acquaintance, whose cheerfulness, notwithstanding the partial mourning of her dress, promised well for its continuance. Had she been sad or reserved she certainly would not have been sought as she was by our pleasure-loving summer idlers, consequently my chances of becoming intimate with her would have been greatly abridged. As she was, she soon became, without question, one of the chief social attractions; easily falling into our vagabond ways, yet embellishing them with so much grace and elegance that they became doubly precious to us on account of the new charm imparted to them. All the things any of us could do, Mrs. Sancy could do better; and one thing she could do that none of the rest of us could, which was to swim out and float herself in on a surf-board, like a native island woman; and seeing Mrs. Sancy do this became one of the daily sensations of Clatsop Beach.
I had known Mrs. Sancy about one week, and came to like her extremely, not only for her brilliant, social qualities, but on account of her native originality of thought, and somewhat peculiar culture. I say peculiar, because her thinking and reading seemed to be in the byways rather than the highways of ordinary culture. If she made a figure of speech, it was something noticeably original; if she quoted an author, it was one unfamiliar though forcible. And so she constantly supplied my mind with novelties which I craved, and became like a new education to me. One forenoon, a misty one, we were out on the beach alone, wrapped up in water-proofs, pacing up and down the sands, and watching the grey sullen sea, or admiring the way in which the masses of fog roll in among the tops of the giant firs on Tilamook Head, and were torn into fragments, and tangled among them.
"You never saw the like of this in the islands?" I said, meaning the foggy sea, and the dark, fir-clad mountains.
"I have seen
before;" she answered, waving her hand to indicate the scene as we then beheld it. "You look surprised, but I am familiar with every foot of this ground. I have lived years in this neighborhood—right over there, in fact, under the Head. This spot has, in truth, a strong fascination for me, and it was to see it once more that I made the voyage."
"You lived in this place, and liked it years ago! How strange! It is but a wilderness still, though a pleasant one, I admit."
She gave me a playfully superior smile: "We are apt to think ourselves the discoverers of every country where we chance to be set down; and so Adam thought he was the first man on the earth, though his sons went out and found cities where they learned the arts of civilization. So birth, and love, and death, never cease to be miracles to us, notwithstanding the millions who have been born, and loved, and died, before our experience began."
"But how did it happen," I urged, unable to repress my curiosity, "that you lived here, in this place,
years ago? That seems so strange to me."
"My parents brought me here when a little child. It is a common enough history. My mother was an enthusiast with brain, who joined her fortunes to those of an enthusiast without brain, and emigrated to this coast, when it was an Indian country, in the vain hope of doing good to the savages. They only succeeded in doing harm to themselves, and indirectly, harm to the savages also. The spirit of the man became embittered, and the mean traits of his nature asserted themselves, and wreaked their malice, as is customary with mean natures, on the nearest or most inoffensive object. My poor mother! Maternity was marred for you by fear and pain and contempt; and whatever errors your child has fallen into, were an evil inheritance that only years of suffering and discipline could eradicate."
As Mrs. Sancy pronounced the last sentence, she seemed for the moment to have forgotten my presence, and stood, looking off over the calm grey sea, with absent unrecognizing gaze. After a brief silence she turned to me with a smile: "Pardon my mental desertion. It is not good to talk of our own lives. We all become Adams again, and imagine ourselves sole in the universe."
On this hint I changed the conversation, and we returned to the hotel to lunch, after which, I saw no more of Mrs. Sancy for that day.
That afternoon, my correspondent, Mr. Kittredge arrived; and as it was bright and sunny after the fog, we took a boat, and pulled along under the alders that shade the Neah-can-a-cum. It was there that I listened to this story:
"While I was still a young man, nearly fifteen years ago, I floated on this stream, as we are doing to-day. My companion was a young girl whom I shall call Teresa. She was very young, I remember now with sorrow, and very beautiful; though
is not so much the word to describe her as
charming—magnetic, graceful, intelligent. A lithe, rather tall figure, a high-bred, sensitive, fine face, and pleasing manners. She seemed older than she really was, on account of her commanding physique and distinguished manner.
"I will not go over the details of our acquaintance, which ripened rapidly into love;—so I thought. This was a new country then, even more emphatically that it is now; new with the charm of novelty—not new because it had ceased to progress, as is now the case. Scattered around here within a radius of a dozen miles were half-a-dozen other young men like myself, who had immigrated to the far west, in the spirit of romantic adventure; and once here, were forced to do whatever came to our hands to gain a subsistence. I lived on a farm which I improved, keeping house quite by myself, and spending my leisure hours in study. Of course, the other young men, similarly situated, often visited me, and we usually talked over authors, or such questions of the day as we were familiar with or interested in.
"But one evening love was the theme of our conversation, and incidently, Teresa's name was mentioned among us. I don't know who first uttered it, but I observed at once, that the faces of all three of my companions betrayed an interest too strong and too peculiar to be attributed to an ordinary acquaintanceship with the subject of our remarks. For myself, I felt my own face flushing hotly, as a horrible suspicion seized my consciousness, becoming on the instant, conviction too painful to endure.
"You being a woman, cannot imagine the situation. I believed myself to be Teresa's accepted lover; and so I knew intuitively, did all my three companions; their faces revealing their thoughts to me, as did mine to them. Whatever you women do in the presence of your rivals, I know not. Men rage. It is not often, either, that a man encounters more than one rival at a time. But three!—each of us poor rivals saw three rivals before him. Whatever of friendship had hitherto existed among us was forgotten in the extreme anguish of the moment, and we sat glaring at each other in silence, with heaving chests and burning brows.
"All but Charlie Darling—darling Charlie, we used to call him—his face was deathly white, and his eyes glowed like a panther's in the dark. Yet he was the first to recover himself. 'Boys,' said he, 'we ought not to have brought a lady's name into the discussion; but since Teresa's has been mentioned, we may as well have an understanding. I consider the young lady as engaged to me, and you will please remember that fact when you are talking of her.'
"He said it bravely, proudly, though his lip trembled a little, but he eyed us unflinchingly. No one replied for some moments. Then Tom Allen, a big clumsy, good-hearted, but conceited fellow, lifted his eyes slowly, and answered with a hysterical laugh: 'You may be her darling Charlie, but I'll be d——d if I am not to be her husband!'
"This was the match to the powder. Charlie, myself, and Harry King, each sprang simultaneously forward, as if we meant to choke poor Tom for his words. Again Charlie was the first to use reason:
"'Hold, boys;' cried he hoarsely; 'let us take a little time to reflect. Two of us have declared ourselves to be engaged to Teresa. Let us hear if she contemplates marrying King and Kittredge, also. What do you say, King?'
"'I say yes!' thundered King, bending his black brows, and bringing down his fist on the table by which he stood.
say, I contemplate marrying
her,' was my answer to Charlie's challenge.
"Charlie flung himself into a chair, and covered his face with his hands. The action touched some spring in our ruder natures which responded in sympathy for our favorite, and had the effect to calm us, in manner at least. I motioned the others to sit down, and addressed myself to Charlie Darling. 'See here, Charlie?' I said, 'it seems that Teresa has been playing us false. A girl who could be engaged to four young men at once cannot be worth the regards of any of us. Let us investigate the matter, and if she is truly guilty of such falsehood, let us one and all quit her forever without a word of explanation. What do you say? do you agree to that?'
"'How are you going to investigate?' asked Tom Allen, roughly. 'Have not we each declared that she was committed to us individually, and what more can be said?'
"'It appears incredible to me that any girl, much less a girl like Teresa, could so compromise her self-respect as to encourage four suitors, each in such a manner as that he expected to marry her. It is so strange that I cannot believe it, except each man swears to his statement. Can we all swear to it?'
"I laid my little pocket-bible on the table, and set the example of taking an oath to the effect that Teresa had encouraged me to believe that she meant to marry me. King and Allen followed with a similar oath. Charlie Darling was the last to take the oath; but as he did so, a gleam of gladness broke over his pale, handsome face; for he could word his oath differently from ours. 'I swear before these witnesses and Almighty God,' said Charlie, 'that Teresa Bryant is my
"'That takes the wind out of our sails,' remarked Allen.
"'Do you allow other men to kiss your promised wife?' asked King, with a sneer.
"Charlie sprang at King, and had his hand on his throat in an instant; but Allen and I interfered to part them. It was no difficult matter, for Darling, excited as he was, felt the force of my observations on the quarrel. I said: 'Shall a trifling girl make us enemies, when she has so behaved that no one of us can trust her. You, Darling, do not, cannot have confidence in her promise, after all you have this night learned. You had best accept my first suggestion, and join with the rest of us in renouncing her forever and at once.'
will not,' broke out King, vehemently. 'Her word is no better than her acts, and I have as much right to her as Charlie Darling, or either of you, and I'll not give up the right to a man of you.'
"'We'll have to fight a four-cornered duel,' remarked Tom Allen, beginning to see the ludicrous side of the affair. 'Shall we choose up, two on a side?'
"'I will withdraw my pretensions,' I reiterated, 'if the others will do so, or even if King and Allen will quit the field to Charlie, who feels himself bound by Teresa's promise to him.'
"'I have said I would not withdraw,' replied King, sullenly. And thus we contended, hot-browed and angry-voiced, for more than an hour. Then rough but practical Tom proposed a scheme, which was no less than to compel Teresa to decide between us. After long deliberation, an agreement was entered into, and I hope I shall not shock you too much when I tell you what it was."
Kittredge paused, and looked at me doubtingly. I glanced aside at the over-hanging trees, the glints of sunshine on the bank, a brown bird among the leaves, at anything, rather than him, for he was living over again the excitement of that time, and his face was not pleasant to study. After a little waiting, I answered:
"I must know the remainder of the story, since I know so much; what did you agree upon?"
"A plan was laid by which Teresa should be confronted with her four lovers, and forced to explain her conduct. To carry out our design it was necessary to use artifice, and I was chosen as the one who should conduct the affair. I invited her to accompany me to a neighboring farm-house to meet the young folks of the settlement. There was nothing unusual in this, as in those primitive times great latitude was granted to young people in their social intercourse. To mount her horse and ride several miles to a neighbor's house with a single escort, not to return until far into the night, was the common privilege of any young lady, and therefore there was no difficulty about obtaining either her consent or that of her parents to my proposition.
"We set off just at sunset, riding along the beach some distance, admiring the gorgeous western sky, the peaceful sea, and watching the sand-pipers skating out on the wet sands after every receding wave. I had never seen Teresa more beautiful, more sparkling, or more fascinating in every way; and my heart grew 'very little' as the Indians say. It was impossible to accuse her even in my thoughts, while under that bewitching influence. She was so full of life and vivacity that she did not observe the forced demeanor I wore, or if she did, had too much tact to seem to do so. As for me, guarded both by my hidden suspicions and by my promise to my friends, I uttered no word of tenderness or admiration with my tongue, whatever my eyes may have betrayed.
"The road we were going led past my house. When we were almost abreast of it I informed Teresa that there were some of our friends waiting for us there, and invited her to alight. Without suspicion she did so.——Don't look at me that way, if you can help it. It was terribly mean of us fellows, as I see it now. It looked differently then; and we had none of us seen much of the world and were rude in our notions of propriety.
"When she came inside of the house and saw only three men in place of the girls of her acquaintance she expected to meet, she cast a rapid, surprised glance all round, blushed, asked, 'where are the girls?'—all in the most natural manner. There was positively nothing in her deportment to betray a guilty conscience. I recognized that, and so, I could see, did Darling. He made haste to hand her a chair, which she declined, still looking about her with a puzzled, questioning air. I was getting nervous already over my share in the business, and so plunged at once into explanation.
"'Teresa,' I said, 'we four fellows have made a singular discovery, recently, to the effect that we each believed himself to be your accepted lover. We have met together to hear your explanation. Is there a man in the house you are engaged to?"
"She gave one quick, scrutinizing glance at our faces, and read in them that we were in earnest. Indeed, the scene would have given scope to the genius of a Hogarth. Alternate red and white chased each other in quick succession over her brow, cheeks, neck. Her eyes scintillated, and her chest heaved.
"'Please answer us, Teresa,' said Darling, after a most painful silence of a minute, which seemed an hour.
"She raised her flashing eyes to his, and her tones seemed to stab him as she uttered, 'You? you too?' Then gathering up her riding-skirt, she made haste to leave us, but found the door guarded by Tom Allen. When she saw that she was really a prisoner among us, alarm seized her, and woman-like, she began to cry, but not passionately or humbly. Her spirit was still equal to the occasion, and she faced us with the tears running over her cheeks.
"'If there is a man among you with a spark of honor, open this door! Mr. Kittredge, this is your house. Allow me to ask if I am to be retained a prisoner in it, or what you expect to gain by my forcible detention?"
"Tom Allen whispered something unheard by any save her, and she struck at him with her riding-whip. This caused both Darling and myself to interpose, and I turned door-keeper while Allen retreated to the other side of the room with rather a higher color than usual on his lumpish face. All this while—not a long while, at all—King had remained in sullen silence, scowling at the proceedings. At this juncture, however, he spoke:
"'Boys,' said he, 'this joke has gone far enough, and if you will permit us to take our leave, I will see Miss Bryant safe home.'
"Involuntarily she turned toward the only one who proffered help; but Darling and I were too angry at the ruse to allow him to succeed, and stood our ground by the door. 'You see, Teresa, how it is,' continued King, glancing at us defiantly: 'these fellows mean to keep you a prisoner in this house until they make you do and say as they please.'
"'What is it you wish me to do and say?" asked Teresa, with forced composure.
"'We wish you to state,' said I, hoarsely, 'whether or not you are or have been engaged to either of us. We want you to say it because we are all candidates for your favor, and because there is a dispute among us as to whose claim is the strongest. It will put an end to our quarrel, and secure to you the instant return of your liberty, if you will declare the truth.'
"At that she sank down on a chair and covered her face with her hands. After a little time she gathered courage and looked up at Darling and me. I observed, even then, that she took no notice of the others. 'If I am promised to either of you, you know it. But this I say now: if I were a hundred times promised, I would break that promise after such insult as you have all offered me this evening. Let me go!'
"What Charlie Darling suffered all through the interview had been patent to each of us. When she delivered his sentence in tones so determined, a cry that was a groan escaped his colorless lips. To say that
did not writhe under her just scorn would be false. Tears, few, but hot and bitter, blinded my eyes. She took no further notice of any of us, but sat waiting for her release.
"'You knew by this time,' I said, 'that you had been deceived.'
"I felt by this time that I had been a fool—a poor, coarse fool; there had been treachery somewhere, and that all together we were a villainous lot. I was only hesitating about how to get out of the scrape decently, when Darling spoke in a voice that was hardly recognizable:
engaged; I told these others so before; but they would not believe me. On the contrary, each one claims to have received such encouragement from you as to entitle him to be considered your favored lover. Hard as it was for me to believe such falsehood possible to you, two of these claimants insisted upon their rights against mine, and they overruled my judgment and wishes to such a degree that I consented to this trial for you. It has resulted in nothing except shame to us and annoyance to you! I beg your pardon. More I will not say to-night.'
"Then she rose up and faced us all again with burning cheeks and flashing eyes. 'If any other man says I have given him a promise, or anything amounting to a promise, he lies. To Tom Allen I have always been friendly, and have romped with him at our little parties; but to-night he grossly insulted me, and I will never speak to him again. As to Harry King, I was friendly with him, too, until about a fortnight ago he presumed to kiss me rudely, in spite of resistance, since which time I have barely recognized him. If Mr. Kittredge says I have made him any promises, he is unworthy of the great respect I have always had for him;' and with that last word she broke down, and sobbed as if her heart would break. But it was only for a few minutes that she cried—she was herself again before we had recovered our composure.
"'What was it Tom Allen said to you?' asked Charlie, when her tears were dried.
would have me, if the rest did cast me off. Thank you,' with a mocking courtesy to Allen. 'It is fortunate for you—and for you all, that I have no "big brother."'
"'I beg you will believe no "big brother" could add to my punishment,' Charlie answered; and I felt included in the confession. Then he offered to see her home without more delay, but she declined any escort whatever, only requesting us to remain where we were until she had been gone half an hour; and rode off into the moonlight and solitude unattended, with what feelings in her heart God knows. We all watched her until she was hidden from sight by the shadows of a grove of pines, and I still remember the shudder with which I saw her plunge recklessly into the gloom—manlike, careful about her beautiful body, and not regarding her tender girl heart."
"That must have been a pleasant half hour for you," I could not help remarking.
"Pleasant! yes; we were like a lot of devils chained. That night dissolved all friendships between any two of us, except between Darling and me; and
could never be quite the same again, for had I not shown him that I believed myself a favored rival? though I afterwards pretended to impute my belief to vanity."
"How did you account
for the delusion? Had she not flirted, as it is called, with you?"
"She had certainly caused me to be deluded, innocently or otherwise, into a belief that she regarded me with peculiar favor; and I had been accustomed to take certain little liberties with her, which probably seemed of far greater importance to me than they did to her; for her passional nature was hardly yet awakened, and among our primitive society there was no great restraint upon any innocent familiarities."
"What became of her after that night?—did she marry Darling?"
The answer did not come at once. Thought and feeling were with the past; and I could not bring myself to intrude the present upon it, but busied myself with the leaves and vines and mosses that I had snatched from the banks in passing, while my friend was absorbed in his silent reminiscences.
"You have not heard the saddest part of the story yet," he said at last, slowly and reluctantly. "She kept her word with each of us; ignoring Allen and King entirely; and only vouchsafing a passing word to Charlie and me. Poor Charlie was broken-hearted. He had never been strong, and now he was weak, ill; in short, fell into a decline, and died in the following year."
"Did the story never get out?"
"Not the true story. That scoundrel King spread a rumor abroad which caused much mischief, and was most cruel after what we had done to outrage her feelings in the first instance; but that was his revenge for her slight—I never knew whether she regretted Darling or not. She was so sensitive and willfully proud that she would have died herself sooner than betray a regret for any one who had offended her. Her mother died, and her father took her away with him to the Sandwich Islands. It was said he was not kind to her, especially after her 'disgrace,' as he called it."
"She never forgave you? What do you know about her subsequent history?"
"Nothing of it. But she had her revenge for what went before. After she went to the Islands I wrote her a very full and perfect confession of my fault, and the extenuating circumstances, and offered her my love, with the assurance that it had always been hers. What do you think she wrote me in return? Only this: that once she
loved me; that she had but just made the discovery that she loved me, and not Charlie Darling, when we mutually insulted her as we did, and forced her to discard both of us; for which she was not now sorry."
"After all, she was not an angel," I said, laughing lightly, to his embarrassment.
"But to think of using a girl of sixteen like that!"
"You are in a self-accusing mood to-day. Let us talk of our neighbors. Bad as that practice is, I believe it is better than talking about ourselves:—Mrs. Sancy thinks so, I know?"
"Who is Mrs. Sancy?"
"I will introduce you to-morrow."
Next to being principal in a romantic
affaire de cœur
is the excitement of being an interested third party. In consonance with this belief I laid awake most of the night imagining the possible and probable "conclusion of the whole matter." I never doubted that Mrs. Sancy was Teresa, nor that she was more fascinating at thirty-one than she had been at sixteen: but fifteen years work great changes in the intellectual and moral person, and much as I desired to play the part of Fate in bringing these two people together, I was very doubtful about the result. But I need not have troubled myself to assume the prerogative of Fate, which by choosing its own instruments saved me all responsibility in the matter.
As Mr. Kittredge messed with a party of military officers, and was off on an early excursion to unknown localities, I saw nothing of him the following morning. We were to ride on the beach after lunch, returning on the turn of the tide to see the bathers. Therefore no opportunity seemed likely to present itself before evening for the promised introduction.
The afternoon proved fine, and we were cantering gaily along in the fresh breeze and sunshine, when another party appeared, advancing from the opposite direction, whom I knew to be Mrs. Sancy, her little daughter Isabelle, and the Kanaka servant. The child and servant were galloping hard, and passed us with a rush. But the lady seemed in a quieter mood, riding easily and carelessly, with an air of pre-occupation. Suddenly she too gave her horse whip and rein, and as she dashed past I heard her exclaim, "The quicksands! the quicksands!"
Instinctively we drew rein, turned, and followed. We rode hard for a few minutes, without overtaking her; then slackened our speed on seeing her come up with the child, and arrest the race which had so alarmed her.
"There are no quicksands in this direction;" was the first remark of Kittredge when we could speak.
"What should make her think so?"
quicksands there a number of years ago, and by her manner she must have known it then."
"And by the same token," I replied, "she cannot have been here since the change."
"Who is she?"
"My friend, Mrs. Sancy."
"Where is she from?"
"From the quicksands;" I replied evasively, as I saw the lady approaching us.
"I fear you have shared my fright," she said, as soon as she came within speaking distance. "When I used to be familiar with these sands there was a dangerous spot out there; but I perceive time has effaced it, as he does so many things;" smiling, and bowing to my escort.
"There are some things time never effaces, even from the sands," returned Kittredge, growing visibly pale.
"That is contrary to the poets," laughingly she rejoined; "but I believe the poets have been superseded by the scientists, who prove everything for you by a fossil."
I could not help watching her to learn how much or how little recognition there was in her face. The color came and went, I could perceive; but whether with doubt or certainty I could not determine. I felt I ought to introduce them, but shrunk from helping on the denouement in that way. In my embarrassment I said nothing. We were now approaching the vicinity of the bathing-houses, and seeing the visitors collecting for the bath, an excuse was furnished for quickening our paces. Mrs. Sancy bowed and left us. Mr. Kittredge seemed to have lost the power of speech.
Fifteen minutes after I was sitting on some drift-wood, watching the pranks of the gayest of the crowd as they "jumped the rollers," when Mrs. Sancy came out of a dressing-room, followed by her Kanaka with a surf-board. Her bathing-dress was very jaunty and becoming, and her skill as a swimmer drew to her a great deal of attention. To swim out and float in on the rollers seemed to be to her no more of a feat than it would be to a sea-gull, she did it so easily and gracefully. But to-day something went wrong with her. Either she was too warm from riding, or her circulation was disturbed by the meeting with Kittredge, or both; at all events the second time she swam out she failed to return. The board slipped away from her, and she sank out of sight.
While I gazed horror-stricken, scarce understanding what had taken place, a man rushed past me in his bathing clothes, running out to where the water was deep enough to float him, and striking out rapidly from there. I could not recognize him in that dress, but I knew it was Kittredge. Fate had sent him. The incoming tide kept her where she sank, and he soon brought her to the surface and through the surf to the beach. I spread my cloak on the sand, and, wrapping her in it, began rubbing and rolling her, with the assistance of other ladies, for resuscitation from drowning.
In three minutes more Kittredge was kneeling by my side with a brandy-flask, administering its contents drop by drop, and giving orders. "It is congestion," said he. "You must rub her chest, her back, her hands and feet; so, so. She will die in your hands if you are not quick. For God's sake, work fast!"
By his presence of mind she was saved as by a miracle. When she was removed to her lodgings, and able to converse, she asked me who it was that had rescued her.
"Mr. Kittredge," I said.
"The same I met on the beach?"
She smiled in a faint, half-dreaming way, and turned away her face. She thought I did not know her secret.
I am not going to let my hero take advantage of the first emotion of gratitude after a service, to mention his wishes in, as many story-tellers do. I consider it a mean advantage; besides Mr. Kittredge did not do it. In fact, he absented himself for a week. When he returned, I introduced him formally to Mrs. Sancy, and we three walked together down to the beach, and seated ourselves on a white old cottonwood that had floated out of the Columbia river, and been cast by the high tides of winter above the shelving sands.
We were rather a silent party for a few minutes. In his abstraction, Mr. Kittredge reached down and traced a name in the sand with the point of my parasol stick—Teresa.
Then, seeing the letters staring at him, he looked up at her, and said, "I could not brush them out if I would. Time has failed to do that." Her gaze wandered away, out to sea, up towards the Capes, down toward the Head; and a delicate color grew upon her cheek. "It has scarcely changed in fifteen years," she said. "I did not count on finding all things the same."
With that I made a pretense of leaving them, to seek shells along the beach; for I knew that fate could no longer be averted. When I returned she was aware that I possessed the secret of both, and she smiled upon me a recognition of my right to be pleased with what I saw; what I beheld seeming the prelude to a happy marriage. That night I wrote in my diary, after some comments on my relations with Mr. Kittredge:
"It is best to be off with the old love,
Before you are on with the new."